It’s one thing when documentaries like Davis Guggenheim’s “Waiting for ‘Superman’” and Madeleine Sackler’s much better “The Lottery” look at problems in public education and offer some solutions (such as charter schools).
It’s something else when a manipulative drama like “Won’t Back Down” tries to lay the blame for all the problems at the feet of uncaring teachers and wage-grubbing unions. Never mind its bare relation to reality; it’s just too easy to lead people with Machiavellian pieces of entertainment like this. (More…)
Occasionally, two studios make the same movie and then try to be the first to release their version. It’s less common for the same year to produce two different films with almost identical storylines. But then, the plot for “Pitch Perfect” was old long before this year.
So it’s just a coincidence that “Pitch Perfect” has the same essential arc as “Joyful Noise” earlier this year. That film, which brought us the inevitable teaming of Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah, and “Pitch Perfect” are both about competitive choral work, with conflict focused on the battle between tradition and innovation. (More…)
Rian Johnson went dark noir via teen angst in his breakout film, “Brick,” then got all Wes Anderson in “The Brothers Bloom.”
Now, with “Looper,” he thinks big – or, at least, bigger, going futuristic sci-fi. But he treats the material as a crime-fiction saga, rather than a special-effects extravaganza. The result is smaller and mostly satisfying, a noir character study – with two actors playing the same character. (More…)
As you get older, it’s easy to forget that age when every moment of life seemed fraught with all possible feelings at the most dramatic levels. Life and death seemed to hang in the balance with each step you took, each encounter you had, each moment you spent, each choice you made.
But then, that’s what high school is all about.
Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” which he adapted from his young-adult novel, gets it right in too many ways to ignore. Yes, if you’re an adult – or, perhaps, even a college student – it’s easy to dismiss this early-90s tale as just so much emo venting by someone who is too sensitive to live. But that’s ignoring the film’s obvious virtues. (More…)
OK, here’s a promise: No jokes or puns based on the title of “Dredd 3D.” Fish in a barrel and all that.
Not that there’s much that’s memorable about Pete Travis’ reboot of a moribund movie franchise based on what is, by now, sort of a classic comic book. Sylvester Stallone used it as a vehicle a couple of face-lifts ago – and the fact that there hasn’t been a Judge Dredd movie since then probably speaks for itself. (More…)
It’s a Chekhovian truism that if you introduce a gun in the first act, it had better go off before the end of the play.
That apparently didn’t register with David Ayer, who wrote and directed “End of Watch,” a competent but unremarkable new cops-on-the-streets tale starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena. Ayer, who wrote “Training Day” and directed the underrated “Street Kings,” sets us up for something he never delivers in this film. (More…)
Both gripping and wrenching – not to mention thrilling – David France’s documentary, “How to Survive a Plague,” opening Friday (9/21/12) in limited release, recalls a slice of recent history that is in danger of being lost.
There is more than a generation that’s been born since the start of the AIDS epidemic in 1981 – many of whom have no idea the struggle that AIDS activists went through to get the government and the drug companies to take their life-and-death struggle with the urgency that the patients were feeling it. France’s film examines a specific strand of that narrative: the efforts by ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) and its offshoot, TAG (Treatment Action Group), to get the FDA and the National Institutes of Health to speed up the process by which drugs were tested and approved for the treatment of HIV and AIDS. (More…)
Think of “Trouble with the Curve” as the anti-“Moneyball”: a movie that dismisses Billy Bean and Bill James’ data-centric approach to quantifying baseball talent, in favor of old-fashioned gut instinct.
It’s also a clichéd and sentimental dramedy, in which the comedy is wan and the drama telegraphs itself like a pitcher who unconsciously tips off his curveball. (More…)
Quietly and unobtrusively, actor Josh Radnor is building himself a filmography of solidly made, unobtrusively sly and intelligent comedy.
With 2010’s “Happythankyoumoreplease” (which had its flaws but also its pleasures) and now with “Liberal Arts” (open in limited release), Radnor proves that he knows a thing or two about love, romance and the human element that always seems to trip people up in pursuit of either. (More…)
It used to be that Disney would rerelease its old animated features on a regular schedule into theaters, reaching a new audience every decade or so with sure-fire quality entertainment that made parents cheer and kept kids entertained.
That equation was upset with the rise of home video – but Disney has found a way to go back to the well on a new path: 3D.
So the studio rereleased its Oscar-winning “Beauty and the Beast” in a retro-fitted 3D version that didn’t really solve the problem of turning two-dimensional drawings into three-dimensional images.
But with this week’s release of “Finding Nemo 3D,” that equation has been solved as well. (More…)