Ghostbusters (1984)

Ghostbusters (1984)
“Defrosting Reaganite Entertainment” A new cultural studies book series, “Object Lessons” provides an exciting opportunity for materializing media studies. Each book is devoted to the history and symbolic importance of an otherwise academically invisible everyday object. The early volumes in the series are devoted to such eclectic items as phone booths, hotels, golf balls, remote ...

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
“At what point is it no longer Star Wars?” The six Star Wars films produced and/or directed by George Lucas developed into one of the most beloved mythological expressions of human civilization of the modern era. I thought about this quite a bit as I sat relatively indifferent to J.J. Abrams very good new film, ...

Knick Knack (1989)

Knick Knack (1989)
“Snow Was General All Over the Globe” In stark contrast to the feature films made a decade and some later, the early Pixar shorts are obsessed with inanimate material objects brought to life. With the remarkable exception of the very first short, The Adventures of Andre and Wally B. (1984), the next four films—Luxo, Jr. ...

Fargo: Season Two (2015)

Fargo: Season Two (2015)
“Building an Empire State” The second season of Fargo (FX, 2015) is devoted to the fall of empire. In the season finale, “Palindrome” (12/14/2015), Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine) catches one of the Gerhardt’s lackeys pilfering from the family homestead now that almost everyone in the clan is dead. The irreverent gangster gloats at his new ...

Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

Trick 'r Treat (2007)
“My, What Big Eyes” Krampus director Michael Dougherty’s first feature, Trick ‘r Treat (2007) is another wonderful holiday film gone amuck, this time concerning Halloween. Both films have similar plots: in Krampus, young Max summons a demonic beast because he has lost his belief in Santa Claus. In Trick ‘r Treat, the demonic beast is ...

Chi-Raq (2015)

Chi-Raq (2015)
“An Immodest Proposal, Ruined” While a majority of mass media critics have supported Spike Lee’s new film, Chi-Raq, an ambitious adaptation of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata (411 B.C.E.), set in present-day south Chicago, a vocal minority has been particularly bitter about the film’s failures. In The Philadelphia Inquirer, Steven Rea argues the film is an “in-your-face polemic, ...

Creed (2015)

Creed (2015)
“Bicentennial Man, Revisited” I went to Creed reluctantly, not believing the hype about how good the film was, and certainly not wanting my working class family’s love of the original Rocky (John G. Avildsen, 1976) to be trampled into the dirt. I am delighted to report that the movie is indeed as good as people ...

Trumbo (2015)

Trumbo (2015)
“The Hollywood One and a Half” The obvious importance of Trumbo (Jay Roach, 2015), the new biopic of Hollywood Ten screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston), is that it reminds us that our own chilling contemporary political climate is merely an echo of a movie we’ve regrettably had to sit through before. With Donald Trump doing ...

Krampus (2015)

Krampus (2015)
“St. (Nicholas) Elsewhere” In my favorite scene from Gremlins (Joe Dante, 1984), while under attack from the monstrous progeny of her boyfriend Billy’s Christmas present, Kate (Phoebe Cates) invokes an urban legend to explain the trauma of the holiday season. Her father attempted to fuel her child-like wonderment by impersonating Santa Claus, and sliding down ...

Sanjay’s Super Team (2015)

Sanjay's Super Team (2015)
“Pixar’s Super Themes” The pre-film content before The Good Dinosaur (2015) includes, not only the expected Pixar short, but a greeting by the film’s director, Peter Sohn. While a common occurrence now—filmmakers greet audiences in theaters to thank them for coming to see the movies on a big screen (and presumably for paying to do ...