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Joss Whedon will finish the movie

Justice League director Zack Snyder has stepped away from finishing the film to spend time with his family following the death of his daughter, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Joss Whedon will put the finishing touches on the movie.

Justice League, the latest entry in Warner Bros. DC Expanded Universe, was already in postproduction when Snyder's daughter died. His wife, Deborah Snyder, is a producer on the film and will also step away.

Autumn Snyder died by suicide in March. She was 20. The event was kept private, though Justice League was put on a short two-week hiatus to allow the family to deal with the initial shock and fallout of the tragedy. Snyder told THR that he was initially eager to get back to work.

“In my mind, I thought it was a cathartic thing to go back to work, to just bury myself and see if that was the way through it,” Snyder said. “The demands of this job are pretty intense. It is all-consuming. And in the last two months, I’ve come to the realization … I’ve decided to take a step back from the movie to be with my family, be with my kids, who really need me. They are all having a hard time. I’m having a hard time.”

Justice League has wrapped principal shooting, but the movie still needs to be edited and Snyder had planned to add additional scenes after screening a rough cut of the film for friends and filmmakers. Warner Bros. initially offered to push the movie's release back from it's currently planned Nov. 17 opening, but both Snyders decided against that.

In his place, Avengers director Joss Whedon will step in to film the additional scenes and shepherd the movie through post-production, which should keep Justice League on track for its holiday release; he had previously been announced to join the DCEU stable as director of the upcoming Batgirl solo film. The studio emphasized that, despite Whedon's involvement, this is still Zack Snyder's movie.

“The directing is minimal and it has to adhere to the style and tone and the template that Zack set,” says Emmerich. “We’re not introducing any new characters. It’s the same characters in some new scenes. He’s handing the baton to Joss, but the course has really been set by Zack. I still believe that despite this tragedy, we’ll still end up with a great movie.”

Snyder has been expected to direct the currently untitled Justice League sequel, but at this point its unknown if he'll stay on.

Snyder's particular style has left him with many fans - as well as vocal detractors (a quick Twitter search will show you just how cruel and flippant some people can be when someone they don't like is making a movie about their favorite characters). But a tragedy like this transcends things like that - this is an unimaginable loss that no family should ever have to suffer, and the thoughts and condolences of everyone on the Flixist staff go out to the Snyders in this difficult time.

Justice League stars Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot and Jason Momoa. It's slated to open in theaters on November 17.

If you or someone you know are harboring thoughts of suicide and you need help, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Source: THR

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We’ve known since 2014 that Universal wanted a piece of this super hot ‘cinematic universe’ (©Marvel) action. It’s all the rage. After all, they’re friggin’ UNIVERSAL—how could they not have one. What we didn’t know was how they were going to create a story arc to tie their universe of classic monster properties together. Now we know.

Enter the Center for Research of and Absolute destruction of monsters or Possible near –destruction of leaving room for sequels, or CRAP Prodigium, a mysterious multi-national organization, according to Universal, whose mission is to track, study and—when necessary—destroy evil embodied in the form of monster in our world. Evil embodied in the form of anything else, terrorists, mass murderers, rapists, terrible screenwriters, is cool.

Universal's Dark Universe's mystery organization Prodigium's symbol

Prodigium is Led by Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), already featured in the forthcoming The Mummy and presumably featured throughout the monster franchise reboot. He or his charming tugboat Tugger, who will accompany him as he drunkenly stumbles around the word picking fights with paparazzi and strangers evil monsters, until climactically, it is revealed that he himself is a monster!

Welcome to the Dark Universe, for which we have a new logo, seen here. Dark retellings are so hot you guys, seriously. Gritty. Dark. Our name, cleverly punned with itself and paired with dark. Boom.

Cast alongside geriatric megastar Tom Cruise as soldier of fortune Nick Morton, are Johnny Depp (as the Invisible Man), Havier Bardem (as Frankenstein’s Monster) and Sofia Boutella (as the Mummy). No word on who shall play the cuddly Wolfman.

Is it just me, or does this mummy bear a quite unfortunate resemblance to Suicide Squad’s Enchantress? They're both all rags, tats, and shitty sooty auras. Thoughts? Does this villain resemble an already bombed-at-the-not-too-distant-Box-Office villain? Should ancient female villains wear more anatomically supportive garments for world-ending destruction? General vibe on this Dark Universe and its box office fate? Leave the word below.

Along with the new universe's synopsis, cast, and logo, is a teaser website featuring voiceover from Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll that details just how he'll eradicate evil, and some nifty images from the June-9-bowing The Mummy and others that hint at future Dark Universe tie-ins like Dracula. 

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Uncharted photo
This kid is going places

It's no secret Sony has been jiggering around with their adaptation of Naughty Dog's Uncharted series, but now it sounds like they've found a direction. Tom Holland, of Spider-Man: Homecoming and Rihanna's "Umbrella" fame, will star as a young Nathan Drake in an adaptation of the flashback sequence in Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception where Nathan meets Sully. 

According to Deadline, this new direction was set in place after seeing a cut of Spider-Man: Homecoming, which bodes well for Sony Pictures' confidence in both franchises (even going so far as to cast Tom Hardy as Venom as a branch of the universe). 

There's no writer attached at the moment, but Shawn Levy (Stranger Things, Real Steel) is set to direct. 

‘Uncharted’ Reconfigured: ‘Spider-Man Homecoming’s Tom Holland To Play Young Nathan Drake For Shawn Levy [Deadline]

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This guy is this guy--not a real stretch

Last we heard on the Venom movie front, Andrew Garfield was still the defacto Spider-Man, Spider-Man had not shown up in the Marvel cinematic universe, and Sony had not learned it was more lucrative to play nice with Marvel than hold their red and blue tights close to their chests.

Boy, how quickly things change (not so much--it's a very slow process). We now know that Tom Hardy will play Venom in a film unrelated to the Amazing Spider-Man flicks, in a Sony film partnered with Marvel. And, thank Deadpool, it'll be "kind of an anti-hero" thing.

More on the Venom front when more is widely known, but based off the casting alone, are excited?



[Via Deadline]

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The Dark Crystal photo
Scariest childrens movie ever

Netflix -- because it evidently doesn't have enough things to get excited about -- has announced that it is working with the Jim Henson Company to produce a 10 episode prequel to the classic film The Dark Crystal, called The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. As any child of the 80s will remember, The Dark Crystal was an incredible mash up of puppetry, animatronics, and Henson imagination. 

Of all the movies ever made The Dark Crystal is the one that I always felt actually deserved to be returned to. The world was just so incredibly entrancing in a weird decaying sort of way. You just wanted to know more.

Louis Leterrier, probably best known for Now You See Me, will executive-produce and direct the series, and they've brought back Brian Froud, who was the creative designer for both The Dark Crystal and the also awesome Labyrinth. 

The trailer below, featuring Henson himself discussing the film and its creation, doesn't give us much to work off of. However, we do know the show is a prequel to the movie and involves three Gelflings that discover the horrifying secret behind the Skeksis’ power, and set out to take care of it. Kind of sounds like a repeat of the movie, but if they recapture the truly unique and weird feeling of the world I'm fine with that. 


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Aquaman photo
Underwater woman cleavage

It's hard to get excited for Aquaman because... well... it's Aquaman. Plus, it's the DCU, which so far has given us no reason to put any faith in it. However, this new image of Amber Heard as Mera gives us a little hope that something is going to change: there may actually be color in this movie! While the image is just a set photo, so no coloring has been done yet, it does hint a brighter look.

So far the entire DCU has been a muted, gray, pile of dullness. Colors that are vibrant and lively in the comics, like Superman's costume, have the color sucked out of them to the point that it almost seems sepia. Even Wonder Woman seems to exist in a world devoid of brightness.

Most likely this vibrant emerald green, and contrasting red hair, will be destroyed in post-production so even if James Wan delivers us a compelling film it will still look like someone forgot to turn the brightness up on the movie screen. 

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The House photo

The House is just one of those comedies with a cast that could either pull it all together into something great or fail miserably. Either way, you know you're in for a good time. The House stars Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler as parents whose daughte is on her way to college, but they have trouble affording it. 

With the help of Jason Mantzoukas, they turn their house into an underground casino. To be honest, I have no idea why this trailer works so well for me, but I think it's because the cast is just so damn charming together. I haven't seen this combination of comedians yet, so I'm very interested to see how they bounce off of one another. If not, I'm all for more Mantzoukas. That guy should be in everything. 

The House opens June 30th. 


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Hellboy reboot art photo
Mignola/del Toro split is apparent

By now you've probably heard that Hellboy 3 from Guillermo del Toro is dead, but there's an R-rated Hellboy reboot in the works titled Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen. Director Neil Marshall (The Descent) is in talks to direct the reboot, with David Harbour (Stranger Things) in the title role. The screenplay for Rise of the Blood Queen is by Andrew Cosby, Christopher Golden, and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola.

Some official promo art for the Hellboy reboot was spotted at this year's Cannes Film Festival. The poster features a proposed release date of 2018, which means the movie will likely go into production this year. This makes me wonder how long Mignola has been mulling a new direction for his character. As I've mentioned before, even though I enjoyed the del Toro's Hellboy movies and Ron Perlman's take on the character, I'm also interested in seeing a different cinematic take on Hellboy and the BPRD that might be closer to Mignola's vision and tone.

You can check out the promo art for Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen in the gallery. I hope we find a higher res version of it to share--blotchy red isn't a good look for big red.

[via IGN]

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Blade Of The Immortal trailer: Takashi Miike's 100th film is bloody samurai mayhem

May 18 // Hubert Vigilla
If 13 Assassins were a fantasy samurai movie directed by Kinji Fukasaku, it would be Blade of the Immortal. Wonder how many movies Miike will make by career's end. There is no release date for the film as of now, but the North American release rights have been picked up by Magnet, who's released many of Miike's recent films. Let us know what you think of Miike's Blade of the Immortal adaptation in the comments. [via Screen International]
Miike's 100th movie photo
Way to celebrate #100

Takashi Miike is one prolific guy. At 56 years old, he's about to screen his 100th movie (!) at the Cannes Film Festival. He's like the Robert Pollard of cinema: wakes up in the morning, makes a movie before he gets the coffee going.

The 100th Miike movie in question is Blade of the Immortal, an adaptation of Hiroaki Samura's manga of the same name. The movie looks like one of the Miike-est Miike movies that ever Miike'd. Check out the trailer below.


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Star Trek Discovery photo
This is before the original?

After delay and delay and delay we finally have our first look at Star Trek: Discovery. It is very confusing. Check out the trailer and you'll see the cast getting into plenty of scrapes and even some moral quandries (good), but this show is supposed to be taking place in the original universe not the new film's one. It sure as hell looks like the new films. It also looks a lot like it takes place after the original series. 

I know that design changes and it has to look a bit more modern than TOS, but this doesn't even seem to fit in between Enterprise and TOS. The whole thing just looks like some other Star Trek show. The Klingon redesign is especially troublesome, though I suppose they had to find some balance between the original show's "black guys with eyebrows" and the ridged foreheads. 

On the plus side, while the trailer is crammed with action, there's hints of the thematic and moral tones that make Star Trek what it is. An argument over Star Fleet firing first sounds like it could be a very engaging episode along the lines of defining the future of the fleet. We'll have to wait and see if this show truly feels like Trek even if it doesn't quite look like it. 


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Trailer: Bong Joon Ho's Okja looks like a gorgeous, Spielbergian eco-terror adventure

May 18 // Hubert Vigilla
As The Playlist notes, Bong decided to partner with Netflix for his newest film to avoid the distribution and release headaches he experienced working with the Weinsteins on Snowpiercer. (Ugh, ol' Harvey Scissorhands.) Okja's international cast includes An Seo Hyun, Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Steven Yeun, and Jake Gyllenhaal.  Okja will be out on Netflix and in select theaters on June 28th. Let us know how you think and what that cuddly super-pig creature might taste like in the comments. (I mean, yeah, bacon, but with notes of what, exactly?) [via The Playlist]
Trailer: Okja photo
Tastes f**king good

Bong Joon Ho is one of Korea's most acclaimed and beloved filmmakers, and one of the most respected directors in the world. He made an international name for himself with 2003's Memories of a Murder, and went on to craft The Host, Mother, and Snowpiercer.

Okja is Bong's second English-language film, and it looks a little bit Spielbergian and totally Korean in its sensibilities. An eco-terrorism adventure about a brave girl and her adorable mutant super-pig that tastes f**king good? Sign me the hell up, chingu.

An excellent first trailer for Okja dropped this morning, and you can give it a watch below.


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The Flash photo
Someone wants it, right?

DC and Warner Bros. have been searching hard to find a director for The Flash. Last night reports came in that Robert Zemeckis, Matthew Vaugn and Sam Raimi were being considered. However, this morning EW is reporting that Raimi gave the film a hard pass. On top of that The Amazing-Spiderman director, Marc Webb, passed as well. Spiderman directors do not want to touch The Flash evidently. 

It's fun to speculate about the DC movie universe being a total train wreck, but in this case I think it's just a matter of busy schedules and directors not wanting to take on a huge project. But who knows, both these guys have directed failing superhero movies so maybe they don't want to even touch something that could has the potential to be toxic.

This puts Zemeckis as the front runner, but The Flash has already had two directors attached to it so don't be surprised if that changes as well. 

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Review: Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

May 17 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220905:43129:0[/embed] Abacus: Small Enough to JailDirector: Steve JamesRating: NRRelease Date: May 17, 2017 Thomas Sung seems like a model for the Asian-American immigrant experience. He helped found the Abacus Federal Savings Bank in Chinatown during the 80s to serve the local community. He knows his customers, he does right by them, and the bank has given his kids opportunities for success. His two eldest daughters, Vera and Jill, help run the bank and will eventually take over. Here's a healthy slice of promising Americana served in Chinatown. But then, Murphy's Law: a handful of Abacus employees commit loan fraud, and then the housing crisis strikes, and then the great recession. Rather than go after Chase, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office throws the book at Abacus. Even though Abacus cooperated fully with authorities for a loan fraud investigation and did everything ethically and by the books in the aftermath, they were considered easy prey. At the beginning of the documentary, Thomas and his wife, Hwei Lin, are watching Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life. James returns to that yuletide staple again and again, finding parallels between George Bailey's savings and loan and the Thomas Sung's Abacus. Similarly, the Sungs come across as Capraesque heroes--the set-upon optimists, the embattled idealists, everymen and everywomen always trying. This might be why the film doesn't feel like most other Frontline documentaries. Abacus is in many ways a character-driven film. I feel odd thinking about real people in documentaries as characters, but the Sung family is comprised of memorable personalities. Thomas, Hwei Lin, and their daughters are strong in their own ways. They're admirably resilient, to put it politely. (At a certain point, the resilience turns into take-no-shit toughness, especially from the Sung daughters.) James films the family alone and in conversation with one another. The interactions can get nervy and uncomfortable as so many family interactions can, but they're all well-picked given how well they reveal the family's dynamic. James offers another compelling thread in his exploration NYC's Chinese community. Chinatown residents (Abacus' primary clientele) tend to be tight-knit and insular, which goes back to the formation of family-based support groups. The representatives from the DA's office interviewed in the film are baffled by what goes on there. Jurors on the case similarly don't understand how Chinatown operates. I worried that this confusion from non-Chinese people would affect the case. There's such a fascinating contradiction at play. The closeness of the Chinese community gives them a collective strength that they wouldn't have otherwise as a minority group, but the foreign nature of these cultural practices and their minority status make the residents of Chinatown more vulnerable. I mentioned that a sense of Capraesque optimism pervades the film, and yet I couldn't help but read a larger brand of pessimism into the proceedings. The little guy can always get picked on. While it's nice to see the little guy fight, there's a knowledge that this won't be the last time it happens. What about the major banks, who really should have been held accountable somehow for what they've done? But the world isn't so kind to those that are easily trampled. And yet. This reminds me of one the great lines about disillusionment in film: "Forget it, Jake; it's Chinatown."
Review: Abacus photo
Mr. Capra Goes to Chinatown

Steve James may be incapable of directing a bad documentary. His films includes Hoop DreamsThe Interrupters, and Life Itself. With Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, James continues his record as one of America's most reliable non-fiction filmmakers, even when crafting work for the small screen. Though it's receiving a theatrical release, Abacus will also air on Frontline (PBS's long-running documentary journalism show) some time in 2017. The film doesn't feel like a typical Frontline episode, however. The reporting is solid, but the focus is also on the internal strife of a family unjustly targeted by the government. Its emotions are big and upfront rather than restrained.

The major banks got off scot-free after the great recession. Rather than go after the big guys, prosecutors started a five-year legal battle with a small bank in New York City's Chinatown called Abacus. Journalist Matt Taibbi explains the film's subtitle early on. Institutions like Citibank and Bank of America were too big to fail, and they avoided punishment. Abacus, by comparison, was small enough to jail. It's the government making an example of the little guy, treating him like a fall guy.

While major bank execs got bailed out, it's almost as if the Sung family is trying to be drowned.

[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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The Orville photo
Star Trek, but funny

Say what you like, but Seth MacFarlane can be hilarious, and he's a massive nerd. Letting him, and John Favrue, take a stab at parodying Star Trek is a good idea. Fox debuted the trailer for The Orville today at their upfronts, and I have to say it looks pretty funny. More importantly it looks like more than just a parody. While they do poke fun at the tropes of Star Trek it seems like this will stand more on its own as it evolves down the road. 

MacFarlane plays Ed Mercer who captains a ship with his ex-wife, played by Adrianne Palicki. That casting alone should get you in, but the fact that there seems to be some actual plot and character behind the humor bodes well as well. 

The show will be on Thursdays this Fall, but doesn't have a premier date yet.


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The Witcher is coming to Netflix

May 17 // Matthew Razak
The Witcher photo
In English, if you were wondering

All I can really do when I hear about any video game adaptation is step back, chuck any expectations out the window, and say "well, I hope it's not awful." That's exactly what I did this morning when I heard there was going to be a Witcher adaptation on Netflix.

According to Netflix's vice president Erik Barmack, they will adapt author Andrzej Sapowski's "magical and familiar" world, which he seems pretty jazzed about, having signed on as a creative consultant: "I’m thrilled that Netflix will be doing an adaptation of my stories, staying true to the source material and the themes that I have spent over thirty years writing. I’m excited about our efforts together, as well as the team assembled to shepherd these characters to life.”

If you recall Sapowski was pretty pissed about his video game deal, having gone for the lump sum instead of a percentage of the profits. It would suck (mostly for him) if the show bombed and the games continued to amass insane residuals.

The Witcher [Platige]

Originally written by Chris Carter


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Mother! photo
Happy Mother's Day, I guess

We know almost nothing about Darren Aronofsky's next movie, Mother!. The release of a new poster tells us even less, except that it should be as visually striking and thematically challenging as his previous films. Take a look below and you'll see Jennifer Lawrence with her literal heart in her hands, and the gaping hole it came out of. 

It's unclear why the messaging around Mother! has been so quite, but maybe it's because Aronofsky got a lot of unwarranted flack for Noah. Maybe he's just trying to surprise everyone this time. Whatever the reason, all we know is that the movie will be horror (poster confirms), and that it involves a couple who have a house guest that starts causing problems. Sounds like the perfect plot to for Aronofsky to once again push genre boundarieswhile digging deep into characters. 

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Friends. Countrymen. Britons.

There are so many places (read: quips) I’d like to begin. From the guy who dated an already older-ish Madonna. Comes the prettiest Arthur you’ve ever seen (seriously, the header image is about as perfect as you can get). In Legend of the S-Word (I’ll take S-words for $100, Alex). A Tale of Two Shitties (more on this soon). Or maybe, A Tale of Two Directors. And the later truly felt like the embodiment of the experience you’re subjected to. And not just because I was one of Arthur’s subjects (a-thank you), but because all Guy Ritchie films subject you to an experience, his experience. Say what you will about the man (Madonna jokes aside and really, at this point long dead, so I’ll take that one back), but he has a style and it is unique in the industry. One might argue that he’s one of only a few modern-day auteur directors—the case could be made. It’s also a style that I appreciate, and it’s mostly his directing that attracted me to the film, despite a questionable marketing campaign and largely fade-into-the-crowd trailers. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword delivers on the Guy Ritchie promise. But it didn’t feel like it for the first ten minutes, and I got worried. And then it appeared, that quintessential Ritchie vibe that I first grew to love in Snatch, one of the all-time modern greats as far as I’m concerned. But at times, it vanished, and when it did, the film languished. For a director to truly be auteur, their touch needs to be on everything, throughout a film. Auteur does not imply one who phones in the ‘boring parts’ or can’t be bothered to give the same level of attention to detail, excitement, or aesthetic flair to the entire film. But luckily for audiences everywhere, the good outweighed the bad—as you’d expect in a movie about King Arthur.


King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Director: Guy Ritchie
Release Date: May 12, 2017
Rating: PG-13

After several onscreen text lines of background catch us up to speed, we get ten minutes of visual background story, basically outlining that magic exists, there’s a King named Uther Pendragon (good, played by Eric Bana), a mage, or wizard, Mordred (bad, played by someone unimportant) and they are doing battle. Whereas previously the worlds of men and magic had coexisted peacefully, now they don’t. Funny how we always get that turn, isn’t it? Uther is revealed to be even more powerful than the crazy powerful and evil Mordred because Uther has Excalibur, the legendary blade—and here, it is not only a symbol, but a literal item of power that gives its yielder superhuman abilities. Good triumphs over evil. Men are happy. Or are they? Maybe not Uther’s weasely brother,Vortigern, played to apt weasely perfection in this moment by Jude Law.

He wants power for himself, and what younger brother wouldn’t? So, somehow, despite Uther having just saved the land from certain doom, and despite his wielding Excalibur, Vortigern convinces more than enough men to rise up against his brother and claim the crown for himself. Except, good Uther is able to help his son, Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) escape in the nick of time. You can all take a deep breath—things are going to be OK.

This was the worst part of the film. It was necessary backstory to create the plotlines that would drive all action, but it felt uninspired, and like just that: necessary backstory—a cursory gesture to allow things to progress, otherwise what plot would we have? And here’s where I come to A Tale of Two Shitties (Directors). In Shitty One, things are just that, shitty. It’s dark, smog-riddled, orphan-infested, suffers from elevator music immersion, and is just plain uninspired.

Ah, but in Shitty Two, things are golden. Once we get past our introductory chapter and meet toddler Arthur (having been saved by Uther by sending him down river in a boat, a la Moses—an interesting parallel, and one I’m not sure was intended or not; there is a ‘born-king’ plotline that suggests prophecy and manifest destiny, so it’s conceivable—we are treated to a delightful, and classic Guy Ritchie segue that ages Arthur from toddler to grown-ass-man.

Wherein Shitty One was populated by bland, CGI, giant-army-bearing elephants (straight out of The Lord of the Rings), that are too familiar and too going-through-the-motions for us to care, along with a score that is that faintly tribal, shrill, trilling that began back with Gladiator, carried on through Troy, and has never really left films that deal with historic battle elements, Shitty Two is populated with brilliantly constructed sequences that add up to a minute or two of enough details to let us know exactly who Arthur has grown up to be and what wrought him. The terrible scoring vanishes and is replaced by trademark, tightly synchronized and emotion and pace-driving scoring that’s just wonderful.

The mood, nay atmosphere in Shitty One had me down. Visiting Shitty Two brought me all the way up. Unfortunately, this cocktail was prescribed for the whole film. Sequences of condensed events centering around Arthur, as well as action sequences, were brilliant uppers, mellowing my edge and letting me float blissfully along as the record player had me nodding my head and tapping my feet. But then I’d visit Shitty One again, usually sequences focused around Jude Law’s Vortigern, and man, popping those downers had me contemplating movie suicide: that’s right—walking out of the theater (and I hadn’t felt that impulse since Suicide Squad—yes, that bad). These sequences were marked by unnecessary plot elements driven by terrible acting (sorry Mr. Law, but I take back what I said about apt weasely perfection), unnecessary CGI elements, and scoring that lacked imagination and emotion both. The only thing that precluded my imminent movie suicide was knowing, like any good addict knows about any good dealer, there would be another upper delivered soon.

And sure, enough there was, but, switching to the other half of my analogy, that of two directors, one seriously has to wonder if Guy Ritchie actually directed the whole film. It felt like he was handing off the reins to a second unit director for half the film, a director who even made decision in post. Here, one is forced to consider the distinct possibility of studio interference: action tent-poles need bigger better creatures, monsters, and CGI elements, no matter if they make no sense, don’t fit the film, are unoriginal, or just lazily crafted. Studio executives care not for these facts, they care for dollar bills, and dollar bills come to explosions. Just look to the other summer blockbuster movie featuring King Arthur, Transformers: The Last Knight, a Michael Bay film. What defines his films? Explosions. Bigger, badder cgi monstrosities.  

Guy Ritchie delivered films like Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, and the incredible Sherlock Holmes franchise revival films. None of these films suffer from segments of utter indifference, and when Ritchie is given the chance to revive another classic property, King Arthur, the man, the myth, the legend, he suddenly phones it in for half the film? It’s perplexing to say the least. But, as already indicated the good is stronger than the bad and saves the film. Certain aspects of Legend of the Sword are Ritchie to the core, almost perplexingly so: Guy Ritchie seems to be at his most natural, potent self when assembling a cast of British miscreants and allowing them to hurl clever banter at one another and others while montaging action over it. It’s his go-to move. Some guys prefer the back rub, Guy Ritchie prefers clever dialog that wins the audience to his side. But at what point in Arthurian legend or history did Arthur sound like was off the shadier streets of London? At what point did medieval villains tell their henchmen to “do their fucking job?” Much as with Sherlock Holmes and its sequel, you can say that Ritchie makes the property his own. As much as his hand seems absent for stretches, the rest is covered in his greasy fingerprints: just saturated. And this is good, because if not for that frenetic energy created by Ritchie's directing and editing decisions, the film would be a foregone conclusion: there's never any doubt of where events are taking us. It's all too transparent and according to script, as it pertains to good versus evil and how that plays out.

And if it feels as if I’m spending a lot of time speaking about the director and not the acting, it’s intentional. The acting doesn’t drive this film. It’s writing and directing do. Many of the actors adequately handle their roles as best they can, but standout performances are absent. Triumph happens through editing, shot creation, and writing. There is humor enough to keep the audience smiling, including one or two moments that again, feel out of place in the Arthurian vehicle, but feel right at home in the Ritchie product.

Surprising too, is that little in the film feels cheap—sure, some of the CGI doesn’t feel as good as the best examples you’ll see, but none of the film’s issues seems to stem from penny-pinching on the back end. Rather, they probably spent more than they needed to on some of the CGI work, which, all in all, adds up to a rather perplexing mystery. Why a tale of two shitties? We may never know and we may never need to: you should still see the movie. The good is more than good enough, and I suspect that if you do, and if your friends do, and if word of mouth overcomes the marketing campaign that did the movie few favors (my theater was mostly empty), we may get a sequel. This has all the markings of an introductory chapter to a franchise. And franchises are so hot you guys, seriously. We may just get the movie this movie could have been; a King Arthur tale that Guy Ritchie directed for its entirety, not just the parts with pretty Charlie Hunnam. Mr. Hunnam is a good enough actor, but his scenes here that steal the show involve some of the better (if not the best) CGI present in the movie; there are a couple of battle scenes revolving around just what makes Excalibur such a lovely magical item that are wowing; even the most cynical, snigger-happy trolls in my audience were verbally exclaiming their approval. 

And about that picture: what with Arthur's trendy fashion sense (think Brad Pitt or Jason Statham in Snatch), he’s nearly a runway model transplanted to pre-medieval England. His clothes are impossibly white for having lived on the streets and grown up in a brothel, in every sequence. Even when he’s put through the paces, his hair is perfectly styled as if he were about to shoot the cover for GQ or Men’s Health. Holy cow, when he took his shirt off I nearly forgot the bad CGI. And then again when he took it off again. That mandy (man-candy) was being peddled throughout. Everyone knows, if you’re going to hook your addicts with uppers and downers, at some point, their munchies are going to dictate candy please, now. Happy to oblige. 


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The Strangers 2 photo
Creepy masks still creepy

The Strangers was a surprise smash horror film that came out nine years ago. We weren't even writing reviews then. If we were I would have said something about it being a solid little thriller, buoyed by Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman. As with all horror films that do well, a sequel was planned. Then Relatively did nothing, and nothing happened until now.

Christina Hendricks has been cast in the upcoming sequel along with Lewis Pullman and Bailee Madison. The screenplay, which was written eight and a half years ago by the original's writer/director, has been updated a bit and is now going into production. The plot will follow a family who goes to their uncle's mobile home only to find him dead. And then the strangers show up. 

There's no release date yet, but something to keep our eye on. 


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Red Nose Day Actually photo
Hugh Grant is still charming

Look you can yell all you want about Love Actually being overrated and not a good holiday movie, but you're wrong, so just let it go. And now we get to see how things are going. Red Nose Day, the charity that raises money for children's health by pulling major stars into doing things, is debuting the short film sequel to the film, Red Nose Day Actually. It's a stupid name, but a charming way to raise money.

You can check out the trailer below for the film, which finds writer/director and Red Nose Day founder Richard Curtis, back at the helm. Looks like everyone is doing the same things they were doing before, but older. Well, everyone except Alan Rickman, who is dead. Of course his more depressing story line probably wouldn't have fit in here anyway, plus Emma Thompson didn't want to be part of it.

Anyway, no one can hate having more charmingly befuddled Prime Minister Hugh Grant in their lives.

The Red Nose Day Special, where you'll be able to watch this, will air Thursday, May 25 at 10 p.m. ET on NBC


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Radiohead's Thom Yorke will compose the score for Luca Guadagnino's Suspiria remake

May 10 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]221529:43557:0[/embed] [embed]221529:43558:0[/embed]
Thom Yorke Suspiria photo

Dario Argento's Suspiria is one of the great Italian horror films. Released in 1977, it plays out like a colorful, strange, dreamlike supernatural fairy tale. I've never found it scary, but its visual style and bright color palate make it endlessly watchable. There's also the score by Goblin, which is part prog rock, a little jazz, and, for this film in particular, eldritch atmospherics. Sadly Argento's films aren't what they used to be. See Dracula 3D. (Actually, don't see it.)

Director Luca Guadagnino (A Bigger Splash) is currently at work on a Suspiria remake starring Dakota Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, and Tilda Swinton. News broke today that Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke will be composing the score to the film. While Yorke has contributed to soundtracks here and there and composed the music for a 2015 Broadway production of Harold Pinter's Old Times, this will be Yorke's first full solo film score. (Radiohead bandmate Jonny Greenwood has done several scores, notably for Paul Thomas Anderson's recent films.)

While Suspiria is sacrosanct to many horror fans, I'm looking forward to this remake. Guadagnino's filmmaking is strong, and he has a solid cast assembled. I wonder what Yorke's score will wind up sounding like. Hopefully he does his own thing rather than try to repeat what Goblin's done in the past.

What do you think? Are you excited about a Suspiria remake? Here's some witchcraft to prompt discussion. First, Goblin's theme for Suspiria. Then, "Burn the Witch" from Radiohead's 2016 album A Moon Shaped Pool.

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Judge Dredd TV show in production

May 10 // Matthew Razak
Judge Dredd photo
I swear, if Karl Urban isn't cast...

Thos of us desperate for a sequel to the kick ass Dredd are in for some good news. A Dredd TV show, called Judge Dredd: Mega-City One, is in the early stages of production! OK, that might not actually be good news for a sequel, but it's good news if you want more Dredd in your life. Rebellion, the comic's publisher, and an independent entertainment studio called IM Global are making the live-action show and will likely shop it around. 

Hopefully they're leaning more Karl Urban than Sylvester Stallone. The plot, which centers around a team of judges doing their judge thing around the city, is said to focus on issues that will reflect modern day ones. Jason and Chris Kingsley, owners of Rebellion, worked on Dredd so there's a good chance this will be as solid as that. The two said, in some sort of joint quote, "Thanks to the legions of fans who have kept up pressure on social media, and a lot of background work and enthusiasm, we aim to make a big budget production that will satisfy both our vast comics audience and the even greater general screen-watching public."

Check out the poster for the show below. 

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8-bit Trailer for The Last Jedi recreates the feel of SNES Star Wars games

May 10 // Hubert Vigilla
In terms of sound and graphics, that was a spot-on recreation of the Super Star Wars games for Super Nintendo. Super Empire Strikes Back was one of my favorite games for the SNES, while Super Return of the Jedi was one of the most infuriatingly difficult pieces of crap ever committed to a game console. Ugh, jeez, that opening vehicle level with all the pits to jump was so bad. That said, this Super The Last Jedi trailer could have used a Mode 7 scene to really sell the SNES vibe. Johnson's own response to the retro Last Jedi trailer nodded to another beloved LucasArts game. [embed]221527:43556:0[/embed] Let us know what you think about the 8-bit trailer in the comments. You can also talk about how much of a pain Super Return of the Jedi was, because ugh. That game. Ugh. [via Heat Vision/THR]
8-bit Last Jedi photo
16-bit trailer, but oh well

The first trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi was pretty darn great. It teased some of the action to come, but thankfully didn't seem to give away any of the story. To put it another way, the trailer whet the appetite without spoiling dinner, which is what good trailers ought to do.

Today a retro game version of the Last Jedi trailer showed up online, which director Rian Johnson seemed to enjoy. Check out 8-bit Trailers' take on The Last Jedi below.


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Alien Sequel photo
Game over, man. Game over.

If the reviews are to be believed, and they should be because we wrote it, Alien: Covenant is not a good movie, and is definitely not the space horror film you thought you were getting. However, that probably won't stop the box office from being good, and it definitely won't stop the studio from abusing the brand some more. In fact they're going to do it quite quickly. Ridley Scott has said that the sequel will start filming within the next 14 months and they're working on the script now.

This, of course, was always the plan. The Alien franchise was turning into a universe after Prometheus, got all weird with it. Eventually the new films will connect with the old ones, bringing us full circle in some way. Of course if the movies keep on being so controversial I'm not sure any of us are going to stick around for that.  

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Review: Manifesto

May 10 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]221523:43554:0[/embed] ManifestoDirector: Julian RosefeldtRating: NRRelease Date: May 10, 2017 The art installation version of Manifesto takes just over two hours to complete if you were to watch every screen. As a film, Manifesto is only 90 minutes long. Rosefeldt chops up many of the monologues, and only a handful of them get to play out on screen in their entirety. There's only one moment of synchronized harmony at the very end of the film, which probably doesn't make much sense to people who haven't seen the art installation. I couldn't stop comparing the film to the art installation. Yet I think that's a fair comparison since Manifesto was an art installation first and its strengths as an art object are unique to that medium. As a film, Manifesto brings the texts of the manifestos and the brilliance of Blanchett's multiple performances to the forefront. Blanchett leaps from persona to persona seamlessly, playing a Russian vagrant, a garbage crane operator, a punk nihilist, and so on. During a funeral, a veiled Blanchett delivers a stirring eulogy by way of the Dada Manifesto. In a class full of children, Blanchett warmly instructs the minds of future through the words of Werner Herzog, Jim Jarmusch, and the Dogme 95 Manifesto. One of the standouts is her dual performance as a cable news host and a field reporter. Blanchett nails the cadence and rhythms of news, which is all false gravitas, falser sincerity, and manufactured conviviality. Both the installation and the film reminded me a lot of Cindy Sherman's work and how she portrays herself through shifting personas. Rosefeldt's able to do a few fun things with editing that simply couldn't be done with the art installation. One segment features Blanchett as a God-lovin' housewife leading her family in grace before supper. She goes on and on about the ideal art she wants in her life and the lives of others. The film cuts away and returns to this domestic tableau multiple times, drawing out all the laughs it can from the interminable prayer and the bored looks on the faces of her family. And yet while the text and the performances are important, I couldn't help but feel Manifesto is also a work about time, space, and the way its audience organizes and interprets the experience of the installation in their heads. People who see the art installation can wander if they want, and divert their attention to other screens, or to other people, or even to the potential synchronicities of different manifestos being recited simultaneously on separate screens. For instance, standing in the center of the Park Avenue Armory during the harmonious synchronization of all the screens, I noticed a lone voice at the end of the harmony. Cutting through the silence was Blanchett the Dada Manifesto mourner. She said, "Nothing, nothing, nothing" into the void of space. That's an experience that felt so personal and even so secret--as if only I noticed it, and as if Rosefeldt set that moment up just for those people who happened to be there and I was momentarily a co-conspirator, a member of this clandestine treehouse art club. I loved the way that armory space and my own ideological hobby horses played a role in my attention to Manifesto as an art installation. That's impossible to recreate as a film. Rosefeldt's is bound to guide his audience down a set path rather than giving the audience the ability to get lost in the experience of the various screens. Thinking about it in terms of game design and video games, if Manifesto the art installation is an aesthetic and intellectual sandbox, Manifesto the art film is an ideological rail shooter. Given what's lost in the translation, there were times that I felt like Manifesto the film was a supplement to the art installation rather than a fully realized art object in its own right. And yet maybe that's where the dimension of time and space comes back into play. I think what I think about Manifesto because I saw the art installation before the film. A work by an artist and an actress in conversation with another work by the same artist and the same actress. Manifesto the film might be considered a response to Manifesto the art installation. In other words, a 14th screen. Even when I thought Manifesto the film loses the unique aspects of time and space that made the art installation work so well, I am now forced to consider new dimensions of time (the order in which I saw the different iterations of Manifesto, the runtime of each) and space (the venues in which I saw each work, the strengths of the two different mediums). I may have a strong preference for one version of Manifesto over the other, but I'm glad to have been engaged and enthralled by each in their own way.
Review: Manifesto photo
Art installation becomes an art movie

When a work is adapted to another medium, it almost always loses something in translation. Julian Rosefeldt's Manifesto started its life as a multi-screen art installation. I had an opportunity to see it here in New York at the Park Avenue Armory. There were 13 separate screens, each featuring a monologue by Cate Blanchett as different characters. (Technically it's 13 performances on 12 screens; the introductory projection is Blanchett's voice over the image of a fuse being lit.) The characters' monologues are remixed political, ideological, and aesthetic manifestos. While each monologue is disparate, there's a moment when the images and audio on all of the screens sync up, and all of the manifestos come together into a single beguiling harmony, like a kaleidoscope of autotune butterflies aflutter in the installation space.

When I noticed this for the first time in the exhibit, it was an oddly sublime moment that called attention to the nature of each screen in concert. These were a series of dissonant discourses joined not by an ideological thread but by their need to declare something through a persona and a performance. The language blurred into music.

There's an uncanniness to the Manifesto art installation that a single feature film cannot convey or recreate. I wonder how I'd feel about Manifesto the film had I not seen the art installation first. But that might be the point.

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R-rated Hellboy reboot photo
No Del Toro or Perlman involvement

Hellboy may be coming back to the big screen, but it's going to be without director Guillermo del Toro and star Ron Perlman. A Hellboy reboot is in the works from director Neil Marshall (The Descent, Game of Thrones), with David Harbour (Stranger Things) as big red. The project's working title is Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen, from a script by Andrew Cosby, Christopher Golden, and character creator Mike Mignola. The project is purportedly going to be R-rated.

Back in late February, del Toro said Hellboy 3 wasn't happening. It seemed like there was a falling out between del Toro and Mignola, the fissures showing in a semi-public way. As much as I loved Hellboy II: The Golden Army, it felt like Mignola characters being taken through a very del Toro world. Mignola may have wanted more creative control of his creation.

While it's a bummer that del Toro and Perlman won't be around for this, I'm okay with a new direction and a new look and feel. Let's just hope it turns out all right and isn't just a pipe dream for several years like Hellboy 3.

[via THR]

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Edge of Tomorrow photo
Edge of 2morrow

Edge of Tomorrow was much better than most people expected. Sure, the movie got a little conventional in the finale, but the first three-quarters of the movie used the respawning conceit brilliantly. When the film was released on DVD/Blu-ray, Warner Bros rebranded the movie as Live. Die. Repeat., which is a more accurate and catchy title. (The film was an adaptation of Hiroshi Sakurazaka's Japanese novel All You Need Is Kill. That is also a much better title than Edge of Tomorrow.)

While doing press for his latest film The Wall, director Doug Liman revealed to Collider that he'd love to do a sequel to Edge of Tomorrow that changes the way people look at sequels. The proposed sequel would be called Live Die Repeat and Repeat. Here's Liman in his own words:

We have an amazing story! It's incredible! Way better than the first film, and I obviously loved the first film. It will be called Live Die Repeat and Repeat. Tom [Cruise] is excited about it, and Emily Blunt is excited about it. The big question is just when we'll do it. But it's not an if, it's a when.

That title's a bit clunky, but it works. I was lobbying for Groundhog Die. Or maybe All You Need Is Sequel. Or Edge of 2morrow: The Search for Curly's Gold.

But seriously--should have been Groundhog Die.

[Collider via AV Club]

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Blade Runner photo
I've done questionable things.

The first full trailer for Blade Runner 2049 has finally landed giving us the best look yet at what the Ridley Scott produce, Denis Villeneuve directed film has on store... and I can't say I'm all the enticed. To be fair I didn't think Blade Runner really needed a sequel in the first place, especially given its ability to stay relevant in the years since its release. And if anyone really wanted more the underrated game delivered a surprisingly complex kind of retelling. 

But I digress, a sequel is here and we'll put our trust in Villeneuve to recapture the atmosphere of the original. Scott definitely doesn't deserve it. The trailer delivers a bit of the plot, which involves K (Ryan Gosling) tracking down Deckard (Harrison Ford) and trying to uncover some deep secret that could destroy everything. The original is proclaimed because of its introspective themes on humanity, and I'm not sure that this one is going to be able to carry on that tradition given the action and gun shooting rampaging through it. I also maybe reading too much into this, but are they telegraphing Gosling being a replicant a little too hard here? 

I guess I'm cautiously excited for something I never really wanted. And you gotta love the Atari throwback to the original film.


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Final trailer for Wonder Woman brings the warrior spirit

May 07 // Hubert Vigilla
I'm old, so I now have that song by Scandal stuck in my head. BANG! BANG! What do you think? You excited? You optimistic that this may be the DC movie to pull off some critical acclaim and box office success? Let us know in the comments below. Wonder Woman comes out June 2nd. [via Wonder Woman on Twitter] [embed]221521:43552:0[/embed]
Wonder Woman trailer photo
Shooting at the walls of heartache...

Wonder Woman is less than a month away. While there have been a few pieces asking why there isn't that much promotion for the film lately, it seems like the Warner Bros. hype train is pulling out of the station this weekend. (Maybe they were waiting for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 to come out so Wonder Woman wouldn't get lost in the comic book movie shuffle?)

In the final trailer for Wonder Woman, we get all warrior'd out. Check it out below.


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Review: Alien: Covenant

May 06 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]221515:43550:0[/embed] Alien: CovenantDirector: Ridley ScottRelease Date: May 18, 2017Rating: R  Coming from Covenant’s marketing campaign, you might be surprised by the first name in its opening credits: Michael Fassbender. And right off the bat we know that something is wrong, because in the trailer that was pretty cool for two minutes (before being very, very stupid right at the end), you see Fassbender… twice? We’ve been led to believe that Katherine Waterson is our protagonist, and yet we don’t begin the film with her (rather with Fassbender’s David character, from Prometheus). And then we go to Fassbender’s other character, an android named Walter. We aren’t introduced to the cast until after the first exciting thing happens: A solar event damages the ship and forces the crew members from their cryosleep. In the chaos that ensues, we finally meet our Ripley. And it just goes downhill from there. The first thing you see Daniels – the Strong Independent Woman who is going to take down the xenomorph at the end (one would assume) – do is fail to get out of her sleeping pod. You see some guys get out, then they help her. And then her husband, played perplexingly for less than two minutes by James Franco, can’t get out… but no one can get him out either and he burns up in his pod. And then we’re treated to our Strong Independent Woman being sad about her dead husband while watching a video he left her on a tablet. Ugh. But Daniels doesn’t take over; she’s second in command to Billy Krudup’s character, who is sad that no one respects him and thinks it is because he is a man of faith (there is no evidence to support this). Their ship is transporting a couple thousand colonists to their new home, but after the solar incident and the death of their captain, everyone is a little iffy about getting back into their cryogenic pods – especially since Walter tells them there is a not-insignificant chance that this kind of thing could happen again. Conveniently (or not), they receive a distress beacon from a nearby planet that falls perfectly within the habitable zone. It’s weeks away rather than years, so Krudup decides they should go check it out. When hell breaks loose however many minutes later, I found myself thinking not about what I was seeing but about my complete lack of reaction to it. Technically, there’s some good stuff here. There are some genuinely great shots, and the production design in general is very cool. But functionally there’s nothing. You know what emotion you’re supposed to feel because you have an understanding of cinematic language. The music swells, the camera gets shaky, and the editing gets jumping; oh, something tense is going on. But I don’t feel any tension. And then I’m watching Amy Seimetz fire on a baby xenomorph and thinking about why this doesn’t work for me. Even the body horror stuff that sort of worked didn’t really work. [embed]221515:43549:0[/embed] The Chestburster in the original Alien was a genuinely shocking moment. It’s probably one of cinema’s most iconic images, and works on pretty much every level. Alien: Covenant knows that a xenomorph bursting from a chest isn’t good enough anymore, so it has a few much more disturbing ways to birth aliens from a human body. And they’re definitely disgusting, getting the grossed-out reaction from the crowd that they were going for, but the intensity of the violence doesn’t actually serve the plot in any meaningful way. It’s just horrific imagery for the sake of it, there to shock the audience more than the characters in the film. You may appreciate the inventiveness for a moment, but then you have to deal with the CGI xenomorphs that come out and all the gorgeous practical effects that lead up to it can’t stop you from groaning. Or laughing. The audience laughed a lot. They actually clapped a couple of times, usually after the Xenomorph had killed someone in a particularly vicious way. I wondered about that: Why? Was it because the characters were so boring that everyone was just glad they were dead? I mean, I had already forgotten several of the characters by the time the credits rolled, only remembering once I rewatched the trailer just to make sure that it was, in fact, selling the same product that I had just witnessed. The crew on the Covenant probably had names, but I only remember two of them: Daniels and Tennessee. (There is also Walter, but we’ll get to that later.) Tennessee is played by Danny McBride, and he’s got a fairly unpleasant personality, but he’s the only one who actually has personality at all. The characters are largely expendable, and the script seems well aware of that, because it makes no attempt to develop anyone who dies early and only a marginal effort to develop the ones who make it to the third act. The four-plus-minute scene that I mentioned earlier, a slice of which is featured in that trailer, is important because it’s not actually in the movie. Like, at all. And it’s interesting because watching that clip after seeing the film, I saw more character development for some of those people than in the entire two hours of nonsense I sat through. I would assume that it was originally supposed to be part of the film; it seems odd that it wouldn’t be, and it’s the only time James Franco says things while alive. It actually feels like it’s from a completely different movie. They talk about the crew members, but make no reference to all of the other (sleeping) colonists on the ship. Watching that, I would never have known that they weren’t the sole bodies aboard the Covenant. And sure, it makes only marginally less sense than the stuff the characters actually do say, but it leads me to wonder what place it was supposed to serve… and what the movie was supposed to look like. Because I don’t believe for a second that Alien: Covenant is the movie that it was supposed to be. Clearly it’s not the movie that Fox’s marketing department wanted it to be, but I have trouble believing it’s the movie Ridley Scott was trying to make. Then again, I don’t have any idea what movie he was trying to make, because there’s no consistency of any sort. Really, it feels like the movie is fucking with you sometimes. Nowhere is this clearer than the truly bizarre sequences like the one where Michael Fassbender as David (who just-so-happens to be on this planet) is showing Michael Fassbender as Walter how to play the recorder. The camera swings back and forth in a long take as one Fassbender tells the other about “fingering holes,” something that happens for several straight minutes. That sequence is probably as long as the character-building clip I mentioned that didn’t make it into the film… yet somehow the innuendo-filled recorder scene is important? At first, I was convinced that David was going to kill Walter and take over his place at this point, maybe force the recorder through Walter’s throat, but no: He literally just shows him how to play the recorder. It’s just two Michael Fassbenders, like Ridley Scott finally figured out the facial technology that David Fincher has been using for years and wanted to show it off. Look, Fassbender is one of my favorite actors, and if they want to have scenes of just him talking to himself, that’s fine… but this is just stupid. As with most scenes David is in, there seems to be an attempt at philosophy. As I mentioned, Fassbender is the protagonist, both as David and Walter. They’re two very different models of the same Android, and the underlying logic behind their creation could lead to some interesting discussions. There are hints of that, and other things. David talks (constantly) about creation and perfection and humanity and love, but these proclamations aren’t part of a dialogue. It’s like listening to a college freshman who read “Ozymandias” for the first time and has now figured out the meaning of life and really, really wants to tell you about how cool he is. He says vapid things in vain attempts at profundity, and it’s just sad. It’s theoretically an extension of the ideas raised in Prometheus (particularly with regards to creation), but it’s ultimately nothing at all. And that’s Alien: Covenant as a whole. It’s nothing. By the time this review is published, I will likely have forgotten everything about it, except for the feelings it left me with. I wanted it to be good; I wanted that oh-so badly. I wanted Ridley Scott to prove he still had it. But Covenant proves that he does not. This is Scott giving up on his most famous franchise. This is me giving up on him.
Alien: Covenant Review photo
Fool Me Twice

As reviled as it is (justifiably or not), Prometheus deserves a little pass for being unlike its Alien siblings in large part because of its branding. It may be in the same canon, but it’s not pretending to be an Alien movie. And, at the time, no one had made anything halfway decent related to the property in decades. It’s not good, but what are we going to compare it to? Alien Vs. Predator? Things have changed since then; in 2014, we got Alien: Isolation, a game that understands why its source material is so damn scary. The marketing campaign for Alien: Covenant would generally lead one to believe that it had been created with that same understanding. It was a return to the Alien branding and, hopefully, a return to Alien form.

But no. No. No. No No No.

Look, I’ve seen blatant misrepresentations of movies before in film marketing (Crimson Peak comes to mind), but never anything as willfully and viciously false as the campaign for Alien: Covenant. Let’s not mince words: Everything you think you know about this film is a lie. 

That badass poster that’s been popping up in movie theaters over the past couple of months, showing a shadowed image of a Xenomorph beside just the word “Run”? Lie.

The (majority of the) first trailer where a Ripley-esque Katherine Waterson is leading a mission onto an alien world? Lie.

The entire first four and a half minutes of the “Extended Clip and Trailer”? A gosh damn lie.

So what is Alien: Covenant? It's garbage.

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Review: Chuck

May 05 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]221422:43548:0[/embed] ChuckDirector: Philippe FalardeauRating: RRelease Date: May 5, 2017 Chuck has an endearing center in its star Liev Schreiber, whose ease and affability keep the film watchable even when it's sluggish or middling. I was reminded how good and versatile Schreiber can be and how underrated he is as an actor. As Chuck Wepner, he's both pathetic and sympathetic, a legitimate hometown hero and a fame-chasing clown. I'm not sure how true to life these contradictions are to the real-life Wepner, but as a character in a film, there's promise there. One minute he's quoting Anthony Quinn from Requiem for a Heavyweight, the next minute he's trying to hump anything with boobs by mentioning Rocky. Many of Schreiber's co-stars also elevate the material. Jim Gaffigan's solid as Wepner's brother, a guy who loves to be a hanger-on so long as there's coke or women involved (and as long as he doesn't have to pay). Schreiber's former real-life partner Naomi Watts appears mid-film as Linda, who would eventually become Wepner's third wife. Watts isn't given much to do but flirt and support the pathetic palooka, but the genuine fondness she and Schreiber shared comes through on screen. Elizabeth Moss is especially good as Wepner's second wife, Phyllis, even though she mostly just has to put up with his BS. Despite that cast, Chuck falters because of its writing, and by extension its production. Writers often use the term "connective tissue" to describe the moments between the big scenes. In Chuck, the connective tissue feels more like biopic filler. The film is stitched together with on-and-off voiceover narration. It's too hand-holdy and on-the-nose. The movie also rushes itself, breezing along with its flutey, wah-wah kinda-disco stock score, which cheapens the overall feel. Some of the scenes may have been written too big for the budget or without much consideration for lighting and texture. Take the opening scene in which Chuck fights a grizzly bear in the ring. That's a godd set up, but it's lit like a coke-fueled disco party later in the film; it may have been shot in the exact same location. It feels small, but in a "Yeah, we couldn't quite afford all this" way rather than a seedy, "My god, what's become of my life" way. The parts of Chuck that work are the scenes in which the movie slows down, builds out a scene, and allows the awkward moments of these characters lives to unfold. When Wepner tries to hassle Sylvester Stallone about Rocky, there's something there. The same goes for a bad audition or a crummy parent teacher conference. These scenes are when Chuck feel less like a movie from "biopic trope land" and more like a movie about flawed people trying to screw up a little less (or a little more). So much of the movie feels like it's just checking off shaggy story beats rather than letting the moments come like they would but given a deliberate shape. Oddly, Chuck might have taken more cues from the original Rocky to be a better film. Rocky is a quiet, quirky, thoughtful love story about discarded people finding hope in each other. There's also boxing, but the connection between two misfits is so strong that it doesn't matter if Rocky wins or loses in the end, just that he endures. In Chuck, the whole arc of someone's rise, fall, and redemption feels like it's missing that human core. There are scenes that have it, but like fame or pseudo-celebrity, they're fleeting.
Review: Chuck photo
This coulda been a contender

Certain movies have the seeds of a much better movie sown through them. Usually these movies are a little bit of a mess, with a jumble of tones and scenes and characters, some working better than others. The stuff that works is so good that it makes you wish the rest of the film worked the same way.

I couldn't help but think that while watching Chuck, a biopic of New Jersey boxer Chuck Wepner. Nicknamed the "Bayonne Bleeder", Wepner's main claim to fame was almost lasting fifteen rounds with Muhammad Ali in 1975. His match and life story were the inspiration for Sylvester Stallone's Rocky, a bit of trivia the Bleeder would ride for years until his pseudo-celebrity led to coke, partying, and the pains of buying into your own hype. That taste of celebrity--a sip from the gilded milkshake--undid his all-right life.

Chuck can't put it all together. It feels like a made-for-TV feature from an age before prestige television.

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