MOVIE REVIEWS

A Question for The Unenthusiastic Critic

Because this is how movie geeks do this...

Tonight my partner N. (known in these parts as The Unenthusiastic Critic) and I celebrated our nine-year anniversary as a couple, and it seemed as good a time as any to take care of some unfinished business. Being a tremendous movie geek, I decided to do this in a montage…

(Inexplicably, she said yes, but she was pretty drunk at the time, so we'll see if that lasts.)

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GODZILLA (2014)

Movie Review

GODZILLA-2014

Gareth Edwards' Godzilla is a curious beast, neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring. Audiences eager for the start of the summer blockbuster season will flock en masse to see the big guy and his opponents do some aggressive urban reclamation. Fans of Edwards' previous feature Monsters—among whom I count myself—will go to see what a smart and sensitive independent director can do with an iconic franchise and $160 million. Neither audience is likely to be entirely satisfied or entirely disappointed, for Godzilla turns out to be a strange and only partially successful marriage of different sensibilities.   Continue reading

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THE ONE I LOVE (2014)

Chicago Critics Film Festival Review

THE-ONE-I-LOVE-2014-directed-by-Charlie-McDowell
The Chicago Critics Film Festival (CCFF) is running from May 9–May 15, 2014, with 23 features and 14 shorts premiering at The Music Box Theater. Throughout the week I'll be popping in and out of the festival, and posting a few short reviews of movies I recommend catching in wider release. (For more information on the CCFF, go here.)  Continue reading

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OCULUS (2014)

Movie Review

OCULUS-2014-written-and-directed-by-Mike-Flanagan
To say that Oculus is a better-than-average scary movie is to acknowledge the tragically lowered expectations of the genre itself. Oculus is reasonably well acted, it manages some creepy moments, and writer/director Mike Flanagan generates some real energy by finding fairly original things to do with the film's structure. Shouldn't that be enough to recommend it? What more could we possibly ask of a haunted house movie?

Well, of course, there is a lot more we might ask, and that something more is the difference between an enjoyable-but-disposable experience and an actual movie. Oculus shows some promise, but ultimately it's satisfied with being simply competent. You can almost feel the creators saying, "It's just a scary movie." Continue reading

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CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

CAPTAIN-AMERICA-THE-WINTER-SOLDIER-2014

Captain America's first film—the underrated Captain America: The First Avenger—took place almost entirely during the WWII era that spawned the character, and had a refreshingly idealistic, gee-whiz feel that was entirely appropriate. Now, Captain America: The Winter Soldier—directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, and loosely based on a popular comic run written by Ed Brubaker—finds the revived Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) navigating the murkier waters of what America has become in the 21st century.

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NOAH

NOAH-2014-directed-by-Darren-Aronofsky

Let us turn to The Book of Darren, Chapters 1–34:

1 And so it came to pass, in the two thousandth and fourteenth year, that Darren Aronofksy turned his eyes towards the Powers That Be.

2 Powers, spake he, Give to me monies totaling twenty-five and one hundred thousand thousands, and I shall deliver unto You the story of Noah. Continue reading

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DIVERGENT

DIVERGENT-20141

About halfway through the new dystopian science fiction film Divergent, the heroine, Tris (Shailene Woodley), is given a test in which she must face her greatest fears through a series of induced hallucinations. The problem is, Tris is special, and so—unlike the others taking the test—she breezes through the challenges because she knows they're not real. Like a lucid dreamer, the nightmares have no power over her, and she is able to dismiss them with a casual, contemptuous ease. (Faced with drowning in a tank of water, for example, she is able to simply tap lightly on the glass and shatter—literally and metaphorically—the fourth wall.) If Tris wants to pass the test and avoid attention, she is advised, she must at least pretend she finds these ridiculous situations believable, and react accordingly.

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VERONICA MARS

VERONICA-MARS-2014

My first reaction to Veronica Mars, Rob Thomas's big-screen sequel to his 2004-2007 TV series, is simply to be glad that it exists. I was a fan of the Veronica Mars TV show: much as its older cousin Buffy the Vampire Slayer had interpreted the hells of the teen-age years through horror tropes, Veronica Mars saw them through the lens of film noir, making its eponymous heroine a tougher, sassier, more cynical Nancy Drew for the 21st century. If Veronica Mars never quite navigated the halls of its high school setting with quite the emotional resonance of better shows like Buffy and Freaks and Geeks, it was still a witty, addictively entertaining program, anchored reliably by a star-making performance from Kristen Bell.

Alas, critical adoration and the devotion of a ferocious fan base never quite translated into actual ratings, and Veronica Mars was cancelled after its third season. Now, thanks to an unprecedentedly successful Kickstarter campaign, the bitch is back, nearly 10 years after she first appeared. Veronica Mars, the movie, is currently playing in select theaters, and via same-day video-on-demand release. Continue reading

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THE 86TH ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS

2014 Oscar Picks and Predictions

THE 86TH ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS-PICKS AND PREDICTIONS

As the annual Academy Award bacchanalia approaches, all of us who run pop culture websites are more or less contractually obligated to share our predictions and preferences. Frankly, I think we might as well also be obligated to put our money where our mouths are, and throw twenty bucks into a common pool, with the winning blog taking the pot. (I myself, it should be noted, would never, ever win.) Continue reading

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POMPEII (2014)

POMPEII-2014-directed-by-Paul-W.S.-Anderson

Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl, boy and girl run around while SHIT BLOWS UP AROUND THEM. Continue reading

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