Rachel Kolb

Staff Writer

I love movies, writing, and breaking into song in public. You can follow me on Twitter @rachelekolb or check out more of my work at http://rachelekolb.wordpress.com.

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"Ashanti" is Working Through a Major Identity Crisis Review

Dr. David Linderby (Michael Caine) is a naïve, idealistic humanitarian traveling through Africa with his wife Dr. Anansa Linderby (Beverly Johnson) and vaccinating entire villages. During one of their trips to a remote village, Anansa is kidnapped by slave traders and forced to march across the Sahara desert. Her kidnapper Suleiman (Peter Ustinov) plans to sell her off and make enough money from the sale to retire from human trafficking. David only has a few days to track down Suleiman and save his wife before she is sold off and disappears forever. He enlists the help of Brian Walker (Rex Harrison), a man with connections to mercenaries, as well as bounty hunter Jim Sandell (William Holden) and Malik (Kabir Bedi), a man seeking to take out Suleiman once and for all.

Jan
28
2013
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Birbiglia Gets His Chance To "Sleepwalk" Review

Last year, My Big Fat Greek Wedding celebrated its tenth anniversary. The surprise indie hit, based on a one-woman stage show of the same name, was born out of necessity. Nia Vardalos created a project for herself when her industry supposedly didn't have a place for a Greek comedian/actress. 10 years later after the success of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Mike Birbiglia's Sleepwalk with Me was born out of a similar necessity. Birbiglia was certainly not struggling to find work with two Comedy Central specials under his belt, but there wasn't a clear place for him in the comedy world. As much a storyteller as a comedian, he was silly and endearing and so very relate-able. While his stand-up specials and albums were all excellent, I don't believe he showed his full potential until his one-man show/stand-up hybrid Sleepwalk with Me and then adapted the show into the 2012 film Sleepwalk with Me with the help of This American Life's Ira Glass. The film showcases Birbiglia as a writing, directing, and acting talent, and perhaps with its success, more opportunities will be opened to smaller budget films and storytellers like Vardalos and Birbiglia who don't fit into the typical Hollywood mold.

Jan
27
2013
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Streep And Jones Give Reason For "Hope" Review

Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) have just celebrated another anniversary, the word celebrated used very loosely. Their marriage is in a serious rut with Kay and Arnold sleeping in separate rooms, and despite Kay's best efforts, Arnold refuses to see that there is a problem. In a bold move, Kay pays for a series of intensive therapy session with celebrity therapist Dr. Bernie Feld (Steve Carell) in Hope Springs, Maine. She gives Arnold an ultimatum to come with her to Hope Springs and give their marriage another chance or else she will leave him. He comes with her to Hope Springs but drags his feet the whole way, grumbling about everything from the restaurant prices to “quack doctors” who create more problems than they solve. As they begin to open up in therapy, though, it is clear that Kay and Arnold will both have to take a good look at themselves and step out of their comfort zone to save their marriage. The question is, will their work be too little too late?

Jan
13
2013
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"Dropout Nation" Makes The Grade Review

How does America's school system fix its problem of under-performance and rising drop-out rates? Frontline's Dropout Nation attempts to answer this complex question. Their documentary team follows four at-risk students at Sharpstown High School in Houston, Texas as well as the teachers, counselors, and school administrators who are desperately trying to get them to graduation day. One student is an orphan refuge who left New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and nearly every night, she sleeps on a different friend's couch if she is lucky. Another student has a father in and out of prison and an absent mother, and his teacher picks him up every day for school. Yet another student is a football star with the possibility of a bright future, but he can't get his temper under control. The last student has been the breadwinner for his family ever since his father was deported, and he lives under the constant fear that his mother will also be deported, leaving him and his younger sister alone. Will they make it to graduation day, and if they don't, what is stopping them?

Jan
06
2013
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"Why Stop Now" Almost Answers Its Own Question Review

Eli Bloom (Jesse Eisenberg) is a piano prodigy held back by his drug addict mother Penny (Melissa Leo). He is afraid to pursue his dreams since his mother can't care for his younger sister Nicole, and he worries that Nicole won't have a normal life since she can't go anywhere without her best friend, a sock puppet. It seems like the stars are finally aligning for Eli, though, when his mother agrees to go to a New York detox center and his piano teacher gets him an audition for a music conservatory. Of course, his audition happens to be on the same day that his mom is checking into rehab, and plans change when his mother's insurance refuses to cover her rehab treatment. She can only be admitted to rehab if she tests positive on her drug test, so Eli has to track down Penny's drug dealer Sprinkles (Tracy Morgan). As if the film wasn't strange enough, Eli's crush Chloe (Sarah Ramos) is participating in a Revolutionary War reenactment that same day, and Red Coats and revolutionaries are running around town.

Jan
06
2013
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The Clock's Running Out on This Unfunny "Game" Review

For five seasons, The Game has followed the lives and dramas of football stars and their ever-supportive wives, girlfriends, and mothers. Though the show is sort of about football, “the game” refers to these characters' personal dramas, and oh boy, these characters have drama. At the start of season five, Melanie (Tia Mowry-Hardrict) and Derwin (Pooch Hall) try to have a baby together, but Melanie worries that she is having trouble conceiving because she had an abortion when she was younger. Melanie is feuding with her best friend Tasha (Wendy Raquel Robinson) who is having troubles of her own, mainly that she can't find a date much less a steady relationship. Meanwhile, Tasha's son Malik (Hosea Chanchez) is going through hard times since getting out of rehab, and he loses his lavish house and sports cars. As Malik's life is in a tailspin, though, Jason Pitts's (Coby Bell) life is looking up with a new sports hosting gig and girlfriend Chardonnay (Brandy).

Jan
05
2013
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Deck the Halls of Holiday Horror With Something Better Review

Silent Night is yet another addition to a long line of direct-to-DVD/Blu-ray holiday slasher films with grisly deaths and a serial killer dressed up as Santa Claus. In this unfortunate movie, a small-town sheriff (Malcolm McDowell) and his deputy (Jaime King) try to find a murderer dressed up as Santa Claus just as their town is preparing for Christmas. His victims are porn stars, bratty children, hypocritical preachers, and anyone else he deems as naughty, but he has a bigger target in mind and a grudge that needs to be repaid. For the deputy and sheriff, the job of finding the real killer Santa is made even tougher as hundreds of Santas descend upon the town for the winter festivities.

Jan
02
2013
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PBS Takes a Tasty Trip to "Cook's Country" Review

One of the wonderful things about PBS is its wide range of educational programming for all ages and interests. In an age where the Learning Channel has devolved to shows like Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo and Sarah Palin's Alaska and the History Channel is mostly alien conspiracy theories, solid educational programming that is also entertaining is hard to find. Cook's Country is every bit as enjoyable and hunger-inducing as its flashier Food Network counterparts, but it is meatier with content offering the viewer a more satisfying experience.

Jan
01
2013
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"My Big Fat Greek" Blu-ray A Tiny Delight Review

10 years ago, a sweet little indie comedy about culture clash and the stresses of planning a wedding took the nation by storm. Made with love and a shoe-string budget of $5 million, it made over $368 million worldwide and became the highest-grossing independent film of all time. What made audiences connect so strongly with My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and has Hollywood learned anything from the success of this semi-autobiographical romantic comedy?

Toula Portokalos' (Nia Vardalos) life is going nowhere. She works in her family's Greek restaurant and endures daily attempts by her well-meaning family to marry her off to a nice Greek boy. Secretly, she pours over college pamphlets and dreams of getting her degree, and when life gives her the chance, she grabs it full-force. As she gains confidence and independence from her family, she loses her Coke-bottle granny glasses and over-sized sweaters, and she meets Ian Miller (John Corbett), a handsome teacher without a drop of Greek blood in his veins. When Ian proposes, Toula is faced with the challenge of getting her family to accept Ian while still maintaining pride in her Greek heritage.

Dec
17
2012
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Steer Clear Of This "Highway" Review

I don't have high expectations (pun intended) when it comes to stoner movies. A decent stoner movie should have lovable losers, at least a few good laughs, and the loosest of plots. Harold and Kumar, Cheech and Chong, and Half Baked's Thurgood, Brian, and Scarface are not deep characters by any means, but they are entertaining in the context of a stoner comedy. The bar is extremely low. Here is what it so sad about Highway, a direct-to-DVD comedy from Lionsgate: this movie does not meet the minimum requirements for a stoner comedy. I would even suggest that Highway does not meet the minimum requirements for a movie, period.

Dec
10
2012
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Seth MacFarlane's "Ted" Proves He's Got More in Him than "Family Guy" Review

“To thine own self be true.” Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy, is a comedian who has perfected a formula of pop culture non-sequiturs and goofy raunchiness, and people either love him or hate him for it. When MacFarlane announced that he would write, direct, and star in his first big screen venture, critics speculated whether the final product would be a feature-length episode of Family Guy with cutaway flashbacks and epic chicken fights. The verdict? Ted is distinctly MacFarlane's work, and it won't convert anyone who wasn't already a fan of his brand of comedy. For those who worried that Ted would feel like an overstuffed TV episode, though, put those worries to rest. Ted is a solid comedy packed to the brim with quotable one-liners and enough clever moments and heart to make it worth watching a few times.

Dec
09
2012
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"Dinotasia": No Wonder They're Extinct Review

I think children of the 90's have the shared experience of being pelted with everything dinosaur. There was The Land Before Time, Jurassic Park, TV's Dinosaurs, and the many sequels that followed, not to mention museum exhibits and animatronic dinosaur experiences. At this point, I am predisposed to love dinosaur movies. How is it possible then that directors David Krentz and Erik Nelson with narrator Werner Herzog took a film about dinosaurs ripping each other limb-to-limb and made it so boring?

Dinotasia is a series of vignettes of mother dinosaurs protecting their babies, grown dinosaurs tearing each other apart, or dinosaur parents getting killed, leaving their baby dinosaurs behind. Between each vignette, Herzog provides ridiculous narration about how the world of dinosaurs is a stage and how there are no heroes or villains in nature. This is a series of dinosaurs fighting, and the film's narration is trying to convince the audience that the action is deeper or more profound than it really is.

Dec
08
2012
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For LCD Soundsystem, There May Be Life After Rocking Review

What is life after fame? When popular dance band LCD Soundsystem announced that they would be willingly walking away from their successful band in 2011, it came as a shock. Rock stars are known for either overstaying their welcome, selling out, or burning themselves out on alcohol and drugs, but LCD Soundsystem side-stepped all of it by simply walking away. In this way, the documentary Shut Up and Play the Hits is more than a fond farewell to a beloved band, it answers the question of why rock stars struggle to walk away from the spotlight.

Dec
02
2012
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Is This Really "The Best Red vs. Blue DVD. Ever. Of All Time"? Review

For nearly 10 years, Red vs. Blue has been entertaining Halo fans with the antics of the crazy red guys vs. the crazy blue guys in Blood Gulch. During that time, the show's production values have improved by leaps and bounds as the show went from online cult hit to a legitimate show with Blu-ray box sets. Characters were developed past “the red guys” and “the blue guys.” The show got catchphrases and running jokes. It was a triumph of sorts for online shows and video game-themed entertainment, paving the way for other online celebrities and fan-made content.

The Best Red vs. Blue DVD. Ever. Of All Time is a highlights reel tailor-made for the show's most devoted fans. If you are a newbie to Red vs. Blue, this is not the DVD for you. It is literally a highlights reel structured like an awards show with favorite characters handing out awards like Best Couple, Best Fight, and Best Caboose Moment.

Nov
28
2012
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"The Twilight Saga" Ends, Leaving Nothing Worth Remembering Review

When a film franchise reaches its end, there is a question of the legacy that the series will leave behind. What will fans remember and hold onto after the movie is over? The abiding friendship of Frodo and Sam, the heartbreaking sacrifice of Lily Potter for her child, or even the question of whether Han Solo shot first, these memories and relationships live on even when their story ends. What is left as Stephenie Meyer counts her money and fans fold up their “Team Edward” t-shirts? Some would argue that the Twilight series is one of the greatest love stories of this generation, a Romeo and Juliet for our time. I would not make that argument, but clearly there are people who see Bella and Edward as a love of the ages. Others like myself would argue that it is a series that encourages young women to be complacent, give up any career aspirations, and leave any important decisions to their boyfriend or husband. From this mindset, Twilight leaves behind a gross notion of abuse and female submission as being true love. After seeing The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2, though, I realized that the legacy of Twilight can all be summed up in one word: empty.

Nov
16
2012
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"Standup Comedian" Demetri Martin Has More Charts and Graphs to Explain Why He's Funny Review

In his second standup special for Comedy Central, Demetri Martin continues to hone his unique brand of comedy. Unlike other young male comedians like Daniel Tosh, Martin doesn't shock his audience into laughs or focus on the dark side of human nature. Instead, his comedy focuses on the everyday going-ons of the average twenty or thirty-something like how to get out of a boring conversation at a party or pretending to be interested in other people's kids.

This time around, Martin has less theatrics in his presentation than Demetri Martin. Person and sticks to the simple parts of his comedy that made him famous. There are more of his charts and graphs, more of his guitar/harmonica accompaniment, and more of his lovable awkwardness. I am a huge fan of Demetri Martin's comedy, and personally, I thought Standup Comedian was much stronger without the extra bells and whistles of Demetri Martin. Person.

Nov
05
2012
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"Trooper" A Mystery Not Worth Solving Review

Tommy (Joey Roberts) has just moved to a new town with no friends and only a promise that when he grows up he will inherit his dad's newspaper. On the same day he moves to town, Mr. Mayor (Harry Cason) makes cut-backs to the police department and forces Sheriff John (Matt Clendenin) to get rid of their trusty bloodhound Trooper. Rather than take Trooper to the pound, John gives Trooper to Tommy as a new pet, and coincidentally, on that same day Tommy also learns about a big mystery in the town involving a golden key. Together, Tommy and Trooper work to find the golden key and save their town from the greedy mayor and his oil drilling schemes.

Nov
03
2012
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New York Comic Con Round-Up: Women in Comics and Juno Meets Aliens in New Teen Sci-Fi Classic

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Saturday might have been the busiest day of New York Comic Con, but two of the best panels of the entire weekend didn't happen until Sunday. It was an exciting day for women working in comics and for sci-fi fans looking for fresh new female protagonists. The crowds might have died down, but passions were high and some panelists were ready for a lively debate, including Martin Leicht, Isla Neal, and Alex de Campi.

Nov
02
2012
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New York Comic Con Round-Up: Spoon Sword Fights, Dracula Ancestors, and the Wain Gang's All Here

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Friday night might have ended on a downer with a great legend not given his due, but on Saturday, I arrived rested and ready to hit the ground running. Saturday, which was my longest day by far, was jammed-pack full of geeky wonderful goodness like the Vampire Cowboys and a Childrens Hospital panel of Rob Corddry, Jonathan Stern, David Wain, Paul Scheer, and Curtis Gwinn, and I was ready to take it all in.

Oct
26
2012
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New York Comic Con Round-Up: Comics, Aliens, and Ray Bradbury Deserved Better

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On Thursday night of New York Comic Con, not much is usually going on. There are a few lower-key panels, mainly aimed at professionals and press looking to network, and the main floor and Artist's Alley are open, but Friday night is typically the kick-off for the high-profile panels and screenings. Imagine my surprise that this year, Thursday night left me much more pumped for the rest of NYCC while Friday was a bit of a downer with a moment that was nothing short of disheartening. Otherwise it was two days filled with genuine comic book appreciation and appearances from the likes of Lance Henriksen.

Oct
19
2012
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