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By Christopher Stipp

The Archives, Right Here

Check out my other column, This Week In Trailers, at SlashFilm.com and follow me on TWITTER under the name: Stipp

PAUL - Screening

paul_poster_2-535x792I could not be more excited to see this film, the final product of a project that nerds who appreciate Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have been hearing about for years. On purpose I’ve been trying to avoid anything and everything about this movie but it’s been hard because it has been everywhere. An alien, Comic-Con, a road trip, Jason Bateman, the laundry list of good things brewing within this movie’s run time is just scrumptious.

So, if you live in the Phoenix area and can make it to a screening on March 15 then send me your name to Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com and I’ll get you entered to win a pair of passes to see this before everyone else.

SYNOPSIS:

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) reunite for the comedy adventure Paul as two sci-fi geeks whose pilgrimage takes them to America’s UFO heartland. While there, they accidentally meet an alien who brings them on an insane road trip that alters their universe forever.

For the past 60 years, an alien named Paul (Seth Rogen) has been hanging out at a top-secret military base. For reasons unknown, the space-traveling smart ass decides to escape the compound and hop on the first vehicle out of town—a rented RV containing Earthlings Graeme Willy (Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Frost).

Chased by federal agents and the fanatical father of a young woman that they accidentally kidnap, Graeme and Clive hatch a fumbling escape plan to return Paul to his mother ship. And as two nerds struggle to help, one little green man might just take his fellow outcasts from misfits to intergalactic heroes.

Paul is directed by Superbad’s Greg Mottola, from a story by Pegg & Frost. Joining the comedy’s cast are Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Blythe Danner, Joe Lo Truglio, John Carroll Lynch, David Koechner and Sigourney Weaver. www.whatispaul.com

ICE ROAD TRUCKERS: THE COMPLETE SEASON FOUR - Blu-Ray Review

irts4-bdI am a sucker for this show. Flat out, I am a fan of this series.

I don’t know about you but the History channel has been putting out the most consistent reality programming in terms of quality more than any network out there today. You have have your American Idol, your Biggest Loser, I’ll gladly take a series about people needing money like no one’s business. That’s your human drama, that’s where the real thrill comes.

Ice Road Truckers has always satisfied my need for good reality television if for no other reason than this series, like Deadliest Catch, has some seriousness attached to it. Meaning, I know that when the cameras go off these drivers are still living the life of people who are just trying to make ends meet. They’re not housewives, they’re not living an opulent lifestyle of fame, these are the blue collar workers who are doing the things that really are keeping the whole economy moving.

There is real money involved here. There is the difference between someone making rent this month and being sidelined enough to make it difficult for them to keep living their life. It’s like a game show and drama all in one. I have no way of explaining why this series strikes a chord with me so deeply but this series is worth checking out, it’s worth buying and owning. There is just something about watching the trials and tribulations of people who have some real skin in the game and there is no better bet on DVD within the reality genre than this series.

About the Blu-Ray:

THE #1 HISTORY® SERIES IS BACK AND MORE DANGEROUS THAN EVER!

Just when you thought trucking couldn’t get more dangerous…the new season of Ice Road Truckers is back, barreling onto blu-ray and DVD in ICE ROAD TRUCKERS: THE COMPLETE SEASON FOUR! In this top-rated season, reaching over 3.5MM viewers, the drivers return to Alaska, hauling their biggest loads ever across the most dangerous terrain they’ve faced. But this year, trucking critically needed cargo north to the oil fields of Prudhoe Bay is just the beginning…

In season four, the drivers will tackle frozen rivers and swamps out beyond the Dalton Highway, hauling supplies to some of the most remote towns of the great white north. Reigning king, Jack Jesse, looks to defend his title, and Lisa Kelly, one of the only woman truckers on the haul road, fights to prove herself in the male-dominated profession. Rookie Ray Veilleux, who recently lost his business in the lower 48, has come north to run the road and keep his struggling family afloat. And in a decades-long rivalry, veteran drivers Hugh Rowland and Alex Debogorski are back racing neck and neck. The stakes are high as the dash for cash continues. Don’t miss out on all the excitement as the white-knuckle new season featuring over 12 hours of thrilling drama, as well as additional footage arrives on DVD and blu-ray this February!

Experience all 16 episodes of this landmark series on 4 Blu-ray Discs.

DISC 1: Breaking Through / The Polar Bear Returns / Facing Down The Blow / Monster Storm Over Atigun

DISC 2: Trapped on Thin Ice / Danger at 55 Below / Avalanche! / Lisa s Monster Megahaul

DISC 3: Blood on the Dalton / The Ace vs. The Ice / A Rookie s Nightmare / The Dalton Strikes Back

DISC 4: Convoy to Hell / A Legend Meets His End / Deadly Melt / New King of the Dalton / Bonus

BIRDEMIC - DVD Review

birdemic_2d_hYes, it’s silly but, I assure you, it’s worth it.

I haven’t a clue if your local bankrupt Blockbuster, or your precious Netflix has the stones to carry a powerhouse like Birdemic but, if it does, show your DVD player who’s boss and dominate this movie. What ought to be one of the worst movies of 2010 is actually a fun piece of cinema if for only the fact that this film exists as a reminder of what’s possible when you want to make a film that is equal parts schlock and brilliance.

Now, what makes this movie so entertaining is its awfulness. I realize that’s a contradiction in terms but this movie is purposely bad in terms of its technical competencies. The dialogue is stilted, the sets are bare which makes you feel the fact that they were going for a true film school experience, the acting is nonexistent, the effects are a joke but Birdemic is just fun and that’s what’s been missing from film for quite some time. We herald technical filmmakers for their prowess but this is all about having a good time. It’s about getting back to that experience of why people like movies in the first place and the amount of love for the medium is dripping from every scene.

This may a movie about an invasion of birds but William Shatner would be jealous if he knew some fowl is threatening to overtake his spider adventure as my go-to film from now on as my favorite piece of cheese.

About the DVD:

NOT SINCE HITCHCOCK HAVE OUR FINE FEATHERED FRIENDS WREAKED

SUCH HIGH-FLOWN HAVOC AS IN THIS NEW INSTANT CULT CLASSIC

BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR

The Soaring Midnight Movie Sensation of 2010 Swoops Down Onto Blu-ray and DVD on February 22, 2011, Carrying a Load of Must-See Bonus Material in Its Talons

“A high-flying cult hit!” – The New York Times

“A cult classic – the best worst movie of all time!” – CBS News

New York, NY – It is a tender love story. A graphic horror shocker. An urgent ecological warning. And around the world, it became the must-see midnight movie sensation of the year. From writer/producer/director/visionary James Nguyen – The Master of the Romantic Thriller – comes BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR, perching onto Blu-ray and DVD from Severin Films on February 22, 2011, with an SRP of $29.98 and $24.98, respectively.

An outrageous homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR caught the attention of such mighty media powers as CBS News and The New York Times when Severin Films released it in more than 50 cities, where it enjoyed sold-out midnight showings. Judged an instant cult classic and hailed for its chutzpah as much as its cinematic ingenuity, the movie is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.

Alan Bagh stars as Rod, a Bay Area software salesman (named in apparent tribute to The Birds star Rod Taylor) who has just made a million-dollar deal. Riding high on his success, Rod snags a date with Nathalie (Whitney Moore), his former high school classmate who has become a knockout lingerie model. They hit if off immediately but awake from their first night together in a quaint seaside town to the horror of eagles and vultures swooping down and attacking the locals, turning this picturesque locale into an avian hell on earth.

Hollywood legend Tippi Hedren of Hitchcock’s 1963 classic makes a special appearance in the global cult movie phenomenon that Videogum says “might end up being the greatest film of all time!”

In addition to equally high praise from The New York Times and CBS, BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR was called “our crazy new movie obsession!” by Entertainment Weekly, and Bloody-Disgusting.com described seeing it as “the greatest night of your life.”

The much-anticipated arrival of the movie on DVD and Blu-ray comes as the sequel, Birdemic II: The Resurrection, is being readied for theatrical release in 2011.

Both the Blu-ray and DVD of BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR are filled with an abundance of hilarious special features. Additionally, two songs, “This Is Birdemic” and “Hangin’ Out With My Family,” are being released to coincide with the movie’s DVD/Blu-ray release.

BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR DVD & BLU-RAY EXTRAS

Audio Commentary With Director James Nguyen

Audio Commentary With Stars Alan Bagh and Whitney Moore

Deleted Scenes

Birdemic Experience Tour Featurette

James Nguyen on “Movie Close Up”

MOVIEHEAD: The James Nguyen Story Teaser

Birdemic Experience 2010 Trailer

THE LAST LOVECRAFT: RELIC OF CTHULHU - DVD Review

last-lovecraft_2d_hThis is film is amazing.

Not knowing what this movie was about, only coming into contact with Lovecraft in passing as I grew up in the ranks of reading fiction that was more Steinbeck than Stephen King, I had no idea that I would enjoy this as much as I did.

The long and short of the narrative is that the last known descendant of H.P. Lovecraft is the only person who can prevent a horde of Lovecraft-ian creatures from taking over the world. Naturally. What makes this such a fun film that you ought to seek out and see as soon as possible is its genuine ability to be funny and entertaining. The bar is already set low because it’s an independent feature but that shouldn’t take away from the solid humor that ranges from the pure icky of the monsters that are shown to exist in this reality to the purely idiosyncratic as three rubes fumble towards saving the world without getting themselves killed. It would be easy to simply dismiss the story as a machination of tired tropes we’ve all seen when it comes to invading monsters but it’s the heart that this movie has that makes it head and shoulders a movie that needs to be seen.

The mix of sci-fi, fantasy, and straight up comedy is brilliantly done and is deftly executed. If you would like to see a trailer check it out here but do yourself a favor and get this rented, bought, and enjoy.

About the DVD:

THE LAST LOVECRAFT: RELIC OF CTHULHU

Genre Bending Film Comes to Dark Sky Films DVD on February 15, 2011

“What a great film – the laughs keep coming and they never let up.”
– The Film Reel

“a strong, fun independent movie that Lovecraft fans will really love.”
– John Allison, RowThree.com

Mankind is threatened with extinction, and it’s up to three geeks and a salty sea captain to prevent disaster in the uproariously frightening THE LAST LOVECRAFT: RELIC OF CTHULHU. The movie, inspired by the writings of horror icon H.P. Lovecraft, will thrill aficionados when it reaches DVD via Dark Sky Films and MPI Media Group on February 15, 2011, with an SRP of $24.98.

Bored office drone Jeff (Kyle Davis, Friday the 13th) is informed by a mysterious elderly professor that he is the last living descendant of H.P. Lovecraft, the revered author of such horror/fantasy classics as The Shadow Over Innsmouth, Re-Animator and the Cthulhu Mythos stories. Jeff is thus the only person who can prevent a race of evil creatures (drawn from Lovecraft’s imagination) from wreaking havoc. The mild-mannered Jeff must protect an ancient relic and prevent it from falling into the clutches of the monsters, which would bring about the release of all-powerful evil known as Cthulhu. Jeff enlists the aid of his co-worker Charlie (screenwriter and producer, Devin McGinn, Bones) and a husky Lovecraft aficionado, Paul (Barak Hardley, Greek), and together they put their slacker lives on hold to embark on an icky and hilarious mission to save the world. Along the way, they get some help from an a sea captain with a fish-boy son – and discover that Lovecraft’s horrific monsters, including a T-shirt-wearing reptile man, are far from fictional.

Part road movie, part buddy movie in the vein of Superbad and The Hangover, THE LAST LOVECRAFT: RELIC OF CTHULHU is also a supremely creepy tribute to H.P. Lovecraft. No less an authority than Stephen King called him “the 20th century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale.” Lovecraft’s tales of Cthulhu and other stories have spawned movies, books, toys, games, apparel and collectibles.

An Official Selection of the Toronto After Dark Film Fest and the Slamdance Film Festival, THE LAST LOVECRAFT: RELIC OF CTHULHU has fans and critics alike in its thrall. Todd Brown of TwitchFilm.net called it “a loving ode to both B-grade monster cinema … and the works of H.P. Lovecraft. … so slapdash charming that it’s impossible not to enjoy the ride.” “Funny from start to finish and full of some great creature effects,” said The Film Reel. Director Henry Saine “brings to life some seriously creepy Lovecraftian sea monsters with equal parts blood, slime and slapstick,” wrote Roxxanne Benjamin at Bloody-Disgusting.com. And Toronto Film Scene said, “No one and no thing takes itself seriously in THE LAST LOVECRAFT, and that’s definitely part of its charm … both gory and funny (one of the best combinations!).”

Extras on the DVD include:

Trailer

Cast Commentary

Still Gallery

Deleted Scenes

Animation Tempts

A FILM UNFINISHED

In celebration of A FILM UNFINISHED being released on March 8th through Oscilloscope I am re-running the interview I did with director Yael Hersonski about a movie that is important, is stirring, is emotional, and is altogether powerful. Consider checking it out if you can as it certainly is one of those documentaries that shakes your heart while telling a story that needs telling.

Yael Hersonski- Interview

Just when you thought that everything has been unearthed about what happened to Jews in the holocaust filmmaker Yael Heronski unearths documentary footage, shot by Nazis, about life in a Warsaw ghetto. It was mere months before this very same ghetto would be purged of its residents, the remainder still around shipped off and sent to their certain death.

a_film_unfinishedWhat Heronski found in the footage that was once thought complete, the movie on display here showing the lengths to which the Nazis wanted to craft their own narrative that stretched the truth about what was happening inside these claustrophobic walls of half a million Jews that were contained within 3 square miles. From retakes that had poor, starving children looking just as forlorn and despondent as they did the first time they were put in front of the camera to the indignities that women had to suffer as their nude bodies were objects to be film and exploited, as if they were cattle to be assessed, are things of nightmares. Yael wanted to make a movie that went beyond outrage, to showcase the pure and unrepentant horror that were these men who took this film, and she did exactly that.

Praised with reviews from the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times this is no ordinary documentary about the atrocities of an army bent on complete ethnic cleansing, this is a singular portrait that embodies the kind of inhumane and cruelty man is capable of. It may very well be presumptuous to say this is the kind of film that belongs in history classes everywhere but it does. It’s a historical document that cuts through the Hollywood glamorization of a time that time would like to forget but never will.

Oscilloscope Laboratories, the production company putting out A Film Unfinished and headed by Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, recently gave the MPAA a piece of its mind when the rating body saddled the film with an R rating. A sad decision that prompted Yauch to respond: “This is too important of a historical document to ban from classrooms. While there’s no doubt that Holocaust atrocities are displayed, if teachers feel their students are ready to understand what happened, it’s essential that young people are given the opportunity to see this film. Why deny them the chance to learn about this critical part of our human history? I understand that the MPAA wants to protect children’s eyes from things that are too overwhelming, but they’ve really gone too far this time. It’s bullshit.”

Yael spoke with me last week and we talked about the film which is now open in New York and Los Angeles and will be opening wide as the weeks roll on.

Check out the movie’s official site for release dates about when it will be coming to a theater near you.

Senior Programmer David Courier (L) and Director Yael HersonskiCHRISTOPHER STIPP: Thank you for fitting me into your schedule. You are probably all sorts of busy.

YAEL HERSONSKI: Given that I am leaving on Sunday, I am trying to use every minute here.

CS: I just read what the New York Times had to say about the movie. That must be very uplifting.

HERSONSKI: Yes. I was very fortunate to have this kind of a review.

CS: I would like to just get right into it and talk about, now that the finished product is now out and people are responding to it in a positive way, how did you approach this project and how were you the one to put this together?

HERSONSKI: I think it was after I decided to do a project on the Holocaust not only because of the Holocaust’s inhumanity and inconceivable horror but mainly because it’s marked the beginning of the systematic documentation of the Ghetto. I thought of it also as a case study of the images we’re bombarded with today. I think there is a kind of numbness today and we cannot emotionally digest what we are actually seeing. We are watching, but I don’t think we want to see anymore.

I was thinking, too, of where it all started and I think it all started there, at the point of documentation. Then I decided to approach one of the most prominent film producers in Israel, of documentary films, and he gave me a list of footage I should watch. To just watch and try to understand the most familiar footage they used. And that film was among them. And when I saw it, I was shocked. I literally experienced a kind of anxiety not only because of the images but also because I knew some of them and saw them in so many other films I was never able to understand what I was seeing because it was out of the full context. Have you seen the film?

CS: Yes, I have.

HERONSKI: OK, so the scene in which you see the naked women going into the ritual bath, at the Polish museum they called the footage “Ritual Bath.”. I thought it is hard to believe for me today but when I saw it then I couldn’t realize how anxious and terrorized and terrified these women were because it was titled like an objective documentation of real life inside the ghetto. Being able to see the whole sequence, however, I suddenly saw much more. It was the same image but I couldn’t and didn’t realize that these women were having something very close to an anxiety attack and they had a good reason because they were naked and surrounded by uniformed men who were pointing cameras at them. It was a terrifying experience and I think in learning about how these images were made shifts the place of the horror to its real place.

CS: And that leads into something I was going to talk to you about. I know there are moments in the film where moments are done again, and again, and again, and to my eye I can’t see what they were doing so many takes for. It’s as if they were obsessing over a shot they wanted to get perfect. Did you try and understand the actual filmmaking process of what they were obsessing about?

filmunfinishedHERSONSKI: I have no idea. Eventually when we see the children just gazing at the window shop of the meat store that’s all they had to do was just stare. Period. We had something like seven takes of this same action. I don’t know what their problem was. Maybe the lighting was not satisfying. I have no idea. But one thing is clear here. This is one of the most amazing moments I read in the protocols of the Nazis with the camermen. It was written in German so I read it slowly. “It was very difficult for us to shoot this film…” And I’m sure, at this point, I’m going to read an emotional confession and the next line is, “because we didn’t have enough lighting equipment.” It was difficult because they didn’t have enough film equipment.

These guys were occupied with the lighting and all the small details on how to make the shot and just not to see – the ability to see the ability to watch something - but not do see. Inside the ghetto they were filming but they are not realizing, not able to realize what it is they are perpetrating.

CS: And it strikes me, you talked about it earlier, their preoccupation with something that was completely irrelevant – the level of suffering at their own hands – that they are meting out. The men who film this are just completely numb to what they’re doing and I think it’s almost that you can just extrapolate it to the larger picture of Nazism in general. I am just astounded that they were able to do this without any sort of moral hesitation – for lack of a better word.

HERSONSKI: I think it’s such a different situation that we not only know, but can imagine, that I preferred not to judge the cameraman – not to judge what he is saying because the protocols are what they are. I didn’t change one comma, one word, from what he was saying in the very strange phrasing in German that he used. I don’t know and I don’t want to guess what he knew or didn’t know or whether he realized what he was doing while doing that and what he realized just after the war. I just don’t know.

I guess that if it was not conscious that he’s part of something – if it was not in his conscious level, maybe a subliminal - because in fact, after the war, he did change his profession and he was driving to the east to the film archive. Somehow he managed to find his own cameraman, take all his reels, and took them home and burned it. This is not a series of actions of someone who feels innocent. I feel that they cannot understand the reality of living inside the ghetto, therefore I won’t bother even to imagine how it feels to film there. But for me what was quite astonishing to think about was the fact that 1942 was one of the last years of the ghetto and was one of the most horrendous. 100,000 people died from hunger and diseases and you could see buildings that were full of families really enduring hell.

The reality is that some of this is documented in film like raw material for their own audience. The action of filming. It was one of the most extreme examples of propaganda filmmaking. I don’t think it’s completely alien from contemporary filmmaking that we practice as it is an art skill. When the war was over people laughed and when people stopped suffering around the world we moved on. Easily, I can tell you we live in such an area. The filmmakers documenting the suffering of the Palestinians for a long time are doing so now and I’m trying to understand what does it mean to go to the occupied territories to document suffering of others and go back to your comfortable life.

What does that mean? Many films actually make their point but it doesn’t change the fact that people are still suffering. So I am just raising questions, I don’t have answers.

CS: Is that frustrating as a documentarian or is this just part of the job to raise the questions and not really answer them?

HERSONSKI: I have a very interesting confession with one of the filmmakers that I appreciate the most in Israel. He’s also a political activist and when we were talking about that we came to the conclusion that making films and being an activist cannot be the same thing. Not being an activist by making films. Making films is a visual way of thinking about the world, and reality, in a very deep manner. It’s probably the most complex medium we have, to make something about our perception of reality but it’s not about making a change.

filmunfinished2CS: And that’s interesting because I know there are some documentarians out there who use this form as a platform to push their own theories, theses, as they have an idea of how the world looks and craft that as they see fit. I think this is one of the reasons why this film works is because it doesn’t demonize – it literally takes the risk of showing the events as they happened and to let the horror speak for itself. It’s a risk I think some filmmakers have taken and I think you did it as well. That must have just clawed at you, you must have wanted to make some kind of comment about the filmmakers and where they were coming from.

HERSONSKI: Yes. That’s exactly what I was trying to do and not to do; trying not to be on the front page because something which is so much more complex and real speaks for itself that I could have very easily done that. I thought making this film which I thought was first collecting lots of materials and then discovering them and I felt that there was something here that needs to be told but my part here is to be a storyteller and not more than that. It’s a story that shed light on the way we tell stories, let’s put it that way. So I feel I have done my part in collecting the pieces but not more than that.

CS: And if I could ask you just one more question before I let you go, bringing in the survivors of the ghetto to watch the film, one at a time. That was obviously a tough moment for all involved as you probably didn’t know what kind of reaction you would get. How was that build-up when you knew that was going to happen? Did you have anything in mind of how you wanted things to go or was it really just, “Let’s show them the film and just get their reaction”?

HERSONSKI: It was exhausting, difficult, and mysterious. I knew it during filmmaking. It was something that became my nightmares before I did it. Because I knew of the survivors and know how little we know about what they went through. It was extremely difficult for me to ask them to do that.

First of all, I wanted them to know exactly what it was about. They could not imagine it themselves because they didn’t know what the footage was but I explained to them. I didn’t want to intensify the experience of being confronted with these images as much as I could. As well, I knew they wouldn’t have a second chance to see the footage not because they wouldn’t be able to show up again but you wouldn’t want to show this footage to these people again. We have one chance here and if you blow it up it is your business. I really wanted to make sure that they saw these images and commented on them in the best way they could. These people, it was hard for them to see the uniform.

I explained to them, upfront, and those who were hesitating to do it or not I said we prefer they don’t come. The ones who had hesitations had good reasons to hesitate. At the moment I heard them hesitate I said, “OK, I prefer not to do it.” Those who came were the ones who really insisted to do it. Felt great urgency to do it. And felt also that their own personal task to have the final word here over the images because they were the only ones that are alive, that are actually hiding from that film crew, and when we see these images we can’t imagine them several meters away and to have the opportunity to watch these images from a such different perspective. After more than 70 years it is an overwhelming situation. I am speaking here on my own behalf. Of course, I didn’t want to torture them too much, they saw the film, we talked about 30 minutes maybe one hour, there was one woman that was stronger than the others and that’s it. And they wanted to see it again. The finished film, edited. They did come to the screenings and were quite touched by the result.

CS: It’s a film that I think should be required viewing.

HERSONSKI: Thank you so much.

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