Crime

Review: Need for Speed

Mar 13 // Nick Valdez
[embed]217317:41268:0[/embed] Need for SpeedDirectors: Scott WaughRelease Date: March 14th, 2013Rating: PG-13 Since the Need for Speed videogames aren't exactly known for their narrative caliber, the film had to come up with a story from scratch. If you have any familiarity with car films of the past (The Cannonball Run, Bullit, and most importantly, Smokey and the Bandit), you'll feel at home here as NfS seeks to emulate the fun of those past films. The main problem here, however, is it stops just short of the finish line. Before I get into the synopsis, I do need to get something off my chest here. I'm a huge fan of racing films as I've been raised on them. There's a certain air about them, a lighthearted fun, that's entirely needed or they all just fall flat. If a car film takes itself too seriously, people will realize how ridiculous a film's logic is when every character makes their decisions according to how fast their cars can drive.  So let's get into Need for Speed's story. The film follows Tobey (Aaron Paul), a guy who's running a failing auto shop with his friends after the death of his father threatens to forclose it. His former racing rival, Dino (Dominic Cooper), who's currently dating Tobey's ex-girlfriend, gets Tobey to build a Shelby Mustang for lots and lots of money. After Dino sells the Mustang, he decides to race Tobey and the comic relief Pete, and during that race kills Pete. After serving two years in prison for being framed for the death of his friend, Tobey vows to enter The Deleon, a super secret race run by The Monarch (Michael Keaton) and avenge Pete's death.  See what I'm talking about? Need for Speed's main constraint is that it's a film whose engine needs work. It's got so many ideas and themes, it becomes needlessly convoluted leaving most ideas without expansion. And what is explored feels entirely hokey because you have the dramatic tension of vengeance juxtaposed with how cartoonish the physics work within the film. Don't get me wrong, it is possible to work with a serious tone (i.e. The Fast and The Furious) but most folks will walk away from the film feeling lost at how goofy the end product is (i.e. The Fast and The Furious). But the saddest aspect of watching all of this go down is, when the film truly lets loose and has fun, Need for Speed is a great movie.  There are brief glimpses of brilliance hidden within this murky mess. If you're like me and are a little tired of how CG has taken over, then you'll love NfS's reliance on practical effects. When Need for Speed explores its various stunts, it's the Smokey and the Bandit of the modern era. There are long car chases, two big jumps (one involving a helicopter), cute nicknames for each of the vehicles ("Beauty," "Beast," and one "Smokey" tossed in for good measure in case you didn't catch the homage), and the police officers are competent. And that's actually a big deal, cop competency. I've grown tired of recent street racing films as the heroes have gotten so driving proficient, the police officers look like fools as they're constantly thrashing about on the wayside. But it's notably different here as some of the best stunts in the film are because the police are so good at what they do. It's a refreshing change of pace.  Unfortunately as noted, those fun bursts are few too far in between. One of my personal rules as a critic is to never argue a film is "too long" as that's always a judgment deep rooted in personal taste. But it just seems applicable here. Need for Speed feels like three movies in one that were stitched together into Frankenstein's Monster. On principal alone, a film titled Need for Speed should not exceed two hours as it does. No matter how invested you may be in the characters (as hard as that may be to believe), by the time Tobey gets to race in the Deleon, you realize you have to watch another 20 minutes of driving before you actually get to leave the theater.  As far as videogame adaptations go, there are certainly much worse out there (as there are only slight homages to the game series). But the few instances of fun to be had are not worth sitting through the rest of it. Aaron Paul and crew do the best with what they have to work with, but it's nowhere near enough. If you're expecting a cheesefest, you may find it here, but it's been done better elsewhere too. With all of that said, Need for Speed sits firmly in the middle of the pack. It's good enough to start the race, but nowhere near good enough to finish in first place. 
Need for Speed Review photo
Needs more speed
Need for Speed is in a tight spot. As a videogame adaptation it not only has to be a well made film, but also needs to please fans of the videogame series. It's got to do an odd little dance where it needs to show just enough...

Need for Speed  photo
Need for Speed

Need for Speed screening free in 100 theaters tomorrow


Feb 18
// Nick Valdez
Do you have a need? Maybe for speed? Although the upcoming Need for Speed movie isn't opening until March 14th, it's screening for free in 100 cities tomorrow night. Whether or not you're looking forward to Not Fast &...
Transporter reboot photo
Transporter reboot

Transporter series getting rebooted with a new trilogy


Transporter 4,5, and 6 get the greenlight
Feb 10
// Nick Valdez
With all of the reboots and sequels going around these days, it was only a matter of time that we rebooted a series whose last installment hit less than six years ago. But since that's at least twenty years in Internet time, ...
Sabotage Trailer 2 photo
Sabotage Trailer 2

Listen all of y'all it's the second trailer for Sabotage


So listen up cause you can't say nothin'. You'll shut me down with a push of your button?
Dec 23
// Nick Valdez
End of Watch was my favorite film of 2012. This second trailer for David Ayer's Sabotage (formerly titled Ten reflecting the ten million stolen from their drug bust), however, doesn't look like the excellent follow up I was ...

CIFF Review: Burn it Up Djassa

Oct 12 // Geoff Henao
[embed]216649:40779:0[/embed] Burn It Up DjassaDirector: Lonesome SoloCountry: France/Ivory CoastRelease Date: October 12, 2013 (CIFF)  
Burn It Up Djassa Review photo
A valiant, low-budget/DIY film.
Burn It Up Djassa tells the story of an Abidjan ghetto and one young man whose embrace of the ghetto ultimately led to his demise. Tony is a young cigarette seller who finds luck gambling in the ghetto. Despite his polic...

The Nut Job Teaser photo
The Nut Job Teaser

First teaser for The Nut Job is just so darn nutty


Sep 30
// Nick Valdez
The Nut Job is a heist film in which a group of woodland creatures (featuring the voices of Will Arnett, Liam Neeson, Maya Rudolph and Katherine Heigl) want to steal a whole host of nuts. The trailer may seem a bit lackluste...
Fast and Furi-YES photo
Fast and Furi-YES

Lucas Black joins Fast & Furious 7, 8 and 9


That much closer to FasTen your Seatbelts
Sep 17
// Nick Valdez
Lucas Black, who played Sean (the main character) in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, has now signed on as a regular cast member in the next three Fast & Furious movies. Lucas Black returning to the series is a...

NRH's Weekly Analysis: Scarface & Heisenberg

Sep 16 // Nathan Hardisty
Werner Heisenberg was a German theoretical physics who (probably) helped Hitler try to build an atomic bomb. The Nazis came dangerously close during the war. Heisenberg is probably more well known for also being Walter H. White of Breaking Bad fame, or perhaps for his 'Uncertainty Principle'. The principle is that the more we know where a particle is, the less we know how fast it's going. You cannot know both. This means that photons can behave, simultaneously, like particles and waves. The very act of human observation changes their existence; quantum theory essentially breaks the 'reality' of our world, like seeing the cracks or code of a video-game. Scarface follows Tony Montana as he slowly ascends up the ladder rungs of the coke-criminal underworld. He too, throughout many points, changes based on observation. At some points he tells us about how much he "loves kids" and doesn't act crass, crude or violent around them either. He practically sacrifices his very druglord-dom for these principles. In other parts, however, he is a brutal and disgusting man who yells at his wife and brags about his fiefdom of the Miami coke kingdom. These two men: Scarface and Montana seemingly co-exist within the same space. They change based on perception. Even from the start we have a man full of attitude - "what you call yourself, "I work a lot with my hands" - but someone with brutal ambition. A lot of the opening section is Tony questioning his friends about whether they "wanna be like a sheep?" Tony sets himself up as way ahead of the flock, and the eighties materialism could very well bleed with the quantum theory. Tony sees that "they all sound the same to me" and during the pop-song bleached sequences, in which he stares out or sits awkwardly in the Babylon club, we're led to believe that this whole world is full of bland, concrete sheep who exist only within a singular state. Tony Montana, as a protagonist, is still attractive as a character even by the end given his duality. He fluctuates between particle and wave; calm wit and total destructive. The white noise that drowns his vision when he sees his sister in danger, sexual advance or in the arms of his best friend? That's him crossing the threshold, that's when a particle can also be a wave. What goads Tony into his ambition is perhaps a breathless sense of envy and panic. He is told multiple times about how he's low-class scum, "dishwasher", "Cuban crime wave", "the help", and he questions at one point, about Frank, "what's he got that I don't have?" All Tony has is his life, his minimal criminal skill and charm. When being observed by children and folks on the beach, he is jovial and makes fun of his best friend's attempts with a female. When he's handcuffed to the rail of a bathtub while his friend is chainsawed up in front of him, he literally spits in the face of death. Tony is confident in both states, but his level of violence and numbness to the excessive changes dramatically. It's not just Tony who changes upon observation either but also brief moments involving other characters. While Manny talks about his injury, the bullet that went straight "through me", Tony looks up and sees Elvira descend down a steel elevator that is practically shaped in the image of that fateful ammunition. There's symmetrical chaos, punctual poetry, to how things can change upon new observation. At first we may see love going straight "through" Tony as Elvira descends, or perhaps he is faced with the absolute symbols of the violent drug-lord lifestyle; bullets, beautiful girls and alcohol. Tony even describes, perfectly, the stages of ascension; "When you get the money, when you get the power, then you get the women." In order to 'acquire' the lifestyle he chooses to let himself be seen by criminals, to take on the culture of fear and subvert himself into the world of death. Ignoring all compassion and shrugging off family matters, he gifts his sister a whole boutique at one point, he allows himself to become soaked up in the drug-lord lifestyle. Tony chooses to see himself as the thing, that "the world is yours" but his drug-habits and former cares come back to haunt him. His care for children and his sister are his eventual downfall, even if they're elements of his leftover persona. No matter how hard Tony Montana tries, even by his Scarface end, he is still Tony Montana. Both states exist even by the end of the picture, he is both particle and wave. There's a shot in which Tony acquires Frank's power in which he is framed against a wall-length picture of a palm beach sunset. It's the very Caribbean image, and it's a reminder that Tony cannot escape his roots. He can choose to take on this power, but he will always be that "Cuban immigrant" who cares about family and children, even at the height of his being he will return to this state. "Every dog has his day" and so it is true of Tony Montana. For he can exist as both particle and wave, he cannot be both. Tony finds depression in being Scarface and loss in being himself. The ending, a coked-up suicide rush of blind violent hubris, is a punctual and fitting end to the unstable destructive being. Quantum theory can tell us a lot about humanity and Tony-Scarface is one of the many lenses we can use to see our own visage. We too exist in multiple states, but we can't escape our birth-rights. Much like Gatsby and many other American classics, we always come home.
Weekly Analysis photo
Quantum physics and Tony Montana
Scarface doesn't exactly breathe quantum physics theory now does it? It is practically eighties tragedy incorporated complete with synth and cocaine. When I think of Scarface I do think of the setting, the slow dism...

Fast and Furi-YES photo
Fast and Furi-YES

Kurt Russell in talks for Fast & Furious 7


TANKS ON TANKS ON SNAKES
Aug 30
// Nick Valdez
While we haven't covered it on here, there have been some major casting additions to the seventh film in the Fast & Furious franchise (which could possibly be a 70s revenge thriller). First UFC fighter Ronda Rousey joins ...
Getaway Trailer photo
Getaway Trailer

Second trailer for Getaway gets away with nothing


It taaaaakes my breeeeath awaaaaaaaaaaaaay
Aug 21
// Nick Valdez
If Ethan Hawke is the thunder and Selena Gomez is the lightning, does everything come naturally in this second trailer for Getaway? Is their team up meant to be? Regardless of whether or not it actually is, this second trail...
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Now You See Me conjures up a sequel


Aug 09
// Matthew Razak
You know, Now You See Me wasn't a horrible film, but I didn't think it was as great as all that. I, however, am in the minority (your wish is coming true, Sean) as the movie was one of the surprise hits of the ...
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David Yates is close to directing a Scarface reboot


Aug 01
// Matthew Razak
Scarface is a double classic already with Howard Hawks' original being a sterling example of pre-code gangster films and Brian DePalma's version perfectly capturing the grandeur of its updated setting. Why the studios wa...
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American Hustle gets all up in the 70s in first trailer


Jul 31
// Matthew Razak
David O. Russell is back and this time the movie looks a bit more interesting than his overrated Silver Linings Playbook. This is definitely the O. Russel that I recognize, with plenty of drama, style and personality crammed...
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This movie looks tough as hell
Martial arts superstar Donnie Yen has been keeping busy. He's got The Monkey King and Iceman 3D coming out soonish, there's the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sequel shooting next year, and there's still talk about Ip M...

Frozen Ground Trailer photo
Frozen Ground Trailer

Trailer: The Frozen Ground


NIC CAGE IS A DETECTIVE
Jun 10
// Nick Valdez
Nic Cage is a detective tracking a serial killer played by John Cusack. In order to find him he enlists the help of one of Cusack's almost victims, the stripper Vanessa Hudgens. Apparently this is based off some sort of true...

Review: Violet & Daisy

Jun 07 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]215729:40198:0[/embed] Violet & DaisyDirector: Geoffrey FletcherRating: RRelease Date: June 7, 2013 The key thing about all of the Tarantino rip-offs is that they were playing it safe. That's the comfort of being derivative: you don't have to risk anything because the person you're copying did all the innovation for you. With a rip-off, you're not just bowling with bumpers in the gutter, you're bowling with a tube slide for the ball that's the length of the lane. Each punctuation of violence, each choice on the soundtrack, each pop culture reference is already rendered accessible. Risk -- which is the key to any successful and innovative work -- would come from taking your own chances rather than taking the chances that someone else has already taken. (There's a difference between Donald Barthelme's postmodern genre pastiches and Boondock Saints, for instance.) Movies that don't risk can still be entertaining, but Violet & Daisy is not one of these movies, and a lot of it has to do with that awful smugness I mentioned above. Violet (Alexis Bledel) is a seasoned hired gun with a new partner named Daisy (Saoirse Ronan). They do hits for Russ, played by Danny Trejo, who shows up briefly and then hits the ejector seat on this movie. Their first on-screen hit together involves dressing up as nuns from a Catholic-themed pizza place (ooh, how drole) and then totally smoking guys with a gun in each hand like it's a John Woo movie (ooh, how edgy). Their next job together is to kill Michael played by James Gandolfini, a lonely middle-aged man with an estranged daughter (ooh, how sad). Violet & Daisy wants its audience to make those "ooh" comments because the film only exists as a collection of references, bits, and familiar pieces. There's a moment of fantasy and hallucination during the film in which Violet sees Daisy as some sort of spectral airline stewardess standing over the wreck of a plane. It looks good, it's stylish, but it's so incredibly empty because the movie made me feel nothing (other than contempt) the entire time. Same goes for the oversized moon that takes up most of the sky in certain night shots. It's style for style's sake and nothing more. And yet for some it's enough. When confronted with superficial things that are otherwise successful, "ooh" is the reaction. "Ooh" shouldn't be sufficient. Violet & Daisy seems to want to have things both ways: it wants the ironic, ultra-cool posturing of hip 90s movies, but it also wants an emotional weight that shines through the irony. Since the film lacks real emotional substance, it tries to use treacly sentimentality instead. Michael's loneliness and isolation is meant to engender "awws" of sympathy, but it's a manipulative ploy, one that's as transparent as the film's implication of a rape. And amid this fumbling manipulation, the movie gets cutesy. Michael serves his killers milk and cookies, Violet and Daisy get obsessed with some nebulous Barbie fashion thing, and there are games of pat-a-cake because... Well, I don't know. Probably to make the audience ooze more vowel sounds rather than think about what they're actually watching, which doesn't amount to much. And that's just the stuff off the top of my head, and much of it is tonal. I haven't even touched the flimsy story of the film. There are some gaping plot holes in Violet & Daisy, particularly when Daisy makes a series of confessions to Michael about her own life. What she reveals undoes lots of the movie. This all made me wonder about the machinery of the film's world and the clockwork in the hearts of its characters. Sometimes Violet & Daisy operates like it's a Bugs Bunny cartoon, and other times like it's a shaky melodrama. I think a sense of inconsistency that reveals a deeper consistency is the source of good drama and comedy in oddball storytelling, but here the inconsistency reveals a lack of care or a total lack of consideration. Things happen just because, and not because of something deeper. It's surprising that this film is written and directed by Geoffrey Fletcher, who won an Oscar for adapting Precious to the big screen. It's most surprising because the dialogue, though rapid fire, says nothing; words, words, words, but all verbal blanks. When characters in Tarantino movies make small talk, they do it to talk around something else that matters, and they do it with the stylishness of Elmore Leonard. In Violet & Daisy, people talk in clipped sentences and they don't talk about much of anything. Think of witty exchanges but bled of the wit. But it makes sense because maybe sheer velocity of language will distract from the sheer emptiness of the language. It's all of a piece. Violet & Daisy is a movie that wants to reduce audience reactions to a series of vowel sounds because in terms of style and substance, there's really nothing to talk about. Ooh, what a waste of time.
Violet & Daisy Review photo
Take off those glasses, you look ridiculous
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...

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Trailer: Runner Runner


Two of the biggest names in entertainment show up in this?
Jun 06
// Matthew Razak
Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck can pretty much do whatever the hell they want in Hollywood. Timberlake is insanely popular after the release of his new album and Affleck couldn't be hotter after Argo. Runner Runner i...
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Trailer: The Family


Jun 05
// Liz Rugg
In Luc Besson's The Family, Robert DeNiro returns to one of his best forms - a mobster trying to stay out of trouble, and failing. The movie centers around DeNiro's character and his tough-as-nails family; his wife played by...

BFF Review: Black Out

Jun 03 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]215735:40175:0[/embed] Black OutDirector: Arne ToonenRating: TBDCountry: The NetherlandsRelease Date: TBD On the day before his wedding, Jos (Raymond Thiry) wakes up in bed next to someone else: a corpse with a bullet in his face. Jos has apparently shot the man, and has somehow lost 20 kilos of cocaine, but he can't remember how any of this happened. "There's a hole in my memory," he explains to his friend Bobbie (Bas Keijzer) while trying to dispose of the body. "That guy's also got a hole in his memory," Bobbie replies. Somehow Jos has to get the coke back and get married tomorrow, but obviously it's more complicated than that. Black Out follows Jos for the next 24 hours or so, and the film packs that time with strange characters and twisty convolutions of plot. There's a former Russian ballet dancer turned gangster who now manages a bowling alley played by Simon Armstrong, who reminded me of Hans Landa from Inglorious Basterds mixed with Henry Gibson's pissy old gay man from Magnolia. There's Alex van Warmerdam as the inadvertently racist cop on Jos's tail, and Edmond Classen as Charles, an elderly gangster who pretends to be senile and to hide his criminal doings. Charles is still able to headbutt people into submissiveness, and has two movie-savvy sexpot enforcers named Charity and Petra (Katja & Birgit Schuurman) who carry a cricket bat and an axe decorated with the tasteful flair of WWII fighter planes. Somehow Black Out also folds in two hapless dog groomers trying to make a quick buck, another gangster who's new on the scene, Jos's old criminal associates, Jos's soon-to-be father-in-law, and, of course, Jos's fiancee Caroline (Kim van Kooten). Van Kooten wrote the first few script pages for Paul Verhoeven's Tricked, a movie where the crowdsourced screenplay was written by hundreds of others. It was an interesting experiment, though the film wasn't as unpredictable as I would've imagined -- more controlled than controlled-chaos. To be honest, I thought Tricked would have the same kind of energetic weirdness of a film like Black Out. Whereas Tricked was carefully pieced together, in Black Out stuff will pop into frame and smack people in the face. It's fascinating what happens when filmmakers riff on other filmmakers. Later in the week I'll be reviewing another movie that's also a pastiche of Tarantino and Ritchie, but I don't think that one worked. What makes Black Out different is that it's not content to just play with references as a crutch or as a sign of cleverness. Using the familiar style of Tarantino and Ritchie, Toonen and screenwriter Melle Runderkamp are basically upending a toy box and playing with anything that would make sense in the bends of the story. Black Out stitches together different action play sets and joins different action figures -- it feels like playtime rather than just pastiche; less like adults winking as if to say "Are you clever enough to get this reference?" and more like kids maniacally laughing. A big part of the appeal to Black Out is the pervasive cartoon logic. There's the requisite Mexican stand-off scene, and the payoff is nicely done and treated like a well-constructed joke. (The scene actually begins with a badly told joke that's funny nonetheless.) There are set-ups and punchlines throughout the movie, and they're done with style and speed -- it's a story that's constantly moving, looks good doing it, and knows what it's doing. All the while, Jos is clueless and propelled by either good fortune or bad fortune. Just when everything seems to be going all right, another complication means more playtime, and more of that childlike maniacal laughter. So far Black Out has no US distribution, but it'll probably happen since there's a lot to enjoy about it. I'd actually like to watch it again, if only to see it without the digital noise and really enjoy the lush colors and visual gags. Black Out is not a movie that re-invents the wheel or deconstructs the wheel, but it doesn't have to. Sometimes just rolling a wheel along is fun enough, especially down a bumpy, winding road. Black Out screens Monday, June 3rd. For tickets and more information, click here.
Black Out Review photo
♫ It's like losing 20 kilos of cocaaaaaine before your wedding day ♫
Two things struck me when the opening credits of Black Out came on: 1) there was a lot of style and flash in a good way, and 2) the festival's digital copy was low res. As the text appeared, so did fuzzy squares and breaks in...

More like SEXY-cop photo
More like SEXY-cop

Crime is happening in new Robocop set photos


Now it only sort of looks like that suit from Crysis.
May 14
// Nick Valdez
I normally don't like talking about set photos since things normally look a lot better in post production, but for these Robocop reboot images I'll make an exception (it's probably because that Max guy isn't a thing anym...

Tribeca Capsule Review: Northwest

May 06 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]215495:40051:0[/embed] Northwest (Nordvest)Director: Michael NoerRating: TBDCountry: DenmarkRelease Date: TBD Caspar (Gustav Dyekjær Giese) lives with his family in a rough part of Copenhagen. He's a petty thief who makes a living by breaking into houses, taking whatever he can, and selling the goods to a local heavy. The jobs aren't particularly sophisticated, and they don't pay all that well either, but it's a living. Caspar's life takes a turn for the better -- before making a big dip downward -- when he gets involved with another crime boss and then gets his brother Andy (Oscar Dyekjær Giese) involved. It starts with driving hookers to their johns, but it becomes much more complicated as the film goes on. The sense of reality in Northwest is thanks in large part to director Micharl Noer. Northwest is only his second narrative feature, but he has a background in documentary filmmaking, which serves this grim and gritty story well. At least half of the found footage films made today should take note: dump the idea of being found footage and simply go handheld like this. It makes the movie visceral without any of the difficult contrivances of found footage films. An additional sense of truth comes from the two first-time actors playing Caspar and Andy, who are real-life brothers and naturals on screen. The rest of the cast also feel authentic; there's character to their faces and mannerisms, and the acting is inhabited rather than affected. There'a one point in Northwest where Caspar and Andy share a quiet moment together. It's late at night after a job and they've only just begun their downward spiral, but things are going great for now. Brief triumph in lives that have known little of it. Andy finishes off a Red Bull and tosses the can away. Noer's camera holds steady and observes as the can rolls down a sloping bit of concrete into the shadows. The pull of gravity and the nature of momentum is unstoppable, the darkness seems infinite. These two brothers are about to make a similar journey. The Red Bull can gets off easy by comparison.
Northwest Review photo
Youth is rotting in the state of Denmark
In some ways Northwest could be written off as another movie about how crime doesn't pay. There's an escalation of criminal activity, there's the brief taste of a modest sweet life, there's the tragic inflation of egos, and t...

Now You Don't photo
Now You Don't

Trailer: Now You See Me


...um...now you...don't?
Apr 12
// Nick Valdez
Now You See Me is basically the story of David Copperfield...if Copperfield robbed banks and used extravagant technology (although we really don't know too much about him now, do we?). A group of street magicians suddenly ga...
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Flixistentialism 14 - Snail


Happy Crime Day Everyone!
Apr 11
// Andres Bolivar
On this week's episode of Flixistentialism ... we come up with rap names, we fantasize about what we would do in the universe of the upcoming movie The Purge (AKA Crime Day), we rate girls in terms of pizza and Geoff unveils how he "does" sex like a snail.
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Check out this new clip from Danny Boyle's Trance


There's a hint of some mind-bending stuff here
Mar 27
// Thor Latham
Due out in only a few days on April 5th, here's a new clip from Danny Boyle's mind bending art-heist caper Trance. Starring James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, and Rosario Dawson, the film follows McAvoy, who is suffering from amn...
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Trailer: Pain & Gain (Red Band)


Muscles abound
Mar 27
// Thor Latham
As someone who has never been a fan of Michael Bay, I've had to continually admit that his upcoming film Pain & Gain is looking like the first film from the director that I am actually excited to see. His other film...
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New clip from The Place Beyond The Pines


"Not since Hall & Oates has there been such a team"
Mar 11
// Thor Latham
If the earlier trailer is anything to go by, The Place Beyond The Pines is definitely going to be a moody, emotional drama centered around a man who sets out to rob a bank to take care of his newly born son. It looks as...

Review: Stand Up Guys

Jan 31 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]213933:39565[/embed] Stand Up GuysDirector: Fisher StevensRating: RRelease Date: February 1, 2013 The movie starts promisingly enough. Baby Huey's "Hard Times" plays over an opening credits montage of Val (Al Pacino) getting out of jail while his buddy Doc (Christopher Walken) goes to pick him up. It's a reunion between two old partners in crime. Val took the wrap for a botched job 28 years ago because he refused to snitch and bring his friends down with him. Now that Val's out, he wants to go out on the town and get into trouble. But Doc's been hired to put a hit on Val by their old boss (the always cool and often underused Sol Robeson). The hit has to happen before tomorrow morning or else. Old-people hijinks ensue, and then fall flat pretty quick. It's not a novel set-up, but it's material with potential if you have good actors and a good script. Stand Up Guys is severely lacking in the latter. The screenplay is from first-time writer Noah Haidle, and it's chock full of obvious jokes (e.g., the requisite Viagra gag) and dumb cliches you've seen dozens of times in other forgettable movies. There are the "old men act like young men" cliches: old men screw, old men flirt, old men do drugs, old men drive really fast, old men get violent. There are the "old men are old men" cliches: old men complain about being old, old men complain about new technology, old men complain about nursing homes, old men reminisce about the olden days. There are the "criminals with hearts of gold" cliches: they steal, they fight, they flee from cops, they do horrible things, but hey, they're all right fellas in the end, amiright? And because Stand Up Guys wants you to feel, there are the "old men are dying" cliches: old men talk about regrets, old men talk about bucket lists, old men deliver speeches full of blunt truths gleaned from experience, young people get teary-eyed because old men are acting old and are going to die. No matter how good the actors are, they can only do so much with bad material, and the stuff of Stand Up Guys is pure dreck. Alan Arkin, who plays Hirsch the Third Oldketeer, is underwritten and underdeveloped. He mostly drones his lines like he's annoyed and doesn't want to be there. There are a few places where director Fisher Stevens seems to let Walken and Pacino improvise, and the results are like lackluster first takes. When Val arrives in Doc's apartment, there's inane back and forth about the decor; over coffee before their long night, more inane banter. It's not the slice-of-life small talk that illuminates characters or allows the audience to inhabit the reality of the moment, it's just two actors filling time. Stand Up Guys seems to implicitly say, "Hey, this movie has Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin in it -- isn't that enough for you?" From beginning to end, the film coasts on your knowledge of each actor's past roles and reputations. It's such a blatant shortcut to earning moments, and it rarely works. In some ways, Pacino, Walken, and Arkin are basically playing caricatures themselves. Pacino does a Pacino impression with growls and histrionics, Walken does Walken with pauses and strange alien inflection, and Arkin does Arkin by droning his lines and being annoyed. They're not acting so much as using their presence to try to elevate material that cannot be elevated. How cynical does Stand Up Guys get with this? The answer comes less than half an hour in. Val and Doc head to a bar/club where the young people go. Val hits on three women crassly, not in an adorable dirty-old-man kind of way but a rude-and-rapey sort of way. He gets rebuffed with a drink in his face, wipes off, regroups, and tries to hit on them again. On comes the absent charm. He asks one of the young ladies to dance. For some reason she says yes, and what follows is a dance sequence lifted straight out of Scent of a Woman. Everyone in the club is surprised, charmed, turned on, impressed; meanwhile, I scowled at the gall on screen. In Scent of a Woman, the dance seemed charming and unexpected, but in Stand Up Guys it's cheap and transparent. It also has no repercussions in the scene directly afterwards. It's just there to remind us of Pacino as Pacino. And no, it's not enough. This is like a strange encapsulation of Pacino's career lately. Despite some good work on TV (Angels in America, You Don't Know Jack), Pacino's spent the last decade in some wretched movies: Gigli, 88 Minutes, Righteous Kill, Jack and Jill. He shows up and does his Pacino thing in material that's beneath him, as if his presence is enough: this is funny because it's Pacino doing it, this is dramatic because it's Pacino doing it, you should take this seriously because, look, it's Al freakin' Pacino. But again, the material isn't there, and actors can't earn moments on their own. Pacino can say the words, but as good as he might say them, the words he's saying here are practically meaningless. Most of Stand Up Guys is meaningless because none of the actions have consequences. It goes from little things like the Scent of a Woman rip-off scene to the big things like Doc's hit job dilemma. There's nothing at stake for any of the characters, or if there is, it's never expressed in a tangible way that made me care. Why does Doc care if Val dies? Why does Hirsch feel like getting out and about? No one has anything to gain or to lose. We're supposed to feel like these decisions have consequences because we know the cliches and we know the actors, but earning the moment means that the writing makes you feel what's in the story, not the stuff outside of the story. Towards the end of Stand Up Guys, the stakes are raised for one of the characters following a painfully contrived plot twist. Had I not lost my goodwill for the movie in the first half hour, I might have felt something at this point (assuming I wouldn't have been baffled by the silliness of the plot twist). Finally there's a sense of what could be lost if a certain character doesn't act decisively. This could have been the moment the film hinged on, and it could have salvaged something resembling meaning in a movie that's devoid of it. After building that flimsy bit of consequence, the film ends on a note that totally undermines the stakes. It's a reckless ending for characters who know how much there is to lose, especially since they were so cautious and worried a few scenes before. It's as if the characters and the screenwriter said, "Ah, screw it," because they were missing a cliche for the finale and needed to get it in there somehow. It just shows that Stand Up Guys wants to have it both ways without earning or committing to either: it wants to be a flippant last-night-out movie with old people and also wants to be a heartfelt drama about life and death. It winds up being a 90-minute trifle where everything is irrelevant, made worse by an ambiguous ending. To end on ellipses makes a movie meaningless unless the movie was so rife with consequence to begin with that the ellipses are a kind of relief. Here the ambiguity is a total cop out. The characters are still free from any repercussions for their actions, and the filmmakers get out of actually telling the damn story. During one of the many unearned scenes in Stand Up Guys, Pacino delivers a monologue on the nature of life and death. It's obviously Pacino's award clip. This is an intimate moment, and we're supposed to feel something because one character is shedding tears. It's hard to feel anything since the moment has no consequence, but whatever. Pacino recites the monologue diligently, modulating between gravitas and apathy -- been there, done that, I'm checking out, I'm okay with that, I've seen a lot, I've done a lot. He's wistful, he's witty, there's calculated range on display. Cavalier, self-assured, Pacino doesn't even finish his thought in an emotional flourish. Instead, he ends with a dismissive trail off. More ellipses. Part of it may be the character's reticence to get emotional, or part of it may be the character no longer giving a toss about what's going on. "That was good," Walken's character says at the end of the monologue. But this is less like Doc patting Val on the shoulder and more like the movie patting itself on the back; as if Haidle or Stevens is insisting, "Hey guys, it's Al Pacino who just said that -- it's gotta be good." Whatever you say, Doc. I don't freakin' buy it. I watched him play the notes, but there's no melody -- the song has no heart.
Stand Up Guys Review photo
Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin can't overcome an awful script
Sometimes I take for granted the idea of earning moments. If a filmmaker wants you to feel something, he or she needs to make you feel it without taking shortcuts. It's all about effort and honesty, because earning moments me...

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New TV spot for Michael Bay's Pain & Gain


The Rock and Marky Mark want to pump you up!
Jan 22
// Thor Latham
The more I see of Pain & Gain, the more I think that Michael Bay have been grossly misleading his career up until this point. I've never really been a fan of Bay's films or his style, but I seriously believe that this ma...
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Trailer: The Iceman


If you can't guess it, he is not a nice man
Jan 16
// Thor Latham
Here we have the second official trailer for The Iceman, starring Michael Shannon as the notorious contract killer. For over twenty years Richard Kuklinski, aka The Iceman, murdered one hundred people as his means of making ...

Review: Gangster Squad

Jan 11 // Matthew Razak
[embed]214346:39475[/embed] Gangster SquadDirector: Ruben FleischerRated: RRelease Date: January 11, 2013  Gangster Squad seems to be a gangster movie made by people who have watched too many gangster movies. Blatantly -- and I mean really not even pretending to hide it -- stealing from the Untouchables and heavily influenced by pretty much every other gangster film ever, you've seen this movie 100 times over. That doesn't actually make it less fun, but it does make it somewhat painful at points where its obvious theft makes you notice how it really isn't as good as the films it is stealing from. If you're served a piece of steak you're happy until it reminds you of the filet mignon that you had last week. Gangster Squad is basically The Untouchables but in L.A. and without Sean Connery. Already we're off to a rockier start. Sgt. John O'Mara (James Brolin), an honest cop in a crooked system, is tasked by his gruff talking police chief to go after mob boss Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) by assembling a special unti of cops who don't need to follow the usual rules. These cops include a quick draw, the Hispanic guy, the Black guy and Ryan Gosling. The latter plays Sgt. Jerry Wooters who happens to fall for Cohens girl, Grace Faraday (Emma Stone). The conflict between this gang and the mobsters makes up for the rest of the film in a collection of blood-filled action sequences, groan worthy one-liners and ridiculously campy emotional scenes. I'm not joking when I say it's campy. For the first half of the film, before it starts literally stealing from Untouchables (seriously, I thought a baby carriage was going to roll onto the screen), the film reminded me more of the movie adaptation of Dick Tracey than anything else. Penn's Cohen is right out of that film's cast of caricatured villains. You can tell he's having fun with it and his performance is definitely one of the strong parts of the film. The rest of the cast is a bit weaker with Brolin being as stiff as a board and Gosling unable to be as slick as he should be. Emma Stone is probably the most miscast as she attempts to vamp it up, but it turns out like the nerdy girl playing dress up.   By now you probably know the sordid history of the film. The movie, which was supposed to be released last year, got delayed because of a scene where men shoot up a movie theater. That scene was removed completely and in its place is a new scene taking place in Chinatown and far less violent. The ease with which this is done points to another issue the film has in that it doesn't actually add up to a cohesive whole. Instead each sequence plays out like a random scene from a random gangster movie, culminating in a ridiculous fist fight that is almost comedic. Each action sequence, though perfectly fun and tolerable in and of itself, feels separate from what came before it and are surprisingly different in tone. There's a bunch of gangster movie parts here that work fine, but they don't actually make a great gangster movie. What they do make is a bit of fun, however. While it's hard to point to anything that's actually good as a whole in the film its easy to have fun with it. The shootouts and fist fights are full of blood and violence, and when the cheese does work it's pretty outstanding. Brolins stoic performance doesn't work throughout, but at moments when he's delivering the right line it's absolutely brilliant. There is definitely fun to be hard here even if it's fun you've had previously. There is almost nothing original about Gangster Squad, and while lack of originality doesn't make a movie bad immediately when it becomes the prevailing feeling of your film there are issues. Gangster Squad steals heavily from the likes of The Untouchables and Dick Tracey, but never makes a movie for itself. While it still might be fun to watch it doesn't make for anything that you'll remember beyond the next week. It's just too easy to confuse most of its scenes with better ones that have come before it.
Gangster Squad Review photo
Where originality goes to get mowed down by a Tommy gun
Going into Gangster Squad I was pretty clear about what I wanted. I wanted a gangster movie that was going to have a little fun, but not get too serious. I thought that's what we needed in the genre after a few years of ...


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