Saturday, March 24, 2018

Archive for the ‘ Movies ’ Category

Young Indiana Croft

March 18th, 2018

Guys, I have some righteous science to lay on you. For some of you, this information will come as precisely no surprise whatsoever. For others, this will create feelings of anger, confusion, and a general feeling of chumpdom. I can’t help any of that, I can only report to you my findings based on literal seconds of research. You ready? Women like video games, too. I know! Here in the Brennan household, we’re mild gamers. While I occasionally enjoy wreaking vehicular havoc in Grand Theft Auto, my wife appreciates the more cerebral pleasures of Skyrim. My dear friend Gina and her husband Curtis... Read More

Big Hearted

March 11th, 2018

We need Fred Rogers these days, or someone very much like him. If you’re a younger reader, you can be forgiven for not knowing his work, since he’s more of a contemporary for those of us of a certain age. But his refreshing lack of cynicism is a warm and safe hug, something that effortlessly passes beyond a single generation. Rogers was the creator and star of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, a children’s program that ran for decades on public television. During each half hour episode, there were puppet shows, tours of factories and experiments, and Rogers himself. He would simply and honestly... Read More

The Ultimate Beer and Pretzels Game

March 4th, 2018

Has there been any movie genre more maligned recently than the studio comedy? Back in the day, movies with Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase and others were guaranteed to open to enormous business. They would stick around for quite a while and, if you didn’t like the looks of a particular one, no big deal. Another comedy would open soon. Things changed, and there’s a ruthlessly unfunny reason for that. Major studios don’t think regionally or nationally any longer, they think globally. Movie attendance in America has been steadily dropping, but attendance is huge elsewhere. The most profitable... Read More

Cell Theory

February 25th, 2018

How do you solve a problem like Annihilation? Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very good and very challenging film, and one that everyone should see as quickly as possible. Before we get into the specifics, let’s talk about the tragedy of its release, and why it bodes ill for intelligent art. Paramount Pictures ponied up $55 million to adapt the first book in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy. Alex Garland, the director of the superb Ex Machina, was hired to write the screenplay and direct. An impressive team of actors was hired. Things were a go. Upon the film’s completion, as always... Read More

The AristoCat

February 18th, 2018

My kid’s favorite superhero is the Black Panther. Not Spider-Man. Not Captain America. Not Batman. Not even Blue Beetle. He’s a gigantic fan of Marvel’s T’Challa, the ruler of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. But why is he a fan of that guy? Well, let’s hear it from the horse’s….ah….10-year-old’s mouth. “He’s smarter than Iron Man and Batman. He’s sneaky, He fights battles he knows he can’t win for honor and to help. He held the Infinity Gauntlet, for crying out loud! He must be a great hero!” Now, there are a couple of details you need to keep in mind. First,... Read More

The Safe Word Isn’t Working

February 11th, 2018

There’s a place for kink in the world, though you might not know that if you’re an American. Our great nation pays some pretty profound lip service to tolerance. John F. Kennedy was quoted as saying, “Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather, it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.” You could make the reasonable assumption that when Kennedy, a legendary enthusiast of boinking, spoke about tolerance, he echoed the larger beliefs of most Americans about sex, right? Um…no. For example, English author E. L. James released the novel Fifty Shades... Read More

You Winchester Some, You Lose Some

February 4th, 2018

Some buildings feel wrong. You set foot inside them and you feel uneasy, the hairs on your arms stand up, every instinct tells you to get the hell out of there with a quickness. Why does that happen, though? Is it an evolutionary throwback to when we mammals were tiny, bite-sized rodents? Is it because our minds are playing tricks on us? Or is it because the place is haunted? Go ahead and scoff. But somebody pretty smart once wrote, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” We humans only evolved about 200,000 years ago, and we’re arguing... Read More

Heat for Dummies

January 28th, 2018

There’s a very real conundrum at the heart of film criticism. On the one hand, most people don’t really understand exactly how hard it is to make a movie. First, you need a script that’s either a) good, b) marketable, or c) both. Then you need to figure out how much it’s all going to cost. Then you need to get your hands on the budget. Then you need to actually make the movie and deal with the million-and-one problems that accompany the filmmaking process. Finally, you need to get your movie in front of other people’s eyeballs, and pray to eight pound, six ounce, newborn baby Jesus that... Read More

Irritating Toast

January 21st, 2018

Everything ends. Sometimes it’s unplanned. Look at Terry Pratchett, the prolific English author. He wrote dozens of novels and gained a worldwide following due to his piercing intellect and cutting wit. He should have lived longer, written more, but on March 12, 2015, Alzheimer’s disease snuffed out his mighty brain at age 66.* Other times endings are planned. On June 20, 2017, Daniel Day-Lewis announced his retirement from acting. In an interview with W magazine, the 60-year-old icon explained that the making of his final film, Phantom Thread, left him “overwhelmed with sadness.” That... Read More

An Essential Institution

January 14th, 2018

More than most countries, America runs on narrative. We call ourselves a shining city on a hill, lay claim to exceptionalism.* We brand ourselves as a nation of self-starters, rugged individualists, a place where a person from humble beginnings can rise all the way to the top through nothing more than determination and grit. Is it all true? Obviously, it’s better if it is true, but we have an almost singularly unique talent for lying to ourselves. We talk about our love of freedom, then take steps to disenfranchise people of color. We believe that anyone can become a success, then defend policies... Read More

The Ice Storm

January 7th, 2018

Very recently, I learned two interesting facts. First, if you’re a figure skater, the triple axel is a fiendishly difficult jump to perform. If you’re profoundly ignorant about skating like me, you might not understand why it’s so damned hard. Let’s break it down for a moment and go over exactly how it’s done: First, you approach the jump point on a right back outside edge. What on God’s green Earth does this mean? Well, the blade of a figure skate has two edges. The inside is toward your body, while the outside is away from it. The back is…well…the back of the skate.... Read More

She Hit a Stick

December 31st, 2017

If you’re a screenwriter in Hollywood, a successful one, after a while you start to get the itch to direct your own stuff. Sometimes it works out. Look at Christopher McQuarrie. Other times it doesn’t. Look at Dan Aykroyd. Aaron Sorkin has likely felt the same way, and he’s seized his opportunity with his latest film Molly’s Game. A well-respected writer and producer for decades, he’s made a career out of being clever. Understand, there’s nothing wrong with that. Sorkin’s career exploded by writing the screenplays for films like A Few Good Men and Charlie Wilson’s War, along with... Read More

Monstrous Romance

December 24th, 2017

Like all great romances, it began with a connection. He was raised in Guadalajara, Mexico, in an enthusiastically Catholic household. Was it the fixation on blood, death, and rebirth that steered his imagination in a certain direction? Perhaps, but who can say for sure? The only thing we do know is, starting from a very young age, Guillermo del Toro loved monsters. Looking at his filmography, it’s not hard to believe. Every film he’s made, from the vampire tale Cronos to the lush Pan’s Labyrinth to the mechs versus kaiju Pacific Rim, there’s been a focus of some kind on creatures. However,... Read More

A Rebellion Built On Hope

December 17th, 2017

I’m told that Star Wars  was the first movie I ever saw. My parents made the fairly questionable decision to take two-year-old me to a crowded theater, and my gut tells me it was probably my mother’s idea. At some point, Dad probably said, “It’s not like he’ll remember it.* What’s the point?” Mom probably insisted due to the principle of it, and now there’s a strain of George Lucas’ magnum opus winding its way through the DNA of my childhood. Hardly original, right? For most of us, that’s the reason Star Wars is inexorably tied up in feelings of nostalgia. The warm blanket.... Read More

Love And Patience

December 3rd, 2017

As film critics go, I’m incredibly lucky. The fine people that run the website you’re reading have, for good or ill, given me enormous flexibility. I can see whatever I want. I can, within reason, write whatever I want. The decision for every week’s topic rests in my hands, God help us all.* Some weeks, it’s a no-brainer. If there’s a gigantic blockbuster opening that’s dominating the weekend, I’ll see that. Other times, a few potentially interesting films open against each other, and I have to make a snap decision to only review one. Still other times, I’ll desperately want to... Read More

Fueled By Anger

November 26th, 2017

How useful is anger? It depends on the cause, the reasons, and how it’s channeled. We’re taught that nothing productive comes from getting mad. Instead, you need to take a breath, calm yourself, embrace forgiveness, and let go. That all might be true, but there’s a lot in the world that’s worth getting angry about. For example, a woman in Sherman, New York was shot and killed just this last Wednesday. Why? While walking her dogs at dusk, a neighbor mistook her for a deer, drew his pistol and pulled the trigger. No malice was meant by it; the shooting was just an accident. Regardless, Rosemary... Read More

Course Correction

November 19th, 2017

Movies make a promise. Good movies keep them. In one of the early scenes in John Wick, a dipstick gangster and his boys break into the home of a nobody. They beat the nobody, steal his car, and kill his dog. Just another day at the office, right? Not quite. The gangster’s father is a crime lord. He explains to his son that they just made an enemy of the most feared assassin alive. “John wasn’t exactly the boogeyman. He was the one you send to kill the f—ing boogeyman.” That scene sets up an expectation for the audience. It tells us: You just saw an absurdly cute... Read More

Probably The World’s Greatest Detective

November 12th, 2017

We’re coming to the end of 2017, and not a moment too soon, says I. In terms of reasonable behavior, this year has been an absolute horror show. Previously respected actors, artists, and other public figures have been revealed to be degenerates. The citizens of Alabama are seriously considering voting for an alleged child molester. Our very own President literally cannot go more than a week without saying or doing something insulting, vulgar, stupid, or all of the above. It makes one yearn for a more sophisticated time, a time where manners, taste, and class weren’t in woefully short... Read More

What The Hela?

November 5th, 2017

What happens when the title of a movie promises one thing but delivers something entirely different? That goes to the larger issue with moviegoing, I suppose. You see a trailer, spy a poster, even just hear a title, and an imaginary movie with a very particular look and feel starts playing in your head. If the movie in your head aligns with reality, even somewhat, you’re likely to be a happy camper. In 1994, audiences saw a trailer for When a Man Loves a Woman. It starred Meg Ryan, long considered to be the alpha and the omega of romantic comedy. What the trailer showed was a light romp,... Read More

Mister Movie Critic, You Could Have Saved The Audience

October 29th, 2017

  Imagine, if you will, a brand-new car by Tesla. The world’s top engineers have been brought in to create a vehicle with maximum acceleration and driving range and the apex of functionality. The world’s most creative designers have crafted butter-soft leather around the steering wheel, seats that are the height of ergonomic perfection without sacrificing comfort, and a control panel that’s intuitive and informative. During a press conference to unveil this automotive marvel to the world, Elon Musk invites the media to witness a test drive. The driver sits in the vehicle,... Read More

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