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.

Captain Phillips: Rough Waters Ahead

by Ethan Alter October 11, 2013 6:05 am
<i>Captain Phillips</i>: Rough Waters Ahead

Though it barely made a ripple when it was released in theaters earlier this year, the Danish-made A Hijacking remains one of 2013's best movies, a white-knuckle depiction of modern-day piracy that plays out largely at the negotiating table rather than on the seized ship. It's no big surprise that the American-made pirate picture Captain Phillips reverses that order, emphasizing the on-board action rather than the behind-the-scenes negotiation. What is a real surprise, though, is that Phillips turns out to be almost every bit as good as A Hijacking despite playing out in a different key. If you see Captain Phillips in theaters -- and I highly advise that you do -- make sure to track down A Hijacking immediately afterwards (provided your nerves can stand it) since the two movies inadvertently complement each other quite well.

Cloud Atlas: Time Enough For Love

by Ethan Alter October 26, 2012 6:00 am
<i>Cloud Atlas</i>: Time Enough For Love

Too many cinematic adaptations of popular novels make the mistake of trying to replicate the book almost word-for-word onscreen, either due to a failure of imagination on behalf of the filmmakers or out of fear that story's fans will reject even the slightest change. (A fear that's not entirely off-base, by the way; for example, a sizeable chunk of Harry Potter fans still haven't forgiven Alfonso CuarĂ³n for the liberties he took in the film version of The Prisoner of Azkaban.) But you can't accuse the formidable filmmaking trio of Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski of playing it safe with their adaptation of David Mitchell's gem of a novel, Cloud Atlas. While the movie is recognizably the book that Mitchell wrote, the writer/directors have shaped and molded the text in a way that reflects their own specific interests and sensibilities. Both the film's greatest strength -- as well as, ultimately, one of its weaknesses -- is that it's a true act of interpretation, not simply recitation.

Strike update: Nothing's happened!

by DeAnn Welker July 28, 2008 4:41 pm
Strike update: Nothing's happened! It's been easy to forget that a possible Screen Actors Guild strike is looming over Hollywood like a cloud of L.A. smog. We haven't even talked about it in almost a month. But just because no one is paying attention doesn't mean it's gone away. Quite the contrary in fact.

The latest development (really more of a non-development) was on Saturday, when the SAG board backed its negotiators' efforts to gain more control (and money) from web content that features SAG actors.

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, March 27, 2012

by Ethan Alter March 27, 2012 12:50 pm
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dudes, forget the map. Just use HopStop!

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: After the Fall

by Ethan Alter December 23, 2011 6:00 am
<i>Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close</i>: After the Fall

Ever since the twin failures of United 93 and World Trade Center, Hollywood has been leery of tackling the events of September 11, 2001 head on. Most movies follow the example set by Spike Lee's 25th Hour (generally thought to be the finest 9/11-themed feature made yet) and explore the aftermath of 9/11 rather than depicting exactly what occurred on that tragic day. It's a logical approach; after all, experiencing the collapse of the Twin Towers was horrifying enough the first time. Asking audiences to relive it via a simulated recreation -- even one as gripping as the one depicted in Paul Greengrass' United 93 -- is a challenge many moviegoers would understandably rather decline.

Who, us? Strike?

by DeAnn Welker June 30, 2008 3:09 pm
Who, us? Strike? It's June 30th, and we all know what that means: The deadline for a deal between the Screen Actors Guild and studio owners is at midnight, so a strike is imminent, right?

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