Indie Snapshot: The Crash Reel

by Aly Semigran December 13, 2013 5:50 am
Indie Snapshot: <i>The Crash Reel</i>

To simply label The Crash Reel as a sports documentary doesn't do it proper justice. Director Lucy Walker's chronicle of the events that led to snowboarder Kevin Pearce's devastating head injury prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics, and the dramatic turn his life took afterwards is so much more than that.

New York Film Critics Online 2013 Awards Results

by Ethan Alter December 9, 2013 11:11 am
New York Film Critics Online 2013 Awards Results

The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO), of which TWoP's Moviefile is a voting member, met yesterday for its fourteenth annual awards ceremony. Here are the results from the meeting.

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, December 3, 2013

by Ethan Alter December 3, 2013 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, December 3, 2013

"Hey, bub -- whaddya mean I was a little pitchy in Les Miz?"

Black Nativity: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Harlem

by Ethan Alter November 27, 2013 6:00 am
<i>Black Nativity</i>: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Harlem

In its original incarnation, Langston Hughes's enduring Christmas musical Black Nativity -- which premiered Off-Broadway in the early '60s and has been revived annually ever since -- was a straightforward re-telling of the Nativity story (you know -- manger, three wise men, virgin birth, the whole deal) featuring the not-at-all straightforward (at the time, anyway) sight of an all-black cast recounting the birth of Jesus through song and dance. That performance serves as the centerpiece of the new film version of Black Nativity, with the impressive ensemble -- including Oscar winners Forrest Whitaker and Jennifer Hudson, Oscar nominee Angela Bassett, Grammy winner Mary J. Blige and… um, Tyrese Gibson -- participating in a recreation of the Nativity story that begins on a church dais before spilling out onto the streets of Harlem. Scored to soaring gospel numbers (sung in power-ballad fashion by Hudson et al.) and unfolding against an intriguingly hallucinatory urban backdrop, this sequence is the highlight of the movie and points to why the Hughes's stage piece has endured all these years. Unfortunately, the new stuff surrounding it is far less timeless, making the movie resemble a musty period piece from the '60s.

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, November 12, 2013

by Ethan Alter November 12, 2013 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, November 12, 2013

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Batfleck! Oh wait... that's the next movie.

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, November 5, 2013

by Ethan Alter November 5, 2013 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Channing Tatum's attempt to be the next John McClane goes down.

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, October 29, 2013

by Ethan Alter October 29, 2013 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Rest in peace, Ryan Reynolds' movie career.

I Want My DVD: Tuesday, October 22, 2013

by Ethan Alter October 22, 2013 6:00 am
I Want My DVD: Tuesday, October 22, 2013

James Wan's The Conjuring will provide the fear factor for your pre-Halloween viewing pleasure.

12 Years A Slave: Of Human Bondage

by Ethan Alter October 18, 2013 12:41 pm
<i>12 Years A Slave</i>: Of Human Bondage

12 Years a Slave may be the first time that writer/director Steve McQueen has dramatized the slave trade as it was practiced in pre-Civil War America, but it's far from his first movie about the concept of slavery. Both of his previous films revolve around characters that are bound to metaphorical -- if not necessarily literal -- masters and suffered pain and torment in the course of their enslavement. McQueen's debut feature, Hunger, is a portrait of imprisoned Irish Republican Army volunteer Bobby Sands (played by the filmmaker's regular muse, Michael Fassbender) who starves his body in service of the higher ideals preached by his cause. The director followed that up with Shame, in which Fassbender plays a well-heeled New York businessman whose daily routine is dictated by his various addictions. Both films also depict their characters' predicaments with a bracing lack of sentimentality and overt moralizing, qualities that are similarly instrumental to the success of 12 Years, which may not be McQueen's best movie overall (I'm still a big booster of the undervalued Shame), but nevertheless remains an exceptional piece of art that brings this period in American history to life in a horrifyingly -- but necessarily so -- vivid way.

Gravity: Something in the Air

by Ethan Alter October 4, 2013 6:00 am
<i>Gravity</i>: Something in the Air

Considering the title, it's somehow appropriate that Alfonso Cuarón's outer space thriller, Gravity, boasts the most buoyant opening sequence I've seen all year. And I'm not just talking about the space-assisted buoyancy of the central characters, medical engineer Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), who we meet hundreds of miles above the Earth as they're repairing a busted board on the Hubble space telescope. No, the tone of the entire sequence is what's so light and cheery; while Ryan fiddles with the Hubble, Matt floats in a wide arc around the construction site with the aid of a jet pack -- Cuarón's camera gracefully following his path without a visible cut -- cracking wise and sharing stories of his past adventures in the final frontier. All the while, Earth is looming in the background below (and sometimes above) them, beatifically beaming like an oversized nightlight. Simply put, it's a majestic scene, one that rekindles the romance of space travel that's been lost in both movies and real life over the decades. It also provides audiences with an idyllic moment of peace before things start to go wrong.

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