This Week’s Movie: ZERO CHARISMA

One of the three executive producers behind the 2013 indie Zero Charisma is Chris Hardwick, host of the Nerdist podcast. I once heard a critic say of Hardwick that his geek-centric material is reductive; he uses the word “nerd” as though he’s speaking about a separate racial or ethnic group. If that were true, then the archetype (or, perhaps, stereotype) to represent Hardwick’s idea of Nerd-American is the lead character of Zero Charisma, whom we were introduced to at Movie Club this week.

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This Week’s Movie: NOW YOU SEE ME

If you want to see the very best movie about stage magic, then you should watch Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige. No question, full stop. But, the whole reason that movie studios make money is, sometimes people don’t feel like watching a movie as powerful and intricately constructed as The Prestige. Sometimes you just want a lighthearted romp about the most bad-ass stage magicians in the world. In that situation, you could do a lot worse than the 2013 sleeper hit Now You See Me.

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This Week’s Movie: SECRETS & LIES

There’s one sort of film that the British have always made better than anyone: the domestic realist film. In what is often referred to as the “kitchen sink” style, movies such as Alfie and The Lonliness of the Long-Distance Runner feature the simplest plots and the broadest English accents, where the conflict is usually brought on from everyday situations executed forcefully by great actors. The kitchen sink drama is nearly dead today; domestic realism just doesn’t sell tickets like it used to. But one man who is keeping that style of drama alive today is Mike Leigh, and the finest example of his work is Secrets & Lies.

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This Week’s Movie: DEAR ZACHARY

I don’t like this week’s Movie Klub movie, Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father. The film’s 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes would seem to suggest that I’m in the minority, so this will be a difficult case to make, but I feel that I have to make it. For while Dear Zachary succeeds in being a painfully sad movie about a painfully sad true-life story, it’s lacking as a documentary.

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This Week’s Movie: SPEED

It would be wrong to say that Jan de Bont’s 1994 film Speed is a smart movie. Like just about any action movie from the 1990s, it requires supremely skilled stunt work and a healthy suspension of disbelief just to get into the neighborhood of plausibility. But once it gets there, this movie establishes itself as just about the smartest picture in that neighborhood, and it cooks with gas from opening credits to closing. That’s what made it the biggest surprise hit of the decade.

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This Week’s Movie: BOTTLE SHOCK

When the stories of real people are adapted into films, you might be surprised how often it’s not a crass attempt to capture money or Academy Awards. The filmmakers get the project moving because they honestly want to do justice to the actual history, and they hope that all that other stuff will come later. The problems with that process are two: first, not every filmmaker knows the right way to do justice; second, the lives of real people are so complex and difficult that it’s a challenge to make them compact enough for a two-hour-long screenplay. 2008’s Bottle Shock suffers from both problems, which makes for a wildly uneven film. Director Randall Miller sincerely wanted to do right by the ragtag vinters who changed the world of wine forever, but his sincerity seems to have blinded him from making an effective movie.

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This Week’s Movie: CABIN IN THE WOODS

This review contains spoilers for some of the first half of Cabin in the Woods.

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