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"Paper Towns" is Flimsy but with Some Interesting Twists

16 January 2016 12:15 PM, PST

There are nine problems...

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a modern archetype defined by Nathan Rabin in his review of Elizabethtown (2005) as "that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures."  The term is a complaint or criticism rather than something beloved.  These characters are walking infatuations that belong to the observers and not to the actors themselves.  And Paper Towns (2015), an adaptation of the novel by John Green (of The Fault in Our Stars fame), adheres to that definition with ironic precision before crushing that simplicity and then resuscitating it a little so we aren't too much the better for the experience.

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- Jason Ratigan

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"Tremors 5" Delivers on Action and Gore but Misses on Comedy

16 January 2016 12:10 PM, PST

No film franchise should ever make it to its fifth installment. A prime example: Disney is currently dead-set on making a fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie when we all know that stretching Johnny Depp’s eyeliner-smudged antics out into an entire trilogy was already teetering on the edge of way too much. I can understand the desire to turn one film into a trilogy, a la Peter Jackson. Trilogies tend to form a natural story arc, from (satisfying) beginning to (usually kind of boring) middle to (hopefully satisfying) end. However, once you venture beyond three, you are venturing into worlds best left unexplored. Yet I suppose one cannot expect storytelling restraint for the sake of avoiding creative burnout when it comes to the Tremors franchise. The original 1990 film starring Kevin Bacon, Reba McIntyre and Michael Gross is fondly remembered by many for its bizarre genre mash-up of comedy with good old-fashioned creature feature horror. »

- Lee Jutton

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"Terminator: Genisys" Improves Over the Last Two Installments, For Whatever That's Worth

16 January 2016 11:50 AM, PST

Terminator: Genisys is the best of the franchise since the original two. Now, before you diehards out there go all bananas, let’s agree that, initially at least, that’s not saying very much. Jonathan Mostow’s 2003 Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was an instantly regrettable follow-up to James Cameron’s two masterworks (The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day). The ham-fisted humor and grossly ineffective CGI took the pitch-perfect source material, which gained international acclaim because it took itself seriously and operated with the gravitas and power of an emotional science-fiction opera, and diluted it with studio schlock. Fans didn’t want a parody of their beloved, and hard R-Rated, romantic sci-fi actioneer. Six years later, director McG was given the reins with Terminator Salvation, convoluting the mythology and tone with his typical crassness. It was better than Rise, but the franchise just couldn’t rediscover Cameron’s brilliance. »

- Kyle North

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"Regular Show: The Movie" Fails to Adapt the Show's Charm to Something Longer

16 January 2016 11:10 AM, PST

Take me back to high school.  Gotta fix this!

If you're going to judge something, you balance two things: ambition and results.  A film like Interstellar (2015), for example had incredible ambition with mixed results.  Furthermore, the ambition of the film was indisputably worthy of the effort and the results were mixed only in light of its high goal.  That is to say, in a lesser space film, the results would have been laudable.  In a movie like Regular Show: The Movie (2015), the ambition is about the size of Matthew McConaughey's squinted eyelid.  The film's creative team of J.G. Quintel (director/co-writer/vocal star) and Sean Szeles (co-writer) deliver with apparent ease on that gauge, but are perhaps less commendable for that lack of aspiration.  Still, it was kind of a giggle.

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- Jason Ratigan

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"The Enchiridion" Serves as an Excellent Guide to the World of "Adventure Time"

16 January 2016 11:05 AM, PST

When you were twelve years old, did you long to escape the mundane reality of school, homework and family obligations to explore a fantastical world, performing heroic acts alongside a magical, talking dog? Sounds like a lot more fun than living in the real world, right? Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time allows you to belatedly fulfill those dreams one 11-minute episode at a time as you join human boy Finn (voiced by Jeremy Shada) and his dog sidekick, Jake (voiced by John “Bender from Futurama” Dimaggio) as they get into various shenanigans throughout the Land of Ooo, a charmingly bizarre place populated with characters that include rapping bears, ghost flies, adorable dimple plants, sentient video game consoles and--my personal favorite--Root Beer Guy, a walking root beer float who works as a lousy telemarketer by day and an aspiring mystery novelist by night, and is married to Cherry Cream Soda Girl. »

- Lee Jutton

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Video Games and Kung Fu Strike Back with "The Avenging Fist"

16 January 2016 11:00 AM, PST

People seem to be infatuated with the idea that we’re using only ten percent of our brains, and that if we unlock the other ninety percent, we will gain access to superhuman levels of power and intelligence. It feels a bit like an excuse for humanity’s various weaknesses--of course I’m not living up to my full potential, I can only use a small portion of my brain! This urban legend is so frequently used as fodder for entertainment that it has its own Wikipedia page explaining why it is nonsense. However, that hasn’t stopped films like Limitless (now a television program and the most recent addition to CBS’ crowded stable of procedurals) and Lucy from perpetuating this myth.

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- Lee Jutton

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"Do I Sound Gay?" is Certain to Get People Talking

16 January 2016 10:55 AM, PST

“’I didn’t know you were gay,’ and I’m like, ‘Why did that make me feel good?’” So sayeth the great comedian David Sedaris in one part of the simple, but compelling documentary from Sundance Selects and IFC, Do I Sound Gay? A festival success from a Kickstarter campaign, the film follows Brooklyn journalist and activist David Thorpe after a break-up with his most recent boyfriend that sends him off on an investigation of the “gay voice” he hears from his own mouth, but feels increasingly disconnected from. With famous interviewees including Tom Gunn, Margaret Cho, and George Takei, the film thankfully relies more heavily on the filmmaker’s friends and family, giving the film a strong personal touch that isn’t lost in celebrity appearances.

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- Kyle North

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"Caesar and Otto's" Audience is Limited to People Just Like Them

16 January 2016 10:50 AM, PST

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Horror is cheap to make and cheap to parody and, for that and other reasons, attractive to make and to parody.  Caesar and Otto's Paranormal Halloween (2015) is a parody horror film for the YouTube age.  Caesar and Otto are the creation of writer/directer/actor Dave Campfield where two underachieving brothers who find themselves in horror stories.  Here, Caesar (Campfield), Otto (Paul Chomicki), and their drunken father (Scott Aguillar) agree to housesit the evil governor's (Ken MacFarlane) second home over the winter.  Craziness ensues with potential possessions, maybe murderous gardeners, hot neighbors, and three dopes caught up in more horror references than they can handle.

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- Jason Ratigan

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The Modern Political Stage is Set by these "Best of Enemies"

16 January 2016 10:45 AM, PST

These are the debates we're having today.

The Americans that live in this country today would not have survived 1968.  We have lost our collective shit about the color of a dress and the Nsa having data on phone calls.  That's to say nothing of what's passing for the presidential primary contest right now.  In 1968, Robert Kennedy was murdered after the California primary, Martin Luther King was murdered in Memphis, and there were riots throughout the country in April and well-televised police brutality at the Democratic convention in Chicago.  That's to say nothing of the Vietnam war.  Watching Best of Enemies (2015), about the "debates" between William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal during the Republican and Democratic conventions, it's hard to wrap your head around what would have seemed like a cultural tsunami to most people.  As with the political trends of the time, these debates bestowed upon posterity a storm »

- Jason Ratigan

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"Spy" Whips Up a Funny but Action-Packed "007" Parody

16 January 2016 10:35 AM, PST

I’ve always harbored a dream of being the female James Bond. Basically, I’d kick the same amount of ass, but in designer gowns rather than suits, and have a range of attractive, international men of mystery to choose from. At this point, I’d just settle for being the female director of a James Bond film, but my attachment to the franchise and its fancy cars, futuristic gadgets, stylish clothes and often nonsensical plot twists is still very strong. One of the great things about the James Bond films is their willingness to look back on their own storied, yet uneven, history and laugh a little bit; the best Bond films, even when they’re gritty and dark like Casino Royale and Skyfall, still manage to pack in enough tongue-in-cheek moments to prove that they don’t take themselves too seriously. So, the notion of Melissa McCarthy, one »

- Lee Jutton

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