Friday, July 15, 2011

Some New Flavorwires

Well, new-ish.

10 Patriotic Movies That Aren’t Cheesy

The Fourth of July weekend is upon us, and it would seem appropriate to celebrate the birthday of the nation with a bit of America-lovin’ cinema. However, these films are not exactly known for their subtlety; the line between patriotism and jingoism is a fine one, and if you’re not careful, you may find yourself suffering through flag-waving pap like Independence Day and The Patriot. We like our Fourth of July cinema a little more perceptive than that; America is a complicated notion, an idea as much as a place, constantly redefining itself and expanding its own borders and definitions. After the jump, we’ve put together a few films that acknowledge that complexity, and find their drama within it.

‘Boyz N The Hood’ at 20: Where Are They Now?

Here’s a factoid that, if you’re about my age, will make you feel nice and old: It was 20 years ago today that Boyz n the Hood, John Singleton’s iconic coming-of-age-in-South-Central tale, first hit theaters. It was one of the 19 films released that year helmed by African-American directors in the wake of the critical and financial success of Spike Lee’s early efforts, which proved the existence of a passionate and underserved audience; that year also saw the release of New Jack City, The Five Heartbeats, A Rage in Harlem, Daughters of the Dust, and Lee’s own Jungle Fever. Never before had one calendar year seen so many films from black voices; sadly, it hasn’t happened since.

What Happens to Ratings When TV Shows Change Leads

Last night, CBS announced that departing CSI lead actor (and Boyz n the Hood alum) Laurence Fishburne will be replaced on the series next season by Ted Danson. Fishburne was himself a replacement for the show’s original leading actor, William Petersen, who fronted CSI for its first eight seasons before Fishburne took over. The ratings have dipped a touch in the last year, but it is still one of the most popular shows on television—a case where the series and the brand did just fine without the leading actor, and it will presumably continue to thrive once its third lead takes over. (All we have to say about Danson’s participation is this: he better still make time for Bored to Death.)

Our Favorite “Harry Potter” Parodies

Tomorrow, as we have been told many, many times, “it all ends.” Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Part 2 marks the end of the lucrative, decade-long Harry Potter film franchise, which has yielded eight films, over two billion dollars in box-office revenues (so far) and more parodies and spoofs than you can shake a wand at. To mark the conclusion of the series, we gathered just a few of our favorite Potter parodies. Check them out after the jump, and add your own in the comments.

Trailer Park: Scorsese, Soderbergh, Spielberg… and Sandler

Welcome to “Trailer Park,” our regular Friday feature where we collect the week’s new trailers all in one place and do a little “judging a book by its cover,” ranking them from worst to best and taking our best guess at what they may be hiding. This week, we’ve got new films from Martin Scorsese, Steven Speilberg, Steven Soderbergh, and Guy Ritchie—but don’t get too excited, there’s a new Adam Sandler movie too. Check ‘em all out after the jump.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

In Theaters: "Tabloid"

In September of 1977, a young Mormon named Kirk Anderson went missing from a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in England, where he was working as a missionary. A few days later, he contacted police, and reported that he had been abducted by Joyce McKinney, a former beauty queen he had dated back in the States. Anderson claimed that McKinney and her accomplice had taken him to a remote cottage and imprisoned him, and that McKinney, after failing to seduce him, had raped him several times. McKinney claimed that she had helped him escape from the Mormon “cult,” and that they had enjoyed a romantic weekend together before his Mormon guilt sent him back to the church, which forced him to lie about the encounter.

These are, it seems, categorically opposite descriptions of the same event, told with equal force and vigor—a salacious, sensationalistic version, and a flowery, romantic one. Who the hell is our reliable source here? And with that question, we’re getting into Errol Morris territory.

In Theaters: "Project Nim"

Nim the chimp was born in 1973 at the Institute for Primate Studies in Oklahoma. A few days later, he was taken from his mother Carolyn and placed in the care of Stephanie Lafarge, a graduate student of Columbia University professor Herb Terrace. Nim would be the object of Terrace’s language experiment, which theorized that, if treated like a human infant, a chimpanzee could learn to communicate like one—the “nature vs. nurture” argument, tested in an extended family. Glancing at the promotional materials, I presumed Project Nim would begin and end with the experiment. I was very, very wrong.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

On DVD: "Arthur (2011)"

The trouble with assessing Jason Winer’s new Arthur remake is this: the original was, quite simply put, a nearly perfect comedy, and it casts a long shadow indeed over this acceptable, innocuous, and ultimately forgettable cover version. There has been a rather strange rash of revisionist judgment with regards to the 1981 Dudley Moore vehicle in the weeks leading up to the remake’s release; suddenly a film with an 89% on the tomato-meter is getting the full-on “meh.” That’s bullpuckey; Arthur is as unremittingly funny on its 20th viewing as it is on its first, and you can take that from someone who’s done that particular experiment.

On DVD: "Rango"

Gore Verbinski’s Rango is an absolute and unexpected charmer of a movie, a clever and sophisticated movie-savvy comedy that happens to be animated. From the strains of the spaghetti Western overture onward (the music is by Hans Zimmer), director Gore Verbinski fills his picture with little winks to the grown-ups in the audience; yes, it may feature Johnny Depp as a cartoon lizard, but its plot is a riff on Chinatown, it builds a key set piece as an homage to Apocalypse Now, and the titular character’s desert adventure is interrupted by a quick encounter with one of Depp’s previous characters—Raoul Duke from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Not too many family films feature a cameo appearance by Hunter S. Thompson’s alter ego.

Monday, July 11, 2011

On DVD: "Insidious"

James Wan’s Insidious opens with a sequence so patently ridiculous, so preposterously over-the-top, that it feels like parody—like something out of an early DePalma picture. It closes with a cheap, dopey, no-good ending that will absolutely infuriate any viewer with a triple-digit IQ. In between those two low points, the film crests and dips, veering wildly from irritating sidebars to genuine, honest-to-goodness scares. It’s an almost comically uneven picture. But when it sticks to the business of being creepy, it does so with a ruthless efficiency; at its best, it’s a mean, nasty little thrill-delivery system.