Private Investigations: The Birth of the Hard-boiled Detective in John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon

Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart, right) uses his very own investigative methods on the sneaky Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre, left).

Nowadays, devious investigators must be considered an integral part of the Hollywood repertoire. That wasn’t always the case. Their archetype is a guy named Sam Spade, who first appeared on the big screen in 1941. At the time, the character created by writer Dashiell Hammett had already been immensely popular as the hero of the crime novel The Maltese Falcon.

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School’s Out: John Hughes’s Cool Way to Skip Classes in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara, left), Cameron Fry (Alan Ruck, center), and Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick, right) enjoy their day off.

When John Hughes died of a heart attack at age 59 in 2009, the filmmaking world lost one of its true greats in the comedy realm. His biggest box-office smashes as a writer have been family movies in the 1990s, such as Home Alone and 101 Dalmatians. Earlier, however, John Hughes had already pulled off a string of beloved comedies as a director in the 1980s. The Breakfast Club comes to mind. So do Plains, Trains & Automobiles and Uncle Buck with another late great, John Candy. John Hughes is also known for coming up with the scripts for the popular National Lampoon’s series starring Chevy Chase. Yet the finest moment of his career is arguably Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

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Man on a Mission: The Post-Apocalyptic Tom Cruise of Joseph Kosinski’s Oblivion

Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) saves the day.

There once was a time when science-fiction films were innovative and ahead of their time. Back then, even B-movies could attract audiences because they had something to say, despite their overall trashy appearance. Nowadays, it sometimes feels as if major studios seem to be more interested in shelling out large sums for rather pedestrian works in terms of storytelling that desperately attempt to make up for their deficiencies in that area by means of impressive visual and aural effects. TRON: Legacy by Joseph Kosinski was a prime example for that recent phenomenon in 2010. Three years later, the director returns with his sophomore movie, Oblivion and Tom Cruise on his coattails as the star du jour.

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Father to Son: Passing the Action Torch in John Moore’s A Good Day To Die Hard?

John McClane (Bruce Willis, left), his son Jack (Jai Courtney, center), and Russian refugee Komarov (Sebastian Koch, right) attempt to escape.

‘I fought with you, fought on your side,’ Freddie Mercury once sang in an early Queen song called “Father To Son.” In 2007, a then 52-year old Bruce Willis already played action hero John McClane as a daddy on a mission to save his child in Live Free Or Die Hard. Rescuing his daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) was then, but now he’s back to save Spartacus: War Of The Damned star Jai Courtney as his prodigal son. Can an aging Bruce Willis continue his recent string of enjoyable old-school action movies such as R.E.D. and The Expendables with the John Moore-directed sequel A Good Day To Die Hard?

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Danger Zone: Science-Fiction and Metaphysics in Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker

This room is only one of the many enigmas that the Stalker and his companions encounter in the mysterious zone.

Apart from legendary Battleship Potemkin genius Sergei Eisenstein, Andrei Tarkovsky is arguably Russia’s most renowned movie director from the Soviet era. The son of famous poet Arseni Tarkovsky polarizes, however. Opinions on him are divided. Some can’t really get into his films and only consider them to be dead boring. Others regard these works as masterpieces of cinematic history – Stalker among them. Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 science-fiction epic is unlike anything from the same genre we’ve ever encountered from Hollywood.

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Love & Marriage: Going Behind the Scenes in Sacha Gervasi’s Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins, left) and his leading lady Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson, right).

Psycho is arguably Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece. Granted, there are numerous other classics that he created over his almost six-decade career as a filmmaker, such as The 39 Steps, Rebecca, Notorious, Rear Window, Vertigo, North By Northwest, or The Birds, just to name a few. Psycho and its famous shower scene, however, are probably the first things that come to mind when talking about the English ‘Master of Suspense.’ He has never wavered in popularity, and the making of the fabled thriller has always been somewhat shrouded in legend. So why not tackle it as the subject of a feature film?

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Unleashed in the East: Kung-Fu Meets Grindhouse in RZA’s The Man With The Iron Fists

The invincible Brass Body (Dave Bautista, left) fights 'The Man with the Iron Fists' (RZA, right).

It’s no secret that Django Unchained mastermind Quentin Tarantino is an avid fan of all things kung-fu, martial arts, and grindhouse. Therefore it doesn’t come as too much of a surprise that he would give his name to a movie called The Man With The Iron Fists co-written by his protégé Eli Roth, who once created Hostel and starred in Quentin Tarantino’s own Inglourious Basterds. The bigger zinger, however, is the man at the helm of The Man With The Iron Fists: RZA, former member of the legendary hip-hop outfit Wu-Tang Clan and now a first-time director. The question is how good of a show he puts up in his debut.

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Children of the Revolution: Slapstick, Soviet-style in Leonid Gaidai’s Operation ‘Y’ & Shurik’s Other Adventures

Shurik (Alexander Demyanenko, right) and his crush Lida (Natalya Seleznyova, left) in the second segment, "Delusion."

Operation ‘Y’ And Shurik’s Other Adventures (1965) is one of the cult comedies from that time virtually every Russian knows. Other than having a fun time, what can we can learn about life in the Soviet Union of the 1960s from watching the film?

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My Way

Tatsuo and Jun-Shik

“My Way” is a poignant, dramatic account of two men, one Korean (Jun Shik) and the other Japanese (Tatsuo), who forge a bond in their favorite activity, running. Early on in life, it’s clear that the Koreans living in Japan, during the days of the Japanese Empire were looked down upon. Even Tatsuo projects this attitude towards his friend.

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Through the Looking-Glass: Why Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver Remains an Important Movie

Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) fails to kill himself.

Movies in which persons stare at themselves in the mirror or talk to themselves are a dime a dozen in the world of today. Yet there aren’t too many iconic characters in modern Hollywood, or in contemporary cinema in general, especially not too many polarizing figures inspired by real life. Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle, however, the mad cabbie from Martin Scorsese’s 1976 Taxi Driver, is certainly among them. He eventually becomes a hero in the eyes of the public – but for all the wrong reasons imaginable.

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‘Argo F*ck Yourself’: The 85th Annual Academy Awards Coverage

The 2013 Oscars logo.

Hollywood is clearly an appreciation society, and with the 2013 Oscars, the industry’s season of appreciating itself has just come to a close – for now. Unlike a year ago, when The Artist by Michel Hazanavicius and Hugoby Martin Scorsese scooped up five of the prestigious awards each, there were no clear-cut winners this time around. Some of those who took home the trophies were exactly those everybody had in mind. Others, however, were more of a zinger – making the crop of 2013 a more well-rounded, balanced class than the previous one.

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The (Not So) Simple Art of Murder: Seamless Editing and Friedrich Nietzsche Revisited in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope

Teacher Rupert Cadell (James Stewart, center) 'interrogates' his students Phillip Morgan (Farley Granger, left) and Brandon Shaw (John Dall, right).

Everybody knows – or has at least heard of – Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpieces. Rear Window, Vertigo, North By Northwest, Psycho, and The Birds, these names ring a bell with anybody who’s at least somewhat interested in cinema. Yet the English ‘Master of Suspense’ has created so many more wonderful movies, and film buffs still love to discuss his work, even more than three decades after his death. One of the smaller pictures but certainly underrated gems in his illustrious career is Rope, a rather black comedy meets closed chamber mystery peppered with all sorts of finesses.

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The Loop Closes: Time Travelling in Style in Rian Johnson’s Looper

'Killing is my business - and business is good': Joe Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in his element.

Time travels are nothing too unusual in cinema. We’ve seen it in several Star Trek movies and in the Back To The Future trilogy, amongst many others. Meeting one’s own younger or older self always poses a lot of difficulties for the heroes of these movies, as even the slightest change in the past may alter the whole time-space continuum.

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Holy Water: The Sinister Los Angeles of Roman Polanski’s Chinatown

J.J. 'Jake Gittes' (Jack Nicholson, left) confronts Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway, right).

If you thought film noir was long dead and gone, think twice. The genre – if you can even call it that – has never vanished from the landscape. The rumors about its demise have been largely exaggerated – for the simple reason that there have been many noteworthy classics since the heyday of film noir in the 1940s and 1950. One of them is Chinatown by Polish director Roman Polanski, if only because it reminds us of former days and highlights of the genre.The movie is set in the Los Angeles of 1937 and harks back to historic disputes about the water rights in Southern California during the 1910s and 1920s.

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Misty Mountain Hop: Middle-earth Revisited in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The returning Gollum (Andy Serkis) isn’t too sure yet what to make of The Hobbit.

Fans have been clamoring for it for almost a decade, through numerous delays, changes in the director’s chair, and alterations in the general concept. Pan’s Labyrinth mastermind Guillermo del Toro wanted to shoot it, but eventually The Lord Of The Rings veteran Peter Jackson gave in and decided to travel to J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantastic Middle-earth once again. Now it’s finally here – An Unexpected Journey, the first part of his long-awaited The Hobbit trilogy and the first ever 3D movie with a higher frame rate. Expectations have been gigantic, but can the blockbuster really deliver?

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