Archive | June, 2013

You’re Supposed to Be Singing

28 Jun

20-feet-from-stardom-posterWhen was the last time a movie made you want to stand up and cheer?

Like, legitimately want to stand up and cheer.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have to reset your clock after seeing 20 Feet from Stardom, an excellent new documentary about folks you’ve definitely heard, but likely have never heard of: backup singers like Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Táta Vega, Darlene Love, and Claudia Lennear.

These are people who’ve worked with the greatest legends in music — Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Bette Midler, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones, Sting, Joe Cocker, Ray Charles, and so on — and yet never gained similar name recognition, even though the songs they’re featured on wouldn’t be half as good or half as memorable without their vocals. Continue reading

Our Country Is Stronger Than One House

27 Jun

white-house-down-posterIt takes almost exactly a half hour for the first explosion to go off in White House Down.

And from there, none of us are safe.

Washington, D.C., is under attack — the White House, to be exact — and it’s up to a down-on-his-luck wannabe Secret Service agent in a tank top to save the day and restore order to the People’s House.

Wait a second, didn’t we just see this movie? Indeed we did. March’s Olympus Has Fallen told a similar story. But imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and great minds think alike, right?

Eh. Continue reading

Dead Movie Walking

21 Jun

World-War-Z-PosterIn 2007, Emma Thompson — bless her heart — thought she’d found a cure for cancer.

(Or, at least, the character she was playing in I Am Legend did.)

It didn’t work. Instead, it turned most of the world’s population into rabid zombies — the kind that only come out at night and are out for blood. Will Smith did everything he could to survive.

Brad Pitt’s dealing with a similar problem in his new movie, World War Z. He plays United Nations employee Gerry Lane, who is brought out of retirement to help save the world from a fast-moving zombie pandemic. (Because apparently, there’s no one else in the world on active duty who can do this. Not even members of the World Health Organization.)

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It’s Scary How Bad This Movie Is

20 Jun

Monsters-University-posterIt had to happen eventually.

Pixar is the best of the best when it comes not just to animated films, but to movies in general. Its creations are true works of art: They’re gorgeously animated, innovatively designed, rich with humor and emotion, and full of characters you actually like. The movies tell wonderful stories and make impressive, subtle use of 3D. They’re as rewarding for adults as they are for kids — sometimes even more enjoyable for adults than for kids.

No wonder the company’s had an unparalleled streak of winners, going back as far as the original Toy Story film in 1995. With the exception of Cars and its sequel (which I didn’t see), nearly every other film they’ve made has been a winner: Up, Rataouille, The Incredibles, Toy Story 3, Finding Nemo, etc. … No other film studio can touch that resume.

So you might say it was only a matter of time before they put out a real stinker of a film. And now, with the release of Monsters University, they’ve done it. (Say it ain’t so!)

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Let’s Go Shopping

19 Jun

bling_ring_posterParis Hilton has a lot of stuff.

From all those designer dresses and shoes, to her perfumes, to the sparkly jewelry, to multiple pieces of artwork and accessories created with her likeness, to bags, to dogs, to a ton of money, Ms. Hilton lives a life of fabulous excess.

We know this because, of course, Paris has never tried to hide her wealth. And we know it because between October 2008 and August 2009, a group of California teenagers broke into her house and took a bunch of it. Actually, they did it multiple times.

And it wasn’t just Paris. Other actors, actresses, and socialites — including Rachel Bilson, Orlando Bloom, Audrina Patridge, Lindsay Lohan, and Megan Fox — were robbery victims too.

The story of this crime spree was documented in a March 2010 Vanity Fair magazine article and a book. And now it’s the basis of a new film written and directed by Sofia Coppola called The Bling Ring.

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Every Superhero Needs His Theme Music

14 Jun

superman-headphonesWith the new Superman movie now in theaters, it’s time to dig out all those Superman-themed songs that we know and love.

You know the ones … “Jimmy Olsen’s Blues” by the Spin Doctors, “Superman’s Song” by Crash Test Dummies, “Superman” by R.E.M., “Kryptonite” by 3 Doors Down, etc. etc.

Want ’em all in one place? You’re in luck: To celebrate the release of Man of Steel, I’ve put together a Spotify playlist of Superman music. It includes the obvious candidates, plus one or two that reference Superman, and a few that were new to me but still worth including. Continue reading

Welcome to the Planet

13 Jun

man_of_steel_posterThese days, it seems you can go one of two directions with your superhero movies.

There’s the Jon Favreau/Joss Whedon route, where the film reflects a comic book sensibility and there’s a healthy mix of action, pathos, and humor — as there was in Whedon’s The Avengers and the three Iron Man films.

Then there’s the Christopher Nolan route, where the stakes are greater than in a typical comic book movie and the drama takes place at an epic pitch, as in The Dark Knight Rises.

(Basically, it’s the Marvel way vs the DC way.)

Director Zack Snyder has taken the latter route with his Superman reboot, Man of Steel. (No surprise, given that Nolan is a producer of the film.) Following Nolan’s lead wasn’t a bad decision, but in doing so, Snyder makes us ask the same question the Joker asked in The Dark Knight: “Why so serious?” Continue reading

Disaster Lockdown

12 Jun

This-Is-The-End-PosterThere’s no reason why This Is the End should be as good as it is.

The film is a goof on end-of-the-world disaster movies, made by and starring the guys from such films as Pineapple Express, Superbad, Knocked Up, and nearly every other Judd Apatow–produced comedy of the past decade.

All the guys play themselves — that is, they play over-the-top, exaggerated versions of themselves — and the film is filled with enough filthy trash talk and bad behavior to fill an entire season’s worth of dumb comedies.

And yet … God bless whatever studio executive green-lighted this movie — he must have been high at the time — because This Is the End turns out to be one of the smartest inside-joke riffs and one of the funniest movies in recent years. Continue reading

It’s Not Perfect, But It’s Real

11 Jun

before-midnight-posterIn 1995, writer/director Richard Linklater made a small film called Before Sunrise, which told the story of Jesse and Celine (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy), an American man and French woman, who meet on a train, disembark in Vienna, and wander the city all night long, getting to know each other.

Nine years later, in Before Sunset, the action shifted to Paris, where the now married Jesse is promoting a book he’d written inspired by his one night with Celine. As the two wander the city all day and catch up, it’s clear the spark lit all those years earlier is still very much alive.

Fast forward another nine years, and the three have reunited once again to check in with Jesse and Celine. In Before Midnight, we find the pair — now living together and with twin daughters of their own — in Greece, where they’ve spent the summer. But unlike in the past, when love for these two was an ideal, a dream, a possibility, now it’s reality, and it’s not so dreamy. Before Midnight tackles that shift head-on.

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This Year, I’ll Keep Checking the Horizon

7 Jun

meh“Where does the time go when it’s not around here?”

Barenaked Ladies asked that thought-provoking question back in 1994 in their song “Great Provider.”

It’s a question I ask a lot. Too often, really. Today, as I turn 39, I’m asking it again.

Where did the last year go? It seems like only yesterday that I turned 38. And yet, not much has changed.

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