I Want My VOD: March 2014

by Ethan Alter March 12, 2014 12:19 pm
I Want My VOD: March 2014

Elijah Wood is the Piano Man in a new high-concept thriller.

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, March 11, 2014

by Ethan Alter March 11, 2014 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Come gather 'round people wherever you roam and watch Inside Llewyn Davis, the best film of 2013.

300: Rise of An Empire — This Is… a Repeat!

by Ethan Alter March 7, 2014 6:00 am
<i>300: Rise of An Empire</i> — This Is… a Repeat!

Zack Snyder may be off ruining Superman, but his slow-mo, ultraviolent aesthetic lives on in 300: Rise of An Empire, a semi-sequel to the director's 2007 hit that's such a close replica of its predecessor, it's practically a Gus Van Sant-style remake. Though it technically tells an "original" story with "new" characters, Empire (which Snyder produced and Israeli director Noam Murro directed) shares not just the same stylistic flourishes and war-mongering tone as the original, but also several recurring faces (most notably Rodrigo Santoro's Persian god-king Xerxes and Lena Headey's Queen Gorgo, widow of Gerard Butler's butchered Spartan king, Leonidas) and a "Why We Fight" narrative that mostly runs parallel to the events of the first movie, only branching off in the final 20 minutes. Honestly, the only significant difference between the two films is the dominant color scheme; where 300 was all deep reds and golds, Rise of an Empire is a milky blue, reflecting both the shade of tunics that the Greek warriors wear, as well as the fact that the bulk of this film's CGI-enhanced action occurs at sea.

The Grand Budapest Hotel: Welcome to the Hotel Europa

by Ethan Alter March 7, 2014 6:00 am
<i>The Grand Budapest Hotel</i>: Welcome to the Hotel Europa

Not since the Overlook has there been a cinematic hotel as immaculately constructed as The Grand Budapest Hotel, the titular lodging glimpsed in Wes Anderson's latest confection. That shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone even remotely familiar with the director's work, which consistently features some of the most lavish, yet carefully precise production design seen this side of an Architectural Digest layout. Still, even by Anderson's standards, the Grand Budapest is a honey of a setting: a rustic 1930s-era retreat perched amidst the picturesque hills of Zubrowka, the Eastern European nation that, on a map, would probably be located somewhere between Freedonia and Latveria. A private funicular deposits you on the hotel's stoop and, once you pass through the front doors, you're inside an opulent, high-ceilinged lobby, with the well-trained staff buzzing about, directing you to the dining room, spa, outdoor deck or your own quarters. Though it overlooks the outside world, the Grand Budapest functions as its own little universe where time itself seems to stand still.

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, March 4, 2014

by Ethan Alter March 4, 2014 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Jennifer Lawrence gets her Hunger Games face on.

Non-Stop: The Air Up There

by Ethan Alter February 28, 2014 6:00 am
<i>Non-Stop</i>: The Air Up There

During the course of his unlikely late-career stint as an action hero, Liam Neeson has logged plenty of flight time traveling to exotic locations like France, Turkey, Alaska and Germany to kick ass. So it's understandable that the nearly retirement-age actor is cashing in some of those frequent flier miles by saying yes to Non-Stop, a thriller that keeps him in a confined space (specifically a transatlantic airline) instead of traipsing through the urban and/or natural wilderness. The other benefit of keeping the action confined to a single set is that the filmmakers have more money to recruit a higher-caliber cast, which is how this glorified B-movie is able to recruit such noted thespians as Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Corey Stoll, Michelle Dockery and current Oscar nominee Lupita Nyong'o. It doesn't give these folks anything challenging to do, mind you, but if you're going to be stuck on a six-hour New York-to-London flight, it helps to enjoy the company of the passengers and crew.

Indie Snapshot: Bagged Lunch

by Ethan Alter February 28, 2014 6:00 am
Indie Snapshot: Bagged Lunch

Which movie will satisfy your hunger for good indie fare: The Lunchbox or The Bag Man?

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.

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, February 25, 2014

by Ethan Alter February 25, 2014 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, February 25, 2014

So when are we getting the Loki franchise, Marvel?

Why The Ice Harvest Is One of Harold Ramis’s Best Movies

by Ethan Alter February 24, 2014 5:11 pm
Why <i>The Ice Harvest</i> Is One of Harold Ramis’s Best Movies

Many of the testimonials about the life and career of Harold Ramis, who died Monday morning in his native Chicago, will deservedly highlight his involvement -- as either a writer, director or actor (and occasionally all three) -- in such superior, generation-defining comedies as Caddyshack, National Lampoon's Vacation, Back to School, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day and Analyze This. There's one deserving movie that may be left out of the conversation, though and that's The Ice Harvest, a wicked, witty little thriller that Ramis directed in 2005.

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