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Review: Get Out

Feb 23 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]221322:43429:0[/embed] Get OutDirector: Jordan PeeleRelease Date: February 24, 2017Rating: R The opening shot of Get Out is a tour de goshdarn force. If you've seen David Robert Mitchell's (exceptional) It Follows, this is in the same vein. We're in a suburb, and we're following a young black man as he talks on the phone. He's in white people country, and he's kind of lost. As he walks, the camera follows, and soon we see a car come up the street beside him. The car follows, and he turns around, because "No, not today" (cue first laugh of the movie). He goes into the street, and suddenly someone, face obscured, comes up behind him and chokes him out. This someone drags the man to his car and puts him in the trunk. The car drives away. Get Out. Nice. It's the perfect preparation for what is set to come: a horror comedy about racism. A great horror comedy about racism. Probably the best one, though I'm not really sure what its competition is. Like most people, I've been of a fan of Jordan Peele's since Key & Peele got started, and I greatly enjoyed his turn in Keanu (my review of which was also heavily focused on race; I don't know why this keeps happening). But this is different. Having skipped trailers or really any information of any kind, I had kind of expected to see Peele play some role in the film. In fact, there's a role that would have definitely gone to him were it in a K&P sketch. But that's not what this is. He was just the writer and director here, and his debut film is all the better for it. There will be people who say that this film spends too much time on race. They will say that, because more-or-less every single scene in Get Out is making a statement on race or racism, and that makes them uncomfortable. (I'm talking about white people.) Let's take the premise: Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is a black man going to meet his girlfriend-of-four-months's parents for the first time. Allison Armitage: Man, what a white name, right? He asks her if her parents know that he's black. She says no but not to worry about it; her dad would have voted for Obama a third time, and he is definitely going to mention it. Because that's what white people do. Case in point: Me. Yesterday. Talking about this movie. Once I got to the office, I went around telling people in my office just how good Get Out was, but when I got to a black colleague of mine who I am friendly with but don't know very well, I went about it a little differently. I mentioned John Wick 2 first, which I recently rewatched (still loved it). After recommending that, I mentioned Get Out, almost as though it was an afterthought. It was not an afterthought: John Wick 2 was an afterthought. But I was concerned that he might think I was telling him because he was black, so I changed my behavior. And you know what that is? That's racism. Subtle, harmless(?) racism, to be sure, but racism nonetheless. Most of what we see in Get Out is a little less subtle than that. At the Armitage house, the parents are... off-putting, and Allison's brother is disturbing, but the friends of the family who come to visit are really the point. As they're introduced, they make various comments about blackness to Chris, seemingly expecting to be applauded for noticing his skin color without running away screaming. And through it all, Chris just smiles and nods. (When Allison goes on a tirade about her family's behavior, Chris just agrees with a knowing look; this scene got some of those loud laughs from select sections of the theater. I assume that, for some, it was a lived experience... For me, it was just a well-constructed joke, but I continue to wonder exactly what that means. Was I laughing with it, because it seemed "relatable" on some level... or was I laughing at it because I know that kind of thing happens and thank gosh I don't have to deal with it?) Things get strange pretty quick. The white family's hired help, a black man and black women, have terrifying smiles plastered onto their faces, and their actions and words feel... wrong. You know something is off pretty from the get-go, but you don't know what. And then you think you know what, but you're dead wrong. And you're dead wrong for two reasons: The movie sets up a fairly simple explanation and then half-subverts it in a fairly fascinating way. The implications of what is going on don't actually make a lot of sense (certainly less than the fairly simple explanation I was expecting). The more you consider what exactly happened to these people, the more confused you'll get. The conceit is cool. In the moment, it's terrifying. But on reflection, it's less "Ahhh!" and more "... Huh?" And, without spoiling it too much, the question becomes: Why? You can understand the expressions and actions to some extent, perhaps, but there's a deeper level that just doesn't make sense the more I think about it. (I'll be seeing the film again soon, which I think speaks to how much I enjoyed it, and this is something I'll be spending a lot of time trying to figure out if it feels Right. I hope that I'm being dumb and not the movie, but I fear it's the opposite.) Speaking of fear, aside from some Very Loud Noises early on, Get Out isn't really overtly "scary." It's more generally creepy, and I'm a big fan of Generally Creepy. The way everyone acts is unsettling (at the very least), and the descent into madness gets into your brain. You wonder, especially early on, if something like this could actually happen. Could actually be happening. (You don't wonder that in the final act.) There's probably an argument to be made that the comedy and horror stuff are too separated. There are the funny sequences, most of which involve Chris's friend Rod, who is watching his dog for the weekend, and there are scary sequences, most of which take place at the Armitage home. There's not a whole lot of overlap between the two. I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Someone I talked to afterwards didn't like it (he also felt like the race issues had somewhat of an anti-climax, a point on which I vehemently disagree). I think it's strange but not necessarily bad. I'm not sure how levity could have really been injected into the actually horror elements, because on the face of it, the way people act is kind of funny. But it's not actually funny. It's horrifying. (Racism is bad, you guys.) Before we wrap this thing up, let's have one final digression about race: Get Out was shot by a white man. I knew this before I looked it up, because I spent a large portion of the film thinking about lighting. In an interview with Dealine, Selma cinematographer talked about the complexity of lighting dark skin. It's relatively easy to light white skin, especially very pale white skin (we glow in the dark, so they say). But dark skin's harder. Lit poorly, they seem to disappear entirely. Vox has a fascinating video about how color film itself (the physical object, not the medium) was originally designed for white skin at the expense of all others. As one might expect, much of Get Out is shot at nighttime and in the dark. I mean, the dark is scary. However, said darkness should be obscuring the evil in the shadows and not the person who acts as our anchor. On more than a few occasions, it is difficult to make out Chris amongst all those shadows. Crucially: it doesn't feel intentional. It feels like a mistake, one made by a man used to lighting white people in the dark. (He does this well, in the moments where it's needed.) And that isn't to say that someone has to be black to know how to light black skin, but it's definitely not something that comes naturally. For the most, this is a film that looks quite good (I mean, that opening shot, though), but it's a pretty glaring fault there and Get Out suffers for it. But neither this nor any of its other faults keeps Get Out from greatness. It's objectively well made, and a fascinating way to visualize the black experience. I don't know how true to life it is, but my guess is that it's more real than any of us want it to be. Some will write it off as a flight of fancy, but they do so at society's peril. There are lessons to be learned from Get Out. I know I'm going to be thinking about it for a long, long time. And thinking about how I reacted and why I reacted the way I did. It got in my brain, and it's supposed to. That's what I'm focusing on, not the logical inconsistencies or any of the technical issues. I'm thinking about what matters. And sometimes the answers to those questions are tough to face. Jordan Peele has shown himself to be a very talented filmmaker with a unique voice and vision. I am very excited to see what he comes up with next.
Get Out Review photo
Wherein I Whitesplain Racism (Great...)
There's a story I heard but cannot verify about why Dave Chapelle ended The Chapelle Show when he did, with tens of millions of dollars on the line. So the story goes, he was working on a sketch that dealt prominently wi...

Review: Logan

Feb 17 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221303:43419:0[/embed] LoganDirector: James MangoldRelease Date: March 3, 2017Rating: R  Logan is both a sequel to 2013's The Wolverine and a ending to the entire X-Men franchise. In the far-ish future of 2029, we find Logan (Hugh Jackman) making his way across El Paso, driving a limo for money. It turns out mutants have essentially gone extinct, and he is only doing odd jobs in order to take care of the now dementia-suffering Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who's loss of control over his mind has made him a threat. But one day he's approached by a woman accompanied by a silent girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) who needs help getting to the Canadian border and some place they call an "Eden for mutants." Begrudgingly accepting the task when he sees Laura shares a few similarities with him, revelations come to light as Logan has to come to terms with the man he's become. Logan is dramatically different than the rest of the X-Men films, and that's notably due to its R rating.  While I was initially afraid Deadpool's R rated success would mean Logan was full of extraneous foul language and violence (but without the cheekiness), what is present feels incredibly natural. Like we're actually seeing Wolverine for who he is for the first time, making every other performance seem neutered in comparison. This Logan is older, broken, and incredibly violent. He brutalizes enemies, but it's never portrayed as monstrous as his attacks could be because Jackman fills the role with a much needed humanity. The film always makes a point to note that he never initiates the attacks (unlike the brash Logan seen in, say, the first X-Men). The added caveat of slowly losing his healing abilities also grounds this comic book film in an unprecedented way. For all intents and purposes, Logan is a lonely, introspective character drama. While the character work admittedly will be more effective if you've seen some of the other X-Men films (at least the first one to explain some of the world's elements), it's not completely necessary. The film opens with a scene heartily establishing everything you need to know about this character, and I'll go as far to say it's the best opening scene in the franchise to date.  Logan is full of outstanding performances. While some kitchy turns from Boyd Holbrook's Pierce (a mysterious guy in sunglasses who's chasing after Laura, but Logan's not about that so mentioning his role in the story seems unnecessary), Stephen Merchant's Caliban, and a villain revealed later in the film tend to remind you it's a comic book film, the three central cast members anchor Logan's harsh reality. Hugh Jackman, drawing on his years of experience with the character, puts forth a stellar performance. As mentioned earlier, with the amenities afforded by the film's R rating, Jackman's performance rings more palpable than ever. Like this is the character he's wanted to portray since he signed on to these films all those years ago. His rapport with the sickly Charles is one of the best features in the film as he and Patrick Stewart have developed a mentor/pupil-father/son relationship over the years. Or at least ably portrayed as such. Then there's the young Dafne Keen, who's Laura is defined entirely through her physicality and manages to carve a distinct presence between the two.  Now Logan isn't perfect. One of the film's overlying themes of fighting one's past becomes a little too literal, the tone is so well established the encroaching X-Men talk feels out of place, and some of the dialogue unfortunately I felt I had to forgive under the "comic book film" qualifier, but thinking back on it, these issues didn't bother me as much as I thought they would have. Logan's imperfections lend credibility to the central character's imperfections. The film's problems mirror Logan's distraught sense of self. Is he the colorful hero of years past? Is he the beaten down man who's lost his sense of purpose after years of struggle? There's a distinct push and pull between the two tones as they blend into something not seen before in the genre. In fact, it seems, dare I say realistic?  Above all else, Logan is a film of consequence. It's the first comic book film weighted with actual drama and character work. There's an overwhelming sense of finality and dread permeating throughout making every one of Logan's struggles more tense than the last. If you've followed Wolverine through every one of his adventures, you're sure to be satisfied with Logan. If you haven't, there's still enough tactile emotion here seeping through Logan's ever-worsening wounds to draw you in even slightly.  I don't need to see another X-Men film, or another comic book film ever again. Thanks to Logan, they've become irrelevant. 
Logan Review photo
Brutal, harsh, and absolutely glorious
Logan is a response to a litany of unprecedented events. Comic book films are more popular than ever, the X-Men series is still a viable franchise seventeen years later, Hugh Jackman is still in great health an...

Review: A Cure for Wellness

Feb 17 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221240:43388:0[/embed] A Cure for WellnessDirector: Gore VerbinskiRelease Date: February 17, 2017Rating: R Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) is a young, successful businessman who's tasked by his company to retrieve an executive who's vacationed to a wellness center in the Swiss Alps. But when he shows up to the center, a castle on top of a hill, and meets the mysterious Hannah (Mia Goth) and Dr. Volmer (Jason Isaacs) he discovers something's a miss in the Swiss. Especially when he's forcibly admitted to the asylum. A Cure for Wellness tests the limits of environmental characterization. It's almost as if it's a thesis statement positing how much a film's setting can balance out faults in its characters as long as its engagingly built. Wellness puts the bulk of its work behind building its central asylum, and thus every human character therein is overwhelmingly unlikable as a result. Lockhart's especially troublesome from the second he shows up on screen. While this is clearly an intentional choice, there's very little to invest in when you care so little about Lockhart's well being. Lockhart's put through the ringer, but the film never quite reaches a place where we care about anything happening to him. As he falls victim to various levels of body disfigurement and gross out torture, it becomes more about enjoying the visceral nature of its imagery rather than further the tension of Lockhart's situation. To slightly remedy this, Mia Goth's Hannah is this childlike sprite of a character who seems out of time and place. Every member of this asylum is an wealthy elderly individual leaving their life behind, but Hannah doesn't seem to have a life of her own. When Lockhart's goal transitions from escape to rescuing Hannah, there's a slight shift in his character but he's still very much irredeemable. Thankfully, Goth portrays the right sense of naivete but Hannah's characterization is all in the performance as the film gives her very little to work with.  The flat characters are only a reflection of the film's setting. But while the drab colors and muted tones do not do them any favors, it works wonderfully for the asylum. Verbinski, most likely culminating a career's worth of visual trickery, absolutely nails a creepy vibe. Stark whites (both in the asylum's outfits and staff) juxtaposed with slimy greens coupled with an overall sepia-toned frame to lock the asylum in a past time. Wellness also surprises with a couple of well composed shots (one of which can be sort of seen in the image below) that provide a welcome breather from the asylum's dank nature. This dankness elevates Verbinkski's eventual gross out, masturbatory thrills and truly reaches a point where it can get under your skin. It just never does. Despite this well crafted world, the narrative falls as flat as the characters. Wellness asks for a hefty amount of investment and forgiveness in order to truly enjoy it.  Due to the magical realism of the setting (where slightly mystical themes and subjects coexist with the modern world), and Lockhart's constantly medicated physiology, Wellness essentially follows an unreliable narrator. But this great idea is stifled by a core mystery that's solvable within the first quarter of the film. Which means, you're left with characters making dumb decisions and have overall less sense plodding through the film's run time. It's Verbinkski's recent editing folly that also gives way to six different climaxes. There was a scene about two hours in that would've been a perfect end, but then it just kept going. That's only one example of this too. There are several sequences that feel entirely unnecessary as they neither build character or flesh out the ickiness of the surroundings. Speaking of icky, the actual ending of the film crosses from cool gross out horror into sexual assault and reaches 'B' movie levels of cheese. It's an unfortunate break in tone from the film's build up, and weird to have it both played straight and ridiculed concurrently. It's kind of a kick in the teeth for those who might've enjoyed the rest of the film.  A Cure for Wellness is a "glass half full or glass half empty" situation. It all depends on your perspective of its waters. Half full of good ideas, but half is brought down by poor execution of those ideas. A film I'd slightly recommend as a cautionary tale for film school students or as some goofy entertainment you'd drink through the first half but pass out before the end.  Unfortunately, A Cure for Wellness isn't even a cure for boredom. 
Wellness Review  photo
Remove the cause but not the symptom
Gore Verbinski has always been a peculiar director. I've been a fan of his ever since he did remarkable work adapting the Japanese film Ringu into The Ring (a series that has not fared well in his absence), but choices in Pir...

Review: John Wick: Chapter 2

Feb 10 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]221140:43282:0[/embed] John Wick: Chapter 2 Director: Chad Stahelski Release Date: February 10, 2017Rating: R  John Wick: Chapter 2 is the movie you want it to be. It’s the movie it has to be. It begins with a Buster Keaton joke. The camera looks up at a wall in New York City that is projecting footage from one of his classic films, but as you watch, you see sounds that fit with it, and you think, “That’s not right. There wouldn’t be those sounds!” and then you see a man off his motorcycle with a badass car in pursuit. The sounds were diegetic. And then we realize that we’re about to watch a Buster Keaton movie, if The General was about a lone Confederate soldier violently murdering the entire Union army. Of course, it’s not really a slapstick comedy. There are some pretty great (CG-enhanced) stunts, many of which are effectively sight gags, but bringing Keaton’s name in will give you the wrong impression of what John Wick: Chapter 2 really is... though I stand by the comparison regardless. That scene is followed by John Wick getting back his car, a loose end from the last film that is dealt with in the first minutes of the film. For those who haven’t seen the original, it serves as a pretty effective entry point into the character. Cross-cutting John Wick’s any-means-necessary acquisition of his vehicle is a Russian mob-man, telling John Wick stories. (Again, everyone knows who he is.) And at the end of it, after a sizeable body count and significant financial damage, John Wick offers peace. And the mob man accepts. Because it doesn’t matter if John Wick just destroyed everything you own, you don’t come after him unless you have a death wish. It doesn’t matter who you are or how many you are; you cross him, and that’s good night.  So he tries to retire (again), and that works for several whole minutes of screen time. But, of course, nothing is ever so simple. Someone who knows John Wick very well indeed shows up, and after some… persuasion(?) gets The Boogeyman to do one last job. Things go badly. For everyone. Except us, the viewers; if people did the smart thing (not antagonizing John Wick), then we wouldn’t get badass movies out of it.  And oh man is Chapter 2 badass. The first film is pretty hardcore, but action sequels always have to Go Big or Go Home, and that’s taken to heart here. It’s not just that the fights are better and the body count larger (though they are), it’s that the staging of everything is just so much more impressive. There are three key fight locations –catacombs, subway* car, and an art installation – that stand out as being particularly spectacular, but all of the fights are great. Because of course they are. That's what the whole thing is about. Much like the first film, though, the gun stuff is better than the hand-to-hand. I am a big fan of the way the close-combat fights are filmed, what with the long takes and wide shots and everything. (Love of all that.) However, the actual fights themselves feel a little… deliberate. This is a problem I have with a lot of fight scenes, actually; it doesn’t feel like the moves that are happening are being decided and executed at the moment. I think you could make an argument that this is true about every single fight scene that Keanu Reeves has ever been in (sorry, The Matrix), and it’s still true here. (I have the same problems with all Christopher Nolan fight scenes, though the problem is much worse there than it is here.) Don’t get me wrong: They’re good fights, really good even, but they’re not Great the way the gunfights are. And the gunfights are really, really great. As in the first film, John Wick applies his bullets liberally; rarely do people get shot fewer than three times. Two to the chest and one to the head is most common, but you’ll see all kinds of combinations… as long as they all turn into headshots. And they have to. Because headshots are kinda his thing. Conveniently, though, he’s the only person as good at headshots as he is, because even though he has an (awesome) bullet-proof suit (justified well enough), he never covers his head. He gets shot at a lot of times, and even hit a couple, but they’re all aiming for the wrong place. Too bad for them. Before Chapter 2, there was (unsurprisingly) a trailer for the F8 of the Furious. It looks pretty cool. I should probably watch all those other ones to get ready for it. But I thought about it again while the credits were rolling. Assuming this does well (and I don’t see how it couldn’t), there will be a Chapter 3 at the very least, but why should it stop there? Why not keeping upping the ante until we hit John Wick: Chapter 8 (running alongside the trailer for Sixteen and Furious)? There’s a whole lot of creativity going on in the action here, and I think that it has a few more entries to go before it could really jump the shark. (Though, honestly, I think an ultra-violent Buster Keaton film would be pretty awesome.) I want our society, ultimately, to know John Wick like John Wick's does. I want to be able to walk into any social gathering, say the name, and have everyone together conjure up stories of multiple murders committed using a single pencil. I want him to be one of the all-time action greats. He deserves to be one of the action greats. And with Chapter 2, this franchise has started off right. Long live John Wick. (And long live John Wick.) *Don’t fuck with me, John Wick: Chapter 2. I know what the gosh darn PATH train looks like. At least put a “C” sticker somewhere on it if you’re going to pretend like it’s the C train. Sincerely,A Guy Who Lives in New York City.
John Wick 2 Review photo
You Will Know His Name
In the John Wick cinematic universe, everyone who matters knows John Wick, by face, name, and reputation. They know the stories, they see the man, and they get a little concerned: “You working again, John?” asked ...


Review: The Lego Batman Movie

Feb 10 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221270:43398:0[/embed] The Lego Batman MovieDirector: Chris McKayRelease Date: February 10, 2017Rating: PG The Lego Batman Movie opening with Batman (Will Arnett) parodying traditional film credits and openings (narrating over the DC Comics logo, etc.) pretty much tells you all you need to know about the film. This is indeed a love letter to Batman's goofy past, and isn't afraid to openly mock the mistakes DC's live action films have made. In this film, Batman is happy being alone. He eats alone, laughs at romantic comedies, and groans when his butler/surrogate father Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) tells him what to do. Aping Batman's more childish tendencies this Batman ignores the help and warnings of others; especially the new police commissioner, Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson). But when the Joker (Zack Galifianakis) kickstarts a plan to destroy Gotham City and prove to Batman that he's his number one enemy, Batman must learn to work together with his new makeshift family. Including a son, Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), who Batman unwillingly adopts and brings along as his crime fighting partner.  Wearing its heart and fun on its sleeve, Lego Batman goes for a full-on kitchen sink approach. There's tons of fan service as it alludes to every iteration of the Batman, ranging from the 60's show to the famous animated series, and as much of its 78 year long comic history as it can. Villains like Condiment King and friggin' Orca, DC heroes like Apache Chief and even some pretty damn great surprises from its Warner Bros licensor pop up here. This stuff is certainly going to be great visual candy for its adult fan audience, and the voice cameos are great for everyone (Mariah Carey is the mayor, folks), but it's definitely going to fly over the heads of most of the audience. But there's so much going on at a time, Lego Batman feels too packed to work. It's literally bursting at the seams every scene with visual information packing every corner of the screen. It's so rife and busy with gags, it's tough to suss out what your eyes are supposed to focus on.  To make its visual matters worse, Lego Batman often features tons of rapid-fire jokes (sharing a problem with weaker animated films), and while some of the gags hit hard, a good amount of them are average. The film compounds its bad joke ratio by offering so many, and there were times where I wish it relaxed on them a bit more given how affecting its emotional core can be. The emotional core of Batman learning the meaning of ohana (and no one gets left behind) is drowned out by the chaos. It's even more of a bummer considering how great the film can be when it actually focuses for second. For example, the opening is fantastic as it provides a packed, yet focused narrative. Broken down it's basically: Joker and some villains attack Gotham with a bomb, Batman saves the day, and Batman goes home alone. Yet the opening features tons of characters, an original theme (with beat boxing and guitar solos), establishes its central conflict (as Batman refuses to let anyone into his life, even his most hated enemy). and wonderfully characterizes this Batman as a lonely, showboating blowhard. It's just a shame the film never reaches the same level of awesomeness as its opening twenty minutes.  The Lego Batman Movie's weakness are stemmed from trying to mine a narrative from a one-note character we've already seen the full extent of in another film. Will Arnett is great as a lead, but his performance reeks of diminishing returns. As his Batman constantly speaks, the blowhard nature of the character crosses over into annoying territory. Luckily, Rosario Dawson and Ralph Fiennes pick up the slack. Just as how Batman stole the show in The Lego Movie as a supporting character, however, Michael Cera's Robin is the clear standout in Lego Batman. His Dick Grayson is infectiously joyous, the character has a cute design (those bug-eyed glasses are inspired) thus amplifying the naivete Cera gives him, and Robin is tasked with driving the familial themes of the plot forward. He also gets the best running gag, constantly referring to Batman as various versions of "Papa," also. It's pretty funny to see Lego Batman showcasing someone other than its main character like its predecessor.  I've been trying my hardest not to compare The Lego Batman Movie to 2014's The Lego Movie, but it's hard not to when the films are ultimately similar. Aspects of the first film's production which worked so well for me before, just don't share the same level of finesse in its spin-off. The Lego Batman Movie works well as a loving parody of Batman fiction, but it's not going to carry as much weight to those who don't really know (or care) too much about it.  The Lego Batman Movie just isn't as complex as I had hoped it'd be. Sure it's nuts to ask a children's film to be complex, but after its predecessor balanced its audiences so well it stings to watch Batman Movie to go for such cheap gags and greatly limit its audience to a very distinct subset of viewers.  But at least it's not a gritty and mean Batman. Little victories. 
Lego Batman Review photo
Better than Batman v Superman anyway
The Lego Movie was my favorite animated film of 2014. It felt fresh, had a story and jokes fit for both children and their parents, and even managed to deliver a heartfelt message at the end. The big standout was Will Arnett ...

Trans-five-mers photo
Wahlburger with cheese
The first Transformers: The Last Knight trailer was a complete mess. Those hoping new footage would somehow make sense of it (me) are going to be gravely disappointed. The Super Bowl spot clears up one thing, Optimus is clear...

RIP John Hurt (1940-2017)

Jan 27 // Hubert Vigilla
RIP John Hurt photo
He was 77 years old
John Hurt, legend of stage and screen, has passed away. He was 77 years old. Hurt's decades-spanning career took off in the 1960s thanks to Fred Zinneman's A Man for All Seasons. Just a few of his many other notable film...

Flixist's Most Anticipated Films of 2017

Jan 27 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221225:43358:0[/embed] John Wick: Chapter 2Director: Chad StahelskiRelease Date: February 10, 2017 John Wick was the most surprising release of the last few years. I mean, out of nowhere Keanu Reeves literally declares that he's "thinking [he's] back" and it's the most awesome thing ever? Who would've guessed that? I don't really have any expectations for the sequel, other than hoping it's more awesomeness, but I'm looking forward to it all the same. We need more purely fun action films, and I'm sure Chapter 2 is going to deliver. Just seeing footage of Reeves practicing for the film's gunfights was enough to hook me. -- Nick Valdez [embed]221225:43359:0[/embed] The LEGO Batman MovieDirector: Chris McKayRelease Date: February 10, 2017 No one either expected The LEGO Movie to be as good as it was nor did they expect its standout star, Batman, to get his own spin-off. With as seriously Warner Bros. has been taking Batman lately, every bit of footage from LEGO has been a welcome breath of fresh air. Instead of the gruff and grumbly loner, we have a goofy Batman realizing he actually wants friends? That's honestly the greatest thing since the Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon. I hope this succeeds for WB and we eventually get a LEGO Justice League to counteract what's going to happen in live-action. -- Nick Valdez [embed]221225:43374:0[/embed] Get OutDirector: Jordan PeeleRelease Date: February 24, 2017 Jordan Peele is probably the last person I'd expect to make a horror film, but Get Out looks like a phenomenally creepy and paranoid movie. The trailer looks sort of like The Wicker Man but with racist suburban white people, using those horror conventions to explore deep-seated racial anxieties. (Even the elevator pitch is pretty awesome, right?) Get Out had a secret screening at Sundance this year and received some excellent reviews. -- Hubert Vigilla [embed]221225:43370:0[/embed] LoganDirector: James MangoldRelease Date: March 3, 2017 In what his purported last bow as the titular character that reinvented and reinvigorated superhero movies for the better part of two decades now, Hugh Jackman stars as a gritty, older, meaner Wolverine. So the last Wolverine flick squandered ninjas (and almost Yakuza); if the trailers are any indication, we're going to get the bloody mess (the good kind) we've been waiting for with this X-Men solo film. Look for murder, blood, guts, and swearing, for this film (taking a page from Deadpool), is rated R. Jackman has owned this role better than perhaps any other actor has a superhero, and I'm eager to see him go berserker style one more time (any duds in his time in the yellow spandex were no fault of his). -- Rick Lash [embed]221225:43360:0[/embed] Kong: Skull IslandDirector: Jordan Vogt-RobertsRelease Date: March 10, 2017 Recipe for a blockbuster: Take some of today's hottest actors (Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston) and pair them with veterans (John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson, and the ever-flawless John C. Reilly). Mix in one giant ape and mix well. Garnish with an island full of monsters. Serves 50-100 million. -- Sean Walsh [embed]221225:43375:0[/embed] Raw (Grave)Director: Julia DucournauRelease Date: March 10, 2017 When Raw screened at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, there were reports of audience members fainting, vomiting, and rushing out in distress. Some of this may be pure hype, and some of it may be weak constitutions from the TIFF crowd. Julia Ducournau's cannibal coming-of-age/sexual awakening movie is sure to cause a lot of sensation and shrieking revulsion when it finally hits theaters. --Hubert Vigilla [embed]221225:43361:0[/embed] Beauty and the BeastDirector: Bill CondonRelease Date: March 17, 2017 Remaking all of their animated films seemed like a dumb idea at first, but after their string of successes, I no longer have any qualms with Disney's process. I've been pretty much turned into a sucker, so I'm hoping Beauty and the Beast can only continue the great trend set by its predecessors. It's hard to ruin a story like Beast's and the central cast looks great. Not sure about Dan Stevens' Beast since it looks friggin' weird, but Emma Watson is a darling and I can't wait to hear her sing and then everyone else sing and then oh my god the singing. -- Nick Valdez [embed]221225:43372:0[/embed] The Belko ExperimentDirector: Greg McLeanRelease Date: March 17, 2017 As if a new Guardians wasn't enough this year, cinema god James Gunn penned this film that combines The Office and Battle Royale (two of my favorite things). Eighty white-collar works are ordered to murder each other or else in a twisted game. Featuring John Gallagher Jr. of 10 Cloverfield Lane and Dr. Cox himself, John C. McGinley, The Belko Experiment is designed to be this year's cult hit. -- Sean Walsh [embed]221225:43362:0[/embed] Power RangersDirector: Dean IsrealiteRelease Date: March 24, 2017 Everyone has the one fandom they'll fight for. Some have Star Wars, others have Doctor Who, but I have Power Rangers. I've meticulously examined every photo, every trailer, and every single bit of info I could get my hands on for this. Let's just say I'm glad this is coming out in March. If it were any later, I would've lost my damn mind over it. At this point, I'm so interested in this release I'm sick of it. I need it in my eyeballs already so I can move on with my life. Ugh, I hope this isn't my generation's Transformers.  -- Nick Valdez [embed]221225:43371:0[/embed] Ghost in the ShellDirector: Rupert SandersRelease Date: March 31, 2017 Anime is huge worldwide, but successfully transferring from cartoon to live action (and often condensing massively drawn out story arcs into singular multi-hour vehicles) has proven difficult, if not impossible to do (here's looking at you, Avatar: The Last Airbender). Based off what we've seen so far, this is an honest attempt to do so, and I believe the story of Ghost in the Shell serves the effort well; it's good source material to condense and create a wholistic story arc that will satisfy hungry viewers. Unfortunately, casting Scarlett Johansson in a role that would presumably go to someone of Asian heritage has already led to controversy and detracted from hype at what could be a kickass movie. -- Rick Lash [embed]221225:43376:0[/embed] ColossalDirector: Nacho VigalondoRelease Date: April 7, 2017 So, okay... Let me get this straight. Colossal is an oblique kaiju movie that's also a comedy about a woman's personal connection to a giant monster destroying South Korea? You had me at "hello". I can only assume that the monster is some psychic manifestation of existential despair and the uncertainties of life in the modern world. You know, the usual. --Hubert Vigilla [embed]221225:43377:0[/embed] Your Name (君の名は。, Kimi no Na wa)Director: Makoto ShinkaiRelease Date: April 7, 2017 Your Name has become the highest-grossing movie in Japanese history (worldwide box office) and the fourth-highest grossing film in Japan (domestic box office). It's been in Japanese theaters for 22 weeks, and it's finally coming to the United States in April. The coming-of-age film features time travel and body-swapping, and a pretty catchy tune in the trailer. Your Name is apparently an extremely emotional ride, and its animation looks crisp and beautiful as well. --Hubert Vigilla [embed]221225:43378:0[/embed] Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2Director: James GunnRelease Date: May 5, 2017 The first Guardians of the Galaxy is one of my favorite MCU films since it does its own thing so well. And by that I mean it was The Goonies in space. Vol 2 looks like another jolly romp in far reaches of space, but this time with a baby Groot. My hope is the movie doesn't get too bogged down in setting up Avengers: Infinity War and just rollicks along on its own adventure. I also hope the second volume of the Awesome Mix is as good as the first. --Hubert Vigilla [embed]221225:43363:0[/embed] Alien: CovenantDirector: Ridley ScottRelease Date: May 19, 2017 I'm not the hugest fan of the Alien series, which was only made worse by Prometheus, but Covenant really made an impression on me. I know some found its trailer derivative, but I'm definitely looking forward to sci-fi horror. There just isn't enough of it anymore. I know it's yet another crew landing on a strange planet somewhere before xenomorphs attack, but whatever. 2016 majorly lacked good horror films, so 2017 already has to make up for it in spades. Pressure's on. -- Nick Valdez [embed]221225:43364:0[/embed] Wonder WomanDirector: Patty Jenkins Release Date: June 2, 2017 Wonder Woman both fairly and unfairly has much riding on it to succeed. It's a blockbuster film directed by a woman (who should not be an outlier), it's the first superhero blockbuster with a woman in the lead, and it's the first superheroine getting her first film. I've been hyped for it based on existence alone, but it's been elevated by how great Gal Gadot was in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I'm still wary of her being able to lead a film, but I can't get over how great Diana looks motion. Wonder Woman is an outlier for many reasons, but I hope it's mainly for being the one good film DC Comics and Warner Bros can pull together. -- Nick Valdez [embed]221225:43365:0[/embed] The MummyDirector: Alex KurtzmanRelease Date: June 9, 2017 When Universal announced plans for a culled together universe of all of their classic monster properties (beginning with the awful Dracula Untold), I didn't think much of it until the first trailer for The Mummy. Now if you would've told me that there's a potential universe of films where Tom Cruise fights classic monsters, I would've been sold day one. Cruise is the last of the classic Hollywood guys successfully pulling off action films, so he and old monster types go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Coupled with Sofia Boutella as the titular mummy and we could have a winner here. -- Nick Valdez [embed]221225:43366:0[/embed] Transformers: The Last KnightDirector: Michael BayRelease Date: June 23, 2017 The Transformers films have always been a special kind of terrible. They look fantastic, but are also a visual nightmare. The explosions are cool, but they're also so frequent you can't enjoy any of them. There's tons of fan service in the story, but the story makes no damn sense. I have no idea what's going with The Last Knight (the trailer didn't help matters, either), but I, for some reason, have a strong compulsion to see it. I've already invested so much of time into this god-forsaken junk heap that I can't really stop now. I'm in it till the world ends. -- Nick Valdez [embed]221107:43259:0[/embed] Spiderman: HomecomingDirector: Jon WattsRelease Date: July 17, 2017 I like the Marvel cinematic universe, but I don't love it. It's big. It's fun. Everything feels basically the same. (Everything is basically the same.) But with Spiderman: Homecoming, I think there's the potential for something really interesting. It's crazy to think that this is the third time we're seeing a new Spiderman saga unfold in just 15 years, but I'm particularly excited by this one. If his unnecessary-but-fantastic sequences in Civil War are any indication, Tom Holland is an excellent Peter Parker/Spiderman, and I'm oh-so glad that they're not doing an origin story this time. He's got the powers. That's what matters. Maybe we'll get a few flashbacks, but we're also getting a RDJ team-up, and, like, that's great.  The trailer looks fun and has a different type of drama. Lower stakes drama. Part of the problem with Marvel movies for me is just how high stakes they always have to be. While there's definitely some big stuff going down in Homecoming, it's also a high school drama. It's low-key, and I'm looking forward to that in and of itself. -- Alec Kubas-Meyer [embed]221225:43379:0[/embed] DunkirkDirector: Christopher NolanRelease Date: July 21, 2017 Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk looks like the prestige war film of the year, and probably the only movie I'm interested in seeing in IMAX upon release. I wonder how Nolan will chronicle this particular event from World War II, in which demoralized British and French troops evacuated Dunkirk, spared only by a halt order by the Nazis. Nolan's got a great ensemble cast to work with, including Kenneth Brannagh, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, and Cillian Murphy. --Hubert Vigilla [embed]221225:43380:0[/embed] Valerian and the City of a Thousand PlanetsDirector: Luc BessonRelease Date: July 21, 2017 It's been a long time since a Luc Besson movie has interested me. Leave it to Valerian to get me intrigued in Besson. Visually arresting and full of lush, vertiginous science fiction cityscapes, this looks like The Fifth Element writ large. The film is an adaption of the French comic book series Valerian and Laureline, which I really want to check out. There'll probably be a reprint omnibus closer to July to coincide with the film. --Hubert Vigilla The Dark TowerDirector: Nikolaj ArcelRelease Date: July 28, 2017 The Dark Tower is widely considered Stephen King's opus: a sprawling, seven-book, 4,250-word, 22-year and western-fantasy-horror genre-bending odyssey. Featuring the monster acting chops of  Idras Elba as Roland Deschain, aka the Gunslinger, and Matthew McConaughey (yes, post-True Detective, he has earned the accolade) as Walter Padick, aka the Man in Black, this one promises to have the potential to surprise and deliver. Director Nikolaj Arcel has said this is more of a sequel to the books than an adaptation, so even diehard fans will have new material to look forward to. -- Rick Lash [embed]221135:43281:0[/embed] Blade Runner 2049Director: Denis VilleneuveRelease Date: October 6, 2017 Sometimes, things are better left alone. A part of me feels like Blade Runner might be one ofthose cases. Of course, to actually make that argument, you'd have to think that the theatrical cut, marred by studio interference, was well enough to be left alone. Obviously, it wasn't, and it would be a very long time before there was a proper cut of what is objectively among the best science-fiction films of all time. But it doesn't really matter if the film "should" be left as its own thing, because we've got a sequel. And ya know what? I'm excited about it. Denis Villeneuve, as I say any chance I get, is among my favorite working directors, and there's not another director I would trust more to make a worthwhile follow-up to such a classic.  I mean... did you see that teaser? Oh my god I'm so hype. -- Alec Kubas-Meyer [embed]221225:43373:0[/embed] Thor: RagnarokDirector: Taika WaititiRelease Date: November 3, 2017 As if I wasn't already going to see Thor 3, Marvel went and tossed Hulk into the mix. A buddy movie set in space at least partially adapting Planet Hulk, Ragnarok will assuredly give us more intense universe-building action and fan-service as we race ever closer to Infinity War. And if that wasn't enough to sell you, Jeff Goldblum, will, uh, um, be playing The Grandmaster! -- Sean Walsh [embed]221225:43367:0[/embed] Justice LeagueDirector: Zack SnyderRelease Date: November 17, 2017 I hated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as much as the next guy, and the thought of another non-Wonder Woman film from DC is grating, but as with Transformers, I have to see this through. Like it or not, it's going to be the first time we ever see all of these superheroes in a film together and I really want it to succeed. Did Zack Snyder take all of the complaints into account? Probably not. He said he paid attention last time, but that only resulted in a vengeful, hateful Batman that Ben Affleck himself hates doing. So who really knows what's going to happen here? Well, whichever way this swings I'm here for it. -- Nick Valdez CocoDirector: Lee Unkrich Release Date: November 22, 2017 Latinx culture always gets the shaft when it comes to representation. Always relegated to some film fetishizing rather than celebrating, I've been eagerly awaiting a film to capture what makes the culture so special. While it's not handled by Latinx creators like the similar The Book of Life, I'm hoping Pixar's Coco can tell our story. Or, at the very least, make a film as lovable as ones they have done in the past. I'd enjoy seeing kids fall in love with characters of Mexican influence, and given our current political climate, that's needed now more than ever. -- Nick Valdez Star Wars: The Last JediDirector: Rian JohnsonRelease Date: December 15, 2017 While I generally enjoyed The Force Awakens, its second half was too slavishly anchored to the first Star Wars. I have high hopes for Rian Johnson's sequel, mainly because I think Johnson will get away from repeating too many beats from previous Star Wars films and just play Star Wars in a Star Wars movie. The title The Last Jedi is intriguing, though as many people have pointed out, “Jedi” is both singular and plural. On a more somber note, I wonder if the film will feature some sort of tribute to Carrie Fisher. May the force be with us all. --Hubert Vigilla OkjaDirector: Bong Joon-HoRelease Date: TBA  Bong Joon-Ho is the only Korean filmmaker I genuinely trust to make English-language films. I had my reservations about Snowpiercer (ones not necessarily shared with many of my peers), but it was a fascinating and solid outing, and the language barrier doesn't seem to have been the cause of any issues. So, if he wants to continue doing it? I'm all for it. Netflix is behind Okja, which is fascinating and exciting in and of itself. Their film hasn't been up to the level of their TV, but this could very well be the film to change it. If it's good and Netflix feels its success, it can only mean good things going forward. In that sense, there's a fair bit riding on the film. But I think it's a pretty good chance of pulling it off. I mean, it's got a hell of a cast and an extremely talented director putting it all together. What's not to be excited about? -- Alec Kubas-Meyer A Ghost StoryDirector: David LoweryRelease Date: TBA Recently screened at the Sundance Film Festival, the buzz around David Lowery's A Ghost Story has caught my attention. A love story starring Casey Affleck (as a ghost) and Rooney Mara (as a non-ghost), the film is chockablock with grief, longing, and metaphysical contemplation. And apparently there's some scene of Mara eating a pie people just won't shut up about. --Hubert Vigilla Wind RiverDirector: Taylor SheridanRelease Date: TBA  The man who wrote Sicario and Hell or High Water has directed a film that has been described as the spiritual successor to both. Since this is Taylor Sheridan's first time behind the camera, I'm expecting Wind River to be a little shaky, but I also expect it to have an extremely strong script that should support and technical weaknesses we may see. It also stars Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen, who are both excellent when given the opportunity. I don't know much about the film (intentional), but it's certainly piqued my interest out of Sundance, where it just premiered. I'm very much looking forward to seeing it for myself. -- Alec Kubas-Meyer Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Fashion MovieDirector: Paul Thomas AndersonRelease Date: TBA A new film from Paul Thomas Anderson will always hold my attention. All I know about his newest project is that it's about the fashion industry in the 1950s and it will star Daniel Day-Lewis. I expect big things, and I expect broad things, and I expect some sort of memorable line about milkshakes. I also hope it will screen at this year's New York Film Festival like Inherent Vice a few years ago. --Hubert Vigilla
Most Anticipated 2017 photo
Some real gems this year...maybe
Now that we're finally through the cinematic winter wasteland of January, we can finally look forward to seeing some great, or interesting, films. But which ones are possibly worth our time and money? The Flixist staff was so...

Review: Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Jan 27 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221227:43368:0[/embed] Resident Evil: The Final ChapterDirector: Paul W.S. AndersonRelease Date: January 27, 2017Rating: R Much like previous entries in this series (a technique unique to this and the Saw series, hilariously enough), Final Chapter begins immediately after the events of the previous film, 2012's Retribution. After a failed attack on the Umbrella Corporation in Washington D.C. -- causing the deaths of all but one of the remaining characters from the video game series -- leaves Alice (Milla Jovovich) alone and broken, she learns of a cure to the T-Virus locked within the corporation's base from the first film. But with only 48 hours until the last settlements of humanity are wiped out, Alice is forced to race against time and face villains from her past like Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen) last seen in the third film, Extinction. Also Ali Larter shows up.  Final Chapter is an aggressively busy film. The camera is constantly in motion. Whether it's shaky cam during dialogue, quick cuts of the same fight scene from different angles, or zoom-ins to Jovovich's face, the camera is rarely still, if ever. Coupled with sound mixing making everything about ten times louder than it needs to be (making the numerous jump scares in the film's opening much more abrasive than they should be), and the film has a high barrier to entry to those outside of its fan base. Sure it may be ridiculous to assume a person would watch Final Chapter before any of the other films, but I could only assume those without background knowledge of the series would be completely lost. With only a brief primer outlining the series thus far at the opening, there's not much to latch onto since the story is too bare bones to stand out beyond its technical mayhem.  But while the film is a technical mess, and its story is spread too thin to work anywhere else, somehow Final Chapter's bits of awfulness coalesce into a workable package. It's the "so bad it's good" film conundrum the series has found itself in the past, and pockets of that occasionally pop up here. The film hits such a height of ridiculousness at certain points, I didn't really know how to react to it. While Final Chapter is indeed taking itself seriously, its punctuated by fun, action film choices. Triple barreled shotguns, rivers of fire, and even fan service like the return of the series famous laser grid. It may all be incredibly juvenile, but I still appreciate seeing Milla tear up the joint. This film reminded me how well the Resident Evil series has focused action films around a female lead, and how much better these films are when Jovovich is clearly enjoying her work.  As for everyone else involved, I couldn't say the same. While there are other actors in this film, I couldn't say there were any real characters. The Final Chapter has such a brisk pace, there's no room for development for other characters than Alice. The Alice-focused narrative works for Jovovich's performance, but lowers the film's stakes and tension. Characters fight and die, but there's little reason to care about any of it. The only performances worth noting beyond Jovovich are Ali Larter's and Iain Glen's because they've nailed down the strange seriousness they need to deliver their lines. And since I'll probably never get the chance to mention this again, I just want to declare how much I've missed Ali Larter. Seeing her in Final Chapter reminded me how much I loved seeing her on-screen. There may not be any more Resident Evil films in the works (presumably), but I hope she pops up somewhere. Same for Jovovich, too.  Your mileage will vary with Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. If you've never seen the Resident Evil films, don't bother. If you're slightly interested in it because the newest Resident Evil game piqued you curiousity, don't bother. If you've watched the other films but only slightly curious to see how the series ends, you're better off waiting a while until you can watch it a home with a bunch of drinking buddies.  But for those of you who absolutely love the Resident Evil films, and there are some of you out there, you won't get a better ending than this. Final Chapter is passionately, crazily built for you, and you won't get the same care anywhere else.  Sadly, however, this film was released to everyone. 
RE Review photo
At least it's the last one
The Resident Evil films have always been a special kind of terrible. While not great films in their own right, each film is part of a larger ambitious tale further spurned on by both fan and creator devotion. Each one might n...

Hubert's Top 15 Movies of 2016

Jan 26 // Hubert Vigilla
15. The Lobster I'm not in love with Yorgos Lanthimos' The Lobster, but I like it a whole lot. Its first half is a brilliantly awkward send up of modern love. People pick their mates for the most superficial reasons, single people are pathetic sport for hunting, adults forced to be genuine are reduced to gawky teens unsure of what they feel. Yet I go back and forth about the second half of the film, which is so one-note. So much going on in the first half, and a kind of sparseness there in the second. And yet there's a lot to love about what's there. So maybe I do love The Lobster--love is strange. Read our full review of The Lobster 14. Hunt for the Wilderpeople The mismatched buddy comedy is like the platonic version of the misfit romance--two weird people come together trying to escape the awfulness of their lives. Kindness and generosity ensues. I liked Taika Waititi's Hunt for the Wilderpeople when I initially saw it, but my fondness for the movie has grown in the months after. It's a throwback to an 80s comic adventure with touches of Edgar Wright and Pixar's Up. Sam Neil is his Sam-Neil-iest, and I really want to see star Julian Dennison in more stuff. Waititi is a Kiwi filmmaker I'll keep my eyes on, and his work has gotten me excited for the next Thor movie of all things. 13. Toni Erdmann On the note of movies that have grown on me, my appreciation for Toni Erdmann has increased the further I get away from the hype. Maren Ade's nearly three-hour film is not as hilarious or bonkers as some make it out to be. It's funny, sure, and there's some unexpected kink involving petit fours, but as a whole the film plays out like a long episode of The Office--a grounded silliness. Toni Erdmann offers a thoughtful and occasionally sad look at the love/hate relationship that grows between children and parents as they get older, and why family is so difficult and yet ultimately worthwhile. Lately I've been thinking about me and my father in terms of Toni Erdmann, and it helps me understand why I love my dad. Read our full review of Toni Erdmann 12. Weiner If The War Room was the political documentary of the 1990s and Street Fight was the political documentary of the 2000s, I think Weiner may be the political doc of the 2010s. Behold the demise of a well-intentioned man driven by hubris and his need to get off on the web. And yet, there's a admirable spunkiness to him. And yet, Christ, what an asshole. Directors Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg have (perhaps unintentionally) given people an inside look at a campaign in crisis, and by extension the dissolution of a political marriage. This is the cringe-comedy that our politics have become. Read our full review of Weiner 11. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Rogue One is a Star Wars movie that captures the feeling of playing Star Wars as a kid--let's do cool stuff in this universe we love. It also gets at the feeling of playing Star Wars as an adult--let's throw in our big ideas about resistance and conflict. A little bit suicide mission, a little bit WWII movie, Rogue One surpasses The Force Awakens on so many levels. Even though its story is entirely contingent on the first Star Wars film and I have qualms with its CG performances, there's something refreshing and lively about Rogue One. It's enjoyable for what it is, just like playing with action figures in a sandbox. Read our full review of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story 10. The Witch The bleakness and isolation of Robert Eggers' The Witch lingered with me a long while after seeing it. Whenever I think about The Witch, I keep going back to the note it strikes at the end. Those closing moments can be read in different ways, and I enjoy that delicious ambiguity. All that repression throughout, and just outside the confines of that home is the threat of nature, free and amok. Teasing it out, the film may be offering a rebuke of American puritanism or the rigid structures of religion and fundamentalism. Like the family in the film, such structures might all be teetering at the brink. The thing is, the big tip over might not be so bad. 9. Green Room Whenever I talk about Green Room with friends, I usually prefer to it as Punk Rock Die Hard or Punk Rock Straw Dogs. Jeremy Saulnier's made such a compelling thriller where every one of our protagonists feels like they're in mortal danger. While we're just given the barest sense of their backstories, I felt a connection to all of the young punks, and was continually surprised by the mayhem they endure. Saulnier and his cast imbue the film with primal, squirming dread, from Patrick Stewart's "been there, done that" attitude about extermination to the late Anton Yelchin's wounded, desperate acts of retaliation. This is a great action film and a great horror film, and it's also punk as fuck. Read our full review of Green Room 8. Tower Tower took me by surprise, and it's one of the most gripping documentaries of 2016. The film recreates the events of the 1966 UT Austin tower shooting, one of America's most infamous yet least talked-about mass shootings. Director Keith Maitland combines rotocope animation with interviews/transcripts from actual witnesses/survivors to restage the horror of that day. The results are beyond moving. I think the animation removes the pressures of filming the period in real life (i.e., fashion and hairstyles, minute period detail, film grain/quality), allowing the witnesses to tell their stories in an abstract yet hyperreal emotional space. Tower is such an intense visual oral history, and what stands out most are the little moments of heroism and humanity that emerge in the face of such troubling times. 7. Arrival Denis Villeneuve's made a mournful, contemplative, and yet hopeful science fiction film in Arrival. Adapted from a story by Ted Chiang, the film feels so grey and foggy much of the time, as if we're watching the moods brought on by a drizzly day. Amy Adams' performance and Johann Johannsson's score have a similar overcast quality. At the heart of Arrival is this longing for utopian understanding, as well as a meditation on free will and how we deal with unavoidable and inevitable heartbreak. I'm reminded of how the science fiction and fantasy that sticks with me most tend to be existential stories in which human dilemmas get to play out using elaborate toys and toy sets. Read our two-part discussion of Arrival 6. Moonlight Barry Jenkins' Moonlight is brimming with life. I could have watched a feature film version of its three different sections. Each stage in Chiron's maturation has its own tone and color and weight to it. I still marvel at how Jenkins built a continuity between these sections, one that works both because of and in spite of the lacunae between chapters. What happened in those intervening years? Where did this character go? Did they lose touch? The fact I'm left wondering what happened to certain characters and what events may have transpired speaks to the life--the lives--going on off the screen. There's so much to to process about sexuality and blackness and family and the connections we make; the fact it's such a gorgeously lensed film is a gift. Read our full review of Moonlight 5. Manchester by the Sea There are plenty of emotional highs and lows in Kenneth Longergan's Manchester by the Sea, but they work as parts of a whole. This is largely thanks to Lonergan's writing, which bravely and recklessly acknowledges that while someone may be in the throes of unremitting despair, another person is doing their own thing in their own way that isn't necessarily complementary or parallel. Hence the grief-stricken man forced to look after a horndog teenager. Ditto the tearful attempts at reconciliation with a self-flagellating so-and-so who finds his actions irredeemable. The performances help sell the ups and downs, with everyone their own island attempting to reach out and not feel quite so alone anymore. If these people are Venn diagrams, there's just a sliver between circles that keeps them together. But what a sliver. Read our full review of Manchester by the Sea 4. O.J.: Made in America Just in terms of scope, no film this year can match Ezra Edelman's five-part, seven-and-a-half-hour documentary epic O.J.: Made in America. Each of the five sections exists as its own cinematic essay, covering O.J. Simpson as a sports icon and celebrity, race in America, police violence against the black community, the tragedy of Nicole Brown's life, the circus of the criminal trial, and Simpson's sordid days in Miami. It's such a compelling watch, and I mainlined all five parts over the course of a night and a morning. It's the rise and fall of a one-time hero, and also the irresolvable difficulties of a divided United States. By the end, I was left speechless and numb. I was astonished by what Edelman had achieved, obviously, but more so by what he expressed about about America using Simpson as a symbol and a pretext. 3. Sing Street I watched John Carney's Sing Street on a whim one day last spring, and it immediately became one of my favorite movies of the year. There's no other film I can think of that captures the initial exhilaration of learning to play music, writing your own songs, and believing, even briefly, in the redemptive power of making your own art. It's such a teenage feeling, but one that resonates with adults who feel like they're no longer allowed those kinds of delightful indulgences. I keep listening to the Sing Street soundtrack, particularly "Drive It Like You Stole It", "Brown Shoes", and "Up", which are some of the best songs in any move last year. Maybe what speaks to me most in Sing Street is its blend of the misfit romance and the mismatched buddy comedy. These kids may or may not make it--real life favors the latter, sadly--but it's beautiful that they believed something together, anything together, was possible. 2. The Handmaiden (아가씨, Agassi) Thematically, Park Chan-wook's The Handmaiden might be 2016's Mad Max: Fury Road. Here are two women oppressed by a toxic patriarchy, relegated to servitude or providing some kind of sexual pleasure. Now watch them try to fight the forces of the citadel. Okay, that's an oversimplification of what Park has crafted here. The Handmaiden is a sexy, sumptuous, audacious, twisty thriller that had me in its grips from the beginning. So much of the movie is artfully composed, from its seductions to its violence to its sex scenes. Yet Park uses painterly restraint when it comes to way he shoots the sex (i.e., this is not Blue Is the Warmest Color all over again), and emphasizes character and emotion to make these expressions of passion come alive. The Handmaiden might have dethroned Old Boy as my favorite Park movie--time and multiple watches will tell. 1. Paterson Paterson isn't just the movie I needed in the darkness of 2016. It's the movie that I need as a writer. Here's a fount of optimism and contentment, even when all hope seems lost. I likened the movie to Jim Jarmusch giving people a reassuring push on a swing. Rather than succumb to the dumb cliches of writing life--depression, substance abuse, obsession with notoriety--Paterson presents a working artist who is content with what he's been able to build. Regardless its size, it is something, and that something is worthwhile because it exists. Adam Driver exudes kindness just as much as co-star Golshifteh Farahani; she's not a manic pixie dream girl, but just one of two dreamers each trying to live a modest dream. I'm reminded of that final chord struck by Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life: "No man is a failure who has friends." Paterson the man also has writing to fill the time alone. What a wonderful world. Read our full review of Paterson [embed]221176:43355:0[/embed] Honorable Mentions There are few noteworthy movies that fell outside of this list of 15 that need some special recognition. The backlash to Damien Chazelle's La La Land has been loud and extreme, especially now that it's awards season. While the movie's thrall has precipitously worn off on me, I found La La Land technically proficient and generally charming. Gosh, that sounds like faint praise, doesn't it? But I did like the movie quite a bit. Also, "Someone in the Crowd" is a far better song than La La Land's Oscar-nominated duo of "City of Stars" and "Audition". But all the moxie and pizzazz of "Someone in the Crowd" is still not as good as Sing Street's "Drive It Like You Stole It". Ava Duvernay's 13TH is another great doc from last year that will stick with me, and in retrospect offers a chilling snapshot of the current political moment we're living in. For a double feature, it could easily be paired with Craig Atkinson's Do Not Resist, a chilling doc about the current state of police militirization in America. [embed]221176:43369:0[/embed] Lightening the mood, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping was unjustly ignored. It's a much better music mockumentary than it has any right to be. I also have to give a nod to Shane Black's The Nice Guys, a Pynchon-esque period romp by way of a bumbling PI comedy. Kubo and the Two Strings was gorgeous and magical and the sort of kids movie I'd have loved growing up, and it makes me wonder what Laika will do next. I also really admired Swiss Army Man (aka Art House Fart Corpse) for sticking with its bizarre premise as a way to critique the toxic masculinity of indie movie protagonists. And a shout out to Bill Morrisson's Dawson City: Frozen Time, which is a hypnotic documentary on lost fragments of films as well as the history of a lost time and place. And, dammit, I kind of love Ip Man 3. It's my favorite entry in the Donnie Yen/Wilson Yip wing chun trilogy since it's such an odd duck. More than that, Ip Man 3 is a great Ip Man movie about Ip Man movies. [embed]221176:43357:0[/embed]
Hubert's Best of 2016 photo
Well... that was a weird year
By plenty of measures, 2016 was a pretty crummy year. 2017 probably isn't going to be much better, to be honest. But we keep going. We may need to lean on family and friends to get us through, but we keep going. And like any ...

Alec's Top 15 Movies of 2016

Jan 25 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
Things I didn't see that, based on critical response, could have affected this list: Silence, Everybody Wants Some!!, Jackie, Moana, Weiner, O.J.: Made in America, Certain Women, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, 20th Century Women, Age of Shadows, 13th. 0: The Edge of Seventeen In 2016, I found my Desert Island Movie. I have no idea why it took me so long to find a film that I genuinely feel like I could just watch over and over again for the rest of eternity, but there you go. I love The Edge of Seventeen with every fiber of my being. Literally everything about it is amazing. Is it because, deep down, I am a misfit 17-year-old girl? Probably. I connected so much to Hailee Steinfeld's Nadine that I should probably be concerned about it but am distinctly not.  I remember seeing the trailer initially and thinking, "Huh. That looks okay," and then seeing all of the crazy praise that it got, saying it would be this generation's Breakfast Club. But, unfortunately, it took me too long to see it. By the time I had gone to the theater for it for the third time (on my birthday, no less), it was just about to leave for good. I would have seen it at least twice more, to set my personal record for times I've seen a movie in theaters (I've only seen Inception and Mad Max: Fury Road more), but alas. I will undoubtedly be buying the Blu-ray when it comes out next month. 1: Green Room The instant the credits rolled on Green Room, I texted four different people telling them I had just seen the best movie of 2016. When I saw it for the second time, I did the same thing. I was at a party with Jeremy Saulnier a year-and-change ago and didn't find out until afterwards, which was terrible for me but great for him. I loved Blue Ruin, and would have made his night absolutely terrible by constantly telling him how great he was (and how excited I was for Green Room, which I had already heard stellar things about). The difference between his first film, Murder Party, and Blue Ruin was astronomical. The difference between that and Green Room is not so big, but considering how good Blue Ruin is, that it's any kind of improvement is a sign of straight-up genius. I mean, it's Punk Rock Die Hard. What else could you possibly want? And it also ended up being horribly relevant in 2016. Which is not a good thing, necessarily, but makes it all the more deserving of the title of "Best Movie of 2016." Red laces, y'all. Red laces... 2: The Lobster The Lobster is the biting satire that the Tinder generation deserves. The tale of a film where superficial compatibility is not just a major component of a match; it's the only component. Go to a hotel and find love (or something) with another person with similar hair, or the same kind of limp (maybe a similar penchant for nose bleeds). If you can't do that in 45 days, you're turned into an animal. You get to choose the animal, which I guess is cool, but, ya know, you get turned into an animal (and the implication is that the, um, surgical procedure to take you from human to animal is horrific (duh)). The way the characters develop in this absurdist romance is consistently fascinating, and it feels True even when it doesn't feel Real.  Because that's kind of where we are. That hotel is like a bizzaro version of Tinder, where looks are literally everything. Watching it, I thought about all those dating apps on my phone that I already feel uncomfortable about and felt even worse. Here I am, not much different than the people on the screen, except when I don't find my superficial mate, at least I don't get turned into an animal. And for that, The Lobster doesn't just end up on the list of year's best movies: It ends up on the list of films that have most directly impacted me as a person (ever). 3: Swiss Army Man The movie starring Daniel Radcliffe as a farting corpse. I remember hearing about this, hearing about the crazy divisiveness of its premiere, the walk-outs, etc. And then I remember talking to friends about it (and someone spoiling the ending, presumably without realizing I still hadn't seen it... awk). Then someone said, "I just saw Swiss Army Man, and I need to talk about it with you, so go see Swiss Army Man." So, I did. No lie: I laughed more at this movie than everyone else in the theater combined. That's not an exaggeration. (I know this because I laughed at every single joke, which means I pretty much didn't stop laughing from the word Go (except for the emotional moments, which worked on a whole other level).) It's unfortunate that it can be reduced to "the farting corpse movie," because that makes Swiss Army Man sound like some childish gross-out thing. But that isn't what it is. It's crazy, sure, but it's clever as hell and really gets at some serious issues. If you were turned off by the premise, you should still give it a shot. It's like nothing you've ever seen. 4: Paterson I had put together the other films on this list before seeing Paterson. I had a placeholder spot for it at 7. Based on general reaction, and how I felt about movies 1-6 (and 8-15), it seemed like a good spot for the film. As you can tell, however, it changed things. Part of me feels that it didn't change hard enough, that Paterson actually deserves to be higher on this list, but it hasn't been long enough since watching it for me to really know where it ultimately falls. But let me say this: Paterson is the nicest movie I have seen in years. It's the word I kept coming back to, and it's a word everyone else I've talked to about it has used as well. The movie is just nice. It's pleasant. It's a film about a guy with a pretty decent existence who is just going about existing, with a stellar center performance by Adam Driver. A lot of movies make me think about myself and my life, but rarely do movies make me really question where I am, where I'm going, and what I want. In the long, meditative silences of Paterson, I considered those things. I looked at him and his girlfriend. I looked at their small house with the mailbox that's always tilting to the side (which has one of the most satisfying payoffs in recent memory). And I thought about how I stack up. How I live. Am I doing it right? Am I doing alright? It takes a special film to really get into your brain like that. Paterson is a special film. 5: Moonlight From the gorgeous opening shot of Moonlight, I was hooked. I subtitled my review "Able to bear the weight of its own existence," and I think that's probably the best way to describe what it accomplishes. Here is a film that just had to be good. After the collapse of The Birth of a Nation, something needed to pick up the mantle as the film about not-white-people. And while Moonlight was not the only film to do that, it was absolutely the best.  Each of the three periods in Chiron's life is beautifully realized, both technically and emotionally. The script is great. The cinematography is brilliant. The acting is stellar, from Mahershala Ali (are you fucking kidding me, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association?). Really, just everything is great. It doesn't have many surprises, but it doesn't need them either. Despite what might seem on its face generic, the film feels completely honest. (Perhaps that's the most surprising thing about it.) Some people may shrug it off as "the Black movie" because they thought the #oscarssowhite campaign was reverse racist or something, but those people are A) garbage, and B) missing out on something awesome. 6: Arrival I don't get into multi-thousand word written discussions about films very often, so when I do, it's clearly a big deal. Arrival made me think and think hard. (No other film that I saw last year inspired that level of discussion, nor did (m)any of them really deserve it.) Even before I had seen it, Denis Villeneuve was one of my favorite directors. But that just solidified it. He's on a roll (and have you seen the teaser for the new Blade Runner? My gosh!), and this is by far his greatest work. A quiet, meditative studio film with big name actors about... linguistics? The most interesting alien movie in years, and also a damn fine looking piece of art. I'm keeping this brief because I've already said a whole heckuva lot. If you want more, go read Hubert and my Flixist Discusses piece(s) on it [Part 1 and Part 2]. That rabbit hole goes deep. 7: Hell or High Water I tend to avoid cowboy-type movies, ones set in the South or the West (other than, obviously, California, but that's not really the West; it's just... West). This is some kind of not-great bias on my part, but it's true. I had to see Hell or High Water mostly so people would shut up telling me that I had to go see Hell or Highwater. Several people had told me it was their favorite film of the year, so I finally took the plunge, and... wow. Just, wow. The thing that sold me on the film, more than anything else, is a firefight in which a truck becomes riddled with holes. Not showered with sparks, the way we expect vehicles in films to be affected, full-on swiss cheesed. This was a moment that encapsulated everything about Hell or High Water that made it so good: a commitment to the realism. It has some of the most effective violence of any film in recent memory, and it tells a truly compelling story about people who feel they've been wronged and the lengths they'll go to to see their justice done.  It wasn't the biggest surprise of the year (I'll get to that one in a bit), but it was probably the best. 8: Manchester By the Sea I was very conflicted about seeing Manchester by the Sea. I didn't watch The Birth of a Nation for the same reason I won't watch Woody Allen or Roman Polanski movies: I refuse to separate the art from the artist. I understand, sort of, why people don't, but it's a matter of principle for me.  The stories of Casey Affleck's awful on-set actions left a bad taste in a lot of peoples' mouths, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt like that shouldn't stop me. Not because I didn't care about supporting bad behvavior, but because it's not actually his movie. I shouldn't punish Kenneth Lonergan and co. because their lead actor turned out to be a scumbag. And so I didn't. And I wasn't disappointed by the film I got. It's less depressing than I was led to believe, but I mean thatin a very good way. It's about grief and tragedy, but it doesn't necessarily feel tragic.  Sometimes when I watch a movie, I wish that I had made something like it (or, more generally, want to make something like it in the future). Here was something different: I wanted to be in a movie like it. I wanted to be a part of something so raw and emotionally honest. I hope I get that opportunity someday. It really is a powerful piece of work. 9: The Handmaiden I'm glad that Park Chan-Wook went back to Korea rather than making the other Hollywood films he had lined up. Stoker is fine, but The Handmaiden is a proper return to form for one of the best working filmmakers. I didn't know anything about The Handmaiden going into it, other than that it was based off a book and was about lesbians. Much like westerns, I tend to avoid period pieces, but Park's work was obviously always going to be an exception. And what we've got is easily the best Korean period piece I've seen (and I've seen many). It's a technical achievement, to be sure, probably his best looking film, but it's also a narrative one. I was shocked by how long the film was when I arrived at the screening and saw the runtime on the press notes, but the film went by quickly. And with all of that intrigue and violence and sex*, it's got pretty much everything you could possibly want. *I genuinely think the film has a bit too much lesbian sex (something most of my male friends disagree with on principle), but unlike the gratuitous nothing found in Blue is the Warmest Color's infamous sequences, these do serve a purpose. They build character, and they look good cinematically (not just, like, sexually or whatever). For that, it mostly gets a pass on what comes off as mostly just gratuitous. 10: La La Land As I'm writing this, someone is talking to me about how much he hated La La Land. I, politely, disagreed. I know a lot of people who loved it a lot more than I do, and a fair few who like it less. It's kind of interesting how wildly different the opinions have been. For my part, I really, really liked it. Damien Chazelle broke out with Whiplash, and this is a fitting follow-up. The jazz-based music is fun and lighthearted, as is the film in general, at least up until the ending. The characters don't really make a lot of sense, to be sure, and a lot of the cinematic language was used more as a throwback to old films than in a way that necessarily made sense for this one, but I didn't really care. I've said it before, that I'm willing to forgive substance issues for style, and this film has got a lot of style. And at the end of a very bad year, it was nice to just watch pretty people do pretty things. (Ryan Gosling especially. He is pretty much amazing at everything, huh?) 11: Deadpool/Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping Why did I put these together? Because I loved them both, and they both deserved a spot... but they didn't deserve two spots collectively. Deadpool is the best Marvel movie by leaps and bounds, and Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping takes everything that made The Lonely Island great and amps it up. Aside from being comedies, the two movies couldn't really be more different, but they're also some of the few movies that I went to see in theaters again after attending the press screenings, bringing friends because I just wanted to share the experiences with other people. (Green Room is the only other one I can think of, though I saw it alone the second time around.) I don't really have anything else to say other than that they're great (read my reviews if you want more), and I'm looking forward to seeing them again.  12: The Witch In a not-insignificant way, The Witch is actually perfect. Director Robert Eggers put an obscene amount of work into making the film feel like a historical document, and he succeeded to an incredible degree.  The moment I realized this was the moment I thought, "Man, child actors in the 1700s were terrible." I didn't think, "Wow, they hired bad child actors in 2016." No, my brain literally convinced itself that the creative team time travelled back to the time in which the film was set and found people to play the characters and had subpar casting then. Were it not for the fact that time travel is impossible, I would genuinely believe it. The whole thing is just so flawlessly crafted that the acting issues don't detract from it, which is bizarre and impressive in and of itself. Well done, all. Except the child actors. Shame on them. 13: Sing Street One of the last films I saw as I was putting this list together, Sing Street is just a straight-up joy to watch. I played the drums (poorly) growing up, and a part of me wished that I had been in a band. Seeing the kids develop was awesome, and the fact that it literally all happened for a girl is both Ugh and also Amazing. It's such a teenage boy thing to do. And then he rocks the hell out of everything.  The way the band comes together and the music they create is all freaking awesome, and the narratives that underlie it all are excellent. I particularly liked the dynamic between the brothers, because it just felt so... right. It's one of the best sibling-ships I've seen in quite some time. Also, the romance is great, and usually I hate teen romance nonsense. I mean, let's be honest: Just about everything is great. It's on Netflix. Go see it. 14: 10 Cloverfield Lane Biggest surprise of 2016? Absolutely. Unlike Blair Witch, which also came out of nowhere, 10 Cloverfield Lane was exactly what a good mystery can be. I didn't know what I was in for going in, and that made the whole thing so much better. With some truly spectacular performances (particularly John Goodman's terrifying turn), 10 Cloverfield Lane made a very real case for the true horror being humanity. But the film doesn't let it be quite so simple. Though Goodman's character does some truly barbaric things, his motivations are far more complex. Deep down, he's almost a good person. He actually does think he's saving people from certain doom (and he has a very valid reason for thinking so), and the way that story builds and the characters develop is fascinating. If Cloverfield has to become a franchise, this gives me hope that it will be able to turn out unique and interesting tales. Does this need to have the moniker? No. But I don't have a problem with films taking on names of money-makers if it gives them a shot at success, particularly if they're making something different with it. And 10 Cloverfield Lane is different. It's exciting. And I'm very glad that I got to see it while the mystery was still fresh. (Though it's no doubt a great movie regardless.) 15: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story The first thing I said after Rogue One's credits rolled was "Wow. It's crazy how much better that was than Episode VII." The second time I saw it, I thought, "That was not nearly as good the second time. Still pretty sure it's a lot better than Episode VII." I liked Episode VII, but from the moment Rogue One was announced, I was so much more excited. These spin-off stories are so much more interesting to me than the main narrative that has propelled the Star Wars films thus far. This is also the rare prequel that actually makes something really fundamental make sense. Why was it so easy to destroy the Death Star? Well, because one of the men who built it put that flaw right in there. It makes sense. It works. (And the logic for him working on the base is fascinating and relevant as hell (and reminds me of something Tim Cook said about meeting with Donald Trump).) Also: it makes the fact that Starkiller Base was so easy to destroy so much stupider oh my god why. There are movies not on this list that I liked more than Rogue One – American Honey, Zootopia, Kubo and the Two Strings – but I chose to put this here because it's the best thing to happen to Star Wars on the big screen in decades. I think it's an important film for that reason, and hopefully one that we will look back on in the future as a turning point for this franchise, where it gets truly interesting again. It's got some major flaws for sure, but it deserves a place on this list. (Last place.)
Alec's Top 15 photo
A terrible year with not-terrible movies
So, now that we've gotten those dumb Oscar nominations out of the way, I think it's finally time to let everyone know what the real best films of 2016 were. The hacks at the Academy wouldn't know quality if it slapped them in...

Nick's Top 15 Movies of 2016

Jan 24 // Nick Valdez
15. Shin Godzilla I've got to admit my major Godzilla bias helped it make the list, but I argue it's a great enough movie to belong here. Along with a fresh take on an old monster, Toei gave it a more pro-active Japan in the narrative. In films past when Godzilla attacked, the Japanese citizens were always just reacting to Godzilla or running from this nuclear fear. But in Shin Godzilla, it's the humans who are finally able to put him down. Through intelligent strategy (as it unfolds like a political thriller that also sneaks in some digs at the Western version of Godzilla) and science, the humans prove that there is hope in a hopeless situation. It's a far cry from where Toei started with this series. Couple the strong message with a fantastic monster suit, and Godzilla has never been better.  14. Morris From America What seemed to be a major theme in 2016 was youths growing up in an ever changing world. Quite a bit of films followed kids as they formed their own perspectives and found their voices. One of the more unique takes was Morris From America, which followed the young Morris (Markees Christmas, who is going to have a huge career ahead of him) and his father (Craig Robinson, who definitely should pursue more dramatic work) as they both tried to accept their new lives in Germany. Morris finding his way through rap lyrics, and then discovering that he shouldn't merely mirror the voices of others, was a journey we don't really see much in film. It's a nice slice of life about a kid just trying to be himself. That's always nice.  13. Hell or High Water In might be because I'm from Texas, so I'm willing to forgive a lot of its character faults because I know people like this, but Hell or High Water really struck a chord with me. It just seemed so unique. It's a film following two sets of characters as a string of robberies occur in bumblefuck Texas, but there's just so much said. It's all in the smaller moments such as when a jerk gets his face bashed in, or when Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham throw subtle, racist jabs at one another. Or when Ben Foster and Chris Pine's characters rob a bank and you have hilariously awkward dialogue between the two of them. Then it's all the more devastating when the film reminds you of the reality of these characters' situation. There's beauty in the film's gradual progression.  12. Fences Since Denzel Washington directed Fences, and helped get it to the big screen in the first place, it was touted as some kind of major performance from him, but he's honestly my least favorite part. It's everything around him that's fantastic. In fact, his overacted performance actually works in his favor since his overbearing father character is inherently flawed and unlikable. But you feel for his family, these characters, trapped in this continuously awful situation until Viola Davis just breaks down and brings in the most commanding performance of the year. It's a bit of a dense piece, but worth the watch completely.  11. 10 Cloverfield Lane This Cloverfield sequel was the first major surprise of 2016. Hitting theaters only two months after its sudden announcement, it was already in my good graces since I didn't really have any expectations for it. What we got was one of the more tense productions of the year with standout performances from Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman. In fact this film was so damn good, the thought of an entire Cloverfield extended universe doesn't seem too bad at all. It cemented Cloverfield's franchise status and gave us the kind of sci-fi horror we haven't seen in years.  10. Sing Street It might be unfair to compare two musicals, but after such a drought it seems apt. La La Land is going to get all of the attention (which is mostly deserves), but Sing Street was the musical that hit home for me. Kids forming a new wave band in 1980s Dublin might not seem like the most inclusive premise, but it's positivity makes it familiar. It's a nice musical about chasing your dreams, and it's got a killer soundtrack to boot. "Drive It Like You Stole It" was one of my favorite songs in film last year, and the final performance was one of my favorite moments of the year entirely. Sing Street is charming, quietly strong, and it's just a musical of pure fun.  9. Moana Disney always seems to find a way onto my end of year lists, and 2016 was no different. But while there were two strong offerings, Moana is leagues above Zootopia in its awesomeness. A princess film where a young girl learns not to just aim to help a man, but accomplish things her own damn self? It says more than Frozen ever did. While the soundtrack admittedly doesn't have the staying power of its more Broadway predecessor, the film makes up for it with a deep color palette, astounding animation, and awesome performances from its two leads. Auli'i Cravalho has a major career ahead of her, and I can't wait to see how far she'll go.  8. O.J.: Made in America You can argue the five hour O.J.: Made in America project isn't technically a film, but you'd be hard pressed to find a better documentary last year. A documentary somehow always finds a way on to my list each year, so I definitely felt I should include this seeing as how I watched all five hours of it in one sitting. The O.J. Simpson trial happened before I was conscientious of things happening in the world around me, so seeing it all laid bare is fascinating. An enthralling portrait of the figurehead Simpson had become through his trial and then cataloging his public descent into mediocre madness was honestly something you couldn't make up. "Stranger than fiction" has never been more appropriate.  7. Hunt for the Wilderpeople Taika Waititi has quickly become one of my favorite directors. After a strong showing in the surprising What We Do in the Shadows, and before seeing what he can do with Marvel's Thor: Ragnarok, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is yet another home run for him. The story of a kid in New Zealand who's been bounced between foster homes and his adoptive father who couldn't give less of a damn about him running through the forest is one of the funniest films of the year. Like Shadows before it, it's a dialogue heavy comedy full of of awkwardness and charm from the young Julian Dennison.  6. The Jungle Book I can't believe Disney took a terrible sounding idea, remaking their animated films into live-action, and produced some of their best work from it. Maleficent, Cinderella, and now The Jungle Book. I've never been a fan of the original, but Favreau's take was fantastic. Stunningly animated animals, a great voice cast (with Walken's mob boss styled King Louie being an obvious stand out) , a tense story, and a great performance from the young Neel Sethi, who somehow was still believable while acting for a green screen. I watched this a number of times last year just to marvel at it, and I don't expect to stop anytime soon.  5. Moonlight The one major awards contender I'm rooting for is Moonlight. It's simply incredible. Watching the young, quiet Chiron grow, deal with his terrible home situation, struggle with his sexual identity, and survive in a world that wants to destroy is a phenomenal experience. Barry Jenkins' directorial strength comes through with his intimacy in heinous situations and finding the beauty in the mundane. A deep, bright color palette showing Miami in a light rarely seen in film, close face ups that linger on a character's internal pains, and strong central performances anchor the film's journey. It's not a film I can recommend for everyone, as my own sister exclaimed how boring she felt it was, but it's an experience you should have for yourself.  4. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping I've always taken The Lonely Island trio of Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone for granted since I keep forgetting how much genius they share between them. Their last project, Hot Rod, is still a film I re-watch to this day, and Popstar dutifully continues that tradition. I've seen it four times since I first viewed it in theaters and, of course, I'll never stop never stop it. A hilarious script, charming performance from the trio, and original songs that oddly sound great enough to fit in with the pop scene. The genius is in how slightly off each of those songs are, to remind you of the parody. I mean, "Equal Rights" and "Finest Girl" are some of the most hilarious things I've heard in years.  3. Kubo and the Two Strings I was attached to Kubo from its very first trailer. Laika is one of the few studios keeping stop-motion animation alive, and luckily for all of us they're phenomenal at it. Kubo is their strongest offering to date with the story of the titular Kubo journeying across the world to find the pieces of a mystical suit of armor to fight the ghosts of his unknown past. It's got this mythical quality in its storytelling, so it's kind of like a new, yet familiar take on a fairy tale. Coupled with the previously mentioned crisp animation (which Laika makes more and more seamless with each film), great voice cast (including the likes of Rooney Mara and Charlize Theron), and stunning score. I've yet to hear a better version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." 2. The Nice Guys So this came out of nowhere, huh? Shane Black's unique perspective always yields a great film and The Nice Guys is no different. Ryan Gosling may get tons of attention for La La Land, but he had a much more nuanced performance in this film. He even seemed to have more fun bouncing off of Russell Crowe in Black's vibrant, violent version of the 1970s. This dark comedy was unique, full of tons of memorable scenes, and has my favorite finale of the year. That final shootout was fantastic. Black really has a handle on his scene geography so you never lose sight of where everyone is, yet there's still plenty of surprise. Too bad it's bound to ignored by virtually everyone.  1. Green Room For me, 2016 peaked early. Jeremy Saulnier's Green Room premiered in April and ever since then, I found myself watching films and thinking "Well that was good, but not as good as Green Room." It is just so f**king intense, man. The chilling, stoic viciousness of Patrick Stewart's performance, the unbelievably charming band, The Ain't Rights, at the center (with a fiery rendition of "Nazi Punks Fuck Off," which is sadly needed now more than ever), and top tier performances from Imogen Poots and the late, too f**king great, Anton Yelchin. When the world came crumbling down around these characters, it was so tense my mouth was wide open the entire time. A brutal knuckle drag of a film with an unapologetic, highly intelligent narrative bound to make you hate Nazis even more (if that were even possible, to be honest).  Green Room is pure gold, and my favorite film of 2016. 
Nick's Top 15  photo
2016 was rough, but the movies were good
2016 was full of all sorts of losses for me. My life went through a few unwelcome changes, we've got a crazy President now, and the general air was full of strife. But at least there were some good movies last year. The year ...

2017 Academy Award nominees announced, here's a full list of the Oscar contenders

Jan 24 // Hubert Vigilla
Best Picture Arrival Fences Hacksaw Ridge Hell or High Water Hidden Figures La La Land Lion Manchester by the Sea Moonlight   Best Director Denis Villeneuve, Arrival Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge Damien Chazelle, La La Land Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea Barry Jenkins, Moonlight   Best Actor Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge Ryan Gosling, La La Land Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic Denzel Washington, Fences   Best Actress Isabelle Huppert, Elle Ruth Negga, Loving Natalie Portman, Jackie Emma Stone, La La Land Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins   Best Supporting Actor Mahershala Ali, Moonlight Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea Dev Patel, Lion Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals   Best Supporting Actress Viola Davis, Fences Naomie Harris, Moonlight Nicole Kidman, Lion Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea   Best Original Screenplay Hell or High Water La La Land The Lobster Manchester by the Sea 20th Century Women   Best Adapted Screenplay Arrival Fences Hidden Figures Lion Moonlight   Best Film Editing Arrival Hacksaw Ridge Hell or High Water La La Land Moonlight   Best Cinematography Arrival La La Land Lion Moonlight Silence   Best Production Design Arrival Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Hail, Caeasar! La La Land Passengers   Best Costume Design Allied Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Florence Floster Jenkins Jackie La La Land   Best Make-up and Hairstyling A Man Called Ove Star Trek Beyond Suicide Squad   Best Original Score Jackie La La Land Lion Moonlight Passengers   Best Original Song "Audition", La La Land "Can’t Stop the Feeling", Trolls "City of Stars", La La Land "The Empty Chair", Jim: The James Foley Story "How Far I’ll Go", Moana   Best Visual Effects Deepwater Horizon Doctor Strange The Jungle Book Kubo and the Two Strings Rogue One: A Star Wars Story   Best Sound Editing Arrival Deepwater Horizon La La Land Sully   Best Sound Mixing Arrival Hacksaw Ridge La La Land Rogue One: A Star Wars Story 13 Hours   Best Foreign Language Film Land of Mine A Man Called Ove The Salesman Tanna Toni Erdmann   Best Documentary Feature Fire at Sea I Am Not Your Negro Life Animated OJ: Made in America 13TH   Best Documentary Short Extremis 4.1 Miles Joe’s Violin Watani: My Homeland The White Helmets   Best Animated Feature Kubo and the Two Strings Moana My Life as a Zucchini The Red Turtle Zootopia   Best Animated Short Blind Vaysha Borrowed Time Pear Cider and Cigarettes Pearl Piper   Best Live-Action Short Ennemis Interieurs La Femme et le TGV Silent Nights Sing Timecode
2017 Oscar nominees photo
La La Land lands 14 nominations
The 2017 Oscar nominees have been announced. The leader of the pack this year is Damien Chazelle's La La Land, which garnered 14 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Screenplay, a...

Star Wars: The Last Jedi photo
Kylo Ren = The Shogun of Space Harlem
It's official, ladies and gents. Star Wars Episode VIII from wirter/director Rian Johnson is titled The Last Jedi. One might have expected this to be the name of the the third film in the new trilogy, following the naming con...

Every Power Rangers Theme Song, Ranked

Jan 22 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221220:43333:0[/embed] 20. Power Rangers Operation Overdrive (2007) Back when Disney owned the rights to Power Rangers, they made quite a bit of changes in order to reinvent it for their network. Punches and kicks were replaced by more lasers, explosions allegedly couldn't occur in front of the Rangers themselves, and they wanted to do a rap theme for some time. Unfortunately for all of us, their idea of rap was total garbage.  Highlighting the worst season of Power Rangers is faux-techno rap babble with the lyrics "There's treasures to be found, there's some lives to be saved, our planet to look after, there's a whole lot of space!" There's a whole lot of something, all right.  [embed]221220:43334:0[/embed] 19. Mighty Morphin' Alien Rangers (1996)  I wasn't originally going to count this, as the Alien Rangers arc is the capper of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers' final season and it's merely a copy of the OG theme with "alien rangers" in the lyrics, but you'll see in the next couple of entries this theme has a bit more effort in it than others.  I'm giving it credit for merely existing when it didn't need to. We didn't need a new theme, but it was nice to hear something different in preparation for the major reboot the series would go through a season later.  [embed]221220:43335:0[/embed] 18. Power Rangers Samurai (2011) / Power Rangers Super Samurai (2012) When Saban re-acquired the rights to Power Rangers (which fans have dubbed the "Neo-Saban"-era), they chose to reintroduce the series to kids on Nickelodeon with a remix of the show's original theme with the additional lyrics, "Rangers Together, Samurai Forever." But unlike the Alien Rangers theme, this remix is weak. I get the need to reintroduce the series' mythos to a new generation, but Saban missed the chance to highlight the show's obviously Japanese influences.  It's reflective of Saban's growing pains over the next few seasons that'll only get worse. Even worse is having the characters shout their names during the title sequence, treating kids like little idiots.  [embed]221220:43336:0[/embed] 17. Power Rangers Megaforce (2013) / Power Rangers Super Megaforce (2014) Megaforce was a worse season than Samurai in a lot of ways. Chiefly it's biggest disappointment was in how lazy of a show it was. It's exactly the same theme, complete with characters shouting their names during the credits, but it's just slightly better thanks to the first couple of seconds. With a season as lazy as this was, take what you can get.  [embed]221220:43337:0[/embed] 16. Power Rangers Mystic Force (2006) Just as Operation Overdrive somehow needed a rap in its theme song, Mystic Force was the first attempt at it. It's not a full-on trash rap, nor is it just a retread, but it's not an accomplishment by any means. This season was weak for a number of reasons, but the theme should've been the first indicator of its overall terribleness. [embed]221220:43354:0[/embed] 15. Power Rangers Jungle Fury (2008) Remember the band Metro Station? What about 3OH!3? Well, if either or those bands wrote a Power Rangers theme song it'd be whatever the hell this song is. Taking advantage of the faux-emo wave at the time is this piece of work which in no way suited a cool season of kung-fu Rangers.  Jungle Fury had a lot of great things going for it, but I could imagine this theme song turning kids away. It's just way too in your face with its awfulness.  [embed]221220:43338:0[/embed] 14. Power Rangers RPM (2009) Originally intended to be the final season of the series, as Disney got tired of spending money on it, RPM was a surprisingly mature story of the last bits of humanity fighting against machine apocalypse. Borrowing imagery from films like Mad Max and Terminator, this series was as awesome as Power Rangers has ever gotten...but the theme didn't tell you any of that. Other than some techno mess in the middle of it, this theme was a little too generic. All it's got to offer are a few "Power Rangers RPM, get in gear!" thrown in every now and again, and it's a letdown for what's arguably the best season of the series.  But it's not a rap song, so there's that.  [embed]221220:43341:0[/embed] 13. Power Rangers Wild Force (2002) Wild Force was basically a Power Rangers version of Captain Planet, as the Rangers fought against pollution and what not, so a boring season unfortunately got an equally boring theme song. There's nothing technically wrong with the song, it's just a little too loud and busy to really hit home. Accompanying animal roars, a tone that's constantly aggressive, with nothing sticking out to make it unique. The best seasons (as you'll read in a bit) have themes with distinguishing, memorable characteristics. Don't expect anyone to remember this.  [embed]221220:43340:0[/embed] 12. Power Rangers Ninja Storm (2003)  Ninja Storm's opening theme is about as forgettable as Wild Force's, but what makes it win over in the end is how unique it is. Matching its series' tone of extreme sports loving ninja masters is a chill rock song that helps play up the "Storm" in the series title. There still has yet to be a theme like it.  [embed]221220:43342:0[/embed] 11. Power Rangers Lost Galaxy (1999) Since Lost Galaxy was the first self-contained season of the series, not continuing the story started in MMPR, it needed a theme that sounded wholly different than what had come before. And it got that...for the first thirty seconds or so. As the first opening theme of the series not composed by Ron Wasserman (who's credits include MMPR through In Space and the Mummies Alive! opening theme), it's different enough to stand out yet feels similar enough to themes before. But after the great "ahhhhhhhh," it starts feeling repetitive. Granted all of these themes are repetitive, but this one really lets down its grandiose beginning.  [embed]221220:43343:0[/embed] 10.  Power Rangers Ninja Steel (2017) Since this season just premiered it might be a bit too soon to have the opening theme crack the top ten, but it's pretty dang good. It's the opening few seconds that really drive the point home. While I'm not sure if the series will live up to the Asian influences the theme presents, it already seems much different than seasons before. Coupled with a remix of the original theme (in order to keep building the mythos, as mentioned) thrown in for good measure, and I'm pretty stricken with it.  [embed]221220:43344:0[/embed] 9. Power Rangers Turbo (1997) As the only season of the series to premiere with a movie, Turbo didn't have to do much. The season itself had a ton of problems, but its theme has the best final seconds of any season. While the full version of this theme breaches hilariously bad territory (complete with a car starting up for the first 20 seconds), the show's 30 second cut was amazing. It's surprising the series never returned to 30 second themes, but it at least helped Turbo.  [embed]221220:43346:0[/embed] 8. Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue (2000) I don't know why, but Lightspeed Rescue has the one theme I found myself singing the most as a kid. Like Lost Galaxy, the second half doesn't have as much to offer as the first but I prefer the lyrics here than in most of the other themes. It's goofy, but in a series about an emergency rescue team of Rangers, the lyrics "the signal is calling, our planet is falling, the danger will test you, better make it Lightspeed Rescue!" are just hype.  [embed]221220:43345:0[/embed] 7. Power Rangers Zeo (1996) Zeo marked a lot of first for the series. It was the first reboot, it was the first time the Rangers had wholly new suits and powers, and it was the first real season to change the theme. Thankfully, it delivered on everything it was supposed to. With lyrics like "stronger than before" and "powered up for more," mixed it with the standard "Go Go Power Rangers!" you really got the idea that these new powers were different, better maybe.  [embed]221220:43347:0[/embed] 6. Power Rangers Dino Charge (2015) / Power Rangers Dino Super Charge (2016) Speaking of remixes, Saban wouldn't get it right until much much later with Dino Charge. The first good season of the Neo-Saban era, Dino Charge burst out of the gate with a theme sounding like an original until it reminded you that it's a remix of the original song. If Power Rangers could've been reintroduced with this series, this opening theme, than it be a much bigger hit for Nickelodeon than it is now. There's something about dinosaur themes that really makes Power Rangers pop.  [embed]221220:43350:0[/embed] 5. Power Rangers In Space (1998) Just as how RPM was intended to be the final season of the series years later, In Space was initially planned to be the final season before doing well enough in the ratings thanks to its space opera narrative. This theme may have an atonal quality to its lyrics, but the opening countdown has always set it apart in my mind. As the final theme (at the time) composed by Ron Wasserman, it has a ton going for it. The final half, while admittedly as repetitive as other themes on this list, is too hype to pass up. I think the "go go go fly!" always does me in, haha.  [embed]221220:43352:0[/embed] 4. Power Rangers Time Force (2001)  Time Force was a much better season than it got credit for. It was right around the time less kids paid attention to it as we were all starting to grow out of waking up early on Saturdays, but it had so much good in it. The actors were all great (most of them having had experience in film and TV beforehand, which is sadly notable for this series), the premise was great (time patrollers fighting mutants), and it had a memorable theme song. The guitar solo here was the best in a long time and it's better than a lot that came after it. Just like how In Space has a line that does me in, here it's "timeless wonders, fire and thunder, all to save the world." It's goofy when written out, but trust me on this.  [embed]221220:43351:0[/embed] 3. Power Rangers Dino Thunder (2004) As I'm sure you've guessed, Power Rangers has gone through tons of reinventions and new beginnings in order to keep kids entertained. Disney bought the rights to the series mid-Wild Force, but it wasn't until after Ninja Storm that Disney had their own take on the series. To go along with another dinosaur themed team of Rangers, the series also tried to bring back old fans with Jason David Frank, an evil Ranger storyline, and most importantly, a kick-ass rock theme song. This theme is probably the closest to an actual "song" in the entire series, and it's the one theme that's most fit for a sing along. With the strongest lyrics of the entire series, this theme song is only beaten by musical greats. [embed]221220:43349:0[/embed] 2. Power Rangers S.P.D. (2005) Although Ron Wasserman composed a few demos during the Disney era, only one of them really made it to the actual show. Thankfully, it was the best one. The only theme on this list to highlight percussion rather than guitar riffs made it stand out for a number of reasons. It's entirely strong throughout with a kick-ass opening and a final ten seconds which elevate it over the other seasons' themes. It'd be the best overall if not for the final entry on this list.  [embed]221220:43353:0[/embed] 1. Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers (1993-1995) C'mon, like I was going to put something else here. I'd be lying to myself, and you, if I didn't pay tribute to the original. It's the theme everyone remembers for a reason. With a harder rock composition than kids deserved, it treated this new series with an awesome reverence that would sadly never get matched again.   They just don't make theme songs like this for kids anymore. 
Power Rangers Themes photo
Go Go
Pop culture is full of different kinds of media, but the ones with the most lasting power all do a very important thing: build mythos. "Mythos" is essentially a group of ideas uniquely tied to a premise. Power Rangers has man...

Logan Trailer photo
I'm so ready for this
We were all stricken by the first Logan trailer for its gritty setting, somber tone, and older Logan, and it looks like the second trailer delivers that even more so. The third, and final, Wolverine film follows Logan as he s...

Power Rangers photo
Everything and the kitchen sink
This newest trailer for Power Rangers has everything, and I mean everything, you probably we wanted to see. We see the new Command Center, Zordon, Alpha, we see the suits in action, zords, Rita Repulsa, the Megazord, and pret...

Here are your 2017 Golden Globes winners

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

RIP Debbie Reynolds (1932-2016)

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

RIP Carrie Fisher (1956-2016)

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

Review: The Autopsy of Jane Doe

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

Review: Why Him?

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

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

Review: Assassin's Creed

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

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

The 2017 Golden Globes nominees have been announced

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

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

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

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

Dec 09 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]221111:43257:0[/embed] Alec: That liberal vs. conservative idea is interesting, and my gut reaction is that it's probably true (assuming we're talking explicitly about alien films)... but I'm sure you could find an exception (to prove the rule). I wonder if there's a similar case to be made re: optimistic or not films. Or, more to the point, I wonder how the political climate will affect the mood of films with both liberal and conservative ideologies going forward. Will liberal films become crushingly sad across the board to reflect their reality or become  happy as they embrace, uh, fantasy and escapism?   I wonder if Arrival would have been different if pre-production began now instead of years ago. I'm thinking yes. I mentioned earlier that one of my colleagues hated the film. His first problem, when I asked why (this was before I had seen it) was that it didn't have a lot of dialogue. (Aside: This is interesting, though not necessarily surprising, for a film that is about language.) He thought it was confusing and that the twist (reveal) didn't work. Etc. I think this may be Villeneuve’s best film, but it's definitely not his most accessible. The “This is thinking person’s sci-fi” reputation is deserved, and if anything I think it was intended to be more opaque than it is. The genuinely bizarre and out-of-nowhere narration from Jeremy Renner felt like a capitulation to the studio over a montage that had been designed for musical accompaniment and nothing else. The decision to leave Banks’ perspective in that moment (especially since it's still about her) is jarring as heck. Genuine question: Are there any scenes in the movie without her that you can recall? I feel like there aren't. And so there's that one weird dark spot coloring an otherwise brilliant experience. And it hardly ruins the film. It's just… why? Everything else is so deliberate. I think it's almost time (ha!) to really get into this thing, but before we do, do you have any other thoughts on the film in general? Even if I didn't think it was so relevant and important, it's just a damn good movie, with gorgeous cinematography and some genuinely great performances. Hubert: Yeah, I agree with you about Jeremy Renner’s narration midway through the film. Everything else in that movie is filtered through Louise’s point of view, and that sudden imposition of Renner’s character just comes out of nowhere. Whereas other scenes seem deliberately ruminative, the learning montage is purely functional. It probably was the “let’s explain this to you if you don’t get it yet” moment in the screenplay, and may have been made more explicit by the studio. That montage and narration would be just fine if they used Louise’s voice and channeled it through her point of view. It wouldn’t be that difficult to make it work that way. It’s her story, after all. Maybe they just needed to give Renner’s character (off the top of my head, I can’t recall his name) something to do. I guess Renner’s character in Arrival is similar to Amy Adams’ Lois Lane in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice--just stand around and look handsome/pretty, and let your significant other be heroic and save the day. We can go in a lot of directions with this conversation about Arrival. I eventually want to get to the idea of free will, determinism, and predestination, but maybe we can save that for the end. I find that discussion determines whether people find the movie hopeful/optimistic or fatalistic/pessimistic. (Just more future stuff in the present. Don’t mind me.) What’s one of the things that struck you most about Arrival while watching it? Alec: That house. I want that house so bad. Actually, though: the design of the aliens. I didn't see the trailer, so I didn't know what they looked like (were they humanoid? were they terrifying?). My gut reaction to their lack of “human”ness was “Oh thank God,” because that would have been a cop out from a design perspective. They aren't from here and they shouldn't look like us. Period. And they didn't, and I was glad about that. But as I consider it, I think about their head-like thing, which we only see in the sequence in the fog. There are those indents, as though they have eyes there. I don't see any practical purpose for those other than to give a face of sorts for the audience to look at in that moment. Humans will see faces in everything (see: trees, the moon, toast), so you don't have to do much to make us subconsciously think about them. And to make them, in that moment, even the slightest bit human allows for another level of connection. In a sequence where we're actually just watching the sort-of-head for a while, we need that. But I think about what a more humanoid design might have done. Diverting back to politics (or, at least, real-world issues) for a moment, much of the fear and hatred in the world right now is aimed at the Other, where that's a race, gender, culture, socioeconomic class. We take people who look like basically us and then box them off. With the Heptapods and their very definitively Other design, you're starting from scratch on empathy. But there's also no prejudice against them. It's an actual blank slate. And how you ultimately feel about them says something about your empathy for other beings but not for your fellow man. A human-like alien race (or one that presented as alien and made a point of being like, “We actually look like something else, but figured you'd appreciate this”) would have added an interesting other level. I'm imagining someone shouting, “IF YOU'RE GONNA BE HERE, JUST LEARN ENGLISH, DAMN IT.” Arrival’s too subtle for that, but I'm calling it right now: We will see a science fiction movie with an equivalent line of dialogue in some equivalent situation in the next four years. (If we haven’t already.) And yeah, I agree that that’s where this conversation is fated (what a great pun) to end up. If you want to go there now, you can have the first word on that. If there’s more you want to say beyond that, though, I’m game. Hubert: I really enjoyed that heptapod design as well. Tentacles and that raw seafood look immediately make people queasy and distrustful. H.P. Lovecraft was onto something about the creeping chaos of the local sushi restaurant. But yeah, the vestigial torso-and-head at the end is so oddly inelegant yet fitting for where the story has gotten at that point. The moment we see that human-like shape is when the heptapod tells Louise that its companion is “in the death process”. What a fascinating construction, that sentence, and what a time for an English translation of heptapod to finally appear on screen. I thought the way the ink emerges from the heptapods like squids to form their language was pretty inspired as well. The look of the language informs the creature’s look and vice versa. So many smart, deliberate choices. I wonder how this movie would have played out with human-like aliens, especially now when audiences sort of expect something alien about the aliens we see. Maybe the alien visitation movie in the post-Trump era will have someone demand that the aliens “Speak American” or “Take off that breathing hood”. Though maybe that would make things too preachy in certain hands. Which reminds me: Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter) is set to direct a remake of Alien Nation, which was all about human-like aliens assimilating with the human race like a new immigrant community. The movie was all right, but the TV show and made-for-TV movies were much, much better. Makes me wonder how the remake will address our current political moment. It seems unavoidable to me now, even if they did try to make it a buddy cop movie like the original film. And you know, it’s almost fitting that in 2016 the two movies Nichols put out were Midnight Special (an indie take on 80s science fiction) and Loving (a movie about a mixed-race couple’s love in the face of bigotry). Alien Nation has gone from a curiosity from a filmmaker I like to a potentially important statement about the early 21st century. Which, come to think of it, makes that hypothetical film like Arrival. So about Arrival’s implications about free will and determinism and predestination. The big question: do you think Arrival is melancholy but ultimately hopeful or is it sad and fatalistic? I don’t mean about global peace or anything, but rather the idea that we might not be able to change the future. That certain sorrows in our lives, like certain joys, are unavoidable? I think it’s painfully hopeful since it suggests that even though you may be miserable now, there was still a moment of joy in the past that was just as real. It’s an affirmation of good and bad things as a whole, and that maybe some handfuls of genuine happiness are a justification for a lifetime of general boredom, depression, and unhappiness. (Though my read on this also speaks to the privileges of a middle-class upbringing in the first world.) Alec: Honestly, I think it's neither of those things, because I don’t even think the film is ultimately that melancholy. I read someone somewhere say that this is probably the most hopeful movie they’ve ever seen -- it assumes humans will still be around in 3000 years. But, joking aside, I do genuinely think this an optimistic movie. I left the theater feeling kind of upbeat, and part of that was because it was a great movie and that usually makes me feel good, but there was more to it than after. I realized that it was because of the way Dr. Banks’s decision at the end is played. When she decides to hold onto Jeremy Renner, she does so knowing that they will be together, they will have a young girl, she will tell him that their young girl is going to die, it will break his heart and his relationship with the daughter, the daughter will develop cancer, and the daughter will die. And she does it anyway. You look at that list, and you’re like… damn. That’s genuinely horrible. She’s guaranteeing never-ending sadness for one man and the literal death of her own child. So, she’s a psychopath, right? And that might be the logical conclusion, but I’m going to not think about it way. What’s unclear is whether or not she thinks she has a choice in the matter. Her actions might imply that she doesn’t, but that’s not how I saw that decision. There’s another read, one that I think it’s evidenced by the fact that she smiles in that moment. She knows the happiness that the daughter brings in the time that she’s alive, and that life with her is better than life without. (It’s better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all, as they say.) It might be fatalistic in a literal sense, but I don’t think it’s a function of her resigning herself to or even just accepting her fate; she’s straight-up embracing it. And I see that as a rejection of the sadness that seems inherent with the life she’s going to lead… but we also don’t really see all the good moments. We see a couple, but we are more generally aware of the bad things that happen than the good, which I think colors the perspective (also, knowing that all of those things happen and thinking about them in a list format is different than the reality of them taking place spaced out over more than a decade). She is the one who lived it and is most qualified to make the decision, and she decides that it is the thing she wants and not just the thing she has to do. Hubert: It’s interesting we’re both seeing it as hopeful. I’ve read/heard a few people conclude that Arrival's implications about time and the future are bleak. It is pretty grim to think about not necessarily having any say in your own life. Viewed in those terms, Arrival‘s conclusion could be read as ditching agency for resignation. It’s going to happen anyway, so why try? And yet, we do, continually, on and on, until we die. That’s more than a little sad. That makes me wonder about Louise telling her husband about their daughter’s death, an act that ruins their marriage. Did she tell him as an attempt to change the future, but it went wrong? Did she tell him because they were having an argument and she wanted to say something awful in the heat of the moment that would hurt? Did she tell him because she thought it would help him deal with loss in the future? Did she tell him because he kept asking her about their daughter and she couldn’t handle being the only person who had access to that secret? Or did she tell him because it was, simply, that time when she was supposed to tell him? There are these fascinating gaps in the future-narrative that Louise as a character might know but the audience has to invent on their own. The relative hope or bleakness of Arrival might be there in the lacunae and how we fill in the blanks. But yeah, I think it’s hopeful. Louise’s smile, like you mentioned, is her saying yes to all the joy and misery ahead because it will have been worth it. It’s like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. By the end you know it’s not going to end well for Joel and Clementine, but dammit, that love was worth the pain and vice versa--let’s do this! This aspect of Arrival reminds me of this Friedrich Nietzsche idea of the eternal return of the same (aka eternal recurrence). It’s one of those Existentialism 101 types of ideas, and yet I unavoidably find myself thinking about the shape of my own life in terms of the eternal return. Nietzsche presented a hypothetical situation in which a demon comes to you and says that for the rest of eternity you will have to relive your entire life again, over and over, all of the happiness but also the pain, down to the smallest detail. Nothing new can ever happen in these additional recurrences of life--you are a speck of dust in the great eternal hourglass of existence. If you were confronted with this scenario, would you feel immense anguish and defeat given the futility of it all? Or would you instead welcome this moment, having lived a life worth affirming? Was this worth it? Ask me one day, I might lean one direction. Ask me another day, I lean the opposite direction. When Louise smiles, you know what she thinks about her life to come. Though I wonder, in the vast lacunae of her life off-screen, about the days that Louise feels otherwise. Alec: I can imagine so many scenarios in which Dr. Banks would tell him that their daughter was going to die. All of the ones that you listed there and then others. The hypothetical that I find most compelling is that she told him because he asked. That they were talking about the future, that he wanted to know what she saw for their child and for them and she couldn't lie, because she knew he would find out eventually (of course she knows) and she didn't want to have the fight then. I like that because it has a Pandora’s Box kind of feeling or some other, more appropriate parable that I can't think of: It's his choice to learn the truth, though he is foolish in thinking that he can handle it. In any version of the story, though, it gets at this broader concept froma  very different but equally significant angle: what do you do when you know someone who knows the future? What do you do when you know your daughter is going to die because someone who knows the future has told you, but you can't know it the way they know it? You have to trust it, but at the same time you just can't do that. It's why he can't look at his daughter anymore, because he feels like she's been taken from him because he now knows a horrible truth and, more importantly, he knows he can't stop it. He knows that, no matter how many new treatments there are and how much they put into her recovery, it's going to fail. He feels helpless. (Science will fail him, so it has failed him.) I mean, think of Arrival with the same narrative but from Jeremy Renner’s perspective. I can't imagine a movie much bleaker than that one. I know I’ve got the last word of this particular discussion, but I’m still going to end on a question. If the future is pre-ordained, then neither of them has agency. But in that world, whose situation is better? In more cliched terms: Is knowledge power… or ignorance bliss?  
Arrival Discussion Part 2 photo
The big questions
In the 24 hours since part one of this discussion was posted, I was talking with a friend about something completely unrelated when I realized that the point I was trying to make directly relates to my feelings on Arrival. It...

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

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


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