Mamma Mia!: Psychic Candy With A Disco Soundtrack

by Lauren Gitlin July 17, 2008 1:35 pm
<i>Mamma Mia!</i>: Psychic Candy With A Disco Soundtrack

I need to start by saying that I am not an inordinately rabid fan of ABBA, nor am I a musical theater acolyte -- in fact I hate musicals for their campy, over-the-top cheesiness. Needless to say, I did not see Mamma Mia! on Broadway. I went to see an early screening of the film adaptation of said Broadway musical with a fair amount of trepidation. And I was pleasantly surprised by my lack of homicidal feeling once the closing credits rolled.

Indie Snapshot: Adult World

by Ethan Alter February 14, 2014 5:55 am
Indie Snapshot: <i>Adult World</i>

Remember the John Cusack who made you think kickboxing and putting "In Your Eyes" on boombox blast was the height of cool? The John Cusack who warmed your heart by helping out young runaway Natty Gann? Or, hell, even the John Cusack who took you on a weird, wild trip through John Malkovich's brain? Well, that John Cusack is mostly gone, but for the first time in a very long time, remnants of him can be seen in Adult World, the sophomore feature from actor Scott Coffey, whose career dates back to the '80s when Cusack was a king of Young Hollywood. Though they never appeared in a film together in that era, Coffey clearly remembers the dashing figure that Cusack once cut and he draws on some of that nostalgia for the role the actor is playing here: a once-hot, now-not poet named Rat Billings, who has spent the past decade or so neglecting his talent by teaching classes and editing anthologies he doesn't really care about and in general holding the world at arm's length via a curt, caustic attitude. In fact, if he hadn't already called the movie Adult World, The John Cusack Story would be an appropriate title.

Saving Mr. Banks: Two For One

by Ethan Alter December 13, 2013 1:27 pm
<i>Saving Mr. Banks</i>: Two For One

Caveat emptor, Mary Poppins devotees. Although the trailers for Saving Mr. Banks make this PG-rated period biopic look like a fun, family-friendly behind-the-scenes tour of the making of the classic Disney musical, that material only accounts for about half of the finished product. There's another film wrapped into the narrative, one that's darker, more depressing and, to be perfectly honest, not especially good -- especially for very young kids who just want to know when those dancing cartoon penguins are going to show up.

The Bling Ring: These Kids Today

by Ethan Alter June 14, 2013 6:00 am
<i>The Bling Ring</i>: These Kids Today

Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring is the second movie this year to cast a jaundiced eye in the direction of contemporary teenage culture. In March, Harmony Korine transformed Spring Break into a tenth circle of Hell in Spring Breakers and now Coppola presents the streets and nightclubs of Los Angeles as being overrun with roving packs of consumption-addicted high-schoolers, with too much money and not enough sense of responsibility. In a way, The Bling Ring is the closest thing the director has ever made to a horror movie, as these characters are as predatory and blind to the suffering of others as any cinematic serial killer.

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, February 5, 2013

by Ethan Alter February 5, 2013 12:49 pm
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Don't fly these friendly skies.

Gangster Squad: A Crime Against Cinema

by Ethan Alter January 11, 2013 6:01 am
<i>Gangster Squad</i>: A Crime Against Cinema

The easiest way to ease into a discussion of Gangster Squad, the fedora-era set, City of Angels-based cops vs. crooks action movie from Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer, is to describe what the movie is not. For starters, it's not a serious take on old-school film noir in the tradition of Chinatown and L.A. Confidential. Neither is it a twisty detective story like The Big Sleep or square-jawed, no-nonsense crime picture like The Public Enemy. It's also not a richly stylized comic book take on the period like Dick Tracy. And it's definitely not a successful piece of pop art mythmaking like the film it most clearly aspires to be, Brian De Palma's The Untouchables. Above all, in case you couldn't tell already, it's also not a good movie.

I Want My VOD: November 2012

by Ethan Alter November 8, 2012 11:30 am
I Want My VOD: November 2012

The multiplex isn't the only place that's crowded with movies this fall movie season. Deadfall, starring Olivia Wilde and Charlie Hunnam, is one of many titles available right now on most video-on-demand service.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Be My Teenage Dream

by Ethan Alter September 21, 2012 6:00 am
<i>The Perks of Being a Wallflower</i>: Be My Teenage Dream

Much like adolescence itself, the new coming-of-age drama The Perks of Being a Wallflower contains moments of beauty and insight drifting in a sea of melodrama. Adapted by author Stephen Chbosky from his 1999 YA novel of the same name (a book I must confess I haven't read), this is the kind of movie that my 14-year-old self probably would have fallen head over heels for, as it effectively transplants the '80s John Hughes model of teenagers with more heart than good sense talking endlessly about their problems to my old stomping ground in the early '90s. Twenty years removed from that time period (not to mention that version of myself), it's still easy to be pulled into the movie by the tug of nostalgia, but I can also see through the story's cracks more clearly, in the same way that whenever I re-watch The Breakfast Club nowadays, I actually find myself sympathizing with Assistant Principal Vernon for having to waste a whole Saturday babysitting a bunch of naval-gazing, back-talking teenagers.

The Amazing Spider-Man: If Only It Were Amazing

by Ethan Alter July 3, 2012 12:01 am
<i>The Amazing Spider-Man</i>: If Only It Were Amazing

According to the trailers for The Amazing Spider-Man -- Sony's attempt to reboot their lucrative Spider-Man franchise in the wake of their high-profile split with the series' original director Sam Raimi -- this new take on the iconic Marvel Comics hero is supposed to explore heretofore untold secrets about who the teenage wall-crawler is and how he came to be. As it turns out, the movie's biggest secret is that it's the exact same origin story you already know from Raimi's 2002 original (not to mention the five decades worth of comics), just played in a slightly different key. But if they told you that in the ads, there's probably little chance that anyone would fork over good money to see what's essentially a remake of a ten-year old movie. And they'd be right.

Spinning Stories With the Cast and Crew of <i>The Amazing Spider-Man</i>

Comic book fans may still be skeptical about the need for a reboot of the Spider-Man movie franchise only ten years after its launch, but the cast and crew of The Amazing Spider-Man made a case for their movie's existence when they swung through New York on a recent promotional tour. Here are some excerpts from their meet-the-press conferences:

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