NOT OPTIONAL takes a quick weekly look at some essential releases, some recent, some not.
The Story Of Film on TCM
Through early December, Turner Classic Movies is airing Mark Cousins’ 15-part documentary series The Story Of Film: An Odyssey. The show itself is a pretty fair introductory course to the history of movies—though if you’re really taken with it, you can just gulp the whole thing down now, via streaming on Netflix. What makes the TCM broadcast such an event is the Additional Reading. Each Monday night, the channel airs an episode, then re-runs it late Tuesday night. In the evening hours between, TCM is offering a deep, full look at whatever it is Cousins is gassing on about, whether it’s early silent epics, postwar Neorealism, or the lost paradise that was the “new American cinema” of the 1970s. Sure, it’s fun and interesting to listen to an impassioned, possibly deranged Irishman insist that the look of Citizen Kane owes almost everything to Stagecoach, but wouldn’t it be even more fun and interesting to see for yourself? [Phil Dyess-Nugent]
Live At Death By Audio 2012 flexi-book
A couple of months ago, I was gifted Death By Audio’s little book of flexi-discs, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Featuring clear flexi copies of tracks played by Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, Future Islands, METZ, and more at Brooklyn venue Death By Audio, the book is a vinyl collector’s wet dream, all exclusive and basically unplayable. Actually, that’s not true: I’m sure these records do play. I just haven’t figured out how yet. The book is spiral-bound, so either I have to take the thing apart or just hope that my turntable arm doesn’t hit the rings if I put the whole thing on the table, and both of those are chances that have been too risky for me to take thus far. I’m more content to just sit and look at it for hours at a time. [Marah Eakin]
Though Tron: Legacy ended up a financial success, it effectively nuked excitement for the franchise that had building for years. But the interstitial series TRON: Uprising, meant to drive publicity for the long-gestating Legacy sequel, turned out to be much more than a way to keep the property in the minds of children during a lengthy development process. Taking place in the time between the two theatrical films, with great voice performances from Elijah Wood, Bruce Boxleitner, Mandy Moore, Nate Corddry, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Paul Reubens, and—for the series’ best multi-episode arc—Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, Uprising wove together the most consistent and entertaining story in the Tron universe. For some reason, Disney abandoned the series to DisneyXD instead of the flagship network, and declined to renew it after one season—allegedly because its fan base skewed much older than Disney’s target demographic. But now that the entire series is streaming on Netflix, it deserves to be recognized as the rare artful and mature animated series, influenced by other shows from Reboot and Batman Beyond to Star Wars: The Clone Wars. [Kevin McFarland]
It’s not perfect, nor is it my favorite scary movie of the summer—I just couldn’t help but love the weird, religious ferocity of The Conjuring—but You’re Next is a supremely entertaining time at the movies, and well worth checking out before it leaves theaters. An expert blend of several different tones, You’re Next starts out as a slasher film before becoming a darkly humorous comedy about a hopelessly dysfunctional family, then settles back into its horror roots for the remainder of its running time. Along the way, it establishes Sharni Vinson as an actress to watch; there’s a shot of her late in the film, lit via camera flashes, that’s one of the most badass things I’ve seen in a movie in years. It has some of the most wickedly humorous horror-comedy out there (like when one character protests he’d be the fastest runner were it not for the arrow in his shoulder), even as it’s taking some of the darker story turns deadly serious. There are scary moments and gory moments, but mostly this is a solid triumph for the “mumblegore” movement, which aims less to terrify and more to blend wildly divergent tones in complicated ways. [Todd VanDerWerff]