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6:00 PM on 07.23.2014

Review: Kill Team

The war in Afghanistan is the longest military conflict in which the United States has been involved. The operation is nowhere near as successful as hoped, which is part of the reality of fighting a war in Afghanistan, a less...

Hubert Vigilla




Review: The Purge: Anarchy photo
Review: The Purge: Anarchy
by Nick Valdez

The Purge came and went without much fanfare. It had an interesting premise (which spawned the #CrimeDay Twitter game here on Flixist), but wasted it with a by-the-numbers home invasion film. When The Purge: Anarchy was first announced (along with the sentiment that we'd get a new Purge film every year), I was initially against the idea of yet another mediocre franchise getting run into the ground. 

But, Anarchy has something no other Blumhouse Productions film has (the company that's responsible for Paranormal Activity and Insidious): Quality. For once, I found myself okay with getting more of the same series. 

If every Purge film can be as good as Anarchy going forward, then we're in for a hell of a good time. 

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Review: Boyhood photo
Review: Boyhood
by Matthew Razak

12 years of shooting, watching every actor grow older and change along with the times and the styles. That's how long it took for Richard Linklater to create a film  about life (a boy's life to be precise). Many films have of course been made about life -- it's a pretty big topic after all -- but Boyhood has a leg up since Linklater had the incredible patience to allow his actors to grow up while making the film. It seems like a gimmick, but that gimmick is what makes Boyhood so incredibly special.

Of course filming your actors on sporadic days over the course of 12 years (39 days of shooting to be exact) is incredibly risky, especially if your movie doesn't work. What an immense waste of time and who knows what could go wrong. Thankfully Boyhood is not a failure by an stretch of the imagination, but instead an endlessly interesting study on how the banalities of life are the most important moments. 

[This review was originally posted as part of our coverage of the SXSW 2014. It  is being reposted to coincide with the film's theatrical release.]

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NYAFF Review: Aberdeen photo
NYAFF Review: Aberdeen
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

You never know what you’re going to get from a Pang Ho-Cheung film. In 2010, you got an ultraviolent slasher with Dream Home. In 2012, you got uproarious sex comedy Vulgaria. Before and between, you’ve got any other number of genres and genre twists. Each and every Pang Ho-Cheung film is a new and exciting experience.

Aberdeen is no exception. With his latest film, Pang Ho-Cheung takes a stab at the family drama and delivers a beautiful, emotional slice of life.

[For the next month, we will be covering the 2014 New York Asian Film Festival and the Japan-centric Japan Cuts. Click here for more information, and check back here and here for all of the Asian film coverage you can shake a stick at.]

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NYAFF Review: Firestorm 3D photo
NYAFF Review: Firestorm 3D
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

I wish I’d seen Firestorm 3D a week and a half earlier. In my review of The White Storm, I talked extensively about expectations. The film had been sold as X and turned out to be Y, which was good but not really what I was looking for. I wanted constant bombastic intensity, but instead I got occasional intensity with long stretches of drama. I should have enjoyed that, but my expectations colored everything.

Hoping to keep myself from being disappointed again, I went into Firestorm 3D without expectations. From the name, I obviously made some assumptions about the content, but I wanted to avoid going down the same road. 

And I made the right decision. Others went in with certain expectations and came out disappointed. I came out elated, because Firestorm 3D is exactly what I wanted The White Storm to be.

[For the next month, we will be covering the 2014 New York Asian Film Festival and the Japan-centric Japan Cuts. Click here for more information, and check back here and here for all of the Asian film coverage you can shake a stick at.]

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NYAFF Review: Cold Eyes photo
NYAFF Review: Cold Eyes
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

Some of my favorite movies are ones that make me want to go and do something after the lights come up. Some films make me want to travel the world or shave my head or something. Others take professions and make them seem so much cooler than whatever it is I’m doing.

Cold Eyes, for example, made me want to become a spy. Which is sort of weird, because it’s not about spies. It’s about cops.

[For the next month, we will be covering the 2014 New York Asian Film Festival and the Japan-centric Japan Cuts. Click here for more information, and check back here and here for all of the Asian film coverage you can shake a stick at.]

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Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes photo
Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
by Nick Valdez

When a prequel to Planet of the Apes was first announced, it seemed like yet another cynical cash in. Yet Rise of the Planet of the Apes tried its hardest to prove everyone wrong with top notch visuals, acting, and score. Although its eventual finale made it seem more like a reboot of Harry and the Hendersons than Planet, it was a good step in the right direction despite its problems.

Which is why Dawn of the Planet of the Apes sticks out so much. Could a sequel accomplish what its predecessor didn't? Could it finally live up to the technological advances of the first? It turns out, I had no reason to worry. Dawn far exceeds Rise, and it's the rare sequel that even makes the original film a better experience. 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes definitely did not make a monkey out of me. 

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NYAFF Review: Silent Witness photo
NYAFF Review: Silent Witness
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

Before the screening of Silent Witness, it was introduced as an example of what mainstream Chinese filmmaking is like in the modern era. Many of the films that play at the New York Asian Film Festival fit into some sort of niche, meaning we get a skewed vision of what Asian cinema is. There are the big films that duke it out with American blockbusters in the big theaters, and either they never hit our shores or they don't show in places that most people see.

If Silent Witness is anything to go by, that's a shame, because Chinese mainstream cinema is alive and well. The quality of its production is undeniable and its narrative is as compelling as anything to come from Hollywood in the past couple of years.

[For the next month, we will be covering the 2014 New York Asian Film Festival and the Japan-centric Japan Cuts. Click here for more information, and check back here and here for all of the Asian film coverage you can shake a stick at.]

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NYAFF Review: Why Don't You Play in Hell? photo
NYAFF Review: Why Don't You Play in Hell?
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

Last year, Japan Cuts played Sion Sono's Bad Film, a project filmed back in 1995 but not finished until 2012. In my non-review of the film, I unequivocally called it a masterpiece, and I stand by every word. It is a labor of love that throws caution to the wind in order to just make a freaking movie, everyone and everything else be damned. This is Sion Sono's world and you just have to deal with it.

Why Don't You Play in Hell? is a celebration of that worldview. And it's every bit as brilliant as you could hope.

[For the next month, we will be covering the 2014 New York Asian Film Festival and the Japan-centric Japan Cuts. Click here for more information, and check back here and here for all of the Asian film coverage you can shake a stick at.]

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Review: Deliver Us From Evil photo
Review: Deliver Us From Evil
by Mike Cosimano

In all my years seeing movies, I don’t think I’ve seen a collective shrug quite like the one my theater experienced upon leaving Deliver Us From Evil. A passive gesture of that magnitude could only have been triggered by a film destined to fall into obscurity the instant Wal-Mart removes it from the featured DVD rack.

You will not hate Deliver Us From Evil, but I’ll bet all the money in my pockets against all the money in your pockets that you won’t remember it long after you’ve left the theater. (Unless clinging on to memories of sub-par movies is part of your job, in which case, you have my sympathies.)

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NYAFF Review: R100 photo
NYAFF Review: R100
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

Thanks to R100, we know the proper recipe for a shirt: 24 hours in a slow-cooker, with red wine sauce, celery and carrots. Not because the film involves shirt eating (not directly at least), but because it forced Twitch founder/editor Todd Brown to eat his own shirt. 

Before it screened at Fantastic Fest late last year, he made a bold claim, if any film was half as crazy as Why Don’t You Play in Hell (review forthcoming), he’d eat his shirt.

R100 called Brown's bluff, and he made good on his promise. It's fitting, really, because that's exactly the kind of thing someone in R100 might be forced to do.

[For the next month, we will be covering the 2014 New York Asian Film Festival and the Japan-centric Japan Cuts. Click here for more information, and check back here and here for all of the Asian film coverage you can shake a stick at.]

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NYAFF Review: Fuku-chan of FukuFuku Flats photo
NYAFF Review: Fuku-chan of FukuFuku Flats
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

Japanese comedies have a reputation for being wild and crazy.

Let me rephrase that, Japanese movies have a reputation for being wild and crazy. And there's truth to that argument. Japanese films are on the whole weirder than those from other countries. Their comedies are particularly noteworthy, and some truly bizarre films have come out of that country recently. (In fact, we'll have reviews of two of them later this week).

But Fuku-chan of FukuFuku Flats is an exception to that rule. While it has some of that Japanese weirdness, it lacks the over-the-top insanity you might expect. Before the screening, someone in the audience said that he expected it to be NYAFF's sleeper hit.

I think he was completely right.

[For the next month, we will be covering the 2014 New York Asian Film Festival and the Japan-centric Japan Cuts. Click here for more information, and check back here and here for all of the Asian film coverage you can shake a stick at.]

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NYAFF Review: The Eternal Zero photo
NYAFF Review: The Eternal Zero
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

The Eternal Zero is one of the biggest blockbusters ever released in Japan. A tale of the World War II from the viewpoint of the fighter pilots who took on the American forces. An ostensibly epic tale celebrating... something, The Eternal Zero hits the beats of an emotional story, but it doesn't actually hit any of the emotion.

If I learned one thing from this experience, it's that Japan's audiences are every bit as gullible as America's.

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NYAFF Review: The White Storm photo
NYAFF Review: The White Storm
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

Before the screening of As the Light Goes Out, NYAFF co-founder/the world’s greatest salesman Grady Hendrix made a pitch for people to stay for The White Storm, the film that was playing immediately afterward. He described it thusly: “It’s like if you’ve spent your entire life drinking light beer and then someone hits you with a rail of cocaine.”

It’s an evocative image, to be sure, and set my expectations high.

Too high, unfortunately. Despite how big and bombastic The White Storm can be, it falls well short of that promise.

[For the next month, we will be covering the 2014 New York Asian Film Festival and the Japan-centric Japan Cuts. Click here for more information, and check back here and here for all of the Asian film coverage you can shake a stick at.]

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NYAFF Review: As the Light Goes Out photo
NYAFF Review: As the Light Goes Out
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

There’s something uniquely fascinating about firefighters. When they arrive on a scene, they aren’t armed to the teeth and ready to take down some villain; they are there to save lives. That’s pretty much their entire job. Whether that is by putting out fires so they don’t spread, running into burning buildings to find people trapped in the blaze, or bringing kittens down from high up branches so little old ladies don’t die from loneliness, they are there for the sole purpose of minimizing body count.

This doesn’t make them better than police officers or soldiers or other armed forces, but when the bad guy is thick smoke, no one is going to think about its family when it is ultimately taken down. No one feels bad for a fire. There is only the heroism of the people who stop it.

As the Light Goes Out taps into that heroism, although its portrayal of the people beneath the helmets isn’t always the most sympathetic.

[For the next month, we will be covering the 2014 New York Asian Film Festival and the Japan-centric Japan Cuts. Click here for more information, and check back here and here for all of the Asian film coverage you can shake a stick at.]

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NYAFF Review: Top Star photo
NYAFF Review: Top Star
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

When one of NYAFF's programmers introduced Top Star, he said that it was surprising that this was Park Joong-hoon's directorial debut. Park has worked as an actor in the Korean film industry for 28 years, but this is his first time behind the camera. Over the years, he has starred in around 40 films, and has clearly amassed a wealth of knowledge about both the life of an actor and also what goes into the production of a film. The programmer called its style impressive and confident, the kind of thing you only see after a filmmaker has hit their stride.

Written as a combination of fiction and fact from his own experiences and those of friends, it definitely feels like a project from a more established director. But Park himself prefaced the film by saying he's not really a fan. He says there are problems with it and he sees many places where it could have been improved.

While I think I liked it more than he did, I tend to agree.

[For the next month, we will be covering the 2014 New York Asian Film Festival and the Japan-centric Japan Cuts. Click here for more information, and check back here and here for all of the Asian film coverage you can shake a stick at.]

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Review: Tammy photo
Review: Tammy
by Matthew Razak

Tammy is a film you really want to be good. An almost entirely female led cast in a raunchy comedy is still a rarity despite Bridesmaids showing us all it can be done successfully. This is the kind of movie we need to diversify the comedy scene and give us something else than Judd Apatow and Wayans brothers films.

That is it would be the kind of movie if it was any good at all. Unfortunately Tammy is a complete and total mess of a film devoid of much humor and suffering from even less character development. If you name your film after its lead character she better be damn interesting and Tammy is not. 

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Review: Particle Fever photo
Review: Particle Fever
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

I like physics. I probably have as good a grasp of the field as any film critic, and I frequently read articles about things like the Large Hadron Collider and the revelation of the mass of the Higgs Boson and how that revelation has impacted supersymmetry theory.

You've probably heard of the Large Hadron Collider (possibly as that thing that didn't actually destroy the world) and the Higgs Boson (sometimes called the God particle), but it's less likely that you know what supersymmetry (affectionately called SUSY) is. If you don't understand what I'm talking about, much of the science in Particle Fever is going to fly right over your head. 

But that doesn't mean you shouldn't see it. Because Particle Fever succeeds not because of its discussion of this particular science, but that of what science means and why it matters.

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Review: Begin Again photo
Review: Begin Again
by Matthew Razak

Director/Writer John Carney is establishing a little nitch for himself in the film industry. A modern take on the backstage musical except now the stage is the studio and the music is far less grandiose. With Once, his academy award winning film, he nailed the sort of real world drama musical and he returns to that new genre again with Begin Again except this time he has big name stars and an American budget.

Carney is clearly a talented and emotional musician and returning to this form allows him to flex those muscles once again. Can he have the same impact as he did on his debut feature film or does upping the ante in almost every department mean a bit of soul is lost? In a film about finding the soul of art and yourself it's a bit ironic what the answer to that question is. 

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NYAFF Review: Golden Chickensss photo
NYAFF Review: Golden Chickensss
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

In a world wracked by reboot culture, the decision to sequelize the Golden Chicken franchise is an interesting one. The first film and its sequel were released in 2002 and 2003 respectively, and then the series went dark. But eleven years later, a new director decided to revisit the protagonist as she has aged and changed. With an almost entirely new cast of characters, it feels like a different film than its predecessors. Like Kam, cinema has changed in the last eleven years. 

And maybe that’s the brilliance of making a sequel now. How better to really grapple with the idea of aging and a loss of place than to revive an old franchise with its lead intact? Even if that franchise is a raunchy sex comedy following the adventures of a prostitute.

[For the next month, we will be covering the 2014 New York Asian Film Festival and the Japan-centric Japan Cuts. Click here for more information, and check back here and here for all of the Asian film coverage you can shake a stick at.]

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Review: Beneath photo
Review: Beneath
by Nick Valdez

Coal mining is a scarily dangerous profession. Our need for crude energies leads thousands of people to risk their lives every day mining for energy. It's a wonder that with such harsh conditions, it's taken this long for a film to capitalize on that setting's natural creepiness. Now we finally have one in Beneath, a film inspired by a true story of several miners getting trapped in a mine. 

Eschewing traditional horror and instead developing a surprising psychological thriller, Beneath is a unique take on paranoia, isolation, and suffocation. It's just too bad you don't really care what happens to any of these people. 

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Review: Transformers: Age of Extinction photo
Review: Transformers: Age of Extinction
by Matthew Razak

I'm going to tear this movie apart. It's coming right below the jump. Just be ready for it. Because of that I want to open with this: Optimus Prime riding Grimlock into battle in Hong Kong is frickin' awesome. There's just no denying how cool Transformers can be and that Michael Bay can pull off some awesome stuff. There are parts of this film that will blow you away.

It's just that the rest of it is so bad it isn't worth it.

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