This week, Hotel Transylvania adds itself to the National Register of Haunted Hotels, or at least it tries to. Though home to vampires, werewolves, and mummies, thrill-seeking guests are destined to be disappointed by Hotel T's decided unscariness, since its blood-sucking, human-phobic owner (Adam Sandler) can't manage to dislodge a single unwanted meatbag customer (Andy Samberg) from the premises. Hotel Transylvania performs a slick reversal of the usual haunted hotel trope—the ghouls and goblins hide from the meatbag, instead of making their pres...Read more
From art house projects to higher profile releases, director Gus Van Sant has covered his fair share of the Hollywood medium over the years. This Christmas he debuts what seems to be his most easily accessible flick in four years, Promised Land. Starring Matt Damon, John Krasinski and Frances McDormand, the film tells the story of a natural gas salesman whose company wants to take advantage of the resources beneath a small American town. In the lead, Damon's character finds his moral compass being tested after seeing the potentially negative impact of his work.
The material isn't the first foray into social issues-driven filmmaking for Van Sant. Promised Land is his "mainstream" follow-up to 2008's Academy Award-winning Milk.
Crunch the numbers and Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been acting for 87 percent of his life, ever since a casting agent spotted him playing the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz at age four. So even though he's only 31—an age when Jeremy Renner was still just a fulltime makeup artist going on castings—Gordon-Levitt's career can already be divided up into periods: his elementary years as a commercial actor, the middle school stretch where he leaped into TV shows and then graduated to 3rd Rock From the Sun, where he'd spend six years as a teen heartthrob, and then that endless four year stretch between when he tried to leave sitcoms behind and mature into serious acting.Read more
Rian Johnson [left] and Joseph Gordon-Levitt on the set.
When he was 24, Rian Johnson wrote the script for a high school noir. It had all the teen cliches—cool kids, jocks, loners, burnouts—and a heavy dose of his Dashiell Hammett influences including a murder and a beautiful dame who can't be trusted. And then he spent seven years trying to get it made. When the studio system wouldn't nibble, he raised $500,000 from his friends and family and shot Brick himself, casting a young TV actor named Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead. He shot it in 20 days, submitted it to Sundance, and won the Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision. A career was launched.
The Judge Dredd series is a curious artifact of the Cold War. Created in 1977 for Britain's 2000 AD magazine, Dredd takes place in a bombed-out wasteland that is an obvious expression of the very real fear Europeans had that the US and Soviets would eventually duke it out, and destroy the world in the process. It's also a striking parody of the emerging badass-killer-cop genre that has remained consistently popular for over 40 years. What kind of world emerged from the wreckage of civilization? One in which gigantic cities sprawl over North America, crime is rampant, and every cop, especially the titular character, is a ruthless law enforcer who acts as judge, jury and executioner.Read more
Jake Gyllenhaal continues his career relaunch as a female-friendly action star in this week's terrific buddy-cop drama End of Watch (read our review here). After his disastrous turn as the Prince of Persia, Gyllenhaal's star had been on the wane, but with two outstanding films in a row (counting last year's sleeper hit Source Code), the wide-eyed heartthrob is poised for a comeback. Those big, lake-blue eyes are impossible to resist, after all, and his pleasantly nonthreatening nice-Jewish-boyness is certainly an asset. But let's face it: the 31-year-old actor's secret weapon is the moody tresses that transform from role to role. But as advantageous as The Gyllenhair has been to its owner, the actor hasn't always utilized it wisely.Read more
Director Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master is a lot of things: a critical take on Scientology, a tale of friendship between two disparate men, the story of a troubled veteran suffering from an undiagnosed and perhaps undiagnosable malaise. But the film's wildest ambition is to explore an often overlooked aspect of the 1950s: the clash between that decade's triumphant optimism and open postwar wounds, and how it paved the way for evident absurdities like The Cause, the nascent therapeutic movement in the film, to flourish. For decades, pop culture—especially of the seventies and eighties—was content to find an American Eden in the fifties, even going so far as to call that quietly turbulent decade "Happy Days.Read more