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A collaboration between superstars of the cinephile blogosphere, The Self Styled Siren‘s second fundraising blogathon with Ferdy on Film starts Valentine’s Day. To promote it, below is a short video put together by Greg Ferrara of the outstanding Cinema Styles. Check it out.

And, to get you in the mood, critic A.O. Scott opines on one of the productions that started the Film Noir genre in earnest, John Huston’s definitive take on Dashiell Hammet’s “The Maltese Falcon.”

You can follow us on Twitter @moviebuffs and on Facebook as well.

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Bond is coming back; Soderbergh promises he’ll retire

In 1962, a bouncing baby franchise was born when superspy assassin James Bond did in the evil “Dr. No.” Now middle aged and needing a bit of exercise to keep its financial heart pumping after nearly five decades of very hard living, the Bond machine survived the end of the Cold War that spawned it, only to be stalled by MGM’s financial morass. Some thought, “It’s a 22 movie run, more if you count a few non-canonical Bond flicks, give it a rest already.” Today, however, Nikki Finke has word that Bond 23 is officially going ahead with star Daniel Craig and the long-rumored Sam Mendes in tow as director. You’ll have your next serving of Bond with your Thanksgiving turkey in November of 2012, assuming nothing untowards happens in post-production.

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In 1963, a bouncing baby human being was born in Louisiana. 26 years later, director Steven Soderbergh personally gave the modern day independent film movement one of its biggest kickstarts with 1989′s “Sex, Lies, and Videotape.” Now, he’s announcing officially that he’s packing it only two decades into a career that, at least in theory, could go another four or five.

Though Mike Fleming jokingly pre-accuses him of doing a Brett Favre, movie directors are not sports figures, and, to paraphrase Marcellus Wallace of “Pulp Fiction,” their asses really can age like a fine wine. John Huston, who led the kind of life that might have killed a lesser man in his forties, made one of his greatest films, “The Dead,” when he was pushing eighty and about to be dead himself. Old French New Waver Alain Resnais is scheduled to release a movie more or less to coincide with his 90th birthday, and Portugal’s Manoel de Oliveira released “The Strange Case of Angelica” in 2010, the year of his 102 birthday. (He’s supposedly working on another.) Almost no one, except Matt Damon, seems to be taking Soderbergh seriously about this.

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You know what, I’m on board with both moves. James Bond has become far bigger than any one set of filmmakers and, like Sherlock Holmes, Superman, and Mickey Mouse, there’s no reason he shouldn’t keep on chugging along indefinitely in new incarnations. And, given how surprisingly good “Casino Royale” was, I’m willing to let the current James Bond team overcome the disappointment of “Quantum of Solace.” All I ask is for a little more of “From Russia with Love”-era Bond and a little less shaky-cam Jason Bourne.

As for Soderbergh, I’m a fan who admires the fact that he’s unafraid to take risks and make movies that, admittedly, sometimes kind of suck, but always in interesting ways. Re: his impending retirement, I’ve watched too many creators repeat themselves over the years to have anything but respect for his decision. I think it’s possible that we all have only so many stories to tell in a particular way and that, perhaps, when we feel we’re through telling them in one medium, maybe the thing to do is switch to another that might permit new stories to emerge. Later, if we return to the first medium, maybe we’ll then have a new story to tell, or at least an interesting new way to tell it. So, if Soderbergh just wants to spend his life painting, I say, “bless him.” If he gets the urge to start making movies again from time to time and unretires as many times as Frank Sinatra, that’ll be great too. The thing not to do is stagnate.

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A roundtable chat with Kate Bosworth and Danny Huston of “The Warrior’s Way”

The movies often make for strange companions, if not actual bedfellows. So it was that a bunch of entertainment writers at the junket for the genre-blending martial-arts western fantasy, “The Warrior’s Way,” met with a pair of actors with a definite air of  beauty-and-the-beast about them.

Kate Bosworth of Kate Bosworth is, oddly enough, the beauty of the pair. Perhaps best known as Lois Lane in the unfairly maligned “Superman Returns,” Bosworth has appeared in a number of films, including a solid appearance as Sandra Dee in Kevin Spacey‘s offbeat Bobby Darin biopic, “Beyond the Sea.” She also played porn star John Holmes’ teenage girlfriend in the fact-based “Wonderland” and was the female lead in the gambling-themed hit, “21.” Bosworth launched her career starring in the short-lived “Dawson’s Creek” spin-off, “Young Americans,” which wrapped in 2000 and followed that up with the lead role in the surfing-themed “Blue Crush” in 2002.

Danny Huston is often cast in the role of beastly types and authority figures, and usually a combination of both. He was the leader of the cold weather vampires in “30 Days of Night,” a memorably creepy power broker in “Children of Men,” and the mutant hating Col. William Stryker in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” He was also the despicably ultra-vicious desperado/gangleader brother of Guy Pearce in the 2005 mega-grime Australian western, “The Proposition.”

Danny Huston of It’s also mandatory that I mention that Huston is about as “Hollywood royalty” as people get, being the son of acting and directing great John Huston, whose best remembered acting role remains as the deeply evil Noah Cross of “Chinatown” and whose iconic films included “The Maltese Falcon,” “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” and, still going strong decades later, “Wise Blood” and “Prizzi’s Honor.” That additionally means that Danny Huston’s grandfather was the early Hollywood star and character actor Walter Huston and his half-sister is Oscar-winner Angelica Huston. Still in his forties, he also was a director early on in his career, helming 1988′s “Mr. North.”

Bosworth and Huston were there to promote their roles in “The Warrior’s Way,” which was released this last weekend in a modest wide release. In the film, the first English language starring vehicle for Korean superstar Jang Dong-gun, Bosworth plays Lynne, a knife-thrower in training bent on revenge against the man who killed her family and attacked her. Naturally, that man is the Colonel (Huston), a mask-wearing evildoer who was badly disfigured by Lynne as a young girl, so it’s clear these two just aren’t going to get along.

Off screen, however, the two got along just fine as they sang the praises of the film which none of us entertainment journalist types had actually seen. About 10-15 minutes worth of clips had been shown to us the night before, prior to a very pleasant reception with some really delicious sushi and yakitori treats. The next day we got more American style fare at the Beverly Hilton. Did I mention that the food is often the best part of a press day?

The conversation started around some of the costumes used in the film. One journalist asked Kate Bosworth if she enjoyed the costuming aspect of movie-making. This might have turned into a very interesting piece if she’d said, “God, no, I hate it!” But, of course, that’s not how she feels.

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The end-of-week movie news dump vs. the world

It’s been somewhat surprising, even given my own innate skepticism about practically everything, that for the last week or so there’s been very little compelling movie news — really very little that I could bring myself to even mention here. To be honest, I kind of liked that way. Much less time consuming and more fun to just throw trailers and stuff at you guys. The last 24 hours or so, however, have been a very different story.

* I often wonder where George Lucas went wrong in a number of departments. Today he’s King Midas in reverse with actors — who else could actually make Samuel L. Jackson boring? — but he directed the very well acted “American Graffitti.” His first two “Star Wars” movies were imperfect but great, great fun — and he had the great good sense to bring in the best writers available, and a very strong director, for the second one. He insisted on doing the three prequels himself, however, and in my opinion and lots of other people’s, showed how borderline unwatchable a space opera could be.

What went wrong? I don’t know but one thing that did happen to Lucas was the departure of producer Gary Kurtz, he of the Abe Lincoln beard who I honestly haven’t thought about in decades.

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The Pacific war in the movies, pt. 4

HBO’s “The Pacific premieres on the West coast as I write this, and it’s time to take a look at two acclaimed films that take a sidelong look, even comic, look at the hardships and danger of war. Both of them, for whatever reason, have “Mister” or “Mr.” in the title.

Our first film is suggested by master cartoonist and my personal consultant on matters relating to World War II, Randy Reynaldo. Directed and co-written by John Huston, “Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison” stars Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr as a Marine and an Irish nun who are forced to live under the noose of enemy Japanese soldiers when they become marooned on a remote island.  Though a hit on its release, it’s become a somewhat obscure film today, despite being one of Huston’s personal favorites and despite the enormous talent and appeal of its two stars. (Kerr was nominated for an Oscar; Mitchum was not, though many feel he was robbed.) I confess to having not seen it myself, but after looking at the trailer below, I really want to. Something tells me I might like it even better than the not-completely-dissimilar, “The African Queen.”

I’ve seen the second film so many times since childhood, it’s kind of fused with my subconscious, though I didn’t think of including it here until almost the last minute. Directed by two of the greatest classic-era directors, John Ford and Mervyn LeRoy, and featuring four of the greatest stars of three different Hollywood eras, “Mister Roberts” doesn’t break any cinematic ground but that doesn’t matter.

Starring Henry Fonda as an intelligent and humane officer desperate to get off the cargo ship he’s been stationed on and away from its small-minded, tyrannical captain (James Cagney) in order to see real action against the Japanese, it’s easily one of the funniest and most captivating tales of wartime life ever made, right through to its devastating conclusion. There isn’t a single battle shown, but no film I’ve even seen more powerfully conveys the grim seriousness of war in quite the same way. It’s no masterpiece, but it’s still a classic.

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