Scott Tobias

Scott Tobias is the film editor of The A.V. Club, the arts and entertainment section of The Onion, where he's worked as a staff writer for over a decade. His reviews have also appeared in Time Out New York, City Pages, The Village Voice, The Nashville Scene, and The Hollywood Reporter. Along with other members of the A.V. Club staff, he co-authored the 2002 interview anthology The Tenacity Of the Cockroach and the new book Inventory, a collection of pop-culture lists.

Though Tobias received a formal education at the University Of Georgia and the University Of Miami, his film education was mostly extracurricular. As a child, he would draw pictures on strips of construction paper and run them through the slats on the saloon doors separating the dining room from the kitchen. As an undergraduate, he would rearrange his class schedule in order to spend long afternoons watching classic films on the 7th floor of the UGA library. He cut his teeth writing review for student newspapers (first review: a pan of the Burt Reynolds comedy Cop and a Half) and started freelancing for the A.V. Club in early 1999.

Tobias currently resides in Chicago, where he shares a too-small apartment with his wife, his daughter, two warring cats and the pug who agitates them.

Writer-director Tamara Jenkins has only made three features in 20 years, but each one feels like the work of someone who has continued to chip away at her screenplay the entire time — adding details, refining characters, getting everything just so. All three are about families on the edge: Her 1998 debut, Slums of Beverly Hills, follows a teenager (Natasha Lyonne) whose nomadic single father moves her and her brothers from one run-down apartment to another within the same elite school district.

There's a powerful juvenile allure to the raunchy puppets in The Happytime Murders, just as there was in cruder predecessors like Peter Jackson's Meet the Feebles or Trey Parker and Matt Stone's Team America: World Police. After all, children who grew up on Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and their own collections of plush lovies cross a short bridge to adolescence, when they learn all the swear words and obscure sexual maneuvers in the lexicon.

The following baseball terms apply to The Catcher Was a Spy, a modestly appointed biopic about Moe Berg, a major-league-catcher-turned-OSS-agent during World War II: "Down the middle," "a can of corn," "passed ball," "below the Mendoza line," "designated for assignment."

In other words, it's a consistent underachiever, as washed-out and terminally mediocre as Berg himself was at the end of his long stint in the majors. Or, to quote a favorite schoolyard taunt: We want a catcher, not a belly scratcher. And there's an abundance of belly scratching going on in this film.

With Judd Apatow's 2005 phenomenon The 40-Year-Old Virgin becoming a teenager later this summer, it's entirely fitting that its theme of arrested adolescence continues to dominate studio comedies, despite the third-act assurance in every one of them that, yes, it's perhaps time to grow up and put away childish things. And yet here comes Tag, a hit-or-miss goof about middle-aged men still engaged in a playground battle royale, clinging to their lost youth like a cached beer keg at the end of the night.

A few months ago, the YA adaptation Love, Simon became the first gay teen romantic comedy released by a major studio, a sign of broader tolerance — and a changing calculus — in terms of what stories are deemed suitable for mainstream consumption. (That rom-coms themselves are an endangered species made it even more of a rainbow unicorn.)

To date, the Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur has made one film about a fisherman who survived in freezing water after his boat capsized off the Ireland coast (The Deep), another about a blizzard that wiped eight climbers off the summit of Mount Everest in 1996 (Everest), and now one more about a hurricane that pummeled a yacht in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, leaving its sailors wounded and badly off-course.

In order to shoot the underwater sequences in 1989's The Abyss, director James Cameron converted a turbine pit and a containment vessel at an abandoned nuclear power plant into giant tanks, each holding millions of gallons of water. Imagine those same containment vessels with stems on the bottom and that roughly suggests the white wine budget for Book Club, a benign comedy where the pours are generous and the innuendo is crisp and full-bodied, with a slightly nutty bouquet.

There are plenty of reasons why many consider Die Hard one of the great action films of the last 30 years: Bruce Willis' reinvention of the Western cowboy as wisecracking everyman, Alan Rickman as his slippery Eurotrash counterpart, the escalating tension within the confined space of a Los Angeles office tower, a script dense with quotable one-liners. But the primary reason is this simple: You always know where people and objects are in relation to each other.

At first glance, the remake of Overboard sounds like the product of a wayward pitch meeting.

Without getting into the particulars, the title of the lesbian romance Duck Butter refers to an unctuous medley of bodily fluids that might, say, discourage any further sexual engagement. For co-writer/star Alia Shawkat, who scripted the film with director Miguel Arteta (Chuck & Buck, Beatriz at Dinner), it's also a statement of purpose, a commitment to the down-and-dirty realness to come.

There's a sequence in the documentary Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami that follows the pop-art icon before, during, and after a pre-recorded TV performance she's giving in front of a studio audience in France. As she makes her way toward the stage in a black corset, high heels, and a lacy purple headdress that masks her eyes — an amusing contrast with the lumpen roadies and stagehands she greets along the way — Jones frets about the possibility of the set being tacky.

Limitations are a horror filmmaker's best friend, whether it's confining characters to a haunted house, constructing a forest menace out of shaky "found footage," waiting until the third act to show the shark, or starving the senses in order to heighten them. A Quiet Place is about a wave of blind, deadly arachnid creatures that are sensitive to sound — imagine if the aliens in the Vin Diesel film Pitch Black were deposited on earth, more or less — but it's really about isolating an effect and custom-fitting a story around it.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and Burt Reynolds took the one more traveled by, peeling through the backwoods South in a black Pontiac Trans Am with Sheriff Buford T. Justice on his tail. For a stretch in the mid-1970s, when Hollywood was overrun by film-school auteurs making high art on the studio dime, Reynolds was cashing checks on unpretentious commercial hits like The Longest Yard, Smokey and the Bandit, Semi-Tough, and Hooper.

In 1960, the great Japanese director Nagisa Oshima made Cruel Story of Youth, his second feature, about a rebellious young couple who perform sexual shakedowns on middle-aged men. Their M.O. is simple: She seduces, he robs. At the time, Oshima offered the film as a quick-and-dirty analog to the nascent French New Wave, with the couple representing a lost generation given to rebellion and criminality.

When director Travis Wilkerson first premiered his documentary, Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun?, at the Sundance Film Festival and True/False last year, it was a unique piece of performance art. Seated next to the screen with a desk, a laptop, and a microphone, Wilkerson narrated the film in his deep, booming voice, leading the audience through a semi-experimental assemblage of home movies, snapshots, musical interstitials, and original footage of his travels to Alabama, where he went to investigate a shameful chapter in his family history. His great-grandfather S.E.

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