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8:00 AM on 03.06.2015

Review: Chappie

I really do adore Neill Blomkamp, and his first film, District 9, in particular. Although it doesn’t have as many fans as it did back in 2009, I still hold it up as one of the most spectacular debuts in recent years. Hi...

Per Morten Mjolkeraaen




Review: Focus photo
Review: Focus
by Jackson Tyler

I love a good con movie. From The Sting to Ocean’s Eleven to Catch Me If You Can, the genre is as formulaic as it is entertaining. The secret to its success is a combination of familiar warmth and detached unpredictability: everyone knows the general beats of a con movie pretty much up to the minute, and it is within that space of comfort that the filmmakers get to play with their twists. Con movies work because the audience knows every trick, and yet they still fall for them.

There also hasn't been a good one in a while. As somebody who hated American Hustle, I'd been feeling the burn waiting for another quality fix of one of my favourite genres since arguably Fast Five, so there was a lot riding on the shoulders of this latest Will Smith vehicle. Luckily, Focus is just good enough to put me back at ease for another year.

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Review: Fifty Shades of Grey photo
Review: Fifty Shades of Grey
by Nick Valdez

I should start this review by being as frank as possible. I'm not really sure who this review is for. With Fifty Shades of Grey, you'll fall into either one of two camps. You're either planning to see it (or have already seen it) regardless of what I'm going to say for the next couple of paragraphs, or you're going to avoid the film altogether thanks to the esoteric nature of its erotic subject matter. 

But for those of you who have fallen to the wayside and are a bit curious thanks to the shape this pop culture juggernaut has taken, don't follow up on that feeling. Because if you're willing to sit through this two hour slog without heeding my warning, you're also "fifty shades of f**ked up."

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Review: Seventh Son photo
Review: Seventh Son
by Megan Porch

Many moons ago, at San Diego Comic Con 2013, my friend and I were sitting through all the panels in the infamous Hall H waiting to get to the Marvel movie panel. One of the panels we sat through showed some footage and brought out the cast for a silly looking fantasy movie called Seventh Son. By the end of that day, I was so tired that all I remembered about it was that Kit Harington seemed really embarrassed to be on the panel talking about it.

Fast forward to two years later, the same friend and I saw Seventh Son over this past weekend.

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Review: Jupiter Ascending photo
Review: Jupiter Ascending
by Matthew Razak

I am a Wachowski defender. I have enjoyed if not down right liked every film they've made. Yes, even the second two Matrix films. If you insult Speed Racer I'll flip some tables. That movie was a kinetic and frantic masterpiece that got trashed for no good reason. Cloud Atlas was a challenging work to tackle and they did a commendable job putting it all together. Read the book and watch the film and you'll be blown away. They are very skilled directors.

All right, calm down, Matt.

So despite Jupiter Ascending getting bumped from a major summer blockbuster to a lowly February release, and despite the terrible word-of-mouth it was receiving I was wildly hopeful for the film. It looks visually stunning and other than Channing Tatum's eyeliner I was all in for some more Wachowski greatness. 

I am no longer a Wachowski defender. 

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Review: The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water photo
Review: The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water
by Nick Valdez

This may come as a surprise to you, but Spongebob Squarepants is still the juggernaut of a cartoon it was when it first debuted back in 1999. Never ceasing to keep kids' attention thanks to its unique characters and ever evolving comedy. Most importantly, it just has a lot of fun. 

I've been excited for Sponge Out of Water for some time. A sequel to a ten year old film, Water looked ambitious, full of crazy art styles, and once again had all of the fun that the series is known for. Good thing the film mostly lives up to that even if the humor has changed from what I remember. 

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Review: A Most Violent Year photo
Review: A Most Violent Year
by Nick Valdez

I had no idea what A Most Violent Year was before my screening. This was even before the smaller, limited release managed to gain traction and before I realized how good the cast assembled was. With little to no advertising, it was swallowed up by the big films vying for awards during this more difficult season. 

But now that the season is over, and A Most Violent Year is finally opening for a wider release, I can finally admit how wrong I was for ignoring it for so long. A Most Violent Year is precise, intelligent, and full of powerful moments. 

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Review: The Boy Next Door photo
Review: The Boy Next Door
by Matthew Razak

I'm not actually sure who I'm writing this review for. Anyone whose seen the trailers for The Boy Next Door has undoubtedly made their made up about it. It's a trashy stalker film with Jennifer Lopez seducing a teenager that looks like he's in his late 20s. The kind of film you'd expect to see a cast of CW stars trying to break out into film in.

There was a chance that because of that it landed in the awesomely camp area of bad film. A kind of Swimfan or Cruel Intentions. These films aren't good, but man are they just fun to watch because of how committed they are. Sadly, despite some very valiant efforts, The Boy Next Door doesn't reach that true level of all out commitment to bad that it really needs.

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Review: R100 photo

Thanks to R100, we know the proper recipe for a shirt: 24 hours in a slow-cooker, with red wine sauce, celery and carrots. Not because the film involves shirt eating (not directly at least), but because it forced Twitch founder/editor Todd Brown to eat his own shirt. 

Before it screened at Fantastic Fest late last year, he made a bold claim, if any film was half as crazy as Sion Sono's Why Don’t You Play in Hell?, he’d eat his shirt.

R100 called Brown's bluff, and he made good on his promise. It's fitting, really, because that's exactly the kind of thing someone in R100 might be forced to do.

[This review was originally posted as part of our coverage of the 2014 New York Asian Film Festival. It is being reposted to coincide with the theatrical/VOD release.]

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Review: Blackhat photo
Review: Blackhat
by Matthew Razak

I am a big Michael Mann fan. Collateral might be one of my favorite films. The guy just knows how to direct. You can be guaranteed at least one breath taking, though provoking shot in one of his films. This is especially true when he's shooting in a city. The guy just knows how to create an atmosphere that defines whatever city he's in.

Unfortunately for Blackhat a few good camera angles doesn't save it from being anything more than an over written, generic thriller where exposition is the name of the game. Mann can only make a bunch of people looking at computer screens stay interesting for so long. 

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Review: Two Days, One Night photo
Review: Two Days, One Night
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

Sometimes you watch a movie and you immediately know how you're going to feel about it. There's something about the atmosphere that it creates that just strikes you. You know exactly what the film is trying to do, and you know how you'll react to that. I felt that way about Two Days, One Night. Right off the bat, I could tell that it was going to be far too long, painfully slow, and focused on its least interesting character.

I also knew that, for some reason, I was still going to like it.

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Review: Inherent Vice photo
Review: Inherent Vice
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

I’m not educated enough to have an intelligent conversation about Inherent Vice. I’m smart enough, but to seriously wrestle with what Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s book is trying to do and say would require me to have A) Seen more of P. T. Anderson’s films, or B) Read more (read: any) of Pynchon’s books (perhaps even the source material itself), or C) Know more about the era in which the film takes place.

And so it’s taken me well over a week to write this review, because I simply didn’t know what to say. I wanted to deconstruct the film in some meaningful way, but I don’t feel qualified to do so.

What I can do, however, is consider just what it means to see (and generally enjoy) a film that I don’t understand. 

[This review was originally posted as part of our coverage of the 52nd New York Film Festival. It is being reposted to coincide with the film's wide theatrical release.]

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Review: Foxcatcher photo
Review: Foxcatcher
by Nick Valdez

Foxcatcher quickly grabbed a lot of attention for its stark representation of some big named actors. While Steve Carell has tackled heavier material before, he had never looked as sinister as he did in the first couple of images released, and while Channing Tatum was breaking out, his career had yet to take him in this kind of direction. Gaining traction through the festival circuit and a limited release before it hit wide, Foxcatcher seemed primed for the big awards season. 

It's got all of the pieces for a bonafide award contender. It's based on a depressing true story, features notable actors doing something unconventional, and there's plenty of drugs and make up. But too bad it doesn't have the most important aspect of a good film: a direction. 

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Review: Into the Woods photo
Review: Into the Woods
by Nick Valdez

For a Disney adaptation of a popular musical, Into the Woods has flown surprisingly under the radar. Coming out of practically nowhere, and with all of the early advertising hiding the fact that it is a musical, you'd think Disney was somehow afraid of Into the Woods' oddball nature. But maybe flying under the radar was a good thing as it gets away with way more than you'd expect.  

Into the Woods gets away with being a full blown musical, and it awesomely does not care what you think of it. 

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Review: Big Eyes photo
Review: Big Eyes
by Matthew Razak

Everyone, I'm about to shock you to your core. Big Eyes is a Tim Burton film and it is quite possible that the color black doesn't appear once. Shades of greys and shadows, yes, but the Gothic trendings of the director are almost completely lost in this film. Except for the doe-eyed "Big Eyes" that the subject of the film, Margaret Keane, paints there's almost no hint of Burton.

Yet it is a Burton film, through and through. Full of the weird and twisted story lines, trippy asthetics and slightly zonked out performance. It's Burton turned real life, and it surprisingly works.

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Review: The Interview photo
Review: The Interview
by Nick Valdez

After a crazy couple of weeks of Sony hacks, full on terrorist attack threats, cancellations, and a last minute reneging, I sort of forgot that at the center of all this mess was a comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco. Under normal circumstances, The Interview would've gone on to be a moderate success like the rest of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's recent string of films and we would've moved on to something else. But, these aren't normal circumstances. 

What's now a historical piece of cinema thanks to sparking freedom of art debates and a simultaneous theatrical and video on demand release, there have been arguments as to whether or not The Interview was "worthy" of all this attention. Disregarding all of that and looking at this film as a singularity (basically reviewing the film as if all this never happened) yields the same result as if I would've tried to shoehorn in all of that "worthy" talk myself: 

The Interview is pretty damn fun. 

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Review: American Sniper photo
Review: American Sniper
by Matthew Razak

Clint Eastwood is easily one of the best directors in Hollywood so him tackling the incredible story of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle is something to get pretty excited about. We already know he has the war movie chops thanks to Letters from Iwo Jima. 

American war heroes are a tricky business in this day and age. We know too much of the truth of war thanks to it being beamed into our houses and on the news nightly. It isn't all heroes and perfect endings where the good guys win. American Sniper tries to tackle this modern day contradiction of what a war hero is, but can it find out when all it wants to do is shoot things?

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Review: Unbroken photo
Review: Unbroken
by Matthew Razak

Unbroken is the first film directed by Angelina Jolie. That alone has given it a lot of hype, but it's easy to understand why it would be pushing at Oscars anyway. It's base on the true story of a WWII hero and Oscar just eats up historical war dramas like that. Legendary and Universal clearly are setting this up as Oscar bait.

There's a difference, however, between deserving an Oscar and desperately trying for one. Unbroken is desperately trying for one. "I should be an Oscar film," it screams without actually being one. Like a spoiled rich kid it believes it deserves something that it hasn't earned.

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Review: Selma photo
Review: Selma
by Matthew Razak

There's something to be said for perfect timing. Would Selma be one of the best movies of the year if it had released in January? Yes. But coming out now makes it a true masterpiece of its time. As we try to wrap our heads around Eric Garner and Ferguson here comes a movie about one of the most pivotal moments in the civil rights movement. It is a film for our times and given the times it will leave you floored the second the credits roll.

It is also exactly how you should make a "bio pic." A slice in time, not a checkbox of a person's life. This is a film that captures Martin Luther King Jr. by giving us a look at one instance and extrapolating from there. If it weren't for the stunning achievement of Boyhood this would be the greatest film of the year. 

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Review: The Babadook photo
Review: The Babadook
by Nick Valdez

I've been interested in The Babadook ever since our editor supreme, Matthew Razak, wrote a feature detailing how progressive it was. If you've read any of my reviews in the past (or any of my other work here on Flixist), you know that I'm not a particular fan of horror films. Besides being a giant baby man who scares easily, the horror genre isn't exactly the most unique genre out there. You see one film, you've seen them all. 

But within the last few years, horror films have been trying their best to remind us why they're special in the first place. Horror can explore and exploit what other films can't: darkness, depression, anxiety, fear, regret, and loneliness. 

The Babadook wraps all of that up into one fantastic package as it becomes one of the most original horror films of the decade. 

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Review: Annie photo
Review: Annie
by Nick Valdez

Remakes are always at a disadvantage. Regardless of the final product's quality, it will always be compared to the film it's adapting. Remakes usually are stuck with two options: Either pay homage to the original and make fans happy or create something brand new and remake a film in name only. It's sort of a damned if you, damned if you don't situation. 

Either path you choose will rub someone, somewhere the wrong way. In a situation where you can't possibly win, it's totally understandable how Annie tries to have as much fun as it can as it attempts to blend both new and old.

But in trying to please everyone, Annie pleases none. 

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Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies photo
Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies
by Matthew Razak

When Peter Jackson announced that he'd be stretching The Hobbit into three movies I was a bit wary, but excited. While the book itself could have easily been put into one, maybe two, films there's enough lore in the world to fluff our three movies. Still, it seemed like a stretch. However, after I enjoyed both the first and second films -- fully acknowledging that they were not as good as the original LotR films -- I was all set to watch an over two hour action sequence take place in the third.

Really that's all that's left. What amounts to a pretty minor part of the book after (spoilers) the death of Smaug is now stretched out into a full film. Two hours of Middle Earth action sounds pretty good to me, especially after enjoying the first two. I should have known that it isn't action that makes Middle Earth awesome.

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