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Christopher Campbell

What Can History Tell Us About ‘Battleship 2?’

'Battleship'
Universal Pictures

Two movies opened over the weekend that co-star Brooklyn Decker and are based on unlikely source material, but while ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ offers nothing interesting ‘Battleship’ offers tons of things to consider between all the explosions and jingoist naval porn. It's actually disappointing that more moviegoers in the U.S. aren’t appreciating it.

Seriously, the emptier the narrative, the easier it is for the mind to wander, and the plot of ‘Battleship’ is as vacant as a “mothball fleet” of unused military vessels. So we contemplated the possible (though now unlikely) sequel that could occur given the setup provided by Peter Berg’s alien invasion movie.

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Filed Under: Category: Movie News, Original Features

What Can ‘The Avengers’ Teach Us About Family and Teamwork?

The Avengers
Marvel Studios

What makes ‘The Avengers’ so appealing that it should earn more in its opening weekend than ‘Thor,’ ‘The Incredible Hulk’ and ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ each earned in its entire domestic run? Could it be the positive reviews? I don’t think so. Strong buzz from the geeks on the Internet? Also not very likely. Successful marketing? Only inasmuch as there was already something extremely favorable for the ads to sell.

To be certain, there were a number of reasons moviegoers flocked to the latest Marvel comic book adaptation this past weekend, but the ensemble element is the film’s greatest draw, its most important feature and ultimately reminds us all of our own families.

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Filed Under: Category: Movie News

Is ‘The Five-Year Engagement’ a Real Social Experiment?

Five Year Engagement
Universal Pictures

There’s an amusingly reflexive scene in ‘The Five-Year Engagement,’ in which two social psychologists are watching, through a one-way mirror, a romantic couple dramatically breaking up while sitting in an observation room, unaware they’re not alone. The mirror is like the movie screen, and its framing of the couple becomes the framing of the shot, so the psychologist characters and the audience become entwined, mutually silent voyeurs gazing upon an otherwise private moment.

But there is a difference between us as viewers. The psychologists, within their onscreen world, are looking at a “real” situation, while we are still just looking at made-up characters saying made-up things. I appreciate the film’s attempt at being meta for a minute, though, because I’ve always found the modern American comedy to be akin to a social experiment, one that doesn’t bother with real people and their unpredictable ways.

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Filed Under: Category: Movie News

Is ‘Chimpanzee’ Political Propaganda?

Chimpanzee
Walt Disney Pictures

For the past four years, Disney has released a new nature documentary each Earth Day, a seemingly liberal act involving conservation promotion and charity, and yet these films seem more and more like right-wing propaganda to me with every release.

This year’s title is ‘Chimpanzee,’ about an adorable little ape experiencing war, survival and special patriarchal relationships among his community, and it’s no surprise that its opening weekend box office gross was the best the Disneynature brand has had yet. It’s hard for Americans to resist baby animals, especially for human children who are meant to identify with the universal struggles and triumphs that come with being a kid of any kind in the world.

The main criticism that many have had with ‘Chimpanzee,’ though, is with the narration, which emphasizes that relatability and uses the connection to subliminally target young viewers with messages of fear and hostility. Never mind the personal tastes regarding the voice of Tim Allen and his insistence in keeping up with that signature grunting of his (he didn’t become a popular comedian for being annoying to the majority). The worst part of the voice-over is the writing, which takes some extraordinary nature cinematography of beautiful flora and fauna and fungi and forces anthropomorphic story and character upon these images.

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Filed Under: Category: Movie News, Original Features

What is Really Lurking Underneath ‘The Cabin in the Woods?’

Cabin in the Woods
Lionsgate

While it is true that ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ is the most reflexive horror movie since ‘Scream,’ there is a major difference between the films’ employment of self-awareness. ‘Scream’ simply takes place in a universe in which characters are familiar with other horror movies. It could pretty much be set in the real world. ‘Cabin,’ on the other hand, is very much outside that universe and looking in. It’s not so outside the fourth wall that characters know they’re just characters in a movie, but it’s pretty close.

Even more than a Charlie Kaufman brand deconstruction, ‘Cabin’ is pretty much just an illustrated term paper on genre theory. And now that the film has hit theaters and we can talk openly about it, let's grade that term paper.

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Filed Under: Category: Horror, Movie News

Chivalry and Sexism: Is ‘American Reunion’ Hypocritical?

American Reunion
Universal Pictures

A lot of movies want to have their cake and eat it too. 'Dinner with Schmucks' parades a bunch of freaks around for laughs before it tells us we shouldn't make fun of these eccentric individuals. 'Avatar' condemns certain technological advancements at the same time it is, itself, a product of groundbreaking technology (though as the new documentary 'Surviving Progress' shows us, man's scientific development is a tricky enough subject that James Cameron's seemed hypocrisy may be warranted). And just about any modern studio effort involving sexuality, especially if there's some moral ground at play, tends to feature some insensitive apology for its own sexist offenses while ultimately still catering primarily to the male viewer's fantasies.

Specifically, let's take a look at this past weekend's 'American Reunion'.

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Filed Under: Category: Movie News

‘The Hunger Games’: Is It Really a Metaphor for the Occupy Movement?

The Hunger Games
College Humor/Lionsgate

As the oft-repeated story goes, the initial inspiration for 'The Hunger Games' was a night of channel surfing, during which author Suzanne Collins began to blur together reality television and news coverage of the Iraq War. But this doesn't mean her books, nor the films adapted from them, are really about that specific conflict or necessarily tied to the modern tastes of spectators and the entertainment currently catered to them. Is 'The Hunger Games' really a metaphor for anything at all?

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Filed Under: Category: Movie News

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