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 ...

Blue Jasmine (2013)

She Didn’t Have a Heart to Leave in San Francisco In the heyday of Woody Allen’s career, he alternated between large epic films about men grappling with moral crises, and smaller films about women suffering the impacts of such men’s behaviors. For example, in 1989’s Oscar nominated Crimes and Misdemeanors, Allen’s camera recoils in existential ...

Clear History (2013)

The Fountain…foot-in-mouth In Greg Mottola’s Clear History, the latest comic concoction starring Larry David, premiering in the United States on HBO this month, the creator of the revolutionary sitcoms Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm registers another triumph. By now, it must be clear that Larry David is this century’s Moliere, a master of social critique ...

The Way, Way Back (2013)

“Just How Far Back, Exactly?” Nat Faxon’s and Jim Rash’s remarkable new comedy, The Way, Way Back offers a remarkable intertextual collision between teen comedies from the 1980s, such as Meatballs (Ivan Reitman, 1979), and far more significant cinema. I want to explore The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967) as the quintessential bildungsroman of New Hollywood ...

World War Z (2013)

Of Zombies and Movie Men In graduate school, I took a course in modernist British literature in which we read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. That 1916 novel builds to a quintessential example of James Joyce’s concept of the epiphany: bildungsroman protagonist Stephen Dedalus stands on a beach realizing that he ...

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

James Kirk’s Phony Death and the Exasperation of Star Trek: Into Darkness Inspired by Wagon Train (ABC/NBC, 1957-1965), Gene Roddenberry in the 1960s developed in Star Trek (NBC, 1966-1969) a science-fiction vehicle capable of grappling with the canonical questions of Western drama in a pseudo-anthology format. Each week, the crew of the Enterprise would arrive ...