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Verhoeven in NYC photo
Paul Verhoeven in attendance Nov 15-16

Even though I wasn't a fan of Paul Verhoeven's latest film, Elle, I'm glad that the Dutch provocateur has returned to filmmaking. Showgirls may have thrown his career off for a while, but Verhoeven has longevity thanks to movies like RoboCop, Total Recall, and Starship Troopers.

The Film Society of Lincoln Center here in New York has put together a complete Paul Verhoeven retrospective called Total Verhoeven, which will run from November 9th through November 23rd. The retrospective will open with a sneak peak of Elle and screen all of Verhoeven's films, including his movies made in the Netherlands, such as Turkish Delight, The 4th Man, and Black Book. The retrospective will also include Verhoeven's early short films made in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Verhoeven will be in attendance on the November 15th and 16th. On November 15th, Verhoeven will do a Q&A after RoboCop and will provide an in-person introduction to Starship Troopers. On November 16th, Verhoeven will do a Q&A after Turkish Delight and will provide an in-person introduction to Showgirls.

For tickets and more information, click here or visit The Film Society of Lincoln Center.

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Pokemon: The First Movie photo
Gotta catch em at Cinemark

The popularity of Pokemon Go spawned a forthcoming Detective Pikachu movie from Legendary Pictures. With the Pokemon resurgence, it should come as no surprise that the Pokemon Company is going to milk all of its adorable critters until, desiccated and afraid, they cry out their cute little names in pain. (Example: Pokemon Generations.)

With that in mind, you can watch Pokemon: The First Movie on the big screen as a matinee on Saturday, October 29th and in the evening on Tuesday, November 1st. The film will play at select Cinemark movie theaters across the country.

Pokemon: The First movie was originally released in  Japan on July 18, 1998, with a subsequent US release on November 6, 1999. In the spirit of nostalgia, Japanese wrestler The Great Sasuke was born on July 18, 1969, and Meet the Press made its television debuted on November 6, 1947.

To find a participating Cinemark theater in your area playing Pokemon: The First Movie, click here.

[via Screen Crush]

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Jack Reacher: Never Go Back should have gone back to the formula that made the original Jack Reacher work. Audiences, only familiar with the character through the first movie (and not the Lee Childs book series) may find the movie confusing, and the action secondary to other plot devices. JR1 fit the Liam “Neesons” Neeson Taken school of art: aging star kicks all asses available, names taken and dismissed, and somebody is going to get dead quick. It worked because it was what it promised: a good, old-fashioned action flick.

Directed by Edward Zwick, who teamed with Cruise for 2003’s The Last Samurai, Zwick is probably best known for his directorial work on the epic adaptation of Jim Harrison’s Legends of the Fall. But despite his one pairing with Cruise, and his work on an amazing film, he’s actually probably a step down from JR1’s director, Christopher McQuarrie, who has worked with Cruise on Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (writer / director), Edge of Tomorrow (writer), and Valkyrie (writer), all Cruise vehicles. Then too, he directed 2000’s The Way of the Gun and wrote 1995’s The Usual Suspects, both classics, the first unheralded (but clever and unique) and the later more universally heralded. McQuarrie’s ability to both direct and write a movie properly definitely made JR1 stand where NGB stumbles. Then too, one must assume the established relationship with the star enabled for better collaboration and ultimately, a better product.

Jack Reacher
Director: Edward Zwick
Rating: PG-13
Release Date: October 21, 2016

But at the heart of things, NGB (Never go Back) fails because it does not follow the formula established by its predecessor. I was pleasantly surprised four years ago by RJ1 (Jack Reacher). It’s a relatively simple formula to follow: dramatic event. Bad guys. Reacher. Bad guys die. APPLAUSE! Easy enough, no? To be sure, there are character subtleties about Jack Reacher that make him a character that’s easy to like: he scorns authority, but believes in justice. He’s got an eerie sense of timing (or from the books, a near-perfect inner clock). He’s astute and notices details others miss: he’s a detective that’s one step ahead of the rest (maybe even two). And he’ll beat the holy hell out of those who do wrong and cross his path. What’s not to love?

NGB presents itself as more of the same, so I was hesitantly optimistic sitting down to a 10:00PM preview showing. However, NGB is not the same thing. Plot vehicle one is just what we wanted: Jack Reacher doing Reachery things. But plot vehicle two is a can of worms that just doesn’t make sense. You can’t successfully inject plot twists involving personal backstories that have yet to be discussed in a film’s first sequel; at least, not in the sequel of a movie that left the protagonists entire past shrouded in virtual mystery. The audience is not familiar enough with Reacher, his quirks and history having not been penned thoroughly enough for us to care about the sudden introduction of a major plot device like having a daughter that he never knew about.

For example, in the James Bond franchise, we don’t learn more about the central character’s orphan background until the 25th film (Skyfall). And we don’t really learn anything of major significance until the 26th film (Spectre). Until that point, the films, systemically, follow a formula that the audience understands. Surely, there are period shifts in the formula as different actors don the mantle that is Bond, James Bond, but ritualistically, the formula stands. And when directors and writers decided to grow the character’s humanity and delve into his unknown history, they did so at a point when the audience was familiar enough with their character to understand and appreciate the development. Reacher, in his second film adaptation, prevailing upon an original that did nothing to flesh out Reacher’s background, is not ready for this treatment.

Credit is due, however, for 21st Century Fox’s handling of the marketing for the film: I had not idea that this ‘twist’ was coming. Bravo. It says a lot that they could conduct their marketing campaign without giving away half (or more) of the film’s plot. Or maybe, they knew what they should be selling and were understanding the film’s inherent strengths and weaknesses better than they would admit. Why would anyone care to see Jack Reacher hugging a teenager girl in a Reacher trailer?

Then there’s the issue of Reacher’s female co-star Maj. Susan Turner, played to expected adequacy by the wonderful Cobie Smulders. It seems the Major is an honest attempt at a fleshed-out, near equal to her male-counterpart. She insists on getting in the action, even when Reacher tells her not to. Turner is given ample screentime, never kisses her co-star, and insists that she be treated as an equal. However, when push comes to shove, Reacher reasserts that he must be the one to do certain things. And in other pivotal moments, when Turner has the opportunity to be the hero, she fails, and Reacher steps in to deliver the final blow (verbal, or physical). It’s strange, because two of the film’s three leading characters are women, and the film, as well as the characters (the other played well, if not inconsistently—though let’s blame the writing for this—by Danika Yarosh: kudos for actually allowing a teenager to play a teenager), asserts their equality and ingenuity (as well as physical prowess). It’s almost as if there was a conscientious effort to allow for a feminist perspective to not only be considered, but to prevail. But then, on second thought, forget all that jazz, reacher needs to solved the final puzzle, deliver the final death threat, and break final neck of the final villain.

This is what we expect after all: for the movie to follow the formula established in the original. Gender equality should be addressed, but when it is it should be committed to fully, and ultimately, doing so here would not serve the film, its backers, or its success, and again, it’s as if those responsible for Reacher realized this and pull back on their efforts. Such indecision leaves the film weaker than it could have been as it suffers from confusion and plot elements that are not only unnecessary, but irreconcilable. And when it’s an action movie of a certain tier promising one thing, delivering not cinematography or beautifully crafted scenes of dialogue (of which there are many), nor music that scores the film beautifully, we are left wanting more, and that’s what we wanted: more.

I applaud the efforts to expand Reacher’s world and motives, and to delve into supremely paramount social issues, but I would have applauded the film staying true to its roots even more as it limps to the finish line with vaguely developed villains following formulaic and simultaneously nonsensical actions. The logic behind how things unfold in the film’s final act is completely absent. Logic must be followed within the world you are operating in, and here, it does not.

If they make a Reacher 3, and odds are they will, as Hollywood loves a good sequel, I hope they go back to the basics—especially because, after all that, they seem to undo the unknown daughter’s legitimacy and call into question whether or not she’ll play a role again (and if she ever should have in the first place).


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Review: Tampopo

Oct 21 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220968:43157:0[/embed] TampopoDirector: Juzo ItamiRating: NRRelease Date: October 21, 2016 (limited)Country: Japan  There's a familiar old west tale in Tampopo, with variations on cowboys and saloons and pretty schoolmarms. Goro (Tsutomu Yamazaki) and Gun (Ken Watanabe) are a pair of truck-driving gourmands that mosey into town. They stop by a noddle shop in a sorry state run by a widow named Tampopo (Nobuko Miyamoto). She's quaint, mousy, often dressed in gingham, demure to a fault. Also, her ramen just plain sucks. Since they're good cowboys, Goro and Gun help Tampopo improve her shop, sort of like working the farm or rebuilding this here schoolhouse. Tampopo spends the the film perfecting her ramen and in the process attempts to perfect herself. It's not just a western but, philosophically, a martial arts movie. This is a story about the discipline of mastery. Think Jiro Dreams of Sushi, except ramen: self-improvement through a process of trial and error and practice. It's a familiar narrative, but when filtered through an unexpected intermediary, it achieves remarkable existential heft. Even in a decidedly lighthearted comedy like Tampopo, it's moving to witness someone try and try again until they achieve some ennobling dignity, no matter how small. All that effort for a good bowl of soup. But that's just part of the oddball/heartfelt appeal of Tampopo. Soba isn't the only noodle. The movie starts with a gangster in white (Koji Yakusho) and his moll (Fukumi Kuroda) entering a movie theater, ostensibly to watch the main story of Tampopo described above. The gangster waxes philosophical about life, death, and the movies, and then roughs up a guy crinkling a bag of chips in the row behind him. Later in the film, the gangster and his moll reappear periodically, using food as foreplay. By comparison, these scenes make 9 1/2 Weeks seem like the missionary position in Mormon underwear. Swirling around these two recurring narratives are a series of one-off skits on the role of food in people's lives. So many rituals, roles, and social codes are built around food and propriety, and we take a break from our gal at the noodle shop to get a survey of food culture in 1980s Japan. What Tampopo seems to emphasize in most of these one-offs is the sensual pleasure of food, and how our desire for sweets and richness and even just sloppy eating can't be restrained. Yet even when defying restraint, our taste for the sensual can be refined and in the process our appreciation for pleasure deepened. Tampopo isn't a movie for foodies. What a wretched, bourgie word that is. Tampopo is a movie for uplifting gormandizers who want to suck marrow rather than spoon it from the bone. Tampopo was just the second film from Itami, though it seems so assured and confident. Who else but a confident filmmaker decides to include a goofy rice omelet scene with a hobo? At numerous times the actors address some off-camera interlocutor by looking directly at the audience. This recurring quirk is sort of like Ozu, but not like Ozu at all. Tonally I was reminded a little of A Christmas Story, but then in comes a sexy or dark or sensitive moment redolent of some separate influence. Every couple minutes, unexpected surprises, and just more and more delight.
Review: Tampopo photo
Zen and the sexiness of ramen making

Prior to this week, the last time I saw Juzo Itami's 1985 food comedy Tampopo was in the mid-90s. I remembered so little of the movie save for the fact that I enjoyed it. Some isolated scenes are easy to recall, though. There's an etiquette class that slurps spaghetti, for instance. And there's the perverse, unexpected eroticism of two lovers swapping an unbroken raw egg yolk from mouth to mouth. Mostly I remembered its offbeat genre mash--not a spaghetti western but a ramen western.

Tampopo is an utter delight. It's so charming and strange: a movie about a ramen shop that's sort of structured like a bowl of ramen. The tangential narrative strands tangle together like noodles, complemented by the broth, with some sex as tender protein; all of it presented with a quirky warmth like the pink and white spiral on a slice of naruto.

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Review: Moonlight

Oct 20 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]220901:43153:0[/embed] MoonlightDirector: Barry JenkinsRelease Date: October 21st, 2016Rating: R  Moonlight is told in three parts, each spaced a decade or so apart. In part one, Chiron is a child; people call him "Little." In part 2, he's a teenager; one person calls him "Black." In part 3, he's in his late 20s; everyone calls him "Black" now. Each of the three actors is in the poster, which I think is an excellent poster (there are also individual character posters of each actor in the same position, which is less cool). However, the posters all have the same, dumb tagline: "This is the story of a lifetime." That's a terrible tagline. Unlike, say, the Disney film that you might expect to have the tagline, it's more literal. It is, sort of, the story of someone's lifetime. But that's not a very good measuring stick. I look at that poster and think, "That looks really cool." I read that tagline and think, "That sounds really bland." Though that raises an interesting thought (more on that later). All three parts of Moonlight are good, though they are all good for totally different reasons. Part 1 sets Chiron up, but it's less about Chiron than the man who is his mentor: Juan. Part of me wonders if that's intentional, that it's supposed to be about Juan. Certainly he's a critical part of the narrative (and also of Chiron's development as the film progresses), but this is not his story ultimately. And it seems to me that part of the reason it feels so much like his story is because of just how spectacular Mahershala Ali is in the role. Every moment he's on screen belongs to him. If years down the road, Moonlight winds up forgotten (I don't think it will), Ali's performance will not. The conflict of his character — a drug dealer who sells to the mother of the kid he's now begun to take care of, in large part because the kid's mother is a drug addict — is compelling as heck, and the performance makes it all the more so. Juan isn't in Part 2 (and he's not really in Part 3, but he's also totally in Part 3). He's dead, but no one ever says it. That is actually one of my favorite things about the film. There's no, "Sucks that Juan died in that [whatever happened]." In fact, we don't ever find out what happened. We know from the bits and pieces, the "I haven't seen her since the funeral" and the "This is my house." There's nothing expository here; these words are natural and in character. Writer/director Barry Jenkins trusts the audience's intelligence enough to make basic connections. I have always appreciated that in a filmmaker, and Moonlight is no exception. That said, this is where we should double back to my earlier thought: "That sounds really bland." While no part of Moonlight could be justifiably called "bland," a case could be made that it feels oddly "typical." Chiron's story is, really, not a new one. I've long made a point that, if I can see something coming, it was telegraphed from a mile away, because I more often than not will be blindsided by twists that everyone else sees as painfully obvious. And Moonlight is not really a film about twists (the closest thing the story has to one has already been spoiled in this review (sorry)), but it's a film about a sequence of events. The sequence of events in each story can more or less be predicted within the first ten minutes of each time period. This is especially true of the teenage years, which follow an almost painfully conventional structure. Part 3 diverges most drastically, but the way Chiron would ultimately turn out is not unpredictable.  And yet, it didn't matter. In fact, I'd argue that the film is more effective rather than less as a result of this. Because this is something like a story we've seen time and time again, it highlights just how well crafted it is here. In reviews of foreign films, I've discussed how seeing a different culture's take on the Same Old Story can ultimately create something that feels new and fresh. I wasn't really thinking about it within our borders, but that's a matter of my own blindness. The creative minds behind Moonlight have had unique experiences that the white people who usually make decisions just can't grasp. I don't believe for a moment that a white person could not have made Moonlight feel so... vital, because it would have felt like every other story of its ilk. You may know the beats, but they still feel fresh. And it's a combination of everything, because the writing has to be there; the performances have to be there; the technical aspects have to be there. Truly great movies can't succeed on one level. They must succeed on every level. And Moonlight does. (I want to briefly call out the camerawork, which is spectacular. Hell, just that opening shot is a goddamn masterwork.) And so we return to this idea of representation, and the weight that rests on Moonlight's shoulders. People will look to it as the film that can keep the Oscars this year from being so white. If it doesn't get at least four nominations (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography), well... I can't even fathom that possibility, because this is a film that more than deserves the praise that's been heaped upon it. By all accounts (again, I will not be watching it), the cracks in The Birth of a Nation as a work of art started to show as the narrative of Nate Parker's past emerged. And so were it to achieve ultimate success, some may have seen it more as a response to controversy than a justified win in and of itself. (That would be unfortunate, regardless of the film's quality, but I know more than a few people who would think that way.) There are no such concerns here. Any success that Moonlight has will come without reservation and without question. When the lights came up, I turned to the man beside me and asked what he had thought. "Beautiful," he answered. Nothing else needed to be said.
Moonlight Review photo
Able to bear the weight of its existence

I don't want to (and am not going to) make this review about the fact that Moonlight is a film about African Americans. It's not a topic I can avoid, but I want to get as much of that as I can out of the way in this intro. So... here goes:

#oscarssowhite made it "important" (I use that in air quotes, but I do mean it seriously) to have films with broader representation receive serious attention. After the Sundance blitz, The Birth of a Nation seemed like it was going to be the film that would do that. (Or, a film, because one really isn't enough... but I guess it's a start.) It didn't even seem to really relate to the quality of the movie itself, which by many accounts is Fine, but certainly not the masterpiece that the initial buzz would have suggested. And ultimately, it didn't matter, because the conduct of its writer/director/star overshadowed the whole thing. That can and will be debated for a while yet (for what it's worth: I can't divorce art from the artist, and I will not be seeing The Birth of a Nation as a result), but it left a gaping hole in the Oscar race in more ways than one.

The "diversity" buzz turned to Moonlight, not as a frontrunner for Best Picture, necessarily, but as a film that would certainly get its due with a Best Picture nomination and some awards elsewhere. In reality, going into the theater, that was all I knew. It was a film that could give at least a modicum of diversity. The man I sat next to at the screening asked me if I was excited. I said, "Yeah. Are you?" He said, "As a black gay man, I'm glad to be getting some representation." So now I knew it dealt with LGBT issues as well. So now, it's a film that's doubly "important" (air quotes again; still mean it seriously).

But let's not lose the forest for the trees. Moonlight may be a lot of things, representing a lot of things. But it is a narrative film first and foremost, and it has to succeed on that level before it can be anything else.

And boy howdy does it succeed.

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Review: Fire at Sea

Oct 20 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220906:43140:0[/embed] Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare)Director: Gianfranco RosiRating: TBDRelease Date: October 21, 2016 (limited)Country: Italy Fire at Sea is two different movies. In one movie, dozens of malnourished refugees die from inhaling gasoline fumes from the ship's engine. In the other film, a 12-year-old boy named Samuele struggles to steer a rowboat at the pier. One moment's dire and heartbreaking, the other is played for laughs. There's the coziness of Samuele's town, and then there's the squalor of a refugee ship. We watch Italian boys shoot cacti with slingshots and play war. We also watch a man from a war-torn country hyperventilate after being saved from a ship; he might be dying, he might have died. Everything about the town seems inconsequential, particularly two or three scenes involving a diver who adds little to the film save for some nice underwater photography. While a mix of emotional highs and lows can work, here's it's just so mannered, calculated, and done with an off-putting emotional disinterest. Fire at Sea has so many obvious counterpoints to highlight thematic or symbolic material, it's as if Rosi cared more about the metaphors than the actual human suffering. There's minimal connection between the refugees and the people in town. None of the townspeople in the film work in the Italian coast guard, and only one person actually interacts with the refugees or talks about them meaningfully. For everyone else, the refugees don't seem to exist. Toward the beginning of the film, an elderly woman cooks while listening to a radio. The DJ reads a report about drowned refugees. Those poor people, she says, and carries on. There's a doctor in town who treats refugees fished from the Mediterranean. He recounts this in troubled tones. The things he's seen, the dire conditions, haunt his dreams. The doctor later appears in the film talking to Samuele about the boy's lazy eye. (A metaphor for how many people choose not to see or cannot see the horrors that refugees face--okay, yeah, I get it). Samuele goes off, performing for the camera like a neurotic elderly man. In another movie, this may be charming. In Fire at Sea, the moment made me angry, and probably not in the way that Rosi intended. Yeah, okay, I get it, the contrast is meant to upset the audience's comfortable lives and sensibilities. But isn't all of this also obvious? Fire at Sea is most effective when focusing on the refugees and the rescue teams. That's when the film feels humane rather than an exercise in contrasting aesthetics. A man who's been beaten on the boat literally cries blood. A woman breaks down before the camera, and despite being severely dehydrated, she first pours a cup of water over her head in relief. In a refugee processing center, a room of refugees prays as if in a Pentecostal revival, singing their story of survival. At night, refugees from different countries have a pick-up soccer game, as if some humanity, that dignity they risked their lives for, has been restored to them. But then back to Samuele, who slurps up spaghetti good and loud for laughs. I understand Rosi's intentions intellectually, and this collection of contrasts and disconnects does sound interesting in the abstract. But these are real people, and the last thing I want out of films or books is to be merely interesting. Being merely interesting is easy. The more I think about Fire at Sea, the more I'm offended by the choice to aestheticize human suffering for the sake of mere interestingness. Rosi may be well-intentioned, but Fire at Sea came across as unintentionally callous. That may have been the point. That doesn't mean I have to like it. It's telling that the final scenes of Fire at Sea are all about Samuele rather than the refugees. Those poor people, Rosi's film seems to say, and carries on.
Review: Fire at Sea photo
When refugees are a secondary concern

Sometimes I'll see a movie and that makes me shake my head and say, "Okay, yeah, I get it". These sorts of movies are ones that I can understand at a formal, metaphorical, or thematic level, and yet even though I understand the choice that was made,  I don't enjoy what's being presented. The "Okay, yeah, I get it" moment comes when the filmmaker continually returns to that formal or metaphorical material, and the sensation is like listening to a single sour note played repeatedly, interrupting the rest of a composition.

Gianfranco Rosi's documentary Fire at Sea is one of these films. Part of the movie is an unflinching look at the refugee crisis. The rest, the majority, is a lackadaisical portrait of life in Lampedusa, an Italian island fishing community. Toward the end of the film, the "Okay, yeah, I get it" became "Okay, yeah, I think I'm offended".

[This review originally ran as part of Flixist's coverage of the 54th New York Film Festival. It has been reposted to coincide with the theatrical release of the film.]

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Logan trailer photo
I will make you hurt *snikt*

For Hugh Jackman's final film as Wolverine, they're going old man Logan on us. And here we have our first trailer for Logan, which is full of equal parts badassery and pathos. Wolverine meets The Road and The Last of Us?

Oh hells yes.

Check out the Logan trailer below.


Real talk: I get a little misty every time I hear Johnny Cash's cover of "Hurt".

This movie looks exceptional, and a great change in direction from the usual superhero schlock we see all the damn time. There's the vibe of a gristled, post-apocalyptic, futuristic western by way of a comic book. It's all dire and old, and it may a great sendoff for Jackman in the role that made him a star.

I'm all about this, guys.

Logan comes out March 3, 2017.

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Review: I, Daniel Blake

Oct 20 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220904:43138:0[/embed] I, Daniel BlakeDirector: Ken LoachRating: TBDRelease Date: October 21, 2016 (UK); December 23, 2016 (USA)Country: UK Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) is a widower who's been denied disability benefits after suffering a heart attack. He's an everyman figure for the vulnerable elderly, and for anyone who's been on hold with customer service for longer than necessary. Daniel doesn't have any family or friends to help him in this situation, so he needs the social safety net. There's a catch: in order to receive any benefits, he has to look for work, and yet he can't work at the moment because his doctor says it will aggravate his heart condition. His plight may sound familiar, but that's because it's a reality for many older people. The elderly and other vulnerable populations often face these kinds of helpless situations. Rather than receive individual assistance with computers or paperwork, the system wants to push him through and out as quickly as possible--men and women chewed up and spat. While Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty may heighten the dire situation, Johns' performance grounds Daniel. He's an individual man and a common man metaphor, and achingly human. Daniel's path crosses with Katie (Hayley Squires), a struggling single-mother from London trying to resettle in New Castle. Hers is a life of constant denial. Spaghetti for the kids at dinner, and just an apple for herself until morning. She can't find work because there aren't any jobs, and so that cycle of denial continues. In one of the movie's most moving and empathetic moments, we watch Katie overcome by hunger at a food bank. She breaks down. Squires brings a lot of heart to her performance, but in this scene Katie's courage has faltered. There's only a debased shame. Somewhere, mixed in, there's also dread. Together, Daniel and Katie offer a glimmer of hope for the people failed by the system. When vulnerable people slip through the country's social safety net, perhaps their only shot at dignity is to be there for one another. And perhaps because this plight is so familiar--seen on film, TV, in families or down the street--struggling people can feel a little less alone in the world. The situation in I, Daniel Blake is so specific to the UK, and yet the pain and the hardship is relatable throughout the western world. Knowing that someone else has experienced the same thing can help reduce that sense of hopeless desperation that accompanies poverty. It's a meek hope, though, a faint and brief glimmer, which may explain the fervor of the film, like something off a Billy Bragg record. I, Daniel Blake feels like a rallying cry for reform and greater egalitarianism, or at least some restoration of humanity and kindness to systems that have become so good at stripping humanity away. If the characters seem familiar, it's probably because the same tragedies happen so often and have happened for so long to so many. If the story beats sound familiar, it's probably because the cadence of protest chants often have a common pattern. I, Daniel Blake is ostensibly about a man named Daniel and a woman named Katie, but I know these people by other names and with other faces.
Review: I, Daniel Blake photo
Familiar yet powerfully urgent

Bureaucracies make great villains. Faceless and absurd, they operate in such nefarious ways and are perfect machines for dehumanization. Bureaucracies are reliably inefficient, needlessly hierarchical, ruthlessly procedure-obsessed, and always plodding. The systems strip away a common sense of humanity while grinding people down until they submit.

In I, Daniel Blake, director Ken Loach attempts to restore the humanity to the working poor and working class who've been neglected by the system. It's a spirited polemic about the modern failings of the UK's welfare system and the NHS. The movie felt particularly urgent to me given this year's rise of left-leaning populists like Jeremy Corbyn to Bernie Sanders.

And yet paradoxically, Loach restores the human face of the poor by using well-known tropes about poverty.

[This review originally ran as part of Flixist's coverage of the 54th New York Film Festival. It has been reposted to coincide with the UK theatrical release of the film.]

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20th Century Fox just dropped oodles and caboodles of parkour in its latest trailer for Assassisn's Creed which bows December 21, 2016.

In our first helping of Assassin's Creed trailer goodness, released on May 12, we also got parkour, but not much else. The trailer promised that the movie would do its best to recreate the world of the video games on which its based, but beyond that, it was merely there to make us drool as guys in too cool hoods did too cool moves in too cool ways. Holy shit did I want to start binging some of my old parkour favorites on YouTube.

Five months later and it seems Fox may think this spicy meatball needs to get even spicier. Little things like story, and plot, and Michael Fassbender, oh and a little of Marion Cotillard (and was that a hint of Jeremy Irons I detect there?). Pass me the sriracha: I'm in!



And if that weren't enough to crank your hunger meter to 11, they're also serving up new poster! Fassbender and Fassbender, attorneys at law. Or, um, Assassin's Creed



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Watch the sneak peek teaser for Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2

Oct 19 // Hubert Vigilla
Oh, you kids with your space movies and things. How lovely. No lie, Guardians is my second favorite MCU movie since it has a bit more personality than the other films, and because James Gunn made Tromeo and Juliet, the secret-best Troma movie. Gunn is such a nice guy he even shared a poster for the film. Give it a look below. We'll keep you posted on the full trailer for Guardians 2 when it arrives. For now, come and get your tease of love. [via James Gunn on Facebook]
Guardians 2 teaser photo
We are all Kevin Bacon again

We're all anxiously awaiting Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2. James Gunn promises a full trailer is on the way for his misfit science fiction adventure, but for now, he's taken to Facebook to share a special sneak peek of the film.

Give it a watch below, amigo.


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Maybe it’s a coincidence that Burger Fiction published this Tom Cruise running compilation a week befoe Jack Reacher: Never Go Back drops in theaters, maybe not. But I definitely got a targeted Reacher ad when I played the video.

On to the point: this is a comprehensive compilation of every bit of action Tom Cruise has performed in a movie that might possibly be considered running. SPOILER ALERT: it goes on for 18:10. I was ready to quit by two minutes, and then four, and again every minute after. I made it through nine adrenaline-fueled grueling minutes before skipping ahead to see just how long Tom has run. 

Most of it is even in real-time, too, although there are several slow motion segments that the ticker did not slow down to accurately reflect … I guess it’s screen time versus real time.


I advise that you drink heavily before viewing. The soundtrack and wardrobe styles are as diverse as you might expect viewing disparate clips from four decades, and it can be disconcerting viewed sober when all you have to weave it together is a gradually aging Tom Cruise cheek-puffing like a champion beach ball inflater (that's a thing).

Side note: does Tom Cruise know how to jog or even understand the concept? This dude has been flat out sprinting FOREVER.


Bad news for Burger Fiction, they’ll likely need to update this come Thursday’s early release of Jack Reacher. You know Tom Cruise can’t resist running on camera! (Or, you do now.)




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Brooklyn Drafthouse open photo

After an unfortunate and unexpected delay, the Brooklyn Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is finally set to open with a firm date in place. The drink and dine-in theater will start showing movies on Friday, October 28th, just in time for Halloween weekend. Tickets for the first weekend should be on sale tomorrow (Wednesday the 19th).

The location was supposed to open in August. The seven-theater cinema ready to go and even had a special grand opening film series planned. Construction setbacks in the City Point complex were caused the Alamo Drathouse to postpone its opening until later this month.

I will try to be there opening weekend to take in a movie. And I will be there a lot... like, way too much. For tickets and more information about the Brooklyn Alamo Drafthouse, click here.

[via The New York Times]

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BHFF Review: The Master Cleanse

Oct 18 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220967:43149:0[/embed] The Master CleanseDirector: Bobby MillerRating: TBDRelease Date: TBD  During the 1980s there was a glut of creature movies, spurred mostly by the popularity of Gremlins. After that came movies like Ghoulies and Critters and Hobgoblins. The Master Cleanse is like a cousin to these films, a few times removed. In some ways this link to the creature features of the not-so-distant past is a detriment to the film, but we'll come back to that point later. Writer/director Bobby Miller embeds the creature feature elements within a movie about self-help and fad diets as a solution for existential problems. Paul (Johnny Galecki) is a classic schlub who's heartbroken and aimless and in search of direction. He decides to check out a mystery retreat in the woods to deal with his woes. He's attracted to a fellow retreatee, an actress named Maggie (Anna Friel). The two meet in an chintzy orientation meeting that reeks of bad multi-level marketing scams. In the woods, the participants agree to an all-liquid diet of specially formulated sludge that will help rid them of their problems. Miller and his cast relish the awkward humor of these moments, which also tap into an underlying first-world sadness. Who else but the lost and desperate would even try these sorts of things? How many bad weeks are we from being where these people are? It's such a clever set up to watch unfold, even with such a small cast. A lot of the credit goes to how invested the ensemble is in their characters and the premise. Galecki channels a mix of sympathy and patheticness perfect for his downtrodden everyschlub. As the creatures make their way into the narrative, I was charmed by the movie's use of practical effects. There's something pretty wondrous about the conceit Miller presents. The creatures and the characters are linked in an unexpected way, which adds some life to the puppets and the people we're watching. There's so much to work with and so much to like about The Master Cleanse, but it wraps up way too soon. That may be the narrative expectations I have from those creature features I mentioned before. As The Master Cleanse quickly winds down, it feels like it would have been the beginning of third act in another film--a point where the world expands. I wonder if the budget was an issue, or the desire to keep the film at a very brief 80 minutes, or maybe this was a conscious choice to keep the story very small. I could have spent another 15 to 20 minutes in the world of the film no problem; it almost feels like the emotional payoff would have been bigger with a little more time. There's so much potential, such a fine tone, so many other things I would have liked to see, and characters I would have liked to spend more time with. The Master Cleanse is a movie where vomiting and diarrhea are fetid versions of Chekhov's gun. I mean this as a high compliment--what other movie does this? So many questions about excretions. While The Master Cleanse falls short at the end--a good example of  a logical conclusion that isn't necessarily a satisfying one--there's enough in there to enjoy. It's almost like I went on the retreat and did the cleanse diet myself. I drank it all in and it's all out of my system. Gosh am I hungry.
The Master Cleanse Review photo
The small-scale creature feature

I'm curious how they're going to market The Master Cleanse. I went into the film knowing very little about it, and many of my favorite parts involve its little surprises. I hope those surprises aren't spoiled in the trailer. There's an older A-list actress in a supporting role, and two veteran character actors who I always like seeing on screen. One of them--the only one I feel okay spoiling in this review--is the underrated Kevin J. O'Connor. His most high-profile roles were in Lord of Illusions and The Mummy, though he's recently popped up in some of the newer Paul Thomas Anderson films. He's an actor of pale, comforting frailty; picture Vincent Schiavelli by way of Don Knotts.

I'm also curious about the marketing because The Master Cleanse seems to occupy its own quirky little world that's hard to describe without giving it away. It's a comedy at heart with a tinge of science fiction and just a taste of horror. The horror and sci-fi seem like minor concerns, though. This is a niche sort of comedy creature feature, which recalls a horror subgenre that hasn't been en vogue for a long while.

[This review is part of Flixist's coverage of the first ever Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, which runs from October 14th to October 16th. For tickets and more information about the inaugural Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, click here.]

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BHFF Review: Child Eater

Oct 16 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220938:43148:0[/embed] Child EaterDirector: Erlingur Ottar ThoroddsenRating: TBDRelease Date:  TBD The Child Eater monster is a mix of familiar elements. The fingers and ears and baldness of Nosferatu's Count Orlok, the hulking menace of a Jason Vorhees, the coat a bit Candyman, the sunglasses like the ones worn by the Butterball cenobite from Hellraiser. (An eerie moment with feathers descending in the night also recalls a dream sequence in Hellraiser.) He's scary, and the local legend around him evokes the spooky stories spread around small towns that happen to have a notorious figure/incident in their past. Maybe a little too familiar is just plain too familiar. There's a babysitter in peril named Helen (Cai Bliss) whose dad is a sheriff. There's a cute but also creepy little boy she's looking after named Lucas (Colin Critchley). And then there's the monster. After a moody flashback sequence in the opening credits, the events unfold over the course of a single day and night. That becomes an issue considering wounds certain a certain character sustains; an hour or so later, this character runs around without acknowledging the injury. Come to think of it, where was that police backup two or three hours before? Oh, no matter. There's are some solid ideas and images to play with in Child Eater. The gore effects and the moody images are fine--a sequence with Lucas being chased in a makeshift network of tunnels is menacing for what it is--but maybe it's all just fine. There are a lot of familiar horror tropes thrown in that feel perfunctory. Helen's a capable final girl for a horror movie, but she feel more like an archetype than a distinct character. Like memorable movie monsters, unique final girls are hard to come by--not everyone is a Laurie Strode or a Nancy Thompson. What I really wanted from Child Eater was a moment when the film becomes its own beast. Rather than ticking off a checklist of tropes, I was hoping it would go in some wild and unexpected direction. Writer/director Erlingur Ottar Thoroddsen originally did a short film version of Child Eater that can be viewed online, and many of those elements are planted throughout the feature-length version of the story. As far as the original elements, the tunnels I mentioned earlier offered a possibility, and an eerie game of hide and seek was squandered before achieving maximum effect. A creepy side character played by Melinda Chilton also felt like a wasted opportunity for Child Eater to build out its own identity as a film. This isn't to say Child Eater is bad. Again, it's competent. It just needs more of a sense of individuality to stand out. Soup in need of salt; maybe a better stock, homemade and new.
Review: Child Eater photo
Meet new monster, same as old monster

Creating a new face of horror is difficult. For every Jason, Freddy, and Michael Myers, there are countless forgettable imitators. These lower-tier boogeymen may look good, and their mythology may have promise, but they never haunt the imagination in a lasting way. I think a lot of this has to do with the quality of the movies the monsters are in. When the movie is lacking something, so is the staying power of the monster.

That's one way to preface Child Eater. It's such a competent throwback to old school horror movies of the 80s (though without the retro chic of other throwback horror films), and yet it feels a little too familiar.

[This review is part of Flixist's coverage of the first ever Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, which runs from October 14th to October 16th. For tickets and more information about the inaugural Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, click here.]

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NYFF Review: Elle

Oct 16 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220908:43150:0[/embed] ElleDirector: Paul VerhoevenRating: RRelease Date: November 11, 2016 (limited)Country: France  Elle starts with the rape, in media res. Verhoeven shoots the scene with surprising restraint. There's the noise of the assault off camera. Helen's pet cat looks on blankly. The rapist, dressed in black with a ski mask, stands and wipes blood from his hip and groin and then walks away. Helen tidies up around the kitchen and continues about her day in a daze. She's in shock, but it's subtle. A brief bubble bath scene is so artfully done and haunting. Helen's a bit angrier at her son Vincent (Jonas Bloquet) when he comes to visit than she would be otherwise. Vincent asks about the bruise on the side of her face. She says she fell off her bike. The rape goes unreported. When Helen finally mentions it to anyone, she waits for the most awkward moment possible to bring it up. She says what happened as if she lost a credit card. Is it a coping mechanism or is it just the movie playing provocateur? Elle aims for the uncomfortable laugh, and for a while it succeeds in doling out its cringe humor. At a certain point, it's just cringes. While dealing with horrible things in life, one hundred other genres may be occurring in the world simultaneously. A portion of the film plays like a thriller, with Helen narrowing down the suspects in her life while her attacker stalks and harasses her. As this thriller plays out, there's a family dramedy: Helen's jealous about her ex-husband's new girlfriend, annoyed by her son's screwed up relationship with his pregnant girlfriend, and can't stand her mother's new boyfriend either. Then there's the matter of her father and an infamous trauma in her past, one essential to Helen's character but never explored substantively in the story. Huppert's a saving grace for the film in that she plays everything so straight, even Helen's unexpected actions and reactions. Yet these are just actions in a performance, not necessarily actions stemming from a character. I could rarely get a handle on who Helen was or how she interpreted the world and the events around her. The rape is replayed explicitly in the film, and then played again as a kind of revenge fantasy. Later, Helen seems to invite victimization. There's a harrowing scene in which Helen seems turned on by the idea of the man she's with raping her, recreating the trauma that opened the film. Is she feeling pleasure? Is that pain and masochistic shame? Is it a mix of both, and if so, what then? Huppert wears an inscrutable mask before, during, and after the scene. The moment is never discussed afterward. I don't need on-screen psychoanalysis or to be handheld through a narrative, but I'd like to be given some hint of what Helen feels about what's happened. Elle avoids exploring the emotional impact of rape. Instead the film tries to offer Helen's detachment as some opaque and oblique portrait of her psychology, but even this amounts to a blank gray page. This is all extremely difficult and sensitive territory to explore, especially when Helen's motives are so ambiguous. Sure, there's never a single correct way for someone to respond to trauma, but rather than provide an alternative portrait of recovery or greater insight into this personality in flux, I felt as if Elle was simply pushing buttons and inverting the traditional rape-revenge narrative for the shock value. That's easier and less painful than really getting into someone's interior life after such a traumatic experience. The film's MO seems to be keep the focus on the inscrutable surface, and make it shocking. It doesn't help that Elle's perspective is male dominated; it's directed by Verhoeven from a script by David Birke, and adapted from a novel by Philippe Dijan. Am I watching a woman's experience as she struggles to retake power as all the men in her life rob her of agency? Or am I just watching a male interpretation of all this that indulges in a little bit of rape fantasy? This might all be up for audience interpretation, which makes me surprised that so many critics have written that the film is so empowering to women and makes bold statements. I don't think it says anything at all, or intends to empower anyone; it's just well-orchestrated provocation. No surprise that by the end of Elle, I was left feeling a sour and empty frustration. Helen is the head of a video game company, though this portion of Elle serves as a mild subtextual and metatextual backdrop. They're making a medieval action-adventure--think Warcraft by way of Assassin's Creed with really antiquated graphics. During a meeting, one of her designers--a man who may be the rapist--says that Helen's pretentious literary background has gotten in the way of the game's basic playability. I think Verhoeven's penchant for provocation might have gotten in the way of the fundamental human concerns of Elle.
NYFF Review: Elle photo
Provocative, but is it saying anything?

Elle has been billed as a rape-comedy, but that's a misnomer. It's a comedy in the classical sense given the events of the story, but it's not necessarily funny (there are funny scenes, though). And yes, it's about rape. Elle has been lauded as a return to form for Paul Verhoeven, and even a bold statement about how someone can deal with trauma. Yet the movie's stance on the aftermath of rape was problematic for plenty of reasons. It's really more of a non-stance.

While Elle is about trauma, I don't think it ever says anything about trauma. The movie provokes, it needles, it offends, it intentionally upends expectations, yes, but the inscrutability of Helen (played by an excellent Isabelle Huppert) serves as a convenient out for the film. Rather than offer some statement about rape and its aftermath, Elle hides behind a shield of ambiguity and provocation, hoping that will suffice.

[This review is part of Flixist's coverage of the 54th New York Film Festival, which runs from September 30th to October 16th. To see more of our NYFF 2016 coverage, click here. For tickets and more information about the 54th New York Film Festival, click here.]

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Review: The Accountant

Oct 14 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]220965:43147:0[/embed] The AccountantDirector: Gavin O'ConnorRelease Date: October 14th, 2016Rating: R  The Accountant feels like a television pilot, an origin story with a little bit of Case of the Week madness thrown in. Ben Affleck plays the eponymous accountant, constantly creating new identities based on famous people who were interested in math (at the start of this story: Christian Wolff) and then discarding them whenever his situation becomes compromised. And why would it do that? Because he works for some of the most dangerous people in the world: terrorists, thieves, cartels, you know name it and he does their books. Key to his success is his autism, which causes a number of problems but also unlocks an incredible ability to solve puzzles and make connections. He can do the work of a half-dozen neurotypicals in half the time. And he always finishes what he starts. I can only think of one other action movie with an autistic star, which would be Thai film Chocolate, by Prachya Pinkaew. In that film, an autistic girl watches martial arts movies and becomes a master. I bring it up solely because I think you should see it, because The Accountant isn't really like it at all, though Mr. Wolff is a more-than-capable fighter. He was trained by his father, a military man, and the men that his father hired to make sure he could take care of himself. The flashbacks to his younger self, often at his worst, in the midst of meltdowns or other crises, demonstrate the difficulty of having a child with autism while also showing a fascinating sort of respect for what it can do. I'll admit that my experience with autism is fairly limited, but what I saw felt pretty right. On the whole, the film is trying to make a pretty clear point: Autism is not a disorder or an illness; it's just a different way of being. It's not worse or better, just its own thing. And credit where credit is due: That's awesome. How many times have we seen an autistic protagonist who can genuinely take care of themselves in a major motion picture? Have we ever seen that? I'm honestly curious, so someone please tell me if that's a thing. Certainly it wouldn't be something like The Accountant. No, The Accountant is different. I mentioned in the intro that this is a film with a genuinely strange structure, and what I mean by that is that the story itself comes out in bursts that feel sort of haphazardly placed. After big action sequences we'll end up with long stretches of exposition that totally kill whatever intense pacing the film may have been building up. There is a lengthy subplot involving a pair from the Treasury trying to track him down, and as that story develops, we learn a lot about J.K. Simmons' character. None of that really felt necessary, and it kind of bogs down the movie in its second half, but it also felt a little bit like, "Why not?" The characters in general feel like they're being introduced for something grander, and we'll learn more about them in future episodes. J.K. Simmons is set to retire, so this is probably the last we'll be seeing of him. It was his time in the spotlight. Next week, we'll learn more about someone else. And while we're getting a lot of character exposition about Affleck and Simmons, we're getting pretty much nothing about the actual story itself. So, blah blah blah someone is cooking books. Affleck finds out about it. People need to die. Etc. We learn about the motivations of the bad guy, but his actual place in the film is so minor (and ultimately inconsequential) that the film may as well have no story at all. You might think that one of Wolff's obviously dangerous clients is after him, but that isn't it at all. As far as the film is concerned, he has successfully stayed off the grid. No one knows where to find him, so he only has to worry about the people right in front of him.  Which means that we're probably in for a franchise, assuming The Accountant does well at the box office. It doesn't end on a cliffhanger or anything, and it doesn't need a sequel, but the character and his work is structured in such a way that it would be exceedingly easy to make one. You'd think that Affleck's got his hands full with the whole Batman thing, but I imagine the dramatic work involved in The Accountant is a bit more satisfying. It's possible that the action is too, because the movie actually has some pretty great fight scenes, ones that don't need a whole bunch of purdy CGI to be cool. (Think Batman v. Superman's warehouse fight, which is easily the best part of that movie (except it's okay when Batman kills people in this one).) And so I hope this does become a franchise, and I hope we get to see more of Anna Kendrick in fights, because in the one fight where she has a minor role, she's a total badass about it. I heard a guy complaining after the film that she didn't seem Damsel-in-Distress-y enough. And thank gosh; she's way more interesting that. And I have to give the film credit for that, too. It treats pretty much all of its characters with a certain amount of dignity; they are (well, most of them) more complex than I had expected, and that made some of those slow, exposition-heavy moments a lot more bearable than they could have been. There are many things about The Accountant that I genuinely loved and nothing that I really disliked. Sure, some of its issues, particularly around structure and pacing, are irritating. They keep The Accountant from being truly brilliant. But they don't keep it from greatness. Bring on The Accountant Chapter 2. 
The Accountant Review photo
Ben Affleck's John Wick

I remember seeing the first trailer for The Accountant a few months back and thinking, "That's a hilarious premise that looks like it could be terrible, but I bet it's going to be awesome." It seemed like the kind of bizarre premise — an accountant with high-functioning autism has to do something involving oversized guns — that you want more of when talking about how stale Hollywood is becoming. Here is a premise that is genuinely different, albeit one with a very high risk of going off the rails. 

And I'll be up front: It kinda does, but not necessarily in the way you might expect. The Accountant is a genuinely bizarre movie, both narratively and (perhaps more significantly) structurally. This film may be Ben Affleck's John Wick (which was, itself, Keanu Reeves' Taken), but it is very much unlike either of those films. It's not exposition followed by nonstop mayhem; it's much slower, much more dialogue-driven. Probably too dialogue-driven... but if you go in knowing that, I think you're going to enjoy the heck out of it. 

I know I did.

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BHFF Review: We Are the Flesh

Oct 13 // Hubert Vigilla
TRAILER IS NOT SAFE FOR WORK (NSFW) [embed]220963:43146:0[/embed] We Are the Flesh (Tenemos le carne)Director: Emiliano Rocha MinterRating: TBDRelease Date: TBDCountry: Mexico  We Are the Flesh reminds me of early Clive Barker splatterpunk stories; one scene in thermal vision even recalls Barker's little-seen short film The Forbidden. There's also a hint of Shinya Tsukamoto's Tetsuo: The Iron Man, though it's shorn of the technological madness and kinetic stuff--this transgression is luridly organic. Maybe Tetsuo by way of Gaspar Noe, with occasional outbursts of hysterical excess straight out of Andrzej Zulawski (Possession). The film also has some moist, mucus-rich makeup effects that wouldn't be out of place in a Brian Yuzna movie (Society, From Beyond). This paragraph is either a warning or a recommendation--if you want blood, you got it. There's a man with a demonic smile (Noe Hernandez) who lives in an abandoned building. He gets high on homemade gasoline and gets off on solitude. A boy (Diego Gamaliel) and a girl (Maria Evoli), siblings, enter his building. They're desperately in search of food and shelter. The man lets them stay as long as they help him construct a claustrophobic landscape within the building. Think of something like a cave and a uterus complete with a pseudo birth canal; a psychoanalytic hellscape where the id can thrive. All the while, the man tries to coerce the boy and the girl to break social, sexual, and interpersonal taboos. Minter builds up dread through whispers and shouts as he mounts transgressions upon each other. There's incest, rape, murder, cannibalism, on-camera sex, and necrophilia, and even now I can't say what it all adds up to. We Are the Flesh may not add up to anything, to be honest. Even though Hernandez and Evoli give the film their all--Evoli in particular goes for psychotic broke--the movie may just be images and noise with the intent to shock. I think there's a political allegory about Mexico and poverty, that a lack of means reduces us to some base state of nature in which social mores no longer matter. But it's a bit of a guess. It might be a stretch. Sometimes extreme cinema is just extreme cinema, but I can't help but sense something more meaningful behind all of this given how repulsed yet affected I felt. When someone lets out a blood-curdling scream, there has to be a reason, right? Maybe? Or was it just the desire to scream? This struggle for meaning is probably an intentional provocation from Minter. When confronted with something shocking, I usually feel challenged to interpret it. Yet Minter evades overt meaning making. There seems to be 10 minutes missing from the final act of the 80-minute film. Several events take place off camera unexplained, and it leads to total narrative disorientation. We Are the Flesh was a feverish nightmare already, and then that skimpy dream logic breaks down completely. No order, not for this this movie. What Minter provides is a sustained sense of unease, however. That feeling remained with me even after a less than satisfying conclusion. Even if We Are the Flesh only prompts exasperation and disgust, it's such a strange trip into the abyss I want to send others down there into the dark who are willing. Minter, like or hate it, is a Mexican filmmaker to watch. I'm reminded of something Clive Barker said about movies once (paraphrased): I want to feel something, even if it's just disgust; better that than thinking, okay, let's go for a pizza. After We Are the Flesh, pizza was the last thing I wanted.
Review: We Are the Flesh photo
The ecstasy of pure id

Reviewing We Are the Flesh from writer/director Emiliano Rocha Minter is tricky. On the one hand, it's a deeply flawed film aimed at a limited audience. It's transgressive in the extreme, sexually explicit bordering on pornographic, nonsensical bordering on pretentious. Minter seems to want to find that sliver of an audience that loves high-brow art house movies as much as they love sordid exploitation trash. Characters are reduced to character types and symbols, which themselves get reduced to the most base animalistic impulses (i.e., eat, f**k, repeat).

And yet this is why I can't get We Are the Flesh out of my head. No wonder Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men, Gravity) and Alejandro Inarritu (Birdman, The Revenant) have endorsed Minter's filmmaking. It might speak to the way that extreme cinema, even irresolvable or seemingly incomplete (maybe incomprehensible?) works, can affect viewers simply through a lack of restraint. It's like staring at a squalid ink blot and trying to discern meaning and intent, knowing that this shape may be nothing more than sound, fury, sex, and gore.

[This review is part of Flixist's coverage of the first ever Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, which runs from October 14th to October 16th. For tickets and more information about the inaugural Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, click here.]

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Rogue One Trailer photo
Gimme dat sweet Mads

The idea of getting a new Star Wars film every year might be overwhelming, but after checking out this final trailer for Rogue One, I don't think it's going to be a problem. With our best look at the film yet, I am completely sold. I was hesitant at first since I'm not the hugest Star Wars fan, but the idea of a non-Jedi related adventure in that world is too good to pass up.

Also, that cast is to die for. A glimpse at Mads Mikkelsen's character, a better look at Forest Whitaker, and just a cool look all around. Check out the amazing poster below too. When's the last time you've seen the lead actress get such a pronounced image on a poster? And a Star Wars film no less! 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story releases December 16th. 


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BHFF Review: Let Her Out

Oct 12 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220939:43143:0[/embed] Let Her OutDirector: Cody CalahanRating: TBDRelease Date: TBDCountry: Canada Helen (Alanna LeVierge) never knew her mother personally, just what she did for a living. Her mom was a prostitute who worked out of a seedy motel. One night she's raped by a mysterious john. She commits suicide not long after that because she's become suddenly and supernaturally pregnant. Twenty-three years later, Helen gets into an accident that triggers the growth of a brain tumor. (It was in the parking lot of an ostensibly abandoned motel. Why was someone driving there?) Inside of that cluster of cells grows a long-dormant vestigial twin. The twin begins to take over, making Helen act like someone else entirely. The look and feel of Let Her Out are great, and sort of reminiscent of a Nicolas Winding Refn movie. On a couple of occasions I was reminded of Neon Demon. Like Refn's latest, the pinks are seductively warm, and the blues are chilly for contrast. Stephanie Copeland provides a sinister synthesizer score that nods to Cliff Martinez. Even as the film gets wobbly, director of photography Jeff Maher lenses each scene with care. Shaun Hunter and Carly Nicodemo offer up some fine special effects and practical makeup, particularly as the movie draws to a close. There are a few memorable moments that involve Helen's twin trying to get out, and it's gooey and gross and offers up some fine moments of body horror. But the look and feel of the film is just one half of the whole. That other half of Let Her Out--the story, characters, and performances--leave a lot to be desired. Helen abhors everything salacious in life; it reminds her of who her mother was, and that's the last thing she wants to be. At least I think that's the case. I never got to know Helen beyond some basics. What's more, her mother never plays a role outside of the introductory flashback, so any contrast between mother and daughter (and mother and daughters) has to be inferred. Helen's mom is just a nameless rape victim and suicide rather than an actual character--that's a major problem. While I'm on the subject of problematic things, the film's views on sex and sex work seem way too puritanical on top of that. Let Her Out pushes a virgin/whore dichotomy when it seems like the film's take on sexuality could have been far more layered. Playing with the sins of the mother and/or the repression of the daughter would have been interesting, and it would have added some needed psychological horror. Sadly the screenplay written by Adam Seybold lacks depth. The supporting cast isn't rendered all that well either. Helen's roommate Molly (Nina Kiri) and her scumbag boyfriend Ed (Adam Christie) are stock characters--Molly the self-absorbed theater person, Ed the self-absorbed dude-bro. One moment Molly is supportive, the next she chastises Helen for not showing up to a play. You'd think she'd take her roommate's brain tumor into account, but no, that was two or three scenes ago. Empathy has a short shelf life. Just a little more time and care with these characters, their situations, and their motivations could have made Let Her Out much better. It would have also given the actors more to work with, and might have led to performances that weren't so synthetic. For everything good, there's a missed opportunity, for every set-up, there's a missing pay off. In my gut I think the movie could have used another draft and, more importantly, a woman's insight. (The film's story was by Seybold and director Cody Calahan.) The subtext of Let Her Out is how Helen assumes different roles out of necessity or expectation; in the case of Helen and her absent mother, it's about being the exact opposite. Maybe with a woman's pass at the script, the more terrifying and unsettling film would have emerged like a parasitic twin and taken over.
Review: Let Her Out photo
The good half and the bad half

Feeling frustrated by a movie isn't unusual. The best/worst kind of frustration is when the hints of a better film are evident. It's like eating a meal and knowing just from flavor or texture what's missing--not enough salt, undercooked, should have used lard, too much baking powder.

That's probably the best way to describe the experience of watching Let Her Out. There's so much good at a technical level, and yet so much that holds it back. This is a fitting predicament for a movie about an evil, parasitic twin.

[This review is part of Flixist's coverage of the first ever Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, which runs from October 14th to October 16th. For tickets and more information about the inaugural Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, click here.]

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NYFF Review: Toni Erdmann

Oct 12 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220911:43142:0[/embed] Toni ErdmannDirector: Maren AdeRating: RRelease Date: July 16, 2016 (Germany); December 25, 2016 (USA)Country: Germany/Austria I love Groucho Marx as a character, but I would never want someone like that as a father. In some ways, Toni Erdmann is what it would be like if Groucho Marx was Margaret Dumont's dad. Ines (Sandra Huller) is our girl Dumont. She's a high-level consultant working in Romania to negotiate an outsourcing deal. Like so many women in the business world, she needs to work twice as hard as her male counterparts, fighting the entrenched sexism of the workplace while out-politicking others in the office. She's always working and seems to get off on forceful shows of control. While trying to unwind at a day spa, she complains that her masseuse was too gentle. "I want to be roughed up," she smiles. Winfried (Peter Simonischek) is her dad Groucho. Rather than a painted mustache, Winfried's got a pair of ugly false teeth and a wig. It's not hard to see why Ines' mother divorced Winfried, or why Ines tries to avoid her dad. He imposes, he mocks, he's a bit of a chaos agent. The man can't take anything seriously. After his dog dies, Winfried spontaneously vacations in Romania to connect with his daughter, eventually adopting the persona of Toni Erdmann. The name sounds so serious and German (redundant?), but in English the name apparently translates into "Toni Meerkat". Ines is too ruthless and needs to lighten up, and her father is a potential catalyst for that change. Questions of value are pretty common in works about corporate life (i.e., human value vs. the bottom line), and these are often the weakest parts of Toni Erdmann because they're familiar in an obvious way. Perhaps Ade sensed this when sculpting the final edit; a character and a plot thread totally vanishes from the movie at a certain point. For a film that strays into unconventional territory, Ines' reconnection with the world of the common folk is expected. Toni isn't just her Groucho but her Drop Dead Fred. Ade even uses the common grammar of these contrasts between wealth and poverty in the globalized world: from Ines' office window, she can look over a Romanian hovel. When Toni Erdmann lets go, it's at its best. Huller plays so many of her scenes like she's at the verge of a breakdown. She's a great straightwoman, but there are moments of absurd release that hint at the person Ines was before she bought into the quest for status. There are different Ines facades for the different roles she has to play or the tasks thrust upon her, but rarely does she get to be herself. Winfried is a little more one-note on the surface since his solution for everything is a joke, but there are moments of vulnerability between father and daughter that suggest that jokes are all he has left. Connecting with someone emotionally can be painful and awkward, and humor is one way of circumventing those difficulties. If the only tool you have is a hammer, you wind up hammering everything. That goes for both father and daughter. A lot of what works in Toni Erdmann depends on what the audience brings to it, which might be the case of any movie about parents and children. The way we measure other families inevitably winds up being our own family experiences, which is what makes Toni Erdmann familiar in a surprising way. What is it about Ines that I see in myself, or Winfied in my own dad, or vice versa? Sometimes I look at these on-screen family relationships and see myself or people I know. Other times I see versions of characters. Families are weird like that, and when Toni Erdmann is at its weirdest, it's also its most heartfelt.
NYFF Review: Toni Erdmann photo
Estranged daughter, strange father

There's no way Toni Erdmann could ever live up to its hype. Reviews from Cannes and the Toronto International Film Festival touted the German film as a 162-minute screwball comedy masterpiece, packed with high emotional stakes and major laughs. It's funny and it has perverse and zany moments as well, that's undeniable, but it's also a movie about status and existential crises. Toni Erdmann becomes downright melancholy at times, and stretches of the film are contemplatively slow. I think the actual movie might have gotten lost in the hyperbolic one-upsmanship of the festival critic echo chamber.

In a press conference after a screening of the film, writer/director Maren Ade seemed to push back against the hype with an extreme undersell. "It's a movie about humor, but it's not very funny," she said. Maybe that's just her German sense of humor.

Toni Erdmann is less of a screwball comedy and more of a cringe dramedy. A little less like His Girl Friday, a little more The Office (but one of the thoughtful episodes). This father-daughter story is voluminous and strange, and moments don't always fit together. Yet maybe that's a way of mirroring the shape of strained parent-child relationships in adult life: they're weird, they're difficult, and yet they're worthwhile.

[This review is part of Flixist's coverage of the 54th New York Film Festival, which runs from September 30th to October 16th. To see more of our NYFF 2016 coverage, click here. For tickets and more information about the 54th New York Film Festival, click here.]

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NYCC: John Wick: Chapter Two takes place four days after the original

Oct 11 // Nick Valdez
If you were somehow worried the sequel wouldn't have the same amount of love as the original, there's no need to worry. One thing the panel highlighted was how much care was going into Chapter Two. Before the panel proper we were treated to a behind the scenes video showing off the film's stunt work (and a couple of the set pieces). Things I could skim from the video were another prominent car fight, and a bit more of that lobby and alleyway shootouts in the trailer. But the important fact is that each of these stunts is very real. Director Chad Stehelski emphasized the practicality of the effects and that each actor was put through the ringer in order for the film's action to feel as real as possible. Common even mentioned how this film is the most intense action he's been a part of (and after a look at his fight with Reeves, that's definitely an understatement). But the better part of the panel went into a good amount of juicy story details.  The best part of the first John Wick was the Continental Hotel, and it's making a return in the sequel. Ian McShane also noted how there's an Italian version of it and fighting through it leads to Wick killing "about 80 Italians." The specificity of the statement was a bit weird, but whatever it's all good. Keanu Reeves detailed the plot as such: When Wick first left the assassin world, he made a deal with someone in order to hide his existence completely (using the specific "blood oath" phrase). And as such, when returned to action he broke that oath and now someone is out to "cash in" on that deal. Not only does he have to deal with someone chasing him down, Reeves also teased a new mysterious organization called The High Table which may or may not be connected to the Continental. And the kicker? The sequel takes place just four days after the original film. John Wick gets no rest.  Other things of note are the new setting and new dog. The sequel is headed to Italy for stylish killing action, and director Stehelski couldn't confirm whether or not this new dog was going to be safe. It's a high point of contention for some people in the first one, but although he couldn't confirm whether or not the new dog was going to be safe he did say we'd like it. So, I'm sure this new doggo will be just fine. Maybe cutely falling asleep through everything or something.  That's all from Lionsgate's Power Rangers/John Wick: Chapter Two panel! The film releases next February and it's going to be a hell of a wait. 
John Wick 2 photo
More guns, more hotel, more...Italians?

Lionsgate had a weird, disjointed panel at New York Comic Con. With two properties that couldn't be more disparate.there wasn't a proper amount of hype or negativity. Thankfully after Power Rangers' lackluster showing, John Wick: Chapter Two came out of the gate damn strong.

With lots of new information, a good look at some of its famous "gun fu," and a Lawrence Fishburne reveal, the wait for John Wick: Chapter Two is going to be arduous. 

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NYCC: Power Rangers might be both fun and boring

Oct 11 // Nick Valdez
First thing's first, we did get a few key bits of info that my fan brain was able to parse out. One thing the cast seemed to emphasize at the panel was the fact they had to do a lot of stunt work themselves, which is great (and what I wanted all along). RJ Cyler (Billy) had a pretty fun anecdote about how he learned how to do an "axe kick" from his stuntman. So this at least confirms that we'll be seeing them fight outside of suits, but if the trailer is anything to go by, these fights are most likely mixes of martial arts and superpowers. As for the Zords, we still didn't get a look at them as it seemed that the teaser trailer was really all that was ready to show off for now. It's a little lame but I get not wanting to release it all early.  My biggest concern going forward, however, is how well this cast will work together. At the panel they were telling stories of how much they bonded as a group, but their behavior told a different story. They seemed stiff around each other with no natural chemistry. In fact, the only ones happy to be there were the previously mentioned RJ Cyler and Becky G (Trini), who not only color coordinated their outfits but also are the only experienced actors in the teenage cast. It didn't help matters when the host clearly didn't understand what was going on, so there was no push for more stories of their time on set together. The last bit of new info is both director Dean Isrealite and Elizabeth Banks mentioned Goldar and the Putty Patrol. Not a hard confirmation, but it's good to know these characters will be back in some regard.  But since they thought the teaser was good enough to show twice, I might as well breakdown some things here. As I mentioned in that post, I'm a little torn. After spending some time away from it and the fan bubble, I've come to realize a few things. I'm not sure what I expected, but I totally forgot Lionsgate is the reason Young Adult books made so much money. The Hunger Games, Twilight, they all play a part here. While the opening logos promise a rainbow colored adventure (even spilling out into the first shot of the trailer with Jason and his red car,  and yellow, pink and blue bikes), the rest of the film gives way to the same grim color palette the rest of the Young Adult films have. But in a weird way, this totally works when stuff like the power coins are highlighted. While the overly dark lighting might get tiresome, maybe the colors will pop more. Sort of a silver lining situation. But that's pretty much where the positives end. I'm thinking this reboot, an origin story as the trailer confirms, is going to be both fun and boring. As evidenced by the Breakfast Club like setup (where a bunch of latchkey kids come together in detention, including a red ranger wearing a house arrest anklet), these kids are meeting other for the first time before bonding over becoming superheroes. While I don't like their Spider-Man esque powers (complete with the Tobey Macguire "look I have abs now" scene), I get it. Power Rangers has always been about regular people who get caught up in irregularity, and it's been done in the series proper, but this direction only works when the characters are defined well. If you remember, it took the original show sixteen episodes of team building before it could tell an actual story ("Green With Evil"). I'm also guessing that's why we've seen so little of the Ranger action as of yet. Which is a shame since that's what is going to separate the movie from all the other boring teen films.  The most grim prediction I can make regarding this tease is that we're only going to get about 15-20 minutes of them in the actual suits. At least the panel confirmed that the suits are physical (with CG enhancements, most likely), but I'm sure most of this origin is going to be spent getting to know these kids since the film doesn't have the luxury of getting 22 mins of air time every weekend. At least it looks like they'll free Rita when they nab the power coins. Since there's an image of her trapped in some kind of rock, I'm assuming it's the same the rock Billy blows up in the trailer. It'd be neat to connect Rita directly to the Rangers that way.  Overall, I am a bit disappointed with the way the NYCC panel went down. Once I took off my fan hat, and put on my critical one however, I did ease up. But not by much. As always, I remain highly skeptical. I don't like some of the changes to the story, but I do like some of the changes it brings (the fact Rita can say "kill" instead of "destroy" is a huger deal than we're making out of it). And it seems the trailer is doing a lot to grab non-fans of the series, which is always a huge plus. I just don't want to watch a series of movies I dislike, so I hope these can be good. Then again, since this could have been much worse I'll take what I can get.  Oh yeah, don't expect the Green Ranger anytime soon. 
Power Rangers NYCC photo
Goldar and the Puttys are a comin'

There was only one panel I was looking forward to during New York Comic this year, and it's been a long wait for it. On Saturday, Lionsgate held a dual panel featuring both Power Rangers and John Wick: Chapter Two. Suffice to say, given my history here, I was a little more excited for one than the other. 

But after a trailer leak on Facebook prompted an early release, it quickly became clear that the short teaser released online was all we were going to get. So to make up for the lack of new info, I'll be discussing the teaser trailer a bit more and giving a few impressions. 

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NYFF Review: My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea

Oct 11 // Hubert Vigilla
My Entire High School Sinking Into the SeaDirector: Dash ShawRating: TBDRelease Date: TBD The set-up is at least sort of promising. An earthquake sends a high school on a hill by the ocean crashing down into the water. Students have to swim from floor to floor for air and survival, with a stratified class hierarchy--freshmen on the bottom and seniors on top. There's something questlike about it all, structured like a videogame with different kinds of levels--one sequence is even presented like a screen from the original Double Dragon, with characters throwing punches and jumpkicks with the same poses as Billy and Jimmy Lee.  But Shaw takes all of these potentially interesting ideas and dials them down to the same level of slacker disinterest. The voice actors deliver their lines in a uniform indifferent monotone, as if they've begrudgingly recorded their dialogue one afternoon and left. The jokes are never distinct from the asides or the exposition. Apart from the heroic Lorraine the Lunch Lady (voiced by Sarandon), everyone sounds interchangeable. None of the voices stand out, which makes the all-star indie cast seem like needless stunt casting for the indie cachet. Lots of the dialogue gets lost in the audio mix, with any hint of personality drowned in the repetitive, overbearing, wall-to-wall score. This is a 72-minute movie that just drones on and on. It doesn't help that the protagonist, Dash (Schwartzman), is the least interesting character in the entire film. He's a self-important high school journalist and stand-in for the real life Dash Shaw. Yes, how twee, this fictional story is supposed to be semi-autobiographical. Dash is the type of tepid lead who gets in the way of the more worthy supporting players. His fellow staff members on the newspaper, Assaf (Watts) and Verti (Rudolph), have a warmth to them as well as a burgeoning crush that would have been great to watch unfold front and center. Even Dunham's overachieving all-goodnik Mary could have been the compelling hub of the story--a class president go-getter in survival mode. But no, it's boring old Dash, the "ugh, that guy" sort of hipster dude. There are brief moments of beauty in My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea, like the opening animation of Dash in silhouette running to class, or select flashbacks rendered with great care, or parts of the conclusion that have a zen-like quality. Most of it, though, looks like a hodgepodge of watercolor, acrylic, and magic marker, with a wonky, unrefined aesthetic. It simulates the stuff made while screwing around in a high school art class. The choice makes sense, but it's not always interesting to look at in full wobbly motion. It's animation with a sort of haphazard craft--art as marginalia rather than a point of focus, a creative assignment hastily put together the night before. I was particularly put off by the film's defensiveness. At points, Dash and Assaf brag about being great writers whose genius and talent no one will understand. That metatextual boast always irks me. I rarely feel that a creative work should gird itself against criticism so overtly, and in such an insecure manner. Especially in this case, in which there's so little at stake and so little offered. Why be so precious over an animated shrug?
NYFF Review photo
A shrugworthy mumblecore cartoon

There are so many possibilities in My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea, the directorial debut of indie comics artist Dash Shaw. There's the image of an entire high school building adrift on the ocean and sinking. Think Lord of the Flies meets Chris Adrian's The Children's Hospital meets The Poseidon Adventure. There's the voice cast, which includes Susan Sarandon, Reggie Watts, Lena Dunham, John Cameron Mitchell, Maya Rudolph, and Jason Schwartzman. There's the shoddy-but-cool aesthetic about the film--a little bit outsider art sketchbook, a little bit art school chic.

This is a mumblecore animated film just oozing with hipster coolness. That may be the problem. It's all indie pedigree and postures, but not much else. Think of that person at a party who has lots of cultural capital but nothing worthwhile to say. I felt as if the whole film was just slapped together and released in a self-satisfying way.

[This review is part of Flixist's coverage of the 54th New York Film Festival, which runs from September 30th to October 16th. To see more of our NYFF 2016 coverage, click here. For tickets and more information about the 54th New York Film Festival, click here.]

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NYFF Review: The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman's Portrait Photography

Oct 09 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220930:43141:0[/embed] The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman's Portrait PhotographyDirector: Errol MorrisRating: TBDRelease Date: TBD "Nice" is such a loaded word. It's often equivocal, a sly insult hidden in a mild compliment rather than a genuine endorsement of character. Stephen Sondheim parsed the word in the musical Into the Woods, noting that nice and good are two different things. (The latter is always preferable to the former.) It's telling that Dorfman uses it as part of her self-description. She's so humble and self-effacing on camera. It's the sort of goodness that can be passed off as niceness and/or mistaken for mere shyness. I got the feeling that this is how she is off camera as well. Morris' adoration for Dorfman comes through in the way he comments on her work and chronicles her career. These warm feelings wouldn't be possible if he subjected his friend to the Interrotron. Dorfman initially seems more like a friend's mom or an aunt than an artist, as if these identities are mutually exclusive. That distinction is ridiculous. Dorfman was something of a fixture in the New York literary scene in the 1960s, taking photos of literary luminaries passing through the city. It's there that she started a lifelong friendship with poet Allen Ginsberg. She would take portraits of him and with him for the next few decades. She's wistful when she looks at Ginsberg's portraits, and while I wondered what she was thinking, I didn't feel like prying. It's not as if I could. The large Polaroids shared in The B-Side are a mix of famous people and everyday folks. In addition to Ginsberg, Dorfman has a few images of Modern Lovers frontman Jonathan Richman. Richman's earnest, wonkily cool/uncool music might be the proper sonic equivalent to Dorfman's portraiture and personality. The intimacy is palpable throughout The B-Side. Morris recreates the experience of hanging out with a good friend and looking at their body of work. If not looking through a portfolio, it's at least the experience of flipping through photo albums and mementos with a live commentary. This sounds merely nice, but there's more to it. Like the little details in a photo that bring it to life, there's an ineffable humane quality to The B-Side, and I think it has as much to do with Dorfman's personality as  her chosen medium. Polaroids are a "nice" format. There's a retro-chic about them, which explains their appeal--cooler than a disposable film camera--but they're impractical by today's standards. What's more, they're intended for common images and not the domain or typical format for high art. Dorfman is essentially offering a Polaroid photobooth experience (photobooths = nice), but she magnifies the internal life in her images. In her own self-portraits, there's an overwhelming domesticity, but her hand-written captions are revealing in the way that diaries and journals are revealing. The portraits themselves are art in plenty of ways: in how they play with expectations, in the way they hint at some story or feeling beneath the surface, in the way their material (Polaroid film) made me rethink the common uses of the material. When the meaning of the film's title is explained, the whole collection Dorfman's shared gains new and endearing meaning. There's something so likable about this nice Jewish girl who's been doing this since the 1970s. There's something charming about these imperfect images in this mostly dead format. There's something so delightful about The B-Side. It's not Morris' best film in terms of scope or depth, but it's also not just nice. I think The B-Side is Morris' most generous movie, and it's generous in a way that only friends can be to one another.
Review: The B-Side photo
There's something about Elsa

The B-Side is an atypical Errol Morris documentary. He doesn't use the Interrotron at all, his tool that allows interviewees to stare directly into the camera. Instead, the camera's just off to the side. The score is delicate rather than a relentless churn by or in the style of Philip Glass. What we're watching isn't a confession or confrontation. It's a leisurely conversation with one of Morris' friends, photographer Elsa Dorfman.

Dorfman's portraits have the feel of a benign Interrotron. She works with large-format Polaroid photos, typically 20" x 24". The images, like Dorfman's personality, are quaint and warm. Morris adjusts his style to fit the subject. On more than one occasion, Dorfman describes herself as just a nice Jewish girl. She's accurate to a degree, but there's much more to Elsa than just being a nice Jewish girl.

[This review is part of Flixist's coverage of the 54th New York Film Festival, which runs from September 30th to October 16th. To see more of our NYFF 2016 coverage, click here. For tickets and more information about the 54th New York Film Festival, click here.]

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Iron Fist photo
Fisting all over the place

When Marvel announced their series of shows that would eventually lead up to a Defenders show the biggest question mark was definitely Iron Fist. Since then Netflix and Marvel have been pretty open with the other series, but have kept a tight lid on Iron Fist. Until today, of course, where the first trailer debuted at NYCC. 

The panel opened with a trailer that was a mash up of all the previous Netflix series and then a very brief snippet of Iron Fist. We basically just saw him kicking ass a bit and running through some crowds. Also, there was some blood. Of course that was just the beginning. The actual trailer ended the panel. We'll put it up once it's live below.


We saw a clip from the show, which wrapped shooting that morning. The clip had Iron Fist/Danny Rand returning to New York after disapperaing when he was 10 years old. He looks like a hippy, but he walks into the Rand building and says he's here to see Harold Meachum. We're given an overview of what Rand Enterprises does and then he's escorted out of the building. Returning he beats up every security guard in what is easily the smoothest fighting style we've seen in Marvel. It really stood out as different from Daredevil's more hard nosed fighting.

Scott Buck, writer and producer, spoke on why he wanted to tackle the show, admitting that he really didn't want to until he saw Daredeviland how Netflix and Marvel were going to approach things: real and powerful. 

Next we saw a clip of the two Meachum kids interacting with Danny Rand. He comes in shocked that they sent someone after him. The Meachum's dont' want him around and that comes as somewhat of a shock to Danny. Danny tells them that he has Hogarth, the lawyer palyed by Carrie-Anne Moss in Jessica Jones. It appears she'll be making an appearance in Iron Fist

The next clip is a hall way fight, a staple of the Netlix Marvel shows now. It showed off how Iron Fist's fighting is going to be pretty different from the rest. Plus, Danny did his Iron Fist stance, which was very awesome. It wasn't quite on the same level as Daredevil's hallway fight, but man it looked great. Again, a bit smoother fighting style.

The next clip was of Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing in a cage fight. Because we're just checking all the cliches. Little girl versus two big tough guys to some poiunding techno. She, of course, proceeds to kick the crap out of both guys. A really solid fight sequence, though we've come to expect that from the Netflix shows. It was definitely spot on for the character.

Next up was a clip between Danny an Harold Meachum. It is incredibly creepy with David Wenham delivering a super weird monologue. Harold quizzes him on being taken in by some monks and admits that he should be dead. Then Danny says that he's the sworn enemy of The Hand and he's the only one who can actually destroy them. It appears Iron Fist is really going to start pulling together the shows a lot more. 

Then, to the surprise of the crowd, Jon Bernthal came out. They announced that the Punisher had just started shooting. Then dropped a bigger bomb: Karen Page will be showing up on The Punisher. She was super connected in Daredevilso it'll be interesting to see where they pick up from there. 

Finally, in what can only be described as an orgastic climax of nerdiness, all four Defenders came out on stage. And... the Defenders villain was announced as Sigourney Weaver. 

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The Defenders photo
Yea, that got the crowd excited

As a final surprise at NYCC it was announced that Sigourney Weaver would be joining the cast of The Defenders as the villain. She came out on stage and everyone went pretty damn crazy. No word on who she will be playing, but it's a pretty massive pull. 

We'll bring you more as it unravels. 

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John Wick 2 photo
"Yeah, I'm thinking I'm back!"

John Wick was one of the biggest surprises of 2014. What looked like a B movie starring Keanu Reeves turned out to be one of the most confident and competent action films of the last few years. Flixist as a whole has been looking forward to John Wick: Chapter Two since it was announced, and I'm pleased to say that wasn't unfounded. By the looks of the first trailer, John Wick is back, and better than ever. Also, new Best Dog of 2016 confirmed. 

The trailer isn't just awesome it drops a major casting announcment! Lawrence Fishburne is in the film as an ally of John Wick. That's a Matrix reunion we've all been waiting to see. I'm not sure we could get more excited for this film.

Also released was one of the best movie posters of the year. You can check it out below. I mean, look at that thing. It's brilliant.

John Wick: Chapter Two releases February 10th. Stay tuned for full impressions of its panel at NYCC.


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NYFF Review: Manchester by the Sea

Oct 08 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220919:43136:0[/embed] Manchester by the SeaDirector: Kenneth LonerganRating: RRelease Date:  November 18, 2016 (limited) Casey Affleck plays Lee Chandler, a handyman who lives in a small room in Boston. He's prickly and withdrawn, a brooding guy who spends a lot of time alone. When his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) passes away, Lee reluctantly returns to his hometown to help settle affairs with Joe's teenage son Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Whenever Lee's name is mentioned, people around town perk up. They're surprised, shocked, that Lee Chandler, the Lee Chandler, is back. He's got a reputation for something. There's a reason he's avoided home. Affleck's troubled quiet is remarkable to watch. It's a nuanced performance built around restraint. I found myself wondering throughout the film what moments would cause his stoic facade to collapse. There's such an immense heartbreak and guilt in him, which is clear even before his past is revealed, yet he doesn't want to share his emotional and psychological burden with anyone else. As penitent as he is, an intimate human connection would hurt even more. He'd rather get drunk and get beat up. Lonergan drops several telling flashbacks, and he finds elegant ways to loop the past into the present and then out again. It adds dimension to Lee, and Affleck is superb at playing the same man in different keys. Michelle Williams plays Lee's ex-wife Randi, whose character is similarly constrained by her emotions. She wants to speak about their history together, but doing that may be more painful than staying bottled up. A phone call early in the film captures the tense awkwardness of two people who want to say more, say everything, but can't bring themselves to say much of anything. Williams has always been an excellent and underrated actress, and part of me wanted more of her in the film. It would be a different sort of movie. Manchester by the Sea is more about Lee and to a certain extent his nephew Patrick and the shortcomings of masculine tropes when it comes to raw emotional life. On the one hand the male-dominated story feels like a missed opportunity, but maybe it also emphasizes Lee and Patrick's solitude. With regard to family, this man and this boy are all that's left in each other's lives. The restraint in the lives of the characters may explain why I responded so much to the emotional highs and lows of Manchester by the Sea. It's the catharsis for the audience that the characters can't give themselves. All of the funny and sad material gives an alternately absurd and humane texture to these lives. Even the material that doesn't seem like it fits in a streamlined narrative--such as an unexpected but perfect cameo appearance, or Patrick's teenage horndog shtick--enrich the sad, beautiful whole. Admittedly this seismographic portrait of people's lives doesn't work for everyone. I had a pretty spirited back-and-forth with my friend and fellow film critic Nathanael Hood, and he was lukewarm on the film's jagged contours. Lonergan finds quiet and stillness amid mood swings, and also offers the actors ample room to emote or withhold. Chicken falls from the freezer and a person finally breaks down; someone offers a small tip for service and the other person doesn't know how to interpret that sort of kindness. I laughed, I cried, and I laughed. Yet I ultimately realize that all the funny moments of are punctuated by an unremitting sadness. Lee is comically bad at small talk and social gatherings, but the reasons for it, like so much about Manchester by the Sea, are so personal and painful.
Manchester by the Sea photo
Life is heartbreaking, and funny, too

Watching Manchester by the Sea, I was reminded of two lines from the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch: "I cry, because I will laugh if I don't" and "I laugh, because I will cry if I don't".

Kenneth Lonergan's latest film is filled with contradictory emotions sometimes occupying the space of the same scene. There are moments of extreme melodrama as well as moments of quiet subtlety. There's a family tragedy with a teen sex mini-movie embedded within. There's slapstick as someone in distress is wheeled into an ambulance. Something about this mix of high and low feels so painfully and hilariously real.

Thinking about this movie, in my head I see the jagged line of a seismograph during a series of earthquakes, some big, some small. That's an expressionistic portrait of Manchester by the Sea, one of the best movies of 2016.

[This review is part of Flixist's coverage of the 54th New York Film Festival, which runs from September 30th to October 16th. To see more of our NYFF 2016 coverage, click here. For tickets and more information about the 54th New York Film Festival, click here.]

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Power Rangers photo
After 10,000 years...

So it's a bit earlier than planned and it's definitely taken the wind out of my sails in more ways than one. But here's the first Power Rangers reboot trailer. I'm not sure what to think. At first watch, it's pretty generic but at others, it's very nostalgic. The theme at the  end helps, but you know some fan is going to edit in later and I'll have to write a post about "how much better than it is" than this original trailer. 

I don't like how they have powers before the suits either. But Rita looks cool so who knows. Also, I'll be waiting until the suits are in motion before making that final call. Stay tuned for updates on the NYCC panel for more info. 

Power Rangers morphs March 24th, 2017. 


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Underworld photo
Vampires and things


The first film in the Sony panel was Underworld: The Blood Wars. There was some discussion on the movie itself, but it was mostly just banter about how sexy everyone was, which is admitedly true. No spoilers or plot points were really dropped, but this trailer was. It looks a lot like an Underworld movie full of blue, leather and dead mythic creatures.

Check it out. 



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