My grandmother, Rhoda Singer, died earlier this year. She lived much of her life in Brooklyn and was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. Her favorite player was Pee Wee Reese, the Dodgers' scrappy white shortstop who famously silenced a racist Cincinnati crowd by putting his arm around his black teammate Jackie Robinson during pre-game warmups.
I thought about my grandmother a lot while watching '42,' the new biopic of Jackie Robinson and his quest to break the color barrier in baseball. On an intellectual level, I can tell you a dozen things wrong with the movie, from its excessively preachy dialogue to its bloated length. But on an emotional level, I have to admit that this movie bypassed my brain and grabbed my heart, pulling each and every string contained therein firmly and repeatedly. It's a pretty good tribute to a great man. And when Pee-Wee and Jackie embraced on that field in Cincinnati I cried.
"Let's hope this still works," says David (Shiloh Fernandez) as he puts a key into the door of his family's old cabin in the woods. But of course he's not just talking about the key; he's talking about the idea of remaking 'The Evil Dead,' the 1981 cult classic that launched the careers of writer/director Sam Raimi, producer Robert Tapert, and star Bruce Campbell and remains close to the hearts of discerning horror fans everywhere. Between the original film and its two sequels, 'Evil Dead II' and 'Army of Darkness,' Raimi, Tapert, and Campbell created one of the most iconic horror franchises of all time. But that was thirty years ago. Times change; tastes change. And in the interim, 'Evil Dead' has been ripped off by so many other movies its plot smells about as fresh as a fruit cellar full of rotting cat corpses. Forget hoping it still works; you'd need the mother of all prayers, and maybe a blood sacrifice or two, to make an 'Evil Dead' remake click.
"I don't want to be a good man; I want to be a great one." So says Oscar, a humble (read: crummy) magician in a traveling circus circa 1905, just before a magical tornado sweeps him and his hot air balloon away to a land that just so happens to share his nickname: Oz. In 'Oz the Great and Powerful,' Oscar (James Franco) finds exactly what his heart desires; the chance to be a great man, wealthy and powerful, the ruler of a beautiful kingdom. And the kingdom does look damn good, and most of Oz's adventures in it are pretty entertaining as well.
The third row of an IMAX screen is a sufficiently disadvantageous perspective to give you a taste of the way the hero of 'Jack the Giant Slayer' sees the world. From that angle, even regular-sized humans loom ominously overhead; you can imagine how big the giants look. But that's about as impressive as the surprisingly crummy 'Jack' gets.
Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell), the heroine of 'The Last Exorcism,' was a great tragic figure; a sweet, innocent girl inexplicably hounded by a nefarious cult and a vicious demon named Abalam. With 'The Last Exorcism Part II,' Nell's story grows even sadder -- by extending it into this superfluous and perfunctory sequel that casts her as a quivering, helpless victim and strips away almost everything that made the first film such an unexpected delight. Gone is the effective found footage gimmick, gone are the profound questions about faith, gone, most surprisingly, is most of Bell's impressive contortionist act. This time, she does as much contorting on the poster as she does in the film itself.
The transition from ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin’ to ‘This is 40’ has been an interesting one for Judd Apatow. After doing some really personal work on television’s ‘Freaks and Geeks’ -- and getting almost immediately cancelled when no one watched it -- he became a major name in cinematic comedy with the big, broad ‘Virgin,’ a film about a man trying to end decades of sexual starvation. He followed that up with ‘Knocked Up,’ about a young stoner who learns the perils of impregnating Katherine Heigl -- whose sister was played by Leslie Mann, Apatow’s real-life wife, and whose nieces were played by Maude and Iris Apatow, Apatow and Mann’s real-life daughters. While most of the movie was about Seth Rogen and Heigl’s wacky babywaiting shenanigans, there was that small percentage of observational family life comedy with Mann, the junior Apatows, and Paul Rudd, ostensibly playing Judd. It was some of the best stuff in the film, and it pointed the way forward.
His name is Django and as he's quick to point out, the D is silent. It's just about the only quiet part of Quentin Tarantino's 'Django Unchained,' a boisterous, bloody blaxploitation/Western hybrid. What else would you expect from Tarantino, the modern master of genre pastiche, flavorful dialogue, and grossly exaggerated violence? Whatever 'Django''s issues -- and it has a couple -- failing to deliver on its promises isn't one of them. If anything, the issue is the exact opposite.
Bill Westenhofer. Lubo Hristov. David Lauer. Gullaume Rocheron. Depending on your beliefs, you may or may not believe that God created the heavens and earth in seven days -- but I can say with some certainty that those men, a quartet of visual effects supervisors and designers (along with many other talented people) created the wondrous sights of 'Life of Pi.' It took them a lot more than seven days, though.
Many of Alfred Hitchcock's movies, from 'Psycho' to 'Vertigo' to 'Rear Window,' are about voyeurism, so the idea of peering into Hitchcock's own previously hidden private life does make a certain amount of sense. But if 'Hitchcock' resonates with some of the Master of Suspense's ideas, it's never faithful to his spirit. Hitch would never have put his name on a film so full of lame pop psychology and so bereft of excitement, tension and humor. Which is a shame, since the title of this movie is his name.
The opening credits of 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2' alternate between red and white images; seeping blood, spreading ice crystals. The symbolism couldn't be clearer: bundle up, Twihards, it's going to be a long cold lonely winter. Here comes the sun, dawn is breaking, and with it the end of your beloved franchise. After this, no more sexy vampires and hunky werewolves. It's all over -- and now that it is all over, let's give 'Twilight' its due: as one of the absolute bats--- craziest blockbusters in Hollywood history.
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