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Hubert Vigilla

World of Tomorrow sequel photo
World of Tomorrow sequel

Don Hertzfeldt teases a World of Tomorrow sequel, life is good


EVERYBODY DANCE!
Aug 21
// Hubert Vigilla
Gosh I love Don Hertzfeldt. The indie animator's handmade, in-camera works made a major impression in the 1990s and early 2000s thanks to shorts like Lily and Jim and Rejected. Hertzfeldt went on to received major critical ac...
Jabba the Hutt movie photo
Jabba the Hutt movie

Jabba the Hutt is getting a Star Wars spin-off movie for some reason


Huttastic Jabbas and Where to Find Them
Aug 20
// Hubert Vigilla
Han Solo and Obi-Wan Kenobi have their own forthcoming standalone/spin-off movies, so why not other characters from the Star Wars universe? Makes sense, right? This may explain Disney & Lucasfilm's nonsensical decision to...

NYC: Old School Kung Fu Fest 2017 is all about martial arts wonder women

Aug 18 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]221831:43735:0[/embed] We can start by tying this into last year's Old School Kung Fu Fest, which showcased the films of Golden Harvest. The one Golden Harvest film this year is 1972's Hapkido, starring Angela Mao, Sammo Hung, and Carter Wong. (Both Mao and Hung made appearances in the Bruce Lee classic Enter the Dragon.) The boys do a lot of the fighting against the Imperial Japanese baddies during the first half of the film, which is set in 1930s China. Mao eventually takes center stage to avenge her brothers and the oppressed people of both China and Korea. Lecherous thugs from imperial Japan and Chinese turncoats generally make for solid baddies in kung fu films set during this time--they're the equivalent of Nazis and saboteurs. The word "forbearance" comes up throughout Hapkido. It's a keystone in many martial arts, and both patience and self-restraint help Mao's character survive until she can exact revenge. There's a scene in which Mao's pride is insulted in a dojo full of goons, and rather than take on all the laughing hyenas around her, she clenches her fist and seethes. Wait, her body language seems to say, or you'll be overwhelmed. Mao's fight scenes are fierce and well-choreographed. Though it's not the mega-quick, rhythmic/metered fighting of the later 1970s and the 1980s (a style that Hung would help pioneer), it's eye-catching for the era and brutal and rooted in story. [embed]221831:43737:0[/embed] Three of the movies at this year's Old School Kung Fu Fest are from the great King Hu, one of the maestros of wuxia pictures and kung fu cinema. The films are A Touch of Zen (1971), Come Drink with Me (1966), and The Fate of Lee Khan (1973). Hu's undergone a major critical reassessment in the west over the years, praised for his lush productions and style. He's influenced filmmakers as disparate as Hong Kong action madman Tsui Hark to staid Taiwanese arthouse director Tsai Ming Liang. In recent years, Hu's films have played a number of retrospectives, and two of his masterpieces, A Touch of Zen and Dragon Inn, have been released by the Criterion Collection. Though I haven't seen The Fate of Lee Khan, there's always been a strong woman as a central player in Hu films I have seen. In Come Drink with Me, it's Cheng Pei Pei as the hero Golden Swallow, seeking to rescue a political prisoner. Western audiences probably know Cheng best as Jade Fox in Ang Lee's 2000 wuxia homage Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In A Touch of Zen, it's Feng Hsu as a hero named Yang on the run in an artsy adventure that's also about Buddhist spirituality. I'm going to try to catch The Fate of Lee Khan this weekend and see if I can tease out some bigger idea about King Hu and his badass women. Like Dragon Inn, The Fate of Lee Khan is centered around an inn. I'm left wondering if the martial prowess of the women in the movie (Mao, Hsu, Li Li Hua) leads to gender confusion, which is a common and universal trope in many action/adventure stories--"You can fight, bu- bu- but, you're a woman?!" Such revelations are often disarming for the villains as well as the heroine's allies. [embed]221831:43736:0[/embed] It wouldn't be old school kung fu without something from Shaw Brothers Studios. This year's Old School Kung Fu Fest has two very different kinds of Shaw Brothers films nearly a decade apart. First there's 1972's Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan, Chor Yuen's brothel-based wuxia picture that plays a bit like a semi-sexploitation/revenge movie, albeit a well shot one. There's sexual violence, a little lesbianism, and some S&M for good measure, with a kind of luridness that I wasn't expecting from an early 70s Shaw Brothers production. And on the other hand, there's Lau Kar Leung's My Young Auntie (1981), a broad Cantonese comedy starring Kara Hui as a demure martial arts master trying to keep a family's fortune away from the hands of greedy relatives. My Young Auntie is kooky and delightful (though maybe a fight-lite affair for some action movie fans), and might play a good double-feature with Lau's pseudo-screwball comedy martial arts picture Heroes of the East (1978). While the tone of both these Shaw Brothers films is different, Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan and My Young Auntie are, broadly speaking, about women seeking empowerment, justice, and dignity in their own ways. The newest film at the Old School Kung Fu Fest is 1985's Yes, Madam, a very merry 1980s Hong Kong action movie. The movie stars Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock as a pair of female supercops busting criminals and making them take insane, breakneck falls. It's so "Hong Kong in the 80s" that it features appearances by Sammo Hung and recurring players from the Lucky Stars movies. Yes, Madam kicked off the "girls with guns" HK subgenre, which basically meant action movies led by femme fatales. Other films in the genre include Magnificent Warriors (1987), Naked Killer (1992), Black Cat (1991), and Angel Terminators (1991). [embed]221831:43738:0[/embed] Yeoh is one of the biggest Asian actresses in the western world, though her Yes, Madam co-star, Cynthia Rothrock, is probably one of the most unsung female action stars of her era. Rothrock was an accomplished martial artist prior to getting into action movies. While her American output tended to be of low quality and direct-to-video, she made many great films in Hong Kong during the 1980s as a star or supporting player. Yes, Madam is easily among her best, but also keep an eye out for 1986's Righting Wrongs (co-starring Yueen Biao), 1987's The Magic Crystal (co-starring Andy Lau), and 1988's Righting Wrongs 2: Blonde Fury. Seven movies and one weekend isn't enough to cover the breadth of wonder women in kung fu cinema. An entire program might have been built around King Hu's output or Angela Mao's films alone using a similar theme. Though the 1990s isn't old school enough yet, I was hoping to see something familiar from my teenage years in the fest. For instance, I remember loving movies with Brigitte Lin (particularly The Bride with White Hair), in which the "You're a good fighter but you're not a man?" gender confusion was to be expected. There's also Johnnie To's Heroic Trio films, which starred Yeoh, Maggie Cheung, and Anita Mui as three ladies saving the day in a dystopian future. (Maybe in the seventeenth edition of the Old School Kung Fu Fest.) I suppose I bring those other movies up since Wonder Woman, Atomic Blonde, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens signal a genuine hunger for female-led action movies. People want stories in which the women aren't just damsels in distress or trophies for the heroes. Even Doctor Who finally acknowledged the need for more gender representation in male-dominated genres, naming Jodie Whittaker as the thirteenth Doctor. This need goes back decades, and maybe in this particular year these kinds of stories seem more necessary than before. Girls to the front, and don't be afraid to kick anyone who gets in your way. Cheng Pei Pei did it 50 years ago, and so can you.
Old School Kung Fu Fest photo
Those females are strong as hell
The seventh Old School Kung Fu Fest kicks off today in New York City at The Metrograph. The event runs all weekend, and celebrates the kick ass women of classic martial arts cinema. The official theme is "Wonder Women of the ...

Fast and cheap Inhumans photo
Fast and cheap Inhumans

Interview with Inhumans director doesn't inspire confidence in fast, cheap IMAX TV series pilot


Scott Buck strikes again
Aug 17
// Hubert Vigilla
Judging from the first trailer and the San Diego Comic Con trailer, The Inhumans might be a bona fide disaster. Excuse me, a bona fide disaster shot in IMAX. A bigger screen won't fix bland, and this looks like the second Mar...

Obi-Wan spin-off movie photo
Obi-Wan spin-off movie

That's no moon, it's an Obi-Wan Kenobi stand-alone Star Wars movie in the works


This is the IP you're looking for
Aug 17
// Hubert Vigilla
Even though the stand-alone Han Solo movie has gone through some major problems, Disney isn't giving up on Star Wars spin-offs. Heat Vision confirmed today that an Obi-Wan Kenobi movie is in the works. Academy Award-nominated...
Killing of a Sacred Deer photo
Killing of a Sacred Deer

Trailer: The Killing of a Sacred Deer showcases unnerved Nicole Kidman & Colin Farrell


Yorgos Lanthimos gonna Yorgos Lanthimos
Aug 16
// Hubert Vigilla
I'm guaranteed to watch anything from Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos. Dogtooth haunted and disturbed me, and two-thirds of The Lobster is some of the best commentary on modern love I've seen. Lanthimos is back with his late...
Old School Kung Fu Fest photo
Old School Kung Fu Fest

NYC: Watch wonder women kick ass at the Old School Kung Fu Fest (August 18-20)


Subway Cinema returns to The Metrograph
Aug 15
// Hubert Vigilla
Subway Cinema's seventh edition of The Old School Kung Fu Fest is back this weeked at The Metrograph, running from Friday, August 18th through Sunday, August 20th. Last year's Old School Kung Fu Fest celebrated Golden Harvest...
GET HIM A BODY BAAAAAAAG! photo
GET HIM A BODY BAAAAAAAG!

Wax nostalgic, Daniel-san: Karate Kid sequel series Cobra Kai headed to YouTube Red


Ralph Macchio and William Zabka to star
Aug 04
// Hubert Vigilla
Your nostalgia has just crane kicked you in the face. A 10-episode half-hour sequel series to The Karate Kid is coming to YouTube Red, starring Ralph Macchio and William Zabka. There was reportedly a bidding war for the serie...
Studios v Rotten Tomatoes photo
Studios v Rotten Tomatoes

Movie studios fear bad Rotten Tomatoes scores, are trying to thwart the Tomatometer


Attaaaack of the rotten tomatoes!
Aug 02
// Hubert Vigilla
Bad reviews can potentially hurt a movie's box office in the same way that good reviews can potentially get more butts in the seats. As more and more people turn to Rotten Tomatoes to see what the critical consensus is on a m...
Clint Howard in Han Solo photo
Clint Howard in Han Solo

Clint Howard will have a cameo in the Han Solo standalone movie


Ron Howard is Howarding this up
Aug 02
// Hubert Vigilla
If you haven't heard, the Han Solo standalone movie is sort of a mess. Short version: directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired over creative differences several months into production, star Alden Ehrenreich has had iss...
Netflix in debt photo
Netflix in debt

Netflix is $20 billion in debt, really shouldn't have gone to grad school


More like DEBTflix, amiright?
Aug 01
// Hubert Vigilla
Netflix remains a juggernaut in terms of movie and TV streaming, with more than 104 million subscribers worldwide and continued stock growth from investors. Yet according to an LA Times piece over the weekend, Netflix is also...
Avatar sequels underway photo
Avatar sequels underway

Weta Digital starts work on James Cameron's four Avatar sequels (additional delays to come)


What's Na'vi for "shrug"?
Jul 31
// Hubert Vigilla
Best known for their groundbreaking work on The Lord of the Rings and the Planet of the Apes trilogy, Weta Digital announced that they have begun work on James Cameron's four Avatar sequels. There is no word yet on what ...
Mother! teaser trailer photo
Mother! teaser trailer

Darren Aronofsky's Mother! gets a teaser, with a full trailer coming next week


Well... something seems amiss, don't it?
Jul 31
// Hubert Vigilla
Mother!, the new Darren Aronofsky movie, is veiled in secrecy. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, and details about the plot are scant. A disturbing poster for the film came out in May, and there was an effective all-audio teaser that screened with Dunkirk. Now we have our first look at Mother! in this brief teaser, and it looks really intense. Check out the Mother! teaser below.
Baby Driver car chase photo
Baby Driver car chase

Watch the opening car chase from Edgar Wright's Baby Driver


And also check out this 2003 music video
Jul 14
// Hubert Vigilla
Baby Driver was pretty good. Our own Matthew Razak liked Edgar Wright's latest film, though acknowledged in his review that the film's technical wizardry doesn't quite overcome the flawed story and sometimes inconsistent char...

Review: Endless Poetry

Jul 14 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]221699:43659:0[/embed] Endless Poetry (Poesia Sin Fin)Director: Alejandro JodorowskyRating: NRRelease Date: July 14, 2017 (limited)Country: Chile/France While Herskovitz plays Jodorowsky at the start of the film, he's soon replaced by Adan Jodorowsky. It marks a jump in time in from Alejandro's early adolescence into his adulthood, and a move toward adult concerns. It was fascinating to see Herskovitz again, however, who's seemed to age so fast in just a few years. Adan, who was a child in Santa Sangre, looks so much like his father; Brontis, who was just a child in El Topo, looks like he could be Adan's father. Throughout the movie, Alejandro Jodorowsky himself appears on screen, offering a kind of wizened and reflective narration for these moments in his past. If The Dance of Reality was essentially a bildungsroman (a coming-of-age story), Endless Poetry functions more like a künstlerroman (a story about an artist's development and maturation). Alejandro becomes a poet, though it happens too easily, which is where Jodorowsky's flair for surreal and alchemical indulgence butts up against the mundane realities of the writing process, especially for people just starting out. Alejandro is fully formed as a poet the moment he reads Lorca for the first time, like a single book unlocks a preternatural facility with language. There is no struggle with bad poetry, there is almost no self-doubt, and no need to find his footing as a writer. The closest the film alludes to these conflicts is in one early scene at a typewriter. Alejandro pecks out a minor triumph as the giant spectral face of his father dominates the other half of the screen, calling his son a maricón over and over again, deriding the masculinity/sexuality of being an artist. But the film isn't much concerned about that. Alejandro is already great without the essential work to achieve greatness, and always certain about his greatness without a more troubled relationship with language. He's even gifted his own bohemian pad to have parties with all the rakes, wits, and creatives of Santiago. Art has no limitations, but it's part of the artist's journey to discover that on their own, and that journey isn't embarked upon here. We've already arrived at the outset. It undercuts one of the more powerful moments toward the end of Endless Poetry. On a circus stage, Alejandro transforms from a simple clown into a poet and then into a melancholic mime right out of Children of Paradise. This ought to feel like some transcendent apotheosis, a transformation from a fool into a different figure (at least a much wiser fool), like progressing through the major arcana in a tarot deck. Instead, it feels like a tautology. It's not built into the grand arc of Endless Poetry, but a smaller arc of some adjacent scenes in the movie. This sense of being fully formed as an artist extends into Young Adult Alejandro as a sage. He rarely does wrong around his friends, and if he does there's at least some justification for it. In a moment that nods to El Topo, Alejandro happens by the apartment where a dwarf friend is attempting suicide. He saves her life, teaches her a spiritual lesson about the value of living, and sleeps with her even though she's on her period. It's a little too saintly, and maybe even self-congratulatory, which undercuts the deeper sadness of the scene and what it means. This woman is the girlfriend of his best friend, Enrique Lihn (Leandro Taub), who is drunk and violent and asleep on the front porch the morning after the assignation. Alejandro's damaged their relationship, which has been built on their mutual anarchic virtuosity as poets, but Enrique was a jerk and the reason his girlfriend tried to take her own life. This is an autobiographical work, so of course Alejandro's the center of our attention and of this story, yet there's something that feels off to me about making yourself the Mary Sue/Gary Stu of your own life. In a lot of ways, Enrique seems like the classic and perhaps more compelling künstlerroman hero because of how flawed and embarrassing and raw he is as a person. The same guy who clowns with his best friend walking down the street as an aesthetic lark is the same raging drunk who can neglect those he loves. Maybe Alejandro and Enrique could be viewed in tandem as a composite of Alejandro's early life, where the desire to be wise was complicated by an uncontrolled appetite, and where a mastery of language was essential since other aspects of life couldn't be so controlled. But maybe that's my attempt to make this less compelling aspect of Endless Poetry work in context with the multi-film, autobiographical capstone to a career that has changed my life as a lover of film. Like I mentioned in a Cult Club piece on Santa Sangre, I keep finding Jodorowsky's fingerprints on my imagination. There's so much I love about Endless Poetry despite the middling moments and a lot of visual blandness that plagues much of the film. (Like The Dance of Reality, too much of the cinematography seems too flat, too plain, and uncinematic.) There's a strange 80s-deco art-bar like something out of Brazil where Alejandro is drawn to technicolor poet Stella Díaz Varín. She's played by the same actress who plays Alejandro's mother for maximum Freudian impact. There are a few scenes where art seems like the only refuge from the rising Ibáñez dictatorship; I'm missing that cultural and historical context that would enliven the film. There's a moment when Young Adult Alejandro and Old Alejandro must make peace with Alejandro's father. A complicated love emerges when one views a pivotal moment in the past knowing what the future holds. I might have liked more of Old Jodorowsky hopping into the film and commenting about the people and places of his life. He's the center of it all, so why stay outside when there's so much I'd like to know. What did he love about this woman? What did Lorca's poetry say to him as a young man, and what other poets spoke to him? What is machismo in the face of art? What does it mean to him to be a man? What regrets are there and what would he have liked to do differently? I wonder if the next film will be the last one, and what this all might feel like viewed as a single work rather than loose chapters with a looser shape. If this marks the end of Jodorowsky, it's fitting that it also feels like the beginning.
Review: Endless Poetry photo
A portrait of Jodorowsky as a young poet
In what may be the final years of Alejandro Jodorowsky's life, his work has turned inward and become sentimentally personal. He's exploring his own autobiography, but retelling it in his own odd way. Jodorowsky's previous fil...

Japan Cuts 2017 photo
Japan Cuts 2017

NYC: Japan Cuts 2017 starts tonight


It runs from July 13th to 23rd
Jul 13
// Hubert Vigilla
The 11th annual Japan Cuts film festival kicks off tonight in New York City. Running from July 13th through July 23rd, Japan Cuts is one of New York City's finest film festivals, showcasing the best in Japanese cinema. I stil...
NYAFF 2017 photo
NYAFF 2017

The 2017 New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) starts today


It runs from June 30 to July 16
Jun 30
// Hubert Vigilla
It's that time of year again. One of the best film festivals in the city is about to get underway. The New York Asian Film Festival kicks off tonight at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. The annual showcase of Asian cinema ...

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

Jun 30 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220930:43141:0[/embed] The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman's Portrait PhotographyDirector: Errol MorrisRating: NRRelease Date: June 30, 2017 (limited) "Nice" is such a loaded word. It's often equivocal, a sly insult hidden in a mild compliment rather than a genuine endorsement of character. Stephen Sondheim parsed the word in the musical Into the Woods, noting that nice and good are two different things. (The latter is always preferable to the former.) It's telling that Dorfman uses it as part of her self-description. She's so humble and self-effacing on camera. It's the sort of goodness that can be passed off as niceness and/or mistaken for mere shyness. I got the feeling that this is how she is off camera as well. Morris' adoration for Dorfman comes through in the way he comments on her work and chronicles her career. These warm feelings wouldn't be possible if he subjected his friend to the Interrotron. Dorfman initially seems more like a friend's mom or an aunt than an artist, as if these identities are mutually exclusive. That distinction is ridiculous. Dorfman hung around the New York lit scene in the 1960s, taking photos of literary luminaries passing through the city. It's there that she started a lifelong friendship with poet Allen Ginsberg. She would take portraits of him and with him for the next few decades. She's wistful when she looks at Ginsberg's portraits, and while I wondered what she was thinking, I didn't feel like prying. It's not as if I could. The large Polaroids shared in The B-Side are a mix of famous people and everyday folks. In addition to Ginsberg, Dorfman has a few images of Modern Lovers frontman Jonathan Richman. Richman's earnest, wonkily cool/uncool music might be the proper sonic equivalent to Dorfman's portraiture and personality. The intimacy is palpable throughout The B-Side. Morris recreates the experience of hanging out with a good friend and looking at their body of work. If not looking through a portfolio, it's at least the experience of flipping through photo albums and mementos with a live commentary. This sounds merely nice, but there's more to it. Like the little details in a photo that bring it to life, there's an ineffable humane quality to The B-Side, and I think it has as much to do with Dorfman's personality as  her chosen medium. Polaroids are a "nice" format. There's a retro-chic about them, which explains their appeal--cooler than a disposable film camera--but they're impractical by today's standards. What's more, they're intended for common images and not the domain or typical format for high art. Dorfman is essentially offering a Polaroid photobooth experience (photobooths = nice), but she magnifies the internal life in her images. In her own self-portraits, there's an overwhelming domesticity, but her hand-written captions are revealing in the way that diaries and journals are revealing. The portraits themselves are art in plenty of ways: in how they play with expectations, in the way they hint at some story or feeling beneath the surface, in the way their material (Polaroid film) made me rethink the common uses of the material. When the meaning of the film's title is explained, the whole collection Dorfman's shared gains new and endearing meaning. There's something so likable about this nice Jewish girl who's been doing this since the 1970s. There's something charming about these imperfect images in this mostly dead format. There's something so delightful about The B-Side. It's not Morris' best film in terms of scope or depth, but it's also not just nice. I think The B-Side is Morris' most generous movie, and it's generous in a way that only friends can be to one another.
Review: The B-Side photo
There's something about Elsa
The B-Side is an atypical Errol Morris documentary. He doesn't use the Interrotron at all, his tool that allows interviewees to stare directly into the camera. Instead, the camera's just off to the side. The score is delicate...

Inhumans trailer photo
Inhumans trailer

Trailer: Marvel's Inhumans looks like the most underwhelming thing ever shot on IMAX


Cheap boredom on the big screen
Jun 29
// Hubert Vigilla
The Inhumans was supposed to be a major MCU milestone, bringing the mysterious, magical kingdom of Attilan to the big screen. The people of Attilan are mutated with Terrigen Mist, which can unlock superpowers and change a per...

Review: Okja

Jun 28 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]221603:43630:0[/embed] OkjaDirector: Bong Joon-hoRating: N/ARelease Date: June 28, 2017 (Netflix, limited theatrical)Country: South Korea/United States Okja opens with a press conference as preface. CEO Lucy Mirando announces the creation of special mutant super pigs made to address the world's food shortages revamp its brand. She's played by Tilda Swinton, who looks and acts like a character in a Christopher Guest movie. Those bangs, those braces, and later, that twitchy, insecure overbite. The initial super pigs have been given to farmers around the globe, and in 10 years the best one will be picked to publicly launch a line of tasty, savory mutant food products. Okja, the only pig we follow, was raised in the mountains of Korea by Mija and her grandfather (Byun Hee-Bong). The film lingers with Mija and Okja a while as they spend afternoons in the forests eating persimmons in sun and swimming by a waterfall. Bong builds the kinship between his lead and his digital warm-cuddly; there's a shorthand for 10 loving years in 10 or so lackadaisical minutes. The lush mountaintop idyll also works as a counterpoint to the madness that follows--colors darken down below as our characters descend. Okja is taken away, and the movie becomes a series of pursuits. A daring chase through the streets of Seoul is one of the highlights of the film. In America, Okja goes through a series of upsetting and disturbing events that reveal the ugly side of Mirando's shiny new product. A little past the midway point of Okja, I can see some people souring on the movie because of what happens in the plot. Rather than make a family film for all ages, Bong's story gets much darker than the initial fun in the sun would suggest. (More Babe: Pig in the City than Babe.) This darkness follows logically and diegetically, however, and it's the point. This mutant movie, among other things, is an indictment of factory farming and corporate culture. It's why Mija just wants to bring Okja back up to the mountain, above all of those concerns. Like any CG creature, Okja looks better in some scenes and worse than others. When it works, she's got the expressiveness of an actual animal, with mannerisms less like a pig and more like a lumbering puppy/hippo. (She even poops like a hippo. Okja is the sort of movie in which the bowel movements of an animal figure into the plot. Glorious.) Something about Okja's eyes and snout, and maybe a certain floppiness or articulation of her ears, communicate a fair amount of emotion. When Mija is there to react, she complements and enhances the CG performance. Other times, Okja is clearly just a big digital thing dropped into a shot. I was generally able to stay with the world of the movie even when the CG was obvious. The world of Okja is messy and cartoony, and the CG is never too bad to be totally distracting from everything else that's going on. And there's a lot going on. Mija is an immutable moral center in the movie, and though she's a newcomer, Ahn is good as a determined lead. The supporting characters are varying levels of quirky, and many get to play off Ahn as the straightwoman. Paul Dano is very Paul Dano as Jay, the leader of an Animal Liberation Front group. His misfit band of eco-terrorists squabble over the carbon footprint of cherry tomatoes and suckle on asparagus spears. Bong and co-writer Jon Ronson mock the ideological minutiae of some ALF characters (extremism is inherently funny), but they're careful not to target the core humanity of their beliefs. Jay and his band are goofy, but they're also the good guys. The most overblown performance is surprisingly not Tilda Swinton but Jake Gyllenhaal. He plays Dr. Johnny Wilcox, a nasally TV wildlife personality. Off-camera, he's like an evil Ned Flanders by way of bizarro Ace Ventura and Rip Taylor; a sadistic narcissist who hides his ugly-streak under layers of gee willikers and aww shucks. When the camera is on Dr. Johnny, his persona changes. His voice lowers and slows and he speaks from the diaphragm rather than the nose. The highs and lows of Gyllenhaal's performance may best the representation of Okja's highs and lows. The man contains multitudes, some hilarious and some terrifying. (Jaeil Jung's score also contains multitudes: a little bit of folk, a little bit of traditional orchestral music, and there's also something for the oompah band fans out there.) If the tone shifts and genre-bending don't push away some viewers, I sense that Bong's preachiness might do the trick. Okja isn't particularly subtle about its stance on GMOs and the food business; the subtlest the film gets is a brief and passing implication that Okja is such a healthy and hearty mutant super pig because she is a free-range mutant super pig. Yet subtlety might be unnecessary here, and the same goes for genre and tone conventions. Netflix gave Bong final cut and full creative control over Okja. The result is free-range Bong Joon-Ho, which is, admittedly, an acquired taste, but it's linked to the love people have for their favorite childhood pet. That's a familiar, perennial flavor--narrative comfort food. As Lucy Mirando tells us at the start of Okja, the most important thing is that the mutant super pig tastes f**king good. And it does. Weird but good, sure, but good mainly because it is so weird.
Review: Okja photo
That'll do, mutant super pig, that'll do
Bong Joon-Ho's Okja is a chimera of genre and tone. It's a lovable mutant like its titular super pig--the best super pig, we're told, the superlative like something out of Charlotte's Web. Which makes sense. As a director, Bo...

Han Solo drama photo
Han Solo drama

More Han Solo drama: Lucasfilm hired acting coach for lead Alden Ehrenreich


Would that it were so simple
Jun 26
// Hubert Vigilla
The drama over the Han Solo stand-alone film continues. Last week, directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired and soon replaced by reliable journeyman Ron Howard. Unfortunately this was six months into production. T...
Trailer: The Foreigner photo
Trailer: The Foreigner

Trailer: Watch Jackie Chan vs Pierce Brosnan in The Foreigner


So... Jackie Chan as Liam Neeson? Sold!
Jun 26
// Hubert Vigilla
Jackie Chan fights Pierce Brosnan. Yeah, you read that right. The Foreigner has Jackie Chan vs. an evil 90s James Bond (so basically Sean Bean?), and it looks like a solid revenge thriller. Rather than Chan playing his usual ...

Review: The Bad Batch

Jun 23 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]221600:43618:0[/embed] The Bad BatchDirector: Ana Lily AmirpourRating: RRelease Date: June 23, 2017 (limited) Don't get me wrong. There are things about The Bad Batch that I love, but they're undermined by boring self-satisfied self-indulgence. In the film's post-apocalyptic world, prisoners are released at the Texas border and left to fend for themselves. Arlen starts the movie wandering the wasteland but is soon kidnapped by cannibals. She loses an arm and a leg before she escapes to a makeshift town called Comfort. (On the way she meets a mute and nearly unrecognizable Jim Carrey.) Comfort is run by a charismatic cult leader surrounded by an army of bodyguards/brides. He's played by Keanu Reeves, who seems to be doing his best impression of Edgar Allan Poe doing a bad Keanu Reeves impression. At night, Comfort becomes a small scale post-apocalyptic Burning Man, complete with a DJ bumping tunes in a giant, light-up boombox. In all that I've written, what's not to love? The answer is Arlen. After about 30 minutes in a two-hour movie, my patience and goodwill dissipated because of her and the film's unwillingness to do anything interesting with her. Maybe it's odd of me to expect character from a moody would-be cult movie, but Arlen's lack of character causes The Bad Batch to implode around her. She doesn't want anything, doesn't need anything, has no sense of motivation or an internal life. She just kind of wanders around. For a movie with such a strange world, it's too content with being listless. Arlen is a non-character surrounded by more interesting supporting characters. There's no compelling story to tell in The Bad Batch; it's just a bunch of sets, locations, a primary cast, and a little stunt casting. In one of the early moments of The Bad Batch, Arlen meets a scavenger and her daughter. They both come from the cannibal colony that Arlen fled, but she's never interacted with either of these characters before. She murders the mother in cold blood even as she begs for mercy, but spares the daughter, Miel (Jayda Fink). The little girl mutely follows her mother's killer. It's done out of revenge, I get it, and yet Arlen doesn't seek further revenge on those who actually amputated her limbs. She just hangs out in Comfort and that's it. Miel would have made a more interesting main character. Miel's father, Miami Man, could have carried the film as well. He's a hulking bodybuilder cannibal played by Jason Momoa doing an impression of a good Keanu Reeves doing a bad Cuban accent. Like really, really bad. Momoa's at least a driven presence on screen since I knew what he wanted (i.e., to find his daughter... and maybe eat someone). Arlen and Miami Man meet and strike up a bond that verges on attraction but, like so much else about the movie, goes nowhere. They hide beneath a sheet during a sandstorm, intimately close, Miami Man unaware that his companion is his enemy. In a different film this moment could be filled with a edgy or even erotic charge. In The Bad Batch, it's just two attractive people under a flapping white sheet. In my head, I keep thinking of The Bad Batch in terms of El Topo since they're such opposites. Everything in El Topo feels meaningful because Jodorwosky builds his movie around a character's spiritual quest and obsessions. All objects are symbols, actions have cosmic consequence, the finale is apotheosis. The Bad Batch reduces its symbols to objects, strips actions of their greater meaning, turns dialogue into babble. A rambling Reeves monologue late in the film is tedious nonsense about seeds and plumbing. Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain summed up the gist in just nine words: "You are excrement. You can change yourself into gold." Though beautiful, The Bad Batch is a tautological movie rather than spiritual or philosophical: a meaningless wasteland about a meaningless wasteland. It's not gold, that's for sure.
Review: The Bad Batch photo
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