As it would turn out, graduating from college and applying to jobs takes up a lot of time, especially when punctuated with episodes of crying and wondering what the hell you’re going to do with your life. However, I have been able to keep up with some of Marvel’s new series, and few series got me more excited than the new Young Avengers. For the first time in the series’ relatively brief history, the title is under a creative team other than Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung. One of the biggest complaints about Young Avengers arcs in the past has been the delay in their publishing. Due to Heinberg’s outside writing commitments, Young Avengers was an infrequently published title, and there was usually a two-month wait between issues. This time, the title is headed by writer Kieron Gillen (Uncanny X-Men, Journey Into Mystery, Iron Man) and artist Jamie McKelvie (Defenders, X-Men: Season One), who worked together prior to their Marvel days. Read more
I met Roger Ebert in 2010, but, like most people who’ve written something about him in the days following his death, I’ve known of him for much longer. He and Gene Siskel, along with Mr. Rogers and the Sesame Street gang, were part of my afternoon television childhood. Unlike Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, and the amiable folks who lived in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood, the portly, bespectacled Ebert and his tall, balding companion were my antagonists, using their opposable thumbs to strike down or damn with faint praise whatever theatrical entertainment happened to pass my fancy from one week to the next.
I’ve always been a moviegoer. With the exception of its first three years, when I lived in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois, my childhood was lived within the shadow of the local multiplex, which was so close to home that I was eventually trusted to walk myself to it. Within driving distance are relics of America’s film-obsessed past: a dollar theater, a repertory house with a theater organ, and a drive-in that still plays that cutesy “Lets Go to the Movies” jingle between every movie. My mother introduced me to At the Movies as an exercise in critical thinking. This was important, because while children are more intelligent than most filmmakers would assume, the sheer largeness of a theater screen and the images projected onto it often win out over quality. Even if I went to a movie like Street Fighter with my mom and enjoyed it, the level of conversation I was able to have about that movie and those that followed improved, from “I liked it!” to “I liked it because,” which, really, was what At the Movies asked of its audience. Read more
Let’s clear the air: Dredd 3D is so unlike Sylvester Stallone’s execrable Judge Dredd that, were it not for the title character and the iconic helmet worn by both Stallone and Karl Urban, the two wouldn’t appear to share the same source material. Dredd, though not half as smart as the 2000 A.D. comics that inspired it, has a bleak, is an uncommonly inspired shoot-em-up. Its first shot, with the towering buildings of Mega City One casting grim shadows over the ruined earth the city is build upon, evoke a daytime Blade Runner. Its last borrows liberally from The Dark Knight. The plot, which sees Dredd and a rookie judge navigate their way through a locked-down apartment complex filled with men willing to die in protecting the leader of their drug cartel, happens to resemble that of The Raid: Redemption. But merely comparing Dredd to other action movies won’t do. It’s a smarter, nastier film than many of its contemporaries, and, at its best, gives rise to moments of raw terror and startling beauty, the two often going hand-in-hand. Read more
There’s nothing new to Gangster Squad, Ruben Fleisher’s amalgamation of and fetishized love letter to the Hollywood mafia movies of the 1990s. Outwardly, there’s little wrong with Fleisher’s approach—the film looks and feels like a theme park noir, approximating the style, tropes, accents, and dames in red dresses of the pulpy, lurid dramas that continue to pump their dark blood through the heart of American culture. The problem here is that, like a theme park attraction, the performers appear to be dead tired, sleepwalking their way through an old-as-dirt story that’s been repeated to the point of boredom. To compensate, Fleisher paints his sets red with the blood of countless goons and has his stars grit their teeth while pulling the trigger. This solves remarkably little. Read more
I knew before Seth MacFarlane was announced as the host of this year’s Academy Awards that I would not be watching the ceremony. If Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, two incredibly talented women whose shows 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation rank among my favorite of all time, couldn’t convince me to watch the Golden Globes, there’s no way MacFarlane, the creator of several shows I hate almost instinctually, could get me to tune in for the Globes’ stuffier, more overbearing sibling. But then a curious thing happened: a grinning, self-satisfied MacFarlane took to the stage and started singing about how great it was to be in a crowd with so many women whose breasts he’s seen, and the Academy Awards became more noticeably sexist than ever before. There’s been so much talk about these Academy Awards that one could be intimate with them without having watched, but, like a good cultural critic, I did. The end results were, to be kind, less than impressive. Read more