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Civil War Trailer photo
Fanfic brought to life
We've been anticipating the first trailer for Marvel's next big sequel for some time, which will most likely also be attached to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so there's probably not a lot I need to say about it. You know the...

FF photo
The first family comes in last
I'm not sure the comic movie world will ever forgive Fox for what they did to Fantastic Four, but despite being torn to pieces and making no money the film was going to get a sequel. It was scheduled to release on June 9, 201...

Nobuhiko Obayashi: The Strange, the Sweet, and the Childlike

Nov 20 // Hubert Vigilla
In Alec's Cult Club piece on Hausu, he hinged some of his observations on the childlike approach to the film. Originally intended as a remake of Jaws, Obayashi went entirely in his own direction, blending his background in experimental filmmaking with the imagery of soap operas, melodramas, youth pictures, and colorful horror films. (I'd still love to see a Jaws remake done in the style of Hausu.) Obayashi turned to his 10-year-old daughter for the film's story, and it feels like the sort of story a 10-year-old would tell. There's a haunted house that eats people, and a bunch of school girls are its prey. Spooky and surreal things happen. And then Noodle Bear. I mentioned last week that Hausu feels like the fever dream of an imaginative child who's really into Scooby-Doo and Mario Bava. The events unfold with the logic of the subconscious, as Obayashi fills the film with his young daughter's fears. It's an anarchic film, a story told without an expectation of adult rules since the film is mostly about young girls fending for themselves and using their own skills and ingenuity to do it. The finished movie is like the work of a child rooting through an upended box of art supplies and being asked to make a pretty picture. And what a pretty picture. What's striking about Hausu is how the movie seems stitched together by the childlike conjunction "and then"--they went to the house and then Mac's head flew around and then the piano ate a girl and then Kung Fu jumpkicked stuff and then the man turned into bananas and then there was a flood. It's a flow of strange ideas, and if a 10-year-old girl told it to you, the stream would only be interrupted for the occasional impish giggle and a brief fit of hyperventilation to catch a breath. I Are You, You Am Me (転校生, Tenkousei) is a much quieter and down-to-earth film adapted from a novel by Hisashi Yamanaka. Sure, almost any film is much quieter and down-to-earth than Hausu, but I get a sense that I Are You is less like a movie told by a 10-year-old and more like a movie made by an adult who's taking a thoughtful look back at what it was like to be 14. I Are You is something of an adolescent minor-masterpiece, a coming-of-age story built on one of the great comedy sub-genres of the 70s and 80s: the body-swap movie. Rather than swap roles of parent and child, I Are You switches the minds of a boy named Kazuo and a girl named Kazumi during the awkward early teen years. Seeing the two child leads "act male" (snips and snails and puppy dogs' tails) and "act female" (sugar and spice and everything nice) is pretty fascinating, particularly given how gender norms have become more fluid over time, but almost all ideas of maleness and femaleness are products of their time and culture, and so the gender norms in the film are no exception. (Tangent: Maybe there's an era-specific nature to the body-swap genre? Decades when the world started to become more interconnected and the earth a little flatter?) I Are You predominantly centers on Kazuo's mind in Kazumi's body, which might be a kind of stand-in for Obayashi himself as he tries to inhabit the world of adolescence again and what it's like to be a young girl. Young actress Satomi Kobayashi has solid body language playing a guy, sort of like Hausu's Kung Fu by way of Tom Sawyer. By contrast, Kazumi's mind in Kazuo's body is meek and out of sorts, with more than a hint of deep depression. Before the body swap happened, Kazumi was a happy transfer student who's new in town. Now she's been unmoored from her own body, and she may have to move away with Kazuo's family. That unanchored, life-in-flux state is part of growing up, but here its given more metaphorical heaviness. Much of I Are You is goofy, but it arrives at a beautiful, wistful tone by the final half hour. Many coming-of-age stories are defined by a lesson that equips a child for the adult world. In I Are You, it's all about the beauty of empathy. Bound for the Fields, the Mountains, and the Seacoast (野ゆき山ゆき海べゆき, No Yuki Yama Yuki Umibe Yuki) is also a great film, and also its own animal, which speaks to Obayashi's diverse range as a filmmaker and the concerns he has as a storyteller. It's a period piece set right before World War II, focused predominantly on the lives of the children of a town as a counterpoint to the poisonous nationalism, militarism, and conformity of the adults. It's a type of coming-of-age film about empathy, and yet it's done in a style reminiscent of Yasujiro Ozu, with balanced compositions and characters looking right into the camera as they recite their lines. In terms of weirdness, Bound for the Fields splits the difference between Hausu and I Are You, like a break in the child world of experience and the adult world. Obayashi continually finds surreal, fantastical moments to play with and locates that beating human heart in the scene. When a young woman meets with a lover at night to discuss running away--she's going to be sold to a brothel, he's been conscripted into the Japanese military--there's a pair of extras above them at a dock playing with sparklers. As we come in for the two-shot of the couple, the foreground becomes filled with sparks. It's a beautiful bit of romantic dazzle. By focusing on children in Bound for the Fields, Obayashi is able to critique the absurdities and horrors of war and also the underlying creepiness of playing war as a child. As the kids simulate a battle, they chuck rocks at one another. It's fun and games, but as their bodies lay flat to play dead, it can't help but evoke thoughts of the real and forthcoming horrors of WWII; the same goes when watching the kids tied up playing prisoner and tortured enemy combatant. As the factions of children join together to save a boy's sister-in-law from life in a brothel, they come up with a type of game that doubles as a rescue mission. It reminded me of the weird solution that Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer have for getting Jim out of his jam. Mark Twain did that rescue as a farce because, as George Saunders mentioned in an essay, the ugly and logical reality of what would have happened to Jim had it not been a farce would be too dark to handle in a comic novel. Obayashi, on the other hand, takes the light and the dark of the situation, blending farce with painful social commentary. As a coming-of-age-story, Bound for the Fields deals with the way children confront the ugliness of the adult world, and also the realization that it's a world they'll eventually join.
Nobuhiko Obayashi photo
Youthful Anarchism vs. The Adult World
The largest retrospective of Nobuhiko Obayashi's work in the United States kicks off tonight at The Japan Society with a screening of House (Hausu). Hausu is Obayashi's best known work in the US, and probably the only one of ...

Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

Nov 20 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219544:42428:0[/embed] The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2Director: Francis LawrenceRelease Date: November 20, 2015Rating: PG-13 "Whoa. Philip Seymour Hoffman." Not having prepared for the film in any way, I had completely forgotten that Mockingjay marked the actor's final performance. More than a year and a half after he died, he's onscreen again. And it's weird. Really, really weird. When he first showed up, moments into the film, the person I was sitting next to turned: "Is he real?" The answer to the question – "No" – is simple, but the implications of that answer are a little more complicated. It was decided pretty much immediately that there would be no CGI Philip Seymour Hoffman walking around, monologuing in place of the actor. It's a sign of respect, and it's one that I commend the team for doing. I'm sure the pressure to digitize him was fairly high, because his absence is felt rather heavily. Plutarch Heavensbee (ugh) is an important character to the plot, someone always lurking in the shadows and pulling the strings. But not in Mockingjay - Part 2. Here, he simply is a shadow. The film cries out for his presence, and a scene late in the film was switched up in a way that is functional but also fairly awkward. Hoffman's death complicated things, as such things so often do. That's actually a good way to describe Mockingjay - Part 2: complicated. It's complicated because it's the second part of a movie that didn't need to be two parts. These two (good) 2+ hour films could have been turned into one great three hour one. Heck, you could probably go shorter, because fully half of Part 2's runtime is taken up by scenes that aren't "bad" but also don't really do much. There's a lot of sitting around and talking, or walking around and talking, or running around and talking. The pacing is molasses slow, and ultimately a film that is only a bit over two hours (with 10-15 minutes of credits on top) feels nearly double that. This is honestly felt like one of the longest films I have ever seen, because so much time is spent on a series of very different things, but they're presented in such a way that it seems like the movie is just going to go on forever. And it does, sort of. A lot of it builds to a few different things, and though they all ultimately come to pass, it feels like they were glossed over to make way for less interesting things.  Which isn't to say that the film is boring, because it's not. It's just slow. And though it ratchets up tension at various points with interesting and strange (and kinda horrific) setpieces, the momentum doesn't continue to build. After the sequence, it just stops. And so, bizarrely, it actually feels like there are multiple films worth of narrative here that have been stripped down. It's almost episodic, with a "beginning," middle, and end for each of the different plotlines. But a lot of those episodes are just filler, and the ones that aren't could have easily been much shorter. As the second part in a two-part film, discussing specifics seems even less important than usual. You decided whether or not you were going to see this movie as soon as the credits in Mockingjay - Part 1 rolled. If you saw that cliffhanger and needed to know what happens to Katniss, Peeta, Snow, and everyone else, then you're hooked and you'll see this movie no matter what. And if you decided you didn't care? I'm not going to change your mind, because this movie isn't either. There's nothing about the narrative here that is going to appeal to anyone who didn't like the first three movies or didn't want to see what's next. I'm here not really to tell you if the movie is good, because ultimately that doesn't matter. I'm just here to think about what the experience of seeing it's like. And it boils down to this: Exhausting or not, I liked Mockingjay - Part 2. As a fan of the earlier films, I feel relatively satisfied. It's worth it to see where these characters end up and see who they are underneath it all. Some of the characters are given weird motivations that I didn't totally understand and others grew in interesting ways. But at least it all ended. After two years of cliffhangers, it was nice to get see credits set by something other than a close-up of Katniss's stressed-out face. The actual ending made me groan out loud for four solid minutes, but at this point I just wanted to know. And I got my answers. I don't need anything more from The Hunger Games. I can go on and live my life and never think about it again. I can wish that a tighter and more cohesive film ended the franchise, but why? We've got an ending, it did what it had to do, did it competently, and now it's done. Goodbye, Hunger Games. It's been fun.
Mockingjay Part 2 Review photo
The end of time
I didn't read The Hunger Games or its sequels. When the first film came to theaters, I had heard a whole lot of people talking about the books, but I didn't know anything beyond the "It's pretty much Battle Royale" premi...

Zoolander 2 trailer photo
The beautiful people, beautiful people
A wise man once said "There's a fine line between stupid and clever." That probably best describes the first Zoolander. Well, Zoolander is back, and if this first trailer for Zoolander 2 (2oolander) is any indication, it's as...

Fast and Furious photo
#Family... but divided up
Cinematic universes are all the rage thanks to Marvel and their ability to print money with theirs. Universal has been desperate to get their own, but the best thing they have to offer is turning their classic monsters into s...

Review: The 33

Nov 13 // Matthew Razak
[embed]220135:42699:0[/embed] The 33Director: Patricia RiggenRated: PG-13Release Date: November 13, 2015 What is this story we're talking about? Back in 2010 33 Chilean miners got trapped when a very large chunk of rock collapsed the mine they were working in. Against all odds, and while the entire world watched, the 33 were eventually rescued. This is ostensibly their story of survival, but it's also the story of how they were rescued. It is a plot so full of happiness, wonder and cliche that if it weren't for the fact that it actually happened you'd be reading a review about how the film was too unbelievable.  To be sure The 33 probably plays it a little loose with events and characters. While the miners themselves, led by Mario Sepúlveda (Antonio Banderas) and Don Lucho (Lou Diamond Phillips), are treated pretty well their above ground counterparts get a lot of fluffing. Laurence Golborne (Rodrigo Santoro), Chile's minister of mining, gets a very flattering coat of paint with the casting of a ridiculously good looking actor and the insertion of hints of romance with one of the miner's sisters. Luckily the plot line never bores out, but it speaks to just how rote the film can be. The movie hits every survival plot point it can with the emotional gusto you expect, but nothing actually special. This is especially true in the latter half of the film. While the miners are struggling to survive and the rescuers are desperately drilling down to them the film is actually surprisingly tense. Riggen does a fantastic job of developing the 33 as people and a group. The stress of being trapped in the mine is reflected and paralleled with the desperate attempts to rescue the miners. A particularly good scene brings the miners into the realm of fantasy as they eat their last supper around a long wooden table. The heavy hints of what faith means to these men reflected in the visuals of the scene. Riggen may get a bit heavy handed with her visual metaphors for faith, but she plays them well. Unfortunately the moment the drill pierces the cave it all seems to get lost. The screenplay jumps from subtle character study, to obvious social commentary as the miners become international sensations and a miniature revolution starts to occur. The moment the focus is taken off the minors and put onto the rescue the film jumps into cliche and begins to hamper everything that was built in the first half. Riggens visuals fall away as the screenplay struggles to keep the miners relevant for the months they must wait for rescue. Once survival is not longer the driving factor it seems the movie doesn't know what to do with them. It definitely grinds the performances to a halt as well. Banderas is powerful as Mario in the first half of the movie, lacing a relentless force into his performance while Phillips plays behind him, worn and afraid. I was seriously leaning towards Oscar thoughts as I watched Banderas rally the miners in the key survival speech, but as his character devolves into the film's representation for the corruption of the outside world (before, of course, redeeming himself quickly) his performance suffers. We lose the connection to the miners as the plot opens up and in turn lose the connection to the performances. What's most tragic is that The 33 never confronts anything. At the end of the film text points out that the mining company was never punished and the miners never got an retribution from them. However, the movie never really addresses this situation it's so focused on being triumphant for its last half. It hits its dramatic points just fine, but never pushes to the next level where were allowed to talk about what happened. This movie should never need to be made, but instead of looking into that fact when it has the chance it instead revels in its glorious rescue. It's a great rescue story for sure, but The 33 could have been more. 
The 33 Review photo
How do you say 'meh' in Spanish?
You could mess up the story of The 33 I suppose. It would be hard, but not impossible. You could get over melodramatic, but you'd have to try hard because the story its based on is damn melodramatic. You could screw up t...

Fifty Shades photo
Will shoot back-to-back
Fifty Shades of Grey was a really bad movie that featured even worse behind the scenes trouble between the director, Sam Taylor-Johnson, and the book's author, Can't Write Well (possibly not her actual name). That meant ...

NYPD/LAPD boycotts of Quentin Tarantino reinforce negative stereotypes about cops

Nov 09 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220111:42692:0[/embed] Soon after, the LAPD joined the NYPD in calling for a boycott of Tarantino's films. "Hateful rhetoric dehumanizes police and encourages attacks on us," wrote Los Angeles Police Protective League (PPL) president Craig Lally. "And questioning everything we do threatens public safety by discouraging officers from putting themselves in positions where their legitimate actions could be falsely portrayed as thuggery." There are good cops out there, of course, but none of these statements by the PBA and PPL are going to make it easier for them to do their job. Remarks like these make it sound as if the NYPD and LAPD are beyond reproach. If you've paid attention to the news at all or even have some passing familiarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, that's obviously not the case. The issue is police brutality related to systemic racism and/or general problems with hiring and accountability in law enforcement, but reps for the NYPD and LAPD would rather not address those issues. Because hey, look, Quentin Tarantino! Worse still, police reps recently ratcheted up their rhetoric, and it's still not helping their own cause. Late last week, Jim Pasco, the executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, made a cryptic statement about Tarantino and the police boycott effort. "Something is in the works, but the element of surprise is the most important element. Something could happen anytime between now and [the premiere of The Hateful Eight]. And a lot of it is going to be driven by Tarantino, who is nothing if not predictable." Pasco added, "The right time and place will come up and we'll try to hurt him in the only way that seems to matter to him, and that's economically." So again, rather than try to figure out how to prevent the deaths of more innocent people, how to reach out to underserved or marginalized communities, and just generally figuring out how to be better police officers, high-level police union reps would rather try to organize a major boycott of a new Quentin Tarantino movie and intimidate the filmmaker, and by extension other voices critical of the police, into silence. This is, frankly, stupid. The NYPD, LAPD, and the Fraternal Order of Police come across as petty and tone deaf. The boycott will accomplish nothing substantive with regard to police brutality; it may simply make current perceptions of the police more negative. At the heart of these statements isn't just a general defensiveness but an unhealthy inability to accept legitimate criticism. We're not talking about the deaths of innocent people or good cops who died doing their job. Instead, police reps have dogpiled on a citizen who was protesting peacefully. In case you were wondering, The Hateful Eight comes out in select cities on Christmas Day.
Police vs. Tarantino photo
Police rhetoric not helping their cause
The NYPD and LAPD really hate Quentin Tarantino right now, labeling him a cop-hater and anti-cop. In the process of explaining their dislike for the filmmaker, the NYPD and LAPD are also providing more reason to lose faith in...

Review: The Peanuts Movie

Nov 06 // Nick Valdez
[embed]220109:42688:0[/embed] The Peanuts Movie Director: Steve MartinoRated: GRelease Date: November 6th, 2015 The Peanuts Movie is all about Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp), an awkward kid with a debilitating self-esteem issue thanks to years and years of being teased by the other neighborhood kids. Just as he was wishing for a blank slate, a mysterious new, red-haired girl moves into town. After falling hard for her, Charlie's got to muster up the courage and do some crazy things in order to impress her and get her to notice him. While he's doin all of that, his dog Snoopy (thanks to Bill Melendez's archived voice work) finds a typewriter and begins writing about the WWI Flying Ace and his rivalry with the infamous Red Baron.  First things first, Peanuts is absolutely stunning. I honestly have no idea how Blue Sky Studios managed to pull this off. Just like the film's content, Peanuts' visuals are both heartily nostalgic (thanks to a few 2D flourishes like little hearts and backgrounds every now and then) and groundbreaking in its effort. Characters move as smoothly as they would in 2D while avoiding CG's blurring motions thanks to an adept use of choppy movement. I guess the closest thing I can compare it to is Blue Sky's mascot Scrat (from the Ice Age series). Just as his movement is broken, yet fluid so it captures the essence of old Looney Tunes shorts, Peanuts' animation captures the essence of the TV specials. And then there are all the little details therein like Snoopy's fur, the whiskers in Charlie's lone curl of hair, and the Flying Ace sequences look pretty good in 3D. But once you get beyond how great it looks, you'll soon realize that it may be too comfortable taking yet another trip down memory lane.  Because it's both a reinvention and a reintroduction to the Peanuts series, the film is almost required to make the necessary homages to its classic jokes and settings. Every classic Peanuts joke is here, quite literally, and you'll be hard pressed to find them funny again in this new setting. These jokes have already been made available through the specials replayed through the holidays each year, so it's really a matter of whether or not you'll appreciate them again through this new filter. It's a celebration unfortunately caught in the past, and while these jokes are definitely delightful and may mean more to new audiences, it's just a shame that this new film didn't take the chance to create new memories for Charlie Brown. It's even more glaring when the newer bits work very well. There's this scene where Charlie is getting "Psychiatric Help" from Lucy that's absolutely fabulous in how dark the writing duo of Bryan and Craig Schulz take it. At one point, she shoves a mirror in his face and asks Charlie what he sees, and all he can say in response is "A loser." While it sounds wonky on paper, it's a sequence that actually utilizes our knowledge of the characters in the past rather than be hindered by it.  In fact, that's one of the boldest choices The Peanuts Movie makes. While the humor and most of the content is stuck in the past (thus making sequences featuring new pop music from Meghan Trainor feel even more out of place), Charlie Brown has actually become a mix of his many identities. The film only works because the writing, actor Noah Schnapp, and visuals have mastered this newest iteration of Charlie Brown. He's a mix of many of his past incarnations: The outright loser from Schulz's original comic strips. the awkward kid from the holiday specials, and the more positive Charlie from later direct to video specials. Yet with all of those influences, he's still got his own new layer in the film. They've added this crippling self-doubt that's so current, it clashes with the rest of the film's nostalgic tone. As the kids exist in a world with rotary phones, Charlie's pondering existential crises in love.  While the humor can be a bit clunky, and Charlie Brown is fantastic, the film does take some getting used to. Since it is so stuck in the past, it's taking on a format we haven't seen in quite a while. Broken into vignettes fueling a central arc, each major sequence in Peanuts feels like it could be a stand-alone special of its own. Each major scene has a beginning middle and end, so it doesn't really flow like a traditional film, per se. It's an odd pacing that, while not entirely bad, does detract from the enjoyment overall. Going in you've got to realize that you're taking the good with the bad, but the "bad" isn't the worst thing in the world. The Peanuts Movie's biggest flaw is that it's too celebratory and nostalgic, but that's also such a non-problem to have.  I certainly have enjoyed myself, but I also don't feel compelled to watch this over and over again like every other Peanuts thing I've revisited in the past. It's a delightful and breezy film, but I'm not sure if everyone will have the same reaction to it that I did. It's fun to walk down memory lane every once in a while, but you can't expect everyone to stick around.
Peanuts Review photo
Good grief?
Thanks to my mom, I've been following Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang for as long as I can remember. Like Charlie, I too am a sad sack who's life the universe sees fit to ruin at all cost. So when I first heard 20th Centur...

Warcraft Trailer photo
Uncanny valley to the max
I don't have a lot of experience with the World of Warcraft videogames, so I'm not sure (although I have seen friends swallowed up by Blizzard's behemoth), but has it always looked like a generic fantasy property? While this ...

Review: Spectre

Nov 06 // Matthew Razak
[embed]220108:42687:0[/embed] SpectreDirector: Sam MendesRated: PG-13Release Date: November 6, 2015  Spectre is relentlessly old school Bond for better or for worse. It harkens back to the tongue-in-cheek playfulness of Moore, the swagger of Connery and even a bit of the romance of Lazenby. This is all pretty interesting since the Craig era of Bond has been marked pointedly by a intentional move away from such things as site gags and gadgets. The return to this style of Bond is both jarring and reassuring, but what can easily be said is this is Craig's most Bond film, complying with all the stereotypes, tropes and action that one came to expect from Bond pre-Craig. It is repeatedly, and possibly a little overbearingly, wistful about Bond's past. Almost every scene could be considered a throwback or nod to older Bond films. Then again when you've got more than 50 years of cinematic history under your belt it's hard to avoid not paying homage, which is the nice way of saying copying. The plot is definitely a repeat. In fact, much like Moonraker after The Spy Who Loved Me, Spectre is the same general idea as Skyfall, but bigger and more ridiculous. We open with Bond pursuing some extra curricular assassination in Mexico City. Turns out he's hot on the trail of an evil organization, eventually revealed to be Spectre, who Bond must destroy in order to save the world from domination. Spectre is basically Quantum from the first two films, but now they're calling it Spectre because old Bond is back (and legal reasons). Much like Skyfall the villain has a personal connection with Bond, is obsessed with collecting information for power and is looking to overthrow MI6. Bond proceeds to jump from one action sequences in a stunning locale to another as the movie attempts to unfold a lackluster mystery and develop an even more confusing relationship between Bond and Mr. White's (remember him) daughter Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux). If you're one for logic, pacing and avoiding plot holes this Bond is not for you.  However, if you're one for fast cars, gadgets, one-liners, prolific actions sequences and a general sense of fun then strap in. This film is all style and no substance, but, man, does it have style. This is easily the most charming Craig's Bond has been, which isn't too difficult since the previous three films focused more on the man than the myth. The screenplay, full of the kind of one-liners and site gags that made Bond Bond, might fall through in many ways, but it gives Craig a chance to have a lot of fun. Thanks to the comments he's made after shooting the film it's hard to say if he actually enjoyed the process, but there are moments here that rival Connery in their flippant bravado including what might be the sexiest delivery of the line, "Bond, James Bond," ever spoken. He an Seydoux have fantastic chemistry on screen, and if they're taking the character the direction it seems they are then that's going to be incredibly important. The action is also easily Craig's best. Casino Royale barely had any as it was far more a character study, Quantum's was shoddily directed and Skyfall featured some amazing set pieces, but nothing that compares to the brutal fights and overblown action of Spectre. The opening sequence is a stunning helicopter battle that's an airborne take on the historic train fight from From Russia With Love. It opens the film with a bang, that is unfortunately followed by Sam Smith's disappointment of a song and an opening credits sequence that involves some tentacle porn and will illicit giggles. Get through that, however, and you're slam back into the action, which doesn't let up until the very end of the film's more than two-and-half hour running time. We're treated to what is easily some of the franchise's best action. Sam Mendes's direction is once again stunningly gorgeous and despite the departure of cinematographer Richard Deakins the movie is still one of Bond's most striking. Bond has never looked sharper, with Craig going through more outfit changes than a female Oscar host and Mendes doing everything in his power to make him look awesome. A perfectly tailored white dinner jacket (this is the latter) in a train ripped from the 50s lit like it's Casablanca pulls an entire scene together and makes you happy they went so old school this time around.  Unfortunately, when style isn't a factor things start to fall apart. This is especially true for the villains of the film who are universally wasted. Christoph Waltz's Hans Oberhauser spends the first half of the film in the shadows only to be revealed as a limp, uninteresting character who can barely muster up a convincing monomaniacal monologue. How can you so misuse Waltz as a Bond villain? It seems almost criminal in and of itself, and yet the character is flat and hampered with a plot line that doesn't just make his character worse, but the entire movie. The sad part is this specific piece of the story is almost entirely unnecessary, and seems to have been stuck into the movie simply to attempt to put some of Craig's Bond's "emotion" into the story. It doesn't work, and in turn detracts from where the true emotional focus should be between Bond, Swann and M -- the true character conflict of the film that gets totally lost in the movie's desperate attempts to offer up twists. Even the movie's henchman, another staple returning in true form for the first time in a Craig film, suffers from a lack of attention. Hinx (Dave Bautista) bursts on the scene showing off his metal thumbnails, giving off echoes of Jaws, and then is relegated to a large thug for the rest of the movie. It's a completely illogical choice, especially with such a charming guy as Bautista. Imagine if Oddjob simply threw his hat once in Goldfinger and the decided not to use it again. Hinx does just this and spends the rest of the film running after Bond in cars. Now, he is involved in a fantastic train fight, but he really could have been replaced by any brute. It's just another way Spectre wastes its potential to be a truly great Bond film. SPOILERS IN THE NEXT PARAGRAPHS I hate to write about spoilers for a movie most people haven't seen, but it plays such a large role in this movie and fails so badly that I must bring it up. You've probably guessed it by now anyway: Christoph Waltz plays Blofeld. The film treats this as if we're all supposed to be surprised, but they gave it away by naming the movie Spectre and so when the foot drops it lands with a dull thud. They may have known this as they attempt to pile on other plot twists from here on out to make up for it, but there are about a million different ways this could have played out better, especially if Waltz had decided to bring any life to his character. This all concludes in an ending that is flat and disconnected. In a film filled with prolific action sequences the movie ends with nothing. Instead of an epic take-down of the villain we're given a tepid gun shot that culminates more than two ours of action with no emotional punch. This is followed by a conclusion that feels confusing and out of character for Bond. That may be because the next film is going to bring back the Lea Sedoux character. If this is so it could make the ending work, but as it stands on its own it leaves an odd taste in one's mouth.  END SPOILERS It's also odd that in a film that is clearly obsessed with bringing Bond back to his roots that they ignore one of the most unique aspects of the franchise: it's almost complete disregard for continuity. Instead a ham-fisted attempt is made to connect Bond's last three adventures to this one. Much like Obenhauser's plot points it is generally not needed and only serves to convolute the story. The problem is this clearly wasn't intended from the start. Yes, Quantum may have been a big, evil organization that the filmmakers originally intended to develop, but after they ditched it in Skyfall their plot line fell apart. Now we get a forced conclusion to the story that tries to tie up loose ends as if Bond wasn't a film franchise that was built on completely ignoring whatever happened in the previous films. How many Bond girls have completely disappeared? How many villains are never mentioned again? Why force continuity on a movie that doesn't need it? The question becomes what do you want from your Bond film? If the hard reset we received when Craig took over the mantle was up your alley then this step back in time is going to seriously disappoint. If you've missed the days of ejection seats, gadget-filled cars and perfectly timed quips then Spectre is the Bond you've been waiting for. It's a return to form for Bond, but that form was never for everybody. In the pantheon of Bond films Spectre is definitely on the middle-high end, but in Craig's tenure it is an outlier filled with things that will either make you love it or hate it. The big problem is if you don't love the things its brought back then it's flaws are too great to get over. It's ramshackle plot and poor villains make it incredibly difficult to enjoy if you don't enjoy Bond. When I wrote my review of Casino Royale many years ago I noted that Bond's gun barrel opening had been changed, it was then shoved to the end of Quantum of Solace and again to the end of Skyfall. I noted that this was all well and good since these films were about Bond becoming Bond, but that eventually the gun barrel would have to return to the beginning of the film once the character had returned to has traditional ways. In Spectre the barrel is back at the beginning and Bond is definitely back to his old ways. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is entirely up to you. I think it's a great thing, but it could have been done in a better movie. 
Spectre Review photo
Bond is back, but is that good?
When Skyfall landed James Bond rose to a whole new level. We were treated to a Bond film that both embraced the new, hard edge of Daniel Craig's Bond, but paid homage to Bond's past as well. Unlike the dreadfully dour Qu...

Alice photo
So many digital eyes
Alice in Wonderland was definitely something. It was so something that had a lot of CGI and weirdness going on, and it was evidently something that made some money for Disney. We heard that a sequel was coming a bit ago ...

Review: Shrew's Nest

Nov 04 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]220097:42685:0[/embed] Shrew's Nest (Musarañas)Directors: Juan Fernando Andrés and Esteban Roel Rating: NRCountry: Spain  The term "slow burn" gets thrown around a lot. I know I've used it more than once. Sometimes it's a useful term to describe how a film functions; other times it's a way to say something is boring without having to use that language. Sometimes people think things are a slow burn when they're really not. Shrew's Nest isn't a slow burn, though I know of others who say it is. Those people are either accidentally ignorant or willfully ignorant, but either way they're wrong. They're wrong, because the sequence of events that ultimately lead to the narrative boiling over aren't slow at all. They're very deliberate, placed perfectly in order to ratchet up the tension while also revealing the multiple facets of each character. At first, we see characters effectively through their own eyes, how they try to present themselves to the world. Then we see them through the eyes of others, where some of those seams start to show. Ultimately, we see them for who they truly are. And, not unexpectedly, what we find there isn't pretty. Montse is confined to the house. Not by some external force but an internal one. She can make it to the door, but she'll never go past it. Her sister, who she refers to as niña (translated as "the girl"), can go out. The girl goes to work during the day, and Montse stays home. She cooks and cleans and makes sure that her sister stays away from men. Because men are bad people who do bad things. (Note that it's clear almost immediately what happened to Montse, but that doesn't make the ultimate reveal any less painful, nor does it really prepare you for what follows.) One day, a man basically falls into her lap. As Carlos tries to leave his apartment (a floor above the girls'), he falls down the stairs, breaking his leg and hitting his head. After asking for her help, he faints. She brings him inside, binds his leg, and puts him in her bed. What follows, of course, is misery. Also, Misery. From the outset you know that Montse is unhinged, but the question is how far she'll go to keep Carlos there. The answer: Really Fucking Far. But in order to get to that point, we need context. Montse is viscous, something we learn early on, but seeing how her madness manifests itself is crucial to making the violence feel justified. Violence for the sake of violence can be fine, but there's something disquietingly realistic about characters in Shrew's Nest. Montse has had a rough time of it, and her psyche has been shaped accordingly. The girl is a little afraid of her sister, but the relationship is at the point where that's generally fine, until Carlos comes into the picture. Carlos isn't particularly concerned, particularly since Montse is so kind to him, but he doesn't understand the situation. He believes her when she says she had a doctor visit, but we know she's lying. Each time a character makes a decision, even if they make the wrong one, it felt fair. Characters do stupid things, but so do people. And characters don't do certain stupid things that they would be expected to do in a horror movie. Shrew's Nest is not particularly scary, but it is consistently unsettling. It's also claustrophobic, taking place entirely in a single apartment building (two apartments and the stairwell between them). That's good both for both budgetary and narrative reasons. The world never really feels larger than the one building, even as people other than the leads come in and out. That's important, because Shrew's Nest takes place in a place where other people live. Misery was in the middle of nowhere, but Montse doesn't have that sort of luxury, and neither do the filmmakers. This building – and really just the one apartment – needs to feel like the entire world, and it succeeds in that respect.  In fact, it succeeds in pretty much every respect. The minor issues I had ultimately don't matter, and as I think back on it, I barely even remember what they were. Only the good things stick in my brain, and there are a whole lot of good things. It's well crafted, well acted, well concepted, and well executed. There are some moments that are truly grotesque in the absolute best way, and there are images I'm not going to be able to scrub from my mind for quite some time. With a film like this, that's really all you can want. And Shrew's Nest delivers that and a whole lot more. 
Shrew's Nest Review photo
Shrew's Company
When I was in middle school, we'd periodically have a writer, Jon Land, come and talk to us. He'd talk about writing and life and whatever else. (Honestly, I don't really remember what most of those talks were about, but what...

MMPR Reboot photo
Waiting for Power Rangers movie news has been excruciating. Because the film isn't releasing until 2017, we've got all sorts of sites releasing news from the rumor mill and none of them will have any bearing on the final prod...

New Star Trek TV show photo
Boldly continuing to go in 2017
After the success of the Star Trek reboot (yay!) and Star Trek Into Darkness (boo!), it looks like Star Trek is coming back to television. CBS has confirmed that it is putting out a new Star Trek show in January 2017. The sho...

Watch the first trailer for AMC's Preacher adaptation

Nov 02 // Hubert Vigilla
Watching the trailer, I didn't get any of the vibe that I got from the comic at all. While part of it is the look of the three leads being a little off when compared to Dillon's art, most of this is due to the lack of supernatural content. From this snippet alone, the show looks really insular and realistic(-ish), though all the imagery may be from the first episode or so rather than the entire season. How they'll be able to translate the sheer grandiose lunacy of Ennis/Dillon's vision on a reasonable budget is anyone's guess. Maybe the biggest concern is how extreme the show will get. The violence in the Preacher comic is at times sadistic/brutal and while at other times cartoonishly over-the-top. I mean, it proudly goes to 11. While there's a lot that can be done on AMC (as seen on The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad), I have a feeling that they'll have no choice but to tone the violence down just as much as the scope of the vision. And this doesn't even touch on how the public--particularly the religious right, who have such startling persecution complexes--will receive all of the subversive stuff about Christianity. Preacher will debut on AMC next year, and its first season will run for 10 episodes. What do you think of the trailer? [via /Film]
AMC's Preacher trailer photo
Jaysis! Humperdumper doo!
Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's Preacher is one of the best comic books of the 90s. Hard-hitting, hard-drinking, and just plain hardcore, Preacher is an over-the-top, ultra-violent riff on westerns in which a preacher nam...

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...

Interview: Bruce Campbell (Ash vs. Evil Dead)

Oct 30 // Hubert Vigilla
Bruce, could you put this in perspective for us: a couple years back there was a very pleasant surprise when we see your character at the end the Evil Dead remake. What sort of happened between that and the series? Did you already know that the show was percolating? Bruce Campbell: No, this happened fast. This happened really fast. Shockingly fast for this industry. These things are usually developed for years. We did a remake because people would not shut up about it, and we wanted to give them something. Sam didn't want to direct the remake himself but he thought, "Let me handpick a guy, Fede Alvarez, and let him have a shot at it." We think he did a great job, and it made a lot of money around the world, which at least convinced us that people are out there, the fans are still out there somewhere, but they want Sam and they want Ash. So, we're going to give it to them. We're tired of fighting it. But, the economics of making another movie... We could get enough money to make a remake directed by a first-time director, but we couldn't get enough money to make another one directed by Sam Raimi. I mean, as famous a director as Sam has become, he needs money. Sam thinks big, really big. So TV made sense. Rob Tapert had worked with Starz on Spartacus. I worked in television for years on Burn Notice. So we were TV guys. I feel like I'm a TV guy as much as a feature guy, so I couldn't wait for this. We pitched it to Sam, we went over to try and bend his ear. How was it working in unrestricted TV land? Bruce Campbell: Fantastic! It's where you need to be. You know, we don't have to do an alternate take to say something. "Gosh! Golly! Darn it! Put that over there!" None of that bulls**t. You can just talk like an adult, Ash can talk like he needs to talk. I like it a lot. The first two Evil Dead movies were unrated; only Army of Darkness had a rating because it was made for a studio and we had to have a rating. This is how people need to see it. I can't wait. Has Ash changed— Bruce Campbell: This is glorious violence, by the way. This is like, when our blood goes, it's celebratory. [laughs] Bruce Campbell: You know what I mean? This is not going to be dreary violence. This is going to be, if it's possible, fun violence. This is not going to warp your life. We take the horror seriously, but there's other things to like. We want to keep Ash the trash-talking hero, so there's going to be plenty of that. Over the years you and Sam talked about how you enjoy the Marx Brothers, classic comedy, things like that— Bruce Campbell: Yeah. The Stooges. Are you more free with the show to do more of that? Bruce Campbell: We can do whatever we want. I mean, the coolest thing ever is to be able to show up on a set and to know that you have no restrictions. You have an idea, you shoot it. If it works, you keep it, knowing that if it doesn't work you get rid of it. You know what I mean? So it's a great way to work as an actor or anybody in the arts. You want to function in an environment that's creative. And you'd be surprised how many environments you get into that are not really that creative, where someone is very controlling ,or a writer doesn't want you to change anything, or a director treats you like his little pawn and he wants to put you here and he wants to put you there, or certain DP/camera guys want to shoot things in a certain way. I'm like, "F**k you, let's make this show!" You know what I mean? Creatively, that's what I'm all about. I'll go to the ends of— I'll go to New Zealand to do that. Was there a lot of ad-libbing? Bruce Campbell: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Bruce Campbell: And the kids—I call them "the kids," Ray and Dana—they're getting on board. Not like it's a competition, but there will be things that occur to their character to say. A lot of times a writer won't do what I call "a button." You know, like button up a scene. Sometimes there are things that just make sense. Do you have any favorite ad libs you remember but didn't necessarily make it? Bruce Campbell: Umm, no, they just keep coming. So that's the beauty of TV—there's plenty of it. One of the great things about Ash in this is that he's sort of acknowledging that he's a little bit longer in the tooth. Bruce Campbell: Yeah, he's over the hill. Yeah, I love it! Got to put on a man-girdle and pop his dentures in. I mean, that's hilarious. Sam was talking about putting a box of Depends in the trunk. [laughs] Bruce Campbell: And you just see the box. You don't really talk about it. Or Ash says, "Pull over." "Why?" "I gotta get something." "What?" "Don't worry about it, just pull over." You know, and he throws the Depends in the back, and he doesn't have to say anything. I think that's awesome! Why not? Why do our heroes have to be so perfect? What a bore. Jesus Christ! What was it like getting back into this demanding of a role again. Bruce Campbell: Hard. Hard and painful. I usually have a good time on film sets, and the Evil Dead movies never are really a good time. That's okay, because I find the, very creatively satisfying, but none of them are comfortable or fun. You've covered with blood and s**t 12 hours a day. It gets old fast. Wearing stunt rigs, and you can't breathe, and every time you scratch your head you pull the hair out of you arms because of the dried blood. And you get ants all over you because you're wet and sticky and sweet with the fake blood. You attract rodents, that type of thing. [laughs] You've worked with Lucy Lawless in the past. Bruce Campbell: 20 years ago Were you guys searching for a project together? Bruce Campbell: Well, the second we knew we were going to shoot in New Zealand, I'm like, "We've got to get Lucy as part of this deal. ASAP." And so we're trying to make the show worth her time now. So upcoming season, she's going to get busy, and we like that, because she's such an ass kicker. Ash needs some more ass-kicking help, and why not get f**king Lucy Lawless? [editor's note: In retrospect, I wonder if this was some early indication that Ash vs Evil Dead was going to be renewed for a second season.] [laughs] We asked Sam before if he'd taken it a little bit easier on you now than he has in the past. And when I asked him, there was a slightly sadistic glow to his eyes. Bruce Campbell: Oh sure! It would suggest probably not. Bruce Campbell: But thank goodness he's getting older so he doesn't have as much punch anymore. He doesn't have the right hook that he used to have. Now he has people do it for him. No, Sam's always the blood deliverer. If someone's getting the blood in the face, he's the one doing it. Of the Three Stooges, Moe was always the guy who threw the pies. He just had the touch. He was like, "Get out of the way," to the prop guys and he would take the pie. BAM! He would hit it dead on every time. Sam's got that touch. [turns to me and gestures as if repeatedly throwing a cup of fake blood in my face] Because you can't get into the frame. It's a very delicate line, literally. So he knows where the edge of that frame is, and his cup is right there. He never goes in, it's perfect—he hits you every time. Because you don't want to redo that. You got to practice it to get it once. So is Ash your favorite character that you've played? Bruce Campbell: I'd say so. Especially now. I'd say it's been cemented now, because he's much more of a full-blown character. And if we can do this for a couple of years, then we can really kick some Ash, and really bring that character full throttle. And I can't wait. You do a TV show and you're going to have to throw that son of a bitch into all kinds of scenarios that you never had to before. You have to tell a lot of story for the show, so we'll see what happens to our hero. I'm looking forward to it. I hope ridiculous things happen. This is going to sound like a really goofy question, for which I apologize profusely, but do you reconcile the Ash we see at the end of the Evil Dead films with the one we see in the TV series, or is it a clean break between film and television? Bruce Campbell: Same guy, he just didn't do s**t for 25 years. [laughs] Bruce Campbell: Same guy! What has Ash been up to? Bruce Campbell: Nothing! [laughs] Bruce Campbell: Drinking at bowling alleys at closing time, lying to women about how he lost his right hand. [laughs] That's what he's doing—he's doing nothing. People love to ask, "Oh, what kind of character development?" We don't have any! [laughs] Bruce Campbell: He's the same guy. Now, you'll see him develop over the course of the show. He has to become a hero. When we find him, he is not a hero. He thinks he's a hero, but he is so lost. He's lost his edge, he's lost everything.
Interview: Bruce Campbell photo
Hail to the king, baby
Bruce Campbell didn't just enter the room—he swaggered. As he made his way to the first roundtable interview, he nodded to the various tables and press. "I will get to you all eventually," he said with equal parts mock-...

Review: Attack on Titan

Oct 29 // Nick Valdez
[embed]220069:42671:0[/embed] Attack on Titan: Parts 1 & 2Director: Shinji HiguchiRated: NRRelease Date: October 20, 22, and 27th, 2015 (limited) Attack on Titan (split into two 90 minute parts released a few months from one another) is the story of a small walled off city that's constantly being attacked by giant, grotesque man eating monsters known as the Titans. After a surprise attack leaves their city devastated, two boys, named Eren (Hamura Miura) and Armin (Kanata Hongo), join the military in order to fight them. Also, their friend Mikasa (Kiko Mizuhara), who was once thought to be eaten before being saved by super soldier Shikishima (Hiroki Hasegawa), is also there and very angsty. Then follows are soldier on titan fights, titan on titan fights, and lots of poorly conceived military conspiracy intrigue. I don't have a lot of experience with the original comics, but that's okay since the two films are their own entity and venture into different paths than the stories fans may be familiar with. The stories of the films have to end, after all, and who knows when the comics will do the same.  The first thing you'll notice about Attack on Titan is how great it all looks. Part 1 opens spectacularly as the initial titan attack is well storyboarded and the action flows well from scene to scene. It gives the titans an appropriate horrific weight despite how ridiculous some of them look. Rather than choose to go CG (the terrible green screen actions scenes later in the films notwithstanding), the titans are all people in body skin suits akin to Toho's Godzilla or a very gloomy episode of the Power Rangers. You'd figure it was a low budget shortcut, but it works. Thanks to using actual actors, we're given a chance to sink in to the titans' emotions rather than be distracted by the film's spotty CG. It's just that nothing in these films ever looks as good as the opening scene again.  I'd be willing to forgive the wonky effects had the rest of the film worked, but sadly that's also a problem. I'm not sure what's to blame here. Whether the two films are victims of adaptation, translation, or even the property's fandom, but nothing in the two films makes any sense. Although the film chooses to create its own narrative, it still bases some of the films' bigger scenes on scenes from the comics. But the problem with cherry picking key scenes in order to please its fans, is that without adapting the rest of the story those scenes won't make sense. It's also thanks to the films' short runtimes that everything moves at too brisk a pace to keep up with or even care about in the slightest. Like Eren, for instance. First he's got this plot about wanting to escape from the walls, to suddenly pulling an Ultraman and becoming a giant himself, to suddenly hatching a plot to blow up the walls with a discarded H-bomb. And within all of that, he's still got Mikasa's random angst to deal with. No character is developed well enough, and there're so many that none of them have any chance to leave a lasting impression.  The biggest flaw with either of these films was I couldn't really separate the two from one another. I initially wanted to review each part much akin to Hollywood films like The Hunger Games or Harry Potter, but neither part was substantial enough to warrant its own discussion. It only seemed fair to the film to just take it all in as one entity since the majority of the plot and backstory waits in part two, while the visual budget was clearly all exhausted back in part one. I'm not sure how these films were shot, but it's clear that by the end of part two, they had pretty much used all the money at their disposal. The film's big finale looked absolutely ridiculous. And since there isn't any real narrative reason to stay invested, it's all just a wash. At least the acting was good. I didn't personally note any bad performances, and even if an actor was chewing the scenery, they all tried their best. Bringing it back around to my Titanic metaphor earlier, it's like the cast was the string quartet composing a soundtrack for their imminent doom.  But at the end of the day, I understand the film isn't for me. But it really isn't for fans of the Attack on Titan series either. In fact, it may even be more of a detriment to the fandom itself. It's a hollow adaptation that only chooses particular moments from the story in order to manipulate the fans. They want the fans to go out and see the film, talk about seeing their favorite anime/comic scene in live action and hope those same fans ignore everything else.  A fan's worst nightmare is to see their favorite stories and characters wrung through an unrecognizable filter, and that's exactly what Attack on Titan is. I don't think that's the kind of horror the film wanted to embody. 
Attack on Titan Review photo
Sinking ship
Much like how you'll see films based on comics like Marvel's Avengers or DC's Dark Knight Trilogy, manga comics get a huge following back in Japan they don't get here domestically. One of the biggest releases from the last fe...

Interview: Sam Raimi and Craig DiGregorio (Ash vs. Evil Dead)

Oct 29 // Hubert Vigilla
What's the motivating factor for returning to territory that's so early in your career, Sam? [gesturing to DiGregorio] And why did you drag this guy along? Craig DiGregorio: [to Sam Raimi] Why'd you drag me into this? [laughs] Sam Raimi: [gesturing to DiGregorio] This guy! Craig was the best man for the job, and he still continues to be, and he's learned the main voice of the character. He's a good leader for the writers, it turns out. I mean, the time you hire a showrunner you don't know if they are the best man for the job, but he turned out to be. You've got to have so many skills of leadership for the team, recognition of all these egos of the writers and dealing with them, good communication skills with the studio and production that's happening elsewhere, and being able to juggle the budgets and the timecrunch that's coming down on you. And then having to take the script and re-write it overnight. Too many talents and skills to ask for in one person, and that's why we settled with [Craig]. Craig DiGregorio: I haven't thought of those. [laughs] Sam Raimi: [laughs] As far as the first question, Sam, what made you return to this character from very early in your career? Sam Raimi: Five words: The fans... [long pause] [laughs] Sam Raimi: The fans... [long pause, counts on his fingers] The. [laughs] Sam Raimi: So, umm, they've been demanding this. I didn't want to return to it for many years. I wanted to go on and make Spider-Man movies, other characters, other stories, and I've already made three of them. I love Bruce, but I just didn't know if there was more to do. But they really wanted it, and so we listened to them. It's never happened to me before like that. I think that's— I just didn't know we made movies based on the audience's desire to see them. It's very rare for me. Like nobody asked me to make another Spider-Man picture, nobody asked me to make another Darkman picture, or a Simple Plan sequel, or whatever I did. Just this one. So it was really me finally listening to them, and that's it. That's the only motivation. Did the series break down from an Evil Dead 4 movie that you had in the works? Sam Raimi: Yes. For many years my brother Ivan and I were writing an Evil Dead 4 movie. Different versions of it, some great ideas. And we just realized that no one would really want to distribute an Evil Dead 4 movie. It would be really big and it'd another fake-spectacular, but it would be too expensive. It would never really make much money. Then Rob [Tapert] said, "Oh, the economics might work out for TV." And that's how it started. How does the mindset change going from a film to a television show? Are you freed up? Do you feel like there aren't any restrictions for you? Sam Raimi: There's no restrictions from Starz. They really want us to make something as wild and crazy as we'd like. They want the flavor of whatever Evil Dead was brought to the small screen in a big way. They've only been really supportive and we don't really have restrictions. There are the budget and time constrictions of TV. I can't set up those— I only directed the pilot, but as a team, we can't take the time to set up all these really cool camera shots to suggest the supernatural in abstract or artistic ways. Craig DiGregorio: You have to pick your spots. Sam Raimi: Yeah, you have to pick your spots to direct. And instead we focused on the character of Ash, which I think the audience really likes anyways. What was the decision to shoot in New Zealand versus shooting in the States? Sam Raimi: [to DiGregorio] What do you think? Craig DiGregorio: There are a couple of things. I mean, I think your money goes a really long way there, so you can really get a big show for whatever your budget is. Also, the crew we have down there is amazing, and they can turnover horror and action and give us more of those cool camera shots just in the time that we have. And also Sam's longtime producing partner, Rob Tapert, lives down there and has an infrastructure built-in already, and he's very comfortable getting the scripts and feeding it into his machine. I think that's also part of it. So, you know, practical, financial, and also creative. Building on that, how beneficial was it to have that great core of makeup effects artists already there for you? And what was it like working with them to create this sort of world? Sam Raimi: It was great having a team of makeup effects artists that have worked with Rob and have proven to be able to deliver on a TV schedule. The demands that it encompasses—they survived it and excelled. So Rob already had a great relationship with this team and it made things wonderful. Wonderful. There were already 30 people on employ when we began, from another project. It was great. They were up and running. Is this a show that's going to be accessible if you've never seen the properties before? People who've never seen the movies, can they come in and know what's going on? Craig DiGregorio: I mean, I've never seen the movies and I like it. [laughs] Sam Raimi: It continues for the Evil Dead fans. And we hope that they'll be good with it. We really pray that they really will, it's made for them. But we've also taken steps to introduce new audience members to characters in the pilot. Craig DiGregorio: I've talked to people who've seen the first episode—fans versus people who've never seen Evil Dead before—and I think it's equally liked, because it's such a fun, weird universe to put yourself into, and I think people just like that. It's different from a lot of things on television. So I think even new viewers who haven't seen the movies enjoy being put in an interesting place. We're helping catch people up or let them know what the world is at the same time. And I have seen the movies. [laughs] In terms of doing a series as opposed to doing a film. In films, you could basically kill off a lot of lead characters that people have really started to really get a rapport with, whereas if you do that with a series it creates a problem that you're replenishing your cast every couple of weeks. Sam Raimi: Well, I think that's absolutely right, and we feel that we've got to kill some characters so the threat of the Evil Dead is real. There's going to have to be some suffering and missing of characters in this equation. Craig DiGregorio: Yeah, so I don't think it's a complete replenishment, but for the danger to be real, you have to let [some characters be killed]. Especially people close to Ash always end up dying. Sam Raimi: Yeah. It's harder in TV, I agree. What was Bruce's reaction when you came to him and said, "Hey, guess what? We're going to have you play the same action character you played 30 years ago?" Sam Raimi: Well, it wasn't really a surprise. People would always ask Bruce about it. "When are you coming back [to the Evil Dead franchise]." And he'd say, "I don't know when I'm coming back. Sam keep dragging out his Spider-Man movies and..." So it's always been in the air. And I would tell Bruce and Rob that I'm writing with my brother. And ummm still writing with my brother. And then at some convention for Spider-Man a fan said, "When are you doing another Evil Dead movie?" I said, "Okay, I'm writing it this summer with my brother." [editor's note: it was actually an Oz the Great and Powerful press conference. You can read our old report about it here.] And so Bruce saw that, so he wasn't really surprised. The information that came out told him what was coming. Craig DiGregorio: But as far as how Bruce reacted, he started working out. Getting in shape. Sam Raimi: Yes, you're right! Craig DiGregorio: He really did! [laughs] Going from Burn Notice to— Craig DiGregorio: He just looks like an action hero now. [looks over to Bruce Campbell at another table.] Look at that guy! He looks really good! Early on in the writers' room, there's some jokes in the script about Ash being really overweight and looking rough, and Bruce came into the writers' room and said, "F**k you guys! I'm gonna make you eat your words!" And he went and, well, he looks damn good. Started putting himself together. [turns to Raimi] I feel like we kind of turned his life around. [laughs] The amount of misery you're able to inflict on Bruce—have you sort of curtailed that in recent years because you don't want him to break a hip or something? Or has it gotten worse? Sam Raimi: We got to inflict a little pain on him in the pilot, and a little bit all through the series so far. And I'm kind of waiting to hear whenever the last show is, you know, depending how many seasons we go. God help Bruce for those last three episodes, because I'm taking all that's left out of him! [laughs] Craig DiGregorio: [to Raimi] Is this how you kill your friend? [laughs] Sam Raimi: I'll make him wish he was dead! [laughs]
Interview: Sam Raimi photo
The director and showrunner talk Ash
It's been nearly 40 years since Sam Raimi directed Within the Woods, the $1,600 horror short that would become The Evil Dead. Decades later, Raimi has returned to the series that kickstarted and defined his career, directing ...

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) "" 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...

Interview: Lucy Lawless and Jill Marie Jones (Ash vs. Evil Dead)

Oct 28 // Hubert Vigilla
Could you tell us a little bit about the characters you're playing in Ash vs Evil Dead? Lucy Lawless: [to Jones, with a twang] Well, Thelma? Jill Marie Jones: [to Lawless, with a twang] Well, Louise? Both: We're Thelma and Louise. Lucy Lawless: She's my gal-pal and we're gunning down that moron and his loser buddies. [laughs] Jill Marie Jones: What I love so much about [my character] Amanda Fisher— She is a Michigan State Trooper, she's a badass, she knows her way around a gun, she doesn't like the word “no.” She's one of the good guys, and she really does fight for good. And she meets this mystery over here [gestures to Lawless]— Lucy Lawless: I'm an enigma! My character [Ruby], her father was Professor Knowby, who was the original holder of the Necronomicon in the movies. Her whole family got destroyed by Ash and his deadite plague. So now that he's released it again, she's absolutely going to put him in the ground, because he's responsible for all the ill in her life. She's very fixated on Ash, and not in a sexy way. [laughs] Lucy Lawless: [looks at Jones] She's a little bit fixated with her in a sexy way. Who could not be? [laughs] Were you both fans of the series before coming onto the project? Lucy Lawless: I saw the first Evil Dead when I was 16 or 17. My first boyfriend and I stomped out after the tree rape. We were going, "The people who made this movie are sick, misogynistic, 'unprintable'!” And 12 years later I was married to one of them. [editor's note: Lawless is married to producer Rob Tapert.] [laughs] Lucy Lawless: From Mount Albert, New Zealand—bottom of the world. Who would've thunk it? And here we are. The series is more like the second two Evil Dead films, because tree rape ain't funny. We're not reprising that. Jill Marie Jones: Also, what I love so much about Ash vs Evil Dead; I call it "Evil Dead for Dummies." Lucy Lawless: [laughs] Jill Marie Jones: The first episode, if you've never seen the films, I feel like new fans will be able to— Lucy Lawless: [snaps fingers] Jump in. Jill Marie Jones: You get it real quick. They do it so well. And I know the die hard fans, they did 'em really well. Lucy Lawless: Yeah, did 'em really proud. Jill Marie Jones: Really proud. So I think people will really love it. Lucy, you've plays so many strong, badass women. Is Ruby going to get in there and kick some ass? Lucy Lawless: [sarcastic] She's so weak in this show. Jill Marie Jones: [sarcastic] Vulnerable. Lucy Lawless: She's so— Both: Needy! [laughs] Jill Marie Jones: [sarcastic] Ruby's always asking Amanda, "Please, help me through life?" [laughs] Lucy Lawless: [meekly] "I just don't know which way to go." No, Ruby's a crazy bitch! Jill Marie Jones: Yeah, she's strong. Lucy Lawless: She's tough, and a little obsessive. Jill Marie Jones: And thank god, by the way. Thank god. Lucy Lawless: All the women are tough in this show. Jill Marie Jones: The three female leads of this show all kick ass. They're not waiting for the man to come and save them because they can all handle things themselves. It's really refreshing, you know. So your characters are teamed up together? Jill Marie Jones: Well, something happens, and then something else happens, and then something else happens, and then I meet Ruby. [laughs] Building on that, what physical demands were on both of you for this show? Obviously in the past with Evil Dead, you can tell it's a really physically demanding story. So what are the things you've had to do or overcome? Jill Marie Jones: I came home with bruises. We really went all the way in with all the characters. We committed. And also we have an amazing stunt department. There was a gym in New Zealand. It was right on set, and we'd go in there and punch heavy bags. Lucy Lawless: I didn't know there was a gym! Jill Marie Jones: Are you kidding me? You could go in and shoot guns— Lucy Lawless: Nobody tells me anything! [laughs] Jill Marie Jones: So there was a full-on gym. I didn't know until I got to New Zealand, but someone said to me, "Oh yeah, you have MMA training tomorrow." I was like, "Excuse me? MMA? Oh, that's— I've seen one— Oh, that's scary, but okay." But it was awesome. We had a great stunt department, but it was still physical. Lucy Lawless: We do have a world-class stunt department, who go back a ways to Hercules and Xena... [editor's note: at this point Bruce Campbell at a neighboring table interview says something that catches Lawless' attention or vice versa. Campbell turns to Lawless and Jones and there's a pause.] [to Campbell, in an old Bronx mother voice] You'll be all right, honey! You keep talking! Bruce Campbell: Hey! Lucy Lawless: [still in accent] You keep talking! [laughs] Lucy Lawless: Uhh... Yeah. Jill Marie Jones: We've got a great stunt department. [laughs] Lucy Lawless: I've got to say, it was painful to me. I don't do as much action today as I used to, but it's painful. [laughs] I'm like at the chiropractor for two weeks after doing some really lame stunt, like something that I used to do before breakfast, and now you do one and it's just murder. But the show is funny. Because it's a half hour, you don't waste a minute. It's really punchy. I think it really does do the fans proud and their expectations are going to be met. That's quite bold talk but we're really proud of what we've done. Jill Marie Jones: Absolutely. Lucy Lawless: And nobody's in more pain than Bruce, by the way. He's really put through it. Jill Marie Jones: He really is! Also, I felt like a 13-year-old boy, honestly. Because I'm shooting guns— I'm from Texas and you'd think I have like 10 guns in my purse, but I don't. I'd never held a gun before, I'd never shot a real gun before. Lucy Lawless: Oh my god! You were amazing with a gun! Jill Marie Jones: I felt like a 13-year-old boy! I was living. Lucy Lawless: The power of it, yeah. Jill Marie Jones: I was getting the power of it. The bruises that I would get from banging up to something. I was like, "Yeah, baby! I worked hard today!" It was awesome. Lucy Lawless: I was sick of being bruised. [laughs] Lucy, you mentioned earlier in this conversation the possible misfortune of being married to a certain producer. One would think this would get you off easy in terms of what you're asked to do on set. Lucy Lawless: I know. [sighs] But the past several shows you've done you've proven otherwise. Does that sort of continue into Ash vs Evil Dead as well? Lucy Lawless: Rob [Tapert] will write the character and whatever's best for the show. Sometimes it goes against me; what's best for the show, sometimes you do things that are extremely distasteful to you, but you know that it's right. And what I respect about Rob so much is that telling the stories comes first. He's not going to make things softer or better for me. We're of the same mind in that way, and I would not like him better if he made my life cushier. Were there any scripts that you looked at at the time and just shook your head? Lucy Lawless: Oh, all the time! [laughs] Lucy Lawless: Not on this, not on this! Because it's comedy. Jill Marie Jones: Well Ruby was brunette at first, and she was like, "Hell no" to that. "That's where I put my foot down!" [laughs] Lucy Lawless: "Wait, wait, wait, wait, wha?" We didn't know what the character was in the beginning. Thing is— Jill Marie Jones: She's kind of a mystery. [laughs] Lucy Lawless: [laughs] The "mystery" thing. That's because we didn't know what the hell the character was. I came late to it, they do a slow burn because you've got to establish the world of Ash and his family before you bring in the shark—you know, I'm Jaws, I'm a shadow, I'm a [audio unclear], I'm a bloody music cue—before you see her teeth come out. So bit of a slow burn on Ruby, but it's necessary because you have to establish something to lose before you can fear for Ash and the loss of his family. Could you say what you brought to your characters that maybe wasn't in the script? Jill Marie Jones: Well, for me, one of the things I was attracted to in Amanda: my mother was a federal investigator for like 40 years. She just retired last February. So there's a lot of my mom I see in Amanda. Just the strength and the fearlessness. I think in a lot of ways I was pulling from that to bring her forward. Lucy Lawless: And she's effortlessly cool on screen. Jill Marie Jones: Oh, effortlessly cool. Lucy Lawless: And in real life.
Interview: Lucy Lawless photo
The cop and the enigma with an agenda
As Lucy Lawless and Jill Marie Jones approach the table, Lawless smiles and says, "Hello, darlings," in a half-disarming and half-joking way. Jones looks at the assembled journalists then back at Lawless. "I feel like we're s...

Interview: Ray Santiago and Dana DeLorenzo (Ash vs. Evil Dead)

Oct 27 // Hubert Vigilla
Can you guys tell us about your characters since you're newcomers to the Evil Dead franchise. Ray Santiago: I play Pablo Simon Bolivar, who is this idealistic guy who came from Honduras and ended up meeting Ash at the Value Stop. He is the heart of the unit and the eyes of the audience. Pablo is Ash's main homie, and he was warned about evil lurking in the world by his family, and he didn't believe it. He comes face to face with it and believes that Ash is the man to save the world from evil. He's Ash's biggest cheerleader and sees beyond all of his flaws and believes in him. Through idolizing Ash, he realizes that he doesn't want to be like Ash, but he wants to be his own man and he wants to be his own hero. And I'll turn it over to Dana, because her character comes along for the ride because she sort of gets dragged into this whole situation by me. Dana DeLorenzo: That is true. Kelly is best friends with Pablo and, like Ray said, gets dragged into this fight against evil. But she is a real badass in the making. She's tough, she tells you like it is, she's not afraid to speak her mind. And she's really smart. She's quick on her feet. She can turn anything into a weapon if she needs to. Even though she's a little hesitant—or a lot hesitant—to join the fight at first, she eventually gets her own reasons to fight the deadites and becomes the common sense of the group, which is great for Ash. I think Kelly and Ash are a lot more similar than either would care to admit, and for that reason they push each other's buttons but they have each other's backs, which is really cool. I think it's very much a big brother, younger sister relationship, and something Kelly and Pablo are big sister and little brother. So these are her boys; this is her new family that she has found, and ultimately Kelly find her purpose in fighting evil. A reason to get out of bed every day. Ray Santiago: I don't think I've ever looked at my sister the way Pablo looks at Kelly. [laughs] Dana DeLorenzo: [laughs] No, I'm saying from Kelly's point of view. I know. Ray Santiago: But I'm just saying Pablo looks at Kelly with a different set of eyes. I don't think I've ever looked at my sister that way. But, I just want to say, the show is ultimately about a group of people who are trying to escape who they're really meant to be, and they are running from the demons that they have to fight and the demons that they have inside. And once they come into contact with them and overcome them they become this super-strong monster-fighting squad. So somehow these three dysfunctional people come together and they become a unit that is responsible for saving the world from evil. How did you prepare yourselves for physically demanding roles? And also being covered in blood and gore the entire time? Dana DeLorenzo: Oh, we would just throw everything on each other when we were prepping. It was just like, "Oh, I've got some maple syrup. Here!" Ray Santiago: I— I— Dana DeLorenzo: He went and ran in the woods in his underwear. [laughs] Ray Santiago: Yeah. I worked out a lot. Dana DeLorenzo: He did! Can I just commend his commitment to the gym? He looks very— Ray Santiago: I would wake up... Dana DeLorenzo: Kelly has noticed! Kelly is like, "Maybe Pablo's—" Ray Santiago: I had to keep it up! It's like, "Dammit! She's not looking at me the way I want her look at me!" Dana DeLorenzo: Meanwhile, I'm eating every dessert everyday. Ray Santiago: They have a lot of meat pies and a lot of biscuits in New Zealand. Dana DeLorenzo: It was amazing. And their desserts. Oh god! Everything there was so good. Well, and also, I was actually terrified a lot of the time filming Ash vs Evil Dead. I didn't think I was going to because it's make believe, but seeing the actors coming and playing the deadites—seeing them normal, like we are today, and seeing them in hair and makeup four hours or five hours with this incredible special effects team—[laughs] and then they'd just be walking around the lunch room. I couldn't eat! I couldn't look at them! It was that terrifying a place. And they didn't even have the contacts in. So I would get an extra dessert and go to my trailer and have my comfort food. It was honestly very terrifying. And weird things happened. I still think that the set was possessed. Things would just fall over at the strangest times. The noises when we were filming in the stage. The roof would be banging like there were a million, I don't know— Ray Santiago: Deer? Dana DeLorenzo: Yeah! Deer up there. Ray Santiago: They were birds. Dana DeLorenzo: There's birds! Yeah. Are the birds doing Chicago right now on Broadway? [laughs] Dana DeLorenzo: But no. It's just the wind, it's just the birds. I'm telling you, weird stuff happened. We summoned evil for sure during this. Ray Santiago: The fact we were able to leave Los Angeles and create our own bubble in New Zealand. Dana DeLorenzo: Incredible. Ray Santiago: With Bruce and Lucy and Jill Marie Jones—who cooked for me on many occasions, and just made lovely chicken soup. Dana DeLorenzo: Jill Marie Jones. Ahh. [sighs] Ray Santiago: It was possible to create this family unit outside of our normal habitat. It really helped. I just want to give props to the New Zealand crew. Dana DeLorenzo: Yeah, Kiwis! Ray Santiago: The Kiwiss were amazing, and Auckland took really good care of us. We're excited to hopefully be going back. Dana DeLorenzo: Yes, hopefully. Ray Santiago: Like you guys are not going to be disappointed in what we've done. It's kind of groundbreaking because Sam created this genre of cult classic horror-comedy, and we're bringing it to television in a single-camera, half-hour format. And I don't think there's anything like that right now on television. You've got all these other horror shows, but ours isn't taking itself too seriously. You can pop some popcorn and it's quick, you're gonna love it. Dana DeLorenzo: It's like walking into a comedy club, but inside the scariest haunted house you've ever been in. It's jam-packed in thirty minutes. There's action, but then there's also some good drama. Honestly, it's entertaining. I'm really excited. What was your exposure to the Evil Dead films before going into the show? Dana DeLorenzo: I just watched them five minutes ago. [laughs] Dana DeLorenzo: He just showed me really quick. Ray Santiago: Yeah, I was showing her [on my phone]. Dana DeLorenzo: We just did a montage. Ray Santiago: I had watched the second one, which is my favorite. And after I found out we were doing this, obviously I watched all of them. And I would watch them— A couple times I would come home and I would watch them before I went to bed. OH! And speaking of being scared and possessed, I had a bat that we were training with. Dana DeLorenzo: [laughs] Ray Santiago: I was training with a baseball bat for something on the set, and I brought the bat back to my place. [Sam Raimi] signed the bat, and I was so excited. In my apartment in new Zealand I started hearing this noise every night and I couldn't figure out what it was. And I actually got really scared that my place was haunted. So I'd sleep with this bat next to my bed. But it was just— Dana DeLorenzo: It was me hiding in the closet. Ray Santiago: It was just the pipes from the restaurant underneath [my place]. [laughs] [laughs] Dana DeLorenzo: I'd go over and we'd run lines and Ray would be like, "Do you hear that?" We'd get really quiet and I wouldn't hear it. I'd start talking and he go, "No! There it is again!" [laughs] Dana DeLorenzo: So we were— Ray Santiago: We were on edge, basically. Dana DeLorenzo: Yeah, we were on edge. Ray Santiago: Because we were a little traumatized from all the situations we— We were put in a blender of scary and gross situations. Dana DeLorenzo: And crazy. I mean, I couldn't even watch the first Evil Dead by myself in the daytime. I had to have people come over. I thought, I'm an adult. Am I really going to be scared? Still holds up, terrifies me. I still have nightmares about it. I'm getting clammy hands talking about it. [laughs] Following up on that question, if you guys have seen the films, you know most of the characters don't really last for too long. Dana DeLorenzo: Right. So do you guys sort of read ahead in the scripts just to see if your names keep coming up? Dana DeLorenzo: You know, they only gave us the scripts like two days before we would shoot it. So, ummm. [turning to Ray] What were you going to say? Ray Santiago: I was going to say that I had a system going. I'm from the South Bronx. Dana DeLorenzo: This one! Ray Santiago: She called me "New York" all the time. Dana DeLorenzo: He is so New York. We could not get the scripts until we were two days away from shooting, and maybe doing a table reading. Meanwhile, Ray was like, "This is what's going to happen." I was like, "How do you know this?!" Ray Santiago: "I can't tell you! I have my ways! I know what's happening! We're good!" Look, I think that you're right. It is something to be scared about because the people that Ash care about ultimately end up dying. Dana DeLorenzo: It keeps it exciting. Ray Santiago: I'm just going to say this: Even if you die on Evil Dead, you can come back and taunt Ash for the rest of his life. So I honestly think that's what this show's about: staying alive. So you have to see what happens. Dana DeLorenzo: And the fact that anything can happen. I think that's what gives this show an edge. You never know who can go, and you never know who's real, or who's a deadite in disguise.
Ash v Evil Dead Interview photo
Meet Ash's two sidekicks
Bruce Campbell has flown solo in each of the Evil Dead movies, which ran our hero Ash through the wringer as well as gallons of blood. Ash vs Evil Dead changes that up. Older and wearing a girdle, Ash can't kill the deadites ...

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...

The Walking Dead Season 6 Recap: "Thank You"

Oct 26 // Nick Valdez
TWD has been through quite a few shake ups the last few seasons, but it's never quite changed enough to warrant the huge audience it's got. It's got a loyal audience to do with whatever they like, but despite many fake outs, there never really has been any big change to the core of the series. As such is the case with most long form storytelling, the stories from episode to episode don't really matter as they all still boil down to the same core formula. Despite all of the writing problems the show has, it's managed to build a good foundation of questionable morals. Thematically, each season will always be about the struggle between humanity, the ever present need to devolve into violence to save yourself, and the acceptance or non-acceptance of what you've become. That's why characters like Rick, Morgan, Carol, or even Merle from a few seasons back are interesting figures in the dog eat dog world that TWD has created. They've manged to stand out from the bowels of the story because they've distinctly chose between humanity and inhumanity and thus strengthen the show's theme overall. But six seasons in, and TWD is still afraid of taking risks.  Through watching these seasons, I've realized that while death can come to technically any character, it's still a TV show hindered by its fans and future plans. There are four tiers to any program like this, and once you identify which characters land in those tiers you'll understand the course of the series' deaths. Though the events of the show may still surprise (especially if it's sweeps week), no television show will ever make a decision that'll potentially cripple it and potentially deter its viewers. In those tiers you have:  Main Characters: One to three characters so integral to the show's overreaching arc, they'll never be in actual danger. Stuff may happen to them, but they'll never be removed.  Secondary Characters: Characters related in some way to a main character that can be removed the show without damaging the overall arc. Their removal may beef up a secondary or main's plot, and their removal will still get a big reaction, but ultimately don't illicit any major changes.  Tertiary Characters: Ancillary additions that can be removed without any real issue. They've been developed enough (or have visual quirks) so we know who they are before they're removed. Their removal may even illicit a response from the audience.  Quartenary Characters: Commonly referred to as "Red Shirts" thanks to Star Trek, these characters are removed all the time to establish a harsh environment and build tension.  That brings us to this episode's big event. Glenn's dead, but it's not as big a deal as you would think. Although Glenn was one of the remaining original characters, he's been a secondary character from the beginning. And Glenn's archetype was even more egregious since he's been the designated "blank slate" for the audience to project themselves onto since Rick's been devolving after season two. The episode made it out to be a big deal, sure. And after reading online reactions yesterday, it definitely feels like a huge event, but his death doesn't really change the plot in any real way, so it's not as important as we're meant to believe. Just think, what was Glenn doing before now? His plot the last two seasons has really been leading to his death, and his way of death, while infuriating, serves to end his plot well enough thematically. It's a death in service of the show's theme of humanity, and for the first time, the show has actually reached the grey area it's been attempting for a long time.  Thinking on his death he was essentially punished for wanting to do the right thing, which the show's been saying for some time, but as Rick slowly drifts away from that mentality (showing in this episode that he's willing to sacrifice Alexandrians in order to save his real family and to survive) he might finally realize that it's not so black and white. It's a neat dichotomy between the two as Rick's simultaneously punished for his "survival of the fittest" mentality. While the writing is still terrible and TWD will never truly take a huge risk and kill off one of the main characters (who've been established through the seasons as Rick, Carol, and Darryl), the fact that it's finally playing with its theme means the showrunners know where to take the show going forward. Besides, Glenn's death may be the opposite of what we normally get in the comics and Maggie may finally get something to do. In the comic, Maggie became a badass as his death served to give her more purpose.  Final Thoughts:  Kudos to The Walking Dead for not killing a single black character this episode. I hate that I need to point that out, but it's been a real problem lately. The fact that this seems miraculous is one of the major flaws this show's been carrying since the beginning.  Knowing that Glenn died going in made the series' penchant for heavy foreshadowing all the more insufferable. They really don't know how to surprise anymore.  I like Heath as a character, but his design does not translate well from the comics. Corey Hawkins has been pretty great so far as the group's true foil, but his hairpiece is super distracting.  Next week is dealing with Morgan's origin story, so I'm pretty curious as to how he becomes the super judgmental monk he is today. Lennie James has been great, so I'm sure he can anchor an episode just fine.  Want to see more of our TV coverage? Check out our TV Recaps and Reviews! 
Walking Dead Recap photo
The trouble with The Walking Dead is that when I can't watch it on time, everyone on the Internet sees fit to spoil literally every single event of every episode. You can argue that I should just stay off the Internet when th...

Interview: Makeup/Special Effects Designer Roger Murray (Ash vs. Evil Dead)

Oct 26 // Hubert Vigilla
Having worked on the Evil Dead remake, how does Ash vs Evil Dead compare in terms of the blood and gore and extent of the makeup effect? Oh man. It's a lot more intense, basically. I mean, there's a huge amount of special effects, blood, gore, dismemberment, beheadings. I think it's just a lot more fun of a ride. It's just a lot faster paced and crazy fun, really. When did the series come up after working on the film? Pretty quickly after? No, it wasn't. It sort of matured over quite a bit of time before we actually talked about that maybe we should do a series. It took a bit to build it, and I got pulled in about two months before they started pre-production. So there was quite a bit of a time gap between them. Moving to cable—to Starz—were there any limitations at all on what you could do as far as effect goes? We haven't had any limitations yet! They haven't set any limitations. I think most of it gets set up through the writing, and the writers have been fantastic about building certain effects as we go along. And also as the series evolves, they get an idea of what we're capable of and the amount of time [required]. That's been really great. So no, they haven't set any limitations yet, and I don't think they will! [laughs] Can you tell us about one of your favorite effects that you got to work on? Hmmm... It's a tricky one without giving too much away. I think just generally we've done a lot of character makeups, right? And those have all been really fun. Pretty much every deadite is its own character makeup. So we've got a tone for the whole show, but we've personalized every one. It's been quite good. And I think just generally making rigs. Going back to the old school rigs with dummy rigs, dismemberments, beheadings. We've made a few puppets! I can't say what's my favorite. It's like we had a lot of blood on our hands, let's just say that. How did the cast react to being constantly covered in blood? Well, they sort of got used to it. Though Bruce gets a lot of the blood, you know. The whole cast were amazing, really amazing, and really stepped up to it. Because, you know, it's a fast turnaround TV show, so it's on. I mean, we do a lot of effects in our turnaround episodically, so there was no downtime from blood. And they just got used to it. It was really good, yeah. Is there enough of a talent pool in New Zealand now that you can actually pull off this kind of show? There's been a lot of new productions down there. That's a really good question. Look, there's a huge gravitas with Evil Dead. I was working with two really good makeup artists—Jane O'Kane and Denise Coomb—down there who both share a credit in prosthetic design, because we basically allocated some of the tonal stuff to the on-set makeup artists, the designers. And that was really great. We've had a really good pool of effects makeup artists through the whole Lord of the Rings, and New Zealand ended up getting people from America, we drew people from Australia. Just the tone and the want for people to work on the show was enough to draw people to New Zealand. We're really lucky. We had some great technicians come down, great makeup artists, great technicians who worked a lot in the States. They love being in New Zealand. It's quite different down there, you know? So no, we were really lucky. It is one of those things where we're a small country so when a lot of different projects get going, it does get quite tight, but I think Evil Dead will always draw people in. The coolness factor of it? Yeah, I think it's the coolness factor, but I think it's also that we run our workshop so that makeup artists—the special effects makeup artists are usually technicians too—they'll get the ability to potentially sculpt some of the designs and do the technical side and do the makeups; so it's quite a holistic sort of way we run it. So for them they feel a little bit more connected to the show, and they really enjoy it. It's been great fun. And, you know, they come out of the workshop, get some blood on their hands, come back, wash their hands, go back out. It's been really good. When you read a gory set piece in the script, are you allowed to ratchet it up and make suggestions, or do you usually stick to what's there? Oh man! It's always getting ratcheted up, you know what I mean? The thing is trying to contain that so it actually works and is scary and not too over the top, you know what I mean? So it depends on the pace of the gag that we're doing. Some of the gags we'll do we'll go completely berzerk, mostly when Bruce is involved. [laughs] So in [Sam Raimi's] episode, it was like, "Let's really ratchet it up!" because he really loves seeing Bruce covered in blood. "But let's just ratchet it right up— Let's go craaaazy!" So we'd barge on set with kegs of blood and blood pumps, and we're pumping. That's really fun, but there are times when we want to build the pace of the show; we want it to be scary, a lot more potentially like the remake where there's a bit more of a sense of impending doom. We'll sort of tone it down a little bit. So there's a nice variation, yeah, yeah. It's worked really well, it's really fun. And... [laughs] You guys are gonna love it! It's crazy. It's a crazy half hour. It's one of those shows that I, personally, would love to go and see. Like when I get home from work, I just want to sit down and watch it. It's really fun. Could you talk a little bit about what's the aesthetic, the look, the tone of the— The tone, yeah. The tone. That's another great question. Of course, that's one of the things because the tone changes in the movies from the first Evil Dead to the second one to Army of Darkness. There's sort of an overriding feeling to it, but the actual makeup and the look of the makeup changes quite a bit. So what we've done is we've kind of gone back to look mostly at Evil Dead 2 and get the tone from there, and sort of lifted a little bit for the TV show. We always wanted to make Ash vs Evil Dead our own sort of thing. We didn't want to copy [previous movies] outright because I think [the movies] had their time and place then. So we're drawing on that, we're drawing on the palette and different hues of what they've used initially. And I love [Evil Dead 2]. I love that movie, it's great. So to be able to go over and deconstruct it, talk with Sam about where they sort of started and what the background was; just sort of change it and work with him and get a feeling of what the deadites were going to look like. It's just pushed a little bit, pushed a little bit toward the modern. How do you do Evil Dead 2-esque makeup effects when [back then] they were doing things with peanut butter? Now you've got fantastic technology and amazing materials. How do you dial it back? Well, that's the thing. We didn't want to dial it right back to then. We actually wanted to enhance it for the show. We've actually taken all the appliances we make—they're silicone appliances... There's more of a naturalism. That's probably the best way I can describe it. We didn't want it to look too theatrical, we wanted you to actually feel like the characters had gone through a transformation. There's definitely a harkening back to Evil Dead movies, but I think it's its own thing too. It's just a natural progression of makeup effects, generally. We're taking our own riff on it. How does it feel working in the industry now with the resurgence of practical effects? You're seeing a lot of films and TV shows going back to practical and going away from digital. I'm extremely happy about it. [laughs] My company, Main Reactor, is extremely happy about it. It really is a bit of a dream come true because, look, there was a point when we all thought that lots more things would be digital. We still work with a great visual effects company in New Zealand, Pacific Renaissance Pictures effects (PRPVFX). Our approach is we're not going to discard our visual effects, we're going to work together, and we're going to make effects that you don't know where the practical-effects and visual-effects sides begin and end. Marrying both of those together is hugely effective. Most of it's practical, but there's some tweaks with visual effects, things you can do easily now like wire removal and all those sort of things, enhancement of blood. It helps storytellers tell their story. We're making Evil Dead as a TV series in 2015. It's insane. I couldn't be happier. The producers are up for as many practical effects as possible, and it's just going to be a nice combination of tweaks so you're not sure how we did it. It's the veneer, you know? The polish on the— Yeah! Yeah, yeah yeah. And you'll see it. Most of the effects are practical. [laughs] Yeah, but I don't want to dismiss the fact that working with visual effects artist and working in that medium is a really fantastic way to go too. It's a great marriage. You probably run into this a lot in recent years where you'll be sitting at a production meeting and the visual effects guys say "We'll take that" or "We'll do that," and you're sort of left with the scraps. So now this seems like this is the opposite. Well, I think there's a mentality initially that's starting to change where visual effects supervisors and stuff would try to pick up lots of effects in pre-production meetings. But what we've found was that— [Let's take the show] Spartacus. I think Spartacus is a great example because when you start birthing a show, everyone starts trying to figure out what jigsaw piece they are and what's going to be best for the show. I definitely know that there's a big gravitas on Spartacus with the visual effects to actually do stuff as practically as possible because the turnaround on television is really fast. You know, the post-production side is really fast because it's matching where you are in the shooting schedule. They don't seem to be putting their hands up as much now saying "I'll take that." They're being a lot more clever about it. I think for [visual effects artists], it's great. If they can get something in-camera and we've got a plan from the start, we can come up with a great product. We're doing Evil Dead, so there's a lo-fi aspect to some things. If you're got dummies being chopped up with chainsaws, and you've got dismembered arms, or we've got some really lovely silicone bodies, you know, all that stuff. We don't have to hide that with visual effects, and the visual effects people don't have to clean it up. It just is what it is, and you're carried by the story and carried by the characters.
Interview: Roger Murray photo
On the look/feel of this new Evil Dead
Roger Murray's been working in props, makeup effects, and practical special effects for more than two decades. His credits include The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, 30 Days of Night, the 2013 Evil Dead remake, and Crouch...

Suicide Squad photo
Pimp cane
Remember when that weird image of an overly tattooed Jared Leto Joker went out and everyone went insane because it just looked stupid? We all calmed down when they told us it wasn't how he was going to look in the film, and t...

Review: Knock Knock

Oct 23 // Nick Valdez
[embed]220064:42670:0[/embed] Knock KnockDirectors: Eli RothRated: RRelease Date: October 9th, 2015 (in theaters and VOD) Knock Knock stars Keanu Reeves as Evan Webber, a family man with a loving wife and two kids. When his family goes away for the weekend, two girls Genesis (Lorenza Izzo) and Bel (Ana de Armas) suddenly show up in the middle of the night asking for help. After seducing Evan, he ends up sleeping with them. But after he wakes up the next day, Evan realizes the two girls have some sinister motives. And that's pretty much it. The best thrillers can mine even the thinnest premises for good character work or story material, but that all hinges on whether or not the film has a strong written frame to build on. Unfortunately for all of us, Knock Knock is basically written like a film student's first draft hastily put together two hours before the assignment was due.  Don't get me wrong, I can accept bad dialogue in a horror/thriller because it's usually in service of a greater goal. Maybe the film's intentionally bad or its wackier elements help bring levity to the potentially gruesome nature of the genre, but there isn't just bad dialogue here. The entire package is crafted terribly. From how long it takes to actually get the story moving as the girls don't show up until a third into the film (thus making the terribly written and acted family scenes feel much longer and awkward), to the fact that Evan literally has to sleep with the girls to get to the core of the drama, to how many times it resorts to "crazy bitch!" whenever characters are under duress, to the girls' nonsensical motivations (half revenge, half complete banality), to Evan being a former DJ for some reason, and finally for weirdly off putting lines like "Bitch, you're barking up the wrong f**king tree! I'm from Oakland, hoe! I know two ghetto ass hoes when I see them!" Yeah, that's definitely a thing someone says in the movie. That line somehow made it through numerous edits, drafts, and cuts into the final product. I bet whoever wrote this line did one of those fist pumps to celebrate how clever he was.  I could write about how terribly everything was put together all day, but to get to the core of my issues with Knock Knock I need to do something I've never done in one of my reviews before. I have to outright spoil one of the key plot points of the film because it's something I desperately want to tell you about. I'm sorry if you were still somehow interested in the film after reading thus far, but I promise I'll keep the spoilers limited to this chunk of the review. Okay, so you know why the girls are invading houses and having sex with men in order to humiliate them and ruin their lives? Because men are monsters. There's a hint at some child abuse (which also compounds yet another horribly conceived "idea" on top of this garbage heap), but we're just supposed to believe that these two girls are going around messing with dudes as some kind of misappropriation of the "femme fatale" concept. Sex as a weapon can be fine in media, but if the justification for its use is just so that same character can "trap" a man, it's completely backwards thinking and singlehandedly sets back all of the good work women have done in media I would've accepted these extremely thin motivations had there been actual depth with the two girls, but their actions far exceed the range of their revenge. And Knock Knock goes out of its way multiple times to remove any sense of sympathy or even desire to exist from the characters entirely.  When Evan threatens to call the police, the two girls threaten to send him to prison with cries of not just rape, but statutory rape. Thus adding yet another mysogynistic reason this film is really just for older dudes unhappy with their marriages. In fact, Knock Knock's death knell is a speech Reeves gives that somehow sets his own career back a few years. You could hear his soul dying a little bit when he says, I kid you not, "You f**ked me! You came to me! You wanted it, you came on to me!...It was free pizza! Free f**king pizza! What was I supposed to do?!?"  Sure Knock Knock has one or two moments where all of its badness coalesces into a surprisingly humorous bit, as every film gets one regardless of how bad it truly is, but nothing is good enough to warrant wading through the rest of it. Knock Knock isn't just an embarrassment for all involved, but for the first time, Keanu Reeves looked like he was genuinely phoning it in. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but I was almost enamored by how much Reeves was trying to distance himself from the character. He gets bad dialogue and weird movies all the time, but he usually can transcend the material thanks to his effort. And the saddest thing is this is coming after one of his biggest triumphs in the last few years, John Wick, which was also a film caught in this very situation. It was too a film full of cheesy dialogue and clunky writing work, but he made it something special.  Knock Knock is such a worthless heap of garbage, not even Keanu Reeves wanted to try to save it. If Keanu Reeves didn't deem this worthy, why should we? This review is more attention than this film deserves, and I can't wait until this fades from memory. 
Knock Knock Review photo
Who's there? Garbage
Keanu Reeves is a treasure. Thanks to his genuine love of the craft, I'm always willing to see whatever he decides to be a part of. No matter the project he always gives as much effort as possible, sometimes even elevating th...

Review: The Last Witch Hunter

Oct 23 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219379:42358:0[/embed] The Last Witch HunterDirector: Breck EisnerRelease Date: October 23, 2015Rating: PG-13  The best moment in The Last Witch Hunter comes less than ten minutes in. It's a small thing, when Vin Diesel acknowledges a child in the middle of some intense supernatural setpiece. It's badass, and it's funny – intentionally so. It's the only moment in the movie that I look back on with legitimate fondness. Because it's all downhill from there.  For reasons that don't matter, Vin Diesel is immortal, and because he is immortal, he has taken on the role of The Last Witch Hunter. He's basically a beat cop, and his beat is the supernatural. Witches do things, and he comes and gets them. Maybe they're arrested, or maybe they're executed (they're not executed). But the people around him aren't immortal. Like Michael Caine, for example, who Vin Diesel refers to as "kid" (which is the second best thing about the film). Michael Caine is a priest of some sort, and his job is to basically watch the Watchman. He writes down the oral history of the deeds and the life. I wonder how interesting those stories are. If this is what the writers thought was the story that needed to be told, well... maybe his life's been pretty boring. I'm not the first person to say this, and I won't be the last, but the cardinal sin of a bad movie is being boring. If you're going to be bad, at least be entertaining. If I look at my watch during a schlocky movie, that's a bad sign. If I look at my watch knowing full well that my batteries are dead, that's an awful one.  I wanted to like the movie, at least a little bit. I mean, heck, I kinda did like it a little bit. I was bored, but I wasn't angry. I get angry at movies sometimes, but this wasn't one of them. I felt more or less indifferent, which is also bad... but less so. The Last Witch Hunter's biggest failing is literally every single aspect of it. The acting is bad (although Rose Leslie does a decent job considering what she's got (unless they were trying to make her a Vin Diesel love interest, in which case that was horrifying)), the writing is bad, the CGI is garbage, the action scenes are among the worst I've seen in years, and it's just like... why? What was the purpose of this movie? I legitimately and honestly wonder that, because some part of me hears the name Vin Diesel: Witch Hunter and gets excited by the prospect. Because it sounds pretty awesome. Like, in a bad way, but awesome. And it's just disappointing that the film isn't that. But there's just something about it that kept me from actively disliking The Last Witch Hunter, and I've been trying (and failing) to figure out what it is. But what makes it more frustrating is that I don't care enough to figure out why. My job as a critic is to be able to answer these questions (or at least pose more interesting ones), and I really can't do my job here. Aside from a few moments here and there, there's not a whole lot to redeem The Last Witch Hunter, but I also wouldn't call it a "bad film." Perhaps it's because there's nothing to really damn it either? No scene in the movie goes so far off the rails as to be anything more than eye-roll worthy. I can't bring myself to actively dislike it because it's just... there. This movie is more bad than good, but the reality is that it's just painfully average. Maybe average plus. But if you asked me where the plus came from (which you implicitly did by clicking on this review), I honestly couldn't tell you. Sorry. About ten minutes before the film ended, I thought: "Oh how cute! It thinks it's going to get a sequel!" Many films like this throw a last-minute twist in there that sets up a sequel. This devotes a whole bunch of time to it. The final climactic battle is shorter than the setup for a sequel that this film will never get. That's some serious prioritization failure right there. But some part of me also wishes that there was going to be a sequel... not because it would have been good, but because maybe it could have been more bad. Good bad. It could have been the thing that this promised to be with its premise but was not.  We're not going to get that. There is no way this film is anything but a colossal failure at the box office. And if I'm wrong? Well... I'll be shocked and possibly hopeful that the second movie will try a little bit harder to make something fun. But it's a moot point, because yeah... no one's gonna go see this thing. And really, they shouldn't. 
The Last Witch Hunter photo
A thing I have seen
There are movies that you know you will like before you see them. You'll hear the premise and it'll grab you. You don't need to see a trailer or read a synopsis. All you need to know is a few key words, the ones that get you ...

Review: Jem and the Holograms

Oct 23 // Matthew Razak
[embed]220058:42666:0[/embed] Jem and the HologramsDirector: Jon M. ChuRated: PGRelease Date: October 23, 2015 What I want to believe is that Jem and the Holograms is really an incredibly smart meta film about our current culture and it's emotional immaturity caused by split second reactions on social media. I want to believe that so badly, but more likely it's just a incredibly sloppy screenplay and forced direction that takes what could have been a decent story and turns it into the worst mish-mash of story lines since the original Casino Royale (that film at least works as camp). We meet Jerrica (Aubrey Peeples), a painfully shy teenager, and her sisters: Kimber (Stefanie Scott), Shana (Aurora Perrineau) and Aja (Hayley Kiyoko). A musically talented group, they live with their mother (Molly Ringwald). When Jerrica records herself singing a song and Kimber uploads it to the Internet it goes viral overnight and big time record producer Erica Raymond (Julliette Lewis) steps in to sign Jerrica, now known as Jem, to a record deal. Of course becoming big and famous leads to terribly traumatic events over the next month (yes, only a month) and soon everything starts falling apart even though Jem is falling for the totally dreamy son of Erica, Rio (Ryan Guzman). Also, there's a toy robot that Jem's father made sending her on a secret quest. You know, because the plot wasn't random enough. At first glance one may think that the cliche plot and groan worthy moments -- such as the four girls and Rio kicking into a random sing along after committing a crime -- are intentional. The film makes heavy use of social media and maybe a commentary on the web's short attention span is why they've condensed the normal "band gets together/band falls apart" into only a month of time. Characters go from best friends to mortal enemies to apologizing to each other in the span of an hour. It is the most ludicrously paced and plotted film I've seen in a long while and I kept telling myself it had to be intentional; it had to be a social commentary of some sort. But it isn't because it never makes a point. Jem and her sisters never turn to the camera and admit they're just terrible people. The movie is just plain bad. The plot careens from one random occurrence to another attempting to show... something. Instead it just fulfills cliches. A bunch of privileged teenagers struggle with their inability to get along for a single month. One month! That's all it takes for Jem to fall apart at the hands of all the pressure she's feeling by being torn into two personas (Jem and Jerrica) and getting lots of money. It would be infuriating if it wasn't so laughable. Every time the movie even attempts to make an emotional connection between characters it feels feeble and pointless since Jem and her sister's emotions are about as stable as a table with uneven legs.  Maybe all that would have been OK for Jon M. Chu had directed the movie with any panache at all. Instead it feels like he's bored with it and just checking off every request from the studio for a movie that will appeal to teens. Instead of playing up the camp -- aside from a single (and fantastic) teaser at the end -- Chu takes his bi-polar characters far too seriously. More importantly, the man responsible for making dance movies fun with his stellar direction of dance numbers can't seem to direct his way through a single musical sequence in this film. The entire thing is sloppy and devoid of any tone. Chu could have at least put in a few scenes of the band working together or something to make it feel like times is passing, but instead he wastes the almost two hour (!) running time on repeating the same scene over and over. We get it. Jem and Jerrica are two different people. When a Saturday morning cartoon involving a woman literally projecting a different person on top of herself handles this metaphor better than you do then you've got serious problems. Throw in a strange plot line about Jem's father and the mystical robot Synergy, that was clearly just added to appeal to fans of the cartoon, and you've got a mess no director could piece together, but that Chu does a horrifically bad job of.  It's all too bad because somewhere in there is a movie that could have worked. The hints at camp are there during some of the more ridiculous parts, the musical numbers could have worked with a bit more effort, and with just a bit of ironing out and trimming down the film could have felt like something mattered. Chu even uses a neat trick by inter-cutting YouTube musician's music and videos into the movie as a sort of soundtrack. Unfortunately instead of being innovative it feels forced and tacky like the rest of the film. Eventually they even use YouTuber's videos talking about the influence of the Jem cartoon on them to make it appear they're talking about the life changing film Jem. Again, this all takes place over the matter of a month.  Jem and the Holograms is a mess. It's confusing and directionless and by trying to appeal to everyone appeals to no one. Somewhere, buried deep within this film, is a cult classic that cries to be let out right at the end, but was lost at some point between shoving in a robot mystery and forcing a creepy romance between a possibly underage teen and a college intern.   
Jem photo
Truly, truly outrageously terrible
I have memories of the 80s cartoon Jem and the Holograms. They aren't fond and they aren't bad, they just are. A movie based on the show didn't really get me excited in that way that most nostalgia does, but I could see how i...

Review: Steve Jobs

Oct 23 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219839:42637:0[/embed] Steve JobsDirector: Danny BoyleRating: RRelease Date: October 9, 2015 (limited); October 23, 2015 (wide) Even though he was an ideal public persona for Apple products, Steve Jobs was not a good person behind the scenes. There are numerous examples of Steve Jobs being a giant jerk, and the Steve Jobs of the film played by Michael Fassbender is superbly unrepentant. Before the launch of the original Macintosh computer, Steve throws tantrums. He's abusive to his staff, and he continues to avoid his financial and personal responsibilities to his daughter Lisa and her mother. (He's only 94.1% likely to be Lisa's father, he keeps pointing out.) Steve Jobs was a self-centered prick, a long-view Machiavellian entrenched in the tech industry, and there are times in this film that he verges on pure supervillainy. But he was also a savvy businessman. Based on this performance, you know who would make a great Lex Luthor? Michael Fassbender. (Also, Steve Jobs.) With some historical figures, we ponder the link between madness and genius. With Steve Jobs it's maybe more a question of morality and genius. The big conversation that the film wants to provoke is whether Steve Jobs could have been successful if he weren't such a raging douchebag. There's a pivotal argument in the third act with Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), who calls Jobs out for all of his persistent moral shortcomings. Fassbender plays Steve Jobs as this ethically challenged, emotionally unmoored figure, and the rest of the cast helps make this work by playing moral counterpoint for the wretch. Picture people holding down a hot air balloon with rope. The task is to keep this thing grounded as much as possible. Rogen's Wozniak is one of these people, and he's mainly seeking recognition for his hard work. There's also steady and loyal Andy Hertzfeld played by Michael Stuhlbarg, and a warmly paternal Jeff Daniels as former Pepsi and Apple CEO John Sculley. The most set upon moral figure in the film, though, is Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet). She's portrayed as a kind of power-personal assistant to Steve Jobs, though her marketing roles at Apple and NeXT were probably far different. Ditto her overall career trajectory. Hoffman apparently retired in 1995, years before the iMac launch, though she's at Jobs' side in the film in each act. This deviation makes sense for the sake of the screenplay, which requires a character as morally resolute as Jobs is morally aloof. In real life, Hoffman was considered the person who was best able to stand up to Jobs, and that kind of figure--the immovable moral object to Steve Job's unstoppable narcissistic force--is necessary in this particular type of story. Winslet disappears into the role. I didn't even realize it was her until the second act of Steve Jobs. Many of the best scenes involve Winslet verbally grappling with Fassbender. There are Sorkin-isms throughout the briskly paced Steve Jobs (e.g., the walk-and-talks, the trivia, the impeccable ripostes), and Boyle does a good job of differentiating the look and feel of each section of the film. The world of 1984 is shot in a grainy 16mm, for instance. The film's acts were shot independently, which allowed the actors to tailor their performances to each year before reconsidering their character for the next. Certain gags or lines or ticks in a performance call back to others. As strong as Steve Jobs is for its first two-thirds, it gets a little soft by 1998. I don't know if it's the Hollywood aspect (or Danny Boyle) shining through at this point, but the movie begins making these overtures of Steve Jobs' redemption, all with a heavy dose of crowd-pleasing schmaltz. I didn't buy any of it. A cringeworthy cutesiness also creeps into the iMac section of the movie. Here and there, Steve critiques the limitations of 1990s technology and hints at 21st century Apple products, as if we're watching a winky retroactive commercial. The lines are clunkers when they come, and one of them is a total eyeroller. It doesn't help that I'd been rolling my eyes at the triumphalism that the movie takes on in the final act even as elements of the script do its best to keep the man and the story on the ground. The argument between Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak I mentioned earlier offers a great encapsulation of the film's underlying concerns. And sure, while the story chronicles one man's ability to overcome years of failure, Steve Jobs does this mostly by screwing over other people. During the NeXT section of the film, Jobs calls it "playing the orchestra." In real life, most people call it "being a dick." In A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge has his three visions, wakes up in the morning, and reforms. In Steve Jobs, there are three products and a hint of a better Steve Jobs in the future. Bah humbug. In real life, Steve Jobs woke up after the iMac was released and was still Steve Jobs.
Review: Steve Jobs photo
A better way to do a biopic about a jerk
I was texting a friend about Steve Jobs over the weekend, the new biopic written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Danny Boyle. Sorkin thankfully avoided the birth-to-death biopic that we've all seen and grown tired of by now. ...

Rick and Morty Season 2 Review: One Schwifty Season

Oct 20 // John-Charles Holmes
[embed]220007:42656:0[/embed] Rick and Morty’s debut season still stands as one of the biggest surprises out of Adult Swim to date. The channel is usually known for its one-note ideas (Adult Johnny Quest! The dog is also Satan! This cop is a literal ass!), but the new show from animator Justin Roiland and cancellation legend Dan Harmon rose far above its parody roots of an alcohol fueled Back to the Future. Not only did the show develop a wittingly self-aware voice for itself, but episodes occasionally dipped their toes into some pretty dark concepts like chaos theory, family abandonment, and even desensitization through the pursuit of knowledge—but only just a little at first. If season one is where Rick and Morty got audience acclimated to what strange ideas it had to offer, season two are those exact same ideas put into full practice with absolutely no restraint. Where season two holds up best is in how the show is actually structured a bit more like a typical show, but much to its benefit. Whereas the first season left all the fantastic adventures to the mostly drunk mad scientist Rick and his stammering grandson, Morty, the new season gets the entire Smith family involved in more of the weirdness. The biggest benefit being that Morty’s older sister, Summer, makes more appearances in every episode and even gets some great A-stories, making a more competent pairing with Rick than the idiotic Morty. At the same time, the new episodes also took their bizarre ideas even further. The season premiers with Rick, Morty, and Summer actually ripping the space-time continuum into multiple realities, displayed by slicing the screen right down the middle. This repeats until the episode actually climaxes into 64 different screens at once and staying that way until the anomaly gets resolved. In any other show, an idea this crazy would be enough to confuse and alienate an audience away for good, but Rick and Morty embraces this and draws us in even closer with just how ostentatiously crazy it’s willing to get. How crazy? Other highlights include an Ice T alien actually made out of ice, an alien parasite that induces a clipshow that so fake that it has to be real, an entire planet of cat people who engage in a The Purge style celebration, and even Rick becoming trapped in a teenage clone of himself who becomes the most unquestionably beloved cool kid at school—and that’s just barely scratching the surface of how inventiveRick and Morty’s sophomore season gets. The season does run a little disappointingly short at just ten 22-minute episodes, but then again, leaving us wanting more is a sign that a show’s doing something right. Many fans may be disappointed that only a few one-off characters from the first season make returns, but this can be forgiven just for how many new characters from Rick’s varied past. The best of which is arguably an appearance from Stephen Colbert in the episode “The Ricks Must Be Crazy.” Colbert plays Zeep, a skeptical alien scientist who lives the world of a battery that Rick invents to fuel his ramshackle spaceship. When Zeep discovers that his entire world exists just to power a battery, he turns on Rick and Morty and tries to escape to wreck vengeance on their universe. As the all-knowing scientist character of the show, Rick can definitely command the direction of every episode, so it’s an absolute joy to see Rick evenly matched by his own intellectual equal—not to mention that Colbert’s performance fits wonderfully for the know-it-all Zeep, putting his own annunciated character acting to hard work. For as much fun as the show has with itself this year, it does end many of the episodes with the same shockingly dark overtones as the infamous “Rick Potion #9” episode from the first season. Much of the ruthlessness and directionless suicidal depression of Rick is teased throughout the entire season as well as the effect that his self-destructive life has had on his daughter, Beth and the rest of the Smith family. This all leads up to a phenomenal finale where it finally comes to a head with an amazing emotional payoff. If the big question of season one was “does Rick truly love Morty,” season two asks if the family really needs Rick or if he’s the one dependent on them. The season does end on a massive cliffhanger, though, so it stands to beg if we even get a final answer by the end of the tenth episode. The stakes are raised, the world of the show has changed dramatically, and many sacrifices are made along the way. Rick and Mortyrivals another show for the most intense television wedding by the end of it all. So is Rick and Morty season two worth watching? Most definitely, yes. A lot of the show is still pretty the same as before—the same unrestrained raunchiness, the same direct nods to obscure sci-fi productions, and the same disgustingly beautiful designs, it’s all there. Where it does improve though, is in the writing and in its use of characters. By the time the season had wrapped up this fall, the clunkiness of some of the first season’s episodes could be seen when compared to the stronger and more economical stories of the second. If you found the writing of the first season awkward or off-putting, the second may just have more of the meaningful stories you were looking for out of Rick and Morty. After all, this is the show that has Werner Herzog going on an entire monologue about how depressing the human race’s obsession with penises is, and honestly, where else on television or film are you going to find that? Until season three debuts, I’m going to have to say, nowhere else. Want to see more of our TV coverage? Check out our TV Recaps and Reviews! 
Rick and Morty photo
It's been one schwifty season
Season two of Adult Swim’s latest breakout hit, Rick and Morty, started off with one of the most high-concept episodes of any television show this side of Community and ended with a surprisingly intense non-stop rocket-...

X-Files trailer photo
The truth is still out there, suckas
Dana Scully and Fox Mulder are back doing what they do best, which is... well... being Scully and Mulder. Fox dropped a brief trailer for the six-episode miniseries reboot of The X-Files, which comes to TV in January. Check i...

Star Wars: Episode VII photo
I've made the decision to avoid other trailers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so not only does that make my job much harder here, it also means I'll have to avoid all media for the next few months to keep from spoiling mys...

The Simpsons "Halloween of Horror" Review: The Best Episode in Years

Oct 19 // Nick Valdez
When Fox first announced The Simpsons was branching into two Halloween specials this season, I groaned so loudly I bothered my neighbors. It sounded like yet another cheap stunt I was complaining about before (then again, that sounds more like another episode this season that's supposedly going to deal with Smithers coming out to Burns), and after two surprisingly successful episodes ("Cue Detective" and "Puffless"), I figured the show was going to ruin its little streak. But little did I know that "Halloween" was going to continue what those two episodes understood. This season has been in a nice trend lately where it's been digging into its past for character motivations (and for obscure characters we haven't seen in a long while like Uter, confirmed alive finally not counting his appearance in Treehouse of Horror XX, and Dr. Nick, who wasn't killed in The Simpsons Movie thank Jebus) and finally capitalizing on the years of trust it's built with its audience. The show knows kids like me were raised on it, so there's no real reason to try so hard every time. Like most successful shows, it can just add little things to what we know already.  "Halloween of Horror" (credited to Carolyn Omine, who's written one of the best Treehouse of Horror segments, "Night of the Dolphin," and "Little Big Mom") is a Homer and Lisa story through and through, and like in the past, the Homer and Lisa stories are some of the strongest in terms of more emotional storytelling. Since we've never actually seen them celebrate the holiday, it turns out that it's a big deal at The Simpson house as Homer and Marge go all out with their decorations (so far as to shame anyone skipping the holiday). During a trip to Apu's pop up Halloween shop, Homer runs afoul of the employees ("Don't tell Old Man Squishee"), some skeezy guys voiced by Nick Kroll and Blake Anderson, and ends up on their revenge list. Meanwhile, Lisa is excited that she's finally old enough to visit Krustyland's horror event ("I'll tell my friends that it wasn't a big deal, but it's a really big deal!") but is unfortunately too frightened by the actual thing. It's a pretty sad, and wonderfully directed sequence thanks to its use of shading and it didn't even cut to commercial on a joke. As Lisa cries in Homer's arms, it cuts away and it's the most affecting the show's been in several seasons. I can count how many times its reached this peak in the last seven seasons on one hand. The rest of the episode delves into a home invasion plot, much like The Strangers, and Marge trying to comfort Bart after deciding to remove all of their Halloween decorations because Lisa's been traumatized ("Your sister has a tummy ache in her courage"), and to say more would be spoiling the story. That's also something I'd never thought I'd type about a Simpsons episode, either. There's actually an honest to goodness story here, and if this is what's been missing thanks to the Treehouse of Horror episodes, I'd like more of these please. But getting to the nitty gritty of the episode, it's near perfect with its joke delivery. Other than an odd "Time Warp" parody, which sort of works anyway thanks to seeing Springfield in drunken Halloween attire (the best being Rainier Wolfcastle as Jessica Rabbit) and self-referential Treehouse gag (I hate these later season's reliance on world breaking humor, it always feels tired) I haven't laughed this much in a long time. The most important thing about these jokes, which a lot of these later seasons fail to understand, is that they come from character work. This humor is based on what we know about these characters. Like Homer for instance. Instead of relying on "Jerkass" Homer's malleability and shoving him into random situations, as these later season episodes have done, "Halloween" boils him back down to a man who truly cares for his daughter.  In fact, the best exchange of the episode hearkens back to "classic" Simpsons by giving us the rawest conversation in some time. When Lisa's freaking out in the attic, withdrawing into herself with "This isn't real," Homer comforts her in the most loving, and more importantly, Homer way possible:  Honey, I’m your dad. I’ve lied to you more times than there are stars in the sky, but I gotta be straight - this is real. But you can’t let fear shut down your brain, because, between the two of us you’ve got the only good one. This one statement capitalizes on years and years of development between the two. Although they never age, they've grown in other ways and this episode is a nice reminder of that fact. This season is finally showing what a show in its twilight is truly capable of. Years of experience, years of writing, and years of history can be both a bad and good thing. But as "Halloween of Horror" has shown, it's leaning more toward the latter.  Final Thoughts:  To comfort himself, Homer sings the Halloween theme.  "I'm the Mozart of Halloween decorations and tonight is the Super Bowl!" "Hello, Scrotum." "Are you heading up to Treehouse to tell some tales?" "We're doing it next week. It's gonna be Psycho with Skinner's mom, Muppet Wizard of Oz, and one where furniture gets smart and takes over the world or something."  "Skippers! How can you reject a holiday where you can serve candy from a salad bowl!" "Nothing says you love a pet more than letting them be a part of the human fun. Who wants to be a Yoda? You want to be a Yoda!" "Look I don't want to be rude, but you losers should go suck somewhere else." "Ay, yi yi yi, Halloween is so bueno!"  "Ahh, they took my cell phone! And they forgot to pay my phone bill!"  "Get em, Zardoz!" Want to see more of our TV coverage? Check out our TV Recaps and Reviews! 
The Simpsons photo
Who would've guessed?
When I last wrote about The Simpsons a few weeks ago, I was ready to give up. Season 27's premiere was the latest in a long line of poorly thought out stunt episodes that were only conceived to bring in its lost audience. The...

The Walking Dead Season 6 Recap: "JSS"

Oct 19 // Nick Valdez
So last week we found out what was keeping Alexandria safe this entire time. Zombies have been gradually pouring into a nearby quarry, and after Rick stumbles on it, he recruits some of the gang and Alexandria folk to help corral them out of there. It's a pretty stupid idea in general since it would've made much more sense to try and thin out the mass as much as they could've before letting them escape, but that's beyond the point. It just means that most of Rick's crew (save for Carol, Carl, Morgan, Rosita, Eugene, and whatshername) are out of the town for the moment. There was also this side plot where Nick Papageorgio was trying to conspire against Rick for taking over their town, but Rick shut that down pretty quickly before Papageorgio got his face bitten off. It's pretty stupid all around. All potential plots brought up in that episode are quickly pushed aside in favor of more violence. Speaking of violence, this episode was full of it. But what makes it stand out more so than the general stuff we see on the show is how gruesome it really is when you stop to soak it in (which happens a few time in this episode).  As mentioned before, this episode is basically the season premiere's second half (and merging the two stories would've fixed the premiere's bloating problem). Carol gets to be a badass in more ways than one as she first shuts down some lady for complaining about her cooking skills (as Rick has given her the task of blending in with the townsfolk to figure them out), but these small moments don't last long before the season's big bads show up as the Wolves (folks with 'W' carved into their foreheads) run in and start slaughtering folks talking of freeing them from their way of living. It's a pretty violent struggle between the two groups, but Carol and Morgan are really the only ones holding their own. Carol goes incognito (complete with "W" etched in blood) and slays a bunch of the invaders, and Morgan is still struggling with the fact that he doesn't want to kill any living being despite the fact that these new enemies clearly pose a violent threat. It's not like past enemies like The Governor's folks (as those were just scared people), so these new bads are striving to kill. And not only kill, but mutilate, as we get glimpses of. As their name suggests, these guys are almost savages as their attacks don't stop when someone is dead.  Beyond all of the action of the episode, there's not really much else. So unfortunately, this episode feels incomplete as well. It's great to look at as the well directed action is both fun and gruesome, but no one of consequence is ever in danger. At one point, Rick's new love interest lady is in trouble and savages her way to safety, but I don't care enough about her to care. Still, there are themes present that are more interesting than the usual creeping mortality the show drapes itself in. See the Wolves aren't an interesting baddie because of their overt violence, but because Alexandira represents the first time the group's ever been close to forming an actual society. They've had safe havens before, but Alexandria's the closest to complete. But with nearly every townsperson dead, it's pretty much a reminder of how there's no such thing as civilization anymore. And the loss of that hope is much more gripping than "people are bad, Coral." Anyway, none of this will matter if the show can't get us to care about anyone other than the big three characters. This episode had a B-plot introducing Alexandria's new "doctor" Diane, but the dialogue during all of those scenes was so bad it held the rest of the episode down. The faux love triangle between Coral, Enid, and that abusive guy's kid isn't entertaining yet, so right now it's just annoying that Coral's probably crushing on someone who's gonna die soon anyway. Now the big thing I have a problem with is Morgan. What is going on with Morgan's character right now? I know the show's trying to turn him into the focal point of the show's morality, but this stupid wounded warrior schtick is grating. He magically shows up every time someone needs to be judged (like with Rick in the finale, when Rick killed Papageorgio before he turned into a zombie, and when Carol was killing Wolves) and it's made him more annoying than not. The show's trying its hardest to make him seem cooler with his dialogue ("Leave. Please."), but it's being underminded by his actions.  There are nuggets of good plot here, and seeing as how Alexandria is technically in tact before the giant mass of zombies make its way to the town, I'm sure that plot'll be thrown out the window in favor of more wandering zombie action. If The Walking Dead gets better at balancing the zombie action with its character work attempts, we could be in for a good season.  Final Thoughts:  Enid gets a little more background in the episode's cold open, and it's fantastic. Quick cuts, the titular "JSS" (which ends up meaning "Just Survive Somehow"), and quite brutal choices make for an interesting look into her unknown character. Too bad she's probably one of the Wolves. We all heard the little "We" she threw in when talking to Carl.  Speaking of Carl, he needs a damn haircut already.  Seriously, if you combined the two episodes it would've been a great episode. Tension built would've mattered, we could've eliminated all of the boring planning talks, and we would've just seen the plans in action rather than have to resort to black and white flashbacks (which didn't even work as a storytelling device anyway as none of the flashbacks actually revealed things of use). But really, shut up Morgan.  Want to see more of our TV coverage? Check out our TV Recaps and Reviews! 
Walking Dead Recap photo
Seriously Morgan, what the hell man?
I missed the start of Walking Dead's sixth season due to familial complications, but after finally getting to watch it sometime later, I didn't regret the missing coverage. You see despite being an hour and a half premiere (a...

Force Awakens Poster photo
The gang's all here, except Luke
Here it is, the official poster for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. You may recall Drew Struzan's D23 poster for The Force Awakens a few weeks ago, but this here is the real thing. And it's pretty keen. You've ...

Review: Crimson Peak

Oct 16 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219445:42381:0[/embed] Crimson PeakDirector: Guillermo del ToroRelease Date: October 16, 2015Rating: R  Here is a brief synopsis of the movie I thought I was going to see: Blonde girl falls in love with Tom Hiddleston (and, I mean, who wouldn't?), who lives in a creepy haunted house with creepy ghosts. All kinds of strange things happen, and ultimately we find out that Tom Hiddleston and his creepy sister are actually dead/supposed to be dead but is being kept alive by this house and are confined by these ghosts or something. Terror ensues and probably bloodshed also. Based on the way the trailer is edited, all of this is crystal clear. Spoiler alert. Nope.  I got a few things right: blonde girl, Tom Hiddleston, creepy ghosts, bloodshed. So... the imagery. I was able to see those four things and think, "Yes. I recognize that." But the actual narrative? Not even close. And I tell you all of this because there's a fairly decent chance you are expecting the same thing. And even if you weren't expecting that, you were likely expecting a scary ghost story about scary ghosts. And once again you will be wrong. Because it's not a ghost story. It's a story with ghosts in it.  It's kinda funny, really, because something like ten minutes in, Crimson Peak tells you exactly what it's going to be. You see, Edith is a would-be novelist. She says that she wants to be the next Mary Shelley. She shows her manuscript to someone, who asks about the ghosts. She says it's not a ghost story; it's a story with ghosts; the ghosts are a metaphor. He tells her it needs a love story. And so that's what we really get: a love story with ghosts that are a metaphor. If that sounds good to you, then you may well enjoy Crimson Peak. If it doesn't, you should skip it. I found myself somewhere in between. The narrative is pretty flat and the characters kinda bland, but I will admit that there was an upside to the false marketing: I legitimately didn't know what was coming next. The reality is both more and less interesting than what I was expecting, but the surprise in and of itself is... something. It's certainly not amazing, but it's something. It's worth noting here that the audience laughed a number of times during my screening. At least a half dozen moments elicited not just one or two chuckles but actual laughter. I've discussed this with a couple of others who've seen it, and though some people think those laughs were intentional I don't. If I had been watching it on my own, I would have laughed... once? It was all very serious, even things that were fairly easy to laugh at. There's no humor in the whole thing, and while that can be funny in and of itself, there's no hint here that it's anything but serious. It's just drama all the damn time. It's hard to know actual intent without asking, but I'll say this: If it was supposed to be funny, it half-succeeded at best. You need to surrender to the melodrama. Or, you can just pay attention to the visuals. Because while I can rip apart the film's concept and execution, its production design is unimpeachable. This is a gorgeous movie through and through (with the exception of a single outdoor scene early on in a sunny park that has some seriously weird coloring choices; also, some of the ghosts are a bit too CG for my liking). As soon as they reach Crimson Peak itself, you're in for nothing but amazing visual after amazing visual. And it's really this that kept the film going for me. I was lukewarm at best on pretty much everything that the film contains, but holy cow do I love the way it looks. That adds at least 10 points to my final score and brings it from a "meh" to "ya know, consider it." Just be sure to temper your expectations.
Crimson Peak Review photo
Great Expectations
The best piece of advice I ever got about writing film criticism was this: "Don't write about what the film isn't." Going for long tangents about What Could Have Been doesn't do any of us any good. Let's talk about what the f...

Review: Bridge of Spies

Oct 15 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219841:42639:0[/embed] Bridge of SpiesDirector: Steven SpielbergRating: PG-13Release Date: October 16, 2015 Based on a true story, Bridge of Spies centers on James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks), a lawyer in Brooklyn who's asked to defend Colonel Abel (Mark Rylance). Abel is a suspected Russian spy, and the film opens on him as he goes about his daily routine. He's a good artist, though he uses his talents as subterfuge in order to get around the city and receive messages from his superiors. The opening minutes of the film are without dialogue, and showcase some nice bits of spycraft. Rylance remains stonefaced but vigilant. Donovan's expected to deliver a mere token defense for Abel. He's a speed bump en route to a commie's execution. Donovan's a principled litigator, however, and he wants to extend Constitutional protections to the captured spy. Donovan even urges the judge to avoid the death penalty. A spy of Abel's caliber--Donovan constantly refers to him as "a good soldier"--would be a worthwhile bargaining chip if the US ever had to negotiate with the Soviets. Donovan's neighbors and colleagues begin to turn on him for taking a stand. Casting Tom Hanks as Donovan is a given. There's an innate trustworthiness about Hanks' screen presence, and he exudes the kind of everyman likability you'd expect out of your favorite friend or neighbor. At a party, people may ask when Tom's showing up. Since the early 90s, Hanks has become the go-to common-man good-guy in the mold of Jimmy Stewart; if Bridge of Spies were made decades ago, Stewart would probably play Donovan. (Okay, maybe not. If it were made decades ago the entire crew would be blacklisted and seated before a HUAC hearing.) Then there's Mark Rylance as Colonel Abel. His performance is all about the poker face. Colonel Abel's low-key and could pass as a plain old man, but to the intelligence community, they know what's up. He plays so dumb that he's obviously got a lot secrets. There's a lot to read into Hanks' and Rylance's performances when they share the screen together--what's being said and not said, what they're saying with looks--but there's also a kind of mutual respect; not just something lawyer-client based but an admiration for such staunch resoluteness. Bridge of Spies switches from a courtroom drama to small-scale espionage movie for the last half or two-thirds. US government sends Donovan to negotiate the release of a US soldier named Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) who's being held by the Soviets. Good thing Donovan fought so hard to keep his chip from the chair. And so we go from Brooklyn to Berlin, where the wall has just gone up and a clash between Soviet and East German interests might complicate the deal that Donovan has been sent to broker. Bridge of Spies tries to braid in two additional threads of narrative over the Donovan-driven and Abel-driven dramas. It's here that some seams become visible--it's easy to spot seams in an otherwise handsome film. Powers' mission helps get across the amount of spying going on between the US and Russia, and it culminates in a daring set piece involving a spy plane, but it doesn't quite flow with the legal drama unfolding on the ground. At least it has some creative smash cuts and cross cuts. The film gets much clunkier as we introduce the other thread involving an economics student named Frederic Pryor (Will Rogers), who's suspected of being an American spy in East Germany. It's introduced and dropped as a narrative expedient--a story for the main story but not a story on its own. It's almost like a stray movie lost in the bigger one, and some of the brief drama involving Pryor and his girlfriend are never touched on again. Even with the seams and loose threads, Bridge of Spies is steadily carried by Hanks' amiability and Spielberg and his craft. Once we're back with Donovan, the film regains its footing (and handsomeness). I sense some audiences might be put off by the film's high-mindedness. Conservatives in particular may take issue with Donovan's heroic idealism even if it's so earnestly American. There's one speech Donovan makes before the Supreme Court that's Capraesque bordering on cloying. Even if taken directly from a transcript, the speech seems like it's directed at a contemporary audience rather than the Justices of the 1950s. Donovan speaks about the heart of the country and the fundaments of the Constitution and how it ought to be applied even to America's enemies. The contemporary read is not about Soviets but soldiers from Afghanistan and Iraq who are detained in Guantanamo. Spielberg even seems to offer an indictment of prisoner abuse by contrasting Powers in a Soviet prison with Abel in an American one. The appeal is clear and you don't even have to look that hard--we're Americans, and we should be good even to our enemies. This kind of black-and-white appeal to good old-fashioned American decency works in movies since it's about an abstraction of Jimmy Stewart America or Gregory Peck America--a kind of aspirational Platonic form of what people in America can strive to be. (Ronald Reagan's America is probably more pervasive. Make of that what you will.) In that way, Bridge of Spies shares some Constitutional connective tissue with Amistad and Lincoln, while also being a kind of post-war counterpart to Saving Private Ryan--it's a mission to bring our boys home. It's hokey, but the takeaway is to be the best the country has to offer, or at least to try. If that corny idealism isn't good old-fashioned American decency, I don't know what is.
Review: Bridge of Spies photo
When Spielbergian goes Capraesque
Watching Bridge of Spies, I realized almost immediately the difference between a beautiful film and a handsome film. Steven Spielberg's latest movie is handsome. It's cleanly shot, polished, glossy, with impeccable acting in ...

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