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Chris Packham 

Film, Film Reviews

In the Great Road Trip Movie Harmontown, the Community Creator Tries to Grow Up

For a lot of reasons that probably have to do with shareholder value maximization, this is an era in which mainstream cinema has been eclipsed by excellent television. You could argue that the people who make TV tend to be more interesting and complicated than those who make films. This...…
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Film, Film Reviews

Scarlett Johansson Effortlessly Carries the Fun, Unscientific Lucy

With his stately drawl, Morgan Freeman has narrated nonfiction documentaries about penguins, slavery, the lemurs of Madagascar, ancient Egyptian pharaohs and the expansion of the universe. His is a voice of authority tempered by warmth and wisdom, capable of evoking felt human experience and the majesty of creation. In writer-director...…
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Film,

Katie Couric-Produced Fed Up Rails Against Big Sugar

"This is the first generation that is expected to live shorter lives than their parents," says Katie Couric, narrator of Stephanie Soechtig's documentary, Fed Up. It's an infuriating statement, given both the preventability of that outcome and the institutional opposition to the solutions, the primary conflict that drives the film...…
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Film, <em>The Wind Rises</em> Review: Legendary Animator Hayao Miyazaki Takes a Bow

The Wind Rises Review: Legendary Animator Hayao Miyazaki Takes a Bow

In 1998, Douglas Adams published a sweet, funny essay called "Riding the Rays," about an excursion to Australia's Hayman Island to try a kind of underwater vehicle called a Sub Bug because it afforded an opportunity to swim with manta rays. And manta rays are cool. He wrote of his...…
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Film, TV <i>Community</i> Returns -- and Feels Like <i>Community</i> Again

Community Returns -- and Feels Like Community Again

Community returns for season 5 on January 2 with a two-episode block that plants its feet on the study room table and regrounds the characters after a fourth season of viewer discontent and lost purpose. It's impossible to discuss the season opener without talking about the show's creator. The sweet,...…
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Film,

Last Vegas Is Like a Reverse Mentos Commercial Starring Old Guys

It’s a dumbfounding irony that the fiction of the “entitled, selfish millennial” was invented by baby boomers. The generation that created Saturday Night Live and National Lampoon grew up to be weirdly deaf to irony, and probably won’t even get what a damning metaphor Last Vegas accidentally turns out to...…
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Film,

James Franco's As I Lay Dying Adaptation Feels Like a Lit-Class Project

Nobody ever accused James Franco of a lack of ambition, and adapting a book as unfilmable as William Faulkner's masterpiece, As I Lay Dying, is a decidedly ambitious gesture. Faulkner wrote the novel like a man on fire, working days at a power plant and writing late into the night...…
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Film,

Much Ado About Nothing Is Joss Whedon at His Best

In Joss Whedon's The Avengers, Iron Man gets off a good burn on Thor during their intramural fight in the woods: "Shakespeare in the park?" he says. "Doth mother know you weareth her drapes?" Like any good Shakespearean pastiche, The Avengers began in media res, with a glowy cube thing...…
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The Hangover Part III Review: Heart of Fartness

The unlikeliest of all the Hangover trilogy's comic implausibilities might be its four pampered, rich-boy leads unironically calling themselves the "Wolf Pack" without anybody ever making fun of them. In the slobs-versus-snobs comedies of the 1970s and '80s, the snooty rich kids were always the antagonists, bullying the nerds and...…
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Rise of the Guardians Review: With Alec Baldwin as the Voice of Santa Claus, What's Not to Like?

Unlike such vengeful, justice-dispensing figures as Jehovah and RoboCop, the traditional pantheon of made-up childhood gods is all carrot and no stick, dispensing toys, hiding hard-boiled eggs and remunerating children for their deciduous teeth. It's fun to tell lies to tiny people with an instinctive predisposition to believe everything grown-ups...…
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Lincoln Review: Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis Make the 16th President Relatable

There's an unfun tendency in American life to fictionalize our national heroes as rigid, statue-people who only speak as though they are delivering commencement addresses, with a kind of unlovable, Al Gore–ish anti-charisma that would inhibit anyone in real life from becoming a national hero in the first place. Own...…
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Frankenweenie Review: The Tim Burton You Like Is Back

It's alive! again! Ever since Mars Attacks!, Tim Burton has mostly been in the adaptation business, rendering dark and becurlicued Sleepy Hollows, Alice in Wonderlands and Charlie and the Chocolate Factorys. With Frankenweenie, he adapts his own work — the first animated short he ever produced for a major film...…
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Film, <em>Bachelorette</em> Review: You May Kiss the Bride's Ass

Bachelorette Review: You May Kiss the Bride's Ass

Weddings make such bitchin' film scenarios because the stakes are believably high: If anything goes wrong, social opprobrium, the loss of your beloved or both can ensue, right in front of your disdainful parents, the clergy and probably Vince Vaughn or somebody. Directors have placed every obvious symbol of holy...…
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Film, <i>You've Been Trumped Review</i>: A New Doc on How Donald Trump Pissed Off Scotland

You've Been Trumped Review: A New Doc on How Donald Trump Pissed Off Scotland

  You've Been Trumped, directed by Anthony Baxter, is a document of a humble American businessman who, through some perspicacity and Abe Lincoln–style bootstraps-hoisting, wins the land and homes of a bunch of primitive, chattering Scottish natives who obviously don't use them to God's and Ayn Rand's intended purpose: for...…
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Film, <i>Collaborator</i> Review: Character Actor Martin Donovan Makes Directorial Debut

Collaborator Review: Character Actor Martin Donovan Makes Directorial Debut

A working actor with credits across three decades of television and film, including the shitty, doomed DEA boyfriend of Mary-Louise Parker on Weeds, Al Pacino's doomed partner in Christopher Nolan's Insomnia, and a recurring role on NBC's doomed The Firm, Martin Donovan has attained a respectable degree of "oh, that...…
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Film, <i>The Amazing Spider-Man</i> Review: The Spider Becomes a Man &mdash; and a Joy

The Amazing Spider-Man Review: The Spider Becomes a Man — and a Joy

The Amazing Spider-Man, an inexcusably good reboot-thing from director Marc Webb, celebrates the heartwarming arachno-genetic bar mitzvah in which a boy becomes a spider, and a spider becomes a man, a rite of passage last observed in Sam Raimi’s uneven but often pretty great trilogy in the aughts. There’s definitely...…
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Film, <i>To Rome With Love</i> Review

To Rome With Love Review

In Woody Allen's new film, To Rome With Love, people — like, really young people — still talk, improbably, about "neuroses." Horny, middle-aged businessmen actually stand around the water cooler and ogle the hot secretary, as in the Playboy cartoons of the ancients. In the Allen Legendarium, Freudian psychiatrists never...…
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