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Review: Our Nixon photo
Review: Our Nixon
by Hubert Vigilla

There have been a number of documentaries in recent years that have mostly been comprised of reassembled footage as an exploration of a topic. These are assemblage films in many respects, though I think the official term is "archival" or "all-archival." The filmmakers avoid talking head interviews and instead inhabit a space of existing footage, arranging that footage in order to construct a non-fiction narrative or a kind of essay.

These films -- like Rodney Ascher's Room 237 or Jason Osder's Let the Fire Burn -- are fascinating, but they sometimes feel a little incomplete or insular. The assemblage form can limit or drastically alter the nature of implied conversation in a documentary, which is one of the reasons I like documentaries. I like seeing voices and ideas clash or dovetail, or even history at odds with itself, eventually coming into a recognition with itself.

Penny Lane's Our Nixon may be an assemblage documentary, but it gets around some of those limitations of conversation by picking the right pieces of existing footage to create a wider sense of conversation. It's all anchored to the most unexpected footage: the Super 8 home movies shot by members of the Nixon administration.

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Review: I Declare War photo
Review: I Declare War
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

I wish that director Jason Lapeyre was a child. It would be great if a 13 year old kid had gotten together with some friends, stolen some nice camera equipment and a couple of "How to" books from their rich friend's parents, and then made I Declare War as a school project. If I were their middle school teacher, I would be extremely impressed with what they had been able to come up with. I would probably reprimand the kids for the constant expletives, but I would overlook that in the face of the overall quality of a 13 year old's work. I would give little Jason a high five (do kids still do those? whatever), and send him on his way. 

And then I would give him a B, because as competently made as the film is, the story he wrote makes no goddamn sense.

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Review: You're Next photo
Review: You're Next
by Matthew Razak

It's been a long road for You're Next. The indie horror film has been in development since the earlier 2000s and even once it was finished it took more than a year to find a distributor who would get it out there. Lionsgate eventually stepped in and now the movie is tearing through the festivals gaining an impressive word of mouth.

It deserves it too. This is one of the most creative, original, genre exploring blood baths in a good long while. In a genre that is especially heavy on quick remakes and cheap chash-ins You're Next is a fantastic outlier.

[This review originally ran as part of our South by Southwest 2013 coverage. It has been reposted to coincide with the theatrical release of the film.]

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Review: Drinking Buddies photo
Review: Drinking Buddies
by Geoff Henao

Everybody always has that one platonic friendship where the line is constantly tiptoed upon that could lead to something more. As always, that move can never be made due to outside circumstances, such as a boyfriend or girlfriend. Still, proper restraint and respect should be maintained between all parties to continue at a level of decency.

...until beer gets involved.

[This review originally ran as part of our South by Southwest 2013 coverage. It has been reposted to coincide with the theatrical release of the film.]

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Interview: Drinking Buddies (Cast and Director) photo
Interview: Drinking Buddies (Cast and Director)
by Geoff Henao

On an early afternoon in Austin, TX, I had a chance to sit down with the cast and director of Drinking Buddies, which consisted of Anna Kendrick (End of Watch), Jake Johnson (Safety Not Guaranteed), Ron Livingston (Office Space), and Joe Swanberg (V/H/S). With a face full of movie magic makeup (from an earlier interview, I promise!) and a mind full of questions from the film's Chicago setting to the fact that Anna Kendrick was sitting a few feet away from me (I'm a professional, I promise!), we dove head first into one of my favorite interviews.

Read on as we discuss all things Drinking Buddies. Caution: There are spoilers and jokes that don't sound funny reading them.

[This interview originally ran as part of our South by Southwest 2013 coverage. It has been reposted to coincide with the theatrical release of the film.]

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10:00 AM on 08.19.2013

Flix for (Not So) Short: Clapping for the Wrong Reasons

Last month, Donald Glover (Community) released a mysterious trailer without context for a project called Clapping for the Wrong Reasons. Last week, it was revealed that the project was a short film written by Glover and dire...

Geoff Henao

9:00 AM on 08.09.2013

First trailer for Spike Jonze's Her w/ Joaquin Phoenix

UPDATED: Her will have its world premiere at this year's New York Film Festival. It has been selected as the closing night film.  Here's the first trailer for Her, the long-awaited new film from Spike Jonze. The movie s...

Hubert Vigilla

Interview: Paul Rudd (Prince Avalanche) photo
Interview: Paul Rudd (Prince Avalanche)
by Matthew Razak

Prince Avalanche was one of my favorite films of SXSW and it was in large part thanks to the fantastic performances given by Emile Hirsch and Paul Rudd. It was only after the screening that I remembered it was directed by David Gordon Green and understood how it so deftly combined comedy and drama in a film that couldn't be classified as either. Getting to sit down with them to discuss it was a great opportunity.

After collecting ourselves in the hotel's Coat Room (that's what the room was called) and realizing that it was going to remain frigid thanks to an overactive air conditioner we got to chatting about making the film and shooting in a part of Texas that had been totally devastated by recent forest fires and drought. 

[This interview was originally posted as part of our coverage of SXSW 2013. It has been reposted to coincide with the theatrical release Prince Avalanche.]

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3:00 PM on 08.01.2013

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty gets first tease

This looks rather brilliantly bonkers. Ben Stiller's directorial debut is a remake of the 1947 film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which in turn is based upon the short story by James Thurber. The story blends the real wor...

Nathan Hardisty

11:00 AM on 08.01.2013

Trailer: The Pervert's Guide to Ideology w/ Slavoj Zizek

I really enjoyed the free-wheeling philosophical monologue that was The Pervert's Guide to Ideology with Slavoj Žižek. Directed by Sophie Fiennes's, the film was the sequel to her previous collaboration with Žižek, The Perve...

Hubert Vigilla

Fantasia Review: Ritual: A Psychomagic Story photo
Fantasia Review: Ritual: A Psychomagic Story
by Hubert Vigilla

Alejandro Jodorowsky is one of my favorite filmmakers. A sure cult figure, there's an undeniable pull to El Topo, Santa Sangre, or even the excessively indulgent secret masterpiece The Holy Mountain. What really pulls me into those films are the images that are wholly unique and Jodorowsky's dedication to the transformative power of art and symbols.

As a Jodorowsky fanboy, I was really interested in Ritual: A Psychomagic Story. (He has a very brief cameo in the film.) Psychomagic is a form of psychotherapy that Jodorowsky developed in order to treat neuroses. Think Freud and Jung, but now imagine if they became surrealists and performance artists. This is part of what Ritual is about, and it's actually more compelling than the rest of what Ritual is about.

[For the next few weeks, we will be covering the 2013 Fantasia International Film Festival. Started in 1996 and based primarily in Montreal, Fantasia is widely regarded as one of the best genre film festivals in North America. To read all of our coverage, click here.]

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Japan Cuts Review: I'M FLASH! photo
Japan Cuts Review: I'M FLASH!
by Hubert Vigilla

At last year's New York Asian Film Festival and Japan Cuts, I saw two films by Japanese director Toshiaki Toyoda: Monsters Club and 9 Souls. I enjoyed both, and I actually wound up liking Monsters Club more after seeing 9 Souls. Thanks to the latter, I got a sense of how Toyoda played with themes of alienation, isolation, and how people fit into larger groups, whether they be surrogate families or society as a whole.

With I'M FLASH!, Toyoda revisits these themes. While 9 Souls was a prison break movie and Monsters Club was a riff on The Unabomber, I'M FLASH explores modern isolation/alienation through religious cults. Yet the lost soul of the movie isn't a cult follower. Instead, it's the head of the cult itself.

[For the next few weeks, we will be covering the 2013 New York Asian Film Festival and the 2013 Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF 2013 coverage, click here. For Japan Cuts 2013 coverage, click here.]

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8:00 AM on 07.23.2013

Spike Lee turns to Kickstarter to fund vague film thing

Spike Lee's remake of Oldboy will be out later in the year, and he's already got his sights set on his next project. Rather than looking for traditional backing, Lee is the latest established filmmaker (and highest-profile fi...

Hubert Vigilla

Review: Coffee Town photo
Review: Coffee Town
by Geoff Henao

CollegeHumor has been one of the premiere comedy websites since practically the internet got super popular. Before YouTube, before Twitter, before Facebook, before MySpace, there was CollegeHumor providing some of the best comedic content during the initial internet boom. Almost 15 years after CollegeHumor launched, they've thrown their hat into the film industry with Coffee Town. However, with standards and practices dictating what can and can't be shown in a feature film, will CollegeHumor's brand of comedy translate well into this new frontier?

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Review: Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me photo
Review: Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me
by Hubert Vigilla

During junior high and high school, I was a big fan of Matthew Sweet, whose music I still dig today. When I hear songs from Girlfriend, Altered Beast, and 100% Fun, they bring me back to that age and those awkward adolescent feelings. Like a lot of power pop, the music is bright despite the pain in the lyrics; it's as if the adult musician is patting his teenage self on the back, letting him know that things will be okay even if it's a right bummer now.

Matthew Sweet was my gateway into two influential '70s bands that I'd love when I got to college. First there was Television, the quintessential NYC protopunk band. (Television guitarist Richard Lloyd played lead on many Matthew Sweet songs.) Second was Big Star, the cult Memphis band who helped shape power pop.

Sweet appears briefly in the documentary Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me. He praises the beauty of Big Star's music along with Mike Mills of R.E.M., Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo, and Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip. Nothing Can Hurt Me is a great tribute to the band, and it sort of answers the question that fans of Big Star usually ask: Why weren't these guys huge?

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9:00 AM on 06.26.2013

Trailer: Willow Creek

I've enjoyed the three films directed by Bobcat Goldthwait that I've seen -- World's Greatest Dad, God Bless America, and Shakes the Clown. One day I'll get to his movie about bestiality, Sleeping Dogs Lie, which will n...

Hubert Vigilla

Review: Bert and Arnie's Guide to Friendship photo
Review: Bert and Arnie's Guide to Friendship
by Hubert Vigilla

Sometimes when watching a movie I inexplicably zero in on one aspect of production and it paints my perception of the entire film. With Bert and Arnie's Guide to Friendship, it was the score/incidental music. The music sounds like something picked out of a music library -- not great and yet not innocuous enough, the sort of music that's calls too much attention to itself by (ironically) trying to sound incidental.

The film is a mix of bromance and rom-com, but it feels more like two sitcom pilots grafted together. One sitcom is an office comedy, and the other sitcom is about a deluded writer. There are women between these two stories that join them together, and a kind of "boys will be boys" mentality as well, but mostly what merges these threads is that chintzy music.

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BFF Review: Furever photo
BFF Review: Furever
by Hubert Vigilla

The dog on the left is dead.

The owner had the dog professionally stuffed in order to cope with the loss. The dog on the right (alive) shares in my initial reaction to this scene from the documentary Furever: detached yet ruminative, struck with sympathy but mostly just perplexed.

The fact I'm reading my own feelings into the living dog may suggest how we relate to our pets or other people's pet. We anthropomorphize them, we treat them like humans, we assume we're like them and vice versa. That may explain why some would go to such extremes when dealing with the death of a pet. That's the central focus in Amy Finkel's film: our grief and how we deal with it.

[For the next two weeks, we will be covering the 2013 Brooklyn Film Festival, which runs from May 31st to June 9th. Check back with us for reviews of features, documentaries, and shorts playing at the fest. For more information and a full schedule, visit brooklynfilmfestival.org.]

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Review: Violet & Daisy photo
Review: Violet & Daisy
by Hubert Vigilla

There was a point in the mid-to-late 1990s when a bunch of lesser filmmakers tried to make movies like Quentin Tarantino. It was the style of Tarantino -- the pop-culture savvy, the soul music, the violence, the coolness, the ironic detachment -- without any of the understanding of what Tarantino was actually doing. I liken it to kids putting on glasses and thinking they're clever just because of the stupid glasses.

Violet & Daisy fits right into that Tarantino-wannabe milieu, though it also borrows a lot from The Professional and those early, energetic films of Robert Rodriguez. It's 14 years late to the 90s, however, which makes the entire movie especially inept. Violet & Daisy is one of those special films that annoyed me to no end because it thinks it's so clever and seems to pat itself on the back the entire time. An unlikable smugness just plain pervades the entire film.

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Interview: Steve Schneider & Carpentieri (Hey Bartender) photo
Interview: Steve Schneider & Carpentieri (Hey Bartender)
by Hubert Vigilla

Douglas Tirola's documentary Hey Bartender looks at the rise of the craft cocktail and the role of the bartender in society. Two of the bartenders at the center of the film are Steve Schneider and Stephen Carpentieri. Even though they share the same vocation, in some ways the two Steves are from different worlds. Schneider is a young former Marine who now works for Employees Only in NYC, one of the premier cocktail bars in the world. Carpentieri is a middle-aged guy who runs Dunville's, a casual restaurant and bar up in Westport, CT. And yet there's a kind of brotherhood of bartenders -- via the mentors and teachers in the profession -- that brings these two together.

A few journalists and I sat down at the Andaz 5th Ave. with both Carpentieri and Schneider to talk bartending and cocktails. Schneider, who's something of a rock star bartender, was wrapping something up inside, so we started talking with Carpentieri about fresh ingredients and his trade. Look for our review of Hey Bartender tomorrow.

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12:00 PM on 05.31.2013

Steven Soderbergh to rework/recut his film Kafka

I haven't seen Steven Soderbergh's Kafka (1991) in at least 15 years. I was in high school at the time and had just started reading Franz Kafka (like any lit geek of that age), and was intrigued by that Kafka movie on VH...

Hubert Vigilla

BFF Review: Hank and Asha photo
BFF Review: Hank and Asha
by Hubert Vigilla

The perfect love affair is one which is conducted entirely by post.

-- George Bernard Shaw

Epistolary stories are fascinating to me given what's in the collected correspondence and what's left out. As letters go back and forth, as thoughts and passions are exchanged, we know there's life outside the writing of the letters. I usually wonder how much of that life is disclosed inadvertently by the letter writers in their choice of words.

Hank and Asha provides a novel approach to the epistolary story. Rather than letters or emails, the film is told through videos sent between two would-be lovers -- Asha (Mahira Kakkar) in Prague and Hank (Andrew Pastides) in New York. There's so much about reality and idealization bubbling in this film that hits the right spots in my head, but what really captivated me was the film's honesty. There's a genuine heart beating in this film, and also a genuine loneliness.

[For the next two weeks, we will be covering the 2013 Brooklyn Film Festival, which runs from May 31st to June 9th. Check back with us for reviews of features, documentaries, and shorts playing at the fest. For more information and a full schedule, visit brooklynfilmfestival.org.]

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