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5:00 PM on 09.18.2014

Trailer for Listen Up Philip lets Jason Schwartzman be wonderfully acerbic

Listen Up Philip stars the always fantastic Jason Schwartzman as a self-absorbed, sarcastic writer and the equally fantastic Elizabeth Moss as his equally brusque girlfriend. Things get rocky for the couple when Schwartzman'...

Liz Rugg

Book Review: SCREENWRITING 101 By Film Crit Hulk! photo
Book Review: SCREENWRITING 101 By Film Crit Hulk!
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

I first heard about Film Crit Hulk about a year ago. I had written an article about why Tom Hooper should have been drawn and quartered for his butchering of Les Miserables, and one of the commenters, rather than say anything insightful, pointed me to a similar-ish article by Film Crit Hulk. Normally I hate that kind of thing, but I figured I would give it a shot, because I was angry at Tom Hooper and I wanted someone else to back me up.

So I read the article, and it was a whole lot smarter than what I said. Then again, his was focused on its technical failings whereas mine was more focused on its catastrophically poor attempts at adaptation.

But I digress.

When I heard that this Hulk fellow had written a book on screenwriting (appropriately titled SCREENWRITING 101), I was intrigued. I usually hate books like that, but it seemed like such an odd thing for a critic to do. So I gave it a shot. 

And guess what?

It's fucking amazing.

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11:00 AM on 11.22.2013

J.R.R. Tolkien film in the works

With basically anything that has the name J.R.R. Tolkien attached to it printing money and a pretty interesting life story it's easy to see why a J.R.R. Tolkien biopic is in the works. The creator of Middle Earth will be join...

Matthew Razak

2:00 PM on 11.07.2013

The Purge writer/director returning for the sequel

After a sequel to The Purge was announced shortly after it made its original run in theaters (and I apologized for it), we haven't heard much news since that announcement. That just means someone jumped the gun, right? Couldn...

Nick Valdez

Review: The Pervert's Guide to Ideology photo
Review: The Pervert's Guide to Ideology
by Hubert Vigilla

Slavoj Žižek is one of the most popular public intellectuals in the world, though maybe in a "big in Japan" sort of way. (Most public intellectuals who aren't Noam Chomsky or a member of the Four Horsemen of New Atheism have "big in Japan" appeal.) If you're not familiar with him or his work, he's a Slovenian philosopher influenced primarily by Karl Marx and Jacques Lacan, the notoriously difficult psychoanalytic thinker.

Žižek is a cult figure and a divisive one. Hip-to-it humanities students dig on books like Violence or The Sublime Object of Ideology, while Žižek critics like John Gray publish lengthy and intelligent critiques of his thought in The New York Review of Books. He has been dismissed by some as "the Borat of philosophy," which is kind of true for all the good things and bad things that label entails.

This may sound boring and esoteric, but Žižek's a fascinating thinker even if you don't buy into what he's saying. One example: he's mentioned in lectures how the national character of a country is manifested in the way they design their toilets. (Yes, that's included after the cut.) It's this kind of thinking -- at once absurd, persuasive, entertaining, and even enlightening -- that drives The Pervert's Guide to Ideology.

[This review was originally posted as part of our coverage of the 2012 DOC NYC film festival. It has been reposted to coincide with the theatrical release of the film.]

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10:00 AM on 10.15.2013

Fifty Shades of Grey loses Charlie Hunnam, needs rewrites

Over the weekend, Universal's Fifty Shades of Grey motion picture (out August 2014 as of now) has been going through a few issues. First of all, Universal hired Patrick Marber to do some quick fine tuning of the script. Short...

Nick Valdez

3:00 PM on 08.20.2013

Trailer: The Counselor starring Fassbender, Pitt, Bardem

In The Counselor, Michael Fassbender stars as a lawyer who finds himself in way over his head when he gets involved with the dangerous world of drug trafficking. Judging from this trailer, things go awry pretty badly, and Fa...

Liz Rugg

9:00 PM on 08.08.2013

Bret McKenzie writing a fairy tale comedy musical script

In an interview with the dudes over at Collider, Bret McKenzie, of Flight of the Conchords and The Muppets fame, revealed that he is in the process of writing a script for a "fairy tale comedy musical" with "singing dragons a...

Liz Rugg

Flixist Discusses: Save the Cat & formulaic storytelling photo
Flixist Discusses: Save the Cat & formulaic storytelling
by Hubert Vigilla

The summer movie season is coming to a close, and you probably noticed something about the blockbusters you watched: a lot of them were pretty much the same. The films probably told similar stories with similar plot points. Formula storytelling is nothing new, but are the big films becoming too similar? It's Hollywood product, so of course it needs to be appeal to the most people possible, but do movies have to be so formulaic?

A few recent news and opinion pieces kicked off an internal discussion here at Flixist over the last two weeks. Formula talk is not going to die out anytime soon. Over the weekend there was this Vulture piece about Damon Lindelof and blockbuster screenwriting, which just adds to the larger conversation about movies and formulas.

Jim and I decided to discuss the nature of formulaic storytelling, the uses of familiar story structures, and what role the hero's journey and books like Save the Cat should or shouldn't play when it comes to creativity.

Feel free to continue the conversation in the comments.

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7:00 PM on 07.30.2013

Paul Schrader & Spike Lee may do Clarence Thomas film

I unfortunately couldn't get to the world premiere of Paul Schrader's new (and quite possibly schlocky) film The Canyons, starring Lindsay Lohan and written by Bret Easton Ellis. The Dissolve reports that during the discussio...

Hubert Vigilla

5:00 PM on 07.23.2013

Star Trek 3 grabbing new writers

Rumors are popping up that two new writers have been brought on for the next Star Trek film as Kurtzman, Orci and Lindelof leave to go mess around with some other beloved franchise. Bad Robot, JJ Abrams production compan...

Matthew Razak

Review: Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp photo
Review: Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp
by Hubert Vigilla

I know I've heard the name Iceberg Slim somewhere before seeing the documentary Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp, but I was never aware of his literary work. Maybe Iceberg Slim was mentioned in American Pimp, the 1999 Hughes Brothers documentary about the world's second oldest profession.

After seeing Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp, I really want to read some of the man's books. Born Robert Beck (1918-1992), Iceberg Slim was a persona and a pen name that built stories from Beck's real life. Beck's was a life hard-lived. It was filled with violence, abandonment, and abuse. The excerpts of Iceberg Slim books sound raw like Hubert Selby, Jr., but the language is different. And still, both authors seemed to find the dark poetry of ugly urban life.

The Iceberg Slim books are rife with slang of the pimp game, and Pimp: The Story of My Life, his autobiographical debut novel, included a glossary for those not familiar with the language. (Sort of like the glossaries included with William S. Burroughs's Junkie and Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange.) As an entry point to the story of Robert Beck's life, this documentary seems like a great way in.

[This review originally ran as part of our DOC NYC 2012 coverage. It has been reposted to coincide with the film's theatrical release.]

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Reading Roger Ebert: The Great Movies II photo
Reading Roger Ebert: The Great Movies II
by Hubert Vigilla

The field opens up a bit in Roger Ebert's The Great Movies II. There's more diversity to the picks and a wider (and welcome) definition of "great." The field  will continue to open in The Great Movies III, which includes After Hours, Dark City, two Alejandro Jodorowsky movies, Groundhog Day, and so on. Great goes beyond the rigid concerns of the canon.

What struck me most about The Great Movies II was its increased sense of mortality and spiritual yearning. The essays in the book were published between 2001 and 2004. In 2002, Ebert was first diagnosed with cancer, and it marked the beginning of the downturn in his health that would eventually claim his jaw and his voice. Ebert writes more about the comforts and reassurances that movies can bring, and there's something wizened about the writing, as if there's an urgency to say something grander about what's being watched and what it says about life.

In this installment of Reading Roger Ebert, I'm just going to hop straight into the text since there's a lot of good writing to cover and I'm a bit behind with some other things. This'll be made up for in August, which will have a double shot of Ebert writing and will address the fun of negative reviews as well as the joys of reading criticism.

[Reading Roger Ebert is Flixist's summer reading project. Join us as we pay tribute to the late great film critic by looking at some of his best-known books on the movies.]

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10:00 AM on 06.26.2013

Max Landis also has opinions about Man of Steel

Man of Steel has certainly caused a ruckus with the Flixist staff. Hubes outright hates it, Matt liked it to a certain degree, Alec liked everything but the ending, I love pancakes, but we can all mostly agree that Man of St...

Nick Valdez

Bioshock director Ken Levine writing Logan's Run remake photo
Bioshock director Ken Levine writing Logan's Run remake
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

Well this is interesting. Ken Levine, creative director of Irrational Studios, responsible most famously for the Bioshock franchise and and less famously for SWAT 4 and Thief: The Dark Project, has been picked by Warner Bros. to write the remake of Logan's Run. The article says that Jon Berg, who has worked on VFX for a number of films, will be overseeing the project, but I can't say for sure what that actually means. In fact, a lot of information about this project at the moment is vague and confusing. As far as Nicolas Winding Refn's role in the project... I don't actually know. Ryan Gosling left the film last last year and it was rumored that Refn might follow, but there doesn't appear to be any indication that that ever happened. Apparently the the project was put on hold back in March, but what this news means for that is also unclear. In fact, there's a lot that's unclear about the future of the project, but hey! There's a new writer, and it's Ken Levine!

Levine got his start doing screenplays and stage plays before joining the game industry, so this will be like something of a homecoming for him. Even so, since his most famous game narrative (Bioshock) is so focused on the role of player agency in games, it will be interesting to see how he adapts to a non-interactive medium. It seems like an appropriate project, though, because if his previous work is any indication, the guy's got a bit of a thing for violent dystopias.

[Via Deadline]

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8:00 AM on 06.18.2013

Prometheus sequel is certainly happening, nabs new writer

Whether we like it or not (and despite rumblings of pre-production trouble), Fox is moving forward with a sequel to the blockbuster head scratcher, Prometheus, just as Noomi Rapace hinted at a few months back. Hey it's n...

Nick Valdez

Reading Roger Ebert: The Great Movies photo
Reading Roger Ebert: The Great Movies
by Hubert Vigilla

Roger Ebert would have turned 71 this month. His passing has left a hole in the film critic community, which doesn't seem to have a central public figure anymore. There's A.O. Scott of The New York Times, of course, but he doesn't have the same pull or personality as Ebert. The same goes for Michael Phillips of The Chicago Tribune and Richard Roeper of The Chicago Sun-Times, two other critics who helped steer At the Movies in its various incarnations.

Ebert just had something that made him special, both as a public figure and as a writer. As a tribute, we wanted to look at some of his best writing on the movies, and a lot of his best writing about film came from his recurring feature "The Great Movies." It just makes sense to start with the first collected volume of these columns.

[Reading Roger Ebert is Flixist's summer reading project. Join us as we pay tribute to the late great film critic by looking at some of his best-known books on the movies.]

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L.A. writers needed, come write for Flixist photo
L.A. writers needed, come write for Flixist
by Matthew Razak

Do you live in LA? Do you like movies? Do you like writing words about movies and meeting famous people (or at least semi-famous people)? Then do we have the gig for you! Flixist is looking for one or two LA correspondents who can write news, reviews, features and cover events in tinsel town. It's a pretty awesome and you get to work with easily the coolest people on earth (us).

If you're interested email matthew@flixist.com, geoffrey@flixist.com and hubert@flixist.com with your age (18 or older), a brief description of why you love movies and some writing samples (preferably a news post and feature or review). The job doesn't pay at the moment, but you'll get to cover events, get free movies and possibly go to the Oscars so there are perks.

Looking forward to hearing from you and good luck!

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8:00 AM on 05.07.2013

Help fund Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia

I really enjoyed the documentary Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia, a fine portrait of one of the last great public intellectuals in American life. The film could use your help in the post-production phase, however, wh...

Hubert Vigilla

Tribeca Review: Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia photo
Tribeca Review: Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia
by Hubert Vigilla

It seems like we're well beyond the age of the public intellectual, or even the public author who may show society the way. Writers like Gore Vidal, Kurt Vonnegut, Norman Mailer, Paul Goodman, and others used to appear on television debating issues, commenting on culture, trying to diagnose whatever malaise was in society at large.

For a while there was Christopher Hitchens, though he passed away in 2011, and Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris seem to have receded from the public spotlight. Noam Chomsky is still an institution of public intellectualism to some degree, but he doesn't have as much pull or as much presence as he did in the past.

I think in some ways the documentary Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia is not just a celebration of Vidal the public intellectual and the wit. It's also a fond look back at a time when public intellectuals would be on the airwaves talking about things that mattered. Maybe there's a subtle call for other writers, social critics, and raconteurs out there to take up the gauntlet of the gadfly, because a vital democracy needs intelligent irritants to thrive.

[For the next few weeks, Flixist will be covering the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, which runs April 17-28 in New York City. Check with us daily for reviews, interviews, features, and news from the festival. For all of our coverage, go here.]

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Tribeca Review: Adult World photo
Tribeca Review: Adult World
by Hubert Vigilla

In my blurb review for Neil Jordan's vampire film Byzantium, my main gripe had a lot to do with the age of the main character. Eleanor in that movie is a well-traveled and world-hardened 200 years old, but she's written like she's a sheltered 16 year old.

There's a similar issue I had with Adult World, which is (finally) a movie about a lousy young writer. That's right: this isn't a story about a promising undiscovered talent looking for a reclusive mentor. Amy (Emma Roberts) is a deluded wannabe who is more interested in the idea of being a writer than actually writing quality work.

There's so much potential in that set up. But one of the problems: Amy is a 23-ish year-old Syracuse graduate with a poetry degree, but she's written like she's a sheltered 16 year old.

[For the next few weeks, Flixist will be covering the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, which runs April 17-28 in New York City. Check with us daily for reviews, interviews, features, and news from the festival. For all of our coverage, go here.]

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Review: In the House photo
Review: In the House
by Hubert Vigilla

There's a great short story in Richard Yates's Eleven Kinds of Loneliness called "Builders." In it, one of the characters naively but sincerely thinks of writing in terms of building houses, and the windows are places where light can shine through. It's in the earnestness of such a hackneyed analogy that Yates -- like he usually does -- finds something fragile, pitiful, and painfully human. I came to crave the possibility of some benign windows, some sunny days, or even, as Yates puts it, light spilling through the cracks in "the builder's faulty craftsmanship."

Windows have a different purpose in François Ozon's In the House. Since it's a movie about writing, there's still building involved. Almost all of the action in the film's story-within-a-story takes place inside of a generally idyllic French suburban home. But rather than just letting light in, the windows are an entry point for an intruder, a young writer named Claude Garcia (Ernst Umhauer). The windows are also entry points for curious readers who peek into these lives like voyeurs.

What Ozon constructs is a wily riff on a home invasion film that's part mystery, part thriller, part comedy, and part drama. It's not as sexy as Swimming Pool, but it's as consistently tantalizing as the phrase "to be continued..."

[This review originally ran during the film's screenings at Rendez Vous with French Cinema 2013. It has been reposted to coincide with the theatrical release of In the House.]

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