Trailer: When Comedy Went to School

Posted on July 29, 2013 at 8:00 am

This documentary is a portrait of the generation of the mid-century Jewish comics that includes Jerry Lewis, Sid Caesar, Jackie Mason, Mort Sahl, and Jerry Stiller, who appear telling jokes and telling their stories. And it is the story of the culture that produced them, starting in upstate New York’s Catskill Mountains, aka the Borscht Belt (think “Dirty Dancing”), where Jewish immigrants transformed lush farmland into the 20th century’s largest resort complex. Those Catskill hotels and bungalow colonies provided the setting for a remarkable group of young Jewish-American comedians to hone their craft and become worldwide legends.

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Comedy Trailers, Previews, and Clips

Spike Lee’s Must-See List for Aspiring Filmmakers

Posted on July 28, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Director Spike Lee has assembled a list of movies that he says all aspiring filmmakers should see.  It’s a list everyone should look at, filled with canon classics like “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Dr. Strangelove,” “Hoop Dreams,” and “Dog Day Afternoon,” but also including some lesser-known and excellent choices: “Kung Fu Hustle,” “Dead End,” “Fat City,” and “Killer of Sheep.”

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For Your Netflix Queue Lists

Smurfs Quiz

Posted on July 28, 2013 at 10:00 am

In honor of this week’s release of “Smurfs 2,” how many of these questions can you answer?

1.  The Smurfs were created by a comic artist from what country?

2.  How tall are Smurfs?

3.  Who created Smurfette?

4.  What is the name of the Smurf’s enemy and who is his pet?

5.  What Jake Gyllenhaal movie has a rather crude discussion of the Smurfs?

6.  Neil Patrick Harris returns for the sequel.  What television show gave him his first starring role?

7.  Hank Azaria appears in the film.  What long-running television series features his voice?

8.  What Smurf movie shares a title with a Mozart opera?

9.  What pop star gives her voice to Smurfette?

10.  What comedy news show reporter provides a voice for one of the Smurfs?

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Quiz

Ten Great Films From Denzel Washington

Posted on July 27, 2013 at 3:57 pm

denzel-washington-006He has a couple of Oscars and is one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, but I don’t think we fully appreciate Denzel Washington, in my opinion the finest actor working in Hollywood today.  As we look forward to “2 Guns” this week with Washington and Mark Wahlberg, let’s take a look at some of the highlights of his remarkable career.

1. St. Elsewhere Washington’s breakthrough was on this critically acclaimed series set in an inner city hospital.

2. “Carbon Copy” Washington does not make many comedies, but his first lead role in a feature film had him playing opposite George Segal as a young black man who disrupts the life of his white father.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mwv655uA_Gw

3. Glory Washington won his first Oscar for this Civil War story about the all-black soldiers fighting for the Union.

4. Philadelphia Tom Hanks won an Oscar for this real-life inspired story of a lawyer fired because he had AIDS, but Washington matches him every step of the way as his attorney, who has to confront some of his own prejudices.

5. Mo’ Better Blues Washington has done some of his best work with director Spike Lee. Here he plays a jazz musician who gets caught up in the problems of a friend and has to deal with the consequences of some poor choices and lack of consideration.

6. Inside Man Again working with Lee, Washington stars in one of my favorite movies of the last decade, playing a detective on the trail of a mysterious bank robbery.

7. Antwone Fisher Washington produced and directed this film based on the real-life story of the title character, a troubled sailor with a painful past.

8. Out of Time Washington is a cop again in this underrated thriller with some nifty twists.

9. Mississippi Masala A rare Washington romantic role, here he plays an American who falls for the daughter of an immigrant family originally from Pakistan and then from Africa.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hANXylrNck8

10. Malcolm X Two of Washington’s most complex, layered, and powerful performances were real-life characters, Hurricane Carter in “Hurricane” and here as Malcolm X.

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Actors

Are Today’s Kids’ Movies More Challenging?

Posted on July 27, 2013 at 8:00 am

I’m quoted in this story about films for children that have material that may be too complicated or adult for their level of maturity.

“I think the real issue is the quicker cuts and more explosive effects,” Minow told NBCNews.com. “Everything is more sped-up and colorful and loud — in part a reflection of the increased competition for decreased attention spans. So it feels like a lot more is coming at us.”

There is nothing wrong in making movies for kids appealing to adults.  Sesame Street has been very open about its commitment to including jokes for parents to encourage family viewing and conversation instead of parking the children in front of the television.  And I agree with Betsy Bozdech of Common Sense Media, also quoted:

Bozdech urges parents to do their homework before taking their children to a certain film, and also applauds the Miyazaki films and other gems that can be found on DVD or online. Her site offers movie reviews and information, and a special section dubbed “Watch Out!” warns about certain family films that have unexpected cursing, sexy, scary or traumatizing scenes.

But she also notes that parents shouldn’t overprotect their children from films that may present challenging issues, as long as they keep the lines of communication open.

“Some of the thrill of going to the movies as a kid is seeing something that opens your eyes a little bit or helps you get a perspective beyond your own,” she said. “Movies and TV shows can help kids deal with fears and concerns that they’re bound to have at some point; if you talk about them together and help defuse them before they happen in real life, kids will start to develop a solid foundation for coping with life’s inevitable ups and downs.”

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