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8:00 AM on 07.18.2014

Review: The Purge: Anarchy

The Purge came and went without much fanfare. It had an interesting premise (which spawned the #CrimeDay Twitter game here on Flixist), but wasted it with a by-the-numbers home invasion film. When The Purge: Anarchy was ...

Nick Valdez




Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes photo
Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
by Nick Valdez

When a prequel to Planet of the Apes was first announced, it seemed like yet another cynical cash in. Yet Rise of the Planet of the Apes tried its hardest to prove everyone wrong with top notch visuals, acting, and score. Although its eventual finale made it seem more like a reboot of Harry and the Hendersons than Planet, it was a good step in the right direction despite its problems.

Which is why Dawn of the Planet of the Apes sticks out so much. Could a sequel accomplish what its predecessor didn't? Could it finally live up to the technological advances of the first? It turns out, I had no reason to worry. Dawn far exceeds Rise, and it's the rare sequel that even makes the original film a better experience. 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes definitely did not make a monkey out of me. 

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Review: Beneath photo
Review: Beneath
by Nick Valdez

Coal mining is a scarily dangerous profession. Our need for crude energies leads thousands of people to risk their lives every day mining for energy. It's a wonder that with such harsh conditions, it's taken this long for a film to capitalize on that setting's natural creepiness. Now we finally have one in Beneath, a film inspired by a true story of several miners getting trapped in a mine. 

Eschewing traditional horror and instead developing a surprising psychological thriller, Beneath is a unique take on paranoia, isolation, and suffocation. It's just too bad you don't really care what happens to any of these people. 

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Review: All Cheerleaders Die photo
Review: All Cheerleaders Die
by Nick Valdez

With a title like All Cheerleaders Die, I honestly wasn't very excited to see this film. I'm not a huge horror fan, and I don't usually enjoy films full of gratuitous nudity and violence. But because this is what I get paid the big bucks for I dove in expecting yet another Grade B horrorfest. Thankfully, I was horrifically wrong here. 

All Cheerleaders Die is intelligent, snarky, sexy, and completely reinvents the "Scream Queen." I'm so glad I watched All Cheerleaders Die. It's truly a book you shouldn't judge by its cover. 

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Review: How to Train Your Dragon 2 photo
Review: How to Train Your Dragon 2
by Nick Valdez

Dreamworks' How to Train Your Dragon was refreshing. Setting new standards for book adaptations and animated films, Dragon somehow was everything you look for in an entertaining kid's movie. It had a tight hero's journey story (that was nuanced enough for adults and respected kids' intelligence), good looking visuals, a great voice cast, and it managed all of this while being cute as a button. 

Good thing its sequel, How to Train Your Dragon 2, keeps the momentum going as it raises the bar for sequels going forward. With how prevalent inadequate sequels/prequels/reboots have been in Hollywood lately, I'd forgive you for fearing Dragon 2 would suffer the same fate. Luckily, we don't have to worry about that one bit. Cheap little throwaways are not going to cut it anymore. 

We've got a contender for Best Animated Film of 2014 right here folks. 

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Review: Lullaby photo
Review: Lullaby
by Nick Valdez

Disease dramas are in a subgenre that certainly has more misses than hits. If not done in a certain way, you can turn an emotionally stirring story into a schmaltzy mess. Often films find it incredibly difficult to find a balance, but as such with real life, there's no rule book or true direction as to how to deal with death. Filming this very unnatural, awkward run through the five stages of grief could lead to a good film. 

But when you condense that into two hours, there's not a lot of room explore. Sadly, that seems to be Lullaby in a nutshell. A film that really wants to walk through the five stages of grief when it really should jog at a brisk pace. 

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Review: Maleficent photo
Review: Maleficent
by Nick Valdez

I've been anticipating Maleficent for a long time. As a big Disney fan, I don't usually like when Disney decides to make a live action version of one of their properties (101 Dalmations is worse than you remember, trust me), but casting Angelina Jolie as the titular witch was enough to pique my interest. 

Trailer after trailer showed off how good Jolie looked in costume, Lana Del Rey's amazingly dark "Once Upon a Dream" cover, and even made me interested in the whole "this is the TRUE story" angle. But the entire time I've been worried that the actual film might not live up to the mountain of hype I'd made for myself thanks to the recent glut of lackluster gritty fairy tale reboots. Thankfully, the final product isn't too far off the mark.

Maleficent is like a fine ham and cheese quiche that might not have been baked long enough. It's still good, but some bites are a little more raw than others.

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Review: A Million Ways to Die in the West photo
Review: A Million Ways to Die in the West
by Nick Valdez

Seth MacFarlane's directorial debut, Ted, was a welcome surprise. It was a mix of a charming friendship, un-ironic love of the 80s, and gratuitous amount of raunchy humor. Like the best episodes of MacFarlane's Family Guy, it managed a fine balance between all of those things to provide a high quality product. With his sophomore effort, A Million Ways to Die in the West, I was hoping things would be a little less, well, sophomoric. 

A Million Ways starts strong, but as it continues, it feels like a million years as joke after joke is thrown out with hopes that one of them works. As jokes continually fail, and extraneous scenes pile onto the film's near two hour run, I soon realized I'd rather die in a million different ways than continue watching this juvenile mess.

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Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past photo
Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past
by Nick Valdez

The X-Men movies have a troubled past. Three out of the six previous films have been critically ripped apart. Yet in spite of their dubious quality, each of the X-Films have done extremely well commercially. Basically, no matter how bad we might say the franchise has gotten, there's still a desire to see each one. I know I still watch these movies hoping they'll nail it someday. 

But where does that leave the seventh film in the X-Men series, Days of Future Past? After rebooting the franchise, rebooting Wolverine's origins, changing directors multiple times (and will sadly have to do that once again thanks to recent unfortunate events), and creating a continuity so convoluted no one knows what's going on anymore, Days of Future Past has quite the mountain to climb. 

Luckily for both fans of the X-Men and fans of comic book movies in general, Days of Future Past says "F**k all that" and delivers the best X-Men film to date. 

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Review: Don Peyote photo
Review: Don Peyote
by Nick Valdez

Whenever someone mentions Dan Fogler, I'm suddenly interested. He's a comedic dynamo who always seems to choose interesting or niche projects. Directing his second film since 2009, Fogler displays acting ability that he really hasn't be able to show off yet. With Don Peyote's strange, but cool tale, Fogler has a grand spectrum of insanity.

It's just a shame that the rest of the film falls apart. 

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Review: Neighbors photo
Review: Neighbors
by Nick Valdez

I had completely written off Neighbors. Coming off of Seth Rogen's last starring role in This is the End, the first trailer for Neighbors underwhelmed me. I've gotten used to Rogen acting, writing, and directing his own films so I was a little concerned when Rogen placed himself in someone else's film. Was his lack of major involvement going to impact the overall quality of the film? Should you expect less because Rogen didn't write a lot of it himself? 

Thankfully not. Even with some groan inducers, Neighbors is a little smart. It just needs to reign it in a bit. 

[This review was originally posted as part of our coverage of South by Southwest 2014. It is being reposted to coincide with the film's wide release.]

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Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 photo
Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2
by Nick Valdez

The first Amazing Spider-Man failed to live up to the "Amazing" in its title. But while it wasn't perfect, it certainly had potential to become something great. Like with most superhero franchises, there's always a promise of better stories once the origin is out of the way. Despite some troubling advertising the last few months (the barrage of trailers, the announcement of yearly sequels and spin-offs), I still found myself looking forward to the The Amazing Spider-Man 2. 

When done in an amazing, spectacular, or superior fashion, Spider-Man movies could be the best comic book films out there. More so than any other superhero, Peter Parker is relatable. He's just a goofy guy who's in way over his head sometimes. And the same thing can be said of this movie. 

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is in way over its head. When power is handled irresponsibly, you get a fun but awkward web of a film. 

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Review: Brick Mansions photo
Review: Brick Mansions
by Nick Valdez

Brick Mansions is a complete surprise. I had no prior knowledge of it going in (didn't know it was a remake of the French film, District 13), and decided to finally see it when one of the trailers managed to grab my attention. I had completely expected generic action, maybe some cool guy lines from the late Paul Walker, and maybe it'd be fun. 

What I didn't expect was how much fun I'd have. It's grandiose, silly, but most importantly, it never once loses an ounce of sincerity. Brick Mansions is stacked, and that's a fact. Ain't holding nothing back. 

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Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier photo
Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
by Nick Valdez

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 morning cartoon aired on Fox Kids, his stance during the Civil War comic event, and how fun he is to play in the Marvel vs. Capcom series. Beyond that, Steve Rogers has always been a character that spoke to me personally.

When stripped of the Americana facade and super human strength, you have a stagnant man within a world that's constantly changing around him. A real fish out of water. In a post-Avengers world, when it seemed like we'd finally get an America movie that delivered on the promise of the first, we're left with The Winter Soldier

That's not to say it's devoid of entertainment. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is like a wiffleball bat; a fun toy with no real weight to it. 

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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: 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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12:00 PM on 09.03.2013

New Releases, week of 9/7/13: Sabrina's Cat Edition

When the Sabrina the Teenage Witch show aired as part of ABC's TGIF lineup, I thought it was the neatest show (but Boy Meets World had it beat, hands down) since the animatronic cat on the program was named Salem and was voic...

Nick Valdez



Review: The Dark Knight Rises photo
Review: The Dark Knight Rises
by Geoff Henao

The final film in a trilogy has so much at stake going for it. Not only do they have to tie everything together in a satisfactory way, they must do so in a way that justifies everything that has been built up towards the conclusion. With Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, the stakes were raised so highly, both canonically and critically with 2008's The Dark Knight. While the film ended in a manner that set itself up for a third and final entry to Nolan's brilliant take on Batman mythos, it's hard to deny that Heath Ledger's spectacular portrayal of Batman's greatest nemesis, The Joker, would be hard to follow.

Did The Dark Knight Rises bring proper closure to everything Nolan and company has pieced together? More importantly, was it better than The Dark Knight? The answer may surprise you.

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Review: What to Expect When You're Expecting photo
Review: What to Expect When You're Expecting
by Matthew Razak

Sometimes you just have to put your romantic comedy hat on for a movie. There are some movies that will only work if you forget about real issues and emotions and facts and remember that people coming to the film are just looking for a laugh. What to Expect When You're Expecting is one of these movies. Unfortunately, even when you put your romantic comedy hat on it isn't that funny.

If you'd like a review that ignores the general idiocy of the film because it's meant to be a comedy then this isn't for you. I'm perfectly comfortable ignoring some idiocy in order to have a good time (just check out my Battleship review), but I have to be rewarded with a good time to do it.

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