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ENTERTAINMENT
By Andy Klein | June 21, 2012
According to screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith (who also wrote the original novel, as well as “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”), his inspiration for “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” was seeing a bookstore display for the “Twilight” books cheek and jowl with a table of volumes about Lincoln. Lincoln ... vampires .... vampires ... Lincoln .... hmmm.... Yeah, it's an amusing idea, but that's really all it is. The entire joke is conveyed in the title; anything more is superfluous.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Andy Klein | January 18, 2013
Having already won the Palme d'Or at Cannes and several of the most important critics' awards, Michael Haneke's “Amour” has scored an unexpected five Oscar nominations. It's unusual for the usually ghettoized European art films to score anything beyond the Foreign Language category, plus maybe one or two nominations in the general categories. The Oscars belong to Hollywood; and (not surprisingly) Hollywood tends to like the same sorts of movies that Hollywood makes. You'd have to go back more than a decade, to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” to find a wholly non-English film to be nominated for Best Picture, and the number of such nominees before can be counted on two hands (with a few digits left over)
ENTERTAINMENT
By Andy Klein | October 19, 2012
Halloween understandably spurs the release of new horror films every year, and 2012 is no exception. Two weeks ago, we were treated to the mercifully brief run of "V/H/S," an anthology of interchangeable stories organized around "found footage" that would have been better left unfound. Last week was "Sinister," which was a step up, but basically recycled a bunch of creaky plot ideas so overused that they now qualify as conventions: family arrives at new house, kids start acting spooky, objects start moving on their own, and each casual closing of a door triggers a noise so loud that the characters - and, of course, the audience - are physiologically forced to jump.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Andy Klein | March 28, 2014
The last time Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly got together was for “A Beautiful Mind,” in which she played the devoted wife of a man who heard voices in his head and communicated with an imaginary buddy. This time it's completely different: She plays the devoted wife of a man and his invisible boss, who tells him to prepare for a giant flood by building a huge ark. Welcome to Darren Aronofsky's “Noah.” Following a very sketchy outline of the Creation - did we really need this bit of exposition?
ENTERTAINMENT
By Andy Klein | February 24, 2012
“Wanderlust,” the new project from Judd Apatow and associates, starts as though it were ripped from today's (or at least this decade's) headlines. Yuppie couple George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) buy a tiny, fabulously expensive Manhattan “micro-loft.” George suddenly is downsized out of his job; HBO passes on Linda's depressing documentary about penguins with testicular cancer; and the housing bubble bursts. Suddenly they owe more than the apartment is worth. They head off for Atlanta to crash with George's unbelievably obnoxious brother (Ken Marino)
ENTERTAINMENT
By Andy Klein | March 16, 2013
In how many ways is "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" a horrible miscalculation? Pretty much all of them. Yes, it has a couple dozen chuckles and maybe a few true laughs, but that's not enough to sustain this written-by-numbers piece of Hollywood "product. " Given the level of talent involved, this is especially disappointing. Director Don Scardino is fresh off of “30 Rock.” Steve Carell can do (almost) no wrong in my book. Steve Buscemi is one of the greatest characters since the fall of the studio system.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Andy Klein | October 5, 2012
"Butter" - a frequently funny comedy from director Jim Field Smith ("Episodes") and first-time screenwriter Jason Micallef - is essentially a sports film with a layer of cultural (and, by the end, political) satire. In the tradition of that genre, it pits the sweet, utterly lovable underdog against the smug, utterly loathable alpha dog - only this time, the competition is sculpture; the medium, butter. In the film's world, you can forget about the early presidential caucuses: Here the most important event in Iowa is the butter sculpture competition at the annual state fair.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Andy Klein | November 23, 2012
"Life of Pi," like the recent "Cloud Atlas," is adapted from a novel widely considered to be unfilmable. While in "Cloud Atlas" the issue was the book's multistory structure, in "Life of Pi" the problem is of a technical nature - the two main characters are a teenager and a fearsome Bengal tiger who share a lifeboat in the middle of nowhere for 227 days. How do you film that convincingly without running through a lot of teenagers? Way back when, such a challenge would have been met with clever cutting, rear projection, and/or a really well-trained animal - none of which would pass muster by today's high-tech standards.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Andy Klein | January 12, 2013
It's hard to resist Los Angeles-based films noir -- "Chinatown," "Kiss Me Deadly," "The Big Sleep" being only a few of the best -- but "Gangster Squad" is a bit more resistible than most. Director Ruben Fleischer and screenwriter Will Beall have morphed Paul Lieberman's nonfiction book of the same name into something a good deal more fictional. It's 1949. Gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) is trying to enlarge his California turf all the way to the Midwest, and a gang war against rival Jack Dragna, who is tightly aligned with the east coast mob, is already underway.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Andy Klein | June 7, 2013
Stop me if you've heard this one before: A couple of outcasts find themselves in a rigid social environment, surrounded by winners who sneer at them as losers. Most of these "losers" have given up even trying. Luckily, within their number there are a few "leaders" who teach the others that accepting the values of their tormentors, struggling to emulate them, is a futile strategy. It's better to upend the social order by showing the usefulness or moral/ethical superiority of their timid "loser" ways.
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NEWS
By Andy Klein | May 1, 2014
Presumably to avoid confusion, Sony has added the words "The Amazing" to the titles of its current Spider-Man series. What? He wasn't amazing the first time around? Was Tobey Maguire the Meh Spider-Man? This rebranding feels like a defensive gesture, given that the character (as played by Andrew Garfield in 2012) was no more amazing than his 2002 counterpart (Maguire). And the film was frankly somewhat less amazing. Is it any different this time? It would make sense to compare this second installment of Sony's reboot to its counterpart in the previous Spider-Man trilogy.
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NEWS
By Andy Klein | April 18, 2014
Several years back, after Johnny Depp's twin triumphs in "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" and the first "Pirates of the Caribbean," I started referring to him as the God Who Walks Among Us. (I think that qualifies as "ironic hyperbole. ") Now, in "Transcendence," he actually plays the God Who Walks Among Us or, to be technical, the God Who Walks Among, Around, and Inside Us. The setup is a variation on old themes: Will (Depp) is a cyber-scientist so brilliant that he actually has fans jockeying around for his autograph.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Andy Klein | April 11, 2014
The people behind “Draft Day” like to say that it's not “about football”; it's about “characters” or “a man under pressure” or something like that. This is a blatant attempt to appeal to filmgoers who don't follow the game or don't even care about it. I'm among that demographic, so I can attest that their claim is valid. I don't even pay much attention to the Super Bowl, and even less to the draft - yeah, I know, that makes me practically un-American - and yet I was fully engaged.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Andy Klein | March 28, 2014
The last time Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly got together was for “A Beautiful Mind,” in which she played the devoted wife of a man who heard voices in his head and communicated with an imaginary buddy. This time it's completely different: She plays the devoted wife of a man and his invisible boss, who tells him to prepare for a giant flood by building a huge ark. Welcome to Darren Aronofsky's “Noah.” Following a very sketchy outline of the Creation - did we really need this bit of exposition?
ENTERTAINMENT
By Andy Klein | March 21, 2014
You've got to hand it to Veronica Roth, the 25-year-old author of “Divergent” and its two sequels. Following the success of Suzanne Collins' “Hunger Games” books, Roth wrote a book that emulated (or lifted, if you want) as much from Collins's novel as one legally could - the central character, the dystopian setup, and the style, for a start. The first chapter reads like a perverse writing assignment: Clone the opening of “Hunger Games” without giving grounds for a lawsuit. She is one smart cookie - which doesn't necessarily mean her book is good.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Andy Klein | March 14, 2014
Except for a few dodgy plot tricks, “The Art of the Steal” is a pleasantly modest entry in that overdone genre, the heist film. It's got “Canadian production” written all over it, from writer/director Jonathan Sobol to a cast that includes Kenneth Welsh, Jay Baruchel, Stephen McHattie, Jason Jones and Katheryn Winnick, among an essentially all-Canadian roster. The three big exceptions are the three best-known stars - Kurt Russell, Matt Dillon and Terence Stamp. Nothing wrong with a Canadian production in general, though, presumably as a condition for various funds, the setting briefly switches to Quebec City for no particularly pressing reason.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Andy Klein | March 7, 2014
Nominated for this year's Animation Oscar, the excellent “Ernest & Celestine” was, sad to say, not the winner. It was a tough field - hey, there was a Miyazaki film in there too - and I have no unkind words for “Frozen,” the winner, either. We've all heard the frankly hollow line about there not being any losers. But, in this particular case, there is some justification. On the eve of the expansion of its U.S. release, the lovely French/Belgian co-production will benefit from its brief mention in last week's world-televised awards show - one of the dullest ever, by the way. In outline, the setup is not wholly unlike many of the animated features coming out of Hollywood: lovable anthropomorphized animals play out humanoid conflicts and realize that we all have to learn to live together.
NEWS
By Katherine Tulich | February 21, 2014
In this pre-Oscar release period when movie studios find it a perfect time to purge their catalogs of D-grade movies, its best to set the bar pretty low, and my expectations for the new movie "Pompeii" were about as ash deep as the once ancient Roman city on which the story is very loosely based. Set in the days just prior to the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that would destroy the city, this "Gladiator"-meets-"Titanic" mash-up pits a Celtic slave-turned-sword-fighting warrior named Milo in a fight for his life while falling for an upwardly mobile daughter, Cassia, of one of Pompeii's most prominent families.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Andy Klein | February 14, 2014
Hey, look at this week's big new films!: “About Last Night”... “Endless Love”... “RoboCop”.... Were the last three decades merely a dream? If they were, I surely would have left my waking self a note somewhere, listing the next 30 Superbowl winners, several major tech startups, and a peek into real estate values. Damn! No message. Ergo: real, not a dream. Then why the chilly deja vu shivers running down my spine? Could it have something to do with the roster above? What does it mean that in 2014 three out of four big releases in one week are remakes of '80s productions?
ENTERTAINMENT
By Andy Klein | February 7, 2014
There may be no real grindhouses anymore, but, if there were, “The Outsider” would feel right at home. Despite a shopworn setup in which the plot doesn't always make sense, it has a certain narrative drive and a whole bunch of blood-free killing. Gruff, hulking Craig Fairbrass stars as Lex Walker - or so the credits say, although I can't recall his first name ever being mentioned on screen - a British mercenary working for the U.S. in Afghanistan. One day, his superior informs him that his estranged daughter, Samantha (Melissa Ordway)
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