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3:00 PM on 04.05.2014

Review: Oculus

Have you ever seen a movie that you knew had a sizable amount of problems, but you couldn’t keep yourself from recommending it? There were issues abound, some that would potentially sink a lesser film. But the movie jus...

Mike Cosimano


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Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier photo
Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
by Nick Valdez

Captain America: The First Avenger is my favorite film out of the Marvel line up (which is why I claimed this review). Captain America has always been my personal favorite Marvel character due to a mix of that cool Saturday morning cartoon aired on Fox Kids, his stance during the Civil War comic event, and how fun he is to play in the Marvel vs. Capcom series. Beyond that, Steve Rogers has always been a character that spoke to me personally.

When stripped of the Americana facade and super human strength, you have a stagnant man within a world that's constantly changing around him. A real fish out of water. In a post-Avengers world, when it seemed like we'd finally get an America movie that delivered on the promise of the first, we're left with The Winter Soldier

That's not to say it's devoid of entertainment. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is like a wiffleball bat; a fun toy with no real weight to it. 

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Review: Nymphomaniac: Vol. I photo
Review: Nymphomaniac: Vol. I
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

In my mind, Lars von Trier doesn't make comedies. The only other von Trier films I've seen are the first two entries in the Depression TrilogyAntichrist and Melancholia. I enjoyed them all in their own way, but aside from finding the talking fox in Antichrist laughably over the top and the little bit of levity Udo Kier brought to Melancholia, there's really not a lot to find funny. But that's to be expected, considering their subject matters (and the trilogy they represent). I went in expecting darkness and found that in spades.

So it's bizarre, then, that the first part of Lars von Trier's pornographic epic (and the beginning to the last film in the Depression Trilogy is kind of hilarious.

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Review: Divergent photo
Review: Divergent
by Nick Valdez

Back before the final Twilight film hit theaters, I wrote up an article in which I discussed whether or not certain Young Adult book films would be the "next big thing." My initial outlook for Divergent looked good, but that was way before The Hunger Games became stupidly popular. Sure it's hard to compare the two franchises, but in true post-apocalyptic fashion, one can't survive as long as the other does. 

In order to succeed, in order to distinguish itself in a growing sea of teen books, movies, and same looking franchises, Divergent needs to diverge enough from the norm to stand out. Too bad we have to wait for a sequel to see if that happens. 

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Review: Sabotage photo
Review: Sabotage
by Matthew Razak

I've been hyping Sabotage since I first heard about it. I'm a huge Arnold Schwarzenegger fan and a huge David Ayers (End of Watch) fan so the two together sounds like sweet, sweet cop action bliss. Ayers is great and melding action and drama while developing actual characters and Schwarzenegger is great at... well... being in action movies. Things looked pretty good.

It was easy to get excited to because the supporting cast was really solid and the trailers actually advertised the film in the right way. Heading in I was certain I was going to have a good time at this movie. You know what? I did. 

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Review: The Raid 2: Berandal photo
Review: The Raid 2: Berandal
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

I will admit that I have not seen every movie that has ever been made. I have not seen every action film, martial arts film, or even all of the most revered of the action and martial arts films. I’ve seen my fair share, but there are gaps in my knowledge.

But you know what? That doesn’t matter. Even with my critical blind spots, I can say with conviction something that I know in my heart of hearts to be true: The Raid 2: Berandal is the best action film ever made.

Ever.

[This review is being reposted to coincide with the film's theatrical release.]

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Review: Cesar Chavez photo
Review: Cesar Chavez
by Nick Valdez

There is a lot riding on Diego Luna's Cesar Chavez to succeed. Latinos aren't exactly given a lot of representation in fiction, and if there's one man, one figurehead we can rally behind, it's the activist Cesar Chavez. As other biopics for figureheads like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela have come and gone, it's a shame that it's taken this long to get a biopic for Chavez.

With all of the Latino representation in the recent Academy Awards, now seems like the best time for a Latino-centric hero as film culture finally becomes more accepting of a demographic that's increasing rapidly. While this first, important step forward stumbles a bit, I hope it's the beginning of a brighter future. 

[This review was originally posted as part of our coverage of South by Southwest 2014. It is being reposted to coincide with the film's wide release.]

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Review: Bad Words photo
Review: Bad Words
by Nick Valdez

Bad Words is Jason Bateman's directorial feature (although he's technically been directing television for years now), so there's plenty riding on the film to see if Bateman's truly got the chops to make a future out of it. While Bateman directing and acting in his own feature leads to a lot of interesting directorial decisions, it turns out that all of that could completely fall flat if that skill isn't supported by a good, or at least interesting screenplay. 

Bad Words is not the comedy it's been advertised as. It's a dramatic film that tests the limits of how much you're willing to sit through expletives in the effort that one of those expletives will lead to a joke. In fact, the film's much better if you aren't supposed to believe it's a comedy. 

[This review was originally posted as part of our coverage of South by Southwest 2014. It is being reposted to coincide with the film's wide release.]

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Review: Noah photo
Review: Noah
by Matthew Razak

To preface this review I'd like to point you towards this article, which explains how I, as a DC film critic, finally got to see Noah ahead of time. Basically, Paramount for some reason thought it would be grand to screen the film for only religious critics, and when they got called on their crap threw the company that does the screenings under the bus. On the plus side they did arrange a screening so I got to see Noah ahead of time for this review (which was embargoed until today despite opening last night).

But that really has nothing to do with Darren Aronofky's biggest movie yet. At $130 million dollars this isn't the small budget fare we're use to seeing from him. Instead it is an epic in the most biblical sense of the word. It's a daunting task to retell a story about faith in a increasingly secular industry, and the way Aronofsky goes about that is very interesting.

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Review: 300: Rise of an Empire photo
Review: 300: Rise of an Empire
by Nick Valdez

When a not-sequel/prequel to 300, a film that hit theaters over eight theaters ago, was first announced, I was the first to complain about how boring the whole thing looked. And as time went on, and trailers were slowly released, I did not warm up to the idea any further.

I should be completely honest here. I wanted 300: Rise of an Empire to be terrible just so I could use "Rise of a Meh-pire" as a subtitle. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out the way I planned as 300: Rise of an Empire is surprisingly entertaining.

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Review: Muppets Most Wanted photo
Review: Muppets Most Wanted
by Nick Valdez

2011's The Muppets was a breath of fresh air since it was a reboot which never really felt like one. There wasn't a grand gesture to reinvent the characters, a notable lack of cynicism, and it was most importantly, fun. It was a reunion with old pals that sort of wrote itself into a corner. Their meta narrative of avoiding obscurity left them at a place they really couldn't continue from. 

That's where The Muppets...Again! Muppets Most Wanted comes in. In an attempt to return to their Caper days, Most Wanted tries to pretend The Muppets never happened by jovially throwing the original premise out of the window. By returning to their classic comedy, however, the Muppet gang may have gotten themselves into a worse situation. 

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Review: Rob the Mob photo
Review: Rob the Mob
by Michael Jordan

The mob, a subject that has been covered almost every way you can think of. Glorified, glamorized, famous and infamous. We forget sometimes that the mob is a real thing, with real people, and real reasons for their perspective involvements. We forget the repercussions of said organization, not only to others in the community, but the people inside the mob as well. Rob the Mob does something special, something unique, and something that many other films are afraid to do: Tell its story, til the very bittersweet end.

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Review: Guilty of Romance photo
Review: Guilty of Romance
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

I greatly enjoyed Himizu, another 2011 Sion Sono film released last week in NYC theaters, but there was something it lacked that I expected from that sort of film: sex. It had the violence (although it was definitely subdued in comparison to some of his other films), but there was none of the weird, creepy nudity found in some of his other films. I wasn't unhappy about it (it would have added nothing to that film), but I was surprised. When I checked out Guilty of Romance and randomly clicked on a part of the timeline, I found myself staring at a woman on all fours in a colorful room, presumably a love hotel, in the middle of that most intimate of acts.

And there was the Sion Sono I had expected. For better or worse, what Himizu lacked, Guilty of Romance has in spades.

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

I can see why Sion Sono was drawn to Himizu. The manga, which ran from 2001 to 2002, seems like exactly the sort of thing that would appeal to the man who made Cold Fish and Suicide Club. But that's not really a compliment. 

Immediately after finishing the film, I went to read the manga. Usually I'm not particularly interested in checking source material after seeing an adaptation, but the film deals rather explicitly with things that hadn't taken place when the manga was written. And now, 43 chapters later, I can say that the film is indeed very different from the manga.

And that is a very good thing.

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SXSW Review: Que Caramba es la Vida photo
SXSW Review: Que Caramba es la Vida
by Nick Valdez

Growing up as a young Latino boy in San Antonio, Texas, I've had quite a few experiences with Mariachi groups. There was a Mariachi club in my high school, and on several occasions, my great uncle would hire groups to sing at his parties. While I know little Spanish myself (being 5th generation Mexican, Spanish, and Native American), there's always been something special about Mariachi music. It helps me feel closer to the culture years of assimilation have separated me from. 

But there's one perspective I shamefully admit I've never considered: the women. How do the women of Mariachi exist within this male dominated field? And as bad as it is to say, men are and have always been a dominant part of Mexican culture stemming from some passed down belief that women are supposed to stay home and raise the children. 

Que Caramba es la Vida paints a new picture of the previously homogeneous term "starving artist" with wonderful results. 

[From March 7th - 15th, Flixist will be providing coverage from South by Southwest 2014 in Austin, TX.  Prepare yourselves for reviews, interviews, features, photos, videos, and all types of shenanigans!]

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SXSW Review: Doc of the Dead photo
SXSW Review: Doc of the Dead
by Nick Valdez

Zombies are some of the most divisive creatures in the horror genre. They've become such a big entity, the zombie film has grown into a genre all its own complete with multiple variations, multiple looks, and multiple medias. Their influence has spread through all sorts of movies, books, comics, videogames, and even television. 

Doc of the Dead seeks to document the story of the zombie genre from beginning to its undead end. Does it succeed in all the right areas? Somewhat, yes. 

[From March 7th - 15th, Flixist will be providing coverage from South by Southwest 2014 in Austin, TX.  Prepare yourselves for reviews, interviews, features, photos, videos, and all types of shenanigans!]

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SXSW Review: Joe photo
SXSW Review: Joe
by Nick Valdez

Before my screening of Joe, I wondered what kind of Nicolas Cage I'd be subject to for its duration. As good of an actor as he is, he has had a varied career. From "the bees" to voodoo make up in Ghost Rider, you never quite know what you're going to get from the man. Color me surprised when Joe forces Cage to subdue the "Rage Cage" and promptly deliver one of the finest performances of his career. 

Joe came out of nowhere to completely surprise me. It's going to be a film I remember for quite a while. It's definitely going to end up on lots of "Best of 2014" lists. 

[From March 7th - 15th, Flixist will be providing coverage from South by Southwest 2014 in Austin, TX.  Prepare yourselves for reviews, interviews, features, photos, videos, and all types of shenanigans!]

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SXSW Review: Predestination photo
SXSW Review: Predestination
by Nick Valdez

Predestination is one of those festival films that you have no idea exists but, when you finally see it, you wonder where it's been your entire life. I'm not the biggest time travel movie fan, nor do I really enjoy science fiction in general, but Predestination uses its premise to rise above the usual trappings of the genre and creates a film which is a lot smarter than I initially gave it credit for. 

I mean, it was pitched to me as "Minority Report with Ethan Hawke" and it's much, much better than that. 

[From March 7th - 15th, Flixist will be providing coverage from South by Southwest 2014 in Austin, TX.  Prepare yourselves for reviews, interviews, features, photos, videos, and all types of shenanigans!]

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Review: Need for Speed photo
Review: Need for Speed
by Nick Valdez

Need for Speed is in a tight spot. As a videogame adaptation it not only has to be a well made film, but also needs to please fans of the videogame series. It's got to do an odd little dance where it needs to show just enough evidence of its origin without it becoming overbearing or it succumbs to the same problems as other videogame movies had in the past. 

You can argue all day whether or not Need for Speed is unfairly held to a higher standard of quality thanks to the unbelievable amount of criticism videogame movies get already, but this is what we've got to work with. So I guess the ultimate question is: Does Need for Speed fulfill your needs? 

Haha, no. 

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SXSW Review: Open Windows photo
SXSW Review: Open Windows
by Nick Valdez

Open Windows was the first film I saw during SXSW 2014. I've never covered the festival before, so I had no idea what kind of features I'd end up exposing myself to. Going in I was awkward, tense, but mostly curious. As the film went on to elaborate and explore on the very nature of exposure itself, I found myself more entranced with the premise of Open Windows more so than its execution. 

But how much credit should a film get for my introspection? Tons actually. While Open Windows fumbles in a few areas, it's finely creepy, strangely arousing, but most importantly, it's compelling. 

[From March 7th - 15th, Flixist will be providing coverage from South by Southwest 2014 in Austin, TX.  Prepare yourselves for reviews, interviews, features, photos, videos, and all types of shenanigans!]

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SXSW Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel photo
SXSW Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel
by Nick Valdez

Let me be frank. Since this was going to eventually come to light, I may as well admit I've only seen one Wes Anderson film. When I was tasked with the review for Anderson's latest, The Grand Budapest Hotel, I was anxious because Anderson movies are notorious/famous for their self referential humor and narrative. While I realized Budapest was essentially going to be the most referential out of all of his films, I almost backed out of this review completely. 

I'm glad I didn't because while I didn't grasp every single reference, that's not really needed. Whether or not you understand the source of every idea or decision, in a story that's essentially all about storytelling and the storytellers themselves, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a riveting marvel of a film. 

It's something I want to see again, and again, and again. 

[From March 7th - 15th, Flixist will be providing coverage from South by Southwest 2014 in Austin, TX.  Prepare yourselves for reviews, interviews, features, photos, videos, and all types of shenanigans!]

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SXSW Review: Neighbors photo
SXSW Review: Neighbors
by Nick Valdez

I had completely written off Neighbors. Coming off of Seth Rogen's last starring role in This is the End, the first trailer for Neighbors underwhelmed me. I've gotten used to Rogen acting, writing, and directing his own films so I was a little concerned when Rogen placed himself in someone else's film. Was his lack of major involvement going to impact the overall quality of the film? Should you expect less because Rogen didn't write a lot of it himself? 

Thankfully not. Even with some groan inducers, Neighbors is smart. It just needs to reign it in a bit. 

[From March 7th - 15th, Flixist will be providing coverage from South by Southwest 2014 in Austin, TX.  Prepare yourselves for reviews, interviews, features, photos, videos, and all types of shenanigans!]

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