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Hubert Vigilla

Michael Shannon as Cable? photo
Michael Shannon as Cable?

Michael Shannon is the frontrunner to play Cable in Deadpool 2


Michael Shannon should play everyone
Mar 22
// Hubert Vigilla
Logan had a lot going for it. In addition to the pathos of an aged Wolverine, the film featured a surprise promo for Deadpool 2. Now, Deadpool 2 isn't in production yet, but Fox likes money and they want to make more of ...
MST3K trailer photo
MST3K trailer

The first trailer for Netflix's Mystery Science Theater 3000 has arrived... TUSK!


Is that an Inframan reference?!
Mar 22
// Hubert Vigilla
After breaking Kickstarter records and making nerds of a certain age feel nostalgic, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is officially back with 14 episodes and gearing up for a Netflix premiere in April. Over at Entertainment Weekl...
Honest Trailers: MMPR photo
Honest Trailers: MMPR

Honest Trailers looks at the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers movie from 1995


Is that Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse?
Mar 22
// Hubert Vigilla
Our own Nick Valdez has been writing numerous features and lists for Power Rangers Month, examining the various iterations of the show in the lead up to the new Power Rangers movie this week. That's a lot of repurposed footag...
Tony Hawk video game doc photo
Tony Hawk video game doc

Help crowdfund a documentary on the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater games


Chain them grinds w/ kickflips & manuals
Mar 21
// Hubert Vigilla
I have fond memories of the first couple Tony Hawk games, particularly the first three Tony Hawk's Pro Skater entries for PS1. Sure, the Tony Hawk franchise has seen lots of downs the last couple of years, but the fond feelin...

What if Lewis Tan played Danny Rand in Iron Fist instead of Finn Jones?

Mar 21 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]221386:43470:0[/embed] We'd Get Far Better Fight Scenes Above is the Iron Fist fight scene that everyone's abuzz about. Lewis Tan is an actual martial artist. He's built like an athlete. He moves well. He looks comfortable throwing punches, kicking, and rolling around on the ground with a sense of purpose. By comparison, not once does Jones move like a martial artist. There's no rhythm or ease or fluidity. Jones moves like a guy fighting, not a fighter--big difference. The directors used a number of techniques to make up for Jones' shortcomings as a martial artist: odd camera angles, shaky cam, obscuring close ups and long shots, excessive cutting, fighting in shadows or bad lighting, fighting in a hoodie. Whenever I couldn't see Jones' face, I just assumed a stunt performer was doing the fighting for him. Watch the fight above again and notice how little you see Jones' face when complicated moves or reactions are required. (Also, who'd want to fight in a hoodie? That would cut off your peripheral vision.) Whenever Jones has to do the fights himself, he looks clumsy. He lacks the instinctual poise and physicality of a trained fighter. He doesn't even have the body awareness, confident footwork, or balance of a dancer. Had Lewis Tan been cast as Danny Rand, you wouldn't need to make up for a lack of martial arts skill. Tan would be able to perform fights and stunts at a high level. He'd collaborate with the fight choreographer and action director since he'd know what he's capable of doing as a martial artist. They might even go beyond drunken boxing and use animal styles, traditional weapons like jians and three-section staffs, or a good old-fashioned horse bench fight. (If there are two things I love, it's three-section staffs and a good old-fashioned horse bench fight.) [embed]221386:43471:0[/embed] Someone like Tan could radically transform the fight scenes in Iron Fist. Fights in the show currently feel like perfunctory spectacle. Instead, with a martial artist in the lead, we'd explore Danny Rand's character through action. He'd have an actual fighting style that's individual and idiosyncratic, something that Jones never develops in 13 episodes. Bruce Lee moves a certain way, Jet Li moves a certain way, Jackie Chan moves a certain way, Donnie Yen moves a certain way. Danny Rand, the world's greatest martial artist, should also have a character-defining physicality. It may also be a way to define K'un-L'un's martial culture and imply what its larger fighting philosophy might be. Tan doing the fights himself would change the way the fight scenes are shot. Camera angles and movements could be used with greater care rather than to obscure faces. Fight scenes could be edited with rhythm, and cuts would be defined by body movement and action. It's nice to have a hero who doesn't have to fight in a hoodie or in the dark so much. The fights may also be able to tell certain kinds of stories, with Danny not just overpowering his opponents but outsmarting them. Overall, I think the action in Iron Fist could potentially be on par with Daredevil. It would have its own flavor as well since the fighting in the show wouldn't be like any of the other Marvel shows. More than anything, Tan could make Iron Fist feel more like an actual martial arts series. Confronting Asian Stereotypes While I'm okay with Danny Rand as a white guy in theory, I'm also aware that he is an artifact of a time and an iteration of a well-worn trope. I'm also okay with Danny Rand as an Asian guy because that's far more interesting than what we got in the show. It's the 21st century, so maybe old versions of characters can be reinvented for their times and for a new medium while retaining the original spirit. By casting an Asian-American as Danny Rand, the show could explore issues of race, identity, Asian stereotypes, and orientalism. Even just optically or subtextually, these topics matter when it comes to the traditions and cultures involved. Finn Jones' constant meditating, doing origami, and spouting off fortune cookie mysticism is some unintentionally awful and unavoidable pseudo-yellowface dreck. It's not even quaintly bizarre appropriation like the Billy Jack movies; it's just uncomfortable. There are so many assumptions about Asian masculinity that can be explored through Danny Rand. Since we'd be dealing with an Asian-American character, that could lead to some exploration of different cultural expectations imposed on Danny by others. There's also the idea of an Asian in-between. Asians assimilate easily into American culture yet are simultaneously regarded as a racial/cultural Other. Or maybe the new version of Danny is half-Asian, which sets up another interesting racial dynamic. Ultimately an Asian-American Danny Rand would wind up playing with the idea of a return to a mother culture and how that affects personal notions of identity. In an interview with Vulture, Tan made a common yet astute observation about how Asian-Americans are viewed and view themselves: I think it would be really interesting to have that feeling of an outsider. There’s no more of an outsider than an Asian-American: We feel like outsiders in Asia and we feel like outsiders at home. That’s been really difficult--especially for me. It’s been hard for me, because in the casting world, it’s very specific. So when they see me and I’m six-two, I’m a 180 pounds, I’m a muscular half-Asian dude. They’re like, “Well, I don’t know what to do with this guy.” They’re like, “He’s not Asian, he’s not white... no.” That’s what I’ve been dealing with my whole life. So I understand those frustrations of being an outsider. (As an aside, I think Jordan Peele's Get Out offered a brief but memorable exploration of this Asian in-between state during the backyard party scene.) In addition to the above, the relationship between Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) and Danny Rand would feel much different. Maybe it's just me, but there's something about Jones as Danny that makes me think of guys who fetishize Asian culture (and especially Asian women) to an unhealthy degree. Maybe it's also the quality of Jones' performance--it's awfully patrician and leering instead of being flirty. The issues may be obviated with an Asian lead, or maybe these issues can become part of a more explicit exploration of racial fetishism. Representation in the Media On the note of Colleen Wing, I can't help but think of how cool it would be for a high-profile series to feature two Asians of mixed descent as leads. Admittedly, part of this stems from being an uncle now. I wonder how my niece might see some aspect of her identity reflected in pop culture. I suppose one day there may be a show about a half-white Jewish Filipina that will mirror my niece's own upbringing. When that happens, we'll probably have flying cars and be living in a post-scarcity utopia. Let's hope we get there. In all seriousness, I wonder who my niece's role models might be. I also wonder what people may think of my niece based on appearance alone. And that's why representation matters. More people and more voices and more experiences means more stories that we may not have heard and should hear. These narratives are machines for developing empathy and mutual understanding. In the case of Iron Fist, this machine also happens to hit bad guys in the face. (Woody Guthrie used to write that on his guitar until he thought of a punchier phrase.) There's something to be said about a show starring Asians just affirming the Asian martial arts stereotypes of the past. But that might be a lazy hot-take version of a bigger and more important conversation about old cultural ideas. Casting two Asian leads might be a chance to help deconstruct those antiquated notions about Asians whether they're the product of the 19th century, pulp fiction, or John Hughes movies. One show can't do it alone, so in an ideal scenario it will be one of many steps in the ongoing conversation of actual culture and how it's depicted in pop culture, and how both are these constructs in flux. The yellow menace can be inverted and undone, and ditto the sage-like magical Asian or the nerdy Asian math-god. I mean, come on, it kind of worked in The Last Dragon, all right? The Show Still Would Have Sucked Because of the Writing To paraphrase the bard of the squared circle Stone Cold Steve Austin, it's hard to make chicken salad out of chicken shit. With the current writers and producers, Iron Fist was going to suck no matter what. Even with a solid martial artist in the lead, it's hard to make a compelling character out of Danny Rand as written. He'd still be selfish and entitled. He'd still suck at everything. He'd still be prone to temper tantrums and amateur-hour decisions that wind up hurting people around him. I called him Anakin Skywalker with erectile dysfunction in the review because that's precisely how he comes across--a bratty crybaby whose rage gets in the way of his potential. Who wants to watch a frightened, confused jaboni as a hero? What's more, Iron Fist would still be rife with poor pacing and inert scenes. We'd still have to sit through conversations in corporate boardrooms, waiting for the delightful reprieve of someone philosophically punching bad guys in the face. To be honest, the Iron Fist fiasco makes me feel bad for Finn Jones. Even though he was on Game of Thrones, this was supposed to be his potential big break. It's been roundly panned, and he's taken the brunt of the criticism since he's the lead and has been inartfully defending an indefensible show during his press tour. This role has undermined whatever talents Jones may have. Now, he seems like the latest Blandy McBlanderson: an anodyne, interchangeable white male lead. Showrunner Scott Buck deserves a lot of the blame for the show's critical drubbing, and the same goes for the writers of Iron Fist. There's a fundamentally poor grasp of storytelling that goes beyond issues of representation and the problematic tropes of the past. Iron Fist is a martial arts show that doesn't give a crap about the martial arts. It's a crummy commercial for The Defenders, and it feels like it. Buck--who is credited with ruining the show Dexter in its closing seasons--is also the showrunner of Inhumans. If Iron Fist is any indication of how Scott Buck handles superheroes, I can't wait to watch Medusa and Karnak go over the finer points of purchasing supplemental insurance. Black Bolt will destroy a city with a whine. This is just a bigger indictment of the cynicism behind Iron Fist, a 13-hour set-up show for the next Netflix/Marvel product that fanboys and fangirls will watch anyway even if it's garbage. The writers and producers relied on old tropes and old approaches thinking they're sufficient, assuming people wouldn't be able to tell the difference between chicken shit and chicken salad. The billionaire playboy who travels to the far east is played out and needs to be put to rest. We need new kinds of stories, and there are plenty of voices out there waiting for a chance to be heard. There are also many unfamiliar faces we should be seeing. Had Lewis Tan been cast as the lead in the current version of Iron Fist, he'd be anchored to Danny Rand the bratty milksop, the least heroic and least interesting character in his own show. What a waste of potential, but man, what a resume builder.
Lewis Tan: Iron Fist? photo
Missed opportunity by Marvel/Netflix?
The first season of Iron Fist was the worst kind of disaster--a boring disaster. At least half of the season was devoted to a corporate takeover plot. Iron Fist features more scenes in corner offices and conference rooms than...

Review: Iron Fist (Season 1)

Mar 20 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]221385:43469:0[/embed] Iron Fist (Season 1)Director: VariousRating: TV-MARelease Date: March 17, 2017 (Netflix) Everyone thought Danny Rand died with his parents in a plane crash 15 years ago, but he really survived and learned martial arts in a magic Himalayan city called K'un-L'un. He shows up barefoot in New York at his family's building, spouting off fortune cookie mysticism like a low-rent Billy Jack. This kicks off a protracted battle for control of the company rooted in childhood bullying and soap opera-style family resentments, which is just what fans of the character wanted to see, obviously. The pilot episode is so dully inert. with Rand trying to assert his identity while former childhood friends Ward Meachum (Tom Pelphrey) and Joy Meachum (Jessica Stroup) find different ways of say, "Nuh-uh, no you're not." Riveting. There's one slow, klutzy, 30-second fight in the episode with security guards. There is also a wise, disposable homeless supporting character who dies of a heroin overdose, seeding another season-long plot point. Iron Fist is a character who got his superpowers by punching a dragon in the chest, yet the show is treated with the aggravating seriousness of a prestige cable drama. The only saving grace of the plodding business drama stuff is Harold Meachum (David Wenham), the father of Ward and Joy who lives in hiding after faking his own death. Wenham is so invested in his character's giddy evil, and he oozes the charisma that's lacking in Jones as a lead. I can't blame Jones entirely for being so unintersting. He's not a good actor, but the writers give him nothing to work with. The second episode of Iron First takes place in a mental hospital, with Danny strapped to a bed most of the time. Beds are what I think about when I think of martial arts. Even a pseudo-tournament episode directed by the RZA feels static: Iron Fist ascends each level of a building fighting characters who have more personality than him. A skirmish in a later episode with a drunken-style fighter made me realize yet again how awful Danny is on so many levels. Iron Fist has feet of clay and a brain of rock. When he's not making the dumbest or wrongest decision, he's pilloried with self-doubt. His scowling facial expressions hint at tears on the verge. He's often so flummoxed with anger that he can't use his magic fist to punch things really hard. Danny Rand is Anakin Skywalker with erectile dysfunction. But yes, the fights. Oh god, the fights. Good fights tell stories. A character's fighting style reveals something about who they are inside, like some external manifestation of the self. They may have a signature move (Ric Fair's figure four leglock) or a unique weapon (Captain America's shield) or a personal fighting style (Ip Man's wing chun) that differentiates them from others. The primary characters in Iron Fist fight the same way--slow, clumsily, like actors in a martial arts show rather than martial artists. Their movements vary only superficially, and there is nothing dynamic or unique about the fights that pepper the series. Danny essentially fights just like fellow martial artist Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) even though she uses a sword and they have entirely different martial arts backgrounds. The fights of Iron Fist all look like glacial, inartful brawls. Seasoned fighters are turned into mere goons. I expected more from a martial arts show, namely decent martial arts. The fights of Daredevil put this show to shame; ditto the action in Arrow and Into the Badlands and even every iteration of Power Rangers. The camera angles obscure movement in the frame, the shots are banal and shaky, and there are so many confusing cuts that interrupt the flow of the action to the point of incoherence. It's amateur hour in the dojo and the editing bay. What's more, the fights all feel so perfunctory, or even like a chore, as if the writers thought, "A fight scene? Aww, do we have to? I really wanted to get into that class action lawsuit subplot." We're told that the Danny Rand is the world's greatest martial artist, but he fights like a guy who took karate at the Y two summers ago. Why does a security guard with a knife give this guy so much trouble? The person Danny dispenses of the fastest in the entire show is a teenager he hits in the ankle with a shinai. He wasn't expecting it either (sucker shinai?) and Danny preceded his assault by verbally berating the dojo for not taking martial arts seriously. Some hero, right? Hell, Danny doesn't even take off his shoes when he's in the dojo. Didn't they teach you anything in K'un-L'un, buddy? I'm pretty sure they at least took off their shoes at the Cobra Kai dojo. A great martial artist and he has the emotional intelligence of a bratty 10 year old and the balance of a newborn fawn. Later episodes of the show seem to break the fourth wall and acknowledge that Danny is a really crummy character. While he's trying to rescue a person being held captive, Danny's scuffle with a goon leads to said captive getting stabbed in the chest. What a hero. After watching him fight, one character even says, "Wow, you really are the worst Iron Fist ever." The final scene of season one even has Danny tacitly acknowledge that yes, he really does suck at everything, doesn't he? Danny Rand's bumbling heroism makes Colleen Wing that much more compelling as the show's secret protagonist. She's a poor martial arts instructor who helps her students make smart, moral choices while she's struggling to make ends meet. She compromises principles, she shows generosity to others, she learns and grows from her mistakes. Henwick does what she can with the script, and she has enough presence to carry the scenes she's in amiably. I found myself grateful for every Colleen Wing scene--finally a character to care about (other than David Wenham's Evil Faramir). There's so much at stake for Colleen, and she has so much potential to carry a show on her own, but she's relegated to supporting status. Danny Rand is Jack Burton to Colleen Wing's Wang Chi, but in a boring version of Big Trouble in Little China that's mostly about the intricacies of the commercial trucking industry. "Have you paid your dues? Well, let me explain the importance of unionization in a field such as ours over a power lunch." By the way, we never see Iron Fist punch the dragon in the chest. We don't even see the dragon and we barely get a look at K'un-L'un. This was probably due to budgetary constraints. Everything about Iron Fist looks laughably cheap. I didn't touch on the issue of cultural appropriation or orientalism in this review, which is oddly the least of the show's problems. I'm actually okay in theory with Danny Rand being white so long as the show was interesting. The show is not interesting. You don't even need to watch it to understand what will happen in Netflix's The Defenders. That sort of completism is for rubes. Just read about the set up online. There'll be more illumination in three or four sentences than there is in 13 hours of dreck with a weaksauce ending. The story in your head will probably be better anyways. There's so much you can do in life with 13 precious, precious hours. Don't make the mistake of watching Iron Fist.
Iron Fist (Season 1) photo
Booooooooooooooring
Iron Fist is such a tremendous failure on so many levels that it's fascinating to dissect. It's not fascinating to watch, however. The latest Marvel series on Netflix is a 13-hour bore that's 15% martial arts show and 85% boa...

Avatar 2 delayed photo
Avatar 2 delayed

Avatar 2 delayed because of 3 other Avatar sequels that will never get made at this rate


Let it go, James
Mar 17
// Hubert Vigilla
Avatar 2 is delayed. This is not a repeat from 2016. It is also not a repeat from 2015. The theme for the 2018 Avatar 2 delay will be "Under the Sea". With this many delays, I swear James Cameron is secretly making a Don Quix...

How To Do It: The Matrix Rebooted

Mar 16 // Hubert Vigilla
1. Treat the new Matrix as part of continuity When Neo meets The Architect in The Matrix Reloaded, we learn a lot about how the system works and how it sustains itself. The current version of the Matrix is just the sixth version in a line of reality-simulating self-regulating programs, each designed to account for the complexities caused by human free will. The choice Neo makes will determine whether or not the human race survives. Certain programs carry over from each version of the Matrix even if each iteration is a new one--Seraph was apparently a former Agent in an earlier version of the Matrix; The Merovingian harbors obsolete programs; The Oracle, as a guide for The One, is sort of like the Clippy of the Matrix. Choice creates a series of forking paths in every iteration of the Matrix, all headed toward the inevitability of The One and the necessity of a reboot to eliminate The One from the system. Then a new version, and a new One, and so on. This offers a diegetic reason for a new Matrix to exist: it's built into the program, it's part of the way the world works. This also provides an interesting exploration of free will and agency viewed from a human perspective (uncertainty regarding outcomes) versus an analytical/machine perspective (contingent branches on a decision tree). There's another story element this in-continuity Matrix reboot offers, though I'll get to it at the end. 2. Pick the Wachowskis' brains The Wachowskis are the parents of this story, and while they may not have to give their blessing for the project, it would be great for someone to pick their brains about the Matrix. Was there anything they wished they could have done? Are there things they would have done differently in hindsight? What lore had they created for their world that they never talked about? There's probably a lot of unexplored material to consider. Come to think of it, there might even be too much to talk about. When the two Matrix sequels came out, a bunch of supplemental material got released between 2003 and 2005. There was The Animatrix (a collection of animated shorts), Enter the Matrix (a video game), The Matrix Comics, and The Matrix Online (an MMORPG). Some of this may have been crass merchandising--let's milk this cyberpunk, anime, Hong Kong action movie cow until it bleeds--but I also sense that there was a much bigger story the Wachowskis wanted to tell but never finished. Once again, I tie this back into the diegetic idea of the Matrix reboot just being the latest version of Matrix. Going to the architects of the original Matrix might improve the newest version of the program. 3. The Matrix > Zion and the real world Some of the weakest material in the Matrix sequels took place in the real world. Zion was a dingy, rusty place with steam, corridors, walkways, Cornel West, vanilla sex, and boring raves. The war against the machines wasn't all that fun either. Shoot them or use an electromagnetic pulse. Behold--boring, expensive naval combat. I remember the sickly green world of the Matrix better than the state college dorm of Zion. For the new Matrix, there may be a way to engage the real world without it seeming so banal. Perhaps it's a matter of increasing the stakes. Extinction level events are big, sure, but what matters in the abstract and what we form an emotional link to are different matters. The latter requires some concrete connection to people and places. What makes Zion worth caring for really? What makes a place a home? A place is not innately meaningful. And to that, did anyone get attached to the new characters fighting in Zion? They were mostly a bunch of Blandy McBlandersons doing action-things without emotional content. That brings me to the next point... 4. Stick with a core group of characters with well-defined supporting players The cast of supporting characters ballooned in The Matrix Reloaded. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but unfortunately most of the new characters were forgettable. Did Niobe, Link, or Commander Lock add much to the story? Ditto that annoying kid in the giant mechanoid robot suit? Their screen time may have expanded the world of the movie, but they often sucked the air out of film's story since their actions were rarely significant to the plot. (The blunt difference between world building and storytelling.) Rather than putting your setpieces on the shoulders of bland supporting characters (e.g., the annoying kid in the defense of Zion in The Matrix Revolutions), keep the focus on a core group of well-defined characters. Why wasn't Morpheus manning a mech alongside Niobe during Zion's last stand? Come to think of it, what defines Niobe as a character other than the fact she's played by Jada Pinkett Smith? If supporting players are involved, give them personality rather than assign them a plot-based function. I still find it telling that the Nebuchadnezzar crew in the original Matrix has more personality than 95% of the supporting players in the two Matrix sequels. 5. Update the aesthetic to avoid the late 90s/early 2000s Let's come back to the diegetic notion of a new Matrix program rebooted for the umpteenth time. If the old Matrix was defined by the aesthetic of the late 90s and early 2000s, we can chock that up to a quirk of programming. (Obviously this is a paradoxical symptom of the era that birthed the first movie. Nearly every attempt to make something look futuristic winds up looking, in retrospect, like a product of its time. Why is it that conscious attempts to fuse the future with the past a la Blade Runner still look futuristic enough?) The new Matrix should depict a contemporary era's vision of the future rather than recapture the look of the millennial cusp. This goes for the manner of dress, the in-story technology, and the score (imagine how quaintly goofy a techno-classical hybrid soundtrack might sound today). And since the original Matrix drew on a hodgepodge of influences that were so 90s, the new Matrix can draw on things that define the 2010s in some way. Maybe the fighting style changes from the kung fu of 80s Hong Kong action movies to the faster, more functional striking and grappling of MMA. Maybe the G-men-like Agents become Slender Men and more menacing as a result. Are the rebels into post-rock or hip-hop? And how will smartphones and tablets figure into all of this? Ditto apps and the cloud. There's a lot to consider here, and I don't want to just list pop culture detritus for the new film. Those things will be carefully picked by the filmmakers, who will hopefully do more than show us shiny, fight-y, special effects-y things. 6. Find writers and directors with something to say A lot of reboots and remakes suck because they don't say anything. Instead they're selling empty nostalgia using a name you may remember. Yet there are solid remakes (David Cronenberg's The Fly) and reboots (Christopher Nolan's Batman movies) and soft sequels (Ryan Coogler's Creed), each of which does something new with familiar material. There's a sensibility behind the name, a human intelligence behind the IP. There are probably some filmmakers or writers out there who were influenced by The Matrix. Maybe The Matrix was their gateway drug into other aspects of geek culture. They might have a personal story they want to tell, and The Matrix may be the right vessel to tell it. It may be political, too--something about resistance and rebellion feels right these days. A recent report said that Warner Bros. is trying to get a writing room together for the Matrix reboot, sort of like how they write TV. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. A guiding hand can steer the writing room into an interesting direction. Multiple ideas from solid writers can bounce off each other and synthesize and create better ideas. (I'm skeptical--and why shouldn't I be?--that Warner Bros. actually wants to make something that says anything. A writer room assembled by a studio reeks of film-by-committee-by-market-research.) 7. Avoid repeating the story beats of the original Matrix films Most reboots and remakes fail because they slavishly repeat the plot of the original film without offering anything original of their own. Even though I sort of liked the Ghostbusters reboot, the weakest material in the movie was anything that reminded me of the original Ghostbusters. Why would I watch a reboot if it's a pale imitation of the original? (That also applies to Ghostbusters 2.) For another example of this, think of Bryan Singer's Superman Returns, which is a joyless, beat-by-beat recreation of the plot from Richard Donner's Superman. (Superman Returns is the Ghostbusters 2 of superhero movies.) There'll be a temptation to redo the red pill/blue pill scene. The same goes for Neo's first jump and cartoon fall. And the new filmmakers will probably want to do their own rendition of the lobby scene. The occasional nod to the past is okay, but why do the same thing again? Why not do something new? I suppose blank canvases are more intimidating than tracing paper, and the potential of an incomplete line is more stultifying than connect the dots. To put it another way, if you're going to cover a song, do it like Devo did "Satisfaction" or Johnny Cash did "Hurt". Someone has to make this material their own rather than just repeating the mistakes and successes of the past. There the line from Jose Lezama Lima quoted in Julio Cortazar's Hopscotch: "Let us try to invent new passions, or to reproduce the old ones with a like intensity." Yeah, do that. 8. E pluribus unum (Out of many, one) I mentioned there's another story element about keeping the Matrix reboot in continuity with the original trilogy. Here are preliminary thoughts on that, and the point where simple suggestions in approach veer into the realm of Matrix fan fiction. Say there's a new Neo in a new iteration of the Matrix. Neo is the latest in a line of Ones from previous versions of the Matrix, each of them an anomaly eventually accounted for and zeroed out to restart the system. What if the new Neo could access the old versions of the Matrix and see how they played out? Maybe they're archived even though the system has run its course. What if the new Neo could somehow learn from previous Ones? Maybe the Ones are iterations of a monomythic subprogram that eventually results in a prototypical, archetypal, chosen-one hero who follows the mechanical beats of narrative heroism to ensure the Matrix can eventually reboot. The monomythic subprogram comes from an AI's analysis of heroic legends from past human cultures. What if the way to beat this self-perpetuating system is to break the monomythic structure? To crap on the Hero's Journey? To intentionally subvert the heroic narrative and create a new kind of heroism? This is a larger meta narrative that's simultaneously diegetic. The Matrix Rebooted is about the nature of reboots, and also about the nature of narrative repetition, how it's a valuable part of our history and yet how it's essentially mechanical at this point and may require some sort of reinvention to be relevant rather than just comforting. We can choose to be heroes otherwise--we can invent our own heroism and a new morality. Neo is the hero gone rogue artist, the sort of person who comes away from a class on Nietzsche but isn't a total douchebag about it. Maybe the new Neo recruits an army of Ones from the archives to battle in the system like a bunch of cyberpunk Supermen, or perhaps Neo figures out a way to blow up the system through intentional acts of narrative terrorism. Maybe Neo turns everyone into the One by helping people see patterns in their own lives that tap into the monomythic subprogram. (This all sounds a little like a Grant Morrison comic book, sure, but the Wachowskis borrowed heavily from The Invisibles, so screw it.) Maybe Clippy the Oracle can help in all this. "It looks like you're subverting the Hero's Journey. Would you like help?" Yes, Clippy. Let's kung fu the hell out of traditional storytelling.
Matrix Reboot photo
I know reboot fu
The other night we learned that Warner Bros. is developing a reboot of The Matrix, with an interest in Michael B. Jodan as the lead. Zak Penn has been tapped to write the treatment for the reboot, but nothing else is solid at...

Akerman in Rampage photo
Akerman in Rampage

Malin Akerman in talks to play Rampage villain opposite Dwayne Johnson, plot details emerge


Is she playing the entire US Army?
Mar 16
// Hubert Vigilla
The live-action adaptation of Rampage seems to be moving forward without any hitches. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is playing the hero of the film, and director Brad Peyton promises scares and the feels. Today Heat Vision report...
The Batman delayed photo
The Batman delayed

The Batman delayed, rumors that the screenplay may be rewritten from scratch


Hello first draft my old friend
Mar 16
// Hubert Vigilla
The Batman seemed back on track when Matt Reeves signed on to direct the film. Maybe, just maybe, things would be looking up for the new solo Batman film and the DCEU as a whole. Scratch that. There's been another setback. Ac...

The first teaser trailer for Pixar's Coco is all about music, magic, and dead people

Mar 15 // Hubert Vigilla
As our own Nick Valdez put it, "Oh cool. Pixar made Book of Life 2." Here's an official synopsis: Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel (voice of newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt). Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector (voice of Gael García Bernal), and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel's family history. Directed by Lee Unkrich (“Toy Story 3”), co-directed by Adrian Molina (story artist “Monsters University”) and produced by Darla K. Anderson (“Toy Story 3”). Coco comes to theaters on November 22nd. [via Disney/Pixar on YouTube]
Pixar's Coco trailer photo
Seriously, that's a cool looking guitar
Pixar's Coco was one of our most anticipated movies of 2017. Disney and Pixar released the first teaser trailer for the film today, and it looks like a magical blend of music, mariachis, Dia de Muertos, and ghosts. This is the best kind of blend. Honest. Plus, check out that guitar. It is freakin' cool looking. Watch the teaser trailer for Coco below.

Warner Bros. wants to reboot and relaunch The Matrix

Mar 14 // Hubert Vigilla
The film might not need to be a full series reboot. As revealed by The Architect in The Matrix Reloaded, there have been multiple iterations of the reality-simulating program of the Matrix, and the one Neo was experiencing was just the latest version in the series. Perhaps this reboot could be loosely tied to the previous film's continuity, sort of like a newer version of the iPhone or Windows. As long as it's not Vista or Windows 10... Is a Matrix reboot something you'd be interested in? Do you know kung fu? Let us know in the comments. [via THR]
The Matrix: Rebooted photo
The Matrix: Rebooted (Whoa...)
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros. wants to reboot The Matrix. Zak Penn (X-Men: The Last Stand, story credits on X2 and The Avengers) is in talks to write the reboot treatment. Warner Bros. reportedly wants to ...

Rogue One ending changes photo
Rogue One ending changes

Gareth Edwards opens up about Darth Vader and changes to the Rogue One ending


The squad goals changed
Mar 14
// Hubert Vigilla
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was a strong entry in the Star Wars saga. It perfectly captured the feeling of playing Star Wars as a kid, and it all hung together well even with some major reshoots and restructuring. Many credi...
Your Name US trailers photo
Your Name US trailers

Watch the US trailers for Makoto Shinkai's anime mega-hit Your Name


Dubbed or subbed for your pleasure
Mar 14
// Hubert Vigilla
Despite some of my qualms about its second half, Makoto Shinkai's Your Name was a good coming-of-age body swap film with an undeniable teenage earnestness. It's a major anime mega-hit in Japan. Not only was it Japan's biggest...
Terry Gilliam is quixotic photo
Terry Gilliam is quixotic

Quixotic Terry Gilliam tries to make The Man Who Killed Don Quixote yet again


Impossible Dream v Unstoppable Dreamer
Mar 14
// Hubert Vigilla
You'd think that Terry Gilliam would have given up on The Man Who Killed Don Quixote by now. The original 2000 production of the film was plagued by awful luck and fell apart, the process chronicled in the 2002 documentary Lo...
Baby Driver trailers photo
Baby Driver trailers

US and international trailers for Edgar Wright's Baby Driver look fun, son


A real human baby. And a real hero.
Mar 13
// Hubert Vigilla
After leaving Ant-Man over creative differences, Edgar Wright turned his attention to Baby Driver, his first film since 2013's The World's End. The music-filled action-caper premiered at SXSW over the weekend to some stellar ...
Wonder Woman photo
Wonder Woman

New Wonder Woman trailer covers Diana's origins, life on Themyscira


Also: New Successories poster
Mar 13
// Hubert Vigilla
With all the recent tumult over The Batman, it seems like so much of the DCEU's viability is riding on the success of Wonder Woman. Star Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins hope to craft a solid film that delivers at the box...

Review: Raw

Mar 10 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]221293:43454:0[/embed] Raw (Grave)Director: Julia DucournauRating: RRelease Date: March 10, 2017Country: France/Belgium Justine (Garance Marillier) is an in-coming freshman at a veterinary college. It's the same school that her parents attended and where her older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) is a current student. She's a lifelong vegetarian; at a buffet en route to the college, her mom berates a clerk for an errant meatball in Justine's mashed potatoes. During a hazing ritual at the vet school, Justine gets her first taste of meat when she's force fed a raw rabbit kidney. That fetid little taste awakens something sexy and dangerous in her. Raw is set in an off-kilter place where fictional conceits co-mingle with quotidian problems. It's the location for weird literary short fiction, allowing anything and everything to function as a metaphor or a metaphorical space. There's the familiar trope of the teenage girl whose sexual maturation is a source of horror for herself and others. Justine is the gawky young woman trying to figure out adulthood and sexiness and desire and how to juggle all of these new cravings she has. But Ducournau avoids many of the simple 1:1 ratios of familiar genre metaphors by complicating her world and its characters. Justine's taste for flesh is borne of freedom from home, and it becomes a point of sibling rivalry. I mentioned Ducournau's knack for the visceral, which is evidenced early in the film during the first hazing ritual. The freshman are forced out of bed and into some on-campus rave. Ducournau's camera follows Justine through the flashing lights and the throb of the music. First she's annoyed and alone, but as the scene continues to play out, she and the audience find the exhilaration of the moment, and the underlying emotional current of the scene changes. When Justine gets the shakes like a junkie in withdrawal, Ducournau closes the whole of the world into the hallucinatory nightmare of Justine in fetal position under her sheet. In what's sure to be the most talked about scene of the film, a silly, sisterly moment of bonding between Justine and Alexia becomes a squirmy horror set piece for the ages. As it happened, I smiled at the brilliant audacity of the execution. That "brilliant audacity" is what I liked about so much of Raw, and it's often pulled off throughout the film with casual unexpectedness. Justine seems to be going mad with her rush of desires, and occasionally some unexpected image would appear on screen and haunt me a bit. A horse on a treadmill or an animal carcass ready for class dissection is full of such fervid, dreamlike weight. Marillier plays fragile Justine and feral Justine so well and of a piece. Any interaction between Justine and her male roommate Adrien (Rabah Nait Oufella) gets loaded with an expectant dread. Will she? Is this hunger? Won't she? Is this desire? Why not both? The way Justine and Alexia's antagonisms play out over the course of Raw is fascinating as well, and hints at a longer history. There's affection tinged with enmity between these sisters. The fact that so much of Raw works so well may be why I come back to the closing notes of Raw and why they fell so flat for me. So much of the movie is a gut punch filmed with such great craft. Justine is built up and broken and humiliated and I was hoping for one last moment that would linger the same way as so many others. I felt like the movie traded its gut punches for a rote, tepid, expected wind down, and then punctuated it with a flimsy punchline. And yet that wind down makes sense emotionally, and that punchline opens up this rich, sadly unexplored avenue of the story. That may speak to the promise of Ducournau as filmmaker to watch--that I think there's something good wrapped up in a sour note, something exciting in the shadow of a disappointing coda. I guess sometimes even great cuts of meat have a little gristle.
Review: Raw photo
Flesh, sex, and self-destruction
While playing at film festivals last year, the hype over Raw was insane. Writer/director Julia Ducournau's coming-of-age horror/cannibal drama purportedly caused audience members to faint, to vomit, to leave screenings in dis...

Assassin's Creed ending photo
Assassin's Creed ending

Watch the downbeat alternate ending for the Assassin's Creed movie


Did they film a Scooby-Doo ending?
Mar 09
// Hubert Vigilla
Assassin's Creed wasn't the great video game movie people were waiting for. It received mixed-negative reviews and under-performed at the box office, which means a proposed Assassin's Creed film trilogy is probably DOA. Despi...

New Fate of the Furious trailer is all about a family crisis, 'splosions, fast things

Mar 09 // Hubert Vigilla
Well, what did you think? So dumb and over-the-top it's brilliant, or so dumb and over-the-top it's just dumb and over-the-top? Let us know below in the comments. The Fate of the Furious will be out on April 14th.
The Fate of the Furious photo
Let's play the feud!
The first trailer for The Fate of the Furious featured an unexpected heel turn from series anchor Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel). The latest trailer for the Fast franchise sequel is even bigger and sillier, with a plot point in...

Thor: Ragnarok pics photo
Thor: Ragnarok pics

New Thor: Ragnarok pics include Technicolor Goldblum, Goth Blanchett, GladiaThor


This looks like a gaudy 80s sci-fi epic!
Mar 09
// Hubert Vigilla
Yesterday we showed the Entertainment Weekly cover that revealed the first look at Thor: Ragnarok. Hemsworth got a gladitorial haircut, Cate Blanchett got Hela mascara and eye shadow, and Tessa Thompson has tapped into t...

Review: My Scientology Movie

Mar 08 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220428:43450:0[/embed] My Scientology MovieDirector: John DowerRating: NRRelease Date: March 10, 2017 Gibney's documentary--an adaptation of Lawrence Wright's book of the same name--is a top-to-bottom takedown of the entire Church of Scientology, looking at the group's origins via the eccentric L. Ron Hubbard to its current state. Sweeney's Panorama pieces were more upsetting. The first, Scientology and Me, featured Sweeney getting stalked and harassed by high-level members of the Church of Scientology; the follow-up, The Secrets of Scientology, revealed how the Scientology operatives intimidated Sweeney, with the go-ahead coming from Scientology leader David Miscaviage himself. I mention the above works for their clarity of purpose and strong execution. Theroux's movie is far lighter on substance and information to its detriment, and much more impish by comparison just based on circumstance. He'd originally intended to make a documentary on Scientology and sought full cooperation of the cult. The Church of Scientology declined his request. They no longer allow journalists access to the church, perhaps because of Sweeney's damning work, which revealed just how nuts the organization is at its core. Undeterred, Theroux makes his own movie about Scientology featuring dramatic recreations and reinterpretations of events. There's an open casting call for people to play David Miscaviage and Tom Cruise, the former played by an alarmingly talented guy named Andrew Perez. For accuracy and insight into his film (and to bait the Church of Scientology), Theroux also contacts Mark Rathbun to help as a consultant. Rathbun was a former high-ranking member of the Church of Scientology, at times a brutal protector and enforcer for the church. He's now an apostate. My Scientology Movie sort of reminded me of Theorux's 2003 special Louis, Martin & Michael, in which he tried to get an interview with Michael Jackson but instead wound up hanging out with Michael's father and Uri Gellar. By not getting directly to Michael Jackson, Theroux got a great portrait of the strange world that Michael lives in. Similarly, by not working directly with the Church of Scientology, Theroux gets an oblique portrait of Scientology. The film isn't a takedown in the Gibney mode and it's nowhere near as intense as Sweeney's pieces (it's not even as good as Louis, Martin & Michael, to be honest), but Theroux's ability to disarm offers an all right roundabout look at how Scientology affects former members. Long-time Theroux fans like myself might be left wanting. One of the film's recreations centers around a detention center for misbehaving Scientologists. We witness the kind of intimidation and humiliation that church members endured at the hands of their leader. Perez shifts into Miscaviage mode, becoming an abusive, self-righteous demon eager to demean as he is to shove and to strike and to break furniture to make a point. The Church of Scientology sends its team of stalkers to see what Theroux is up to. What might be unnerving is oddly undone thanks to Theroux's unshakable calm. Theroux does what he's always done best in these sorts of situations: he renders scary things absurd. Theroux applies his trademark naivete, though it's on Rathbun rather than a current cult official. Rathbun's the closest that Theroux can get to the church directly, and he tries to ask questions, discern original motives, and get into the mind of a high-level Scientologist. Rathbun is practiced in the art of manipulation and intimidation, however, and a resentment builds between them. Those awkward moments in a Theroux piece are compelling to watch because they are such unguarded moments. Theroux gets a slight glimpse at the innerworkings of Rathbun, a complicated man who is much more of a mystery than whatever's going on in the Church of Scientology.
My Scientology Movie photo
A Theroux perspective, but not thorough
Louis Theroux won me over many years ago with the show Weird Weekends. In each episode, Theroux embedded himself in a subculture and use his extreme mild-mannered niceness to disarm his subjects. He'd hang out with porn stars...

Review: Your Name

Mar 03 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]221337:43448:0[/embed] Your Name (Kimi no Na wa, 君の名は。)Director: Makoto ShinkaiRating: PGRelease Date: August 26, 2016 (Japan); April 7, 2017 (USA)Country: Japan Our two body-swapped and star-crossed heroes are a country girl named Mitsuha and a city boy named Taki. Apropos of nothing, the two teens swap bodies. At first they think they're dreaming--as Mitsuha in Taki's body struggles as a waiter in a restaurant, she wonders when her long and bizarre dream will end. Taki in Mitsuha's body begins each morning copping a feel like a creeper. They intermittently lead each other's lives, and they come to enjoy the ability to live a life so different from their own day-to-day. The allure, like most body swap films, is in the contrast of experiences--metropolitan and pastoral, modern and traditional, the social norms of male and female, etc. My enjoyment of Your Name can be broken into quarters. I loved the first quarter of the movie, which was a great modern take on the body swap genre. The city boy and the country girl get to know each other obliquely, corresponding through their own cellphones with do's and don'ts about each other's lives. Shinkai closes that opening quarter with a fantastic montage of the joys and frustrations of living another life only to return to the mucked-up nature of your own. I liked the second quarter of Your Name, which, without spoilers, involves a mystery and a journey. Tonally it reminded me a little of Hirokazu Koreeda's charming I Wish, though an adolescent version. As for the last half of Your Name? It was all right. "Generally acceptable" may be a more accurate phrase. So much about Your Name hinges on a major plot twist and the way the narrative treats this revealed information. If I wasn't on board with the first portion of the film, the swerve at the halfway mark would have soured me on the whole movie. It's all dependent on a series of narrative conveniences that the story doesn't attempt to explain: spotty memory, technological failure, the loose rules of the body swapping, a lack of common sense from the characters, lapses in human curiosity. And yet, somehow, I think Your Name still works by the end because it is so earnest about its teenage feelings. There's the desire to be understood by someone, to forge a lasting connection, to make sense of your own life. That's all there. I watched the movie in a crowded theater full of teens and young adults. As a plot twist occurred in the second half, gasps rustled through the crowd. After that emotional gut reaction, the analytical bits in my brain stepped forward and processed the information. No, a little too convenient, but just go with it. This kept happening in the last half of the movie. I found myself liking moments even though I was of two minds about them. There's a gorgeous scene set at dusk before a dimming sky. It's quiet, it's memorable, it was enough for me to disregard a lapse in logic a few scenes before. A young woman in the crowd, excited by the connection that occurred on screen, whispered an elated "Yes". Minutes later, sighs from the crowd, crestfallen, like everyone had breathed out at once. I couldn't help but be moved as well--I felt what someone else was feeling, which is what Your Name is about at its best. Oddly, some of my qualms come from understanding Shinkai's point of view as a storyteller. To affect the audience the way he wants to, Shinkai needs to move the story in direction P, therefore actions L, M, N, and O have to occur. I saw the movie with Steve over at Unseen Films, and his immediate feelings for the movie were far more tepid than mine. The logical lapses were so apparent to him. My own fondness for the first half of the film led me to justify those logical lapses to him even though I noticed them as well. And I have to admit, my justification was because I understood Shinkai's storytelling motivations rather than any diegetic explanation provided by the film. I can't recall who said this or if I'm even getting it right, but there's a sandwich rule when it comes to storytelling. Say you make a movie. Part of it doesn't make sense. If an audience member doesn't realize there's a lapse in logic until hours later when they're making a sandwich, the story is successful. Your Name didn't pass the sandwich test with me, but I could sense it did with many others in the crowd. Even without the sandwich test, there was a lot to admire. If only the last half had hooked me more, not by plot twists but through the characters, not by letters signifying Shinkai's moves but rather that ineffable emotional stuff that's harder to figure out and impossible to name.
Review: Your Name photo
The body swap movie with a swerve
Makoto Shinkai's Your Name is the highest-grossing anime film of all-time, and it hasn't even come out in the United States yet. It beat Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away; give it a few more months and Your Name may beat Spirite...

Review: My Life as a Zucchini

Mar 03 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]221336:43439:0[/embed] My Life as a Zucchini (Ma vie de Courgette)Director: Claude BarrasRating: PG-13Release Date: October 19, 2016 (France/Switzerland); February 24, 2017 (limited)Country: France/Switzerland My Life as a Zucchini opens with the accidental death of a boy's abusive, alcoholic mother. His father isn't around and never shows up, but he draws an idealized, superhero version of him on a homemade kite. The boy calls himself Zucchini (Erick Abbate), and as a police officer drives him to an orphanage, he flies the kite out of the car window. The moment is both beautiful and sad, just like so many other moments in My Life is a Zucchini. The other children at the orphanage are neglected, have had their parents deported, lost their parents in violent ways, or were physically or sexually abused. They're each around 10 years old. This is absolutely bleak material, and it's reflected in the look of the stop-motion puppets of the children. When a new girl named Camille (Ness Krell) arrives, one of the children remarks that she has sad eyes. It's a quality all of the children share. They all have huge, Margaret Keane-painting eyes, but they look wounded rather than doe-like, as if each of them might burst into tears at any moment out of sadness or a fleeting joy. While the situations these children face are so dark, My Life as a Zucchini is a hopeful film, and brimming with sympathy and empathy. I found myself crying through a lot of the film, which is a testament to the effectiveness of the animation. There's something important about the tactile nature of stop-motion I can't put my finger on. Maybe it's because the characters look like toys, and the settings feel like playsets--like the entire film functions as a space for a child to work through the dark things in their head. The English-language voice acting is commendable. The child actors sounded like actors rather than kids acting, if the distinction makes sense. Abbate and Krell have to do so much heavylifting whenever their characters are on screen, but there's no strain to it. I was so wrapped up in the emotion of the film that I didn't sense a flat line read or a sour delivery. Somehow, effortlessly, the child actors sounded vulnerable and true. The adult voice cast was good as well, with Nick Offerman, Will Forte, and Ellen Page disappearing into their roles as caretakers. Amy Sedaris' voice was distinct--very Strangers with Candy--though it fits with the brash, prickly character she portrays. Barras depicts kindness in various gestures between the kids and their caretakers at the orphanage. There's a snow trip with a tiny techno dance party in a cabin. There's play time. There's dress up and parties. When the children grow up, the psychological repercussions of what they've faced might be daunting, but at least there's this orphanage and these people who care about them. The adults try to create some semblance of a normal life free from from solitude and abuse. Things that seems so commonplace are suddenly imbued with a tremendous expression of love and humanity. How good it is, even if just briefly, to give someone the joy of a carefree childhood. My Life as a Zucchini is about children, but it's not a children's movie. That may have held it back in awards season. It was such a longshot to win a Golden Globe or an Oscar (Zootopia took both awards), and its bleakness didn't help matters. The film did wind up winning Best Animated Film and Best Adapted Screenplay at the Cesar Awards, however. Saying all this, part of me wonders how traumatized children might respond to the film. Would they feel less alone? Would they feel loved? Those concerns are more important than a statuette; they're what's most important in life.
My Life as a Zucchini photo
About kids but not a children's movie
There's this pervasive idea that children are resilient, that they're able to cope well even in dire circumstances. In stories about forlorn kids, a combination of optimistic pluck and boundless imagination helps them through...

Donnie Yen Sleeping Dogs photo
Donnie Yen Sleeping Dogs

Donnie Yen will star in a Sleeping Dogs adaptation, probably punch things really fast


The American Donnie Yenaissance
Mar 03
// Hubert Vigilla
Donnie Yen stole the show in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and was featured prominently in the promos for xXx: Return of Xander Cage. At 53 years old, Yen may be on the verge of a well-deserved Hollywood breakthrough. It may c...

Review: Ugetsu

Mar 03 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]221341:43446:0[/embed] Ugetsu (Ugetsu Monogatari, 雨月物語)Director: Kenji MizoguchiRating: NRRelease Date: March 3, 2017 (limited)Country: Japan  Watching Ugetsu felt like walking into an austere room where an ancient handscroll has been unrolled, spread out, and hung up to observe. Its meters and meters of period narrative are told along the four walls. The scroll starts in one corner, traces the length of the room, and ends in the corner it began. Ugetsu is wonderfully looped and completed, wrapped neatly like an old-fashioned fable or tale. The return to the starting point of the story, that initial tableau, is marked by change, much like the lives of characters in the film. Ugetsu is an adaptation of two braided plots from Ueda Akinar's 1776 book of ghost stories of the same name. One story follows Tobei (Eitaro Ozawa), a bumbling peasant who dreams of becoming a samurai. The other story follows Genjuro (Masayuki Mori), a potter who is seduced and waylaid by a mysterious noblewoman called Lady Wakasa (Machiko Kyo). In the backdrop is a senseless war that ravages the countryside, with samurais pillaging and looting from peasants. In a tense moment early in the film, Genjuro risks his life waiting at a kiln as samurai approach on a rampage. His wife tells him to wise up and flee, yet Genjuro knows that the only future he and his family has are those pots that are firing away, just not fast enough. Throughout the film, the gentry and the warrior classes disregard the people beneath them, while Tobei and Genjuro dream of wealth and status. Both will risk everything for armor and kimonos. Ugetsu contains those perennial critiques of greed and vanity, sins for which the wives of the two men suffer. Even before researching Mizoguchi's background, I could sense his love of kabuki and painting in the visual style and rhythms of the Ugetsu. The film ushers itself in with traditional song, and there's a measured theatricality to the blocking, staging, and performances of this period ghost story. The first time Lady Wakasa appears on screen, she is an otherworldly presence. It's not just the manner of dress, but a manner of being. Her servant follows to her side slowly, and she approaches Genjuro at a pace of her own that defies the bustle of the market. She is not one of these people, that much is clear. Mizoguchi's extended takes are marvels of deliberation. Contemporary filmmakers tend to use long takes as a sort of spectacle, calling attention to ballsy filmmaking craft (i.e., the long-takeness of the long-take) while paradoxically aiming at audience immersion (i.e., this unfolds continuously like real life). There's little sense of how form and content are wed in the contradictory presentation. For Mizoguchi, the extended take is part of the period storytelling. I mentioned the wall scroll idea earlier, which is a fitting way to depict a period tale. The story is fantasy touched by reality; its form and content are rooted in a time and a place and an art tradition that is tied to said time and said place. The 4K restoration of Ugetsu looks excellent, and I was actually thrown by it for a moment. It may have been the digital projection, but there was an uncanny sense of movement about some objects in the frame. They moved a little too smooth, a little too fast, sort of like when watching a new movie on a new TV with the settings just a little off. I don't know if that's a flaw since I eventually adjusted to it, but maybe it speaks to the film being so much an evocation of a period centuries ago that a contemporary presentation made uncanny movement more apparent. But hey, a classic is a classic.
Review: Ugetsu photo
A wall scroll on ghosts, war, and class
The films of Kenji Mizoguchi have been a major blind spot in my life as a filmgoer. I've seen plenty of Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu films, but for some reason Mizoguchi had always hovered on my to-watch list, always put o...

Guardians 2 trailer #2 photo
"The Chain" by Fleetwood Mac
Hey, Flixist readers. You up? Come and get your love. Here's a brand new trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 which just premiered tonight on Jimmy Kimmel Live. While the first trailer for the sequel had an adorable Bab...

Okja trailer photo
Okja trailer

Watch a teaser trailer for Bong Joon-Ho's Okja with Tilda Swinton, which hits Netflix in June


It's like an adorable hippo monster
Feb 28
// Hubert Vigilla
It's been nearly a decade since I watched The Host. It was my first Bong Joon-Ho film, and I was hooked. Anything he makes, I'll give it a watch, whether it's something like 2003's Memories of Murder or as ambitiously off the...
Cars 3 trailer photo
Cars 3 trailer

New Cars 3 trailer looks sort of like Rocky III


Ka-chow of the Tiger
Feb 27
// Hubert Vigilla
That first trailer for Cars 3 was surprisingly somber. It teased tough times ahead for Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson). I sensed a troubling fall from grace, and maybe even a death. Okay, maybe not a death. But it w...

Full list of 2017 Oscar winners, and an official statement on the insane Best Picture mistake

Feb 27 // Hubert Vigilla
PricewaterhouseCoopers, the firm responsible for overseeing the awards results, issued the following statement about the mistake: We sincerely apologize to "Moonlight," "La La Land," Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for Best Picture. The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and when discovered, was immediately corrected. We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred. We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation. Below is a full list of your Academy Award winners. Best Picture MoonlightArrivalFencesHacksaw RidgeHell or High WaterHidden FiguresLa La LandLionManchester by the Sea   Best Director Damien Chazelle (La La Land)Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)   Best Actress Emma Stone (La La Land)Isabelle Huppert (Elle)Ruth Negga (Loving)Natalie Portman (Jackie)Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)   Best Actor Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)Ryan Gosling (La La Land)Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)Denzel Washington (Fences)   Best Supporting Actress Viola Davis (Fences)Naomie Harris (Moonlight)Nicole Kidman (Lion)Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)   Best Supporting Actor Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)Dev Patel (Lion)Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)   Best Original Screenplay Manchester by the SeaHell or High WaterLa La LandThe Lobster20th Century Women   Best Adapted Screenplay MoonlightArrivalFencesHidden FiguresLion   Best Cinematography La La LandArrivalLionMoonlightSilence   Best Film Editing Hacksaw RidgeArrivalHell or High WaterLa La LandMoonlight   Best Animated Feature ZootopiaKubo and the Two StringsMoanaMy Life As a ZucchiniThe Red Turtle   Best Foreign Language Film The SalesmanLand of MineA Man Called OveTannaToni Erdmann   Best Documentary OJ: Made in AmericaFire at SeaI Am Not Your NegroLife, Animated13th   Best Score La La LandJackieLionMoonlightPassengers   Best Song City of Stars (La La Land)Audition (La La Land)Can’t Stop the Feeling! (Trolls)The Empty Chair (Jim: The James Foley Story)How Far I’ll Go (Moana)   Best Live-Action Short SingEnnemis InterieursLa Femme et le TGVSilent NightsTimecode   Best Documentary Short The White Helmets4.1 MilesExtremisJoe’s ViolinWatani: My Homeland   Best Animated Short PiperBlind VayshaBorrowed TimePear Cider and CigarettesPearl   Best Visual Effects The Jungle BookDeepwater HorizonDoctor StrangeKubo and the Two StringsRogue One: A Star Wars Story   Best Production Design La La LandArrivalFantastic Beasts and Where to Find ThemHail, Caesar!Passengers   Best Sound Editing ArrivalDeepwater HorizonHacksaw RidgeLa La LandSully   Best Sound Mixing Hacksaw RidgeArrivalLa La LandRogue One: A Star Wars Story13 Hours   Best Costume Design Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find ThemAlliedFlorence Foster JenkinsJackieLa La Land   Best Makeup and Hairstyling Suicide SquadA Man Called OveStar Trek Beyond
2017 Oscar results photo
Moonlight wins Best Picture
Last night's Oscar ceremony seemed to be going as expected, with La La Land taking the most awards (six total), though everything was thrown into chaos during the announcement of Best Picture. It turned out that presenters Wa...

RIP Bill Paxton (1955-2017)

Feb 26 // Hubert Vigilla
RIP Bill Paxton photo
He was 61 years old
Actor Bill Paxton has passed away after suffering complications from surgery. He was 61 years old. According to Variety, Paxton's family has requested privacy and respect as they mourn. A consummate professional and reliable ...

Honest Trailers: Oscars photo
Honest Trailers: Oscars

Honest Trailers runs through the 2017 Oscars' Best Picture nominees


All the noms
Feb 24
// Hubert Vigilla
The Oscars are this weekend, which means everyone gets to complain about the Academy letting them down in some way. This is an annual tradition. It's like getting into an argument with your dad around Christmas, or getting to...
Seth Meyers' Oscar Bait photo
Seth Meyers' Oscar Bait

Seth Meyers' Oscar Bait takes jabs at all the awards season tropes


Snot and feels
Feb 24
// Hubert Vigilla
Ahh, Oscar bait. We know it when we see the trailer--the pandering tone, the appeal to non-denominational spiritual uplift, the all-star cast or the stunt-cast star, the Hallmark greeting card ruminations on the meaning of li...
Uncharted screenplay photo
Uncharted screenplay

Joe Carnahan talks about his R-rated Uncharted script and its crazy action sequences


Let's get crazy
Feb 24
// Hubert Vigilla
The Uncharted movie looks like it's finally moving forward. Yes fellas, honestly and for reals this time. Joe Carnahan finished his screenplay not too long ago, and Shawn Levy was plucked from left field to direct. In an inte...
Nightwing movie in DCEU photo
Nightwing movie in DCEU

Warner Bros. adds Nightwing movie to DCEU because no one knows what they're doing


Lego Batman's Chris Kay to direct
Feb 24
// Hubert Vigilla
The Batman family is growing in the DC cinematic universe. For one, Matt Reeves agreed to direct the new Batman movie. On top of that, Warner Bros. is now planning a live-action Nightwing movie. The Lego Batman Movie dir...
Matt Reeves Batman photo
Hello Matt Reeves my old friend
Finally some good news for Ben Affleck's The Batman. Matt Reeves (War of the Planet of the Apes, Let Me In) has decided to direct the new solo Batman movie. This comes just days after talks broke down and Reeves declined the ...

Castlevania poster photo
Castlevania poster

Adi Shankar releases teaser poster for the Castlevania series on Netflix


Needs more stupid Medusa heads
Feb 23
// Hubert Vigilla
Castlevania producer Adi Shankar has been using Facebook as a hype machine. Years ago he teased the potential series on his Facebook page. Shankar would then take to Facebook to confirm two seasons of Castlevania are in the w...
RiffTrax Live photo
RiffTrax Live

RiffTrax Live 2017 Kickstarter underway: Samurai Cop, beach party, and surprise film


Samurai Cop!
Feb 22
// Hubert Vigilla
Last year, RiffTrax held a special live Mystery Science Theater 3000 reunion. Like the MST3K reboot, the reunion was made possible through Kickstarter. Mike J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett are back this year with a ...
NYICFF 2017 photo
NYICFF 2017

The New York International Children's Film Festival (NYICFF) starts Friday 2/24


20 years of exceptional children's films
Feb 22
// Hubert Vigilla
Now in its 20th year, the New York International Children's Film Festival is one of NYC's more reliable film fests. They screen some of the best films aimed at children, teens, and families, with some impeccable curation and ...
MST3K photo
MST3K

Mystery Science Theater 3000 will debut on Netflix on April 14th


TUSK!
Feb 22
// Hubert Vigilla
After a highly successful Kickstarter campaign in 2015, the Netflix reboot of Mystery Science Theater 3000 is set to debut. The 14 new episodes will premiere on Netflix on April 14th. As of now, the movies that Jonah Ray and ...

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