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8:30 PM on 09.30.2014

NYFF Review: Whiplash

I thought the good folks over at the NYFF were kidding when they described Whiplash as "Full Metal Jacket at Julliard." I've been burned by their film descriptions before, so I couldn't trust something that just sou...

Alec Kubas-Meyer


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NYFF Review: Gone Girl photo
NYFF Review: Gone Girl
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

Gone Girl is the book of the moment. Much as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was The Big Thing when David Fincher adapted it for US screens, Gillian Flynn's novel seems to be ubiquitous. Everyone is reading it and talking about it, and those who aren't are certainly aware of its presence.

I expect this is partially because of the David Fincher adaptation. The book was released in 2012, and though it quickly hit the New York Times Best Seller List, I didn't hear about it until the announcement of its cinematic release. I considered reading it, but I never got around to it. (Flixist Editor-in-Chief Matt Razak has been hounding me to do so now, though, so I may pick it up.)

Walking around New York City, posters for the film are unavoidable. This adaptation is a big deal. The Big Book is about to be The Big Movie.

And it's going to get people talking.

[For the next few weeks, Flixist will be covering the 52nd New York Film Festival. More information can be found here, and all of our coverage can be found here.]

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Review: Two Night Stand photo
Review: Two Night Stand
by Mike Cosimano

Is there nothing in this world more tiresome than movies about supposedly wise beyond their years, quirky, white, directionless youth philosophizing about the nature of sex/life/interpersonal relationships? I sure as hell can’t think of anything. Retreading this well-worn ground seems to be a rite of passage for indie filmmakers, to the point where I think we should have a separate genre; a veritable landfill for the express purpose of sequestering both this genre and those who actively seek them out.

Anyway, Two Night Stand isn’t very good.

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Review: The Equalizer photo
Review: The Equalizer
by Nick Valdez

I've been looking forward to The Equalizer for some time. The first trailer I sat down and watched featured a cool new Eminem song, Denzel Washington acting like a vengeful badass again, and couldn't stop boasting how it's from the director of Training Day, Antoine Fuqua. Figured that should've been a red flag. 

Although Fuqua's direction on Training Day was good, it was a great film because it had a good team behind it. Take away that team and you'll find the rest of Fuqua's career: King Arthur, Shooter, and Olympus Has Fallen. But hey, he's finally reunited with Denzel Washington! Washington is a powerhouse, so of course they'd bring their A game, right? 

With how much Washington leisurely strolls from place to place in The Equalizer, it's a shame he never gets anywhere. 

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Review: The Scribbler photo
Review: The Scribbler
by Nick Valdez

When I choose to review a film it's because something about it speaks to me. Whether it's the premise, the setting, the look, or the cast involved, I'm willing to take a chance on pretty much anything if some of those things are there. I chose to review The Scribbler because it happened to have everything on that list: great cast, interesting idea, and it's based on a graphic novel. I'd figure that maybe I'd stumble into something great. 

The Scribbler taught me not to blindly choose films anymore. 

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Review: This is Where I Leave You photo
Review: This is Where I Leave You
by Matthew Razak

The dramatic family comedy. A staple in our modern day film scene. Throw is some folky pop music and a few stars and you've got yourself a big giant cliche ready for the theaters. There are ways to do it right, though. If you can pull your film out of melodrama and into actual emotion then you can hit the nail on the head. It happens.

It only half happened here. This Is Where I Leave You boldly teases at pushing its characters and feelings in interesting directions, but holds back far too much. It leaves us with a family dramedy that works on basic levels, but never transcends its genre. 

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Review: A Walk Among the Tombstones photo
Review: A Walk Among the Tombstones
by Matthew Razak

Looking back over Liam Neeson's career since Taken turned him into an action hero one could argue that he's basically made the same movie over and over. A vengeful individual in some sort of manly battle involving life and death. And, yes, that is a valid argument. But it also isn't. 

See, while Neeson's films have all been pushed the same way, they actually haven't all been that similar (both in tone and quality). From the outstanding The Grey too the awful Taken 2 Neeson has basically played around with the theme of the bad ass, elder hero in a variety of ways. Now they haven't always worked, but one thing remains consistent: Neeson is awesome. That pretty much describes A Walk Among the Tombstones perfectly. It doesn't always work, but Neeson is awesome.

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Review: The Maze Runner photo
Review: The Maze Runner
by Nick Valdez

As  Flixist's resident Young Adult novel correspondent, I've seen lots of forgettable teen films. With studios betting huge fortunes on these films becoming successful franchises (like Twilight and The Hunger Games), most of these series tend to forget they need a suitable first entry to get kids interested in the first place less they flop around and count their chickens before anything hatches like Divergent. 

The Maze Runner is the latest in a long line of hopeful franchises that want to hit the ground running, but it stumbles out the gate. While it looks good, and is acted well enough, there's no cheese at the end of this maze. 

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Review: Tusk photo
Review: Tusk
by Sean Walsh

I have a long-standing history with Kevin Smith, dating back to high school when I first saw the erroneously named "Jersey Trilogy." When Red State came out in 2011, I was intrigued to see what Smith could do with both the horror genre and a parody of the always-awful Westboro Baptist Church. I was...underwhelmed, to the point where sharing the same room as the man whose films I could quote by heart was undesirable.

I was following Tusk with fairly mild curiosity until I saw the trailer (see below), and then found my curiosity going from mild to full-tilt. When we received the invite for an advance screening in NYC, I took my first-ever paid personal day, hopped a train, and went to see if the idol of my teen years still had it in him. 

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Review: The Guest photo
Review: The Guest
by Nick Valdez

When I saw the first trailer for The Guest I wasn't particularly interested in the film. It looked generic, bland, and seemed like yet another trite thriller that comes out around Halloween for a cheap buck. But like You're Next (written and directed by the same duo of Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett) last year, there's more here than I initially gave it credit for. 

You're Next went on to become one of my favorite films of 2013, and now The Guest joins alongside as my favorite film of 2014 so far. It exceeded my expectations. Fantastic, thrilling, exquisite, nail biting, hilarious, captivating...

There simply aren't enough buzzwords to capture how much I loved The Guest. 

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

Every so often, a film comes along that completely shatters your expectations. You think you've got it figured out and then it throws a curveball. Then another. Then five more. Soon you realize you can't figure the film out and you have to just let it happen, because even hazarding a guess at what happens next will just make you look silly. It's rare for something so consistently bizarre to be released, and even rarer for it to be a blockbuster, even a foreign one.

But The Pirates is one of those films. And I'm still reeling from the impact.

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Review: The Drop photo
Review: The Drop
by Matthew Razak

The Drop is one of those little crime thrillers that comes out and no one really hears about it and you aren't sure why it was made. Possibly the studio thought it could grab some award love or something, but nothing is actually going to come out of it. This is too bad because Tom Hardy gives a performance that you could never see coming from the man.

The Drop sadly isn't up to its star's performance, but that only makes Hardy stand out more. There is nothing more fantastic than watching an actor completely embody a role. There are few things more upsetting than watching the movie surrounding it never match it.

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Review: As Above, So Below photo
Review: As Above, So Below
by Sean Walsh

So, every now and then, I get really excited about a movie from its trailer (which is the point of a trailer, of course). My top three, in no particular order, would probably be 21 Jump Street, Watchmen, and Guardians of the Galaxy. I love trailers, but I tend to try not to get pumped for a lot of movies just in case they show the best stuff in the trailer and I end up walking out of the movie all pouty.

That being said, I could barely contain my excitement for As Above, So Below. A found footage movie in the catacombs beneath Paris that leads the hapless protagonists into literal hell? Ghosts from their past coming back to do more than just haunt them? My hype level was at an all-time high. I thought, "Could this be the film that reinvigorates the found footage genre?" I was so excited, I made sure I didn't watch the new trailer they released last week (see below), just in case it would taint my overall giddiness.

Could this movie possibly match my expectations? Did I set myself up for my own ninety-minute trip into hell? Strap on your headlamps and find out below. 

I would also like to include a trigger warning for anybody reading this that has aversion to frightening images. The pictures below are pretty in-your-face, as is befitting of a found footage horror film, and I don't want anybody getting upset.

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Review: Kundo: Age of the Rampant photo
Review: Kundo: Age of the Rampant
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

When I decide to watch a movie, it is usually based on two thing:

  1. Whether or not the press picture implies some kind of action.
  2. The runtime.

While there's obviously some leeway on the first one, once a movie pushes past the two hour mark I tend to weigh my interest more carefully. I'll take a random chance on an 80 minute movie or a 100 minute. But a movie that's 135 minutes? That's past the limits of the "Why not?" attitude. I'm not sure what it says about my psychology, but that's the way it is.

The press notes for Kundo show a bald man wielding two giant butcher knives (check!) and gave a 100 minute runtime (check!). That sounded right up my alley.

But while it definitely has the action I was looking for, the runtime on the press notes was off by 35 minutes. That was an unwelcome surprise.

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Review: The November Man photo
Review: The November Man
by Matthew Razak

The fact that Pierce Brosnan was returning to spy movies pretty much made me one of the most excited people around. The November Man would be a harder, R-rated James Bond with some good action and maybe a little throwback feel to the spy films of the 90s. I'd be quite happy with even the most mediocre of old-school thrillers with that set up.

It says a lot that I am not happy with this movie at all, not even with Pierce Brosnan.

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Review: Sin City - A Dame to Kill For photo
Review: Sin City - A Dame to Kill For
by Sean Walsh

Sin City has always had a special place in my heart. Way back in 2005, when the first film came out, I was in my senior yearo f high school, taking Film as Art. One of our assignments was to write a paper on a film we see in theaters, complete with ticket stub stapled to the front page as proof. As Sin City was in theaters, and I was a red-blooded eighteen-year-old, I thought "Heck, a movie based on a comic I've never read full of dudes that eat bullets for breakfast and hot, young thing Jessica Alba playing a stripper by the guy who made such films as Spy Kids? Sign me up!" Unfortunately, everybody was too busy or too disinterested to take me. With no reasonable options left, I asked my grandmother. She said yes, and ended up loving it ("That Marv, he was like a real superhero!). That sparked a tradition of going to see movies together with my grandmother. Some were racy (I can say I'm probably one of the only people in the world that's seen Jason Segel's penis with my grandmother, on the big screen at least), some were not, but we haven't seen a movie yet that she hasn't enjoyed.

Sadly, this year she came up to visit several weeks before Sin City: A Dame to Kill For came out, and sadder yet, I was on vacation while she was in town. So, with a heavy heart, I went to see the film I've been waiting nine years for with my best pal Patrick instead. Could it possibly match up to the sentimental and nostalgic factors I associated with the first film? Read on and find out!

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Review: Cam2Cam photo
Review: Cam2Cam
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

In past reviews, I've written about the problems with poor subtitles on foreign films. Improper use of language serves as a distraction from the comedy or drama and makes the experience worse. I love the English language. It's my lifeblood and my livelihood. So when I see it mangled, I get angry. When it comes to foreign films, I can at least forgive the fundamental language barrier. It's the reality of a love of foreign films, and I am willing to cut some slack.

But though Cam2Cam takes place in Bangkok, the film is in English and was ostensibly written by someone whose first language was English. I say ostensibly because I have trouble believing that's true.

Then again, what was I supposed to expect from a movie called "Cam2Cam"?

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Review: When the Game Stands Tall photo
Review: When the Game Stands Tall
by Matthew Razak

I'm a sucker for sports movies. You give me a gang of lovable underdogs, a few training montages and a triumphant final game and I'm in your pocket. It's just so easy to get caught up in a sport film even when their bad. They hit all the right points that we love and when done even remotely right you at least feel a little bit of joy when those underdogs win the big game. What I'm saying is that it is really hard to make a sports film that you just stop caring about. 

When the Games Stands Tall does this. Not only does it go on for way longer than it should, but it doesn't grab you in the first place. It's as if the filmmakers had never seen a sports film before. No, check that. It's as if they had never seen any movie before.

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

It's been more than 20 years since Lois Lowry's The Giver first hit shelves, and more than a decade since I first read it. It's one of those transformative books, and before the recent YA trend towards totalitarianism, the first exposure most people had to dystopias. It's not really 1984 for children (because it's not really for children, despite everyone I know having reading before middle school), but what it says about the world and about imagination is formative for a lot of people. It definitely was for me.

When I heard it was being adapted, I wasn't excited about it, but I also wasn't totally put off. It's a story about imagery, and actually seeing some of the images that are discussed in the book (and the way they affect the view of a colorless, lifeless world) struck me as potentially compelling.

But as I sat in the theater, I realized that I was wrong: The Giver isn't about imagery at all.

It's about imagination.

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Review: The Expendables 3 photo
Review: The Expendables 3
by Nick Valdez

The Expendables could've been a good series had it been advertised differently. First touted as a return to form for aging 80s action stars as they wax nostalgic about their glory days, The Expendables turned out to be a greyish blob that somehow muddied up the colorful personalities which inhabited it.

Then the same thing happened in the sequel. The actors got a bit more room to play, but as the cast ballooned, the little joy to be had was smothered by more generic shooty bang bang. With the advertising for The Expendables 3 copying Fast & Furious 6's font, Stallone making a big deal about dropping Bruce Willis from the cast, and adding a bunch of relative nobodies to the roster, the third film looked to follow in the same pattern. 

This better be the last one. 

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Review: Let's Be Cops photo
Review: Let's Be Cops
by Sean Walsh

I love the Buddy Cop genre. Lethal Weapon, Beverly Hills Cop, 21 Jump Street (and its sequel), even Hollywood Homicide. I also love The New Girl. Imagine my surprise and delight when two of the leads from The New Girl were going to appear in a buddy cop movie! Just like 21 Jump Street before it, I loved the trailer for Let's Be Cops every time I saw it (and considering how many times I watched it on YouTube, that's saying something).

Did Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans, Jr. deliver the goods or did they show the best stuff in the trailer? Read on to find out!

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Review: Into the Storm photo
Review: Into the Storm
by Matthew Razak

Into the Storm is one of those movies that you wonder where it came from. Natural disaster films are so early 2000s and this one feels particularly ancient. Clearly the thinking was that with all the super storms hitting us the time was ripe to pick the genre again, but it really isn't and Into the Storm isn't the film to do it in.

While you don't have to do much to be a competent natural disaster movie there are a few rules. The biggest one is not to actively insult people who have actually been affected by cataclysmic disasters. Into the Storm fails at this, and while it may succeed at a few other things because of that it fails completely. 

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