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Hubert Vigilla

Trailer for The Mummy with Tom Cruise reveals a new world of gods and monsters

Dec 04 // Hubert Vigilla
Makes me wonder if Tom Cruise will make appearances in other Universal Monster Movie universe movies. (The UMMUM, as the cool kids call it. Cool kids meaning me, mostly.) Here's an official synopsis for The Mummy: Tom Cruise headlines a spectacular, all-new cinematic version of the legend that has fascinated cultures all over the world since the dawn of civilization: The Mummy. Thought safely entombed in a tomb deep beneath the unforgiving desert, an ancient princess (Sofia Boutella of Kingsman: The Secret Service and Star Trek Beyond) whose destiny was unjustly taken from her is awakened in our current day, bringing with her malevolence grown over millennia and terrors that defy human comprehension. From the sweeping sands of the Middle East through hidden labyrinths under modern-day London, The Mummy brings a surprising intensity and balance of wonder and thrills in an imaginative new take that ushers in a new world of gods and monsters. The Mummy hits theaters on June 9, 2017. Check out a poster for the film below.
The Mummy trailer photo
Run, Tom Cruise, run!
The Mummy reboot with Tom Cruise teased a trailer last week with a short preview and a movie poster. The trailer for the film just dropped, and it looks much darker than the kooky, happy-go-lucky Mummy movies with Brendan Fraser. Also, you get to see Tom Cruise running in this trailer, because of course you do. It's a Tom Cruise movie. Check out the trailer below.

Rogue One 60-minute Q&A photo
Rogue One 60-minute Q&A

Watch a 60-minute Q&A with the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story cast and director


More questions and anwers with the team
Dec 04
// Hubert Vigilla
The 30-minute Facebook Q&A with the Rogue One cast and director Gareth Edwards wasn't the only appearance the team made in the Bay Area. There was a 60-minute Q&A/panel with the same talent in San Francisco. Twitter, ...
Science v Cinema: Arrival photo
Science v Cinema: Arrival

Video: Science vs. Cinema weighs in on Denis Villeneuve's Arrival (SPOILERS)


Find out if the science holds up
Dec 04
// Hubert Vigilla
I mentioned last week that Denis Villeneuve's Arrival is one of the best movies of 2016. Artist Peter Konig shared some concepts and designs that demonstrate the craft involved in the film. But if you're a hardcore sci-fi gee...
Rogue One 30-minute Q&A photo
Rogue One 30-minute Q&A

Watch a 30-minute Q&A with the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story cast and director


Facebook employees getting all the perks
Dec 04
// Hubert Vigilla
Last week, the cast members of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and director Gareth Edwards dropped by Facebook HQ in Menlo Park, CA for a Q&A and special 28-minute preview of the film. A video of the Q&A session was post...

Assassin's Creed clip photo
Assassin's Creed clip

New Assassin's Creed clip features a carriage chase, horses, swashbuckling


Giddyup
Dec 04
// Hubert Vigilla
December 21st is fast approaching, which means the marketing for the Assassin's Creed film is in full effect. In the last week we've seen a clip featuring the souped-up Animus as well as the launch of an Assassin's Creed VR e...
I AM GROOT VOL GROOT photo
We are Groot
All right, a-holes, here it is. The official trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has arrived. Everyone's back, it sounds like we've got a new track from the second Awesome Mix, and Groot's a baby. (Which means Vin Dies...

Assassin's Creed VR photo
Assassin's Creed VR

Assassin's Creed VR experience basically simulates a virtual reality tech demo/commercial


It's like you're really sitting there
Dec 03
// Hubert Vigilla
As Assassin's Creed tries to hype up its December 21st release, it looks like some new technology is being used to sell the movie to you. In this case, it's a virtual reality movie that was shot on-location during the actual ...
Star Wars: Rogue One photo
Star Wars: Rogue One

Korean Star Wars: Rogue One TV spots and a new poster bring the hope


Less than two weeks to Star Wars 3.5
Dec 02
// Hubert Vigilla
The hype train for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is now in full effect. A second final trailer was released last weekend as advanced tickets went on sale. A behind-the-scenes featurette with Diego Luna also showed up recently,...
Belko Experiment trailer photo
Belko Experiment trailer

Watch the red-band trailer for James Gunn's intense office horror film The Belko Experiment


Kill your co-workers or be killed
Dec 02
// Hubert Vigilla
In between Guardians of the Galaxy and the forthcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, James Gunn wrote a movie that's decidedly nothing like Guardians of the Galaxy. In fact, it looks like a cross between The Office and Ben ...
Alternate Arrival aliens photo
Alternate Arrival aliens

Check out these alternate alien concept art designs for Denis Villeneuve's Arrival


Other forms of otherworldly
Dec 02
// Hubert Vigilla
We haven't reviewed or written anything on Denis Villeneuve's Arrival on this site, though that definitely needs to change. Arrival is one of the best movies of 2016, and may be the science fiction film that best embodies the...
Rampage adaptation photo
Rampage adaptation

Director of Rampage adapation starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson promises emotion, scares


Kaiju candy asses gonna freak out
Dec 02
// Hubert Vigilla
In case you forgot (why would you remember?), an adaptation of Rampage has been in the works for years. The film seems to have some actual legs on it now that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is attached to star with San Andreas dir...
Steven Seagal? photo
Steven Seagal?

Video essay: Why was Steven Seagal such a big deal back in the day?


Explaining the era of peak Seagal
Dec 01
// Hubert Vigilla
One day, when society lays in waste and all that is left are the ruins of our great works, another civilization--perhaps from another planet--will sort through our cultural dross and ask an important question: "Why was Steven...
9-min Great Wall trailer photo
9-min Great Wall trailer

9-minute trailer for Zhang Yimou's The Great Wall is more than just Matt Damon


Maybe the trailer is overcompensating?
Dec 01
// Hubert Vigilla
The old myth was that astronauts could see The Great Wall of China from space. A new 9-minute trailer for Zhang Yimou's The Great Wall has been released, and I'm pretty sure it can be seen from space. They have free wifi up t...
Star Wars: Rogue One clip photo
Star Wars: Rogue One clip

First clip from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has rebels taking out jabroni storm troopers


Rebel rebel, you've torn your dress
Dec 01
// Hubert Vigilla
We're just two weeks away from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. While the reshoots stoke a little worry in me (according to reports, composer Michael Giacchino only had four and a half weeks to write the score), I remain hopeful...
Wes Anderson' The Witch photo
Wes Anderson' The Witch

Trailer remix video: What if Wes Anderson directed Robert Eggers' The Witch?


This parody trailer presupposes...
Dec 01
// Hubert Vigilla
Robert Eggers' The Witch (or The VVitch, as the cool kids write it) is one of my favorite movies of 2016. It's a bleak, despairing period film, and it slowly unnerved me through its accretion of dread. I still think abou...
Doctor Strange 8-bit photo
Doctor Strange 8-bit

Marvel's Doctor Strange gets the 8-Bit Cinema treatment, looks a little like Mega Man


By the sprightly pixels of Capcom!
Nov 30
// Hubert Vigilla
I really liked Doctor Strange. While lots of the MCU tends to blend together visually and tonally, Strange had tilty fractals and psychedelic wonder, and on the whole the film felt more like a kung fu movie than just a s...
BWAAAAHHHHRRRM photo
BWAAAAHHHHRRRM

Hans Zimmer going on world tour in 2017, see the list of dates BWAAAAM


BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHMMMMMMMMMMMMM
Nov 30
// Hubert Vigilla
In Demolition Man, all of the restaurants are Taco Bell. In contemporary film music, almost all movies are scored by Hans Zimmer. Therefore, Hans Zimmer is almost the Taco Bell of film scores. (Don't question my logical reaso...
Lost MST3K episodes found photo
Lost MST3K episodes found

The first MST3K episodes have been found, are available to stream for Kickstarter backers


Like finding long-lost geek demos
Nov 30
// Hubert Vigilla
The new Mystery Science Theater 3000 should show up on Netflix some time next year. We still don't know what movies Jonah Ray and the bots will be watching, or how the new cast will interact with some of the familiar faces, b...
White Rabbit Project photo
White Rabbit Project

MythBusters Kari, Tory, and Grant return in the trailer for Netflix's White Rabbit Project


Looks like MythBusters 2.0
Nov 30
// Hubert Vigilla
I was such a massive fan of MythBusters in its glory years. While Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman were the undeniable captains of the ship, the build team of Kari Byron, Tory Belleci, and Grant Imahara had such a great group dy...
Star Wars: Rogue One vids photo
Star Wars: Rogue One vids

Watch a new TV spot and behind-the-scenes video for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story


Diego Luna and a bit of Darth Vader
Nov 29
// Hubert Vigilla
Tickets are now on sale for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which means the hype is now in full force. The movie looks like it might be sort of like The Dirty Dozen in space, and I'm totally fine with that. (I can only ass...
Assassin's Creed clip photo
Assassin's Creed clip

Michael Fassbender enters the Animus in this Assassin's Creed clip


Shake hands with the past
Nov 29
// Hubert Vigilla
The Assassin's Creed movie is less than a month away. I'm lukewarm but interested, and at least willing to give it a shot based on the talent involved. The film brings together Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, and direct...
La La Land featurette photo
La La Land featurette

Go behind the scenes of Damien Chazelle's La La Land in this featurette


Dance, dance, dance
Nov 29
// Hubert Vigilla
As I mentioned today when discussing the latest La La Land trailer, I'm a bit of a sucker for musicals. If I'm feeling down, I know I can pop in an old MGM musical and at least feel a little bit better through the day. Even a...
La La Land trailer photo
La La Land trailer

Check out the trailer for La La Land with Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, out next week in select cities


Modern take on the old-timey musical
Nov 29
// Hubert Vigilla
The latest trailer for Damien Chazelle's La La Land has been out for a few weeks, but since we haven't showcased it on the site, I figure now's as good a time as any. A movie musical made in an age where they don't really do ...
Avatar 2 photo
Avatar 2

James Cameron may finally have a release date for Avatar 2


Putin/Seagal is the new Penn/El Chapo
Nov 28
// Hubert Vigilla
Avatar 2 has been delayed for a long, long time, but over the weekend James Cameron's sequel might have gotten a release date. The people at 20th Century Fox have been adjusting their release schedules, and they have an untit...
Star Wars: Rogue One photo
Star Wars: Rogue One

Final trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story mentions the odds and raises the stakes


May the Donnie Yen be with you
Nov 28
// Hubert Vigilla
I know, I know--we already said there was a final trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Now we have two final trailers. You can blame Disney and Lucasfilm for wanting to hype the movie one last time now that the public can buy their advanced movie tickets. Go buy tix already, duders. Check out the second final trailer for Rogue One below.

Watch the first trailer for Martin Scorsese's long-awaited Silence

Nov 28 // Hubert Vigilla
Silence comes so late in 2016 that it didn't have a chance to premiere at any of the usual year-end film festivals (i.e., Toronto, New York, Telluride, AFI Fest). Instead, Silence will have its world premiere at The Vatican tomorrow, Tuesday, November 29th. No word on if Pope Francis will be at the screening of the 159-minute film. There is also no word on what designer brand the Pope will be wearing to the world premiere if His Holiness is present. Here's a synopsis for Silence: Martin Scorsese’s SILENCE tells the story of two Christian missionaries (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who face the ultimate test of faith when they travel to Japan in search of their missing mentor (Liam Neeson) – at a time when Christianity was outlawed and their presence forbidden. The celebrated director's 28-year journey to bring Shusaku Endo’s 1966 acclaimed novel to life will be in theaters this Christmas. Silence will be in theaters December 23rd. A poster for the film is included below. [via /Film]
Martin Scorsese's Silence photo
Almost 27 years in the making
Martin Scorsese has had his eyes on Silence since 1990. We first reported on Silence way back in 2011. Had the movie been made sooner, the cast might have included Daniel Day Lewis, Benicio Del Toro, and Gael Garcia Bernal. I...

Mad Shelia photo
Mad Shelia

Witness the trailer and poster for Mad Shelia, a Chinese Mad Max rip-off


MEDIOCRE!
Nov 28
// Hubert Vigilla
Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the best action movies of the 21st century, and was one of the best movies of 2015 by far. We were bound to see some movies trying to capitalize on the look, feel, and stuntwork of George Miller's...
Yoda Bad Lip Reading photo
Yoda Bad Lip Reading

Yoda sings a song about seagulls in this Bad Lip Reading of The Empire Strikes Back


Laughing off my ass, I did
Nov 27
// Hubert Vigilla
A break from posting during Thanksgiving, Flixist has taken. But fear not. Return we will with news and reviews in the final weeks of 2016. A very crummy year, 2016 was. The dark side of the Force is powerful, but balance res...
MST3K Turkey Day 2016 photo
MST3K Turkey Day 2016

MST3K Turkey Day is back for Thanksgiving 2016 with Joel Hodgson and Jonah Ray


Their top six episodes as voted by fans
Nov 23
// Hubert Vigilla
Thanksgiving is tomorrow. You're probably busy traveling or pretending to work or fretting over the time you have to spend with your relatives right now. If you're stressed out or feeling down, buck up: MST3K's Turkey Day is ...

Review: Evolution

Nov 23 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220389:42858:0[/embed] EvolutionDirector: Lucile HadzihalilovicRelease Date: November 25, 2016 (limited/VOD)Rating: NRCountry: France The world of Evolution is mysterious from the get go, which is due largely to the coastal locale where the film is set. We don't know what year it is, or quite where this place is either. It's all so otherworldly, the sort of setting for tales, allegories, and de Chirico paintings. There are white stucco buildings built near the water, and the sand is black leading to the turbulent shore. It's beautiful in how stark it is. In the distance, there's a medical facility that looks like it was abandoned years ago, but boys and their mothers walk back and forth for periodic examinations. There are only grown women and young boys on this island. There are no men, there are no girls, and the mothers have a sinister uniformity about them. At night, the mothers leave their homes carrying hand lanterns and congregate near the water. The boys are just boys but are in the dark about their caretakers. The boys are raised on a diet of mashed kelp and something like worms, one of those foods that while heated in a saucepan still looks cold when it's served. Evolution centers primarily on Nicolas (Max Brebant) and his mother (Julie-Marie Parmentier), and what Nicolas discovers about this town and where babies come from. We follow him into the night, down long corridors, to water in the dark, and in the process participate in the act of discovery, unwrapping the allegory along with Nicolas, sharing in his repulsion and curiosity. Roughly midway through Evolution, this dive into the unknown slows, maybe too much for what's revealed about the mothers and their boys. Yet even what's revealed is just enough to suggest larger possibilities and delve deeper into the thematic territory of the movie--sex, childbirth, asexuality, violation, flesh, reproduction, biological processes. I sensed in the film's lull that Hadzihalilovic was signalling a move away from an explicit exploration of the plot and the machinery of the world to a series of ruminative brushstrokes, each one a deliberate move to the film's finale, which is more conceptual than visceral. In the immediate aftermath of Evolution, I felt a little let down, expecting more of a resolution to what's introduced early on. Yet the movie has this strange, lingering quality thanks to its pervasive otherworldliness. I mentioned Lovecraft and Cronenbeg earlier, but Hadzihalilovic makes this movie her own, invested with unique hobbyhorses and a fascinating sensibility. It's rare to see a movie that sticks around in your mind after an initial sense of disappointment. The fact I'm still thinking about Evolution, and deeper now than in the hours after the first viewing, have made me reevaluate Hadzihalilovic's languid pace, which unfolds with the same speed as a dream verging on a nightmare but never quite arriving there. Cinematographer Manuel Dacosse does a magnificent job in rendering these images and giving them such a haunting quality that I can't get several of them out of my head. Evolution's grown on me, like a skin graft or like coral, or maybe it's grown in me, like the stuff of recurring bad dreams.
Review: Evolution photo
Lingering, haunting, and yet
There's so much going for Lucile Hadzihalilovic's Evolution, a film expertly lensed from the deliberate first shot: looking up to the sky from underwater. From beneath, the ripples and waves on the ocean surface produce undul...

Review: Manchester by the Sea

Nov 17 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220919:43136:0[/embed] Manchester by the SeaDirector: Kenneth LonerganRating: RRelease Date:  November 18, 2016 (limited) Casey Affleck plays Lee Chandler, a handyman who lives in a small room in Boston. He's prickly and withdrawn, a brooding guy who spends a lot of time alone. When his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) passes away, Lee reluctantly returns to his hometown to help settle affairs with Joe's teenage son Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Whenever Lee's name is mentioned, people around town perk up. They're surprised, shocked, that Lee Chandler, the Lee Chandler, is back. He's got a reputation for something. There's a reason he's avoided home. Affleck's troubled quiet is remarkable to watch. It's a nuanced performance built around restraint. I found myself wondering throughout the film what moments would cause his stoic facade to collapse. There's such an immense heartbreak and guilt in him, which is clear even before his past is revealed, yet he doesn't want to share his emotional and psychological burden with anyone else. As penitent as he is, an intimate human connection would hurt even more. He'd rather get drunk and get beat up. Lonergan drops several telling flashbacks, and he finds elegant ways to loop the past into the present and then out again. It adds dimension to Lee, and Affleck is superb at playing the same man in different keys. Michelle Williams plays Lee's ex-wife Randi, whose character is similarly constrained by her emotions. She wants to speak about their history together, but doing that may be more painful than staying bottled up. A phone call early in the film captures the tense awkwardness of two people who want to say more, say everything, but can't bring themselves to say much of anything. Williams has always been an excellent and underrated actress, and part of me wanted more of her in the film. It would be a different sort of movie. Manchester by the Sea is more about Lee and to a certain extent his nephew Patrick and the shortcomings of masculine tropes when it comes to raw emotional life. On the one hand the male-dominated story feels like a missed opportunity, but maybe it also emphasizes Lee and Patrick's solitude. With regard to family, this man and this boy are all that's left in each other's lives. The restraint in the lives of the characters may explain why I responded so much to the emotional highs and lows of Manchester by the Sea. It's the catharsis for the audience that the characters can't give themselves. All of the funny and sad material gives an alternately absurd and humane texture to these lives. Even the material that doesn't seem like it fits in a streamlined narrative--such as an unexpected but perfect cameo appearance, or Patrick's teenage horndog shtick--enrich the sad, beautiful whole. Admittedly this seismographic portrait of people's lives doesn't work for everyone. I had a pretty spirited back-and-forth with my friend and fellow film critic Nathanael Hood, and he was lukewarm on the film's jagged contours. Lonergan finds quiet and stillness amid mood swings, and also offers the actors ample room to emote or withhold. Frozen chicken falls from the freezer and a person finally breaks down; someone offers a small tip for service and the other person doesn't know how to interpret that sort of kindness. I laughed, I cried, and I laughed. All of the funny moments are punctuated by an unremitting sadness. Lee is comically bad at small talk and social gatherings, but the reasons for it, like so much about Manchester by the Sea, are so personal and painful.
Manchester by the Sea photo
Life is heartbreaking, and funny, too
Watching Manchester by the Sea, I was reminded of two lines from the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch: "I cry, because I will laugh if I don't" and "I laugh, because I will cry if I don't". Kenneth Lonergan's latest film is ...

Clueless Gamer: FF XV photo
Clueless Gamer: FF XV

Watch Conan O'Brien and Elijah Wood get bored and angry at Final Fantasy XV


"WHY WOULD SOMEONE PLAY THIS?!"
Nov 16
// Hubert Vigilla
The Clueless Gamer bits on Conan are a lot of fun to watch. Sure, Conan O'Brien isn't a gamer and is more of a snarky smart aleck, but his overall assessment of what he's seeing is brutally, acerbically honest. In case you mi...
The Inhumans on IMAX/ABC photo
The first TV show to debut via IMAX
The fate of Marvel's The Inhumans seemed uncertain this year. It was taken off the Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase Three schedule last spring after being pushed back from 2018 and 2019. Now Marvel is taking an unprecedented s...

Review: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Nov 14 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]221033:43193:0[/embed] Billy Lynn's Long Halftime WalkDirector: Ang LeeRating: RRelease Date: November 11, 2017 You may recall complaints about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey being shown in HFR 3D. Audiences said it looked strange and artificial, which is why neither of the two sequels had HFR screenings. That was just at 48 frames per second. With Billy Lynn, more frames per second doesn't translate into greater verisimilitude. Instead the high frame rate tends to make the movie look amateurish and fake. This is experimental technology, and only two theaters in the United States are equipped with the projectors to properly show the HFR version of Billy Lynn. The full experience is underwhelming on the whole with a few exceptions. What does HFR look like? Picture an HD cooking show shot with a consumer-grade digital video camera. Or maybe a local news broadcast viewed on an LCD viewfinder. Movements tend to look overly smooth. In some shots, the figures in the foreground look like they were inserted via green screen. In an early graveyard scene, it felt as if Lee was laying Colorform decals of his actors onto a flat background. 3D never looked so artificial. Other scenes felt like HD versions of cut scenes from 90s video games. I was reminded how expensive things can often be so tacky. It doesn't help that the cinematography lacks life. The film is built out of mechanical, workmanlike medium shots, flat close-ups, and pristine tracking shots. Lee continually returns to the POV of Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn), like a riff on the symmetrical POV dialogue scenes in an Ozu film. There's a problem. Since Billy's eyeline is not trained at the viewer like the people he's speaking to, the Ozu effect is lost from inconsistency. It's one of many curious choices with the overall way the film was shot. The movie doesn't look clinical but synthetic. In terms of camera placement and movement, the movie almost feels as if it was shot by a first-time cinematographer. In fact, the film was lensed by John Toll, whose credits include The Thin Red Line, Almost Famous, and Cloud Atlas. High frame rates may make amateurs of pros. Occasionally the HFR works well. When Bravo Company takes the field before the game starts and throws some footballs around, the vast length of the field is captured thanks to depth of the tableau. But it's also a tech-demo shot ("Let me show you what this baby can really do!"). The battle scene and halftime show--the sole justification for the technology--are pretty spectacular as well, though more the Iraq scenes than the halftime show. At the Dallas Cowboys game, the troops are meant to share the stage with Destiny's Child. Destiny's Child body doubles, to be more precise. Just when the halftime show seemed like something real, the blatant fake-Beyonce took me right out of the scene. So much of Billy Lynn is about small character moments rather than big spectacle, which makes the decision for HFR filmmaking somewhat baffling. Billy flirts with a cheerleader (Makenzie Leigh) after a press conference. It's a medium shot with a dark curtain as the background. The distracting look of the frame rate and the lack of 3D depth in the shot called attention to the artifice of the scene and the superfluous use of this technology to tell this story. It would be a bad shot and a poorly blocked scene in 2D, but in glorious 4K 3D the banality of the shot is much more apparent. I've spent all of this time complaining about the look of the film that I haven't even gotten to the scenes that work. That ought to say something. Lee's got a good lead in Alwyn, who carries the imperfect movie on his back. He has the all-American look coupled with vulnerable eyes. He's a kid always at the verge of breaking, trying to tamp down the unspeakable hurts. Vin Diesel is the late philosopher warrior of Bravo Company, essentially playing Vin Diesel. Kristen Stewart makes a solid impression in her brief supporting role as Billy's anti-war sister Kathryn. A tense Lynn family dinner scene feels more real than the stadium stuff. Garrett Hedlund makes the most of his screen time as the driven head of Bravo Company, a strong center that orients the group. All of the boys in Bravo have an easy camaraderie, though some of it's built on the same old war movie cliches. This may be just a roundabout way of saying the real immersive material in a movie has nothing to do with 3D or frame rates or spectacle and everything to do with the emotional content. I think about an alternate universe in which Billy Lynn was shot in the same way as The Ice Storm or Brokeback Mountain (and with no fake-Beyonce). I wonder how much more moved I would have been. I wonder what kind of movie this would be. As it is, there's a good movie in Billy Lynn that's constantly struggling to break out and breathe. Witness in 120 frames per second and 4K 3D the folly of mismatched form and content. It's ironic yet fitting that Billy Lynn's technology gets in the way of what works in the film. This is a movie about people using troops as a means to an end--they're good for ratings, they're good as a recruitment tool, they put butts in seats, they're fantasy figures, they can angle for a movie deal (a cloying, winky, meta element to the film that's too on the nose). It's also a movie about disregarding our troops as people. Lee had good intentions, but is feels like the tragedy of these heroes is just an excuse to play with some new cinematic toys.
Review: Billy Lynn's photo
High frame rate, low level execution
I can say this about Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk: Ang Lee and his cast have their hearts in the right place. Adapted from Ben Fountain's novel of the same name, the film is constantly trying to remind its viewers about th...

Hayao Miyazaki is back photo
Some good news in 2016 for once
Hayao Miyazaki announced his retirement from filmmaking back in 2013 with the release of The Wind Rises. That directing bug is strong, however, and he couldn't completely step away from animation. Back in July 2015, Miyazaki ...

Beware the Slenderman photo
Beware the Slenderman

The trailer for Beware the Slenderman will creep you out and disturb you


When memes turn into folklore and murder
Nov 13
// Hubert Vigilla
The Slender Man stabbing in 2014 was disturbing to say the least. Two 12-year-old girls in Waukesha, Wisconsin stabbed another girl 19 times in order to appease the Slender Man, a fictional modern day bogeyman born on the int...
Kadokawa retrospective photo
Kadokawa retrospective

NYC: Haruki Kadokawa 80s cinema retrospective at Japan Society (Nov 8-Dec 17)


Producer, publisher, poet, eccentric
Nov 11
// Hubert Vigilla
Japan Society routinely has excellent screenings and film series throughout the year for fans of Japanese cinema. Right now there's a special retrospective on flamboyant book publisher and film producer Haruki Kadokawa. The s...

DOC NYC Review: 13TH

Nov 10 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220907:43127:0[/embed] 13THDirector: Ava DuVernayRelease Date: October 7, 2016 (Netflix)Rating: TBD DuVernay's central thesis is that while the 13th Amendment ostensibly abolished slavery, the systems of oppression in the 1800s evolved into different forms of oppression that are currently in practice today. It's a compelling argument that begins with the Reconstruction Era following The Civil War, in which imprisoned black men were used as labor to rebuild the south. It continues into segregation and Jim Crow, the war on drugs, the Republican's Southern strategy, and so forth. DuVernay is expert at cycling various ideas, phrases, and images throughout 13TH, which helps make her overraching argument cohesive.  13TH generally follows a linear and chronological crawl through 150 years of American history, intercutting archival footage and talking heads. Our guides through history include activists (e.g., Angela Davis), academics (e.g., Henry Louis Gates Jr.), commentators (e.g., Van Jones), and politicians (e.g., Senator Cory Booker). While the primary draw of 13TH is the outrage at a corrupt criminal justice system, formal touches contribute to the riveting watch. The settings for each of the interviews, for instance, are often industrial spaces that evoke the feel of jails and prisons. DuVernay withholds identifying many interviewees until their third or fourth appearance on screen. I don't know why that seemed so novel, but I was hanging on people's words a little more that I might have been. There are a few contrarians among the interviewees who don't think systemic racism is a problem. Of course they're white dudes. Surprisingly, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich isn't one of these clueless white guys. Gingrich appears in 13TH and says that many white people don't understand what life is like for black people in America. I may not agree with his politics, but credit goes to Gingrich. He's relatively more woke than some people I know. 13TH is predominantly concerned with mass incarceration and how the prison population increased dramatically through the '70s, '80s, and '90s. It's neat and brisk through most of its 100-minute run time, though it becomes loose once we focus on the mid-2000s to today. From prison privatization we then cover issues of police militarization, the rise of Black Lives Matter, and even (perhaps unavoidably) Donald Trump's ugly rhetoric in the Presidential race. (Trump makes an earlier appearance when he calls for the execution of The Central Park Five.) If she wanted, DuVernay could have made a mini-series out of this, or a long-form doc in multiple parts a la Ezra Edelman's O.J.: Made in America. DuVernay's such a skilled cinematic essayist that she's able to rein in 13TH even as it seems to stray. I mentioned her cycle of ideas and images earlier. Just when I felt like the movie was moving off track, she would reintroduce an idea or an image to show why one particular point is a reticulation of a previous one. The death of Emmett Till haunts the deaths that gave rise to Black Lives Matter. Phrases like "law and order" take on a sinister quality. The idea of the black man as a rapacious criminal similarly casts its unending shadow. The most memorable recurring image in 13TH involves a black man in a suit and hat. It must be from the 1950s. He's walking through a suburb. There's a mob of angry white men around him. They shove him. They yell at him. He gets punched in the back of the head. But the black man keeps walking. He's being insulted and assaulted, but he's carrying on unphased. During a press conference, DuVernay referred to this anonymous person as "the dignified man". I don't know where he was walking or if he got there, but I hope he made it okay. I hope everyone does somehow.
Review: The 13th photo
Slavery didn't end, it adapted
13TH feels like a culmination of Ava DuVernay's career to this point. The documentary brings together the racial and social history of Selma, her years of work as a documentarian, her stint as a journalist, and even her under...

Review: Elle

Nov 10 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220908:43150:0[/embed] ElleDirector: Paul VerhoevenRating: RRelease Date: November 11, 2016 (limited)Country: France  Elle starts with the rape, in media res. Verhoeven shoots the scene with surprising restraint. There's the noise of the assault off camera. Michèle's pet cat looks on blankly. The rapist, dressed in black with a ski mask, stands and wipes blood from his hip and groin and then walks away. Michèle tidies up around the kitchen and continues about her day in a daze. She's in shock, but it's subtle. A brief bubble bath scene is so artfully done and haunting. Michèle's a bit angrier at her son Vincent (Jonas Bloquet) when he comes to visit than she would be otherwise. Vincent asks about the bruise on the side of her face. She says she fell off her bike. The rape goes unreported. When Michèle finally mentions it to anyone, she waits for the most awkward moment possible to bring it up. She says what happened as if she lost a credit card. Is it a coping mechanism or is it just the movie playing provocateur? Elle aims for the uncomfortable laugh, and for a while it succeeds in doling out its cringe humor. At a certain point, it's just cringes. While dealing with horrible things in life, one hundred other genres may be occurring in the world simultaneously. A portion of the film plays like a thriller, with Michèle narrowing down the suspects in her life while her attacker stalks and harasses her. As this thriller plays out, there's a family dramedy: Michèle's jealous about her ex-husband's new girlfriend, annoyed by her son's screwed up relationship with his pregnant girlfriend, and can't stand her mother's new boyfriend either. Then there's the matter of her father and an infamous trauma in her past, one essential to Michèle's character but never explored substantively in the story. Huppert's a saving grace for the film in that she plays everything so straight, even Michèle's unexpected actions and reactions. Yet these are just actions in a performance, not necessarily actions stemming from a character. I could rarely get a handle on who Michèle was or how she interpreted the world and the events around her. The rape is replayed explicitly in the film, and then played again as a kind of revenge fantasy. Later, Michèle seems to invite victimization. There's a harrowing scene in which Michèle seems turned on by the idea of the man she's with raping her, recreating the trauma that opened the film. Is she feeling pleasure? Is that pain and masochistic shame? Is it a mix of both, and if so, what then? Huppert wears an inscrutable mask before, during, and after the scene. The moment is never discussed afterward. I don't need on-screen psychoanalysis or to be handheld through a narrative, but I'd like to be given some hint of what Michèle feels about what's happened. Elle avoids exploring the emotional impact of rape. Instead the film tries to offer Michèle's detachment as some opaque and oblique portrait of her psychology, but even this amounts to a blank gray page. This is all extremely difficult and sensitive territory to explore, especially when Michèle's motives are so ambiguous. Sure, there's never a single correct way for someone to respond to trauma, but rather than provide an alternative portrait of recovery or greater insight into this personality in flux, I felt as if Elle was simply pushing buttons and inverting the traditional rape-revenge narrative for the shock value. That's easier and less painful than really getting into someone's interior life after such a traumatic experience. The film's MO seems to be keep the focus on the inscrutable surface, and make it shocking. It doesn't help that Elle's perspective is male dominated; it's directed by Verhoeven from a script by David Birke, and adapted from a novel by Philippe Dijan. Am I watching a woman's experience as she struggles to retake power as all the men in her life rob her of agency? Or am I just watching a male interpretation of all this that indulges in a little bit of rape fantasy? This might all be up for audience interpretation, which makes me surprised that so many critics have written that the film is so empowering to women and makes bold statements. I don't think it says anything at all, or intends to empower anyone; it's just well-orchestrated provocation. No surprise that by the end of Elle, I was left feeling a sour and empty frustration. Michèle is the head of a video game company, though this portion of Elle serves as a mild subtextual and metatextual backdrop. They're making a medieval action-adventure--think Warcraft by way of Assassin's Creed with really antiquated graphics. During a meeting, one of her designers--a man who may be the rapist--says that Michèle's pretentious literary background has gotten in the way of the game's basic playability. I think Verhoeven's penchant for provocation might have gotten in the way of the fundamental human concerns of Elle.
Review: Elle photo
Provocative, but is it saying anything?
Elle has been billed as a rape-comedy, but that's a misnomer. It's a comedy in the classical sense given the events of the story, but it's not necessarily funny (there are funny scenes, though). And yes, it's about rape. Elle...

DOC NYC Review: Weiner

Nov 08 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220984:43191:0[/embed] WeinerDirectors: Josh Kriegman and Elyse SteinbergRating: RRelease Date: May 20, 2016 Many have lamented that the 2016 election lacks big ideas. Where's the policy debate? Where's the climate change discussion? Where's the substance? Given, it's difficult to have any discussion of weight when one of the two major candidates knows less about governance than a 6th grader, but let's just entertain the idea that our public discourse has eroded. The public says it wants policy, but maybe it just wants a show. A reality show, no less. That's one of the underlying suggestions of Weiner. I remember learning more about sex from the Monica Lewinsky scandal on TV than from my folks--I even recall a debate on whether or not oral sex was sex per se on the second season of MTV's The Real World. Over the last 12 years, Donald Trump parlayed his reality TV stardom into a political run; and over the last eight years, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin parlayed her political stardom into a reality TV gig. In my previous piece on Weiner (which should be considered part one of this review), I mentioned there were moments in the film that reminded me of the faux-doc sitcom The Office. America's made a mockumentary out of politics, and I don't see that changing, or at least I don't know what the change will be. And there I go, clutching my pearls, telling the kids to get off my lawn, implicitly pining for some sort of high-minded policy debate. And yet here I am, writing about this great political documentary which captures the zeitgeist of our political moment precisely because it's about the spectacle of a disgraced man's downfall rather than the strengths and weaknesses of his political platform. The spectacle is more dazzling; or, to use that wretched overused word, the optics are more captivating. To put it another way, who wants to talk about the middle class and the working class--or, hell, Standing Rock--when we have blow jobs and cum on blue dresses and sexting and dick pics and pussy grabbing instead? Thinking about Weiner again (what a phrase), I feel even worse for Huma Abedin. She's suffered yet another indignity because of her husband. Regardless how you feel about their politics, Huma and Hillary Clinton have a lot in common when it comes to the men in their lives, which probably explains their close bond. Huma carries herself through the film with a semi-translucent veneer of grace that can't mask the extreme mortification and anger at her awful fucking husband. Meanwhile, Weiner smiles and laughs and grandstands, all the while grinning. He looks like the Epic Troll Face guy. It's armchair psychology at its worst, but he must get off on the attention. That would explain the recurring exhibitionism, and his most recent public disgrace. In my first piece on Weiner, I mentioned a kind of admiration for the guy given his persistence. Weiner tried, he failed, he tried again, and failed again. Worstward, ho! But given these latest allegations, the admiration vanishes. Some people are Sisyphus. Abedin, for instance. I compared her to Buster Keaton in the previous piece, and on she goes, walking, running, continuing despite the chaotic world around her; the straightwoman in a slapstick, dick pic world. Other people, like Anthony Weiner, are less like Sisyphus and are really just very compelling persistent assholes. Very compelling persistent assholes make for great television, and great films, too. Apparently, they also make for nightmarish presidential elections.
Review: Weiner photo
The rise and fall and rise and fall...
Weiner is an appropriate film to review on Election Day, and not just because it's one of the best political documentaries of the last 10 years. Former Congressman Anthony Weiner potentially put the 2016 election in jeopardy ...


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