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4:00 PM on 04.17.2015

Review: Unfriended

I went into Unfriended expecting garbage. I told multiple people that I was on my way to the screening, and they asked why. I told them I didn’t know, but I was expecting terrible things. The trailer compared itself to ...

Alec Kubas-Meyer



Review: The Reconstruction of William Zero photo
Review: The Reconstruction of William Zero
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

I spent the entire 97 minute runtime of The Reconstruction of William Zero thinking about Shane Carruth. It's not a Carruth film, but it feels like the kind of film he would make. It's discontinuous, scientifically complex while still feeling grounded in the real world, centers around people attempting to reclaim their identities, and features Amy Seimetz (Upstream Color) swimming in a pool and looking emotional.

But unlike a Shane Carruth film, I understood The Reconstruction of William Zero my first time through. Whether that's a good thing or not depends on how opaque you like your cerebral science fiction.

I'm a fan of a little translucency.

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Review: The Gunman photo
Review: The Gunman
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

It's impossible to talk about The Gunman without discussing Taken. Everything director Pierre Morel ever does is going to be compared to it. And by starring Sean Penn, The Gunman invites those comparisons. Taken made Liam Neeson into an action star. Can The Gunman do the same for Penn? 

It's unfortunate, because whether or not he ever does another action movie, The Gunman is not really Sean Penn's Taken. It may have the same director, but it's definitely not the same film. Other than putting an aging actor in a badass role, Morel has clearly tried to do something different here and prove that he's not a one-hit wonder. (Did you remember that he directed From Paris With Love, starring John Travolta, back in 2010? Yeah, I didn't either.)

I don't know that he's succeeded here, but just because The Gunman won't be revered in the same way Taken is, that doesn't mean it's not worth seeing.

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Review: The Divergent Series: Insurgent photo
Review: The Divergent Series: Insurgent
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

I never saw the original Divergent. I'm not a preteen girl or Flixist News Editor Nick Valdez, which means I have to ration my YA intake. I can only handle so many dystopian fantasies about chosen-ones that spend all their time refusing to accept their chosen-oneness. I made my stake, and I stand firmly on the side of Team Katniss.

Even so, I ended up at a screening of Divergent's sequel, Insurgent. Don't ask why or how, because I couldn't tell you. But everything you need to know about my mindset going in comes down to this: Rather than seeking out a copy of the first film as preparation, I just watched its Cinema Sins teardown. Needless to say, I was expecting something pretty terrible.

Well, color me surprised.

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Review: It Follows photo
Review: It Follows
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

I saw It Follows sort of on a whim. I went to two press screenings that day, because it was mostly a day off for me, and I'd heard good things. I figured, why the heck not? Worst case scenario: I have nightmares forever and rue the day. Best case scenario: I get to go home and write a glowing review of a film that transcends genre to become a modern classic.

Two days later, I saw it again. Another email blast went around from the film's PR, and I couldn't say no. I had to see it again. I had to. I've seen dozens (hundreds) of films for review, but I've never gone to multiple screenings of a film before, not just because I wanted to experience it again. Until this one.

It Follows is the first truly great film of 2015. This is the best case scenario.

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Review: Chappie  photo

I really do adore Neill Blomkamp, and his first film, District 9, in particular. Although it doesn’t have as many fans as it did back in 2009, I still hold it up as one of the most spectacular debuts in recent years. His sophomore project, Elysium, may have been a huge disappointment, but it speaks volumes about the love for District 9 that most people will still agree that Blomkamp is a true visionary – albeit one blinded at times by his own ambition.

Chappie is his third attempt, and although it never gets close to the brilliance of District 9, it's far more memorable than Elysium

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Review: Seventh Son photo
Review: Seventh Son
by Megan Porch

Many moons ago, at San Diego Comic Con 2013, my friend and I were sitting through all the panels in the infamous Hall H waiting to get to the Marvel movie panel. One of the panels we sat through showed some footage and brought out the cast for a silly looking fantasy movie called Seventh Son. By the end of that day, I was so tired that all I remembered about it was that Kit Harington seemed really embarrassed to be on the panel talking about it.

Fast forward to two years later, the same friend and I saw Seventh Son over this past weekend.

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Review: Jupiter Ascending photo
Review: Jupiter Ascending
by Matthew Razak

I am a Wachowski defender. I have enjoyed if not down right liked every film they've made. Yes, even the second two Matrix films. If you insult Speed Racer I'll flip some tables. That movie was a kinetic and frantic masterpiece that got trashed for no good reason. Cloud Atlas was a challenging work to tackle and they did a commendable job putting it all together. Read the book and watch the film and you'll be blown away. They are very skilled directors.

All right, calm down, Matt.

So despite Jupiter Ascending getting bumped from a major summer blockbuster to a lowly February release, and despite the terrible word-of-mouth it was receiving I was wildly hopeful for the film. It looks visually stunning and other than Channing Tatum's eyeliner I was all in for some more Wachowski greatness. 

I am no longer a Wachowski defender. 

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Review: The Boy Next Door photo
Review: The Boy Next Door
by Matthew Razak

I'm not actually sure who I'm writing this review for. Anyone whose seen the trailers for The Boy Next Door has undoubtedly made their made up about it. It's a trashy stalker film with Jennifer Lopez seducing a teenager that looks like he's in his late 20s. The kind of film you'd expect to see a cast of CW stars trying to break out into film in.

There was a chance that because of that it landed in the awesomely camp area of bad film. A kind of Swimfan or Cruel Intentions. These films aren't good, but man are they just fun to watch because of how committed they are. Sadly, despite some very valiant efforts, The Boy Next Door doesn't reach that true level of all out commitment to bad that it really needs.

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Review: R100 photo

Thanks to R100, we know the proper recipe for a shirt: 24 hours in a slow-cooker, with red wine sauce, celery and carrots. Not because the film involves shirt eating (not directly at least), but because it forced Twitch founder/editor Todd Brown to eat his own shirt. 

Before it screened at Fantastic Fest late last year, he made a bold claim, if any film was half as crazy as Sion Sono's Why Don’t You Play in Hell?, he’d eat his shirt.

R100 called Brown's bluff, and he made good on his promise. It's fitting, really, because that's exactly the kind of thing someone in R100 might be forced to do.

[This review was originally posted as part of our coverage of the 2014 New York Asian Film Festival. It is being reposted to coincide with the theatrical/VOD release.]

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Review: Blackhat photo
Review: Blackhat
by Matthew Razak

I am a big Michael Mann fan. Collateral might be one of my favorite films. The guy just knows how to direct. You can be guaranteed at least one breath taking, though provoking shot in one of his films. This is especially true when he's shooting in a city. The guy just knows how to create an atmosphere that defines whatever city he's in.

Unfortunately for Blackhat a few good camera angles doesn't save it from being anything more than an over written, generic thriller where exposition is the name of the game. Mann can only make a bunch of people looking at computer screens stay interesting for so long. 

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Review: Two Days, One Night photo
Review: Two Days, One Night
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

Sometimes you watch a movie and you immediately know how you're going to feel about it. There's something about the atmosphere that it creates that just strikes you. You know exactly what the film is trying to do, and you know how you'll react to that. I felt that way about Two Days, One Night. Right off the bat, I could tell that it was going to be far too long, painfully slow, and focused on its least interesting character.

I also knew that, for some reason, I was still going to like it.

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Review: Inherent Vice photo
Review: Inherent Vice
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

I’m not educated enough to have an intelligent conversation about Inherent Vice. I’m smart enough, but to seriously wrestle with what Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s book is trying to do and say would require me to have A) Seen more of P. T. Anderson’s films, or B) Read more (read: any) of Pynchon’s books (perhaps even the source material itself), or C) Know more about the era in which the film takes place.

And so it’s taken me well over a week to write this review, because I simply didn’t know what to say. I wanted to deconstruct the film in some meaningful way, but I don’t feel qualified to do so.

What I can do, however, is consider just what it means to see (and generally enjoy) a film that I don’t understand. 

[This review was originally posted as part of our coverage of the 52nd New York Film Festival. It is being reposted to coincide with the film's wide theatrical release.]

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Review: Big Eyes photo
Review: Big Eyes
by Matthew Razak

Everyone, I'm about to shock you to your core. Big Eyes is a Tim Burton film and it is quite possible that the color black doesn't appear once. Shades of greys and shadows, yes, but the Gothic trendings of the director are almost completely lost in this film. Except for the doe-eyed "Big Eyes" that the subject of the film, Margaret Keane, paints there's almost no hint of Burton.

Yet it is a Burton film, through and through. Full of the weird and twisted story lines, trippy asthetics and slightly zonked out performance. It's Burton turned real life, and it surprisingly works.

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Review: American Sniper photo
Review: American Sniper
by Matthew Razak

Clint Eastwood is easily one of the best directors in Hollywood so him tackling the incredible story of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle is something to get pretty excited about. We already know he has the war movie chops thanks to Letters from Iwo Jima. 

American war heroes are a tricky business in this day and age. We know too much of the truth of war thanks to it being beamed into our houses and on the news nightly. It isn't all heroes and perfect endings where the good guys win. American Sniper tries to tackle this modern day contradiction of what a war hero is, but can it find out when all it wants to do is shoot things?

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Review: Unbroken photo
Review: Unbroken
by Matthew Razak

Unbroken is the first film directed by Angelina Jolie. That alone has given it a lot of hype, but it's easy to understand why it would be pushing at Oscars anyway. It's base on the true story of a WWII hero and Oscar just eats up historical war dramas like that. Legendary and Universal clearly are setting this up as Oscar bait.

There's a difference, however, between deserving an Oscar and desperately trying for one. Unbroken is desperately trying for one. "I should be an Oscar film," it screams without actually being one. Like a spoiled rich kid it believes it deserves something that it hasn't earned.

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Review: Selma photo
Review: Selma
by Matthew Razak

There's something to be said for perfect timing. Would Selma be one of the best movies of the year if it had released in January? Yes. But coming out now makes it a true masterpiece of its time. As we try to wrap our heads around Eric Garner and Ferguson here comes a movie about one of the most pivotal moments in the civil rights movement. It is a film for our times and given the times it will leave you floored the second the credits roll.

It is also exactly how you should make a "bio pic." A slice in time, not a checkbox of a person's life. This is a film that captures Martin Luther King Jr. by giving us a look at one instance and extrapolating from there. If it weren't for the stunning achievement of Boyhood this would be the greatest film of the year. 

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Review: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb photo
Review: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
by Matthew Razak

I don't think anyone thought we'd be seeing a franchise born when Night at the Museum first hit. The movie was plenty fun and surprisingly creative with a solid message that really didn't need to be revisited. Then it was, and it was OK. And now it is yet again with Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.

Of course overshadowing almost all of this is the fact that Secret of the Tomb will be the last time we get to see Robin Williams on the big screen in a new movie. This is his last role to hit theaters and for that, no matter what the quality of the film is, we should be thankful. One more chance to see him work his magic is well worth watching any film.

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Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies photo
Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies
by Matthew Razak

When Peter Jackson announced that he'd be stretching The Hobbit into three movies I was a bit wary, but excited. While the book itself could have easily been put into one, maybe two, films there's enough lore in the world to fluff our three movies. Still, it seemed like a stretch. However, after I enjoyed both the first and second films -- fully acknowledging that they were not as good as the original LotR films -- I was all set to watch an over two hour action sequence take place in the third.

Really that's all that's left. What amounts to a pretty minor part of the book after (spoilers) the death of Smaug is now stretched out into a full film. Two hours of Middle Earth action sounds pretty good to me, especially after enjoying the first two. I should have known that it isn't action that makes Middle Earth awesome.

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Review: Rosewater photo
Review: Rosewater
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

I remember distinctly when Jon Stewart left The Daily Show for three months to head to Jordan to shoot his directorial debut. It was an interesting time both because John Oliver took his spot (and did an excellent job there) but also because I was just so curious what he was making. Jon Stewart making a movie in Jordan? What?

And I immediately knew that I had to see it whenever it was finally available. Initial reception was a bit tepid, but it didn't matter. I had to see it for myself and give it a fair shake. The Daily Show plays a significant enough role in my life that I felt I owed its host that much.

Fortunately, Rosewater is something worth watching.

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Review: The Theory of Everything photo
Review: The Theory of Everything
by Megan Porch

Every year, there is at least one biographic film about someone who accomplished great things in his or her life, whether it's something artistic, scientific, or otherwise. This year's biopic of note is The Theory of Everything, which tells the story of Professor Stephen Hawking and his ex-wife, Jane Hawking.

Based on Jane Hawking's book, Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, the film touches a bit on Hawking's work as a scientist, but focuses more on his relationship with Jane and how things change as their relationship and his disease begin to develop. It is an intimate series of moments of their lives together.

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Review: Big Hero 6 photo
Review: Big Hero 6
by Matthew Razak

When Disney scooped up Marvel they picked up a ton of comic book history and properties. You had to guess they wouldn't use them all in the same way (i.e. massive blockbusters), and Big Hero 6 is the first Marvel film to break out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In fact Big Hero 6, a Disney Animation production, doesn't even have the Marvel logo before it. This is not a Marvel film, it is a Disney one.

For that we can be quite thankful. Disney has finally gotten its footing in the animated world once again and following Frozen expectations couldn't be higher for the studio's next animated film. While I seriously doubt that Big Hero 6 will inspire the crazed fervor that Frozen did, Disney's recaptured magic his still here, elevating a kid's superhero movie to something more. 

Also, Baymax.

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