Spoiler-Free Review of Cabin in the Woods

In May 2009, co-writers Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel) completed production on Cabin in the Woods. Starring Fran Kranz (then costarring on Whedon’s not-good-enough series Dollhouse), Bradley Whitford (The West Wing), Richard Jenkins (The Visitor, Eat Pray Love), Chris Hemsworth (the not-yet megastar of Thor), and several Whedonites, it was to be a statement on the horror genre devolvement—namely, the latest “torture porn” craze. But when MGM filed for bankruptcy in 2010, its future was left uncertain. After negotiations—and a brief, and gratefully unsuccessful, discussion about converting into 3D—Cabin in the Woods can finally be seen in theaters. And fans of horror and/or Whedon will not be disappointed. Cabin is a smart, genuinely scary film that feels utterly original. Read more »

Bully Bravely Reminds You That Bullying Really Sucks

Last week the highly publicized documentary Bully, opening in Philadelphia this Friday, had its rating slashed from R to PG-13. The Weinstein Company, the film’s distributor, noted the occasion with solemn approval. Thanks to the Motion Picture Association of America’s good sense, an anti-bullying dialogue could reach more classrooms, dinner tables, and, fingers crossed, lawmakers. Read more »

Jennifer Lawrence Is Perfect as Katniss Everdeen

In September 2008, the month when Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games was first released, another young-adult series—featuring a certain milquetoast “heroine” and her sparkly vampire—still reigned supreme. But for those of us who never gave a flyin’ flip for Team Sparkly or Team Shirtless, and who still mourned the completion of Harry Potter, Hunger Games was the perfect antidote. It was shockingly brutal yet unbelievably (even compulsively) readable. It immediately became a bestseller — mostly driven by incredible word of mouth. So when it was announced that director Gary Ross (Pleansantville, Seabiscuit) was to direct the film adaptation, the intense scrutiny began. But fans, rest assured: the Hunger Games movie is a superbly made, tremendously faithful adaptation that is worth seeing again and again. Read more »

Nostalgia Doesn’t Help 21 Jump Street Remake

Here’s the sad truth: Many who go to see 21 Jump Street won’t have any clue that it’s actually based on a TV show. The phrase “I said jump, down on Jump Street” will mean absolutely nothing to them. (Nor incite an urge to shout “jump.”) The connection between this movie and Johnny Depp will be lost. They’ll be confused why some audience members cheer at the brief cameo of Holly Robinson (Peete). They will not know who Richard Grieco is. (To be fair, many of us have also forgotten.) But it doesn’t matter. Those women (and some men) who had the Johnny Depp poster up in their rooms—smoldering eyes, denim vest, and all—will appreciate the nostalgia; the rest will laugh at the dick jokes. Read more »

Don Argott’s Last Days Here Made Me Cry

Last Days Here
Director Don Argott first came onto my radar in 2005 when he released Rock School, his Roger Ebert-approved documentary about the Paul Green School of Rock and its foul-mouthed namesake. After moving into the fine art world with Art of the Steal and nuclear fear mongering with The Atomic States of America, which screened at Sundance in January, he’s come back around to the glorious world of sex, drugs and rock-and-roll with Last Days Here—only in this documentary, that world isn’t so glorious. Read more »

Christmas Weekend Movie Guide

Thus begins one of the most important movie weekends of the year. On Tuesday, Oscar ballots will be mailed out—nominations announced four weeks later (on January 24). So this will be the final weekend for wide release films to make an impression. While Hugo, The Descendants, and The Help have been talked about for weeks, this will be studios’ last chance to make an impact. So here are my reviews of the big name releases this week. Read more »

The Worst Part of the Star-Studded, Garry Marshall-Directed New Year’s Eve

There are stupid movies and then there are stoopid movies. The stoopid movies are the ones that should be avoided at all costs — those of the Glitter or Gigli ilk — which after viewing make you feel like you’ve lost part of your youth. The stupid movies, on the other hand—as my friend so eloquently stated—are those that are rented on a rainy night when it’s just you and a box of wine. (Well, she said a glass of wine. But whatever). Like Death Becomes Her and National Treasure. They’re dumb, but that’s their charm. New Year’s Eve, Garry Marshall’s new holiday schlockfest starring every available actor who wasn’t in his craptastic Valentine’s Day, falls somewhere in between. Though probably closer to the stoopid end of the spectrum. Read more »

Thanksgiving Movie Guide: Starring the Muppets

It’s Thanksgiving, which means it’s time to be together. Watch the parade together. Make food together. Eat together. Watch a few games together. Drink together. Fight together. Go see a movie together. (Thankfully, though technically together, seeing a movie together requires absolutely no talking.) And this is a great Thanksgiving for films, especially family friendly ones. Here are a few of my suggestions. Read more »

Movie Review: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 1

Twi-hards scare me. Gleeks and Beliebers scare me too, but it is the fervent fanaticism of the Twilight enthusiasts that’s frightening. (At a screening, a complete stranger asked me if I was a reviewer and whether I liked the other films. For my safety, I answered yes to both). Negative reviews bring swarms of angry Twi-moms to leave scathing comments that disparage the reviewer and claim the writer simply doesn’t get it. The fans see beyond the flaws of the books and the movies and only focus on the love story—which, between a century old, sparkly vampire and a teenage girl, is a little creepy.

Well fans, prepare for another negative review. Read more »

J. Edgar Needs Less Makeup and More Drama

While most remember J. Edgar Hoover for little else than his leadership of the FBI—and perhaps his rumored homosexuality and alleged penchant for wearing dresses—he was a complex man. Obsessed with knowledge and power, he used both as tools (blackmail?) for the advancement of himself and the nascent bureau. His nearly 40-year career as FBI director spanned some of the messiest, tensest, and most trying times of our country’s history: the Lindbergh baby, gangsters, communists, civil rights, and a presidential assassination. So then with a subject matter so rife with drama, why does Clint Eastwood’s new film J. Edgar feel so sterile? Read more »

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