Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around


Flixist Originals

Four patriotic movies to watch on the Fourth of July

Jul 04 // Anthony Marzano
An Election Day Carol It is the night of the 1960 Presidential Election and Richard Milhouse Nixon's defeat is all but assured to the middle aged Vice-President. Following a quick but passionate concession speech, Mr. Nixon considers if it is even worth trying to remain in politics after losing to such a young opponent. Pledging to sleep on it to his wife, he retires to bed in the hopes that sleep will indeed help. As he sleeps Mr. Nixon is visited by three spirits, the spirit of America's past, present, and future. Nixon sees himself as a young man defending freedom during World War II and remembers the swelling pride he felt just to be American. In the present he sees a family, a husband and wife. One a Nixon voter, the other a Kennedy voter. They are not angry or yelling at each other, instead they see that the other only has the best of intentions for their nation and respect the differences of their spouse. In the future, he sees nothing but death as Kennedy is assassinated and Lyndon Johnson takes office. Johnson then destroys what little diplomacy America has with Communist China causing them to ally with the Soviets, ushering in a quick and irradiated death for all of America's innocent civilians. Pleading with the Spirit of America's Future he asks, "How could I avert this horror?" The answer? Running for President again in 1968. With a steady resolve and a tear inducing monologue on the importance of freedom, Richard Nixon steps forward to realize his destiny and save America's future. Julyhogday It's another 4th of July in Independence, Missouri and local TV meteorologist Golden Showers is forced to cover his 10th Independence Day Parade. From the local high school marching band playing the same three patriotic songs from the past 10 years all the way down to the crackling and snapping of sparklers, Showers has had enough of this celebration.To make matters worse, it's 90 degrees with a heat index of 110. Because of the combination of the heat and frustration, Showers melts down on live TV and wonders why we even celebrate the holiday any more. After drinking himself into a stupor that night, Showers falls asleep on his floor, only to wake up to it being the 4th of July again. After being forced to relive the day, including his meltdown, again and again, Showers begins to see the true meaning of Independence Day. It's not just about the freedom of a nation, but the unity of its people and how it's a day to celebrate and enjoy the company of your neighbor. After giving a rousing speech about how it's the best holiday in the history of mankind, Showers goes to sleep and wakes up an old man because you can't just cheat time and expect it not to catch up to you. Come on, there are rules. We may be free from the King, but our fourth dimensional overlords demand we follow the path they have set out for us. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Guantanamo Harry Potter, after accidentally killing an interrogation subject while working as an Auror for the Ministry of Magic, is assigned to the MACUSA in July 2001. His first few months are calm but following the 9/11 attacks, Harry is suspicious of wizard involvement because of the fact that jet fuel can't melt steel beams. Suspecting that a rogue cell of death eaters were involved as part of a retaliation for the Second Wizarding War, Harry goes to Guantanamo Prison to interrogate a wizard picked up during the American invasion of Afghanistan. Upon first seeing the detained wizard, Harry's scar flares with pain once again, a feeling he hasn't felt since the final battle of the Second Wizarding War. Things get messy during the interrogation when Harry's methods of information extraction go too far and he again kills the Wizard leaving him with only a few clues to go off of. Traveling across the globe Harry must uncover the rogue wizard web and stop them before another magical attack is perpetrated on muggles not only killing innocent muggles, but also revealing the magical world that has secretly surrounded them as well. With heart pumping action and an edge of your seat final 20 minutes, this movie is a great magical terrorism thrill ride.  Continental Taking place in the hours leading up to three of George Washington's attendances to the continental congresses, this Aaron Sorkin written drama is as American as it gets. While not actually showing any of what was said at the congresses, you can feel the patriotism and national pride oozing off the screen thanks to Sorkin's expertly crafted dialogue between Washington and his cohorts. The most impressive part? The 30 minute monologue where Washington speaks to his almost silent entourage that is escorting him from New York to Washington to return his commissioning papers to congress following the Revolutionary War. While not as technically impressive, the first continental congress segment is great to not only hear the fear that was palpable among the congressmen, but also to see the courage and resolve that Washington put forth to push forward with what seemed to be an impossible task of rebelling against the king. It's also cool to see many modern actors playing somewhat bit roles as one of the many delegates that Washington talked to before the congress. Pound for pound though you can't get more patriotic than when Washington was preparing to walk into the second congress fully dressed in a military uniform and ready to lead the troops. I personally loved the little nod to Boogie Nights where George Washington is standing in front of the mirror with his penis out repeating "I'm an American, I'm an American, I'm an American" before the scene ends. Pure Patriotic American bliss. And there you have it, the four movies you absolutely must watch today or report to the education stations to be injected with your communism inoculation. Why not leave your favorite patriotic movie in the comments below?
AMERICA photo
I declare independence from my pants
The most patriotic of our major American holidays is upon us and for many that means barbeques, a day off from work, and fireworks. But me? Barbeques aren't the same for me since I don't eat meat, I work today because freed...

Flixist Discusses: Is Wonder Woman a Great Movie or Just an Important One? [Part 2]

Jun 10 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]221587:43586:0[/embed] Alec: As the guy who wrote Flixist’s review of Get Out, I understand a parallel there. We've talked in the past about how everything is political now. It's likely that it always has been, but it's much more widely recognized now than it used to be. To get off topic for a minute: Not a terribly long time ago, I was thinking about a hypothetical movie about racism vs one about sexism. One follows a member of the KKK, the other an MRA-esque pickup artist: which do we as a society see as more problematic? It's not the latter. There are a lot of reasons for this, and I'm certainly not the best person to list them, but this results in an interesting parallel to Black Panther (and Ryan Coogler in particular): Creed was, I learned upon entering the theater I saw it in, a “black” movie. The trailers leading up to it primarily featured Kevin Hart and Ice Cube in movies I had never seen trailers for. And it's offensively reductive to think of Creed (a movie I love) in those terms, but that is what Regal decided its audience would be. Racists may have been unhappy that the next Rocky focused on the experiences of a black man, but I don't think anyone who accepted that premise was concerned about Ryan Coogler. I think that, in a similar vein, the same man directing Black Panther is not necessarily controversial. And the backlash of a white director doing Black Panther would be more virulent than it was about, say, Paul Fieg directing the female-led Ghostbusters. There is an expectation, I think, that movies about black people will largely be made by black people. This leads into a whole host of other issues, but to get back to the actual discussion we're having: I don't see a woman analog. Movies about women are rarely made by women and, crucially, there is no expectation that they be. I think that’s why a woman directing Wonder Woman could even be in question. Of course she should, but… men tell women's stories all the time! So maybe she doesn't “need to”? It's an infuriating logic, but I can sorta see it (in a missing-the-forest-for-the-trees kind of way). And I realize now that I pretty much didn't respond to what you said… but I'd like to get your thoughts on this before going back to some of your other points (particularly about the younger generation and what this means for them, because I think that's crucial). Hubert: This is an interesting tangent, because we’re talking about the larger cultural idea concerning different people’s stories, who is telling their stories, expectations about those stories, and who gets to tell people’s stories. I think Wonder Woman would have a different sensibility if it was directed by a man; and Get Out would be different if it was directed by a white person. It goes beyond the individual style of a director and gets down to what these stories mean in terms of the identity of the director and the identities of the characters and the politics of the moment. After serving on the Cannes jury, Jessica Chastain stated publicly that the female characters in the movies she watched weren’t great. She was disturbed that they lacked depth and were such passive characters to the men around them; they weren’t representative of the women she knew in her own life. Chastain called for more women to tell stories on the big screen so the female characters had more dimension and agency. A lot of people still think of movies about women as “chick flicks”, but stories about women go beyond those dismissive labels. As more women direct movies and more stories are told about women, the idea of a movie about women or by women expands beyond a reductive niche. The same goes for films by and about people of color. The reason we’re having this whole conversation and probably will for a while is because the default sensibility in so many kinds of art is predominantly white and male.  That’s not to say that all movies about women should only be directed by women, or that all movies about people of color should only be directed by members of that ethnicity. But maybe some stories lend themselves to that type of consideration more than others. Like I think of Paul Verhoeven’s Elle from last year, which I didn’t like (I’m in the vast minority) despite a great Isabelle Huppert performance. It’s a movie about a woman who’s raped and how she processes the incident and reacts to it, but it’s directed by a man, with a screenplay by a man, adapted from a novel by a man. And it felt like it. I’m glad you mentioned the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot. I think this comes back to the symbolic cultural dimension of films and how that informs a strong personal attachment to something. These days I think it’s just middling-to-okay, but lots of my friends rally around it. Part of that is a counterpoint to the over-the-top male-nerd rage over an all-female Ghostbusters remake. But beyond the rebuke of manchild gatekeeping, whenever the movie feels like a Kate McKinnon, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones comedy, it’s fun to watch because they’re doing their own thing and their personalities drive the story. Unfortunately, it’s a beat-for-beat remake of the original Ghostbusters. I feel like there’s a good-to-great movie trapped inside of a calculated, studio-mandated formula. And maybe someone other than Feig should have directed it. Though imagine the s**t-show if Feig was hired to direct Black Panther. Alec: It would be something to behold. Ultimately, we're talking about representation, and not just in the people on screen. Representation behind the scenes, allowing stories to be told by the people whose stories are actually being told. In certain circles, “representation” has developed a negative connotation -- something like tokenism -- but it’s a crucially important thing to have stories told about all kinds of people, and to have them told by the kinds of people who have a deep investment in those stories. It’s not just about who is on screen. Let’s be honest: a story about Wonder Woman means a lot less to someone who grew up wanting to be Superman. (That actually brings up a whole other discussion re: the fact that I don’t think anyone will grow up wanting to be Zack Snyder’s version of Superman) And here we return to this image of parents taking a photo of their daughter doing a Wonder Woman-y pose at the movie theater. That little girl is getting to see a badass woman starring in her own movie on the big screen for basically the first time ever. AND she gets to see that in a movie that refuses to sexualize one of the most attractive human beings to ever exist; nay, a movie that never even considers sexualizing her in the first place! It would be oh-so-easy to have all kinds of gratuitous fan service in this movie, given the generally sparse nature of her costume, but the film never calls attention to it. All of that unnecessary slow-mo in Wonder Woman may seem Snyder-esque, but it’s different in purpose: it’s always to call attention to the cool thing that’s being done and not the way the person doing it is dressed (an issue he has with his slow-motion (and regular-motion) portrayals of women). And I love that. I am ecstatic for that little girl, that she gets to grow up in a world where she has a movie that treats its badass woman protagonist as a badass protagonist first and a woman, well, first also but in, ya know, a positive way. I just wish I liked the movie itself more. Because I am celebrating all of these things that surround the movie and things that the movie does that are sort of abstracted from the actual quality of the movie itself. Sexualization of a character does not a make a movie inherently bad; it would make a Wonder Woman movie inherently problematic, but it is not a clear measure of the film’s quality. And when I think about the narrative foibles or the really-very-bad CGI, I just get sad, because I want to unequivocally shout from the heavens that this movie is a gamechanger not just culturally but as a piece of art (or, at the very least, entertainment). And it’s not; it’s just good. But when I put in all those caveats, I worry about diminishing the excitement of that little girl doing her pose. It’s not that she’d ever read a thing I said about it, but that the negativity of people like me could poison the well and take her excitement about this new awesome thing for her and crush it. I don’t want that to happen, and I don’t want to be that kind of person, that kind of guy. And so I don’t always know how to critique it, because it’s become inextricably linked from its own importance. Hubert: I think you can understand the joy or enthusiasm that the young girl has for Wonder Woman as a symbol even if you didn’t like Wonder Woman the movie as much as she did. The fact that you’re concerned about diminishing someone else’s enthusiasm for Wonder Woman safeguards you from being a total grump. You’re trying to avoid being a downer, which is a lot better than most people on the internet (says this guy on the internet). Instead, you’re saying, “You got that out of Wonder Woman? Awesome!” You acknowledge that it means something important to someone else, and you’re doing your best to understand that. To me, that’s the way around this whole sliding scale of quality question. Regardless of the movie itself, you can at least mutually understand its importance as this thing in the world. The movie is working as an empathy machine, and so is the conversation around the movie. Whenever I talk to friends about movies or books or any sort of art, I’m usually more interested in hearing what they think first before saying what I think. I want to share in their enthusiasm or passion for something, see where they’re coming from. We’ll disagree on some stuff, and what’s important to someone else may not have been something I was paying attention to when I was watching, but now I’m more aware of that concern. Generally it doesn’t matter if we agree on the quality of the work. It’s the conversation about this thing in common between us that matters; it’s about what new ideas we’ll have talking to each other about this thing in common. It’s interesting how you’re disappointed in Wonder Woman being merely good. As if being good wasn’t enough. But with some things, that so true! You want to experience that transformative, transcendent feeling. I’ve felt that same way about other movies, most recently with Your Name and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Both were so hyped up for me, but both just left me thinking, “That was all right.” I get why people love those movies on paper when I think of what happens in the abstract, but it just didn’t affect me in the same way. And that’s fine. This might be my inner Platonist talking, but the idea of something is always more perfect than its actual material manifestation. It might be the human tendency to conflate the idea of the thing with the actual thing when assessing quality, but if so, oh well. I guess all I can really say is that you should be happy for that girl at the movies, and don’t worry about spoiling her connection to Wonder Woman just because you didn’t like it as much. You’re conscious of what it means to her and to others. It’s not like you’re being a total asshole or questioning her intellect or trying to debate her about aesthetics. As long as you aren’t tweeting “Well, actually…” to a bunch of Wonder Woman fans on the internet or antagonizing people for not sharing your opinions, I think everyone will be fine. And yet sadly, that happens a lot since the internet is, at its worst, a solipsistic misanthropy machine. Alec: I don't remember which review it was (I've done too many at this point), but I once wrote passionately in defense of movies that are Just Good. Considering all of the dreck we have to deal with, being genuinely Good is a triumph, and I have never seen a Good movie that I felt was a waste of my time or a thing I regretted doing. Good is not fundamentally or inherently problematic. When Good becomes a problem (for me) is when other people rave about how Great, Amazing, Wonderful, etc. a thing is. It becomes impossible to celebrate a thing's Goodness when everyone else is celebrating Greatness. I want to be able to say, "Ya know, Wonder Woman was pretty good. It had its flaws, but it it's definitely a few steps above anything the DCEU has done up to this point." Instead, I end up arguing, because there are people who reject the idea that it is anything short of a triumph. And while on some level I see where they're coming from, I also don't think they're looking at the film critically; they're getting swept up into it. And that's not necessarily to say that people who like the movie more than me are wrong (storytelling impacts different people very differently, which is largely the reason why we do these discussions in the first place) but that I get concerned that people write off flaws and the next movie that could be Great learning from the mistakes of the thing that is Good repeats them instead. I'd rather live in a world where every movie is Good than one where it has fallen into constant mediocrity. Even so, I want movies better than Wonder Woman. This can be the new bar we set, but it's also hardly an impossible one to overcome.  Wonder Woman is the beginning of something great; I just don't think it's great in and of itself.
Wonder Woman Discussed 2 photo
Racism, sexism, etc.
We're back with the second (and final) part of our Wonder Woman discussion, where we get into much, um, headier(?) topics than we did yesterday. Hubert continues to use big words, and I continue to make broad statements that ...

Flixist Discusses: Is Wonder Woman a Great Movie or Just an Important One? [Part 1]

Jun 09 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]221013:43185:0[/embed] Alec: Before we really get into the issue at hand, I want to establish my DC cred (or lack thereof). I liked Man of Steel and thought Batman v Superman was bad but worth seeing in IMAX and that the Director’s Cut was actually decent, if still infuriatingly stupid. Also, Suicide Squad was awful. My first introduction to Wonder Woman as a character came in Batman v Superman and I came into this knowing pretty much nothing about her. If this movie changes her up (as I imagine it does), I couldn't tell you how. Crucially, I also don't care. I think that, by this point, the modern DCEU has staked out its underlying theme: Do heroes have a place in the world? While Marvel films seem more-or-less content to have them around in some capacity, DC questions their existence (in that sense, it has more in common with Fox’s Marvel films than Disney's). Do I think it succeeds? Not really, at least most of the time, but I do think it's a more interesting question than Marvel's. Prior to getting into the specific merits of Wonder Woman, its place in DC’s canon, and -- perhaps most crucially -- its place in American culture in 2017, I wanted to get your opinion on the DCEU and also whether you agree with my assessment of the story it’s trying (and often failing) to tell. Hubert: I agree that the DCEU movies ask what place heroes have in the world. That’s the crux of Man of Steel (which I didn’t care for), and the film has a pretty dark, non-committal answer to the question. Rather than a moral beacon, the Superman in Man of Steel is unsure of his purpose and constantly wrestles with self-doubt. After saving a bus full of drowning children, Clark’s dad isn’t proud that his son did the right thing. He essentially says, “Maybe you should have let those kids die to protect yourself.” That’s one effed-up moral compass, Pa Kent--you standing near a magnet? And then Pa Kent commits suicide by tornado in front of his wife and kid to prove a point. Jesus, Jonathan, how messed up was your dad? So Superman is this glum hero who seems burdened by his need to do the right thing rather than fueled by it. Meanwhile, Batman is a homicidal psychopath who’s really into CrossFit. That’s not my preferred iteration of the character. It’s pretty striking that the Batman and Superman of the DCEU are these really damaged people that are still working through their traumas. Worse, they find no sense of meaning or purpose in their heroism. They remind me of the grim-and-gritty Batman and Superman analogs from the comics of the 1990s. And yeah, Suicide Squad sucked on toast. I feel like Wonder Woman is a break from that grimness and glumness. She’s this optimistic, idealistic, confident hero who wants to help people because it’s the right thing to do. Full stop. She would save a bus full of drowning children and take them out for ice cream after that. That’s the kind of heroism I think of when I think of Superman, but it’ll take the DCEU Superman years of therapy to undo the BS his dad gave him. Alec: I think it's true that Wonder Woman is a radically different take on a superhero than what Zack Snyder has thus far done with the DCEU. Wisecrack did a really interesting video recently about the philosophical failures of Batman v Superman, focusing largely on the fact that Batman is the objectivist ideal that Snyder loves (and Frank Miller portrayed in The Dark Knight Returns) but so, in many ways, is Superman. Wonder Woman is very much not that. She is, it seems, in the wrong universe. (I think this is furthered by the fact that she is literally a god, which complicates the whole Superman-as-god-kinda-but-not-really thing that has been the crux of the franchise thus far.) That said, even if the hero doesn't feel like a natural fit, her movie does. It's more colorful and quippier, to be sure, but it's still rather brutal. Marvel dealt with the idea of civilian casualties in Captain America: Civil War, but they didn't show Scarlet Witch walking through the building she destroyed like they made Diana walk through the mustard gas’d village. (I could imagine a truly horrific R-rated cut of this movie.) Beyond that, the over-reliance on CGI, particularly towards the end, felt very DC, particularly since their movies have objectively worse effects than do Marvel’s, and I found Wonder Woman's effects to be consistently and seriously lacking. Which brings us, ultimately, to what this whole thing is about, because I feel weird criticizing this movie, because the movie is genuinely important. It is the first $100 million+ blockbuster to be directed by a woman and first film in either comic cinematic universe to center on a woman. It has made a ton of money, and I'm ecstatic for that, because apparently there was a question about whether or not women could make movies that people would want to see. And now that question is (or should be) settled firmly in the “Yes” camp. And good.  But my feelings are complicated greatly by the fact that I think the movie is pretty good but not the brilliant, revolutionary thing that so many folks in my Facebook feed appear to have experienced. Because I think this movie is important historically, but I don't think history will be kind to it.  Hubert: I liked the movie a lot more than you did, but I also sense that a lot of the love people have for Wonder Woman is rooted in its historical significance and/or personal significance. A couple of my friends have talked about seeing the movie with their daughters, or with their nieces and young cousins, and the sense of pride they felt watching it. Other friends talk about the confidence the movie instilled in them as women, which is something they haven’t felt from other movies. On my way to the theater to see Wonder Woman, I saw some parents take a picture of their young daughter striking a Wonder Woman-y pose in front of the Wonder Woman poster; I immediately thought of my niece, who isn’t even a year old, and what she might think of the movie when she eventually sees it. Conversely, I have a couple friends who outright refuse to see the movie because of Gal Gadot’s service in the IDF and her support of Israel. People may love (or hate) a movie for what it represents at the moment rather than what the movie is in and of itself. But I think that’s fine. It’s natural, even. It’s unavoidable. I think that’s how people encounter art and consume entertainment in their daily lives. No movie is ever a movie in and of itself. There’s the work, there’s the viewer and what they bring to the work, and there’s the social/political/historical context in which the viewer encounters the work. We can’t step outside of world history or personal history, and neither can a work of art or entertainment. My reaction to a movie may cool over time, and that’s natural because we change our minds, the hype dies down, and maybe in our reassessment we realize we aren’t so hot on the thing we once really liked. The reverse is true as well. There have been plenty of movies I’ve come to love later when I’m in a different point in my life and can see the work differently. This may be weird to say, but I think Get Out and Wonder Woman occupy a similar space this year in terms of their social/historical significance and how that affects people’s individual love for the film. I like Get Out a lot and think it’s a well made horror-comedy with remarkable insights about race, though I don’t think it’s the masterpiece other people think it is. But that’s fine. As an assimilated Filipino guy who grew up in the suburbs, my personal connection to Get Out isn’t anything like the personal connection of my Haitian friend who’s married to a white woman. I guess I’m saying that we never experience art in an ahistorical, non-biographical social vacuum. I guess I’m also saying there may be a similar cultural conversation surrounding Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther come February 2018. [Check back tomorrow for Part 2!]
Wonder Woman Discussed photo
The answer might surprise me
So, Wonder Woman is out. We here at Flixist are big fans, but I will admit to being a bit more lukewarm than many of my colleagues here (as well as most of my social circle). But quality aside, it's an important mov...

In defense of Roger Moore

May 24 // Matthew Razak
First, Roger Moore could deliver a one-liner like no other. Part of this was the fact that he didn't really look like he could deliver a one-liner. Moore never had the rough suaveness of Connery, the playfulness of Lazenby, the sneering edge of Dalton, the boyish charm of Brosnan or the harsh facade of Craig. He was straight-laced, upright, and square-jawed so when he delivered a line like, "Just keeping the British end up," while raising his iconic eyebrow it was just mischievous enough to actually work. Only Connery could nail a one-liner like Moore did.  Often Moore is criticized for taking Bond in a comedic direction and eventually into camp territory. However, this trend towards a more ridiculous Bond was well in place by the time Moore took over, and, in fact, was clearly what audiences wanted at the time. After Connery left following You Only Live Twice, a film full of what would come to be known as Moore-style Bond action, Eon Productions actually did ground Bond. On Her Majesty's Secret Service is one of the most prolifically grounded Bond films there is, and could fit right in with Craig's current slate of films minus a few sight gags. It did not do as well as previous Bonds at the box office (though still was one of the top films of the year), so what happened? Full tilt the other way with Connery returning one last time for Diamonds Are Forever and the true birth of a less serious Bond. This is what audiences wanted from their Bond at the time, and Moore was way better than anyone else at playing it up with a wink to the camera.  Combining the newer direction of the franchise with Moore's uncanny ability to play it straight while still finding the fun of a scene worked really well for Bond. But he's still remembered for the excess and ridiculousness instead of subtle nods. And that is a fair complaint. He went to space and shot lasers (more on this later) for Pete's sake. However, lost in the mire of space stations (Moonraker), underwater sea labs (The Spy Who Loved Me) and hot air balloon raids with an all female circus (Octopussy), is that fact that a lot of Moore's bond films weren't that big at all. In fact he kicked off his tenure with the relatively subdued Live and Let Die, which featured an incredibly complex story that played Moore's stiff Britishness against a Harlem gang to surprising effect. The Man with the Golden Gun may start to show signs of the preponderance of overblown Bond that was too come (slide whistle car flips and Sheriff Pepper), but it also ends with a one-on-one showdown between two foes. Yes, it's in a ridiculous setting, but Moore actually pulls the tension out of it alongside the fantastic Christopher Lee. Then there is For Your Eyes Only, a film in which Moore's Bond is a complete and total badass. If it weren't for the Bibi scenes the film would be one of the straightest played Bond films around.  But Bond wasn't (and isn't really) about being subdued. In fact Roger Moore's best Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me, is easily one of the best Bond films around specifically because it is everything that makes Bond great. Moore delivers a fantastic performance from the pitch perfect parachute-stunt opening to the inevitable victory in an evil villains base. The film is everything a Bond movie should be, cliche and all. If Goldfinger began defining what a Bond film is then The Spy Who Loved Me finalized that definition. Even in its overblown Bond glory the film finds time to hit some emotional notes, especially when Bond's late wife is brought up and Moore tersely shuts the conversation down. Moore's Bond is at its comic finest, but also some of his cruelest. At one point a henchman is grabbing Bond's tie to keep from falling off a roof. Once he gets the information he needs Moore simply knocks the tie away letting him fall with a stone cold, "What a helpful chap." Let's also give fashion credit where its due. While Connery's grey 3-piece suit in Goldfinger may be the gold standard of Bond fashion, sometimes he went a bit too high fashion to stay classically trendy. Moore will always look sharp for the most part. His long neck meant that the large collars of the 70s don't look out of style and his Savile Row suits couldn't get more British. In one of the the ugliest eras in men's fashion Moore's Bond stayed classic for the most part. Maybe it could seem stuffy at the time, but thanks to Moore Bond looks timelessly stylish in a suit.  Finally, Moore saved the franchise. After OHMSS people thought that Bond wouldn't be able to survive without Connery. Recasting seemed like a mistake, especially since Diamonds performed so much better. Then Moore came along and his take on Bond worked with audiences. People enjoyed watching his Bond, and the franchise stayed relevant. Moonraker might be ridiculous, but it bought full into the Star Wars craze of the time and remained the highest grossing Bond film for decades. No other Bond could have made Moonraker even remotely work. Thanks to Moore's performance its easy to see how he's metaphorically winking at the camera throughout the ridiculousness. At that time it is what Bond needed to succeed and only Moore's Bond could handle that. Moore took a fun approach to Bond that these days is often looked down upon, but while all his films weren't fantastic, and he easily should have stopped before A View to A Kill thanks to his age, what Moore did was truly define James Bond. His own delight in having fun with the movies shines through his performances. Maybe that fun has moved on from action cinema, and maybe that isn't entirely a good thing. Looking at modern Bond films its when the franchise finds that balance between drama and humor that it really works as Skyfall showed, especially when compared to the dour Quantum of Solace and the overly punchy Spectre. Moore might not be your favorite Bond, but he deserves to be remembered as a man who defined what we truly think of Bond overall. There would be no James Bond without Roger Moore.
Bond photo
Why his Bond is better than you think
Yesterday we heard the sad news that Roger Moore had passed away. If you're like me it hit you pretty hard, because if you're like me Roger Moore's James Bond is something you love. A lot of people are not like me. Most don't...


Every Power Rangers Suit, Ranked

Mar 15 // Nick Valdez
21. Power Rangers Megaforce Originally touted as an anniversary season of the series, Megaforce has plenty of problems. Least/Most of which is the costume design. While these suits have some good ideas such as the helmet's mouthpiece reminiscent of Mighty Morphin' (which must've been a happy little coincidence for Saban), and I do like some of the gold highlights, everything else is a mess. The suit's way too busy to actually work. I'm sure the outfits make sense in the Japanese original, but why do their chest emblems have different designs? Why do all of their pants ride so high up as to give them uncomfortable looking front wedgies? It's like a weird military outfit without any of the context. Just goofy and bulky.  20. Power Rangers Operation Overdrive Like Megaforce, Operation Overdrive's suits are far too busy. There's some simplicity in the helmets (at least they have visors the suit actors can actually see out of), but there's so much to unpack at first glance. The motif this season was world adventuring (hence the compass insignia), but the helmets all reflect their vehicle zords so it gives them headlights like Turbo's ridiculous ones. Then add in the chrome shoulder plates, belts, and cufflinks and it's way too much. Not to mention the Silver Ranger's awful orange stripe and lavender shoulders which makes the entire team look worse each time he's near.  19. Power Rangers Turbo Speaking of Turbo, their helmets are the worst in the series. Replicating their vehicles gives them chrome and headlights coupled with tail lights (?) on their belts. The rest of the suit is fine, but you just can't take those helmets seriously. It was fine in a Japanese series parodying other Sentai shows, but didn't exactly work for a serious Power Rangers drama which included the team getting baked into a giant pizza.  18. Power Rangers RPM RPM was a fantastic send-off for the Disney owned seasons, but showrunners wanted their idea for a show, a post-apocalyptic thriller to somehow mesh with one of the goofier Japanese seasons, Engine Sentai Go-Onger. Fortunately it mostly works as there's a story reason behind the suit designs, but it always rubbed me a wrong way that these didn't reflect the story. They're not the worst suits, but they're by far from the best. Combining animals, cars, and everything else into their helmets, once again there's a lot going on. Doesn't help that the suits look baggy too without a true separation of tops and bottoms. The only thing which kind of works is the animal/number insignia since it does resemble flair soldiers are known to give their uniforms for morale. Otherwise, c'mon it's a mess.  17. Power Rangers Dino Charge I like a lot of the choices made with the Dino Charge suits, especially the slick helmets (which go full-visor when they're in the Megazord), but a major complaint I keep using once again rears its ugly head. There's just so much going on with these suits. It's indicative of the series as a whole (so many Rangers, zords, motifs), but just doesn't come together like the show does. A slick helmet juxtaposed with a bright tooth pattern, monochromatic pants and shoes, and grey-scaled sleeves? It aaaalmost works, but then you've got the random single shoulder pad and lose all sense of symmetry.  16. Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers I may appreciate simplicity in a design, but there's such a thing as too simplistic. There's a reason this entire season of Ninja Sentai Kakuranger was skipped over in favor of using the Mighty Morphin' suits for a third season. The design was used creatively (tweaking the "ninja" motif into an "alien" one), but that's only because of its stark contrast to the original suits. These are neat and uniform (more so than any other season). but they were too bare bones to work on their own. Which is why they're only around for a short time.  15. Power Rangers Zeo Zeo was a transition season for the series in a number of ways. New powers, new villains, new Command Center, colors were shuffled around (Tommy became the Red Ranger, Jason eventually became Gold), and the show started distancing itself from its original motifs. Gone are the spiritual animal and dinosaur powers, and replaced with full-on magic crystal powers. While I like the gold trim, I've never liked the suits overall. They seemed like a downgrade from the originals due to a general lack of white and the Yellow Ranger's loss of vision. But I did appreciate the shift away from the molded mouths. Instead of a grey standout, they're blended into the helmet. I also don't think I liked how everyone looked chunkier? I don't know, old school aesthetic I guess.  14. Power Rangers Jungle Fury Now these suits would crack the top ten if the Red and Blue Rangers had the same skirt as Yellow does. Skirts have always been a major problem for this series, and I don't really have the time or space to go into why they're a problem here, but Yellow's actually works the best. Like Purple and White, her suit most reflects a fighting gi which greatly suited this season's kung-fu movie theme. The White Rhino Ranger has my favorite design overall since he just looks like a kick-ass karate dude. That's never happened in the series before, and it still has yet to happen again. More blatant kick-ass karate folks please.  13. Power Rangers Lost Galaxy I feel like Lost Galaxy's suits were so middle-of-the-road, it deserved to be in the middle-of-the-list. I was always a huge fan of the helmet design, but hated the Charlie Brown stripes on their chest. This was another season in which the Rangers looked especially bulky, and they only looked worse following In Space's slimmed down and sleek design. I wish I had more to say, but honestly, these suits are boring though they don't look like they would be. 12. Power Rangers Dino Thunder Dino Thunder was Disney's attempt to wrangle in old fans of the series. Bringing Tommy in as a dope looking Black Ranger (not pictured here since I couldn't find one with a good enough quality) and an "evil" White Ranger with an also great design, the main trio was almost there. It's a simple aesthetic with the dino theme barely peeking through in the helmet, but from the neck down it's a little much. I'm a huge fan of the footprint insignia in the center, but these suits almost have too much white. The diamonds running down their arms and legs may serve a story and power purpose, but that doesn't mean I don't have to like them. But as we're getting closer to the top ten, I'm splitting hairs.  11. Power Rangers Ninja Steel It's only six episodes in, but I've been impressed by what Ninja Steel has offered thus far. Notably, the suits are fantastic. You've got the ninja sensibilities (done much better seasons before, but you'll see that soon), but since these ninjas don't really care about anything ninja-y the bold design on their sashes gives their insignia a bit of pop. It's simplicity masking outlandishness working especially well with the White Ranger and her pink outline.  10. Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue Lightspeed Rescue was the first season of the series to have its team be a military force and it's look reflected that pretty damn well. A simple design shared between the entire team with only differentiating factors being visor and color. The white balance here works, unlike Dino Thunder, because it has a clear stopping point. It along with the crosses on their helmets reflect the rescue theme of the season and overall look good in motion too. This was a team where difference in appearance wasn't too necessary, yet felt like it was included to keep up the morale of the force like RPM.  9. Power Rangers Mystic Force Capes are cool, so I can't believe they've only been part of one season. A lot of things I thought would bother me at first glance actually works well in motion. There's a nice white/color balance as it's only relegated to the capes (and the women's white bottoms make them look like they're wearing tunics, which is a plus), the giant black and gold "M" is a great design choice that's totally not overpowering or super noticeable unless you really stare at it, and although the visors seems tough to see through there's an overall "grand" feeling in the design. It's kind of like what Megaforce wanted to accomplish but grandly failed at.  8. Power Rangers Super Megaforce Speaking of Megaforce, the second half of the series had one of the coolest costumes ever. I'm a big fan of this pirate look since it's so unique (with only small difference in visor design among them), and these looked really clean in motion. In fact, they even popped their collars during the Ranger roll-call and it was about as goofy as you'd expect. In a good way. However, since the pirate look was never capitalized on (or explained, really) these awesome suits were wasted. Not to mention that these are only powered-up versions of the Megaforce suits and not a full team of their own. If this look had been handled better, you could be damn sure it would've been in the top five.  7. Power Rangers Ninja Storm Although the Alien Rangers were technically ninjas, the first foray into a ninja ranger season was an impressive one. The first full season of the series to use a teal color for the Blue Ranger, a simple but expressive helmet design, and darker colors for the two Thunder Rangers really left an impression on me. The visors also opened in a cool way; only revealing part of the face when they were speaking to each other. Since we're getting into the nitty gritty of the list, I will say these suits were eeked out by some that did a liiiittle bit more. Especially considering how all of this awesome simplicity was tossed out the window in favor of the Green Samurai Ranger's obnoxious look.  6. Power Rangers Wild Force Wild Force is the only season of the series so far that comes closest to the first season in suit design. The gaudy, but slightly subdued helmets are a natural evolution of the dino helmets, except here more teeth come down over the visors. The shark helmet is a standout, and I'm very fond of the White Ranger's pink stripe highlighting her skirt. The one thing I'm not a fan of, however, is the huge gold strap on their chests. It's a little much coupled with the insignia, and its asymmetrical placement definitely throws off the look. The belt buckle also takes up too much real estate and makes the waist seem unnecessarily heavy.  5. Power Rangers S.P.D. S.P.D. was one of my favorite seasons for a number of reasons, and a great deal of it had to do with the look. While the visors are a bit too stretched across the helmet for my liking, everything from the neck down absolutely works. The asymmetrical design actually makes sense here (with one side reserved for their police badges and labels and whatnot) and their number leading to an all-black arm is so damn cool looking. The series has never made this kind of design choice before, so it really sticks out from the other seasons. It's uniform, yet flashy.  4. Power Rangers Time Force Time Force was another favorite of mine. Combining the simplicity I love, with the gaudy look of the original, the Time Force suits were a great uniform for the team. I'm not sure how any of the suit actors actually saw thing out of the colored visors, but I didn't care. These suits are great and the visors (meant to resemble clock hands) are an inspired choice. The only thing I never really liked was the Quantum Ranger's closely resembling Red, but it made sense story wise (a company developed their own Ranger tech based on Time Force). I think limited the white to the should up is what makes it work overall. It was fluid to see in action.  3. Power Rangers Samurai It's a shame such a great suit design ended on such a trash season. The unique samurai look (as the black straps on their chests resemble robes) is fantastic from head to toe. White is only used as a highlighter, the black bottoms makes a lot of sense as the fighting style is top heavy (there weren't kicks this season so subduing their color was smart), and the kanji visors are inspired. Even looking great during the morphing sequence as the kanji laid on their faces. Since I'm splitting hairs this high up on the list, the only reason it's in the third spot is because the Red Ranger looks like a bug.  2. Power Rangers In Space As the final season of the Zordon-era, In Space had a lot going for it. A space opera with layered villains, evil rangers, and fantastic suits.  Although the Japanese original had nothing to do with space, it helped that the suits all look like space suits. Stripping down the excess, the helmets are absolutely perfect (even adding in a tech holographic during the morphing sequence). There's personality in how different these looked from what came before, and still have yet to be matched sense. It truly signified how different of a story this season was telling. The only thing keeping these out of the top spot are the colored squares across their chests. It's an acquired taste.  1. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Like it could be anything else. The suits are one distinct reason the Power Rangers branded visuals have managed to stick around in pop culture for so long. Although the diamonds make them look like clowns, these suits set the tone for everything else to come. These suits help set the mythos of the series (colored spandex, crazy helmet design, a uniform yet differing look) and they still sort-of look good after all of these years. Not great. but good. That's not something you can say about the rest of the suits on this list. 
Power Rangers Month photo
Power stylin'
As I've learned watching through 831 episodes of Power Rangers for two thirds of my life, a Ranger is only as good as their suit. A suit design can make or break a series through first impressions, and bad designs have indeed...

Every Power Rangers Theme Song, Ranked

Mar 10 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221220:43333:0[/embed] 20. Power Rangers Operation Overdrive (2007) Back when Disney owned the rights to Power Rangers, they made quite a bit of changes in order to reinvent it for their network. Punches and kicks were replaced by more lasers, explosions allegedly couldn't occur in front of the Rangers themselves, and they wanted to do a rap theme for some time. Unfortunately for all of us, their idea of rap was total garbage.  Highlighting the worst season of Power Rangers is faux-techno rap babble with the lyrics "There's treasures to be found, there's some lives to be saved, our planet to look after, there's a whole lot of space!" There's a whole lot of something, all right.  [embed]221220:43334:0[/embed] 19. Mighty Morphin' Alien Rangers (1996)  I wasn't originally going to count this, as the Alien Rangers arc is the capper of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers' final season and it's merely a copy of the OG theme with "alien rangers" in the lyrics, but you'll see in the next couple of entries this theme has a bit more effort in it than others.  I'm giving it credit for merely existing when it didn't need to. We didn't need a new theme, but it was nice to hear something different in preparation for the major reboot the series would go through a season later.  [embed]221220:43335:0[/embed] 18. Power Rangers Samurai (2011) / Power Rangers Super Samurai (2012) When Saban re-acquired the rights to Power Rangers (which fans have dubbed the "Neo-Saban"-era), they chose to reintroduce the series to kids on Nickelodeon with a remix of the show's original theme with the additional lyrics, "Rangers Together, Samurai Forever." But unlike the Alien Rangers theme, this remix is weak. I get the need to reintroduce the series' mythos to a new generation, but Saban missed the chance to highlight the show's obviously Japanese influences.  It's reflective of Saban's growing pains over the next few seasons that'll only get worse. Even worse is having the characters shout their names during the title sequence, treating kids like little idiots.  [embed]221220:43336:0[/embed] 17. Power Rangers Megaforce (2013) / Power Rangers Super Megaforce (2014) Megaforce was a worse season than Samurai in a lot of ways. Chiefly it's biggest disappointment was in how lazy of a show it was. It's exactly the same theme, complete with characters shouting their names during the credits, but it's just slightly better thanks to the first couple of seconds. With a season as lazy as this was, take what you can get.  [embed]221220:43337:0[/embed] 16. Power Rangers Mystic Force (2006) Just as Operation Overdrive somehow needed a rap in its theme song, Mystic Force was the first attempt at it. It's not a full-on trash rap, nor is it just a retread, but it's not an accomplishment by any means. This season was weak for a number of reasons, but the theme should've been the first indicator of its overall terribleness. [embed]221220:43354:0[/embed] 15. Power Rangers Jungle Fury (2008) Remember the band Metro Station? What about 3OH!3? Well, if either or those bands wrote a Power Rangers theme song it'd be whatever the hell this song is. Taking advantage of the faux-emo wave at the time is this piece of work which in no way suited a cool season of kung-fu Rangers.  Jungle Fury had a lot of great things going for it, but I could imagine this theme song turning kids away. It's just way too in your face with its awfulness.  [embed]221220:43338:0[/embed] 14. Power Rangers RPM (2009) Originally intended to be the final season of the series, as Disney got tired of spending money on it, RPM was a surprisingly mature story of the last bits of humanity fighting against machine apocalypse. Borrowing imagery from films like Mad Max and Terminator, this series was as awesome as Power Rangers has ever gotten...but the theme didn't tell you any of that. Other than some techno mess in the middle of it, this theme was a little too generic. All it's got to offer are a few "Power Rangers RPM, get in gear!" thrown in every now and again, and it's a letdown for what's arguably the best season of the series.  But it's not a rap song, so there's that.  [embed]221220:43341:0[/embed] 13. Power Rangers Wild Force (2002) Wild Force was basically a Power Rangers version of Captain Planet, as the Rangers fought against pollution and what not, so a boring season unfortunately got an equally boring theme song. There's nothing technically wrong with the song, it's just a little too loud and busy to really hit home. Accompanying animal roars, a tone that's constantly aggressive, with nothing sticking out to make it unique. The best seasons (as you'll read in a bit) have themes with distinguishing, memorable characteristics. Don't expect anyone to remember this.  [embed]221220:43340:0[/embed] 12. Power Rangers Ninja Storm (2003)  Ninja Storm's opening theme is about as forgettable as Wild Force's, but what makes it win over in the end is how unique it is. Matching its series' tone of extreme sports loving ninja masters is a chill rock song that helps play up the "Storm" in the series title. There still has yet to be a theme like it.  [embed]221220:43342:0[/embed] 11. Power Rangers Lost Galaxy (1999) Since Lost Galaxy was the first self-contained season of the series, not continuing the story started in MMPR, it needed a theme that sounded wholly different than what had come before. And it got that...for the first thirty seconds or so. As the first opening theme of the series not composed by Ron Wasserman (who's credits include MMPR through In Space and the Mummies Alive! opening theme), it's different enough to stand out yet feels similar enough to themes before. But after the great "ahhhhhhhh," it starts feeling repetitive. Granted all of these themes are repetitive, but this one really lets down its grandiose beginning.  [embed]221220:43343:0[/embed] 10.  Power Rangers Ninja Steel (2017) Since this season just premiered it might be a bit too soon to have the opening theme crack the top ten, but it's pretty dang good. It's the opening few seconds that really drive the point home. While I'm not sure if the series will live up to the Asian influences the theme presents, it already seems much different than seasons before. Coupled with a remix of the original theme (in order to keep building the mythos, as mentioned) thrown in for good measure, and I'm pretty stricken with it.  [embed]221220:43344:0[/embed] 9. Power Rangers Turbo (1997) As the only season of the series to premiere with a movie, Turbo didn't have to do much. The season itself had a ton of problems, but its theme has the best final seconds of any season. While the full version of this theme breaches hilariously bad territory (complete with a car starting up for the first 20 seconds), the show's 30 second cut was amazing. It's surprising the series never returned to 30 second themes, but it at least helped Turbo.  [embed]221220:43346:0[/embed] 8. Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue (2000) I don't know why, but Lightspeed Rescue has the one theme I found myself singing the most as a kid. Like Lost Galaxy, the second half doesn't have as much to offer as the first but I prefer the lyrics here than in most of the other themes. It's goofy, but in a series about an emergency rescue team of Rangers, the lyrics "the signal is calling, our planet is falling, the danger will test you, better make it Lightspeed Rescue!" are just hype.  [embed]221220:43345:0[/embed] 7. Power Rangers Zeo (1996) Zeo marked a lot of first for the series. It was the first reboot, it was the first time the Rangers had wholly new suits and powers, and it was the first real season to change the theme. Thankfully, it delivered on everything it was supposed to. With lyrics like "stronger than before" and "powered up for more," mixed it with the standard "Go Go Power Rangers!" you really got the idea that these new powers were different, better maybe.  [embed]221220:43347:0[/embed] 6. Power Rangers Dino Charge (2015) / Power Rangers Dino Super Charge (2016) Speaking of remixes, Saban wouldn't get it right until much much later with Dino Charge. The first good season of the Neo-Saban era, Dino Charge burst out of the gate with a theme sounding like an original until it reminded you that it's a remix of the original song. If Power Rangers could've been reintroduced with this series, this opening theme, than it be a much bigger hit for Nickelodeon than it is now. There's something about dinosaur themes that really makes Power Rangers pop.  [embed]221220:43350:0[/embed] 5. Power Rangers In Space (1998) Just as how RPM was intended to be the final season of the series years later, In Space was initially planned to be the final season before doing well enough in the ratings thanks to its space opera narrative. This theme may have an atonal quality to its lyrics, but the opening countdown has always set it apart in my mind. As the final theme (at the time) composed by Ron Wasserman, it has a ton going for it. The final half, while admittedly as repetitive as other themes on this list, is too hype to pass up. I think the "go go go fly!" always does me in, haha.  [embed]221220:43352:0[/embed] 4. Power Rangers Time Force (2001)  Time Force was a much better season than it got credit for. It was right around the time less kids paid attention to it as we were all starting to grow out of waking up early on Saturdays, but it had so much good in it. The actors were all great (most of them having had experience in film and TV beforehand, which is sadly notable for this series), the premise was great (time patrollers fighting mutants), and it had a memorable theme song. The guitar solo here was the best in a long time and it's better than a lot that came after it. Just like how In Space has a line that does me in, here it's "timeless wonders, fire and thunder, all to save the world." It's goofy when written out, but trust me on this.  [embed]221220:43351:0[/embed] 3. Power Rangers Dino Thunder (2004) As I'm sure you've guessed, Power Rangers has gone through tons of reinventions and new beginnings in order to keep kids entertained. Disney bought the rights to the series mid-Wild Force, but it wasn't until after Ninja Storm that Disney had their own take on the series. To go along with another dinosaur themed team of Rangers, the series also tried to bring back old fans with Jason David Frank, an evil Ranger storyline, and most importantly, a kick-ass rock theme song. This theme is probably the closest to an actual "song" in the entire series, and it's the one theme that's most fit for a sing along. With the strongest lyrics of the entire series, this theme song is only beaten by musical greats. [embed]221220:43349:0[/embed] 2. Power Rangers S.P.D. (2005) Although Ron Wasserman composed a few demos during the Disney era, only one of them really made it to the actual show. Thankfully, it was the best one. The only theme on this list to highlight percussion rather than guitar riffs made it stand out for a number of reasons. It's entirely strong throughout with a kick-ass opening and a final ten seconds which elevate it over the other seasons' themes. It'd be the best overall if not for the final entry on this list.  [embed]221220:43353:0[/embed] 1. Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers (1993-1995) C'mon, like I was going to put something else here. I'd be lying to myself, and you, if I didn't pay tribute to the original. It's the theme everyone remembers for a reason. With a harder rock composition than kids deserved, it treated this new series with an awesome reverence that would sadly never get matched again.   They just don't make theme songs like this for kids anymore. 
Power Rangers Themes photo
Go Go
[Editor's Note: This feature has been re-posted in honor of Power Rangers Month on Flixist] Pop culture is full of different kinds of media, but the ones with the most lasting power all do a very important thing: build mythos...

BADaptation: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie

Mar 09 // Nick Valdez
[embed]215186:39856:0[/embed] Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The MovieDirector: Bryan SpicerRating: PGRelease Date: June 30, 1995 I'd like to clarify a few things before I get started. This article isn't a review of some kind where I'll point out whether MMPR:TM is a good or bad film (although a good deal of us can agree and which end of the spectrum it lies). I'm going to focus on why it's a bad adaptation of the original TV show, and how it's "badness" affects the property overall. Also, I'm very aware that the TV show itself uses Japanese blah blah blah (although I didn't learn about it until I saw an episode of VH1's I Love the 90s), but that doesn't matter here either since I'm going to reference the show as the standalone version it's meant to be. Okay now since that's out of the way, we can get to the good stuff.  Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was a Saturday morning TV show on FOX Kids (then later weekdays) about five "teenagers with attitude" picked by a giant floating head named Zordon to fight the recently awakened Rita Repulsa (and later Lord Zedd). To fight this evil, they're given the powers of dinosaurs and were able to transform into five/six colored heroes. MMPR: The Movie however, greatly changes this formula. In the film, the six teenagers instead have to fight a new villain, Ivan Ooze (the amazing Paul Freeman!), but instead are launched to an alien planet in order to gain the "ancient powers of Ninjeti" (or ninja skills to pay the bills) and save Zordon, who has now been reduced from a floating head to a dying man.  One of MMPR:TM's (which I'm going to refer to as The Movie from now on to save time) first inherent issues is that it has to take a story from a 23 minute an episode series and expand it to fit at least a 90 minute film. And to fix the problem, The Movie's solution is to just tell a standalone story all together. While this all well and good, since not every adaptation needs to rely on the original's material to succeed, it's a little disheartening when you realize that the show's wide array of available, expandable stories weren't deemed worthy enough to get a bigger screen, wider audience version. By taking only key elements of the original, it's hard to see how The Movie is an adaptation at all.  But sadly it is. The Movie needs to be an adaptation to work since it apparently wants to be a companion piece to the show. It assumes the audience has an established familiarity with the franchise and eschews traditional character introduction. It boils down the "teenagers with attitude" to "teenagers who participate in extreme sports," there's no origin story (the Power Rangers are already Power Rangers), and lots of information and terminology are thrown around without real weight given to anything. And on top of this is the original story which introduces brand new characters to the franchise (Ivan Ooze, that pig thing, the Tengu warriors, and Dulcea) and treats them (with the exception of Ivan Ooze) like they've been a part of the series forever. I'm sure this must have been confusing as all get out for the poor parents (mine, of course) who were dragged by their kids to see this.  And if the new content is delivered in a confusing manner and not tied to show in any fashion, how important is that new content? The greatest thing about the Power Rangers television series is that despite the goofy look of everything and quirky dialogue exchanges, everything is given importance and weight while still tinged with humor. Every fight in the series is for the fate of the Earth and those five kids seem like underdogs who eventually overcome great odds. With The Movie's larger budget (which means mo' money mo' problems), the teens get new suits with all sorts of fancy gadgets like headlights and infrared vision, different weapons like tasers, and are now suddenly able to perform all sorts of fancy acrobatics and wire work. Even when they lose their powers for a bit (spoilers?) and become awesome ninjas, there doesn't seem to be a big difference between their powerless selves and powerful selves. These Power Rangers are unrecognizable.  So now we have an adaptation, that's not a true adaptation, full of unrecognizable characters. Were there any positives? Did The Movie manage to adapt anything well? Well...yes and no. For some reason when The Movie adapts a factor of the original series well, it somehow makes the adaptive material look more ridiculous than it should. For one, the series and film take place in the city of Angel Grove and answers a question I had for a long time. Where are all the people? With the extra run time and money available to The Movie, Angel Grove is full of people that do things. In the show, there's no room for normal people problems when there's giant robots to be had. But in giving the citizens something to do (and for having them exist in the first place), it makes the Power Rangers look like terrible heroes. In the film they're so wrapped up in defeating Ooze and saving Zordon, the citizens of Angel Grove nearly jump off a cliff. They're only lucky some random kid stuck his nose into their business.  Another great choice The Movie makes which hurts the TV show is giving the film a great standalone villain. Since the film's budget could afford a great actor like Paul Freeman (Dr. Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark), it unfortunately makes the TV show's villains seem more ridiculous than they purport to be. Freeman is great as Ooze. He hams up the screen, and his performance lies somewhere between perfect in tone and borderline ridiculous. And CG animating the giant robot fight at the end seems like a good decision, but it just takes what supposed to be a great event and turns it into a huge joke. The Power Rangers' new Megazord is now just some weird robot with no face (but still has a conspicuous blonde mustache) who crotch kicks to win.  All in all, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie was perfect to me at the time. As a kid, I was so enamored with the premise I had no idea The Movie actually takes the original's material and tries to turn it into some sort of epic story that doesn't work. There's an air of seriousness about the film (but without the accepted ridiculousness the TV show brings) which sort of takes the soul out of Power Rangers. Sure the goofy humor and all the characters you love and recongnize are still present, but they're not themselves.  Oh I almost forgot something. What kind of Power Rangers movie doesn't feature the ridiculawesome rawkin' theme song for more than thirty seconds? For all of the reasons above, my friends, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie is...a BADaptation. 
Power Rangers BADaptation photo
It's Morphin' Time...apparently
[Editor's Note: This feature was written four (!) years ago in anticipation of a rumored Power Rangers reboot. It has been re-posted for Power Rangers Month.] I knew as soon as I joined the Flixist staff that one day I would ...

How To Do It: Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers Reboot

Mar 03 // Nick Valdez
1. Start over from the beginning. In the press release, the new film is classified as a "re-imagining" of the old show. This makes perfect sense given most of the audience of the first couple of seasons have now grown up and are willing to thrown down major cash on a nostalgic property. The problem with this is, those same people have too fond memories of the show. They've built it up to some pedestal, so any new film is already needing to prove itself. What most of you all out there need to remember is, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is really, really bad. Bad dialogue, bad acting, and some of the most 90s situations you'll find on children's television.  But that's also not a bad thing. If we go into this new movie with an open mind, and the new film starts over from the beginning,  then we're in for a good time. So to be successful, the reboot needs to use the bankable names of the original five (maybe six) "teenagers with attitude" (Zack, Kimberly, Billy, Trini, Jason) because those are the names we'll remember. Most old fans won't remember who played those characters, so it's not important to bring the actors back, but we will remember the names. Start over from the beginning, tell the same simple origin story (teenagers are chosen by a floating space man to fight monsters), and we're golden. No need to reinvent the wheel.  2. Don't bring back old actors from the show.  When movie studios "reimagine" properties, they cast an entirely new set of people to play the characters we all know and love. That's going to be the case here. In order to completely separate itself (and thus create a new universe of movies), keep the television actors away. For example, Jason David Frank (who played Tommy in over 242 episodes of Power Rangers, and is arguably the most popular actor in the series) is already lobbying his fans to write to "lion gates" in order to get in the new movie. If they have to bring him (or anyone) back, and chances are they will, make sure it's only in a cameo capacity. Maybe have Tommy run the juice bar (like in the Wild Force episode, "Forever Red"), pass the torch to the new kids, and then disappear forever. As much as we might like the guy, seeing a thirty year old man run over in a tight spandex suit for a kid's show (like he is in the upcoming Power Rangers Super Megaforce finale) is kind of sad. Besides, the new kids watching this movie won't really know or care who Jason David Frank or any of these older actors are.  3. Use actors who can believably do their own stunts (and real suits!) One of the reasons Power Rangers became such a hit was because it delivered on things we've never had before. Although the acting and dialogue were bad, it had great action. It had cartoon action brought to real life, and it was pretty f**king cool. The series also still has some of the best fight choreography around. It's important to bring that back. Can you imagine what the fight effects could look like with a larger budget? Remember what the fights looked like in Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie? Never mind, those were terrible. But a bigger budget could lead to bigger things. It's simple. Keep the suits real, but CG everything else. Like any other superhero, it's all about tangibility.  And that comes from the actors too. In the show, the teens would still kick butt out of the suits. Story wise, it shows the audience the effect of the power coins, and quality wise, it helps the audience attach the person to the hero. It's very important for us to remember who's in the suits. It's not enough for people to put them on, we have to believe people are in them.  4. Have a good villain.  Whether the new film goes with Rita Repulsa, Lord Zedd or even Ivan Ooze, it's important to have a memorable bad guy. Once again, don't reinvent the wheel. Don't create a new, generic villain for the film unless the right person is behind it (Paul Freeman was the only reason Ivan Ooze worked in the movie), and there's plenty of material to draw from so there's no reason to create a new one anyway. If I could have it my way, I'd go for Rita Repulsa. She's the greater villain since she posed a threat, her powers led to the "Green With Evil" storyline which introduced a sixth ranger, and she has some of the best catchphrases ("You're giving me a headache!" "Magic wand, make my monster grow!").  If they went that route, they could introduce Lord Zedd for the sequel (just don't make him overtly dark or scary, remember it's for kids!), lead in to their wedding, Serpentera, and the possible stories are endless. All I'm saying is the material is there, so Lionsgate would be wise to use it.  5. Do it for the kids.  This is hardest thing to say, but this new movie isn't going to be for me or you, it's for the kids. Although the name is there to get butts to the seats, Saban's probably trying to make this work into a children's franchise. It's going to be an all ages affair, so don't expect a dark and gritty take on these heroes. No blood, no adult situations, and the word "kill" will be replaced with "destroy." But that's the way it's always been, and it's always worked, so no reason to be worried about that now.  As long as the new movie gets the tone right. That's actually the most important thing on this list. Please don't take this movie seriously as nothing about the Power Rangers is serious. And even when the show decides to lean toward heavier subjects, it's only because they're destroying all of the current zords to introduce a new line of zords/toys to kids.  6. Don't forget to have fun.  With the rising amount of gritty reboots these days (just look at Man of Steel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Spider-Man, and Transformers), I'm a little worried about how this'll turn out. Power Rangers has survived all these years despite its bevy of bad decisions because it's so lovably goofy. It's always so sincere about its laughably bad puns, heavy handed messages of protecting the environment and teamwork, and telling its stories with a half baked seriousness. Although every week a new monster threatens to destroy the world, there's still time to ride dirt bikes as part of the high school dirt bike club or something. It just all meshes together in a tone that works for everyone.  There's action, comedy, giant robots punching other giant things in the face, and lots of attractive men and women. If the new movie gets even one of those right, that'll be morphinominal. 
HTDI: Power Rangers photo
There's a wrong way, and there's a Morphinominal way
The Power Rangers series is an odd one. It started out as one of Saban Entertainment's many attempts to re-dub a Japanese kids show for American audiences and turned into a juggernaut spanning 21 seasons, comics, videogames, ...

Why Logan is the bravest studio film of the year

Mar 03 // Matthew Razak
We all like to complain that Marvel superhero films have become codified (and DC's just suck), but one of the reasons they have is because the formula works. It works over and over and over again. Hollywood sticks to formulas that work, and they do not tip the boat. When you're putting millions and millions of dollars into something you want that money back. It's a simple reason why studios are insanely risk adverse. For every Deadpool there's five John Carters. John Carters lead to people getting fired.  That's why Logan stands out so boldly among every studio film we'll see this year. The studio actually let it take risks. They actually let it do what it needed to do. Let's start with the R rating. Wolverine as a character desperately needed this, though, the comic books never had him or Professor X cussing this much. Anyone who saw the underrated The Wolverine knows that a good sharp dose of blood and violence would have made the character actually work. Constraining a wild beast to a PG-13 was not helping. You may say that this wasn't a big risk thanks to Deadpool pulling in massive money, but that's a completely different situation. The Pool isn't as well known as Wolverine, and didn't already have an established, and young, fan base. An R rating is alienating every kid out there who loves superhero movies, and there are a lot of them. That's a huge audience that was able to see the previous films that won't be able to see this one, and that makes Logan's R rating that much more risky than Deadpool's. But it's not just the rating that makes Logan brave as hell. In fact a lot of the risk comes despite the R. With that rating they could have gone full blood bath (Logan has plenty bloody, don't worry), with action sequence after action sequence. Instead director James Mangold rolls the film at a incredibly slow pace. While it doesn't pull this off perfectly, Logan is far more character study than superhero movie. It may fall into a few traps here and there, but just getting this screenplay greenlit must have been one hell of an uphill battle. The film goes long periods without a single claw being "snikted." For a film franchise that could barely stop the action when it first launched with X:Men Origins: Wolverine this is a major divergence. Though it may have been hinted at when Mangold deftly maneuvered The Wolverine into a samurai-style film, only to abandon that in that film's latter third, Logan fully commits to treating its characters as just that. Instead of action pieces to be moved around we get characters who happen to have claws and psychic powers. In the vein of the classic westerns the film apes a little too on-the-nose, our heroes are flawed and violent, but human. Other comic franchises do have well developed characters to be sure, but we rarely see such a focus like this that character. It was a hell of a risky move for a big studio considering no major superhero film as gone this headlong into thematic development.  On top of this the screenplay calls for an aging hero and a dying Professor X set in a future that is stunningly disconnected from the rest of the X universe. Logan could easily be a stand alone film, an almost alternate universe. Comic books do this all the time with one off or limited runs, but movie studios have been remiss to push outside their universes. Part of this resistance is because the idea of a cinematic universe is still so new. Marvel is defining and re-defining what having one means with every film they release. But Fox has finally decided to go their own route. Instead of mimicking Marvel's Avenger's universe they're branching out and defining theirs by a unique one-shot. If their plan is to bridge their X-Men tentpoles with smaller character studies then its a bold stroke in creating a cinematic universe differently from Marvel's cohesive whole and DC's... clusterfuck.  And now I really need to warn you about spoilers because probably the biggest and ballsiest move comes at the end of the film. They killed their star. No wait, they didn't just kill their start, they killed two of their stars. I doubt anyone is going to give this movie enough credit for doing this. You do not kill your heroic lead in an action blockbuster. Yes, it happens here and there as I'm sure many could point out, but it doesn't happen with established franchise characters twice in the same movie. Sure, you could argue that it was easier because the story is set in the future so it doesn't affect the current universe's "present" timeline, but that just makes the entire thing more of a risk. In order to execute this movie correctly they not only had to set up an entire separate time frame, but then pull the trigger on killing two X-Men (and major Hollywood actors) in one film. Hollywood doesn't do it like this, and yet here we have Logan. A movie that knew to be as truly powerful as it could be it had to break our hearts... twice. And they let it. The studio let them do it.  I am well aware that this is Jackman's goodbye to the character so a death makes sense, but that's just it. It makes sense! That's not something I'm use to saying about studio decisions when it comes to money making franchises.  It feels weird to commend a Hollywood studio for taking risks and doing things that make sense. This is what they should be doing, right? They don't, though. For many of the reasons outlined above it is not the norm for a studio to go out on a limb like Fox did with Logan. Yet in this case it truly paid off. By allowing Logan to be the film that it needed to be instead of meddling in what they thought it should be Fox let Mangold make the Wolverine film that everyone had always wanted, and then take it even further. So here's to a studio doing what it should be doing. Here's to Fox showing some guts, bub. Here's to more like it in the future. 
Logan photo
Balls of adamantium
By now we've all seen Logan, and if you haven't then you wasted your Thursday night by not going to it. My guess is that it's a bit of a divisive film. Some people are going to come out of it loving it, like we did, and other...

Top 10 Weirdest Power Rangers Episodes

Mar 01 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221257:43435:0[/embed] 10. "And...Action!" (Power Rangers RPM, Episode 23)  While Power Rangers RPM definitely earns a spot as one of the better seasons of the series, it was no stranger to strangeness. After losing the season's showrunner (whether it was his own volition or not is still up in the air to this day) and finding a replacement, one episode of RPM was dedicated to catch-up. With a behind the scenes special breaking up the series just as it was heading into the final plot of the season. this was just an anomaly. As everyone stayed in character, fans didn't even get a full-on behind the scenes special. It was this weird, half-assed thing ultimately only making sense when all of the production trouble came to light years later.  9.  "Once a Ranger" (Power Rangers Operation Overdrive, Episodes 20-21)  As the series went on, the central cast changed several times leading to fan-favorite crossover episodes when a previous Ranger team joined forces with a current one. For the show's 15th anniversary, then current owner Disney decided to have a special team-up episode featuring a few of their seasons. The resulting episode highlighted how the series can put a ton of effort into being lazy. Shortcuts (they found Alpha in a box), Adam returning without the MMPR theme music yet everyone else having theirs, a supposed son of Zedd and Rita with a weird costume, and showcasing how terrible of a team Overdrive was, this was the weirdest crossover ever. It's just strange that they did it at all considering how it felt like everyone involved hated the idea.  8. "Rocky Just Wants to Have Fun" (Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers S2, Episode 32)  Most of Power Rangers' early seasons had episodes dedicated to teaching all sorts of values and moral lessons. My personal favorite also happened to be the weirdest one of the bunch. Sure there were episodes featuring ugly troll dolls and rapping pumpkins, but I still can't believe there was an episode about how much Rocky loved gambling. When the Juice Bar gets a pachinko machine, Rocky gets hooked to thing. Every time someone asks him to do things, he's like "I'm just going to play." It's kind of like that one episode about humans dating robots on Futurama when the kid says "No thanks, I'd rather just make out with my Monroe-bot." Then the pachinko machine takes monster form and turns the Power Rangers into balls. I almost went with the football monster episode here (because that's another case of the Rangers being turned into inanimate objects) but that was goofy rather than weird and this is my list anyway so whatever.  7. "Movie Madness" (Power Rangers Time Force, Episodes 24-25)  Power Rangers Time Force was the closest the series had come to great B-movie territory. The best actors in the series to date, and honestly the best story overall at that point. But as with RPM, being a good series didn't save it from Power Rangers' trademark weirdness. In this episode, a monster named Cinecon traps the team inside of their favorite movie genres. A jungle movie, a samurai film, a Western, an even a kung-fu flick featuring the Jackie Chan knock-off Frankie Chang. It sticks out like a sore thumb among the other episodes of this season since it's really the only time any of them have any fun. Also, there hadn't been an episode like it (other than "Wild West Rangers," which almost took the spot here for the Mexican Cactus monster) yet or since, really.  [embed]221257:43436:0[/embed] 6. "Shell Shocked" (Power Rangers In Space, Episode 4) While not the first crossover episode, and not even the first crossover with another series, this one is definitely the weirdest by far. Since Fox was promoting Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation at the time, the cast managed to pop up in an episode of Power Rangers. When the turt bros and sis get a little too turnt on Astronema's mind control, they take control of the Rangers' space ship and almost ruin everything. But without any of the good stuff from crossover episodes (fights between teams showcasing why each team is great), this was just a weird, clear-cut commercial for a bad show.  5. "Another Song and Dance" (Power Rangers Zeo, Episode 46) When a show runs as long as Power Rangers has, there are bound to be musical episodes. It's a standard trope of TV and, when done well, can be great. But in Zeo's case, it sure was awful. When a spell causes Tommy and Aisha to sing all of their dialogue, you've got some hokey weirdness because 1.) No one else is singing and 2.) It's all sans music. So you've got two singing fools just singing instead of speaking normally for no reason.  4. "Lost and Found in Translation" (Power Rangers Dino Thunder, Episode 19)  Dino Thunder was Disney's attempt to wrangle in old fans of the series (with Jason David Frank's return as Tommy) and this all came to a head with this episode. As Power Rangers borrowed footage from Toei's Super Sentai series, there had been an unspoken rule about not saying it out loud. But with Dino Thunder's cheeky in-jokes, came this episode. Showing a poorly dubbed over episode of its parent series, Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger, Dino Thunder poked fun at the idea of fans preferring one over the other. But I can't imagine how off-putting this must've been for kids at the time. Here they were told Japan stole the Power Rangers idea and decided to make a knock-off version while their Power Rangers just sat on a couch all episode laughing at it. Just a weird experiment that was really for older fans of the show.  3. "Island of Illusion" (Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers S1, Episodes 28-29)  The first season had its fair share of terrible, experimental ideas (fighting literal Frankenstein, the vagina monster), but the one that always stuck out to me the most was this two-parter. Here, Rita trapped the team on an island where they all had to fight off depressing memories otherwise they'd fade away forever. But the weirdest/worst part about all of this is there's a little person who only speaks in rhyme and plays the flute every time one of the Rangers goes through their whole thing. It's not like he was put there by Rita but he's just some mystical guy that likes to mess with people. This was one of the series' first forays into multi-part storytelling (after the famous "Green With Evil" story) without heavy use of overseas footage. It's all pretty much self-contained nonsense.  2. "Trouble By the Slice" (Power Rangers Turbo, Episode 22)  When Power Rangers Turbo villain Divatox loses her memory and takes a job at a pizza place, her henchman try and save her by distracting the Power Rangers with a monster created from the pizza place's logo. The villain, Mad Mike, speaks with a heavy, stereotypical Italian accent, uses pizzas to take control of their super cars (long story), and then proceeds to famously bake them into a pizza. Then a police alien comes to save the day with a stoplight and I still can't believe this was an episode. Turbo had episodes like this with even worse ideas like a bicycle that forces you to ride it forever, but this was the episode which inspired the list in the first place. At the end of the day, however, this was still just another average Power Rangers episode. 1. "The Rescue Mission" (Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, Episode 18)  But this entry wasn't an average episode of Power Rangers. When a distress signal reaches Terra Venture (the home base of the Lost Galaxy team), two of the Rangers are sent to check out a seemingly abandoned ship in search for a mystical book of some sort. Before long a spider monster begins abducting the team one by one in a low-rent Alien story. This episode was a dramatic departure from the rest of the series and featured almost no actual Ranger action. It was the best episode of the season, and the weirdest. In fact, it's the weirdest episode of Power Rangers. You should check this one out above all else. 
Power Rangers Month photo
Ninja Turtles, gambling, and pizza
One of the more popular throwaway quotes among Power Rangers diehards comes from the "Forever Red" episode of Wild Force. T.J., the Red Turbo Ranger, says "Did I ever tell you guys about the time I got baked into a giant...

Flixist's Most Anticipated Films of 2017

Jan 27 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221225:43358:0[/embed] John Wick: Chapter 2Director: Chad StahelskiRelease Date: February 10, 2017 John Wick was the most surprising release of the last few years. I mean, out of nowhere Keanu Reeves literally declares that he's "thinking [he's] back" and it's the most awesome thing ever? Who would've guessed that? I don't really have any expectations for the sequel, other than hoping it's more awesomeness, but I'm looking forward to it all the same. We need more purely fun action films, and I'm sure Chapter 2 is going to deliver. Just seeing footage of Reeves practicing for the film's gunfights was enough to hook me. -- Nick Valdez [embed]221225:43359:0[/embed] The LEGO Batman MovieDirector: Chris McKayRelease Date: February 10, 2017 No one either expected The LEGO Movie to be as good as it was nor did they expect its standout star, Batman, to get his own spin-off. With as seriously Warner Bros. has been taking Batman lately, every bit of footage from LEGO has been a welcome breath of fresh air. Instead of the gruff and grumbly loner, we have a goofy Batman realizing he actually wants friends? That's honestly the greatest thing since the Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon. I hope this succeeds for WB and we eventually get a LEGO Justice League to counteract what's going to happen in live-action. -- Nick Valdez [embed]221225:43374:0[/embed] Get OutDirector: Jordan PeeleRelease Date: February 24, 2017 Jordan Peele is probably the last person I'd expect to make a horror film, but Get Out looks like a phenomenally creepy and paranoid movie. The trailer looks sort of like The Wicker Man but with racist suburban white people, using those horror conventions to explore deep-seated racial anxieties. (Even the elevator pitch is pretty awesome, right?) Get Out had a secret screening at Sundance this year and received some excellent reviews. -- Hubert Vigilla [embed]221225:43370:0[/embed] LoganDirector: James MangoldRelease Date: March 3, 2017 In what his purported last bow as the titular character that reinvented and reinvigorated superhero movies for the better part of two decades now, Hugh Jackman stars as a gritty, older, meaner Wolverine. So the last Wolverine flick squandered ninjas (and almost Yakuza); if the trailers are any indication, we're going to get the bloody mess (the good kind) we've been waiting for with this X-Men solo film. Look for murder, blood, guts, and swearing, for this film (taking a page from Deadpool), is rated R. Jackman has owned this role better than perhaps any other actor has a superhero, and I'm eager to see him go berserker style one more time (any duds in his time in the yellow spandex were no fault of his). -- Rick Lash [embed]221225:43360:0[/embed] Kong: Skull IslandDirector: Jordan Vogt-RobertsRelease Date: March 10, 2017 Recipe for a blockbuster: Take some of today's hottest actors (Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston) and pair them with veterans (John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson, and the ever-flawless John C. Reilly). Mix in one giant ape and mix well. Garnish with an island full of monsters. Serves 50-100 million. -- Sean Walsh [embed]221225:43375:0[/embed] Raw (Grave)Director: Julia DucournauRelease Date: March 10, 2017 When Raw screened at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, there were reports of audience members fainting, vomiting, and rushing out in distress. Some of this may be pure hype, and some of it may be weak constitutions from the TIFF crowd. Julia Ducournau's cannibal coming-of-age/sexual awakening movie is sure to cause a lot of sensation and shrieking revulsion when it finally hits theaters. --Hubert Vigilla [embed]221225:43361:0[/embed] Beauty and the BeastDirector: Bill CondonRelease Date: March 17, 2017 Remaking all of their animated films seemed like a dumb idea at first, but after their string of successes, I no longer have any qualms with Disney's process. I've been pretty much turned into a sucker, so I'm hoping Beauty and the Beast can only continue the great trend set by its predecessors. It's hard to ruin a story like Beast's and the central cast looks great. Not sure about Dan Stevens' Beast since it looks friggin' weird, but Emma Watson is a darling and I can't wait to hear her sing and then everyone else sing and then oh my god the singing. -- Nick Valdez [embed]221225:43372:0[/embed] The Belko ExperimentDirector: Greg McLeanRelease Date: March 17, 2017 As if a new Guardians wasn't enough this year, cinema god James Gunn penned this film that combines The Office and Battle Royale (two of my favorite things). Eighty white-collar works are ordered to murder each other or else in a twisted game. Featuring John Gallagher Jr. of 10 Cloverfield Lane and Dr. Cox himself, John C. McGinley, The Belko Experiment is designed to be this year's cult hit. -- Sean Walsh [embed]221225:43362:0[/embed] Power RangersDirector: Dean IsrealiteRelease Date: March 24, 2017 Everyone has the one fandom they'll fight for. Some have Star Wars, others have Doctor Who, but I have Power Rangers. I've meticulously examined every photo, every trailer, and every single bit of info I could get my hands on for this. Let's just say I'm glad this is coming out in March. If it were any later, I would've lost my damn mind over it. At this point, I'm so interested in this release I'm sick of it. I need it in my eyeballs already so I can move on with my life. Ugh, I hope this isn't my generation's Transformers.  -- Nick Valdez [embed]221225:43371:0[/embed] Ghost in the ShellDirector: Rupert SandersRelease Date: March 31, 2017 Anime is huge worldwide, but successfully transferring from cartoon to live action (and often condensing massively drawn out story arcs into singular multi-hour vehicles) has proven difficult, if not impossible to do (here's looking at you, Avatar: The Last Airbender). Based off what we've seen so far, this is an honest attempt to do so, and I believe the story of Ghost in the Shell serves the effort well; it's good source material to condense and create a wholistic story arc that will satisfy hungry viewers. Unfortunately, casting Scarlett Johansson in a role that would presumably go to someone of Asian heritage has already led to controversy and detracted from hype at what could be a kickass movie. -- Rick Lash [embed]221225:43376:0[/embed] ColossalDirector: Nacho VigalondoRelease Date: April 7, 2017 So, okay... Let me get this straight. Colossal is an oblique kaiju movie that's also a comedy about a woman's personal connection to a giant monster destroying South Korea? You had me at "hello". I can only assume that the monster is some psychic manifestation of existential despair and the uncertainties of life in the modern world. You know, the usual. --Hubert Vigilla [embed]221225:43377:0[/embed] Your Name (君の名は。, Kimi no Na wa)Director: Makoto ShinkaiRelease Date: April 7, 2017 Your Name has become the highest-grossing movie in Japanese history (worldwide box office) and the fourth-highest grossing film in Japan (domestic box office). It's been in Japanese theaters for 22 weeks, and it's finally coming to the United States in April. The coming-of-age film features time travel and body-swapping, and a pretty catchy tune in the trailer. Your Name is apparently an extremely emotional ride, and its animation looks crisp and beautiful as well. --Hubert Vigilla [embed]221225:43378:0[/embed] Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2Director: James GunnRelease Date: May 5, 2017 The first Guardians of the Galaxy is one of my favorite MCU films since it does its own thing so well. And by that I mean it was The Goonies in space. Vol 2 looks like another jolly romp in far reaches of space, but this time with a baby Groot. My hope is the movie doesn't get too bogged down in setting up Avengers: Infinity War and just rollicks along on its own adventure. I also hope the second volume of the Awesome Mix is as good as the first. --Hubert Vigilla [embed]221225:43363:0[/embed] Alien: CovenantDirector: Ridley ScottRelease Date: May 19, 2017 I'm not the hugest fan of the Alien series, which was only made worse by Prometheus, but Covenant really made an impression on me. I know some found its trailer derivative, but I'm definitely looking forward to sci-fi horror. There just isn't enough of it anymore. I know it's yet another crew landing on a strange planet somewhere before xenomorphs attack, but whatever. 2016 majorly lacked good horror films, so 2017 already has to make up for it in spades. Pressure's on. -- Nick Valdez [embed]221225:43364:0[/embed] Wonder WomanDirector: Patty Jenkins Release Date: June 2, 2017 Wonder Woman both fairly and unfairly has much riding on it to succeed. It's a blockbuster film directed by a woman (who should not be an outlier), it's the first superhero blockbuster with a woman in the lead, and it's the first superheroine getting her first film. I've been hyped for it based on existence alone, but it's been elevated by how great Gal Gadot was in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I'm still wary of her being able to lead a film, but I can't get over how great Diana looks motion. Wonder Woman is an outlier for many reasons, but I hope it's mainly for being the one good film DC Comics and Warner Bros can pull together. -- Nick Valdez [embed]221225:43365:0[/embed] The MummyDirector: Alex KurtzmanRelease Date: June 9, 2017 When Universal announced plans for a culled together universe of all of their classic monster properties (beginning with the awful Dracula Untold), I didn't think much of it until the first trailer for The Mummy. Now if you would've told me that there's a potential universe of films where Tom Cruise fights classic monsters, I would've been sold day one. Cruise is the last of the classic Hollywood guys successfully pulling off action films, so he and old monster types go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Coupled with Sofia Boutella as the titular mummy and we could have a winner here. -- Nick Valdez [embed]221225:43366:0[/embed] Transformers: The Last KnightDirector: Michael BayRelease Date: June 23, 2017 The Transformers films have always been a special kind of terrible. They look fantastic, but are also a visual nightmare. The explosions are cool, but they're also so frequent you can't enjoy any of them. There's tons of fan service in the story, but the story makes no damn sense. I have no idea what's going with The Last Knight (the trailer didn't help matters, either), but I, for some reason, have a strong compulsion to see it. I've already invested so much of time into this god-forsaken junk heap that I can't really stop now. I'm in it till the world ends. -- Nick Valdez [embed]221107:43259:0[/embed] Spiderman: HomecomingDirector: Jon WattsRelease Date: July 17, 2017 I like the Marvel cinematic universe, but I don't love it. It's big. It's fun. Everything feels basically the same. (Everything is basically the same.) But with Spiderman: Homecoming, I think there's the potential for something really interesting. It's crazy to think that this is the third time we're seeing a new Spiderman saga unfold in just 15 years, but I'm particularly excited by this one. If his unnecessary-but-fantastic sequences in Civil War are any indication, Tom Holland is an excellent Peter Parker/Spiderman, and I'm oh-so glad that they're not doing an origin story this time. He's got the powers. That's what matters. Maybe we'll get a few flashbacks, but we're also getting a RDJ team-up, and, like, that's great.  The trailer looks fun and has a different type of drama. Lower stakes drama. Part of the problem with Marvel movies for me is just how high stakes they always have to be. While there's definitely some big stuff going down in Homecoming, it's also a high school drama. It's low-key, and I'm looking forward to that in and of itself. -- Alec Kubas-Meyer [embed]221225:43379:0[/embed] DunkirkDirector: Christopher NolanRelease Date: July 21, 2017 Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk looks like the prestige war film of the year, and probably the only movie I'm interested in seeing in IMAX upon release. I wonder how Nolan will chronicle this particular event from World War II, in which demoralized British and French troops evacuated Dunkirk, spared only by a halt order by the Nazis. Nolan's got a great ensemble cast to work with, including Kenneth Brannagh, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, and Cillian Murphy. --Hubert Vigilla [embed]221225:43380:0[/embed] Valerian and the City of a Thousand PlanetsDirector: Luc BessonRelease Date: July 21, 2017 It's been a long time since a Luc Besson movie has interested me. Leave it to Valerian to get me intrigued in Besson. Visually arresting and full of lush, vertiginous science fiction cityscapes, this looks like The Fifth Element writ large. The film is an adaption of the French comic book series Valerian and Laureline, which I really want to check out. There'll probably be a reprint omnibus closer to July to coincide with the film. --Hubert Vigilla The Dark TowerDirector: Nikolaj ArcelRelease Date: July 28, 2017 The Dark Tower is widely considered Stephen King's opus: a sprawling, seven-book, 4,250-word, 22-year and western-fantasy-horror genre-bending odyssey. Featuring the monster acting chops of  Idras Elba as Roland Deschain, aka the Gunslinger, and Matthew McConaughey (yes, post-True Detective, he has earned the accolade) as Walter Padick, aka the Man in Black, this one promises to have the potential to surprise and deliver. Director Nikolaj Arcel has said this is more of a sequel to the books than an adaptation, so even diehard fans will have new material to look forward to. -- Rick Lash [embed]221135:43281:0[/embed] Blade Runner 2049Director: Denis VilleneuveRelease Date: October 6, 2017 Sometimes, things are better left alone. A part of me feels like Blade Runner might be one ofthose cases. Of course, to actually make that argument, you'd have to think that the theatrical cut, marred by studio interference, was well enough to be left alone. Obviously, it wasn't, and it would be a very long time before there was a proper cut of what is objectively among the best science-fiction films of all time. But it doesn't really matter if the film "should" be left as its own thing, because we've got a sequel. And ya know what? I'm excited about it. Denis Villeneuve, as I say any chance I get, is among my favorite working directors, and there's not another director I would trust more to make a worthwhile follow-up to such a classic.  I mean... did you see that teaser? Oh my god I'm so hype. -- Alec Kubas-Meyer [embed]221225:43373:0[/embed] Thor: RagnarokDirector: Taika WaititiRelease Date: November 3, 2017 As if I wasn't already going to see Thor 3, Marvel went and tossed Hulk into the mix. A buddy movie set in space at least partially adapting Planet Hulk, Ragnarok will assuredly give us more intense universe-building action and fan-service as we race ever closer to Infinity War. And if that wasn't enough to sell you, Jeff Goldblum, will, uh, um, be playing The Grandmaster! -- Sean Walsh [embed]221225:43367:0[/embed] Justice LeagueDirector: Zack SnyderRelease Date: November 17, 2017 I hated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as much as the next guy, and the thought of another non-Wonder Woman film from DC is grating, but as with Transformers, I have to see this through. Like it or not, it's going to be the first time we ever see all of these superheroes in a film together and I really want it to succeed. Did Zack Snyder take all of the complaints into account? Probably not. He said he paid attention last time, but that only resulted in a vengeful, hateful Batman that Ben Affleck himself hates doing. So who really knows what's going to happen here? Well, whichever way this swings I'm here for it. -- Nick Valdez CocoDirector: Lee Unkrich Release Date: November 22, 2017 Latinx culture always gets the shaft when it comes to representation. Always relegated to some film fetishizing rather than celebrating, I've been eagerly awaiting a film to capture what makes the culture so special. While it's not handled by Latinx creators like the similar The Book of Life, I'm hoping Pixar's Coco can tell our story. Or, at the very least, make a film as lovable as ones they have done in the past. I'd enjoy seeing kids fall in love with characters of Mexican influence, and given our current political climate, that's needed now more than ever. -- Nick Valdez Star Wars: The Last JediDirector: Rian JohnsonRelease Date: December 15, 2017 While I generally enjoyed The Force Awakens, its second half was too slavishly anchored to the first Star Wars. I have high hopes for Rian Johnson's sequel, mainly because I think Johnson will get away from repeating too many beats from previous Star Wars films and just play Star Wars in a Star Wars movie. The title The Last Jedi is intriguing, though as many people have pointed out, “Jedi” is both singular and plural. On a more somber note, I wonder if the film will feature some sort of tribute to Carrie Fisher. May the force be with us all. --Hubert Vigilla OkjaDirector: Bong Joon-HoRelease Date: TBA  Bong Joon-Ho is the only Korean filmmaker I genuinely trust to make English-language films. I had my reservations about Snowpiercer (ones not necessarily shared with many of my peers), but it was a fascinating and solid outing, and the language barrier doesn't seem to have been the cause of any issues. So, if he wants to continue doing it? I'm all for it. Netflix is behind Okja, which is fascinating and exciting in and of itself. Their film hasn't been up to the level of their TV, but this could very well be the film to change it. If it's good and Netflix feels its success, it can only mean good things going forward. In that sense, there's a fair bit riding on the film. But I think it's a pretty good chance of pulling it off. I mean, it's got a hell of a cast and an extremely talented director putting it all together. What's not to be excited about? -- Alec Kubas-Meyer A Ghost StoryDirector: David LoweryRelease Date: TBA Recently screened at the Sundance Film Festival, the buzz around David Lowery's A Ghost Story has caught my attention. A love story starring Casey Affleck (as a ghost) and Rooney Mara (as a non-ghost), the film is chockablock with grief, longing, and metaphysical contemplation. And apparently there's some scene of Mara eating a pie people just won't shut up about. --Hubert Vigilla Wind RiverDirector: Taylor SheridanRelease Date: TBA  The man who wrote Sicario and Hell or High Water has directed a film that has been described as the spiritual successor to both. Since this is Taylor Sheridan's first time behind the camera, I'm expecting Wind River to be a little shaky, but I also expect it to have an extremely strong script that should support and technical weaknesses we may see. It also stars Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen, who are both excellent when given the opportunity. I don't know much about the film (intentional), but it's certainly piqued my interest out of Sundance, where it just premiered. I'm very much looking forward to seeing it for myself. -- Alec Kubas-Meyer Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Fashion MovieDirector: Paul Thomas AndersonRelease Date: TBA A new film from Paul Thomas Anderson will always hold my attention. All I know about his newest project is that it's about the fashion industry in the 1950s and it will star Daniel Day-Lewis. I expect big things, and I expect broad things, and I expect some sort of memorable line about milkshakes. I also hope it will screen at this year's New York Film Festival like Inherent Vice a few years ago. --Hubert Vigilla
Most Anticipated 2017 photo
Some real gems this year...maybe
Now that we're finally through the cinematic winter wasteland of January, we can finally look forward to seeing some great, or interesting, films. But which ones are possibly worth our time and money? The Flixist staff was so...

Hubert's Top 15 Movies of 2016

Jan 26 // Hubert Vigilla
15. The Lobster I'm not in love with Yorgos Lanthimos' The Lobster, but I like it a whole lot. Its first half is a brilliantly awkward send up of modern love. People pick their mates for the most superficial reasons, single people are pathetic sport for hunting, adults forced to be genuine are reduced to gawky teens unsure of what they feel. Yet I go back and forth about the second half of the film, which is so one-note. So much going on in the first half, and a kind of sparseness there in the second. And yet there's a lot to love about what's there. So maybe I do love The Lobster--love is strange. Read our full review of The Lobster 14. Hunt for the Wilderpeople The mismatched buddy comedy is like the platonic version of the misfit romance--two weird people come together trying to escape the awfulness of their lives. Kindness and generosity ensues. I liked Taika Waititi's Hunt for the Wilderpeople when I initially saw it, but my fondness for the movie has grown in the months after. It's a throwback to an 80s comic adventure with touches of Edgar Wright and Pixar's Up. Sam Neil is his Sam-Neil-iest, and I really want to see star Julian Dennison in more stuff. Waititi is a Kiwi filmmaker I'll keep my eyes on, and his work has gotten me excited for the next Thor movie of all things. 13. Toni Erdmann On the note of movies that have grown on me, my appreciation for Toni Erdmann has increased the further I get away from the hype. Maren Ade's nearly three-hour film is not as hilarious or bonkers as some make it out to be. It's funny, sure, and there's some unexpected kink involving petit fours, but as a whole the film plays out like a long episode of The Office--a grounded silliness. Toni Erdmann offers a thoughtful and occasionally sad look at the love/hate relationship that grows between children and parents as they get older, and why family is so difficult and yet ultimately worthwhile. Lately I've been thinking about me and my father in terms of Toni Erdmann, and it helps me understand why I love my dad. Read our full review of Toni Erdmann 12. Weiner If The War Room was the political documentary of the 1990s and Street Fight was the political documentary of the 2000s, I think Weiner may be the political doc of the 2010s. Behold the demise of a well-intentioned man driven by hubris and his need to get off on the web. And yet, there's a admirable spunkiness to him. And yet, Christ, what an asshole. Directors Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg have (perhaps unintentionally) given people an inside look at a campaign in crisis, and by extension the dissolution of a political marriage. This is the cringe-comedy that our politics have become. Read our full review of Weiner 11. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Rogue One is a Star Wars movie that captures the feeling of playing Star Wars as a kid--let's do cool stuff in this universe we love. It also gets at the feeling of playing Star Wars as an adult--let's throw in our big ideas about resistance and conflict. A little bit suicide mission, a little bit WWII movie, Rogue One surpasses The Force Awakens on so many levels. Even though its story is entirely contingent on the first Star Wars film and I have qualms with its CG performances, there's something refreshing and lively about Rogue One. It's enjoyable for what it is, just like playing with action figures in a sandbox. Read our full review of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story 10. The Witch The bleakness and isolation of Robert Eggers' The Witch lingered with me a long while after seeing it. Whenever I think about The Witch, I keep going back to the note it strikes at the end. Those closing moments can be read in different ways, and I enjoy that delicious ambiguity. All that repression throughout, and just outside the confines of that home is the threat of nature, free and amok. Teasing it out, the film may be offering a rebuke of American puritanism or the rigid structures of religion and fundamentalism. Like the family in the film, such structures might all be teetering at the brink. The thing is, the big tip over might not be so bad. 9. Green Room Whenever I talk about Green Room with friends, I usually prefer to it as Punk Rock Die Hard or Punk Rock Straw Dogs. Jeremy Saulnier's made such a compelling thriller where every one of our protagonists feels like they're in mortal danger. While we're just given the barest sense of their backstories, I felt a connection to all of the young punks, and was continually surprised by the mayhem they endure. Saulnier and his cast imbue the film with primal, squirming dread, from Patrick Stewart's "been there, done that" attitude about extermination to the late Anton Yelchin's wounded, desperate acts of retaliation. This is a great action film and a great horror film, and it's also punk as fuck. Read our full review of Green Room 8. Tower Tower took me by surprise, and it's one of the most gripping documentaries of 2016. The film recreates the events of the 1966 UT Austin tower shooting, one of America's most infamous yet least talked-about mass shootings. Director Keith Maitland combines rotocope animation with interviews/transcripts from actual witnesses/survivors to restage the horror of that day. The results are beyond moving. I think the animation removes the pressures of filming the period in real life (i.e., fashion and hairstyles, minute period detail, film grain/quality), allowing the witnesses to tell their stories in an abstract yet hyperreal emotional space. Tower is such an intense visual oral history, and what stands out most are the little moments of heroism and humanity that emerge in the face of such troubling times. 7. Arrival Denis Villeneuve's made a mournful, contemplative, and yet hopeful science fiction film in Arrival. Adapted from a story by Ted Chiang, the film feels so grey and foggy much of the time, as if we're watching the moods brought on by a drizzly day. Amy Adams' performance and Johann Johannsson's score have a similar overcast quality. At the heart of Arrival is this longing for utopian understanding, as well as a meditation on free will and how we deal with unavoidable and inevitable heartbreak. I'm reminded of how the science fiction and fantasy that sticks with me most tend to be existential stories in which human dilemmas get to play out using elaborate toys and toy sets. Read our two-part discussion of Arrival 6. Moonlight Barry Jenkins' Moonlight is brimming with life. I could have watched a feature film version of its three different sections. Each stage in Chiron's maturation has its own tone and color and weight to it. I still marvel at how Jenkins built a continuity between these sections, one that works both because of and in spite of the lacunae between chapters. What happened in those intervening years? Where did this character go? Did they lose touch? The fact I'm left wondering what happened to certain characters and what events may have transpired speaks to the life--the lives--going on off the screen. There's so much to to process about sexuality and blackness and family and the connections we make; the fact it's such a gorgeously lensed film is a gift. Read our full review of Moonlight 5. Manchester by the Sea There are plenty of emotional highs and lows in Kenneth Longergan's Manchester by the Sea, but they work as parts of a whole. This is largely thanks to Lonergan's writing, which bravely and recklessly acknowledges that while someone may be in the throes of unremitting despair, another person is doing their own thing in their own way that isn't necessarily complementary or parallel. Hence the grief-stricken man forced to look after a horndog teenager. Ditto the tearful attempts at reconciliation with a self-flagellating so-and-so who finds his actions irredeemable. The performances help sell the ups and downs, with everyone their own island attempting to reach out and not feel quite so alone anymore. If these people are Venn diagrams, there's just a sliver between circles that keeps them together. But what a sliver. Read our full review of Manchester by the Sea 4. O.J.: Made in America Just in terms of scope, no film this year can match Ezra Edelman's five-part, seven-and-a-half-hour documentary epic O.J.: Made in America. Each of the five sections exists as its own cinematic essay, covering O.J. Simpson as a sports icon and celebrity, race in America, police violence against the black community, the tragedy of Nicole Brown's life, the circus of the criminal trial, and Simpson's sordid days in Miami. It's such a compelling watch, and I mainlined all five parts over the course of a night and a morning. It's the rise and fall of a one-time hero, and also the irresolvable difficulties of a divided United States. By the end, I was left speechless and numb. I was astonished by what Edelman had achieved, obviously, but more so by what he expressed about about America using Simpson as a symbol and a pretext. 3. Sing Street I watched John Carney's Sing Street on a whim one day last spring, and it immediately became one of my favorite movies of the year. There's no other film I can think of that captures the initial exhilaration of learning to play music, writing your own songs, and believing, even briefly, in the redemptive power of making your own art. It's such a teenage feeling, but one that resonates with adults who feel like they're no longer allowed those kinds of delightful indulgences. I keep listening to the Sing Street soundtrack, particularly "Drive It Like You Stole It", "Brown Shoes", and "Up", which are some of the best songs in any move last year. Maybe what speaks to me most in Sing Street is its blend of the misfit romance and the mismatched buddy comedy. These kids may or may not make it--real life favors the latter, sadly--but it's beautiful that they believed something together, anything together, was possible. 2. The Handmaiden (아가씨, Agassi) Thematically, Park Chan-wook's The Handmaiden might be 2016's Mad Max: Fury Road. Here are two women oppressed by a toxic patriarchy, relegated to servitude or providing some kind of sexual pleasure. Now watch them try to fight the forces of the citadel. Okay, that's an oversimplification of what Park has crafted here. The Handmaiden is a sexy, sumptuous, audacious, twisty thriller that had me in its grips from the beginning. So much of the movie is artfully composed, from its seductions to its violence to its sex scenes. Yet Park uses painterly restraint when it comes to way he shoots the sex (i.e., this is not Blue Is the Warmest Color all over again), and emphasizes character and emotion to make these expressions of passion come alive. The Handmaiden might have dethroned Old Boy as my favorite Park movie--time and multiple watches will tell. 1. Paterson Paterson isn't just the movie I needed in the darkness of 2016. It's the movie that I need as a writer. Here's a fount of optimism and contentment, even when all hope seems lost. I likened the movie to Jim Jarmusch giving people a reassuring push on a swing. Rather than succumb to the dumb cliches of writing life--depression, substance abuse, obsession with notoriety--Paterson presents a working artist who is content with what he's been able to build. Regardless its size, it is something, and that something is worthwhile because it exists. Adam Driver exudes kindness just as much as co-star Golshifteh Farahani; she's not a manic pixie dream girl, but just one of two dreamers each trying to live a modest dream. I'm reminded of that final chord struck by Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life: "No man is a failure who has friends." Paterson the man also has writing to fill the time alone. What a wonderful world. Read our full review of Paterson [embed]221176:43355:0[/embed] Honorable Mentions There are few noteworthy movies that fell outside of this list of 15 that need some special recognition. The backlash to Damien Chazelle's La La Land has been loud and extreme, especially now that it's awards season. While the movie's thrall has precipitously worn off on me, I found La La Land technically proficient and generally charming. Gosh, that sounds like faint praise, doesn't it? But I did like the movie quite a bit. Also, "Someone in the Crowd" is a far better song than La La Land's Oscar-nominated duo of "City of Stars" and "Audition". But all the moxie and pizzazz of "Someone in the Crowd" is still not as good as Sing Street's "Drive It Like You Stole It". Ava Duvernay's 13TH is another great doc from last year that will stick with me, and in retrospect offers a chilling snapshot of the current political moment we're living in. For a double feature, it could easily be paired with Craig Atkinson's Do Not Resist, a chilling doc about the current state of police militirization in America. [embed]221176:43369:0[/embed] Lightening the mood, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping was unjustly ignored. It's a much better music mockumentary than it has any right to be. I also have to give a nod to Shane Black's The Nice Guys, a Pynchon-esque period romp by way of a bumbling PI comedy. Kubo and the Two Strings was gorgeous and magical and the sort of kids movie I'd have loved growing up, and it makes me wonder what Laika will do next. I also really admired Swiss Army Man (aka Art House Fart Corpse) for sticking with its bizarre premise as a way to critique the toxic masculinity of indie movie protagonists. And a shout out to Bill Morrisson's Dawson City: Frozen Time, which is a hypnotic documentary on lost fragments of films as well as the history of a lost time and place. And, dammit, I kind of love Ip Man 3. It's my favorite entry in the Donnie Yen/Wilson Yip wing chun trilogy since it's such an odd duck. More than that, Ip Man 3 is a great Ip Man movie about Ip Man movies. [embed]221176:43357:0[/embed]
Hubert's Best of 2016 photo
Well... that was a weird year
By plenty of measures, 2016 was a pretty crummy year. 2017 probably isn't going to be much better, to be honest. But we keep going. We may need to lean on family and friends to get us through, but we keep going. And like any ...

Alec's Top 15 Movies of 2016

Jan 25 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
Things I didn't see that, based on critical response, could have affected this list: Silence, Everybody Wants Some!!, Jackie, Moana, Weiner, O.J.: Made in America, Certain Women, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, 20th Century Women, Age of Shadows, 13th. 0: The Edge of Seventeen In 2016, I found my Desert Island Movie. I have no idea why it took me so long to find a film that I genuinely feel like I could just watch over and over again for the rest of eternity, but there you go. I love The Edge of Seventeen with every fiber of my being. Literally everything about it is amazing. Is it because, deep down, I am a misfit 17-year-old girl? Probably. I connected so much to Hailee Steinfeld's Nadine that I should probably be concerned about it but am distinctly not.  I remember seeing the trailer initially and thinking, "Huh. That looks okay," and then seeing all of the crazy praise that it got, saying it would be this generation's Breakfast Club. But, unfortunately, it took me too long to see it. By the time I had gone to the theater for it for the third time (on my birthday, no less), it was just about to leave for good. I would have seen it at least twice more, to set my personal record for times I've seen a movie in theaters (I've only seen Inception and Mad Max: Fury Road more), but alas. I will undoubtedly be buying the Blu-ray when it comes out next month. 1: Green Room The instant the credits rolled on Green Room, I texted four different people telling them I had just seen the best movie of 2016. When I saw it for the second time, I did the same thing. I was at a party with Jeremy Saulnier a year-and-change ago and didn't find out until afterwards, which was terrible for me but great for him. I loved Blue Ruin, and would have made his night absolutely terrible by constantly telling him how great he was (and how excited I was for Green Room, which I had already heard stellar things about). The difference between his first film, Murder Party, and Blue Ruin was astronomical. The difference between that and Green Room is not so big, but considering how good Blue Ruin is, that it's any kind of improvement is a sign of straight-up genius. I mean, it's Punk Rock Die Hard. What else could you possibly want? And it also ended up being horribly relevant in 2016. Which is not a good thing, necessarily, but makes it all the more deserving of the title of "Best Movie of 2016." Red laces, y'all. Red laces... 2: The Lobster The Lobster is the biting satire that the Tinder generation deserves. The tale of a film where superficial compatibility is not just a major component of a match; it's the only component. Go to a hotel and find love (or something) with another person with similar hair, or the same kind of limp (maybe a similar penchant for nose bleeds). If you can't do that in 45 days, you're turned into an animal. You get to choose the animal, which I guess is cool, but, ya know, you get turned into an animal (and the implication is that the, um, surgical procedure to take you from human to animal is horrific (duh)). The way the characters develop in this absurdist romance is consistently fascinating, and it feels True even when it doesn't feel Real.  Because that's kind of where we are. That hotel is like a bizzaro version of Tinder, where looks are literally everything. Watching it, I thought about all those dating apps on my phone that I already feel uncomfortable about and felt even worse. Here I am, not much different than the people on the screen, except when I don't find my superficial mate, at least I don't get turned into an animal. And for that, The Lobster doesn't just end up on the list of year's best movies: It ends up on the list of films that have most directly impacted me as a person (ever). 3: Swiss Army Man The movie starring Daniel Radcliffe as a farting corpse. I remember hearing about this, hearing about the crazy divisiveness of its premiere, the walk-outs, etc. And then I remember talking to friends about it (and someone spoiling the ending, presumably without realizing I still hadn't seen it... awk). Then someone said, "I just saw Swiss Army Man, and I need to talk about it with you, so go see Swiss Army Man." So, I did. No lie: I laughed more at this movie than everyone else in the theater combined. That's not an exaggeration. (I know this because I laughed at every single joke, which means I pretty much didn't stop laughing from the word Go (except for the emotional moments, which worked on a whole other level).) It's unfortunate that it can be reduced to "the farting corpse movie," because that makes Swiss Army Man sound like some childish gross-out thing. But that isn't what it is. It's crazy, sure, but it's clever as hell and really gets at some serious issues. If you were turned off by the premise, you should still give it a shot. It's like nothing you've ever seen. 4: Paterson I had put together the other films on this list before seeing Paterson. I had a placeholder spot for it at 7. Based on general reaction, and how I felt about movies 1-6 (and 8-15), it seemed like a good spot for the film. As you can tell, however, it changed things. Part of me feels that it didn't change hard enough, that Paterson actually deserves to be higher on this list, but it hasn't been long enough since watching it for me to really know where it ultimately falls. But let me say this: Paterson is the nicest movie I have seen in years. It's the word I kept coming back to, and it's a word everyone else I've talked to about it has used as well. The movie is just nice. It's pleasant. It's a film about a guy with a pretty decent existence who is just going about existing, with a stellar center performance by Adam Driver. A lot of movies make me think about myself and my life, but rarely do movies make me really question where I am, where I'm going, and what I want. In the long, meditative silences of Paterson, I considered those things. I looked at him and his girlfriend. I looked at their small house with the mailbox that's always tilting to the side (which has one of the most satisfying payoffs in recent memory). And I thought about how I stack up. How I live. Am I doing it right? Am I doing alright? It takes a special film to really get into your brain like that. Paterson is a special film. 5: Moonlight From the gorgeous opening shot of Moonlight, I was hooked. I subtitled my review "Able to bear the weight of its own existence," and I think that's probably the best way to describe what it accomplishes. Here is a film that just had to be good. After the collapse of The Birth of a Nation, something needed to pick up the mantle as the film about not-white-people. And while Moonlight was not the only film to do that, it was absolutely the best.  Each of the three periods in Chiron's life is beautifully realized, both technically and emotionally. The script is great. The cinematography is brilliant. The acting is stellar, from Mahershala Ali (are you fucking kidding me, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association?). Really, just everything is great. It doesn't have many surprises, but it doesn't need them either. Despite what might seem on its face generic, the film feels completely honest. (Perhaps that's the most surprising thing about it.) Some people may shrug it off as "the Black movie" because they thought the #oscarssowhite campaign was reverse racist or something, but those people are A) garbage, and B) missing out on something awesome. 6: Arrival I don't get into multi-thousand word written discussions about films very often, so when I do, it's clearly a big deal. Arrival made me think and think hard. (No other film that I saw last year inspired that level of discussion, nor did (m)any of them really deserve it.) Even before I had seen it, Denis Villeneuve was one of my favorite directors. But that just solidified it. He's on a roll (and have you seen the teaser for the new Blade Runner? My gosh!), and this is by far his greatest work. A quiet, meditative studio film with big name actors about... linguistics? The most interesting alien movie in years, and also a damn fine looking piece of art. I'm keeping this brief because I've already said a whole heckuva lot. If you want more, go read Hubert and my Flixist Discusses piece(s) on it [Part 1 and Part 2]. That rabbit hole goes deep. 7: Hell or High Water I tend to avoid cowboy-type movies, ones set in the South or the West (other than, obviously, California, but that's not really the West; it's just... West). This is some kind of not-great bias on my part, but it's true. I had to see Hell or High Water mostly so people would shut up telling me that I had to go see Hell or Highwater. Several people had told me it was their favorite film of the year, so I finally took the plunge, and... wow. Just, wow. The thing that sold me on the film, more than anything else, is a firefight in which a truck becomes riddled with holes. Not showered with sparks, the way we expect vehicles in films to be affected, full-on swiss cheesed. This was a moment that encapsulated everything about Hell or High Water that made it so good: a commitment to the realism. It has some of the most effective violence of any film in recent memory, and it tells a truly compelling story about people who feel they've been wronged and the lengths they'll go to to see their justice done.  It wasn't the biggest surprise of the year (I'll get to that one in a bit), but it was probably the best. 8: Manchester By the Sea I was very conflicted about seeing Manchester by the Sea. I didn't watch The Birth of a Nation for the same reason I won't watch Woody Allen or Roman Polanski movies: I refuse to separate the art from the artist. I understand, sort of, why people don't, but it's a matter of principle for me.  The stories of Casey Affleck's awful on-set actions left a bad taste in a lot of peoples' mouths, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt like that shouldn't stop me. Not because I didn't care about supporting bad behvavior, but because it's not actually his movie. I shouldn't punish Kenneth Lonergan and co. because their lead actor turned out to be a scumbag. And so I didn't. And I wasn't disappointed by the film I got. It's less depressing than I was led to believe, but I mean thatin a very good way. It's about grief and tragedy, but it doesn't necessarily feel tragic.  Sometimes when I watch a movie, I wish that I had made something like it (or, more generally, want to make something like it in the future). Here was something different: I wanted to be in a movie like it. I wanted to be a part of something so raw and emotionally honest. I hope I get that opportunity someday. It really is a powerful piece of work. 9: The Handmaiden I'm glad that Park Chan-Wook went back to Korea rather than making the other Hollywood films he had lined up. Stoker is fine, but The Handmaiden is a proper return to form for one of the best working filmmakers. I didn't know anything about The Handmaiden going into it, other than that it was based off a book and was about lesbians. Much like westerns, I tend to avoid period pieces, but Park's work was obviously always going to be an exception. And what we've got is easily the best Korean period piece I've seen (and I've seen many). It's a technical achievement, to be sure, probably his best looking film, but it's also a narrative one. I was shocked by how long the film was when I arrived at the screening and saw the runtime on the press notes, but the film went by quickly. And with all of that intrigue and violence and sex*, it's got pretty much everything you could possibly want. *I genuinely think the film has a bit too much lesbian sex (something most of my male friends disagree with on principle), but unlike the gratuitous nothing found in Blue is the Warmest Color's infamous sequences, these do serve a purpose. They build character, and they look good cinematically (not just, like, sexually or whatever). For that, it mostly gets a pass on what comes off as mostly just gratuitous. 10: La La Land As I'm writing this, someone is talking to me about how much he hated La La Land. I, politely, disagreed. I know a lot of people who loved it a lot more than I do, and a fair few who like it less. It's kind of interesting how wildly different the opinions have been. For my part, I really, really liked it. Damien Chazelle broke out with Whiplash, and this is a fitting follow-up. The jazz-based music is fun and lighthearted, as is the film in general, at least up until the ending. The characters don't really make a lot of sense, to be sure, and a lot of the cinematic language was used more as a throwback to old films than in a way that necessarily made sense for this one, but I didn't really care. I've said it before, that I'm willing to forgive substance issues for style, and this film has got a lot of style. And at the end of a very bad year, it was nice to just watch pretty people do pretty things. (Ryan Gosling especially. He is pretty much amazing at everything, huh?) 11: Deadpool/Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping Why did I put these together? Because I loved them both, and they both deserved a spot... but they didn't deserve two spots collectively. Deadpool is the best Marvel movie by leaps and bounds, and Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping takes everything that made The Lonely Island great and amps it up. Aside from being comedies, the two movies couldn't really be more different, but they're also some of the few movies that I went to see in theaters again after attending the press screenings, bringing friends because I just wanted to share the experiences with other people. (Green Room is the only other one I can think of, though I saw it alone the second time around.) I don't really have anything else to say other than that they're great (read my reviews if you want more), and I'm looking forward to seeing them again.  12: The Witch In a not-insignificant way, The Witch is actually perfect. Director Robert Eggers put an obscene amount of work into making the film feel like a historical document, and he succeeded to an incredible degree.  The moment I realized this was the moment I thought, "Man, child actors in the 1700s were terrible." I didn't think, "Wow, they hired bad child actors in 2016." No, my brain literally convinced itself that the creative team time travelled back to the time in which the film was set and found people to play the characters and had subpar casting then. Were it not for the fact that time travel is impossible, I would genuinely believe it. The whole thing is just so flawlessly crafted that the acting issues don't detract from it, which is bizarre and impressive in and of itself. Well done, all. Except the child actors. Shame on them. 13: Sing Street One of the last films I saw as I was putting this list together, Sing Street is just a straight-up joy to watch. I played the drums (poorly) growing up, and a part of me wished that I had been in a band. Seeing the kids develop was awesome, and the fact that it literally all happened for a girl is both Ugh and also Amazing. It's such a teenage boy thing to do. And then he rocks the hell out of everything.  The way the band comes together and the music they create is all freaking awesome, and the narratives that underlie it all are excellent. I particularly liked the dynamic between the brothers, because it just felt so... right. It's one of the best sibling-ships I've seen in quite some time. Also, the romance is great, and usually I hate teen romance nonsense. I mean, let's be honest: Just about everything is great. It's on Netflix. Go see it. 14: 10 Cloverfield Lane Biggest surprise of 2016? Absolutely. Unlike Blair Witch, which also came out of nowhere, 10 Cloverfield Lane was exactly what a good mystery can be. I didn't know what I was in for going in, and that made the whole thing so much better. With some truly spectacular performances (particularly John Goodman's terrifying turn), 10 Cloverfield Lane made a very real case for the true horror being humanity. But the film doesn't let it be quite so simple. Though Goodman's character does some truly barbaric things, his motivations are far more complex. Deep down, he's almost a good person. He actually does think he's saving people from certain doom (and he has a very valid reason for thinking so), and the way that story builds and the characters develop is fascinating. If Cloverfield has to become a franchise, this gives me hope that it will be able to turn out unique and interesting tales. Does this need to have the moniker? No. But I don't have a problem with films taking on names of money-makers if it gives them a shot at success, particularly if they're making something different with it. And 10 Cloverfield Lane is different. It's exciting. And I'm very glad that I got to see it while the mystery was still fresh. (Though it's no doubt a great movie regardless.) 15: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story The first thing I said after Rogue One's credits rolled was "Wow. It's crazy how much better that was than Episode VII." The second time I saw it, I thought, "That was not nearly as good the second time. Still pretty sure it's a lot better than Episode VII." I liked Episode VII, but from the moment Rogue One was announced, I was so much more excited. These spin-off stories are so much more interesting to me than the main narrative that has propelled the Star Wars films thus far. This is also the rare prequel that actually makes something really fundamental make sense. Why was it so easy to destroy the Death Star? Well, because one of the men who built it put that flaw right in there. It makes sense. It works. (And the logic for him working on the base is fascinating and relevant as hell (and reminds me of something Tim Cook said about meeting with Donald Trump).) Also: it makes the fact that Starkiller Base was so easy to destroy so much stupider oh my god why. There are movies not on this list that I liked more than Rogue One – American Honey, Zootopia, Kubo and the Two Strings – but I chose to put this here because it's the best thing to happen to Star Wars on the big screen in decades. I think it's an important film for that reason, and hopefully one that we will look back on in the future as a turning point for this franchise, where it gets truly interesting again. It's got some major flaws for sure, but it deserves a place on this list. (Last place.)
Alec's Top 15 photo
A terrible year with not-terrible movies
So, now that we've gotten those dumb Oscar nominations out of the way, I think it's finally time to let everyone know what the real best films of 2016 were. The hacks at the Academy wouldn't know quality if it slapped them in...

Nick's Top 15 Movies of 2016

Jan 24 // Nick Valdez
15. Shin Godzilla I've got to admit my major Godzilla bias helped it make the list, but I argue it's a great enough movie to belong here. Along with a fresh take on an old monster, Toei gave it a more pro-active Japan in the narrative. In films past when Godzilla attacked, the Japanese citizens were always just reacting to Godzilla or running from this nuclear fear. But in Shin Godzilla, it's the humans who are finally able to put him down. Through intelligent strategy (as it unfolds like a political thriller that also sneaks in some digs at the Western version of Godzilla) and science, the humans prove that there is hope in a hopeless situation. It's a far cry from where Toei started with this series. Couple the strong message with a fantastic monster suit, and Godzilla has never been better.  14. Morris From America What seemed to be a major theme in 2016 was youths growing up in an ever changing world. Quite a bit of films followed kids as they formed their own perspectives and found their voices. One of the more unique takes was Morris From America, which followed the young Morris (Markees Christmas, who is going to have a huge career ahead of him) and his father (Craig Robinson, who definitely should pursue more dramatic work) as they both tried to accept their new lives in Germany. Morris finding his way through rap lyrics, and then discovering that he shouldn't merely mirror the voices of others, was a journey we don't really see much in film. It's a nice slice of life about a kid just trying to be himself. That's always nice.  13. Hell or High Water In might be because I'm from Texas, so I'm willing to forgive a lot of its character faults because I know people like this, but Hell or High Water really struck a chord with me. It just seemed so unique. It's a film following two sets of characters as a string of robberies occur in bumblefuck Texas, but there's just so much said. It's all in the smaller moments such as when a jerk gets his face bashed in, or when Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham throw subtle, racist jabs at one another. Or when Ben Foster and Chris Pine's characters rob a bank and you have hilariously awkward dialogue between the two of them. Then it's all the more devastating when the film reminds you of the reality of these characters' situation. There's beauty in the film's gradual progression.  12. Fences Since Denzel Washington directed Fences, and helped get it to the big screen in the first place, it was touted as some kind of major performance from him, but he's honestly my least favorite part. It's everything around him that's fantastic. In fact, his overacted performance actually works in his favor since his overbearing father character is inherently flawed and unlikable. But you feel for his family, these characters, trapped in this continuously awful situation until Viola Davis just breaks down and brings in the most commanding performance of the year. It's a bit of a dense piece, but worth the watch completely.  11. 10 Cloverfield Lane This Cloverfield sequel was the first major surprise of 2016. Hitting theaters only two months after its sudden announcement, it was already in my good graces since I didn't really have any expectations for it. What we got was one of the more tense productions of the year with standout performances from Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman. In fact this film was so damn good, the thought of an entire Cloverfield extended universe doesn't seem too bad at all. It cemented Cloverfield's franchise status and gave us the kind of sci-fi horror we haven't seen in years.  10. Sing Street It might be unfair to compare two musicals, but after such a drought it seems apt. La La Land is going to get all of the attention (which is mostly deserves), but Sing Street was the musical that hit home for me. Kids forming a new wave band in 1980s Dublin might not seem like the most inclusive premise, but it's positivity makes it familiar. It's a nice musical about chasing your dreams, and it's got a killer soundtrack to boot. "Drive It Like You Stole It" was one of my favorite songs in film last year, and the final performance was one of my favorite moments of the year entirely. Sing Street is charming, quietly strong, and it's just a musical of pure fun.  9. Moana Disney always seems to find a way onto my end of year lists, and 2016 was no different. But while there were two strong offerings, Moana is leagues above Zootopia in its awesomeness. A princess film where a young girl learns not to just aim to help a man, but accomplish things her own damn self? It says more than Frozen ever did. While the soundtrack admittedly doesn't have the staying power of its more Broadway predecessor, the film makes up for it with a deep color palette, astounding animation, and awesome performances from its two leads. Auli'i Cravalho has a major career ahead of her, and I can't wait to see how far she'll go.  8. O.J.: Made in America You can argue the five hour O.J.: Made in America project isn't technically a film, but you'd be hard pressed to find a better documentary last year. A documentary somehow always finds a way on to my list each year, so I definitely felt I should include this seeing as how I watched all five hours of it in one sitting. The O.J. Simpson trial happened before I was conscientious of things happening in the world around me, so seeing it all laid bare is fascinating. An enthralling portrait of the figurehead Simpson had become through his trial and then cataloging his public descent into mediocre madness was honestly something you couldn't make up. "Stranger than fiction" has never been more appropriate.  7. Hunt for the Wilderpeople Taika Waititi has quickly become one of my favorite directors. After a strong showing in the surprising What We Do in the Shadows, and before seeing what he can do with Marvel's Thor: Ragnarok, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is yet another home run for him. The story of a kid in New Zealand who's been bounced between foster homes and his adoptive father who couldn't give less of a damn about him running through the forest is one of the funniest films of the year. Like Shadows before it, it's a dialogue heavy comedy full of of awkwardness and charm from the young Julian Dennison.  6. The Jungle Book I can't believe Disney took a terrible sounding idea, remaking their animated films into live-action, and produced some of their best work from it. Maleficent, Cinderella, and now The Jungle Book. I've never been a fan of the original, but Favreau's take was fantastic. Stunningly animated animals, a great voice cast (with Walken's mob boss styled King Louie being an obvious stand out) , a tense story, and a great performance from the young Neel Sethi, who somehow was still believable while acting for a green screen. I watched this a number of times last year just to marvel at it, and I don't expect to stop anytime soon.  5. Moonlight The one major awards contender I'm rooting for is Moonlight. It's simply incredible. Watching the young, quiet Chiron grow, deal with his terrible home situation, struggle with his sexual identity, and survive in a world that wants to destroy is a phenomenal experience. Barry Jenkins' directorial strength comes through with his intimacy in heinous situations and finding the beauty in the mundane. A deep, bright color palette showing Miami in a light rarely seen in film, close face ups that linger on a character's internal pains, and strong central performances anchor the film's journey. It's not a film I can recommend for everyone, as my own sister exclaimed how boring she felt it was, but it's an experience you should have for yourself.  4. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping I've always taken The Lonely Island trio of Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone for granted since I keep forgetting how much genius they share between them. Their last project, Hot Rod, is still a film I re-watch to this day, and Popstar dutifully continues that tradition. I've seen it four times since I first viewed it in theaters and, of course, I'll never stop never stop it. A hilarious script, charming performance from the trio, and original songs that oddly sound great enough to fit in with the pop scene. The genius is in how slightly off each of those songs are, to remind you of the parody. I mean, "Equal Rights" and "Finest Girl" are some of the most hilarious things I've heard in years.  3. Kubo and the Two Strings I was attached to Kubo from its very first trailer. Laika is one of the few studios keeping stop-motion animation alive, and luckily for all of us they're phenomenal at it. Kubo is their strongest offering to date with the story of the titular Kubo journeying across the world to find the pieces of a mystical suit of armor to fight the ghosts of his unknown past. It's got this mythical quality in its storytelling, so it's kind of like a new, yet familiar take on a fairy tale. Coupled with the previously mentioned crisp animation (which Laika makes more and more seamless with each film), great voice cast (including the likes of Rooney Mara and Charlize Theron), and stunning score. I've yet to hear a better version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." 2. The Nice Guys So this came out of nowhere, huh? Shane Black's unique perspective always yields a great film and The Nice Guys is no different. Ryan Gosling may get tons of attention for La La Land, but he had a much more nuanced performance in this film. He even seemed to have more fun bouncing off of Russell Crowe in Black's vibrant, violent version of the 1970s. This dark comedy was unique, full of tons of memorable scenes, and has my favorite finale of the year. That final shootout was fantastic. Black really has a handle on his scene geography so you never lose sight of where everyone is, yet there's still plenty of surprise. Too bad it's bound to ignored by virtually everyone.  1. Green Room For me, 2016 peaked early. Jeremy Saulnier's Green Room premiered in April and ever since then, I found myself watching films and thinking "Well that was good, but not as good as Green Room." It is just so f**king intense, man. The chilling, stoic viciousness of Patrick Stewart's performance, the unbelievably charming band, The Ain't Rights, at the center (with a fiery rendition of "Nazi Punks Fuck Off," which is sadly needed now more than ever), and top tier performances from Imogen Poots and the late, too f**king great, Anton Yelchin. When the world came crumbling down around these characters, it was so tense my mouth was wide open the entire time. A brutal knuckle drag of a film with an unapologetic, highly intelligent narrative bound to make you hate Nazis even more (if that were even possible, to be honest).  Green Room is pure gold, and my favorite film of 2016. 
Nick's Top 15  photo
2016 was rough, but the movies were good
2016 was full of all sorts of losses for me. My life went through a few unwelcome changes, we've got a crazy President now, and the general air was full of strife. But at least there were some good movies last year. The year ...

Flixist Discusses: An Analysis of Denis Villeneuve's Arrival [Part 2]

Dec 09 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]221111:43257:0[/embed] Alec: That liberal vs. conservative idea is interesting, and my gut reaction is that it's probably true (assuming we're talking explicitly about alien films)... but I'm sure you could find an exception (to prove the rule). I wonder if there's a similar case to be made re: optimistic or not films. Or, more to the point, I wonder how the political climate will affect the mood of films with both liberal and conservative ideologies going forward. Will liberal films become crushingly sad across the board to reflect their reality or become  happy as they embrace, uh, fantasy and escapism?   I wonder if Arrival would have been different if pre-production began now instead of years ago. I'm thinking yes. I mentioned earlier that one of my colleagues hated the film. His first problem, when I asked why (this was before I had seen it) was that it didn't have a lot of dialogue. (Aside: This is interesting, though not necessarily surprising, for a film that is about language.) He thought it was confusing and that the twist (reveal) didn't work. Etc. I think this may be Villeneuve’s best film, but it's definitely not his most accessible. The “This is thinking person’s sci-fi” reputation is deserved, and if anything I think it was intended to be more opaque than it is. The genuinely bizarre and out-of-nowhere narration from Jeremy Renner felt like a capitulation to the studio over a montage that had been designed for musical accompaniment and nothing else. The decision to leave Banks’ perspective in that moment (especially since it's still about her) is jarring as heck. Genuine question: Are there any scenes in the movie without her that you can recall? I feel like there aren't. And so there's that one weird dark spot coloring an otherwise brilliant experience. And it hardly ruins the film. It's just… why? Everything else is so deliberate. I think it's almost time (ha!) to really get into this thing, but before we do, do you have any other thoughts on the film in general? Even if I didn't think it was so relevant and important, it's just a damn good movie, with gorgeous cinematography and some genuinely great performances. Hubert: Yeah, I agree with you about Jeremy Renner’s narration midway through the film. Everything else in that movie is filtered through Louise’s point of view, and that sudden imposition of Renner’s character just comes out of nowhere. Whereas other scenes seem deliberately ruminative, the learning montage is purely functional. It probably was the “let’s explain this to you if you don’t get it yet” moment in the screenplay, and may have been made more explicit by the studio. That montage and narration would be just fine if they used Louise’s voice and channeled it through her point of view. It wouldn’t be that difficult to make it work that way. It’s her story, after all. Maybe they just needed to give Renner’s character (off the top of my head, I can’t recall his name) something to do. I guess Renner’s character in Arrival is similar to Amy Adams’ Lois Lane in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice--just stand around and look handsome/pretty, and let your significant other be heroic and save the day. We can go in a lot of directions with this conversation about Arrival. I eventually want to get to the idea of free will, determinism, and predestination, but maybe we can save that for the end. I find that discussion determines whether people find the movie hopeful/optimistic or fatalistic/pessimistic. (Just more future stuff in the present. Don’t mind me.) What’s one of the things that struck you most about Arrival while watching it? Alec: That house. I want that house so bad. Actually, though: the design of the aliens. I didn't see the trailer, so I didn't know what they looked like (were they humanoid? were they terrifying?). My gut reaction to their lack of “human”ness was “Oh thank God,” because that would have been a cop out from a design perspective. They aren't from here and they shouldn't look like us. Period. And they didn't, and I was glad about that. But as I consider it, I think about their head-like thing, which we only see in the sequence in the fog. There are those indents, as though they have eyes there. I don't see any practical purpose for those other than to give a face of sorts for the audience to look at in that moment. Humans will see faces in everything (see: trees, the moon, toast), so you don't have to do much to make us subconsciously think about them. And to make them, in that moment, even the slightest bit human allows for another level of connection. In a sequence where we're actually just watching the sort-of-head for a while, we need that. But I think about what a more humanoid design might have done. Diverting back to politics (or, at least, real-world issues) for a moment, much of the fear and hatred in the world right now is aimed at the Other, where that's a race, gender, culture, socioeconomic class. We take people who look like basically us and then box them off. With the Heptapods and their very definitively Other design, you're starting from scratch on empathy. But there's also no prejudice against them. It's an actual blank slate. And how you ultimately feel about them says something about your empathy for other beings but not for your fellow man. A human-like alien race (or one that presented as alien and made a point of being like, “We actually look like something else, but figured you'd appreciate this”) would have added an interesting other level. I'm imagining someone shouting, “IF YOU'RE GONNA BE HERE, JUST LEARN ENGLISH, DAMN IT.” Arrival’s too subtle for that, but I'm calling it right now: We will see a science fiction movie with an equivalent line of dialogue in some equivalent situation in the next four years. (If we haven’t already.) And yeah, I agree that that’s where this conversation is fated (what a great pun) to end up. If you want to go there now, you can have the first word on that. If there’s more you want to say beyond that, though, I’m game. Hubert: I really enjoyed that heptapod design as well. Tentacles and that raw seafood look immediately make people queasy and distrustful. H.P. Lovecraft was onto something about the creeping chaos of the local sushi restaurant. But yeah, the vestigial torso-and-head at the end is so oddly inelegant yet fitting for where the story has gotten at that point. The moment we see that human-like shape is when the heptapod tells Louise that its companion is “in the death process”. What a fascinating construction, that sentence, and what a time for an English translation of heptapod to finally appear on screen. I thought the way the ink emerges from the heptapods like squids to form their language was pretty inspired as well. The look of the language informs the creature’s look and vice versa. So many smart, deliberate choices. I wonder how this movie would have played out with human-like aliens, especially now when audiences sort of expect something alien about the aliens we see. Maybe the alien visitation movie in the post-Trump era will have someone demand that the aliens “Speak American” or “Take off that breathing hood”. Though maybe that would make things too preachy in certain hands. Which reminds me: Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter) is set to direct a remake of Alien Nation, which was all about human-like aliens assimilating with the human race like a new immigrant community. The movie was all right, but the TV show and made-for-TV movies were much, much better. Makes me wonder how the remake will address our current political moment. It seems unavoidable to me now, even if they did try to make it a buddy cop movie like the original film. And you know, it’s almost fitting that in 2016 the two movies Nichols put out were Midnight Special (an indie take on 80s science fiction) and Loving (a movie about a mixed-race couple’s love in the face of bigotry). Alien Nation has gone from a curiosity from a filmmaker I like to a potentially important statement about the early 21st century. Which, come to think of it, makes that hypothetical film like Arrival. So about Arrival’s implications about free will and determinism and predestination. The big question: do you think Arrival is melancholy but ultimately hopeful or is it sad and fatalistic? I don’t mean about global peace or anything, but rather the idea that we might not be able to change the future. That certain sorrows in our lives, like certain joys, are unavoidable? I think it’s painfully hopeful since it suggests that even though you may be miserable now, there was still a moment of joy in the past that was just as real. It’s an affirmation of good and bad things as a whole, and that maybe some handfuls of genuine happiness are a justification for a lifetime of general boredom, depression, and unhappiness. (Though my read on this also speaks to the privileges of a middle-class upbringing in the first world.) Alec: Honestly, I think it's neither of those things, because I don’t even think the film is ultimately that melancholy. I read someone somewhere say that this is probably the most hopeful movie they’ve ever seen -- it assumes humans will still be around in 3000 years. But, joking aside, I do genuinely think this an optimistic movie. I left the theater feeling kind of upbeat, and part of that was because it was a great movie and that usually makes me feel good, but there was more to it than after. I realized that it was because of the way Dr. Banks’s decision at the end is played. When she decides to hold onto Jeremy Renner, she does so knowing that they will be together, they will have a young girl, she will tell him that their young girl is going to die, it will break his heart and his relationship with the daughter, the daughter will develop cancer, and the daughter will die. And she does it anyway. You look at that list, and you’re like… damn. That’s genuinely horrible. She’s guaranteeing never-ending sadness for one man and the literal death of her own child. So, she’s a psychopath, right? And that might be the logical conclusion, but I’m going to not think about it way. What’s unclear is whether or not she thinks she has a choice in the matter. Her actions might imply that she doesn’t, but that’s not how I saw that decision. There’s another read, one that I think it’s evidenced by the fact that she smiles in that moment. She knows the happiness that the daughter brings in the time that she’s alive, and that life with her is better than life without. (It’s better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all, as they say.) It might be fatalistic in a literal sense, but I don’t think it’s a function of her resigning herself to or even just accepting her fate; she’s straight-up embracing it. And I see that as a rejection of the sadness that seems inherent with the life she’s going to lead… but we also don’t really see all the good moments. We see a couple, but we are more generally aware of the bad things that happen than the good, which I think colors the perspective (also, knowing that all of those things happen and thinking about them in a list format is different than the reality of them taking place spaced out over more than a decade). She is the one who lived it and is most qualified to make the decision, and she decides that it is the thing she wants and not just the thing she has to do. Hubert: It’s interesting we’re both seeing it as hopeful. I’ve read/heard a few people conclude that Arrival's implications about time and the future are bleak. It is pretty grim to think about not necessarily having any say in your own life. Viewed in those terms, Arrival‘s conclusion could be read as ditching agency for resignation. It’s going to happen anyway, so why try? And yet, we do, continually, on and on, until we die. That’s more than a little sad. That makes me wonder about Louise telling her husband about their daughter’s death, an act that ruins their marriage. Did she tell him as an attempt to change the future, but it went wrong? Did she tell him because they were having an argument and she wanted to say something awful in the heat of the moment that would hurt? Did she tell him because she thought it would help him deal with loss in the future? Did she tell him because he kept asking her about their daughter and she couldn’t handle being the only person who had access to that secret? Or did she tell him because it was, simply, that time when she was supposed to tell him? There are these fascinating gaps in the future-narrative that Louise as a character might know but the audience has to invent on their own. The relative hope or bleakness of Arrival might be there in the lacunae and how we fill in the blanks. But yeah, I think it’s hopeful. Louise’s smile, like you mentioned, is her saying yes to all the joy and misery ahead because it will have been worth it. It’s like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. By the end you know it’s not going to end well for Joel and Clementine, but dammit, that love was worth the pain and vice versa--let’s do this! This aspect of Arrival reminds me of this Friedrich Nietzsche idea of the eternal return of the same (aka eternal recurrence). It’s one of those Existentialism 101 types of ideas, and yet I unavoidably find myself thinking about the shape of my own life in terms of the eternal return. Nietzsche presented a hypothetical situation in which a demon comes to you and says that for the rest of eternity you will have to relive your entire life again, over and over, all of the happiness but also the pain, down to the smallest detail. Nothing new can ever happen in these additional recurrences of life--you are a speck of dust in the great eternal hourglass of existence. If you were confronted with this scenario, would you feel immense anguish and defeat given the futility of it all? Or would you instead welcome this moment, having lived a life worth affirming? Was this worth it? Ask me one day, I might lean one direction. Ask me another day, I lean the opposite direction. When Louise smiles, you know what she thinks about her life to come. Though I wonder, in the vast lacunae of her life off-screen, about the days that Louise feels otherwise. Alec: I can imagine so many scenarios in which Dr. Banks would tell him that their daughter was going to die. All of the ones that you listed there and then others. The hypothetical that I find most compelling is that she told him because he asked. That they were talking about the future, that he wanted to know what she saw for their child and for them and she couldn't lie, because she knew he would find out eventually (of course she knows) and she didn't want to have the fight then. I like that because it has a Pandora’s Box kind of feeling or some other, more appropriate parable that I can't think of: It's his choice to learn the truth, though he is foolish in thinking that he can handle it. In any version of the story, though, it gets at this broader concept froma  very different but equally significant angle: what do you do when you know someone who knows the future? What do you do when you know your daughter is going to die because someone who knows the future has told you, but you can't know it the way they know it? You have to trust it, but at the same time you just can't do that. It's why he can't look at his daughter anymore, because he feels like she's been taken from him because he now knows a horrible truth and, more importantly, he knows he can't stop it. He knows that, no matter how many new treatments there are and how much they put into her recovery, it's going to fail. He feels helpless. (Science will fail him, so it has failed him.) I mean, think of Arrival with the same narrative but from Jeremy Renner’s perspective. I can't imagine a movie much bleaker than that one. I know I’ve got the last word of this particular discussion, but I’m still going to end on a question. If the future is pre-ordained, then neither of them has agency. But in that world, whose situation is better? In more cliched terms: Is knowledge power… or ignorance bliss?  
Arrival Discussion Part 2 photo
The big questions
In the 24 hours since part one of this discussion was posted, I was talking with a friend about something completely unrelated when I realized that the point I was trying to make directly relates to my feelings on Arrival. It...

Flixist Discusses: An Analysis of Denis Villeneuve's Arrival [Part 1]

Dec 08 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]221081:43252:0[/embed] Alec: So, before we get into this, I want to give some context about my own expectations, because I think expectations ultimately matter a lot here (probably more than they should). Denis Villeneuve is one of my favorite working directors. Sicario is one of the best films of 2015, and both Prisoners and Enemy are really good and extremely interesting. (I’m not fully versed on his pre-English work yet, but I’ll get there.) Anyways, his name gets attached to a project and I’m sold on it. It means I don’t need to learn anything about it and that I won’t watch trailers. I didn’t see the trailer for Arrival, though I knew the basic concept: Aliens arrive. How do we communicate with them? I also knew what other people thought. The downside to having a lot of critic friends on Facebook is that you know what people think about things the instant they get screened. Whether it was the festival premiere or when it actually hit theaters, my feed got inundated with various takes. Most of them were glowing, and I saw a lot of “brainy” and “thought-provoking” pull-quotes, but I didn’t read any further. I also knew that one of my day-job colleagues hated it (this person also hated Carol, for what that’s worth) and another thought it was fine, he guesses (this person hates Guardians of the Galaxy, for what that’s worth). I was fairly sure I’d love it, though. The only thing that surprised me was just how much I loved it. Had you read up, Hubert, or did you go in relatively blind as well? Hubert: I went into Arrival knowing the buzz and seeing the blurbs out of the Venice Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival, but I intentionally avoided reading the full-length reviews. Certain movies I’ll read up on extensively and spoil everything for myself and it won’t dampen the experience of seeing the movie. Some movies you’ve already seen before sitting down to watch them, if that makes sense. I even avoided reading the Ted Chiang short story it’s based on in his book Stories of Your Life. I’m glad I went in relatively blind. Arrival’s all about that act of discovery and revelation, and a couple scenes had me silently geeking out as I began to understand the shape of the narrative, and how little lines or images are clues about the nature of the movie. In a sense, Arrival is a causal loop time travel story. It’s not about time travel in a traditional sense, but rather more about folding a moment in the future back like a piece of paper onto the past--a Möbius strip. Even the look of the heptapod language is a closing circle, like the ouroboros, which made me think about time and cycles of existence. By around the halfway point of the movie, I kind of realized that Louise was seeing flashforwards rather than flashbacks, which was all really set-up in Amy Adams’ opening voice over about beginnings and ends. But even suspecting and discovering that on my own, it didn’t damped my emotional reaction at all. (Given the implications of Arrival, in the world of that film, maybe all movies are movies you’ve seen before you sit down to watch them.) Had I read reviews about the movie, I’m sure some critic somewhere would have mentioned a little too much about one detail or another, and the whole game of Arrival would be given away in my head. Alec: I’ve been wondering that, actually, how much I think knowing the game would have spoiled my experience. I’m glad I went in blind, but I’m not entirely convinced I needed to. The other day, I read an article by Todd VanDerWerff at Vox about twists in the modern TV era. It talks a lot about Mr. Robot, which often telegraphs its big moments pretty heavily, so people aren’t all that surprised when things come. And Sam Esmail says that’s intentional, because then it allows you to think about the thing that just happened and not only be shocked by it. This then led me to another VanDerWerff article, which is ostensibly a review of a movie that you didn‘t like but actually has little to with Goodnight, Mommy at all. It’s about the nature of twists and gets to an interesting question: Is there a difference between a “twist” and a “reveal,” and where does Arrival fall on that line? I actually think the answer changes depending on your interpretation of the events and of Dr. Banks’ fascinating brain. In one of them, Banks knows everything that has happened and will happen simultaneously (the Heptapods experience this). In this, the reveal is fundamentally a Twist, because it’s information that the character knows being hidden from you; in another, she experiences time in a non-linear fashion but she doesn’t fully understand it until she’s been taught to understand it. In this, she learns at the same time we do that her daughter is her future daughter and not her current one and then follow all of that. It’s not until the phone call with Shang that it becomes truly clear, but by the time we got to the “non-zero-sum game” sequence, I had figured out where it was going. And so when it came, my thought was, “Damn, this could have gone bad in so many different ways. Good on you team!” and not “WHHAAAATTT?! NO WAY!” and I think I had the right response. Because, like, oh man, there are so many ways the non-linearity thing could have gone wrong, especially with the way it deals with Banks’s daughter. There was so much potential for it to feel ugly and emotionally manipulative, but no, I think it nails the whole damn thing. Hubert: It’s a definitely a reveal rather than a twist--that’s a good distinction with the language. And yeah, a lot of that has to do with how much of the film is anchored into Louise’s point of view, and how the audience is learning the information as she is through most of the movie. Her brain is rewiring and her perception of time is changing, and the audience is starting the see this narrative in a different way. In the same way that Louise is learning to read heptapod language and learning to interpret time, the movie is teaching the audience how to read the movie. Such a fascinating parallel. With twists, like in Goodnight, Mommy or High Tension, there’s no sense of learning how to read the text of the film, at least not in the way that would suggest the twist. Usually there’s just a quick explanation at the end. On the note of Todd VanDerWerff (let’s make this a trifecta), he wrote a new piece on Vox about the pivotal phone call scene. His big takeaway is that Louise is omniscient when she makes the call and meets with Shang in the future, and that she’s playing a role to get the information she needs. I personally think there’s a much different interpretation of that moment: Shang himself learns hetapod and taps into non-linear time, and that takes place after he gets the phone call but before he meets Louise. When he meets Louise in the future, he realizes that it is contingent upon him to give her his cell phone number and a message that will convince his past self (whose view of time is pre-non-linear) to avoid conflict and make this future moment possible. The past is contingent on the future and vice versa, which creates this smaller causal loop in the bigger narrative. We got sidetracked to the ending (how non-linear of us), so maybe let’s get into the meat of the movie and its ideas of communication. There’s this line by philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein that if a lion could speak to us, we wouldn’t be able to understand it. The idea is that even if a lion used English, its worldview is so non-human and its use of words/grammar so potentially unfamiliar that we would not necessarily comprehend the meaning of the lion’s sentence. This also means that the interior lives of lions are alien to us. With Arrival, it seems to suggest that seeing the world like a lion might help us understand their language better, and their values. Arrival is a movie about a lot of things, but extrapolating that idea, I think the movie stresses this belief in empathy. Alec: I think that's true. If science fiction is a way to use unreal narratives to comment on very-real societal issues, I don't think there's a more appropriate film for 2016. The entire world is moving rapidly in an isolationist and nationalist direction, so a film about trying to overcome the fundamental barriers of understanding and the need to work together is, to say the least, timely. That lion thought is an interesting one to consider when put up against what I think is one of the most crucial moments in the film: the reveal of the word “weapon.” In our version of English, that has a very specific meaning and it only ever means something to be used for violent purposes. But the heptapods don't have that context. They, as far as anyone can tell, seem to see “tool” and “weapon” as equivalent words. And so we get into a theme of patience. Some have complained about the methods they use and how it seems like they could have used more videos or other aids right at the start to speed up the process, but that misses the point. Underneath the whole experience is a respect for time and taking the time to do a thing. She wants to get it right, and getting it right requires long, boring demonstration. And that minimizes, theoretically, the chance of a miscommunication. (See the film’s discussion of how the Chinese use war games to learn communication and the pitfalls therein.) But when miscommunication comes, we need to be careful and see it as that. Dr. Banks’ pleas to not jump to conclusions, to point out that the heptapods lack true context for “weapon” is oh-so-relatable to right now. Governments all around the world are being forced to deal with an equivalent problem, where they need to know if something that has been said or done is a result of ignorance on the part of our president-elect or actually means a tectonic change in American policy. And they're dealing with someone who may as well be an alien politically AND for the most part speaks a different native language. (You just have to hope that every government has a Dr. Banks to say, “Let's not go to war just yet. Let's make sure we and they all understand each other correctly.) And looking back on what I just wrote, it appears that I'm thinking of the film’s themes about communication in purely political (or perhaps strategic) terms, which I don't think is quite right and is almost definitely me bringing my own baggage into it. Hubert: Right now, political baggage is personal baggage, so I think that political read of the film is warranted. The movie even braids global conflict with Louise’s unavoidable personal tragedy. I’m sure we’ll talk about the implications of time and fate in the film eventually, but on the note of unavoidable things, our president-elect is sorely lacking in patience and language skills. With patience and empathy comes nuance and mutual understanding. And like you said, you need room for there to be nuance, whether it’s to find the context of “weapon” or to understand why a gesture can be taken as an insult or provocation by another culture. That takes more than 140 characters. Meaningful language is generally not found on bumper stickers or baseball caps. What a weird time to be alive. Since science fiction can reflect societal fears, I wonder what other types of science fiction movies we might be seeing in the coming years as the world faces this wave of nationalism, isolationism, bigotry, and uncertainty. I think the appeal of authoritarianism in general is that it ignores nuance and complexity and reduces the world into manichean problems with simple answers and plenty of convenient scapegoats. In some ways, we’ve never really left the world-on-the-brink feeling of Children of Men. We’re just getting closer to the film (well, except babies are still getting made). So much anxiety about potential global conflicts. Maybe we’re going to go through that Cold War/Atomic Age cycle of sci-fi. There’s this old theory about science fiction movies that’s pretty interesting. I can’t remember who first said it or if it’s necessarily true, but it goes like this: If the aliens come to Earth and want to harm us, the film’s politics are conservative; if the aliens come to Earth and they don't want to hurt us, the film’s politics are liberal. Arrival’s firmly in the latter camp, especially if it’s stressing a form of patient diplomacy to fight humanity’s innate tribalism and nativism. I guess there’s a sadness bundled up in all this since so much of the real world wants to shut off communication and take care of its own affairs. That’s a bumper sticker or baseball cap answer to problems. By contrast, Arrival is a type of humane and life-affirming wish fulfillment, a Star Trek-esque utopianism. (As an aside, three movies that Arrival reminded of: The Day the Earth Stood Still, Day of the Dead, and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.) [Check back tomorrow for Part 2!]
Arrival Discussion Part 1 photo
Premonitions, Politics, Aliens (Oh my!)
If you haven't seen Arrival yet, you should do so immediately. Not just because this thing right here spoils the hell out of the movie and won't really make any sense if you haven't seen it; see it because it's a genuinely fa...

Herschell Lewis photo
On a personal note...
You've probably already heard the news about Herschell Lewis since we just told you, but a great deal of you may not have that close a connection to the director. His films have often been lost to history unless your a specif...

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

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

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

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

Power Rangers, reboots, and you

May 10 // Nick Valdez
We are currently in the midst of a 90s nostalgia boom. Just as the last decade was obsessed with capturing the vibe of the 80s, the 2010s have seen an increase in 90s pop culture revivals. Because "90s kids" like myself have grown into a subculture with true buying power, cinema is trying its best to cater to that market. Which means properties you used to love as a kid now have a chance of coming back. I'm sure you've seen some of the fruits of nostalgia lately: a new Powerpuff Girls series, Samurai Jack returning to Cartoon Network, Hey Arnold returning to Nickelodeon for a TV movie, Space Jam finally getting that sequel, Gilmore Girls' new season, Fuller House and Netflix's upcoming slate in general. It has gotten so ridiculous there is even talk of more Star Kid, Cruel Intentions and The Craft. If you saw it on VHS as a kid, there's probably a new version of it in the works.  Given the reboot crazy nature of cinema at the moment, it was only a matter of time before Power Rangers would get the film treatment as well. As a property, it's a film company's dream. It's going to be expensive, but Power Rangers has a rabid (and largely untapped) fan base, name recognition, and more importantly, toy sales. Saban has a history of focusing on toys more than everything else given much of their production is reliant on Toei, the Japanese parent company owner of the footage Saban uses in the show. From the beginning, any original idea Saban came up with was influenced by toy sales. The original Mighty Morphin ran for as long as it did (combining footage from two different Super Sentai series) because it was still a money-making juggernaut. For the first few seasons, they kept the suits but changed most everything else.  Completely American additions such as Lord Zedd, the Tenga Warriors, Rito Repulsa, the shark cycles, the few times the Ninja Megazord combined with the first season zord Titanus, the weird sparkle suit power up, and even as far as keeping Jason David Frank on as the Green, and later White, Ranger despite the sixth ranger being written out of the series early on were all a result of toy sales. This mentality followed the series through its entirety due to the superhero boom. Power Rangers has always competed with some sort of superhero material, and it has only gotten more egregious thanks to Marvel essentially dominating shelves. Thus Saban and toy maker Bandai have gotten used to changing designs in order to compensate. Back when Saban re-acquired the Power Rangers license in 2011 and released Power Rangers Samurai, they tacked on original, "mega" armors each episode in order to not seem plain compared to the numerous Avengers toys littering the shelves.   With the toy first mentality in mind, it is time to discuss the issue at hand. A few days ago, Entertainment Weekly revealed how Saban/Lionsgate's Power Rangers will look and it didn't exactly light the world on fire. The fans seemed divided between "Oh man, this is the mature Power Rangers I've always wanted" and "They're all Iron Man." Unfortunately, everyone is kind of right in this situation. Given the design, the upcoming reboot will most likely be a little darker. Hopefully not so dark as to scare kids away or fill it with subjects that will fly over their heads, but it is definitely not being made with kids in mind. Given the sultrier design of Rita Repulsa (thus taking the meaning out of her name) and the Rangers themselves, coupled with the tone of the images released thus far, I'm not expecting anyone in this movie to say "morphinomenal" or indulge in any of the goofiness the series made itself known for.  The film is wholly an American creation, and thus cannot rely on the popularity of a currently running series like the first movie did, resulting in the "Iron Man" suit design. Expect a line of light up chest figures or maybe the red, blue, and black rangers in a set in the same aisle as next year's Marvel films. That's also why these rangers and zords, look alien and Transformer-esque. Saban is merely reflecting what is popular now, just as they did back when the first movie released. Although these designs are reminiscent of the original movie's suits, they lose what makes the property distinct. As production chases current pop culture and design, it further digs itself into a hole. Power Rangers is trying so hard to stand out among the rest of the toys, it is doing the exact opposite.  If the merchandise does not catch kids' attention, it's pretty much a death sentence. The first film may make enough money to warrant a sequel (due to folks appeasing a curiosity), but without the toy sales and child audience that keeps the TV show afloat, franchise potential will stagnate. That's why it is so important to keep the light and airy feel of the show intact. If you make the property more "grounded" or "mature" in order to appeal to the rose colored glasses of fans my age, it will lose the goofy stuff which made it fun to re-enact at playtime. One of my favorite memories is playing with the Power Morpher and Blaster as a kid and pretending I was cool enough to be a "teenager with attitude." It was because everything was so brightly colored, and admittedly stupid, my parents didn't mind that I was actually watching a show with a lot of violence. Blood replaced by sparks, the kung-fu lite fight choreography with guys in suits was deemed "TV-Y7," and the people therein were talented and attractive enough to draw attention. But that is not the path the reboot is headed in. Instead it is already closing itself off.  At its core, Power Rangers has always been about equal opportunity power and this was reflected at playtime. Although the first American team featured two women in conventionally feminine colors like pink and yellow, it was a response to the lack of women in the Japanese version of the show, Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger. Realizing they wanted more girls to buy the toys, Saban cast a woman for the male yellow and the footage went on just fine. It was a show breaking ground in more ways than one with multi-cultured teams and a strong foundation of teamwork and gender equality. The first season may be filled with weak plots and PSAs a la Captain Planet, but as they got their footing things improved. As the show evolved over the years, it was also better to its women. Character development improved, they wore more masculine colors, and more toys depicting these women were made. The Japanese design of the suits themselves also became more minimalist to reflect the changing times. The only way to really tell them apart was a skirt sometimes. In the reboot, the suits are definitely not appealing to little girls. The reboot design may take on the tightness of the original spandex (replaced by the alien technology the reboot is pushing), but they're far too detailed. The boob plates and heels are definitely un-nerving and little girls are way smarter than that. Since the pink and yellow rangers look so feminine, it's going to mean boys won't be further encouraged to buy them. Rather than the collect them all frenzy of the original Rangers, boys are only going to want those rangers specifically marketed with them in mind. If the pink and yellow Power Ranger figures don't sell, they will be produced less and will even get less character development as a result. Since this trend has a precedent in the way the TV show has been marketed, it only worries me more so. When Power Rangers Super Megaforce, the series touted as a 20th Anniversary celebration, released, Bandai produced a line of "Legendary Ranger" keys. In the show, these keys were used to transform into any of the heroes from years past and were definitely a money-making idea. But each set released only featured the red, blue, and black rangers from each team and neglected to include the women. Even their current running series, Dino Charge, has a weird production ratio. For every five red, blue, and black rangers, there are only one or two pink ones. While this show has been better at capturing the feeling of nostalgia than the reboot likely will be, only two of the series's ten Power Rangers are women. Despite the gender swap casting it has done in the past, Saban refuses to do so again because they have dug themselves into such a non-inclusive hole the only safe way to make money is to double down on what little masculine audience they have left.  I really want the reboot to succeed, but seeing Saban make the same mistakes on a larger scale is troublesome. In trying to put its best foot forward among the litany of comic book films and other nostalgia ridden properties, it is merely becoming a carbon copy of those that came before. Instead of doubling down on a troubling methodology, the production should double down on what really helped the original series succeed for as long as it did. After losing the rights to Disney, and only getting them back five years ago, Saban has never quite reached the same levels it used to.  The TV series had bad writing or acting at times, but Power Rangers managed to capture the zeitgeist of living in the 90s. It truly understood what growing up at the time meant. It meant obnoxious colors and sayings coupled with even more obnoxious styles. Part of what dates it also makes it that much more relevant. True nostalgia is all about recapturing the feeling of those halcyon days of youth. We have enough cinema making a statement or delving into gritty themes (just take a look at what are supposed to be the most comic booky films of the year, Captain America: Civil War or Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), but we don't have enough films where teens just beat up monsters while making forced puns. I mean, the reboot is so serious it doesn't even carry the Mighty Morphin' moniker.  As it stands, the Power Rangers reboot won't appeal to anyone. Not even adding the original show's theme to a trailer will save it. 
MMPR Reboot photo
Reboots with a negative attitude
I love Power Rangers. When I say love, I mean I have been following the show for twenty-two years. Every awkward season, every bad theme song (Operation Overdrive has a rap, if you were wondering which one was the worst), eve...

Who's the best on screen Superman?

Mar 23 // Nick Valdez
Bud Collyer (New Adventures of Superman and several radio specials) Though the only experience I have with Paramount's 1940s serials are the few I found on a budget DVD a few years back, Bud Collyer will most likely go down as the actor with the longest Superman tenure. Starring in those serials as well as over 2000 radio specials from 1940 to 1951, Collyer was the de facto Superman to an entire generation. He also set a lot of guidelines for future Supermen too such as adopting a lower octave when speaking as Superman.  Kirk Alyn (Superman 1948) Collyer might've been the first Superman in media, but Kirk Alyn was the first live action one. His brief stint (only starring in two serials, Superman and Atom Man vs. Superman) isn't well remembered thanks to how badly it's aged, but there's something charming about Alyn's positively charged performance. He took those budgetary and technological limits with a smile.  George Reeves (Superman and the Mole Men) George Reeves began the ever important focus shift to Clark Kent, thus granting Superman more longevity in media. His Superman take wasn't bad, but his Clark Kent made his stint memorable. Bringing a charm and intelligence to the role that wasn't captured yet, writers began focusing more and more on Supes' secret identity life. In fact, Reeves' stint as the hero was more Kent focused than anything.  Danny Dark (Super Friends) Despite all of its cheese, and all of the jokes fans make now, Super Friends was my first introduction to superheroes. Caught it at five in the morning along with Hanna Barbara reruns of Scooby Doo and Johnny Quest. The only unfortunate thing about Superman's role in Super Friends was that it was pretty unremarkable. I remember the Legion of Doom making more of an impact on this show. Super Friends' version of Superman had almost no defining characteristics.  Christopher Reeve (Superman-Superman IV: The Quest for Peace) Then, in 1978, everything changed. Suddenly, superhero fiction seemed like it could work on film. Arguably the most well known and favored actor to take on the role, Christopher Reeve defined Superman for a generation of moviegoers. Combining George Reeves' Clark Kent mannerisms and Kirk Alyn's positivity, Reeve was the first Superman (and only one for a while) that felt absolutely sincere. Also, the man was 6'4 and 225 pounds. Doesn't get more "super" than that.  Tim Daly/George Newbern (Superman: The Animated Series/Justice League) While Super Friends was the first superhero show I've ever watched, Superman: The Animated Series quickly became a new favorite. Before Bruce Timm's unprecedented animation domination (crafting a huge DC comics animated universe), Superman served as the lighter tone alternative to Batman: The Animated Series. Tim Daly and George Newbern essentially deserve the same amount of credit (as Newbern took over once Superman ceased to have a solo series) as both their takes saw Superman through his most faithful comic stories to date. Adaptations of "For the Man Who Haves Everything," "What Ever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?," and introducing long time comic book villains like Brainiac and Darkseid to the mix.  Dean Cain (Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman) Ah, poor Dean Cain. He really never bounced back after this (while his co-star Teri Hatcher did just fine with Desperate Housewives) because while he tried his best to do both Clark Kent and Superman justice, fans didn't quite gel with the show's focus on relationship struggles. There is some surprising nuance to be found with Cain's performance during the first season as Kal-El wants Lois to love him for him and not his powers, but the show later squandered all of that promise. And then equally squandered Dean Cain and doomed him to obscurity. Tom Welling (Smallville) Smallville was a weird, weird series. Its formula serving as the prototype shows like Arrow and The Flash would adopt later, Tom Welling portrayed a young Clark slowly discovering his powers and becoming the Superman we all know and love...except he didn't actually become Superman until the final episode. Full of weird things like the not-Justice League and not-Lex Luthor (who was actually the best Luthor and The Flash WB and DC have ever had), but Welling held it all together. It wasn't a perfect series by any means, but Welling managed to keep our attention for ten seasons. That's pretty super.  Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) I loved, loved Superman Returns. Brandon Routh was absolutely charming (and that charm keeps his TV career alive to this day), but his downfall ultimately was cinema's changing tone overall. Although it paid tribute to Richard Donner's earlier Superman films and Routh captured what made Christopher Reeve's performance so special, fans were over it. The "lack" of superhero action in a post-Batman Begins world was the final nail in the coffin. It was too bright of a film to succeed.  Roger Rose (Batman: The Brave and the Bold) Okay, so my favorite Superman comics were always the ones where Superman acted like a total jerk. Like when red kryptonite turned Superman into a tyrant ruling the Earth, or when Mr. Mxyzptlk makes him act wrongo, or that time he tries to un-adopt Jimmy Olsen by acting like such an asshole that Jimmy quits out of being his son. One episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold (possibly the best Batman animated incarnation) combines all of that Superman weirdness into an episode where Superman (played by Roger Rose) ends up fighting Batman. So not only does it pay tribute to both heroes' Silver Age stories, but also combines a bit from The Dark Knight Returns. It's seamless, silly, and probably my personal favorite incarnation of Superman to date.  Henry Cavill (Man of Steel) It may be still too early to tell on which end of the super spectrum Henry Cavill is going to end up, but I'm hoping it'll be positive. Cavill nails the look, but doesn't have the presence. I'm a bit worried for WB's future universe since Cavill can't seem to act even opposite of huge talents like Amy Adams and Michael Shannon. But his darker, and more mature, take on Superman may bring the hero to places we've never seen. But who knows what the future holds. Who's the best Superman? Oh, let's just say...Moe. Who do you think makes the best on screen Superman? 
Superman bein' Superman photo
The most super of the supermen
With Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice just a few days away and fulfills a dream I've had since I was a kid, I figured it was a good time to celebrate Superman's long history on film. But just simply recounting actors that h...

Netflix Five: Under-the-radar horror films

Feb 09 // Sean Walsh
[embed]220351:42826:0[/embed] The Veil (2016)Director: Phil JoanouRating: 3/5 From the director of the totally excellent Punisher: Dirty Laundry fan film with a script by Robert Ben Garant of Reno 911 fame, The Veil features Jessica Alba, Tom Jane, and American Horror Story alum Lily Rabe. The film tells the story of the lone survivor of the group suicide of a cult known as Heaven's Veil (Rabe) led Jim Jones Jacobs (Jane). A young woman (Alba) and her film crew convince Rabe's character to return to the scene of the suicide and help them find footage that was shot at the compound but never found. Shocking nobody, things get spooky and bodies start piling up fairly quickly. The Veil wasn't anything special, but it was okay. Tom Jane's charasmatic cult leader was well-acted and certainly the best performance in the film, similar to Michael Parks' role in Red State. Alba's character feels awfully underdeveloped and Rabe is there to more or less help move the plot along. One saving grace was that the filmmakers made the smart decision of not making The Veil a found footage film (which it was originally going to be!) , despite the importance placed on film footage and even the usage of footage to help tell the story. While it isn't groundbreaking by any stretch, had they made it into a found footage film it would be just another addition to a sea of mediocre films. Bottom line: you can certainly do worse than The Veil. [embed]220351:42827:0[/embed] Kristy (2013)Director: Oliver BlackburnRating: 4/5 Most home invasion thrillers usually take place at, well, homes, so the fact that Kristy took place on a college campus was a refreshing change of pace. The plot is as simple as they come: a girl stays on campus over Thanksgiving break and finds herself terrorized by three people in hoodies and masks that keep calling her 'Kristy' (her name is Justine). See? Simple. The trope of 'victim fights back' is as old as they come, but it's especially effective in this film. Once things get going, which blissfully doesn't take all that long, they move at a fast pace all the way up to the end. The simplicity and execution of Kristy offsets the edgy social media motivations of the killers, who really didn't need any explanation beyond their rants about 'Kristy.' The three masked intruders in The Strangers had zero backstory and it was far more effective that way. That said, Kristy is an excellent addition to the home invasion genre.  [embed]220351:42828:0[/embed] Butcher Boys (2012)Director: Duane Graves Rating: N/A (didn't finish) A girl and her friends end up on the wrong side of the tracks and in the sights of a group of bad boy leather jacket cannibals. Yeehaw. I got about halfway into Butcher Boys before giving up the ghost and moving on to pulling out my brains like the Egyptians did during mummification, as it was considerably more preferable than continuing this film. The big problem is that instead of taking characters akin to Leatherface and his family out of the country and into an urban setting, we get a bunch of uninteresting bad boys with a taste for flesh. I recently read Shane McKenzie's Muerte Con Carne and standing next to that, Butcher Boys was bland and boring. If I had to give what I watched a rating, it would be echh/5. [embed]220351:42830:0[/embed] Contracted (2013)Director: Eric EnglandRating: 5/5  Contracted is a cautionary tale about going to parties and drinking too much like Requiem for a Dream is one to doing hard drugs. Poor Samantha drinks too much at a party to forget about her ex-girlfriend and is date raped. What Samantha passes off as a hangover proves to be far more grave and in the days that follow the party, she finds herself having contracted (do you see what I did there?) a very, very heinous case of the STD blues. This film is not for the weak of heart as it is essentially a grotesque variant of torture porn as we spend the admittedly short run time (clocking in at a paltry 78 minutes) watching Samantha fall apart. The effects are spectacular, gross enough to give Tom Savini pause, and they really make it apparent that Sam is really not in for a good time. Ultimately, Contracted feels like the first in what could easily be a trilogy (and with a second installment out, it certainly seems likely), showing us at length the prologue to an epidemic, something that usually only takes up a small piece of a single film. After having watched both Contracted and its sequel, I am certainly excited to see where they take it next. [embed]220351:42829:0[/embed] Frankenstein's Army (2013)Director: Richard Raaphorst Rating: 5/5  As I touched on above, found footage films can be really hit or miss. Fortunately for me, as I was incredibly hungry to see this film based on the DVD art alone, Frankenstein's Army was awesome. Frankenstein's Army has another fairly simple premise: during World War II, some Russian soldiers respond to a distress call in Germany and find themselves neck-deep in Silent Hill body horror insanity with little to no hope of escape. While the movie may not be the Citizen Kane of the horror genre, the designs of the titular 'army' alone would've gotten this a 5/5 with me. The monsters are absolutely horrific and unlike anything I've seen in live-action movies. I don't want to even try to describe them, lest I ruin the surprise as each one rears its ugly head. My only problem with this film is the fact that the footage looks like it was shot with a modern video camera as opposed to something that would've been used during WWII. Considering how awesome the monsters looked, I can't imagine it would've been too hard for editors to age the film so make it look era-appropriate. Despite that one issue, Frankenstein's Army is up there with The Children and Event Horizon in my personal favorite horror films. 
Netflix 5: horror films photo
Give new meaning to "Netflix and chill"
Netflix Five is a quick and dirty look at five films or shows that we've watched and want to either recommend or condemn for our readers to help make their trip through the instant queue a little less overwhelming. Not every ...

Nick's Top 15 Movies of 2015

Feb 08 // Nick Valdez
30-16: Tangerine, The Voices, Everly, Welcome to Me, Predestination, Turbo Kid, It Follows, The Good Dinosaur, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, True Story, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Inside Out, Trainwreck, Sicario, Sleeping With Other People 15. The Intern You can argue that Robert DeNiro's name doesn't have the same amount of drawing power that it used to. What was once a name synonymous with fantastic work is now a name for someone who seemingly accepts whatever project gets put on his desk. The Intern at first glance seemed like yet another cash in for DeNiro, but instead holds a surprising amount of depth within. It has one of the best screenplays of the year with a nuanced platonic relationship between its two leads, layers of depth to DeNiro's character that's only really hinted at (he cries at one point, and it's wonderfully mysterious and never talked about), and it's just unique. It's a story that's been kind of done before, but not in this fashion. A breath of fresh air from everyone involved.  14. The Martian The Martian checks all the boxes of a standard crowd pleaser. It's based off a best selling book, Ridley Scott is director, it's got a great cast, and it allows Matt Damon to charm us for two hours straight. I would've preferred a greater sense of his isolation (that's why it's not higher on this list), but I do like what we've gotten instead. Charming performances made all that science easily digestible, and it was just a good time. There were very few films last year with honest to goodness "happy endings," so this stood out all the more.  13. Ex Machina In this ever advancing technological age, philosophers and scientists alike question the nature of artificial intelligence. If technology ever advances to the point where we can create and shape sentient beings, how much of that artificial nature is truly man-made? Films like Blade Runner and even Terminator have explored this theme before, but the question has never been posited better than it was in Ex Machina. With enthralling performances (and the one Alicia Vikander should've really been nominated for), Ex Machina is an intimate exploration of inanimate things. Also, Oscar Isaac's disturbing yet erotic dance number is one for the record books.  12. Spotlight I'm usually skeptic of films based on true events. Something always gets lost in translation and muddies up the final product. Spotlight has zero of these issues. As its title suggests, Spotlight is laser focused in its premise and what it wants to get across. Driven entirely through dialogue and excellent camera work as its docu-drama presentation invokes a sense of urgency as the deadline to story break gets closer and closer. Intense, gorgeous, and full of sleights that can definitely be ignored if you don't pay attention. It's gripping from beginning to end.  11. The Final Girls There's been a rise in meta-narrative films over the last few years. Thanks to the "ironic" nature of millenial pop culture, it's become popular to break film genres down into their cynical core components and ridicule them. I expected the same with The Final Girls. When I found out the film was about a few kids getting trapped in a horror film, I figured I was in for the same kind of "let's avoid stupid horror mistakes" that films like Cabin in the Woods and Tucker and Dale vs. Evil perfected years before. Instead, the film delivered a sincere and heartbreaking story of dealing with the loss of a loved one. And of course, it's also pretty funny.  10. The Hateful Eight You know what you're getting with Quentin Tarantino. Both an auteur and a gore junkie, Tarantino's films all have a distinct style and flair. You also know the film's probably going to be great. It's not higher on this list thanks to his usual trappings (I wish he didn't resort to violence for every finale now), but it earns its place by being a technical marvel. I didn't get to see it in 70MM, but what I did see was absolutely gorgeous. And it's a film entirely focused on the dialogue that's made him famous. The Hateful Eight has some masterful tonal work and I had no idea whether I should laugh or cringe. It spends its run time messing with your expectations, and by the time the end rolled around, I had no idea I sat there for three hours.  9. Straight Outta Compton Biopics are rarely done well. Either they get the facts wrong, or they focus on the wrong period of time, or they just aren't interesting enough of a subject to work. While Straight Outta Compton definitely has some of those pitfalls, it's the most entertaining biopic I've ever seen. Encapsulating a time period, a rap group, and a cultural movement all into one nearly seamless package is a filmmaking marvel. It's also got a litany of fantastic performances from actors who I hope go on to do great things. I can't wait to see what the main trio of O'Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, and Jason Mitchell do next.  8. Cartel Land Honestly, I was torn between Cartel Land and Sicario. Both tackle the seedy underbelly of the cartel world, but only one gets into its real gritty nature. As Cartel Land shines a light on a shadow world that's so often ignored, it also teaches people cultures they probably don't understand. Sure worshiping gang leaders through narcocorridos and legends seems weird at first, but when you understand how intense of a fear a society can be put through, you'll realize how people can try to find the positive within the negative. It's frightening how Cartel Land numbs you to the pain within its short time span and even more so when it restates how very real it all is.  7. Felt As the general glut of popular cinema fights to become more diverse, no film challenged the state of the industry more head on than Felt. With popular TV and film culture becoming more enamored with sexual aggression and violence in order to get attention, Felt reminds us of our follies. Cranking up the film's intimacy to an almost intimidating degree, the viewer and subject are caught in a constant battle of agency. Diverting your gaze will only succumb you to aggression while falling into the film's visuals is further stealing its main character's power within. Featuring a magnetic performance from Amy Everson, who only worked on the film as an art project, Felt was one of the most enlightening experiences I had last year.  6. Anomalisa I always look forward to animated films every year. Animation can do things we could never hope to do with normal cinematography, so I always wonder what surprises are in store. I had no idea that 2015 would bring me an animated film that changed how I looked at myself. Anomalisa at surface level is about a man bored with life who meets someone who changes his life for a moment. But there's so much going on underneath. An exploration of a self-centered ego, the use of stagnancy to enhance the awkwardness of the entire situation, and having only three cast members fill an entire world full of people is just sublime. That's really the only word I can use to describe Anomalisa.  5. Mad Max: Fury Road Who would've guessed that a Mad Max sequel decades in the making only to be stuck in development hell for four years would go on to be one of the best films of the year? Mad Max: Fury Road is so good, you can really only use buzzwords to capture its magic. Every cheesy and overplayed adjective absolutely means something here. "Gorgeous"? I've never seen a desert look better? "Action packed"? The film is a two hour chase scene. "Gripping"? Absolutely. All while putting the focus on the badass Furiosa and her army of equally as badass women. I hope it's not another hundred years before we get the next Mad Max.  4. Room Isolation films always do a number on me. One of my greatest fears is to be stuck into some kind of solitude, so films of that kind always hit me harder than usual. But Room isn't like every other isolation film. Rather than wallow in the peril of the moment itself, the characters are always looking outward. This comes through especially in its two leads as Brie Larson portrays a woman with a damaged underbelly and its young lead, Jacob Trembley, keeping up with her every step of the way. He turns in the best child performance I've seen in some time. Room is dark, highly emotional, and incredibly uncomfortable. Yet, I couldn't look away.  3. What We Do in the Shadows A lot of my favorite films last year were smaller releases. None smaller perhaps than What We Do in the Shadows, a quiet "blink and you'll miss it" release that I ended up watching four times. It's been a long time since I watched a film and instantly re-watched it right after, and I'm happy this was in my life. Packed to the brim with jokes (so packed you'll need a re-watch to catch them all), fine tuned comedic performances, and a well realized world (I can't wait for that werewolves movie), What We Do in the Shadows is a brilliant time. I want to quote it endlessly here, but I'll limit myself to my favorite: "If you are going to eat a sandwich, you would just enjoy it more if you knew no one had fucked it." 2. Dope As 2015 saw an increase in diverse storytelling (though I hope 2016 improves even more), Dope was a story as diverse as they come. Following a unique protagonist caught in a story we've only seen a few times but told in a fresh way, the film was entertaining from beginning to end. Plenty of films try so hard to catch the "youth" culture, but watching Dope seamlessly blend new visuals with nostalgic music and themes was astounding. It was just great to see a real underdog win for once. All in all, Dope was well...dope.  1. Creed No matter how many films I watched before and after this, I still can't get Creed out of my head. In fact, even as I jot this down I'm reminded of how fantastically it nails everything. It's a reboot, yet an epilogue to another story. It's a sequel, yet can stand all on its own. It's reminiscent of the past, yet never feels like a retread. Creed managed to capture the same vibe as the original Rocky saga, reminded you how great of a big dumb lug Rocky Balboa was (and how emotionally present Stallone could be given something he really cares about), was culturally relevant as it really should be used as the spearhead of a new cinematic movement, and is ultimately a technical marvel as it changed the way boxing films should be shot forever. Creed was my favorite film of 2015 and could very well go on to be my favorite of the decade. 
Top 15 of 15 photo
2015 certainly was something
2015 was a crazy year for a lot of us here at Flixist. There were some major changes inside and out. On my end, I moved across the country and have been getting into new digs for the past ten months. I'm loving my new life ri...

Could we get a great videogame film in 2016?

Jan 19 // Nick Valdez
[embed]220299:42779:0[/embed] Before I get into the brunt of this, it's better to explain where I'm coming from. Any film critic worth their mettle doesn't form a complete opinion until they've seen a film in its entirety. We might have some early impressions going in, but we usually like to have an open mind each time we sit down to watch something. Not a single one of us wants to dislike a film, and that mentality is hard to wrap my head around. If a critic wanted to dislike every film they watched, they why even have the job? I'm lucky enough that folks want to read my opinions from time to time, and I figure no one would come to me if I immediately dismissed everything outright. I bring all of this up because last year I reviewed two big videogame films: Hitman Agent 47 and Pixels.  My time with the films ended up on the lesser side of decent, but the films were apparently terrible according to the rest of the Internet. There was an incredibly pervasive idea through the general comments that these films were automatically terrible because videogame movies as a whole have been less than stable. I understand. It's a fandom that's been burned too many times before. It's the same fandom that went and saw Super Mario Bros, rented The House of the Dead one weekend, caught Tekken on TV for some reason, and remembers how great Mortal Kombat was before being annihilated by Annihilation. But that side of the web needs to remember that comic book fans were in that exact same boat not too long ago. Before comic book films were treated as a serious way to make money, we got two bad Superman films, a bad Hulk, and about a million Batman films. Now they're all over the place and studios are hugely banking on their success. We've gotten so many that even a property like Deadpool, featuring a super killer with fourth wall breaking jokes, is getting a film version. Videogames are on this path too.  [embed]220299:42780:0[/embed] But what's the key to a great videogame film? It's essentially the same thing that helped comic book films take off. Videogames lack the sorely needed legitimacy needed to grab the general public's attention. Hollywood films really only care about money, so they'll do everything they can to get someone interested in their film. That means they'll attach big name actors and even bigger directors, so that means you'll see people like Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Amy Adams and even directors like the Russo brothers working in superhero stuff. Cinema is obsessed with credible legacies through work, and videogame films are finally headed that route. What's essentially the biggest videogame film of 2016, Assassin's Creed, stars Michael Fassbender alongside the likes of Marion Cotillard, Michael K. Williams, and Jeremy Irons and is directed by the same man who did Macbeth, a well received film last year. Then you've got the Warcraft film, which looks to be a massive undertaking (even if first impressions weren't great), directed by Duncan Jones, who once directed Moon, the best science fiction film in years. So the short of what I'm trying to say here is that things are finally looking up.  Videogame films aren't doomed to fail or anything like that. In fact, there have been some legitimately good or entertaining ones. It's just they've never crossed that threshold into "great" territory. But they'll never truly be appreciated at the same level other genre films are unless we work to remove the stigma around them. It took decades to remove the nerdy stigma from comic book properties, and it's going to take even longer to do the same for videogames. If you respect that medium, then don't outright dismiss films spawned from its properties. We're going to get a lot of them, like it or not, so it's better not to fight each one. The more you dismiss, the more you add to the general stigma of videogame films belonging to a certain niche that no one really wants to be a part of. No one wants to identify as a "gamer" thanks to the now toxic culture surrounding it, and that's carried over to the film side of things.  [embed]220299:42781:0[/embed] I'm just saying there's hope for videogame cinema as long as you want it. There's so much potential for greatness even the throwaway films have some pedigree (Ratchet and Clank, while generic looking film wise, is handled by its parent company and The Angry Birds Movie, while maybe a cheap cash in, is stacked with great comedic actors). And there's definitely room in theaters for a great videogame film. As comics continue to overflow in theaters, folks will be looking for something slightly different. Oh, so there's a movie based on a game they once played? Hey that might be a great idea! Could 2016 be the year we finally get a great videogame film? Maybe. The odds are certainly better for sure. Talk to me again at the end of the year and we'll see how wrong or right I am. Until then, I'll just keep watching Mortal Kombat and Prince of Persia. 
Videogamesssss photo
Short answer...maybe?
There are tons of films based on videogames. Straight adaptations, wild derailings, films about people playing videogames, films made to advertise videogames, documentaries, films where videogames cross into the real world, f...

We get it, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, you exist

Dec 11 // Nick Valdez
[embed]220201:42731:0[/embed] I was talking to my mom a few days ago, and she couldn't stop talking about how much she wanted to see The Force Awakens. She's a fan of the series, sure, but I never really heard her talk about it much. We didn't own the films growing up, and there wasn't a big hooplah when the prequels launched (or enough to make young me take notice, at least) so it seemed odd that she suddenly started bringing up the latest film in the series. On top of that, she was telling me that my dad wanted to see it ever since he caught one of the many, many TV spots. But what's going on? This latest sequel has done everything right so far. It's shown as little as it can to pique our interests enough, it's bringing back old stars in order to draw in an older demographic (like my mother and father, and full of marginalized sexes and races in order to better represent the rest of the world. So why is there still a need to get people to see it? It might be that Star Wars is still trapped within the stigma it always was.  When the Golden Globes were announced the other day, I noticed a weird subset of fans complaining that Star Wars was getting ignored. Unfortunately for that mass, the complaint had no legs since the film wasn't screened for critics and award consideration anyway. But even if it had, there's a good chance it would've been ignored in favor of other films that are more in line with the award selections anyway. Regardless of the film's actual quality, there's no real chance it would've gotten any of the major awards. Maybe some stuff for visuals, sound design, or score, but the bigger stuff definitely would've gone to other things. Besides, there's good chance it'll still get recognized next year. This year's big nerd film is Mad Max: Fury Road and that's going to need all the support we can give. My point beyond the tangent being, is that Star Wars is a big science fiction film and those never get recognized. Despite what the producers are saying about not caring for recognition (as they chose to withhold the film for fear of spoilers), it's like they needed to be noticed everywhere else. Like a child refusing to get the attention of their parent, Star Wars is yelling constantly and just won't sit back and just ride the already titanic wave of anticipation.  The "Hey, look at me!" mentality is rubbing me the wrong way. I get that every company wants a small part of the Star Wars money, but it's just so so much. I hate that the advertising campaign is turning me into the kind of ranting old nerd that I despise, but it rings desperate at one point. It's this unneeded desperation (it's already broken presale ticket records) that's pushing me away. For a time I entertained the thought of going to see the film opening weekend just to be part of the conversation, but now I don't really care. Remember the second full trailer? I wrote the post on it claiming I'd avoid it for fear of spoilers, but literally two second after the trailer premiered, the internet was littered with images. While I still am worried about having the film spoiled, I feel like I've been so entrenched in this film I honestly don't give a damn anymore.  [embed]220201:42732:0[/embed] But who cares what I have to say. I'm a single, nerdy voice in a mass of loud yelling. They're not going to need my ticket money. No one will care what I have to say or what I do as they drink from their Star Wars cups and eat their Star Wars shaped macaroni and cheese. And hell, even as I write this, I'm ironically bringing attention to the film yet again. There's just no way to stop the behemoth. It's a beast that's bringing about the end.  It's, well, awakened. 
The Force Awakens photo
"For behold, the Lord will come in fire"
It's everywhere. Trailers before each YouTube video, spots during each TV commercial, phone screens, videogames, books, toys, our food, our cars, our appliances, our public transit, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, our c...

FlixList: The Ten Worst Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror Stories

Oct 30 // Nick Valdez
Dis-Honorable Mentions: Wanted: Dead, Then Alive, Heck House, Oh the Places You'll D'Oh, Tweenlight, There's No Business Like Moe Business, Mr & Mrs. Simpson, Wiz Kids, Easy-Bake Coven, and The Fright to Creep and Scare Harms 10. Homer's Nightmare ("If I Only Had a Brain") (Treehouse of Horror II) That's right, the bad ones were actually off to an early start. In the same episode that brought us the great Lisa's Nightmare and the so-so Bart's Nightmare, we have the clunky Homer's Nightmare. In this short, Mr. Burns is attempting to create a super worker but ends up putting Homer's brain in that super worker so the end result is what you'd expect. I'll chalk this one's badness to growing pains as it was the first true sequel in the series. The show was still trying to figure out what to do with their Halloween specials and I'm sure every idea seemed viable.  9. Terror at 5 1/2 Feet (Treehouse of Horror IV)  As you'll find out later in this list, The Simspsons doesn't nail every spoof it tries. Taking on the Twilight Zone classic "Terror at 20,000 Feet," this short gives Bart a little Gremlin problem. Sure there's a good joke involving Hans Moleman, but the rest of the story is particularly rote. And in the same episode as The Devil and Homer Simpson and Bart Simpson's Dracula, it's egregious awfulness sticks out even more so. Maybe it's just an average story caught in between two particularly great ones, but that's just how the cookie crumbles. But at least it's not as bad as everything else here.  8. The Thing and I (Treehouse of Horror VII)  Okay, now we're getting into it. When Bart finds out he's got a long lost, potentially evil twin named Hugo chained up in the basement, everything falls apart both literally and figuratively. I distinctly remember realizing these weren't going to be that great anymore. The short's so haphazardly thrown together that it's obvious no one involved really cares about what's going on in it. The jokes aren't there, the premise isn't strong, and it screams laziness. Yet, it isn't the laziest story on this by far.  7. In the Na'Vi (Treehouse of Horror XXII) You know how I mentioned that The Simpsons doesn't nail all of its spoofs? This is what I was referring to. Several years after Avatar hit theaters (which made this short seem all the more depressing), Treehouse featured a terribly conceived Simpsons version with Bart in the lead role. Reading this list you're probably thinking that Bart's involvement has a lot to do with the poor quality of these stories and you'd be right for the most part. The show never really knows what to do with him outside of his normal parameters. That's why Bart's always in the background of others' stories or is paired with Lisa so the writers have someone to bounce him off of. Without that, you realize how poorly Bart's been written in the post 20s. 6.Master and Cadaver (Treehouse of Horror XXI) While the post-20 Treehouse stories have been pretty bad all around, they're more average and bland than outright terrible. But one story manages to tip over that line into a story that's so bad it brings the rest of the special down. Sitting right in the middle of the pretty entertaining War and Pieces and regrettable Tweenlight, this short is based off the film Dead Calm (and guest stars Hugh Laurie) as Homer and Marge save this guy who may or may not have killed a ship full of people. In traditional Simpsons, but non-traditional Treehouse, fashion the man poised no real threat and it's all a series of explainable coincidences. It's just so darn boring. More so than season 20 era Simpsons, more so than weak Lisa episodes, I'm glad this story's so short. The reason it's not higher on the list is because it's thankfully over before it's begun.  5. Untitled Robot Parody (Treehouse of Horror XIX) So here we have the laziest Treehouse of Horror short in series history. It's so lethargic, they didn't even think to give it a name. A terribly conceived Transformers spoof that's neither funny (complete with a rote sex toy transformer joke) nor even has a reason to exist. This blurb is more attention that this short even deserves.  4. You Gotta Know When to Golem (Treehouse of Horror XVIII) Introducing a little used movie monster to the Treehouse format seems fit for a good time but, like the 1915 film it's based on, this story's stuck entirely in the past. A story with jokes rooted in dated Jewish sterotypes ever further aggravated by casting Richard Lewis and Fran Drescher as caricatures of themselves, Golem is just a bad idea that somehow made it to air. I don't even know who this short was for, but this kind of insular comedy is what deters fans from the series. Then again, thanks to bottom three stories, fans have walked away years ago.  3. Frinkenstein (Treehouse of Horror XIV) Ugh. 2. Hex and the City (Treehouse of Horror XII)  It took me years to see this one all the way through because I hated this special so much. In fact, I never saw how XII ended until about six years ago when I decided to run through a good chunk of the Treehouse specials. In Hex and the City, Homer angers a gypsy and is cursed for life (resulting in Marge's beard, Bart's long neck, and Lisa's horse legs). His response is to sick a lepraechaun on her resulting in their wholly gross union. It's entirely asinine and coupled with the episode's other bland shorts like Wiz Kids and this seemed even worse overall. It has to be the worst opening story in Treehouse history. 1. Starship Poopers (Treehouse of Horror IX)  Okay, so I've got quite the problem with Starship Poopers. First of all, it's a terrible final story for a special that wasn't bad so the nosedive is even more noticeable. Secondly, it was incredibly dated then (yes even more so than Citizen Kang, which was rooted in 90s politics) and even more so now. I mean, the short ends with an entirely too long Jerry Springer riff. By the time the short aired, Springer was already on his way out so it seemed even more desperate than I'm sure was intended. Thirdly, even after watching season 26's frustrating "The Man Who Came to be Dinner" (which brought Kang and Kodos into the series proper, rather than just feature them in the non-canon Halloween specials) this is still the worst Kang and Kodos appearance by far. There's so much more I want to say, but I just can't do it anymore. 
Treehouse of Horror photo
It was the blurst of times
You know, it's always great to reminisce about The Simpsons in their heyday but in order to truly celebrate the Halloween holiday, we need to talk about some truly horrific things: The awful Treehouse of Horror specials. Sure...

FlixList: The Ten Best Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror Stories

Oct 28 // Nick Valdez
Honorable Mentions: Desperately Xeeking Xena, Reaper Madness, Lisa's Nightmare (The Monkey's Paw), The Terror of Tiny Toon, Attack of the 50ft Eyesores, Life's a Glitch, Then You Die, The Others, Clown Without Pity 10. The Day the Earth Looked Stupid (Treehouse of Horror XVII) "Oh yeah? Why don't I punch you in the nose, bud?" "...Nosebud..." Folks may have counted out much of the later seasons, and while I'd be inclined to agree for the most part, a few good episodes always manage to go unnoticed. XVII was one of the last good Treehouse specials before they took a dive in the 20s, and it went out on a high. The show's film spoofs don't always work, but I absolutely loved this one. Maurice LaMarche put on his best Orson Welles again as the classic play ended up duping Springfield into wallowing in the dirt like animals. It doesn't make any sense, it looks great, and it's so perfectly Simpsons. Mostly because it actually nails the ending, which is something these specials always struggle with, as the episode ends with the bleak and soft The Ink Spots' "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire."  9. Send in the Clones (Treehouse of Horror XIII)  "Homer I must say, you've had the energy of twenty men lately!" "Twenty three!"  I don't what it is, but seeing a group of Homers play off each other is incredibly satisfying. A natural progression of Homer's self-deprecating humor, laziness, and superiority complex creates an army of clones that only want donuts and for Lenny to pick up the tab at Moe's ("Anything for Homers!"). This segment's also jam packed with jokes from the randomness of killing Flanders and "Paul Newman's gonna have my legs broke!," sights gags like Season One Homer and Peter Griffin, to the fact it all started because of a magic hammock. It's stupid Homer x 1000 and it turned out pretty well.  8. Homer3 (Treehouse of Horror VI) "It's like something outta that twilighty show about that zone..." VI was fantastic all around. Attack of the 50ft Eyesores and Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace were both pretty good, but I've got to hand it to the segment that blew my mind as a kid. Of course it earns its place on the list because it holds up beyond its 3D gimmick because it's pretty funny ("May I take your coat?" "Uh, can I also take your coat?"), but it's hard to gush about its visuals. CG pretty much unheard of in 1995, so the show was able to mine the relatively new technology for comedy. It may not exactly be like Tron (which no one has seen, apparently), but it's close enough. Also, the bit where Homer shows up in our world still blows my mind. I don't know how they pulled it off back then, but I'm glad they spent all of that money on an erotic cake joke.  7.  Citizen Kang (Treehouse of Horror VII) "Abortions for some, miniature American flags for all of us!"  You would hope the political jokes in Citizen Kang wouldn't ring as true 19 years later, but like most things, the Simpsons predicted a lot of things. A parody of major elections sees the Halloween special stalwarts Kang and Kodos vying for American votes with nonsensical speeches and explicit pandering (which leads to one of the best lines in series history, which I had to highlight above) it's crazy how timeless this special really is. Although the candidates are dated, you can replace them with pretty much anyone and it'll still work. So go ahead, throw your vote away! 6. The Homega Man (Treehouse of Horror VIII) "I'm the last man alive and I can do everything I've always wanted!" Treehouse segments are full of movie parodies, but one of the stories that absolutely nails it is this one. Parodying 1971's The Omega Man, which itself was adapted from Richard Matthenson's novel I Am Legend, this short stars Homer as the last man alive in Springfield after the French ("Stupid frogs.") bomb them for their remarks. After Homer enjoys the time alone, he realizes he's not truly alone and every second is so funny. There's a hidden joy in noting how long it takes Homer to realize everyone's dead. In fact I love this segment so much, I'm thinking of getting a tattoo on my arm of "the rest."  5. Night of the Dolphin (Treehouse of Horror XI) "Snorky...talk...man..." What? A segment from the double digits in the top five? Absolutely! Written by Carolyn Omine (who also wrote Halloween of Horror, which turned out to be the best Simpsons episode in seven-eight years), after Lisa frees Snorky the dolphin, Springfield finds out he's actually king of the dolphins and they want to claim the land the humans have stolen from them. On top of the great send ups to random monster horror films (think films like Black Sheep), there are plenty of laughs. Especially when the end of the story sees the town in a big fight with the dolphins before their hilarious loss. It's always in my annual rotation each year.  4. The Devil and Homer Simpson (Treehouse of Horror IV)  "Mmm...forbidden donut..." These next few stories definitely fall into the line of "classic" Simpsons episodes that folks like to reference over and over again. It's for good reason as The Devil and Homer Simpsons absolutely holds up to this day. A tight story where Homer makes a deal with the devil that manages to squeeze in a lot within its short run time. Random John Wayne gags ("I'm already up"), a great showing from Lionel Hutz, Blackbeard in a high chair, and of course, "But I'm so sweet and tasty!" 3. Dial 'Z' for Zombies (Treehouse of Horror III) "Dad, you killed the zombie Flanders!" "He was a zombie?" I feel like the only way I can fully appreciate this is by quoting it endlessly:  "To the book depository!"  "Is this the end of zombie Shakespeare?" "John Smith 1882?" "My mistake!" The zombies that plagued our town are now just corpses rotting in the streets." "Yay!" So good.  2. The Raven (The Simpsons Halloween Special/Treehouse of Horror)  "Quoth the Raven... 'Nevermore.'" The Simpsons first began their Halloween special tradition back in season two, and it made sure to leave a lasting impression. Despite the many years gone by, this short sticks with me far more than anything else. Although it's not the best one (since it's hard to give the episode total credit for its success), it's definitely the most distinct. Putting visuals (and Simpson personality thanks entirely through Dan Castellaneta's performance) to Poe's famous poem vigorously read by the magnanimous James Earl Jones, this short was actually how I was introduced to Poe's work. That's something a lot of these better stories have done too. Inspired by how much I enjoyed the parody, I often sought out the original works. That's especially true of the final entry on this list.  1. Treehouse of Horror V "This is indeed a disturbing universe." So this is a bit of a cheat considering I said that I'd limit my choices to one story per episode, but after deciding on my favorite Treehouse of Horror I couldn't really decide on my favorite of the three stories. As each special usually has a weak story or two, it's incredibly rare to have three incredibly strong segments. Couple that with a running joke of Willie getting axed in the back and you've even got a unified special to boot. From its highly quotable Shining parody, The Shinning "No TV and no beer make Homer something something." "Go crazy?" "Don't mind if I do!," to the well written Time and Punishment ("Oh I wish I wish I hadn't killed that fish." "That's right Mr. Peabody!" "Quiet you!" "What the hell are you smiling at?," and the one story that managed to give me nightmares as a kid, Nightmare Cafeteria ("Now you march into that school, look your teacher straight in the eye and say 'Don't eat me!'"). It's definitely the best Halloween special Simpsons has to offer, and suffice to say, it's also one of the best episodes of the series.  Then again, regardless of which The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror specials you decide to revisit this Halloween you'll have a good time...unless you pick one of the blurst ones. 
Treehouse of Horror photo
It was the best of times...
I've invested the greater part of my life into The Simpsons, and while there may have been more downs than ups lately, it's still consistently bringing me laughs with each offering. Most of them happen to come with their annu...

FlixList: The Ten Best Horror Films on Netflix Instant (2015 Edition)

Oct 26 // Nick Valdez
Honorable Mentions: Let the Right One In, American Mary, Children of the Corn, The Lazarus Effect, The Sacrament, the V/H/S series, Teeth, Starry Eyes, Stage Fright, Vampire in Brooklyn, Odd Thomas, We Are What We Are [embed]218490:41925:0[/embed] Tucker and Dale vs. Evil Although Tucker and Dale is more of a parody of the horror genre (as teens find themselves in precarious violent situations while the two try to save them), that doesn't mean it isn't full of the same suspense or gore you'd expect. If gruesome deaths are your horror bag, then this film's for you. If not, there are quite a lot of laughs mined from those gross moments.  [embed]218490:42673:0[/embed] The Babadook Not all horror monsters are the same. While some are in your face and some are barely noticed at all, Babadook somehow creates a truly terrifying monster without showing up at all. This magnetic thriller all takes place within a fever dream of a mother who's pushed too far and just wants to punch her annoying child in the mouth. It's not perfect, but it's too different to ignore.  [embed]218490:41928:0[/embed] All Cheerleaders Die With a name like All Cheerleaders Die, you'd be forgiven for writting off this neat little flick. It's not as overtly sexual as the name implies, and is fact a nice twist on that pulpy horror "sexy beast" gimmick. It's not until the finale kicks in that you really see what kind of horror film it is, but it's worth it.  [embed]218490:41930:0[/embed] Scream Out of all the slasher films on Netflix Instant, I'd have to pick Scream as my favorite. Maybe it's because this one stars Neve Campbell too, but it's the first film I remember utilizing the meta narrative that's exploited so much today. It was a hipster horror film before hipster horror was even a thing. A film you can ironically and un-ironically enjoy. Also let me just mention Neve Campbell one more time. So good. [embed]218490:42674:0[/embed] Monster Squad It's certainly not the best, or the funniest, or even a horror film, but I just like it so much I had to put it here. Plus Monster Squad reminds me of Space Jam because it sounds like the result of smashing the Monstars and the Tune Squad together.  [embed]218490:42675:0[/embed] A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night The most intriguing entry on this list by far, A Girl Walks is incredibly chilling. It's superbly put together with its black and white tone creating a stark eerineess that never once lets up. Despite its horror premise, it's a film that can be seen throughout the year with no problems. It's a work of art, and it's a brilliant debut from writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour. Blending new age with a sort of vintage style, yet still rotted in her Iranian culture, A Girl Walks is just something that needs to be experienced.  [embed]218490:41933:0[/embed] Battle Royale In Battle Royale, a group of Japanese schoolmates are randomly chosen each year to kill each other in order to appease the adults. Although I'm no longer at the age where this premise has a direct effect on me, it's still chilling. I guess if you're not into foreign films, just watch The Hunger Games for a lighter take on this idea. As long as the horrific themes sink in, you're golden.  [embed]218490:42676:0[/embed] Creep I love me some Mark Duplass, but I had no idea what to think when Creep was first revealed during SXSW. It's a found footage thriller where one man is hired to film Duplass' character Josef as he plans as series of events for his unborn son. But as the film progresses, you realize Josef's a bit more unhinged than he lets on (putting an ad on Craigslist should've been the tipoff, really). This film's only really horror thanks to the icky feeling you get while you watch, but isn't that just the best? [embed]218490:41931:0[/embed] Rosemary's Baby This film continues to give me nightmares to this day. Whether it's a fear of children, of women, of punishment for sexual desires, a paranoia of those around me, or the Devil itself, Baby taps into all of them and cripples me each time I see it. In fact, I'm getting goosebumps right now just thinking about it. And it's not just the horror aspects, Baby is just a damn good film. With an outstanding performance from Mia Farrow, excellent set design, and pulsing score, it's a film I'd recommend to everyone above all else.  [embed]218490:42677:0[/embed] The Guest From the awesome duo who brought you You're Next (which is on Netflix too!) comes The Guest, a film so good I couldn't stop talking about it for weeks after its release. A thriller with a killer soundtrack, great acting, a fantastic finale, and with its tongue planted firmly in cheek. Few horror films, or films in general, will bring a bigger smile to your face this season. 
Horror Films on Netflix photo
Do you like scary movies?
The tradition of watching scary movies during the Halloween season is now easier to keep up with than ever thanks to Netflix Instant. But with all the content available on the service, how do you know which ones are truly wor...

Snaxist NYCC Edition: Nestle's Star Wars Coffee-mate Creamer

Oct 09 // Nick Valdez
Since there's no point in drawing this out (because I've only got a few hours of life left), I'll give you some mini-reactions with each flavor. There are five in total, and for each flavor I drank a new cup of coffee. In order to get the most out of the creamer, I did half coffee, half creamer for each cup. At the time it seemed like a good idea to drink all of these in one sitting, but retrospection makes fools of us all. I have no idea why I did this. Was I worried they were going somewhere? I knew they'd be around all weekend, but for some awful, awful reason I felt compelled to keep drinking. It's all for you I guess.  C-3PO's Hazelnut First of all, I don't like what this flavor's insinuating. The less coming out of C-3PO, the better. Other than that, it's a very generic flavor. Not too pungent, but not too inviting either. It's just too bland to register a taste. Good thing it went first.  R2-D2's French Vanilla With how generic hazelnut turned out to be, I had no hopes for vanilla. When you think bland, you think "vanilla," so what were the chances it'd be good? Surprisingly, it's my favorite of the creamers. It's super sweet, but very tasty. It's what I needed to wash the Hazelnut out of my mouth.  Boba Fett's Italian Sweet Creme At this point, I've already had way more caffeine than I'm used to so I'm going to blame what happened here on all of that. I don't really remember this registering any of kind of flavor. I just couldn't stop laughing at how weird "Boba Fett's sweet creme" sounded when spoken aloud. I don't remember how loud I actually was, but it garnered a few worried looks. That's a memory I'll certainly carry to my early grave.  Darth Vader's Espresso Chocolate (New Limited Edition Flavor) At this point my palms were sweaty, knees weak, arms were heavy, vomit on my sweater already. I think it was mom's spaghetti. I had double vision. So much caffeine, so many random thoughts. Like do you think Vader had enough time to create this chocolate blend? You think there's an coffee based laboratory in the Empire? Is that why they blew up the Death Star? For its chocolate recipes? Either way, this was once again way too sweet. It tasted like I shoved a chocolate bar down my throat before a coffee chaser. Just hook it to my veins if you want to drown me in it. But it's the better of the two new flavors.  Chewbacca's Spiced Latte (New Limited Edition Flavor)  I'd hesitate to actually say this is a "flavor." But since I was more coffee than man at this point. I had to forge ahead. I was too far in to give up, and I one more cup wasn't going to give me double vision. Well, that's pretty much what happened. This one was the only time I physically wretched after drinking, and boy was it bad. It's got this over-confident cinnamon on the way down and hits you with something completely different in the after taste. I'd had enough. As soon as I started walking away, it's like all five cups hit me at once. I don't know how I got home, but I feel as I've come closer to death. I just, just know that's what happened. I did all for you, so come visit my grave. Then pour creamer on it. 
NYCC Snaxist photo
It's basically terrible
I'm not a huge coffee drinker. I don't drink the stuff daily, nor do I even drink it on occasion, but I've recently found that as I get older, it's harder and harder to wake up. Seeing as how I actually needed coffee for once...

The Ten Best Korean Films Streaming on Hulu (2015 Edition)

Oct 06 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
SunnyDirector: Kang Hyeong-Cheol When people ask me what my favorite Korean film is, I usually tell them Sunny. It's not necessarily true (though it might be), but I say it to gain street cred. Most people (at least in America) haven't heard of Sunny, but every Korean person I've mentioned it to has known it. A couple of them have told me I couldn't get it because I'm not Korean. I don't think that's quite fair, though I sort of understand where they're coming from. There are politics that I don't understand, but I think it's ridiculous to say that me not quite getting the context means I can't love the film for how I see it. Because even if that plays around the backdrop (or a backdrop), what matters is the human drama that plays out in the foreground. It's often hilarious, occasionally heart-breaking, but always wonderful. Sadly, the Director's Cut, which adds two scenes (one of which is arguably the most impacting in the entire film), isn't available, but even so, Sunny is a spectacular film. I fell in love with Sunny long before I saw the Director's Cut. You will too. Watch it here! MossDirector: Kang Woo-Suk  Moss was among the first Korean films I reviewed for Flixist. I wasn't quite new to Korean cinema at the time, but it was one of the catalysts for what would end up being a reasonably deep dive. It was my first introduction to actor Park Hae-Il, though, who has become one of my favorite Korean actors. He's a pretty small guy, but he more than makes up for it with an abundance of presence and talent. What I particularly enjoy about Moss is the fact that it's a film where not only was I concerned about the main character in the general "Always care about the protagonist" sense but also the "Oh shit, this guy might actually get killed by these people" sense. The intensity of it (and a history of that kind of thing in other Korean thrillers) meant that his fate wasn't all that certain. It meant that the "thriller" was particularly thrilling, and though it's a bit on the long side, it never drags. It's got you, and it keeps you right up until the end.  Watch it here! Memories of MurderDirector: Bong Joon-Ho  Here's the thing: Memories of Murder is probably the biggest item on this list, but not because I think it's the best. Everyone else thinks it's the best. This was not just Bong Joon-Ho's breakout film, but for many it was Korean cinema's breakout film. This retelling of a tragic and senseless violent act and the ensuing investigation is disturbing and intense and important in ways that I will admit to not understanding (political things again). And on those grounds alone you should watch it, and the fact that it's here is awesome. On a personal level, I think this is a far less compelling film than Bong Joon-Ho's followup, The Host. I take particular issue with the comedic aspects of the film (including a particular transition that is overtly funny to the point of being parody), because they work against an otherwise deadly serious narrative. It's an issue that plagues Korean films in general, honestly, and Bong Joon-Ho's work in particular. To be clear: I like the film quite a bit, just not quite as much as everyone else. Perhaps since it's here, I'll give it another shot. Watch it here! SilencedDirector: Gong Ji-Young In my Netflix list, I lamented the loss of Silenced from Netflix's catalog. It's a soul-crushing movie, one of those bleak looks into the evils of humanity (it's based on a true story) and the horrific things that are allowed to happen (no one was charged). To make a film about something like this requires the utmost skill and ability to navigate horrors without succumbing to them. This film could have easily turned into something truly vile, but it doesn't. It's a film that makes you angry at society, indignant about the justice system, and depressed about the future of our species. But it's also an extremely compelling drama and one that is well worth your time. Just block off a few hours afterwards. Ya know, for the sobbing. Watch it here!   Joint Security AreaDirector: Park Chan-Wook  Speaking of debuts (sort of), Park Chan-Wook's Joint Security Area is the film that put the director on the map. It may have been his third film, but JSA was the breakout movie. He would follow this up with The Vengeance Trilogy, and even though it's a very different type of film, you could see that talent in full swing. It's a fascinating film about the relationship between North and South Korea, one that is all the more poignant as tensions heat up at the border of the countries again. It's also interesting as a film that crosses cultural boundaries. It's hard to really understand what goes into the constant standoff like this (particularly for someone who wasn't around for the height of the Cold War), but the movie isn't really about that, simply using it as a backdrop for more relatable drama. The message – we're not so different, you and I – isn't the most original, but the execution is more than enough to make up for that. Watch it here! Sex is ZeroDirector:  Yoon Je-kyoon  And while we're on the topic of obscure-ish films, Sex is Zero is a film I've yet to see on other services. For a while, its sequel was available on Netflix (no longer, but it's on Hulu), but I had trouble tracking down the original. I've always found Korean romantic comedies fascinating, but the number of them available to see is always fairly low. Perhaps it's an issue of the comedy not crossing cultures (or distributors not thinking they'd cross cultures) or maybe it's something else entirely, but I see less of that than I'd like. I heard of Sex Is Zero years ago when looking up the "Best of Korean Cinema" years ago (I'm the target audience for this list, by the way) and it showed up on multiple Best Comedy lists. Is it one of the best comedies? I dunno, but it's a whole lot of fun, and the kind of thing that you should definitely check out while it's available. Watch it here! Nameless GangsterDirector: Yoon Jong-Bin  Nameless Gangster is just a great gosh darn movie. An excellent one, even. One of my favorite mob films. That's a function of a lot of things, but as always, Choi Min-sik's performance is the key thing here. Following years of the ultra-corrupt civil servant-turned gangster's life, we get to see the seedy underbelly of 1980s Korea and the role that family plays in it. Most mob movies that head this way are about the Italian mob, and obviously we know that family is a big deal there, but it seems like the blood thing runs even deeper in Korea, and that makes it a particularly interesting film to watch. The violence is intense as well, and the distinct lack of shoot-outs due to the general difficulty of procuring weapons honestly makes for far more interesting and visceral confrontations. If you're familiar with (and perhaps tired of) American mob movies, this one will serve as a breath of fresh air. Watch it here! BedevilledDirector: Jang Cheol-Soo This film sits in an odd place for me. I wrote about it at the 2011 New York Asian Film Festival. It was one of the first reviews I ever wrote. I was also fairly new to Korean cinema at the time, only having spent a couple years prior getting into it, and certainly not getting into the country's deep cuts. I gave the film a 94, which at the time was an even more significant measure of quality than the currently very-difficult-to-reach level we have now. It meant that a film had to be effectively perfect and then some. I called the film better than the Vengeance Trilogy. I think I was a little caught up in everything.  Context matters when seeing a film. I saw Bedevilled with a crowd, and that crowd was rowdy and ugly and I didn't enjoy being there with them. I was so angry at their shouting and still liking the movie quite a bit that I think I over-compensated. I loved this movie, not because it was better than the Vengeance Trilogy, but because the people who actively attempted to get in the way of my investment in the story failed. This is one of those films that I find quintessentially Korean. You're subjected to horrors, maybe you receive some catharsis, but in the end it's all meaningless. There is no victory here. Nowadays, my score would have been lower, but I still think it's a film worth seeing. Watch it here! Bleak NightDirector: Yoon Sung-Hyun  I saw Bleak Night a couple years ago. I wanted to review it. Tried to. I wrote six different introductions to the review and bits of a body, but I hated every single one. It's a hard film to talk about, because suicide is a hard topic to discuss. The name is an apt one; this film is extremely bleak, and it doesn't leave you with a whole lot of hope. But that says nothing about its quality (and it's hardly the most depressing film on this list). Films should be challenging like this, making you consider your own actions and the way you treat people. It's a film about consequences and the chain of events that could lead someone to end their life. It begins with the suicide and works its way back. You know the ending, which makes it all the more crushing to see. But as long as you go in expecting the emotional impact, you will find it more than worth your while. Watch it here! The WhistleblowerDirector: Yim Soonrye Speaking of films I saw and wanted to write about but never did, The Whistleblower is a film that I saw at the most recent New York Asian Film Festival and really, really loved. Like, it was one of my favorites at the fest, but I didn't write about it. Why? Because I didn't feel like I could do my feelings justice. Due to time and other constraints, I was forced to write mostly capsule reviews, and I refused to condense my feelings on this film into a couple hundred words. And the reason is that this film affected me less because it's a great movie (though it is) but because of the context in which I saw it. Not long before , I was internet-attacked fairly viscously for reasons too stupid to get into here. But even though my life was never actually in danger (there were some threats or at least implications of threats in there, though), much of the public smearing that the lead character undergoes while just trying to do his job resonated in a very personal way. It was the film I wanted and needed to see at that point.  You will not have that context when you see it. You'll just get an interesting thriller about an interesting historical-ish event in modern Korean history. You'll see what pride and nationalism force people to do and the struggle to combat that in the face of absolute truth. It's fascinating, and I wish I'd had time to write about it. But I got that chance here, albeit briefly. Thanks, Hulu! Watch it here!
Best Korean Movies on Hul photo
That aren't available on Netflix
Last month, we posted our list of best Korean films available on Netflix. But I made the point there that Netflix's supply has been drying up lately. Over the course of this year, the number of available films has quite liter...

Flixist's seriously stupendous Fall/Winter movie preview

Sep 28 // Matthew Razak
Crimson PeakDirector: Guillermo del ToroRelease Date: October 16, 2015Trailer  While Pacific Rim 2 may be on hold indefinitely (or it may not be stalled), fans of Guillermo del Toro at least have Crimson Peak to look forward to. Starring Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, and Jessica Chastain, the trailers and stills from the film make it look like an extremely stylish bit of Gothic horror; the sort of lush period piece we rarely see in the horror genre these days. Thankfully this is not a period found footage movie. (Though someone should consider making a short with this conceit, like a haunted Lumiere brothers movie or something.) Stephen King reportedly saw an early screening of Crimson Peak and said it was "gorgeous and just f**king terrifying." I understand this King fellow knows a bit about horror. Crimson Peak is rated R rather than PG-13, which means that so long as Del Toro keeps some of his indulgences in check, he might be delivering some of the most beautiful and mature scares of career. -- Hubert Vigilla GoosebumpsDirector: Rob LettermanRelease Date: October 16th, 2015Trailer Halloween is almost upon us—time for spookems and hobgoblins to start roaming the streets and causing some mischief while skeletons and witches dance around in the moonlight. Oooooh, spooky-scary! Okay so you’re probably a little “mature” for that version of Halloween now. In fact, you’re probably more interested in the kind of Halloween where co-ed tummies are sliced open with rusty hooks and gritty zombie survivalists roam the Earth. But we mustn’t lose touch with our childlike wonder with Halloween, and the upcoming Goosebumps film wants to remind us what Halloween used to be all about. Taking the popularized meta approach to an old franchise, Goosebumps takes a fictionalized R. L. Stine (Jack Black) and a bunch of kids and pits them against every baddy from the kids’ books as they run amok in the real world. Werewolves, giant bugs, gnomes, vampires, and yes, even Slappy, the ventriloquist dummy, all escape from Stine’s books which were made to serve as a prison to keep the terrors housed up for good. This family friendly comedy-horror is definitely set to reintroduce both new children and nostalgic millennials to Goosebumps, but still looks like it could be a fun Kid’s Halloween Adventure romp in the vein of something like The Monster Squad that just about anyone could enjoy. -- John-Charles Holmes Beasts of No NationDirector: Cary FukunagaRelease Date: October 16, 2015Trailer  Beasts of No Nation might be the most important Netflix streaming release to date; a real potential game changer in terms of film production and distribution. In this adaptation of the Uzodinma Iweala novel of the same name, Idris Elba plays a charismatic mercenary leader in an unnamed African country who leads child soldiers into a brutal civil war. The film is directed by True Detective's Cary Fukunaga, and early reviews from the Venice Film Festival have been quite positive. (Even though I thought True Detective season 1 was good but extremely overrated, it was undeniably well-directed and atmospheric.) To secure a spot in awards season, Beasts of No Nation will have a limited theatrical run while simultaneously debuting on Netflix. Big theaters chains are angry about all this. They might be a little worried too. -- Hubert Vigilla SpectreDirector: Sam MendesRelease Date: November 6, 2015Trailer Despite the fact that Sam Smith's Bond song suck a big fat one, I am still irrationally excited for Spectre. With the conclusion of Skyfall the franchise promised to return to its roots now that we've established how Bond became Bond and boy is it ever. Blofeld is coming back, the advertising has been full of subtle throwbacks to Bonds of old and of course there's a giant evil organization trying to dominate the world from an over blow base (or really large table).  More interesting will be whether or not they actually go old school and completely detach this film from the previous ones. Before Casino Royale Bond had very little continuity, but the last three have all been loosly connected (though Skyfall was all about erasing that connection). We'll get our answer early; Daniel Craig has yet to have a full blown gun barrell walk across the screen to open a film. If the screen opens with him strutting across in a tux we'll know Bond is back (again). – Matthew Razak SpectreDirector: Sam MendesRelease Date: November 6, 2015Trailer Yeah, that's right. Spectre. Again. One of the first things you learn as a new hire at Flixist is that our esteemed EiC has first dibs on any and everything Bond-related. So when I said, "I WANT TO WRITE ABOUT SPECTRE" for the preview, I was laughed at. But here I am, writing it after Matt, because if it's worth mentioning, it's worth mentioning twice. Of all the films releasing this year, Spectre is by far my most anticipated. In a year that brought up the genuinely enjoyable Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation and the at-times-fairly-interesting Man from U.N.C.L.E., it all seems to just be build-up to the real super-spy thriller. Skyfall was gosh damn amazing, and I expect Spectre to be on that level at least, and that means it'll easily be one of the best films of the year. I don't know enough about Bond history to really be so excited that Blofeld is back, but I certainly like the idea of a true arch enemy, and Christoph Waltz looks suitably creepy in that teaser. In general, the footage that's been released looks fantastic, both technically any conceptually. I'm probably not as excited about this as Matt is, but I'm pretty flipping close.  – Alec Kubas-Meyer The Peanuts MovieDirector: Steve MartinoRelease Date: November 6th, 2015Trailer With all the news of cartoons being mined for nostalgia money lately, I originally wrote off The Peanuts Movie as one of the many failures to come. The project sounded like it was doomed to fail: development from Blue Sky Studios (Rio), Paul Feig was a producer, and the fact that the old Peanuts films still work to this day. But after getting a glimpse at the actual project? I can't believe it exists. It's absolutely gorgeous, the cast is full of not well known children, and it's been approved by the Schultz estate. I'm not sure if I should let myself be as excited as I am, but if this can capture any of the magic the holiday specials have I might be a kid again. The biggest kid in theater, sure, but a kid all the same -- Nick Valdez By The SeaDirector: Angelina JolieRelease Date: November 13, 2015 Trailer So of all the more art house movies coming out during awards season I choose By the Seas? A movie that's getting most of it's hype from the fact that Brangelina are starring in it together. Yes. For a few reasons. One is that Jolie is seems to have learned some lessons from Unbroken, where her desperation to be taken seriously as a director seemed to overwhelm the film. This time it looks like she's going for a far more subtle approach that reflects a more French art-house style. The film should also be stunning to look at thanks to its French setting. This one just feels like it should have been Jolie's directorial debut and that is kind of exciting. Also, Brad and Angelina on screen again! -- Matthew Razak The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2Director: Francis LawrenceRelease Date: November 20, 2015Trailer I was surprised by how much I liked the first Hunger Games film. I was less surprised by how much I liked the second one. By the third one, I was just glad that they seemed to be keeping the quality up. I've heard that the first proper trailer for this one looks... not so hot, but that doesn't necessarily bode poorly for the film. It could just mark the end of the career of that particular editor. I'm not going to see it, though. I never saw any of the trailers before going into the films. I never read the books either, for that matter; I've gone in blind every time, just looking for an enjoyable story and maybe some cool action. I'm less looking for awkward teen romance, but that's what I get for following a YA adaptation. Can't really fault it for that. Either way, I have no idea what this film is about or what's going to happen, but I'm excited to see this saga to the end. – Alec Kubas-Meyer The Good DinosaurDirector: Peter SohnRelease Date: November 25th, 2015Trailer For the first time ever, it turns out we’re getting two Pixar films in a single year. The first was this summer’s amazing Inside Out and the second will be The Good Dinosaur, releasing in theaters this Thanksgiving. The movie poses the radical question of what would’ve happened if the meteorite that killed the dinosaurs actually missed planet Earth and humans and dinosaurs ended up co-existing. We follow an Apatosaurus named Arlo who gets separated from him family and must travel back to find them with the help of a human child named Spot, whom he keeps around like a puppy. The movie looks equally adorable and awe-inspiring from the trailers we’ve so far with tons of sprawling mountain vistas as the backdrop for the film. The Good Dinosaur will no doubt be Disney’s final smash hit for the year, but hopefully the film that stand up to the massive success of the critically acclaimed Inside Out from earlier this year, despite going through numerous production changes and delays over the past few years since announcement. -- John-Charles Holmes The Night BeforeDirector: Jonathan LevineRelease Date: November 25thTrailer Have we had a truly good bromance in a while? I don't think so. The genre has become so flooded with films after Apatow turned it into a thing that it's just become a cliche of itself. The last one that really worked for me was off the top of my head was 50/50. Well, The Night Before has Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt back together with Anthony Mackie thrown in for good measure. And guess what it's directed by 50/50 director Jonathan Levine. From the trailer it looks like it's just the right amount of comedy mixed with bromance and drama. It's a hard balance to nail, but something tells me Levine is going to do it again with this one and we may have a new adult Christmas classic on our hands. -- Matthew Razak Creed Director: Ryan CooglerRelease Date: November 25th, 2015Trailer You know how I got my start on this site three years ago? I once wrote a treatise on the montage in Rocky and decided to publish it here on a whim. It was something in the works for school, so I was hoping the folks on Flixist would enjoy it. And they did! It got put on the main page, and ever since then, I got hooked to writing about film and started me on the path I'm on now. That's just one of the many special memories the Rocky saga has provided me. It's my father's favorite series, he passed on his love of it to me, and although Rocky Balboa provided the best ending I could've hoped for, just seeing Stallone embody the persona again was enough to make me emotional. It may be a spin-off, it may not be directed by Stallone himself (but it's got his approval), but it already feels like a logical step forward. This is the biggest film of the year for me and I'm ready for it. -- Nick Valdez Star Wars: The Force AwakensDirector: J.J. AbramsRelease Date: December 18, 2015Trailer  I know I may be setting myself up for disappointment, but I'm actually excited for the new Star Wars movies. It's been long enough since the prequels. In fact, with the more diverse cast and a sense of forward momentum, this feels like some truly 21st pop-sci-fi whereas the prequels felt like treading water or a step backwards. To put it another way, it seems like Star Wars is in way better hands now that producer Kathleen Kennedy is overseeing the series rather than George Lucas. Kennedy promised these new films would embrace practical effects rather than rely almost exclusively on CG, and there's something both nostalgic and novel about revisiting this universe. J.J. Abrams may be a divisive director in some parts, but I want to believe this will all work out well and he's going to be more than capable. Of all the movies on this preview, The Force Awakens is the one I will definitely be seeing in theaters opening night. -- Hubert Vigilla The Revenant Director: Alejandro González IñárrituRelease Date: December 25, 2015Trailer I really liked Birdman. And having read some negative criticism from others, it occurs to me that the reasons I think it is so fascinating are fairly different from the reasons that pretty much anyone else does. Nonetheless, as a team, Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezski are capable of some technically brilliant work, and I expect as much from The Revenant. The first film shot on the Alexa 65 and done entirely in natural light, this movie will look unique and undoubtedly gorgeous. Oh, there's a movie in there too. I dunno what it's about, but it has Leonardo DiCaprio, and he's a pretty great actor. (I watched the trailer, but I just remember snow and horses and guns and Leonardo DiCaprio. Maybe that's all there is to it. I dunno. But it was pretty.) It was also shot in hellish conditions that I expect will serve to make the film visceral in a really interesting way. So I'm excited for this film, whatever it ends up being. Maybe it'll be a mess, but I'm along for the ride anyway. – Alec Kubas-Meyer The Hateful EightDirector: Quentin TarantinoRelease Date: December 25, 2015Trailer  Quentin Tarantino's playing with the western genre again, and he's one hell of a cast along for the ride, including Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth (aww, I've really missed him in Tarantino movies), Michael Madsen, and Bruce Dern. The set up seems simple--seven cowboys and one bounty (Leigh) take shelter during a blizzard, a bunch of genre tropes and savvy monologues ensue--but there's likely to be a lot of intrigue, betrayal, and violence once everyone gets locked in the same place. Tarantino shot The Hateful Eight in 70mm, and is making sure that the select theaters showing the film during its initial release are outfitted with the proper projectors for the film. -- Hubert Vigilla
Fall/Winter Preview photo
What are you looking forward to?
The Fall/Winter movie season is probably the best of the year. We get horror with October and then roll on into big blockbusters, holiday greatness and awards season. It's the best time to watch movies, even though it can be ...

Fall 2015 TV Premieres: What to Watch and When

Sep 21 // Nick Valdez
September Tuesday, September 8th The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS, 1035PM) Wednesday, September 9th The League (FXX, 9PM) You're the Worst (FXX, 930PM) Thursday, September 10 Longmire (Netflix) Friday, September 11 Z Nation (SyFy, 9PM) Continuum (SyFy, 10PM) Tuesday, September 15 The Mindy Project (Hulu) Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris (NBC, 9PM) The Bastard Executioner (FX, 9PM) Wednesday, September 16 South Park (Comedy Central, 9PM) Moonbeam City (Comedy Central, 930PM) Saturday, September 19 Doctor Who (BBC, 8PM) Monday, September 21 Gotham (FOX, 7PM) Minority Report (FOX, 8PM) The Big Bang Theory (CBS, 7PM) Life in Pieces (CBS, 730PM) Scorpion (CBS, 8PM) Castle (ABC, 9PM) Blindspot (NBC, 9PM) Tuesday, September 22 The Muppets (ABC, 7PM) Fresh Off the Boat (ABC, 730PM) Scream Queens (FOX, 8PM) Limitless (CBS, 9PM) Wednesday, September 23 The Middle (ABC, 7PM) The Goldbergs (ABC, 730PM) Modern Family (ABC, 8PM) Black-ish (ABC, 830PM) Rosewood (FOX, 7PM) Empire (FOX, 8PM) The Mysteries of Laura (NBC, 7PM) TripTank (Comedy Central, 10PM) Thursday, September 24 Grey's Anatomy (ABC, 7PM) Scandal (ABC, 8PM) How to Get Away with Murder (ABC, 9PM) Heroes Reborn (NBC, 7PM) The Player (NBC, 9PM) Friday, September 25 Hawaii Five-O (CBS, 8PM) Blue Bloods (CBS, 9PM) Saturday, September 26 Guardians of the Galaxy (Disney XD, 9PM) Sunday, September 27 Bob's Burgers (FOX, 630PM) The Simpsons (FOX, 7PM) Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX, 730PM) Family Guy (FOX, 8PM) Last Man on Earth (FOX, 830PM) Once Upon a Time (ABC, 7PM) Blood & Oil (ABC, 8PM) Quantico (ABC, 9PM) CSI Two Hour Series Finale (CBS, 8PM) Monday, September 28 The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Comedy Central, 10PM) Tuesday, September 29 Grandfathered (FOX, 7PM) The Grinder (FOX, 730PM) Agents of SHIELD (ABC, 8PM) Wednesday, September 30 Criminal Minds (CBS, 8PM) Code Black (CBS, 9PM) October Thursday, October 1 Bones (FOX, 7PM) Sleepy Hollow (FOX, 8PM) The Blacklist (NBC, 8PM) Saturday, October 3 Saturday Night Live (NBC, 1030PM)0 Sunday, October 4 Madam Secretary (CBS, 7PM) The Good Wife (CBS, 8PM) Homeland (Showtime, 8PM) The Affair (Showtime, 9PM) The Leftovers (HBO, 8PM) Tuesday, October 6 The Flash (The CW, 7PM) iZombie (The CW, 8PM) Finding Carter (MTV, 9PM) Wednesday, October 7 Casual (Hulu) Arrow (The CW, 7PM) Supernatural (The CW, 8PM) American Horror Story: Hotel (FX, 9PM) Thursday, October 8 The Vampire Diaries (The CW, 7PM) The Originals (The CW, 8PM) Haven (SyFy, 9PM) Friday, October 9 Undateable (NBC, 7PM) Reign (The CW, 7PM) Sunday, October 11 The Walking Dead (AMC, 9PM) Monday, October 12 Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (The CW, 7PM) Jane the Virgin (The CW, 8PM) Fargo (FX, 9PM) Thursday, October 15 Nathan For You (Comedy Central, 9PM) Friday, October 23 Hemlock Grove (Netflix) Saturday, October 24 Da Vinci's Demons (Starz, 7PM) Monday, October 26 Supergirl (CBS, 730PM) Tuesday, October 27 Wicked City (ABC, 9PM) Friday, October 30 Grimm (NBC, 8PM) Saturday October 31 Ash vs. Evil Dead (Starz, 8PM) November Friday, November 5 Mom (CBS, 8PM) Angel From Hell (CBS, 830PM) Elementary (CBS, 9PM) Saturday, November 6 Master of None (Netflix) Sunday, November 15 Into the Badlands (AMC, 9PM) Friday, November 20 The Man in the High Castle (Amazon Prime) December Thursday, December 3 The Wiz Live (NBC, 7PM) Friday, December 4 Transparent (Amazon Prime) Monday, December 14 Childhood's End (SyFy, 7PM) The Expanse (SyFy, 9PM) January Sunday, January 3 Downton Abbey (PBS, 8PM) Sunday, January 10 The 73rd Annual Golden Globe Awards (NBC, 7PM) Sunday, January 17 Shameless (Showtime, 8PM) Billions (Showtime, 9PM) Sunday, January 24 The X-Files (FOX, 6PM) - Special Premiere Event Monday, January 25 The X-Files (FOX, 7PM) - Regular Spot 
Fall TV Preview photo
Fall TV is best TV
I have a pretty outstanding relationship with television. More so than movies (it's so weird that I work here, right?), TV practically raised me from the mean streets of Sesame to the well adjusted adult that I am now. This f...

FlixList: The 8 Best Steven Universe Episodes

Sep 18 // Matt Liparota
Space Race (Episode 28) What makes this episode memorable to me—aside from its enticing premise, adorable montages, and chillingly sweet conclusion—is what it has to say about Pearl. Up to this point, most of the episodes (surprisingly) have been about Pearl, but this is the first one where we begin to understand who Pearl really is. She may seem stuck up and prissy, but she’s more nostalgic for her old home than her new life on Earth. We’ve all been Pearl in this situation before, where missing our old previous life brings us some comfort, but it’s in the small moments in the here and now that we find not only more comfort, but fulfillment too. In future episodes, Pearl’s anxieties are portrayed in a much more antagonistic light, but in "Space Race," for just a moment, Pearl feels more human than she ever has before or since. For Steven Universe to follow up one of its biggest high stakes episodes with one of its softer character pieces shows a strong restraint on the part of the writers and artists, as well as fundamental understanding of their own characters' needs. Plus this episode features some of the absolute best background music in the series to date. -- John-Charles Holmes [embed]219932:42620:0[/embed] Tiger Millionaire (Episode 9) Given how far the show has come in the past year, you'd be surprised to know that Steven Universe was off to a rough start. I was grabbed by the premise, and that cute "Cookie Cat" jam for sure, but SU took a few episodes to get its feet on the ground. About seven episodes in, with the introduction of his best friend Connie in "Bubble Buddies," the show really found its own voice. While I almost put that episode on this list, the show first combined sublime humor with deep storytelling in "Tiger Millionaire." You wouldn't think a wrestling pastiche, where Steven becomes the ultimate heel (the titular "Millionaire"), would be full of brilliant character work, but this is just an example of the many surprises the show is full of. Like its parent series Adventure Time, this episode proved that Steven Universe could too provide a thematically rich through line (as you realize Amethyst is wresting for a hidden, personable reason) while never forgetting it's a show for kids. It's also got everything the best SU episodes have: a killer soundtrack, the Beach City townspeople, and some great one liners. Now there's no sodas for anybody.   -- Nick Valdez [embed]219932:42617:0[/embed] Steven and the Stevens (Episode 22)  Time-travel is pretty well-worn territory for any kind of high-concept, vaguely sci-fi storytelling, so it’s no surprise that Steven Universe eventually went to that well. Leave it to Steven to put its own unique spin on the trope, though; after very briefly dabbling in trying to alter history, Steven decides to form a boy band…with himself. It falls apart within all of 30 seconds, as the “original” Steven quickly realizes how annoying he can be, which leads to a battle across time culminating in a scene in which literally dozens of Stevens disintegrate into nothing in probably the creepiest way possible (for a lighthearted kids’ show). “Steven and the Stevens” isn’t the most monumentally important episode of Steven Universe, not by a long shot, but it’s one of my favorites. It’s a prime example of the show firing on all cylinders, taking a core concept and playing it out in a way that feels both fresh and completely true to the characters involved (the scene where the four Stevens try and figure out their band personas cracks me up every single time). It’s also got one of the earliest instances of Steven Universe being just great at musical numbers (give or take a Giant Woman). -- Matt Liparota  [embed]219932:42618:0[/embed] Island Adventure (Episode 30) Man, this episode holds a lot of feelings for me. First of all, SU was so confident in its audience that it was willing to capitalize on Lars and Sadie's relationship and hoped you caught all the action happening on the sidelines. There's such a deft amount of work done between the characters through background interactions with Steven that they feel like real people. It all came to a head here as Lars, Sadie, and Steven are trapped on a mysterious island and Steven plays the tune "Be Wherever You Are." Not only is the montage great, but the song's lyrics and musicality are well crafted. A personal bit: I moved from Texas to New York a few months ago and this song was the first thing I listened to as song as I touched down.  I was a nervous wreck, and the song helped me calm down a little bit. It's such a beautiful message. Don't stress and just be wherever, whoever, and whatever you are. -- Nick Valdez [embed]219932:42624:0[/embed] Jail Break (Episode 52)  Okay, so let’s get the “big” stuff out of the way, the huge mythology stuff that puts this episode in any top 10 all on its own. First, you’ve got the gem-shattering reveal that Garnet is actually a fusion of two heretofore-unknown-gems, Ruby and Sapphire (something fans had long theorized and is blatantly obvious in retrospect) – in essence, she’s a living relationship. That’s immediately followed up by an incredible musical number-turned-fight sequence, “Stronger Than You,” which manages to feel climactic, expository and emotional all at once; the fact that it’s a legitimately great piece that you want to listen to over and over again certainly doesn’t hurt.  Ultimately, though, that’s not really what the episode is about. Like so much of Steven Universe, this episode touches on what makes Steven himself unique and indispensable, not just as a Crystal Gem but as a person. It’s only because of Steven’s unique status as a gem-human hybrid that he’s able to escape and set the entire episode in motion, as well as attack Peridot head-on when the time comes. Steven has all kinds of amazing abilities, but his real super-power is his big, human heart – something that the Crystal Gems have learned over the course of the series, and something that villainous Jasper can’t seem to fathom. Ultimately, that’s the heart of Steven Universe – one sensitive little boy who loves with all his heart and will do anything for his friends (and maybe even his enemies). -- Matt Liparota [embed]219932:42623:0[/embed] Winter Forecast (Episode 42)  Steven Universe, by its very nature of being a cartoon, is all about visual storytelling. The thing about getting this kind of storytelling just right is that you have to carefully nail all the little details. Not only does "Winter Forecast" do this, but the episode is all about the little details you can see. In this episode, Garnet bestows Steven with temporary “future vision” (the ability to see the future by seeing all possible outcomes before they happen) as an approaching snowstorm threatens to keep the Universe family from getting Steven’s best friend Connie home safely. What follows is a sequence of events of how things could go more and more horribly wrong with the more irresponsible decisions Steven could choose to make. What links these decisions together are small yet incredibly memorable details that makes for an episode full of subtle unforgettable moments—Greg’s cherry sweater (I’m the cherry man!), puddles freezing over into slick patches of ice, and even small unspoken glances between characters. The details come together to tell a cohesive story that makes even the viewers at home feel like they can really see the future. Top it off with one of the sweetest and by far quietest moments in all of Steven Universe, and you’ve got one of the best episodes of the entire show that reminds you that big moments are made from little details… as long as you’re always willing to give them a chance. -- John-Charles Holmes [embed]219932:42619:0[/embed] Alone Together (Episode 37)  My favorite character by far is Connie. I like to joke with my friends and say that someday I'd hope to have a friendship that's as great as Steven and Connie's, and that's because Connie's such a well realized character. She's not relgated to the romantic interest in Steven's hero's journey and he needs her just as much as she needs him. All of that comes to a head with "Alone Together." An experiment in SU's already established gender fluidity, sex metaphors (as the Steven half of their fused form constantly checks to make sure Connie is comfortable), and character relations, the two kids fuse together and it's as awkward as you'd think. It's such a natural trajectory for their relationship too as the two enjoy being "not one being, not two beings, but an experience" and only find fault with it when one of them is truly uncomfortable. The thing of it is, it's played straight. The fact that a boy and girl are the same person isn't mined for jokes and it's a serious discussion about identity. That's way more than any kids cartoon has done thus far. -- Nick Valdez Joy Ride (Episode 54) Much like its spiritual successor Adventure Time, one of the best things about Steven Universe is its extensive cast of colorful secondary characters, and the show has spent a lot of time developing and connecting them in unexpected ways. Beach City’s surly, rebellious teens are just a handful of those characters, and they also happen to be unexpectedly hilarious, going back to their first appearance in “Lars and the Cool Kids.” “Joy Ride” takes that development a step further, adding some real shading to characters who by this point had largely been rather broad. One of the best things about Steven Universe is the way that secondary characters’ initial impression of Steven is that he’s just a naive, goofy kid, but as they spend more time with him they realize just how infectious his enthusiasm for life is. This episode is perhaps the pinnacle of that – the Cool Kids all have semi-normal teen problems, but they pale in comparison to Steven’s burdens post-“Jail Break” – but as they note, his upbeat attitude almost never wavers. Despite first appearances, Steven’s not naive - he’s got real problems that put ours to shame - but he’s not going to get swallowed up by despair, either. “Joy Ride” is, if nothing else, a fun demonstration of how much depth the show’s secondary characters have gained since the show began. -- Matt Liparota
Best Steven Universe photo
Keep Beach City weird
In the nearly two years since it first debuted, Steven Universe has done something few kids' shows do. Created by Adventure Time alum Rebecca Sugar, Steven Universe is a show that manages to be fun, hilarious, exciting but al...

The Thirteen Best Korean Films Streaming on Netflix Instant (2015 Edition)

Sep 08 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
The Vengeance Trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and Lady Vengeance)Director: Park Chan-Wook  When you're trying to get into Korean cinema, The Vengeance Trilogy is both the best and worst place you could possibly start. Best because it's one of the strongest trilogies in cinema history and each film is fascinating in and of itself. Worst because it's one of the strongest trilogies in cinema history, which means that it's pretty much all downhill from there.  I'm frequently asked which film in the trilogy is my favorite, and it's hard to choose. I love them all for different reasons. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is the most visceral, Oldboy is a narrative marvel, and Lady Vengeance (especially the fade-to-black-and-white version, sadly not available on Netflix) is simply gorgeous. Many people would just put Oldboy here and be done with it, possibly relegating the other two to separate entries, but that does a disservice to everyone involved. Absolutely watch Oldboy, but don't watch it in a vacuum. Watch Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance here, Oldboy here, and Lady Vengeance here! The Man From NowhereDirector: Lee Jeong-Beom  I like The Man From Nowhere quite of lot, and many people like it a whole lot more than me. It's definitely one of the more enjoyable Korean action/martial arts films, following a mysterious protagonist as he works his way through a criminal ring that takes children and forces them to drug-related labor. It's an intense film with some truly badass moments (the through-the-window shot is among my favorite in recent memory), and even if it sometimes feels a bit too... American (it often feels like the film pulls punches in a way that something like The Chaser does not), it's well worth a watch. Watch it here! Lee Jeong-Beom's follow, No Tears for the Dead, is also available, and it has some pretty awesome moments as well. There's a whole bunch of crazy shootouts, explosions, and a ridiculous amount of blood. I don't know if it's better than The Man From Nowhere, but it's definitely worth checking out. Watch it here! The HostDirector: Bong Joon-Ho  Snowpiercer (also on Netflix) may have done more to bring Bong Joon-Ho's films to a wider audience, but The Host is definitely the better film. (Memories of Murder, which cemented his status as an essential Korean director, is sadly no longer available for streaming.) I could go on and on about how great The Host is, but I think Scott Tobias said it best on Twitter a little while back: [embed]218531:41946:0[/embed] A monster movie set during the day? Freaking genius. And it works. Oh boy does it work. For people who are a fan of giant monsters wrecking things, this is an easy recommendation. But even people who aren't really into that sort of thing should see it, because it's a spectacular and unique take on a very familiar concept. Watch it here! The Good, the Bad, and the WeirdDirector: Kim Jee-Woon  Kim Jee-Woon is my favorite director. It's not just that The Good, The Bad, and The Weird is an amazing film (although it's certainly that); the way it fits into Kim's filmography is so appropriate and bizarre. Following up A Bittersweet Life (among my favorite gangster films of all time) and A Tale of Two Sisters (a fascinating horror film that goes on and off of Netflix with unfortunate regularity), a straight-up comedy Western seems like a hardcore turn away. But it goes back further, and it's more reminiscent of Kim's second film, The Foul King, which is a comedy about a wanna-be Luchador wrestler. While The Good, The Bad, and The Weird turns things up to 11, it serves as a reminder of just how versatile a director Kim is. Watch it here! I Saw the DevilDirector: Kim Jee-Woon  Remember that time when I said that Kim Jee-Woon is my favorite director? Yeah, this list could have turned into a Kim Jee-Woon-fest if there were any more of his films on Netflix. This is quite probably the most depressing Korean revenge thriller, which you may know is a particularly depressing subgenre. Sometimes it seems like the film is delighting in just how fucked up it is and just how soul-crushing it can be, but that does nothing to diminish the artistry of it all. You need to be in a particular frame of mind to watch I Saw the Devil, but if you go in prepared for serious emotional pain, you'll only have your night ruined and not your entire life. (And it's worth that much.) Watch it here! New WorldDirector: Park Hoon-Jung  When Choi Min-sik told me about New World at the New York Asian Film Festival in 2012 (damn, time flies), he compared it to The Departed. I found that fascinating and just a little bit offensive. Was he implying that, as a white person, I hadn't seen Infernal Affairs and had only seen Scorsese's American-ized version? Problem was: I hadn't seen Infernal Affairs yet. I'd had a copy waiting for me at home for at least a year by that point, but I never got around to seeing it. Now I've seen Infernal Affairs, and it's a great movie that I highly recommend to those of you who have also been putting it off for inexcusable reasons. You know what else is great? New World. Watch it here! A Company ManDirector: Lim Sang-Yoon I've said in the past that A Company Man is the kind of film I joke about when I joke about the ultra-violence of Korean cinema. Here is a film that goes all-freaking-out in service of a message that really doesn't justify the bloodshed. Yes, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, but even Jack Torrence didn't bring an M-16 to the office. So it's kind of problematic, and its message is hit-you-over-the-head-and-shoot-you-fifty-times blunt... but that didn't stop it from being enjoyable. It's certainly not on the level of Lesson of the Evil, which I still question my response to every so often, although it's also not quite as well-crafted as that film. Still, it's an interesting film and an enjoyable one. As long as you can handle bloodshed, you'll certainly be intrigued and most likely have a good time. Watch it here! PoetryDirector: Lee Chang-Dong  I knew that Poetry was going to be on this list from the moment I decided to write it. That moment was more than a year before I saw the film. For a long time, I simply neglected the works of Lee Chang-Dong. I don't have any good excuse for having done so, but he was the one big name in arthouse Korean cinema that I was aware of but seemed to be avoiding. I'm not avoiding him any longer. If you have neglected his works as well, I suggest fixing that immediately. But, like other films on this list, Poetry hits hard. It hits really, really hard. This is a film that will make you sad, and then it will just keep making you sad until the exceedingly sad ending. There is no catharsis, no hope, no redemption. There is simply life. Perhaps it's poetic, beautiful in some twisted way, but it goes straight for the heart, and once it latches onto you, it doesn't let go.  Watch it here! Hide and SeekDirector: Huh Jung  Hide and Seek is a movie that's terrifying in its plausibility. It's a creepy and tense thriller following a family that is being stalked by a helmeted murderer. They don't know why, and they don't seem to be able to stop it. The ultimate reveal is fascinating and also really freaking scary, and it gets at an interesting societal problem, one that may be Korea-focused but is certainly more broadly applicable. You can't sympathize with the murderer, but even understanding what might drive them to do this puts this a step above most films of its sort. I wish I could say more, but... it's best if you just see it for yourself. Watch it here! BreathlessDirector: Yang Ik-June  Breathless is like nothing else on this list, for a lot of reasons, but the biggest one you notice from the very first frame. Most films on this list are gorgeous. They've got high production value. They look and feel like cinema. Breathless... doesn't. It's ugly. It looks like a movie shot on tape in the late 1990s early 2000s. The audio isn't particularly well-mixed, high quality, or even apparently functional. There are weird bouts of silence throughout that seem like mistakes, though I don't think they were. It's also painfully slow... but none of that matters. This is a bleak and unrelenting look at a part of society that people try to ignore and/or forget, where bad people do bad things to innocents and everyone has to deal with the consequences. It takes a very long time to get into it, but commit and you'll be rewarded with something unique, fascinating, and depressing as hell. Watch it here!
Best Korean Netflix Films photo
This would be one hell of a marathon
For the past six or seven years, I've told people that my favorite type of international cinema is Korean. And even though I've been a little less in the loop recently than I was a few years ago, I still have a deep love for ...

FlixList: Wes Craven's Five Best Films

Sep 03 // Nick Valdez
My Soul to Take "Wake up and smell the Starbucks." I had a hard time narrowing Craven's films to five (I really could've just put everything here), and almost went with Red Eye or The Hills Have Eyes, but My Soul to Take is just so weird. It's Craven's take on small town myth horror, and it's got all sorts of weird sensibilities that make it stand out from the rest. It's got a guy who's probably a demon, teen archetypes who get zero development, a killer who talks to himself, and a supernatural thread tying it all together. Are the souls of the seven kids actually connected or is the main kid just crazy? Unlike his other films, Soul has a very deliberate tone and pace that sort of treads lightly and lets the tension build. It's quite a film.  Scream 4 "Forgot the first rule of remakes, Jill. Don't fuck with the original." Scream may have changed my life (and turned my crush on Neve Campbell into full blown love), but Scream 4 absolutely nails it. Starting with New Nightmare all those years ago, Scream 4 is a film that could've only existed after Craven spent a career honing his craft and paying attention to the route horror was going in. With Hollywood's fixation on reboots and sequels, Craven churned out one last sequel and capitalized on Scream's meta-contextual narrative with a reboot and sequel that works. Horror reboots hardly ever work, and sequels never truly live up to the standard of the original, but here's one that surpasses even the original idea. Setting a new status quo as it simultaneously enforces the old one all the while somehow bringing the series to an ultimate, satisfying conclusion? It's insane how well it works. Great cast, great writing, great editing, and even super heroics. Just greatness.  The People Under the Stairs "May they burn in hell." "Forever and ever in hell." This film is special to me for numerous reasons. First, it's the first horror film I saw with a non-white protagonist. Secondly, it's the first horror film I saw willingly acknowledging the wage disparity among classes. And finally, it's basically a twisted kid adventure film. Think of a slightly more dark and horrific Goonies, and you'll realize why a dude is wearing a gimp suit while trying to kill this kid as he makes friends with some monsters and discovers a hidden treasure. People Under the Stairs is tense, gruesome (Ving Rhames' body is used as a literal puppet distraction at one point), there are explosions, intrigue, and it's even a straight action movie leading toward raining money at film's end. It's non-traditional in the best way, and I'm so glad it exists.  The Last House on the Left "Are you sure we're not going to put you folks to any trouble?" "Oh nonsense, our home is yours." You can't talk about Craven's best work until you talk about his first. Bursting onto the scene with a twisted home invasion film, Last House is aggressive, disturbing, and it's full of such provocative imagery it sticks with you forever. Even way back then Craven was capable of masterful work with a film that had you rooting for the bad guys' end. It's his most demented piece of art and it'll forever be a staple which all other home invasion films compare to. It's like the whole BC/AD thing. There's Before Last House on the Left (BLHOTL) and after (ALHOTL).  A Nightmare on Elm Street "Whatever you do...don't fall asleep." It'd be impossible to write out a list like this and not include the big dog. The film that made something as pleasant as sleep seem like the worst thing in the world. Combing all sorts of primal fears like helplessness, death, and children, Elm Street pretty much started my addiction to caffeine. Through the years the fear has been alleviated thanks to The Simpsons, but Freddy's always coming. Nightmare changed the game completely. Rap songs, Mortal Kombat, tons of films, changing from horror to comedy and back to horror again without fail, and even had a crossover with another horror juggernaut and it wasn't the worst thing ever. Thanks to Wes, there'll always be a nightmare on our streets.  These may be his five best, but his other works were all just as good. We're gonna miss you. What are your favorite Wes Craven works? 
Wes Craven's Best photo
"What's your favorite scary movie?"
I've never been a big horror fan. I get squeamish with bloody action, jump scares always catch me, and I don't really like looking at disturbing images in general. But when a horror film is well crafted, I can't seem to look ...

12 films based on Nintendo games we need (right now)

Aug 25 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
What: Metroid Who: Duncan Jones  Why: In 2004, Nintendo teamed up with John Woo for a Metroid film, and I'm glad that fell through. As much as I enjoy Woo's films, the bombast and slow-motion doves don't really fit with what makes Metroid such an interesting franchise. It's about isolation. It's about being in an alien world and surviving. Duncan Jones made Moon, which is all the evidence you need that he could pull this film off. Plus, he was behind the underappreciated Source Code, which Jones himself likened to a video game. As far as I'm concerned, that's street cred enough to make this film happen. I think Darren Aranofsky would also be a solid choice, but he'll be a bit too busy working on: What: The Legend of Zelda  Who: Darren Aranofsky Why: The Legend of Zelda is a lot of things at once. It's about adventure and intrigue. It's about solving puzzles and fighting giant monsters. It's not really about the intensely introspective things you often see in Aranofsky's films... but so what? That doesn't mean it couldn't be. This is not the only Zelda film I'll list, but let's try something a little different. Link is the eternal blank slate, even in the entries where he has some amount of backstory. It would be like Noah. Hell, that film already had the rock people. Noah was a really interesting film, and it was proof that Aranofsky could do something on a larger scale. I don't think Zelda would never to be any bigger than that. I don't even know that it would have to be as big as that. Regardless, I think an Aranofsky Zelda film could be really special. What: Captain Rainbow Who: Sion Sono Why: I bet you forgot about this game, right? That would make sense, since it never came out in America and is among the stranger things Nintendo has put out. But, whenever I think, "Weird Japanese shit," I think immediately of Sion Sono. I think he could take the franchise and do something completely bonkers with it. It wouldn't even necessarily be good, but it would absolutely be unique and a little (or lot) bit crazy. With a franchise like Captain Rainbow, I think that's really the most important thing. What: Fire Emblem  Who: Peter Jackson  Why: We know that Peter Jackson can do fantasy epics, and perhaps giving him something of the sort outside of the Tolkein universe would do everyone some good. It would have to be more Lord of the Rings than The Hobbit, but if he can tap into his former self, then I don't know that there's anyone better to give an adaptation an appropriate focus on both the quiet intimate moments and also the intense, battle-driven ones. It could probably be argued that he would also be a good fit for Zelda (especially with regards to fights with giant boss-like creatures), but we've got more than enough Zelda entries on this list already. What: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time  Who: Steven Spielberg Why: Here's where the adventure comes in. Few people can do adventure like Spielberg can, and I think it would be all kinds of awesome to see him take on something like this. Think about all of those crazy dungeon puzzles. This is the man who made Indiana Jones. It would be a film that really focuses on those sequences and on the struggle to save Zelda. And Spielberg has already shown an interest in videogames (and Nintendo platforms in particular) with his role in creation of the extremely enjoyable Boom Blox. (I mean, nothing he could do with the series could be more ridiculous than the nuked fridge sequence in Indiana Jones 4.)  What: Super Smash Bros  Who: Gareth Evans Why: I mean, duh. Nobody does close quarters combat quite like Gareth Evans. And the only version of a Super Smash Bros. movie that could possibly work is one that takes full advantage of the physical capabilities of its characters. Realistically, the cute and cuddly Nintendo characters would need to have humanoid films and the variety of art styles would have to be toned down, which would be all kinds of weird... but if the action was good enough, I think we'd all forgive them. And if there's one thing you can guarantee with Gareth Evans, it's that the action will be great. What: Animal Crossing   Who: Richard Linklater Why: An Animal Crossing film would have to be a slice-of-life sort of film, one that makes seemingly mundane tasks interesting. Few directors can do that as well as Linklater. And sure, much of that comes from the brilliance of his characters, but an Animal Crossing film could be a spectacular ensemble. There is already a cast of cooky characters, and there's definitely more that could be done with that. It could take place over a year, with the film checking in on holidays much in the same way that the game does. What's the Halloween party? How's Christmas? Let's do some fishing or insect catching. Let's get more bells to pay back our debts. Done properly, this could be a really compelling, low-key film. If anyone could pull it off, it would be Richard Linklater. What: Mario Kart  Who: George Miller Why: This one's kind of obligatory. Cars, power ups, explosions, yada yada yada. It would be awesome. Maybe take some elements from F-Zero like Mario Kart 8 did and you'd have something pretty cool. But... we have Mad Max already, and it's not like that's done. What would we get from a hypothetical Mario Kart that we wouldn't get from Mad Max? I'm not sure. But if anyone was going to do it, I'd want it to be him.  What: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Who: George Miller Why: But, I mean... imagine this. Imagine a film that does for horse combat what Fury Road did for car combat. Imagine crazy stunts and epic action. This would be a radically different Zelda than Aranofsky's or Spielberg's, going full-on, balls-to-the-wall crazy. But it would be fitting. Much like Mad Max, each Zelda could be its own self-contained narrative. A chance for filmmakers to play with style and build a fascinating world. Imagine a badass (female!) Link that crashes her way through dungeons and crushes giant beasts on the way to become a hero. The setpieces would be epic, the stunts practical, and the end result a masterpiece (probably). What: Super Mario Bros.  Who: Brad Bird Why: Of all of these, coming up with this name was the hardest. We've seen how terribly a Mario film can go, and though I think many Nintendo franchises could work better as animated films, I think it would be a necessity for Mario. You can't turn bowser into a human. It doesn't work, and it doesn't make sense. But you know who can make some damn fine animated films? Brad Bird. Somewhere between The Incredibles and Ratatouille lies the perfect Mario film. It's probably a fair bit closer to the former than the latter, but regardless, the man has shown off plenty of versatility and could make up for the 1993 disaster. What: Pikmin Who: Guillermo del Toro Why: This might seem like an odd choice for what would almost certainly be a children's film. He's better known for horror and action, but del Toro is great at science fiction, which is what Pikmin is. The man knows how to tell a tale of adventure on a grand scale -- even if that grand scale is garden sized -- and in all honesty pikmin are kind of creepy. There's a certain level of horror to a swarm of living plants and the giant creatures that attack them that del Toro could deal with quite nicely. Pikmin would also have to be an odd mix of introspective character development following Captain Olimar's isolation on a strange planet and epic set pieces following the Pikmin's adventures trying to help him, and del Toro can handle both these things as Pan's Labyrinth and Pacific Rim showed us respectively.  What: The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker Who: Hayao Miyazaki Why: OK, maybe we're going a little over board on the Zelda adaptations, but that's what makes the franchise so wonderful: it's so malleable and adaptable to varying styles thanks to the fact that it, at its heart, is simply a reoccurring legend espousing themes of adventure, wonder, growth and exploration. Who better captures those themes on screen than the legendary Hayao Myazaki and Studio Ghibli? That sense of childish awe that Windwaker created as a new island crept up on horizon is what Miyazaki has been doing his entire career. We'd wager his work inspired the cel-shaded Zelda adventures. Maybe Nintendo can coax him out of retirement.
Top 12 Nintendo Films photo
And the filmmakers we need to make them
Video game movies are, nine times out of ten, not awesome. There have been exceptions, but generally speaking a movie is just a shade of the franchise it's supposed to represent. Why watch it when you can play it? But with Ni...

Bojack Horseman is the Spec Ops: The Line of TV Shows

Aug 07 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219724:42536:0[/embed] Spec Ops: The Line is probably in my top five games ever. It's incredible, and if you haven't played it, you need to do so. If you have played it and don't understand how incredible it is, go play it again. Maybe read Brendan Keogh's Killing Is Harmless while you do. The game is a triumph, and the bravest thing it did is to convince you it was generic before pulling the rug out from under you. (Much like, you guess it, Bojack Horseman.) Spec Ops: The Line was made with the Unreal Engine. It stars a military man voiced by Nolan North. He looks and sounds like every other Unreal Engine-based cover shooter out there. It feels... fine. The gameplay is completely and totally acceptable. Stop and pop. You're fighting generic foreign militants. The other. It's easy to kill them, because that's what you're used to doing. That's the role that these sorts of people play in video games. (And in movies, as brilliantly profiled by GQ a couple weeks ago.) In Bojack Horseman, you follow a generic former-Hollywoo[d] superstar. He's voiced by Will Arnett, and he's a jackass. He lives in an amazing house overlooking the city, but he's pretty much a worthless being. On his couch lives the "comic relief," Todd, voiced by Aaron Paul. He's dumb, but Bojack keeps him around, because... whatever. Bojack wants to relive the Good Old Days. Perhaps it's not quite your typical animated show, but it's not an uncommon comedy. And for a while, the jokes are funny but the underlying narrative feels a little old. But, of course, that's the point. Spec Ops hits you with big moments several times. First, you go from fighting generic "terrorists" to fighting US military. That's, well, unexpected. And then there's the scene where you have to do something horrible to progress that turns out to be something really horrible. It keeps going down (literally), as we follow Captain Walker into the deep recesses of his mind. And it's not a great place to be. Because Captain Walker is not a good person. He believes he is, or at least that he can be, but he isn't. And he leaves nothing but destruction in his wake. Throughout, the game taunts you, and it taunts hyper-violent games in general. (And yes, it is effectively critiquing the genre by "succumbing" to its tropes.) [embed]219724:42537:0[/embed] Bojack doesn't have that moment in quite the same way, at least in its first season. It's a gradual realization that what you're watching isn't quite what you thought it was. You thought you were getting a comedy-of-sorts about a former star who wants to relive his glory days. What you get is something far darker, and far more interesting. Because Bojack Horseman is definitely not a good... horse. (I'm going to call him a person from now on, because referring to him as a "horse" is weird.) He wants to be good, I guess, but behind him lies only chaos. And in the second season especially, he does some very, very bad things. The Verge posted their review of the show's second season a bit prematurely, I thought. Both the headline – "In its second season, Bojack Horseman quits beating a depressed horse" – and subtitle – "More animal puns, less animal pathos" – prove to be, um, false. Because the second season of Bojack Horseman tricks you again. Sure, watching the first few episodes (which are great, by the way), you might think that the show had changed and become perhaps a bit more whimsical. Watching the episode where Todd creates his own, extremely dangerous Disneyland (and wins a lawsuit allowing him to use that name on a technicality) lulls you into a false sense of security. This is a show that has found its groove, or something like it. That groove may not be as interesting as the previous season, but it's something. And the screeners that Netflix sent to critics beforehand would lend credence to that. The first six episodes, especially in comparison, are fun. They're light and silly.  And then there's "Hank After Dark." "Hank After Dark" is an incredible episode of television. And it's incredible not just because of what it but how absolutely bleak its ending is. At this point, everyone knows about the downfall of Bill Cosby. And it all started because of a joke by comedian Hannibal Buress. He made a joke about public information, and suddenly everything came crashing down. The time since has been incredibly disturbing, and each new bit of evidence has only made it worse. But that's not what happens in Bojack Horseman, because Bojack Horseman isn't just replicating the events that led to the downfall of an icon; it's representing a parallel universe where a woman was the one who brought up the horrors of a beloved TV star as an aside. Diane is on a book tour for Bojack, but she can't shut Pandora's Box once she's opened it. Mr. Peanutbutter asks her to hold off, and everyone else tells her she's a horrible person for defaming a good man's name. She keeps fighting, until she's confronted by Hank Hippopopalous himself. And then she gives up. The season doesn't get cheerier after that. Whether it's the intense discussion on live TV between Mr. Peanutbutter and Bojack about the latter's Diane come-on last season or the thing that happens in the penultimate episode, the back half of Bojack Horseman's second season hits and hits hard. To be sure, the show continues to be very funny. There are more than a few good laughs per episode, but aside from a couple bits here and there, those aren't the things I'll be thinking about in a year from now. Good TV makes you think, perhaps even obsess. But with Bojack Horseman, it's not some communal obsession with unraveling mysteries. It's an introspective sort of obsession. Do you see yourself in Bojack? What about Todd or Mr. Peanutbutter or Diane or Princess Carolyn? These characters are all fleshed out this season, and you learn fascinating things about all of them. (Princess Carolyn has a particularly interesting arc, and I cannot tell you how glad I was when they ended the Vincent Adultman subplot early on.) But, of course, the focus is on Bojack, on his inability to change course. His drive to push forward towards certain doom. And that is truly where Bojack and Captain Walker's journeys converge. Both of them set in motions series of events that can only end badly, but the decision to set them in motion was a choice. Maybe at the time it didn't feel like one, but it was. To point to what is perhaps the most obvious example, Bojack did not have to up and leave to see a girl he was sort of in love with decades ago. He didn't have to stay with her family when he found out she had one. He didn't have to... ya know. He could have walked away. And ultimately, that's what Spec Ops: The Line is about. It's about walking away, or at least the need to walk away (in a meta sense). Walker doesn't do that. He never stops to think about what he's doing or what he's done. Unlike Bojack, he thinks he's helping people (at least at first... by the end? who knows). Of course, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  Bojack Horseman matters. It's one of the best shows on television right now. Literally. And that's significant not just because it is in and of itself a significant statement. It's significant because it's a show that, on the face of it, is so easy to dismiss. But once you get past all of that, you're pulled along for a fascinating and often poignant journey through something truly great. It's not the thing you expect, but you eventually realize that it's exactly what you wanted.
Bojack Horseman 4 Lyfe photo
Subversion and sadness
The first season of Bojack Horseman sort of came out of nowhere, at least as far as I was concerned. Back then, I was underemployed and watched pretty much anything that seemed vaguely interesting. I generally trust...

Snaxist: Denny's Slamtastic Four Menu

Aug 05 // Nick Valdez
The Invisible Woman Slam Usually I take on these foods alone, so I had grown accustomed to getting one dish at a time. As I finished one I'd slowly make my way to the next in an effort to become one amorphous blob of constant digestion. But on this trip I hadn't calculated how bringing others would alter the rhythm and that was the first of my many, many mistakes. They had brought us all of the food at once (sans desserts because I'm not made of money, you jerks) and it was certainly a sight to behold. In fact, I had become intimidated by the beast in front me. Staring the lion in the eyes, frozen until one of us made our move. If I had been alone, this would've been the end of my journey. Thankfully, one of my compadres began eating and I snapped out of my fear coma.  The Invisible Woman Slam's main feature are its blueberry pancakes topped with other fruit as everything else is what you'd expect from a standard grand slam. Covered with a sickly sweet glaze from the fruit, it was quite tasty really. Pancakes weren't too doughy, and it was definitely better before you added syrup. Lots of soaked in flavors (without feeling like I ate a stick of butter), but very heavy. But this would be far from the heaviest thing on the menu.  The Fantastic Four-Cheese Omelette As this was the first dish I took on alone, I felt ill prepared. I had recently moved to New York and grown accustomed to a lighter diet lacking in all of the heavy meats and cheeses I used to eat back in my hometown of Viking Land. It's like I wanted to climb Mt. Everest after retiring thirty years prior. But like with any massive undertaking, I couldn't climb the mountain until I took the first step. But I was still so nervous. What would this beast do to me? How would I change? Could I just go back to the modern world once I've become one of the savages? So I took the first bite and, nevertheless, slowly became the monster I used to know.  The Fantastic Four Cheese Omelette (neglecting a representation for Mr. Fantastic since that dude's such a nerd, and nerds don't eat food) was touted as stuffed with cheddar, swiss, parmesan, and mozzarella cheeses and it certainly delivered on that front. As a startup meal (or if it's you're only dish seeing as how the rest of you are smart thinking adults) it's perfectly fine, but it's basically the same as any other omelette du fromage. I never did get my two pieces of toast though. I know I had I food mountain in front of me, but I feel like I really did miss out on that toast.  The Thing Burger  Before I knew it, the omelet was gone. I faded in and out slowly. The plates in front of me were just some random blurring motions. Yet, I still felt the hunger. It compelled me forward as my conscious mind begged for it to stop. "Why are you doing this to yourself?" "Please, stop." and "Is this truly what you want out of life?" were all questions my body seemed to ignore as I moved toward the next dish. I felt my jaw unhinge in order to completely destroy the meal in front me. In my savage mind, it was the only way. But my body was slowly changing. Palms were sweaty, knees weak, arms were heavy, and there was vomit on my sweater already, mom's spaghetti... The Thing Burger was the item I most looked forward to. It's the only truly different item on the menu as the other dishes are variations of ones available on the other movie menus. A burger patty topped with hash browns, bacon, an egg, and something called "The Thing Sauce" (seriously) all between two cheesy buns. It's the perfect breakfast burger, and I'll go as far to say it's the best thing on the new menu (pun intended). Each bite was great, and I'd imagine this would taste wonderfully after a night of getting drunk off your ass. Couldn't figure out what the sauce was as the taste of the burger kind of blended into one indistinct flavor (though the bottom bun was soaked from the grease), but at least the taste was interesting overall. Fries were good, too.  The Human Torch Skillet The burger was eliminated, so I was ready to move on to the final dish. But thanks to my inner turmoil, my monstrous form was weakened. Staring into the face of the dish's black abyss I thought of my family back home. What would they say if they saw me now? How would they judge what their son has become? Are you proud of me now, Ma? Are you proud of your son? Look what they've done to me! Look at what I've done to them! I've reached into the abyss and pulled out the heart of god!  The Human Torch Skillet is a spicy variation of the skillet available on Denny's other movie menus.  With jalapenos, pepper jack cheese (which I didn't notice until I packed the dish into a to go plate because it blended in with the egg) and pico de gallo, there was no way I could finish this. It's smothered in cholula (which is a smoky hot sauce) and that completely killed the rest of the dish's flavor. Even as I tried mixing it with the cheese or sausage, all I tasted was cholula. That's also why the dish was so dark. It's a shame since this could've been good. It's the furthest thing from spicy, and it's the furthest thing from tasty.  Overall, this was a fun trip and Denny's is the only restaurant that experiments with its food like this. Sure my stomach is pretty much demolished at this point, but I always love the madness of it all. But, sadly, I'll never be the same again. 
Snaxist photo
It's sloberrin' time
Every so often, there'll be a product with a spark of genius. Something that comes along and makes you think, "Why wasn't this a thing already?" like donuts based on Ghostbusters, Avengers cereal, and even that time Denny's c...

Don't bother with MTV's Scream TV Series

Aug 04 // Nick Valdez
We're at the halfway point in the series (episode six is premiering later this evening), and I feel like I'm hate watching just to see how much worse things could get. This completely goes against the showrunners' initial philosophy of getting the viewers at home to care about the characters as much as possible before offing them one by one. It's also a terrible way to watch slasher films. When you start rooting for the killer themselves, the film isn't taken very seriously. Take mid-franchise Nightmare on Elm Street, for example. When those films started making themselves all about Freddy's antics (and only served to develop his personality rather than any of his victims), the goofy tone made it a horror franchise in name only. While there's definitely an audience for that kind of property, it's definitely not what MTV's Scream wants.  But I don't know where it all went wrong. Things started off sort of promising in the pilot episode (written by film series writer Kevin Williamson), but that episode was full of so many problems. Pointed dialogue, archetypes, and its intro, while well done, only mirrored the series' openings thus far. It seemed adapting the films was a fool's errand as Scream 4 completely destroyed its own existence already. The fourth film already did what you'd expect a modern Scream to do: used new technologies in an interesting way, break down existing archetypes, and establish a new status quo (which was, hilariously, the old one). So when the TV series seemed to be taking a step back, it already lost. It would've been fine had any of its new choices felt compelling.  What are those new choices? Existing in a universe completely separated from the films (its yet to be confirmed if the "Stab" movies exist, so I'll assume this is just a new timeline or something), it's set in a town named Lakewood where a killer named Brandon James once terrorized kids in a high school. The new Ghostface's mask is based on that guy's face, too. So the main mystery of the series is figuring out how much this new set of deaths has to do with the old one. But, five episodes in, I don't care about any of it. Everyone in this show is terrible. Terrible characters make for good TV all the time, but that's when there's adequate drama to be mined from their poor decisions. Here it just seems like there's some deficiency in each character's core that causes a disconnect with the audience. It doesn't help that there's a noticeable drop in quality in each episode where someone doesn't die.  For as many missteps Scream has had, there's definitely some hope. With only a few episodes to go before season end, there's plenty of potential for the show to hit that "so bad, it's good" sweet spot. Episode three "Wanna Play a Game?" was great in that regard. It was so bad, all of the terrible decisions actually coalesced into a great sequence. Spoiler, I guess if you still want to watch this show despite me asking you not to, one girl dies while facetiming and her last words are "I can see the stars." It's magical, and the series has yet to bring that same kind of ingenuity to the table again. I'm hoping that it'll happen once more, but that's a thin hope. It's like hoping the garbage doesn't smell so bad after you've been forced to take in it so many times.  [embed]219713:42526:0[/embed] It might be gauche to judge a TV series based on a few episodes (judge the first one posted above for yourself), but I really tried to stick it out. After MTV announced it's getting a second season, I really don't see this working out. Unless it means we'll be getting a brand new cast and story each season, with some returning characters a la the Scream sequels, I can't see this show continuing. There's a semblance of an endgame in sight, but it's going to be quite a struggle to get there.  So why even struggle? Don't bother with this at all. 
MTV's Scream photo
Do you like scary TV shows? I'm sorry.
Back when MTV first announced they were developing a pilot based on the Scream films, I thought it was a great idea. I have a huge fondness for the films themselves, and barring Scream 3, no other series did more for the slas...

How to Do It BETTER: Howard the Duck

Jun 22 // Sean Walsh
1. Send Howard to Earth When we last saw him, our stalwart protagonist (who would be voiced once again by Seth Green) was hanging out in Knowhere with Benecio del Toro's Collector and Cosmo the Space Dog. That's all well and good, but Guardians really has captured the market on Marvel's space-y real estate, and with Captain Marvel's Kree background, we'll assuredly get more space stuff there. Howard would be swallowed up surrounded by other extra-terrestrial characters and locales. So, naturally, we need Howard "trapped in a world he never made." That world, of course, is Earth. A surly, walking, talking duck on a planet of talking mammals is full of potential humor.  2. No Origins, Please Why spend two and a half hours dealing with where he came from when you can tell a wacky story (more on that below) out of the gate? Just do like The Incredible Hulk did and get that all out of the way in the opening credits. Even his trip to Earth can be told during the opening titles. Hell, Guardians 2 could deal with that. The film should start like a film noir, with Howard staring out the window of his crappy private eye's office drinking a glass of scotch, doing his best Jon Hamm from Mad Men. If you have to do an origin, have him narrate it to the audience during this opening scene. 3. Cast the Right Redhead If we're going to go the private duck (ha!) noir direction, you need a dame. In walks Beverly Switzler, played by gorgeous redhead Jane Levy (Suburgatory, the Evil Dead remake). Levy is funny, sharp as a tack, and certainly worthy of the "of all the run-down private eye offices in New York, she had to walk into mine" treatment. We'll remove the 'nude' from 'nude model' on her resume, but make her pretty enough for Howard to recognize and even lust after. You see, Beverly's photographer boyfriend Chuck has gone missing down in Florida and she needs help finding him. But why come to Howard the Duck all the way in New York? Well, you see, there are some weird circumstances to his disappearance. Something about a swamp, a monster...something a normal private eye wouldn't take seriously. Howard So you came to the one PI in New York City that's a talking duck? Beverly nods. Beverly Yeah, exactly.  Howard looks down at his feet. Howard (exasperated) Waugh... 4. Give Them Their Very Own Groot! So, Beverly pays Howard's fees and the two set a course for Florida, flying first class (jokes abound). They arrive in Florida, drive out to the small, backwoods town where Beverly's boyfriend was last seen and Howard does his detective thing. Naturally, it is an uphill battle as he is a talking duck in a small swamp town. But eventually, he gets a lead and they make their way to the swamp where Chuck vanished. Of course, not before an old man warns them both of the swamp monster that protects his territory. Crazy Old Man It's some sort of...thing...that walks like...like a man! Howard rolls his eyes. Howard Like, a Man-Thing? The old man eagerly nods, his eyes wide. Crazy Old Man Just like a Man-Thing! Disregarding the old coot, the two make their way to the swamp. It isn't long before they come upon the Man-Thing in all his mossy glory. Howard quacks in fear and pulls out his pistol, which causes the creature to reach out for him. Beverly, she of the steel nerves, puts herself between them. The creature isn't there to hurt them, she tells Howard. Its simply there to protect something. She explains to the Man-Thing that they are looking for her boyfriend, Chuck. The creature, it seems, understands her, and leads them further into the swamp. Think Groot, just without the whole "I am Groot" thing. Also, if you're wondering what the connection is betwixt our feathered friend and a giant plant golem is? Well, fun fact: Howard the Duck first appeared in issue #19 of Man-Thing's original comic, Adventure Into Fear, and the two have crossed paths on numerous occasions. It seems only right to bring them together for the first time on the big screen. 5. Expand the Universe(s) Now, I'm sure Dr. Strange is going to make the MCU a little bigger, but if there's one thing that Marvel has in spades (besides Spider-People, line-wide crossover events, and D-list villains), it's alternate realities. Deep in the heart of Man-Thing's swamp lies the Nexus of All Realities. We don't know what it's called yet, of course, but that's what it is. Before they discuss what it is, something comes out through the other side. Something weird. A vampire ninja, maybe. Or a cybernetically-animated superhero corpse (a la Deathlok, specifically from the Uncanny X-Force arc full of Deathlok heroes). Man-Thing quickly dispatches of the visitor with its massive strength and corrosive touch. Beverly Does that...happen a lot? The Man-Thing nods. It would seem, Beverly deduces, that Chuck fell into the Nexus. Howard informs her that he is not getting paid enough and that his own reality is weird enough. Beverly offers to triple her fee and our hero gracefully accepts. Howard, Beverly, and their new friend Man-Thing step through. Things get...weird from here. 6. Give Them a Familiar Bad Guy in a New Context The trio of unsuspecting heroes find themselves smack-dab in the middle of a war zone. A paltry resistance is crushed by giant war machines, all of which are marked with the HYDRA insignia. HYDRA troops surround our heroes. Howard H-hail HYDRA? A HYDRA trooper tazes him into unconsciousness. When Howard awakens, he and Beverly are in a high-tech prison cell. Man-Thing is gone, but who should be locked in the cell next to theirs but Chuck (played by someone hunky and relatively popular, like Robbie Amell or the Teen Wolf guy)! Reunited at last, but under fairly dismal circumstances. A guard comes to take them away. But not just any guard. It's Ward from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.! That son of a gun. He has come to take Howard to HYDRA's labs to be dissected. It is at this point, upon the cell being opened, that Howard is finally able to display one of his greatest talents: Quack-Fu. He quickly and easily dispatches Ward and frees Chuck. Beverly is clearly impressed by his martial arts prowess but Howard shrugs it off, the consummate cool cucumber. He wants to escape, but Beverly insists they can't leave Man-Thing behind. Howard goes to object, but she points out that it's their ticket home. Guessing that the monster is in the laboratory, the three make their way there. Along the way Chuck tells them about the reality they're in. Back in the 40's, the Red Skull successfully defeated Captain America, and using the power of the Tesseract, took over the world. There are no heroes (even the Asgardians had fallen to the might of the Tesseract) and aside from pockets of resistance like the one we saw upon their arrival in this reality, HYDRA is the world of the day. But Red Skull is not in charge anymore, no sir, his most trusted adviser, Arnim Zola (the ineffable Toby Jones), betrayed him, killed him, and took control of HYDRA and subsequently the world. Now, obviously this is to get around the Red Skull, Cap, and the rest. But that's not to say that Ward would be the only cameo, no sir. 7. Make It a Great Escape Their suspicions are correct: Man-Thing is on the cutting table. The two scientists operating on him? Why, Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons, also from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. In this reality, they, like Ward, have German accents as a result of HYDRA's global control. The trio watch them bicker briefly before taking them out and freeing the Man-Thing. Unfortunately, Simmons triggers an alarm before Beverly can knock her out. A whole squad of HYDRA goons storms the lab and it looks like our heroes are done for. But then the Calvary arrives, literally. The wall explodes and The Resistance has arrived, led by none other than Phil Coulson himself. With him are Melinda May (possibly having become Deathlok herself), Antoine Triplett, Alphonso "Mack" MacKenzie, Inhuman Daisy Johnson (Quake, if you're nasty), and her father Cal, along with a whole squad of rag-tag resistance members. Howard Who are you? Coulson We're S.H.I.E.L.D. Howard What's that stand for? Coulson Been a little busy trying to liberate the world from HYDRA, haven't had a lot of time to think up acronyms. With Daisy's abilities, Howard's Quack-Fu, Man-Thing's brute strength, and Coulson's leadership, they make short work of the HYDRA forces they come up against. But it isn't long before they come up against the big man himself, Zola, and his number two: an unscarred Crossbones (total badass Frank Grillo). Zola has taken on his familiar form in the comics, a face on a monitor on a robot body. Zola and Coulson exchange words and a big climatic fight ensues. In the fracas, Crossbones is scarred by Man-Thing but left alive (mirroring his fate in Cap 2), Howard very nearly sacrifices himself to save Chuck and Beverly from Zola, and finally, Zola is defeated. However, the war against HYDRA isn't over. This was just one of Zola's many bodies and as a digital consciousness ("cut off one head" and all that), he's already up and at them elsewhere. The only way to truly defeat him is to find his central consciousness and destroy it. On the bright side, S.H.I.E.L.D. has a Helicarrier now. Coulson offers Howard, Chuck, and Beverly spots in S.H.I.E.L.D. Howard and Beverly decline, but Chuck accepts. Beverly pleads with him to change his mind, but Chuck says he found his calling. They share one last kiss and everyone says their goodbyes. Man-Thing teleports Howard and Beverly to that reality's swamp and they go through the Nexus. Howard Wait...you could teleport this whole time? Man-Thing shrugs its shoulders. Howard (frustrated) WAUGH! 8. Give It A Happy Ending Howard, Bev, and Man-Thing are back home. Howard and Beverly bid farewell to their jolly green friend and make their way back to civilization. Beverly is obviously still very broken up about Chuck. Howard tries to find the words to comfort her, but gives up and takes a different route. Howard Hey, Bev? Beverly (sniffles) Yes, Howard? Howard You wanna grab a drink at that bar we stopped at earlier? Beverly The one you almost got murdered in? Howard shrugs. Howard After almost getting turned into roast duck by a Nazi robot with a TV for a face, a couple'a bikers don't seem so scary in retrospect. Beverly thinks about it. Beverly You know what, Howard? That sounds really nice. My treat. She reaches out a hand as they walk. Howard stares at it for a moment and then takes it in his. He looks at the screen and smiles. Howard (happily) Waugh. 9. Get the Tone Right We're talking about a sarcastic, angry duck-man here. If anything, Howard the Duck should be a dark comedy first, with action and adventure thrown in to give the audience what they want. People can accept a super-soldier, tech genius, and hunky Norse god. A talking duck detective is going to have it a little harder. There's all sorts of humor and pathos to be found in Howard's trials and tribulations, and sticking him in the middle of a warzone is sure to have plenty of comedic opportunities. 10. Get the Right Director Obviously, James Gunn would be my first choice but he'll probably have a pretty full dance card by the time Avengers: Infinity War Part II has come and gone. It would be important to have somebody fully capable of big, over-the-top actions scenes, humor, and noir. Honestly, there's only one name on my least: the unlawfully handsome Robert Rodriguez. He has pretty stellar range and experience with the aforementioned areas between films like Planet Terror, Machete, and Sin City. Sure, next to Edgar Wright he is my favorite director, but there are plenty of good reasons for that. 11. Make the Mid and Post-Credits Scenes Matter  Sure, this is a Howard the Duck movie, but it can still lend itself to good world-building. I think it's more or less universally agreed that Iron Man 2 is one of the weakest links in the Cinematic Universe's chain (I, myself, liked it just fine), but I'll be damned if people didn't lose their minds when they saw Mjölnir in the desert. For the mid-credits scene, show us the result of Howard and Bev returning the the bar. Have them both looking exhausted with their beers, then slowly pull away to reveal a bar-full of unconscious bikers. That's Quack-Fu, baby. Then, after the credits? Maybe return to the other reality. Arnim Zola blinks to life in a new body, as predicted. He reflects to himself that maybe his time on Earth has come to an end and activates a device. A wormhole opens. Zola smiles. Arnim Zola Next stop: Dimension-Z. He enters it and the wormhole closes behind him. Cut to black. Dimension-Z is a world dominated by Zola in Rick Remender's Captain America, where Steve Rogers ends up in for over a decade. Of course, Rogers won't be Cap anymore by the time Howard the Duck rolls around, but there's no reason we can't adapt the storyline to accommodate for Buck Barnes, the new Captain America (with an 11-movie contract, it's pretty obvious he won't be the Winter Soldier forever). It's a fun dystopian story full of action, adventure, and mad science. We certainly haven't seen anything like that yet from Marvel Studios! Just imagine: Captain America: Escape From Dimension Z! 12. Can't Forget the Stan Lee Cameo! Since Stan the Man is immortal, obviously he will make a cameo complete with requisite one-liner. Maybe as a drunk biker in the first bar scene or the guy in the cell on the other side of Howard and Beverly's! I can see it now: Howard looks over at the cell on the other side of his. An OLD MAN with a black eye sits on the prison cot. Howard What happened to you? A grin washes over the man's face. Old Man You should see the other guy! So, there you have it. That's how you make a Howard the Duck movie. Lots of laughs, lots of surly sarcasm, lots of action, a liberal dose of easter eggs (Howard: Yeah, we're on an adventure, alright...an Adventure Into Fear!), and Marvel makes another few hundred million. Aside from Howard's CG, there's not a whole lot in the way of budgetary drains, especially working largely with television actors. Despite his decades of relative obscurity, people are already aware of Howard courtesy of Guardians, which is a big step in the right direction. In the hands of a capable director like Rodriguez, with a cast consisting of Green, Levy, and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (and Kyle Maclachlan, that beautiful son of a gun), Howard the Duck could be Marvel's next Guardians.  Did I just write the pitch for the first new movie of Phase Five? Am I way off base? Think your Howard the Duck idea is better than mine? Sound of in the comments.
HTDIB: Howard the Duck photo
WAUGH!
[How To Do It BETTER takes a look at films that already exist that could use the tender love and care only a reboot can bring. Some were good, some were...not. Either way, Flixist takes an in-depth look at how to make it bett...


Auto-loading more stories ... un momento, corazón ...