Women

Review: Trainwreck

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

Jump Street photo
Jump Street

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


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

First trailer for Barely Lethal sure is lethal


Apr 27
// Nick Valdez
I'm immediately interested whenever A24 picks up a film. They've done such a good job of picking out the more interesting and experimental properties like Ex Machina, Spring Breakers, Obvious Child, and so on. Their latest fi...
Wonder Woman!  photo
Wonder Woman!

Wonder Woman movie loses director Michelle MacLaren


Apr 14
// Nick Valdez
It's like two steps forward and two steps back for WB and DC. It's just a natural fact that DC's films are having quite a bit of trouble on the back end. It seemed fine at first with WB openly searching for a female director ...

Review: Ana Maria in Novela Land

Mar 19 // Nick Valdez
[embed]219098:42280:0[/embed] Ana Maria in Novela LandDirectors: Georgina RiedelRelease Date: February 27th, 2015 Ana Maria, in a nutshell, is like a better version of Freaky Friday. The film follows the titular Ana Maria (Edy Ganem), a twenty something who can't hold a job and would rather spend her time live tweeting her favorite novela, Pasión Sin Límites (or Passion Without Limits), than hanging out with her friends. As her favorite character Ariana Tomosa (once again, Edy Ganem) seems to have the best life with an upcoming wedding and a hot guy pining for her, Ana Maria wishes that was her life. After a storm, a tweet, and some shenanigans, Ana Maria becomes a part of her favorite telenovela. Now she must make it home before the series ends or she'll be stuck forever.  Ana Maria gently tows the line between homage and parody without ever falling too deep into one of those pitfalls. It's all part of an effort to make the film a bit more digestible for a wider audience. The film already has a few esoteric barriers to entry (the audience needs some kind of knowledge of novela culture, and the film has a cast of native Spanish speakers, for example), so the choices it makes are understandable but a bit disheartening. For example, while the film is a nice comedy, it never quite goes far enough with its premise. I'm not sure if it's a fear of offending anyone, or a lack of confidence in its Spanish flair, but there's a major sense of holding back. For example, Ana Maria joins the show as a character, rather than switching places with the actress playing that character. So the jokes come from the surface level hokiness already apparent in telenovelas rather than trying to find something deeper. And while most of the film is indeed a fun parody of the tropes, there are a few jokes that are definitely derogatory. Like Luiz Guzman's Licenciado Schmidt popping around the corner every couple of scenes is funny at first, but grows tired as the film relies on it.  That lack of confidence also has an effect on the film's outcome. Since Ana Maria joins this fantastical world, her decision to return home never quite feels real. Thanks to the show's plot giving her a deadline, Ana Maria doesn't come to her conclusions through character work but through ease of plot. It's like she'd rather live her boring life than die, and that's not a great message to go out on. But there's one major aspect I would like to touch on, and it's the one thing that separates this film from most comedies: Ana Maria never loses her agency. It's a refreshing skew of Latino culture.  Latino culture (whether they be Mexican, or from the Central and Southern American regions) follows traditional beats. You know, grow up through church, get married and have kids at a certain age. While the film at first criticizes Ana Maria's choice to be alone (notably, it's her choice), the film's ending, while forced, makes that not seem so bad. Ana Maria's sister may have a traditional marriage, but the film allows Ana Maria the freedom to go through the film's journey in the first place. It's a small, but powerful detail.  Beyond its story, the film's production is quite well done. It took me awhile to realize Ana Maria and Ariana Tomosa were played by the same actress, and I'll give the film credit for managing the feat with just some makeup and hair tricks. And while I wish the film would've sunk further into its telenovela world (we only see one set piece, and it's not used very well), every scene in the show is given a nice glaze. A bit foggy, a bit mystical. It definitely retains its fantastical appeal.  Ana Maria in Novela Land is a nice first step into broadening Latino culture in film. It portrays a facet of that culture rarely seen with analytical eyes, but never quite has a statement one way or the other. It's a nice comedy that pokes fun at the genre, and Edy Ganem is a great lead, but the film lacks bite. 
Ana Maria Review photo
She livin' a life just like a movie star
It's been a tough time for Latino representation in pop culture. While television has made great strides in casting Latino actors in non-traditional roles to show off a greater range of characterization beyond "gang banger" a...

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New Insurgent posters will teach you to spell the word 'insurgent'


Give me an I! Give me an N! Give me a...
Mar 05
// Matt Liparota
If you're at all fuzzy on how to spell the title of the upcoming film Insurgent, the latest set of posters for the movie has got you covered (okay, technically the full title is The Divergent Series: Insurgent, but whatever)....
Jem Movie photo
Jem Movie

Newest Jem and the Holograms movie image is truly, truly, truly outrageous


Mar 02
// Nick Valdez
Coming out of absolutely nowhere comes my most anticipated project in some time. After Universal announced that Jon M. Chu (G.I. Joe Retaliation/Step Up) is adapting the popular children's cartoon about a kickass girl band an...
Trainwreck Trailer photo
Trainwreck Trailer

First trailer for Trainwreck starring Amy Schumer


Feb 12
// Nick Valdez
I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm definitely ready for more comedienne led films. One of my biggest films from last year (which you'll find on this handy list) was the Jenny Slate vehicle, Obvious Child. The two ma...
Pitch Perfect 2 Spot photo
Pitch Perfect 2 Spot

Super Bowl TV spot for Pitch Perfect 2


Feb 02
// Nick Valdez
I've been worried about Pitch Perfect 2 since it was announced a few years ago. I really liked the first one (enough to watch it several times), and a lot of the humor just kind of *clicked* with me. But the more I watched i...
Insurgent Super Spot photo
Insurgent Super Spot

Super Bowl TV spot for The Divergent Series: Insurgent


Jan 29
// Nick Valdez
With as interesting as the Divergent sequel, Insurgent, may be, I really hoped it would've fixed its CG issues by now. It's a shame too because the whole dreamscape aspects are putting out all sorts of crazy Matrix vibes (al...

Nick's Top 15 Movies of 2014

Jan 16 // Nick Valdez
30-16: The Lego Movie, The Babadook, 22 Jump Street, The Purge: Anarchy, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Maleficent, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, Snowpiercer, Frank, Top Five, Gone Girl, Pride, The Drop, Nymphomaniac Vol 1, A Most Violent Year 15. Locke  I nearly missed out on Locke. With the smallest of small releases, I didn't see this until it was recommended by a friend a few weeks ago. I'm super glad I finally took the plunge. It's got the weirdest barrier of entry (it's better if you see it at night, you have to be in the right mindset), but it's totally worth the trouble. In a year full of bloated blockbusters, Locke is the concise breath of fresh air that reminds you what cinema is capable of. In the length of a Sunday night drive, Tom Hardy goes through so many complicated emotions. Enclosed, intimate, and fantastic.  14. Nightcrawler Nightcrawler (and Enemy, in fact) proved Jake Gyllenhaal still has some sides of his acting talent hidden away. With a strikingly dark, yet practical performance, he sells the film's dissection of sensationalist journalism. Literally crawling through the muck, Nightcrawler portrays the opposite end of ambition. When ambition morphs into an unhealthy aggression, one of the best films of 2014 was born.  Read our review of Nightcrawler here. 13. John Wick John Wick was an utter surprise and delight. Literally coming out of nowhere with a generic trailer that made the film seem like nothing more than a direct to home video action film mistakenly released to theaters, John Wick has a fantastic setting (I want another movie of just interactions within the assassin hotel hideout), wonderfully choreographed action (Keanu Reeves is really Neo at this point, which made the fantastical nature of the fights even more believable), and a story with so many cheesy twists and turns I fell in love instantly. Oh and the dog, Daisy! Oh. My. God. 12. Boyhood Filmed over the course of twelve years, it sort of makes sense to put Boyhood here. Both as a little dig, and because while I love what it did for cinema (and how much I enjoyed it directly afterward), I'm not as fond of it as I thought I was. While some of Mason's life speaks to me (I too had a drunk and abusive parent, was also directionless for the majority of life), a lot of it glazed over what my life was really like. Yeah, I know Boyhood won't be a depiction of my life, but it kind of stung to see someone live a happier life than mine. I don't hold it against the film critically (that's why it's here), but I'll never truly connect with it the way I think I'm supposed to.  Read our review of Boyhood here. 11. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes APEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is what we get for not hailing to the chimp. A summer blockbuster that was not only intelligent, well paced, and full of stunning visuals, but made me expect more out of my popcorn flicks. Bad action and explosions just aren't going to cut it anymore. Dawn says we can have both AND be a successful prequel/sequel at the same time. It doesn't get any better. This is what blockbusters should strive to.  Read our review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes here. 10. The Guest The Guest is a film that will forever be welcome in my home. Before my screening, I knew nothing of it other than it was a follow up from the You're Next (which is also a film you need to see someday) duo of Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett. Figuring they were kind of a one trick pony (sorry, guys), I expected a run of the mill thriller with a genre twist at the end. But that's nowhere near the case with Guest. Completely confident in its lead Dan Stevens (with good reason), the film is full throttle from beginning to end. Its tone is never once tiring. With its homages to older horror films, a groovy synth inspired soundtrack, stylistic filming (there's a great use of light throughout) and fantastically staged finale, The Guest was one of my favorite movie going experiences last year. Read our review of The Guest here. 9. Joe Wow, so where has THIS Nicolas Cage been? We make fun of the guy for signing up for everything and anything, but he's some kind of wicked genius. It's when we forget how talented of an actor he can be that he decides to come out with a legitimately gripping performance. That's the heart of Joe. Three great performances (from Cage, Tye Sheridan, and the now passed Gary Poulter) root this tale in the South with the most human characters I saw last year. Remember Your Highness? This is from the same director. I just can't believe that.  Read our review of Joe here. 8. Edge of Tomorrow Just like with Nic Cage, Tom Cruise always has a surprise up his sleeve for when we forget how talented he is. It appears that both actors can truly surprise given the right material. Edge of Tomorrow (or whatever the hell it's named now) is a science fiction story about how some nerdy, cowardly man transforms into action star Tom Cruise after dying a thousand times. In the most unique premise of any science fiction film in recent memory (which is saying quite a bit as you can allude to sources like videogames), a man's life gets a reset button every time he's killed in a battle leading to some of the best and hilarious editing of 2014. And you know what else? Emily Blunt is a killer viking goddess badass and I wouldn't have it any other way.  Read our review of Edge of Tomorrow/All You Need is Kill/Live.Die.Repeat here. 7. Birdman Speaking of actors we've forgotten about, out comes Michael Keaton reminding us how much of a juggernaut he is. Sure he's had some subversive turns in films like The Other Guys, Toy Story 3 and RoboCop recently, but I haven't seen him challenged like this in a long time. Birdman breaks down Keaton and builds him back up again. A heartbreaking, absurd, hilarious, soul crushing, wonderfully shot film, Birdman is truly the peak of artistic creativity. Too bad Keaton overshadowed everyone else. But is that such a bad problem to have?  Read our review of Birdman here. 6. The Grand Budapest Hotel Budapest was my very first Wes Anderson film experience, and I'm so glad I finally took the plunge. Budapest is a film full of so much love, hard work, and time that it could only be put together after as long career. With one of the most outstanding casts (each utilized to the fullest, even in the smaller roles), a vignette style story, and an amazing performance from Ralph Fiennes, Budapest had my attention from beginning to end. The reason it's not higher on this list is because there were a few that had my attention a little bit more. And that's definitely tough in this case.  Read our review of The Grand Budapest Hotel here. 5. The Interview Say what you will about whether or not The Interview "deserved" all of the problems it caused, or whether or not it's some stupid exercise of free speech, underneath all of the drama, The Interview was the funnest experience I had last year. It's not some grand satire of North Korea's politics, nor is it your patriotic duty to witness it unfold, but you'd do yourself a disservice by missing out. Well tuned humor, great performances (with some of the best James Franco faces) led by Randall Park, and an explosive finale you're sure to remember. The Interview is a firework. Boom, boom, boom.  Read our review of The Interview here. 4. Whiplash On the opposite end of the spectrum is Whiplash. A film I had no idea existed full of darkness. Yet, that darkness is truly compelling. J.K. Simmons is a fantastic lead (if you tell me Miles Teller is the lead, I will politely ask you to leave) with a performance that's striking, violent, and full of the best kind of black humor. Imagine if his turn as J. Jonah Jameson in Spider-Man was even more aggressive, and you've got Whiplash. Backing up Simmons is a truly great film that's more about a bloody need to prove you're the best. Intense, rich, and has an a different kind of explosive finale.  Read our review of Whiplash here. 3. Obvious Child  Within a year so full of men that even the cartoons resemble our landscape, Obvious Child stood out from the outset. I've always loved comedienne Jenny Slate as she's great at creating tragically trashy characters,  but I was just waiting for her to break out. And the wait's been worth it. Based off a short film of the same name, Obvious Child tackles not often spoken topics like womanhood, abortion, and late twenties uncertainty with not only tact, but a sophisticated and illuminating point of view with often hilarious results. Jenny Slate is a dynamo as Donna Stern, and the film ending's blend of awkwardness and hope still gives me chills.  2. Palo Alto As James Franco continues to branch out, some of his projects don't go over so well but are nonetheless interesting. His collection of short stories, Palo Alto, and its adaptation got some attention a few months back because Franco himself inadvertently hit on an underage girl on Instagram. That's the only reason I knew about the project, and now I realize how wrong I was. Palo Alto is f**king fantastic for all involved. A well realized weave of stories helped established a broken, and compelling world. I was so invested, I couldn't help but want more. Yet, we're given just the right amount of story thanks to Gia Coppola's outstanding direction.  Featuring an eclectic cast with Franco as a creepy teacher, Emma Roberts as a misguided teen, Jack (and to a lesser extent, Val) Kilmer as a lost kid, and Nat Wolff with the most emotionally charged performance of the year. Seriously, I could not believe that the kid from The Naked Brothers Band had some talent. The final scene of the film where he charges into the night has stuck with me to this day.  1. Fury With how much Obvious Child and Palo Alto stuck with me, only one film did much more. As a fan of David Ayer's career, I was on top of Fury from day one. Though my anticipation sort of wavered in the middle thanks to some bad trailer editing, and I didn't think Logan Lerman was going to be an effective lead, once I sat down with the film all of that faded away. Fury is magnificent. Five terrific performances anchor the film's small story within this admittedly overwrought setting. Fury isn't a typical WWII film, and it delivers with a not so typical emotionally charged finale.  And Shia LaBeouf? Thank you for giving up all of that Transformers trash. This is what you're meant to do.  Read our review of Fury here.  What are your favorite movies from 2014? Did I miss any of your favorites? Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter! While you're at it, why not check out my Top 5 Animated Movies of 2014, Top 5 Sequels, Top 10 Movie Music Moments, and 2014's Best Dog in Film lists too!
Nick's Top 15 of 2014 photo
I have seen 107 films released in 2014. Here are 15 of the best ones
It was the best of films, it was the blurst of films. Hey everyone I'm Nick Valdez, News Editor here for Flixist and you've probably seen my name on a good chunk of the stuff written here. If not, then I'll tell you a bit abo...

Review: The Babadook

Dec 23 // Nick Valdez
[embed]218652:42068:0[/embed] The BabadookDirectors: Jennifer KentRelease Date: November 28th, 2014 (VOD) Rating: PG-13 After the untimely (and gruesome) death of her husband, newly widowed Amelia (Essie Davis) is struggling to raise her aggressively misbehaving son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman). The more her son misbehaves, the more Amelia pushes the two from society. Her son breaks a child's nose, loudly fits, and Amelia becomes a recluse in order to hide her constant shame of the lack of power she has. Then one day a pop up book, the story of Mr. Babadook, arrives on their doorstep and as the book reveals the sinister contents hidden inside, and her son cries over a monster hiding under his bed, Amelia realizes the storybook monster may be knocking on her door.   The Babadook is psychological thriller with a thin veil of horror. A meticulously crafted tale with darkness bubbling under the surface. It has this perfect way of getting under your skin. Unlike other, more traditional horror films, there are no big set pieces, no major scares, and nary a cheap cut or jump scare in sight. Babadook has a healthy amount of confidence in its concept, and we reap the rewards of that confidence. Thanks to a slow burning narrative done well (thankfully the pace doesn't reflect this), the foreshadowing is never heavy handed and dealt with the proper amount of ominousness. It's never teasing to the point of obnoxiousness. But that's also what brings it down.  Without going too much into detail (because even noting the story beats gives away a bit), nothing really "happens." When broken down to the core, the film's plot has very little progression. While notable story beats help the film's themes evolve, it asks quite a bit from the audience as those story bits are spread far apart (For example, they get the book and read it, several scenes of "living," and then the menacing stuff kicks in). It's like a twisted take on a slice of life film. Your enjoyment of Babadook resides completely with how much you can infer from the events of the film and enjoy the periods of wallowing. But if you do notice what's really happening, it's all wonderfully delivered. When Mr. Babadook himself literally becomes the anxiety barging in on Amelia's life, everything else the film's been working toward clicks (which Matt discussed in essay in greater, thematically spoilery detail). I get that it's a weird criticism to say "the film needs you to work," while simultaneously praising its confidence to exist, but that's just what The Babadook has done to me.  It's a film that made me look at myself more so than any other film this year. An introspective piece that makes me curious as to how I'd react to loss. While I will never know the emotional states of motherhood and child rearing, I feel like I know a little bit more. What if my kid were a big jerk to everyone? What if, like in the film, the only way to deal with that child is through solitary confinement, and he can't develop the proper social skills to survive? Will I ever want to potentially erase that child from my life? Will my child become a reflection of my feelings of incompetence? The Babadook delves into all of that and then some. A slow film about fighting stagnation while never becoming stale itself.  Oh, I didn't even talk about rest of the film. The Babadook is a very technically built thriller. The shots are seeped in the right blends of darkness and light, the camera is always angled in such a way that you never get a good look at Mr. Babadook (but it's never annoyingly so), and the sound design is fantastic with "Baa baaa dook dooooooooook" becoming my favorite horror phrase for years to come.  Guttural, emotionally progressive, and with director Jennifer Kent, we're introduced to whole new levels of horror that a female voice can bring to the genre. The Babadook is a film that reminds you of what a confident film can do to your state of being. If we get more films like this, we won't ever have to worry about the state of thrillers again. 
Babadook Review photo
Reading is the greatest horror
I've been interested in The Babadook ever since our editor supreme, Matthew Razak, wrote a feature detailing how progressive it was. If you've read any of my reviews in the past (or any of my other work here on Flixist), you ...

Insurgent Trailer photo
Insurgent Trailer

First full trailer for The Divergent Series: Insurgent


Dec 15
// Nick Valdez
I liked the first Divergent film enough. Although it's basically a thinly veiled message of "Everyone sucks but me because I'm different," everything was just super cheesy and bad looking enough to work. It's better than the...
Wonder Woman!  photo
Wonder Woman!

Wonder Woman movie nabs director Michelle MacLaren


Nov 25
// Nick Valdez
We're going to get so many superhero films the rest of this decade I say we just pay attention to the ones with enough unique bits to stand out. Chief among these is Warner Bros' eventual take on Wonder Woman. After our most ...

Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

Nov 21 // Nick Valdez
[embed]218609:41995:0[/embed] The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1Directors: Francis LawrenceRelease Date: November 21st, 2014 Rating: PG-13 Based off some of Suzanne Collins' novel of the same name (to say where the cutoff point is would spoil it, sorry), Part 1 follows Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) just a short time after the events of Catching Fire (and for those oddly just joining, there's a quick recap which is something I truly appreciate). As District 13's President Coin (Julianne Moore) wants to film propaganda to turn Katniss into a symbol of the coming war with the Capitol (the titular "Mockingjay"), Katniss realizes President Snow (Donald Sutherland) has been keeping Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) alive in order to send her messages. As she discovers what kind of toll the war with the Capitol has taken on the Districts (as instability reaches a fever pitch), she has to decide whether or not she wants to move forward with the fight. Also some guy named Gale (Liam Hemsworth) is there, but he still refuses to do anything notable.  To be honest, I rolled my eyes when I first heard the final book would be split into two films. When you read the book itself there doesn't seem to be enough content to necessitate the split as the second half is really just one extended action sequence. I feared we'd get another Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows situation where one half is clearly superior to the other. With Part 1 my fears haven't been completely alleviated, but I don't really care. Part 1 is damn entertaining. Fixing a lot of the series' hokier elements, and finally exploring the nature of its dystopia, Part 1 is just a massive improvement all around.  For example, the tone is handled much better than before. In the first two films, the tone fluctuated rapidly It came across as comedic at times during inappropriate moments as the love triangle was forced into the forefront, or when death fights felt less threatening because Katniss was more of a superhuman than not. But there's no room for that here. While the darker tone might be a slight turn off (it's unfortunately overbearing at times as there's no ease, unless you count that one forced moment of Katniss singing by a lake), it gives weight to the world. Katniss is finally in some sort of danger and less in control than ever. And with that powerless direction, Jennifer Lawrence at last has something to work with as she's less wooden here in Part 1 than ever.  Anchoring a set of actors who've found their groove, Lawrence delivers on her initial promise. As Katniss emotes for the first time in the entire series, Lawrence makes sure to nail each opportunity. For example when Katniss delivers her speech to the Capitol after some violent events in District 8, I had a huge smile on my face. I don't know how I became so involved in a scene with such a funky set up (and it's even more egregious in text form), but with every crack in her voice, every boom, Lawrence reels you in. And the rest of the cast is no slouch either as the freedom of the new premise (we're no longer trapped in the "put on a show/fight in the games" setup of the first two films) gives every character but Gale something to do. Josh Hutcherson's physicality is finally put to some use (he's no longer lying on the ground all the time), Julianne Moore is a bit stiff but it works for her character, and Philip Seymour Hoffman's going to be truly missed as his Plutarch steals the show. Unfortunately, Part 1 isn't without its faults. Like most films of its ilk, it still falls into the same genre trappings as before (there's still a weird love triangle that feels more out of place than before, Katniss is more of an "It" Girl than ever). It's like a two steps forward, one step back situation. The film also has an odd pace issue which must be a result of splitting the story in two. A lot of the scenes feel like they're meant for some sort of Director's Cut as they're extended far beyond their welcome. That's not to say I didn't enjoy most of these scenes, but some of those longer scenes could be a deal breaker. It completely relies on emotional investment, so I could definitely see someone fighting with boredom by its end.  After my screening, I overheard a conversation between two women and it almost made me second guess myself. As the woman told her friend, "Nothing happened in that movie," I realized exactly how someone could see it that way. You have to know what you're getting into when a film has "Part 1" in its title. When broken down to the essential beats, Mockingjay - Part 1 is all setup for the final film in the series. But what I want you to understand is that it's damn good setup. Sure it's setting plot points for a later date, but there's also an arc (as the series finally elaborates on the meaning of imagery in its world) that's wonderfully realized here as well.  For once in this series, I truly want to see what's coming next instead of going through the motions because I've read the books.  The ultimate goal of the first part of a two part film is to make the audience anticipate the second half while still feeling like a complete film in its own right. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 accomplishes that and then some (At some points it's even better than the source material). I hope Part 2 can keep this momentum.
Mockingjay Part 1 Review photo
Smoke, she is a rising fire
The Hunger Games has come a long way. From humble meh-ish beginnings, to a sequel that, well, caught fire in theaters, the films have gotten increasingly better the more comfortable everyone gets with the material. Going into...

Pitch Perfect 2 photo
Pitch Perfect 2

First official trailer for Pitch Perfect 2


"Aca-scuse me?"
Nov 20
// Nick Valdez
I once wrote an article on why making a sequel to Pitch Perfect, one of the most charming films of 2012, was a bad idea. The first is kind of dumb, Glee isn't the juggernaut it was a few years ago, but through all of that, I...

Flixgiving: Matt is thankful for The Babadook

Nov 20 // Matthew Razak
Now, just because something doesn't come along very often doesn't instantly make it worthy of thanks, but more female directors in more genres is incredibly worthy of it, especially the horror genre. Why is that other than the basic fact that it would probably be best if the actual diversity of the planet was reflected in those that make movies? Because diversity breeds creativity and change and the horror genre is in desperate need of that. The Babadook is the kind of movie that brings change to a genre and we have a female director to thank for it.  The horror genre has been in a bog of slasher gore that first started picking up in the early aughts as films like Saw and Hostel flooded the screen with torture porn. I actually fully supported this. When films like that are done right they can be entertaining and scary, but the genre became saturated with them and the few goods ones (like You're Next) were few and far between. It was honestly getting old and boring, but more importantly the game of one-upmanship meant the kills were going from fun to disturbing. There's a better way to scare folks than blood and loud jump scares.  That way is through tension, character and actually well executed scares, and I can't thank The Babadook enough for bringing it back to us. Kent brings us a kind of scary that lingers thanks to her adept handling of the relationship between a mother and son and the creature that starts to haunt them. She focuses on tone and pacing instead of creeps and and gore. Most importantly, though, she keeps her characters real meaning the slow descent into madness is felt personally instead of being an attack on screen. This kind of focus on true horror is something to be incredibly thankful for. Could a male director have done this? Here again, we're glossing over the major point that there just should be more female directors just because women deserve the same representation in film making. Maybe, but they sure as hell weren't, and I think they would have struggled to capture the characters anywhere near as well. Shouldn't it be a female director directing a film that its base is about motherhood and loss? That would make sense to me. Just like a female director taking the reigns of a female led superhero film makes a lot of sense. And that, that right there, is the real and truly awesome reason to be thankful for The Babadook. A film this good is bound to succeed and when it does it will show the folks who think that male director have to be a the helm of certain genres that that is total crap. Female directors don't just bring diversity, they bring change, improvements and drive to genres. It isn't just representation and a possible better understanding of female leads that they bring to cinema, it is a different way of looking at things. Diversity, be it sex or race, doesn't just mean better representation in our films it means better films all around. If that isn't something to be incredibly thankful for then I don't know what is. 
Matt's Flixgiving photo
Getting the crap scared out of you by a woman is good
I can count the number of truly scary horror films I've seen this year on one finger. That's not to say there haven't been other good horror movies, but for a horror buff like myself it takes something special to actually mak...

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Wonder Woman close to having female director


and that is really awesome
Nov 13
// Matthew Razak
I think we're all aware of the under representation of female directors in Hollywood. That problem is even greater when we're talking about big budget blockbusters. Women directors are almost completely missing from tent pole...

Review: Laggies

Nov 07 // Nick Valdez
[embed]218563:41959:0[/embed] LaggiesDirector: Lynn SheltonRelease Date: November 7th, 2014 Rating: R Laggies is the story of Megan (Keira Knightley), a 28 year old post-graduate who's stuck in a self-inflicted rut as she chooses to work for her father spinning arrow signs rather than pursue a career utilizing her degree. After seeing her friends mature, get married, and have kids, Megan begins to question her position in life. After a series of shocking events (her father cheats on her mother, hey long boyfriend proposes), Megan panics and runs away. Becoming fast friends with 16 year old, Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz) and her father Craig (Sam Rockwell), Megan takes a week to re-evaluate her life.  Laggies is a quiet slice of life film amongst the big releases, and it uses that to its advantage. Both the best and worst thing about it is there are practically no consequences for any character involved. Although Laggies' story eventually strikes a fine balance between inconsequential and world bearingly massive, it does take a bit to get there. I have no idea if the pace of the film intentionally halts Megan's development as a character, but it's definitely a nice touch. It's just when the film revels so much in this lackadaisical pace, you realize how little anything in the film matters.  To follow up this feeling, the world is draped in a fine grey. The colors of Megan's world are drab, and the rest of the setting is given a grey hue. But while that's good for setting the stagnant tone of the film, it's one of the many things that demonstrate how little things change. Sure not every film needs to be a grand evolution of character, but it's certainly missed when Laggies emphasizes that lack of change. But in a weird way, it all makes sense. Megan is caught in the millennial pause. That weird phase in the current generation's life where all the options available lead to a directionless treading of water. You're given complete freedom to choose your path in life, and given a bevy of routes to get there, but are overwhelmed at the possibilities those choices represent. The unfortunate thing about this reflection is, it leads to completely polarizing characters.  It's entirely possible to dislike every character in Laggies despite their well rounded performances. When dissected at a surface level, you get upper class white folks who are generally complaining they've become complacent in their successes. The overall question of Megan's future doesn't really make any sense when you see how well off she is. She's got a Master's degree and a boyfriend who loves her, but she's just being pushed around by other people's desires. Her friends want her to settle because they're all maturing in adulthood, and her parents want her to move on because they're in a broken marriage. It's kind of like Megan's just living her life at a slower pace, and the fact that others want to break it up to conform to their sense of stability (which only seems to produce unhappiness) is definitely a turn off. You end of siding with Megan, the one who's supposed to be going through this revelatory change, when she decides to just escape from all of that.  Now all of this makes sense with the ending. I can't talk about it with too much detail, but I can say I appreciate it's bleak and blunt attitude toward the world. While the tone chickens out toward the end (and there is a bit of happiness to be found), the majority of the film is delightful as you watch broken and unlikeable people scatter about and find each other. That probably sounds like a condemnation for Laggies, but no way. It's got a great cast that works well with one another (with Sam Rockwell stealing the show), it's concise but slow at first, and it's quite thought provoking.  Laggies is a poignant film with a message that doesn't quite hit home until long after the film's over. It's the kind of movie where you'll watch and much later exclaim, "Oh, so that's what it was about!"
Laggies Review photo
A snapping turtle
I'm at a point in my life where I have absolutely no idea what to do next. I graduated from college two years ago and, even with all I think I've accomplished over that time, I sometimes feel like I'm walking in circles. Like...

PP and Z photo
PP and Z

Here's our first look at Pride and Prejudice and Zombies


Oct 31
// Nick Valdez
Did you know there was an adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith's novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in the works? It's been in development hell for quite some time with a script that's been written and rewritten many times ov...
Mockingjay Part 1 photo
Mockingjay Part 1

Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 teaser shows off new footage


Oct 16
// Nick Valdez
This newest teaser for The Hunger Games Mockingjay - Part 1 is short (clocking in at barely over a minute), but boy does it work. Showing off Lorde's new single "Yellow Flicker Beat," the teaser reveals what happens when Katniss makes her way back to District 12. Let's just say things are going to get pretty good.  The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 releases November 21st. 
Twilights  photo
Twilights

More Twilight films in the works...sort of


Oct 06
// Nick Valdez
With all of the Young Adult properties out there now trying to fill the void Twilight left behind, you figure we'd never hear about the series again. Well, someone out there really wants to explore those films again. Luckily,...

Review: The Scribbler

Sep 19 // Nick Valdez
[embed]218348:41845:0[/embed] The ScribblerDirector: John SuitsRated: RRelease Date: September 19, 2014 (VOD and iTunes) The Scribbler follows Suki (Katie Cassidy), a woman with dissociative identity disorder who is transferred from institution to institution due to everyone's inability to treat her illness. As her personalities take shape (namely the titular "Scribbler" who scrawls notes on her walls) and threaten the world around her. She slowly realizes that what she sees is not all that's cracked up to be. Coincidentally, Detective Silk (Eliza Dushku) is investigating a string of suicides in the institution that began around the same time Suki was admitted.  The Scribbler has all the parts for something great, but they never assemble into anything more than an ill-conceived, incoherent mess. First of all, the film doesn't even understand the symptoms of dissociative personality disorder. Referring to the disease as "multiple personalities," but displaying different aspects of schizophrenia (constant voices, paranoia, horrible "cures") thus showing a disconnect to anything knowledgeable. If the portrayal of the disease wasn't insulting enough, than the actions Suki takes in the name of it sure will be.  Secondly, the film somehow squanders its amazing cast. You've got names like Katie Cassidy, Eliza Dushku, Sasha Grey, Michelle Trachtenberg, and Michael Imperioli and none of them can make the film worthwhile. The film is full of strong willed, talented women and they're all just squashed under the weight of how wrongly put together the rest of the package is. I can't even recommend this film for folks who are huge fans of these women as none of them is particularly enjoyable or even on screen long enough to make a difference. I'll give Cassidy some credit though. As awful of a characterization Suki has, Cassidy tries her best to hold it together and she's the anchor that keeps the rest of The Scribbler from floating into oblivion.  But if I had to point out a particularly egregious flaw, it'd be the script. It's based on a graphic novel, so I can shrug off stylistic choices like the overtly dark landscape, slow motion during the sex scene (!) and fight scene, and costume quirks. But, I can't shrug off how little of it makes sense due to the dialogue. There's no cohesion to the narrative as the interactions between characters devolve into a juvenile definition of philosophy with each line given the kind of weighted delivery you'd see in my seventh grade one-act play. Watching the film, I tried to gauge if the dialogue was set like this in order to bridge the viewer with Suki's blurry thoughts but the conclusion of the film clearly states this isn't the case.  Maybe I missed something here. Maybe there's a greater message at play that I failed to recognize. If there is one, it's buried under lots and lots of bad decisions. A self indulgent experiment that failed to pay off so badly, it now threatens the careers of the talented people within. You just have to wonder why they signed on for this in the first place.  The Scribbler isn't even good enough to be laughably bad. 
The Scribbler Review photo
Scribbledy gook
When I choose to review a film it's because something about it speaks to me. Whether it's the premise, the setting, the look, or the cast involved, I'm willing to take a chance on pretty much anything if some of those things ...

Ghostbusters 3 photo
Ghostbusters 3

Paul Feig may direct Ghostbusters 3, could be all female reboot


Ain't afraid of no reboots
Aug 04
// Nick Valdez
Ghostbusters 3 never seems to die. Years of developmental trouble, years of Bill Murray's public distaste for idea, and Harold Ramis' sad death still could not quell talk of this sequel. We try to keep away from most of the t...
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New clip for Obvious Child involves drunk-dialing ex-boyfriends


Jun 07
// Liz Rugg
In this new clip for Obvious Child staring Jenny Slate, the main character Donna gets to do something most jilted women (including myself) have either done or rreeeeaaaallly wanted to do: drunk dial the guy that just broke u...
Star Wars: Episode VII photo
Star Wars: Episode VII

Star Wars: Episode VII adds some badass women to the cast


Good direction this is
Jun 02
// Nick Valdez
With Star Wars: Episode VII's 2015 release date getting closer and closer, we have some more casting news. After the major reveal in April, we have a two new women joining a crew that was severely lacking in them. Thankfully,...
Outrageous photo
Outrageous

Molly Ringwald and Juliette Lewis join Jem and the Holograms movie


OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD
May 21
// Nick Valdez
Consider me a hell of a lot more interested in Jon M. Chu's upcoming Jem and the Holograms adaptation than I was before. After starting production and providing info on the main cast, the new movie is now more outrageously 80...
Lucy Trailer photo
Lucy Trailer

Scarlett Johansson is pretty badass in this international Lucy trailer


I Love Lucy
May 14
// Nick Valdez
Luc Besson's Lucy continually looks better every time we get a new look at it. This international trailer has a few different scenes than the first one (and they're cut very differently), and it's well worth it. Lucy is an o...
Tammy Trailer 2 photo
Tammy Trailer 2

Second trailer for Tammy, starring Melissa McCarthy


May 07
// Nick Valdez
I really, really want to love this trailer for Tammy, but I can't find it in my heart to do so. It's got everything I'm supposed to love: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, PIE, but I've just been let down by McC...
Jem Movie photo
Jem Movie

First image and cast for Jem and the Holograms movie


Truly, truly something.
Apr 25
// Nick Valdez
Since we never actually covered the initial announcement, there's quite a bit of ground cover. First of all, production of a live action Jem and the Holograms (the popular, and outrageous, 80s cartoon about women in a ro...

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