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Review: Magic Mike XXL

Jul 01 // Matthew Razak
[embed]219601:42455:0[/embed] Magic MikeDirector: Gregory JacobsRated: RRelease Date: June 25, 2015  You know how Magic Mike (Channing Tatum) got out of the grind (pun intended) and left to start his own furniture business at the end of the first film? Well, screw that. He's back. When the guys -- Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), Tarzan (Kevin Nash), Ken (Matt Bomer) and Tito (Adam Rodriguez) -- show up in town on their way to a stripper convention Mike drops everything and joins them for one last ride. It seems that Dallas abandoned them so the group is breaking up, but not before one big fun trip to the biggest stripping event in Florida (a state I assume has a lot of stripping events). Plot kind of ensues and along the way the pick up an MC, Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith), hook up with Andie McDowell and see Michael Strahan perform a ridiculous strip. Who really cares, though. The point of this movie was clearly to push the mostly naked men and forget about the rest. The screenplay is paper thin and mostly consists of the gang of guys shooting the shit, which, in all fairness, is actually kind of entertaining. They're clearly ad-libbing a bunch and it lends some charm to a story that's non-existent. It also keeps you in on the joke so you don't have to care quite as much. Everyone seems to know why they're there and they're just having fun doing it. Unfortunately director Gregory Jacobs didn't get the fun memo and shoots the film like he's directing an art piece. He's trying to do his best replication of Soderbergh's direction from the original that he can, but it isn't the time or place and he doesn't have the skill. The strip numbers are a mess, sadly destroying a lot of the fantastic dancing pulled off by Tatum and his cohorts. The grand finale of abs, pecs and banana hammocks feels flat thanks to Jacobs' inability to build momentum or hold a scene together. What should be a bunch of fun starts feeling dragged out and sloppy.  Thankfully he can't crush the cast with his directing. Tatum is as Tatum does. The guy just oozes screen appeal and has actually pulled himself into a credible actor. Meanwhile Donald Glover joins the crew and delivers fantastically, though we never get the full abs show for him. The biggest surprise (pun still intended) is Manganiello) who takes a much larger role in the film and delivers wonderfully. Even Kevin Nash gets to talk a bit more this time around, which was nice of the filmmakers to do.  Sadly, the "road trip but with strippers" plot isn't enough to hold up the film from strip scene to strip scene, especially with the lackluster direction for those scenes. The guy's repartee may be fun, but everything else drags. There's attempted plot lines about love and life and moving on from stripping, but nothing ever clicks in any meaningful way. You get the feeling they're just saying this stuff because they had to put some more words into the screenplay. Every scene without men taking their clothes off feels wasted, except for Andie McDowell's cameo, which is fantastically dirty and fun.  That's really what you're going to see Magic Mike XXL for anyway so why care about all the rest? It is the equivalent of a Cinemax movie geared entirely towards showing mostly naked women off and it does that... except with men. If you want abs, strippers, thrusting loins and more dollar bills than you've ever seen before in a movie then Magic Mike XXL delivers. It's just too bad it couldn't deliver the entire package (pun totally intended). 
XXL Review photo
Abs-olutely what you expect
The first Magic Mike was a bit of a surprise. While it was obviously all about very in shape men dancing mostly naked Steven Soderbergh actually brought a little charm to it. The almost ad-libbed feeling the screenp...

Creed Trailer photo
Gonna fly now, gonna fly forever
Everyone's got that one film franchise that means more to them than anything. Some have Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Jurassic Park, and there's probably a few folks that really want more of Pixar's Cars. But me, I've got...

Review: Terminator - Genisys

Jul 01 // Sean Walsh
[embed]218671:42029:0[/embed] Terminator: GenisysDirector: Alan TaylorRated: PG-13Release Date: July 1, 2015 We all know the story: Savior of humanity John Connor (Jason Clarke) sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to prevent a terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) from killing his mother Sarah (Emilia Clarke) before John is born. However, Kyle finds himself in a very different situation shortly after his arrival in 1984. What follows is a bit of timey-wimey shenanigans that only the Terminator franchise can provide. To say any more than that would really ruin the surprise. Do be warned going forward, however: I will say a little more. Fair warning. First off, you can barely tell that Arnold Schwarzenegger is sixty-seven years old. The man's charisma is absolutely infectious and seeing him in the leather jacket and sunglasses that made him a household name is like coming home again or putting on your favorite, well-worn pair of shoes. He's perfect. He's a finely-aged wine. He's Arnold Goddamn Schwarzenegger. He delivered every one of his lines with a delightfully robotic wit and I could honestly spend the rest of the review just talking about his performance but that's not very fair to the other people involved. While she's no Linda Hamilton (is anyone?), Emilia Clarke does well as the new Sarah Connor. She's a lot more well-adjusted to her situation than the Sarah Connor of yesteryear and is more than capable of protecting herself. Jai Courtney, who has come a long way since being super duper bland in A Good Day to Die Hard, is our Kyle Reese and I'll be honest: I'm for it. He didn't break new ground or completely change my movie-going experience or anything, but he was a sturdy male protagonist and when you're starring opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger, that's all you can ask for. Jason Clarke's John Connor was dark, brooding, and scared (inside and out) after thirty-someodd years of fighting Terminators and he really sold it. These four are joined by Matt Smith in a brief but significant role that was blissfully kept under wraps (unlike many other facets of the film courtesy of the bastardly second trailer) and J. K. Simmons in a more substantial but similarly all-too-brief role as a detective. Finally, and I would be remiss to forget him, Lee Byung-hun of I Saw the Devil and G. I. Joe fame plays the new T-1000. He is menacing and carried that same icy cool Robert Patrick had in T2: Judgment Day. I was really very surprised with the effects in Genisys. I expected them to look good but I'll be damned if they didn't look great. All of the Terminators and other Skynet enemies looking amazing, the liquid metal looked real and, most importantly, the battle between present-day Arnold and circa-1984 Arnold was incredible. To my admittedly untrained eye, there was zero uncanny valley and he looked fantastic. Springboarding off of the effects, the action was almost non-stop. From the final assault on Skynet in 2029 in the beginning of the film, the movie GOES. The aforementioned fight between two Arnolds, a handful of car chases, a pretty excellent battle against the T-1000, and a wonderful final battle; all of it was great. I don't think I rolled my eyes during any of these sequences and after the last two films, I think that's a very good thing.   The score was good but honestly, what else do you need to hear other than DUN-DUN-DUN DUN-DUN, DUN-DUN-DUN DUN-DUN in your Terminator movie? Most important, of course, is the writing. I don't want to say too much because of all the moments where I wish I hadn't seen that stupid second trailer or any TV spots or heard any ads on Spotify or seen half of the films' posters, but what I will say is that it was an awesome movie full of twists and turns and fortunately some surprises, which is impressive considering how hard they tried to ruin it with spoilers. There's some fun time-travel stuff and at one point i was like "Oh, it's like Terminator meets 12 Monkeys," but then I realized that 12 Monkeys utilizes more or less the same time-loop that Terminator does. If you think too hard about the time travel stuff your nose may bleed and you might feel the vein in your head start to pulse uncomfortably but if you take it for what it is, it's a lot of fun. And lest I forget the most important factor: Genisys has a completely logical explanation for its inclusion in the title. There's a lot of callbacks to the first two films, many of which are a little more subtle than you'd expect. I found myself fist-pumping and quietly cheering many times over the course of the 126-minute runtime. The only real complaint I have about the story is there are a small handful of unanswered questions, but as Nick reported last September, we've got two sequels coming our way. Mr. Valdez can rest easy knowing that, in this humble reviewer's opinion, Genisys is absolutely good enough to warrant sequels. Will this film stand the test of time like the first or second films? Maybe, maybe not. Is it better than the third and fourth films? Absolutely. Am I excited for the sequels? You bet your shiny, metal asses I am. As far as summer movies go, this is one of my favorites in a long, long time. If I didn't know any better, it may well be my favorite film of 2015 (so far, mind you). I went in to this film expecting it to be awesomely bad and I left it singing its praises over and over. If nothing else, I would like to publicly apologize for anything negative I said about it in the months leading up to last night (excepting the awesomely horrific EW pictures). tl;dr: Go see Terminator: Genisys. 
Terminator Genisys Review photo
Old. Not obsolete.
Based on the stupid title, initial plot description and Entertainment Weekly photos, I was a little more than skeptical about Terminator: Genisys. Even though the synopsis had many, many things I loved in it (time travel, Emi...


Vertigo photo
This doesn't really affect you
Here's some big news that actually has no bearing on you at the moment. WB is shifting film's based on DC's Vertigo line of comics to sister studio New Line Cinemas. This means that the likes of the Sandman film and...

Batman photo
If anyone was going to follow Nolan...
Heavy rumor on this one as it comes from Latino Review who has a hit or miss history on these things, but they're reporting that Ben Affleck will be directing The Batman. The film is the next Batman movie after Batman v. Supe...

Tom Holland cast as Peter Parker for Marvel's Spider-Man reboot

Jun 23 // Sean Walsh
Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios are proud to announce that after a full worldwide casting search, Tom Holland will play Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the next Spider-Man film, in theaters in IMAX and 3D on July 28, 2017.  The film will be directed by Jon Watts, director of “Cop Car,” the upcoming thriller that made its debut earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival. Marvel and Sony Pictures, and producers Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal conducted an extensive search for both the actor and the director.  The studios and producers were impressed by Holland’s performances in “The Impossible,” “Wolf Hall,” and the upcoming “In the Heart of the Sea,” and by a series of complex screen tests.  Following Marvel’s tradition of working with the brightest next wave of directors, Watts also went through multiple meetings with Feige, Pascal, and the studio, before winning the job. Commenting on the announcement, Tom Rothman, Sony Pictures Motion Pictures Group Chairman, said, “It’s a big day here at Sony. Kevin, Amy and their teams have done an incredible job.  The Marvel process is very thorough, and that’s why their results are so outstanding.  I’m confident Spider-Man will be no exception.  I’ve worked with a number of up-and-coming directors who have gone on to be superstars and believe that Jon is just such an outstanding talent.  For Spidey himself, we saw many terrific young actors, but Tom’s screen tests were special.   All in all, we are off to a roaring start.” Feige commented, “As with James Gunn, Joss Whedon, and the Russo brothers, we love finding new and exciting voices to bring these characters to life.  We spent a lot of time with Jon and find his take and work inspiring.” Pascal added, “Sony, Marvel, Kevin and I all knew that for Peter Parker, we had to find a vibrant, talented young actor capable of embodying one of the most well-known characters in the world.  With Tom, we’ve found the perfect actor to bring Spider-Man’s story into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.” Sony Pictures will finance and release worldwide the next installment of the $4 billion Spider-Man franchise on July 28, 2017, in a film co-produced by Kevin Feige and his expert team at Marvel and Amy Pascal, who oversaw the franchise launch for the studio 13 years ago. Together, they will collaborate on a new creative direction for the Web-Slinger. Spider-Man, embraced all over the world, is the most successful franchise in the history of Sony Pictures, with the five films having taken in more than $4 billion worldwide.
Tom Holland is Spider-Man photo
Miles Morales was a longshot, anyway...
I liked The Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel a lot. I was hyped for the Venom and Sinister Six films Sony was talking about. Then, I was SUPER-PUMPED when it was announced Marvel wheeled and dealed their way into sharing the...

How to Do It BETTER: Howard the Duck

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

Denny's Fant4stic Menu photo
It's sloberrin' time
If you're new to the site, there's one thing you should really know about us. We like terrible ideas. Although we'll rip a bad film apart in a review, we all secretly love what they do for cinema. Namely, we get weird ideas l...

Review: Inside Out

Jun 19 // Matthew Razak
[embed]219580:42445:0[/embed] Inside OutDirectors: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen Rated: PGRelease Date: June 19, 2015 The plot of inside out is easy, and it's been tackled before. The movie is the story of the emotions who reside inside a girl named Riley's (Kaitlyn Dias) head. There's Joy (Amy Poheler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). Everything is going pretty swimmingly for Riley and her emotions until one day the family has to move triggering a flood of sadness in what was a perpetually happy girl. Joy, panicking after a particularly sad moment becomes a key memory, gets herself and sadness sucked out of headquarters and into the nether regions of Riley's brain. The two must find their way back with the help of Riley's old imaginary friend, Bing Bong (Richard Kind), as Anger, Fear and Disgust attempt to hold the fort down with disastrous consequences. If there is a limit to Pixar's wonderful imagination they haven't found it yet. Just when you thought the studio was going to sit back and rest on its laurels an entirely original and creative movie like Inside Out gets made. They deliver a film that has the emotional impact of the beginning of Up and yet somehow still make it fun and enjoyable. They've taken universal emotions and turned them into a children's film that somehow delivers a commentary on sadness that's more powerful than most overwrought dramas. The film is a lesson in how to address serious subjects while still having fun. The screenplay is brilliant and honed to a fine point. Inside Out's story could be an overly complex and melodramatic mess, but it's crafted to a fine point. Reigning in the chaos of two separate worlds, a plethora of characters and a bunch of complex ideas the film masterfully weaves its story. The juxtaposition of the comical Anger, Fear and Disgust at the helm of a young girl's brain with the real world reactions to that is powerful. It delivers a film that tackles depression and loss in ways that never get melodramatic or cheesy. Somehow in a children's film we find some true heart. That heart is going to make you cry. I don't care how much of a tough guy you are Pixar is going to worm its way into your heart and then play those strings like a classical guitar. Part of this is because they're just so damn good at it, but another aspect is the fact that Inside Out's themes are so universal. We've all been right where Riley is at some point in our life and Pixar has put that on the big screen in a way that is not only relatable, but enjoyable. Often films involving sadness only involve that, but the entire point of Inside Out is that our emotions are all mixed together. Sadness and happiness aren't competing forces, they lead to each other. For a film directed at children this is some of the most adult dealings with emotion I've seen. The movie may also be Pixar's most stunning visually. It's definitely a departure from their usual style, though not entirely removed. It simply looks brilliant and is constantly getting more and more creative with its visuals throughout. Joy is especially well designed as her body constantly shines with happiness. Meanwhile Sadness somehow seems to drip with the emotion. At one point the characters are reduced to abstract thoughts in a brilliant and clever animation sequence that just highlights what Pixar can do.  My only concern with the film is that it over simplifies things. Depression and emotional issues are immensely complex medical issues. Inside Out by its very nature doesn't delve into that as much as it could and it may leave some who have been through these things shaking their heads. That being said it's still an incredibly accessible doorway to talk about emotions and change. Humanity as a whole is often remiss in discussing what we're feeling and Inside Out gives us a chance to say, "Yea, I've felt like that before." It does this not by being overbearing in its message, but by inviting you in to enjoy it. So there are some words on Inside Out. They're OK. I still don't think I got it right. I guess the only words I really need to write are: see this movie. 
Inside Out Review photo
Pixar's best?
I'm having a lot of trouble writing this review, and it's not because my computer crashed and deleted the almost finished product at one point. No, I'd already been through a few drafts before that and nothing was working. Us...

5 dinosaur movies you should watch instead of Jurassic World

Jun 12 // Nick Valdez
We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story Ah, We're Back. Truth be told, I had no idea this films existed for a long time. My only run in with it was seeing the awesome looking poster art on the cover of its VHS. It was a little bit after that where I finally watched it and I wasn't disappointed. So I'm guessing the same will happen for you. Instead of watching terrifying super monsters chase a bunch of dumb people around a park for the fourth time in a row, watch some dinos hang out in the Natural History museum.  Besides it was produced under Steven Spielberg's Amblimation line and stars John Goodman, so you know that's a good sign. Clearly it's better than Jurassic World.  The Land Before Time Ugh, this movie is so saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad. Why would I recommend thiiiiiis? At the very least, I can argue that a young group of dinos that want to find their families will make you cry because it's well written and not because it's badly animated like Jurassic World. In fact, just cry this weekend and cut out the middle man.  Theodore Rex Remember this? Whoopi Goldberg wishes you didn't. Why not rub this terrible decision in her face while you pretend she's actually stuck in that one manga, Gantz. Or you can just keep crying since you're so alone and would rather write about a movie than go see one yourself. it's not like you have friends to go with you anyway.  Dinosaurs I remember when I had a family once. I used to watch movies with them all the time. I actually saw the first Jurassic Park with my dad. He didn't like it much, so it pretty much changed how I felt about it too. But you know what I had a good time with? ABC's Dinosaurs. If I remember correctly, it was part of the early TGIF block and had a lot of good puppet work. But they always get to be a happy family by episode's end. That's more than I ever got. God, I'm so lonely. My family. Where have you gone? I miss you so much.  Jurassic Park But the best choice is to deny the future and head back into the past. I was much happier back then. With my family, with my loving home, with my friends. Maybe if I watch Jurassic Park instead of Jurassic World, the future will never happen? I can trap time within this little capsule and repeat it for as long as I want! Everything new is old and everything old is new again!  Birth, life, death, rebirth, relife, redeath, rerebirth, rerelife, reredeath, rererebirth, rererelife, rereredeath, rerererebirth, rerererelife, rerereredeath, rererererebirth, rererererelife, rererereredeath Those are my suggestions for five things you can watch that aren't Jurassic World! Are you going to see it? 
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More than the world
While Jurassic World takes the *ahem* world by storm, I never really connected with the idea. I don't have as big of a connection with Jurassic Park as a lot of folks do, but at the same time, I love me some dinosaurs. Good t...

Review: When Marnie Was There

Jun 12 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219314:42335:0[/embed] When Marnie Was There (思い出のマーニー)Director: Hiromasa YonebayashiRelease Date: May 22, 2015Country: Japan In the wake of Hayao Miyakazi's retirement, Studio Ghibli has "temporarily" shuttered its doors. There may never be another Studio Ghibli film. There are probably people who are mad at Miyazaki for leaving. When Marnie Was There is a response to those people. It's a response to people who hold grudges and hate themselves and take it out on others. It's a a response to the fundamental negativity that drives much of modern society. And it made me cry.  It's easy to forget that cartoons can make you feel real people emotions if you don't watch many of them. And obviously calling a serious animated film like any Ghibli production a "cartoon" is reductive at best and borderline offensive at worst, but the point is that it isn't just the ultra-artistic works like Ghibli films that can get to you. They're probably about the best example, but it's just another toolset for a would-be filmmaker to use. And one that doesn't get nearly enough credit for the things it can do to you. When Marnie Was There starts in a place where the air is bad. It's a city, and Anna is a girl with asthma. She hates herself and keeps herself isolated from everyone around her. She has an asthma attack and the doctor tells her foster mother that she should be sent to the countryside. A countryside where there is nothing but Anna, nature, and whatever creepy, spirit-related things are going on in the town's abandoned buildings. (So far so Ghibli.) Before too long, Anna runs into Marnie, a blonde-haired girl who lives in the Marsh House, an old abandoned mansion at the edge of town. But, of course, Marnie isn't real. You know that. Anna knows that. The film knows it. Marnie's scenes are hyper-stylized, often dream-like, but knowing that she's not real actually makes everything more intriguing. Because the question isn't, "Is Marnie real?" It's, "Who is she?" Or perhaps, "Who was she?"    But what's never a question is what her role in Anna's arc is going to be. From the outset, it's obvious that Marnie is here to bring Anna out of her shell, to allow her to talk to others and stand up for herself and be brave. She's a self-loathing pre-teen. The world has enough of those. Marnie is there to help her come to terms with everything she's gone through. To give her some perspective. And its ability to put things into perspective without being contrived or annoying is When Marnie Was Here's greatest strength. Even in particularly expository moments, everything comes from a place of honesty in a valiant attempt to get at the fundamental beliefs we all have. A conversation between Marnie and Anna about the role of the parent begins a bit stiff, and I was worried that we were heading down the wrong path, but it ultimately turned into something exceedingly compelling. Whether it was critiquing an aspect of society found in both Japan and America, celebrating it, or simply accepting it is probably up for interpretation, but nothing in the film is skin-deep. It's all in service of these moments of revelation that turn both Anna and Marnie into an extremely compelling pair, even if the latter is "imaginary." But imaginary or not, Marnie's impact on Anna is tangible. As the truths behind Marnie's past become clearer, Anna begins to build up the strength to keep her partner safe from the evils of the world. Because there are always evils, no matter who you are or how you live. And even if you can't always fight them yourself, being able to recognize the plights of others and connect with them will make you a stronger person. Perhaps someone who can help others face their own demons as well. And when it all comes down to it, we're all in this together. Films like When Marnie Was There serve as reminders of just how meaningful life can be.
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All the places you'll go
Every so often, I think about old articles I've written, for Flixist or elsewhere, and wonder how different they would be if I'd written them now. Not from a grammatical or structural perspective. I wonder how my fundamental ...

RIP Christopher Lee (1922-2015)

Jun 11 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219552:42431:0[/embed]   And, of course... [embed]219552:42432:0[/embed]
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The legend was 93 years old
Sir Christopher Lee has passed away at the age of 93. Lee died in the hospital on Sunday, June 7th, though word of his passing has only reached news outlets today. According to several reports, this was at the request of Lee'...

First TV Spot for Spectre

Jun 10 // Per Morten Mjolkeraaen
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Explosions and Bond girls confirmed!
James Bond is set to return with Spectre later this year, and as the 24th instalment in the franchise, it is unsurprisingly on a lot of people's "most anticipated lists" - mine included. Now we have some new footage to drool ...

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Welcome to the 76th Hunger Games.
Last week we saw a beautiful poster for the fourth and final instalment of the Hunger Games franchise, Mockingjay - Part 2. Now we have the first trailer, and it promises tons of action and confrontations, as Katniss Everdeen...

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Power levels over 9000
Tom Cruise held his breathe for six minutes during the filming of Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation. It was for some underwater part and he actually did it leading us to believe that he is some sort of Scientology super sai...

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There was supposed to be a kaboom.
Although Ridley Scott has had a few misses lately, his adaptation of Andy Weir's The Martian might shape up to be quite a film. It's got a great cast with Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mar...

Review: Doomsdays

Jun 05 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219533:42421:0[/embed] DoomsdaysDirector: Eddie MullensRelease Date: June 5, 2015Rating: NR  Doomsdays wears its Wes Anderson influences on its sleeve. The meticulous, often symmetrical compositions and indie score serve as a reminder that there is a filmmaker out there who many people call an auteur. But it's reductive to just think about this film in terms of Wes Anderson. It's Haneke's Wes Anderson, for sure, but who I really kept coming back to was neither of those directors; it was Christian Mungiu, director of one of my favorite films of all time: 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days. But it didn't remind me of that film so much as his follow-up, Beyond the Hills. What struck me about Beyond the Hills was how real it all felt. The reality came primarily from the use of extreme long takes (Mungiu knows how to do a gosh damn long take) and the moments that would take place within them. There's a particular moment where a bunch of characters build a cross and then tie another character to that cross. The whole thing happens in one shot. And as I watched it, I thought, "They only did this once, right? It's way too freaking complicated. The lumber costs alone would make multiple takes impractical." Turns out they averaged upwards of 40 takes of each shot, because they didn't get enough rehearsal time and so the first few (dozen) takes were his rehearsal. But even so, it was the feeling that this wasn't just a shot that was done over and over and over again that sold it. The moment felt natural, real, and horrific. Every extra action in a long take requires setup. A character takes off their jacket, their tie, their shoes. Each of these things must be put back into place before the take can be redone. It's complicated, and it requires a lot of time. But it's those little moments that make it feel real. Because you're not thinking about that work that went into setting up the scene. You're just thinking about the scene itself. It feels real. Even if they had to do 16 takes to get it right. By contrast, I'm reasonably sure that every single shot in Doomsdays was done precisely once. The opening shot, a car pulls up, two people get out. They go to their door, see that someone has broken in. They go inside. And then a window shatters, and two people come out. One of them runs up to the car, pulls out a knife, and jams it into the tire. It deflates. They run off.  Doomsdays is a low-budget film. They raised just $22,000 on Kickstarter. But in the opening shot, they shatter a window and stab a tire. And that's just the start. This is a film with dozens of locations, and the protagonists damage nearly every single one. And I spent most of the time thinking about how horribly wrong everything could have gone while being consistently impressed with just how much mayhem they committed on what must have been, again, a very low budget. Because it's the kind of film that only gets made on a low budget, because the audience is, by design, rather small.  Dirty Fred and Bruho wander through rural-ish towns and break into homes. They stay there for a day or two, raid the fridge, liquor storage, and medicine cabinet, and then go off to the next place. They have no real home and no destination. They walk everywhere, because Bruho hates cars. (Hence puncturing that tire in the opening shot.) There are character arcs (though much of the actual arcing takes place in back half of the movie and feels occasionally rushed), but there's not much of a narrative arc. They get some more companions and things happen and escalate, but it all feels relatively inconsequential. The ultimate life decisions (one of which feels far more genuine than the other) should be momentous, but they aren't. They're just things that happen.  This isn't a bad thing, to be clear. It's just a reminder that this is a film with a very particular audience. It's a film for people who are okay with occasionally rough performances, because beyond those rough performances are moments of brilliance. In Cannibal Holocaust, there's a moment where one of the characters shoots a pig. He actually did that. And then, just for a second, he breaks character, clearly affected by it. But the shot isn't over. He still has to monologue. But they only had the one pig, so that's the take that ended up in the film. Doomsdays doesn't have anything quite so obvious, but I expect there were moments where director Eddie Mullens thought, "Well... it is what it is." Each shot builds to something. The longer the take, the more likely something destructive is to happen within it. At the end of 45 seconds, someone throws a brick through a window. And you know what? That may well have been some random person's window. The imperfections actually serve to make the whole thing feel more real. Not realistic, per se, but more like a series of events that actually took place. They broke that window (and that other window (and that other one)), they destroyed that car, and they broke all those glasses and vases and whatever else got in their way. I saw them happen with my own eyes, not in real life, but in a real document of those actions. It's a meticulously composed documentary about rebels without a cause. And it's absolutely fascinating.
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It's time to sing The Doom Song now
I get emails pretty much daily asking me if I want to review this film or that. Most of the time, I ignore those emails. Periodically, I glance at them and then ignore them. When you've read thousands of press releases, it be...

Review: Spy

Jun 05 // Matthew Razak
SpyDirector: Paul FeigRated: RRelease Date: June 5, 2016 The amount of ways that Spy could have gone horribly, horribly wrong are pretty high. It's a spy movie parody featuring an overweight woman full of crass humor. If this had come out with a different director we'd be looking at an insulting, pandering piece of comedic trash, but instead Feig makes Spy a clever and resoundingly unique experience capitalizing on McCarthy's comedic skills and charm.  McCarthy plays Susan Cooper, a CIA agent who spends her time behind the desk talking into Bradley Fine's (Jude Law) earpiece as he goes on daring and dramatic missions. When Bradley is killed, however, Susan must go out into the field to hunt down Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) and take revenge. Throw in a fantastically comical Jason Statham as a rogue CIA agent out for revenge, and you've got an amazing mix of comedic actors hamming it up while still offering a surprising amount of competent (and graphic) action sequences.  What Spy does best is completely invert what it "should" be doing. A cursory glance at the film would make you think it's a bland spy film parody, but Spy isn't a parody as much as it is a comedic spy film. Instead of mocking conventions with bad site gags and an inept spy as most spy parodies do it plays into them and then finds its comedy elsewhere. Instead of offering up tepid action sequences and fights it goes full bore as if it were actually an action movie. There are some sequences here that the steadily worsening Michael Bay could take some lessons from, especially since the film earns a hard R through violence. It's still the comedy that sells, and Spy's comedy just works. There are fat jokes, but they aren't at the expense of McCarthy. The humor isn't driven by her being a fish out of water as a spy, but instead through actual clever comedy. Feig and McCarthy have some of the best timing together and it shows throughout the movie, even in the beginning when things start off a bit slow. Once the obligatory gadget collecting scene rolls in you won't be able to stop laughing. Once Jason Statham starts rattling off his nigh-impossible spy missions you'll be on the floor. Spy also offers a refreshingly female driven narrative for a genre that is obviously male obsessed. This should probably be expected from Feig, but the director once again delivers. In another instance of eschewing the norm Peggy doesn't rely on any man to save her at any time. This doesn't mean that the film ignores sex jokes or inappropriate behavior, but instead celebrates it as comedic. One of the things Feig's comedies do best is tow the line between inappropriate and hilarious, something another film opening this weekend could have learned from.  You probably weren't expecting such a glowing review of the film. McCarthy has felt tired in her last outings and the advertising for this one did nothing to make one think it was something special. Turns out the ads can be wrong and that McCarthy still has plenty of juice in her tank... as long as she's taking on good projects.  
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Like a good spy, you don't see it coming
Over the past few years I've grown increasingly tired of Melissa McCarthy's shtick. I figured this was because I was tired of her, but it turns out she's just been making mediocre movies. Her shtick still works when someone i...

Review: Entourage

Jun 05 // Matthew Razak
[embed]219534:42423:0[/embed] EntourageDirector: Doug EllinRated: RRelease Date: June 3, 2015 Entourage focuses on Vince (Adrian Grenier) and his entourage: Eric (Kevin Connolly), Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara). The show was about Vince's rise to fame after being discovered by agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven). From what I've seen of it it basically was about the four guys driving around acting like assholes, but having everything work out for them. The film is basically the exact same thing, but on a bigger scale. Ari is now the head of a film studio and he wants Vince to make his first movie, but Vince won't do it unless he can direct. Ari acquiesces and we jump forward a few an unspecified amount of time to Vince running out of money and Ari having to go to the films financiers, Travis Mcredel (Haley Joel Osment) and his father (Billy Bob Thorton) to beg for more money. Unfortunately Travis is sent back with Ari to see the movie and starts causing trouble. This doesn't actually effect anyone that much except for Ari, so the rest of the crew spends the film hitting on women, driving a crazy cool Cadillac and having sex. What was always the most confusing thing about Entourage is that it never seemed to have a point, and this film suffers from the same problem unless it's sole point was more Entourage. If that's the case then well done, but I'm guessing it wasn't. The movie is neither satire or straight comedy. It has not true dramatic push and makes no attempt at developing its characters. It's only theme seems to be cramming cameos into every shot and its only message is that celebrities get to have a slot of sex and date Rhonda Rousey. If that's what you're going in for then you'll be pleased, but as someone looking for an actual movie out the experience you're going to be very disappointed. The film's lack of narrative focus and avoidance of any attempt at self awareness is also problematic because it can't quite handle its rampant sexism and racism. The point, it seems, is to send up the ridiculousness that is Hollywood, but the movie is never clever enough or interesting enough to do that. It replaces interesting female characters with cameos and any attempts at constructing a plot that seems to move forward are derailed by subplots that seem entirely pointless. Maybe a fan of the show would be attached to them since they're already attached to the characters, but anyone else will just wonder why we should care. That's not to say that all of Entourage doesn't work. Piven's Ari Gold is easily one of the best characters to come out of television, and the film makers obviously know this. He gets more screen time than anyone else and milks it fantastically. Granier seems almost useless as the rest of the cast plays around him, but only Dillon's character's subplot is actually somewhat interesting with the other two entourage members having needles story lines thrown around, and this despite the fact that one of them involves Rousey.  It's very clear that those who watched the show will get a lot more out of the film than I did, but for those that didn't it's probably best to just stay away or keep it for a rental. There's nothing new or interesting here to latch onto and in the end the film feels more like a reunion special than a movie. That's all well and good for fans, but when someone is shelling out a full ticket price they should expect a bit more.
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Someone should make a TV show about this
Let me just stop you right there, fan of HBO's Entourage. I never watched the show so this review is probably rather pointless from your point of view. Sure, I saw a few episodes here and there, but I really have no attachmen...

Seven movies that need a black and white re-release

Jun 03 // Flixist Staff
Grand Budapest Hotel is arguably the most compelling film in a particularly compelling filmography. One of the things that makes it so fascinating is its use of aspect ratios, using visual cues to define different periods within the timeline of the narrative. It's also gorgeous and full of vibrant colors, as are all Wes Anderson films. But I would love to see The Grand Budapest Hotel in black and white for exactly the same reason that Stephen Soderbergh released a version of Raiders of the Lost Ark in black and white: Because without the color, you're forced to focus on everything else. Everyone knows how fantastic the compositions are in Wes Anderson films, but without color, you can get a whole different appreciation for the man's artistry. This is more academic, perhaps, because you would unquestionably lose something in the translation, but I think you could learn a whole heck of a lot from seeing those colors completetly desaturated. But on another level: rather than having an ultra-vibrant past, going black and white would have a very different feel to it. It would fit with the 4:3 aesthetic, which is most commonly associated with (at least in film) black and white movies. By using it as a specific choice for certain sequences rather than across the entire film, Wes Anderson would subvert audience expectations in a massive way. Color is such a fundamental part of his craft. But that's not all he has to offer. A black and white release of The Grand Budapest Hotel would prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt. - Alec Kubas-Meyer The Coen brothers have a knack for visual style that emphasizes contrast and sharp distinctions between light and dark. (They even did the black and white The Man Who Wasn't There in 2001.) So many of their films are candidates for black and white viewing, from noir/noirish fare like Blood Simple (1984), Miller's Crossing (1990), and Fargo (1996) to the screwball homage The Hudscuker Proxy (1994). My vote, though, is 1991's Barton Fink, which is somewhere in my Coen brothers top three. While there'd be something lost when the color is absent, the costuming, textures, and performances might help get that color across. Fink himself, played by John Turturro, cuts such a striking silhouette whenever he's on screen, like some pretentious ancestor of Henry from David Lynch's black and white masterpiece Eraserhead. - Hubert Vigilla Would anyone even notice? - Alec Kubas-Meyer The Wachowskis' first film, and arguably the one that's aged the best, Bound (1996) is a stylish noir thriller and lesbian romance shot on a shoestring budget. The financial limitations made the Wachowskis focus on the craft of their camera and their visual storytelling. After a string of ambitious, big-budget boondoggles (most recently Jupiter Ascending), going back to Bound-territory might be the best idea for the Wachowskis' next film. There's such stark contrast in so many shots of Bound, and a loving attention to the way that hard shadows and defined lines can enhance a scene and its mood. The leads Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon have this multi-era femme fatale look about them, as if they could exist alongside classic female leads like Barbara Stanwyck on the one hand and 90s-it-girls like Sharon Stone on the other. On top of its style, Bound is also noteworthy for being a sex-positive lesbian movie at a time when this was mostly unheard and taboo. - Hubert Vigilla Alex Proyas' Dark City (1998) was one of the least appreciated movies of the 90s and one of my favorite movies in high school. (I am so old.) A mix of hard-boiled noir, science fiction, and fantasy, the movie was made with light and shadow in mind. So much of the imagery goes back to masters of German expressionism like Fritz Lang, with plenty of nods to Metropolis (1927) and Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920). The casting and the costumes help keep the world of the film in this noir-like state that would be perfect for black and white viewing. Dark City would look gorgeous in black and white, like some peculiar noir film from another dimension. The Strangers, the pale-faced subterranean villains of the film, would be particularly chilling in stark contrast, and the occasional bright spots in the nocturnal film would seem like sunlight on a big screen. Later tonight, I may give the film a watch in black and white just to see what it's like. - Hubert Vigilla What makes black and white look good is contrast. The difference between the light and the shadows is everything in making a compelling black and white image. Honestly, that's true in any image, but particularly when there's no color to distract you. The film noir "look" is black and white not just because it was cheaper to shoot black and white and they wanted to save a few bucks; it's because the high contrast, colorless look fits the atmosphere they created. Cigarette smoke (smoke in general, really) also looks particularly compelling in black and white. They create an intense, dramatic mood. Blade Runner is a noir. I'm certainly not the first person to say that (I'm not even the first person on this website to say that), but that doesn't make it any less true. You look at those images, and they have exactly that kind of gorgeous high contrast look that you get from an old classic. But it's in color. And while it's a spectacular use of color, a black and white version of the film would heighten that noir style. It certainly couldn't replace the particular (and particularly gorgeous) color palette of the original, but as a companion piece? It'd be fascinating and beautiful. And hell, it's been eight years since the Final Cut was released. I think Blade Runner is due for some new alterations. - Alec Kubas-Meyer I love the films of Kelly Reichardt. She has a unique ability to force the best performances out of her actors, but the reason her movies should get a black and white treatment is her distinct way to tell a story through the environment the characters inhabit, be it how it is captured through the lens or how the actors and props interact with it.  The is especially true in Meek's Cutoff, which follows Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Paul Dano and others on a track through the dangerous Oregon desert. Meek's Cutoff, like The Grand Budapest Hotel, is shot in an untraditional aspect ratio (1. 33: 1) and these portrait movies lend themselves especially well to the simple beauty of black and white photography (see last years Ida for proof). I would love to see every Reichardt movie in black and white, but Meek's Cutoff is a no-brainer in my eyes. It needs to happen. - Per Morten Mjolkeraaen  The Godfather Part III is easily the weakest of Coppola's masterpieces. That's not to say it isn't great, but it has it's issues. One of the main ones is Gordon Willis' cinematography, which goes way overboard on the shadows and lighting. It's clear to see why, as this is the most somber and dark of the the three films, but maybe an all or nothing attitude wasn't the best call in this case. Just check out the image above and they heavy shadow crossing over Al Pacino's face. But wait, it actually looks pretty good. That's because it's in black and white. Ditching the color for the film would allow it's darkness to shift from overbearing to dramatic. The negative space created in black and white is perfect for a film where shadows creep out of every corner of every shot. It also fits the tone of the film fantastically, which is nihilistic and focuses heavily on Michael Corleone's gilt. Finally, it would be a great nod to the classic gangster films that inspired Coppola. As the film comes full circle with Michael holding an orange and dying so too would the black and white of this, the third film in the franchise, bring the genre back to its beginnings. - Matthew Razak
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It ain't just for arthouse
When director George Miller mentioned that his preferred version of Mad Max: Fury Road (aka The Best) is in black and white, there was a resounding, "Um, what?" followed by a unanimous "OH HELL YES!" When he announced th...

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Looks good?
The Good Dinosaur has had a troubling development for the last few years. Hit with delays, losing a director, and a major reworking, the film we have now no longer resembles the original idea. It's hard to tell how much of th...

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Can ya smell what Jack Burton is cookin'
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is currently in negotiations to star in a remake of John Carpenter's 1986 cult classic Big Trouble in Little China. The screenplay for the film will be written by Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz, ...

The Cult Club: Putney Swope (1969)

May 31 // Hubert Vigilla
Some people come up to me and say, 'You the guy that made Putney Swope?' And I'll say, 'Yeah.' [And they say], 'Well, you really changed my life!' And my answer is, 'I'm sorry. You might have been better off without it.' -- Robert Downey, Sr., 2008 Reelblack interview The surreal anarchism of Putney Swope is established in the first minute, with contradictions played for laughs and all things intentionally off-balance, free-floating, a potential set-up for a punchline or a punchline per se. The film opens on a vertiginous, spiraling aerial shot of New York City interrupted by a dissonant piano chord. We see an older biker in a helicopter descend. A Jolly Roger and a Confederate Battle Flag flap in the wind. The chopper lands at a pier, and the biker steps out with a suitcase secured with a length of chain. On the back of his denim vest, "MENSA." The music is impending and sinister as he approaches a stooped-over square in a suit. They slap each other five and on comes a triumphant 60s groove, as if to say, "Yeah, we cool." In the board room scene that sets the plot in motion, the chairman of an ad agency dies while delivering a spiel, stuttering on his last word. The execs treat it like a game of charades. The nasaliest of boardroom weasels asks constantly, even after the chairman's clearly dead, "How many syllables, Mario?!" The other execs pick the corpse's pockets--ugly capitalist vultures. With the corpse on the table, the board votes for a new leader. The only stipulation is that they're not allowed to vote for themselves. And so they accidentally elect the one person they figured no one else would vote for: the company's token black guy, Putney Swope (Arnold Johnson). (Downey dubbed in his own voice for Swope's since Johnson purportedly kept forgetting his lines.) That's just the first 12 minutes. Revolution and selling out ensues. There's a gritty DIY-ness to Putney Swope that's in service to its irreverence and popular revolutionary vibe. It's at once a kind of guerrilla filmmaking and guerrilla sketch comedy. Anything is possible in the weird world of the film--a midget in a hard hat is POTUS, and bags of money are passed and hookshot off the backboard into an open-top case. Louis CK said he was inspired by Putney Swope's confident nonsense when he hosted a screening of the film in LA late last year. (Excerpts from the event and Q&A with Downey, Sr. can be read here on The Moveable Fest). CK had just moved to New York and bought a VCR, and he found a copy of Putney Swope at the videostore. According to the WTF podcast, Marc Maron was there with him when it happened. CK's early short films such as Hello There and Hijacker have Swope written all over them, as do the stranger segments of his show Louie. The jokes of Putney Swope come in various forms and with different targets. Downey delivers visual gags, verbal gags, quick gags, long-form gags, slapstick, and gallows humor. There are the one-liners, which seem like the stuff of the Marx Brothers and even A Hard Day's Night. I also can't help but hear shades of Dr. Strangelove's "You can't fight here--this is the War Room" in Swope's oft-repeated "Brothers in the black room" line. The zany, all-over-the-place approach is like those early Woody Allen movies as well, or perhaps those edgier 90s sketch shows like The Kids in the Hall and Mr. Show. The sex humor is gleefully vulgar (if The Guardian is correct, this is the first movie to use the word "jism"). The race jokes, sexuality jokes, and gender jokes are built on stereotypes being broken down, reaffirmed, or forced into an uneasy dance of doing both. The grittiness of the picture plays into the film's gritty, unwashed brand of comedy. The film critic for the New York Daily News in 1969 gave Putney Swope a negative-one-star review and wrote, "Vicious and vile. The most offensive picture I've ever seen." Putney Swope isn't just offensive. It's also politically incorrect, though political incorrectness isn't an end in itself, and nor should it be. These days many jagoffs use political incorrectness as a self-congratulatory badge of honor for tastelessness, but they wear the badge without acknowledging that political incorrectness takes many forms. Context is key since not all political incorrectness is created equal. The healthy, beneficial, and most complicated strand of political incorrectness is the satirical kind. I don't know if it's necessarily about punching up or punching down because legitimate targets and topics for satire come from all levels of social strata, but maybe effective satire that's politically incorrect is more about an awareness of what's being punched and why it deserves to be. Maybe that's the point. Maybe humor has a higher function. In other words, the offensive joke that someone tells makes you laugh, and if your politics are progressive or you care about your fellow human, you reconsider why you laughed and whether or not you should have laughed, digging into the real cultural meaning of the gag and the mindset of the culture as a whole. The satirist telling the joke, similarly, isn't just laughing at himself or herself. There's more than self-amusement at stake. The joke isn't just a bit of offensiveness--a fart in church that people will politely suffer through and forget--but a meaningful conversation with the culture, its makers, and its members. There's a predictive element about Putney Swope that seems especially important given its place in 60s counterculture. There's an assassination attempt on Swope, which recalls the biggest political assassinations of the decade (JFK, RFK, Martin Luther King, Malcom X). Yet as Film Crit Hulk points out in his appreciation of Putney Swope, the person who tries to kill Swope bears an uncanny resemblance to Mark David Chapman, the man who would shoot and kill John Lennon in 1980. (In another bizarre coincidence, Downey joked in a LIFE Magazine profile published November 28, 1969 that the only book he'd ever read was J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. Chapman, after shooting Lennon, sat down and read a copy of The Catcher in the Rye.) [embed]219426:42415:0[/embed] The primary prediction by Putney Swope, however, is an eventual shift that the counterculture of the 1960s made, transforming from activists and political idealists into the members of the self-absorbed "Me generation." The transition might have been expected, an inevitable comedown after the decade of love ended with such painful disillusionment. Sometimes it's not about changing the world since that might be impossible. The heroes have been killed, the hippies have cannibalized themselves, and now the whole enterprise seems like bullshit. Sometimes it's just about getting paid, and that's the most you can hope for. We see it in Putney's own desire to not just rock the boat but sink it, which he hopes to do by refusing to advertise cigarettes, alcohol, and war toys. What else, though, is more quintessentially American than the Marlboro Man, Kentucky bourbon, and G.I. Joe (aka my first military-industrial complex)? Swope's whole enterprise is doomed from the start--he's an ideological terrorist armed with only truth and soul. To use the words of Arthur Jensen (Ned Beatty) from Network, "You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Swope." When he spoke about Putney Swope late last year, Louis CK said, "This was made in 1969--it's that way a movie can be like a note in a bottle, this beautiful thing that just stays [the same]." The film captures its era, and yet I think it's also timely because the primal forces of nature, those larger political systems and corporate systems, also stay the same, and will stay the same. The system can't be dismantled, and the boat ain't sinking. Hell, it can barely even get rocked. That sounds hopeless, I know, but the good thing, at least, is that Putney Swope and other satires help you find a better deck chair on this awful ship we're on. [embed]219426:42414:0[/embed] Next Month... June 30th marks the DVD/Blu-ray release of Penelope Spheeris' critically acclaimed Decline of Western Civilization trilogy, a landmark trio of documentaries on the Los Angeles punk scene, metal scene, and the plight of homeless youth. All three films are going to be available for the first time ever on DVD/Blu-ray. To coincide with the release of The Decline of Western Civilization, we're going to look at one of the seminal cult movies of the 80s that's rooted in the ugly aggro-nihilism of the 80s LA punk scene. Yup, we're finally doing Alex Cox's classic Repo Man (1984). PREVIOUSLY SHOWING ON THE CULT CLUB Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) The Last Dragon (1985) Tromeo and Juliet (1996) Samurai Cop (1989) El Mariachi (1992)
Cult Club: Putney Swope photo
"How many syllables, Mario?!"
New York Times film critic A.O. Scott, in one of his signature recurring gags, wrote that Mad Max: Fury Road was rated R because it featured "A ruthless critique of everything existing." The same might be said of Putney Swope...

Review: San Andreas

May 29 // Matthew Razak
[embed]219506:42413:0[/embed] San AndreasDirector: Brad PeytonRelease Date: May 29, 2015Rated: PG-13  At some point in the last 20 years or so CGI and ever more impressive special effects have allowed a new genre to crop up. The destruction genre is a subset of action that, as the name suggests, revels in the destruction of a place or the entire world. This destruction is usually caused by some natural disaster, but the end result is always the same: buildings tumble, millions of people die, and one group of people makes it out alive. It's always the same and by now the shine of seeing a city fall apart has worn off. We've seen it 100 times before in 100 different ways so if you're making some destruction porn you better have something more than just stunning visuals of a building falling over. That is all San Andreas has. It is a destruction movie functioning on the belief that we're still impressed by this stuff despite that fact that it is no longer impressive. Does it look good? Sure, but so does every other movie in the genre, and we literally just saw San Francisco destroyed last year in Godzilla. It just isn't exciting anymore without something behind it and there is nothing behind San Andreas. It is, in fact, so boring and vapid that its lack of character ruins its destruction sequences because, damn it, you just want everyone to die. Ray (Dwayne Johnson) is an LAFD helicopter rescue pilot and he and his crack team are the best of the best so when the San Andreas fault starts to cause massive earthquakes stretching from Hoover Dam to San Francisco he hops into action... by ditching his team, hi-jacking a government helicopter and saving his wife, Emma (Carla Gugino) in L.A. then flying to San Francisco to rescue his daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario). Meanwhile Lawrence (Paul Giamatti), a scientist at Cal Tech has, figured out a way to predict earthquakes and has warned all of San Francisco that an even worse one is coming. Prolific destruction ensues as millions die and Blake loses layer after layer of clothing in order to show her breasts off.  It's dumb to expect too much depth in a destruction movie, and you really shouldn't, but the lazy nature of San Andreas is particularly insulting. The plot is so paint-by-numbers that I expected the screenplay credits to be attributed to a coloring book. The "estranged couple pulled back together by disaster" trope is so old and so poorly executed that not even Johnson's charm can salvage how ineptly it is handled. Meanwhile you've got Blake falling in love with a guy she just happened to meet ten seconds before the world started shaking and his little brother following them around for comic relief. It is surprising then, considering just how little creativity went into the screenplay, that they could screw it up so badly. You'd think with most of the characters and plot already developed a million times over in tons of other movies they could have pieced together something coherent, but instead the movie can't even hold onto its own basic plot threads. We're introduced to Ray's crack team of rescuers, but they disappear once the destruction starts. The film can't even give it's villain a proper farewell as Emma's new boyfriend, who is routinely made more unbelievably douchey, plot line consists of him being a douche and then (spoilers) dying.  But, you say,who cars about plot when you've got the Golden Gate bridge being crushed by a tsunami (after it miraculously survives a 9.6 earthquake). Suspend your disbelief and just enjoy the ride. It's just hard to enjoy a ride that you've been on 20 times and isn't executed very well in the first place. Brad Peyton brings almost no creativity to the job, content to let his CGI department make some pretty pictures and then piece them together into a "story." Tension barely builds in action sequences thanks to the fact that he can barely hold a scene together. Near the end, when Ray must rescue Blake from drowning at one point, the sequence falls apart about like the building the two are trapped in. Maybe if San Andreas felt even slightly aware of just how cliche and unoriginal it was then it could be fun, but instead it takes itself deadly seriously. At one point Paul Giamatti looks directly into the camera and says, "Pray for the people of San Francisco." It's a line so campy it should have been played up as such. Instead it only highlights the film's inability to capture either the true emotion of massive destruction and death or the awe that these kinds of films use to be able to pull out of us simply from visual splendor. One more note. The timing of this film could not be worse given the situation in Nepal. While Warner Bros. has provided information on how people can contribute to relief efforts in marketing campaigns and agreed to match dollar for dollar every contribution their employees make to Nepal what they didn't do was make a movie that inspires any of the emotions that this tragedy deserves. San Andreas just wants to show destruction and it wants you to revel in it.That's nearly impossible given the timing of the release and the fact that reveling in nothing but glorified destruction got old at least five years ago. 
San Andreas Review photo
A lot of faults
I'm going to preface this by coming out as a lover of big dumb action. I do this because critics get a lot of crap for coming down on "fun" movies where we're supposed to go in with our expectations low and just enjoy the "fu...

XXXXTREEEMEE photo
Makes me want to jump off a cliff
Remaking Point Break was a dumb thing to do, but remaking it as what looks like a deadly serious action film with extreme sports is even dumber. If I already wasn't that excited for this movie I'm even less now. Not even...

Review: Slow West

May 25 // Per Morten Mjolkeraaen
[embed]219486:42403:0[/embed] Slow WestDirector: John MacleanRelease Date: May 15, 2015Rated: R   In its short runtime (just 85 minutes), Slow West introduces us to the odd couple, Jay (Kodi Smith-McPhee) and Silas (Michael Fassbender), who wander through the 19th Century frontier to a reach Jay's lost love, Rose (Caren Pistorius). Jay and Rose were born and raised in Scotland, and where Jay sees a love interest, Rose sees the younger brother she never had. For reasons unknown, Rose and her father (Game of Thrones' Rory McCann) emigrated to the outskirts of Colorado. They live in a small house in the midst of a vast field of corn and grass, like a picturesque postcard of colorful and untouched nature. Their home is an idyllic one, representing calmness and solitude, and where the only disturbance seems to be a friendly native that once in awhile shows up to partake in their freshly made coffee. It represents the destination of Jay and Silas' journey across the treacherous lands, and it is an enviable one. However, danger lies between them in more ways than one, as a small group of bounty hunters are following their tracks, lead by Payne (Ben Mendelsohn). This concept of beauty and calmness is recreated and reinforced by the cinematography of Robbie Ryan. He manages to use the New Zealand woodlands to capture a lost age on film, and every frame is composed with care and dedication. His magnum opus is a late action scene, where he singlehandedly strengthens the entire movie with his observant lens. As gunmen appear and disappear in a low cornfield – like a bloody game of Whack-A-Mole – the stationary composition makes for a fantastically hilarious scene, and one would have been dead on arrival in the hands of a lesser cinematographer. As the film rushes by – and it does – our two compadres cross paths with a handful of fun and interesting characters, from a Swedish family to a mysterious, lone researcher and, of course, a run-in or two with the bounty hunters. They are all caricatures of the Western genre. Silas is the archetypical lone wanderer who cares little – and says even less – but may find redemption through an unlikely friendship. Jay is the innocent and pure, who follows his heart and still believes there is love in a world where a single coin could have you killed. The bounty hunters are... bounty hunters, but Ben Mendelsohn almost steals the show as Payne. Although he only makes a few appearances, the man in the comically large fur coat makes plenty of it with a love for absinthe and drunken gibberish.  Although the dialogue is fairly scarce, Slow West seems intent on saying something with it. Mendelsohn's Payne is a fair example (so is Fassbender's Silas), but most intriguing is the lone researcher. I hesitate to quote him, as I always support the idea of seeing a movie as blind as possible, but his short appearance is mysterious in more ways than one. The best way I can describe him is with a parallel to the video game, Red Dead Redemption, where you can meet a man dressed all in black, who appears and disappears as he pleases – always with a thought-provoking word for you. What it all means, if anything at all, is up for you to decide. In any case, this mysterious researcher in Slow West lingers in my mind still.  And thus we've come to the movies biggest draw: its comedy. Slow West is absolutely hilarious at times. It is bleak and black, like something pulled straight from a Coen brothers movie or a less-polished Tarantino gag. At one point, Jay and Silas comes across a skeleton crushed by a tree, with an ax in its hand. They make dispassionate comments about Darwinism and move on. In the final action sequence, the entire crew must have had a field day a work as it may be the funniest explosive climax to a Western movie since Django Unchained. However, the comedy isn't omnipresent and disappears completely in certain scenes, leaving us with a movie lost between two states.This is not to say I dislike cross-genre movies, au contraire, I can really love them, but to attain my love, it has to function as a whole. Whenever a movie can't function like this – caught between two genres – the end result is one which struggles to find its own identity. A movie can be as beautifully shot, directed or acted as it wants to, but without its own identity – its own soul – it will never be remembered for long.  Slow West is without a doubt a fun and, above all, efficient ride. Too many movies overstay their welcome, and there's something to be said for a filmmaker who respects the audience's time. Maclean proves this with Slow West.
Slow West photo
Michael Fassbender is Sad Silas
John Maclean's feature debut, Slow West, is an ambitious one. It is a pastiche of the classic American westerns – a celebration of the genre – and comparisons and parallels to master directors like Quentin Taranti...

Review: The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence)

May 25 // Sean Walsh
[embed]219487:42404:0[/embed] Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence)Director: Tom SixRelease Date: May 22, 2015Rated: Unrated Dieter Laser returns to the franchise he made famous as Bill Boss, racist, sexist, malevolent warden of a prison in the middle of the desert. Laurence R. Harvey, villainous manbaby star of Human Centipede 2, plays his sidekick/prison accountant Dwight Butler. These two men find themselves with a problem on there hands when Governor Hughes (Eric Roberts for some reason) threatens to fire them if they can't fix their crappy prison. Butler suggests to Boss, "Hey, let's make the prisoners into a giant Human Centipede like those two movies." And then they do. That's the whole plot. Were you expecting Kubrick? I don't have a lot to say about this film, to be honest. It's graphically violent, really racist, really sexist, and has little redeeming quality to it beyond Dieter Laser's super over-the-top performance as Bill Boss. It has a premise, and follows it to the end. It was competently made. But it just doesn't have anything going for it beyond that. So instead, let me give you a list of all the messed up/notable stuff that happens in chronological order to sate your curiosity and save you the 102 minutes you won't ever get back. SPOILERS AHEAD. The film starts with the credits of the first two movies, because meta Lots of general hardcore racism and talk of rape Dieter Laser graphically breaks Tom Lister Jr.'s arm Dieter Laser spends most of the movie eating from a jar of dried clitorises he got from Africa (Bree Olson eats one later, not knowing what they are) A man is waterboarded by Laser with three buckets of boiling water and then the washcloth is peeled off the man's boiled face We get to see Dieter Laser loudly climax from oral sex (performed off-camera by former adult film star Bree Olson, the film's sole female character, Laser's secretary/living sex toy) Dieter Laser graphically castrates Robert LaSardo, rubs the blood from the wound all over his face and then later eats the man's balls for lunch (breaded and everything) In a bizarre fantasy sequence, Robert LaSardo shivs a helpless Laser and has sex with the wound Tom Six shows up and gives them permission to use his idea and explains about how he consulted a real doctor about the medical accuracy of making a human centipede  During a screening of the films, Laser tells the prisoners he's going to make them into a human centipede and they riot, which leads to Bree Olson (again, the single female character) being beaten into a coma by Tom Lister Jr. During the surgery segment, Laser inserts his revolver into a man's stoma and shoots him, shoots a disabled man, and decides to attach a man with chronic diarrhea in front of Robert LaSardo Laser has sex with a comatose Bree Olson When Tom Six sees Laser's "special" project (that involves cutting off arms), he vomits on a glass door and exits the film After the 500-person centipede is unveiled, we are shown that the only female character in the film, who spends the entire film being used for sex before being beaten into a coma and raped in her comatose state, is sewn into the centipede for reasons(?) Laser unveils to Governor Eric Roberts his special project, the Human Caterpillar, made from the limbless torsos of the lifetime and death row inmates After Roberts says that Laser and Harvey are insane and will get the chair, Laser shoots the prison doctor, then Roberts comes back and tells them he changed his mind, leaves again, and Laser shoots Harvey so he can take the credit for himself The film ends with a naked Laser screaming nonsense through a megaphone from a guard tower overlooking his centipede as patriotic music swells To say this film is problematic is to put it lightly. It is virulently racist for reasons unknown, treats the single female character as an object to stick male genitalia in (and, again for reasons unknown, throws her into the centipede because why not?), and generally delights in inflicting pain on both its characters and its audience. But you should know what you're getting into where a film's central theme involves people being sewn ass-to-mouth. Like I say in the image above, Human Centipede 3 is indeed 100% the third Human Centipede film. If you like watching racist, cruel men castrate dudes and have sex with women in comas with the titular centipede happening in the background, then boy this film is for YOU! If you liked the first two films, you'll probably like this one. If you're only lukewarm on them, you can probably skip this one. Bottom line: Human Centipede 3 is competently made schlock. Tom Six is an edgy dude with some weird stuff (and quite possibly issues with women) rattling around in his head, but he can make a good-looking movie. Hopefully his next series has more merit. Happy Memorial Day, everybody.
Review: Human Centipede 3 photo
"100% a film that was made"
I did not care for the first Human Centipede. It was a generic torture porn with a couple gimmicks in the centipede itself and the claim of being 100% medically accurate. As a jaded horror fan, I spent most of it yawning (cri...

Five movies you love that aren't as good as Mad Max: Fury Road

May 22 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
Why it's beloved: Gravity is a technical marvel. It's the kind of film you have to see in theaters, because the scope of it is literally infinite. It's about swirling alone in the blackness of space, where the slightest mistake can kill you at any moment. We gave it a 100. I wouldn't have given it a 100, but I understand why Matt did. It's a technical marvel, and you spend much of the film wondering how the heck they did it. (Short answer: Computers. Long answer: Extremely complicated technical rigs and setups and choreography. Also, computers.) Seen on the biggest possible screen in 3D, there's nothing quite like it.  Why Mad Max is better: But the issues arise as soon as you decide to think less about the impeccable technique on display and more about what it is they're displaying. Mad Max may not have the same quality of CG or 3D that Gravity has, but it's the same sort of spectacle. For every moment Gravity had that made me gasp, Mad Max had ten. But it's not just about the look of it. Gravity's fundamental failing is its inability to let viewers figure things out for themselves. Everyone just keeps talking, even when it literally threatens their lives. They should be conserving breath. But instead, the audience needs to be told everything, or else... I mean, how could we possibly figure it out? Gravity assumes we're dumb.  Mad Max doesn't.  Mad Max knows that we can figure things out. Only a handful of things are ever explicitly stated, and it never feels like dialogue for the sake of dialogue. They don't sound like they're speaking to the audience. They sound like they're speaking to each other. Like people. We're shown things rather than told them. You learn everything you need to know from damn good filmmaking, not an overlong screenplay. Why It's Beloved: In my review of The Raid 2, I hailed it as the best action film ever made. I had a lot of reasons for that. You're welcome to read about them. But now, just over a year later, I'm at a crossroads. I say that The Raid 2 is the best action movie of all time, but... Why Mad Max Is Better: This has been eating at me since about halfway through my first viewing of the film. If The Raid 2 is the best action movie, but Mad Max is a better movie, and Mad Max is an action movie... does that make it the best action movie of all time? I still don't know the answer, but I do know this: Mad Max is, on the whole, a superior viewing experience. The action in The Raid is beyond incredible, and the "fights" are undoubtedly better than the ones in Mad Max, but after the first viewing, those long sequences of political blather start to grate. By the third time I saw The Raid 2, I was rolling my eyes. (Worth noting: The original The Raid doesn't have this problem. It is also not as good as Mad Max, but it is fundamentally closer to Mad Max than its sequel is.) It's fine, but it's definitely not as good as what Mad Max has to offer. The few moments of downtime in Mad Max are all excellent. They drive forward the characters and/or the narrative in interesting ways. There isn't a single wasted frame in the entire goddamn movie. You could cut half the political bullshit in The Raid 2 and the film would be better for it. But every last second of Mad Max is essential. Given a choice, I would probably rewatch individual action sequences from The Raid 2 over those from Mad Max. But if I had to choose one film to watch all the way through over and over and over again? No contest. Mad Max is is. Why It's Beloved: Joss Whedon took a group of superheroes and made an ultimately fascinating and extremely enjoyable team film. With the added charm that is so uniquely Whedon, I mean, what's not to love? It's big, it's funny, and it's got people wearing silly costumes. Why It's Not As Good As Mad Max: The second time I saw Mad Max, I went with my friend Brian. He doesn't really like Joss Whedon. After Guardians of the Galaxy (also not as good as Mad Max: Fury Road) came out, he said, "That's the movie that proves Joss Whedon is a hack." After we got out of Mad Max, he said it again. "This movie clinches it." He called the movie "life-changing." He would definitely give it a 95 or higher on the Flixist review scale. He would not be wrong to do so. I didn't name The Avengers 2 here intentionally. Not just because the critical response has been much more muted, but because the film's treatment of women has come more under fire than the original The Avengers (not that it was the best there either). Point is: Joss Whedon is known for writing strong female characters. That's his claim to fame. But none are as strong and as badass as the team in Fury Road. Let's be clear: A 78 year old woman does her own stunts. But here's the thing: A 78 year old woman has stunts to do. You know what that is? The. Best. Suck it, Whedon. Why It's Beloved: Last year's Academy Award Winner should not have won the Academy Award, but that didn't stop it from being an incredible film. But what really makes it so freaking amazing is the way it uses its technical prowess to create something uniquely cinematic. When most films are so same-y, it takes something like Birdman to kick you awake and remind you that movies can be and are magical things. Film is a magical medium. It takes reality and can bend it almost to the breaking point without you even noticing it's happened. You think you're looking at a straight path but it's curving you around. And suddenly you realize that you had no idea what was happening and now you're on a different path entirely. Birdman's one-take conceit does all of that and more. Why It's Not As Good As Mad Max: But it doesn't do it as well as Mad Max. Mad Max isn't a two hour take; it's a two hour car chase. But here's the thing: That car chase feels so much more real than anything in Birdman. Even ignoring the way Birdman breaks the rules in order to bring you into Riggan Thompson's head, it shatters illusions in order to wear its point on its sleeve. Birdman hits you over the head with its message because the characters monologue about it constantly. It's all very nihilistic, and though it's (extremely) compelling, it's less compelling than watching people develop during a car chase. The characters in Mad Max develop subtly but poignantly. No one in Birdman really develops at all. And while that may work with the narrative that's being told, watching Michael Keaton be sad after monologuing about things is far less momentous than watching Tom Hardy give a tiny thumbs up to a woman who he had been pointing a gun at minutes before. Why It's Beloved: Drive was the best movie of 2011. It was the first film that I saw at a press screening that I would later pay to see. And... I'm not actually sure there has ever been another example of that. I love the film. The nearly silent but completely deadly driving protagonist was pretty darn compelling. And though it has ultra-violent action in it, it's the journey of a Real Human Being that made everyone love it. (I mean, that soundtrack, though.) Why It's Not As Good As Mad Max: You may have guessed that I intentionally reduced the character of Driver to "nearly silent but completely deadly driving protagonist" in order to make the comparison between him and Max even easier, but the reality is that they both fit into the same mold. But the difference is that Driver spends the film trying to keep a woman safe because she can't fend for herself. What Max is doing is far more interesting. He's helping Furiosa and the others, not saving them. He doesn't have to be the one to get revenge, because at any given moment, he's not the biggest badass in the truck. The focus on cooperation between two equals without any need for a romance makes Mad Max an ultimately more meaningful film. 
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#6: Literally everything else
I've seen Mad Max: Fury Road twice in the past week. Crucially, I paid New York City movie ticket prices to see Mad Max twice in the past week. Next week, I will all-but-definitely pay to see it a third time. I don'...

Review: Tomorrowland

May 21 // Matthew Razak
[embed]219474:42399:0[/embed] TomorrowlandDirector: Brad BirdRelease Date: May 22, 2015Rated: PG-13  Unlike Bird's other writing/directing efforts Tomorrowland is a blunt hammer that uses almost no subtly or panache to tell a story about the contradictions inherent in human nature and our inability to save ourselves. The screenplay is lump of dialog put together simply to once again inform us that we're destroying the earth and if we don't change it's all going to end. What's at fault for this inevitable calamity? Who knows. Politics, money, video games, movies, reality television; everything is wrong and nothing is right. That is, of course, unless we hold on to our hope and try to make a better... sorry, I just threw up a bit in my mouth. Again and again this movie comes back to our destruction of the world. In this case it's literal as there's a count down to doomsday. The move opens with a painfully done "talking to the camera" narration that only serves to highlight the thud of a screenplay. Frank Walker (George Clooney) and Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) -- yes, naming a lead character Newton is about as subtle as the movie gets -- are telling the story of how they came to be where they are now. It turns out that when Frank was a child he was whisked away to a wondrous city called Tomorrowland by a girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy). We flash forward a few decades and Frank is living in a run down house while Casey finds a magic pin that takes her to Tomorrowland, but all is not right and the three must join together to save the future.  Narratively the film is a mess, with cause and effect having little consequence and tension building at a snails pace as the movie spews one cliche ideal after another. The problem isn't the ideals (I agree with almost all of them), but their execution. Tomorrowland screams about a lot of problems and offers almost no solutions. At times hypocritically complaining about action movies and then rolling right into an action sequence. It feels more like the film is saying what it thinks it should be instead of what it believes in, and Bird doesn't help it along any with his uncharacteristically heavy-handed direction. At times the overwhelmingly obvious cues of environmental friendliness and peace illicit eye rolls instead of agreement. We get it. Wind power is awesome and we shouldn't kill each other, you don't need to remind us with every cut. I will admit that despite being burdensome, Tomorrowland's optimism is a bit refreshing. It is truly always happy and excited for itself. In a landscape of movies that are often dour, even from Disney themselves, this one stands out for always, always, always being upbeat even when it's not. Maybe that's part of it's biggest problem, though. Because the film, and Casey especially, are always looking at the bright side and always exclaiming how amazing everything is then nothing is. Except for one scene involving the Eiffel Tower almost nothing from the film is truly amazing.  That goes especially for the movies special effects, action and acting... which is basically the entire film. There's a massive dependence on digital effects for the movie and they aren't where they need to be, especially after seeing what can be done with practical stunts last week. We're supposed to be awed by Tomorrowland itself, but it never feels original or special. When action does come it is routinely basic and incoherent. Bird seems as sloppy as the screenplay in his direction of anything that moves fast.  Almost every actor could be swapped out for any other actor. Clooney especially feels rough in the role, as if he doesn't care enough to really work with it. The only stand out is Cassidy who offers the film's best line and the only serious depth in any character. Finally, the movie is oddly violent. In another instance of hypocrisy, actual murders occur on screen. There's no blood, but people are vaporized at random and a human-looking robot has its head torn off in a fight sequence that would have given the film an R-rating had the combatants not been robotic. It all feels woefully out of context in a film that is decrying our ever escalating enjoyment of violence in media and more importantly is intended for children.  Tomorrowland is nostalgic for a future that never happened, much like Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris is for a past that never happened, but it loses its fun and love in its overbearing effort to send a message. It's flat plotline and dud action mean that nothing ever sparkles despite the actors repeatedly telling you that it does. Does it actually care about its message? It's unclear. If it does it's doing such a terrible job of sending it that it feels disingenuous. Great films have meaning to their message, all Tomorrowland does is shout from the mountain top that we're doing it all wrong. Well, Brad Bird, so are you.
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The future is a letdown
If you're like me you were pretty excited for Tomorrowland. Almost everything Brad Bird touches is magic and his obsession with nostalgia made a perfect fit for a film based off a Disneyland park whose future never came to be...

Review: Pitch Perfect 2

May 15 // Jackson Tyler
[embed]219455:42387:0[/embed] Pitch Perfect 2Director: Elizabeth BanksRelease Date: May 15, 2015Rated: PG-13  As the movie opens, the Bellas (our A Capella heroes) are performing for none other than President Obama himself, inserted into the audience with cheesy stock footage. Every member of the team gets their moment in this welcome back performance, building up to the reveal of fan favourite Fat Amy, hanging from a curtain and belting out a solo. Then, her trousers get ripped, and she ends up exposing herself to the entire audience, who react with abject horror. Ha ha, a fat person has a vagina! How disgusting! Roll titles! It's an opening indicative of what to come. For one thing - it isn't funny. Pitch Perfect 2 is disappointingly light on laugh out loud moments, perhaps the only memorable one coming from an unexpected cameo. The scenes play out with a sense of obligation to them, a been here done that feeling that is oh so familiar to leagues and leagues of comedy sequels, and the jokes are often little more than references to the prior movie. Bumper's back, and he flirts with Fat Amy at a party! Again! *nudge nudge, wink wink* Pitch Perfect 2 is also approximately seven years long, squeezing in about six incongruent and unfocused character arcs in the gaps between the many, many musical setpieces that make up the 115 minute running time. It takes a twenty minute detour to David Cross' house half way through the movie in order to do a reprise of the popular sing-off scene from the first film. It's perhaps one of the movie's better scenes, but it's far too elaborately constructed and belaboured for something that amounts to nothing more than a tangent.  Whilst it's easily the most out of place scene in the film, it's less a problem itself and more a symptom of deeper structural flaws. The scenes don't flow, the story isn't constructed for a thematic or emotional ends, it's a conveyor belt of stuff that has to be there. The music scenes have little to do with the character scenes which have little to do with the comedy scenes. All the required elements are present, but haphazardly thrown onto the screen with no attempt to bind them into a strong narrative. But all of that would be completely forgivable, if the movie's core was solid. After all, Pitch Perfect's aims are important - it positions itself as a story of empowerment, essentially a franchise of coming of age movies about a group of girls being best friends. And if it achieved that, structural flaws and indulgent reference humour would ultimately be only surface level criticism. But that dream dies in the opening scene. The movie's humour often springs out of this crass and nasty place, consistently aiming its sights on anyone who isn't slim, conventionally attractive and white. Fat Amy's confidence isn't played as a response to a harmful culture that consistently shames and dehumanises her, it's a setup to a joke that is always being told, and the punchline is her fatness. In between the movies, the group has picked up a new member from Guatemala, who constantly references her impending deportation. Hana Mae Lee's character isn't just the quiet, timid asian girl from the original, now she's a ninja too!  It's hypocritical for Pitch Perfect 2 to stake its claim at empowerment, when it's filled to bursting with harmful jokes, and its core musical gimmick isn't far removed from Acoustic Covers of Rap Songs. While it's disappointing, it isn't exactly surprising, these problems existed in the first film, and the sequel has only doubled down on the upsetting elements. The movie is a two hour adaptation of Patricia Arquette's Oscar speech, its feminist politics defined by a lack of self awareness and intersectional thinking, as it cuts back and forth between scenes of the Bella sisters bonding to thirty seconds of hilarious racist transphobia. But hey, then they sing a song.
PP2 Review photo
A Capella Wordplay Indicating Failure
Everybody loves a song. It can be the perfect emotional climax to a movie. From The Blues Brothers to School of Rock to Linda Linda Linda to, hell, the original Pitch Perfect, the final performance as cathartic...

Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

May 14 // Matthew Razak
[embed]219448:42382:0[/embed] Mad Max: Fury RoadDirector: George MillerRelease Date: May 14, 2015Rated: R  If you're not a child of the 80s and you subsequently ignored everyone telling you to watch at least one of the Mad Max films for the past 20 years then it's possible you don't know the premise of the franchise. That really isn't a problem. One of the strangely wonderful things about this series is that continuity is the last thing it cares about. Instead its focus is on its themes and the mythic creation of a man called Max.  There are a few key elements, of course. It's somewhere in the post-apocalyptic future. Water, gas and areas that aren't desert are scarce. Man has fallen into lawlessness and still wears far more leather than you'd expect. The world is dependent on despots who run small fiefdoms where they control the supplies and the cars -- car chases are really popular in the future. Max (Tom Hardy) is a loner haunted by something terrible that happened in his past (possibly the tragic ending of the first film, but it's never made clear).  He's taken prisoner by one of these fiefdoms run by a mutated man named Immortan Joe, who has developed a war like cult around his control of water. On a routine gas run Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) steels the tanker she's carrying so she can rescue five women from being bred by Joe. A chase across the desert ensues in which both Max and one of Joe's half-life warriors, Nux (Nicholas Hoult) join the fray. It may sound like I'm simplifying much of the film with that last sentence, but I'm not. Once Fury Road gets started on its chase premise it holds onto it until the very end, only stopping every so often to deliver exposition of some surprisingly sentient plot points. It is as non-stop as a film can be and it works magically. Characters are developed almost entirely through actions leaving dull blather and burdensome world creations (I'm looking at you, Jupiter Ascending) in the background. At first it may feel like the movie is being horribly unclear because it refuses to hold your hand, but then you realize that by letting the story ride along with the car chases its not holding your hand, but yanking you along with it screaming, "Shut up and enjoy the damn ride!" Miller's blend of actual stunts and limited CGI is a master work in cinematic action. The only person who could even come close to him right now is Gareth Evans of The Raid and The Raid 2 fame, and he owes much of his style to Miller's original trilogy. It's the kind of action that makes you shift your thinking from "this is fun and dumb" to "this is fun and art." The kind of relentlessly, perfectly contstructed set pieces that prove just exactly what's wrong with the likes of lazy action direction we get from Michael Bay types. The difference is just how relentlessly old school Miller is in his direction. It's as if Miller didn't get the memo that over-cranking to speed things up just isn't done anymore or that pushing into an extreme close up at high speed is considered tacky now. No one told him and so he just does it and it works. It works so damn well and feels so original that even the most jaded action connoisseur will be on the edge of their seat during the film's climatic final chase. This all despite the fact that really each sequence is the exact same thing (tanker getting chased by cars). That's not a problem, though, because in reality the movie is just one long, beautiful action sequence. It's the tanker chase from Road Warrior drawn out across an entire film and it's glorious. This isn't to say that there's nothing to bite your mental teeth into. Mad Max isn't really about the nitty gritty of characters, but more a study of archetypes, humanity and the ever present lone wolf hero. Max isn't a character, he's a symbol for survival, rebirth and redemption. That's why the films have almost no continuity between them. It's why Tom Hardy's almost monosyllabic performance is so spot on. It's why the characters around him are the driving force of emotion while he is simply the hammer that triggers change. If anything Theron's Furiousa is the star of this film as she takes the role of the heart -- albeit one that can kick some serious ass. All this is why the movie's use of the rescue of a group of "pure" women trope actually works despite the cliche. Fury Road is delivering an incredibly meta, two-hour action think piece on the genre itself. You may think I'm over analyzing all this, and that's absolutely fine. You can come out of Fury Road thinking everything I just said is idiotic, but you can't come out of it thinking you saw anything but a kick in the ass to action cinema. Mad Max is actually mad, and weird and strange and different. It features a double-guitar-flameflower playing mutant strapped to the top of a car that is basically a massive speaker system. It has people wearing ridiculous clothing and some of the maddest dialog this side of a David Lynch production.  Fury Road may be a "sequel," but it feels entirely original, and that might be the real reason it stands out so well. In an industry that has become so cannibalistic, to the point that it could destroy itself, Fury Road is undeniably unapologetic about being different. If this is what is on the other side of the superhero movie apocalypse then sign me up. 
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Way beyond Thunderdome
You might be wondering just why a franchise (or whatever Mad Max films are) to a trilogy that came out in the 80s and starred Mel Gibson is getting a sequel now. The real reasons probably have something to do with money and c...

First outrageous trailer for Jem and the Holograms

May 13 // Nick Valdez
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Jem Movie Trailer photo
Bit less outrageous than I'd hoped
I've made it no secret that I've been looking forward to Jem and Holograms ever since it was announced (and put in production just a month later), and after the awesome set of images we got the other day. I was really hoping ...

Luc Besson announces sci-fi adaptation Valerian, also joins social media

May 12 // Matthew Razak
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Besson on Valerian photo
Welcome to the Internet, Luc
Evidently Luc Besson is not much for the social medias, but something has brought him on board and that something is an adaptation of the French science-fiction comic Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Evidently it'...

The Mad Max Trilogy: Look Back in Anger

May 12 // Hubert Vigilla
Mad Max (1979) - Lawless Ozploitation Mad Max, the film that started it all, wasn't post-apocalyptic. It's pre-apocalyptic. The world in the film is lawless and rowdy (i.e., the Platonic form of Australia?), but not the rusty, dusty S&M wasteland that would be seen in the subsequent films in the series. What we get instead is a solid Ozploitation revenge movie, one reminiscent of a drive-in biker picture or a western about bandits hunting down the lawmen that done killed one of their kin. The first Mad Max is an origin story that the other movies will riff on and play with. Max is a leather-clad cop in a muscle car who kills a punk called The Nightrider in a car chase. The Nightrider's posse rolls into town looking to even the score. Revenge, mannequin molestation, eccentric music cues, and general Ozplotation mayhem ensues. When not running down goons and making them cry, Max is back at his seaside house with his saxophone-playing wife Jesse and their cute toddler Sprog. (The hell kind of name for a kid is Sprog?) Home offers a semblance of order in a world that's otherwise falling apart and unable to be saved. Which inevitably means this domesticity is doomed. You know things aren't going to end well for Max and his wife because they have a cute way of saying "I love you." This is generally a sign of someone's eventual death in a movie, sort of like when a character develops a sudden and persistent cough. The police force is in shambles, just holding on to some shred of order like the rest of civilization. After the grisly murder of one of his friends on the force, Max wants to quit so he can lead a normal life. His chief, Fifi, tries to convince him to remain on the force and delivers a key line: "They say people don't believe in heroes anymore. Well, damn them! You and me, Max, we're gonna give them back their heroes." Max goes on holiday with his family to clear his head, which leads to a chance run-in with The Nightrider's friends and the eventual tragedy that pushes Max over the edge. By the end of the film, Max's ordered and peaceful world is gone. He goes vigilante to get revenge, goes full anti-hero in his methods, and instead of returning to his seaside home, he leaves society for the road. Off he drives out into the lawless wild, which is where he now belongs. One of the final shots of Mad Max is our hero driving off as an explosion goes off in the background. That's not just an act of revenge carried out, it's the obliteration of the ordered world. Fifi's line about the return of heroes sets up Max's recurring reluctant heroism in the other films. In the next two Mad Max movies, Max's motives begin as self-interested and self-serving, he eventually shows his true qualities as a character. In the process, he aids in the founding of two separate societies, giving others a chance to rebuild the civilization he's abandoned. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) - Post-Apocalyptic Anarchy From Mad Max to The Road Warrior, we go from lawlessness to anarchy. There's no vestige of the civilized world. Now it's a land of bondage gear and crossbows. To get by, people scavenge and murder. Max's badass vehicle has gone from shiny to a dusty matte black. Both the man and the machine are amply battle-scarred; Gibson appears to have aged 10 years in movie-time even though this sequel was released just two years after the first film. Welcome to the apocalypse—ain't it grand? The Road Warrior is easily the best movie of The Mad Max Trilogy, and a remarkable achievement in reckless action filmmaking. Stunt performers leap off speeding cars, hurtle through the air, break bones on impact with the Australian dirt. The vehicles—which look like someone played Frankenstein in a junkyard—are gloriously expendable, colliding at high speeds and creating the scrap metal equivalent of a Bloomin' Onion®. The western vibe of the first Mad Max is here again—rather than bandits out for revenge against lawmen, it's outlaws raiding a mining town—though there's also the air of a samurai film, particularly Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo. The film follows Max as he tries to bargain for some gas from a small outpost of peaceful survivors. He eventually agrees to help them leave their besieged settlement for a seaside paradise (as seen in postcards). If the survivors were to remain, they'd be killed by the tyrannous Lord Humungus and his band of barbarian perverts clad in assless chaps and football pads. As a character, Max begins to take on the traits of classic cinematic nomads, particularly Toshiro Mifune's character from Yojimbo and Sanjuro and Clint Eastwood's Man with No Name from Sergio Leone's Dollars Trilogy. In Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, Max is even called "The Man with No Name" by the Bartertown announcer. (He's also called "Raggedy Man," which walks the line between badass and adorable.) We begin to see the recurring Mad Max motifs here: the ripped version of the MFP uniform, the bad leg, the sawed-off shotgun, his car bobby-trapped with a bomb. Max is surrounded by a lot of colorful supporting characters in The Road Warrior. There's Bruce Spence as the gyrocopter pilot, and also a feral child with a razor-sharp boomerang. Lord Humungus makes a strong impression with his bulging scalp, his metal hockey mask, and He-Man physique. The whole look of the Humungus posse carries forward into Thunderdome, and seems to partly inspire the goons in Fury Road. (The influence extends to the pro-wrestling tag team The Road Warriors, later known as The Legion of Doom. The movie also inspired Tonka's Steel Monsters toyline, which featured a hefty post-apocalyptic vehicle and action figure; as a kid, I had a Masher truck, which was driven by a Lord Humungus knock-off named Metal Face.) Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985) - A Kooky Melange As far as sequel subtitles go, "Beyond Thunderdome" is the post-apocalyptic equivalent of "Electric Boogaloo." That and the Tina Turner song "We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)" are probably the lasting legacies of the film. (Unpopular opinion: "One of the Living," the Tina Turner song during the beginning credits, holds up better than "We Don't Need Another Hero.") Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome carries the series out of its Ozploitation past and sticks it right in the middle of the 80s. And a bunch of kids. Not only is Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome the most 80s entry of the trilogy, it's also the most blockbustery in execution. The vibe is less western and samurai movie and more Return of the Jedi and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. There's also a disappointing lack of vehicular action in Beyond Thunderdome until the finale. Max enters an outpost known as Bartertown (the outback's Mos Eisley) in search of some stolen goods. In the process, he becomes embroiled in a power struggle between Bartertown's founder Aunty Entity and a duo known as Master Blaster. Master Blaster runs the underground pig shit refineries that produce methane, the town's super-fuel. There's a fight in Thunderdome, which is an early highlight, featuring chainsaws and bungee cords and raucous chanting from the post-apocalyptic masses. Thunderdome gets beyond Thunderdome in about 25 minutes, though. Max eventually winds up rescued by a tribe of children who are convinced he's a savior who'll fly them to Sydney, Australia (as seen in a View-Master). Thunderdome was apparently inspired by Russell Hoban's post-apocalyptic novel Ridley Walker, which explains the fractured/restructured speech patterns of the child tribe. The film feels like it grafts Max into this sort of story, and his previous skill set of hard-driving and vehicular cunning are not particularly valuable for this adventure. Instead, Max uses his fists and some of his wits (and a whistle... and a monkey), and yet he feels a little off. It's the difference between the Han Solo of The Empire Strikes Back and the Han Solo of Return of the Jedi—Mad Max goes soft. Thunderdome introduces some fascinating disjunctions to the continuity of The Mad Max Trilogy. Bruce Spence, the actor who played the gyrocopter pilot in The Road Warrior, shows up in Beyond Thunderdome as the pilot of a small plane. It's unspecified if Spence is playing the same character in both movies or two separate pilots. Max's car also appears again in Thunderdome, though it was blown up real good in The Road Warrior. (Maybe it's another tricked-out Interceptor, like a second pair of black jeans just in case?) The story of Thunderdome doesn't entirely cohere on its own either. It feels like a Mad Max tale told by a child, which figures since the story is all about Max helping children establish a new society elsewhere. If we think of Max as serving a function in the foundation myths of the societies he's helped create, this wildly plotted fairy tale version of a Mad Max story might have been entirely intentional. Mad Max's Pseudo-Continuity - A Tankful of Juice or The Legend of Mad Max There are a few ways to think of the loose continuity of The Mad Max Trilogy (and possibly even Fury Road), and I'm glad the series has a kind of pick-and-choose mentality, like we're able to co-create the post-apocalyptic world to a certain degree. Apart from straight continuity, you can think of The Mad Max Trilogy as a kind of loose continuity, with the same character wandering off and going on different adventures, and bits and pieces not always fitting together neatly. The best example of this is probably the Zatoichi films, a series of 26 movies that star Shintaro Katsu as the title character. In each film, the blind samurai known as Zatoichi tries to escape his ruthless past but is then confronted with its repercussions. Instead of a sawed-off shotgun, he's got a sword concealed in his walking stick. There are slippages in continuity in the Zatoichi films when viewed sequentially. In one movie, Zatoichi's sword is broken, but then it's perfectly fine in the next. It's like Max's car showing up again in Thunderdome. Another option is to think of Max as the same character-type/archetype in the films but not the same character throughout the series. It's like the Zelda games in this regard: there's a guy named Link who wears green, carries a sword, gathers certain items, and he goes on adventures. Maybe each Mad Max film is its own discrete Mad Max film, with each inhabiting a different world but with recurring elements and common motifs persisting between the worlds. You can also think of this in terms of Jack tales—Jack referring to the archetypal stock hero of stories such as "Jack and the Beanstalk," "Jack the Giant Killer," and "Little Jack Horner." In this case, we'd have "Max the Mad," "Max the Road Warrior," and "Max the Guy Who Went Beyond Thunderdome." To that, one could also think of The Mad Max Trilogy as a thematic trilogy that's loosely connected, sort of like Leone's Dollars Trilogy. The Man with No Name may or may not be the same character from film to film, but he embodies a character-type that's already equipped with certain storytelling machinery (i.e., the gunslinger, the loner, the ronin). The archetype allows Leone to explore different kinds of stories that are thematically linked. There's another possibility I've been considering that provides an in-story explanation for the inconsistencies in continuity. In this possibility, Max is the name given to a mythic figure who helped various societies try to re-establish order in the post-apocalyptic world. Note that The Road Warrior and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome are both presented as histories that are recounted by people in the future, each one in their newly established civilization for which Max is partly responsible. Max is a hero in the foundation myths of these new, separate societies. The tellings of a Max story differ since each society is defined by its own values and own history. If the first Mad Max is closest to an agreed-upon canon, it would make sense why The Road Warrior and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome offer divergent stories that don't fit perfectly together—they're the myths of two societies that have never interacted that share a mythic figure in common. The recurring Bruce Spence pilot may not be the same person, but maybe he serves the same mythopoeic or folkloric function in the two different societies, sort of like the tanuki in Japanese folklore, or the spider in African folk tales, or other kinds of tricksters who manifest themselves in different forms. Miller knows his Joseph Campbell, so I wouldn't be surprised if this is one way he's put his cinematic hero to good use. This brings me back to Fifi's lines in the first Mad Max: "They say people don't believe in heroes anymore. Well, damn them! You and me, Max, we're gonna give them back their heroes." If this mythic read of The Mad Max Trilogy holds, we see Max abandon his own dying civilization, help build new civilizations, and become a hero to these new socities. Max has succeeded in giving people back their heroes, and in the process has helped seed a little bit of hope for the future. And yet the hero at the end of each of the Mad Max sequels cannot go back to society. It's something he's known, he's loved, but that he cannot recapture. Instead, he gives the new world to others. It's like my favorite line from the book The Return of the King, which Frodo says at The Grey Havens: I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them. But you are my heir: all that I had and might have had I leave to you. It makes me wonder how many other times Max has given up the world so that others could rebuild it and enjoy it, and how many other Max tales there are, and how they differ, as if the new civilization has played a game of mythopoeic telephone with the legend of the Raggedy Man. One reason I think "One of the Living" is better than "We Don't Need Another Hero" are the lines "You've got ten more thousand miles to go" and "You've got ten more thousand years to go." In other words, a hero's work is never done. [embed]219429:42374:0[/embed]
Mad Max Trilogy photo
"The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla!"
I have yet to see Mad Max: Fury Road, which comes out this week, but I did get a chance to see the first three Mad Max movies over the weekend at a friend's place: Mad Max (1979), Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981), and Mad M...

Hateful Eight Images photo
Eight is great
If ever a film had a strange road to the screen it's The Hateful Eight, but after a cancellation and a strange live reading it is coming and we now have our first look at the titular eight. EW brings to us the line up of all ...

The Cult Club: Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)

May 08 // Hubert Vigilla
Hubert: Salo is one of the grandaddies of extreme cinema, and anyone who's curious about notoriously disturbing movies will eventually encounter Salo at some point of his or her life. But Salo feels like it comes from a different pedigree than other films frequently seen on "Most Disturbing Movies" lists like Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust or the Guinea Pig series. Salo is an art movie from hell, so painterly in its unpleasantness, so carefully composed; it has more in common with Ken Russell's The Devils (though not as manic) or the work of Lars Von Trier than I Spit on Your Grave. Maybe Salo's best contemporary unit of comparison is Srdjan Spasojevic's A Serbian Film, but even that movie's extremism is so different in tone. There's something about Pasolini's use of long shots during most of the sadism that gives the events of Salo a sense of absolute spiritual death. There's also a philosophical rage in its content which can be read as anti-fascist as well as anti-capitalist--both have a tendency to reduce humans to functions or mere objects. Where would you situate it in the cult canon and the canon of extreme cinema? Alec: It's hard to disagree with your assessment there. Salo stands pretty much apart from everything else. If I were to choose a direct comparison, I think The Devils is probably the best. Because whereas most extreme cinema feels gratuitous for the sake of it, The Devils feels gratuitous because the world that it takes place in is gratuitous. (That film is pretty high up on my re-watch list, by the way. I got about halfway through a second viewing a couple months back and had to turn it off, but it's been on my mind ever since.) Salo is the same sort of thing. But what makes Salo so intense is both its use of long shots and also wide shots. It's filmed from a distance, with everything you could possibly want (and much, much more) in the frame. And as such, there's rarely any "immediacy" to the "action." Your blood doesn't get pumping. There isn't any sort of sensory overload. You're acutely aware of who is doing what to whom when and how. It's voyeuristic in a very different way from most extreme films. In a way that is more fundamentally horrible, because you are a passive observer. It's more documentarian than experiential. It's like an anti-found footage film, in that regard. (Though that's an odd comparison to make, since it predated the found footage concept by several years.) Hubert: That distance may be what makes viewers feel so helpless, like all they can do is watch these teens get degraded and tortured. There's one moment a little before the "Circle of Shit" title card comes up, signaling the next ugly chapter of Salo and a further descent into hell. One of the girls says, "I can't take any more" like she's giving up her will to live. And you feel it. It's a phrase synonymous with "I want to die." But things are only going to get worse. And at that moment, watching the movie again, even knowing the end, I got this sad chill through my body. I was struck by this terrifying realization that no one was going to save the day, there's no hope of fighting back, and that all I could do was watch these victims be destroyed. There's that one scene later when it seems like one of the kids will at least be executed quickly with a pistol, but it's not even loaded. One of the libertines gets in the boy's face and says, "You must be stupid to think that death would be so easy. Don't you know we intend to kill you a thousand times? To the end of eternity, if eternity can have an end." The idea that death might be a release is turned on its head--there is only death, over and over again, and no escaping it. And all we can do is watch. Absolutely chilling. Though on the note of that scene, it's the disgusting punchline to a contest to decide who has the best ass. Salo is full of so much sadistic and perverse humor or amusement, or at least from the point of view of the libertines. How did you feel about its fascistic comedy, like the jokes that keep getting told? Alec: On some level, I think it could be argued that Salo is the darkest of comedies. I remember reading an IMDB trivia that said that some of the actors were absolutely shocked when they saw the final product, because the experience on set had actually been relatively light. I don't know that that's true, but rewatching the film I can see how (at least in parts) it might be. Certainly there is a lot of laughter by many of the characters. Early on, there is laughter during the stories, and the libertines and their accomplices laugh throughout, telling (terrible) jokes and just generally feeling pretty good about the whole thing. (Especially Lazy Eye, less so Combover.) To them, this is pure entertainment, which is absolutely and entirely horrific, but it brings up the question of perspective. You're seeing these actions at a distance, but you spend most of your time with the fascists. Obviously it's not a pro-fascist film, but they are the central characters, not their victims. Their victims are there to be actors in the the play that the libertines have created and can engage in at will. For us and the victims, it's a horrorshow, but for them it's the best sex-comedy imaginable. And the constant jokes and the levity just makes the whole thing far more unsettling than if it was deadly serious. Actions speak louder than words, but the words in context with the actions make for a particularly disturbing combination. Hubert: There's such an ugly flippancy to what the libertines do and how they do it. If torture and humiliation without reprisal weren't enough, the ability to laugh in the face of the hell they're creating for these victims might be the ugliest demonstration of their power. Though on the note of what you said about the fascist point of view, Salo is so effective of tapping into that mindset in which anything is permissible against the powerless. Do you remember how or when you first heard about Salo? For me it was probably 1999, and I was just starting college and really into extreme cinema and finding VHS bootlegs of stuff. (This makes me sound so old.) Salo was completely out-of-print back then, and the initial Criterion DVD release was selling on eBay for something like $250. I first saw Salo on a degraded pan-and-scan VHS around 2002 with some friends, which wasn't so unnerving, but watching it a second time a few years ago, it was much more unnerving and effective, like I finally understood Pasolini's filmmaking grammar. Alec: I imagine it was during my extreme cinema phase. There was a period of a few years where I would look up lists of the Most Disturbing Films Of All Time. I look back on that now with a bit of disdain (which we discussed in our, um, discussion of cinematic garbage), but I imagine that I learned about it around the same time that I learned about Cannibal Holocaust and the others. That was probably mid 2000s, but I couldn't put an exact date on it. I know that I saw it for the first time after I had entered college, because I distinctly remember watching it. More specifically, I distinctly remember how little I felt while watching it. I had gone through A Serbian Film and Cannibal Holocaust and the August Underground films at that point, and I was expecting something to beat them all. It wasn't. I remember eating Pad Thai during the coprophagia scene and thinking, "This is probably disgusting." But the entire thing was so detached that it didn't phase me at all. It was horrible, but the effect was kind of numbing. And it took me a while to realize just how brilliant that was. I'm going to compare it to The Act of Killing, actually, because that film is about how mundane these horrible things are. Salo is the same way. It's so relentless and so evil and so clinical that you just sit there, munching on Pad Thai and looking at some of the most awful (yet artistic) images ever put to celluloid. Hubert: The Act of Killing is a great point of comparison. Salo and The Act of Killing are movies about the banality of evil, and every act of depravity, while shocking, also has an air of a common ritual or business proceeding--this isn't murder, it's an undertaking; this isn't murder, it's an act of killing. In Salo, the days have a schedule, there's a structured repetition of stories and meals, and this sense of order allows these acts to be carried out with a kind of boredom on the part of the libertines. They can make jokes because this is like another day at the office, and maybe the most chilling aspect of that is that this could be yet another round of commonplace depravity, just the latest set of teenagers that fascistic libertines murder a thousand times over to achieve a sadistic pleasure that is never sated and continually slips into boredom. The libertines say they're the ultimate anarchists, but this adherence to order and structure reveals them to be the ultimate fascists. When I interviewed Joshua Oppenheimer about The Act of Killing, he mentioned how normal everything seemed to the killers he encountered. One of the anecdotes Oppenheimer shared is something he caught on camera, and it appears toward the end of his follow-up film, The Look of Silence. It's two men recounting their killings in the place where they slaughtered hundreds of people, and then they do something so normal that it's terrifying. ( The Look of Silence comes out later this. I saw it at last year's New York Film Festival, and it's probably going to be my pick for the best movie of 2015.) One of the most aphoristic lines in Salo: "Nothing is more contagious than evil." History proves that. Evil is contagious and unstoppable. Alec: To that point, it's sort of interesting that Pasolini was murdered just before the release of Salo. It would have been fascinating to see how he reacted to the reaction. But more than that, I want to have seen the follow-up. The film was apparently intended to be the first in a three part "Trilogy of Death" following up his "Trilogy of Life." To think that Salo was the start of something is simultaneously revolting and amazing. It's entirely possible that had he lived, we would be talking about a different film entirely. (I cannot imagine what that might have been.) But perhaps we should go back to this idea of art. What really fascinates me about Salo is the fact that it is a part of The Criterion Collection. I can't imagine A Serbian Film or Cannibal Holocaust or any of those other horrific films getting the same level of recognition. More than anything else, that is a statement about its worth as a film. Honestly, being chosen for the Criterion Collection is about as bold a statement as can be made, at least in a certain sect of cineaste circles. All of the films are pretty much equally revolting in terms of content (maybe), but Salo stands apart. I wonder, though, if it's a function in part of the filmmaker behind it. Pasolini was a respected director who had a history of making films that were not Salo, so his decision to take on that project makes it even more unique. Do you think that if the exact same film had been made by a newcomer with a twisted mind, it would have the same impact on the art film community, or do you think it would be written off sort of like A Serbian Film as something that's just grotesuqe? Hubert: On the idea of a "Trilogy of Death" as a follow-up to his "Trilogy of Life," I wonder if the other two Death films would have also been inspired by classic works of literature. The Trilogy of Life is blossoming with eroticism and a joy about the body, and Salo is the negation of all that and the reduction of the body to an orifice/instrument/commodity. Nearly all sex is sadism in Salo. The two exceptions being secret trysts like brief escapes from hell, but even those end badly soon after they're discovered. These reprieves from hell are only discovered because the other victims are willing to rat out others to save their own skin. The fascists have broken any sense of solidarity and humanity among their victims, which may be their most awful triumph. I'm trying to think of what other books might have been part of a Death Trilogy, which would also play into Pasolini's disillusionment with capitalism. Voltaire's Candide? George Bataille's Story of the Eye? Titus Andronicus? Oedipus? Maybe Mein Kampf? I think Salo's cachet is precisely because it was made by Pasolini. Had a no-name newcomer made the same film, it probably would have been written off by its then-contemporary audience as crass obscenity with pretensions of being called art. And yet had a newcomer made the same film, I still think it would be discussed in the future (assuming someone rediscovered it) since there's an artfulness to the perversion that suggests a grander thesis. It's an approach that's much different than A Serbian Film (the most obvious modern-day heir to Salo) since Salo stands back from the horror rather than getting up close, as we mentioned. That distance that makes the evil mundane is also what makes the film more effective and more artful in what it's trying to accomplish. If someone other than Pasolini directed it, it wouldn't be in the Criterion Collection, that's for sure. I remember you mentioned a while back that you feel like A Serbian Film belongs in the Criterion Collection. For you, how does A Serbian Film (which is a metaphorical version of the decade of real-life horror that followed the dissolution of Yugoslavia) compare to Salo? Alec: The thing about these films (Cannibal Holocaust too, actually) is that once you know what the point is, you sometimes feel like it's screaming the point in your face. Admittedly, it's probably impossible to be simultaneously shocking and subtle, but there's not a lot of subtlety in the presentation of their ideas. I think both subscribe to the belief that enacting any kind of social change requires you to shock the masses out of complacency, even if that means that every so often The Point Of The Film leaps out of the screen and screams in your face. A Serbian Film is far more guilty of this than Salo, but they both have it. But what I think makes A Serbian Film so compelling in context with Salo is that they both refuse to let up on the viewer, but they do so in nearly opposite ways. Even as A Serbian Film uses closeups and shaky camera movements and all of that, you're never left wondering what, exactly, you're seeing. You always have enough to understand just how fucked up the entire thing is. But it's a modern version of that. It's like the difference between The Raid and an old Jackie Chan film. The camera in those films did almost nothing. Everything was on the actors and choreography. The Raid has excellent choreography, but the camera is a part of it too. You are a part of it and not just a passive observer. This is the exact same thing. Had the film been made in 1975, I think it probably would have looked more like Salo (and I think if Salo had been made in 2010, it probably would look more like A Serbian Film). I think both are products of their time, taking the cinematic language and twisting it to create an affecting experience. And that's why I think in the long term A Serbian Film will be a significant film like Salo is, because it is a representation of current cinema taken to the most extreme of extremes. Hubert: Without getting too sidetracked on martial arts movies, I think the first Ong-Bak is the most Jackie Chan-like movie that we're going to get post-1980s in terms of camera placement and movement in the frame. (One day we should do a Cult Club about a seminal 1970s kung-fu movie.) But yes, Salo and A Serbian Film are products of their time and their region, and their respective aesthetics are defined by that. Still, I think even just one feature film in, Spasojevic is a very different kind of filmmaker than Pasolini, but he seems more thoughtful about cinematic transgression than someone like Tom Six (The Human Centipede) who's out to upset without trying to say something substantive. Before we talk about the final scenes of Salo, one last digression. It might be worth addressing the elephant in the room, which is extreme cinema as an artform, of which Salo is one of the exemplars. There's the political dimension and aesthetic dimension to good extreme cinema that shows a social value and artistic merit that can transcend mere shock, but I wonder if there's also a kind of cinematic machismo to it. In other words, are certain movie fans playing a game of chicken with extreme films and extreme filmmakers? I mean, seeing Salo on a list of disturbing films felt like a dare to me when I was a young man. Unless something's changed that I'm not aware of, these sorts of movies still tend to appeal to the curiosity of teenage males and men in their twenties more than other groups of movie watchers. Is it the thrill of the forbidden, maybe? If these movies are crossing the upper limits of contemporary good taste to explore a taboo outland, are they also a proving ground for personal limits regarding bad taste? Alec: I think this gets a bit into that discussion we had back in the day about what I deemed cinematic trash. Films that show up on Most Disturbing Lists are being sold to a very specific audience. Cannibal Holocaust and August Underground are being sold to a very specific audience. A Serbian Film is a little bit different. Salo is more different still. But I think you're guessing high. It's not men in their 20s. It's kids in their teens. I was a teenager when I found the list that convinced me to watch a Cannibal Holocaust and August Underground. And though I was in my 20s when I saw Salo and A Serbian Film, those seeds were sown well before (and, as we've discussed, have withered quite a bit in recent years). But Salo's spot on those lists should come with a huge asterisk, because it's not a film for teens. Not just because the content is a bit much, but because the context requires, well, context. And without the context, the film's reputation precedes it. It is not nearly as "shocking" as many other disturbing films, despite being so disturbing, for all of the reasons stated here. This is where Salo "standing out" becomes particularly relevant. It doesn't have the fucked up appeal of Cannibal Holocaust. It's not something that you can really watch with a bunch of friends and laugh about. And I think that makes it a perfect litmus test, actually, along with maybe Irreversible, because they're art films with a hardcore edge. But if you get through all of Irreversible, that says a lot more than if you just see the first few scenes and turn it off. If you actually experience Salo and feel it and wrestle with it, then that's something different. The people who go into those films looking for sick thrills will either come out underwhelmed or transformed. They'll see that ultraviolence can be used to provoke something more than just a reaction, which is what so much of extreme cinema wants. It doesn't even matter what the reaction is, just that there is one. But Salo wants more than that. It wants a specific type of reaction, one that results from a very specific mindset. And with that, I think it's time to talk about those final scenes. Hubert: As if the feast of human shit wasn't infamous enough, there's the torture-filled finale. Watching Salo again, one of the striking things about that last sequence is where it's held and how it's depicted. It's on that estate somewhere, but it's in a place distinctly lacking the lush vegetation that's seen elsewhere outdoors. It's this lifeless enclosure of dirt and brick. And we're viewing these final acts of degradation silently and from an added distance, shot from the POV of a libertine at a high window using binoculars. After the descent through the Circles of Mania, Shit, and Blood within this wretched estate, we'd arrived at the deepest circle of hell, or its deepest pit, but we're overlooking this place from a window. Pasolini's use of space in these final shots is unnerving, and sound as well. (On that note, those war planes that groan in the background of some scenes are more ominous than any score.) We don't hear any of the screams of the victims, but just the radio in the room and the occasional voice of the libertine who's watching. And course, the creepiest of the libertines tells a joke about death since that's been his gimmick this entire time and a cavalier display of his power. We talked about jokes earlier, and I think Pasolini winds up making laughter one of the most terrifying sounds in the film. We never get to see what happens after this ritual of torture and murder is completed. The libertines on the ground do the can-can in hell, but there are still more tortures and more victims. There's no clean up, no departure from the estate, no sense of the libertines exhausting their desire for murder. Instead, we have a dance between the young guards to the song that opens the movie. I once thought there was some glimmer of hope in that final shot, but I've come to realize that this is a movie without any hope. The movie is its own circle of hell containing these other circles. The libertines succeed, the center of hell is just outside the window, and the future dances without doing anything about it. Alec: The image of the young man with his tongue being pulled by pliers is one of the most recognizable from the film, I think (primarily because it was featured on the cover of Criterion's original DVD release), but it's hardly the most grotesque image in that sequence. After a film of horrific actions but relatively minimal violence, the bloodletting comes as a particular shock. You see a cut throat and some bullet wounds, but nothing particularly gory. It's matter of fact and then it's done, even if the camera lingers on that cut throat for quite some time. But in that finale, the punishments come and they come hard. As the libertines watch from the window through their little binoculars, we are treated for the first time to the real closeups of violence that the film has never given us. But it's also the most overtly voyeuristic sequence. I mentioned before that the detached nature makes you feel a bit like a peeping tom, but in this sequence the rules change. For the first time, you are a part of it. You see through the eyes of the libertines as they revel in the torture and death of these kids. For once, you're complicit. As an aside, I find it fascinating that the one libertine who we see a more depressed side of throughout the film is the one who does not get to enjoy the sights from the comfort of the throne. He's always in the thick of it. All of this is an assault on the audience, though, the moments that truly hope to shock them out of complacency. The ending, in its apparent hopefulness, is the same. It's resigned to failure, to the belief that the battle against fascism has been lost. These kids get to dance, as do the libertines, while the unwashed masses lie dead and dying in the dirt. They get to think about their future, about going home to their girlfriends. They get to have a future, and there will be no punishment. Even worse, you get to see them revel in it. To quote your review of Bela Tarr's The Turin Horse: "Just how bleak can it get? None more bleak." Later This Month... You're going to get a double dose of The Cult Club this month since we had to push Salo back for the Tribeca Film Festival. And this time we're going with much lighter fare. With the fifth season of Louie winding down on FX, we're going to look at a cult movie that was extremely influential to Louis CK: Robert Downey Sr.'s 1969 satire Putney Swope. PREVIOUSLY SHOWING ON THE CULT CLUB The Last Dragon (1985) Tromeo and Juliet (1996) Samurai Cop (1989) El Mariachi (1992) Six-String Samurai (1998)
The Cult Club: Salo photo
"All's good if it's excessive"
Peir Paolo Pasolini's final film, Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom, is one of the most notorious arthouse movies ever made and frequently cited among the most disturbing movies of all time. Inspired by the Marquis de Sade'...

Tribeca Review: Maggie

May 08 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219246:42343:0[/embed] MaggieDirector: Henry HobsonRelease Date: May 8, 2015 (limited)Rating: PG-13 Wade (Schwarzenegger) brings his daughter Maggie home from the city after she's attacked by a zombie. Bite victims slowly turn. Symptoms include necrosis, cataracts, dizzy spells, respiratory problems, and a heightened sense of smell. It's only a matter of time before Maggie will need to be killed or sent to a quarantine center, and the latter may be a worse fate. At certain points of Maggie, I was struck by how Schwarzenegger has aged in an interesting way. The texture of his face is like tree bark from certain angles and in certain light. More than that, the expressiveness of his brow and his eyes has increased. Same goes for his mouth, as if the stoic straight line we're accustomed to from his blockbusters is able to communicate more with age. It's not just a one-liner dispenser, and his scowls seem layered. Patiently holding a shot on Schwarzenegger has the potential to reveal his inner emotional machinery. This unexpected depth in Schwarzengger's performance comes mostly from the film's quiet moments. In one scene, like something out of a Terrence Malick film or an Andrew Wyeth painting, Wade wanders a field introspectively. His silhouette from behind has a heftier grimness in the dimming light. It's impossible to forget he's Arnold Schwarzenegger, and yet maybe the moment works better than it would otherwise because it's Arnold Schwarzenegger trying to negate his own Arnold-Schwarzenegger-ness for the sake of the story. Maggie is at its best when it uses zombie-ism to explore the impending loss of a loved one to a terminal illness. In Maggie's case, it's about coming to terms with the inevitability of death. Had Schwarzenegger not been cast, the film would have been billed as a showcase for Breslin. She carries at least half of the film. (She's the title character, after all.) When not succumbing to fits of dread, Maggie tries to live just like a teenager. There's a normalcy about living with her condition. In a brief sidetrip from the farmhouse, we see Maggie with her friends being carefree before going back to high school in the fall. Infected or not, to them, at least for now, she's still Maggie. The film's handful of missteps have less to do with the performances than the occasional saccharine note in the script. Bits here and there feel a little too much like "father and daughter bonding" beats in a movie. Breslin and Schwarzenegger perform them well, but the actors seem more natural when exchanging small looks and little lines together throughout the film rather than dedicating a full scene to semi-expository bonding. An accretion of affection is almost always preferable to a tenderness dump. For a film that's propelled more by its quiet moments, the wind down of Maggie features an overbearing bombast in the sound design and David Wingo's otherwise low-key score. It undermines some of the control that Hobson maintains for the film, and I wonder how much better a scene or two would play if they were muted. This might be one of the few times that anyone's called for an even quieter and more delicate finale to a movie featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, but in Maggie, the performances are able to do the emotional heavy lifting on their own.
Maggie Review photo
I know now why you cry
Maggie is one of the last things you'd expect out of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Abigail Breslin, who plays the title character? Okay. Joely Richardson, who plays Maggie's stepmother? Sure. But not Arnie. Though Maggie's a post-ap...

Vacation reboot gets a trailer and it is what it is (NSFW)

May 07 // Matthew Razak
[embed]219416:42367:0[/embed]
Vacation reboot trailer photo
Is Walley World really worth it?
If you're of a certain age than National Lampoon's Vacation is pretty much sacred comedy territory. A movie that you fondly remember watching repeatedly on VHS or whatever random station it popped up on, followed, of cou...

Review: Reality

May 05 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219356:42363:0[/embed] RealityDirector: Quentin DupieuxRelease Date: May 1, 2015Rating: NR On some level, this review is the third part in a series on Quentin Dupieux's absurdist rollercoaster. In March of 2013, he blew me away with Wrong, making it the first film I ever broke the nearly-impossible-to-break 95+ barrier for. It changed the way I viewed cinema, the requirement for such a high score. It proved to me that absurdist cinema is a thing that can exist in a way that’s every bit as brilliant as absurdist theatre. It was eye-opening, and I loved it. Later that year, he released Wrong Cops. To put it bluntly, Wrong Cops is garbage. My review of the film features the line, "I wanted to punch a baby." With Wrong, I called Dupieux a modern-day auteur. With Wrong Cops, I wondered if it had just been a fluke. Wrong received a 95, Wrong Cops a 35. (Undoubtedly the most severe drop in scores seen on this site.) But whereas Wrong Cops was built on the premise of the previous film (while learning absolutely none of the lessons from it), Reality was something new. The only image I saw, the one on the poster, looked like the kind of thing I had wanted from Wrong Cops and gotten from Wrong. I was willing to chalk Wrong Cops up as the fluke, not Wrong. So for me, there was a lot riding on Reality, because I really, really wanted to like it.  Reality is at its best when it embraces its absurdist roots. Wrong Cops' fundamental failing was its inability to create a world where everyone accepted that things were weird. There were absurdist characters in a real-ish world. Reality threatens to be that sometimes. Case in point: The film opens with a man killing a wild boar. He brings it home and guts it. In the boar is a blue VHS tape. He simply throws it into the trash along with all the intestines. So far so good. At dinner, the young girl asks why there would be a video tape in a hog. There is a discussion about the fact that that wouldn't make any sense. For a moment, I was worried that we were in Wrong Cops: Round 2. It turns out, though, that the movie we are watching is, probably (and I emphasize probably), a movie within this movie. And suddenly it is acceptable again. People in the movie within the movie can comment on things that don't make sense. And, honestly, questioning the logistics of any given action can work in a grand sense as long as the response is always something to the effect of, "Because duh. That's why." There are plenty of times when characters in Reality question their surroundings, but the answers to their questions never actually answer the questions. In fact, they rarely even acknowledge the question's intent. This world makes sense to them, and if someone else is a little bit confused, it's fine, because they'll get into it before too long. There is no one in the film who is simply incapable of accepting the absurdities of the world, even if they are mildly annoyed by some of the specifics. And so the pendulum swings back. And as the film delves further and further into its own demented logic, all worries fade away. This is absurdism. And though it isn't as universally effective as Wrong, it has its own contributions to the genre. Wrong 2 would be stale. So we need to go somewhere else. In fact, Reality comes off as a response to Wrong's single sorta-failing. Late in the film, a series of events happen, only to be revealed as a dream or hallucination or something to that effect. When I realized what that meant for the narrative, I was originally sorta angry, before realizing that it totally didn’t matter in any way, shape, or form. It simply was, whether it happened or not. Reality is that sequence taken to its logical extreme. You might have expected that, considering it’s called Reality. You never know if something is real, a dream, a movie, a movie within a dream, a dream within a movie, a dream within a dream within a movie, or any number of other options. Any given moment could be any number of these things. It’s probably several at once. You don’t know it at first, of course, because you’re stuck within one version of reality, but as soon as it starts to bend, suddenly the genius of the whole thing becomes clear. Rubber would have been more interesting as a play. Wrong is more interesting as a movie, but it could become a reasonably compelling play without any fundamental changes to its narrative. Reality is a movie, and there is no way it could be translated to the stage. Of course, the fact that it’s about movies and about making movies helps that, but it’s more complicated than that. Take a punchline that comes relatively early on: A film producer is complaining to a director about how he uses too much filmstock because he won’t just say cut. The camera just keeps rolling for no reason. And then we move to a new character driving a jeep. And driving. And driving. And driving. It’s amazing. It’s perfect, even. (Honestly, the entire sequence that follows is flawless and is easily my favorite part of the film.) It’s also uniquely cinematic. And many of the tricks used to obfuscate reality (e.g. blatantly obvious continuity errors) are medium-specific as well. When Reality’s credits rolled, I thought, “Thank god.” Thank god that Wrong Cops was a fluke, because we need someone like Quentin Dupieux. But I also thought that it was still a step back from Wrong. And in many ways, it absolutely is. But though it may be a few steps back, it also takes some important strides forward. Reality makes sense as a follow-up to Wrong. He’s proved that the medium can be home to brilliant, absurdist narratives. And now he’s pushing those boundaries that he created. He may not be as wildly successful on every level, but it would be more disappointing to see something stagnant. Reality is new, and it paves a pathway for the future of the genre. And I’m positively giddy about what that future might hold.
Reality Review photo
Or something like it
I imagine that the script for Reality is caustic. That it antagonizes the reader and makes for something that is even less comprehensible on paper than it is on screen. Rather than following the regular format, it's prob...

Indiana Jones 5 photo
Why did it have to be sequels?
When Disney bought LucasFilm pretty much everyone got excited about Star Wars, but they picked up another franchise that was in series need of saving: Indiana Jones. We all remember where we left that one, right? Space aliens...


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