Indie Snapshot: Bad Chemistry

by Ethan Alter March 14, 2014 2:54 pm
Indie Snapshot: Bad <i>Chemistry</i>

Don't let the attractiveness of Sam Rockwell and Olivia Wilde seduce you into watching the terrible Better Living Through Chemistry. You'd do better with any of these other three indie movies instead.

Machete Kills: Oops, He Did It Again

by Ethan Alter October 11, 2013 6:00 am
<i>Machete Kills</i>: Oops, He Did It Again

If Robert Rodriguez decides to stop helming features -- and, based on Machete Kills, he really should -- he's got a big future ahead of him as a director of trailers. The guy is truly gifted at cutting two-minute assemblies of bad-ass money shots and surprise superstar cameos that get you supremely pumped for the movies, which almost inevitably disappoint by comparison. In fact, pretty much every film he's ever made (with the exception of the first two Spy Kids outings as well as his underrated high school teens vs. alien teachers flick The Faculty) plays best as a coming attraction, a format that allows him to fully indulge what he does best (cool action beats, gonzo one-shot gags and gorgeous actresses striking pin-up girl poses) without having to sweat the stuff he has little to no interest in, like storytelling or world-building.

Indie Snapshot: Prince Avalanche

by Ethan Alter August 9, 2013 6:00 am
Indie Snapshot: <i>Prince Avalanche</i>

Fans of David Gordon Green’s early features like George Washington and All the Real Girls have been hoping for some time now that the writer/director would end his dalliance with Hollywood -- a dalliance that yielded the widely-liked Pineapple Express, the widely-misunderstood Your Highness and the widely-ignored The Sitter -- and return to the indie world from whence he came. That particular prayer has now been answered; although it stars two familiar Hollywood faces, Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch, Green’s newest film Prince Avalanche is otherwise the kind of small-scale slice-of-life regional story that defined the first part of Green’s career. It also happens to be the least interesting film he’s ever made, so the moral is be careful what you wish for, I guess.

Jack Reacher: Your Burning Questions Answered

by Ethan Alter December 21, 2012 6:01 am
<i>Jack Reacher</i>: Your Burning Questions Answered

Probably the biggest question facing the new Tom Cruise action movie Jack Reacher is why Paramount decided to release it smack-dab in the middle of the busiest holiday movie season in recent memory, where it's likely to be buried underneath the avalanche caused by the quintuple threat of Les Misérables, Django Unchained, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Monsters Inc. 3D and that Twilight movie that refuses to die. Sure, the fourth Mission: Impossible installment performed above expectations when it was released last year around this time, but that was an established franchise for Cruise and further benefitted from being a light-hearted, spectacle-driven blockbuster romp. Jack Reacher represents something a little different and darker for the star, whose name above the title is no longer enough to guarantee either massive success or a quality movie. (Laugh if you must, but back in his '80s heyday, Cruise rarely bet on the wrong horse. And don't try throwing Cocktail at me. That movie is and always will be awesome.) So I don't have a good answer for why the studio decided to make this their holiday tentpole release. I can, however, respond to some of the other burning questions you probably have about Jack Reacher.

Christopher McQuarrie Expands His Reach with Jack Reacher

by Ethan Alter December 18, 2012 6:30 am
Christopher McQuarrie Expands His Reach with <i>Jack Reacher</i>

A superstar in the world of crime fiction, the new action film Jack Reacher introduces moviegoers to the titular soldier-turned-nomadic-investigator, who stars in a best-selling series of crime novels by British author Lee Child. Written and directed by The Usual Suspects scribe Christopher McQuarrie, Reacher stars Tom Cruise as Child's creation and dispatches him to Pittsburgh, where he helps an in-over-her-head lawyer (Rosamund Pike) attempt to save a man from Death Row -- a case that pits him against morally ambiguous cops (David Oyelowo) and shadowy villains (Werner Herzog). In addition to trying on the outfit of an anti-hero, Jack Reacher also affords Cruise the chance to show off his behind-the-wheel skills, as he did all his own driving for the big car chase that comes midway through the movie. McQuarrie touched on that scene -- as well as the hotly contested decision to cast Cruise as Reacher -- during a recent press visit to New York, where he was accompanied by Child, Pike and Oyelowo.

Shining Through: Rodney Ascher Checks Us In To Room 237

by Ethan Alter October 9, 2012 6:15 am
<i>Shining</i> Through: Rodney Ascher Checks Us In To <i>Room 237</i>

After we first saw Rodney Ascher's documentary Room 237 during its world premiere at Sundance back in January, two thoughts ran through our heads: 1) This movie is terrific; and 2) There's no way anyone else will be able to see it, right? A thoughtful, innovative and hugely entertaining dissertation about Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, narrated by a quintet of individuals with very particular (and peculiar) theories about this horror classic, Room 237 is made up entirely of clips from the original movie, which posed a variety of potential copyright and licensing issues. Fortunately, since its Sundance debut, Ascher has toured the world with his film, showing it a variety of prestigious festivals (including Cannes and Toronto) and even scored a distribution deal with IFC Films, which will release it in theaters in March of next year. Before then, Room 237 can still be seen at a few festivals, including the New York Film Festival this week and Chicago's film festival the week after. While in town for the movie's NYFF premiere, Ascher spoke with us about his own love for The Shining, why he considers himself a walking, talking Rotten Tomatoes and what Stephen King might make of Room 237.

Boys vs. Girls: Bachelorette and The Inbetweeners

by Ethan Alter September 7, 2012 6:00 am
Boys vs. Girls: <i>Bachelorette</i> and <I>The Inbetweeners</i>

The eternal battle of the sexes spills over into the multiplex this weekend, as two raunchy comedies -- one female-driven and one distinctly for the boys -- compete for moviegoers' attention. In one corner, you've got Bachelorette, the Bridesmaids-like ensemble piece about a trio of bridesmaids (triple threats Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan and Isla Fisher) who get up to a whole lot of trouble the night before their best friend's wedding. And in the other corner stands The Inbetweeners, the feature film version of the hit British sitcom about four horny high-school kids (Simon Bird, James Buckley, Joe Thomas and Blake Harrison, reprising their small-screen roles) who celebrate their graduation by going on an alcohol-fueled holiday to a sunny Mediterranean party town. So which movie does its gender proudest? Here's how they stack up in a few key areas.

David Fincher and His Cast Discuss <i>The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo</i>

David Fincher is (in)famous for his exacting directorial methods on set; stories abound about him putting his actors through multiple takes and working his crew hard to ensure that they get every shot absolutely right. Away from the camera, though, he seems laid back and comfortable, even up for cracking a joke or two (or three or four). While making the rounds for his latest film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (which opens in theaters tomorrow), Fincher passed through New York and appeared at a press conference for the Sweden-set thriller, adapted from Stieg Larsson's best-selling book of the same time. He was joined by the movie's stars -- Daniel Craig as journalist Mikael Blomkvist and Rooney Mara as the titular hacker, Lisbeth Salander -- and two supporting players, Christopher Plummer and Stellan Skarsgård. Despite the movie's dark subject matter, all five were in fine spirits, cracking wise about everything from the movie's depiction of Sweden to a difficult stunt that literally left Craig gasping for air.

<i>The Artist</i>: Michel Hazanavicius Talks Silent Movies and Old School Hollywood

The silent film era lives again in The Artist, a loving (and entirely silent) homage to the grand Hollywood productions of the '20s. Written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius, the film follows the changing fortunes of two white-hot movie stars, silent screen legend George Valentin (Jean Dujardin, who deservedly won the Best Actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival) and rising starlet Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo). While Peppy's career takes off with the arrival of sound, George finds his prospects drying up. The movie blends dozens of silent film genres -- Chaplinesque comedy, grand melodrama and even a Rin Tin Tin rescue sequence -- into a totally enjoyable whole. No wonder The Artist has emerged as a leading Oscar contender: It's an unabashed, but entirely genuine celebration of old-school movie magic. Writer/director Michel Hazanavicius talked to us about the process of making his passion project and why he chose to shoot a black-and-white movie on color film.

<i>My Week With Marilyn</i>: Simon Curtis Talks Michelle Williams and Marilyn Monroe

After two previous Oscar nominations, former Dawson's Creek star-turned-in-demand-Hollywood-actress Michelle Williams looks set to three-peat, playing iconic screen legend Marilyn Monroe in the new film, My Week With Marilyn. Adapted from a memoir by Colin Clark, the film takes viewers behind the scenes on the ill-fated 1957 British film The Prince and the Showgirl, which co-starred Monroe and Laurence Olivier (played by Kenneth Branagh here). The two repeatedly clashed during the shoot and Monroe sought solace by briefly befriending Clark (Eddie Redmayne), then a young production assistant. My Week With Marilyn director Simon Curtis spoke with us about Williams' take on Marilyn and why The Prince and the Showgirl probably should never have been made.

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