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We spout opinion, comment on the current zeitgeist and overanalyze pop culture and mainstream movies. Whether in the form of lists, survey questions or straight editorials, we hope to make thinking deeply about film a fun and stimulating activity for all.

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"The Smurfs" Gets Lost Inside the Biggest Product Placement Ever

  • By Christopher Campbell
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  • July 29, 2011 7:56 AM
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  • 6 Comments
It is true, "The Smurfs" is one of the more tolerable movies to rape your childhood in a long time. The characters are cute and only minimally obnoxious. The scatological and pop culture references are at a minimum (though "Rango" proved that a lot of both doesn't have to be terrible). And it's self-aware in a respectful fashion more reminiscent of "Gremlins 2: The New Batch" than "The Brady Bunch Movie," so the adults who grew up on the little blue creatures have something to appreciate, and not in too campy a way. Sure, it's basically a rehash of "Enchanted," which was itself basically a rehash of "Splash," and I guess I was too hopeful in thinking some of the reflexivity would involve accusations of communism, but I found the movie to be a slight improvement on at least the more recent of those NYC-set fish-out-of-water fantasies. Probably because even watching Smurfs perform "Walk This Way" as Neil Patrick Harris -- wearing a sadly ironic CBGBs shirt to remind us of how NYC used to be cool and not kiddie -- accompanies on a faux guitar during an extended product placement of "Rock Band" is still better than any of the contradictorily self-parodying numbers sung by Amy Adams in a Manhattan that's portrayed even more Disney-fied than it unfortunately already is.

"Captain America: The First Avenger" Captivates But Has Little Care for Character

  • By Christopher Campbell
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  • July 22, 2011 9:58 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Ten years ago, Joe Johnston directed "Jurassic Park III," a much-maligned sequel to the Steven Spielberg original(s) that can be enjoyed if you forgive the more cartoonish, Joe Dante-esque turn of the series (speaking of which, Dante should helm part IV). And it's not really too much worse than Spielberg's own sequel ("The Lost World"). Now Johnston gives us the latest "Avengers" franchise title, "Captain America: The First Avenger," and at many times it begs to be thought of as an entry in Spielberg's "Indiana Jones" series. Again, it's a cartoonish distortion of the original(s), but it's also not any worse than the last Spielberg-directed installment ("The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"). It's good enough and, yes, maybe the best superhero origin movie since "Iron Man," as well as a lot more entertaining than "Thor," but neither comparison is much to celebrate. We might as well just say it's better than the 1990 "Captain America" movie. Which it certainly is.

The Originals: Could the 1990 "Captain America" Have Been Any Worse?

  • By Christopher Campbell
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  • July 19, 2011 8:04 AM
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  • 3 Comments
This week I'll be seeing "Captain America: The First Avenger," an adaptation of a comic book I always avoided in my youth because the idea of a patriotically costumed superhero seemed so silly to me. At the time he was as hokey as Captain Planet or Ray Cycle, a character starring in a one-off comic published by the State of Connecticut at the start of the late '80s recycling revolution. Suffice to say I haven't been that excited about the new movie even if it is a part of the current Marvel repute (though "Thor" put a damper on that already for me). So to give myself some perspective, I watched the infamously bad 1990 film of "Captain America," assuming it would make the 2011 version seem like "Citizen Kane" no matter how terrible it is.

The Originals: "Captain America" Serial Is Marvel's First Crossover Hit

  • By Daniel Walber
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  • July 18, 2011 8:34 AM
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  • 0 Comments
The 1944 “Captain America” film serial is a bit of an oddity. Unlike the new Chris Evans feature, or any other incarnation of the hero for that matter, it totally abandons the basics of the comic book character. In place of US Army Private Steve Rogers the striped suit is filled by District Attorney Grant Gardner. There’s no Super-Soldier Serum, no massive patriotic shield, and there aren’t even any Nazis. It's an odd cross between the superhero genre and the noir/crime serials that Republic Studios put out around the same time. Simultaneously entertaining and a little confusing, it poses an odd question about what a superhero film should look like.

"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" Might Just Be the Greatest Political Allegory of Our Time

  • By Christopher Campbell
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  • June 29, 2011 1:04 AM
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  • 1 Comment
The following is a lengthy discussion of elements of “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” which contains some minor spoilers.

"Green Lantern" is a Lousy, Lazy Success

  • By Daniel Walber
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  • June 17, 2011 2:00 AM
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  • 2 Comments
“Green Lantern” is not a particularly good movie, and it doesn’t look as if there is going to be much debate on that point. It’s been pretty uniformly regarded as second-rate superhero fare, the lazy and lousy product of too many writers and not enough inspiration. I don’t entirely disagree, either: it’s far from exciting or unique when compared to other recent superhero flicks, and there are some moments that fall embarrassingly flat. I doubt it’ll cross over to ¬audiences beyond those comic book fans already enamored of Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) and his magic green suit, and it’s going to be regarded almost universally as a failure. Perhaps problematically, however, it isn’t.

Top Ten: Best Abs on Film

  • By Daniel Walber
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  • June 15, 2011 2:22 AM
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  • 21 Comments
This weekend, with the release of "Green Lantern," America gets to continue its love affair with Canadian star Ryan Reynolds and his torso. Shirtless or more in almost every movie he's appeared in this decade, the actor's sex appeal appears to be one of the film's most obvious selling points. Warner Bros., anxious about the new franchise, would certainly love it if women (and some men, of course) are drawn to the theater this weekend to see People Magazine's 2010 Sexiest Man Alive unencumbered by a shirt, and in 3D.

Watch: "Green Lantern" Meets "Duck Dodgers"

  • By Daniel Walber
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  • June 14, 2011 4:49 AM
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  • 0 Comments
“Duck Dodgers,” for those of you unfamiliar, is the best kind of meta-television cartoon entertainment. Starring Daffy Duck and his eternal sidekick Porky Pig, the show aired on Cartoon Network from 2003 to 2006. Spun from an original 1953 Looney Toons short entitled “Duck Dodgers in the 24th ½ Century,” the series followed Daffy-as-superhero through a series of inept adventures across the galaxy. It’s a fantastic blend of classic cartoon elements and a hysterically contemporary sensibility. As you watch, you can just picture the creators having the time of their lives.

Who Else is Upset About the Death in "X-Men: First Class"?

  • By Christopher Campbell
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  • June 7, 2011 2:07 AM
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  • 24 Comments
I was going to be specific in the title, at least to imply that I'm referring to a certain death in particular, but outside of the potential spoiler material I also want to get something else more general out of the way first: there are a LOT of deaths in "X-Men: First Class." While it may not be the traumatic deluge of blood in the peak sequence of last year's "Piranha 3D," the CIA massacre at Langley was at least as surprisingly lethal as the mermaid bit in "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides." Actually, going by Entertainment Weekly's annual (thankfully still going after all these years) Summer Movie Body Count tally, the 18 pirates used as bait in "POTC" are nothing compared to the 65 agents slaughtered mostly by Azazel and Sebastian Shaw in "X-Men." Also according to EW, "Thor" had more death overall than "X-Men" (they don't count the Holocaust, because it's off screen, but I guess they also must not have counted the crew of the Russian ship, which were also all murdered by Azazel), but it's mostly Frost Giants who get it in "Thor," not humans. Certainly the latter is more affecting to audiences.

"X-Men: First Class" is a Fantastical Trip Through History and Interchangeable Subtexts

  • By Christopher Campbell
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  • June 3, 2011 11:20 AM
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  • 1 Comment
The following is a lengthy discussion of elements of "X-Men: First Class" which contains some minor spoilers.

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