Bustle Film/TV Coverage: 11/17/2014 to 11/30/2014

Recently on Bustle, I...

...felt perplexed that The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 was split into two movies, so I figured out the page of the book where the first movie ends, determined what's left for Mockingjay - Part 2, and argued that dividing the last book into two movies wasn't the best idea. Spoilers abound for those posts, obviously.

...helped sleepy (hungover?) parade-watchers figure out what time and what channel the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was on. I didn't know CBS had its own rogue broadcast.

...argued that the best times to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas are on Halloween, in Christmas, and on Thanksgiving, or halfway between Halloween and Christmas.

...gave advice to the makers of Catfish regarding what they should change in the show's fourth season.

...reassured Batman fans that Gotham's Ian Hargrove is not from the comics.

...found out that Seasons of Love's Cleo Anthony is rumored to be appearing in -- where else? -- a Marvel project.

...wondered how the Magic Cook featured on Shark Tank gets its magic heat.

Photo: Murray Close/Lionsgate


DVD Review: 'Obvious Child'

...If there’s a problem with Obvious Child, it’s born of the movie’s strengths. It’s a relief to see a movie that doesn’t treat abortion as a ordeal, and it’s refreshing to see a man in a romantic comedy be an idealized fantasy object. However, the combination of these two elements makes the film light on conflict. It’s important to Obvious Child to keep the abortion regret-free, so once the decision to end the pregnancy is made, it doesn’t continue to drive the narrative. The focus shifts to the relationship between Donna and Max, but he never seems to anger no matter how bad Donna’s behavior gets. Donna goes through ups and downs on her own accord, but nothing is too extreme...

Click through to read the full review on PopMatters.

Bustle: 8/25/2014 to 9/7/2014

Boardwalk Empire returns tonight for its last season!

For Bustle, I wrote an appreciation of Sally Wheet, Patricia Arquette's character. Between Boardwalk Empire and Boyhood, Arquette is having a heck of a year.


I also...

...wrote about how Frozen is the highest-grossing movie by a female (co-)director. It's sitting at No. 5 right now, and the next woman is at No. 74.

...explained what the whole Stand Up to Cancer thing was (and why it's worthy).

...became really jealous about Caroline Gruosi-Scheufele's job as creative director of Chopard jewelry.

...opined that we still have a long wait before Sherlock and True Detective return.

...wrote about the time that the director of Factory Girl called Brittany Murphy's husband "a con artist and a bad man."

Image: Macall Pollay



DVD Review: 'Transcendence'

In Transcendence, Evelyn Caster (Rebecca Hall) is introduced as the classic mad scientist, someone who moves forward with experimental technology without stopping to consider the consequences. Of course, she has a good reason to do so: love. Her husband, the brilliant scientist Will Caster (Johnny Depp), was making breakthroughs in the field of self-aware artificial intelligence when an anti-A.I. group, Revolutionary Independence from Technology (R.I.F.T.), assassinates him with radioactive poisoning. Since it’s such a villainously slow death, Evelyn has enough time to copy his brain activity and upload his “consciousness” into the A.I. supercomputer he created. Friend and fellow scientist Max (Paul Bettany) has reservations about copying Will’s consciousness and hooking it up to the world’s network of computers, but Evelyn considers it a sound scientific plan, since a digital husband is better than no husband at all.

Similarly, on paper, Transcendence seems like it should be good idea. It’s an original sci-fi concept, not based on a pre-existing franchise property. Wally Pfister, longtime director of photography for Christopher Nolan, chose it as his directorial debut. (In one of the wan bonus features, someone calls Pfister a veteran with the passion and energy of a first-timer.) The cast also features members of the Christopher Nolan Repertory Company, including Morgan Freeman and Cillian Murphy. With all of these factors in place, it wouldn’t seem unreasonable to expect a movie on the level of Nolan’s Inception. But, like Dr. Caster’s experiments, Transcendence is much smarter in theory than it is in practice.

Not that the movie should be blamed for trying. Many recent films have focused on Transcendence‘s two main themes: the practical applications of self-aware artificial intelligence, and humanity’s relationship to it. Just a few months before the film’s release, for example, Spike Jonze‘s Her covered similar ground. But while Her focused in an emotional, one-on-one human interaction, Transcendence‘s view is more macro, centered on the power of A.I. that has access to the world’s accumulated knowledge in a plugged-in society. Or was it more of a political view, telling the story of the struggle between the people who barrel forward with new technology too quickly versus the people who rally against it entirely? Or is it about whether or not humans can form a romantic relationship with A.I. created from the exact neural pathways of someone they once loved? And, if scientists can create A.I. from the exact neural pathways of a living human, what makes that A.I. different from the original? In short: What makes us human, and can it be copied or created?

These are big questions, and Transcendence tries to tackle all of them without ever really getting a bead on any of them...

Click through to read the full review at PopMatters.

DVD Review: Disney's 'Ichabod and Mr. Toad' and 'Fun and Fancy Free'

...It would have been neat if the Blu-ray gave viewers a choice to either watch the movies as two distinct features in their original forms, or as a series of shorts that could be accessed separately and watched in any order. Yet if you want to go from “Sleepy Hollow” to “Bongo”, you have to stop Ichabod and Mr. Toad, head to the top menu, select Fun and Fancy Free, select play from that menu, and fast-forward through the overlong introductory material with Jiminey Cricket.

Format nitpicking aside—and I realize it is a lot to ask Disney to slice-and-dice its beloved feature films—this Blu-Ray two-movie collection has charm to spare. For the most part, the shorts are some of Disney’s strongest, and taken as a whole they offer a variety of animation styles, characters and tones...

Click through to see the full review at PopMatters.

DVD Review: 'Need for Speed'

'Need for Speed' Is About the Thrill of the Ride, Not the Script

...In other words, this is a car movie, one made for people who love cars, and for people who love other car movies. Enthusiasts get to gawk at Marshall’s Ford Mustang GT500 and other exotic cars, like a Lamborghini Sesto Elemento or a Koenigsegg Agera R.

These cars are treated (and shot) with a lot of love. Director Scott Waugh, in his commentary with Paul, mentions that he favors practical effects over CGI, and you can tell; the cars have heft and weight to them, and the most interesting visuals in the film are done in the service of the driving scenes. The cars are also the subject of most of the Blu-ray’s features, which do everything from break down the biggest stunts to analyze the different rumbles that each car makes.

But besides just lavishing attention on the cars, Waugh loves placing them in the context of other, classic driving movies, from Bullitt to American Graffiti. In the commentary, Waugh and Paul point out many of these references (and, yes, video game Easter eggs, too), down to the tiniest background details. (A stunt coordinator and son of a stunt coordinator, Waugh also likes to give shout-outs to all of the stunt drivers and their previous films.) When Bullitt is playing in the background of a drive-in theater during one of the opening scenes of the film, Waugh mentions that he was afraid the movie would come across as a period film, since he puts in so many references to the ‘60s and ‘70s...

Click through to read the full review at PopMatters.


DVD Review: 'Under the Skin'


...We follow Laura as she drives around the streets of Glasgow in a van, luring and seducing men into her orbit, often to their detriment. For these scenes, Glazer uses a series of non-actors in largely improvised environments; the van is outfitted with up to 10 hidden-camera setups.

The result of these conditions—regular people having unscripted conversations in a natural setting without cameras reminding them they’re being filmed—should be naturalistic. However, they don’t entirely feel this way. While these scenes do feel authentic, Glazer heightens the action beyond the typical found-footage-style documentary. His images are more beautiful than something you’d expect from dashboard cameras. He also sets the scenes to a discordantly beautiful score by Mica Levi. You can feel the disconnect between Laura and the rest of humanity; everything feels distant and unsettled.

This is largely to the credit of Johansson. She’s capable of telegraphing both seduction and isolation simultaneously. She connects with the men she meets on the street, but you can tell that there’s an emotional disconnect. While there is dialogue throughout the film, Johansson is essentially giving a silent performance. The words that pass between her and the men are of no consequence to the arc of the film; they’re just to get the men in the van. The emotional core of the story—which comes more and more into focus as the film progresses—is almost entirely advanced through Johansson’s face...

Click through to read the full review at PopMatters.

The Daily Traveler: Amazing Outdoor Film Screenings

A Hot Tub Cinema? Our Favorite Outdoor Movie Venues

Who needs a drive-in? No cars are required to enjoy these outdoor movie screenings—and, chances are, the view will be as good as the film. Enjoy a sunset screening all summer long in an historic Italian piazza, on the rooftop of a cinema in Athens, in a cemetery in Los Angeles, and yes, in a hot tub.

Bologna, Italy

When the weather warms, Cineteca di Bologna turns the city’s Piazza Maggiore into one of the most historic outdoor movie venues, with Renaissance architecture surrounding the plaza on all sides and the dome of the Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Vita rising behind the screen. Cineteca di Bologna holds 51 screenings under the stars throughout the summer, with eight nights dedicated to the “Il Cinema Ritrovato” (Cinema Rediscovered) series of classic movies. It also claims that the Piazza Maggiore's screen is one of the largest in Europe.

Coming Attractions: Jules and Jim, The Spirit of '45, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

Click through to see the full slideshow at The Condé Nast Traveler.

Photo: Lorenzo Burlando