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Don't bother with MTV's Scream TV Series

Aug 04 // Nick Valdez
We're at the halfway point in the series (episode six is premiering later this evening), and I feel like I'm hate watching just to see how much worse things could get. This completely goes against the showrunners' initial philosophy of getting the viewers at home to care about the characters as much as possible before offing them one by one. It's also a terrible way to watch slasher films. When you start rooting for the killer themselves, the film isn't taken very seriously. Take mid-franchise Nightmare on Elm Street, for example. When those films started making themselves all about Freddy's antics (and only served to develop his personality rather than any of his victims), the goofy tone made it a horror franchise in name only. While there's definitely an audience for that kind of property, it's definitely not what MTV's Scream wants.  But I don't know where it all went wrong. Things started off sort of promising in the pilot episode (written by film series writer Kevin Williamson), but that episode was full of so many problems. Pointed dialogue, archetypes, and its intro, while well done, only mirrored the series' openings thus far. It seemed adapting the films was a fool's errand as Scream 4 completely destroyed its own existence already. The fourth film already did what you'd expect a modern Scream to do: used new technologies in an interesting way, break down existing archetypes, and establish a new status quo (which was, hilariously, the old one). So when the TV series seemed to be taking a step back, it already lost. It would've been fine had any of its new choices felt compelling.  What are those new choices? Existing in a universe completely separated from the films (its yet to be confirmed if the "Stab" movies exist, so I'll assume this is just a new timeline or something), it's set in a town named Lakewood where a killer named Brandon James once terrorized kids in a high school. The new Ghostface's mask is based on that guy's face, too. So the main mystery of the series is figuring out how much this new set of deaths has to do with the old one. But, five episodes in, I don't care about any of it. Everyone in this show is terrible. Terrible characters make for good TV all the time, but that's when there's adequate drama to be mined from their poor decisions. Here it just seems like there's some deficiency in each character's core that causes a disconnect with the audience. It doesn't help that there's a noticeable drop in quality in each episode where someone doesn't die.  For as many missteps Scream has had, there's definitely some hope. With only a few episodes to go before season end, there's plenty of potential for the show to hit that "so bad, it's good" sweet spot. Episode three "Wanna Play a Game?" was great in that regard. It was so bad, all of the terrible decisions actually coalesced into a great sequence. Spoiler, I guess if you still want to watch this show despite me asking you not to, one girl dies while facetiming and her last words are "I can see the stars." It's magical, and the series has yet to bring that same kind of ingenuity to the table again. I'm hoping that it'll happen once more, but that's a thin hope. It's like hoping the garbage doesn't smell so bad after you've been forced to take in it so many times.  [embed]219713:42526:0[/embed] It might be gauche to judge a TV series based on a few episodes (judge the first one posted above for yourself), but I really tried to stick it out. After MTV announced it's getting a second season, I really don't see this working out. Unless it means we'll be getting a brand new cast and story each season, with some returning characters a la the Scream sequels, I can't see this show continuing. There's a semblance of an endgame in sight, but it's going to be quite a struggle to get there.  So why even struggle? Don't bother with this at all. 
MTV's Scream photo
Do you like scary TV shows? I'm sorry.
Back when MTV first announced they were developing a pilot based on the Scream films, I thought it was a great idea. I have a huge fondness for the films themselves, and barring Scream 3, no other series did more for the slas...

Review: Dragonball Z: Resurrection 'F'

Aug 04 // Nick Valdez
[embed]219696:42515:0[/embed] Dragonball Z: Resurrection 'F'Director: Tadayoshi YamamuroRated: NRRelease Date: August 4-12, 2015 Sometime after the events of the last film Dragonball Z: Battle of Gods, and a few years after the end of Dragonball Z, the remaining commanders in Frieza's army use the titular dragonballs (seven mystical items that grant anyone who collects them two wishes) to bring the long dead villain, Frieza (Chris Ayres), back to life. Seeking revenge against Goku (Sean Schemmel) for his loss, Frieza trains for a few months for their ultimate showdown. Now that Goku, Vegeta (Christopher Sabat), and Frieza have reached a new level of power, it's time for them to settle years of regret and anger. That's quite a bit of story for an hour of punches, right? That's exactly why the film deserves your attention.  I should state this right off the bat: There isn't a lot to attach to if you're not a regular fan of the series. It's made with a certain demographic in mind, and because of that, there's quite a hurdle to overcome. Not narratively, as what little story therein is easy to follow for both newcomers and old fans of the series drawn for a nostalgic romp, but grasping what exactly Dragonball Z is and why the film's conflict is so special. In terms of introductions, however, there isn't a better encapsulation of the series' tone and characters. So to make this review easier, the rest of this will be written with the intended audience and fans in mind.  There have been numerous Dragonball films over the years, but they've all been non-sequitur works which never tied into the series proper. Resurrection benefits from both past and future influences, and it gives the punches thrown in the film (which you can always argue as superfluous) added weight. The film's enemy, Frieza, isn't some random alien or purple cat god, it's a villain with an entire "saga" worth of backstory and thankfully the character work done here can pull from it. In fact, the villain's even a bit sympathetic as you realize he's just a privileged kid who lost for the first time. The film wonderfully highlights this as Frieza becomes more and more visibly frustrated as the film rolls on (which is why he's one of the better villains of the series). Goku and Vegeta also get some great character work in as Resurrection takes their arcs to the next logical step. Now that they've grown to such a power level they're essentially gods, Goku is now an awesomely condescending fighter brimming with confidence. And although the finale takes away a huge moment for Vegeta (that could've settled a series long character arc, but runs from it) Vegeta and Goku have some great bits with one another. There're also some nice scenes for the rest of the "Z Fighter" gang who're usually pushed to the sidelines. After some explanation (which actually makes sense story wise), every one is on an equal playing field. And without dragging in some of the weaker cast, each fighter gets a chance to shine. It's going to be a major pleasure for fans to see these guys back in action, for sure.  On the technical end, the film is absolutely gorgeous. Fully representative of the series, the fights take characters through various landscapes instead of the standard cliffs you'd usually see, movement is slick, and as one of the last proponents for traditional hand drawn animation it's great to see it succeed fully. Other than some odd looking CG that really take you out of the moment, the main fight between Goku and Frieza is a Dragonball fan's dream. I wish the fight between the two would've looked this way all those years ago.  While it's definitely not for everyone, Dragonball Z: Resurrection 'F' hits all the high points with the folks it's meant for. Capturing both the spirit of the original series and hope for the future, this is a full blown revival. Dragonball used to dominate action cartoons, and it's come back to take the crown once more.  Neither gods, hundred strong armies, or golden alien super monsters can stop this juggernaut. 
Dragonball Z Review photo
A legend reborn
Dragonball Z holds a special place in my heart. It was my first experience with more adult oriented action shows, and it changed my childhood for the better. All these years later, here's a brand new movie featuring one of th...

Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp Is a Great Fans-Only Follow-Up to a Cult Classic

Aug 03 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219718:42521:0[/embed] The Netflix series takes place in one day at Camp Firewood, the first day (duh) at Camp Firewood, the only day that matters (other than the last day). Teen movie tropes about virginity, pecking orders, and bullying ensue, but it's also clear we're in a different place on the first day of camp than we were by the last day of camp. Coop (Michael Showalter) is timidly dating Donna (Lake Bell) rather than being a timid sadsack, Katie (Marguerite Moreau) is seeing a snooty Camp Tiger Claw guy named Blake (John Charles) rather than cocksure bad boy Andy (Paul Rudd), and, somehow, Ben (Bradley Cooper) and Susie (Amy Poehler) are an item, though a frustratingly sexless item. Also, Christopher Meloni's cook character has hair and isn't batshit crazy. None of the above is inherently funny, but that's what makes it funny. So much of the humor in the Netflix show is contingent on knowing on the first day of camp what happens on the final day of camp. It makes me think that a prequel to Wet Hot American Summer is infinitely funnier than a sequel would have been, at least at a conceptual level. That's the absurd way that movie-time/series-time works--with prequels in particular, real-world chronology matters more than in-story chronology. In prequels, set-up is really punchline. To put it another way, what kind of mook watches the Star Wars prequels before they watch the original Star Wars trilogy? Who pops in Temple of Doom before they watch Raiders of the Lost Ark? I'll tell you who: someone doing everything wrong in life. Since the Wet Hot prequel takes place 15-real-word years after the original film, there are a lot of unspoken gags built around the age of the cast. In Wet Hot, actors in their twenties played teenagers, which is common practice for lots of teen movies and coming-of-age films. In First Day of Camp, the teenage counselors are all roughly 40 years old, give or take, which is uncommon practice anywhere. The cast shows their age--though some have aged better than others (Rudd and Elizabeth Banks must have paintings rotting in rooms somewhere)--and the wigs/hairstyles look even more fake. It all adds to the show's enjoyably off-kilter quality. Showalter looks especially schlubby as Coop. Compare Coop in First Day of Camp to Coop in Wet Hot American Summer and it's a pretty startling before-and-after (or after-and-before). I don't mean that in a mean-spirited way since it's part of the humor and all the performers are in on it. It's actually a smart visual gag that's used effectively as part of the storytelling. Seeing Showalter next to Lake Bell makes the doomed awkwardness of Coop and Donna's relationship more apparent. In those 15 real-world years that separate the First Day of Camp from the last day of camp, some of the Wet Hot American Summer cast have become much more famous. For Banks and Poehler, that means more focus on their characters and what makes them each tick. The backstory they've concocted for Banks' character Lindsay is especially inspired. It's a nod to Just One of the Guys and a wink to Cameron Crowe's real-life adventures as a fake-teen that led to Fast Times at Ridgemont High. With Cooper, by comparison, writers Wain and Showalter have come up with a clever in-story way to accommodate the Academy Award-nominated actor's busy real-world schedule. (Cooper had to shoot all of his scenes in just one day.) The expanded cult following behind Wet Hot American Summer means loads of guest appearances throughout First Day of Camp, including Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Jordan Peele, Michael Cera, Jason Schwartzman, and H. Jon Benjamin. There's another major cameo I won't ruin, though it seems like this particular actor, like Cooper, probably shot all of his scenes in one day. In addition to guest stars, the growing Wet Hot cult translated into a bigger budget (probably to pay all the guest stars). Wet Hot American Summer was shot for $1.8 million, though Wain told people it was $5 million in the hopes it would help secure a better distribution deal. Judging by this 2013 article from Variety, Netflix probably shelled out $1.8 million per episode for First Day of Camp. The scope of the story is larger, and yet there's still a scruffy, raggedy look to the whole thing that fits with the aesthetic of the film. It's as if Wain and Showalter figured out how to make everything look chintzier even though the world of the film has grown. And that's the thing. First Day of Camp is a cult show for a cult movie, and it stays true to its roots: spoofs, the yes-and of improv, the weirdness of 90s sketch shows, the and-then of a feverishly implausible child's story; and it's all fueled by real-life nostalgia for teenage summers as well as nostalgia for certain bits of Gen-X pop culture. Part of me wonders if there'll be a second day of camp. That same part hopes it happens about a decade from now. It would be funnier that way. The Wet Hot American Summer series seems to get better with age.
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♫ "Taking it higher and higher!" ♫
Netflix's Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp is a great follow-up to 2001's cult classic Wet Hot American Summer. Like the original film, First Day of Camp is rife with anarchic absurdity and chock full of movie ...

2oolander photo
Water is the essence of wetness...
We've known about Zoolander 2 for quite some time, but after its cool release date announcement we never got a look at the film until now. This brief teaser is all too brief since it doesn't give us a look at the actual film...

The Cult Club: Wet Hot American Summer (2001) Awkwardly Flirted Into Our Hearts (and Pants)

Jul 31 // Hubert Vigilla
In a lot of ways, Wet Hot American Summer is a cult movie made by the generation that grew up watching cult movies and cult television. Picture this sign on the treehouse: "The Wet Hot American Summer Cult Club--No Boomers Allowed... Unless You've Seen Zapped with Scott Baio... or Sledge Hammer!" The film takes place in one day at Camp Firewood, the final day at Camp Firewood, the only one that matters. And into this day is poured multiple teen movie cliches: telling your crush you're into them, virgins trying to get laid, bad boys being bad to good girlfriends, exuberant montages, demented staff, friends trying to get their virgin friends laid, a talent show, telekinesis, hidden romances, nerdy kids saving the day. So much happens so quickly that logical notions of time and space have no meaning. An hour-long trip seems to cover a weekend of events, a one-minute training montage seems to cover a week of exercise and self-discovery, a single day carries in it a month-long trajectory of emotions. And that's the whole point. Wet Hot American Summer takes place in a film version of time and space since it's a movie about the culminating plots of other movies. Beneath that meta-layer, there's perhaps a wistful tinge of nostalgia as well--as a kid, summer seems to go by so fast, like the entire summer is just a single day. Mostly it's just funny if you think about it, but also if, in a smart and detached way, you really don't think about it too much. Even though the movie is about the culminating stories of other camp movies, Wet Hot American Summer isn't constructed with a single narrative thrust that climaxes and wraps up neatly. The movie stops and starts as title cards note the passage of in-story meta-movie time. A potential Bad News Bears-style showdown in the middle of the film seems like the big set piece we've been waiting for, and yet it's self-consciously avoided. A camper says that the cliche of the big game is trite, and the counselors agree, because ultimately it is trite. Summers, whether a day or an entire season, rarely have that kind of shape with a solid conclusion. Instead, Wet Hot American Summer is more like a feature-length sketch show that just ends when camp ends. The final shot of the film is suitably unceremonious. [embed]219652:42516:0[/embed] I think Wet Hot American Summer is alive today because some Gen-Xers got the joke--were in on the joke--and are now in power at Netflix.  From their streaming thrones, they're able to dole out the filthy original-series lucre as they see fit. (And good for them.) I can't help but stress the whole Gen-X angle, which bleeds into a millennial attachment to the film. It may also explain why film critics of the time (who were predominantly Baby Boomers) just couldn't get into it. The Boomers weren't really in on the joke; some didn't even get the set-up or that the set-up and punchline were sometimes one in the same. Like other cult followings, there's a sense of exclusivity. When Scott Tobias wrote about Wet Hot American Summer for the AV Club back in 2008, he identified the makers of the film as well as many of the cultists: Here's a movie from 2001 that doesn't concern itself with yesterday's box-office hits, but with a sub-sub-genre of comedies from the late '70s to the mid-'80s, starting with Meatballs and its sequel, and including other disreputable standards like the TV movie Poison Ivy (with Michael J. Fox and Nancy McKeon), SpaceCamp, and the non-gory scenes in their slasher cousins like Friday The 13th and Sleepaway Camp. But it doesn't stop there: WHAS is pitched specifically to Reagan-era latchkey kids who grew up watching these movies on television, and have a certain generalized nostalgia about the fashions, hairstyles, graphical elements, and other minutiae that seeped into their wood-paneled family rooms. Tobias, a Gen-Xer like that first-wave of classic AV Club writers, is a Wet Hot acolyte. (Gooble gobble.) The comedy is so videostore and VCR-based, drawing on a shared cultural memory not just of middle-class summer camp experiences but about movies-about-summer-camp and teen-sex-movies and slashers-at-camp-movies and that-one-joke-I-saw-on-late-night-TV; and maybe to a certain degree, the movie is also about people trying to model their real-life summer camp experiences to match the things they saw in films and TV. The time-space weirdness of the movie seems to suggest that it's impossible to make real life work like the movies; further, if real life worked out that way, it would make reality trite. Wain and collaborators Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black, Ken Marino, and Joe Lo Truglio were all members of MTV's sketch show The State, which is one of the cultiest cult shows that ever did cult-show. A lot of the fondness for Wet Hot American Summer comes from an attachment that many had to The State and the projects that the cast embarked on following The State's cancellation. (Maybe a question to consider in all this: at what point does fondness become nostalgia?) The State was at the forefront of that cult sketch comedy canon, along with The Kids in the Hall, Mr. Show, The Dana Carvey Show, and The Ben Stiller Show (of which camp director Janeane Garofalo was an alum; ditto a brief stint on Saturday Night Live). Thinking about it, you really can't have sketch comedy without grounding that in the improv tradition. Think of places like Second City, The Upright Citizens Brigade, and The Groundlings. These were the places where SNL and SCTV found their players. Improv is often built on discrete scenes with a common theme, all of which abide by a "yes and" mentality between performers in order to keep a joke alive and to enhance it. The "yes and" at the heart of improv might be the adult collaborative equivalent of a child using "and then" as a conjunction while telling a story that they're really excited about. [embed]219652:42519:0[/embed] The State's comedy tradition and the film's roots in home video explain the varied nature of Wet Hot American Summer's humor--a series of personal experiences by way of movie cliches joined together by strange "and then's" with lots of "yes and's." It's also why (again, if you're in on the joke) a lot of the comedy hits. The characters at Camp Firewood are rendered broadly from a collection of tropes, as if hewn from a sketch team's writing room or from an improv team's regular house show. Each character is dropped into situations that play to their strengths as comic figures, and it just keeps going--and then, and then, and then until the end. Beyond that, there's the awkward interpersonal comedy, mostly having to do with flirting and attraction. There's slapstick. There's quotable non-sequiturs mostly from Christopher Meloni as the 'Nam-addled camp cook. The visual gags are there too (e.g., why are they wrestling behind the line for corn?), and ditto some audio ones (e.g., Wilhelm scream). Wet Hot takes its lessons not just from improv and sketch, but also from Zucker, Abrahams, Zucker at their best: keep the jokes coming fast, from different angles, and don't just rely on one type of humor. The Wet Hot American Summer series on Netflix is a prequel rather than a sequel. A sequel would have made logical sense since they tease a 10-year reunion in the film, a snippet of which is seen after the credits. And yet it's a prequel show about the first day of camp rather than the last, and most of the cast looks their age (i.e., comfortably into their 40s). Come to think of it, they're following up a 90-minute movie about the final day of camp with eight half-hour episodes about the first day of camp. But that's the joke. Wet Hot American Summer continues its own tradition of operating in a pocket of movie-space and movie-time, and the set-up and punchline are one. Its driving comedy imperative of yes's, and's, and then's hopefully still abides. [embed]219652:42518:0[/embed] Next Month... We're taking a look at one of the odd moments in American film and popular culture: the time in the 1970s when pornography went mainstream. Known alternatively as prono chic and The Golden Age of Porn, Flixist will focus one of the seminal (now, now) films from that era: 1972's Deep Throat. In addition to looking at Deep Throat, we'll consider the rise and fall of The Golden Age of Porn (blame home video), how the clash over porn led to a division among second wave feminists, and how the ugly side of this pornorific era in American culture was depicted in films such as Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights and, more recently, Lovelace starring Amanda Seyfried. Yup. Porn. I'm sure putting that Philosophy degree to work. PREVIOUSLY SHOWING ON THE CULT CLUB Repo Man (1984) Putney Swope (1969) Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) The Last Dragon (1985) Tromeo and Juliet (1996)
Wet Hot American Summer photo
"I'm gonna go fondle my sweaters"
David Wain's Wet Hot American Summer is one of the least likely movies to inspire a follow-up of any kind. The film was savaged by critics upon its release and barely made a dent at the box office; Universal even denied the m...

Review: Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Jul 31 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219530:42420:0[/embed] Mission: Impossible – Rogue NationDirector: Christopher McQuarrieRelease Date:  July 31, 2015Rating: PG-13  The first time you see Tom Cruise in Rogue Nation, he's running. Of course he is. He has to run. It's a contractual thing (probably). He spends a lot of the film running. It makes sense, since he's really on the run this time. In Ghost Protocol, the IMF (which I always get confused with the International Monetary Fund, which says something weird about me) was publicly disavowed but still privately accepted. In Rogue Nation, the CIA is after Ethan Hunt's head. Following the events of Ghost Protocol, with a destroyed Kremlin and the aftermath of a freaking warhead hitting a building (not causing much damage in the process, but none-the-less), everything is blamed on the IMF. No one knows that the Syndicate he's been tracking is a real thing. There's been no evidence that anyone else could see, so... Ethan becomes a wanted man. But you don't catch Ethan Hunt. Unless, of course, you work the Syndicate. Because Rogue Nation gets interesting really early. Every movie, you get to enjoy the hoops that Hunt has to go through in order to hear his mission. It's fun and always a little bit silly. But things are different this time. After picking up the proper vinyl record, he goes to listen. It sounds normal at first, confirming his suspicions about the Syndicate's existence, but then you realize that the use of subjects is... odd. The phrasing doesn't quite sound like something the IMF would have in a transmission. And, of course, it's not an IMF transmission. It's the Syndicate's. Hunt turns around to see the man at the top of the organization put a bullet into the head of the young record store owner who was so excited to actually see Ethan Hunt in person as sleeping gas fills his room. A little much, perhaps, but interesting. Subversion, right? I like subversion. Parts of Rogue Nation are surprisingly subversive. Many of them are not, but with a film of this magnitude, you kinda have to take what you can get.  I saw the film in IMAX. Ghost Protocol remains the only film I've ever seen in LIEMAX, as they call it, and while seeing it big was a treat, there's nothing in the film that quite has the majesty of that tower scaling scene from the previous film. There are some fantastic sights and sounds, and it's definitely a film that takes advantage of a theater, but you'd get pretty much the same experience on a traditional screen that I got on one the size of a building. One of the few things I genuinely like about big budget films is their ability to literally span the globe. In that respect, Rogue Nation doesn't disappoint. Its intrigue takes you through numerous countries across at least three continents. You'll see familiar landmarks and some totally new terrain. It's awesome, really. (As an aside: If you're a big budget movie that doesn't use multiple countries for locations, what are you doing with your life?) And the things that happen in those countries are pretty cool too. There are crazy foot chases, motorcycle chases, car chases, fist fights, knife fights, gunfights etc. It's all very exciting, and it takes place in some excellent locations (the catwalk battle at the Viennese opera house is a personal favorite, though I did spend the entire time internally shouting, "JUST THROW HIM OFF! OH MY GOD!"). That parenthetical does bring me to something that won't come as a surprise but will still affect whether or not you can really get into the film: Rogue Nation insults your intelligence, just a little bit. It explains and overexplains everything, just in case you missed it the first time. Characters will describe what things are, not because they need to know them but because they think the audience does. (Sometimes, they're right, but heavy-handed exposition isn't really the most enjoyable way to get crucial information.)  That said, it's not quite as dumb as it could have been. You could pick it apart until there was nothing left (I expect the fine folks at Cinema Sins will do just that before too long), but... why? What's to be gained from wondering how and why characters do the things they do? They're complicated – too complicated, probably – but that's not always a bad thing. In fact, it allows for some interesting development from Ilsa, the sole female character of substance. Ilsa's a badass, too. Like, an actual one, who can kill people and don't need no man. (Most of the time.) And really, her final interaction with Ethan Hunt was invigorating, not because of what it was but what it wasn't. It's not what you expect these moments to be like, but it's what you hope they will. For all of my complaints, I just sat back and let it wash over me. And I enjoyed the heck out of it. Good on you, Rogue Nation. Good on you.
Mission Impossible Review photo
Exactly what you want it to be
When Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol ended, I couldn't fathom how a sequel could top it. It went so far over the top that I truly believed it was un-toppable. (Turns out, I actually wrote something to tha...

5 Other Cinematic Robots That Should Be In WWE 2K16

Jul 29 // Hubert Vigilla
RoboCop [embed]219700:42512:0[/embed] RoboCop vs. The Terminator. That's the WrestleMania main event that everyone's been waiting to see. Plus, RoboCop has some experience with wrestling. In the video clip above, watch as RoboCop makes World Championship Wrestling history and kills kayfabe more than any of Kevin Sullivan's hokey booking ideas. Signature Spot: I'll Buy That for a Dollar (Lariat Clothesline) Finishing Move: Murphy's Law (Top Rope Frog Splash that causes the ring to collapse)   Johnny Five (Short Circuit) After speed-reading Mick Foley's Have a Nice Day, Daniel Bryan's Yes!, and Bret Hart's Hitman, Johnny Five is convinced he has what it takes to win the WWE Heavyweight Championship. On his road to WrestleMania, he's managed by Fred Ritter from Short Circuit 2, who's trying to make a quick buck with merchandise--you know the name, now own the texting gloves. Signature Spot: Input/Output (Running Splash into the corner followed by a Running Bulldog) Finishing Move: Disassemble = Dead (shoots opponent with laser)   IG-88 (The Empire Strikes Back) IG-88 was really hoping to collect the bounty on Han Solo to pay off his student loan. ("Stupid Boba Fett!" "Friggin' Columbia MFA!"). Instead, he's decided his best route to a debt-free life is main eventing WrestleMania and winning the WWE Heavyweight Championship. Signature Spot: The Droid Revolution (Pele Kick) Finishing Move: IG 3:16 + Resistance Is Futile (Alabama Slam chained into a Sharpshooter)   Paulie's Robot Girlfriend (Rocky IV) After years in storage, Paule's Robot Girlfriend is back and better than ever, and she's looking to become the new WWE Divas Champion. Her entire life has been a training montage, and she's ready for the main event. Also, Paulie is her manager. Signature Spot: Fisto (basically a Superman Punch) Finishing Move: Happy Birthday, Paulie (Top Rope Moonsault while holding a birthday cake)   Mechagodzilla After Mechagodzilla destroyed all monsters, he has one more beast in his sights: Brock Lesnar. He's been miniaturized for the squared circle and intends to turn Suplex City into a smoldering mound of rubble. Signature Spot: Hyper Kiryu (Roundhouse Tail Strike followed by Enziguri when opponent is on the ring apron); German Suplex Finishing Move: The Shining Lizard (basically a Shining Wizard)   Bonus Tag Teams - Evil Bill & Ted and The Good Robot Us's (Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey) As Wyld Stallyns brings world peace through some most excellent music, their robot doubles decide to make their mark on history through most excellent in-ring action. Signature Spot: The Wyld Ryde (Double Powerbomb to the outside through a time-traveling phone booth and the circuits of time) Finishing Move: The Bogus Journey (Flapjack into Cutter tandem combination, basically the Dudley Boyz's 3D)
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Arnold Could Use a Robot Friend (or Foe)
Yesterday we had a list of five other Arnold Schwarzenegger characters who should be in WWE 2K16. (I apologize for leaving out Kindergarten Cop's Detective John Kimble.) With all that Arnie in one place, the game would basica...

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It can all be yours!
Do you like vikings? Possibly you enjoy films where people wear furs. Maybe you're just into ransacking and pillaging. Whatever the case may be we've got the movie for you: Northman -- A Viking Saga. In what way do we have it...

5 Other Arnold Schwarzenegger Characters Who Should Be In WWE 2K16

Jul 28 // Hubert Vigilla
Conan the Barbarian Between the time when Vince McMahon subsumed the old territories and the rise of John Cena, there was an age undreamed of. And unto this, Conan, destined to wear the WWE Heavyweight Championship around a troubled waist (or over his troubled shoulder). It is I, his chronicler, who alone can tell thee of his path to WrestleMania. Let me tell you of the days of high adventure! Signature Spot: Hyborian Rage (flurry of punches, with flourishes similar to an unarmed version of the Atlantean Sword Kata) Finishing Move: Riddle of Steel (basically an Alabama Slam)   Howard Langston/Turbo Man (Jingle All the Way) In order to get a Turbo Man doll for his son, Howard Langston must dress up like Turbo Man and win the WWE Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania. (It makes about as much sense as The Terminator being there, really, Also, Sinbad is his manager.) Signature Spots: Deck the Balls (low blow when referee isn't looking) Finishing Move: It's Turbo Time! (basically a Spear)   John Matrix (Commando) I went back and forth between John Matrix from Commando and Dutch from Predator here. While I went with John Matrix, let's just pretend there's a mud-covered skin for the character that you can use to play Dutch. Signature Spot: I'll Kill You Last (flurry of chops in the corner of the ring) [Note: As Dutch, this move is called "The Choppa"] Finishing Move: I Lied (shoots opponent with rocket launcher) [Note: As Dutch, this move is called "Do It Now!"]   Mr. Freeze (Batman and Robin) In order to find a cure for his wife's strange condition, Mr. Freeze must win the WWE Heavyweight Championship. The road to WrestleMania is paved in cold! Signature Spot: Chillax (jumping double axe handle from the second rope) Finishing Move: The Iceman Cometh (basically the Stone Cold Stunner)   Quaid (Total Recall) Quaid's fantasy is to become a pro-wrestler, so he goes into Rekall to live it out. Of course, things go wrong, and somehow he winds up hallucinating that he is a wrestler and winds up in the squared circle. He main events WrestleMania on Mars, but it's all just part of the simulation... or was it? Signature Spot: The Nose Job (submission maneuver that involves shoving his thumb up the opponent's nose) Finishing Move: Two Week Notice (throws an exploding head at opponent, all matches end in disqualification... or do they?)   Bonus Tag Team - The Benedict Twins (Julius and Vincent from Twins) Yes they'd wrestle in matching suits. Best. Tag team. Ever. Signature Spot: Twin Science (switching places without a tag, sort of like The Bella Twins) Finishing Move: Brotherly Love (Julius throws Vincent from top rope, sort of like when Colossus and Wolverine do a Fastball Special in X-Men comics)   [embed]219699:42510:0[/embed]
Arnold Schwarzenegger WWE photo
The Terminator needs company in the ring
As reported on Destructoid yesterday, if you pre-order WWE 2K16, you get to play as the T-800 from The Terminator. The promo video showed Arnold Schwarzenegger recreating the bar scene from Terminator 2: Judgment Day alongsid...

The Cult Club: Repo Man (1984) is a Punk Rock Commentary on the Crappiness of the 80s

Jul 27 // Hubert Vigilla
"We're gonna have a TV party tonight! / We're gonna have a TV party all right! / We've got nothing better to do / Than watch TV and have a couple of brews!" The opening minutes of Repo Man introduce a couple different stories, like you're flipping the channels and every new show is somehow linked to the last. There's the first scene in which a highway cop gets disintegrated by the glowing contents in the trunk of a Chevy Malibu. We then meet Otto (Emilio Estevez), a disaffected LA punk who loses his supermarket job, his girlfriend, and his best friend in the same night. Otto helps a low life named Bud (Harry Dead Stanton) steal a car for $25, which leads to a new gig working as a repo man. We're then back in the desert where the cop got zapped, the area swarming with government agents hot on the trail of the mysterious Malibu. The film continues in a series of vignettes that reveal their interconnectedness. At first it's visual cues, like recurring pine tree air fresheners, smiley face pins, campaign posters, suspicious G-men, foods and beverages with generic labels (e.g., "Popcorn," "Beer," "Yellow Cling Sliced Peaches"). A lattice of coincidence becomes a series of hilarious contingencies played out like comedy sketches. Not everything can be explained by the end of Repo Man, but those frayed edges are part of the appeal and what make the movie so rewatchable. In one of the film's most inspired scenes, the wigged-out repo man Miller (Tracey Walter) talks about cosmic coincidences, and how UFOs might actually be time machines. He mentions the inexplicable significance of the phrase "a plate of shrimp" and how that might correspond with something in your head. That "plate of shrimp" he planted in your brain? It comes back later as a sight gag that most people catch only on the second or third viewing of Repo Man. "I wouldn't be without my TV for a day—or even a minute! / Don't bother to use my brain anymore—there's nothing left in it!" There's an early scene in Repo Man that's grown in significance each time I've watched it. Following Otto's disenchantment, he's sitting on the railroad tracks drinking. He shouts the lyrics to Black Flag's "TV Party" to combat the silence and loneliness. The song's about the vapid passivity of couch potatoes: we'll have a party where our friends get together and watch TV, because all we care about and talk about is TV, and we barely leave the house anymore. The surf rock score kicks in, and the guitars seem chilly, sad, distant, maybe even self-pitying. The next day, Otto's alone again, shuffling around a shitty neighborhood kicking a empty tin can—trash is the city's tumbleweed. This is what the spiritual desolation of consumer culture looks and feels like. But even still, Otto's better off tuning out of TV land. TV at its worst is a kind of tranquilizer. It presents a model of the world that's not necessarily the way it is or even the way it ought to be. The aspirations are often conformist because television (again, at its worst) is a vessel for selling people crummy products and crummy lifestyles, and if viewers buy into the pre-packaged normal way of life, they can be controlled and the status quo can continue uncontested. (John Carpenter would explore similar territory in 1988's They Live!) Otto's pimply friend Kevin (Zander Schloss) can't dream big about life, probably never has. In his introductory scene, he enthusiastically sings a 7-Up jingle to himself. Kevin probably never realized he could dream bigger since success in TV land meant buying into the myth of endless mobility from the very bottom. "There's fuckin' room to move as a fry cook," he says while he and Otto browse the want ads. "I could be manager in two years! King! God!" "Saturday Night Live! Monday Night Football! Dallas! Jeffersons! Gilligan's Island! Flintstones!" It's not just disaffected youth burned by TV and its perpetuation of compliance. When Otto returns home to con his folks out of money, he finds them on the couch watching a televangelist. Otto's folks are still decked out as hippies, and they've tuned out of reality. That hope of the 60s? It's been vaporized after political assassinations, murder, and a failure of counterculture idealism; a decade of severe disillusionment (aka the '70s) didn't help. The most that the bummed-out Boomers can aspire to is sending Bibles to El Salvador via the tube. That's why they've given their extra cash to the TV church, including the money that Otto was honestly going to con them out of. (During this scene Otto eats a can of "Food." It's unclear what kind of food "Food" is. Later, Bud buys two four-packs of "Drink.") This all seems to be part of the California Bummer, which is the reality underlying the California Dream (and really the American Dream). So many people went west in search of fortune during the Gold Rush, fame with the rise of Hollywood, free love with the 60s, good money during the rise of dotcoms. As noted in Penelope Spheeris' LA punk documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, they wound up west and the air sucked. The dream wasn't the real thing—just a crummy show. The real thing was disappointment, limitation, swindles, outsourcing, burst bubbles, drought. We were sold on The Beach Boys singing "Wouldn't It Be Nice," but what we got was The Beach Boys singing "Kokomo." So angry teens rebelled and became punks to be part of a community. The LA punks weren't really on the dole or victims of a major economic collapse. Many were middle-class suburbanites who felt weird and were looking for a way to release their aggression. That anger may be rooted in the California Bummer and the dawning knowledge that it's eternal. Life in Reagan's America was perpetual "Kokomo." No wonder LA punk is so nihilistic. "We've got nothing left to do / Left with no TV, just a couple of brews / What are we gonna talk about? I don't know! / We're gonna miss our favorite shows!" When Otto takes up with the repo men, it's not just because he can make a quick buck and he can do a bunch of speed. There's an excitement to the gig rather than suburban ennui—"The life of a repo man is always intense!" Hell, it's like playing cowboys in the concrete wild west. There's also a scuzzy community among repo men. There's an ethos, a code, as well. Bud talks it up as Otto does some blow. There's an oath, some do's and don'ts for decorum. Of course, the code gets broken eventually. All codes do. That was something pointed out in The Dissolve's forum discussion on Repo Man. Everyone in the movie makes some kind of compromise in the end. They sell-out or they sell their principles short, but they seem fine with that because they realize it's all an act and it's just part of getting through life. As Otto's best friend dies, he wants to blame society for what he's become, and wants to elevate his existence as a symbol for the world that's done wrong. "That's bullshit," Otto says. "You're a white suburban punk just like me." His friend has been sufficiently kneecapped for his silly self-aggrandizement, yet he replies, "Yeah, but it still hurts." The truth often does. But even if it's just a pose, being a shitty punk or a low-life repo man is still better than being normal. (One more time, with feeling: "Ordinary fuckin' people—I hate 'em!") The punks and the repo men know that the TV land version of normal life is bullshit, and that the normal folks buy into it without question. Some of the punks and the repo men know the lives they're living are bullshit as well, but at least they're aware, and they get a little further through the negation or subversion of the compliant normal. That's something that might drive aspirations a little higher; somewhere above the bottom to the lower-middle, a place beyond "Kokomo." Knowing is half the battle, even when you're losing the war. [embed]219456:42429:0[/embed] Next Month... Because we were so late with this Cult Cult, we're doing double duty this week. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day at Camp comes out on Netflix later this week for your binge-watching enjoyment. Cult Club will look at the film that spawned the Netflix prequel, Wet Hot American Summer (2001). We'll also be doing a first here at Flixist, expanding beyond our traditional film coverage. Following our look at Wet Hot American Summer on The Cult Club, tune in next week for a review of Netflix's original series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day at Camp. PREVIOUSLY SHOWING ON THE CULT CLUB Putney Swope (1969) Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) The Last Dragon (1985) Tromeo and Juliet (1996) Samurai Cop (1989)
Cult Club: Repo Man photo
"Ordinary f**king people. I hate 'em."
Alex Cox's Repo Man is one of the key films in the cult canon. Defying traditional cinematic taxonomy, Cox's debut offered a social critique in the guise of a genre-mash: LA noir, LA punk, Cold War paranoia, drive-in sci-fi, ...

Review: Pixels

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

Review: Southpaw

Jul 24 // Matthew Razak
[embed]219692:42504:0[/embed] SouthpawDirector: Antoine FuquaRated: RRelease Date: July 24, 2015 If you've seen any boxing movie you've seen Southpaw. This one picks up in the "boxing movie career timeline" around where Rocky V does, but instead of Rocky we've got Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) as he defends his title once again. However, truly great boxers can't be rich, they have to work from the ground up and so after a tragedy Billy loses all his money, custody of his daughter, and his manager (50 Cent). That means he's got to return to his roots and get a new trainer in the form of Tick Will (Forest Whitaker), who runs a boxing center in Hell's Kitchen for poor youths. You literally can find every single aspect of this film in a film that has come before it. There is not an original concept going for it in terms of story. There's even less going for it in terms of pacing. The screenplay is horrendously light on tension building and this means that by the time the final fight has rolled in you don't feel like you should be there. The conflict between Gyllenhaal and his opponent is so lightly touched on and poorly handled that the guy just becomes a punching bag. Even the sports training montages feel like they're rushed and disconnected. At no point does the movie build successfully in emotion, leaving its talented actors and director with little to grab the viewer with.  They all try, though. The cast is obviously fantastic and without them the film would be utterly boring. We've seen it all before and we've seen it done better so it's a good thing the actors turn redundancy into something slightly original. Gyllenhaal, who must have had a sculptor chisel his abs for the film, seems to think he's in a quality movie. His tortured and enraged performance brings back echoes of Stallone's perfectly countenanced delivery in the original Rocky.  Whitaker also layers in nuances to a character so cookie cutter you wonder how much the spent at William and Sonoma on him. Tick Will's motivations and character are so awkwardly crammed in that he's barely there yet Whitaker makes his presence known.  Director Antoine Fuqua does as well. While the story may be slapdash and contrived his direction is anything but. Boxing matches are notoriously hard to direct, but Fuqua does a fantastic job of putting his together. His direction is visceral during the matches, sometimes even cutting into first-person -- a risk that pays off thanks to his skill. This move uses its R-rating hard during the matches as they're bloody and powerful. It just can't sustain that feeling throughout, getting bogged down in melodrama too often and forgetting we all came to see a boxer train. Another sticking point for me was the almost forced use of Eminem's music in the film. He was a producer on the movie, and has a single for the film called "Phenomenal." It plays over a training montage, but just feels awkward. It's angry and loud and out of place. That's really a problem for a lot of the film. There's a lot of sound and fury, but in the end it signifies nothing (to steal from the Bard). You know you've watched some great things, but they sure didn't make a great movie. Southpaw is a boxing movie made out of other boxing movies and is only buoyed by the fact that its director and actors thought they were in something more. There's not much of an original thought in here, but that doesn't always matter for a sports movie. What does matter is that you get that little thrill in your heart as our underdog hero climbs up from whatever depths he's been flung into. Southpaw doesn't give you that thrill and because of that it can throw a few good punches, but it never lands a KO.
Southpaw Review photo
No punch
It's pretty obvious why America loves boxing movies despite the fact that boxing itself is dwindling in popularity. Ever since Rocky the genre has proven that it can easily deliver the best of what we want out of our spo...

New Spectre Trailer photo
Meet the author of 007's pain
While Sam Mendes may not return to direct another James Bond outing, this new trailer for Spectre makes a strong case that Mendes should do 007 films in perpetuity. You just read that sentence in Christoph Waltz's voice. You...

Review: Trainwreck

Jul 17 // Nick Valdez
[embed]219680:42492:0[/embed] TrainwreckDirector: Judd ApatowRated: RRelease Date: July 17, 2015 In Trainwreck, Amy Townsend (Amy Schumer) is a woman who's just enjoying her life. She's got a good job writing for a magazine and doesn't see the need to get into a monogamous relationship any time soon thanks to her father's (Colin Quinn) teachings ("Can you imagine playing with the same toy the rest of your life?"). One day she's assigned an article about Dr. Aaron Connors (Bill Hader), a sports medicine practicioner who's about to go through an intense surgery. Then through some ups and downs, the two eventually fall for each other. Through the synopsis you can't really gauge why Trainwreck is great, and that's one of the biggest drawbacks. You have to be willing to accept the film's traditional style in order to enjoy its personality. But this film's been about personality from the beginning.  I've seen so many romantic comedies over the years, I've been able to break them down into four main components: quirky girl is an outsider for some reason, quirky girl meets guy who changes her life, random man candy to oggle, and the quirky girl becomes the most important person in the film's world by the end. Unfortunately, Trainwreck has all of these components. It's completely predictable from beginning to end, but the film would rather you enjoy its components rather than the package as a whole. That's not necessarily a bad thing by any means when all of the individual pieces are as well put together as they are here.  As Schumer has proven in the past, she's a comedic dynamo. Couple that with an amazing cast for her to bounce off of, and we've got a romantic comedy more grounded than anything in years past. Her charm just oozes off the screen and effects the rest of the cast. Everyone in the film has such a natural chemistry it makes Apatow's tendency to run his films a bit long all the more bearable. In fact, I wish there was more of her conversations with Brie Larsen as Amy's sister. There are a bunch of scenes between the two where Brie cracks a laugh, and you can tell that it wasn't an intentional one. It's the little things like that which give the film a lot of character. Something that's always hollow in these romantic comedies. Speaking of chemistry, Schumer and Hader are magnetic. While Hader's character could use more development, Hader fills the role with enough quirk that it elevates it from the material. Schumer's script is amazingly put together too. While there're some jokes that don't work, and Judd Apatow's direction does seep through and you notice a few bits that could've been cut for time (and because they weren't really funny), when the two meet in the middle they knock it out of the park. Like John Cena and Lebron James, for instance. A typical quality of an Apatow directed film are the numerous celebrity cameos from folks you wouldn't usually see in a movie like this. While a bunch of unfunny cameos are here in spades, Cena and James are almost too perfect. As the two fill the conventional "bad bro date" and "quirky guy's best friend," Schumer's writing mixed with their surprising talent completely blindsides. James' acting may be a bit stilted, but he gets the best lines in the film (my personal favorite being a Kanye West riff), and I can't tell you how many times I laughed at John Cena. That guy has a future in comedy. Also, if you wanted to see him naked here's your chance.  Trainwreck is somehow both traditional and unconventional. I don't know how the film managed to find a perfect balance between being an entertaining comedy while still dealing an effective romantic push, but there's so much charm it's easy to write off a lot of the film's technical issues. Normally I'm so jaded with films like these, so I would've torn into how much like other movies it is. But it's not. It's sort of the anti-27 Dresses.  Maybe it's Amy Schumer's persona, or maybe it's how down to Earth it all feels, but when I saw Schumer dancing as a grand romantic gesture at Trainwreck's end (so predictable, I told you), I couldn't help but fall in love with her myself. 
Trainwreck Review photo
John Cena has a great ass
Whether or not you're a fan of her comedy, Amy Schumer is not going anywhere. Comedy's current "It" girl, Schumer's earned all of the accolades through her comedy specials and often hilarious television show, Inside Amy Schum...

Review: Ant-Man

Jul 17 // Matthew Razak
[embed]219677:42491:0[/embed] Ant-ManDirector: Peyton ReedRelease Date: July 17, 2015 Rated: PG-13  Ant-Man might be the most divergent from the original Marvel comic yet. Instead of focusing on the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the movie skips over to the modern iteration: Scott Lang (Paul Rudd). As Pym, and his then wife The Wasp, were two founding members of the Avengers in the comics this is kind of a big deal, but it's what you get when you can't roll out a movie based on a shrinking superhero until you've established everything you do is going to be a hit. Marvel has done that and so we get an up-to-date Ant-Man, and Pym's daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), instead of Pym. That doesn't mean Pym was never Ant-Man nor that there was no Wasp. The movie picks up in the past as Pym quits his superhero heroics for the then new S.H.I.E.L.D. after the death of his wife and vows to hide the technologies that allow him to shrink and control ants. Jump forward to modern day and we find Lang just getting out of prison and unable to find a job so he goes on one more heist... and steals the Ant-Man suit. Meanwhile, Pym has been forced out of the technology company he runs and his predecessor Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) has finally, after years of denial from Pym, discovered how to shrink people. He's built a suit called the Yellowjacket. The only way to stop him from misusing this power? Steal it. There, my friends, you have a set up for a heist movie, and for the most part this heist works. It's a fun and enjoyable romp highlighted by the great use of Ant-Man's powers throughout. Though his powers cause some of the movie's problems. Any good heist movie is pretty complex, but with Ant-Man's abilities it kind of simplifies things down. The rest of the gang (including T.I. and Michael Peña) seem to be there more for comic relief and to fill a heist movie quota than anything else. The heist itself isn't that clever either as it plays out in a very straight forward manner that you don't see very often in modern heist films. There's no Now You See Me twist coming with this one. The movie does feature a heavier dose of comedy than other Marvel films. This one is very in line with modern heist films that incorporate a humorous gang into the proceedings to liven things up. Plus, you've got Rudd, who delivers his normal comedic talents to the proceedings. This makes Ant-Man easily the lightest of the Marvel films and probably the funniest, though Guardians is right there with it. The problem with the film's focus on traditional heist film tactics is that it trips into cliche constantly. There's a training montage, and a planning montage and a group of stereotypical teammates. Ironically by differentiating itself from other Marvel films it becomes more generic as a whole.  What's great is that it doesn't especially matter because the fun comes straight from the superpowers. Ant-Man's abilities are so unique in comparison to the rest of the heroes out there that it gives a new spin to things. The action is impressively done and uses the shrinking/growing dynamic in some really awesome ways. The final fight between Ant-Man and Yellowjacket is especially well done as they shrink and grow in and out of a variety of locations. Director Peyton Reed did a really admirable job putting the scenes together with just the right amount of comedy mixed into the fight. I'd still rather see what Edgar Wright could have done (he does get screenwriting credit), but Reed does some very cool things here that turn a very straightforward heist into something awesome. One of the possible holdovers from Wright's time is just how referential this movie is to the history of heist films. It is often an homage to the classics of the genre. There's a train fight sequence hearkening back to train robbery westerns, a little Mission: Impossible thrown in, some subtle references to Ocean's Eleven and plenty more for those who know their heist movie history. While other Marvel films have given nods to their respective genres, Ant-Man is by far the most meta of them all. I half expected Rudd to pull a Deadpool and talk to the camera at some point.  Sadly, one of the other effects of Wright leaving is that the story isn't as fleshed out as it should be. At points it feels rushed, as a condensed production schedule would make it. This is especially true of the character Hope, who was created specifically for the film, and creates one of the film's most blatant plot holes. She's a trained fighter who knows how to use the suit thanks to her dad, but we can't have her using it because Lang needs to be Ant-Man. They wrote themselves into a corner with the issue and use the excuse that her father doesn't want her using it to make sure she doesn't. It feels even more forced thanks to the first end credit sequence in which (spoilers) her father shows her the Wasp suit he was working on with her mother (end spoilers). One wonders if Wright had been allowed to finish his version if this pretty sexist problem would still be around.  What really works about Ant-Man, and what keeps its problems at bay is that it's small and and practically immaterial. Much like the hero himself, the film is incredibly micro. It, for the most part, ditches the wider Marvel universes and focuses on fun and adventure. It's not the bloated, overwhelming Age of Ultron and its not the completely disconnected Iron Man 3. It's exactly what the MCU needs right now: a creative dose of fun. 
Ant-Man Review photo
Shrinking down the MCU
Marvel has a problem on their hands with the MCU. They've got a cohesive style that can make all the Marvel films feel very similar. The way they've attempted to address this is to deliver movies that are stylistically simila...

X-Men Apocalypse pics photo
The Age of Apocalypse is upon us
Gun to my head, if I had to choose between Spider-Man 3 and X-Men: The Last Stand as a worse third installment of a super hero franchise, it would have to be X-Men. They only messed up Gwen Stacy, Venom, Harry Osborn's t...

Suicide Squad trailer photo
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!
I only have two major complaints about this trailer. 1.) It doesn't sound like Harley has that Long Island accent that is such a staple of her character 2.) We have Killer Croc instead of King Shark Aside from that, everythin...

Green Lantern photo
What's better than one? All of them.
Warner Brothers and DC messed up big with Green Lantern, which is OK because it freed Ryan Reynolds up for Deadpool, but as we learned previously that doesn't mean they're giving up on the character. I reboot was planned and ...

BvS Trailer photo
...and Wonder Woman!
I've been cautiously optimistic for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. There's lots to like (cool outfits, there's a great cast, the plot sounds like it fixes Man of Steel's biggest problem) and lots not to like (it looks li...

Ash Vs. Evil Dead Tailer photo
Bruce Campbell's still bad-Ash *rimshot*
The first full trailer for Starz's Ash vs. Evil Dead is out, and it looks way better than it has any right to look. Bruce Campbell is back as Ash, and they're playing up his schlubbiness, age, and cult persona to great effect...

Star Wars Comic-Con reel photo
The force is strong with this one
While there was no new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens at this year's San Diego Comic-Con, there was a special behind-the-scenes reel that was screened for the packed crowd at Hall H. The behind-the-scenes footage em...

Ghostbusters photo
The Egon hair!
You may have seen some blurry, not so great images of the new lady Ghostbusters floating around, but Paul Feig is having none of that. As he's been doing over the past week (like with the Ecto-1) he just released our first lo...

Review: The Gallows

Jul 10 // Matthew Razak
[embed]219651:42478:0[/embed] The GallowsDirectors: Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing Rated: RRelease Date: July 10, 2015 The Gallows had plenty of positive buzz coming out of the film festival circuit and it's pretty easy to see why. The movie is scary and does try to shake things up here and there. There's definitely something inherently scary about a high school at night, which is where our four protagonists find themselves. Reese Houser (Reese Mishler), Pfeifer Brown (Pfeifer Ross), Ryan Shoos (Ryan Shoos) and Cassidy Spiker (Cassidy Gifford) are trapped in the high school after sneaking in one night. Two decades before this a boy had died in a freak accident during the production of a play called The Gallows in the school's auditorium. His ghost isn't too happy about it and now he's finally got a group of teens trapped at night that he can terrorize.  The plot is pretty basic for a horror film; a small group of people being tormented by a deadly ghost who has a flare for the dramatic despite the fact that he could kill them all with his mystical powers in a second flat. The found footage gimmick feels more like a forced hook than what the directors originally intended, though since the pair wrote the screenplay as well it probably wasn't. Cluff and Lofing do do some clever things with it here and there, however. A few scenes in particular are fantastically constructed, especially one set in a hallway lit only by a red exit sign that fantastically uses shadows and off camera changes to build tension. The directors also cleverly use the two cameras the teens have with them to play out scenes completely from one perspective and then jump back to show us the same scene from another. Ignoring montage in favor of this style actually works incredibly well, adding fear that wouldn't be there to many scenes while still allowing for kills to play out on screen eventually. It's a great balance between the belief that being scary means leaving something off the screen and the constant need to shock the audience with visuals.  Sadly, the plotting and pacing can't keep up with the cool ideas and the film suffers for it. The movie falls victim to some terrible editing that is horrifically excused by the camera panning to the floor, shaking a bit, and then the teens suddenly being somewhere else when the camera swings back up. It rips the realism out of the movie, which for a found footage film is really problematic. There's even issues with how exactly they're filming at points, which allows for some great scenes but breaks the movie's own rules. Not to mention the plot itself is pretty flimsy. The movie is more of a collection of really interesting horror scenes than a horror whole. Great ideas keep cropping up and scaring you, but they don't accrue into a coherent whole.  Then there's the film's ending that's supposed to shock you, but is both predictable and tacked on. In what is supposed to be a twist the movie jumps out of scary and into stupid in the blink of an eye. Since the film's scenes don't build onto each other the movie's ending feels especially random. The movie makes no attempt to foreshadow what's coming meaning theirs no build to the conclusion, but it also awkwardly pretends like it was a surprise when anyone whose understands how movies are plotted will see it coming a mile away. It's too bad the filmmakers didn't work this out as the ending could have been something people talked about if pulled off correctly. For some cheap (well, as cheap as the movie ticket price near you) thrills The Gallows definitely delivers. There's moments that show that Cluff and Lofing can get up to some pretty interesting stuff with the genre, but their lack of structure and the found footage style mean the film isn't all that it could be. 
Gallows Review photo
Isn't high school bad enough on its own?
If you had hopes the the found footage genre of horror would go away you are in for a sore future. It's here to stay so you might as well embrace it. The sub-genre can offer up some fantastic scares if done right, but its ove...

Review: Minions

Jul 10 // Nick Valdez
[embed]219629:42476:0[/embed] MinionsDirectors: Pierre Coffin and Kyle BaldaRated: PGRelease Date: July 10, 2015 Before the minions found Gru from the Despicable Me movies, they were a species who've existed since the dawn of time. Attaching themselves to whatever evil creature they could find, they tried to serve as the best henchman they could until their boss' inevitable end. Lost and listless, minions Kevin, Stuart, and Bob set out across the world in order to find a new boss. That search leads them to Scarlet and Herb Overkill (Sandra Bullock and Jon Hamm) the top of the villain food chain who want to steal the Queen of England's crown. All of this, of course, leads to the same kind of yellow tinged shenanigans you know and possibly love.  When this was first announced, I had a few hang ups. I really enjoyed the Despicable Me films, but the minions were always a side bit that I never quite attached to. Originally written into the films in order to make Gru more likable, they're the epitome of easy kids' jokes. Burps, farts, and pure gibberish designed to make kids laugh and provide nothing more than an annoyance for the adults watching the films (which actually have a well crafted narrative of parenthood and coming to grips with sacrificing your dreams in order to support your children's future), so I worried that spinning them off into their own narrative would only highlight their hollow design. And that's kind of true here. Thankfully, there's at least an attempt to give Minions the same amount of heart as the rest of the series.  Once you get used to the long stretches of minion language-less dialogue, there's some nice character development here...but you've got to figure it out for yourself. Kevin, Stuart, and Bob all have some unique personality traits (Kevin is the responsible one, Stuart is the party one, and Bob is the young and cuddly one) but don't go further than the surface level. Geared more toward children than ever, this film is light in both plot and all-ages humor. Thankfully the film is just a breeze, and it's over way before you start thinking about it. At the very least, the main trio is built well enough that you'll emotionally invest in them long enough to follow through the film's short stint. Though I'm sure these minions are reaching a point of diminishing returns (hopefully there's no plan to keep these solo films going) that their shenanigans won't be able to sustain a film on their own much longer. This one's barely held together by the skin of its teeth.  The human cast is fantastic, and they're a breath of fresh air in between all of the shenanigans. Sandra Bullock and Jon Ham completely commit to the film's nutty nature, and both of them need more roles where they're allowed to chew the scenery as goofy bad guys. Bullock seems to enjoy her role the most, but close runner ups are folks like Michael Keaton and Alison Janney who're criminally underutilized. Maybe casting such big names just to give them a bit part is part of the film's slight meta humor. But that might be giving the film too much credit.  At the end of the day, Minions isn't made for you or me, but for the kids. But as I've argued every time I review one of these animated films, it's time to expect better for your kids. Sure not every animated film can, or needs to be, like Pixar, but if we keep paying for things like this they'll keep churning them out for an easy buck.  It's a flavor of the month film that'll definitely be forgotten once the next big cute thing comes along. Minions is not as terrible as I expected, but it's far from great.  But whatever, your kids'll love how cute it is. 
Minions Review photo
Papaya banana blah blah
Whether or not you've seen the Despicable Me movies, you definitely know who these little twinkie looking guys are. Perfectly designed to appeal to almost every demographic (a Xanax like shape, a bright and happy yellow, spea...

Goosebumps Trailer photo
Viewer beware... (doo be doo doo doo)
I've been interested in the Goosebumps movie for some time. When it was first announced, it sounded like a neat but very weird idea. In the film adaptation of R.L. Stine's popular line of children's horror novels, Stine (Jack...

Star Wars photo
EVERYTHING IS AWESOME
Rumblings of what Phil Lord and Chris Miller would be doing next after making everything awesome have been floating around. One of those rumbles, that they were going to do a Star Wars film, has come true. The pair will be di...

Review: Ted 2

Jul 06 // Nick Valdez
[embed]219625:42462:0[/embed] Ted 2Director: Seth MacFarlaneRated: RRelease Date: June 26, 2015 In Ted 2, Ted the Teddy Bear (Seth MacFarlane) gets married and wants to start a family. But when he and Tammy-Lynn file for a potential surrogacy, Ted learns he's legally defined as property. Since he's not a person, he loses his job, his marriage is annulled, and he loses all manner of rights. He and his "Thunder Buddy" John (Mark Wahlberg) decide to fight the decision, enlisting the help of newly licensed lawyer, Sam Jackson (Amanda Seyfried). Then the film is filled with some marijuana infused shenanigans. dick jokes, and the occasional court scene as Ted tries to prove that he's truly human.  We try our best at Flixist to keep you folks out of the back end, but I've got to come at this straight on. Somehow, in some weird way, I'm always the one reviewing comedy sequels. Time and time again, I end up making the same point that one person's comedy trash is another person's comedy treasure. But I think I don't have to reiterate it with Ted 2. I'm sure everyone, regardless of taste in humor, will universally find the humor lacking. While most comedies will mine the humor from the story as the plot finds the funny in interactions between characters, this film relies on non-sequiturs. I'd hate to once again compare this film to other stuff MacFarlane's done, but like A Million Ways, Ted 2 has a lot of Family Guy sensibilities. Very little plot tied together with jokes that don't really belong. In fact, there's even a sperm donor joked ripped right from that show.  What's most unfortunate is there are definitely a few core concepts that would've worked wonders for the film had they been explored a bit further. Sure, I'm not supposed to expect some grand dissection of civil rights in the US but you can't present the idea as a major theme of the film and not elaborate on it further. It makes every tangent even more egregious. But I'm not sure how we wasted so much time since the film far out runs its course about two thirds of the way in. There are plenty of unfunny bits that could've been trimmed for time (most notably the scene in the trailers where they try and masturbate Tom Brady in order to steal his sperm), and lots of random side characters that could've been axed for brevity (like the overly bro gay couple that never go deeper than surface level "I hate nerds" jokes). And those corporate sponsorships? Did we really need a Hasbro executive as one of the villains or a final climax set at New York Comic Con?  If you were a fan of original like I was, I'm sure you're wondering whether or not the rapport between John and Ted is still strong. I'm happy to report that it's stronger than ever. One of the film's few redeeming qualities, Mark Wahlberg and Seth MacFarlane have settled into a groove that rarely feels forced. Although the writing between the two was better the first time around, the new routines the two show off are pretty funny. Although they're more examples of jokes that don't pertain to the plot (like the Law & Order or improv heckling gags), it doesn't matter when they're entertaining. Besides, Ted trying to get John back into the dating scene is a better fit for their quasi bro relationship. It's a shame that Amanda Seyfried gets dragged into this (I'm sure it's because of some favor or she genuinely enjoys working with MacFarlane for some reason) since all her character amounts to is a weed smoking failure who needs to ask for help from men more established in their careers.  With Ted 2 you get what you expect. Don't have expectations, and you won't be disappointed. I'm just tired of that criticism being an easy out for lazy comedy. This film just reeks of the same kind of absentmindedness you'd get from using the drug Ted loves so much. Caught in a haze of thick smoke, the humor struggles for air as joke after joke fails to land. Sure, you'll get one or two laughs overall but Ted 2 seriously lacks the humanity it wants you to believe it has.  There better not be a Ted 3 in the works. 
Ted 2 Review photo
No humanity
Say what you will about Seth MacFarlane, but the man knows how to stay in business. Despite many critics noting a decline in all of his television programs and his last effort A Million Ways to Die in the West died a million ...

Review: Magic Mike XXL

Jul 01 // Matthew Razak
[embed]219601:42455:0[/embed] Magic MikeDirector: Gregory JacobsRated: RRelease Date: June 25, 2015  You know how Magic Mike (Channing Tatum) got out of the grind (pun intended) and left to start his own furniture business at the end of the first film? Well, screw that. He's back. When the guys -- Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), Tarzan (Kevin Nash), Ken (Matt Bomer) and Tito (Adam Rodriguez) -- show up in town on their way to a stripper convention Mike drops everything and joins them for one last ride. It seems that Dallas abandoned them so the group is breaking up, but not before one big fun trip to the biggest stripping event in Florida (a state I assume has a lot of stripping events). Plot kind of ensues and along the way the pick up an MC, Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith), hook up with Andie McDowell and see Michael Strahan perform a ridiculous strip. Who really cares, though. The point of this movie was clearly to push the mostly naked men and forget about the rest. The screenplay is paper thin and mostly consists of the gang of guys shooting the shit, which, in all fairness, is actually kind of entertaining. They're clearly ad-libbing a bunch and it lends some charm to a story that's non-existent. It also keeps you in on the joke so you don't have to care quite as much. Everyone seems to know why they're there and they're just having fun doing it. Unfortunately director Gregory Jacobs didn't get the fun memo and shoots the film like he's directing an art piece. He's trying to do his best replication of Soderbergh's direction from the original that he can, but it isn't the time or place and he doesn't have the skill. The strip numbers are a mess, sadly destroying a lot of the fantastic dancing pulled off by Tatum and his cohorts. The grand finale of abs, pecs and banana hammocks feels flat thanks to Jacobs' inability to build momentum or hold a scene together. What should be a bunch of fun starts feeling dragged out and sloppy.  Thankfully he can't crush the cast with his directing. Tatum is as Tatum does. The guy just oozes screen appeal and has actually pulled himself into a credible actor. Meanwhile Donald Glover joins the crew and delivers fantastically, though we never get the full abs show for him. The biggest surprise (pun still intended) is Manganiello) who takes a much larger role in the film and delivers wonderfully. Even Kevin Nash gets to talk a bit more this time around, which was nice of the filmmakers to do.  Sadly, the "road trip but with strippers" plot isn't enough to hold up the film from strip scene to strip scene, especially with the lackluster direction for those scenes. The guy's repartee may be fun, but everything else drags. There's attempted plot lines about love and life and moving on from stripping, but nothing ever clicks in any meaningful way. You get the feeling they're just saying this stuff because they had to put some more words into the screenplay. Every scene without men taking their clothes off feels wasted, except for Andie McDowell's cameo, which is fantastically dirty and fun.  That's really what you're going to see Magic Mike XXL for anyway so why care about all the rest? It is the equivalent of a Cinemax movie geared entirely towards showing mostly naked women off and it does that... except with men. If you want abs, strippers, thrusting loins and more dollar bills than you've ever seen before in a movie then Magic Mike XXL delivers. It's just too bad it couldn't deliver the entire package (pun totally intended). 
XXL Review photo
Abs-olutely what you expect
The first Magic Mike was a bit of a surprise. While it was obviously all about very in shape men dancing mostly naked Steven Soderbergh actually brought a little charm to it. The almost ad-libbed feeling the screenp...

Creed Trailer photo
Gonna fly now, gonna fly forever
Everyone's got that one film franchise that means more to them than anything. Some have Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Jurassic Park, and there's probably a few folks that really want more of Pixar's Cars. But me, I've got...

Review: Terminator - Genisys

Jul 01 // Sean Walsh
[embed]218671:42029:0[/embed] Terminator: GenisysDirector: Alan TaylorRated: PG-13Release Date: July 1, 2015 We all know the story: Savior of humanity John Connor (Jason Clarke) sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to prevent a terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) from killing his mother Sarah (Emilia Clarke) before John is born. However, Kyle finds himself in a very different situation shortly after his arrival in 1984. What follows is a bit of timey-wimey shenanigans that only the Terminator franchise can provide. To say any more than that would really ruin the surprise. Do be warned going forward, however: I will say a little more. Fair warning. First off, you can barely tell that Arnold Schwarzenegger is sixty-seven years old. The man's charisma is absolutely infectious and seeing him in the leather jacket and sunglasses that made him a household name is like coming home again or putting on your favorite, well-worn pair of shoes. He's perfect. He's a finely-aged wine. He's Arnold Goddamn Schwarzenegger. He delivered every one of his lines with a delightfully robotic wit and I could honestly spend the rest of the review just talking about his performance but that's not very fair to the other people involved. While she's no Linda Hamilton (is anyone?), Emilia Clarke does well as the new Sarah Connor. She's a lot more well-adjusted to her situation than the Sarah Connor of yesteryear and is more than capable of protecting herself. Jai Courtney, who has come a long way since being super duper bland in A Good Day to Die Hard, is our Kyle Reese and I'll be honest: I'm for it. He didn't break new ground or completely change my movie-going experience or anything, but he was a sturdy male protagonist and when you're starring opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger, that's all you can ask for. Jason Clarke's John Connor was dark, brooding, and scared (inside and out) after thirty-someodd years of fighting Terminators and he really sold it. These four are joined by Matt Smith in a brief but significant role that was blissfully kept under wraps (unlike many other facets of the film courtesy of the bastardly second trailer) and J. K. Simmons in a more substantial but similarly all-too-brief role as a detective. Finally, and I would be remiss to forget him, Lee Byung-hun of I Saw the Devil and G. I. Joe fame plays the new T-1000. He is menacing and carried that same icy cool Robert Patrick had in T2: Judgment Day. I was really very surprised with the effects in Genisys. I expected them to look good but I'll be damned if they didn't look great. All of the Terminators and other Skynet enemies looking amazing, the liquid metal looked real and, most importantly, the battle between present-day Arnold and circa-1984 Arnold was incredible. To my admittedly untrained eye, there was zero uncanny valley and he looked fantastic. Springboarding off of the effects, the action was almost non-stop. From the final assault on Skynet in 2029 in the beginning of the film, the movie GOES. The aforementioned fight between two Arnolds, a handful of car chases, a pretty excellent battle against the T-1000, and a wonderful final battle; all of it was great. I don't think I rolled my eyes during any of these sequences and after the last two films, I think that's a very good thing.   The score was good but honestly, what else do you need to hear other than DUN-DUN-DUN DUN-DUN, DUN-DUN-DUN DUN-DUN in your Terminator movie? Most important, of course, is the writing. I don't want to say too much because of all the moments where I wish I hadn't seen that stupid second trailer or any TV spots or heard any ads on Spotify or seen half of the films' posters, but what I will say is that it was an awesome movie full of twists and turns and fortunately some surprises, which is impressive considering how hard they tried to ruin it with spoilers. There's some fun time-travel stuff and at one point i was like "Oh, it's like Terminator meets 12 Monkeys," but then I realized that 12 Monkeys utilizes more or less the same time-loop that Terminator does. If you think too hard about the time travel stuff your nose may bleed and you might feel the vein in your head start to pulse uncomfortably but if you take it for what it is, it's a lot of fun. And lest I forget the most important factor: Genisys has a completely logical explanation for its inclusion in the title. There's a lot of callbacks to the first two films, many of which are a little more subtle than you'd expect. I found myself fist-pumping and quietly cheering many times over the course of the 126-minute runtime. The only real complaint I have about the story is there are a small handful of unanswered questions, but as Nick reported last September, we've got two sequels coming our way. Mr. Valdez can rest easy knowing that, in this humble reviewer's opinion, Genisys is absolutely good enough to warrant sequels. Will this film stand the test of time like the first or second films? Maybe, maybe not. Is it better than the third and fourth films? Absolutely. Am I excited for the sequels? You bet your shiny, metal asses I am. As far as summer movies go, this is one of my favorites in a long, long time. If I didn't know any better, it may well be my favorite film of 2015 (so far, mind you). I went in to this film expecting it to be awesomely bad and I left it singing its praises over and over. If nothing else, I would like to publicly apologize for anything negative I said about it in the months leading up to last night (excepting the awesomely horrific EW pictures). tl;dr: Go see Terminator: Genisys. 
Terminator Genisys Review photo
Old. Not obsolete.
Based on the stupid title, initial plot description and Entertainment Weekly photos, I was a little more than skeptical about Terminator: Genisys. Even though the synopsis had many, many things I loved in it (time travel, Emi...


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