Thursday, December 30, 2010

Film 2010 : Some Final Thoughts

Exclusive to The Secret Child (Ha!)

Much Better than I Had Any Reason to Expect it To Be Given the Track Record(s) of Those InvolvedUnstoppable, Enter the Void, Greenberg, Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, 127 Hours

Truly Welcome ComebacksShutter Island, White Material

Solid, Ripping Fun, Entertainment with a capital ‘E’ (Live Action Division) – The Ghost Writer, True Grit,The Town, The Social Network (but God, I wish it was more) 

Solid, Ripping Fun, Entertainment with a capital ‘E’
(Animated Division)Toy Story 3, Tangled, Megamind, Despicable Me 

American Indie Cinema Done Right Night Catches Us, Please Give, The Kids Are All Right, Cold Weather 

Best Documentary That Probably Wasn’t Much of a Documentary at All Exit Through the Gift Shop

Not Nearly as Smart as They Thought They Were
Inception, Black Swan, Red Riding Trilogy 

UnderwhelmedBlue Valentine, Tamara Drewe, A Kind of a Funny Story, I Love You Phillip Morris, Hot Tub Time Machine (yes, I expected more)

Out and Out DogsHeartbreaker, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Kick-Ass, Human Centipede, Gulliver’s Travels, Love and Other Drugs, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger 

Terrific Production Design and Visual Style in an Otherwise Ho-hum FilmThe Runaways

Special Honors for Continuing to Do That Voodoo that He Do So Well – Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers (May his freak flag always fly)    

   Freak Flag, Honorable Mention – Philippe Garrel’s Frontier of Dawn

Movies I Saw and Loved but Will Have to Wait to Discuss in More Detail in 2011Certified Copy, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall Past Lives, The Company Men 

Best Film of the YearCarlos. Forget that the director is French, that it is in (at least) three different languages and that it is 5 ½ hours long. No film better blurred the line between art and entertainment this year. A meditation on terrorism and ego wrapped up in a thrilling, suspenseful story. And a great rock’n’roll soundtrack to boot.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Favorite Records of 2010

Initially Published Here

1. SuperchunkMajesty Shredding - Hard rocking indie-pop legends come back from a nine year hiatus with arguably their best record yet.

2. Neil YoungLe Noise - Veteran iconoclast starts his 6th decade as a recording artist with his most committed batch of songs in a very long time.

3. Hold SteadyHeaven is Whenever - Their 5th full-length finds this Brooklyn band more powerful than ever and Craig Finn continuing to evolve as both a singer and lyricist.

4. TorcheSongs for Singles EP - Heavy Metal with hooks and brains and heart.

5. HotratsTurn Ons - A throwaway covers record by two thirds of now defunct Supergrass that is as pleasurable a listen as any record this year.

6. FiggsThe Man Who Fights Himself - What I initially suspected to be a stop-gap measure by these veteran rockers has grown in my estimation to be one of their most accomplished and mature (in a good way) records yet.

7. Ted Leo & the PharmacistsThe Brutalist Bricks - Like the Hold Steady, Ted Leo has reached a point in his career where he can stop worrying about defining himself and concentrate on perfecting his craft. Artful, bittersweet pop-punk.

8. MaseratiPyramid of the Sun - Instrumental rock as hypnotic and mesmerizing as anything I heard all year.

9. SpoonTransference - Only songs this solid can hold up to the type of bare bones arrangements Spoon continues to perfect.

10. Ryan AdamsOrion - Hyperactive multi-hyphenate songwriter composes his ‘Sci-Fi Metal Rock Opera’ and stumbles upon his best batch of songs in many a year. A damn fine joke

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Gulliver's Travels

Initially Published Here

The success of Ben Stiller’s Museum movies has brought its share of like-minded attempts to fuse family comedy fare with fantastical elements. Adam Sandler didn’t have any luck when he attempted to do the same with 2008’s Bedtime Stories. I don’t imagine Jack Black is going to do much better with this weak attempt.

Black’s Gulliver is a weak-willed schlep from the mail room of an unnamed magazine who is reminded repeatedly that he’s never going to amount to much due to his lack of drive and confidence. He can’t even bring himself to ask out the hottie travel editor that he’s had a crush on for years (played by Amanda Peet in a thankless, but luckily for her, almost non-existent role). A failed attempt to express his feelings leads to a writing assignment chasing down the Bermuda Triangle which leads to a tsunami of some sort which leads to Gulliver washing up on the shores of Lilliput.

What follows are a by-committee series of escapades -- some gross (a Lilliputian gets lost in a butt crack, Gulliver puts out a fire with his pee), some romantic (we get not one, but two equally uninteresting love stories), but mostly just unfunny bits of … stuff. And hey, I like Jack Black at a time when most people have grown tiresome of his shucking and jiving routine. But he seems lost and floundering here. So does Jason Segal who, as Gulliver’s best buddy amongst the Lilliputians, is asked to do nothing more than the play the straightest of straight men to Black and pine over Emily Blunt’s Princess Mary. Poor Ms. Blunt has got even less to do. As a result, I spent most of her time on screen contemplating her eerie resemblance to Katy Perry. The only who seems to be having any fun whatsoever is Chris O’Dowd (from beloved BBC comedy The IT Crowd). He spends the movie chewing up the furniture as bad guy General Edward and gets just about the only genuine laugh in the film, chewing out his brethren for buying into Gulliver’s increasing incredulous stories of glory on the Island of Manhattan.

Naturally, the film is being released in 3D for no apparent reason than to get poor susceptible parents to shell out an extra $6 bucks a ticket in an attempt to entertain their kids during their week home from school. This is the kind of movie people don’t expect critics to like, but I swear I went in with an open mind as did my five-year-old. But when he turned to me an hour in and said he was ready to leave it was only my journalistic integrity that kept us sitting there. But dear Milo, I felt your pain.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

OFF! : First Four EP's

Initially Published Here


It's difficult to presume that anyone would pay much attention to these songs if they wound up composing a new Circle Jerks record. That was the original intention. Keith Morris got together with ex-Burning Brides guitarist, Dimitri Coats, to concoct new tunes for the next Circle Jerks record. But when Keith’s old band mates balked at bringing an outsider into the process, Morris took his ball and went elsewhere (perhaps an oversimplification, but you can easily scope out a dozen recent interviews with Morris where he goes into greater detail). He and Coats recruited Redd Kross bassist, Steve McDonald, and ex-Hot Snakes/Rocket from the Crypt drummer, Mario Rubalcaba, and started recording songs this past January. Keith and Dimitri would write a few, book a day in a studio, and bang out three or four songs (not takes, but completed tracks), and then repeat the process.

In a few months, they had the 16 tunes that comprise their debut, First Four EP’s. Clocking in at around 18 minutes, these songs are strongly reminiscent of what Black Flag sounded like when Morris was their frontman. The tracks are raw and brutal, but not without hooks, and the performances are pure, adrenalized energy. It’s funny, people who don’t “get” this stuff will claim that anyone can do it, but you can tell from the first few bars that these guys have a level of commitment, expertise, and skill that separates them from 90% of what passes for punk or hardcore in 2010. McDonald’s bass playing is supple and melodic, without ever calling attention to itself, and the same could be said for Rubalcaba’s drumming. Morris’s performance is a marvel; his remarkable bark manages to convey passion first and anger second, something lost on most H/C vocalists (it’s the same reason he was the best singer Black Flag ever had). This goes for his lyrics as well, which are informed by every one of his 55 years. Call this the most pleasant surprise of the year and one hell of a punk rock record.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Initially Published Here

In 1983 David Cronenberg was known as a genre director. A respected one, but a genre director nonetheless, and a horror one to boot. If he was lucky he’d get a feature in Phangoria one day, but there was no reason to expect High Art from the guy. But with the release of Videodrome that year things started to change. A seriously deranged confluence of biological gore and media theory, it certainly wasn’t the first ‘smart’ horror film, but it made explicit (in every sense of the word) the intellectual rigor behind it’s queasy intersection of S&M, porn, and horror. If Tobe Hooper and Wes Craven’s early films play as drive-in ‘art brut’, Cronenberg’s cool visual style and detached perspective were downright clinical by comparison and, perhaps, all the scarier for it. And while the movie’s emphasis on now antiquated video technology may seem quaint to younger viewers, there is nothing dated about its obsession with the intersection of the virtual and the real. In fact, swap out the internet for the film’s clandestine pirate satellite broadcasts and the story would work just as well (damn, I hope I haven’t given some vacuous producer the idea to remake the damn thing).

Criterion has upgraded their already stellar DVD set to Blu-ray with a pronounced improvement in color accuracy and much more film-like look overall. While the extras are more or less the same as the prior edition, they are copious and well-done; two commentary tracks (one by Cronenberg and his cinematographer Mark Irwin, the other by stars James Woods and Deborah Harry), as well as a documentary on the film’s video and make-up effects and a filmed roundtable discussion on horror films from 1982 with John Carpenter, John Landis and Mick Garris joining Cronenberg. And most intriguing of all is the complete, unedited footage that comprises the “Videodrome Transmissions” from the film. Prepare to be freaked out for some time.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mutiny on the Bounty

Initially Published Here

The very definition of what Manny Farber termed “White Elephant Art,” Mutiny on the Bounty was the prestige film of 1935 and won the Academy Award for Best Picture. It stars Clark Gable, one year after his breakthrough leading man role in It Happened One Night, as Fletcher Christian and Charles Laughton, at his scenery chewing best, as the villainous Captain Bligh. Also along for the voyage is Franchot Tone as Midshipmen Byam who gets to play the middle against Gable’s “gone native” Christian and Laughton’s cruel Captain. Interesting footnote -- all three actors received Best Actor nominations for their performances. It wasn’t until the following year that the “Supporting Actor” category was created to avoid just such problematic issues.

As directed by journeyman Frank Lloyd, the film holds up well as a ripping yarn filled with high seas adventure. It’s considerably less interesting as an examination of the treatment of sailors by His Royal Majesty’s Navy. Tone is given a painfully earnest speech towards the end of the film imploring that men be motivated by kindness and reward rather than punishment and how the Navy could “sweep the seas for England” if only they could all be a little more like Mr. Christian and a little less like Captain Bligh. But from a dramatic perspective it is Laughton’s Bligh that is by far the most entertaining character on screen.

The Blu-ray edition of this 75-year-old film is a bit of a mixed bag. For the most part, it looks excellent with only a few brief scenes showing any signs of significant damage. But it is fairly skimpy on the extras with only a one-minute Academy Awards newsreel, a trailer and a superfluous short film on Pitcairn Island (where Christian and his fellow mutineers ultimately landed). The disc is packaged with a 34-page booklet with many nice publicity stills but precious little additional information on the shooting.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I Love You Phillip Morris

Initially Published Here

I’d like to think that when I’m watching a film all I consider is the material up on the screen in front of me. But when a film comes with as much baggage as I Love You Phillip Morris, it is difficult to ignore the backstage drama and seemingly endless string of scratched and rescheduled release dates since it first premiered at Sundance in January 2009. Sure, there has been talk of bankrupt production companies and gun-shy distributors, but none of that is as interesting as speculation that the viewing public was just not ready for a hot and heavy gay love story starring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor.

For all the talk of the film virtually dripping with raunchy man-love, in reality it is no more explicit than your average Apatow or Farrelly Brothers comedy. In fact, once it settles in, the romance between con-man/escape artist Steven Russell (Carrey) and his sweet but slightly dim cellmate Phillip (McGregor) is portrayed quite compassionately.

The film actually saves most of its outrageousness for Steven’s antics outside of the bedroom. Based on a true story, Russell is a brilliant and compulsive liar who faked his way into high level financial jobs and when inevitably caught, was able to break out of prison repeatedly, with each new endeavor more elaborate than the one before it (he’s currently serving a 144-year sentence he received in 1998). Filmmakers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa keep the tone light and the pace swift which is perfectly in step with the Russell’s outlandish behavior and oversized personality. Carrey is the perfect candidate to bring this type-A character to life. You could argue that his career has been built on playing characters not dissimilar to Russell. But here the material hints at the pathology laying beneath the actions, something that is rarely touched on in his other roles (In The Cable Guy and and Me, Myself and Irene? Sure; but in Yes Man and Liar Liar? Not so much). Unfortunately, McGregor doesn’t have much to do other than bat his doe-like eyes and throw the occasional fit. But he and Carrey manage to make their love feel genuine despite all the craziness surrounding it.

We can't know how much the film has been tinkered with in the almost two years since its festival premiere, but I suspect the use of a needless voice-over by Carrey was one of the studio's 'innovations.' As with nearly all voice-overs, it spells out far too explicitly what’s already right there on the screen. But, fortunately, it remains but a small misstep in an otherwise suitably outrageous and provocative comedy that deserves to find an audience after all its time spent on the shelf.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Elvis Costello : National Ransom

Initially Published Here

Ever since announcing several years ago that he was going to stop releasing new music, Elvis Costello has been on a bit of tear. Hot on the heels of 2009’s Secret, Profane & Sugarcane, comes this year’s model, National Ransom. Recorded with many of the same musicians, the records also share many stylistic similarities. The songs are primarily acoustic, with a strong country/bluegrass/Americana vibe. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t occasionally kick up some dust – the title track bumps and grinds along with a nicely tortured guitar solo by on-and-off collaborator, Marc Ribot. But for the most part, Elvis sounds comfortably settled into these shuffling tempos and jazzy chordings.

Perhaps comfortable is the operative word here. At the age of 56, Elvis has seemingly settled into that “mature” period of his career – the tempos have slowed down, the hooks are less immediate, and the anger is now tempered with resignation. He puts out his records with little fanfare and zero effort to appease any sort of “youth” market. He plays festivals all over the world, does his TV show, and is always, it seems, writing, writing new songs.

Perhaps an editor could be in order. At 16 songs and over 62 minutes, National Ransom would be better served pruned down to a more manageable length. Some of its smaller pleasures (like the jaunty “A Slow Drag with Josephine” and the rollicking throwaway “The Spell That You Cast”) tend to get lost amidst the album’s more portentous numbers. And Elvis can still wring his hands with the best of them as he does on the title track, as well as “Bullets for the New-Born King,” which announces its significance with its simple, winding melody, and avalanche of words. Forgive me if I prefer him when he doesn’t show his work so obviously. I prefer my rock’n’roll a little more off the cuff. There are moments of casual brilliance sprinkled throughout, but overall it would be better served with a little more levity dropped into the mix. (Hear Music/Universal)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Night Catches Us

Initially Published Here

Writer/director Tanya Hamilton’s remarkably assured first feature checks in at a brisk 88 minutes, but it still has a contemplative quality sadly missing from most contemporary cinema, independent or otherwise: It trusts the audience to make connections rather than spelling everything out in bold capital letters, and it never loses track of the personal issues that inform our political beliefs.

The story, which takes place in 1976, concerns Marcus (Anthony Mackie of Hurt Locker fame), an ex-Black Panther who returns to his Philadelphia neighborhood after a mysterious four year absence upon news of his father’s death. He longs to reconnect with Patricia (Kerry Washington), the wife of a good friend and fellow Panther who was killed by the police. Many neighbors, including his former comrades, suspect that Marcus is responsible for the husband’s death by informing the police of his whereabouts. Marcus’ feelings for Patricia are well known by all, Patricia included. She struggles to maintain ties to her old life while taking small steps to move her and her family forward.

Hamilton does a superb job at juggling several stories. Along with Marcus and Patricia, there is Patricia’s cousin Jimmy (Amari Cheatom) whose rage and anger at the police finds misguided focus in Black Panther lore. Then there are Dwayne and David (played by Jamie Hector and Wendell Pierce, both alums of HBO’s The Wire). Two sides of the same coin, Dwayne wants Marcus to pay for his supposed betrayal of the Panther cause while David is a cop willing to do anything to get Marcus to implicate his old friends. The story slowly and quietly ratchets up the stakes for all these characters such that the film’s inevitable moments of violence and revelation feel hard-won and honest.

Night Catches Us is blessedly free of the trappings we’ve come to expect from a film set in the ‘70s -- the clothes aren’t outlandish (in fact, Marcus’ collection of velour shirts struck me as perfectly of the time without once calling attention to themselves) and the soundtrack is free of the Top 40 cheese typically slathered over films set during the period. There are some relatively obscure soul and R&B songs as well as a score by The Roots which seamlessly blends with the tunes of the era. The film never feels like an agitprop piece despite its subject matter and the use of occasional archival footage and animation.

It also features some surprisingly lyrical imagery. A long shot of Jimmy target shooting in an abandoned lot tells us everything we need to know by allowing us to see his whole body in relation to his environment; how his arm shakes as he raises the gun, how hollow and tiny the bullets sound as they disappear into the debris. Towards the end of the film, the police are looking for a suspect in the woods and everything is of a piece -- the light at dusk filled with fireflies, the soft grass, the methodical movement of the cops through the trees. It’s as perfect a sequence as I’ve seen in a film this year. Let’s hope the film gets the attention it deserves. It is a small, exquisitely drawn picture of a time and a place that never feels less than true.

Interview : Tanya Hamilton

Initially Published Here

Night Catches Us is a remarkably assured first feature for director and writer Tanya Hamilton. The story of men and women coming to grips with the aftermath of the Black Panther Party’s disintegration in ‘70s Philadelphia, the film is refreshingly contemplative and never feels less than true to its characters or setting. We recently had the chance to spend some time with Ms. Hamilton, who described her decision-making process and how she channeled her background as a painter into her first film.

I was impressed with how you managed to make a film set in the ‘70s while avoiding all of the clich├ęs associated with the period (costume design, hair, soundtrack, etc.). What were some of the challenges? 
I think money, really, to be crass. There are things I wanted to do that I couldn’t because I just didn’t have enough. Like shooting at night, or having a bunch of cops on the street. We had to be creative about these things, which I think worked. I have a great dislike for the garishness of the ‘70s. I love the aesthetic in a way but I think it’s so over-the-top. I knew that I didn’t want to have anything to do with that. I think I treasure subtlety pretty much in every way, sometimes too much.

I was curious how the film came to be set in Philadelphia. Is this a story you could have adapted to Black Panther history in another U.S. city?
Sure, there’s no doubt I could have adapted it in many ways to anywhere. I think I try to write what I know … cuz I’m not good at writing what I don’t know. Some people are good at making it up. I’m not one of those people. So I knew Philly by the time I wrote it in ’99. It was always set here just because it felt like the South. I was so heavily influenced by To Kill a Mockingbird, and by that idea of the neighborhood. I was so influenced by the South that New York made no sense and Philly was the only other place I knew besides D.C.

You've talked about bringing concepts like deconstruction and reconstruction to your filmmaking. A couple of scenes that really stuck with me were the sequences composed in extreme long shot. Did you shoot lots of coverage and then in the editing room decide, “All the scene needs is this.” Or did you know on location?
Again, that’s where I got into some trouble. Marcus under the bridge for instance, the scene was written to kind of show his isolation. I knew that I needed a visual transition to take me from that scene into the house and I knew that I ultimately needed to speak in subtext to what I wanted, which was that [isolation]. And similarly with Jimmy, I knew that the further I got away from his family, the more the landscape had to change and become more apocalyptic and also the shots had to be wider. So yeah, you want to see that building. Not only was it falling down and decaying, but when you look through those windows it looks like the seaside. It doesn’t look like there’s anything beyond it. That metaphor was important to me. He progressively moves so far away from his family and therefore so far away from reason and sanity and everything keeping him grounded, and that building spoke to us.

Knowing your background as a painter, I thought about the scene towards the end of the film where the police are going through the woods looking for the suspect. I started to think about that in terms of light and perspective, the fireflies--
Yeah, that was an accident -- the fireflies.

That’s a Philly thing in the summertime.
It’s really great. What can I say? It was a stressful day. I was like, “The light is fading! The light is fading!” I think that there’s a visual collaboration between myself, the D.P. and the editor and I think we all spoke the same language, were all interested in how do you tell the story visually, how do you tell it slowly? And not slow just to be slow but a respect for the period this comes from which is the ‘70s. I think people took their time a little more. We also wanted to find ways to give breaths throughout the film and to tell it as much in metaphor as we could. Part of that is frankly because of money. It’s the language I spoke no matter how much I tried to run away from it. We wanted to have that shot of the policeman’s feet. In part, we just couldn’t afford more policemen so the question was how do we recycle these guys without sort of tipping our hand? But also there was a real desire to abstract them. It’s not about police who kill people, it’s about this guy and so we thought a lot about it.

I thought about the fact that the film is 88 minutes but you still take your time with things. Did you cut out large chunks of exposition and narrative?
There was a ton of exposition. Really, as a writer, I don’t focus a lot on the ‘math’ stuff. It’s really something I struggle with. I’m just more interested in people and how they relate to one another and how they’re dealing with their stuff and so consequently, I think I’m not necessarily the best person at setup. So those first 20 minutes we struggled until the last breath before we had to let it go for Sundance and it was hard. There were fundamental things that I look back on that I purposefully said, “I don’t want that,” but you need them because you have to tell the story in this very specific way for people to find their way in. I still think there are some things we couldn’t do because we didn’t have the footage but I think we made the absolute best that we could.

And you can make yourself crazy trying to chase down what everyone wants.
It’s true. I let go which was nice. That panic that sets in of “I’m not telling the story in a way that people can understand” – and then sort of looking through all your footage and realizing you have to throw a ton of stuff out because creatively it doesn’t make sense. And then, in throwing it out, it brings up new problems. I needed to place Jimmy in the world of this family and I hadn’t shot it and I was like,”How did I miss this important thread?” And Jimmy is my favorite character and his arc was the one that I just spent so much time thinking about, but I think you can get into your head and sort of leave a little of the math behind.

I’m wondering how much time and effort you are going to spend for the 10 percent of the audience that might question how the policemen find Jimmy.
Yeah, none. As an audience member, I’m happy to be led. I’m happy to make the leaps I need to make. That’s quite different than how I establish my characters in the world that they’re going to live in versus a piece of math – “I need A, B and C.” – I’m cool with just going from A to C because my mind can say “They found him. It doesn’t matter how.”

At the beginning, when I mentioned some of the tropes of ‘70s movies, I said that your soundtrack didn’t fall into those usual traps. How did The Roots come to be involved? At what point in the process?
There were on pretty early. I knew their agent and she thought they’d be really great and I was like “Yeah” because I love them and they’re amazing and they are Philly and they’re very blackety-black which I love and it just sort of made sense. We looked to the Roots to be our bridge between the past and this present.

What have the past 11 months been like for you?
It’s been a great experience, actually. I’m not a fan of the growing exponential world that film is: I’d rather spend time with my child and my husband. But the part I really love is showing the film to audiences and then having this conversation with them. The biggest surprise is how many people can connect to the film. It’s so unlike what I thought. I’m very interested in the working class and the working poor and how do you ultimately speak to those audiences. How do you tell people’s stories with dignity? Frankly, I don’t think I ever thought (about) if I had achieved it and now I go around and all different kinds of people connect to it and that I find extremely lovely.

The film struck me as incredibly truthful regardless of whether or not I was ever in those circumstances or people that I know were. 
Yeah, that’s really flattering. I think that there are these elements, these themes, that connect to all these different people which I think is great. That’s why I think it’s a film that can reach a lot of different audiences.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Modern Times

Initially Published Here

Charles Chaplin is one of cinema’s great humanists and perhaps none of his features is more empathetic (and none more relevant to today’s economic crisis) than Modern Times. Released almost a decade after the Jazz Singer had ushered in the ‘Talking Motion Picture,' the film is still largely silent, that is if you don’t count music and sound effects. When his Tramp character speaks on screen for the first time ever in the film’s penultimate scene, it is to sing a song of gibberish made-up sounds and syllables, a comment on Chaplin’s belief that words only got in way of being truly funny (his art was first and foremost about pantomime, and it is no coincidence that he retired the Little Tramp character with this film).

The film’s vignettes make well-drawn, still relevant observations on the role of work in everyday life without being didactic. And while the film may be light on guffaws, it has more than its share of exquisitely choreographed set-pieces that are still a marvel to behold almost 80 years later. Chaplin never had a more well-matched female lead than Paulette Goddard. Unlike the many films which end with Charlie walking away alone, here the Factory Worker and the Gamine walk together arm in arm into an uncertain but hopeful future. It’s damn near a happy ending.

Criterion’s Blu-ray edition may lack that ‘wow’ factor so many people look for in the new format, but it is truly a marvel given the age of the materials involved. The film’s look is clean, with even grain throughout and rich contrast. Extras are considerable -- a terrific commentary track by Chaplin biographer David Robinson, two new visual essays, detailed looks at the film’s soundtrack as well as its visual and sound effects, and the classic Chaplin two-reeler The Rink, where he first showed off the roller skating skills he puts to such good use in Modern Times.