Handpicked By The Amoeba Staff

Films selected and reviewed by discerning movie buffs, television junkies, and documentary diehards (a.k.a. our staff).

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism

Dir: Robert Greenwald. 2004. Starring: Linda Vester, Steve Doocy. Documentaries.

The inside scoop on the “Fair and Balanced” news network and how its notorious enthusiasm for “truthiness” made it the perfect cable news counterpart to the Bush years. Outfoxed is a scathing indictment of Rupert Murdoch’s crappy idea of journalism put into 24 hour news cycle form. From former employees giving the lowdown on Fox’s shady way of skewing coverage to favor Republicans to the jaw dropping series of clips of world class blowhards Bill “Shut up!” O’Reilly and Sean Hannity turning journalism into a joke Outfoxed is a relentless assault on the dishonesty at the core of Murdoch’s failed experiment to control the message....

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Posted by:
Jed Leland
Nov 5, 2008 8:07pm

Small Town Gay Bar

Dir: Malcolm Ingram. 2005. Starring: Justin Williams (VII), Fred Phelps. Gay Cinema.

Small Town Gay Bar is a sometimes sad, sometimes uplifting account of the collective efforts of a few every day small town Americans in red state U.S.A. to create a sense of community for GLBT people where they live. What ultimately resonates from this documentary is that there is something deeply heroic about their efforts to create a safe place for people to live openly where it’s needed most even if it’s just for a few precious hours before last call....

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Posted by:
Jed Leland
Nov 5, 2008 8:04pm

Black Book

Dir: Paul Verhoeven. 2006. Starring: Carice van Houten, Sebastian Koch. Foreign.

Director Paul Verhoeven (Starship Troopers) went back to his native Holland to make this stylish and subversive action adventure movie about a WW2-era Jewish spy who lives by her wits as a member of the Dutch resistance as she navigates a treacherous world of sympathetic enemies and dubious allies. As usual with Verhoeven there is a layer of social commentary to Black Book that lies beneath the glossy surface. This is old Hollywood spectacle with depth. Best movie of 2006!...

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Posted by:
Jed Leland
Nov 5, 2008 8:00pm

Gladiator

Dir: Ridley Scott. 2000. Starring: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix. English. Action

A modernized take on the sort of old Hollywood ancient Roman epic that updates the sword and sandal genre with plenty of ass kicking spectacle and a powerful central performance from Russell Crowe as a Roman general who seeks vengeance after losing his family at the hands of a corrupt prince and is forced to fight as a gladiator in Rome’s coliseum. The film’s populist hero and themes went over big with audiences turning Crowe into a mega star in the process.

___________________

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Posted by:
Jed Leland
Nov 5, 2008 7:55pm

300

Dir: Zack Snyder. 2007. Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Dominic West, and Andrew Tiernan. English. Superheroes / Comics.

Based on legendary Frank Miller’s graphic novel, 300 is the story of King Leonidas of Sparta, who with only three hundred Greek soldiers faced off against the million man Persian army at Thermopylae in 480 B.C. Co-writer and director, Zack Snyder (The Watchmen), should be given a lot of credit. 300 is a very exciting action film, utilizing modern technologies to retell an ancient tale from antiquity. The direction captures the spirit of the source material, while adding great elements that coexist seamlessly within the paradigm of Frank Miller’s work.

The performances by the largely male cast are solid across the board. Gerald Butler (Phantom of the Opera) is commanding as the iron-willed King of Sparta, “Leonidas.” He chews on his rally-cry dialogue with verve and carries the weight of a true ruler in his body language. His performance gives Leonidas considerable reason and intelligent nobility, while believing that he could lay waste to both man and beast in the heat of battle.

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Posted by:
Seamus Smith
Nov 5, 2008 6:48pm

Commando

Dir: Mark L. Lester. 1985. Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger. English. Action.

First off, it is important to note that even horrible films can be hugely entertaining and Commando may be the most defining example of this. Structurally the film has no arc whatsoever. It is simply a few minutes of set up and then the rest is simply conclusion. But what a wonderfully cheesy journey it is as Arnold mows down hundreds of hired thugs single-handedly and seeks justice against the men who dare take his daughter.

Although Schwarzenegger hit his peak as an action star later in James Cameron’s True Lies, this and Predator are the most fun of his eighties films, following the huge success of The Terminator. As “John Matrix” (how’s that for a name?), Arnold is one beefy, mean fighting machine. Introduced to us in typical montage, we know him to be a hard worker (as he carries a log bigger than a man) and that he is a great dad (feeding fawns in the forest with his daughter). After that, through the blatant exposition by the cardboard “General Franklin Kirby,” we learn that he is no mere man. Matrix is as bad as they’ve ever had to come out of Special Forces.

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Posted by:
Seamus Smith
Nov 1, 2008 6:21pm

Wendigo

Dir: Larry Fessenden. 2001. Starring: Jake Weber, Patricia Clarkson, Erik per Sullivan. English. Horror/Thriller

Legend has it that if you witness the Wendigo today, sometime tomorrow someone will die. This, according to many beliefs held by several Native American tribes, is not necessarily the basis for this Larry Fessenden (Habit, Last Winter, No Telling) picture. But it sure provides a creepy overtone for the haunting tale.

George (Jake Weber), Kim (Patricia Clarkson) and Miles (Erik Per Sullivan) are headed to upstate New York from Manhattan so that George can escape the high strung atmosphere of his job as a professional photographer for an advertising agency. Things turn bleak when George accidentally runs into a deer which prompts a very uncomfortable encounter with three locals. The attention of the audience shifts to Miles. While his character is rather brooding and subtle, Miles is shrouded in innocence. George and Kim are very protective of their young son and this becomes evident as the prolonged contention between the family and the locals becomes more volatile, particularly with the character of Otis (John Speredakos).

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Posted by:
Travis King
Oct 20, 2008 4:07pm

Catch Me if You Can

Dir: Steven Spielberg. 2002. Starring: L. DiCaprio, T. Hanks, C. Walken, M. Sheen, A. Adams, J. Garner. English. Drama.

Catch Me if You Can is the true story of Frank Abagnale Jr. (DiCaprio) who, by the tender age of seventeen, cut over $2.5 million dollars worth of fraudulent checks and was one of the FBI’s most wanted. Frank travels the globe, taking on such identities as a Pan Am pilot, a doctor, and an attorney. Always on his tail is fraud expert Agent Carl Hanratty (Hanks) from the Bureau.

Although a story of a con man on the run from the law, the way this story is told, it comes across more like a fairy tale about the impetuousness of youth. Steven Spielberg’s direction is flawless in maintaining this tone throughout, telling a “crime story” that is amazingly playful. John Williams’ hip retro score and the great momentum of Michael Kahn’s editing add to this happy-go-lucky sort of attitude. The vibrant color palette, fantastic sixties costume and production design, and Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography, all contribute to make up this wonderful “true story of a real fake.”

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Posted by:
Seamus Smith
Oct 6, 2008 5:35pm

Fearless

Dir: Peter Weir. 1993. Jeff Bridges, Rosie Perez, Isabella Rossellini, Tom Hulce, John Turturro & Benicio Del Toro.

From the surreal opening frames of “Max” (Jeff Bridges) wandering vacantly through a cornfield, that gives way to an inferno filled with plane wreckage, you know you’re in for a unique cinematic experience. The actor aptly described the film’s opening as if director “Peter (Weir) laced the popcorn with acid.”

Fearless is a tale of a San Francisco architect (Bridges) who is one of the only survivors of a downed flight headed for Houston. He loses his best friend and business partner and comes out of the flames feeling invincible. He is deemed the “good Samaritan” by the media, after helping lead people to safety. But he returns home to find himself emotionally isolated from his family. The only comfort he can find coming from helping a suicidal woman (Perez), after her baby perished in the wreck.

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Posted by:
Seamus Smith
Oct 2, 2008 4:57pm

Children of Men

Dir: Alfonso Cuaron. 2006. Starring Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine. English. Science-Fiction.

As much as science fiction films are maligned for being the playground of geeks and fanboys, the genre has a pretty stellar track record when it comes to reinventing what we as an audience expect from the cinema. To those that saw them in their original theatrical release, films like Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Blade Runner are described as "experiences" more often than as "films;" drawing out the hyperbolic sides of people, phrases like "life-changing" aren't at all uncommon.

As soon as there's a generation of filmgoers young enough to have missed it, I imagine I'll be saying the same things to them about Children of Men.

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Posted by:
Will B
Sep 29, 2008 5:18pm
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