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BoJack Horseman returns September 8th


What are you doing here?
Jul 10
// Drew Stuart
The last season of BoJack Horseman was by far the best yet. Each season has been good, but BoJack is the kind of show that only gets better as its concepts are explored further, and Season 3 was quite an achievement for this ...
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What it will take to get Christopher Nolan to direct Bond?


Evidently not the 500 letters I've sent
Jul 10
// Matthew Razak
Rumors and rumblings of Christopher Nolan directing a Bond film have been flying around forever. The director has openly spoken about his love for the character and the producers have openly said he'd be a great fit. If Sam M...
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I got your OATS Shorts right here


Get 'em while they're still weird
Jul 09
// Anthony Marzano
I have to admit when Neill Blomkamp said he was going to be releasing a bunch of new short films for free through both Steam and YouTube I was skeptical about the quality of them or how much I would enjoy them. This is not to...
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How big is the dump truck full of money?
After Spectre came out Daniel Craig was not too kind to the chances of him ever playing Bond again. The role is an incredible amount of pressure and the shooting is often stressful so he had some choice words about retur...

Review: Castlevania (Season1)

Jul 08 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221685:43647:0[/embed] Castlevania (Season 1)Director: Sam DeatsRating: NRRelease Date: July 7th, 2017 (Netflix) When the religious town of Wallachia burns Dracula's (Graham McTavish) wife at the stake, he promises to return after a year with an army from hell and smite all of them. Jumping a year ahead we meet Trevor Belmont (Richard Armitage), the last remnant of a monster hunting family. Trevor's pretty much sick of the entire thing. He's lost faith in people after his family was betrayed, and couldn't care less about the monster attacks. But when he's inadvertently thrown into the action by a secret society of magicians, Trevor finds himself in a bigger battle than he ever could've imagined.  Castlevania's first season is less a television show and more like one of those direct to home video animated films you'd expect to see from the likes of DC Comics or Marvel Studios. Usually I'm not one to complain about the length of a series in reviews, but the four twenty-something minute episodes (nice) essentially act as a lengthy pilot for the actual series. This is fine in concept, but it also cripples these first episodes. It makes sense for Netflix's distribution style, which argues that each show should be binged, but it's not like each episode stands on its own. Rather than episodes having a clear cut beginning, middle, and end, there's only enough time for the general arc of the "season" to carry any weight. It's no help to the series either that the entire plot is predictable (even complete with a big boss fight at the end). There's definitely a feeling here that this season would've been better served without being chopped up into parts.  But even without much to invest in from episode to episode, the other benefit of being a two hour pilot means it's brisk and light. This lightness allows the characters to bask in Castlevania's pulpy vibe, but it's definitely hard to take anything seriously yet. For example, Trevor is a fine main character. He's the standard too cool for school protagonist, and Ellis clearly had a fun time writing for him, but the most intriguing stuff is still a ways away. I'm more interested in what eventually brought Trevor to his low point at the start of the series, and that drama won't be evolved further until the next season, if at all. As a result, he feels thin. There's just simply not enough time to take him further than grizzled warrior archetypes. While he's definitely fun to watch now, it's completely forgettable without anything really juicy to latch onto.  Castlevania's animation isn't great, and is particularly janky when characters are talking to one another, but is ultimately serviceable. There's a nice flow to the action scenes even as the backgrounds tend to fade into oblivion during them. The fights themselves seem particularly anime influenced as one fight toward the end of the season is accompanied by too familiar sword swooshes (the technical term, yes) and angles reminiscent of other shows. Trevor's character design is unfortunately the only one with any kind of personality, but it's not saved by the overall flatness of the art as a whole. But, once again, since this is only a pilot, I'm sure there's room for betterment in the future.  Given how short of a season Netflix's Castlevania is, chances are you've seen it by the time you read this review. If you haven't, however, it's a very easy show to recommend...for now. I wouldn't exactly say it's for everyone since those who don't like the Castlevania games won't get anything of note out of this, but like Shankar's bootleg productions, it's a series made by a fan for other fans.  With that in mind, I do worry this series cannot hold up with a longer structure. This first season is a good watch mainly because it's over before any of its faults truly make a dent. Just as how Shankar's Bootleg Universe shorts seem great as five minute pieces, the minute you really stop to think about the ideas therein ruins the experience. 
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That's four! Four episodes! Ha-ha-ha!
Adi Shankar is quite a cult hit in film circles. He's made a name for himself by fully investing into properties he loves. It's a nerdy demeanor that's absolutely infectious as its led to his famous "Bootleg Universe," in whi...

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Netflix's Castlevania series renewed for season 2


A lot of viewers this morning, I guess
Jul 07
// Matthew Razak
We're pretty used to movies getting sequels before they're even released (hell, some get them before they even begin shooting), but television has been slower to pick up on the trend. Probably because they want to avoid awkwa...
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First trailer for Kidnap has Halle Berry yelling a lot


Like Taken with a mini-van
Jul 07
// Matthew Razak
I'm not quite sure what Kidnap is going for here. I mean, I guess I know what they're going for. They want to make a revenge thriller for a low-budget that catches on like Taken did, but I'm not really sure they kno...
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Blade Runner experience will transform San Diego into 2049 Los Angeles


Beware the Voight-Kampff VR
Jul 07
// Anthony Marzano
First Los Angeles takes the Chargers from San Diego, now through the help of the new movie Blade Runner 2049, Los Angeles will actually annex a portion of San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter and transport it into the future. Alright so it won't actually but through the magic of VR and free swag it will certainly feel that way.
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Fan film Max Payne Retribution is a love letter to the original game


No Payne, No gain.
Jul 06
// Anthony Marzano
It's been 16 years since Remedy came out with its bullet-time introducing pulp-noir shooter Max Payne and since then the game has turned into a cult-classic, spawning two sequels. The games always wore their noir cinematic...
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Robert Downey Jr. might be done with MCU after 'Infinity War'


No, wait, for real this time, though
Jul 05
// Matt Liparota
Robert Downey Jr. is arguably the face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe - if not, he's definitely one of the major faces of the ever-expanding world. His initial turn as Tony Stark in 2008's Iron Man is what launched the mega...

Four patriotic movies to watch on the Fourth of July

Jul 04 // Anthony Marzano
An Election Day Carol It is the night of the 1960 Presidential Election and Richard Milhouse Nixon's defeat is all but assured to the middle aged Vice-President. Following a quick but passionate concession speech, Mr. Nixon considers if it is even worth trying to remain in politics after losing to such a young opponent. Pledging to sleep on it to his wife, he retires to bed in the hopes that sleep will indeed help. As he sleeps Mr. Nixon is visited by three spirits, the spirit of America's past, present, and future. Nixon sees himself as a young man defending freedom during World War II and remembers the swelling pride he felt just to be American. In the present he sees a family, a husband and wife. One a Nixon voter, the other a Kennedy voter. They are not angry or yelling at each other, instead they see that the other only has the best of intentions for their nation and respect the differences of their spouse. In the future, he sees nothing but death as Kennedy is assassinated and Lyndon Johnson takes office. Johnson then destroys what little diplomacy America has with Communist China causing them to ally with the Soviets, ushering in a quick and irradiated death for all of America's innocent civilians. Pleading with the Spirit of America's Future he asks, "How could I avert this horror?" The answer? Running for President again in 1968. With a steady resolve and a tear inducing monologue on the importance of freedom, Richard Nixon steps forward to realize his destiny and save America's future. Julyhogday It's another 4th of July in Independence, Missouri and local TV meteorologist Golden Showers is forced to cover his 10th Independence Day Parade. From the local high school marching band playing the same three patriotic songs from the past 10 years all the way down to the crackling and snapping of sparklers, Showers has had enough of this celebration.To make matters worse, it's 90 degrees with a heat index of 110. Because of the combination of the heat and frustration, Showers melts down on live TV and wonders why we even celebrate the holiday any more. After drinking himself into a stupor that night, Showers falls asleep on his floor, only to wake up to it being the 4th of July again. After being forced to relive the day, including his meltdown, again and again, Showers begins to see the true meaning of Independence Day. It's not just about the freedom of a nation, but the unity of its people and how it's a day to celebrate and enjoy the company of your neighbor. After giving a rousing speech about how it's the best holiday in the history of mankind, Showers goes to sleep and wakes up an old man because you can't just cheat time and expect it not to catch up to you. Come on, there are rules. We may be free from the King, but our fourth dimensional overlords demand we follow the path they have set out for us. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Guantanamo Harry Potter, after accidentally killing an interrogation subject while working as an Auror for the Ministry of Magic, is assigned to the MACUSA in July 2001. His first few months are calm but following the 9/11 attacks, Harry is suspicious of wizard involvement because of the fact that jet fuel can't melt steel beams. Suspecting that a rogue cell of death eaters were involved as part of a retaliation for the Second Wizarding War, Harry goes to Guantanamo Prison to interrogate a wizard picked up during the American invasion of Afghanistan. Upon first seeing the detained wizard, Harry's scar flares with pain once again, a feeling he hasn't felt since the final battle of the Second Wizarding War. Things get messy during the interrogation when Harry's methods of information extraction go too far and he again kills the Wizard leaving him with only a few clues to go off of. Traveling across the globe Harry must uncover the rogue wizard web and stop them before another magical attack is perpetrated on muggles not only killing innocent muggles, but also revealing the magical world that has secretly surrounded them as well. With heart pumping action and an edge of your seat final 20 minutes, this movie is a great magical terrorism thrill ride.  Continental Taking place in the hours leading up to three of George Washington's attendances to the continental congresses, this Aaron Sorkin written drama is as American as it gets. While not actually showing any of what was said at the congresses, you can feel the patriotism and national pride oozing off the screen thanks to Sorkin's expertly crafted dialogue between Washington and his cohorts. The most impressive part? The 30 minute monologue where Washington speaks to his almost silent entourage that is escorting him from New York to Washington to return his commissioning papers to congress following the Revolutionary War. While not as technically impressive, the first continental congress segment is great to not only hear the fear that was palpable among the congressmen, but also to see the courage and resolve that Washington put forth to push forward with what seemed to be an impossible task of rebelling against the king. It's also cool to see many modern actors playing somewhat bit roles as one of the many delegates that Washington talked to before the congress. Pound for pound though you can't get more patriotic than when Washington was preparing to walk into the second congress fully dressed in a military uniform and ready to lead the troops. I personally loved the little nod to Boogie Nights where George Washington is standing in front of the mirror with his penis out repeating "I'm an American, I'm an American, I'm an American" before the scene ends. Pure Patriotic American bliss. And there you have it, the four movies you absolutely must watch today or report to the education stations to be injected with your communism inoculation. Why not leave your favorite patriotic movie in the comments below?
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I declare independence from my pants
The most patriotic of our major American holidays is upon us and for many that means barbeques, a day off from work, and fireworks. But me? Barbeques aren't the same for me since I don't eat meat, I work today because freed...

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Dragonball: Evolution is one of the best-worst movies ever


A True Disasterpiece.
Jul 02
// Drew Stuart
It’s no secret that faithfully adapting any kind of property is a tall order. Adaption often results in an atrocious product, born from disinterested creators and corporate interests looking to make some quick bank. How...
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True Detective season 3 may have Mahershala Ali in the lead role


I'll report this news again, and again
Jul 01
// Anthony Marzano
Casting news was recently confirmed for the still not ordered third season of True Detective by Variety magazine, and it's pretty great if I do say so myself. Working off of a rumor first broken by The Tracking Board, Variety...
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20th Century Fox has six Marvel movies planned for the next four years


Dazzle me baby
Jul 01
// Anthony Marzano
In a press release, it was revealed that 20th Century Fox who owns the Fantastic Four and all X-Men movie rights has six Marvel movies planned for release through 2021. Although none were named specifically a few can be surmi...
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In time for the 4th of July: Top Gun: Maverick


Mur'ca
Jun 30
// Rick Lash
TC, that's Tom Cruise, says it'll be called Top Gun: Maverick. Aka, him, aka TC. Don't matter that TC's producers say it's just Top Gun 2, but no matter, with the strength of Xenu behind him, it shall go as he has forsworn! I...

Review: The Little Hours

Jun 30 // Rick Lash
[embed]221667:43644:0[/embed] The Little HoursDirectors: Jeff BaenaRelease Date: June 30th, 2017Rated: R There's not a ton for me to say about The Little Hours. As usual, good does accompany the bad, but here they don't add up to the sum of all parts. The cast does what they can when they can, but the script is terrible. I'm not sure how most of the powerhouse cast was convinced to do this movie, especially given director Jeff Baena's limited experience. I feel like he pitched them the same synopsis that we got, only ever shared limited parts of the script with the various cast, and kept them in the dark enough that they didn't catch on to exactly what they were shooting. The attempts at humor are there. The opening scene between Nick Offerman as a lord, his wife, and their servant, Dave Franco, is gold and seems to promise much. Offerman, in particular delivers a wonderful turn as an uber-dry medieval lord much beguiled by brutal descriptions of violence and by actual torture (it turns out). He's simply put, perfect for the role. After that, this masquerade of a medieval-set, modern comedy gives way to what is at times an incredibly vested portrayal of medieval nunnery in all authenticity possible. The detail that went in to many of the scenes is incredible. But then, this seriousness is chiseled down to a mere mockery of what it portrayed by the expected outburst of Aubrey Day emblazoned "Fuck yous!" There is horniness, a nunnery, substance abuse and a form of wicked revelry, but not like you'd expect, and it likely won't make you laugh--it certainly didn't make me break a smile. There's very serious, and embraced threeway rape scene where Sister Fernanda (Plaza) has a knife to Masseto's (Franco) throat for the duration, although, granted, he does seem to come to enjoy the moment. There are witches, and people shouting about witches, but it's not funny either. Yet, when they deal with witchcraft in the serious fashion it would have been dealt with (across medieval Europe, hundreds, if not thousands of people were killed as witches), they sort of make a joke of it, but don't. Yet it's definitely not done in full jest. The script doesn't pick either direction, and as such, suffers the worse for it. Which is sad: the cinematography is beautiful--there's real talent behind the lens from a visual standpoint. The team assembled a talented and capable cast. The historical accuracy, at times, is laudable. But it's all wasted due to a lack of identity and understanding of that identity--and a true comedic script. Or not--pick one, and embrace it. You can't have it pretend to be both from time to time. My best guess is that someone had an idea for a film that seemed like it could be fairly funny given a proper script and the right acting panache. They actually got the panache, but don't seem to have had the talent to deliver the necessary script. Halfway through, I was waiting for it to end.    
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I lost two of them.
You're probably as optimistic about The Little Hours as I was; hey, that's why you're here, waiting for me to tell you all about it. You saw the all-star comedic cast: it includes Aubrey Plaza, Alison Brie, Dave Franco, John ...

Review: Despicable Me 3

Jun 30 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221638:43623:0[/embed] Despicable Me 3Directors: Eric Guillon, Kyle Balda, and Pierre CoffinRelease Date: June 30th, 2017Rated: PG After failing to capture former child star turned supervillain Balthasar Bratt (Trey Parker), Gru (Steve Carell) loses his job at the Anti-Villain League. While he's trying to figure out what to do with his life next, his long lost twin brother Dru (Steve Carell) contacts him and tells him about their family's villainous legacy. Now Gru has to decide whether or not to please his minions and commit crimes or do what's best for his family. Also his family is there doing a thing each because that's all there's time for this go around, and the minions are farting around in a prison or something. You can basically take the old "long-lost relative" TV trope and copy/paste its plot here and you'll get the gist.  When a TV show resorts to a long-lost relative plot featuring some guest star, it usually means the show is out of organic ideas and has to force in another entity in order to breathe any kind of life into its husk. It's like continuing impassioned CPR when the person you're trying to save is already gone. Every movement you make is futile, and you're only doing damage to their body. Sitting through Despicable Me 3 parallels this hopelessness all too well. It's made worse by the film's constant allusions to comedies of cinema past. At one point, the Minions are driving underwater and speed past two clownfish that look like Finding Nemo's Marlin and Nemo, only pouring salt into the wound. It was a grim reminder that I could've seen something else, and knowing I still had another 80 minutes to go only exacerbated my apathy.  But so what if I slowly fell asleep, what about the kids? Didn't they enjoy the funny funnies? Well, they did not. I not only noticed a huge group of kids shuffling around in their seats during the super potent Minion rendition of "I Am the Very Modern Major General" from the very timely referenced 1800s opera The Pirates of Penzance, but also saw how they failed to react when the Minions went to prison. But alas, we were all trapped in Despicable Me 3's prison together. At least the kids were still treated as human beings and got brief reprieves from this comedic wasteland every time a Minion made a fart or said boobs or something. I have to admit, even I laughed when the Minions ended up being super successful in prison and acted like some gang from a 50s musical. But was that a laugh out of pure necessity? Did I force myself to react in order to re-affirm my humanity? Then soon, I realized I made myself sick drinking so much out of this small oasis of humor in my perilously dry journey.  One has to wonder how much this cast is getting paid for keeping this farce going. Trey Parker is slightly entertaining as he portrays yet another manchild, but he's clearly just cashing a check here. Steve Carell, bless him, is the one gleaming hope in this dark world and gets the space to emotionally play around with Grudru once the Minions and the family are out of the picture. Seriously, I think Gru interacts with his family, like, twice? It's very odd considering where the series began. As for the rest of the family, the girls are all still cute as ever but they're not given anything meaty to do. Stuck repeating past catchphrases and forever glued to the same age they were seven years ago. Wait, it's only been seven years and we've gotten four of these movies? And Minions 2 is coming out soon also?  I...I just can't do this anymore.  Look, if you're reading this review you're not going to give a shit about what I write here and go see this anyway because you think the Minions are cute. It's fine, I get it. The Minions are oversaturated on the Internet, playing parts in memes with everything from how bad Mondays are to abortion. With how prevalent they've become, it's impossible to not buy into them at this point. So honestly, does it really matter how I end this? I put more thought here than anything Despicable Me 3 had to offer me, so I'll just leave you with one of my favorite quotes in the film.  *fart noise* 
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Kill m3
Despicable Me was a revelation when it first hit theaters. A villain choosing fatherhood over his proclivity for evil deeds was a novel idea, and it was much more than the minion flavored marketing would have you believe. The...

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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 ...
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'Ricky and Morty' Season 3 drops July 30th, new trailer out


Wubba Lubba Dub Dub!
Jun 30
// Drew Stuart
Let's wind the clock back for just a moment. It's 2015. You're watching the Season 2 finale of Rick and Morty. There's a big cliffhanger that sets up the next season, and all of the sudden, you're face to face with an old fri...
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Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle has trailer, some Black guy, big Johnson, little Hart, and I'm not Karen


Now with motorcycles: hip
Jun 30
// Rick Lash
Someone, no I won't name names, wrote a damned fine article when the Jumanji sequel revealed a first look image back in September. All right! You caught me. It was me who wrote said inspiration. Let's cease with the accolades...

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...

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The New Death Note trailer looks bland, but at least it has Willem Dafoe


Me and you can rule this city, Light!
Jun 29
// Drew Stuart
Death Note is one of the best shows that Anime has to offer. Its dark, murky tone, combined with the battle of wits between Light Yagami and L is absolutely captivating. Currently, Death Note sits at the #1 most popular show ...
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An ode to My Little Pony: The Movie and it's brand new trailer


Mr. Ed could talk: they can sword fight.
Jun 29
// Rick Lash
In awesome, equestrian-based 80s toy news, My Little Pony: The Movie just released its first official trailer, and boy oh boy, did it deliver! I know I speak for the entire Flixist staff when I say this two-and-a-half minute ...
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...
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'F is for Family' will get a Season 3


...or I will PUT YOU THROUGH THAT WALL!
Jun 29
// Drew Stuart
If you're at all like me, you're a bit wary of the Netflix original series that the company tries to shove down your throat. Don't get me wrong, there are lots of Netflix series that are great, but for every Stranger Things&n...
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Neill Blomkamp's newest OATS short brings us to Vietnam


With the required Fortunate Son time
Jun 29
// Anthony Marzano
Following up on the heels of the release of yet another sci-fi story with Sigourney Weaver last week, Neill Blomkamp's OATS Studio has released a new sci-fi short film on both YouTube and the game distribution platform Steam....

Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming

Jun 29 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221639:43619:0[/embed] Spider-Man: HomecomingDirector: Jon WattsRelease Date: July 7th, 2017Rated: PG-13 Spider-Man: Homecoming isn't concerned with re-telling Peter Parker's origin story. Instead, we're introduced to a Peter (Tom Holland) that's already been established around his borough of Queens, NY. But after getting a taste of Avenger-like action during Civil War, Peter's been anxious to fight some big time crime. Stumbling on Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton)'s band of thieves powered by alien technology (left behind after The Avengers), Peter's out to prove to his mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) that he can handle it. But the 15 year old Peter finds he struggles with balancing his Spider-Man duties, school life with his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), love life, and home life with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei).  The Homecoming subtitle is both a play on Peter's newfound high school age, and a "homecoming" to the MCU. With how prevalent Downey Jr.'s Iron Man was featured in advertising, I was worried poor little Peter would take a backseat to all of The Avengers craziness. We've seen the result of universe building bogging down some of the Marvel properties, but thankfully Homecoming doesn't concern itself with that too much either. The events of the MCU proper have informed some of the character motivations for sure, as Adrian gets his villainous start after the Battle of NY, but there's been a great effort to ground Spider-Man in his own little pocket of the world. Thus, Homecoming is free to not only tell its story at its own pace, but isn't afraid to explore Peter as a character.  Director Jon Watts takes great pains to make Homecoming feel more intimate. From the opening scene featuring Peter's video diary, to the pacing of conversations between characters, there are plenty of scenes given time to breathe and fully flesh out the film's extended cast. Tom Holland is a dream, and his awkward yet full-hearted take on the hero is much different than we've seen in the past. Holland portraying a teenage Peter is not only believable, but incredibly refreshing. When Holland's Peter jokes around, or accidentally saves the day, it always comes across as natural. Because of this, the threats to him become even more engrossing as a literal child is now fighting to save his loved ones. It's a tonal balance we've yet to see from Spider-Man, and I'm very curious as to where it can go from here.  But it's not like Holland steals the show, either. Homecoming has an incredible cast, and the script is laid out so every character has time to shine. Michael Keaton playing a birdman after, well, Birdman, may be ripe for jokes, but Keaton's soft spoken menace gives him a presence we've yet to see from other MCU villains. Spider-Man's villains are probably the most famous in Marvel Comics, so it feels so right to see Keaton stake his claim. Adrian is complex, has a reasonable motivation, and seems better written overall than a good chunk of Marvel's other baddies. Peter's classmates are all fabulous as well. Zendaya shines as a brilliant loner, Tony Revolori's Flash is the right kind of bully, it's great to see Jon Favreau's Happy Hogan again, and Jacob Batalon's Ned is so damn adorable I can't wait to see him again. The cast is just so well put together, and Queens has such a lived in feel, Homecoming absolutely nails the "neighborhood" in "Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man." We haven't experienced Spider-Man like this before.  And, uh, Marisa Tomei is a goddess and I'm so glad Homecoming addresses the shift in Aunt May's age.  Now Spider-Man: Homecoming isn't a perfect film, as the plot tends to get lost during the deliberate pacing of the second act, and it's still an origin story thematically, but it's still entirely successful. I mean, we finally get an action scene that isn't about fighting a bad guy, but saving people. I can't believe that hasn't happened yet. Even if I'm reviewing Homecoming in the comic book movie bubble, I feel like this world is so well established that the film's weakness are a reflection of its central character.  This new Peter is flawed, but attacks his flaws head on. Homecoming has so much fun just living and swinging with Spider-Man, it's hard not to accept those flaws and just go with the swing of things. Spider-Man has come home, and I can't wait to see what Sony and Marvel do with him next. 
Spider-Man Review photo
Third time's the charm
Spider-Man films have been through all sorts of ups and downs. What was once the biggest comic book property on film has since been the victim of studio craziness, failed attempts, and just an overall bad reception by th...

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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...


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