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Even though “The Great Gatsby” has gotten the movie treatment several times in the past, no film adaptation has ever really stood out as the definitive version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s celebrated novel.
Just about all the actors in “The Big Wedding” are severely typecast. Diane Keaton is a high-strung, divorced mother like in “Something’s Gotta Give,” Robert De Niro is the father of somebody getting married like in “Meet the Fockers,” Amanda Seyfried is a blushing bride like in “Mamma Mia,” Robin Williams is an eccentric minister like in “License to Wed,” Topher Grace is a deadpan, quick-witted nice guy like in “That ‘70s Show,” and Katherine Heigl is a needy single woman like in every movie she does. Even though the actors are in their comfort zones, not a single person feels natural in “The Big Wedding.” That’s probably because the film doesn’t understand its own characters or their motivations. Nobody behind the camera has any idea what they’re doing, resulting in one of the most awkward romantic comedies of recent memory.
DirecTV’s Audience Network is producing a completely original show with “Rogue,” which premieres at 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 3.
DreamWorks Animation has always strived to tell stories that can appeal to all ages. Their latest animated comedy, “The Croods,” will surely be enjoyed by anybody who is younger than 10. Unlike “Shrek” and “Kung-Fu Panda” though, it lacks the wit and innovation for older audiences. Compared to most Saturday morning cartoons, the film won’t passionately annoy parents that get dragged to the theater. But in an era where more and more adults are attending animated features without accompanying children, “The Croods” feels like a step backwards for DreamWorks.
“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” starts off with a recipe for grade-A comedy. The cast includes names such as Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Alan Arkin, James Gandolfini, and Jim Carrey. The director is Don Scardino of “30 Rock” while Jonathan M. Goldstein and John Francis of “Horrible Bosses” penned the screenplay. The premise regarding rivaling magicians offers endless comedic possibilities. So how is it that the final product is just mediocre?
MGM’s “The Wizard of Oz” is the rare film adaptation that has officially become even more cherished than the timeless book that inspired it. Over the years, “The Wizard of Oz” has influenced numerous sequels, prequels, and reimaginings in just about every entertainment medium. Although there have certainly been some good additions to the “Oz” franchise, it’s unfortunate all of them must live in the shadow of an unbeatable classic. While nothing will ever top the Judy Garland version, the most we can ask from a modern “Oz” interpretation is that it remains true to L. Frank Baum’s universe while also sprinkling in something fresh. On that basis, Director Sam Raimi sufficiently delivers in his vibrant and fun “Oz the Great and Powerful.”
Remember how Director Todd Phillips just half-heartedly remade “The Hangover” in “The Hangover Part II?” Remember how lethargic, lame, and tedious it felt having to sit through the same movie over again with fewer laughs? That’s the best way to describe “21 and Over.” The film marks the directorial debut of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the writing team behind the original “Hangover.” They’ve basically recycled their smash hit comedy beat for beat. Where “The Hangover Part II” at least had three laugh-out-loud moments though, there’s nothing even remotely funny in “21 and Over.” It’s a comedic dead zone from its opening scene all the way through.
From “Snow White and the Huntsmen,” to “Mirror Mirror,” to “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters,” to “Red Riding Hood,” the film industry has really been banking on adult-oriented fairy tales as of late.
In recent years, there have been some really good Oscar hosts like Hugh Jackman, some acceptable hosts like John Stewart, some disappointing hosts like Steve Martin & Alec Baldwin, and some flat-out horrendous hosts like James Franco & Anne Hathaway. Despite the best efforts of some, none have come close to capturing the same wit, timing, and showmanship of reoccurring hosts like Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, or Billy Crystal. At the 85th Annual Academy Awards ceremony however, Seth MacFarlane of “Ted” and “Family Guy” emerged as the single most entertaining first-time Oscar host of the 21st century.
Where everyone else spent most of last January debating which team would be victorious at Super Bowl XLVII, I was busy trying to predict which movies would win big at the 85th annual Academy Awards. In many respects, the Oscars feel like a sporting event as nominees tirelessly campaign to win and award analyzers place bets on which horse will cross the finish line.
In the same vein of “To Kill a Mocking Bird” and “Catcher in the Rye,” Rudolfo Anaya’s “Bless Me, Ultima” has evolved into one of the most widely beloved and challenged books of all time. In some high schools this best-selling Chicano novel is considered a mandatory reading. Other schools have banished the book for its use of profanity, references to witchcraft, and religious themes. For anyone with an open mind, “Bless Me, Ultima” is certainly an enriching read-through about acceptance, family, faith, culture, and independence. The charm of Anaya’s novel sadly doesn’t shine through this adaptation by Carl Franklin, which gets bogged down by wooden performance and insipid direction.
“Snitch” is a movie that knows what it wants to say, but fails to get its message across in an unconventional fashion. The film is loosely based on a “Frontline” documentary about Joey Settembrino, an 18 year old who was sentenced to a minimum of ten years in prison for selling LSD. The government offered Joey a reduced sentence in exchange for the names of drug dealers high up on the totem pole. Since Joey was unwilling to cooperate, he had no other alternative but to serve his time. James Settembrino, Joey’s father, did everything he could by independently digging up dirt on drug abusers and drug distributors. His attempts to free his son were futile for the most part though.
After “A Walk to Remember,” “The Notebook,” “The Last Song,” “The Lucky One,” and “Dear John,” Nicholas Sparks is obviously running a campaign to become president of sappiness. His novels have inspired a number of hokey adaptations chock-full of one-dimensional archetypes and scenes ripped off from other romances. This guy loves seeing people get caught in the rain more than Michael Bay marvels at the sight of explosions. The latest picture from the novelist turned producer, “Safe Haven,” is every bit as cheesy and mushy as one would expect. It’s about as original as a Lifetime movie designed to brazenly manipulate our emotions. Maybe I’m becoming easier to manipulate, but this melodramatic cornball kept me completely invested from beginning to end.
“Beautiful Creatures” is yet another addition to the unendurable genre of “Twilight” wannabes. The fact that “Twilight” could inspire so many shameless copycats in both the mediums of film and literature is a true testament to the moribund state of originality. Compared to the effortless “I Am Number Four” and the inexplicably laughable “Red Riding Hood,” “Beautiful Creatures” may not be the worst of the “Twilight” rip-offs. Heck, it’s actually a major step up from any of the five “Twilight” movies. But not even the occasional impressive set piece or clever twist can save “Beautiful Creatures” from its perceptible longing to be the next fantasy romance phenomenon.
“A Good Day to Die Hard” marks the fifth entry to the “Die Hard” franchise and the third film to come out in the last two months about an ass kicking senior citizen. The original “Die Hard” is a definitive action picture that can still make audiences cheer even after multiple viewings. Whether you love or hate “Die Hard 2” and “Die Hard with a Vengeance,” pretty much everyone can agree that John McClane made a welcome return in the sensational “Live Free or Die Hard” a few years ago. The previous “Die Hard” got just about everything right from the absurdly insane stunts, to the humorous dialog, to Bruce Willis’ committed performance. “A Good Day to Die Hard” has just enough fun moments for die-hard fans to take a gander. Regrettably, it remains the least impressive outing of this series.
Nobody plays deadpan strait man better than Jason Bateman. Nobody plays belly laugh shocking better than Melissa McCarthy. Based on this promising mismatched duo, “Identity Thief” looked like it might be the first sidesplitting comedy of the New Year.
Zombies are terrible characters. That’s not to say there haven’t been plenty of good movies featuring zombies like “28 Days Later,” “Shaun of the Dead,” “Zombieland,” and the George A. Romero classics.
While most men pushing 70 are spending their twilight years on the golf course, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone are still packing heat. Many modern actors have attempted to rein supreme as the definitive action star of this generation, such as Jason Statham, Vin Diesel, and The Rock. Yet, none have come close to headlining a franchise on par with “The Terminator” or “Rambo.” Although Arnold and Sylvester may not be the most phenomenal talents ever to grace the big screen, it’s difficult not to be won over by their charisma and unrelenting bloodlust. Even in an era of so much fresh blood, they’re still easily the kings of action…with exception to maybe Bruce Willis.
Now that his reign as The Governator is officially over, Arnold Schwarzenegger is ready to shoot bad guys, sell one-liners, and butcher the English language again.
The Oscar season is customarily kicked off by the Academy President and a random star solemnly announcing the nominees in a drab ceremony. The Academy decided to shake up tradition this year however, in one of the most cheerful Oscar mornings we’ve ever had.
Simplistically cartoonish and even pulpier than “Pulp Fiction,” “Gangster Squad” won’t be remembered as one of the crime genre’s great cinematic outings.
In the eight years I’ve taken on the regular duty of reviewing movies, 2012 just might have been the best.
In what’s been an otherwise tremendous year for movies, 2012 still brought us quite a few stinkers nevertheless.
After “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction,” Quentin Tarantino quickly became the coolest director working in Hollywood. Achieving such early acclaim in his feature film career, Tarantino easily could have come and gone like any other trendy flavor of the month director.
Billy Crystal proved earlier this year that he’s still more than capable of hosting an Oscar telecast. The question that remains is whether or not the 64-year-old comedic legend still has what it takes to carry a feature-length film.
While “Knocked Up” established Seth Rogan and Katherine Heigl as major movie stars, it was Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd that stole the entire show. Rogan and Heigl’s characters are nowhere to be found in the sort-of sequel to “Knocked Up.” Rather, “This is 40” passes the torch over to Mann’s Debbie and Rudd’s Pete as they both reach the dreaded middle-aged milestone.
Roger Michell’s “Hyde Park on Hudson” often feels like two separate movies. One film is about Franklin Roosevelt’s love affair with his sixth cousin. The other is about King George VI and his first visit to the United States.
Stop me if this premise sounds even remotely familiar.
“Killing Them Softly” is about as far away from a feel good movie that you’ll likely get this year. Relentlessly violent and candidly cynical in tone, this is easily among the angriest cinematic representations of 21st century America. But beyond its precipitous bleakness, does the film at least leave us with an encouraging, hopeful message?
“Hitchcock” is the second movie about the master of suspense to come out in just the last month or so. The first one was the HBO original movie, “The Girl,” which dealt with Hitchcock’s infatuation with Tippi Hedren. It was a passable film for the commendable performances and a few genuinely disturbing scenes. What “The Girl” failed to do was paint a multilayered portrayal of Alfred Hitchcock. Granted, Hitchcock was an obsessive man that had wild fantasies about his leading ladies. But there was so much more to the guy than his unsettling perverted side. Sacha Gervasi’s “Hitchcock” is the superior film in every department, delivering a fully fleshed out depiction of Alfred Hitchcock while also providing sly moments of Hitchcockian humor and intrigue.
Folkloric legends truly are the guardians of childhood. From the perspective of a child, the world can be an enchanting place full of infinite wonder and possibilities. The belief in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and others fuels such innocence. Once their existence is questioned though, kids begin to slide down an unstoppable downhill slope that will inevitably result in adulthood. Most grown-ups likely envy children for their ability to believe in such mythical beings. How we all long to replace our adult cynicism and practicality with the magic and mystery of youth.
Year after year, I find myself complaining about the state of love stories in the movies. From those damn “Twilight” pictures to the countless vehicles starring the showboating Katherine Heigl, inspired romance has become difficult to come by in this day and age. 2012 however, has exhibited an unexpected change of pace in the romance department. With “Safety Not Guaranteed,” “Rudy Sparks,” “The Sessions,” “Hope Springs” and “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World,” this has proven to be a reassuring year for movies about unlikely people coming together and having a meaningful connection. Even several major action blockbusters, such as “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Looper” and “The Amazing Spider-Man,” have managed to incorporate smart, believable relationships that do not just feel tacked on.
After numerous incarnations in film, theater, television, opera, and radio, Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” has become one of the most heavily adapted novels of all time. Unless somebody can do something really original with the material, there isn’t much need to revisit “Anna Karenina” again.
This is it people, the long awaited day that Stephanie Meyer’s asinine chronicle of lame vampires, talking CGI werewolves, and the single worst female protagonist in all of fiction comes to a close. While the fandom may live on for decades, at least we’ll never have to suffer through one of these movies again.
Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln is a match made in heaven. It’s a logical casting decision for our greatest living actor to portray perhaps the most influential individual in American history, even if Day-Lewis is of British and Irish citizenship.
“That movie would have been infinitely better if it had been shown in 3D.” I cannot speak for the rest of the moviegoing population, but this is one sentence I will never utter walking out of a Cineplex.
Disney’s “Wreck-It Ralph” is like the love child of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” and “TRON.” Where “Roger Rabbit” brought together a collection of classic toons such as Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny, “Wreck-It Ralph” assembles a roster of video game characters that includes Sonic the Hedgehog and Q*Bert.
“Cloud Atlas” is a movie that you’re either going to walk out of within the first thirty minutes or watch repeatedly in order to analyze the meaning behind every scene.
Tyler Perry as Alex Cross has got to be one the most baffling casting decisions of recent years. That’s not to say Perry doesn’t have any dramatic range or that he should be forever limited to playing a mad, black woman.
It’s an absolute marvel how Ben Affleck has managed to turn his career around in recent years. After being the laughingstock of the film community for a while, Affleck reestablished himself as a great talent through his directorial outings in “Gone Baby, Gone” and “The Town.” In “Argo,” Affleck not only proves that he’s a gifted filmmaker, but one of the most intelligent creative minds of this generation.
Four years ago, Martin McDonagh made one of the most impressive feature films directorial debuts with one of my favorite movies, “In Bruges.” Starting off on such a high note, McDonagh easily could have succumbed to the sophomore slump in his follow-up film. I’m gleeful to proclaim however, that “Seven Psychopaths” is anything but a letdown.
One can’t help but assume that Tim Burton lost a beloved canine friend as a child and has never quite gotten over the death. From “The Nightmare Before Christmas” to “Corpse Bride,” deceased dogs have been a reoccurring archetype in the animated features attached to Burton. His fascination with departed animals can be traced back to “Frankenweenie,” a 1984 short film he directed for Disney. The thirty-minute short was equal parts a homage and satire of the “Frankenstein” tale in which a little boy brought his Bull Terrier back to life.
“Taken” was one of the most surprising hits of recent years, grossing over $200 million on a modest budget of roughly $25 million. The film might not have been a revolutionary action picture. There have been loads of other movies about distant fathers/husbands that take the law into their own hands to rescue a family member. Harrison Ford and Bruce Willis notably specialize in this genre. Nevertheless, the original “Taken” was indeed a good film, mainly thanks Liam Neeson.
“Looper” is a time traveling thriller that reminds us that classic science fiction doesn’t come from quality visuals or the biggest explosions. There’s no denying that “Looper” is an exquisitely crafted picture with some heart pounding action set pieces. But the reason the film warrants such praise is because of its inspired ideas, brilliant execution, and the involving characters we follow along the way.
There have been well over a hundred baseball movies about players, coaches and teams. One crucial figure that’s starting to get more recognition in this genre is the baseball scout. Last year’s “Moneyball” from Director Bennett Miller was easily the definitive baseball-scouting picture, telling the thought-provoking true story of Oakland Athletics’ general manager Bill Beane. “Trouble with the Curve” is a more predictable, crowd-pleasing effort that doesn’t rank in the major leagues with “Moneyball.” Despite all of its clichés though, this is an enjoyable film carried by some memorable performances from the leads.
What can be said about Paul Thomas Anderson? To say the very least, he’s one of the most interesting artists making movies today. Whether you believe his films are genius or pretentious, everyone should be able to agree that Anderson’s work always promises something utterly unique. In “The Master,” Anderson renders another extraordinarily strange, yet beautiful, tale that you’ll never be able to take your eyes off of. In the most basic terms, this is a genuine American masterwork from a masterful storyteller.
At first glance, the audience assumes “End of Watch” is going to be a by the books buddy cop movie with the focal intention of providing popcorn escapism. As it goes on though, “End of Watch” evolves into something much more than initially assumed.
What makes the Emmys such an exciting award show to watch is, unlike the Oscars, the winners are not prematurely set in stone. Almost anything can happen on the big night, sometimes resulting in the greatest underdogs triumphing in victory.
Some characters are so despicable and manipulative that the audience should desire to see them receive the most dreadful comeuppance. Despite all of their shameful wrongdoings though, we can’t help but hope that these characters will triumph over the alleged good guys. Who isn’t gunning to see Walter White come out on top in the final season of “Breaking Bad?”
Early on in “The Words,” the film’s protagonist is called into the office of a book publisher. The publisher compliments the struggling writer on his literary talent and the book he has submitted. Ultimately however, the publisher tells him that his novel isn’t marketable. This scene will likely resonate with anybody who has ever poured his or her soul into a book, screenplay or television pilot only to face rejection. “The Words” has a lot to say about the labor of succeeding in a creative field and the price that comes with achieving fame. Regrettably, the film isn’t without some evident flaws.