Drama

The End of the Tour photo
The End of the Tour

See Jason Segel's award-caliber performance in the trailer for The End of the Tour


Learn to love David Foster Wallace
May 28
// Hubert Vigilla
The End of the Tour was a major hit at Sundance, leading to rave reviews for stars Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel, who play real-life writers David Lipsky and David Foster Wallace, respectively. Based on Lipsky's 2010 non-fi...
Sundance Fave photo
Sundance Fave

First trailer for Diary of a Teenage Girl touts accolades


So much brown
May 26
// Matthew Razak
Diary of a Teenage Girl came tearing out of Sundance with a lot of buzz around it. It's an indie coming of age story so that makes a lot of sense since the festival eats that stuff up with a spoon. Judging from the trail...
Macbeth posters photo
Macbeth posters

First clip for Justin Kurzel’s adaptation of Macbeth


All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king
May 14
// Matthew Razak
It's been a bit since we've landed some good ol' Shakespeare on the big screen and even longer since we've had a solid Macbeth so it's easy to see why folks are getting excited for the Michael Fassbender and Ma...

Tribeca Review: Maggie

May 08 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219246:42343:0[/embed] MaggieDirector: Henry HobsonRelease Date: May 8, 2015 (limited)Rating: PG-13 Wade (Schwarzenegger) brings his daughter Maggie home from the city after she's attacked by a zombie. Bite victims slowly turn. Symptoms include necrosis, cataracts, dizzy spells, respiratory problems, and a heightened sense of smell. It's only a matter of time before Maggie will need to be killed or sent to a quarantine center, and the latter may be a worse fate. At certain points of Maggie, I was struck by how Schwarzenegger has aged in an interesting way. The texture of his face is like tree bark from certain angles and in certain light. More than that, the expressiveness of his brow and his eyes has increased. Same goes for his mouth, as if the stoic straight line we're accustomed to from his blockbusters is able to communicate more with age. It's not just a one-liner dispenser, and his scowls seem layered. Patiently holding a shot on Schwarzenegger has the potential to reveal his inner emotional machinery. This unexpected depth in Schwarzengger's performance comes mostly from the film's quiet moments. In one scene, like something out of a Terrence Malick film or an Andrew Wyeth painting, Wade wanders a field introspectively. His silhouette from behind has a heftier grimness in the dimming light. It's impossible to forget he's Arnold Schwarzenegger, and yet maybe the moment works better than it would otherwise because it's Arnold Schwarzenegger trying to negate his own Arnold-Schwarzenegger-ness for the sake of the story. Maggie is at its best when it uses zombie-ism to explore the impending loss of a loved one to a terminal illness. In Maggie's case, it's about coming to terms with the inevitability of death. Had Schwarzenegger not been cast, the film would have been billed as a showcase for Breslin. She carries at least half of the film. (She's the title character, after all.) When not succumbing to fits of dread, Maggie tries to live just like a teenager. There's a normalcy about living with her condition. In a brief sidetrip from the farmhouse, we see Maggie with her friends being carefree before going back to high school in the fall. Infected or not, to them, at least for now, she's still Maggie. The film's handful of missteps have less to do with the performances than the occasional saccharine note in the script. Bits here and there feel a little too much like "father and daughter bonding" beats in a movie. Breslin and Schwarzenegger perform them well, but the actors seem more natural when exchanging small looks and little lines together throughout the film rather than dedicating a full scene to semi-expository bonding. An accretion of affection is almost always preferable to a tenderness dump. For a film that's propelled more by its quiet moments, the wind down of Maggie features an overbearing bombast in the sound design and David Wingo's otherwise low-key score. It undermines some of the control that Hobson maintains for the film, and I wonder how much better a scene or two would play if they were muted. This might be one of the few times that anyone's called for an even quieter and more delicate finale to a movie featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, but in Maggie, the performances are able to do the emotional heavy lifting on their own.
Maggie Review photo
I know now why you cry
Maggie is one of the last things you'd expect out of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Abigail Breslin, who plays the title character? Okay. Joely Richardson, who plays Maggie's stepmother? Sure. But not Arnie. Though Maggie's a post-ap...

Review: Boy Meets Girl

Apr 28 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]218923:42200:0[/embed] Boy Meets GirlDirector: Eric SchaefferRelease Date: February 6th, 2015 (NYC)Rating: NR  My business card is classy. It's the kind of thing you might see in American Psycho, except on less sumptuous cardstock. It says: Alec Kubas-MeyerWriter | Editor | Critic | Filmmaker That is how I think of myself and how I present myself. Some days I'm more of a filmmaker. Right now I'm more of a critic. Writer/Editor is a bit vaguer but probably more marketable. What matters here, though, is "critic" (and, to a lesser extent, editor). As a critic, I have some sort of duty to critique a film, to write compelling criticism. As Reviews Editor of Flixist, I have a duty to uphold the words codified in the Review Guide that I wrote. But while I watched Boy Meets Girl as a critic, I experienced it as a human, and my experience as a human radically differed from my experience as a critic. The highest score I've given to a film was my ludicrously high 97 given to The Raid 2. But that review was tempered by an acknowledgement that the film's narrative beyond its action was flawed. Having just seen it for a third time, the narrative drags even more than I remembered. But the film deserves that score. It changed the game, raised the bar. But acknowledging the potentially controversial nature of this decision to rate a film that is fundamentally flawed so highly, I made a YouTube video about it. It has over 8,000 views. 138 of the 139 people who decided to take a stance liked it. That one person who didn't like it is a bad person. Boy Meets Girl's main character has a YouTube channel and posts fashion videos weekly. Her channel has 1100 subscribers. I wouldn't watch her videos if I came across them on YouTube. They're underproduced (much like the film they're portrayed in). For a video about fashion, it's a problem that they're really not much to look at. My video's not much better, though I have to admit to liking my background painting. I still have that painting. Maybe I'll make a video about this review. (As if the next several thousand words (buckle in, y'all) aren't more than enough. (They're not.)) "So why am you talking about all of this?!" I'm sure you're thinking that by now. "What the heck does this have to do with Boy Meets Girl? Get to the damn point already!" That's fair enough, but bear with me. This review is going to be weird, because of the thing I discussed two paragraphs ago. I had two radically different reactions to this film, both valid in their own way, and as such this review is not really a criticism so much as a philosophical exploration of what this film is, what it needed to be, and whether or not it matters that it's a cracked mirror and not something pristine. As such, it will (after a few more thoughts) be structured as a kind of discussion with myself, between my critical, logical side that spent the 108 minutes deconstructing each piece of dialogue, edit, camera movement, lighting choice, etc. and my human, emotional side.  Alec the Critic is going to write in bold. Alec the Human will not. Spoiler: The human side ultimately prevails. It is probably worth mentioning here that all critics are put in this same position now and again, and implying that critics are cold and calculating is ludicrous. The chasm between feelings may not often be wide enough to cause some kind of existential crisis, but what makes a critic interesting is the way they play that line between emotional and logical reactions. Purely emotional reactions can fail to examine what makes a film work and purely logical reactions don't give the reader anything to grab onto. There are exceptions of course, but by and large, good criticism falls somewhere in the middle. As I walked out of the theater, someone said, "This film is important." I don't think he liked it. There was an implied "but..." there. He just repeated that sentence and that was it. "This film is important." It is important. Last year, Jared Leto won an Oscar for his performance as a transgender character in Dallas Buyers Club. It was a brilliant performance, but I didn't know that Jared Leto was playing a transgender character. In retrospect, that makes a whole lot of sense, but my vision of his performance was colored by the fact that I'd seen more than a few people refer to him as a transvestite. It was only in retrospect that I realized that what they were saying was ignorant and etc. When people complained that they hadn't cast an actual transgender person in that role, it was a valid point not just because... ya know, duh, but because it would have removed that confusion. Everyone knows who Jared Leto is. Everyone knows Jared Leto is dude. And even if his performance as a transgender woman is spectacular, it's still a performance by a dude when it could have (perhaps should have) not been. Michelle Henley was born a man. In Boy Meets Girl, she plays a character who was also born a man. She makes a hilarious joke (seen in the trailer) about it: Some old women are complaining about their experiences at the local high school. "I was fat." "I had terrible acne." Ricky retorts, "And I was a boy... so that sucked." It's a great moment. The entire audience laughed, myself included. It's the biggest laugh in a film that has a few good ones. I'm sorry I ruined that, but the trailer ruined it first. But what's important isn't that joke. It's the context of that joke. Ricky is at a fancy party at a beautiful estate. The people there are posh, probably all Republicans. Some of them definitely are, which we know because the film shows them talking about Democratic policies bankrupting the country and this/that/the other thing. It's all very stereotypical, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that Ricky makes that joke, and the response isn't revulsion but laughter (and some confusion). For the most part, people accept Ricky for who she is. Even the people who don't like Ricky as a concept do like Ricky as a person and can see past the whole gender thing. Only two people in the entire film really raise any serious objections to it, and one of them is a hypocrite of the highest order. The other one makes a speech that is among the most real and poignant in the entire film. But it's not filled with hate, or even really disgust. It's cutting, but it's oddly tempered. This is the South. If we're going with stereotypes here, where's the hate? (This is important, and I will talk about it at even more length later on.) Boy Meets Girl was shot in a 16:9 aspect ratio, commonly referred to as "Flat" (as opposed to the 2.XX:1 "Scope" format). Many indie movies are shot that way. Documentaries are too. Paul Thomas Anderson shot his last two movies Flat. It happens. But it's rare. When people think Cinematic, one of the things they think of is that ultra widescreen. Boy Meets Girl does not look cinematic. It doesn't "look" like a movie. Here's an experiment you can try: Take a 16:9 image and simply chop off the top and bottom. Make a 1920x1080 image 1920x816 (or even 1920x800). Crop it or just add black bars. Instantly, the image will look more cinematic. It's fascinating, but we really do associate that with the real cinematic look. But of course, Boy Meets Girl doesn't need to "look" like a movie. The visuals exist to push the story forward and do nothing more. In that sense, they are serviceable at best, but they work. Be that as it may, it creates a rift when the characters talk like they're in a movie. Nobody in Boy Meets Girl ever really sounds like a person. They have the perfect, hyperrealistic responses you'd expect from a screenplay that has been given serious thought and revision. It's what you expect... from a movie. But because the characters in Boy Meets Girl talk like they're in a movie that doesn't really look like a movie, there's a level of dissonance. It's harder to suspend the disbelief. I can't argue with myself here, and the weakest thing about Boy Meets Girl is probably its script. A movie that's ostensibly about humans needs to have characters who sound like humans. And on that level, the movie fails. Everyone says exactly what they're thinking when it comes time for them to give their big speeches, and nothing is really left for interpretation. "This is how the world is," they say, but that's only half true. I was disconnected from the dialogue, because the characters seemed disconnected from what they were saying. That crushed me, because I wanted to believe in these characters at all times. There were times when I did, probably more often than not, but even some of the key dramatic moments fall flat because they feel like plot mechanisms rather than honest human revelations. But it's also that these characters are basically perfect. They're not flawed. I don't need Ricky to be an anti-hero, but when the worst thing any given character has done is have sex at boarding school and then pretend to be a virgin... come on, y'all. And then she cheats on her fiance, but even that is "justified" in the dialogue and ultimately doesn't really affect anyone's life. Everything works out in the end. For everyone. That isn't how life works. It's how life should work. It would be amazing if every transgender boy or girl in the South had loving friends and family. If they were able to overcome prejudice and do what they love. But it's hard to believe. So, so hard. But you know what? That's why we have Boys Don't Cry. That's why we have a film where things go horribly wrong, that show a more realistic side to things (though even that film is somewhat idealized from the original story, which is even worse). Boy Meets Girl doesn't owe the audience the reality of prejudice and hatred. The tiny little nuggets, to those who see them as symptomatic of society rather than one-off instances of transphobic characters (one of whom isn't actually transphobic, despite appearances to the contrary... a plot twist that kind of undermines its effectiveness. That hatred that the character initially spews is accurate. I've heard people say those things, seen them write those things on anonymous chat boards. Hell, when I first learned about transgender people (I was in high school), I felt some of those same things. I've grown up since then, at least a little bit. (I hope I have, anyhow.) Plus, the way that character (who looks annoyingly like Zayn from One Direction) fits into the other romantic subplots is too neat and tidy, as is the ultimate result of all of the various romantic threads. True, but shut up. It's my turn now. Fine. That's enough raining on Boy Meets Girl's parade. It's finally time to talk about the metaphorical mirror in the introduction, and the things that affected me. And this is going to require me to admit to something that's really weird and probably says something about me, though I don't have any idea what that might be: I can't watch characters kiss onscreen. Whenever lips lock, I avert my eyes. It's been that way for the better part of a decade. I don't know what started it or where it came from, but it bothers me. I feel uncomfortable watching it. Which made me extremely uncomfortable during Boy Meets Girl, because there is a lot of kissing in that movie. And the things that happen around that kissing are the reasons this film succeeds despite each and every flaw. Because the moments where this film is human and real are in its discussions about sex. How many romance movies have featured two characters kissing and then discussing sexual histories in order to clarify that they've used protection. That's a legitimate concern, and a legitimate conversation. It's something that's necessary... but it's also exactly the sort of thing films gloss over. In the heat of the moment, passion takes over and there's nothing more to it. Kiss. Sex. BOOM. We never see the sex. We do see the moments before (and the moments after). We see the awkward movements and dialogue that are ever-so-crucial. We get Ricky as she asks her partner whether they're okay with what they're doing, whether they understand the implications of going down that road. (Though here, again, this is undermined by the nearly utopian vision where a well-connected conservative leader does not go after a transgender woman (pre-sexual reassignment surgery, I might add) who slept with his daughter (thus, as far as anyone knows, taking her virginity). Bullshit. Absolute fucking malarkey.) But I digress... That Boy Meets Girl is willing to have frank discussions about what defines sex (in conversations outside of sexual contexts) matters. Those are rare. Less rare in indie film, but rare enough that it merits consideration. But the fact is that by sheer virtue of having a female transgender character (really, the pre-op thing is vital, and takes center stage in a climactic moment that reminded me just a little bit too much of the ending of Sleepaway Camp (minus the severed head)) at the center of these conversations, one who is experimenting with her own sexuality throughout the film, it propels itself far beyond its glaring technical problems and becomes something that is truly affecting. It's a sexual coming of age tale that has probably never been told quite like this. There have been dozens (hundreds) of movies about straight couples in these sorts of positions, and even a few about gay ones (the devastating and incredible Blue is the Warmest Color comes to mind), but transgender? Nah. That's something else. But it's something necessary.  Bruce Jenner, of the famous (and infamous) Kardashian household, just came out as transgender. He (not for much longer) is beginning a transition into womanhood. That public spotlight will matter. It will get people talking. It will put issues that are kept quiet out in front of everyone. That's what reality TV does best. It stirs up controversy and gets people talking. This will make people talk and make people think. Boy Meets Girl comes at a perfect time to stay one step ahead of that conversation. It lets people like me (and probably you too) into an experience that it's nearly impossible to imagine. I can't conceive of looking down and thinking, "No. That's not right." It's something I've wrestled with for a long, long time. It really is, and I've done that with varying degrees of sensitivity to the people who do have that experience. I can be rough and abrasive (no shit, right?) and there will probably be more than a few people I met in college who hear that I'm writing about transgender issues and cringe. They'll be right to. I can't say I've exactly turned over a new leaf and I'm going marching in the streets tomorrow, but I think I just understand it better now. There was something missing, some vital piece of the puzzle that I just hadn't locked into place. I saw my own prejudices in the mirror. During some of the more intimate scenes, I felt less comfortable than I think I would have if Michelle Hendley were not biologically male (though I would have been uncomfortable either way). I felt that little bit extra, and I was mad at myself. How dare I judge this on an emotional level? This wasn't something that I could objectively point to and say, "Nope, wrong!" the way people could in response to Blue is the Warmest Color's awkward and unrealistic sex scenes. I wish I could hide behind that. It would make me feel better about my visceral reaction, but I couldn't and can't. I need to own it, understand it, and be better for it. I need to get over myself.  Laverne Cox's excellent performance in Orange is the New Black did a lot to give a powerful voice to a transgender character, but Ricky is in such a different position. Ricky is still a kid. She wants to go to college in New York. That's her dream, and she waits for the letter from the Fashion Institute each and every day. Ricky doesn't have a vagina. Sophia gives an in-depth explanation of how vaginas work (she would know); Ricky has to ask her best friend for advice on getting a girl "wet" and asking how vaginal sex compares to anal, her only point of comparison. That's a different voice, and it's one we need. And even if Michelle Hendley's performance occasionally dips into the melodramatic, it all comes from an honest place that makes her fascinating to watch. In the end, she is the only character who truly feels real. And if Boy Meets Girl had to do anything, it was get that right. It had to make Ricky human, someone who anybody could empathize with.  I can complain all day about this or that, but to what end? What am I trying to prove by focusing on the bad instead of celebrating the good? This film made me think about my own feelings more than any film in recent memory. It showed me my own prejudices, but it didn't judge me for them. At least, not explicitly. And so now I have things to think about, and they're things I'll continue to think about. Everybody should see Boy Meets Girl. It should be required viewing in every high school sex ed class in the country. I urge you to see it. To tell your friends and family and vague social media connections. Get the word out, because even if they don't see Boy Meets Girl, they should know about it. They should know that it exists, because the fact that it exists matters too. It marks a turning point. One can only hope that the future is brighter.
Boy Meets Girl Review photo
Identity crisis
Boy Meets Girl is an antique magic mirror. The kind of thing you'd see in a movie. In an old, cobweb-filled antique shop, the camera slowly pans up an old, cracked and unpolished mirror. It's not really much to look at, ...

Black Mass Trailer photo
Black Mass Trailer

First trailer for Black Mass starring Johnny Depp


Apr 24
// Nick Valdez
While Johnny Depp hasn't lost his taste for dressing up in weird outfits, it looks like he's finally using his powers for good again. Black Mass, based on the exploits of Whitey Bulger, a gangster who became an FBI informant ...

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Henry Hobson, and Joely Richardson Discuss Maggie

Apr 24 // Hubert Vigilla
Arnold Schwarzenegger on playing his character in Maggie:“We focus so much on the people, and the dilemma that this man is in—this strong farmer that normally can handle anything. And also the baggage I bring to the movie of being the action hero; all of a sudden, I cannot handle this challenge, and I become very vulnerable as a character. So that's what appealed to me in the first place.” Arnold Schwarzenegger on physical action roles vs. dramatic roles:“The brain takes much more energy than the body does. Just look at it. When people do something mentally draining, and when you have to do a lot of thinking and negotiating— I remember when I was in the Governor's office, I was totally wiped out in the evening with the kinds of responsibilities I had and all this. The same thing here [making Maggie]. It's tough but at the same time it's not tough because you're having such a great time doing it.” Henry Hobson on keeping Maggie human and grounded:“The art direction, the costumes, the makeup; everything was very real and raw, and that allowed for the setting and space to feel as real as possible, [to make it easier as a kind of transition point] to really live and breathe in that grounded world.” Joely Richardson on the challenges of performing on Maggie:“Okay, weird comparison, but say [you're acting] in 101 Dalmatians, and you're playing with little puppies, and it's a life or death situation; and then you're doing a zombie film and your stepdaughter comes in covered with blood. They're not everyday emotions, you know what I mean? It's just going with the premise, but I my most difficult scene winds up being my easiest, and vice versa.” Arnold Schwarzenegger on working on a small, independent production:“I think there's something to be said about working on small movies, because the camaraderie and the way we worked together and the way we really got into it was different than on a big action movie. It was quite unique. Whatever performance that I delivered I have to credit to everyone around me, because they acted so well that it brought out the best in me.” Arnold Schwarzenegger on shooting quick, fast, and spontaneous: “We were shooting a scene in front of the house and all of a sudden [Henry] saw the lighting going a certain way and he felt, 'Oh, this would be a great shot out in the field; let's burn the field!' It was like from one minute to the next. What I thought was so fascinating was not how quickly we responded and ran with him out into the field, but how quickly the camera crew did. There was no one screaming 'I have to change batteries!' or 'I have to get a cable!' or 'This is impossible!' da-da-da-da. 'I need someone to carry the camera so I can roll again.' There was none of that that you normally hear on sets because of union rules and all this stuff. Everyone got their stuff together within seconds, and we all ran out in the field and shot that scene, and it was really the perfect lighting and it was very quick the way [it was done] because he's such a visual person. That's what you need to do in these kinds of movies, but it's that kind of spirit that you don't see in big movies.” Henry Hobson on the challenges of shooting in Louisiana:“The difficulty with Louisiana for Maggie is that we wanted a farmhouse, and Louisiana, when you're smack dab in the middle of New Orleans, is that there's just water all the way around, and then there's plantation houses. We ended up using four different houses to make the one house. It's a combination of the backroom, the bathroom, the other bedroom—all in different places—the porch in another place. It was a way of creating this kind of Everytown house. What we wanted was a relatability, so people couldn't quite place where it is in the country but felt there's some kind of connection to it.” Joely Richardson on working with Henry Hobson:“He gave us all very specific notes, exactly what he wanted. And he had the balls— If he didn't like what Arnold was doing or I was doing or Abigail, he would say how he wanted it. That takes courage and vision.” Arnold Schwarzenegger on working with director Henry Hobson:“People ask me, 'How do you trust [Henry]? He's never done a movie. He's done a lot of commercials and graphic design and stuff.' But to me it's not so much 'How many movies have you done?' but 'Do you have a vision?' [Henry] had a really clear vision. He had this album with all these photographs of different looks he wanted in the movie, and the way he interpreted the characters. It was very clear that I would be in good hands. There was never even a question there.” Arnold Schwarzenegger on how he helped Henry Hobson as a first-time director:“I just wanted to make sure that he's protected as a director, and that I can be a producer and let that be my responsibility, to make sure someone doesn't come in and say 'I want you to shoot this differently' or 'We want to have a different ending' and stuff like that. First-time directors need to be protected so that they can do their work. James Cameron doesn't need to be protected, you know? [laughs] I want to make sure that Henry can really put on the screen his exact vision. That's why he was hired, that's why he was put together with this project, so now let's have him do that.” Arnold Schwarzenegger on co-star Abigail Breslin:“Abigail was so good and made it feel so real. I never felt that she was acting; I always felt that she was dying. That's how skilled she is in her profession.” Arnold Schwarzenegger on if he sees a future in smaller films and dramatic roles:“25 ago, 30 years ago, I would not have been able to do that. First of all, I wouldn't have had the time, because there were so many big projects then. I was chasing the big money, and working my way up to being the highest paid actor. Today that doesn't mean anything to me because I've made a lot of money and I'm in a different place in my life. So when I get an offer to do Terminator 5, I'm very excited about that. When Universal calls me and says 'We're almost finished with writing the script for a new Conan movie,' I'm excited about that. But I'm also very excited when I read a script like Maggie, and I believe that I can be that character and then work with the director and work with the actors together like that. So yes, I will be looking for dramatic roles.” Arnold Schwarzenegger if working on Maggie reminded him of being Governor of California:“I think movies are movies and politics is politics, even though they have a lot of similarities.” Arnold Schwarzenegger on if we could take photos at the end of the press conference:“If you're nice.”
Maggie Press Conference photo
Highlights from the New York City press conference for Maggie
Maggie, the post-apocalyptic zombie drama starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. As we noted in our review of Maggie, the film features a surprisingly emotive and vulnerable perfo...

Southpaw Trailer photo
Southpaw Trailer

First trailer for Southpaw starring Jake Gyllenhaal


Mar 27
// Nick Valdez
After Enemy and Nightcrawler, I've been really looking forward to what Jake Gyllenhaal would do next. Thankfully the wait looks completely worth it with this first trailer for Southpaw. Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Da...
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Maggie trailer has Arnold Schwarzenegger and his zombie daughter


Yeaugh yeaugh choppa yeaugh headshot yeaugh Turbo-Man!
Mar 25
// Hubert Vigilla
Arnold Schwarzenegger's played diverse roles throughout his career: a barbarian, a cybernetic organism, a concerned father, a cop (you idiot), a soldier, a secret agent, a pregnant man, a governor of the state of California,...
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Selma returning to theaters this weekend with BOGO deal


A second chance to get angry at the Academy's snubs
Mar 18
// Matthew Razak
Did you miss Selma when it was in theaters? You shouldn't have because it was probably the best film of the year and because it's important historically. Basically you're a bad person if you did. However, redemption awai...
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New poster for Welcome to Me starring Kristen Wiig


Feb 16
// Ciaran McGarry
Kristen Wiig's latest is a comedy drama in which she plays Alice Klieg, a woman with borderline personality disorder who wins the lottery. She promptly throws away her psychiatric meds, buys herself a talk show and uses it...
Compton Trailer photo
Compton Trailer

First trailer for N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton


Feb 09
// Nick Valdez
I'm normally not a fan of biopics as they're usually hokey, but this first Red Band trailer for N.W.A.'s biopic Straight Outta Compton looks much better than other other ones out right now. It doesn't seem cheesy like those ...
All is lost photo
All is lost

Lost River, Ryan Gosling's directorial debut, not coming to a theater near you


Going straight to VOD
Dec 30
// Alec Kubas-Meyer
Critics didn't particularly like Lost River, Ryan Gosling's directorial debut. It received a critical thrashing when it premiered at Cannes, and that likely played into the newly announced decision to bring the film stra...

Review: Foxcatcher

Dec 29 // Nick Valdez
[embed]218769:42086:0[/embed] FoxcatcherDirector: Bennett MillerRelease Date: November 14th, 2014 (limited), December 19th, 2014 (wide)Rating: R Foxcatcher is based off of millionaire John du Pont (Steve Carell) and his "training" of Olympic wrestlers Mark (Channing Tatum) and Dave (Mark Ruffalo) Schultz in his home of Foxcatcher ranch. As John invites Mark to train at his state of the art facility for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Mark agrees to escape the shadow of his more successful brother. But Mark quickly learns that John is throwing his money behind the Schultz brothers in order to earn the respect of his mother and the world around him.  Foxcatcher is the argument against giving directors freedom from studio interference. Most of the time when you hear of heavy studio involvement, you hear of the bad things like censorship or hard to work conditions. But in an era where films see it fit to run an ungodly length of time (we've lost our chance at a concise masterpiece) just because they can, and every film in theaters is two hours plus, that's when the studios come in and adjust things. Regardless of the actual reason for those adjustments (budget reasons, for example), the tighter leash forces directors to think more creatively and effectively utilize what little run time they're allotted. But if a director is given all of this freedom but chooses not to use the empty space between narrative beats, you get long stretches of nothing. That's Foxcatcher in a nutshell.  It's just a shame too as there are quite a few interesting dramatic moments in between all of the filler.  Tatum as Mark Schultz is wonderful. An intentional stonefaced delivery complete with nuanced physicality, Tatum certainly has a future in films like these. I can't wait to see Tatum challenge himself more. Foxcatcher is at times intense and unforgiving, and during these brief scenes, it's compelling. For example when John du Pont is introduced, he gives this brief speech and Carell fills the air with a sinisterness by just breathing. In fact, Carell deserves whatever awards nominations or wins that he gets in the future. He is a commanding, yet fragile presence. A slightly unhinged individual with shallow breath, you spend the entire film waiting for the him to completely unravel. But if you already know the story that inspired Foxcatcher, there won't be payoff for you and all of the waiting you had to endure will be for naught. In fact, you'll wish it came sooner.  Foxcatcher could've been an interesting character study had it attempted to diversify its tone. There's never any attempt to present these individuals as something other than broken, and when you don't attempt to mask it (or explore that brokenness), there's very little in the narrative to chew on. There's never any attempt to bring the audience in, and your always left on the sidelines waiting for something to happen. When Foxcatcher gives you yet another pregnant pause, or yet another landscape shot, you've lost interest in all of it as you realize the narrative would rather wallow in its pretentiousness than dissect it.  Foxcatcher is a film where you watch a fox chase a rabbit for over two hours, taking time every now and then for a nap. By the time the fox actually catches the rabbit, you've been lulled into such a sleepy state it's impossible to stay invested in anything that happens on screen. It all just fades into the background.  It's a damn shame too as what is in that background is fantastic work. A good show of talent for all of the cast involved with a story based off a little known true story, and some fantastic transitions between scenes. But as mentioned, it's buried under tons and tons of bad pacing. When the most educated criticism I can come up with after immediately watching is "it's boring," I have no idea what to blame. Maybe myself. Maybe there's something here I just didn't connect with, but as it stands, Foxcatcher catches little. 
Foxcatcher Review photo
Catches cold
Foxcatcher quickly grabbed a lot of attention for its stark representation of some big named actors. While Steve Carell has tackled heavier material before, he had never looked as sinister as he did in the first couple of ima...

Review: Big Eyes

Dec 26 // Matthew Razak
[embed]218765:42091:0[/embed] Big EyeDirector: Tim BurtonRated: PG-13Release Date: December 25, 2014 Rounding out the "based on a true story" fare for Christmas (see: Selma, American Sniper, and Unbroken), Big Eyes tells the tale of "Big Eye" artist Margaret Keane (Amy Adams). If you lived through the 50s and 60s you probably know who she is as her art work was everywhere and basically revolutionized how artwork was distributed and made money. There was great debate over whether or not her work, which featured small children with large sad eyes, was actually art or just kitsch. That isn't what the film is about, though. The film is about how Margaret Keane's husband, Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz), took credit for her work for nearly two decades. Now you're interested, hug? What is so incredible about this story is just how incredible it gets. Bouncing from one unbelievable twist to the next and all of them entirely true. By the end of the film you're simply stunned by just how great a conman Walter is. The star of this film is actually truth. It would be hard for any director to mess up a story that's just this compelling and ridiculous. Burton, however, does more with it. The story is so fantastical that his slightly otherworldly tilt to the proceedings lends it the perfect air. His characters push close to caricature levels, and yet seem right at home in the ridiculous story of the film. Waltz's Walter Keane is especially ridiculous, yet disturbingly dark. This tempered back Burton is surprisingly adept at minutia and tone.  Burton does lose a little credit by avoiding some of the greater themes that surround the story. The focus is definitely on Margaret and the absurdity of the entire situation, and this leads to an avoidance of just how brilliant Walter Keane was at marketing himself (or his fake self) and the greater debate over what art is. The New York Times art critic who routinely tears down "Big Eyes" is too much of a stereotype to truly develop into a discussion on art. It's too bad as the film could have had a lot to say on the subject as "Big Eyes" art is the perfect example of popular art that isn't high art. The movie even opens with a hint of the discussion forming with a quote from Andy Warhol, "I think what Walter Keane has done is just terrific. It has to be good. If it were bad, so many people wouldn’t like it." It's a bold statement that says popularity makes art, but the movie never truly dives into this. Instead it is content to agree with the statement and carry on telling it's story. Luckily it's story is great so the lack of actual debate on the subject of art has a minimal effect, but it is definitely missing.  Big Eyes delivers an incredibly strange true story, with great help from two strong performances from Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz. While it may not be the thought provoking picture it could have been, it's still a stellar story to see. Burton dives head first into telling it with a passion that is clear. The story alone is interesting, what Burton does with it takes it to an even better place. 
Big Eyes Review photo
Eyes wide open
Everyone, I'm about to shock you to your core. Big Eyes is a Tim Burton film and it is quite possible that the color black doesn't appear once. Shades of greys and shadows, yes, but the Gothic trendings of the director a...

Review: American Sniper

Dec 24 // Matthew Razak
[embed]218766:42085:0[/embed] American SniperDirector: Clint EastwoodRated: RRelease Date: December 25, 2014 You may have heard of Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) in the news as he was the most successful sniper in American history. The man is a legend and American Sniper tracks that legend from his first shot to his last. Most of the film is spent in war zones, but it hops back to Kyle's home life every so often to show how his service in the field is tearing him down at home with his wife, Taya Renae Kyle (Sienna Miller) and child. There's also a running story line of an ex-olympic sniper fighting for the bad guys that constantly haunts, kills and scares the soldiers that Chris is protecting. It's the mugguffin (whether he be real or not) that keeps the combat part of the film going. By bouncing Chris back and forth between deployments and home life the movie attempts to show us the effect that killing and constant war has on the sniper. It would be an incredibly interesting approach if the film ever fully committed to it. Instead it is content to focus on the war zone and leave Chris' PTSD and family issues to be background fodder to thrilling war sequences. There's an attempt to create a tension here, but it feels false as the film, much like the soldier, feels far more comfortable and happy when it's taking out enemy combatants. When the movie is doing this it is fantastic. Eastwood's direction is in your face and intense. The kind of war scenes that make your palms sweaty as you watch them. Chris' first shot is a perfect example of this as he is tasked with taking out a mother and child who are moving to destroy a garrison with a grenade. From the moment this scene begins Eastwood pulls you in with a dirty style of direction that is stunning. Every war scene in this film is fantastic. It makes it all the worse when it cuts back home and seems to almost lost interest. Yes, there is tension there, but the movie never cares about it. We get 20 minutes in a battle zone and then two at home until Chris is back again. While that may be an authentic representation of how his time was spent it turns Chris' mental health issues into nothing more than a throw away. The end of the film is a long battle when it should really be focusing on the man. To tell the story of a modern American war hero you can't just tell the story of war. Cooper seems to understand this, imbuing his performance with a certain timidity that you wouldn't expect from a NAVY Seal role. He's great from scene to scene, though nothing that will win him an Oscar. He definitely beefed up for the role though, and it is nice to see him take a departure from the smarmy characters he's been tackling recently. It is a different slant for him and it suits him well.  American Sniper hits on the sniper part of its title, but sadly forgets to talk about the American. This is a complex man who is a hero, but by marginalizing his home life and mental issues we do him and other Veterans a disservice. We should expect more out of our war movies, because our soldiers aren't just heroes, they're men. 
American Sniper Review photo
A missed shot
Clint Eastwood is easily one of the best directors in Hollywood so him tackling the incredible story of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle is something to get pretty excited about. We already know he has the war movie chops tha...

American Sniper Trailer photo
American Sniper Trailer

Newest trailer for American Sniper is American


Dec 19
// Nick Valdez
I'm not usually one for these "America" films, but Clint Eastwood has proven time and time again he's good at deconstructing the jingoistic nature of the country. I've been gripped by American Sniper ever since its first tra...
True Story Trailer photo
True Story Trailer

First trailer for True Story starring James Franco and Jonah Hill


Dec 18
// Nick Valdez
When you hear James Franco and Jonah Hill are starring in a movie together chances are some cheap comedy comes to mind. But beside their comedic talents, they're terrific actors capable of leading any drama (see Palo Alto or...

Review: After the Fall

Dec 18 // Sean Walsh
[embed]218739:42056:0[/embed] After the FallDirector: Saar KleinRelease Date: December 12, 2014Rating: R  Bill (Wes Bentley) is having a real hell of a time. He just lost his job and he has a wife (Vinessa Shaw) and two young boys to support. Nobody will hire him and he's got bill to pay and mouths to feed. One day, Bill kind of, sort of robs two people, which sends him on a journey into the world of robberies at gunpoint. Complicating his once-simple life further is his friendship with police officer Frank (Jason Isaacs). Will Bill escape from his new job of "guy in stocking mask" unscathed? Can he escape?    Wes Bentley and Jason Isaacs, really the only two characters who matter (and Isaacs skews dangerously close to me using 'matters' loosely), both do a fine job. Bentley is believable as a genuinely nice guy who kind of trips into armed robbery. He isn't happy about what he's doing, and initially even assures his victims as such. As the movie progressed, I found myself sympathizing a little less, especially during one scene near the end where he has a meltdown in a bank (not while robbing it, however) and starts calling the employees 'piggies.' That said, he was just fine in the roll. Isaacs' Frank was a likable veteran cop who has seen it all, and despite not really doing a whole lot in the film, I found myself enjoying scenes with him a lot. Everyone else in it plays their role just fine, but the film isn't about the cute gas station clerk, or Bill's wife, or his father-n-law (who was delightfully hate-able in his very limited screen time); it's about Bill. To that point, any scene without him in it felt kind of out of place. There is one big, huge, inevitable comparison people are going to draw to this film, and it rhymes with "Making Mad." A man trying to provide for his family through illicit means in New Mexico and has a very close bond with an officer of the law? We spent six years seeing that story play out. After the Fall is treading well-worn territory, just without the benefit of a lovable scamp sidekick like Aaron Paul. Despite the Breaking Bad comparisons, there are several things this film really has going for it aside from the handsome lead. The music was atmospheric and at times hypnotic, and it fit the desolate, depressed New Mexico landscape to a T. If I had to describe After the Fall in one word, it would be "meandering." Even though I liked it well enough, I kept looking at my watch. The film is about fifteen or twenty minutes too long. Had they tightened it just a little bit more, I think it would have served the film well. Despite the run time, I think this film played itself out to its natural conclusion, and when the credits rolled I was nodding my head in agreement of the filmmaker's choices. Sure, they took a few detours, but they still ended up in the right place. Despite my disappointment that this was no Michael Bay explosion marathon, After the Fall is a decent way to spend two hours. Wes Bentley is always a joy to watch, and I could almost picture his weird little shit character from American Beauty growing up and becoming an insurance claims inspector who then loses his job and embarks on a weird journey into a life of crime to support his family, perhaps even having been subconsciously inspired by Walter White. After the Fall won't exactly take the world by storm, but if you're stuck inside on a cold winter day and see it pop up on Netflix, it's certainly worth a watch.
After the Fall review photo
Heisenberg he ain't
Every now and then, I opt to review a movie I know next to nothing about. Pretty much all I knew about After the Fall was that it had Wes Bentley of American Beauty, The Hunger Games, and most recently, American Horror S...

White God Trailer photo
White God Trailer

Trailer for White God features the dogpocalypse


Dec 10
// Nick Valdez
Remember those awesome Homeward Bound movies? White God is nothing like that. Imagine the worst possible outcome for that film (and throw in Lady and the Tramp for good measure) and you've got what looks and sounds like a gr...
San Andreas Trailer photo
San Andreas Trailer

First trailer for San Andreas starring Dwayne Johnson and earthquakes


Dec 09
// Nick Valdez
Dwayne Johnson has been shaking up the film world for a few years now, but outside of Disney and few disappointing missteps, he has yet to find a breakout lead role. Hoping to remedy this is San Andreas, the Californian disa...
Sweet Blood photo
Sweet Blood

Trailer for Spike Lee's Kickstarted film, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus


Dec 03
// Nick Valdez
Regardless of how you felt toward Spike Lee's kickstarter campaign last year, the "Hottest Newest Spike Lee Joint" is almost out, sho nuff. A remake of Ganja and Hess, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus follows Dr. Hess Green, a man wi...
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Trailer for The Age of Adaline staring a forever-young Blake Lively


Nov 22
// Liz Rugg
In The Age of Adaline, Blake Lively stars as a woman who goes through some kind of magical accident when she is 29, and from then on she cannot age. Adaline must continue to navigate her way through the ever-changing world, ...
Paradise Lost  photo
Paradise Lost

First full trailer for Escobar: Paradise Lost


Nov 19
// Nick Valdez
I'd developed a taste for drug stories growing up, and Pablo Escobar was the subject of a majority of them. A Columbian cocaine juggernaut in the 80s-90s (who most likely inspired the "Columbian drug lord" trope in films tod...

NYKFF Review: The Attorney

Nov 19 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]218600:41976:0[/embed] The Attorney (Byeonhoin | 변호인)Director: Yang Woo-sukRating: NRCountry: South Korea The Attorney is a history lesson. Rather, it's a film with enough historical elements that it makes you realize you need a history lesson to truly understand it. Although lead actor Song Kang-ho's character is named Song Woo-suk, he is based off of Roh Moo-hyun, a tax lawyer who became increasingly political during the 1980s until he finally became the ninth president of South Korea. And though Woo-suk/Moo-hyun is the centerpiece of The Attorney, it's as much about torture and abuse perpetrated by police in the name of "national security." It is more specifically about the 1981 Burim Case, when 22 members of a book club were arrested under the suspicion of communism. In the film at least, Woo-suk becomes a part of this almost by accident. He was a very successful tax lawyer, an innovator in his field by going to the money before anyone realized money was there to be had. And he has a particular fondness for a woman who runs a soup shop. Her son was one of the students on trial, and she begs for Woo-suk to help. He brings her to see her son, who has been effectively missing for months, and that's when things get weird. The moment when her son walks into the visiting room is the moment The Attorney changes. It's the moment when the film stops being funny and starts being disturbing. It happens right at the halfway point. The boy comes in and instead of greeting his mother, he mutters about how well he is being treated and how wrong he has been. At first glance, he has been brainwashed, but it's really much simpler than that. Woo-suk sees the bruises literally covering his body before he is pulled back to his cell, and it's clear what's happened. The Attorney, then, is a film about torture. And in its second half, the audience is subjected to that torture. It's like National Security would be if we ever left prison. Under the guise of "national security," the police committed truly heinous acts of torture. And Woo-suk (and Moo-hyun) made it their mission to bring the people who committed these acts of torture to justice, despite the risk involved in doing so. It was a kangaroo court, where the verdict was guilty from the outset and everyone agreed. The rest of the defense was ready to let the prosecution win, because that's how it worked. Only Woo-suk's commitment to his country's constitution turned it into something meaningful. It seems overwrought, as Woo-suk is dragged out of court shouting about how justice is dead or whatever, but to condense what was likely a much more complicated legal battle into an hour makes it a bit more acceptable. There's not enough time for subtlety, so The Attorney hits you in the face with the difference between right and wrong. But then again, why isn't there enough time for subtlety? That gets at the heart of what The Attorney really is, and I'm conflicted about it. This is a movie about torture, but it's a movie about Woo-suk AKA Moo-hyun. And it's a film about a turning point in Moo-hyun's life, the thing that made him see the light, as it were, and fight against injustice. The torture is not just torture but is also the evil that changed Moo-hyun. And in order to tell the story of that change, there needs to be two different movies. There needs to be Part 1: The Comedy, about a high-school graduate who just follows the money. Otherwise Part 2: The Tragedy doesn't mean anything. It's the yin to the yang that makes the transition work. Or it should, but it doesn't. Not really. Because the moment of transition is so immediate that the inner turmoil is missing. He's blind and then he sees. He doesn't have a crisis of faith and there's never really a question of what he'll do. That vital moment to the story of The Attorney there simply isn't there, and without it the arc of the character suffers. As a viewer, I never questioned his actions, because what he's doing is capital-G Good. He is fighting for those that the system has not only abandoned but actively turned against. And in that second half, his mission matters more than his story. Even though he remains the protagonist and the film continues to follow him, it stops being about Woo-suk. It's about the people he's representing. And that matters in exactly the same way National Security matters. That is a film that forces you, the viewer, to think about torture. The Attorney makes you think about torture, but it also makes you think about the role of law. This question of what is and isn't legal and/or acceptable under the guise of "national security" is explicitly addressed during testimony, and it's actually kind of glossed over, and that's unfortunate, because that's really what makes The Attorney significant, especially to an international audience. Especially to an American audience. So it's unfortunate that so much of The Attorney is focused on something else. Roh Moo-hyun matters, and his life story matters. This isn't really a biopic, but it's not not that either. But the person is made less interesting by what he is up against. If the second hour of the film followed the first in a more direct way, continuing to tell the story of Woo-suk as he went to Seoul and opened a tax law firm and took over the world, that would have been a fine movie. But the second half cannibalizes the first half and makes it seem irrelevant by comparison. That's a fundamental problem with the narrative. But the second half is effective enough that I can't be too hard on it as a whole. I can wish that the trial had taken up more of the film and that more consideration was given to the question of what a government can and cannot do in a time of war, and I can see lost potential there. But this is still a story about a person first and foremost, and although it misses the mark in really capturing the radical shift of this historical figure, what surrounds it works well enough to make for a film that is undoubtedly worth watching. [The Attorney will be screening at BAM on Friday, November 21st at 7 PM.]
The Attorney Review photo
Not quite what I expected
If you look up stills from The Attorney, you're going to have a wildly inaccurate perception of what the film is supposed to be. Look at the poster. They're happy, right? Below you'll find another image of people being h...

The Cobbler photo
The Cobbler

First trailer for The Cobbler, starring Adam Sandler


Nov 17
// Nick Valdez
Adam Sandler signs on for so many films for the money, it's hard to parse whether or not he's in that one winning film he gets every couple of years. It's clear that he's got talent, but it's a shame to see him go down such ...
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See The Theory of Everything early and free


Washington DC screening
Nov 07
// Matthew Razak
You'll want to be up to date on The Theory of Everything. Not only is it the amazing life story of Stephen Hawkins and his wife, but it has Oscar buzz all around it. How do you get in on the ground floor so you can look all s...
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See Beyond the Lights early and free


Washington DC screening
Nov 06
// Matthew Razak
Most of the time I give you a little snippet about the film here when introducing these screenings, but I am woefully uneducated about Beyond the Lights. Bad movie news person. That doesn't mean that you are, though, and mayb...

Review: Nightcrawler

Oct 31 // Nick Valdez
[embed]218521:41924:0[/embed] NightcrawlerDirector: Dan GilroyRelease Date: October 31, 2014 Rating: R Nightcrawler follows Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), a man so desperate for money and a job he's willing to go to great lengths to get what he wants. After stumbling on the scene of a deadly car accident and finds Joe (Bill Paxton) recording the carnage, Lou works his way into the world of sensationalist journalism by becoming a nightcrawler, someone who records footage of crime and sells it to local news stations. From there, Lou just tries his damndest to be successful at what he does and no one is going to get in the way of that.  Everything is meticulously arranged. From the setting (it's in LA), the color palette (lots of drab pastels catch the eye and give the film a nostalgic vibe), and the time period it's set in is blurred. Although the film is technically a contemporary take on Los Angeles, it's like the entire film is in a bubble. There are present technologies (like fancy cameras, cars and GPS systems) but they're held back until Lou gets enough money for them. It's an implied "money sets you back a few years" that permeates throughout the film. As more and more money leads to more success, and thus making the power money brings a necessity to move forward, you also sympathize with Lou's plight. The fact you can sympathize with Lou at all is a miracle of storytelling as well.  Lou Bloom is a, well, scumbag. His dark nature is thankfully never kept from sight. As we're introduced to him, he's in the middle of stealing copper wire and manhole covers. When he's confronted by security, he commits a violent act to escape. And with that the audience as a whole is clutched within his skinny little fingers. Everything about Lou is framed perfectly. As you watch a man who's already swimming in a pool of his own grotesqueness, the tension is mined from how far he's willing to reach to attain a semblance of power. I got goosebumps just watching him "interact" with a few of the crime scenes later in the film as I was caught between wondering whether or not he'd get punished for his actions and hoping he'd succeed. But that's also attributed to Gyllenhaal's fabulous performance.  Although Lou has all the makings of a sociopath (he's charismatically detestable, he has a certain routine with his house chores), Gyllenhaal seems like he's just a guy down on his luck. When he gets power you see that facade crack a bit, but it's always hidden by a breathtaking professionalism. Gyllenhaal always has a smile, but his eyes never lose their intensity (thanks to wonderfully filmed angles highlighting the shadows cascading from Gyllenhaal's now angular face). He's slick and dangerous, but Gyllenhaal makes it possible to even want to watch Lou do things. It's like staring at the scene of a car accident yourself. You get this knot in your stomach because you know your curiousity is leading you to do inherently bad things, but you keep watching to see the outcome. When his performance works in tandem with writer/director Dan Gilroy's many close ups, you have no choice but to stay along for the ride.  The amoral nature of viewing tragedy through your TV screen is personified with Lou. While he may not represent the audience directly, he's an exaggerated reflection of our drive to succeed compounded with the distance we create between what we see and how we reflect on those sights. A quite literal "started from the bottom now we here" story that finds the darkest corners of that bottom and twists the views of the rewards from the top. What is there to gain but hollow victory? As Nightcrawler washes over Lou's many successes, and thus makes his transition to a powerful state less visible, it reminds you how little actually changes when you see the world through a narrowed perspective like that of a camera lens.  Nightcrawler isn't a perfect film (there are a few too many on the nose speeches, the pace of the film tends to wallow a bit in certain areas, and if Lou doesn't appeal to you the film won't stick), but it's a highly entertaining dissection of professional aspiration. And the wonderful thing is, that isn't the only way to see it. The film is packed with so much depth with journalistic quandaries, practicality vs. romanticism, and is basically everything you'd want in a thought provoking film.  Nightcrawler has gotten under my skin and refused to leave. 
Nightcrawler Review photo
Crawling in my skin
Nightcrawler has come out of nowhere to become one of my favorite films of 2014. As of right now, I'd even go as far to say that it is my favorite overall. I didn't even know it existed until a few months ago where a brief te...

Heart of the Sea photo
Heart of the Sea

First trailer for Ron Howard's In the Heart of the Sea


Oct 20
// Nick Valdez
Based on Nathaniel Phillbrick's book In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex (the Essex's story in turn inspired Herman Melville's Moby Dick), Heart is directed by Ron Howard and stars Chris Hemswort...

Review: Fury

Oct 17 // Nick Valdez
[embed]218467:41900:0[/embed] FuryDirector: David AyerRelease Date: October 17, 2014 Rating: R  Taking place in April 1945 as the Allies occupy Nazi Germany, Fury tells the story of a small group of soldiers and their tank: Sergeant  "Wardaddy," (Brad Pitt) "Bible," (Shia LaBeouf), Grady (Jon Bernthal), "Gordo," (Michael Pena) and the newest recruit Norman (Logan Lerman), whose never seen battle before being thrown in the tank with the others. And that's really it. That's both Fury's most well regarded aspect and biggest flaw. As with other Ayer films, Fury is all about the small things. Choosing to focus on character work over big events tends to always make the narrative falter. It's no different in Fury, unfortunately. Thankfully, Fury's built on a solid foundation of character arcs. While the narrative may not have a clear direction, the character evolution is set up quite nicely.  Due to its focus on characters over the grander narrative, it's implicitly broken up into smaller vignettes. If you take each scene as a small pocket of story, it's easier to digest. While that might make the pacing of the film harder to follow, it's far more enjoyable when you realize you're just supposed to take each scene as they come. So it's pretty much like every other David Ayer film where he stretches out smaller beats in between big action scenes. Yet this time, the focus is all on those smaller beats. The best example of this is early on when you first meet the crew. In order to break the tension, they start joking around and there's a beginning and ending to that story before going on to the next thing. It's pretty neat.  The more I watched Fury, the more I fell in love with its well built core. If any one of the five central actors were weak, the whole thing would've fell apart. Luckily, you don't have to worry about any of that as there are no slackers here. Brad Pitt doesn't get a lot to do other than put on a machismo front, but his pensive moments truly shine through when they occur little by little. It's not much more than a stare off into the distance, or a hint at a troublesome past, but it works. Jon Bernthal plays up a country drawl pretty well, Michael Pena plays between comedic and tragic as his character usually gets more of the jokes in the film (along with a well delivered speech), and while Logan Lerman is the weakest of the bunch (which is a shame given the amount of focus he gets), he's fine as a stand in for the audience as we get to find out more about everyone else.  The breakout star is definitely Shia LaBeouf. I've seen different facets of his performance in other films, but it's still surprising to see him pull off emotion with such nuance. At times he gives his dialogue a stone faced delivery so that it's intentionally hard to decode, and at others, he's on the brink of tears. LaBeouf gets the toughest role. He's the one character who doesn't pretend he's hardened through war and instead uses religion to pacify his guilt over committing horrible acts of man, and thus needs to display a well of emotion just bubbling under the surface. That aspect of his performance can't be laid out well through words, so I'll just say every cut to him during the final scenes is heartbreaking. His sorrowful stares are a sight to behold.  Now Fury isn't perfect. Just by writing this review I'm recalling certain issues I had with its finale as it mirrors many of Ayer's other film endings, the film's flow might take some getting used to (with one particular scene feeling totally out of place), and it's got a few shades of predictability, but I can't say those issues had a huge effect on my overall enjoyment watching. Fury is a little over two hours, but I didn't feel it at all. I was completely invested because the characters at the center were so compelling.  Oh yeah, I had forgotten all about the action scenes! The tank fights are pretty damn great too. Haha I got swept up in how well everything else was done, I kind of forgot this was a war film. And that's the point. It's not about World War II, and there's no big mission to kill Hitler or save America or anything like that. It's just about some poor guys who are trying to make due in their mess of a world. 
Fury Review photo
Furioso
I've been anticipating Fury for quite some time. Writer/Director David Ayer is one of my favorite folks in the industry, and I'm always eager to find out what he's churning out next. From Training Day to The Fast and The...

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Get passes for any showing of Men, Women and Children


Free passes for Regal Cinemas in DC
Oct 16
// Matthew Razak
Still haven't seen Jason Reitmen's Men, Women and Children? That's OK, I haven't either, but now you can at no risk. We've got passes for the film at any Regal Cinema in DC. The movie looks pretty solid so we'd love for you t...
Foxcatcher photo
Foxcatcher

Newest trailer for Foxcatcher catches feelings


Oct 15
// Nick Valdez
Foxcatcher is probably going to win all of the awards. From great early buzz from the festival circuit, to a cast that all seem to be on point (with Steve Carell leading the way with a terribly disturbing turn), to director ...
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Skinny Mark Wahlberg is skinny in first The Gambler images


How will he save the world with Optimus Prime looking like that?
Oct 07
// Matthew Razak
I'm excited for The Gambler as it will be very interesting to see how Rupert Wyatt follows up the incredible Rise of the Planet of the Apes with a very grounded drama. However, the thing that will attract most peopl...
American Sniper Trailer photo
American Sniper Trailer

First trailer for Clint Eastwood's American Sniper


Oct 03
// Nick Valdez
So I'm not usually one for military films, but something about this trailer for Clint Eastwood's (who took over when Steven Spielberg left the project) American Sniper. The trailer is just cut so well, I'm hooked and want to...
Inherent Vice Trailer photo
Whoa.
Paul Thomas Anderson's upcoming adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's novel Inherent Vice might just be the craziest, and best thing to come out this year. Just by looking at this trailer with its unique style, stupidly talented ca...

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See Men, Women and Children early and free


Washington DC screening
Sep 29
// Matthew Razak
Been wanting to moan about love in the modern age, but haven't found the focal point for your angst? Here comes Men, Women and Children from that guy who brought us Juno and Up In the Air. Festival buzz has been hit or m...
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Trailer for Xavier Dolan's Mommy teases sweeping family drama


Sep 26
// Liz Rugg
Director Xavier Dolan's film Mommy examines the tumultuous lives of a mother and son as they go through the challenge of growing up. Unable to do everything alone, the sassy widowed mother finds balance when their neighbor o...
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Trailer for Force Majeure creates avalanche of family drama


Avalanche, get it? Eh? Eh?
Sep 18
// Liz Rugg
Force Majeure is a Swedish film that premiered at Cannes and it examines a seemingly perfect Swedish family (husband and businessman Tomas, refined wife Ebba and their two lovely children) as it unravels when their trip to t...

Review: The Drop

Sep 12 // Matthew Razak
[embed]218332:41829:0[/embed] The DropMichaël R. Roskam Rated: RRelease Date: September 12, 2014 The Drop is definitely a small feeling movie. They push it as a crime thriller, but really its more of a character study on Tom Hardy's Bob. Bob is a barkeep in the bar owned by his cousin Marv (James Gandolfini). Marv use to be a bit of a mob boss, but he was pushed out by a foreign gang and now the bar acts as a drop spot for illegal gambling. It's often hard to tell where the film is going and who were supposed to be fighting against as the story unfolds and Bob finds a puppy in the trash can of Nadia (Noomi Rapace). The two kindle a kind of romance as her ex starts to stalk Bob and the bar gets robbed. The movie, far from being an actual thriller, is more about Bob and who he is. As the light plot unrolls were treated to less tension and more mystery. Bob seems a little simple and straightforward, but there's something underneath there. As the story unfolds the complexity of the character does as well. The unfortunate thing is that the film doesn't always want to be a character study and veers towards crime thriller ever so often. It veers too much, taking us through a few too many twists and turns instead of delivering its strongest aspect, Bob. Tom Hardy is a revelation in the role. If you now him as an actor you could barely expect that he could pull off the shy, off-kilter New Yorker that is Bob, but he is completely transformed from the guy we know as Bane. His eyes constantly shift, unable to make contacting with anyone else. He's smaller and removed and yet still a presence on screen and he deftly handles a character that is layered. In the hands of another actor Bob's story would seem contrived -- and then the movie would have really not worked -- but Hardy turns a caricature into a human with his performance. It is stunning to watch. Nothing else in the film is as stunning. Roskam's subdued direction doesn't do anything to get in the way, but it certainly doesn't help out either. Things often feel flat, especially after the film reaches its apex and we're winding down. There's nothing else there to make the movie pop up despite a strong performance from Gandolfini. Rapace is present, but her role gets a bit too confused as the film goes on. Thankfully Hardy is there to ground it all in his character. A detective character played by John Ortiz also feels very out of place and simply an excuse to progress the plot and say meaningful things every once in a while. Structurally the film has issues like this as it tries to inject crime Thriller aspects in. This is not to say that the movie is bad at all. As a character study it could be pushing towards great, but as a crime thriller it simply sits too much. Hardy is the key, though. He takes the movie to a level where I would easily recommend seeing it even if you I don't think it's the best thing out there.  And if you need more convincing there's an adorable puppy. Everyone loves puppies.
The Drop Review photo
The role of a lifetime in the wrong film
The Drop is one of those little crime thrillers that comes out and no one really hears about it and you aren't sure why it was made. Possibly the studio thought it could grab some award love or something, but nothing is ...


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