The final episode of At the Movies aired last weekend, marking the end of an era that began more than 30 years ago.
Featuring a pair of geeky Chicago-based film critics — Roger Ebert from The Sun-Times and The Tribune's Gene Siskel — the long-running show debuted as Sneak Previews in 1975 before switching to At the Movies in 1977. The premise was simple: two people talking about that week's releases with passion, intelligence, wit and personality.
With the rise of Netflix, Redbox and ever-expanding streaming-video options, old-school brick-and-mortar video stores are likely to be extinct by the end of next year. Say what you will about the evils of a behemoth like Blockbuster, but this can't be a positive development. And I don't say that from a purely nostalgic point of view — though that's part of it.
By now I typically unveil my favorite movies from the first half of the year. Yet looking back on the first six months of 2010, only two films —Lee Unkrich's Toy Story 3 and Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop —have discerned themselves as unqualified contenders to make my year-end list.
The antithesis to the bloated, big-budget commercial fare that dominates the summer multiplex, the annual 48 Hour Film Project has done exactly what its creators envisioned when they founded it in 2001: empower filmmakers of every stripe and experience level to get off their asses and create something from nothing.
The worst summer movie season in memory gets a kick in the ass this week with the opening of a pair of small-scale, Sundance-approved art-house gems: the Duplass brothers' Cyrus, an unexpectedly touching, hilariously awkward comedy featuring John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei and Jonah Hill in an odd love triangle of sorts, and Debra Granik's Winter's Bone, a tension-laced thriller that is likely to stand as young actress Jennifer Lawrence's breakout role.
Knight and Day, the action-comedy extravaganza starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, supposedly tanked at the box office last weekend, pulling in “only” about $20.5 million despite opening on a Wednesday (that's two extra days with which to build up its box-office tally, for those not keeping track of such things).
The James Mangold-directed movie was made for $107 million, we've continually been reminded, it has to do better than that in its opening weekend! Right?
Can we just have Pixar make every movie? The animation studio is at it again with Toy Story 3, yet another creative triumph that offers everything the rest of the summer's big-budget extravaganzas do not: multifaceted characters, adventurous filmmaking and an emotionally involving story that is surprisingly dark and intense.
Are we in the midst of the worst summer movie season on record? The bar's admittedly not very high, but it certainly looks like we're heading in that direction.
What's up with all the 1980s love currently spilling out of multiplexes?
Sure, Hollywood and marketers of all sorts have long mined nostalgia as a powerful enticement tool in the marketplace. But is 20 years enough time to generate sufficient yearning for a period whose mainstream culture is best represented by the rise of stupid action movies and/or creatively bankrupt sequels (see the career of Sylvester Stallone for examples of both), acutely disposable Pop music (see everything from Hair Metal to Milli Vanilli), ludicrous clothes (see Miami Vice) and the presence of a two-term president whose nefarious policies laid the groundwork for our current economic meltdown?
Just in time to rescue us from another week of safe, reheated Hollywood product (yes, I'm referring to you, Sex and the City 2), a locally produced film gets its local debut at 8 p.m. tonight at Cincinnati State's ATLC Auditorium (3520 Central Pwky., Clifton).
Meth, the latest short from Cincinnati filmmaker Michael Maney, centers its fast-paced 20-minute story on a meth addict (played by CCM-trained local actress Stephanie Brait) who, in an effort to score her habit of choice, crosses paths with a tweaked-out drug dealer (Dan Davidson), a pawn-shop operator (Nick Rose), a talking mannequin (voiced by Robert Pavlovich) and a guy who might be the victim of a conspiracy to exterminate wrongdoers via vigilante justice.