Movie Reviews

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop
In Theaters: 06.24
From June 1, 2009 to Jan. 22, 2010, Conan O’Brien was the host of the late-night talk show, The Tonight Show, but, due to reduced ratings, NBC executives decided to move the show’s timeslot to after midnight to make room for Jay Leno’s new (and failing) program. Refusing to hinder the legacy of The Tonight Show, O’Brien took a multi-million dollar settlement and left NBC, but was contractually restricted from appearing on television, radio or Internet programming for six months. Being the genius that O’Brien is, he cleverly decided to develop a traveling stage show entitled “The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television” tour, which is where filmmaker/documentarian Rodman Flender stepped in to capture the outrageous behind-the-scenes scenarios that include everything from hilariously offensive writers’ room meetings to stirring interviews with O’Brien projecting his raw feelings regarding the late-night debacle and his “fuck it” period. Observing the creativity and motivation that continuously spills out of O’Brien is exhausting as the comedian stretches himself ever so thin in order to please his fans and energize his audience. He is the epitome of an unrelenting performer who refuses to take a seat with a single fan present. It is his power source and may one day be the cause of his ultimate meltdown. O’Brien has maintained a calm, cool and collected composure during the entire ordeal, but Flender offers an authentic glimpse of the man behind the icon that proves we’re all only human with aspirations and dreams. –Jimmy Martin

Green Lantern
Warner Bros.
In Theaters: 06.17
It’s no secret Hollywood has been snatching up every comic book franchise available in order to devour a piece of the delicious financial success these superhero projects produce. However, the time has come to see if the second-tier characters can start producing similar monetary achievements as their more popular predecessors. In the Green Lantern saga, the universe has been divided into over 3,000 sectors and each one is represented by one courageous individual to instill peace and justice for all. On Earth, Ryan Reynolds stars as Hal Jordan, an immature and irresponsible fighter pilot who still has issues with the tragic death of his father. While the nightmares don’t seem to impact his profession all that much, his would-be relationship with childhood sweetheart Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) is another story. After a wounded purple alien crash lands on our planet, his magical ring selects Hal as his heroic replacement, giving the newbie the ability to conjure up anything in his mind with the ring’s green energy of willpower, which will definitely come in handy when an evil supreme-being, driven by the yellow energy of fear, sets its sights on Earth as his next target. Reynolds delivers his signature smart-alec shtick, which amplifies the humorous moments of Martin Campbell’s unbalanced story, but even Reynolds can’t smokescreen the fact that Campbell is unsure whether he is creating a serious/terror-filled epic or a kid-friendly/silly adventure. Granted, the special effects are nothing to balk at, but the copious amounts of time spent on narrated exposition and relationship strife does nothing but diminishs the running time on action, which is far too minimal for a summer superhero flick. –Jimmy Martin

Page One: Inside The New York Times
Magnolia Pictures
In Theaters: 07.15
Page One could have been called “Everything I Learned in Journalism 101.” The film informs viewers of the ins and outs of the current struggles and uncertainties traditional news media outlets face due to fragmentation, loss of advertising revenue and massive layoffs in the industry. It is a film that will inevitably be shown in college-level journalism classes throughout the country. It demonstrates the way news gathering works, shows how the age-old industry is rapidly changing and also proves that traditional reporting and news coverage is still relevant, despite the emergence of blogs and other information distribution mechanisms. As the film progresses, we meet a number of journalists working primarily in the “media” department, which was created in 2008 to report on changes in the media. It doesn’t take long for columnist David Carr to emerge as the star of the documentary. Carr is brutally honest about his past with drug addiction and the honesty is transferred to his style of reporting and the method in which he breaks an unlikely story about the bankrupt Tribune Company. In addition to the “new media” story perspective, the war in the Middle East also takes center stage. At one point, employees argue whether they should run a story about NBC declaring the end of the war—debating whether this is a photo-op stunt being used to create the feeling of closure or a piece of embargoed information coming from the Pentagon. As the film draws to an end, it reaffirms that good, traditional reporting allows bloggers to exist. It’s hard to say if those who claim “print journalism is dead” will be moved or informed by Page One’s message, but for media students and working professionals, it’s a clear reminder that traditional news gathering still has a pulse. –Jeanette Moses

Project Nim
Roadside Attractions
In Theaters: 07.08
The creative team behind the 2009 Academy Award-winning documentary Man on Wire offers their distinctive, blended style of filmmaking to the tale of a chimpanzee, Nim, who was raised from birth in the same fashion as one would raise a human child for a scientific experiment to determine whether primates can communicate with humans via sign language. In November 1973, a Columbia University professor, Herb Terrace, initiated the research project and hired primarily female students to provide parenting and educational lessons for the developing chimpanzee. While the progressions of Nim’s abilities were astonishing, the dysfunctional and inappropriate relationships conducted between teacher and students proved harmful for everyone involved. As the gifted primate endured abandonment issues and unthinkable mistreatments, Nim’s true animalistic nature surfaced, bringing the debate of how much development had actually occurred into question. Director James Marsh seamlessly blends intimate interviews, archival footage, candid photography and dramatizations to unveil a touching glimpse of how unacceptable human behavior can affect those around you, even beyond our own species. The film takes the audience on an emotional rollercoaster complete with humorous recollections of Nim’s appreciation for marijuana and alcohol to heartbreaking memories of animal lab testing programs. Animal cruelty aside, the most disturbing component comes from the overtly perverse actions of Terrace, whose careless actions and unapologetic attitude make him the true beast of the story. –Jimmy Martin

Super 8
In Theaters: 6.10
Throughout my childhood in the 1980s, there were only a handful of movies that personified what it was to be an adventurous kid who disobeyed his parents, used foul language, rode his bike EVERYWHERE and eventually found himself in peril. Most of these productions had the involvement of the legendary Steven Spielberg, so it’s no surprise that director J. J. Abrams has utilized the veteran’s knowledge by having him act as producer on his own sci-fi juvenile journey. Set in the late 1970s, Abrams centers his emotionally-charged adventure on Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney), a shy outsider who’s coping with the loss of his mother who recently died in a steel-mill accident, but finds comfort in the presence of his classmate crush, Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning). To pass the time, Joe and his band of friends spend every waking moment creating a zombie film with their Super 8 camera. (See what they did there?) While filming at an abandoned train station, the kiddy cast and crew unexpectedly captures the derailment of a government train and possibly the mysterious cargo onboard, which leads to bizarre incidents occurring around their small town. Abrams has painted a beautiful homage to Spielberg’s classics and allows older viewers to relive their childhood cinematic experiences while inviting newcomers to undergo their own first exploration. Complete with his signature lens flares, Abrams pulls genuine performances out of a cast of mostly unknown child actors, especially in the case of Fanning, who is already proving greater talents than her older sister, Dakota. –Jimmy Martin