Cinema

The maligned “E.T.” videogame phones home in “Atari: Game Over”

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | June 10th, 2015

When Microsoft’s subsidiary Xbox Entertainment Studios ceased operations, only one episode of the planned series “Signal to Noise” had been produced.

The first cycle of the show was originally slated to include six documentaries on various aspects of videogame culture and the videogame industry.

Screenwriter and director Zak Penn, known equally for his work on the stories and scripts of popular Marvel comic book adaptations and his 2004 Werner Herzog team-up “Incident at Loch…

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​Beyond formula: three ambitious B-westerns on Blu-ray

by Christopher P. Jacobs | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | June 10th, 2015

Movies that fall into easily categorized genre labels, such as western, horror, science-fiction, war, etc., are often critically dismissed as simple entertainment aimed at specific fan bases rather than as serious filmmaking. Yet a substantial number of “genre” films are, to various degrees, actually thinly-disguised sociopolitical statements, psychological character explorations, and/or philosophical meditations no less powerful than a more critically-esteemed social issue drama or…

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​Death Letter: Jarecki Finds His Perfect “Jinx”

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | June 3rd, 2015

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (2015)

WARNING: The following review reveals key plot information. Read only if you have seen “The Jinx.”

The bombshell revelation that concludes Andrew Jarecki’s HBO series “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst” occurs when the title subject uses the bathroom while wearing a hot mic. Hilariously, weirdly, but somehow not surprisingly, the incident mirrors the gag in “The Naked Gun” when Leslie Nielsen’s Frank Drebin…

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​Impressive Blu-rays of vintage noirs

by Christopher P. Jacobs | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | June 3rd, 2015

More examples of the classic film noir subcategory of crime thrillers have been showing up on impressive-looking Blu-ray releases, including several crossover genre pictures that incorporate various noir themes with a number of variations on the formula.

The solid semi-noir murder-mystery “Cover Up” (1949) came out this past spring from Kino, and the gripping desert-survival drama “Inferno” (1953) became available in a region-free 3D Blu-ray from Scottish distributor Panamint…

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​Gibney looks at Scientology in “Going Clear”

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | May 27th, 2015

Alex Gibney’s documentary “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief” uses author Lawrence Wright’s similarly titled book as the basis for a feature-length examination of the controversial organization known to many as the secretive, confusing and mysterious spiritual home of celebrities like Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Legally recognized as a religion by the IRS in 1993, the Church of Scientology began when prolific science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard morphed his…

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Jack Black and James Marsden star in dark high school reunion comedy

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | May 23rd, 2015

WARNING: The following review reveals key plot information. Read only if you have seen “The D Train.”

In their feature directing debut, “Yes Man” screenwriters Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel take a stab at blending sitcom-like laughs with social introspection, and the results are as confused as the emotional state of main character Dan Landsman (Jack Black). Landsman, the self-appointed chairperson of his Pittsburgh high school reunion committee, spots old classmate Oliver Lawless…

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​Biblical spectacle shines in new Blu-ray

by Christopher P. Jacobs | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | May 21st, 2015

Released to Blu-ray last March in a limited edition of only 3,000 copies was the classic spectacle “Solomon and Sheba.”

Historical epics, especially biblical epics, sometimes get a bad reputation. Many rely on the spectacle of exotic settings and costumes, a few large-scale action sequences and overblown romantic melodrama with only a faint resemblance to historical facts or biblical accounts. Cecil B. DeMille was the master of the popular epic film, biblical and otherwise, but…

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​Katelyn Whitehead Q&A

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | May 13th, 2015

Katelyn Whitehead

Discussing “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck”

Fargo-Moorhead native Katelyn Whitehead moved to Los Angeles after completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota. She is a talented artist, cutting her filmmaking teeth in Fargo 48 Hour Film Project competitions with collaborators, friends and fellow Moorhead Spuds Johan Anderson and Dan Bock. Whitehead enthusiastically endorses “Back to the Future” (“the Holy Grail of how to make a great studio film”), “The…

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About a boy: Kurt Cobain subject of audiovisual odyssey

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | May 13th, 2015

Veteran documentary filmmaker Brett Morgen’s years of hard work pay off in “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck,” a stunning biographical portrait of the artist and musician. Morgen’s film, made with the full cooperation of Cobain’s survivors, includes Frances Bean Cobain as an executive producer. The director’s “all access pass” to the comprehensive Cobain archive brands his movie as the closest thing to a definitive treatment, and the arresting animation that illustrates a…

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​Ghost in the Living Machine

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | May 10th, 2015

Self-conscious, geeky coder Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) wins a contest to visit the sprawling, private compound of his boss Nathan (Oscar Isaac), a computer genius using his billions to pursue artificial intelligence in the form of an erotically charged machine named Ava (Alicia Vikander).

Screenwriter/novelist Alex Garland makes his directorial debut with “Ex Machina,” the alternately intriguing and infuriating result of Nathan’s scheme to use Caleb as human bait in a twisted…

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