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Everybody is kung-fu fighting for sure, but it takes more than that to make a great martial arts movie. The Guardian and Observer critics pick the 10 finest ever made
• Top 10 movie adaptations
• Top 10 animated movies
• Top 10 silent movies
• Top 10 sports movies
• Top 10 film noir
• Top 10 musicals
• More Guardian and Observer critics' top 10s
The film that kick-started Hong Kong cinema's kung-fu renaissance and launched Jet Li towards a future of substandard western action movies. Its subject was already well known to local audiences: Wong Fei-hung was a real person: a turn-of-the-century martial arts master and healer who's become something of a folk hero. Like Sherlock Holmes or Robin Hood, he'd been portrayed many times before. Jackie Chan played him in Drunken Master, and a long-running Wong Fei-hung film series during the 1950s and 60s gave roles to the fathers of Bruce Lee and Yuen Wo-ping, »
Pluralism is the defining feature of music at the end of the 20th century – from the minimalist film music of Michael Nyman to the lush sounds of Toru Takemitsu to the spectralist works that explored sound itself, writes Gillian Moore
"We live in a time not of mainstream but of many streams," John Cage mused as he surveyed the musical scene shortly before his death in 1992, "or even, if you insist upon a river of time, then we have come to the delta, maybe even beyond a delta to an ocean which is going back to the skies … "
The 12th and final episode of The Rest Is Noise festival is called New World Order. It may still be too early to have the historical distance to tell what really mattered in classical music at the end of the 20th century. What is clear, however, is that in the closing decades »
- Gillian Moore
Jean Kent: British film star and ‘Last of the Gainsborough Girls’ dead at 92 (photo: actress Jean Kent in ‘Madonna of the Seven Moons’) News outlets and tabloids — little difference these days — have been milking every little drop from the unexpected and violent death of The Fast and the Furious franchise actor Paul Walker, and his friend and business partner Roger Rodas this past Saturday, November 30, 2013. Unfortunately — and unsurprisingly — apart from a handful of British publications, the death of another film performer on that same day went mostly underreported. If you’re not "in" at this very moment, you may as well have never existed. Jean Kent, best known for her roles as scheming villainesses in British films of the 1940s and Gainsborough Pictures’ last surviving top star, died on November 30 at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, England. The previous day, she had suffered a fall at her »
- Andre Soares
Written by Yasujiro Ozu and Kogo Noda
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
December 12 marks 110 years since the birth of the great Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu (and 50 years to the date since his death). So what better way to commemorate the occasion than to revisit what is widely seen as his masterpiece among masterpieces, Tokyo Story, out now on a 3-disc dual format Blu-ray/DVD from The Criterion Collection? There have been few filmmakers treated as well by Criterion as Ozu, with more than a dozen titles available either as standalone discs or as part of a set. This latest edition of Tokyo Story, an update on their DVD release from 2003, is no exception.
The film looks spectacular in its new digital restoration, the sharpness making even more clear the attention to detail Ozu devoted to his compositions; sides, foregrounds, and backgrounds are all layered with authentic texture and »
- Jeremy Carr
This week's "Oldboy" is being marketed as a lot of things -- a bold, stylistic new thriller, the latest masterpiece from American auteur Spike Lee, a broody Josh Brolin movie -- but none of the advertising or promotional materials for the film are engaging with its place as a remake of an Asian cult classic.
The original "Oldboy," directed by South Korean filmmaker Chan-wook Park, was an exercise in rococo visual style and a taste test for even the most out-there international film fan. (When the scene where the lead actor eats a live octopus is at the bottom of the outrageousness scale, you know it's wild.) And while the new "Oldboy" superficially borrows from the original, it lacks many of the elements that made that film so special.
And while it's fairly well known that some big-time American movies have gotten their start in Asia (Martin Scorsese's Oscar-winning »
- Drew Taylor
As Akira Kurosawa is to Star Wars, George Lucas is to The Micronauts: Bill Mantlo and Michael Golden’s 1979 comic series that was based on a toy line. The story goes that Mantlo saw the toys in a store and somehow convinced Marvel’s Jim Shooter to pursue the license for them. The toys, whose gimmick was that all the parts of the figures and sets were interchangeable, were also pretty free of any backstory. A Japanese import, the Micronaut toys really had no story beyond that there were good guys, there were bad guys, and they fought. That combined with the ability to swap parts were everything they had before Mantlo and Golden got their hands on them. With this blank slate, Bill Mantlo was determined to recreate Star Wars while Golden tweaked the designs of the toys to recast Star Wars as superheroes and supervillains.
Arcturus Rann, an »
- Scott Cederlund
Julie Taymor, Antonio Monda, Jeffrey Eugenides in a backstage Le Conversazioni: Films of My Life discussion. Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze The 2013 Le Conversazioni literary festival celebrating the relationship between art, architecture, literature and film concluded at the Morgan Library & Museum on Thursday, November 7 in New York. Artistic director of Le Conversazioni Antonio Monda discussed with Tony Award-winning director Julie Taymor and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jeffrey Eugenides - whose novel was adapted into Sofia Coppola's The Virgin Suicides (1999) starring Kirsten Dunst, Josh Hartnett, James Woods, and Kathleen Turner - films that influenced their lives and work. Clips from each of Taymor and Eugenides' chosen movies were shown, plus one from the moderator at the end.
Antonio Monda introduces Le Conversazioni Films of My Life Photo: »
- Anne-Katrin Titze
Running time: 99 minutes
A bold, brash and passionate force whose name doesn’t quite ring as loud as that of Steven Spielberg or George Lucas, John Milius is the titular subject of this loving tribute, the directorial debut of Joey Figueroa and Zak Knutson. Some of Hollywood’s biggest names weigh in on Milius’ life, his incredible writing skill and deliver a wonderful personal touch to an industry that (perhaps now even more so than when Milius and his film school friends sought to change it in the 1970s) is too often mired in advertising and business politics rather than emotion and storytelling.
Milius himself brings both of these qualities in abundance. A straight forward chronological telling of his life, the film charts his personal turn »
- James Story
The idea of directors as perfectionists isn't new by any standard, but in today's terms it seems David Fincher is often cited as the perfectionist director most guilty of several takes. Even recently a Missouri newspaper quoted Fincher's Gone Girl producer Cean Chaffin saying Fincher was averaging something like 50 takes per scene. Of course you also have the Guinness Book of World Records saying it took Stanley Kubrick 127 takes to get the scene where Shelley Duvall swings a bat at Jack Nicholson just right in The Shining, of course the factual reality of that is in question as it's said a two-shot scene between Danny Lloyd and Scatman Crothers took 140 takes. Then you have the likes of Akira Kurosawa's perfectionism and Jackie Chan's multiple takes due to a lot of stunt work and countless others. However, when it comes to a lot of takes nothing beats the »
- Brad Brevet
Among the daily noise about casting, box office, special effects, trends, awards and whatever else is dominating the conversation, the reason we go to the movies is often left undiscussed. But this exclusive trailer for the forthcoming documentary "What Is Cinema?" is sure to get you thinking about the moments that make you keep returning to the theater, eager for the lights to go down and the projector to turn on. Directed by Chuck Workman ("Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol"), this documentary/visual essay pays particular attention to filmmakers who are pushing the edges of the form and stepping past conventional boundaries. And he's rounded up a great list of participants with Mike Leigh, Jonas Mekas, David Lynch, Kelly Reichardt, Costa-Gavras and Michael Moore among those granting new interviews, alongside archival footage featuring Robert Bresson, Alfred Hitchock, Chantal Akerman and Akira Kurosawa. It should be fascinating stuff. »
- Kevin Jagernauth
The Retrospective section of the Berlin Film Festival will focus on the use of light in movie-making, the event said Thursday. The section will be curated by Deutsche Kinemathek in partnership with the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where the movies will also play.
The fest said that the line-up will allow auds to discover lighting styles from a variety of genres and periods of film history.
“We admire films such as Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Rashomon,’ but for the most part we don’t know the names of the cameramen and lighting technicians who, in a team with the director, create these superb worlds of light and shadow for us. In 2014, the Retrospective will illuminate these works,” said Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick.
- Leo Barraclough
It takes a big man to admit the fact that he hasn't seen one single movie from a director as famous as Akira Kurosawa. It's especially embarrassing if you're a mildly successful movie blogger such as myself. But it was true. Was being the operative word, as I've chosen to dedicate this week's For Science to the start of my Kurosawa journey. It begins with four films, from a range of time periods, all of which center on one particular historical period: feudal Japan. »
- Neil Miller
Blu-ray & DVD Release Date: Jan. 7, 2014
Price: Blu-ray/DVD Combo $39.95
A vivid, visceral Macbeth adaptation, the 1957 action drama Throne of Blood, directed by Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai), sets Shakespeare’s definitive tale of ambition and duplicity in a ghostly, fog-enshrouded landscape in feudal Japan.
A classic of international cinema, Throne of Blood fuses classical Western tragedy with formal elements taken from Noh theater to create an unforgettable cinematic experience.
Presented in Japanese with English subtitles, Criterion’s Blu-ray/DVD Combo includes the following features:
• New, restored 2K digital film transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• Audio commentary featuring Japanese-film expert Michael Jeck
• Documentary on the making of Throne of Blood, »
As an auteurist, Best Director, maybe even more than Best Picture, is the Oscar category that most fascinates me. The interesting thing about the category is that it tends to simultaneously be both a point of pride and shame for the Academy Awards. On the one hand, the Directors branch has done a decent job of nominating directors who push and expand the boundaries of cinema, regardless of the genre they work in and from whichever country they hail from. Directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Federico Fellini, Stanley Kubrick, Ingmar Bergman, John Cassavetes, Francois Truffaut, David Lynch, Akira Kurosawa, and Spike Jonze have all seen recognition in this category (some multiple times) for films that received very little attention from any other branches of the Academy.
On the other hand, when it comes to actually crowning a Best Director (which is a job given to the Academy as a whole, »
- Christopher Lominac
Here's a fact of which not all awards-watchers are entirely aware: Michael Haneke hasn't won an Oscar. Neither has Francois Truffaut, nor Luis Bunuel. Pedro Almodovar has one for writing, but that's it. Ang Lee has two for directing, but nothing for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” And Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini and Akira Kurosawa each won honorary Oscars, but no competitive ones between them. At this point, some of you might be crying foul. You expressly remember Haneke accepting his Oscar only a few months ago. You've definitely seen Almodovar give two acceptance speeches. And you know your Oscar history: Fellini »
- Guy Lodge
Odd List Ryan Lambie Simon Brew 31 Oct 2013 - 07:01
We train our sights on the year 1996, and the 25 underappreciated films it has to offer...
Independence Day managed to revive both the alien invasion movie and the disaster flick in 1996, and just about every other mainstream picture released that year lived in its saucer-shaped shadow.
Yet beyond the aerial battles of Independence Day, the flying cows in Twister, and the high-wire antics of Tom Cruise in Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible, there sat an entire library of lesser-known and underappreciated movies.
As part of our attempts to highlight the unsung greats of the 90s, here's our selection of 25 such films from 1996 - the year chess champion Garry Kasparov lost to the might of the computer Deep Blue, and the year comedy star Jim Carrey starred in an unexpectedly dark tale of obsession...
25. The Cable Guy
We can't sit here and »
Criterion has announced its January titles, and there are some great films heading our way. The releases include a five-disc dual format Blu-ray/DVD of the 1963 comedy classic It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World complete with new commentary tracks and an extended 197-minute version of the film, director Michael Mann’s 1981 feature debut Thief with a new commentary from Mann and star James Caan, filmmaker Akira Kurosawa’s 1957 Macbeth adaptation Throne of Blood, British filmmaker Terence Davies’ 1992 autobiographical feature The Long Day Closes, and many more. Hit the jump for the full list of titles, including extras details and box art. And click here for some great Criterion Blu-ray deals on Amazon. Throne Of Blood-Dual-format Blu-ray And DVD Edition A vivid, visceral Macbeth adaptation, Throne of Blood, directed by Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai), sets Shakespeare’s definitive tale of ambition and duplicity in a ghostly, fog-enshrouded landscape in feudal Japan. »
- Adam Chitwood
It would appear from the volumes of making-of materials and documentaries on “Star Wars” that Lucasfilm has nearly every piece of film surrounding it stored in the archives. However, less preserved are the outside works of those who worked on the saga, namely “Star Wars” art director Roger Christian: with financial assistance from George Lucas in 1979, he wrote, produced and directed a 25-minute short entitled “Black Angel” that showed in front of “The Empire Strikes Back.” Since its release, it was presumed that copies of the film were lost forever, but with the news back in December that its original negative had been found, we've got our first glimpse of the short, as well as clarification on its latest release. Following "a knight returning from the Crusades who is transported to a mystical realm where he must rescue a princess from a black knight," the Akira Kurosawa-influenced film »
- Charlie Schmidlin
I did a list of what I considered to be (at the time) the Top Ten Heist Films back in March of '08 and it Criterion is set to release a pair of films from said list in January. The first is Michael Mann's first feature film, Thief (1/14) starring James Caan as an ex-con safecracker who gets caught up with a local gangster and a diamond heist that gets him in over his head. Included is an audio commentary featuring Mann and Caan, which I believe is available on the already released DVD, along with new interviews with Mann, Caan and Johannes Schmoelling of the band Tangerine Dream, which contributed the film's much-talked-about soundtrack. Next is a film I recently stumped you guys on with my inaugural "Can You Guess All the Moviesc" post, that being Jules Dassin's Rififi (1/14) centering on a crew of four ex-cons planning a Paris heist. »
- Brad Brevet
When you step off the plane at Busan’s Gimhae airport, Robert De Niro is there to welcome you. Not literally, of course, but everywhere you turn, that familiar mole, those permanently squinted eyes, and that strained, insidious smile entreat you to visit the nearby Paradise Casino, in the kind of ad campaign A-list stars once did clandestinely for foreign markets — and still continue to do, even if in the Internet era nothing stays secret for long. (And really, if De Niro needs the work, better this than more movies like “The Family.”)
Though one doubts that Bobby D has ever actually set foot in the South Korean port city of 4 million residents, his “Jackie Brown” director Quentin Tarantino was among the guests who did pass through for the 18th Busan Intl. Film Festival (Oct. 3-12). Nor was Tarantino, who stopped in Busan after picking up a career achievement prize »
- Scott Foundas
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