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American Sniper  photo
American Sniper

Steven Spielberg's version of American Sniper sounds a bit better


Jan 22
// Nick Valdez
When it comes to American Sniper, I've found over the last few days that it's better to tread water when criticizing. It's a shame, but I've been hit by quite a few slurs from folks that are taking the film to heart. But desp...

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...

Nick's Top 10 Movie Music Moments of 2014

Jan 14 // Nick Valdez
Honorable Mentions: Birdman - Flight scene, Snowpiercer - "What happens if the engine stops?," The Skeleton Twins - "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now," 22 Jump Street - "Ass-n-Titties," Into the Woods - "Agony" [embed]218773:42129:0[/embed] 10. The Hunger Games Mockingjay - Part 1 - "The Hanging Tree" as performed by Jennifer Lawrence Every year there seems to be a song that's meant to break into mainstream pop. Usually by happenstance, or some kind of weird popularity spike, and "The Hanging Tree" is 2014's single. Written by the Lumineers (with influence from the original text), and given an odd dance backing so it can be played on the radio, this moment may have been forced but it did show off the first actual rebellion against the Capitol. Like other parts of Mockingjay - Part 1, the scene finally opens up the world beyond Katniss and her compatriots.  [embed]218773:42130:0[/embed] 9. The Lego Movie - "Everything is Awesome/(Untitled) Self Portrait"  "Everything is awesome, everything is cool when your part of a team" was 2014's "Let It Go." There's a dollar theater in my town next to the local grocery, and when I first heard a little girl singing that song, I knew we had a winner. The scene it's used in doesn't hit perfect status until the "12 Hours Later" bit but it's still very good. Even better? Batman's demo tape, "DARKNESS! NO PARENTS!" [embed]218773:42132:0[/embed] 8. Guardians of the Galaxy - "Come And Get Your Love"  As critics like myself (although I'd like to think I'm as far from that definition as possible) continue to worry over the staleness of Marvel's films, the intro to Guardians of the Galaxy, featuring a nonchalantly groovin Chris Pratt dancing to a once forgotten Redbone tune, helps alleviate some of that worry. Starting off on the right foot, this scene helped set the tone for Marvel's future. It's going to be a lot more fun.  [embed]218773:42134:0[/embed] 7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - "Elevator Beatbox"  You won't see the TMNT movie on many Best of 2014 lists, but I've got to credit where it's due. It may have be clouded by a bunch of odd decisions, but the Turtles themselves were great. Although they looked like giant steroid hulks, the few times they got to act like their "Teenage" namesake truly stood out. This came to a head in the elevator ride before the final battle with Shredder. It's the most fun scene in this film, and it's completely unnecessary when you think about it. But it's full of so much personality it's hard to care. I want the sequel to basically be this scene x 100.  [embed]218773:42133:0[/embed] 6. The Guest - "Anthonio" The Guest has one of the best soundtracks of 2014. Fusing synth pop and trance together with little known European Pop remixes, and coupling them with a nostalgic run through the horror genre lead to one of the best musically inclined films of the year. The Guest owes most of its successes to its soundtrack and it's never better than the final scene. A stare down, a remix of Annie's "Anthonio," and a sinister Dan Stevens are a match made in heaven.  [embed]218773:42135:0[/embed] 5. The Book of Life - "Just A Friend/The Apology Song/I Will Wait" as performed by Diego Luna, Cheech Marin, and Gabriel Iglesias I think The Book of Life'll be the only time I hear Tejano-inspired music in film and that's a bit sad. Like me, it takes influences from classic pop tunes and unapologetically puts a little Mexican flair into each one. There's too many awesome songs to name (but the one touted as the "big" one, where Diego Luna performs a cover of "Creep," is kind of lame) with the too brief "Just a Friend," and the great "Apology Song" sung to a flaming skeletal bull in the Land of the Forgotten, but my favorite is definitely the montage set to "I Will Wait." It's hilarious, critiques Mexican culture, and it just sounds so pleasant.  [embed]218773:42137:0[/embed] 4. The Interview - "Firework" as performed by Jenny Lane Although the clip above doesn't refer to the scene on this list (as it's much better to experience it without being spoiled), trust me when I say that it's truly a great movie music moment. The scene that launched a thousand emails, and was most likely toned down in retrospect, but it's a damn fun scene. Much like the rest of The Interview, it makes sense in the most absurd way. Hope you get to see it for yourself.  [embed]218773:42138:0[/embed] 3. X-Men: Days of Future Past - "Time in a Bottle" With as many comic book films I see now, they all start to blend in together after awhile. What woke me up from my haze, however, was Days of Future Past. While the rest of the film followed the same beats, and Quicksilver himself wasn't the most interesting addition, I've never seen a better demonstration of super speed. Sure we've seen this type of slowdown in films like The Matrix, but I can't recall seeing it used so humorously. It's the little touches that made everything work.  [embed]218773:42136:0[/embed] 2. Frank - "Secure the Galactic Perimeter/I Love You All" as performed by Michael Fassbender Frank is a film about twelve people saw, and that's a damn shame. It's got some of the best music from 2014. The songs were notably assembled by the cast (and not even available in full on the soundtrack) and they're just so weird. Good weird. While the final song "I Love You All" gets the full bump on this list, it doesn't really mesh as well as it should until you've seen the film. Once you've seen the film, learned of all of Frank's quibbles, then it truly comes together.  [embed]218773:42139:0[/embed] 1. Whiplash - "Caravan" as performed by Miles Teller God, Whiplash has the best f**king music. That finale? So gooooooooooooooood. What are your favorite music moments of 2014? Agree or disagree? Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter! Stay tuned through the rest of the week for more "Best Of" lists! 
Nick's Top 10 Music photo
Music to my eyes
Music plays an integral role in film. Easily ignored, easily forgotten, a film's soundtrack is the little celebrated framework of cinema. But when sound and sight marry into a great scene, you get some of the best moments. Li...

Nick's Top 5 Sequels of 2014

Jan 13 // Nick Valdez
Honorable Mentions: How to Train Your Dragon 2, The Raid 2: Berandal, Captain America: The Winter Soldier [embed]218787:42123:0[/embed] 5.  X-Men: Days of Future Past The X-Men series was in quite the pickle. As the seventh film in the ailing series, it had quite a bit to prove. Doing something I've never seen before, DoFP went and actively rebooted (as in, made "rebooting" a key plot to the newest film) the series in order to fix all of the issues fans have had with it. Not only pleasing comic book fans, but even casual moviegoers as it brought back all of the headliners and never once felt like the confusing mess it could have been. An interesting, and most importantly, successful experiment that showed off what comic book movies could truly be capable of.  Read our review of X-Men: Days of Future Past here. [embed]218787:42124:0[/embed] 4. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 The Hunger Games films have been steadily getting better at handling their themes, and it came to fruition with Part 1. Finally capitalizing on the promise of the series, Part 1 introduced many teenage movie fans to conflicting political ideologies, smaller facets of yellow journalism, and all while having the confidence to talk about things a bit. There hasn't been any room in the series for conversation thus far, and that's weird considering the books are nothing but Katniss talking to herself. This was a sequel that was willing to breathe for a bit and wallow in the messed up situation they're in. It's definitely the first film in which the Capitol seemed like an actual threat.  Read our review of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 here. [embed]218787:42125:0[/embed] 3. 22 Jump Street Comedy sequels are a dime or dozen. For every 22 Jump Street we got in 2014, we also got Dumb and Dumber To, Horrible Bosses 2, and A Haunted House 2. While those lesser films tried to recreate the film that got them there, 22 Jump Street did that and made fun of themselves while doing it. Not once did they lie to their audience and say that the sequel was made for something other than money, or that it should exist at all. It was like saying "Hey we're doing this, so let's all just have some fun!" and that's all I could ever want from a sequel, really.  And those title cards during the credits? Perfection.  Read our review of 22 Jump Street here. [embed]218787:42126:0[/embed] 2. The Purge: Anarchy You know what makes a good sequel? Take a film that I wasn't interested in before and completely reinvent the wheel to make it far more entertaining. By changing the direction of the series, from house invader horror to cheesy action thriller, adding Frank Grillo, and throwing a fine layer of hamfisted sociopolitical messages, you've got the best Grillo'd Cheese sandwich. For the first time in a long time, I find myself a lot more interested in annual sequels. Give me one every year this interesting, and I'll never speak ill will toward #CrimeDay again.  Read our review of The Purge: Anarchy here. [embed]218787:42127:0[/embed] 1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes "Apes. Together. Awesome" was the subtitle I used for my Dawn of the Planet of the Apes review, and it's still one of my favorite things I've ever written. Dawn also happens to be my favorite movie of the Summer. It was thrilling, had several nice action bits, and looked amazing. Fixed most of the issues I had with Rise, and brought more Ape on Ape action. I ended up shouting "APEEEEEEEES" for several days after. I do not hate every ape I see, from chimpan-a to chimpanzee.  Hope the next film has Dr. Zaius. Read our review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes here.  What are your favorite sequels of 2014? Agree or disagree? Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter! Stay tuned through the rest of the week for more "Best Of" lists! 
Nick's Top 5 Sequels photo
Sequelitis schmequelitis
We've seen more sequels released the last few years than we have in a long time. While 2015 seems to continue that trend, last year showed that we shouldn't automatically write off a film just because it's a sequel. I've seen...

Review: Predestination

Jan 09 // Nick Valdez
PredestinationDirector: Michael and Peter SpierigRated: RRelease Date: January 9th, 2015 An adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein's short story, "All You Zombies," Predestination stars Ethan Hawke as a Temporal Police Officer who's assigned to his final mission after a previous mission leaves him with a reconfigured face. His one regret as an officer is his failure to catch the Fizzle Bomber, a notoriously evasive criminal whose bombs have killed countless people. As the officer begins his last mission, he meets a mysterious stranger (Sarah Snook) who tells the officer of his childhood troubles. And you can probably tell from the synopsis that when someone says Predestination is just Minority Report, they're looking at the bare minimum. Ethan Hawke's occupation as a time cop is where the similarities end. Predestination is much more thoughtful than Minority Report could ever hope to be.  Unfortunately if you've read Heinlein's original short, then you know the direction of the story. It's pretty much a direct adaptation, but with added flair for the screen version. The plot itself is fantastic. It's a quietly drawn out mystery which rewards the viewer when the viewer guesses something correctly. It's so tightly wound if one fact, or subject was misplaced or explained incorrectly, the entire thing would unravel. While that tightness works to the film's benefit, it's also a huge detriment to the enjoyment of the film. There's never any relaxation period, no time to absorb the information given before being presented with copious amounts of new info. Thank goodness the cast holds it together.  You know, I was initially worried for Predestination when I heard it was being directed by the Spierig brothers. Their last notable work, Daybreakers (about the futuristic society of vampires), also had a really neat concept idea but failed in the execution. But I'll hand it to them, they really know how to pick the cast. While Ethan Hawke might be top billed, he's not the central star. That honor goes to relative newcomer, Sara Snook. Snook delivers a powerful performance as the mysterious Jane. As she begins to detail the tragic events of her life, her emotional resonance carries the film even when it begins to derail into nonsense. Her narration is given the appropriate amount of emotional weight, and the crazy things she's put through may not have been believable if Snook didn't sell it so well.  You may have noticed that as I'm trying to discuss interesting aspects of the film, I'm purposefully trying to be as vague as possible. Although you'll know what happens in Predestination if you've read the original short, the majority of the mystery reveals are much better if you haven't had them spoiled for you. But the weird thing about these reveals is chances are you'll figure it out before the film gets to grandstand them. While some of the reveals are completely out of left field, and therefore unpredictable, some of them fail to land because they're so drawn out you've put the pieces of the puzzle together yourself. So when the film finally gets to the matter at hand, you're left with a period of staleness. But at least Ethan Hawke is great. He really nails his part also. Especially toward the end when he's so out of character, it works.  While Predestination is a clever mystery, it takes a while to unfurl. It's like a seductive dance that goes on for so long, it loses its original allure. But when given the time to breathe, and there's an appropriate amount of time given to fleshing out the futuristic world in which Jane and John live, it's wonderful.  Predestination could've fallen apart miserably. But because it has a great central cast, unique twist on time travel, and interesting mystery, greatness is inevitable. 
Predestination Review photo
Destined for greatness
Predestination is one of those festival films that you have no idea exists but, when you finally see it, you wonder where it's been your entire life. I'm not the biggest time travel movie fan, nor do I really enjoy science fi...

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...

Review: Exodus: Gods and Kings

Dec 12 // Nick Valdez
[embed]218699:42044:0[/embed] Exodus: Gods and KingsDirectors: Ridley ScottRelease Date: December 12th, 2014 Rating: PG-13 Exodus: Gods and Kings is the story of Moses (Christian Bale), raised as the son of an Egyptian general and his close friend Ramses (Joel Edgerton), who's next in line to inherit the Egyptian throne. After Moses learns he's actually a Hebrew child saved from a disaster, Ramses sends him into exile. Through this exile and years of traveling, Moses discovers the Isreaelite God and learns he's been chosen to free the Isreaelites from slavery. Then we've got all the beats you remember: plagues, Passover, and an Isreaelite army training montage.  There was a big casting controversy surrounding this film before its release. When Ridley Scott revealed that the Egyptians (and Moses) were played by white actors while the non-white actors were stuck with the lesser roles (like slave and thief), it caused quite a stir. Arguments went back and forth as to what the cause was (ranging anywhere from "you can't sell a film with non-white actors" to "this is historically accurate"), but I'd like to confirm that at the end of the day, none of that actually matters. Exodus: Gods and Kings is a big, dumb, and goofy epic so the whitewashing is like vanilla icing on the cake. It's an oddly helpful anchor as you slowly realize the rest of the film lacks this kind of conviction. Exodus can't decide whether or not it wants to be religious as there are semblances of both anti and pro religious arguments. While there is an active presence of God in Exodus, it's portrayed as a young boy making rash and violent decisions, and it's wonderfully sacrilegious (He makes Moses raise an army of Hebrews, sends sharks and alligators as a plague, kills without hesitation) when there're hints that Moses might just be senile. But it totally backs out of this by falling back on the "faith over all" that's inherent in this story. It completely comes out of left field as "faith" isn't a major theme of this film before the final third.  Whether or not you agree with the faith, a story praising the work of God at least knows what it wants to do. And it's not like the other side of that coin wouldn't work either. A recent example, Darren Aronofsky's Noah, proves that you can tell an agnostic version of a religious story and still hold weight. Without the fervor brought on from commitment one way or the other, we're left wallowing in this grey matter. Add this to Exodus's overtly long run time, any period of indecisiveness is felt even more so. The pace is almost punishing (exacerbated by the amount of filler present in the narrative). And honestly the turgid pace and whitewashing would've been fine had anyone done anything of note. Other than Joel Edgerton as Ramses (who stands out with his prim, nervous take on the Pharoah), no other cast member (even Christian Bale) survives in this blob. It may be the fault of the source material, but there are far too many characters given far too little screen time to actually care what anyone is doing. And when someone does show up and says something, what little plot they're given is swept under the rug in favor of something else. It's like weaving a rug thread by thread, taking a break, and starting from a different end each time. Nothing's ever started, so nothing finishes.  Oh, and what was that accent Christian Bale? Seriously.  Exodus is evocative of classic Hollywood tropes in the best and worst ways. With biblical stories of this ilk, there's just some things you have to accept. You have to accept they're going to be a certain length, you have to accept it's going to retell the same story once again, and you've got to accept that it's going to have certain underlying messages. But you don't have to accept an un-entertaining film. While this bloated narrative does invoke the "epic" nature of classic Hollywood (and it looks pretty damn good in some areas), and is therefore coincidentally nostalgic (bad as it is, seeing white folks rescuing brown folks is something we've seen time and time again), it's so mismanaged that you're better off with one of the many other takes on this story.  If after reading this review you're still somehow compelled to go out and see Exodus: Gods and Kings, here's a funny tidbit. During my screening, a gentleman in the row in front of me fell asleep...twice. It wasn't the humble, slumped over sleep either. He had an abrasive, loud snore each time.  I don't think there's a criticism more fitting. 
Exodus Review photo
Like wandering the desert for forty years
Folks don't know this about me, but I have a soft spot for biblical stories. Having been raised half Roman Catholic, half who gives a hooey, I have an abundant knowledge of Christian bible quotes and intricacies. Regardless o...

Stephen of the Rings photo
Stephen of the Rings

Stephen Colbert is just the best person


Dec 11
// Nick Valdez
I mean, who else would dress up as Hobbit characters to promote The Battle of the Five Armies or defend funky lightsabers? Truly a king among us.  [via EW]
Mockingjay Part 1  photo
Mockingjay Part 1

Here's that great Hanging Tree song from Mockingjay- Part 1


Nov 26
// Nick Valdez
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 was pretty good. It's the best in a rough series and stands out due to some great decisions. But one of the clunkier ones was "The Hanging Tree." A song featured in the book, it was...

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...

Fifty Shades photo
Fifty Shades

Newest trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey will see you now


Nov 14
// Nick Valdez
So I had to find out about this teaser from my mom. Premiering during last night's Scandal on ABC, my mother felt the need to contact me to ask if I had any more info on it. While I don't want to see my mother that way (as I...
Insurgent Teaser photo
Insurgent Teaser

First official teaser trailer for The Divergent Series: Insurgent


Nov 13
// Nick Valdez
Despite some hangups, I liked Divergent. It's got an interesting world and the cast was well put together, but the whole thing was just stuck in cement. Pace was mishandled, the world was skipped over in favor of two ho...
50 Shades photo
50 Shades

Jamie Dornan won't go the full monty for Fifty Shades of Grey


Fifty Shades of Pe- sorry
Nov 04
// Nick Valdez
Although I may not be one of the many folks eagerly anticipating Fifty Shades of Grey, the first trailer for the adaptation drew quite a bit of attention. Whether or not I agree with its use of Sado Masochism, I kind of have ...
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 Trailer photo
Yeah we got that fire, fire, fire
With the final trailer for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, the awesome marketing this film has had comes to a close. From great propaganda style teasers and posters, to how few trailers for the film we actually got (usu...

Heart of the Sea photo
Heart of the Sea

First trailer for Ron Howard's In the Heart of the Sea


Oct 20
// Nick Valdez
Based on Nathaniel Phillbrick's book In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex (the Essex's story in turn inspired Herman Melville's Moby Dick), Heart is directed by Ron Howard and stars Chris Hemswort...
The Hobbit 3 posters photo
The Hobbit 3 posters

Here are several posters for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies


Oct 16
// Nick Valdez
"The Defining Chapter" lol  The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies has five armies and possibly a battle December 17th.  [via Twitter]
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,...
Exodus Trailer photo
Exodus Trailer

Newest Exodus: Gods and Kings trailer lets the people go


Oct 02
// Nick Valdez
I can't watch help but watch these trailers for Ridley Scott's Exodus: Gods and Kings without thinking about all of the other times I've seen this story played out on film. The Ten Commandments, The Prince of Egypt, that one...

Review: The Boxtrolls

Oct 01 // Nick Valdez
[embed]218404:41867:0[/embed] The BoxtrollsDirectors: Graham Annable and Anthony StacchiRated: PGRelease Date: September 26, 2014 Based on Alan Snow's novel Here Be Monsters!, Boxtrolls takes place in the small town of Cheesebridge. A town where fancy men in white hats taste fancy cheeses while small creatures wearing boxes roam the streets at night. One night, a baby goes missing and the entire town blames the Boxtrolls. The town exterminator, Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley), who's trying to earn a white hat, then begins hunting down the poor fellas. All the while a young "Boxtroll" named Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright) finds out that he just might be the black sheep of his family.  When talking about Laika's films, it's important to get the obvious out of the way. Boxtrolls is gorgeous. The folks at Laika are masters of their craft as each character moves with a pleasant fluidity, the world is draped in a pale pastel, and a slick layer of grime covers the world's color. The look of the film really sells the inherent philosophical nature of the film (which basically questions the rift between the English upper and lower classes) as everything is just a bit murky. For example, nearly every citizen in Cheesebridge has a blue hue. You'd figure it'd be weird seeing humans with blue skin, but it's mixed in with shades of pink. As in saying, the further into darkness a person falls (as the bad guys have more blue than others), the less "human" they are. This all adds a fine layer of depth to Boxtrolls that could be easily missed.  You see, Boxtrolls is a children's film about the duality of good and evil (One of those "who are the real monsters?" situations). And while this makes for an intelligent film, it doesn't always make an entertaining one. Since Coraline and ParaNorman were skewed toward older audiences with darker overtones, they were allowed to explore shadier aspects of childhood trauma because it didn't have a larger effect on the overall nature of those films. Here, Boxtrolls attempts the same but it's unfortunately trapped within an "all ages" approach. This probably comes across as an odd criticism to make, but the film's brain doesn't quite mesh well with its body. For example, as mentioned earlier in the review, the film dissects English society's (or a cartoonish version of it, anyway) class system. And while this is hidden under satire (the rich folks literally do nothing but eat fancy cheese), some other things aren't as lucky. Much of the film is so direct, it's off putting at times.  Whether it's a result of its appeal to a younger audience (and thus not trusting childhood intelligence), there're many spoken bits about its greater theme at hand (the villain's henchman constantly fret about their position in the story, for example). So many the film is almost bogged down by its many messages which come to a head during the film's noticeably slow paced second act. As it starts as a children's film where families can come in any shape and size, evolves into a film of conflicting political philosophies. This is why I'm puzzled. It's good that the theme evolves, but it shouldn't feel so forced. This is a criticism I'll admit doesn't apply to very many other folks. I'm positive this won't be a huge issue to most.  Overall, The Boxtrolls is a good film. It has a star studded cast (Ben Kingsley gets a musical number and it's great), looks astounding, and the trolls themselves are adorable, but it's held back by its overbearing themes. There's an even greater film lying underneath if it had just hadn't been so direct about what it was trying to get across and instead allowed the viewers to discover it on their own.  But hey, there's a lovable story here if you missed all of the clashing themes too. So you'll enjoy yourself until you get bored in the middle. 
The Boxtrolls Review photo
There's a small prize inside this box
Laika is that rare production company where you absolutely have to pay attention to whatever they put out next. As one of the last few studios that specializes in stop motion animation, their films have garnered a lot of well...

Inherent Vice Trailer photo
Whoa.
Paul Thomas Anderson's upcoming adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's novel Inherent Vice might just be the craziest, and best thing to come out this year. Just by looking at this trailer with its unique style, stupidly talented ca...

Maze Sequel photo
Maze Sequel

The Maze Runner getting a sequel because money


Sep 23
// Nick Valdez
With the way Young Adult book films are made these days, production on a sequel has begun before the first film is even released. Thus when a film gets a successful run through the box office (or at the very least, a successf...

Review: The Maze Runner

Sep 19 // Nick Valdez
[embed]218347:41842:0[/embed] The Maze RunnerDirector: Wes BallRated: PG-13Release Date: September 19, 2014  Adapted from James Dashner's novel of the same name, The Maze Runner follows Thomas (Dylan O' Brien) as he's dropped in the middle of a giant maze with a tribe of other young boys. Stripped of their memories, the boys learn that it's either survive in The Glade (the center of the maze which they call home) or take their chances with a labyrinth housing the Greavers, monsters who freely roam the maze at night. As Thomas slowly regains his memories, his curiosity draws him further and further into the ever adapting maze.  Amidst the bloated post-apocalyptic teen drama genre, The Maze Runner really stands out. Its testosterone fueled action and characters help to alleviate the plot above standard tropes like love triangles. Unfortunately, this doesn't mean Runner is unique as it chooses to mine older sources for material. The plot is definitely a myriad of stories you've seen/read before (Lord of Flies, and to a lesser extent, The Chocolate War), but to Runner's credit, it never wastes time getting to actions as it chooses to display numerous scenes of running rather than invest in its characters.  Runner's pace is an odd duck. At times its minimal take on world building is praise worthy as the mysteries of the labyrinth seem to unfurl naturally, but at other points, big reveals are just shotgunned out in some frenetic mess. With a haphazardly delivered plot such as this, it's hard to get invested in any of the characters. It's weird as I normally find myself always wanting to avoid origin stories, but I never quite thought about the absence of one. Perhaps forgoing the standard procedure would've been worthwhile had the main character Thomas had any interesting traits, but as is, he evolves from a salt pillar to a salt pillar with a few sprinkles of pepper. It's certainly telling when a few of the side characters stand out more than the guy at the center just because they've got sparks of personalities. Like Chuck (who's pretty much a depressing take on Chunk from The Goonies), who gets the most development out of any character just because of his highly telegraphed end.  But if you can get passed the lack of involvement with any of the characters, then there's quite a bit to enjoy. Runner looks great. Adding to all of the testosterone is a grimy, pulverized look. Each boy looks like they've lived in the wild in for some time without coming across as savage, and there's a sense of community in the way their homes are built. The real star of the show, the labyrinth itself, is a visual treat. Each time the characters run through, the action is fluid, speedy, and a nice amount of tension is squeezed from the maze's ever changing form. There may be too many scenes of running through tight spaces before someone is crushed, but they do look good each time. There's nary hint of green screen anywhere even when it's completely relied on.  And then there's the ending. Remember how I said some reveals are just shotgunned? That's the big problem here. There's a reveal at the end that only sours the entire experience further as it posits there'd be more sequels to come. It's jarring to be constantly running at a frantic pace to only be halted by future story to come. That's like saying the reward for solving the puzzle is more puzzles. Then again, that's only if you were invested in the first place.  The Maze Runner runs farther than other Young Adult films out there now, but it never quite wins the race. 
Maze Runner Review photo
Running in circles
As  Flixist's resident Young Adult novel correspondent, I've seen lots of forgettable teen films. With studios betting huge fortunes on these films becoming successful franchises (like Twilight and The Hunger Games), mos...

Serena Trailer photo
Serena Trailer

First trailer for Serena reunites Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper


Sep 16
// Nick Valdez
A few years ago, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence shot three films together: Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, and Susanne Bier's Serena. Although Serena was filmed at the same time as the other two, it's been st...
Summer Remake photo
Summer Remake

We're getting another I Know What You Did Last Summer


Sep 16
// Nick Valdez
I Know What You Did Last Seventeen Years Ago was a big hit when it first arrived in 1997 during Kevin Williamson's golden age where he wrote scripts for films like Scream and The Faculty. And as such, it did well enough to ge...
The Hunger Games photo
Hotter than a fantasy, lonely like a highwaaay
Looks like a girl, but she's a flame. As Flixist's resident Young Adult book advisor, I love me some Hunger Games (and will always exploit Alicia Keys' once hit single) and I'm glad the newest trailer finally shows off how d...

Mockingjay poster photo
Mockingjay poster

Katniss gives good back in this Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 poster


Sep 04
// Nick Valdez
She's just a girl, but she's on fire. November 21st can't come soon enough. 
Exodus: Gods and Kings photo
Exodus: Gods and Kings

Ridley Scott addresses Exodus: Gods and Kings' White cast


"You can call them whitey whackers!"
Aug 29
// Nick Valdez
Casting in Hollywood has always been predominantly White. You can argue about certain stars or certain roles, but that's the cold, hard truth. Regardless of the film, the leads have always been a certain race, and in a perfec...
Rosewater Trailer photo
Rosewater Trailer

First trailer for Rosewater, directed by Jon Stewart


Aug 29
// Nick Valdez
Jon Stewart, most known as the guy who got stabbed in the eye in The Faculty and the guy weird bangs in Death to Smoochy (also for hosting The Daily Show, I guess), is ready to showcase his directorial debut, Rosewater, base...

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