Sunday, April 29, 2012

"Mad Men" Review: "At the Codfish Ball" (Season 5 Episode 7) - "Have a drink. Become nice again..."

Elizabeth Moss as Peggy Olsen on "Mad Men"

The long-awaited fifth season of Mad Men continues with episode 7, “At the Codfish Ball,” and as always, I’m here with my weekly review and analysis.  To do the hour justice, this review contains heavy spoilers, so don’t read unless you’ve seen the episode.

Spoilers for “At the Codfish Ball” after the jump….

Springsteen Sundays: Review - "Rocky Ground" 7-inch vinyl (Record Store Day Exclusive)


Welcome to Springsteen Sundays, my weekly column celebrating my favorite musician, personal hero, and all his awesome musical friends: Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band!

Since I stayed up far too late last Tuesday writing about Bruce and the Band’s San Jose show, I thought I’d take it easy with this week’s column and review a simple yet exciting new Springsteen release. 

As you probably know, last weekend was this year’s Record Store Day, an international celebration of independent record stores.  Bruce released an exclusive seven-inch vinyl single of “Rocky Ground,” one of the best tracks from the new album Wrecking Ball.  The B-Side is a live performance of “The Promise” recorded at the Carousel in Asbury Park from 2010.  It’s undoubtedly a neat collector’s item, but is the music itself worth the effort?  Is this a worthwhile single for fans to get their hands on?  Find out after the jump…

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Review: "The Five-Year Engagement" struggles to find comedy in a dark romantic story

Film Rating: B–

In the last few years, Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller have quickly established themselves as one of my favorite creative teams in the business.  “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” – which they co-wrote with Stoller directing – is my favorite of the Judd Apatow-produced comedies, and Stoller’s spin-off/sequel “Get Him to The Greek” is a close second.  You all know how much I love their “Muppets” film from last year, and whether the main characters are made of felt or flesh, all of their films can be described as poignant comedies that mine organic humor out of very relatable, very sad human issues: post-break-up identity crises in “Marshall,” substance abuse and the nature of fame in “Greek,” and the pain of time’s passage in “Muppets.” 

Though their latest effort, “The Five-Year Engagement,” is a severely flawed work, it represents a continued maturation in how the duo confront significant human struggles.  This time, the focus is on the difficulties inherent in making even the best of relationships work, and I have tremendous respect for the insightful, highly personal way they examine the issue.  What holds the film back, oddly enough, is the comedy itself, which, in contrast to their previous work, fails to rise organically from the narrative or characters and results in a tonally and structurally troublesome experience.  Continue reading after the jump...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Early Review: "The Avengers" is the Marvel movie to beat all comic-book films

Film Rating: A

I’m still having trouble processing that I saw “The Avengers” tonight. 

It’s not just that I’ve been waiting for this movie for four years, ever since Nick Fury first told Tony Stark about the ‘Avengers Initiative’ at the end of 2008’s “Iron Man,” but that the idea of making an “Avengers” film is, in and of itself, so spectacularly absurd that I’m struggling to accept that the movie even exists.  Think about it.  Four comic-book superheroes originating in four separate film franchises, each rich with their own characters and mythologies, each made with specific voices, tones, and styles, and each required to stand on its own as a quality solo adventure while simultaneously putting the pieces in place for the ultimate team-up.  And that’s all before the actual team-up movie is made. 

The goal Marvel set for themselves has to stand as one of the greatest challenges in the history of filmmaking, but having finally set my eyes on “The Avengers,” I can say with the utmost sincerity that this ludicrous four-year, six-film experiment was absolutely worth the effort.  “The Avengers” is a work of blockbuster art, over two hours of non-stop, glorious payoff, filled to burst with genuine surprises that no amount of anticipation can prepare you for.  To my eyes, it all comes down to Marvel’s ingenious hiring of writer/director Joss Whedon (“Buffy,” “Dr. Horrible,” “Firefly”).  He’s one of the only people in the industry I would call a true auteur – someone whose work is instantly recognizable, thematically unified, and deeply personal – and the single greatest surprise behind “The Avengers” is that a Hollywood studio gave him upwards of $200 million dollars not to make a generic superhero blockbuster, but to make the ultimate Joss Whedon movie.  Even though he’s working with several established franchises on a mammoth summer tentpole, “The Avengers” stands as one of the purest distillations of Whedon’s talents, interests, and voice in his entire career, and that, more than anything else, is what makes the film soar.  Continue reading after the jump…

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Concert Review: Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band in San Jose – Over three hours of intense, non-stop Rock n’ Roll heaven

Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band at the HP Pavilion

My feet are in agony, there’s a loud ringing in my ears, my voice is so hoarse I can barely speak, and I am physically and emotionally drained to an incredible degree.  But I wouldn’t trade this feeling for the world.  I just saw Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band play a solid three hours and ten minutes (from 8:19 PM to 11:29 pm) of music in San Jose, California, and my life will never be the same. 

Seeing Bruce and the band live has been one of the biggest dreams of my life for years now, ever since I became a fan in High School.  Without ever having the opportunity to attend a concert, it’s always been clear to me – mostly from the wealth of excellent live recordings available (legally and otherwise), but also due to the critical consensus that Bruce is the best Rock performer in the business – that the E-Street Band is a live act like no other.  Watching a concert DVD or listening to an old bootleg is a magical, spiritual, transportive experience, and because of the incredible times I’ve had with those recordings, I knew I absolutely, positively had to attend the first show I could.  It was my pilgrimage to Mecca, and by God I was going to make it.

Not even Bruce’s decision to stick to the coasts on the first leg of the Wrecking Ball Tour could deter me; I just picked the place I had the most family to stay with – which turned out to be San Francisco – and flew there for the Concert.  Never mind that schedule-wise, it was the single worst week to miss College classes.  Education is insignificant compared to the sway the Boss and his music holds over my life.  

Suffice it to say, my excitement and expectations were sky-high, and Bruce, naturally, shattered all of them.  Tonight’s San Jose show at the HP Pavilion was a long evening – possibly the longest of the tour – filled with wonderfully surprising song selections, wildly intense performances, a largely passionate audience, and most importantly, loads of genuine, heartfelt emotion coming from and towards the stage.  It was just an amazingly special night all around, and I constantly felt like I was reevaluating how I view each song, every member of the band, and my own personal relationships to the music.  Considering what a large part of my life Bruce Springsteen’s material is, I learned so much from the experience, and can honestly say that I walked away a different person, with a dramatically more rounded understanding of this crucial piece of my existence. 

For more in-depth thoughts on the concert – including the setlist and a top-ten list – continue reading after the jump….

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Mad Men" Review: "Far Away Places" (Season 5 Episode 6) - "You always say I never take you anywhere...”

Jessica Parè and Jon Hamm as Megan and Don Draper on "Mad Men"

As explained in this post, I’ve made a brief pilgrimage to California to see Bruce Springsteen in San Jose, which is why I didn’t get around to this fantastic episode of Mad Men last night.  But I had some free time this evening, so I bought the episode on iTunes and decided to write a review….only to discover that this was the worst week in the history of the series to skip an episode.  Seriously.  “Far Away Places” is such a wonderfully dense piece of television that I could write my college thesis on it; pumping out a review while on vacation?  Not exactly the ideal conditions to write about this particular hour.

But I’ll give it a go, and hopefully this review lives up to the polished standards I’ve tried setting for myself.  Let’s take an in-depth look at the season’s sixth hour, “Far Away Places,” and as always, this review contains heavy spoilers to give the hour a proper analysis, so don’t read unless you’ve seen the episode.

Spoilers for “Far Away Places” after the jump….

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Springsteen Sundays: My Dream Setlist for the E-Street Band's San Jose Show on April 24th!

Bruce and Steve playing in Greensboro
Photo courtesy Backstreets.Com - Taken by A.M. Saddler
Welcome to Springsteen Sundays, my weekly column celebrating my favorite musician, personal hero, and all his awesome musical friends: Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band!

Speaking of which, I hear the boys are on tour right now, and since the first US leg won’t be stopping by my hometown of Denver, Colorado, I’m flying out to northern California to catch this Tuesday’s San Jose show at the HP Pavilion!  In fact, by the time you read this, I’ll already be in San Francisco seeing the sights to distract from my rabid anticipation as much as possible.  In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a young guy, and this will be the first Bruce show I’ve ever gone to (though I have all his live DVDs and over 24 hours of live recordings in iTunes, so I feel like I’ve been before).  Thus, my current level of excitement is approximately off the charts. 

To bide time until the show, I’ve come up with my personal Dream Setlist for the San Jose show, and you can read all about it – and hopefully comment with your own Setlist! – after the jump….

Friday, April 20, 2012

Blu-Ray Review: "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" is one of the best hi-def releases of all time

The Best Buy exclusive version of
"Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol" on Blu-Ray

Brad Bird’s “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” – one of the most effectively entertaining films in recent memory – has finally arrived on Blu-Ray.  Does the high-definition presentation hold up to the theatrical experience?  Does the Burj Khalifa scene still induce vertigo on a TV screen?  Are the extras everything we could hope for?  Why is Best Buy selling a different version of the Blu-Ray than other stores?  Will Tom Cruise ever stop running?  Learn the answers to these questions and more in my review of “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol,” after the jump…

I’m Goin’ Cali – Time for a short vacation!


As you’ve hopefully noticed, I don’t take many vacations from working on this website.  I only let the site go without content when circumstances make it absolutely unavoidable, because to be perfectly honest, I feel uncomfortable when I’m not constantly writing and publishing. 

The next couple of days might be the rare exception to my usual work ethic, though, because tomorrow morning, I’m flying out to California for a four-day vacation, the main purpose of which is to see Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band in concert in San Jose (as you may have heard, I’m a fan - hence the incredibly obscure song reference in the headline). 

So that means I won’t be reviewing any new movies this weekend, and I won’t be around to write about Mad Men on Sunday night.  I might be able to get the Mad Men review out while I’m away, but chances are I won’t be able to write about it until Wednesday.  There will still be some new content for the weekend – I have a Blu-Ray review of “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” coming out tomorrow, and the Springsteen Sundays column will go up as normal – but Monday and Tuesday are going to be sparse.  I will of course write about the Springsteen show for an early Wednesday morning post, and from there, content should resume as usual. 

Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you all again soon enough!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Blu-Ray Review: "Shame" - the best film of 2011 - arrives on home video light on features but high on A/V quality


If you hadn’t already heard, Steve McQueen’s “Shame” was my favorite film of 2011, and stands as one of the greatest works of cinematic art I have ever experienced.  I can’t recommend it highly enough, but its limited theatrical run meant many viewers didn’t get the chance to see the film.  Hopefully that will all be rectified, as “Shame” is now available on home video exclusively in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack.  Does the Blu-Ray release do the movie justice, or does it come up short?

Find out in my review of “Shame” on Blu-Ray after the jump…

The “Jonathan Lack Review Archives” Weekly Update: All of 2007 and the 2008 Movie Reviews now available for your reading pleasure!


As described in this post, I’m uploading all of my old articles, from 2007 to when this website began in mid-2011, to a special Archive section on the site.  When the project is done, Jonathan Lack at the Movies will have hundreds more articles – not just movie reviews, but DVD, Blu-Ray, TV, Special Features, and more! – and they will all be categorized by their original publication dates!  Just use the sorting features on the right-hand side of the page to find the era or type of article you want to access, and it will be there for your reading pleasure! 

This project is going to take quite a while to complete, though, as I’m uploading each article one-by-one.  So I’m going to post a weekly update (usually on Tuesday, but this was bumped for yesterday’s “Monthly Stuff” podcast) informing you of my progress, what to expect in the week ahead, and linking to cool articles from the time-period I’ve been working on.  Read this week’s update after the jump…

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The "Monthly Stuff" Podcast #5 - Marvel Movie Marathon! Preparing for "The Avengers"


It’s time for another installment of The “Monthly Stuff” Podcast, where yours truly, Jonathan Lack, and Sean Chapman talk about…well, stuff.

This month, Sean and I are very, very excited about the May 4th release of Joss Whedon’s THE AVENGERS film, and to cope with our anticipation, we’ve decided to look at the Marvel Studios history leading to this monuments cinematic occasion!  After a brief discussion of the Marvel-based franchises pre-“Iron Man,” we take an in-depth look at all the Marvel self-produced films: “Iron Man 1&2,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “Thor,” and “Captain America.”  Sean and I are both very enthusiastic and knowledgeable on this subject, so it’s one of our liveliest – and best – podcasts yet.  You won’t want to miss it!  If you subscribe to the podcast, it should already be in your iTunes library, but otherwise…



Enjoy the show!!

TIME CHART:

Intro: 0:00 – 0:04
News: Xbox 720 Updates, Mass Effect 3 Ending Controversy: 0:04 – 0:18
Topic – Reviewing the “Marvel Studios” Movies –
Iron Man 1&2, Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America: 0:18 – 2:12

Sunday, April 15, 2012

"Mad Men" Review: "Signal 30" (Season 5 Episode 5) - "You want some more, Mr. Toad?"

Vincent Kartheiser at Pete Campbell on "Mad Men"

The long-awaited fifth season of Mad Men continues, and I’m reviewing and analyzing every episode as it airs!  Tonight, we’re taking an in-depth look at the season’s fifth hour – and one of my absolute favorite Mad Men episodes of all time – “Signal 30.”  To give the hour a proper analysis, this review contains heavy spoilers, so don’t read unless you’ve seen the episode.

Spoilers for “Signal 30” after the jump….

Springsteen Sundays: A playlist project - Making "Dollhouse," a 'new' album culled from outtakes


In case you missed the last few columns, here’s the short explanation of my new Sunday feature: readers really liked my Wrecking Ball coverage (and drove site traffic through the roof), I’m a Bruce Springsteen maniac, and I’ve therefore created a new weekly column wherein I explore whatever Boss-related thoughts are on my mind.  It’s called Springsteen Sundays. 

This week, I’m sharing the first of hopefully many “playlist projects,” wherein I look at Bruce’s large body of outtakes and see if sets of songs can be molded into ‘albums’ of their own.  My first result?  An imaginary LP called Dollhouse.

Read all about it after the jump…

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Review: Powerful, emotional "Bully" documentary gives voice to the voiceless

Film Rating: A

It’s impossible for me to take an objective critical look at “Bully.”  Given the subject matter and my own deep-seated scars from bullying in my past, I’m just too emotionally connected to the material.  It’s probably true that the film has pacing issues, is unnecessarily repetitive in spots, and features a few artistic flourishes that come across as pretentious.  But to me, none of that matters in the slightest.  Director Lee Hirsch simply understands what it feels like to be victimized and voiceless, he knows where to lay the blame, and he’s willing to say things about the subject many would prefer to leave unspoken.  The film is deeply personal and tremendously impactful, difficult to watch in many stretches and unflinchingly direct throughout.  It is an important film, one that I hope finds a mass audience willing to take its messages to heart.  Continue reading after the jump...

Friday, April 13, 2012

Review: "The Raid: Redemption" is a dramatically lightweight but viscerally powerful martial arts flick

Film Rating: B+

As a visceral action experience, Gareth Evans’ Indonesian martial-arts film “The Raid” is hard to beat.  I can safely say I’ve seen very few other films that demonstrate such an awe-inspiring command of tension, action staging, and fight choreography.  The film literally moved me to the edge of my seat multiple times, my mouth gaping open in amazement and terror at the on-screen chaos.  It’s rare for a film to elicit such strong physical responses from the viewer, but there is a raw, spectacularly violent power to “The Raid” that cannot be denied.  

As an actual film, however, I’m considerably more ambivalent.  Roger Ebert got in some hot water with fans earlier this month when he gave “The Raid” – which has been widely acclaimed since appearing on the festival circuit last year – a one-star review.  The thing is, I don’t know how strongly, if at all, I disagree with most of Ebert’s assertions.  When he insists that “No one in the film has a personality,” he’s absolutely correct.  This isn’t a film with ‘characters.’  There are on-screen figures that engage in some impressive hand-to-hand combat, but they aren’t characters, and there’s certainly not a hint of development to be found from start to finish.  Ebert’s argument that the plot is both paper-thin and often incoherent is also equally valid.  There are very few conversations in the film, and I found most of them confusing in their attempts to hastily deliver inscrutable exposition. 

One can shake these issues off by saying it’s “just an action film,” but that’s doing a disservice to the masterpieces of the genre.  I’ve seen “The Raid” commonly compared to “Die Hard,” and while the two are similar in how they use space as their key action tool, the strong character work and clean plotting keeps “Die Hard” miles above “The Raid” in my book.  I like and relate to John McClane, and therefore wish to see him succeed, just as my loving hatred of Hans Gruber makes me intensely invested in his downfall; the stakes are clear and character-based, layering an emotional connection atop the visceral one.  That, first and foremost, is why “Die Hard” is a classic.  I can’t imagine anyone arguing that “The Raid” even attempts to connect with the audience on a deeper level, and that holds it back from true greatness.  Continue reading after the jump...

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Review: "The Cabin in the Woods" is a bold, wholly unexpected slice of genius (Spoiler-Free Review)

Film Rating: A+

This is going to be the vaguest review I’ve ever written. 

You do not want “The Cabin in the Woods” spoiled for you, and for this film, the definition of ‘spoiler’ is as broad as possible.  It is an endlessly inventive, surprising, genre-bending masterwork, and the most unexpected curveball the filmmakers throw at you comes in the very first scene.  If you can make it to the theatre a blank slate, I guarantee you will be completely unprepared for what Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon have in store for you; the experience is revelatory.  I thankfully managed to make it to my screening without glimpsing a single frame of footage or hearing any plot synopsis (beyond the implications of the title), and as such, the whole movie felt like a deep, glorious breath of fresh cinematic air.  I see a lot of films, and though I never question my love for the medium, sometimes even I need a reminder of just why it is I keep going to the movies.  “The Cabin in the Woods” is exactly the kind of kick to the gut I thrive on, the kind that keeps me doing this job, week after week, year after year.

So I’m not going to spoil this movie.  The only thing you need to know is that there is indeed a cabin in the woods, and as anyone with even the most rudimentary awareness of genre standards could infer, a set of college students, all embracing a different stereotype, travel there.  I will tell you nothing else, and you should learn nothing else.  Watch no trailers.  Don’t talk to anyone who has seen the film.  Avoid all reviews unless they promise to be spoiler-free and you trust the source. 

This review is spoiler-free – I haven’t even included stills – and I think it’s safe to read past the jump.  At most, I’ll give you spectacularly vague talking points to consider when watching.  But if you want to avoid even that, stop here.  For everyone else?  Continue reading after the jump…

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Announcing the “Jonathan Lack Review Archives” Project – Access hundreds of old reviews from my YourHub days here on www.jonathanlack.com!


2012 is a big anniversary for my career; it marks my tenth year of journalistic writing, and as with any major anniversary, I plan on celebrating.  I have some very big plans for August, the actual month of the anniversary, but in the meantime, I’m starting a project that will nicely sum up everything I’ve done over the last ten years:

I’m launching The Jonathan Lack Review Archives, a special section of this website that will contain nearly every article I’ve written and published from January 2007 onwards.  It will take a lot of time to get each of the literally hundreds of reviews up, so this will be a work-in-progress over the next few months, but when it’s done, this website will not only live up to its name as an exhaustive collection of my body of work, but also be filled with more content than ever before.  And while the project is underway, the normal site features and reviews will continue uninterrupted (and archive reviews will not appear on the main blog page). 

For full details, including what kinds of archival content to expect and when, continue reading after the jump…

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Gary Ross will not return to direct “Hunger Games” sequel, “Catching Fire” – Why I’m worried about the future of this franchise


“Catching Fire” will make unholy amounts of money when it comes out next November. 

That’s just a given.  The first “Hunger Games” movie has already earned $463 million worldwide, and by the time I’m finished writing this article, that number will have risen.  The film has appealed to a wide and enthusiastic demographic, and reaction has been largely positive.  It’s inevitable the sequel will do even better, whether or not it maintains its predecessor’s high level of quality. 

And sadly, today’s news (via Deadline) that Gary Ross will not return to direct “Catching Fire” makes me fear that the “Hunger Games” follow-up is going to pale in comparison to its predecessor.  I know some viewers disagree, but to my mind, Ross is one of the key reasons “Hunger Games” rose above its source material and transcended studio trappings, and when you combine his departure with the ridiculously tight schedule Lionsgate has set for the sequel, I’m very concerned for the creative future of this franchise. 

More thoughts on Gary Ross’ departure after the jump…

Sunday, April 8, 2012

"Mad Men" Review: "Mystery Date" (Season 5 Episode 4) - "Why can't you leave me alone?"

As Joan Holloway, Christina Hendricks gets some bad news...

The long-awaited fifth season of Mad Men continues, and I’m reviewing and analyzing every episode as it airs!  Tonight, we’re taking an in-depth look at the season’s fourth hour, the fantastic “Mystery Date,” which I believe is the best episode of the season so far.  To give the hour a proper analysis, this review contains heavy spoilers, so don’t read unless you’ve seen the episode.

Spoilers for “Mystery Date” after the jump….

Springsteen Sundays: A personal story about "The Promise," Bruce's greatest outtake

Bruce and the Band playing "The Promise" at the Carousel in Asbury Park

Welcome to Springsteen Sundays, my weekly column celebrating my favorite musician, personal hero, and all his awesome musical friends: Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band!

One week ago today, Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band played the classic outtake “The Promise” in their Washington D.C. show; it was the song’s tour debut, and one of the only times the band has ever performed it life.  To those who know and love the song, whether they were in the stadium or not, it felt like a significant moment to be a E-Street fan. 

But those who attended the show reported that the majority of the audience wasn’t nearly as stirred by the song’s performance.  Writing for Springsteen fansite Backstreets.com, Bob Zimmerman wrote: “As great as the crowd was at the Verizon Center, it seemed that only a handful of people in the entire place got their rocks off on the full-band premiere of ‘The Promise.’”  It stands to reason, I suppose; Springsteen has tens of millions of fans, and those who have every release in their collection, chat with other aficionados online, and follow the nightly setlists religiously are in the minority.  The chances of a casual Springsteen fan having heard a 34-year-old outtake, no matter how hyped it’s been in some circles, are not good.  “The Promise” just isn’t going to resonate with audiences the way a universally familiar classic like “Born to Run” does.

But in a perfect world, it absolutely would.

I have a hard time committing to any individual song as my favorite Springsteen track – I default to “Promised Land” as a convenient choice – but I can say with confidence that none of Bruce’s compositions have touched me as powerfully as “The Promise,” and in that way, I believe it is Springsteen’s best song.  Today, I’m going to tell you the story of my personal encounter with “The Promise.”  If you’re unfamiliar with the track, hopefully this will get you interested, and if you’re a long-time believer, I’m sure you’ll understand exactly where I’m coming from.  Continue reading after the jump...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Early Review: "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" is another heartfelt, creative triumph from Aardman

Film Rating: A

At this point, the only bad thing one could say about Aardman Animations is that we just don’t see their work often enough.  One or two films every five years feels criminally slight when one considers what amazing creative feats this company can achieve, from the classic “Wallace and Gromit” series to “Chicken Run” and beyond. 

But if you’re going to have one imperfection, I’d say that’s one worth having, a fact their latest feature – “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” – makes abundantly clear.  The film is so impeccably crafted, well paced, cleverly written, heartwarming, and hilarious from start to finish that one can easily see why it took five long years to finish the project.  There is nary a moment I would alter, hardly a single plot point or joke I could quibble with; “The Pirates!” comes as close to ‘perfect,’ whatever that means, as most films ever get, a result of director Peter Lord and his team giving each piece of the film the love, time, and attention it deserved.  The result is a film bursting at the seams with heart and creativity, one that can and will be enjoyed by audiences of all ages.  Continue reading after the jump...

Review: "Titanic 3D" offers an outstanding, respectful makeover of the beloved classic

Film Rating: A
3D Presentation Rating: A+

Never, under any circumstance, underestimate James Cameron.

We’ve all learned that lesson several times now.  “Nobody could make a great sequel to Alien!” “It just looks like a silly love story on a boat!” “Why are all the characters blue?” “What is he diving into the Mariana Trench for?”  Most of Cameron’s great accomplishments were initially met with skepticism, but time and time again, he overcomes the doubt. 

Even when keeping that in mind, though, I couldn’t help feeling wary heading into a 3D presentation of “Titanic.”  Originally filmed on 35mm in 2D, could it be digitally converted into 3D without looking like….well, garbage?  There really hasn’t been a good-looking 3D conversion so far from any filmmaker; the process looks flat and lifeless at best, blurry, dark, and incoherent at worst, and always comes across as an empty cash grab.  James Cameron obviously has an impressive history with the format, but I just didn’t believe even he could pull this off.    

Once again, I should have trusted Cameron’s judgment.  I have no earthly idea how he did it, but “Titanic” looks spectacular in 3D.  Not quite as immersive and awe-inspiring as a natively-shot 3D film like “Avatar” or “Hugo,” but damn close, and more importantly, the added dimension feels like a thoughtful, organic extension of the original work.  The film itself hasn’t changed – if you didn’t like it in 1997, 3D isn’t going to change your mind – but for fans, this re-release allows you to dive into “Titanic” like never before.  Continue reading after the jump…

Sunday, April 1, 2012

"Mad Men" Review: "Tea Leaves" (Season 5 Episode 3) - "Everything's going to be okay..."

Jon Hamm and Jessica Parè as Don and Megan Draper on "Mad Men"

The long-awaited fifth season of Mad Men continues, and I’m reviewing and analyzing every episode as it airs!  Tonight, we’re taking an in-depth look at the season’s third hour, “Tea Leaves.”  This review contains heavy spoilers, so don’t read unless you’ve seen the episode.

Spoilers for “Tea Leaves” after the jump….

Springsteen Sundays: Book Review - David Burke's "Heart of Darkness" is a fantastic analysis of Bruce's bleak masterpiece, "Nebraska"



In case you missed last week’s debut column, here’s the short explanation of my new Sunday feature: readers really liked my Wrecking Ball coverage (and drove site traffic through the roof), I’m a Bruce Springsteen maniac, and I’ve therefore created a new weekly column wherein I explore whatever Boss-related thoughts are on my mind.  It’s called Springsteen Sundays. 

This week, I’m sharing a paper I wrote for my “Intro to Journalism” college class.  We had to read a book involving journalism and write a review, and I somehow convinced my recitation advisor to let me write about the new book I’d just bought, Heart of Darkness: Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, by author David Burke.  It’s a pretty great read for Springsteen fans, and I definitely wanted to shed some light on it in this column.

Read the review after the jump…