The details may be period, but in its broad strokes, Pump Up the Volume was strikingly prescient about how we—particularly the youngest of us—both consume and create media. …Read More
Last week, when USA Network premiered Complications, the show was notable not because of its quality (the medical series is a mostly forgettable summer program) but because it remarked on the new direction USA is experimenting with: smarter (and decidedly bleaker), non-procedural, character-driven dramas. Complications may not have been a the most well-executed example of this, but USA’s other new series, Mr. Robot, will debut Wednesday with an exciting, well-done pilot.
Into the barren wasteland of late August and early September comes this week’s sole new wide movie release, and you’re forgiven for knowing nothing about it. It’s called The Identical, and it is kinda sorta weirdly about Elvis, except not! There’s a long tradition of this sort of thing — few pop culture figures have inspired more cinematic hypotheticals, dramatizations, and all-out fictions. Here are a few of the weirder ones.
In order to appreciate what a dirty bomb Heathers was when it was originally released 25 years ago, on March 31, 1989, you have to remember what exactly the “high school movie” was back then. The entire sub-genre was basically worked over in Heathers’ wake, with movies like Mean Girls and Jawbreaker and television shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer depicting high school as a virtual (sometimes literal) hellscape — jaded, cynical, bitter little pills. But the 1980s began with giggly sex comedies like Porky’s and Fast Times, and then John Hughes took over, imbuing high school narratives with an earnest kindness and “be yourself” messaging. And then here came Heathers, a film whose key image is that of a bomb-toting high school student hoisting his middle finger, and getting it shot …Read More
Running at nearly four hours in this, its two-part, “audience friendly” version (there’s a five-and-half-hour uncut version out there as well), Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac is less a disciplined, focused motion picture than an all-you-can-eat buffet where the director overloads his plate, and encourages his audience to do the same. It’s a wandering, freeform exploration of the themes, subjects, and ideas of particular interest to the filmmaker — and sex is among them, certainly, but it doesn’t seem to be his primary focus, or destination.
NBC’s newest sitcom About a Boy premiered Sunday night. The show, based on the popular book-turned-film and created by Jason Katims, could very well be a hit for the network. However, it already has one strike against it: David Walton. Walton is a talented actor, but he’s yet to catch a break — all of his shows have been canceled after just one season. And he’s not the only one with this bad luck. Here are ten great actors who unfortunately doom the shows that they’re …Read More
Forgive the perhaps unwarranted level of enthusiasm, but Joy Ride is out on Blu-ray today, and YIPEE. It’s a crackerjack little thriller from eternally underrated director John Dahl, co-written by a young J.J. Abrams, starring Steve Zahn, Leelee Sobieski, and, yes, Paul Walker. Though second-billed behind Zahn, this is indisputably a vehicle for the handsome and unaccountably dull future star of the Fast and Furious franchise — and believe it or not, he’s not distractingly terrible in it. Make whatever stopped-clock, blind-squirrel analogies you’d like, but occasionally even the worst of actors stumbles into a decent performance. Here’s a few …Read More
Because he was too young, because he was so admired, and because he made possibly the first great television show of the 21st century, James Gandolfini’s untimely death is an enormous loss. I, like many others, will never shut up about what Gandolfini brought to The Sopranos. Yes, in the post-Goodfellas era, it wasn’t hard to see a big, dark dude with a North Jersey twang and suspend your disbelief. Gandolfini’s physicality and heft didn’t hurt, nor did the fact that he often appeared on screen surrounded by actors from the Scorsese canon. The man knew how to play a gangster, and there were moments in The Sopranos when he performed on the level of James Cagney.