Call for Feature Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

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Thursday, Apr 17, 2014
Whatever the case, the stinger trend, once seemingly novel, has now run its course.

So there I was, on Monday night, sitting in the audience for Warner Bros. screening of the highly anticipated film Transcendence. The Johnny Depp sci-fi effort, the first feature to be directed by Christopher Nolan’s longtime cinematographer, Wally Pfister, has been getting a lot of buzz, and while I’ll save the critique for others on the site, I will have to say that another aspect of the movie experience bothered me to no end. After the final scene, after the final conflict was resolved and the open-ended conclusion clunked by, there was a smattering of applause followed by…nothing. No real movement, except for a few old codgers who had clearly seen enough. No, the vast majority of the audience simply remained in their seats, clearly anticipating the questions left by the film would be wrapped up in one of those by now annoying pre/post/during credits “stingers.”


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Wednesday, Apr 16, 2014
Serious science fiction often takes a backseat to the more pulpy, crowdpleasing genre entries. Here are 10 titles far better than any "dogfight in space" adventure.

At it’s very best, science fiction makes us think. It asks us to ponder the tough questions and consider the complicated consequences of messing with science, space, technology, and our own fragile grasp of same. It often contemplates ideas bigger than us, using a shape of things to come creativity that’s part warning, part welcome. Of course, Star Wars came and wrecked havoc on the genre, using its space operatics to turn quality science fiction into action adventure in the galaxy, but even within its movie serial designs are ideas that expand our concept of who we are, and who we might be. It’s an approach that’s often yielded uneven results, especially when the desire for eye candy and brain busting special effects take precedent over the one thing great speculative fiction cannot live without, ideas.


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Monday, Apr 14, 2014
When the film's story showcases the turncoat nature of those in power, it doesn't have the impact -- or the ideas -- of the films from the '70s.

Sometimes, it seems like the entire social media collective has lost touch with reality. Now, that may seem like a given, but the truth remains that time, plus the rapidly decreasing window of available word of mouth publicity, demands a kind of critical shortcutting. We writers do it all the time. We begin aesthetic discussions with phrases like “imagine David Lynch on steroids…”, or “take one part Michael Bay, two parts John Woo, and a lot of CG gore…”, hoping that the reader will recognize the reference and do some of the analytic heavy lifting for us. In the case of the most recent Marvel movie, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the ‘70s shout outs have been almost deafening. Not every critic has made the inference (some are just too young to know), but many have tried to make the case that this latest slick, high action entry is more akin to the spy thrillers of the Me Decade than the slap dash splash of the current comic book epic.


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Friday, Apr 11, 2014
Granted, Rio 2 is never dull and provides colorful images to ogle, but the end result is as empty as the calories in a candy bar. It's beautiful, if banal.

By the old standards, all an animated film needed was a particular quest, a friendly protagonist, and an evil villain to get by. Cinderella had her desire for a better life and a horrible wicked stepmother (and stepsisters) to stand in her way. Snow White had a nasty “who’s the fairest” competition with a conceited wicked queen, while everyone from Hansel and Gretel to Dorothy Gale had to contend with wicked witches of one kind or another.


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Friday, Apr 11, 2014
Taking the unknown Indonesian martial art form and marrying it to a simple (the first film) and overly complex (the second) scenario, Gareth Evans has reinvented the action movie once again.

Every once in a while, a film genre needs a reboot. Nowhere is this more true than in the realm of onscreen action. Go back 80 some years and you could watch matinee idols wield swords with carefully choreographed expertise. Five decades ago, car culture demanded high speed chases. In the late ‘70s, the Hong Kong efforts of the Shaw Brothers started washing up on our shores, only to be incorporated into Hollywood’s desire for more kinetic onscreen spectacle. Auteurs with names like Cameron and Woo reworked the combination of camera and conceit until someone named Greengrass decided to shake the camera, providing a nauseating POV that few fans thought they would see in the cinema.


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