To the Wonder: Malick Being Malick

by Ethan Alter April 12, 2013 8:00 am
<i>To the Wonder</i>: Malick Being Malick

If you're not already a card-carrying member in the cult of Terrence Malick, I'm not sure that I'd use To the Wonder as a recruitment tool, as this slender wisp of a romantic drama represents both the director's simplest, yet strangely most complex work to date. Gone are the beautifully rendered period backdrops that defined Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line and The New World, as well as the grand cosmic questions that fueled his last, most divisive film, The Tree of Life. Instead, much like his debut feature, Badlands (recently re-issued in a must-own Criterion Blu-ray edition), Wonder is the small-scale story of two people in love, whose affair is destined to end badly. But where Badlands recounts a relatively straightforward narrative (for Malick, anyway), Wonder pushes his late-career trend towards abstraction and ellipticism well past what may be the breaking point for most viewers, even amongst his most devoted fans. It's not necessarily a difficult film to watch, but it does prove somewhat difficult to love.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone: The Magic is Gone

by Ethan Alter March 15, 2013 6:00 am
<i>The Incredible Burt Wonderstone</i>: The Magic is Gone

All right, let's try to keep this brief, because it's not worth putting a lot of thought into a film when the people that made it clearly didn't either. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is a terrible movie -- a grueling endurance test disguised as a mainstream comedy. Written at maybe an eighth-grade level and directed like the hackiest sitcom around (think Two and a Half Men hacky), this DOA attempt to send up the Las Vegas magic scene wastes the considerable skills of its cast (which includes Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Jim Carrey and Alan Arkin) and the goodwill of moviegoers by continually lowering the bar on itself and still not being able to clear it. It's like of one of those deadly Saturday Night Live sketches where everyone involved clearly knows it isn't working, but they're forced to go through the motions anyway simply to avoid dead air.

Won’t Back Down: If You Can’t Do, Don’t Teach

by Ethan Alter September 28, 2012 5:59 am
<i>Won’t Back Down</i>: If You Can’t Do, Don’t Teach

Won't Back Down belongs to a new genre of horror movie, aimed directly at parents of small kids, known as "Education Nightmares." Past examples of this peculiar breed include the documentaries The Lottery and Waiting for Superman, which, like this loosely dramatized version of real events, seek to terrify adults about the troubled state of American public education. And it's true that there are a myriad of problems confronting public schools in America, but those issues deserve better treatment than these fear-mongering features are willing to give them. With its melodramatic flourishes, simplistic black-and-white moralizing and general aura of studied manipulation, Won't Back Down is part of the problem rather than the solution.

The Grandmaster: It’s Good, Not Grand

by Ethan Alter August 23, 2013 5:52 am
<i>The Grandmaster</i>: It’s Good, Not Grand

Putting the "art" back into martial arts cinema, Wong Kar Wai's eagerly awaited The Grandmaster is yet another sumptuously photographed tale of romantic longing from one of the current grandmasters of love-found-and-lost stories. This time, though, the yearning is punctuated by high kicks and lightning-fast punches since the would-be lovers in question are a pair of martial arts wizards. In one corner, you've got Ip Man (the director's regular leading man, Tony Leung) a real-life fighting legend and grandmaster of the Wing Chun discipline, who lived through the Japanese occupation of China during World War II and later moved to Hong Kong, where he trained a young boy who would grow up to become Bruce Lee. Facing off opposite him is the fictitious Gong Er (Ziyi Zhang), the daughter of another martial arts master whose designated heir has sullied the family name, requiring his actual child to appoint herself to clean-up duty.

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, June 25, 2013

by Ethan Alter June 25, 2013 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Presenting the not-so-incredible Burt Wonderstone.

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, January 15, 2013

by Ethan Alter January 15, 2013 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Liam Neeson is taking it to the limit one more time.

<i>Cloud Atlas</i>: Five Other Unadaptable Books We’d Like to See As Movies

We've already listed some of the other unlikely book-to-film translations that Cloud Atlas put us in mind of. But seeing what writer/directors Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski achieved with this challenging adaptation of David Mitchell's unique novel made us eager for some brave visionary to bring the following five seemingly unadaptable books brought to the screen.


Beyond <i>The Dark Knight Rises</i>: Five Other DC Comics Superhero/Director Match-Ups We Want

When Christopher Nolan was first tapped to reboot the Batman franchise in 2005, few people could have accurately predicted how well that pairing of filmmaker and material would work out. After all, at that point, Nolan had only one big studio credit to his name (2002's Insomnia) and no experience at all in the comic book realm. But the one-two punch of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight proved that he was more than up to the task. Fusing his own specific interests with familiar Batman iconography, Nolan crafted a distinct take on the character that pleased both comic book fans and general audiences... to the tune of over $700 million at the domestic box office combined.

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum Let the Laughs (and Bullets) Fly in <i>21 Jump Street</i>

It's understandable that the thought of a 21 Jump Street movie sounds like the height of Hollywood creative bankruptcy. But stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum made it their mission to produce a Jump Street film that's not just a wan carbon copy of the original '80s cop series that's best known for launching the careers of Johnny Depp and... um, Richard Grieco. Audiences will find out for themselves on Friday whether they succeeded in that endeavor. Prior to the film's release, Hill and Tatum turned up at a New York press conference (clad in their cop uniforms from the movie no less) and talked about the origins of the project, their on-screen chemistry and what other '80s series they'd like to remake.

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, October 18, 2011

by Ethan Alter October 18, 2011 11:56 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cameron Diaz gets bad, Batman begins (again) and Kevin Smith is too fat for 40 in this week's batch of DVD releases.

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