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‘THE HOLLARS’ IS WORTH SHOUTING ABOUT

The Hollars-Krasinski-Martindale

It isn’t typical for really good films to be released at the end of summer, but The Hollars is a happy exception to the rule. What a wonderful movie! John Krasinski has done himself proud as the director and costar of this warm, funny, and emotionally gripping family portrait. It’s so good that at a certain point I forgot I was watching familiar actors and became fully engaged in their characters. For this, credit must go to the director and his gifted screenwriter, Jim Strouse. I’ve been following Strouse’s career since I chanced to see the modest indie Lonesome Jim (2005) with Casey Affleck. Since then he has written and directed Grace is Gone (2007), The Winning Season (2009) and People Places Things (2015). He…

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Fire up Those Projectors

Brattle Theater projection booth

35mm film is not dead, despite what you may have heard. It has high-profile supporters including Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan. For it to survive, however, there must be an infrastructure to support it and people who know how to deal with the medium. In the digital era, projectionists are a dying breed and physical copies of films are becoming scarce. But there are rays of hope. The American Cinematheque is completely renovating the booth in its historic Egyptian Theatre so it will be possible to screen precious nitrate prints. In a press release Martin Scorsese says, “The art of cinema developed with nitrate from its beginnings to the early ’50s, and the silver content gave us a luminosity and a richness that was never…

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MEL BROOKS!!!

Mel Brooks

There is only one Mel Brooks, and having him as a guest on the current episode of my podcast Maltin on Movies is a source of great pride. My daughter Jessie and I had met him several times before—I even hosted a tribute to him at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—but when we left his office after this recording we were in a stupor. Gobsmacked, as the Brits would say. I think I was hyperventilating. After all, he’s Mel Brooks. I was a kid when I first saw him with Carl Reiner doing The 2,000 Year Old Man routine on the Hollywood Palace. I committed their record album to memory (as did Jessie, when she was old enough to get the jokes).…

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FOR FAMILIES AND FANBOYS: ‘KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS’

Bettle-Kubo-Monkey-750

Kubo and the Two Strings is one of the most original animated films to come along in a while. Visually stunning and emotionally rich, it represents a high-water mark for stop-motion animation by artfully blending it with CGI and other elements of movie magic. Laika Studios, which has brought us Coraline, Paranorman, and The Boxtrolls, has exceeded itself with this production. If the opening sequence doesn’t command your attention, nothing will: an Asian woman struggles in her tiny boat against a cascade of gigantic waves, using an unusual tool to cut through the wall of water. This scene is emblematic of the overall film, breathtaking for its look as well as its content. Her tool is also the movie’s visual signature: a piece of origami…

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‘BEN-HUR’ LITE

Ben Hur-Jack Huston-Morgan Freeman

Here’s the truth: I had a good time watching the new Ben-Hur. Will it linger in my thoughts for decades? I don’t think so. Will Jack Huston replace Charlton Heston whenever I think of the title character? Not likely. Did we really need another version of this familiar story? Of course not. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t entertaining. Before the lights were dimmed in the theater I joked to my wife that to satisfy a 2016 audience they’d open the movie with the chariot race. The joke was on me: that’s exactly what they do. It turns out to be a savvy move, as it grabs our attention and lays the groundwork (pun intended) for the flashback that constitutes the balance of the picture.…

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‘LO AND BEHOLD’: WERNER HERZOG TACKLES THE INTERNET

Lo and Behold

We all live with the Internet, whether we want to or not. Our lives have been forever altered by connectivity. Werner Herzog is not an active user of the ‘net, but he is a man of boundless intellectual curiosity. In his latest documentary he takes a wide-ranging look at the origins, goals, dangers, roadblocks and possibilities of the Internet. To trace this history and predict the future he has sought out pioneers, inventors, scientists, dreamers, and even a few quacks (albeit articulate ones) for a series of talking-head-style interviews. Herzog doesn’t appear onscreen but his presence is always felt and sometimes heard off-camera. By acting as the audience’s ombudsman we get the kind of answers we seek and deserve about this all-encompassing presence in our…

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A CANDID LOOK AT INGRID BERGMAN

Ingrid Bergman shooting home movies

Documentaries about film history don’t seem to have long shelf lives, in theatrical or television distribution. That’s why I’m grateful that the Criterion Collection has released Stig Björkman’s Ingrid Bergman In Her Own Words, which played the film festival circuit and a handful of theaters last year. This strikingly intimate portrait of the luminous leading lady draws on the actress’ letters, diaries, and copious home movies. It features all four of her children, including Isabella Rossellini, the only one to follow in her parent’s footsteps. We learn about Bergman’s bittersweet childhood and the losses from which she never fully recovered. Once she achieved success, at home and then in Hollywood, Bergman chose career over family time and again. Somehow her children made their peace with…

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MEMORIES OF PROFESSOR SCORSESE: ‘I Remember Film School’

Martin Scorsese for Cape Fear-680

[by Allan Arkush] [Editor’s note: Long before I met him, Allan Arkush wrote this unforgettable piece for Film Comment magazine, Vol 19. No. 6, in 1983. I am delighted to present it to a new audience with Allan’s encouragement and the kind permission of the folks at Film Comment. Allan made his first splash as the director of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School and has gone on to create countless films and television series episodes, from Moonlighting and St. Elsewhere right up to this season’s BrainDead. He is also a regular contributor to Trailers From Hell.] In winter of 1969 I was a junior at N.Y.U. film school. I was a very, very serious film student. The cinema was not fun, it was art. If…

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THE SUMMER’S BEST FAMILY FILM: ‘PETE’S DRAGON’

Oakes Fegley-Petes Dragon

Pete’s Dragon has a vital ingredient that many fantasy films lack: a true sense of wonder. For that we must thank director and co-writer David Lowery, a newcomer to mainstream moviemaking who is best known for the indie release Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013). He has an understanding of how to make a modern Disney film that checks all the right boxes and leaves us fully satisfied. No wonder the studio has signed him to pilot their upcoming remake of Peter Pan. Wide-eyed Oakes Fegley plays Pete, a little boy who is forced to fend for himself in the dense forest of the Pacific Northwest. His only friend and ally is a furry, playful dragon named Elliot. In the nearest town, old-timer Robert Redford has…

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ACADEMY RESTORES HOWARD HUGHES RARITIES

The Front Page-680

Howard Hughes’ career in Hollywood was checkered, to put it mildly, but the man who made Hell’s Angels and Scarface cannot and should not be written off. Unfortunately, some of his films have been nearly impossible to see over the years while others have not been well cared for. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is presenting a double-bill on Monday night that represents a major restoration effort—and catnip for avid film buffs. You may think you know the 1931 version of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s classic play The Front Page, directed with flair by Lewis Milestone. I certainly did, and wrote about its recent home video release HERE. Not only has the Academy found source materials that surpass anything we’ve seen…

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