Disney has long been accused of brainwashing young girls into having unrealistic expectations about love, romance, boys and their likelihood of one day becoming a princess (and/or mermaid—I really wanted to be a mermaid when I was a kid). I don’t think that Disney, as a corporation or in the form of its cultural founder, Walt himself, ever intended to maliciously message young girls into becoming emotionally crippled women because of fairytales. Even with their aggressive marketing machine turning every animated character into a Halloween costume, Barbie doll and live-action play set, I believe in Disney’s spirit, which is one of innocence and the simple, un-cynical joy of childhood. (Walt Disney’s weird fixation on childhood and its recreation is a subject for another time.) In and of itself, that spirit is not a bad thing. Read more »
A couple of years ago (WHERE DOES TIME GO?), I wrote a top-ten piece listing who I believed to be the best actors under 40. I stand by the list, but for one exclusion. Back then, a bunch of people yelled at me for not including James McAvoy, even though I mentioned him in the opening as a worthy candidate—he was a top twenty pick! It’s not like I graffitied “James McAvoy sux” on a railway car. I like the guy, I just didn’t think, at that time, that he was one of the absolute best actors under forty.
Well, you were right, and I was wrong. Read more »
The Hunger Games wasn’t terrible. When I reviewed it last year, I liked it well enough, though I did note that 1) it was too long and/or poorly paced and 2) director Gary Ross was more of a hindrance than a help. Well, the sequel, Catching Fire, fixed both of those problems. Ross is out and though the movie still clocks in at two hours, twenty minutes-plus, the pacing is so much better that it isn’t a grind to sit through. Replacing Ross this time out is Francis Lawrence (Water for Elephants, I Am Legend), and screenwriters Simon Beaufoy (127 Hours, Slumdog Millionaire) and Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3). The original cast is all back, headed up by America’s pretend girlfriend, Jennifer Lawrence, along with a few new, and very welcome, additions. Read more »
Last month, I very much enjoyed Gravity. It’s visually arresting, anchored by Sandra Bullock’s best performance, featured Chairman George, and was an effective, if literal, thriller. It’s also a great narrative representation of my personal philosophy that everything is meaningless, there’s no point to anything, and we all die alone. Gravity alleviated the inherent bleakness of that sentiment, though, by giving us hope that, in the end, there can be hope, if for no other reason than we wake up and decide to be hopeful that day. Well, late last week I caught a screening of writer/director JC Chandor’s follow up to Margin Call, a lost-at-sea story starring Robert Redford called All Is Lost. Here are two facts that sum up the experience of watching All Is Lost: 1) The only things that make me cry are Hallmark commercials during the holidays and that one sappy Budweiser commercial where the horse remembers his trainer, and 2) I wept my way through All Is Lost. Read more »
I’ve been wrestling with this review for several weeks. I wanted to get it just right. 12 Years a Slave is, simply, one of the best films I have ever seen, and it deserves the extra attention. Directed by Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame) rapidly becoming one of the most compelling filmmakers working, and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor (no longer “that guy from Love Actually”), Michael Fassbender, Alfre Woodard and Brad Pitt, plus a who’s-who of actors including Benedict Cumberbatch, Sarah Paulson, Garret Dillahunt, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Scoot McNairy and relative newcomers Quvenzhane Wallis and Adepero Oduye, and a break-out performance by Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years is a movie in which the smallest roles are occupied by tremendous actors. The result is a compellingly real recreation of the worst of American history; like Schindler’s List making the horrors of the Holocaust tangible, 12 Years a Slave brings slavery to awful, crushing life. Read more »
At one point during the climactic battle of Marvel’s latest Avenger outing, Thor: The Dark World, space prince Thor and the villainous Malekith knock each other through portals, popping in and out of different worlds as they pound each other into the ground. After all that had come before, I expected Thor and Malekith to pause, look around and say, “Let’s not go to Asgard. ’Tis a silly place.” Because Thor: The Dark World is very silly movie—it’s basically a superhero take on Monty Python. Read more »
When Marvel and ABC teamed up (herded along by their mutual chaperone, Disney Studios) to produce a television show based on Clark Gregg’s popular character “Agent Coulson”, first introduced in Iron Man and then killed off in The Avengers, people were excited. Coulson is a fan favorite, revived because no one wanted to let him go after The Avengers, and coming off the bananas success of The Avengers, it seemed like Marvel could do anything. Why not try a TV show? And so Agents of SHIELD was born, but after a decent, if uninspired, pilot, it’s become clear that SHIELD has a serious problem: Network television. Read more »