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Endless Love: Dare Not Speak Its Name

by Ethan Alter February 14, 2014 6:00 am
Endless Love: Dare Not Speak Its Name

The latest version of the teen weepie Endless Love departs so completely from Scott Spencer's 1979 novel and Franco Zeffirelli's 1981 film version, it's less a remake or adaptation than a top-down reinvention. Essentially, what writer/director Shana Feste and her co-scribe Joshua Safran (a.ka. the Smash Season 2 mastermind who gave the world the glory that was Hit List) have done is taken the material and run it through the Nicholas Sparks machine, flattening out the wrinkles that made the original story vaguely interesting and delivering up the same glossy, generic pap that passes for big-screen romance these days.

Indie Snapshot: The Invisible Woman and The Past

by Ethan Alter December 26, 2013 11:43 am
Indie Snapshot: The Invisible Woman and The Past

Take a break from the multiplex with the latest art house offerings from Ralph Fiennes and Asghar Farhadi.

The Wolf of Wall Street: Never Cry, Wolf

by Ethan Alter December 25, 2013 6:05 am
The Wolf of Wall Street: Never Cry, Wolf

Although it would be inaccurate to label The Wolf of Wall Street a sequel (direct or spiritual) to Martin Scorsese's modern-day gangster classic, Goodfellas, the connection between the two movies -- as well as the less widely-loved Casino -- is hard to miss. Structurally, for instance, Wolf, which was written by Sopranos heavyweight Terence Winter, follows its predecessor's first-person narrated account of one crook's rise and fall. It even opens with a scene that shows our "hero," dethroned financial king Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) who wrote the book on which the movie is based, firmly ensconced in his high-flying lifestyle, followed by a lengthy flashback that shows us how he arrived at that point and then, once we're synced up, carrying his story through to its apocalyptic conclusion. (The exact line that serves as our gateway into the past isn't, "As far back as I remember, I always wanted to be a gangster," -- but it's close.)

Getaway: Stuck in Neutural

by Ethan Alter August 30, 2013 6:05 am
Getaway: Stuck in Neutural

You can tell it's the final days of the summer movie season when the only new wide releases in multiplexes are a One Direction documentary promotional video and an action vehicle for the not-so-dynamic duo of Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez, both of which are making pit stops in theaters prior to debuting on DVD where they really belong. If you simply can't abide the idea of seeing a movie that's been in theaters for longer than a week, I'd suggest going with the One Direction thing -- this despite not having seen it or deliberately listened to one of the manufactured band's manufactured tunes -- if only because the screaming of the group's target audience is sure to keep you awake. There's no such respite from the abject tedium of Getaway, which accomplishes the impressive task of vanishing completely from your mind as you're sitting in the theater watching it. Normally, I'm stridently against folks spending an entire movie on their cell phones, but in this case, it's not like there's anything happening onscreen that merits your attention.

R.I.P.D.: Almost Dead on Arrival

It was with cautious optimism that I went to see R.I.P.D.. I’m not normally one for action movies -- which, in the age of Transformers, have become heavy on the explosions and light on the everything else. But, R.I.P.D. does have a few things going for it. It stars Jeff Bridges and it has an intriguing premise, based on a comic book by Peter M. Lenkov. It also does not feature a talking snail… like Ryan Reynolds’ other movie that’s opening this weekend.

Five Things to Know About RED 2

by Ethan Alter July 18, 2013 1:05 pm
Five Things to Know About RED 2

The 2010 action comedy RED wasn't exactly a critical favorite or box-office record beater, but a $90 million final gross gave the franchise-hungry studio Summit (the company that Twilight built) incentive to get the movie's gang of Retired and Extremely Dangerous counter-intelligence agents -- including Bruce Willis's eternally wry Frank Moses, John Malkovich's eternally paranoid Marvin Boggs and Helen Mirren's eternally hot Victoria -- back together again for another gag-friendly action picture. Before you join them on their globetrotting second adventure, here are five things you should know about RED 2.

Jurassic Park 3D: Five Flaws the 3D Won’t Fix

Like almost everyone else who saw Jurassic Park during its initial theatrical run 20 years ago, I have a lot of nostalgic fondness for Steven Spielberg's feature-length montage of dino rampage, which was based on Michael Crichton's best-selling book. It's an old-fashioned summer blockbuster executed with then new (and now old-fashioned) digital wizardry that plays like gangbusters when seen on the big screen with a packed crowd. And I have no doubt that the third-dimension enhanced Jurassic Park 3D, which opens theatrically on Friday, will be one of the better post-3D conversions of library titles, if only because Spielberg is a James Cameron-level stickler when it comes to the presentation of his past work. But as impressive as the T-Rex, those velociraptors and the rest of the film's computer-generated cast of giant lizards might look in 3D, there are some deep-seated flaws with Jurassic Park that even the format change won't be able to compensate for or distract from. Flaws like...

What If the Hunger Games Movie Had Been Made 10 Years Ago?

The standards for budget, special effects and an audience's tolerance for teenagers killing each other are much higher now than they were back in the early '00s -- a fact made extremely clear when Battle Royale was essentially banned from United States theaters. But what if this week's The Hunger Games movie had been released in 2002? (Yes, we know the book would've had to existed first, but just go with it.) Who would've starred in it? What would the music have been like? Would it have been better than the actual 2012 version? Let's speculate:

Cracking the Code of The Avengers Trailer

by Ethan Alter February 29, 2012 1:12 pm
Cracking the Code of The Avengers Trailer

Apparently inspired by last week's 30 Rock, the good folks at Marvel Studios have given us a whopper of a Leap Day present: an all-new, all-expanded trailer for Summer 2012's first superhero blockbuster, The Avengers. Unlike the first teaser, which hit the web back in October, this one features more dialogue, more effects-heavy action (to be fair, most of the effects weren't finished four months ago) and more clips of the costumed heroes trading Joss Whedon-scripted barbs with each other. Even with all the bonus footage though, the studio is still keeping us mostly in the dark about what exactly is going to happen in the film beyond the Avengers assembling to squabble amongst themselves and battle some kind of invading interstellar army led by Thor's newly emboldened adoptive brother, Loki. (This is a Joss Whedon joint, so there's got to be more to it than just that, right? Or maybe this time the big twist will be that there is no twist...) But through a few close viewings, we did manage to tease out a few potential story points from this two-and-a-half minute sneak peak, things like...

The Amazing Spider-Man: New Spidey, New Look, New Footage

Strangely absent from the Super Bowl's batch of movie trailers was a teaser for The Amazing Spider-Man, the impending reboot of the lucrative Spider-Man movie franchise with Andrew Garfield taking over web-slinging duties from Tobey Maguire. The movie has certainly piqued the interest of fans, from the fact that it sends Peter back to high school and re-tells the story of how he became Spider-Man to the decision to swap the series' previous love interest Mary Jane out for Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) to the darker tone suggested by the first trailer. (Also? No more organic web shooters. Andrew's clearly got a bigger brain than Tobey.) We haven't seen any other footage from the film since that two-minute teaser debuted last July, but that changed today, when Sony held a simulcast of a new trailer and sizzle reel from The Amazing Spider-Man (due out July 3) at select theaters around the word. We attended the New York screening -- there were also presentations in Los Angeles, London and Rio de Janeiro, Berlin and Tokyo -- and here's our take on what we saw.

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