NYFF Review: Bridge of Spies

Oct 06 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219841:42639:0[/embed] Bridge of SpiesDirector: Steven SpielbergRating: PG-13Release Date: October 16, 2015 Based on a true story, Bridge of Spies centers on James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks), a lawyer in Brooklyn who's asked to defend Colonel Abel (Mark Rylance). Abel is a suspected Russian spy, and the film opens on him as he goes about his daily routine. He's a good artist, though he uses his talents as subterfuge in order to get around the city and receive messages from his superiors. The opening minutes of the film are without dialogue, and showcase some nice bits of spycraft. Rylance remains stonefaced but vigilant. Donovan's expected to deliver a mere token defense for Abel. He's a speed bump en route to a commie's execution. Donovan's a principled litigator, however, and he wants to extend Constitutional protections to the captured spy. Donovan even urges the judge to avoid the death penalty. A spy of Abel's caliber--Donovan constantly refers to him as "a good soldier"--would be a worthwhile bargaining chip if the US ever had to negotiate with the Soviets. Donovan's neighbors and colleagues begin to turn on him for taking a stand. Casting Tom Hanks as Donovan is a given. There's an innate trustworthiness about Hanks' screen presence, and he exudes the kind of everyman likability you'd expect out of your favorite friend or neighbor. At a party, people may ask when Tom's showing up. Since the early 90s, Hanks has become the go-to common-man good-guy in the mold of Jimmy Stewart; if Bridge of Spies were made decades ago, Stewart would probably play Donovan. (Okay, maybe not. If it were made decades ago the entire crew would be blacklisted and seated before a HUAC hearing.) Then there's Mark Rylance as Colonel Abel. His performance is all about the poker face. Colonel Abel's low-key and could pass as a plain old man, but to the intelligence community, they know what's up. He plays so dumb that he's obviously got a lot secrets. There's a lot to read into Hanks' and Rylance's performances when they share the screen together--what's being said and not said, what they're saying with looks--but there's also a kind of mutual respect; not just something lawyer-client based but an admiration for such staunch resoluteness. Bridge of Spies switches from a courtroom drama to small-scale espionage movie for the half or two-thirds. US government sends Donovan to negotiate the release of a US soldier named Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) who's being held by the Soviets. Good thing Donovan fought so hard to keep his chip from the chair. And so we go from Brooklyn to Berlin, where the wall has just gone up and a clash between Soviet and East German interests might complicate the deal that Donovan has been sent to broker. Bridge of Spies tries to braid in two additional threads of narrative over the Donovan-driven and Abel-driven dramas. It's here that some seams become visible--it's easy to spot seams in an otherwise handsome film. Powers' mission helps get across the amount of spying going on between the US and Russia, and it culminates in a daring set piece involving a spy plane, but it doesn't quite flow with the legal drama unfolding on the ground. At least it has some creative smash cuts and cross cuts. The film gets much clunkier as we introduce the other thread involving an economics student named Frederic Pryor (Will Rogers), who's suspected of being an American spy in East Germany. It's introduced and dropped as a narrative expedient--a story for the main story but not a story on its own. It's almost like a stray movie lost in the bigger one, and some of the brief drama involving Pryor and his girlfriend are never touched on again. Even with the seams and loose threads, Bridge of Spies is steadily carried by Hanks' amiability and Spielberg and his craft. Once we're back with Donovan, the film regains its footing (and handsomeness). I sense some audiences might be put off by the film's high-mindedness. Conservatives in particular may take issue with Donovan's heroic idealism even if its so earnestly American. There's one speech Donovan makes before the Supreme Court that's Capraesque bordering on cloying. Even if taken directly from a transcript, the speech seems like it's directed at a contemporary audience rather than the Justices of the 1950s. Donovan speaks about the heart of the country and the fundaments of the Constitution and how it ought to be applied even to America's enemies. The contemporary read is not about Soviets but soldiers from Afghanistan and Iraq who are detained in Guantanamo. Spielberg even seems to offer an indictment of prisoner abuse by contrasting Powers in a Soviet prison with Abel in an American one. The appeal is clear and you don't even have to look that hard--we're Americans, and we should be good even to our enemies. This kind of black-and-white appeal to good old-fashioned American decency works in movies since it's about an abstraction of Jimmy Stewart America or Gregory Peck America--a kind of aspirational Platonic form of what people in America can strive to be. (Ronald Reagan's America is probably more pervasive. Make of that what you will.) In that way, Bridge of Spies shares some Constitutional connective tissue with Amistad and Lincoln, while also being a kind of post-war counterpart to Saving Private Ryan--it's a mission to bring our boys home. It's hokey, but the takeaway is to be the best the country has to offer, or at least to try. If that corny idealism isn't good old-fashioned American decency, I don't know what is.
Review: Bridge of Spies photo
When Spielbergian goes Capraesque

Watching Bridge of Spies, I realized almost immediately the difference between a beautiful film and a handsome film. Steven Spielberg's latest movie is handsome. It's cleanly shot, polished, glossy, with impeccable acting in almost every scene. Even the handheld shots have a kind of austerity about them that suggest prestige; a suit-tie-and-hat sort of movie, and not just because the majority of the characters wear suits, ties, and hats.

The screenplay for Bridge of Spies was written by Matt Charman and Joel & Ethan Coen. Every now and then in this handsome movie, a little bit of the Coens deadpan humor peeks through. Yet as the film jumps genres and locations, it ultimately feels more Spielberg than Coens, and, in fact, it feels more Frank Capra than Coens on multiple occasions.

Bridge of Spies is all about good old-fashioned decency in the thick of the Cold War. Spielberg trades in historical nuance for straightforward moral clarity about doing what is right no matter the circumstances. That's what Americans are supposed to do. Supposed to, at least.

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The Ten Best Korean Films Streaming on Hulu (2015 Edition)

Oct 06 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
SunnyDirector: Kang Hyeong-Cheol When people ask me what my favorite Korean film is, I usually tell them Sunny. It's not necessarily true (though it might be), but I say it to gain street cred. Most people (at least in America) haven't heard of Sunny, but every Korean person I've mentioned it to has known it. A couple of them have told me I couldn't get it because I'm not Korean. I don't think that's quite fair, though I sort of understand where they're coming from. There are politics that I don't understand, but I think it's ridiculous to say that me not quite getting the context means I can't love the film for how I see it. Because even if that plays around the backdrop (or a backdrop), what matters is the human drama that plays out in the foreground. It's often hilarious, occasionally heart-breaking, but always wonderful. Sadly, the Director's Cut, which adds two scenes (one of which is arguably the most impacting in the entire film), isn't available, but even so, Sunny is a spectacular film. I fell in love with Sunny long before I saw the Director's Cut. You will too. Watch it here! MossDirector: Kang Woo-Suk  Moss was among the first Korean films I reviewed for Flixist. I wasn't quite new to Korean cinema at the time, but it was one of the catalysts for what would end up being a reasonably deep dive. It was my first introduction to actor Park Hae-Il, though, who has become one of my favorite Korean actors. He's a pretty small guy, but he more than makes up for it with an abundance of presence and talent. What I particularly enjoy about Moss is the fact that it's a film where not only was I concerned about the main character in the general "Always care about the protagonist" sense but also the "Oh shit, this guy might actually get killed by these people" sense. The intensity of it (and a history of that kind of thing in other Korean thrillers) meant that his fate wasn't all that certain. It meant that the "thriller" was particularly thrilling, and though it's a bit on the long side, it never drags. It's got you, and it keeps you right up until the end.  Watch it here! Memories of MurderDirector: Bong Joon-Ho  Here's the thing: Memories of Murder is probably the biggest item on this list, but not because I think it's the best. Everyone else thinks it's the best. This was not just Bong Joon-Ho's breakout film, but for many it was Korean cinema's breakout film. This retelling of a tragic and senseless violent act and the ensuing investigation is disturbing and intense and important in ways that I will admit to not understanding (political things again). And on those grounds alone you should watch it, and the fact that it's here is awesome. On a personal level, I think this is a far less compelling film than Bong Joon-Ho's followup, The Host. I take particular issue with the comedic aspects of the film (including a particular transition that is overtly funny to the point of being parody), because they work against an otherwise deadly serious narrative. It's an issue that plagues Korean films in general, honestly, and Bong Joon-Ho's work in particular. To be clear: I like the film quite a bit, just not quite as much as everyone else. Perhaps since it's here, I'll give it another shot. Watch it here! SilencedDirector: Gong Ji-Young In my Netflix list, I lamented the loss of Silenced from Netflix's catalog. It's a soul-crushing movie, one of those bleak looks into the evils of humanity (it's based on a true story) and the horrific things that are allowed to happen (no one was charged). To make a film about something like this requires the utmost skill and ability to navigate horrors without succumbing to them. This film could have easily turned into something truly vile, but it doesn't. It's a film that makes you angry at society, indignant about the justice system, and depressed about the future of our species. But it's also an extremely compelling drama and one that is well worth your time. Just block off a few hours afterwards. Ya know, for the sobbing. Watch it here! A Bold FamilyDirector: Kim Jee-Woon  Although A Bold Family is the weakest of Kim Jee-Woon's Korean films, it is a fascinating artifact as his debut. It is also pretty hard to get ahold of. Or, at least it was before it made its way to Hulu. When I say how impressed I am with what Hulu has cultivated, this film's presence is one of the key factors. None of his more well-known films are available here, but they are elsewhere and I recommend literally all of them. A Bold Family is as good a place as any to start. Watch it here! Joint Security AreaDirector: Park Chan-Wook  Speaking of debuts (sort of), Park Chan-Wook's Joint Security Area is the film that put the director on the map. It may have been his third film, but JSA was the breakout movie. He would follow this up with The Vengeance Trilogy, and even though it's a very different type of film, you could see that talent in full swing. It's a fascinating film about the relationship between North and South Korea, one that is all the more poignant as tensions heat up at the border of the countries again. It's also interesting as a film that crosses cultural boundaries. It's hard to really understand what goes into the constant standoff like this (particularly for someone who wasn't around for the height of the Cold War), but the movie isn't really about that, simply using it as a backdrop for more relatable drama. The message – we're not so different, you and I – isn't the most original, but the execution is more than enough to make up for that. Watch it here! Sex is ZeroDirector:  Yoon Je-kyoon  And while we're on the topic of obscure-ish films, Sex is Zero is a film I've yet to see on other services. For a while, its sequel was available on Netflix (no longer, but it's on Hulu), but I had trouble tracking down the original. I've always found Korean romantic comedies fascinating, but the number of them available to see is always fairly low. Perhaps it's an issue of the comedy not crossing cultures (or distributors not thinking they'd cross cultures) or maybe it's something else entirely, but I see less of that than I'd like. I heard of Sex Is Zero years ago when looking up the "Best of Korean Cinema" years ago (I'm the target audience for this list, by the way) and it showed up on multiple Best Comedy lists. Is it one of the best comedies? I dunno, but it's a whole lot of fun, and the kind of thing that you should definitely check out while it's available. Watch it here! Nameless GangsterDirector: Yoon Jong-Bin  Nameless Gangster is just a great gosh darn movie. An excellent one, even. One of my favorite mob films. That's a function of a lot of things, but as always, Choi Min-sik's performance is the key thing here. Following years of the ultra-corrupt civil servant-turned gangster's life, we get to see the seedy underbelly of 1980s Korea and the role that family plays in it. Most mob movies that head this way are about the Italian mob, and obviously we know that family is a big deal there, but it seems like the blood thing runs even deeper in Korea, and that makes it a particularly interesting film to watch. The violence is intense as well, and the distinct lack of shoot-outs due to the general difficulty of procuring weapons honestly makes for far more interesting and visceral confrontations. If you're familiar with (and perhaps tired of) American mob movies, this one will serve as a breath of fresh air. Watch it here! BedevilledDirector: Jang Cheol-Soo This film sits in an odd place for me. I wrote about it at the 2011 New York Asian Film Festival. It was one of the first reviews I ever wrote. I was also fairly new to Korean cinema at the time, only having spent a couple years prior getting into it, and certainly not getting into the country's deep cuts. I gave the film a 94, which at the time was an even more significant measure of quality than the currently very-difficult-to-reach level we have now. It meant that a film had to be effectively perfect and then some. I called the film better than the Vengeance Trilogy. I think I was a little caught up in everything.  Context matters when seeing a film. I saw Bedevilled with a crowd, and that crowd was rowdy and ugly and I didn't enjoy being there with them. I was so angry at their shouting and still liking the movie quite a bit that I think I over-compensated. I loved this movie, not because it was better than the Vengeance Trilogy, but because the people who actively attempted to get in the way of my investment in the story failed. This is one of those films that I find quintessentially Korean. You're subjected to horrors, maybe you receive some catharsis, but in the end it's all meaningless. There is no victory here. Nowadays, my score would have been lower, but I still think it's a film worth seeing. Watch it here! Bleak NightDirector: Yoon Sung-Hyun  I saw Bleak Night a couple years ago. I wanted to review it. Tried to. I wrote six different introductions to the review and bits of a body, but I hated every single one. It's a hard film to talk about, because suicide is a hard topic to discuss. The name is an apt one; this film is extremely bleak, and it doesn't leave you with a whole lot of hope. But that says nothing about its quality (and it's hardly the most depressing film on this list). Films should be challenging like this, making you consider your own actions and the way you treat people. It's a film about consequences and the chain of events that could lead someone to end their life. It begins with the suicide and works its way back. You know the ending, which makes it all the more crushing to see. But as long as you go in expecting the emotional impact, you will find it more than worth your while. Watch it here!
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That aren't available on Netflix

Last month, we posted our list of best Korean films available on Netflix. But I made the point there that Netflix's supply has been drying up lately. Over the course of this year, the number of available films has quite literally halved.

On the other hand, Hulu seems to be picking up some of that slack. Many people don't think of Hulu as a serious contender, and that's understandable, but if you're a film fan, there's really quite a bit to like. Being able to take full advantage of their partnership with the Criterion Collection in and of itself justifies the price of admission, as far as I'm concerned. Now knowing that this list of films that I already love and others that I'm looking forward to finally seeing (and, admittedly, others I can guarantee I will never see) is available, I feel even more secure in my subscription. (If you don't want to subscribe, though, Hulu allows anyone to watch films for free with commercial breaks. A Hulu Plus subscription allows you to see them ad-free.)

There is some overlap in the catalog  two-thirds of The Vengeance Trilogy is available, as are films like War of the Arrows, Moebius, and Hide and Seek (listed in our Netflix Top 13) – but each of the ten films on this list are, as of the press time, exclusive to Hulu. And every single one of them is absolutely worth watching. There are some other really enjoyable films on the service, such as Secret Reunion, Rough Cut, and The Attorney, but this list is being limited to ten entries, and some things had to give. The fact that films as good as those got cut speaks to just how great Hulu's catalog is, certainly by comparison.

So let's get to it!

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Good director, weird name

It has been a struggle to find a director for the fast approaching Furious 8. You'd think directors would be chomping at the bit to get their name on one of the biggest franchises in film. Paramount cast a wide net and has decided to enter into talks with F. Gary Gray. 

Gray isn't exactly known for his action films -- his last movie was Straight Outta Compton and he came on the scene with Friday -- and when he has done them they haven't been on the scale of a Fast & Furious movie. Usually he works smaller with things like  A Man Apart. Probably his closest thing to something as crazy as a Furious movie is The Italian Job remake, which was competently done. Still, I like the choice. The director can bring something slightly more grounded to the franchise, and maybe we'll get a new take from another fresh pair of eyes. 

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Guys, I just want a Pepsi

Back to the Future II's future didn't quite happen. We still don't have ubiquitous working hoverboards and my drams of being eaten by a giant holographic shark are years away. However, we did get to see some of the stuff from the movie like the self tying shoes from Nike and now we will have future Pepsi.

Actually, it's present Pepsi since the Back to the Future II future is right now. God, time travel can get confusing. The point is what was the future then is now now and that means Pepsi is releasing a limited edition Pepsi Perfect that looks like the Pepsi Michael J. Fox gets in Back to the Future II for $50. Inflation hasn't been that great, though, so you can pick up the 16.9 oz. bottle will retail for $20.15. 

It'll be a limited run of 6,500 bottles, available online while supplies last, and will come in a fancy case of some sort. If you choose to drink your rare Pepsi Perfect it'll be somewhat of a waste. The Pepsi inside is just Pepsi made with real sugar and can be picked up at any grocery store in America. This is one you're gonna want to put on the shelf so that in the future (that future that isn't now) your kids will find it in the attic and wonder why you saved a bottle of Pepsi for 60 years. 

[via THR]


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Not a flashy choice

The DC cinematic universe has a job to do building up its on screen roster, but they're getting there. One of the next steps is a Flash movie, probably called The Flash. Seth Grahame-Smith is in talks to write and direct the movie. This comes after Phil Lord and Christopher Miller decided to leave the project thanks to jumping on board Star Wars for the Han Solo... solo film

Smith is a bit of a risky choice. The guy is better known as an author (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) and has never directed a feature film before. His screenwriting credentials aren't that great either when the movies aren't based on his books (Dark Shadows). WB seems to trust him, however, and are moving him up with a big tent pole. 

Flash has already cast it's lead with Ezra Miller taking on the scarlet speedster and a release date of March 3, 2018 is already set. We'll get our first taste of the character in Batman v Superman and then some more in the first Justice League film before his solo outing even arrives.

I'm still miffed that the TV shows are set in a different universe than the movies, but what are you gonna do? DC doesn't have the planning or wherewithal it seems to make a cohesive cinematic universe like Marvel has. 

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Fear the Walking Dead Season Finale Recap: "The Good Man"

Oct 05 // Nick Valdez
With the encroaching danger of the arena filled with thousands of zombies (which I'm glad we didn't know about until the last episode, it could've been stupidly teased through all six episodes and became more annoying than not) and the military abandoning El Serreno, the gang makes plans to break into the military compound in order to rescue Nick and (the now dead) Griselda. It's generic stuff to be sure, but it's interesting how we get to that point. First, Travis decides to spare The Faculty military guy since he says he knows where everyone is. Then Daniel decides to weaponize the arena full of zombies and lets them loose on the military compound. It's pretty goofy how a horde would walk up without anyone realizing, but it gives Daniel a bonafide badass moment ("You should save your ammunition.") as he strolls away. Then we finally get the action people have been clamoring for. A nicely laid out kitchen fight, several tense moments (one of which comes into play during the finale's final scene), and several nice character bits.  There are too many good bits to talk about, but here are a few of my favorites. These scenes managed to squeeze in genuine emotion in between all of the action, something that the parent series hasn't been able to do for some time: The doctor gives up and presumably kills herself with her cattle gun as she loses hope in the military, an infected soldier runs head first into a helicopter blade, Nick nearly gets a heroic death with his silent "Go" through the door before being saved at the last minute (and made me think there might be something else to his character after all), Daniel and Ofelia see the piles of ash and bodies that Griselda is now a part of (that's one of the most striking images I've seen in either of the shows. It's far more upsetting than seeing characters do it themselves), after The Faculty soldier shoots Ofeila Travis beats him to death, regretting his decision to let him go, Strand gets his cuff links back, and the military shows that the characters can't rely on anyone other than themselves.  But the best part of the finale? Oddly the one I hate the most due to increasingly stupid peaceful nature, Travis begins to change as the world changes. Becoming more like Daniel (and thus capitalizing on the duality set up in previous episodes), Travis begins making these violent choices for the benefit of his family. For one, he doesn't tell any of his former neighbors that the military has abandoned them, and two, he basically kills everybody without hesitation. Like Rick, Travis is slowly changing, but unlike Rick, it's much more interesting to watch Travis' hope be crushed. Leading to the episode biggest moment, Liza's unfortunate demise. As the group makes it to Strand's beach side residence, as he details his plans to get to his ship Abigail, you'd think all of the main characters would be in the clear. But unfortunately, after being attacked in that kitchen scene, Liza reveals she's been infected. After giving Madison and Travis all of the knowledge she gained from the military (that it's pretty much hopeless as everyone comes back after they die), she decides she doesn't want her son to see her in that state. Rodriguez absolutely kills it here, and this scene hits harder than you'd expect thanks to her acting.  It sucks since I was getting attached to her, but I'm guessing no one really knew what to do with her character anymore. Although her death provides a more hopeless situation (changing Travis and Chris, losing the only one with any kind of medical knowledge), it sort of reeks of that "kill the woman to make the man more interesting" thing. They're losing a great actress, but I'm confident the show knows what it's doing. The major death of this episode is an intimate moment, and it's reflective of how this show's been handled. It's also something I can't say of the parent series, that for the first time, I actually cared that someone was dying off in one of these shows. It's genuinely unexpected, it's quiet, and then it's over but its lingering effects will be felt as the series rolls on. It's potential that the parent series failed to capitalize on, and as long as Fear avoids those same trappings, it can be a much better show. It's already had a much better first season.  Final Thoughts:  "You can keep the watch." Strand is so f**king cool.  Speaking of Strand, his character is pushing this into comic book-y territory, but he's so interesting I won't be bothered to care. His strict self-preservation's going to clash with the main cast soon, and it'll be fun to see which side of the new world folks will stand on.  You can argue that no one in this show is likable or interesting, and it'd be hard to argue, but later episodes will hopefully utilize all of the nuance laid out early on.  Nick's "everyone's catching up to me" speech was pretty dumb. Reminds me too much of this PSA. Fear's miniseries Flight 462, which will introduce a character for season two, premieres during each episode of the Walking Dead but I'll probably wait until it's all over to talk about it. No point in discussing a minute long episode each week.  So that's it! Thanks for sticking with me, folks. I'll be back next week with the series proper. Stay tuned!  Want to see more of our TV coverage? Check out our TV Recaps and Reviews! 
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Can't wait for season two

Just like with its parent series, Fear the Walking Dead has been experiencing some growing pains within its very short, six episode first season. As the biggest draw, the zombies, took a backseat to a more intimate story of family troubles, the show struggled to keep folks' attention to its slow burning take. But as the last episode proved, its focus on character (regardless on whether or not it succeeds in this regard) makes the rest of the stuff more worthwhile. 

But unlike the parent series, Fear's got a new world to play around in. This first season has been building up to this finale, and to a further extent, season two. After seeing the world finally come crashing down, Fear the Walking Dead is shaping up to be the better of the two shows. 

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Series would bring some comedy to MCU

Are you sick of superhero-movie-adjacent TV shows yet? Marvel sure hopes not, because they and ABC have announced their intentions to adapt on-again, off-again comic series Damage Control as a live-action comedy set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its ever-growing cache of television properties. 

In Marvel comics, Damage Control is a comedy comic that follows what's essentially a cleanup crew that often gets called in to clear rubble and rebuild after heroes and villains clash; they're often a convenient way to explain why the entire planet (or at least New York City) isn't a huge pile of scrap. It sounds like the adaptation would follow in much the same vein, which makes a lot of sense considering that, you know, one of the most recent MCU movies blew up an entire Eastern European city. Assuming it comes to fruition, Damage Control would be the eighth series tying into Marvel's movie mega-franchise known to be airing or in development, joining Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter on ABC and Daredevil on Netflix, as well as upcoming series Most Wanted (ABC) and Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist (Netflix).

On its face, I'm of two minds about the whole thing. On the one hand, the MCU has proven that it's a versatile mega-franchise capable of branching into various genres; also, as good as Agents of SHIELD has gotten and as great as Daredevil and Agent Carter were in their debut seasons, they're largely serious (if fun) affairs and something specifically comedic would be a refreshing change of pace for Marvel's TV offerings. That said, if we're to believe the Most Wanted spinoff is still happening, that puts the MCU up to roughly six series a year (more as the Netflix series continue to debut), which is a lot of investment to ask for from viewers. Ultimately, though, the series will live and die on its quality, which hasn't always been Marvel's strong suit when it comes to its TV outings, at least not right out of the gate.

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NYFF Review: Steve Jobs

Oct 05 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219839:42637:0[/embed] Steve JobsDirector: Danny BoyleRating: RRelease Date: October 9, 2015 Even though he was an ideal public persona for Apple products, Steve Jobs was not a good person behind the scenes. There are numerous examples of Steve Jobs being a giant jerk, and the Steve Jobs of the film played by Michael Fassbender is superbly unrepentant. Before the launch of the original Macintosh computer, Steve throws tantrums. He's abusive to his staff, and he continues to avoid his financial and personal responsibilities to his daughter Lisa and her mother. (He's only 94.1% likely to be Lisa's father, he keeps pointing out.) Steve Jobs was a self-centered prick, a long-view Machiavellian entrenched in the tech industry, and there are times in this film that he verges on pure supervillainy. But he was also a savvy businessman. Based on this performance, you know who would make a great Lex Luthor? Michael Fassbender. (Also, Steve Jobs.) With some historical figures, we ponder the link between madness and genius. With Steve Jobs it's maybe more a question of morality and genius. The big conversation that the film wants to provoke is whether Steve Jobs could have been successful if he weren't such a raging douchebag. There's a pivotal argument in the third act with Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), who calls Jobs out for all of his persistent moral shortcomings. Fassbender plays Steve Jobs as this ethically challenged, emotionally unmoored figure, and the rest of the cast helps make this work by playing moral counterpoint for the wretch. Picture people holding down a hot air balloon with rope. The task is to keep this thing grounded as much as possible. Rogen's Wozniak is one of these people, and he's mainly seeking recognition for his hard work. There's also steady and loyal Andy Hertzfeld played by Michael Stuhlbarg, and a warmly paternal Jeff Daniels as former Pepsi and Apple CEO John Sculley. The most set upon moral figure in the film, though, is Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet). She's portrayed as a kind of power-personal assistant to Steve Jobs, though her marketing roles at Apple and NeXT were probably far different. Ditto her overall career trajectory. Hoffman apparently retired in 1995, years before the iMac launch, though she's at Jobs' side in the film in each act. This deviation makes sense for the sake of the screenplay, which requires a character as morally resolute as Jobs is morally aloof. In real life, Hoffman was considered the person who was best able to stand up to Jobs, and that kind of figure--the immovable moral object to Steve Job's unstoppable narcissistic force--is necessary in this particular type of story. Winslet disappears into the role. I didn't even realize it was her until the second act of Steve Jobs. Many of the best scenes involve Winslet verbally grappling with Fassbender. There are Sorkin-isms throughout the briskly paced Steve Jobs (e.g., the walk-and-talks, the trivia, the impeccable ripostes), and Boyle does a good job of differentiating the look and feel of each section of the film. The world of 1984 is shot in a grainy 16mm, for instance. The film's acts were shot independently, which allowed the actors to tailor their performances to each year before reconsidering their character for the next. Certain gags or lines or ticks in a performance call back to others. As strong as Steve Jobs is for its first two-thirds, it gets a little soft by 1998. I don't know if it's the Hollywood aspect (or Danny Boyle) shining through at this point, but the movie begins making these overtures of Steve Jobs' redemption, all with a heavy dose of crowd-pleasing schmaltz. I didn't buy any of it. A cringeworthy cutesiness also creeps into the iMac section of the movie. Here and there, Steve critiques the limitations of 1990s technology and hints at 21st century Apple products, as if we're watching a winky retroactive commercial. The lines are clunkers when they come, and one of them is a total eyeroller. It doesn't help that I'd been rolling my eyes at the triumphalism that the movie takes on in the final act even as elements of the script do its best to keep the man and the story on the ground. The argument between Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak I mentioned earlier offers a great encapsulation of the film's underlying concerns. And sure, while the story chronicles one man's ability to overcome years of failure, Steve Jobs does this mostly by screwing over other people. During the NeXT section of the film, Jobs calls it "playing the orchestra." In real life, most people call it "being a dick." In A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge has his three visions, wakes up in the morning, and reforms. In Steve Jobs, there are three products and a hint of a better Steve Jobs in the future. Bah humbug. In real life, Steve Jobs woke up after the iMac was released and was still Steve Jobs.
Review: Steve Jobs photo
A better way to do a biopic about a jerk

I was texting a friend about Steve Jobs over the weekend, the new biopic written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Danny Boyle. Sorkin thankfully avoided the birth-to-death biopic that we've all seen and grown tired of by now. Instead Jobs' life story is constructed around three high-profile product launches done in real-time: the Macintosh in 1984, NeXT in 1988, and the iMac in 1998. (Slightly different than originally reported three years ago.)

"The A to Z biopic is dead, I think," he texted back.

Let's hope so. The screenplay for Steve Jobs shows us that there are better ways to approach a life story than adhering to chronology.

It also shows us that Steve Jobs was a total a**hole.

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NYFF Review: Where to Invade Next

Oct 04 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219845:42640:0[/embed] Where to Invade NextDirector: Michael MooreRating: n/aRelease Date: TBD We start the invasion in Italy. Moore sits down with a couple in their living room to discuss what their paid vacation situation is like in the country. They get more than a month off, not including national and local holidays, and any unused vacation time rolls over into the next year. Moore's mouth is agog most of the time--he was genuinely learning all of this for the first time. But there's more. The wages tend to be better, the lunches are longer, and employees tend to be more productive on the job because they are so relaxed. Moore's invasion continues through Europe, with stops in France, Germany, Finland, Slovenia, and Portugal, continuing over the Mediterranean to Tunisia, then across the Atlantic to Iceland. Each time, there's a novel innovation, and each time Moore seems surprised and inspired. He focuses on one thing each country seems to be doing right. In Slovenia, for instance, all college is free, even for students who've come from abroad. In Finland, they've abolished homework. Moore admits that these countries have their own problems and he's mostly accentuating the positive. My job is picking the flowers and not the weeds, he says. He's also picking cherries, but that's not the biggest problem with Where to Invade Next, which, when it works, offers a fine rebuke of the "Fuck you, I got mine" mentality that pervades much of American culture. Moore's generally at his best when he's a deadpan observer rather than a fiery polemicist. Roger and Me is still his finest film (even though he did fudge the timeline of events) since it's mostly Moore as a citizen journalist documenting others. While framed around Moore trying to get an audience with General Motors CEO Roger Smith, the movie is driven by people who get to tell their own stories about the painful decline of Flint, Michigan. As Moore's clout grew, he became a more prominent figure in his films, and in turn his movies were more about Michael Moore's opinions on a subject rather than the subject itself. Moore develops a feel-good thesis in Where to Invade Next. These innovations in other countries could make America a better place, and they all have a shared origin. But Moore oversteps his skills as a documentary essayist through sloppy thinking and oversimplification. He walks past part of an old section of the Berlin Wall with a friend, and they reminisce about being there as it came down. Hammering and chiseling--the solution was so simple, they say. Well, no. History doesn't work that way. The Berlin Wall didn't come down just because some people in West Germany began chipping away at it for a few nights. There were decades of global history that culminated in that moment, and none of it was easy. While Moore smartly identifies the systemic racism underlying the US drug war, he dumbs down cause and effect in other parts of the film to suggest that the catalyst for change is something really simple. By that logic, the Arab Spring was easy as pie: all it took was for someone to self-immolate. No problemo. The systems themselves are simple and elegant, and yet the implementation of these solutions--free college, prison reform, education reform, greater gender representation in government--would have to be accomplished through legislative action and, even more difficult, a fundamental ideological shift in American attitudes regarding the bullshit of global capitalism and antiquated gender roles. These aren't so simple, they'll take time. But they're worth fighting for, which is why there's an oddly ennobling aspect to Where to Invade Next even for its flaws. In my head during each slip up, all I could think was, "Your argument is facile, but yeah, I agree, Michael." Moore's rhetorical missteps in Where to Invade Next come from a genuine place of concern. It's like a bad college essay. The larger point is good, but it's articulated and argued inartfully, whether through selective anecdotes rather than facts, or through emotional appeals rather than reason. The pat close of the movie is mushy and inspirational at the same time. Moore references a well-known fairy tale that takes place in the Midwest, and in the process made me think of another work about the contradictory relationship between political ideology and voting against your best interests in the Midwest (Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas). When film critic Stephen Whitty reviewed Fahrenheit 9/11 back in 2004, he wrote that Moore tends to worry liberals about as much as he infuriates conservatives. "They're people who agree with what Michael Moore says--but refuse to defend to the death the way he insists on saying it," he wrote. Some things don't change.
Review: Where to Invade photo
A feel good movie (but oversimplified)

Michael Moore and Donald Trump have something in common. No, seriously. They want to make America great again. In Where to Invade Next, Moore pretends he's been sent by the Pentagon to invade other countries. His mission: to steal their ideas about education, tuition, employee benefits, the prison system, drug policy, and gender equality in order to fix problems in the United States.

The US could use the help. As wages stagnate, the middle class shrinks, infrastructure crumbles, and American students fall behind the rest of the first world and developing world, there needs to be a serious reorientation of the direction of the country rather than staying the course.

Where to Invade Next is my second favorite Michael Moore movie, and there are times that the film reminded me of Moore's work throughout the 80s and 90s (i.e., Roger and Me, TV Nation, The Awful Truth). But the movie's also got a lot of problems, even for a total lefty like me, and they're problems that demonstrate Moore's limitations as a filmmaker as well as a dime-store historian/political commentator.

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Final Bond trailer brings it home

Oct 02 // Matthew Razak
Spectre photo
It doesn't get more Bond than this

We're pretty excited about Spectre around these parts. We even wrote about it twice in our Winter movie preview because it's going to be so awesome. Want proof? The trailer is above. 

Sure we're going to have to get through that terrible Sam Smith opening song at some point, but otherwise this movie looks so on point it hurts. That is very clearly a secret base they come to and the throwback to Goldfinger's iconic line is just too perfect. 

Bond returns on October 26th in the UK and November 6th in the U.S.


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Review: The Martian

Oct 02 // Matthew Razak
[embed]219989:42650:0[/embed] The MartianDirector: Ridley ScottRated: PG-13Release Date: October 2, 2015  Despite what you might think from the title The Martian does not have any actual aliens in it. This isn't John Carter. This is science fiction at its most sciencey and its least fictiony. On what is now a relatively routine trip to study mars Mark Watney is left behind by the rest of his crew during an evacuation. The Martian is about his survival. It's also about his rescue. The crew, consisting of Captain Lewis (Jessica Chastain), Rick Martinez (Michael Peña), Beth Johanssen (Kate Mara), Chris Beck (Sebastian Stan) and Alex Vogel (Aksel Hennie), are on a months long trip back to earth thinking he's dead. Meanwhile NASA, led by director Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) and Mars lead Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) struggle to find a way to save Watney. If you've read the book you probably already recognize that Damon is the perfect casting for the wisecracking Mark Watney. The character might be one of the most likableprotagonists ever. Damon brings a layered performance to the stranded astronaut that not only captures the charm of the character from the book, but adds an extra layer of fear and anger that is sometimes missing from the prose. He turns the Watney of the page into an actual person and it is a powerful performance. The rest of the cast keeps pace, though they obviously don't take up as much screen time. Especially surprising is Daniels' performance, which takes an all out heel from the book and makes him far more relatable. There are other changes from the book. For the sake of time and the elimination of hours worth of exposition dialog the science has definitely been dumbed down a bit. More importantly, though, our time with Watney is far less. Since it's a film with less time the NASA parts are brought in earlier and we get less Watney on Mars action. It's a elimination that had to be made, especially to fit in the movie's stunning ending, but it means less Watney. That's actually a testament to just how well the movie plays. If you're sitting in your seat wishing it could have been an hour longer just so you could watch Matt Damon drive around what is basically a big red desert then a film has done something right.  In all honesty the subtraction of more Watney time makes the film work better. Drew Goddard shaped this film into a finely honed screenplay that retains the humor and passion of the book. It jumps back and forth perfectly between Mars and Earth. Tension is derived not from big action sequences (except the aforementioned thrilling conclusion), but instead human interaction and tiny drams. There's a great fluidity to the film that somehow helps contrast the wonder of Mars with the doldrums of Earth. Looking at this movie you can't help but want to strap on a suit and launch into space to explore whatever is out there because it's going to be amazing. Mars is vibrant red, stunningly beautiful and engrossingly alive despite not hosting any actual life. Earth by contrast is dull, full of cramped office space and dreary colors. The film is a visual explanation of humanity's love for exploring even if there was no sound. This may be Ridley Scotts best film since Gladiator and it's definitely his best science fiction since Blade Runner. Prometheus was Scott trying to be philosophical, but The Martian is him getting back to his grounded roots and that's what he's good at. At the intersection of science fiction and thrillers is where Scott hits his sweet spot and it's very evident with this film. He's a master of building tension, especially when isolation is involved. And yet, The Martian is drastically different from his previous science fiction movies. It is both humorous and hopeful. Space is still out to get us, but it's not something to run away from, but a challenge to be conquered. Maybe this is why it is just so awe inspiring. Years of Scott's pent up love for all things outer space seem to flow out onto the screen in this film. There has never been and may never be a better advertisement for NASA or a better explanation of why it's so important for us to explore. Sometimes we need a little great science fiction to know just what reality can be. 
Martian Review photo
Un-sciencing the sh*t out of this

If you haven't read The Martian you should because it's better than whatever you're reading now (most likely). It's one of the most enthralling pieces of science fiction to come along in ages and it's an incredibly quick and easy read. Go now. Read.

There is an xkcd comic about it in which they break down the fact that the book is just crammed full of science. It relates it to Apollo 13. The movie isn't quite as kind to science, but that's probably to be expected. Sacrifices have to be made when you're cutting a novel down to two hours and one of the major sacrifices for the film is the scientific explanations of everything.

Why do I bring this up? Because maybe people will be upset about that, but they really shouldn't be because The Martian is some of the best science fiction storytelling to come out this decade and Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is still frickin' awesome. 

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Back to the Future photo
Jaws 10 still pending release

2015 is a pretty big year for the Back to the Future movies. Not only is it the 30th anniversary of the first film, but its also the year Doc and Marty actually travel to the future, so maybe those damn hoaxes of the DeLorean's dashboard will finally stop.

Either way, Amazon has definitely jumped on board for the celebration by putting all three Back to the Future films up for streaming if you're an Amazon Prime customer-- but only for the month of October. Admittedly, Prime's film selection tends to be a little paltry compared to Netflix and Hulu, so it's definitely a treat to see them doing something cool like this to pay tribute to a great series of films.

So what are you waiting for? Open up another tab and start watching on Amazon now! I don't care if you're at work, your boss will probably understand.

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Nintendo Quest photo
A speed run for obsessive collectors

In the documentary Nintendo Quest, Jay Bartlett is on a mission. He has 30 days to collect all 678 North American NES titles.

The problem: Jay's not allowed to make any purchases on the internet.

Luckily it's just the cartridges he's after, not complete box-and-manual games. But still, that's a tough task to complete in such a limited amount of time, and if you're going brick-and-mortar all the way, that's a whole lot of browsing at games stores and hunting at thrift shops and garage sales. (If he wanted Clash at Demonhead or Battle of Olympus, I still have those somewhere. Same with Treasure Master, but who in their right mind wants that one?)

/Film posted the trailer for Nintendo Quest earlier today, which you can check out below.


Nintendo Quest comes out on Vimeo on Friday, October 2nd. Hey, that's tomorrow.

In addition to Jay's quest for all the North American carts, Nintendo Quest features an exploration of Nintendo in pop culture and why there's such an affinity for the NES over other consoles. It seems like a relatively well-timed release for the doc given the 30th anniversary of Super Mario Bros. Maybe this Nintendo lovefest (which began on Kickstarter) can ride that wave a little.

For more information about Nintendo Quest, you can visit the film's official website.

And if anyone wants a copy of Treasure Master for some reason, please ask for it in the comments.

[via /Film]

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NYFF Review: Microbe & Gasoline

Oct 01 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219843:42635:0[/embed] Microbe and Gasoline (Microbe et Gasoil)Director: Michel GondryRated: n/aRelease Date: TBDCountry: France Daniel (Ange Dargent) is an introverted budding artist with an eye for portraits as well as the crude porno pics he hides under his bed. He's small and looks younger than 14, which is why everyone calls him "Microbe." Worse, most people mistake him for a girl. There's the new kid, Theo (Theophile Baquet), who has a penchant for swagger, Michael Jackson leather jackets, and tinkering with machines. He's poor and there's grease under his fingernails, so they call him "Gasoline." The outsiders bond over a sound board that Gasoline has attached to his bike handles. It's a movie, and they're loners who represent divergent social classes and upbringings. So of course they become friends. It's the logic of the misfit buddy movie, and I don't object to it. Misfits attract misfits, but like magnets, the bond between cinematic misfits is between opposite poles rather than like ones. That might be why so many misfit kid movies often feature groups comprised of individual specialists--the tough one, the scientific one, the artsy one, the charismatic one, the one who knows Spanish--rather than people who are identical. Besides, who wants to hang out with someone who's exactly the same? How boring. Microbe and Gasoline are both 14, which is that point when kids want to be (or seem) more adult but don't quite know how that works. They act like they think adults should act, which is mostly learned from movies and TV rather than life. At a costume party, the boys are dressed like old men, and they loaf on the couch, world weary and judgmental, though Microbe looks on longingly at a girl from class. As Microbe obsesses over his crush, Gasoline offers advice as if he's had a decades-long history of loves and losses. There are limits to maturity, no matter how precocious a teenager is, and most of the comedy is rooted in this teenage worldview. It pervades the whole film, but it really takes charge in the second half of Microbe and Gasoline. With school out for the summer, the boys build a mobile home and go out on the road together. Many of Michel Gondry's films have an adorably ramshackle, handmade look about them, like the sweded movies in Be Kind Rewind or the hand-drawn animation from his Noam Chomsky documentary Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? The boys' mobile home--part tiny house, part go-kart--is such a Gondry-looking contraption; wood, nuts, bolts, inventive gimmickry. You feel the splinters and rust, same goes for the gas fumes. From here the film embarks on an odyssey through Gondryland, and the teenage point of view takes over completely. The danger of being a runaway is relatively low. There's just freedom. Some might find the shift from a grounded world to Gondryland jarring. Picture riffs on fairy tales by way of Jean-Luc Godard's Weekend and you get some inkling of what happens. But I felt this change was a charming way to invoke the youthful promise of summer. It also shows just how out of their element the boys are. The parents have no sway over the kids, so the kids have to find their own way. (Microbe's mom is played by Audrey Tautou of Amelie fame, though she's a bit of a non-presence in the film even before summer begins.) Plus, it's all pretty funny. Earlier I mentioned the idea of sameness and difference when it comes to the people we hang out with. This become an important component of Microbe and Gasoline's friendship, and maybe most friendships. Our teenage years are about trying to figure out what adulthood is like, sure, but they're really about trying to define ourselves. Microbe is worried he's too much of a blank slate, and he's anxious that other people are doing the work of defining him, including Gasoline. And we do wind up mimicking our friends to a certain degree just like, earlier in life, we mimicked our parents/guardians and siblings. It's the inescapable fact of interaction. This is all a roundabout way of saying that the friends we love--the ones that matter and that we think of even years later after losing touch--are people who changed us in some way. We take on some of their qualities, they take on some of ours, and in this synthesis of personalities there's something new that's brought out in ourselves and sometimes into the world. An inside joke, maybe, or an experience of some kind that wouldn't have existed without that other person. Gondry captures the way these kinds of friendships can change us, and why they're so important when we're young works-in-progress. Even when Microbe and Gasoline leaves grounded reality, it's all tethered to that genuine, warm feeling we get whenever we meet and befriend someone who really gets us. The boys made a sweet ride, but not a saccharine one.
Review: Microbe & Gasolin photo
Friendship is magic

When Michel Gondry writes his own films, I've noticed that his protagonists have a tendency to act like quirky, whimsical teenagers. The misfit oddballs of The Science of Sleep and Be Kind Rewind probably found a Zoltar machine, made a wish, and wound up in a Michel Gondry script.

In retrospect, that makes Gondry's 2012 exercise The We and the I a more interesting experiment. The film was workshopped with students in The Bronx and shot as a kind of a tapestry of teenage life. Though I enjoyed The We and the I to a certain extent (I like it less now than I did then), it felt like a doodle or a sketch for something else (or, really, a workshop project).

So I wonder how much Microbe and Gasoline owes to Gondry's experiences making The We and the I. Gondry's newest might also owe something to films along the lines of Joe Dante's Explorers. It's a misfit teenage buddy movie, but maybe Gondry's been writing those kinds of movies all along.

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Jessica Jones photo
I don't give a damn

I may actually be getting more excited for Jessica Jones than I was for Daredevil. Netflix has done and awesome job at promoting this show and the new teaser is no different. We still haven't seen Kristen Ritter's face aside from some still shots so we're obviously building to a bigger reveal.

You'd never really think of Ritter as an ass kicker so it'll be very interesting to see her take on a role where she's doing so. So far it's looking good. 

For those not fluent in Japanese Google Translate gives us: First round ends. That may be some poor translation going on, but I think it actually comes out pretty bad ass.


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Avengers photo
Captain Marvel was cut

We already felt that Age of Ultron was a bit overcrowded with heroes, but it could have been even more so. According to Marvel exec Jeremy Latcham the original idea was to have a whole host of new characters just sort of show up at the end of the film. 

“In really early development there was a notion of there’d be a ton of new people. And then it was like, ‘Well we haven’t really introduced them, we don’t know where they’re gonna come from,’ and Joss kind of did not love that idea. It was an early discussion, and then that kind of became just Captain Marvel, and then that felt weird just to have one new person.”

The right decision was made, though and they eventually dropped everyone, including Captain Marvel. Kevin Feige, guy in control of everything Marvel movies, spoke to losing that as well as he pointed out that they decided to tell Marvel's origin in her own movie so cramming her into the end of Ultron didn't work for a host of reason. 

“And also the subtext was, what does Cap say, ‘They’re not the ’27 Yankees’—well if Captain Marvel is there, what are we saying about her? It needed to be [that] certainly Wanda and Vision, I think to a lesser extent Falcon and Rhodey need to learn what it means to be a team, even the most dysfunctional team in history.”

All in all just be glad that they trimmed things back and decided instead to hold plenty off for Phase 3.

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NYFF Review: The Lobster

Sep 30 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219844:42633:0[/embed] The LobsterDirector: Yorgos LanthimosRating: n/aRelease Date: TBD In the world of The Lobster, single people are social pariahs. After the death of a spouse or a divorce, a single person is forced to check into a hotel filled with other single people. They have forty-five days to pair up and get married, otherwise they are killed and have their consciousness transferred to an animal. Lots of people choose dogs, but throughout the movie we also see horses, pigs, and peacocks. Our hero David (Colin Ferrell, with a slight gut) chooses a lobster; he brings his brother (who is now a dog) with him to the hotel. You can earn extra time to prevent metempsychosis by hunting down single people in the woods with a tranquilizer gun. The hotel operates with business-like efficiency, providing scheduled social activities like some bad singles cruise from hell. To reinforce the importance of relationships, the hotel staff puts on skits: A single man pantomimes eating a meal alone, he chokes, he dies; a man and his wife pantomime eating a meal together, he chokes, she administers the Heimlich maneuver, he lives--applause. To determine whom you can pair up with, you're asked whether you're straight or homosexual (the latter sounds so much like business-ese in the context of the film). David asks if there's a bi-sexual option and is shot down--you can only choose one or the other, not both. Paper or plastic, soup or salad, efficiency, efficiency, efficiency. And it's blackly hilarious. The international cast adds to the oddball appeal of The Lobster, and they deliver their lines in an intentionally stilted manner. Olivia Colman's hotel manager strikes just the right balance between clinical, supportive, and fascistic to make her moments memorable. As for the guests, at times they seem like awkward pre-teens going through the early stages of adolescence. David befriends men played by John C. Reilly (with a slight lisp) and Ben Wishaw (with a slight limp), but they act like boys in the schoolyard. In some scenes the lines are bumbled or devoid of actual human emotion, like they're reading a script or they're pod people acting like humans are supposed to act. Flirtation is no longer about attraction or fun but learned behaviors about how people are supposed to flirt, or the desperation of a ticking clock scenario; relationships are a form of mutually beneficial transaction (i.e., we get to remain humans) that's not necessarily satisfying. Some of the best moments in The Lobster come from Lanthimos' exploration of the various forces that urge people to get into relationships against their will. The time limit might be taken as a biological imperative to have kids, or even just a desire to get married by a certain age; the pressures of the hotel staff are the different cultural, familial, and religious expectations attached to marriage and relationships. Any time your relatives have nagged you about dating, marriage, or kids, you have occupied a room in Lanthimos' hotel. Lanthimos also pokes fun at the arbitrary ways we sometimes choose who we want to be with. Limping Wishaw is looking for a woman who also has a limp, because something in common (no matter how arbitrary) might mean greater compatibility. Sometimes shared interests or traits are an arbitrary reason to get into a relationship. Does he or she really need to like your favorite band? Is a 99% match on OK Cupid really a guarantee of compatibility? A number is just a number like a limp is just a limp, and what people share together isn't a matter of arithmetic or mere reflection; there's a kind of private language and grammar that develops between people who are really fond of one another, and these things can't be forced or imposed from the outside. Since The Lobster is rooted in binaries, we also get to learn about the harshness of single-life out in the woods. In the wild and the damp, we meet the leader of The Loners played by Lea Seydoux, who's both a kind of political revolutionary and a radicalized kook. She asserts her own absurd will over The Loners that is in stark contrast to the rules of the hotel--instead of relationships, it's all about forceful solitude. And yet like the hotel, her rules are equally arbitrary, equally absurd, and also blackly hilarious. It's no longer a case of "paper or plastic" among The Loners, but rather "with us or against us." Lanthimos is equally suspicious of these denials of attraction and the repression of our desire to connect with someone else; it's another imposition on human nature and individual choice. In the woods, animals who were single people wander through shots. They're probably better off. For all the absurd and anarchic humor throughout The Lobster, the movie loses momentum before it comes to an end. It's as if Lanthimos exhausted the possibilities of his conceit and didn't figure out the final pivot his story could take. (I mentioned Barthelme earlier, and his best stories often have a sort of pivot near the end, revealing an additional train of thought that's been operating, parallel or hidden, all along.) The Lobster can feel a little one-note at times, but I suppose it's really one note that's played by two opposing sides, a kind of tyranny of logic. During the New York Film Festival press conference after the screening, Lanthimos said his screenplay was very logical. The comment drew some giggles from the press, yet it's true. The Lobster adheres to the logic of its conceit, and maybe too much. But there's still enough to love.
Review: The Lobster photo
Love is strange

I still haven't gotten around to seeing Yorgos Lanthimos' Dogtooth, though I intend to. The blackly surreal 2009 film was nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar and drew favorable comparisons to the work of Luis Bunuel and Michael Haneke. And yet most of my friends hate it (the ratio is roughly four out of five). There is no in-between for their opinions.

And yet this might have been ideal conditions to jump into The Lobster, the latest Lanthimos film and his first English-language production. I could see the Bunuel and Haneke, sure, though I was also reminded of the stories of Donald Barthelme, which take a bizarre conceit and bring it to a strangely logical conclusion.

I also noticed that The Lobster is built around black and white distinctions rooted in the ideological heart of the film: you're either in a relationship (or you die) or you're single (or you die).

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X-Files photo
Doo Dee Doo Dee Doo Doo

For fans of The X-Files it's been a long hard wait for our first looks at the return of Mulder and Scully, but we've got it now and it's full of all the glorious fan service you wanted. There's two teasers below showing off the newly reborn show. 

The first looks great and couldn't be more jam packed with Easter eggs and name drops. A certain cigarette appears and a certain poster and certain theme. Basically it's just a giant wad of fan service. The second isn't as high quality, but features a few more hints at what we'll be getting on January 24. 

My only complaint? Mulder's clothes fit him way too well. Where's the schluby suits!?



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The Revenant photo
I ain't afraid to die anymore

If the stories are true the shoot for Alejandro G. Iñárritu's The Revenant was particularly brutal and I think it shows. The first trailer was ballsy, but this one is just visceral as all hell. It's hard to believe, but I'm looking forward to this western more than Tarantino's The Hateful Eight. Tarantino honors the classics, but Iñárritu looks like he's setting a new standard for the genre.

It will be especially interesting to see if the two films go head to head for awards. Both are obviously trying for Oscar contention and DiCaprio looks like he'll be in top contention for Best Actor here. Exciting times for western fans. 


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Trevor Noah did fine on his Daily Show debut, so everyone relax already

Sep 29 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219982:42644:0[/embed] When Colin Quinn took over for Norm MacDonald on SNL's Weekend Update, he did a bit about going to your favorite bar and meeting the new bartender. Noah opened The Daily Show on a similar note: "Jon Stewart was more than just a late night host. He was often our voice, our refuge, and in many ways our political dad. And it's weird, because dad has left. And now it feels like the family has a new stepdad. And he's black." You could almost see the relief and confidence shine through Noah's smile when his jokes landed. Noah seemed to do a whole body sigh at the end of his intro, vowing to carry on The Daily Show's legacy: "Thank you for joining us as we continue the war on bullshit." Noah proceeded to barrel through the show's first segment. He sometimes talks a bit too fast--nerves, probably--but he was charming as he discussed The Pope's visit, which is necessary when making papal dick jokes. It led into a bit about House Speaker John Boehner's impending resignation from Congress. (Boner joke.) The biggest laugh from me came from his impression of a shocked Marco Rubio frightened by applause. The second segment of the show introduced new correspondent Roy Wood Jr., who discussed the news of running water found on Mars in a solid bit about race. (I wonder how many late night comedians made jokes about water on Mars but none in California.) I believe it was Dana Stevens from Slate who likened the late night talk show to a literary form, like a sonnet or a sestina. Though not a traditional late night talk show, The Daily Show has its own format, and Trevor Noah is sticking to it. A lot of Jon Stewart's writing staff is still in place as well, which will help with this transition as Noah finds his own identity as host. For now, the only notable differences are visual--the logo has become sans serif (works for The Daily Show, but not for Google), the set is busier/more involved, the graphics are reminiscent of Sky News and the BBC, and, oh yeah, the host is black. (There's a nice gag, probably recurring this week, about using the words "international" and "global" to refer to Noah's blackness/South African roots.) The first episode wasn't without its snags. The aides/AIDS joke and the crack/Whitney Houston joke both drew loads of ire online, and they'll probably fuel some thinkpieces today about what comedians should and shouldn't joke about. (Expect references to Noah's bad jokes on Twitter in said thinkpieces.) I wonder whether or not the benign violation theory of humor even applies to either the aides/AIDS joke or the Whitney Houston joke. The issue is as much a question of tone and delivery as the actual content. To be honest, I wasn't offended by either, but I sometimes like a good uncomfortable groaner. Besides, South Park already did an aides/AIDS joke. As for the crack/Whitney Houston joke, just remember: when making a joke about crack, the safe punchline, even though he passed away more recently, is Marion Barry. Noah's interview skills could also use some work. His first guest was Kevin Hart, and Noah seemed a bit stilted, downright robotic, early on. He stared at a box of neck ties (Hart brought a gift) as if they were live squid, then proceeded to do some C-3PO dancing before finally laughing off his nerves. Their conversation together never quite flowed or found a rhythm, but that will come with time. In the literary form of the late night show, the interview is often the trickiest part. Noah's also got to work on his spit-take. That's some weaksauce spray he's got there. When I looked at Stephen Colbert's debut on The Late Show, I mentioned that it's unfair to judge a late night show on its first episode. (Supposedly Trevor Noah's first week on The Daily Show should be treated like a miniseries.) But I think you can kind of judge whether or not a host will be okay captaining the ship early on. Noah is off to a good start. And so a nation that takes its moral cues from television programs can finally unclench.
Trevor Noah Daily Show photo
Continuing the war on bulls**t

Trevor Noah had one of the least enviable jobs in comedy last night. Jon Stewart transformed The Daily Show into a bastion of media criticism and political analysis. It wasn't just a comedy program anymore. Some considered The Daily Show and its host an important part of the nation's conscience, a role Stewart always seemed reluctant to accept. During his infamous appearance on Crossfire in 2004, Stewart said, "I didn't realize--and maybe this explains quite a bit--that news organizations looked to Comedy Central for their cues on integrity." *

I was an avid watcher of The Daily Show in the Craig Kilborn days. (It's how I learned about The Story of Ricky, one of the greatest cult movies ever made.) I'd also been watching Jon Stewart since the early 90s because he was on MTV and Comedy Central. It would take Stewart years to turn The Daily Show into what it became, and the transition from Kilborn to Stewart was low-stakes and little-scrutinized. For most of the public, Trevor Noah had just one episode to make his transition work, and it was apparently simulcast on Comedy Central, MTV, MTV2, MTVU, Spike, BET, VH1, Nick at Nite, and other Paramount cable channels.

And you know what? The Daily Show will be okay. Stop worrying.

* Can you believe that CNN has somehow gotten even crappier in the last 10 years?

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The Simpsons Season 27 Premiere Review: Stunt Gone Wrong

Sep 28 // Nick Valdez
If you've followed any kind of entertainment news, you've probably heard of how Fox was promoting Homer and Marge's separation (along with Lena Dunham's cameo) as the next big thing to happen to the family. In recent years (more so in the upper 20s than not), the series has relied on these big events to draw in viewers. It kind of sucks since these kinds of events are usually saved for shows on the brink of cancellation as they gasp for air, and this show has never been starved for viewers. It's more telling that the event was advertised like a big deal, forgoing all of Homer and Marge's history (they were technically not married between Season 8's "A Milhouse Divided" and Season 16's "There's Something About Marrying") and not focusing on the why it happens. I guess when I finally sat down to watch this, I had hoped we'd get a well written story out of all of this nonsense. I mean, we're looking at a couple that's withstood an entire town riot, multiple opportunities to cheat, and several failed mortgages. So what finally rips them apart? Narcolepsy.  When Homer is diagnosed with narcolepsy (featuring the only funny segment in the episode as Dr. Hibbert notes the family's been on way too many wacky vacations), he uses the prescription to avoid all sorts of responsibilities. Marge's finally had enough, and after visiting a marriage counselor, decides to legally separate. Homer then ends up dating the kooky pharmacist Candace (Lena Dunham) and it leads to cheating on Marge, Marge quickly marrying Candace's dad, and the Simpsons kids welcoming their new predicament. The thing is, I can totally see this premise working in an earlier season. It's all just badly handled. I don't see Homer's laziness finally breaking Marge down since she's been through so much, and it's a shame that we don't get any other point of views. It's yet another formulaic "Homer is a dope" episode that doesn't treat any of its happenings with any weight. You know why? Because it's all a dream sequence. That's right, the big separation Fox has been pushing has been one of Homer's narcoleptic dreams. And when I thought for a second that the series wouldn't return to the status quo by episode end (since most of the series' future episodes laid out Homer and Marge's divorce as canon), the rug's pulled out several times. A "dream within a dream within a dream" bit would've been enjoyable had it been funny, or at least well written, but this wasn't the case.  This premiere has just been the latest in a long line of examples (the big "death" promoted last season, big guest stars in bit parts) why the show ain't what she used to be. I've stuck it out through these later seasons out of loyalty and the occasional nuggets ("500 Keys," "Holidays of Future Passed," "Eternal Moonshine of the Spotless Mind"), but this premiere feels more like a spit in my face than ever. I don't care if it's all a dream, but it's just so lazy. It neglects years of character work in favor of the "now." In an episode that references obscure oddities like the Springfield Atom, the Space Coyote, Fatov, or the one time Germans owned the power plant, it's hard to believe that they'd forget that Homer would never cheat on Marge. Every time they've been separated, he's always been a pitiable recluse full of blind love, and that's always been one of the reasons Marge finally takes him back. To see him do such a 180 is ridiculous, even for a supposed dream. Not to mention, there's no real reason Candace should go out with Homer. He's completely negative, washed out, and bashes her friends.  To do a premise like this properly, we'd have to take time and look at both and Homer and Marge. I would've welcomed them actually separating since it would've opened up all sorts of story potential. We've seen so much of this family as a unit, it would've been a good late season shake up to have them be apart for longer than an episode. But it feels like we're going in terrible circles. If the rest of the season is like this, I don't know if I can hang on anymore.  Final Thoughts:  Good to hear the rest of the Girls cast came along as Candace's friends, but their roles are wasted. Maybe a full on millenial episode like the Portlandia tribute "The Day the Earth Stood Cool" would've been a better idea.  Seriously, the opening bit at the hospital had some good meta jokes. Lots of Dr. Hibbert means that Harry Shearer definitely would've been missed.  My roommate's got a Space Coyote tattoo, so I'm sure he would've enjoyed that visual. That whole fantasy sequence wasn't too bad either.  Want to see more of our TV coverage? Check out our TV Recaps and Reviews! 
The Simpsons photo
No more cheap stunts please

I've been a big supporter of The Simpsons for as long as I can remember. Literally, one of my first memories was asking to watch the show. And if you ask my mother, she'd tell you I'd move around in my high chair in order to catch The Simpsons on TV. It started a year before I was born, and I've been hooked ever since. Lots of hours have gone in to memorizing bits and pieces no one else would bother to. 

So now that we're entering the monumental 27th season of the series, I'm finally feeling fatigue. It's honestly something I'd never thought I'd have to utter, but for once I finally understand what people have been saying for years. Maybe it's time for The Simpsons to pack it up. 

I blame Flanders. Screw Flanders. 

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Short and sweet

We still have no idea what Netflix and Marvel's Jessica Jones is going to be like. The first teaser gave us almost nothing but a hint at the style. This second one actual delivers a bit more info. It looks like they'll be hitting on the funny a bit more than Daredevil, which was darkly serious for most of its run.

That's a good thing. For one it's what lead actress Krysten Ritter is great at. Secondly it plays more strongly into the procedural nature of the show, which is going to follow Jessica Jones as she tackles superhero related mysteries. Third it just looks cool. 

We should have a true, full trailer coming relatively soon, but we won't get our true taste of the show until it debuts on November 20th.


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Fear the Walking Dead Season 1 Recap: "Cobalt"

Sep 28 // Nick Valdez
All season long, Fear has been struggling to find its voice, i.e. what's going to set it apart from its parent series and other zombie media. Rather than tackle the endless feelings of depression and creeping mortality, Fear is once again making this an intimate apocalypse. As society begins breaking down, it's also leading to the dissolution of the intimacy of relationships. As evidenced by the series' newest, and coolest, character strand (Colman Domingo) in an opening monologue (given for the explicit purpose of driving weaker individuals out), society is crumbling and only those who can evolve along with the new world will survive. This also leads to the episode's central focus: the duality of Daniel and Travis. One's been bred through war and struggle in El Salvador, and the other's a guy who'd rather not incite violence. For the first time, Travis isn't annoying. I've discussed in length about how much his blind ignorance has bothered me seeing as how the rest of the family has accepted the new situation, but seeing him slowly come around has been oddly entertaining.  As the military force becomes way more political, seeing as how heavy patriotism and dehumanization of the zombies has become a coping mechanism for their strenuous mission, their cracks are starting to show. We're also learning how the world ended up the way it is in TWD as even the military forces fall apart due to sheer number of infected and soldiers wanting to return home to their families. It took even more "I'm a bad guy nyaaah" from the general to get Travis to snap out of whatever the hell he was thinking (and them trying to get Travis to shoot the gun was a very bad idea. He seriously could've hurt himself. His eye on the scope would've given him a black eye), but it works. That brings us back to Daniel Salazar and his torture. In order to get information from the kid from The Faculty his daughter was using, he begins torturing him. But I'm impressed with how Fear handled it. It didn't linger on any violence, but instead chose to enforce why Daniel thought it was a good idea. The series has been giving Daniel more and more darkness as it goes on, and this was just icing on the cake. Since he's experienced societal breakdown before (as he and Griselda fled to the US during Salvadorian civil war), he's figured out torture was one of the only ways to survive. Compare that to Travis and his inability to evolve, and Daniel's pretty much one end of the spectrum. His torture brings us to the crux of the episode as it leads to the season finale. As Liza steps into the military medical facility (and as Nick is trapped within), she's witnessing how they're handling things. We don't see the big picture, but that's not really important because there's a sense of imminent danger from all of it. The military's been using the facility to figure out the disease and pretty much puts down anyone who seems like a viable threat. It also meant that at one point, 2000 or so people were locked into an arena once infection broke. And that also brings the title of the episode as "Cobalt" refers to them abandoning the encampment and "humanely" terminating the people there less they become zombies later.  So after a slow buildup, we're finally going to see society crumble. The military's struggling as communication breaks down and human nature takes over, that arena's going to burst open and force our characters out of LA, and as the coolest character Strand notes, the only thing that's going to push folks forward is their "obligation" to other people and their relationships. Fear's made the most out of its personal apocalypse and the characters have become a bit more interesting than Rick's gang of comic book characters.  Final Thoughts:  Alycia and Chris still are the worst characters, but their combined storyline of discussing class issues while wrecking a rich person's home led to some interesting areas. That's more than I can say for previous episodes which gave them nothing to do.  Seeing as how Strand is super interesting, I see Fear holding off on killing another Black character for a bit. Good for them! Teaming up with the annoying Nick (going through withdrawals) is more evidence in Fear's confident long game.  "I'm an addict." "No, you're a heroin addict. That's the gold standard. Don't sell yourself short."  Just like the parent series, Fear's first season has been all set up for the second season. Let's hope it ends better than Walking Dead did.  Want to see more of our TV coverage? Check out our TV Recaps and Reviews! 
FTWD photo
Whoa, what show is this?

The show's been very confident in its long game. After immediately getting picked up for a second season, I'm sure the showrunners knew they'd have time to build up to a satisfying story. It may have been rough before the Labor Day weekend, but around episode three and four, Fear the Walking Dead has been sprinkling little bits here and there that are finally starting to show themselves. 

And the results are promising. "Cobalt" is the show's most direct episode to date, and that tenacity is leading to something unlike its predecessor series and unlike anything we've seen yet. 

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See The Walk early and free

Sep 28 // Matthew Razak
DC SCREENINGTuesday, September 297:00 PMAMC Georgetown http://www.sonyscreenings.com/wPZkQ52068    BALTIMORE SCREENINGTuesday, September 297:00 PMAMC Columbia http://www.sonyscreenings.com/LMupq71713   NORFOLK SCREENINGTuesday, September 297:00 PMAMC Lynnhaven http://www.sonyscreenings.com/KFwhh12439 
Screenings photo
Washington DC, Baltimore and Norfolk

We may not have dug The Walk all that much when Hubert got a chance to see it at NYFF, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be seen on the big screen. The movie was made specifically for 3D IMAX so that the harrowing effect of walking across the World Trade Center towers would truly impact. Your only chance to do that is in theaters.

So grab your passes now. Click the links below and you'll have them. Find out if you like it more than Hubert did and come back and tell us all about it. 

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Flixist's seriously stupendous Fall/Winter movie preview

Sep 28 // Matthew Razak
Crimson PeakDirector: Guillermo del ToroRelease Date: October 16, 2015Trailer  While Pacific Rim 2 may be on hold indefinitely (or it may not be stalled), fans of Guillermo del Toro at least have Crimson Peak to look forward to. Starring Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, and Jessica Chastain, the trailers and stills from the film make it look like an extremely stylish bit of Gothic horror; the sort of lush period piece we rarely see in the horror genre these days. Thankfully this is not a period found footage movie. (Though someone should consider making a short with this conceit, like a haunted Lumiere brothers movie or something.) Stephen King reportedly saw an early screening of Crimson Peak and said it was "gorgeous and just f**king terrifying." I understand this King fellow knows a bit about horror. Crimson Peak is rated R rather than PG-13, which means that so long as Del Toro keeps some of his indulgences in check, he might be delivering some of the most beautiful and mature scares of career. -- Hubert Vigilla GoosebumpsDirector: Rob LettermanRelease Date: October 16th, 2015Trailer Halloween is almost upon us—time for spookems and hobgoblins to start roaming the streets and causing some mischief while skeletons and witches dance around in the moonlight. Oooooh, spooky-scary! Okay so you’re probably a little “mature” for that version of Halloween now. In fact, you’re probably more interested in the kind of Halloween where co-ed tummies are sliced open with rusty hooks and gritty zombie survivalists roam the Earth. But we mustn’t lose touch with our childlike wonder with Halloween, and the upcoming Goosebumps film wants to remind us what Halloween used to be all about. Taking the popularized meta approach to an old franchise, Goosebumps takes a fictionalized R. L. Stine (Jack Black) and a bunch of kids and pits them against every baddy from the kids’ books as they run amok in the real world. Werewolves, giant bugs, gnomes, vampires, and yes, even Slappy, the ventriloquist dummy, all escape from Stine’s books which were made to serve as a prison to keep the terrors housed up for good. This family friendly comedy-horror is definitely set to reintroduce both new children and nostalgic millennials to Goosebumps, but still looks like it could be a fun Kid’s Halloween Adventure romp in the vein of something like The Monster Squad that just about anyone could enjoy. -- John-Charles Holmes Beasts of No NationDirector: Cary FukunagaRelease Date: October 16, 2015Trailer  Beasts of No Nation might be the most important Netflix streaming release to date; a real potential game changer in terms of film production and distribution. In this adaptation of the Uzodinma Iweala novel of the same name, Idris Elba plays a charismatic mercenary leader in an unnamed African country who leads child soldiers into a brutal civil war. The film is directed by True Detective's Cary Fukunaga, and early reviews from the Venice Film Festival have been quite positive. (Even though I thought True Detective season 1 was good but extremely overrated, it was undeniably well-directed and atmospheric.) To secure a spot in awards season, Beasts of No Nation will have a limited theatrical run while simultaneously debuting on Netflix. Big theaters chains are angry about all this. They might be a little worried too. -- Hubert Vigilla SpectreDirector: Sam MendesRelease Date: November 6, 2015Trailer Despite the fact that Sam Smith's Bond song suck a big fat one, I am still irrationally excited for Spectre. With the conclusion of Skyfall the franchise promised to return to its roots now that we've established how Bond became Bond and boy is it ever. Blofeld is coming back, the advertising has been full of subtle throwbacks to Bonds of old and of course there's a giant evil organization trying to dominate the world from an over blow base (or really large table).  More interesting will be whether or not they actually go old school and completely detach this film from the previous ones. Before Casino Royale Bond had very little continuity, but the last three have all been loosly connected (though Skyfall was all about erasing that connection). We'll get our answer early; Daniel Craig has yet to have a full blown gun barrell walk across the screen to open a film. If the screen opens with him strutting across in a tux we'll know Bond is back (again). – Matthew Razak SpectreDirector: Sam MendesRelease Date: November 6, 2015Trailer Yeah, that's right. Spectre. Again. One of the first things you learn as a new hire at Flixist is that our esteemed EiC has first dibs on any and everything Bond-related. So when I said, "I WANT TO WRITE ABOUT SPECTRE" for the preview, I was laughed at. But here I am, writing it after Matt, because if it's worth mentioning, it's worth mentioning twice. Of all the films releasing this year, Spectre is by far my most anticipated. In a year that brought up the genuinely enjoyable Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation and the at-times-fairly-interesting Man from U.N.C.L.E., it all seems to just be build-up to the real super-spy thriller. Skyfall was gosh damn amazing, and I expect Spectre to be on that level at least, and that means it'll easily be one of the best films of the year. I don't know enough about Bond history to really be so excited that Blofeld is back, but I certainly like the idea of a true arch enemy, and Christoph Waltz looks suitably creepy in that teaser. In general, the footage that's been released looks fantastic, both technically any conceptually. I'm probably not as excited about this as Matt is, but I'm pretty flipping close.  – Alec Kubas-Meyer The Peanuts MovieDirector: Steve MartinoRelease Date: November 6th, 2015Trailer With all the news of cartoons being mined for nostalgia money lately, I originally wrote off The Peanuts Movie as one of the many failures to come. The project sounded like it was doomed to fail: development from Blue Sky Studios (Rio), Paul Feig was a producer, and the fact that the old Peanuts films still work to this day. But after getting a glimpse at the actual project? I can't believe it exists. It's absolutely gorgeous, the cast is full of not well known children, and it's been approved by the Schultz estate. I'm not sure if I should let myself be as excited as I am, but if this can capture any of the magic the holiday specials have I might be a kid again. The biggest kid in theater, sure, but a kid all the same -- Nick Valdez By The SeaDirector: Angelina JolieRelease Date: November 13, 2015 Trailer So of all the more art house movies coming out during awards season I choose By the Seas? A movie that's getting most of it's hype from the fact that Brangelina are starring in it together. Yes. For a few reasons. One is that Jolie is seems to have learned some lessons from Unbroken, where her desperation to be taken seriously as a director seemed to overwhelm the film. This time it looks like she's going for a far more subtle approach that reflects a more French art-house style. The film should also be stunning to look at thanks to its French setting. This one just feels like it should have been Jolie's directorial debut and that is kind of exciting. Also, Brad and Angelina on screen again! -- Matthew Razak The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2Director: Francis LawrenceRelease Date: November 20, 2015Trailer I was surprised by how much I liked the first Hunger Games film. I was less surprised by how much I liked the second one. By the third one, I was just glad that they seemed to be keeping the quality up. I've heard that the first proper trailer for this one looks... not so hot, but that doesn't necessarily bode poorly for the film. It could just mark the end of the career of that particular editor. I'm not going to see it, though. I never saw any of the trailers before going into the films. I never read the books either, for that matter; I've gone in blind every time, just looking for an enjoyable story and maybe some cool action. I'm less looking for awkward teen romance, but that's what I get for following a YA adaptation. Can't really fault it for that. Either way, I have no idea what this film is about or what's going to happen, but I'm excited to see this saga to the end. – Alec Kubas-Meyer The Good DinosaurDirector: Peter SohnRelease Date: November 25th, 2015Trailer For the first time ever, it turns out we’re getting two Pixar films in a single year. The first was this summer’s amazing Inside Out and the second will be The Good Dinosaur, releasing in theaters this Thanksgiving. The movie poses the radical question of what would’ve happened if the meteorite that killed the dinosaurs actually missed planet Earth and humans and dinosaurs ended up co-existing. We follow an Apatosaurus named Arlo who gets separated from him family and must travel back to find them with the help of a human child named Spot, whom he keeps around like a puppy. The movie looks equally adorable and awe-inspiring from the trailers we’ve so far with tons of sprawling mountain vistas as the backdrop for the film. The Good Dinosaur will no doubt be Disney’s final smash hit for the year, but hopefully the film that stand up to the massive success of the critically acclaimed Inside Out from earlier this year, despite going through numerous production changes and delays over the past few years since announcement. -- John-Charles Holmes The Night BeforeDirector: Jonathan LevineRelease Date: November 25thTrailer Have we had a truly good bromance in a while? I don't think so. The genre has become so flooded with films after Apatow turned it into a thing that it's just become a cliche of itself. The last one that really worked for me was off the top of my head was 50/50. Well, The Night Before has Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt back together with Anthony Mackie thrown in for good measure. And guess what it's directed by 50/50 director Jonathan Levine. From the trailer it looks like it's just the right amount of comedy mixed with bromance and drama. It's a hard balance to nail, but something tells me Levine is going to do it again with this one and we may have a new adult Christmas classic on our hands. -- Matthew Razak Creed Director: Ryan CooglerRelease Date: November 25th, 2015Trailer You know how I got my start on this site three years ago? I once wrote a treatise on the montage in Rocky and decided to publish it here on a whim. It was something in the works for school, so I was hoping the folks on Flixist would enjoy it. And they did! It got put on the main page, and ever since then, I got hooked to writing about film and started me on the path I'm on now. That's just one of the many special memories the Rocky saga has provided me. It's my father's favorite series, he passed on his love of it to me, and although Rocky Balboa provided the best ending I could've hoped for, just seeing Stallone embody the persona again was enough to make me emotional. It may be a spin-off, it may not be directed by Stallone himself (but it's got his approval), but it already feels like a logical step forward. This is the biggest film of the year for me and I'm ready for it. -- Nick Valdez Star Wars: The Force AwakensDirector: J.J. AbramsRelease Date: December 18, 2015Trailer  I know I may be setting myself up for disappointment, but I'm actually excited for the new Star Wars movies. It's been long enough since the prequels. In fact, with the more diverse cast and a sense of forward momentum, this feels like some truly 21st pop-sci-fi whereas the prequels felt like treading water or a step backwards. To put it another way, it seems like Star Wars is in way better hands now that producer Kathleen Kennedy is overseeing the series rather than George Lucas. Kennedy promised these new films would embrace practical effects rather than rely almost exclusively on CG, and there's something both nostalgic and novel about revisiting this universe. J.J. Abrams may be a divisive director in some parts, but I want to believe this will all work out well and he's going to be more than capable. Of all the movies on this preview, The Force Awakens is the one I will definitely be seeing in theaters opening night. -- Hubert Vigilla The Revenant Director: Alejandro González IñárrituRelease Date: December 25, 2015Trailer I really liked Birdman. And having read some negative criticism from others, it occurs to me that the reasons I think it is so fascinating are fairly different from the reasons that pretty much anyone else does. Nonetheless, as a team, Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezski are capable of some technically brilliant work, and I expect as much from The Revenant. The first film shot on the Alexa 65 and done entirely in natural light, this movie will look unique and undoubtedly gorgeous. Oh, there's a movie in there too. I dunno what it's about, but it has Leonardo DiCaprio, and he's a pretty great actor. (I watched the trailer, but I just remember snow and horses and guns and Leonardo DiCaprio. Maybe that's all there is to it. I dunno. But it was pretty.) It was also shot in hellish conditions that I expect will serve to make the film visceral in a really interesting way. So I'm excited for this film, whatever it ends up being. Maybe it'll be a mess, but I'm along for the ride anyway. – Alec Kubas-Meyer The Hateful EightDirector: Quentin TarantinoRelease Date: December 25, 2015Trailer  Quentin Tarantino's playing with the western genre again, and he's one hell of a cast along for the ride, including Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth (aww, I've really missed him in Tarantino movies), Michael Madsen, and Bruce Dern. The set up seems simple--seven cowboys and one bounty (Leigh) take shelter during a blizzard, a bunch of genre tropes and savvy monologues ensue--but there's likely to be a lot of intrigue, betrayal, and violence once everyone gets locked in the same place. Tarantino shot The Hateful Eight in 70mm, and is making sure that the select theaters showing the film during its initial release are outfitted with the proper projectors for the film. -- Hubert Vigilla
Fall/Winter Preview photo
What are you looking forward to?

The Fall/Winter movie season is probably the best of the year. We get horror with October and then roll on into big blockbusters, holiday greatness and awards season. It's the best time to watch movies, even though it can be overwhelming at times. To correct this we've got a list below of the films you should definitely check out. Why? Because we think they're going to be awesome. 

This winter is proving to be especially awesome. We get a Bond movie, a Star Wars movie, a Hunger Games movie and a Tarantino film all in the span of a few weeks. Movie lovers can't as for much more. There's a bit more, though, that you might not have thought about. Read on to check all the greatness out.

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NYFF Review: The Walk

Sep 27 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219838:42632:0[/embed] The WalkDirector: Robert ZemeckisRated: PGRelease Date: September 30, 2015 Throughout The Walk, Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and his associates speak of artists as anarchists. Artists shake things up, cause people to reconsider the world around them, do things because they are beautiful and new. Yet these statements about the anarchic qualities of artists and their art feel like a form of unintentional self-indictment. The Walk is so painfully conventional, a shiny Hollywood product that wants to inspire its audience to dream big while simultaneously suffering from a deficit of imagination. The biopic cliches are everywhere. While the events in France may be true to Petit's life, Zemeckis and co-writer Christopher Browne make them feel like part of a screenplay checklist: tightrope origin story (check), disowned by parents (check), finds begrudging mentor (check, Sir Ben Kingsley), finds love interest (check, Charlotte Le Bon), establish flaw(s) to be overcome in film's third act (check), fails first attempt at vocation (check) only to triumph immediately after (check), mentor becomes father figure (check). Because these moments feel so perfunctory and familiar rather than lived-in, the first half of The Walk drags. The meet-cute between Philippe and Annie is particularly embarrassing—there's mime involved, and also rain (check). They go from adversaries to lovers bathed in candlelight (check) over the course of an afternoon. But Annie isn't given much to do throughout the rest of the film. She's just there to be Philippe's girlfriend. In another act of unintentional self-indictment, Annie tells Philippe that she's here to help him realize his dream, but she ultimately has to find a dream of her own. The film's finale is 110 stories in the air, but The Walk can't even get over the low hurdle of the Bechdel test. Yet this isn't just Annie's plight. Most of the side characters in the film are generally devoid of personality; they are Philippe's props. Philippe comes across as an angry narcissistic madman in The Walk rather than a charismatic madman, and it's unclear why anyone would want to work with him the way he's written in this film. Once The Walk winds up in New York, the movie picks up the pace and finally becomes enjoyable. Rather than a schlocky, inspirational biopic, the film goes into heist-movie mode. The plan starts to come together, and rhythm becomes brisk, and the movie has an enjoyable breeziness to it. Heist-mode is brief, but it's a welcome reprieve from the biopic stuff, and it sets up the big walk along the World Trade Center. Unfortunately, there are moments of heightened artificial drama (e.g., one of Philippe's friends is extremeley acrophobic). The walk itself is good as a set piece but not all that great. For all the hype about the use of 3D, Zemeckis never exploits image depth to its fullest ability. Staring down from the towers in 3D creates an illusion of height, that's true, but it felt to me like 20 feet (maybe) rather than 1,350 feet. There's little sense of weight or gravity to this world; it's all just lightness. It doesn't help that the towers, the sky, and the city below all feel like CG. Actual photos taken of Petit's walk show a New York that's cool and gray-toned, muted, in the dawn. Zemeckis instead bathes the towers and the digital cityscape in gold and pink hues. The eye notices; the real world is not a Thomas Kinkade painting. The coda to The Walk is a series of uncomfortable allusions to 9/11 that feel cheap and exploitative, even borderline offensive. At one point someone praises Philippe for giving the buildings a soul and making people love The Twin Towers, and they look up longingly into the night sky. It's a cringeworthy attempt to earn your tears. Gordon-Levitt's narration throughout the film doesn't help matters. He speaks French like Inspector Clouseau, situated atop the torch of The Statute of Liberty with the World Trade Center visible in the skyline behind him. It's CG, it's garish, it's surprisingly chintzy, though the worst case of bathos may be a certain moment in the movie that involves a CG bird. In real life there's no actual film footage of Philippe Petit's walk along The Twin Towers. This was likely the impetus for The Walk. It's admirable that Zemeckis would want to re-create a singular event, but I can't help but feel like this is also the reason the event shouldn't be recreated on film. In Man on Wire, Marsh shows stills of the moment accompanied by the quiet, melancholy beauty of Erik Satie's "Gymnopedie No. 1." (In The Walk, we hear Beethoven's "Fur Elise," which has never sounded more cliched.) In Let the Great World Spin, McCann recreates the New York of 1974 from different characters and perspectives. Using Petit's singular act, Marsh and McCann invite their viewers/readers to co-create the event in their minds—to be up with Petit, or below watching a dot in the sky from the ground. At no point during The Walk's major set piece did I think, "It feels like I'm there" or "I wish I was there." Zemeckis doesn't give any room for the audience's imagination or co-authorship. There is more danger and beauty in a still photo of Petit on a wire than the whole of The Walk's recreation of the moment. That might speak to the power of Petit's actual work of art.
Review: The Walk photo
A collection of weightless cliches

It's impossible to watch The Walk without thinking about James Marsh's 2008 film Man on Wire. The Academy Award-winning documentary chronicled French tightrope walker Philippe Petit's high-wire act between the towers of the World Trade Center in 1974. Through interviews, archival footage, dramatizations, and clever editing, Marsh allows the events to play out in thrilling fashion, as if Petit's whimsical art crime was a jewel heist.

It's also difficult for me to watch The Walk without thinking about Colum McCann's gorgeous 2009 novel Let the Great World Spin, a panoramic view of New York City featuring multiple protagonists and taking place on the same day as Petit's WTC high-wire act.

To Robert Zemeckis's credit, he'd been developing The Walk on his own for the last decade, well before Marsh and McCann's works came out; Zemeckis had envisioned his film to be a 3D spectacle that captured the dizzying experience of Petit's impossible walk.

But even if Man on Wire and Let the Great World Spin didn't exist, The Walk would still be a schmaltzy disappointment.

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See The Martian early and free

Sep 25 // Matthew Razak
DC Screening Details:   Tuesday, September 297:00pmAMC Mazza http://www.gofobo.com/FLIXDCMart Baltimore Screening Details: Tuesday, September 297:00pmCinemark Egyptian http://www.gofobo.com/FLIXBaltMart
Screenings photo
Washington DC, Baltimore

If you haven't read The Martian go do that. Even if you don't like books or reading it will grab you, pull you in and then push you in every direction you have. Go now.

Once you're back you should grab some passes to the movie because you're going to want to desperately see it now. This is looking to be one of the best bits of science fiction in years and you don't want to miss it. 

Head below, click the link and grab your passes. 

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Prometheus 2 photo

Despite the two hour confusing slog it was, Prometheus was divisive here at Flixist. We even pulled in Jim Sterling at one point to talk about it because it was so crazy. I'm sure Ridley Scott was interested in pursuing a sequel because it brought on so much discussion, but also sure the guy likes money. Speaking of money, the Alien franchise makes a lot of it. What better way to brush off Prometheus' nonsense and remind people Alien is a thing than to rope it in? 

So Prometheus 2 is now Alien: Paradise Lost, as Scott confirms in an interview with HeyUGuys. Sooooo yeah. No word on whether or not this will somehow interfere with Blomkamp's Alien film, but since Scott is working on this next, we'll find out more about the giant white bodybuilder aliens soon enough. 

[via HeyUGuys]

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Black Mirror Netflix photo
Twelve! Twelve episodes! Ah-ah-ah!

It's now official: Netflix has ordered 12 new episodes of Black Mirror for Season 3. As we reported last time, Charlie Brooker is currently writing the new series, and the show will be produced in collaboration with House of Tomorrow.

Netflix released a brief official teaser:


Twelve episodes is double the entire run of Black Mirror during its original two-season run in the UK. (There was also a Christmas special with Jon Hamm that was spiffy.) The Mary Sue points out that the release date is to be determined, as is Netflix's release strategy. There's speculation that Netflix will release Black Mirror Season 3 on a week-to-week basis rather than in a single binge-watchable batch.

On a related note, Black Mirror also wound up in the news this week following David Cameron's #PigGate controversy. In a nutshell: David Cameron (seen below) may have once stuck his todger in the mouth of a dead pig. Seriously. In the infamous first episode of Black Mirror, "The National Anthem," the Prime Minister is asked to have sexual intercourse with a pig in order to save the life of a beloved UK royal. Seriously.

Flixist prides itself on dignified film and television coverage, which is why we take no delight in reminding people that the Prime Minister of a major country may have engaged in a debauched sexual act with a dead animal. I mean, a current head of state possibly raw dogging a dead hog is such tawdry news to cover here--ditto the fact David Cameron's office neither confirmed nor denied the allegation that he nested his tallywacker in a dead pig's face.

We'll continue to cover the new season of Black Mirror as info develops.

However, we will not continue to mention the rumors that Prime Minister David Cameron, a major world leader, may have placed his private parts inside of a deceased pig's mouth. (But seriously, David Cameron may have stuck his dick in a dead pig's mouth!)

[via The Mary Sue]

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The Splat photo
Olmec now, Olmec forever

Remember the Nicktoons channel? It was this channel dedicated to past Nickelodeon cartoons like Rugrats or As Told By Ginger that was phased out in favor another outlet for their live programming. But with the 90s nostalgia boom, Nickelodeon realized their mistake and brought some of them back with a short "The 90s are All That" weekend stint. Since that's worked out so well, and to coincide with their upcoming plans to somehow bring all of these cartoon characters into a movie, Nickelodeon has announced "The Splat," a nightly block running from 10PM to 6PM EST on TeenNick. 

But what's different this time around is Nickelodeon is pulling out all the stops for this return. Along with returning programs (both live action and animated), we'll be getting old interstitials (like Stick Stickly) and big promos like Super Toy Run and Nick or Treat (where people would call in and guess numbers to try and collect prizes before being scared). The block will rotate nightly so we'll have all sorts of old shows back again. Here's just a sampling. 

The Splat premieres on TeenNick Monday, October 6th at 10PM EST. Probably explains that Kenan and Kel reunion a few days back. 

  • First Time for Everything (week of Oct. 5) – first two episodes of fan-favorite animated and live-action series and game shows;
  • Rugrats Reptar Takeover (week of Oct. 12) – best of Rugrats episodes featuring Reptar;
  • Hey Arnold! Live from the Stoop (week of Oct. 19) – Stoop Kid-centric episodes;
  • Nick or Treat (week of Oct. 26) – call-in event where lucky callers get 40 seconds to choose from six doors, collecting tricks and treats along the way, plus scary and spooky themed animation episodes
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