NYCC: Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles panel and Season 4 Premiere Recap

Oct 08 // Nick Valdez
Most of the voice cast was present with the absence of Mae Whitman and Sean Astin being the only loss (but he called in through Facetime) as well as showrunner Ciro Nieli and writer Brandon Auman. Wasting no time they started discussing the show's major shake up at the end of season three (once again, major spoilers), as the Tricertons set off a black hole bomb resulting in both Splinter's death and the destruction of the Earth. Splinter's VO Hoon Lee expressed some concern over it, but he also argued that it showed how dangerous the Turtles' life really is as they "live by the sword and die by the sword." Nieli stated that they wanted to try something big like that because they have all sorts of different directions for the show, and by the sounds of some of the news it's going to go to some crazy places.  Here are some of the major plans for season 4: David Tennant's Fugitoid is playing a huge role in the series going forward.  Keith David joins the show voicing a Salamander commander who may or may not truly be a bad guy (from a race based on The Newtralizer) The A-Team's Dwight Schultz is joining the cast as Wyrm, who's no longer a mutated trashman but now an all powerful alien genie with reality bending powers (think Bat-Mite) who fights the turtles by shapeshifting and wrapping them up in a big ball, hilariously. Also Casey's glowing blue and super smart for some reason.  The biggest thing? The Krang suit from the original 80s cartoon is returning as part of a 2D animatedspecial crossover with the original voice cast in tow, including Pat Fraley returning to voice the original villainous Krang. We were shown an in progress cinematic, and for anyone worried that the show's two tones would clash, don't worry. It's funny, has lots of action, and it'll warm your heart. As for the season four premiere, the show's getting an entirely new title cinematic. With a bit of summary of season three's finale, the turtles are shown in all sorts of new space situations. After that, the Turtles are trying to get used to their new situation as Fugitoid lays out the goal for the season. They need to collect shards of a special time macguffin in order to save the Earth (which is now stuck in a weird stasis of both existence and non-existence), but if the Triceratons get them first it's all over. With a new goal and some cool looking, color coordinated space suits (April's looks very familiar to those who've followed the 80s cartoon) the Turtles have a new lease on life. Which means we don't have to worry too much about angst or anything like that. Considering how heavy three's finale was, it's refreshing that season four giddily jumped into the new status quo. Anyway, after an asteroid belt leaves their ship damaged, the Turtles land on a planet of rogues, pirates and thieves (Raphael naturally likes it while Fugitoid notes he's never been but says it looks great in the Spring).  On the new planet, the Turtles make all sorts of space puns (a few of them land, most don't but the kids'll love it) and are introduced to a bunch of new technologies (which will most likely make their ninjutsu much better as the season roles on). After some exploring and each turtle finding their own troubling situation, we're introduced to season four's major addition, Peter Stormare's Lord Dregg. I have no clue how they landed Stormare, but he's fantastic. He's chewing up the scenery immensely and you can tell he absolutely loved playing the bad guy. Lord Dregg majorly outclasses the Turtles while throwing them around like ragdolls and has technologically superior, super tough henchmen. After the Turtles flee the planet and have a space battle with Dregg, the episode ends with the Turtles hyperspacing into the unknown.  After having so much fun with the premiere, I'm totally confident that the writing staff knew what it was doing when it literally blew itself up. I've never been more excited for a TMNT season, especially after last season felt like such a retread. It's definitely a good shot in the arm, and besides all the blatant need for new toys, the show's going to very enjoyable. I can't wait to see the rest of TMNT's universe.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' fourth season premieres October 25th on Nickelodeon. 
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Turtles in space!
Since this is my second year at a big convention like this, I'm still pretty inexperienced with panels. My first big one was Disney's Tomorrowland panel, but I didn't stay the entire way through. So this year I made it my mis...


NYCC: Marvel announces Ant-Man & The Wasp, due out in 2018

Two releases are shuffled to accommodate
Oct 08
// Matt Liparota
This summer's Ant-Man was apparently enough of a hit to justify a follow-up, because a sequel – Ant-Man & The Wasp – is due out July 2018, Marvel and Disney announced today at New York Comic-Con. Not much else...
NYCC photo
NYCC 2015 is upon us and we're here to bring you all sorts of weird things. Not sure exactly yet what kind of news or tidbits we'll find out since there aren't any major panels other than MArvel and DC's TV stuff this year, b...

Review: The Walk

Oct 08 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219838:42632:0[/embed] The WalkDirector: Robert ZemeckisRated: PGRelease Date: September 30, 2015 (IMAX); October 9, 2015 (wide) Throughout The Walk, Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and his associates speak of artists as anarchists. Artists shake things up, cause people to reconsider the world around them, do things because they are beautiful and new. Yet these statements about the anarchic qualities of artists and their art feel like a form of unintentional self-indictment. The Walk is so painfully conventional, a shiny Hollywood product that wants to inspire its audience to dream big while simultaneously suffering from a deficit of imagination. The biopic cliches are everywhere. While the events in France may be true to Petit's life, Zemeckis and co-writer Christopher Browne make them feel like part of a screenplay checklist: tightrope origin story (check), disowned by parents (check), finds begrudging mentor (check, Sir Ben Kingsley), finds love interest (check, Charlotte Le Bon), establish flaw(s) to be overcome in film's third act (check), fails first attempt at vocation (check) only to triumph immediately after (check), mentor becomes father figure (check). Because these moments feel so perfunctory and familiar rather than lived-in, the first half of The Walk drags. The meet-cute between Philippe and Annie is particularly embarrassing—there's mime involved, and also rain (check). They go from adversaries to lovers bathed in candlelight (check) over the course of an afternoon. But Annie isn't given much to do throughout the rest of the film. She's just there to be Philippe's girlfriend. In another act of unintentional self-indictment, Annie tells Philippe that she's here to help him realize his dream, but she ultimately has to find a dream of her own. The film's finale is 110 stories in the air, but The Walk can't even get over the low hurdle of the Bechdel test. Yet this isn't just Annie's plight. Most of the side characters in the film are generally devoid of personality; they are Philippe's props. Philippe comes across as an angry narcissistic madman in The Walk rather than a charismatic madman, and it's unclear why anyone would want to work with him the way he's written in this film. Once The Walk winds up in New York, the movie picks up the pace and finally becomes enjoyable. Rather than a schlocky, inspirational biopic, the film goes into heist-movie mode. The plan starts to come together, and rhythm becomes brisk, and the movie has an enjoyable breeziness to it. Heist-mode is brief, but it's a welcome reprieve from the biopic stuff, and it sets up the big walk along the World Trade Center. Unfortunately, there are moments of heightened artificial drama (e.g., one of Philippe's friends is extremeley acrophobic). The walk itself is good as a set piece but not all that great. For all the hype about the use of 3D, Zemeckis never exploits image depth to its fullest ability. Staring down from the towers in 3D creates an illusion of height, that's true, but it felt to me like 20 feet (maybe) rather than 1,350 feet. There's little sense of weight or gravity to this world; it's all just lightness. It doesn't help that the towers, the sky, and the city below all feel like CG. Actual photos taken of Petit's walk show a New York that's cool and gray-toned, muted, in the dawn. Zemeckis instead bathes the towers and the digital cityscape in gold and pink hues. The eye notices; the real world is not a Thomas Kinkade painting. The coda to The Walk is a series of uncomfortable allusions to 9/11 that feel cheap and exploitative, even borderline offensive. At one point someone praises Philippe for giving the buildings a soul and making people love The Twin Towers, and they look up longingly into the night sky. It's a cringeworthy attempt to earn your tears. Gordon-Levitt's narration throughout the film doesn't help matters. He speaks French like Inspector Clouseau, situated atop the torch of The Statute of Liberty with the World Trade Center visible in the skyline behind him. It's CG, it's garish, it's surprisingly chintzy, though the worst case of bathos may be a certain moment in the movie that involves a CG bird. In real life there's no actual film footage of Philippe Petit's walk along The Twin Towers. This was likely the impetus for The Walk. It's admirable that Zemeckis would want to re-create a singular event, but I can't help but feel like this is also the reason the event shouldn't be recreated on film. In Man on Wire, Marsh shows stills of the moment accompanied by the quiet, melancholy beauty of Erik Satie's "Gymnopedie No. 1." (In The Walk, we hear Beethoven's "Fur Elise," which has never sounded more cliched.) In Let the Great World Spin, McCann recreates the New York of 1974 from different characters and perspectives. Using Petit's singular act, Marsh and McCann invite their viewers/readers to co-create the event in their minds—to be up with Petit, or below watching a dot in the sky from the ground. At no point during The Walk's major set piece did I think, "It feels like I'm there" or "I wish I was there." Zemeckis doesn't give any room for the audience's imagination or co-authorship. There is more danger and beauty in a still photo of Petit on a wire than the whole of The Walk's recreation of the moment. That might speak to the power of Petit's actual work of art.
Review: The Walk photo
A collection of weightless cliches
It's impossible to watch The Walk without thinking about James Marsh's 2008 film Man on Wire. The Academy Award-winning documentary chronicled French tightrope walker Philippe Petit's high-wire act between the towers of the W...

Moana photo

Disney casts its next princess, Moana

Oct 07
// Nick Valdez
I've been pretty excited for Disney's Moana since it was announced. After hearing their next project was about a Polynesian princess, and after Frozen, Big Hero 6, Wreck-It Ralph and Tangled turned out pretty good, they've ea...

The Flash Season 2 Premiere Recap: "The Man Who Saved Central City"

Oct 07 // Nick Valdez
Six months after a black hole (dubbed "The Singularity") opened over Central City in last season's finale, Barry's (Grant Gustin) going through the typical superhero angst. He blames himself for the whole debacle (and Eddie's death) and can't stop insisting that he "didn't save anyone." Regardless, Central City is honoring their hero with "Flash Day" (which sounds like an awful day out of context), and it's a pretty sensible way to integrate more of the comics' lore with the series. Anyhoo, the rest of the episode is dedicated to setting up and demolishing a new status quo. That's what I mean about everything and nothing. So much happens in this episode, but it's all brushed to the side so quickly that it all feels inconsequential. Through poorly implemented dream and flashback sequences we learn a few things: Ronnie has died again as he seemingly disappeared into the singularity when he and Dr. Stein Firestorm'd it, Cisco is working closer with the police's new meta-human task force, and the Star Labs crew split up (but are back together by the end of the episode).  During all of this a new monster of the week is introduced with Atom Smasher, a guy who looks like someone killed at the beginning of the episode and absorbs radiation in order to become big and strong. Like most of the show's villain of the week episodes, he neither gets a lot of development nor is he beaten in an interesting way. But the one interesting nugget is that he's being manipulated by some other villain named "Zoom," who wants to kill Flash for some reason (though folks familiar with the comics will probably be super confused by this new info). Oh and by the way, Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne left a video confessing to Barry's mom's murder and setting his dad free. Then his dad, for some inane reason, decided to skip town to keep from distracting Barry or something? It's asinine, and it's the kind of writing the show's manged to avoid to this point. I want to believe there's a better reason for this, and the showrunner has a big picture idea for Barry's dad but this seems like they no longer had a reason to keep Shipp in the show. Then, Barry lets him leave off screen and we'll supposedly never hear from him again. Seriously. Despite all the time the episode devoted to Barry's angst, you'd figured a huge development like this would get more than five minutes of screen time.  Because so much of this premiere is dedicated to setting up the rest of the season, it forgets to become an entertaining episode itself. We're given no time to linger or develop on the finale's fallout, and we're expected to quickly move forward. I mean, we couldn't even end the episode without a tease of what's to come with the new character, Jay Garrick introducing himself at the end. I'll give the writers the benefit of the doubt here and assume they've got a plan to make all of this make sense retroactively. I'm sure they're holding off on all of the wacky stuff they have planned in order to ease new viewers into the show without overwhelming them with these high concept (for a superhero show, anyway) ideas. But nothing in the premiere is going to draw new viewers in, It's relying too much on the good will it's built with the first season and hopes that its quirks will keep people long enough to show off what it wants to do. I guess we'll find out for sure next week.  Final Thoughts:  Cisco provides so much of the episode's better moments. The Flash signal he found in a comic book, hugging Dr. Stein after Stein nicknamed the new villain, and his "For real?" after Garrick breaks into Star Labs' fancy new security system. Maybe Ronnie did actually die since he's not included in CW's Legends of Tomorrow line up, but Dr. Stein is. Robbie Amell can't catch a break, can he? Dying all over the place.  Flash's new suit includes the white around his lightning bolt like his future self. Looks much better, but after the build up to the suit reveal, I was hoping for a bigger overhaul.  I won't be covering CW's other superhero show, but I hope you'll stick with me through this!  Want to see more of our TV coverage? Check out our TV Recaps and Reviews! 
The Flash Recap photo
Two worlds, one Flash
I didn't realize how much I'd missed The Flash until seeing it again last night. It's the first superhero show that I've been strongly attached to, and it's with good reason. DC Comics have been killing the TV game for years,...

NYFF Review: Bridge of Spies

Oct 06 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219841:42639:0[/embed] Bridge of SpiesDirector: Steven SpielbergRating: PG-13Release Date: October 16, 2015 Based on a true story, Bridge of Spies centers on James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks), a lawyer in Brooklyn who's asked to defend Colonel Abel (Mark Rylance). Abel is a suspected Russian spy, and the film opens on him as he goes about his daily routine. He's a good artist, though he uses his talents as subterfuge in order to get around the city and receive messages from his superiors. The opening minutes of the film are without dialogue, and showcase some nice bits of spycraft. Rylance remains stonefaced but vigilant. Donovan's expected to deliver a mere token defense for Abel. He's a speed bump en route to a commie's execution. Donovan's a principled litigator, however, and he wants to extend Constitutional protections to the captured spy. Donovan even urges the judge to avoid the death penalty. A spy of Abel's caliber--Donovan constantly refers to him as "a good soldier"--would be a worthwhile bargaining chip if the US ever had to negotiate with the Soviets. Donovan's neighbors and colleagues begin to turn on him for taking a stand. Casting Tom Hanks as Donovan is a given. There's an innate trustworthiness about Hanks' screen presence, and he exudes the kind of everyman likability you'd expect out of your favorite friend or neighbor. At a party, people may ask when Tom's showing up. Since the early 90s, Hanks has become the go-to common-man good-guy in the mold of Jimmy Stewart; if Bridge of Spies were made decades ago, Stewart would probably play Donovan. (Okay, maybe not. If it were made decades ago the entire crew would be blacklisted and seated before a HUAC hearing.) Then there's Mark Rylance as Colonel Abel. His performance is all about the poker face. Colonel Abel's low-key and could pass as a plain old man, but to the intelligence community, they know what's up. He plays so dumb that he's obviously got a lot secrets. There's a lot to read into Hanks' and Rylance's performances when they share the screen together--what's being said and not said, what they're saying with looks--but there's also a kind of mutual respect; not just something lawyer-client based but an admiration for such staunch resoluteness. Bridge of Spies switches from a courtroom drama to small-scale espionage movie for the last half or two-thirds. US government sends Donovan to negotiate the release of a US soldier named Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) who's being held by the Soviets. Good thing Donovan fought so hard to keep his chip from the chair. And so we go from Brooklyn to Berlin, where the wall has just gone up and a clash between Soviet and East German interests might complicate the deal that Donovan has been sent to broker. Bridge of Spies tries to braid in two additional threads of narrative over the Donovan-driven and Abel-driven dramas. It's here that some seams become visible--it's easy to spot seams in an otherwise handsome film. Powers' mission helps get across the amount of spying going on between the US and Russia, and it culminates in a daring set piece involving a spy plane, but it doesn't quite flow with the legal drama unfolding on the ground. At least it has some creative smash cuts and cross cuts. The film gets much clunkier as we introduce the other thread involving an economics student named Frederic Pryor (Will Rogers), who's suspected of being an American spy in East Germany. It's introduced and dropped as a narrative expedient--a story for the main story but not a story on its own. It's almost like a stray movie lost in the bigger one, and some of the brief drama involving Pryor and his girlfriend are never touched on again. Even with the seams and loose threads, Bridge of Spies is steadily carried by Hanks' amiability and Spielberg and his craft. Once we're back with Donovan, the film regains its footing (and handsomeness). I sense some audiences might be put off by the film's high-mindedness. Conservatives in particular may take issue with Donovan's heroic idealism even if it's so earnestly American. There's one speech Donovan makes before the Supreme Court that's Capraesque bordering on cloying. Even if taken directly from a transcript, the speech seems like it's directed at a contemporary audience rather than the Justices of the 1950s. Donovan speaks about the heart of the country and the fundaments of the Constitution and how it ought to be applied even to America's enemies. The contemporary read is not about Soviets but soldiers from Afghanistan and Iraq who are detained in Guantanamo. Spielberg even seems to offer an indictment of prisoner abuse by contrasting Powers in a Soviet prison with Abel in an American one. The appeal is clear and you don't even have to look that hard--we're Americans, and we should be good even to our enemies. This kind of black-and-white appeal to good old-fashioned American decency works in movies since it's about an abstraction of Jimmy Stewart America or Gregory Peck America--a kind of aspirational Platonic form of what people in America can strive to be. (Ronald Reagan's America is probably more pervasive. Make of that what you will.) In that way, Bridge of Spies shares some Constitutional connective tissue with Amistad and Lincoln, while also being a kind of post-war counterpart to Saving Private Ryan--it's a mission to bring our boys home. It's hokey, but the takeaway is to be the best the country has to offer, or at least to try. If that corny idealism isn't good old-fashioned American decency, I don't know what is.
Review: Bridge of Spies photo
When Spielbergian goes Capraesque
Watching Bridge of Spies, I realized almost immediately the difference between a beautiful film and a handsome film. Steven Spielberg's latest movie is handsome. It's cleanly shot, polished, glossy, with impeccable acting in ...

The Ten Best Korean Films Streaming on Hulu (2015 Edition)

Oct 06 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
SunnyDirector: Kang Hyeong-Cheol When people ask me what my favorite Korean film is, I usually tell them Sunny. It's not necessarily true (though it might be), but I say it to gain street cred. Most people (at least in America) haven't heard of Sunny, but every Korean person I've mentioned it to has known it. A couple of them have told me I couldn't get it because I'm not Korean. I don't think that's quite fair, though I sort of understand where they're coming from. There are politics that I don't understand, but I think it's ridiculous to say that me not quite getting the context means I can't love the film for how I see it. Because even if that plays around the backdrop (or a backdrop), what matters is the human drama that plays out in the foreground. It's often hilarious, occasionally heart-breaking, but always wonderful. Sadly, the Director's Cut, which adds two scenes (one of which is arguably the most impacting in the entire film), isn't available, but even so, Sunny is a spectacular film. I fell in love with Sunny long before I saw the Director's Cut. You will too. Watch it here! MossDirector: Kang Woo-Suk  Moss was among the first Korean films I reviewed for Flixist. I wasn't quite new to Korean cinema at the time, but it was one of the catalysts for what would end up being a reasonably deep dive. It was my first introduction to actor Park Hae-Il, though, who has become one of my favorite Korean actors. He's a pretty small guy, but he more than makes up for it with an abundance of presence and talent. What I particularly enjoy about Moss is the fact that it's a film where not only was I concerned about the main character in the general "Always care about the protagonist" sense but also the "Oh shit, this guy might actually get killed by these people" sense. The intensity of it (and a history of that kind of thing in other Korean thrillers) meant that his fate wasn't all that certain. It meant that the "thriller" was particularly thrilling, and though it's a bit on the long side, it never drags. It's got you, and it keeps you right up until the end.  Watch it here! Memories of MurderDirector: Bong Joon-Ho  Here's the thing: Memories of Murder is probably the biggest item on this list, but not because I think it's the best. Everyone else thinks it's the best. This was not just Bong Joon-Ho's breakout film, but for many it was Korean cinema's breakout film. This retelling of a tragic and senseless violent act and the ensuing investigation is disturbing and intense and important in ways that I will admit to not understanding (political things again). And on those grounds alone you should watch it, and the fact that it's here is awesome. On a personal level, I think this is a far less compelling film than Bong Joon-Ho's followup, The Host. I take particular issue with the comedic aspects of the film (including a particular transition that is overtly funny to the point of being parody), because they work against an otherwise deadly serious narrative. It's an issue that plagues Korean films in general, honestly, and Bong Joon-Ho's work in particular. To be clear: I like the film quite a bit, just not quite as much as everyone else. Perhaps since it's here, I'll give it another shot. Watch it here! SilencedDirector: Gong Ji-Young In my Netflix list, I lamented the loss of Silenced from Netflix's catalog. It's a soul-crushing movie, one of those bleak looks into the evils of humanity (it's based on a true story) and the horrific things that are allowed to happen (no one was charged). To make a film about something like this requires the utmost skill and ability to navigate horrors without succumbing to them. This film could have easily turned into something truly vile, but it doesn't. It's a film that makes you angry at society, indignant about the justice system, and depressed about the future of our species. But it's also an extremely compelling drama and one that is well worth your time. Just block off a few hours afterwards. Ya know, for the sobbing. Watch it here!   Joint Security AreaDirector: Park Chan-Wook  Speaking of debuts (sort of), Park Chan-Wook's Joint Security Area is the film that put the director on the map. It may have been his third film, but JSA was the breakout movie. He would follow this up with The Vengeance Trilogy, and even though it's a very different type of film, you could see that talent in full swing. It's a fascinating film about the relationship between North and South Korea, one that is all the more poignant as tensions heat up at the border of the countries again. It's also interesting as a film that crosses cultural boundaries. It's hard to really understand what goes into the constant standoff like this (particularly for someone who wasn't around for the height of the Cold War), but the movie isn't really about that, simply using it as a backdrop for more relatable drama. The message – we're not so different, you and I – isn't the most original, but the execution is more than enough to make up for that. Watch it here! Sex is ZeroDirector:  Yoon Je-kyoon  And while we're on the topic of obscure-ish films, Sex is Zero is a film I've yet to see on other services. For a while, its sequel was available on Netflix (no longer, but it's on Hulu), but I had trouble tracking down the original. I've always found Korean romantic comedies fascinating, but the number of them available to see is always fairly low. Perhaps it's an issue of the comedy not crossing cultures (or distributors not thinking they'd cross cultures) or maybe it's something else entirely, but I see less of that than I'd like. I heard of Sex Is Zero years ago when looking up the "Best of Korean Cinema" years ago (I'm the target audience for this list, by the way) and it showed up on multiple Best Comedy lists. Is it one of the best comedies? I dunno, but it's a whole lot of fun, and the kind of thing that you should definitely check out while it's available. Watch it here! Nameless GangsterDirector: Yoon Jong-Bin  Nameless Gangster is just a great gosh darn movie. An excellent one, even. One of my favorite mob films. That's a function of a lot of things, but as always, Choi Min-sik's performance is the key thing here. Following years of the ultra-corrupt civil servant-turned gangster's life, we get to see the seedy underbelly of 1980s Korea and the role that family plays in it. Most mob movies that head this way are about the Italian mob, and obviously we know that family is a big deal there, but it seems like the blood thing runs even deeper in Korea, and that makes it a particularly interesting film to watch. The violence is intense as well, and the distinct lack of shoot-outs due to the general difficulty of procuring weapons honestly makes for far more interesting and visceral confrontations. If you're familiar with (and perhaps tired of) American mob movies, this one will serve as a breath of fresh air. Watch it here! BedevilledDirector: Jang Cheol-Soo This film sits in an odd place for me. I wrote about it at the 2011 New York Asian Film Festival. It was one of the first reviews I ever wrote. I was also fairly new to Korean cinema at the time, only having spent a couple years prior getting into it, and certainly not getting into the country's deep cuts. I gave the film a 94, which at the time was an even more significant measure of quality than the currently very-difficult-to-reach level we have now. It meant that a film had to be effectively perfect and then some. I called the film better than the Vengeance Trilogy. I think I was a little caught up in everything.  Context matters when seeing a film. I saw Bedevilled with a crowd, and that crowd was rowdy and ugly and I didn't enjoy being there with them. I was so angry at their shouting and still liking the movie quite a bit that I think I over-compensated. I loved this movie, not because it was better than the Vengeance Trilogy, but because the people who actively attempted to get in the way of my investment in the story failed. This is one of those films that I find quintessentially Korean. You're subjected to horrors, maybe you receive some catharsis, but in the end it's all meaningless. There is no victory here. Nowadays, my score would have been lower, but I still think it's a film worth seeing. Watch it here! Bleak NightDirector: Yoon Sung-Hyun  I saw Bleak Night a couple years ago. I wanted to review it. Tried to. I wrote six different introductions to the review and bits of a body, but I hated every single one. It's a hard film to talk about, because suicide is a hard topic to discuss. The name is an apt one; this film is extremely bleak, and it doesn't leave you with a whole lot of hope. But that says nothing about its quality (and it's hardly the most depressing film on this list). Films should be challenging like this, making you consider your own actions and the way you treat people. It's a film about consequences and the chain of events that could lead someone to end their life. It begins with the suicide and works its way back. You know the ending, which makes it all the more crushing to see. But as long as you go in expecting the emotional impact, you will find it more than worth your while. Watch it here! The WhistleblowerDirector: Yim Soonrye Speaking of films I saw and wanted to write about but never did, The Whistleblower is a film that I saw at the most recent New York Asian Film Festival and really, really loved. Like, it was one of my favorites at the fest, but I didn't write about it. Why? Because I didn't feel like I could do my feelings justice. Due to time and other constraints, I was forced to write mostly capsule reviews, and I refused to condense my feelings on this film into a couple hundred words. And the reason is that this film affected me less because it's a great movie (though it is) but because of the context in which I saw it. Not long before , I was internet-attacked fairly viscously for reasons too stupid to get into here. But even though my life was never actually in danger (there were some threats or at least implications of threats in there, though), much of the public smearing that the lead character undergoes while just trying to do his job resonated in a very personal way. It was the film I wanted and needed to see at that point.  You will not have that context when you see it. You'll just get an interesting thriller about an interesting historical-ish event in modern Korean history. You'll see what pride and nationalism force people to do and the struggle to combat that in the face of absolute truth. It's fascinating, and I wish I'd had time to write about it. But I got that chance here, albeit briefly. Thanks, Hulu! Watch it here!
Best Korean Movies on Hul photo
That aren't available on Netflix
Last month, we posted our list of best Korean films available on Netflix. But I made the point there that Netflix's supply has been drying up lately. Over the course of this year, the number of available films has quite liter...

Furious 8 photo
Furious 8

F. Gary Gray in talks to direct Fast & Furious 8

Good director, weird name
Oct 06
// Matthew Razak
It has been a struggle to find a director for the fast approaching Furious 8. You'd think directors would be chomping at the bit to get their name on one of the biggest franchises in film. Paramount cast a wide net and has de...
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So now

Back to the Future Pepsi to be released

Guys, I just want a Pepsi
Oct 06
// Matthew Razak
Back to the Future II's future didn't quite happen. We still don't have ubiquitous working hoverboards and my drams of being eaten by a giant holographic shark are years away. However, we did get to see some of the stuff from...
Flash photo
Not a flashy choice
The DC cinematic universe has a job to do building up its on screen roster, but they're getting there. One of the next steps is a Flash movie, probably called The Flash. Seth Grahame-Smith is in talks to write and direct the ...

Fear the Walking Dead Season Finale Recap: "The Good Man"

Oct 05 // Nick Valdez
With the encroaching danger of the arena filled with thousands of zombies (which I'm glad we didn't know about until the last episode, it could've been stupidly teased through all six episodes and became more annoying than not) and the military abandoning El Serreno, the gang makes plans to break into the military compound in order to rescue Nick and (the now dead) Griselda. It's generic stuff to be sure, but it's interesting how we get to that point. First, Travis decides to spare The Faculty military guy since he says he knows where everyone is. Then Daniel decides to weaponize the arena full of zombies and lets them loose on the military compound. It's pretty goofy how a horde would walk up without anyone realizing, but it gives Daniel a bonafide badass moment ("You should save your ammunition.") as he strolls away. Then we finally get the action people have been clamoring for. A nicely laid out kitchen fight, several tense moments (one of which comes into play during the finale's final scene), and several nice character bits.  There are too many good bits to talk about, but here are a few of my favorites. These scenes managed to squeeze in genuine emotion in between all of the action, something that the parent series hasn't been able to do for some time: The doctor gives up and presumably kills herself with her cattle gun as she loses hope in the military, an infected soldier runs head first into a helicopter blade, Nick nearly gets a heroic death with his silent "Go" through the door before being saved at the last minute (and made me think there might be something else to his character after all), Daniel and Ofelia see the piles of ash and bodies that Griselda is now a part of (that's one of the most striking images I've seen in either of the shows. It's far more upsetting than seeing characters do it themselves), after The Faculty soldier shoots Ofeila Travis beats him to death, regretting his decision to let him go, Strand gets his cuff links back, and the military shows that the characters can't rely on anyone other than themselves.  But the best part of the finale? Oddly the one I hate the most due to increasingly stupid peaceful nature, Travis begins to change as the world changes. Becoming more like Daniel (and thus capitalizing on the duality set up in previous episodes), Travis begins making these violent choices for the benefit of his family. For one, he doesn't tell any of his former neighbors that the military has abandoned them, and two, he basically kills everybody without hesitation. Like Rick, Travis is slowly changing, but unlike Rick, it's much more interesting to watch Travis' hope be crushed. Leading to the episode biggest moment, Liza's unfortunate demise. As the group makes it to Strand's beach side residence, as he details his plans to get to his ship Abigail, you'd think all of the main characters would be in the clear. But unfortunately, after being attacked in that kitchen scene, Liza reveals she's been infected. After giving Madison and Travis all of the knowledge she gained from the military (that it's pretty much hopeless as everyone comes back after they die), she decides she doesn't want her son to see her in that state. Rodriguez absolutely kills it here, and this scene hits harder than you'd expect thanks to her acting.  It sucks since I was getting attached to her, but I'm guessing no one really knew what to do with her character anymore. Although her death provides a more hopeless situation (changing Travis and Chris, losing the only one with any kind of medical knowledge), it sort of reeks of that "kill the woman to make the man more interesting" thing. They're losing a great actress, but I'm confident the show knows what it's doing. The major death of this episode is an intimate moment, and it's reflective of how this show's been handled. It's also something I can't say of the parent series, that for the first time, I actually cared that someone was dying off in one of these shows. It's genuinely unexpected, it's quiet, and then it's over but its lingering effects will be felt as the series rolls on. It's potential that the parent series failed to capitalize on, and as long as Fear avoids those same trappings, it can be a much better show. It's already had a much better first season.  Final Thoughts:  "You can keep the watch." Strand is so f**king cool.  Speaking of Strand, his character is pushing this into comic book-y territory, but he's so interesting I won't be bothered to care. His strict self-preservation's going to clash with the main cast soon, and it'll be fun to see which side of the new world folks will stand on.  You can argue that no one in this show is likable or interesting, and it'd be hard to argue, but later episodes will hopefully utilize all of the nuance laid out early on.  Nick's "everyone's catching up to me" speech was pretty dumb. Reminds me too much of this PSA. Fear's miniseries Flight 462, which will introduce a character for season two, premieres during each episode of the Walking Dead but I'll probably wait until it's all over to talk about it. No point in discussing a minute long episode each week.  So that's it! Thanks for sticking with me, folks. I'll be back next week with the series proper. Stay tuned!  Want to see more of our TV coverage? Check out our TV Recaps and Reviews! 
FTWD Recap photo
Can't wait for season two
Just like with its parent series, Fear the Walking Dead has been experiencing some growing pains within its very short, six episode first season. As the biggest draw, the zombies, took a backseat to a more intimate story of f...


Marvel and ABC want to adapt Damage Control for the small screen

Series would bring some comedy to MCU
Oct 05
// Matt Liparota
Are you sick of superhero-movie-adjacent TV shows yet? Marvel sure hopes not, because they and ABC have announced their intentions to adapt on-again, off-again comic series Damage Control as a live-action comedy set in the Ma...

NYFF Review: Steve Jobs

Oct 05 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219839:42637:0[/embed] Steve JobsDirector: Danny BoyleRating: RRelease Date: October 9, 2015 Even though he was an ideal public persona for Apple products, Steve Jobs was not a good person behind the scenes. There are numerous examples of Steve Jobs being a giant jerk, and the Steve Jobs of the film played by Michael Fassbender is superbly unrepentant. Before the launch of the original Macintosh computer, Steve throws tantrums. He's abusive to his staff, and he continues to avoid his financial and personal responsibilities to his daughter Lisa and her mother. (He's only 94.1% likely to be Lisa's father, he keeps pointing out.) Steve Jobs was a self-centered prick, a long-view Machiavellian entrenched in the tech industry, and there are times in this film that he verges on pure supervillainy. But he was also a savvy businessman. Based on this performance, you know who would make a great Lex Luthor? Michael Fassbender. (Also, Steve Jobs.) With some historical figures, we ponder the link between madness and genius. With Steve Jobs it's maybe more a question of morality and genius. The big conversation that the film wants to provoke is whether Steve Jobs could have been successful if he weren't such a raging douchebag. There's a pivotal argument in the third act with Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), who calls Jobs out for all of his persistent moral shortcomings. Fassbender plays Steve Jobs as this ethically challenged, emotionally unmoored figure, and the rest of the cast helps make this work by playing moral counterpoint for the wretch. Picture people holding down a hot air balloon with rope. The task is to keep this thing grounded as much as possible. Rogen's Wozniak is one of these people, and he's mainly seeking recognition for his hard work. There's also steady and loyal Andy Hertzfeld played by Michael Stuhlbarg, and a warmly paternal Jeff Daniels as former Pepsi and Apple CEO John Sculley. The most set upon moral figure in the film, though, is Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet). She's portrayed as a kind of power-personal assistant to Steve Jobs, though her marketing roles at Apple and NeXT were probably far different. Ditto her overall career trajectory. Hoffman apparently retired in 1995, years before the iMac launch, though she's at Jobs' side in the film in each act. This deviation makes sense for the sake of the screenplay, which requires a character as morally resolute as Jobs is morally aloof. In real life, Hoffman was considered the person who was best able to stand up to Jobs, and that kind of figure--the immovable moral object to Steve Job's unstoppable narcissistic force--is necessary in this particular type of story. Winslet disappears into the role. I didn't even realize it was her until the second act of Steve Jobs. Many of the best scenes involve Winslet verbally grappling with Fassbender. There are Sorkin-isms throughout the briskly paced Steve Jobs (e.g., the walk-and-talks, the trivia, the impeccable ripostes), and Boyle does a good job of differentiating the look and feel of each section of the film. The world of 1984 is shot in a grainy 16mm, for instance. The film's acts were shot independently, which allowed the actors to tailor their performances to each year before reconsidering their character for the next. Certain gags or lines or ticks in a performance call back to others. As strong as Steve Jobs is for its first two-thirds, it gets a little soft by 1998. I don't know if it's the Hollywood aspect (or Danny Boyle) shining through at this point, but the movie begins making these overtures of Steve Jobs' redemption, all with a heavy dose of crowd-pleasing schmaltz. I didn't buy any of it. A cringeworthy cutesiness also creeps into the iMac section of the movie. Here and there, Steve critiques the limitations of 1990s technology and hints at 21st century Apple products, as if we're watching a winky retroactive commercial. The lines are clunkers when they come, and one of them is a total eyeroller. It doesn't help that I'd been rolling my eyes at the triumphalism that the movie takes on in the final act even as elements of the script do its best to keep the man and the story on the ground. The argument between Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak I mentioned earlier offers a great encapsulation of the film's underlying concerns. And sure, while the story chronicles one man's ability to overcome years of failure, Steve Jobs does this mostly by screwing over other people. During the NeXT section of the film, Jobs calls it "playing the orchestra." In real life, most people call it "being a dick." In A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge has his three visions, wakes up in the morning, and reforms. In Steve Jobs, there are three products and a hint of a better Steve Jobs in the future. Bah humbug. In real life, Steve Jobs woke up after the iMac was released and was still Steve Jobs.
Review: Steve Jobs photo
A better way to do a biopic about a jerk
I was texting a friend about Steve Jobs over the weekend, the new biopic written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Danny Boyle. Sorkin thankfully avoided the birth-to-death biopic that we've all seen and grown tired of by now. ...

NYFF Review: Where to Invade Next

Oct 04 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219845:42640:0[/embed] Where to Invade NextDirector: Michael MooreRating: n/aRelease Date: TBD We start the invasion in Italy. Moore sits down with a couple in their living room to discuss what their paid vacation situation is like in the country. They get more than a month off, not including national and local holidays, and any unused vacation time rolls over into the next year. Moore's mouth is agog most of the time--he was genuinely learning all of this for the first time. But there's more. The wages tend to be better, the lunches are longer, and employees tend to be more productive on the job because they are so relaxed. Moore's invasion continues through Europe, with stops in France, Germany, Finland, Slovenia, and Portugal, continuing over the Mediterranean to Tunisia, then across the Atlantic to Iceland. Each time, there's a novel innovation, and each time Moore seems surprised and inspired. He focuses on one thing each country seems to be doing right. In Slovenia, for instance, all college is free, even for students who've come from abroad. In Finland, they've abolished homework. Moore admits that these countries have their own problems and he's mostly accentuating the positive. My job is picking the flowers and not the weeds, he says. He's also picking cherries, but that's not the biggest problem with Where to Invade Next, which, when it works, offers a fine rebuke of the "Fuck you, I got mine" mentality that pervades much of American culture. Moore's generally at his best when he's a deadpan observer rather than a fiery polemicist. Roger and Me is still his finest film (even though he did fudge the timeline of events) since it's mostly Moore as a citizen journalist documenting others. While framed around Moore trying to get an audience with General Motors CEO Roger Smith, the movie is driven by people who get to tell their own stories about the painful decline of Flint, Michigan. As Moore's clout grew, he became a more prominent figure in his films, and in turn his movies were more about Michael Moore's opinions on a subject rather than the subject itself. Moore develops a feel-good thesis in Where to Invade Next. These innovations in other countries could make America a better place, and they all have a shared origin. But Moore oversteps his skills as a documentary essayist through sloppy thinking and oversimplification. He walks past part of an old section of the Berlin Wall with a friend, and they reminisce about being there as it came down. Hammering and chiseling--the solution was so simple, they say. Well, no. History doesn't work that way. The Berlin Wall didn't come down just because some people in West Germany began chipping away at it for a few nights. There were decades of global history that culminated in that moment, and none of it was easy. While Moore smartly identifies the systemic racism underlying the US drug war, he dumbs down cause and effect in other parts of the film to suggest that the catalyst for change is something really simple. By that logic, the Arab Spring was easy as pie: all it took was for someone to self-immolate. No problemo. The systems themselves are simple and elegant, and yet the implementation of these solutions--free college, prison reform, education reform, greater gender representation in government--would have to be accomplished through legislative action and, even more difficult, a fundamental ideological shift in American attitudes regarding the bullshit of global capitalism and antiquated gender roles. These aren't so simple, they'll take time. But they're worth fighting for, which is why there's an oddly ennobling aspect to Where to Invade Next even for its flaws. In my head during each slip up, all I could think was, "Your argument is facile, but yeah, I agree, Michael." Moore's rhetorical missteps in Where to Invade Next come from a genuine place of concern. It's like a bad college essay. The larger point is good, but it's articulated and argued inartfully, whether through selective anecdotes rather than facts, or through emotional appeals rather than reason. The pat close of the movie is mushy and inspirational at the same time. Moore references a well-known fairy tale that takes place in the Midwest, and in the process made me think of another work about the contradictory relationship between political ideology and voting against your best interests in the Midwest (Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas). When film critic Stephen Whitty reviewed Fahrenheit 9/11 back in 2004, he wrote that Moore tends to worry liberals about as much as he infuriates conservatives. "They're people who agree with what Michael Moore says--but refuse to defend to the death the way he insists on saying it," he wrote. Some things don't change.
Review: Where to Invade photo
A feel good movie (but oversimplified)
Michael Moore and Donald Trump have something in common. No, seriously. They want to make America great again. In Where to Invade Next, Moore pretends he's been sent by the Pentagon to invade other countries. His mission: to ...

Spectre photo

Final Bond trailer brings it home

It doesn't get more Bond than this
Oct 02
// Matthew Razak
We're pretty excited about Spectre around these parts. We even wrote about it twice in our Winter movie preview because it's going to be so awesome. Want proof? The trailer is above.  Sure we're going to have to get...

Review: The Martian

Oct 02 // Matthew Razak
[embed]219989:42650:0[/embed] The MartianDirector: Ridley ScottRated: PG-13Release Date: October 2, 2015  Despite what you might think from the title The Martian does not have any actual aliens in it. This isn't John Carter. This is science fiction at its most sciencey and its least fictiony. On what is now a relatively routine trip to study mars Mark Watney is left behind by the rest of his crew during an evacuation. The Martian is about his survival. It's also about his rescue. The crew, consisting of Captain Lewis (Jessica Chastain), Rick Martinez (Michael Peña), Beth Johanssen (Kate Mara), Chris Beck (Sebastian Stan) and Alex Vogel (Aksel Hennie), are on a months long trip back to earth thinking he's dead. Meanwhile NASA, led by director Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) and Mars lead Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) struggle to find a way to save Watney. If you've read the book you probably already recognize that Damon is the perfect casting for the wisecracking Mark Watney. The character might be one of the most likableprotagonists ever. Damon brings a layered performance to the stranded astronaut that not only captures the charm of the character from the book, but adds an extra layer of fear and anger that is sometimes missing from the prose. He turns the Watney of the page into an actual person and it is a powerful performance. The rest of the cast keeps pace, though they obviously don't take up as much screen time. Especially surprising is Daniels' performance, which takes an all out heel from the book and makes him far more relatable. There are other changes from the book. For the sake of time and the elimination of hours worth of exposition dialog the science has definitely been dumbed down a bit. More importantly, though, our time with Watney is far less. Since it's a film with less time the NASA parts are brought in earlier and we get less Watney on Mars action. It's a elimination that had to be made, especially to fit in the movie's stunning ending, but it means less Watney. That's actually a testament to just how well the movie plays. If you're sitting in your seat wishing it could have been an hour longer just so you could watch Matt Damon drive around what is basically a big red desert then a film has done something right.  In all honesty the subtraction of more Watney time makes the film work better. Drew Goddard shaped this film into a finely honed screenplay that retains the humor and passion of the book. It jumps back and forth perfectly between Mars and Earth. Tension is derived not from big action sequences (except the aforementioned thrilling conclusion), but instead human interaction and tiny drams. There's a great fluidity to the film that somehow helps contrast the wonder of Mars with the doldrums of Earth. Looking at this movie you can't help but want to strap on a suit and launch into space to explore whatever is out there because it's going to be amazing. Mars is vibrant red, stunningly beautiful and engrossingly alive despite not hosting any actual life. Earth by contrast is dull, full of cramped office space and dreary colors. The film is a visual explanation of humanity's love for exploring even if there was no sound. This may be Ridley Scotts best film since Gladiator and it's definitely his best science fiction since Blade Runner. Prometheus was Scott trying to be philosophical, but The Martian is him getting back to his grounded roots and that's what he's good at. At the intersection of science fiction and thrillers is where Scott hits his sweet spot and it's very evident with this film. He's a master of building tension, especially when isolation is involved. And yet, The Martian is drastically different from his previous science fiction movies. It is both humorous and hopeful. Space is still out to get us, but it's not something to run away from, but a challenge to be conquered. Maybe this is why it is just so awe inspiring. Years of Scott's pent up love for all things outer space seem to flow out onto the screen in this film. There has never been and may never be a better advertisement for NASA or a better explanation of why it's so important for us to explore. Sometimes we need a little great science fiction to know just what reality can be. 
Martian Review photo
Un-sciencing the sh*t out of this
If you haven't read The Martian you should because it's better than whatever you're reading now (most likely). It's one of the most enthralling pieces of science fiction to come along in ages and it's an incredibly quick...

Back to the Future photo
Back to the Future

Stream the Back to the Future trilogy this month on Amazon Prime

Jaws 10 still pending release
Oct 02
// John-Charles Holmes
2015 is a pretty big year for the Back to the Future movies. Not only is it the 30th anniversary of the first film, but its also the year Doc and Marty actually travel to the future, so maybe those damn hoaxes of the DeLorean...
Nintendo Quest photo
Nintendo Quest

Trailer: Nintendo Quest features a man trying to collect the entire NES library without the internet

A speed run for obsessive collectors
Oct 01
// Hubert Vigilla
In the documentary Nintendo Quest, Jay Bartlett is on a mission. He has 30 days to collect all 678 North American NES titles. The problem: Jay's not allowed to make any purchases on the internet. Luckily it's just the cartrid...

NYFF Review: Microbe & Gasoline

Oct 01 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219843:42635:0[/embed] Microbe and Gasoline (Microbe et Gasoil)Director: Michel GondryRated: n/aRelease Date: TBDCountry: France Daniel (Ange Dargent) is an introverted budding artist with an eye for portraits as well as the crude porno pics he hides under his bed. He's small and looks younger than 14, which is why everyone calls him "Microbe." Worse, most people mistake him for a girl. There's the new kid, Theo (Theophile Baquet), who has a penchant for swagger, Michael Jackson leather jackets, and tinkering with machines. He's poor and there's grease under his fingernails, so they call him "Gasoline." The outsiders bond over a sound board that Gasoline has attached to his bike handles. It's a movie, and they're loners who represent divergent social classes and upbringings. So of course they become friends. It's the logic of the misfit buddy movie, and I don't object to it. Misfits attract misfits, but like magnets, the bond between cinematic misfits is between opposite poles rather than like ones. That might be why so many misfit kid movies often feature groups comprised of individual specialists--the tough one, the scientific one, the artsy one, the charismatic one, the one who knows Spanish--rather than people who are identical. Besides, who wants to hang out with someone who's exactly the same? How boring. Microbe and Gasoline are both 14, which is that point when kids want to be (or seem) more adult but don't quite know how that works. They act like they think adults should act, which is mostly learned from movies and TV rather than life. At a costume party, the boys are dressed like old men, and they loaf on the couch, world weary and judgmental, though Microbe looks on longingly at a girl from class. As Microbe obsesses over his crush, Gasoline offers advice as if he's had a decades-long history of loves and losses. There are limits to maturity, no matter how precocious a teenager is, and most of the comedy is rooted in this teenage worldview. It pervades the whole film, but it really takes charge in the second half of Microbe and Gasoline. With school out for the summer, the boys build a mobile home and go out on the road together. Many of Michel Gondry's films have an adorably ramshackle, handmade look about them, like the sweded movies in Be Kind Rewind or the hand-drawn animation from his Noam Chomsky documentary Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? The boys' mobile home--part tiny house, part go-kart--is such a Gondry-looking contraption; wood, nuts, bolts, inventive gimmickry. You feel the splinters and rust, same goes for the gas fumes. From here the film embarks on an odyssey through Gondryland, and the teenage point of view takes over completely. The danger of being a runaway is relatively low. There's just freedom. Some might find the shift from a grounded world to Gondryland jarring. Picture riffs on fairy tales by way of Jean-Luc Godard's Weekend and you get some inkling of what happens. But I felt this change was a charming way to invoke the youthful promise of summer. It also shows just how out of their element the boys are. The parents have no sway over the kids, so the kids have to find their own way. (Microbe's mom is played by Audrey Tautou of Amelie fame, though she's a bit of a non-presence in the film even before summer begins.) Plus, it's all pretty funny. Earlier I mentioned the idea of sameness and difference when it comes to the people we hang out with. This become an important component of Microbe and Gasoline's friendship, and maybe most friendships. Our teenage years are about trying to figure out what adulthood is like, sure, but they're really about trying to define ourselves. Microbe is worried he's too much of a blank slate, and he's anxious that other people are doing the work of defining him, including Gasoline. And we do wind up mimicking our friends to a certain degree just like, earlier in life, we mimicked our parents/guardians and siblings. It's the inescapable fact of interaction. This is all a roundabout way of saying that the friends we love--the ones that matter and that we think of even years later after losing touch--are people who changed us in some way. We take on some of their qualities, they take on some of ours, and in this synthesis of personalities there's something new that's brought out in ourselves and sometimes into the world. An inside joke, maybe, or an experience of some kind that wouldn't have existed without that other person. Gondry captures the way these kinds of friendships can change us, and why they're so important when we're young works-in-progress. Even when Microbe and Gasoline leaves grounded reality, it's all tethered to that genuine, warm feeling we get whenever we meet and befriend someone who really gets us. The boys made a sweet ride, but not a saccharine one.
Review: Microbe & Gasolin photo
Friendship is magic
When Michel Gondry writes his own films, I've noticed that his protagonists have a tendency to act like quirky, whimsical teenagers. The misfit oddballs of The Science of Sleep and Be Kind Rewind probably found a Zoltar machi...

Jessica Jones photo
Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones teases some violence

I don't give a damn
Oct 01
// Matthew Razak
I may actually be getting more excited for Jessica Jones than I was for Daredevil. Netflix has done and awesome job at promoting this show and the new teaser is no different. We still haven't seen Kristen Ritter's face a...
Avengers photo

Early ending for Age of Ultron featured lots of characters

Captain Marvel was cut
Oct 01
// Matthew Razak
We already felt that Age of Ultron was a bit overcrowded with heroes, but it could have been even more so. According to Marvel exec Jeremy Latcham the original idea was to have a whole host of new characters just sort of...

NYFF Review: The Lobster

Sep 30 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219844:42633:0[/embed] The LobsterDirector: Yorgos LanthimosRating: n/aRelease Date: TBD In the world of The Lobster, single people are social pariahs. After the death of a spouse or a divorce, a single person is forced to check into a hotel filled with other single people. They have forty-five days to pair up and get married, otherwise they are killed and have their consciousness transferred to an animal. Lots of people choose dogs, but throughout the movie we also see horses, pigs, and peacocks. Our hero David (Colin Ferrell, with a slight gut) chooses a lobster; he brings his brother (who is now a dog) with him to the hotel. You can earn extra time to prevent metempsychosis by hunting down single people in the woods with a tranquilizer gun. The hotel operates with business-like efficiency, providing scheduled social activities like some bad singles cruise from hell. To reinforce the importance of relationships, the hotel staff puts on skits: A single man pantomimes eating a meal alone, he chokes, he dies; a man and his wife pantomime eating a meal together, he chokes, she administers the Heimlich maneuver, he lives--applause. To determine whom you can pair up with, you're asked whether you're straight or homosexual (the latter sounds so much like business-ese in the context of the film). David asks if there's a bi-sexual option and is shot down--you can only choose one or the other, not both. Paper or plastic, soup or salad, efficiency, efficiency, efficiency. And it's blackly hilarious. The international cast adds to the oddball appeal of The Lobster, and they deliver their lines in an intentionally stilted manner. Olivia Colman's hotel manager strikes just the right balance between clinical, supportive, and fascistic to make her moments memorable. As for the guests, at times they seem like awkward pre-teens going through the early stages of adolescence. David befriends men played by John C. Reilly (with a slight lisp) and Ben Wishaw (with a slight limp), but they act like boys in the schoolyard. In some scenes the lines are bumbled or devoid of actual human emotion, like they're reading a script or they're pod people acting like humans are supposed to act. Flirtation is no longer about attraction or fun but learned behaviors about how people are supposed to flirt, or the desperation of a ticking clock scenario; relationships are a form of mutually beneficial transaction (i.e., we get to remain humans) that's not necessarily satisfying. Some of the best moments in The Lobster come from Lanthimos' exploration of the various forces that urge people to get into relationships against their will. The time limit might be taken as a biological imperative to have kids, or even just a desire to get married by a certain age; the pressures of the hotel staff are the different cultural, familial, and religious expectations attached to marriage and relationships. Any time your relatives have nagged you about dating, marriage, or kids, you have occupied a room in Lanthimos' hotel. Lanthimos also pokes fun at the arbitrary ways we sometimes choose who we want to be with. Limping Wishaw is looking for a woman who also has a limp, because something in common (no matter how arbitrary) might mean greater compatibility. Sometimes shared interests or traits are an arbitrary reason to get into a relationship. Does he or she really need to like your favorite band? Is a 99% match on OK Cupid really a guarantee of compatibility? A number is just a number like a limp is just a limp, and what people share together isn't a matter of arithmetic or mere reflection; there's a kind of private language and grammar that develops between people who are really fond of one another, and these things can't be forced or imposed from the outside. Since The Lobster is rooted in binaries, we also get to learn about the harshness of single-life out in the woods. In the wild and the damp, we meet the leader of The Loners played by Lea Seydoux, who's both a kind of political revolutionary and a radicalized kook. She asserts her own absurd will over The Loners that is in stark contrast to the rules of the hotel--instead of relationships, it's all about forceful solitude. And yet like the hotel, her rules are equally arbitrary, equally absurd, and also blackly hilarious. It's no longer a case of "paper or plastic" among The Loners, but rather "with us or against us." Lanthimos is equally suspicious of these denials of attraction and the repression of our desire to connect with someone else; it's another imposition on human nature and individual choice. In the woods, animals who were single people wander through shots. They're probably better off. For all the absurd and anarchic humor throughout The Lobster, the movie loses momentum before it comes to an end. It's as if Lanthimos exhausted the possibilities of his conceit and didn't figure out the final pivot his story could take. (I mentioned Barthelme earlier, and his best stories often have a sort of pivot near the end, revealing an additional train of thought that's been operating, parallel or hidden, all along.) The Lobster can feel a little one-note at times, but I suppose it's really one note that's played by two opposing sides, a kind of tyranny of logic. During the New York Film Festival press conference after the screening, Lanthimos said his screenplay was very logical. The comment drew some giggles from the press, yet it's true. The Lobster adheres to the logic of its conceit, and maybe too much. But there's still enough to love.
Review: The Lobster photo
Love is strange
I still haven't gotten around to seeing Yorgos Lanthimos' Dogtooth, though I intend to. The blackly surreal 2009 film was nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar and drew favorable comparisons to the work of Luis Bunuel ...

X-Files photo

The X-Files unfolds new conspiracies in teasers

Doo Dee Doo Dee Doo Doo
Sep 29
// Matthew Razak
For fans of The X-Files it's been a long hard wait for our first looks at the return of Mulder and Scully, but we've got it now and it's full of all the glorious fan service you wanted. There's two teasers below showing ...
The Revenant photo
The Revenant

Second trailer for The Revenant nearly as crazy as the first

I ain't afraid to die anymore
Sep 29
// Matthew Razak
If the stories are true the shoot for Alejandro G. Iñárritu's The Revenant was particularly brutal and I think it shows. The first trailer was ballsy, but this one is just visceral as all hell. It...

Trevor Noah did fine on his Daily Show debut, so everyone relax already

Sep 29 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219982:42644:0[/embed] When Colin Quinn took over for Norm MacDonald on SNL's Weekend Update, he did a bit about going to your favorite bar and meeting the new bartender. Noah opened The Daily Show on a similar note: "Jon Stewart was more than just a late night host. He was often our voice, our refuge, and in many ways our political dad. And it's weird, because dad has left. And now it feels like the family has a new stepdad. And he's black." You could almost see the relief and confidence shine through Noah's smile when his jokes landed. Noah seemed to do a whole body sigh at the end of his intro, vowing to carry on The Daily Show's legacy: "Thank you for joining us as we continue the war on bullshit." Noah proceeded to barrel through the show's first segment. He sometimes talks a bit too fast--nerves, probably--but he was charming as he discussed The Pope's visit, which is necessary when making papal dick jokes. It led into a bit about House Speaker John Boehner's impending resignation from Congress. (Boner joke.) The biggest laugh from me came from his impression of a shocked Marco Rubio frightened by applause. The second segment of the show introduced new correspondent Roy Wood Jr., who discussed the news of running water found on Mars in a solid bit about race. (I wonder how many late night comedians made jokes about water on Mars but none in California.) I believe it was Dana Stevens from Slate who likened the late night talk show to a literary form, like a sonnet or a sestina. Though not a traditional late night talk show, The Daily Show has its own format, and Trevor Noah is sticking to it. A lot of Jon Stewart's writing staff is still in place as well, which will help with this transition as Noah finds his own identity as host. For now, the only notable differences are visual--the logo has become sans serif (works for The Daily Show, but not for Google), the set is busier/more involved, the graphics are reminiscent of Sky News and the BBC, and, oh yeah, the host is black. (There's a nice gag, probably recurring this week, about using the words "international" and "global" to refer to Noah's blackness/South African roots.) The first episode wasn't without its snags. The aides/AIDS joke and the crack/Whitney Houston joke both drew loads of ire online, and they'll probably fuel some thinkpieces today about what comedians should and shouldn't joke about. (Expect references to Noah's bad jokes on Twitter in said thinkpieces.) I wonder whether or not the benign violation theory of humor even applies to either the aides/AIDS joke or the Whitney Houston joke. The issue is as much a question of tone and delivery as the actual content. To be honest, I wasn't offended by either, but I sometimes like a good uncomfortable groaner. Besides, South Park already did an aides/AIDS joke. As for the crack/Whitney Houston joke, just remember: when making a joke about crack, the safe punchline, even though he passed away more recently, is Marion Barry. Noah's interview skills could also use some work. His first guest was Kevin Hart, and Noah seemed a bit stilted, downright robotic, early on. He stared at a box of neck ties (Hart brought a gift) as if they were live squid, then proceeded to do some C-3PO dancing before finally laughing off his nerves. Their conversation together never quite flowed or found a rhythm, but that will come with time. In the literary form of the late night show, the interview is often the trickiest part. Noah's also got to work on his spit-take. That's some weaksauce spray he's got there. When I looked at Stephen Colbert's debut on The Late Show, I mentioned that it's unfair to judge a late night show on its first episode. (Supposedly Trevor Noah's first week on The Daily Show should be treated like a miniseries.) But I think you can kind of judge whether or not a host will be okay captaining the ship early on. Noah is off to a good start. And so a nation that takes its moral cues from television programs can finally unclench.
Trevor Noah Daily Show photo
Continuing the war on bulls**t
Trevor Noah had one of the least enviable jobs in comedy last night. Jon Stewart transformed The Daily Show into a bastion of media criticism and political analysis. It wasn't just a comedy program anymore. Some considered Th...

The Simpsons Season 27 Premiere Review: Stunt Gone Wrong

Sep 28 // Nick Valdez
If you've followed any kind of entertainment news, you've probably heard of how Fox was promoting Homer and Marge's separation (along with Lena Dunham's cameo) as the next big thing to happen to the family. In recent years (more so in the upper 20s than not), the series has relied on these big events to draw in viewers. It kind of sucks since these kinds of events are usually saved for shows on the brink of cancellation as they gasp for air, and this show has never been starved for viewers. It's more telling that the event was advertised like a big deal, forgoing all of Homer and Marge's history (they were technically not married between Season 8's "A Milhouse Divided" and Season 16's "There's Something About Marrying") and not focusing on the why it happens. I guess when I finally sat down to watch this, I had hoped we'd get a well written story out of all of this nonsense. I mean, we're looking at a couple that's withstood an entire town riot, multiple opportunities to cheat, and several failed mortgages. So what finally rips them apart? Narcolepsy.  When Homer is diagnosed with narcolepsy (featuring the only funny segment in the episode as Dr. Hibbert notes the family's been on way too many wacky vacations), he uses the prescription to avoid all sorts of responsibilities. Marge's finally had enough, and after visiting a marriage counselor, decides to legally separate. Homer then ends up dating the kooky pharmacist Candace (Lena Dunham) and it leads to cheating on Marge, Marge quickly marrying Candace's dad, and the Simpsons kids welcoming their new predicament. The thing is, I can totally see this premise working in an earlier season. It's all just badly handled. I don't see Homer's laziness finally breaking Marge down since she's been through so much, and it's a shame that we don't get any other point of views. It's yet another formulaic "Homer is a dope" episode that doesn't treat any of its happenings with any weight. You know why? Because it's all a dream sequence. That's right, the big separation Fox has been pushing has been one of Homer's narcoleptic dreams. And when I thought for a second that the series wouldn't return to the status quo by episode end (since most of the series' future episodes laid out Homer and Marge's divorce as canon), the rug's pulled out several times. A "dream within a dream within a dream" bit would've been enjoyable had it been funny, or at least well written, but this wasn't the case.  This premiere has just been the latest in a long line of examples (the big "death" promoted last season, big guest stars in bit parts) why the show ain't what she used to be. I've stuck it out through these later seasons out of loyalty and the occasional nuggets ("500 Keys," "Holidays of Future Passed," "Eternal Moonshine of the Spotless Mind"), but this premiere feels more like a spit in my face than ever. I don't care if it's all a dream, but it's just so lazy. It neglects years of character work in favor of the "now." In an episode that references obscure oddities like the Springfield Atom, the Space Coyote, Fatov, or the one time Germans owned the power plant, it's hard to believe that they'd forget that Homer would never cheat on Marge. Every time they've been separated, he's always been a pitiable recluse full of blind love, and that's always been one of the reasons Marge finally takes him back. To see him do such a 180 is ridiculous, even for a supposed dream. Not to mention, there's no real reason Candace should go out with Homer. He's completely negative, washed out, and bashes her friends.  To do a premise like this properly, we'd have to take time and look at both and Homer and Marge. I would've welcomed them actually separating since it would've opened up all sorts of story potential. We've seen so much of this family as a unit, it would've been a good late season shake up to have them be apart for longer than an episode. But it feels like we're going in terrible circles. If the rest of the season is like this, I don't know if I can hang on anymore.  Final Thoughts:  Good to hear the rest of the Girls cast came along as Candace's friends, but their roles are wasted. Maybe a full on millenial episode like the Portlandia tribute "The Day the Earth Stood Cool" would've been a better idea.  Seriously, the opening bit at the hospital had some good meta jokes. Lots of Dr. Hibbert means that Harry Shearer definitely would've been missed.  My roommate's got a Space Coyote tattoo, so I'm sure he would've enjoyed that visual. That whole fantasy sequence wasn't too bad either.  Want to see more of our TV coverage? Check out our TV Recaps and Reviews! 
The Simpsons photo
No more cheap stunts please
I've been a big supporter of The Simpsons for as long as I can remember. Literally, one of my first memories was asking to watch the show. And if you ask my mother, she'd tell you I'd move around in my high chair in order to ...


Second teaser trailer for Jessica Jones crushes it

Short and sweet
Sep 28
// Matthew Razak
We still have no idea what Netflix and Marvel's Jessica Jones is going to be like. The first teaser gave us almost nothing but a hint at the style. This second one actual delivers a bit more info. It looks like they'll b...

Fear the Walking Dead Season 1 Recap: "Cobalt"

Sep 28 // Nick Valdez
All season long, Fear has been struggling to find its voice, i.e. what's going to set it apart from its parent series and other zombie media. Rather than tackle the endless feelings of depression and creeping mortality, Fear is once again making this an intimate apocalypse. As society begins breaking down, it's also leading to the dissolution of the intimacy of relationships. As evidenced by the series' newest, and coolest, character strand (Colman Domingo) in an opening monologue (given for the explicit purpose of driving weaker individuals out), society is crumbling and only those who can evolve along with the new world will survive. This also leads to the episode's central focus: the duality of Daniel and Travis. One's been bred through war and struggle in El Salvador, and the other's a guy who'd rather not incite violence. For the first time, Travis isn't annoying. I've discussed in length about how much his blind ignorance has bothered me seeing as how the rest of the family has accepted the new situation, but seeing him slowly come around has been oddly entertaining.  As the military force becomes way more political, seeing as how heavy patriotism and dehumanization of the zombies has become a coping mechanism for their strenuous mission, their cracks are starting to show. We're also learning how the world ended up the way it is in TWD as even the military forces fall apart due to sheer number of infected and soldiers wanting to return home to their families. It took even more "I'm a bad guy nyaaah" from the general to get Travis to snap out of whatever the hell he was thinking (and them trying to get Travis to shoot the gun was a very bad idea. He seriously could've hurt himself. His eye on the scope would've given him a black eye), but it works. That brings us back to Daniel Salazar and his torture. In order to get information from the kid from The Faculty his daughter was using, he begins torturing him. But I'm impressed with how Fear handled it. It didn't linger on any violence, but instead chose to enforce why Daniel thought it was a good idea. The series has been giving Daniel more and more darkness as it goes on, and this was just icing on the cake. Since he's experienced societal breakdown before (as he and Griselda fled to the US during Salvadorian civil war), he's figured out torture was one of the only ways to survive. Compare that to Travis and his inability to evolve, and Daniel's pretty much one end of the spectrum. His torture brings us to the crux of the episode as it leads to the season finale. As Liza steps into the military medical facility (and as Nick is trapped within), she's witnessing how they're handling things. We don't see the big picture, but that's not really important because there's a sense of imminent danger from all of it. The military's been using the facility to figure out the disease and pretty much puts down anyone who seems like a viable threat. It also meant that at one point, 2000 or so people were locked into an arena once infection broke. And that also brings the title of the episode as "Cobalt" refers to them abandoning the encampment and "humanely" terminating the people there less they become zombies later.  So after a slow buildup, we're finally going to see society crumble. The military's struggling as communication breaks down and human nature takes over, that arena's going to burst open and force our characters out of LA, and as the coolest character Strand notes, the only thing that's going to push folks forward is their "obligation" to other people and their relationships. Fear's made the most out of its personal apocalypse and the characters have become a bit more interesting than Rick's gang of comic book characters.  Final Thoughts:  Alycia and Chris still are the worst characters, but their combined storyline of discussing class issues while wrecking a rich person's home led to some interesting areas. That's more than I can say for previous episodes which gave them nothing to do.  Seeing as how Strand is super interesting, I see Fear holding off on killing another Black character for a bit. Good for them! Teaming up with the annoying Nick (going through withdrawals) is more evidence in Fear's confident long game.  "I'm an addict." "No, you're a heroin addict. That's the gold standard. Don't sell yourself short."  Just like the parent series, Fear's first season has been all set up for the second season. Let's hope it ends better than Walking Dead did.  Want to see more of our TV coverage? Check out our TV Recaps and Reviews! 
FTWD photo
Whoa, what show is this?
The show's been very confident in its long game. After immediately getting picked up for a second season, I'm sure the showrunners knew they'd have time to build up to a satisfying story. It may have been rough before the Lab...

Screenings photo

See The Walk early and free

Washington DC, Baltimore and Norfolk
Sep 28
// Matthew Razak
We may not have dug The Walk all that much when Hubert got a chance to see it at NYFF, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be seen on the big screen. The movie was made specifically for 3D IMAX so that the harrowing effec...

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