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Chicago – Does it say something about the current market of Blu-rays that nine of our top ten releases of the year (and, honestly, most of the runner-ups considered) are for catalog releases and special editions instead of films produced in the current era? More and more often, modern releases seem kind of lackluster. Throw on a featurette, maybe a deleted scene or two, and put it on the shelf.
More often, it is the anniversary editions, special release, and, of course, The Criterion Collection that lives up to the true potential of the format. Critics Matt Fagerholm and Brian Tallerico have assembled their ten best of 2011, all of which should be added to your collection as soon as possible. Or ask Santa if you think you’ve been good enough this year.
Matt Fagerholm’s Five Best Blu-rays of 2011
5. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Photo credit: Paramount »
- firstname.lastname@example.org (Adam Fendelman)
Plastic Paper is Winnipeg’s celebration of animation, illustration and puppet films, organized by the Big Smash! filmmaking collective. Their second annual event will be held on May 4-8 at the Park Theatre.
The big score for this year’s edition is a special screening of Ralph Bakshi’s 1981 feature-length musical opus American Pop with the filmmaker in attendance for a post-screening Q&A. For this groundbreaking work, Bakshi utilized the innovative technique of mixing rotoscoping, water colors, computer graphics, live action shots, and archival footage. This screening and discussion will be a real treat for animation junkies.
But that’s not to say that the rest of the festival isn’t also filled with other amazing films.
Because, speaking of groundbreaking work, the fest kicks off with Brent Green’s simply astounding film Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then, the first full-length film utilizing real-life actors in amazing stop-motion animation. »
- Mike Everleth
American: The Bill Hicks Story is a documentary along the lines of Richard Pryor: I Ain.T Dead Yet, #*%$#@!! or Sam Kinison: Why Did We Laugh? All three films take a look at great comics, travelling back in time to try and better understand the life of the artist, what made them tick and why their brand of humor was so well received by audiences.
Bill Hicks was just a kid from Houston who, like so many teenagers, felt the need to rebel and do something different. So, instead of going to college like the rest of his family, Hicks knew at an early age he wanted to be a comedian. His career started at the tender age of 15 when he performed with popularity at a comedy club in Houston, Texas.
Before long, Bill Hicks found himself becoming a potential star, but that.s also about the time »
- Travis Keune
The directing duo takes us behind-the-scenes of this groundbreaking new documentary, in theaters now
Utilizing an array of animation, archival photographs, and a stockpile of never-before-scene video footage, directors Paul Thomas and Matt Harlock have crafted one of the most intriguing documentaries of the year with American: The Bill Hicks Story. Thicker than any biography could ever hope to be, we get a true sense of this groundbreaking comedian in ways we've never heard or seen before.
Paul Thomas and Matt Harlock track Bill Hicks from his meager beginnings, to his drug addiction and alcoholism, through his second coming as a clean comedian, and into his untimely death at the age of 33. This is a must-see documentary for anyone interested in the art of stand-up comedy, or the history of American originals.
This week on “Movie B.S. with Bayer and Snider,” Jeff Bayer is still wherever the hell he is, but he and Eric D. Snider pre-taped reviews of “Super” and “Rubber” for your listening pleasure, along with a round of Pitch Me. So there’s plenty of Bayer! Eric also talks about “Rio,” “The Conspirator,” and “American: The BIll Hicks Story.” And then, live via satellite, horror maven Scott Weinberg talks to Eric about the “Scream” series, including a review of “Scream 4.” Scott’s cat Jones makes a silent cameo.
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Movie B.S. with Bayer and Snider
Jeff Bayer and Eric D. Snider are movie critics, but not the stuffy,
elitist kind. They’re not the idiotic fanboy kind either. »
- Jeff Bayer
How does one document a legend, especially one as controversial and influential as comedian Bill Hicks? Throughout his career, he was labeled a rebel, a saint, someone who looked out for the best of America, and someone who was the embodiment of everything wrong with America. Instead of making the film an indictment or tribute to a comic that transcended telling jokes, directors Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas use their film American: The Bill Hicks Story to simply tell the story of the man himself.
There doesn’t seem to be anything revolutionary in the idea, but the truly riveting aspect is how the filmmakers tell the story through animating a wealth of photos accompanied with current voice over of the people who knew his story the best, including his family, his closest friends, and fellow comedians. This style, somewhere between cut-out dolls and Pixar movies, allows us to see »
- Mike Anton
After numerous weekends of consistent growth, things began to slow down for Jane Eyre and Win Win. Playing at 247 locations (up 67 from last weekend), Jane Eyre was down five percent to $1.16 million, while Win Win inched up a percent to $1.15 million at 226 locations (an increase of 77 over last weekend). The movies have so far made $5.15 million and $3.43 million, respectively, and their chances of reaching nationwide release dimmed.Warner Bros.'s latest IMAX movie Born to Be Wild opened to $856,133 at 206 locations. That's over twice as much as the studio's previous IMAX release, Hubble 3D, though that only debuted at 39 theaters. No Eres Tu, Soy Yo, Lionsgate's latest attempt to reach out to Hispanic audiences, grossed $588,938 at 226 theaters in its first weekend. That's way off from their last Latino-focused movie, From Prada to Nada, which opened to $1.12 million in January. Prada had more recognizable leads, a (mostly) English-language title and a wide-reaching marketing campaign, »
- Ray Subers <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Coming off a disappointing frame last weekend , the specialty box office also didn't have any significant breakouts debut this weekend. A slew of limited openings included Kelly Reichardt epic indie Western "Meek's Cutoff," Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas' doc "American: The Bill Hicks Story," Keanu Reeves-Vera Farmiga starrer, "Henry's Crime," "No Wave" documentary, "Blank City," and "Meet Monica Velour," which features Kim Cattrall as an aging porn star. Among »
Russell Brand stars in a new movie for the second weekend in a row as the remake of Arthur hits theatres and goes up against last weekend's box office winner Hop. There are plenty of other major releases in the hunt as well, including the fantasy comedy Your Highness starring James Franco and Danny McBride, Soul Surfer starring AnnaSophia Robb, and Joe Wright's spy thriller Hanna. We also have quite a few interesting movies hitting select theatres including Meek's Cutoff starring Michelle Williams, Max Winkler's Ceremony, and the IMAX 3-D documentary Born to Be Wild narrated by (who else?) Morgan Freeman. What will you be watching this weekend? Arthur  Hanna  Your Highness  Soul Surfer  Born to Be Wild (IMAX)  (limited) Meek's Cutoff  (limited) Henry's Crime  (limited) Ceremony  (limited) American: The Bill Hicks Story  (limited) Blank City  (limited) Meet Monica Velour  (limited) Meeting Spencer  (limited Evil Bong 3-D  (limited)  http://www. »
Some say that real humor is usually fueled by strong emotions. That may help explain why Bill Hicks was one of the best comedians our country’s ever seen, since at his best his comedy was fueled by his rage, ripping apart a world he saw as full of inescapable stupidity and laziness. One of the main questions being asked by American: The Bill Hicks Story is how exactly Hicks became so angry, not to mention how much of the anger was an act and how much was genuinely who he was. »
Bill Hicks used to be considered merely one of the greatest stand-up comics in the world. That was a long time ago. After his death in 1994 at age 32, he became a comedy martyr. Then he became a comedy saint. That wasn’t enough posthumous validation, however, so the new documentary American: The Bill Hicks Story essentially posits Hicks as a comedy messiah who died for our sins and will someday return to save us from Carlos Mencia, Gallagher, and Dane Cook. American represents the height of the posthumous deification of Hicks, which has transformed him into a principled »
Until a few weeks ago, I’d never heard of the Texas stand-up comedian Bill Hicks, who died in 1994 at age 32, having found resounding success overseas and little more than professional respect at home. Since then, I’ve devoured several hours of his comedy specials on my Netflix Instant account, marveling at the way this artist managed to blend blisteringly caustic commentaries on sex, politics, rock music, religion, and drug addiction with a weirdly humane, almost holistic philosophy of life. Stand-up comedy in any form is not normally my thing, but I’ve become rather attached to The World According to Hicks.
Heir to Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor, Hicks was a hard-working club habitué who built his material from life experience — he was raised in a strict Southern Baptist home in Houston and was transformed head to toe by an experience with psychedelic mushrooms before he ever touched a drop of alcohol. »
- Damon Smith
A stand-up comedian's job is to make people laugh. But the more you learn about stand-ups, the more you see how unfunny their own lives often are. Many of the best comedians are forged in the darkest places. Comedian Bill Hicks struggled with substance abuse for years and then just as he got himself clean and his career started to take off, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the age of 31. He was dead by the time he was 32.
Funny as it is, "American: The Bill Hicks Story" is a deeply moving tragedy about the miserable luck of an absolute genius. And I don't use the word "genius" lightly here. Hicks was like the stand-up comedian version of a five-tool baseball player. He could do it all. He had great timing. He did great impressions. He had amazing physical gifts. His humor came from a distinctive and really unique perspective. »
- Matt Singer
Directors: Matt Harlock, Paul Thomas There is a bloody good reason that this documentary by co-directors Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas is titled American: The Bill Hicks Story. Harlock and Thomas are British BBC veterans -- and we all know how much the Brits love the American comic Bill Hicks. In 2010 he was voted the 4th on the UK's Channel 4's 100 Greatest Stand-Ups; and, though an American, he is certainly not held in the same esteem by most Americans. That is not to say that Hicks did not develop a dedicated cult audience in the U.S., especially after his premature death at the age of 32. (Note: Hicks did not die from drugs, alcohol or cigarettes -- though he certainly indulged enough for death by overindulgence to be a possibility -- he died from pancreatic cancer.) Hicks' dedicated fans claim that he is the most influential comedian since Lenny Bruce; and like Bruce, »
- Don Simpson
On June 7, Warner Home Video will release the DVD and Blu-ray of American: The Bill Hicks Story, a biographical documentary on the life — too short life — of controversial comedian/social commentator Bill Hicks, who died of pancreatic cancer in 1994 at the age of 32.
American: The Bill Hicks Story looks at the controversial funnyman's life and career.
Produced and directed for the BBC in 2009 by British filmmakers Paul Thomas and Matt Harlock, American: The Bill Hicks Story notably applies a unique cut-and-paste animation technique to a number of still pictures of Hicks — who once described himself as “Chomsky with dick jokes” — to document his life and career. The film also includes archival footage, as well as interviews with Hicks’ family and friends, including Kevin Booth, an American filmmaker and musician who was one of Hicks’ frequent collaborators.
The movie was well-received at Stateside film festivals and during its run in theaters last year in England, »
I have been a fan of Bill Hicks’ unique brand of stand-up comedy for years, preaching the proverbial gospel to those who have yet to experience the man’s genius for themselves. As such, I’ve been closely following Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas’ Hicks-oriented documentary “American: The Bill Hicks Story” for a while now. The film was released theatrically in the UK last year, much to the dismay of North American fans who have been waiting patiently for the picture to arrive in our neck of the woods. That wait, as they say, is over. “American” is set to open in New York on April 8th, with more dates to follow. Needless to say, I’m anxious to see this puppy on the big screen, and I’ve got my fingers crossed that it will play somewhere around here. If you missed the trailer when I covered the flick last year, »
- Todd Rigney
Trailers are an under-appreciated art form insofar that many times they’re seen as vehicles for showing footage, explaining films away, or showing their hand about what moviegoers can expect. Foreign, domestic, independent, big budget: I celebrate all levels of trailers and hopefully this column will satisfactorily give you a baseline of what beta wave I’m operating on, because what better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising? Some of the best authors will tell you that writing a short story is a lot harder than writing a long one, that you have to weigh every sentence. What better medium to see how this theory plays itself out beyond that than with movie trailers? The City Dark Trailer Ian Cheney may have something. I never considered the idea about living where the stars are obscured by the blitz of big city light rushing upwards, »
- Christopher Stipp
15 years after his death, Bill Hicks is now more popular than ever, and is widely seen as one of the best comedian of the modern era. However, in America, where he challenged institutions and accepted ways of thinking, he suffered censorship and was never truly recognized by a wide audience. In the country which enshrines freedom of speech in its constitution his story is truly about what it means to be an American.
Now Bill.s remarkable story is brought to life in American: The Bill Hicks Story, a feature-length documentary which combines live action with a stunning new animation technique manipulating 1,000s of photographs to uniquely immerse the audiences in his world, which is re-told from the point-of-view of the people who shared it with him.
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- Melissa Howland
I've heard bits and pieces of Bill Hicks's comedy over the years and only recently heard another bit as Howard Stern played Hicks's take on Jay Leno (hit play just below the poster to the right for a Nsfw listen). However, I've never heard an entire act. I know I should, what I've heard is excellent and I only hope to get a good dose of his work in the upcoming documentary American: The Bill Hicks Story which hits theaters on April 8.
The trailer for the film has just arrived along with the official synopsis: Seventeen years after his death, Bill Hicks has taken a permanent place in the cultural landscape and is widely recognized as one of the greatest American comedians of the modern era. Described as many things - philosopher, social satirist, even preacher - Hicks was ultimately a performer who, for many, changed what comedy could be. »
- Brad Brevet
We've just passed the seventeenth anniversary of the death of Bill Hicks, and in memoriam I'd like to present the trailer for American: The Bill Hicks Story. This documentary chronicles the life of one of America's most unlikely comedic stars -- Bill Hicks wasn't so much a stand-up comic as a commentator and cultural critic. He pushed stand-up to the point almost of metaphysical inquiry, but could also rant in a way that would teach even the craziest street-corner preacher a thing or two. Watch the trailer after the break. I wasn't introduced to Bill Hicks until after his death from pancreatic cancer in 1994; I discovered his material through the few officially-released recordings and a great many bootlegs. There's a line that points from Lenny Bruce through Richard Pryor and George Carlin, and right to Bill Hicks. As he became more comfortable on stage his act developed into something that »
- Russ Fischer
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