Duke & The Movies

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As I’ve lamented in more than a few posts before, Duke & the Movies has kind of, sort of, closed up shop. But not entirely. Today I’m proud to present you with my new site, Movie MezzanineBe sure to check it out and comment. As many of you will notice in the coming days recurring features like Inquisition Tuesday and Battle of Directors will continue on the new publication. Not much has changed, just some expanding.

Happy holidays everyone. Thank you for all your support, and thank you for all the memories we’ve had here. I’ll never forget this.

A Christmas Special

December 25, 2012 | 21 Comments | Featured

This past Thanksgiving I expressed my gratitude to a select group of people in the world of film who had made my life better. It was a simple conceit, and one I plan to reuse and expand this morning. Below is a compilation of wonderful people who have appreciated, guided, and aided me over the past three years. As most of you know by now, Duke & the Movies will be closing up shop in the next week or two. In its place, the Movie Mezzanine will go up Wednesday, January 2nd. Take this post as the last hurrah — an occasion to commend a myriad of you for doing so much. Aside from the individuals listed below, I’d like to thank my family and friends for their tireless support. Now, for the rest of you.

Andy Buckle – The Film Emporium

Jake Cole – Not Just Movies

Simon – Screen Insight

Jandy Stone – The Frame

Tom Clift – MovieDex

Cam Williams - Popcorn Junkie

James Ward – Visalia-Times Delta

Steve Honeywell – 1001 Plus

Bonjour Tristesse

Roger Ebert — The Chicago Sun Times

Ryan McNeil – The Matinee

Corey Atad – JustAtad

Aiden Redmond – Cut the Crap Movie Reviews

Tyler – Southern Vision

Anna – Defiant Success

Rodney Fernby – Fernby Films

Scott Lawlor – Front Room Cinema

Ruth Elizabeth – Splendid & Lovely

Julian Cheslow – Dirty With Class

Franz Patrick – Franz Patrick’s Film Archive

Max Covill – Impassioned Cinema

Bob Turnbull – Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind

Marc Ciafardini – Go See Talk

Kevin Ketchum – Next Projection

David Nusair – Reel Films Reviews

Michael Phillips – Chicago Tribune

Margaret (Lady Sati) – Cinematic Corner 

Alex Withrow – And So It Begins

Matt Singer, Eric Kohn, and Steve Greene – IndieWire

Eric D. Snider – Film.com

Jessica - The Velvet Cafe

Andrew Robinson – gMan Reviews

Nick Prigge – Cinema Romantico

Courtney Smalls – Big Thoughts From A Small Mind

Kristin Griffin – All Eyes On Screen

Steven Flores – Surrender to the Void

Mike Scott – CBS 47

The Vern – Video Vanguard

Dan Fogarty – Fogs’ Movie Reviews

Rick Bentley and Donald Munro – The Fresno Bee

Eric – The Warning Sign

Carrie Rickey – Philadelphia Inquirer

Dan Heaton – Public Transportation Snob

John LaRue – The Droid You’re Looking For

Kate Erbland – Film School Rejects

Sam Bathe – Fan the Fire Magazine

Andrew Crump – A Constant Visual Feast

Danny Reed – Can’t Stop the Movies

Brian J. Roan – Dear Film

Ruth – Flix Chatter

Kristen Sales – Sales on Film

James Blake Ewing – Cinema Sights

Castor Troy – Anomalous Material

Joel Burman & the LAMB Community

Merry Christmas …

Happy Christmas Eve everyone. And if you don’t celebrate Christmas, well, happy holidays. No matter what you’re doing over these next few days, be sure to stay safe. Here’s our weekly articles …

Check out TshirtPrintingThis talented company sent me a free Duke & the Movies shirt and it looks excellent.

Andy Buckle reveals his eclectic batch of films he deems the best of 2012.

I had a hoot being a guest on the Long and Late Movie Show yesterday. Listen to the episode and subscribe to the podcast.

Which actors do you prefer: Seth Rogen vs. Paul Rudd. Another great matchup by Courtney.

Australian bloggers Sam and Chris rattle of what they consider to be the worst films of 2012.

Eric Kohn makes a strong case for Terence Malick’s To the Wonder

This Is 40, reviewed by Ryan McNeil. It would appear no one is responding to this film with much enthusiasm.

Take a look at Simon’s analysis of Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles

Off To Mexico

December 22, 2012 | 4 Comments | Featured

With the Holiday season abound, our family had decided to take a trip down to Mexico to visit some family, relax on the beach, and celebrate Christmas. Most of you are probably settling in for the Holidays. If you’re traveling over the next few days, I hope everyone stays safe. Traveling can be a bit hectic around this time.

Duke & the Movies wil continue to produce content until Wednesday, January 2nd, which is when Movie Mezzanine will officially launch. Follow my upcoming publication on twitter and on facebook.

Stay safe everyone.

The Guilt Trip

December 20, 2012 | No Comments | Featured

At its best, The Guilt Trip is a heartwarming portrait of the eternal and maternal relationship between mother and son. However, it often strays away from its good qualities, dissipating into affable, light, rather asinine fluff. [More]

 Five example films from Guillermo del Toro:

Pan’s Labryinth




Hellboy II: The Golden Army


 Five example films from Pedro Almodovar:

The Skin I Live In


Talk to Her

Broken Embraces

All About My Mother


Our weekly articles … [More]

Paramount studios and Allied Integrated marketing has offered Duke & the Movies yet another promotional opportunity.

This week we’ll be offering up five passes to an early screening of Tom Cruise’s latest action-adventure, Jack Reacher. 

If you’d like to obtain a pass for yourself (and one guest), be sure to answer the question below and send it to my email address — dukeandmovies(at)yahoo(dot)com

The screening will take place on Wednesday, December 17th at Manchester Stadium.

The Question: 

In the early 80s, Tom Cruise broke out of his shell and became a movie star. His fifth film, made in 1983, was the one that did the trick. What was the title of that movie?

When I created Duke & the Movies back in November of 2009 I could’ve never conceived that it would grow and prosper into what it is now: a renowned website where hundreds of people who love the movies frequent every day. Beyond what has been accomplished on this small space that I call my Internet home, my writing – and your enthusiastic and constant support – has turned a hobby into a profession.

After three years of dedication, constant contemplation of movies, and struggling to find just the right words to articulate my opinions, Duke & the Movies has opened many proverbial doors in the world of film criticism.

Obtaining jobs at numerous outlets (chief among them Anomalous Material and Fan the Fire Magazine) has propelled my career upward. In a rare, beautiful blend of your support and my writing, I’ve had some wonderful experiences and opportunities covering the medium that connects us all: the movies.

What I’m getting to, in an irrefutably long-winded way, is that Duke & the Movies will soon be closing up shop in the coming months. It’s hard for me to type that sentence and not get sentimental.

However, this is not the end, but merely the beginning. The beginning of something new, something greater than what could ever be accomplished on this site.

Coming in the new-year, the Movie Mezzanine will go up. I’m the founder, creator, and editor-in-chief of this proud publication. And with this new Internet home, I hope each and every one of you loyal readers will come along for the ride.

The significant difference between Duke & the Movies and Movie Mezzanine is that there will be a staff intact. We have writers based around the globe, from New York City to Australia to London to Austin to Los Angeles. My hope, however, is to make the Mezzanine (an all-encompassing site with a broader reach) every bit as personal and sincere as what I’ve done here.

Duke & the Movies will continue to churn out content for at least another month. Hopefully this post will serve as an explanation as to why things have been a little slow around here lately.

Without romanticizing the past three years too much, I can’t thank you readers enough for what you’ve done for me. Writing the conclusion to this chapter is every bit as difficult as starting a new one. We’ve had good times, frustrating times, argumentative times, and exciting times. I have no regrets of spending so much of my energy and life with the movies, with my readers, and with this site. As with any new endeavor, I’m terrified by the prospect of leaving this all behind. And yet, I’m elated by the multitude of possibilites for the future.

Life continues, and so does this journey. Duke & the Movies is the natural stepping stone to something unique and creative. So, just as this door closes, another opens.

I care for you all deeply, and look forward to seeing you at the opening of Movie Mezzanine in the coming weeks. Here’s our twitter account for everyone to stay up to date: @MovieMezzanine

From your friend …


~ Sam Fragoso

The Question:

Are these year-end lists of the best movies, methodically ranking them in some incongruous, silly order, degrading to the actual pieces of film themselves?

Crafting those year-end best and worst movies lists has turned into an annual tradition for film critics. But what exactly are they for?

Do we obsess and mull over them for our own pleasure, or do we make them out of sheer adulation for the movies deserving of recognition? Perhaps a bit of both.

It’s not too bold to claim we’re a ranking crazed society, where articulation and analysis has been substituted for stars, letter grades, tomatoes, and thumbs. Even in my own experiences with grading I struggle to create and define the dichotomy between a film that receives a C- and a C.

This ongoing inner battle is inside all of us who decide to construct and take part in the year-end ranking. And it’s not just in the realm of film that categorizing occurs. Read the papers, listen to the radio, and turn on the television — lists of the best books, songs, albums, and athletes will soon appear.

Despite my skepticism about the motives behind these lists (a battle between self-promotion and promotion of cinema) I’ll be participating starting this weekend with IndieWire’s yearly poll. At the end of the day, it’s fun to occasionally indulge. Just remember, while every sort of list is asinine, be sure your making making them for the right reasons. Good films deserve to be highlighted among the sea mediocrity year after year. And despite that fact that no number could ever adequately represent a piece of transcendent art, it does allow certain films to have their day in the sun.

Before everyone begins to rail on one another for not getting swept up in the same films they did, attempt to embrace the diversity over the next few weeks. Uniformity doesn’t progressive the medium, insightful discourse does.

On an o-so serious final note, I better not see any Hitchcock, Killing Them Softly, The Sessions, or any other film I didn’t like on your list.



December 9, 2012 | 6 Comments | Featured

The works of Alfred Hitchcock are prone to evoking visceral reactions from their audience. They go for the gut, then the heart – and on many occasions the Master of Suspense is right on target. However once Hitchcock (Sacha Gervasi’s first feature film) concludes, knee-jerk responses or passionate sentiments are nowhere to be found, and out of sight.

Light, slight, and a bit on the unadventurous side, Gervasi’s bio-picture chronicles the production behind Hitch’s most famous film to date, Psycho. At 98-minutes, the film is a rather remedial examination of an auteur attempting to stay relevant.

When Hitchcock ventures away from the on-set theatrics and Hitchcock’s (played by Anthony Hopkins) obsessions with icy blondes that only exist in his movies, interest begins to wane. John J. McLaughlin’s screenplay attempts to paint a true representation of the tempestuous marriage between Alfred and his wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren); it doesn’t.

Shot, produced, and completed with an MPAA rating of PG-13, Hitchcock isn’t nearly dark enough to expose and examine Hitch’s darkest secrets and fetishes. We see a marriage crumbling, misstepping, and then quickly rebound when the plot needs it to. There’s a subplot detailing Alma’s mounting frustration with living under the shadow of her husband – which compels her to assist on a screenplay with writer Whitfield Cook (a slimy “friend” with a hidden agenda played by Danny Huston). Again, Gervasi doesn’t dig deep enough into the character’s emotions to elicit an impactful response.

For better or worse, Hitchcock doesn’t play like a heliography, drowning in its own reverence for this deity. Instead Gervasi’s minor expose on Alfred Hitchcock comes off as a sporadically enjoyable, often underwhelming, and wholly lackluster snapshot of the artist’s career.

The good bio-pictures discover and unravel facets of the subject we’ve never seen before. They make us reexamine our relationship with the artist, perhaps even educe questions and further contemplation on our part. Unfortunately, Hitchcock inspires one singular, pulsating inquisition throughout: why does this film exist?

Fox Searchlight has yet to comment on the inquiry.

Rating: ★★☆☆


Hitchcock (2012)

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson

Director: Sacha Gervasi

Writer: Stephen Rebello, John McLaughlin

Runtime: 98 minutes

Genre: drama, biography, comedy

Trailer Hitchcock


Apologies for the mistake this morning folks. Disregard the earlier Name That Movie – which was Do the Right Thing. This is the final edition of Name That Movie, at least for the first season. Nikhat has won indefinitely. Bubbawheat, Anna, Jake, Danny, and Tyler, you all are still eligible to finish in second place. If either Jake, Danny, or Tyler wins today, I will post a sudden death column to determine who wins. Have a safe weekend.

The Standings

Nikhat – 8

Bubbawheat – 3

Anna – 3

Danny - 2

Tyler Atkinson – 2

Jake Cole – 2

Jason Soto – 1


SDG – 1

Eric D. Snider - 1

If you want to purchase Name That Movie (and yes, you do) click the link to its Amazon Page. You may also find more of Paul Rogers’ work at his twitter, his blog, and his studio.

Killing Them Softly

December 6, 2012 | 5 Comments | Featured

Killing Them Softly suffers from a myriad of issues that pinpointing one is an arduous task — a task, in fact, only surpassed by actually watching Andrew Dominick’s third, disastrously drab feature film.

Based on George V. Higgins’ legendary novel Cogan’s Trade, the film’s center narrative is – contrary to the rest of the movie – stripped down to the raw bone. After a Mob-run-and-protected poker game is hit up by two crooked low lives, Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) is brought in to rectify the situation.

Updating Higgins’ novel (which was originally set in Boston circa 1974), Killing Them Softly is placed in the barren, depression-riddled city of New Orleans, post-Katrina, 2008. Dominick makes sure to hammer the setting in – caused by (as he sees it) politicians. Laced with a bevy of speeches from John McCain and Barack Obama, the film jabs away at Washington and American ideals.

The nasty political rhetoric is on the outskirts of this overall nasty and uninteresting story. Jackie goes after the pair of punks, Russell (Ben Mendelsohn) and Frankie (Scoot McNairy). When Cogan has trouble finishing his assignment (killing them both), he calls for big time New York City hit man Mickey (James Gandolfini).

Reading my minuscule plot synopsis over I realized I’ve missed represented this film: Killing Them Softly is more lethargic and inert than my aforementioned description.

That’s not to say there isn’t something captivating in this mess. Killing Them Softly has about four or five genuinely riveting set pieces wasted by a prolonged duration. Unfortunately, every single extended sequence in this movie could’ve been edited by about two minutes. Few pictures bring attention to its length – particularly in the middle of a scene– like this one.

Once one block falls apart, the rest begin to follow. To make a bad film worse, Dominick’s stern examination of American economics is exacerbated by its wholly incoherent approach. Beyond not ever fully establishing a thesis, Killing Them Softly keeps throwing political jabs by integrating multitudes of clips and voiceovers of Obama and McCain declaring their campaign for presidency, mapping out their roads for the future, and discussing the current state of affairs in this nation.

None of the film’s right hook, left hook, uppercut punches land with any sort of substance. Fusing a voiceover of Barack Obama during a brutal death sequence doesn’t make your film thought provoking or intelligent; just downright silly.

Once the film finally concluded after 97-minutes of muddled storytelling, I begun to wonder whom exactly is this film for? Thinking back on Pitt’s rousing outro monologue, it became clear. Killing Them Softly is a film for those who feed off negativity. It’s for the small amount of Americans who live to get riled up over absolutely nothing. It’s for those few and far between citizens who are all for pointing out the problem, but are nowhere to be found when asked for solutions.

Killing Them Softly is not only a cynical film, for cynical people, it’s a vacuous, incongruous, trite, and offensive contribution to the art form.

My review of Killing them Softly on Examiner

Rating: ★☆☆☆
Killing Them Softly

Killing Them Softly (2012)

Cast: Brad Pitt, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn

Director: Andrew Dominik

Writer: George V. Higgins, Andrew Dominik

Runtime: 97 minutes

Genre: drama, crime, thriller

Trailer Killing Them Softly

It never ceases to amaze me how often inquisitions for this weekly, recurring column end up in my lap. Just yesterday, Ryan McNeil (who is yet again playing a vital part here at Duke & the Movies) sent me an email detailing his frustration with the idea of Letterbox’s 100 Movies In December challenge. [More]

At last, after some 14,000 words, the results of our Contest are up. Do check them out if you have the time.

Now to our weekly articles …

Laurence Anyways is apparently worthy of our time. Now, after reading Cam’s review, I’m looking to actually find and see the film. So far, no luck.

Although I enjoy frequenting blogs, the work of Dana Stevens is to be marveled. Here’s her review of Rust and Bone

Eugene writes about Ang Lee’s Life of Pi – a film many seem to dislike as of late.

There’s an abundance of talent in the movie business. Alex discusses the actors and actresses that deserve more work in the pictures.

SDG wraps up his moviegoing in November with countless reviews. Enjoy.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is gaining traction during this year’s Oscar season. Bonjour weighs in on the film.

Shocked by Marshall’s adulation for HitchcockWorth a read.

Unfortunately, Phil didn’t enjoy the likes of Seven Psychopaths. Here’s his review.