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

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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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Friday, Apr 4, 2014
Overwritten, overacted, and frequently over-stylized, Dom Hemingway is a movie that constantly gets in the way of itself.

What, exactly, happened to Jude Law? There was a time, right around the turn of the new millennium, where he was poised to be the next Hugh Grant (not that anyone would want that title today, this was the end of the ‘90s so hear us out). He was up and coming, appearing in excellent fare like Gattaca, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Stephen Spielberg’s Kubrick salvage job, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, David Cronenberg’s ahead of its time eXistenZ, and David O. Russell’s I Heart Huckabees. 2004 seems to be the tipping point, however. Somewhere around Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, the dashing good looks of this meant to be matinee idol dissolved into a series of silly career choices. While he benefited from being one of the better Dr. Watson’s to Robert Downey Jr.‘s revisionist Sherlock Holmes, he’s seen his fortunes lag significantly - and he’s only 41 years old.


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Friday, Apr 4, 2014
Over time, we become comfortable with Alan Partridge's panic. His seeming inability to do anything right provides a wellspring of witty weirdness.

If there is such a thing as grace under pressure, he’s never heard of it. Instead, this longtime radio DJ and TV presenter only knows one thing when the odds are against him and the skit is hitting the fan: Panic! No, not in the traditional arms flailing and body twitching kind. Instead, Alan Partridge (a delightful Steve Coogan, who originated and co-created the role) uses his undeniable gift of slightly off-kilter gab to lie on his feet with quick, anxious dexterity. He can almost always talk his way both out of and into a scenario, sometimes in the same moment, often with limited overall success, but he’s a wizard while doing it. Mention a trip to the seaside and he’ll ponder on the sure to be fond memories - until it turns out you were there to spread the ashes of a dead loved one into the surf. Discuss a favorite film and he’ll offer his two cents worth, even if it turns out he’s mentioning another, less appropriate movie all together.


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Friday, Apr 4, 2014
Even with all its XXX gimmickry, Nymph()maniac remains grounded in character. From someone like Lars von Trier, we'd expect nothing less... and we get a lot more.

When last we left Lars von Trier’s epic exploration of one woman’s unwieldy sexuality and all the perverted permutations of same, our heroine Joe (as an adult, Charlotte Gainsbourg, as a youth, Stacy Martin) had just lost all sensation in her vagina. As she recounts her underage exploits and various home wrecking scenarios, including the sudden loss of sensation while living with the longtime object of her desires, Jerome (Shia LaBeouf), our attentive listener, a bookworm named Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard), links her lust-life to various works of literature and cultural/personal milestones. Before going forward, dealing with her life as an adult, the duo discuss religion, especially the differences between Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Catholicism. For Seligman, it’s a question of Christ’s suffering vs. Christ’s mercy. For Joe, it’s just another nonsensical analogy to her continuing condemnation of self.


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