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The Challenge of “Gone Girl”

Every great murder mystery seeks two answers. The first answer is to the basic question of who committed the murder (after all, that’s why we call these stories “whodunits”). But the better entries in the genre probe deeper, seeking an understanding of the institutions that led to the murder in the first place. These films…

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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 It’s not that the rom-com is dead; rather, the traditional form of the genre – with its outdated notions of love and regressive gender roles – has little use…

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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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“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…

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“Veronica Mars” Plays to its Base

Well, the inevitable has finally occurred: Television and cinema have merged. For years, the line between the two was blurred mostly by the onscreen talent. TV stars have always been trying to make the jump to film; it’s only recently that the talent has begun to flow in the other direction (see True Detective for…

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“3 Days to Kill” is a Sleazy Delight

To explain how on earth I am giving a positive review to 3 Days to Kill, I must cite the late, great Roger Ebert. He referred to his reviewing style as “relative, not absolute,” meaning that he compared a film to others in its genre and judged it against what it was aiming for –…