Indie Snapshot: <i>The Paperboy</i>, <i>Butter</i>, <i>The Oranges</i>, <I>Wuthering Heights</i>

Nicole Kidman gets an extreme makeover in the ridiculous potboiler The Paperboy. Also, our takes on Butter, The Oranges and Wuthering Heights.

WTF? Wolvie To Host Oscars?!

by Lauren Gitlin December 12, 2008 3:30 pm
WTF? Wolvie To Host Oscars?! I'm gonna make this brief because I feel like I've contributed quite enough bile to today's various blogs. But I'm real perplexed as to why the Oscars have elected to have Hugh Jackman host this year's telecast. They'd already made it clear that they were looking to cut down on the "funny" bits, and with this announcement, they've preeeetty much confirmed that this year's show is going to be even more boring than in years past. Everyone knows that the best parts of the Oscars are the red carpet fashions and the cheesy hosts' cheesy attempts at comedy. They've just done away with half the reason I watch. What if god forbid this year's bevy of starlets get themselves awesome stylists and nary a sartorial trainwreck shows itself on the pre-show? WTF am I gonna have to look forward to (making fun of)?

Prisoners: Lock This Movie Up and Throw Away the Key

by Ethan Alter September 20, 2013 5:55 am
<i>Prisoners</i>: Lock This Movie Up and Throw Away the Key

For those folks who though Se7en was too cheery and Zodiac too fast-paced, here comes Prisoners, a sprawling crime drama in the tradition of David Fincher, but minus his level of artistry. Given that it's predicated on one of the worst nightmares for any parent -- the sudden, unexplained disappearance of a child -- I can't deny that the movie often unnerved me, particularly during its first half-hour in the immediate aftermath of the crime. But as Prisoners plodded along for 153 minutes, I grew increasingly detached from the scenario and more conscious (and resentful) of the way director Denis Villeneuve and writer Aaron Guzikowski were manipulating events in the cause of false profundity. A movie like Zodiac (and Se7en to a degree, although Andrew Kevin Walker's script is far from subtle) amounts to far more than the details of its central mystery precisely because Fincher doesn't grab viewers by the neck and force them to look between the clues. Prisoners wants us to know it's, like, all metaphorical and stuff… even at the expense of the facts of the case.

Les Miserables: The Song Remains the Same

by Ethan Alter December 21, 2012 6:02 am
<i>Les Miserables:</i> The Song Remains the Same

For Drama Club nerds of a certain age, Les Misérables -- which premiered in London in 1985 and Broadway the year after that -- was likely a formative theatergoing experience, a mega-musical that married soaring anthems with elaborate stagecraft, giving it a grand sense of scale that blew the roof off the theater. You didn't just watch Les Miz... you became part of its world. In retrospect, it's easy to slam the musical for helping to launch the still-ongoing era of Blockbuster Theater, where budget-swollen shows frequently put more effort into the spectacle than the songs and story (looking at you, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark). But almost three decades on, Les Misérables, adapted from Victor Hugo's sprawling 19th-century tome, remains a case where all of the elements are in harmony with each other. On their own, songs like "Who Am I?", "Stars" and "One Day More" are stirring; when paired with the revolving turntable set, the intricate lighting design and the building of the barricade, they become transcendent.

Rise of the Guardians: Keep the Faith

by Ethan Alter November 21, 2012 5:59 am
<i>Rise of the Guardians</i>: Keep the Faith

Kids movies generally try to be inclusive, but DreamWorks Animation's latest cartoon Rise of the Guardians is built on a faulty premise that excludes a healthy chunk of its audience from the get-go. Here's the set-up: long, long ago, when Earth was shrouded in darkness after the sun set (electricity still being a few centuries off), the bogeyman Pitch (voiced by Jude Law) -- as in Pitch Black -- held sway, striking fear into the hearts of little girls and boys. So the Man in the Moon decided to provide these tykes with some inner light in the form of the Guardians -- figures of myth and legend who represent all that is good in the world. As long as children put their faith and belief in the Guardians, they'll never be troubled by the bogeyman. But if that faith is ever shaken, the Guardians -- like another famous sprite whose life hinges on the belief of children -- are at risk of winking out of existence, once again allowing Pitch to infect young minds with his brand of terror.

<i>Real Steel</i>: Four Solid Reasons to See This Movie, With or Without a Small Child

I'm sure you've heard of Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots: The Movie by now, but just in case you haven't, Real Steel is a family-friendly(ish) action flick set in a near-future where BattleBots is no longer confined to early '00s Comedy Central lineups but instead is all the rage in modern society -- think boxing with more theatrics. The film follows has-been Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) and his estranged son Max (Dakota Goyo) as they compete in the wild world of competitive robot fighting with their long-shot junkyard-found machine boxer, all while coincidentally building their father-son relationship. Now, whether you think that premise sounds amazing, campy or absurdly terrible when translated to film, you are correct. I went into the movie hoping to have some fun and see a few dirty robots get the motors kicked out of them, and I'm happy to say Real Steel delivered the goods. Here's what else I got just for sitting through it:

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