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SIMON SAYS: Tom Cruise in MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 4: "it is my destiny to be the king of vain."

In the recent Mission: Impossible movies, Tom Cruise has basically played a charismatic body under stress. While Mission: Impossible III is still the most satisfying film of the series because it takes the Ethan Hunt character and gives him personal stakes to fight for, Hunt’s main appeal has always been his charm as a humorless beast of burden. No film in the series makes this more apparent than the fourth and most recent entry in the film franchise, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Here, Cruise, who gets a prominent producer credit in the film’s opening credits, shows his age; in fact, he flaunts it. Not in an “I’m getting too old for this shit” kind of way. More like a “My body has seen better days but I’m still pretty amazing, so shut the hell up and watch me scale the tallest building in the world...one-handed” kind of way.
  • By Simon Abrams
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  • December 19, 2011 6:03 AM
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  • 9 Comments

MATT ZOLLER SEITZ: Should HOMELAND have quit while it was ahead?

Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck might not seem to belong in a review of a searing cable drama about terrorism, but bear with me, OK? In the climax of Show Biz Bugs (1957), in which Bugs and Daffy compete for the right to claim top billing in a show, Daffy decides he’s had enough of being bested by the rabbit and hauls out his trump card, self-immolation. “I must warn those with weak constitutions to leave the theater for this performance,” the duck says, then swallows gasoline, nitro glycerine, gunpowder, uranium and a lit match, and explodes. “That’s terrific, Daffy!” Bugs exclaims from the wings, over thunderous applause. “They loved it! They want more!” “I know, I know,” says Daffy’s ghost, floating toward the rafters. “But I can only do it once!”
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz
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  • December 19, 2011 3:50 AM
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  • 1 Comment

Occupy Wall Street movement: a survey of video footage from the front lines

For just a moment, try to set aside your preconceptions. Try to set aside your ideological leanings, your ideas about power, money, and political speech. Even try to reach past your automatic emotional responses and most visceral feelings. And for a moment, just watch the video below this graf. It was shot in downtown Manhattan by Luke Rudkowski.
  • By Louis Godfrey
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  • December 19, 2011 2:05 AM
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  • 0 Comments

VIDEO ESSAY: MAGIC AND LIGHT THE FILMS OF STEVEN SPIELBERG Chapter 2: Blood & Pulp

When you think of the films of Steven Spielberg, violence may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But Spielberg’s films wouldn’t be Spielberg’s films if he didn’t show and imply violent actions. Violence is just another color on Spielberg’s palette and he’s not shy about using it, either to excess or with moderation. And the presentation of the violence reveals a lot about Spielberg’s sense of what the audience can handle, and how far he can go as a director. In fact, you can tell what kind of Spielberg film you’re watching based solely on the way he shows violence. As a child, Spielberg used to worship the violent Grand Guignol violence of EC Comics – specifically such lurid titles as Shock Suspense Stories and Weird Science. But he also gorged himself on 1950s network television and old Hollywood movies, which for the most part had a much more circumspect attitude toward violence.
  • By Simon Abrams & Richard Seitz
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  • December 17, 2011 1:41 PM
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  • 1 Comment

SLIDE SHOW: The best TV shows of the year

We’re living in some kind of new Golden Age of scripted TV, and this year’s best offerings were amazing. I decided to be rigorous and restrict myself to just 10 entries. It wasn’t easy. These 10 picks represent what I think were the most creative and consistently satisfying scripted comedies and dramas that aired on American TV during 2011. If I’d expanded the list to account for shows that were somewhat more erratic but that produced terrific individual episodes, this list would have had 30 or maybe even 40 titles on it. If anybody’s curious, I may post the expanded list in the comments section.
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz
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  • December 16, 2011 4:36 AM
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  • 0 Comments

AARON ARADILLAS: JAWS: the film and the director that changed everything

It is often said that Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, his excitingly directed adaptation of Peter Benchley’s disposable beach read about a summer community being terrorized by a great white shark, ushered in what we now know as the modern blockbuster. It, along with George Lucas’ Star Wars, brought about what we now accept as the Summer Movie Season. Up until Jaws, studios had considered the summer a vast wasteland where they could offload their grade-z programmers. Just like the town of Amity in the film (really Martha’s Vineyard), where a successful summer tourist season could carry the town through the rest of the year, Hollywood studios would forever rely on summer blockbusters to carry them throughout the rest of the year. This is all true, but Jaws is something else. Look closely and you’ll see it is actually the last old-fashioned adventure, a kind of farewell to a rickety yet sturdy style of Hollywood film-making – and values.
  • By Aaron Aradillas
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  • December 15, 2011 5:36 PM
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  • 0 Comments

MAGIC AND LIGHT: THE FILMS OF STEVEN SPIELBERG: Chapter 1: Introduction

Steven Spielberg is one of the most popular storytellers of all time. Based solely on box-office receipts, that’s an inarguable fact. It's been true since 1975, when the box office take of his breakthrough Jaws redefined the the word "blockbuster." Look at the top grossing movies of all time, and you'll see that a startling number were produced or directed by Spielberg. And yet this almost forty-year streak hasn't been enough to insulate him against charges that he's a frivolous director – or that, at the very least, his success is an example of style, or more accurately technique, over substance. That he does not persuade or even seduce viewers, but that he overwhelms them. With sound. With light. With music. And special effects.
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz, Ali Arikan & Serena Bramble.
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  • December 15, 2011 9:34 AM
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  • 18 Comments

Reeling and Spinning: Lindsay Lohan is taking her clothes off. . . .again

So, Lindsay Lohan is butt-bald-nekkid in next month’s issue of Playboy. Well, whoopty fuckin’ shit! Is there anyone shocked by this news? After years of the once-promising, red-headed starlet fucking up her life and her career in every way possible, she is now in the pages of the magazine everyone figured she would end up in eventually. To me, the most shocking thing is that this may the first time men will jack off to an issue of Playboy since the mid-’90s. (That is, if they haven’t already seen the leaked pics on the Web, where all self-respecting self-pleasurers get their masturbation material from these days.)
  • By Craig D. Lindsey
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  • December 15, 2011 7:32 AM
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  • 4 Comments

MATT ZOLLER SEITZ: Where can AMERICAN HORROR STORY go from here?

“Just because we’re dead doesn’t mean we don’t have wants … desires,” said Tate, the pouty, bratty, forever-teenage rubber-suit-wearing, mom-of-the-house raping, suicide pact-making … sorry, I feel like there should be about 12 more adjectives in there, because the ghostly Tate, like most of the characters on FX’s aggressively lurid “American Horror Story,” requires them. But let’s stay focused on Tate’s statement, because it’s key. Yes, of course! He and the other ghosts have wants … desires. And one of the many amazing things about the show is how, over the past few episodes, it has subtly moved the ghosts to the center of the narrative, to the point where the ever-dwindling number of living characters have started to seem like the supporting cast on a show that they were ostensibly the stars of. (Of course, now that they’re all dropping like flies — even money on Constance to bite the dust by the end of season two — they get to be at the center of the story again.) I’ll spare you a detailed recap because if you didn’t see the episode, you shouldn’t be reading this article i
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz
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  • December 15, 2011 2:01 AM
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  • 0 Comments

MATT ZOLLER SEITZ: GLEE has a Judy Garland Christmas

All together now, readers: If you hate Glee so much, Matt, why do you keep watching it? I don’t know, folks. At the risk of sounding like a masochistic romantic who’s stuck in a tortuous relationship — Dear diary, I can’t TAKE this anymore, it’s horrible and it’s KILLING me … but OH MY GOD IF YOU COULD HAVE SEEN THE GIFT SHE BOUGHT ME! — I have to go on the record about last night’s Glee Christmas special. It was brilliant. OK, actually, I should qualify that — the middle section was brilliant. The wraparound stuff was the Glee usual: silly, pandering and dull. During the final number — “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” set in a soup kitchen that no doubt was populated by the children of “Glee” cast and crew — even the actors seemed bored, except for Jane Lynch, whose Coach Sylvester was acknowledging the first anniversary of her sister’s death. (Tear cup.) But OH MY GOD IF YOU COULD HAVE SEEN THAT MIDDLE SECTION, DIARY! Presented in black-and-white, it perfectly re-created the set, the tone and even the camera moves of The Judy Garland Show Christmas special from 1963, but with a cultural flash forward/flashback quality, presenting a patchwork quilt vision of America that wouldn’t have gotten past the network censors four decades ago.
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz
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  • December 15, 2011 1:46 AM
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  • 0 Comments

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