Watching "ParaNorman"
Published on August 21, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new animated horror film, "ParaNorman."

Here's an excerpt:

“'Are we living in a new golden age of animation?'

That’s the question film critic Glenn Kenny asked after watching the new animated ghost story 'ParaNorman,' which is why I decided I had to see the film. After giving it some thought, I would say that, yes, we very well could be living in a new golden age of animation. But not necessarily because of 'ParaNorman,' an enjoyable but somewhat forgettable movie from LAIKA, the stop-motion animation studio that brought the world the stunning and superior 'Coraline.' The proof of the golden age could be films such as 'Summer Wars' and 'Chico and Rita,' which I caught at the animation festival at Proctors in Schenectady last week.

But back to 'ParaNorman.' This is an odd little film, about a lonely boy, named Norman, who can talk to the dead — those unsettled souls still lingering on Earth because of unfinished business. Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee, from “The Road”) spends a great deal of time talking to his dead grandmother and watching movies with her, much to the dismay of his father and sister, who wish he would act a little more normal. Norman is bullied by his schoolmates and has just one friend: Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), a fat kid who is also the target of bullies."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Watching "Ted"
Published on August 15, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new Seth MacFarlane movie about a foul-mouthed teddy bear, "Ted."

Here's an excerpt:

"I once had a beloved teddy bear and, yes, I called him Ted. For a long time, I treated him as a living creature and then, when I became dimly aware that he wasn’t, I wished that he would magically transform. At some point, I started spending less and less time with Ted (and his brother, a younger bear named Ned), and eventually he was sent to a box in the attic to live. Even so, I was crushed when I discovered that my father had thrown him away because of a mildew problem. 'I knew you’d be upset,' my mother said, as I protested Ted’s treatment.

My love of Ted might explain why I was so eager to see 'Ted,' the R-rated new comedy about a 35-year-old man and his teddy bear, a one-time celebrity who parties too much and has a filthy mouth. I once wished that my teddy bear would come to life — here’s a movie where that actually happens! Perhaps my enthusiasm for 'Ted’s' themes and subject matter explains why I was a little disappointed in the film, which never became quite as riotous or hilarious or nasty as I expected. 'Ted' is ultimately a sweet romantic comedy bout the process of growing up and putting childhood in its proper perspective. In some ways, I wish director Seth MacFarlane (the creator of the hit animated TV shows 'Family Guy' and 'American Dad,' making his live action feature film debut) had made a less life affirming and uplifting film."

Click here to read the whole thing.

And click here to read Rule of Thumb contributor J.K. Eisen's take on the film.

Film Capsules
Published on August 9, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about some of the movies I've watched recently on DVD, including "Nacho Libre" and "Carlos."

Click here to read my post.

Watching "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
Published on August 7, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new film "Beasts of the Southern Wild," which is unlike anything else out there.

Here's an excerpt:

"'Beasts of the Southern Wild' is an apocalyptic fantasy, told from a child’s perspective, but that description doesn’t quite do the film justice. For one thing, traditional fantasy elements are lacking — there are no wizards or elves, and very few special effects — and the film is firmly rooted in the world we live in.

The characters live on an island in the bayou, not far from New Orleans, and it’s impossible to watch 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' without thinking of Hurricane Katrina, the failure of the levees that protected the city and the floodwaters that forced many residents from their homes. But the film is about so much more than Katrina and its victims.

'Beasts of the Southern Wild' is grittily filmed, with a ramshackle, hand-made aesthetic. (The only thing I can think to compare it to is the 2010 stop-motion animated film 'Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then,' about a man in Kentucky building a house that he believes will cure his wife’s cancer.) Houses are cobbled together from wood, metal and plastic, and the characters live a hand-to-mouth existence that involves eating old canned food and the fish and animals of the bayou, which in this film is a fictional and impoverished community nicknamed the Bathtub. If the dwellings and boats used by the character look like they were pieced together from found materials, well, that’s kind of the look of the film."

Click here to read more.

Watching "The Dark Knight Rises"
Published on August 1, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review "The Dark Knight Rises." 

Here's an excerpt:

"I was eager to see 'The Dark Knight Rises,' but also sort of dreading it. I wasn’t the hugest fan of 'The Dark Knight,' although I thought Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker was terrific, and I pretty much hated 'Inception,' the last movie helmed by Christopher Nolan, director of the Batman trilogy. At some point it finally dawned on me that I don’t actually like Nolan’s films very much, with the sole exception being 2000’s gritty noir puzzler, 'Memento.'

Which might explain why 'The Dark Knight Rises' was such a pleasant surprise. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s engaging, atmospheric and exciting, with a sly sense of humor and some unexpectedly romantic subplots. Nolan is not a very good director of action — many of his action sequences are dull and overlong, lacking the “wow!” factor that you want from such set pieces — but he’s fairly gifted when it comes to carrying out a dark and brooding vision that reflects and comments on the world in which we live. He wants us to seriously consider the vigilantism at the heart of Batman, and to ask questions about corruption, power, truth and justice."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Watching "Magic Mike"
Published on July 25, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new Channing Tatum/Steve Soderbergh male stripper movie, "Magic Mike."

Here's an excerpt:

"There’s plenty of flesh on display in 'Magic Mike,' the new movie about male strippers in Tampa, Fla., and a fair amount of dancing, sex and drugs, too. But the film is more substantive than the subject matter would suggest, which won’t come as a surprise to people who have followed the career of Steven Soderbergh, one of the more cerebral and experimental filmmakers working today, but might disappoint filmgoers simply looking for a good time.

For one thing, 'Magic Mike' isn’t so much a fantasy as a deconstruction of a particular type of fantasy. Mike, played by a very charming Channing Tatum, is hard-working and sharp: He does construction during the day, strips at night, and is also trying to start his own custom furniture business. We see how women respond to him at the club, but we also see his life behind the scenes, which isn’t particularly terrible, but requires constant hustling, in an often-futile effort to get ahead. (There’s a sad-yet-homorous scene where he puts on a suit and glasses and visits a loan officer at a local bank; unsurprisingly, he application is denied.)"

Click here to read the whole thing.

"The Master" is Coming
Published on July 22, 2012 by Sara Foss

Here's a trailer for one of the movies I'm most excited about seeing this year: Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master."

Watching "Shut Up and Play the Hits"
Published on July 19, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about "Shut Up and Play the Hits," the LCD Soundsystem concert film/documentary that played for one night only on Wednesday.

Click here to read my piece.

Watching "Moonrise Kingdom"
Published on July 18, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new Wes Anderson movie, "Moonrise Kingdom."

Here's an excerpt:

"During my vacation, my sister dressed my baby niece in a funny little sun hat and white handknit sweater with a dog motif. It was an unusual outfit, and my niece’s expression was unusually solemn. 'She looks like a character in a Wes Anderson movie,' my sister observed.

If you’re the type of person who understands what this means, you’ll definitely want to check out the new Wes Anderson movie, 'Moonrise Kingdom.' Anderson is one of the more meticulous, visually distinct filmmakers out there, known for dressing his characters in quirky outfits and uniforms (he’s a big fan of tweed) and creating odd and captivating buildings and interiors: A house is not just a house in a Wes Anderson film, but a character in its own right. His human characters are often mournful and lonely, struggling to cope with broken hearts or their inability to fit in. In his latest film, Anderson offers his fans more of the same, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing: 'Moonrise Kingdom' is the director’s most accomplished film to date, and although I didn’t like it quite as much as his excellent 2009 animated film 'Fantastic Mr. Fox,' it represents a step forward for a director often accused of treating his characters like dolls. Roiling beneath 'Moonrise Kingdom’s' beautiful and entrancing sets and surfaces are real emotions — melancholy, joy, sorrow and wonder."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Rule of Thumb contributor Eric J. Perkins also reviewed "Moonrise Kingdom." Click here for his thoughts.

Seth MacFarlane's Silver Screen Success
Published on July 10, 2012 by guest author: J.K. Eisen

Seth MacFarlane may be one of the busiest people in show business.

He is the creator or co-creator of not one, but three animated comedies on Fox ("Family Guy," "American Dad" and "The Cleveland Show"). He’s roasted Charlie Sheen, Donald Trump and David Hasselhoff on Comedy Central. He’s even released an album where he sings classic big band songs – "Music is Better Than Words."

Now MacFarlane has released his first foray into feature filmmaking, "Ted." By all measures, it’s a resounding R-rated success for MacFarlane, who directed and co-wrote the film. He has successfully brought his brand of no-holds-barred comedy to the big screen, which is sure to please his fans and create new fans. The movie not only topped the box office during its opening weekend, but it’s sure to have a rabid following that will ensure that the film’s dialogue will be heard spilling out of dorm rooms for years to come. On top of all of these achievements, MacFarlane delivered a story about growing up that has a lot of heart.


Watching "Brave"
Published on July 10, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new Pixar movie "Brave."

Here's an excerpt:

"In some corners, the new Pixar film 'Brave' is regarded as something of a disappointment, a lesser effort from a studio that has churned out one timeless animated classic after another since 1995.

But don’t be fooled: 'Brave' is a very good film — perhaps not as groundbreaking as the 'Toy Story' films or 'WALL-E,' but an excellent adventure story with fun characters, an interesting setting, complex themes and beautiful animation. The long, wild red hair of the film’s protagonist, the princess Merida, is so richly detailed and vivid that it’s almost worth the price of admission by itself. Every time Merida’s hair appeared on screen, I thought, 'That’s the most amazing hair I’ve ever seen in a movie.'

'Brave' is a coming-of-age story concerning the rebellious Merida’s reluctance to be married off to the son of another clan, and her desire to ride horses through the forest, excel at archery and have the same freedom to roam the family castle and pilfer snacks that her mischievous younger brothers have. Much has been made of the increasing interest in archery among our nation’s youth due to 'The Hunger Games,' but 'Brave' makes archery look pretty cool: If I had seen this film when I was 10, I probably would have returned home begging my parents to buy me a bow and arrow."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Watching "Hysteria"
Published on June 26, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new movie "Hysteria," an entertaining, "based on fact" account of the invention of the vibrator.

Here's an excerpt:

"I’m going to grade 'Hysteria' on a curve. It’s far from perfect, and its preachiness does wear thin. But it’s got a great premise, a sly sense of humor and a genuine interest in the little-known history it documents. I’d say this movie is probably a B- or C+, but I’m rounding up to a solid B.

'Hysteria' presents a highly fictionalized account of the invention of the vibrator, which was once considered a medical device, used to treat women suffering from female hysteria, a once-common diagnosis for a wide range of symptoms, including faintness, nervousness, sexual desire, a lack of sexual desire, insomnia, irritability and a tendency to cause trouble. The film revolves around an earnest young doctor named Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) who keeps getting fired because he insists on cleaning patients’ wounds and won’t stop talking about germs, which his older colleagues regard as a bunch of nonsense. Then he meets an older doctor who will employ him — Dr. Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce), who treats women for hysteria. When Granville says he doesn’t know anything about hysteria, Dr. Dalrymple gravely informs him that half the women in London are afflicted with it."

Click here to read the whole thing.

To learn more about the strange history of the vibrator, check out historian Erik Loomis' essay from March.

Watching "Monsieur Lazhar"
Published on June 19, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new inspirational teacher movie "Monsieur Lazhar."

Click here to read it.

Watching Movies With Dad
Published on June 14, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about watching movies with my dad in honor of father's day.

Click here to read it.

Some Thoughts on Wes Anderson and "Moonrise Kingdom"
Published on June 12, 2012 by guest author: Eric J. Perkins

This morning I mentioned to some of my office mates that I'd gone to see Moonrise Kingdom over the weekend. I was expecting - OK, hoping for - a delighted "Oooh, how was it?" Instead I received blank stares. I said, "You know, the new Wes Anderson movie?!" The response: "Oh, is that the guy who did...what was it? Tenenbaums?"

A little part of me died. I'm sure I have co-workers who would have given me the reaction I wanted, but I was dismayed that the first people I told had no idea what I was talking about. I'd been waiting for this movie to come out since I first heard about it last year. But sometimes I forget that a lot of people watch movies and claim to love movies, but can't tell you who directed their favorite movie. That's not me. I can tell you who my favorite directors are; I can list every movie they've made; and I can rank those movies within each director's oeuvre. I can say that Wes Anderson is easily one of my top three favorite directors, and Moonrise Kingdom could potentially be my 3rd favorite of his seven films.

I say "could potentially" not because I'm a wishy washy critic, but because I strongly believe you can't fully appreciate a Wes Anderson movie after only one viewing. No one says "this is my favorite album by such-and-such band" after hearing the album only once. Or at least, no one should say that. An album has too many things to consider - the music, the lyrics, the production quality - to assess it in one go. There's simply too much in an Anderson film to completely absorb it in one sitting. I could easily watch nearly any of his films with the sound off completely and just soak up the art direction. Anderson's attention to detail is well-documented. In Moonrise Kingdom, there's so much going on in the background, both in terms of the secondary action and the sets themselves, that you could digitally remove the principal actors and you would still have a pretty amazing movie to watch. Alternatively, I could turn the picture off altogether and just listen to the dialogue and the score.


«Previous   1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17  Next»