Indie Snapshot: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

by Ethan Alter January 31, 2014 5:55 am
Indie Snapshot: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

There's some good (12 O'Clock Boys), some bad (Love is in the Air) and a lotta ugly (Somewhere Slow and The Wait) invading art houses this weekend.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit – The Sum of All Ryans

by Ethan Alter January 17, 2014 6:00 am
<i>Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit</i> – The Sum of All Ryans

When we last saw Jack Ryan -- CIA analyst and reluctant action hero -- on the big screen, he was racing against the clock to prevent an all-out nuclear war between American and Russia, the favorite antagonist of his creator, Tom Clancy. He also looked a lot like Ben Affleck, who had inherited the role from Harrison Ford, who in turn had inherited it from Alec Baldwin in a string of regenerations of Doctor Who-vian proportions. The casting switch was intended to give a fresh start to the then-three movie franchise, but following a respectable (though far from stellar) box-office performance, Affleck's Ryan was prematurely retired instead. (Just as well; there are a number of reasons why The Sum of All Fears didn't work and Affleck's callow performance tops the list. Funnily enough, though, he'd probably make a great fortysomething Ryan if he were to attack the part today.) A decade later, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit offers up another Ryan regeneration from which the character emerges with the face and form of Chris Pine. More notably, though, this is the first Ryan adventure that isn't directly based on a Clancy novel and perhaps that explains why it works as well as it does… at least until it doesn't.

Razzie Awards 2014: Picks, Predictions and Oversights

by Aly Semigran January 15, 2014 2:31 pm
Razzie Awards 2014: Picks, Predictions and Oversights

Tomorrow morning, the nominations for the most prestigious and beloved movies and performances of 2013 (and August: Osage County) will be announced for the 86th Academy Awards. This morning, however, the nominations for the polar opposite Golden Raspberry Awards dropped and since there's little chance of much overlap (though The Lone Ranger could sneak in an Oscar nomination for makeup, but that's about it) it's only fair that we give the year's most horrendous work its due. While this year's list of Razzie nods got a lot right (Grown Ups 2 leads the pack with a worthy eight nominations and Lindsay Lohan wound up in three categories for three different movies) some clunkers managed to slip through the cracks (how the hell did The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, Oz the Great and Powerful, R.I.P.D., Man of Steel and Gangster Squad go unscathed?). The "winners" of the Razzies are announced on Saturday, March 1 (that's right, one night before the Oscars) but we're picking the movies and performances that will win, that should win, and which ones were snubbed.

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, January 14, 2014

by Ethan Alter January 14, 2014 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Vin Diesel's Riddick rides to the rescue again.

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, January 7, 2014

by Ethan Alter January 7, 2014 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Ben Affleck is a rebel rebel in Runner Runner

Five Reasons Why the <i>Paranormal Activity</i> Franchise Should Rest in Peace

Well… it was fun while it lasted. After five years and five movies, the Paranormal Activity franchise is, at last, dead on arrival. The final nail in the coffin? The anemic debut of the so-called "spin-off" installment, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, which attempted to capitalize on the first-week-of-January release date that's been so horror-friendly in past years (just look at the first-weekend grosses for Texas Chainsaw 3D and The Devil Inside) but wound up getting trounced by Frozen's dynamic duo of Elsa and Anna, who re-claimed the top spot following their film's seventh week in theaters.

Lone Survivor: Duck and Cover

by Ethan Alter December 25, 2013 6:00 am
<i>Lone Survivor</i>: Duck and Cover

As penance for inflicting Battleship upon the moviegoing public -- and the brave men and women in our nation's military -- Peter Berg tries to atone for his sins by helming Lone Survivor, a based-on-a-true-story combat picture that's as spare and stripped-down as Battleship was outlandish and over-the-top. Specifically, Berg is dramatizing the 2005 SEAL-led mission Operation Red Wings, in which a four-man squad was dropped into a remote area of Afghanistan to capture and/or kill a high-ranking leader in the Taliban. Despite their superior training and weaponry, a series of unforeseen circumstances left the team outmanned and outgunned, desperately trying to stay alive in the face of a larger, well-armed army until… well, the title pretty much sums it up, doesn't it?

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Best Kept a Secret

by Ethan Alter December 25, 2013 6:00 am
<i>The Secret Life of Walter Mitty</i>: Best Kept a Secret

The curse of specializing in comedy -- either in front of or behind the camera -- is that at a certain point, you kind of want to be taken seriously. And while that understandable motivation is how we wind up with such richly dramatic career left turns as Woody Allen's Manhattan, Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love and Sarah Silverman in Take This Waltz, it also results in misguided botches like Robert Benigni's Life is Beautiful, Adam Sandler in Reign Over Me and Tina Fey in Admission. Be prepared to add The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the latest directorial effort from Ben Stiller, to that list.

The Top Ten Films of 2013

by Ethan Alter December 20, 2013 4:05 pm
The Top Ten Films of 2013

Never mind the bollocks -- here's the best movie of 2014.

The Hobbit — The Desolation of Smaug: Desolate This!

by Ethan Alter December 13, 2013 6:00 am
<i>The Hobbit — The Desolation of Smaug</i>: Desolate This!

The interesting thing about The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is that while it's ostensibly meant to continue the adventure that began in the previous installment An Unexpected Journey, it's equally concerned with setting up what's to come. And I'm not talking about the third and final installment in Peter Jackson's super-sized adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's slender fantasy tale There and Back Again (coming your way next December). I mean the original three films that started his soon-to-be-six-chapter Middle-earth opus, The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It's not just the extended re-appearance of Orlando Bloom's elfin archer Legolas that brings to minds buzzwords like Fellowship, Towers and returning Kings: Desolation of Smaug is filled with allusions to, in-jokes about and extensive set-up for the War of the Ring that rocks Middle-earth either 60-odd years from now (movie time) or 10 years in the past (real world time). A more accurate title for the movie might be: The Hobbit: The Lord of the Rings Begins… Oh Yeah, and There's Some Dragon Named Smaug Flying About, Too.

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