I contributed two blurbs for PopMatters's list of the most terrible films that came out last year.The Worst Films of 2011 No. 8: AbductionTrue, spoilery fact: There is no abduction in Abduction. Sure, main character Nathan, played by Twilight’s second-fiddle Taylor Lautner, sees his own face on a missing-persons website. But it’s not because he was abducted as a child—and the real reason is almost too stupid to go into. (It was a trap so the bad guys could lure him out of his safe, secret-agent-led foster home?) What follows is a series of fights and chases led by the ultimately charisma-less Lautner, who doesn’t really sell his character ultra-trained CIA spawn, but is even less convincing as a normal teenager. What’s most confusing of all is how director John Singleton and actors like Maria Bello, Sigourney Weaver, and Alfred Molina got dragged down with him. No. 3: Just Go with ItLet’s see what Adam Sandler had been doing surrounding Just Go with It. He played a rich guy with a hot wife in Grown Ups. He played a rich guy with a hot ex-wife in Funny People. Immediately following Just Go with It, he played a rich guy with a hot wife (and his awful twin sister) in Jack and Jill. Sandler’s most interesting comedies arise when he creates a character—either real people with real flaws that drive the action, like Billy Madison, or strange outlandish types like in Little Nicky. Now, he seems content with being the normal, rich dude who puts in the minimum amount of effort to woo whatever young actress is roped in to play his love interest. Just Go with It is the peak of this sort of Sandler laziness. He has to choose between the young paramour he’s been chasing (Brooklyn Decker) and his female best-friend-all-along (Jennifer Aniston). What’s unclear by the end of the movie is what, apart from his successful plastic surgery practice, either of them see in him. Click through to read the rest of the list at PopMatters.
"Yet it’s not the premise to Love, Wedding, Marriage—and its strict romantic view that equates divorce with failure—that is the movie’s biggest flaw. Instead, it’s the way the film uses its premise to indulge the worst romantic-comedy tropes, scenes featuring zany speed-dating, bad karaoke, soap-opera-style revelations, a fake suicide attempt, schmaltzy third-act toasts, multiple uses of the phrase 'once upon a time', dramatic revelations, and wacky marriage therapies, plural. Did I mention that Ava has a three-week deadline to save her parents marriage before their big, surprise 30th anniversary party that she refuses to cancel?
Love, Wedding, Marriage goes for broad, just-shy-of-slapstick humor. Only Mulroney doesn’t have a feel for the right tone, rhythm, or look of a romantic comedy. In one scene, the marriage therapist that Ava sends her parents to—played by Christopher Lloyd in the most disappointing cameo of his ever put to film—has them run through some pre-therapy exercises that includes them hopping around and snorting air through their noses. Surely, this was supposed to be played for comedy.
In reality, there’s nothing really all that funny about watching Jane Seymour and James Brolin flopping around on screen. It’s almost more sad than funny. When Mulroney tries for some more directorial flourishes, he favors the more dramatic series of extreme close-ups, lingering ponderously on Mandy Moore’s face.
Then again, there isn’t much in the material to elevate with better direction. Much of the dialogue, written by Anouska Chydzik and Caprice Crane of the recent 90210 and Melrose Place reboots, is therapy-speak. People often say exactly what they feel. They talk about fulfillment, prioritizing, and validation. If there is a single least-funny word in the English language, it just might be 'prioritizing'."
Click through to read the full review at PopMatters.
As part of PopMatters' survey of 100 essential directors, I did a brief piece about Oliver Stone.
Underrated: Nixon (1995) and W. (2008). These two films, though controversial, are not as easy to argue about or as quick to ruffle feathers as JFK. And, though political, they don’t touch the same kind of raw, emotional nerve as a subject like the Vietnam War, like Stone did in Platoon and Born of the Fourth of July (1989). As a result, they’re both overlooked, a shame considering what Stone manages to accomplish in them: painting a human, even sympathetic, portrait of a figure that stands for everything he’s against personally. The two imperial presidents are cast in very different lights: Stone’s Nixon, in his quest for power, causes his own undoing, while his George W. Bush is almost totally powerless, haplessly flubbing his way through his own presidency. And yet Stone manages empathy for them both, and gets award-worthy performances out of Anthony Hopkins and Josh Brolin in the process.Click through to read the rest of the article at PopMatters.
Everyone knows that Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, Macbeth, and all those other great plays. But, to paraphrase the Royal Tenenbaums, what this movie presupposes is—maybe he didn’t? Director Roland Emmerich, best known for his disaster movies like 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow, offers a melodrama that asserts that Edward De Vere, the Earl of Oxford, is the true scribe whose work launched a million high-school essays.
In the era of 3D, IMAX, and surround sound, it seems almost woefully backwards to recommend a movie that’s silent. Yes, silent. And black-and-white. And not in widescreen. The Artist is a new French film that takes place in Hollywood during the silent-film era, and it attempts to recreate that experience for current audiences. It’s a perfect antidote for those suffering from loud, color-saturated, quick-cut comics-movies fatigue."
Click through to read the rest of the article, or download the PDF above.
Fall Arts Preview: Fall Events
I wrote the massive guide to fall arts and culture, which was broken into Fall Events, Fall Books, Fall Movies, and Fall TV. For fall events, I covered upcoming art, film, music, theater, family happenings, readings, lectures, comedy, art and craft fairs, and special events taking place in Westchester September, October, and November.
Film writer Harlan Jacobson screened The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo—the original Swedish version, of course—before almost anyone else here had a glimpse of Noomi Rapace’s nose-ringed face, thank you very much. And he doesn’t plan on getting scooped this season, either. For his Talk Cinema series, Jacobson shows an indie or foreign film before its release, then hosts a discussion afterward with a filmmaker or critic. You don’t get to know what film you see beforehand, but speculating is half the fun.
This will be their year: to celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary, the Zombies have planned a worldwide tour, with stops from Edinburgh to Tel Aviv. And, when they finally come stateside, they’re playing the Tarrytown Music Hall. In addition to ’60s hits like 'Time of the Season' and 'She’s Not There,' the band will perform songs from last year’s new album, Breathe Out, Breathe In."
Click through to read the rest of the article, or download the PDF above.
My contributions to Time Out New York's list of cheap things to do in New York City are sprinkled throughout their package, which is broken up into weekday, weeknight, and weekend activities. I covered items for all three lists, including: cruising the East River Ferry (No. 3), touring Grand Central Terminal (No. 6), bowling at the Gutter (No. 10) or Brooklyn Bowl (No. 30), catching a comedy show at the PIT (No. 61) or UCB (No. 70), seeing a rock show at the Mercury Lounge (No. 88), hitting up the matinees at the AMC theaters (No. 91), and walking the gardens at Wave Hill (No. 92).
"People’s Improv Theater
In January, the PIT moved away from New York’s informal improv-comedy district near the Magnet Theater and UCBT and into a new space with a full bar and approximately 100 seats—nearly double its previous capacity. It’s a great place to catch a comedian on the rise: Kristen Schaal and The Office and Bridesmaids’s Ellie Kemper were both on PIT house teams. Most weekday shows are rarely more than $10, but for the best value, stop by on Wednesdays from 6 to 11pm, when troupes flex their comedic muscles in six free shows. 123 E 24th St between Park and Lexington Aves (212-563-7488 thepit-nyc.com)."
Click through to read the rest of the article at Time Out New York.