Paranormal Activity DVD cover

You could win a copy of Paranormal Activity on Blu-ray.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

CONTEST: Want to win a BluRay copy of 'Paranormal Activity'?

The contest is now over, but you can still win in Paramount's Tweet Your Scream contest

People have accused me of trying to promote the BluRay format to the point of practically forcing it on people.

Well, that's exactly what we're here to do tonight.  We're going to give away five copies of "Paranormal Activity" on BluRay to you guys to help celebrate another unconventional audience participation idea by Paramount, and I'll tell you how you can win one in just a moment.

More and more, studios are using the BD Live features to host some very cool events where you can interact directly with the filmmakers, and today, Monday, December 28, 2009, you can participate in the Red Carpet Home Screening of the film by tuning in to www.twitter.com/TweetYourScream for live updates from the event, where Oren Peli and special guests will be in attendance.  This screening is the prize from an earlier contest, and Jessica DiMeo of Rehoboth, Mass. is the lucky person hosting that screening in her own home.

And starting at 12:01 on the 29th, and running for the next 24 hours, if you tweet to @TweetYourScream with the hashtag #UpAllNight, you could win two tickets to an upcoming Paramount premiere.  Cool, eh?

Here's how we're going to give our five discs away.  First you need to answer this question:

"How many paranormal investigators came to the house during the film to help Katie and Micah?"

If you're one of the first five people with the right answer, you win.

It really is just that simple.  Just like the Up All Night contest.  Eeeeeasy.  The contest is open to all US residents aged 18 or older, and you can see all the official rules and restrictions right here if you have any questions.

[Editor's note: This contest is now over with five confirmed winners.  Thanks to everyone who participated.]

And remember... "Paranormal Activity" arrives on DVD, BluRay, and digital download on December 29th, so if you don't win, make sure you pick one up.

Good luck.

 

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<p>The Joker (Heath Ledger) basks in the smell of chaos and carnage in Christoper Nolan's sleek and sublime 'The Dark Knight'&nbsp;</p>

The Joker (Heath Ledger) basks in the smell of chaos and carnage in Christoper Nolan's sleek and sublime 'The Dark Knight' 

Credit: Warner Bros.

The M/C Decade List #30 - 21: Batman, Miyazaki, and a vampire in love

French horror, an animated film no one's seen, and... more French horror?

For a full description of the purpose and the parameters of this list, read the introduction.

You can read #50 - #41 here.

#30 / "The Dark Knight"

Christopher Nolan isn't slumming it when he works in the mainstream superhero genre.  He treats Batman as an archetype worth serious exploration, and by adding The Joker and Two-Face into the mix, two of the richest of the Batman villains in terms of subtextual worth, he gives himself almost too much to juggle in one movie.  Thankfully, though, Nolan and his brother, along with David Goyer, found a way to balance all their big ideas while also telling a brutal crime story in which an entire city is a chessboard between two psychopaths, with one man willing to ruin his reputation and his own happiness to confound them.  Just as filmcraft, "The Dark Knight" is a mainstream marvel, but when you consider the way it twists superhero tropes while still playing by the rules, it's sort of amazing.  Even so, the thing that cements this as one of the moments of the decade, one of the most electrifying moments of recent cinema, was watching Heath Ledger throw down.  More than anything else he'd done, it was an announcement that he was ready to be a complete original, a major lifeforce unleashed on film.  It is appropriate that he took the Joker away from Jack Nicholson, whose hammy, slow-motion victory lap of a performance twenty years earlier was the previous public favorite interpretation, because Ledger's work here reminds me of the great work by the great guys of the '70s.  He was unfettered.  He was given permission by the role to go as far out as he could, and he flew.  Nolan was there with a camera to catch it.  That's the accidental beauty of film in general, the way these moments happen, these collisions of talent and opportunity and material, the thing that makes all movie junkies keep going back, chasing, and only occasionally getting something as right as this.  

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<p>Adam Sandler does his finest work in the nearly-experimental Paul Thomas Anderson comedy 'Punch-Drunk Love'&nbsp;</p>

Adam Sandler does his finest work in the nearly-experimental Paul Thomas Anderson comedy 'Punch-Drunk Love' 

Credit: Revolution Studios

The M/C Decade List #40 - #31: Russell Crowe, forgotten children, and Spike Lee

As the list continues, Seth and Evan and a bunch of Basterds join some international titles

For a full description of the purpose and the parameters of this list, read the introduction.

You can read #50 - #41 here.

#40 / "Gladiator"

I was indeed entertained.  Ridley Scott has made better films than "Gladiator," but he's rarely made more entertaining ones.  This film is a confident, well-armored machine, cutting down each and every potential objection to it with sheer brute charisma and visual panache, and the script's big mechanics click into place with precision, paying off every set-up just right.  This is not a film with the same sort of expansive soul as "Lawrence of Arabia," and I wouldn't say it's a truly deep epic.  It's an action film with just enough angst to make it count, and it proves that if Scott had just decided to be a mainstream action movie guy, he would have been one of the all-time greats.  Rewatching this one, removed from all the inevitable backlash and cynicism, I'm suddenly reminded of why I should care that Ridley Scott's making "Robin Hood" with Russell Crowe this summer.

#39 / "Tsotsi"

Before Gavin Hood became the director of the entirely style-less and corporate "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," he was the director of this gut-churning South African film about a tough street kid who steals a car and finds a baby in the back seat.  How he cares for the child is pretty much the entire narrative arc of the film, but on that simple thread is hung some amazingly powerful material about the meaning of caring for someone else, the responsibility of caring for a child, and the very nature of love.  "Tsotsi" is one of those films I can't explain on an intellectual level, because its power is as one of the great emotional sledgehammers of the decade.  I think more than anything, that's what will get a film a place on this list... connecting with me in a real way, making me feel something.  So many films are just product, no matter how professional, and what I find I value as I get older is identifying something in a film that strikes me as genuine.  That feeling is the drug I chase from film to film now, and "Tsotsi" delivers it, pure and uncut. 

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<p>Brad Pitt starred as one of the most famous outlaws in history in a piercing meditation on the price of fame in 'The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford'&nbsp;</p>

Brad Pitt starred as one of the most famous outlaws in history in a piercing meditation on the price of fame in 'The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford' 

Credit: Warner Bros.

The M/C Decade List: #50 - #41: Forgotten fantasy, fractured time, and Will Ferrell

Away we go with Cameron Crowe, Gaspar Noe, and, yes... Steve-O

For a full description of the purpose and the parameters of this list, read the introduction.

All lists must start somewhere, and after sorting through almost 1000 titles, I ended up with 260 serious finalists.  Those finalists were weighed, considered, and finally boiled down to only 50 titles, with no ties and no cheating.  And the first title on that list is...

#50 / "À l'intérieur" aka "Inside"

Yep.  I'm starting the countdown with an unapologetic horror film, one of the most upsetting I've seen in my 30-or-so years as a bloodthirsty horror fan.  A pregnant woman (Alysson Paradis) and her husband are in a terrible car accident, and he's killed.  Four months later, as she's in the final days of her pregnancy and alone, a strange... and I do mean strange... woman (Beatrice Dalle) comes knocking at her door in the middle of the night.  All she wants is the unborn baby, and she's willing to do anything to get her hands on it.  This is one of the most primal possible set-ups for a horror film, and Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury don't miss a trick, ratcheting up both the gore and the tension, step by nerve-wracking step.  Anyone can put a bunch of graphic images in a movie and call it a horror film, but what gives "Inside" its biggest, nastiest kick is the way the plot pulls all the threads together at the end and what seemed personal suddenly stands revealed as one of the most potent of the post-9/11 reminders that what we do in the world sometimes comes back to us in the form of terrifying, unrelenting violence, and that we sometimes inadvertently invite chaos and destruction into our lives, and once we do, there may be no way to make it stop.

#49 / "Jackass The Movie"

Reality television is slowly driving our entire culture insane, and "Jackass" is the only sane response.

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<p>A Na'vi heads into battle in a climactic scene created by WETA for James Cameron's 'Avatar'&nbsp;</p>

A Na'vi heads into battle in a climactic scene created by WETA for James Cameron's 'Avatar' 

Credit: 20th Century Fox/WETA

The M/C Interview, Part II: Joe Letteri, FX Supervisor on 'Avatar,' talks 'TinTin'

We discuss new technology, old tricks, and why WETA makes the best eyes

The conversation continues here exactly where it left off in part one of this interview.

DM:  Wow. Just throwing one of these technical challenges at you would make this a wildly difficult film, so I really can’t get my head around how you guys broke everything down.  One of the thing I’ve always hardest to pull off in effects is flight.  I think flight... there’s just something inherently fake about it on film.

JL:  Yeah.

DM:  I would say Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil” got flight right, and for me Miyazaki in animation is one of the few guys who really gets it.

JL:  Sure, yeah.

DM:  I think he will love this film.  How did you approach that?

JL:  There’s a clue there in what you said.  Miyazaki has the edge.  If you’re not bound to what you’re doing physically… if you don’t have actors on wires, if you really can just make the characters fly and react to gravity the way they should if they were there, then you do have the ability to do it.  That’s one of the freedoms that you do want to have by doing it this way.  And that’s really what we were able to do because we weren’t locked down to pick points on a harness or anything else that normally defies what you’re trying to do by putting somebody on a riding rig.

DM:  It’s incredibly effective.  Is it a different process for you working in 3D?  Are there different things that you have to accomplish?  Or is it the same basic type of challenge and then just a rendering issue?

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Quaritch in his EVA suit

Stephen Lang plays Col. Miles Quaritch, the military contractor who finds himself pitted against the Na'vi in James Cameron's 'Avatar' 

Credit: 20th Century Fox/WETA

The M/C Interview: Joe Letteri, FX Supervisor on 'Avatar,' takes you inside the tech

We discuss how the year's most ambitious film came together

Last Friday, I got up incredibly early to go watch a bunch of four-year-olds in bathrobes sing some Christmas songs and carry around a rubber doll they called Jesus. And as low-tech as it was, it was absolutely thrilling to each and every parent in the room.  Toshi may not have remembered all the words to "Away In A Manger," but he bellowed every one he did remember with all the heart any parent could ask.  As soon as that was done, I was out the door and in my car and on my way to Burbank, where I sat down for coffee with Joe Letteri, a guy I've been waiting to meet for a while now, so we could talk about the absolute opposite of that Christmas pageant, the mega-expensive and cutting-edge technological marvel of "Avatar".

As FX supervisor for WETA Digital on "Avatar," he's been buried in secrecy for the last five or six years, and that whole time, I've been itching to sit down and ask him about the work he's been doing.  Since Letteri was also a key player on "Lord Of The Rings," one might argue that there are few people in the business better suited to talk about world building on a certain scale right now.  As soon as we had our drinks, we sat down outside and I turned on my tape recorder:

DREW MCWEENY:  I grew up watching these films.  Like I said, I was seven when “Star Wars” came out.

JOE LETTERI:  Yeah, yeah.

DM:  It rewired me.  I staggered out of the theatre and said to my parents, “All right. Who made that?”  We looked at the poster and they were like, “Okay, written and directed by George Lucas”.  That was the first movie where they really did the big behind-the-scenes thing, where for a year we saw specials and magazines and it kind of lit the fire for a lot of kids my age.  It basically said to us, "This is a craft. You can learn to do this.  It’s not something that’s magic or impossible."

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<p>Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo Di Caprio play federal agents investigating the disappearance of a mental patient... OR DO THEY... in Martin Scorsese's wickedly convoluted 'Shutter Island'&nbsp;</p>

Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo Di Caprio play federal agents investigating the disappearance of a mental patient... OR DO THEY... in Martin Scorsese's wickedly convoluted 'Shutter Island' 

Credit: Paramount Pictures

The M/C Review: Scorsese's trip to 'Shutter Island' with Leonardo Di Caprio leaves a mark

Director pays tribute to Val Lewton with this emotional horror film starring his new favorite actor

Another highlight from this year's Butt-Numb-A-Thon (aside from the previously reviewed "Avatar" and "Kick-Ass") was the world premiere screening of Martin Scorsese's "Shutter Island."  If you're not familiar with Butt-Numb-A-Thon, it's a 24 hour movie marathon, where the movies play back to back to back from noon on Saturday to noon on Sunday.  Except this year it started at 11:00 and ended after 2:00.  Harry Knowles programs the event as his birthday/Geek Christmas, and it's always a mix of vintage films and new films.  Honestly, the best example of how that can pay off with a whole that is better than any of its parts individually came with the way we ended up watching "Shutter Island."

Harry had to write Scorsese a letter and ask him for permission to show the film at Butt-Numb-A-Thon.  So Harry wrote a letter describing the vintage programming and the children's charity that the BNAT supports and how Harry wanted to show "Shock Corridor" by Sam Fuller right before showing "Shutter Island."  And he found the entire experience sort of nerve-wracking.  I get it.  It's one thing to ask Paramount to give you the Scorsese film.  It's another thing entirely to ask Scorsese directly.

The director sent word back to Harry that he was interested in letting the film play, but he wanted to request a different movie to play before it.  Harry is very proprietary over the BNAT line-up, so it easily could have turned into a problem if Harry didn't want to change his programming.  This, of course, was Martin Scorsese making the request, though, so Harry did the only sane thing he could do and happily changed the lead-in.  Instead of "Shock Corridor," we ended up seeing "The Red Shoes."  Little surprise there.  It's one of his oft-cited favorite films, and he just co-produced a new 4K restoration of the film.  I've seen it many times, but it was wonderful to see this classic work on a crowd, and considering how many of them hadn't seen it before, it was an act of kindness for Scorsese to push this one on Harry.

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<p>Robert Downey Jr. is Sherlock Holmes and Jude Law is Watson in 'Sherlock Holmes,' Guy Ritchie's preposterously fun new riff on the classic detective duo</p>

Robert Downey Jr. is Sherlock Holmes and Jude Law is Watson in 'Sherlock Holmes,' Guy Ritchie's preposterously fun new riff on the classic detective duo

Credit: Warner Bros.

The M/C Review: 'Sherlock Holmes' gives Robert Downey Jr room to play

Big witty fun that honors canon instead of reinventing it

One of the most interesting things about reading "Sherlock Holmes" reviews so far is realizing just how little most people know about the actual Sir Arthur Conan Doyle version of the character, and just how completely the Hollywood interpretation of that character has become the "real one" for the majority.

When Harry Knowles branded me with the nickname "Moriarty" all those years ago, it was because I was a snide smartass who sent him e-mails discrediting this bit of information or that bit of information.  I wasn't even trying to become a contributor to his site... I just wanted to take my shots at him and then move on. Harry somehow saw past my original snark, though, and invited me further and further into the fabric of AICN, turning me from a jerk with an opinion into... well... a jerk with a job, I guess.  Over the years, people have assumed that I picked the name because I was a huge fan of the character, but that's not the case.  It was actually the other way around.

One side-effect of being named "Moriarty" is that I've been sent enough Sherlock Holmes material over the years to start a museum.  And over the years, I've read the full Arthur Conan Doyle several times, front to back.  It's a brisk read each time, and each time, I'm struck by just how modern a creation he is, even viewed from a 21st century perspective.  There's a reason people find themselves compulsively hooked on "House," and it's little surprise you can build an entire empire on the kicks afforded by a "CSI."  Both have their origins in Sherlock Holmes and his ongoing adventures with his trusted friend, Dr. John Watson. These two characters have been played on film more times by more people than any other literary creations, and the basic formula has been bent and twisted so many times, in so many ways, that most audiences have no idea what the "real" Sherlock Holmes is like.  They base their knowledge of the character on a few surface details, and they've been quite vocal about how upset they are by the way Guy Ritchie and Joel Silver and Robert Downey Jr. are "ruining" the character.

Only... they're not.

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<p>There are many indelible images I'll take away from 2009 as a viewer, and these are just a few... how many of them are you familiar with?&nbsp;</p>

There are many indelible images I'll take away from 2009 as a viewer, and these are just a few... how many of them are you familiar with? 

The M/C List: 2009's 25 Best Movies

The year's done, and the cream has risen... but did your favorites make the list?

It's that time of year again, and here's how we're going to do this.

I could publish one quick list of the titles by themselves, but what fun is that?  If I can't justify the inclusion and/or the placement of a title, I shouldn't be making a list in the first place.  And while I'm not trying anything nearly as exhaustive as Dan Fienberg's awesome best TV of the decade list, I would like to dig in and do this right.

I tried to narrow things down to a top ten.  But honestly, I liked a whooooole lot of movies this year.  There are movies that I genuinely love that aren't going to make this list this year, movies like "Mystery Team" or "Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans" or "The Loved Ones" or "Big Fan" or "Away We Go" or 'Funny People" or "It Might Get Loud" or "The Hurt Locker" or "Paranormal Activity" or "Paper Heart" or "Star Trek" or "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" or "The Lovely Bones," and that is rough.  I wish my list had room for every "The Slammin' Salmon" or "The Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus" that I saw, because my DVD shelf certainly does.  Any one of those easily could have found its way into the top 20, but in the end, you just have to go with your gut and decide what you feel the most deeply.

The very nature of list-making is reductive.  You have to kill some of your babies.  On the other hand, I am terrible at letting go of things, and so for a list that is supposed to be 20 titles long, I managed to wrassle in 25 titles because I am a big fat cheater.  If I'm going to make your OCD ring like a bell by including more than 20 titles, then buckle up.

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<p>Seth Rogen, rolling with his crew, in the deranged dark comedy 'Observe and Report'&nbsp;</p>

Seth Rogen, rolling with his crew, in the deranged dark comedy 'Observe and Report' 

Credit: Warner Bros.

The M/C List: #15 - #11: Pixar, coming of age, and courting controversy

The list continues with festivals faves, a new family classic, and some dark, dark comedy

I think it's only in the runners-up that we have this many ties.  Quite a few in part one of this article.  Don't blame me.  Blame all the filmmakers who did worthwhile and interesting work this year.  In the top ten, each film had to fight for its own slot. Here, though, I'm trying to spread the love a little bit...

#15 / "Anti-Christ" and "Love Exposure"

Lars Von Trier was damn near attacked by the crowd at Cannes over his newest film, and trying to get a mainstream American distributor to pick up a four-hour film about a kid who decides to become the best upskirt panty photographer in Japan is madness.  Both of these films sound like transgression for the sake of it, but I don't think that's a fair description in either case.  "Anti-Christ" has been called misogynist, but that seems like an almost deliberate misreading of the material.  This is a powerfully controlled piece of mood and atmosphere, an emotional horror film about the cumulative effects of misogyny on women and what happens when all of that cultural pressure finally causes someone to crack.  It is no accident that Von Trier named his protagonists Woman and Man.  He's painting with big symbols here, and it works precisely because he aims so broad.  There are horrible images in the film that sear the eyes, but that's the point. This is what horror does at its best... it forces us to deal with the things that most profoundly unsettle us.  I know most "horror" fans don't really want anything that is difficult or upsetting, but that's your flaw, not the genre's, and Von Trier's movie shouldn't be penalized for being deliberately ugly.  Not every film needs to comfort us or hold our hand.  "Love Exposure" tackles at least a half-dozen big ideas, including institutionalized religion, love, the way fetishism in our culture defines people, and more, and it juggles them all with aplomb.  A young man with a strict Catholic priest for a father decides to become an epic-scale sinner so he has something to share with his father in confession, and that drive leads him to meet the love of his life while dressed as a woman.  She falls in love with his female self, but he wants desperately to make her love him as a man, and that fuels a huge, sprawling story that is ultimately one of the most innocent things I've seen all year.  In both cases, audiences might read descriptions of these films or individual scenes in them and decide they aren't going to watch them because they are "dirty." Don't deprive yourself.  Any real adult who is interested in the full range of what cinema can do should seek these out.

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