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Besides “Toy Story 3,” when is the last time you saw a trilogy with a good third film? It’s not very common. Not every series can have its “Bourne Ultimatum” or “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” Then again, not every series involves the brilliant comedic minds of Nick Frost, Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright. Their finale to the so-called Cornetto Trilogy, “The World’s End,” is a fitting send-off for a hilarious group of movies.
From classics such as The Princess Bride to modern masterpieces such as The Lord of the Rings, tales of magic and adventure are still delighting us in an often less than fantastical reality. Though the genre is alive and kicking, many of its offspring are not. Jack the Giant Slayer displays all the trappings of an engaging epic, but none of the fun or charm.
When it comes to live theater, performances can go one of two directions. Most commonly, productions take a straightforward approach, one featuring well-stocked sets, costumed performers and a linear plot. It’s effective, and produces quality performances. But British theater company Complicite grabs onto the opposite notion, believing theater does not have to be plain or traditional, but rather inventive — a place for creativity and new ideas. Complicite’s Richard Katz was at the Culbreth theater Friday evening for a Q-and-A session that was both informative and fascinating.
Zombie movies are overdone. You can only take a zombie premise so far, and lately this tired genre, like its antagonists, has been a largely brain-dead affair. But what if zombies didn’t have to be drooling, shuffling flesh-eaters? What if they could feel? Warm Bodies is a terrific little film that explores these questions, giving a softer side to the living dead.
In the wake of some wildly successful television sitcoms, it seems as if there has never been a better era for the genre. From Modern Family to Parks and Recreation, today’s sitcoms are as poignant as they are hilarious. Unfortunately, we are often reminded this success is by no means a given — and although 1600 Penn tries admirably, it fails to meet the high standards of its contemporaries.
Gangster films have been a staple in Hollywood since the 1930s, depicting the struggle between cops and goons of varying intelligence and guile in brutal fashion. From the influential 1931 benchmark The Public Enemy to modern classics such as Goodfellas, filmmakers have set the bar high with movies that gave us memorable characters and painfully dark storytelling. Gangster Squad is not one of these movies. But it doesn’t have to be, and taken on its own merits it’s a fun ride.
His name is Bond, Geriatric Bond. No, I’m not just talking about the 50 year-old series. A grizzled and distinctively middle-aged James Bond is back and he needs to rely on his wits, as well as his friends, to come out of this mission alive. Skyfall is a solid if not stellar entry into the venerable series that happily refuses to die.
The University still faces a formal review by its accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, for the firing and subsequent rehiring of University President Teresa Sullivan this past summer. The association will make a decision in December about whether the University will face penalties, according to a letter recently released under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.
What type of movies are you seeing this fall? I’m guessing some blockbusters are on your list. But if you find the movies that Hollywood pumps out to be somewhat predictable, then you should check out the Virginia Film Festival, an event that has been bringing great films to Charlottesville for 25 years.
Let’s be honest: The first Taken was awesome. It had everything an action fan could want: kinetic thrills, brutal fights and Liam Neeson being a badass. I had high hopes for the sequel, but boy was I disappointed. Taken 2 is an uneven and boring rehash of every silly action film ever made.
If you are looking for a non-threatening piece of pop entertainment, do not go see Looper. But if you want a challenging and morally ambiguous film that happens to involve time travel, this is just what you’re looking for. Amid many mindless big-budget bore-fests, Looper stands tall as a bravely original vision.
It’s not often we get to see Hollywood films that are set in Virginia, let alone southwest Virginia — which is a shame, considering this region of our state is rich with history. From the coal mines to the rise of the railroad in Roanoke, the area has many stories to tell. Franklin County, known to this day as the moonshine capital of the world, is the focal point of Lawless, a dark and violent film that kept me riveted until the end credits rolled.
Even on those awful, rainy, just-got-dumped, have-two-finals-tomorrow days, we all have favorite films we can turn to for comfort. But whereas most people opt for nostalgic classics such as The Wizard of Oz or The Muppet Movie, I need to see a movie with some explosions!
Imagine you live in a hippie commune. Now imagine this commune is filled with some of the strangest and most annoying people on the planet ... and some of them are naked. That is the premise of Wanderlust, an off-kilter comedy which is more likely to make you cringe than laugh.
I hate having to write reviews of movies like this. Spectacular films are fun to review because I want other people to go see them. Terrible movies are even better because I love using creative language to tear them apart. But then there are movies like Safe House, a film which sits squarely in the middle of the spectrum. It's not good enough to highly recommend, but it's not bad enough to pan.
When you think of photographs, what comes to mind? Probably family portraits, school pictures and endless shots of candles right before they are blown out. What you don't think about is the power a single photograph can have. Photographs can capture subtle emotions, dazzle with vivid landscapes and provide a window into the past. That is exactly what the "100 Years of Photography" exhibit at the University Art Museum accomplishes, and the pieces are incredibly moving.
Today's horror films tend to be, for lack of a better word, disgusting. They pile on the gore and spare little thought for suspense and genuine scares. But every once in a while Hollywood produces a movie which knows how to effectively haunt audiences without using cheap tricks. The Woman in Black, an old-fashioned gothic chiller, is one of those movies.
Action junkies rejoice! She's a female Jason Bourne, and she will kick your ass. I am speaking, of course, about Gina Carano - the retired mixed martial arts fighter who takes her first lead acting role in Haywire. This lean, mean, straightforward spy thriller offers no new story twists, but will please action fans despite its narrative shortcomings.
Normally, I'm not a big "Christmas spirit" kind of guy. All the corny songs and silly traditions are just not my cup of tea. That's why I was so surprised by Arthur Christmas, an unabashedly corny holiday movie which somehow still managed to warm my heart.
I just have to ask: Why does Hollywood keep remaking perfectly good films? The latest example is The Thing, a new "horror" movie from first-time director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. (Try saying that three times fast.) Although the film is not complete garbage, it is aggressively mediocre, especially in comparison to the 1982 original.