See all the changes made to the original Star Wars Trilogy

Jul 27 // Hubert Vigilla
The Changes Made to Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope [embed]219698:42506:0[/embed] [embed]219698:42507:0[/embed]   The Changes Made to Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back [embed]219698:42508:0[/embed]   The Changes Made to Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi [embed]219698:42509:0[/embed]   Tell us what you think of all the changes to the original Star Wars Trilogy in the comments. Do not be ashamed to let the hate flow through you.
Star Wars Changes photo
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The original Star Wars Trilogy has been through a lot of changes over the years, starting in 1997 with the release of the Special Editions. The Special Editions allowed George Lucas to tweak here and there and hype up the then-forthcoming prequel trilogy. Additional changes were made with subsequent home video/DVD/Blu-ray releases.

If you ever wondered just what changes were made to the original Star Wars Trilogy, Marcelo Zuniga has compiled the various differences in a series of handy videos.

(Personal aside from grandpa Hubert here: I remember the Special Editions were quite novel and exciting in the 1990s. I even saw all three Special Edition films in the theaters. And yes, I wore an onion on my belt, that being the fashion at the time. In retrospect, many of the additions to the Special Editions are superfluous, and others just down right egregious.)

Give the videos a look after the jump.

[Marcelo Zuniga on YouTube via /Film]

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Box Office Numbers: Ants in the Pants

Jul 27 // Nick Valdez
[embed]219697:42505:0[/embed] 1. Ant-Man - $24,765,000 2. Pixels - $24,000,000 3. Minions - $22,058,050 4. Trainwreck - $17,281,950 5. Southpaw - $16,500,000 6. Paper Towns - $12,500,000 7. Inside Out - $7,356,000 8. Jurassic World - $6,850,550 9. Mr. Holmes - $2,849,349 10. Terminator: Genisys - $2,400,000
Box Office Numbers photo

Despite our circle ranting and raving over Pixels, it seems it's gone largely unnoticed. Ultimately losing out to Ant-Man's $24.7 million with $24 million, Pixels is only in second place. It doesn't really matter since Sandler's films always do much better in the worldwide market. And it's not like it's going to be a big hit for his career anyway since his contract with Sony is up now. 

He'll be on Netflix and you're free to ignore him however you wish. 

Hit the jump for the rest of the box office performances for the July 24-26 weekend.

[via Rentrak]

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The Cult Club: Repo Man (1984) is a Punk Rock Commentary on the Crappiness of the 80s

Jul 27 // Hubert Vigilla
"We're gonna have a TV party tonight! / We're gonna have a TV party all right! / We've got nothing better to do / Than watch TV and have a couple of brews!" The opening minutes of Repo Man introduce a couple different stories, like you're flipping the channels and every new show is somehow linked to the last. There's the first scene in which a highway cop gets disintegrated by the glowing contents in the trunk of a Chevy Malibu. We then meet Otto (Emilio Estevez), a disaffected LA punk who loses his supermarket job, his girlfriend, and his best friend in the same night. Otto helps a low life named Bud (Harry Dead Stanton) steal a car for $25, which leads to a new gig working as a repo man. We're then back in the desert where the cop got zapped, the area swarming with government agents hot on the trail of the mysterious Malibu. The film continues in a series of vignettes that reveal their interconnectedness. At first it's visual cues, like recurring pine tree air fresheners, smiley face pins, campaign posters, suspicious G-men, foods and beverages with generic labels (e.g., "Popcorn," "Beer," "Yellow Cling Sliced Peaches"). A lattice of coincidence becomes a series of hilarious contingencies played out like comedy sketches. Not everything can be explained by the end of Repo Man, but those frayed edges are part of the appeal and what make the movie so rewatchable. In one of the film's most inspired scenes, the wigged-out repo man Miller (Tracey Walter) talks about cosmic coincidences, and how UFOs might actually be time machines. He mentions the inexplicable significance of the phrase "a plate of shrimp" and how that might correspond with something in your head. That "plate of shrimp" he planted in your brain? It comes back later as a sight gag that most people catch only on the second or third viewing of Repo Man. "I wouldn't be without my TV for a day—or even a minute! / Don't bother to use my brain anymore—there's nothing left in it!" There's an early scene in Repo Man that's grown in significance each time I've watched it. Following Otto's disenchantment, he's sitting on the railroad tracks drinking. He shouts the lyrics to Black Flag's "TV Party" to combat the silence and loneliness. The song's about the vapid passivity of couch potatoes: we'll have a party where our friends get together and watch TV, because all we care about and talk about is TV, and we barely leave the house anymore. The surf rock score kicks in, and the guitars seem chilly, sad, distant, maybe even self-pitying. The next day, Otto's alone again, shuffling around a shitty neighborhood kicking a empty tin can—trash is the city's tumbleweed. This is what the spiritual desolation of consumer culture looks and feels like. But even still, Otto's better off tuning out of TV land. TV at its worst is a kind of tranquilizer. It presents a model of the world that's not necessarily the way it is or even the way it ought to be. The aspirations are often conformist because television (again, at its worst) is a vessel for selling people crummy products and crummy lifestyles, and if viewers buy into the pre-packaged normal way of life, they can be controlled and the status quo can continue uncontested. (John Carpenter would explore similar territory in 1988's They Live!) Otto's pimply friend Kevin (Zander Schloss) can't dream big about life, probably never has. In his introductory scene, he enthusiastically sings a 7-Up jingle to himself. Kevin probably never realized he could dream bigger since success in TV land meant buying into the myth of endless mobility from the very bottom. "There's fuckin' room to move as a fry cook," he says while he and Otto browse the want ads. "I could be manager in two years! King! God!" "Saturday Night Live! Monday Night Football! Dallas! Jeffersons! Gilligan's Island! Flintstones!" It's not just disaffected youth burned by TV and its perpetuation of compliance. When Otto returns home to con his folks out of money, he finds them on the couch watching a televangelist. Otto's folks are still decked out as hippies, and they've tuned out of reality. That hope of the 60s? It's been vaporized after political assassinations, murder, and a failure of counterculture idealism; a decade of severe disillusionment (aka the '70s) didn't help. The most that the bummed-out Boomers can aspire to is sending Bibles to El Salvador via the tube. That's why they've given their extra cash to the TV church, including the money that Otto was honestly going to con them out of. (During this scene Otto eats a can of "Food." It's unclear what kind of food "Food" is. Later, Bud buys two four-packs of "Drink.") This all seems to be part of the California Bummer, which is the reality underlying the California Dream (and really the American Dream). So many people went west in search of fortune during the Gold Rush, fame with the rise of Hollywood, free love with the 60s, good money during the rise of dotcoms. As noted in Penelope Spheeris' LA punk documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, they wound up west and the air sucked. The dream wasn't the real thing—just a crummy show. The real thing was disappointment, limitation, swindles, outsourcing, burst bubbles, drought. We were sold on The Beach Boys singing "Wouldn't It Be Nice," but what we got was The Beach Boys singing "Kokomo." So angry teens rebelled and became punks to be part of a community. The LA punks weren't really on the dole or victims of a major economic collapse. Many were middle-class suburbanites who felt weird and were looking for a way to release their aggression. That anger may be rooted in the California Bummer and the dawning knowledge that it's eternal. Life in Reagan's America was perpetual "Kokomo." No wonder LA punk is so nihilistic. "We've got nothing left to do / Left with no TV, just a couple of brews / What are we gonna talk about? I don't know! / We're gonna miss our favorite shows!" When Otto takes up with the repo men, it's not just because he can make a quick buck and he can do a bunch of speed. There's an excitement to the gig rather than suburban ennui—"The life of a repo man is always intense!" Hell, it's like playing cowboys in the concrete wild west. There's also a scuzzy community among repo men. There's an ethos, a code, as well. Bud talks it up as Otto does some blow. There's an oath, some do's and don'ts for decorum. Of course, the code gets broken eventually. All codes do. That was something pointed out in The Dissolve's forum discussion on Repo Man. Everyone in the movie makes some kind of compromise in the end. They sell-out or they sell their principles short, but they seem fine with that because they realize it's all an act and it's just part of getting through life. As Otto's best friend dies, he wants to blame society for what he's become, and wants to elevate his existence as a symbol for the world that's done wrong. "That's bullshit," Otto says. "You're a white suburban punk just like me." His friend has been sufficiently kneecapped for his silly self-aggrandizement, yet he replies, "Yeah, but it still hurts." The truth often does. But even if it's just a pose, being a shitty punk or a low-life repo man is still better than being normal. (One more time, with feeling: "Ordinary fuckin' people—I hate 'em!") The punks and the repo men know that the TV land version of normal life is bullshit, and that the normal folks buy into it without question. Some of the punks and the repo men know the lives they're living are bullshit as well, but at least they're aware, and they get a little further through the negation or subversion of the compliant normal. That's something that might drive aspirations a little higher; somewhere above the bottom to the lower-middle, a place beyond "Kokomo." Knowing is half the battle, even when you're losing the war. [embed]219456:42429:0[/embed] Next Month... Because we were so late with this Cult Cult, we're doing double duty this week. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day at Camp comes out on Netflix later this week for your binge-watching enjoyment. Cult Club will look at the film that spawned the Netflix prequel, Wet Hot American Summer (2001). We'll also be doing a first here at Flixist, expanding beyond our traditional film coverage. Following our look at Wet Hot American Summer on The Cult Club, tune in next week for a review of Netflix's original series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day at Camp. PREVIOUSLY SHOWING ON THE CULT CLUB Putney Swope (1969) Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) The Last Dragon (1985) Tromeo and Juliet (1996) Samurai Cop (1989)
Cult Club: Repo Man photo
"Ordinary f**king people. I hate 'em."

Alex Cox's Repo Man is one of the key films in the cult canon. Defying traditional cinematic taxonomy, Cox's debut offered a social critique in the guise of a genre-mash: LA noir, LA punk, Cold War paranoia, drive-in sci-fi, all bound by characters who are deadbeats or whose lives have hit dead-ends. Ronald Reagan's optimistic re-election slogan in 1984 was "It's morning again in America." Repo Man seems to sneer back, "Fuck you—I'm sleeping in."

Bring up Repo Man among movie nerds and you're likely to hear one of the film's quotable lines: "Let's go get sushi and not pay," “Let's go do some crimes," or "Ordinary fuckin' people—I hate 'em!" It's as if the script was assembled from the best snippets of conversations overheard in dive bars and bus depots.

Repo Man's cult canonization came immediately thanks to video stores, where many Gen-Xers and older millennials first discovered the film. While VHS and rental culture made Repo Man what it is today (Criterion Collection spine #654), the movie seems mostly concerned with television as a structural device and as a metaphor for consumerism. There's something ugly about the tube at its worst, and by becoming the new hearth in the home, TV debased the American Dream.

[The Cult Club is where Flixist's writers expound the virtues of their favourite underground classics, spanning all nations and genres. It is a monthly series of articles looking at what made those films stand out from the pack, as well as their enduring legacy.]

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Review: Pixels

Jul 24 // Nick Valdez
[embed]219694:42503:0[/embed] PixelsDirector: Chris ColumbusRated: PG-13Release Date: July 24, 2015 In Pixels, Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler) was a kid who was nearly the Donkey Kong National Champion. After losing the big match against Eddie "Fireblaster" Plant (Peter Dinklage), he resigns to an unfulfilling life of installing televisions for a Best Buy-esque company while his best friend "Chewie" (Kevin James) becomes a down on his luck President of the Untied States. When a probe full of their videogames is seen as an act of war by an alien race, Sam and conspiracy nut Ludlow (Josh Gad) have to step up and save the world from three rounds of pixel fueled shenanigans. Also Lt. Colonel Van Patten (Michelle Monaghan) and her son are there to give Sam something to fight for, I guess.  Pixels may share some troubling similarities with Adam Sandler's recent glut of films (which I'll get to in a minute), but it's also got a faint sense of the good kind of nostalgia. You see, his standard schlub act works well here since the entire film is meant to invoke that 80s "average guy with inane skill becomes big hero" trope. And because it works so well, the rest of the film almost plays out like one of Sandler's early 90s comedies (albeit without the jokes). In terms of overall tone, once the film delves deep into the premise and Sam starts playing against the aliens, Pixels is a lot of healthy fun. Everything's wonderfully simplified. The aliens (who deliver their messages through stock footage of 80s icons) don't have a motive other than to destroy the Earth (or needing a million allowances worth of quarters to do their laundry), the games involved (like Breakout, Centipede, and Pac-Man) aren't filled with complicated rules to weigh the fun down, and the pixelated monsters themselves are gorgeous. But that's unfortunately where the positive stuff ends.  Pixels may be a reminder of the fun these kinds of movies used to be, but it also reminds you of how much movies have evolved since then. Because Pixels leans so heavily on the past, it can't help but trudge up all of the problematic elements of the era it wants to embody. For example, there are only two women featured in the film and they're treated horribly (which doesn't reflect well on the current perception of gaming culture as a whole). Lt. Colonel Van Patten is meant to be this "strong" female character, and she even gets one well choreographed bit toward the end, but her first introduction is belittled by Sandler's character. After he compliments her looks, he finds her crying as a result of her sudden divorce not two minutes later. And the second character, a videogame heroine named Lady Lisa, is literally a trophy the aliens give the Earth for winning one of the games which one of the characters ends up marrying. She gets no dialogue, and ends up with most mentally unstable of the "Arcaders" Ludlow, the conspiracy nut who lives with his grandmother and worships the character.  The lack of agency just feeds into the old mindset of gamers being older white males with social misgivings. One of the running jokes is these guys are only acknowledged as "the nerds." In this day and age where every literal kid and grandparent is able to play games on some kind of device, it's jarring to go back to hearing such close mindedness. Especially from a film that wants to celebrate these games (going so far as to have Sam explain why arcades were so important, and feature a scene where he decries the current violent nature of videogames). It's totally a "cake and eat it too" situation where Pixels definitely wants to mirror classic films like Ghostbusters, yet have a cynical eye toward the folks who might enjoy themselves while watching. It's that kind of self loathing that brings the whole film down.  There's just so much more to talk about, yet so little time. That's why I was so confused when I initially started writing this review. Even after all of this, I still have idea who Pixels is meant for, nor do I know who to blame for its existence. I can't even say Adam Sandler did a bad job because he actually wasn't his usual self. Lacking his usual lethargic attitude (which he starts off with then hastily has to change out of thanks to some well placed dialogue degrading his love of shorts), Sandler's never been more physical. There's also a lack of the standard poop and fart jokes you'd expect because the film's not really for kids (there's no way they'd appreciate seeing Paperboy and Joust sprites on the same screen).  Oh right, I guess I should mention there were zero jokes that appealed to me. While there is fun in the way sequences are set up, none of the fun is stemmed from the dialogue. Also, I saw in 3D and would definitely recommend seeing the pixelated monsters in that fashion. Then again, maybe you should avoid this altogether so you don't end up feeling the same confusion? I don't know.  Pixels plays so poorly, it doesn't even get to put its initials on the high score screen. 
Pixels Review photo
Insert coin to ignore

I really have no idea where to start with this. Usually when I sit down to write a review I'll have an angle by which to tackle a film, but with Pixels, I'm at a loss. I don't really know who the film is for. Is it a comedy appealing to gamer culture? Nope...unless you're still playing Pac-Man. Is it for kids? I wouldn't think so since it's got so many jokes they wouldn't understand...until you see Q'Bert peeing himself. Is it for the 30/40 year olds who would remember these arcade games fondly? Not really unless you hate yourself for not growing up. Is it even for Adam Sandler fans? Uh, no to that either since he's lacking the bite he arguably still has. 

So what even is this? Pixels is a film that would've excelled in theaters about thirty years ago with all of the bad and good implications that come with it. 

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Review: Southpaw

Jul 24 // Matthew Razak
[embed]219692:42504:0[/embed] SouthpawDirector: Antoine FuquaRated: RRelease Date: July 24, 2015 If you've seen any boxing movie you've seen Southpaw. This one picks up in the "boxing movie career timeline" around where Rocky V does, but instead of Rocky we've got Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) as he defends his title once again. However, truly great boxers can't be rich, they have to work from the ground up and so after a tragedy Billy loses all his money, custody of his daughter, and his manager (50 Cent). That means he's got to return to his roots and get a new trainer in the form of Tick Will (Forest Whitaker), who runs a boxing center in Hell's Kitchen for poor youths. You literally can find every single aspect of this film in a film that has come before it. There is not an original concept going for it in terms of story. There's even less going for it in terms of pacing. The screenplay is horrendously light on tension building and this means that by the time the final fight has rolled in you don't feel like you should be there. The conflict between Gyllenhaal and his opponent is so lightly touched on and poorly handled that the guy just becomes a punching bag. Even the sports training montages feel like they're rushed and disconnected. At no point does the movie build successfully in emotion, leaving its talented actors and director with little to grab the viewer with.  They all try, though. The cast is obviously fantastic and without them the film would be utterly boring. We've seen it all before and we've seen it done better so it's a good thing the actors turn redundancy into something slightly original. Gyllenhaal, who must have had a sculptor chisel his abs for the film, seems to think he's in a quality movie. His tortured and enraged performance brings back echoes of Stallone's perfectly countenanced delivery in the original Rocky.  Whitaker also layers in nuances to a character so cookie cutter you wonder how much the spent at William and Sonoma on him. Tick Will's motivations and character are so awkwardly crammed in that he's barely there yet Whitaker makes his presence known.  Director Antoine Fuqua does as well. While the story may be slapdash and contrived his direction is anything but. Boxing matches are notoriously hard to direct, but Fuqua does a fantastic job of putting his together. His direction is visceral during the matches, sometimes even cutting into first-person -- a risk that pays off thanks to his skill. This move uses its R-rating hard during the matches as they're bloody and powerful. It just can't sustain that feeling throughout, getting bogged down in melodrama too often and forgetting we all came to see a boxer train. Another sticking point for me was the almost forced use of Eminem's music in the film. He was a producer on the movie, and has a single for the film called "Phenomenal." It plays over a training montage, but just feels awkward. It's angry and loud and out of place. That's really a problem for a lot of the film. There's a lot of sound and fury, but in the end it signifies nothing (to steal from the Bard). You know you've watched some great things, but they sure didn't make a great movie. Southpaw is a boxing movie made out of other boxing movies and is only buoyed by the fact that its director and actors thought they were in something more. There's not much of an original thought in here, but that doesn't always matter for a sports movie. What does matter is that you get that little thrill in your heart as our underdog hero climbs up from whatever depths he's been flung into. Southpaw doesn't give you that thrill and because of that it can throw a few good punches, but it never lands a KO.
Southpaw Review photo
No punch

It's pretty obvious why America loves boxing movies despite the fact that boxing itself is dwindling in popularity. Ever since Rocky the genre has proven that it can easily deliver the best of what we want out of our sports movies. There's the training montage, the climatic final fight and, for the most part, the tale of an underdog. 

The latest entry into the world of boxing movies is Southpaw, a film that is clearly about boxing and clearly made out of the parts of a boxing movie. Those two things are facts and they can't be denied. It doesn't mean that a good boxing movie was made. 

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NYAFF Capsule Review: Partners in Crime

Jul 23 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219686:42500:0[/embed] Partners in Crime (共犯)Director:Country: Taiwan  
Partners in Crime photo
Jungle of breadcrumbs

Partners in Crime is the reason I love the New York Asian Film Festival. It's the reason I love film festivals in general. It's the sort of gem that you will likely never see outside of a festival. I have always been impressed with the Taiwanese cinema that this festival in particular brings out. Twice since I started going they've done a "Taiwanese Cinema Now" that showed off unique and fascinating films that made me interested in just seeing more

Partners in Crime is the sort of film that interests me. It's a film where kids who live in a city go to a school in a jungle in the middle of that city. A girl commits suicide and three high school students find her. And suddenly they're inextricably linked by this event. The nerd, the outcast, and the delinquent. They would never be friends, but they bond over a mutual desire to understand what could have convinced her to jump.

What follows is intriguing and shocking, portrayed beautifully with some of the most compelling images I've seen on a theater screen in quite some time. Every single moment drips with style, and as the narrative unfolds and the events take on an even darker turn, the beauty of the images creates a fascinating clash. These dirty events are portrayed cleanly, with absolute precision. The geography may be warped, and the character reactions twisted, but it feels oddly natural. This is particularly true in the use of social media, as the trio build a case based on a trail ostensibly left by the jumper. Later, underserved public shaming brought to mind the horror film Unfriended. But where Unfriended spent its entire runtime on that sort of thing, Partners in Crime uses it as just another part of the world, to build up this alternate reality where things may be just a little off, but not quite enough to be disquieting. You'll notice the weirdness, but you'll brush it off, because the execution leaves little room for criticism.

It's sad that films like Partners in Crime don't get the kind of exposure they deserve, but it kind of makes sense. I've probably downplayed the weirdness of this film, because I spend so much time watching weird Asian movies that it's become hard to faze me. Increasingly, it all feels "normal," whatever that means. In reality, though, I think it's as niche as the film festival that showed it. But that's a shame, because I want everyone to see the film. I want us all to love it together, to discuss it and remember all of its amazing little moments. To think about just how clever and insidious its narrative is.

But even if I can't discuss it with anybody, I'll still have that. And I certainly won't forget it.

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The first big Mockingjay trailer debuted last month at Comic-Con, but now the rest of us plebs get to scope it out too. Our biggest glimpse yet at the franchise's big finale (well, until they convince Suzanne Collins to write a prequel movie or whatever in 10 years) really play up the "final confrontation" and "all-out war" angles. The trailer depicts Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss leading a rebellion right up to the steps of the Capitol, but also finds time to give us plenty of footage of characters shooting pained or hopeful glances at each other and embracing each other meaningfully. There are, tar monsoons and zombie monster things? It's been a long time since I actually read Mockingjay (the book) and I don't remember it all that well behind it being supremely disappointing in a lot of ways, so I'll just take the movie's word for it that that's from the source material. Anyway, take a look at the trailer below and get hype for the movie:


The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 opens Nov. 20. The movie also stars Natalie Dormer, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland and Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

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The Revenant: Living Hell photo
Is there glory in difficult shoots?

Earlier this week the trailer for The Revenant was released, the highly anticipated new film from Birdman director Alejandro González Iñárritu starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. Set for a Christmas release, the film is a brutal tale of wilderness survival. Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki have shot the film entirely on-location in the wild, doing everything in sequence with long takes that involve ornate blocking, and using only natural light.

Ambition has its price. According to a feature in The Hollywood Reporter, The Revenant is now $40 million over budget, the ending has yet to be shot, and some crew members have called the production "a living hell." The long takes have been a major issue--a battle sequence that initially involved 60 extras ballooned to 200 extras and had to be re-blocked--but the weather hasn't been cooperative either. Sometimes the crew was working in 40-below-zero temperatures, while other times it was so warm that the snow had melted. (The shoot is relocating from Canada to Argentina to finish the movie.)

It's been a troubled production overall, with major tension between Iñárritu and producer Jim Skotchdopole. Skotchdopole was supposedly banned from set due to poor planning and this tension, rumors that Iñárritu denies. (He's been "redeployed" to a trailer off set.)

Iñárritu stands by his film as production continues, stressing the importance of the approach and the reason it's worthwhile. The director told The Hollywood Reporter:

If we ended up in greenscreen with coffee and everybody having a good time, everybody will be happy, but most likely the film would be a piece of shit... When you see the film, you will see the scale of it. And you will say, 'Wow.'


There might be something to it.

Many troubled film productions wind up being these remarkable works of art. Take Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (chronicled in the doc Hearts of Darkness), Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo (chronicled in the doc The Burden of Dreams and the book Conquest of the Useless), Steven Spielberg's Jaws, and, most recently, George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road. Problems with weather, financing, and ambition led to major hassles in each of these films, and yet somehow they were completed in the face of adversity. It makes the movies seem more passionate and more urgent, like the filmmakers are pouring the last of their creative reserves into the film. It's as if making the movie is a matter of life and death.

Then again, troubled productions can also lead to bad ends. The other night I finally caught Lost Soul, which covers the insanely difficult production of 1996's The Island of Dr. Moreau. The film was initially going to be the idiosyncratic vision of low-budget horror auteur Richard Stanley (Hardware). A combination of wretched weather, the egos of Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando, personal tragedies, and Stanley's inexperience with a major Hollywood production led to the film's decline. The dream turned into fiasco. I'm also reminded of Persistence of Vision, which covers Richard Williams' heartbreaking, decades-long attempt to make The Thief and the Cobbler.

That's the burden of dreams, particularly when dreaming big. But what we often want out of art is something we haven't seen before, and to experience the beauty of impossible dreams.

Fitzcarraldo may have the best image of this struggle to create when the universe seems to be conspiring against you: a man trying to drag a 320-ton steamship over a mountain. It's all so quixotic and Sisyphean. Why attempt something impossible even though there may be no remuneration or recognition for the endeavor?

Like Werner Herzog said: "If I abandon this project, I would be a man without dreams and I don't want to live like that."

Maybe it is better to rule in hell than to serve in heaven.

[via The Playlist, THR]

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Ant-Man photo
A little more time with Pym

Spoilers ahead if you haven't seen Ant-Man yet, but they're not that big anyway. 

The film opens with Hank Pym quitting S.H.I.E.L.D. in a pretty prolific fashion, but that wasn't always the original plan. Director Peyton Reed revealed that the initial scene was going to be more like a detached Bond opening action sequence starring Hank Pym as Ant-Man. 

It was basically a standalone sequence where you really did not see it was Hank Pym. He was retrieving some microfilm from this, originally Cuban general and then it because a Panamanian general… It really was designed in those early drafts to be almost like a Bond movie standalone scene in the beginning. It was going to show the powers. You never saw Ant-Man, it almost felt like an Invisible Man sequence, and it’s really, really cool.

That actually does sound super cool, and a bit risky since you'd never see the hero. It didn't make the final cut, however, as Reed says it turned out too detached from the movie. That doesn't make all the sense in the world considering that's the point of the Bond-like openings, but we'll take his word for it. It does make sense when we learn that the scene was a hold over from the Edgar Wright version of the movie and was originally going to be set in Cuba in 1960 until the time line shifted when Wright left the project. 

The exciting thing is that we could actually see this in the future. The scene was completely shot and edited so it still exists and could be released at some point. Maybe Marvel will do it as a Marvel One-Shot, which would be pretty awesome or maybe we'll just see it on the Blu-ray. Reed isn't saying how it will come out, but he seems pretty sure it will.

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Japan Cuts Capsule Review: Pieta in the Toilet

Jul 23 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219688:42498:0[/embed] Pieta in the Toilet (Toire No Pieta | トイレのピエタ)Director: Daishi MatsunagaCountry: Japan 
Pieta in the Toilet photo
Don't let the name fool you

Pieta in The Toilet is done a disservice by its name. From the country that brought us Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead, there are certain expectations that come with a name of that sort. And the use of such a well-known religious image, the Pieta, makes it sound like something sacrilegious and disgusting. But it’s not that. On some level, it’s much worse than that, because a gross-out comedy wouldn’t feel like a sucker punch to the gut. You’d watch, laugh or revolt, and then talk about it. You wouldn’t cry about it or reflect on your own life (except, perhaps, in a “Why did I watch that?” sort of way). Pieta in the Toilet makes you think and feel, and if you have somebody, anybody in your life who you love, a little bit afraid.

Pieta In the Toilet is about a young man with cancer. A former painter who gave up and became a lonely window washer collapses on the job one day, minutes after scolding a new hire for fainting when looking down the building they were working on. It’s ironic, almost funny, except for what that moment means. He goes in, and then he has to go back. At the hospital he runs into a young girl and ropes her into playing his sister. They both find out he has cancer, the fatal kind that refuses to respond to treatment.

What follows is sad, as he grows closer to this young girl. It could be creepy, but he (fortunately) has no interest in her. He simply needs companionship, as his family lives out in rural Japan while he’s in the city. Their relationship is fascinating, because she is fascinating. He is hard to feel for, except on a fundamental empathy-for-human-suffering level. But where he ends up is fascinating and certainly bittersweet. Where she ends up is just bitter, though that is no less fascinating.

The final couple of seconds of Pieta in the Toilet are the most interesting I’ve seen in a movie in quite some time. After a moment that seems to be a fitting ending, there is just one more shot. It’s brief, a return to a different perspective. It seems like it shouldn’t be the one that mattered, but there it is. The more I think about it, the more I think I understand it, about the impact of a loss on their survivors rather than on the loss itself.

It’s a powerful choice, a potentially dangerous one that pays off in retrospect. I didn’t know what to expect from Pieta in the Toilet, and I seriously considered skipping the late showing, but I’m glad I stayed, even if it did break my heart.

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Japan Cuts Capsule Review: Strayer's Chronicle

Jul 22 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219670:42496:0[/embed] Strayer's Chronicle (Sutoreiyazu Kuronikuru | ストレイヤーズ・クロニクル)Director: Takahisa ZezeCountry: Japan 
Strayer's Chronicle photo
X-Men for nihilists

It's hard to make a rip-off of X-Men without hundreds of millions of dollars to back up the production. With a relatively minimal budget, any version of the mutants with superpowers who have to fight other mutants with (better) superpowers is going to be a less interesting film. In order to stand out, it has to do something unique, something to make you think, "I was only thinking about X-Men most of the time" rather than, "I'd rather watch X-Men: The Last Stand" (the latter of which is just about the cruelest thing you could say). 

Strayer's Chronicle stands out because it takes the whole mutant thing and adds physical and psychological breakdowns to the equation. They weren't really "born" mutants so much as they were "created" mutants. There were two types: one created by stressing pregnant mothers and the other by directly changing DNA. When the stressed mutants overuse their powers, they go insane. (A past member of the group went so crazy that he literally crushed his own head (I think).) Modified mutants, on the other hand, are designed to die. Their powers age their cells rapidly, and they aren't intended to exist past their teens. And since they weren't meant to live long enough to raise offspring, they cannot reproduce. 

Much of the film, in between acceptable-at-best action sequences, is spent forlornly contemplating the end. The end of their lives and also the end of humanity in general. Because everything will come to an end, whether mutants accelerate that process or not. By delving into the apparent consequences of trying to play god, it makes for an interesting discussion piece. I don't know that it's "profound," but it was a valiant attempt to even try. The effects are meh. The action is low key. Characters across the board change motivations on a dime and are impossible to keep track of. But through it all is that constant reminder: We will all die someday. And that oh-so-bleak take on an overused conceit makes Strayer's Chronicle worth seeing.

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NYAFF Capsule Review: Kabukicho Love Hotel

Jul 22 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219626:42495:0[/embed] Kabukicho Love Hotel (Sayonara Kabukicho | さよなら歌舞伎町)Director: Ryuichi HirokiCountry: Japan 
Kabukicho Love Hotel photo
No hope for the hopeless

When director Ryuichi Hiroki came out to introduce Kabukicho Love Hotel, he said something to the effect of, “Please stay through the credits. After the credits, you will see some hope.” It wasn’t really advice so much as it was a warning: “You’re about to watch something that is going to crush your spirits.”

I’m glad he said that, because it gave me time to prepare. It also made me dread everything that was to come. Things don’t go wrong right away, so you have to watch people being happy (or at least not sad) knowing full well that life isn’t going to turn out alright. And even though the credits themselves (not just the stinger) offer glimpses of hope, the movie doesn’t really offer much of it.  

It takes place, unsurprisingly, in a love hotel. Throughout the day, people come and go, and we get to see bits and pieces of their lives. We find out who they are, what they want, and why they’re at the love hotel. Each story is unique and compelling, and it’s the ensemble that makes Kabukicho Love Hotel a great film. The characters all feel natural, so you’re particularly crushed when you’re hit with the realization that a relationship is about to end or that someone is in physical danger. The film uses a handheld style and long takes that give everything a naturalistic feel, like they’re real things being documented. And that’s almost true, since many of the shots were done in a single take with little to no rehearsal. That leads to moments of silence in long takes that likely would have been shortened or cut entirely had there been more time spent on them, but it’s in those quiet moments where any other film would cut that Kabukicho Love Hotel feels alive. Sometimes those shots are exhausting, but they never feel excessive.

You want them to cut away, but it’s because you want to be let off the hook. You don’t want to see what’s happening to the characters. But regardless of what you want, the characters will keep going down the paths that lead to their own destruction. You can’t look away, and the film won’t let you. 

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New Spectre Trailer photo
Meet the author of 007's pain

While Sam Mendes may not return to direct another James Bond outing, this new trailer for Spectre makes a strong case that Mendes should do 007 films in perpetuity.

You just read that sentence in Christoph Waltz's voice.


You have the chills? I have the chills.

Fast cars, danger, an excellent-looking Mexico City scene (assuming that's the pre-credits vignette), and also a beefed-up version of the theme from On Her Majesty's Secret Service, more proof that On Her Majesty's Secret Service has the best Bond theme of all time.

Thoughts on the matter? Talk Bond in the comments.

Spectre comes out in the UK on October 26 and in the United States on November 6.

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Japan Cuts Capsule Review: I Alone

Jul 21 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219665:42490:0[/embed] I Alone (この世で俺/僕だけ | Kono yo de ore/Boku dake)Director: Sho TsukikawaCountry: Japan 
I Alone Review photo
Save the baby

I Alone is a film about a lot of things. It's about political corruption and kidnapping, sure, but it's also about responsibility and staying true to one's own beliefs. It's about fighting until the bitter end, because if you persevere, you will overcome. (Probably.)

It starts innocuously enough: The horoscope says that Libras should do things they don't normally do. So an aging salaryman with no social life decides to steal a car owned by a wealthy-type with a henchman. A delinquent high schooler sees the theft and takes chase. After catching the man, they realize that there is a baby in the back seat, in a cardboard box no less. What follows is a zany adventure of mischief and mayhem, involving the brutal beating (multiple times) of both of our intrepid heroes. Because their decisions don't come without consequences. They go up against mob-types in their attempts to keep the baby safe, and mob-types don't take kindly to people who stand in their way. 

The fights are often long and exhausting. These aren't "real" fighters going at it, though that probably makes the fights more "real." It takes time for someone to get up after being hit, and a single punch can take a whole lot out of a person not used to throwing punches. In such an unreal situation, the decision to ground the violence (except for a key moment involving a car) is particularly interesting. The series of unfortunate events is nothing short of silly, but the people who fight until they can barely stand in order to do what they think is right are anything but. It's fascinating, and for the most part it works. It feels good to see "normal" people do the right thing, and even better to see two people from vastly different walks of life do it together.

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GD photo
Heart strings will be played

Our first peak at The Good Dinosaur didn't give us much to go on, but it definitely wet our whistle for something that looks drastically different from previous Pixar films. Now, with this new trailer, we know it looks drastically different. The photo realistic backgrouns with the cartoony settings are quite the departure, but even more interesting the complete lack of dialog. Are they going full WALL-E on this one?

Whatever they're doing it looks like they want to destroy you emotionally even more than Inside Out did. You can guarantee that at some point either the dinosaur or the boy is going to be damn near death and tears will be flowing throughout the movie theater. Hopefully it comes off as true emotion and not schmaltz, but the troubled production means we can't have as much faith in this one as other Pixar films. 

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See Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation early and free

Jul 21 // Matthew Razak
Screening Details:  Monday, July 277:00 PMRegal MajesticSilver Spring, MD  
Screening photo
Washington DC screening

Tom Cruise strapped to the side of a plane. There are so many reasons to want to see this happen ranging from not liking Tom Cruise to the fact that he did the damn stunt himself. Now you can before anyone else because we've got the passes you need. This one is a big one so instead of just dumping the link you'll have to comment below telling us exactly why you desire to watch Cruise stranded on the outside of an airplane to get a pass. 

We've only got 20 passes so be quick about as we're going first come first serve or they'll be gone before you know it. As always be sure to arrive early to the screening if you do get a pass and come back and tell us how you liked it. 

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Sword in the Chest photo
More like Sword in the Chest

Just after announcing their plans for a live action Aladdin prequel, Disney is literally just redoing all of movies now. Why not Aristocats next? Or a super depressing Fox and the Hound? Hell, give me a live action Goof Troop movie why don't you? 

But anyway, Disney has tapped Game of Thrones and Magic the Gathering film writer Bryan Cogman to pen the new film which will most likely still feature a young King Arthur and his mentor/teacher Merlin. I'm sorry. It's just really hard to care about these when we literally have like ten films like this coming:


[via THR]

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Leo gets gruff

The American Frontier was a dangerous place – a time of expansion, genocide and men looking to find their place in the world. Alejandro G. Iñárritu's upcoming film The Revenant, based on Michael Punke's novel of the same name, seems intent on depicting the hard, gritty, violent life of such a man, judging by a new trailer for the film. The long-overdue adaptation has been in production in one form or another since 2001, and the final product stars Leonardo DiCaprio as frontiersman Hugh Glass. After being mauled by a bear and left for dead by his crew, Glass sets out for revenge . 

It's a short, terse trailer, more interested in getting the film's tone across with imagery than with dialogue (though what little there is depicts DiCaprio's gloomy disposition just fine as well). Check it out below and see what you think; The Revenant hits theaters on Christmas Day in the US, and also stars Tom Hardy, Will Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson.


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Bond photo
Sam Mendes will not return in...

When Sam Mendes originally came on to direct Skyfall the idea was that he would possibly stick around for a sort of trilogy. That almost fell through when production delays led him to almost not direct Spectre, but once he came back many were asking if he'd now do a third as planned. The answer is no.

Speaking with BBC Mendes revealed that Spectre will be his last Bond for now. 

"I said no to the last one and then ended up doing it, and was pilloried by all my friends," he said. "But I do think this is probably it ... I don't think I could go down that road again. You do have to put everything else on hold."

Honestly, it's not the surprising. Unlike in the early days of Bond where guys like Guy Hamilton and John Glen directed multiple outings it's too big of a time suck now. It's also a good thing. Mendes does an awesome job, but having different directors means that Bond can constantly evolve into the current cinematic landscape. One of the reasons he's survived so long is that the films have always adapted and having fresh directorial blood helps with that.

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Review: Trainwreck

Jul 17 // Nick Valdez
[embed]219680:42492:0[/embed] TrainwreckDirector: Judd ApatowRated: RRelease Date: July 17, 2015 In Trainwreck, Amy Townsend (Amy Schumer) is a woman who's just enjoying her life. She's got a good job writing for a magazine and doesn't see the need to get into a monogamous relationship any time soon thanks to her father's (Colin Quinn) teachings ("Can you imagine playing with the same toy the rest of your life?"). One day she's assigned an article about Dr. Aaron Connors (Bill Hader), a sports medicine practicioner who's about to go through an intense surgery. Then through some ups and downs, the two eventually fall for each other. Through the synopsis you can't really gauge why Trainwreck is great, and that's one of the biggest drawbacks. You have to be willing to accept the film's traditional style in order to enjoy its personality. But this film's been about personality from the beginning.  I've seen so many romantic comedies over the years, I've been able to break them down into four main components: quirky girl is an outsider for some reason, quirky girl meets guy who changes her life, random man candy to oggle, and the quirky girl becomes the most important person in the film's world by the end. Unfortunately, Trainwreck has all of these components. It's completely predictable from beginning to end, but the film would rather you enjoy its components rather than the package as a whole. That's not necessarily a bad thing by any means when all of the individual pieces are as well put together as they are here.  As Schumer has proven in the past, she's a comedic dynamo. Couple that with an amazing cast for her to bounce off of, and we've got a romantic comedy more grounded than anything in years past. Her charm just oozes off the screen and effects the rest of the cast. Everyone in the film has such a natural chemistry it makes Apatow's tendency to run his films a bit long all the more bearable. In fact, I wish there was more of her conversations with Brie Larsen as Amy's sister. There are a bunch of scenes between the two where Brie cracks a laugh, and you can tell that it wasn't an intentional one. It's the little things like that which give the film a lot of character. Something that's always hollow in these romantic comedies. Speaking of chemistry, Schumer and Hader are magnetic. While Hader's character could use more development, Hader fills the role with enough quirk that it elevates it from the material. Schumer's script is amazingly put together too. While there're some jokes that don't work, and Judd Apatow's direction does seep through and you notice a few bits that could've been cut for time (and because they weren't really funny), when the two meet in the middle they knock it out of the park. Like John Cena and Lebron James, for instance. A typical quality of an Apatow directed film are the numerous celebrity cameos from folks you wouldn't usually see in a movie like this. While a bunch of unfunny cameos are here in spades, Cena and James are almost too perfect. As the two fill the conventional "bad bro date" and "quirky guy's best friend," Schumer's writing mixed with their surprising talent completely blindsides. James' acting may be a bit stilted, but he gets the best lines in the film (my personal favorite being a Kanye West riff), and I can't tell you how many times I laughed at John Cena. That guy has a future in comedy. Also, if you wanted to see him naked here's your chance.  Trainwreck is somehow both traditional and unconventional. I don't know how the film managed to find a perfect balance between being an entertaining comedy while still dealing an effective romantic push, but there's so much charm it's easy to write off a lot of the film's technical issues. Normally I'm so jaded with films like these, so I would've torn into how much like other movies it is. But it's not. It's sort of the anti-27 Dresses.  Maybe it's Amy Schumer's persona, or maybe it's how down to Earth it all feels, but when I saw Schumer dancing as a grand romantic gesture at Trainwreck's end (so predictable, I told you), I couldn't help but fall in love with her myself. 
Trainwreck Review photo
John Cena has a great ass

Whether or not you're a fan of her comedy, Amy Schumer is not going anywhere. Comedy's current "It" girl, Schumer's earned all of the accolades through her comedy specials and often hilarious television show, Inside Amy Schumer. When I first learned she was teaming up with Judd Apatow on a non-traditional romantic comedy, I was ecstatic. Schumer definitely doesn't fit into the conventional romantic lead mold, and I couldn't wait to see how her writing held together in long form work. 

Trainwreck may not be total reinvention of the romantic comedy, but it's the most entertaining one of some time. It's as far from an actual train wreck as possible. 

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See Pixels early and free

Jul 17 // Matthew Razak
Washington, DC Screening:   AMC MazzaTuesday, July 217:00pm Baltimore, MD Screening: AMC White MarshTuesday, July 217:00pm Norfolk, VA Screening: AMC LynnhavenTuesday, July 217:00pm
Screenings photo
DC, Norfolk and Baltimore screenings

I'm not quite sure I'm all that excited for Pixels. Aside from the nostalgia going there really isn't much driving me to the film. It looks like it could have been done far better by far funnier people, but maybe I'm totally wrong. You should find out by seeing the movie for free and coming back and telling me.

Just head below to grab passes to one of three screenings. Click the link, print and show up early and you should be in. 

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Review: Ant-Man

Jul 17 // Matthew Razak
[embed]219677:42491:0[/embed] Ant-ManDirector: Peyton ReedRelease Date: July 17, 2015 Rated: PG-13  Ant-Man might be the most divergent from the original Marvel comic yet. Instead of focusing on the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the movie skips over to the modern iteration: Scott Lang (Paul Rudd). As Pym, and his then wife The Wasp, were two founding members of the Avengers in the comics this is kind of a big deal, but it's what you get when you can't roll out a movie based on a shrinking superhero until you've established everything you do is going to be a hit. Marvel has done that and so we get an up-to-date Ant-Man, and Pym's daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), instead of Pym. That doesn't mean Pym was never Ant-Man nor that there was no Wasp. The movie picks up in the past as Pym quits his superhero heroics for the then new S.H.I.E.L.D. after the death of his wife and vows to hide the technologies that allow him to shrink and control ants. Jump forward to modern day and we find Lang just getting out of prison and unable to find a job so he goes on one more heist... and steals the Ant-Man suit. Meanwhile, Pym has been forced out of the technology company he runs and his predecessor Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) has finally, after years of denial from Pym, discovered how to shrink people. He's built a suit called the Yellowjacket. The only way to stop him from misusing this power? Steal it. There, my friends, you have a set up for a heist movie, and for the most part this heist works. It's a fun and enjoyable romp highlighted by the great use of Ant-Man's powers throughout. Though his powers cause some of the movie's problems. Any good heist movie is pretty complex, but with Ant-Man's abilities it kind of simplifies things down. The rest of the gang (including T.I. and Michael Peña) seem to be there more for comic relief and to fill a heist movie quota than anything else. The heist itself isn't that clever either as it plays out in a very straight forward manner that you don't see very often in modern heist films. There's no Now You See Me twist coming with this one. The movie does feature a heavier dose of comedy than other Marvel films. This one is very in line with modern heist films that incorporate a humorous gang into the proceedings to liven things up. Plus, you've got Rudd, who delivers his normal comedic talents to the proceedings. This makes Ant-Man easily the lightest of the Marvel films and probably the funniest, though Guardians is right there with it. The problem with the film's focus on traditional heist film tactics is that it trips into cliche constantly. There's a training montage, and a planning montage and a group of stereotypical teammates. Ironically by differentiating itself from other Marvel films it becomes more generic as a whole.  What's great is that it doesn't especially matter because the fun comes straight from the superpowers. Ant-Man's abilities are so unique in comparison to the rest of the heroes out there that it gives a new spin to things. The action is impressively done and uses the shrinking/growing dynamic in some really awesome ways. The final fight between Ant-Man and Yellowjacket is especially well done as they shrink and grow in and out of a variety of locations. Director Peyton Reed did a really admirable job putting the scenes together with just the right amount of comedy mixed into the fight. I'd still rather see what Edgar Wright could have done (he does get screenwriting credit), but Reed does some very cool things here that turn a very straightforward heist into something awesome. One of the possible holdovers from Wright's time is just how referential this movie is to the history of heist films. It is often an homage to the classics of the genre. There's a train fight sequence hearkening back to train robbery westerns, a little Mission: Impossible thrown in, some subtle references to Ocean's Eleven and plenty more for those who know their heist movie history. While other Marvel films have given nods to their respective genres, Ant-Man is by far the most meta of them all. I half expected Rudd to pull a Deadpool and talk to the camera at some point.  Sadly, one of the other effects of Wright leaving is that the story isn't as fleshed out as it should be. At points it feels rushed, as a condensed production schedule would make it. This is especially true of the character Hope, who was created specifically for the film, and creates one of the film's most blatant plot holes. She's a trained fighter who knows how to use the suit thanks to her dad, but we can't have her using it because Lang needs to be Ant-Man. They wrote themselves into a corner with the issue and use the excuse that her father doesn't want her using it to make sure she doesn't. It feels even more forced thanks to the first end credit sequence in which (spoilers) her father shows her the Wasp suit he was working on with her mother (end spoilers). One wonders if Wright had been allowed to finish his version if this pretty sexist problem would still be around.  What really works about Ant-Man, and what keeps its problems at bay is that it's small and and practically immaterial. Much like the hero himself, the film is incredibly micro. It, for the most part, ditches the wider Marvel universes and focuses on fun and adventure. It's not the bloated, overwhelming Age of Ultron and its not the completely disconnected Iron Man 3. It's exactly what the MCU needs right now: a creative dose of fun. 
Ant-Man Review photo
Shrinking down the MCU

Marvel has a problem on their hands with the MCU. They've got a cohesive style that can make all the Marvel films feel very similar. The way they've attempted to address this is to deliver movies that are stylistically similar, but are couched in different genres. Yes, they all involve superheroes, but they inhabit other genres like space opera (Guardians of the Galaxy), buddy cop (Iron Man 3), fantasy (Thor: The Dark World) and even a war movie. (Captain America: The First Avenger). 

With Ant-Man (Who?) they're tackling a new genre: the heist movie. 

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See Southpaw early and free

Jul 16 // Matthew Razak
Screening Details:   Monday, July 20  7:30 p.m.Regal Gallery Place
Washington DC screening

Update: Looks like some streams got crossed (never cross the streams) and location was wrong. Updated info below. 

Did you catch Eminem talking with Stephen Colbert on public access? He was there to promote Southpaw, a movie in which Jake Gyllenhal is really jacked. That should be motivation enough, but you could also see it because you've got some free passes.

Grab them at the link below and each the boxing goodness. Make sure to come back and tell us what you thought too. That's super important. Finally, get there early so you get seats.

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Comic Book Movies 101: Ant-Man

Jul 16 // Matt Liparota
Don't get too antsy. Ha ha. Ha. Get it?

With comic book movies, it’s not always easy keeping up with all the influences and references that the filmmakers draw upon from the wealth of source material. Comic Movies 101 serves as a primer for newcomers to the movies and a refresher for fans. 

Ant-Man is arguably Marvel's riskiest move to date. Based on a longstanding character who's been considered C-list for years, Ant-Man as a film property largely exists because of Edgar Wright, who lobbied for the chance to lend his quirky, unique vision to the character for years – even predating the concept of the "Marvel Cinematic Universe." When Marvel finally bit and brought Wright aboard to bring his vision of the shrinking hero into their shared mega-franchise, it was a coup on the level of getting Joss Whedon to direct Avengers – Ant-Man might not be a character with a lot of cultural cache, but the director's reputation and following would be enough to get some curious moviegoers into seats. Of course, since Wright's high-profile departure from the project in May 2014, the movie has been more a subject of skepticism than anticipation, with many wondering if the big shakeup would mean Ant-Man ends up being Marvel Studios' first high-profile bomb.

That said, the time is here to finally find out the answer to that question, and if you're planning on checking it out this weekend you might need a quick lesson (or refresher) on who these characters are. Sit back, strap in and relax: We've got your back, and we'll try our best to boil the complex history of these characters down to the highlights.

Henry "Hank" Pym, aka Ant-Man, aka Giant-Man, aka Goliath, aka Yellowjacket, aka Wasp

First appearance: Tales to Astonish #27 (1962), created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby

Who is he? After discovering an unusual set of subatomic particles, Hank Pym found that he could combine these "Pym Particles" with certain serums to create formulas that altered an object's size. Testing them on himself, he winds up trapped in an anthill, which inspires him to study the insects. This leads to the creation of a cybernetic helmet that allows Pym to communicate with and control ants. So basically he can talk to bugs, shrink real small, and grow real big (with some attendant strength abilities thrown in for good measure). Naturally, he decides to use these abilities in tandem to become the superhero known as Ant-Man. He partners with socialite Janet Van Dyne, who becomes a superheroine known as The Wasp. The two, often romantically linked, are later founding members of the Avengers.

Despite being one of the earliest heroes of the Marvel Universe and comics legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby having a hand in his creation, Hank Pym is something of an also-ran. His most notable character trait is his crippling self-loathing and feelings of inadequacy next to heroes like Thor and Iron Man. Over the years, this has led to him adopting a near-revolving door of superhero identities, all variations on the "guy who can grow really big, shrink really small and talks to bugs" theme – Giant-Man, Golaith, Yellowjacket (for a time when Janet was believed to be dead, he took on the Wasp identity as well). 

Those feelings of inadequacy certainly aren't helped by his most notable contribution to the Marvel Universe – the villainous robot Ultron. The fact that Pym accidentally created artificial intelligence that's constantly trying to destroy his friends in the Avengers (as well as humanity as a whole) is a lot to handle, and naturally the dude has had a rough go of it since then. This eventually culminated in a full-on mental breakdown in which he strikes his then-wife Janet, who subsequently divorces him. He's also expelled from the Avengers for his trouble (and gained a reputation that's dogged him ever since). Since then, Pym has sort of rotated in and out of prominence in the Marvel Universe, serving on the Avengers off and on, but he's never quite been able to shake the stigma that he's kind of a lame, sadsack jerk.

More recently, Pym led a splinter team of Avengers – made up of various forms of artificial intelligence – in the short-lived Avengers A.I. series, which spun out of Age of Ultron (the comic, obviously, not the movie). That book saw Pym and his team striving to stop a rogue AI from destroying humanity, as well as navigating the question of whether artificial life was truly "alive." Most recently, Pym-as-Yellowjacket was involved in the lead-up to Secret Wars, Marvel's currently-running mega-crossover which destroyed and (at least temporarily) remade the entire universe, discovering that the ancient and powerful Beyonders are the ones behind the mystery of various worlds of the Marvel multiverse crashing into each other.

Most most recently, Hank Pym appeared in the Avengers: Rage of Ultron original graphic novel by Rick Remender and Jerome Opena. That book was all about the complex relationship between Pym and his robot creation, and ended with the hero merging with an early iteration of Ultron and flying off into space. Marvel has confirmed that this story "counts" – as in it takes place within the official continuity of the rest of Marvel's comics line – but it's not yet known where this takes place in the grand scheme of things or what that merging actually means for either character. Since Pym appeared all human and whatnot just before the onset of Secret Wars, safe money is on all of this happening sometime after that event wraps up.

Portrayed in the movie by Michael Douglas, it seems unlikely that Ant-Man will delve too far into all of this backstory, though it's possible some of it may be intimated through flashback. Whether the Pym will have had any kind of history as a superhero at all in the Marvel Cinematic Universe remains to be seen.

Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man

First appearance: Avengers #181 (1979), created by David Michelinie and John Byrne

Who is he? Reformed thief Scott Lang was living on the straight-and-narrow – after a stint in prison, he'd turned his life around with a job with Stark International, even helping Tony Stark himself install a new security system in Avengers Mansion.That was all jim dandy until he discovered that his daughter, Cassie, was dying of a rare heart condition. Desperate, he broke into Avengers Mansion and stole Hank Pym's Ant-Man gear, hoping to use it to enlist the help of Dr. Erica Sondheim, a heart surgeon capable of helping his daughter. Of course, this being comics, Lang discovered that Sondheim was being held hostage by Darren Cross, a billionaire-turned-monstrous-supervillain stealing hearts to fuel his superpowers. Lang stopped Cross and saved Sondheim, who in turn saved Cassie. Pym, at using the Yellowjacket, overlooked Lang's theft considering the circumstances and condoned his continued use of the Ant-Man identity, provided he use his abilities only for good.

So Lang acted as the second Ant-Man for years, serving as a respected member of the Avengers and assisting them on various adventures. At one point he also served as a replacement leader for the Fantastic Four when several members were trapped in the Negative Zone. His daughter Cassie lived with him for much of this time, though she eventually moved in with her mother and stepfather when they feared that being around the superhero lifestyle was too dangerous for a young girl.

And perhaps they were right – at the start of the divisive "Avengers Disassembled" storyline, Scott is the first Avenger taken down by the machinations of an unstable Scarlet Witch, killed in an explosion. This being comics, though, it didn't stick. A few years later, Cassie – now a superheroine in her own right, the shape-changing Stature – traveled back in time to rescue her father at the moment of the explosion, saving her father without altering history. Cassie was killed in an ensuing battle with Doctor Doom, leaving Scott broken, angry and vowing revenge on the supervillain. 

He got his chance not long after. Appointed as a stand-in leader to the Fantastic Four's Future Foundation while that team was away, Scott decided to use the abilities and resources of the school's students to take down Doctor Doom and exact revenge, which he manages to do. Later, a repentant Doom uses the Scarlet Witch's abilities to resurrect Cassie and atone for his crime.

After Cassie's return, her mother moves her to Miami to keep her away from the superheroic madness in New York City. Hoping to reconnect with the daughter he thought he'd lost, Lang turns down a lucrative job as Tony Stark's head of security in order to set-up shop in Florida, where he can stay close to his family.

Portrayed by Paul Rudd in the movie, Lang's story in Ant-Man seems to follow his comics origin relatively closely, if not exactly. Scott's past as an incarcerated thief appears to have been preserved, as has his relationship with his daughter. The only notable change seems to be that Scott is recruited by Pym to become Ant-Man, rather than stealing the tech himself.

Darren Cross 

First Appearance: Marvel Premiere #47 (1979), created by David Michelinie and John Byrne

Who is he? In the comics, Darren Cross is your run-of-the-mill executive-turned-supervillain. Cross, millionaire founder of Cross Technological Enterprises, is diagnosed with a rare heart. To survive, he uses an experimental pacemaker which mutates him and gives him superpowers – the catch is that using those powers destroys his heart. He captures heart surgeon Erica Sondheim to replace his heart while capturing "donors" to keep the supply rolling in. The problem he runs into is the fact that newly-minted Scott Lang was seeking Sondheim's help in order to save his daughter's life. The ensuing battle leaves Cross supposedly dead – although this year's new Ant-Man series by Nick Spencer and Ramon Rosanas revealed that Cross' son Augustine saved his father in cryogenic stasis, kidnapping a now-teenaged Cassie to take her heart.

In the movie, Cross is portrayed by House of Cards' Corey Stoll. The primary difference seems to be that Cross is directly connected to Hank Pym, who was once his mentor and business partner. Cross doubles as the villainous Yellowjacket (another divergence from the comics), and is Scott Lang's primary nemesis in the film.  

Cassandra "Cassie" Lang, aka Stature

First appearance: Marvel Premiere #47 (1979), created by David Michelinie and John Byrne

Who is she? Cassie Lang is indirectly responsible for her father taking up the mantle of Ant-Man; diagnosed with a congenital heart disease as a young girl, Scott steals Hank Pym's Ant-Man gear and Pym Particles in order to rescue Erica Sondheim, the only doctor who could save her. Since then, Cassie more or less grew up around Scott and his superheroic pals, even living with the Fantastic Four and Heroes for Hire for a time. Alas, the young girl's mother feared for her safety, so Cassie was sent to live with her mother (played in the movie by Judy Greer) and stepfather. This caused all sorts of friction in Cassie's relationship with her non-superhero parents, especially after Scott was killed by the Scarlet Witch in "Avengers Disassembled."

Not long after, it was revealed that Cassie had been stealing Pym Particles from her late father for years, and as such had recently come into size-changing powers of her own. She joined the first iteration of the Young Avengers as the teen superheroine Stature; however, she quickly learned her powers were slightly different from her father's, and could potentially be activated by her mood (rage is big, guilt is small). It's around this time that Marvel's big Civil War event kicks into high gear, and in the aftermath of that she joins the Initiative, a program for young registered heroes to receive training in preparation for becoming bona-fide superheroes. 

Cassie has a bunch of adventures with other young superheroes during her time, including the Avengers. But the next big event for her comes as a part of Young Avengers: The Children's Crusade, the long-delayed finale for the first iteration of the team. Basically, two members of the team – magic-wielding Wiccan and speedster...uh, Speed – are the reincarnated souls of the Scarlet Witch's twin sons, and seek her out to help controlling Wiccan's powers. With the help of Iron Lad (a teenage version of the Avengers' time-traveling nemesis Kang the Conquerer), Cassie is also able to travel back in time to save her father before his death in "Avengers Disassembled." Later, during a battle with Doctor Doom (who'd been hiding the Scarlet Witch away since her disappearance), Cassie is killed. This being comics and all, it doesn't stick – a few of years later, Doom was feeling altruistic and used wacky science to bring her back to life (seriously, read that last paragraph and say it with me – comics are weird, y'all).

These days, Cassie is living with her mother, who moved her to Miami to keep her away from all of the superhero craziness that got her killed in the first place (not that that did much good in that department). It's unlikely most of her superheroic history will play a role in Ant-Man – there Cassie is played by Noted Young Girl Abby Ryder Fortson, which makes sense considering the film seems to cover Scott Lang's origins more than anything else.

Janet van Dyne, aka The Wasp

First appearance: Tales to Astonish #44 (1963), created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

Who is she? The socialite daughter of a wealthy scientist, Janet van Dyne gets into the superhero game when her father is killed by an alien. She turns to Hank "Ant-Man" Pym for help, who uses Pym Particles to give her shape-changing powers and insectoid wings that sprout on her back when she shrinks. After the two team up and avenge her father, they're inseparable – from then on, they're Ant-Man and the Wasp. After Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Ant-Man and Wasp team up to take on Loki, Janet is the one who suggests the team-up become a regular thing, and even gives the newly-formed Avengers their name.

Janet has powers similar to Hank, Scott and Cassie – thanks to Pym Particles, she can shrink and grow at will, and gains a certain amount of super-strength while in that state. Unlike those heroes, though, Janet grows wasp-like wings in her shrunken state, which allows her to fly. She also has the ability to harness her bio-electric energy into offensive energy blasts, which she calls "stingers" or "wasp stings." Janet is also known for her keen intuitive and deductive, which has made her an essential strategist and leader to the Avengers over the years. 

Like Hank, Janet's tenure with the Avengers is sporadic, often taking breaks and sabbaticals from the team. That said, she's always been a prominent hero in the Marvel Universe, popping up to team up with just about every hero out there, and she has the distinction of being the longest-tenured leader of the Avengers behind Captain America. Throughout her career, her partnership with Hank has become romantic multiple times; at one point the two were even married. However, that marriage dissolved when, in the midst of a mental breakdown, Hank struck Janet, spurring her to divorce him.

Like just about every character in the Marvel Universe, Wasp was "dead" for a time. In the climax of the Secret Invasion crossover, Janet realizes the villainous Skrulls have used Pym Particles to turn her into a biological bomb. With Thor's help, Janet is able to diffuse the situation without destroying the city, but at the cost of her own life. Hank takes up the mantle of the Wasp for a time in her honor, but since this is comics, it was only a matter of time before her return – just a couple of years later, she was found alive and well in the Microverse, a subatomic universe that exists within our own. Since then, she's served on the Avengers Unity Squad in Uncanny Avengers, where she fell in love with team leader and longtime X-Man Alex "Havok" Summers. In an alternate future in which the Unity Squad fails to save the planet from being destroyed, the two marry on the mutant paradise Planet X and have a daughter; however, in traveling back in time to prevent the Earth's destruction, that future is erased and their daughter is lost to them. The two still remember that, of course, causing no small amount of emotional trauma for the characters (comics are weird, y'all). 

It should be noted that it's not currently known whether Janet will actually appear in Ant-Man at all. That said, Evangeline Lilly's character is named Hope van Dyne, which suggests some kind of connection – a child or other kind of relative, perhaps, or maybe just an homage to the character. It's possible Janet might pop up in some flashbacks or get name-dropped, but don't expect any full-on Wasp action this time around. 


There you have it; hopefully this gives you a not-too-confusing primer into the world of shrinky-growy superheroes before you head into Ant-Man this weekend. As always, take these recaps with a grain of salt – they're meant to give you some highlights and let you know where those characters stand in the comics currently, but it's also likely a lot of this stuff will be glossed over in the movie. Don't take it too seriously and have fun at the movies. Enjoy!

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Swinton to get Strang photo
Not sure how hoary her hosts are, though

It's like they say: "When the student is ready the teacher will appear."

With last December's news that Benedict Cumberbatch would officially be donning the Eye of Agamotto as the Sorcerer Supreme in Marvel's 2016 Doctor Strange, it was only a matter of time before his mentor, the Ancient One was cast. Rumor had it a few months ago that spooky, ethereal witch-lady Tilda Swinton may turn things on their heads as a female Ancient One.

Now, officially, Swinton stands revealed as the Strange's teacher. What I know about the Ancient One I could fill a thimble with, but I'm considerably more familiar with Tilda. She had this to say about donning the old dude's robes:

Well, there’s no particular interest in getting into something bigger, or even smaller, I just really liked the premise of this and the idea of playing this character. I’m a Marvel fan and I think this particular world that Doctor Strange goes into is really, really, really exciting. I’m really interested as both an actor and a fan to see what’s done in this particular world. It’s all about creativity. It’s not about everything exploding at the end. It’s about something very different. The idea of playing The Ancient One is really just too tickling. I can’t say no to that!

It's one thing to be really excited, but I think that it bodes well that Swinton is "really, really, really" excited. I'm all for doing things differently and gender-swapping major characters certainly falls into that category.

Doctor Strange is sure to give us at least a slightly different experience than most of the films in Marvel's cinematic universe as it should firmly grasp the mystical side of things rather than pretend they don't exist (I'm looking at you, Asgardians). With a race-bent Baron Mordo played by Chiwetel Ejiofor and Swinton's gender-bent Ancient One, Strange promises to be one worth seeing.

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X-Men Apocalypse pics photo
The Age of Apocalypse is upon us

Gun to my head, if I had to choose between Spider-Man 3 and X-Men: The Last Stand as a worse third installment of a super hero franchise, it would have to be X-Men. They only messed up Gwen Stacy, Venom, Harry Osborn's turn as Green Goblin, and Peter Parker in general in Spider-Man 3. X3 was far more damaging to far more characters, with Psylocke topping that list.

But today, all of that changes. Entertainment Weekly delivers the goods on X-Men: Apocalypse with some hecka sweet images, including Olivia Munn as what very much appears to be a comic-accurate Psylocke, as well as a new Magneto outfit, the titular villain Apocalypse himself (played by Oscar Isaac), the X-Men doing X-Men stuff, and freakin' MOHAWK STORM. If that doesn't get you hype, then you can BAMF! your way right on out of my face.

I'm less than impressed with the Apocalypse design (as Nick pointed out: Ivan Ooze, anybody?), but the rumors of costumed X-characters ring a lot truer in light of that Psylocke costume. Fingers crossed she does more than she did the last time she appeared.

Next year will be a fantastic summer for Marvel movies, with X-Men Apocalypse (due out May 27th) joining Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange. Check out the reassuring photos in the gallery


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See Vacation early and free

Jul 16 // Matthew Razak
Screening Details:   Monday, July 207:30 PMAMC Tyson’s CornerMcLean, VA  
Screenings photo
Washington DC screening

When we heard about the Vacation sequel we were very, very, very skeptical, but the trailer actually looks pretty funny. I'm not saying it's gong to be a classic, but you could laugh... and you could laugh for free.

We've got passes to a screening of the film in DC so be quick and click the link below to grab them. Once you've done that grab a friend and head to the film. Make sure to come back and tell us what you thought. Also, make sure to get there early so you get seats!

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Genie  photo

We're going to get a lot of live action reboots of our favorite animated reboots of old fairy tales in the near future. Disney is working on a fair amount of them themselves (like Pete's Dragon, The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast) in order to capitalize on the momentum brought on by Maleficent and Cinderella. Naturally, they'd get around to something universally loved so here we are. 

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Disney tapped Freddy vs. Jason, Friday the 13th, and Baywatch writers (what) Damian Shannon and Mark Swift to pen a live action prequel that'll tell the story of how the Genie became trapped in the lamp. And if all goes according to plan (i.e. it makes a lot of money), then it'll lead into a full on live action Aladdin. There are so many things to like, and dislike, about this news. Chiefly, that it's probably going to be super weird and that'll be an interesting watch. 

Then again, no one can do the Genie justice. It was completely Williams' influence that made the character as popular as it was, so the film's already starting in a hole. 

[via THR]

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NYAFF Capsule Review: Revivre

Jul 14 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219609:42489:0[/embed] RevivreDirector: Im Kwon-TaekCountry: South Korea 
Revivre Review photo
The End

Revivre is director Im Kwon-Taek’s 102nd film. Think about that. Really, really think about what that means. Even if most of his early films were essentially throwaways created to entertain the unwashed masses, this man has still said “That’s a wrap” (or something like it) more than one hundred times. But since the turn of the century, he has only directed six. I imagine he’s exhausted. He’d have to be, really, to make a film like Revivre.

It’s a film about about exhaustion, about being stuck in a rut, about trying to find something to hold on to, about failing, about accepting failure, and then about dying. It’s soul-crushing, and you will leave the theater particularly aware of your own mortality, but that means it’s effective. That’s what a film about a man whose wife is dying of brain cancer is supposed to do. There is no happy ending. There can be hope, perhaps, but even that must be tempered.

It’s a realistic film, or it feels like one. Sometimes “real” and “bleak” are interchangeable, which probably says something not-so-great about the way we perceive cinematic storytelling. You don’t really root for Mr. Oh, because he’s not really a great guy. His wife is dying, and he’s pining after a sexy new employee. But it’s more complicated than that, because life is more complicated than that. He may pine for her, but he still cares for his wife. Or he takes cares of her, at any rate, evidenced by long sequences (often done in a single take) that are particularly heart-breaking. And it works. It could have failed so many times, but it doesn’t. It doesn’t, because it comes from a man who understands exhaustion and failure and acceptance.

When the credits roll, and you’re staring in the face of your impending death, in some small way you’ll understand too.

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It makes the movie look...okay?

Fresh off of Comic-Con, Fox has released a new trailer for Fantastic Four onto the world. It's easily the most comprehensive glimpse at the movie yet, and it makes a solid case for the film's existence. Dare we say it actually looks kinda...good? Take a look at the trailer below and see for yourself. Starring Kate Mara, Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan, Fantastic Four hits theaters on Aug. 7.


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