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Review: The Defenders (Season 1)

Aug 22 // Nick Valdez
The Defenders (Season 1)Director: VariousRating: TV-MARelease Date: August 18, 2017 (Netflix) After the events of Iron Fist, Danny Rand (Finn Jones) vows to strike down various members of the criminal ninja organization The Hand. His journey across the world has brought him back to New York, where he hears of a greater Hand plan in action. Luke Cage (Mike Colter), fresh out of prison, is trying to start a new life and build a better Harlem but overhears how a man in a white hat is recruiting young men into doing some bad things. Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), still grappling with her new identity as a public figure following Kilgrave's actions, begrudgingly investigates a case about a woman's missing husband. Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) is distraught after Elektra's death, and has been floating around aimlessly since the end of Daredevil's second season. Suddenly, this new character Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver, the queen) is super important and appears with a revived Elektra and is doing something to New York City. Then these four individuals sort of run into each other and now have to save NYC from The Hand.  The Defenders somehow has everything and nothing going on at the same time. Adapting The Avengers model of eschewing more toward bigger sequences rather than fleshing out story beats, this first season (or only) covers a ton of ground in terms of the narrative it wants to tell, yet it doesn't evolve the characters in any meaningful way. Although The Avengers succeeded in this regard thanks to a combination of novelty and an unforeseen amount of popularity, it mostly succeeds because it's over before you recognize its flaws. This series makes an improvement over the other Netflix MCU shows by virtue of trimming the standard 13 episode count down to eight, so I was hoping that also meant they had a clearer vision of the narrative and cut out most of the excess. That's not the case.  The length of the series collides with how little meat is in the story when there's one too many of the "all of our superheroes stand in a line and look at each other" moments. Less than dynamic camerawork (not to mention how unintelligible some fights can be with poor close-up cuts and shakycam) only emphasizes how little emotional investment there is going into each action sequence. [embed]221845:43744:0[/embed] While there is a unique flavor of fun in these action scenes presented with a gravitas that certainly feels earned yet reflective of the limited budget for the series, after fights happen in the same fashion a few times, they lose that ironically tinged appeal. The lack of strong action sequencing may be a result of the slim variety in the team lineup (strongman, strongwoman, stronghand, ninja devil man), but these technical flaws wouldn't matter as much if this first season spent more time exploring how these characters interact with one another and less time explaining facets of the Iron Fistmythos.  As this narrative is focused on The Hand, it often feels like a season of the Daredevil and Iron Fist show with special guests Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. Charlie Cox is a suitable anchor for this bracket of the MCU, but less so is Finn Jones as Danny Rand. There is a slight improvement in how he and Colleen Wing have been written in this series as opposed to Iron Fist, but focusing another season's worth of plot around his antics feels like a letdown. There are occasions of brilliance as Danny is notably shut down as a whiny rich idiot by the other members of the team (and almost act as a meta-commentary of his series when compared to the others), but the focus on Rand and Murdock leaves the much more interesting Jones and Cage on the sidelines.  It's great seeing Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones again, and it's crazy how natural she feels in comparison to the others. Mike Colter is fine, but other than one prescient conversation about privilege between Luke and Danny, he's underserved in the role. Jessica and Luke are only tangentially connected to the overall narrative, so the escalation of their involvement feels loosely tied and forced. Their smaller roles yield some great outsider one-liners, but it's a shame most of the time spent in The Defendersis learning The Hand's history and focused on villains of which only three we've gotten to know beforehand.  There's a notable push and pull of time between each episode of The Defenders. The better episodes allow the actors and characters to really dig into their budding relationships, while the worse ones throw all the ancillary characters in the NMCU into a single room just for the credit of having them be there. Each episode feels as if we're being rushed through in order to have time for the next action set piece, but then slogs about in expository plot the viewer has already figured out for themselves.  The Defenders manages to quickly burn through all the time in the world. It doesn't have much to say beyond a standard crossover TV special, but brief moments of fan service and fun do break through from time to time. 
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Masters of karate and friendship
When the Marvel Cinematic Universe first came to Netflix it seemed like such a great idea. Four individual series of shows focused on more grounded heroes eventually coming together in a small scale, Avengers-like fashio...

Review: Death Note

Aug 21 // Rick Lash
[embed]456101:69322:0[/embed] Death NoteDirector: Adam WingardRelease Date: August 25, 2017Rated: RNetflix Meet Light (Nat Wolff). He seems to be a bit of a loner. We’re told he’s highly intelligent, so don’t let his actions make you think otherwise: he is. Hold on there, Light? Would you mind stopping acting like an idiot? I’m trying to tell the readers how smart you are! Thanks! Right, really smart Light is sitting outside his high school when a notebook mysteriously drops from the sky and lands right next to him. Its cover says DEATH NOTE. Inside, it says, “The human whose name is written here will die.” And that’s where we start, with a preposterous notion, one that most would write off, and one which Light probably would too, only supernatural phenomena do a marvelous job of helping him to believe, and quickly. It turns out there’s a death god, Ryuk (voiced by Willem Dafoe), who is a sort of interactive guide to using the Death Note and he’s not only helping Light to believe the note’s powers are real, he’s encouraging his every move. Turns out Light is a troubled kid, one whose mother was killed by a man who got off on legal technicalities. And Light’s not much a fan of bullying either. Put these ingredients together with the supernatural power to kill by writing a name in a book and Light’s recipe is A better world, now. With light at its head as the god of justice, Kira. The film’s strength is its ability to condense down the material that comprises the manga and anime into a single movie, successfully. It’s tough to pace the material to this condensed narrative format, but the Netflix team did it with their story. And you must call it their story, as beyond the presence of Light, L (Lakeith Stanfield), and Ryuk, oh, and a book that kills people whose names have been written in it, the story ceases to be the one that you may already be familiar with. Gone is the cat and mouse interplay that made the originals so devilishly enjoyable. Instead, it’s more like lion, mouse, and too much moody music and too many Dutch angles. This is MTV filmmaking if you’ve ever seen it (hopefully you haven’t—does anyone else remembrer the abysmal The Perfect Score?). L lives up to his character history. Clearly, he’s been given the intellect of both characters when it was supposed to be split between the two. But the most egregious error of this story is Light’s giving up all his secrets in the moments after they become his secrets, all to impress a girl. And, once convinced, impressed she is: their first time killing someone together immediately leads to sex. And here, I think the story loses itself. This is not Bonnie & Clyde with a hint of vigilantism, or it’s not supposed to be. Nor, if it were, would only half of the couple really care to stick to their guns about killing the innocent. It’s a diluted version of the original story, wherein Light is not afraid or hesitant to kill law officials if they’ll hinder his plans. This splitting of the personality and character serves to create problems that wouldn’t otherwise exist, and ultimately makes Light a less interesting character. Which is a shame, for if given the proper material, Wolff seems a more than capable actor; his turn at being terrified at the first appearance of Ryuk is amazing—I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone act “scared” as well as he does. But, instead of letting him act the cool, calculating sociopath, they give him a turn as out outburst-prone, temper-tantrum throwing teenager who has daddy issues and “behavioral problems” at school. We’ve all seen many versions of that before. Light, the character essence of Light, is above this petty normal stuff. Which is funny, because inside this Light’s school locker, we see a sticker that says “Normal people scare me.” That should be right, but Light is far too average for it to hit home. For those uninitiated in the Death Note lore, this will probably play better than for those already familiar with the story. How well is another question. For those who are already familiar, you do find more than pleasant turns from Lakeith Stanfield as L and from Defoe / Jason Liles as Ryuk. They’re much truer to form and both play their parts well. L’s quirks are by and large wholly believable, feel natural—as much as someone like L can feel natural. With only occasional tics (the use of some sort of neural eyewear to help him maximize the benefits of one hour of sleep) as fails, and those can be chalked up more to poor writing than acting. Margaret Qualley (The Leftovers) as Mia Sutton, Light’s disenchanted cheerleader turned girlfriend makes due with what she’s given, but her own righteousness and willingness to compromise and kill anyone who’d get in Bonnie & Clyde’s way is never satisfyingly explained. Her motivations are utterly unknown, other than the apparent sexual fetishization of violence that we’ve already touched upon. The twists begin transparently and grow in effectiveness as the film progresses, ending on a stong(er) note. But mostly, the deaths rely on gruesome effects that show explicitly what’s happening to people. I counted at least three that equaled the gore found in The Walking Dead’s most violent moments. They were cringe-inducing, and felt in the audience. Perhaps this served to underscore just how real this seemingly unreal phenomena was, but more likely, it seemed an easy out to use shock against the viewers rather than intellect. Maybe portraying an emotionally stable and dedicated high school student was too much the challenge for any director to imagine. It’s true, culturally, the image of Light as such conforms more to Japanese idealism than American. Either way, outside its interesting pitch line, Death Note fails to deliver anything new and truly exciting—it may have been better served as an eight-episode Netflix series rather than movie. Side note: this story takes place in Seattle, yet Light is caught not once, but twice in pouring downpours acting as if he hates the rain; have people forgotten umbrellas in Seattle? Details matter.
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Death Note, the second major Japanese manga to be adapted as a major Hollywood production this year, is facing some of the same criticisms that its predecessor (Ghost in the Shell) did. Accusations of ‘whitewashing&rsqu...

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Karl Urban is open to starring in the Dredd TV Series


Attention, citizens of Peach Trees...
Aug 08
// Drew Stuart
Back in 2012, Dredd was the sleeper-hit action movie none of us knew we wanted. Sure, it seemed like just another phoned in action-flick, but director Pete Travis took the campy premise to amazing heights with solid execution...
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The Dark Tower TV series is still happening and has a producer


Another chance at another turn
Aug 04
// Matthew Razak
The Dark Tower movie is out and it's a bit of a let down, but that isn't going to stop production companies MCR and Sony from trying to move this thing into a full blown franchise. News has come that Glen Mazzara of...

Review: The Dark Tower

Aug 04 // Matthew Razak
[embed]221796:43721:0[/embed] The Dark TowerDirector: Nikolaj ArcelRelease Date: August 4, 2017Rated: PG-13 The Dark Tower is one of those movies that you're going to get a lot more out of if you've read the books despite the fact that it is really only loosely based on them at all. There are hints and allusions to bigger things that readers will pick up on, but much of the massive quest that Roland (Idris Elba), Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) and their ka-tet (those bound by fate) go on in the books as they confront the Man in Black/Walter (Matthew McConaughey) is missing. The film pieces together key parts here and there, dropping entire characters in what feels like an attempt to put much of the quest into a 90 minute running time.  In our world we find Jake having dreams of the Dark Tower and the Man in Black/Walter, a powerful wizard who can kill simply by telling people to stop breathing. He is nigh-invulnerable and more akin to a comic book super villain than the mysterious trickster of the books. Using the "shine" of children kidnapped from the many worlds that are all connected by the tower, Walter is attempting to destroy it in order to let the blackness in from the outside. Enter the gunslingers of Mid-World, of which Roland is the last one. His sole quest is to kill Walter in order to get revenge for the death of his father and the fall of his homeland Gilead. Eventually Jake, who is gifted with the most powerful amount of shine ever, finds his way into Mid-World and the two set off on a universe-hopping quest to stop Walter. That, my friends, is the least complicated way of explaining the plot that the film has attempted to cram into a 90 minutes. There's a lot of lore and other items that get shoved in here and there too, but instead of opening up the story all the different themes and myths make it more obtuse and unfocused. As a reader of the books I understood a lot of the background that was going on and where ideas came from, but coming from an outside perspective it must feel more like idea vomit -- a bunch of tropes pushed onto the screen one after the other. It makes for a flat film that peaks the few times it focuses on its characters and not the world. Those characters do work, but thanks to the limited running time we never really get to know them. Idris Elba's gunslinger shows hints of the depth behind his fantastically stoic front, but he's never able to turn it into anything thanks to the movie heavily focusing on the far less interesting Jake and overplaying Walter. McConaughty is fantastically slimy as the wizard/magician/evil-person, and a far better choice of casting than I thought he would be, but instead of an air of mystery about the character they turn him into a big bad that plays generic. Taylor meanwhile plays Jake well enough for a child actor, but as the linchpin for the film his character feels more like a McGuffin than an actual person.  This isn't all to say that The Dark Tower is a bad movie, but instead of the tent pole of a large franchise it feels like a half-baked standalone. In that light it could be seen as a moderate success, delivering some interesting concepts here and there. Roland's gun fighting shines every so often as interesting, and Walter's ability to have people do anything he wants is played up for effect pretty well. The action itself is pretty interesting, but limited as well. Roland's expertise with the six-shooters delivers some memorable moments, but Arcel can't piece together a coherent enough action sequence to make anything truly stand out. There's things that work here, just not in a big picture way. They work in a single scene way. Walter's nearly unlimited super powers are a great example of this. They seem immeasurable and unstoppable, which makes for some enjoyably evil scenes, but on the whole make more of a mess. They raise questions about why a man who can hurl massive chunks of buildings that could easily crush our hero doesn't do just that the second he wants to. Roland is supposedly a bit immune to Walter's magic, but he's clearly not immune to being crushed, stabbed, or run over by large objects, which in turn are not immune to Walter's ability to hurl them through the air at Roland.   This leads directly to the biggest issue the film may have. Since Walter is turned into a super villain instead of the enigmatic torturer of Roland he no longer acts as a convincing foil. The great metaphorical duel between the two characters is nothing more than a shootout since the film doesn't spend any time developing the cat and mouse game it wants the two to be playing. There is no true tension there. Roland and Jake's relationship is a bit better, with the replacement father/son story line giving charm to the two, but it again often feels forced thanks to the movie's breakneck pace to get to its conclusion. I do have to applaud the film for avoiding a direct adaptation. While King's first book in the series could have maybe kind of been turned into a film it would have been a mess from there out. Instead The Dark Tower takes a cue from the books and presents the story as the last time around the wheel (another reference fans will love, but newcomers won't understand). It's a good move that means the film (and still in the works TV show) can forge their own path that isn't bound by the idiosyncrasy of the books, and if the movie was anything other than dull it could have worked. I stress this because I'm not upset that the film isn't like the books, but that it isn't that good on its own. The Dark Tower series has some magic in its world that is engrossing, but this movie can't find it. It's not an issue with ignoring the source material, it's an issue of making a good movie. 
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The elevator pitch of an epic
If you've read Stephen King's prolific Dark Tower saga you know it's a weird, wonderful, flawed, brilliant, mess of an epic that touches so many genres it's hard to classify it at all. It bounces from western to sci...

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First full trailer for IT makes it really hard to write a story about it without the pronoun it


Thank goodness for italics
Jul 27
// Matthew Razak
IT is finally here. Or the remake of it is finally here. Stephen King's classic horror story already had a TV version that made us all insanely afraid of clowns (or at least Tim Curry dressed up as a clown), but now...

Review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Jul 24 // Drew Stuart
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is, once boiled down, a sci-fi adventure. The story is set in the 28th century, where humanity has created a gigantic metropolis in space known as Alpha. Over hundreds of years, aliens from all over the galaxy have come there to thrive and prosper, creating a cornucopia of cultures that mingle with each other every day. Alpha is home to everyone, and the heart of Valerian is exploring this strange world with our main characters, the titular Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and his partner Laureline (Cara Delevigne). The problem with Valerian is how they explore it. The plot has our two agents racing against time to stop an ever-expanding radiation zone at Alpha's core, but that sense of urgency is seldom felt in the actual plot. There are chases, sure, but they have no tension. There's a mystery, but if you're paying attention even slightly, you'll know exactly where the story is going after 20 minutes. The driving point of the plot is supposed to be mystery, but it completely deflates once the movie starts rolling. The best aspect of Valerian is the world, and I'm sure that sentiment will be shared amongst anyone who sees this movie, whether they thought it was good or bad. There's a scene early on that depicts the genesis and growth of Alpha, and is one of my favorite intros of 2017. It's humorous and magical, friendly and dazzling. The various creatures and aliens on Alpha are diverse and interesting, taking that nuanced world-building from Star Wars and executing it with style. Yet, that's about all that Valerian seems to get right. Nearly every other aspect is fundamentally flawed, and I wish that were an exaggeration. Take our leading actors for example. Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevigne have both given their worst performances in their careers in Valerian. No, I'm not exaggerating. DeHaan is in no way a believable federal agent, and his gruff mumbling throughout the film makes the whole thing feel like a fan-film. He's painted as a ladies man at the beginning of Valerian and I nearly burst out laughing when Delevigne referred to him as a 'lady killer'. It's like pointing to a turd and calling it Toblerone; good for a laugh, but I'll be damned if you try and get me to swallow it. I just couldn't stomach the blatant wish-fulfillment when the lead is far from being suave or charismatic in the slightest. Delevigne has never actually given a good performance on film before, but in Valerian her acting stands out as particularly cardboard-esque. Seriously, look at any of these images I have in this review and behold the only face she makes on camera. What makes these performances even worse is that Valerian and Laureline are supposed to be attracted to each other, and they seem anything but. Their interactions are stiff and stale, and even the dialogue they share is poorly written. Kids might be able to get behind these characters, but if you have a fully developed brain then you're in for a sore experience. As I mentioned earlier, the plot is also all over the place. It's flimsy and dull, failing to interest the viewer in the central mystery presented likely due to how obvious the outcome is. The film opens by almost completely explaining the events that are 'revealed' later on at the climax of Valerian, and yet pretends like the audience didn't see what happened. This, combined with some clumsy foreshadowing and telegraphing by the villain spell out the plot for the rest of the film, leaving little to enjoy besides the beautifully designed world. And, call me crazy, but Valerian seems to know this, considering that it takes significant breaks from the plot for trivial side-stories. There's a point midway through where the film drops the little momentum it had to rescue Laureline from some bumbling space creatures. This sequence is pretty to look at, and has moments of fun sprinkled here and there, but serves no purpose whatsoever. In the end, this section of the movie only makes it more painful once our heroes return to the story at hand. Look, I don't hate Valerian. It's a beautiful film, with amazing CG and a set-piece or two that are fun on the surface level. The world it's set in is captivating and unique, something that is so rare today in Hollywood. But no movie has ever become great just by looking good; the plot, the dialogue, the characters need to be written well so the films stunning display can create synergy between the narrative and the visuals. This is how a great sci-fi adventure film is made, and it's something that Besson has completely forgotten how to do with Valerian. Visuals are in service to the writing, and Besson put the cart in front of the horse on this one. The image of Alpha floating in space, filled with interesting creatures and civilizations is incredible, but with a couple of boring humans taking up most of the runtime, you'd be better off watching the trailer and moving on.
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Such a well polished turd.
Luc Besson may not be a household name, but ask any fan of film who he is and you’ll be swept into a drawn-out lauding of his movies. Besson directed both The Fifth Element and Leon: The Professional, both of which foun...

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Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One trailer drops at San Diego Comic Con


Gunters got game.
Jul 22
// Rick Lash
Ready Player One should be taught in schools across America because it's about video games, virtual reality, pop culture, and Americans getting fat asses. You know, reality. But until national and state by state curriculums g...
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Inhumans

Marvel's Inhumans San Diego Comic-Con trailer is less than impressive


Almost inhumane
Jul 22
// Nick Valdez
There's a weird air around Marvel's The Inhumans. Maybe it's because it's a formerly scheduled film project that got bumped to TV, the fact that some of it being shot on IMAX cameras makes it seem bigger than it actually is, ...
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Spawny Boy

Todd McFarlane to direct new R-rated, lower budget Spawn movie


S to the p to the a to the awn
Jul 22
// Nick Valdez
20 years ago Michael Jai White and John Leguizamo put on some crazy outfits and delivered an even crazier film with Spawn. While Todd MacFarlane's Spawn will never be as popular as it was in 1997, a film version now makes sen...
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One Piece

One Piece is getting a live-action TV series for some reason


Yo ho ho he took a bite of gum gum
Jul 21
// Nick Valdez
Eiichiro Oda's One Piece is arguably the most popular anime series in Japan, so with how much anime has garnered interest in the West it was only a matter of time before some Western company wanted to try their hands at ...
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Mads Mikkelsen in talks to star in dystopian sci-fi Chaos Walking


Can you hear my internal cries of want?
Jul 21
// Anthony Marzano
Ordinarily when a movie is almost 2 years away I try to not give it too much thought but when Charlie Kaufman is involved I tend to keep it on my radar a bit. Now if you throw Mads Mikkelsen into the mix and shake it up with a little dystopian science fiction then you have my eyes, ears, and mouth to do with what you please.
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First A Wrinkle in Time trailer brings style to a classic


It's OK to get excited now
Jul 17
// Matthew Razak
Our first look at Ava DuVernay's A Wrinkle in Time left me a little underwhelmed. I just wasn't seeing the sort of magic that the book captured. The first trailer, however, is bringing back my excitement. This looks pret...
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There's a Bumblebee Transformers spinoff ... and 13 more spinoffs


Oh what the $%&^
Jul 15
// Rick Lash
It's no secret that the ancient order of Stone Masons [Flixist editors] are not what some would call loyal apostolates [and some would call fans] of the Holy Father Michael Bay--may he live forever [please no]--and his sacram...
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Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One has first look image


Wade Watts is supposed to be fat
Jul 14
// Rick Lash
Now, in our continued round-the-clock coverage of the forthcoming Steven Spielberg adaption of novel Ready Player One, by Ernst Cline, we have breaking news! EW revealed an exclusive first look image from the highly anticipat...

Review: Endless Poetry

Jul 14 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]221699:43659:0[/embed] Endless Poetry (Poesia Sin Fin)Director: Alejandro JodorowskyRating: NRRelease Date: July 14, 2017 (limited)Country: Chile/France While Herskovitz plays Jodorowsky at the start of the film, he's soon replaced by Adan Jodorowsky. It marks a jump in time in from Alejandro's early adolescence into his adulthood, and a move toward adult concerns. It was fascinating to see Herskovitz again, however, who's seemed to age so fast in just a few years. Adan, who was a child in Santa Sangre, looks so much like his father; Brontis, who was just a child in El Topo, looks like he could be Adan's father. Throughout the movie, Alejandro Jodorowsky himself appears on screen, offering a kind of wizened and reflective narration for these moments in his past. If The Dance of Reality was essentially a bildungsroman (a coming-of-age story), Endless Poetry functions more like a künstlerroman (a story about an artist's development and maturation). Alejandro becomes a poet, though it happens too easily, which is where Jodorowsky's flair for surreal and alchemical indulgence butts up against the mundane realities of the writing process, especially for people just starting out. Alejandro is fully formed as a poet the moment he reads Lorca for the first time, like a single book unlocks a preternatural facility with language. There is no struggle with bad poetry, there is almost no self-doubt, and no need to find his footing as a writer. The closest the film alludes to these conflicts is in one early scene at a typewriter. Alejandro pecks out a minor triumph as the giant spectral face of his father dominates the other half of the screen, calling his son a maricón over and over again, deriding the masculinity/sexuality of being an artist. But the film isn't much concerned about that. Alejandro is already great without the essential work to achieve greatness, and always certain about his greatness without a more troubled relationship with language. He's even gifted his own bohemian pad to have parties with all the rakes, wits, and creatives of Santiago. Art has no limitations, but it's part of the artist's journey to discover that on their own, and that journey isn't embarked upon here. We've already arrived at the outset. It undercuts one of the more powerful moments toward the end of Endless Poetry. On a circus stage, Alejandro transforms from a simple clown into a poet and then into a melancholic mime right out of Children of Paradise. This ought to feel like some transcendent apotheosis, a transformation from a fool into a different figure (at least a much wiser fool), like progressing through the major arcana in a tarot deck. Instead, it feels like a tautology. It's not built into the grand arc of Endless Poetry, but a smaller arc of some adjacent scenes in the movie. This sense of being fully formed as an artist extends into Young Adult Alejandro as a sage. He rarely does wrong around his friends, and if he does there's at least some justification for it. In a moment that nods to El Topo, Alejandro happens by the apartment where a dwarf friend is attempting suicide. He saves her life, teaches her a spiritual lesson about the value of living, and sleeps with her even though she's on her period. It's a little too saintly, and maybe even self-congratulatory, which undercuts the deeper sadness of the scene and what it means. This woman is the girlfriend of his best friend, Enrique Lihn (Leandro Taub), who is drunk and violent and asleep on the front porch the morning after the assignation. Alejandro's damaged their relationship, which has been built on their mutual anarchic virtuosity as poets, but Enrique was a jerk and the reason his girlfriend tried to take her own life. This is an autobiographical work, so of course Alejandro's the center of our attention and of this story, yet there's something that feels off to me about making yourself the Mary Sue/Gary Stu of your own life. In a lot of ways, Enrique seems like the classic and perhaps more compelling künstlerroman hero because of how flawed and embarrassing and raw he is as a person. The same guy who clowns with his best friend walking down the street as an aesthetic lark is the same raging drunk who can neglect those he loves. Maybe Alejandro and Enrique could be viewed in tandem as a composite of Alejandro's early life, where the desire to be wise was complicated by an uncontrolled appetite, and where a mastery of language was essential since other aspects of life couldn't be so controlled. But maybe that's my attempt to make this less compelling aspect of Endless Poetry work in context with the multi-film, autobiographical capstone to a career that has changed my life as a lover of film. Like I mentioned in a Cult Club piece on Santa Sangre, I keep finding Jodorowsky's fingerprints on my imagination. There's so much I love about Endless Poetry despite the middling moments and a lot of visual blandness that plagues much of the film. (Like The Dance of Reality, too much of the cinematography seems too flat, too plain, and uncinematic.) There's a strange 80s-deco art-bar like something out of Brazil where Alejandro is drawn to technicolor poet Stella Díaz Varín. She's played by the same actress who plays Alejandro's mother for maximum Freudian impact. There are a few scenes where art seems like the only refuge from the rising Ibáñez dictatorship; I'm missing that cultural and historical context that would enliven the film. There's a moment when Young Adult Alejandro and Old Alejandro must make peace with Alejandro's father. A complicated love emerges when one views a pivotal moment in the past knowing what the future holds. I might have liked more of Old Jodorowsky hopping into the film and commenting about the people and places of his life. He's the center of it all, so why stay outside when there's so much I'd like to know. What did he love about this woman? What did Lorca's poetry say to him as a young man, and what other poets spoke to him? What is machismo in the face of art? What does it mean to him to be a man? What regrets are there and what would he have liked to do differently? I wonder if the next film will be the last one, and what this all might feel like viewed as a single work rather than loose chapters with a looser shape. If this marks the end of Jodorowsky, it's fitting that it also feels like the beginning.
Review: Endless Poetry photo
A portrait of Jodorowsky as a young poet
In what may be the final years of Alejandro Jodorowsky's life, his work has turned inward and become sentimentally personal. He's exploring his own autobiography, but retelling it in his own odd way. Jodorowsky's previous fil...

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The Dark Tower receives another trailer, still has a tower


Andy Serkis rumored to play the tower
Jul 10
// Drew Stuart
Okay, no, Andy Serkis is not actually playing the tower, much to my own disappointment. Though, I'm sure if he did, there'd be some article praising how he gave the tower some much-deserved characterization, and truly brought...

Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming

Jun 29 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221639:43619:0[/embed] Spider-Man: HomecomingDirector: Jon WattsRelease Date: July 7th, 2017Rated: PG-13 Spider-Man: Homecoming isn't concerned with re-telling Peter Parker's origin story. Instead, we're introduced to a Peter (Tom Holland) that's already been established around his borough of Queens, NY. But after getting a taste of Avenger-like action during Civil War, Peter's been anxious to fight some big time crime. Stumbling on Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton)'s band of thieves powered by alien technology (left behind after The Avengers), Peter's out to prove to his mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) that he can handle it. But the 15 year old Peter finds he struggles with balancing his Spider-Man duties, school life with his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), love life, and home life with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei).  The Homecoming subtitle is both a play on Peter's newfound high school age, and a "homecoming" to the MCU. With how prevalent Downey Jr.'s Iron Man was featured in advertising, I was worried poor little Peter would take a backseat to all of The Avengers craziness. We've seen the result of universe building bogging down some of the Marvel properties, but thankfully Homecoming doesn't concern itself with that too much either. The events of the MCU proper have informed some of the character motivations for sure, as Adrian gets his villainous start after the Battle of NY, but there's been a great effort to ground Spider-Man in his own little pocket of the world. Thus, Homecoming is free to not only tell its story at its own pace, but isn't afraid to explore Peter as a character.  Director Jon Watts takes great pains to make Homecoming feel more intimate. From the opening scene featuring Peter's video diary, to the pacing of conversations between characters, there are plenty of scenes given time to breathe and fully flesh out the film's extended cast. Tom Holland is a dream, and his awkward yet full-hearted take on the hero is much different than we've seen in the past. Holland portraying a teenage Peter is not only believable, but incredibly refreshing. When Holland's Peter jokes around, or accidentally saves the day, it always comes across as natural. Because of this, the threats to him become even more engrossing as a literal child is now fighting to save his loved ones. It's a tonal balance we've yet to see from Spider-Man, and I'm very curious as to where it can go from here.  But it's not like Holland steals the show, either. Homecoming has an incredible cast, and the script is laid out so every character has time to shine. Michael Keaton playing a birdman after, well, Birdman, may be ripe for jokes, but Keaton's soft spoken menace gives him a presence we've yet to see from other MCU villains. Spider-Man's villains are probably the most famous in Marvel Comics, so it feels so right to see Keaton stake his claim. Adrian is complex, has a reasonable motivation, and seems better written overall than a good chunk of Marvel's other baddies. Peter's classmates are all fabulous as well. Zendaya shines as a brilliant loner, Tony Revolori's Flash is the right kind of bully, it's great to see Jon Favreau's Happy Hogan again, and Jacob Batalon's Ned is so damn adorable I can't wait to see him again. The cast is just so well put together, and Queens has such a lived in feel, Homecoming absolutely nails the "neighborhood" in "Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man." We haven't experienced Spider-Man like this before.  And, uh, Marisa Tomei is a goddess and I'm so glad Homecoming addresses the shift in Aunt May's age.  Now Spider-Man: Homecoming isn't a perfect film, as the plot tends to get lost during the deliberate pacing of the second act, and it's still an origin story thematically, but it's still entirely successful. I mean, we finally get an action scene that isn't about fighting a bad guy, but saving people. I can't believe that hasn't happened yet. Even if I'm reviewing Homecoming in the comic book movie bubble, I feel like this world is so well established that the film's weakness are a reflection of its central character.  This new Peter is flawed, but attacks his flaws head on. Homecoming has so much fun just living and swinging with Spider-Man, it's hard not to accept those flaws and just go with the swing of things. Spider-Man has come home, and I can't wait to see what Sony and Marvel do with him next. 
Spider-Man Review photo
Third time's the charm
Spider-Man films have been through all sorts of ups and downs. What was once the biggest comic book property on film has since been the victim of studio craziness, failed attempts, and just an overall bad reception by th...

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New Death Note Poster looks better than the Show


Not the anime, the Netflix one, duh
Jun 27
// Drew Stuart
You remember Death Note, right? No, I'm not talking about the critically-acclaimed anime, or its manga counterpart. I'm talking about the Adam Wingard directed, takes-place-in-the-US-Netflix-original-movie known as Death Note...
This Corner of the World photo
This Corner of the World

Trailer: Acclaimed anime In This Corner of the World looks like a moving war-torn romance


This looks like something special
Jun 14
// Hubert Vigilla
I'm not familiar with the films of Sunao Katabuchi, but after watching the trailer for In This Corner of the World, I want to seek out his previous anime features: Princess Arete and Mai Mai Miracle. Katabuchi was also a...
T2 Trainspotting photo
T2 Trainspotting

Choose life, watch the first 10 minutes of T2 Trainspotting


Them accents, luv
Jun 13
// Hubert Vigilla
I never got around to seeing T2 Trainspotting. In fact, I haven't seen the first Trainspotting since maybe the year 2000. Yet I've been meaning to rewatch the original and its sequel back to back to see how they complement on...
Gilliam's Don Quixote photo
Gilliam's Don Quixote

Terry Gilliam finished shooting The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria


More setbacks to come, I'm sure
Jun 05
// Hubert Vigilla
Somehow, after 17 years of hell, Terry Gilliam has finished shooting The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. No, this is not a joke. He did it. Gilliam finally did it. And he lived to tell the tale on Facebook over the weekend. Gilli...

Review: Wonder Woman

May 31 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221570:43578:0[/embed] Wonder WomanDirector: Patty JenkinsRelease Date: June 2, 2017Rated: PG-13 Diana (Gal Gadot) is the Princess of Themyscira, an island inhabiting an ancient Amazonian race put on the Earth by Zeus to stifle mankind's need for war. Molded from clay and birthed by Zeus, Diana has always been a little different from the rest of her Amazonian sisters and put to the true test when Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an English spy, crash lands on her home and brings news of a great war happening around the world (WWI). Figuring it to be the work of Ares, the god of war, Diana demands to be taken to the front line. But when in the outside world, Diana has to come to grips with her own humanity as she learns the real driving force behind the war.  Let's get this out of the way first. Wonder Woman is an origin story. The plot follows a lot of the standard beats you've come to expect from origin stories (complete with a sequence introducing the flashback in question), but unlike other films of its ilk, rather than a character slowly becoming a mythological being, Wonder Woman essentially works backwards. As it's introducing Diana and her world, the film takes an already established higher being and challenges her infallibility. Always being sure to treat her as a goddess, the narrative instead veers away from the stereotypical physical change and focuses on internal struggle and strife. Momentous scenes in origin stories like first donning of the famous suit, fighting the main villain, and the original call to action, are subdued in favor of zeroing in on Diana's matter-of-fact perspective. Basically, there's no need to have Diana change into a hero since she already is one, and I can't understate how refreshing it is to learn about her humanity instead.  Ambitious as the internal narrative is, it wouldn't have worked without a strong performance from its lead. To be completely honest, I was worried about Gal Gadot's strength as a lead actress going into this. Thankfully, that worry only lasted about 20 minutes. While the first chunk of the film is stilted and full of bad acting and accents (likening it to a more generic version of Xena: Warrior Princess), once Gadot is introduced everything perks right up. She's kind of incredible in the way she commands attention here (befitting the character too). Director Patty Jenkins takes a little time each shot to make Gadot stand out a little more, whether its subtly pointing out the fact she is taller than most of her co-stars, or the costume design making her look just different enough from everyone else. Gadot and Jenkins work together to really nail the fish out of water angle here, and further smooth out any edges Gadot could have in her performance.  But Gadot's performance wouldn't have meant anything without a great script. Wonder Woman may not be perfectly written in all areas (as one big moment diminishes her character), but there's a great balance of levity and drama. What I came to appreciate the most were smaller beats allowing the actors to really dig into their characters. Chris Pine is as charming as he's ever been, so the best scenes of the film are simply subdued conversations between Steve and Diana. These smaller, character intense moments also help to elevate the later generic superhero action taking place toward the climax. There's an added layer of catharsis, but it doesn't mean the climax is safe from gender normative action where Diana is suddenly not the character she was the rest of the film. The climax will need further discussion once more folks see it for sure.  As for the action, it's fine. The action scenes are a bit Snyder-esque as they use slow motion to emphasize movement, but there is a greater sense of fluidity in the motion. Once Diana starts whipping around dudes with a golden rope, the film basks in some very cool visuals. There's unfortunately a bit of unintentional slapstick during some of the scenes, but it gives the film a little flavor not seen in other DC Comics films. I'll give it a pass.  The fear when reviewing superhero films is critically analyzing them within a bubble. Initially, I was worried I'd attribute Wonder Woman's success to being a well made film within the DC Extended Universe (and we've been burned so many times), and just clinging to it like a life raft in a sea of schmaltz. But, after writing this review, I've come to the conclusion it's just a damn good film.  Wonder Woman, the oft-misplaced icon in DC's Holy Trinity, has truly made her mark on cinema. Less Batmen and supermenches, more wonderful women please.  Second Opinion: Wonder Woman gets almost everything right for its first two acts. Its action sequences are impressive, and utilize Wonder Woman's superpowers in unique and awesome ways. Patty Jenkins has a surprising eye for action for a drama director that allows it to flow and build, a feature many directors seem to lack. But more important than the kick ass action sequences is the fact the film works as a character piece. Unlike other DCEU films, you actually care about what's going on, the plot unfolds in a coherent way, and the characters act like they should. Yes, it may hit on a few (OK, a lot) of cliches, but it implements them to a tee. A lot of the charm comes from Chris Pine and Gal Gadot, who turn their relationship into something special. The film actually hits emotionally, which is why it's too bad the third act turns into nothing more than an action brawler. It doesn't fit with the rest of the film's tone, and feels more like a Zack Snyder movie than anything else. This doesn't sully the film as a whole, however, leading to a superhero movie that feels like its own thing. 80 -- Matthew Razak
Wonder Woman Review photo
Some kind of wonderful
DC Comics and Warner Bros have been, well, let's say misguided in their attempts at launching a series of films comparable to Marvel's success. Deciding to push through critical failure (thanks to overall box office success),...

Miike's 100th movie photo
Miike's 100th movie

Blade Of The Immortal trailer: Takashi Miike's 100th film is bloody samurai mayhem


Way to celebrate #100
May 18
// Hubert Vigilla
Takashi Miike is one prolific guy. At 56 years old, he's about to screen his 100th movie (!) at the Cannes Film Festival. He's like the Robert Pollard of cinema: wakes up in the morning, makes a movie before he gets the coffe...
R-rated Hellboy reboot photo
R-rated Hellboy reboot

Hellboy reboot in the works from director Neil Marshall and Stranger Things' David Harbour


No Del Toro or Perlman involvement
May 09
// Hubert Vigilla
Hellboy may be coming back to the big screen, but it's going to be without director Guillermo del Toro and star Ron Perlman. A Hellboy reboot is in the works from director Neil Marshall (The Descent, Game of Thrones), wi...
The Defenders photo
The Defenders

Marvel's Netflix shows finally come together in first trailer for The Defenders


Hallways for days
May 03
// Nick Valdez
I haven't seen Marvel's Iron Fist yet, but looks like I'm going to have to squeeze that in soon since the big team up show, The Defenders, already looks fantastic. Crossing over four different shows -- Daredevil, Jessica Jone...

Review: The Circle

Apr 28 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]221468:43538:0[/embed] The CircleDirector: John PonsoldtRating: PG-13Release Date: April 28, 2017 Mae Holland (Emma Watson) lucks into a customer support job at The Circle, a Bay Area tech giant. The company has a sprawling campus full of cush employee amenities, much like the many corporate-capitalist Xanadus that dot the Silicon Valley. They're so flush with cash and a belief in work-as-play that they hire Beck to play a show on campus, which really does make this feel like a technological thriller from 2006. Jeez, guys, was Haim busy or something? ("They also have cooks for their employees, Hubert!" "Yeah, I know. More gravy, Uncle Bill?") Silicon Valley did it better. The company's co-founder, Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), is a mix of Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and a benevolent dictator. He uses utopian-sounding names to introduce dystopian technological innovations. While the dialogue may be wooden, the screenplay at least has an ear for the grammar of corporate-ese. The new Circle innovation is SeeChange, which basically means putting GoPros on everything. Mae buys into the corporate culture quickly, becomes a model employee, and some other stuff happens that leads to a pseudo Truman Show redux (Truman Show Vista) with live tweets. Black Mirror did it better. The Circle's a bit all over the place, with ludicrous stuff happening just because. For instance, Mae goes kayaking without a life jacket in the middle of the night in San Francisco Bay to... I honestly don't know. To clear her head? Beats me. Most seasoned kayakers would choose a less foggy place to go at night if they wanted to clear their heads. Kayakers would probably just go for a walk, come to think of it. John Boyega's character seems like Mae's love interest. Well, no. He's only got ten lines in the entire movie and doesn't really do anything except offer a bottle of white wine, show Mae some servers, and help obtain some info for the final act. The end. The film seems to set him up as a Circle employee gone rogue, a square peg who doesn't buy into the corporate speak and who stands outside the system possibly to undermine it. The higher ups are smart enough to keep tabs on everyone else in the company except for the guy who doesn't really hang out with everyone else in the company. It's like if The Village from The Prisoner decided to leave Number Six alone. ("Oh, that's a reference I get!" "Yeah, Uncle Bill. I thought you would." "Pass the asparagus.") Director and co-writer James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now, The End of the Tour) feels oddly out of his depth with this film. He can't pin down the tone or build out a sustained mood, with scenes unfolding flatly, one after another as if joined by a series of monotonous and-then's. For a paranoid thriller, the film seems almost chipper about being monitored at all times. Scenes breeze by to convey exposition, carry the plot forward, and nothing more. The Circle feels so weightless and rushed and empty, peopled with vessels for plot and decade-old critiques of the modern world. Ellar Coltrane from Boyhood fumbles through a role as one of Mae's old friends. An unplugged luddite, he's angry that she buys into the Circle culture wholeheartedly. She used to do fun things and real stuff, like, man! He comes back in a pivotal scene later in the film that would be a nightmarish indictment of our loss of privacy if it wasn't also an absurd slapstick pursuit in the Benny Hill mode. ("I love Benny Hill." "I know you do, Uncle Bill.") I can't really blame the cast for this debacle. Not even Hanks can elevate this material. He was affable enough in last year's middling Dave Eggers adaptation A Hologram for the King (aka Eat, Pray, Love, Sell IT Solutions), but that only gets a movie so far. I'm not sure I bought America's Dad as Big Brotherberg. Watson can't carry a film with a flimsy character written like she just fell off the turnip truck; in a lot of ways Karen Gillan's overworked supporting character Annie makes for a more compelling protagonist. ("Turnips! We left your Aunt Sandra's turnip green salad on the kitchen counter!" "Oh, we sure did, Uncle Bill. Gosh. Let me get that in a sec, I'm almost done here.") The Circle is like a bad tech startup. There's talent behind it, a pitch with potential, but there's nothing there except buzzwords and BS. Behold: Cinematic Juicero.
Review: The Circle photo
A mobile-ready platform for Dreck 2.0
The Circle is the paranoid techno-dystopian thriller of 2006 released in 2017 and based on a Dave Eggers novel published in 2013. The film's concerns about technology and social media are so dated and quaint, like the stuff a...

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Eliza Dushku developing, starring in adaptation of Glen Cook's The Black Company


Else, you'd be like who? If pic current
Apr 26
// Rick Lash
The Black Company, a fantasy series written by Glen Cook and begun in 1984 spanning ten books, deals with magic, and an elite mercenary unit. It's kind of right up Eliza Dushku's alley, as you may remember her from her time o...

Tribeca Capsule Review: November

Apr 25 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]221420:43534:0[/embed] NovemberDirector: Rainer SarnetRating: TBDRelease Date: TBDCountry: Estonia/Poland November is an adaptation of various Estonian folktales which are mashed together yet don't quite cohere. There's a werewolf girl in love with a peasant boy, but the peasant boy is in love with a sleepwalking girl who's part of the gentry. There's the threat of the coming plague, which leads villagers to resort to foolish remedies. The Devil wanders the woods at night, and for a little bit of blood he can give your kratt at soul. Somewhere and somehow these different threads might have braided together, but they instead feel too discrete. Even though I loved how strange these disparate tales were (though some of them didn't have any sense of an ending), strangeness alone isn't always sufficient. I longed for something more to care about than just weirdness--plot, character, a sense of direction, some basic set-ups and payoffs. Admittedly, my disconnect from November may be cultural. There are probably aspects of Polish and Estonian history and the national character that would have informed my viewing of the film. Instead I watched in a kind of baffled awe, wondering where it was going, just going with it, and not knowing what to make of things once I arrived at the end of the film. If anything, November is so exquisitely shot that I wasn't necessarily bored by it. There's always something beautiful or strange to look at. The kratts (which sadly don't play a major part in the story) are works of brilliant tool shed/junk pile puppetry. There's a procession of ghosts in the woods at night that only really comes up once, but it's so hauntingly beautiful, with figures in white moving past torches and trees with an elegiac grace. The sumptuous black and white imagery plays with shadow and fog so well that even when my mind check out of the story by the halfway point, my eyes were transfixed from beginning to end.
Review: November photo
At least it looks really good
I want to describe the opening scene of Rainer Sarnet's November because it's absolutely bonkers. There's a sentient creature comprised of three scythes and a cow skull. It moves in a herky-jerky fashion using its scythe...

R-rated Watchmen cartoon photo
R-rated Watchmen cartoon

Warner Bros making R-rated animated Watchmen adaptation that no one wants


Milk that IP until it bleeds
Apr 15
// Hubert Vigilla
According to Comic Book Resources, Warner Bros. will release a cartoon adaptation of Watchmen that will likely be rated R. CBR obtained a screenshot from a WB "A-List Community" survey that describes the project as a faithful made-for-video adaptation of the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons comic. Hurm. Here's the screenshot in question:

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