Posted: 07/25/2011

 

NEWS…….TCM’S LOW-BUDGET HITS, LAST CIRCUS, AVENGERS, ACORN MEDIA AND MORE……

by Elaine Hegwood Bowen




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TCM OFFERS 10 FAVORITE LOW-BUDGET SCIENCE FICTION FILMS FOR SUMMER VIEWING

As summer blockbusters invade theaters across the country, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) has unveiled a list of movies that show how popular and critical success doesn’t require multi-million-dollar budgets. TCM’s 10 Favorite Low-Budget Science Fiction Films is a celebration of what can happen when minimal budgets spark maximum imagination.

TCM’s Favorite Low-Budget Science Fiction Movies is the network’s latest list highlighting the history of the movie industry. TCM’s previous lists have included 10 Great Overlooked Performances, 10 Favorite Baseball Films, 10 Great Comedy Lines and 15 Influential Soundtracks. Here, in chronological order, are the 10 films chosen as TCM’s Favorite Low-Budget Science Fiction Movies:

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) – Directed by Eugene Lourie
Warner Bros. brought the monster movie into the nuclear age when it bought this low-budget film and turned it into a box-office bonanza. It led the way for a parade of revived dinosaurs and mutated creatures despoiling cities of the world. The story of a prehistoric carnivore awakened from its frozen sleep by an A-bomb test at the North Pole was inspired by the successful reissue of King Kong (1933) in 1952. Producers Jack Dietz and Hal E. Chester thought that by combining nuclear paranoia and giant critters they could create a new kind of monster movie. Before long, almost every studio was making its own creature features. The real impact was felt in Japan, where The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms inspired Godzilla (1954) and the whole daikaiju (giant monster) genre.

Invaders from Mars (1953) – Directed by William Cameron Menzies
Three years before Invasion of the Body Snatchers warned us about pod people from outer space, this 1953 feature poured on the paranoia with the tale of a child (Jimmy Hunt) who sees an alien ship land behind his house, then finds his parents turned into emotionless robots. Director-production designer William Cameron Menzies may not have had much money to work with (an estimated $290,000), but he put it to good use with surrealistic sets and a score dominated by pulsating choir music that upped the eeriness.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) – Directed by Don Siegel
When Kevin McCarthy shouted, “You’re next!” into the camera near the end of this classic sleeper, audiences around the world jumped, shaking at the prospect of being replaced by emotionless beings. Invasion of the Body Snatchers was shot for less than half a million dollars, and only $15,000 went to special effects, proving a small budget can be overcome by a big dose of imagination and a great story. Small-town doctor McCarthy returns from a medical convention to discover an epidemic of paranoia afflicting the town of Santa Mira. Suddenly, many feel their friends, neighbors and relations – the people they’ve known all their lives – are “not themselves.” As the sick miraculously cure themselves, he realizes everyone was right to be afraid; the town’s residents are being replaced by humanoid vegetables from outer space. Critics have argued over what the invaders symbolize. Is the film a metaphor for conformism, McCarthyism or communism? But the film’s makers didn’t have an agenda; they just wanted to scare the audience, and that’s exactly what they did

The Blob (1958) – Directed by Irvin S. Yeaworth
Who could resist the idea of people and even entire buildings being consumed by a mass of red gelatin from outer space? Not thousands of audience members, mostly at drive-ins, who made this film a hit and helped turn first-time leading man Steve McQueen into a star. Made by a Pennsylvania-based company specializing in educational and religious films, The Blob was created by people who didn’t know what not to do. As a result, they produced a winning combination of science fiction and juvenile delinquent drama in which the troubled teens of a small town fight to convince the authorities they’re under siege by the title monster. Now a movie legend, The Blob has inspired a sequel, two remakes (the next due in 2012) and Blobfest, a three-day annual celebration at the shooting location in Phoenixville, Pa., featuring original props and a re-creation of the scene in which moviegoers flee from a movie theater after the title creature eats the projectionist.

I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958) – Directed by Gene Fowler Jr.
Though this sci-fi shocker’s plot matches the confessional tone of its title (inspired by the director’s 1957 I Was a Teenage Werewolf), the quality is far greater than that of a tawdry confessional. In fact, this story of a newlywed who realizes her husband and another man have been replaced by aliens hoping to breed with Earth women can withstand comparison to the more acclaimed Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).

Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) – Directed by Ed Wood Jr.
With cardboard tombstones, wooden performances and a character who changes size and shape from shot to shot, this would be a bad film in anybody’s hands. But only Ed Wood Jr. could have made it so bad that it turned out to be loads of fun. Although widely hailed as the worst director in movie history, Wood is too entertainingly awful to really deserve the title – and managed to sneak too many ideas into his films. This film, often described as the world’s worst, is actually more watchable than some big-budget Hollywood epics. It also triggered the re-discovery of other Wood classics like Glen or Glenda (1953), his semi-autobiographical tale of a transvestite in love. With two remakes and four stage versions in various states of development, it continues to be one of the most popular sci-fi films ever made, all for a budget of just $60,000.

La Jetée (1962) – Directed by Chris Marker
When you have vision you can work with little money, or in the case of this 28-minute film, little movement. While making another picture (1966’s Le jolie mai) pioneering documentary filmmaker Chris Marker composed this black-and-white short almost entirely from still images played against voiceover narration. Rather than calling it a film, he called it a “photo-roman” (literally “picture-novel”), alluding to a popular European genre of comic book made from photos. La Jetée tells of a man from a post-apocalyptic world who uses a traumatic memory of seeing a man killed at Orly Airport to travel to the past in search of salvation for the future. He finds it, along with love and the key to his memory. Throughout, Marker plays with concepts of time, making the audience watch a movie that seems not to move (except for one shot of the leading lady waking up after a night of romance). He even plays with that convention when the leads visit a natural history museum, where the use of still photos makes the stuffed creatures seem as animated as the living people. La Jetée was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958), and Marker even copies a scene from that film by having the leading man point out his birth date in the cross section of an ancient tree trunk. It has, in turn, inspired other films, most notably Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys (1995).

The Brother from Another Planet (1984) – Directed by John Sayles
Writer-director John Sayles has always made the most of low-budget limitations, nowhere more so than in this fascinating mash-up of blaxploitation, science fiction, western and social satire. Joe Morton plays a mute, runaway alien who can pass for human as long as nobody notices that his feet have three over-sized toes. Because of his skin color, he ends up in Harlem, where he builds a new life, using his telekinetic powers to repair video games and his silence to become a sounding board to the city’s many troubled souls. Although Morton does not understand prejudice based on skin color, the bounty hunters pursuing him refer to him as “three toes,” suggesting that bigotry is universal. Sayles drew part of his $350,000 budget from a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” and though the low budget sometimes shows in the special effects, the freedom Sayles enjoyed by refusing to sign with a major studio led to an innovative movie that overcomes all its limitations imaginatively. The result is a loosely plotted film that makes trenchant comments on race in America while also capturing the essence of immigrant spirit that built a nation.

The Terminator (1984) – Directed by James Cameron
When Arnold Schwarzenegger uttered one of his most famous lines, “I’ll be back,” in this action classic, nobody could have realized what a prophet he was. Not only would he return for two more sequels that transformed him from super-villain to superhero, but The Terminator made him a true superstar – with just 16 lines. Writer-director James Cameron and Schwarzenegger created the perfect combination of actor, role and story. Inspired by a nightmare in which a metal cyborg skeleton emerged from a fiery explosion, Cameron fashioned the story about a robot who travels from the future to destroy the mother of his greatest enemy. Thanks to creative merchandizing tie-ins, Cameron’s persuasive direction and Schwarzenegger’s compelling presence, The Terminator became a cult favorite, inspiring three sequels (with a fourth scheduled for 2014), a TV series and numerous video games.

The American Astronaut (2001) – Directed by Cory McAbee
This cheerfully demented film doesn’t just mix genres; it explodes them. It’s sci-fi with still paintings as special effects, a Western with no shoot-outs and a musical in which the leading man dances his big number opposite another man. Inspired by Dennis Potter’s musicals (Pennies From Heaven, 1981), producer-director-writer-star Cory McAbee combined carefully integrated musical numbers (by his band, The Billy Nayer Show) with a decidedly iconoclastic plot. In McAbee’s Wild West vision of the universe, the sexes are segregated by planet, with the all-male workers on Jupiter worshiping The Boy Who Actually Saw a Woman’s Breast and the all-female colony on Venus in need of someone to replace their deceased consort. McAbee’s title character tries to get rich with a series of trades between worlds, all the while followed by a mad scientist out to kill him for no clear reason. But then, little in this film makes sense or even tries to. \The American Astronaut captures the spirit of gritty, inexpensive films punk rockers produced in the ‘80s, before Sundance made the indie scene respectable.


MAINSTREET presented by Magnolia Pictures, premieres on VOD August 5 and opens in theaters September 9

From Horton Foote, Oscar winning screenwriter of To Kill a Mockingbird and Tender Mercies, comes MAIN STREET, a moving ensemble drama starring Oscar winner Colin Firth, Orlando Bloom, Oscar nominee Patricia Clarkson, Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn, and Andrew McCarthy. The lives of the residents of a small Southern city are changed forever by the arrival of a stranger with a controversial plan to save their decaying hometown.

For more info, visit http://www.magpictures.com/mailinglist.aspx

THE LAST CIRCUS, winner of the 2010 Venice Film Festival Best Director and Best Screenplay awards, open in select theaters August 19

It’s 1937, and Spain is in the midst of the brutal Spanish Civil War. A “Happy” circus clown is interrupted mid-performance and forcibly recruited by a militia. Still in his costume, he is handed a machete and led into battle against National soldiers, where he single handedly massacres an entire platoon. This absurd and disturbing scenario raises the curtain on a twisted tale of love, revenge, and psychopathic clowns that could only spring from the mind of filmmaker Álex de la Iglesia.

Fast forward to 1973, the tail end of the Franco regime. Javier, the son of the clown, dreams of following in his father’s career footsteps, but has seen too much tragedy in his life - he’s simply not funny and is only equipped to play the role of the Sad Clown. He finds work in a circus where he befriends an outlandish cast of characters, but as the Sad Clown he must take the abuse of the brutish Happy Clown Sergio, who humiliates Javier daily in the name of entertainment.

It is here that he meets Natalia, a gorgeous acrobat, and abused wife of Sergio. Javier falls deeply in love with Natalia and tries to rescue her from her cruel and violent husband, unleashing Sergio’s jealousy. But Natalia is torn between her affection towards Javier and her lust for Sergio.

With neither man willing to back down, this twisted love triangle evolves into a ferocious battle between Sad Clown and Happy Clown, escalating to unbelievable heights in this absurd, shocking, irreverent and unforgettable film. For more info, visit http://www.thelastcircusmovie.com/

THEPORTLAND MAINE FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES CALL FOR ENTRIES

Second Annual Portland Maine Film Festival :October 6-9; Deadline for submissions August 29

Announcing its second exciting season, the Portland Maine Film Festival’s call for entries is now open. The PMFF invites international and local filmmakers to submit their films for consideration through August 29. The Festival, Oct. 6, 7, 8 and 9, will host four days of diverse film celebrations and screenings of work by independent-minded filmmakers and emerging cinema artists from Maine and across the globe.

Details on how to apply may be found online at www.withoutabox.comand www.portlandmainefilmfestival.com.

“Our mission this year is to promote and foster an appreciation of the film arts in our region with special, locally produced film screenings,” says festival founder Tyler Johnston. “We will feature some of today’s cutting-edge international cinema while placing a well-deserved spotlight on the creative filmmaking community here in Portland.”

Joining PMFF this year is Corey Norman, professor in the Communications and New Media Department at Southern Maine Community College. Norman is a video producer and mentor to film students whose work has included nationally broadcast programming for the History Channel, Discovery Channel, National Geographic and PBS’s Nova, among others.

“I’m thrilled to play a big part in this year’s PMFF and delighted to announce a special youth produced screening that will celebrate emerging young talent,” Norman says. “Please join us for our second year and support the motion picture arts in Maine.”

COURAGEOUS opens in theaters on September 30

Four men, one calling: To serve and protect.

As law enforcement officers, Adam Mitchell, Nathan Hayes, and their partners are confident and focused. They willingly stand up to the worst the streets have to offer. Yet at the end of the day, they face a challenge that none of them are truly prepared to tackle: fatherhood.

While they consistently give their best on the job, good enough seems to be all they can muster as dads. But they’re quickly discovering that their standard is missing the mark.

They know that God desires to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, but their children are beginning to drift further and further away from them. Will they be able to find a way to serve and protect those that are most dear to them?

When tragedy hits home, these men are left wrestling with their hopes, their fears, their faith, and their fathering. Can a newfound urgency help these dads draw closer to God … and to their children?

COURAGEOUS is the fourth release of Sherwood Pictures, the moviemaking ministry of Sherwood Church in Albany, Georgia. Their first release since FIREPROOF, the No. 1 independent film of 2008, COURAGEOUS joins FACING THE GIANTS and FLYWHEEL in touching and impacting lives through heartfelt stories of faith and hope.

Moviegoers will again find themselves crying, laughing, and cheering—sometimes simultaneously—as they are inspired by everyday heroes who long to be the kinds of dads that make a lifelong impact on their children.

Protecting the streets is second nature to these law enforcement officers. Raising their children? That will take courage. Official site: CourageoustheMovie.com

THE AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES VOLUME 3 - IRON MAN UNLEASHED

The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is a television series on Disney DXD that is inspired by the Marvel Comics Super Hero team of the same name. In each episode, the Avengers defend Earth from unimaginable threats – dangerous Super Villains, time-travelling conquerors, alien invaders and mythical beasts bent on the total destruction of humanity. When the forces of evil are so overwhelming that no single hero has the power to save the world, when no hope is left… the Avengers Assemble! Join Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Hulk, and many more of your favorite Avengers, as they discover the value of teamwork and friendship in the fight against evil!

The pulse-pounding action continues on October 25 with six unforgettable episodes in the Volume 3 release of The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! Enjoy all the thrills as Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk and the rest of the Avengers face off against Baron Zemo’s Masters of Evil and defend earth from a full-scale alien invasion led by the time-traveling Kang the Conqueror!

This release follows the April 26 release of Volume 1 & 2 (episodes 1-13) which consumers can still find for purchase at local retail stores.

Bonus Feature: The Avengers Unmasked: Masters of Evil – An animated in-episode comic book experience loaded with fun facts on Marvel’s Avengers and the Villains that challenge them

ACORN MEDIA GROUP UNVEILS ACORN TV

First British TV Focused Streaming Service Offers Critically Acclaimed Series including Upstairs Downstairs, Brideshead Revisited and Agatha Christie’s Poirot

Acorn Media Group today announced the launch of Acorn TV, a new streaming service that makes the company’s award-winning British mysteries and dramas available online to American audiences.

Available at acornonline.com/TV, the launch line-up includes such bestselling classics and contemporary titles as Upstairs Downstairs, Brideshead Revisited, The Far Pavilions, Foyle’s War, Agatha Christie’s Poirot and The Forsyte Saga. Acorn TV will mark the first time many of these programs are available for streaming.

Acorn Media, a leading independent media company that Time magazine has called the “chief curators of the best Brit TV,” holds exclusive North American distribution rights to the most critically acclaimed programs, all of which are available from Acorn Media on lavishly packaged DVDs. Most are also available from Acorn Media as digital copies that can be purchased and downloaded. Now, Acorn TV offers U.S. fans of British TV the opportunity to stream many of their favorite series, as well as discover programs such as Vera starring Brenda Blethyn and Reggie Perrin starring Martin Clunes. These programs and many others offered by Acorn are beloved by U.K. viewers but haven’t been available to U.S. audiences.

“Acorn Media Group has found incredible success building a media company focused on audiences passionate for distinctive programming, in particular, British programming,” said Miguel Penella, CEO of Acorn Media Group. “Through our long-term relationship with our target audience, Acorn Media has helped introduce British dramas and mystery programs in North America. With Acorn TV, we can offer these programs on an anytime and, ultimately, anywhere basis. We look forward to streaming our incredible program library to U.S. audiences.”

At launch Acorn TV is offering a full season of six different series with the first episode of each season featured online for free. For only $24.99 a year, Acorn Premium subscribers get unlimited access to all of the episodes in each selected season. In addition, Premium members receive free shipping on all orders from Acorn’s distinctive merchandise catalog and website, www.AcornOnline.com.

A free trial of Acorn TV is being offered to viewers through August 31 at acornonline.com/TV. Programming for Acorn TV is refreshed weekly, with each season available for six weeks. There are six seasons and more than 40 hours of programming offered at any given time. Each week one season will be added and the oldest season will be removed. As Acorn TV develops the programming offering will evolve based on audience preferences.

Acorn TV is accessible at launch on computers, iPhones, iPads, and any portable device with a browser that runs Flash 10 or higher, Apple TV, and Google TV. Additional devices and applications will follow over the next 12 months.

To access Acorn TV:

1. Visit acornonline.com/TV and click on the big red button at the top right of the page that says “Register now to try Acorn TV Premium Access for free until 8/31/11”

2. Enter registration information (just email, no credit card required) and then sit back and enjoy some fine British television!

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES will set sail on DVD, stunning high definition Blu-ray™, eye popping Blu-ray 3D™ (a first for the legendary franchise) and Movie Download on October 18.

To celebrate this announcement, a new behind-the-scenes bonus clip from the upcoming set is now live on YOU TUBE at:

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides “Creating Mermaid” Bonus Clip
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAfiZPDHcLk&feature=youtu.be

Dive Deeper Into the Epic Quest to Find
The Fountain of Youth

Johnny Depp is Back as Captain Jack Sparrow in Disney’s PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES

Grossing Over $1 Billion at the Worldwide Box Office, One of the Biggest Films of All Time Sails Home on Disney Blu-ray™ Combo Pack and Blu-ray 3D™ on October 18th

The Walt Disney Studios and Jerry Bruckheimer Films are proud to present the #1 worldwide box office success of 2011 - making over $1 billion globally - Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, in stunning high definition Blu-ray™, eye popping Blu-ray 3D™ (a first for the legendary franchise) and Movie Download on October 18.

Setting sail on an ocean full of hi-def adventures, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides will debut in a Limited Edition 5-Disc Combo Pack (1-Disc Blu-ray 3D + 2-Disc Blu-ray + 1-Disc DVD + 1-Disc Digital Copy), a 2-Disc Combo Pack (1-Disc Blu-ray + 1-Disc DVD), and for the ultimate fan a 15-Disc Four Movie Collection. Additionally the movie will be available in 3D and High-Definition Movie Download.

The Limited Edition 5-Disc Blu-ray Combo Pack includes hours of bonus materials offering fans a deeper dive inside Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides including immersive Disney Second Screen technology, exclusive behind-the-scenes experiences, Fountain of Youth mythology, an extensive look at mermaids, bloopers, deleted and extended scenes, and much more.

In addition, the Pirates of the Caribbean 15-Disc Four Movie Collection offers fans more adventures than ever before. The Collection is packaged in an authentic replica Pirate’s Chest, and includes a collectible map and an iconic skull disc case that holds the Blu-ray™ discs and digital copies of ALL four Pirates of the Caribbean movies, along with the Blu-ray 3D™ disc and DVD of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, directed by Rob Marshall (Nine, Chicago), and written by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio (Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, National Treasure 2, Mask of Zorro), Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is the latest addition to the incredibly successful Pirates of the Caribbean franchise that has for years entertained audiences of all ages with its thrilling adventures,
hi-tech special effects and unique storylines.

Back as Captain Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp (Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Alice in Wonderland) returns leading a sensational cast of talents that includes Penélope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech), Ian McShane (HBO’s “Deadwood”) and more.

The visually stunning film shot in high-definition 3D invites viewers to embark on an adventure-filled ride with Captain Jack Sparrow as he searches for the breathtaking Fountain of Youth. Along the turbulent trip, fans are forced to re-think their knowledge of fairytale creatures when they are introduced to a group of alluring yet precarious mermaids, traverse isolated islands and fight international enemies.

Visit the website and mobile site: www.disney.com/pirates http://www.disney.com/pirates>

Elaine Hegwood Bowen is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago.



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