Broken City: Forget It Mark, This Ain’t Chinatown

by Ethan Alter January 18, 2013 6:01 am
<i>Broken City</i>: Forget It Mark, This Ain’t <i>Chinatown</i>

If your goal is to make a contemporary version of Roman Polanski's Chinatown, complete with an anti-heroic private eye and a shady land-grab deal overseen by corrupt politicians and businessmen, you'd best bring your A-game. It's too bad then, that the creative forces behind Broken City -- including director Allen Hughes, screenwriter Brian Tucker and star Mark Wahlberg -- only came to play with their B-game. But hey, even second-string teams can eke out a victory now and then and Broken City turns out to be a solid, if unexceptional, urban crime yarn that updates the Chinatown template from 1930s Los Angeles for 2010s New York, although the movie's version of the Big Apple feels a heck of a lot closer to the '90s than today.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: On the Road Again

by Ethan Alter December 14, 2012 12:01 am
<i>The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey</i>: On the Road Again

It's been almost a decade since the One Ring was cast into the fires of Mount Doom, rescuing Middle-earth from the scourge of Sauron. In the wake of that triumph, Aragon reclaimed his throne, Frodo sailed off to the Grey Havens and Sam returned home to his wife and daughter with an earnest, "Well, I'm back." As for Peter Jackson -- the unlikely filmmaker who brought J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy epic The Lord of the Rings to life onscreen in a trio of much-loved blockbusters -- he's gone from being a New Zealand-based cult favorite to a reigning master of Hollywood spectacle, alongside directors like James Cameron and Steven Spielberg.

New York Film Critics Online 2012 Awards Results

by Ethan Alter December 10, 2012 7:00 am
New York Film Critics Online 2012 Awards Results

It's not even in theaters yet, but Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow's follow-up to The Hurt Locker, is raking in the same kind of awards love bestowed on her earlier film. Several critics' groups have named the film 2012's Best Picture, including the New York Critics Online, of which Television Without Pity's Moviefile is a voting member. Other winners at the 2012 NYFCO awards meeting, which was held on Sunday, December 9, included Bigelow and ZDT's Mark Boal for Director and Screenplay respectively, as well as Michael Haneke's Amour for Foreign Language Film. In the acting categories, Amour's female star, Emmanuelle Riva, won Actress, while Daniel Day-Lewis triumphed in the Actor category for Lincoln -- the same award he's likely to win come Oscar night. A full list of NYFCO's 2012 awards are below.

Killing Them Softly: With His Song… Uh, Gun

by Ethan Alter November 30, 2012 6:00 am
<i>Killing Them Softly</i>: With His Song… Uh, Gun

Five years ago, New Zealand-born director Andrew Dominik sought to explode the myth of the noble outlaw in his admirable, but dramatically uneven Western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Now he's back to expose the seedy truth behind another figure of American legend: the noble gangster. Based on the novel Cogan's Trade by George V. Higgins, Dominik's new film Killing Them Softly relocates the 1974 Boston-set crime story to New Orleans circa September 2008, right after the historic financial meltdown that left the United States reeling. The effects of that crisis are heard -- via a steady stream of news reports that blare from TV screens and talk radio stations -- and felt throughout the movie, which presents depicts organized crime as a soulless racket, populated by profit-minded lowlifes who are only separated from the similarly unscrupulous Wall Street fat cats by their dressed-down wardrobe. Forget the old canard about "honor amongst thieves" -- for many of the men who populate Killing Them Softly, honor is a thing that can easily be sold for the right price.

Hitchcock: A Real Psycho Drama

by Ethan Alter November 23, 2012 6:00 am
<i>Hitchcock</i>: A Real <i>Psycho</I> Drama

So far Alfred Hitchcock biopics are batting 0-for-2 this year, with Fox Searchlight's anemic Hitchcock opening in limited theatrical release on the heels of HBO's crummy The Girl. Thanks largely to its skilled ensemble cast -- including Anthony Hopkins as Hitch, Helen Mirren as his wife Alma and Toni Collette as his long-suffering assistant, among others -- this film isn't quite as unpleasant and misguided as its small-screen predecessor, which strained to turn the Master of Suspense into one of the obsessive creeps that populated his movies. Hitchcock, which was directed by Sacha Gervasi (the guy who made that Anvil documentary a few years back), also deserves credit for paying more attention to its subject's formidable skills as a filmmaker, whereas The Girl seemed inordinately interested in his clumsy stalking of his leading ladies. Indeed, the narrative thrust of the movie concerns Hitchcock's own fears and doubts about his career as he seeks to reinvent himself in an industry that prefers the status quo. In a way, Hitchcock aspires to be another -- a self-aware portrait of an artist at a crossroads, unsure of which road to take next.

Wreck-It Ralph: Ready Player One

by Ethan Alter November 2, 2012 10:01 am
<i>Wreck-It Ralph</i>: Ready Player One

Disney's new videogame themed animated feature Wreck-It Ralph may ostensibly be for kids, but the viewers who will probably enjoy it most are those who were children 30 years ago. At least, that was my experience when I saw the movie with my 5-year-old son; although he mostly enjoyed the misadventures of the title character (voiced to perfection by John C. Reilly), the designated bad guy in an 8-bit Donkey Kong-like arcade game called Fix-It Felix, Jr., it was my inner child -- the one who grew up playing those vintage '80s games -- that was really doing cartwheels. Throughout this delightful cartoon romp, director Rich Moore (making his feature debut after years of working on some of the past animated TV shows around, including The Simpsons and Futurama) pays homage to that formative era of gaming with such affection and wit, it'll make you want to get rid of your Wii and order an old-school, first-generation NES (or, if you're really splurging, a refurbished coin-operated arcade game) off eBay.

Four Things to Know About Paranormal Activity 4

by Ethan Alter October 19, 2012 6:00 am
Four Things to Know About <i>Paranormal Activity 4</i>

Another October, another Paranormal Activity sequel. Having already ended the reign of the previous premiere Halloween horror franchise (those infernal Saw movies), Paranormal Activity is now the scary movie season's big kahuna -- the film that other studios go out of their way to avoid competing against. Which is why Paranormal Activity 4 is flooding the multiplex unopposed two weeks before the trick-or-treating and/or costume party debauchery begins. Since, as always, the details of the movie have been kept shrouded in secrecy, here are four things you should know about this fourth chapter before you head off to the theater. See you back here -- same spooky time, same spooky channel -- in October 2013 for Paranormal Activity 5.

Pitch Perfect Hits All The Right Notes

by Angel Cohn September 28, 2012 6:10 am
<I>Pitch Perfect</I> Hits All The Right Notes

I have to admit, I was very excited to see Pitch Perfect. I love musicals, all thing musical theater and the movie Camp (which also had Anna Kendrick) and am still upset that The Sing-Off has been cancelled because there is just something about well-executed a capella music that impresses me. And I don't mean the silly show choir overproduced stuff they put together on Glee. However, the commercials heavily feature Rebel Wilson, and since a little of Rebel goes a long way, I was worried that she was going to overpower the film. I was also a bit concerned that while ostensibly a comedy, the movie might take the subject matter too seriously, like how every time the word Regionals is uttered on Glee as if it loftiest goal in the entire world, which makes me die a little on the inside. So I was excited but with trepidations as I headed into the theater... and after five minutes, I was laughing out loud (along with the rest of the audience) and having a really good time at one of the most fun movies of the year.

The Trouble With the Curve: No Curveballs In Sight

by Angel Cohn September 21, 2012 6:01 am
<I>The Trouble With the Curve</I>: No Curveballs In Sight

If you are looking for a movie to take your dad to see (or a dad looking for something to see this weekend), this is it. It has sports and Clint Eastwood, is completely inoffensive and well-acted and is a pleasant enough way to spend a few hours. But while that may make for a fine bonding experience, it doesn't really make for a memorable movie.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt Describes the Rush of Making <i>Premium Rush</i>

Before he co-starred in The Dark Knight Rises as Batman's cop sidekick, Joseph Gordon-Levitt played a hero who zips though a major metropolis on his own version of the Batpod: a single-geared, brakeless bike. The hero in question is Wilee, the speed-addicted bike messenger at the center of Premium Rush, which was shot on the streets and roads of New York two years ago and is opening in theaters tomorrow. Co-written and directed by David Koepp (whose past credits include the screenplays for Jurassic Park and the first Spider-Man and director of Stir of Echoes), the movie finds Wilee trying to complete an express delivery of a valuable package while staying one bike line ahead of a corrupt cop (Michael Shannon) who is on his tail. Don't let the lack of bat ears or Batarangs fool you; Wilee's superb bike skills practically make him a superhero in his own right. We spoke with Koepp and Gordon-Levitt about what it was like to shoot such a fast-paced thriller, what lessons the actor learned from 3rd Rock From the Sun and why Die Hard With a Vengeance is one of the best New York movies ever made.

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