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by Jason Gargano 12.22.2010
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Wednesday Movie Roundup: Year in Film Edition

The year-end movie season is now in high gear, as media entities of every stripe unveil their top 10 lists and various awards groups reveal their nominations. CityBeat's film writers will present our lists next week. In the meantime, check out this week's Year in Film essays, which offer a look at 2010's noteworthy cinematic trends — from a roundup of “off-the-wall” DVDs and an examination of the further fracturing of movie reality and indie cinema to the year's best crime epics and the lack of strong movies by and for African Americans.

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by Jason Gargano 05.18.2011
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Film Schooled Debuts Thursday

Film Schooled, a Cincinnati-based reality TV show that follows two teens through the filmmaking process, screens its pilot episode 7 p.m. tomorrow. Think of it as a head-to-head, meta version of the 48 Hour Film Project.

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by John Hamilton 02.10.2015 47 days ago
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Forgotten Classics: The Seven-Per-Cent Solution

Reviewing lesser-known films that stand the test of time

There’s no denying it: The British TV drama Sherlock is popular — ridiculously popular. So popular that one could say that it’s what launched Benedict Cumberbatch’s status from actor to superstar. Thankfully, his talent is still intact.

But I’m not here to talk about Cumberbatch. I’m here to talk about Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes is, of course, a legendary character. Even if you’ve never read a book in your life, you’ve at least heard of this famous British detective.

A lot like the famous miser Ebenezer Scrooge, Holmes has had several versions of himself on the big screen. There’s The Hound of the Baskerville (1939) starring Basil Rathbone. Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars) starred in Hammer Film’s 1959 remake the same story. Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective (1986) had a Holmes-like mouse character named Basil of Baker Street (nice little reference to Rathbone’s version). Then, of course, there’s the newer films with Robert Downey, Jr. which are surprisingly enjoyable, plus countless others with many legendary actors portraying Holmes and his loyal friend Dr. John Watson. There’s far too many to list off.

But the one I want to highlight was made in 1976 by Herbert Ross — The Seven-Per-Cent Solution. The film tells of Dr. Watson (Robert Duvall) luring Sherlock (Nicol Williamson) to Vienna to meet the father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud (Alan Arkin) in an attempt to kick Holmes’ cocaine addiction. But a kidnapping caper soon presents itself, and the trio joins forces to solve the mystery.

The mystery aspect of the film, while interesting, isn’t the main focus. This story concentrates on an aspect of Holmes stories that really hadn’t been explored often — Sherlock’s cocaine addiction. Through the books it is noted that Holmes did recreational drugs but, to the best of my knowledge, this film is the one version that takes a look at what made him do it.

At the beginning of the film we see Holmes become totally obsessed with trying to find a way to outsmart his arch-nemesis, Prof. Moriarty (Laurence Olivier), and catch him in the act. But here’s a twist: It turns out Moriarty isn’t the criminal mastermind the stories portray him as. He’s this aging and timid mathematics teacher. It’s this that gives Watson and Sherlock’s brother Mycroft (Charles Gray) the idea that Sherlock may need help.

That’s not to say that Moriarty doesn’t have a role in the film. He does, but that would lead to a big spoiler and I’ll let you discover that for yourself.

The detoxing of Holmes, while it does last a bit longer than it should, is a very impactful scene that shows this usually confident character in a different light. It’s nice change of pace from the typical Holmes story.

The film is also full of spectacular performances. One of the main reasons I wanted to check this film out was because I saw Robert Duvall played Dr. Watson, which, despite Duvall being one of my favorite actors, seems like bizarre casting. But he was surprisingly good in the role. Alan Arkin was more than perfect for the role of Dr. Freud, combining a stern professional persona and a man who cares about his patient.

But, as one would suspect, the guy who stole the motion picture was Nicol Williamson as Sherlock Holmes. He gives a performance that is so great it’s almost indescribable. Just check him out and be amazed by his spectacular portrayal.

Here’s interesting little connection between this film and Sherlock: In 2013 J.J. Abrams directed Star Trek Into Darkness, which featured Benedict Cumberbatch as the main villain Khan, who was also the villain in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). That film was co-written and directed by Nicholas Meyer, who also wrote the screenplay for The Seven-Per-Cent Solution which was based on his book of the same name.

 
 
by Jason Gargano 06.10.2011
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Friday Movie Roundup: Woody Allen Returns to Form

Who knew it would take a 75-year-old to make the best movie of the summer (so far)?

Woody Allen's 41st feature is his most engaging effort in years,a whimsical comedy that seamlessly melds moments of dreamy, nostalgic delight —its protagonist, played by Allen surrogate Owen Wilson, is somehow, each midnight, transported back to Paris' 1920s bohemian heyday where he hangs out with Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso and F. Scott Fitzgerald, among others — with the filmmaker's longstanding themes of acute self-loathing, romantic longing and the role of the artist in society.

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by Jason Gargano 07.30.2010
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Friday Movie Roundup: Searching for the Best of 2010 (So Far)

By now I typically unveil my favorite movies from the first half of the year. Yet looking back on the first six months of 2010, only two films —Lee Unkrich's Toy Story 3 and Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop —have discerned themselves as unqualified contenders to make my year-end list.

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by Jason Gargano 08.03.2011
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48 Hour Film Project Is Nearly Here

The latest 48 Hour Film Project: Cincinnati rapidly approach. Founded by in 2001 by a pair of independent film producers in Washington, D.C., the project has now spread to 80 cities — I think this will be the eighth Cincinnati version — on five continents.

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by Jason Gargano 04.15.2011
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Friday Movie Roundup: Scream 4 Edition

We're already back to reality: One week after 10 films found their way into local movie houses we have only four new offerings, one of which is Scream 4.

It's been 15 years since the original Scream bewitched audiences who grew up with decades of B-movie horror films on late-night TV, at drive-ins and via the then-still-burgeoning home-video market.

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by Jason Gargano 08.20.2010
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Friday Movie Roundup: The Balcony Is Closed

The final episode of At the Movies aired last weekend, marking the end of an era that began more than 30 years ago.

Featuring a pair of geeky Chicago-based film critics — Roger Ebert from The Sun-Times and The Tribune's Gene Siskel — the long-running show debuted as Sneak Previews in 1975 before switching to At the Movies in 1977. The premise was simple: two people talking about that week's releases with passion, intelligence, wit and personality.

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by Belinda Cai 10.24.2013
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REVIEW: Carrie (Now in theaters)

It is impossible for fans of the classic horror film Carrie, such as myself, to not compare Kimberly Peirce’s new remake to its 1976 predecessor.

Brian De Palma made the original Carrie into a timeless, blood-filled revenge fantasy with his fresh and inspired take on the best-selling Stephen King novel. It is an iconic movie that explores the perils of religious fanaticism, the wonder of supernatural powers and the pain of high school cruelty. The original Carrie is just as heartbreaking as it is it horrifying, garnering the audience’s sympathy for the mistreated protagonist. Sissy Spacek made a damn good Carrie with her natural gaucheness and always frightened, wide-eyed gaze.

Chloe Grace Moretz, on the other hand, is — let’s face it — too cute and self-assured to be anywhere near convincing as the new Carrie. While talented, she lacks the believably awkward touch that Spacek brought to the character with both her appearance and superb acting. Additionally, one of Moretz’s most notable roles as the deadly Hit Girl from Kick Ass made it difficult for me to see her as a vulnerable victim (although it made her violent use of telekinetic powers more fitting). I continually questioned why the Carrie portrayed by Moretz was so outcasted, as she seemed normal albeit a little shy.

 

The portrayals of Carrie’s high school peers also fall flat. Chris (Portia Doubleday) is an underwhelming ringleader of bullies, not nearly as mean-spirited and malicious as in the original. In fact, her boyfriend Billy (Alex Russell) ends up running the show on tormenting Carrie come prom night, further weakening Chris’ role as a true antagonist. Sue (Gabriella Wilde) is Chris’ remorseful sidekick who has a change of heart and convinces her boyfriend, Tommy (Ansel Elgort), to take Carrie to prom.

 

She does this to make up for what happens in the infamous shower scene, during which Carrie starts her period without being aware of what is happening, fears that she is dying and gets teased by all of the other girls who throw feminine products at her and chant, “Plug it up.” The gym teacher, Miss Desjardin (Judy Greer), later lets the girls know just how rotten they are for what they did. Despite this, it is confusing as to why Sue would turn her back on Chris and forgo prom, something so important to her, due to the film not delving far enough into Sue’s personality or guilt.

Julianne Moore gives the only redeeming performance as Carrie’s mother, Margaret. With her unkempt hair and self-inflicted harm, she portrays a compelling religious zealot, tortured by her misguided ideology. Her abuse toward Carrie — slapping her and repeatedly forcing her into the prayer closet — is effectively disturbing. The added opening scene (Spoiler Alert) with her giving birth to Carrie and attempting to murder the newborn provides the audience with more of a background on her character than does the original. She cogently delivers the well-known and heartbreaking line, “They’re all gonna laugh at you,” foreshadowing the soon-to-be telekinetic massacre at Carrie’s helm.

I might have liked Carrie had I not seen the original, as the story stays true to the previous film and is still a haunting tale of abuse and its consequences. The movie is filled with clever religious imagery and is visually pleasing, especially during the massacre scene. However, the ill-fitted cast and lack of ingenuity on the director’s part ultimately disappointed me. While the new Carrie may seem like a fun and appropriate movie to watch with Halloween around the corner, it’s hardly worth the ten dollars it costs to see in theaters. Plus, the 1976 version is currently available on Netflix so there really is no excuse to miss out on the sheer brilliance of the original. Grade: C-

 
 
by Jason Gargano 05.21.2010
at 01:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Friday Movie Roundup: Devaluation of a 'Star'

Peter Biskind — a former Premiere magazine editor and longtime journalist who wrote the fascinating, endlessly entertaining book about the 1970s American movie scene, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls — recently published a biography called Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America.

I’ve yet to read the book, which, among other things, apparently tells us that Beatty might have slept with more than 12,775 woman — a number that doesn’t include “daytime quickies, drive-by blowjobs, casual gropings, stolen kisses and so on.”

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