The Monuments Men: It’s History, Man

by Ethan Alter February 7, 2014 6:05 am
<i>The Monuments Men</i>: It’s History, Man

The obit for George Clooney's latest directorial effort was written when this World War II period piece unceremoniously bumped from its original awards season berth and slotted into an early February release alongside other postponed 2013 rejects like Labor Day and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. So let's not spend too much time piling more dirt on its coffin. The Monuments Men is a dud: a nobly-intentioned feature that lacks the discipline and focus to unite its disparate elements -- among them a heavy-hitting cast, picturesque European settings and a great subject -- into an effective whole.

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, April 3, 2012

by Ethan Alter April 3, 2012 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A horse and his boy.

<i>War Horse</i> and <i>We Bought a Zoo</i>: Which Cheesy Animal Movie Should You See This Christmas?

Blame it on Marley & Me. When that cutesy-poo tearjerker about a family and their dog topped the holiday box office charts a few years back, Hollywood started looking around for other sentimental animal-centric tales designed to warm the hearts of even the sourest grinches. This year, families can choose between not just one, but two cheesy movies about adorable animals and the humans that love them, Steven Spielberg's War Horse and Cameron Crowe's We Bought a Zoo. The latter is based on a memoir by Benjamin Mee and stars Matt Damon as a widower, who packs up his two kids and moves them to a dilapidated zoo, which they have to get up and running again before it's shut down for good. The former is derived from Michael Morpurgo's children's novel (which also served as the basis for a recent Tony Award-winning play) and follows a spirited horse named Joey, who gallops through the lives of an all-star cast of European character actors (Emily Watson! Benedict Cumberbatch! Niels Arestrup!) against the backdrop of World War I. Although they tell very different stories, both films have the same ultimate goal: to make you weep often and openly. So which one succeeds? We'll answer that by pitting the films against each other in a few key areas.

Of Rhinestones and Pink Tuxedos

by Kasey McDonald September 11, 2008 3:07 pm
Of Rhinestones and Pink Tuxedos

For those out there that have always wanted to see Michael Douglas in rhinestones, fur and pink (all at the same time), your dreams will come true in the not-too-distant future. Hey... Where'd everybody go? I was just trying to let them know that Michael Douglas has signed on to star in the upcoming Steven Soderbergh biopic about Liberace. It's true--Liberace himself had a lower hairline than Mr. Douglas currently does, but like I tell my boyfriend, oh my god, please wipe the crumbs off the counter. Also: It takes a real man to wear pink. Douglas will comb his hair forward, don the pink tuxedo and maybe even keep the counters clean as Mr. Showbiz for his Traffic director.

Elysium: District 9 from Outer Space

by Angel Cohn August 9, 2013 6:00 am
<I>Elysium</I>: District 9 from Outer Space

In a cinematic landscape that is currently riddled with visions of Earth at its worst, Elysium rises to the top. That said, it doesn't quite ever reach the emotional heights that writer/director Neill Blomkamp's District 9 (about aliens forced into slums) managed with ease. It seems that in order to do flashier effects for this big blockbuster feature, Blomkamp lost the magic that made his first feature film so impactful. Still, if we had to pick a recent film about a dystopia to sit through again, Elysium would definitely beat out the likes of Oblivion and After Earth. If only for the most kick-ass Matt Damon fight scene since that time he beat someone up with a rolled-up magazine.

Indie Snapshot: Promised Land

by Ethan Alter December 28, 2012 10:02 am
Indie Snapshot: <i>Promised Land</i>

Matt Damon gets a crash course in the dangers of fracking in Promised Land. Also, read our reviews of Amour and West of Memphis.

Margaret: The Only Living Girl in New York

by Ethan Alter September 30, 2011 1:30 pm
<i>Margaret</i>: The Only Living Girl in New York

After a nearly six-year stint in the editing room, Kenneth Lonergan's long-delayed sophomore feature Margaret finally arrives in theaters still feeling somewhat unfinished. The version of the film that opens in (extremely) limited release today is rife with jarring tonal shifts, clunky dialogue, overly mannered performances and least a half-dozen subplots that lead nowhere. And yet despite -- or maybe, because of -- the movie's free-form messiness, it possesses a vitality that more carefully manicured studio movies, even one like last week's exceptionally well-crafted Moneyball, sometimes lack. Margaret is a movie that demands the viewer's attention and engagement throughout its sprawling two-and-a-half hour runtime, as Lonergan spins his tale without directing us as to how we should react to or feel about what's unfolding onscreen. It's only in the film's moving, but perhaps too-literal, final scene that his intentions become clear. Margaret is a music-less opera, complete with screaming matches that resemble arias and plenty of heightened emotion and melodrama played against the beautiful backdrop that is New York City.

Contagion: Captain Trips Rides Again

by Ethan Alter September 9, 2011 6:00 am
<i>Contagion</i>: Captain Trips Rides Again

The killer virus movie has been a Hollywood staple for decades now, but it's interesting to note how differently the genre has been interpreted over the years. For example, 1971's The Andromeda Strain is a low-key mystery, while 1995's Outbreak plays like a flat-out Jerry Bruckheimer-style action movie. Meanwhile, 2002's 28 Days Later and 2007's I Am Legend use their viruses as a gateway to exploring a post-apocalyptic world populated by zombies and vampires respectively. And now we have the industry's latest exercise in viral entertainment, Contagion, which takes the form of a classic procedural, the kind delivered week in and week out on shows like Law & Order and CSI. In fact, the sprawling screenplay by Scott Z. Burns could easily serve as a jumping-off point for an ongoing TV series that tracks the spread of a deadly virus across the country as a sizeable team of brave men and women mobilize to stop it.



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