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by Jason Gargano 10.16.2009
at 01:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

Friday Movie Roundup: The Curious Case of Spike Jonze

Spike Jonze is a curious case.

Born into the Spiegel mail-order catalog fortune (his given name is Adam Spiegel), the teenage Jonze found solace in the skateboard/BMX bike culture of the 1980s. A DIY-bred autodidact with an oddball sense of humor, Jonze’s filmmaking “career” kick-started with a series of crafty skateboard videos that caught the attention of the Beastie Boys, who eventually recruited him to direct their playful, refreshingly lo-fi video for 1994’s “Sabotage.”

A series of inventive music videos followed, all of which were informed by Jonze’s boundless imagination and complete indifference to the flashy, jump-cut-laden techniques that flooded other MTV fare.

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by Jason Gargano 01.14.2011
at 12:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Friday Movie Roundup: Winona Ryder Edition

There was a time when Winona Ryder could do no wrong. Simultaneously intelligent, beautiful and creatively savvy, Ryder burst onto the scene with a series of late-1980s roles informed by a refreshingly offbeat sensibility best exemplified by her adorable goth-girl breakthrough in Tim Burton's Beetlejuice and her career-defining performance as Veronica in Heathers, a scathing black comedy that still holds up 20 years later.

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by Brandon Barb 05.11.2012
at 12:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
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'The Avengers' Hits All The Right Notes

Marvel’s big budget movie raises the bar high for comic book movies

If you haven’t gone to the theater to see The Avengers yet, you should go this weekend. On second thought, you should go now — just wait until you’re done reading this.

As a long time Thor fan, this movie has been on my calendar for months. Going into The Avengers I was excited but tried to keep my expectations from getting out of control. Fortunately, I didn’t need to do that because the movie is that good. A lot of that credit has to go to writer/director Joss Whedon. Some of you might recognize the name because he created the television shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly.

The movie could have fallen apart from the beginning with so many big characters — both figurative and literally speaking — on screen at once. With Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and Hulk taking part in the story, any number of things could have gone wrong. Characters could have been underutilized — having four strong stand alone characters could have made them feel not like a team at all — but in the span of just a few hours, Whedon and company have created a giant leap for comic book fans and movies.

Whedon was the right person for the job because, based on his past work, he knows how to generate great characterization and interaction. He knows how to tell a story through the characters and not through the special effects, which was needed in a situation like this. Whedon, the other writers and the actors were able to make these comic book characters more human, so to speak.

The interactions between Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) were some of the best moments in the movie. Some of my favorites were Stark poking Banner to see if he will Hulk up, Thor giving a great one-liner about his brother Loki and Stark verbally sparing with Loki toward the end of the movie.

The story is simple enough: Loki (Tom Hiddleston) wants to take over and rule Earth and the Avengers have to stop him. The major battle doesn’t take place until the end of the movie, but then again it does take up the final 30 minutes or so.

With Loki as the main villain in the movie it helps to have seen last year’s Thor. It isn’t a must to but it does help set up the relationship between Thor and Loki. Watching all of the individual movies helps with understanding some of the character traits in The Avengers, though the last the two Hulk films don’t really do much for the character except see him smash through tanks and cities.

While Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and Hulk are the main heroes, there is a strong supporting cast around them. Scarlett Johansson is Agent Romanoff/Black Widow and Jeremy Renner is Agent Barton/Hawkeye, both agents for S.H.I.E.L.D. Clark Gregg returns as S.H.I.E.L.D agent Phil Coulson, and How I Met Your Mother star Cobie Smulders is Agent Hill. The guy who brings all of these characters together is Nick Furry, played by Samuel L. Jackson.

Tom Hiddleston is terrific as Loki. He is sinister, brutal and devious — after all, he is the Norse god of mischief, deceit and lies. I hope he returns in some fashion in the next Thor movie or the next Avengers. Robert Downey Jr. is back to his witty, sarcastic ways and he has some of the best lines in the movie. Mark Ruffalo is able to finally bring some credit to the Bruce Banner/Hulk character.

The Avengers is a great way to kick off the summer movie season. It combines wonderful action sequences, well done comedy and heartfelt drama in the span of 142 minutes. Whedon was a perfect fit for this movie because he understands character and doesn’t rely on flashy explosions like some directors. If you like flashy explosions there are a decent amount in The Avengers but there is also some of the best character development/interaction I’ve seen in a Marvel movie.

 
 
by Jason Gargano 12.18.2010
at 11:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Friday Movie Roundup: David Thomson Edition

A fine last-minute option for the movie buff on your Christmas list, the fifth edition of David Thomson’s The New Biographical Dictionary of Film was published in late October. I finally got around to cracking it open this week … and I’ve yet to close it. Thomson’s 1,076-page tome is as addictive as ever, bound to keep one engrossed as they move from entries that have appeared in every edition since the first, in 1975, to new and/or updated capsules on those who’ve emerged since his most recent edition in 2004.

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by Steven Rosen 07.26.2009
at 10:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
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Wishful Thinking at the Oxford Film Festival

I guess there’s nothing wrong with wishful thinking.

I bought my ticket for the 6:30 p.m. Friday film Official Rejection at Oxford International Film Festival — being held on short notice at the Esquire Theatre in Clifton — 90 minutes early because the volunteer at the information booth warned me it would be one of the better-attended movies. I then watched the clock as a friend and I had dinner nearby, wanting to be sure we got there in time for a good seat.

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by Jason Gargano 09.29.2011
at 10:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Cincinnati Film Festival Opens Tonight!

New Cincinnati Film Festival (CFF) Director of Programming Brandon Harris isn't shy about pimping the quality of his choices for this year's fest: “This represents the most ambitious and internationally acclaimed program of films ever screened in Cincinnati.”

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by Jason Gargano 10.21.2011
at 01:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Friday Movie Roundup: Emilio Estevez Edition

Emilio Estevez has been making movies nearly as far back as I can remember going to movies.

My first memories of Estevez date back to 1983's The Outsiders, in which he was but one of many young actor dudes (including but not limited toTom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe and Matt Dillon) to grace Francis Ford Coppola's slick, black-and-white adaptation of S.E. Hinton's novel. That was followed by Alex Cox's Repo Man, which I wouldn't see until several years after its 1984 theatrical release (when I was old enough to rent it for myself) and which probably stands, at this late date, as the best film with which Estevez has ever been associated.

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by Brandon Barb 04.13.2012
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Movies In Question: 'The Raven' and 'Stooges'

John Cusack an odd choice for Edgar Allan Poe; Larry, Moe and Curly finally go big screen

When I first saw the trailer to the upcoming John Cusack movie The Raven I wasn't quite sure what to think. At first, I was excited because it is a movie based on Edgar Allan Poe’s work, but I'm still skeptical. The English major side of me jumped for joy (but then remembered he was an English major and went back to brooding).


Everything was fine until John Cusack walked in from the shadows. Don't get me wrong, his movies are some of my favorites and I love his work, but Cusack playing Poe is a strange combination. Maybe they wanted to have the same dark character they saw in Identity. There are a few people that I could see playing Poe. Off the top of my head, Sam Rockwell, Edward Norton and Gary Oldman are three guys who could pull off the dark character that Poe was. At least Cusack resembles Poe in the movie.

Maybe it is just the trailer that turns me off to Cusack filling the boots of the late American poet. In it, Cusack’s delivery is dry and stiff. I don’t feel any kind mystery that surrounds Poe. Some of his writings are real disturbing when looked at closely, but with Cusack the character appears to be deflated. I guess this hesitation comes from Poe being one of my favorite writers. For all I know, the trailers don’t do the movie justice, which I hope is the case. Cusack is known for his obscure roles and disturbed characters, so this is probably a perfect fit.

The premise for the film has been done before, but since it's Edgar Allan Poe it gives the movie somewhat of a different angle. Some man is committing murders based on stories written by Poe, and then Poe has to figure out who the murderer is with the help of Detective Fields played by Luke Evans. If you're worrying about spoilers, don't be — all of that is in the trailer. I think I know who the murderer is already, but it’s Hollywood so anything can happen.

Movies based off of literature are good as long as they keep true to the source material. It will be interesting to see what happens with The Raven. It feels like a mixture of the Sherlock Holmes movies and the Johnny Depp picture From Hell. We will all find out on April 27.

Another movie is being released today and me torn as to whether to watch it or not. The idea of a The Three Stooges film has bounced around for years, but now it has finally limped its way to the screen. Leave it to Hollywood to take a beloved comedic classic like the Stooges and churn out a mediocre-looking movie.


There have been many names were attached to this project, including Jim Carrey, Justin Timberlake, Andy Samberg and Paul Giamatti. Actually filling the shoes of the Stooges are Sean Hayes as Larry, Will Sasso as Curly and Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe. To me the only choice that makes sense is Sasso because he made a name for himself with physical comedy on Mad TV.

I’m surprised this is actually a movie, because it just looks horrible. I don’t want to watch it but I probably will end up in the theater because the original Stooges are a great gift to slapstick comedy — I’ll even give Curly’s replacement Shemp a nod and say he wasn’t that bad, either. But any movie that incorporates the Jersey Shore should just go straight to DVD.

The tagline for the movie is “Just say Moe” but someone should have told the Farrelly brothers to just say no. They are known for great comedies like Kingpin, There’s Something About Mary and Me, Myself & Irene, but their trek into classic slapstick comedy appears to be anything but. As much of a fan as I am of the Stooges I hope I'm wrong with this one, and that at least Will Sasso is just as good as he was on Mad TV.

 
 
by Jason Gargano 03.27.2009
at 11:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

Friday Movie Roundup: The Incredibly Shrinking Movie Industry

Is it just me or are there far fewer movies being released this year?

It’s not just me. A quick look back reveals that 24 different films appeared in at least one local movie house in March 2008. By contrast, 14 films will have been released over the same period in 2009.

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by Jason Gargano 11.05.2010
at 10:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 

Friday Movie Roundup: ’Tis the Season

It's already November? It seems like it just yesterday that The Hurt Locker took home a surprising (and much deserved) Best Picture win. We're now entering the stretch drive of the fall movie season, a period laden with the big studios' “prestige” films — those they believe have the best chance to grab awards love (thus bigger box-office numbers and the media attention that follows), none more important than that shown by the Academy.

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