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American Reunion 0 stars

The first American Pie comedy anticipated, I now realize, Minny’s special, anally retentive pie in The Help. Now comes the fourth pungent slice, American Reunion. The “old” gang (pushing 30) returns for a high school reunion. The men find their inner 18, the women are more like 22 facing 40. From the rectal joke to the porn joke to the gay sex joke to the masturbation joke to the penis-in-a-glass-pan joke, it’s all downhill. Maybe the bare-breasts sequence counts as family humor.

Jim (Jason Biggs) is still cute. Stiffler (Seann William Scott) is still a party animal and obnoxious bonehead. As Jim’s dad, Eugene Levy still flashes tiny facets of his talent (few fans of this series know his great comedy work on SCTV). The one suave buddy (Eddie Kaye Thomas) cracks a line about The Brothers Karamazov. Hey, dude, say it in Russian! This moron movie is for diehard fans; the rest of us die watching.

Newsreel: Marco Bertozzi joins the panel after his new documentary screens at 7 p.m. Friday (April 13) at the Museum of Photographic Arts, Balboa Park. Perfughi a Cinecittá (Refugees in Cinecittá) is about the Roman studio’s post-WWII use as a refugee center before being reborn as one of the greatest film factories. Donation for the event, sponsored by the San Diego Italian Film Festival, is $5.

Reviewed in the movie capsules: The Cabin in the Woods and Damsels in Distress.

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macblastoff April 14, 2012 @ 3:21 p.m.

Saying “I do” is hard

Movie reviews are borne of a subjective amalgam of the author’s personal experiences and learned wisdom. Personal likes/dislikes about a genre, camera angle, actors, or direction are to be expected. Thus, it’s no surprise so much valuable print space is wasted on the discussion of film reviews—this letter included—but more often in the Reader Movie Review section. A reviewer stating an opinion about a movie is great when backing up their feelings with reasons—allowing me to decide to choose to lay out cash for a ticket. A legacy of Reader reviews trashing a movie, countered ferociously by readers of the opposite opinion, and sometimes, vice versa. It’s not often when you get to watch as a reviewer does both by himself in one piece.

David Elliott’s April 11 nostalgic review of a nostalgic film spends the first three paragraphs scuttling his feelings about the movie in a thinly veiled attempt to prove to the readership and film intelligentsia that he should know better, then the remaining four resurrecting them. One doesn’t need to apologize for liking a movie for the things that make it likable. Only the crassest of cinema snobs are going to fault one for appreciating the grandeur of an epic that harkens back to a style when film was about the relationships between characters caught in dramatic circumstances. That’s the human relatability thread that makes movie goers care—and the reason there are separate categories in the Oscars for Best Film and Best Documentary. That grandeur doesn’t come cheap, either. Viewers can vote with their feet if they don’t like a film. When the director who changed the face of cinema technology with the introduction of Avatar rolls out a 3-D version of a 2-D filmed epic, I’d hope he dropped some coin to update it to the current standards that he advanced.

Reviews are supposed to act as the first wave on the beach, helping us decide which route to chart amongst the detritus of trumped up laurels from the Kansas City Star and their ilk. Cynics (ain’t nobody here but us chickens) can confuse success with greed all they want; without big box office returns, blockbusters on this scale don’t get risked by studios. Attempts to agitate for equivalency between a film’s popular success and an Occupy Fill-In-The-Blank notion of greed will elicit more sweeping vistas and cinemagraphic excellence on the scale of The Blair Witch Project and it’s hand held on-hanger progeny—of course, driving the profit margins higher on such fare and encouraging more such “sell outs”. I’ll continue to look at what reviewers say, then make my own call on the next James Cameron film, or any film that piques my interest, and not worry about someone catching me enjoying it. For those more self-conscious viewers, IFC usually gets thrown into the first tier cable package at no extra cost. You either like this stuff or you don’t.

--Matthew Thompson


David Elliott April 15, 2012 @ 9:33 p.m.

Matthew, Within the convolutions of your prose can be seen an amateur psychoanalyst, always a risky role to play. Your main point seems to be that I am sheepish or apologetic in support of "Titanic." Not true. As I said in my much longer review in 1997 and suggest in my new, shorter review (the column had to move on to newer films), "Titanic" is a mixed bag that I strongly endorse. Not to mention its flaws would be an evasion, yet the film surpasses those flaws with its sweeping scale, beauty and romance, and the overriding tragedy of the ship. I also had to mention the money issues that have always contextualized this hit (I can recall critics sneering at the $200 million cost as a damning factor). I don't write blurbs, even when I like a movie as much as this one. I assume that since you care about criticism you don't want reviews that simply gush or dismiss, but ones that offer context and balanced nuances. Helping to sort those out is where a critic can be of real use to readers. David


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