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Review: Hail, Caesar!

Feb 05 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]220336:42811:0[/embed] Hail, Caesar!Directors: Joel and Ethan CoenRelease Date: February 5th, 2016Rating: PG-13  I feel for whoever it was who had to cut together the trailer for Hail, Caesar! I imagine it was a nightmare scenario, trying to take what is really just a series of occasionally linked comedic sequences and turn it into something that appears to be dramatic and compelling. And so whoever it was built a narrative, one where George Clooney, a big-name actor who sometimes forgets his lines at key moments, is kidnapped by a mysterious organization, and stars like Channing Tatum and Scarlett Johansson are enlisted to help get him back. Cameo appearances by Tilda Swinton and Jonah Hill and the like just serve to make it all one big star-studded Hollywood mystery. But… no. That’s not what Hail, Caesar! is at all. A couple of those things happen, but the context presented in the trailer is, to put it bluntly, bullshit. In fact, that opening, with George Clooney’s big speech? That takes place less than ten minutes from the end of the film. Yeah. That’s not the introduction to that character. It’s the resolution. In fact, much of the trailer comes from the second half of the film, and it almost feels like it went in reverse chronological order. The “reveal” of the secret society that ends the trailer feels like a big end-of-act reveal. Maybe the end of the first act? And sure enough, that does happen around then. Problem is, all of the imagery the trailer subjected us to up until that point takes place after we already know who they are. Because it’s not even really a secret. I’m not going to tell you, but that’s pretty much entirely because you’ve already had the ending spoiled, so why not give you something?  You don’t watch Hail, Caesar! for the narrative, because there is no narrative. As I said, it’s a series of occasionally linked comedic sequences. That’s honestly the best way to describe it. Characters come in, do their funny thing, and then are never seen from again. Or they come in briefly a handful of times, all teasing some far more interesting existence than the one we’re seeing. It’s all potential. This is a film of unending potential. Each character has a backstory that seems rich enough to justify not necessarily a movie, but certainly an episode of a series. I would watch Hail, Caesar! the series. None of the myriad characters really gets their due, and it’s such a shame. I wanted more of damn near everyone. And arguments could be made that being left wanting is better than the alternative, but I have to wonder: What’s the point of it all? It’s like a cupcake with a nice foil wrapper. You look at it, and it looks good. You take a first bite, and it is good. But then you pull back the foil wrapper, and you realize that there’s nothing more to the cupcake. It’s just air. You liked those couple of bites you got, but you’re so disappointed that that’s all there was. No cream filling? Heck, you would have even accepted just more cake! But you don’t get that. Instead, you just have a well-crafted cupcake top in the guise of something more. Of course, what is there is good. Let’s not pretend otherwise. The Coen Brothers are beloved for a reason: They know how to make good movies. Hail, Caesar! is pretty, funny, fun, and any number of other adjectives, but that’s just baseline. There’s nothing more here to remind you of why the Coen Brothers are a household name. You get some really fun sequences – and I sincerely hope that the musical numbers are practice for a full-blown musical film that they’ve got up their sleeves – but there’s nothing to really bite into. You go from fun thing to fun thing, always expecting more. Always hoping for more. Always feeling that there is more, but the Coen Brothers don’t think you’re cool enough to see it. When I think about the movie, I don’t really have any “complaints,” per se. I have my big fundamental issue, but from moment to moment, there’s not really much negative to say. But there’s also nothing wildly positive to say. This is a movie that is Good and nothing more. It doesn’t even really aspire to be more. It seems content in its Goodness. I don’t have a problem with Good movies – I appreciate any movie that has the audacity to be simply enjoyable – but I wanted this to be great. And it just isn’t. I never thought that word, or felt it, but I wanted to oh so badly. I felt like there were times where I should have thought, “Wow! That was great!” but I just… didn’t. And from the Coen Brothers, that stings. They’ve made so many classics, comedic and otherwise, that something merely Good from them feels lazy. This is a Coen Brothers puff piece, some something they did to fulfill a contract. And a Coen Brothers puff piece is still worth seeing, but it’s certainly not something worth celebrating.
Hail, Caesar! Review photo
Act One?
Joseph Kahn, director of Detention, the best film ever made, is an exceedingly well respected music video director. Most recently, he’s known as the guy who makes all those amazing Taylor Swift music videos. Together, t...

The Witch and satanists photo
The Witch and satanists

The Satanic Temple is holding early screenings of The Witch, which has a new trailer


"I sell shoes!"
Feb 03
// Hubert Vigilla
Ever since hearing about Robert Eggers' The Witch at last year's Sundance Film Festival, I've been waiting eagerly to see it. If you live in New York City, Los Angeles, Austin, or Detroit, you can catch the movie a few days e...
Pandemic trailer photo
Pandemic trailer

Watch the trailer for Pandemic, an FPS-style take on the zombie apocalypse


Needs HUD with health/ammo information
Feb 02
// Hubert Vigilla
There have been quite a few films shot entirely from the first-person perspective. The results of this can vary. You have loads of found-footage movies, for example, many of which are fodder with some memorable exceptions (th...
Green Room trailer photo
Green Room trailer

Watch the red band trailer for Green Room, starring Patrick Stewart as a neo-Nazi (NSFW)


From Blue Ruin director Jeremy Saulnier
Feb 02
// Hubert Vigilla
Writer/director Jeremy Saulnier's Blue Ruin was an exceptionally made, critically acclaimed revenge thriller that drew comparisons to the Coen Brothers' Blood Simple. It was one of my favorite movies released in 2014. For a f...

JLA vs. Teen Titans photo
JLA vs. Teen Titans

Check out the trailer for Justice League vs. Teen Titans, a new DCU animated film


Heroes vs. Possessed Heroes
Feb 02
// Hubert Vigilla
In general, I'm more excited about the animated DCU releases than I am their live-action blockbusters (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad). There's something about classic and newer DCU animation like Batman: T...
New John Carpenter album photo
New John Carpenter album

John Carpenter's Lost Themes II coming in April, with live shows and possible US tour dates


If I were a carpenter...
Feb 01
// Hubert Vigilla
Last year, horror maestro John Carpenter released the album Lost Themes, a collection of original compositions that could have come from one of his movies. If you loved Lost Themes, you'll be happy to know that a new Carpente...
Ewan McGregor Star Wars photo
Ewan McGregor Star Wars

Ewan McGregor discusses his Star Wars: The Force Awakens cameo


Obi-Wan Kenobi speaks
Feb 01
// Hubert Vigilla
Several months ago we reported that Ewan McGregor might have a cameo in the new Star Wars films. Turns out the rumors were true. While promoting Jane Got a Gun (a western starring Natalie Portman) on Jimmy Kimmel Live, McGreg...
Bill Clinton viewing list photo
Bill Clinton viewing list

Behold: A complete list of every movie Bill Clinton watched in The White House


Naked Gun 33 1/3 - March 12, 1994
Feb 01
// Hubert Vigilla
The Iowa caucuses are today, which means that the race for The White House is really kicking off tonight. Whoever becomes the new POTUS will have the fate of the free world in his or her hands. He or she will also be able to ...
Cabin Fever trailer photo
Cabin Fever trailer

Watch the Cabin Fever remake trailer, which looks just like the Eli Roth original


Superfluous remake seems superfluous
Feb 01
// Hubert Vigilla
In 2002, Eli Roth launched his career with Cabin Fever. Now, 13-14 years later, we have a remake of Cabin Fever that looks a lot like, well, Cabin Fever. Give the Cabin Fever remake a look below. While Peter Jackso...
Justice League photo
Justice League

DC reveals new animated series, Justice League Action


With Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy in tow
Jan 30
// Nick Valdez
While DC Comics and Warner Bros struggle to figure out what they should do with their movies, they've always dominated TV. Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow are huge on the CW, Supergirl is doing well on CBS, Teen Tit...
Nine Lives Trailer photo
Nine Lives Trailer

Kevin Spacey is a talking cat in this Nine Lives trailer


Jan 30
// Nick Valdez
"Just drown me."
Trump vs. Trump photo
Trump vs. Trump

Watch Stephen Colbert moderate a Donald Trump vs. Donald Trump debate


Giant Douche vs. Turd Sandwich
Jan 29
// Hubert Vigilla
This year's presidential primaries have been fascinating and occasionally terrifying if you're a political junkie like me, especially watching the rise of unbridled derp on the Republican side. If you've been following the le...
Kubo Trailer photo
This looks so, so pretty
Laika is a studio we at Flixist gladly pay attention to. Thanks to ParaNorman and Coraline, they've earned our respect with their stop motion craft coupled with fine storytelling. Even their weaker entry, The Boxtrolls, ended...

2017 DeLoreans photo
2017 DeLoreans

This is heavy: They're making actual DeLoreans in 2017


Make like a tree and get out
Jan 29
// Hubert Vigilla
With 2015 behind us, you'd think that was the end of weaponized Back to the Future nostalgia. Well, no. Turns out you'll be able to buy a brand new replica DeLorean in 2017. (As noted by /Film's Ethan Anderton, only 9,200 vin...
David Bowie LOTR photo
David Bowie LOTR

David Bowie auditioned for Lord of the Rings


The Man Who Fell to Middle-Earth
Jan 29
// Hubert Vigilla
Following the death of David Bowie, more and more information has surfaced about his works in progress and his past projects. Up until his passing, the man was writing new songs. He has multiple posthumous albums set for rele...

RIP Abe Vigoda (1921-2016)

Jan 27 // Hubert Vigilla
The false reports of Vigoda's death turned him into a sort of irreverent comic figure (getting more irreverent and more comic as the actor got older), and it eventually spawned a few internet memes at various websites. Someone even started the website isabevigodadead.com, which up until yesterday simply said "No." Vigoda was beloved, to be sure, so much so that he would pop up in unexpected places and provide joy simply from his unexpected presence. Case in point, here he is at a Phish show on Halloween in 2013. [embed]220314:42798:0[/embed] According to his daughter Carol Vigoda Fuchs, Abe passed away peacefully in his sleep due to old age. "This man was never sick," Fuchs said. Here's a clip of Conan O'Brien and Andy Richter paying tribute to Abe Vigoda yesterday for his countless appearances on their NBC Late Night show. [embed]220314:42796:0[/embed] Classic Abe Vigoda. [via Variety, ABC]
RIP Abe Vigoda photo
Goodnight, Abe
Abe Vigoda, best known for his work in Barney Miller and The Godfather, passed away yesterday. He was 94 years old. While he was recognizable character actor throughout his long career, at a certain point in his life, Abe Vig...

The Chickening photo
The Chickening

Watch The Chickening, a NSFW and WTF parody of The Shining


What has been seen cannot be unseen
Jan 27
// Hubert Vigilla
Nick DenBoer and Davy Force's The Chickening is a poultry-centric parody of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. I want you to pause a moment, read that sentence again, and then just watch the NSFW video below. That was the Citize...
Angry Birds Movie trailer photo
Angry Birds Movie trailer

New Angry Birds Movie trailer is pissed in more ways than one


Urine or you're out
Jan 27
// Hubert Vigilla
The first trailer for The Angry Birds Movie was not particularly good. It was rife with bad animated movie cliches and seemed pretty lazy and silly (bad-silly, not good-silly). There's a new trailer for The Angry Birds Movie ...
Southbound horror clip photo
Southbound horror clip

Watch the opening scene from Southbound, a new anthology horror film (NSFW)


On the road again, and again, and again
Jan 26
// Hubert Vigilla
In 2012, V/H/S helped kick off a mini-boom in anthology horror films, eventually spawning two sequels of its own. Anthology films are typically hit or miss from short to short (or a big miss overall), though at their best, an...
The Survivalist photo
The Survivalist

Watch the trailer for The Survivalist, a moody post-apocalyptic drama/thriller


One of my favorites from Tribeca 2015
Jan 26
// Hubert Vigilla
The Survivalist was one of my favorite movies from last year's Tribeca Film Festival. (You can read my review at another site here.) It was a moody, memorable indie drama set in the overgrown woods of a post-apocalyptic futur...
Labyrinth sequel photo
Labyrinth sequel

Screenwriter Nicole Perlman sets record straight about Labyrinth reboot/sequel


It's a continuation, not a remake
Jan 26
// Hubert Vigilla
Yesterday we mentioned that there is a Labyrinth reboot in the works, which is being written by Guardians of the Galaxy co-writer Nicole Perlman. Perlman took to Twitter over the weekend to assure fans that the film is not a ...
Batman v Superman photo
Batman v Superman

Batman v Superman TV spots and poster show how much our heroes hate each other


(But are secretly crushing hard)
Jan 25
// Hubert Vigilla
It's just two months until Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hits theaters, which means we're getting a steady string of TV spots until then. In the most recent two TV spots, we can see our heroes seethe in each other's presence. Batman and Superman are so into each other. Check out these new Batman v Superman TV spots below.
Avatar 2 delayed photo
Avatar 2 delayed

James Cameron's Avatar 2 delayed yet again


And no one really cares
Jan 25
// Hubert Vigilla
Looks like that Avatar sequel James Cameron has been working on for years is getting pushed back yet again. This is not a repeat from the last few years. Avatar 2 was unofficially slated for a Christmas 2017 release after a p...
Warcraft TV spot photo
Warcraft TV spot

New Warcraft TV spot probably doesn't inspire much confidence in the film for non-fans


Generic Fantasy Film: The Movie: The Ad
Jan 25
// Hubert Vigilla
After seeing the first trailer for Duncan Jones' Warcraft, News Editor Nick Valdez felt that the movie looked a little off. Some shots were great, some not-as-great, most shots looked green screened to heck, and the vibe of t...
Star Wars 8 pushed back photo
Star Wars 8 pushed back

Star Wars Episode VIII release date pushed back to December 2017, Rian Johnson doing rewrites


Star Wars may be a Christmas tradition
Jan 25
// Hubert Vigilla
Star Wars Episode VIII was originally going to be released on May 26, 2017, but now the film has been pushed back seven months. The new release date for Star Wars 8 is December 15, 2017. Rian Johnson is still set to begin pro...
Labyrinth reboot photo
Labyrinth reboot

The David Bowie movie Labyrinth is getting a reboot


Dance reboot, dance
Jan 25
// Hubert Vigilla
For men and women of a certain age, Labyrinth was their introduction to the late, great David Bowie. The 1986 Jim Henson film starred Jennifer Connelly as a teenager who travels to a fantastic land in order to rescue her kidn...

Review: Ip Man 3

Jan 22 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220266:42751:0[/embed] Ip Man 3 (葉問3)Director: Wilson YipRelease Date: January 22, 2016Rating: NRCountry: China In the three Donnie Yen Ip Man films, the constant concern has been how a person can remain righteous while dividing energies between country, family, and the martial arts. This boils down to the obligations a person has to the future of a culture, to immediate loved ones, and to the self. It's also about punching people in the face repeatedly very fast, sure, but if we're looking at the martial arts as a way of being (i.e., a way), Ip Man's always been about how a person takes a core belief, universalizes these dictums, and then puts this into action. It's explored visually in The Grandmaster with the way every strike disturbs the environment, but watching so many kung-fu movies over the years has made this whole notion of the extension of thought into action into the world more apparent. Maybe what makes Ip Man such a compelling hero is that taking thought into action into the world is what makes all sorts of heroes memorable. There's philosophy behind every punch. Ip Man 3 continues this tradition of duties to country/family/self, and the plot is mostly  hinged to all three. The film opens irreverently with Ip Man meeting a young Bruce Lee, who proceeds to demonstrate his fighting prowess in what can only be described as a martial arts anti-smoking ad. The rest of the plot involves a foreign crime boss trying to shut down a school to claim the land for his own (Mike Tyson), a would-be Wing Chun master in search of fame (Max Zhang aka Jin Zhang), and the health of Ip Man's wife (Lynn Hung). Ip Man, a righteous dude, volunteers to defend the school--Ip Man tropes ensue. The fights in Ip Man 3 may some of the finest in the series in terms of variety and staging. Sammo Hung handled the choreography in the previous two films, but Ip Man 3 instead turns to Yuen Woo-Ping. The fights seem more grounded though just as brutal, and generally a little more old school than bombastic. Yen's talked about how his diet and training changes with each role to better embody the character. Playing Ip Man means cutting carbs and staying as slim as possible, and Yen looks especially thin here. As much as I love Ip Man and kind of liked Ip Man 2, the biggest hurdle to each fight was Ip Man's sense of invincibility. He spends all of the first movie in God Mode, dominating almost every fight he's in, even the final battle. In Ip Man 2, he's still in God Mode for much of the film, which makes that movie's final battle feel out of place; what's more, Ip Man's solution of how to best his overpowered opponent would have been the first thing a skilled martial artist would consider, not the last. There was rarely a sense of danger. Ip Man 3, by contrast, seems to acknowledge that Ip Man is nigh invulnerable despite his age. The danger comes from having to defend other people nearby rather than just defending himself. It's a simple but great idea, and it leads to a harrowing rescue attempt as well as an excellent sequence involving an elevator later in the film. Much has been made of Donnie Yen and Mike Tyson's bout in the film, and it's one of the film's highlights, and it was more exciting than the Wing Chun vs. boxing bout that finished Ip Man 2. And yet the fight reveals Tyson's presence in Ip Man 3 as some hollow stunt casting. There's something great about Tyson cursing people out in snatches of Cantonese, but the entire storyline involving his character is dropped at a certain point. The whole impetus for the action fades away, which makes me wonder if Tyson was only available for a week or so, or if a finger fracture Tyson sustained while filming the fight scene required changes to the script. Even though Tyson's plotline feels unfinished, it's fascinating where the other threads go, and how they reveal the foundation for Ip Man as a character, as if Yen and Yip are tying to make their final definitive statements about who Ip Man was and what he'll represent as a cinematic icon moving forward. Ip Man's a loving husband, for instance, but not always attentive (think about how Peter Parker's love life is ruined by having to be Spider-Man). Here, he tries to focus more on home and what matters to him most, and there are some tender moments between Yen and Hung, as if Yen's trying to channel the acting chops that Anthony Wong and Tony Leung brought to the role, and Hung is trying to find the right note of melancholy glamour that Zhang Ziyi brings to her roles. Some of these scenes between Ip Man and his wife are lensed with a level of attention that might have been inspired by The Grandmaster; more beautiful to look at than anything in the previous Ip Man films, though a few scenes are marred by a semi-chintzy nylon-string Spanish guitar love theme. I began to notice this steady evolution of Ip Man's presence as a political/cultural icon as well in Ip Man 3. The first film was decidedly against the Imperial Japanese forces, which places Ip Man in the home of a character like Chen Zhen from Fist of Fury. The second film skirted this line between anti-colonialism and Chinese nationalism, with the British aristocrats rendered as grotesques of the nobility. Ip Man 3 also has a scoffing, snooty British caricature (he sounds like he should be tying women to railroad tracks while twirling his mustache), but the political stance is decidedly anti-colonial in a universal way. Ip Man even has a monologue in which he rails against oligarchs and plutocrats. If Mike Tyson was cast as a way of garnering attention for Ip Man from western audiences, this populist shift in Ip Man may signal an attempt to position him as a cinematic hero with a strong cultural identity but no borders in terms of an audience's ability to identify with him. If this is Yen's last full-on kung-fu film (there's still that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sequel to consider), he's ending his career with the movie series that catapulted him into leading man status. I got a sense he was passing the torch to Max Zhang. Zhang's 41 years old, but he makes a strong impression here as a performer and fighter, just as he did in The Grandmaster. (In another strange coincidence, Zhang also starred in SPL 2, the sequel to the 2005 movie (aka Kill Zone) that boosted Donnie Yen's star and signaled a kind of comeback for Hong Kong action films.) Zhang's character is a Wing Chun up-and-comer eyeing Ip Man, sizing him up, wondering if he's better as new blood. This had to be intentional, they had know what they were doing. Ip Man 3 might be my favorite film of the trilogy because of how knowing and assured it is, and because it understands the core of its main character so well. It's also a film that knows where it stands in terms of martial arts film history, and the same goes for Donnie Yen's filmography. Really, there's something rather Ip Man-like about Ip Man 3.
Review: Ip Man 3 photo
An Ip Man movie about Ip Man movies
It's weird to think that the first Ip Man came out in 2008. It seems so much longer than that. Since then, the series has spawned two sequels as well as plenty of other media about the eponymous real-life practitioner of...

Awwwww photo
Awwwww

Red Ban trailer for Keanu brings us Key and Peele and kitten


Greatest movie name since Die Harder
Jan 21
// Matthew Razak
Parody movies come in all shapes and sizes, but most of us think of something like Scary Movie when we think of them.Those can be funny, but truly great parody comes from creating something original that riffs on tropes...
Neighbors 2 Trailer photo
Neighbors 2 Trailer

First trailer for Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is Neighbors all over again


Jan 20
// Nick Valdez
Remember Neighbors? It was the decent Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg produced film released in-between juggernauts This is the End and The Interview. Well, if you've forgotten about that movie than Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising ...
Suicide Squad photo
So punk, so edgy
The first full trailer for David Ayer's Suicide Squad plays like WB/DC's answer to Guardians of the Galaxy. Still don't like the songs these trailers keep using but it's pretty well edited. The film looks fun, but also kinda ...


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