Just one beer? Sure, what could go wrong?


By George Wolf


If your name happens to be Randy, you’ll get some extra chuckles out of 21 and Over, thanks to a running gag about a d-bag of that name and his overly supportive friends.

For you non-Randys, the first directing effort from a seasoned writing duo will seem plenty familiar. It is  funny in spots, it’s just not too concerned with doing anything remotely original.

Jon Lucas and Scott Moore boast a resume full of comedy screenplays, some very funny (The Hangover, The Change-Up) and some..not so much (Ghost of Girlfriends Past, Four Christmases).  For their first foray into directing their own script, they don’t stray far from the comfort zone of bawdy dude humor and beer-fueled mayhem.

Stressed out college boy Jeff Chang (Justin Chong) has no plans to hit the bars on his 21st birthday, thanks to a big job interview his taskmaster father has arranged for early the next day.  This doesn’t sit well with Jeff’s buddies Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin), and as they coax Jeff out for “just one beer,” the night goes horribly wrong in record time.

The drunken adventure unfolds with plenty of nods to Weekend at Bernie’s, Animal House and of course, The Hangover, as Lucas and Moore unveil most of the shenanigans via the “what happened before” angle of their biggest hit. What’s missing from this, and all, Hangover imitators, though, is the sharply drawn characters and the talented chemistry of the actors.

21 and Over does earn an “A“ for effort, painting Miller as the crazy party-hound, Casey as the good-hearted nerd, and JeffChang (always called by this one name, which remains funnier than you might think) as the nutty Asian guy because, you know, The Hangover had one. No Mike Tyson? What gives?

Teller also starred in the high school party flick Project X, and he seems to relish playing a character with more of a grown-up edge.  He goes a bit overboard though, as Miller’s obnoxiousness nearly renders the character unlikeable.  Astin is basically recycling his nice-guy role from Pitch Perfect while Chong, when his character isn’t passed out entirely, does manage some humorously unhinged antics.

Ironically, Lucas and Moore may have been better suited to follow Project X’s lead and offer no apologies for the debauchery. Ultimately, though, they can’t resist lessons about maturity as they chase the cheesy “I’ve learned something today” moment.

2 ½ stars (out of 5)


Something’s Up with Jack

By Hope Madden

Have you ever wanted to see a nose so big you might be swallowed whole by its gaping pores? In 3D, no less? Director Bryan Singer (X-Men) hopes so, because he means to shake up our chilly moviegoer blahs with an enormous adventure filled with ill-tempered, poorly groomed giants. It’s Jack the Giant Slayer, Singer’s attempt to cash in on teen romance, 3D, and the dearth of late winter entertainment.

The story veers a bit from the nursery school fable, in that there’s an adventurous princess, a back stabbing egomaniac suitor, a crown made of giant heart, and no golden goose at all. Plus, there are an awful lot more giants than I remember.

Wisely, Singer sees the opportunity for medieval battle on a grand scale. Like a giant scale. And once we finally get to some action, the film’s a lot of fun. But beware: its prelude is a long slog.

Singer’s first foray into the third dimension bores. Giants look like unconvincing cartoons, the views are nice but not spectacular, and the action sequences – though entertaining – benefit in no way from the technology.

Nicholas Hoult finished Twilight-ing zombies for Warm Bodies just in time to pull that same shit with this old fairy tale. While he’s a very likeable soul, he brings too little energy or magnetism to the screen.

A sly Ewan McGregor, on the other hand, charms as the princess’s main guardian, his ever wackier hairstyle (who knew so much product was available in days of yore?), captivating smile and over-the-top gallantry injecting the flick with some much needed vibrancy.

The great Stanley Tucci finds himself underused – a particular shame because he makes such a great villain, and his comic timing could have helped the film find more enjoyable footing. Also underutilized is Bill Nighy, voice of one of evil giant General Fallon’s heads. Plus, the usually wonderful Ian McShane just looks silly in that suit of gold armor.

Singer’s pace is leaden, and his patchwork script puts off action far too long to keep your attention. The film’s slightly too violent and far too slow for very young viewers, yet too earnest and lumbering for anyone else. The FX can’t even impress.

There’s nothing especially awful about Jack the Giant Slayer (though, I, for one, was hoping for a slightly different ending). Maybe Hollywood thought that good was enough for late winter at the movies.

2 stars (out of 5)

For Your Queue: Best Living American Filmmaker – there, we said it

Filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson has made six near-perfect films in his brief time on this planet, the latest of which, The Master, may be his most confident and ambitious. If box office numbers are accurate, you probably missed it. That is a genuine shame, and one you can rectify immediately, as the three-time Oscar nominee hits DVD shelves today.

A seriously damaged WWII vet-turned-vagabond (Joaquin Phoenix, in an astonishing performance) stows away on a yacht. Its enigmatic commander (Philip Seymour Hoffman, incandescent as always) takes the boy under his wing, determined to use this vessel to prove his theories about the human mind – to himself, to the veteran, and to an increasingly hostile public.

Phoenix is a tightly coiled spring of rage and emotion, so honest and raw as to make your jaw drop. He’s flanked on all sides by impressive turns, not the least of which is Hoffman’s perfectly nuanced megalomaniac. His presence provides the counterbalance to Phoenix that allows Anderson to explore core American ideas of freedom versus security, submission versus power, self determination versus subservience. It’s a challenging but awe-inspiring film that proves Anderson the true master.

All of Anderson’s films demand to be seen, including his 1996 debut feature Hard Eight (aka Sydney) a sly piece of film noir that foreshadows some of the themes he would revisit in The Master. Set on the outskirts of Las Vegas, Hard Eight follows an accomplished gambler (Phillip Baker Hall)who takes a down and outer (John C. Reilly) under his wing. Also featuring Gwyneth Paltrow and a mesmerizing performance from Samuel L. Jackson in a pivotal role, Hard Eight is a raw but impressive beginning for a true visionary.

Really, Paul’s genius should be no surprise. After all, he’s the son of Ernie Anderson, aka “Ghoulardi” from Cleveland TV in the mid-1960s, so his rise to America’s finest filmmaker was just a matter of time.

Outtakes: Oscar Nominated Shorts

For the fourth year in a row, all 15 Oscar nominated shorts – animated, live action, and documentary – will find screen time at the Gateway Film Center (1550 N. High St). The run is a Gateway exclusive and an excellent opportunity for Oscar completists to get a chance to peek at some nominees that could otherwise go unseen.

According to Gateway president Chris Hamel, his theater gets the exclusive run because the series has done well for the theater.

“We’ve done a little better each year,” he says. “Last year we sold out several screenings of all three programs. I think that is the primary reason the distributor sticks with us.”

And what drive’s Hamel’s interest in booking the series? “As an Oscar buff, I really just want to see everything before they announce the winners,” he admits.

The animated program includes lighter fare than recent years. Disney’s slight, romantic “Paperman”, Pes’s brief but fun “Fresh Guacamole”, and the quickly recognizable “Maggie Simpson in ‘The Longest Daycare’” – following the wee Simpson through a day at the Ayn Rand School for Tots – are here for grins.

For something a little heavier, Minkyu Lee’s “Adam and Dog” unspools an origin story for domesticated animals, while the real charmer, Timothy Reckart’s “Head Over Heels”, offers a bittersweet love story likely to take the prize.

Oscar does like its devastating live action shorts, and the 2012 list does not disappoint. Tales of war torn childhood woes and the punishment of Alzheimer’s populate the series and promise to wring tears. From the daily lives of little boys growing up in the rubble of war comes both Afghanistan’s “Buzkashi Boys”, and Somalia’s particularly fascinating portrayal, “Asad”.

Yan England’s “Henry” boasts a poignant turn from Gerard Poirier as the titular concert pianist plagued by old age and the mystery of his lost love, while “Curfew” offers some very sketchy adventures in babysitting.

For something darkly surreal, “Death of a Shadow” spins a ghostly love story set against the violence of WWI.

This year’s nominated documentaries explore human connections among the elderly, the terminally ill, and the homeless. Intimate, moving , and surprisingly hopeful “Inocente”, “Kings Point”, “Open Heart”, “Redemption”, and “Mondays at Racine” feel more like a theme-driven series than a set of disparate but excellent shorts.

It’s the quality and the rarity that draws Hamel year after year. “Personally, I consider it a necessity to bring films to Columbus that may not have otherwise played here. These short films, obviously all of high quality, allow us to present something to Columbus film fans they can’t see anywhere else.”

For more information, visit www.gatewayfilmcenter.com and theoscarshorts.shorts.tv.

Originally published on Columbus Underground

Outtakes: Buy a Ticket, Save a Film Series

Cinema Classics, WCBE’s weekly program that eavesdrops on film-related conversations between John DeSando and Johnny DiLoretto, boasts a freeform broadcast of informative, insightful, sometimes argumentative discussions. John and Johnny pick a cinematic topic – from a classic flick to the importance of Oscar nominee ages – and hash it out every Thursday night at 8 o’clock.

Says DiLoretto, “Cinema Classics started as a spinoff of John DeSando’s It’s Movie Time show. He asked me if I wanted to work with him, and I said, ‘Yes, but if you want to do this, it’s going to be all conversational, off the cuff and improvised.’”

DeSando reluctantly agreed, and an award-winning show was born. “It’s been great. John and I have been friends for years, we have an instant rapport, and what’s great is that Cinema Classics has become whatever we want to talk about.”

This Friday night, they’re inviting you to join them live and in person as their program spills over into Johnny’s other gig as the director of operations at Gateway Film Center, which has added its own Cinema Classics film program. John and Johnny will be on hand as the film center screens Raging Bull as part of that series.

But hurry, this may be a limited offer.

According to DiLoretto, the program was intended to be a monthly series, which he and DeSando were to help Gateway president Chris Hamel curate.

“It launched last September,” says DiLoretto. “We kicked off with Dr. Strangelove, then we did Touch of Evil, then I convinced these guys to book Tootsie in November. But what happened was, it was football season and nobody came.”


“Nobody. Literally nobody to Tootsie, and I had to put myself on the line for that one. One of the best comedies of all time, I was thinking. Who wouldn’t want to see this movie? They don’t make movies like this anymore, it’s great! And zero people came.”

It was time to regroup.

“I told Chris, we don’t have to do a movie series. Maybe we regroup after the new year, or maybe we just scrap it. But let me see Raging Bull on the big screen first,” said DiLoretto. “Then you can scrap it.”

Hamel remembers it somewhat differently.

“How did he say we ended up with Raging Bull?” Hamel asked. “It was me. I wanted to see Raging Bull.”

“Raging Bull is kind of Chris’s gift to me,” counter-claims DiLoretto.

Whatever the reasoning behind it, Cinema Classics returns for perhaps the last time to the Gateway this weekend, offering Scorsese’s masterpiece boxing biopic. Robert DeNiro delivers a searing performance as boxer Jake LaMotta – one that nabbed him a richly deserved Oscar – in a film dripping with brutality, humanity, pathos and rot.

The violent ballet of the boxing sequences and the primal glory of DeNiro’s performance, all filmed in sparkling black and white by Oscar nominated cinematographer Michael Chapman, beg for the big screen treatment. And maybe cocktails.

“We’re not doing a whole lot built around it,” says DiLoretto. “I am just saying, unofficially, I will be available and John will be available an hour before the movie, so we’ll have some drinks, we’ll talk, whatever you want. And if you want to hang out after the movie and discuss it, we will too. I love cocktail fueled conversation about movies.”

The whole thing puts DiLoretto in an optimistic mood.

“You know what? This really is a great idea, to show these movies. And I want people to come see this film on the big screen. It’s one of my favorite films. It’s an astonishing film and it features one of the most amazing performances. So, if we can get an audience here to see it, maybe there will be another Cinema Classics screening.”

And if not?

“I don’t care, because I will have seen Raging Bull on the big screen.”


originally published on Columbus Underground

Outtakes: Fearless Oscar Picks


That’s right, fearless, because we’re not afraid to go on record saying Daniel Day-Lewis will win for “Lincoln.” Hey, sometimes you gotta go with your gut.


Best Picture



Best Director

Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln”


Best Actress 

Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook”


Best Actor

Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln”


Best Supporting Actress

Anne Hathaway, “Les Miserables”


Best Supporting Actor

Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln”


Best Original Screenplay

Mark Boal, “Zero Dark Thirty”


Best Adapted Screenplay

Chris Terrio, “Argo”


Best Animated Feature



Best Foreign Language Film



Best Documentary

“How to Survive a Plague”


Best Cinematography

Claudio Miranda, “Life of Pi”


Best Original Score

John Williams, “Lincoln”


Best Original Song

Adele & Paul Epworth, “Skyfall”


Best Animated Short

“Head Over Heels”


Best Live Action Short



Drugs are Bad…Mmmkay?


By George Wolf


In the first few minutes after we meet the main character in Snitch, he utters the line, “I’ve been rolling the dice all my life.” Ugh.

Normally, an eye-rolling opening such as this does not bode well for the rest of the film. Happily, though, Snitch is able to squeeze a nice bit of human drama into an otherwise standard Hollywood whitewash of a complex issue.

Snitch is, as they say, “based on true events” that occurred when a man named James Settembrino went undercover for the DEA in exchange for leniency toward his son’s sentence after a first-time drug offense.

The film version centers on construction company owner John Mathews (Dwayne Johnson), a successful businessman with a new wife and child. When his estranged son from a previous marriage agrees to hold a package of drugs for a dealer, all involved quickly learn harsh realities about mandatory sentencing.

John’s pleas to the federal prosecutor (Susan Sarandon) go for naught, so he offers to help the Feds nab more major players in the drug trade.

Johnson has made his mark as a action star, which might explain pairing him with director Ric Roman Waugh, a longtime stunt coordinator still fairly new to helming feature films. There certainly are action sequences, but Snitch works best when Waugh dials it down to focus on smaller moments.

Particularly effective is a side plot involving John’s employee Daniel (Jon Bernthal of The Waking Dead). Daniel is an ex-con trying to distance himself from his drug-running past, but John needs him for an introduction to a local dealer named Malik (a menacingly good Michael Kenneth Williams).

Waugh wrings palpable tension from John’s foray into the drug world, and Bernthal skillfully articulates Daniel’s internal struggle, giving the film the emotional pull that should have come from John and his family.  Those scenes, flush with overwrought writing and uninspired acting, barely rise above the level of a daytime soap.

The problem really isn’t Johnson, who pulls off his best performance to date. Wisely, his massive physique is kept under wraps as much as possible, in an effort to paint John as little less Superman and a little more common man.

Unfortunately, the superhero element eventually wins out, and the film walks away from the moral ambiguities it was contemplating to instead deliver an over the top finale clearly designed to draw empty applause.


3 stars (out of 5)



Outtakes: Party Like a Movie Star

by Hope Madden

Oscar party? Hells yeah!

MaddWolf will celebrate Hollywood’s biggest night by annoying people with our jocularity at the 16th Annual Drexel Red Carpet Bash. (Seriously, last year a woman pooped on the party by shushing us, saying, “I don’t appreciate your banter.”) So come on out to the Drexel (2254 E. Main St.), witness the mayhem, and feast your eyes on Bradley Cooper by way of the theater’s brand spanking new digital projection system.

Oscar Night Co-Host George Wolf will bring his “A” banter while Hope hands out a fantastic assortment of prizes. How can you partake? Just bedeck yourself in a Hollwood-themed costume for a chance to win. For those less bedeckable, you might also answer some trivia, or beat us all with your Oscar picks (which could win you a full year of free movie tickets!).

Take in the glitter and glam on the big screen, take home some fun prizes, and enjoy a cash bar and tasty, free hors d’oeuvres from local restaurants. What’s not to love?

So join MaddWolf, won’t you? This Sunday night, help us ring in Oscar with the Drexel folks and their sparkling new digital theaters. Tickets are $30 in advance / $35 at the door. (DREXEL MEMBERS are $20 in advance / $25 at the door.) The event begins at 6:30 and runs until the last statuette is given to Ben Affleck for the best picture he (apparently only adequately) directed.

Hope to see you there!

For Your Queue: Affleck Proves his Mettle as Director

After racking up several big wins this awards season, Argo has emerged as the favorite to win Best Picture this Sunday at the Academy Awards. If you didn’t catch it in theaters, you can bring it home this week on DVD, and you’ll be glad you did. The true story of how a CIA operative got six hostages out of Iran in 1979 by posing as a film producer, Argo is simply fantastic moviemaking.

Working with a smart, taut script by Chris Terrio, director Ben Affleck expertly layers political intrigue with Hollywood deal-making. He also crafts an effective period piece, with a sharp eye for details that not only recreate an important slice of history, but also foreshadow more recent international events.

Though you already know how it ends, Affleck infuses Argo with tension and urgency. Regardless of his perplexing snub in Oscar’s Best Director category this year, Affleck, after just three directing efforts, has emerged as one of the best in the business.

Honestly, he showed the skill right from his directing debut in Gone Baby Gone…

Four-year-old Amanda McCready has gone missing in one of Boston’s rougher neighborhoods. Not the neighborhood of Will Hunting and his buddies, because this is not Ben Affleck’s Oscar winning turn as screenwriter. This film is Gone Baby Gone, Affleck’s first, hauntingly successful attempt at directing a feature film.

The director’s kid brother Casey, in fine form, plays a baby-faced PI working his neighborhood connections to find the girl as the mystery plays out among Boston’s nickel-and-dime drug dealers, mules, perverts and ex-cons.

Gone Baby Gone is a complex work examining place as an existential determiner, using setting as character, and plumbing the validity of conscience, all the while developing a disturbingly absorbing mystery. And though the mystery itself tailspins into something less than the story deserves, the final moments of the film remind the audience again of the craftsmanship that went into creating a film you may have missed back in 2007, but you need to see now.

Yippi Ki Yawn



By George Wolf


Okay, full disclosure:  the original Die Hard is my all time favorite movie.

One of that film’s many great qualities is, back then Bruce Willis’s John McClane character was a regular guy in extreme circumstances. While each of the three sequels has been at the very least decent, McClane himself has morphed into more of a wise-cracking superhero.

That has never been more true than in A Good Day to Die Hard, the fifth, and definitely the weakest, in the series.

This new adventure has John traveling to Russia, where there apparently is no police force. He’s there to help his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney) out of a jam, but John is barely out of the cab from the airport when things start exploding, drawing father and son into a ridiculous yarn involving a Russian political prisoner and a secret file.

There may have been an acceptable action flick at the heart of Skip Woods’s script, but director Jon Moore (Max Payne) buries it under misguided pacing and wretched excess.

The extended car chase that kicks off the film becomes downright tedious, setting the stage for a film that never has a chance to build any tension or interest. Though the film’s finale does boast some action that’s worthy of the Die Hard name, getting there just isn’t enough fun. Moore keeps his foot on the gas until he abruptly stops for some father-son bonding time, and much of the film feels slapped together (the bad editing job doesn’t help matters).

Producers may be grooming Courtney (Jack Reacher) to take over the franchise, but his charisma, in this effort at least, is lacking.

Sadly, so is the film.

2 stars (out of 5)