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.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu May 9, 2013

In 'Sightseers,' A Killing Spree Gone South

Tina (Alice Lowe) and Chris (Steve Oram) in the sour social comedy Sightseers.
Ben Wheatley IFC Films

Originally published on Fri May 10, 2013 8:17 am

Scrub away the gore and the nastier bits of provocation, and Ben Wheatley's Sightseers belongs squarely in the tradition of British classics like Kind Hearts and Coronets and The Ruling Class — satires that transformed simmering class resentment into brittle, nasty dark comedy.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu April 25, 2013

'Pain & Gain': Michael Bay's Suffering Fools

Paul (Dwayne Johnson), Daniel (Mark Wahlberg) and Adrian (Anthony Mackie) are three Miami bodybuilders with big ambitions and not much in the way of smarts.
Mark Fellman Paramount Pictures

For Michael Bay, the director of Armageddon and the Transformers movies, to comment on the excesses of American culture would be a little like — well, Michael Bay commenting on the excesses of American culture.

And yet that's exactly what he does with Pain & Gain, a stranger-than-fiction yarn about a South Florida crime spree that points and snickers in the direction of precisely the supersized grotesquerie that's long been Bay's stock-in-trade. He blankets the film in a tone of smug self-awareness that obscures everything but its bald hypocrisy.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu April 18, 2013

Effects-Heavy 'Oblivion' Pines For An Analog Past

The enigmatic Julia (Olga Kurylenko) surfaces from the mysterious past of Victoria's husband, Jack (Tom Cruise), a repairman tending drones on a largely abandoned Earth.
Universal Pictures

The score for Oblivion was composed by M83, a superb French electronic outfit that derives its name from one of the spectral pinwheels known as spiral galaxies. I point this out because it's the best element of the movie — a cascade of dreamy synthesizers that registers as appropriately futuristic (at least the future as suggested by '80s pop) while allowing an undercurrent of romantic yearning.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu April 11, 2013

Zany 'It's A Disaster': Anything But

Tracy (Julia Stiles) and Glen (David Cross) are only on their third date when reports of a dirty-bomb explosion prompt them to reconsider the kind of close they want to be.
Oscilloscope Pictures

For all his success as a stand-up comic, as one half of the brilliant HBO sketch comedy Mr. Show With Bob & David and as the hapless Tobias on Arrested Development, David Cross has struggled to find his footing in the movies, remaining relegated mainly to forgettable character roles. (The controversy within the comedy world over his mercenary appearances in the Chipmunks movies has overshadowed the rest of his long cinematic resume.)

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu March 21, 2013

'Gimme The Loot': The Tagger's Life, Lightly

Sofia (Tashiana Washington) and Malcolm (Ty Hickson) are two hardworking graffiti artists with a romantic chemistry that only they don't notice in Gimme the Loot.
Sundance Selects

For the Bronx graffiti artists of Gimme the Loot, Adam Leon's sweet, vibrant debut feature, "Bombing the Apple" is the holy grail of tagging achievements.

"The Apple" in question is the protuberance that emerges from behind the center-right wall in Shea Stadium — they refuse to acknowledge the corporate name Citi Field — every time a New York Mets player hits a home run.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu March 14, 2013

'60s Japan, Aglow 'From Up On Poppy Hill'

In 1963 Japan, Shun (voiced by Anton Yelchin) and Umi (Sarah Bolger) unite to preserve a beloved old building that serves as a clubhouse for young intellectuals at their seaside community school.
Gkids

Of the many wonderful qualities associated with the films of Studio Ghibli — the Japanese animation house co-founded by Hiyao Miyazaki, the visionary director of My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service and Spirited Away — serenity may be the most key. Ghibli productions offer the stirring adventures and magical creatures of their American counterparts, and often operate by a wondrously mysterious internal logic, but they do so without feeling compelled to grab a young audience by the lapels.

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Movie Reviews
3:00 pm
Thu March 7, 2013

'Everyman's Journey': Don't Believe Everything You Hear

Arnel Pineda's journey from obscurity to international fame as the new frontman for the rock band Journey is the narrative thread that drives Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey.
Cinedigm Entertainment Group

Some bands are born of passion and deep camaraderie, a collective desire to rebel against authority — or at least to look cool. Others are born because a major label threatens to drop them if they don't find a lead vocalist.

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Movie Reviews
3:12 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

Adolescent Angst Turns Deadly In 'Stoker'

Evelyn and India Stoker (Nicole Kidman and Mia Wasikowska) slowly descend into icy paranoia after their family patriarch dies through suspicious circumstances in the horror thriller Stoker.
Fox Searchlight Pictures

It's a mark of a great filmmaker when a movie is felt first and understood later, allowing audiences to intuit their way through a fog of mystery and sensuality before finally getting a clear view of the landscape. Best known for an operatic trio of revenge thrillers — the second, Oldboy, won the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2004 and a fervent cult following — South Korean genre maestro Park Chan-wook expresses florid emotion in cool, impeccable, gothic language.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu February 21, 2013

'Snitch': Johnson And The Rock, At Odds In A Drug Drama

As hard-hitting father John, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, goes deep undercover to save his son from stern drug-crime laws.
Steve Dietl Summit Entertainment

"Inspired by true events" — a phrase that implies the greatest possible distance between something that actually happened and what's about to happen on screen — Snitch tries to be two movies at once.

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Movie Reviews
3:04 pm
Thu February 7, 2013

A '70s 'Playroom,' Without Much Room For Fun

Donna (Molly Parker) is the drunk, distracted matriarch to Maggie (Olivia Harris) and her nervous siblings in The Playroom.
Freestyle Releasing

There's a sequence early in the laughable drama The Playroom that epitomizes everything wrong with it: With her parents out of the house, 16-year-old Maggie Cantwell (Olivia Harris), the eldest of four latchkey kids, sneaks into the garage with her boyfriend on a determined quest to lose her virginity. While the two fumble around clumsily on the floor, Maggie's youngest brother, Sam (Ian Veteto), sits outside the garage door, trying to sew a merit badge onto his shirt but struggling to thread the needle.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu January 31, 2013

'Stand Up Guys' Falls Terminally Flat

Doc (Christopher Walken) and Val (Al Pacino) are old friends and ex-cons who go on one last rampage in the crime comedy Stand Up Guys.
Lionsgate

Intended as a victory lap for three great stars of advancing age, Stand Up Guys is another entry in the "old folks doing stuff" subgenre, which offers comic affirmation that life is not strictly for the young.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu January 24, 2013

Spoiler Alert: 'John Dies,' But The Rest? Who Can Tell?

Journalist Arnie Blondestone (Paul Giamatti) interprets the bizarro story at the heart of the too-twisty horror fantasy John Dies at the End.
Magnet Releasing

Originally published on Tue January 29, 2013 10:11 am

There's a fine line between a genre filmmaker with an offbeat sensibility and a maker of prefab cult movies — someone who appeals too aggressively to a cult audience that doesn't yet exist. Don Coscarelli's career has inched too far across that line.

The creator of the Phantasm series, which developed a dense and satisfying (if fan-oriented) mythology, and the prime fantasy cheese The Beastmaster, Coscarelli has lately been a cult alchemist, mixing up quirky elements aimed at winning a following that his previous films won effortlessly.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu January 24, 2013

The Hard-Earned Liberty Of 'Happy People'

The simple, rough-edged lives of the Russian villagers in Werner Herzog's documentary Happy People: A Year in the Taiga make for a rhythmic study of ancient natural harmonies.
Music Box Films

It's midway through Burden of Dreams, the superb documentary about the making of his glorious 1982 fiasco Fitzcarraldo, and iconoclastic director Werner Herzog has had enough.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu January 10, 2013

'Gangster Squad': Law? What Law?

Sgt. John O'Mara (Josh Brolin) and Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling) aim above and beyond the law in the noir tribute Gangster Squad.
Wilson Webb Warner Bros. Studios

Decked out in impeccable suits and a fedora so crisply brimmed it could cut through drywall, Josh Brolin stars in Gangster Squad as a square-jawed policeman of the first order, an Eliot Ness type who would sooner burn a pile of dirty money than pocket a single dollar.

In 1949 Los Angeles, Brolin's Sgt. John O'Mara has been trusted with the task of rebuffing the threat posed by Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), an East Coast gangster working quickly and ruthlessly to set up shop.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu December 20, 2012

'This Is 40': Ambling Into Midlife

With a 13-year-old (Maude Apatow) and an 8-year-old (Iris Apatow), Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) have their hands full.
Universal Pictures

Consider the premises of writer-director Judd Apatow's first three comedies:

* A lonely tech salesman (Steve Carell) seeks to end a lifelong romantic drought in The 40-Year-Old Virgin.
* A mismatched couple (Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl) gets pregnant after a regrettable one-night stand in Knocked Up.
* A popular but self-centered comedian (Adam Sandler) finds perspective after a grim cancer diagnosis in Funny People.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

A Sin City Comedy That Comes Up Snake Eyes

Jeremy (Joshua Jackson) and Beth (Rebecca Hall) enjoy the sun and sin of Las Vegas.
Frank Masi Radius, TWC

Based on Beth Raymer's memoir, Lay the Favorite has a cheeky, double-meaning title that sets up the story and the irreverent tone with impressive efficiency; the reference is both to the gambling practice of betting for the favorite and to the heroine's generous sexual proclivities.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu November 15, 2012

Indie Queen Posey Reigns Over Familiar Territory

Posey has been making audiences laugh since the '90s in cult classics like Dazed and Confused and Best in Show.
IFC Films

When Parker Posey was crowned "queen of the indies" in the mid-to-late '90s, the title referred to her Sundance-dominating ubiquity. But it could just as well have applied to the Parker Posey type — powerful and wonderfully imperious, with a habit of cutting her underlings down to size.

That's the Posey who turns up in Michael Walker's tense comedy Price Check, where she plays a relentless corporate climber who shakes up a sleepy regional office. She inspires. She terrorizes. Whatever it takes to get the job done.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu November 8, 2012

Between Friends, Age Is Nothing But A Number

A part-time adult-film actress and a full-time burnout, Jane spends much of her time getting high with her friend Melissa (Stella Maeve).
Augusta Quirk Music Box Films

In two of her most prominent early roles — as Woody Allen's teenage girlfriend in Manhattan and as Dorothy Stratten, the slain Playboy centerfold in Bob Fosse's Star 80 — Mariel Hemingway played young women under the sway of older, more powerful men. Both characters are objects of beauty, and Hemingway's soft voice and hazy eyes reinforced their passivity, even as they hid a more introspective side. The overall effect is an innocent, almost childlike openness, like a blank slate ready for imprinting.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu November 1, 2012

A Life And A Plane, In Free Fall From 20,000 Feet

Airline pilot Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) is hailed as a hero after averting disaster when his plane malfunctions — but as Flight goes on, it turns out he's anything but a shining example.
Robert Zuckerman Paramount Pictures

Originally published on Thu November 1, 2012 5:21 pm

For Whip Whitaker, the commercial airline pilot played by Denzel Washington in Flight, daily life is about achieving a practiced but tenuous equilibrium between the professional he's required to be and the wreck he really is. As the opening scene reveals, it involves keeping his poisons in harmony: Peeling himself off a hotel bed after a wild night, Whip guzzles the stale swill from a quarter-full beer bottle, does a couple of lines of cocaine as a pick-me-up and strides confidently out the door in his uniform. This is the morning routine.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu November 1, 2012

'Ralph': An 8-Bit Hero With Plenty Of Heart

Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) grows tired of being overshadowed by Fix-It Felix Jr., the "good guy" star of their game, and sets off on a quest to prove he's got what it takes to be a hero.
Walt Disney Pictures

Originally published on Fri November 2, 2012 10:15 pm

After a very long engagement that began with the original Toy Story, Disney finally made an honest woman out of Pixar in 2006, when it paid the requisite billions to move the computer animation giant into the Magic Kingdom. But Disney's spirited 2010 hit Tangled made it abundantly clear that Pixar had a say in the creative marriage: The story of Rapunzel may be standard Disney princess fare, but the whip-crack pacing and fractured-fairy tale wit felt unmistakably Pixar. From now on, it would seem, Mickey Mouse and Luxo Jr.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu October 11, 2012

Getting Merrily 'Smashed,' And Then Crashing

Kate and Charlie (Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul), a young married couple, stumble down Kate's path to sobriety.
Sony Pictures Classics

"Hi, I'm Kate, and I'm an alcoholic."

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu October 4, 2012

'The Paperboy': A Crime Drama Lacking Conviction

Miami reporter Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) investigates the murder conviction of Hillary Van Ward (John Cusack), who may have been wrongly charged.
Anne Marie Fox Millennium Entertainment

The words "florid" and "inert" are not quite antonyms, but it would nonetheless seem impossible for those two adjectives to apply to the same thing. And yet here comes The Paperboy, a swamp noir so spectacularly incompetent that even the ripest pulp attractions are left to rot in the sun, flies buzzing lazily around them.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu September 27, 2012

'Solomon Kane,' Hellbound And Down In Old England

William Crowthorn (Pete Postlethwaite) and his Puritan family earn the respect of master warrior Solomon Kane (James Purefoy), the brooding antihero of a bleak comic-book adaptation.
RADiUS-TWC

Published mainly in the pulp magazine Weird Tales — also the preferred outlet for his most famous creation, Conan the Barbarian — the serial adventures of Robert E. Howard's Solomon Kane character provided an early model for the "sword and sorcery" subgenre, that crude yet irresistible fusion of the superpowerful and the supernatural.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Wed September 19, 2012

The Elusive, Endangered 'Knuckleball'

Knuckleball! also features the only other active knuckleball pitcher during the 2011 season: R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets.
Break Thru Films

There are essentially two things that can happen with a knuckleball. It can float toward the plate without spin, jerk around like boozy relatives at a wedding hall and make the world's best hitters look like hapless Looney Tunes characters. Or it can float toward the plate with spin, lope with a steady trajectory at 65 mph and give the world's best hitters the juiciest slab of red meat this side of Sizzler.

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Movie Reviews
3:38 pm
Thu August 23, 2012

'Revenant' Mashes Up Undead Havoc, Anti-War Theme

Bart (David Anders) returns from his tour in Iraq as a fallen soldier, but he doesn't stay dead long — he rises as the titular revenant.
Paladin Film

Originally published on Thu August 23, 2012 6:22 pm

Back in 2005, for the Showtime anthology series Masters of Horror, director Joe Dante and writer Sam Hamm were given carte blanche to make whatever they wanted, so long as it came in under an hour and could be classified as "horror."

They delivered, in Homecoming, one of the sharpest and angriest films about the Iraq war to date — a blunt allegory about U.S. soldiers who rise from the dead not to feast on the living but to vote the president out of office. It's an anti-war satire that only technically functioned as a zombie movie.

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Movies
3:03 pm
Thu August 16, 2012

'Cosmopolis' Captures Decadent Spirit Of The Age

Robert Pattinson's weird, inhuman beauty is used to full effect as billionaire Eric Packer in David Cronenberg's Cosmopolis.
Entertainment One

A matinee idol for the age of HDTVs and "retina displays," Robert Pattinson has a face that seems to require a higher resolution — glossy and ghostly pale, all sleek lines and alabaster skin. As Edward Cullen, the emo vampire in the Twilight saga, Pattinson plays a creature so immaculately inhuman that he literally sparkles in the sunlight. Edward may be over a century old, but Pattinson has become a thoroughly modern, even futuristic teen heartthrob, looking at all times as airbrushed as his many Entertainment Weekly covers.

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Movie Reviews
3:00 pm
Thu August 9, 2012

'The Campaign': Just How Low Can Politicians Go?

Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) and Marty Huggins (Zack Galifianakis) are political rivals in The Campaign, a movie that improves the more it lets the two actors veer toward the outlandish.
Patti Perret Warner Bros.

Originally published on Thu August 9, 2012 3:49 pm

There's a devil-may-care recklessness to Will Ferrell that sets him apart from other screen comics — a willingness to commit to the moment without fear of embarrassment, even if the comedy goes right off the rails.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu July 26, 2012

A Neighborhood Watch Goes Alien-Hunting

In The Watch, Franklin (Jonah Hill), Evan (Ben Stiller), Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade) and Bob (Vince Vaughn) start a neighborhood watch after a Costco security guard is mysteriously killed on duty.
Melinda Sue Gordon 20th Century Fox

The savings are never passed on to the consumer, but a little product placement has become standard practice for Hollywood movies — a pizza box here or a conspicuously angled soda can there, and few take notice. But product integration is another matter: If a movie has been explicitly designed to accommodate a sponsor, it's worse than just a commercial movie. It's a movie commercial.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu July 19, 2012

After The Recession, An American Versailles On Hold

When they outgrew their 26,000-square-foot mansion, David and Jackie Siegel set out to build their dream home, which was to be the biggest in the U.S. The Queen of Versailles looks at what happened when the recession ruined that dream.
Lauren Greenfield Magnolia Pictures

When director Lauren Greenfield started filming The Queen of Versailles, a documentary about 74-year-old David Siegel, a billionaire timeshare magnate from Orlando, and Jackie, a trophy wife 30 years his junior, they had outgrown their 26,000-square-foot home.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu July 12, 2012

Two Fractious Sisters, Reunited But Still At Odds

In Union Square, Jenny (Tammy Blanchard, left) gets a surprise visit from her estranged sister, Lucy (Mira Sorvino), an emotional train wreck whose outsize personality clashes with Jenny's carefully constructed self-image.
Gerardo Somoza Reunion Pictures

The Mira Sorvino who won an Oscar for her full-bodied twist on the hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold type in Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite resurfaces in Union Square, a micro-budget indie that calls for a similar brand of New York brassiness.

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