Book Watch: <i>Film Firsts: The 25 Movies That Created Contemporary American Cinema</i>

What was the first film to kick off the current CGI-boom? How about the first film to turn the Sundance Film Festival into independent cinema's premiere event? Or maybe the first film to take full advantage of the Internet as a marketing tool? All of those film firsts -- plus many more -- are covered in the new Praeger-published book Film Firsts: The 25 Movies That Created Contemporary American Cinema, written by TWoP's lead film critic, Ethan Alter.

American Hustle: Do the Hustle

by Ethan Alter December 13, 2013 9:31 am
<i>American Hustle</i>: Do the Hustle

Ever since his sophomore feature Flirting with Disaster, I've been rooting for David O. Russell to score a big, fat commercial hit. (I also enjoyed his debut, Spanking the Monkey, but a dark comedy about incest is never going to be Top 10 box office material.) But when the writer/director finally achieved that goal with last year's Silver Linings Playbook, I found myself in the odd position of feeling happy for him while also being disappointed that it wasn't for a better movie. (Granted, The Fighter earned a fistful of dollars as well, but it didn't join the same financial weight class as its successor.)

Indie Snapshot: Blancanieves

by Ethan Alter March 29, 2013 5:59 am
Indie Snapshot: Blancanieves

If last year's effects-laden blockbuster Snow White and the Huntsman (or, for that matter, ABC's ongoing Once Upon a Time) isn't your ideal re-telling of the classic fairy tale about a beautiful princess, an evil queen and a poisoned apple, you might fall under the spell of Blancanieves, a black-and-white silent version of the oft-told legend, written and directed by Spanish filmmaker Pablo Berger. Transported from medieval times to Seville circa 1920, the film also recasts Snow White's royal characters as bullfighting royalty, an alteration that, in execution, isn't as strange as it might initially sound.

American Reunion: School’s Out Forever

by Ethan Alter April 6, 2012 6:01 am
<I>American Reunion</i>: School’s Out Forever

It might have been easier to feel more enthusiastic about American Reunion if this was the first time we had seen Jim, Stifler and the rest of the American Pie crew since the first movie became a breakout hit back in 1999. Thirteen years on, the original holds up quite nicely; dated soundtrack aside (the fact that both "One Week" and "Flagpole Sitta" are blasted without any hint of irony clearly makes it a late '90s period piece), the jokes still land, the characters remain endearing and there's a genuine sweetness beneath the raunch that gives the film heart as well as humor. A sequel to that movie would be most welcome, in the same way that Richard Linklater took his time following up Before Sunrise with Before Sunset. Unfortunately, in between American Pie and American Reunion, the brand name was tarnished by two mostly terrible sequels (2003's American Wedding was particularly dire) and a line of flat-out awful direct-to-DVD spin-offs (which, to be fair, didn't feature any of the original cast, with the exception of Eugene Levy). As a result Reunion arrives in theaters appearing less like a triumphant homecoming than the last gasp of a flatlining franchise.

Trailers Without Pity: American Reunion

by Ethan Alter March 13, 2012 11:39 am
Trailers Without Pity: <i>American Reunion</i>

On April 6, it'll be time to party like it's 1999. That's because the entire ensemble of the original American Pie -- yes, even Tara Reid -- are getting back together for American Reunion. Because the only thing funnier than sex-obsessed high school students are sex-obsessed almost-thirtysomethings. Wait, did we say funnier? We meant sadder.

American Teen: Perfectly Real

by DeAnn Welker July 24, 2008 9:43 am
<i>American Teen</i>: Perfectly Real

I know it's a bold prediction, but I believe American Teen is the movie that's singlehandedly going to make documentaries cool again. Oh, right, they never were cool in the first place. Maybe in a certain geeky/political Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock crowd, they were considered cool, but not in general. Well, if people give it a chance, American Teen really could change that.

Indiana Jones at Cannes

by DeAnn Welker May 19, 2008 2:25 pm
<i>Indiana Jones</i> at Cannes

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull kicked off the Cannes Film Festival with fan appreciation but tepid critical response.

Lucky for Harrison Ford, he doesn't read reviews anyway. But it will be hard for him to avoid all of the buzz about this one. After all, this time there aren't just negative reviews; there are news stories about the critical response and roundups of the bad reviews.

Competing at Cannes

by Tippi Blevins April 18, 2008 4:44 pm
Competing at Cannes In under a week, the Cannes Film Festival will announce its 2008 line-up. Stalled by an impending writers strike, American filmmakers last year were too worried about what this would mean for the future to come up with much in the way of "avant-garde" movies in time for Cannes. Where last year saw several promising entries, including No Country For Old Men, this year it seems as though only Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York is headed for the competitive category, reports guardian.co.uk. According to the report, big-budget films like the new Indiana Jones and Kung Fu Panda are slated for "glitzy" showings, but will naturally not be vying for the chance to accidentally poke themselves on the prestigious (if spiky) Palme d'Or.

Indie Snapshot: Jodorowksy’s Dune

by Ethan Alter March 21, 2014 6:00 am
Indie Snapshot: <i>Jodorowksy’s Dune</i>

See the greatest movie never made. According to its director, anyway.

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, March 18, 2014

by Ethan Alter March 18, 2014 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Elsa lets it all go on Blu-ray.

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