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“Begin Again,” “They Came Together,” and the New Rom-Com

The obituary for the traditional romantic comedy has already been written hundreds of times, but those who are just reading the headlines are missing the point. It’s not that the rom-com is dead; rather, the traditional form of the genre – with its outdated notions of love and regressive gender roles – has little use…

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Sorry, Millenials: The “Fault” is Ours

Judging by the enormous opening weekend gross of The Fault in Our Stars, there are not a lot of cynics out there among the American teenaged population (or at least, the women). The cancer romance is an unabashed tear-jerker, with nary a drop of irony or detachment to be found among the earnest declarations of…

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The Misguided Feminism of “Maleficent”

For most of its history, Disney fairy tales knew only two types of women: evil hags and innocent princesses, and for almost as long, feminists have taken issue with these depictions. These stories have indoctrinated entire generations of young women into thinking their sole purpose in life was to be saved from spinsterhood by a…

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The War Inside of “X-Men: Days of Future Past”

You cannot serve two masters. That’s what the old adage says, but comic book movies have mostly been able to prove it wrong over the last decade. Consider the complexity of their challenge: Each movie must do service to the legions of dedicated fan boys who comprise the genre’s base and are all too willing…

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If “Neighbors” Were “Townies”

By nearly any barometer, Neighbors is a successful movie. The frat comedy starring Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, and Rose Byrne took the top spot at the domestic box office last weekend (knocking The Amazing Spider-Man 2 off its perch), and it has even received mostly solid reviews from the critical community, which is rare for…

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“Neighbors” and the Limits of the Apatow Empire

Neighbors, a disappointing new frat comedy, was directed by Nicholas Stoller (The Muppets, The Five-Year Engagement), but it has the DNA of Judd Apatow all over it. Apatow is best known for writing and directing The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, but he also started a comedy empire that has spawned numerous other filmmakers. For…

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“Blue Ruin” is a Thrilling Comment on Movie Violence

Whenever movie mayhem comes under attack from concerned citizens – as it did after the Sandy Hook shootings in 2012 – filmmakers often justify their work by claiming that their depictions of violence are not endorsements. It’s hard to take that seriously, especially because they usually make gun play look so cool and leave out…