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Daily Reads: How The Hype Machine Is Ruining Movies, Why Kevin James Movies Have a Kevin James Problem, and More

Daily Reads: How The Hype Machine Is Ruining Movies, Why Kevin James Movies Have a Kevin James Problem, and More

Criticwire’s Daily Reads brings today’s essential news stories and critical pieces to you.

1. How the Hype Machine Is Ruining Movies. With the recent onslaught of teasers and trailers for this summer’s blockbusters, The Daily Beast’s Nick Schager argues that the hype machine is ruining the moviegoing experience.

It’s unnecessary overkill that just about murders the actual moviegoing experience. One of the fundamental thrills afforded by movies is surprise. That moment when a story takes a sudden detour into unforeseen territory. When an unexpected character makes an out-of-left-field appearance. When a climax escalates in terms of scope, scale, and tension until you find yourself catching your breath. When an astonishing image abruptly knocks you flat, making your jaw drop, your stomach sink, or your eyes tear up. When you witness something you never thought you’d ever actually see outside of your imagination, or something that harkens back to a prior movie — or an incident in your own life — and the effect is so powerful and direct that it immediately becomes unforgettable. Those are the moments that make the movies so special, and it’s those moments that are lessened, if not outright sullied, by the daily glut of clips and photos labeled “Exclusive!” and “Never-Before-Seen!” and “First Look!”

2. Kevin James Movies Have a Kevin James Problem. “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” opened this week and Vulture’s Bilge Ebiri believes a crucial element in Kevin James movies are hindering their success.

Kevin James is not physically awkward at all; in fact, he’s quite graceful. In his stand-up, for example, he transforms mundane jokes about visiting the bank or going waterskiing with bits of elegant physical comedy — stretching a leg out just so to mime someone trying to hold a place in line, or silently rolling with fake waves to imitate someone stranded at sea. The combination of his girth and his physical elegance has a unique magic. He may resemble a fire hydrant, but he can deftly execute jumping mid-air splits. Similarly, the best parts of Paul Blart have to do with him on a Segway, easily gliding around that mall. When James gets on that ridiculous vehicle, he seems light, capable of anything, and his movement achieves an almost dancerly affect.

3. Hope-watching vs. Hate-watching in T.V.’s New Golden Age. Living in this day and age of quality television is a blessing, but HitFix’s Alan Sepinwall thinks the new Golden Age is killing the old-school practice of waiting to see if a show gets better. 

This recent glut of quality TV has made it much harder to hope-watch, because there are rarely enough hours in the day (even for someone with my job) to watch all the shows that already have their act together, let alone stick with ones that are just bundles of unrealized potential at this point. I used to hope-watch for entire seasons, sometimes even longer. Now, two bad episodes in a row — or even a pilot I wasn’t crazy about for a show debuting at a busy time of year — can be enough for me to abandon hope and move on to the next thing. Even today, I probably would have stuck it out through five bumpy “Parks and Rec” episodes, but I can’t imagine keeping hope alive to stay with something like “Star Trek: The Next Generation” long enough for it to stop being awful.

4. Is Trevor Noah a Provocateur, or Just a Bad Comedian? Trevor Noah is set to take over for Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show,” and Grantland’s Wesley Morris meditates on the controversy surrounding Noah as a choice for host and what it means for Comedy Central’s flagship late-night show.

It could be that Noah is either doing something completely new with so-called outrage comedy — winking without his eyes appearing to move — or he’s using his blackness as a Trojan horse that disguises the reinforcement of putdowns and stereotypes. He appears to be neither a button-pusher with an asshole shtick like Andrew Dice Clay nor an ingenuous performance-art chameleon of racial provocation on par with Sarah Silverman. Noah’s comedy really does appear to be feeling its way toward something that’s actually funny without quite having reached its destination.

5. “Stuart Saves His Family” Deserves Its Second Chances. “Stuart Saves His Family” was released 20 years ago last week, and Vanity Fair’s Eric D. Snider believes it deserves a reevaluation.

But as with “Ishtar,” New Coke, and a handful of other legendary bombs, Stuart is better than its reputation would suggest. Though it has only a few laugh-out-loud moments, the rest of it isn’t grating, the way most unfunny comedies are. Stuart is sweeter, less zany, and more grounded in reality than you’d expect, with a story that brings Stuart back to his Minnesota hometown to deal with his alcoholic father (Harris Yulin), enabling mother (Shirley Knight), pothead brother (Vincent D’Onofrio), overeating sister (Lesley Boone), and other screwed-up kinfolk after the death of a beloved aunt. It treats its core issues — addiction, recovery, co-dependency — with remarkable maturity. Some chunks of the film are altogether dramatic, much to the befuddlement of reviewers at the time, culminating in an intervention for Stuart’s father that is resolved realistically rather than neatly.

6. Why Every Woman (and Man) Needs to Be Watching Amy SchumerThe third season of “Inside Amy Schumer” begins April 21st on Comedy Central. Mackenzie Dawson at the New York Post thinks you should be watching Schumer as she rises to the top.

Having Tilda Swinton write a poem about you is like receiving some kind of incredibly hip version of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, but Swinton knows whereof she speaks. If you’re not watching the third season of “Inside Amy Schumer” when it kicks off April 21 on Comedy Central, you’re missing out on a great big party of feminine hilarity that Schumer promises will be “really in your face, balls to the wall.” And yes, men are invited too. Watching Schumer is like rediscovering your best friend from high school, the one whose observations were always really self-aware, dark and hilarious with an underlying message that we, as women, could all be having a hell of a lot more fun.

7. Britt McHenry’s Classist, Classless Mistake. 
ESPN suspended Britt McHenry for unloading on a towing-company clerk captured on video. Time’s James Poniewozik looks at the ways personal behavior may change in this viral video age.

What less certain is whether the awareness that someone might be watching will make people behave better, or whether the frequency of meltdown videos will numb us to it. Let’s say you believe that anyone, like McHenry, who verbally lashes a service employee, or underling, or anyone in a lower power position, should be punished for it. Lets further assume that two or three–or a squintillion–powerful people have done the same thing, but off-camera. If you could invent a magic device (like a video camera) that could reveal every such instance, would you want them all punished? Would you want the same to every nonfamous person who ever cursed out the cable-company operator? Or would the scale of it — there are a lot of jerks in the world — make it seem futile and ridiculous?

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