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Was ‘Bridesmaids’ deserving of Oscar nod?

Did “Bridesmaids” get left behind at Oscar’s Best Picture altar? Or are the raunchy comedy’s two nominations already more than it deserves?

Some early buzz suggested that Kristen Wiig’s R-rated wedding-disaster hit was a contender for the Academy Awards’ top prize, especially now that the field is open to more than just five films. That didn’t happen, but “Bridesmaids” did score a supporting-actress nod for Melissa McCarthy, who played the endearingly obnoxious and sexually voracious Megan, and an original screenplay nomination for writers Wiig and Annie Mumolo.

Best Picture was always going to be a long shot. The fact is that the Oscars have never been kind to comedies, as a look at recent years makes clear. Of the nine movies nominated for Best Picture this year, only Woody Allen’s “Midnight In Paris” is considered a comedy, and of the 10 nominations in 2010 and 2011, only the animated movies “Toy Story 3″ and “Up” qualify.

Originally published Jan. 24, 2012 on Read the complete article.

Party on! The five best wild guys in film

Bartender, another round, and make it a double! In Oct. 28′s “The Rum Diary,” Johnny Depp returns to the role of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson — or his alter ego, Paul Kemp. That’s great news for fans of Depp’s wild-eyed performance in the 1998 cult classic “Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas.”

For the infamously brilliant but unhinged Thompson, covering news and consuming booze and pills went hand-in-hand, and hallucinations of giant bats were an everyday job hazard. His fictionalized persona is one of the great loose-cannon characters in film and literary history.

Here are five guys from the movies who could tie one on with Thompson and live to tell the tale.

Originally published Oct. 21, 2011 on Read the complete article.

Take two! Movie remakes we love — and hate: The Thing

Yes, the prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 movie “The Thing” is coming out this week. Carpenter’s movie itself was a remake of a 1951 film, Howard Hawks’ “The Thing From Another World.” And for my money, it’s the best remake out there, of any film, ever.

Carpenter’s classic follows a group of scientists at an isolated polar base who stumble across an alien frozen in the ice — and when they wake it up, it’s not exactly friendly. “Thing From Another World” is a fine film on its own merits, still thrilling and creepy half a century later. But 1950s special-effects couldn’t possibly do justice to the novella’s villain, a frighteningly unstoppable shape-changing monster. Carpenter, along with obsessive effects wizard Rob Bottin, had the tools and the imagination to get it right. Kurt Russell makes a perfect grizzled, distrusting hero for a story about not knowing who to trust. Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack is wonderfully icy and subtle. And unlike a lot of horror movies, “The Thing” never falls prey to making the characters behave stupidly just to get a cheap shock — it’s remarkably well-crafted, delivering big as a gut-level scarefest and a psychological thriller.

Part of a group-written roundup originally published Oct. 11, 2011 on Read the complete article.

‘Mystery Science’ alums know bad movies better than anyone

When it comes to enduring bad movies, the comedians of “Cinematic Titanic” have more experience than most. Featuring five founding members of cult TV hit “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” “Titanic” continues the tradition of making fun of the foibles of B-movie bombs like “Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks” and “The Oozing Skull.” The crew will take their show on the road for a 19-city tour this fall starting Sept. 15-17 in Minneapolis; details can be found at

We talked to Titanic’s Frank Conniff, J. Elvis Weinstein, and Trace Beaulieu about what makes a movie truly wretched.

Originally published Aug. 26, 2011 on Read the complete article.

Cut! Cut! Movies so bad, you had to leave

This summer has seen its share of fizzles and outright flops, with films like “Green Lantern,” “Cowboys & Aliens,” and “Conan the Barbarian” failing to strike a chord with audiences. But it takes a special kind of movie to make you so bored, irritated or offended that you just can’t stand watching it anymore.

As the owner of the Heights Theater in Minneapolis, Tom Letness has seen his share of walkouts. “They don’t like it, they’re bored, they’re offended. Those are the big three.” Letness thinks that most bad experiences could be avoided if moviegoers did a little due diligence beforehand. “I’d say the bulk of the people know what they’re getting into, but there’s a number of people that just don’t,” he says. “It surprises me sometimes that people come into a film cold, and know nothing about it. I remember I showed [2008 Holocaust drama] ‘The Reader,’ and there was a guy who walked out mainly because he was offended by the male frontal nudity. He said, ‘That’s unacceptable.’ I was just like, ‘Well, whatever, I guess you’ve never looked in a mirror then.’”

We asked a variety of movie goers to tell us about the films so bad that they just couldn’t stay till the end.

Originally published Aug. 25, 2011 on Read the complete article.

Top bananas: Best and worst of “Planet of the Apes”

When the chimpanzees come to rule the world Aug. 5 in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” it won’t be for the first time. “Rise” reboots one of science fiction’s most enduring series, which ruled 1970s sci-fi before “Star Wars” thanks to its mix of action, satirical humor, and twisty endings. Here’s a look back at some of the best, weirdest and most memorable moments of the original “Apes” series.

Originally published Aug. 1, 2011 on Read the complete article.

The Red Skull vs. Mark Zuckerberg: Who’d win in a fight?

Every great superhero needs an arch-nemesis, and Captain America’s got a particularly nasty one in the Red Skull, a Nazi weapons expert and terrorist leader personally trained by Hitler. Hugo Weaving dons the maniac’s mask in “Captain America: The First Avenger,” debuting on Friday. The Red Skull is one of the most dangerous of all comic-book supervillains — but how would he get along with other bad guys from recent movies?

Originally published July 20, 2011 on Read the complete article.

Why ‘Batman’ is way cooler than ‘Captain America’

One of comics’ most iconic superheroes gets his first major movie appearance on Friday in “Captain America: The First Avenger.” But though the super-soldier has been around since World War Two, he’s probably not as familiar to the average filmgoer as Batman, who’ll return to theaters next year in “The Dark Knight Rises.” How do the two of them stack up against each other? Let’s count the ways.

Originally published July 19, 2011 on Read the complete article.

Harry Potter live chat

Earlier today, I met with fans of the Harry Potter series for a live chat on to discuss the final movie, the differences between the books and the films, and the future of the series. The chat’s over now, but you can see a transcript of it here.

Limitless’ brainpower plot isn’t all that crazy

Recent films offer up some weird science, but believe it or not, some of it’s quite possible

When it comes to science-fiction movies, the fiction tends to trump the science. And that can be just fine — movies are supposed to be entertaining, and nothing saps the joy out of them more quickly than complaining that there’s no sound in space, so the Death Star should’ve exploded in total silence. You’ve got to meet the movie halfway. But it’s also hard to do that unless the filmmakers give you some plausible reason to believe that tyrannosaurs could be resurrected, or Captain Kirk could beam himself up.

We looked at a half-dozen recent movies — including the new thriller “Limitless,” out March 18 — to see how their science stacked up, and whether their near-future inventions would be anything we’d actually want to see in real life.

Originally published March 7, 2011 on Read the complete article.

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