Saturday, December 17, 2011

In Theaters: "Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol"

From the time it was announced, there was an air of slight desperation about the fourth film in the Mission: Impossible franchise. Star Tom Cruise is pushing 50, and the last entry had somewhat underperformed, having the misfortune to open less than a year after all the couch-jumping and other weirdness that left American feeling a little uneasy about its biggest box-office star. His subsequent films haven’t done all that hot either (remember Knight & Day?), so it was time to go back to the well. From the casting of Jeremy Renner (maybe he’s being groomed to take over!) to the emo key art (hoodies!) to the trailer music (Eminem! See, edgy!), one couldn’t shake the feeling that Cruise and company knew that they had to make this one count, and were working a little too hard at it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

In Theaters: "Corman's World"

Roger Corman, 85 years old, is currently credited on imdb with producing 395 films—three of which are currently in post-production. This is not the filmography of a man who is in it for a buck, or he’d have retired long ago. He is in it because he loves the movies, the sheer act of making one. That love is present and palpable in the worst of his no-budget turkeys; it’s there in the madcap opening sequence of the new documentary Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel, in which director Alex Stapleton is all but drunk on those movies, on those goofy images of monsters and mayhem and babes and boobs. Corman wasn’t a serious filmmaker, but Corman’s World takes him seriously—as an exploiter, and as an artist, and often as both simultaneously. It’s an obscenely good time of a movie, the same sort of “inside the outside of Hollywood” fun delivered by films like Not Quite Hollywood and American Grindhouse.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

In Theaters: "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows"

Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes films are big and loud and noisy—probably a bit more than they need to be—but he’s keenly attuned to what it takes to keep a modern audience’s attention: move fast, talk faster, lots of fistfights, blow some stuff up. It was a formula that worked for his original 2009 Sherlock Holmes, and he doesn’t go mucking with it in the new sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows; he’s found a style that works, and he indulges it. The results are occasionally uninspired, but good-natured fun all the same.

In Theaters: "Carnage"

Roman Polanski’s Carnage begins at what appears to be the end. Two pairs of parents, the Longstreets (Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly) and the Cowans (Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz), have met at the former’s apartment because their two sons have had a fight. We see that inciting incident at the conclusion of the opening credits, an burst of barbaric but childlike violence. The adults are very much insistent on being, well, adult about the whole thing; they’ve penned a letter and agree that the boys should meet, under some circumstance, to talk it out. The Cowans put on their coats. But they do not quite make it out the door; something keeps pulling them back in to this little confrontation, which slowly but steadily goes clean out of their control. “We’re all decent people, all four of us!” Mr. Longstreet insists, but by that point in the afternoon, he’s not even convincing himself.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In Theaters: "Addiction Incorporated"

The idea that the seven heads of the big tobacco firms could sit in front of a congressional subcommittee as recently as 1994 and say, each of them, with a straight face, that nicotine is not addictive is a mind-boggler. But they did. It was the subcommittee on health and the environment, led by Congressman Henry Waxman, and though there were a couple of friendly faces for the CEOs and VPs (like Congressman Thomas J. Bliley, who had enjoyed their donations for years), most of the lawmakers let those men have it—and one of them forced the head of Philip Morris to let a man named Victor DeNoble waive his confidentiality agreement to testify for them. Put on the spot, the company released DeNoble. He then came to tell the committee about how his research had led to Morris isolating and pushing the addictive quality. All seven of those tobacco muckety-mucks left the industry shortly thereafter.

DeNoble’s story is the primary focus of Charles Evans Jr.’s documentary Addiction Incorporated, though it is not the only one. Evans tells several tales here, separate yet interconnected by their ties to the fall of Big Tobacco: DeNoble’s research, ABC’s investigation of the industry, the FDA and Congressional pick-up, the first class action suits, the Reno Department of Justice’s RICO trial.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On DVD: "Fright Night (2011)"

Full disclosure: I have never seen Fright Night, the 1985 horror picture upon which Craig Gillespie’s new remake is based. Depending on your point of view, that either renders me a) grossly under-qualified to judge the quality of the new film, or b) uniquely qualified to do just that, as it allows a viewing free of both negative comparisons and the nostalgic glow that tends to cloud our judgments of the pop culture of our youth. I went into the new Fright Night cold, so I can’t tell you how it stacks up. What I can tell is that it is a reasonably entertaining and high-spirited creeper that takes itself exactly the right degree of seriously.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

This Week's Flavorwires

The 5 Film Commenters You Meet on the Internet

So all of a sudden everyone is talking about you, the Internet reader—or, more specifically, the Internet commenter. On Thursday, Slate’s Katie Roiphe took a close and thoughtful look at something that most of us who write online have long presumed as par for the course: the angry commenter. “It’s easy to see how one might disagree with or dislike an article,” Roiphe writes, “but what is more bewildering and bears examination is the response of hating the writer’s guts. One would think, reading some of these comments, that the writer has done something to the commenter, that there has been some deep personal transgression.” (Roiphe’s piece has, predictably, prompted nearly a thousand comments—most of them angry.) Over at the Atlantic, Rebecca J. Rosen notes that comments “continue to be terrible, and it's not only because of trolls and morons. Internet comments are hard to read and harder to engage with. Even in places with smart, thoughtful readers, the comment sections tend to be more like lists of unconnected ideas than genuine conversations.”

The Year In Film: 2011′s Biggest Movie Controversies

Every Wednesday in December, Flavorwire will take a look back at the year in film—the stories, the performances, the movies that we were talking about in 2011. For this week, let's revisit some of the year's movie controversies, shall we?

The Most Insufferable Holiday Movies of All Time

Everybody loves a good holiday movie. When we wrote last week about the beginning of the season, and our favorite annual Christmas movies (Die Hard and It’s A Wonderful Life), our readers threw in their favorites: A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, Bad Santa, Muppets Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street, etc. But, lest we forget, every film of the season ain’t White Christmas; there are plenty of rotten holiday movies. (And, in fact, one of them is coming out tomorrow: steer clear of New Year’s Eve as though your life depends on it.) As many great Christmas movies as there are, it’s also a very tricky style to get right, requiring the proper mix of holiday cheer, sentiment, laughs, and warmth. It is pretty easy to screw that elixir up, and end up with something sickly sweet and utterly unwatchable. After the jump, we’ll gather up a few lumps of coal from our previous Christmas stockings.

Our Favorite Film Fans’ Favorite Criterion Films

In retrospect, last week’s gift guide for movie geeks was seriously lacking in one important element: it needs more Criterion. The Criterion Collection, as you presumably well know, is the preeminent home video label for film nerds, lavishing their second-to-none skills of restoration and supplementation on titles both well-known and obscure. So yes, a week-late addendum: if you’re shopping for cinephiles, a title or two from the Criterion Collection should do the trick.

Trailer Park: A Holiday Feast

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. We’ve got a whopping twelve trailers for you this week, offering everything from animation to big-budget studio comedy to Sundance hopefuls; check ‘em out after the jump.