Why The Ice Harvest Is One of Harold Ramis’s Best Movies

by Ethan Alter February 24, 2014 5:11 pm
Why <i>The Ice Harvest</i> Is One of Harold Ramis’s Best Movies

Many of the testimonials about the life and career of Harold Ramis, who died Monday morning in his native Chicago, will deservedly highlight his involvement -- as either a writer, director or actor (and occasionally all three) -- in such superior, generation-defining comedies as Caddyshack, National Lampoon's Vacation, Back to School, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day and Analyze This. There's one deserving movie that may be left out of the conversation, though and that's The Ice Harvest, a wicked, witty little thriller that Ramis directed in 2005.

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.

Inside Llewyn Davis: The Freewheelin’ Coen Boys

by Ethan Alter December 6, 2013 6:00 am
<i>Inside Llewyn Davis</i>: The Freewheelin’ Coen Boys

The Coen Brothers have gone on some remarkable runs over the course of their going-on three decades directorial careers. There's the early trio of Blood Simple, Raising Arizona and Miller's Crossing followed by the back-to-back '90s favorites Fargo and The Big Lebowski. For me though, the siblings' post-No Country for Old Men career has been their most fruitful and rewarding period, so much so that No Country (which won the Best Picture Oscar, let's not forget) stands as the weakest of their recent output. With their Oscars still clutched in their hands, the Coen's moved right along to Burn After Reading, a farcical gem that's also a political satire of Strangelovian proportions. Next came A Serious Man, a masterful treatise on faith and family, as well as the best film about Judaism I've ever seen. (Needless to say, it's a dark comedy.) True Grit followed that and it's their finest studio movie to date and a superior Western -- one that de-romanticizes that era (and that genre) as successfully as Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven. Which brings us up to Inside Llewyn Davis, a soulful trip through the early '60s Village folk scene that's yet another home run for a pair of filmmakers who have proven incapable of striking a false note for four movies now.

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, April 2, 2013

by Ethan Alter April 2, 2013 8:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Why bother with other new release when you can just revisit the Marvel Cinematic Universe one more time?

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, July 3, 2012

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

Celebrate the Fourth of July by watching this duo slay some of your fellow Americans.

I Want My VOD: April 2012

by Ethan Alter April 20, 2012 6:00 am
I Want My VOD: April 2012

With nothing significant opening in theaters this weekend (we're choosing to ignore The Lucky One), check out your VOD options instead.

Eight Highlights From the 2012 BAFTA Awards

by Ethan Alter February 13, 2012 1:45 pm
Eight Highlights From the 2012 BAFTA Awards

The Artist added another batch of awards to its shelf last night, these ones hailing from across the pond in ol' Blighty. The annual BAFTA (that's the British Academy of Film and Television Arts for all of us Yankees) Awards were handed out last night at London's Royal Festival Hall and all of the big Oscar contenders -- George Clooney! Michelle Williams! Brad Pitt! -- made the trip to press the flesh on the red carpet.

Why You Should Spend Thanksgiving With <I>Hugo</i> Instead of <i>The Muppets</i>

Like every other kid that grew up watching The Muppets in their '70s and '80s prime, I've been eagerly awaiting the release of Kermit and the gang's big-screen reboot, The Muppets. It's no secret that Jim Henson's gaggle of colorful puppets lost their way somewhat in the wake of their creator's death, as classic features like The Muppet Movie giving way to embarrassments like Muppets From Space. Certainly, the creative team behind The Muppets -- which includes screenwriter and star Jason Segel, his co-writer Nicholas Stoller and director James Bobin (making his feature film debut after co-creating HBO's terrific Flight of the Conchords series) -- have been saying all the right things about their intentions with this movie, namely bringing back the same playful spirit and toe-tapping score that defined the first three Muppet features, The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper and, my personal favorite, The Muppets Take Manhattan. As an added bonus, it was exciting to think that my own kid's first big-screen encounter with the Muppets (he's already been introduced to the earlier films on DVD) would be a good movie in its own right and not a disappointing reminder of the characters' past glories.

The Muppets: How Bret McKenzie Went From Conchords to Kermit

by Ethan Alter November 21, 2011 6:00 am
<i>The Muppets</i>: How Bret McKenzie Went From <i>Conchords</i> to Kermit

As one-half of the New Zealand folk duo Flight of the Conchords, Bret McKenzie has toured the world with his onstage partner Jemaine Clement, serenading audiences with such hilarious tunes as "Bowie", "Foux du Fafa" and "Robots." Now he's helping another crop of characters get their musical comedy groove on: those lovable, indefatigable Muppets. McKenzie served as music supervisor on their highly anticipated comeback vehicle, The Muppets, a job that required him to oversee productions of all of the movie's original songs, including two that he wrote himself. McKenzie spoke with TWoP by phone from L.A. about growing up as part of the Muppet generation, plans for a Conchords reunion and how he learned that Muppet chickens don't sing.

Role Models: The New Model

by Lauren Gitlin November 7, 2008 9:49 am
Role Models: The New Model You could say that Judd Apatow and his cadre of actor/writer/producer/director friends have raised the bar for testosterone-fueled juvenilia. To some degree, we've come a long way from the Farrelly brothers and even the Kevin Smiths of the world, inasmuch as you can elevate dick jokes and nerd references to a slightly higher level. Perhaps because of his ubiquity, Apatow's particular breed of humor has been the Status quo for that specific genre for the last several years, and therefore most of us have learned to expect that much, but no more.

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