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Hubert Vigilla

Max Landis Pokemon pitch photo
Max Landis Pokemon pitch

Max Landis discusses his rejected Pokemon pitch because he is Max Landis


Max Landis is gonna Max Landis
Jul 25
// Hubert Vigilla
Last week we reported that Legendary will bring Detective Pikachu to the big screen some time in the future, a project propelled in part by the popularity of Pokemon Go. Detective Pikachu seems like an unexpected way to do a ...
MST3K Netflix photo
MST3K Netflix

The Mystery Science Theater 3000 revival will be on Netflix


And some familiar faces are back
Jul 25
// Hubert Vigilla
After breaking Kickstarter records, the new cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000 has found a home. And no, I'm not talking about the Satellite of Love. They announced during San Diego Comic-Con that the MST3K revival will be ...
Kingsglaive: Final Fantas photo
Kingsglaive: Final Fantas

Watch the official trailer for Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV


I assume Sean Bean's character will die
Jul 24
// Hubert Vigilla
Earlier in the year we mentioned there'd be a CGI Final Fantasy XV movie as well as other spin-offs set in the world of the game. Now just two months before Final Fantasy XV's release, we have a full trailer for one of these ...
Justice League footage photo
The Flash, you kidder
Big things happening today for the DC Cinematic Universe. In addition to the Wonder Woman trailer at San Diego Comic-Con, here's your first taste of Zack Snyder's Justice League movie. It seems goofier and more lighthearted t...


The Lost Arcade photo
The Lost Arcade

Watch the trailer for The Lost Arcade, a documentary on NYC's Chinatown Fair


A look at New York's arcade culture
Jul 23
// Hubert Vigilla
As someone who still wears the occasional onion on his belt, I remember arcades quite fondly. They were in steady decline when I was a kid, but they were a good way to kill time at the mall or to spend a Sunday morning. They'...
Wonder Woman trailer photo
It's Wonder Woman, suckas!
Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman was one of the highlights of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. She was a real hero in a movie filled with mopey people. Her appearance whetted everyone's appetite for Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman mov...

Jared Leto Joker photo
Jared Leto Joker

Get a taste of Jared Leto's Joker performance in this Suicide Squad promo


The Gathering of the Jared Letos
Jul 22
// Hubert Vigilla
I'd like to think that Jared Leto is currently at The Gathering of the Juggalos dressed as The Joker from Suicide Squad. In-character, too. He would fit right in, as least outwardly. We know he's got facial tattoos and is ful...
Jon Stewart returns photo
Jon Stewart returns

Jon Stewart returns, does a Daily Show takedown of Donald Trump on Stephen Colbert's Late Show


America's cool uncle stopped by to visit
Jul 22
// Hubert Vigilla
Jon Stewart left a major void behind when he ended his run on The Daily Show last year. Don't get me wrong--I love Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, I think Trevor Noah's gradually finding...
The Tick reboot photo
The Tick reboot

Here's an underwhelming first look at Amazon's The Tick reboot


SPOOOO--whoa, what?
Jul 21
// Hubert Vigilla
When we reported about Amazon's reboot of The Tick a few months ago, we learned that the reboot would be "darker and more grounded," which is exactly what people wanted from a parody of superheroes. Now we have our first look at this darker and more grounded version of The Tick and it's thoroughly underwhelming. Just take a look at the new costume:
Netflix Flixtape photo
Netflix Flixtape

Netflix launches Flixtape, which is part-playlist and part-mixtape


The first track is most the important
Jul 21
// Hubert Vigilla
Making a good mixtape can be a complex artform. The mix reflects your personal taste and expresses unspoken feelings while ultimately trying to appeal to the recipient. Then there are the unspoken rules of the mixtape, right?...
Skiptrace trailer photo
Skiptrace trailer

The trailer for Jackie Chan and Johnny Knoxville's Skiptrace would be better with Adele


Directed by Renny Harlin--RENNY HARLIN!
Jul 20
// Hubert Vigilla
It's been a long while since Jackie Chan's put out a genuinely good movie. In my opinion, his last great film was 2004's New Police Story, though he's still capable of some flashes of brilliance as seen in 2013's Chinese Zodi...
Magnificent Seven trailer photo
Magnificent Seven trailer

The new Magnificent Seven remake trailer feels like a rompy riff on the source material


Playing cowboy in a cowboy movie
Jul 19
// Hubert Vigilla
John Sturges' The Magnificent Seven was an excellent riff on Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai, full of distinct characters, solid performances, and that memorable theme song. I was a bit skeptical about Antoine Fuqua helming a ...
Godzilla Resurgence photo
Godzilla Resurgence

The new Godzilla Resurgence trailer is full of gravitas, pathos, and splosions


You'll cry, and you'll kaboom
Jul 19
// Hubert Vigilla
I wasn't that much of a fan of Gareth Edwards' 2014 Godzilla. While well-shot, the story was so-so and focused too much on Aaron Taylor-Johnson's bland lead character. It didn't help that Blandy McBlanderson was surrounded by...
Darth Vader VR photo
Darth Vader VR

A Darth Vader VR project is in the works


Will probably be impressive
Jul 19
// Hubert Vigilla
The storytelling potential of VR is pretty fascinating, as I noted with Allumette during the Tribeca Film Festival. A virtual headset can give you this unique feeling of immersion that allows you to interact with the story. I...

Nerd rage over all-female Ghostbusters reinforces negative stereotypes about male geek culture

Jul 18 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220588:42985:0[/embed] If we're going to be fair here, Ghostbusters 2 did more to "ruin" the original Ghostbusters than the new all-female Ghostbusters. Honest Trailers does a pretty good job of summing it up (see above). And yet all the nerd rage is focused on the new Ghostbusters movie, probably because it's got women in it. No, scratch that, it's totally because it's got women in it. If the internet existed in its current form in 1989, a bunch of awful jerks probably wouldn't be whining online about how Ghostbusters 2 ruined their childhood because it at least had the original cast. Remakes and reboots will face some level of scrutiny given the weight of the original (e.g., RoboCop 1987 vs. RoboCop 2014), but with the Ghostbusters remake, the level of handwrining and vitriol is absolutely ridiculous and unwarranted. A lot of that is sexism, plain and simple. Once gender becomes an issue, suddenly everything is suspect, from the motives to the actresses to the characters. I can't help but think of the Mary Sue accusations about Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and ditto the sexism over Felicity Jones' character in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It's almost like if you're a woman in geek culture (real or a character), you're either not good enough or too damn good and simply not afforded a space between extremes. By the way, you know who else was offended by an all-female Ghostbusters? Not Hitler, but close. There's a fair amount of MRA froth online about how the movie is pushing a social justice warrior agenda, as if "SJW" is some kind of damning pejorative and political correctness is destroying the fabric of American democracy. Conversely, there's been a fair amount of pushback from progressive and left-leaning culture writers about the importance of representation in media, with some even suggesting that Ghostbusters is a feminist call to arms that sticks it to the patriarchy. Before seeing the film, I felt some of the feminist reads of Ghostbusters were a bit of a stretch, and maybe even hoping for too much for the film's politics--it overreaches as a reaction to total dismissal. This is a Sony movie rebooting a lucrative IP. Its primary function is to make money, launch a franchise, sell toys, and advertise for media and corporate partners via blatant product placement (e.g., even though the Ghostbusters live in New York City, they order Papa John's Pizza). As it turns out, the Ghostbusters reboot pits our four heroes against a sad, dopey, male nerd stereotype named Rowan (Neil Casey). That's right, the villain in Ghostbusters is essentially some men's rights activist on Reddit (sans fedora). It's almost fitting that a movie that's prompted so much hatred from angry male nerd-bros is all about defeating an angry male nerd-bro. Rowan is an outcast, an exclusionary guy, someone who wants to harness power and influence and make the world fear his superior intellect. And he's a pasty dude who lives in a basement and has no friends. It's not subtle. The movie rarely is. Meanwhile, pasty dudes and basement dwellers take to YouTube and keyboards and rail against the movie, trying to deter others from enjoying the new Ghostbusters rather than giving people a chance to decide for themselves whether or not they like the film. But the nerds crave power and respect and have a persecution complex, which is why Rowan feels justified in destroying the world and toxic geeks in real life feel like the mere existence of an all-female Ghostbusters is a personal affront to a cherished childhood memory. Nerds really are the fucking worst sometimes. As I watched Ghostbusters, I couldn't help but think about its odd similarities to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The best scenes of the Ghostbusters reboot felt like Ghostbusters fans playing Ghostbusters in a Ghostbusters movie. As A.A. Dowd put it, the best parts of The Force Awakens felt like Star Wars fans playing Star Wars in a Star Wars movie. Both movies feature villains--Kylo Ren and Rowan--that embody the dark side of male geek identity. And like The Force Awakens, Ghostbusters gets hemmed in and struggles when it slavishly sticks to the story beats of the source material, and also when it gets a little too precious with dropping references to the original. That may be why Ghostbusters and The Force Awakens feel a little flat at the end, with the new characters weighed down by the checklist-feel of the script; without a little pause or modulation in tone, not much feels like a surprise in that final act, and nothing pops quite as much as it could. Even when Holtzmann (who is a little bit Poe Dameron, a little bit Rey) gets her moment to shine, it feels a little small, much like when Rey finally takes up the lightsaber against Kylo Ren. Again, Ghostbusters isn't perfect, but it's got some perfect moments. It needs space between being too damn good and not good enough. It shouldn't be held to a higher standard just because it's got women. Similarly, it shouldn't be viewed with malice just because you watched the original a lot growing up. You're not a special snowflake just because your folks had a VCR; your personal attachment to the film is yours and will always be yours, and four women in a movie isn't going to change that, you silly, silly nerd. Maybe the best lesson for toxic geek culture comes not from the original Ghostbusters but from another 80s movie directed by Ivan Reitman and starring Bill Murray and Harold Ramis: [embed]220588:42988:0[/embed]
Ghostbusters reboot photo
Calm down, bros, your childhood is safe
Paul Feig's Ghostbusters reboot opened last week and came in second at the box office, earning $46 million. It wasn't a bad showing for the film, and there's talk about a sequel (because obviously). Melissa McCarthy, Kristin ...

Review: Equals

Jul 14 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220427:42901:0[/embed] EqualsDirector: Drake DoremusRating: PG-13Release Date: July 15, 2016 (limited) In order to maintain a tranquilized world, the characters of Equals avoid intimate contact with one another, living alone in apartments that are modular and compartmentalized to maximize space. Everything has a kind of mechanical efficiency, including the way people walk purposefully like automatons. We're told of a wild outside world early in the film as Silas (Nicholas Hoult) works on images for a book of speculative non-fiction. He begins to show symptoms of emotions, which the world of the film refers to as "switched on syndrome" or SOS. High-level SOS is considered terminal. Part of Silas' SOS is rooted in his growing attraction to co-worker Nia (Kristen Stewart). Stewart's withdrawn and wounded gaze suggests she may be going through the same surge of emotions. They give in to this growing desire, because if two centuries of dystopian literature has taught us anything, love, sex, and the basic biological imperatives of lust offer some private liberation--an act of rebellion, even-- from the prisons that characters have imposed upon them. The world of Equals is a world of individuals kept apart but level through drugs and the trappings of an egalitarian society, which gives Silas and Nia's trysts in a company bathroom an added charge. Being human: it's messy, it's clumsy, but it feels great sometimes. Silas and Nia are essentially a pair of gaga-eyed teens, and they exchange the kind of first-love niceties you'd have with a high school boyfriend or girlfriend. Their words have an embarrassing earnestness to them, but it's because the words hang between them, connect them, and bring them closer together. Their fear of getting caught leads them to a sympathetic band of SOS patients who can offer sympathy and maybe even a way out. This all sounds a little too familiar, sure, and the clean aesthetic and cool-to-warm color scheme are predictable, albeit so competently often effectively executed. It's the nature of the subject matter and the long history of tropes associated with dystopias; the same goes for science fiction about deadening or mastering human emotions. Director Drake Doremus and screenwriter Nathan Parker don't bring much novelty to their future world, and yet I found something potent in the way Equals explored the stigmatization of depression, much of which is self-imposed. When Silas' co-workers discover he has SOS, they treat him as if he's got an infectious disease. They isolate him so they won't catch what he has, and he internalizes this aversion, which seems to increase his degree of SOS; isolation begetting isolation. People who conceal their undiagnosed SOS are called "hiders," a not too subtle reference. Equals is something of a cutter narrative or teenage depression narrative with just a touch, however chintzy, of Romeo and Juliet. While the world Silas and Nia inhabit is superficially utopian but a dystopia within, characters with SOS are inwardly depressed or dysphoric but forced to hide beneath an even-keeled veneer. They're the perfect kinds of citizens for this medicated hellscape. It's those little things that made Equals enjoyable. Its metaphor held solid while I acknowledge the elements surrounding it seemed shaky. If not shaky, then maybe too similar to things I've seen before. But again we have that outer/inner distinction that I've continually mentioned in this review. On the outside Equals is your standard-issue dystopian yarn with just a little bit of love for the misfit teenage set, but within there's something different and more messily human than the surface suggests.
Review: Equals photo
Star-crossed depression and dystopia
Any society that appears outwardly utopian is really just a nicely packaged dystopia. The orgiastic bacchanal of Logan's Run was really just an ugly form of institutionalized ignorance and population control. Gattaca was a st...

La La Land trailer photo
La La Land trailer

Watch the first trailer for La La Land starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone


This looks pretty special, guys
Jul 14
// Hubert Vigilla
After hitting it big with Whiplash, many wondered what writer/director Damien Chazelle would do for a followup. We got a taste of that yesterday with the first trailer for La La Land, a movie musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Give the trailer a watch below, and listen to the song "City of Stars."
Ghostbusters in China photo
Ghostbusters in China

Ghostbusters reboot denied release in China over censorship guidelines (or lack of interest)


G-g-g-g-ghosts!
Jul 13
// Hubert Vigilla
The Ghostbusters reboot is set for release this week, and will probably do pretty well at the box office thanks to controversy surrounding the clash between angry, nostalgic manchild nerds and people who are not them. Even if...
Pokemon Go movie photo
Pokemon Go movie

Legendary wants to bring Pokemon Go to the big screen


Global domination imminent
Jul 13
// Hubert Vigilla
Pokémon Go (aka the latest plot for global domination by Skynet and The Illuminati) has taken people by storm. Everyone's getting out and walking around to catch 'em all, which has also led to finding dead bodies, gett...
MoviePass pricing photo
MoviePass pricing

MoviePass unveils new pricing tiers, older members can sign up for them in September


Should have done this in the first place
Jul 13
// Hubert Vigilla
MoviePass changed their pricing and business model recently, and in a way that made people upset. I wrote the other day that they deserved to lose customers and goodwill over this. Yesterday, MoviePass unveiled a new tiered-p...
Assassin's Creed movie photo
Assassin's Creed movie

Ubisoft feels Assassin's Creed film is marketing for game's brand, lowers box office expectations


Also marketing for Fassbender's todger
Jul 12
// Hubert Vigilla
The trailer for Assassin's Creed looked promising, what with all the flip-dee-doos and the unexpected Kanye West track. There's solid talent attached to the project as well, with stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard ...
WWE Final Deletion photo
WWE Final Deletion

Watch The New Day vs The Wyatts at the family compound, WWE's version of The Final Deletion


Get the Dramamine ready for this one
Jul 12
// Hubert Vigilla
The other day we wrote about TNA's Jeff Hardy vs. Matt Hardy: The Final Deletion, which is pro wrestling's equivalent of Tommy Wiseau's The Room. It was an oddball kitschfest, yet one that was sprung from the minds of the Har...

Unlimited Facepalms: MoviePass deserves to lose customers and goodwill

Jul 11 // Hubert Vigilla
If you go on the MoviePass website right now, they still tout $30 as the starting price for service. Anecdotally, it seems as if the service changes weren't done across the board for all users but only affected some MoviePass users. This included early adopters who may have been with the company since it started in 2011. Meanwhile, other customers who may be newer to the service may not be subject to these restrictive or expensive rate hikes and service changes. New users, for instance, may get the one movie every 24 hours version of MoviePass service rather than having to choose between the $40/$50 package and the $99 package. (Also, $99? Guys, that's a passive-aggressive $100.) Then again, I'm relatively new to the program. I've only been using MoviePass since March. Fellow Flixist writer Alec Kubas-Meyer has had MoviePass longer than I have, though as of the weekend, he had not received an email about service changes. This makes me wonder if the number of movies seen during each billing cycle played a part in who got the email of doom, but that's purely speculation at this point. Based on what I've seen online, it seems like long-term MoviePass users were given no option to grandfather their previous plan despite their loyalty to the company over the years. It was the same limited menu of options: pay more for basically less, pay more than double for additional formats, or leave. Lolo Loves Films has been especially critical about these MoviePass changes, with many of their tweets devoted to this issue. MoviePass contacted Lolo Loves Films and discussed the matter with them by phone. Sadly the representative they spoke to offered no answers about reverting to the old service, no option of older users keeping their previous service, or any other matters regarding these pricing and services changes. They simply listened, offered gentle apologies, and that was it. That's all the customer service reps can do, really, since this wasn't their decision and they're probably just as bummed out as the customers that the higher-ups have messed up the company. Even though they listened, it doesn't seem like MoviePass cares. This isn't the first time the company has implemented changes that upset customers. Ryan Scafuro, producer of the documentary Bending Steel, mentioned that he'd been a MoviePass member at the beginning, when the company allowed customers to see one movie per day without the 24-hour restriction. The 24-hour restriction started in October 2013, at which point Scafuro dropped MoviePass. "That may be a petty reason but it really annoyed me and seemed like a shady move," Scafuro explained. "Now [with the new changes] it doesn't seem worth it at all." "I was a pretty early adopter to the program (I think I signed up in 2012)," Scafuro said. "When I called customer service I expected the rep to offer me some sort of grandfather clause. He was basically like 'I can refund your subscription,' which seemed like a tactless 'f**k you' seeing that they were still in the early stages of operation." Even though MoviePass in its current (and fallen) form could potentially offer savings, there's the principle of it all. The changes have been forced on customers without their input or a dialogue, and the changes have been applied unevenly, targeting certain people rather than all of the customer base. It seems unfair because, well, it's unfair. (I think Yogi Berra said that.) Had MoviePass issued a customer survey of some kind across the board prior to implementing any changes, there'd be more goodwill from customers. There'd be a sense of choice and involvement in the service moving forward, a service that many of these customers liked. Even just a little bit of input would go a long way to easing the change. Instead, MoviePass has basically said, "Here are your choices. Now s**t or get off the pot, kiddo." There's also an issue of the limitations in the new services and the immediate psychological response to having your choices taken away from you very suddenly. I don't care about 3D movies, so paying $5 more to see only six movies a month seems like a limitation on my ability to choose. That's not a good way of maintaining customer loyalty, which is why I can't recommend the service to anyone anymore. As of this writing, MoviePass has yet to publicly respond to the criticism it's received online and from individual members about these price and service changes. On July 5th, they posted a letter to customers on their blog, which was received with overwhelming negativity. Just read them comments. I sent an email to customer service over the weekend when I canceled, though I don't expect to get a response. If there's one thing that seems clear in all this, it's that MoviePass doesn't care what you think anyway.
MoviePass facepalm photo
Roll out of service changes poorly done
As we noted yesterday, MoviePass is raising prices and changing its service plan for select customers. Prior to these changes, MoviePass allowed members to see one 2D movie at participating theaters every 24 hours for as low ...

Watch Hardy vs. Hardy: The Final Deletion (aka wrestling meets Tommy Wiseau's The Room)

Jul 10 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220650:42981:0[/embed] Guys, that aired on TV somehow. (Given, it was on Pop TV, but still.) Let's get something straight: this was not a good match, it was not a good promo, and it wasn't even that good a wrastlin' short film. And yet there's something about it that's almost badgood. I found it watchable because I couldn't look away. Hardy v Hardy: Dawn of Dilapidated Boat is a sort of minor kitsch masterpiece in the vein of bad 80s action movies and earnestly made but ultimately execrable indie films (e.g., The Room, the work of Neil Breen). I don't like it. I don't love it. I don't know. What do you think about this match? Let us know in the comments, and say hi to the doggy. [via YouTube]
Hardy v Hardy v Wiseau photo
It's an extraordinary xylophone, Lisa!
WWE dominates the wrestling world today, though indie and international promotions like Ring of Honor, Lucha Underground, New Japan, and Chikara offer some excellent alternatives. Yet these are relatively niche; even WWE's in...

MoviePass changes photo
MoviePass changes

MoviePass upsets customers with price increase and plan changes


Select members get screwed
Jul 10
// Hubert Vigilla
MoviePass was bound to change when Netflix co-founder Mitch Lowe became CEO in June. Founded in 2011, MoviePass allowed customers to pay as little as $30 a month to see a 2D movie every 24 hours at participating theaters. (Mo...
MST3K contest photo
MST3K contest

Win a $2700 prize pack to see the RiffTrax Live: MST3K Reunion in Minneapolis


I don't care! (No, but I do)
Jun 13
// Hubert Vigilla
The MST3K Reunion show on June 28th promises to be a swell time. It brings together the great bad-movie riffers from the Joel and Mike eras of the show as well as new host Jonah Ray. Tickets for the actual event in Minne...
Warcraft box office photo
Warcraft box office

Warcraft bombs at the domestic box office but is a hit in China


Oh baby, just you shut your mouth
Jun 13
// Hubert Vigilla
Universal may have been right to think that Warcraft was a problem movie. No, not because Duncan Jones made Generic Fantasy Film: The Movie. Depending on how you look at it, Warcraft is either a Universal boondoggle or a...
Man vs Snake trailer photo
Man vs Snake trailer

Watch the trailer for Man vs Snake, which may be this year's King of Kong


Diabetes of Justice
Jun 06
// Hubert Vigilla
King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters was highly entertaining (even though the filmmakers fudged a lot of the facts). Much of that was thanks to the clash of personalities between Billy Mitchell and Steve Wiebe and the obsessiv...
Fruit Ninja movie photo
Fruit Ninja movie

They're making a Fruit Ninja movie, may God have mercy on us all


All is lost
May 23
// Hubert Vigilla
It was bound to happen. After The Angry Birds Movie came out (and did well at the box office), it would only be a matter of time before other time-waster mobile games were turned into feature films. Enter Fruit Ninja. Yes. Th...
Farewell Mr. Bunting photo
Farewell Mr. Bunting

Farewell Mr. Bunting: Watch SNL spoof Dead Poets Society--seriously, just watch it already


I sing my song for all to hear
May 23
// Hubert Vigilla
I'm not sure about kids today, but high school students of a certain age always wound up watching Dead Poets Society in English class. Its memorable final scene features a class full of boys bidding a powerful adieu to the ma...
Angry Birds box office photo
Angry Birds box office

The Angry Birds Movie knocks Civil War from top of the box office


This header image will never die
May 23
// Hubert Vigilla
Over the weekend we saw The Angry Birds Movie duke it out with Captain America: Civil War (#TeamBird v #TeamCap). #TeamCap believes in personal freedom and accountability in the face of a system that may b...
Warcraft VFX photo
Warcraft VFX

Behind-the-scenes Warcraft footage shows ILM making lifelike orcs


Should've cast real orcs
May 18
// Hubert Vigilla
Here at Flixist, we've been both cautiously optimistic and also somewhat skeptical about the Warcraft movie. We like director Duncan Jones a whole lot, but we're still left a little cold about the movie given the various ...
DC/WB Exec Shake Up photo
DC/WB Exec Shake Up

Warner Bros. picks Geoff Johns and Jon Berg to oversee DC cinematic universe


Fallout from Batman v Superman
May 18
// Hubert Vigilla
While Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has made around $870 million worldwide, it's been considered a disappointment for Warner Bros. By comparison, Captain America: Civil War has already made $957 million worldwide in two ...

Thoughts on the documentary Weiner by Josh Kriegman & Elyse Steinberg

May 17 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220420:42870:0[/embed] Weiner is cringe comedy at its most painful, with so much said in clenched jaws, nervous posture, and sad eyes. What's most fascinating is how, at least for me, the initial schedenfreude turned into empathy. I felt bad for Weiner, sure, but more so for and his wife, Huma Abedin, who suffers the failed campaign mostly in silence. Huma's appearances are brief but momentous. When she occasionally looks at the camera and emotes, I'm reminded of Jim from The Office or Buster Keaton; when the camera catches her in a candid moment, I'm reminded of seeing distressed strangers suffering through some private turmoil on the subway. While watching Weiner, I kept thinking about Marshall Curry's 2005 documentary Street Fight, which covered Cory Booker's run for mayor of Newark. Booker remains a rising star in the Democratic Party (though he seemed to burn brighter as a mayor than he currently does as a US senator), and Street Fight is all about his high-minded, aspirational campaign which was characterized by an inexhaustible surfeit dignity. Weiner, on the other hand, is all about exponentially expanding indignity, both on the part of the candidate and also on the part of a media obsessed with salaciousness, moral outrage, and sanctimony. [embed]220420:42872:0[/embed] The early buzz over Weiner is that the film's release could have an impact on the general election. Huma is a close confidante of Hillary Clinton and currently serves as vice chairwoman of Clinton's presidential campaign. I don't think this will have much sway on the primaries or the big vote in November, but it may help people reflect on what matters in politics. With so much focus on personality and personal lives, the focus on policy gets lost. In other words, Dick Pics > The Middle Class. As we watch Weiner struggle to get his message out on the campaign trail, all anyone can talk about are his personal indiscretions and how they affect perceptions of trustworthiness. Some express moral outrage, and use it as an excuse for the worst kind of bullying. How much of this is rooted in legitimate concern for New York City politics, and how much of it is just a love of political theater? [embed]220420:42871:0[/embed] I developed a strange admiration for Weiner as the documentary progressed. Part of that is how we begin to feel bad for a person when they've been publicly humiliated, but Weiner is also a fighter. When I first heard about him several years back, it was because of his passion as a Congressman when advocating for 9/11 first responders. The first sexual disgrace would come a year later, but that fighting spirit carried on in his comeback/mayoral bid, though he became a total palooka for the public. Even with everything collapsing, he continued into the fray, taking punch after punch after punch, and yet, against all good judgement, he decided to stand and fight rather than fall. Is it odd to admire the punching bag and the punch-drunk? The big question is if Weiner believed he could salvage his comeback or if it was just the weight of expectation and obligation that kept him going. Most likely both. Maybe it was also a kind of public flogging that he secretly agreed with. It's weird to admire that, but people are strange and complicated, and sometimes they run for office. Whether or not I'd vote for them is a different matter entirely.
Weiner documentary photo
Politics (and dick pics) in our time
Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg's Weiner was one of the must-sees at New Directors/New Films earlier this year. The documentary chronicles the inspiring comeback and catastrophic implosion of Anthony Weiner's 2013 bid to be...

New DC logo photo
New DC logo

DC Entertainment unveils bland brand-new comics and film logo


The bullet logo was still the best
May 17
// Hubert Vigilla
DC Comics unveiled a brand new logo to coincide with big Rebirth event this summer, which pretty much looks like a mea culpa for that New 52 stuff from a few years ago. The comic is an 80-page one-shot written by Geoff Johns ...

Review: High-Rise

May 12 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220425:42900:0[/embed] High-RiseDirector: Ben WheatleyRating: RRelease Date: March 18, 2016 (UK); May 13, 2016 (USA)Country: UK Laing (Tom Hiddleston) is a brain surgeon who's taken a flat in a new luxury high rise. In the apartment above there's Charlotte (Sienna Miller), a flirty socialite who makes eyes with the good doctor as he sunbathes nude on his balcony. Building designer Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons) lives in the penthouse, where his wife rides white horses on the rooftop garden and he looks down on his grand social experiment: all the comforts one could need, a hermetic society. And yet the parties and the supermarket and the pool access is never enough to keep people compliant. They isolate themselves, they become tribal. The opening of the film, which looks downright post-apocalyptic, shows how far the high rise life has decayed. Laing scavenges the dumpsite foyer of his building for food, dressed in the tatters of a business suit. He's gone from doctor to concrete pirate. There's no food, but thank goodness for stray dogs. Like the upper-middle-class residents of the skyscraper, I'm not sure director Ben Wheatley and writer Amy Jump get what they want out of High-Rise; the same may go for the audience. Adapted from the J.G. Ballard novel of the same name, it's a sordid and decadent movie about people going native in their own crowded living quarters, but it's even looser and sloppier than that. As society crumbles, the narrative structure of the film breaks down as well. The last half of the movie eschews traditional narrative and tells the rest of the building's decay in a series of loud vignettes and montages. I can pinpoint the exact moment midway through High-Rise where I lost a lot of my patience. Before a raging bastard of a man named Richard Wilder (Luke Evans) goes on a dominating rampage, he tapes his own voice in a cassette recorder. He repeats "I am Richard Wilder!" On the one hand, I get it (Wild, yes, and you're wilder than others, like this is the wild, okay), but on the other hand I rolled my eyes because I couldn't have not gotten it already (yeah, Dick wilder, I noticed). The scene that follows it is ugly and uncomfortable; obviously by design, and yet. High-Rise isn't bad so much as it's convoluted in its execution and maybe wishy-washy with its cultural critique. There's something Gilliam-esque about some of the scenes. The aristocratic party in 18th century garb is a nice bit of upper class affectation, and ditto the block party out in the hall. Similarly, the growing squalor of the building looks like something out of Brazil combined with a third-world landfill. The lights flicker out periodically, and nothing quite works the way it should in this place, and yet one carries on. Laing is no Sam Lowry from Brazil, however. Like some of the characters in High-Rise, Laing is passive and content to sit back as the world around him devolves and crumbles, which sort of squanders Hiddleston's natural charisma. He exists as a metaphor, a symbol, not a person. Meanwhile, others act or are acted upon; most of them also metaphors or symbols rather than people. It's the difference between facades and actual domiciles. There's a clinical lens about High-Rise, which makes sense since the breakdown is about observing the devaluation of others. It's like watching a crowded cage full of rats who are bound, at some point, to destroy each other just given the crowding and the lack of resources. And yet it's not quite like that since our ability to observe this cannibalization is interrupted. The sense of cause-and-effect is broken up, it feels like there's something missing. The vignettes that comprise the final half of High-Rise become frustrating since we're rarely offered a chance to explore the emerging tribes of the building. Here are tribal cultures and subcultures organizing themselves inside of a multi-tiered concrete petri dish (e.g., a matriarchal society of women and orphaned children), and we barely get an opportunity to observe their method of survival. MILD SPOILERS ABOUT THE FINAL SCENE The final words of the film don't belong to any of the characters we've spent time with. Instead it's the voice of Margaret Thatcher extolling the virtues of capitalism. Nevermind that there's little in the movie about capitalism per se. Maybe this is Thatcher suggesting capitalism as a solution to the egalitarian nightmare whose failure we just watched? And given our place in time, maybe the state of nature isn't quite as bad as the current state of government-approved inequality. High-Rise is a work of interesting and extreme architecture, but I'm still not sure what to make of its design.
Review: High Rise photo
Going native in a concrete jungle
High-Rise is a bit all over the place, and it's a bit of a mess, but it also seems to be that way by design--a sort of warped architecture. I'd gone in sort of expecting a vertical version of Bong Joon-Ho's Snowpiercer, but i...

Review: The Lobster

May 12 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219844:42633:0[/embed] The LobsterDirector: Yorgos LanthimosRating: n/aRelease Date: October 16, 2015 (UK); May 13, 2016 (USA)Country: UK, Greece, France  In the world of The Lobster, single people are social pariahs. After the death of a spouse or a divorce, a single person is forced to check into a hotel filled with other single people. They have forty-five days to pair up and get married, otherwise they are killed and have their consciousness transferred to an animal. Lots of people choose dogs, but throughout the movie we also see horses, pigs, and peacocks. Our hero David (Colin Ferrell, with a slight gut) chooses a lobster; he brings his brother (who is now a dog) with him to the hotel. You can earn extra time to prevent metempsychosis by hunting down single people in the woods with a tranquilizer gun. The hotel operates with business-like efficiency, providing scheduled social activities like some bad singles cruise from hell. To reinforce the importance of relationships, the hotel staff puts on skits: A single man pantomimes eating a meal alone, he chokes, he dies; a man and his wife pantomime eating a meal together, he chokes, she administers the Heimlich maneuver, he lives--applause. To determine whom you can pair up with, you're asked whether you're straight or homosexual (the latter sounds so much like business-ese in the context of the film). David asks if there's a bi-sexual option and is shot down--you can only choose one or the other, not both. Paper or plastic, soup or salad, efficiency, efficiency, efficiency. And it's blackly hilarious. The international cast adds to the oddball appeal of The Lobster, and they deliver their lines in an intentionally stilted manner. Olivia Colman's hotel manager strikes just the right balance between clinical, supportive, and fascistic to make her moments memorable. As for the guests, at times they seem like awkward pre-teens going through the early stages of adolescence. David befriends men played by John C. Reilly (with a slight lisp) and Ben Wishaw (with a slight limp), but they act like boys in the schoolyard. In some scenes the lines are bumbled or devoid of actual human emotion, like they're reading a script or they're pod people acting like humans are supposed to act. Flirtation is no longer about attraction or fun but learned behaviors about how people are supposed to flirt, or the desperation of a ticking clock scenario; relationships are a form of mutually beneficial transaction (i.e., we get to remain humans) that's not necessarily satisfying. Some of the best moments in The Lobster come from Lanthimos' exploration of the various forces that urge people to get into relationships against their will. The time limit might be taken as a biological imperative to have kids, or even just a desire to get married by a certain age; the pressures of the hotel staff are the different cultural, familial, and religious expectations attached to marriage and relationships. Any time your relatives have nagged you about dating, marriage, or kids, you have occupied a room in Lanthimos' hotel. Lanthimos also pokes fun at the arbitrary ways we sometimes choose who we want to be with. Limping Wishaw is looking for a woman who also has a limp, because something in common (no matter how arbitrary) might mean greater compatibility. Sometimes shared interests or traits are an arbitrary reason to get into a relationship. Does he or she really need to like your favorite band? Is a 99% match on OK Cupid really a guarantee of compatibility? A number is just a number like a limp is just a limp, and what people share together isn't a matter of arithmetic or mere reflection; there's a kind of private language and grammar that develops between people who are really fond of one another, and these things can't be forced or imposed from the outside. Since The Lobster is rooted in binaries, we also get to learn about the harshness of single-life out in the woods. In the wild and the damp, we meet the leader of The Loners played by Lea Seydoux, who's both a kind of political revolutionary and a radicalized kook. She asserts her own absurd will over The Loners that is in stark contrast to the rules of the hotel--instead of relationships, it's all about forceful solitude. And yet like the hotel, her rules are equally arbitrary, equally absurd, and also blackly hilarious. It's no longer a case of "paper or plastic" among The Loners, but rather "with us or against us." Lanthimos is equally suspicious of these denials of attraction and the repression of our desire to connect with someone else; it's another imposition on human nature and individual choice. In the woods, animals who were single people wander through shots. They're probably better off. For all the absurd and anarchic humor throughout The Lobster, the movie loses momentum before it comes to an end. It's as if Lanthimos exhausted the possibilities of his conceit and didn't figure out the final pivot his story could take. (I mentioned Barthelme earlier, and his best stories often have a sort of pivot near the end, revealing an additional train of thought that's been operating, parallel or hidden, all along.) The Lobster can feel a little one-note at times, but I suppose it's really one note that's played by two opposing sides, a kind of tyranny of logic. During the New York Film Festival press conference after the screening, Lanthimos said his screenplay was very logical. The comment drew some giggles from the press, yet it's true. The Lobster adheres to the logic of its conceit, and maybe too much. But there's still enough to love.
Review: The Lobster photo
Love is strange (so is loneliness)
I still haven't gotten around to seeing Yorgos Lanthimos' Dogtooth, though I intend to. The blackly surreal 2009 film was nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar and drew favorable comparisons to the work of Luis Bunuel ...

Captain America: Civil War - #TeamIronMan v #TeamCap and Obama-era foreign intervention

May 11 // Hubert Vigilla
Both Iron Man and Captain America's sides are justified in-character by their experiences over the course of 12 other films. It might speak to the strength of long-form stories allowing characters to develop through choices and actions over time, and to then have a major interpersonal conflict stem from the ideological differences between characters. Given the collateral damage and technology-run-amok in Avengers: Age of Ultron, it makes sense for Tony Stark to consider international approval. It would keep his own ideas in check (i.e., creating something like Ultron) if there had to be political consensus before moving forward, and that consensus could then justify direct action and mitigate any personal guilt over the deaths of innocent people. This makes more sense than Tony Stark going full neoconservative fascist douchebag as he did in the Civil War comic by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven. HYDRA's decades-long infiltration of the US government and SHIELD in Captain America: The Winter Soldier leads to Steve Rogers' distrust of oversight, which may involve parties with motives and interests outside of the greater good. On top of that, we're talking about the United Nations as the overseeing body, an organization which stood idly by during the Rwandan genocide and whose actions these days include strongly worded letters of condemnation. Could you imagine the Avengers assembled to draft a letter? In a way, Tony's trust in his own judgment backfiring so badly led him to the security of the Sakovia Accords. On the other side, the complete failure of those in power to stop HYDRA led Steve away from the compromise and institutional oversight of the Sakovia Accords. There's also a generational conflict that tempers the Iron Man and Captain America worldviews. Tony Stark has grown up in the era after Vietnam with a certain gray or cynical view of military conflict. This is not a doveish view on Tony's part, however, but maybe one that adds ambivalence to the view of intervention and combat. Captain America, on the other hand, is a product of the greatest generation who could align in a black-and-white good-vs-evil battle against the Axis powers, HYDRA (i.e., science Nazis), and fascism. Of course, Cap doesn't really talk much about Dresden or the atomic bomb--that would complicate the moral arithmetic of utilitarianism. Civil War doesn't talk about the possibility of non-intervention and the use of diplomacy, but that sort of discussion would be silly in the context of superhero films. The Avengers fight massive hordes of faceless alien/robot/science Nazi goons hellbent on eradicating humanity. When that's the situation, the only viable option in the particular story being told is some sort of large-scale action set piece. (You don't bring a strongly worded letter to a gun fight.) It's maybe no surprise that in Alan Moore's Watchmen, the grand solution to fixing a world at war involves something extraterrestrial. Real life situations are far more complicated and can't be treated with the cavalier sense of moral righteousness seen in superhero movies. The foreign interventions of the Obama administration show how even careful deliberation or a humanitarian goal can backfire. Drone strikes are meant to eliminate select terror targets and reduce civilian deaths, but innocent men, women, and children have been murdered by American drones (see National Bird). The moral righteousness of Captain America's stance does nothing to mitigate the heartbreak and tragedy (and potential war crimes charges) of airstrikes against Doctors Without Border hospitals in Afghanistan or Yemen; Presidential apologies are of little consolation either. With regard to the Syrian Civil War, the complexities of the various factions involved, interfactional alliances, allegiances to various outside parties/countries, and a host of other factors have meant little direct or immediate action by the United States, which is still trying to figure out the quagmire it caused in Iraq under Bush; ditto the ISIS-led power vacuum the US created when Obama, under the counsel of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, used airstrikes along with French, British, and other NATO forces to assist Libyan rebels in the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi. All superhero movies often have something inherently hawkish and/or libertarian about them, sometimes occupying various ideologies at once. Some may have a more activist streak (many are vigilante stories, after all), while others are more authoritarian (many are world police stories, after all), and these Avengers movies tend to be all about the positive things that the Earth's mightiest heroes can do even when they accidentally kill innocent people. As our own Jackson Tyler pointed out last year, The Avengers is all about American exceptionalism, unable to commit to a full critique of its own ideological foundation. They're power fantasies, after all, and like fairy tales or myths or any fantastical stories that are told, maybe there are certain limitations in what can be addressed. These are simplifications of conflicts, and rarely with a one-to-one conversion regarding its real world referents. Superheroes can do a lot when it comes to embodying certain aspirations, ideals, and anxieties, but there isn't much room in a tentpole blockbuster to address the complications and nuances of real world national and international politics. The closest Captain America: Civil War can get to nuance is its ambivalence about the #TeamIronMan v #TeamCap argument. It comes down on neither side explicitly, allowing both to exist as the correct solution to a narrow hypothetical situation involving the world of the film. These are still heroes (again, the foundation remains), but one is a sheriff while the other is the gunslinger who turns in his tin star, one is the by-the-book cop while the other is the loose canon who lost his badge. This isn't neocons taking on liberals, it's more like Buzz Lightyear v Woody. Similarly, Captain America: Civil War isn't a diagnosis and treatment of the current state of the world but more of a collection of symptoms. I'm reminded of a two-page Superman story from 1940 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The Man of Tomorrow soars through the air, kidnaps Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, and then brings them both to justice before the League of Nations. All that power, and he rights major wrongs so easily and justly, preventing the deaths of countless millions in the process. If only real world foreign policy were that easy. In retrospect, it's a very sad Superman story.
Civil War and politics photo
Imperfect solutions, true believers
Now that we've all seen Captain America: Civil War, it's about time to open up the #TeamIronMan v #TeamCap debate. On the one hand, you have Iron Man as a guilt-addled pragmatist who feels UN/international oversight is a nece...

Swiss Army Man photo
Swiss Army Man

The red band Swiss Army Man trailer has Daniel Radcliffe as a farting corpse with a boner


Friendship is magic, farts, boners
May 10
// Hubert Vigilla
The first trailer for Swiss Army Man was a zany delight. Paul Dano is saved from suicide and loneliness by a body washed ashore played by Daniel Radcliffe. Yet he is no mere corpse. Nay, Harry Potter is a magic farting corpse...

Review: Dragon Inn

May 09 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220493:42920:0[/embed] Dragon Inn (Long Men Ke Zhan, 龍門客棧)Director: King HuRating: NRRelease Date: May 6, 2016 (limited)Country: Taiwan An evil eunuch named Cao (Ying Bai) has seized power from one of his political enemies, putting him to death and exiling his children. Cao makes a power play to assassinate these exiles, which leads to a conflict with three heroes on a mission to prevent this from happening. There's a dashing rogue who carries an umbrella (Shih Chun), and there's a swashbuckling brother and sister duo consisting of a bullish hot-head (Hsieh Han) and a woman so skilled with a sword she causes gender confusion among her foes (Lingfeng Shangguan). There's conflict between these warriors, which has to be set aside to save the day. Sure, it's a familiar dynamic that isn't particularly complicated, but Dragon Inn is such an undeniable joy, like a grandparent's cooking. Yet to call it high-end cinematic comfort food sells Hu's craftsmanship short. He's mastering the form with just his second film in the genre. Like certain scenes of Come Drink with Me, much of the tension in Dragon Inn is the result of keeping heroes and villains in close quarters with one another. Cao's goons overrun the eponymous inn, which is situated in the middle of a rocky wasteland--part sanctuary, part target; a little bit Motel 6, a little bit Alamo. The heroes are grossly outnumbered, and they're always targets or under siege. When Chun's dashing rogue appears, there's a sense of calm about him, as if all is well while he tries to control the situation, eventually leading to a scruff. Lingfeng and Han have some comic moments, particularly during one scene where they dine with their enemies as a bit of subterfuge and do their darndest to avoid being poisoned. I mentioned the gender confusion earlier, which is a common trope of martial stories of all kinds--women warriors mistaken for men given their prowess. In many of King Hu's films, he has women as the front-and-center heroes. It's Cheng Pei-pei in Come Drink with Me (who would later play Jade Fox in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and Hsu Feng in A Touch of Zen. Though Chun's mysterious rogue is the primary badass of the movie, Lingfeng's young heroine in Dragon Inn gets a fine moment to shine against dozens of goons, and this gender confusion offers a great way of undercutting traditional gender roles and gender expectations with the draw of action, as if skewering sexism, the patriarchy, and machismo with an elegant jian. The fights of Dragon Inn are staged like a movie musical, which may have a lot to do with the influence of Peking Opera. There's also the feel of a samurai movie about the fights since the visual rhythms and vocabulary of the Chinese martial arts movie were still in development. There's a major leap made between Dragon Inn and A Touch of Zen in terms of the pacing, staging, movements, and editing of the fight scenes, which makes both films essential for action aficionados. There's a softness to the fights here that hardens in Zen, as if Hu would ironically discover the visceral stuff of combat while making his meditative spiritual epic. A similar leap was made from Come Drink with Me to Dragon Inn. When the genre eventually turned away from swordsman pictures to the unarmed fighting genre, the vocabulary, grammar, and sheet forcefulness of the action would change again. Beyond its history, Dragon Inn is so watchable because it's a pure delight. The rousing Lan-ping Chow score is like some sonic representation of a dashing chilvaric code, all flight and blades and evasions. The height of the wuxia film in the late 1960s is still a glorious landmark nearly 50 years later.
Review: Dragon Inn photo
King Hu's landmark early wuxia film
While King Hu's 1971 epic A Touch of Zen is his towering masterpiece, his earlier film Dragon Inn may be the best entry point into the director's work. This 1967 adventure is one of the essential early martial arts ...


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