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Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

Nov 20 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219544:42428:0[/embed] The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2Director: Francis LawrenceRelease Date: November 20, 2015Rating: PG-13 "Whoa. Philip Seymour Hoffman." Not having prepared for the film in any way, I had completely forgotten that Mockingjay marked the actor's final performance. More than a year and a half after he died, he's onscreen again. And it's weird. Really, really weird. When he first showed up, moments into the film, the person I was sitting next to turned: "Is he real?" The answer to the question – "No" – is simple, but the implications of that answer are a little more complicated. It was decided pretty much immediately that there would be no CGI Philip Seymour Hoffman walking around, monologuing in place of the actor. It's a sign of respect, and it's one that I commend the team for doing. I'm sure the pressure to digitize him was fairly high, because his absence is felt rather heavily. Plutarch Heavensbee (ugh) is an important character to the plot, someone always lurking in the shadows and pulling the strings. But not in Mockingjay - Part 2. Here, he simply is a shadow. The film cries out for his presence, and a scene late in the film was switched up in a way that is functional but also fairly awkward. Hoffman's death complicated things, as such things so often do. That's actually a good way to describe Mockingjay - Part 2: complicated. It's complicated because it's the second part of a movie that didn't need to be two parts. These two (good) 2+ hour films could have been turned into one great three hour one. Heck, you could probably go shorter, because fully half of Part 2's runtime is taken up by scenes that aren't "bad" but also don't really do much. There's a lot of sitting around and talking, or walking around and talking, or running around and talking. The pacing is molasses slow, and ultimately a film that is only a bit over two hours (with 10-15 minutes of credits on top) feels nearly double that. This is honestly felt like one of the longest films I have ever seen, because so much time is spent on a series of very different things, but they're presented in such a way that it seems like the movie is just going to go on forever. And it does, sort of. A lot of it builds to a few different things, and though they all ultimately come to pass, it feels like they were glossed over to make way for less interesting things.  Which isn't to say that the film is boring, because it's not. It's just slow. And though it ratchets up tension at various points with interesting and strange (and kinda horrific) setpieces, the momentum doesn't continue to build. After the sequence, it just stops. And so, bizarrely, it actually feels like there are multiple films worth of narrative here that have been stripped down. It's almost episodic, with a "beginning," middle, and end for each of the different plotlines. But a lot of those episodes are just filler, and the ones that aren't could have easily been much shorter. As the second part in a two-part film, discussing specifics seems even less important than usual. You decided whether or not you were going to see this movie as soon as the credits in Mockingjay - Part 1 rolled. If you saw that cliffhanger and needed to know what happens to Katniss, Peeta, Snow, and everyone else, then you're hooked and you'll see this movie no matter what. And if you decided you didn't care? I'm not going to change your mind, because this movie isn't either. There's nothing about the narrative here that is going to appeal to anyone who didn't like the first three movies or didn't want to see what's next. I'm here not really to tell you if the movie is good, because ultimately that doesn't matter. I'm just here to think about what the experience of seeing it's like. And it boils down to this: Exhausting or not, I liked Mockingjay - Part 2. As a fan of the earlier films, I feel relatively satisfied. It's worth it to see where these characters end up and see who they are underneath it all. Some of the characters are given weird motivations that I didn't totally understand and others grew in interesting ways. But at least it all ended. After two years of cliffhangers, it was nice to get see credits set by something other than a close-up of Katniss's stressed-out face. The actual ending made me groan out loud for four solid minutes, but at this point I just wanted to know. And I got my answers. I don't need anything more from The Hunger Games. I can go on and live my life and never think about it again. I can wish that a tighter and more cohesive film ended the franchise, but why? We've got an ending, it did what it had to do, did it competently, and now it's done. Goodbye, Hunger Games. It's been fun.
Mockingjay Part 2 Review photo
The end of time
I didn't read The Hunger Games or its sequels. When the first film came to theaters, I had heard a whole lot of people talking about the books, but I didn't know anything beyond the "It's pretty much Battle Royale" premi...

Tetris movie photo
Tetris movie

Brett Ratner is producing a Tetris movie

"I'm the I-Block, b**ch!"
Nov 18
// Hubert Vigilla
Brett Ratner and his production company partner James Packer are reportedly developing a movie about the creation of Tetris, focusing on the game's Russian designer Alexey Pajitnov. As noted on Wikipedia, Pajitnov created Tet...
Tomb Raider reboot photo
Tomb Raider reboot

Roar Uthaug will direct Tomb Raider film reboot, Geneva Robertson-Dworet will write it

Writing/directing team in place
Nov 18
// Hubert Vigilla
It's been more than a decade since Angelina Jolie brought Lara Croft to the big screen. I remember seeing Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life at some point back then, but can't recall anythi...
Dark Tower photo
Dark Tower

Matthew McConaughey up for villain role in The Dark Tower

The Man in Black is all right, all right
Nov 17
// Matthew Razak
If you said to me that Matthew McConaughey was going to star in The Dark Tower films being made I'd instantly think he'd be playing Roland, the Stephen King series's protagonist. However, Variety is reporting that he's b...

Warcraft TV spot photo
Warcraft TV spot

Watch an international TV spot for Duncan Jones' Warcraft

A step up from the trailer
Nov 15
// Hubert Vigilla
Like Nick, I was underwhelmed by the first trailer for Duncan Jones' Warcraft. A little too heavy on CG and uncanny valley-ness, my overall impression was, "Oh, look, it's Generic Fantasy Film: The Movie." (As Rian Johns...
#GamerGate movie photo
#GamerGate movie

Scarlett Johansson interested in #GamerGate film based on Zoe Quinn memoir

It's actually about hate in geek culture
Nov 08
// Hubert Vigilla
Oh, #GamerGate. While some true believers still insist that it's actually about ethics in games journalism, the movement has become dominated by misogyny, nerd rage, and lots of other off-putting/alarming attitudes. There mig...

Review: The Peanuts Movie

Nov 06 // Nick Valdez
[embed]220109:42688:0[/embed] The Peanuts Movie Director: Steve MartinoRated: GRelease Date: November 6th, 2015 The Peanuts Movie is all about Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp), an awkward kid with a debilitating self-esteem issue thanks to years and years of being teased by the other neighborhood kids. Just as he was wishing for a blank slate, a mysterious new, red-haired girl moves into town. After falling hard for her, Charlie's got to muster up the courage and do some crazy things in order to impress her and get her to notice him. While he's doin all of that, his dog Snoopy (thanks to Bill Melendez's archived voice work) finds a typewriter and begins writing about the WWI Flying Ace and his rivalry with the infamous Red Baron.  First things first, Peanuts is absolutely stunning. I honestly have no idea how Blue Sky Studios managed to pull this off. Just like the film's content, Peanuts' visuals are both heartily nostalgic (thanks to a few 2D flourishes like little hearts and backgrounds every now and then) and groundbreaking in its effort. Characters move as smoothly as they would in 2D while avoiding CG's blurring motions thanks to an adept use of choppy movement. I guess the closest thing I can compare it to is Blue Sky's mascot Scrat (from the Ice Age series). Just as his movement is broken, yet fluid so it captures the essence of old Looney Tunes shorts, Peanuts' animation captures the essence of the TV specials. And then there are all the little details therein like Snoopy's fur, the whiskers in Charlie's lone curl of hair, and the Flying Ace sequences look pretty good in 3D. But once you get beyond how great it looks, you'll soon realize that it may be too comfortable taking yet another trip down memory lane.  Because it's both a reinvention and a reintroduction to the Peanuts series, the film is almost required to make the necessary homages to its classic jokes and settings. Every classic Peanuts joke is here, quite literally, and you'll be hard pressed to find them funny again in this new setting. These jokes have already been made available through the specials replayed through the holidays each year, so it's really a matter of whether or not you'll appreciate them again through this new filter. It's a celebration unfortunately caught in the past, and while these jokes are definitely delightful and may mean more to new audiences, it's just a shame that this new film didn't take the chance to create new memories for Charlie Brown. It's even more glaring when the newer bits work very well. There's this scene where Charlie is getting "Psychiatric Help" from Lucy that's absolutely fabulous in how dark the writing duo of Bryan and Craig Schulz take it. At one point, she shoves a mirror in his face and asks Charlie what he sees, and all he can say in response is "A loser." While it sounds wonky on paper, it's a sequence that actually utilizes our knowledge of the characters in the past rather than be hindered by it.  In fact, that's one of the boldest choices The Peanuts Movie makes. While the humor and most of the content is stuck in the past (thus making sequences featuring new pop music from Meghan Trainor feel even more out of place), Charlie Brown has actually become a mix of his many identities. The film only works because the writing, actor Noah Schnapp, and visuals have mastered this newest iteration of Charlie Brown. He's a mix of many of his past incarnations: The outright loser from Schulz's original comic strips. the awkward kid from the holiday specials, and the more positive Charlie from later direct to video specials. Yet with all of those influences, he's still got his own new layer in the film. They've added this crippling self-doubt that's so current, it clashes with the rest of the film's nostalgic tone. As the kids exist in a world with rotary phones, Charlie's pondering existential crises in love.  While the humor can be a bit clunky, and Charlie Brown is fantastic, the film does take some getting used to. Since it is so stuck in the past, it's taking on a format we haven't seen in quite a while. Broken into vignettes fueling a central arc, each major sequence in Peanuts feels like it could be a stand-alone special of its own. Each major scene has a beginning middle and end, so it doesn't really flow like a traditional film, per se. It's an odd pacing that, while not entirely bad, does detract from the enjoyment overall. Going in you've got to realize that you're taking the good with the bad, but the "bad" isn't the worst thing in the world. The Peanuts Movie's biggest flaw is that it's too celebratory and nostalgic, but that's also such a non-problem to have.  I certainly have enjoyed myself, but I also don't feel compelled to watch this over and over again like every other Peanuts thing I've revisited in the past. It's a delightful and breezy film, but I'm not sure if everyone will have the same reaction to it that I did. It's fun to walk down memory lane every once in a while, but you can't expect everyone to stick around.
Peanuts Review photo
Good grief?
Thanks to my mom, I've been following Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang for as long as I can remember. Like Charlie, I too am a sad sack who's life the universe sees fit to ruin at all cost. So when I first heard 20th Centur...

The Witcher photo
The Witcher

The Witcher is getting a movie for some reason

Nov 06
// Nick Valdez
You folks like movies? You folks like books? You folks like videogames? What if I told you that you could have everything all the time? Because it's not like having everything you want is bad, right? Anyway, like most major b...
MMPR Reboot photo
Waiting for Power Rangers movie news has been excruciating. Because the film isn't releasing until 2017, we've got all sorts of sites releasing news from the rumor mill and none of them will have any bearing on the final prod...

Warcraft poster, images photo
Warcraft poster, images

New Warcraft poster and images, first trailer coming November 6th

Red in the face and feeling blue
Nov 02
// Hubert Vigilla
While there are some worries about Duncan Jones' Warcraft film, that's not stopping the hype machine. This week marks the release of the first trailer for the movie, which is due out on November 6th. Ahead of the trailer's re...

Watch the first trailer for AMC's Preacher adaptation

Nov 02 // Hubert Vigilla
Watching the trailer, I didn't get any of the vibe that I got from the comic at all. While part of it is the look of the three leads being a little off when compared to Dillon's art, most of this is due to the lack of supernatural content. From this snippet alone, the show looks really insular and realistic(-ish), though all the imagery may be from the first episode or so rather than the entire season. How they'll be able to translate the sheer grandiose lunacy of Ennis/Dillon's vision on a reasonable budget is anyone's guess. Maybe the biggest concern is how extreme the show will get. The violence in the Preacher comic is at times sadistic/brutal and while at other times cartoonishly over-the-top. I mean, it proudly goes to 11. While there's a lot that can be done on AMC (as seen on The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad), I have a feeling that they'll have no choice but to tone the violence down just as much as the scope of the vision. And this doesn't even touch on how the public--particularly the religious right, who have such startling persecution complexes--will receive all of the subversive stuff about Christianity. Preacher will debut on AMC next year, and its first season will run for 10 episodes. What do you think of the trailer? [via /Film]
AMC's Preacher trailer photo
Jaysis! Humperdumper doo!
Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's Preacher is one of the best comic books of the 90s. Hard-hitting, hard-drinking, and just plain hardcore, Preacher is an over-the-top, ultra-violent riff on westerns in which a preacher nam...

Trailer: Jessica Jones photo
Trailer: Jessica Jones

The Jessica Jones trailer is here and nothing else matters

Oct 27
// Sean Walsh
So, this Jessica Jones trailer went live a few days ago. I meant to post it then, but the sheer joy of what I was seeing drove me into a brief coma of which I've finally awakened from. The trailer has everything I wanted to s...

The Flash Season 2 Premiere Recap: "The Man Who Saved Central City"

Oct 07 // Nick Valdez
Six months after a black hole (dubbed "The Singularity") opened over Central City in last season's finale, Barry's (Grant Gustin) going through the typical superhero angst. He blames himself for the whole debacle (and Eddie's death) and can't stop insisting that he "didn't save anyone." Regardless, Central City is honoring their hero with "Flash Day" (which sounds like an awful day out of context), and it's a pretty sensible way to integrate more of the comics' lore with the series. Anyhoo, the rest of the episode is dedicated to setting up and demolishing a new status quo. That's what I mean about everything and nothing. So much happens in this episode, but it's all brushed to the side so quickly that it all feels inconsequential. Through poorly implemented dream and flashback sequences we learn a few things: Ronnie has died again as he seemingly disappeared into the singularity when he and Dr. Stein Firestorm'd it, Cisco is working closer with the police's new meta-human task force, and the Star Labs crew split up (but are back together by the end of the episode).  During all of this a new monster of the week is introduced with Atom Smasher, a guy who looks like someone killed at the beginning of the episode and absorbs radiation in order to become big and strong. Like most of the show's villain of the week episodes, he neither gets a lot of development nor is he beaten in an interesting way. But the one interesting nugget is that he's being manipulated by some other villain named "Zoom," who wants to kill Flash for some reason (though folks familiar with the comics will probably be super confused by this new info). Oh and by the way, Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne left a video confessing to Barry's mom's murder and setting his dad free. Then his dad, for some inane reason, decided to skip town to keep from distracting Barry or something? It's asinine, and it's the kind of writing the show's manged to avoid to this point. I want to believe there's a better reason for this, and the showrunner has a big picture idea for Barry's dad but this seems like they no longer had a reason to keep Shipp in the show. Then, Barry lets him leave off screen and we'll supposedly never hear from him again. Seriously. Despite all the time the episode devoted to Barry's angst, you'd figured a huge development like this would get more than five minutes of screen time.  Because so much of this premiere is dedicated to setting up the rest of the season, it forgets to become an entertaining episode itself. We're given no time to linger or develop on the finale's fallout, and we're expected to quickly move forward. I mean, we couldn't even end the episode without a tease of what's to come with the new character, Jay Garrick introducing himself at the end. I'll give the writers the benefit of the doubt here and assume they've got a plan to make all of this make sense retroactively. I'm sure they're holding off on all of the wacky stuff they have planned in order to ease new viewers into the show without overwhelming them with these high concept (for a superhero show, anyway) ideas. But nothing in the premiere is going to draw new viewers in, It's relying too much on the good will it's built with the first season and hopes that its quirks will keep people long enough to show off what it wants to do. I guess we'll find out for sure next week.  Final Thoughts:  Cisco provides so much of the episode's better moments. The Flash signal he found in a comic book, hugging Dr. Stein after Stein nicknamed the new villain, and his "For real?" after Garrick breaks into Star Labs' fancy new security system. Maybe Ronnie did actually die since he's not included in CW's Legends of Tomorrow line up, but Dr. Stein is. Robbie Amell can't catch a break, can he? Dying all over the place.  Flash's new suit includes the white around his lightning bolt like his future self. Looks much better, but after the build up to the suit reveal, I was hoping for a bigger overhaul.  I won't be covering CW's other superhero show, but I hope you'll stick with me through this!  Want to see more of our TV coverage? Check out our TV Recaps and Reviews! 
The Flash Recap photo
Two worlds, one Flash
I didn't realize how much I'd missed The Flash until seeing it again last night. It's the first superhero show that I've been strongly attached to, and it's with good reason. DC Comics have been killing the TV game for years,...

Terry Gilliam Don Quixote photo
Terry Gilliam Don Quixote

Terry Gilliam's Don Quixote delayed again while John Hurt undergoes cancer treatment

Delayed with good reason for once
Sep 23
// Hubert Vigilla
You may remember our report that Amazon is funding and releasing Terry Gilliam's The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, which was great news for fans looking forward to the long-delayed film. It seemed like the film, whose fizzled p...

Minority Report Pilot Review: It's Basically Already Canceled

Sep 22 // Nick Valdez
Taking place ten years after the events of Steven Spielberg's Minority Report (which the pilot has to remind folks existed) and the end of the PreCrime Unit (where the police arrested folks based on murders that hadn't yet happened), one of the "Precognitives" Dash (Stark Sands) has grown tired of hiding as his murder visions grew worse and worse. He eventually teams up with Detective Lara Vega (Meagan Good of Cousin Skeeter fame)  and their adventures in policing begin or something like that.  Pilots are under an extreme amount of pressure. They've got to hook their respective viewers within the first fifteen minutes or so while showing why the world they inhabit is worth investing in. Report actually accomplishes this pretty well. The opener follows Dash as he frantically dashes toward the scene of a crime while showing off the pilot's impressive budget (which I don't expect to hold weight through the rest of the series, much like Almost Human). It's a subtle and intelligent sequence as Dash struggles knowing the entire time he'll fail. But there's never any hand holding during this, and we're left to infer it from his actions. And when he does indeed fail to stop the murder, it's as simple as watching him turn away from the scene since he's witnessed so much of it already. Unfortunately, that same light touch doesn't extend past that point. After the first ten or some minutes, Report basically becomes every cop show ever. I don't really understand why, but for some reason Report constantly exposits story details. Lines like "They remind you of having no parents, that's why you came to me." or along those lines. It loses that subtlety in favor in overtly stating how other characters relate to other ones, and it's not like those relationships are particularly inventive either. You'd figure with a world 50 years in the future, the future police would have better conversations than "I'm a future police." That's not really what they say, but I hope you get my point. I guess I'm still sour about Almost Human. That show had a much better handled premise. It's not all bad as there are a few nuggets that might prove interesting later, but this pilot had a ton of rough edges. Normally I'd say to forgive a pilot's bad writing if the cast or premise were gripping enough, but I don't feel that way here. I'd love for Meagan Good to have a great starring vehicle, but since she yet again plays second fiddle to some white guy, I'm over it.  Either way you fall on this, Fox will cancel this after the first season...if it even gets to that point.  Final Thoughts:  Meagan Good is great, but I wish the pilot exploited her body less. It really undermines how good of a detective she is when we're all ogling a picture of her in a bikini.  We're all lucky I didn't use "Meagan Bad"  Wilmer Valderama is here. That's all I have to say about that.  "When I was your age, we used this thing called Tinder. It's how I met your father." I don't care what year it is, no one ever will refer to Iggy Azalea's "Trouble" as an "oldie."  I totally believe The Simpsons will still be on the air 50 years from now. 
Minority Report photo
I miss Almost Human
As television grows more and more influential thanks to its ready availability through streaming services, networks have been putting more and more money and effort into their offerings. One of the weird consequences of this ...

Tran5mers photo

Michael Bay and Mark Wahlberg probably returning for Transformers 5

Sep 18
// Nick Valdez
Along with news of an animated Transformers spin-off, some other news sprouted out of Paramount's weird writer's workshop which Paramount paid somewhere along seven figures to construct. The writers included (Zak Penn (T...
Warcraft a problem movie? photo
Warcraft a problem movie?

Director Duncan Jones tweets about Warcraft being a "problem movie"

It's all in the timing
Sep 17
// Hubert Vigilla
Yesterday we reported that Universal feels Warcraft is a "problem movie." While The Hollywood Reporter didn't elaborate on what "problem movie" might mean, we speculated that it may be related to the long post-production...
Warcraft a problem movie? photo
Warcraft a problem movie?

Speculation: Universal feels Warcraft is a "problem movie"

Not bad but a problem, which may be bad
Sep 16
// Hubert Vigilla
Earlier we reported that Pacific Rim 2 has been delayed indefinitely and may not get made. This is the result of the testy relationship between Legendary Pictures and Universal, which The Hollywood Reporter has covered in a r...
Mary Poppins reboot photo
Mary Poppins reboot

Disney rebooting Mary Poppins, going to need lots of sugar

Sep 15
// Hubert Vigilla
Have you been clamoring for a Mary Poppins sequel? No? Well, too bad. Disney is rebooting Mary Poppins with Into the Woods director Rob Marshall at the helm, The film will take place 20 years after the original movie, and wil...
Flash Season 2 Teaser photo
Flash Season 2 Teaser

The Flash season 2 teaser reveals multiple worlds and Flashes

Sep 09
// Nick Valdez
I may not enjoy The CW's Arrow, but I'm a pretty big fan of The Flash. It's fun, light, it's got Tom Cavanagh (who really hasn't got the due time he deserves) and it somehow gets away with so much comic book nonsense. By the ...
Goonies Sleep No More? photo
Goonies Sleep No More?

The Goonies will become an immersive theater experience kind of like Sleep No More

Truffle, shuffle, toil, and trouble
Sep 04
// Hubert Vigilla
Have you ever wanted to The Goonies to be a totally immersive theater experience? No? Gosh. Well, doesn't matter, because you may get it anyway. In an interview with Yahoo Movies, Goonies director Richard Donner dropped the f...
Beasts of No Nation photo
Beasts of No Nation

Trailer for Netflix's Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba and directed by Cary Fukunaga

Beautiful, terrible, and intense
Sep 04
// Hubert Vigilla
Beasts of No Nation premiered this week at the Venice International Film Festival, and the early reviews have been extremely positive, earning high praise for stars Idris Elba and newcomer Abraham Attah as well as director Ca...

WB scoops up Dante's Inferno film

Worthy of a very special circle of hell
Aug 20
// Matthew Razak
At some point in the past decade people decided that Dante's Inferno, the first part to Dante Alighieri's 14th century epic poem “Divine Comedy,” would make for a really kickass movie franchise. I mean c...

Deep Analysis: The End of the Tour - Is it capital-T Truth or capital-B Bulls**t?

Aug 14 // Hubert Vigilla
Although of Course You End Up Being Different Things to Different People"Simple thing: everyone sees him differently." -- David Lipsky, Although of Course...   David Foster Wallace is a person and an idea. That split is impossible to avoid, and more complicated than the Platonic notion that I've seemed to present. There's the person who existed, and then there's this other level, a kind of public version or public perception of the person who existed, or an idea of Wallace through his writing and interviews--a text. While the real Wallace was available to his friends and family, for everyone else there's just a public version or a text. There's something about the intimacy of writing, and I think this is discussed in Lipsky's book, that makes readers think they know an author. That seems to hold true for lots of creatives since so much ineffable stuff about your inner life is communicated through creative acts. Any connection that's made through art might seem more profound because of this ability to articulate a common yet personal feeling of joy, sadness, or affection between people who've never met. Art can make you feel less alone, and it can help you understand someone else. But often only so far or just a facet. There's another layer to this person/persona split, of course. I'm not judging the propriety of it (at least for now), but people can do whatever they want with that public idea of a person. They can find meaning in the persona, impose their own meanings on the persona, reconsider the persona without considering the actual multi-faceted person behind that public idea. It's one reason why David Foster Wallace winds up meaning different things to different people, or being a different person to different people--a literary wunderkind, a rockstar of the book world, the next _______, the voice of _______, a friend, a confidant, a relative, etc. Recently, a piece by Molly Fischer ran in New York Magazine's The Cut considered David Foster Wallace a hypermasculine hub for chauvinistic literary bros. (Sometimes a big, hard novel is just a cigar. A really big, hard cigar.) Kenny in his piece for The Guardian touches on this when he writes, "Something I've noticed since Wallace's suicide in 2008 is that a lot of self-professed David Foster Wallace fans don't have much use for people who actually knew the guy. For instance, whenever Jonathan Franzen utters or publishes some pained but unsparing observations about his late friend, Wallace's fanbase recoils, posting comments on the internet about how self-serving he is, or how he really didn't 'get' Wallace." Kenny and Wallace were friends who met and corresponded regularly or at least semi-regularly. Lipsky, by contrast, was an outsider sent to observe Wallace for a few days and then left. Kenny takes issue with the way Lipsky presented Wallace in the book, writing: In the opening of Yourself, Lipsky describes Wallace speaking in "the universal sportsman's accent: the disappearing G's, 'wudn't,' 'dudn't' and 'idn’t' and 'sumpin.'" Segel takes Lipsky's cue. But in my recollection, Dave spoke precisely, almost formally, the "Gs" at the ends of gerunds landing softly, not dropped. I can't help but feel both of these perceptions and ideas of Wallace were accurate simply given the nature of these respective relationships. People act differently around friends and colleagues than they do around strangers, particularly journalists. There's a constant self-consciousness that Wallace has when talking to Lipsky, mentioning how Lipsky can craft an image of Wallace that may not be the real Wallace. To that I wonder how much of the sportsman's accent was Wallace's own way of maintaining control of his persona, presenting a certain type of David Foster Wallace for this interview. Ditto the various asides to high culture (e.g., John Barth) and low culture (e.g., "movies where stuff blows up"). Wallace suggest he and Lipsky play chess against each other in the book during an early interview. Make of that what you will. (Sometimes a game of chess is just a metaphor for a sword fight with cigars.) These differences in proximity to Wallace, intimacy with Wallace, and personal perception of Wallace don't delegitimize Kenny or Lipsky. It's just pointing out that they each saw facets of a man and each came away with their own assessment. Wallace was Kenny's friend, and Kenny saw more facets of the man over a longer period of time. For Lipsky, he got a glimpse of Wallace at age 34 at the end of a book tour during "one of those moments when the world opens up to you." Although of Course You End Up Becoming a Fictional Version of Yourself"So we've ended up doing Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory in My Dinner with Andre." -- David Lipsky, Although of Course...   So there's a persona, and then there's a movie, and that's where these issues of proximity, intimacy, perception, and propriety become even more difficult. The End of the Tour, even though I enjoyed it, is a recreation and fictionaliziation of real events and real people, all of which is depicted at various divides from the real thing. Since so much of the basis for The End of the Tour is Lipsky's book, the film presents a version of David Foster Wallace as filtered through Lipsky's perceptions. Though Lipsky tried to be unobtrusive in the transcript, there are numerous observations in book, ones that wonder what Wallace is thinking in the moment, that assume certain answers are calculated deflections, that editorialize the nature of Wallace's smile in just the choice of adjectives. On top of that, The End of the Tour is the book as restructured by screenwriter Donald Margulies, tweaked further by director James Ponsoldt, with an additional layer of interpretation by the two lead actors who are reciting the real-life dialogue. While the lines may be straight from Lipsky's book, there is a gulf between the real people and the page and the screen. Lipsky, even in just the book, points out an artifice of a subject and journalist in forced-interaction that occasionally feels like something genuine. He likens an exchange they have to something out of Louis Malle's My Dinner with Andre. (When not engaged in a kind of big brother/little brother semi-envious duel, Lipsky in the film generally plays Wallace Shawn to Wallace's sage-like Andre Gregory.) This series of divides from the real events to the film are less like photo copies of photo copies that become blurrier and blurrier with each subsequent version, but more like interpretations of interpretations that are distorted but perhaps share an amorphous-something in common from iteration to iteration. (This simile might be just be my charity for the film since I liked it.) Short version: real life and the film are a long way apart, and one is left to wonder if there's mostly capital-T Truth between the two or mostly capital-B Bullshit. There may be another layer to all of this that gets a bit more difficult. Anytime a writer writes about writers or writing, there's inevitably a little bit of the writer's own ideas about writing that wind up in there. So while the film is a recreation of conversations between two real writers, the way it's framed seems to allow Donald Margulies to write about his own ideas about writers to some degree. Lipsky gets to represent a type of male writer, Wallace another kind of male writer, and a dynamic of masculine opposition, jealousy, and respect emerges as these personas interact. Margulies introduces a fabricated moment of sexual competition between Wallace and Lipsky, and also a mute hostility or resentment leading into the last act. Both of these fictions play into a larger theme of control and writerly chess that was real in the text at a subtextual level, but mostly they're also just inventions to facilitate a dramatic arc. The moments of The End of the Tour I liked least were the parts that seemed too bent or overshaped, particularly in the framing narrative, which was dominated by certain kinds of writerly cliches (e.g, watching a writer type in a fit of inspiration). It may have been Ponsoldt and Margulies' ways of incorporating an idea from Lipsky's book regarding Wallace's death to lend this wandering conversation a path: "Suicide is such a powerful end, it reaches back and scrambles the beginning. It has an event gravity: Eventually, every memory and impression gets tugged in its direction." To that, while reading Although of Course..., I couldn't help but pause anytime Wallace brought up killing himself in passing, as if it were just some self-deprecating remark. I'm not sure The End of the Tour necessarily needed any explicit or neat emotional arc since these things rarely exist in real life. As a movie, The End of the Tour could have just done the My Dinner with Andre thing (or the Richard Linklater thing, if you prefer) and existed as this peripatetic meeting of minds on the road. And yet I liked some of the invented moments since they reminded me of other exchanges I've had with friends, or experiences with people I know, or trips I've been on, or that secret insecurity when talking with writers I admire who are way further in their careers than I am. Sometimes bullshit feels true even if it's not factual. (This might be a messy but succinct definition of Werner Herzog's "ecstatic truth.") Then again, like Kenny brought up earlier, this justification of invention might ultimately be self-serving. Although of Course You End Up Becoming Impossible to Encapsulate"They already feel as if they know you--which of course they don't." -- David Foster Wallace in Although of Course... by David Lipsky   Eisenberg's portrayal of David Lipsky hasn't gotten much flak, but that's because Lipsky's alive and not a major/mythologized persona in the literary world. (You don't read any essays that reduce his work to dick-wagging.) Lipsky's role, in the book and the film, is predominantly a vessel into the thoughts of David Foster Wallace. Segel's been widely praised for his performance as DFW, though I think Kenny's criticisms of his performance are worth noting since they highlight differences in perception, person, and persona between people: Physically, Segel's got Wallace all wrong too: bulky, lurching, elbowy, perpetually in clothes a half size too small. This, too, contradicts my own memory of Dave as a physically imposing but also very nearly lithe and graceful person. But as Segel's exuberantly horrible dancing at the end of the film practically blares in neon, this awkwardness represents Segel's conception of a Genius Who Was Just Too Pure And Holy For This World. Kenny also wrote that the David Foster Wallace of The End of the Tour is "for those people who cherish This Is Water as the new Wear Sunscreen: A Primer For Life." It's like Kenny's Lloyd Bentsen burn: "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." This comes back to the idea of facets of people and the way The End of the Tour winds up being these layers of interpretation by different parties about a real person. As much as I like Segel in the film and think his performance is strong, it's not David Foster Wallace in the way that all portrayals of real people are not the real thing. Christopher Walken impersonations are generally caricatures of his start-stop vocal rhythm; all Michael Caine impressions are just people just saying, "My name's my cocaine." Segel can't possibly recreate all of the small facial expressions, body sways, or winces of David Foster Wallace, or even the same physiology, but he offers an impersonation suited to the film. (Good vs. good enough. Another writerly concern?) If Lipsky's a vessel into Wallace's thoughts, Segel's Wallace is an interpretation of a persona. People and their personas, while linked, aren't the same. So what to make of the propriety of The End of the Tour? Wallace died less than 10 years ago, and here's a movie that the estate was not involved with in which Wallace's death is a framing device. It's painful, and it may always be too soon for anyone who knew Wallace personally. The End of the Tour aims to be a tribute to a writer, as if that makes the pain more bearable, and yet the movie veers dangerously close to hagiography. David Foster Wallace, the film persona, embodies an idea of a good writer with a troubled soul, maybe too troubled to live in a fallen world. That might not be overstating it either given the way the movie concludes. My friend Leah Schnelbach of also liked the movie, but she rightly used the term "St. Dave" to describe some of the uncomfortable fawning over DFW when it's not offset by his depression and underlying sadness. Maybe tributes unintentionally and inartfully stumble into hagiography or near-hagiography as they try to make a final sincere statement about the subject. There's no neat wrap-up to these rambling thoughts on The End of the Tour, because even though I'd meant to write this a while ago, these ideas remain unresolved and half-formed. I still think it's generally a very good film about writers despite some of those weaker bits, but that might be because it's so rooted in the actual conversation of two writers. Even when they're not talking about writing, it sounds like writers talking. As for David Foster Wallace, the persona on film as portrayed by Jason Segel, he's just an interpretation of one part of the real David Foster Wallace during a particular point in his life.While many times removed from the real thing, this persona makes the actual man's absence more apparent.
The End of the Tour photo
The blend of truth, fiction, and reality
I really enjoyed James Ponsoldt's The End of the Tour, which primarily covers the last days of David Foster Wallace's 1996 book tour for Infinite Jest. Wallace committed suicide in 2008 after his antidepressants proved no lon...

Jem Movie photo
Jem Movie

Listen to the Jem movie's first original song "Youngblood"

Aug 14
// Nick Valdez
I'm rooting for Jem and the Holograms. Firstly because there's a good chance this film will inspire other films like it, and we need more girl power band films, and secondly, I don't feel like we've got a good look at the fi...

Review: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Aug 14 // Matthew Razak
[embed]219771:42550:0[/embed] The Man From U.N.C.L.E.Director: Guy RitchieRated: PG-13Release Date: August 14, 2015  The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is an old school, James Bond, spy thriller. Quite literally, really. Instead of updating the premise of the show -- an American and Russian spy team up to fight world threats -- to meet modern times they simply went back to the cold war setting of the show. Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) is an American spy and master thief and Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) is basically his Russian counterpart, but he's better at beating people up. They're teamed up to rescue a nuclear scientist from the hands of an evil Italian fascist named Victoria (Elizabeth Debicki). The plot involves his daughter Gaby (Alicia Vikander) and more fashion, travel and quick one-liners than three Bond films put together. Of course the basis for a film like this has to be the chemistry between its leads. Hammer and Cavill can both easily handle sharp dialog and dressing well, but can they do it together? The answer turns out to be: if they work on it. The chemistry is a little rocky at first, especially since everyone in the film has clearly been told to overplay their adopted accents. The two seem wary of each other for the first half of the film until they fall into a solid patter. Maybe that was intentional, but it makes for a first half that feels a bit awkward, especially with Vikander thrown into the mix as Hammer's love interest. What helps it along is Guy Ritchie's direction (some words I never thought I'd be saying). The film is free over his usual over indulgences or maybe they just fit into the glamorous setting better. The movie feels smooth and stylish throughout and almost has a rhythmic flow to it that ramps up the feeling of a classic 60s spy film. He paces his action surprisingly well and often completely ignores it in favor of a solid gag or split screen montage. It's quite an adept piece of work that feels unique in a summer of action blockbuster that stood out for great stunts, but not so creative direction.  The screenplay isn't quite as suave, though Ritchie tries to imbue it with a little more tension than it deserves. It features twists and turns aplenty, but they don't always pay off as they should. The movie attempts to do what I'm going to call micro-twists. Instead of one big twist (there is one of those too) a scene will be a twist in itself. Multiple times we're shown only half of a sequence only to be filled in minutes later on the rest of what happened. It's an interesting execution and definitely works sometimes. Other times it feels forced, as if Ritchie were trying to add drama to a scene that wasn't working. As a film reviewer it was just interesting to watch it being executed, as a basic audience member I could see it getting annoying. What isn't annoying is that when the movie is clicking it's just plain fun. Once you realize that Cavill's pin-point perfect American accent and Hammer's resoundingly stereotypical Russian are indications that this film is as much a send up of 60s spy thrillers as it is an homage things start working really well. There's a certain je ne sais quoi to the Connery Bonds and their likes from the time period that The Man From U.N.C.L.E. actually grasps at every so often. Considering that most films can't even come close every so often is pretty damn good.  The Man From U.N.C.L.E. concludes in such a way that it's pretty obvious that they want another franchise (where this leaves Ritchie for directing another Sherlock Holmes movie is anyone's guess), but I think it's just a little too quirky to get the audience to come. That might be a good thing in the end. The movie feels like something from out of the past, especially with its lackluster plotting. It's smooth and crammed with tight dialog. It forgoes big action for clever direction. It focuses on the spies and not the toys, even if it isn't so good at the spy thing. It isn't always successful, but when it works  The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is a film out of its time.
U.N.C.L.E. photo
Smooth operator
Does anyone below the age of 60 have super fond memories of the original TV show The Man From U.N.C.L.E.? I'm sure they're out there, but the new movie remake can't really be hitting on the nostalgia gas that hard when half t...

Supergirl Trailer photo
Supergirl Trailer

Newest Supergirl trailer is a super tease

Aug 11
// Nick Valdez
Now that we're branching out to TV, I can finally talk about Supergirl on CBS. From part of the team that brought you Arrow and The Flash on The CW (which we'll definitely talk about soon), Supergirl will follow the life of K...

Snaxist: Denny's Slamtastic Four Menu

Aug 05 // Nick Valdez
The Invisible Woman Slam Usually I take on these foods alone, so I had grown accustomed to getting one dish at a time. As I finished one I'd slowly make my way to the next in an effort to become one amorphous blob of constant digestion. But on this trip I hadn't calculated how bringing others would alter the rhythm and that was the first of my many, many mistakes. They had brought us all of the food at once (sans desserts because I'm not made of money, you jerks) and it was certainly a sight to behold. In fact, I had become intimidated by the beast in front me. Staring the lion in the eyes, frozen until one of us made our move. If I had been alone, this would've been the end of my journey. Thankfully, one of my compadres began eating and I snapped out of my fear coma.  The Invisible Woman Slam's main feature are its blueberry pancakes topped with other fruit as everything else is what you'd expect from a standard grand slam. Covered with a sickly sweet glaze from the fruit, it was quite tasty really. Pancakes weren't too doughy, and it was definitely better before you added syrup. Lots of soaked in flavors (without feeling like I ate a stick of butter), but very heavy. But this would be far from the heaviest thing on the menu.  The Fantastic Four-Cheese Omelette As this was the first dish I took on alone, I felt ill prepared. I had recently moved to New York and grown accustomed to a lighter diet lacking in all of the heavy meats and cheeses I used to eat back in my hometown of Viking Land. It's like I wanted to climb Mt. Everest after retiring thirty years prior. But like with any massive undertaking, I couldn't climb the mountain until I took the first step. But I was still so nervous. What would this beast do to me? How would I change? Could I just go back to the modern world once I've become one of the savages? So I took the first bite and, nevertheless, slowly became the monster I used to know.  The Fantastic Four Cheese Omelette (neglecting a representation for Mr. Fantastic since that dude's such a nerd, and nerds don't eat food) was touted as stuffed with cheddar, swiss, parmesan, and mozzarella cheeses and it certainly delivered on that front. As a startup meal (or if it's you're only dish seeing as how the rest of you are smart thinking adults) it's perfectly fine, but it's basically the same as any other omelette du fromage. I never did get my two pieces of toast though. I know I had I food mountain in front of me, but I feel like I really did miss out on that toast.  The Thing Burger  Before I knew it, the omelet was gone. I faded in and out slowly. The plates in front of me were just some random blurring motions. Yet, I still felt the hunger. It compelled me forward as my conscious mind begged for it to stop. "Why are you doing this to yourself?" "Please, stop." and "Is this truly what you want out of life?" were all questions my body seemed to ignore as I moved toward the next dish. I felt my jaw unhinge in order to completely destroy the meal in front me. In my savage mind, it was the only way. But my body was slowly changing. Palms were sweaty, knees weak, arms were heavy, and there was vomit on my sweater already, mom's spaghetti... The Thing Burger was the item I most looked forward to. It's the only truly different item on the menu as the other dishes are variations of ones available on the other movie menus. A burger patty topped with hash browns, bacon, an egg, and something called "The Thing Sauce" (seriously) all between two cheesy buns. It's the perfect breakfast burger, and I'll go as far to say it's the best thing on the new menu (pun intended). Each bite was great, and I'd imagine this would taste wonderfully after a night of getting drunk off your ass. Couldn't figure out what the sauce was as the taste of the burger kind of blended into one indistinct flavor (though the bottom bun was soaked from the grease), but at least the taste was interesting overall. Fries were good, too.  The Human Torch Skillet The burger was eliminated, so I was ready to move on to the final dish. But thanks to my inner turmoil, my monstrous form was weakened. Staring into the face of the dish's black abyss I thought of my family back home. What would they say if they saw me now? How would they judge what their son has become? Are you proud of me now, Ma? Are you proud of your son? Look what they've done to me! Look at what I've done to them! I've reached into the abyss and pulled out the heart of god!  The Human Torch Skillet is a spicy variation of the skillet available on Denny's other movie menus.  With jalapenos, pepper jack cheese (which I didn't notice until I packed the dish into a to go plate because it blended in with the egg) and pico de gallo, there was no way I could finish this. It's smothered in cholula (which is a smoky hot sauce) and that completely killed the rest of the dish's flavor. Even as I tried mixing it with the cheese or sausage, all I tasted was cholula. That's also why the dish was so dark. It's a shame since this could've been good. It's the furthest thing from spicy, and it's the furthest thing from tasty.  Overall, this was a fun trip and Denny's is the only restaurant that experiments with its food like this. Sure my stomach is pretty much demolished at this point, but I always love the madness of it all. But, sadly, I'll never be the same again. 
Snaxist photo
It's sloberrin' time
Every so often, there'll be a product with a spark of genius. Something that comes along and makes you think, "Why wasn't this a thing already?" like donuts based on Ghostbusters, Avengers cereal, and even that time Denny's c...

Deadpool Trailer photo
Motherf**ckers and avocados
We've been anticipating this first bit of footage for some time. After all of the talk, all of the images, all of those years stuck in development, and all of the advertising, Deadpool is actually film that exists. The traile...

Don't bother with MTV's Scream TV Series

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

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