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Review: The Night Before

Nov 26 // Nick Valdez
[embed]220167:42716:0[/embed] The Night BeforeDirector: Johnathan LevineRated: RRelease Date: November 20th, 2015 When Ethan's (Joseph Godon-Levitt) parents pass away, his friends Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris Roberts (Anthony Mackie) decide to start a new holiday tradition where they combine all of their usual traditions and party. 14 years later, that tradition is coming to an end as Isaac's becoming a father and Chris is now too famous an athlete to hang out. As their lives drift apart and Ethan's seems to be going nowhere, he clings to the last hope for their tradition: The Nutcracker Ball, a secret super party which the three have been trying to go to for years. As they look for the party, drug laced Christmas shenanigans ensue.  Night Before is incredibly nostalgic. From the outset you'll notice plenty of shout outs to films of Christmas past (like Home Alone and It's a Wonderful Life), but your enjoyment of these references and gags only really work if you remember them well enough. These gags don't have much at face value, but utilize that nostalgic work around to get a pleasant chuckle every now and then. Thankfully the film doesn't do this too much, but the gags that don't work because of this stick out even more so when the original jokes land much better. These little references feel too much like an afterthought, so I'm just left trying to figure why'd they'd even include these in the first place. It brings the film down a notch since this noticeable roughness often comes paired with bouts of awkward silence rather than laughs.  We could debate taste in humor all day, but the main core of the film is decidedly within its three main characters. Each one having their own little adventure, with only two getting true resolution, Ethan, Isaac, and Chris are crafted well. Thanks to the writing, and how comfortable the trio of actors is with one another, these guys feel lived in. Each character has a strong emotional, and most importantly human, center that helps anchor the film when it goes off the rails. Unfortunately, there are points when they get a bit cartoonish (especially during most of Isaac's drug binge or Chris' encounter with a strange thief) and the story goes through these weird non-sequitors which only serve to diminish the film's actual plot. It just seems weird to, at one point, focus on cocaine shenanigans and then try and remind us there's a Christmas story being told. Rogen and Goldberg's films do this all the time, but I guess there's just a more noticeable juxtaposition when the main story is all about holiday niceties.  Johnathan Levine, who's directed Rogen and Gordon-Levitt before in 50/50, captures the spirit of the holiday film quite well. The little details sprinkled throughout the film like the trio's holiday sweaters, the entrance to the Nutcracker Ball feeling appropriately magical, or even not including any holiday music to keep it all inclusive, help to make it timeless, but there are some odd cameos that really date the film and will set it back. And I know the trio have to separate to serve the story, but I wish we were able to enjoy Rogen, Gordon-Levitt, and Mackie in the same room more. Each of their scenes together is an absolute highlight as they bounce jokes off one another and generally charm up the place. Even some of the film's occasional wonky dialogue comes across natural for them. It's pretty neat to see in action. I hope they find themselves all together in another project someday. Also, if they could somehow get another appearance from the actor that plays Mr. Green, I'd be there day one.  In the end, there's not really much else to say about The Night Before. I had a good time watching, even if there were a couple of times I found myself scratching my head over their comedic choices. If you've seen Rogen and Goldberg's films in the past, you already know what to expect and have decided whether or not to see this already. The addition of Anthony Mackie and Joseph Gordon-Levitt to the mix helps take the film to a more emotional place than usual, but you're constantly reminded that this is another film in a long line of others like it. It's like that one Christmas where you got a cool Nintendo 64, and you're older cousin keeps telling you he got one first. You're going to have a good time, but it's a little less fun than it should be. 
Night Before Review photo
A partridge in a burning tree

When Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg produce a film, you pretty much know what you're going to get. As the duo have made their way through the romantic comedy, high school buddy film, stoner comedy, old Hollywood existential, superhero story, disease, wacky road trip, post-apocalyptic, and even a wacky neighborhood film, they've left their stamp on each genre with their amped up and perpetual goofy nature. 

Like many of their films before it, The Night Before doesn't want to reinvent the holiday film but rather celebrate what we love about them. Relying so much on the same gags can be a bad thing, but it's hard to mind too much when the leads are so charming. 

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Civil War Trailer photo
Fanfic brought to life

We've been anticipating the first trailer for Marvel's next big sequel for some time, which will most likely also be attached to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so there's probably not a lot I need to say about it. You know the story. Battle lines are drawn between heroes (although the trailer makes it seem like Captain America is thoroughly in the wrong as he chooses to defend his friend Bucky, the former Winter Soldier from the second film), Avengers punch each other, and somewhere along the line Black Panther (who gets a brief shot) and Spider-Man are showing up for some reason. 

I'm pretty excited. Although this is more like Avengers 2.5, this is first and foremost a Captain America film, and those have always been the best of the Marvel releases. 

Captain America: Civil War releases May 6, 2016. Check out that slick poster below too. It's way better than all that photoshopped fan art we've gotten until now...even if the tagline reminds you of Transformers


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Ghibli Zelda art photo
If only this were real

By now you know Nintendo is open to making movies again, and there are plenty of options to consider when it comes to pairing directors with their IPs. We had a few suggestions of our own, though Matt Vince has a pretty great "what if" scenario.

Vince posted three posters on Tumblr that imagine The Legend of Zelda as a Studio Ghibli production directed by Hayao Miyazaki. While the likelihood of this happening is practically nil--Studio Ghibli has temporarily halted production following Miyazaki's retirement--it's nice to imagine the possibilities. The "what if" is really an "if only."

Check out all three of these poster images in the gallery.

[Matt Vince via Collider]

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FF photo
The first family comes in last

I'm not sure the comic movie world will ever forgive Fox for what they did to Fantastic Four, but despite being torn to pieces and making no money the film was going to get a sequel. It was scheduled to release on June 9, 2017. It isn't anymore. In fact, Fox has removed the sequel from its release schedule entirely, finally confirming what everyone knew: there's no way to follow up the big turd they gave us.

This, of course, doesn't mean there won't be another Fantastic Four film from Fox. While the company clearly can't come up with a good idea for the superhero team they'll be damned if they let the rights roll back to Marvel because they haven't used the licence. We'll probably see another rushed, troubled production released just before the window of opportunity closes for them so they can hold onto the rights for no good reason. 

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A hell of a one-night stand

Tons of people have stories of bad or awkward one-night stands, but it might be hard to top this one. The upcoming comedy Night Owls sees Kevin (The Mindy Project's Adam Pally) wake up after a one-night stand to discover he's in his boss' house, and Madeline (Rosa Salazar, of The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials) is his boss' ex-mistress. But after he finds Madeline passed out with a concussion, he must stay with her to make sure she says conscious through the night. 

Also starring Rob Huebel, Tony Hale and Peter Krause, Night Owls hits theaters and VOD on Dec. 4. Take a peek at the trailer below.


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MST3K Kickstarter cast photo

The Bring Back MST3K Kickstarter has already met its $2 million goal. Last week we reported that Jonah Ray is the new host of MST3K, and noted some rumors about who the rest of the new Mystery Science Theater 3000 cast would be.

Turns out the rumors were true.

Joel Hodgson made it official yesterday and announced that Felicia Day is the new mad scientist on the show, with Hampton Yount as the new Crow T. Robot and Baron Vaughn as the new Tom Servo. Day will be playing Kinga Forrester, the daughter of Dr. Clayton Forrester (Trace Beaulieu) and the granddaughter of Pearl Forrester (Mary Jo Pehl).

Here's the official announcement video.


The new evil henchman has yet to be announced, but as of this writing I can't find any info on who this might be with some basic Google Fu and Twitter Fu. Your guess is as good as mine.

AV Club thinks the shadow looks Patton Oswalt-like, but for all we know, it could be Mr. Game & Watch.

Here's that image:

There are still 17 days left on the crowdfunding campaign, which means a full season with this cast isn't out of the question at the moment. Visit the MST3K Kickstarter page by clicking here.

What do you think of the new cast, and who should be the new henchman? (I hope the new henchman is the test tube baby of Bobo and Brain Guy.)

[via AV Club]

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Lost in Space photo
Pun about being found

I've never quite gotten the love for Lost in Space. Aside from the greatest robot ever the series always felt bland when I caught it on reruns. Then again, I thought the film adaptation was actually kind of interesting so take my opinion with a grain of salt. Netflix, that bastion of rebooted content, does see something special as they've won a bidding war for the rights and are now planning to launch a new series.

Dracula Untold writers Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless are penning the series while The Descent and Game of Thrones director Neil Marshall will do his best to warn Will Robinson of danger by direction the first episode. As for other information, there is none. They'll most likely be updating the series, though a tongue-in-cheek throwback series would be kind of awesome and allow the show runners to play up on the camp of the original. 

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Force Awakens clip photo
16 seconds of Star Wars 7

Here is 16 whole seconds of Star Wars: The Force Awakens for your viewing pleasure. It features Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), and BB-8 (himself) running away, and there's also explosions and some repartee.


Eat these crumbs, nerds! EAT THESE CRUMBS!

If it wasn't clear from the other two posts this morning (new TV spot, George Lucas not involved in the new films), Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes out on December 18th.

[via Collider]

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George Lucas had no input on The Force Awakens, is done with Star Wars

Nov 23 // Hubert Vigilla
This split may be for the best--Lucas even likened his departure from Star Wars to a break-up. "When you break up with somebody, the first rule is no phone calls," he explained. "The second rule, you don't go over to their house and drive by to see what they're doing. The third one is you don't show up at their coffee shop and say you are going to burn it... You just say, 'Nope, gone, history, I'm moving forward.'" While Lucas gave life to Star Wars, the series now belongs to a new generation of fans. On top of that, his impulses as a storyteller proved more than a little shaky with the prequels, which felt like a clumsy step backwards in terms of the series' narrative and the actual filmmaking. Lucas has also expressed his long desire to return to experimental films, something he hasn't done since THX-1138 in 1971. (Though why he mucked up the dystopian austerity of THX-1138 with that chintzy, unnecessary CG in the re-release is anyone's guess.) Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes out December 18th, and we'll find out how Star Wars does without Lucas then. [Vanity Fair via /Film]
Lucas done with Star Wars photo
Disney decided to go another direction

When people think of Star Wars, they think of George Lucas. He brought the film series to life in the late 70s and, for better and for worse, he was the driving force behind the prequel trilogy.

But these new Star Wars movies are someone else's baby now, with Lucasfilm now run by Kathleen Kennedy and Disney.

/Film notes that while Lucas had a script and ideas of where the new Star Wars movies should go, Disney decided they'd go a different direction.

"They weren't that keen to have me involved anyway," Lucas explained. "But at the same time, I said if I get in there I'm just going to cause trouble. Because they're not going to do what I want them to do. And I don't have the control to do that anymore. All I would do is muck everything up. So I said, 'Okay, I will go my way, and I'll let them go their way.'"

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Force Awakens TV spot 7 photo
A familiar face returns among the pilots

Darth Feelgood back again, and I know you're looking for another fix of the force. You're shaking, but I have something for that, buddy.

Here. Here's another taste of The Force Awakens in the most recent TV spot, and you might recognize a familiar face in there.


Oh yeah, Nien Nunb, guys and gals. Then again, maybe it's not Nien Nunb but just an alien of the same species. Regardless, this makes my dorky heart happy.

Of course, still no Luke Skywalker. No Admiral Akbar either, come to think about it.

Less than a month to go until December 18th. Almost there... almost there...

[via /Film]

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Adventure Time photo
Cartoon Network raises the stakes

Last year, Cartoon Network took home audiences by surprise with their first mini-series, Over the Garden Wall. The ten episode event delighted critics and fans with a short form original story, and this year Cartoon Network took a chance again with a new mini-series—except this time, instead of something new, we got an eight episode Adventure Time special about everyone’s favorite dark horse, Marceline the Vampire Queen.

Adventure Time: Stakes was an eight episode mini-series that aired this past week (with two episodes premiering every night). The special was a sort of character piece about Marceline, a vampire who jokingly antagonizes heroes Finn and Jake, eats the color red, and shares a mysterious past with Princess Bubblegum. The first episode opens up with Marceline approaching Princess Bubblegum asking her to remove for vampirism with science, once and for all.

What happens next is that we get a quick flashback about how Marceline got all of her powers, but sucking out the souls of four different vampires and gaining each of their unique powers of flight, transformation, invisibility, and healing. In her fight with the last vampire in the Land of Ooo, the Vampire King, Marceline makes a final sacrifice that finds her becoming an official undead vampire.

Flash forward to the present, where Bubblegum’s procedure is successful at turning Marceline into a mortal, but releases the souls of the five vampires who return to their physical forms to wreak havoc across the new Ooo. It’s now up to Marceline, Bubblegum, and of course, Finn and Jake to track down and stake the five villains before ever creature in Ooo gets drained of their blood.

Over the course of the eight episodes, Stakes has become some of my favorite episodes to come out of Adventure Time in years. Many fans are divided on the quality of the show six seasons later, some embracing the show’s abstract and artistic experiments, while others long for the zany madcap adventures of a boy and his magic dog. Stakes finds a great balance between the two by experimenting with storytelling and exposition, but also while telling a solid memorable story and introducing a handful of interesting new characters.

Stakes continues to add more to the lore of Adventure Time by showing what the world was like before becoming the candy colored Ooo we already know as well as more details about the nature of Marceline and Ice King’s relationship. In fact, we learn a lot more about Marceline’s place in the world and learning more about her is incredibly satisfying. More light is especially shed on what exactly is going on between Marceline and Bubblegum (and what both of them are looking for in each other’s futures).

Adventure Time found its footing with strong character driven stories and Stakes takes that foundation and turns it up to eleven. Yes, the world building is there and so is that classic weirdness the show has become famous for (at one point, a bunch of characters gather around a campfire to sing the Mr. Belvedere theme song), but it feels like in Stakes, the writers have gone out of their way to keep the show from being too obtuse. There is something satisfying about watching an episode of Adventure Time and not quite knowing how to feel, but Stakes proves that the artists behind the show still have a strong voice as classical storytellers.

So if you haven’t watched Adventure Time in a few years because you may have been put off the decidedly sublime direction has recently taken, is Stakes worth watching on its own? Yes, definitely, yes it is. Of course, Stakes continues from the events from the end of the previous season, with Bubblegum living in a shack on the edge of the country after being usurped by the King of Ooo among other things, so it may not hurt to get caught up with last few episodes to get caught up to speed. On its own, though, Stakes weaves a beautiful story about Marceline that is equal parts hilarious, saddening, scary, and mysterious, all at the same time.

The mini-series feels less like a series and almost more like a smaller Adventure Time movie—which for me personally, strengthens my confidence in the idea of a feature production that’s been thrown around for quite a while now. If you missed Stakes as it aired, all eight episodes will be airing on Cartoon Network again tonight starting at 7 PM EST, or you can always grab the episodes digitally or later when they’re released on DVD. It’s certainly some of the best episodes of Adventure Time to date and shouldn’t be missed by anyone who’s ever enjoyed the show.

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Nobuhiko Obayashi: The Strange, the Sweet, and the Childlike

Nov 20 // Hubert Vigilla
In Alec's Cult Club piece on Hausu, he hinged some of his observations on the childlike approach to the film. Originally intended as a remake of Jaws, Obayashi went entirely in his own direction, blending his background in experimental filmmaking with the imagery of soap operas, melodramas, youth pictures, and colorful horror films. (I'd still love to see a Jaws remake done in the style of Hausu.) Obayashi turned to his 10-year-old daughter for the film's story, and it feels like the sort of story a 10-year-old would tell. There's a haunted house that eats people, and a bunch of school girls are its prey. Spooky and surreal things happen. And then Noodle Bear. I mentioned last week that Hausu feels like the fever dream of an imaginative child who's really into Scooby-Doo and Mario Bava. The events unfold with the logic of the subconscious, as Obayashi fills the film with his young daughter's fears. It's an anarchic film, a story told without an expectation of adult rules since the film is mostly about young girls fending for themselves and using their own skills and ingenuity to do it. The finished movie is like the work of a child rooting through an upended box of art supplies and being asked to make a pretty picture. And what a pretty picture. What's striking about Hausu is how the movie seems stitched together by the childlike conjunction "and then"--they went to the house and then Mac's head flew around and then the piano ate a girl and then Kung Fu jumpkicked stuff and then the man turned into bananas and then there was a flood. It's a flow of strange ideas, and if a 10-year-old girl told it to you, the stream would only be interrupted for the occasional impish giggle and a brief fit of hyperventilation to catch a breath. I Are You, You Am Me (転校生, Tenkousei) is a much quieter and down-to-earth film adapted from a novel by Hisashi Yamanaka. Sure, almost any film is much quieter and down-to-earth than Hausu, but I get a sense that I Are You is less like a movie told by a 10-year-old and more like a movie made by an adult who's taking a thoughtful look back at what it was like to be 14. I Are You is something of an adolescent minor-masterpiece, a coming-of-age story built on one of the great comedy sub-genres of the 70s and 80s: the body-swap movie. Rather than swap roles of parent and child, I Are You switches the minds of a boy named Kazuo and a girl named Kazumi during the awkward early teen years. Seeing the two child leads "act male" (snips and snails and puppy dogs' tails) and "act female" (sugar and spice and everything nice) is pretty fascinating, particularly given how gender norms have become more fluid over time, but almost all ideas of maleness and femaleness are products of their time and culture, and so the gender norms in the film are no exception. (Tangent: Maybe there's an era-specific nature to the body-swap genre? Decades when the world started to become more interconnected and the earth a little flatter?) I Are You predominantly centers on Kazuo's mind in Kazumi's body, which might be a kind of stand-in for Obayashi himself as he tries to inhabit the world of adolescence again and what it's like to be a young girl. Young actress Satomi Kobayashi has solid body language playing a guy, sort of like Hausu's Kung Fu by way of Tom Sawyer. By contrast, Kazumi's mind in Kazuo's body is meek and out of sorts, with more than a hint of deep depression. Before the body swap happened, Kazumi was a happy transfer student who's new in town. Now she's been unmoored from her own body, and she may have to move away with Kazuo's family. That unanchored, life-in-flux state is part of growing up, but here its given more metaphorical heaviness. Much of I Are You is goofy, but it arrives at a beautiful, wistful tone by the final half hour. Many coming-of-age stories are defined by a lesson that equips a child for the adult world. In I Are You, it's all about the beauty of empathy. Bound for the Fields, the Mountains, and the Seacoast (野ゆき山ゆき海べゆき, No Yuki Yama Yuki Umibe Yuki) is also a great film, and also its own animal, which speaks to Obayashi's diverse range as a filmmaker and the concerns he has as a storyteller. It's a period piece set right before World War II, focused predominantly on the lives of the children of a town as a counterpoint to the poisonous nationalism, militarism, and conformity of the adults. It's a type of coming-of-age film about empathy, and yet it's done in a style reminiscent of Yasujiro Ozu, with balanced compositions and characters looking right into the camera as they recite their lines. In terms of weirdness, Bound for the Fields splits the difference between Hausu and I Are You, like a break in the child world of experience and the adult world. Obayashi continually finds surreal, fantastical moments to play with and locates that beating human heart in the scene. When a young woman meets with a lover at night to discuss running away--she's going to be sold to a brothel, he's been conscripted into the Japanese military--there's a pair of extras above them at a dock playing with sparklers. As we come in for the two-shot of the couple, the foreground becomes filled with sparks. It's a beautiful bit of romantic dazzle. By focusing on children in Bound for the Fields, Obayashi is able to critique the absurdities and horrors of war and also the underlying creepiness of playing war as a child. As the kids simulate a battle, they chuck rocks at one another. It's fun and games, but as their bodies lay flat to play dead, it can't help but evoke thoughts of the real and forthcoming horrors of WWII; the same goes when watching the kids tied up playing prisoner and tortured enemy combatant. As the factions of children join together to save a boy's sister-in-law from life in a brothel, they come up with a type of game that doubles as a rescue mission. It reminded me of the weird solution that Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer have for getting Jim out of his jam. Mark Twain did that rescue as a farce because, as George Saunders mentioned in an essay, the ugly and logical reality of what would have happened to Jim had it not been a farce would be too dark to handle in a comic novel. Obayashi, on the other hand, takes the light and the dark of the situation, blending farce with painful social commentary. As a coming-of-age-story, Bound for the Fields deals with the way children confront the ugliness of the adult world, and also the realization that it's a world they'll eventually join.
Nobuhiko Obayashi photo
Youthful Anarchism vs. The Adult World

The largest retrospective of Nobuhiko Obayashi's work in the United States kicks off tonight at The Japan Society with a screening of House (Hausu). Hausu is Obayashi's best known work in the US, and probably the only one of his films that most people stateside have seen. Obayashi has made more than 40 feature films in his career, as well as a number of shorts and even memorable television commercials. (For instance, I'd seen this cologne ad with Charles Bronson years before I saw Hausu.)

What makes this retrospective fascinating is a chance to see the 77-year-old director's diverse output, with a focus on his popular and mainstream movies made after Hausu. Like Hausu, two great Obayashi movies screening tomorrow--1982's I Are You, You Am Me (Exchange Student) and 1986's Bound for the Fields, the Mountains, and the Seacoast-- feature a childlike take on the world, but they're done in distinct ways.

I'm going to take a brief look at those three child's-eye-view films right now. Next week, I'll look at how Obayashi's Sada (which screens this Sunday) approaches the same subject matter of Nagisa Oshima's In the Realm of the Senses, and will also have a full review of Obayshi's most recent film, Seven Weeks (which screens next Sunday).

For tickets and more info on the retrospective, visit

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Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

Nov 20 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219544:42428:0[/embed] The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2Director: Francis LawrenceRelease Date: November 20, 2015Rating: PG-13 "Whoa. Philip Seymour Hoffman." Not having prepared for the film in any way, I had completely forgotten that Mockingjay marked the actor's final performance. More than a year and a half after he died, he's onscreen again. And it's weird. Really, really weird. When he first showed up, moments into the film, the person I was sitting next to turned: "Is he real?" The answer to the question – "No" – is simple, but the implications of that answer are a little more complicated. It was decided pretty much immediately that there would be no CGI Philip Seymour Hoffman walking around, monologuing in place of the actor. It's a sign of respect, and it's one that I commend the team for doing. I'm sure the pressure to digitize him was fairly high, because his absence is felt rather heavily. Plutarch Heavensbee (ugh) is an important character to the plot, someone always lurking in the shadows and pulling the strings. But not in Mockingjay - Part 2. Here, he simply is a shadow. The film cries out for his presence, and a scene late in the film was switched up in a way that is functional but also fairly awkward. Hoffman's death complicated things, as such things so often do. That's actually a good way to describe Mockingjay - Part 2: complicated. It's complicated because it's the second part of a movie that didn't need to be two parts. These two (good) 2+ hour films could have been turned into one great three hour one. Heck, you could probably go shorter, because fully half of Part 2's runtime is taken up by scenes that aren't "bad" but also don't really do much. There's a lot of sitting around and talking, or walking around and talking, or running around and talking. The pacing is molasses slow, and ultimately a film that is only a bit over two hours (with 10-15 minutes of credits on top) feels nearly double that. This is honestly felt like one of the longest films I have ever seen, because so much time is spent on a series of very different things, but they're presented in such a way that it seems like the movie is just going to go on forever. And it does, sort of. A lot of it builds to a few different things, and though they all ultimately come to pass, it feels like they were glossed over to make way for less interesting things.  Which isn't to say that the film is boring, because it's not. It's just slow. And though it ratchets up tension at various points with interesting and strange (and kinda horrific) setpieces, the momentum doesn't continue to build. After the sequence, it just stops. And so, bizarrely, it actually feels like there are multiple films worth of narrative here that have been stripped down. It's almost episodic, with a "beginning," middle, and end for each of the different plotlines. But a lot of those episodes are just filler, and the ones that aren't could have easily been much shorter. As the second part in a two-part film, discussing specifics seems even less important than usual. You decided whether or not you were going to see this movie as soon as the credits in Mockingjay - Part 1 rolled. If you saw that cliffhanger and needed to know what happens to Katniss, Peeta, Snow, and everyone else, then you're hooked and you'll see this movie no matter what. And if you decided you didn't care? I'm not going to change your mind, because this movie isn't either. There's nothing about the narrative here that is going to appeal to anyone who didn't like the first three movies or didn't want to see what's next. I'm here not really to tell you if the movie is good, because ultimately that doesn't matter. I'm just here to think about what the experience of seeing it's like. And it boils down to this: Exhausting or not, I liked Mockingjay - Part 2. As a fan of the earlier films, I feel relatively satisfied. It's worth it to see where these characters end up and see who they are underneath it all. Some of the characters are given weird motivations that I didn't totally understand and others grew in interesting ways. But at least it all ended. After two years of cliffhangers, it was nice to get see credits set by something other than a close-up of Katniss's stressed-out face. The actual ending made me groan out loud for four solid minutes, but at this point I just wanted to know. And I got my answers. I don't need anything more from The Hunger Games. I can go on and live my life and never think about it again. I can wish that a tighter and more cohesive film ended the franchise, but why? We've got an ending, it did what it had to do, did it competently, and now it's done. Goodbye, Hunger Games. It's been fun.
Mockingjay Part 2 Review photo
The end of time

I didn't read The Hunger Games or its sequels. When the first film came to theaters, I had heard a whole lot of people talking about the books, but I didn't know anything beyond the "It's pretty much Battle Royale" premise. When the film released, the first thing I noticed was that Flixist really, really liked it. I was shocked at that score when I first saw it: A 90? Really? But when I saw it, I understood. I didn't love it as much as Jaime did, but I thought it was excellent and probably the most interesting YA adaptation I'd ever seen. 

I remembered how angry all of the people who read the books were, though. It seemed like I was actually better off having not read them. So I decided that rather than trying to catch up, I would go into each film blind. I would enjoy The Hunger Games Cinematic Universe as its own thing and never read the books. I would also avoid trailers and other spoilers as much as humanly possible. With Catching Fire and Mockingjay - Part 1, both reviewed by Flixist's resident YA buff, Nick Valdez, who I'm stepping in for at the moment, the series went in directions that I didn't expect.

And so too with Mockingjay - Part 2. I went in as a fan of a movie series, looking forward to a hopefully thrilling end to the four year journey and knowing absolutely nothing about what it contained. It occurred to me only as the lights were going down in the theater that maybe I should have taken another glance at the earlier films. But it didn't really matter. If you haven't seen the earlier Hunger Games films, you'll be completely lost, but if you're just going to the theater for your yearly Panem checkup, you'll be fine. And you'll likely enjoy yourself too.

But if you check your watch at any point during the film, you may wonder what sort of dark magic the filmmakers used to slow down time.

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Parody photo
The Wayans can get it right sometimes

We have to thank the Wayans family. If it weren't for them the movie spoofing genre would have completely died with Leslie Nielsen. Now you may be thinking, "Matt, that would be a good thing," but believe it or not there some great parodies out there some of which are from the Wayans. 

Now they've been on a long, long, long streak of mediocrity, but if this trailer for 50 Shades of Black, led by Marlon Wayans, is any indication it could work this time. The trailer's tone is on point and surprisingly close to the actual film. There's the lowbrow jokes to be expected, but the rest seems surprisingly constrained and intelligent in terms of Wayans comedy. 

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm actually looking forward to seeing this one.


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NSFW photo
Cussing is evidently comedy

I'm going to take a stab at this one and say that Dirty Grandpa isn't going to be very good. When the basis for most of your comedy is Robert DeNiro cussing you've got some work to do. The new red band trailer does show that he'll be cussing a lot, though. Like... a lot. 

Sadly, Zac Efron seems to only be getting cast in comedies like this now. It's fine for DeNiro who had a fully career, but Zac has some skill with the acting and should be a bit more discerning. Naked Macerena probably isn't where he thought his career was going and when he pictured working with DeNiro I promise you it didn't look like this.


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Finn: The Force Awakens photo
Allow it

Psst. Buddy. It's Darth Feelgood again. Yeah. I'm here with you're latest Star Wars: The Force Awakens fix. Got a taste for Star Wars, don't you? Yeah, well here's some more.

In this new Force Awakens TV spot, the ad focuses on John Boyega's character Finn.


You know, we still don't really know a thing about Finn, or what Finn has seen, which is good. While the hype continues to build for The Force Awakens' release (A MONTH, PEOPLE!), the marketing has kept the story well under wraps.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes out December 18th. Come back to Darth Feelgood when you need another fix until then.

[via /Film]

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Jackson on Hobbit woes photo
"Didn't know what the hell I was doing"

The Hobbit trilogy made roughly $3 billion worldwide, but it was also a bloated disappointment that felt nowhere near as taut as the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The writing wasn't there, the special effects seemed less polished, and the movie lacked focus. Martin Freeman's Bilbo, easily the best part of all three films, goes missing for long stretches even though he's the heart of the story.

So what exactly went wrong?

In a behind-the-scenes video from the Battle of the Five Armies Extended Edition Blu-ray/DVD, Peter Jackson and members of the production team admit that they didn't have the prep time necessary to make the best movie they could.


That's right: no storyboards, no extensive pre-visualization, sets and costumes rushed to be made; just winging it all on the fly.

Jackson and Weta Workshop set a high bar with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but they also had years of pre-production to get everything right. Weta head Richard Taylor notes that they had three and a half years to set up Lord of the Rings.

As easy as it is to deride the Hobbit movies for their shaky execution, I almost admire Peter Jackson and his team for this kind of moxie on a massive undertaking. Then, remembering the movies, the admiration turns back into disappointment. ("SMH" as you kids say.)

Ultimately I wonder what The Hobbit movies could have been had they just spent a year or a year and a half planning things out better.

[via The Guardian]

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Tetris movie photo
"I'm the I-Block, b**ch!"

Brett Ratner and his production company partner James Packer are reportedly developing a movie about the creation of Tetris, focusing on the game's Russian designer Alexey Pajitnov.

As noted on Wikipedia, Pajitnov created Tetris in 1984 with the help of fellow designers Dmitry Pavlovsky and Vadim Gerasimov. The game appeared in the west in 1986, and you know the rest of the story. (Apparently Pajitnov did not get royalties for creating Tetris until 1996. Wonder if he wound up efficiently moving and arranging different-shaped boxes in warehouses to pay the bills.)

I know, I know, Ratner's name probably inspired nerd rage in some of you. That's warranted. He's kind of a low-level journeyman with name recognition and clout--a plain ol' box when what we really need is a T-block. But this Tetris movie can't be any worse than Pixels, right? RatPac Entertainment is attached to some interesting films (e.g., Alejandro G. Iñárritu's The Revenant), and with the right talent behind the direction and screenplay, this could be an interesting period piece about gaming in the 80s and the Soviet Union.

Then again, maybe Magneto can throw flaming L-blocks at stuff. And Vinnie Jones can play the I-block.

[via /Film]

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Zoolander 2 trailer photo
The beautiful people, beautiful people

A wise man once said "There's a fine line between stupid and clever." That probably best describes the first Zoolander.

Well, Zoolander is back, and if this first trailer for Zoolander 2 (2oolander) is any indication, it's as stupid and clever as ever.


In addition to Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, and Will Ferrell reprising their roles, the cast of Zoolander 2 includes Penelope Cruz, Kristen Wiig, Benedict Cumberbatch, Justin Bieber, Billy Zane, Kanye West, Fred Armisen, and Olivia Munn.

Zoolander 2 comes out February 12, 2016. Movie posters in the gallery.

[via /Film]

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Roar Uthaug will direct Tomb Raider film reboot, Geneva Robertson-Dworet will write it

Nov 18 // Hubert Vigilla
Here's another trailer for a taste of Uthaug's work, this time for his 2012 period action-thriller Escape (Flukt). [embed]220147:42703:0[/embed] Finally, here's a trailer for Uthaug's 2006 feature-film debut, a slasher movie called Cold Prey (Fritt Vilt). [embed]220147:42704:0[/embed] Also, because the guy's name is Roar, here is the intro cinematic from Bloody Roar. [embed]220147:42705:0[/embed] [via /Film]
Tomb Raider reboot photo
Writing/directing team in place

It's been more than a decade since Angelina Jolie brought Lara Croft to the big screen. I remember seeing Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life at some point back then, but can't recall anything in particular about them. (They had a vague, movie-like quality.) Thanks to the success of the 2013 Tomb Raider franchise reboot, MGM and Warner Bros. are dusting off the IP and have put together a creative team for a new movie.

The Tomb Raider film reboot will be directed by Norwegian filmmaker Roar Uthaug, with a screenplay by Geneva Robertson-Dworet.

"Who?" you're probably asking. (Or, if you're an owl, you could be saying anything, for all I know.)

Robertson-Dworet is new to the industry, garnering some renown for her 2012 Black List sci-fi script Hibernation. She's also part of the writing team for the new Transformers movie.

A cursory glance at Uthaug's filmography reveals a pretty nice pedigree as a director. /Film posted a trailer for Uthaug's most recent movie, a disaster drama called The Wave (Bølgen). You can check out the trailer below.


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Fast and Furious photo
#Family... but divided up

Cinematic universes are all the rage thanks to Marvel and their ability to print money with theirs. Universal has been desperate to get their own, but the best thing they have to offer is turning their classic monsters into superheroes. Not anymore. The big wigs there have decided to take their smash hit franchise Fast and Furious and turn it into a cinematic universe.

Now, with seven movies already under its belt you may argue that FF is a cinematic universe, but the true hallmarks of one are spin-offs and films that focus on different characters and could be franchises in their own right. In that vein, THR is reporting that the franchise as at least three movies in the works including the upcoming 8th sequel. The report is that spin-offs and prequels are in the works and that Vin Diesel is involved as producer.

The question is does anyone actually want to see a movie that features only Dom? Do we all need to know where Ludicrous's character came from? I'm not sure expanding on the thread bare universe already established in the films is actually a good thing. 

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Dark Tower photo
The Man in Black is all right, all right

If you said to me that Matthew McConaughey was going to star in The Dark Tower films being made I'd instantly think he'd be playing Roland, the Stephen King series's protagonist. However, Variety is reporting that he's been offered the role of villain for the first film, The Gunslinger

The Man in Black (aka Randall Flagg) is the evil sorcerer that Roland is chasing in the first installment of the twisting, massive series that is set to be a giant cinematic and televised universe. I think McConaughey is actually good for the role. On deeper thought his a bit too slick for Roland, but just slimey enough for Flagg. It's especially good casting for the first book, which is a kind of psychological sci-fi western that relies heavily on its characters.

Landing McConaughey for the role would be a huge boost for this series actually, finally getting done. Hopefully Sony can do it. The story also confirms that the first movie will be called The Gunslinger

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New MST3K host is Jonah Ray, rumors of Felicia Day as new mad scientist, likely voices for Crow and Tom

Nov 17 // Hubert Vigilla
I first spotted the Felicia Day rumor in an AV Club comment thread. A little Google-Fu and Twitter-Fu uncovered a recent piece in the print version of Entertainment Weekly that may have revealed the entire cast, including the new voices of Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo. As long as nothing's changed since Kyle Anderson's article, the new voice for Crow is Hampton Yount, the new voice for Tom Servo is Baron Vaughn, and Day is in talks to be the new Mad. (Also, hi, Kyle.) Joel mentioned on his Reddit AMA last week that the Kickstarter launched a little sooner than expected, which may explain why certain information is out there before an official announcement can be made. Expect more official announcements about MST3K from the official Kickstarter page. Any opinions on the likely new cast? [via AV Club]
New MST3K cast photo
EW may have let the cat out of the bag

The Mystery Science Theater 3000 revival Kickstarter has successfully funded the first three episodes, raising more than $2 million in one week. That's the power of MST3K, dudes.

Joel Hodsgon and Shout Factory are spearheading the project, with Hodgson the only member of the original casts involved so far. It's a bummer that Mike J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy, Bill Corbett, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, and Mary Jo Pehl are currently not involved, but they may be getting invited back in some capacity if things turn out for the best.

The new MST3K needs new blood, and Joel Hodgson officially announced that Nerdist's Jonah Ray is the new host for the show. In addition, there are rumors circulating that the new mad scientist for MST3K will be Felicia Day.

In fact, the entire cast may have been revealed already.

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See The Night Before Early and free

Nov 16 // Matthew Razak
Screening Details (DC) Monday, November 167:30pmRegal Gallery Place LINK: Screening Details (Baltimore): Monday, November 167:30pmCinemark Egyptian   LINK: Screening Details (Norfolk):   Monday, November 167:30pmAMC Lynnhaven   LINK:  
Screenings photo
Washington DC, Baltimore and Norfolk

As far as Christmas comedies go we haven't had a good one in a while, but that could change with The Night Before. It's got the casts and the director to become an instant classic... for adults. Sometimes you need a little cussing with your holiday celebrations. 

You can see if it'll fit the bill early by grabbing the passes below and watching the movie. Remember to get there early and sorry for the late notice on this one. 

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Force Awakens TV spot photo
Here's your fix, Star Wars junkie

Psst. Hey, mack. Yeah. I see your shakes, buddy. I know what you want. Here.

Here's a new TV spot for The Force Awakens. It's a whole minute of satisfaction, brother. Take it, man, just take it. I know, I know--the shakes are going to be rough until you mainline Star Wars in December, but just watch.


How you feeling now, chum? Got the rush? The shakes going? Good, good. I'll see you again. You'll want more of this. There'll be more. Don't be ashamed. Just call me Darth Feelgood.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes out December 18th.

[via AV Club]

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Warcraft TV spot photo
A step up from the trailer

Like Nick, I was underwhelmed by the first trailer for Duncan Jones' Warcraft. A little too heavy on CG and uncanny valley-ness, my overall impression was, "Oh, look, it's Generic Fantasy Film: The Movie." (As Rian Johnson joked to Duncan Jones on Twitter: "I am so curious to see how you squeezed a fourth movie out of The Hobbit.")

This international TV spot for Warcraft is a bit better, however. Give it a watch below.


Jones is a fine filmmaker, which is the one thing that's keeping me semi-interested in the film. If he wasn't involved, my interest in a Warcraft movie would be super-low.

I've been seeing various arguments online about the special effects in Warcraft as seen in the trailer. Some suggest that the movie's CG will get some extra polish before its release next summer, while other are claiming that the effects are all done and will hit the big screen as-seen since Warcraft was supposed to be released this December. (Some indie movie called The Force Awakens made Universal reconsider its release plans.)

According to this International Business Times piece from May 2015, the film had completed the vast majority of its 1,000+ VFX shots, with only 50 more left to do. If the effects were finished over the summer of 2015, the work seen in the trailer and TV spots may not be getting tweaked/refined again for summer 2016.

I'll be looking into the effects-done/effects-still-in-progress debate as more info becomes available. Warcraft will be out June 10, 2016.

[via First Showing]

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El Rey Way of the Turkey photo
2nd Annual Way of the Turkey

As the resident kung fu movie dork at Flixist, it pleases me to announce that you can spend your Thanksgiving weekend watching 72 hours of kung fu movies. This is what the pilgrims crossed the ocean for, guys.

The El Rey Network is having their second annual Way of the Turkey marathon. Starting on Thursday, November 26th at 6am, viewers will be able to see three days worth of classic martial arts films featuring host segments with Shannon Lee (daughter of Bruce Lee) and Dario Cueto (Lucha Underground).

Some of the movies queued up for the Way of the Turkey include:

  • Fist of Fury
  • The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (Shaolin Master Killer)
  • Come Drink with Me
  • The Five Deadly Venoms
  • One-Armed Swordsman
  • Five Fingers of Death (King Boxer)
  • Legendary Weapons of China
  • Ten Tigers of Kwangtung

Lots of classics, and also Game of Death, the incomplete Bruce Lee would-be masterpiece that turned into a sad schlock curiosity.

In essence, this is like MST3K's Turkey Day, but with fewer robots and mad scientists.

For more information on The Way of the Turkey, check out the El Rey Network website.

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Review: The 33

Nov 13 // Matthew Razak
[embed]220135:42699:0[/embed] The 33Director: Patricia RiggenRated: PG-13Release Date: November 13, 2015 What is this story we're talking about? Back in 2010 33 Chilean miners got trapped when a very large chunk of rock collapsed the mine they were working in. Against all odds, and while the entire world watched, the 33 were eventually rescued. This is ostensibly their story of survival, but it's also the story of how they were rescued. It is a plot so full of happiness, wonder and cliche that if it weren't for the fact that it actually happened you'd be reading a review about how the film was too unbelievable.  To be sure The 33 probably plays it a little loose with events and characters. While the miners themselves, led by Mario Sepúlveda (Antonio Banderas) and Don Lucho (Lou Diamond Phillips), are treated pretty well their above ground counterparts get a lot of fluffing. Laurence Golborne (Rodrigo Santoro), Chile's minister of mining, gets a very flattering coat of paint with the casting of a ridiculously good looking actor and the insertion of hints of romance with one of the miner's sisters. Luckily the plot line never bores out, but it speaks to just how rote the film can be. The movie hits every survival plot point it can with the emotional gusto you expect, but nothing actually special. This is especially true in the latter half of the film. While the miners are struggling to survive and the rescuers are desperately drilling down to them the film is actually surprisingly tense. Riggen does a fantastic job of developing the 33 as people and a group. The stress of being trapped in the mine is reflected and paralleled with the desperate attempts to rescue the miners. A particularly good scene brings the miners into the realm of fantasy as they eat their last supper around a long wooden table. The heavy hints of what faith means to these men reflected in the visuals of the scene. Riggen may get a bit heavy handed with her visual metaphors for faith, but she plays them well. Unfortunately the moment the drill pierces the cave it all seems to get lost. The screenplay jumps from subtle character study, to obvious social commentary as the miners become international sensations and a miniature revolution starts to occur. The moment the focus is taken off the minors and put onto the rescue the film jumps into cliche and begins to hamper everything that was built in the first half. Riggens visuals fall away as the screenplay struggles to keep the miners relevant for the months they must wait for rescue. Once survival is not longer the driving factor it seems the movie doesn't know what to do with them. It definitely grinds the performances to a halt as well. Banderas is powerful as Mario in the first half of the movie, lacing a relentless force into his performance while Phillips plays behind him, worn and afraid. I was seriously leaning towards Oscar thoughts as I watched Banderas rally the miners in the key survival speech, but as his character devolves into the film's representation for the corruption of the outside world (before, of course, redeeming himself quickly) his performance suffers. We lose the connection to the miners as the plot opens up and in turn lose the connection to the performances. What's most tragic is that The 33 never confronts anything. At the end of the film text points out that the mining company was never punished and the miners never got an retribution from them. However, the movie never really addresses this situation it's so focused on being triumphant for its last half. It hits its dramatic points just fine, but never pushes to the next level where were allowed to talk about what happened. This movie should never need to be made, but instead of looking into that fact when it has the chance it instead revels in its glorious rescue. It's a great rescue story for sure, but The 33 could have been more. 
The 33 Review photo
How do you say 'meh' in Spanish?

You could mess up the story of The 33 I suppose. It would be hard, but not impossible. You could get over melodramatic, but you'd have to try hard because the story its based on is damn melodramatic. You could screw up the casting by not casting Hispanics, but that's too dumb a move even for Hollywood these days. It is possible to mess up a story like The 33, you'd just have to try really hard.

The 33 does not try hard. It performs its tale to perfectly perfunctory satisfaction. It is a film that works because its story works, it cast actors who can speak words well and the director basically stayed out of the way. It is a movie that successfully does its thing, but it does not try hard.

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See Brooklyn early and free

Nov 13 // Matthew Razak
Screening AMC White MarshMonday, November 16th at 7:30pm
Screenings photo
Washington DC screening

Brooklyn is getting a lot of buzz and could be a film you hear about once awards season really takes off. What's that mean? It means you should see it for free and then you'll be able to sound all movie smart with your friends when they wonder what that Brooklyn movie everyone is talking about is.

Grab the passes below and you'll be all set to check it out. 

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The Boy and The World photo
Like an animated children's picture book

The Boy and the World has been on my radar for a few months after seeing still from the film. This Brazilian animated feature won great acclaim at film festivals, and is currently on the shortlist for Best Animated Feature.

Told without dialogue and entirely through music and images, The Boy and the World looks like a children's picture book in full motion. Check out the trailer below.


Based on the imagery alone, director Alê Abreu seems to have crafted something really special.

The Boy and The World will be out in New York and LA on December 11th, with a wider release to follow in January 2016. You can check out a poster for the film in the gallery.

[via First Showing]

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