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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.

If Hollywood studios are content to cannibalize the vaults in search of new hits, the first thing they should remember is why the original films were hits in the first place. For all the bells and whistles that went along with the original 1997 Men in Black, with its cutting-edge alien effects, the reason it works is extremely old-fashioned, rooted in an effective cross-pollination between fish-out-of-water comedy and mismatched buddy comedy.

When the Russian rock musical Leto premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival last year, it arrived without its director, Kirill Serebrennikov, who was arrested for embezzling about $2 million in state money intended for the avant-garde theater he operates. The arts community in Moscow widely contends that the charges are politically motivated, part of a crackdown on creative freedoms orchestrated by Vladimir Putin and other government officials.

In one of his earliest (and best) films, the 1974 cult musical Phantom of the Paradise, director Brian De Palma conjured a self-fulfilling prophecy, telling the story of an artist whose personal vision is co-opted and commercialized by industry star-makers while he's doomed to haunt the rafters.

Here's the scam that Penny Rust, a small-time con artist played by Rebel Wilson, runs in the opening scene of The Hustle: A sleazy bro walks into a bar, expecting to meet a beautiful, buxom woman he has spent a month courting on a dating app. Instead, he's greeted by Penny, who introduces herself as the woman's sister and makes up some cockamamie story about how her sister is really flat-chested but needs only $500 to get the augmentation to become the stunner he expected. And she takes Venmo if it's convenient to him.

There's so much to admire about Us, Jordan Peele's muscular follow-up to Get Out, that it's worth appreciating what Peele does when the ebb-and-flow of horror tension reaches low tide. Many of the most celebrated horror maestros are hailed for their big, atmospheric set-pieces, but getting to those moments can often feel like crude narrative patchwork, the listless verses before a killer chorus.

A sort of Look Who's Talking for grown-ups, Nancy Meyers' hit 2000 romantic comedy What Women Want now feels like a turn-of-the-millennium relic, recalling a time when Mel Gibson's smirking machismo was considered cute, like an office project worth undertaking. And the end result of that project was Gibson's character, an advertising executive, learning to understand women so he could better sell products to them.

There's a charming little subset of heist films about elderly men pulling off bank jobs, often out of boredom, and the authorities struggling to reconcile these crafty old geezers with the much younger hoodlums they might have expected. Just last year, Robert Redford evoked his Sundance Kid days by playing a genteel stickup artist in The Old Man & the Gun.

In the early-to-mid 2000s, mainstream horror was dominated by series like Saw, Hostel, and Final Destination, each telling stories of torture and mechanized death that mostly repulsed critics, but reflected the darkening mood of the country more than other studio films dared. Look past their can-you-top-this grisliness and they tap into the common fear that young people have no control over their own destiny, that they've given themselves over to some faceless, malevolent force that's really pulling the strings.

Mankind has split the atom, sent a man to the moon, and now, in arguably its most unlikely achievement, it has produced a watchable Transformers movie.

When movies go wrong, it usually happens gradually, a slow devolution borne of a series of missteps or a conceit that couldn't be sustained over the long haul. With Ben is Back, the shift is remarkably sudden, like Wile E. Coyote speeding off the edge of a cliff, hovering for just a second, and then plummeting into the canyon below.

In Ralph Breaks the Internet, a hyperconnected sequel to the animated hit Wreck-It Ralph, the possibilities of a Disney/Star Wars/Marvel crossover are breathlessly celebrated while fragile masculinity threatens to destroy the world. Cultural anthologists of the future will require no carbon dating to recognize this film as extremely 2018.

If Joseph Kahn's Bodied were a stand-up comedian, it would probably describe itself as "politically incorrect" or "an equal-opportunity offender," and you might be inclined to go bottoms-up on the two-drink minimum and beeline for the exit. Kahn and screenwriter Alex Larsen, better known in the hip-hop community as Kid Twist, have designed the film as a comprehensive provocation, blowing up racial and gender stereotypes through a fusillade of tasteless one-liners. It's juvenile. It's irritating.

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.

About 20 minutes into the beautiful documentary Quest, a stray bullet strikes a 13-year-old African-American girl in a neighborhood in North Philadelphia, robbing her of sight in her left eye. What's remarkable about the incident is that the documentary would have existed without it: Director Jonathan Olshefski had already committed to making a film about the girl's family, the Raineys, and the errant gunfire just happened to occur within the flow of the day.

Among the four stars of Girls Trip — the third and funniest summer comedy about hard-partying women in trouble, following Snatched and Rough Night — Tiffany Haddish is the least well-known, having bounced around in minor roles on film and television before landing a spot as a series regular on The Carmichael Show. All that stands to change overnight. As Dina, a pleasure-seeker of unapologetic, bull-in-a-china-shop relentlessness, Haddish is so incandescently filthy that a new ratings system should be developed to accommodate her.

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