Film & TV

The Unfortunate Rise of Dumbed-Down Hollywood Comedies

Kurt Thurber

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Lowbrow comedy. Lowbrow comedy who? It’s lowbrow comedy everywhere because it’s easy to write and cheap to produce. The entertainment industry is bigger than ever. Therein lies the problem:  Hollywood has produced lowbrow comedy for every generation,  and it now has the capability to produce dumbed-down movies in every genre tenfold. 

Film Enthusiasts Address the Importance of Rescuing ‘Orphan Films'

Maggie Hennefeld

What is an “orphan film?”  This month (from April 11-14),  more than 300 film enthusiasts, filmmakers, programmers, scholars, and archivists congregated in the newly renovated Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, to address this question. Loosely defined, an orphan film is one that has been abandoned by its original owner or producer, a decaying print with no prospect for distribution. The stories behind some of the films in this year’s 8th biannual Orphan Film Symposium  were nothing short of heroic. 

“Contraband,” “Cinema Verite” Arrive on DVD, Blu-ray

Forrest Hartman

In 2008, Baltasar Kormakur played the lead role in “Reyjavik-Rotterdam,” an Icelandic thriller about a former smuggler tempted back to a life of crime. Four years later, Kormakur has returned to the material, but this time as director. “Contraband” is an English-language remake of the Icelandic movie, and it stars Mark Wahlberg as Chris Farraday, an expert smuggler who went straight after a stint in jail. 

“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol,” Shame” Arrive on DVD, Blu-ray

Forrest Hartman

Each of Tom Cruise’s “Mission: Impossible” films has had a different director, and the latest to take the helm is Brad Bird, a man who made his name with the animated hits “The Iron Giant,” “Ratatouille” and “The Incredibles.” If Bird had difficulty transitioning from cartoons to the real world, it isn’t apparent on screen. “Ghost Protocol” is a fast-paced, exciting thriller that’s as entertaining as any of its predecessors. 

The Master of Reinvention: Why Woody Allen Still Matters

Christopher Karr

Woody Allen’s films — 40 in all, from 1971’s Bananas to 2011’s Midnight in Paris — compose one of the most astonishing sequences of cinematic expression in American movie history. For a filmmaker who is often accused of making the same picture over and over, Allen is remarkably adept at reinvention. Who expected Interiors after Annie Hall? Or Zelig after A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy? Or Match Point after Melinda and Melinda

“The Iron Lady,” “Darkest Hour” Arrive on DVD, Blu-ray

Forrest Hartman

There is no question that Meryl Streep’s portrayal of the controversial conservative politician, Margaret Thatcher, in "The Iron Lady" is remarkable. The film looks at Thatcher in varying stages of her career, with Streep portraying all but the youngest years, and her physical and vocal transformation is one of the most impressive in cinema history.     

“War Horse,” “We Bought a Zoo” Arrive on DVD, Blu-ray

Forrest Hartman

Director Steven Spielberg had a big year in 2011. Not only did he release his first animated movie, “The Adventures of Tintin,” he made this outstanding drama about the bonds that form between man and animal. Based on the children’s novel by Michael Morpurgo, the film tells of a thoroughbred colt raised by an English teen named Albert (Jeremy Irvine).

Will the Real Nicolas Cage Please Stand Up?

Sam Chapin

Who is Nicolas Cage? Or perhaps the question should be, what is Nicolas Cage? There are few actors working today who prove harder to define, both on and off-screen. If you read the news reports, the answer to the first question is that Cage is a broke, pagan castle owner who named his son Superman and will star in any movie, if asked. The answer to the second question: a vampire from the Civil War.

It Takes a Village (to Make a Hollywood Hit)

Kat Kambes

Often the glitz and glamour of Hollywood supersedes the real “work” of the movie, and certainly the awards season does nothing to bring recognition to the many people who contribute to the success of a movie.  Many of the fields that are recognized: technological, sound design, set design, etc., are done so in hotel luncheons and dinners far away from the camera, or by taking out a page-sized ad of congratulations in Variety.  In this respect, Hollywood itself contributes to the limited vision that people outside of Los Angeles have of the industry. 

‘Delicacy’, the Foenkinos’ Debut Feature Film, Is Largely Forgettable Despite Its Occasional Charms

Elizabeth Pyjov

“Delicacy” is the first feature film of brothers Stéphane and David Foenkinos.  The film seems to have been made by rather inexperienced directors.  It flows from sentimentality to light comedy to tragedy in a way that is neither credible nor smooth. Its humor and gushiness would have been more appropriate for separate episodes of a longer soap opera than for a single film. 

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