You Go To See “The Descendants”

Credit: jai Mansson
You will look at the beach and want to be there.

You go to see a film about a Hawaiian named Matt King, who is played by George Clooney.

This movie has been directed by Alexander Payne, a director whom you quite like, particularly his “14e Arrondissement,” so you don’t much mind that Clooney strikes you as anything but Hawaiian. And you like Clooney, who has been in — and even has directed — a few of your favorite films, including “Syriana” and “Good Night, and Good Luck.” And, anyways, it’s just a movie and someone has to star in it.

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Guided by “Classic” Voices: Let’s Not Go Contextualizing the Factory

Credit: Fire / Guided by Voices, Inc.
Cover art for Let’s Go Eat the Factory by Guided by Voices

It’s time to welcome back Guided by Voices, even if you didn’t have the chance to miss them.

I was too young to catch this version of the band the first time around.  With considerable time having passed between their latest release and 1996’s Under the Bushes Under the Stars, the “classic” Guided by Voices’ January return challenges listeners to forget the records and lineups that carried the GBV stamp for the better part of a decade.  Although the GBV banner was retired in 2004, many fans felt the truest dynamic died when main man Robert Pollard dismissed Tobin Sprout, Kevin Fennell and Greg Demos after Under the Bushes….

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Occupy Harlan: “Justified” and American Economics

FX Networks
Credit: FX Networks
Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins in “Justified” with guns.

One of the funnier interactions from the still-in-progress third season of “Justified” (2012) takes place between our Stetson-toting hero, Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), and Dixie Mafia gangster Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns). At the end of the second season, Givens, the last of the Kentucky lawmen, tells Duffy that the next conversation they have “ain’t gonna be a conversation.” Givens is later forced into retracting his statement in order to help a colleague out on a case, and when he comes looking for words with Duffy, the gangster can’t help but twist the knife into the gaping wound that is the cowboy’s pride. Givens eventually gets the last word in a later exchange: while standing on Duffy’s neck, he drops a bullet onto the gangster’s chest and says, “Next one’s comin’ faster.”

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Burning Down the “Safe House”

Credit: Universal Studios
Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington in “Safe House”

In an early scene in Daniel Espinosa’s whip-paced, uninspired film “Safe House,” ex-C.I.A. operative Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) pays a South African pimp to dress in his overcoat, scarf, and hat and then the man is instantly felled by a sniper’s bullet from some baddies that were targeting Frost. This tone sets the backbone of the whole film, which traipses its preposterous intelligence thriller/manhunt in and around Cape Town as if the city were a Hollywood back lot filled with anonymous extras and not a thriving, dynamic city of its own. The film rolls up Cape Town and all it’s inhabitants, diversity, and culture and stuffs it inside the chambers of a hundred American guns and then fires them all at Washington and Ryan Reynolds.

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Infants Terrible: “Submarine,” Adolescent Boys, and The Art of Teen Angst

Credit: Warp Films
Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige wearing sunglasses in “Submarine.”
“I have already turned these moments into the Super-8 footage of memory.”

This is the sort of boy we’re dealing with in “Submarine” (2010), a film by Richard Ayoade. The film’s title fits its protagonist, 15-year-old Oliver Tate, like a submarine: it’s almost too on the nose (I prefer the original title chosen for this UK film’s American release, “The Slow and The Lugubrious”). But “Submarine” is not just another movie featuring yet another self-absorbed adolescent boy who finds that the world is Just Not That Into Him: it’s a film about these boys, where they come from, and where they’re coming from. When Oliver (Craig Roberts) talks about his own meticulous self-preservation—the remark at the start of this paragraph is made after Oliver reflects on “an atavistic, glorious fortnight of lovemaking, humiliating teachers and bullies” spent with his girlfriend, Jordana (Yasmin Paige)—it is clear that the filmmakers want us to see that he is unaware of just how far up his own ass he is.

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Fox News is a Pitiful Excuse For a Journalistic Organization Whose Sole Purpose is to Trick the American Public

Credit: Jason Feifer
Fox News and their dirty lies.

Late Thursday morning, Fox News attempted to trick its readers for the 86,230th time by incorrectly reporting that billionaire Donald Trump had endorsed GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich instead of Mitt Romney.

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Fire Up the Fire-Up Chainsaw: Celebrating a New Season of “Delocated”

Credit: Williams Street Productions
Jon Glaser as the protected witness renamed “Jon” in a new season of “Delocated”

Silly masks and strange voices are a vintage formula for funny.

As the hilarious nigh-vanity project of funnyman Jon Glaser (ex – “SNL,” “Late Night w/ Conan O’Brien”) debuts its third season on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim at midnight this Feb. 2, the premiere will be a testament to what has sprung up from the marriage of a ski mask and a funny voice.

Employing a variation on a character that appeared prior to and during his days as a writer and performer on “Late Night,” Glaser plays “Jon,” a witness-protection enrollee and reality TV star (and, yes, the quotations are part of the character’s name). A target of the Mirminskys, a Russian crime family, “Jon’s” face is obscured and his voice modified.

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Over Alaska and Through the Wolfpack in “The Grey”

Credit: Open Road Films
Dallas Roberts, Dermot Mulroney, Liam Neeson and Nonso Anonzie in “The Grey”

The Alaska of “The Grey” is a desolate landscape of ripping wind and thundering howls, and in the middle of its chaos are seven survivors of a plane crash: outcasts and roughnecks that are, with a few exceptions, not prepared to battle the wilderness or the wolves that stalk them. The film is a grim trek through a snowy wasteland toward civilization and it mostly avoids the heroic themes that oft characterize adventure films. Joe Carnahan (working from a sharply dialoged screenplay he co-wrote with Ian Mackenzie Jeffers, based on Jeffers’s short story “Ghost Walker”) deftly presents us a unique vision wrapped inside what could have easily been a stock survivalist film. The result is a strongly textured, serious film that doesn’t fail to surprise.

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Hooker Scare XLVI: The Super Bowl’s Prostitution Panic

Women arrested on charges of prostitution during Super Bowl XIX in Tampa, Florida.
The sun rises in the East, and hookers come into town during the Super Bowl.
Tampa Police Capt. Brett Bartlett

I

Last July, Austria Andrews walked through the lobby of an Indianapolis hotel, holding a vanilla-frosted cupcake. Her braided hair was neatly twisted up, and she was dressed in a geometric-print wrap dress with some silver jewelry. Andrews looked like any other woman in the hotel that day: an unremarkable extra. If you saw her and thought anything at all, you would guess she was paying a birthday visit to a friend.

Up in a hotel room minutes later, Andrews was arrested on both criminal and civil charges for prostitution and fined up to $7,500, according to reports in the Indianapolis Star. The cupcake, her calling card, sat untouched on a nearby shelf. Andrews — fully clothed, arms crossed — watched on in muted outrage as patrolman Jeff Goodin — naked from the waist up — rifled through her purse.

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The Limited Scope of “Limitless”

Bradley Cooper as Eddie Morra, swimming.

Interested in the proliferation of sci fi/realism films that landed on us in, say, February or March of last year (“Adjustment Bureau,” “Source Code,” “Limitless,” probably others I have forgotten), I streamed “Limitless” (2011, dir. Neil Burger), eager to see the moral conundrum of pharmaceutical narcotics improvement. The premise seems right: a guy named Eddie Morra, played by Bradley Cooper, gets a miracle pill that allows him to use “100 percent of his brain” rather than the same old noodles (the movie claims that we normally use 20 percent), and he suddenly becomes Sherlock Holmes in a suit jacket with no tie. He figures out the formula for making lots of money with stocks, has total recall of everything he has even incidentally read or seen and he likes to exercise more. Complications come up that he has to think his way out of (sometimes with the miracle pill, sometimes without), and he meets Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro) and they have a few conversations. The movie ends with the guy running for the Senate and getting a new haircut, all the while being smart, ruthless, conniving and handsome.

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Peaceful, contemplative medium rectangle.