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Does STRAW DOGS (2011) harm Mississippi’s reputation?

Does STRAW DOGS (2011) harm Mississippi’s reputation?

Posted on December 23rd, 2011

Based on the original 1971 classic, this version of “Straw Dogs” moves the locale from rural England to rural Mississippi. David (James Marsden) and Amy Sumner (Kate Bosworth) return from Hollywood to Amy’s home town to fix up her deceased father’s hurricane-damaged home and so David can get some quiet time to work on his next screenplay. They soon run into Charlie (Alexander Skarsgard) and his contracting crew hired to fix up the Sumner barn. Charlie, an ex beau of Amy’s, gives David a hard time and leers at Amy along with his cronies. An escalating series of circumstances results in these mean-spirited locals pushing too far. They lay siege to the house, giving David and Amy no choice but to fight for their lives…

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HUGO’s surprising twist raises it above the average PG film

HUGO’s surprising twist raises it above the average PG film

Posted on December 20th, 2011

Even the plot of “Hugo” is a mystery.
Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is a clever orphan in post-World War I Paris who lives in the clock fixtures of a train station. He spends his time spying on the various kiosk vendors, especially a mean toy merchant (Ben Kingsley) whom he steals mechanical parts from. He filches these parts to repair a broken robotic automaton his deceased watchmaker father (Jude Law) was repairing when he died. When caught by the toymaker, he begins a tenuous apprenticeship and a fast friendship with the toymaker’s pretty ward (Chloe Moretz). As Hugo begins to unravel the mystery of the automaton, he uncovers an unexpected secret. This secret will prove important to modern history once revealed; however, an overzealous station security guard (Sacha Baron Cohen) with a dislike of thieving orphans threatens to put Hugo in the poor house before he can complete his mission…

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The good and bad of reality shows…

The good and bad of reality shows…

Posted on December 20th, 2011

I don’t watch popular reality shows. Not to sound like Holden Caufield from “Catcher in the Rye” but I can’t abide the phonies and wannabes making fools out of themselves for their seemingly entitled fifteen minutes of fame. Traveling circuses used to have freak shows, nowadays we have the “Kardashians,” “Teen Mom,” “Jersey Shore” and an abomination called “Toddlers and Tiaras.” On one hand, I love horror movies and the fictional train-wrecks that movies and TV provide, but as Milhouse once said on “The Simpsons”… “I only like it when I’m pretend scared.”…

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MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE…  One of the best movies of 2011

MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE… One of the best movies of 2011

Posted on December 2nd, 2011

“Martha Marcy May Marlene” has an oddly cryptic title but a fascinating premise. It stars Elizabeth Olsen (younger sister to the infamous “Olsen Twins”) as Martha, an impressionable runaway who, after a lengthy disappearance, finally contacts her sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) for a place to stay. Lucy, now married and pregnant, takes in Martha who refuses to divulge any information about the past two years in which she was missing. Through flashbacks, we learn that Martha had been seduced and brainwashed by a Manson-like cult lead by a charismatic nihilist named Patrick (Oscar-nominee John Hawkes). As Lucy and her husband (Hugh Dancy) become increasingly disturbed by Martha’s inappropriately erratic behavior, flashbacks reveal key moments in her time with the cult which hint at the reasons behind her shattered sense of reality…

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THE DEBT quick review…

THE DEBT quick review…

Posted on December 2nd, 2011

“The Debt” follows three ex-Mossad agents in 1997 (Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson and Ciaran Hinds) who based their entire careers and lives around the fact that in 1966 they captured a notorious Nazi war criminal in Berlin. Despite their accomplishments, they’ve been keeping a terrible secret and when circumstances threaten to expose their shame, they set out not only correct the problem but to also right a wrong committed over thirty years prior. The story behind the secret unfolds in flashbacks with Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas and Sam Worthington (respectively) playing younger versions of the agents…

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Coop’s favorite (family-safe) holiday season films…

Coop’s favorite (family-safe) holiday season films…

Posted on November 29th, 2011

Holiday films are a special genre, best viewed during this time of the year. If you’re looking for a few to give you a bit of seasonal cheer, you can do no wrong with the list below…

ELF (2003) – Made at the height of Will Ferrell’s career, Elf tells the story of Buddy, a human raised as an Elf at the North Pole. Definitely Ferrell’s most kid-friendly film, Buddy must restore Christmas spirit to a New York (and his father, played by James Caan) before everyone’s holiday apathy sabotages Santa’s annual mission. Only Ferrell could make a potentially annoying character this funny…

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“Immortals” flawed but visually stunning

“Immortals” flawed but visually stunning

Posted on November 18th, 2011

Ancient Greek/Roman films have a spotty record critically and commercially since they are difficult to pull off. Fortunately, “Immortals” is exciting and innovative enough to work as long as you can get over its glaring mistakes.

Theseus (Henry Cavill), a peasant warrior, is favored by the god Zeus (Luke Evans) to save mankind from the brutal King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke). Hyperion seeks the Epirus Bow, a magical weapon forged by the gods, so he can use it to unleash the Titans (evil former gods) who are imprisoned deep within Mount Tartaros. Hyperion wishes to enslave the world and start a war in the heavens, but killing Theseus’ mother in a raid sets the hero against him. Aided by a virgin oracle (Freida Pinto), a former slave (Steven Dorff), and the gods themselves, Theseus pursues revenge and his destiny…

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In honor of Veteran’s Day:  “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific” are must-sees

In honor of Veteran’s Day: “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific” are must-sees

Posted on November 15th, 2011

In honor of Veteran’s Day weekend, I felt it prudent to point out two of the best depictions of World War II ever set to film and to encourage anyone who missed them to put them both on your “must-see” list. “Band of Brothers” (2001) and “The Pacific” (2010) were produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks and are arguably the best projects either of these two powerhouse names have ever been involved with.

Based on the Stephen E. Ambrose non-fiction book of the same title, “Band of Brothers” chronicles the story of Easy Company, the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne division. All ten episodes cover their time in Europe from Operation Overlord through V-J Day. Each segment focuses on a different member of the company and their own personal struggles while encountering…

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“In Time” is worth the time… for sci-fi fans only

“In Time” is worth the time… for sci-fi fans only

Posted on November 15th, 2011

The concept of “In Time” would grab most sci-fi fans immediately. A reworking of the old “Logan’s Run” story, it takes place in a world where overpopulation has pushed society to the breaking point. As a measure of control, people are genetically engineered to live only to the age of 25. After that, they must earn more time in order to increase their (literal) biological clock to continue living. Time is subtracted when you need to pay for things like rent or a cup of coffee. The rich can live forever, frozen at 25 years old. The poor must fight for survival every single day. To make matters worse, time can be taken away by force.

Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) is a working-class guy with a matter of days left on his clock and his mother (the ironically young and beautiful Olivia Wilde) hides the fact that she has even less. One night he saves the life of a…

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Mississippi indie filmmaker spotlight:  Michael Williams’ ILLUMINATION

Mississippi indie filmmaker spotlight: Michael Williams’ ILLUMINATION

Posted on November 4th, 2011

Michael Williams is a reliable fixture at film festivals in Mississippi and the neighboring states. He’s also very talented, so when he asked me to take a look at his new short film “Illumination,” I jumped at the chance.

His story, clearly influenced by early Spielberg, easily reminds one of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977) but with some similarities to Alex Proyas’ “Knowing” (2009). A cheating archeologist (Glenn Payne) discovers what is truly important in his life after his wife (Juliet Reeves) and son (Grayson Easterling) vanish under unusual circumstances. Saying anymore than that would be telling, but Williams manages to draw out some effective suspense through technical expertise and the performances of the actors…

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Things I learned while making a movie

Things I learned while making a movie

Posted on November 2nd, 2011

I went to one of the best films schools in the world and I learned a heck of a lot about screenwriting. I taught it to high schoolers in Los Angeles and adults at seminars. I got to work with some seasoned pros and I learned a little about the other aspects of filmmaking. Unfortunately, back in 1997, it wasn’t very easy to make a short film. It was expensive and cheap ones ($1000 and up) often looked terrible due to the technical hurdles crews would have to overcome. Watching my colleagues slave over their thesis projects with (mostly) mediocre results was discouraging. Because of this, I focused on becoming a writer and academic, ignoring the technical aspects I had little access to.

Fast forward to summer 2010… I had a weird dream and quickly churned out a screenplay based on it. I met some filmmakers at festivals, asked some questions, went back home, did research and took stock of my resources. I suddenly realized it could be done competently for much cheaper than it did thirteen years ago. I raised a crew, secured equipment, auditioned actors and in December of 2010 I shot my first short film “The Best Day.” The premiere was last night and here are a few important lessons I learned from the entire process:

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6 great movies for the Halloween season

6 great movies for the Halloween season

Posted on October 31st, 2011

by Coop Cooper
There are many great horror films out there but very few actually take place during or around Halloween. Here are six of the best…

6. “Ginger Snaps” (2000) – Ginger and her sister, Brigitte are two high school Goth outcasts… Until Ginger gets bit by a werewolf. The infection gives Ginger the confidence she’s never had… and an appetite for human flesh. The climax occurs during a Halloween party where Ginger doesn’t need a fake costume to look scary. One of the great underrated werewolf films, “Ginger Snaps” is a sly, grim allegory to the pains of female puberty. It spawned two bizarre and substandard sequels but the original has a large fan following…

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THE BEST DAY short film premiere!

THE BEST DAY short film premiere!

Posted on October 19th, 2011

Date: Thursday, October 27 · 6:00pm – 9:00pm

Location: Delta Cinema, 11 3rd St., Clarksdale, MS

Written, produced and directed by Coop Cooper

Starring: Amye Gousset, David Dallas and Clarksdale natives Anna Carson Tyner and Lois McMurchy Erwin

Co-starring: Steve Hays and Allen Brown of Clarksdale.

Event will feature…

– Trailers for yet-to-be-released short films by other Mississippi filmmakers
– Screening of THE BEST DAY
– Screening of THE BEST DAY blooper reel
– Q&A session
– Presentation of gifts to the cast and crew

After party at Ground Zero Blues Club @ 7pm (food included/free beer & wine)

SPECIAL NOTE: This is the first festival-qualifying narrative short film made by Clarksdale natives!

Approx. rating: PG-13

Here’s a link to the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqDtQ31GAzA

Hope to see you there!

– Coop Cooper

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“Footloose” might be the best 80’s remake ever

“Footloose” might be the best 80’s remake ever

Posted on October 14th, 2011

The current trend of remaking beloved films of past generations is often met with ire by both critics and movie goers alike. In spite of this vicious cycle, Memphian filmmaker Craig Brewer has accomplished a near impossible feat… He remade one of the most beloved pop movies from the 80’s and actually improved upon it. In short, “Footloose” (2011) is an amazingly entertaining film.

Teen orphan Ren McCormack (Kenny Wormald) moves from Boston to a small town in Georgia after his mother dies of cancer. His good-hearted uncle (Ray McKinnon) takes him in and makes him feel at home, but Ren soon runs afoul of a county ordinance that bans loud music and dancing…

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Best new primetime TV shows of the 2011 season

Best new primetime TV shows of the 2011 season

Posted on October 12th, 2011

“Terra Nova” (Monday 7pm on FOX) – In the future where Earth has become ravaged and polluted, adventurous citizens get the chance to go back in time to the dinosaur age (85 million B.C.) to begin a new civilization. Ex-cop Jim Shannon (Jason O’Mara) breaks out of prison to join his family on a one-way trip to the past. On the other side they encounter two warring factions of humans fighting over a well-protected secret while trying to survive amongst predatory monsters. Plagued by clichés, the first episode rose above the poor writing with big-budgeted special effects and an intriguing mystery reminiscent of “Lost.” Trying to duplicate some of the qualities of “Avatar,” the show employs “Avatar” veteran Stephen Lang to play the gruff militaristic leader of the main colony. The pilot showed a lot of promise. Hopefully it becomes more like “Lost” and less like “Land of the Lost.”(…)

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“Drive” harkens back to the days of “Miami Vice”

“Drive” harkens back to the days of “Miami Vice”

Posted on September 30th, 2011

Ryan Gosling plays a tough-guy-with-no-name who works as a stunt driver/mechanic in Hollywood while moonlighting as a getaway driver for high-risk robberies. With no friends or family, he lives a solitary existence until he forms an unlikely bond with his struggling neighbor Irene (Carrie Mulligan) and her cute son (Kaden Leos). His shifty, but good-hearted handler (Bryan Cranston) sets the driver up with a possible stock car racing gig bankrolled by a deceptively genial mob boss (Albert Brooks). When Irene’s ex-con husband returns home, a cascading chain of events pits the Driver up against the mob, threatening the life of Irene and her son.

While the story doesn’t seem all that original and the action is fairly sparse, the style is exhilarating…

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Are all films about Mississippi good for the state?

Are all films about Mississippi good for the state?

Posted on September 21st, 2011

By Coop Cooper

Last week I was interviewed by “The Washington Times” and Tuesday by “SuperTalk” Mississippi radio host Paul Gallo about how Hollywood portrays Mississippi in motion pictures. While I have talked about this subject before in my articles, these interviews got me thinking about the topic again especially now that “The Help” has thrust Mississippi back into the cultural spotlight.

But it wasn’t “The Help” these two media outlets wanted to interview me about. They were curious about the negatively-slanted movies Hollywood continues to produce about the state, particularly the remake of the violent 1971 masterpiece “Straw Dogs” which opened last weekend…

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“Hanna” is a missed gem now available on DVD

“Hanna” is a missed gem now available on DVD

Posted on September 13th, 2011

With sloppy films like “Columbiana” and “Conan The Barbarian” wasting our time at the multiplexes, I feel relieved when I catch something special on DVD that I missed in the theater. Such is the case with “Hanna,” a quirky and fun action/fantasy which borrows heavily from other films but impresses with a fresh and interesting style.

Saoirse Ronan plays Hanna, a spooky girl who knows every fact about the world and every language in it, but doesn’t have a shred of worldly experience. Since her infancy, her ex-superspy father (Eric Bana) has educated her in the Scandinavian wilderness, particularly in advanced survival and combat. Eager to experience the world, Hanna flips the switch on a transmitter her father warned her not to activate until she felt ready. She is quickly thrust into a hostile world where she must separate from her father to flee an insidious intelligence agent (Cate Blanchett) hell-bent on killing her…

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“Apollo 18” is direct-to-video at best

“Apollo 18” is direct-to-video at best

Posted on September 13th, 2011

If you had problems with “The Blair Witch Project,” you’ll find yourself frustrated with “Apollo 18” for the same reasons. The actors have to deal with long takes which cause them to ham it up when on camera for too long. Eerie sounds spring up at convenient points to convey tension, for instance: A sudden heartbeat on the soundtrack isn’t natural when the scene is supposed to mimic reality. Plus there shouldn’t be sound in the vacuum of space. The sound design people seemed to forget that one when adding sound effects to the track (in stereo, no less)…

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“Columbiana” has a strong woman but a puny everything else

“Columbiana” has a strong woman but a puny everything else

Posted on September 13th, 2011

This film utilizes every genre cliché and then some. Back in the Blockbuster Video days you might find this video under what they called the “Super Action” section, usually reserved for direct-to-video films which is exactly where this one belongs. It is designed for absurdity to the point where the only redeeming value is to see a 10 year-old girl dressed in a school uniform leaping Bogata rooftops and base-sliding into open drains.

Despite my intense dislike of this movie, I can deduce an interesting way in which it might have come about. Writer Luc Besson has long talked about trying to woo Natalie Portman into reprising her role as hit man protege from Besson’s 1994 hit “Leon” (a.k.a. “The Professional”). He had planned to call the film “Matilda” and have Portman as a grown-up assassin working for the New York mob, then eventually turning against them. Here’s what I’m guessing happened…

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