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Review: Predestination photo
Review: Predestination
by Nick Valdez

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 fiction in general, but Predestination uses its premise to rise above the usual trappings of the genre and creates a film which is a lot smarter than I initially gave it credit for. 

I mean, it was pitched to me as "Minority Report with Ethan Hawke" and it's much, much better than that. 

[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: 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: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb photo
Review: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
by Matthew Razak

I don't think anyone thought we'd be seeing a franchise born when Night at the Museum first hit. The movie was plenty fun and surprisingly creative with a solid message that really didn't need to be revisited. Then it was, and it was OK. And now it is yet again with Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.

Of course overshadowing almost all of this is the fact that Secret of the Tomb will be the last time we get to see Robin Williams on the big screen in a new movie. This is his last role to hit theaters and for that, no matter what the quality of the film is, we should be thankful. One more chance to see him work his magic is well worth watching any film.

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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: After the Fall photo
Review: After the Fall
by Sean Walsh

Every now and then, I opt to review a movie I know next to nothing about. Pretty much all I knew about After the Fall was that it had Wes Bentley of American Beauty, The Hunger Games, and most recently, American Horror Story fame turning to crime in order to support his family. The movie poster features him with a gun in front of a giant American flag backdrop with the tagline "Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures," so I was expecting a big action flick full of explosions that moved at a break-neck pace.

I got something else entirely, and you know what? It wasn't half-bad.

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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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Review: Exodus: Gods and Kings photo
Review: Exodus: Gods and Kings
by Nick Valdez

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 of your beliefs, you have to admit the Bible is full of fantastical, involving stories ripe for big budget adaptations like these. 

It's really the simplicity of it all that makes it entertaining. Bad guys are bad, good guys are unequivocally good, and some invisible force is guiding everyone's decisions. But when that guiding force doesn't know when to reign it in, you get Exodus: Gods and Kings. 

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Review: Horrible Bosses 2 photo
Review: Horrible Bosses 2
by Matthew Razak

You know when something is funny you just have to do it again, right? That's the logic with Horrible Bosses 2. The original film actually had an appealing cast that worked well together pulling the film out of cliche and into funny. Seems reasonable to assume they could do it again.

In fact so reasonable that they brought everyone back (well everyone who survived the first). Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day all jump back into roles that were never meant to be jumped back into. Can the trio elevate another film?

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Review: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night photo
Review: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
by Megan Porch

 Every once in a while, a film comes along that takes a stale genre and makes it completely new and cool again. Ana Lily Amirpour's debut film, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, is the vampire film that makes the creatures of the night scary and sexy again. After years of Twilight, it's so refreshing to see a vampire that doesn't sparkle in the sun or pretend to be a high school student.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night tells the story of a vampire (Sheila Vand) who lives in an Iranian ghost town called Bad City. The town is full of junkies, pimps, and prostitutes, and the vampire sets her sights on the worst the population has to offer. She is a solitary creature until she meets Arash (Arash Marandi), a young man who takes care of his heroin addicted father.

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SAIFF Review: Killa (The Fort) photo
SAIFF Review: Killa (The Fort)
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

I never moved when I was growing up. I knew people who moved once or twice, and then I knew others in military families and the like who would come and go almost annually. In a small town with a small school, that made a difference. I always felt bad for those kids, since they were constantly making and losing friends, especially in the age before Facebook and the advent of eternal digital communication. And I can appreciate how hard it is to be the new kid in the new place.

But just because someone is in an unfortunate position doesn't give them the right to be a jerk.

[This film is screening as part of the 2014 South Asian International Film Festival. More information can be found here or at the official SAIFF website.]

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SAIFF Review: Dukhtar photo
SAIFF Review: Dukhtar
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

Most of the modern foreign films that I watch are from countries that are reasonably similar to the United States. People live in apartments and drive sleek cars. They use smartphones and credit cards. They have the internet. And so even if I'm confused by a particular custom or some broader cultural experience, I can always fall back on the knowledge that their environments are not too different from mine.

Which makes it all the more shocking to see a film like Dukhtar, Pakistan's official Oscar entry for the year. Though it takes place in modern times, the environment is unlike anything I've ever experienced. It's something truly foreign.

It's also quite good.

[This film is screening as part of the 2014 South Asian International Film Festival. More information can be found here or at the official SAIFF website.]

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Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 photo
Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
by Nick Valdez

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 the latest, Mockingjay- Part 1 (which is based off half of the final text in the book trilogy), that upward trend certainly continues. 

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1 is the pinnacle of the Hunger Games series. A payoff of two years of buildup that finally cements this series as the main example of how to do these Young Adult book adaptations. It may have taken a while to get to the peak, but the view is totally worth it.  

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NYKFF Review: A Hard Day photo
NYKFF Review: A Hard Day
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

Every so often, I see a film and think that the title is a perfect encapsulation of its very existence. If I were to name the film, those are exactly the words I would have chosen. A Hard Day is that exactly, in part because it's a massive understatement. It's a hilariously perfect name because it is a Hard day but isn't just a hard Day. It starts off as a Hard Night, and then it gets to the day... and then there's another night. And then there's a day. And with each new event, you think, "Oh wow... Well, it can't get any worse than that."

And then it gets worse.

[For the next week, we will be covering the 2014 New York Korean Film Festival. For more information, check here. For all of our coverage, click here.]

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