Hope Springs: Your Burning Questions Answered

by Ethan Alter August 8, 2012 6:00 am
<i>Hope Springs</i>: Your Burning Questions Answered

Who says the summer movie season is exclusively home to superheroes, super spies and talking teddy bears? As formidable as Jeremy Renner looks in this week's token action picture The Bourne Legacy, I'd put my money on the dynamic duo of Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones, the stars of the new AARP-approved marital comedy Hope Springs, to take him out. (Actually, Streep could probably put him down entirely on her own. Have you ever seen The River Wild? That chick will mess you up.) I'm sure you have plenty of questions about the movie, so let's get right to it.

Men in Black 3: Big Willie Flop

by Ethan Alter May 25, 2012 6:00 am
<i>Men in Black 3</i>: Big Willie Flop

A prime example of a franchise sequel that exists purely because it can, rather than because it should, Men in Black 3 arrives in theaters feeling like a relic from a distant past when Will Smith was the biggest movie star in the world. And it's possible that he still is, in which case it's the picture that's real small. Even though it affords its lead plenty of opportunities to flash that mega-watt smile and sharp comic timing and piles effects-heavy set piece on top of effects-heavy set piece, MiB3 can't mask its fundamental pointlessness. It's so instantly forgettable that even though I saw it in the theater in all its 3D-enhanced glory, I felt as though I was watching it at home during the late-night cable run it'll receive a few years hence. You know, one of those experiences where you randomly stumble upon a sequel while surfing the movie networks and go, "Oh right -- they made a third one" before changing the channel.

Lincoln: By the People, For the People

by Ethan Alter November 9, 2012 6:00 am
<i>Lincoln</i>: By the People, For the People

There are many different ways to approach a man who lived as monumental a life as Abraham Lincoln. You could, for instance, focus entirely on his early years as a lawyer as John Ford did in the 1939 classic, Young Mr. Lincoln. Or you could zero in on the Civil War, with Lincoln's life taking a backseat to the fighting. Or you could even turn him into a vampire hunter, using the supernatural as a metaphor for Lincoln's desire to see every individual freed from the bonds of slavery, be they property of plantation owners or bloodsuckers. In the case of Lincoln, Steven Spielberg's oh-so-prestigious entry in the awards season sweepstakes, the director telescopes his subject's life into roughly a single month: January 1865, when a newly re-elected Lincoln used his ferocious will and political capital to ensure the passage of the 13th Amendment, which officially outlawed slavery in the United States. That's right, in a way this is a live-action, feature-length version of that old Schoolhouse Rock ditty "I'm Just a Bill" (or it's even better Simpsons parody "Amendment to Be") where viewers are invited to watch the long, contentious and often ugly process of how the proverbial political sausage gets made in Washington.

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