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8:00 AM on 04.04.2014

Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The First Avenger is my favorite film out of the Marvel line up (which is why I claimed this review). Captain America has always been my personal favorite Marvel character due to a mix of that cool Saturday m...

Nick Valdez


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Review: Divergent photo
Review: Divergent
by Nick Valdez

Back before the final Twilight film hit theaters, I wrote up an article in which I discussed whether or not certain Young Adult book films would be the "next big thing." My initial outlook for Divergent looked good, but that was way before The Hunger Games became stupidly popular. Sure it's hard to compare the two franchises, but in true post-apocalyptic fashion, one can't survive as long as the other does. 

In order to succeed, in order to distinguish itself in a growing sea of teen books, movies, and same looking franchises, Divergent needs to diverge enough from the norm to stand out. Too bad we have to wait for a sequel to see if that happens. 

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Review: Sabotage photo
Review: Sabotage
by Matthew Razak

I've been hyping Sabotage since I first heard about it. I'm a huge Arnold Schwarzenegger fan and a huge David Ayers (End of Watch) fan so the two together sounds like sweet, sweet cop action bliss. Ayers is great and melding action and drama while developing actual characters and Schwarzenegger is great at... well... being in action movies. Things looked pretty good.

It was easy to get excited to because the supporting cast was really solid and the trailers actually advertised the film in the right way. Heading in I was certain I was going to have a good time at this movie. You know what? I did. 

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Review: Noah photo
Review: Noah
by Matthew Razak

To preface this review I'd like to point you towards this article, which explains how I, as a DC film critic, finally got to see Noah ahead of time. Basically, Paramount for some reason thought it would be grand to screen the film for only religious critics, and when they got called on their crap threw the company that does the screenings under the bus. On the plus side they did arrange a screening so I got to see Noah ahead of time for this review (which was embargoed until today despite opening last night).

But that really has nothing to do with Darren Aronofky's biggest movie yet. At $130 million dollars this isn't the small budget fare we're use to seeing from him. Instead it is an epic in the most biblical sense of the word. It's a daunting task to retell a story about faith in a increasingly secular industry, and the way Aronofsky goes about that is very interesting.

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Review: 300: Rise of an Empire photo
Review: 300: Rise of an Empire
by Nick Valdez

When a not-sequel/prequel to 300, a film that hit theaters over eight theaters ago, was first announced, I was the first to complain about how boring the whole thing looked. And as time went on, and trailers were slowly released, I did not warm up to the idea any further.

I should be completely honest here. I wanted 300: Rise of an Empire to be terrible just so I could use "Rise of a Meh-pire" as a subtitle. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out the way I planned as 300: Rise of an Empire is surprisingly entertaining.

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Review: Muppets Most Wanted photo
Review: Muppets Most Wanted
by Nick Valdez

2011's The Muppets was a breath of fresh air since it was a reboot which never really felt like one. There wasn't a grand gesture to reinvent the characters, a notable lack of cynicism, and it was most importantly, fun. It was a reunion with old pals that sort of wrote itself into a corner. Their meta narrative of avoiding obscurity left them at a place they really couldn't continue from. 

That's where The Muppets...Again! Muppets Most Wanted comes in. In an attempt to return to their Caper days, Most Wanted tries to pretend The Muppets never happened by jovially throwing the original premise out of the window. By returning to their classic comedy, however, the Muppet gang may have gotten themselves into a worse situation. 

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Review: Guilty of Romance photo
Review: Guilty of Romance
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

I greatly enjoyed Himizu, another 2011 Sion Sono film released last week in NYC theaters, but there was something it lacked that I expected from that sort of film: sex. It had the violence (although it was definitely subdued in comparison to some of his other films), but there was none of the weird, creepy nudity found in some of his other films. I wasn't unhappy about it (it would have added nothing to that film), but I was surprised. When I checked out Guilty of Romance and randomly clicked on a part of the timeline, I found myself staring at a woman on all fours in a colorful room, presumably a love hotel, in the middle of that most intimate of acts.

And there was the Sion Sono I had expected. For better or worse, what Himizu lacked, Guilty of Romance has in spades.

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Review: Himizu photo
Review: Himizu
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

I can see why Sion Sono was drawn to Himizu. The manga, which ran from 2001 to 2002, seems like exactly the sort of thing that would appeal to the man who made Cold Fish and Suicide Club. But that's not really a compliment. 

Immediately after finishing the film, I went to read the manga. Usually I'm not particularly interested in checking source material after seeing an adaptation, but the film deals rather explicitly with things that hadn't taken place when the manga was written. And now, 43 chapters later, I can say that the film is indeed very different from the manga.

And that is a very good thing.

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Review: Need for Speed photo
Review: Need for Speed
by Nick Valdez

Need for Speed is in a tight spot. As a videogame adaptation it not only has to be a well made film, but also needs to please fans of the videogame series. It's got to do an odd little dance where it needs to show just enough evidence of its origin without it becoming overbearing or it succumbs to the same problems as other videogame movies had in the past. 

You can argue all day whether or not Need for Speed is unfairly held to a higher standard of quality thanks to the unbelievable amount of criticism videogame movies get already, but this is what we've got to work with. So I guess the ultimate question is: Does Need for Speed fulfill your needs? 

Haha, no. 

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SXSW Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel photo
SXSW Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel
by Nick Valdez

Let me be frank. Since this was going to eventually come to light, I may as well admit I've only seen one Wes Anderson film. When I was tasked with the review for Anderson's latest, The Grand Budapest Hotel, I was anxious because Anderson movies are notorious/famous for their self referential humor and narrative. While I realized Budapest was essentially going to be the most referential out of all of his films, I almost backed out of this review completely. 

I'm glad I didn't because while I didn't grasp every single reference, that's not really needed. Whether or not you understand the source of every idea or decision, in a story that's essentially all about storytelling and the storytellers themselves, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a riveting marvel of a film. 

It's something I want to see again, and again, and again. 

[From March 7th - 15th, Flixist will be providing coverage from South by Southwest 2014 in Austin, TX.  Prepare yourselves for reviews, interviews, features, photos, videos, and all types of shenanigans!]

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Review: Mr. Peabody & Sherman photo
Review: Mr. Peabody & Sherman
by Nick Valdez

When Dreamworks first announced their plans to turn Peabody's Improbable History (a short which ran during The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show featuring Mr. Peabody and his boy companion, Sherman) into a full length animated film, I was a little worried that my once beloved cartoon (I used to wake up at three in the morning in order to catch reruns of it on Cartoon Network) would be run through the standard generic animated blender everything seems to go through now. Little did I know I would be so, so wrong. 

Mr. Peabody & Sherman is remarkably smart, adorable, educational, referential, heartwarming, effervescent, hilarious, and even a little rude. But most of all, it's improbably entertaining.

Which is exactly the way I like my Peabody. 

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Review: Child's Pose photo
Review: Child's Pose
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

At first glance, Child's Pose is making a political statement about the class divide present in modern day Romania. The narrative of a wealthy family trying to skirt its responsibilities to a poor family is heavily charged, and for much of the film's first half, I expected to open this review with some statement about how wealth and connections in the modern age can literally let people get away with murder. 

But then things changed. The class thing became less important, and the story became a whole lot more personal, because Child's Pose isn't really a film about how much power the wealthy hold over the poor. It's about the depths of motherly love.

Or rather, motherly obsession.

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Review: 3 Days to Kill photo
Review: 3 Days to Kill
by Michael Jordan

3 Days to Kill is oddly complicated, and it has the potential to lose people right from the start. To understand this review you will have to keep that in mind, as what the movie appears to be and what the actual movie is are two totally different things.

With that said, you are going to want to see 3 Days to Kill, even if the ride to the end of this roller coaster is extremely bumpy. 

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Review: Pompeii photo
Review: Pompeii
by Matthew Razak

I'm all for a mixing of genres. Comedy/horror? Golden. Dramatic comedy? Awesome. Sci-fi/action? Great. It usually works for the best. You get a little of one thing you like and then a bit of another. Pompeii is what happens when genre mixing goes horribly wrong, turning what could have been a decent disaster movie into some sort of melodramatic romance replete with an awkward remake of Gladiator.

The thinking seems to be that when you already know that everyone is going to die at the end it makes it kind of hard to make any plot interesting so why not try them all out and see if any stick. None do... other than Kit Harrington's abs.

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Review: Almost Human photo
Review: Almost Human
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

I've realized something important in the past year or two: I don't really like period pieces. I like watching films from other eras and seeing them as they represent their own culture and time, but I don't really like seeing them try to reminisce about a better (or worse) point in history. The further back it goes, the less interested I am. There are exceptions to be made, of course, but they're few and far in between. 

Almost Human is set in the late 1980s, which would be a strike against it, if it wasn't for the fact that its time period is all but irrelevant. It would be basically the same movie if it was set in 2013 as it is set in 1989.

Somehow, that's even worse.

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Review: Robocop photo
Review: Robocop
by Matthew Razak

I have a great fear, dear reader. A great fear that the new RoboCop film will become the next Dredd. I fear that it's a great action movie that's coming out in the doldrums of the movie season without a big enough marketing push and with a character that not enough people care about even though they should. A movie that deserves sequels, but won't get them because it doesn't make enough at the box office. 

I have this fear so I'm putting this here so you don't even have to read very far to see it: Go see RoboCop. It deserves your money. 

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Review: The Monuments Men photo
Review: The Monuments Men
by Matthew Razak

When monuments men was delayed from award season to a early February release it didn't cause too much concern. The line that the film wasn't quite ready seemed plausible, since there's no way a film with this cast, taking place in WWII and featuring Nazis (Nazis make movies better, see: Indian Jones trilogy) could really be all that bad. It would be a nice break from the January doldrums, right?

Not so much. The Monuments Men is a movie in need of a story, which is odd because the true story its telling should be story enough. The problem is it isn't, and no manner of Hollywood fluff to make the true story more "true" is really going to save it. What could is a bunch of banter between some of the best bantering actors in the business. Yea, not so much with that either.  

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Review: The LEGO Movie photo
Review: The LEGO Movie
by Nick Valdez

Since its first delightful teaser over a year ago, I have been eagerly anticipating The LEGO Movie more so than any other movie releasing in 2014. I was instantly drawn to the idea of seeing the very Lego sets I played with as a kid (and still play with on occasion) recreated in a loving stop motion/CG film. I'm just not quite sure why I was so excited in the first place. Is it nostalgia or some kind of attempt to rekindle my lost childhood? Now that I've grown up, should I completely forget things that once made me happy in order to fit in with the professional world? 

Wait, am I really thinking about all of this? It's The LEGO Movie we're talking about here! Strange thing is, The LEGO Movie actually builds on these philosophical dilemmas in an intelligent, wacky, and surprisingly sophisticated manner. 

So yeah, everything is awesome. 

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Review: 12 O'Clock Boys photo
Review: 12 O'Clock Boys
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

I've never felt so totally lost watching a film spoken in my own language as I was watching 12 O'Clock Boys. It's bizarre, really, just how difficult to understand many of these characters are. The only close approximation I can think of would be Trainspotting, but at least I can feel like that one is foreign-ish, since it's from a different country. But 12 O'Clock Boys is not. It's just set in a culture that I am not a part of and have no connection to. In fact, I would venture to guess that 90% of the festival-going public who has seen this film so far can't really relate to the characters it follows.

That would be bad enough in a narrative film; it's potentially ruinous for a documentary.

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Review: That Awkward Moment photo
Review: That Awkward Moment
by Mike Cosimano

I feel like I should hate That Awkward Moment more than I actually do. On paper, it seems like a real disaster. I mean, look at the title! Nine times out of ten, only inane dribble follows the phrase “that awkward moment…” So perhaps my lukewarm feelings towards the film come from a place of exceeded expectations. 

However, even after you realize this isn’t going to be the worst thing in the world, it’s still a very easy film to hate. I don’t, but I can’t blame you if you do. The leads bounce off each other quite well, so there’s a good chance that will carry the movie for you, but it’s hard to escape the underlying emptiness that seeps into every pore of this film. There are flashes of brilliance, make no mistake, but they’re mired in a fog of unrepentant, smug, off-putting masculinity.

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Review: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit photo
Review: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
by Matthew Razak

Ahhh, the left over goodness of January. The month where every movie goer's hopes are so low that even the most banal film can seem like a worthy excuse to head to the theater. That's where an established name like Jack Ryan can really pull folks in without doing too much.

It's not like Jack Ryan is a banal character. The Tom Clancy spy has been in some of the best spy thrillers ever made, but that was over two decades ago and his last foray into cinema, The Sum of All Fears, didn't exactly ignite the character back to life.

Enter another reboot of the character. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is the first of his films to turn the name into a franchise, which is what they studio is clearly attempting to do. The question is can they make a 90s hero into a new millennium franchise or is there a reason the movie was released in January.

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Review: Ride Along photo
Review: Ride Along
by Matthew Razak

There's a thin line sometimes between buddy cop movies and comedy cop movies. Usually it's dependent on the amount of action and whether the majority of the time is spent trying to get laughs. When a film tries to tip toe on this line disaster can strike, especially when the movie isn't funny in the first place.

Ride Along is a comedy movie with cops in it, but it desperately wants to be a buddy cop movie. Unfortunately what it is and what it wants to be don't jive at all and everything just ends up in a crumpled mess. It's also just not funny. 

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