Indiana Jones, War Horse and Alpha Dog: Defending Movies Critics Hate

Categories: Film and TV

On this week's Voice Film Club podcast, film critics Alan Scherstuhl, Amy Nicholson and Stephanie Zacharek defend movies that most critics hate, namely Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, War Horse and Alpha Dog. We also recommend a few new films, including Blue Ruin, Fading Gigolo and Next Goal Wins.

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Houston's Connection to The Retrieval, Now Part of the Sundance Screening Room Series

Categories: Film and TV

Ashton Sander (left) and Houstonian Tishuan Scott in The Retrieval, a Variance Films release
We caught up with The Retrieval writer/director/editor Chris Eska while he was on the road. Ah, yes, the glamorous life of an award-winning film director on a promotional tour. "I'm on my way from Shreveport to Lafayette today to show my film to 60 people in a little church building somewhere," the Rice University grad tells us.

His sophomore effort, The Retrieval is set at the end of the Civil War and focuses on Will, a young black boy (played by newcomer Ashton Sander) who is working with white bounty hunters tracking down runaway slaves, and Nate, a freedman living in the north (played by Houstonian Tishuan Scott). It's Will's job to befriend Nate and lure him back south into slave territory where the bounty hunters are waiting. An uneasy relationship develops between the two as they make their way south, forcing Will to decide between betraying his friend or disobeying his cutthroat boss.

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The Most Horrifying Episode of Jake and the Never Land Pirates Ever

Categories: Film and TV

I'm a big fan of whenever my Comcast on demand service updates and allows me to persuade my daughter to watch a new episode of something instead of her personal favorite for the 18th time. Up this time is a new episode of Jake and the Never Land Pirates, and while my daughter loved it I found it terrifying because it was full of THE POSSESIONS OF DEAD CHILDREN ABANDONED BY THEIR PARENTS!

I can explain.

The episode in question is "The Lost and Found Treasure". Jake, Izzy, and Cubby notice that some of their treasure is missing and go off to the Neverland lost and found. There they discover a huge trove of clothes and toys, which Skully tells them are allegedly the lost possessions from children all over the world. Turns out the items are gathered by a magpie, and everyone ends up friends, of course. However, it's never stated that Skully was wrong, and since the island chain where Jake's crew resides isn't all that densely populated it can be assumed that the enormous piles of items probably come from our world.

Which is important because you have to remember that the Lost Boys and other human inhabitants of Never Land are all dead children.

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Reality Bites: Ice Cold Gold

There's gold in them ... glaciers.
There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

While researching the next show for "Reality Bites" (i.e. channel surfing after a few Stone IPAs), I came across Ice Cold Gold, Animal Planet's show about 21st century prospectors braving the harsh terrain of Greenland in a quest for gold, rubies, sapphires, and the Jade Monkey (probably).

I admit to being a bit dubious. For while you'd assume modern gold-hunters (not to be confused with gold "diggers") would possess advanced technology like seismic imaging to aid them in their search (spoiler warning: they don't), it isn't as if The Atlantic is writing about the new wave of gold millionaires.

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1984 Movies We Want to See on the Big Screen

Categories: Film and TV

This month Alamo Drafthouse is sending viewers back 30 years (Good lord, do I feel old) to celebrate some of what it considers the best movies of 1984. Throughout the entire month, movies such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Ghostbusters and Repo Man will infiltrate Alamo's regular monthly events. This week Alamo's "Action Pack" series will find the 1984 classic Purple Rain screening. I personally never considered that movie an "action flick," unless you count keytars as weaponry.

I assume when the Alamo team sat around putting together this schedule, there were heated debates over favorite movies to screen; there was probably food throwing and face slapping and hysterical crying over which films would ultimately make the cut. Or more likely, they chose the movies that they could get the rights to air and that were the cheapest.

Believe it or not, 1984 was a banner year for movies. It's almost silly to try to rank them in terms of "best" or "most ridiculously big hair" or "what were they wearing?" so instead I'll give you my wish list of 1984 movies I would like to see on the big screen. I am sure you'll want to fight me.

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How Netflix Threatens The Sanctity Of The American Family

More frightening: Liam Neeson or "Bratz: Fashion Pixiez?"
My family "consciously uncoupled" from Netflix's DVD plan a year or two ago. Many of our entertainment choices of the non-streaming variety come from discs I've ripped to a hard drive playing via media server on our TV -- leaving me with the dilemma of what to do with three or four hundred shiny drink coasters, but that's a lament for another day. The rest of our viewing options come from Netflix Streaming.

The service's other problems aside (Surprise price hikes! Streamageddon!), Netflix's means of handling multiple user accounts is what I'm referring to here. Because if you have kids and are trying to manage viewing options on certain devices, you may be facing a threat to your family unit on a scale not seen since the rise of single motherhood.

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Conjoined Brings Two-Headed Horror

Categories: Film and TV

Joe Grisaffi (In a Madman's World, Pirate of the Caribbean) is back in the director's seat with a brand-new horror flick as part of a new Roger Corman-esque approach to elevating the Houston horror film scene.

Conjoined is the story of Siamese twin sisters who move in with a man they meet through an online dating service. Alina (Michelle Ellen Jones) is sweet, kindhearted, and just looking to finally find a man to love her in the form of the shy and awkward Stanley (Tom Long). Her sister Alisa is dark, sarcastic, and quick to anger after suffering years of abuse from society over their condition. Stanley tries his best to make a life with Alina while at the same time seeking a man who can make Alisa happy, but finds himself knee-deep in dead bodies as Alisa murders potential suitors.

"Alisa is the ultimate outcast/freak," said writer Chuck Norfolk via email. "She and Alina have spent their whole lives taking literal and figurative beatings. She thinks she might finally have found a place where she belongs but in the end she is just back to where she started. Outcast."

The strange film, penned by Chuck and Tim Norfolk of Haunted Trailer fame, came about because Bob Willems at Champion Entertainment in Houston is looking to launch a horror subscription service, and was willing to accept horror films across all levels of quality. Intrigued, Grisaffi offered to make one cheap and quick, and took the idea to the Norfolks to see if they could craft a single location script that could be filmed in a few days. Conjoined is the result.

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Pop Rocks: Watching the First Season of Veronica Mars for the First Time

Neptune was an interesting place.
There was a point in my life when I wasn't all that into TV. This was abnormal for me as I have watched television nearly religiously since I was a toddler. I have a strange memory that allows me to remember things after watching a show once some people couldn't remember if they saw it 10 times. It has been a blessing and a curse. Just ask my wife.

But during the transition into the new century, I got out of watching primetime television. Some of my favorite shows had ended and networks not named CBS, NBC and ABC (or even Fox) were starting to produce new and interesting shows. From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Dawson's Creek to even the sadly stunted Freaks and Geeks, I just wasn't much into TV.

Another show that lots of people I knew enjoyed, particularly the women in my life, was Veronica Mars. I heard good things about the show featuring a blond teen turned noir-style detective, and starring a very young Kristen Bell unraveling the mysteries in her rich-versus-poor beach town of Neptune, California. Fans of the show were so dedicated, they managed to raise enough money on Kickstarter to fund a film that came out this year. That's where my initiation begins.

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Game Of Thrones: "Your Father Lacks An Appreciation Of The Finer Points Of Bad Behavior."

Nobody knows the Tyrion I've seen ...
You think *you've* had bad post-wedding hangovers? Imagine what the folks in Kings Landing are going through. Joffrey's body is barely cold and everyone's dealing with the aftermath in various ways: his family, the Lannisters, move on in their own fashion. From Tywin starting Tommen on his king lessons to Jaime and Cersei, uh, "rekindling" their relationship while their son's body sits in state, literally at (golden) arm's reach.

And then there's Tyrion. Arrested and left cooling his heels in the Black Cells, he attempts to figure a way out of his situation, not yet realizing the person behind Joffrey's death is also the one who's spirited his new wife out of the city.

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Reviews for the Easily Distracted:

Title: Bears

Pretty Much Says It All, Doesn't It? Agreed. It wouldn't have been nearly as effective if the title was Bears: Shadow Recruits.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three-and-a-half Timothy Treadwells out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Mama bear must feed and protect cubs in the CIIIIRCLE OF LIIIIIIFE.

Tagline: "This Earth Day, be inspired by Skye and her cubs."

Better Tagline: "A movie without explosions or dick jokes? Get out of here."

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