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The Enthusiast: On Roger Ebert PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Tuesday, 09 April 2013 12:54

Roger EbertIn 2010, at the age of 67, Roger Ebert reviewed The Human Centipede (First Sequence) — a horror flick that seems to exist primarily to make viewers vomit. As a professional movie critic for more than four decades, Ebert could have been forgiven for skipping it altogether. Curt dismissal was another perfectly reasonable option.

A charitable senior-citizen writer might have picked the movie apart on moral, narrative, or aesthetic grounds, or used it as a launching point for a screed against the depravity of contemporary culture or the torture-porn genre.

But Ebert turned in a no-star-rating review that begins with an earnest rumination on the path to mortality: “It’s not death itself that’s so bad. It’s what you might have to go through to get there.” And he says that within the writer/director, Tom Six, “there stirs the soul of a dark artist.”

Ebert was interested in the movie, curious about its method and meaning. Ultimately, he didn’t interpret or judge it — “It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don’t shine” — but it’s clear he thought this film that most people would find inherently repulsive or worthless deserved consideration.

And then there’s his marginally positive 1981 review of Tarzan, the Ape Man, in which Ebert is nakedly smitten with Bo Derek: “The Tarzan-Jane scenes strike a blow for noble savages, for innocent lust, for animal magnetism, and, indeed, for softcore porn, which is ever so much sexier than the hardcore variety. If you do not agree with me, you will probably think Bo’s banana scene is ridiculous. I prefer to think it was inevitable.”

I’m starting with these admittedly odd examples to remember Roger Ebert — who died on April 4 at age 70 — because I think they’re true. They reveal the man and the critic in a way that gets past the vagueness and overreaching of many obituaries and appreciations of him.

 
Worst Intervention Ever: "Evil Dead," "Olympus Has Fallen," and "Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor" PDF Print E-mail
Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Sunday, 07 April 2013 11:49

Jane Levy in Evil DeadEVIL DEAD

While I like the movie just fine, I’m not enough of a fanatic for Sam Raimi’s 1981 splatter classic The Evil Dead to get in a twist about the existence of director Fede Alvarez’s new, definite-article-free remake Evil Dead. (It’s when Hollywood inevitably remakes Raimi’s priceless horror sequel Evil Dead II that we’re gonna have problems.) But despite being mostly entertained by Alvarez’s beyond-bloody outing, especially during its second half, I do have to question the decision to make it, for so much of its length, so bloody serious. This is a film, after all, in which a demon is released by a supernatural incantation, nail guns and electric carving knives are the weapons of choice, and one character escapes a (more-)dreadful fate by enacting a speedier version of 127 Hours. How are we not asked to laugh at all this?

 
Gee, I Didn’t Hate "Joe": "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" and "The Host" PDF Print E-mail
Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Monday, 01 April 2013 10:52

Dwayne Johnson in G.I. Joe: RetaliationG.I. JOE: RETALIATION

If you handed a box of crayons to a group of eight-year-olds with action figures, they’d probably come up with a more entertaining storyline for G.I. Joe: Retaliation than the one we’re stuck with, which is your standard blockbuster nonsense about a megalomaniac’s plan for world dominion and the crack team of well-armed, quip-ready hotshots attempting to thwart him. In a welcome surprise, though, director Jon M. Chu’s follow-up to 2009’s G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra is, unlike its forebear, quite a bit of zippy, throwaway fun, a fast-moving and happily unpretentious diversion with jokes, and good ones, obviously written specifically for viewers well over the age of eight.

 
Girls Gone Wilder: "Spring Breakers," "Application," and "The Croods" PDF Print E-mail
Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Monday, 01 April 2013 10:47

Selena Gomez, Rachel Korine, Vanessa Hudgens, and Ashley Benson in Spring BreakersSPRING BREAKERS

At the screening of Spring Breakers that I attended, I counted eight viewers who walked out of the movie, and stayed out, well before the end credits rolled. In all honesty, I’m amazed the tally wasn’t higher than that. The movie being touted in print and in trailers promises a rowdy, randy romp in the sun with built-in audience-grabbers: Disney princesses acting nasty! James Franco with cornrows and grillz! But the movie that writer/director Harmony Korine has actually made – despite, indeed, its also being a rowdy, randy romp in the sun – bears so little relation to its cheeky, borderline-innocuous advertising campaign that patrons can be easily forgiven for feeling badly misled and deciding to bolt. It would be like going to see Dumbo and instead getting Gus Van Sant’s Elephant.

 
Buddies Hack It: "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" and "The Call" PDF Print E-mail
Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Sunday, 17 March 2013 17:04

Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, and Jim Carrey in The Incredible Burt WonderstoneTHE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE

A mere week after the release of Oz the Great & Powerful, the garish, boring box-office smash that’s neither great nor powerful, Misnomer March continues with The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, a comedy about warring Las Vegas magicians that’s awkwardly cast, overly sentimental, and decidedly not incredible. Yet considering how roundly disappointing the 2013 film year has been thus far, you can still have a fair amount of fun at director Don Scardino’s outing, despite this slapstick with heart being scattershot at best, and despite the movie almost appearing apologetic about its most unexpected and mordantly funny bits.

 
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