Young Adult: Not Just Another Mean Girl

by Ethan Alter December 9, 2011 6:00 am
<i>Young Adult</i>: Not Just Another Mean Girl

It wouldn't be accurate to describe Mavis Gary, the central character of Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman's first post-Juno collaboration, as a grown-up version of Juno MacGuff. Rather, she's a grown-up version of the girl that probably made fun of Juno MacGuff. A former high school Queen Bee, Mavis (played by Charlize Theron) ditched her podunk Minnesota town Mercury immediately after graduation for the bright lights of Minneapolis, where she found fame and fortune as a writer of young adult fiction. Well okay, "fame and fortune" is probably overstating things a bit. Her writing gig brings in just enough to allow her to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment, plus amenities like cable television and a steady supply of Diet Coke (her own personal breakfast of champions). As for the fame part, although she's penned several installments in the popular YA franchise, Waverly Prep, her name doesn't actually appear anywhere on the cover of those books. Instead, she's relegated to one of the inside pages, while the series' original creator takes top-billing for novels she didn't write.

I Want My VOD: December 2011

by Ethan Alter December 5, 2011 6:36 am
I Want My VOD: December 2011

Ladies and gentlemen, for your VOD viewing displeasure, here it is: 2011's worst movie.

Indie Snapshot: Shame and Coriolanus

by Ethan Alter December 2, 2011 6:00 am
Indie Snapshot: <i>Shame</i> and <I>Coriolanus</i>

Don't let the NC-17 rating scare you off -- Shame is one of 2011's very best movies.

Indie Snapshot: Thanksgiving Round-Up

by Ethan Alter November 23, 2011 12:59 pm
Indie Snapshot: Thanksgiving Round-Up

Avoid the crowds at the multiplex by seeking out some of these independent films over the long holiday weekend:

The Descendants: Blue Hawaii

by Ethan Alter November 16, 2011 6:00 am
<i>The Descendants</i>: Blue Hawaii

Writer/director Alexander Payne, the darkly comic mind behind Election and Sideway, returns after a seven-year hiatus with The Descendants, which easily ranks as his most heartwarming feature to date. It's also his least provocative and prickly, but hey, we all get a little sentimental in our old age. And because this is the guy who made Election after all, his version of "sentimental" isn't the usual gooey Hollywood treacle like The Bucket List or The Help. The Descendants still has a certain bite to it, dwelling, as it does, on the characters' all-too-human foibles and frailties. It's the kind of movie where no one is beyond reproach... even the woman that's lying in the hospital in a coma from which she'll never wake up.

Immortals vs. 300: Which Greek Hero Reigns Supreme?

by Ethan Alter November 11, 2011 5:50 pm
<i>Immortals</i> vs. <i>300</i>: Which Greek Hero Reigns Supreme?

With its Greco-Roman setting, computer-generated backdrops and endless scenes of ridiculously ripped warriors engaging in ultra-stylized, ultra-bloody ultraviolence, Immortals is obviously positioning itself to be the next 300. In fact, the film's advertising materials proudly trumpet the connection between Zack Snyder's surprise 2006 smash hit based on Frank Miller's graphic novel -- which chronicled the tale of the Spartan king Leonidas' (Gerard Butler) last stand at Thermopylae -- and this spin on the myth of Theseus (played by Henry Cavill, who is currently playing the Man of Steel in a new Superman flick directed by... Zack Snyder). Since Snyder is busy trying to make audiences believe a man can fly, 300 producers Mark Canton and Gianni Nunnari turned to Tarsem Singh, director of cult oddities The Cell and The Fall, to produce a movie in its predecessor's image, albeit with some of his own distinct visual flourishes. So how do 300 and Immortals match up? Quien es mas macho? We pit them head to head in a few key creative areas. (Except for the screenplay, because, really -- who's watching either of these movies for the dialogue?)

<i>Jack and Jill</i>: How to Successfully Suffer Through This Adam Sandler Movie

Adam Sandler's Jack and Jill -- in which he plays both Jack Sadelstein and his frumpy twin sister, Jill -- is not a good movie. I don't think you needed me to tell you that. But it is funny, though, and not in a fart-joke kind of way. I mean, there are a lot of fart jokes -- scenes entirely made up of god-awful fart jokes! -- but there are also tiny moments packed into Jack and Jill that are laugh-out-loud funny. Should you be dragged to this film by a child (it's rated PG, after all), you will not grow to hate and resent said little one for the rest of your life... that is, if you follow our handy guide on suffering through the terribleness:

I Want My VOD: November 2011

by Ethan Alter November 10, 2011 11:14 am
I Want My VOD: November 2011

Alessandro Nivola plays dad to Abigail Breslin, and Colin Farrell guards Keira Knightley in this month's VOD offerings.

Who Gets Away Clean from This Tower Heist?

by Ethan Alter November 4, 2011 6:00 am
Who Gets Away Clean from This <i>Tower Heist</i>?

If Tower Heist feels a lot like Ocean's Fourteen, that's not entirely accidental. After all, both this movie and the Ocean's pictures involve an all-star crew of crooks attempting to rip off a wealthy mark that has wronged them. Beyond that, the movies share a screenwriter (Ted Griffin, who wrote Ocean's Eleven, though not the sequels) and a co-star (Casey Affleck). But here's the way to tell them apart: the Ocean's adventures were directed by Steven Soderbergh, while Tower Heist is a Brett Ratner joint. That means that the jazzy, inventive visual palette that Soderbergh brought to his movies has been replaced by a workmanlike style that's professional without being particularly interesting. The heist at the center of Tower Heist also pales in comparison to the elaborate schemes that Danny Ocean and his accomplices pulled off. Their plans were ridiculous enough to be believable -- this one is just ridiculous. Still, thanks largely to the cast (some of them anyway), Tower Heist isn't the botch that Ratner's last comic thriller, After the Sunset, was. It's a serviceable bit of studio fluff that keeps your eyes, if not your brain, occupied for 100 minutes. (Too bad the studio didn't follow through on its initial plans to release the film on VOD three weeks into its theatrical run; the movie will likely play much better at home on your TV screen than in the theater.) Here's how the individual members of this crew rate:

Indie Snapshot: The Rum Diary, The Double and The Other F Word

by Ethan Alter October 28, 2011 4:45 pm
Indie Snapshot: <i>The Rum Diary</i>, <i>The Double</i> and <i>The Other F Word</i>

Johnny Depp goes gonzo, Richard Gere sees double and rockers become fathers in this week's round-up of indie offerings.

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