Flixist Originals

How to Do It BETTER: Howard the Duck

Jun 22 // Sean Walsh
1. Send Howard to Earth When we last saw him, our stalwart protagonist (who would be voiced once again by Seth Green) was hanging out in Knowhere with Benecio del Toro's Collector and Cosmo the Space Dog. That's all well and good, but Guardians really has captured the market on Marvel's space-y real estate, and with Captain Marvel's Kree background, we'll assuredly get more space stuff there. Howard would be swallowed up surrounded by other extra-terrestrial characters and locales. So, naturally, we need Howard "trapped in a world he never made." That world, of course, is Earth. A surly, walking, talking duck on a planet of talking mammals is full of potential humor.  2. No Origins, Please Why spend two and a half hours dealing with where he came from when you can tell a wacky story (more on that below) out of the gate? Just do like The Incredible Hulk did and get that all out of the way in the opening credits. Even his trip to Earth can be told during the opening titles. Hell, Guardians 2 could deal with that. The film should start like a film noir, with Howard staring out the window of his crappy private eye's office drinking a glass of scotch, doing his best Jon Hamm from Mad Men. If you have to do an origin, have him narrate it to the audience during this opening scene. 3. Cast the Right Redhead If we're going to go the private duck (ha!) noir direction, you need a dame. In walks Beverly Switzler, played by gorgeous redhead Jane Levy (Suburgatory, the Evil Dead remake). Levy is funny, sharp as a tack, and certainly worthy of the "of all the run-down private eye offices in New York, she had to walk into mine" treatment. We'll remove the 'nude' from 'nude model' on her resume, but make her pretty enough for Howard to recognize and even lust after. You see, Beverly's photographer boyfriend Chuck has gone missing down in Florida and she needs help finding him. But why come to Howard the Duck all the way in New York? Well, you see, there are some weird circumstances to his disappearance. Something about a swamp, a monster...something a normal private eye wouldn't take seriously. Howard So you came to the one PI in New York City that's a talking duck? Beverly nods. Beverly Yeah, exactly.  Howard looks down at his feet. Howard (exasperated) Waugh... 4. Give Them Their Very Own Groot! So, Beverly pays Howard's fees and the two set a course for Florida, flying first class (jokes abound). They arrive in Florida, drive out to the small, backwoods town where Beverly's boyfriend was last seen and Howard does his detective thing. Naturally, it is an uphill battle as he is a talking duck in a small swamp town. But eventually, he gets a lead and they make their way to the swamp where Chuck vanished. Of course, not before an old man warns them both of the swamp monster that protects his territory. Crazy Old Man It's some sort of...thing...that walks like...like a man! Howard rolls his eyes. Howard Like, a Man-Thing? The old man eagerly nods, his eyes wide. Crazy Old Man Just like a Man-Thing! Disregarding the old coot, the two make their way to the swamp. It isn't long before they come upon the Man-Thing in all his mossy glory. Howard quacks in fear and pulls out his pistol, which causes the creature to reach out for him. Beverly, she of the steel nerves, puts herself between them. The creature isn't there to hurt them, she tells Howard. Its simply there to protect something. She explains to the Man-Thing that they are looking for her boyfriend, Chuck. The creature, it seems, understands her, and leads them further into the swamp. Think Groot, just without the whole "I am Groot" thing. Also, if you're wondering what the connection is betwixt our feathered friend and a giant plant golem is? Well, fun fact: Howard the Duck first appeared in issue #19 of Man-Thing's original comic, Adventure Into Fear, and the two have crossed paths on numerous occasions. It seems only right to bring them together for the first time on the big screen. 5. Expand the Universe(s) Now, I'm sure Dr. Strange is going to make the MCU a little bigger, but if there's one thing that Marvel has in spades (besides Spider-People, line-wide crossover events, and D-list villains), it's alternate realities. Deep in the heart of Man-Thing's swamp lies the Nexus of All Realities. We don't know what it's called yet, of course, but that's what it is. Before they discuss what it is, something comes out through the other side. Something weird. A vampire ninja, maybe. Or a cybernetically-animated superhero corpse (a la Deathlok, specifically from the Uncanny X-Force arc full of Deathlok heroes). Man-Thing quickly dispatches of the visitor with its massive strength and corrosive touch. Beverly Does that...happen a lot? The Man-Thing nods. It would seem, Beverly deduces, that Chuck fell into the Nexus. Howard informs her that he is not getting paid enough and that his own reality is weird enough. Beverly offers to triple her fee and our hero gracefully accepts. Howard, Beverly, and their new friend Man-Thing step through. Things get...weird from here. 6. Give Them a Familiar Bad Guy in a New Context The trio of unsuspecting heroes find themselves smack-dab in the middle of a war zone. A paltry resistance is crushed by giant war machines, all of which are marked with the HYDRA insignia. HYDRA troops surround our heroes. Howard H-hail HYDRA? A HYDRA trooper tazes him into unconsciousness. When Howard awakens, he and Beverly are in a high-tech prison cell. Man-Thing is gone, but who should be locked in the cell next to theirs but Chuck (played by someone hunky and relatively popular, like Robbie Amell or the Teen Wolf guy)! Reunited at last, but under fairly dismal circumstances. A guard comes to take them away. But not just any guard. It's Ward from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.! That son of a gun. He has come to take Howard to HYDRA's labs to be dissected. It is at this point, upon the cell being opened, that Howard is finally able to display one of his greatest talents: Quack-Fu. He quickly and easily dispatches Ward and frees Chuck. Beverly is clearly impressed by his martial arts prowess but Howard shrugs it off, the consummate cool cucumber. He wants to escape, but Beverly insists they can't leave Man-Thing behind. Howard goes to object, but she points out that it's their ticket home. Guessing that the monster is in the laboratory, the three make their way there. Along the way Chuck tells them about the reality they're in. Back in the 40's, the Red Skull successfully defeated Captain America, and using the power of the Tesseract, took over the world. There are no heroes (even the Asgardians had fallen to the might of the Tesseract) and aside from pockets of resistance like the one we saw upon their arrival in this reality, HYDRA is the world of the day. But Red Skull is not in charge anymore, no sir, his most trusted adviser, Arnim Zola (the ineffable Toby Jones), betrayed him, killed him, and took control of HYDRA and subsequently the world. Now, obviously this is to get around the Red Skull, Cap, and the rest. But that's not to say that Ward would be the only cameo, no sir. 7. Make It a Great Escape Their suspicions are correct: Man-Thing is on the cutting table. The two scientists operating on him? Why, Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons, also from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. In this reality, they, like Ward, have German accents as a result of HYDRA's global control. The trio watch them bicker briefly before taking them out and freeing the Man-Thing. Unfortunately, Simmons triggers an alarm before Beverly can knock her out. A whole squad of HYDRA goons storms the lab and it looks like our heroes are done for. But then the Calvary arrives, literally. The wall explodes and The Resistance has arrived, led by none other than Phil Coulson himself. With him are Melinda May (possibly having become Deathlok herself), Antoine Triplett, Alphonso "Mack" MacKenzie, Inhuman Daisy Johnson (Quake, if you're nasty), and her father Cal, along with a whole squad of rag-tag resistance members. Howard Who are you? Coulson We're S.H.I.E.L.D. Howard What's that stand for? Coulson Been a little busy trying to liberate the world from HYDRA, haven't had a lot of time to think up acronyms. With Daisy's abilities, Howard's Quack-Fu, Man-Thing's brute strength, and Coulson's leadership, they make short work of the HYDRA forces they come up against. But it isn't long before they come up against the big man himself, Zola, and his number two: an unscarred Crossbones (total badass Frank Grillo). Zola has taken on his familiar form in the comics, a face on a monitor on a robot body. Zola and Coulson exchange words and a big climatic fight ensues. In the fracas, Crossbones is scarred by Man-Thing but left alive (mirroring his fate in Cap 2), Howard very nearly sacrifices himself to save Chuck and Beverly from Zola, and finally, Zola is defeated. However, the war against HYDRA isn't over. This was just one of Zola's many bodies and as a digital consciousness ("cut off one head" and all that), he's already up and at them elsewhere. The only way to truly defeat him is to find his central consciousness and destroy it. On the bright side, S.H.I.E.L.D. has a Helicarrier now. Coulson offers Howard, Chuck, and Beverly spots in S.H.I.E.L.D. Howard and Beverly decline, but Chuck accepts. Beverly pleads with him to change his mind, but Chuck says he found his calling. They share one last kiss and everyone says their goodbyes. Man-Thing teleports Howard and Beverly to that reality's swamp and they go through the Nexus. Howard Wait...you could teleport this whole time? Man-Thing shrugs its shoulders. Howard (frustrated) WAUGH! 8. Give It A Happy Ending Howard, Bev, and Man-Thing are back home. Howard and Beverly bid farewell to their jolly green friend and make their way back to civilization. Beverly is obviously still very broken up about Chuck. Howard tries to find the words to comfort her, but gives up and takes a different route. Howard Hey, Bev? Beverly (sniffles) Yes, Howard? Howard You wanna grab a drink at that bar we stopped at earlier? Beverly The one you almost got murdered in? Howard shrugs. Howard After almost getting turned into roast duck by a Nazi robot with a TV for a face, a couple'a bikers don't seem so scary in retrospect. Beverly thinks about it. Beverly You know what, Howard? That sounds really nice. My treat. She reaches out a hand as they walk. Howard stares at it for a moment and then takes it in his. He looks at the screen and smiles. Howard (happily) Waugh. 9. Get the Tone Right We're talking about a sarcastic, angry duck-man here. If anything, Howard the Duck should be a dark comedy first, with action and adventure thrown in to give the audience what they want. People can accept a super-soldier, tech genius, and hunky Norse god. A talking duck detective is going to have it a little harder. There's all sorts of humor and pathos to be found in Howard's trials and tribulations, and sticking him in the middle of a warzone is sure to have plenty of comedic opportunities. 10. Get the Right Director Obviously, James Gunn would be my first choice but he'll probably have a pretty full dance card by the time Avengers: Infinity War Part II has come and gone. It would be important to have somebody fully capable of big, over-the-top actions scenes, humor, and noir. Honestly, there's only one name on my least: the unlawfully handsome Robert Rodriguez. He has pretty stellar range and experience with the aforementioned areas between films like Planet Terror, Machete, and Sin City. Sure, next to Edgar Wright he is my favorite director, but there are plenty of good reasons for that. 11. Make the Mid and Post-Credits Scenes Matter  Sure, this is a Howard the Duck movie, but it can still lend itself to good world-building. I think it's more or less universally agreed that Iron Man 2 is one of the weakest links in the Cinematic Universe's chain (I, myself, liked it just fine), but I'll be damned if people didn't lose their minds when they saw Mjölnir in the desert. For the mid-credits scene, show us the result of Howard and Bev returning the the bar. Have them both looking exhausted with their beers, then slowly pull away to reveal a bar-full of unconscious bikers. That's Quack-Fu, baby. Then, after the credits? Maybe return to the other reality. Arnim Zola blinks to life in a new body, as predicted. He reflects to himself that maybe his time on Earth has come to an end and activates a device. A wormhole opens. Zola smiles. Arnim Zola Next stop: Dimension-Z. He enters it and the wormhole closes behind him. Cut to black. Dimension-Z is a world dominated by Zola in Rick Remender's Captain America, where Steve Rogers ends up in for over a decade. Of course, Rogers won't be Cap anymore by the time Howard the Duck rolls around, but there's no reason we can't adapt the storyline to accommodate for Buck Barnes, the new Captain America (with an 11-movie contract, it's pretty obvious he won't be the Winter Soldier forever). It's a fun dystopian story full of action, adventure, and mad science. We certainly haven't seen anything like that yet from Marvel Studios! Just imagine: Captain America: Escape From Dimension Z! 12. Can't Forget the Stan Lee Cameo! Since Stan the Man is immortal, obviously he will make a cameo complete with requisite one-liner. Maybe as a drunk biker in the first bar scene or the guy in the cell on the other side of Howard and Beverly's! I can see it now: Howard looks over at the cell on the other side of his. An OLD MAN with a black eye sits on the prison cot. Howard What happened to you? A grin washes over the man's face. Old Man You should see the other guy! So, there you have it. That's how you make a Howard the Duck movie. Lots of laughs, lots of surly sarcasm, lots of action, a liberal dose of easter eggs (Howard: Yeah, we're on an adventure, alright...an Adventure Into Fear!), and Marvel makes another few hundred million. Aside from Howard's CG, there's not a whole lot in the way of budgetary drains, especially working largely with television actors. Despite his decades of relative obscurity, people are already aware of Howard courtesy of Guardians, which is a big step in the right direction. In the hands of a capable director like Rodriguez, with a cast consisting of Green, Levy, and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (and Kyle Maclachlan, that beautiful son of a gun), Howard the Duck could be Marvel's next Guardians.  Did I just write the pitch for the first new movie of Phase Five? Am I way off base? Think your Howard the Duck idea is better than mine? Sound of in the comments.
HTDIB: Howard the Duck photo
WAUGH!
[How To Do It BETTER takes a look at films that already exist that could use the tender love and care only a reboot can bring. Some were good, some were...not. Either way, Flixist takes an in-depth look at how to make it bett...

5 dinosaur movies you should watch instead of Jurassic World

Jun 12 // Nick Valdez
We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story Ah, We're Back. Truth be told, I had no idea this films existed for a long time. My only run in with it was seeing the awesome looking poster art on the cover of its VHS. It was a little bit after that where I finally watched it and I wasn't disappointed. So I'm guessing the same will happen for you. Instead of watching terrifying super monsters chase a bunch of dumb people around a park for the fourth time in a row, watch some dinos hang out in the Natural History museum.  Besides it was produced under Steven Spielberg's Amblimation line and stars John Goodman, so you know that's a good sign. Clearly it's better than Jurassic World.  The Land Before Time Ugh, this movie is so saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad. Why would I recommend thiiiiiis? At the very least, I can argue that a young group of dinos that want to find their families will make you cry because it's well written and not because it's badly animated like Jurassic World. In fact, just cry this weekend and cut out the middle man.  Theodore Rex Remember this? Whoopi Goldberg wishes you didn't. Why not rub this terrible decision in her face while you pretend she's actually stuck in that one manga, Gantz. Or you can just keep crying since you're so alone and would rather write about a movie than go see one yourself. it's not like you have friends to go with you anyway.  Dinosaurs I remember when I had a family once. I used to watch movies with them all the time. I actually saw the first Jurassic Park with my dad. He didn't like it much, so it pretty much changed how I felt about it too. But you know what I had a good time with? ABC's Dinosaurs. If I remember correctly, it was part of the early TGIF block and had a lot of good puppet work. But they always get to be a happy family by episode's end. That's more than I ever got. God, I'm so lonely. My family. Where have you gone? I miss you so much.  Jurassic Park But the best choice is to deny the future and head back into the past. I was much happier back then. With my family, with my loving home, with my friends. Maybe if I watch Jurassic Park instead of Jurassic World, the future will never happen? I can trap time within this little capsule and repeat it for as long as I want! Everything new is old and everything old is new again!  Birth, life, death, rebirth, relife, redeath, rerebirth, rerelife, reredeath, rererebirth, rererelife, rereredeath, rerererebirth, rerererelife, rerereredeath, rererererebirth, rererererelife, rererereredeath Those are my suggestions for five things you can watch that aren't Jurassic World! Are you going to see it? 
Dinosaurs  photo
More than the world
While Jurassic World takes the *ahem* world by storm, I never really connected with the idea. I don't have as big of a connection with Jurassic Park as a lot of folks do, but at the same time, I love me some dinosaurs. Good t...

Seven movies that need a black and white re-release

Jun 03 // Flixist Staff
Grand Budapest Hotel is arguably the most compelling film in a particularly compelling filmography. One of the things that makes it so fascinating is its use of aspect ratios, using visual cues to define different periods within the timeline of the narrative. It's also gorgeous and full of vibrant colors, as are all Wes Anderson films. But I would love to see The Grand Budapest Hotel in black and white for exactly the same reason that Stephen Soderbergh released a version of Raiders of the Lost Ark in black and white: Because without the color, you're forced to focus on everything else. Everyone knows how fantastic the compositions are in Wes Anderson films, but without color, you can get a whole different appreciation for the man's artistry. This is more academic, perhaps, because you would unquestionably lose something in the translation, but I think you could learn a whole heck of a lot from seeing those colors completetly desaturated. But on another level: rather than having an ultra-vibrant past, going black and white would have a very different feel to it. It would fit with the 4:3 aesthetic, which is most commonly associated with (at least in film) black and white movies. By using it as a specific choice for certain sequences rather than across the entire film, Wes Anderson would subvert audience expectations in a massive way. Color is such a fundamental part of his craft. But that's not all he has to offer. A black and white release of The Grand Budapest Hotel would prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt. - Alec Kubas-Meyer The Coen brothers have a knack for visual style that emphasizes contrast and sharp distinctions between light and dark. (They even did the black and white The Man Who Wasn't There in 2001.) So many of their films are candidates for black and white viewing, from noir/noirish fare like Blood Simple (1984), Miller's Crossing (1990), and Fargo (1996) to the screwball homage The Hudscuker Proxy (1994). My vote, though, is 1991's Barton Fink, which is somewhere in my Coen brothers top three. While there'd be something lost when the color is absent, the costuming, textures, and performances might help get that color across. Fink himself, played by John Turturro, cuts such a striking silhouette whenever he's on screen, like some pretentious ancestor of Henry from David Lynch's black and white masterpiece Eraserhead. - Hubert Vigilla Would anyone even notice? - Alec Kubas-Meyer The Wachowskis' first film, and arguably the one that's aged the best, Bound (1996) is a stylish noir thriller and lesbian romance shot on a shoestring budget. The financial limitations made the Wachowskis focus on the craft of their camera and their visual storytelling. After a string of ambitious, big-budget boondoggles (most recently Jupiter Ascending), going back to Bound-territory might be the best idea for the Wachowskis' next film. There's such stark contrast in so many shots of Bound, and a loving attention to the way that hard shadows and defined lines can enhance a scene and its mood. The leads Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon have this multi-era femme fatale look about them, as if they could exist alongside classic female leads like Barbara Stanwyck on the one hand and 90s-it-girls like Sharon Stone on the other. On top of its style, Bound is also noteworthy for being a sex-positive lesbian movie at a time when this was mostly unheard and taboo. - Hubert Vigilla Alex Proyas' Dark City (1998) was one of the least appreciated movies of the 90s and one of my favorite movies in high school. (I am so old.) A mix of hard-boiled noir, science fiction, and fantasy, the movie was made with light and shadow in mind. So much of the imagery goes back to masters of German expressionism like Fritz Lang, with plenty of nods to Metropolis (1927) and Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920). The casting and the costumes help keep the world of the film in this noir-like state that would be perfect for black and white viewing. Dark City would look gorgeous in black and white, like some peculiar noir film from another dimension. The Strangers, the pale-faced subterranean villains of the film, would be particularly chilling in stark contrast, and the occasional bright spots in the nocturnal film would seem like sunlight on a big screen. Later tonight, I may give the film a watch in black and white just to see what it's like. - Hubert Vigilla What makes black and white look good is contrast. The difference between the light and the shadows is everything in making a compelling black and white image. Honestly, that's true in any image, but particularly when there's no color to distract you. The film noir "look" is black and white not just because it was cheaper to shoot black and white and they wanted to save a few bucks; it's because the high contrast, colorless look fits the atmosphere they created. Cigarette smoke (smoke in general, really) also looks particularly compelling in black and white. They create an intense, dramatic mood. Blade Runner is a noir. I'm certainly not the first person to say that (I'm not even the first person on this website to say that), but that doesn't make it any less true. You look at those images, and they have exactly that kind of gorgeous high contrast look that you get from an old classic. But it's in color. And while it's a spectacular use of color, a black and white version of the film would heighten that noir style. It certainly couldn't replace the particular (and particularly gorgeous) color palette of the original, but as a companion piece? It'd be fascinating and beautiful. And hell, it's been eight years since the Final Cut was released. I think Blade Runner is due for some new alterations. - Alec Kubas-Meyer I love the films of Kelly Reichardt. She has a unique ability to force the best performances out of her actors, but the reason her movies should get a black and white treatment is her distinct way to tell a story through the environment the characters inhabit, be it how it is captured through the lens or how the actors and props interact with it.  The is especially true in Meek's Cutoff, which follows Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Paul Dano and others on a track through the dangerous Oregon desert. Meek's Cutoff, like The Grand Budapest Hotel, is shot in an untraditional aspect ratio (1. 33: 1) and these portrait movies lend themselves especially well to the simple beauty of black and white photography (see last years Ida for proof). I would love to see every Reichardt movie in black and white, but Meek's Cutoff is a no-brainer in my eyes. It needs to happen. - Per Morten Mjolkeraaen  The Godfather Part III is easily the weakest of Coppola's masterpieces. That's not to say it isn't great, but it has it's issues. One of the main ones is Gordon Willis' cinematography, which goes way overboard on the shadows and lighting. It's clear to see why, as this is the most somber and dark of the the three films, but maybe an all or nothing attitude wasn't the best call in this case. Just check out the image above and they heavy shadow crossing over Al Pacino's face. But wait, it actually looks pretty good. That's because it's in black and white. Ditching the color for the film would allow it's darkness to shift from overbearing to dramatic. The negative space created in black and white is perfect for a film where shadows creep out of every corner of every shot. It also fits the tone of the film fantastically, which is nihilistic and focuses heavily on Michael Corleone's gilt. Finally, it would be a great nod to the classic gangster films that inspired Coppola. As the film comes full circle with Michael holding an orange and dying so too would the black and white of this, the third film in the franchise, bring the genre back to its beginnings. - Matthew Razak
B&W For Everyone! photo
It ain't just for arthouse
When director George Miller mentioned that his preferred version of Mad Max: Fury Road (aka The Best) is in black and white, there was a resounding, "Um, what?" followed by a unanimous "OH HELL YES!" When he announced th...


The Cult Club: Putney Swope (1969)

May 31 // Hubert Vigilla
Some people come up to me and say, 'You the guy that made Putney Swope?' And I'll say, 'Yeah.' [And they say], 'Well, you really changed my life!' And my answer is, 'I'm sorry. You might have been better off without it.' -- Robert Downey, Sr., 2008 Reelblack interview The surreal anarchism of Putney Swope is established in the first minute, with contradictions played for laughs and all things intentionally off-balance, free-floating, a potential set-up for a punchline or a punchline per se. The film opens on a vertiginous, spiraling aerial shot of New York City interrupted by a dissonant piano chord. We see an older biker in a helicopter descend. A Jolly Roger and a Confederate Battle Flag flap in the wind. The chopper lands at a pier, and the biker steps out with a suitcase secured with a length of chain. On the back of his denim vest, "MENSA." The music is impending and sinister as he approaches a stooped-over square in a suit. They slap each other five and on comes a triumphant 60s groove, as if to say, "Yeah, we cool." In the board room scene that sets the plot in motion, the chairman of an ad agency dies while delivering a spiel, stuttering on his last word. The execs treat it like a game of charades. The nasaliest of boardroom weasels asks constantly, even after the chairman's clearly dead, "How many syllables, Mario?!" The other execs pick the corpse's pockets--ugly capitalist vultures. With the corpse on the table, the board votes for a new leader. The only stipulation is that they're not allowed to vote for themselves. And so they accidentally elect the one person they figured no one else would vote for: the company's token black guy, Putney Swope (Arnold Johnson). (Downey dubbed in his own voice for Swope's since Johnson purportedly kept forgetting his lines.) That's just the first 12 minutes. Revolution and selling out ensues. There's a gritty DIY-ness to Putney Swope that's in service to its irreverence and popular revolutionary vibe. It's at once a kind of guerrilla filmmaking and guerrilla sketch comedy. Anything is possible in the weird world of the film--a midget in a hard hat is POTUS, and bags of money are passed and hookshot off the backboard into an open-top case. Louis CK said he was inspired by Putney Swope's confident nonsense when he hosted a screening of the film in LA late last year. (Excerpts from the event and Q&A with Downey, Sr. can be read here on The Moveable Fest). CK had just moved to New York and bought a VCR, and he found a copy of Putney Swope at the videostore. According to the WTF podcast, Marc Maron was there with him when it happened. CK's early short films such as Hello There and Hijacker have Swope written all over them, as do the stranger segments of his show Louie. The jokes of Putney Swope come in various forms and with different targets. Downey delivers visual gags, verbal gags, quick gags, long-form gags, slapstick, and gallows humor. There are the one-liners, which seem like the stuff of the Marx Brothers and even A Hard Day's Night. I also can't help but hear shades of Dr. Strangelove's "You can't fight here--this is the War Room" in Swope's oft-repeated "Brothers in the black room" line. The zany, all-over-the-place approach is like those early Woody Allen movies as well, or perhaps those edgier 90s sketch shows like The Kids in the Hall and Mr. Show. The sex humor is gleefully vulgar (if The Guardian is correct, this is the first movie to use the word "jism"). The race jokes, sexuality jokes, and gender jokes are built on stereotypes being broken down, reaffirmed, or forced into an uneasy dance of doing both. The grittiness of the picture plays into the film's gritty, unwashed brand of comedy. The film critic for the New York Daily News in 1969 gave Putney Swope a negative-one-star review and wrote, "Vicious and vile. The most offensive picture I've ever seen." Putney Swope isn't just offensive. It's also politically incorrect, though political incorrectness isn't an end in itself, and nor should it be. These days many jagoffs use political incorrectness as a self-congratulatory badge of honor for tastelessness, but they wear the badge without acknowledging that political incorrectness takes many forms. Context is key since not all political incorrectness is created equal. The healthy, beneficial, and most complicated strand of political incorrectness is the satirical kind. I don't know if it's necessarily about punching up or punching down because legitimate targets and topics for satire come from all levels of social strata, but maybe effective satire that's politically incorrect is more about an awareness of what's being punched and why it deserves to be. Maybe that's the point. Maybe humor has a higher function. In other words, the offensive joke that someone tells makes you laugh, and if your politics are progressive or you care about your fellow human, you reconsider why you laughed and whether or not you should have laughed, digging into the real cultural meaning of the gag and the mindset of the culture as a whole. The satirist telling the joke, similarly, isn't just laughing at himself or herself. There's more than self-amusement at stake. The joke isn't just a bit of offensiveness--a fart in church that people will politely suffer through and forget--but a meaningful conversation with the culture, its makers, and its members. There's a predictive element about Putney Swope that seems especially important given its place in 60s counterculture. There's an assassination attempt on Swope, which recalls the biggest political assassinations of the decade (JFK, RFK, Martin Luther King, Malcom X). Yet as Film Crit Hulk points out in his appreciation of Putney Swope, the person who tries to kill Swope bears an uncanny resemblance to Mark David Chapman, the man who would shoot and kill John Lennon in 1980. (In another bizarre coincidence, Downey joked in a LIFE Magazine profile published November 28, 1969 that the only book he'd ever read was J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. Chapman, after shooting Lennon, sat down and read a copy of The Catcher in the Rye.) [embed]219426:42415:0[/embed] The primary prediction by Putney Swope, however, is an eventual shift that the counterculture of the 1960s made, transforming from activists and political idealists into the members of the self-absorbed "Me generation." The transition might have been expected, an inevitable comedown after the decade of love ended with such painful disillusionment. Sometimes it's not about changing the world since that might be impossible. The heroes have been killed, the hippies have cannibalized themselves, and now the whole enterprise seems like bullshit. Sometimes it's just about getting paid, and that's the most you can hope for. We see it in Putney's own desire to not just rock the boat but sink it, which he hopes to do by refusing to advertise cigarettes, alcohol, and war toys. What else, though, is more quintessentially American than the Marlboro Man, Kentucky bourbon, and G.I. Joe (aka my first military-industrial complex)? Swope's whole enterprise is doomed from the start--he's an ideological terrorist armed with only truth and soul. To use the words of Arthur Jensen (Ned Beatty) from Network, "You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Swope." When he spoke about Putney Swope late last year, Louis CK said, "This was made in 1969--it's that way a movie can be like a note in a bottle, this beautiful thing that just stays [the same]." The film captures its era, and yet I think it's also timely because the primal forces of nature, those larger political systems and corporate systems, also stay the same, and will stay the same. The system can't be dismantled, and the boat ain't sinking. Hell, it can barely even get rocked. That sounds hopeless, I know, but the good thing, at least, is that Putney Swope and other satires help you find a better deck chair on this awful ship we're on. [embed]219426:42414:0[/embed] Next Month... June 30th marks the DVD/Blu-ray release of Penelope Spheeris' critically acclaimed Decline of Western Civilization trilogy, a landmark trio of documentaries on the Los Angeles punk scene, metal scene, and the plight of homeless youth. All three films are going to be available for the first time ever on DVD/Blu-ray. To coincide with the release of The Decline of Western Civilization, we're going to look at one of the seminal cult movies of the 80s that's rooted in the ugly aggro-nihilism of the 80s LA punk scene. Yup, we're finally doing Alex Cox's classic Repo Man (1984). PREVIOUSLY SHOWING ON THE CULT CLUB Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) The Last Dragon (1985) Tromeo and Juliet (1996) Samurai Cop (1989) El Mariachi (1992)
Cult Club: Putney Swope photo
"How many syllables, Mario?!"
New York Times film critic A.O. Scott, in one of his signature recurring gags, wrote that Mad Max: Fury Road was rated R because it featured "A ruthless critique of everything existing." The same might be said of Putney Swope...

Five movies you love that aren't as good as Mad Max: Fury Road

May 22 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
Why it's beloved: Gravity is a technical marvel. It's the kind of film you have to see in theaters, because the scope of it is literally infinite. It's about swirling alone in the blackness of space, where the slightest mistake can kill you at any moment. We gave it a 100. I wouldn't have given it a 100, but I understand why Matt did. It's a technical marvel, and you spend much of the film wondering how the heck they did it. (Short answer: Computers. Long answer: Extremely complicated technical rigs and setups and choreography. Also, computers.) Seen on the biggest possible screen in 3D, there's nothing quite like it.  Why Mad Max is better: But the issues arise as soon as you decide to think less about the impeccable technique on display and more about what it is they're displaying. Mad Max may not have the same quality of CG or 3D that Gravity has, but it's the same sort of spectacle. For every moment Gravity had that made me gasp, Mad Max had ten. But it's not just about the look of it. Gravity's fundamental failing is its inability to let viewers figure things out for themselves. Everyone just keeps talking, even when it literally threatens their lives. They should be conserving breath. But instead, the audience needs to be told everything, or else... I mean, how could we possibly figure it out? Gravity assumes we're dumb.  Mad Max doesn't.  Mad Max knows that we can figure things out. Only a handful of things are ever explicitly stated, and it never feels like dialogue for the sake of dialogue. They don't sound like they're speaking to the audience. They sound like they're speaking to each other. Like people. We're shown things rather than told them. You learn everything you need to know from damn good filmmaking, not an overlong screenplay. Why It's Beloved: In my review of The Raid 2, I hailed it as the best action film ever made. I had a lot of reasons for that. You're welcome to read about them. But now, just over a year later, I'm at a crossroads. I say that The Raid 2 is the best action movie of all time, but... Why Mad Max Is Better: This has been eating at me since about halfway through my first viewing of the film. If The Raid 2 is the best action movie, but Mad Max is a better movie, and Mad Max is an action movie... does that make it the best action movie of all time? I still don't know the answer, but I do know this: Mad Max is, on the whole, a superior viewing experience. The action in The Raid is beyond incredible, and the "fights" are undoubtedly better than the ones in Mad Max, but after the first viewing, those long sequences of political blather start to grate. By the third time I saw The Raid 2, I was rolling my eyes. (Worth noting: The original The Raid doesn't have this problem. It is also not as good as Mad Max, but it is fundamentally closer to Mad Max than its sequel is.) It's fine, but it's definitely not as good as what Mad Max has to offer. The few moments of downtime in Mad Max are all excellent. They drive forward the characters and/or the narrative in interesting ways. There isn't a single wasted frame in the entire goddamn movie. You could cut half the political bullshit in The Raid 2 and the film would be better for it. But every last second of Mad Max is essential. Given a choice, I would probably rewatch individual action sequences from The Raid 2 over those from Mad Max. But if I had to choose one film to watch all the way through over and over and over again? No contest. Mad Max is is. Why It's Beloved: Joss Whedon took a group of superheroes and made an ultimately fascinating and extremely enjoyable team film. With the added charm that is so uniquely Whedon, I mean, what's not to love? It's big, it's funny, and it's got people wearing silly costumes. Why It's Not As Good As Mad Max: The second time I saw Mad Max, I went with my friend Brian. He doesn't really like Joss Whedon. After Guardians of the Galaxy (also not as good as Mad Max: Fury Road) came out, he said, "That's the movie that proves Joss Whedon is a hack." After we got out of Mad Max, he said it again. "This movie clinches it." He called the movie "life-changing." He would definitely give it a 95 or higher on the Flixist review scale. He would not be wrong to do so. I didn't name The Avengers 2 here intentionally. Not just because the critical response has been much more muted, but because the film's treatment of women has come more under fire than the original The Avengers (not that it was the best there either). Point is: Joss Whedon is known for writing strong female characters. That's his claim to fame. But none are as strong and as badass as the team in Fury Road. Let's be clear: A 78 year old woman does her own stunts. But here's the thing: A 78 year old woman has stunts to do. You know what that is? The. Best. Suck it, Whedon. Why It's Beloved: Last year's Academy Award Winner should not have won the Academy Award, but that didn't stop it from being an incredible film. But what really makes it so freaking amazing is the way it uses its technical prowess to create something uniquely cinematic. When most films are so same-y, it takes something like Birdman to kick you awake and remind you that movies can be and are magical things. Film is a magical medium. It takes reality and can bend it almost to the breaking point without you even noticing it's happened. You think you're looking at a straight path but it's curving you around. And suddenly you realize that you had no idea what was happening and now you're on a different path entirely. Birdman's one-take conceit does all of that and more. Why It's Not As Good As Mad Max: But it doesn't do it as well as Mad Max. Mad Max isn't a two hour take; it's a two hour car chase. But here's the thing: That car chase feels so much more real than anything in Birdman. Even ignoring the way Birdman breaks the rules in order to bring you into Riggan Thompson's head, it shatters illusions in order to wear its point on its sleeve. Birdman hits you over the head with its message because the characters monologue about it constantly. It's all very nihilistic, and though it's (extremely) compelling, it's less compelling than watching people develop during a car chase. The characters in Mad Max develop subtly but poignantly. No one in Birdman really develops at all. And while that may work with the narrative that's being told, watching Michael Keaton be sad after monologuing about things is far less momentous than watching Tom Hardy give a tiny thumbs up to a woman who he had been pointing a gun at minutes before. Why It's Beloved: Drive was the best movie of 2011. It was the first film that I saw at a press screening that I would later pay to see. And... I'm not actually sure there has ever been another example of that. I love the film. The nearly silent but completely deadly driving protagonist was pretty darn compelling. And though it has ultra-violent action in it, it's the journey of a Real Human Being that made everyone love it. (I mean, that soundtrack, though.) Why It's Not As Good As Mad Max: You may have guessed that I intentionally reduced the character of Driver to "nearly silent but completely deadly driving protagonist" in order to make the comparison between him and Max even easier, but the reality is that they both fit into the same mold. But the difference is that Driver spends the film trying to keep a woman safe because she can't fend for herself. What Max is doing is far more interesting. He's helping Furiosa and the others, not saving them. He doesn't have to be the one to get revenge, because at any given moment, he's not the biggest badass in the truck. The focus on cooperation between two equals without any need for a romance makes Mad Max an ultimately more meaningful film. 
Mad Max Is Better photo
#6: Literally everything else
I've seen Mad Max: Fury Road twice in the past week. Crucially, I paid New York City movie ticket prices to see Mad Max twice in the past week. Next week, I will all-but-definitely pay to see it a third time. I don'...

Review: Pitch Perfect 2

May 15 // Jackson Tyler
[embed]219455:42387:0[/embed] Pitch Perfect 2Director: Elizabeth BanksRelease Date: May 15, 2015Rated: PG-13  As the movie opens, the Bellas (our A Capella heroes) are performing for none other than President Obama himself, inserted into the audience with cheesy stock footage. Every member of the team gets their moment in this welcome back performance, building up to the reveal of fan favourite Fat Amy, hanging from a curtain and belting out a solo. Then, her trousers get ripped, and she ends up exposing herself to the entire audience, who react with abject horror. Ha ha, a fat person has a vagina! How disgusting! Roll titles! It's an opening indicative of what to come. For one thing - it isn't funny. Pitch Perfect 2 is disappointingly light on laugh out loud moments, perhaps the only memorable one coming from an unexpected cameo. The scenes play out with a sense of obligation to them, a been here done that feeling that is oh so familiar to leagues and leagues of comedy sequels, and the jokes are often little more than references to the prior movie. Bumper's back, and he flirts with Fat Amy at a party! Again! *nudge nudge, wink wink* Pitch Perfect 2 is also approximately seven years long, squeezing in about six incongruent and unfocused character arcs in the gaps between the many, many musical setpieces that make up the 115 minute running time. It takes a twenty minute detour to David Cross' house half way through the movie in order to do a reprise of the popular sing-off scene from the first film. It's perhaps one of the movie's better scenes, but it's far too elaborately constructed and belaboured for something that amounts to nothing more than a tangent.  Whilst it's easily the most out of place scene in the film, it's less a problem itself and more a symptom of deeper structural flaws. The scenes don't flow, the story isn't constructed for a thematic or emotional ends, it's a conveyor belt of stuff that has to be there. The music scenes have little to do with the character scenes which have little to do with the comedy scenes. All the required elements are present, but haphazardly thrown onto the screen with no attempt to bind them into a strong narrative. But all of that would be completely forgivable, if the movie's core was solid. After all, Pitch Perfect's aims are important - it positions itself as a story of empowerment, essentially a franchise of coming of age movies about a group of girls being best friends. And if it achieved that, structural flaws and indulgent reference humour would ultimately be only surface level criticism. But that dream dies in the opening scene. The movie's humour often springs out of this crass and nasty place, consistently aiming its sights on anyone who isn't slim, conventionally attractive and white. Fat Amy's confidence isn't played as a response to a harmful culture that consistently shames and dehumanises her, it's a setup to a joke that is always being told, and the punchline is her fatness. In between the movies, the group has picked up a new member from Guatemala, who constantly references her impending deportation. Hana Mae Lee's character isn't just the quiet, timid asian girl from the original, now she's a ninja too!  It's hypocritical for Pitch Perfect 2 to stake its claim at empowerment, when it's filled to bursting with harmful jokes, and its core musical gimmick isn't far removed from Acoustic Covers of Rap Songs. While it's disappointing, it isn't exactly surprising, these problems existed in the first film, and the sequel has only doubled down on the upsetting elements. The movie is a two hour adaptation of Patricia Arquette's Oscar speech, its feminist politics defined by a lack of self awareness and intersectional thinking, as it cuts back and forth between scenes of the Bella sisters bonding to thirty seconds of hilarious racist transphobia. But hey, then they sing a song.
PP2 Review photo
A Capella Wordplay Indicating Failure
Everybody loves a song. It can be the perfect emotional climax to a movie. From The Blues Brothers to School of Rock to Linda Linda Linda to, hell, the original Pitch Perfect, the final performance as cathartic...

The Mad Max Trilogy: Look Back in Anger

May 12 // Hubert Vigilla
Mad Max (1979) - Lawless Ozploitation Mad Max, the film that started it all, wasn't post-apocalyptic. It's pre-apocalyptic. The world in the film is lawless and rowdy (i.e., the Platonic form of Australia?), but not the rusty, dusty S&M wasteland that would be seen in the subsequent films in the series. What we get instead is a solid Ozploitation revenge movie, one reminiscent of a drive-in biker picture or a western about bandits hunting down the lawmen that done killed one of their kin. The first Mad Max is an origin story that the other movies will riff on and play with. Max is a leather-clad cop in a muscle car who kills a punk called The Nightrider in a car chase. The Nightrider's posse rolls into town looking to even the score. Revenge, mannequin molestation, eccentric music cues, and general Ozplotation mayhem ensues. When not running down goons and making them cry, Max is back at his seaside house with his saxophone-playing wife Jesse and their cute toddler Sprog. (The hell kind of name for a kid is Sprog?) Home offers a semblance of order in a world that's otherwise falling apart and unable to be saved. Which inevitably means this domesticity is doomed. You know things aren't going to end well for Max and his wife because they have a cute way of saying "I love you." This is generally a sign of someone's eventual death in a movie, sort of like when a character develops a sudden and persistent cough. The police force is in shambles, just holding on to some shred of order like the rest of civilization. After the grisly murder of one of his friends on the force, Max wants to quit so he can lead a normal life. His chief, Fifi, tries to convince him to remain on the force and delivers a key line: "They say people don't believe in heroes anymore. Well, damn them! You and me, Max, we're gonna give them back their heroes." Max goes on holiday with his family to clear his head, which leads to a chance run-in with The Nightrider's friends and the eventual tragedy that pushes Max over the edge. By the end of the film, Max's ordered and peaceful world is gone. He goes vigilante to get revenge, goes full anti-hero in his methods, and instead of returning to his seaside home, he leaves society for the road. Off he drives out into the lawless wild, which is where he now belongs. One of the final shots of Mad Max is our hero driving off as an explosion goes off in the background. That's not just an act of revenge carried out, it's the obliteration of the ordered world. Fifi's line about the return of heroes sets up Max's recurring reluctant heroism in the other films. In the next two Mad Max movies, Max's motives begin as self-interested and self-serving, he eventually shows his true qualities as a character. In the process, he aids in the founding of two separate societies, giving others a chance to rebuild the civilization he's abandoned. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) - Post-Apocalyptic Anarchy From Mad Max to The Road Warrior, we go from lawlessness to anarchy. There's no vestige of the civilized world. Now it's a land of bondage gear and crossbows. To get by, people scavenge and murder. Max's badass vehicle has gone from shiny to a dusty matte black. Both the man and the machine are amply battle-scarred; Gibson appears to have aged 10 years in movie-time even though this sequel was released just two years after the first film. Welcome to the apocalypse—ain't it grand? The Road Warrior is easily the best movie of The Mad Max Trilogy, and a remarkable achievement in reckless action filmmaking. Stunt performers leap off speeding cars, hurtle through the air, break bones on impact with the Australian dirt. The vehicles—which look like someone played Frankenstein in a junkyard—are gloriously expendable, colliding at high speeds and creating the scrap metal equivalent of a Bloomin' Onion®. The western vibe of the first Mad Max is here again—rather than bandits out for revenge against lawmen, it's outlaws raiding a mining town—though there's also the air of a samurai film, particularly Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo. The film follows Max as he tries to bargain for some gas from a small outpost of peaceful survivors. He eventually agrees to help them leave their besieged settlement for a seaside paradise (as seen in postcards). If the survivors were to remain, they'd be killed by the tyrannous Lord Humungus and his band of barbarian perverts clad in assless chaps and football pads. As a character, Max begins to take on the traits of classic cinematic nomads, particularly Toshiro Mifune's character from Yojimbo and Sanjuro and Clint Eastwood's Man with No Name from Sergio Leone's Dollars Trilogy. In Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, Max is even called "The Man with No Name" by the Bartertown announcer. (He's also called "Raggedy Man," which walks the line between badass and adorable.) We begin to see the recurring Mad Max motifs here: the ripped version of the MFP uniform, the bad leg, the sawed-off shotgun, his car bobby-trapped with a bomb. Max is surrounded by a lot of colorful supporting characters in The Road Warrior. There's Bruce Spence as the gyrocopter pilot, and also a feral child with a razor-sharp boomerang. Lord Humungus makes a strong impression with his bulging scalp, his metal hockey mask, and He-Man physique. The whole look of the Humungus posse carries forward into Thunderdome, and seems to partly inspire the goons in Fury Road. (The influence extends to the pro-wrestling tag team The Road Warriors, later known as The Legion of Doom. The movie also inspired Tonka's Steel Monsters toyline, which featured a hefty post-apocalyptic vehicle and action figure; as a kid, I had a Masher truck, which was driven by a Lord Humungus knock-off named Metal Face.) Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985) - A Kooky Melange As far as sequel subtitles go, "Beyond Thunderdome" is the post-apocalyptic equivalent of "Electric Boogaloo." That and the Tina Turner song "We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)" are probably the lasting legacies of the film. (Unpopular opinion: "One of the Living," the Tina Turner song during the beginning credits, holds up better than "We Don't Need Another Hero.") Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome carries the series out of its Ozploitation past and sticks it right in the middle of the 80s. And a bunch of kids. Not only is Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome the most 80s entry of the trilogy, it's also the most blockbustery in execution. The vibe is less western and samurai movie and more Return of the Jedi and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. There's also a disappointing lack of vehicular action in Beyond Thunderdome until the finale. Max enters an outpost known as Bartertown (the outback's Mos Eisley) in search of some stolen goods. In the process, he becomes embroiled in a power struggle between Bartertown's founder Aunty Entity and a duo known as Master Blaster. Master Blaster runs the underground pig shit refineries that produce methane, the town's super-fuel. There's a fight in Thunderdome, which is an early highlight, featuring chainsaws and bungee cords and raucous chanting from the post-apocalyptic masses. Thunderdome gets beyond Thunderdome in about 25 minutes, though. Max eventually winds up rescued by a tribe of children who are convinced he's a savior who'll fly them to Sydney, Australia (as seen in a View-Master). Thunderdome was apparently inspired by Russell Hoban's post-apocalyptic novel Ridley Walker, which explains the fractured/restructured speech patterns of the child tribe. The film feels like it grafts Max into this sort of story, and his previous skill set of hard-driving and vehicular cunning are not particularly valuable for this adventure. Instead, Max uses his fists and some of his wits (and a whistle... and a monkey), and yet he feels a little off. It's the difference between the Han Solo of The Empire Strikes Back and the Han Solo of Return of the Jedi—Mad Max goes soft. Thunderdome introduces some fascinating disjunctions to the continuity of The Mad Max Trilogy. Bruce Spence, the actor who played the gyrocopter pilot in The Road Warrior, shows up in Beyond Thunderdome as the pilot of a small plane. It's unspecified if Spence is playing the same character in both movies or two separate pilots. Max's car also appears again in Thunderdome, though it was blown up real good in The Road Warrior. (Maybe it's another tricked-out Interceptor, like a second pair of black jeans just in case?) The story of Thunderdome doesn't entirely cohere on its own either. It feels like a Mad Max tale told by a child, which figures since the story is all about Max helping children establish a new society elsewhere. If we think of Max as serving a function in the foundation myths of the societies he's helped create, this wildly plotted fairy tale version of a Mad Max story might have been entirely intentional. Mad Max's Pseudo-Continuity - A Tankful of Juice or The Legend of Mad Max There are a few ways to think of the loose continuity of The Mad Max Trilogy (and possibly even Fury Road), and I'm glad the series has a kind of pick-and-choose mentality, like we're able to co-create the post-apocalyptic world to a certain degree. Apart from straight continuity, you can think of The Mad Max Trilogy as a kind of loose continuity, with the same character wandering off and going on different adventures, and bits and pieces not always fitting together neatly. The best example of this is probably the Zatoichi films, a series of 26 movies that star Shintaro Katsu as the title character. In each film, the blind samurai known as Zatoichi tries to escape his ruthless past but is then confronted with its repercussions. Instead of a sawed-off shotgun, he's got a sword concealed in his walking stick. There are slippages in continuity in the Zatoichi films when viewed sequentially. In one movie, Zatoichi's sword is broken, but then it's perfectly fine in the next. It's like Max's car showing up again in Thunderdome. Another option is to think of Max as the same character-type/archetype in the films but not the same character throughout the series. It's like the Zelda games in this regard: there's a guy named Link who wears green, carries a sword, gathers certain items, and he goes on adventures. Maybe each Mad Max film is its own discrete Mad Max film, with each inhabiting a different world but with recurring elements and common motifs persisting between the worlds. You can also think of this in terms of Jack tales—Jack referring to the archetypal stock hero of stories such as "Jack and the Beanstalk," "Jack the Giant Killer," and "Little Jack Horner." In this case, we'd have "Max the Mad," "Max the Road Warrior," and "Max the Guy Who Went Beyond Thunderdome." To that, one could also think of The Mad Max Trilogy as a thematic trilogy that's loosely connected, sort of like Leone's Dollars Trilogy. The Man with No Name may or may not be the same character from film to film, but he embodies a character-type that's already equipped with certain storytelling machinery (i.e., the gunslinger, the loner, the ronin). The archetype allows Leone to explore different kinds of stories that are thematically linked. There's another possibility I've been considering that provides an in-story explanation for the inconsistencies in continuity. In this possibility, Max is the name given to a mythic figure who helped various societies try to re-establish order in the post-apocalyptic world. Note that The Road Warrior and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome are both presented as histories that are recounted by people in the future, each one in their newly established civilization for which Max is partly responsible. Max is a hero in the foundation myths of these new, separate societies. The tellings of a Max story differ since each society is defined by its own values and own history. If the first Mad Max is closest to an agreed-upon canon, it would make sense why The Road Warrior and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome offer divergent stories that don't fit perfectly together—they're the myths of two societies that have never interacted that share a mythic figure in common. The recurring Bruce Spence pilot may not be the same person, but maybe he serves the same mythopoeic or folkloric function in the two different societies, sort of like the tanuki in Japanese folklore, or the spider in African folk tales, or other kinds of tricksters who manifest themselves in different forms. Miller knows his Joseph Campbell, so I wouldn't be surprised if this is one way he's put his cinematic hero to good use. This brings me back to Fifi's lines in the first Mad Max: "They say people don't believe in heroes anymore. Well, damn them! You and me, Max, we're gonna give them back their heroes." If this mythic read of The Mad Max Trilogy holds, we see Max abandon his own dying civilization, help build new civilizations, and become a hero to these new socities. Max has succeeded in giving people back their heroes, and in the process has helped seed a little bit of hope for the future. And yet the hero at the end of each of the Mad Max sequels cannot go back to society. It's something he's known, he's loved, but that he cannot recapture. Instead, he gives the new world to others. It's like my favorite line from the book The Return of the King, which Frodo says at The Grey Havens: I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them. But you are my heir: all that I had and might have had I leave to you. It makes me wonder how many other times Max has given up the world so that others could rebuild it and enjoy it, and how many other Max tales there are, and how they differ, as if the new civilization has played a game of mythopoeic telephone with the legend of the Raggedy Man. One reason I think "One of the Living" is better than "We Don't Need Another Hero" are the lines "You've got ten more thousand miles to go" and "You've got ten more thousand years to go." In other words, a hero's work is never done. [embed]219429:42374:0[/embed]
Mad Max Trilogy photo
"The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla!"
I have yet to see Mad Max: Fury Road, which comes out this week, but I did get a chance to see the first three Mad Max movies over the weekend at a friend's place: Mad Max (1979), Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981), and Mad M...

The Cult Club: Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)

May 08 // Hubert Vigilla
Hubert: Salo is one of the grandaddies of extreme cinema, and anyone who's curious about notoriously disturbing movies will eventually encounter Salo at some point of his or her life. But Salo feels like it comes from a different pedigree than other films frequently seen on "Most Disturbing Movies" lists like Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust or the Guinea Pig series. Salo is an art movie from hell, so painterly in its unpleasantness, so carefully composed; it has more in common with Ken Russell's The Devils (though not as manic) or the work of Lars Von Trier than I Spit on Your Grave. Maybe Salo's best contemporary unit of comparison is Srdjan Spasojevic's A Serbian Film, but even that movie's extremism is so different in tone. There's something about Pasolini's use of long shots during most of the sadism that gives the events of Salo a sense of absolute spiritual death. There's also a philosophical rage in its content which can be read as anti-fascist as well as anti-capitalist--both have a tendency to reduce humans to functions or mere objects. Where would you situate it in the cult canon and the canon of extreme cinema? Alec: It's hard to disagree with your assessment there. Salo stands pretty much apart from everything else. If I were to choose a direct comparison, I think The Devils is probably the best. Because whereas most extreme cinema feels gratuitous for the sake of it, The Devils feels gratuitous because the world that it takes place in is gratuitous. (That film is pretty high up on my re-watch list, by the way. I got about halfway through a second viewing a couple months back and had to turn it off, but it's been on my mind ever since.) Salo is the same sort of thing. But what makes Salo so intense is both its use of long shots and also wide shots. It's filmed from a distance, with everything you could possibly want (and much, much more) in the frame. And as such, there's rarely any "immediacy" to the "action." Your blood doesn't get pumping. There isn't any sort of sensory overload. You're acutely aware of who is doing what to whom when and how. It's voyeuristic in a very different way from most extreme films. In a way that is more fundamentally horrible, because you are a passive observer. It's more documentarian than experiential. It's like an anti-found footage film, in that regard. (Though that's an odd comparison to make, since it predated the found footage concept by several years.) Hubert: That distance may be what makes viewers feel so helpless, like all they can do is watch these teens get degraded and tortured. There's one moment a little before the "Circle of Shit" title card comes up, signaling the next ugly chapter of Salo and a further descent into hell. One of the girls says, "I can't take any more" like she's giving up her will to live. And you feel it. It's a phrase synonymous with "I want to die." But things are only going to get worse. And at that moment, watching the movie again, even knowing the end, I got this sad chill through my body. I was struck by this terrifying realization that no one was going to save the day, there's no hope of fighting back, and that all I could do was watch these victims be destroyed. There's that one scene later when it seems like one of the kids will at least be executed quickly with a pistol, but it's not even loaded. One of the libertines gets in the boy's face and says, "You must be stupid to think that death would be so easy. Don't you know we intend to kill you a thousand times? To the end of eternity, if eternity can have an end." The idea that death might be a release is turned on its head--there is only death, over and over again, and no escaping it. And all we can do is watch. Absolutely chilling. Though on the note of that scene, it's the disgusting punchline to a contest to decide who has the best ass. Salo is full of so much sadistic and perverse humor or amusement, or at least from the point of view of the libertines. How did you feel about its fascistic comedy, like the jokes that keep getting told? Alec: On some level, I think it could be argued that Salo is the darkest of comedies. I remember reading an IMDB trivia that said that some of the actors were absolutely shocked when they saw the final product, because the experience on set had actually been relatively light. I don't know that that's true, but rewatching the film I can see how (at least in parts) it might be. Certainly there is a lot of laughter by many of the characters. Early on, there is laughter during the stories, and the libertines and their accomplices laugh throughout, telling (terrible) jokes and just generally feeling pretty good about the whole thing. (Especially Lazy Eye, less so Combover.) To them, this is pure entertainment, which is absolutely and entirely horrific, but it brings up the question of perspective. You're seeing these actions at a distance, but you spend most of your time with the fascists. Obviously it's not a pro-fascist film, but they are the central characters, not their victims. Their victims are there to be actors in the the play that the libertines have created and can engage in at will. For us and the victims, it's a horrorshow, but for them it's the best sex-comedy imaginable. And the constant jokes and the levity just makes the whole thing far more unsettling than if it was deadly serious. Actions speak louder than words, but the words in context with the actions make for a particularly disturbing combination. Hubert: There's such an ugly flippancy to what the libertines do and how they do it. If torture and humiliation without reprisal weren't enough, the ability to laugh in the face of the hell they're creating for these victims might be the ugliest demonstration of their power. Though on the note of what you said about the fascist point of view, Salo is so effective of tapping into that mindset in which anything is permissible against the powerless. Do you remember how or when you first heard about Salo? For me it was probably 1999, and I was just starting college and really into extreme cinema and finding VHS bootlegs of stuff. (This makes me sound so old.) Salo was completely out-of-print back then, and the initial Criterion DVD release was selling on eBay for something like $250. I first saw Salo on a degraded pan-and-scan VHS around 2002 with some friends, which wasn't so unnerving, but watching it a second time a few years ago, it was much more unnerving and effective, like I finally understood Pasolini's filmmaking grammar. Alec: I imagine it was during my extreme cinema phase. There was a period of a few years where I would look up lists of the Most Disturbing Films Of All Time. I look back on that now with a bit of disdain (which we discussed in our, um, discussion of cinematic garbage), but I imagine that I learned about it around the same time that I learned about Cannibal Holocaust and the others. That was probably mid 2000s, but I couldn't put an exact date on it. I know that I saw it for the first time after I had entered college, because I distinctly remember watching it. More specifically, I distinctly remember how little I felt while watching it. I had gone through A Serbian Film and Cannibal Holocaust and the August Underground films at that point, and I was expecting something to beat them all. It wasn't. I remember eating Pad Thai during the coprophagia scene and thinking, "This is probably disgusting." But the entire thing was so detached that it didn't phase me at all. It was horrible, but the effect was kind of numbing. And it took me a while to realize just how brilliant that was. I'm going to compare it to The Act of Killing, actually, because that film is about how mundane these horrible things are. Salo is the same way. It's so relentless and so evil and so clinical that you just sit there, munching on Pad Thai and looking at some of the most awful (yet artistic) images ever put to celluloid. Hubert: The Act of Killing is a great point of comparison. Salo and The Act of Killing are movies about the banality of evil, and every act of depravity, while shocking, also has an air of a common ritual or business proceeding--this isn't murder, it's an undertaking; this isn't murder, it's an act of killing. In Salo, the days have a schedule, there's a structured repetition of stories and meals, and this sense of order allows these acts to be carried out with a kind of boredom on the part of the libertines. They can make jokes because this is like another day at the office, and maybe the most chilling aspect of that is that this could be yet another round of commonplace depravity, just the latest set of teenagers that fascistic libertines murder a thousand times over to achieve a sadistic pleasure that is never sated and continually slips into boredom. The libertines say they're the ultimate anarchists, but this adherence to order and structure reveals them to be the ultimate fascists. When I interviewed Joshua Oppenheimer about The Act of Killing, he mentioned how normal everything seemed to the killers he encountered. One of the anecdotes Oppenheimer shared is something he caught on camera, and it appears toward the end of his follow-up film, The Look of Silence. It's two men recounting their killings in the place where they slaughtered hundreds of people, and then they do something so normal that it's terrifying. ( The Look of Silence comes out later this. I saw it at last year's New York Film Festival, and it's probably going to be my pick for the best movie of 2015.) One of the most aphoristic lines in Salo: "Nothing is more contagious than evil." History proves that. Evil is contagious and unstoppable. Alec: To that point, it's sort of interesting that Pasolini was murdered just before the release of Salo. It would have been fascinating to see how he reacted to the reaction. But more than that, I want to have seen the follow-up. The film was apparently intended to be the first in a three part "Trilogy of Death" following up his "Trilogy of Life." To think that Salo was the start of something is simultaneously revolting and amazing. It's entirely possible that had he lived, we would be talking about a different film entirely. (I cannot imagine what that might have been.) But perhaps we should go back to this idea of art. What really fascinates me about Salo is the fact that it is a part of The Criterion Collection. I can't imagine A Serbian Film or Cannibal Holocaust or any of those other horrific films getting the same level of recognition. More than anything else, that is a statement about its worth as a film. Honestly, being chosen for the Criterion Collection is about as bold a statement as can be made, at least in a certain sect of cineaste circles. All of the films are pretty much equally revolting in terms of content (maybe), but Salo stands apart. I wonder, though, if it's a function in part of the filmmaker behind it. Pasolini was a respected director who had a history of making films that were not Salo, so his decision to take on that project makes it even more unique. Do you think that if the exact same film had been made by a newcomer with a twisted mind, it would have the same impact on the art film community, or do you think it would be written off sort of like A Serbian Film as something that's just grotesuqe? Hubert: On the idea of a "Trilogy of Death" as a follow-up to his "Trilogy of Life," I wonder if the other two Death films would have also been inspired by classic works of literature. The Trilogy of Life is blossoming with eroticism and a joy about the body, and Salo is the negation of all that and the reduction of the body to an orifice/instrument/commodity. Nearly all sex is sadism in Salo. The two exceptions being secret trysts like brief escapes from hell, but even those end badly soon after they're discovered. These reprieves from hell are only discovered because the other victims are willing to rat out others to save their own skin. The fascists have broken any sense of solidarity and humanity among their victims, which may be their most awful triumph. I'm trying to think of what other books might have been part of a Death Trilogy, which would also play into Pasolini's disillusionment with capitalism. Voltaire's Candide? George Bataille's Story of the Eye? Titus Andronicus? Oedipus? Maybe Mein Kampf? I think Salo's cachet is precisely because it was made by Pasolini. Had a no-name newcomer made the same film, it probably would have been written off by its then-contemporary audience as crass obscenity with pretensions of being called art. And yet had a newcomer made the same film, I still think it would be discussed in the future (assuming someone rediscovered it) since there's an artfulness to the perversion that suggests a grander thesis. It's an approach that's much different than A Serbian Film (the most obvious modern-day heir to Salo) since Salo stands back from the horror rather than getting up close, as we mentioned. That distance that makes the evil mundane is also what makes the film more effective and more artful in what it's trying to accomplish. If someone other than Pasolini directed it, it wouldn't be in the Criterion Collection, that's for sure. I remember you mentioned a while back that you feel like A Serbian Film belongs in the Criterion Collection. For you, how does A Serbian Film (which is a metaphorical version of the decade of real-life horror that followed the dissolution of Yugoslavia) compare to Salo? Alec: The thing about these films (Cannibal Holocaust too, actually) is that once you know what the point is, you sometimes feel like it's screaming the point in your face. Admittedly, it's probably impossible to be simultaneously shocking and subtle, but there's not a lot of subtlety in the presentation of their ideas. I think both subscribe to the belief that enacting any kind of social change requires you to shock the masses out of complacency, even if that means that every so often The Point Of The Film leaps out of the screen and screams in your face. A Serbian Film is far more guilty of this than Salo, but they both have it. But what I think makes A Serbian Film so compelling in context with Salo is that they both refuse to let up on the viewer, but they do so in nearly opposite ways. Even as A Serbian Film uses closeups and shaky camera movements and all of that, you're never left wondering what, exactly, you're seeing. You always have enough to understand just how fucked up the entire thing is. But it's a modern version of that. It's like the difference between The Raid and an old Jackie Chan film. The camera in those films did almost nothing. Everything was on the actors and choreography. The Raid has excellent choreography, but the camera is a part of it too. You are a part of it and not just a passive observer. This is the exact same thing. Had the film been made in 1975, I think it probably would have looked more like Salo (and I think if Salo had been made in 2010, it probably would look more like A Serbian Film). I think both are products of their time, taking the cinematic language and twisting it to create an affecting experience. And that's why I think in the long term A Serbian Film will be a significant film like Salo is, because it is a representation of current cinema taken to the most extreme of extremes. Hubert: Without getting too sidetracked on martial arts movies, I think the first Ong-Bak is the most Jackie Chan-like movie that we're going to get post-1980s in terms of camera placement and movement in the frame. (One day we should do a Cult Club about a seminal 1970s kung-fu movie.) But yes, Salo and A Serbian Film are products of their time and their region, and their respective aesthetics are defined by that. Still, I think even just one feature film in, Spasojevic is a very different kind of filmmaker than Pasolini, but he seems more thoughtful about cinematic transgression than someone like Tom Six (The Human Centipede) who's out to upset without trying to say something substantive. Before we talk about the final scenes of Salo, one last digression. It might be worth addressing the elephant in the room, which is extreme cinema as an artform, of which Salo is one of the exemplars. There's the political dimension and aesthetic dimension to good extreme cinema that shows a social value and artistic merit that can transcend mere shock, but I wonder if there's also a kind of cinematic machismo to it. In other words, are certain movie fans playing a game of chicken with extreme films and extreme filmmakers? I mean, seeing Salo on a list of disturbing films felt like a dare to me when I was a young man. Unless something's changed that I'm not aware of, these sorts of movies still tend to appeal to the curiosity of teenage males and men in their twenties more than other groups of movie watchers. Is it the thrill of the forbidden, maybe? If these movies are crossing the upper limits of contemporary good taste to explore a taboo outland, are they also a proving ground for personal limits regarding bad taste? Alec: I think this gets a bit into that discussion we had back in the day about what I deemed cinematic trash. Films that show up on Most Disturbing Lists are being sold to a very specific audience. Cannibal Holocaust and August Underground are being sold to a very specific audience. A Serbian Film is a little bit different. Salo is more different still. But I think you're guessing high. It's not men in their 20s. It's kids in their teens. I was a teenager when I found the list that convinced me to watch a Cannibal Holocaust and August Underground. And though I was in my 20s when I saw Salo and A Serbian Film, those seeds were sown well before (and, as we've discussed, have withered quite a bit in recent years). But Salo's spot on those lists should come with a huge asterisk, because it's not a film for teens. Not just because the content is a bit much, but because the context requires, well, context. And without the context, the film's reputation precedes it. It is not nearly as "shocking" as many other disturbing films, despite being so disturbing, for all of the reasons stated here. This is where Salo "standing out" becomes particularly relevant. It doesn't have the fucked up appeal of Cannibal Holocaust. It's not something that you can really watch with a bunch of friends and laugh about. And I think that makes it a perfect litmus test, actually, along with maybe Irreversible, because they're art films with a hardcore edge. But if you get through all of Irreversible, that says a lot more than if you just see the first few scenes and turn it off. If you actually experience Salo and feel it and wrestle with it, then that's something different. The people who go into those films looking for sick thrills will either come out underwhelmed or transformed. They'll see that ultraviolence can be used to provoke something more than just a reaction, which is what so much of extreme cinema wants. It doesn't even matter what the reaction is, just that there is one. But Salo wants more than that. It wants a specific type of reaction, one that results from a very specific mindset. And with that, I think it's time to talk about those final scenes. Hubert: As if the feast of human shit wasn't infamous enough, there's the torture-filled finale. Watching Salo again, one of the striking things about that last sequence is where it's held and how it's depicted. It's on that estate somewhere, but it's in a place distinctly lacking the lush vegetation that's seen elsewhere outdoors. It's this lifeless enclosure of dirt and brick. And we're viewing these final acts of degradation silently and from an added distance, shot from the POV of a libertine at a high window using binoculars. After the descent through the Circles of Mania, Shit, and Blood within this wretched estate, we'd arrived at the deepest circle of hell, or its deepest pit, but we're overlooking this place from a window. Pasolini's use of space in these final shots is unnerving, and sound as well. (On that note, those war planes that groan in the background of some scenes are more ominous than any score.) We don't hear any of the screams of the victims, but just the radio in the room and the occasional voice of the libertine who's watching. And course, the creepiest of the libertines tells a joke about death since that's been his gimmick this entire time and a cavalier display of his power. We talked about jokes earlier, and I think Pasolini winds up making laughter one of the most terrifying sounds in the film. We never get to see what happens after this ritual of torture and murder is completed. The libertines on the ground do the can-can in hell, but there are still more tortures and more victims. There's no clean up, no departure from the estate, no sense of the libertines exhausting their desire for murder. Instead, we have a dance between the young guards to the song that opens the movie. I once thought there was some glimmer of hope in that final shot, but I've come to realize that this is a movie without any hope. The movie is its own circle of hell containing these other circles. The libertines succeed, the center of hell is just outside the window, and the future dances without doing anything about it. Alec: The image of the young man with his tongue being pulled by pliers is one of the most recognizable from the film, I think (primarily because it was featured on the cover of Criterion's original DVD release), but it's hardly the most grotesque image in that sequence. After a film of horrific actions but relatively minimal violence, the bloodletting comes as a particular shock. You see a cut throat and some bullet wounds, but nothing particularly gory. It's matter of fact and then it's done, even if the camera lingers on that cut throat for quite some time. But in that finale, the punishments come and they come hard. As the libertines watch from the window through their little binoculars, we are treated for the first time to the real closeups of violence that the film has never given us. But it's also the most overtly voyeuristic sequence. I mentioned before that the detached nature makes you feel a bit like a peeping tom, but in this sequence the rules change. For the first time, you are a part of it. You see through the eyes of the libertines as they revel in the torture and death of these kids. For once, you're complicit. As an aside, I find it fascinating that the one libertine who we see a more depressed side of throughout the film is the one who does not get to enjoy the sights from the comfort of the throne. He's always in the thick of it. All of this is an assault on the audience, though, the moments that truly hope to shock them out of complacency. The ending, in its apparent hopefulness, is the same. It's resigned to failure, to the belief that the battle against fascism has been lost. These kids get to dance, as do the libertines, while the unwashed masses lie dead and dying in the dirt. They get to think about their future, about going home to their girlfriends. They get to have a future, and there will be no punishment. Even worse, you get to see them revel in it. To quote your review of Bela Tarr's The Turin Horse: "Just how bleak can it get? None more bleak." Later This Month... You're going to get a double dose of The Cult Club this month since we had to push Salo back for the Tribeca Film Festival. And this time we're going with much lighter fare. With the fifth season of Louie winding down on FX, we're going to look at a cult movie that was extremely influential to Louis CK: Robert Downey Sr.'s 1969 satire Putney Swope. PREVIOUSLY SHOWING ON THE CULT CLUB The Last Dragon (1985) Tromeo and Juliet (1996) Samurai Cop (1989) El Mariachi (1992) Six-String Samurai (1998)
The Cult Club: Salo photo
"All's good if it's excessive"
Peir Paolo Pasolini's final film, Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom, is one of the most notorious arthouse movies ever made and frequently cited among the most disturbing movies of all time. Inspired by the Marquis de Sade'...

Your (New) Guide to the Flixist Reviews Guide

May 05 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]217286:41235:0[/embed] One thing has not changed since our inception: We want our review scores, especially at the extremes of the scale, to matter. They do matter. They matter a lot. We've reviewed more than 1000 films since our inception. Of those, only six have scored a 95 or higher. Seriously.  I'm proud of that. We are proud of that. People talk about using the entire scale. Some outlets try. Most don't. We try, and we succeed. Only five films have scored below a 20, and only one below a 10. A score is not an afterthought, and we don't treat it like one. It is a fundamental part of the review. But a score represents a word, and that word represents a blurb. That blurb, ideally, represents the review itself. Flixist launched with a 200 point scale and has since dropped to 100. The specific requirements a film had to meet to reach any given category have changed. We have done this to make it easier for you, the reader, to understand where we are coming from. And also for us, the writers, to get our own feelings across as effectively as possible. It was with that in mind that we revised those little blurbs. So without further ado: --- 100: Legendary. One of the best and most influential films ever made. Period. 95 – 99: Ultimate. I was blind but now I see. This has literally changed what I think films are capable of. 90 – 94: Spectacular. An instant classic, one of the best films I have ever seen. 85 – 89: Exceptional. One of the best films of the year. You should see it immediately. 80 – 84: Great. Definitely check this one out. I wholeheartedly recommend it. 70 – 79: Good. I liked this one, and you will too. 60 – 69: Decent. Yes, this could have been better, but it is still worth your time. 50 – 59: Average. By the time you read this, I will have already forgotten about this movie. 40 – 49: Subpar. I kind of want to like this movie, but I can't. It is not worth your time. 30 – 39: Bad. I do not like this movie, and I'm not even going to try. 20 – 29: Terrible. Do. Not. See. This. You and everyone involved should feel ashamed for wasting your time if you do. 10 – 19: Atrocious. I cannot believe I subjected myself to this. You will be furious if you do, livid if you pay to do so. 0 – 9: Repulsive. My hatred for this horrible, morally repugnant movie will literally consume me. If it shows up on your TV, throw it out the window. It has been sullied forever. --- We have used every single part of this spectrum. I've personally used all but the top honors. Some of those numbers come easily, some only after a serious discussion with other members of the staff. But all of them come from the heart. And by removing the royal "we" found in previous versions, we have decided to embrace that. Modern Method has always prided itself on the personalities of its writers. We're not nameless, faceless soldiers working in the MM army. We are individuals, with our own feelings and beliefs. It's why we've embraced second opinions, allowing other writers to add their own thoughts to the main review, serving as confirmation or condemnation of the Official Flixist Opinion, as though such a thing could ever exist. I know that some people will see my byline and think, "I trust this guy." Others will say the exact opposite. I'm the same way with other critics, and I get it. That's fine. In fact, it's great. It's that disagreement that creates compelling critical discourse. And that's really what we're all after. Because movies are great by yourself, but the real fun begins when you share your feelings (good and bad) with the rest of us. If you're new to Flixist and you made it this far, welcome. We hope you like it here. And we hope that, whether you agree with us or not, you at least understand that what we say is what we truly believe.  
Flixist Reviews Guide photo
Behind the scenes of the Best Damn Movie Reviews on the Internet
One of the perks of being a writer at Flixist is that you get to read my super awesome, overly long reviews guide. I've been Flixist's Reviews (and Features) Editor editor for so long that I had to check my LinkedIn to see ju...

The All-American Avengers

May 01 // Jackson Tyler
Tony Stark is an evil, evil man. We lose sight of that, because we see through his eyes, and his evil is humanised, sanitised, then finally redeemed. We get to see him as a tortured soul, a man whose failings come from fear and whose heroics reveal the truth of his nature. But he is the arms dealer for whom redemption is to keep all the weapons to himself. In doing so, he gets to be celebrity and underdog, both a born billionaire with immense destructive power at his fingertips, and just one man against a world out to get him. Make no mistake about it, Tony Stark is evil. And so are his Avengers. Age of Ultron tries to grapple with this. It tries valiantly, it tries desperately, but it is ultimately a failure through and through. For by the end of the movie, the heroes must be heroes and the villains must be villains, the ideological critiques of the movie written off as untrue as the credits roll, or the audience may not return next year. Whatever themes or philosophies the movie is attempting to convey are crushed by the weight of the Marvel franchise machine. It's a far cry from The Avengers, which was perhaps the most thematically coherent and successful movie in the MCU. However, The Avengers thematic aims were a full 180 degrees from those of its sequel. It functions as superhero propaganda, an unabashed celebration of American Exceptionalism, positively dripping in 9/11 imagery. Nick Fury calls the events of the movie his promise to worlds unknown, and to the members of the security council that supposedly oversee him: this is why we need superheroes, he says, and this is how they have to be. And a promise it was too, from Marvel to the audience. The Avengers was the studio’s go big or go home moment, an ideologically condensed statement that had to not only sell the audience on its interconnected commercial strategy, but invest them in the values of the Marvel universe. The Avengers may lack the outward awfulness of say, Transformers: Age Of Extinction but ideologically, it aims for an incredibly similar spot. It is an all-american story of the power of individualism, the might of an intelligence and defence organisation shown through a chosen powerful few conflicting personalities, as they fight a childish and incompetent god who leads a faceless, heartless, identical army. It was a runaway success, and marked the moment when people stopped showing up to see their favourite characters banter, and started showing up for the Marvel brand. After such a strong statement of intent, there was nowhere for Marvel to go thematically but inwards. It had to start truly interrogating its own values, for to do otherwise would bely a dangerous lack of self awareness, any long running storytelling franchise finds longevity through thematic introspection, otherwise it stagnates. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was Marvel's first substantial attempt at self-examination, as Captain America begins to question his loyalties to S.H.I.E.L.D. and the moral integrity of the Good Guy organisation is for a brief moment, uncertain. Alas, the movie does not have fully have the courage of its convictions to go all the way. S.H.I.E.L.D. is brought down due to the discovery of a Hydra infiltration, an easy audience signifier for villainy, rather than due to failings on its own terms. Nick Fury, the man initially behind the Insight Project, gets to remain a hero due to his refusal to "having the courage not to [murder 20 million people]." Black Widow's monologue on capitol hill at the flies completely in the face of the movie's commitment to critiquing American imperialism and overreaching surveillance, as well as the War On Terror: "You're not gonna put any of us in a prison, you know why? Because you need us. Yes the world is a vulnerable place, and yes we helped make it that way. But we're also the ones best qualified to defend it." But such a monologue is necessary to maintain the integrity of the Marvel universe, for without it the fantasy would be broken. Our heroes must be above the law, above consequence and under all circumstances necessary. I don't mean to make The Winter Soldier to sound like a total failure in how it deals with these themes, because it isn't. It does a lot right, including using Steve Rogers, an in-universe tool of American military propaganda, as the main force for criticism of the current military and surveillance system. And ultimately, S.H.I.E.L.D. still falls, and it is made clear that such an organisation is unsalvageable. The Winter Soldier's criticisms are often unconfident, but they are, for the most part, coherent. Not so with Age of Ultron, a movie far angrier and pointed in its criticism. The movie positively seethes at the notion that the Avengers could possibly be a force for good in the world. The Avengers themselves are, for all intents and purposes, a privatised S.H.I.E.L.D., funded by Stark and managed by Maria Hill. On top of that, the setup of the movie is strikingly similar to The Winter Soldier; Stark's motivations are identical to those of Alexander Pierce. He wants to create a device to end the war before any can begin. Like all good villains, Stark is driven to the acts he commits for human reasons, in his case an egotistical fear that everyone he knows and loves could die in another alien invasion, and if that happens, it would be his fault for not acting. So he creates Ultron. Ultron is the perfect antagonist for the Avengers, a character created to ideologically challenge the values of the characters, and by association, the audience. "You protect the world, but you don't want it to change," he says in one of his now twitter famous trailer speeches. Ultron's position is that the Avengers are bastions of a harmful status quo, forcing their ideals on those who do not want them, the very thing standing in the way of progress. The movie's opening action scene features Stark's unmanned "Iron Legion" flying into a Sokovian city, only to be greeted by a crowd of unhappy locals who never asked to be saved. Until the final setpiece, Ultron's a relatively sedate villain, staying out the way as the Avengers travel the globe, leaving a trail of immense destruction in their wake all by themselves. After the hoo-rah celebration of The Avengers, and the uneasy criticism of The Winter Soldier, Age of Ultron tackles head on the American Exceptionalism of its titular superheroes. And nowhere is its anger more pronounced than in the characters of Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, known here as The Twins. They submitted themselves to Hydra experiments, because they were orphaned as children, trapped in rubble for three days, with nothing but a unexploded Stark Industries shell for company. They are the human cost of Stark's actions, previously kept helpfully offscreen. In one of the movie's best scenes, again using Steve Rogers as the harshest American critic, he defends The Twins to Maria Hill, who's so far been giving them a dismissive villain exposition. Hill: "File says they volunteered for Strucker's experiments. That's nuts."Cap: "Right, what kind of monster would let a German Scientist experiment on them to protect their country?"Hill: "We're not fighting a war."Cap: "They are." The Twins have a clear desire: to get revenge on Stark, and an empathetic backstory that hooks the audience into their desire. In storytelling terms, they are the closest thing the movie has to a protagonist. Which is what makes the movie's eventual climax so hollow. The Twins are good guys, and the Avengers is where good guys belong. The 'reward' for their goodness is to be assimilated into the very culture that they were railing against. The movie spends two thirds of its running time ideologically tearing down the inherent imperialism that the Avengers stand for, and then throws up its hands and begins a hoo-rah crowdpleasing final setpiece in the style of the original film. Surprise! Ultron doesn't just want to take out the Avengers, he wants to end all life on earth, but not if the Avengers punch him in the face first. As the final sequence begins, Cap says "It's not just about stopping Ultron, it's about whether he's right," and yet at no point is there even an opportunity for them to prove him wrong. There are no thematic stakes to the final battle, nothing close to say, Return of the Jedi, which is maybe the most famous example of a blockbuster ending in a battle of philosophies. The movie wraps up with a distressing sense of obligation, and all of its ideological perspectives are thrown out the window for a punching match, because to truly confront them is incompatible with the needs of the Marvel brand. Those critical themes need to be there to give the villain credibility, so they may speak threatening monologues that will go viral when teenagers hear them in trailers. But they cannot be allowed to be more than window dressing, lest they overshadow or call into question the core values that The Avengers succeeded on. There is another film next year, and when the audience leaves the cinema, they need to want it. I suspect this unresolved tension is at the heart of Age Of Ultron's more muted reaction than the original. On paper, it does all the things that The Avengers does, it has the same crowdpleasing action, the same commitment to small moments of character work, but on a deeper level, the movie is at war with itself over what it wants to say and what it wants to be. When the dust settles, Vision and Ultron talk philosophy for just thirty seconds, and we get perhaps our best glimpse into the more quiet, painful and introspective movie that Whedon consistently said he wanted to make.Then Ultron dies, and Thor begins spouting off a trailer for Infinity War. The status quo is restored, but it is not earned, and a palpable sense of apathy hangs over the epilogue. They'll all be at it again in Civil War anyway.  In the very last scene, Wanda, the only surviving Maximoff flies into frame, cementing herself as a full time, All-American Avenger. But neither her or her brother confronted Stark, their very real pain was never resolved, it just evaporated when the plot required. After everything, her character motivations are rendered irrelevant, and her arc crushingly inevitable: the Marvel universe is one of heroes and villains, and the heroes all fight under the same flag.
American Marvel photo
American Exceptionalism in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
“With everything that's happening, the things that are about to come to light, people might just need a little old-fashioned.”--Agent Phil Coulson, The Avengers. 

Snaxist: Kellogg's Avengers: Age of Ultron Cereal

Apr 30 // Nick Valdez
A little bit of background. I'm a cereal connoisseur, and I've spent the greater part of my life eating all sorts of sugary, life threatening cereals. From the ill-fated Oreo O's, King Vitamin, and Rice Krispy Treats, to the always welcome Waffle Crisp (RIP). Basically, I've worked for years on fine tuning my palette so I'd like to think I know a bad cereal when I eat one. But that doesn't mean I don't dig in on Malt-o-Meal every now and then. Oh, boy I better stop beating around the bush then and get right to it. This cereal isn't terrible, nor is it fantastic. It's aggressively average. That's the saddest cereal could ever be.  If the name didn't inspire any confidence, neither did the cereal's box itself. The front was clearly just bad photoshop, and the back had a neat little decryption puzzle, but nothing about this was screamed effort. The cereal itself is basically a generic Lucky Charms. But where Lucky Charms makes an effort to at least mold the little marshmallow pieces into distinct shapes, this cereal does the opposite. The marshmallows are all circular: one green, one blue and red, and one red. As you can see in the image below, the rest of the cereal is like if Alpha Bits only came in squares. Are Alpha Bits still a thing? I miss Alpha Bits. The amount in the box was enough for four bowls (but only three man sized ones), and I only paid three dollars so it was pretty much what it was worth.  As for the milk, I have some lactose issues sometimes so I always drink vanilla almond milk. It's fantastic stuff. I'd highly recommend almond milk over this cereal. I don't mean over as in on the cereal, but like instead. Do you get what I mean? I like milk. Anyway, where does the milk come out of? Is it just a name or is there a guy whose job it is to milk almonds? Or is it like a crushed almond juice or something? Would that be just a general paste then? That's why I only drink the flavored ones. The chocolate one is the worst, however.  Anyway, don't eat this damn cereal if you don't need to. But do drink milk. Heard it does a body good. 
Snaxist photo
Diabeetus assemble
This is the kind of promotion I've been waiting for. When I started Snaxist with Max Roahrig (RIP) some years ago with Denny's ill advised Hobbit Breakfast Menu, it was the fact that'd I'd be able to talk about cereal someday...

Ultron 101 photo
So what the hell is an "Ultron," anyway?
With comic book movies, it’s not always easy keeping up with all the influences and references that the filmmakers draw upon from the wealth of source material. Comic Movies 101 serves as a primer for newcomers to the...

Will Darth Vader return in Star Wars: The Force Awakens?

Apr 16 // Matt Liparota
Before we lose our heads, there are definitely ways to explain away this (apparent) discrepancy. The line pretty clearly evokes the moment in Jedi in which Luke explains his family tree to Leia and the voice very clearly sounds like Mark Hamill – but that doesn't necessarily mean it's Luke speaking. If we assume it is, however, it's possible that director J. J. Abrams was just trying to keep the line as faithful to the original dialogue as possible while still putting a fresh spin on it – and hey, the fact that someone is holding Vader's old, destroyed helmet as the line is spoken seems to indicate the big guy is gone, right? And yet, doubt lingers, all hinging on one little word. "Has." The dialogue has already been adjusted to fit whoever we presume Luke is speaking to – likely a child, either his or Leia's – so it's not as though the audio was lifted directly from Jedi. Why not adjust the first part of that line to be past tense? There's certainly some precedent for people coming back from the dead in the Star Wars universe – for starters, Alec Guinness spent most of his screentime in the original films as a ghost. In addition, one of the most well-regarded pieces of Expanded Universe literature – which, to be fair, is no longer considered canon – is Dark Empire, which sees Emperor Palpatine resurrected by way of clone. Is it possible we'll see a fresh-faced Hayden Christiansen palling around with cranky old Mark Hamill in the weirdest father-son team-up ever? Obviously this is pure speculation, and we'll have to wait until Christmas to find out how much of it is just internet posturing. Perhaps the bigger question is what it would mean for the series' biggest villain/tragic hero to return from the dead. It would be a huge, seismic twist on the level of "Luke, I am your father" to be certain, but we're not sure it's one that would sit all that well with fans.Vader's redemptive death at the end of Jedi is a lynchpin of the series, and one given extra weight once we've seen Anakin's rise and fall in the prequels (regardless of quality). Bringing Vader back, even as a clone, could very well undermine that moment and thus Vader's journey over the course of the original trilogy. Bringing back the series' iconic villain is a hell of a way to set The Force Awakens apart in this new era of the franchise, but in a way that would cheapen the classics. What do you guys think? Are we crazy? Take another look at the trailer and let us know. [embed]219301:42332:0[/embed]  
Vader is Alive? photo
One little word from the new trailer has us all worked up
The latest trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens – revealed this morning at the Star Wars Celebration – has us all worked up here at Flixist. We've already watched it dozens upon dozens of times and analyzed it...

Why It Sucks To Go To The Movies In London

Apr 03 // Jackson Tyler
I live in the most expensive city on earth, and like many people in that city, I am incredibly poor. I’ve been living unemployed for the last year, on temporary half-rate employment support allowance, because after all this time, my case has yet to be processed. My ticket to Fast and Furious 7 today will cost me almost a quarter of said weekly allowance. As somebody who tries to keep relatively current with movies in order to write about them on the internet, such a massive cost inherently changes my relationship with them. Making regular cinema trips is an intense financial burden, and as such, I have to be choosy about those which I go out and see. Yet, I don’t often make that choice myself. I mean, I do, I’m not getting into free-will or anything here, but decisions aren’t made in a vacuum. I’ll see a movie on opening weekend if more people are going to be talking about it so I can avoid spoilers and get in on the zeitgeist. I’ll see a movie on opening weekend if I’m going to review it. I’ll let a potential masterpiece slide if I’ve got something to do at home and want to afford milk for the weekend. It’s not hard for me to argue that if my criticism is driven by what I watch, and what I watch is driven by what is deemed culturally relevant for me to watch, that I am a bad critic. After all, that is the manner in which the status quo remains dominant regardless of how harmful or stagnant it may be. People always decry the amount of sequels and remakes, but they make the most commercial sense for everyone involved. Studios get a pre-existing audience to market to, movie websites get to survive because people are looking for information on them, thus creating more and more interest in the movies that already had an audience. It’s an incredibly successful and self-sustaining system that tends towards hegemony. Because the film industry is just that, an industry. It relies on the consistent exploitation of both its workers and its audience in order to maintain the profit margins that it creates. By engaging with movie culture on its terms, I am feeding into a system of my own exploitation, and the exploitation of others. Instead of heading to the Odeon on a Friday, I could stay at home and watch a cheap second hand DVD I picked up two years ago for 25p, and have enough money to afford something better than frozen chicken nuggets for dinner. Maybe with that leftover money I could put it towards a cause that would work against the way the government treats the poor and the disabled and improve the quality of life for others as well. I don’t, though. And honestly, I think that last paragraph ends on a dangerous line of thinking. It’s the same line of thinking that blames poor people for the exploitative labour practises of amazon, because they can’t afford to drive to the shops. Ultimately, I can’t truck with any thought that puts the responsibility for change on those that are already struggling and desperate. The idea that the public have the final say under capitalism is clearly a fallacy, because people’s choices are so often dictated for them. Anyone who says “Vote with your dollar!” gets serious side eye from me. When I have so few dollars to vote with, and those with power and status so many, is it any wonder we keep getting the same results? This is how the same voices get to be heard over and over in criticism. Those with the established jobs, those with access to pre-release screeners, or those that can afford to keep up with the increased prices of regular tickets, tend to be straight, white, cis men. These economic processes are the same processes that lead to the experiences and thoughts of marginalised being pushed to the side-lines within criticism, when they’re the people who need to be heard. Criticism is being written that dismantles these harmful ideologies, often later when these movies become widely available, or cheaper, or even pirated, and then I see it written off by established people so often as “inevitable tumblr backlash.” Tumblr isn’t a monolith, I’m not saying its perfect, but to write off important criticism because it doesn’t come from a legitimate established platform is only helping to sustain a system that is ultimately harmful and exploitative for all but a minute number of people. I haven’t got an answer, I don’t have a fix, and I wouldn’t trust anybody who says they do. All of these problems in movie culture are merely the problems of western culture writ small, No Ethical Consumption Under Capitalism and all that jazz. And when forced to be complicit in your own exploitation, the only thing you can do is try not to feel guilty. My band aid of a quick-fix is just: be empathetic, help others where you can, and try not to think about it. When thinking about a film I ignore my relationship to it as a product, because otherwise every time I wrote anything I’d probably break into a rant about the death of post-war socialism and that doesn’t help anyone who wants to know about The Avengers. But one thing I can do, when faced with any harmful elements of a culture or sub-culture, is to try to find or build my own alternative niches to engage with. In this case, what it means is I want to make it a personal goal to write more about movies that aren’t new releases, that aren’t in the news, that aren’t about to get a sequel. Hopefully you’ll see more words from me that are worth reading because they’re good words rather than because they’re relevant and topical, and I encourage you to find more critics who operate this way, because there’s like a million of them better than me even on this here website. Read alternate voices, support marginalised perspectives, and if we can’t get rid of an awful system, at least we can build cooler, safer spaces within it. Anyway. Enough of this, I’m heading out to watch Fast and Furious. Can someone spot me a tenner?
London Movies photo
How Much Does A Movie Ticket Cost?
Earlier this week, I complained errantly on twitter, as I am wont to do, about my local cinema’s increasing of prices to £11.80. (Which, for those of you in America, comes to $17.51 for a standard 2D ticket). I w...

Flixist Discusses: Neill Blomkamp

Mar 11 // Jackson Tyler
[embed]219104:42263:0[/embed] Jackson: Let’s start with District 9. To me, it’s a very muddy film from a talented first-time director, one with incredibly strong and affecting moments, but more than a little incoherent, thematically speaking. There’s stunning moments, like Wikus’ eviction tour through the District, and the weapon test scenes. But it just doesn’t know what to do after that first act; it’s made its point about apartheid, its made its point about the evils of bureaucracy, and then the arcs just feel perfunctory. Wikus redeems himself, technically, but that doesn’t have any bearing on what the film is trying to say. It’s a great example of a short film expanded to full length that just couldn’t support it. This is opposed to Elysium, which I think makes the story an active part of its metaphor, not just a necessary element of a movie that exists to slap an allegory to (but we’ll get to that later). What did you think of District 9? Matt: Reading that, I don’t think our opinions on District 9 differ all that much, Jackson. I don’t hate the film – far from it – but I think it’s a very flawed film that struggles to find a deeper message, if it has one at all. As you said, that first act is pretty great – it’s thematically rich and visually interesting, leaning on the mockumentary format to immerse the viewer into this world that’s so similar to our own yet so different. Even if the viewer is ignorant of the historical apartheid that District 9 draws inspiration from, Blomkamp really sells the horror and injustice of the setting. But I think it kind of loses steam after that first act – it all but drops the mockumentary format, and it moves into more generic sci-fi territory. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, necessarily; not every science fiction story has to have some deeper message about the real world nestled within, although some of the best often do. It’s just that that first act is so rich in that sense that I can’t help but find the rest of the film disappointing – it feels like Blomkamp says what he wants to say on a deeper level in the first 20-30 minutes but keeps going until he hits a more feature-friendly length.  Jackson: Exactly, Blomkamp made his point tonally rather than narratively. It was a metaphor that existed to be a metaphor, it drew parallels and then once that world was established, it tacked a story on to the back of that. The manner in which Christopher’s mission is carried out is ultimately weak, and doesn’t tell us anything about him, his race or his world. It’s strange when you watch the movie, because District 9 changes in front of your eyes from pointed and angry, to bland and generic. And don’t get me wrong, I really like District 9, because like you say, a film doesn’t have to be this perfectly coherent thing to be good, but I don’t think its inaccurate to say that both its flaws and successes are those of a relative newcomer. Then - and I think this is why everyone was put off - in Elysium, Blomkamp proceeds to drop the realism, the documentary gimmick, and double down on the generic elements. Elysium is a silly genre movie much like the back half of District 9 is, It never reaches his prior film’s heights, but as a whole piece, it’s more assured and together. I know my Elysium opinions are far from the norm, so I’m curious as to how you saw that movie. Matt: I think you’re correct when you say Elysium is ultimately a more assured piece than District 9, but I also think some of that movie's narrative and constructive flaws are more apparent in Elysium. Blomkamp’s second feature outing again puts us in a not-so-out-there sci-fi world - this time a little more than 100 years in the future instead of District 9’s alternate present - in which he seems to be crafting a narrative to comment on very relevant social issues. The message seems to be kind of muddled from the start though - is he commenting on wealth inequality? Class warfare? Labor issues? Immigration? Access to healthcare? It seems to shift which of those it’s “about” at any given moment during the first act and, while it’s true that those issues have a tendency to overlap in the real world, in Elysium it just comes out feeling muddy and confusing. Of course, this is just for the first act - like District 9, Elysium seems to largely abandon the prospect of a deeper message after that first act in favor of something akin to a heist movie and a more generic sci-fi action sequence to cap things off. I can never shake the feeling that Blomkamp seems to establish really interesting worlds ripe for exploration (both thematically and visually) which are quickly set aside in favor of material I consider less compelling. Don’t get me wrong - Blomkamp has a hell of a style, and his films are visually interesting throughout and his action scenes are kinetic and fun to watch; I just find it drops most of the intellectually engaging material after the first act. But I’ve rambled on enough for now - I have a feeling my view is fairly in line with popular opinion and you suggested yours deviates from that, so I’m interested to hear your thoughts. Jackson: So to me, Elysium is a film about revolution. The reason for Elysium’s success is every character’s clear, selfish motivation. It sets up all those ideas of wealth inequality, class warfare, immigration, what have you, in order to build this broad strokes world in which every character is desperately trapped. The key scene is when Matt Damon is arrested for making a joke, his humanity repeatedly denied as he’s passed from robot to robot, and reminded of his throwaway nature to this society. Elysium is not a movie about any of those ideas individually, it is about when all of those factors add reach a breaking point, and the status quo can no longer sustain itself. It got a lot of flack for being a preachy film, but I feel this is a thorough misunderstanding of the movie’s message. Nobody in Elysium is a good person, none of those who carry out the revolution are doing it because it is the right thing to do. They’re doing it because they are desperate, because they have a need that isn’t being fulfilled by the world as it is, and they have an opportunity to change it for themselves. What Elysium lacks in nuanced social critique, it by far makes up for in the understanding of systemic inequality as a concept. What Blomkamp presents is not the heroic few fighting for their freedom, but merely the collapse of a system that is incapable of sustaining itself. And he does all that within a film that is far more content to be this ridiculous genre piece. Look at Sharlto Copley’s knife! This isn’t a film that wants to be capital I Important in the way that District 9 did, it wants to be this ridiculous, silly sci-fi action flick that just happens to be backed up by a broad but clear thematic push. Like a Verhoeven movie, or even Jupiter Ascending (which, shocker, I’ll also defend for days). Matt: You make a really strong case there, Jackson. I think where our opinion differs is that I see what you see, but really only in the first act, maybe the first half of the film if I’m being generous. That sort of understanding of inequality is used as a means to an end, to motivate characters into positions where they can take part in big action setpieces. Contrast that with, say, Verhoeven, who finds a way to keep the darkly satirical commentary running throughout his films. At this point, though, I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least point out the impact that marketing and buzz and hype have had on Blomkamp’s movies and my mindset while viewing them. It’s sort of taken for granted that Blompkamp is a director with something to say – some of that is the way his movies have been marketed to the general public, some of that is the way his movies have been covered prior to release, some of that is from the movies themselves. It’s possible I’ve lost the ability to take his movies at face value and am judging them by what I expect them to be – which is, generally, more meaningful and socially relevant than they tend to be. Maybe that’s not a great way to try and consume these films, but isn’t that how all of us analyze our movies, in part? Besides, nothing exists in a vacuum and Blomkamp has certainly cultivated that reputation as a big ideas director, which seems to persist to this day, for reasons I can’t quite comprehend. Jackson: That's a key reason that I believe Chappie is, in many ways, a Blomkamp maturation. By this point, the veneer of making an important allegorical film is completely worn away: this is just a Verhoven movie, through and through. It’s tonally all over the place, it’s visually garish, and it’s a weird mix of violent action and childish earnestness that clearly comes from someone for whom Robocop was a formative experience. I mean: the plot of the movie is "A robo cop fights that robo cop from RoboCop!" I know some people consider that kind of aesthetic to be juvenile, but I honestly think embracing that sci-fi silliness in an earnest manner is a maturation. We’re getting a sense for Blomkamp’s voice by now, and it’s not at all the one he was originally pegged with. Where Chappie falls down, is that it’s thematically bankrupt. I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what the movie is about, and I saw it about three hours ago. I enjoyed it immensely, though I couldn’t really call it a good movie. It’s a failure, landing far short of every ambition it has, but the manner in which it falls down is glorious to behold. And like you say, much like Jupiter Ascending, this is another silly sci-fi film let down by its advertising (maybe we’ll get one of those every month this year! I should be so lucky). The advertisements - and even the opening moments of the movie itself - frame it as this grand story of artificial intelligence and humanity, and if you’re expecting that then of course you’re going to be disappointed. I saw comparisons to A.I. multiple times, but its approach to questions of humanity have way more in common with Total Recall. But as you say with Verhoven, his satire is strong, pointed and consistent, and whilst I do think Elysium’s counts (though I understand why others disagree), Chappie goes out of its way to be targetless and ends up saying nothing at all. That final act is a beautiful, incoherent disaster that really has to be seen to be believed.  Matt: I’m not sure I entirely agree that Blomkamp drops the veneer of having big ideas and something to say with Chappie. It’s a movie about artificial intelligence and what it means to be alive and to be human, but again, it walks right up to the door of saying something interesting about those ideas – or anything at all – and chooses to walk away and head home instead of ringing the doorbell. It’s got all the thematic depth of Short Circuit (or worse, Short Circuit 2), but with better cinematography and nicer set-pieces; though, Chappie might have been better served if he had gone 80s gutter-punk and chased down a mobster to Bonnie Tyler’s “I Need a Hero." It flirts with some really big ideas that would have been really interesting to explore. Hell, Chappie introduces a huge, seismic concept in the last 20 minutes of the movie andnone of the characters seem interested enough to comment on it even in passing, not even the one character directly impacted. But though Blomkamp’s worst tendencies are on display, some of his best are, too – his world-building and visual design is top-notch, and the dude can stage a killer action scene like few others, big scenes that pop even when two of the primary actors aren’t even real people. I enjoyed Chappie (though at some points more than others) but I don’t think it was a good movie or that I even liked it all that much, if that makes sense. Jackson: Chappie has ideas, but it doesn’t really care about them in the way that its prior efforts do. Those final twenty minutes are why I say it’s a film about nothing, because it includes all these sci-fi concepts, all these very serious topics that have been debated in film after film, then throws them in the air and (spoiler) turns all the main characters except south african macklemore into robots! It suddenly decides it’s going to be Lucy and all the characters are like “sure, I guess we’re gonna be robots now!” It’s entertaining to watch, even though the movie itself is thoroughly incoherent. It’s the rare kind of ‘bad movie’ which ends up making me more interested in the director’s forthcoming work. Before Chappie’s neon melodrama, I knew exactly in my mind what Blomkamp’s Alien movie was going to be. Now, I have no idea, and to me, that is incredibly exciting. Matt: Yeah, I think that last 20 minutes is where Blomkamp really reveals that he’s not terribly interested in exploring those big ideas. Dev Patel's Deon treats having his consciousness transferred into a robot as a curiosity, a minor annoyance at worst. This seems like it would be a big, big moment – not only has Chappie learned what consciousness is, he’s figured out how to transplant it, effectively opening the door for humanity to become immortal! Deon has just had his life irrevocably altered in ways he couldn’t have imagined, but Chappie glosses over this and all the big questions it raises without so much as a passing mention (not to mention how Deon just sort of rolls with it even before he puts that helmet on – you couldn’t have asked to be taken to the hospital?). In that way, I think, Chappie is sort of demonstrable of Blomkamp’s entire body of work (so far) and what I hope I’ve gotten across here – full of lofty ideas but entirely unwilling to engage with them in any real way, thus making the whole endeavor an extremely vapid affair that’s very, very enjoyable to look at. I guess when you get right down to it I can’t say I hate any of Blomkamp’s work, but I don’t think he deserves nearly as much praise as he tends to get. I’m intrigued by Blomkamp on Alien, in part because I hope working on an existing franchise will reign in some of his more troublesome filmmaking tendencies. But right now I can’t say I’m all that excited for it. Jackson: I don’t want him to reign in his more troublesome tendencies; if a franchise film smoothed Blomkamp’s rough edges that would be a tragedy. I want him to keep being him, striking out, and if he manages to hit gold, then that’s great. But ultimately, I don’t think “is Blomkamp good or bad?” is even a question worth asking. In a genre dominated by sequels and comic book adaptations, he’s at least trying to put out films with a unique voice, and at this point I’m along for the ride. I want him to keep reaching further than his grasp allows, because whether he falls or makes it, the end result is so much more more worthwhile than another Man Of Steel. If he starts making good but bland movies that could have been made by anyone? That’s worse than ten Chappies in a row.
Blomkamp Discussion photo
Which kamp do you fall into?
This past weekend saw the release of Chappie, third feature film from Neil Blomkamp, and it's safe to say reactions have been mixed. Per wrote a great review if you're on the fence about checking it out, but for those of...

FlixList: The Top 10 Movie Robots

Mar 06 // Nick Valdez
10. Wall-E (from Wall-E) I didn't like Wall-E, but even I'll admit how important of a robot Wall-E is. Although its nostalgic design and lack of speech was a shameless pull at cuteness, Wall-E is still a robot that lives in a future that reminds of of Mike Judge's Idiocracy. And anything that reminds me of Idiocracy automatically deserves a place on any list.  9. T-1000 (from Terminator 2: Judgment Day)  Although the T-1000 spent most of its time resembling the dance sequence from TLC's "Waterfalls" music video, it is the best machine in the Terminator franchise. Even more so than Schwarzenegger's T-800 and especially greater than whatever the hell the T-X (I assume the X stood for boobs) was. The only reason the T-1000 lost because it was the villain and was cheated. I imagine if there was a rematch now between the T-1000 and the current Schwarzenegger, things would end a lot differently.  8. Astro Boy (from Astro Boy)  Astro Boy is one of Osamu Tezuka's best works, and should be heralded as one of the best robot fictions overall, but since I can only count movies (and not the awesome manga or anime) it's only at number eight. The 2009 film adaptation of the series looked good, but just lacked the spark of the originals. Also, the kid has friggin' rocket boots man. Every kid wants rocket boots.  7. Robot (from Robot & Frank) Robot & Frank is a deliciously charming film. It's about a retired burglar named Frank who's slowly receding into dementia as his son buys him a robot companion, named Robot, who helps him steal an antique copy of Don Quixote (in one of the hilariously inspired moments of the film). As the film goes on, Robot somehow develops a personality (as one is projected onto him) and becomes just as endearing as Frank. And when the ending hits, I challenge you to keep your eyes dry.  6. 80s Robot (from The Muppets) 80s Robot seemed like a throwaway gag, but quickly became one of the funnier (and self-referential) inclusions in 2011's The Muppets. Its simple R.O.B. like design, its Dial-Up modem, and its offerings of Tab and New Coke make a perfect additions to this list. Sure Robocop may be cool at stomping down crime, but has he offered anyone a cool beverage? NO.  5. MechaGodzilla (from Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla) Since Pacific Rim is essentially a reboot of Godzilla Vs MechaGodzilla, it only feels right to add MechaGodzilla to the list. How is it not the fifth best robot ever? It's everything Godzilla wishes it could be but with robot parts, it was built by a planet of apes who lived in a black hole or something, and Godzilla can only defeat it by ripping its head off! I mean, come on!  4. SICO (from Rocky IV) "Happy Birthday, Paulie"  3. SAINT Number 5/Johnny 5 (from Short Circuit) When a robot develops feelings, normally that's when you dismantle the thing. Yet Short Circuit's Johnny 5 gets away with it for being so damn adorable. What other robot immediately makes you think of Lou Bega? What other robot could smooth talk a woman and win her over with "More Than a Woman"? Does Robocop care whether or not a woman is more than a woman? Do the evil cowboy robots from Westworld have enough of a heart and will to get into a woman's underclothes? Does A.I.'s Gigolo Joe- wait, yeah he'd probably care. Whatever, Johnny 5 is super cool and is the reason Wall-E was so well received.  2. Good/Bad Robot Bill and Ted (from Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey) Bad Robot Bill and Ted were rude, crude, and totally removed. They killed Bill and Ted, were rude to the Princesses, and even try to take over Battle of the Bands. Then Station (an alien recommended by God who can split himself into two) builds the Good Robot Bill and Ted and the then they all fight and holy maloney this was all this the same movie. It was one of the greatest climaxes in movie history. Can't wait to see what Bill and Ted 3 brings, so I hope Good/Bad Robot Bill and Ted could make a comeback.  1. Iron Giant (from The Iron Giant) Vin Diesel stars as a giant robot that teaches an entire town the true meaning of #FAMILY and not-Communism. Which means The Iron Giant is secretly Fast and Furious Part 10 (Fasten Your Seatbelts), a sequel in which Dominic Toretto has passed on and now lives as an alien artificial intelligence. As he grows closer to a child (which brings flashbacks of his time as a Pacifier), he remembers that life is really all about fast cars and then throws himself at meteor as redemption for forgetting that life lesson.  Did I forget your favorite movie robot? Did I just forget Robocop on purpose? What are robots anyway? Feel free to talk it out below! 
Top 10 Movie Robots photo
Domo arigato, Mister Roboto.
[This feature originally ran with the release of Pacific Rim two years ago, but with the new robot movie Chappie now hitting theaters, I figured it'd be a fun revisit!]  In honor of Pacific Rim releasing July 12, I,...

FlixList: Ten NEW Cartoons that Deserve Movies

Mar 05 // John-Charles Holmes
  10. Over the Garden Wall Cartoon Network’s first foray into the world of mini-series was with the hauntingly beautiful Over the Garden Wall, a tale of two brothers, Wirt and Greg, lost in a harsh and mysterious forest. As they press onward, they encounter a number of oddities that bring up imagery of classic tales like Peter Rabbit and Alice in Wonderland. If this one were a movie, imagine this one playing out like a really dark Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. But why is this modern classic so low on the list? Easy—it exists already as a miniseries about an hour and a half in length. You could go ahead and watch this one in a single sitting and you’d be getting the movie experience already. I just wouldn’t mind actually seeing this one fleshed out a little bit more story and adapted to the big screen.   9. The Legend of Korra The Legend of Korra started off by offering quite the grand promise—It’s Avatar: The Last Airbender but with adults and robots and kissing! What could possibly go wrong? Well, turns out a lot actually.  The quality of the show seemed to fluctuate back and forth during its stilted run, but I’m willing to chalk a lot of that up to having to fill four whole seasons with stories to tell. I think a little bit of restraint could do a lot of good for Korra, and perhaps boiling it down to an essential two hours might just be the way to get the story audiences want to see from a new Avatar without any of the extra fluff.   8. Superf*ckers James Kochalka’s rude ‘n’ crude teenage superhero comic melodrama was recently adapted into a series of shorts by Frederator that was criminally underrated. Essentially imagine Watchmen if all the superheroes were teenagers, but instead of being filled with drama and angst, it’s all the dumb shit that teenagers really do—like constantly thinking with their genitalia and getting high all day. The setup is already perfect for the typical R-rated comedy, but there was actually a lot of material from the original comics that could additionally be adapted into a full length story. It’d definitely make for one gut-bustingly gross-out look back on the internet generation and the recent explosion of superhero obsession fueled by it.   7. Lakewood Plaza Turbo Video games are starting to make a huge comeback in movies lately. Wreck-It Ralph and Adam Sandler’s upcoming Pixels have made good on bringing some of those nerd fantasies to life, but why not try and make something that feels like a video game without using Pac-Man or Donkey Kong? Lakewood Plaza Turbo could be just that thing. Only existing right now as a pilot for an upcoming Cartoon Network series, the premise of a mall where video game characters work and socialize could make for an awesome animated “hang-out” movie in the vein of Kevin Smith films, but with the added angle of actually feeling like a video game and not like an advertisement.   6. Bee and Puppycat Bee and Puppycat is the magical girl fantasy for a new generation, except with all the action-packed superhero parts downplayed to a minimum. What you're left with is a post-post-modern slice of life with a fantasy twist that would probably feel at home with the French New Wave. What would a movie adaption of a superhero temp and her weird cat/dog/thing look like? Well, if it’s anything like the animated series thus far, it’d be a lot of gorgeous imagery and then loafing around on the coach eating snacks and watching reality television. So basically a good version of Garfield: The Movie without the hideous GCI cat. Puppycat could still be voiced by Bill Murray, though. 5. Regular Show Fan favorite Regular Show owes a lot its charm and success to its appreciation and constant homages to pop-culture and films of the 80’s and 90’s. It’s not too unusual for an episode to just flat out be an 11-minute version of some of the kitschiest of these nostalgic films like Over the Top and Big Trouble in Little China, so why not go all out and make the ultimate feature length homage to everything generation-X with a Regular Show movie? Mordecai and Rigby are already the classic slackers incarnate, so imagining this one up on the silver screen isn’t too hard to do already, regardless of if they go the pure parody route or with something more original. 4. Homestar Runner Starting off as highly shared internet vignettes, characters Homestar, Strong Bad and others became immortalized amongst millennials in the past decade. Even today, the two brothers who created Homestar Runner are doing very well as hotshot television writers. So now, with Homestar Runner slowly making a comeback on YouTube, the time is ripe for movie studios to get the Brothers Chaps in for some studio meetings. What kind of movie could you even get out of Homestar Runner as source material? Why, the only option that short-form gag-heavy comedies have to rely on when adapted for film—the road trip movie. Sure, generic as hell, but you just know that in the hands of the Chapmans, it would be the funniest damn road trip movie you’d ever seen. Even if it’s just about Strong Bad driving a bus from end of Town to the other. 3. The Venture Bros. With every passing season of the quintessential Adult Swim show, fans have had to wait longer and longer for increasingly grandiose episodes of this twisted Johnny Quest parody. The show’s epic and convoluted structure already lends itself to a 3-hour seat warmer and would actually serve as the perfect way to conclude the show, once that ending is reached.  It’s clear that Venture Bros. has been getting more cinematic over the years all while pushing the envelope for animated (yet tasteful!) sex and violence. By trading the TV-MA rating for an R, the show could finally tell the ultimate blood-drenched tale of the manic depressive Venture family the way it was always meant to be told. 2. Gravity Falls The recent Disney Channel sleeper hit about a brother and sister discovering the mysteries of their uncle’s hometown has gained the reputation of being the Twin Peaks for a new generation, and that title is well earned. A full length mystery adventure would definitely deliver on the same offbeat adventures as the show and would be a great opportunity to up the stakes for a sleepy Oregon town on the edge of the supernatural with Disney level production. So much so that even the show’s creator, Alex Hirsch, has even gone on record saying that he could imagine the show running for three seasons and ending with a movie. And if we learned anything from Community, the second you give your fans this kind of promise to latch on to, they’ll never let go of it. Speaking of Dan Harmon… 1. Rick and Morty Rick and Morty is one of the most unexpected surprises to come out of recent cartoons with its simple premise-- the adventures of a drunk Doc Brown and his oblivious grandson. What starts as a great setup for some crass humor eventually yields way to some truly great sci-fi tales and nihilistic musings on the chaos and uncertainty of the universe at large. It comes as no surprise that this is partly due to the legendary Dan Harmon acting as co-creator and writer to the show. Much like the other mature entries on this list, a Rick and Morty feature would allow the darkly hilarious duo to pull absolutely no punches, but would also give us a true full fledged Back to the Future adventure. Rick and Morty is just as refreshingly hilarious as it is ingenious, and for that reason, it gets my vote for the new cartoon that needs a movie more than any other. It would be sure to make you laugh, make you cry, and even make you vomit in your mouth. Just a little. And honestly, isn’t that what good animated movies are all about in the end?
Top 10 New Toons photo
These ain't your grandad's cartoons
Did you hear the recent news? They’re going to make an Adventure Time movie, and honestly, that’s pretty darn rad. I love a good cartoon to movie adaption—and not just a live action adaption or remake, we ho...

6 things we want from Neill Blomkamp's Alien project

Feb 24 // Per Morten Mjolkeraaen
Remember the story... While some (okay, most) dislike Alien 3 and Resurrection, and would have them burned in a fiery lava pit if possible, I say, "Damn you! Let them be canon!".  We still don't know what Blomkamp has planned for his movie, but it's become a popular theory that he'll take some liberties with the story, say, "forgetting" the existence of the last two movies. I beg to differ; I hope to see him remember them. Not only because this is one of my all time favorite franchise (I like Alien 3 better than Aliens), but also because it's too easy to simply erase them from the timeline. It will, without a doubt, be difficult to make a decent story kicking off where Resurrection left it, but should Blomkamp rise to the challenge, I believe he can make a truly memorable movie. I have no idea how, or in which direction I want the story to go. All I know is I don't want to see Alien 3 and Resurrection be forgotten in the dust.  It's a vast universe, and they have tons upon tons of things to work with. To forgo two movies out of four, is to forgo a lot of this.  But don't necessarily cling to it It's a science-fiction universe, and I think most people can find it in themselves to forgive certain backpedals in the story. Should Michael Biehn return as Dwayne Hicks, a death has to be altered, but movies do this all the time, with variable results. Sure, it's an incredibly cheap way to force pathos into a movie, but it's been thirty years since we all cried over Hicks's death, I think we can find it in ourselves to accept his resurrection.  I'm conflicted when it comes to clone-Ripley, as she couldn't carry the torch in Resurrection at all. Also, do clones age? Sigourney Weaver is still talented and beautiful, but there's no way around the fact that she's not as young as she was thirty years ago. We'll be seeing something like that next year when Twin Peaks returns for a third season. I just hope Blomkamp wants, and is allowed, to take a few liberties, because there's so many crazy things to keep in mind with the timeline that it would probably be impossible to stay completely true to the fiction. Alien, not Aliens One of the reasons I love the Alien franchise is the fact that every movie feels different. Ridley Scott's Alien is pure horror. James Cameron's Aliens is pure action. David Fincher's Alien 3 is pure pseudo-philosophical mumbo-umbo, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Alien: Resurrection is pure, unadulterated hilarity. I hope Neill Blomkamp's Alien X will continue this pattern and be something unique. Still, I'd prefer it be more in line Scott's original horror masterpiece.  Yolandi Vi$$er is hot stuff  Chappie is out in theatres around the world in just a few weeks, and it's not the political commentary (an oppressive mechanical police force) nor the Hollywood faces (Huge Jackman and Dave Patel) that interest me the most; it's Die Antwoord's Yolandi and Ninja. Two of the most unique and zef people around today. As they play Chappie's surrogate parents in this movie, it's impossible to shy away from the possibilities of seeing Yolandi as the new bad-ass female character in the Alien franchise.  As much as I love Bill Paxton and Michael Biehn, it's Ellen Ripley, Vasquez, Newt and of course, the Xenomorph Queen I remember the best. The Alien movies, even Prometheus to some extent, are brilliant when it comes to female characters, and I can't even imagine how cool it could be to see Die Antwoord's frontwoman side by side with Sigourney Weaver. The possibilities are endless, as she could play a totally new character, or even... a grown up Newt (!!). Again, timelines and logic aside, it could be incredible.  Keep it simple  Blomkamp's movies are grandiose, both in terms of narrative and aesthetics. They tell countless tales within their narrative, and it seems he is unable to do it otherwise. The Alien movies are the opposite; they are incredibly simple, especially the first two. Sure, Aliens is bigger in scale, but the story is kept simple; A group of people go to another planet - this group of people try to survive.  It's safe to assume there'll be a lot of sociological and political commentary in the movie, but hopefully he'll dial it back. While I loved the geopolitical commentary in District 9, Elysium suffers from overemphasis, as it seemingly tries to make a comment on every injustice in the world. That will not work in a alien movie, because... ... It's all about the alien We can love Ellen Ripley and every other character from the franchise as much as we want, but in the end, it all comes down to the alien. The xenomorph. The monster-creature from hell. It's the star of the franchise, whether it's silently creeping down a desolated hallway to kill a oblivious victim, or running in a pack, headfirst through turret fire in an attempt to massacre our beloved space marines. It is THE movie monster we all know and remember.  It's also very different from movie to movie. The special effects in Alien 3 may be the worst in the series, but I still love the design of the alien. Less humanoid, the feline-like xenomorph differentiated from the ones we saw in the first two movies, but was equally bad-ass and efficient when it came to slaughter. The final scene in Prometheus is the best in the entire movie - and I like it as a whole - because a new, Xenomorph-like creature, a Deacon, bursts from the chest of an engineer.  Blomkamp's previous movies underlines the fact that he understands special effects and creature design perfectly. The prawns in District 9 were impossible to dislike. They inhabited the frame and their environments, and thus became real. Could Blomkamp translate this to a xenomorph? I'm sure - in fact, I'll do as Matt joked in our Kickstarter article, I'll actually eat a shoe if the xenomorph doesn't look incredible - everybody will lose their minds over it. 
Blomkamp's Alien Wishlist photo
I still can't believe how awesome this is!
We've all wanted to make a movie at some point. We've all thought it through in our minds, from story to characters to the final act that would shock audiences around the world. Our own personal dream movie. A movie we would ...

Movies That Changed Us: Super

Feb 23 // Jackson Tyler
* Frank D’Arbo is a loser. The film’s opening sees him recounting his only two “perfect moments” in a life filled with rejection, sadness and disappointment: his marriage to his wife Sarah, and the time he helped a police officer catch a criminal. But when his Sarah leaves him for drug dealer Jacques, he begins to break down, and after a desperate prayer (“let Sarah be my Sarah again”), he suffers a vision which convinces him that God has called upon him to fight evil and get Sarah back. In this initial act, Super appears to be going through the motions of a standard condemnation of manchild entitlement, every character telling Frank to get over the break-up and move on, whilst he slides deeper and deeper into his delusions. But as the movie progresses, thanks to a deft script and a stunning performance from Rainn Wilson, it becomes clear that assessment is, whilst not entirely incorrect, more than a little surface level. A flashback to Frank and Sarah’s early days shows how their relationship helped Sarah stay sober, and we realise Frank’s breakdown comes not fully from a place of societally reinforced possessiveness, but from someone trying to reconcile the very notion of good and evil within a world that is ambivalent to both. Frank has always been a good person, but that hasn’t made him any happier, and he’s spent his whole life asking why. Until Sarah. She loved him wholly for his innate goodness, which led to an empty and doomed relationship, but finally validated Frank’s worldview. Sarah’s love was the one thing he could cling to as proof that life was fair, that goodness led to the “good things” that Frank says other people have. And when that illusion breaks, Frank comes face to face with the reality that being good is incapable of making him less alone. Thus is born the Crimson Bolt, an icon of Frank’s crumbling worldview made real. As the Crimson Bolt, Frank violently assaults anyone who breaks the rules regardless of severity, from drug dealers to child molesters to people butting in line at the cinema. No longer is there room for nuance or understanding, for the concepts of good and evil are too clear cut to require it. Frank’s desperate need for the world to be fair is taken to its logical endpoint, and the results are horrific. Not just in their gruesome violence, but in their naked emotional roots in a bitter resentment that borders on nihilism. People have hurt Frank all of his life, and this is the closest he can get to punishing them. Whereas a lesser film (-cough- Kick-Ass -cough-) would use the superhero subversion to say something as meaningful as “have you considered that the good person is actually bad,” Super’s aims are far more universal and poignant. Instead of being part indulgence of and part condemnation of the superhero as violent fantasy, its Superhero aspect is almost incidental, purely the metaphorical outlet through which to analyse this internal conflict. In the end, Frank saves Sarah, murdering Jacques and his henchmen in a violent, nasty explosion of all this anger and bitterness. It's unpleasant watching, all the more so because it's framed earnestly, with no obvious layer of detached critique to make viewing more palatable. And if the movie ended here, I'd probably agree with its detractors that Super is harmful and indulgent. But it doesn't. Frank drives home from the ranch, cleans off the blood from his suit, and begins his final monologue. He seems calm as he explains how Sarah stayed for a while out of obligation, but eventually moved on regardless. He accepts he's never been right for her, and as she moves on and has kids, is able to remain her friend and their "Uncle Frank." All of the anger, all of the resentment, all of the bitterness has gone, and Frank is finally at peace with his place in the world, able to realise that he matters and always has. He sits smiling on his bed, and in the film's final moments, we see he's looking at a wall of drawings, from his co-worker's wedding to being complimented at the tollbooth. With this ending, Super turns from a nasty movie of anger and resentment into a beautiful expression of letting go of your pain. The ugly truth of Frank's breakdown is revealed to him in all of its horrific glory, and he responds not by doubling down, but by moving on. He stops asking why, and in letting go of that question, in making peace with the fact there will never be an answer, is able to see the beauty in moments mundane and throwaway. The movie's often vile tone revealed finally as the necessary painful build up to an overwhelming catharsis, and the most beautiful reward. A thousand perfect moments. * I watched Super at one in the morning, Christmas Eve before last. At the time, I was home from University for a month, and the thought of going back made my whole body tense. My best days at uni were those where my flatmates all went out together, because those were the days where nobody would hear me crying. It was meant to be the place where I finally found a sense of belonging, but it turned out to be the place where I never felt more alone. After the credits rolled, I sat there in tears for about twenty minutes, and started the film again. It's hard to describe the profound effect the movie had on me, functioning entirely as a journey through my own pain, depression and isolation, and leading me somewhere where I could feel like I was going to be okay. I've always dived into movies to both escape and process my depressive breaks, but only very rarely do I find those special and personal enough to give me strength to carry on long after the final frame has faded away. I'm still depressed. I'm still lonely. But with everything I do, I try to process the bitterness into something positive, helping others where I can, and being open and honest with my emotions no matter how scary that may be. In the year since, I've written about mental health more times than I care to count, I've left that university and re-applied to somewhere new, and moved back home to help my mother out with her desperate situation. Super is one of the things that gave me the push to get there, to be okay with who I am, and by this time next year, I'll be somewhere even better. I'm always going to be different, I'm always going to struggle slightly with fitting in, I'm never going to be 'healed' of that, and in fact, I'd resent the implication that I should be.  I explained the woman in the office that no matter how many diagnoses people throw my way, they don't mean anything is wrong with me. And that's never going to change.
MTCU: Super photo
Learning how to be alone
This post contains open discussion of depression, and spoilers for Super.  “The rules were set a long time ago. They don’t change.”~Frank D’Arbo When I was ten, a new student transferred into ...

My 10 favorite movies of the year ... as told by pictures of puppies

Feb 22 // Chad Concelmo
10. Life Itself 9. The Raid 2 8. Gone Girl 7. A Most Violent Year 6. Force Majeure 5. Birdman 4. Snowpiercer 3. Nightcrawler 2. Boyhood 1. Whiplash
Chad, puppies, movies photo
The Grand BARKapest Hotel or WhipLEASH?
I love making lists. Love it. At the end of every year, I genuinely look forward to putting together lists of the best movies I saw, best video games I played, best roller coasters I rode and best potato balls I devoured (#1 ...

FlixList: Six abandoned movies that Kickstarter could have saved

Feb 20 // Flixist Staff
Stanley Kubrick's Napoleon Stanley Kubrick's meticulousness was (is?) legendary. He was one of few truly genius directors, and he threw himself into his projects. If you see it in a Kubrick film, it almost definitely means something. (Though what things may mean is undoubtedly up for debate.) But the project that consumed him most was one that never saw the light of day. Though he had numerous failed projects, the one that stung the most was a failed biopic of Napoleon Bonaparte. Kubrick essentially became a Napoleon scholar in the process of setting this film up, learning everything he could about the man in order to make what would probably have been the best epic biopic ever made. It may have been his magnum opus... but alas. Not everyone was an enamored of the idea as Kubrick, and he was unable to convince financiers to give him what he needed to pull off his (ludicrously) grand vision. (Looking for a cast of tens of thousands in order to pull off an accurate and realistic portrayal of battles will do that.) And of course, the same things that kept it from happening back then would keep Kickstarter from being able to fund it. No, the film would never be able to make enough to actually front the costs of a production like this, but few to no Kickstarter film projects are funded solely by backers. But the world has changed since Kubrick died, and it's possible that a Kickstarter campaign could have built a groundswell of support to convince some big spender(s) to pick up some of the slack. -- Alec Kubas-Meyer Alejandro Jodorowsky's The Sons of El Topo/Abel Cain and King Shot Alejandro Jodorowsky has undergone a semi-resurgence in the last few years now that his seminal works--El Topo, The Holy Mountain, and Santa Sangre--are easy to get in the United States. But Jodorowsky had a 20-year drought as a filmmaker beginning in 1990, unable to get any projects off the ground. Two notable Jodorowsky films that never got made are a sequel to El Topo and a gangster film called King Shot. The El Topo sequel (variously titled The Sons of El Topo and Abel Cain) would have starred Marylin Manson and Johnny Depp as brothers in search of the island on which their father, El Topo, is buried. King Shot, a metaphysical gangster picture, was going to be produced by David Lynch and star Nick Nolte, Manson, Asia Argento, and Udo Kier. It's unclear if actual scripts existed for either of the two projects, though there is some concept art and vague notions of a plot that can be found online. Jodorowsky's no stranger to projects that got away (see the documentary Jodorowsky's Dune, which, come to think of it, I would pay money to see produced). Yet given his klout as the father of midnight movies, it seems like these two Jodorowsky projects would have come about if crowdfunding were a thing in the 1990's and early-to-mid 2000's. Instead, it's crowdfunding that gives us The Dance of Reality and the forthcoming Endless Poetry. -- Hubert Vigilla David Lynch's Ronnie Rocket It's easy to think David Lynch has done it all. From his brilliant surrealist directorial debut, Eraserhead, to his return to Twin Peaks in 2016 - 25 years post its original run. However, there is one movie he's always wanted to make, but never could; Ronnie Rocket.  Ronnie Rocket was to star Michael J. Anderson as a three-foot tall man who could control electricity, as long as he was plugged into an electrical supply from time to time to charge his batteries. Oh, also, there was to be a detective who sought to enter a second dimension, which was made possible by his ability to stand on one leg (no wonder it didn't get the funds it needed, I mean, I can't even imagine the special effects costs to make this happen...)  It's sound incredibly bizarre, and therefore, incredibly Lynchian. Sadly, he will most likely never make this today, as the industrialism that's synonymous with everything he creates is ruined. Untouched and sacred industrialism has been killed by the damned youths and their spray-cans, or just simple architectural modernisation. -- Per Morten Mjolkeraaen  Shane Carruth's A Topiary Shane Carruth's second film, Upstream Color, was a daring and idiosyncratic work of art and a fitting follow-up to his mind-bending debut Primer. Upstream Color is easily one of my favorite movies of this decade. The movie obsessed me so much, I wrote an 8,000-word analysis. But before Carruth made his misfit love story about mind-control worms and personal narratives, he spent years developing a movie that fell apart. That movie was A Topiary, the plot of which sounds just as slippery as Upstream Color and Primer, if not more so. Split in two parts, A Topiary would follow an informal gathering of strangers who are convinced there's a recurring and meaningful starburst pattern that can be found wherever they go, and a group of pre-teen boys who find a machine that creates strange robotic animal creatures (featured briefly in the beginning of Upstream Color). Somehow the two are linked. Both David Fincher and Steven Soderbergh were excited by the project and wanted to executive produce the film. Carruth spent years learning to do CG so he could create the creatures and do the visual effects for A Topiary on his own. Unfortunately the proposed price tag was $14-$20 million, and with only Primer under his belt at the time (budget $7,000), the project fizzled. Carruth wouldn't be able to get seven or eight figures through crowdfunding, but if the campaign showed genuine enthusiasm from an audience, it might have prodded some money-people to fork over the dough. (Maybe Carruth should consider crowdfunding for his next movie, The Modern Ocean.) -- Hubert Vigilla Guillermo del Toro's At the Mountains of Madness Guillermo del Toro and screenwriter Matthew Robbins wrote a screenplay adaptation of HP Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness back in 2006, and have been fighting to get it made ever since. A combination of the high budget required (the story was long considered unfilmable) and studio discomfort with the bleakness of the material have thus far prevented it from happening. Del Toro has occasionally come close to getting it made, most recently with Universal Studios in 2011. However the studio, uncomfortable with del Toro's refusal to pare down the R rated material to a more family-friendly PG-13, opted instead to pull of the project before filming began. Lovecraft's work has been adapted to film a number of times, most notably (and often) by Stuart Gordon. Those films are fun, but I would argue they convey little of the cosmic existential horror that makes Lovecraft's work what it is. On the other hand del Toro's films, even the more mainstream English language ones, contain traces of that darkness, though usually to a more positive end. We've never seen him go for the hopelessnes he would need for At the Mountains of Madness, but for his fans, and old-school horror fans in general, the prospect is mouth-watering. Del Toro hasn't given up on getting it made through the studio system, and raising the kind of budget necessary through something like Kickstarter would be a tall order. That said, if every true-blue Lovecraft fan still waiting to see his work done justice on the big screen were to give just a dollar, I reckon it could happen. -- Ciaran McGarry Neil Blomkamp's Alien OK, this one may be newer and Kickstarter is around, but there's no way it's ever going to happen. Blomkamp revealed some amazing concept art for a made up Alien film he was randomly thinking about, but with Prometheus hogging up the franchise they'll never, ever, ever green light this. Fox has no idea what it's doing and there is no way in hell they'd jump on such a cool idea from such a stand out director in the world of science fiction. This is basically impossible to occur and even if a Kickstarter was started for it Fox would have to give permission and they wouldn't in a million years. I don't say things are impossible much, but this is impossible. I will eat a shoe if it ever happens. The level of this not happening is so great that God is coming down and confusing our language in punishment. This will not... Wait? It is? Oh... better find a shoe. -- Matthew Razak
Kickstarter, Our Savior photo
Well... maybe.
We all know that Kickstarter is pretty cool. (Heck, one of our writers used it to fund his last short film.) And film projects tend to be pretty safe bets; while video game Kickstarters routinely fail in a spectacular fashion...

4 Spider-Man villains we PROBABLY won't see in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Feb 13 // Sean Walsh
White Rabbit: Having more in common with Batman villains than Spider-Man villains, White Rabbit has no actual super powers, and mostly relies in gimmicks like a carrot-shooting umbrella and robot rabbits. When your aesthetic is Lewis Carol and one of your nemeses is Frog-Man, you have made a disastrous go as a villain.    Swarm: Swarm is a mass of Nazi bees. Seriously. From Wikipedia:  Fritz von Meyer was born in Leipzig, Germany and became one of Hitler's top scientists. Escaping capture after World War II, he became a beekeeper or apiarist in South America, and discovered a colony of mutated bees. Intrigued by their intelligence and passive nature, von Meyer attempted to enslave the queen bee, but failed and the bees devoured him, leaving only his skeleton. The unique qualities of the bees caused his consciousness to be absorbed into them, allowing von Meyer to manipulate the hive to do his will, although some of his skeletal remains are inside the swarm itself. His consciousness merged with the swarm to the extent that they become one being. Nazi bees, ladies and gentleman. Rocket Racer: A hard-luck case with big brains, Robert Farrell used his intelligence to turn to crime to support his family, engineering a rocket-powered skateboard.He went legit eventually, but for a while this dude was racing around on a rocket skateboard committing crime. Yikes. Big Wheel: Naturally, with a last name like Weele, there's not much choice but to build a gigantic death-wheel and begin a life of crime. The Tinkerer, a slightly less obscure villain who is far more likely to appear in the MCU, built Jackson Weele his weapon of circular destruction after a deal Weele made with our pal Rocket Racer went south, a deal that resulted in Weele's apparent death. Twenty years went by before he reappeared, dabbling in heroics, but Big Wheel remains one of the biggest losers in the Spider-Verse. Bonus: Spider-Ham!  Peter Porker, Spider-Ham isn't a bad guy. He's just an alternate version of Spider-Man, but remains incredibly unlikely to appear in the cinematic universe because he is an anthropomorphic pig version of Spider-Man. A boy can dream though...
4 lame Spider-villains photo
Never say never, but we'll probably never see Big Wheel on the Big Screen
Sony and Marvel deciding to share Spider-Man is beyond awesome. It's something I've always dreamed of, ever since Marvel Studios started making movies. Now, one can presume that most if not all of Spidey's supporting cast and...

Some Like It Hot: Mila Kunis

Feb 06 // Sean Walsh
Name: Milena Markovna "Mila" Kunis Birthday: August 14th, 1983 Partial filmography:  (view her IMDb page here) Background: Born in what is now the Ukraine to a phsycis teacher mother and a mechanical engineer turned cab driver father, Mila Kunis and her family left home behind for America in 1991. At the ripe young age of 14, Kunis bluffed her way into auditioning for the 18+ casting call for That 70's Show and despite the producers figuring out her ruse, they couldn't argue that she was the best for the job. Shortly thereafter, she replaced Lacey Chabert as the voice of Meg on Family Guy, and found herself appearing in more and more movies as time went on, going from critical failures like American Psycho 2 to commercial successes like Forgetting Sarah Marshall (fun fact: saw that movie with my grandmother, which means, I got to see Jason Siegel's penis with my grandmother). 2010 saw her star rise further with The Book of Eli, and more importantly, Black Swan, which netted her a Golden Globe. Beyond that, Mila continued to increase her star power, appearing in her most successful film yet, Ted, as well as Oz the Great and Powerful. Will she continue to elevate her status with Jupiter Ascending? One can hope! Finally, in a delightful example of life imitating art, Kunis and her former That 70's Show beau Ashton Kutcher began dating in 2012 and are now engaged, with a daughter named Wyatt Isabelle to boot. Best feature: Her face. If it's not already readily apparent, Mila Kunis is absolutely gorgeous. Even when she's not all made up, she looks like Sarah Hyland from Modern Family. Her eye brows, those gorgeous eyes, and her lips stand out in a wholly gorgeous face. Mila Kunis' aesthetic is 11/10. [embed]218907:42192:0[/embed] Hottest Role: Black Swan. Remember that time Mila Kunis had a sex scene with Natalie Portman? I sure do. Nuff said. Where I'd take her on a date: In my humble opinion, there isn't much sexier than a beautiful woman and a big ol' steak. In the true Ron Swanson traditon, I'd take Ms. Kunis on a lovely night on the town, beginning with a lovely dinner at a steakhouse followed by drinks and dancing at a swanky nightclub, because if there's one thing I have experience with, it's drinking and dancing at nightclubs.* *That is a lie. I am very socially awkward in public, but if we're going to construct elaborate fantasies, I may as well make myself sound awesome. On second thought, I was just informed by a real, live girl (the lovely object of my affection, Brittainy) that "any girl that is worth taking out on a date wants to ride some mother-f*cking go-karts." So, with this new information in mind, Mila and I would forego drinks in favor of mother. F*cking. Go-karts. In conclusion: Mila Kunis is a straight-up dime, and she continues to ascend (dohoho) the Hollywood ladder to bigger and better things. Hopefully, Jupiter Ascending is the sci-fi blockbuster I so desperately want and need it to be. If not, I'm sure Mila will land on her feet and return with a film that will remind us that she is a Big Deal. Peep some other hotties in our Some Like It Hot gallery!   
SLIH: Mila Kunis photo
Jupiter's not the only thing Ascending, nawmean?
Jupiter Ascending hit theaters this week, and what better excuse is there than that to write about the beautiful, talented Mila Kunis, amirite? From the 70's to the post-apocalypse to outer space, Mila Kunis has been all over...

Flixist's most anticipated movies of 2015

Feb 04 // Flixist Staff
[embed]218882:42180:0[/embed] Jupiter AscendingDirector: Andy and Lana WachowskiRelease date: February 6th, 2015 There's not a whole lot of information about the plot of this movie beyond Mila Kunis being the reincarnation of a space queen and Channing Tatum is some kind of dog man... but I'm still super excited about it. I like the Wachowskis' other movies (excluding the last two of The Matrix trilogy), so I'm hoping this will be on par with their previous work. Even if it's not, it'll at least look cool as hell. --Megan Porch [embed]218822:42142:0[/embed] ChappieDirector: Neil BlomkampRelease date: March 6th 2015 Every criticism for this movie seems to be, essentially, "It looks like Short Circuit meets Robocop!" Yeah, so? That's flipping awesome. AND Die Antwoord is in it...playing themselves. This is going to be a weird, wonderful movie and I am vibrating with anticipation over it. -- Sean Walsh [embed]218882:42169:0[/embed] Furious 7Director: James WanRelease date: April 3rd 2015 With Furious 6 seemingly peaking the series' awesomeness, James Wan taking over for Justin Lin, and the tragic passing of Paul Walker, there are plenty of things that could go wrong with Furious 7. But with such a strong attachment as I have for these films (#FAMILY), I really want this to succeed. To be both a new end and beginning would be a wonderful thing. It won't be the same without Walker, but hopefully that isn't a bad thing. -- Nick Valdez [embed]218824:42140:0[/embed] Avengers: Age of UltronDirector: Joss WhedonRelease date: May 1st, 2015 The second phase of Marvel's cinematic universe comes to a close by introducing one of their greatest villains, Ultron (voiced by James freaking Spader), as well as three(!) new members in Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and the Vision. On top of that, there's a very strong possibility we'll get a look at Wakanda, home of Black Panther. The first movie blew the roof off. Age of Ultron is going to bring the whole damn place down. ii Sean Walsh [embed]218882:42170:0[/embed] Mad Max: Fury RoadDirector: George MillerRelease date: May 15th, 2015 After that explosive Comic-Con trailer burst through the gate, Fury Road has caught all of my attention. It's a reboot and a sequel that I can't see going wrong. Directed by George Miller, the guy who heralded the originals, and with Tom Hardy looking gruff, Charlize Theron looking siiiiiiiiick, I just want this in my eyeballs already. Please be good, or at least good to watch. -- Nick Valdez [embed]218882:42171:0[/embed] Pitch Perfect 2Director: Elizabeth BanksRelease date: May 15th, 2015 Apparently, all of my anticipated films are sequels. That's totally weird considering my staunch stance on them, but 2014 helped changed my perspective. With sequels now redefining their purpose and becoming entertaining in their own right (and not weakening the original in any way), I'm hoping Pitch Perfect 2 can capitalize on all the aca-awesome potential of the first film. While it was great (and something I saw at least seven times), it reminded me too much of Bring It On: a lightning in a bottle film whose ridiculousness revealed itself in sequels. But hey, I'm keeping my mind open. It's Elizabeth Banks' directorial debut, and she's one of the best women in the game right now. And if it isn't any good, at least the music will be entertaining. But I'm excited for the full package deal that could come out of this. -- Nick Valdez [embed]218882:42190:0[/embed] Inside OutDirector: Pete DocterRelease Date: June 19th, 2015 It's no secret that I love anything that comes from the House of Mouse, and that includes things from its extended family. Inside Out is Pixar's latest, and it focuses on the emotions that are inside the mind of a girl. The cast is phenomenal — Diane Lane, Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader, and Lewis Black are all kind enough to lend their voices for the film. However, I'm just a tiny bit hesitant. This is the first Pixar film that I can remember that has so many protagonists. There's five or six senses, then the girl herself. The closest I can think of that comes to it is The Incredibles, which featured Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, Violet, Dash, and Syndrome. My fears were slightly assuaged after the teaser was released, but Pete Docter's writing credits include Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Wall-E, and Up. I'm sure he'll make it work. I look forward to eating my words in June. -- Jonathan Wray [embed]218882:42172:0[/embed] Terminator: GenisysDirector: Alan TaylorRelease date: July 1st, 2015 Every time I try and get out, Terminator keeps PULLING ME BACK IN. Seriously, the rest of the staff here can tell you I've been really annoying in the emails. I go from "Ugh, Genisys sounds like the worst" to "That doesn't look too bad" to "DID YOU SEE ARNOLD?" to "Ugh why is spelled that way?" I've never been more vocal for a sequel than with Genisys. Ever since Schwarzenegger made his way back into movies, I've been waiting for the film that can capture the old "Blockbustah Ahnuld" I used to love. The more I see of Genisys, the more I think this is close. Also, big fan of openly rebooting a series. Please be good. -- Nick Valdez [embed]218908:42191:0[/embed] Magic Mike XXL Director: Gregory JacobsRelease date: July 3rd, 2015 The boys are back! A prime example of a movie that didn't need a sequel, I'm still excited about watching Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, and all the rest shake their shit for another two hours. I loved the first movie, so why not? Former editor Jenika Katz said it best in her two word review of the first movie, and it bears repeating: "DAT ASS." -- Sean Walsh [embed]218882:42181:0[/embed] Ant-ManDirector: Peyton ReedRelease Date: July 17th, 2015 This movie has been in production for what feels like eternity. Ant-Man is far from my favorite Marvel character, but I'm curious to see how he'll translate onto the big screen. The tone of the teaser trailer was pretty weird to me, but I like Paul Rudd so I'm looking forward to this, even if I can't separate him from Bobby Newport. -- Megan Porch Hitman: Agent 47Director: Alexander BachRelease Date: August 28th, 2015 Yes, really. Look, here's the deal. I love the Hitman franchise. I've been playing since the first game came out, back when the computer I played on couldn't handle Hitman 2's Pentium 3 450 MHz requirement. It's a gaming franchise that's very near and dear to my heart, and I don't care, I can't wait. I even managed to enjoy the first film. I'll be watching with sadness in my heart, however, knowing that Paul Walker was originally cast for this role. He seemed to be looking to make a name for himself in the action world outside of the Fast and Furious movies, and this would've been a fantastic start. The film's currently in post-production, and it was actually scheduled to be released this month, but I guess it needed some reshoots or something. I'm not expecting Hollywood gold here, but as long as I can see Tobias Reaper sneaking around and completing contracts (the final of which, I'm sure, involves a ton of money, a girl, a car, the nation's security, or a combination of all of the above), I'll enjoy it. -- Jonathan Wray SpectreDirector: Sam MendesRelease Date: November 6th, 2015  Remember when Sam Mendes directed Skyfall and it was awesome and old school and just fantastic Bond? Well now he's doing it again except this time he gets to use classic Bond villain Blofeld and Christoph Waltz is playing him and that's better than anything ever. There's been some dust up over a crappy ending that leaked out during the Sony hack, but this is Bond and Bond always gets me excited no matter what. We don't know too much about Spectre, but as I said it's Bond and that instantly makes it my most anticipated film of the year. - Matthew Razak The MartianDirector: Ridely ScottRelease Date: November 26th, 2015 I have not yet read the book of the same name that The Martian  is based on, but I will. What I hear is that it is an incredibly touching, humorous, dramatic and scientifically accurate bit of science fiction. What does that mean? That means Ridely Scott getting back to his roots of simpler science fiction that relies on atmosphere and not set pieces to amaze. Scott has been to over blown these past few years and it'll be good to see him narrow his focus with a film that should be far simpler and character driven than what he's done recently. Here's also hoping for an incredible solitary performance from Matt Damon as the titular "Martian." - Matthew Razak [embed]218882:42182:0[/embed] Star Wars: The Force AwakensDirector: JJ AbramsRelease Date: December 18th, 2015 What can I even say about this? It's freakin' Star Wars. And it looks like it'll actually be GOOD. I started out cautiously optimistic about this, but after seeing the teaser I was all over it like a fat kid on cake. There is nothing I love more than this franchise (though the prequels still make me cringe), and this looks like it'll finally be the Star Wars movie we all deserve. -- Megan Porch Everything from South Korea (Especially Agassi)Director: A multitude (e.g. Park Chan-Wook)Release Date: Frequently (ASAP) So here's a cop-out answer if I've ever seen one, but you know what? South Korean movies continue to excite me, and instead of choosing a couple of options, I just went with everything. I'm excited about South Korean cinema in general. There's gonna be plenty of terrible movies, but I look at this list, and I'm like, "Let's do this!" Even the sequel to My Sassy Girl. Also, I somehow missed this, but Park Chan-Wook is back in South Korea making a movie called Agassi, which means "Young Lady" and is an adaptation of Sarah Waters' novel Fingersmith. I need that thing in my life immediately. Also, if my life plans work out the way I want them to (they probably won't), I'll be in South Korea at some point before 2015 ends, and then I can watch the movies there without subtitles and be super confused about it. I'll still review them, though. -- Alec Kubas-Meyer
2015 Excitement photo
Get hype
Did you know that the beginning of February is the perfect time to look ahead at the new year? Why is that, you ask. Because now we've gotten rid of all the crap and Oscar leftovers that January is full of and we can actually...

Matt's Top 15 Movies of 2014

Jan 22 // Matthew Razak
Selma I'm not going to talk about the Academy's snubbing here because it's been done to death. Just know that this is probably the best film of the year. While I'd give my vote for an award to Boyhood simply because of the achievement there for sheer emotional power, direction and acting it is definitely Selma. As I said in my review, it isn't just that the movie is fantastic it's that it came out at just the right time. It's message is so spot on and so powerful during year where racial issues have come to the forefront that it's hard to imagine another movie coming out with better timing. If you see one film from last year it should be Selma.  Read our Selma review here.  Guardians of the Galaxy I was shocked and appalled that both Nick and Alec left Guardians of the Galaxy off their best of list. James Gunn made a science-fiction masterpiece that not only grabbed an audience, propelled an actor to stardom and re-invigorated Marvel's look on film, but also was just too much damn fun to walk away from. It also proved that Marvel's got some serious balls. Taking an completely untested, back burner comic book and blowing it up onto the big screen is a massive risk and it worked. Not just because it had Marvel before it, but because it was damn good. For big movie spectacle you couldn't do any better than Guardians this year and big movie spectacle isn't actually that easy to pull off. This was a great film in a year where many blockbusters failed to meet their potential at all. Transformers, I'm looking at you.  Read our Guardians of the Galaxy review here. Boyhood What's left to be said of Boyhood? Should we ramble on about how it's stunningly and perfect captures growing up over the past two decades? Maybe we should just sit in awe of Richard Linklater's audacity to actually film and put this movie together. I'm not sure there's an American male on earth who wouldn't be pulled into this film. If you still think Boyhood's main concept is just a gimmick you need to sit down and watch this film. It is magic on (digital) celluloid.  Read our Boyhood review here.  The Babadook I've already gushed about why The Babadook is one of the more important films this year in terms of the film industry, but here's why it deserves to be on every top list there is: it's the best horror film to land this year. Actually scary, edge of your seat, care about the characters horror. That's not just rare in a given year, it's rare in the genre itself. It must also be said that Essie Davis' portrayal of a mother cracking under stress would be instantly nominated if this had been in any other genre. It is a flawless performance only ignored because the film it took place in wasn't the right "caliber" of movie to be considered for awards. It is beyond annoying that horror still sits in the corner when so many masterpieces exist in the genre.  Read our The Babadook review here.  Whiplash Whiplash would be on this list even if the film was just two hours of J.K. Simmons staring at the camera, yelling and throwing things. A masterful performance of scary, yet motivating rage is going to net him an Oscar easily. It isn't just that, however. As Nick pointed out the film is a musical triumph, but what really stand out is just how well it delves into its themes of motivation, influence, inspiration and passion. The film is often said to be very dark, but it's underlying themes deal with what makes us great. I had not expectations for the movie going it and walked out realizing I had seen one of the best films of the year.  Read our Whiplash review here.   Birdman I am still upset that his is not a Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law movie, but putting my disappointment aside it is very clear that Birdman is a great film despite that. Let's move past the stellar performances and the single shot direction. I'm just going to say one thing: the score. Jazz drumming had quite a year with Whiplash and this score. Antonio Sanchez's score is all drums, and it is possibly one of the most original and perfectly done scores in years. The Academy disqualified it from contention because they're idiots, but you can literally close your eyes and enjoy this film for that drum score alone.  Read our review of Birdman here. Inherent Vice You will either love Inherent Vice, hate Inherent Vice or turn Inherent Vice off halfway through. If you're me then you loved it. I'm a sucker for film noirs and Paul Thomas Anderson getting his hands on the genre and then turning it on his head is basically the best thing that has happened since The Big Lebowski. The film itself is a convoluted, over-plotted, hilarious cluster-fuck, but that just makes it all the more brilliant. Of all the movies released this year I will probably rewatch this one more than any other. It is so dense and there is so much to pick up that you just have to.  The Raid 2 Dat final fight scene. If there is a better action director out there than Gareth Evans then the world is near an end because it literally can't get more exciting without everything blowing up. The Raid 2 proves that Edwards can handle anything. Taking the kung fu action of the original and extending it out into an action packed drama that concludes in the greatest fight I've ever seen. This isn't just a must see for fight movie fans it's a must see for everyone ever. In the future we'll look back and ask ourselves why no one could top this film.  Read our The Raid 2 review here. Edge of Tomorrow If Edge of Tomorrow is a surprise to you on this list it really shouldn't be. Despite not being the biggest summer blockbuster it is easily the most creative and has basically appeared on everyone's top lists under the "Why the hell didn't you see this?" category. Seriously, why the hell didn't you see this? If it's because you're tired of Tom Cruise it shouldn't be. This is Cruise back on his A game. If it's because it keeps changing its name? OK, valid argument, but I'm telling you no matter what it's called it is still some of the best sci-fi you'll see in a while. A rose by any other name, right? Read our Edge of Tomorrow review here. The Grand Budapest Hotel I actually try to dislike Wes Anderson films. The hipster aesthetics and adherence to his unique visual style just screams to be hated. I can't though and Grand Budapest may be his best film yet. Hearkening back to The Royal Tenenbaums, Grand Budapest is both visually compelling and emotionally stunning. It's definitely Anderson's most adult film. While I could talk endlessly about his framing and direction (he's one of the few auteurs in mainstream cinema) what really stands out about the film is its darker undertones. There's an actual punch to this one and he handles it... well, exactly like you'd expect Wes Anderson too.   The LEGO Movie I'm not even sure if The LEGO Movie was my favorite animated film of the year (both How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Big Hero 6 were on par), but the complete and total ignoring of it by the academy has my indignation at an all time high. Much like most of the population who hadn't played any of the LEGO videogames, and thus didn't know the writing was sharp and clever, the Academy clearly assumed that because it was a branded film it sucked. If they weren't so busy being racists this would be the clear and final nail that everyone was yelling about. I loved this movie, but my righteous indignation is the reason it makes this list over the two others mentioned.  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes How the hell are we not talking about this movie more during awards season? When it came out it was all the buzz, but that was near the beginning of the year and Hollywood has such a short memory. What they should be remembering is that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes wasn't just a technically fantastic movie it was a emotionally powerful one too. Hitting on complex subjects such as inequality, racism, power  and fear the movie does what all great sci-fi does and made us look inward. Unlike the first film of this rebooted timeline, which was all that bad, Dawn is an emotional and directorial masterpiece. It turns talking monkeys into social metaphors, and Andy Serkis once again shows us that CGI performance can often be more powerful than anything else we see on screen.  22 Jump Street With a year pretty devoid of truly legendary comedies I find it hard to believe everyone forgot about 22 Jump Street. Maybe if The Interview hadn't become an international political issue we'd still be talking about it. Not only was 22 Jump Street hilarious it was a needless sequel that actually worked. Bringing back Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, who have some of the most surprising comedic chemistry together ever, the movie was basically the funniest thing all year. I challenge you to find a moment you laughed harder then when Tatum finds out Hill slept with Ice T's daughter. The movie basically took what made the original so great and turned it up to 22.  Read our review for 22 Jump Street here.  Captain America: The Winter Soldier When talking about Guardians of the Galaxy above I may have mentioned that Marvel's style was getting stale so it's a testament that even stale Marvel is in my top 15 for the year. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was everything that is so great and so generic about Marvel all at once. A massive film with repercussions that shook the MCU (unlike Iron Man's latest outing) it was action packed, and full of charm. While it lacked a truly special feeling like the action films on this list I still can't deny it was easily some of the most fun I had in the theater all year. Sure it felt kind of the same, but when it comes to Marvel then they can keep on copy pasting all they want.  Read our Captain America: The Winter Solider review here.  Veronica Mars Oh look, one of my favorite films is one I Kickstarted. So what? It's my damn list. Fine, Veronica Mars wasn't the best film of the year, but it was definitely one of my favorites. Almost perfectly bringing back the same feel and tone of the TV is actually quite a feat for a movie and this one nailed it. Not to mention it BROUGHT BACK VERONICA MARS! If anything this should be on more top lists simply because of the revolutionary way it came about. I understand why it was forgotten by plenty when discussing the year in film, but its release was actually pretty damn important.  Read our review of Veronica Mars here. 
Matt's Faves photo
I see too many movies. Here the best so you don't have to.
As a person who gets to attend press screenings for almost every major and minor release out there I get to see way too many movies. You're thinking that sounds awesome, but it can be a horrible burden. Do you know how many b...

Megan's Top 15 Movies of 2014

Jan 22 // Megan Porch
15. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 I totally love Suzanne Collins' dystopian trilogy, and even though Mockingjay is my favorite of the books I'll admit the book has a ton of faults. When it was first announced the final book would be split into two movies, I was concerned. Mockingjay isn't a long book and it didn't feel like there was enough material for two movies. But then I went to see the film and it was worlds better than I was expecting. While the novel felt rushed, the movie takes its time to let the story unfold and the audience finally gets to really see all the devastation District 13's rebellion is causing. The actors' performances are great, and it's nice to see the final chapter of the trilogy getting the attention it deserves. Read the review here! 14. The Lego Movie In 2013, my friend and I went to a movie for Valentine's Day. That movie was Dredd. In 2014, the same friend and I wanted to see a movie again for the same holiday, so we ended up at The Lego Movie. Despite sitting through the panel for this movie at San Diego Comic Con in 2013, I knew virtually nothing about it. I just knew it involved Legos and Batman was in it. In the end, I can easily say everything about The Lego Movie was awesome. Read the review here! 13. Edge of Tomorrow Any movie that lets me see Tom Cruise die over and over again is amazing and wonderful. I was skeptical of this film because I really can't stand him, but I ended up seeing it since my friends wanted to go. Edge of Tomorrow ended up being a really fun movie that I didn't totally hate Tom Cruise in, and it goes without saying Emily Blunt was a total badass. It was definitely a very pleasant surprise but I do wish the movie had been a bigger hit than it was. Read the review here! 12. Godzilla My only complaint about Godzilla is that Bryan Cranston should've been in way more of it. Now that I've got that out of the way, let me say that this movie was awesome. I like Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and I especially liked how his character was just trying to get home the whole time, but kept getting swept up in all the kaiju insanity. Maybe Godzilla himself should've been in more of it, too, but the moments that he was on screen were incredible. I know a lot of fans were wanting an old school monster for Godzilla to fight, but I thought the Mutos were unique and still managed to fit nicely into the big fighting monster genre. Read the review here! 11. John Wick The biggest surprise movie of 2014 for me was John Wick. I didn't have any interest in seeing it until my friend told me that the story involved a dog. Being the dog-crazy person I am, after that I decided I had to see it... and I'm definitely glad I did. Keanu Reeves may not be the most versatile actor, but I liked him as Wick and the rest of the cast was full of a lot of unexpected, but awesome actors. The fight scenes were fun and the soundtrack was the perfect icing on this revenge filled cake. Check out the sweet doggy! 10. The Raid 2 - Berandal I'll admit I haven't seen The Raid Redemption, but it's on my to-watch list. I ended up seeing The Raid 2 - Berandal with my friend to kill time on the day of Captain America: The Winter Soldier's theatrical release. The only thing I expected was that there would be martial arts. That was literally all I knew about the first movie, so when this one revealed that it had a pretty good plot AND tons of the best fight choreography I've ever seen, I was sold. Read the review here! 9. The Boxtrolls As the third feature film from Laika Studios, The Boxtrolls may not be the strongest story-wise, but it's got a ton of heart and it's a fun movie for kids and adults. What really impresses me about this studio, though, is the amount of sheer creativity that goes into making their movies. With practically every animated movie coming out now being nothing but computer graphics, it's so refreshing to see stop animation still being used so masterfully. Read the review here! 8. Birdman I think the last movie I saw Michael Keaton in was one where he was Batman. I knew the basic premise of Birdman, and since I love superhero movies I was curious about what seemed like a critique of that genre. Birdman is a great character piece with an incredible cast. Emma Stone is easily one of my favorite leading ladies, and I've always liked Ed Norton, but Michael Keaton shined the brightest in this film. Read the review here! 7. Guardians of the Galaxy I'm a diehard fan of Marvel's movies and comics, but even I was puzzled by their choice to make Guardians of the Galaxy into a film. It seemed like something that was too comic book-ish for general movie audiences to enjoy. Luckily, Guardians turned out to be a smash hit and it was also a much needed break from all the dark and serious superhero movies we've gotten over the past decade. There was nothing about this movie I didn't like, but I think my favorite thing about it was how colorful it was. With bright pink and blue people, a talking raccoon and a loveable tree, Guardians of the Galaxy came out of left field and now is one of my top favorite superhero movies. Read the review here! 6. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night I used to live in a town that barely ever got foreign films. Now that I live in Los Angeles there's so many that I don't have time or money to see them all, but when I heard about this movie, I was intrigued. Ana Lily Amirpour's directorial debut, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a must-see for anyone who considers him/herself a movie buff. It's a quiet, simple film, but it also packs a lot of heavy punches in the form of great acting and beautiful storytelling. Read the review here! 5. The Grand Budapest Hotel I can't say enough how much I love Wes Anderson movies, and The Grand Budapest Hotel seems like a love letter to all his fans. It still doesn't beat The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou as my favorite, but it's a close second. Everything about this movie is beautiful, charming, and a little bit disturbing (the cat's fate still makes me cringe). Also, if anyone thinks Ralph Fiennes didn't do his best performance of his career in this movie, I will fight you. Read the review here! 4. Song of the Sea Technically I saw Song of the Sea this year, but its official release date was in December of 2014, so I'm counting it. Cartoon Saloon already made me a fan of their work with their first feature, Secret of Kells, but this movie was something truly special. Maybe I'm a little biased because I think seals are the best animals in the world, but the story of Song of the Sea is truly touching and the craftsmanship that went into creating it is just extraordinary. Read the review here! 3. Under the Skin I read Michel Faber's novel this movie is based on a few weeks before I went to see it in the theater. The novel was weird and cool, but I couldn't imagine how it'd translate into a film. It turns out that Jonathan Glazer was not trying to make a literal adaptation of the book, and that's okay with me. Under the Skin doesn't improve on the novel because it's a completely separate entity. Yeah, there are similarities, but overall the movie is a bizarre journey into femininity and the search for companionship. It's also apparent after watching it that Jonathan Glazer is the closest we are to a modern day Stanley Kubrick. 2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier There won't be any Best Picture nomination for Captain America, but in my mind, it's a masterpiece. The Winter Soldier was my most anticipated movie since the second it was announced at San Diego Comic Con in 2012. As an interpretation of my favorite comic story ever, this movie could not have been more perfect. It wasn't exactly the same, but it didn't matter. All that mattered to me was that I was seeing my favorite characters come to life in a way that was interesting unlike any other superhero movie. I hope Marvel continues with these genre films, since it gives superheroes a cool twist they didn't have before. Read the review here! 1. Interstellar I get pretty emotional during movies, especially the ones that are as emotionally charged as Interstellar was. Christopher Nolan is one of my favorite directors, so I'm always eager to see what he's up to. This movie felt different from all his others. It certainly had a lot of big ideas, but when it boiled down to its core, Interstellar was about family. So I pretty much spent the entire movie sobbing because it was just so darn beautiful. The story, the cinematography, the special effects... everything was perfect. I wasn't sure anything could top how much I loved The Winter Soldier (because I'm horribly biased), but Interstellar went above and beyond anything I saw last year. Read the review here! So here's hoping 2015 is full of awesome movies, too! What were some of your favorites from last year?
Megan's Top 15 photo
Lots of these movies involve adorable animals. Others are gratuitiously violent. One has both!
2014 was a pretty great year for movies, so coming up with a year end list was pretty tough for me. Originally I thought I'd just do top 5, and then top 10... but no. It had to be top 15 because I saw so many awesome films last year, and it just wouldn't be fair to ignore the movies in the 11 through 15 slots.  So let's get the ball rolling...  

Alec's Top 15 Movies of 2014

Jan 16 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
Movies that possibly maybe could have been on this list if I'd seen them (and didn't structure it so weirdly): The Tale of Princess Kaguya, Leviathan (not the 2012 garbage), Ida, The Guest, Foxcatcher, John Wick, Into the Woods, Force Majeure, Fury, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Jodorowsky's Dune, Song of the Sea Movies that could have theoretically been on this list if I hadn't structured it like this: The Lego Movie, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, Guardians of the Galaxy, Obvious Child, Noah, Gone Girl, Nymphomaniac Vol. 1, Snowpiercer, Inherent Vice Movies that wouldn't have been on this list under any circumstances: Under the Skin, Two Days, One Night 2014's This is the End. I flip-flopped pretty hard on The Interview. It's not as good as last year's excellent This is the End, but it's a whole lot better than I was giving it credit for when I wrote my "Why did it have to be The Interview?" article. Honestly: It's pretty freaking funny. And the fact that it is selling in North Korea for a ludicrous amount of money bodes well for the future of that country. It's not going to spark a revolution (I don't think it's even possible to revolt against that particular dictatorship), but it has more potential to cause unrest than fifty Oscar worthy documentaries. Documentaries don't have sex appeal. Neither does Seth Rogen, if we're being honest, but a good looking Hollywood movie (which The Interview definitely is) certainly does.  Read our review here. 2014's Wolf of Wall Street Nightcrawler celebrates the seedy underbelly of our world. It celebrates, without real consequence, the vile behavior of a certain type of person. Sound like anything? Yeah it does. A lot of people were disgusted by The Wolf of Wall Street, the excesses that it showed in order to make a point (a point that it made brilliantly, I might add). Jordan Belforte was (is) a bad dude, and the film amply demonstrated that. Nightcrawler does the same, showing the awfulness of Lou Bloom. And it's fascinating for that. (It also features an established movie star giving one of the best performances of his life.) Like the next two entries on this list, it's a feature debut, and I find that both amazing and infuriating, because it has the kind of assuredness of direction that you rarely see from first-timers. Hats off to Dan Gilroy. Read our review here. 2014's You're Next (or Evil Dead) In 2014, two female directors put out their feature debuts. They were both horror films. One, Honeymoon, played at festivals but kind of fizzled out. The other, The Babadook, has hit a whole lot of people in a whole lot of ways. That's a shame, because Honeymoon was a fantastic film that deserved to be seen by more people. I have a lot of thoughts about it, and the way its narrative develops, but suffice it to say that its effectiveness says a lot about what the viewer finds scary. I found the first half terrifying and the second half less so. I know others who felt the exact opposite. But regardless of that, it's an extremely well made film, and it makes excellent use of long takes (which I love). It also excited me so much that I started working on a horror screenplay of my own. I think that says more about my reaction than any number of superlatives. 2014's Evil Dead (or You're Next) The Babadook, on the other hand, did not compel me quite as much. But it scared me a whole lot more... at least in its first half. Much like Honeymoon, The Babadook changes a bit halfway through, and how the viewer reacts to that change is more about them than the film. I wasn't as enamored of the ending as I was the beginning, but I can't deny the effectiveness of its lead characters. It's a fascinating film, and I hope writer/director Jennifer Kent puts out something else soon. The Babadook is one hell of a debut. Read our review here. 2014's The Square Confession time: I haven't actually seen Citizenfour but considering the structure of this list, that doesn't technically matter. Whether it's good or not (it probably is), Citizenfour is an important documentary about an important moment (or, person, I guess) in modern history. So it gets to be on here, sight unseen. 2014's Upstream Color Upstream Color incited former Flixist News Editor Hubert Vigilla to write more than 8000 words about its meaning (Parts 1, 2, and 3). Coherence didn't quite do that for me, but it was the impetus for the creation of our "Review Companion" articles (of which there have now been several). I had never really felt compelled to analyze a film outside of what I said in the review. But the way Coherence's narrative develops convinced me that sometimes analysis does need to be separated (or at the very least elaborated). There was more to say that I didn't feel right talking about in the review. I had so many thoughts and feelings to put down. I really, really loved Coherence. It's a fascinating and fantastic film (much better than Upstream Color, if we're being honest), but like Upstream Color its existence says something about low-budget filmmaking. It was done over a few days with some friends in the director's house. Also: it's almost entirely improvised. How amazing is that? Rhetorical question. It's so amazing. Read our review here.  2014's Captain Phillips Whiplash was probably one of the biggest surprises of the year. It came out of left field and knocked everyone over. Kind of like Captain Phillips, which looked... fine, but then turned out to be freaking awesome. What makes both of these films feel similar is their intensity. They feel claustrophobic. Captain Phillips under the tyranny of the Somalian pirates and Whiplash beneath Terrence Fletcher. They don't give you a moment to breathe, getting faster and harder until a violent climax. The character of Andrew Neyman is more akin to the actual Captain Phillips as he's been described by his coworkers (not a hero) than the one the film portrays, but the two of them have equivalent determination to get their goal. And they both feature excellent performances. (Worth noting: I considered switching this an Nightcrawler, which I think would have also been appropriate, but for entirely different reasons.) Read our review here. 2014's Dallas Buyer's Club Dallas Buyer's Club was a good movie made great by spectacular performances. So is The Theory of Everything. That really is enough said, but it's worth elaborating on one particular fact: the film was not shot in sequence. The actors had to go across time over the course of a single day, which means Eddie Redmayne would go from walking to being wheelchair bound within a few hours. That is incredible. And it took some real ingenuity on the part of the filmmakers to make it look like the actor was withering away even though he was in the same condition throughout. Felicity Jones was great too, but she didn't have to undergo the physical transformation that her partner did. Good on them both, but good job especially on Mr. Redmayne. It almost makes up for that malarkey in Les Miserables. Read our review here. 2014's Gravity (In Theaters (In 3D)) I went back and forth on these next two, because on some level they both represent my feelings on both films. But I didn't write several thousand words about the IMAX experience of Interstellar and I did about the theatrical experience of Birdman. Both these films were shot by the same brilliant cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezski, and as such they're both visual spectacles. On some level, the biggest difference between these two films is that Birdman will continue to work out of theaters, where Gravity really loses its luster. Birdman is every bit the achievement that Gravity was and more. If you can see it in a theatre, I urge you to do so. But if you can't, I still urge you to see it. It's one hell of an experience. Read our review here. 2014's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty It still bothers me that people didn't like The Secret Life of Walter Mitty as much as I did (and do). It's such a brilliant and beautiful film that has a reverence for the world around us. Insterstellar doesn't have much reverence for Earth, but it does have reverence for everything else. It has optimism, and a belief in humans and their ability to go beyond their supposed limitations. But also like Walter Mitty, it uses real (gorgeous) locations to show viewers a part of the world that they've never seen. It's a film about explorers and exploration, and it's a reminder of just how incredible the world we all live in is. It's somewhat messy (Nolan's films always are), but that does little to diminish it's impact. And like Walter Mitty, Interstellar is even better the second time. It also benefits from the larger than life feeling that a theater can give. In IMAX, Interstellar is a stunning achievement, unlike any film that has ever been released ever. Read our review here. 2014's Wrong The 95 is an important score on Flixist. We haven't given very many of them in our time, which makes it all the more significant when we do. In my several hundred reviews, I've only done it twice. First with Wrong and now with The Raid 2. Both these films changed my perception of cinema. Sure, the films couldn't really be more different, but the way they affected me is surprisingly similar. I walked out of them both as a different person, a different critic. I am a better person and a better critic for having seen both. I discussed this more in depth a while back with a video explaining the way our system works (especially as it relates to my review of The Raid 2, so you should check that out if you're interested). The Raid 2 matters, not just to me but to action cinema in general. It is unequivocally the best action film ever made. It set the bar astronomically high. Do you have any idea how many times I've watched that final fight in the kitchen? So many. Read our review here. 2014's Blue is the Warmest Color Of all the entries on this list, this one is the stretch-iest. I missed a lot of the big foreign dramas in 2014, so I was kind of at a loss for a really appropriate analog to Blue is the Warmest Color, which I continue to cry about at night because it's so goddamn affecting. Then I remembered that Grand Budapest Hotel is vaguely foreign, sort of dramatic, and totally freaking amazing. So I stand by this comparison, even if it's not really that appropriate. Some may disagree, but I wholeheartedly stand behind Grand Budapest Hotel as Wes Anderson's best film. I like his work for the most part (some more than others), but this one pulled me in like no other. It's one of the most engrossing and fascinating experiences of the year. And it doesn't hurt that the director's symmetrical OCD looks mind-bogglingly good in a 4:3 aspect ratio. Read our review here. 2014's Her This one's about world-building. Her succeeded not just because it was basically flawless but because it created a believable world that felt near-future. It felt plausible (and incredible). I loved it. Edge of Tomorrow also creates a believable world, although one with slightly less believable circumstances. Edge of Tomorrow sticks with its internal logic, it makes sense within itself, and it takes a relatively simple concept and makes something shockingly effective out of it. Edge of Tomorrow is the best videogame movie ever made (while Her just had an interesting conception of the future of videogames. The "Live. Die. Repeat." mantra is exactly how so many people feel playing games. It's more relevant to older games, the ones that required pixel-perfect jumps and flawless timing, but even now there are shades of it. (It's worth noting that the Japanese light novel the film is based on, All You Need Is Kill, was inspired by this aspect of videogaming, so... that's not even some hidden meaning. It was the fundamental purpose.) It's really an incredible film, and anyone who has ever considered themselves to be an action, sci-fi, or videogame fan owes it to themselves to see it. Read our review here. 2014's Before Midnight Boyhood is the most fascinating movie ever made. Before Midnight is a part of the most fascinating trilogy ever made. What makes them interesting is exactly the same: Time. Like the Up series of documentaries, Linklater has used these films to tell stories of growing up and growing together and growing apart in a way that no one else ever has. You watch these people grow. Literally. In Boyhood, each scene pushes the clock forward. And before you know it, this 8 year old boy is in college. He's left the house. This is a film that shouldn't work as well as it does, but the execution is just so brilliant. Yeah, there are some problems with it, but they don't matter. Not even a little bit. Not at all. What Boyhood tried to do in and of itself would have made it worth seeing, even if it was a total failure. The fact that it is one of the best movies of the last several years speaks to the talent of the director and his cast. There will never be another film like Boyhood. Maybe that's a good thing. Maybe it's not. But let's just celebrate the fact that we have the one. It is a cinematic achievement. That is for damn sure. Read our review here. 2014's 12 Years a Slave Selma was the film I knew I needed to see before I made this list. The buzz surrounding it was high enough that I knew it would be in my Top 15 at the very least, and while I feel sort of bad about missing a few of the other films, I would have felt awful missing this one. I'm glad I didn't miss it. Because... wow. Like, really. Wow. The thing that really surprised me wasn't its effectiveness (I assumed that much from the critical acclaim (though acclaim has been wrong before)) but its violence. Like 12 Years a Slave, the intensity of the violence makes Selma extremely hard to watch. And in fact, Selma may be harder to watch than 12 Years a Slave, because it's so much more recent. People can pretend like the lessons of slavery are irrelevant because it was so long ago. No one who was alive at that time is around today. But people alive during the Selma demonstrations? There are definitely a whole lot of them. That makes a difference. It means something different. It means more now that the Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act that the Selma marches were fighting for. It's disgusting, honestly, that the legacy of this is a return to disenfranchisement. It's infuriating. Selma is evidence of our recent past. We would do well to remember it. In 2013, we got an incredibly affecting movie about racism in the 19th century. In 2014, we got an incredibly affecting movie about racism in the 20th century. Racism is alive an well today. Let's see if 2015 will bring us a film holding the mirror up to our society today. Read our review here.
Alec's Best of 2014 photo
Through the lens of his 2013 list
While I was binge-watching films at the end of last year and the beginning of this one to figure out where everything would stand on my official TOP MOVIES OF 2014 list, I noticed something odd: So many of the films I saw in ...

Nick's Top 15 Movies of 2014

Jan 16 // Nick Valdez
30-16: The Lego Movie, The Babadook, 22 Jump Street, The Purge: Anarchy, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Maleficent, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, Snowpiercer, Frank, Top Five, Gone Girl, Pride, The Drop, Nymphomaniac Vol 1, A Most Violent Year 15. Locke  I nearly missed out on Locke. With the smallest of small releases, I didn't see this until it was recommended by a friend a few weeks ago. I'm super glad I finally took the plunge. It's got the weirdest barrier of entry (it's better if you see it at night, you have to be in the right mindset), but it's totally worth the trouble. In a year full of bloated blockbusters, Locke is the concise breath of fresh air that reminds you what cinema is capable of. In the length of a Sunday night drive, Tom Hardy goes through so many complicated emotions. Enclosed, intimate, and fantastic.  14. Nightcrawler Nightcrawler (and Enemy, in fact) proved Jake Gyllenhaal still has some sides of his acting talent hidden away. With a strikingly dark, yet practical performance, he sells the film's dissection of sensationalist journalism. Literally crawling through the muck, Nightcrawler portrays the opposite end of ambition. When ambition morphs into an unhealthy aggression, one of the best films of 2014 was born.  Read our review of Nightcrawler here. 13. John Wick John Wick was an utter surprise and delight. Literally coming out of nowhere with a generic trailer that made the film seem like nothing more than a direct to home video action film mistakenly released to theaters, John Wick has a fantastic setting (I want another movie of just interactions within the assassin hotel hideout), wonderfully choreographed action (Keanu Reeves is really Neo at this point, which made the fantastical nature of the fights even more believable), and a story with so many cheesy twists and turns I fell in love instantly. Oh and the dog, Daisy! Oh. My. God. 12. Boyhood Filmed over the course of twelve years, it sort of makes sense to put Boyhood here. Both as a little dig, and because while I love what it did for cinema (and how much I enjoyed it directly afterward), I'm not as fond of it as I thought I was. While some of Mason's life speaks to me (I too had a drunk and abusive parent, was also directionless for the majority of life), a lot of it glazed over what my life was really like. Yeah, I know Boyhood won't be a depiction of my life, but it kind of stung to see someone live a happier life than mine. I don't hold it against the film critically (that's why it's here), but I'll never truly connect with it the way I think I'm supposed to.  Read our review of Boyhood here. 11. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes APEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is what we get for not hailing to the chimp. A summer blockbuster that was not only intelligent, well paced, and full of stunning visuals, but made me expect more out of my popcorn flicks. Bad action and explosions just aren't going to cut it anymore. Dawn says we can have both AND be a successful prequel/sequel at the same time. It doesn't get any better. This is what blockbusters should strive to.  Read our review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes here. 10. The Guest The Guest is a film that will forever be welcome in my home. Before my screening, I knew nothing of it other than it was a follow up from the You're Next (which is also a film you need to see someday) duo of Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett. Figuring they were kind of a one trick pony (sorry, guys), I expected a run of the mill thriller with a genre twist at the end. But that's nowhere near the case with Guest. Completely confident in its lead Dan Stevens (with good reason), the film is full throttle from beginning to end. Its tone is never once tiring. With its homages to older horror films, a groovy synth inspired soundtrack, stylistic filming (there's a great use of light throughout) and fantastically staged finale, The Guest was one of my favorite movie going experiences last year. Read our review of The Guest here. 9. Joe Wow, so where has THIS Nicolas Cage been? We make fun of the guy for signing up for everything and anything, but he's some kind of wicked genius. It's when we forget how talented of an actor he can be that he decides to come out with a legitimately gripping performance. That's the heart of Joe. Three great performances (from Cage, Tye Sheridan, and the now passed Gary Poulter) root this tale in the South with the most human characters I saw last year. Remember Your Highness? This is from the same director. I just can't believe that.  Read our review of Joe here. 8. Edge of Tomorrow Just like with Nic Cage, Tom Cruise always has a surprise up his sleeve for when we forget how talented he is. It appears that both actors can truly surprise given the right material. Edge of Tomorrow (or whatever the hell it's named now) is a science fiction story about how some nerdy, cowardly man transforms into action star Tom Cruise after dying a thousand times. In the most unique premise of any science fiction film in recent memory (which is saying quite a bit as you can allude to sources like videogames), a man's life gets a reset button every time he's killed in a battle leading to some of the best and hilarious editing of 2014. And you know what else? Emily Blunt is a killer viking goddess badass and I wouldn't have it any other way.  Read our review of Edge of Tomorrow/All You Need is Kill/Live.Die.Repeat here. 7. Birdman Speaking of actors we've forgotten about, out comes Michael Keaton reminding us how much of a juggernaut he is. Sure he's had some subversive turns in films like The Other Guys, Toy Story 3 and RoboCop recently, but I haven't seen him challenged like this in a long time. Birdman breaks down Keaton and builds him back up again. A heartbreaking, absurd, hilarious, soul crushing, wonderfully shot film, Birdman is truly the peak of artistic creativity. Too bad Keaton overshadowed everyone else. But is that such a bad problem to have?  Read our review of Birdman here. 6. The Grand Budapest Hotel Budapest was my very first Wes Anderson film experience, and I'm so glad I finally took the plunge. Budapest is a film full of so much love, hard work, and time that it could only be put together after as long career. With one of the most outstanding casts (each utilized to the fullest, even in the smaller roles), a vignette style story, and an amazing performance from Ralph Fiennes, Budapest had my attention from beginning to end. The reason it's not higher on this list is because there were a few that had my attention a little bit more. And that's definitely tough in this case.  Read our review of The Grand Budapest Hotel here. 5. The Interview Say what you will about whether or not The Interview "deserved" all of the problems it caused, or whether or not it's some stupid exercise of free speech, underneath all of the drama, The Interview was the funnest experience I had last year. It's not some grand satire of North Korea's politics, nor is it your patriotic duty to witness it unfold, but you'd do yourself a disservice by missing out. Well tuned humor, great performances (with some of the best James Franco faces) led by Randall Park, and an explosive finale you're sure to remember. The Interview is a firework. Boom, boom, boom.  Read our review of The Interview here. 4. Whiplash On the opposite end of the spectrum is Whiplash. A film I had no idea existed full of darkness. Yet, that darkness is truly compelling. J.K. Simmons is a fantastic lead (if you tell me Miles Teller is the lead, I will politely ask you to leave) with a performance that's striking, violent, and full of the best kind of black humor. Imagine if his turn as J. Jonah Jameson in Spider-Man was even more aggressive, and you've got Whiplash. Backing up Simmons is a truly great film that's more about a bloody need to prove you're the best. Intense, rich, and has an a different kind of explosive finale.  Read our review of Whiplash here. 3. Obvious Child  Within a year so full of men that even the cartoons resemble our landscape, Obvious Child stood out from the outset. I've always loved comedienne Jenny Slate as she's great at creating tragically trashy characters,  but I was just waiting for her to break out. And the wait's been worth it. Based off a short film of the same name, Obvious Child tackles not often spoken topics like womanhood, abortion, and late twenties uncertainty with not only tact, but a sophisticated and illuminating point of view with often hilarious results. Jenny Slate is a dynamo as Donna Stern, and the film ending's blend of awkwardness and hope still gives me chills.  2. Palo Alto As James Franco continues to branch out, some of his projects don't go over so well but are nonetheless interesting. His collection of short stories, Palo Alto, and its adaptation got some attention a few months back because Franco himself inadvertently hit on an underage girl on Instagram. That's the only reason I knew about the project, and now I realize how wrong I was. Palo Alto is f**king fantastic for all involved. A well realized weave of stories helped established a broken, and compelling world. I was so invested, I couldn't help but want more. Yet, we're given just the right amount of story thanks to Gia Coppola's outstanding direction.  Featuring an eclectic cast with Franco as a creepy teacher, Emma Roberts as a misguided teen, Jack (and to a lesser extent, Val) Kilmer as a lost kid, and Nat Wolff with the most emotionally charged performance of the year. Seriously, I could not believe that the kid from The Naked Brothers Band had some talent. The final scene of the film where he charges into the night has stuck with me to this day.  1. Fury With how much Obvious Child and Palo Alto stuck with me, only one film did much more. As a fan of David Ayer's career, I was on top of Fury from day one. Though my anticipation sort of wavered in the middle thanks to some bad trailer editing, and I didn't think Logan Lerman was going to be an effective lead, once I sat down with the film all of that faded away. Fury is magnificent. Five terrific performances anchor the film's small story within this admittedly overwrought setting. Fury isn't a typical WWII film, and it delivers with a not so typical emotionally charged finale.  And Shia LaBeouf? Thank you for giving up all of that Transformers trash. This is what you're meant to do.  Read our review of Fury here.  What are your favorite movies from 2014? Did I miss any of your favorites? Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter! While you're at it, why not check out my Top 5 Animated Movies of 2014, Top 5 Sequels, Top 10 Movie Music Moments, and 2014's Best Dog in Film lists too!
Nick's Top 15 of 2014 photo
I have seen 107 films released in 2014. Here are 15 of the best ones
It was the best of films, it was the blurst of films. Hey everyone I'm Nick Valdez, News Editor here for Flixist and you've probably seen my name on a good chunk of the stuff written here. If not, then I'll tell you a bit abo...

2014's Best Dog in Film

Jan 15 // Nick Valdez
Daisy - John Wick With all of the big action films released last year, I forgive you for forgetting about John Wick. Keanu Reeves may have earned himself an undeserved reputation for starring in funky movies lately, but that's not the case with John Wick. An intelligently crafted assassin film within a well built (and super interesting) world that I want to visit again and again. It both mocks and pays homage to action films of the 80s by showing off a different kind of revenge.  You see, Daisy, the Best Dog in Film 2014, was a gift to John from his dying wife. With only ten or so minutes on screen, Daisy becomes the most adorable thing I've ever seen. And only cuter through John's interactions with her (feeding her cereal, letting her sleep on the bed) until she's tragically taken away. Yeah, Daisy's screen time is cut sadly short but also helps set the film in motion. As John Wick sets out to take vengeance for his dog, we got the Best Action Film of 2014 with great stunt choreography, a charged performance from Reeves, a well built assassin world full of rules, Ian McShane comes out of nowhere and is just awesome, and Willem Dafoe is fantastic. Oh, and that final fight in the rain was the greatest layer of cheese I'd ever eaten.  So I guess that makes two awards for John Wick.  What are your favorite animal perfomances (and to a lesser extent, Action films) of 2014? Agree or disagree? Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter! Stay tuned through the rest of the week for more "Best Of" lists! 
Best Dog photo
Such a good doggy!
As good as the films of 2014 were, you know what was even better? The animals. There were lots of standout roles for animals this year, both real and imaginary. In almost every film I watched, there was some cute dog or cat h...

Nick's Top 10 Movie Music Moments of 2014

Jan 14 // Nick Valdez
Honorable Mentions: Birdman - Flight scene, Snowpiercer - "What happens if the engine stops?," The Skeleton Twins - "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now," 22 Jump Street - "Ass-n-Titties," Into the Woods - "Agony" [embed]218773:42129:0[/embed] 10. The Hunger Games Mockingjay - Part 1 - "The Hanging Tree" as performed by Jennifer Lawrence Every year there seems to be a song that's meant to break into mainstream pop. Usually by happenstance, or some kind of weird popularity spike, and "The Hanging Tree" is 2014's single. Written by the Lumineers (with influence from the original text), and given an odd dance backing so it can be played on the radio, this moment may have been forced but it did show off the first actual rebellion against the Capitol. Like other parts of Mockingjay - Part 1, the scene finally opens up the world beyond Katniss and her compatriots.  [embed]218773:42130:0[/embed] 9. The Lego Movie - "Everything is Awesome/(Untitled) Self Portrait"  "Everything is awesome, everything is cool when your part of a team" was 2014's "Let It Go." There's a dollar theater in my town next to the local grocery, and when I first heard a little girl singing that song, I knew we had a winner. The scene it's used in doesn't hit perfect status until the "12 Hours Later" bit but it's still very good. Even better? Batman's demo tape, "DARKNESS! NO PARENTS!" [embed]218773:42132:0[/embed] 8. Guardians of the Galaxy - "Come And Get Your Love"  As critics like myself (although I'd like to think I'm as far from that definition as possible) continue to worry over the staleness of Marvel's films, the intro to Guardians of the Galaxy, featuring a nonchalantly groovin Chris Pratt dancing to a once forgotten Redbone tune, helps alleviate some of that worry. Starting off on the right foot, this scene helped set the tone for Marvel's future. It's going to be a lot more fun.  [embed]218773:42134:0[/embed] 7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - "Elevator Beatbox"  You won't see the TMNT movie on many Best of 2014 lists, but I've got to credit where it's due. It may have be clouded by a bunch of odd decisions, but the Turtles themselves were great. Although they looked like giant steroid hulks, the few times they got to act like their "Teenage" namesake truly stood out. This came to a head in the elevator ride before the final battle with Shredder. It's the most fun scene in this film, and it's completely unnecessary when you think about it. But it's full of so much personality it's hard to care. I want the sequel to basically be this scene x 100.  [embed]218773:42133:0[/embed] 6. The Guest - "Anthonio" The Guest has one of the best soundtracks of 2014. Fusing synth pop and trance together with little known European Pop remixes, and coupling them with a nostalgic run through the horror genre lead to one of the best musically inclined films of the year. The Guest owes most of its successes to its soundtrack and it's never better than the final scene. A stare down, a remix of Annie's "Anthonio," and a sinister Dan Stevens are a match made in heaven.  [embed]218773:42135:0[/embed] 5. The Book of Life - "Just A Friend/The Apology Song/I Will Wait" as performed by Diego Luna, Cheech Marin, and Gabriel Iglesias I think The Book of Life'll be the only time I hear Tejano-inspired music in film and that's a bit sad. Like me, it takes influences from classic pop tunes and unapologetically puts a little Mexican flair into each one. There's too many awesome songs to name (but the one touted as the "big" one, where Diego Luna performs a cover of "Creep," is kind of lame) with the too brief "Just a Friend," and the great "Apology Song" sung to a flaming skeletal bull in the Land of the Forgotten, but my favorite is definitely the montage set to "I Will Wait." It's hilarious, critiques Mexican culture, and it just sounds so pleasant.  [embed]218773:42137:0[/embed] 4. The Interview - "Firework" as performed by Jenny Lane Although the clip above doesn't refer to the scene on this list (as it's much better to experience it without being spoiled), trust me when I say that it's truly a great movie music moment. The scene that launched a thousand emails, and was most likely toned down in retrospect, but it's a damn fun scene. Much like the rest of The Interview, it makes sense in the most absurd way. Hope you get to see it for yourself.  [embed]218773:42138:0[/embed] 3. X-Men: Days of Future Past - "Time in a Bottle" With as many comic book films I see now, they all start to blend in together after awhile. What woke me up from my haze, however, was Days of Future Past. While the rest of the film followed the same beats, and Quicksilver himself wasn't the most interesting addition, I've never seen a better demonstration of super speed. Sure we've seen this type of slowdown in films like The Matrix, but I can't recall seeing it used so humorously. It's the little touches that made everything work.  [embed]218773:42136:0[/embed] 2. Frank - "Secure the Galactic Perimeter/I Love You All" as performed by Michael Fassbender Frank is a film about twelve people saw, and that's a damn shame. It's got some of the best music from 2014. The songs were notably assembled by the cast (and not even available in full on the soundtrack) and they're just so weird. Good weird. While the final song "I Love You All" gets the full bump on this list, it doesn't really mesh as well as it should until you've seen the film. Once you've seen the film, learned of all of Frank's quibbles, then it truly comes together.  [embed]218773:42139:0[/embed] 1. Whiplash - "Caravan" as performed by Miles Teller God, Whiplash has the best f**king music. That finale? So gooooooooooooooood. What are your favorite music moments of 2014? Agree or disagree? Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter! Stay tuned through the rest of the week for more "Best Of" lists! 
Nick's Top 10 Music photo
Music to my eyes
Music plays an integral role in film. Easily ignored, easily forgotten, a film's soundtrack is the little celebrated framework of cinema. But when sound and sight marry into a great scene, you get some of the best moments. Li...


  Around the web (login to improve these)




Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter?
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -