Two popular hits from the '90s find their way back into the moviegoing consciousness this week, with the re-release of Titanic with a 3D makeover, and the third sequel (not counting straight-to-video spinoffs) to American Pie. Titanic's return is timed to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ship's sinking, and director James Cameron has overseen that which he has previously professed to hate: retrofitting a non-3D movie to add some visual depth. I'll be honest, added depth was something I always felt the film sorely needed; as spectacle, it remains a marvel, but as a story it's as stale as ever, and awful dialogue is enough to make you wish the entire film was just one long action sequence about the boat going down. My reservations aside, it remains a beloved and landmark piece of work, and movies of this size and scope always benefit from the biggest screen possible.
Much smaller in scope, American Pie helped usher in a new age of raunchy R-rated comedy that survives to this day. (For more on this, take a look at my piece for the Atlantic, which looks at the relative pop culture influences of both American Pie and Titanic more than a decade after their release.) The latest installment in the lives of the kids from East Great Falls, Michigan, finds that they're far from being kids: They're married with children, and they've got all new problems to figure out. American Reunion brings back the entire original cast for the group's high school reunion.
François Truffaut was reportedly never very happy with this 1968 revenge flick, which wasn't much loved by critics at the time either, though it did manage to find an audience and become a modest financial success. Truffaut's second color film (after his adaptation of Fahrenheit 451) stars Jeanne Moreau as a bride left without a groom after a group of five men kill her fiancé on their wedding day. One by one, she goes after the men, taking each one out in a different way--including one at his own wedding. (That plot may sound familiar, as Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill also features a bride going after the assassins who ruin her wedding day, but Tarantino--never one to shy away from admitting his influences--claims never to have seen Truffaut's film.) The film is adapted from a novel by William Irish, an author whose work had been used by Hitchcock a number of times before. Truffaut, a Hitchcock devotee who wrote a seminal analysis of Hitchcock's work, was looking to try his hand at making a film in the style of his idol, even hiring Hitch's longtime composer, Bernard Hermann, to write the score. Success or failure, it's a fascinating work from Truffaut at a time when he was trying his hand at new styles a decade after helping to kick off the French New Wave.
After The Grey, this Australian film starring Willem Dafoe marks the second film of the year taking an existential look at the psychology of a man in a survival situation--one more, and we may have a trend on our hands. Dafoe plays a hunter for hire, called to the Tasmanian wilderness to hunt down a rare species of marsupial (known as the Tasmanian Tiger, but not actually related to feline tigers) once thought to be extinct but believed to be prowling the island. He's been called to the job by a biotech company seeking to use the animal's genetic material, and while there, he becomes personally involved with the family he's staying with, and inadvertently finds himself embroiled in a conflict over logging in the area.
British writer/director Terence Davies's new film, an adaptation of Terence Ratigan's play, The Deep Blue Sea, is currently playing over at E Street, and to coincide with that film's release, West End is screening a brand new 35-millimeter print of Davies's 1992 work, The Long Day Closes. Following his debut, Distance Voices, Still Lives, this is the second film in which Davies looks back at his own life through a camera lens, incorporating autobiography into this story of an 11-year-old boy not doing so well at a new school. For young Bud, as for Davies, the movies become a refuge from the problems in his life, and Davies captures both the difficulties of growing up and the magic of cinema in this film.
Opens tomorrow at West End Cinema.
While he'll always be best known as the co-director of King Kong, Ernest Schoedsack turned in a number of other fantasy and adventure efforts throughout the 1930s, including at least one other unqualified classic in his adaptation of The Most Dangerous Game. That run ended in 1940 with this film (though he would briefly come back a decade later to reunite with the Kong team for one more ape film, 1949's Mighty Joe Young), a sci-fi thriller about a mad scientist in the jungles of Peru. Hampered by extremely poor eyesight (hence the film's name), he calls in a pair of scientists from the States to lend a helping eye to some of his work, but when things go sour, the Americans become the subjects of his experiment: the development of a shrink ray. As in Kong, Schoedsack monkeys with the proportions of everyday life, as the now-12-inch-tall scientists must escape and contend with normal-size objects that are now huge, in order to find a way to return to their original size and stop the mad doctor.
DVD Pick of the Week: Being Elmo
Ever wondered about the man behind the bright red monster? Sesame Street's characters have so much character of their own that one rarely thinks to ask who pulls their strings, as Constance Marks does in her profile of Kevin Clash, the voice and the puppeteer behind Elmo. Marks goes back to Clash's beginnings as a puppeteer (he's a Baltimore native), the history that brought him into contact with muppet designer Kermit Love, who introduced him to Jim Henson, and the sequence of events that eventually showed him how to get to Sesame Street. A hit at festivals throughout the rest of the year, Marks's film is a inspiring success story and a feel-good piece of filmmaking that never seems like fluff.
Special Features: Some clips that were cut from the film, a portion of the film's Sundance Q&A, a look at an 11-year-old puppeteer performing with the Sesame Street team during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, and an interview with a former Sesame Street puppeteer, John Tartaglia, who wound up winning a Tony for his part in the Broadway show Avenue Q.
View the trailer.