Dominik, Howard, Junger, Miller, Wolchok

Deadpool (Tim Miller, 2016). And so we’ve reached the point in the superhero era of cinema that allows for a caustically deconstructionist take on the genre to become one of the biggest hits of the year. There might be no better methodology for tracing the chronology of the genre’s takeover than measuring the comparative impact of Mystery Men (a dud in 1999) to Kick-Ass (a solid hit in 2010) to Deadpool (a sensation in 2016). Technically, Ryan Reynolds first played Wade Wilson in the dismal X-Men Origins: Wolverine, release in 2009. Besides the smirking countenance of the actor, that iteration … Continue reading Dominik, Howard, Junger, Miller, Wolchok

Garland, Howard, Mangold, Ross, Taylor

Ex Machina (Alex Garland, 2015). Novelist and screenwriter Garland makes his directorial debut with this smart, chilly science fiction film about a reclusive tech magnate (Oscar Isaac) who flies up an employee (Domhnall Gleeson), supposedly selected at random, to help him test out some remarkable new artificial intelligence he’s created. Complicating the test subjects reactions is the little detail that the A.I. has been loaded into an android with a notably lovely female form and visage (Alicia Vikander). Garland builds his script with almost malicious psychological cunning, fomenting uncertainty as to whether the genius inventor is a simmering madman or … Continue reading Garland, Howard, Mangold, Ross, Taylor

From the Archive: Backdraft

We had a few traditions on the movie review radio show The Reel Thing. The one that was in place from the very first episode involved spending our first episode in September discussing the biggest box office hits of the summer. Hence the inclusion of earnings analysis alongside the quick breakdown of the film’s quality. (And how adorable is it that the fifth biggest film of the summer has a total take that now looks like a respectable opening weekend for a hit.) My recollection is that we usually looked at the top ten highest-grossing films, but my memory might be faulty, … Continue reading From the Archive: Backdraft

Arteta, Bergman, Howard, Newman, van Heijningen

Cries and Whispers (Ingmar Bergman, 1972). This intricate, cerebral, elusive drama from the acknowledged master of intricate, cerebral, elusive dramas takes place at stately mansion at the end of the 19th century. A woman named Agnes, played by Harriet Andersson, is on her deathbed and is seen to by her two sisters, both returned home due to their sibling’s terrible need, and the loving household maid. Each character gets their own individual segment, usually devoted to a flashback to some terrible emotional incident in the past, Bergman scraping at their existential agony like a merciless physician slicing at a poisonous … Continue reading Arteta, Bergman, Howard, Newman, van Heijningen

Top Fifty Films of the 80s — Number Forty-Four

#44 — Parenthood (Ron Howard, 1989) It’s no bold, daring insight to note that building strong characters is one of the most vital parts of good filmmaking. This is especially true when making a comedy. It quickly becomes the difference between lining up a bunch of strained situations orchestrated for no other reason than to fulfill to set-up-followed-by-punchline imperative, and telling a story that manages to be worthwhile and terrifically funny at the same time. Develop the characters well and the humor will arise from them rather than be dispensed by them. It’s not revolutionary, but it’s amazing how rarely … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 80s — Number Forty-Four