science fiction

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Pitch reel shows what Paramount's John Carter would have been like


Still would have flopped
Jul 06
// Matthew Razak
John Carter was a massive flop for Disney, but it wasn't because the film was terrible. It was actually a fun science fiction throwback with some great sequences. No, it flopped because Disney had no faith in it so it be...

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...

#IDR photo
#IDR

Independence Day 2 now called Independence Day Resurgence


We don't need now stinking commas
Jun 23
// Matthew Razak
Independence Day 2 now has an official title: Independence Day Resurgence. There's no colon there so it is in fact July 4 that is having a resurgence, and not a subtitle. Punctuation aside this title fits in pretty well with ...

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...

All Star Wars All at Once photo
All Star Wars All at Once

Watch all six Star Wars movies at the same time and be driven mad


All-out War this palimpsest is!
Jun 18
// Hubert Vigilla
"Have you watched all of the Star Wars movies?" "Yeah, of course, dude." "No, no, no. I mean, have you watched all of the Star Wars movies AT THE SAME TIME?!" Such is Star Wars Wars, created by senior Archer animator Marcus ...
#Truth photo
#Truth

Channing Tatum doesn't know what Jupiter Ascending was either


But seriously, what was it?
Jun 18
// Matthew Razak
Anyone who saw Jupiter Ascending probably had the question, "What the actual f**k?" run through their minds at some point. Evidently Channing Tatum had that exact same thought while making it.  During a Reddit AMA t...

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'...

The Martian Trailer photo
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...

Ewan McGregor Star Wars photo
Ewan McGregor Star Wars

Rumor: Ewan McGregor may return as Obi-Wan Kenobi for new the Star Wars films


The paycheck is strong with this one
Jun 04
// Hubert Vigilla
Get your rumor caps on and keep the blastshields down, kids. There are rumors that Ewan McGregor is in negotiations with Disney to return as Obi-Wan Kenobi for the new glut of Star Wars movies that are coming out. Obi-Wan wou...
Not Marvin photo
Not Marvin

Plenty of first looks at Ridley Scott's The Martian


A return to space-faring form?
May 26
// Matthew Razak
The novel The Martian is still in my must read pile, but it's supposed to be a fantastic and science-based tale of space survival, which is basically Ridley Scott's wheelhouse, so the adaptation is basically made for the...

Review: Dark Star: H.R. Giger's World

May 14 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219427:42372:0[/embed] Dark Star: H.R. Giger's World (Dark Star: HR Giger's Welt)Director: Belinda SallinRelease Date: May 15, 2015 (limited)Rating: NRCountry: Germany/Switzerland Dark Star: H. R. Giger's World is a fans-only sort of film. His art is striking, imposing, especially given the sheer size and scope of it. Even Giger's oversized art books like Necronomicon I or Necronomicon II--essential texts for fans of dark fantasy who came of age in the 80s and 90s--can't begin to convey the scale. In one room of the Giger Museum, the walls are covered in an ornate tableau of pale cyborg women worshiping Baphomet; a recurring motif of columns topped with the heads of babies look like rows of necrotic phalluses, and any gap in a wall is a potential mechanoid vagina. The film doesn't give much of a scaffold of appreciation for non-Giger fans, though, or any sense of his position as a figure in the underground and punk/new wave movement, or just how many people have been influenced by his creations. The archival footage that shows Giger creating his artwork is more illuminating than the comments from friends and family. The commentary about his art is the same series of platitudes that have been said about Giger for years: darkness, a technological and organic blend, ugly eroticism, the night of the soul. Even as a fans-only proposition, Dark Star tells Giger fans things they've known for years rather than adding new dimensions or depth. When we see a young Giger work, there's excitement even if the footage is familiar. He allows images to spray out quickly from his subconscious onto paper through an airbrush. He doesn't sketch ahead of time but simply lets the images flow from him, as if any additional intermediary between brain, ink, and surface would occlude the process of rendering his multi-textured dream world. It's a tragic counterpoint to the elderly Giger. Gargle-voiced and hunched over, his demeanor suggests he's been hobbled by a stoke in old age. He struggles to sign his name, and his speech has a labored quality. He wanders his home, which is domestic in some parts and Giger-esque in others. I wish Dark Star had explored the Giger house and its layout in greater detail since it seems like his home is his entire world; it's not Harlan Ellision's eccentric abode (aka The Lost Aztec Temple of Mars), but it does have a train track and a dining room fit for xenomorph royalty. For some artists, the space in which they work is a manifestation of the interior world that makes the work possible. The only art Giger creates for Sallin's camera is a pencil sketch of a familiar form--the delineation of a phallus maybe, the suggestion of a passage possibly, the general enticement of sex. But the sketch is only a wireframe rather than a fully realized idea. Giger may be in pain as he speaks, which is why so much of the talking is done by others for him in the documentary. He smiles, though, and when Giger smiles, there's a genuine warmth to it. It's like watching the last glimmers of light in a darkening room.
H.R. Giger's World Review photo
A fans-only look at H. R. Giger that may disappoint Giger fans
H. R. Giger passed away a year ago this week. His biomechanical art is instantly recognizable--Egyptian and yet otherworldly, simultaneously erotic and repulsive; a combination of flesh, alloy, suppurations, and vertebral for...

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. 
Mad Max Review photo
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...

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'...

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Terminator: Genisys still spoiling things with character posters


Guess they just gave up
May 11
// Matthew Razak
Serious SPOILERS incoming. When Paramount released the last trailer for Terminator: Genysis they spoiled what appeared to be a major plot point that would have helped to hook people in. We all just assumed it was a mista...

Tribeca Review: Jackrabbit

Apr 28 // Hubert Vigilla
JackrabbitDirector: Carleton RanneyRelease Date: n/aRating: n/a In Jackrabbit, an event has left the world in a kind of 80s techno stasis. Cities are sealed away pockets of civilization that people are not allowed to leave. Hacking is alive and well despite pervasive government surveillance, with a lo-fi look to the tech that recalls Darren Aronofsky's Pi. The two leads are Max (Ian Christopher Noel), a paranoid anti-establishment type whose name might be a reference to Pi, and Simon (Josh Caras), a sellout who takes a job with an Apple/Microsoft analog. A mutual hackeer friend killed himself but left behind a mysterious hard drive. And then stuff happens, but the events are so thin and so glacially paced that I lost interest pretty early. Jackrabbit s a thriller without thrills. Even Max and Simon don't seem too engrossed in the mystery, leisurely plodding from place to place and scene to scene. They meet a friend of their dead friend (I think?) named Grace (Joslyn Jensen), and they hang out with her. They listen to a record and drink some whiskey, and Jackrabbit continues its odd stasis, generating a mood rather than using its mood to help propel a story. In my notes I wrote, "At least they look like they're having fun." What's interesting about the VHS impression movies like Jackrabbit and Beyond the Black Rainbow is precisely that disconnect between mood per se and mood in service to or an outgrowth of a story or characters. Jackrabbit is successful at recreating the look and feel of a VHS film, but it exists only as an impression. I remember some images more than I remember the film itself, which might be a testament to the visual sense of the production design and how well shot it is despite its budget limitations. Yet I don't think the film is as successful as Beyond the Black Rainbow (which I didn't even like), which had greater ambition and virtuosity in its images than Jackrabbit. Maybe virtuosity that goes beyond mere impression allows people to mine larger ideas from the succession of images. Jackrabbit feels like a mere impression, though, both in terms of how vaguely I can recall it and in terms of how it recreates the work of the VHS era. It may have been more memorable if its mood were in service to something other than mood itself. Maybe I want more from a movie than the accurate recreation of the kind of movie I'll mostly forget about.
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An impression of the 80s but not memorable
The vibe of Jackrabbit, a no-budget dystopian cyberpunk thriller, was inspired by trips to the video store. Its whole mood is defined by vaguely remembered VHS box art, and the types of films that fill a person's childhoo...

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Bull Pullman and Judd Hirsch returning for Independence Day sequel


Today is our Independence Day... again!
Apr 20
// Matthew Razak
The man who delivered the greatest presidential speech in the history of cinema is returning to the franchise he delivered it in. Bill Pullman will be coming back for the Independence Day sequel and joining him is Judd Hirsch...
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Terminator 5

Newest Terminator: Genisys trailer sure has a lot of spoilers


Seriously, so many
Apr 14
// Nick Valdez
While I've been all for Terminator: Genisys' kitchen sink approach in rebooting the series, maybe I've spoken too soon. Whoever's marketing the film just went and completely spoiled the film's big twist for the film's second...

Review: The Reconstruction of William Zero

Apr 09 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219259:42319:0[/embed] The Reconstruction of William ZeroDirector: Dan BushRelease Date: April 10, 2015Rating: NR The Reconstruction of William Zero should have been called The Reconstruction of William Blakely. I say this for two reasons: 1) It's a more accurate representation of the film's premise, and 2) It's a better name. The thing that turned me away from the film initially was its title, specifically the "Zero." It's too generic, too expository. You know right off the bat that William Zero is something different, probably a clone. And you'd be right. He is a clone. But that's far too simplistic. (And in the context of the film, it's honestly kind of nonsensical.) William Blakely, on the other hand? That's just a name. Not the most interesting name, granted, but the concept of human (re)construction implies cloning without explicitly saying cloning. It hints at a thing. William Zero is transparent; William Blakely is translucent. So who's William Blakely? Well, that's the big question that the film (sort of) tries to answer. He's a man defined by what he's done, not who he is. William Blakely killed his son. He was busy talking on the phone and pulling out of his driveway when his son rode by on a bicycle. Soon after, he separated from his wife. He works at the Next Corp, a genetic research facility where they are working on, among other things, the ability to clone live animals. What they really focus on, though, is rapid aging. They take cells and age them 30 years in just a few months. A clone of a 30something year old man is rebuilt in 15 months. Eventually, William stole some samples and cloned himself for reasons that are both depressing and fascinating. What director Dan Bush tried to do here is extremely difficult, and he should be commended for mostly succeeding most of the time. As might be expected in a film about clones, one actor, in this case Conal Byrne, is required to play multiple roles. Frequently, he is playing multiple roles in the same scene, doing various things with his double. If this were a big budget production, like something David Fincher might do or the excellent Orphan Black, you can use fancy equipment and CG to create a natural feeling. You never even think about them being the same person because you don't look at the screen and see a trick. But what about a low budget? You don't have the ability to stitch together different performances or replace one actor's head with another's. So what do you do? Well, you can either do this by using over-the-shoulder shots and other angles that only put one character on screen at a time, or you can set the camera on a tripod and crop multiple takes together. It's rare that a indie film will so heavily rely on a trick like this, because you start to notice very quickly what is being done to work around the limitations. The few shots that clearly required a more complicated setup aren't enough to make up for the fact that the vast majority of these sequences look like this: But I feel for the director, because it's really fucking hard to do what he's doing. And given limited resources, I think it works about as well as it could. But I harp on this because, for the first twenty minutes or so, I thought that the film was going to be crushed under the weight of its own ambition. That time was interesting, but once I had become acquainted with its style, I was looking for something more. And I was worried that I wasn't going to get it. But those worries were unfounded, because not long after, the clones leave each other. They interact with the outside world, and the camera tricks are gone, allowing for the legitimately gorgeous cinematography to come to the forefront. It becomes something far more compelling (both visually and narratively). And so whenever they were together, I was looking forward to the next time they were apart. Even though these should be some of the most emotionally charged moments of the film, they're really the least.  Which isn't to say they don't function at all, but that the impact is muted. Byrne does a good job of putting on the distinct personalities required by each version of himself, and he's believable all the way through. You can tell almost immediately who's who, and not just by their slightly different hair styles. It's difficult to really imagine how a person might handle their clone, but the inherently unrealistic concept never feels that way. Even if the film itself feels a bit stilted, the situations do not. It seemed entirely plausible that someone in a situation like Blakely's might do something like this, and that this would be how he interacted with his clone. But it's nonetheless more interesting to see how William and William Zero interact with the world around them and the people they are both forced to meet, all of which is in service of learning more about the way these characters view the world and themselves. Because ultimately it is a film about characters trying to understand Why. As the narrative flashed forward and backward, cutting between now and then, memories and implausibly well-shot home video footage, I didn't expect the film to explain itself. I expected a Shane Carruth "Figure it out yourself" attitude. For the first two-thirds, it seems to be going in that direction. It's only in the final act when things become clear(er), sadly through the use of expository monologues. And I'm conflicted here, because without those monologues, the film would be opaque. Motivations wouldn't be clear, and that would cause its own problems. Having the monologues is helpful, because though you don't need the explanation, you want it. At least a little bit. There are hints, here and there, though, and for much of the film those seemed to be enough. But then all of a sudden that changes. You learn something interesting about the way clones work, and then you realize, "Oh shit! That means...!" But because it's such a fundamental part of the narrative, you don't get to feel good about figuring it out on your own; it has to be explained soon after. It almost seems to be reaching for two audiences. There are the ones who want a Shane Carruth film, and then there are the ones who don't. The Reconstruction of William Zero tries to find a happy medium, but I don't know if that's even possible. Which doesn't mean this is a film without an audience, however. It does, and the audience is far broader than anything Carruth has done (or likely will do). But whatever else it is, it is fundamentally a a cerebral indie sci-fi film, and the kind of people who enjoyed Upstream Color and last year's Coherence will find a lot to like here. It's a compelling take on cloning and purpose, about trying to understand what makes you you, and what it might mean to be someone else's proxy. The narrative questions may be answered, but the deeper ethical and philosophical questions remain. And those questions are fascinating, the sort that could spark days-long discussions in coffee shops all around the country. I've been comparing Dan Bush to Shane Carruth as though he's a lesser filmmaker, but that's absolutely not the case. The film may feel familiar, but it doesn't feel like a rip-off or even a deliberate homage or emulation. It feels like another filmmaker coming to the same cinematic conclusions that Carruth has. And that's exciting, because we need more filmmakers like that, and we need more films like The Reconstruction of William Zero.
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Quite Carruth
I spent the entire 97 minute runtime of The Reconstruction of William Zero thinking about Shane Carruth. It's not a Carruth film, but it feels like the kind of film he would make. It's discontinuous, scientifically complex wh...

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Because you don't own it enough ways
Star Wars has always been a bit behind the curve in releasing the series' films on new platforms much to the chagrin of its fans. It took forever to get them on DVD and then forever again to get them on Blu-ray, and now ...

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New images for Terminator: Genisys still don't explain title spelling


Looking good, Arnold
Mar 24
// Matthew Razak
Been dying for a nice long look at Arnold Schwarzenegger reprising his role as the T100? Good, here's your chance. Empire has released a host of new images for the film and there's a nice one of Schwarzenegger looking down right handsome in his old age. Think he's wearing a girdle? Not much else new here, but at least they're better than the first look we had.  [via Collider]

Review: The Divergent Series: Insurgent

Mar 19 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]218713:42049:0[/embed] The Divergent Series: InsurgentDirector: Robert SchwentkeRelease Date: March 20, 2015Rating: PG-13  To use some teenage lingo, Insurgent is YA AF. The only thing I'd really heard about the Divergent series was that it's about as derivative as one of these things can be, and Insurgent is proof positive that that's so. I don't know how fair it was to compare Divergent to The Hunger Games beyond the broad strokes, but it's sure as hell fair to compare Insurgent to Mockingjay - Part 1. I wouldn't go so far as to say they're the same movie, but they're pretty gosh darn similar. If you know the basic beats of one film, you can pretty much figure out where the other one is going. A young woman with a silly name, Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), is caught up as the centerpiece to her dystopian future's brewing civil war. She's different, you see, and that makes her a target for the city's light-haired tyrant. She's also upset about everything, and having nightmares about all of the terrible things she's had to do in order to survive. She's sad and doesn't want to keep going, because she knows doing so will hurt the people she's closest to. Sound familiar? Yeah, it does. The specifics are different, sure: there are Factions instead of Districts and Donald Sutherland's President Snow is replaced by Kate Winslet's Jeanine, who is equally ruthless but far less interesting. Tris isn't the Mockingjay, she's Divergent, which means that she's ostensibly a multi-faceted character. In a world where everyone is shoe-horned into one personality type or another, be that Candor, Dauntless, Erudite, Amity, or Abnegation, Divergent are able to be honest, fearless, intelligent, kind, and selfless (respectively) all at once, or some combination thereof. Tris is particularly Divergent, which is why she's the protagonist. But maybe you already knew that. So let's talk about something else.  A while back, I wrote about how shocking the violence in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was. Not necessarily because the violence was so intense in and of itself (though it was), but because it was in a film made for young people. Usually the violence in PG-13 movies is something kind of like "fun," even when it's brutal. The hardcore stuff that makes you cringe is generally left to the R rating. Catching Fire subverted that and was yet more proof that the MPAA's ratings make no goddamn sense. Insurgent doesn't do that. There is a lot of violence in the film, but nearly all of it is implied. There are at least six separate moments where a character points a gun at someone's head, the camera shifts the victim off screen, and then the aggressor pulls the trigger. And if it cuts to a wide shot, there's no blood. In fact, the most horrific image of the entire film is misleading. You might think that dozens (or hundreds) of people have been killed, but they're just asleep. The film's general bloodlessness makes the difference between death and naptime conceptual rather than visceral. There are a lot of reasons why that's probably worse for developing minds, but that's really beyond the scope of this review. I bring it up because it means that the stakes in Insurgent never feel particularly high. Obviously Tris is never going to die, so even when a dozen trained soldiers are all firing automatic weapons in her general direction, every single bullet misses, but even moments with characters who could (and/or do) kick the bucket aren't tense. If something really bad is going to happen, we're not going to see it, and it'll be as palatable as humanly possible. (I expect the book is a bit more hardcore in this respect, though I couldn't say for sure.) But this puts me at an impasse: I don't necessarily want my 15 year old sister subjected to a film that accurately demonstrates the true horrors of war... but I also don't think the horrors of war should be sanitized for the entertainment value of my 15 year old sister. But the reality is that I'm overthinking it. That's a question that matters in the grand scheme of things, but it doesn't really matter in relation to Insurgent, because Insurgent needs to be taken at face value. If you go into Insurgent with great expectations, you'll be disappointed. If you go in expecting something that can stand on a level with the Hunger Games films, you'll be disappointed. But why would you do either of those things? Did you see the trailers? I mean, come on. I saw a short teaser in theaters before Mockingjay, featuring some of the worst CGI I've seen this decade, and I actually thought it was a joke. (The visuals have improved slightly in the final film, but they're still pretty damn bad.) No one should be expecting Insurgent to blow them away, and that's the right attitude to start with. Because Insurgent will not blow you away. But that doesn't mean it's not necessarily worthwhile. It's certainly got some things going for it: It's reasonably entertaining, features generally attractive people, and the ultimate message, generic and predictable as it may be, is a good one. Plus, it feels like a complete narrative. And that's actually what impressed me most. One of the biggest criticisms leveled against Divergent was related to its cliffhanger ending. The whole thing (apparently) felt like setup for this film. But if I didn't know that there was a third book in the Divergent trilogy (or two more movies being released under the Divergent Series tag), I would actually think that this film was the end. It wraps up rather quickly, and perhaps a bit too neatly, but everything that actually matters gets dealt with. As the credit rolled, I felt satisfied by the conclusion, something I cannot say about the past two Hunger Games films. It may end (literally) with a bang, but it's not a cliffhanger, and though I understand how it sets up the next film, it's also put together in such a way that it could be its own ending. I appreciated that. A lot. The film had started to lose me a little bit, but the ending brought me right back on its side. I won't pretend like I loved Insurgent (or that I'm not very excited to see what Cinema Sins has to say about it), but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I didn't dislike it. If you can't stand YA, you're not going to like it. Period. It doesn't transcend its genre in any way, shape, or form. But if you can accept it for what it is and perhaps even embrace its occasional blandness, you could really do a lot worse.
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Why not?
I never saw the original Divergent. I'm not a preteen girl or Flixist News Editor Nick Valdez, which means I have to ration my YA intake. I can only handle so many dystopian fantasies about chosen-ones that spend all the...

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Ex Machina

Newest Ex Machina trailer looks fantastic


Mar 19
// Nick Valdez
I'm the kind of jerk that always has to make some sort of "Mr. Roboto" reference every time I see a film with an advanced robot or artificial intelligence, but Ex Machina is the first film in quite a while to make me second ...

Flixist Discusses: Neill Blomkamp

Mar 11 // Jackson Tyler
[embed]219104:42263:0[/embed] Jackson: Let’s start with District 9. To me, it’s a very muddy film from a talented first-time director, one with incredibly strong and affecting moments, but more than a little incoherent, thematically speaking. There’s stunning moments, like Wikus’ eviction tour through the District, and the weapon test scenes. But it just doesn’t know what to do after that first act; it’s made its point about apartheid, its made its point about the evils of bureaucracy, and then the arcs just feel perfunctory. Wikus redeems himself, technically, but that doesn’t have any bearing on what the film is trying to say. It’s a great example of a short film expanded to full length that just couldn’t support it. This is opposed to Elysium, which I think makes the story an active part of its metaphor, not just a necessary element of a movie that exists to slap an allegory to (but we’ll get to that later). What did you think of District 9? Matt: Reading that, I don’t think our opinions on District 9 differ all that much, Jackson. I don’t hate the film – far from it – but I think it’s a very flawed film that struggles to find a deeper message, if it has one at all. As you said, that first act is pretty great – it’s thematically rich and visually interesting, leaning on the mockumentary format to immerse the viewer into this world that’s so similar to our own yet so different. Even if the viewer is ignorant of the historical apartheid that District 9 draws inspiration from, Blomkamp really sells the horror and injustice of the setting. But I think it kind of loses steam after that first act – it all but drops the mockumentary format, and it moves into more generic sci-fi territory. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, necessarily; not every science fiction story has to have some deeper message about the real world nestled within, although some of the best often do. It’s just that that first act is so rich in that sense that I can’t help but find the rest of the film disappointing – it feels like Blomkamp says what he wants to say on a deeper level in the first 20-30 minutes but keeps going until he hits a more feature-friendly length.  Jackson: Exactly, Blomkamp made his point tonally rather than narratively. It was a metaphor that existed to be a metaphor, it drew parallels and then once that world was established, it tacked a story on to the back of that. The manner in which Christopher’s mission is carried out is ultimately weak, and doesn’t tell us anything about him, his race or his world. It’s strange when you watch the movie, because District 9 changes in front of your eyes from pointed and angry, to bland and generic. And don’t get me wrong, I really like District 9, because like you say, a film doesn’t have to be this perfectly coherent thing to be good, but I don’t think its inaccurate to say that both its flaws and successes are those of a relative newcomer. Then - and I think this is why everyone was put off - in Elysium, Blomkamp proceeds to drop the realism, the documentary gimmick, and double down on the generic elements. Elysium is a silly genre movie much like the back half of District 9 is, It never reaches his prior film’s heights, but as a whole piece, it’s more assured and together. I know my Elysium opinions are far from the norm, so I’m curious as to how you saw that movie. Matt: I think you’re correct when you say Elysium is ultimately a more assured piece than District 9, but I also think some of that movie's narrative and constructive flaws are more apparent in Elysium. Blomkamp’s second feature outing again puts us in a not-so-out-there sci-fi world - this time a little more than 100 years in the future instead of District 9’s alternate present - in which he seems to be crafting a narrative to comment on very relevant social issues. The message seems to be kind of muddled from the start though - is he commenting on wealth inequality? Class warfare? Labor issues? Immigration? Access to healthcare? It seems to shift which of those it’s “about” at any given moment during the first act and, while it’s true that those issues have a tendency to overlap in the real world, in Elysium it just comes out feeling muddy and confusing. Of course, this is just for the first act - like District 9, Elysium seems to largely abandon the prospect of a deeper message after that first act in favor of something akin to a heist movie and a more generic sci-fi action sequence to cap things off. I can never shake the feeling that Blomkamp seems to establish really interesting worlds ripe for exploration (both thematically and visually) which are quickly set aside in favor of material I consider less compelling. Don’t get me wrong - Blomkamp has a hell of a style, and his films are visually interesting throughout and his action scenes are kinetic and fun to watch; I just find it drops most of the intellectually engaging material after the first act. But I’ve rambled on enough for now - I have a feeling my view is fairly in line with popular opinion and you suggested yours deviates from that, so I’m interested to hear your thoughts. Jackson: So to me, Elysium is a film about revolution. The reason for Elysium’s success is every character’s clear, selfish motivation. It sets up all those ideas of wealth inequality, class warfare, immigration, what have you, in order to build this broad strokes world in which every character is desperately trapped. The key scene is when Matt Damon is arrested for making a joke, his humanity repeatedly denied as he’s passed from robot to robot, and reminded of his throwaway nature to this society. Elysium is not a movie about any of those ideas individually, it is about when all of those factors add reach a breaking point, and the status quo can no longer sustain itself. It got a lot of flack for being a preachy film, but I feel this is a thorough misunderstanding of the movie’s message. Nobody in Elysium is a good person, none of those who carry out the revolution are doing it because it is the right thing to do. They’re doing it because they are desperate, because they have a need that isn’t being fulfilled by the world as it is, and they have an opportunity to change it for themselves. What Elysium lacks in nuanced social critique, it by far makes up for in the understanding of systemic inequality as a concept. What Blomkamp presents is not the heroic few fighting for their freedom, but merely the collapse of a system that is incapable of sustaining itself. And he does all that within a film that is far more content to be this ridiculous genre piece. Look at Sharlto Copley’s knife! This isn’t a film that wants to be capital I Important in the way that District 9 did, it wants to be this ridiculous, silly sci-fi action flick that just happens to be backed up by a broad but clear thematic push. Like a Verhoeven movie, or even Jupiter Ascending (which, shocker, I’ll also defend for days). Matt: You make a really strong case there, Jackson. I think where our opinion differs is that I see what you see, but really only in the first act, maybe the first half of the film if I’m being generous. That sort of understanding of inequality is used as a means to an end, to motivate characters into positions where they can take part in big action setpieces. Contrast that with, say, Verhoeven, who finds a way to keep the darkly satirical commentary running throughout his films. At this point, though, I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least point out the impact that marketing and buzz and hype have had on Blomkamp’s movies and my mindset while viewing them. It’s sort of taken for granted that Blompkamp is a director with something to say – some of that is the way his movies have been marketed to the general public, some of that is the way his movies have been covered prior to release, some of that is from the movies themselves. It’s possible I’ve lost the ability to take his movies at face value and am judging them by what I expect them to be – which is, generally, more meaningful and socially relevant than they tend to be. Maybe that’s not a great way to try and consume these films, but isn’t that how all of us analyze our movies, in part? Besides, nothing exists in a vacuum and Blomkamp has certainly cultivated that reputation as a big ideas director, which seems to persist to this day, for reasons I can’t quite comprehend. Jackson: That's a key reason that I believe Chappie is, in many ways, a Blomkamp maturation. By this point, the veneer of making an important allegorical film is completely worn away: this is just a Verhoven movie, through and through. It’s tonally all over the place, it’s visually garish, and it’s a weird mix of violent action and childish earnestness that clearly comes from someone for whom Robocop was a formative experience. I mean: the plot of the movie is "A robo cop fights that robo cop from RoboCop!" I know some people consider that kind of aesthetic to be juvenile, but I honestly think embracing that sci-fi silliness in an earnest manner is a maturation. We’re getting a sense for Blomkamp’s voice by now, and it’s not at all the one he was originally pegged with. Where Chappie falls down, is that it’s thematically bankrupt. I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what the movie is about, and I saw it about three hours ago. I enjoyed it immensely, though I couldn’t really call it a good movie. It’s a failure, landing far short of every ambition it has, but the manner in which it falls down is glorious to behold. And like you say, much like Jupiter Ascending, this is another silly sci-fi film let down by its advertising (maybe we’ll get one of those every month this year! I should be so lucky). The advertisements - and even the opening moments of the movie itself - frame it as this grand story of artificial intelligence and humanity, and if you’re expecting that then of course you’re going to be disappointed. I saw comparisons to A.I. multiple times, but its approach to questions of humanity have way more in common with Total Recall. But as you say with Verhoven, his satire is strong, pointed and consistent, and whilst I do think Elysium’s counts (though I understand why others disagree), Chappie goes out of its way to be targetless and ends up saying nothing at all. That final act is a beautiful, incoherent disaster that really has to be seen to be believed.  Matt: I’m not sure I entirely agree that Blomkamp drops the veneer of having big ideas and something to say with Chappie. It’s a movie about artificial intelligence and what it means to be alive and to be human, but again, it walks right up to the door of saying something interesting about those ideas – or anything at all – and chooses to walk away and head home instead of ringing the doorbell. It’s got all the thematic depth of Short Circuit (or worse, Short Circuit 2), but with better cinematography and nicer set-pieces; though, Chappie might have been better served if he had gone 80s gutter-punk and chased down a mobster to Bonnie Tyler’s “I Need a Hero." It flirts with some really big ideas that would have been really interesting to explore. Hell, Chappie introduces a huge, seismic concept in the last 20 minutes of the movie andnone of the characters seem interested enough to comment on it even in passing, not even the one character directly impacted. But though Blomkamp’s worst tendencies are on display, some of his best are, too – his world-building and visual design is top-notch, and the dude can stage a killer action scene like few others, big scenes that pop even when two of the primary actors aren’t even real people. I enjoyed Chappie (though at some points more than others) but I don’t think it was a good movie or that I even liked it all that much, if that makes sense. Jackson: Chappie has ideas, but it doesn’t really care about them in the way that its prior efforts do. Those final twenty minutes are why I say it’s a film about nothing, because it includes all these sci-fi concepts, all these very serious topics that have been debated in film after film, then throws them in the air and (spoiler) turns all the main characters except south african macklemore into robots! It suddenly decides it’s going to be Lucy and all the characters are like “sure, I guess we’re gonna be robots now!” It’s entertaining to watch, even though the movie itself is thoroughly incoherent. It’s the rare kind of ‘bad movie’ which ends up making me more interested in the director’s forthcoming work. Before Chappie’s neon melodrama, I knew exactly in my mind what Blomkamp’s Alien movie was going to be. Now, I have no idea, and to me, that is incredibly exciting. Matt: Yeah, I think that last 20 minutes is where Blomkamp really reveals that he’s not terribly interested in exploring those big ideas. Dev Patel's Deon treats having his consciousness transferred into a robot as a curiosity, a minor annoyance at worst. This seems like it would be a big, big moment – not only has Chappie learned what consciousness is, he’s figured out how to transplant it, effectively opening the door for humanity to become immortal! Deon has just had his life irrevocably altered in ways he couldn’t have imagined, but Chappie glosses over this and all the big questions it raises without so much as a passing mention (not to mention how Deon just sort of rolls with it even before he puts that helmet on – you couldn’t have asked to be taken to the hospital?). In that way, I think, Chappie is sort of demonstrable of Blomkamp’s entire body of work (so far) and what I hope I’ve gotten across here – full of lofty ideas but entirely unwilling to engage with them in any real way, thus making the whole endeavor an extremely vapid affair that’s very, very enjoyable to look at. I guess when you get right down to it I can’t say I hate any of Blomkamp’s work, but I don’t think he deserves nearly as much praise as he tends to get. I’m intrigued by Blomkamp on Alien, in part because I hope working on an existing franchise will reign in some of his more troublesome filmmaking tendencies. But right now I can’t say I’m all that excited for it. Jackson: I don’t want him to reign in his more troublesome tendencies; if a franchise film smoothed Blomkamp’s rough edges that would be a tragedy. I want him to keep being him, striking out, and if he manages to hit gold, then that’s great. But ultimately, I don’t think “is Blomkamp good or bad?” is even a question worth asking. In a genre dominated by sequels and comic book adaptations, he’s at least trying to put out films with a unique voice, and at this point I’m along for the ride. I want him to keep reaching further than his grasp allows, because whether he falls or makes it, the end result is so much more more worthwhile than another Man Of Steel. If he starts making good but bland movies that could have been made by anyone? That’s worse than ten Chappies in a row.
Blomkamp Discussion photo
Which kamp do you fall into?
This past weekend saw the release of Chappie, third feature film from Neil Blomkamp, and it's safe to say reactions have been mixed. Per wrote a great review if you're on the fence about checking it out, but for those of...

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20 Star Wars books will set the stage for The Force Awakens


Your library card is gonna get a workout
Mar 11
// Matt Liparota
Now that Disney has obliterated the beloved-by-some Star Wars Expanded Universe – a massive collection of novels and other media chronicling the decades following Return of the Jedi – to clear the way for The Forc...
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Rumor: Tron 3 to star production in the Fall


Hollywood stockpiling neon colors
Mar 11
// Matthew Razak
When TRON: Legacy was released it was announced that it was the launch of a new franchise, and usually when a film is highly successful and is part of a franchise the rest of the movies come out pretty quick (disregardin...
Tomorrowland photo
Tomorrowland

Newest Tomorrowland Trailer is only a day away


Tomorrow, tomorrow
Mar 09
// Nick Valdez
Brad Bird's upcoming Tomorrowland is Disney's second attempt at turning one of their park attractions into a big film, but unlike the Pirates of the Caribbean series (which is starting work on the fifth one), Tomorrowland lo...

Review: Chappie

Mar 06 // Per Morten Mjolkeraaen
[embed]218822:42142:0[/embed] ChappieDirector: Neill BlomkampRelease Date: March 6, 2015Rating: RCountry: South Africa  So, how is it that a man with such a track record is called a visionary? Why did everyone and their mothers lose their minds when he announced that he’d be directing the next movie in the Alien franchise? Well, because the science fiction genre has struggled for years when it comes to high-concept movies. There are of course masterpieces like Primer, Moon, and Sunshine, but all these are fairly limited in scope (except possibly Sunshine). In the science fiction genre, Blomkamp's voice was a breath of fresh air. Plus, he had an incredible eye for detail and a fundamental understanding of both characters and environmental storytelling. In District 9, he created a believable universe to tell his high-concept story. In a fictional dystopian future, an alien race has landed on earth, only to be quarantined in the slums of Johannesburg, where a local newsagent (Sharlto Copley) gets infected with a virus. Without Blomkamp's earnest wish to actually realize a deeply personal and resonant story, the entire project would have fallen on its face as an over-ambitious alien invasion story. Sadly, over-ambitious is exactly what Elysium was. It had potential, but it was neutered by Blomkamp's inability to hold back on the sociopolitical commentary, made worse by heavy studio involvement.  In Chappie, he takes us back to the not so distant future, and yet again we are in a downtrodden Johannesburg – in this case, the first city to use a full blown mechanized police force, created by a bunch of poorly-utilized Hollywood faces: Sigourney Weaver is criminally underutilized as the big boss, and Hugh Jackman plays a sullen asshole with a Mullet haircut, who hates everyone around him because his project - an even bigger and badder robot - doesn't get anywhere. (Maybe because it needs a human mind to function.) Last, but certainly not least, there's Dev Patel, as the enthusiastic, ambitious youngster, who wants to create the first droid that can think and feel for itself. This he does, but sadly, they get taken (I can't use the word "kidnapped" post-Taken) by a trio of criminals - played by Die Antwoord's Ninja and Yolandi Visser as well as the more low-key Jose Pablo Cantillo.   They do this because they need to pull off an impossible heist so a super scary gangsta criminal warlord won't murder them, and what better way to do that, than with a droid at their side? They get Chappie. Metaphorically born before their eyes, he is a child who needs to be taught and cared for. Thus Ninja and Yolandi take on the roles as his surrogate parents, and try to raise him as badass gangsta #1! But of course nerdy Mr. Patel has to get involved and teach Chappie right from wrong. As with Elysium, the narrative has tons of potential, so it's sad to say that it fails very hard, countless times. It's difficult to really understand the motivations of each character, and the movie is littered with crazy and unbelievable moments. Hugh Jackman's character pulling a gun on one of his co-workers IN THE OFFICE is simply glanced over. Big and seemingly important conversations about morality, and life and death, are handled with less care than any other scenes in the movie. It would be understandable, but no less poor, in a student film, where the self-proclaimed cinephile wants a scene or two to sound philosophical and important, so he can feel mature and clever. But in the third outing of a serious sci-fi director? Not a chance. There are countless problems like this, along with poorly written dialogue and scenes that ruin every illusion of realism – and that says a lot in a movie about droids and mechs fighting in the streets of Johannesburg.  Even so, there is a lot to enjoy about Chappie. Mostly, Chappie. I know a lot of people will dislike, maybe even hate, the character - motion captured by Sharlto Copley - but I found him to be a loveable goon, with more heart and soul than many actual human protagonists in recent blockbusters. The fact that Copley was on set in every scene lends a lot to the realism and physical space Chappie inhabits, and goes along way in adding to the environmental storytelling I like so much in Blomkamp's movies. It feels real. The dystopian Johannesburg looks and feels believable, like a place you could actually visit or see on television news. When you talk about production design, it's never as impressive as in Blomkamp's movies. Even Elysium looked and felt incredible. The high rise in the opening scene was so well constructed I had to use Google Image Search for hours upon hours when I got home, and the same goes for the slums in both District 9 and Elysium. They deserve all the recognition in the world, and showcases just how important production design is.   The music, composed by Hans Zimmer, is also on point. It fits the universe they've created beautifully, and mixes very well with the diegetic sounds of Die Antwoord. Because throughout the movie, the characters of Ninja and Yolandi listen a lot to their own music. As a huge Die Antwoord fan, I loved this. It made scenes memorable, and with some metahumor - I mean, Yolandi namedrops Neill Blomkamp in “Cookie Thumper!” saying "Neill Blomkamp's making me a movie star" – it's all in good fun. However, as with their abilities to act, I can't deny the fact that it doesn't really lend itself to the movie as a whole. It feels masturbatory at times, which fans of Die Antwoord will love, while those who are not – or the more cynical critic in me – will find it distracting. I will add, however, that Yolandi managed to find a maternal love in her role that was inarguably beautiful. Sadly, outside of these scenes, there wasn't too much to applaud in terms of acting abilities. Even worse are the Hollywood faces. Sigourney Weaver doesn't get a chance to shine, which is the real crime here – not Die Antwoord counting dope and stealing cash – and Hugh Jackman was laughably uninspired. I hesitate to use the word “bad,” because he is usually a decent actor, but this was a huge, catastrophic misstep. I struggle to describe it, because there are no comparisons to be made in his career. Dev Patel is Dev Patel. Charming and talented, but he very much plays himself - either it's the version we've seen in The Newsroom or on the couch with Graham Norton. Chappie is a difficult one to pin down for me. I found a lot to like about it, but cannot look past the obvious issues it has. The narrative doesn't work very well, and the characters are poorly developed and acted, but when it comes down to brass tacks, I know I'll re-watch this at some point. I loved Chappie's heart, Ninja's hilarity, Yolandi's affectionate maternal role, and the stunning production design, but beyond this, it's difficult to recommend.
Chappie Review photo
Because I'm Chappie!
I really do adore Neill Blomkamp, and his first film, District 9, in particular. Although it doesn’t have as many fans as it did back in 2009, I still hold it up as one of the most spectacular debuts in recent years. Hi...

Self/Less photo
Self/Less

First trailer for Self/less is pretty much the entire movie


Mar 05
// Nick Valdez
Self/less has the kind of awesome sci-fi premise that sounds unique, but also sounds like it's been done before. If you're interested in Self/less, it stars Ben Kingsley as a wealthy, but ill rich man who uses his fortune to...
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Jessie Usher to star in Independence Day 2


Plus, Jeff Goldblum's back! That's really what matters.
Mar 04
// Jackson Tyler
First things first: yes, there is still an Independence Day 2. That's a movie that is actually going to exist, not just one that will be talked about in rumours and hypotheticals. I know. I'm scared too. Will Smith's not goin...
Blade Runner 2 photo
Blade Runner 2

Harrison Ford returning for Blade Runner 2, director in talks


Feb 27
// Nick Valdez
After Harrison Ford told Ridley Scott the Blade Runner 2 script was the best thing he's ever read, it appears he's finally signed on for the sequel. And now that the ball's rolling, Alcon Entertainment has a director in talks...
FFS:  photo
FFS:

Flix For Short: The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep And Never Had To


So it is written, so it shall be
Feb 25
// Jackson Tyler
Hey, I really like this. Essentially a proof of concept short from writer DC Pierson and director Dan Eckman (based on Pierson's novel), it's the story of teenage best friends who get into all sorts of trouble when one ...
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Terminator: Genisys to release in IMAX 3D


See every wrinkle in Schwarzenegger's face
Feb 19
// Matthew Razak
Terminator: Genisys is slowly turning things around. After being easily mocked for both its ridiculous name and its ridiculous first look images the film landed with a solid trailer. I'm not actually excited for it yet, ...
Alien/Neill Blomkamp photo
In space, no one can hear you scream about how cool this is.
When you write your list of perfect directors for the Alien franchise, where does Neill Blomkamp (director of District 9, Elysium and the upcoming Chappie) fall in? Hope it's close to the top because after what seems like mon...

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Chris Nolan and Rian Johnson discuss Interstellar


Plus, Interstellar is coming back to IMAX
Feb 17
// Jackson Tyler
I wasn't a massive fan of Interstellar, with its insistence on hard sci-fi not meshing ultimately undermining the eventual shift to thematically resonant fantasy, but as a sci-fi film with ambition, I still care about it deep...

Review: Jupiter Ascending

Feb 06 // Matthew Razak
[embed]218920:42196:0[/embed] Jupiter AscendingDirectors: The WachowskisRated: PG-13Release Date: February 6, 2015  It's not that Jupiter Ascending is bad in concept, it's that it is truly horrible in execution. The plot is layered, deep and complex, but not in the right ways. The Wachowski's clearly had a world they wanted to create and it has some really cool concepts, but unlike their previous films they're unable to establish this new world at all. There's so much to take in and they do a messy job of establishing the universe.  Here's the general gist of Jupiter Ascending's sci-fi world. Humans didn't start on earth and have been around for ages. They've developed a serum that keeps them young, but it's derived from harvesting other humans so in order to get "livestock" the original humans find inhabital worlds and blend their DNA with local inhabitants. They then let that world mature to full population and harvest it. Earth is one of those worlds and it is owned by a company run by three siblings who inherited it from their mother. Like all great space operas there is drama in the family with head son Balem Abrasax (Eddi Redmayne) leading the pack of three. DNA and gene splicing play a big, awkward role in the film -- one that could have been really interesting if it wasn't so mired in the rest of the movie's desperate attempts to feel like a cohesive whole. That's where Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) comes in. Once in a while a person's DNA is basically fully duplicated. The space humans know this and in their wills will bequeath things to them. Jones, and earthling, happens to be the Abrasax siblings mother's duplicate and so all her belongings go to her and that includes the earth. This makes her a threat so Balem goes after her, but not before Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), a fallen Legion member who is now a bounty hunter and is also part wolf, catches her for his younger brother. Cue even more complex plotting, stupid decisions and Mila Kunis cowering in a ball or screaming and you've got yourself the makings of a space opera catastrophe. It's possible you've read the above plot description and asked yourself what the hell is going on. That's pretty much what the screenplay seems to be asking itself. The film implodes upon itself with illogical moment on top of illogical moment, often sacrificing the story in order to deliver a stunning visual. The Wachowski's clearly have so much they wanted to do in this world, but not enough time or skill to do it all. If the film had been a TV show with 20 episodes to unfold it's plot and back story then it actually could have worked really well. It's camp, family drama and feel vividly remind one of classic 90s science fiction. Instead it's crammed into a mess of a movie that makes characters jump from emotional stagnation to stupid decisions in the blink of an eye. It also doesn't help that the Wachowski's seem to want to make the film appeal to every popular trend that exists. Tatum is basically a werewolf, the Abrasax's are both vampires and elves, there's an entire fallen angel bit that gets almost completely ignored, space police come in for a bit of cop show stuff and Tatum flies around on weird hover shoes without a shirt for as much of the film as possible. Let's not forget the trope of a young woman thrust into wealth, adventure and power. It's like a teenage girl's check list of what she wants in a movie actually got vomited up onto the screen -- "Dear Diary, Channing Tatum is soooo cute. I wish he'd play a werewolf and fight vampires and wear eyeliner and no shirt." Visually, which is where you'll probably find most defenses for this movie, the film is both impressive and messy. Much like the over-stuffed plot and back story the costumes, design and look of the film is everywhere. Everything does look really cool, but it's often at the sacrifice of the story and logic of the universe. Stunning visuals are great in science fiction when they help to hold the world that is created together, but when they're just there to look pretty and actually create plot holes within themselves then they start to get really annoying. There's no cohesive whole to the worlds we see. Instead it just feels like a bunch of kids sitting down and just creating whatever they thought would look cool. It is a very pretty mess.  It is in fact so messy that the movie may push itself into camp. We'll leave that as a "time will tell" statement as it's hard to judge where it's going to land, but if Redmayne's ridiculous performance has anything to say about it then it's going to land firmly on the camp side of things. It isn't clear who Redmayne is trying to channel here, but his whispy voice and bat shit crazy performance is either the worst thing we'll see all year or the most brilliant bit of fun. Again, on the small screen, stretched out over a season of television, it would be an absolute blast to watch this character slowly unfold, but in this rushed mess it's just ridiculous. Kunis and Tatum by contrast seem like pieces of wood that the Wachowski's drew faces on and held up in front of a green screen. The truly interesting characters are the siblings, but the film doesn't let us play with them enough since it's so caught up in it's redemption story arcs.  You'd think that despite all of this that the action in the movie would be good, but that might be the most disappointing part of the film. The Wachowskis have shown that they can do fights and they can do speed, but neither of these things show up well here. There's only two major action sequences outside of the conclusion and they're both cutting room messes. One makes absolutely no sense at all and the other could be really cool if they'd manage to pull it off, but they don't. Instead we get far too many scenes of Tatum and Kunis pretending to be in love or Kunis coping with becoming royalty in the universe. It's all incredibly forced and means we get less action, which although mediocre would be far more welcome. Jupiter Ascending should have been a TV show. With a full season to actually put together their thoughts, unfold the characters and deliver on their fifty million different story lines the Wachowski's may have created something fun if not great. Instead we get a true mess on the screen. Overblown in every possible way the movie's only remaining value is that it can be entertaining just to watch it fall apart. There's camp hiding somewhere in here simply because it's very clear that the filmmakers are taking their ridiculousness very seriously. The Wachowski's think they created something amazing and fully commit to it. Sadly, they've only made a joke. At least we can get a laugh out of it.
Jupiter Review photo
A descending pun would not even come close to being harsh enough
I am a Wachowski defender. I have enjoyed if not down right liked every film they've made. Yes, even the second two Matrix films. If you insult Speed Racer I'll flip some tables. That movie was a kinetic and frantic mast...

Alien Outpost trailer photo
Alien Outpost trailer

Trailer for Alien Outpost


Why isn't this just a videoame?
Jan 29
// Megan Porch
Directed by Jabbar Raisani, the visual effects guy who works on Game of Thrones, comes a new movie called Alien Outpost. The plot is basically, these two documentary filmmakers follow a military group as they try to take out...
Terminator Super Spot photo
Don't live today for tomorrow like you were immortal
This Super Bowl spot for Terminator: Genisys may take a bit of footage from the first (hilariously convoluted) trailer, but there's a bit at the end that I'm most excited for. Also, it's really hard looking at this newest po...

Star Trek Into Greatness photo
Star Trek Into Greatness

The Star Trek films have a lot of lens flares


Yet not enough
Jan 23
// Nick Valdez
According to these videos from editor Dylan Browne, there are quite a few lens flares in the first two Star Trek films. Around 1500 of them apparently. In other Star Trek news, Simon Pegg is co-writing the third film with Doug Jung (Dark Blue) with Justin Lin still signed on to direct. Only good can come of this, right?  Or at the very least, more lens flares!  [via /Film]

Megan's Top 15 Movies of 2014

Jan 22 // Megan Porch
15. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 I totally love Suzanne Collins' dystopian trilogy, and even though Mockingjay is my favorite of the books I'll admit the book has a ton of faults. When it was first announced the final book would be split into two movies, I was concerned. Mockingjay isn't a long book and it didn't feel like there was enough material for two movies. But then I went to see the film and it was worlds better than I was expecting. While the novel felt rushed, the movie takes its time to let the story unfold and the audience finally gets to really see all the devastation District 13's rebellion is causing. The actors' performances are great, and it's nice to see the final chapter of the trilogy getting the attention it deserves. Read the review here! 14. The Lego Movie In 2013, my friend and I went to a movie for Valentine's Day. That movie was Dredd. In 2014, the same friend and I wanted to see a movie again for the same holiday, so we ended up at The Lego Movie. Despite sitting through the panel for this movie at San Diego Comic Con in 2013, I knew virtually nothing about it. I just knew it involved Legos and Batman was in it. In the end, I can easily say everything about The Lego Movie was awesome. Read the review here! 13. Edge of Tomorrow Any movie that lets me see Tom Cruise die over and over again is amazing and wonderful. I was skeptical of this film because I really can't stand him, but I ended up seeing it since my friends wanted to go. Edge of Tomorrow ended up being a really fun movie that I didn't totally hate Tom Cruise in, and it goes without saying Emily Blunt was a total badass. It was definitely a very pleasant surprise but I do wish the movie had been a bigger hit than it was. Read the review here! 12. Godzilla My only complaint about Godzilla is that Bryan Cranston should've been in way more of it. Now that I've got that out of the way, let me say that this movie was awesome. I like Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and I especially liked how his character was just trying to get home the whole time, but kept getting swept up in all the kaiju insanity. Maybe Godzilla himself should've been in more of it, too, but the moments that he was on screen were incredible. I know a lot of fans were wanting an old school monster for Godzilla to fight, but I thought the Mutos were unique and still managed to fit nicely into the big fighting monster genre. Read the review here! 11. John Wick The biggest surprise movie of 2014 for me was John Wick. I didn't have any interest in seeing it until my friend told me that the story involved a dog. Being the dog-crazy person I am, after that I decided I had to see it... and I'm definitely glad I did. Keanu Reeves may not be the most versatile actor, but I liked him as Wick and the rest of the cast was full of a lot of unexpected, but awesome actors. The fight scenes were fun and the soundtrack was the perfect icing on this revenge filled cake. Check out the sweet doggy! 10. The Raid 2 - Berandal I'll admit I haven't seen The Raid Redemption, but it's on my to-watch list. I ended up seeing The Raid 2 - Berandal with my friend to kill time on the day of Captain America: The Winter Soldier's theatrical release. The only thing I expected was that there would be martial arts. That was literally all I knew about the first movie, so when this one revealed that it had a pretty good plot AND tons of the best fight choreography I've ever seen, I was sold. Read the review here! 9. The Boxtrolls As the third feature film from Laika Studios, The Boxtrolls may not be the strongest story-wise, but it's got a ton of heart and it's a fun movie for kids and adults. What really impresses me about this studio, though, is the amount of sheer creativity that goes into making their movies. With practically every animated movie coming out now being nothing but computer graphics, it's so refreshing to see stop animation still being used so masterfully. Read the review here! 8. Birdman I think the last movie I saw Michael Keaton in was one where he was Batman. I knew the basic premise of Birdman, and since I love superhero movies I was curious about what seemed like a critique of that genre. Birdman is a great character piece with an incredible cast. Emma Stone is easily one of my favorite leading ladies, and I've always liked Ed Norton, but Michael Keaton shined the brightest in this film. Read the review here! 7. Guardians of the Galaxy I'm a diehard fan of Marvel's movies and comics, but even I was puzzled by their choice to make Guardians of the Galaxy into a film. It seemed like something that was too comic book-ish for general movie audiences to enjoy. Luckily, Guardians turned out to be a smash hit and it was also a much needed break from all the dark and serious superhero movies we've gotten over the past decade. There was nothing about this movie I didn't like, but I think my favorite thing about it was how colorful it was. With bright pink and blue people, a talking raccoon and a loveable tree, Guardians of the Galaxy came out of left field and now is one of my top favorite superhero movies. Read the review here! 6. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night I used to live in a town that barely ever got foreign films. Now that I live in Los Angeles there's so many that I don't have time or money to see them all, but when I heard about this movie, I was intrigued. Ana Lily Amirpour's directorial debut, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a must-see for anyone who considers him/herself a movie buff. It's a quiet, simple film, but it also packs a lot of heavy punches in the form of great acting and beautiful storytelling. Read the review here! 5. The Grand Budapest Hotel I can't say enough how much I love Wes Anderson movies, and The Grand Budapest Hotel seems like a love letter to all his fans. It still doesn't beat The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou as my favorite, but it's a close second. Everything about this movie is beautiful, charming, and a little bit disturbing (the cat's fate still makes me cringe). Also, if anyone thinks Ralph Fiennes didn't do his best performance of his career in this movie, I will fight you. Read the review here! 4. Song of the Sea Technically I saw Song of the Sea this year, but its official release date was in December of 2014, so I'm counting it. Cartoon Saloon already made me a fan of their work with their first feature, Secret of Kells, but this movie was something truly special. Maybe I'm a little biased because I think seals are the best animals in the world, but the story of Song of the Sea is truly touching and the craftsmanship that went into creating it is just extraordinary. Read the review here! 3. Under the Skin I read Michel Faber's novel this movie is based on a few weeks before I went to see it in the theater. The novel was weird and cool, but I couldn't imagine how it'd translate into a film. It turns out that Jonathan Glazer was not trying to make a literal adaptation of the book, and that's okay with me. Under the Skin doesn't improve on the novel because it's a completely separate entity. Yeah, there are similarities, but overall the movie is a bizarre journey into femininity and the search for companionship. It's also apparent after watching it that Jonathan Glazer is the closest we are to a modern day Stanley Kubrick. 2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier There won't be any Best Picture nomination for Captain America, but in my mind, it's a masterpiece. The Winter Soldier was my most anticipated movie since the second it was announced at San Diego Comic Con in 2012. As an interpretation of my favorite comic story ever, this movie could not have been more perfect. It wasn't exactly the same, but it didn't matter. All that mattered to me was that I was seeing my favorite characters come to life in a way that was interesting unlike any other superhero movie. I hope Marvel continues with these genre films, since it gives superheroes a cool twist they didn't have before. Read the review here! 1. Interstellar I get pretty emotional during movies, especially the ones that are as emotionally charged as Interstellar was. Christopher Nolan is one of my favorite directors, so I'm always eager to see what he's up to. This movie felt different from all his others. It certainly had a lot of big ideas, but when it boiled down to its core, Interstellar was about family. So I pretty much spent the entire movie sobbing because it was just so darn beautiful. The story, the cinematography, the special effects... everything was perfect. I wasn't sure anything could top how much I loved The Winter Soldier (because I'm horribly biased), but Interstellar went above and beyond anything I saw last year. Read the review here! So here's hoping 2015 is full of awesome movies, too! What were some of your favorites from last year?
Megan's Top 15 photo
Lots of these movies involve adorable animals. Others are gratuitiously violent. One has both!
2014 was a pretty great year for movies, so coming up with a year end list was pretty tough for me. Originally I thought I'd just do top 5, and then top 10... but no. It had to be top 15 because I saw so many awesome films last year, and it just wouldn't be fair to ignore the movies in the 11 through 15 slots.  So let's get the ball rolling...  

Star Wars Spin-Offs photo
Star Wars Spin-Offs

Star Wars standalone testing some awesome female leads


Jan 21
// Nick Valdez
I'm not very interested in the main Star Wars series, but what has gotten my attention are the standalone spin-off films releasing in between the trilogy. With cooler directors, and possibly cooler stories, it's only natural ...

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