The Hobbit, Part Two: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

The Hobbit, Part Two: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
Cairo: Here Be Dragons In the middle of The Desolation of Smaug, the second of a trilogy of Peter Jackson films adapting J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved 1937 novel, The Hobbit, Thorin, the king of the dwarves gives a rousing speech that asks the people of Lake-town to reclaim their heritage. Because of its location on a ...

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Neither Kisses, Nor Spider Women Of the many intriguing things about Dallas Buyers Club, Jean-Marc Vallée’s terrific new film about the AIDS crisis, the most haunting is the impressively restrained performance of Jared Leto, for which he most certainly should win Best Supporting Actor at the upcoming Oscars. The film concerns Ron Woodroof (played by ...

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (2013)

As Johnny Knoxville Criticism Lays Dying I went to Bad Grandpa, the fourth Johnny Knoxville “Jackass” movie because its trailer featured the funniest thing I’ve seen in a movie theater all year: As Billy (played by Jackson Nicoll, a shockingly talented child comedian) rips off his Shirley Temple outfit at a children’s beauty contest, to instead ...

About Time (2013)

The Special Relationship In Richard Curtis’ Love Actually (2003), the British Prime Minister (played by the charming Hugh Grant) stands up to a U.S. President modeled on George W. Bush (played by Billy Bob Thornton with oily sleaze). When Grant leaves the room to get some papers, Thornton hits on Grant’s beloved, causing the Prime ...

Suture (1994)

Suturing Film Noir and Henry James I want to introduce you to the most talented contemporary American filmmakers you’ve never heard of: David Siegel and Scott McGehee. The filmmaking team has only made five films in the past twenty years, in a seeming attempt to match the glacial career of Stanley Kubrick. A graduate of ...

Rush (2013)

Rush to Judgment Fans who love Formula 1 racing history loathe Ron Howard’s new film, Rush, about the 1976 season in which Austrian Niki Lauda and British James Hunt fought for the title up until the season’s very last race. Because the film changes the historical facts to invent drama, such critics see just another ...

Conan the Barbarian (1982)

Conan the Barbarian (1982)
Reagan’s Barbarian Every time my kids watch an episode of Family Guy, I can’t help but think that Seth MacFarlane’s nostalgic view of the 1980s, peppered with sexism and apathy, ignores the real cultural components of the decade in which I endured my miserable adolescence. As with most things, the best way to approach this ...

The Butler (2013)

Forest Jump Like his previous film, The Paperboy, Lee Daniels’ new film, The Butler, is a wonderful mess. Discarding the most fundamental Aristotelian rule, unity of action, the film jumps with wild abandon across decades of experience as it tells the moving story of Cecil Gaines (played by Forest Whitaker), a butler at the White ...

Jobs (2013)

Snow Jobs Joshua Michael Stern’s new film about Apple co-founder Steve Jobs (played by Ashton Kutcher, of all people, but more on that later) bookends with the press conference in which he announces the iPod .mp3 music player in 2001. Such is one of the most problematic clichés of the biopic, stopping at a moment ...

Elysium (2013)

Why We Still Dream… of Electric Sheep In his new film Elysium, director Neill Blomkamp reaches for the holy grail of science-fiction cinema, Blade Runner. Alas, the disappointing new film starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster has the right look, inspired by the work of futurist designer Syd Mead, but none of the sophisticated thematic ...