Friday, January 6, 2012

This Week's Flavorwires

Open Thread: What Is Your Pop Culture Cold Spot?

Last week, your author was charged with working up our most anticipated movies of 2012, and I must confess, it's an assignment I was dreading. Not because there weren't movies in the upcoming year worth anticipating (as we saw, there are many), or that it would be difficult to explain why they were worth looking forward to. No, it was because I knew I was going to have to deal with The Hobbit.

I anticipated it, even, noting in the call for comments that there would certainly be hoots and catcalls for the exclusion of Peter Jackson's return to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien. And there were, sure enough. But here's the problem, as briefly noted when discussing the release of they eagerly-greeted-by-everyone-but-yours-truly trailer: I don't like The Lord of the Rings. I just don't. It's one of my pop culture "cold spots." We've all got them. Right?

10 Great Movies Streaming Free on YouTube

Hey there, film lover. How's your January? I know, I know, not much in the way of new movies worth seeing this month, what with January being the Hollywood dumping ground and all. How's about just staying in and streaming some Netflix? What's that? You dropped your subscription because they raised the price by five bucks? Way to take a stand! Okay, so, go hit the Redbox. Yeah, you're right, it's pretty cold out. No need to bundle up and head all the way over to the Walgreens, only to go find that they're all out of Fast Five. So what now? Well, come to find out, your old pal YouTube has a surprisingly excellent collection of feature-length flicks streaming for the bargain price of zero dollars. I know, right? And, sure, a lot of them are junk, or the same public-domain titles that have been turning up on bargain DVDs at the Dollar Tree for years now. But there are some gems in there, and (being a service-oriented organization), we've sifted through their offerings to find the best of the bunch. Check 'em out after the jump.

10 B-List Actors Who Should Be A-Listers

The Sarah Jessica Parker vehicle I Don't Know How She Does It, in which Ms. Jessica Parker plays a woman has both children and a career OMG HOW DOES SHE DO IT, is out this week on DVD, giving you another opportunity to not see it. But the most confusing aspect of IDKHSDI (besides the fact that it exists) is its supporting cast, which is just full of people we like: Christina Hendricks, Seth Meyers, Jane Curtin, Busy Phillips, Kelsey Grammer, Greg Kinnear… and Pierce Brosnan. Wait, what? What’s Pierce Brosnan doing filling a supporting role in a warmed-over Sex in the City retread? He was JAMES FRICKING BOND, for God's sake. Brosnan is but one of many actors who either used to be A-list or should be, yet have inexplicably fallen to B-list status. Sometimes it’s voluntary; some actors choose to concentrate on smaller, supporting roles, or to focus on stage work and the like. But more often than not, a couple of unfortunate moves can create a narrative as to what kind of an actor someone is — what they can do, both qualitatively and financially — and that becomes the common wisdom. It's a crap shoot. After the jump, we'll take a look at ten actors who aren't getting the kind of work they deserve.

The Worst January Film Releases of All Time

January is upon us, and we film fans know what that means: nothing good. The first month of the year is traditionally the dumping ground for Hollywood studios, the month in which they unload the films that aren't quality enough for the Oscar-courting fall, but not commercial enough for the lucrative holiday, spring, and summer seasons. January is where bad movies go to die, and where studios hope we won't notice them. They're usually right; viewers either tend to catch up on the prestige pictures that are going into wider release, or just stay at home and watch football. But our nation's film critics, fat and happy after the holiday feast of smart, highbrow entertainment, are often subjected to the sugar crash of January dogs, and as a result, their reviews often pack a little bit of extra vitriol. After the jump, we've assembled the ten worst movies released in the month of January — according to the reliable aggregators at Rotten Tomatoes — along with a few choice words from the scribes who sat through them.

Trailer Park: Upside Down, Inside Out

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. Though we took a week off for the holidays, the pre-Christmas trailer flood has slowed to a trickle; that said, we've managed to rustle up six new films for you. Check 'em all out after the jump.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

In Theaters: "Roadie"

Reviewed at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival

Chit-chat is not dialogue. Slice-of-life is no excuse for dullness. Style is not the enemy of naturalism. These and other hard lessons are taught in Roadie, a maddeningly inert indie drama from director Michael Cuesta. The raw ingredients are promising—good cast, interesting premise, so on—but the plodding script and Cuesta’s lead-footed direction prevent it from going much of anywhere, including the viewer’s memory. Six hours after it ended, I’m sprinting down the corridors of my memory to summon up much to even say about it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

On DVD: "Colin Quinn: Long Story Short"

Colin Quinn: Long Story Short is funny and smart—borderline brilliant, even—and no one is more surprised than this viewer. For a good couple of decades, Quinn seemed a lesser talent who’d peaked with MTV’s Remote Control; his stint as anchor of SNL’s “Weekend Update” was painfully laugh-free, and his Comedy Central series Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn was an awkward and ugly attempt to replicate Politically Incorrect. But then came the Jerry Seinfeld documentary Comedian, with Quinn appearing both in the film and on Seinfeld’s DVD audio commentary track, and he did something he hadn’t done in years: he made me laugh. Working with Seinfeld, he was sharper and funnier; he brought his A-game. Now comes this HBO recording of his Broadway show—directed by Seinfeld. He appears to have found his ideal collaborator.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

On DVD: "Puncture"

If Puncture were a book, it'd be a beach read--junk, basically, but really hard to put down. It's not intellectually stimulating, but it moves, popping through its well-worn narrative with style and efficiency. It's a Civil Action/Erin Brockovich-style based-on-a-true-story backroom legal drama, and like those films, it primarily separates itself from the countless TV movies in the same mold thanks to the efforts of a powerful star performance. In this case, that performance is by Chris Evans. I'm as surprised as you are.

Monday, January 2, 2012

On DVD: "The Guard"

Throughout John Michael McDonagh’s The Guard, you can’t help but think of In Bruges; it’s not just the Irish settings and the big, open face of star Brendan Gleeson, but the snappy dialogue, quick and dirty, which moves at such speed that the filmmaker takes it on good faith that audiences will keep up. The resemblance is not just superficial, it is fraternal—In Bruges writer/director Martin McDonagh is this filmmaker’s brother. They put something in the water in that house.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Your New Year's Links

Apologies for letting these pile-up-- particularly since so many are holiday-related and year-end list stuff, which God knows we're all tired of. But be a dear a click them anyway.

Open Thread: Let’s Talk About the Ending of ‘Young Adult’

Young Adult, the dark comedy starring Charlize Theron that re-teams Juno director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody, went into wide release last weekend (after hitting a few screens the weekend before), and now that it's out, we're again in the odd position of wanting to talk explicitly about the film's ending — specifically about its closing scenes, which are (for our money) where Young Adult stops being a good movie and becomes a great one. Of course, not everyone sees movies within the first three days, so we'll wait to get into this further until after the jump — where you'll find some thoughts on the closing scenes from us, and from director Jason Reitman. So, y’know, duly noted, spoiler warnings, etc., etc.

Flavorpill’s Most Anticipated Movies of 2012

Hey, guess what: 2012 is like, four days away. Exciting, eh? Well, aside from that whole Mayan calendar/end of the world business. And that there's going to be a Presidential campaign all damned year, and the economy's still in the toilet, and Community is on a "hiatus"… On second thought, 2012 is already looking pretty terrible, and it hasn't even started yet.

No, wait! There will be new movies! Many, many new movies. And don't kid yourself: plenty of them are going to be terrible (I mean, there's a Battleship movie coming out, for God's sake). But some of them look awesome! So in the spirit of cautious optimism, join us after the jump for a look at ten 2012 releases that we're genuinely looking forward to.

Who Played It Better: 10 Literary Roles Filled by Multiple Actors

Now that the ever-so-eagerly anticipated David Fincher adaptation of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is out in theaters, fans of Stieg Larsson’s trilogy have had the chance to see how Fincher’s take stacks up — not just against the books, but against the previous Swedish film version, and more specifically in the representation of iconic heroine Lisbeth Salander. The role was played in the original films by Noomi Rapace (currently appearing in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows); for the American films, Rooney Mara takes over.

Who’s better in the role? It’s a tricky question — and one that comes up every time multiple actors take their turns playing a beloved literary character. The critics have weighed in on who plays Lisbeth better, but after the jump, we’ll take a look at ten previous cases of "different actor, same role."

10 Young Actors Who Should Be Our Next Action Stars

Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol, the fourth installment of the venerable action franchise, is in theaters now (well, sort of; they did this tiered release where it went to IMAX screens last Friday, but everywhere else on Wednesday, so if you've got an IMAX screen in your city, you can go see it there, but if not, later, and… yeah). When it was in pre-production last year, much ink was spilled over the casting of Hurt Locker star Jeremy Renner in one of the supporting roles, with speculation running rampant that the young actor was being groomed to take over the series' leading role from producer/star Tom Cruise, who is, at 49, perhaps getting a touch long-in-the-tooth for all this running/fighting/climbing 100+ story building nonsense.

There does seem to be something of a dearth of young actors equipped to take over the action-hero mantle from folks like Cruise, Will Smith (43), Jackie Chan (57), and the stars of The Expendables. So we got to thinking about some of the twentysomething actors who we'd like to see take a shot at action stardom. Check out our picks after the jump, and add your own in the comments

The Year in Film: 2011′s Most Underrated Films and Performances

As the year winds to a close, you've seen plenty of "best of 2011" lists — and we've certainly contributed a few of our own to the mix. Wading through them can lead to a sense of fatigue; yes, we liked The Artist and Hugo and The Descendants and The Tree of Life just fine too, but it feels like we're reading praise for all the same movies and performances, everywhere we look. So, late in the "best of" season, we wanted to take a moment to spotlight a few films and actors who, we feel, are getting overlooked in the year-end shuffle. Our picks are after the jump; yours (we hope) will join in the comments.

The Year In Film: 2011′s Best Movie Moments

Contrary to what some of the more curmudgeonly folks you might be reading have said, 2011 was actually a very good year for film, in which countless filmmakers either ignored the industry's distrust of originality entirely, or found new and interesting ways to smuggle bits of revelation and surprise even into formulaic franchise pictures. You'll see a lot of "best of the year" lists floating around that run down many of the same easy picks for the year’s best films, but since each film is an accumulation of small parts — scenes, lines, pauses, etc. — we thought it would be fun to pick out some of the little, specific moments that stayed in our movie-going memories over the course of 2011. Ours are after the jump; we hope to see yours in the comments.

The Year in Film: 2011′s Best Movie Characters

Earlier in the month, we spotlighted some of our favorite performances of the year, and we're not quite sure exactly where the line falls between loving a performance and loving a character. But the people (and non-people) on this list were real and memorable not just because the actors involved played them so well (though they did). Here, the combination of masterful acting, great writing, and sensitive direction gave us a sense that these were real people on the screen. What's more, they were real people whom we wish we knew — even though, by the end of their films, in many ways we did know them. Our favorites are after the jump; add yours in the comments.

Holiday Moviegoing Suggestions for the Whole Family

Come Christmas afternoon, your local multiplex will be as overstuffed as you and your family — not with ham and spiked eggnog and festering resentment, but with holiday movies. Crowd-pleasing blockbusters, arty Oscar hopefuls, squeaky-clean kids’ fare, and rom-coms will all compete for your Christmas afternoon dollars, leading to the inevitable family arguments over what movie we’re all going to see, because damnit, it’s Christmas and we’re going to spend it together so can we all just compromise a little? It’s Christmas, for Chrissakes!

Poppycock, we say. Save the arguments and cut your losses; this holiday’s movie-going menu is so specialized that there’s no way you’re all going to agree on any one movie, and all of these films have been created with specific target audiences in mind. To that end, we offer these humble suggestions for Christmas Day movie-going, with a little something specific for everyone in the family.

10 Memorable Cinematic New Year’s Eves

Ah, New Year's Eve — that special night of the year where we put so pressure on ourselves to have a great time, have a great time, HAVE A GREAT TIME that we end up, inevitably, having a really lousy time. (Don't pretend like it's just me.) Part of our self-imposed pressure to enjoy ourselves on the last night of the year is, we contend, the fault of movies, which often present the evening as an occasion for joyous celebration, thoughtful reflection, and new beginnings (often with a new object of affection). But some films also recognize the nightmare of New Year's Eve, and dramatize that. We've assembled a few examples of each after the jump, and humbly present ten on-screen New Year's Eves that we find memorable — for reasons both good and bad. All will make fine New Year's Eve viewing — and are far better than New Year's Eve.

Our 10 Favorite Anti-Christmas Movies

With the holiday season in full swing, it's easy to get burned out — cable stations are running crappy movies like Jingle All the Way and The Santa Clause 24/7, saccharine holiday music is blasting out of every speaker, and you've still got like half your list to buy, and what the hell do I get these freaks? Calm down. Have an eggnog. Put some rum in it. And enjoy some of our favorite anti-Christmas movies — not films that hate the holiday, per se (though a couple of them do), but ones that cut through all that warmth and good feeling and get at the darkness underneath. Our contrarian Christmas viewing list is after the jump.

Trailer Park: Prequels, Sequels… and Salmon

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’s seven trailers include several big-franchise sequels and (sort of) prequels (we think); check ‘em all out after the jump.