"The Last Samurai" puts a Yankee in the Emperor's court and lets Tom Cruise show off his swordsmanship.11:00 PM, Dec 4, 2003 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
THE ADAGE that every generation gets the president it deserves applies equally well to popular culture. We get the TV shows, pop songs, and cinema we deserve. Movie stars, too. The greatest generation got Humphrey Bogart, Spencer Tracy, and Cary Grant. (Bogart and Tracy served stints in the Navy.) For their sins, the Boomers were given Warren Beatty, Robert Redford, and Jack Nicholson.
Dr. Seuss's classic comes to the big screen with style, barf jokes, and a newly-minted porn star.11:00 PM, Nov 20, 2003 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
MY BIG IDEA, the one that's going to let me to quit my day job, join the Metropolitan Club, and buy Kay Graham's old place in Georgetown, is this: A pay cable channel for kids. Think of it like HBO, but airing only kid shows, 24 hours a day. You could charge $15, $20, maybe $25 a month and parents would buy it because here's the hook: No commercials.
The anti-TV movement is only nominally about the content of shows. It's really about the advertisements.
"Elf" comes in time to give you holiday cheer while you're still savoring your leftover Halloween candy.11:00 PM, Nov 6, 2003 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
YES, IT'S CHRISTMAS TIME ALREADY. Today "Elf" lands in theaters.
"Revolutions" reveals that underneath the philosophy, allegory, and intellectual pretension of "The Matrix" is a great big wad of nothing.11:00 PM, Nov 4, 2003 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
THE INITIAL IMPULSE is to declare that "The Matrix: Revolutions" does for "The Matrix" what "Return of the Jedi" did for "Star Wars." That isn't, however, entirely fair. It would be more accurate to compare "Revolutions" with "Attack of the Clones." After all, while "Jedi" might have cast aspersions on the worth of the original "Star Wars," it was "Attack of the Clones" which finally bulldozed the original trilogy's legacy.
"Revolutions" eats all of the goodwill built up by "The Matrix," and then some.
The new movie "Shattered Glass" believes that Stephen Glass's mad genius made it impossible to stop him before he was caught. There is evidence to suggest otherwise.11:00 PM, Oct 30, 2003 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
"SHATTERED GLASS" is a slim, reedy film. It presents the now-familiar story of Stephen Glass as a cautionary tale and then offers up a hero in the person of Chuck Lane, the New Republic editor who fired Glass.
What the Scary Movie franchise means for the future of the film spoof. Plus, why won't Nicole Kidman get fat?12:00 AM, Oct 24, 2003 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
WHEN YOU REVIEW MOVIES you occasionally have to go to more than one screening a day. This isn't any sort of hardship, but it can result in bizarre pairings. The weirdest movie day I've had was in the summer of '98 when I saw "Saving Private Ryan" at 10:00 a.m., followed, a few short hours later, by "There's Something About Mary."
A few days ago I caught a screening of the earnestly pretentious adaptation of Philip Roth's "The Human Stain." Lots of Anthony Hopkins's winter passion and Nicole Kidman's flat little stomach.
Don't call him an "activist," he's been here for years. The artist formerly known as Spicoli speaks out about sensing the war.12:00 AM, Oct 15, 2003 • By DAVID SKINNER
AMONG THE MOST fatuous devices of political debate, the tactic of disowning "labels" stands proudly: like the Washington hack who catches his breath by saying he does not want to talk about "left" or "right," and then immediately exhales a billowy cumulus cloud of unmistakable partisanship. Next to, say, the nondenial denial, the beyond-labels parry holds its head high.
The annoying thing about labels, however, isn't that they're restricting (the ol' pigeonhole problem), but that they are accurate. Which can be very inconvenient. You may, at some point, want a different label.
From the October 10, 2003 Wall Street Journal: Why Hollywood is ignoring the biggest story of the day.12:00 AM, Oct 13, 2003 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
THIS PAST WEEKEND marked the beginning of prestige season at the movies. The rollout of Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" will be followed in the coming weeks by "The Matrix: Revolutions," "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King," "Cold Mountain," "The Human Stain" and other high-profile releases. What you won't see this fall--or winter, or spring, or summer for that matter--is a single movie about the war on terror.
It's a little hard to believe. Yes, we have had a small-screen documentary and the film version of a play ("The Guys"), both about Sept. 11 itself.
Quentin Tarantino and "Kill Bill" pay homage to the samurai epic, shower the audience with blood, and dilute pop culture.8:15 AM, Oct 10, 2003 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
IT'S NOT NEWS to report that trailers are often better than the movies they advertise. Some of the best trailers in recent years--"The Phantom Menace," "Mission: Impossible 2," "Pearl Harbor," "Eyes Wide Shut"--have been for movies which can only be charitably considered middling.
Are movies getting worse, or are trailers getting better? Probably a little of both. No need to repeat the state-of-the-industry lament here, but it is worth considering whether the art of trailer-making is now entering its golden age.
How to save the HBO series "K Street."12:00 AM, Oct 10, 2003 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
I HAVE A SOFT SPOT for "K Street," the new HBO series that follows the lives of a group of Washington lobbyists. It's not necessarily because the show goes to great lengths to incorporate real-life Washingtonians into each week's episode. And it's not necessarily because the show focuses on the capitol's lobbyist culture, which is deserving of more attention than it has received in general.
Sure the Dixie Chicks are against Arnold, but where is the rest of Hollywood on the recall race?8:00 AM, Sep 10, 2003 • By BILL WHALEN
SAY GOODBYE to recall's principled Peter. That's Peter Ueberroth, the former baseball commissioner, who yesterday ended his issue-oriented (and mostly invisible) run for governor. "In the four weeks where we are and where we have to get, we just can't get there," Ueberroth said in a farewell news conference that was absent any endorsement. That's welcome news for Arnold Schwarzenegger, as he'll probably inherit the lion's share of Ueberroth's 5 percent support.
Meanwhile, Arnold has a bigger problem: women.
Lionel Chetwynd's "DC 9/11" tells the story behind the policy change brought on by September 11.12:00 AM, Sep 5, 2003 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
IT'S AN OPEN QUESTION as to whether or not a great movie will ever be made about September 11. Historical events don't always lend themselves to good filmmaking. The Holocaust has translated well; Pearl Harbor has never been done justice.
It is a small mercy that no Michael Bay or Jerry Bruckheimer has yet tried to make an epic September 11 movie.
"The Matrix: Reloaded" piles on the detail, dabbles with higher math, and makes a star out of Cornel West.12:00 AM, May 15, 2003 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
YOU MAY NOT remember this, but "The Matrix" earned a respectable, yet modest $27 million during its opening weekend way back in 1999. It went on to gross $171 million domestically, an impressive total. (As a rule of thumb, movies typically end up grossing about three times their opening weekend. In many ways this "multiple" is a better indicator of a movie's impact than its opening weekend performance.
Also: Tiger Woods v. Michael Moore and Anna Quindlen v. common sense.7:00 AM, Apr 17, 2003 • By DAVID SKINNER
PERHAPS because of the mixed and novel aims of the war in Iraq, no single argument against the war ever came to define the antiwar movement. Rather, the pro- and antiwar camps roughly divided into people who believe in the moral potential of American might and those who don't. The latter have been even more disbelieving as a result of their collective contempt for our president, a hatred that more than any ideal or policy aim distinguishes the hard-core left today.
The movies tip-toe up to the meaning of September 11.Apr 21, 2003, Vol. 8, No. 31 • By GABY WENIG
AT THE END of "Gangs of New York," Martin Scorsese inserts a montage of the city across time--from a decrepit nineteenth-century slum to the modern megalopolis of Manhattan. In the last shot, right before the credits roll, two buildings stand out: the twin towers of the World Trade Center. They stand out not just because they are taller than other buildings, but because their presence in the film was a somewhat audacious move, a year and a half after the towers had been erased from the New York skyline.