Rack Focus: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Director Timur (Wanted) Bekmambetov’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter should be the type of hoot-and-holler horror flick where my nearest and nerdiest friends can get together and cheer as our 16th president slaughters droves of the undead. Why, then, did I mostly dislike what I saw? This isn’t a film that has anything insightful to say about slavery or the Civil War, and I’ve celebrated more tacky and tasteless schlock than this (which reassigns some of history’s most significant deaths — Lincoln’s mother, for one — to bloodsuckers rather than bad milk). Based on the novel written by Seth Grahame-Smith (who also wrote the screenplay), the film’s problems can be chalked up to discordant dialogue and problematic plot holes that devalue his promising high-concept.

Continue reading “Rack Focus: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”

Rack Focus: Piranha 3DD

If you didn’t see Alexandre Aja’s Piranha 3D (2010), you missed a fiercely fun horror comedy that struck a balance between over-the-top gore and earnest wit while telling the tale of a Spring Break laid waste by an army of prehistoric piranha. Don’t believe me? Consider that film’s opening – a tongue-in-cheek vignette featuring Richard Dreyfus as a drunken fisherman whose boat is consumed by the monster fish, recalling both his character from Jaws (one of the finest films ever made) and the humble beginnings of “Nature Attacks!”-style horror before taking its own bite out of the genre.   Continue reading “Rack Focus: Piranha 3DD”

Rack Focus: Men in Black III

Men in Black III (MIB3) will likely play as a pleasant distraction only for those who don’t generally pay attention to what they’re watching. J (Will Smith) and Retro K (Josh Brolin) stumble from adventure to adventure on the road to the film’s conclusion at the Cape Canaveral launch of Apollo 11, underutilizing nearly every potential element of it’s fun time-traveling premise beyond by a well-played but ultimately throwaway cameo from Bill Hader as Andy Warhol. No real mention of Vietnam, The Beatles, Woodstock, Charlie Manson, or Martin Luther King Jr. (who was assassinated a mere year prior to the film’s proceedings). Continue reading “Rack Focus: Men in Black III”

Rack Focus: The Dictator

Director Larry Charles and co-writer/star Sacha Baron Cohen once again have something social to slice at. Like their Borat and Brüno, The Dictator is aggressive while ever-making sure to be hilarious, playful and brief. And while this is a much safer movie than the duo has made previously — and ultimately less good than the aforementioned titles — I imagine this is easier for masses to digest than, say, Brüno’s extended close-up of Cohen’ flaccid penis gyrating in a propeller motion. Continue reading “Rack Focus: The Dictator”

Review: This American Life Live! (2012)

ImageA theater buzzing with intellectuals and hipsters was what I expected and promptly received when I attended This American Life Live! You Can’t Do That On The Radio, a live performance of the ever-popular radio program and podcast series beamed to roughly 600 movie theaters around the country on May 8, 2012. If you listen to the show, the only thing that kept you from Thursday’s program was either lack of proximity to a not-sold-out movie theater or the $20 required to pay the hefty ticket price.

This American Life, for those uninitiated, is a publicly produced radio program broadcast weekly on over 500 stations around the country before being posted for free online, where it frequently has the distinction of being the most popular podcast in the country. Hosted by the soothingly precise voice of the invaluable Ira Glass (who could read you to sleep were he not pumping your brain with so much goodness), each episode has a chosen theme that is unpacked over an hour of selected stories of everyday people — most them either heartwarmingly or heartbreakingly true.  Perhaps the best way to understand the show is simply to listen (the most recent episode, #154: In Dog We Trust, is available here), and their website is packed with their expansive catalogue of nearly every program for the price the oxygen and time your consuming at this very moment (though the show is arguably a better use of the latter than anything I’m currently writing).

Hence the distinction “Live!” in the title of this one-of-a-kind theatrical experience, where listeners around the globe can bask in the glory of seeing nerds on-stage in real time in 600 different venues around the country. And this is indeed an event for a crowd, up to and including a specifically interactive performance from Grammy-award winning band OK Go. This Amercan Life has always seemed pointed at bringing people together through experience (shared or individual), and part of the fun of this particular presentation is that it literally accomplishes that expressed goal. Continue reading “Review: This American Life Live! (2012)”

Top Five Reasons Non-Fans Should See Marvel’s The Avengers

Okay, so we all have friends who are either whiny hipsters or, even worse, elitists. They may not know it, but they are. How do you spot them? They’re that arrogant individual who turns their nose up at anything popular or mainstream, believing wholeheartedly that it couldn’t possibly be worth their time.

Case in point: Marvel’s The Avengers. These people couldn’t care less because they either think a) it’s stupid because it’s a superhero movie, b) it’s stupid because it’s popular, or c) it just “isn’t their speed.” Yes, there are obnoxious crowds, high ticket prices, or the unthinkable act of missing that Studio Ghibli retrospective at the local art house theater, but I (and/or those nearest and dear to you) still believe you should go!

Therefore, here are five very good reasons non-fans should see Marvel’s The Avengers in the movie theater as soon as possible. Continue reading “Top Five Reasons Non-Fans Should See Marvel’s The Avengers”