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The World’s End: Childhood’s End

by Ethan Alter August 23, 2013 5:55 am
The World’s End: Childhood’s End

Ever since Shaun of the Dead kicked off their so-called Cornetto Trilogy, Edgar Wright and his regular cohorts Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have repeatedly stated that they aren't mere spoof-meisters à la the classic Zucker-Abrams-Zucker crew or the more recent Friedberg & Seltzer team. Sure, both Shaun and its follow-up Hot Fuzz directly riff on specific genres and films the trio in charge grew up watching, but they aren't an Meet the Spartans-style assemblage of pop culture-derived sketches. Or, for that matter, a Top Secret!-like tapestry of nuttiness mostly untethered to things like plot and character development. Rather, they argue, each of the individual entries in the Cornetto series is a movie unto itself, where they use familiar genre tropes and famous movie scenes they've carried with them since childhood to advance a new story and set of themes. That line of reasoning gets its strongest workout in The World's End, the last Cornetto film and by far the most dramatically ambitious of their collaborations to date.

Pacific Rim: Go Big or Go Home

by Ethan Alter July 12, 2013 6:00 am
Pacific Rim: Go Big or Go Home

It's a shame that Roland Emmerich's botched Godzilla remake already bogarted the tagline "Size Does Matter," because that phrase handily sums up the experience of watching Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim. In a summer that's been dominated by spectacles that feel small and self-contained despite the enormous wads of cash thrown at the screen, this is the first movie to come along that thinks big. Actually, "big" doesn't quite cut it. Try "giant," "gargantuan" or just plain "ginormous." And I'm not just talking about the size of the Kaiju (monsters) and Jaegers (human-powered robots) that are locked in near-constant battle amidst the windy, stormy Pacific seas. Unlike most America-centric Hollywood super-productions, Pacific Rim takes place on a grand, global stage, sporting an internationally diverse cast and a watery battlefield located far from the shores of the U.S. of A. Handed the opportunity to make the biggest movie of his career, del Toro meets the challenge head-on and delivers the one blockbuster so far this year that actually deserves -- nay, demands -- to be seen on an IMAX screen, extra ticket price bump be damned.

This is the End: Seeking Six Friends For the End of the World

It's not a spoiler to say that the world really is ending in the all-star comedy This is the End. This isn't an artificial apocalypse or a meta mega-disaster designed to complement the movie's already-heightened level of reality that comes with its cast -- including Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride -- playing themselves (albeit slightly tweaked versions of themselves) rather than fictional characters. The film, which Rogen wrote and directed his longtime creative partner Evan Goldberg, takes the end of days seriously... so seriously that the level of violence (to say nothing of the body count) is higher than you might expect for a warm weather comedy. Fortunately, much of what's unfolding in the shadow of the apocalypse is also seriously funny, so even though the world as we know it is over, it's ending with laughter rather than a whimper.

After Earth: Plan 10 From Outer Space

by Ethan Alter May 31, 2013 6:01 am
After Earth: Plan 10 From Outer Space

In hindsight, one of the most hilariously blown calls in modern movie history is the 2002 Newsweek cover that proclaimed M. Night Shyamalan as "The Next Spielberg." (Small wonder that magazine no longer exists.) To be respectful of the dead for a moment, Newsweek did make that comparison after Shyamalan was coming off the commercial hot streak of The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs. It would take the next batch of movies -- starting with The Village (although I'd argue that Signs is the real... um, signpost of his decline) and continuing through The Last Airbender -- for the director's actual cinematic forbearer to reveal himself. And Shyamalan's latest effort, After Earth, only further confirms what many have long suspected: far from being the next Spielberg, Shyamalan is actually the next Wood. As in Ed Wood, the pioneering Z-movie schlockmeister, who (if you believe the Tim Burton version) had an enthusiasm for filmmaking matched only by his ineptitude.

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