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Daily Reads: The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made, The Last Blockbuster Video Stores and More

Daily Reads: The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made, The Last Blockbuster Video Stores and More

Criticwire’s Daily Reads brings today’s essential
news stories and critical pieces to you.

1. The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made. The age of Blu-Ray doesn’t just bring the best of the best to home video in high quality, but the worst of the worst. The disastrous adaptation of Michael Crichton’s “Congo” just came to Blu-Ray, and Jason Bailey took the opportunity to list 50 films that make “Congo” look like “King Kong.”

Color of Night. The box-office success of “Basic Instinct” prompted a rash of snicker-worthy pseudo-sexy “erotic thrillers” of rapidly increasing incompetence (“Sliver,” “Body of Evidence,” “Blown Away,” “Poison Ivy,” “The Crush”). But the goofiest of the bunch is this sublimely silly 1994 “mystery,” whose makers hoped that the sight of a constantly naked Jane March and a fleeting glimpse of Bruce Willis’ little Bruno would distract from one of the nuttiest (yet most obvious) plot twists in cinematic history. Read more.

2. Essential Fall Shows…and a Few to Miss. With every fall television season comes a handful of new television shows, but it usually takes some time to know which ones are worth seeking out. Todd VanDerWerff of Vox, however, has watched every new fall show and can tell you which ones to tune in to and which ones to skip. Here’s why you should watch “The Affair” on Showtime.

Why: This new Showtime drama does things with TV storytelling I’ve never seen done quite this well before. To say more than that would be to spoil what makes it so special, but I like the way that this starts in a fairly typical place — unhappy marriages, beautiful and affluent white people, a seemingly never-ending beach holiday — and gradually reels off its axis. Plus, it has a wonderful command of tone, perfectly blending wickedly dark humor into its mix without losing its central seriousness. There’s a cast full of ringers — including Dominic West, Maura Tierney, and Josh Jackson — but the show’s success stems from two women in particular: actress Ruth Wilson, who turns her character into a walking wound, and writer Sarah Treem, a playwright who co-created with “In Treatment” creator Hagai Levi and perfectly balances the show’s many elements. Read more.

3. Five Simple Rules for Genius Biopics. James Marsh’s Stephen Hawking biopic “The Theory of Everything” just played at Toronto, and surprise, it doesn’t have much to say about Hawking’s incredible theories. Like “A Beautiful Mind” or “Ray” before it, it’s more about the subject triumphing over adversity rather than what they were actually known for. But Scott Tobias of The Dissolve wrote down five easy-to-remember rules about how to make a movie that actually does justice to the genius at its center. First suggestion: just do a slice of a person’s life, not the whole pie.

“The Theory of Everything” isn’t a birth-to-deather, but it follows Hawking from when he was a student at Cambridge and met his first wife Jane Wilde to the end of their 25-year marriage and beyond. It could be argued that it works within the discrete parameters of that one key relationship—the film is, after all, based on Wilde’s book, not Hawking’s—but it covers an awful lot of ground. Contrast that with “Topsy-Turvy,” Mike Leigh’s wonderful biopic about Gilbert & Sullivan, which limits its scope to the 15-month period in which composer Arthur Sullivan and playwright W.S. Gilbert collaborated on one of their most celebrated works, “The Mikado.” Leigh gets at the essence of that partnership—their specific roles, their personal friction and affection, their unique creative alchemy—while understanding the importance of “The Mikado” at that tenuous point in their careers, and the particular inventions and mores of the years 1884 and 1885. Read more.

4. A Jewish Movie with Almost No Jews. The new comedy-drama “This Is Where I Leave You” sees a family reuniting for a sitting Shiva, or a week-long mourning period in Judaism. Wired did a ranking of the cast by likability, Emmy wins, and Jewishness, and they noticed something funny: only one family member is played by a Jewish actor (Corey Stoll).

Not everyone in this movie is explicitly playing Jewish (there are some spouses and whatnot) but the fact remains, “This Is Where I Leave You” is about sitting Shiva and only has one Jew in the main family cast (Ben Schwartz, who plays a Rabbi, is also, of course, chosen). And you believe it with some of them, but even Jason Bateman has a repressed Scotch-Irishness he just can’t shake, no matter how kvetchy he gets. Read more.

5. “The Guest” Influences. Adam Wingard’s new film “The Guest” has earned highly positive reviews and comparisons to 70s/80s era John Carpenter. Wingard talked to Alison Willmore of BuzzFeed about the films that influenced “The Guest,” and indeed, Carpenter’s “Halloween” came up, along with some other 80s horror and action classics. But Wingard found inspirations in unexpected places, including one film that seemed to annoy every corner of the internet a few years ago.

When coming up with the character of “David,” Wingard looked not to the brawny example of “The Terminator”-era Schwarzenegger but to Michael Fassbender’s slippery performance as the genteel, untrustworthy android in “Prometheus,” also named David. “Say what you will about ‘Prometheus,’” Wingard said, “but Fassbender’s incredible in that film and held it together.” Read more.

6. The Last Blockbuster Video Stores. In the age of Netflix and VOD, Blockbuster Video might as well be part of an ancient civilization. Yet there are a handful of Blockbuster Video stores that are still open, and Yahoo! Movies’ Ethan Alter talked to Alan Payne, the owner of some of the last remaining stores about life after Blockbuster’s heyday. 

Behind the scenes, though, this definitely isn’t the ’90s anymore. For starters, Payne rarely deals with anyone from his ex-parent company. “As far as I know there is no Blockbuster Inc. anymore, other than somebody taking our [licensing] checks every month,” he laughs. That means he’s the one who sets the standard prices on rentals — generally about $3.99-$4.99 for new releases, while older movies rent for 49 cents a day, or 99 cents for five days. And he decides how many copies of specific titles to stock, purchasing them either directly from wholesalers or, occasionally, from Walmart or Best Buy. Read more.

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