Five Films to Watch on the Fourth of July

By Stacy Buchanan   |   Tuesday, July 3, 2012
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July 3, 2012

Tom Cruise in Born on The Fourth of July (Universal Pictures, 1989).

The Fourth of July is a great time to have that summer barbeque you’ve been daydreaming about, maybe let the kids play with some sparklers, and later watch fireworks with the family. But more importantly, it’s a time to pay tribute to our military efforts and all who have sacrificed to afford us the comfort of this leisurely day.

And what better way to celebrate than to watch some good ol’ American films? Here are some of my favorites to celebrate patriotic efforts and American pastimes:

Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

Based on a true story, Born on the Fourth of July is a fantastic representation of the Vietnam War through the eyes of a veteran. It recounts some of the more gritty and real moments endured during the war and how they changed the perspective of those who fought in it. One of the more startling moments of the film occurs when Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise), who has accidentally shot a member of his own platoon, later encounters the man’s family. The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won Best Director and Best Film Editing. Born on the Fourth of July stars Tom Cruise, Willem Dafoe, and Bryan Larkin.

Independence Day (1996)

WOO HA, let’s kill some aliens! I love this movie; it’s fun and jam packed with pride (the good kind). The U.S. is under one massive alien invasion, and Americans must work together to save not only the country, but the world. Behind its unbelievable action scenes and Hollywood blockbuster appeal, the narrative focuses on bringing people from different cultures and lifestyles together to make it all happen. Although no formal nominations or awards were given, the film was well-received by critics and audiences. Independence Day stars Will Smith, Bill Pullman and Jeff Goldblum.

Glory (1989)

Glory is based on the first all African American, American Civil War regiment, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. It begins during the Battle of Antietam, ends at Fort Wagner, and is a great portrayal of the regiment’s courage, and the courage of over 180,000 volunteer soldiers, who fought in the war. President Lincoln himself considered their efforts instrumental in securing a victory for the Union, and watching this film it’s easy to see why. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, and won Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography, and Best Sound. Glory stars Denzel Washington, Matthew Broderick, and Morgan Freeman.

Captain America: First Avenger (2011)

One of my favorite Marvel Comics film adaptations, Captain America: First Avenger takes place during World War II. It’s about Brooklyn native Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) volunteering to be genetically transformed into a super soldier/secret weapon to help fight the war. The villan is Red Skull, Adolf Hitler’s ruthless head of weaponry, who intends to use a device well known to Marvel fans (the Tesseract) as an energy source for world domination. And let’s not forget that Captain America is played by Boston’s own hearthrob, Chris Evans.

The Sandlot (1993)

Of course, we need a film involving America’s favorite summer pastime, right? In The Sandlot, Scotty Smalls narrates his childhood move to a new neighborhood in the summer of ‘62. Smalls starts hanging out with a group of neighborhood kids who spend their lazy summer days and nights riding bikes, sleeping in tree houses, chasing after pretty lifeguards, and of course, playing baseball. The Sandlot stars Tom Guiry, James Earl Jones, and Boston’s Dennis Leary.

Why Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Didn't Work on Film

By Stacy Buchanan   |   Thursday, June 28, 2012
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June 28, 2012

That's right - you bow your head in shame, Lincoln. (Photo credit: IMDB)

Scathing reviews have been pouring in for the film adaptation of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. And unfortunately, mine is no different.

I was crushed, especially since reading Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was the most fun I ever had in a book. The carefully thought out symbolism behind the axe swinging and honorable Abe Lincoln fighting a private civil war against vampires, within a public civil war for human rights, was eerily believable and consuming in written word.

But what we’re given on the big screen is more of a Wild, Wild Matrix with gratuitous CGE and a story that is a skeleton of its original self. It feels like the screenwriter barely read a CliffNotes version of the novel, which is uncomfortable considering Seth Grahame-Smith is the author of both.

So what happened? What happened is what I like to call the perfect storm in LA -- you get an overzealous producer with a ton of money and a pipe dream to create the ultimate book-to-film adaptation; he hires his director friend who only knows how to make one type of film with one type of camera shot that just so happened to make a hundred million dollars... once; he then sells the concept to a major film studio as a summer blockbuster to get an even bigger budget, and TADA, we’re given one of the worst most anticipated films of the summer!

Now you’re probably asking yourself: is that basically what happens with every film? And is THAT what happened with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter?

Yeah, basically. But even the most earnest attempts at adapting a book to film can go to the bad place, which is what I really think happened here.

For starters, we’re forced to see this story through the eyes of one person, and it’s near impossible for that one person to capture and represent a story in the millions of different ways people have already adapted it. And no offense to director Timbur Bekmambetov, but he’s the last director I would have picked to adapt this novel. My visions of Abe Lincoln fighting vampires did not involve overly processed effects and enough shiny pretty things to light up a city.

Also, you can’t tell me how to watch this film, you’re not my mother! (Please disregard this if you’re my mother.)

Next, of course, is editing. Since he wrote a great book, I have no doubt that Grahame-Smith wrote an amazing screenplay too. I also have no doubt that he went through over a dozen editing sessions and was forced to watch his masterpiece whittled down to less than half its mass, both in size and story. That’s right folks¬ – if screenwriters were to adapt a book word-for-word, we would be sitting through five and six hour films. And let’s be honest: nobody is going to sit through that and not consider it “performance art.”

When are producers going to quit blowing their budgets on expensive directors and invest in a top notch editing team instead? Steven Spielberg has been using the same team for over 30 years, earning him over a dozen Academy Award nominations over the span of his career.

Anyways, the bottom line is that book-to-film adaptations can be downright impossible, and this isn’t new. The general rule has always been that if you plan on reading the book first, keep your expectations low for the film. And if you plan on seeing the film first, remember not to judge a book by its film.

(And fingers crossed that Burton and Bekmambetov haven’t locked themselves in a closet to plot their next adaptation.)

Boston Remembers Morphine Frontman Mark Sandman

By Stacy Buchanan   |   Thursday, June 21, 2012
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June 21, 2012

CAMBRIDGE, MA - In 1989 musicians Mark Sandman and Dana Colley came together to form Morphine, a band whose success spanned a six-album career, and gave birth to a new genre within alternative rock known as “low rock”.

Morphine combined musical elements of blues, jazz, and rock, accompanied by a murky and dark sound that paired with a baritone saxophone, was complete genius. They became one of the most critically acclaimed bands of the ‘90s; highly regarded by indie rock communities across the U.S., and very successful abroad. But their 10-year reign ended in 1999 when frontman Mark Sandman suffered a heart attack while performing at a festival in Italy and passed away at age 46. Fans were crushed, including an entire Boston community.

Sandman was a native -- born and raised in Newton, an alum of the University of Massachusetts, and a resident of Cambridge. He was completely immersed in the local music scene, and on any given night during the ‘90s it wasn’t uncommon to find him frequenting Central Square businesses including The Plough and Stars, T.T. the Bear’s and The Middle East. Now, 10 years later, it’s not uncommon to find myself, on any given night, frequenting these places and finding traces of his presence lining the walls in memoriam. Appropriately, the intersection at Mass Ave and Brookline St. has been renamed Mark Sandman Square.

Shortly after his death, The Boston Phoenix published Morphine, Mark and Memories: Friends and Fans Look Back, a web page chock full of local fans and friends’ Sandman stories. Reading them is bittersweet. I was saddened by his death, but also touched by his reach. Whether he was helping a stranger at a bar get through a rough time, or allowing local musicians to use the recording space in his own home, he was a part of so many lives in the area.

And even after his passing, he’s still here. Friends and family established The Mark Sandman Music Project, a non-profit organization set up to benefit music education programs in the Cambridge public schools.

To further celebrate the life and career of one of the greatest musicians of our time, filmmakers Robert Bralver and David Ferino are releasing Cure for Pain: The Mark Sandman Story, a very personal documentary about the life of Mark Sandman, featuring interviews from former band mates, friends, and family, and a glimpse into the truth about his inner demons.

Cure for Pain: The Mark Sandman Story will be screening at the Brattle Theatre starting Friday, June 22nd, and running until Sunday, July 1st.  (Note: Producer Jeff Broadway will be a special guest at the 7:30pm screening.)

Photo from the film Cure for Pain: The Mark Sandman Story.

Brattle Theater
40 Brattle Street
Cambridge, MA  02138
(617) 876-6837

Lost Bohemia is Found at MFA Screening

By Kris Wilton   |   Wednesday, June 20, 2012
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June 20, 2012

BOSTON - One of my favorite recent documentaries is Bill Cunningham New York (2010), which turns the camera on the New York Times’ irrepressible, octogenarian, all-analog, bike-riding fashion photographer for an infectious celebration of inextinguishable spirit and creativity.

In that film, we see Cunningham returning home on his Schwinn after long days shooting around town to what seems an odd domicile: Carnegie Hall. There, perched above the storied New York landmark, he lives in a tiny, cramped space filled not with furnishings but with rows and rows of filing cabinets, packed with decades of creative work. Apart from one oddball neighbor, 90-something portrait photographer Editta Sherman, it seems a lonely existence.

That wasn’t always the case. A new documentary screening at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston this week, Lost Bohemia, shows how for decades Carnegie Hall housed more than 150 similarly obsessive creative spirits in a complex of thoughtfully designed artist studios, serving as an incubator for some of the nation’s most treasured cultural output. Jerome Robbins worked there as did Leonard Bernstein. Marlon Brando, Kirk Douglas, Grace Kelly, and Marilyn Monroe all studied there, at the original Actors Studio. Ballerina Isadora Duncan lived there with her mother, sleeping on the floor.

The 170 studios were added to the famous concert hall in the late 19th century, thanks to Andrew Carnegie’s wife, who was thrilled by the arts she saw on their honeymoon to Europe. No two were alike. Painters got the best light, dancers and choreographers had wide spaces, musicians were grouped together. One space housed a massive pipe organ.

Rent was cheap, and artists remained in the de facto artist colony for decades. As of the filming, Cunningham and Sherman, who feature prominently in Lost Bohemia, had both been there for 58 years.

But times change. Despite extensive protests and legal actions from residents, Carnegie Hall reclaimed the spaces in 2007, filling the storied studios with office equipment and cubicles. Only a few rent-controlled inhabitants, like Cunningham, managed to stay on.

Director Josef Birdman Astor, himself a former resident, paints the move as no less than a crime against humanity. “You can't have people who have stayed here, lived here, paid rent, for 60 and 70 years, and then suddenly throw them out when they're 96 without some consequence,” says Cunningham. “There is a moral obligation, I think, of the management to realize that they could be causing the death of these people.”

Indeed, by the end of the film, some of the unforgettable characters, like the colony itself, are no longer with us. But they’ve certainly left their mark.

Photo:  Editta Sherman in the film Lost Bohemia.

Lost Bohemia
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Opens Thursday, June 21, 2012
4:00 pm - 5:20 pm
(various screening times through Wednesday, June 27, 2012)
Remis Auditorium, 161

The 24 Hour Film Race: Who Will Represent Boston?

By Stacy Buchanan   |   Tuesday, June 19, 2012
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June 19, 2012

I get overwhelmed thinking about all of the things I could accomplish in 24 hours. For example: I could paint a picture, knit a scarf, watch every episode of Dawson’s Creek, write a new blog post, and bake 50 cupcakes. Notice making a movie isn’t on there? That’s because my brain cannot even begin to comprehend producing a movie in such a short period of time. Think you can make a movie in 24 hours?

Well, on the weekend of May 18th over 750 teams around the world were asked to do just that -- create a short film, no more than four minutes long, that incorporated: (1) the theme “one”, (2) the action “listening to music”, and (3) the prop “the number one.”

The 24 Hour Film Race 2012 challenges filmmakers from around the world to create a completed short in, you guessed it, 24 hours. And the Brattle Theatre will be premiering the top local films competing for the chance to represent Boston on Wednesday, June 20th. As for the grand prize, how does $10,000 sound?

Additionally, the following awards will be given to Boston’s stand-outs: Best Film, Best Direction, Best Writing, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Acting Ensemble, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Original Music Score, Best Sound Design, Best Animation, Best Visual FX, Best Special FX, Best Costume Design, and Best Make-Up.

Films playing include:

The Castle by An Elaborate Joke (Andre Wells)
To Be Determined by DnDFilmmaking (David Barrett-Rutter)
Call Me: Getting that #1 Spot by Erith (Erica Smith)
Confession by Fierce Hearts Productions (Jacob Fahey)
Butterfly by films (Janelle Stockbridge)
LOST by MindRuption (Juan Soto)
Desire by Oh, But of Corpse Productions (David Hahn)
Solo by Renaissance Pictures (Scott Sullivan)
Have Another by Some Are Villains (Michael Interrante)
Cookie Problems by Team Brown (Mike Brown)
Mono by Well Dang! Productions (Alex Wroten)
One Thing by Yeti Films (Emile Doucette)

Doors open at 7:00pm, show starts at 8:00pm.

Brattle Theater
40 Brattle Street
Cambridge, MA  02138
(617) 547-6837

"I'll be taking these Huggies and whatever cash you got": Celebrating The Career of Nicolas Cage

By Stacy Buchanan   |   Tuesday, June 12, 2012
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I will never forget the first time I saw Nicolas Cage in Raising Arizona, running down the middle of the highway all doe-eyed and dumb, a panty hose leg pulled over his head with a bag of diapers under his arm. It’s definitely the film I’d credit with ramping up his career or certainly my interest in it.

Since then, Cage has built himself an impressive film resume, despite being criticized for his choice to star in Hollywood blockbusters as opposed to the independent character-driven dramas that helped to mold his career in the first place.

Frankly, I’m not surprised that that was his chosen path. We are talking about the same person who married the daughter of Elvis Presley as a token of his appreciation and devotion to the King, built himself a nine-foot tall pyramid/mausoleum in a New Orleans cemetery, and in July 2007 locked into a fierce bidding war with fellow actor Leonardo DiCaprio over a 67-million year old dinosaur skull. Cage walked away victorious, and $276k bones poorer (take the pun and run).

And let’s also not forget the memes… oh, the memes. A couple of personal favorites:

Your Argument is Invalid is
a catchphrase associated with the film Next, used in conjunction with a photo-shopped image of Cage taken during the filming of the movie. The photo was altered to make Cage’s hair look like a bald eagle, and was captioned with the text “My hair is a bird. Your argument is invalid.”


Nic Cage as Everyone on Tumblr collects photo-shopped images of Nic Cage’s face on anyone and everything.

Cage Rampage advises you to alert your local government, a rampant Nicolas Cage could be coming to destroy your town.

But despite all his wacky antics, the fact is that Nicolas Cage has appeared in over 60 films, worked with some of the best directors, and has achieved one of the most unique careers of any actor in history. Additionally, his acting has earned him the highest of praise from some of the industry’s most influential, including film critic Roger Ebert who has defended Cage's career publicly, not to mention his Academy Award for his performance in Leaving Las Vegas.

And starting Monday, June 11th, running until Thursday, June 21st, The Brattle Theatre will be celebrating his quirky career in its Greatest American Actor Series. The theatre will be screening Valley Girl, Vampire’s Kiss, Wild At Heart, The Rock, Con-Air, Face/Off, Snake Eyes, Adaptation, Bad Lieutenant, The Wicker Man and, of course, my personal favorite, Raising Arizona.

Head to The Brattle Theatre for a few laughs and enjoy some of the finest from one of the most versatile actors of our time. Visit for more information and scheduling.


About the Authors
Stacy Buchanan Stacy Buchanan
Stacy is California born and raised, and happily living in Boston.  By day, she’s a seasoned digital marketer, social media enthusiast and pop culture consumer. After studying special effects makeup and film for over 20 years, she is also full-time film buff and by night, produces content for horror publications, focusing on classic and contemporary horror films.
Kris Wilton Kris Wilton
Kris is a freelance arts journalist who has contributed reported pieces and reviews to outlets including the Huffington Post,,, Modern Painters, Art+Auction, Art New England, New England Home, Entertainment Weekly, the Village Voice,, ARTnews, Philadelphia Weekly, Emerging Photographer, Photo District News, and RL Magazine.


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