John Keith

Staff Writer

Writer. TV Addict. Bibliophile. Reviewer. Pop Culture Consumer. Vampire Enthusiast. LOST fanatic.

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Spend Some Time With These "Beautiful Creatures" Review

If Dorothy Gale ran into Lena Duchannes she would inevitably ask her, “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” Sadly, Lena (played by Alice Englert) would be unsure how to answer such a question because until she turns 16 (in about 100 days, according to the countdown clock on her hand) she won’t know if she’ll be claimed by the light side or the dark side. Lena would also balk at being called a witch since such a slang term is offensive to casters like her and her family.

Of course, Lena would never really run into Dorothy, because she lives far from Kansas in Gatlin, South Carolina (one of those Southern states that still believes the Civil War was the only true Great War and continues to reenact “famous” battles). Instead, she runs into perfectly ordinary Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) who enjoys reading banned books and is immediately infatuated with her when he sees her reading Bukowski—even when he learns of her caster abilities. Although the two are eager to start up their electric chemistry, Lena’s reclusive uncle Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons), he of the light side, is determined to prevent her from loving a human, for that is a surefire way to the dark side.

May
29
2013
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"Mold"'s Been Growing Since 1985 Review

Writer/director Neil Meschino channels the 1980s comedy horror style in his film Mold—a tribute to sci-fi horror film cult classics like Night of the Creeps and Street Trash. In this film it’s 1984, and the government is attempting to acquire a fast-acting mold to use in the war on drugs. Unfortunately, this mold prototype is still in development, and once the higher-ups start meddling, the mold wreaks havoc on the humans.

After examining the mold in action, coke-sniffing Congressman Stu Blankenship (James Murphy) goes on an unbelievable drug binge in the bathroom where the moisture actives the mold residue on his skin, awakening the flesh-eating virus. Blankenship’s death wasn’t an accident, however; Dr. Dave Hardy (Chris Gentile, sporting the most fake-looking mustache ever) sabotaged the Congressman’s hazmat suit at the behest of mysterious power figure Edison Carter (David Pringle). By the time the gang realizes what is happening, they’re trapped in this science lab, experimenting on each other for survival.

May
27
2013
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A Curious and Healthy Bias Headlines "Citizen Hearst" Review

The Hearst media empire has been around for 125 years now. To commemorate such an esteemed anniversary, filmmaker Leslie Iwerks delves into the empire’s history, chronicling its impact on culture. William Randolph Hearst is frequently portrayed in an unflattering light in pop culture (see: The Fountainhead, Deadwood, or the infamous Citizen Kane); yet Iwerks casts him and his empire in a very flattering light in this almost-biased documentary.

The first half of the film focuses on Hearst himself. His rise to power through the San Francisco Examiner, his scandalous affair with actress Marion Davies, and his controversial creation of yellow journalism.

May
24
2013
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"True Blood" Gushes Forward In Its Fifth Season Review

Season five of True Blood seems to be a super-sized version of the show: bigger cast! bigger plot! bigger scope! It's enough to make the season feel completely out of control. And if you watched this season when it aired last summer it certainly felt out of control. With so many meandering plotlines it felt like the show had lost much of its excitement and verve. But True Blood has always faired better on DVD/Blu-ray, a true show that is actually more enjoyable when marathoned (but more on that later).

May
22
2013
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Rediscover the Moody Depths of "Wuthering Heights" Review

The dark and moody new adaptation of Wuthering Heights puts an emphasis on the “wuthering.” Writer-director Andrea Arnold includes extensive footage of the natural world around the Heights to represent the beauty and brutality of nature—both in the world and within the characters. She also explores human nature by telling this entire story from the point of view of Heathcliff.

When young Heathcliff (Solomon Glave) is brought to the Heights by Mr. Earnshaw, he is immediately treated like an outsider not just because he comes from the streets but also because of the dark color of his skin. He is raised as a laborer by the Earnshaw’s and suffers extreme beatings from racist Hindley Earnshaw (Lee Shaw). Heathcliff’s only sense of comfort and refuge comes from Hindley’s younger sister Catherine (Shannon Beer). As children they form an intense emotional bond that follows them through their lives.

May
04
2013
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Trek "Into the Cold" from the Warm Comfort of Your Couch Review

On April 6, 1909 Admiral Robert Peary and his team became the first men to reach the geographic North Pole. To celebrate the centennial anniversary of this remarkable expedition, Sebastian Copeland—a noted explorer, filmmaker, photographer, and environmental advocate—led his own, smaller expedition to this landmark locale. And while the advance of technology in the last 100 years has made this journey somewhat easier, the declining environment has created very different obstacles for Copeland that Peary did not face.

Part celebration of exploration and part PSA on the declining environment of the Great North, Into the Cold is an adventure documentary for the masses.

May
04
2013
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Oscilloscope Brings Us Two Documentaries, But Only One That's Really Comprehensible Review

Oscilloscope—a production company responsible for such films as Wuthering Heights and We Need to Talk About Kevin—presents this two-disc set containing award-winning documentaries about “youth, what it means to be young, and what it’s like growing up.” Both films follow a trio of youths, watching them grow up and interacting (and reacting) to the world around them. And although one of them manages to paint an endearing portrait of adolescence, the other one remains a mystifying dreamscape of hedonism through a child’s eye.

Only the Young is the former, more engaging documentary. Filmmakers Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims follow three young teenagers in a poor Southern Californian town. As Kevin Conway works his way towards high school graduation, his best friend Garrison Saenz and Skye Elmore deal with their own romantic entanglements. They have such earnest and innocent demeanors that everything they do shines with honest vibrancy. And, unlike in reality shows, as these teens bare their souls to the camera, it feels tender and real (rather than exploitative).

May
02
2013
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Miniseries "Ben Hur" Takes Cues from Film and HBO Successes to Make a TV Epic Review

While not the epic 1959 Charlton Heston film, Ben Hur the miniseries does attempt to achieve television levels of epicness. And by channeling HBO’s Rome, this miniseries succeeds. The retelling of this religion-infused revenge saga turns out to be a not-terrible way to spend three hours. If it seems an odd time to be releasing a 2010 miniseries on DVD, it is probably related to the fact that nearly the entire cast has been featured in popular TV shows this season.

Ben Hur tells the story of two childhood friends whose lives go in drastically different directions leading to an unforgivable betrayal and lifelong quest for revenge. Judah Ben-Hur (Joseph Morgan, The Vampire Diaries) is wrongly accused of inciting a riot that endangered the life of Pontius Pilate (Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey). As a result, Judah’s former best friend and now up-and-coming Roman soldier Messala (Stephen Campbell Moore, Hunted) condemns Judah to the galleys and his family—mother Ruth (Alex Kingston, Arrow) and sister Tirzah (Kristin Kreuk, Beauty and the Beast)—to lifetime imprisonment. Fueled by anger and hatred, Judah overcomes many obstacles to avenge his family and regain his affianced Esther (Emily VanCamp, Revenge) who is currently engaged to the man responsible for the riot, David (Marc Warren, The Good Wife).

May
01
2013
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Tribeca Film Festival 2013: A Single Shot

large_a_single_shot_1While out hunting a deer, notorious poacher John Moon (a heavily-bearded Sam Rockwell) accidentally shoots and kills a young woman. As he searches for a place to dump the body, he stumbles upon her encampment and a box full of cash. Haunted by the dead woman’s image, John attempts to redeem himself by using the money to salvage what’s left of his tenuous marriage to Jess (Kelly Reilly), with whom he shares a son. But as the men who want that money begin to terrorize him, John is caught in a deadly (and dull) game of cat and mouse.

Apr
29
2013
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Tribeca Film Festival 2013: The English Teacher

large_english_teacher_1Linda Sinclair (Julianne Moore) is perfectly comfortable with her quiet life as a high school English teacher—living alone and filling her spare time with reading novels and screaming at telemarketers on the phone. (Or so the trite and too on-the-nose narrator would have us believe.) But, when former student Jason Sherwood (Michael Angarano) returns to town after failing to make it as a Broadway playwright, Linda starts to become more active in her own life. She reads Jason’s play The Chrysalis and loves it (weird moth characters and all). She loves it so much that she becomes determined to mount a high school production of it (despite its decidedly adult and Ibsen-like tone). Yet Linda gets carried away with her passion for the project and her need to rekindle Jason’s aims as a writer.

Apr
29
2013
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Tribeca Film Festival 2013: What Richard Did

whatricharddidRichard spent the weekend hanging out with his friends. Richard started dating Lara. Richard had a family cookout with his rugby coach. Richard grew jealous of Conor’s intimate friendship with Lara. Richard went shopping. And Richard slept with Lara at his family’s beach house. That’s what Richard did. Oh, and Richard killed someone.

Apr
29
2013
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Tribeca Film Festival 2013: A Birder's Guide to Everything

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David Portnoy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) may have spotted the extinct Labrador Duck. Sure, David’s only a 15-year-old birder and still reeling from his mother’s death over a year ago, but he needs to place his faith in something, so why not this extinct bird (although he will deny later in the film that the bird is a metaphor for anything). It also doesn’t help that his father (James LeGros) is about to marry Juliana (Daniela Lavender), who was David’s mother’s nurse no less. Thus it is understandable that David wants to evade the wedding to track down the supposedly extinct duck.

Apr
27
2013
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Tribeca Film Festival 2013: The Pretty One

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Once upon a time not too long ago, in a land not unlike rural California, there were twin sisters (both played by Zoe Kazan) who were as different as night and day. Audrey was a social butterfly. She won every competition. She stole boys’ hearts. She had a chic sense of style. And she moved away from home not long after her mother’s death. Conversely, Laurel was a wallflower. She had only one winning ribbon to her name. She only got the boys who weren’t good enough to attract Audrey. She had a hipster sense of style. And she stayed home to take care of her father after her mother’s death.

Apr
26
2013
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Tribeca Film Festival 2013: The Reluctant Fundamentalist

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While it may seem odd that acclaimed Indian filmmaker Mira Nair is tackling a film centered around a Pakistani man, she certainly doesn’t think so. What drew her to The Reluctant Fundamentalist was its new look at the Iraq and Afghantistan wars. She read the novel (of the same name) by author Mohsin Hamid and fell in love with the fresh new look at the psychology of this subject. While those stories are normally told from the American point of view, Fundamentalist looks at it through the eyes of a Pakistani man. The film delves into “the mutual suspicion with which America and Pakistan (or the Muslim world) look at one another.” And through this unique point of view, we can gain a deeper understanding of the cultural differences that have informed so much hate in our country.

Apr
25
2013
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Tribeca Film Festival 2013: Trust Me

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The newest movie by filmmaker Clark Gregg (aka The Avengers' Agent Coulson) delves into his surprisingly “ambiguous feelings” for the movie-making business—specifically the world of child actors and their agents. Playing one of those notorious agents himself, Gregg brings to life the down-on-his-luck Howard Holloway. Struggling to retain a single client while combating his highly successful archnemesis Aldo Shocklee (Sam Rockwell in a mercifully focused and comedic performance—unlike in A Case of You), Howard fears his days in the business are numbered.

Apr
24
2013
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Tribeca Film Festival 2013: Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me

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Elaine Stritch is an iconic actress of both the stage and screen. Now well into her mid-80s she is still pushing herself to produce quality performances. But between her battle with alcoholism and combating a serious case of diabetes, Stritch is starting to grow weary. Not that she’ll let that stop her from helming yet another one-woman cabaret show (with a multi-city tour to boot). So one week after spotting Stritch at her hair salon, filmmaker Chiemi Karasawa agreed with her hair stylist’s suggestion that she should make a documentary about Stritch.

Karasawa immediately went home to research Stritch, having only a passing knowledge of her career. And after only a brief examination, Karasawa was hooked on the actress. Through Stritch’s close friend and music director Rob Bowman, Karasawa was able to woo the actress; and the result was the enlightening documentary Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me.

Apr
24
2013
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Tribeca Film Festival 2013: Deep Powder

large_DEEP_POWDER_2It’s the early 1980’s; and the Deep Powder Alpine Country Club is a secret society at the savvy and prestigious New England boarding school, Mount Ambrose. The teenage members of this club—easily resembling Gossip Girl characters—enjoy skiing (both kinds); and, once a year, one lucky member makes a drug run to Ecuador for some high-grade cocaine. Based on true events, Deep Powder follows the dramatic final year of this club and the resulting investigation into their illicit actions.

Apr
23
2013
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Tribeca Film Festival 2013: A Case of You

large_a_case_of_you_1A Case of You is a romantic comedy for the 21st century. When Sam (Justin Long) tries to woo the aloof girl at the coffee shop, Birdie (Evan Rachel Wood), he stalks her Facebook profile to transform himself into the man of her dreams. Such is the exact setup you would expect from a rom com, and A Case of You does not fail to meet the rote expectations of its genre.

Apr
23
2013
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Tribeca Film Festival 2013: G.B.F.

large_gbf_2In suburban high schools, the G.B.F. (or Gay Best Friend, for those not up on the vernacular) is the hot new thing. The only problem for the students in G.B.F.? There are no gay students at the school—at least not openly gay. But Brent Van Camp (Paul Iacono) plans to change all that by coming out and using the most popular girls in school to launch him to the top as Prom King. What ensues is a pop culture-infused meta comedy with Game of Thrones manipulation.

Apr
23
2013
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Tribeca Film Festival 2013: Adult World

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The protagonist of Adult World may be a familiar figure. She just graduated from college. She relies on her parents for money. She thinks she’s the greatest writer of her generation. No, this isn’t Hannah Horvath; this is Amy Anderson. But don’t worry, Adult World isn’t trying to be like Girls, it’s trying to be funny—and it’s highly successful at it, too.

Apr
21
2013
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