Friday, September 16, 2016


If you are not a collector of something then you have no idea what it means to find buried treasure, to discover something that you love hidden in a thrift shop or to covet the glittery baubles that some other collector owns. This holds true for collectors of any item. But movie collectors and fans are a whole other creature.

A THOUSAND CUTS might seem like a non-fiction book written about film fans but it’s more than that. It’s a story that involves pirates, it involves fanatics, it involves con men, it involves the FBI, it involves movie studios and more than anything it is about…movie lovers. It might be hard for younger people to understand that there actually was a time when movies were not easily accessible. We live in a time when you can press an app on your cell phone and watch a movie there via services like Netflix. But go back further. Go past blu-rays to DVDs to VHS tapes and stop at the medium that movies began as: film.

For fans of movies the only way you could watch your favorite movie was to see it in a theater or catch it on TV. With no VCR if you missed it you were out of luck. But there were a number of die-hard movie fans that went one step further, movie fans that bought copies of their favorite films ON film. Some were 16mm copies and some 35mm but they were films that they could own, hold and watch whenever they wanted at home.

The book talks too many of these fans from the past who love the medium in its original form. They also own DVDs and tapes but the thing that the truly love is film itself. Each chapter has the authors talking to different people who have collected film over the years. Some found themselves in trouble with the law when movie studios considered this an infraction of their copyrighted films. Most didn’t face jail time but some did. Some dabbled in black market sales of films during this time. Some retain their most prized possessions to this day.

What you walk away with in reading this book is a feeling of joy that so many people were actually a part of this underground movement to save film. As studios work to bring out pristine versions of their films on blu-ray and now 4k reproductions it is through some of these collectors that they’ve been able to find missing reels, missing bits and pieces and in some cases quality reproductions of their films, films that languished away in vaults where they deteriorated over time. Thank goodness these prints still exist. By the end of the book you may find yourself considering the purchase of a projector and a few spools of film.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


One thing about the movies being made from Marvel Comics: they know how to do them right. Almost all of the films based on DC Comics have done well at the box office but the Marvel films are leaps and bounds ahead of them. The biggest reason is that Marvel embraces the fact that these films are based on comics rather than toss them aside as if they don’t matter. Fans recognize this. Marvel has taken the written word, the images from their comics and translated them to the screen without abandoning everything that made them special. Their newest release on DVD/Blu-ray, CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, proves that.

Based on the series that enveloped all of their comics a few years back, the story focuses on a fearful world that wants to keep these super powered individuals in check. As the film opens a mission for the Avengers to prevent a deadly virus from being unleashed upon the world goes sideways, the end result being an explosion that collapses a building and results in casualties. Rather than note the number of lives that were saved by these heroes blame is laid at their doorstep rather than at that of the criminals they stopped.

After the mass amount of destruction that has happened during different battles in various other Marvel films involving the characters, the world has come together with the Sokovia Accords. This would require all heroes to sign off on supervision by the UN, an agreement that they would be the ones to decide where and when they would go and what missions they would become involved in.

This sets the heroes against one another. Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) believes in the Accords. He is overwhelmed with guilt at the wake of destruction left in the paths of battles past. Captain America (Chris Evans) on the other hand recognizes that decisions need to be made by those involved in the battles, those who know firsthand what evil looks like, rather than in the hands of politicians whose motives change with the wind.

As the Accords are about to be signed the delegate from the African nations of Wakanda is speaking when a bomb explodes, killing him. Framed for the murder is Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Cap’s friend. The UN sends in team to capture Bucky but Cap gets there first to find out what is really going on. He helps him escape but a chase follows with not just the UN troops in pursuit but the new King of Wakanda, T’Challa aka The Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). All are eventually caught and it is while imprisoned that the real culprit reveals himself setting the stage for a battle royal between two teams of super heroes.

Iron Man has recruited those who feel the Accords must be followed: Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Vision (Paul Bettany) and new recruit Spider-Man (Tom Holland). Cap has his own team in place with Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Winter Soldier and new recruit Ant Man (Paul Rudd). This result in a free for all that will have comic fans jumping with joy and action film fans watching in delight. And yet it is not the final battle and comes almost a full 30 minutes before the end of the film, a confrontation and revelation of why the whole thing has taken place.

It would be easy to discuss the effects here but be honest, you already knew they’d be mind boggling. With as huge a cast as is on display to pick out one performance above the rest isn’t quite fair, but both Evans and Downey bring depth and emotion to both sides of the issue at hand. The real discussion about the film lies in the whole concept of the reason this “civil war” takes place.

One would think that after discovering the infiltration of top government officials in the previous Captain America film that all of the Avengers would hesitate signing off on the Accords. The guilt that Stark feels because of the deaths that result from the battles with bad guys develops into something that clouds his judgement and brings him to agree in them. Cap’s wisdom based on past experiences in both his current and past life know that you can’t always trust in the people placed in power but you can trust the team members in whose hands you have placed your life.

In addition to that there are so many threads from most of the past films that are brought together here that to count them all would take too much time. That’s one of the most amazing things about the Marvel films. A single example is the rise of Gen. Ross (William Hurt) to Secretary of State, something that has happened in the course of 8 years from the release of THE INCREDIBLE HULK to this film. It means that all of the films combine together to make one huge story…just like comic books do.

I’ve loved all of the Marvel movies to date. The combination of old and new characters, of plotlines that are based in the actual comics and the superb direction, writing, editing and every other aspect of movie making that is on display here means that this is one movie that will receive multiple viewings at my house. My guess is they will do the same at yours and if not, they should.

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When I heard the premise of the movie MONEY MONSTER I wondered why on Earth they would decide to open it during the summer season. Summers usually mean blockbuster tent pole films, over the top action flicks and gross out humor. This movie seemed to be far from that. The end result was the film doing decent business but being called a flop because it didn’t to what is expected of summer films. That’s sad because the truth is it is a pretty good film. 

George Clooney stars as Lee Gates, a Jim Cramer styled television financial advisor who perks things up with sound clips, special effects and special sequences to make investing in money more fun. He’s also a bit of a cynic and loose cannon, more often than  not bypassing the scripted material set up by director Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) and working off the cuff. The two work well together but the combination of ego and style have taken their toll on Patty.

As their show goes on the air a delivery man appears on the set in the background. As he comes forward he makes clear what he wants by pulling out a gun and taking Lee hostage on air. He forces them to keep the show on air and soon everyone is watching. The gunman, Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell), has Lee open a box and inside is a bomb vest which he has Lee put on. With only a dead man switch in his hand Kyle begins to tell Lee what the problem is.

It seems a week or so beforehand Kyle took Lee’s advice and invested his life savings, $60,000, into IBIS, a company that lost $800 million in a single day due to what they term a “computer glitch”. But Kyle is having none of it. He doesn’t believe there was any glitch at all. He holds Lee responsible at first, thinking he was in on some sort of fix but as Lee slowly begins to unravel the truth behind everything they become cohorts rather than captor and captive.

Several other things are happening at the same time. The New York police are trying to determine how to resolve the situation. Having gotten most of the crew out of the studio and people in the building out as well, they come up with a plan that involves shooting Lee to short out the frequency of the bomb vest. Patty is pressing her staff to find out exactly what happened with the so called “glitch”. And IBIS communications officer Diane Lester (Caitriona Balfe) is trying to track down elusive CEO Walt Camby (Dominic West), who is in the air somewhere, in order to find out herself what is happening.

Director Jodie Foster mingles these stories quite well here developing as much tension from each aspect as from Kyle and his bomb vest. Rather than let that be the focus of the movie it is the melding of each story in a twisting tale that reaches no solution until the final reel. Compounded with that issue is the fear that one or more of the characters that we come to root for in the film may die at any moment. Just who is in on the problem at hand and who is in control?

What also makes this work is that it isn’t an attack on the entirety of Wall Street. It isn’t an indictment of each and every trader or stock broker in existence. Had they done so it would have felt less like a serious concern over characters and their situations and more of a protest film with no focused bad guys. Instead the focus on IBIS works and helps make the film play out better. It targets one group, one company, one deceptive group and gives us someone to steer our anger towards.

Clooney does a great job here and seems like he’s having far too much fun. Many will probably not recall that in his early days Clooney starred in a number of comedic roles as opposed to the leading man characters he is well known for. Seriously, the man was a co-star of THE RETURN OF THE KILLER TOMOATOES. He shows that he works well in this sort of role and it feels tailor made for him. Roberts does a great job as well but her part seems incredibly minor for an actress of her stature, almost a supporting rather than a starring role. O’Connor shows that he is someone to keep an eye on making Kyle go from nut job to someone we care about before the film ends.

As serious as it sounds there is plenty of dark humor on display in this film. It is less a tension fueled thriller and more a thought provoking piece of entertainment that has you laugh, worry and think all before the end credits role. While I wasn’t sure if the movie would be that good as it opened I loved it by the end. It’s one I could watch again and still enjoy and one that I would heartily recommend be seen.

Click here to order.