Review: Pixels

Jul 24 // Nick Valdez
[embed]219694:42503:0[/embed] PixelsDirector: Chris ColumbusRated: PG-13Release Date: July 24, 2015 In Pixels, Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler) was a kid who was nearly the Donkey Kong National Champion. After losing the big match against Eddie "Fireblaster" Plant (Peter Dinklage), he resigns to an unfulfilling life of installing televisions for a Best Buy-esque company while his best friend "Chewie" (Kevin James) becomes a down on his luck President of the Untied States. When a probe full of their videogames is seen as an act of war by an alien race, Sam and conspiracy nut Ludlow (Josh Gad) have to step up and save the world from three rounds of pixel fueled shenanigans. Also Lt. Colonel Van Patten (Michelle Monaghan) and her son are there to give Sam something to fight for, I guess.  Pixels may share some troubling similarities with Adam Sandler's recent glut of films (which I'll get to in a minute), but it's also got a faint sense of the good kind of nostalgia. You see, his standard schlub act works well here since the entire film is meant to invoke that 80s "average guy with inane skill becomes big hero" trope. And because it works so well, the rest of the film almost plays out like one of Sandler's early 90s comedies (albeit without the jokes). In terms of overall tone, once the film delves deep into the premise and Sam starts playing against the aliens, Pixels is a lot of healthy fun. Everything's wonderfully simplified. The aliens (who deliver their messages through stock footage of 80s icons) don't have a motive other than to destroy the Earth (or needing a million allowances worth of quarters to do their laundry), the games involved (like Breakout, Centipede, and Pac-Man) aren't filled with complicated rules to weigh the fun down, and the pixelated monsters themselves are gorgeous. But that's unfortunately where the positive stuff ends.  Pixels may be a reminder of the fun these kinds of movies used to be, but it also reminds you of how much movies have evolved since then. Because Pixels leans so heavily on the past, it can't help but trudge up all of the problematic elements of the era it wants to embody. For example, there are only two women featured in the film and they're treated horribly (which doesn't reflect well on the current perception of gaming culture as a whole). Lt. Colonel Van Patten is meant to be this "strong" female character, and she even gets one well choreographed bit toward the end, but her first introduction is belittled by Sandler's character. After he compliments her looks, he finds her crying as a result of her sudden divorce not two minutes later. And the second character, a videogame heroine named Lady Lisa, is literally a trophy the aliens give the Earth for winning one of the games which one of the characters ends up marrying. She gets no dialogue, and ends up with most mentally unstable of the "Arcaders" Ludlow, the conspiracy nut who lives with his grandmother and worships the character.  The lack of agency just feeds into the old mindset of gamers being older white males with social misgivings. One of the running jokes is these guys are only acknowledged as "the nerds." In this day and age where every literal kid and grandparent is able to play games on some kind of device, it's jarring to go back to hearing such close mindedness. Especially from a film that wants to celebrate these games (going so far as to have Sam explain why arcades were so important, and feature a scene where he decries the current violent nature of videogames). It's totally a "cake and eat it too" situation where Pixels definitely wants to mirror classic films like Ghostbusters, yet have a cynical eye toward the folks who might enjoy themselves while watching. It's that kind of self loathing that brings the whole film down.  There's just so much more to talk about, yet so little time. That's why I was so confused when I initially started writing this review. Even after all of this, I still have idea who Pixels is meant for, nor do I know who to blame for its existence. I can't even say Adam Sandler did a bad job because he actually wasn't his usual self. Lacking his usual lethargic attitude (which he starts off with then hastily has to change out of thanks to some well placed dialogue degrading his love of shorts), Sandler's never been more physical. There's also a lack of the standard poop and fart jokes you'd expect because the film's not really for kids (there's no way they'd appreciate seeing Paperboy and Joust sprites on the same screen).  Oh right, I guess I should mention there were zero jokes that appealed to me. While there is fun in the way sequences are set up, none of the fun is stemmed from the dialogue. Also, I saw in 3D and would definitely recommend seeing the pixelated monsters in that fashion. Then again, maybe you should avoid this altogether so you don't end up feeling the same confusion? I don't know.  Pixels plays so poorly, it doesn't even get to put its initials on the high score screen. 
Pixels Review photo
Insert coin to ignore
I really have no idea where to start with this. Usually when I sit down to write a review I'll have an angle by which to tackle a film, but with Pixels, I'm at a loss. I don't really know who the film is for. Is it a comedy a...

Marisa Tomei photo
Marisa Tomei

Marisa Tomei in talks to play Aunt May for Sony/Marvel's Spider-Man reboot

Jul 09
// Nick Valdez
Although I'm having trouble deciding whether or not a new set of Spider-Man films (thanks to Spider-Man joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe) is a good or bad idea, I'm definitely looking forward to them now. When they annou...
Transylvania 2 Trailer photo
Transylvania 2 Trailer

First full trailer for Hotel Transylvania 2

Jun 19
// Nick Valdez
Although Genndy Tartokovsky leaving his passion project Popeye still stings, at least we'll see his work in Hotel Transylvania 2. Although the first film wasn't too big a deal, it's still a lot better than anything Sony Anima...
Stephen King photo
Stephen King

Dark Tower close to landing Nikolaj Arcel as director

We're not sure how pronounce it either
Jun 02
// Matthew Razak
It appears that we once again may have a director to kick-off the incredibly ambitious Dark Tower film and TV series. Sony picked up production and even though we've been here before it feels real this time. Danish direc...

Spidey photo

Spider-Man reboot/sequel/remake/thing has director shortlist

Spidey actor list known as well
Jun 02
// Matthew Razak
The next Spider-Man film might be the superhero movie I'm most excited for. The Garfield films were fun, but with him joining the Marvel U things should get back on the right track (or not). Sony seems to be doing their ...
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Jump Street

Jump Street to get female led spin-off and Men in Black crossover

We really are getting to 43 Jump Street aren't we?
Apr 30
// Nick Valdez
Sony's really putting all of their eggs in one basket. Banking on the few films that work, Sony's slowing turning all of their properties (and future properties) into huge universes. Starting with Spider-Man, continuing on wi...
Spider-Man again photo
Spider-Man again

Lord and Miller working on an animated Spider-Man film

Apr 23
// Nick Valdez
It seems like I'm talking about Spider-Man every other day, so I care a little less every time. But you know what brings me back into the fold? Chris Miller and Phil Lord, the guys who're pretty much involved with every movie...
Joe Deertay photo
Joe Deertay

Here's the first teaser trailer for Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser

Apr 15
// Nick Valdez
Despite all of my better judgement, and how many times I've reviewed terrible comedy sequels made years later, I'm actually looking forward to Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser. The first one holds a lot of memories for me as I go...
Spider-Man again photo
Spider-Man again

Newest Spider-Man film will not be another origin story

Apr 14
// Nick Valdez
Thanks to Sony's Spider-Man joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I've spent far more time writing about comic book movies than I'd like. But I couldn't help it either because Spider-Man's muh dude. After spending some time ...
Dark Tower at Sony photo
How many times will we write this headline?
I know, I know. You've heard it all before. Stephen King's massive, world-spanning book series The Dark Tower will be made into a movie or TV series or both and Ron Howard is on board to produce and possibly direct. Well...


Metal Gear Solid adaptation to be written by Jay Basu

Mar 31
// Per Morten Mjolkeraaen
As Deadline reports that Jay Basu will write the screenplay for Sony Pictures feature film adaptation of the hugely popular Metal Gear Solid video game, it seems the pieces are finally falling into place.  We've hea...

Review: Dead Rising: Watchtower

Mar 26 // Nick Valdez
[embed]219149:42297:0[/embed] Dead Rising: WatchtowerDirector: Zach LipovskyRelease Date: March 27th, 2015 (exclusively on Crackle)Rating: NR  In Watchtower, the zombie virus has spread round the world and the government has issued a super drug, known as Zombrex, in order to cure it. Digital journalist Chase Carter (Jesse Metcalfe) and his partner Jordan (Keegan Connor Tracy) end up getting caught in the latest outbreak when a bad string of Zombrex infects a stadium full of people. As Chase tries to survive, he runs into a woman who's already infected named Crystal (Meghan Ory), and now they must work together to survive the zombies, figure out what's going on with the Zombrex, and most importantly, escape from the group of psychopaths on the loose.  Watchtower had quite a bit of an undertaking on its hands. If you're not aware of the Dead Rising games, just know they're famous for featuring a single guy cheesin' his way through hordes of zombies while he wears crazy outfits, makes anything he can into weapons, and its narrative is one of the worst in zombie fiction. So, having Watchtower not be a complete mess is already a huge plus. It fixes this by creating a narrative all its own rather than try and adapt the current stories available. In fact it relegates Frank West, here in the film awesomely played by Rob Riggle and one of the series' flamboyantly divisive characters, to the sidelines whereas the film could've completely derailed had its tone focused on the wackiness of that character. Instead he's used wonderfully here. Adding a bit of levity in between heavier scenes and getting the laugh like only Rob Riggle can. A line like "I'll smack you with that TV" works because the film allows Riggle to be as slimy and goofy as he can while paying homage to videogames themselves.  With zombie cinema as prevalent as it is, it's hard not to get a sense of "been there, done that" with any zombie film. We've seen everything from the grittiest of grit to the hokiest of cheese, so Watchtower tries its best to find a middle ground between the two. There is a sense of loss as the film struggles to find an adequate tone for a good chunk of the film. It might be a result of the film taking the subject matter at face value. Meaning that any goofiness the series is known for is only implied, and scenes only come off as inherently hokey. While this shouldn't have worked, I really enjoyed the little asides the film gives to its corniness. For example, in an awesome Shaun of the Dead like fashion, one of the first things the characters do when the outbreak breaks is to use whatever they can find as a weapon. Which means at one point, Chase fights a zombie clown holding an axe with a muffler before running it over in such a cool way. It's a nice bit of staging that you don't see much in zombie media. It's always a matter of a survivor fighting with the one weapon they have rather than literally using everything at their disposal. As for its lead, Jesse Metcalfe holds his own well enough but Chase doesn't have enough character for Metcalfe to sink his teeth into. It's just sort of an every man. That's a consequence of having Frank West be a part of the film too. That character is so magnanimous every time he's on screen, that every thing else loses spark unwittingly. That's not to say the film completely lacks personality, however. There's a scene early on that marries the game's quirk with the film's grit and makes for a particularly gripping scene. It's shot well (as it's just a constant, smooth take following Chase through a field of zombies), there's a bit where a weapon wears out and he has to switch, and it was one of the few times there was suspense. Chase just becomes a super zombie killer after that point, and while that's interesting in its own right, it does lose a little pizzazz. Then again, that's also a shout out to the game series so kudos to the film.  Dead Rising: Watchtower isn't perfect as it runs for a bit too long, the psychopaths wear a little thin (as the lead gets a weird speech explaining his motivations), and there's a jarring first person camera trick used too often early on. But don't let that deter you away from watching it for yourself. A fantastic videogame adaptation that absolutely nails why the games sell so well, yet never feels alienating for folks who have no idea where this film stems from.  As one of Sony's Crackle service's big headlining originals, this is indeed a good show of what's to come. If they can keep churning out excellent films like this, I'll definitely stick around to see what's next. 
Dead Rising Review photo
"Zombies, huh? I had a feeling you'd show up..."
Videogames have had a rough time in cinema. Since videogames are such an interactive medium, a film adaptation always misses out on the intimacy of player involvement or the videogame's story struggles to find an identity in ...


Sony planning Little Women remake

You can't keep a good woman down
Mar 24
// Matt Liparota
Another day, another Sony reboot. This time around, the studio is looking to once again adapt the Louisa May Alcott classic novel about sisters in the post-Civil War era, Little Women, which was most recently in theaters over...

Gendy Tartakovsky leaves Popeye film

Not even some spinach can save it now
Mar 13
// Matthew Razak
It's a Gendy Tartakovsky kind of day evidently. The awesome animation director was all set and very excited to direct Sony's animated Popeye movie even to the point of putting together a fantastic animation test, but it ...
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Sony is planning a big Ghostbusters universe

It's Gozer not GozHER.
Mar 10
// Nick Valdez
If the latest news of Paul Feig's upcoming Ghostbusters film (featuring a cast of awesome ladies) somehow rubbed you the wrong way because Dude Ghostbusters looked like Lady Ghostbusters, don't worry Sony's got your back. Dea...
Spider-Meng photo

Drew Goddard could direct Sony and Marvel's Spider-Man reboot

Mar 03
// Nick Valdez
When Sony announced they were bringing Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I thought of many reasons it could be a bad or good idea. But one thing I had never thought of was what potential directors we'd get for th...

5 Reasons Spider-Man joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a bad idea

Feb 12 // Nick Valdez
Marvel's Films are Kind of Bland  As much as folks disliked The Amazing Spider-Man 2, I really enjoyed how many risks it took. It was messy and chocked full of half baked ideas, but it was all full of the humor and cheese that I've been wanting out of the Spider-Man movies for years (To be fair, the Raimi movies were full of this awesomeness too). Marvel's films don't really have that same charm. Having the films relate to one another is a blessing and a curse. It's great to have the connectivity, but it's at the expense of each film's uniqueness. Even their weirdest film, Guardians of the Galaxy, still has to reign in its eccentricity with a by-the-numbers plot and generic framework in order to align itself with the other films. It's like there's a sense of restraint on everything, and the loss of creativity is leading to the "Marvel fatigue" a lot of moviegoers are succumbing too.  When Spider-Man joins up, there's a good chance we won't get the crazy Spider-Man that shoots a mini web hand to save his girlfriend, speaks through a megaphone for some reason, and is full of the quips and quirks that Tony Stark already does for the Marvel films.  It's Hard Imagining a Better Peter Parker than Andrew Garfield Casting Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone was the best decision Sony will ever make. Their natural chemistry (and great direction from Marc Webb) helped anchor the two films. And while I agree that he may have been "too cool" of a Peter Parker, Garfield nailed everything else. His awkward, stuttering delivery as Parker was great especially when he shed it under the mask. He may not have written those Spidey quips himself, but a lot of them wouldn't have worked without his great delivery. A sarcastic tone couple with a Spider-Mouth only a mother could love, he was kind of perfect. Shame he's getting the boot.  We're Getting Another Origin Story As much as I want a different kind of origin story, it's still another origin story. Since reboots usually have to start from the beginning, I would've been fine had we at least been given a different character (which is why I'm pushing for Miles Morales so much), but looking at Sony's current prospects (who are both young and white), we're getting another Peter Parker who's in high school. As we can tell from The Amazing Spider-Man's overall box office performance, audiences are getting tired of being told the same story over and over. They're getting smarter, too. Another Spider-Man? Then again, none of this could matter since there's a possibility he's getting shoved into the worst story ever.  The Civil War Storyline is Pretty Dumb Multiple sources have confirmed (or at least what the Internet considers as confirmed) that Spider-Man's first Marvel movie appearance will be in Captain America: Civil War. But that story itself is kind of the worst. I think folks are more in love with the core concept (Captain America and Iron Man fight each other) than the actual story. Sure Spider-Man is a major part of the event, but his involvement in the story is also what sent Marvel fans into a huge, years long huff and eventually led to Marvel's version of the devil taking away his long time marriage to Mary Jane. You see Spider-Man reveals his identity as a way of showing support for Superhero Registration, but it's also at the expense of his own intelligence. The law only pushed for regulation and not full blown identity reveals. Also in the Civil War comic, a robot Thor kills a giant Black man.  What I mean to say is, Civil War just better be in name only. We don't need a huge film where characters just make decisions based on what the companies want rather than have them feel organic. Just because the films are acting like comic books, doesn't mean they should succumb to the same pitfalls. These movies are hard to follow enough as it is, so they shouldn't lump Spider-Man in that mess. His franchise has its own problems.  Sony is Still Pulling the Strings At the end of the day, it's still Sony making the final decision. Rather than a full on partnership, it's like Sony is lending out its characters in exchange for some of Marvel's stuff and a unified plan. Sony still has plans to release its Sinister Six and all female Spider team film, but is nixing Amazing Spider-Man 3. But do you realize how weird that is? If they're going to start with a fresh new take on the universe, why not just axe all of those things completely? And that's one of the many weird predicaments Sony has already put itself in just days after the deal was announced. Marvel may get to use the character sometimes (although we won't know in what capacity until much, much later), but the Spider-Man films are still in the same hands. Let's hope they're capable ones.  But hey this is, once again, a guy just yelling in the dark. It's far too early to see the true effects/ramifications of this business deal. And Marvel and Sony will always make decisions based on what's good for business instead of what some Spider-Nerd like me says. I will admit this, however. This news has me more interested in Marvel's 20 year plan than anything they've ever announced. I was growing tired of superhero films and now look what's happened! I'm writing about comic books on the internet! Look ma! Look at your boy and be proud!  What do you think Flixist Community? Spider-Man or Spider-Meh?
5 Bad Reasons photo
Wherever there's a hang up, you'll find the Spider-Man
Yesterday I wrote up a list of five reasons why Spider-Man joining the MCU was a good idea, and while I stand by my points, I couldn't shake the feeling in the back of my head. Cold and cynical as I am, it felt weird just acc...

5 Reasons Spider-Man joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a good idea

Feb 11 // Nick Valdez
[embed]218932:42204:0[/embed] Marvel Probably Knows What to do With Spider-Man I may be one of the few Spider-Fans who actually enjoyed The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but even I'll admit it was a bit messy. Clouded with all sorts of open threads and ideas, it really reeked of Sony's desperation to turn a singular property into a massive set of films like Marvel has. And even after the film, Sony's plans were completely up in the air. Rumors of an Aunt May origin story, an all female Spider character team up (which is something I hope still happens regardless) with the best title (Glass Ceiling), and all sorts of complete shots in the dark. But compare that to Marvel's extensive "Phase" plans, Marvel obviously knows what it *wants* to do.  Given that they've bumped their own schedule to work his adventures into the universe, there's a good chance that there's a plan in place. But Marvel's not exactly the end all, be all either. There's no guarantee that their plan to work Spider-Man into a few films will work either, but at least it's more concrete than say an all villain team up movie featuring Paul Giamatti. But it's still up to Sony in the end.  Miles Morales, Miles Morales, Miles Morales If you're scrounging through the internet for more on this deal, then there's a good chance you've heard of Miles Morales. Morales is the Spider-Man in the Ultimate Spider-Man line of comics, an alternate comic universe featuring more streamlined origins for newer readers which Marvel is planning to integrate into the mainline series' later this year with their Secret Wars event. Why is he great? Taking over for Peter Parker after his death, Miles is a half Black/Latino youth who gains powers in basically the same way Peter does. But he's a lot more conflicted about it, and his guilt/anxiety makes for some great reads.  If they absolutely need a new Spider-Man, this could be the hugest step forward for everyone. First of all, Spider-Man would be in an Avengers film (which is what most kids and half of Google's photoshops have dreamed up anyway) and secondly, it'd be nice for more kids to have someone onscreen to relate to. We already have Samuel L. Jackson, Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie, and  Chadwick Boseman (who's going to be the film's Black Panther), but what harm could come from even more diversity?  We Won't Get The Same Origin Story If we absolutely need to get another origin story (let's face it, it's gonna happen), if it's a brand new character then we won't get the same one. Besides there are quite a few interesting ways Sony/Marvel can go about this. They could either establish a new origin in a solo movie, set Spider-Man up as an already existing thing in whatever cameo role he gets in the Marvel films (so Sony has time to break down what they want to keep from The Amazing Spider-Man films rather than get rid of it all), or just hilariously keep Amazing Spider-Man stuff anyway.  At least we'll be introduced to a new Spider-Man in a new way. But I hope they go The Hulk route and just put the entire origin in the opening credits. Everyone already knows how Peter Parker (or whoever) became Spider-Man, but we need to know why we should care about Marvel Cinematic Universe's Spider-Man. New origin, new focus, same Uncle Ben death probably (but hopefully not). Or keep his identity a secret until the solo film or something.  People Will Stop Asking For It I've never been fond of the comment "Give Spidey to Marvel" when talking about The Amazing Spider-Man, so I'm glad it'll be a thing of the past. But in all seriousness, it'll mean far less confusion for the general audience. Which most likely isn't helped by the Marvel credit tag on Sony's films, most people probably wonder why Spider-Man hasn't shown up in say, Iron Man 3 or something. At least now, it'll be easier to explain to folks. I'll admit this isn't best reason to root for Spidey in the Marvel Universe, but hey I'll take any little step forward I can get at this point.   Marvel and Sony's Characters Mixing Will Make the Universe Better Overall With as big and convoluted Marvel's films are going to become, and with as many superhero films we're getting, the less confusion the better. With a bigger universe where anyone could show up in anything (Maybe Venom fights The Hulk or something), the smaller heroes will shine. I'm super excited for Spider-Man characters like The Kingpin, who could potentially make trouble in the Netflix series (like Daredevil) and then seamlessly pop up in the main Spider-Man films.  Sony also won't have to strain themselves to create a Spider-Man universe from one character. With license to use Marvel's smaller characters (I'm not sure if the bigwigs will come to play every time), there's room to breathe and it'll be easier to digest. But I'm hoping that's part of the plan. Don't forget the Netflix series' are a viable option, Sony!   At the end of the day, I'm just a guy yelling into the air. I'm glad Sony and Marvel both like money, and they'll be getting more from me pretty soon. As someone who's interest in Marvel's films has waned, this is the most excited I've been in a long time. What about you all, Flixist community? Yay or nay? 
5 Good Reasons photo
To him, life is a great big bang up
I don't know about you all, but I'm still shocked at the news that Sony and Marvel are finally getting along and Spider-Man will officially join the Marvel movies. The finer details of the deal are still shrouded in mystery w...

Sony's Spider-Man officially joining Marvel cinematic universe

Feb 09 // Nick Valdez
SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT BRINGS MARVEL STUDIOS INTO THE AMAZING WORLD OF SPIDER-MAN New Spider-Man Will Appear First in an Upcoming Marvel Film Within Marvel’s Cinematic Universe Marvel's Kevin Feige to Produce Next Installment of the Spider-Man Franchise with Amy Pascal (Culver City, California, and Burbank, California February 09, 2015) – Sony Pictures Entertainment and Marvel Studios announced today that Sony is bringing Marvel into the amazing world of Spider-Man.  Under the deal, the new Spider-Man will first appear in a Marvel film from Marvel's Cinematic Universe (MCU). Sony Pictures will thereafter release the next installment of its $4 billion Spider-Man franchise, on July 28, 2017, in a film that will be co-produced by Kevin Feige and his expert team at Marvel and Amy Pascal, who oversaw the franchise launch for the studio 13 years ago. Together, they will collaborate on a new creative direction for the web slinger. Sony Pictures will continue to finance, distribute, own and have final creative control of the Spider-Man films. Marvel and Sony Pictures are also exploring opportunities to integrate characters from the MCU into future Spider-Man films. The new relationship follows a decade of speculation among fans about whether Spider-Man – who has always been an integral and important part of the larger Marvel Universe in the comic books – could become part of the Marvel Universe on the big screen. Spider-Man has more than 50 years of history in Marvel's world, and with this deal, fans will be able to experience Spider-Man taking his rightful place among other Super Heroes in the MCU. Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO, The Walt Disney Company said: "Spider-Man is one of Marvel's great characters, beloved around the world. We're thrilled to work with Sony Pictures to bring the iconic web-slinger into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which opens up fantastic new opportunities for storytelling and franchise building." "We always want to collaborate with the best and most successful filmmakers to grow our franchises and develop our characters. Marvel, Kevin Feige and Amy, who helped orchestrate this deal, are the perfect team to help produce the next chapter of Spider-Man," said Michael Lynton, Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment. "This is the right decision for the franchise, for our business, for Marvel, and for the fans." "Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios share a love for the characters in the Spider-Man universe and have a long, successful history of working together. This new level of collaboration is the perfect way to take Peter Parker's story into the future," added Doug Belgrad, president, Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group. "I am thrilled to team with my friends at Sony Pictures along with Amy Pascal to produce the next Spider-Man movie," said Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige. "Amy has been deeply involved in the realization on film of one of the world’s most beloved characters. Marvel's involvement will hopefully deliver the creative continuity and authenticity that fans demand from the MCU. I am equally excited for the opportunity to have Spider-Man appear in the MCU, something which both we at Marvel, and fans alike, have been looking forward to for years." Spider-Man, embraced all over the world, is the most successful franchise in the history of Sony Pictures, with the five films having taken in more than $4 billion worldwide.
WHAT photo
Does whatever a miracle can
Wow, so, uh, yeah. I'm at a loss for words. Because both Sony and Marvel like money, and Sony has been wondering what to do with the The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, the two companies are now working together. According to t...

Spidey and Marvel photo
They all come (web)crawling back
After Sony was soundly disappointed by The Amazing Spider-Man 2 the company was struggling with what to do with the character. As some leaked documents (that we did not cover) showed they even reached out to Marvel ...

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...

Review: The Interview

Dec 25 // Nick Valdez
[embed]218768:42087:0[/embed] The InterviewDirectors: Seth Rogen and Evan GoldbergRelease Date: December 25th, 2014 (limited and VOD)Rating: R The Interview is the story of Dave Skylark (James Franco), a sensationalist TV journalist who specializes in celebrity gossip, and his producer Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen). After filming 1000 episodes, Aaron realizes he would like to cover more hard hitting news and after discovering that the dictator of The Democratic People's Republic of North Korea, Kim Jong-un (Randall Park), was a fan of their show, he sets up a one-on-one interview. Then the two are tasked by CIA Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) to assassinate the North Korean dictator.  I've been anticipating The Interview for some time. As the proper follow up to last year's extremely surprising This is the End (as I refuse to count Neighbors' major misstep), I've come to expect a certain level of intelligence from Rogen and Goldberg. Sure their screenplays are littered with crude jokes (and The Interview follows that trend for better or worse), but when broken down, the core of the comedy always comes from a well thought out place. The Interview does not disappoint in this area. The dialogue is tightly written and well delivered leading to some amazing back and forth from Rogen and Franco. As the two tap into a years developed chemistry (that's so fine tuned that Franco gets major laughs from just his facial expressions), the incredible ridiculousness of the premise is digestible. Even when the film goes to some outlandish lengths, the two always anchor the ship and point the comedy in the right direction.  While the comedy is well thought out, there is an unfortunate sense of familiarity however. As some of the better gags lead to callbacks later in the film, it's like the film depends on those gags to survive instead of crafting new ones. To be more specific, there's the term "honeypotting." Interview defines it as using seduction to manipulate (instead of the actual disgusting definition) and while it's a notable gag the first time it's used, it runs out of steam the more and more the term is thrown out during the film. Interview has a bad case of this with a few other jokes, but sometimes they're twisted in such a way that they're funny again. It's just an unfortunate case of becoming desensitized to the material after a while. And without giving too much away, Interview pulls the same trick seen in This is the End (with a small bit of dialogue heavily foreshadowing the film's events) and it's just not as great the second time around.  But when Interview works, it works splendidly. The cast is so well placed. Franco nearly steals the show as his performance is seemingly effortless (as he combines an intelligent naivete with a suave and narcissistic demeanor), but the casual racism given to his character is quite troublesome. Rogen is the literal butt of most of the crude humor, but he takes it like a champ, Lizzy Caplan gets very little to do and that's a shame, but Randall Park as Kim Jong-un is the real take away. His Kim Jong-un is at times humanized, but never quite able to shed the terrible image of the real thing. There are several nuances in his performances that could be easily ignored if you aren't paying attention. From the way he animates his face, to the way he can stare off blankly to the side and still command attention. Park definitely needs to be in more things.  I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the elephant in the room. The Interview has a weird portrayal of North Korea. Sort of non-committal, sort of racist and nowhere near as "America, f**k yeah!" as recent events would have you believe. There's always someone saying North Korea is a bad place, but there's never an offer for a better alternative. Both the USA and North Korea are treated as interfering and destructive entities as Dave and Aaron are just roped into this American plan despite their wishes, the United States is shown to have highly advanced military technology at their disposal, and North Korea becomes a cartoonish hellhole of a country. Yet despite all of this, the film just sort of ends. Sure I didn't expect an intense political discussion, and The Interview does get credit for bringing attention to North Korea's issues to people who wouldn't know about them, but it's weird to be wandering around in this grey area. But at the end of the day, The Interview is still a damn fine piece of entertainment. A concise, intelligent film that marks the maturing of the stereotypical "stoner comedy" framework (taking a crazy premise and sticking two random guys into it) as the actors themselves grow older and more confident in other styles of work and experiment with interesting ideas and perspectives. It's stylishly shot (with some wonderful red "communist" hues and backgrounds), and the soundtrack gives empty scenes poignancy. I mean, I had fun...unless I was honeypotted. Whatever, they hate us cause they ain't us. 
The Interview Review photo
Land of the free, home of the butthole
After a crazy couple of weeks of Sony hacks, full on terrorist attack threats, cancellations, and a last minute reneging, I sort of forgot that at the center of all this mess was a comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco....

The Interview getting limited theatrical release, possibly VOD

Dec 23 // Nick Valdez
SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT ANNOUNCES LIMITED THEATRICAL RELEASE OF THE INTERVIEW ON CHRISTMAS DAY [Hollywood - December 23, 2014]  Sony Pictures Entertainment today announced that The Interview will have a limited theatrical release in the United States on Christmas Day. “We have never given up on releasing The Interview and we’re excited our movie will be in a number of theaters on Christmas Day,” said Michael Lynton, Chairman and CEO of Sony Entertainment. “At the same time, we are continuing our efforts to secure more platforms and more theaters so that this movie reaches the largest possible audience.” “I want to thank our talent on The Interview and our employees, who have worked tirelessly through the many challenges we have all faced over the last month.  While we hope this is only the first step of the film’s release, we are proud to make it available to the public and to have stood up to those who attempted to suppress free speech.”  
The Interview Release photo
It's a Christmas miracle!
After all of the hubub and hooey giving attention to a film that's probably super funny, but forgettable, Sony is allowing a limited theatrical run of The Interview on its intended Christmas Day release (for those theaters th...

Review: Annie

Dec 19 // Nick Valdez
[embed]218715:42059:0[/embed] AnnieDirector: Will GluckRated: PGRelease Date: December 19, 2014 Annie is the story of little orphan sorry, foster kid Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) as she's stuck living under a terrible foster parent, Miss Hannigan (Cameron Diaz), and hopes every day that she'll find her real parents. After cell phone mogul and New York City mayoral candidate, Benjamin Stacks (Jamie Foxx), saves her from a hit and run accident, the two pal around for publicity. Through their time spent together, the two realize they think they'll like it here. Then the sun comes out.  A good litmus test as to how much you'll enjoy this latest rendition of the famous musical is the film's opening. After a nice prelude featuring a mix of the musical's well known themes, we're introduced to a little red haired girl named Annie. She tap dances then is mockingly sent to her desk before the newest Annie loudly proclaims how much cooler she is. And that scene sets the tone for the rest of the film as it tries to distance itself as much as it can from its less hip history. As "coolness" influences the rest of the film, we're left with odd remixes, poor musical staging (and very rough choreography), and several new songs produced for the film. It's just a matter of how much you're willing to sit through a film that insults both its source material and the people who enjoy it.  The original songs and new arrangements would've been fine had they not been so badly handled. An overt use of autotune (especially noticeable during the film's atrocious "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here") saps the cast of all energy once they have to lip sync to the robot voices. And it's weird to see more attention paid to one of the film's newer pieces like the song "Moonquake Lake," (which is a theme to a joke that overlasts its welcome after two minutes) than say "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile," which gets pushed to the background the scene after. It's like who ever produced Annie wanted to write an entirely new musical built on Sia sung pop tunes, but had to use the name in order to make any money. There's a noticeable lack of comfort from the cast when they perform the film's songs, and this awkward scenery weighs down what good there is.  It's just a shame because the stuff in between the music is well put together. There is nary a hint of cynicism to be had as the cast is believable. Quvenzhané Wallis is such a good choice for Annie, and her delivery and preciousness is never anything but enjoyable. Jamie Foxx seems to be enjoying himself, Rose Byrne doesn't do much but is charming, and the dialogue is actually witty. Even when it's corny, it's so full of genuine heart, it's acceptable. It's never overbearingly saccharine. The only blip on all of this is Cameron Diaz. A victim of a washed out role, she is the worst portrayal of Miss Hannigan in Annie's many years of production. From a performance that's too cheap for the film (it's way too on the nose even when the film doesn't call for it), to a shoddy new arrangement for "Little Girls" which only highlights her lack of talent.  That's what confuses me so much about Annie. No matter how much I wanted to like it, I was constantly reminded of how I shouldn't be enjoying myself (though kids won't mind either way, really. There are worst films to take your kids to). While there's no cynicism in the story itself, there is a density in the way it's been put together. It's like whoever produced this hated themselves the entire time and wanted us to feel the same way. It's a constant back and forth between enjoyment and self loathing. That's not how I wanted to see Annie. Don't bet your bottom dollar on Annie. There's no sun here. 
Annie Review photo
Full of hard knocks
Remakes are always at a disadvantage. Regardless of the final product's quality, it will always be compared to the film it's adapting. Remakes usually are stuck with two options: Either pay homage to the original and make fan...


Paramount bans screenings of Team America: World Police

Quick lets all cower in that corner
Dec 18
// Matthew Razak
After yesterday's news that The Interview (why?) would no longer be releasing on December 25 (if ever) many smaller theaters announced that they would instead be screening Team America: World Police, which, as we all rem...
This is only the beginning
There are certain times in your life that you just sit down, hunch over, and bury your face in your hands. This is one of those times. Fresh in the wake of the Sony/North Korea debacle over The Interview, New Regency has...

Unsettling at best.
UPDATE: We've passed the point of beating around the bush. This has gone from hacking some emails to threatening full out violence against people who would consider seeing some damn movie. Sony has taken the next step and is ...

Sony's hack, Flixist, and you

Dec 10 // Nick Valdez
In late November, Sony Pictures was the victim of a major hack (with the culprit still un-identified). Instead of stealing money, the hack led to all sorts of private employee emails, future plans, and announcements leaking to the web. Here at Flixist, we've got a policy that forbids the posting of leaks and information garnered through illegal means. Just as you'll never see us talking about leaked trailers or reviewing a pirated film, we're never going to discuss the information gathered from this leak.  As much as I'd love to elaborate on some of the crazier aspects of these emails, perusing all of this stolen information for nuggets of movie news smells foul. The fact of the matter is, we do not condone theft. We will not justify this crooked source. If we did discuss all of the hearsay, and since it's without the standard "legitimacy" of the Hollywood rumor mill (where announcements are sometimes intentionally leaked to gain buzz), we wouldn't be us.  Now if Sony Pictures wants to come out and confirm some things, that's another story. But until then, we hope you understand our position and continue reading our work.  Thanks for listening,  Nicholas Jay Valdez Flixist News Editor
Flixist Update photo
Dear Flixist community,
We here at Flixist appreciate that while you can get your movie news fix from anywhere, you lovingly come back to us. We'd like to thank you for your readership wholeheartedly. Without you all, there's a good chance we'd be t...

Spooderman photo

Rumor: Sony is coming up with a bunch of random Spider-Man movie ideas

Nov 12
// Nick Valdez
We like to steer clear of most rumors here on Flixist because if we told you all about each one, we'd be writing about outlandish stuff every day. But Sony's discussing so many crazy Spider-Man movies, we gotta talk about 'em...
Zombieland 2 photo
Zombieland 2

Zombieland 2 is undead, gets new writer

Oct 01
// Nick Valdez
Last we heard about a sequel to the 2009 film Zombieland, was about two years ago when the kibosh was effectively put on any sequel talk. Then last year talk had begun of a Zombieland TV series for Amazon's Instant Video. But...

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