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Film

Now Playing: FISH TANK, FARGO, and SEX MAGIC, plus more great films this week

Article: Now Playing: FISH TANK, FARGO, and SEX MAGIC, plus more great films this week

This week we delve into our darkest fears and deepest desires with films about alienation, death, love, sex and… improper surgical techniques? Luckily, not all in the same film. Like this crazy month of December so far, our films are running hot and cold this week, from the blazing Arizona sun of SEX MAGIC to the North Dakota/Minnesota snow and ice of FARGO and points in between.

Now Playing: TINY FURNITURE and SAY ANYTHING, plus Stephen King, the first-ever NC-17 and more

Article: Now Playing: TINY FURNITURE and SAY ANYTHING, plus Stephen King, the first-ever NC-17 and more

Ever feel that twinge of nostalgia for those glory days of high school and college? Well, you may have forgotten the aimlessness and angst of post-graduation – but don’t worry, we’ve got two films to remind you of it this week. Also on tap, a sexy (but literary!) romp through Paris, one of the best Stephen King film adaptations ever, and Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason-Leigh at each other’s throats.

Sundance Film Festival 2013 announces Spotlight, Park City at Midnight and New Frontier films

Article: Sundance Film Festival 2013 announces Spotlight, Park City at Midnight and New Frontier films

Sundance Institute announced today the films selected to screen in the 2013 Sundance Film Festival out-of-competition sections Spotlight, Park City at Midnight and New Frontier, as well as the installations and performances to be featured in the Festival’s New Frontier venue. The Festival takes place January 17-27 in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, Utah.

Trevor Groth, Director of Programming for the Sundance Film Festival, said, “I couldn’t be more pleased to announce the films selected for these sections because they illustrate the tremendous creativity and vibrancy of the independent film community. Spotlight features our favorite films that have premiered at other festivals and the Park City at Midnight and New Frontier sections are comprised of films that are bound to shock, intoxicate, derange or dazzle. Expect the unexpected when you venture down the path of these cinematic sensations.”

HIGH FIDELITY inspires our own desert island, all-time, top 5 cinematic sad sacks

Article: HIGH FIDELITY inspires our own desert island, all-time, top 5 cinematic sad sacks

The lovable losers in Stephen Frears’ HIGH FIDELITY waste their days sitting around the Chicago record store Championship Vinyl compiling Top 5 lists. Records to play on a Monday morning? Dream jobs? Songs about death? These elitist “experts” have got you covered.

As we prepare for Sundance Channel’s premiere of Frears’ relationship comedy — it airs Sunday, Dec. 2, at 10P, with encores throughout the month — we were inspired to create our own all-time, top 5, desert-island list of lovelorn, sad sack heroes of the heart. These guys have perfected the art of pining after the prettiest girls. In the best-case scenarios, they even win that girl’s heart.

And yes, we double-dipped on Cusack, because few in Hollywood are quite as masterful at the hangdog look of the broken-hearted, unfulfilled Romeo. It’s his calling card … as HIGH FIDELITY confirms.

Now Playing: MADE IN CHINA, BLOWN AWAY, BLIND DATE, ONE WEEK

Article: Now Playing: MADE IN CHINA, BLOWN AWAY, BLIND DATE, ONE WEEK

On tap this week, we’ve got three quirky, funny and yes, sad films for the independent minded, plus a bonus: an unlikely blockbuster thriller with an unusual stock of Oscar-winning talent. That’s four films for the price of three. Who doesn’t love a holiday season deal like that?

the uncanny web of David Cronenberg’s career

Article: the uncanny web of David Cronenberg’s career

In 2002, David Cronenberg’s Spider seemed like a departure for the director. He was known primarily as a genre expert – one who had taken standard horror and thriller motifs and turned them into very personal expressions of post-modern unease in films like his remake of The Fly and his adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dead Zone.

Now Playing: STARGATE, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and TAZZA: THE HIGH ROLLERS

Article: Now Playing: STARGATE, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and TAZZA: THE HIGH ROLLERS

This week, let’s be thankful for Asian cinema and some sleeper films that spawned monster hit TV series. If it wasn’t for the risks taken by Asian filmmakers like Takashi Miike, Johnnie To and Park Chan-wook, where would western directors like Quentin Tarantino and RZA get their inspiration? And if it wasn’t for films like STARGATE and BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, we probably would never have had… well, Stargate or Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the TV shows, that is). But even if you believe a life without Stargate or Buffy on TV wouldn’t be such a bad thing (or maybe even especially if you do), you’ll want to check out the original films – they are very different from the series they spawned.

Anatomy of a Monster: LITTLE CHILDREN's Jackie Earle Haley

Article: Anatomy of a Monster: LITTLE CHILDREN's Jackie Earle Haley

The title of LITTLE CHILDREN (airing November 24 at 8P and throughout the month)—cowriter-director Todd Field’s chilling 2006 adaptation of Tom Perrotta’s tale of love, lust and lies in suburbia—works on many levels. It describes the type of people who would commit selfish, impulsive actions like the pair of unhappily married people (Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson) at the heart of the story who engage in a passionate but ultimately destructive affair with no regard for how it will affect others, especially their own, yes, little children. It also applies to those innocent young residents of a sleepy New Jersey burg whose parents feel they need to protect them from a convicted sex offender, Ronald “Ronnie” James McGorvey (THE BAD NEWS BEARS grad Jackie Earle Haley, in a career-redefining performance), who’s moved back into their neighborhood. And it also encapsulates the personality of Ronnie, who’s infantilized by his smothering mother (the heartbreakingly good Phyllis Somerville) and terrorized into believing he could never survive without her, leaving him in a state of perpetually arrested adolescence and unable to express his sexual longings in a mature manner—and with his peers.

Top 10 ultimate alternate universe films

Article: Top 10 ultimate alternate universe films

Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the real world, are we? Sundance Channel has the perfect escape on offer: Some really unreal worlds, alternative universes where hauntings, vampires, time travel, spontaneous combustion and the like are commonplace. However bad things may look right now, they can’t possibly compete with discovering that your kid is the spawn of Satan, can it? Here are 10 of our favorite alternate universes on film, of course, airing on Sundance Channel this month.

Tinseltown and the American Dream in STAR MAPS

Article: Tinseltown and the American Dream in STAR MAPS

As long as they’ve been making movies in Hollywood, Tinseltown has represented the American Dream, where anything can happen for those who reach high enough. Scores of nobodies arrive in Southern California each year hoping for their lucky break, inspired by the stories of those who built multimillion dollar careers from nothing. In STAR MAPS, premiering on Wednesday at 8P and airing throughout the month, our hero travels to Hollywood in search of a new life, only to find something very different.

LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN and other cases of mistaken identity

Article: LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN and other cases of mistaken identity

It’s one of the oldest entertainment tropes there is, dating right back to ancient Greek and Roman times. Whether the audience is in on the trick or not, there are dozens of ways to play with identity confusion from rom-coms to thrillers. Some of them can leave you wondering if anyone is who you think they are! LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN — which airs on Friday at 10P and throughout the month — takes us deep into the heart of tangled identities, the mob, and more, but it’s not the only thriller relying on this trope to keep audiences tingling with anticipation…

Sean Connery: 5 great scifi/fantasy roles

Article: Sean Connery: 5 great scifi/fantasy roles

Sure, he’s Bond (arguably the best), in GOLDFINGER and FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (among others). Yeah, he won an Oscar for playing a grizzled Chicago lawman in THE UNTOUCHABLES. And of course, he’s a professor-adventurer in INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE. But, wow — has Sean Connery been in a lot of scifi and fantasy movies! Here are five of our favorites:

Now Playing: ANGEL HEART, THE PRIME GIG, THE SUM OF ALL FEARS

Article: Now Playing: ANGEL HEART, THE PRIME GIG, THE SUM OF ALL FEARS

Mickey Rourke and Robert DeNiro in a neo-noir with a twist. Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman in a Tom Clancy nuclear thriller. And Ed Harris and Vince Vaughn in a long con. It’s a roller coaster week of suspense, thrills, chills and twist endings here on Sundance Channel. Hang on to your hats!

Top 10 thrilling modern outlaws

Article: Top 10 thrilling modern outlaws

Attention, filmmakers: If you want an audience to get behind a particular character, make him go it alone, force him to do things his own way. Renegade style. Whether he’s fighting for the good of mankind or redefining what constitutes evil, we can’t help but find him intriguing. These are self-sufficient guys with no apologies, few rules, and even fewer questions asked. And here are some of our favorites, our Top 10 Thrilling Modern Outlaws, every one of them airing on Sundance Channel in November.

Denzel Washington: At his best when at his worst

Article: Denzel Washington: At his best when at his worst

Have you ever noticed that Denzel Washington is at his best when he’s behaving his worst?

The actor’s first Oscar win arrived in 1989, when he played the bitter, furious ex-slave Trip in Ed Zwick’s Civil War drama GLORY. Washington further embraced his dark side, and delivered his second Oscar-winning performance, by playing a corrupt L.A. street detective in Antoine Fuqua’s TRAINING DAY. And it’s likely he’ll earn a sixth Academy Award nomination early next year for his gripping portrayal of an alcoholic airline pilot in Robert Zemeckis’ FLIGHT, in theaters now.

It wasn’t until this pattern presented itself that we doubled back and realized just how often Washington willingly accepts the role of a hero mired in morality’s grey areas. Unlike Tom Cruise or Tom Hanks — bankable A-listers who desperately want to be loved by audiences worldwide — Washington repeatedly challenges his followers by asking them to accept a flawed protagonist who stands at an emotionally complicated crossroads and often makes an unpopular decision.

5 of oddball James Spader's oddest roles

Article: 5 of oddball James Spader's oddest roles

There’s just something about James Spader that reads… well, kind of odd. Intelligent, certainly, but also icky. He has a certain oddball appeal that often manifests in roles that are uncomfortably sexual — and, more often than not, you’re in for a mindfuck. Next up for Spader is the political drama LINCOLN, in which he plays a Tennessee lobbyist — but lest you’re worried he’s gone legit, he explained that his favorite thing about the role was smoking cigars, laughing and drinking… and being naughty and irreverent. Here are some of his oddest (and some of our favorite) roles to date.

Now Playing: SLEEPING BEAUTY, MAN IN THE CHAIR, BRIEF INTERVIEWS WITH HIDEOUS MEN

Article: Now Playing: SLEEPING BEAUTY, MAN IN THE CHAIR, BRIEF INTERVIEWS WITH HIDEOUS MEN

This week, we’ve got a unique take on the world’s oldest profession, an archetypical story of a lovable curmudgeon who learns even as he teaches, and the directorial debut of one of the most popular comedic actors of our time. Catch it all over the next seven days on Sundance Channel.

John Malkovich's THE DANCER UPSTAIRS and the myth of the actor-director

Article: John Malkovich's THE DANCER UPSTAIRS and the myth of the actor-director

The rap on actors as first-time directors is that they’re often more interested in exploring characters—and indulging cast members—than they are in telling straightforward stories. Think of slow-paced character studies like Sean Penn’s THE INDIAN RUNNER or Gary Oldman’s NIL BY MOUTH. Even Tommy Lee Jones’ modern Western THE THREE BURIALS OF MELQUIADES ESTRADA and veteran auteur Robert Redford’s wartime drama LIONS FOR LAMBS (both of which I’ve recently written about) favor long scenes of motivation-revealing dialogue over peppy, narrative-advancing plotting.

Atmosphere, nostalgia, and media commentary in HOUSE OF PLEASURES

Article: Atmosphere, nostalgia, and media commentary in HOUSE OF PLEASURES

HOUSE OF PLEASURES, airs Saturday night at 12:15A (with an encore on Tuesday) and takes us deep into the private life of a French maison close, a turn of the century brothel catering to wealthy and picky clients. It’s a rich, atmospheric, slow film that joins a long list of venerable and illustrious entries in the genre; we have a collective social fascination with sex work and are particularly interested in period pieces that allow us to indulge our voyeurism without the immediacy of looking at the modern sex industry head-on. Like other films of its ouvre, it presents a simultaneously rosy and jaded view of sex work, creating a tension on the screen that may evade some viewers.

Faster, Jason! Kill! Kill! Top Five “Friday the 13th” Deaths

Article: Faster, Jason! Kill! Kill! Top Five “Friday the 13th” Deaths

In the beginning, Jason was just a disturbed lunatic bothered by the fornicating counselors who had, in his mind, murdered his mom. But one great kill got him started down his bloodthirsty career path, and led to our five favorite Friday kills from the course of the long-running series.

Top 10 films that represent the war on women

Article: Top 10 films that represent the war on women

While the topic of women’s rights doesn’t have the box office draw of a bunch of dudes getting wasted at a bachelor party, say, or a bride-to-be getting diarrhea in the middle of the street, there are many excellent movies that cover various aspects of the War on Women (either directly or metaphorically)—workplace discrimination, violence against women, restricted access to abortion, sexual harassment, and all that fun stuff. So when you make a bag of popcorn and tune into the Sundance Channel this month for movies like ROSEMARY’S BABY, I’M NOT THERE and BLUE VELVET, not only will you be entertained, you’ll also be spending some quality time thinking about women’s rights. In other words, you can feel virtuous about that time on the couch. You’re welcome!

5 kick-ass sports movies

Article: 5 kick-ass sports movies

You don’t have to be a sports fan to love a great sports flick; the drama, the passion for the game, the struggle and the victories (and losses) make for irresistible movie material. Here are five of our favorite kick-ass sports movies any film buff will love — no matter how you feel about what happens in the ring…or the field…or the court…

Is Leonardo DiCaprio difficult to work with?

Article: Is Leonardo DiCaprio difficult to work with?

Why don’t most directors want to work with Leonardo DiCaprio more than once?

You can count on two fingers the number of times DiCaprio has collaborated with a filmmaker on multiple films: Martin Scorsese (on numerous projects) and Baz Luhrmann. On the flip side, you’d need an abacus to tally the number of high-profile directors who hired DiCaprio once and never went back for seconds. James Cameron (TITANIC), Woody Allen (CELEBRITY), Steven Spielberg (CATCH ME IF YOU CAN), and Danny Boyle (THE BEACH) are just a few names that come to mind. Boyle’s one-off feature with DiCaprio premieres Saturday, November 3, on Sundance Channel, and was the film that got us contemplating this topic.

ROSEMARY'S BABY could have been made in 2012

Article: ROSEMARY'S BABY could have been made in 2012

You hear a lot these days about Republicans rolling back women’s rights all the way to the ’50s and ’60s: vowing to defund Planned Parenthood; to allow employers to decide whether or not their female employees can have their contraception covered; to put the rights of an embryo above those of a woman via the Personhood Amendment; to outlaw all abortions, even in cases of rape, incest, and threats to not only the health but the life of the mother. They won’t even commit to laws ensuring equal pay for women doing the same work as men!

Top 10 terrifying films on Sundance Channel

Article: Top 10 terrifying films on Sundance Channel

Just in time for Halloween, the ten most terrifying movies on the Sundance Channel run a gauntlet of horrific styles. For traditional slasher-movie thrills, we’ve got the original FRIDAY THE 13TH (and, inevitably, a slasher sequel with FRIDAY THE 13TH PART II). Others are horror classics too distinctive to be called traditional; David Cronenberg and Roman Polanski rarely seem more at home than when they channel their own personal obsessions into the horror genre with movies like ROSEMARY’S BABY, THE FLY, and SPIDER. Lars Von Trier’s ANTICHRIST fits into this pattern, too; it bears little resemblance to its genre brethren and is unmistakably the work of Von Trier, yet it is a horror picture, of sorts, filtered through the director’s bracing, often lyrical misery. Of course, there are other ways to get scared without even going into horror; Danny Boyle’s THE BEACH offers a scary vision of paradise corrupted, and, come to think of it, so does David Lynch’s BLUE VELVET, in its own way. If you want to freak out, there’s no shortage of options.