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science fiction

Avatar 2 delayed photo
Avatar 2 delayed

Avatar 2 delayed because of 3 other Avatar sequels that will never get made at this rate


Let it go, James
Mar 17
// Hubert Vigilla
Avatar 2 is delayed. This is not a repeat from 2016. It is also not a repeat from 2015. The theme for the 2018 Avatar 2 delay will be "Under the Sea". With this many delays, I swear James Cameron is secretly making a Don Quix...
The Matrix photo
The Matrix

Matrix reboot may not actually be a reboot


Does it really matter?
Mar 17
// Matthew Razak
The Matrix should not be rebooted (even if there is a right way to do it). Hell, with the way the franchise dovetailed I'm not sure if it should come back in any form. But it is, of course, and we heard it was going to b...

How To Do It: The Matrix Rebooted

Mar 16 // Hubert Vigilla
1. Treat the new Matrix as part of continuity When Neo meets The Architect in The Matrix Reloaded, we learn a lot about how the system works and how it sustains itself. The current version of the Matrix is just the sixth version in a line of reality-simulating self-regulating programs, each designed to account for the complexities caused by human free will. The choice Neo makes will determine whether or not the human race survives. Certain programs carry over from each version of the Matrix even if each iteration is a new one--Seraph was apparently a former Agent in an earlier version of the Matrix; The Merovingian harbors obsolete programs; The Oracle, as a guide for The One, is sort of like the Clippy of the Matrix. Choice creates a series of forking paths in every iteration of the Matrix, all headed toward the inevitability of The One and the necessity of a reboot to eliminate The One from the system. Then a new version, and a new One, and so on. This offers a diegetic reason for a new Matrix to exist: it's built into the program, it's part of the way the world works. This also provides an interesting exploration of free will and agency viewed from a human perspective (uncertainty regarding outcomes) versus an analytical/machine perspective (contingent branches on a decision tree). There's another story element this in-continuity Matrix reboot offers, though I'll get to it at the end. 2. Pick the Wachowskis' brains The Wachowskis are the parents of this story, and while they may not have to give their blessing for the project, it would be great for someone to pick their brains about the Matrix. Was there anything they wished they could have done? Are there things they would have done differently in hindsight? What lore had they created for their world that they never talked about? There's probably a lot of unexplored material to consider. Come to think of it, there might even be too much to talk about. When the two Matrix sequels came out, a bunch of supplemental material got released between 2003 and 2005. There was The Animatrix (a collection of animated shorts), Enter the Matrix (a video game), The Matrix Comics, and The Matrix Online (an MMORPG). Some of this may have been crass merchandising--let's milk this cyberpunk, anime, Hong Kong action movie cow until it bleeds--but I also sense that there was a much bigger story the Wachowskis wanted to tell but never finished. Once again, I tie this back into the diegetic idea of the Matrix reboot just being the latest version of Matrix. Going to the architects of the original Matrix might improve the newest version of the program. 3. The Matrix > Zion and the real world Some of the weakest material in the Matrix sequels took place in the real world. Zion was a dingy, rusty place with steam, corridors, walkways, Cornel West, vanilla sex, and boring raves. The war against the machines wasn't all that fun either. Shoot them or use an electromagnetic pulse. Behold--boring, expensive naval combat. I remember the sickly green world of the Matrix better than the state college dorm of Zion. For the new Matrix, there may be a way to engage the real world without it seeming so banal. Perhaps it's a matter of increasing the stakes. Extinction level events are big, sure, but what matters in the abstract and what we form an emotional link to are different matters. The latter requires some concrete connection to people and places. What makes Zion worth caring for really? What makes a place a home? A place is not innately meaningful. And to that, did anyone get attached to the new characters fighting in Zion? They were mostly a bunch of Blandy McBlandersons doing action-things without emotional content. That brings me to the next point... 4. Stick with a core group of characters with well-defined supporting players The cast of supporting characters ballooned in The Matrix Reloaded. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but unfortunately most of the new characters were forgettable. Did Niobe, Link, or Commander Lock add much to the story? Ditto that annoying kid in the giant mechanoid robot suit? Their screen time may have expanded the world of the movie, but they often sucked the air out of film's story since their actions were rarely significant to the plot. (The blunt difference between world building and storytelling.) Rather than putting your setpieces on the shoulders of bland supporting characters (e.g., the annoying kid in the defense of Zion in The Matrix Revolutions), keep the focus on a core group of well-defined characters. Why wasn't Morpheus manning a mech alongside Niobe during Zion's last stand? Come to think of it, what defines Niobe as a character other than the fact she's played by Jada Pinkett Smith? If supporting players are involved, give them personality rather than assign them a plot-based function. I still find it telling that the Nebuchadnezzar crew in the original Matrix has more personality than 95% of the supporting players in the two Matrix sequels. 5. Update the aesthetic to avoid the late 90s/early 2000s Let's come back to the diegetic notion of a new Matrix program rebooted for the umpteenth time. If the old Matrix was defined by the aesthetic of the late 90s and early 2000s, we can chock that up to a quirk of programming. (Obviously this is a paradoxical symptom of the era that birthed the first movie. Nearly every attempt to make something look futuristic winds up looking, in retrospect, like a product of its time. Why is it that conscious attempts to fuse the future with the past a la Blade Runner still look futuristic enough?) The new Matrix should depict a contemporary era's vision of the future rather than recapture the look of the millennial cusp. This goes for the manner of dress, the in-story technology, and the score (imagine how quaintly goofy a techno-classical hybrid soundtrack might sound today). And since the original Matrix drew on a hodgepodge of influences that were so 90s, the new Matrix can draw on things that define the 2010s in some way. Maybe the fighting style changes from the kung fu of 80s Hong Kong action movies to the faster, more functional striking and grappling of MMA. Maybe the G-men-like Agents become Slender Men and more menacing as a result. Are the rebels into post-rock or hip-hop? And how will smartphones and tablets figure into all of this? Ditto apps and the cloud. There's a lot to consider here, and I don't want to just list pop culture detritus for the new film. Those things will be carefully picked by the filmmakers, who will hopefully do more than show us shiny, fight-y, special effects-y things. 6. Find writers and directors with something to say A lot of reboots and remakes suck because they don't say anything. Instead they're selling empty nostalgia using a name you may remember. Yet there are solid remakes (David Cronenberg's The Fly) and reboots (Christopher Nolan's Batman movies) and soft sequels (Ryan Coogler's Creed), each of which does something new with familiar material. There's a sensibility behind the name, a human intelligence behind the IP. There are probably some filmmakers or writers out there who were influenced by The Matrix. Maybe The Matrix was their gateway drug into other aspects of geek culture. They might have a personal story they want to tell, and The Matrix may be the right vessel to tell it. It may be political, too--something about resistance and rebellion feels right these days. A recent report said that Warner Bros. is trying to get a writing room together for the Matrix reboot, sort of like how they write TV. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. A guiding hand can steer the writing room into an interesting direction. Multiple ideas from solid writers can bounce off each other and synthesize and create better ideas. (I'm skeptical--and why shouldn't I be?--that Warner Bros. actually wants to make something that says anything. A writer room assembled by a studio reeks of film-by-committee-by-market-research.) 7. Avoid repeating the story beats of the original Matrix films Most reboots and remakes fail because they slavishly repeat the plot of the original film without offering anything original of their own. Even though I sort of liked the Ghostbusters reboot, the weakest material in the movie was anything that reminded me of the original Ghostbusters. Why would I watch a reboot if it's a pale imitation of the original? (That also applies to Ghostbusters 2.) For another example of this, think of Bryan Singer's Superman Returns, which is a joyless, beat-by-beat recreation of the plot from Richard Donner's Superman. (Superman Returns is the Ghostbusters 2 of superhero movies.) There'll be a temptation to redo the red pill/blue pill scene. The same goes for Neo's first jump and cartoon fall. And the new filmmakers will probably want to do their own rendition of the lobby scene. The occasional nod to the past is okay, but why do the same thing again? Why not do something new? I suppose blank canvases are more intimidating than tracing paper, and the potential of an incomplete line is more stultifying than connect the dots. To put it another way, if you're going to cover a song, do it like Devo did "Satisfaction" or Johnny Cash did "Hurt". Someone has to make this material their own rather than just repeating the mistakes and successes of the past. There the line from Jose Lezama Lima quoted in Julio Cortazar's Hopscotch: "Let us try to invent new passions, or to reproduce the old ones with a like intensity." Yeah, do that. 8. E pluribus unum (Out of many, one) I mentioned there's another story element about keeping the Matrix reboot in continuity with the original trilogy. Here are preliminary thoughts on that, and the point where simple suggestions in approach veer into the realm of Matrix fan fiction. Say there's a new Neo in a new iteration of the Matrix. Neo is the latest in a line of Ones from previous versions of the Matrix, each of them an anomaly eventually accounted for and zeroed out to restart the system. What if the new Neo could access the old versions of the Matrix and see how they played out? Maybe they're archived even though the system has run its course. What if the new Neo could somehow learn from previous Ones? Maybe the Ones are iterations of a monomythic subprogram that eventually results in a prototypical, archetypal, chosen-one hero who follows the mechanical beats of narrative heroism to ensure the Matrix can eventually reboot. The monomythic subprogram comes from an AI's analysis of heroic legends from past human cultures. What if the way to beat this self-perpetuating system is to break the monomythic structure? To crap on the Hero's Journey? To intentionally subvert the heroic narrative and create a new kind of heroism? This is a larger meta narrative that's simultaneously diegetic. The Matrix Rebooted is about the nature of reboots, and also about the nature of narrative repetition, how it's a valuable part of our history and yet how it's essentially mechanical at this point and may require some sort of reinvention to be relevant rather than just comforting. We can choose to be heroes otherwise--we can invent our own heroism and a new morality. Neo is the hero gone rogue artist, the sort of person who comes away from a class on Nietzsche but isn't a total douchebag about it. Maybe the new Neo recruits an army of Ones from the archives to battle in the system like a bunch of cyberpunk Supermen, or perhaps Neo figures out a way to blow up the system through intentional acts of narrative terrorism. Maybe Neo turns everyone into the One by helping people see patterns in their own lives that tap into the monomythic subprogram. (This all sounds a little like a Grant Morrison comic book, sure, but the Wachowskis borrowed heavily from The Invisibles, so screw it.) Maybe Clippy the Oracle can help in all this. "It looks like you're subverting the Hero's Journey. Would you like help?" Yes, Clippy. Let's kung fu the hell out of traditional storytelling.
Matrix Reboot photo
I know reboot fu
The other night we learned that Warner Bros. is developing a reboot of The Matrix, with an interest in Michael B. Jodan as the lead. Zak Penn has been tapped to write the treatment for the reboot, but nothing else is solid at...

Akerman in Rampage photo
Akerman in Rampage

Malin Akerman in talks to play Rampage villain opposite Dwayne Johnson, plot details emerge


Is she playing the entire US Army?
Mar 16
// Hubert Vigilla
The live-action adaptation of Rampage seems to be moving forward without any hitches. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is playing the hero of the film, and director Brad Peyton promises scares and the feels. Today Heat Vision report...

Warner Bros. wants to reboot and relaunch The Matrix

Mar 14 // Hubert Vigilla
The film might not need to be a full series reboot. As revealed by The Architect in The Matrix Reloaded, there have been multiple iterations of the reality-simulating program of the Matrix, and the one Neo was experiencing was just the latest version in the series. Perhaps this reboot could be loosely tied to the previous film's continuity, sort of like a newer version of the iPhone or Windows. As long as it's not Vista or Windows 10... Is a Matrix reboot something you'd be interested in? Do you know kung fu? Let us know in the comments. [via THR]
The Matrix: Rebooted photo
The Matrix: Rebooted (Whoa...)
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros. wants to reboot The Matrix. Zak Penn (X-Men: The Last Stand, story credits on X2 and The Avengers) is in talks to write the reboot treatment. Warner Bros. reportedly wants to ...

Assassin's Creed ending photo
Assassin's Creed ending

Watch the downbeat alternate ending for the Assassin's Creed movie


Did they film a Scooby-Doo ending?
Mar 09
// Hubert Vigilla
Assassin's Creed wasn't the great video game movie people were waiting for. It received mixed-negative reviews and under-performed at the box office, which means a proposed Assassin's Creed film trilogy is probably DOA. Despi...
Thor: Ragnarok pics photo
Thor: Ragnarok pics

New Thor: Ragnarok pics include Technicolor Goldblum, Goth Blanchett, GladiaThor


This looks like a gaudy 80s sci-fi epic!
Mar 09
// Hubert Vigilla
Yesterday we showed the Entertainment Weekly cover that revealed the first look at Thor: Ragnarok. Hemsworth got a gladitorial haircut, Cate Blanchett got Hela mascara and eye shadow, and Tessa Thompson has tapped into t...
 photo

New Alien Covenant Trailer Indistinguishable from Old Alien Trailers


Mar 01
// Rick Lash
The latest trailer for the latest Alien feature, the third to be directed by Ridley Scott, shows us more of what is to come in the second Alien prequel (this will be the sixth film in the series, and the eight to feature the ...
Guardians 2 trailer #2 photo
"The Chain" by Fleetwood Mac
Hey, Flixist readers. You up? Come and get your love. Here's a brand new trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 which just premiered tonight on Jimmy Kimmel Live. While the first trailer for the sequel had an adorable Bab...

Okja trailer photo
Okja trailer

Watch a teaser trailer for Bong Joon-Ho's Okja with Tilda Swinton, which hits Netflix in June


It's like an adorable hippo monster
Feb 28
// Hubert Vigilla
It's been nearly a decade since I watched The Host. It was my first Bong Joon-Ho film, and I was hooked. Anything he makes, I'll give it a watch, whether it's something like 2003's Memories of Murder or as ambitiously off the...
Alien: Covenant photo
Alien: Covenant

Alien: Covenant gets a prologue with food and drinking


These people will die
Feb 23
// Matthew Razak
Yesterday we got our first good look at the crew of Alien: Covenant and today we have a bit of a prologue to the film that's been released. "Prologue: Last Supper" doesn't really tell us much, but it has fun playing with...
Happy Valentines Day photo
Happy Valentines Day

These David Cronenberg Valentines transform body horror into bloody romance


Long live the new flesh, and our love
Feb 14
// Hubert Vigilla
It's Valentine's Day, which means you are obligated to do something special-ish because greeting card companies own you. If you are single, this means your parents will guilt you into having children because the biological im...
Life photo
Life

Newest trailer and Super Bowl spot for Life looks pretty great


I don't want, your life
Feb 05
// Nick Valdez
There haven't been enough sci-fi horror films lately, and this year's great because we're getting two! Along with Alien: Covenant (which will inevitably draw comparison to this) is Life, a film that's more likely going to be ...
Leia in Episode IX? photo
Leia in Episode IX?

Lucasfilm to discuss Star Wars and Leia plans following Carrie Fisher's death


How will the story change?
Jan 06
// Hubert Vigilla
While people continue to mourn Carrie Fisher's passing, Lucasfilm now has to address a major question about Star Wars moving forward. What happens to Leia in this franchise? How will they rework their original plans? Lucasfil...
Rogue One: A Fan Story photo
Rogue One: A Fan Story

Diego Luna shares a Star Wars fan's Rogue One story about race, accents, and representation


Why representation matters
Jan 06
// Hubert Vigilla
One of the most notable aspects of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was its multi-racial cast. This resulted in a dumb attempt at boycotting the film (not the first time this has happened). We can mock the racists and rubes all w...
Nazi punks f**k off photo
Nazi punks f**k off

John Carpenter is fighting with neo-Nazis over the message of They Live


This is the world we live in today
Jan 05
// Hubert Vigilla
They Live is one of John Carpenter's indisputable masterpieces. Part satire and part ass-kicker, the film is all about the horrors of capitalism, consumerism, and 80s excess. Yet because the Internet exists and it is awful, a...
Han Solo's mentor photo
Han Solo's mentor

Woody Harrelson may play Han Solo's mentor in Star Wars spinoff film


Kingpin is kind of underrated, guys
Jan 04
// Hubert Vigilla
As a first foray into Star Wars spinoffs, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has been extremely successful both critically and commercially. The upcoming young Han Solo film ought to do gangbusters as well. So far Alden Ehrenreich ...
Anticipated 2017 films photo
Anticipated 2017 films

Star Wars: Episode VIII is Fandango's most anticipated movie of 2017


Sequels, splosions, and dollar signs
Dec 30
// Hubert Vigilla
Fandango held a poll asking what are people's most anticipated movies of 2017. No surprises, Star Wars: Episode VIII topped the list. Rian Johnson is riding the wave of hype from The Force Awakens and Rogue One, and there wil...
Dune reboot photo
Dune reboot

Denis Villeneuve in talks to direct Legendary's Dune reboot


Spice up your life
Dec 26
// Hubert Vigilla
Director Denis Villeneuve is currently in talks to direct a reboot of Dune for Legendary. If he gets on board, this would be the latest in Villeneuve's sci-fi oeuvre, following this year's Arrival and next year's Blade Runner...
Star Wars 4K restoration photo
Star Wars 4K restoration

Gareth Edwards says there's a 4K restoration of the original Star Wars


When are we seeing it?
Dec 26
// Hubert Vigilla
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story topped the box office for the second week in a row, and it will likely have good legs for a third week. While doing press for the film, director Gareth Edwards revealed that there's a 4K restorati...
Alien: Covenant photo
Uh...Merry Christmas?
If you can spare a few minutes away from your family today, you should check out the first Red Band trailer for Alien: Covenant. Ridley Scott's Prometheus wasn't received too well, so it looks like Scott wants to rectify that...

Star Wars: Rogue One photo
Star Wars: Rogue One

A Rogue One actor has option for second film in their contract (SPOILERS)


Any idea how this will work?
Dec 19
// Hubert Vigilla
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was pretty darn phenomenal. Despite worries about extensive reshoots, the movie is in the upper tier of Star Wars films, better than The Force Awakens and easily in the franchise's top three. Whil...
Blade Runner 2049 photo
The future of the future
Well, it's happened. They made it. One of the most cherished science fiction films ever, noted especially for its wonderful ambiguity, is getting a sequel. If you can't tell I'm not to enthused. I just see far too many ways t...

 photo

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story promised to be what the seven other Star Wars films had not: a movie about ordinary people in the Star Wars universe. Promise delivered. But if you’re worried that ordinary people means an o...

Assassin's Creed sequel photo
Assassin's Creed sequel

Director Justin Kurzel would like the Assassin's Creed sequel to be a Cold War noir


A 20th century Assassin's Creed
Dec 14
// Hubert Vigilla
The first Assassin's Creed isn't out yet, but already there's speculation about a potential sequel. Such is the case with franchise-launching movies. If director Justin Kurzel had his druthers, he'd like to bring the story fr...
Honest Trailers: ESB photo
Honest Trailers: ESB

Honest Trailers loves The Empire Strikes Back just as much as you


The fawning is strong with this one
Dec 13
// Hubert Vigilla
Official reviews are trickling out for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and they are generally positive and mixed-positive. Most are not as enthusiastic as the geek-outs following the Rogue One world premiere, but that's to be e...
Assassin's Creed clip photo
Assassin's Creed clip

New Assassin's Creed clip is all about parkour and a leap of faith


You gotta ro-o-oll with the punches...
Dec 13
// Hubert Vigilla
The last clip we shared from Justin Kurzel's Assassin's Creed adaptation had a pretty badass swashbuckling carriage chase. The most recent clip from Assassin's Creed is all about fights, parkour, and taking an iconic lea...
Rogue One featurettes photo
Rogue One featurettes

New Rogue One behind-the-scenes videos introduce K-2SO (the anti-C3PO) and new planet


Droids gonna droid
Dec 12
// Hubert Vigilla
The final stretch of Rogue One marketing and hype is upon us as December 16th draws near. We had three new Rogue One clips earlier today, and now we have two new behind-the-scenes featurettes. The first of these videos f...
Rogue One clip photo
Rogue One clip

Three new Rogue One clips show Jyn Erso getting rescued by rebels and more


Rebel rebel, how could they know
Dec 12
// Hubert Vigilla
Even though a bunch of racists and derpburgers are trying to boycott Rogue One, there's little that will stymie the film's momentum. Early reaction from the world premiere last Saturday have been very positive. Critics and other moviegoers in attendance are saying Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a good film, and even better than The Force Awakens.
Assassin's Creed trailer photo
Assassin's Creed trailer

Final trailer for Assassin's Creed has new footage, Jeremy Irons, and Charlotte Rampling


Chock full of Irons and Rampling
Dec 10
// Hubert Vigilla
As we're getting close to the release of Assassin's Creed, one last trailer is dropping for the hype. A VR experience alone will not put your butt in a theater seat. The overall tone of this final trailer is different than th...

Flixist Discusses: An Analysis of Denis Villeneuve's Arrival [Part 2]

Dec 09 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]221111:43257:0[/embed] Alec: That liberal vs. conservative idea is interesting, and my gut reaction is that it's probably true (assuming we're talking explicitly about alien films)... but I'm sure you could find an exception (to prove the rule). I wonder if there's a similar case to be made re: optimistic or not films. Or, more to the point, I wonder how the political climate will affect the mood of films with both liberal and conservative ideologies going forward. Will liberal films become crushingly sad across the board to reflect their reality or become  happy as they embrace, uh, fantasy and escapism?   I wonder if Arrival would have been different if pre-production began now instead of years ago. I'm thinking yes. I mentioned earlier that one of my colleagues hated the film. His first problem, when I asked why (this was before I had seen it) was that it didn't have a lot of dialogue. (Aside: This is interesting, though not necessarily surprising, for a film that is about language.) He thought it was confusing and that the twist (reveal) didn't work. Etc. I think this may be Villeneuve’s best film, but it's definitely not his most accessible. The “This is thinking person’s sci-fi” reputation is deserved, and if anything I think it was intended to be more opaque than it is. The genuinely bizarre and out-of-nowhere narration from Jeremy Renner felt like a capitulation to the studio over a montage that had been designed for musical accompaniment and nothing else. The decision to leave Banks’ perspective in that moment (especially since it's still about her) is jarring as heck. Genuine question: Are there any scenes in the movie without her that you can recall? I feel like there aren't. And so there's that one weird dark spot coloring an otherwise brilliant experience. And it hardly ruins the film. It's just… why? Everything else is so deliberate. I think it's almost time (ha!) to really get into this thing, but before we do, do you have any other thoughts on the film in general? Even if I didn't think it was so relevant and important, it's just a damn good movie, with gorgeous cinematography and some genuinely great performances. Hubert: Yeah, I agree with you about Jeremy Renner’s narration midway through the film. Everything else in that movie is filtered through Louise’s point of view, and that sudden imposition of Renner’s character just comes out of nowhere. Whereas other scenes seem deliberately ruminative, the learning montage is purely functional. It probably was the “let’s explain this to you if you don’t get it yet” moment in the screenplay, and may have been made more explicit by the studio. That montage and narration would be just fine if they used Louise’s voice and channeled it through her point of view. It wouldn’t be that difficult to make it work that way. It’s her story, after all. Maybe they just needed to give Renner’s character (off the top of my head, I can’t recall his name) something to do. I guess Renner’s character in Arrival is similar to Amy Adams’ Lois Lane in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice--just stand around and look handsome/pretty, and let your significant other be heroic and save the day. We can go in a lot of directions with this conversation about Arrival. I eventually want to get to the idea of free will, determinism, and predestination, but maybe we can save that for the end. I find that discussion determines whether people find the movie hopeful/optimistic or fatalistic/pessimistic. (Just more future stuff in the present. Don’t mind me.) What’s one of the things that struck you most about Arrival while watching it? Alec: That house. I want that house so bad. Actually, though: the design of the aliens. I didn't see the trailer, so I didn't know what they looked like (were they humanoid? were they terrifying?). My gut reaction to their lack of “human”ness was “Oh thank God,” because that would have been a cop out from a design perspective. They aren't from here and they shouldn't look like us. Period. And they didn't, and I was glad about that. But as I consider it, I think about their head-like thing, which we only see in the sequence in the fog. There are those indents, as though they have eyes there. I don't see any practical purpose for those other than to give a face of sorts for the audience to look at in that moment. Humans will see faces in everything (see: trees, the moon, toast), so you don't have to do much to make us subconsciously think about them. And to make them, in that moment, even the slightest bit human allows for another level of connection. In a sequence where we're actually just watching the sort-of-head for a while, we need that. But I think about what a more humanoid design might have done. Diverting back to politics (or, at least, real-world issues) for a moment, much of the fear and hatred in the world right now is aimed at the Other, where that's a race, gender, culture, socioeconomic class. We take people who look like basically us and then box them off. With the Heptapods and their very definitively Other design, you're starting from scratch on empathy. But there's also no prejudice against them. It's an actual blank slate. And how you ultimately feel about them says something about your empathy for other beings but not for your fellow man. A human-like alien race (or one that presented as alien and made a point of being like, “We actually look like something else, but figured you'd appreciate this”) would have added an interesting other level. I'm imagining someone shouting, “IF YOU'RE GONNA BE HERE, JUST LEARN ENGLISH, DAMN IT.” Arrival’s too subtle for that, but I'm calling it right now: We will see a science fiction movie with an equivalent line of dialogue in some equivalent situation in the next four years. (If we haven’t already.) And yeah, I agree that that’s where this conversation is fated (what a great pun) to end up. If you want to go there now, you can have the first word on that. If there’s more you want to say beyond that, though, I’m game. Hubert: I really enjoyed that heptapod design as well. Tentacles and that raw seafood look immediately make people queasy and distrustful. H.P. Lovecraft was onto something about the creeping chaos of the local sushi restaurant. But yeah, the vestigial torso-and-head at the end is so oddly inelegant yet fitting for where the story has gotten at that point. The moment we see that human-like shape is when the heptapod tells Louise that its companion is “in the death process”. What a fascinating construction, that sentence, and what a time for an English translation of heptapod to finally appear on screen. I thought the way the ink emerges from the heptapods like squids to form their language was pretty inspired as well. The look of the language informs the creature’s look and vice versa. So many smart, deliberate choices. I wonder how this movie would have played out with human-like aliens, especially now when audiences sort of expect something alien about the aliens we see. Maybe the alien visitation movie in the post-Trump era will have someone demand that the aliens “Speak American” or “Take off that breathing hood”. Though maybe that would make things too preachy in certain hands. Which reminds me: Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter) is set to direct a remake of Alien Nation, which was all about human-like aliens assimilating with the human race like a new immigrant community. The movie was all right, but the TV show and made-for-TV movies were much, much better. Makes me wonder how the remake will address our current political moment. It seems unavoidable to me now, even if they did try to make it a buddy cop movie like the original film. And you know, it’s almost fitting that in 2016 the two movies Nichols put out were Midnight Special (an indie take on 80s science fiction) and Loving (a movie about a mixed-race couple’s love in the face of bigotry). Alien Nation has gone from a curiosity from a filmmaker I like to a potentially important statement about the early 21st century. Which, come to think of it, makes that hypothetical film like Arrival. So about Arrival’s implications about free will and determinism and predestination. The big question: do you think Arrival is melancholy but ultimately hopeful or is it sad and fatalistic? I don’t mean about global peace or anything, but rather the idea that we might not be able to change the future. That certain sorrows in our lives, like certain joys, are unavoidable? I think it’s painfully hopeful since it suggests that even though you may be miserable now, there was still a moment of joy in the past that was just as real. It’s an affirmation of good and bad things as a whole, and that maybe some handfuls of genuine happiness are a justification for a lifetime of general boredom, depression, and unhappiness. (Though my read on this also speaks to the privileges of a middle-class upbringing in the first world.) Alec: Honestly, I think it's neither of those things, because I don’t even think the film is ultimately that melancholy. I read someone somewhere say that this is probably the most hopeful movie they’ve ever seen -- it assumes humans will still be around in 3000 years. But, joking aside, I do genuinely think this an optimistic movie. I left the theater feeling kind of upbeat, and part of that was because it was a great movie and that usually makes me feel good, but there was more to it than after. I realized that it was because of the way Dr. Banks’s decision at the end is played. When she decides to hold onto Jeremy Renner, she does so knowing that they will be together, they will have a young girl, she will tell him that their young girl is going to die, it will break his heart and his relationship with the daughter, the daughter will develop cancer, and the daughter will die. And she does it anyway. You look at that list, and you’re like… damn. That’s genuinely horrible. She’s guaranteeing never-ending sadness for one man and the literal death of her own child. So, she’s a psychopath, right? And that might be the logical conclusion, but I’m going to not think about it way. What’s unclear is whether or not she thinks she has a choice in the matter. Her actions might imply that she doesn’t, but that’s not how I saw that decision. There’s another read, one that I think it’s evidenced by the fact that she smiles in that moment. She knows the happiness that the daughter brings in the time that she’s alive, and that life with her is better than life without. (It’s better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all, as they say.) It might be fatalistic in a literal sense, but I don’t think it’s a function of her resigning herself to or even just accepting her fate; she’s straight-up embracing it. And I see that as a rejection of the sadness that seems inherent with the life she’s going to lead… but we also don’t really see all the good moments. We see a couple, but we are more generally aware of the bad things that happen than the good, which I think colors the perspective (also, knowing that all of those things happen and thinking about them in a list format is different than the reality of them taking place spaced out over more than a decade). She is the one who lived it and is most qualified to make the decision, and she decides that it is the thing she wants and not just the thing she has to do. Hubert: It’s interesting we’re both seeing it as hopeful. I’ve read/heard a few people conclude that Arrival's implications about time and the future are bleak. It is pretty grim to think about not necessarily having any say in your own life. Viewed in those terms, Arrival‘s conclusion could be read as ditching agency for resignation. It’s going to happen anyway, so why try? And yet, we do, continually, on and on, until we die. That’s more than a little sad. That makes me wonder about Louise telling her husband about their daughter’s death, an act that ruins their marriage. Did she tell him as an attempt to change the future, but it went wrong? Did she tell him because they were having an argument and she wanted to say something awful in the heat of the moment that would hurt? Did she tell him because she thought it would help him deal with loss in the future? Did she tell him because he kept asking her about their daughter and she couldn’t handle being the only person who had access to that secret? Or did she tell him because it was, simply, that time when she was supposed to tell him? There are these fascinating gaps in the future-narrative that Louise as a character might know but the audience has to invent on their own. The relative hope or bleakness of Arrival might be there in the lacunae and how we fill in the blanks. But yeah, I think it’s hopeful. Louise’s smile, like you mentioned, is her saying yes to all the joy and misery ahead because it will have been worth it. It’s like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. By the end you know it’s not going to end well for Joel and Clementine, but dammit, that love was worth the pain and vice versa--let’s do this! This aspect of Arrival reminds me of this Friedrich Nietzsche idea of the eternal return of the same (aka eternal recurrence). It’s one of those Existentialism 101 types of ideas, and yet I unavoidably find myself thinking about the shape of my own life in terms of the eternal return. Nietzsche presented a hypothetical situation in which a demon comes to you and says that for the rest of eternity you will have to relive your entire life again, over and over, all of the happiness but also the pain, down to the smallest detail. Nothing new can ever happen in these additional recurrences of life--you are a speck of dust in the great eternal hourglass of existence. If you were confronted with this scenario, would you feel immense anguish and defeat given the futility of it all? Or would you instead welcome this moment, having lived a life worth affirming? Was this worth it? Ask me one day, I might lean one direction. Ask me another day, I lean the opposite direction. When Louise smiles, you know what she thinks about her life to come. Though I wonder, in the vast lacunae of her life off-screen, about the days that Louise feels otherwise. Alec: I can imagine so many scenarios in which Dr. Banks would tell him that their daughter was going to die. All of the ones that you listed there and then others. The hypothetical that I find most compelling is that she told him because he asked. That they were talking about the future, that he wanted to know what she saw for their child and for them and she couldn't lie, because she knew he would find out eventually (of course she knows) and she didn't want to have the fight then. I like that because it has a Pandora’s Box kind of feeling or some other, more appropriate parable that I can't think of: It's his choice to learn the truth, though he is foolish in thinking that he can handle it. In any version of the story, though, it gets at this broader concept froma  very different but equally significant angle: what do you do when you know someone who knows the future? What do you do when you know your daughter is going to die because someone who knows the future has told you, but you can't know it the way they know it? You have to trust it, but at the same time you just can't do that. It's why he can't look at his daughter anymore, because he feels like she's been taken from him because he now knows a horrible truth and, more importantly, he knows he can't stop it. He knows that, no matter how many new treatments there are and how much they put into her recovery, it's going to fail. He feels helpless. (Science will fail him, so it has failed him.) I mean, think of Arrival with the same narrative but from Jeremy Renner’s perspective. I can't imagine a movie much bleaker than that one. I know I’ve got the last word of this particular discussion, but I’m still going to end on a question. If the future is pre-ordained, then neither of them has agency. But in that world, whose situation is better? In more cliched terms: Is knowledge power… or ignorance bliss?  
Arrival Discussion Part 2 photo
The big questions
In the 24 hours since part one of this discussion was posted, I was talking with a friend about something completely unrelated when I realized that the point I was trying to make directly relates to my feelings on Arrival. It...

War Apes photo
I mean, we all know how this will end
I got a really in depth look at War for the Planet of the Apes at NYCC this year, but now it is everyone else's chance to take a look. The first trailer has landed and it is crammed full of action and grumpy apes. That's...

Flixist Discusses: An Analysis of Denis Villeneuve's Arrival [Part 1]

Dec 08 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]221081:43252:0[/embed] Alec: So, before we get into this, I want to give some context about my own expectations, because I think expectations ultimately matter a lot here (probably more than they should). Denis Villeneuve is one of my favorite working directors. Sicario is one of the best films of 2015, and both Prisoners and Enemy are really good and extremely interesting. (I’m not fully versed on his pre-English work yet, but I’ll get there.) Anyways, his name gets attached to a project and I’m sold on it. It means I don’t need to learn anything about it and that I won’t watch trailers. I didn’t see the trailer for Arrival, though I knew the basic concept: Aliens arrive. How do we communicate with them? I also knew what other people thought. The downside to having a lot of critic friends on Facebook is that you know what people think about things the instant they get screened. Whether it was the festival premiere or when it actually hit theaters, my feed got inundated with various takes. Most of them were glowing, and I saw a lot of “brainy” and “thought-provoking” pull-quotes, but I didn’t read any further. I also knew that one of my day-job colleagues hated it (this person also hated Carol, for what that’s worth) and another thought it was fine, he guesses (this person hates Guardians of the Galaxy, for what that’s worth). I was fairly sure I’d love it, though. The only thing that surprised me was just how much I loved it. Had you read up, Hubert, or did you go in relatively blind as well? Hubert: I went into Arrival knowing the buzz and seeing the blurbs out of the Venice Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival, but I intentionally avoided reading the full-length reviews. Certain movies I’ll read up on extensively and spoil everything for myself and it won’t dampen the experience of seeing the movie. Some movies you’ve already seen before sitting down to watch them, if that makes sense. I even avoided reading the Ted Chiang short story it’s based on in his book Stories of Your Life. I’m glad I went in relatively blind. Arrival’s all about that act of discovery and revelation, and a couple scenes had me silently geeking out as I began to understand the shape of the narrative, and how little lines or images are clues about the nature of the movie. In a sense, Arrival is a causal loop time travel story. It’s not about time travel in a traditional sense, but rather more about folding a moment in the future back like a piece of paper onto the past--a Möbius strip. Even the look of the heptapod language is a closing circle, like the ouroboros, which made me think about time and cycles of existence. By around the halfway point of the movie, I kind of realized that Louise was seeing flashforwards rather than flashbacks, which was all really set-up in Amy Adams’ opening voice over about beginnings and ends. But even suspecting and discovering that on my own, it didn’t damped my emotional reaction at all. (Given the implications of Arrival, in the world of that film, maybe all movies are movies you’ve seen before you sit down to watch them.) Had I read reviews about the movie, I’m sure some critic somewhere would have mentioned a little too much about one detail or another, and the whole game of Arrival would be given away in my head. Alec: I’ve been wondering that, actually, how much I think knowing the game would have spoiled my experience. I’m glad I went in blind, but I’m not entirely convinced I needed to. The other day, I read an article by Todd VanDerWerff at Vox about twists in the modern TV era. It talks a lot about Mr. Robot, which often telegraphs its big moments pretty heavily, so people aren’t all that surprised when things come. And Sam Esmail says that’s intentional, because then it allows you to think about the thing that just happened and not only be shocked by it. This then led me to another VanDerWerff article, which is ostensibly a review of a movie that you didn‘t like but actually has little to with Goodnight, Mommy at all. It’s about the nature of twists and gets to an interesting question: Is there a difference between a “twist” and a “reveal,” and where does Arrival fall on that line? I actually think the answer changes depending on your interpretation of the events and of Dr. Banks’ fascinating brain. In one of them, Banks knows everything that has happened and will happen simultaneously (the Heptapods experience this). In this, the reveal is fundamentally a Twist, because it’s information that the character knows being hidden from you; in another, she experiences time in a non-linear fashion but she doesn’t fully understand it until she’s been taught to understand it. In this, she learns at the same time we do that her daughter is her future daughter and not her current one and then follow all of that. It’s not until the phone call with Shang that it becomes truly clear, but by the time we got to the “non-zero-sum game” sequence, I had figured out where it was going. And so when it came, my thought was, “Damn, this could have gone bad in so many different ways. Good on you team!” and not “WHHAAAATTT?! NO WAY!” and I think I had the right response. Because, like, oh man, there are so many ways the non-linearity thing could have gone wrong, especially with the way it deals with Banks’s daughter. There was so much potential for it to feel ugly and emotionally manipulative, but no, I think it nails the whole damn thing. Hubert: It’s a definitely a reveal rather than a twist--that’s a good distinction with the language. And yeah, a lot of that has to do with how much of the film is anchored into Louise’s point of view, and how the audience is learning the information as she is through most of the movie. Her brain is rewiring and her perception of time is changing, and the audience is starting the see this narrative in a different way. In the same way that Louise is learning to read heptapod language and learning to interpret time, the movie is teaching the audience how to read the movie. Such a fascinating parallel. With twists, like in Goodnight, Mommy or High Tension, there’s no sense of learning how to read the text of the film, at least not in the way that would suggest the twist. Usually there’s just a quick explanation at the end. On the note of Todd VanDerWerff (let’s make this a trifecta), he wrote a new piece on Vox about the pivotal phone call scene. His big takeaway is that Louise is omniscient when she makes the call and meets with Shang in the future, and that she’s playing a role to get the information she needs. I personally think there’s a much different interpretation of that moment: Shang himself learns hetapod and taps into non-linear time, and that takes place after he gets the phone call but before he meets Louise. When he meets Louise in the future, he realizes that it is contingent upon him to give her his cell phone number and a message that will convince his past self (whose view of time is pre-non-linear) to avoid conflict and make this future moment possible. The past is contingent on the future and vice versa, which creates this smaller causal loop in the bigger narrative. We got sidetracked to the ending (how non-linear of us), so maybe let’s get into the meat of the movie and its ideas of communication. There’s this line by philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein that if a lion could speak to us, we wouldn’t be able to understand it. The idea is that even if a lion used English, its worldview is so non-human and its use of words/grammar so potentially unfamiliar that we would not necessarily comprehend the meaning of the lion’s sentence. This also means that the interior lives of lions are alien to us. With Arrival, it seems to suggest that seeing the world like a lion might help us understand their language better, and their values. Arrival is a movie about a lot of things, but extrapolating that idea, I think the movie stresses this belief in empathy. Alec: I think that's true. If science fiction is a way to use unreal narratives to comment on very-real societal issues, I don't think there's a more appropriate film for 2016. The entire world is moving rapidly in an isolationist and nationalist direction, so a film about trying to overcome the fundamental barriers of understanding and the need to work together is, to say the least, timely. That lion thought is an interesting one to consider when put up against what I think is one of the most crucial moments in the film: the reveal of the word “weapon.” In our version of English, that has a very specific meaning and it only ever means something to be used for violent purposes. But the heptapods don't have that context. They, as far as anyone can tell, seem to see “tool” and “weapon” as equivalent words. And so we get into a theme of patience. Some have complained about the methods they use and how it seems like they could have used more videos or other aids right at the start to speed up the process, but that misses the point. Underneath the whole experience is a respect for time and taking the time to do a thing. She wants to get it right, and getting it right requires long, boring demonstration. And that minimizes, theoretically, the chance of a miscommunication. (See the film’s discussion of how the Chinese use war games to learn communication and the pitfalls therein.) But when miscommunication comes, we need to be careful and see it as that. Dr. Banks’ pleas to not jump to conclusions, to point out that the heptapods lack true context for “weapon” is oh-so-relatable to right now. Governments all around the world are being forced to deal with an equivalent problem, where they need to know if something that has been said or done is a result of ignorance on the part of our president-elect or actually means a tectonic change in American policy. And they're dealing with someone who may as well be an alien politically AND for the most part speaks a different native language. (You just have to hope that every government has a Dr. Banks to say, “Let's not go to war just yet. Let's make sure we and they all understand each other correctly.) And looking back on what I just wrote, it appears that I'm thinking of the film’s themes about communication in purely political (or perhaps strategic) terms, which I don't think is quite right and is almost definitely me bringing my own baggage into it. Hubert: Right now, political baggage is personal baggage, so I think that political read of the film is warranted. The movie even braids global conflict with Louise’s unavoidable personal tragedy. I’m sure we’ll talk about the implications of time and fate in the film eventually, but on the note of unavoidable things, our president-elect is sorely lacking in patience and language skills. With patience and empathy comes nuance and mutual understanding. And like you said, you need room for there to be nuance, whether it’s to find the context of “weapon” or to understand why a gesture can be taken as an insult or provocation by another culture. That takes more than 140 characters. Meaningful language is generally not found on bumper stickers or baseball caps. What a weird time to be alive. Since science fiction can reflect societal fears, I wonder what other types of science fiction movies we might be seeing in the coming years as the world faces this wave of nationalism, isolationism, bigotry, and uncertainty. I think the appeal of authoritarianism in general is that it ignores nuance and complexity and reduces the world into manichean problems with simple answers and plenty of convenient scapegoats. In some ways, we’ve never really left the world-on-the-brink feeling of Children of Men. We’re just getting closer to the film (well, except babies are still getting made). So much anxiety about potential global conflicts. Maybe we’re going to go through that Cold War/Atomic Age cycle of sci-fi. There’s this old theory about science fiction movies that’s pretty interesting. I can’t remember who first said it or if it’s necessarily true, but it goes like this: If the aliens come to Earth and want to harm us, the film’s politics are conservative; if the aliens come to Earth and they don't want to hurt us, the film’s politics are liberal. Arrival’s firmly in the latter camp, especially if it’s stressing a form of patient diplomacy to fight humanity’s innate tribalism and nativism. I guess there’s a sadness bundled up in all this since so much of the real world wants to shut off communication and take care of its own affairs. That’s a bumper sticker or baseball cap answer to problems. By contrast, Arrival is a type of humane and life-affirming wish fulfillment, a Star Trek-esque utopianism. (As an aside, three movies that Arrival reminded of: The Day the Earth Stood Still, Day of the Dead, and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.) [Check back tomorrow for Part 2!]
Arrival Discussion Part 1 photo
Premonitions, Politics, Aliens (Oh my!)
If you haven't seen Arrival yet, you should do so immediately. Not just because this thing right here spoils the hell out of the movie and won't really make any sense if you haven't seen it; see it because it's a genuinely fa...

Phantasm Xmas ornament photo
Phantasm Xmas ornament

This Phantasm sphere Christmas ornament is not a dream... BOOOOOOY!


Deck the balls with Tall Man mayhem...
Dec 07
// Hubert Vigilla
Phantasm is one of the great influential cult horror movies. Released in 1979, the film unfolds like a strange teenage nerd dream--a little bit B-movie, a little bit Something Wicked This Way Comes. In some ways, 2016 was the...
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Kodoku Meatball Machine

The trailer for Kodoku: Meatball Machine is blood-soaked and absolutely bonkers (NSFW)


Content and title are a perfect match
Dec 06
// Hubert Vigilla
If GWAR in its classic form decided to remake Tetsuo: The Iron Man, it might look like Yoshihiro Nishimura's Kodoku: Meatball Machine. That is all I can really say. There are no words. Just feelings. Strange, strange feelings. Seriously, watch this f**king trailer, dudes. Note: There is a lot of blood and some (maybe fake?) nudity.
Chinese Rogue One trailer photo
Chinese Rogue One trailer

Chinese Rogue One: A Star Wars Story trailer features an intro with Donnie Yen & Jiang Wen


Another final Rogue One trailer
Dec 06
// Hubert Vigilla
There will never be a final trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. There was the final trailer a little while ago. And then a second final trailer last week. And now here's a Chinese trailer for the film. It's like one of ...
Rogue One creatures photo
Rogue One creatures

Featurette showcases some practical effects creatures from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story


It's a trap! And a mask! And a trap!
Dec 06
// Hubert Vigilla
While I've been anticipating Rogue One: A Star Wars Story all year, I'm sort of glad that the marketing blitz for the film has been mostly concentrated into this last few weeks. Maybe I've just been avoiding all of the market...
Final Space photo
Final Space

Conan O'Brien brings Olan Rogers' Final Space to TBS: Watch the animated show's teaser/pilot


More Conan-related stuff on TBS
Dec 05
// Hubert Vigilla
Conan O'Brien is staking more territory over at TBS. In addition to his own talk show, Conanco (O'Brien's production company) is set to produce an all new animated television show called Final Space. Created by Olan Rogers an...
Rogue One and Ep 8? photo
Rogue One and Ep 8?

New Rogue One clips, and a possible connection to Star Wars: Episode VIII


Curiouser and curiouser
Dec 05
// Hubert Vigilla
Rogue One opens next week. Can you believe it? I'm legitimately getting more excited for this movie as the release draws near. Over the weekend, two new clips for the film surfaced, as well as some indication that Rogue One w...
Rogue One 60-minute Q&A photo
Rogue One 60-minute Q&A

Watch a 60-minute Q&A with the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story cast and director


More questions and anwers with the team
Dec 04
// Hubert Vigilla
The 30-minute Facebook Q&A with the Rogue One cast and director Gareth Edwards wasn't the only appearance the team made in the Bay Area. There was a 60-minute Q&A/panel with the same talent in San Francisco. Twitter, ...

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