Be Quick or Be Dead: The Rebirth of the ‘Spaghetti Western’ in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained

The unusual twosome of Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz, left) and Django Freeman (Jamie Foxx, right) go about their bounty-hunting business.

The release of a Quentin Tarantino movie is always an event, and it has been ever since the director took Hollywood by storm with his debut Reservoir Dogs and his sophomore effort Pulp Fiction about two decades ago. It’s not too hard to see why. People simply dig the coolness and the mystique surrounding his modern readings of different film genres. In addition, he usually recruits ensemble casts that can compete with the best of them. Roughly three years after the great success of Inglourious Basterds, the man has returned – with a star-studded line-up for Django Unchained, his first ever take on America’s favorite tale of old, the Western.

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Sail Away Sweet Sister: Early Alfred Hitchcock Rediscovered in Graham Cutts’s The White Shadow

'Home sweet home,' or so it seems: Mr. Brent (A.B. Imeson, left) and his twin daughters Nancy (center) and Georgina (right, both played by Betty Compson).

Now that we’ve survived the apocalypse and the end of 2012, let’s kick off the new year with a piece of early cinema long considered lost forever. Most of us know Alfred Hitchcock as a director of thrillers and, occasionally, bizarre comedies, who frequently adapted novels, short stories, and plays for the screen. Yet few are aware of the fact that the English ‘Master of Suspense’ was initially responsible for the scripts, intertitles, set design, and editing of silent movies by British filmmaker Graham Cutts. The White Shadow is one of their five collaborations that was released almost nine decades ago but only resurfaced recently.

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What a Difference a Day Makes: New Year’s Resolutions in Eldar Ryazanov’s The Irony Of Fate, Or Enjoy Your Bath

The Irony Of Fate, Or Enjoy Your Bath!
The irony of fate has brought Zhenya (Andrei Myagkov, left) and Nadya (Barbara Brylska, right) together, while the jealous Ippolit (Yuri Yakovlev, center) keeps haunting them.

There are an awful lot of New Year’s traditions, and all countries and cultures have their own special ways of seeing into the twelvemonth to come. Germans, for instance, have spent the afternoon of each New Year’s Eve watching a funny 18-minute sketch with British actors called Dinner For One, also known as The 90th Birthday, for about five decades now. It has become the most frequently repeated television program of all time. Similarly, Russians have had their own favorite New Year’s movie since the mid-1970s, a romantic tragicomedy by the name of The Irony Of Fate, Or Enjoy Your Bath!

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Brothers in Arms: A Different ‘Holiday Season’ in Nagisa Ôshima’s Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence

Major 'Strafer' Jack Celliers (David Bowie, right) and the Japanese camp leader Captain Yonoi (Ryûichi Sakamoto, left).

Christmas – it’s the holiday season of giving that allows you to look back at the year behind you, reflect it, enjoy the little things in life, and all the people around you. Sometimes we take for granted just how lucky we are, despite the world of today being a scary place now and then.

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Countdown to Extinction: What if Tomorrow Never Comes in Lorene Scafaria’s Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World

Penny Lockhart (Keira Knightley, left), Dodge Peterson (Steve Carell, right), and their new dog (center) on the final trip of their lives.

So December 21st, 2012, has finally arrived, and we’re still alive and well – despite a myriad of (drug-inflicted) doomsday scenarios and predictions. Disaster movies have sprung up like mushrooms in recent years, tackling the question what you would do if you knew your time was short. Think Roland Emmerich’s blockbuster 2012 and countless others.

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Eyes of a Stranger: Voyeurism and Horror in Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom

Mark Lewis (Karlheinz Böhm) and his beloved camera.

Norman Bates from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is universally regarded as the quintessential movie psychopath. Nowadays, he’s simply an indispensable member of the greatest onscreen characters of all time. Psycho’s importance becomes obvious when we consider that its filming is about to become the topic of a feature called Hitchcock by Sacha Gervasi with Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, and Jessica Biel that will hit the theaters come February 2013. Yet there is another criminally underrated movie nutcase who found his way to the big screen the same year as Norman Bates, and he deserves mention with the best of them. We’re talking about the loose-cannon protagonist from Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom.

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When Dream and Day Unite: Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries as a Rather Peculiar Road Trip

The elderly Dr. Isak Borg (Victor Sjöström, right) and his daughter-in-law Marianne (Ingrid Thulin, left) on the trip of their lives.

With nine Academy Award nominations, the Swedish son of a priest Ingmar Bergman is both among most successful European filmmakers and among the most renowned directors never to take home one of the prestigious golden trophies. Three of his movies won Oscars as Best Foreign Films, The Virgin Spring, Through A Glass Darkly, and the epic Fanny & Alexander, but Bergman himself always went home empty-handed. He received his first nod for the original screenplay for Wild Strawberries, and the 1957 drama still stands out as one of his finest ever among the many works in the director’s long career.

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Hotter than the Hindenburg: The Way Led Zeppelin Sound on a Celebration Day

Singer Robert Plant (left), bass player John Paul Jones (center), and guitarist Jimmy Page (right) reunited on stage for the first time in about two decades.

The lights go out in the theater and footage from days long gone appears – memories from a time when rock giants still existed. In the opening seconds of their new concert film Celebration Day, we watch Led Zeppelin hop on and off a private jet during their 1973 American tour. Now the band has returned to the silver screen for the first time in over 35 years, and the first thing we see establishes a direct connection to The Song Remains The Same.

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Falling into Infinity: The Bottom Line on the Indie Epic Cloud Atlas by Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis

Zachry (Tom Hanks) and Meronym (Halle Berry) in the post-apocalyptic section of Cloud Atlas.

A big-budget independent movie based on a novel considered to be ‘unfilmable’ – that sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it? Three renowned directors still made the daring choice to tackle David Mitchell’s 2004 book Cloud Atlas. They hired an international all-star cast consisting of the likes of Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy, David Gyasi, Keith David, and Hugh Grant and went to work. Has their expensive experiment been a success or a big-time failure?

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The Spy Who Came in from the Cold: James Bond’s Impressive Comeback in Sam Mendes’s Skyfall

Skyfall
James Bond (Daniel Craig) and his legendary Aston Martin DB5

To the sounds of energetic percussive music, James Bond tracks down a villain on the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. All of a sudden, a Jeep manned by a female British agent picks him up. Mere moments later, 007 has already become involved in a motorbike chase over the rooftops along the marketplace. He lands on top of a train and tries to retrieve a very important stolen list from the baddie. ‘M,’ listening in over the radio, has qualms that her super spy might fail her. While he is in a fistfight with the enemy, she orders the female agent to shoot at Bond from a distance. The woman hits 007. He falls off a bridge and down a waterfall.

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Shutter Island

Alone in Bad Company: A Dissection of Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island

Shutter Island
Leonardo DiCaprio as Teddy Daniels

Martin Scorsese has seen it all. After a two-score year long journey in which he had experienced the highs and the lows of the business, the director has frequently been hailed ‘America’s greatest living filmmaker’ in recent years and was finally even awarded the elusive Academy Award for Best Achievement in Directing for The Departed in 2007. Quite an accomplishment, a few might say, for someone who seems to be out-of-time in the Hollywood industry for various reasons.

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The Hidden Face

The Hidden Face Movie Poster

The Hidden Face (La Cara Oculta), is a surprising gem of a film. The film is set in the sprawling city of Bogota, Columbia. A well-respected conductor from Spain by the name of Adrian (Quim Gutiérrez) falls in love with a girl named Belen (Clara Lago). The relationship is going great until one day she disappears. Adrian looks for quite a long time, trying to locate his ex-girlfriend, as she is presumably still alive. She leaves behind a video tape, explaining why she was leaving, but the whole thing is a prank gone horribly wrong.

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It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World: The Hilarious Male Meta Cinema of Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths

What to do when you're in the desert: the psychopaths Marty (Colin Farrell), Hans (Christopher Walken), and Billy (Sam Rockwell) talk things and stuff.

Over the last few decades, Christopher Walken and Woody Harrelson have made a career out of playing a wacko on the big screen or two. Therefore it’s hardly surprising that they joined a nice ensemble cast spearheaded by Irishman Colin Farrell for Seven Psychopaths, the second feature by In Bruges director Martin McDonagh.

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The Higher They Rise, The Steeper They Fall: The Rise and Fall, and Rise of the American Gangster Movie

The Public Enemy
James Cagney was the quintessential movie gangster of the 1930s, here in The Public Enemy.

Seemingly always en vogue, gangsters have been especially so in recent years. The grand seigneur of American cinema, Martin Scorsese, finally won his long-deserved first Academy Award for Best Achievement in Directing for The Departed in 2007. Michael Mann’s 2009 effort Public Enemies was a big-budget production with high-dollar stars.

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Ip Man

Ip Man

Ip Man

Carl Douglas’s famous song “Everybody loves Kung Fu fighting” rings in the ears of everyone about the majesty and absolute cool factor of every kung fu movie. In my opinion though, if you haven’t watched Ip Man (pronounced “eep- mun”), you ain’t seen nothing yet.

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