In fifth grade, our “cool” teacher Mr. Horne assigned the class a “Reading Day,” encouraging us to bring in a book of our choice and sit silently while he spent the day catching up on paperwork. I lugged in a stack of Calvin and Hobbes books I’d recently procured through Scholastic and was in heaven. That afternoon, Mr. Horne approached my desk and asked if he could borrow my copy of Something Under The Bed Is Drooling. The other students were in awe and, for one shining moment, I was the cool kid in class.
I kind of hate reviewing kids’ movies, because if I don’t like them, there is always someone who accuses me of being a bad person who hates love, children, and family. I don’t really dislike those things, or at least not all of the time. I just think movies for children should be held to the same standards as adult films; they need an interesting story, finely drawn characters, and—at the very least—directorial competence. I think kids deserve good movies. I am also not a Disney hater, although I have a lot of issues with that particular company. However, I love Beauty and the Beast and have been known to bust out The Aristocats on occasion. I approached reviewing Disney’s newest princess movie, Frozen, with the best mindset I could: I grabbed two of my favorite people—niece Alice (age 4) and daughter Io (age 23)—and made a night of it.
Originally conceived as a starring vehicle for himself, Sylvester Stallone adapted Chuck Logan‘s novel Homefront into a screenplay that then promptly sat on a shelf to gather dust. By the time it was finally set to go into production, Sly deemed himself too old and passed the machismo-drenched baton to Expendables co-star Jason Statham. The end result is about what you’d expect given the pedigree. A thrill ride curiously absent of thrills, Homefront is a disappointment even the most hardcore action fans will have trouble defending.
Lance Armstrong is a big fat lying liar. No debate there. But he’s a liar in a sport where everybody cheats and everybody lies about it, so who really cares? Quite a lot of people, actually. For some reason, bicycle racing fans have been able to maintain hope in the purity of their sport even after endless doping scandals and revelations of cheating. Armstrong was such an inspirational figure—coming back from testicular cancer to win seven Tour de France races—people held on to the belief that he was clean long after repeated accusations were made. I don’t know if the general population really gives a damn about this. Banned substances used in a niche sport? Oh no. But it turns out the doping done by Lance Armstrong is the least interesting part of this story. The real meat is that, not only did he lie about cheating, he repeatedly went after his accusers, destroying their credibility in the press and even suing them for damages. He didn’t just defend himself, he went on the offensive to demolish anyone who strayed from the narrative he wanted to present.
With the holiday season kicking into high gear, we can expect our fair share of holiday-themed movies. If you’re not the type who enjoys this kind of fare, it may be best for you to turn away now. Black Nativity is unabashedly a Christmas musical, written and directed by Kasi Lemmons and adapted from the play by Langston Hughes. There’s a lot to like here: it has a ton of heart, and the music performed has passion and soul. However, it’s not a perfect film—it falls for many of the traps that come with the genre. We’re in that strange area where a film balances between two opposite ends: it’s impossible to hate, but really tough to love.
Vince Vaughn has comfortably slipped into a suit of smarmor ™ for the better part of his career. Following a brief and mostly unsuccessful foray into darker territory (Return to Paradise, Psycho, The Cell), Vaughn seemed content embodying slight variations of the wise-cracking, button-pushing jerk who still managed to win over any girl, fraternity, or internship that got in his path. In an apparent attempt to shake things up, he chose Ken Scott‘s Delivery Man as the vehicle intent on softening those edges. Unfortunate, then, that it’s so lightweight it risks flying right out the window and into a DVD bargain bin.
Alexander Payne‘s filmography is akin to Wes Anderson‘s in that it’s instantly recognizable as being his own unique style. You could have plopped me in a theater seat and showed this to me sans opening credits and I like to think I could have nailed it in five. Nebraska may not share much in common with Election or Sideways aesthetically, but Payne is an unequivocal master of squirmy family dynamics and delicate poking of hometown sensibilities. He’s sometimes accused of making fun or having no sympathy for his subjects, and, while I’ve personally never agreed with such assessments, I’d challenge even the most hard-nosed naysayers to stake that claim here.
The Hunger Games was a huge box office success, the only young adult novel adaptation since Twilight to achieve that title. I read the trilogy by Suzanne Collins before seeing the film, and I really enjoyed it. Like many others, I was excited to see the first adaptation, but something happened. I came away with a “meh” feeling. It did not grab me emotionally in any way, unlike the novel.
An ensemble of talented, well-known actors has always been a worry for me. When that much talent is thrown together, it can mean pretty much one of two things: first, the material is really good and it has gotten the interest of several people who want to be a part of it; or second, the material is weak and the filmmakers hope that name recognition and talent can cover that up. The second option is what we have in the new film August: Osage County.
“…for better or worse, in sickness and in health, ‘til death do us part…”
How often do people focus on the “better” and “health” portion of their marriage vows, and ignore the “worse,” “sickness,” and “death” parts? That’s the true test of a relationship. It’s all flowers and butterflies when things are going well, but what happens when crap hits the fan? Some couples cut their losses and go their separate ways, while others try to stick together through the thick and thin. Writer/director Laurie Collyer’s Sunlight Jr. attempts to look at two lovers put through the ultimate test, and then pushes it just a little further to see where their breaking point is. Somber and desperate, it’s a narrative stripped so far to the bone it becomes difficult to watch during certain stretches. I can’t deny the qualities it exhibits, but I’m not so sure this is an experience I want to revisit anytime soon.