Lee Jutton

Staff Writer

Lee attended NYU for Film & TV Production, but she now works mostly in PR. Her primary obsessions in life are Doctor Who, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Arsenal F.C. When not writing about things she's watched, she's running or kickboxing in preparation for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. 

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You'll Get "Starry Eyes" For Essoe Review

Making it in show business is often portrayed as a task so difficult, one has to embrace one’s demons and throw away one’s inhibitions in order to succeed. It’s a good thing I’m not planning on getting famous any time soon, because apparently that is only possible via some sort of freaky Faustian bargain. One memorable example is Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, in which Natalie Portman’s wannabe prima ballerina has to hallucinate and stab herself with glass before reaching the pinnacle of her talent. From what I can gather, being a great artist must be a living nightmare.

Mar
17
2015
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Could Any Man Review "Life Itself"? Review

The most important thing one can do as a critic, whether it be of movies, books, music or any other art form, is to draw attention to something worthy and wonderful so that it won’t slip through the cracks of time and be forgotten. What critics do is not necessarily considered art; it’s often thought of in the same terms that Michael Keaton screamed at Lindsay Duncan’s theater critic in Birdman: “It's just a bunch of crappy opinions, backed up by even crappier comparisons... None of this cost you f***ing anything… You risk nothing!” It's true that the risk in writing about art is not as great as the risk one takes in creating it and pushing it out into the world to hopefully be found by an audience who appreciates it. However, if you can find and expose a piece of great art to people who might not have ever heard of it otherwise--if you can use your voice to help it find the audience it deserves--you can find true satisfaction in your work.

Mar
10
2015
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"Gone Wild" Just Another Walk In The Jungle Review

I suppose that the tale of an elegant elephant king and his mischievous grandson can be quite entertaining when one is a small child and too young to understand, and thus be made uncomfortable by, the weird, pro-colonialist undertones of the original Babar stories. (An elephant goes to the big city and brings monarchy and green suits back to the jungle!) Such is the premise of Babar and the Adventures of Badou: Gone Wild. The DVD collects eight episodes of the French-Canadian 3D animated series, which airs on Disney Jr. in the United States. It stars Badou, the eight-year-old grandson of King Babar, and chronicles the various misadventures he gets into with his diverse menagerie of pals.

Mar
10
2015
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This "Bear" Will Take Good Care Of You Review

I have a soft spot for stop-motion animation, largely because of the way it feels like you can just reach out and touch the puppets, models and set pieces that constitute the characters and their world. It’s a strangely tactile viewing experience, one made even more surreal when viewed in 3D; in fact, stop-motion animation is one of the few genres that I would generally prefer to see in three dimensions all the time, just so I can feel fully immersed in the magical stories that medium tells. So, you can imagine the smile that came to my face upon receiving a collector’s edition set of a stop-motion series based on Michael Bond’s beloved Paddington Bear books, conveniently timed to piggyback off of the popularity of the recently released film Paddington.

Mar
10
2015
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"Pay 2 Play" Looks Behind The Curtain Review

It’s easy to be disenchanted with the United States’ political system. Even when voters do manage to get behind hope and change in the form of idealistic candidates like Barack Obama, something always manages to disappoint us. If there is one thing I have learned from House of Cards (not to mention real life), it is that politics is all about bargaining and back-and-forth, and those in political power usually end up having to sacrifice some of their previously stated beliefs in order to stay there (or, they just murder someone). The rich and powerful few throw their substantial weight behind candidates who are willing to cow to their every demand and keep them rich and powerful, without giving anyone else a chance to speak up for the regular folks. Pay 2 Play: Democracy’s High Stakes is a documentary that focuses on that one percent of people who have more than their fair share of control over our political system, and encourages the rest of us to do something about it.

Jan
29
2015
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Just Another "Wolf" In The Pack Review

Hollywood has always been drawn to a good immigrant story, one that chronicles the struggle of an outsider arriving on our shores and trying to achieve the American dream despite a host of obstacles. This narrative has long been a mainstay of the arts, one that continues to evolve as more diverse types of people provide their unique take on the immigrant experience, and seems to be increasingly expanding to other parts of the world. As Simon Kuper says in an excellent Financial Times article comparing the autobiography of Swedish soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Portnoy’s Complaint, “Just as a generation of novelists told the story of Jewish America, and music the story of black America, the arts are now creating a narrative for the European immigrant experience.” Ibrahimovic’s book describes how he grew up the son of Eastern European immigrants in an ethnic ghetto, wanting to prove that he was just as good, if not better, than the native Swedes who dared not step foot in that part of town; now, he captains the Swedish national soccer team. Wolf, a gritty drama out of the Netherlands, follows in that tradition, telling the story of an aspiring kickboxer of Moroccan descent who is desperate to use his talents to rise above the fray and make a better life for himself.

Jan
28
2015
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"Last Weekend" Is Probably Out Of Your Price Range Review

Do you wake up tortured with the question of whether or not to sell your gorgeous Lake Tahoe vacation home? Do your sons scold you for spending too much of your disposable income on Native American baskets? Do you consider “the help” to be like family? If so, then you might enjoy Last Weekend, a gloriously pretty trifle of a film that provides a peek into how the one percent lives. Patricia Clarkson stars as Celia, your typical wealthy wife: all flowing blonde hair, gauzy white tops and loose khaki pants, she obsesses over having the right kind of flowers at the table for dinner and tries preparing meals (with the help of her cook) that have a low carbon footprint. With her excellent taste in expensive clothes and interior decor--not to mention her enviable ability to age gracefully--Celia feels straight out of a Nancy Meyer film. And naturally, like a character in a Nancy Meyer film, Celia has a problem: she can’t decide whether or not to sell that aforementioned gorgeous Lake Tahoe vacation home, which has been part of the family for more than thirty years.

Jan
21
2015
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"Hillbilly Horror Show" Is About What You'd Expect Review

Hillbilly Horror Show is an anthology series hosted by a trio of redneck characters: crass country boy Bo (Bo Keister), mumbling Cephus (Scott Geiter) and of course, their “kissing cousin” Lulu (Rachel Faulkner). In each one-hour installment, the men guzzle tall boys of generic beer and comment on short horror films by up-and-coming filmmakers while Lulu models an extensive collection of bikinis. Why the films must be presented by hillbillies is something that is never really apparent, though some of the films do have a somewhat sinister country bent. Unless you’re a big fan of Larry the Cable Guy-esque jokes, the humor is generally not clever enough to justify the gimmick.

Jan
20
2015
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"Skeleton Twins" Has Some Meat On Its Bones Review

It’s always slightly traumatic the first time you see a beloved comedy actor take on a more dramatic role. You associate their face and their face with the warm, comforting knowledge that something funny is very likely to happen; it’s nearly Pavlovian, the way you can almost feel the smile creeping up your face as soon as they walk onscreen. Then, sometimes, they surprise you—instead of making you laugh, they break your heart. The Skeleton Twins packs such a punch. Winner of the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, it is indeed a comedy, but one of the darkest color, a deep funereal black. It is also a perfect showcase for Saturday Night Live alumni Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig to show that they are, in fact, more than just mere funny people—they are very talented actors.

Jan
20
2015
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"LFO" Plays On A Strange Frequency Review

LFO is a very strange, very Swedish and very enjoyable little movie. It chronicles the misadventures of Robert Nord (Patrik Karlson, strangely lovable in his patheticness), an amateur scientist suffering from tinnitus who is currently out of work on disability. The lack of full time employment--not to mention the recent tragic deaths of his wife and son in a car accident--means that Robert is free to spend all day alone in his basement laboratory, conducting experiments to find the perfect frequency of sound--one that can offer Robert relief from the ringing in his ears. However, what he ends up discovering is even more powerful: a combination of frequencies that allows him to hypnotize people.

Dec
10
2014
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"Leonardo" Would Approve Review

Inside the Mind of Leonardo is a feature-length documentary, shot in crisp high-definition 3D, that delves into Da Vinci’s private journals and places his words into the mouth of celebrated actor Peter Capaldi. It originally aired on television in the UK and Canada in 2013; now, as 2014 comes to a close, the film is being released in theaters across the globe. One can’t help but wonder if this is an effort to capitalize on the new-found popularity Capaldi has deservedly accrued since he was cast as the titular Time Lord on Doctor Who (before, in the US, he was more of a cult taste for those who admired the way he elevated the most vulgar curse words to high art on The Thick of It). Yet there are far worse ways to use his star power than to tell the story of the self-described “disciple of experience” whose name could and should be listed in the dictionary as the definition of Renaissance man.

Dec
10
2014
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"Last Horror Movie" An Outstanding Entry In The Wish-It-Had-Never-Been-Found Footage Genre Review

One might hope upon watching The Last Horror Movie that if it is not indeed the last of its genre, that perhaps it might be the last found footage horror movie. Alas, it came out in 2003, and that hopeful prophecy has most definitely not come to pass. The once-fresh subgenre has since been beaten into the dust by an overabundance of films that are low on budget as well as creativity, using found footage as a crutch upon which to lean a weak story. This one in particular, which has recently been re-released on DVD via Fangoria's Gorezone, focuses on Max (Kevin Howarth), a wedding videographer and serial killer living in London. Max has enlisted an unnamed assistant (Mark Stevenson) off the streets to help him document his killings, as well as random scenes of his regular life, on video, in order to show the world that the face of evil can often be one that you would barely even glance at when walking by on the street. Throughout, Max breaks the fourth wall to lecture his audience about life, death and humanity, and accuses the viewer of being complicit in his crimes by continuing to watch them. After all, if you take pleasure in watching bad things happen to people, are you really any better than the person actually doing the bad things that you’re watching?

Dec
02
2014
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It's A Steep Fall From The "Ivory Tower" Review

As someone who celebrated the day the amount of student loan debt I was saddled with dipped below six figures, the subject matter of producer-director Andrew Rossi’s documentary Ivory Tower truly struck a chord with me. The film questions the value of higher education in America, and shows how, over the years, attending college has grown more expensive and less beneficial. Colleges are being run like businesses: too focused on how to get more tuition-paying students in the front door and not enough on how to prepare them for post-college employment. Professors are more concerned with their own research and scholarship than they are with teaching classes. Students pay absurdly high out-of-state tuition to engage in the nonstop party lifestyle of state schools like Arizona State University but don’t get much learning out of the bargain; according to Rossi’s stats, more than half fail to graduate within the standard four years. Meanwhile, Cooper Union, prestigious school that has historically offered a full-tuition scholarship to every student admitted, recently decided to charge tuition for the first time since its founding in 1859, leading students to protest the way Cooper Union is being run and how its funds are being used--such as to pay the school’s president a high six-figures salary.

Nov
29
2014
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"As The Light Goes Out", The Fire Smolders Review

Imagine what would happen if you replaced Alan Rickman’s character in Die Hard with a fire. Just a big, raging fire. You’d miss Hans Gruber’s evil banter, to be sure, but the resulting film would still be pretty badass, right? After all, who doesn’t like fire? As the Light Goes Out seems to have been made with that concept at its core: it chronicles a very dangerous Christmas Eve for a team of Hong Kong firefighters after a fire breaks out near a power plant and threatens to plunge the entire city into darkness. Unfortunately, the film’s execution does not do the intensity of its concept enough justice.

Nov
28
2014
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"Lucky" For The Producers That Toni Collette Was Around Review

The protagonist of Lucky Them, music critic Ellie Klug, is one of those all-too-rare female antiheroes who makes the kinds of chronic mistakes traditionally associated with men in the movies: she drinks too much, sleeps around (and with members of the opposite sex who are often much younger than she is), and is on the verge of getting fired from her job. It’s almost weirdly empowering to see a woman onscreen who so unabashedly embraces being a screw-up. You could argue that much of her borderline destructive behavior is filling the void left by the disappearance of Matthew Smith, indie music icon and love of her life, but Ellie manages to come across as far more complicated than that--probably because she is played by Toni Collette, who instantly brings an extra layer of human complexity to every role she takes on. Here, she takes the stereotypically “unlikable” character of Ellie and makes her every bad life choice a little bit more understandable and every oddball quirk a little bit easier to appreciate.

Nov
28
2014
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"Gingerclown" Combines Whole World's Two Favorite Things Review

In one of my all-time favorite films, Ghost World, there is an exchange between the two lead characters at the lame party celebrating their recent high school graduation that I think is an apt description of the two ways I tend to feel about low-budget horror:

“This is so bad, it’s almost good.”

“This is so bad, it’s gone all the way past good and back to bad again.”

Goofy, gory B-movie horror tends to fall into one of those two buckets. It is either so fantastically, over-the-top bad that it becomes almost good (or at least entertaining), or it goes so far that it passes that very fine line by and becomes just bad. Gingerclown, alas, is one of the latter. A shame, given that it boasts a cast that includes cult all-stars like Tim Curry and Brad Dourif, not to mention some of the most outrageous animatronic creatures I have seen in a movie since CGI took hold of Hollywood. 

Nov
20
2014
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"Chemical Peel" Gives Schaudenfreude A Good Name Review

I generally assume that the reason horror movies are often populated with distasteful and unlikable characters is so that we, the audience, can feel less terrible when we watch horrible things happen to them onscreen. After all, it is far more fun to watch people vomit up buckets of blood and then collapse to the floor, wheezing, with all of their skin peeling off, if said people weren’t very nice in the first place, right? Such is the appeal of Chemical Peel, a low-budget horror flick that chronicles what happens when a group of rather annoying women end up trapped in a remote house in the woods after a train carrying some kind of chemical crashes nearby and fills the air with highly deadly contaminants.

Nov
20
2014
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"Hot in Cleveland", Fresh On Nick At Nite Review

Hot in Cleveland is a show about older women, for older women. Both of these things are such a rarity in Hollywood that its no wonder the TV Land sitcom has made it through five seasons and getting renewed for a sixth--there is not much else out there aimed at that demographic, and something needs to fill the void. The show chronicles the misadventures of three longtime residents of Hollywood after they relocate to Cleveland and move in with a cantankerous elderly caretaker named Elka, played in a scene-stealing turn by the legendary Betty White. Hot in Cleveland does not attempt to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the art of the sitcom. Rather, it thrives on its old fashionedness, and packs each episode with kooky double entendres, menopause jokes, and a (loud) live studio audience.

Nov
19
2014
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This Series Is Well Worth Your "Penny Dreadful" Review

When reading classic 19th century novels like Dracula, Frankenstein and The Picture of Dorian Gray in high school English class, did you ever yawn and think, “Gee, this is all fine and well, but I would enjoy this story so much more with a healthy dose of sex, demonic possession and Eva Green?” Well, then I have the show for you! In fact, even if you enjoyed those stories on their own merits, with no wish for additional otherworldly and R-rated shenanigans, then you’ll still likely enjoy Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, the first season of which is now available on Blu-ray. Created by John Logan, who previously delved into this genre when he adapted Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street for Tim Burton, Penny Dreadful is a dark, disturbing and visually stunning take on Victorian supernatural horror. It combines classic characters from the aforementioned novels with a set of compelling original characters to tell a story of the London underworld and the monstrous creatures that lurk there.

Nov
13
2014
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"Maleficent" Gets Her Wings Clipped In More Ways Than One Review

“Let us tell an old story anew, and we will see how well you know it.”

Those are the opening words of Disney’s live-action, CGI-heavy retelling of the story of Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent, and to be quite honest, they’re really just a nicer, prettier way of stating Hollywood’s current modus operandi: “Let’s just tell the same stories that we know people like over and over, instead of taking a risk and trying something new.” Franchises that were once fresh and exciting get beaten into the dust with sequel after sequel, while perfectly good films are unnecessarily remade in order to provide a modern update or a darker, grittier approach to the same subject matter. Maleficent is one of the latter. Following in the footsteps of Snow White and the Huntsman and Tim Burton’s recent Alice in Wonderland, it seeks to take a popular fairy tale and retell it it in a way that is guaranteed to sell a lot of Hot Topic merchandise: with a lot of gothic-inspired imagery, magical creatures, and women in medieval armor, kicking ass. That’s all fine and well, but the problem with Maleficent is that in doing so, it removes the mystique from one of Disney’s most awesomely evil and powerful antagonists and turns her into a sad, sympathetic sprite.

Nov
13
2014
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