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Jodie Whittaker will play Doctor Who's Thirteenth Doctor

Jul 16 // Drew Stuart
[embed]221714:43664:0[/embed] This news has me optimistic about the future of Doctor Who. Not only will we get a talented new Doctor, but Chris Chibnall, the creator of the excellent crime series Broadchurch (which Whittaker had a prominent role in) will be usurping Steven Moffat as showrunner. Hopefully, the influx of new talent and a shake up in direction will keep the show fresh for years to come. And Whittaker will lead the way.  [via Twitter]
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Doctor Doctor, give me the news
If you're a 'hip' kid like me, then you may have heard that the BBC announced a new Doctor was on the way for their long-running show Doctor Who. And on Sunday, they revealed on their Twitter that the new Doctor wou...

Review: War for the Planet of the Apes

Jul 14 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221622:43616:0[/embed] War for the Planet of the ApesDirector: Matt ReevesRelease Date: July 14th, 2017Rated: PG-13 Years after the events of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar (Andy Serkis) is still struggling with his role in the death of his former friend and rival Koba. With the apes retreating to the forest, the last remnants of humanity have taken a more aggressive approach (sparked by Koba's attack on them years prior) led by the militant extremist, Colonel (Woody Harrelson). When Colonel crosses the line and threatens his family, Caesar decides to travel across the states to hunt down the Colonel and get his revenge.  First things first, War is absolutely gorgeous. Somehow improving on the visuals found in the second film, War gives us flair like snowy fur, wet fur, and several visually distinct settings. This film can often be dark (both figuratively and literally), yet the lighting is kept at such a balance each motion captured ape is still distinct when sitting in caves or walking around during night scenes. And although we've seen it in action two films prior, the motion capture animation is still sublime. Serkis' Caesar is, with just cause, a standout above the rest as Caesar now more closely resembles the intelligent apes found in the 70s films. I personally miss the broken English he spoke in the previous film, but a Caesar without stilted dialogue allows Serkis to evolve the character with a more nuanced performance outside of physical acting.  Each film in this modern Apes trilogy has had its own distinct flavor. Rise has an undercurrent of dread, constantly inching its way toward the expected uprising, Dawn is a clash of violence and ideologies as the new status quo is established, and War is the methodical denouement in which the stage is set for the Planet of the Apes story everyone is familiar with. Because of this, unfortunately, this film has more of a pacing issue than the others. Essentially becoming a revenge thriller as Caesar morphs into an one-ape army, War sort of meanders through the second act until the thread for the final act reveals itself. This slower pace seems entirely intentional as Caesar's revenge arc lacks any satisfactory developments. But regardless of how this deliberately slower act reflects Caesar's core growth toward the end of the trilogy, and conveying Caesar's loss of hope and direction, I can't help but think a brisker pace would make the tone of the eventual ape escape less jarring. If all this talk of a slower, character intensive piece scares you away, no need to worry. I'm not going to go into depth about it here, but there's a extended prison break scene and it's probably the best thing in this entire trilogy. While War loses the grey morality of the previous two films as one side is a clear cut villain -- thus losing a bit of the nuance of the rest of the trilogy -- having a side to truly root for improves the trilogy overall. It's sort of freeing, actually. The tone of the film gets a more lighthearted spin once Bad Ape (Steve Zahn, pictured below) is introduced and the pacing problems of the second act melt away completely. The final third of the film is fun, has quite a bit of metaphorically intriguing imagery, and brings the trilogy to a close in a splendid way.  When all was said and done, I couldn't believe how this trilogy pulled it off. It's rare you'll get one well made reboot film, let alone an entire trilogy. The Apes trilogy has always been a sleeper hit these past few Summers, and because of the smaller attention, Matt Reeves was able to keep a steady vision for the final two films without much interference. War for the Planet of the Apes is a "blockbuster" in name only, and because of this was able to make the many brave choices it does. I mean, it's a film trilogy about monkey business which also includes death, hardship, disease, mediation between warring states, post-traumatic stress disorder, class struggles, and even some poop flinging for good measure.  I'm hard pressed to think of a better modern trilogy, or one that isn't one of the big five (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, The Godfather, The Lord of the Rings, and Back to the Future), that could measure up to this. War of the Planet of the Apes is the finest end to a trilogy I've seen in a long time. 
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Ape Escape
Combing through nostalgic culture has become the norm, and unfortunately, so have the middling resulting projects. Audiences have, sadly, come to expect reboots to suffer as studios struggle to re-capture what made something ...

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How big is the dump truck full of money?
After Spectre came out Daniel Craig was not too kind to the chances of him ever playing Bond again. The role is an incredible amount of pressure and the shooting is often stressful so he had some choice words about retur...

Review: Castlevania (Season1)

Jul 08 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221685:43647:0[/embed] Castlevania (Season 1)Director: Sam DeatsRating: NRRelease Date: July 7th, 2017 (Netflix) When the religious town of Wallachia burns Dracula's (Graham McTavish) wife at the stake, he promises to return after a year with an army from hell and smite all of them. Jumping a year ahead we meet Trevor Belmont (Richard Armitage), the last remnant of a monster hunting family. Trevor's pretty much sick of the entire thing. He's lost faith in people after his family was betrayed, and couldn't care less about the monster attacks. But when he's inadvertently thrown into the action by a secret society of magicians, Trevor finds himself in a bigger battle than he ever could've imagined.  Castlevania's first season is less a television show and more like one of those direct to home video animated films you'd expect to see from the likes of DC Comics or Marvel Studios. Usually I'm not one to complain about the length of a series in reviews, but the four twenty-something minute episodes (nice) essentially act as a lengthy pilot for the actual series. This is fine in concept, but it also cripples these first episodes. It makes sense for Netflix's distribution style, which argues that each show should be binged, but it's not like each episode stands on its own. Rather than episodes having a clear cut beginning, middle, and end, there's only enough time for the general arc of the "season" to carry any weight. It's no help to the series either that the entire plot is predictable (even complete with a big boss fight at the end). There's definitely a feeling here that this season would've been better served without being chopped up into parts.  But even without much to invest in from episode to episode, the other benefit of being a two hour pilot means it's brisk and light. This lightness allows the characters to bask in Castlevania's pulpy vibe, but it's definitely hard to take anything seriously yet. For example, Trevor is a fine main character. He's the standard too cool for school protagonist, and Ellis clearly had a fun time writing for him, but the most intriguing stuff is still a ways away. I'm more interested in what eventually brought Trevor to his low point at the start of the series, and that drama won't be evolved further until the next season, if at all. As a result, he feels thin. There's just simply not enough time to take him further than grizzled warrior archetypes. While he's definitely fun to watch now, it's completely forgettable without anything really juicy to latch onto.  Castlevania's animation isn't great, and is particularly janky when characters are talking to one another, but is ultimately serviceable. There's a nice flow to the action scenes even as the backgrounds tend to fade into oblivion during them. The fights themselves seem particularly anime influenced as one fight toward the end of the season is accompanied by too familiar sword swooshes (the technical term, yes) and angles reminiscent of other shows. Trevor's character design is unfortunately the only one with any kind of personality, but it's not saved by the overall flatness of the art as a whole. But, once again, since this is only a pilot, I'm sure there's room for betterment in the future.  Given how short of a season Netflix's Castlevania is, chances are you've seen it by the time you read this review. If you haven't, however, it's a very easy show to recommend...for now. I wouldn't exactly say it's for everyone since those who don't like the Castlevania games won't get anything of note out of this, but like Shankar's bootleg productions, it's a series made by a fan for other fans.  With that in mind, I do worry this series cannot hold up with a longer structure. This first season is a good watch mainly because it's over before any of its faults truly make a dent. Just as how Shankar's Bootleg Universe shorts seem great as five minute pieces, the minute you really stop to think about the ideas therein ruins the experience. 
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That's four! Four episodes! Ha-ha-ha!
Adi Shankar is quite a cult hit in film circles. He's made a name for himself by fully investing into properties he loves. It's a nerdy demeanor that's absolutely infectious as its led to his famous "Bootleg Universe," in whi...


Review: Despicable Me 3

Jun 30 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221638:43623:0[/embed] Despicable Me 3Directors: Eric Guillon, Kyle Balda, and Pierre CoffinRelease Date: June 30th, 2017Rated: PG After failing to capture former child star turned supervillain Balthasar Bratt (Trey Parker), Gru (Steve Carell) loses his job at the Anti-Villain League. While he's trying to figure out what to do with his life next, his long lost twin brother Dru (Steve Carell) contacts him and tells him about their family's villainous legacy. Now Gru has to decide whether or not to please his minions and commit crimes or do what's best for his family. Also his family is there doing a thing each because that's all there's time for this go around, and the minions are farting around in a prison or something. You can basically take the old "long-lost relative" TV trope and copy/paste its plot here and you'll get the gist.  When a TV show resorts to a long-lost relative plot featuring some guest star, it usually means the show is out of organic ideas and has to force in another entity in order to breathe any kind of life into its husk. It's like continuing impassioned CPR when the person you're trying to save is already gone. Every movement you make is futile, and you're only doing damage to their body. Sitting through Despicable Me 3 parallels this hopelessness all too well. It's made worse by the film's constant allusions to comedies of cinema past. At one point, the Minions are driving underwater and speed past two clownfish that look like Finding Nemo's Marlin and Nemo, only pouring salt into the wound. It was a grim reminder that I could've seen something else, and knowing I still had another 80 minutes to go only exacerbated my apathy.  But so what if I slowly fell asleep, what about the kids? Didn't they enjoy the funny funnies? Well, they did not. I not only noticed a huge group of kids shuffling around in their seats during the super potent Minion rendition of "I Am the Very Modern Major General" from the very timely referenced 1800s opera The Pirates of Penzance, but also saw how they failed to react when the Minions went to prison. But alas, we were all trapped in Despicable Me 3's prison together. At least the kids were still treated as human beings and got brief reprieves from this comedic wasteland every time a Minion made a fart or said boobs or something. I have to admit, even I laughed when the Minions ended up being super successful in prison and acted like some gang from a 50s musical. But was that a laugh out of pure necessity? Did I force myself to react in order to re-affirm my humanity? Then soon, I realized I made myself sick drinking so much out of this small oasis of humor in my perilously dry journey.  One has to wonder how much this cast is getting paid for keeping this farce going. Trey Parker is slightly entertaining as he portrays yet another manchild, but he's clearly just cashing a check here. Steve Carell, bless him, is the one gleaming hope in this dark world and gets the space to emotionally play around with Grudru once the Minions and the family are out of the picture. Seriously, I think Gru interacts with his family, like, twice? It's very odd considering where the series began. As for the rest of the family, the girls are all still cute as ever but they're not given anything meaty to do. Stuck repeating past catchphrases and forever glued to the same age they were seven years ago. Wait, it's only been seven years and we've gotten four of these movies? And Minions 2 is coming out soon also?  I...I just can't do this anymore.  Look, if you're reading this review you're not going to give a shit about what I write here and go see this anyway because you think the Minions are cute. It's fine, I get it. The Minions are oversaturated on the Internet, playing parts in memes with everything from how bad Mondays are to abortion. With how prevalent they've become, it's impossible to not buy into them at this point. So honestly, does it really matter how I end this? I put more thought here than anything Despicable Me 3 had to offer me, so I'll just leave you with one of my favorite quotes in the film.  *fart noise* 
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Kill m3
Despicable Me was a revelation when it first hit theaters. A villain choosing fatherhood over his proclivity for evil deeds was a novel idea, and it was much more than the minion flavored marketing would have you believe. The...

Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming

Jun 29 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221639:43619:0[/embed] Spider-Man: HomecomingDirector: Jon WattsRelease Date: July 7th, 2017Rated: PG-13 Spider-Man: Homecoming isn't concerned with re-telling Peter Parker's origin story. Instead, we're introduced to a Peter (Tom Holland) that's already been established around his borough of Queens, NY. But after getting a taste of Avenger-like action during Civil War, Peter's been anxious to fight some big time crime. Stumbling on Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton)'s band of thieves powered by alien technology (left behind after The Avengers), Peter's out to prove to his mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) that he can handle it. But the 15 year old Peter finds he struggles with balancing his Spider-Man duties, school life with his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), love life, and home life with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei).  The Homecoming subtitle is both a play on Peter's newfound high school age, and a "homecoming" to the MCU. With how prevalent Downey Jr.'s Iron Man was featured in advertising, I was worried poor little Peter would take a backseat to all of The Avengers craziness. We've seen the result of universe building bogging down some of the Marvel properties, but thankfully Homecoming doesn't concern itself with that too much either. The events of the MCU proper have informed some of the character motivations for sure, as Adrian gets his villainous start after the Battle of NY, but there's been a great effort to ground Spider-Man in his own little pocket of the world. Thus, Homecoming is free to not only tell its story at its own pace, but isn't afraid to explore Peter as a character.  Director Jon Watts takes great pains to make Homecoming feel more intimate. From the opening scene featuring Peter's video diary, to the pacing of conversations between characters, there are plenty of scenes given time to breathe and fully flesh out the film's extended cast. Tom Holland is a dream, and his awkward yet full-hearted take on the hero is much different than we've seen in the past. Holland portraying a teenage Peter is not only believable, but incredibly refreshing. When Holland's Peter jokes around, or accidentally saves the day, it always comes across as natural. Because of this, the threats to him become even more engrossing as a literal child is now fighting to save his loved ones. It's a tonal balance we've yet to see from Spider-Man, and I'm very curious as to where it can go from here.  But it's not like Holland steals the show, either. Homecoming has an incredible cast, and the script is laid out so every character has time to shine. Michael Keaton playing a birdman after, well, Birdman, may be ripe for jokes, but Keaton's soft spoken menace gives him a presence we've yet to see from other MCU villains. Spider-Man's villains are probably the most famous in Marvel Comics, so it feels so right to see Keaton stake his claim. Adrian is complex, has a reasonable motivation, and seems better written overall than a good chunk of Marvel's other baddies. Peter's classmates are all fabulous as well. Zendaya shines as a brilliant loner, Tony Revolori's Flash is the right kind of bully, it's great to see Jon Favreau's Happy Hogan again, and Jacob Batalon's Ned is so damn adorable I can't wait to see him again. The cast is just so well put together, and Queens has such a lived in feel, Homecoming absolutely nails the "neighborhood" in "Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man." We haven't experienced Spider-Man like this before.  And, uh, Marisa Tomei is a goddess and I'm so glad Homecoming addresses the shift in Aunt May's age.  Now Spider-Man: Homecoming isn't a perfect film, as the plot tends to get lost during the deliberate pacing of the second act, and it's still an origin story thematically, but it's still entirely successful. I mean, we finally get an action scene that isn't about fighting a bad guy, but saving people. I can't believe that hasn't happened yet. Even if I'm reviewing Homecoming in the comic book movie bubble, I feel like this world is so well established that the film's weakness are a reflection of its central character.  This new Peter is flawed, but attacks his flaws head on. Homecoming has so much fun just living and swinging with Spider-Man, it's hard not to accept those flaws and just go with the swing of things. Spider-Man has come home, and I can't wait to see what Sony and Marvel do with him next. 
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Third time's the charm
Spider-Man films have been through all sorts of ups and downs. What was once the biggest comic book property on film has since been the victim of studio craziness, failed attempts, and just an overall bad reception by th...

Review: Baby Driver

Jun 28 // Matthew Razak
[embed]221653:43629:0[/embed] Baby DriverDirector: Edgar WrightRated: RRelease Date: June 28, 2017 Don't worry. Baby Driver isn't a musical in the traditional sense. It doesn't have characters breaking out in song and spiraling into wild, Busby Berkley style dance numbers (unless you count car chases as dance numbers). Instead, it features Baby (Ansel Elgort), an expert driver who is forced into being the driver on a series of heists by Doc (Kevin Spacey). Through a series of events, Baby tries to pull himself away from a life of crime while falling for Debora (Lily James), a charming waitress he meets at a diner. The plot itself is a little thin, but that's because it's not really the point. What Wright wants to do with this film is turn soundtrack into character; make a film that flows as well as its soundtrack. It's a bold effort, and it makes the soundtrack the leading star. It's an absolutely fantastic soundtrack that runs the gamut from classic rock to modern rap, each song cued up with the film's editing and action. The excuse is that Baby has tinnitus so he's always listening to music to get rid of the ringing. What that results in is car chases cued wonderfully to songs, entire scenes edited to the beat of whatever Baby is listening to, and a soundtrack that often informs the film more than anything else going on on screen. It also means that every character is defined by the music, every choice bent around what's playing. Even the dialog is often a diatribe on the meaning of music to people, and in that aspect the film is endlessly interesting. Wright's direction of the action is just as interesting. His shots and editing go beyond coherent, which is a base we shouldn't have to applaud, but will thanks to having just seen The Last Knight. He weaves together brilliant plot, music, and real driving into some masterful sequences. The first 20 minutes of this movie are an almost perfect execution of Wright's "car chase musical" idea form the opening beats featuring “Bellbottoms” by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion to the first moment that Baby's headphones sadly come off. Unfortunately, that marks a bit of a stumble for the film. The movie loses its thread a little bit once the full commitment to musical drops. Maybe it was impossible to really keep the entire film moving forward as a coherent whole while remaining faithful to the constant music (most musicals don't do that), but once the film ditches the idea to advance the plot it starts to lose some of its charm. There's still plenty of good to go around, and any time the film kicks back into car chase mode it picks the thread back up. But between these moments things get a little awkward. The movie still works, but it's disappointing it doesn't fully commit to its bold idea. Do not mistake a lack of fully successful execution with lack of quality. Part of the reason the film's inability to fully dive into its soundtrack-is-god style is so annoying is because what it's doing is so challenging and interesting, that when comes together it does it so well. This isn't some cheap gimmick like Suicide Squad tried to do. It's even a step up from Guardians of the Galaxy's use of soundtrack. It's a bold experiment in making music into a full blown character, and as an experiment it both works and fails. But man, when it works, like those first 20 minutes, it works so well.  I wish as much could be said for the story itself. While Baby and Deborah's story arc is pretty well flushed out, the rest of the characters lose a bit of push. This is especially true for Doc, who wavers between all out evil and a paternal gangster. With the focus on the music and action, the characters and their motivations get lost. The end of the film explodes into a bloody action flick that feels at odds with the almost charming tone of the rest of the film. Maybe this is a repudiation of the musical genre in general, and a wink at the soundtrack-as-character itself, but it feels almost like a cop-out. It's as if Wright realized he couldn't carry on his brilliant weaving of music and action so he just didn't. Baby Driver should be seen simply because it is such a bold and wonderful idea. It really does execute it well for most of the movie. That's why I kind of hate to say that it doesn't pull it off fully. That makes it sound like it has failed, but just trying to do this is a success. I'd rather have films that try something incredible and fall just a little short than ones that don't try at all.
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Fred Astaire meets Bullit
Edgar Wright is a director with a specific vision, and it's led him to make some of the most genre-bending films in the past decade, and some of the funniest. It's also led him to leave Ant-Man. How do you bounce back from so...

Daniel Day-Lewis has retired from acting

Jun 20 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]221623:43612:0[/embed] Day-Lewis' career has been full of memorable performances dating back into the 1980s. His breakthrough was 1989's My Left Foot, for which he won his first Academy Award. Day-Lewis would also win Oscars for his performances in There Will Be Blood and Lincoln; he received Best Actor nominations for In the Name of the Father and Gangs of New York. Day-Lewis will purportedly promote The Phantom Thread as the film gets closer to release. Perhaps more details will emerge then regarding this very sudden decision. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to rewatch The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Last of the Mohicans, and The Boxer. I'm going to need a lot of milkshakes. [via Variety]
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No more milkshakes
In totally unexpected news, Daniel Day-Lewis has decided to retire from acting. One of the finest actors of his generation, Day-Lewis' last onscreen role will be in Paul Thomas Anderson's The Phantom Thread, which comes out D...

Review: Cars 3

Jun 19 // Drew Stuart
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Here in my Car(s 3)
Pixar has made a name for itself these past few decades by delivering quality kids films that everyone can enjoy, regardless of age. Yet among those films, the Cars series is rarely included, and for good reason. The storytel...

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Seriously watch it right now
We got a brief look at Black Panther last night during game 4 of the NBA Finals and to sum it up, it looks amazing. Set in the technologically advanced but secluded African nation of Wakanda, Black Panther will tell the story...

Flixist Discusses: Is Wonder Woman a Great Movie or Just an Important One? [Part 2]

Jun 10 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]221587:43586:0[/embed] Alec: As the guy who wrote Flixist’s review of Get Out, I understand a parallel there. We've talked in the past about how everything is political now. It's likely that it always has been, but it's much more widely recognized now than it used to be. To get off topic for a minute: Not a terribly long time ago, I was thinking about a hypothetical movie about racism vs one about sexism. One follows a member of the KKK, the other an MRA-esque pickup artist: which do we as a society see as more problematic? It's not the latter. There are a lot of reasons for this, and I'm certainly not the best person to list them, but this results in an interesting parallel to Black Panther (and Ryan Coogler in particular): Creed was, I learned upon entering the theater I saw it in, a “black” movie. The trailers leading up to it primarily featured Kevin Hart and Ice Cube in movies I had never seen trailers for. And it's offensively reductive to think of Creed (a movie I love) in those terms, but that is what Regal decided its audience would be. Racists may have been unhappy that the next Rocky focused on the experiences of a black man, but I don't think anyone who accepted that premise was concerned about Ryan Coogler. I think that, in a similar vein, the same man directing Black Panther is not necessarily controversial. And the backlash of a white director doing Black Panther would be more virulent than it was about, say, Paul Fieg directing the female-led Ghostbusters. There is an expectation, I think, that movies about black people will largely be made by black people. This leads into a whole host of other issues, but to get back to the actual discussion we're having: I don't see a woman analog. Movies about women are rarely made by women and, crucially, there is no expectation that they be. I think that’s why a woman directing Wonder Woman could even be in question. Of course she should, but… men tell women's stories all the time! So maybe she doesn't “need to”? It's an infuriating logic, but I can sorta see it (in a missing-the-forest-for-the-trees kind of way). And I realize now that I pretty much didn't respond to what you said… but I'd like to get your thoughts on this before going back to some of your other points (particularly about the younger generation and what this means for them, because I think that's crucial). Hubert: This is an interesting tangent, because we’re talking about the larger cultural idea concerning different people’s stories, who is telling their stories, expectations about those stories, and who gets to tell people’s stories. I think Wonder Woman would have a different sensibility if it was directed by a man; and Get Out would be different if it was directed by a white person. It goes beyond the individual style of a director and gets down to what these stories mean in terms of the identity of the director and the identities of the characters and the politics of the moment. After serving on the Cannes jury, Jessica Chastain stated publicly that the female characters in the movies she watched weren’t great. She was disturbed that they lacked depth and were such passive characters to the men around them; they weren’t representative of the women she knew in her own life. Chastain called for more women to tell stories on the big screen so the female characters had more dimension and agency. A lot of people still think of movies about women as “chick flicks”, but stories about women go beyond those dismissive labels. As more women direct movies and more stories are told about women, the idea of a movie about women or by women expands beyond a reductive niche. The same goes for films by and about people of color. The reason we’re having this whole conversation and probably will for a while is because the default sensibility in so many kinds of art is predominantly white and male.  That’s not to say that all movies about women should only be directed by women, or that all movies about people of color should only be directed by members of that ethnicity. But maybe some stories lend themselves to that type of consideration more than others. Like I think of Paul Verhoeven’s Elle from last year, which I didn’t like (I’m in the vast minority) despite a great Isabelle Huppert performance. It’s a movie about a woman who’s raped and how she processes the incident and reacts to it, but it’s directed by a man, with a screenplay by a man, adapted from a novel by a man. And it felt like it. I’m glad you mentioned the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot. I think this comes back to the symbolic cultural dimension of films and how that informs a strong personal attachment to something. These days I think it’s just middling-to-okay, but lots of my friends rally around it. Part of that is a counterpoint to the over-the-top male-nerd rage over an all-female Ghostbusters remake. But beyond the rebuke of manchild gatekeeping, whenever the movie feels like a Kate McKinnon, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones comedy, it’s fun to watch because they’re doing their own thing and their personalities drive the story. Unfortunately, it’s a beat-for-beat remake of the original Ghostbusters. I feel like there’s a good-to-great movie trapped inside of a calculated, studio-mandated formula. And maybe someone other than Feig should have directed it. Though imagine the s**t-show if Feig was hired to direct Black Panther. Alec: It would be something to behold. Ultimately, we're talking about representation, and not just in the people on screen. Representation behind the scenes, allowing stories to be told by the people whose stories are actually being told. In certain circles, “representation” has developed a negative connotation -- something like tokenism -- but it’s a crucially important thing to have stories told about all kinds of people, and to have them told by the kinds of people who have a deep investment in those stories. It’s not just about who is on screen. Let’s be honest: a story about Wonder Woman means a lot less to someone who grew up wanting to be Superman. (That actually brings up a whole other discussion re: the fact that I don’t think anyone will grow up wanting to be Zack Snyder’s version of Superman) And here we return to this image of parents taking a photo of their daughter doing a Wonder Woman-y pose at the movie theater. That little girl is getting to see a badass woman starring in her own movie on the big screen for basically the first time ever. AND she gets to see that in a movie that refuses to sexualize one of the most attractive human beings to ever exist; nay, a movie that never even considers sexualizing her in the first place! It would be oh-so-easy to have all kinds of gratuitous fan service in this movie, given the generally sparse nature of her costume, but the film never calls attention to it. All of that unnecessary slow-mo in Wonder Woman may seem Snyder-esque, but it’s different in purpose: it’s always to call attention to the cool thing that’s being done and not the way the person doing it is dressed (an issue he has with his slow-motion (and regular-motion) portrayals of women). And I love that. I am ecstatic for that little girl, that she gets to grow up in a world where she has a movie that treats its badass woman protagonist as a badass protagonist first and a woman, well, first also but in, ya know, a positive way. I just wish I liked the movie itself more. Because I am celebrating all of these things that surround the movie and things that the movie does that are sort of abstracted from the actual quality of the movie itself. Sexualization of a character does not a make a movie inherently bad; it would make a Wonder Woman movie inherently problematic, but it is not a clear measure of the film’s quality. And when I think about the narrative foibles or the really-very-bad CGI, I just get sad, because I want to unequivocally shout from the heavens that this movie is a gamechanger not just culturally but as a piece of art (or, at the very least, entertainment). And it’s not; it’s just good. But when I put in all those caveats, I worry about diminishing the excitement of that little girl doing her pose. It’s not that she’d ever read a thing I said about it, but that the negativity of people like me could poison the well and take her excitement about this new awesome thing for her and crush it. I don’t want that to happen, and I don’t want to be that kind of person, that kind of guy. And so I don’t always know how to critique it, because it’s become inextricably linked from its own importance. Hubert: I think you can understand the joy or enthusiasm that the young girl has for Wonder Woman as a symbol even if you didn’t like Wonder Woman the movie as much as she did. The fact that you’re concerned about diminishing someone else’s enthusiasm for Wonder Woman safeguards you from being a total grump. You’re trying to avoid being a downer, which is a lot better than most people on the internet (says this guy on the internet). Instead, you’re saying, “You got that out of Wonder Woman? Awesome!” You acknowledge that it means something important to someone else, and you’re doing your best to understand that. To me, that’s the way around this whole sliding scale of quality question. Regardless of the movie itself, you can at least mutually understand its importance as this thing in the world. The movie is working as an empathy machine, and so is the conversation around the movie. Whenever I talk to friends about movies or books or any sort of art, I’m usually more interested in hearing what they think first before saying what I think. I want to share in their enthusiasm or passion for something, see where they’re coming from. We’ll disagree on some stuff, and what’s important to someone else may not have been something I was paying attention to when I was watching, but now I’m more aware of that concern. Generally it doesn’t matter if we agree on the quality of the work. It’s the conversation about this thing in common between us that matters; it’s about what new ideas we’ll have talking to each other about this thing in common. It’s interesting how you’re disappointed in Wonder Woman being merely good. As if being good wasn’t enough. But with some things, that so true! You want to experience that transformative, transcendent feeling. I’ve felt that same way about other movies, most recently with Your Name and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Both were so hyped up for me, but both just left me thinking, “That was all right.” I get why people love those movies on paper when I think of what happens in the abstract, but it just didn’t affect me in the same way. And that’s fine. This might be my inner Platonist talking, but the idea of something is always more perfect than its actual material manifestation. It might be the human tendency to conflate the idea of the thing with the actual thing when assessing quality, but if so, oh well. I guess all I can really say is that you should be happy for that girl at the movies, and don’t worry about spoiling her connection to Wonder Woman just because you didn’t like it as much. You’re conscious of what it means to her and to others. It’s not like you’re being a total asshole or questioning her intellect or trying to debate her about aesthetics. As long as you aren’t tweeting “Well, actually…” to a bunch of Wonder Woman fans on the internet or antagonizing people for not sharing your opinions, I think everyone will be fine. And yet sadly, that happens a lot since the internet is, at its worst, a solipsistic misanthropy machine. Alec: I don't remember which review it was (I've done too many at this point), but I once wrote passionately in defense of movies that are Just Good. Considering all of the dreck we have to deal with, being genuinely Good is a triumph, and I have never seen a Good movie that I felt was a waste of my time or a thing I regretted doing. Good is not fundamentally or inherently problematic. When Good becomes a problem (for me) is when other people rave about how Great, Amazing, Wonderful, etc. a thing is. It becomes impossible to celebrate a thing's Goodness when everyone else is celebrating Greatness. I want to be able to say, "Ya know, Wonder Woman was pretty good. It had its flaws, but it it's definitely a few steps above anything the DCEU has done up to this point." Instead, I end up arguing, because there are people who reject the idea that it is anything short of a triumph. And while on some level I see where they're coming from, I also don't think they're looking at the film critically; they're getting swept up into it. And that's not necessarily to say that people who like the movie more than me are wrong (storytelling impacts different people very differently, which is largely the reason why we do these discussions in the first place) but that I get concerned that people write off flaws and the next movie that could be Great learning from the mistakes of the thing that is Good repeats them instead. I'd rather live in a world where every movie is Good than one where it has fallen into constant mediocrity. Even so, I want movies better than Wonder Woman. This can be the new bar we set, but it's also hardly an impossible one to overcome.  Wonder Woman is the beginning of something great; I just don't think it's great in and of itself.
Wonder Woman Discussed 2 photo
Racism, sexism, etc.
We're back with the second (and final) part of our Wonder Woman discussion, where we get into much, um, headier(?) topics than we did yesterday. Hubert continues to use big words, and I continue to make broad statements that ...

Flixist Discusses: Is Wonder Woman a Great Movie or Just an Important One? [Part 1]

Jun 09 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]221013:43185:0[/embed] Alec: Before we really get into the issue at hand, I want to establish my DC cred (or lack thereof). I liked Man of Steel and thought Batman v Superman was bad but worth seeing in IMAX and that the Director’s Cut was actually decent, if still infuriatingly stupid. Also, Suicide Squad was awful. My first introduction to Wonder Woman as a character came in Batman v Superman and I came into this knowing pretty much nothing about her. If this movie changes her up (as I imagine it does), I couldn't tell you how. Crucially, I also don't care. I think that, by this point, the modern DCEU has staked out its underlying theme: Do heroes have a place in the world? While Marvel films seem more-or-less content to have them around in some capacity, DC questions their existence (in that sense, it has more in common with Fox’s Marvel films than Disney's). Do I think it succeeds? Not really, at least most of the time, but I do think it's a more interesting question than Marvel's. Prior to getting into the specific merits of Wonder Woman, its place in DC’s canon, and -- perhaps most crucially -- its place in American culture in 2017, I wanted to get your opinion on the DCEU and also whether you agree with my assessment of the story it’s trying (and often failing) to tell. Hubert: I agree that the DCEU movies ask what place heroes have in the world. That’s the crux of Man of Steel (which I didn’t care for), and the film has a pretty dark, non-committal answer to the question. Rather than a moral beacon, the Superman in Man of Steel is unsure of his purpose and constantly wrestles with self-doubt. After saving a bus full of drowning children, Clark’s dad isn’t proud that his son did the right thing. He essentially says, “Maybe you should have let those kids die to protect yourself.” That’s one effed-up moral compass, Pa Kent--you standing near a magnet? And then Pa Kent commits suicide by tornado in front of his wife and kid to prove a point. Jesus, Jonathan, how messed up was your dad? So Superman is this glum hero who seems burdened by his need to do the right thing rather than fueled by it. Meanwhile, Batman is a homicidal psychopath who’s really into CrossFit. That’s not my preferred iteration of the character. It’s pretty striking that the Batman and Superman of the DCEU are these really damaged people that are still working through their traumas. Worse, they find no sense of meaning or purpose in their heroism. They remind me of the grim-and-gritty Batman and Superman analogs from the comics of the 1990s. And yeah, Suicide Squad sucked on toast. I feel like Wonder Woman is a break from that grimness and glumness. She’s this optimistic, idealistic, confident hero who wants to help people because it’s the right thing to do. Full stop. She would save a bus full of drowning children and take them out for ice cream after that. That’s the kind of heroism I think of when I think of Superman, but it’ll take the DCEU Superman years of therapy to undo the BS his dad gave him. Alec: I think it's true that Wonder Woman is a radically different take on a superhero than what Zack Snyder has thus far done with the DCEU. Wisecrack did a really interesting video recently about the philosophical failures of Batman v Superman, focusing largely on the fact that Batman is the objectivist ideal that Snyder loves (and Frank Miller portrayed in The Dark Knight Returns) but so, in many ways, is Superman. Wonder Woman is very much not that. She is, it seems, in the wrong universe. (I think this is furthered by the fact that she is literally a god, which complicates the whole Superman-as-god-kinda-but-not-really thing that has been the crux of the franchise thus far.) That said, even if the hero doesn't feel like a natural fit, her movie does. It's more colorful and quippier, to be sure, but it's still rather brutal. Marvel dealt with the idea of civilian casualties in Captain America: Civil War, but they didn't show Scarlet Witch walking through the building she destroyed like they made Diana walk through the mustard gas’d village. (I could imagine a truly horrific R-rated cut of this movie.) Beyond that, the over-reliance on CGI, particularly towards the end, felt very DC, particularly since their movies have objectively worse effects than do Marvel’s, and I found Wonder Woman's effects to be consistently and seriously lacking. Which brings us, ultimately, to what this whole thing is about, because I feel weird criticizing this movie, because the movie is genuinely important. It is the first $100 million+ blockbuster to be directed by a woman and first film in either comic cinematic universe to center on a woman. It has made a ton of money, and I'm ecstatic for that, because apparently there was a question about whether or not women could make movies that people would want to see. And now that question is (or should be) settled firmly in the “Yes” camp. And good.  But my feelings are complicated greatly by the fact that I think the movie is pretty good but not the brilliant, revolutionary thing that so many folks in my Facebook feed appear to have experienced. Because I think this movie is important historically, but I don't think history will be kind to it.  Hubert: I liked the movie a lot more than you did, but I also sense that a lot of the love people have for Wonder Woman is rooted in its historical significance and/or personal significance. A couple of my friends have talked about seeing the movie with their daughters, or with their nieces and young cousins, and the sense of pride they felt watching it. Other friends talk about the confidence the movie instilled in them as women, which is something they haven’t felt from other movies. On my way to the theater to see Wonder Woman, I saw some parents take a picture of their young daughter striking a Wonder Woman-y pose in front of the Wonder Woman poster; I immediately thought of my niece, who isn’t even a year old, and what she might think of the movie when she eventually sees it. Conversely, I have a couple friends who outright refuse to see the movie because of Gal Gadot’s service in the IDF and her support of Israel. People may love (or hate) a movie for what it represents at the moment rather than what the movie is in and of itself. But I think that’s fine. It’s natural, even. It’s unavoidable. I think that’s how people encounter art and consume entertainment in their daily lives. No movie is ever a movie in and of itself. There’s the work, there’s the viewer and what they bring to the work, and there’s the social/political/historical context in which the viewer encounters the work. We can’t step outside of world history or personal history, and neither can a work of art or entertainment. My reaction to a movie may cool over time, and that’s natural because we change our minds, the hype dies down, and maybe in our reassessment we realize we aren’t so hot on the thing we once really liked. The reverse is true as well. There have been plenty of movies I’ve come to love later when I’m in a different point in my life and can see the work differently. This may be weird to say, but I think Get Out and Wonder Woman occupy a similar space this year in terms of their social/historical significance and how that affects people’s individual love for the film. I like Get Out a lot and think it’s a well made horror-comedy with remarkable insights about race, though I don’t think it’s the masterpiece other people think it is. But that’s fine. As an assimilated Filipino guy who grew up in the suburbs, my personal connection to Get Out isn’t anything like the personal connection of my Haitian friend who’s married to a white woman. I guess I’m saying that we never experience art in an ahistorical, non-biographical social vacuum. I guess I’m also saying there may be a similar cultural conversation surrounding Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther come February 2018. [Check back tomorrow for Part 2!]
Wonder Woman Discussed photo
The answer might surprise me
So, Wonder Woman is out. We here at Flixist are big fans, but I will admit to being a bit more lukewarm than many of my colleagues here (as well as most of my social circle). But quality aside, it's an important mov...

Review: The Mummy

Jun 09 // Matthew Razak
[embed]221584:43585:0[/embed] The MummyDirector: Alex KurtzmanRelease Date: June 9, 2016Rated: PG-13 The Mummy has very little to do with the classic horror film from 1932 because that is a classic. Nor does it have much to do with the Brendan Fraser led (words I'll probably never type again) The Mummy from 1999 because that was fun. Nor does it really have anything to do with any mummy that you're thinking about unless you're thinking about a mostly naked Sofia Boutella with some rotting skin.  We find Boutella, playing the ancient and evil Princess Ahmanet, being buried alive because she's evil. Flash forward to modern day and tomb raider Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and his pal Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) discover her tomb after calling in an air strike because they're also in the army. From there the movie makes a lot of illogical leaps that basically lead Nick to become the chosen one, which means the evil god Set will inhabit his body after ceremony is performed by Ahmanet wherein she stabs him. Add in Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) to say a lot of exposition, and hint at the bigger Dark Universe as a whole, and a love interest for Nick (Annabelle Wallis), and you've got yourself... nearly nothing.  That is basically what The Mummy amounts to. By the time the film is nearing its ending it literally feels like it hasn't even started. You would think that issue would stem from the fact that they've shoved too much universe building into the film, but it is actually the opposite. The movie never seems to be able to establish any universe at all. We're supposed to care about Nick and his love interest, but she's such a 90s action movie MacGuffin that I've completely forgotten her name. We never get a true feeling for what Nick is going through, and Ahmanet's powers are so wishy washy and illogical that it creates plot holes that are hard to ignore. It's a superhero origin story where the superhero never shows up.  I will give credit where its due. I'm excited to see more of Russel Crowe's Jekyll/Hyde. The actor actually imbues his exposition with a bit of panache, and Jekyll's brief appearance is the most fun the movie has. In fact, aside from that the movie is just bland. Universal wants to establish a "dark" universe, but there's nothing dark about this movie at all except for its instance to mute every color in existence. It plays the same note throughout, feeling more like a dated action movie than a modern blockbuster. The DC Extended Universe may have its issues, but at least its got a tone and feeling of its own. The Mummy can't differentiate itself from the myriad of other action flicks released each year. That may come from Alex Kurtzman's directing. Why Universal would take the risk on a guy only known for producing is beyond me, but his first big studio movie lacks any character at all. His action sequences are competent enough, but rely a bit too much on unremarkable CGI, and he routinely wastes the charms of Tom Cruise, who wavers back and forth on whether he's really committed to playing the role. In fairness, if I saw the way the movie was unfolding, I'd probably stop caring too. Finally, Kurtzman just can't keep the pace. The film lulls and then picks up randomly and then lulls again. Part of that probably comes from the screenplay-by-committee (six credited writers) production, but Kurtzman could have made it flow better. The sad fact is that The Mummy isn't truly terrible. It isn't really anything. There's some decent action sequences with some clever gimmicks sprinkled in. There's a plot that's illogical, but passable, and actors who, under the right circumstances, could make something interesting happen. But nothing interesting does happen. The Mummy is two hours of nothing, and at this moment that means that the entirety of the Dark Universe is two hours of nothing. Universal better pray for a big bang soon or it'll keep on being nothing, and none of their stars will shine. 
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Don't universes get started with a bang?
Everybody wants a superhero movie universe now. Thanks to Marvel's insane success at stringing together a cinematic comic universe, every movie studio out there wants a piece of the pie. You can't really blame them. Cinematic...

Wonder Woman is the hero the DCEU deserves, and also the one it needs right now

Jun 07 // Hubert Vigilla
Up until Wonder Woman, the DCEU has been defined by oppressive brooding. Man of Steel featured a Superman hobbled by self-doubt for at least half of the story. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a clash between a sociopathic demi-god with daddy issues and a homicidal psychopath with mommy issues. Suicide Squad was a bad movie full of bad guys. No one seems to enjoy heroism in any of these movies. Except for Wonder Woman. As I mentioned last year, Wonder Woman was the only genuine hero in Batman v Superman. She leaps into battle with gusto and handles herself capably. She could have saved the day herself if Batman and Superman were such dumb meatheads. Throughout Wonder Woman's origin story, Diana admires strength and bravery and being totally kick ass. She marvels at the Amazons as they spar, and she mimics their moves. Diana, throwing punches at the air, smiling on a hill--that was me at five-years-old standing on a coffee table watching Bruce Lee movies. I imagine that a bunch of kids, particularly girls, will also punch and kick along with Gadot on screen. Her martial prowess is grounded in an unshakable sense of compassion and kindness. Her first time eating ice cream is a great comedic moment, but it's also all about Diana's ceaseless love. She's so appreciative for the cone, she's so gracious to the vendor--and yes, come to think of it, ice cream is pretty awesome the first time you ever eat it (and the 5,000th time, too). As she watches villagers besieged and in pain, her instinct is to help them rather than allow them to suffer; when she sees a horse being whipped, she thinks of a more humane way to treat animals. While Man of Steel shied away from collateral damage by keeping Superman and Zod battling through the skies, Wonder Woman is there in the mud, wandering through the murderous gas, like she's a superhero working for some humanitarian NGO. In the most memorable action scene in the film, Wonder Woman is the first one out of the trenches leading the charge into No Man's Land. As she draws the machine gunfire and holds her ground, she's the beacon of hope, an example for others to follow. She accepts this duty without any sense of guilt or doubt. She's saving the day. Why do it begrudgingly. In the most absurd of wars, a moral light. Wonder Woman always wanted to be a hero. She always is a hero. If there's a moment of disenchantment in heroism, it's not because she's a dark and brooding figure unsure of herself and her powers. Rather, it's when she realizes that humanity excels at reckless murder. It's a philosophical crisis rather than a psychological crisis, which is fitting for a mythic character's dilemma. A worldview is questioned, so what's the response? To keep fighting for your ideals. Love, valor, ice cream--nevertheless, she persisted. In addition to the hope and unabashed heroism, Wonder Woman is the most competently made DCEU movie. The colorful utopian idyll of Themyscira serves as a counterpoint to a morally gray Europe during the first World War. The screenplay may not reinvent the superhero movie or the superhero origin story, but it covers that well-trod ground briskly and with humor. Jenkins lets the camera linger on Diana's face a little longer as she reacts to people and the world around her; Gadot's subtle facial expressions offer an unexpected depth to the performance that isn't present in the other DCEU movies. There's not much going on in the heads of Batman and Superman that a scream or a grunt won't convey, but Wonder Woman has an internal life. Jenkins' filmmaking adds some allure to the otherwise rote romance that develops between Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and Diana. Subverting the usual gender tropes we see in blockbuster movies, the only overtly sexy moment in the film involves a naked, chiseled Pine emerging from a shimmering Themysciran bath. In any other movie that would be the moment for a gratuitous Angelina Jolie butt shot, but no--Wonder Woman subverts it to great effect. Even when Diana and Steve eventually sleep together, that's handled with relative maturity. An adult is charge for once in the otherwise adolescent DCEU. In Wonder Woman, there's no embarrassing horndog gawking at a woman's body a la Suicide Squad. Instead of pin-ups or conquests, Gadot and her fellow Amazons are lensed like warriors and athletes; Bruce-Lee-ification rather than objectification. The slow motion in the action scenes seem to be a nod to Zack Snyder's aesthetic, but they also reminded me of Michael Jordan highlight reels. Here, enjoy the grace and the hang time of someone doing something extraordinary. And yeah, the kid in me wished I could so something like that. At its best, moments like this split the difference between Richard Donner's Superman ("You will believe a man can fly") and that song from Space Jam ("I Believe I Can Fly"). Sure, the last half hour of Wonder Woman strays into schlocky CG superhero territory. I was sort of hoping the final battle with Ares would be shot like a moving neoclassical painting as seen with the backstory at the beginning, but alas. It's basically the Doomsday fight from Batman v Superman, but with more magic lightning. And yeah, the bookending narrative is a clunky device that leads to the film's awkward beginning and ending. And yet, I'm hopeful, and it's the first time I've had that feeling with a DCEU movie. Rather than cynical, it's sincere. In an interview with The New York Times, Jenkins said, "I'm tired of sincerity being something we have to be afraid of doing." She later added, "It's terrible when it makes so many artists afraid to be sincere and truthful and emotional, and relegates them to the too-cool-for-school department. Art is supposed to bring beauty to the world." Outside the theater as I was going to catch Wonder Woman, a little girl stood in front of the movie poster and held her arms up in front of her face while her parents took a picture. What it feels like to stand on a hill.
Wonder Woman DCEU photo
Kick ass, take names, eat ice cream
Wonder Woman is just what the DCEU needed. It's been getting very good reviews, and it's also been performing well at the global box office. As of this writing, it's earned $240 million worldwide. It's not stratospheric busin...

Review: Wonder Woman

May 31 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221570:43578:0[/embed] Wonder WomanDirector: Patty JenkinsRelease Date: June 2, 2017Rated: PG-13 Diana (Gal Gadot) is the Princess of Themyscira, an island inhabiting an ancient Amazonian race put on the Earth by Zeus to stifle mankind's need for war. Molded from clay and birthed by Zeus, Diana has always been a little different from the rest of her Amazonian sisters and put to the true test when Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an English spy, crash lands on her home and brings news of a great war happening around the world (WWI). Figuring it to be the work of Ares, the god of war, Diana demands to be taken to the front line. But when in the outside world, Diana has to come to grips with her own humanity as she learns the real driving force behind the war.  Let's get this out of the way first. Wonder Woman is an origin story. The plot follows a lot of the standard beats you've come to expect from origin stories (complete with a sequence introducing the flashback in question), but unlike other films of its ilk, rather than a character slowly becoming a mythological being, Wonder Woman essentially works backwards. As it's introducing Diana and her world, the film takes an already established higher being and challenges her infallibility. Always being sure to treat her as a goddess, the narrative instead veers away from the stereotypical physical change and focuses on internal struggle and strife. Momentous scenes in origin stories like first donning of the famous suit, fighting the main villain, and the original call to action, are subdued in favor of zeroing in on Diana's matter-of-fact perspective. Basically, there's no need to have Diana change into a hero since she already is one, and I can't understate how refreshing it is to learn about her humanity instead.  Ambitious as the internal narrative is, it wouldn't have worked without a strong performance from its lead. To be completely honest, I was worried about Gal Gadot's strength as a lead actress going into this. Thankfully, that worry only lasted about 20 minutes. While the first chunk of the film is stilted and full of bad acting and accents (likening it to a more generic version of Xena: Warrior Princess), once Gadot is introduced everything perks right up. She's kind of incredible in the way she commands attention here (befitting the character too). Director Patty Jenkins takes a little time each shot to make Gadot stand out a little more, whether its subtly pointing out the fact she is taller than most of her co-stars, or the costume design making her look just different enough from everyone else. Gadot and Jenkins work together to really nail the fish out of water angle here, and further smooth out any edges Gadot could have in her performance.  But Gadot's performance wouldn't have meant anything without a great script. Wonder Woman may not be perfectly written in all areas (as one big moment diminishes her character), but there's a great balance of levity and drama. What I came to appreciate the most were smaller beats allowing the actors to really dig into their characters. Chris Pine is as charming as he's ever been, so the best scenes of the film are simply subdued conversations between Steve and Diana. These smaller, character intense moments also help to elevate the later generic superhero action taking place toward the climax. There's an added layer of catharsis, but it doesn't mean the climax is safe from gender normative action where Diana is suddenly not the character she was the rest of the film. The climax will need further discussion once more folks see it for sure.  As for the action, it's fine. The action scenes are a bit Snyder-esque as they use slow motion to emphasize movement, but there is a greater sense of fluidity in the motion. Once Diana starts whipping around dudes with a golden rope, the film basks in some very cool visuals. There's unfortunately a bit of unintentional slapstick during some of the scenes, but it gives the film a little flavor not seen in other DC Comics films. I'll give it a pass.  The fear when reviewing superhero films is critically analyzing them within a bubble. Initially, I was worried I'd attribute Wonder Woman's success to being a well made film within the DC Extended Universe (and we've been burned so many times), and just clinging to it like a life raft in a sea of schmaltz. But, after writing this review, I've come to the conclusion it's just a damn good film.  Wonder Woman, the oft-misplaced icon in DC's Holy Trinity, has truly made her mark on cinema. Less Batmen and supermenches, more wonderful women please.  Second Opinion: Wonder Woman gets almost everything right for its first two acts. Its action sequences are impressive, and utilize Wonder Woman's superpowers in unique and awesome ways. Patty Jenkins has a surprising eye for action for a drama director that allows it to flow and build, a feature many directors seem to lack. But more important than the kick ass action sequences is the fact the film works as a character piece. Unlike other DCEU films, you actually care about what's going on, the plot unfolds in a coherent way, and the characters act like they should. Yes, it may hit on a few (OK, a lot) of cliches, but it implements them to a tee. A lot of the charm comes from Chris Pine and Gal Gadot, who turn their relationship into something special. The film actually hits emotionally, which is why it's too bad the third act turns into nothing more than an action brawler. It doesn't fit with the rest of the film's tone, and feels more like a Zack Snyder movie than anything else. This doesn't sully the film as a whole, however, leading to a superhero movie that feels like its own thing. 80 -- Matthew Razak
Wonder Woman Review photo
Some kind of wonderful
DC Comics and Warner Bros have been, well, let's say misguided in their attempts at launching a series of films comparable to Marvel's success. Deciding to push through critical failure (thanks to overall box office success),...

Review: Baywatch

May 24 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221553:43568:0[/embed] BaywatchDirector: Seth GordonRelease Date: May 26, 2017Rated: R Mitch (Dwayne Johnson) is a lifeguard everyone loves. He may take his job a bit too seriously, but in the world of Baywatch, his lifeguard post includes its own arm of the local government (complete with enough of a budget to afford things like ATVs). When confronted with the disgraced, former Olympian Matt Brody (Zac Efron), he's forced to put his feelings about the new recruit aside when they uncover a larger drug plot at hand that's threatening the entire bay. But when the police won't investigate, Lt. Mitch and his lifeguard crew decide to take matters into their own hands and dicks and boobs.  Like most unfortunate comedies to fall in this category, Baywatch substitutes actual jokes with raunchy humor. Now I don't have a problem with raunch in practice, as dick jokes are as classic as apple pie, but they're only great when they don't disrupt the flow of the film. It's hard to explain, but I'll try and elaborate on my problem with Baywatch's genitalia humor by outlining one of its more problematic scenes. In the first fifteen minutes or so, Ronnie (Jon Bass), the archetypal loser of the bunch, has a crush on the lifeguard CJ (Kelly Rohrback) -- who's only purpose in this film is to be ogled -- and chokes on some food when she runs by. After CJ delivers the heimlich maneuver (complete with thrusting), Ronnie becomes erect. But to hide it from her, he nervously stumbles until he falls and gets stuck, dick first, in a beach chair. Thus resulting in a large crowd of people surrounding Ronnie as CJ and Mitch talk about setting him free. If it sounds like my summary made the scene seem devoid of charm, it was actually much worse experiencing it first hand. Sure it serves the purpose of introducing Ronnie and CJ's dynamic, but paints their friendship in an unpleasant, slog of a light.  It's a shame Baywatch relies so much on low hanging fruit humor, since it can be intelligent when it puts forth an effort. When the film allows itself to be made fun of, it actually makes for pretty fantastic sequences. The film's opening, for example, combines all that you'd expect to see (Johnson diving in slow motion, wide shots of the beach) but injects with a major nod to how ridiculous it all is once the title card shows up. There are even a few inspired raunchy bits (like the talking balls gag), and the fact that Mitch never refers to Brody by his real name. These occasional bright spots in the dialogue only make the rest of the script more disappointing by comparison.  But the major factor at play is how straight it plays the premise. Baywatch, while occasionally winking at itself, also takes things much more seriously than you'd hope. Long stretches are dedicated to plot exposition, or un-interestingly shot action sequences. Rather than laugh, or even question what I was watching, I often found myself having no reaction at all. And with a comedy that clocks in at two hours, that's pretty much the equivalent of drowning in shallow water. It's something that could've easily been avoided had you tried to kick around a bit.  Like the vapid characters of its source material, Baywatch is great to look at but once it opens its mouth you realize how hollow it is. It's almost as if the entire film plays in slow motion.  Baywatch is a bad watch. I know I should feel guilty about not ending this review on a better joke, but that'd mean putting in more effort than the film did. 
Baywatch Review photo
So much emocean
Baywatch is another film in the same vein of nostalgic television reboots like The A-Team, CHiPs, and the crazily successful 21 Jump Street. A show known only for attractive people running in slow motion serving as a sor...

In defense of Roger Moore

May 24 // Matthew Razak
First, Roger Moore could deliver a one-liner like no other. Part of this was the fact that he didn't really look like he could deliver a one-liner. Moore never had the rough suaveness of Connery, the playfulness of Lazenby, the sneering edge of Dalton, the boyish charm of Brosnan or the harsh facade of Craig. He was straight-laced, upright, and square-jawed so when he delivered a line like, "Just keeping the British end up," while raising his iconic eyebrow it was just mischievous enough to actually work. Only Connery could nail a one-liner like Moore did.  Often Moore is criticized for taking Bond in a comedic direction and eventually into camp territory. However, this trend towards a more ridiculous Bond was well in place by the time Moore took over, and, in fact, was clearly what audiences wanted at the time. After Connery left following You Only Live Twice, a film full of what would come to be known as Moore-style Bond action, Eon Productions actually did ground Bond. On Her Majesty's Secret Service is one of the most prolifically grounded Bond films there is, and could fit right in with Craig's current slate of films minus a few sight gags. It did not do as well as previous Bonds at the box office (though still was one of the top films of the year), so what happened? Full tilt the other way with Connery returning one last time for Diamonds Are Forever and the true birth of a less serious Bond. This is what audiences wanted from their Bond at the time, and Moore was way better than anyone else at playing it up with a wink to the camera.  Combining the newer direction of the franchise with Moore's uncanny ability to play it straight while still finding the fun of a scene worked really well for Bond. But he's still remembered for the excess and ridiculousness instead of subtle nods. And that is a fair complaint. He went to space and shot lasers (more on this later) for Pete's sake. However, lost in the mire of space stations (Moonraker), underwater sea labs (The Spy Who Loved Me) and hot air balloon raids with an all female circus (Octopussy), is that fact that a lot of Moore's bond films weren't that big at all. In fact he kicked off his tenure with the relatively subdued Live and Let Die, which featured an incredibly complex story that played Moore's stiff Britishness against a Harlem gang to surprising effect. The Man with the Golden Gun may start to show signs of the preponderance of overblown Bond that was too come (slide whistle car flips and Sheriff Pepper), but it also ends with a one-on-one showdown between two foes. Yes, it's in a ridiculous setting, but Moore actually pulls the tension out of it alongside the fantastic Christopher Lee. Then there is For Your Eyes Only, a film in which Moore's Bond is a complete and total badass. If it weren't for the Bibi scenes the film would be one of the straightest played Bond films around.  But Bond wasn't (and isn't really) about being subdued. In fact Roger Moore's best Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me, is easily one of the best Bond films around specifically because it is everything that makes Bond great. Moore delivers a fantastic performance from the pitch perfect parachute-stunt opening to the inevitable victory in an evil villains base. The film is everything a Bond movie should be, cliche and all. If Goldfinger began defining what a Bond film is then The Spy Who Loved Me finalized that definition. Even in its overblown Bond glory the film finds time to hit some emotional notes, especially when Bond's late wife is brought up and Moore tersely shuts the conversation down. Moore's Bond is at its comic finest, but also some of his cruelest. At one point a henchman is grabbing Bond's tie to keep from falling off a roof. Once he gets the information he needs Moore simply knocks the tie away letting him fall with a stone cold, "What a helpful chap." Let's also give fashion credit where its due. While Connery's grey 3-piece suit in Goldfinger may be the gold standard of Bond fashion, sometimes he went a bit too high fashion to stay classically trendy. Moore will always look sharp for the most part. His long neck meant that the large collars of the 70s don't look out of style and his Savile Row suits couldn't get more British. In one of the the ugliest eras in men's fashion Moore's Bond stayed classic for the most part. Maybe it could seem stuffy at the time, but thanks to Moore Bond looks timelessly stylish in a suit.  Finally, Moore saved the franchise. After OHMSS people thought that Bond wouldn't be able to survive without Connery. Recasting seemed like a mistake, especially since Diamonds performed so much better. Then Moore came along and his take on Bond worked with audiences. People enjoyed watching his Bond, and the franchise stayed relevant. Moonraker might be ridiculous, but it bought full into the Star Wars craze of the time and remained the highest grossing Bond film for decades. No other Bond could have made Moonraker even remotely work. Thanks to Moore's performance its easy to see how he's metaphorically winking at the camera throughout the ridiculousness. At that time it is what Bond needed to succeed and only Moore's Bond could handle that. Moore took a fun approach to Bond that these days is often looked down upon, but while all his films weren't fantastic, and he easily should have stopped before A View to A Kill thanks to his age, what Moore did was truly define James Bond. His own delight in having fun with the movies shines through his performances. Maybe that fun has moved on from action cinema, and maybe that isn't entirely a good thing. Looking at modern Bond films its when the franchise finds that balance between drama and humor that it really works as Skyfall showed, especially when compared to the dour Quantum of Solace and the overly punchy Spectre. Moore might not be your favorite Bond, but he deserves to be remembered as a man who defined what we truly think of Bond overall. There would be no James Bond without Roger Moore.
Bond photo
Why his Bond is better than you think
Yesterday we heard the sad news that Roger Moore had passed away. If you're like me it hit you pretty hard, because if you're like me Roger Moore's James Bond is something you love. A lot of people are not like me. Most don't...

 photo
This guy is this guy--not a real stretch
Last we heard on the Venom movie front, Andrew Garfield was still the defacto Spider-Man, Spider-Man had not shown up in the Marvel cinematic universe, and Sony had not learned it was more lucrative to play nice with Marvel t...

The Dark Crystal photo
Scariest childrens movie ever
Netflix -- because it evidently doesn't have enough things to get excited about -- has announced that it is working with the Jim Henson Company to produce a 10 episode prequel to the classic film The Dark Crystal, called The ...

Star Trek Discovery photo
This is before the original?
After delay and delay and delay we finally have our first look at Star Trek: Discovery. It is very confusing. Check out the trailer and you'll see the cast getting into plenty of scrapes and even some moral quandries (good), ...

Trailer: Bong Joon Ho's Okja looks like a gorgeous, Spielbergian eco-terror adventure

May 18 // Hubert Vigilla
As The Playlist notes, Bong decided to partner with Netflix for his newest film to avoid the distribution and release headaches he experienced working with the Weinsteins on Snowpiercer. (Ugh, ol' Harvey Scissorhands.) Okja's international cast includes An Seo Hyun, Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Steven Yeun, and Jake Gyllenhaal.  Okja will be out on Netflix and in select theaters on June 28th. Let us know how you think and what that cuddly super-pig creature might taste like in the comments. (I mean, yeah, bacon, but with notes of what, exactly?) [via The Playlist]
Trailer: Okja photo
Tastes f**king good
Bong Joon Ho is one of Korea's most acclaimed and beloved filmmakers, and one of the most respected directors in the world. He made an international name for himself with 2003's Memories of a Murder, and went on to craft The ...

Review: Alien: Covenant

May 06 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]221515:43550:0[/embed] Alien: CovenantDirector: Ridley ScottRelease Date: May 18, 2017Rating: R  Coming from Covenant’s marketing campaign, you might be surprised by the first name in its opening credits: Michael Fassbender. And right off the bat we know that something is wrong, because in the trailer that was pretty cool for two minutes (before being very, very stupid right at the end), you see Fassbender… twice? We’ve been led to believe that Katherine Waterson is our protagonist, and yet we don’t begin the film with her (rather with Fassbender’s David character, from Prometheus). And then we go to Fassbender’s other character, an android named Walter. We aren’t introduced to the cast until after the first exciting thing happens: A solar event damages the ship and forces the crew members from their cryosleep. In the chaos that ensues, we finally meet our Ripley. And it just goes downhill from there. The first thing you see Daniels – the Strong Independent Woman who is going to take down the xenomorph at the end (one would assume) – do is fail to get out of her sleeping pod. You see some guys get out, then they help her. And then her husband, played perplexingly for less than two minutes by James Franco, can’t get out… but no one can get him out either and he burns up in his pod. And then we’re treated to our Strong Independent Woman being sad about her dead husband while watching a video he left her on a tablet. Ugh. But Daniels doesn’t take over; she’s second in command to Billy Krudup’s character, who is sad that no one respects him and thinks it is because he is a man of faith (there is no evidence to support this). Their ship is transporting a couple thousand colonists to their new home, but after the solar incident and the death of their captain, everyone is a little iffy about getting back into their cryogenic pods – especially since Walter tells them there is a not-insignificant chance that this kind of thing could happen again. Conveniently (or not), they receive a distress beacon from a nearby planet that falls perfectly within the habitable zone. It’s weeks away rather than years, so Krudup decides they should go check it out. When hell breaks loose however many minutes later, I found myself thinking not about what I was seeing but about my complete lack of reaction to it. Technically, there’s some good stuff here. There are some genuinely great shots, and the production design in general is very cool. But functionally there’s nothing. You know what emotion you’re supposed to feel because you have an understanding of cinematic language. The music swells, the camera gets shaky, and the editing gets jumping; oh, something tense is going on. But I don’t feel any tension. And then I’m watching Amy Seimetz fire on a baby xenomorph and thinking about why this doesn’t work for me. Even the body horror stuff that sort of worked didn’t really work. [embed]221515:43549:0[/embed] The Chestburster in the original Alien was a genuinely shocking moment. It’s probably one of cinema’s most iconic images, and works on pretty much every level. Alien: Covenant knows that a xenomorph bursting from a chest isn’t good enough anymore, so it has a few much more disturbing ways to birth aliens from a human body. And they’re definitely disgusting, getting the grossed-out reaction from the crowd that they were going for, but the intensity of the violence doesn’t actually serve the plot in any meaningful way. It’s just horrific imagery for the sake of it, there to shock the audience more than the characters in the film. You may appreciate the inventiveness for a moment, but then you have to deal with the CGI xenomorphs that come out and all the gorgeous practical effects that lead up to it can’t stop you from groaning. Or laughing. The audience laughed a lot. They actually clapped a couple of times, usually after the Xenomorph had killed someone in a particularly vicious way. I wondered about that: Why? Was it because the characters were so boring that everyone was just glad they were dead? I mean, I had already forgotten several of the characters by the time the credits rolled, only remembering once I rewatched the trailer just to make sure that it was, in fact, selling the same product that I had just witnessed. The crew on the Covenant probably had names, but I only remember two of them: Daniels and Tennessee. (There is also Walter, but we’ll get to that later.) Tennessee is played by Danny McBride, and he’s got a fairly unpleasant personality, but he’s the only one who actually has personality at all. The characters are largely expendable, and the script seems well aware of that, because it makes no attempt to develop anyone who dies early and only a marginal effort to develop the ones who make it to the third act. The four-plus-minute scene that I mentioned earlier, a slice of which is featured in that trailer, is important because it’s not actually in the movie. Like, at all. And it’s interesting because watching that clip after seeing the film, I saw more character development for some of those people than in the entire two hours of nonsense I sat through. I would assume that it was originally supposed to be part of the film; it seems odd that it wouldn’t be, and it’s the only time James Franco says things while alive. It actually feels like it’s from a completely different movie. They talk about the crew members, but make no reference to all of the other (sleeping) colonists on the ship. Watching that, I would never have known that they weren’t the sole bodies aboard the Covenant. And sure, it makes only marginally less sense than the stuff the characters actually do say, but it leads me to wonder what place it was supposed to serve… and what the movie was supposed to look like. Because I don’t believe for a second that Alien: Covenant is the movie that it was supposed to be. Clearly it’s not the movie that Fox’s marketing department wanted it to be, but I have trouble believing it’s the movie Ridley Scott was trying to make. Then again, I don’t have any idea what movie he was trying to make, because there’s no consistency of any sort. Really, it feels like the movie is fucking with you sometimes. Nowhere is this clearer than the truly bizarre sequences like the one where Michael Fassbender as David (who just-so-happens to be on this planet) is showing Michael Fassbender as Walter how to play the recorder. The camera swings back and forth in a long take as one Fassbender tells the other about “fingering holes,” something that happens for several straight minutes. That sequence is probably as long as the character-building clip I mentioned that didn’t make it into the film… yet somehow the innuendo-filled recorder scene is important? At first, I was convinced that David was going to kill Walter and take over his place at this point, maybe force the recorder through Walter’s throat, but no: He literally just shows him how to play the recorder. It’s just two Michael Fassbenders, like Ridley Scott finally figured out the facial technology that David Fincher has been using for years and wanted to show it off. Look, Fassbender is one of my favorite actors, and if they want to have scenes of just him talking to himself, that’s fine… but this is just stupid. As with most scenes David is in, there seems to be an attempt at philosophy. As I mentioned, Fassbender is the protagonist, both as David and Walter. They’re two very different models of the same Android, and the underlying logic behind their creation could lead to some interesting discussions. There are hints of that, and other things. David talks (constantly) about creation and perfection and humanity and love, but these proclamations aren’t part of a dialogue. It’s like listening to a college freshman who read “Ozymandias” for the first time and has now figured out the meaning of life and really, really wants to tell you about how cool he is. He says vapid things in vain attempts at profundity, and it’s just sad. It’s theoretically an extension of the ideas raised in Prometheus (particularly with regards to creation), but it’s ultimately nothing at all. And that’s Alien: Covenant as a whole. It’s nothing. By the time this review is published, I will likely have forgotten everything about it, except for the feelings it left me with. I wanted it to be good; I wanted that oh-so badly. I wanted Ridley Scott to prove he still had it. But Covenant proves that he does not. This is Scott giving up on his most famous franchise. This is me giving up on him.
Alien: Covenant Review photo
Fool Me Twice
As reviled as it is (justifiably or not), Prometheus deserves a little pass for being unlike its Alien siblings in large part because of its branding. It may be in the same canon, but it’s not pretending to be an Alien ...

Review: The Wall

May 03 // Rick Lash
The Wall photo
Anything but simple
The premise is simple, the film anything but. Iraq, 2007. The war is coming to an end, but maybe someone should have told that to the "bad guys." Two American soldiers. Not just any American soldiers, but a sniper team, ...

The Dark Tower photo
It definitely has a tower
First, if you haven't read Stephen King's The Dark Tower series go and do that. It's fantastic, and his greatest undertaking as a writer. It's a massive western, science fiction, fantasy, met narrative that can get ...

Tribeca: Arden's Wake and the Continued Brilliance of Penrose Studios' VR Storytelling

May 01 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]221501:43542:0[/embed] There’s still no name for what Arden’s Wake is. Eugene Chung mentioned this in his interview with Hubert and with me, and I imagine probably every other one he did as well. And it’s an important thing to consider. It is, to some degree, a short film, since you are more-or-less a passive observer of a pre-scripted story that lasts fifteen minutes. But even if you’re a passive observer, you are an active part of the world. Thanks to the HTC Vive, you have a 15 x 15 square within which you can walk around. At the end of Allumette, I was handed a Vive controller, and I controlled a matchstick (relevant to the story) and watched as it reacted to the world and the world reacted to it, but this was very distinctly a thing that took place after the main narrative. Arden’s Wake had nothing of the sort. You can’t reach out and touch the world in any way, and this is important; as Chung wrote in a blog post in December of 2015, presence and storytelling are in conflict. The instant you take hold of that controller and start to watch as the match lights up the clouds around you, you forget about what you’re watching. You’re paying attention to yourself and what you’re doing. You’re taken out of the narrative as you’re pulled into the experience. And those things can exist side-by-side, but not in concert.  And, of course, this has serious implications for the design of VR experiences. Back in 2014, I interviewed Dr. Richard Marks, who was a key player in the creation of PlayStation VR, and he talked about the importance of Presence – how it was really the whole point of the thing. (About a year later, I would later inadvertently punch him during a demo of then-Project Morpheus, because he was standing where a virtual rack of weapons was.) And in a game setting, that’s more-or-less true, though arguably once you’ve reached a flow state, you’re no longer “aware” of yourself and have given over to the experience, at which point you can give your full attention to any narrative. But that doesn’t work for Arden’s Wake or anything like it. There is no flow state because there’s no gameplay. All it can do to keep you from distracting yourself is to limit your interactivity. So you can do one thing and one thing only: Look. You’re the camera, seeing the action from as close or as far as you like. You can, of course, ignore the story if you’d like, but without any interactivity, there’s not much reason to. A critical lesson used in Allumette and continued here is the addition of an acclimation period to the story. As with its predecessor, Arden’s Wake does not throw you directly into its story. You begin underwater, miniature debris sinking around you as the opening credits roll. This is the time where you get over the “Wow!” factor. This is when you get to spin around in circles and look at all of the cool things. By the time you see the characters coming into view, you’re ready to focus on them. Or, at least, that’s the idea. I found this to be more-or-less the case when I saw Allumette and definitely the case by Arden’s Wake, but I discussed it with another critic who had missed last year’s showcase, so this was her first time experiencing virtual reality of this sort. She told me that she spent most of the story looking around, too enveloped by the world itself to follow the story. That said, she also took issue with the presentation of the narrative, which likely factored into her distraction. The most crucial difference between Allumette and Arden’s Wake is the addition of non-player camera movement. Allumette was a basically static experience. You stood by a bridge and watched the tiny characters play out their story. A flying ship came in and offered another thing for the players to look at, but the world itself was locked in place. You were the only one who could affect what you were looking at. (This led to the life-changing moment, when I instinctively ducked under a virtual bridge so as not to hit my head;) Arden’s Wake takes place in two locations: Atop a sunken skyscraper (this is, presumably, many years in the future) in the protagonist’s small home and the water beneath it. There isn’t a cut from one to the other. Instead, the camera slowly descends into the waves as we follow a submersible deep down when the protagonist must go after her father. I was aware of the movement, sure, but this was a moment of transition; the momentary feeling of presence didn’t affect my experience of the story, and the shift itself felt natural. It was a logical extension of the purely static location, with the movement itself feeling oh-so-finely tuned, enough to get you where you needed to go without getting bored while also not so fast that you feel disoriented. Even though it’s happening outside of your control, you don’t feel like you’ve lost control. You can still move. You can look at the submersible from any angle, or walk around, though you probably won’t want to. The visuals are cute, the story is funny, and there’s voice-acted dialogue this time. You’ll get drawn in not just because it’s a story presented in a way that you’ve never seen but because it’s a story that is just generally well-crafted. As was the case with Allumette, the folks at Penrose have proven themselves to be storytellers first. In the early days of VR, that’s all the more crucial. There are many different kinds of VR experiences (the Tribeca VR festival had a number of them), as creators test the possibilities of the new medium, and the Penrose brand is just one of many viable options. But it’s also easily the best version of VR storytelling I’ve come across. Eugene Chung and his team have developed an understanding of what does and doesn’t work that far surpasses most of their competition. This is, in part, because they’re trying something different: this form of minimally interactive narrative is generally reserved for 360/spherical video live-action films. And, as we established from the outset, that’s not really what these are. We’ll come up with a name sooner or later, but it’s a type of story that lacks the inherent limitations of 360 video. The limitations are, for the most part, self-imposed, and we’ve already seen how that can and will change over time. Each new Penrose production is a step up from the one before it, which makes what’s to come all the more exciting. At fifteen minutes, Arden Wake’s prologue felt all too short, but it served as an effective teaser for the entire narrative to follow. I’m extremely excited to get my eyes –not my hands – on the final product.
Arden's Wake photo
VR's Best Storytellers Get Even Better
Last year at the Tribeca Film Festival, I was invited to a special preview of a semi-interactive non-movie non-game hybrid called Allumette, which would have its world premiere a few days later. It was a forty-five-minute sol...

Review: LA 92

Apr 27 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]221425:43497:0[/embed] LA 92Directors: Daniel Lindsay and T.J. MartinRating: RRelease Date: April 28, 2019 (NYC, LA); April 30, 2019 (National Geographic Channel)  Lindsay and Martin start not with the LA riots of 1992, but instead the Watts riots of 1965. Another case of police brutality and violence, another instance of outrage and destruction. Riots might be viewed as a type of self-harm. When a community is helpless to redress a wrong, they wound themselves. It makes sense that the specter of Watts lingers through the film, suggesting an inescapable inevitability of violence in the face of cyclical, systemic, and maybe even perpetual racism. These are decades and decades of oppression manifested in a grandiose act of self-mutilation. Tensions ratchet up following the beating of Rodney King. LA 92 notes the death of Latasha Harlins as part of the fomenting rage, which would lead to a lot of Korean businesses getting targeted during the riots themselves. Harlins was allegedly trying to shoplift orange juice at a convenience store. She got into a struggle with store owner Soon Ja Du, who shot Harlins dead at the register. Harlins was just 15 years old. The verdict in the murder case implies a lot of unsavory things about how the minority status of blacks and Asians are so different in the eyes of white America. (This goes beyond the purview of this review, but I couldn't help but think of the myth of the model minority that seems to pit blacks and Asians against one another, as if the American experience for these ethnic groups are commensurate simply by dint of minority status.) The build to the riots themselves on the day of the Rodney King verdict is so ominous. It's played out through a series of escalations; an argument over donuts, shoutdowns in the courthouse parking lot, feet on the ground, gatherings in churches. The anger has been shut in so long, it can't be contained. The cops are evacuated out of fear for their safety. The social order breaks down. Then the riot happens. The riot on screen is an unrelenting cinematic assault for at least an hour. The rage is palpable, as are the confusion and sadness. There's also a lot of sadistic happiness, the type of manic glee that comes with vengeance and feelings of dominance. A man's face gets caved in on camera, and people laugh at him in triumph. One scene I can't get out of my head. A man gets beaten, and his genitals are exposed. His attackers spray paint his face and and his private parts black. He quivers on the ground in the way that people in movies quiver when they're about to die. And then a preacher approaches the man slowly, fire and rubble around him; there's a Bible in one hand and his arms are outstretched like Christ. That's end times imagery; it happened in my own lifetime. Occasionally it feels like the gyre of a score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans will completely overtake the madness on screen. Yet the imagery is so potently organized and the emotions are so raw; the music felt like perfect symphonic accompaniment. There is nothing subtle or subdued about what's happening or what anyone is feeling in those moments. That score also enhances the unfolding chaos of what happened. As businesses in Koreatown are targeted, Korean men with guns fire at passing cars. One guy unloads a whole clip from his handgun with abandon and a psychotic determination on his face. It's no surprise that LA 92 refuses to provide a conciliatory conclusion. Rodney King's "Can we all get along?" was such a punchline of a quote even in 1992, but to see the full press conference is another matter. King's so overwhelmed saying those words. There's nothing to laugh about. It's one of the most earnest expressions of empathy he could offer, tinged by an awareness of how meek and helpless it might sound. So many images and moments of LA 92 will haunt me, but the new context of King's question chills me when I think of it. The answer seems like, "I'm not sure."
Review: LA 92 photo
Chilling, apocalyptic, and timely
It's been 25 years since the LA riots, and there are a number of films coming out that revisit this harrowing moment in the country's history. The most high-profile might be Let It Fall: LA from 1982-1992 from John Ridley, sc...

Star Wars: Episode IX and Indiana Jones 5 get release dates

Apr 26 // Matthew Razak
Disney also announced a host of other release dates including a two year delay for Gigantic.  Ralph Breaks The Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 has been pushed back from March 9, 2018 to November 21, 2018. A Wrinkle in Time will now open a month earlier, on March 9, 2018 instead of April 6, 2018. Disney Animation’s Gigantic has been delayed a full twoyears from November 21, 2018 to November 25, 2020. The live-action comedy Magic Campwill open in theaters on April 6, 2018. An untitled Marvel movie has been pushed from July 10, 2020 to August 7, 2020. Two new Untitled Disney Live-Action films have been set for release on April 3, 2020 and March 12, 2021. A new Untitled Pixar movie is now dated for June 18, 2021 An untitled Disney Animation movie has been pushed a year from November 25, 2020 to November 24, 2021. [via Collider]  
Star Wars photo
Yea, Indy is still happening
Two massive release dates landed yesterday. The first you knew was coming and isn't much of a surprise: Star Wars: Episode IX will release on May 24, 2019. With the last two Star Wars films hitting in the holiday se...

Last Jedi photo
Dark. Light. So much more.
We're going to get a lot of Star Wars trailers in the coming years. In fact we've had plenty just off of the first two Disney released films, and yet the second that theme kicks in I get excited like its the first time a...

Thor: Ragnarok trailer photo
Ahhhhh-ohhhh-aaaaaaaah-AAAAH!
If you asked me two years ago if I'd be excited about a new Thor movie, the answer would be, "No, not at all." Enter Thor: Ragnarok from Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople). It's... it... Guys...

Joss Whedon will direct a standalone Batgirl movie for the DCEU

Mar 30 // Hubert Vigilla
This also makes me wonder if this will feature a Dick Grayson/Nightwing appearance to set up the Nightwing movie that was announced a month ago. Is this the start of the DCEU Bat Family sub-universe, aka the DCEUBFSU? Whedon makes sense for Batgirl. The creator and driving force behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a solid choice to steer a Batgirl story in a reliable direction. I wonder what iteration of Batgirl it will be, though. Will it be the new hipster Batgirl of Burnside (the Brooklyn of Gotham City) who sports the bossest new costume around, or will this be a more classic iteration of Barbara Gordon? We'll report more details as they arise. What do you think of this news? Is the DCEU doing something right? Will this wind up delayed by the summer? Let us know in the comments. [via Variety]
Joss Whedon Batgirl photo
BAH GAWD! THAT'S JOSS WHEDON'S MUSIC!
Variety reports that Joss Whedon will direct a standalone Batgirl movie for Warner Bros. and the DCEU. Whedon will also write the film and serve as producer. Variety notes that comics writer and producer Geoff Johns will be o...


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