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Here are your 2017 Golden Globes winners

Jan 09 // Nick Valdez
Best Supporting Actor in Any Motion Picture Mahershala Ali, MoonlightJeff Bridges, Hell or High WaterSimon Helberg, Florence Foster JenkinsDev Patel, LionAaron Taylor-Johnson, Nocturnal Animals Best Actor in a TV Series - Drama Rami Malek, Mr. RobotBob Odenkirk, Better Call SaulMatthew Rhys, The AmericansLiev Schreiber, Ray DonovanBilly Bob Thornton, Goliath Best Actress in a TV Series - Musical or Comedy Rachel Bloom, Crazy Ex-GirlfriendJulia Louis-Dreyfus, VeepSarah Jessica Parker, DivorceIssa Rae, InsecureGina Rodriguez, Jane the VirginTracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish Best Television Series - Musical or Comedy AtlantaBlack-ishMozart in the JungleTransparentVeep Best Actress in a Limited Series  Felicity Huffman, American CrimeRiley Keough, The Girlfriend ExperienceSarah Paulson, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime StoryCharlotte Rampling, London SpyKerry Washington, Confirmation Best Limited Series American CrimeThe DresserThe Night ManagerThe Night OfThe People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story Best Supporting Actor in a Limited Series Sterling K. Brown, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime StoryHugh Laurie, The Night ManagerJohn Lithgow, The CrownChristian Slater, Mr. RobotJohn Travolta, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story Best Original Score - Motion Picture MoonlightLa La LandArrivalLionHidden Figures Best Original Song - Motion Picture “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Trolls“City of Stars,” La La Land“Faith,” Sing“Gold,” Gold“How Far I’ll Go,” Moana Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Viola Davis, FencesNaomie Harris, MoonlightNicole Kidman, LionOctavia Spencer, Hidden FiguresMichelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series Olivia Colman, The Night ManagerLena Headey, Game of ThronesChrissy Metz, This Is UsMandy Moore, This Is UsThandie Newton, Westworld Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy Colin Farrell, The LobsterRyan Gosling, La La LandHugh Grant, Florence Foster JenkinsJonah Hill, War DogsRyan Reynolds, Deadpool Best Screenplay - Motion Picture Damien Chazelle, La La LandTom Ford, Nocturnal AnimalsBarry Jenkins, MoonlightKenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the SeaTaylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water Best Animated Picture Kubo and the Two StringsMoanaMy Life as a ZucchiniSingZootopia Best Foreign Language Picture Divines (France)ElleNerudaThe SalesmanToni Erdmann Best Actor in a Limited Series Riz Ahmed, The Night OfBryan Cranston, All the WayTom Hiddleston, The Night ManagerJohn Turturro, The Night OfCourtney B. Vance, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story Best Actress in a TV Series - Drama Caitriona Balfe, OutlanderClaire Foy, The CrownKeri Russell, The AmericansWinona Ryder, Stranger ThingsEvan Rachel Wood, Westworld Best TV Series - Drama The CrownGame of ThronesStranger ThingsThis Is UsWestworld Best Director - Motion Picture  Damien Chazelle, La La LandTom Ford, Nocturnal AnimalsMel Gibson, Hacksaw RidgeBarry Jenkins, MoonlightKenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea Best Actor in a TV Series - Musical or Comedy Anthony Anderson, Black-ishGael García Bernal, Mozart in the JungleDonald Glover, AtlantaNick Nolte, GravesJeffrey Tambor, Transparent Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy Annette Bening, 20th Century WomenLily Collins, Rules Don’t ApplyHailee Steinfeld, The Edge of SeventeenEmma Stone, La La LandMeryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins Best Picture - Musical or Comedy 20th Century WomenDeadpoolFlorence Foster JenkinsLa La LandSing Street Best Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama Casey Affleck, Manchester by the SeaJoel Edgerton, LovingAndrew Garfield, Hacksaw RidgeViggo Mortensen, Captain FantasticDenzel Washington, Fences Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama Amy Adams, ArrivalJessica Chastain, Miss SloaneIsabelle Huppert, ElleRuth Negga, LovingNatalie Portman, Jackie Best Picture - Drama Hacksaw RidgeHell or High WaterLionManchester by the SeaMoonlight
Golden Globes 2017 photo
Queens, record breaks, and hidden fences
The Golden Globes were a weird sight last night. Technical flubs (which made Fallon awkwardly flail on stage until he mercifully shuffled away), Hidden Figures and Fences wrongly labeled as "Hidden Fences" (which reveals a wh...

RIP Debbie Reynolds (1932-2016)

Dec 30 // Hubert Vigilla
RIP Debbie Reynolds photo
She was 84 years old
Actress and singer Debbie Reynolds died on Wednesday at the age of 84. This was soon after the death of her 60-year-old daughter Carrie Fisher. Reynolds reportedly suffered from a stroke the day after her daughter's death, wh...

RIP Carrie Fisher (1956-2016)

Dec 27 // Hubert Vigilla
RIP Carrie Fisher photo
She was 60 years old
Carrie Fisher has passed away after suffering from a heart attack last week. She was 60 years old. Her daughter, actress Billie Lourd, confirmed the sad news in a statement to People Magazine. "It is with a very deep sadness ...

Review: The Autopsy of Jane Doe

Dec 25 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221155:43293:0[/embed] The Autopsy of Jane DoeDirector: André ØvredalRelease Date: December 21, 2016 (limited theaters and VOD) Rating: R The Autopsy of Jane Doe follows father and son pathologists, Tommy (Brian Cox) and Austin (Emile Hirsch) Tilden operating out of their family owned morgue. When the body of an unidentified young woman (Olwen Kelly) is found, the two must figure out the mysterious circumstances behind her death. But as the autopsy rolls on, strange things begin happening and the Tildens find themselves struggling to escape the mortuary with their lives. This simple premise is what makes Autopsy work as well as it does. It's a tightly focused feature never losing sight of its central mystery. I'm going to try my best not to divulge the film's mystery, but honestly, the film isn't even about the reveal. It's all in the build-up. The entire film is built around this idea of confinement, and that's reflected in the film's editing and set design.  From the opening, there's a keen sense of dread permeating throughout the film. The inspired choices like an aged mortuary building (enhanced by a lack of natural light thanks to Autopsy taking place late at night), to the casting of Jane Doe herself, help make the audience uncomfortable. Taking something as inherently disturbing as a medical procedure is made doubly so thanks to quick cuts to Jane's face every time one of the Tilden's makes an incision. Thanks to these close ups, the autopsy becomes more like a creepy surgery that permeates with dramatic irony as the audience becomes more suspicious of Jane than the characters. There's also a refreshing flow to how much of Jane's mystery is revealed at a time. By halfway through, you already know most of what is necessary to move the plot forward without going overboard. Unfortunately, since the film's effort is put into Jane Doe, the Tildens get less development as a result.  There are some hints of tension between Austin and his father, but that's more credited to Hirsch's and Cox's performances than to any character building. Due to the film's tight focus and short time, there isn't much room in the narrative for anything other than the mystery. Even as the Tildens fear for their lives, I found myself lacking the necessary wherewithal to care whether or not they actually survived. Because of this, the film lacks tension once Jane Doe's origins are revealed. Since so much effort is put into its buildup, there sadly isn't enough effort left over for the denouement. In fact, the finale even goes on for a bit longer than it should. There's a particular scene toward the end that would've made for a perfect finale, but seeing Autopsy go beyond it lessened my enjoyment overall. I guess it's more of a sense of disappointment given how well Autopsy had edited itself to that point. But on the other hand, I do appreciate the uniqueness of The Autopsy of Jane Doe. While there are some ideas I would've liked to see the film explore further (especially when it teases metaphysical horror, which is something lacking from most current offerings in the genre), and I would've appreciated a better grasp on character, the film sets out to tell a certain story and competently does it.  The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a focused, chilling thriller that you should check out before you start writing your end of the year lists. 
Jane Doe Review photo
Doe-n't miss this one
Every year I wind up missing a good deal of films as their advertising end up swallowed by the huge hype machines of bigger studio releases. But the true gems make themselves known somehow. Usually it's through word of mouth,...


Review: Why Him?

Dec 25 // Rick Lash
[embed]221153:43291:0[/embed] Why Him?Director: John HamburgRelease Date: December 23, 2016Rating: R Why Him? is the story of a wholesome Midwest family from Michigan comprised of a well-regarded father Ned Fleming (Brian Cranston) who runs a printing business, his loving wife Barb Fleming (Megan Mullally), and their clean-cut son Scotty Fleming (Griffin Gluck) who clearly idolizes his father. It turns out there’s also a sister, Stephanie Fleming (Zoey Deutch), but she’s in college in California, and apparently the family hasn’t used phones, the internet, Snapchat, Skype, Facetime, Messenger, or beam-me-over technology to keep in touch during the span she’s been away. It’s true that the Rocky Mountains are still a cool, inhospitable, Donner-party producing, block to human travel and communication. It turns out that things aren’t so hot for this all-American family: the family printing business is in the red, and Dad doesn’t know what to do facing the challenges of a changing world and evolving print needs for his traditional client-base. Enter an, apparently, rare video phone call from said cutoff daughter and the testy revelation that she has a boyfriend (James Franco). Oh, and by the way Mom, Pops, and Junior: could you all forego any existing Christmas plans and fly to California to meet my boyfriend? Obviously, they can, or else we wouldn’t have much of a movie. California. A foreign land to a family from Michigan. Filled with strange peoples with stranger cultural habits. Or that seems to be the message of the film. Writer-Director John Hamburg, perhaps best known for I Love You Man (a solid comedy pairing with Jason Segal and Paul Rudd from 2009) teamed with Johan Hill to pen this one: and it shows. The movie is filled with a veritable thesaurus for the f-bomb, as well as references to obscure (and not so obscure) sexual practices--hallmarks of the Shat Pack (Hill, Seth Rogen, Franco, Michael Cera, Segal, Jay Baruchel, and the rest of the amorphous gang that comprises this group of miscreants that would make Cranston’s Ned Fleming cringe, especially if any of them were to date his daughter. It doesn’t matter if they’re rich, incredibly rich, live in a mansion nestled into private acreage, or run their own business: if they have tattoos and swear (“cuss”) frequently, they’re not good enough for you or your daughter. And thus begins the purported conflict of the movie. It doesn’t matter that Deucht’s Stephanie is bright, levelheaded, and apparently not prone to poor judgement; daddy knows best—and every fiber of his mid-west being is saying no to this California tech hippy. But to me, the premise seems as outdated as the beliefs espoused by Ned. Lots of people have tattoos these days, dare I say even in Michigan, and swearing is is the new Oxford English. The fact that this father is so opposed to this man he’s just met, primarily to either evidence A (poor judgement in the face of genuine excitement—if you’ve seen the trailers, you know Franco has a tattoo of the Fleming Christmas card done on his back) or evidence B (he’s sleeping with his daughter and therefore cannot be any good) does not ring true. That’s the true problem with the film: it’s hollow, as its premises are loosely constructed anachronisms that might have been more applicable a decade ago. Who in the printing business, in this day and age, could be caught unaware of the shifting landscape and needs of their clientele? The Office was dealing with this same fact for much of the prescribed decade earlier. Given these issues of authenticity and realism, there are laughs to be found. But these are the forced, awkward laughs that come from watching a son suddenly subjected to viewing an explicit love scene with his mother. It’s the forced awkward laughter that’s more cringe inducement by baby head cresting a vagina vis-à-vis Knocked Up. This awkward humor is reinforced by a score that is largely absent; large swaths of film are destroyed in conversational silence. When music does happen, it is conspicuous and perhaps feels forced (the one notable exception being a party designed to further emphasize the generational gap at work here. Humor that does work is found in unexpected twists like cameos and extended cameos from Adam Devine and Keegan-Michael Key. Or in the Siri-wannabe Kaley Cuoco voice that lives in the airspace of Franco’s mansion. This could have been done to better success, and I’d expect word of mouth box office results to confirm as much, especially given the level of talent featured in the film.
Why Him? Review photo
Why me?
Sometimes questions shouldn't be begged in the titles of pieces lacking the substance to back up or even fully answer the suggested question. Why Him? Falls victim to this trope. Why him? Why me? Why see this movie?  

Alien: Covenant photo
Uh...Merry Christmas?
If you can spare a few minutes away from your family today, you should check out the first Red Band trailer for Alien: Covenant. Ridley Scott's Prometheus wasn't received too well, so it looks like Scott wants to rectify that...

Review: Assassin's Creed

Dec 21 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221143:43283:0[/embed] Assassin's CreedDirectors: Justin KurzelRelease Date: December 21, 2016Rating: PG-13 After being executed in a Texas prison, Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is held under the control of the Abstergo Foundation, a company that wants to "end violence." His caretaker, Sofia (Marion Cotillard), explains one of his ancestors was an assassin in 1400s Spain (named Aguilar) and wants to use his memories to help Abstergo locate the Apple of Eden, a magical macguffin that would eliminate free will. Lynch is then plugged into the Animus, a machine that allows Lynch to live his ancestor Aguilar's life and gain his abilities. As more of Abstergo's plot comes to light, Lynch has to decide whether or not to carry on the creed of an ancient assassin's group and fight the coming evil.   As you can most likely gauge from the synopsis, there's a lot going on in Assassin's Creed. Like its smooth action scenes, the film's plot and premise move along with a breakneck pace. There's a bit of plot-specific terminology thrown into the film's dialogue, but it never rests enough within its character interactions for these terms to make sense. It's almost as if the film expects its audience to be familiar with the game series, so cool ideas like The Templars and the Creed don't have enough development. Despite the film running over two hours, things just kind of "happen" and often don't get enough follow through to make sense. Which is even more of a shame since the premise does inherently have a religion versus science debate in the root of it all.  But the film does succeed when it takes the time to develop its world.  If you're a fan of the videogame series, you'll be glad to know Assassin's Creed translates one of the series' core elements, the Animus, extremely well. Lynch plugging into the Animus leads to some of the coolest scenes in the film as the machine translates Aguilar's flashly assassin movements in real time. Cutting back to Lynch every few minutes during the film's well choreographed fights may get annoying later on as they take you out of the action, but it's still an initially intriguing and distinct look only capable here. That's also because the film took a moment to establish the Animus which is, as mentioned earlier, a luxury only briefly afforded. But although most of the story is a befuddling mess, it's visually appealing. Andalucia in 1492 is an incredible display of set and costume design, which makes its short time in the film even more egregious. When not covered in a notable amount in dust storms, Assassin's Creed spends the bulk of its time in yet another in a long line of plain, white science fiction sets.  Director Kurziel also films some impressive battle scenes. Although the point-of-view sometimes get lost in the fight choreography (as Kurziel at times can't fully grasp the geography of the setting), they flow well and incorporate many tactics and weapons (which is reminiscent of the game series, also). But Assassin's Creed doesn't have much going on for it beyond its look. Fassbender is, undoubtedly, the standout but even he struggles with the film's script. Failing to give Lynch's words the proper amount of weight as the film speeds on, Fassbender is just trying his best to push on. His scenes with Cotillard's Sofia are also a highlight, but that's only because he has Cotillard's near-deadpan delivery to bounce off of. In fact, you could've scrapped the bulk of Abstergo-set scenes altogether and the film would've been a triumph. Aguilar's romps through a mid-Inquisition Spain are the best the film has to offer, but there's never enough time to develop either Aguilar or Lynch to make any of this matter.  In a film where a man defies the laws of time and space, time is ironically Assassin's Creed's biggest enemy. A lack of time spent with its characters, lack of time spent with its ideas, and lack of follow through muddy the film's experience. In fact, the film seems to only want to translate the videogame series to film without caring whether or not it succeeds as a film. Much like direct to home video videogame adaptations like Dead or Alive and Tekken, Assassin's Creed captures the spirit of the videogame series but won't have the appeal for those outside of its fan base.  Assassin's Creed is such a good videogame adaptation, hilariously enough, it already expects to come back for yearly outings. 
Assassin's Creed Review photo
With flaws wide open
Assassin's Creed has been in the works for a long time. The videogame series' developer Ubisoft has been trying to get the project off the ground since 2011, but was marred with production and release date delays. When Michae...

Blade Runner 2049 photo
The future of the future
Well, it's happened. They made it. One of the most cherished science fiction films ever, noted especially for its wonderful ambiguity, is getting a sequel. If you can't tell I'm not to enthused. I just see far too many ways t...

The 2017 Golden Globes nominees have been announced

Dec 12 // Hubert Vigilla
Film   Motion picture, drama Hacksaw Ridge Hell or High Water Manchester by the Sea Moonlight Lion   Motion picture, musical or comedy 20th Century Women Deadpool Florence Foster Jenkins La La Land Sing Street   Motion picture, animated Zootopia My Life as a Zucchini Moana Sing Kubo and the Two Strings   Motion picture, foreign language Divines, France Elle, France Neruda, Chile The Salesman, Iran Toni Erdmann, Germany   Actress in a motion picture, drama Amy Adams, Arrival Jessica Chastain, Miss Sloane Isabelle Huppert, Elle Ruth Negga, Loving Natalie Portman, Jackie   Actor in a motion picture, drama Casey Affleck, Manchester By the Sea Joel Edgerton, Loving Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic Denzel Washington, Fences   Actress in a motion picture, musical or comedy Annette Bening, 20th Century Women Lily Collins, Rules Don’t Apply Hailee Steinfeld, The Edge of Seventeen Emma Stone, La La Land Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins   Actor in a motion picture, musical or comedy Colin Farrell, The Lobster Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins Ryan Gosling, La La Land Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool Jonah Hill, War Dogs   Supporting actress in any motion picture Viola Davis, Fences Naomie Harris, Moonlight Nicole Kidman, Lion Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea   Supporting actor in any motion picture Mahershala Ali, Moonlight Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water Simon Helberg, Florence Foster Jenkins Dev Patel, Lion Aaron Taylor Johnson, Nocturnal Animals   Director, motion picture Damien Chazelle, La La Land Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals Barry Jenkins, Moonlight Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By the Sea   Screenplay, motion picture Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea Damien Chazelle, La La Land Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals Barry Jenkins, Moonlight Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water   Original score, motion picture Justin Hurwitz, La La Land Jóhann Jóhannsson, Arrival Nicholas Britell, Moonlight Dustin O’Halloran, Hauschka, Lion Benjamin Wallfisch, Pharrell Williams, Hans Zimmer, Hidden Figures   Original song, motion picture “How Far I’ll Go” (Moana) “City of Stars” (La La Land) “Can’t Stop the Feeling” (Trolls) "Faith" (Sing) "Gold" (Gold)     Television   Television series, drama “The Crown“ “Game of Thrones" “Stranger Things“ “This Is Us“ “Westworld”   Television series, musical or comedy “Atlanta” “black-ish” “Mozart in the Jungle” “Transparent” “Veep”   Television limited series or motion picture made for television "American Crime" "The Dresser" "The Night Manager" “The Night Of” “The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”   Actress in a television series, musical or comedy Rachel Bloom, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep” Sarah Jessica Parker, "Divorce" Issa Rae, "Insecure" Gina Rodriguez, "Jane the Virgin" Tracee Ellis Ross, “black-ish”   Actor in a television series, musical or comedy Anthony Anderson, “black-ish” Donald Glover, "Atlanta" Gael García Bernal, "Mozart in the Jungle" Nick Nolte, "Graves" Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”   Actress in a television series, drama Caitriona Balfe, "Outlander" Claire Foy, "The Crown" Keri Russell, “The Americans” Winona Ryder, "Stranger Things" Evan Rachel Wood, "Westworld"   Actor in a television series, drama Rami Malek, “Mr. Robot” Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul” Matthew Rhys, “The Americans” Liev Schreiber, “Ray Donovan” Billy Bob Thornton, "Goliath"   Actress in a limited series or motion picture made for television Felicity Huffman, “American Crime” Riley Keough, "The Girlfriend Experience" Sarah Paulson, “The People v. O.J. Simpson” Charlotte Rampling, "London Spy" Kerry Washington, “Confirmation”   Actor in a limited series or motion picture made for television Courtney B. Vance, “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story" Riz Ahmed, "The Night Of" John Turturro, "The Night Of" Bryan Cranston, “All the Way” Tom Hiddleston, “The Night Manager”   Supporting actress in a series, limited series or motion picture made for television Olivia Colman, "The Night Manager" Lena Headey, "Game of Thrones" Mandy Moore, "This Is Us" Chrissy Metz, “This Is Us” Thandie Newton, “Westworld”   Supporting actor in a series, limited series or motion picture made for television Sterling K. Brown, “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” Hugh Laurie, “The Night Manager” John Lithgow, "The Crown" Christian Slater, "Mr. Robot" John Travolta, “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”
Golden Globes photo
Big things for La La Land
The nominees for the 2017 Golden Globes were announced this morning. On the film side, Damien Chazelle's La La Land leads with seven Golden Globe nominations. Other major players on the film side include Barry Jenkins' Moonli...

The Fate of the Furious trailer: Swerves, turns, and a family in crisis

Dec 11 // Hubert Vigilla
Helluva a swerve there, right? Makes me wonder if Dwayne The Rock Johnson's beef with Vin Diesel earlier in the year was just a coy bit of marketing to signal Dom's heel turn in the film, And they say kayfabe is dead. (From here on out, I will write Dwayne Johnson's name as "Dwayne The Rock Johnson" without quotation marks and as if The Rock were his legal middle name.) We see Charlize Theron in there as a temptress and supervillain, but no glimpse of Helen Mirren in F8 yet. As you may recall, Helen Mirren really wanted to be in one of the Fast and the Furious movies. She was officially cast in some role for F8. We've got a poster for F8 below, as well as a fake poster we concocted for the 10th Fast and Furious film, Fasten Your Seatbelts. (F10, get it?) Let us know what you think of this dramatic turn of events in the comments.
#F8 Trailer photo
RUSSO SWERVE!
The eighth film of the Fast and the Furious franchise is officially dubbed The Fate of the Furious. (F8, get it?) The trailer for the movie just hit the internet tonight, and we have it below. Get ready for heel turns, face turns, and some car crash booking straight out of Vince Russo. It looks like the family is dysfunctional, guys.

Flixist Discusses: An Analysis of Denis Villeneuve's Arrival [Part 2]

Dec 09 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]221111:43257:0[/embed] Alec: That liberal vs. conservative idea is interesting, and my gut reaction is that it's probably true (assuming we're talking explicitly about alien films)... but I'm sure you could find an exception (to prove the rule). I wonder if there's a similar case to be made re: optimistic or not films. Or, more to the point, I wonder how the political climate will affect the mood of films with both liberal and conservative ideologies going forward. Will liberal films become crushingly sad across the board to reflect their reality or become  happy as they embrace, uh, fantasy and escapism?   I wonder if Arrival would have been different if pre-production began now instead of years ago. I'm thinking yes. I mentioned earlier that one of my colleagues hated the film. His first problem, when I asked why (this was before I had seen it) was that it didn't have a lot of dialogue. (Aside: This is interesting, though not necessarily surprising, for a film that is about language.) He thought it was confusing and that the twist (reveal) didn't work. Etc. I think this may be Villeneuve’s best film, but it's definitely not his most accessible. The “This is thinking person’s sci-fi” reputation is deserved, and if anything I think it was intended to be more opaque than it is. The genuinely bizarre and out-of-nowhere narration from Jeremy Renner felt like a capitulation to the studio over a montage that had been designed for musical accompaniment and nothing else. The decision to leave Banks’ perspective in that moment (especially since it's still about her) is jarring as heck. Genuine question: Are there any scenes in the movie without her that you can recall? I feel like there aren't. And so there's that one weird dark spot coloring an otherwise brilliant experience. And it hardly ruins the film. It's just… why? Everything else is so deliberate. I think it's almost time (ha!) to really get into this thing, but before we do, do you have any other thoughts on the film in general? Even if I didn't think it was so relevant and important, it's just a damn good movie, with gorgeous cinematography and some genuinely great performances. Hubert: Yeah, I agree with you about Jeremy Renner’s narration midway through the film. Everything else in that movie is filtered through Louise’s point of view, and that sudden imposition of Renner’s character just comes out of nowhere. Whereas other scenes seem deliberately ruminative, the learning montage is purely functional. It probably was the “let’s explain this to you if you don’t get it yet” moment in the screenplay, and may have been made more explicit by the studio. That montage and narration would be just fine if they used Louise’s voice and channeled it through her point of view. It wouldn’t be that difficult to make it work that way. It’s her story, after all. Maybe they just needed to give Renner’s character (off the top of my head, I can’t recall his name) something to do. I guess Renner’s character in Arrival is similar to Amy Adams’ Lois Lane in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice--just stand around and look handsome/pretty, and let your significant other be heroic and save the day. We can go in a lot of directions with this conversation about Arrival. I eventually want to get to the idea of free will, determinism, and predestination, but maybe we can save that for the end. I find that discussion determines whether people find the movie hopeful/optimistic or fatalistic/pessimistic. (Just more future stuff in the present. Don’t mind me.) What’s one of the things that struck you most about Arrival while watching it? Alec: That house. I want that house so bad. Actually, though: the design of the aliens. I didn't see the trailer, so I didn't know what they looked like (were they humanoid? were they terrifying?). My gut reaction to their lack of “human”ness was “Oh thank God,” because that would have been a cop out from a design perspective. They aren't from here and they shouldn't look like us. Period. And they didn't, and I was glad about that. But as I consider it, I think about their head-like thing, which we only see in the sequence in the fog. There are those indents, as though they have eyes there. I don't see any practical purpose for those other than to give a face of sorts for the audience to look at in that moment. Humans will see faces in everything (see: trees, the moon, toast), so you don't have to do much to make us subconsciously think about them. And to make them, in that moment, even the slightest bit human allows for another level of connection. In a sequence where we're actually just watching the sort-of-head for a while, we need that. But I think about what a more humanoid design might have done. Diverting back to politics (or, at least, real-world issues) for a moment, much of the fear and hatred in the world right now is aimed at the Other, where that's a race, gender, culture, socioeconomic class. We take people who look like basically us and then box them off. With the Heptapods and their very definitively Other design, you're starting from scratch on empathy. But there's also no prejudice against them. It's an actual blank slate. And how you ultimately feel about them says something about your empathy for other beings but not for your fellow man. A human-like alien race (or one that presented as alien and made a point of being like, “We actually look like something else, but figured you'd appreciate this”) would have added an interesting other level. I'm imagining someone shouting, “IF YOU'RE GONNA BE HERE, JUST LEARN ENGLISH, DAMN IT.” Arrival’s too subtle for that, but I'm calling it right now: We will see a science fiction movie with an equivalent line of dialogue in some equivalent situation in the next four years. (If we haven’t already.) And yeah, I agree that that’s where this conversation is fated (what a great pun) to end up. If you want to go there now, you can have the first word on that. If there’s more you want to say beyond that, though, I’m game. Hubert: I really enjoyed that heptapod design as well. Tentacles and that raw seafood look immediately make people queasy and distrustful. H.P. Lovecraft was onto something about the creeping chaos of the local sushi restaurant. But yeah, the vestigial torso-and-head at the end is so oddly inelegant yet fitting for where the story has gotten at that point. The moment we see that human-like shape is when the heptapod tells Louise that its companion is “in the death process”. What a fascinating construction, that sentence, and what a time for an English translation of heptapod to finally appear on screen. I thought the way the ink emerges from the heptapods like squids to form their language was pretty inspired as well. The look of the language informs the creature’s look and vice versa. So many smart, deliberate choices. I wonder how this movie would have played out with human-like aliens, especially now when audiences sort of expect something alien about the aliens we see. Maybe the alien visitation movie in the post-Trump era will have someone demand that the aliens “Speak American” or “Take off that breathing hood”. Though maybe that would make things too preachy in certain hands. Which reminds me: Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter) is set to direct a remake of Alien Nation, which was all about human-like aliens assimilating with the human race like a new immigrant community. The movie was all right, but the TV show and made-for-TV movies were much, much better. Makes me wonder how the remake will address our current political moment. It seems unavoidable to me now, even if they did try to make it a buddy cop movie like the original film. And you know, it’s almost fitting that in 2016 the two movies Nichols put out were Midnight Special (an indie take on 80s science fiction) and Loving (a movie about a mixed-race couple’s love in the face of bigotry). Alien Nation has gone from a curiosity from a filmmaker I like to a potentially important statement about the early 21st century. Which, come to think of it, makes that hypothetical film like Arrival. So about Arrival’s implications about free will and determinism and predestination. The big question: do you think Arrival is melancholy but ultimately hopeful or is it sad and fatalistic? I don’t mean about global peace or anything, but rather the idea that we might not be able to change the future. That certain sorrows in our lives, like certain joys, are unavoidable? I think it’s painfully hopeful since it suggests that even though you may be miserable now, there was still a moment of joy in the past that was just as real. It’s an affirmation of good and bad things as a whole, and that maybe some handfuls of genuine happiness are a justification for a lifetime of general boredom, depression, and unhappiness. (Though my read on this also speaks to the privileges of a middle-class upbringing in the first world.) Alec: Honestly, I think it's neither of those things, because I don’t even think the film is ultimately that melancholy. I read someone somewhere say that this is probably the most hopeful movie they’ve ever seen -- it assumes humans will still be around in 3000 years. But, joking aside, I do genuinely think this an optimistic movie. I left the theater feeling kind of upbeat, and part of that was because it was a great movie and that usually makes me feel good, but there was more to it than after. I realized that it was because of the way Dr. Banks’s decision at the end is played. When she decides to hold onto Jeremy Renner, she does so knowing that they will be together, they will have a young girl, she will tell him that their young girl is going to die, it will break his heart and his relationship with the daughter, the daughter will develop cancer, and the daughter will die. And she does it anyway. You look at that list, and you’re like… damn. That’s genuinely horrible. She’s guaranteeing never-ending sadness for one man and the literal death of her own child. So, she’s a psychopath, right? And that might be the logical conclusion, but I’m going to not think about it way. What’s unclear is whether or not she thinks she has a choice in the matter. Her actions might imply that she doesn’t, but that’s not how I saw that decision. There’s another read, one that I think it’s evidenced by the fact that she smiles in that moment. She knows the happiness that the daughter brings in the time that she’s alive, and that life with her is better than life without. (It’s better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all, as they say.) It might be fatalistic in a literal sense, but I don’t think it’s a function of her resigning herself to or even just accepting her fate; she’s straight-up embracing it. And I see that as a rejection of the sadness that seems inherent with the life she’s going to lead… but we also don’t really see all the good moments. We see a couple, but we are more generally aware of the bad things that happen than the good, which I think colors the perspective (also, knowing that all of those things happen and thinking about them in a list format is different than the reality of them taking place spaced out over more than a decade). She is the one who lived it and is most qualified to make the decision, and she decides that it is the thing she wants and not just the thing she has to do. Hubert: It’s interesting we’re both seeing it as hopeful. I’ve read/heard a few people conclude that Arrival's implications about time and the future are bleak. It is pretty grim to think about not necessarily having any say in your own life. Viewed in those terms, Arrival‘s conclusion could be read as ditching agency for resignation. It’s going to happen anyway, so why try? And yet, we do, continually, on and on, until we die. That’s more than a little sad. That makes me wonder about Louise telling her husband about their daughter’s death, an act that ruins their marriage. Did she tell him as an attempt to change the future, but it went wrong? Did she tell him because they were having an argument and she wanted to say something awful in the heat of the moment that would hurt? Did she tell him because she thought it would help him deal with loss in the future? Did she tell him because he kept asking her about their daughter and she couldn’t handle being the only person who had access to that secret? Or did she tell him because it was, simply, that time when she was supposed to tell him? There are these fascinating gaps in the future-narrative that Louise as a character might know but the audience has to invent on their own. The relative hope or bleakness of Arrival might be there in the lacunae and how we fill in the blanks. But yeah, I think it’s hopeful. Louise’s smile, like you mentioned, is her saying yes to all the joy and misery ahead because it will have been worth it. It’s like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. By the end you know it’s not going to end well for Joel and Clementine, but dammit, that love was worth the pain and vice versa--let’s do this! This aspect of Arrival reminds me of this Friedrich Nietzsche idea of the eternal return of the same (aka eternal recurrence). It’s one of those Existentialism 101 types of ideas, and yet I unavoidably find myself thinking about the shape of my own life in terms of the eternal return. Nietzsche presented a hypothetical situation in which a demon comes to you and says that for the rest of eternity you will have to relive your entire life again, over and over, all of the happiness but also the pain, down to the smallest detail. Nothing new can ever happen in these additional recurrences of life--you are a speck of dust in the great eternal hourglass of existence. If you were confronted with this scenario, would you feel immense anguish and defeat given the futility of it all? Or would you instead welcome this moment, having lived a life worth affirming? Was this worth it? Ask me one day, I might lean one direction. Ask me another day, I lean the opposite direction. When Louise smiles, you know what she thinks about her life to come. Though I wonder, in the vast lacunae of her life off-screen, about the days that Louise feels otherwise. Alec: I can imagine so many scenarios in which Dr. Banks would tell him that their daughter was going to die. All of the ones that you listed there and then others. The hypothetical that I find most compelling is that she told him because he asked. That they were talking about the future, that he wanted to know what she saw for their child and for them and she couldn't lie, because she knew he would find out eventually (of course she knows) and she didn't want to have the fight then. I like that because it has a Pandora’s Box kind of feeling or some other, more appropriate parable that I can't think of: It's his choice to learn the truth, though he is foolish in thinking that he can handle it. In any version of the story, though, it gets at this broader concept froma  very different but equally significant angle: what do you do when you know someone who knows the future? What do you do when you know your daughter is going to die because someone who knows the future has told you, but you can't know it the way they know it? You have to trust it, but at the same time you just can't do that. It's why he can't look at his daughter anymore, because he feels like she's been taken from him because he now knows a horrible truth and, more importantly, he knows he can't stop it. He knows that, no matter how many new treatments there are and how much they put into her recovery, it's going to fail. He feels helpless. (Science will fail him, so it has failed him.) I mean, think of Arrival with the same narrative but from Jeremy Renner’s perspective. I can't imagine a movie much bleaker than that one. I know I’ve got the last word of this particular discussion, but I’m still going to end on a question. If the future is pre-ordained, then neither of them has agency. But in that world, whose situation is better? In more cliched terms: Is knowledge power… or ignorance bliss?  
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The big questions
In the 24 hours since part one of this discussion was posted, I was talking with a friend about something completely unrelated when I realized that the point I was trying to make directly relates to my feelings on Arrival. It...

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I mean, we all know how this will end
I got a really in depth look at War for the Planet of the Apes at NYCC this year, but now it is everyone else's chance to take a look. The first trailer has landed and it is crammed full of action and grumpy apes. That's...

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Here comes Marvel's Spider-Man
After his debut in Captain America: Civil War, we've all been itching to see more of Tom Holland's take on Spider-Man. Being an unprecedented co-operative effort from Sony and Marvel, we're finally going to see what Marvel wa...

Flixist Discusses: An Analysis of Denis Villeneuve's Arrival [Part 1]

Dec 08 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]221081:43252:0[/embed] Alec: So, before we get into this, I want to give some context about my own expectations, because I think expectations ultimately matter a lot here (probably more than they should). Denis Villeneuve is one of my favorite working directors. Sicario is one of the best films of 2015, and both Prisoners and Enemy are really good and extremely interesting. (I’m not fully versed on his pre-English work yet, but I’ll get there.) Anyways, his name gets attached to a project and I’m sold on it. It means I don’t need to learn anything about it and that I won’t watch trailers. I didn’t see the trailer for Arrival, though I knew the basic concept: Aliens arrive. How do we communicate with them? I also knew what other people thought. The downside to having a lot of critic friends on Facebook is that you know what people think about things the instant they get screened. Whether it was the festival premiere or when it actually hit theaters, my feed got inundated with various takes. Most of them were glowing, and I saw a lot of “brainy” and “thought-provoking” pull-quotes, but I didn’t read any further. I also knew that one of my day-job colleagues hated it (this person also hated Carol, for what that’s worth) and another thought it was fine, he guesses (this person hates Guardians of the Galaxy, for what that’s worth). I was fairly sure I’d love it, though. The only thing that surprised me was just how much I loved it. Had you read up, Hubert, or did you go in relatively blind as well? Hubert: I went into Arrival knowing the buzz and seeing the blurbs out of the Venice Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival, but I intentionally avoided reading the full-length reviews. Certain movies I’ll read up on extensively and spoil everything for myself and it won’t dampen the experience of seeing the movie. Some movies you’ve already seen before sitting down to watch them, if that makes sense. I even avoided reading the Ted Chiang short story it’s based on in his book Stories of Your Life. I’m glad I went in relatively blind. Arrival’s all about that act of discovery and revelation, and a couple scenes had me silently geeking out as I began to understand the shape of the narrative, and how little lines or images are clues about the nature of the movie. In a sense, Arrival is a causal loop time travel story. It’s not about time travel in a traditional sense, but rather more about folding a moment in the future back like a piece of paper onto the past--a Möbius strip. Even the look of the heptapod language is a closing circle, like the ouroboros, which made me think about time and cycles of existence. By around the halfway point of the movie, I kind of realized that Louise was seeing flashforwards rather than flashbacks, which was all really set-up in Amy Adams’ opening voice over about beginnings and ends. But even suspecting and discovering that on my own, it didn’t damped my emotional reaction at all. (Given the implications of Arrival, in the world of that film, maybe all movies are movies you’ve seen before you sit down to watch them.) Had I read reviews about the movie, I’m sure some critic somewhere would have mentioned a little too much about one detail or another, and the whole game of Arrival would be given away in my head. Alec: I’ve been wondering that, actually, how much I think knowing the game would have spoiled my experience. I’m glad I went in blind, but I’m not entirely convinced I needed to. The other day, I read an article by Todd VanDerWerff at Vox about twists in the modern TV era. It talks a lot about Mr. Robot, which often telegraphs its big moments pretty heavily, so people aren’t all that surprised when things come. And Sam Esmail says that’s intentional, because then it allows you to think about the thing that just happened and not only be shocked by it. This then led me to another VanDerWerff article, which is ostensibly a review of a movie that you didn‘t like but actually has little to with Goodnight, Mommy at all. It’s about the nature of twists and gets to an interesting question: Is there a difference between a “twist” and a “reveal,” and where does Arrival fall on that line? I actually think the answer changes depending on your interpretation of the events and of Dr. Banks’ fascinating brain. In one of them, Banks knows everything that has happened and will happen simultaneously (the Heptapods experience this). In this, the reveal is fundamentally a Twist, because it’s information that the character knows being hidden from you; in another, she experiences time in a non-linear fashion but she doesn’t fully understand it until she’s been taught to understand it. In this, she learns at the same time we do that her daughter is her future daughter and not her current one and then follow all of that. It’s not until the phone call with Shang that it becomes truly clear, but by the time we got to the “non-zero-sum game” sequence, I had figured out where it was going. And so when it came, my thought was, “Damn, this could have gone bad in so many different ways. Good on you team!” and not “WHHAAAATTT?! NO WAY!” and I think I had the right response. Because, like, oh man, there are so many ways the non-linearity thing could have gone wrong, especially with the way it deals with Banks’s daughter. There was so much potential for it to feel ugly and emotionally manipulative, but no, I think it nails the whole damn thing. Hubert: It’s a definitely a reveal rather than a twist--that’s a good distinction with the language. And yeah, a lot of that has to do with how much of the film is anchored into Louise’s point of view, and how the audience is learning the information as she is through most of the movie. Her brain is rewiring and her perception of time is changing, and the audience is starting the see this narrative in a different way. In the same way that Louise is learning to read heptapod language and learning to interpret time, the movie is teaching the audience how to read the movie. Such a fascinating parallel. With twists, like in Goodnight, Mommy or High Tension, there’s no sense of learning how to read the text of the film, at least not in the way that would suggest the twist. Usually there’s just a quick explanation at the end. On the note of Todd VanDerWerff (let’s make this a trifecta), he wrote a new piece on Vox about the pivotal phone call scene. His big takeaway is that Louise is omniscient when she makes the call and meets with Shang in the future, and that she’s playing a role to get the information she needs. I personally think there’s a much different interpretation of that moment: Shang himself learns hetapod and taps into non-linear time, and that takes place after he gets the phone call but before he meets Louise. When he meets Louise in the future, he realizes that it is contingent upon him to give her his cell phone number and a message that will convince his past self (whose view of time is pre-non-linear) to avoid conflict and make this future moment possible. The past is contingent on the future and vice versa, which creates this smaller causal loop in the bigger narrative. We got sidetracked to the ending (how non-linear of us), so maybe let’s get into the meat of the movie and its ideas of communication. There’s this line by philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein that if a lion could speak to us, we wouldn’t be able to understand it. The idea is that even if a lion used English, its worldview is so non-human and its use of words/grammar so potentially unfamiliar that we would not necessarily comprehend the meaning of the lion’s sentence. This also means that the interior lives of lions are alien to us. With Arrival, it seems to suggest that seeing the world like a lion might help us understand their language better, and their values. Arrival is a movie about a lot of things, but extrapolating that idea, I think the movie stresses this belief in empathy. Alec: I think that's true. If science fiction is a way to use unreal narratives to comment on very-real societal issues, I don't think there's a more appropriate film for 2016. The entire world is moving rapidly in an isolationist and nationalist direction, so a film about trying to overcome the fundamental barriers of understanding and the need to work together is, to say the least, timely. That lion thought is an interesting one to consider when put up against what I think is one of the most crucial moments in the film: the reveal of the word “weapon.” In our version of English, that has a very specific meaning and it only ever means something to be used for violent purposes. But the heptapods don't have that context. They, as far as anyone can tell, seem to see “tool” and “weapon” as equivalent words. And so we get into a theme of patience. Some have complained about the methods they use and how it seems like they could have used more videos or other aids right at the start to speed up the process, but that misses the point. Underneath the whole experience is a respect for time and taking the time to do a thing. She wants to get it right, and getting it right requires long, boring demonstration. And that minimizes, theoretically, the chance of a miscommunication. (See the film’s discussion of how the Chinese use war games to learn communication and the pitfalls therein.) But when miscommunication comes, we need to be careful and see it as that. Dr. Banks’ pleas to not jump to conclusions, to point out that the heptapods lack true context for “weapon” is oh-so-relatable to right now. Governments all around the world are being forced to deal with an equivalent problem, where they need to know if something that has been said or done is a result of ignorance on the part of our president-elect or actually means a tectonic change in American policy. And they're dealing with someone who may as well be an alien politically AND for the most part speaks a different native language. (You just have to hope that every government has a Dr. Banks to say, “Let's not go to war just yet. Let's make sure we and they all understand each other correctly.) And looking back on what I just wrote, it appears that I'm thinking of the film’s themes about communication in purely political (or perhaps strategic) terms, which I don't think is quite right and is almost definitely me bringing my own baggage into it. Hubert: Right now, political baggage is personal baggage, so I think that political read of the film is warranted. The movie even braids global conflict with Louise’s unavoidable personal tragedy. I’m sure we’ll talk about the implications of time and fate in the film eventually, but on the note of unavoidable things, our president-elect is sorely lacking in patience and language skills. With patience and empathy comes nuance and mutual understanding. And like you said, you need room for there to be nuance, whether it’s to find the context of “weapon” or to understand why a gesture can be taken as an insult or provocation by another culture. That takes more than 140 characters. Meaningful language is generally not found on bumper stickers or baseball caps. What a weird time to be alive. Since science fiction can reflect societal fears, I wonder what other types of science fiction movies we might be seeing in the coming years as the world faces this wave of nationalism, isolationism, bigotry, and uncertainty. I think the appeal of authoritarianism in general is that it ignores nuance and complexity and reduces the world into manichean problems with simple answers and plenty of convenient scapegoats. In some ways, we’ve never really left the world-on-the-brink feeling of Children of Men. We’re just getting closer to the film (well, except babies are still getting made). So much anxiety about potential global conflicts. Maybe we’re going to go through that Cold War/Atomic Age cycle of sci-fi. There’s this old theory about science fiction movies that’s pretty interesting. I can’t remember who first said it or if it’s necessarily true, but it goes like this: If the aliens come to Earth and want to harm us, the film’s politics are conservative; if the aliens come to Earth and they don't want to hurt us, the film’s politics are liberal. Arrival’s firmly in the latter camp, especially if it’s stressing a form of patient diplomacy to fight humanity’s innate tribalism and nativism. I guess there’s a sadness bundled up in all this since so much of the real world wants to shut off communication and take care of its own affairs. That’s a bumper sticker or baseball cap answer to problems. By contrast, Arrival is a type of humane and life-affirming wish fulfillment, a Star Trek-esque utopianism. (As an aside, three movies that Arrival reminded of: The Day the Earth Stood Still, Day of the Dead, and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.) [Check back tomorrow for Part 2!]
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Premonitions, Politics, Aliens (Oh my!)
If you haven't seen Arrival yet, you should do so immediately. Not just because this thing right here spoils the hell out of the movie and won't really make any sense if you haven't seen it; see it because it's a genuinely fa...

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Those ABS
I'm not sure anyone was actually looking forward to the Baywatch movie. We heard Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron signed on to star, but it wasn't on anyone's radar until now. This first trailer for the upcoming reboot actually g...

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I'm so confused, man
Well, that was certainly something. Not content to leave the series as he claimed, Michael Bay has returned to direct Transformers: The Last Knight, a movie featuring a very serious plot about very serious things. But will al...

Trailer for The Mummy with Tom Cruise reveals a new world of gods and monsters

Dec 04 // Hubert Vigilla
Makes me wonder if Tom Cruise will make appearances in other Universal Monster Movie universe movies. (The UMMUM, as the cool kids call it. Cool kids meaning me, mostly.) Here's an official synopsis for The Mummy: Tom Cruise headlines a spectacular, all-new cinematic version of the legend that has fascinated cultures all over the world since the dawn of civilization: The Mummy. Thought safely entombed in a tomb deep beneath the unforgiving desert, an ancient princess (Sofia Boutella of Kingsman: The Secret Service and Star Trek Beyond) whose destiny was unjustly taken from her is awakened in our current day, bringing with her malevolence grown over millennia and terrors that defy human comprehension. From the sweeping sands of the Middle East through hidden labyrinths under modern-day London, The Mummy brings a surprising intensity and balance of wonder and thrills in an imaginative new take that ushers in a new world of gods and monsters. The Mummy hits theaters on June 9, 2017. Check out a poster for the film below.
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Run, Tom Cruise, run!
The Mummy reboot with Tom Cruise teased a trailer last week with a short preview and a movie poster. The trailer for the film just dropped, and it looks much darker than the kooky, happy-go-lucky Mummy movies with Brendan Fraser. Also, you get to see Tom Cruise running in this trailer, because of course you do. It's a Tom Cruise movie. Check out the trailer below.

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We are Groot
All right, a-holes, here it is. The official trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has arrived. Everyone's back, it sounds like we've got a new track from the second Awesome Mix, and Groot's a baby. (Which means Vin Dies...

Review: Moana

Nov 23 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221047:43203:0[/embed] MoanaDirectors: John Musker and Ron ClementsRelease Date: November 23, 2016Rating: PG Moana follows the titular Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), a teenager who's always dreamed of traveling the seas beyond her island village, but is next in line for village chieftain and must stay home. When darkness begins rotting away her home, brought on when the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) steals the heart of the ancient goddess Te Fiti, Moana must journey across the sea, find Maui and ask him for help, and return the Heart of Te Fiti from where it came. From its core, Moana is much different from Disney's other princess films. Choosing instead to follow Moana on a hero's journey, rather than a quest for love, the film allows for individual character development thanks to its simplicity. While this simplicity may mirror Disney's previous films a bit too much, it is honestly what makes Moana work as well as it does.  Directors Musker and Clements have experience creating lasting Disney legacies with the two of them directing hits like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and The Great Mouse Detective. Basically, these two are responsible for a good deal of your favorite Disney moments and it's the same with Moana. The film may share too many structural similarities with previous films because of their choices, but it's also sure to make up for that simplicity with a complex emotional through line and culture. It's what previous Disney Princess films had lacked, and it's what Frozen experimented with. With a simplified tale, the film allows the characters to add layers of depth. Instead of growing as a character in relation to another person, i.e when Ariel changes herself for Prince Eric, for example, Moana's tale is all about self-improvement. It's not complicated with extraneous plot like a third act twist villain or jokes from a cartoon sidekick, Moana instead sticks to its heart with its two central characters and builds everything around them.  Being a character first type of fairy tale, Moana trusts in its two stars to make it work. Thankfully, Dwayne Johnson and the awesomely talented newcomer, Auli’i Cravalho more than hold their own. Johnson as Maui is energetic and as charming as he ever is, but, coupled with Maui's slightly mischievous character design, now has a slight edge missing from some of Johnson's work. His song, "You're Welcome" is also fantastic. His single is definitely a standout with a blend of humor and musicality. But I don't think I'll ever be able to fully express how impressed I am by the young Auli’i Cravalho. You would never be able to tell, but as her first major starring role, Cravalho is an absolute delight. Once again marrying character design and performance, Cravalho makes Moana a believable kid. Moana is astonishingly the first Disney Princess to act like an actual young girl. She's awkward sometimes, but has an endearing moxie that characterized classic princesses like Mulan, Ariel, and Tiana. But unlike the other Princesses, Moana is allowed to have non-romantic flaws.  You're probably a bit worried since I keep comparing Moana to previous films, but it's entirely intentional. Musker and Clements intended to recapture the spirit of the 2D films. Every part of its production fully embraces nostalgia, while making sure to change enough to keep the film from repeating the past too much. Thanks to the phenomenal soundtrack from Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa'i, and Mark Mancina, every scene has just a bit more punch. The opening, for example, is kind of incredible. As the film introduces its setting and unique culture (as the Oceanic island culture is far more three dimensional than cultures seen in films past), its punctuated by an incredible chant-like song mirroring The Lion King's now prolific opening. While I'm not sure if its lead single's, "How Far I'll Go," contemporary style will outlast the Broadway appeal of its predecessor, it's still heart-opening. Jemaine Clement's surprise song performance is pretty great too, as it plays to his creepy wheelhouse. Also, the most beautiful song and performance overall is the ancestor song. I don't want to spoil it, but just trust that it's fantastic. But none of this character work or music would succeed without Moana's unbelievable visuals. Moana has Disney's most exemplary animation to date with its luscious landscape and gorgeous ocean animations. The setting itself is a main character, and somehow feels fantasical yet attainable. It's an island paradise capturing the mythical nature of its fairy tale, but also looks grounded enough to exist in our world. There's no skirting the Pacific Islander culture here, unlike the other Princess' films dilution of ethnicity. The character body design is diverse, with Moana herself looking less plastic and moving more fluidly than humans seen in Tangled or Frozen. Thanks to its full embrace of what makes it different, the story's complex emotion and culture seem simplistic. See? Full circle. It's simplicity by design. Blending its depth so well and sneaking in character development through song, I didn't realize how much I had experienced until I started writing this review. The only real problem I had with Moana overall was how some of its contemporary jokes and song arrangements (There's a Twitter reference and other meta jokes) betray the timeless quality of its setting, but honestly it's not that big of a deal. Moana is definitely one of the better theatrical experiences of 2016, and in a year full of strife, it's what we need right now.  Its nostalgic quality may turn some off of Moana, but the film is still incredibly fresh despite these parallels to the past. It's a Disney Princess film taking the successes of the past, fixes their problems, and injects a breath of life into Disney they haven't had for quite some time. Moana is for the child in you, your children, and even their children. And who knows? Moana may just go down as a "classic" years down the line. 
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Hawaiian roller coaster ride
Disney Animation has had one critical success after another since they're in the middle of a new creative renaissance. Fully embracing CG animation, Disney has produced hits like Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Zootopia, and most im...

Review: The Monster

Nov 21 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]221043:43200:0[/embed] The MonsterDirector: Bryan BertinoRelease Date: November 11, 2016Rating: R  Though there are a couple of others who make brief appearances, The Monster is effectively a film with only two characters: Kathy (Zoe Kazan) and her daughter, Lizzy (Ella Ballentine). Kazan is 33 but looks ten years younger, and I'm pretty sure her character is closer to the latter than the former. Kathy is a terrible mother, pretty much what everyone assumes a young twenty-something with an already eight-or-nine-year-old child (or whatever age she is; Ballentine is 15, but I think she's also playing someone younger) is like. You don't root for her, and you definitely feel Lizzy's exasperation more than her mother's, but both of them feel extremely real, and their reactions to an increasingly horrific series of events serve as the focal point for everything that happens. And what happens? Well, late at night, as Kathy drives Lizzy to be with her father, they hit a wolf that runs out into the street in the pouring rain. The car breaks down. They call for help, but they have to wait. The wolf disappears from the road. There's a monster. Most of the film takes place on that road, in that car. Everything that matters takes place between Kathy and Lizzy. Everyone else is just filler. Fortunately, both actors give genuinely spectacular performances, and I became immediately invested in their struggles, and I was invested through all of the horrors. I mean, it made me cry. Actually and truly. Movies in general don't make me cry, and horror movies in particular don't (at least, not from anything other than fear). And yet, much to my surprise, The Monster got to me. Kathy and Lizzy got to me. Everything from the two of them felt so real, so earnest and heartfelt, even in the midst of ridiculous events, they were grounded. They made everything work. If you've seen It Follows (you should), or even just its trailer, you may remember the shot of the naked old man standing on the roof looking down at the main characters. It's a cool shot, but it's a problematic one. It doesn't make any sense in the narrative itself. The creature wouldn't do that for any reason other than because the director said, "This is gonna look awesome." And he's right, but it pulls you out of what is generally a pretty cohesive movie with reasonably well-conceived rules. Everything in The Monster is like that image on the roof. You can never know what the monster is going to do, but you always know when it's going to do it: Right when the film needs it to. It comes at the apex of tension, right when you expect it. Maybe you just see it in the background of a shot. Maybe it pulls a character underneath a truck. Maybe it throws a severed arm onto the windshield of a car. It does whatever with no rhyme or reason, but it does it exactly when anyone who has ever seen a horror movie would expect it to. The monster itself looks pretty good, and I am a fan of big practical effects, but it also is just... there. I went back and forth with the person I saw the film with on whether the monster represents anything (or whether The Monster is trying to make a grander point), and both of those conversations ended with a resounding, "Uhh... no?" Certainly the monster just seems like a monster, something there to drive the plot. It doesn't connect to the struggle that the characters are going through in any meaningful way, and the lack of clear rules makes it hard to pinpoint any real purpose at all. And that lack of clear rules gets really problematic in the final act. Really, it just serves to get in the way of the drama. So, the monster is by far the weakest part of the film whose name it occupies, but it's a testament to just how good the dramatic relationship between Kathy and Lizzy is that it doesn't really matter. While the monster waits in the darkness, biding its time for no clear reason, we get to spend time with Kathy and Lizzy. That's an emotional rollercoaster, one that is often difficult to watch but impossible to look away from. There's a decent argument to be made that the relationship deserves a better movie than the one it's in, but that's a needlessly negative way to look at it. We should be glad that we got to see it at all. I know I am.
The Monster Review photo
More tears, less fears
As often as I can, I like to go into films relatively blind. In the case of The Monster, my Facebook feed had been full of friends talking about how stellar the leading performances were and how great it was that they had gon...

Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Nov 17 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]220497:42908:0[/embed] Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find ThemDirector: David YayesRelease Date: November 18, 2016Rating: PG-13  In 1920s New York City, muggles are called "nomags," a shortening of "no magic." I mentioned this to a friend, who said that sounded more offensive than "muggle." I disagreed. I think we're desensitized to the word muggle, but it sounds pretty mean to me. (Not mudblood level, obviously (that one's awful).)  In 1920s New York City, the President of America's magic society is a woman, which means that this fanciful version of 1920s America is more progressive than actual 2016 America (though this wasn't 2016 New York City's fault). In fact, there are a lot of females in power in 1920s magic world. To some degree, it feels like the least realistic thing about the entire film. But that's neither here nor there. In 1920s New York City, Newt Scamander (a very socially awkward Eddie Redmayne) causes mayhem. He carries with him a suitcase. In the suitcase is a whole host of fantastic beasts. Unfortunately, some of them escape. He has to find them. Ultimately, that isn't what the movie is about. It's simply a way to get him entangled with the other zany characters, primarily two of them: Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), a nomag who doesn't get Men In Black mind-zapped and so is forced along on a wild adventure featuring magic and things, and Porpentina Goldstein (Katherine Waterson), an ex-Auror who brings in Mr. Scamander for causing problems (mostly by not Men In Black mind-zapping Mr. Kowalski). Some others are involved in various forms.  Also, there's Colin Farrell AKA Percival Graves AKA a guy who can do magic with just his hand. Someone told me Voldemort could also do that (I know house elves can), but I don't remember that. I just remember him using his wand. Then again, Graves also uses his wand. And I have some questions. - Why can he magic without a wand, and why does no one seem impressed by that ability?- Why does he use a wand sometimes even though he doesn't need one?- Is it because he's dueling, and he can only deflect magic with a wand? - Someone just shouted "Take away his wand." Why? Would that impact him in any meaningful way? I have come to believe (in large part thanks to Film Crit Hulk) that if you only question something after the fact, then it doesn't ultimately matter. Many great films fall apart under close inspection, but in the moment, you're too caught up to notice or care. And so the movie is successful. On the other hand, if you think about the problems, that mean the film has failed to either keep my interest enough for me to not think about it, hide it well enough behind some sort of pseudo-logic that can keep me going for two hours, or both. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a little bit of both. I was constantly asking questions throughout the film (in my head, I'm not a monster), and precisely none of them were answered. I'm not going to list them all here for you, but many of them boil down to, "Wait, so how does that work?" Nowhere is this more problematic than with the film's actual conflict: An Obscurious (sp?) is wreaking havoc on the city. Who is it? How can they stop it? New Scamander might know the latter but no one knows the former. It's probably related to the creepy anti-witch cult that the film keeps cutting back to, because that's the only reason we would be spending so much time with them. Anyways, once things are revealed and we see the Obscurious at work, the whole thing kind of falls apart. Someone might be able to explain this using overly technical language that will confuse me into thinking maybe it made sense, and others will say that it doesn't matter, this is for children, and I should stop being such a spoilsport... but really, I have so many questions relating to literally everything about it, and none of the answers I come up with are satisfying. The Harry Potter books have issues, but they're satisfying. They scratch an itch and do what you want them to do. Much of the time, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them does too. Jacob Kowalski, for example, is a great character, and pretty much every scene with him in it was at least good if not great. I dunno why I liked him so much, but he's probably my favorite character in any Harry Potter story. Maybe it's because he's a Nomag and I liked seeing how a non-magical person really reacts to all of the craziness? I dunno. He's great. The actors in general are quite good. No more weird, wooden performances from children who were chosen before anyone knew if they could actually act. The dialogue, written by J.K. Rowling herself, is also fine. Many of my friends who did read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child complained that the dialogue was clearly not written by Rowling, so I expect they will enjoy this more. The pacing is off, and the movie is about 20 minutes too long, but those 20 minutes of meh are scattered throughout and not in one big, boring chunk. And though some moments may drag, some genuinely excite. There are a couple of thrilling action sequences (even if they're a bit contrived), and there are some genuinely inventive things, like some of the weirder Fantastic Beasts. I liked seeing the expansion of Harry Potter. I'm glad that this isn't another Harry Potter story. I like the idea of a series of spin-offs for the same reason I'm excited about all of the Star Wars Stories that aren't numbered episodes. And for all of my issues with this first installment, there are definitely things to like, and the good outweighs the bad. If you can see past the massive gaps in logic and just say "The wizard did it" and be content with that, you may very well love Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. If you thought Harry Potter was dumb, this sure as hell won't change your mind. But if you're a fan (even a lapsed one), you should most certainly check it out.
Fantastic Beasts Review photo
I have some questions
On my right wrist is a scar given to me by the seventh Harry Potter book. I was abroad at the time, at a language school. The book had just launched, and my Turkish roomate (not my French or Croatian ones) got a copy. I asked...

Review: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Nov 14 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]221033:43193:0[/embed] Billy Lynn's Long Halftime WalkDirector: Ang LeeRating: RRelease Date: November 11, 2017 You may recall complaints about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey being shown in HFR 3D. Audiences said it looked strange and artificial, which is why neither of the two sequels had HFR screenings. That was just at 48 frames per second. With Billy Lynn, more frames per second doesn't translate into greater verisimilitude. Instead the high frame rate tends to make the movie look amateurish and fake. This is experimental technology, and only two theaters in the United States are equipped with the projectors to properly show the HFR version of Billy Lynn. The full experience is underwhelming on the whole with a few exceptions. What does HFR look like? Picture an HD cooking show shot with a consumer-grade digital video camera. Or maybe a local news broadcast viewed on an LCD viewfinder. Movements tend to look overly smooth. In some shots, the figures in the foreground look like they were inserted via green screen. In an early graveyard scene, it felt as if Lee was laying Colorform decals of his actors onto a flat background. 3D never looked so artificial. Other scenes felt like HD versions of cut scenes from 90s video games. I was reminded how expensive things can often be so tacky. It doesn't help that the cinematography lacks life. The film is built out of mechanical, workmanlike medium shots, flat close-ups, and pristine tracking shots. Lee continually returns to the POV of Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn), like a riff on the symmetrical POV dialogue scenes in an Ozu film. There's a problem. Since Billy's eyeline is not trained at the viewer like the people he's speaking to, the Ozu effect is lost from inconsistency. It's one of many curious choices with the overall way the film was shot. The movie doesn't look clinical but synthetic. In terms of camera placement and movement, the movie almost feels as if it was shot by a first-time cinematographer. In fact, the film was lensed by John Toll, whose credits include The Thin Red Line, Almost Famous, and Cloud Atlas. High frame rates may make amateurs of pros. Occasionally the HFR works well. When Bravo Company takes the field before the game starts and throws some footballs around, the vast length of the field is captured thanks to depth of the tableau. But it's also a tech-demo shot ("Let me show you what this baby can really do!"). The battle scene and halftime show--the sole justification for the technology--are pretty spectacular as well, though more the Iraq scenes than the halftime show. At the Dallas Cowboys game, the troops are meant to share the stage with Destiny's Child. Destiny's Child body doubles, to be more precise. Just when the halftime show seemed like something real, the blatant fake-Beyonce took me right out of the scene. So much of Billy Lynn is about small character moments rather than big spectacle, which makes the decision for HFR filmmaking somewhat baffling. Billy flirts with a cheerleader (Makenzie Leigh) after a press conference. It's a medium shot with a dark curtain as the background. The distracting look of the frame rate and the lack of 3D depth in the shot called attention to the artifice of the scene and the superfluous use of this technology to tell this story. It would be a bad shot and a poorly blocked scene in 2D, but in glorious 4K 3D the banality of the shot is much more apparent. I've spent all of this time complaining about the look of the film that I haven't even gotten to the scenes that work. That ought to say something. Lee's got a good lead in Alwyn, who carries the imperfect movie on his back. He has the all-American look coupled with vulnerable eyes. He's a kid always at the verge of breaking, trying to tamp down the unspeakable hurts. Vin Diesel is the late philosopher warrior of Bravo Company, essentially playing Vin Diesel. Kristen Stewart makes a solid impression in her brief supporting role as Billy's anti-war sister Kathryn. A tense Lynn family dinner scene feels more real than the stadium stuff. Garrett Hedlund makes the most of his screen time as the driven head of Bravo Company, a strong center that orients the group. All of the boys in Bravo have an easy camaraderie, though some of it's built on the same old war movie cliches. This may be just a roundabout way of saying the real immersive material in a movie has nothing to do with 3D or frame rates or spectacle and everything to do with the emotional content. I think about an alternate universe in which Billy Lynn was shot in the same way as The Ice Storm or Brokeback Mountain (and with no fake-Beyonce). I wonder how much more moved I would have been. I wonder what kind of movie this would be. As it is, there's a good movie in Billy Lynn that's constantly struggling to break out and breathe. Witness in 120 frames per second and 4K 3D the folly of mismatched form and content. It's ironic yet fitting that Billy Lynn's technology gets in the way of what works in the film. This is a movie about people using troops as a means to an end--they're good for ratings, they're good as a recruitment tool, they put butts in seats, they're fantasy figures, they can angle for a movie deal (a cloying, winky, meta element to the film that's too on the nose). It's also a movie about disregarding our troops as people. Lee had good intentions, but is feels like the tragedy of these heroes is just an excuse to play with some new cinematic toys.
Review: Billy Lynn's photo
High frame rate, low level execution
I can say this about Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk: Ang Lee and his cast have their hearts in the right place. Adapted from Ben Fountain's novel of the same name, the film is constantly trying to remind its viewers about th...

Hayao Miyazaki is back photo
Some good news in 2016 for once
Hayao Miyazaki announced his retirement from filmmaking back in 2013 with the release of The Wind Rises. That directing bug is strong, however, and he couldn't completely step away from animation. Back in July 2015, Miyazaki ...

Ghost in the Shell photo
Major-ly cool
Ghost in the Shell is shaping up to be an interesting project. An adaptation of Mamamune Shirow's manga, Ghost in the Shell stars Scarlett Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg policewoman who must help stop the latest...

Review: Pokemon: The First Movie

Nov 03 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221011:43182:0[/embed] Pokemon: The First MovieDirectors: Kunihiko Yuyama and Michael HaigneyRating: GRelease Date: November 6, 1999 (USA); November 1, 2016 (special event re-release) When a group of scientists sucessfully clone an ancient pokemon known as Mew, the resulting super pokemon breaks loose and wreaks havoc. The super clone, Mewtwo (Philip Bartlett), now in search of a purpose, invites the strongest pokemon trainers to a mysterious island to battle him. Ash Ketchum (Veronica Taylor), together with his friends Misty (Rachael Lillis), Brock (Eric Stuart), and Pikachu, meet Mewtwo's challenge and soon figure out there's more to this pokemon than they realized.  First things first, The First Movie is incredibly brisk. Choosing not to overstay its welcome (if you don't include the Pikachu's Island Adventure short), it instead tightly focuses on developing its central antagonist. Mewtwo themself is well defined with a clear existential crisis (as they try to clear the clouds of their mind, not so subtly represented by the storm they whip up with their powers), and it's a greater deal of characterization than anyone else gets in the film. It's such a well put together back story, in fact, it's surprising The First Movie is able to explore as much thematic territory as it does. It ends up questioning the philosophy behind the Pokémon series in full as it briefly challenges the "fighting vs. battling" argument within the Poké world. The film doesn't get as deep as I would've hoped, as the argument gives way to a hokey climax, but this amount of self-awareness is impressive for a children's film.  The laser focus on Mewtwo may help the film's pace within its short run time (as it rarely goes on tangents), but it's hard to care about anyone else involved with the plot since they fail to get the same attention. Since the film assumes the audience has working knowledge of the Pokémon TV series, and it's a fair assumption given the branding, Ash and his friends (along with Team Rocket, introduced into the plot in a Rosencrantz/Gildenstern, outsider looking in fashion) don't really have a reason to be involved. Their usual schtick of wandering into a plot in motion may work for a TV series needing a fresh story every week, but it falls flat here. Along with introducing seemingly important ancillary characters (like the kidnapped Nurse Joy or the random lady who knows storms or something) only to serve no purpose, The First Movie fails to turn Ash into a compelling protagonist.  With no real personality of his own, Ash instead becomes a moral mouthpiece. His base love for his pokemon is exaggerated into a love for everything and grand declarations of peace. It's a far cry from an Ash who, just minutes before, was willing to pit his pokemon against Mewtwo. The First Movie betrays its emotional themes with its own world, really. It's greater desire to stop senseless violence goes against everything Pokémon is known for. So it's okay to use your pokemon to fight when they use their abilities? Since there's never a clear difference between how Mewtwo forces a fight and how trainers could force a fight, the overall moral is clouded. Rather than focus on, say, the friendship between trainers and their pokes (thus enhancing its narrative overall), the film goes with a generic message. It almost feels like a cop out.  But in the end, Pokémon: The First Movie makes up for its shortcomings with pure entertainment value. Once you get passed the cheesy dialogue (complete with puns and jokes that didn't age well in the slightest) and the murky themes (which I give the film credit for attempting), there are plenty of rewards in store. A well written antagonist, slick animation, and a score that includes the ironically lovable "Brother Against Brother" song.  No matter what score I put here, it literally doesn't matter. You love it, you hate it, you already had an opinion 18 years in the making. But it was great to confirm that I liked a good thing back then, instead of figuring out yet another product from my childhood was hot garbage. My critic brain may settle on "Good," but my nostalgic one adds about 30 points. 
Pokemon The First Movie photo
"...and we succeeded"
One weekend, too many years ago, I spent a night over at my aunt's place. She didn't have cable, but she had a VCR. Which meant I could watch any movie I brought with me when I was bored of doing dumb kid stuff. Not thinking ...

The official trailer for Wonder Woman is full of heroism and graceful badassery

Nov 03 // Hubert Vigilla
Whoa... a DC Comics movie about a hero who enjoys doing heroic things? And the Cubs won the World Series last night? Guys, it really is the end of the world. Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) looks like he may be the hapless, comic-relief non-hero of the film. That's good because Steve Trevor is the worst. Having him play the deflated macho foil to a proactive and heroic Wonder Woman seems like a solid bit of suffragette girl power. Let's just hope there's no perfunctory romance. It also makes me wonder about the comedy of manners and skewering of gender roles. It's been hinted at in both the SDCC trailer and this one, which could lead to some subversive screwball moments that hopefully dig deeper than petticoats and career paths. While Patty Jenkins' action and direction looks crisp, I'm still not 100% sold on Gal Gadot's performance. She has the look and can carry herself well, but Gadot's line delivery is flat and bordering on Schwarzeneggerian. It might be better in context rather than in these trailer-sized snippets. Part of me at a goofy meta level does like the idea that Wonder Woman is the resident Arnold of the DC Universe. And yet given the grace and diplomacy at the heart of Wonder Woman as a character, I worry that aspect of Diana Prince might be missing on screen. Also not sure of Junkie XL's metal'd out pseudo-"Immigrant Song" cover as an official Wonder Woman theme. Maybe it could be arranged for and recorded by an orchestra so it doesn't seem so out of place. Wonder Woman will be out June 2, 2017. What do you think of the trailer? Let us know in the comments. Below is a bright, bold motion poster for the film. [via /Film] [embed]221013:43186:0[/embed]
Wonder Woman trailer photo
Still not sure about Gadot's performance
The San Diego Comic Con trailer for Wonder Woman was wonderful, and the best ray of hope for the bleak DC Cinematic Universe. It offered some glimpses of Wonder Woman's home of Themyscira and the culture of the Amazons while also showcasing Wonder Woman's prowess as a warrior. Today the first official trailer for Wonder Woman dropped, and you can give it a watch below.

T2 Trainspotting photo
Choose the same
Any movie from Danny Boyle is a cause for celebration, but a sequel to the cult hit and the movie that put Boyle on the map, Trainspotting, is cause for a bit extra. The first trailer has finally landed and its basically...

Logan trailer photo
I will make you hurt *snikt*
For Hugh Jackman's final film as Wolverine, they're going old man Logan on us. And here we have our first trailer for Logan, which is full of equal parts badassery and pathos. Wolverine meets The Road and The Last of Us? Oh h...

Watch the sneak peek teaser for Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2

Oct 19 // Hubert Vigilla
Oh, you kids with your space movies and things. How lovely. No lie, Guardians is my second favorite MCU movie since it has a bit more personality than the other films, and because James Gunn made Tromeo and Juliet, the secret-best Troma movie. Gunn is such a nice guy he even shared a poster for the film. Give it a look below. We'll keep you posted on the full trailer for Guardians 2 when it arrives. For now, come and get your tease of love. [via James Gunn on Facebook]
Guardians 2 teaser photo
We are all Kevin Bacon again
We're all anxiously awaiting Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2. James Gunn promises a full trailer is on the way for his misfit science fiction adventure, but for now, he's taken to Facebook to share a special sneak peek of the film. Give it a watch below, amigo.

Review: The Accountant

Oct 14 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]220965:43147:0[/embed] The AccountantDirector: Gavin O'ConnorRelease Date: October 14th, 2016Rating: R  The Accountant feels like a television pilot, an origin story with a little bit of Case of the Week madness thrown in. Ben Affleck plays the eponymous accountant, constantly creating new identities based on famous people who were interested in math (at the start of this story: Christian Wolff) and then discarding them whenever his situation becomes compromised. And why would it do that? Because he works for some of the most dangerous people in the world: terrorists, thieves, cartels, you know name it and he does their books. Key to his success is his autism, which causes a number of problems but also unlocks an incredible ability to solve puzzles and make connections. He can do the work of a half-dozen neurotypicals in half the time. And he always finishes what he starts. I can only think of one other action movie with an autistic star, which would be Thai film Chocolate, by Prachya Pinkaew. In that film, an autistic girl watches martial arts movies and becomes a master. I bring it up solely because I think you should see it, because The Accountant isn't really like it at all, though Mr. Wolff is a more-than-capable fighter. He was trained by his father, a military man, and the men that his father hired to make sure he could take care of himself. The flashbacks to his younger self, often at his worst, in the midst of meltdowns or other crises, demonstrate the difficulty of having a child with autism while also showing a fascinating sort of respect for what it can do. I'll admit that my experience with autism is fairly limited, but what I saw felt pretty right. On the whole, the film is trying to make a pretty clear point: Autism is not a disorder or an illness; it's just a different way of being. It's not worse or better, just its own thing. And credit where credit is due: That's awesome. How many times have we seen an autistic protagonist who can genuinely take care of themselves in a major motion picture? Have we ever seen that? I'm honestly curious, so someone please tell me if that's a thing. Certainly it wouldn't be something like The Accountant. No, The Accountant is different. I mentioned in the intro that this is a film with a genuinely strange structure, and what I mean by that is that the story itself comes out in bursts that feel sort of haphazardly placed. After big action sequences we'll end up with long stretches of exposition that totally kill whatever intense pacing the film may have been building up. There is a lengthy subplot involving a pair from the Treasury trying to track him down, and as that story develops, we learn a lot about J.K. Simmons' character. None of that really felt necessary, and it kind of bogs down the movie in its second half, but it also felt a little bit like, "Why not?" The characters in general feel like they're being introduced for something grander, and we'll learn more about them in future episodes. J.K. Simmons is set to retire, so this is probably the last we'll be seeing of him. It was his time in the spotlight. Next week, we'll learn more about someone else. And while we're getting a lot of character exposition about Affleck and Simmons, we're getting pretty much nothing about the actual story itself. So, blah blah blah someone is cooking books. Affleck finds out about it. People need to die. Etc. We learn about the motivations of the bad guy, but his actual place in the film is so minor (and ultimately inconsequential) that the film may as well have no story at all. You might think that one of Wolff's obviously dangerous clients is after him, but that isn't it at all. As far as the film is concerned, he has successfully stayed off the grid. No one knows where to find him, so he only has to worry about the people right in front of him.  Which means that we're probably in for a franchise, assuming The Accountant does well at the box office. It doesn't end on a cliffhanger or anything, and it doesn't need a sequel, but the character and his work is structured in such a way that it would be exceedingly easy to make one. You'd think that Affleck's got his hands full with the whole Batman thing, but I imagine the dramatic work involved in The Accountant is a bit more satisfying. It's possible that the action is too, because the movie actually has some pretty great fight scenes, ones that don't need a whole bunch of purdy CGI to be cool. (Think Batman v. Superman's warehouse fight, which is easily the best part of that movie (except it's okay when Batman kills people in this one).) And so I hope this does become a franchise, and I hope we get to see more of Anna Kendrick in fights, because in the one fight where she has a minor role, she's a total badass about it. I heard a guy complaining after the film that she didn't seem Damsel-in-Distress-y enough. And thank gosh; she's way more interesting that. And I have to give the film credit for that, too. It treats pretty much all of its characters with a certain amount of dignity; they are (well, most of them) more complex than I had expected, and that made some of those slow, exposition-heavy moments a lot more bearable than they could have been. There are many things about The Accountant that I genuinely loved and nothing that I really disliked. Sure, some of its issues, particularly around structure and pacing, are irritating. They keep The Accountant from being truly brilliant. But they don't keep it from greatness. Bring on The Accountant Chapter 2. 
The Accountant Review photo
Ben Affleck's John Wick
I remember seeing the first trailer for The Accountant a few months back and thinking, "That's a hilarious premise that looks like it could be terrible, but I bet it's going to be awesome." It seemed like the kind of bizarre ...


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