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RIP Gene Wilder (1933-2016)

Aug 29 // Hubert Vigilla
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RIP Gene Wilder photo
The actor was 83 years old

Beloved actor, writer, and comedian Gene Wilder has passed away from complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. He was 83 years old.

Wilder was a comedy icon whose classic film appearances include Young Frankenstein, The Producers, Blazing Saddles, Stir Crazy, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. In 1984, Wilder married Saturday Night Live legend Gilda Ratner. She passed away of cancer in 1989. Though he was semi-retired from acting and out of the public eye for much of the 21st century, Wilder penned several books over the years, including the 2005 memoir Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art.

Gene Wilder occupies a special place in my heart. Those movies he did with Mel Brooks are all classics, and Young Frankenstein is one of my favorite movies of all time. He's still Willy Wonka in my eyes, a strange eccentric, though kind in his own weird way. I still remember Wilder on an episode of Inside the Actors Studio. When asked what his least favorite word was, he replied, immediately and with barely contained heartbreak, "Cancer." Wilder brought lasting joy to so many, and he felt so deeply for the people he loved. It's a sad loss of one of the world's great comic minds.

Flixist extends its condolences to Wilder's family and loved ones. Below is the official statement from the Wilder family about Gene Wilder's passing, as well as a few clips from his films as a remembrance of his capacity for wonderful silliness and sublime wonder.

[via Variety, Clayton Sandell on Twitter]

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Deathstroke is the villain of Ben Affleck's solo Batman movie, here's a first look

Aug 29 // Hubert Vigilla
Slade "Deathstroke" Wilson is a mercenary and assassin who's been one of DC more popular villains for decades. He was created in 1980 by Marv Wolfman and George Perez for their seminal run on The New Teen Titans. Deathstroke has been a recurring foil for the Teen Titans, Green Arrow, and Batman. Deathstroke has appeared on the CW show Arrow, where he was played by Manu Bennett. It's unclear who is playing Deathstroke in the Batman film. It's also unclear where this footage comes in Zack Snyder's Justice League movie and what role Deathstroke will play in that film. What do you think about Batman v Deathstroke: Dawn of Different Strokes? Is Slade a good villain for Bruce Wayne? Should they have gone with Jared Leto's Joker instead? Let us know in the comments. [via Ben Affleck on Twitter, The Wrap]
Batman v Deathstroke photo

After Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Ben Affleck signed on to write and direct his own Batman movie. We had a little bit of April Fool's fun speculating about who the villain would be, but until today, that remained a mystery.

Over at Twitter, Ben Affleck teased a little bit of footage of a certain badass named Deathstroke. The team at The Wrap learned from an unnamed source with inside knowledge that Deathstroke will be the villain in Ben Affleck's forthcoming Batman movie.

Watch the video in the tweet below.


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Earlier this year, Captain America: Civil War was basically another Avengers movie in disguise, with almost every hero from Marvel's tentpole franchise showing up to beat up on each other. However, there were a couple of notable additions: Chris Hemsworth's Thor and Mark Ruffalo's Hulk, and some fans wondered where they were.

Now, we have a look at what the God of Thunder might have been up to. Marvel has released the short, Office-style mockumentary it showed at Comic-Con this summer, which reveals that Thor moved to Australia to take some "me-time" while he lives in a small flat with a regular dude named Darryl as he becomes increasingly concerned that neither Steve Rogers or Tony Stark have tried to recruit him yet. Take a look:


We even get a cameo from Bruce Banner. Maybe this is when Thor convinces him to go to space? At any rate, the mockumentary will be available when Captain America: Civil War hits home video – it drops in digital HD on Friday, with a physical release to follow on Sept. 13. Thor's next adventure, Thor: Ragnarok, hits Nov. 3, 2017.

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Vote for Bruce Campbell in these Ash vs Evil Dead campaign ads #Ash4President

Aug 29 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220819:43065:0[/embed] [embed]220819:43066:0[/embed] Season two of Ash vs Evil Dead debuts on Starz on October 2nd. [via IndieWire]
#Ash4President photo
Make America Groovy Again

Billy West's #MakeAmericaBrannigan shenanigans have been a fine way to explore the absurdity of this year's presidential race. Yet we have another candidate who promises to Make America Groovy Again. That man is Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell), the deadite-slaying hero of the Evil Dead film series and the Starz show Ash vs Evil Dead.

To promote season two of Ash vs Evil Dead, Ash is running for POTUS. Say what you will about his chances, but at least Ash Williams has a better chance of winning than time-traveler, space cadet, and Sasquatch protector Andrew D. Basiago.

Check out Ash's campaign videos below, you primitive screwheads.

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Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer getting 4k restoration, 30th anniversary theatrical re-release

Aug 28 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220820:43067:0[/embed] If you've never seen Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer before, the trailer above will give you an idea of what to expect. What makes the movie so chilling isn't the gore (though it has its share) but rather its worldview. The movie is an upsetting, psychotic nightmare played straight for its duration. Henry feels real, and that's a terrifying thing. Expect a Flixist Cult Club spotlight on Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer in mid-October. Below is a theatrical re-release poster for Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Additional screening engagements and Blu-ray release information are currently unavailable. [via Fangoria]
Henry 30th anniversary photo
An underrated and unsung classic

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is one of the best horror movies of the 1980s. Directed and co-written by John McNaughton, the film is an unrelentingly bleak trip into the world of its title character. Loosely based on real-life murder-spree of Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole, Henry is still one of the most disturbing movies ever made, propelled by Michael Rooker's chilling, unflinching performance. (Henry may be the reason Rooker remains a cult favorite character actor and genre stalwart.)

Henry turns 30 this year, and to celebrate, Dark Sky Films will be re-releasing a brand-new 4k restoration of the film in select theaters nationwide.

The 30th anniversary edition of Henry will screen at the Chicago International Film Festival on October 14th, with McNaughton and Rooker in attendance. Theatrical engagements will begin on October 21st, starting in New York  at the Landmark Sunshine. The film will also screen in Los Angeles at the Laemmle NoHo on October 28th. McNaughton will be present at the NYC and LA screenings.

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Watch the season 2 trailer for IFC's Documentary Now! starring Fred Armisen and Bill Hader

Aug 28 // Hubert Vigilla
Given the clips seen above, it appears season two of Documentary Now! will spoof: David Gelb's Jiro Dreams of Sushi The Maysles' Salesman Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker's The War Room A Spalding Grey monologue Jonathan Demme's Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense Brett Morgen's doc on producer Robert Evans The Kid Stays in the Picture If there's a third season of Documentary Now!, expect another Maysles movie for consistency (Gimme Shelter?), or perhaps they'll branch out into fellow doc legend Frederick Wiseman. I'd sort of like them to do something like Les Blank's Burden of Dreams, which focuses on Werner Herzog making Fitzcarraldo. An Adam Curtis-style documentary essay could also be really interesting. There's also the "un-making of" genre that's become semi-popular lately, chronicling movies that were never made (Jodorowksy's Dune, The Death of "Superman Lives": What Happened?) or disastrous movies that fell apart (Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau). Season two of Documentary Now! premieres on IFC September 14th. [via IndieWire]
Documentary Now! 2 photo
Jiro, Talking Heads, Maysles, and more

Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, and Seth Meyers' Documentary Now! is a loving in-joke of a show for fans of non-fiction film. The first season of the IFC show spoofed seminal documentaries like Errol Morris' The Thin Blue Line, the Maysles' Grey Gardens, and Robert Flaherty's Nanook of the North.

A trailer for season two was recently released, which includes even more in-jokes for you smart-set types. Give it a watch below:


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Russos say Steve Rogers is no longer Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Aug 27 // Hubert Vigilla
It's comics, so of course this isn't a permanent change. Captain America will be back eventually, probably to fight Thanos during the Infinity War. If anything, Captain America's return will give the inevitable "Avengers assemble!" moment a bigger pop. For now, Steve Rogers will probably just be hanging out with Black Panther in Wakanda, finally watching Stranger Things and The Get Down on Netflix while catching up with season 4 of The Eric Andre Show. On the note of Black Panther, given what Ryan Coogler did with Creed, and I can't wait to see what he does with T'Challa. [Huffington Post via Collider]
Captain America quits photo
Russo swerve!

Captain America: Civil War was a solid MCU entry--not as good as The Winter Soldier, but an entertaining beat-em-up that touched on the difficulties of foreign intervention in the Obama era. The film didn't have a hug-it-out reconciliation between Cap and Iron Man, and its repercussions will affect the MCU for the foreseeable future.

For instance, Steve Rogers has apparently quit being Captain America.

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo confirmed that Steve has given up the costume and the shield. Joe Russo said the following during an interview with HuffPo:

I think him dropping that shield is him letting go of that identity. [It’s] him admitting that certainly the identity of Captain America was in conflict with the very personal choice that he was making.

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Sausage Party controversy photo
Someone's getting grilled

Controversy has grown around Seth Rogen's cartoon dick-joke movie Sausage Party. The film was made by Nitrogen, a Vancouver-based animation studio. According to comments at Cartoon BrewSausage Party animators were forced to work overtime for free and were subjected to poor work conditions. The film's budget was only $19 million. Annapurna Pictures, who co-financed the film with Sony, reportedly compensated animators for their overtime after the animators signed an internal petition demanding fair treatment.

It's also been reported that Nitrogen's demands on its animators resulted in around 30 walkouts. Some artists claim that they were not included in the film's credits as retaliation for their complaints. Many animators made these allegations anonymously, fearing that they may be blacklisted by the industry for speaking out.

Vancouver-based union Local Unifor 2000 has filed a third-party complaint on behalf of the animators against Nitrogen. The complaint asks for a formal investigation into these allegations of employee mistreatment to be conducted by Canada's Employment Standards Branch. Cartoon Brew is also conducting its own investigation into these matters. We await more information and further investigation and will continue to follow this story as it unfolds.

To editorialize a bit, artists deserve to be paid fairly for their work. It seems obvious, yet if these allegations are true, it's a reminder that so many talented and creative people are mistreated for doing what they love. Maybe that's the ugly intersection of commerce and creativity, particularly when so many people are required to make a movie. It shouldn't have to be this way.

[via Cartoon Brew]

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Opening of Brooklyn Alamo Drafthouse delayed indefinitely, there's something in my eye

Aug 26 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220814:43063:0[/embed] It's unclear what specific setbacks the Alamo Drafthouse has experienced in opening up their Brooklyn location. We may hear more about them in the weeks to come. Perhaps there's an issue with serving alcohol and foodstuffs? Then again, the Nighthawk (which is comparable to the Drafthouse) is operating just fine in Williamsburg. Could it be a building issue? Maybe there's an adorable family of possums living in one of the theaters. On the note of building issues, one of the commenters at Gothamist has noted that the City Point retail complex that contains the Alamo Drafthouse is experiencing numerous construction delays. While the Drafthouse may have been set to go, it may be held back by everything else around it. Today Gothamist reported that the City Point Trader Joe's won't open until early 2017. This all bodes ill. Regardless, we hope to have more information on the Brooklyn Drafthouse opening in the near future. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to curl into a ball and watch Miami Connection. [via Gothamist]
Brooklyn Drafthouse delay photo

Aww man, what a bummer. As you may recall, Brooklyn was set to have its own Alamo Drafthouse this summer, which would have made up for the Upper Westside Alamo Drafthouse getting nixed. Turns out we really can't have good things.

An official statement released on August 24th noted that the Brooklyn Drafthouse will not open this month, and that there is no rescheduled opening date for the time being. The key section of the statement reads as follows:

After some early delays, we had an August date that was sticking and felt very realistic for our grand opening. Sadly we've had to face the facts that that date, and opening this month, is no longer realistic. Getting a business open in New York is...complicated.

So, back to the original question: when is the theater opening? To be perfectly honest, we don't have an answer right now. If you've seen our Instagram account lately, you know our theater looks ready to go, and we can't wait for you to see it in person. We just can't say exactly when that will be.

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Angry Birds Movie sequel photo
Money, money, money, money, money, money

The Angry Birds Movie made $347 million worldwide, so they're making a sequel. Are you happy now, Earth?

There are no plot or story details at the moment, but money-money-money, ergo sequel.

I haven't seen the film, but I assume Sean Penn's character didn't die or anything, so this header image may still be relevant.

In the meantime, everyone go see Kubo and the Two Strings. Let's give that movie the support it deserves.

[via Variety]

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Check out the trailer for Guardians, a Russian Avengers-style superhero epic

Aug 26 // Hubert Vigilla
Pictured above in the video still from left to right: Sebastien Sisak as Ler (Landman), Anton Pampushniy as Ursus (Wildman), Alina Lanina as Xenia (Waterwoman), and Sanzhar Madiev as Khan (Windman). This is not to be confused with a failed Damien Sandow gimmick, Smokey the Bear on roids, Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas after six months of Krav Maga class, and Mark Dacascos cosplaying as The Winter Soldier. Emma Stefansky of Screen Crush points out that each of the heroes represent the different nationalities of Russia. In related news, those bear-headed dudes in Russia will probably f**k you up something fierce. Guardians will hit Russian theaters on February 23, 2017. No word yet on international release plans. [via ScreenCrush]
Guardians trailer photo
In Russia, love comes to get you

In the future, all movies will be superhero movies and all restaurants will be Taco Bell. Search your feelings, you know it to be true.

While the United States has flooded the market with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the fledgling DC Cinematic Universe, a new superhero movie from Russia has entered the fray and it is called Guardians (Zaschitniki). It doesn't have a Hulk, but rather a beefy, bear-faced gentleman with a mini-gun.

You are now curious and must watch the trailer below.


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Sam Mendes photo
Next up in Disney's live action crusade

As we all know Disney is on a relentless quest to turn their animation adaptation into live action movies. And considering that the likes of Maleficient, The Jungle Book and Cinderella all did gangbusters it makes sense. They've also got Cruella, a Mary Poppins sequel and Tinker Bell coming along in the next years. Now James and the Giant Peach is in with possible direction from Sam Mendes.

Mendes is in very, very early negotiations, but he could absolutely knock this out of the park. He brought a fantastic visual style to both Skyfall and Spectre, and most of his other movies. This would, however, be his lightest fare by far, though Jame sand Giant Peach does delve into some pretty dark places. 

More importantly, though, will he be able to top what is probably one of Disney's most unique animated films?


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As opposed to the lighter DC movies

The long-delayed Justice League Dark movie has (another) director, bringing the supernatural superhero team one step closer to appearing on the big screen.

THR reports that Doug Liman, director of Edge of Tomorrow and Mr. & Mrs. Smith, has been tapped by Warner Bros. to helm the movie, which sees more mystically-minded DC characters like John Constantine, Swamp Thing and Zatanna teaming up to take on threats that are too magical or macabre for the mainline Justice League to tackle. Michael Gilio is writing the script.

The movie will (presumably) adapt the comic series of the same name that first launched in 2011 and has pretty much been in various states of development since 2012. Dark was originally announced as a directorial vehicle for Guillermo del Toro, a guy who is famed for having both a great sense of the macabre and having about 100 prospective directing gigs at any given time. He was attached to the film up until last summer, when Warner Bros. announced he'd no longer be directing it. The status of the project has been in a sort of limbo (heh) until then. 

Of course, we can muse all day on the irony of a movie called Justice League Dark taking place in a version of the DC Universe that's already about as grimy and dark and depressing as you can get, but the title can be a bit of a misnomer. The comic the movie takes inspiration from definitely had a "gritty, serious people doing gritty, serious things to get the job done" vibe, but the title more referred to the supernatural angle of the book more than anything. Any book starring the ghost of a circus acrobat and the plant man is kind of inherently silly from the start - but, then again, the same thing could be said of a movie featuring a billionaire in a bat costume and a dude from Kansas who can shoot lasers out of his eyes, and we all saw how Batman v Superman turned out.

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Jon Favreau photo
Not a Star Wars parody

I fell off the Family Guy band wagon after season five or six, but that doesn't mean I'm not excited for Seth MacFarlane's as-of-yet unnamed new science fiction comedy show coming to Fox. The live-action show will hopefully take all of MacFarlane's parody charms and then be really good sci-fi because Jon Favreau has signed on to direct. 

Originally the fact the MacFarlane was starring in the show had me concerned as he can get a little vain with his stuff, but if Favreau, who has been knocking it out of the park with the likes of Iron Man and The Jungle Book is leading the show then things just got a whole lot better. While those latter two movies might not be comedies we know from his earlier work that he's got a deft touch for hitting punch lines and making things work. 

We'll see how it all comes together once we know more details. 

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Much ado about a face cut

The Marvel Cinematic Universe was built around the premise that, just like in the comics they're based on, all of the characters we're seeing onscreen are living in the same universe and that characters in one movie could pop up in a different movie at any time, like Phil Coulson across the first phase of movies or Nick Fury in pretty much anything. While there's certainly been a bit of disconnect in that regard when it comes to the MCU's television offerings, that area of the franchise adheres to that mantra in a similar way – most notably in the Netflix series we've gotten to date. Rosario Dawson's Claire Temple has shown up in the first two seasons of Daredevil and the first season of Jessica Jones, and Mike Colter's Luke Cage appears in Jessica Jones as a launching pad to his own series which launches next month.

Thanks to Daredevil star Charlie Cox, we might have an idea of some additional overlap between his show and the upcoming Luke Cage, though it has less to do with the characters involved and more to do with the timeline. Per Comic Book Resources, who quote him from a panel at Wizard World Chicago last weekend:

One thing that I thought was really cool is that in the second season [of Daredevil], we had a scene together and in the storyline we hadn’t seen each other for a long time and it takes place at the hospital. ... Claire Temple has a cut in her eyebrow. So I was like, 'What is that?' Apparently it had nothing to do with our world but it’s part of Luke Cage. The timeline had been thought through and worked out so that whatever’s going on in Luke Cage, which we don’t know, I don’t know, somehow at some point during that show, the next day she’s in the hospital talking to me.

We already know that Dawson will play a pretty sizable role in Luke Cage, at least it's first season, thanks to previous reports and that stellar trailer for the first season. Now, though, we have some indication that at least some of the events of Luke Cage's first set of episodes will overlap with Daredevil's second, though how much plot relevance that will have besides some small easter eggs for eagle-eyed fans remains to be seen; safe money is on a couple of references and, if we're very lucky, not a single goddamn ninja in sight.

Also starring Mahershala Ali, Simone Missick and Frankie Faison, the first season of Luke Cage hits Netflix on September 30.

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Batman photo
The best Batman is back

I'm pretty sure very few people under the age of 50 became fans of Batman through the old Adam West Batman TV show, but that's how I did. Reruns on some random channel at some random time were some of my favorite things to watch, and nothing since then has ever quite lived up to just how odd that show was. Probably nothing ever will. 

However, I'll take an animated reboot movie any day of the week over nothing, and that's exactly what Return of the Caped Crusaders is. As you can tell from the trailer this is basically an animated episode of the 60s Batman TV show along with the voice of Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar. It is thus one of the greatest things ever.

The only problem I've got with it? The Joker doesn't have a mustache!


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Rings Trailer photo
One week since you looked at me

With all of these nostalgic projects lately, we've gotten more hits than misses. Usually sequels (or reboots) ten years in the making never usually live up to why people liked the original. But I don't think Rings will have that same problem. The Ring (and it's quickly ignored sequel) had a good core concept, but it hasn't aged well or even fondly remembered. Rings hopes to update that concept with Samara attacking people seven days after they open a spam email. 

The concept's still dated, but at least the visuals go to creepier lengths. Too bad it's not as interesting as that Japanese Ju-On: The Grudge vs. Ringu crossover. 

Rings releases October 28th.


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Review: Hell or High Water

Aug 22 // Rick Lash

Hollywood is a strange place. It bombards you with marketing materials 24/7, always promising the next best, biggest and brightest, only to deliver on best and/or brightest with less regularity than a really good Major League Baseball batting average (say .400, or 40%). And that’s pure, naïve optimism, to believe it’s that high. There are a lot of misses out there. They keep swinging, and they keep, by and large missing. Hence, with the marketing bonanza and promise of low returns, it’s easy to miss that something even exists. And it’s easy to know nothing about a sleeper hit that delivers what is so often promised but very rarely realized: an enjoyable and smart cinematic experience. Hell or High Water, directed by David Mackenzie, delivers and then some: it steps to the plate, points at the bleachers beyond the outfield, and dares you to try to throw it something it can’t hit out of the park.


Hell or High Water

Directors: David Mackenzie

Release Date: August 19, 2016

Rating: R

Now that we’ve concluded the metaphorical segment of my review, let’s cut to it. Hell or High Water doesn’t feel like a big summer release: it’s lacking the fanfare. Missing are the big stars (though Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges are well known to audiences), the big director, and the $50 million marketing budget. Despite that, it delivers where other films don’t. It is not a sequel, nor a prequel, nor a re-make. It is not a high-powered adaptation. It is in no way a teenaged dystopian vision of the future.

What it is, is a plodding, methodical beast that sinks its fangs in gritty, dim reality and eats. Set in Texas and shot on location in New Mexico, the film feels real. Even ‘pretty boy’ regulars Foster and Pine feel grimier than usual. Early reviewers lamented that they’d dirtied the pair by adding gritty facial hair or mustaches. I beg to differ. Pine, and actor I’m not usually a huge fan of, predominantly (I suspect) to his being a pretty boy, is at times nearly not even recognizable as the less stable of a pair of highly unstable brothers. And Foster appears to have pulled a Bale and gained weight for the film, that or it was happy coincidence as he too (with seemingly thinner hair) appears as a character played by him, but a less recognizable version of him.

The story is two-fold: story 1 follows a pair of wayward brothers who start robbing banks to save their family’s farm. Story 2 follows a pair of Texas rangers trying to stop them. Cops and robbers is not a new tale, so when you find it told in a fresh manner, it’s perhaps, particularly invigorating. The film finds ways to approach the subject freshly, whether it’s in the subdued, sometimes lacking score, or in the clean, muted hues of blue, green and yellow that embody the Midwest landscape, drama, and mood. The film does not get embroiled in kneejerk cuts and editing. It follows logical progression, much like the dialogue follows logical progression. When the local extras open their mouths to speak, I don’t know for certain that they’re speaking as Texan would, I’ve not spent enough time there to know. But I imagine they are, and that’s what matters.

Jeff Bridges plays a Texas ranger

Mackenzie’s vision for Hell or High Water seems to take a page from another simply concocted bit of western realism (or at least its best high notes), 2007’s No Country for Old Men, based on the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name.  They’re similarly deliberate creatures, which is what I meant by plodding earlier. Each step is thought out, and each step is meant to be impactful, even when the action is minimal. Such it is when a dry, ancient buzzard of a waitress orders for our Texas rangers (Bridges, Alberto Parker) you’re left feeling the full heft of the moment. Or again, when some punk kid pulls up in a hotrod next to our brothers’ stolen beater getaway vehicle and brandishes a gun only to have Pine swoop in from off-screen and dispatch brutal violence, the moment works, delivers, and impacts. It’s effective filmmaking. Promise little, deliver more.

The story unfolds in bits and pieces allowing you to learn motivations by degrees rather than feeding it you upfront. Yes please, can I have some more of this Hollywood? And suitably, I won’t spoil it for you. Story 1, that of the good-bad bank robbing brothers is strong. It works, as do smaller moments of brotherly love and character development, maybe all the way up until one of them suddenly gets a little to eager to fall on a sword. But Story 2, while also filled with great buddy cop character building dialogue, doesn’t follow the same logic. Bridges’ Ranger Marcus Hamilton makes connections and assumptions too easily, not bothering with pesky, irksome things like ‘evidence’ or ‘fingerprints.’ He reaches into thin air and plucks out conclusions which are always right. Maybe it’s the characters desperation as his retirement is impending and he’s driven by momentary brilliance. I wish this had been stronger: provide me a cop who’s good for tangible reasons, not an archetype of some veteran who gets this right based of hunches as intangible and illusory as his adopted accent.

Sell the entire story, not just one half of it.

Despite this, you’ll feel compelled just as I did as the plot encourages us to make these leaps in logic along with the Rangers just to get to the ultimate confrontation, the one bit of action that seems assured. Story 1 must meet story 2, in the end. And they do, and they do it to satisfaction and more with enough wit to make it plausible. The story only sells itself short when it falls victim to one more trope, that of the heroes and the villains coming face to face to bait each other back and forth to end the film. All cards are laid on the table, with each side unable or unwilling to work. It feels like an ending added to provide an ending where perhaps no ending was needed. Still in comparison to so many other endings provided this summer, I’ll take it. When I was tempted to walk out of two separate films over the past month, any film that keeps me in my seat until the not so bitter end has already accomplished much, here, I left having enjoyed myself the whole way.


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Star Trek photo
What does god need with a star ship?

Fellow humans, the day has come. William Shatner has shown some humility. Well, no, not really, but he has admitted that Star Trek V: The Final Frontier wasn't actually all that great a movie. I mean, it's great in all the ways it's terrible and in all the ways it's just so Shatner, but it's not great in the way that a good movie is great. In fact the word bad comes to mind, and that's coming from a guy who finds good in Enterprise

When confronted with a feature in EW where actors promote their new project while apologizing for a past flub Shatner gives us the best apology for Star Trek V we're ever going to see.

I got the chance to direct a several-million-dollar movie, Star Trek V, and I did not get the help I needed in allocating my budget, so when it came to shooting the ending — needing a good villain and lots of computer graphics — I had run out of money. Sorry about that. I had to use footage that I had already shot — and spit on it a lot. I wanted to give [the audience] earth-breaking granite monsters spewing rocks and fire. Instead, I had a few pebbles in my hand that I threw at the camera.

Errr, what about the rest of the movie, Mr. Shatner? You know where the screenplay is bungled all over the place and your direction basically turns every other character into not-Captain-Kirk? It wasn't the crummy ending that didn't make it a good movie. In fact the ending gives the best line of the whole movie, "What does god need with a star ship?" Then again that line is only good because the film leading up to it is as ridiculous as it is. 

It's always been clear to any fan that Star Trek V was Shatner's vanity project. An attempt to show the world that he could do just as good as that pesky Leonard Nemoy at making a Star Trek movie. Instead we got Uhura fan dances, McCoy in a ascot and Spock in rocket boots. I simultaneously love and hate Shatner for it all.

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See Morgan early and free

Aug 22 // Matthew Razak
Washington, DC Screening: Wednesday, August 24Regal Gallery Place7:00pm Baltimore, MD Screening: Wednesday, August 24AMC Columbia7:00pm
Screenings photo
Washington DC and Baltimore screenings

Morgan looks like it could be one of the creepier films to land this year, but it could also easily fall into the trap of too clever for its own good. If it holds out on the creepy, all-powerful child experiment theme it may just fall into another cliche, but first time feature film director Luke Scott has had a penchant for atmosphere in his short work so maybe he can hold it together.

You can find out. Just grab yourself a pass below to a DC or Baltimore screening and enjoy the show. Get there early and remember to let us know what you thought!

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Face it tiger, etc. etc.

Casting speculation for Marvel and Sony's upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming has been pretty hot and heavy since Comic-Con (and before), but now it looks like we have confirmation of a major comics character joining the movie: Reportedly, Zendaya will play Mary Jane Watson.

According to The Wrap, who cite "individuals with knowledge of the project," the Disney Channel star will play the key character in the Spider-Man mythos when it hits theaters next year.  Previous reports suggested Zendaya's character would be named Michelle, but it's possible those were a smokescreen to hide the true identity of the character (see also: Marion Cotillard in The Dark Knight Rises). 

Traditionally, Mary Jane is a longtime love interest for Peter Parker in Spider-Man comics. They were pretty much together from 1973 until Marvel split up their marriage in 2007. Still, her presence in the canon, such as it is, looms large, as she still pops up as a primary love interest in most interpretations of the character in other media. It's unknown how much of that role Zendaya's portrayal will fulfill in Homecoming, though earlier reports have suggested that classmate Laura Harrier's Liz Allen will be the main subject of Peter's affection in the movie.

If true, Zendaya's casting as Mary Jane is a sorely-needed step forward for diversity in Marvel Cinematic Universe. Like so many comic book characters created in the Silver Age, most of Spider-Man's supporting cast is white, and Mary Jane is no exception – so it's exciting to see Marvel and Sony aren't so slavish in their adherence to the source material that they're against casting a woman of color in the role. There was a subset of fans disappointed when white-guy Tom Holland was cast as Peter, largely because of the lack of racial diversity in the MCU (and because we already have a great Spidey of color in Miles Morales). Despite that, Homecoming has proven itself a little more committed to reflecting the actual racial makeup of Queens with the supporting cast. That's something that's sorely needed in a mega-franchise that is still largely made up of straight white dudes.

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Review: Kubo and the Two Strings

Aug 19 // Matthew Razak
[embed]220794:43057:0[/embed] Kubo and the Two StringsDirector: Travis KnightRated: PGRelease Date: August 19, 2016 Kubo is a bit of a departure for Laika both visually and thematically. While their animation style still seeps through Kubo is far more inspired by Japanese art and anime than their previous work. It's also their most serious plot to date. Kubo is a young boy who lives with his mother in a cave hiding from his grandfather, who, when Kubo was a baby, stole his eye. His grandfather is now after his other eye for nefarious reasons. One day, when Kubo doesn't make it home before dark, his mother's evil sisters find him and adventure begins to find three pieces of magical armor in order to defeat Kubo's grandfather, the Moon King. Having to set out on his own, Kubo is accompanied by Monkey and Beetle on his grand adventure. It is a very traditional quest adventure, but the story is infused with themes of family, love and loss. If it weren't for the stop motion animation you would easily thing that this was a Pixar movie the story is so well executed and characters so likable. Kubo's tale isn't just one of high adventure, but also deep sorrow. It, like Pixar films, believe in the intelligence of the children it is geared towards and instead of pandering to them executes and story that engages both young and old.  It is, of course, easy to engage when your visuals are probably some of the most stunning of the year. You'll want to pause every scene to see the clear and crisp details while marveling at just how they could possibly do half the things they do with some lumps of clay. Even the simplest movements seem to stand out more thanks to the stop motion. The painstaking creation seeping through every scene.  Director Travis Knight, who is CEO of Laika but has never directed, paces what could be a very dull story beautifully. Despite the standard set up the story unfolds wonderfully, building tension between the characters fantastically. He also has an eye for pushing scary things just enough. Never letting them get so overwhelming that children won't enjoy it, but actually making villains menacing and powerful. Kubo is also being pushed hard in Dolby's new digital theaters where new projectors bring forth some the sharpest images you'll ever see and surround speakers shake the seats. It is possibly one of the best advertisements for these theaters, though whether or not the fantastically crisp picture and blacker than black blacks are worth the extra cost is up to you. I can only tell you that the movie looked better than anything I've seen outside of true IMAX. It isn't what size screen you see Kubo on or how earth shattering the sound is. Those things can make it better, but what make it great is its imagination. It's a stunning world that's hard to forget, and in that world a poignant story is told. The title may only mention two strings, but it will easily pull on all of your heart strings. 
Kubo Review photo

If you know the name Laika then you know they do amazing things with stop motion. They may be the only ones doing it at the scale they do it too. Anyone who has seen Coraline or ParaNorman or any of their other work knows that they simpy do amazing things on screen. So you probably already thought you knew just how great looking Kubo and the Two Strings was going to be.

It's even more so. Liaka's most ambitious work is one of the most visually engaging films of the year. A film that once again reaffirms that doing things physically generates an entirely different presence than a computer can.

But looks aren't everything. The real key is matching that stunning art with a story that's just as powerful.

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Middle Earth photo
What a stylish shelf

Are you ready to lay down some serious money for three really great movies and three not as good movies? Then you'll want to head over to Amazon and sign up for an email alert for when you can buy "Middle Earth UCE (BD) [Blu-ray]." That's they're weird listing name for what is basically the ultimate edition of Peter Jackson's Middle Earth efforts.

The box set comes complete with the extended editions of all six movies and all previously released bonus content (a truly massive amount of bonus content). On top of this you'll get each movie bound in faux-leather books and a replica of the "Red Book of Westmarch," which is the book that Bilbo and Frodo wrote their stories down in, that features artwork and sketches from the production. But the best part (not really) is the wooden shelf included that is "is crafted from solid wood with design selected by Peter Jackson." I'm sure Peter Jackson really put a lot of thought into the selection.

At the moment there is no price point or release date issued, but when reports first cropped up the 30-disc set was coming out on October 4 at a price point of $800. 

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Hulu picks up Runaways  photo

Hulu is bringing one of my all-time favorite Marvel properties, Brian K. Vaughn's Runaways, to the small screen and that is the best news I've heard all year.

Runaways is, to phrase it for MCU fans, the young adult equivalent of Guardians of the Galaxy in that it is full of obscure (previously non-existent before Runaways #1) and lovable characters. It is the story of a group of kids who find out at the end of the first issue that their parents, who get together once a year, are actually a group of villains that run the west coast (cleverly explaining why 99.5% of all the super-villain action happens on the east coast). After discovering this, the kids run away and discover who their parents, and them themselves, really are. That includes one of them discovering she has her own genetically-engineered dinosaur from the future. So, y'know, fun stuff. It would also give Marvel Studios an opportunity to introduce MCU fans to characters like Cloak and Dagger (who were on the same slate as Iron Man and Runaways as MCU properties back when Marvel Studios first became a thing) as a possible springboard into their own shows.

Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, creators of Gossip Girl, are on deck as showrunners and word on the street is that Hulu has ordered a pilot and additional scripts with a likely full-season greenlight.

If you want to get in the know before the show comes out (hopefully 2017), you can find the collected series on Amazon.

What a time to be alive.

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See Hands of Stone early and free

Aug 17 // Matthew Razak
DC SCREENING DETAILS: Tuesday, August 23, 20167:30pmRegal Gallery Place BALTIMORE SCREENING DETAILS: Monday, August 22, 20167:30pmCinemark Egyptian
Screenings photo
Washington DC and Baltimore screenings

Roberto Duran might not be the household name he once was, but the boxer led one of the most interesting careers in the sport. Now, as with all great boxers, there's a movie about him and you can see it first. We've got passes to screenings of Hand's of Stone in DC and Baltimore screenings that you should go ahead and grab. 

Click the links below and enjoy! Remember to come back and tell us what you thought. 

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Here comes Sherlock Pikachu

It only took a couple of weeks after mobile game Pokemon Go took the world by storm for a studio to get in on the action an announce a live-action Pokemon movie. Now, we've got a writing team, which is sure to put some fans at ease.

Variety reports that Nicole Perlman and Alex Hirsch will pen the script for the pocket monsters' first foray into live action (not counting your phone screen). Perlman is perhaps best known as one of the writers of 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy, although she also had uncredited input on 2011's Thor and is working on 2019's Captain Marvel, led by Brie Larson, to round out the Marvel trifecta. Hirsch's big claim to fame is Gravity Falls, an animated series that ran on Disney Channel, which started in 2012 and wrapped earlier this year. The movie will be developed by Legendary and distributed by Universal globally, though Toho will distribute in Japan.

The movie will reportedly be based on the digital 3DS game Great Detective Pikachu, a decidedly off-kilter spinoff of the main franchise that features the series mascot teaming up with a human boy to solve mysteries. The game was released in Japan in February, but no release in North America or other territories has been announced. Meanwhile, although Pokemon Go is getting all the love right now, the latest entries in the main role-playing series – Pokemon Sun and Moon – will launch globally for the 3DS in November.

In a series that's had lots of spinoffs, a game about Pikachu playing Sherlock Holmes is an interesting choice. Regardless, the announcement should put some fears at ease. It surely made some fans nervous to hear that Pokemon would make the leap to live action, but on a script-level, this is pretty much a slam dunk. Perlman's work on Guardians pretty much speaks for itself, and Hirsch's Gravity Falls is a really great little gem that got overshadowed by the likes of Adventure Time and Steven Universe.

So yeah, it looks like this is actually happening, for better or worse. Too bad we couldn't get Danny DeVito, though.


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Holmes & Watson photo
Funny people getting together is good

When Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly make a movie together it usually turns out pretty damn hilarious. Step Brothers wasn't a big hit, but it's garnered a solid cult following, and now the pair are looking to follow it up in a kind of unique way: a Sherlock Holmes adaptation called Holmes & Watson

You may have heard of this project before as Sony had originally planned it to star Ferrell and Sacha Baron Cohen, but that fell through. Thankfully, Reilly expressed interests and everyone's schedules actually work out so now we're most likely getting a better version of the movie considering Reilly seems like a much better fit for a comical Holmes. 

Get Hard director Etan Cohen will be directing the movie, which will most likely land some time next year if everything goes to plan. Sadly, they're aiming for a PG-13 rating so think less Step Brothers and more The Legend of Ricky Bobby

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Firefly photo
Because our hearts need to break more

Firefly just will not die, and there's very good reason for that. Despite only having one season on the air it has influenced sci-fi for years and created a devoted following. I count myself among that following so it is bittersweet that I present this trailer for a fan-made animated series. It's awesome that animator Stephen Byrne has made The Animated Adventures of Firefly, but judging from the two years it took him to put together this trailer and the lack of commitment for actually releasing an episode on his Facebook page I fear this may be all we see. 

It's also bittersweet because it breaks your damn heart all over again with that quick Wash clip. Seriously. Why you gotta hurt us so much, Stephen Byrne?

You can see the guy is pretty patient about all this in the second video below, which documents the creation of just a brief part of the trailer. 



[via Nerd Approved]

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Assassin's Creed photo
Jump around

You know when you're playing Assassin's Creed and you dive off a really tall building in the iconic Leap of Faith jump and then you think, "That could never happen in real life." Well, it can... kind of. While the stunt doubles in the Assassin's Creed movie will not be diving into a tiny cart of hay they are going to actually perform a Leap of Faith for the movie as the video below shows. That's an 125 foot leap with no ropes or safety harnesses. 

Of course, we're all super jaded by almost every videogame movie ever sucking, but Assassin's Creed does seem to be a bit of a different beast. Pulling in Michael Fassbender early means that the quality of the filmmakers involved is incredibly high. Director Justin Kurzel is known far more for his slow, beautifully shot character films than action and adventure so if anything this one should look like something special. A very clear adherence to doing practical stunts is definitely a boon and points in the right direction for us to actually get something decent out of this adaptation.


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Hidden Figures photo
Oscar, your bait is here

If you were watching the Olympics last night you got a chance to see the first trailer for Hidden Figures, a movie about the unheralded black, women mathematicians who helped John Glenn be the first American to orbit the earth. Well, I say helped, but they basically made it possible to the point that they were fact checking the computers who were eventually brought in to crunch numbers.

Taraji P. Henson,Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae take on the roles of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson respectively. That's basically a slam dunk of casting that's sure to get some eyes during Oscar time. More importantly, however, the movie doesn't look as terribly cheesy as it could. Hopefully its more character than cliche and can deliver these women the spotlight they deserve.


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