Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around


Fruit Ninja movie photo
Fruit Ninja movie

They're making a Fruit Ninja movie, may God have mercy on us all


All is lost
May 23
// Hubert Vigilla
It was bound to happen. After The Angry Birds Movie came out (and did well at the box office), it would only be a matter of time before other time-waster mobile games were turned into feature films. Enter Fruit Ninja. Yes. Th...

Review: Hard Sell

May 23 // Rick Lash
 photo

I want to say nice things about this film. That's the feeling I'm left with as I'm watching it. I believe I understand where the Writer/Director, Sean Nalaboff, is coming from. Hard Sell is "a coming-of-age tale ... [abo...

 photo

Star Trek Beyond gets a second trailer


May 23
// Rick Lash
Back in December, Paramount released the first trailer for Star Trek Beyond and basically it told us one thing: it's a sabotage! That was according the Beastie Boys track of the same name that was the entire musical score for...
Beauty and the Beast photo
What? You gotta admit it's catchy.
I'm still weirded out by the fact that Disney is making adaptations of their adaptations of famous fairy tales, but so far they've been pretty good or even revolutionary so let's roll with it. The next one up is Bea...


Farewell Mr. Bunting photo
Farewell Mr. Bunting

Farewell Mr. Bunting: Watch SNL spoof Dead Poets Society--seriously, just watch it already


I sing my song for all to hear
May 23
// Hubert Vigilla
I'm not sure about kids today, but high school students of a certain age always wound up watching Dead Poets Society in English class. Its memorable final scene features a class full of boys bidding a powerful adieu to the ma...
Angry Birds box office photo
Angry Birds box office

The Angry Birds Movie knocks Civil War from top of the box office


This header image will never die
May 23
// Hubert Vigilla
Over the weekend we saw The Angry Birds Movie duke it out with Captain America: Civil War (#TeamBird v #TeamCap). #TeamCap believes in personal freedom and accountability in the face of a system that may b...

Review: The Angry Birds Movie

May 22 // Nick Valdez
[embed]220589:42956:0[/embed] The Angry Birds MovieDirectors: Clay Kaytis and Fergal ReillyRating: PGRelease Date: May 20, 2016  At the center of The Angry Birds Movie is Red (Jason Sudeikis), a bird with an unchecked anger issue because he's been alone his entire life. He's been separated from the rest of the birds in town until he's forced to spend time in anger management which leads him to his future partners in crime Chuck (Josh Gad) and Bomb (Danny McBride). When a ship full of pigs, led by the sneaky Leonard (Bill Hader), pulls up to bird island claiming to be friendly, Red leaves in search of the legendary hero known as Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage) for help. After shenanigans from the pigs, it's up to Red, Chuck, and Bomb to find the hero and save the island.  Before getting into the nitty gritty, I want to take some time out to comment on how much work went into Angry Birds. It is honestly refreshing to see decent production and time on what seemed like a total cash-in project (from its inception to its last couple of trailers the film reeked of things other than quality) has . The animation is slick, the bird designs have a simple, easy to manipulate geometry (utilizing both hard angles and softer, cutesy spherical shapes), and the cast handles the material as well as they can. Sudeikis has already proved his capacity to lead a film time and time again, and now he can add voice over work to that list. Red's as charming as he needs to be without the script resorting to the same types of "kooky" dialogue the rest of the characters are subjected to. None of the actors come across as phony, with the weakest performance coming from Hader's Leaonard. Then again, even a weak Hader is better than you'd expect so it's a roundabout positive.  Once you get past the bread, you realize there's not a lot of meat on this chicken sandwich. Trying as hard as the visuals might, The Angry Birds Movie simply can't shake off how generic it is. It may not have the luxury of a videogame narrative to adapt, but that doesn't excuse a lot of its choices. While the freedom of a creating a whole universe brings about some neat little oddities differentiating it from other animated films (like anger management having weight in the plot, for example), the same is true for the opposite end of the spectrum. Quite a few quirks and dialogue choices should have been reconsidered. At one point, Angry Birds crosses the line into full-on annoying territory when Chuck and Bomb degenerate into incessant noise making machines for two minutes just so it can get a reaction from its kid audience.  The Angry Birds Movie is at a constant state of flux. Battling between originality and what's easier to write, the film is always holding itself back. In fact, it even takes a hit whenever it has to reference the videogame series. Like when the series' famous slingshot is introduced, it feels forced in. But in that same breath, that very slingshot leads to a well storyboarded climax. So it's an odd toss up between the film's potential audiences. Rather than create a film that's ultimately appealing to the widest demographic possible, you have a film that appeals to folks with select scenes. Some scenes will appeal to the two year olds who like to repeat funny sounds, the three year olds who like gross out humor, the adult who appreciates good animation, or that one parent in my screening who lost his mind the entire time. I'm glad at least that guy had a good time.  I'd hate to end a review with nothing more than an "it could've been worse" sentiment, but honestly that's all I feel about The Angry Birds Movie. It came, it went, it's probably coming back (or at least confident in a sequel enough to promote it during the credits and the extra scene available on mobile phones), and yet it doesn't really deserve any hearty emotions.  The Angry Birds Movie is not terrible enough to earn your rage, but it's not good enough to earn your praise either. A decent outcome from a numerous range of negative potential outcomes earns the film a small victory. 
Angry Birds Review photo
Nothing to get too angry at
With videogame adaptations becoming more common, it was only a matter of time before we would end up in this situation. A videogame popular for its gameplay and mechanics rather than its story would get the big screen treatme...

 photo

Thor Ragnarok Cast Grows, Adds THE HULK & more


May 20
// Rick Lash
Marvel just announced some major additions to its third Thor film, Thor: Ragnarok including Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, Karl Urban, and Tessa Thompson. Oh, and another guy you might have heard of, Mark Ruffalo, as a l...

Review: The Nice Guys

May 20 // Matthew Razak
[embed]220584:42955:0[/embed] The Nice GuysDirector: Shane BlackRated: RRelease Date: May 20, 2016 If you've seen the cult classic Kiss Kiss Bang Bang you know that Sean Black knows his way around the tropes and cliches of noir film and knows how to subvert them beautifully. His return to the genre is exciting to say the least. The Nice Guys starts up as many noir films do with narration from one of our lead private eyes: Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe). He is soon joined in his narration efforts by Holland March (Ryan Gosling) as the two team up to find a missing girl -- Jackson out of misplaced duty and Holland out of greed. Tagging along is Holland's daughter Holly (Angourie Rice). A 70s, drug-fueled mystery unfolds replete with femme fatales, conspiracies, tragic downfalls and everything else you'd expect from a noir. Stir in some buddy cop banter (Black's other genre strong suit) and you've got yourself a perfect example of neo-noir on your hands. There's a lot to unpack here, especially since Black is clearly spending a lot of the movie simply deconstructing the noir genre. Sadly, the movies plot seems to suffer because of it. While it's two lead characters are fantastic, it's comedy crisp and its direction clever the film's story never lives up to any of it. Relying far too heavily on deus ex machina and cheap plot twists the mystery seems to be more in service of the themes than the other way around. That might be fine for an art house film, but this isn't that and it makes watching the movie start to get a bit boring. Thankfully, Crowe and Gosling are pretty fantastic together. Their chemistry takes a bit to work up, but once it does they're flinging insults off each other wonderfully. It helps that the two characters are really representations of the two major facets of noir gumshoes. Crowe's is the hard-edge moral code that classic noir anti-heroes abide by and Gosling's is the rampant self destruction and selfishness that makes them not entirely likeable. Together they basically make Humphrey Bogart in 70s suits and Hawaiian shirts. It's a wonderfully smart look at noir film archetypes made even more fun by the charm the two actors bring to the role.  On the other hand you have Holly, whose character seems almost unnecessary except to move the plot along. Her character is the worst aspect of the buddy cop movie (the unwanted sidekick) and feels especially out of place in a film crammed full of adult content. The emotional ticks she plays a part in could have been executed just as easily without her, and her involvement in some of the scenes feels inappropriate at times. She also seems out of place overall with the tone and genre of the film. A bit of 90s buddy cop movie pushing in a bit too much on what should be a noir with just a sprinkling of that genre.  I will say that the 70s are the perfect setting for neo-noir. The last decade of abandonment tinged with the knowledge that all the drugs, sex and crime we're leading to a crescendo that was the 80s. The movie doesn't quite make enough of its setting except to play off the emergence of pornography in cinema and show of some epic 70s fashion. It's another aspect that works really well for the noir part of the film, but feels like a gimmick when the more buddy cop tones play in.  The Nice Guys is a strange combination of what Sean Black does best, but his neo-noir feels awkward mixed with buddy cop. Maybe he was emboldened by his success at mashing together genres in Iron Man 3, but in this case Black should have stuck with what he does best: turning noir on its head in order to redefine it.
Nice Guys photo
Shane Black doing it oh so nice
There's something a little off about The Nice Guys. It should work really well. Two great actors who play off each other fantastically with director/writer Shane Black bringing his talents back to the neo-noir genre. Plus, it...

Review: Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

May 20 // Nick Valdez
[embed]220574:42953:0[/embed] Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising Director: Nicholas StollerRating: RRelease Date: May 20, 2016  A few years after the events of the first film, parents Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are selling their home because they're expecting their next child. But not realizing what they had agreed to, the two end up in escrow. Meaning they have to keep their home buyer friendly for 30 days lest they end owning two homes. At the same time, Shelby (Chloe Grace-Moretz), Beth (Kiersey Clemons), and Nora (Beanie Feldstein) are three college girls who find out sororities aren't allowed to throw parties. Deciding to start a sorority of their own, and with the help of first film antagonist Teddy (Zac Efron), they move in next door to Mac and Kelly. After a series of shenanigans, Mac and Kelly once again find themselves in a prank war against the rowdy college kids next door.  Although Neighbors 2 tries its best to be different, it falls into the same traps most comedy sequels do. Given the nature of comedies in general, with each of them intentionally being a one-off story, all any sequel can do is try and capture what worked before and improve what did not. So if you enjoyed the first film, you might not enjoy this one. Everything's basically the same between the two films and there's not a lot added here to differentiate. There's the same air-bag gag, the same weak jokes about Rogen's body compared to Efron's, and despite poking fun on the mysoginistic voice of the first film, there's the same type of penis jokes. Which means that what it's trying to do thematically, presenting a "feminist" comedy (despite being written by five white men), is already worse for wear. It's hard to take anything seriously when one huge sequence ends with Zac Efron dancing until he shows his privates to a huge crowd.  Even if it doesn't change much of the story elements, Neighbors 2 still does an admirable job in turning the comedy sequel on its head. Simultaneously ridiculing and reveling in the premise, each of the characters have been surprisingly developed. Capitalizing on the character's ages (and further expanding on the "Dad Rogen" type introduced in the first film), there's a slightly compelling emotional current underneath all of the penis jokes. As everyone tries to figure out their identity in the film (whether Mac and Kelly can admit to being bad parents or Zac Efron's Teddy realizing he needs to move forward in life after being stuck in his millenial childlike state), Neighbors 2 touches on a slightly more level headed take on uncertain futures. But sadly this is all in between bursts of juvenile story telling. It's a shame too because when Neighbors 2 does distance itself from standard bro comedy jokes, it's quite refreshing. Despite being a film where terrible people do terrible things to one another, the few moments where it acknowledges the shortcomings are pretty great. Once again, Zac Efron steals the show. Elaborating on the lovable loser story from the first film, Teddy's become even more pathetic as he's basically aged out of the genre. A lot of the jokes in this revolve around how the entire crew would rather be doing something else (down to Mac and Kelly's terrible absentee parenting) and this nihilism is charming in a roundabout way. If you look in a little deeper, it's almost as if the film is telling Zac Efron to go ahead and move on to even bigger roles. It's pretty much time anyway. In that same breath, he's the only one that gets this kind of attention. Every other character is practically window dressing to Teddy's evolution, and it only makes you wish for a film that focused on this theme alone. I want to reward these attempts at new types of humor and themes, but they never quite go anywhere. For example while the sorority in the film is sincere and founded on equal rights ideals, the girls themselves aren't characterized well enough to truly make an impact of any kind. It's impossible for a comedy to accomplish that within 90 minutes, so these ideals feel like an afterthought. It feels like the change from a fraternity to a sorority is more cosmetic and a feminist lead character was only added only to be a plot contrivance to start the whole prank war. In fact, one character in the film literally says the sorority is "untouchable" in order to speed up the extremeness of Mac and Kelly's actions. Neighbors 2 does deserve credit for adding these elements when it could've been just another bro comedy, but it's not enough to acknowledge issues or inherent problems with the bro comedy genre while still trying to utilize the cruder elements of it.  Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising isn't the best film, or the funniest, but it's at least visibly trying to do something different. It's a groundbreaking comedy sequel in that it's not just doing the exact same thing over again for quick money. I mean it is still doing a lot of the same stuff, and while the new ideas aren't explored enough to warrant any kind of real change, the fact there is a refreshing seeming film at the end of the day is pleasant.  The only problem overall is both films just aren't memorable. It's not like you'll be quoting its jokes years later or even remember what happened a week down the line. 
Neighbors 2 Review photo
Well, at least it tried
In my long tenure here at Flixist I've carved out a niche for myself. If you see a review for a Seth Rogen film or a sequel to a comedy, chances are it's my words you're reading. So little did I know I'd stick around here lon...

Review: Cash Only

May 20 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]220586:42954:0[/embed] Cash OnlyDirector: Malik BaderRelease Date: March 13, 2016 Rating: NR Elvis Martini is down on his luck. After he inadvertently murdered (manslaughtered?) his wife in an arson attempt to get some insurance money from his house, he finds himself the landlord of a janky apartment building renting to some terrible tenants who, for the most part, don't pay their rent or, ya know, care about anything at all. He lives with his daughter, who plays video games all day (at least two console generations behind, but more like three to five), because her father can't afford to keep her in school. He owes some people money, and in the process winds up on the wrong side of some dangerous people. His daughter gets kidnapped, and suddenly he needs to get $25,000 together by midnight in order to get her back. For this story to work, you have to find Elvis Martini a relatable character, one you can root for and feel for. You need to develop a bond that will override your general distaste for the bad things he does and the way he hurts people in order to deal with the aftermath of a very stupid thing that he did. If you don't make that connection, then you're just watching a bad guy do bad things. But not, like, interesting ones. Just bad ones. At one point, soon after his daughter is taken, Martini asks one of his tenants for help. The tenant, a weed grower living in the basement, says no, because Martini's a bad dude who did bad things and is getting what he deserves. It feels like cruelty on the grower's part, like the movie wanted me to think, "Wow! What a terrible human being!" And, sure, that's not a great look for the character, but he was right. Plus, the entire movie is about how terrible Martini is at paying back his debts. The grower has no obligation to give his landlord thousands of dollars (that he'd probably never see again) for any reason. As a person who doesn't want to see anyone's daughter get eaten by dogs, I wanted him to help, but I really can't blame the guy for saying no. And maybe I wouldn't have felt that way were it not for Cash Only's biggest problem: It is anchored around a performance that never quite clicks. Everything about Nickola Shreli's performance just feels the slightest bit off. The words are fine (and written by Shreli, which is interesting), but there's a disconnect between the words and the voice at times, and there's almost always a disconnect between the voice and the body. This is especially true near the end, where Shreli' lack of affect becomes downright bizarre as it's played against an admittedly over-the-top caricature of an Eastern European mob boss. This scene, which I'm fairly sure was supposed to inspire tension, merely elicits confusion, because everything is in place... but it doesn't quite work. Parts of it do, but the overall effect is just kind of flat. There's yelling and screaming and barking, but it's – to quote people smarter than me quoting Hamlet – full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. But it goes beyond the narrative into the production itself. It doesn't feel motivated. Take the camerawork: I like handheld camera movement. I use it a lot in my own projects, because I think it can be extremely effective at adding a sense of urgency to a moment or giving the whole moment an air of instability. And, given its sequence of events, it makes sense that Cash Only is a film that heavily utilizes handheld camera work. There are a lot of shaky shots, sharp pans, etc. But the problem is that there is a fine line between Effective and Exhausting, and Cash Only doesn't walk it so well. Sometimes the intensity of the movement felt unmotivated; other times, particularly during runs, it felt like the operator forgot they were supposed to be pointing the camera at something in the first place. It's just shake for the sake of shake. And that's what this movie is, really. Shake for the sake of it. Story for the sake of it. Action for the sake of it. Cash Only isn't bad or anything, and there are worse ways you could spend 88 minutes, but it's not particularly good either, and there are a whole lot of better ones too. Like rewatching Taken. Yeah, just do that instead.
Cash Only Review photo
For a Klondike Bar
What would you do to get your daughter back from an Eastern European mob man? Your first answer is probably, "Become Liam Neeson." And that's basically the correct answer, even if it's laughable for a whole host of reasons. B...

James Bond photo
Bond is dead. Long live Bond.
Daniel Craig is leaving the Bond franchise according to the Daily Mail, which is more of a gossip rag than anything else. The actor may have turned down a £68 million deal to star in the next two Bond films, w...

Star Trek photo
Star Trek

Check out the first teaser for CBS's new Star Trek


It's new, new, new!
May 19
// Matthew Razak
News of a new Star Trek got me very excited, especially when I heard it would take place in the original universe not Abrams. I enjoy Abrams verse, actually, but I think a TV show is better suited for the old verse. This...
Ghostbusters photo
Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters Oozes Out 2nd Trailer: Yep, it's a reboot


May 19
// Rick Lash
In case you didn't know, the new Ghostbusters, releasing on July 15, is a reboot, not a sequel. The trailer that Sony just released for the film confirms this in unimaginative glory as voiceover narrative mixed with snippets ...
Warcraft VFX photo
Warcraft VFX

Behind-the-scenes Warcraft footage shows ILM making lifelike orcs


Should've cast real orcs
May 18
// Hubert Vigilla
Here at Flixist, we've been both cautiously optimistic and also somewhat skeptical about the Warcraft movie. We like director Duncan Jones a whole lot, but we're still left a little cold about the movie given the various ...
DC/WB Exec Shake Up photo
DC/WB Exec Shake Up

Warner Bros. picks Geoff Johns and Jon Berg to oversee DC cinematic universe


Fallout from Batman v Superman
May 18
// Hubert Vigilla
While Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has made around $870 million worldwide, it's been considered a disappointment for Warner Bros. By comparison, Captain America: Civil War has already made $957 million worldwide in two ...

Thoughts on the documentary Weiner by Josh Kriegman & Elyse Steinberg

May 17 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220420:42870:0[/embed] Weiner is cringe comedy at its most painful, with so much said in clenched jaws, nervous posture, and sad eyes. What's most fascinating is how, at least for me, the initial schedenfreude turned into empathy. I felt bad for Weiner, sure, but more so for and his wife, Huma Abedin, who suffers the failed campaign mostly in silence. Huma's appearances are brief but momentous. When she occasionally looks at the camera and emotes, I'm reminded of Jim from The Office or Buster Keaton; when the camera catches her in a candid moment, I'm reminded of seeing distressed strangers suffering through some private turmoil on the subway. While watching Weiner, I kept thinking about Marshall Curry's 2005 documentary Street Fight, which covered Cory Booker's run for mayor of Newark. Booker remains a rising star in the Democratic Party (though he seemed to burn brighter as a mayor than he currently does as a US senator), and Street Fight is all about his high-minded, aspirational campaign which was characterized by an inexhaustible surfeit dignity. Weiner, on the other hand, is all about exponentially expanding indignity, both on the part of the candidate and also on the part of a media obsessed with salaciousness, moral outrage, and sanctimony. [embed]220420:42872:0[/embed] The early buzz over Weiner is that the film's release could have an impact on the general election. Huma is a close confidante of Hillary Clinton and currently serves as vice chairwoman of Clinton's presidential campaign. I don't think this will have much sway on the primaries or the big vote in November, but it may help people reflect on what matters in politics. With so much focus on personality and personal lives, the focus on policy gets lost. In other words, Dick Pics > The Middle Class. As we watch Weiner struggle to get his message out on the campaign trail, all anyone can talk about are his personal indiscretions and how they affect perceptions of trustworthiness. Some express moral outrage, and use it as an excuse for the worst kind of bullying. How much of this is rooted in legitimate concern for New York City politics, and how much of it is just a love of political theater? [embed]220420:42871:0[/embed] I developed a strange admiration for Weiner as the documentary progressed. Part of that is how we begin to feel bad for a person when they've been publicly humiliated, but Weiner is also a fighter. When I first heard about him several years back, it was because of his passion as a Congressman when advocating for 9/11 first responders. The first sexual disgrace would come a year later, but that fighting spirit carried on in his comeback/mayoral bid, though he became a total palooka for the public. Even with everything collapsing, he continued into the fray, taking punch after punch after punch, and yet, against all good judgement, he decided to stand and fight rather than fall. Is it odd to admire the punching bag and the punch-drunk? The big question is if Weiner believed he could salvage his comeback or if it was just the weight of expectation and obligation that kept him going. Most likely both. Maybe it was also a kind of public flogging that he secretly agreed with. It's weird to admire that, but people are strange and complicated, and sometimes they run for office. Whether or not I'd vote for them is a different matter entirely.
Weiner documentary photo
Politics (and dick pics) in our time
Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg's Weiner was one of the must-sees at New Directors/New Films earlier this year. The documentary chronicles the inspiring comeback and catastrophic implosion of Anthony Weiner's 2013 bid to be...

New DC logo photo
New DC logo

DC Entertainment unveils bland brand-new comics and film logo


The bullet logo was still the best
May 17
// Hubert Vigilla
DC Comics unveiled a brand new logo to coincide with big Rebirth event this summer, which pretty much looks like a mea culpa for that New 52 stuff from a few years ago. The comic is an 80-page one-shot written by Geoff Johns ...
Tran5formers  photo
Tran5formers

Transformers 5 gets an official title and teaser image


Sadly not Tran5formers or Transformer5
May 17
// Nick Valdez
Because the Transformers films still make more money than the GDP of many small countries put together (and with Age of Extinction holding strong as China's biggest box office opening ever). work on the next film in the franc...
Tetris Trilogy photo
Tetris Trilogy

Tetris is getting a big budget, Chinese trilogy


Form rows in the theater for points
May 17
// Nick Valdez
This year we have four videogame adaptations hitting theaters and there's no sign of stopping anytime soon. The only problem with this is none of these films look particularly gripping with Warcraft, Assassin's Creed, an...

Harley Quinn to get her own movie

May 16 // Matthew Razak
Harley Quinn photo
Gee, Mr. J! My very own movie!
Suicide Squad isn't even out yet, but DC is pretty sure they've got something good with Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn. THR is reporting that Warner Bros. will be launching a stand-alone Harley Quinn movie... or a movie ce...

X-Files photo
X-Files

Fox Exec says everyone will be back for new X-Files season


But do we want to go back?
May 16
// Matthew Razak
I watched X-Files when I was growing up like Malcom McDowll watched propaganda. You couldn't tear my eyes away. I couldn't even finish the season 10 reboot. That's why it's with much trepidation that I'm reporting that&n...
Supergirl photo
Supergirl

Supergirl moves to The CW for its second season


That Flash crossover was too successful
May 14
// Rick Lash
Finally! All of my DC Comics superheroes will be one station. The strain of trying to remember two three digit HD channels was beginning to take its toll. Why just last week I left the supermarket with the wrong kid. When try...
Voltron Trailer photo
Voltron Trailer

Here's a trailer for Netflix's Voltron: Legendary Defender


May 13
// Nick Valdez
Adding to the mass of nostalgia, and to Netflix's ever growing original programming, is Voltron: Legendary Defender. Studios have been trying to figure out what to do with Voltron for years with a movie in mind and a failed N...
Black Panther  photo
Black Panther

Lupita Nyong'o and Michael B. Jordan join Black Panther


May 13
// Nick Valdez
Captain America: Civil War may have technically been Captain America's movie, but the shining stars were definitely Spider-Man and Black Panther. In fact, I'm more excited for Black Panther's solo outing than anything else in...

Review: High-Rise

May 12 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220425:42900:0[/embed] High-RiseDirector: Ben WheatleyRating: RRelease Date: March 18, 2016 (UK); May 13, 2016 (USA)Country: UK Laing (Tom Hiddleston) is a brain surgeon who's taken a flat in a new luxury high rise. In the apartment above there's Charlotte (Sienna Miller), a flirty socialite who makes eyes with the good doctor as he sunbathes nude on his balcony. Building designer Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons) lives in the penthouse, where his wife rides white horses on the rooftop garden and he looks down on his grand social experiment: all the comforts one could need, a hermetic society. And yet the parties and the supermarket and the pool access is never enough to keep people compliant. They isolate themselves, they become tribal. The opening of the film, which looks downright post-apocalyptic, shows how far the high rise life has decayed. Laing scavenges the dumpsite foyer of his building for food, dressed in the tatters of a business suit. He's gone from doctor to concrete pirate. There's no food, but thank goodness for stray dogs. Like the upper-middle-class residents of the skyscraper, I'm not sure director Ben Wheatley and writer Amy Jump get what they want out of High-Rise; the same may go for the audience. Adapted from the J.G. Ballard novel of the same name, it's a sordid and decadent movie about people going native in their own crowded living quarters, but it's even looser and sloppier than that. As society crumbles, the narrative structure of the film breaks down as well. The last half of the movie eschews traditional narrative and tells the rest of the building's decay in a series of loud vignettes and montages. I can pinpoint the exact moment midway through High-Rise where I lost a lot of my patience. Before a raging bastard of a man named Richard Wilder (Luke Evans) goes on a dominating rampage, he tapes his own voice in a cassette recorder. He repeats "I am Richard Wilder!" On the one hand, I get it (Wild, yes, and you're wilder than others, like this is the wild, okay), but on the other hand I rolled my eyes because I couldn't have not gotten it already (yeah, Dick wilder, I noticed). The scene that follows it is ugly and uncomfortable; obviously by design, and yet. High-Rise isn't bad so much as it's convoluted in its execution and maybe wishy-washy with its cultural critique. There's something Gilliam-esque about some of the scenes. The aristocratic party in 18th century garb is a nice bit of upper class affectation, and ditto the block party out in the hall. Similarly, the growing squalor of the building looks like something out of Brazil combined with a third-world landfill. The lights flicker out periodically, and nothing quite works the way it should in this place, and yet one carries on. Laing is no Sam Lowry from Brazil, however. Like some of the characters in High-Rise, Laing is passive and content to sit back as the world around him devolves and crumbles, which sort of squanders Hiddleston's natural charisma. He exists as a metaphor, a symbol, not a person. Meanwhile, others act or are acted upon; most of them also metaphors or symbols rather than people. It's the difference between facades and actual domiciles. There's a clinical lens about High-Rise, which makes sense since the breakdown is about observing the devaluation of others. It's like watching a crowded cage full of rats who are bound, at some point, to destroy each other just given the crowding and the lack of resources. And yet it's not quite like that since our ability to observe this cannibalization is interrupted. The sense of cause-and-effect is broken up, it feels like there's something missing. The vignettes that comprise the final half of High-Rise become frustrating since we're rarely offered a chance to explore the emerging tribes of the building. Here are tribal cultures and subcultures organizing themselves inside of a multi-tiered concrete petri dish (e.g., a matriarchal society of women and orphaned children), and we barely get an opportunity to observe their method of survival. MILD SPOILERS ABOUT THE FINAL SCENE The final words of the film don't belong to any of the characters we've spent time with. Instead it's the voice of Margaret Thatcher extolling the virtues of capitalism. Nevermind that there's little in the movie about capitalism per se. Maybe this is Thatcher suggesting capitalism as a solution to the egalitarian nightmare whose failure we just watched? And given our place in time, maybe the state of nature isn't quite as bad as the current state of government-approved inequality. High-Rise is a work of interesting and extreme architecture, but I'm still not sure what to make of its design.
Review: High Rise photo
Going native in a concrete jungle
High-Rise is a bit all over the place, and it's a bit of a mess, but it also seems to be that way by design--a sort of warped architecture. I'd gone in sort of expecting a vertical version of Bong Joon-Ho's Snowpiercer, but i...

Review: The Lobster

May 12 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219844:42633:0[/embed] The LobsterDirector: Yorgos LanthimosRating: n/aRelease Date: October 16, 2015 (UK); May 13, 2016 (USA)Country: UK, Greece, France  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 (so is loneliness)
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 ...

Assassin's Creed Trailer photo
Assassin's Creed Trailer

First Assassin's Creed trailer parkours into my heart


With arms wide open
May 12
// Nick Valdez
I guess Jimmy Kimmel Live is the place to go for trailer premieres since the first trailer for Assassin's Creed hit last night. Regardless, I've been interested in this for a while. Based on Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed videoga...

Captain America: Civil War - #TeamIronMan v #TeamCap and Obama-era foreign intervention

May 11 // Hubert Vigilla
Both Iron Man and Captain America's sides are justified in-character by their experiences over the course of 12 other films. It might speak to the strength of long-form stories allowing characters to develop through choices and actions over time, and to then have a major interpersonal conflict stem from the ideological differences between characters. Given the collateral damage and technology-run-amok in Avengers: Age of Ultron, it makes sense for Tony Stark to consider international approval. It would keep his own ideas in check (i.e., creating something like Ultron) if there had to be political consensus before moving forward, and that consensus could then justify direct action and mitigate any personal guilt over the deaths of innocent people. This makes more sense than Tony Stark going full neoconservative fascist douchebag as he did in the Civil War comic by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven. HYDRA's decades-long infiltration of the US government and SHIELD in Captain America: The Winter Soldier leads to Steve Rogers' distrust of oversight, which may involve parties with motives and interests outside of the greater good. On top of that, we're talking about the United Nations as the overseeing body, an organization which stood idly by during the Rwandan genocide and whose actions these days include strongly worded letters of condemnation. Could you imagine the Avengers assembled to draft a letter? In a way, Tony's trust in his own judgment backfiring so badly led him to the security of the Sakovia Accords. On the other side, the complete failure of those in power to stop HYDRA led Steve away from the compromise and institutional oversight of the Sakovia Accords. There's also a generational conflict that tempers the Iron Man and Captain America worldviews. Tony Stark has grown up in the era after Vietnam with a certain gray or cynical view of military conflict. This is not a doveish view on Tony's part, however, but maybe one that adds ambivalence to the view of intervention and combat. Captain America, on the other hand, is a product of the greatest generation who could align in a black-and-white good-vs-evil battle against the Axis powers, HYDRA (i.e., science Nazis), and fascism. Of course, Cap doesn't really talk much about Dresden or the atomic bomb--that would complicate the moral arithmetic of utilitarianism. Civil War doesn't talk about the possibility of non-intervention and the use of diplomacy, but that sort of discussion would be silly in the context of superhero films. The Avengers fight massive hordes of faceless alien/robot/science Nazi goons hellbent on eradicating humanity. When that's the situation, the only viable option in the particular story being told is some sort of large-scale action set piece. (You don't bring a strongly worded letter to a gun fight.) It's maybe no surprise that in Alan Moore's Watchmen, the grand solution to fixing a world at war involves something extraterrestrial. Real life situations are far more complicated and can't be treated with the cavalier sense of moral righteousness seen in superhero movies. The foreign interventions of the Obama administration show how even careful deliberation or a humanitarian goal can backfire. Drone strikes are meant to eliminate select terror targets and reduce civilian deaths, but innocent men, women, and children have been murdered by American drones (see National Bird). The moral righteousness of Captain America's stance does nothing to mitigate the heartbreak and tragedy (and potential war crimes charges) of airstrikes against Doctors Without Border hospitals in Afghanistan or Yemen; Presidential apologies are of little consolation either. With regard to the Syrian Civil War, the complexities of the various factions involved, interfactional alliances, allegiances to various outside parties/countries, and a host of other factors have meant little direct or immediate action by the United States, which is still trying to figure out the quagmire it caused in Iraq under Bush; ditto the ISIS-led power vacuum the US created when Obama, under the counsel of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, used airstrikes along with French, British, and other NATO forces to assist Libyan rebels in the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi. All superhero movies often have something inherently hawkish and/or libertarian about them, sometimes occupying various ideologies at once. Some may have a more activist streak (many are vigilante stories, after all), while others are more authoritarian (many are world police stories, after all), and these Avengers movies tend to be all about the positive things that the Earth's mightiest heroes can do even when they accidentally kill innocent people. As our own Jackson Tyler pointed out last year, The Avengers is all about American exceptionalism, unable to commit to a full critique of its own ideological foundation. They're power fantasies, after all, and like fairy tales or myths or any fantastical stories that are told, maybe there are certain limitations in what can be addressed. These are simplifications of conflicts, and rarely with a one-to-one conversion regarding its real world referents. Superheroes can do a lot when it comes to embodying certain aspirations, ideals, and anxieties, but there isn't much room in a tentpole blockbuster to address the complications and nuances of real world national and international politics. The closest Captain America: Civil War can get to nuance is its ambivalence about the #TeamIronMan v #TeamCap argument. It comes down on neither side explicitly, allowing both to exist as the correct solution to a narrow hypothetical situation involving the world of the film. These are still heroes (again, the foundation remains), but one is a sheriff while the other is the gunslinger who turns in his tin star, one is the by-the-book cop while the other is the loose canon who lost his badge. This isn't neocons taking on liberals, it's more like Buzz Lightyear v Woody. Similarly, Captain America: Civil War isn't a diagnosis and treatment of the current state of the world but more of a collection of symptoms. I'm reminded of a two-page Superman story from 1940 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The Man of Tomorrow soars through the air, kidnaps Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, and then brings them both to justice before the League of Nations. All that power, and he rights major wrongs so easily and justly, preventing the deaths of countless millions in the process. If only real world foreign policy were that easy. In retrospect, it's a very sad Superman story.
Civil War and politics photo
Imperfect solutions, true believers
Now that we've all seen Captain America: Civil War, it's about time to open up the #TeamIronMan v #TeamCap debate. On the one hand, you have Iron Man as a guilt-addled pragmatist who feels UN/international oversight is a nece...

Power Rangers, reboots, and you

May 10 // Nick Valdez
We are currently in the midst of a 90s nostalgia boom. Just as the last decade was obsessed with capturing the vibe of the 80s, cocaine and all, the 2010s have seen an increase in 90s pop culture revivals. Because "90s kids" like myself have grown into a subculture with true buying power, cinema is trying its best to cater to that market, So that means stuff you used to love as a kid now has a chance of coming back. I'm sure you've seen some of the fruits of nostalgia lately: a new Powerpuff Girls series, Samurai Jack is returning to Cartoon Network, Hey Arnold is returning to Nickelodeon for a TV movie, Space Jam is finally getting that sequel, Gilmore Girls' new season, Fuller House and Netflix's upcoming slate in general. It has gotten so ridiculous there is even talk of more Star Kid, Cruel Intentions and The Craft. If you saw it on VHS as a kid, there's probably a new version of it in the works.  Given the reboot crazy nature of cinema at the moment, it was only a matter of time before Power Rangers would get the film treatment as well. As a property, it's a film company's dream. Sure it's going to be expensive, but Power Rangers has a rabid (and largely untapped) fanbase, name recognition, and more importantly, there are the toys. Saban has a history of focusing on toys more than everything else given that much of their production is reliant on Toei, the Japanese parent company that owns all of the footage Saban decides to use. From the beginning, any original idea Saban came up with was influenced by toy sales. The original Mighty Morphin ran for as long as it did (combining footage from two different Super Sentai series) because it was still a money-making juggernaut. So for the first few seasons, they kept the suits but changed most everything else.  Completely American additions such as Lord Zedd, the Tenga Warriors, Rito Repulsa, their shark cycles, the few times the Ninja Megazord combined with the first season zord Titanus, their weird sparkle suit power up, and even as far as keeping Jason David Frank on as the Green, and later White, ranger despite the sixth ranger being written out of the series early on were all a result of toys sales. This mentality followed the series through its entirety due to the superhero boom. Power Rangers has always competed with some sort of superhero material, and it has only gotten more egregious thanks to Marvel essentially dominating shelves. Thus Saban and toymaker Bandai are used to changing designs as they see fit in order to compensate. Back when Saban reacquired the Power Rangers license in 2011 and released Power Rangers Samurai, they tacked on original, "mega" armors each episode in order to not seem plain compared to the numerous Avengers toys littering the shelves.   With the toy design first mentality in mind, it is time to discuss the issue at hand. A few days ago, Entertainment Weekly revealed how Saban and Lionsgate's Power Rangers will look and it didn't exactly light the world on fire. The fans seemed divided between "Oh man, this is the mature Power Rangers I've always wanted" and "They're all Iron Man." Unfortunately, everyone is kind of right in this situation. Given the design, the upcoming reboot will most likely be a little darker. Hopefully not so dark as to either scare kids away or fill it with subjects that will fly over their heads, but it is definitely not being made with kids in mind. Given the sultrier design of Rita Repulsa (thus taking the meaning out of her name) and the rangers themselves, and the tone of the images released thus far, I'm not expecting anyone in this movie to say "morphinominal" or indulge in any of the goofiness the series made itself known for.  The "Iron Man" designs are, once again, reflective of Saban and Bandai's toy first outlook. Since the film is wholly an American creation, and since it cannot rely on the popularity of a currently running series like the first movie did, we've gotten designs reflective of it. Although the suits look terrible, expect a line of  light up chest toys or maybe the red, blue, and black rangers in a set in the same aisle as next year's Marvel films. That's also why these rangers, along with some leaked photos of their zords (which I'll post here once there's an official release), look alien and Transformer-esque. Saban is merely reflecting what is popular now, just as they did back when the first movie released. And although these designs are reminiscent of the original movie's suits, they lose what makes the property distinct. As production chases current pop culture and design, it further digs itself into a hole. Power Rangers is trying so hard to stand out among the rest of the toys, it is doing the exact opposite.  If the merchandise does not catch kids' attention, it's pretty much a death sentence. The first film may make enough money to warrant a sequel, due to folks appeasing a curiosity, but without the toy sales and child audience that keeps the TV show afloat the reboot and franchise potential will stagnate. That's why it is so important to keep the light and airy feel of the show intact. If you make the property more "grounded" or "mature" in order to appeal to the rose colored glasses of fans my age, it will lose the goofy stuff which made it fun to reenact at playtime. One of my favorite memories was playing with the morpher and blaster as a kid and pretending I was cool enough to be a "teenager with attitude." It was because everything was so brightly colored, and admittedly stupid, my parents didn't mind that I was actually watching a show with a lot of violence. Blood replaced by sparks, the kung-fu lite fight choreography on guys in suits was deemed "TV-Y7," and the people therein were talented and attractive enough (even Billy the "nerd" was jacked) to draw attention. But that is not the path the reboot is headed in. Instead it is already closing itself off.  At its core, Power Rangers has always been about equal opportunity power and this was reflected at playtime. Although the first American team featured two women in conventionally feminine colors like pink and yellow, it was a response to the lack of women in the Japanese version of the show, Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger. Realizing they wanted more girls to buy their toys, they cast a woman for the male yellow and the footage went on just fine. It was a show breaking ground in more ways than one. Multi cultured teams and a strong foundation of teamwork and gender equality. The first season may be filled with weak plots and PSAs a la Captain Planet, but as they got their footing things improved. As the show evolved over the years, it was also better to its women. Character development improved, they wore more masculine colors, and more toys depicting these women were made. The Japanese design of the suits themselves always were minimalist. The only way to really tell them apart was a skirt sometimes. In the reboot, the suits are definitely not appealing to little girls. The reboot design may take on the tightness of the original spandex (replaced by the alien technology the reboot is pushing), but they're far too detailed. The boob plates and heels are definitely unnerving and little girls are way smarter than that. And since the pink and yellow rangers look so feminine, it's going to mean boys won't want them either. Rather than the collect them all frenzy of the original rangers, boys are only going to want those rangers specifically designed with them in mind. And if boys don't buy the pink and yellow rangers, their toys will be produced less and they will get less development as a whole moving forward. Since this trend has a precedent in the way the TV show has been marketed, it only worries me more so. When Power Rangers Super Megaforce, the "anniversary" series, released, Bandai produced a line of "Legendary Ranger" keys. In the show, these keys were used to transform into any of the heroes from years past and they were definitely a money-making idea. But each set released only featured the red, blue, and black rangers from each team and neglected to include the women. Even their current running series, Dino Charge, has a weird production ratio. For every five red, blue, and black rangers, there are only one or two pink ones. And while that show has been better at capturing that feeling of nostalgia than the reboot likely will be, only two of the series's ten (TEN) Power Rangers are women. Despite the gender swap casting it has done in the past, Saban refuses to do so again because they have dug themselves into such a non-inclusive hole that they only safe way to make money is to double down on what little masculine audience they have left.  The Power Rangers are so dear to me, I really want the reboot to succeed. But seeing Saban make the same mistakes yet again on a larger scale is troublesome. In trying to put its best foot forward among the litany of comic book films and other nostalgia ridden properties, it is merely becoming a carbon copy of those that came before. But instead of doubling down on a troubling methodology, the production should double down on what really helped the original series succeed for as long as it did. After losing the rights to Disney, and only getting them back five years ago, Saban has never quite reached the same levels it used to.  Sure the show had bad writing or bad acting at times, but Power Rangers managed to capture the zeitgeist of living in the 90s. It truly understood what growing up at the time meant. It meant obnoxious colors, obnoxious sayings, and even more obnoxious styles. Part of what dates it also makes it that much more relevant. True nostalgia is all about recapturing the feeling of those halcyon days of youth. We have enough cinema making a statement or delving into gritty themes (just take a look at what are supposed to be the most comic booky films of the year, Captain America: Civil War or Batman v Super: Dawn of Justice), but we don't have enough films where teens just beat up on monsters while making forced puns. I mean, the reboot is so serious it doesn't even carry the Mighty Morphin' moniker.  As it stands, the Power Rangers reboot won't appeal to anyone. Not even adding the original show's theme to a trailer will save it. 
MMPR Reboot photo
Reboots with a negative attitude
I f**king love Power Rangers. When I say love, I mean I've been following the show for twenty-two years. Every awkward season, every bad theme song (Operation Overdrive has a rap, if you were wondering which one was the worst...


Auto-loading more stories ... un momento, corazón ...