Indie Snapshot: Paradise

by Ethan Alter October 18, 2013 2:06 pm
Indie Snapshot: <i>Paradise</i>

When it comes to Diablo Cody, author of such offbeat endeavors as Juno, Young Adult, Jennifer's Body and The United States of Tara, it's generally best to expect the unexpected. But what to do when this clever (sometimes too clever) scribe delivers precisely what's expected? That's the case with Cody's directorial debut, Paradise, a Vegas-set dramedy that begins as a spikey comedy only to evolve into precisely the kind of banal, self-improvement seminar that one of her edgy heroines would snark endlessly through. It's as if Cody experienced one of Tara Gregson's personality switches midway through production on the film, suddenly morphing from Diablo Cody into Gary Marshall.

Rock of Ages: Nothin’ But a Mild Time

by Ethan Alter June 15, 2012 6:01 am
<i>Rock of Ages</i>: Nothin’ But a Mild Time

A musical scored to the head-banging, power-chord wailing hair rock tunes of the '70s and '80s may sound like the final nail in the coffin of Western civilization, but from most eyewitness accounts, the Broadway musical Rock of Ages is a silly, enjoyable lark -- a show that has a lot of love for its specific brand of rock 'n' roll but doesn't take it particularly seriously. It's easy to see how this material would play well onstage, where the audience can feed off the energy of the performers and unapologetically rock out to these cheesy classics like they're in an actual nightclub as opposed to a theater. But I'm sorry to report that the new movie version of Rock of Ages has all the energy and electricity of a lite-FM radio station's noontime "Smooth Jazz" hour. With the exception of a few musical numbers, the film curiously finds little joy in songs that are nothing if not pleasures to listen to. Guilty pleasures to be sure, but pleasures all the same.

Footloose and The Thing: A Tale of Two Remakes

by Ethan Alter October 14, 2011 10:40 am
<i>Footloose</i> and <i>The Thing</i>: A Tale of Two Remakes

If nothing else, this weekend's dueling '80s remakes offer some instructive lessons in how to -- and how not to -- update a pair of widely liked films that still loom large in the pop culture imagination... at least for those folks old enough to remember the difference between a Goonie and a Gremlin. Craig Brewer's Footloose is a strikingly faithful adaptation of Herbert Ross's 1984 "rebel with a cause (and a groovy beat)" teen musical that rocketed Kevin Bacon to stardom. Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.'s The Thing is technically a prequel to, but really a loose remake of, John Carpenter's 1982 monster movie, which bombed in theaters at the time but has since become a genre touchstone. As is often the case with remakes, neither movie is likely to supplant the original in moviegoers' hearts. But only one truly deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as its predecessor. The other is destined to remain in obscurity, living out the rest of his post-theatrical days in the discount DVD bin at big box stores and the 2 AM timeslot on a random cable movie network.

Footloose: Five Ways to Modernize the Remake

by Ethan Alter June 22, 2011 4:06 pm
<i>Footloose:</i> Five Ways to Modernize the Remake

The day that every child of the '80s has dreaded is here: the just-released trailer for Craig Brewer's Footloose confirms that this remake of the beloved 1984 classic is a real thing that will actually be in theaters in October to teach a whole new generation about the dangers of censorship and the exhilaration of dancing around abandoned warehouses in a wife beater. Based on this early glimpse, Footloose 2.0 looks an awful lot like its predecessor, right down to the VW Bug our hero Ren (professional dancer Kenny Wormald slipping into the tight, tight jeans previously worn by Kevin Bacon) drives around the small Southern burg of Bomont, which has banned dancing and "dangerous" music after five kids died in a car accident following a wild party. Sure there's a lot of truth to the old saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," but there are a few ways Brewer could update the '84 version to reflect this modern age. For example...

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