Cinema Mishmash

A personal and random look at movies, past and present

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Entries from May 2009

Journey to the Center of the Earth

May 31st, 2009 · No Comments

In Brendan Fraser, the producers of Journey to the Center of the Earth must have been looking for someone who wouldn’t distract from the real star of the film: the multitude of special effects shots. In fact, Fraser’s acting style could very well be computer generated, making him seem right at home among the subterranean [...]

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Tags: Action/Adventure · Capsule · Family · Popcorn · Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Burden of Dreams

May 29th, 2009 · No Comments

The Criterion Collection has set the bar so high regarding expected supplements in its DVD releases that Les Blank’s 1982 documentary, Burden of Dreams, about the making of Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, seems a bit like an orphan unfit to inhabit its own spine on the collection’s formidable shelf. That’s not to say that the film [...]

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Tags: Action/Adventure · Capsule · Documentary


May 27th, 2009 · No Comments

A wonderful man died early this morning. Tony Malone, a fixture of live entertainment throughout Ireland, made his way to his next act long before his earthly career should have come to a close. He was full of life, at times larger than life, great with a joke, infectiously fun-loving, and a marvelous singer. He [...]

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Tags: Documentary · Foreign Language · Musical · Review

Sita Sings the Blues

May 15th, 2009 · No Comments

Filmmakers, especially screenwriters, sometimes run afoul of good storytelling by assaulting us with thinly-veiled personal stories of the tortured and misunderstood artist (usually a writer) who makes some journey that is of tremendous importance — to one person on earth. Nina Paley’s innovative, eclectically animated feature, Sita Sings the Blues, avoids the vortex of self-obsessed [...]

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Tags: Animation · Capsule · Drama · Musical

Girls, Tricky

May 13th, 2009 · No Comments

This week marks the opening of the beautiful new Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago, a multifaceted feast for the eyes that delivers on its high expectations as the new jewel of both the museum and Millennium/Grant Park. While the modern and contemporary galleries are lovely, the most exciting part of the new space [...]

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Tags: Documentary · Review · Short


May 12th, 2009 · No Comments

Writer/director John Sayles is a good storyteller. Having authored or contributed to nearly 35 screenplays (including some Hollywood doozies, like Piranha, credited as his first) and directed 16 features, it would be fair to call him a prolific one as well. And while his personal projects as writer/director aren’t all brilliant, they are all well constructed, satisfying [...]

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Tags: Capsule · Director · Drama · Musical

Leave Her to Heaven

May 11th, 2009 · No Comments

While the idea of a Technicolor film noir sounds as ridiculous as a G-rated sex comedy, 1945’s Leave Her to Heaven makes the notion seem perfectly natural. Trading in the low-angle, high-contrast, black-and-white photography for the  soft-focus color saturation of Technicolor, Gene Tierney and Cornel Wilde star as femme fatale and the schmuck she marries and, wait [...]

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Tags: Capsule · Crime/Noir · Drama

Desert Fury

May 11th, 2009 · No Comments

Demonstrating further that technicolor is the perfect vehicle for a melodrama in noir’s clothing, Desert Fury could be the seedy west’s answer to Rebel Without a Cause, had it not been made eight years before James Dean flashed his scowl. While the typical noir would be set in the cutthroat shadows of the cold city, Desert Fury is set [...]

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Tags: Capsule · Crime/Noir · Drama

Meet George Lucas!

May 11th, 2009 · No Comments

While this column is usually dedicated to lists of films, in lieu of this very exciting event honoring George Lucas (and giving much needed support to the best cinematic venue in Chicago, the Gene Siskel Film Center, we’ve decided instead to list 5 reasons why you should part with a little recession era cash in [...]

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Tags: List

El Norte

May 10th, 2009 · No Comments

It seems that nearly every review of the recently released Sin Nombre (still in cinemas as of this posting) draw reference to a film made 26 years prior, Gregory Navta’s El Norte. While Criterion’s recent release of El Norte on DVD and Blu-ray surely played a significant role in reminding critics of the similarities between the two [...]

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Tags: Capsule · Drama · Foreign Language

Kind Hearts and Coronets

May 9th, 2009 · No Comments

Made in a time when “clever” was an understood description for a comedy, Kind Hearts and Coronets tells the outlandish story of the murderous ambition of Louis (Dennis Price), whose mother was cruelly disinherited for marrying beneath her. Now an adult, Louis hatches a plan to ascend to the Dukedom of her mother’s family by eliminating the eight [...]

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Tags: Capsule · Comedy · Crime/Noir · Drama

Wendy and Lucy

May 9th, 2009 · No Comments

In preparing my thoughts about writer/director Kelly Reichardt’s Wendy and Lucy, in which Michelle William’s nearly indigent drifter, Wendy, becomes seriously waylaid in a small town on her way toward a new future in Alaska, I was fully prepared to lecture Reichardt about the lessons she could learn from the film Old Joy. There is a common tone and language between the [...]

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Tags: Capsule · Drama

Star Trek

May 8th, 2009 · No Comments

Based in large part upon the success of Batman Begins and Casino Royale (and, some have argued, the large studio’s desire to get extra mileage our of their established franchises during tough economic times) Hollywood seems to have a recent obsession with origins stories. So with trepidation I, along with millions of others, went to seek out [...]

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Tags: Action/Adventure · Ensemble · Review · Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Phantom India

May 5th, 2009 · No Comments

The purpose for the Criterion Collection’s Eclipse Series, as far as I understand, is to make available overlooked films and filmmakers, works which would not likely otherwise be available on DVD but which have significant value. To that end, Louis Malle’s seven-part travelogue, Phantom India, perfectly satisfies that goal. Originally presented as a television documentary [...]

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Tags: Capsule · Documentary · Foreign Language

The Life Before Her Eyes

May 4th, 2009 · No Comments

Proving that even interesting, talented actors like Uma Thurman can choose dogs for projects, The Life Before Her Eyes is built upon a narrative conceit that is so self-congratulatory in its own cleverness that the only thing worse that not figuring it out from the beginning (most people will have it at least 75% sorted by the first big [...]

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Tags: Capsule · Drama · Horror