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Showing posts from November, 2017

Review: "Wonder Wheel"

These days with almost hourly revelations of high-profile men -- albeit in the media industry or politics -- getting called out for sexual misconduct allegations, it's hard to ignore director Woody Allen's own controversial past (he married his stepdaughter) when gauging his new film Wonder Wheel. Of course, the idea is that we critique the work and not the artist. That is fair. And yet, in a stroke of cosmic cynicism, it turns out that Allen doesn't need any shade from his personal past to hurt the intended success of Wonder Wheel because the film is just plain ol' bad.

Wonder Wheel stars Academy Award winner Kate Winslet as Ginny, our disillusioned and itching-for-another-crisis heroine. Ginny, her husband Humpty (Jim Belushi, bless him) and her son Richie (Jack Gore) live in an apartment looking over the boardwalk of Coney Island. It's the 1950s. Summer is winding down, resulting in less attendance and therefore less money for our boardwalk inhabitants. Someone …

Watch: Christopher Plummer side by side with Kevin Spacey in "All The Money In The World"

When Ridley Scott made the announcement that he would be replacing all of Kevin Spacey's scenes with actor Christopher Plummer in his upcoming film All The Money In The World, the idea was pretty unbelievable and shocking. It's been less than a month since that news broke and Scott has made good on his word.

A new video spot promoting the high-profile film was just released and it offered us the first glimpse of Plummer as J. Paul Getty. Of course, I couldn't resist putting clips of Spacey and Plummer side by side to see the before and after visuals.

It makes the trailer's voiceover that much more haunting: "To be a Getty is an extraordinary thing...we *look* like you...but we're NOT like you..."

Review: "The Disaster Artist"

If you were to glance at the Instagram page for James Franco's The Disaster Artist, you would think it's another polished Judd Apatow comedy (who also appears in the film, in addition to Apatow-regular Seth Rogen). If you were to watch the trailer for The Disaster Artist, it looks like the latest art project in Franco's prolific filmography as a director. If you were to read media coverage of The Disaster Artist, some film writers and pundits would like you to believe that this is an actual dark horse for the Oscars. Now that it's been some time since I've seen the film, and have mulled over what the hell it categorically is, I can tell you that none of the above descriptions accurately paints the picture. It's a strange film, with some seriously cynical and unnerving undercurrents, starring some of the most likable and good-looking movie stars currently working. I don't know if it's going to achieve the affectionate success that its source material al…

Watch: The Blair Witch Facebook Live Project

A key component to the success of Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick's low budget indie horror smash hit The Blair Witch Project was that it was released in the summer of 1999 aka pre-social media. There was a cloak of mystery around this faux documentary, so much so that a good portion of moviegoers actually thought this was a real found footage film, therefore adding to the onscreen terror its protagonists endured during their doomed trip to the woods.

In today's moviegoing climate, there aren't too many movie secrets or surprises. We live in an embargo-fueled, spoiler-feared, film snob-Twitter era where everyone's an expert and pop cultural cynicism is at an all time high.

Coincidentally, we live in a time where a lot of online users are also content creators, and more specifically, video creators (or at least are video engagers and enthusiasts). We are a species that thrives on visual communication after all, so that makes sense. And with social media, our need to …

Review: "The Man Who Invented Christmas"

One of my favorite holiday films is Richard Donner's 1988 black comedy Scrooged starring Bill Murray. In that film, Murray's Frank Cross character is a modern incarnation of Ebenezer Scrooge, from Charles Dickens' classic novella "A Christmas Carol." Like its source material, Scrooged follows Cross on Christmas Eve as he's visited by three spirits who teach him life-changing lessons and ultimately help him turn a new leaf, ditching his cynical demeanor in exchange for a warmer heart (and what not). It's a testament to Dickens' prose that "A Christmas Carol" singlehandedly won over readers in Europe (and the Yankees across the Atlantic) enough to revitalize the Christmas holiday itself. The fact that movies still borrow inspiration from its pages shows the timelessness of its ideas and themes -- not to mention its structure of implicit time travel. And now comes The Man Who Invented Christmas, which gives us the behind the scenes story of &q…

Watch: "Rampage" Arcade Version

Chicago sure makes a gorgeous backdrop for sci-fi fare (Divergent, Jupiter Ascending) and big action spectacles from Hollywood (The Dark Knight, Transformers: Dark of the Moon), so it's no wonder that (arguably) the current biggest movie star in the world Dwayne Johnson has set his next sure-to-be blockbuster in the Windy City as well. Johnson's latest special effects extravaganza Rampage is based on the 1986 arcade game of the same name from Bally Midway. The game itself has gone through revamps over the years, appearing on platforms such as Atari and Sega Master System.

As I watched the first trailer for this live action adaptation, I marveled at how striking my beloved home city looked in several shots, but then I began to have a stasis of image association in my head. The flat 2D look of the original "Rampage" game struggled to surface in my conscience. So I did what I do best and I worked with the moving images in my latest video essay and rendered this new fil…

Watch: #MovieQuotesRedux

There are certain movie quotes that are instant classics. People quote them in their day-to-day conversations. Some are on t-shirts. Some are on coasters. Hell, there are even some that are immortalized as tattoos. That's the power of movies -- they connect to us.
Every so often, some movie quotes even become enveloped into the movie universe's own pop cultural Zeitgeist. For my latest video #MovieQuotesRedux I explored some of these quotes. You'll note that at the start of the video certain actors reinterpret their lines in later comedic films they star in but then I literally hit the stop button and then play some scenes where other actors are rendering these famous quotes in their own fashion.
Enjoy!

Review: "Mudbound"

Dee Rees' Mudbound opens with a scene that is a figurative baptism of sorts. It's the 1940s and a torrential rain pours down on two brothers -- Henry and Jamie McAllan -- as they dig a grave for their late father on their Mississippi farm. After some time the younger brother Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) finds himself overwhelmed by the fast rising water in the grave he's standing in. Jamie's older brother Henry (Jason Clarke) is no longer in his field view at the top of the grave. It's cause for panic. The water is so harsh that Jamie is quickly victim to the muddy waters washing over him in defeat. Then, a beat later, a ladder appears and Henry lifts his drenched younger brother from the grave. Upon first viewing, the elemental forces at work here give subtle imagery to a resurrection of the body. But by the end of Mudbound, this scene takes on a deeper meaning for the reckoning of sins and a thirst for forgiveness. In short, Jamie is plunging himself into the rainy wa…

Watch: THE USUAL PLUMMERS (Christopher Plummer in “The Usual Suspects”)

In an unprecedented move yesterday, Ridley Scott announced that he will remove Kevin Spacey entirely from his upcoming film All the Money in the World, where Spacey played J. Paul Getty. The trailer for the film had already been released and it was supposed to play at AFI Fest next week. This is the latest fallout that has landed on Spacey since the recent allegations of his sexual assault towards several victims.

And what about the film? Scott said that Oscar winner Christopher Plummer will take over the role of Getty, leaving Scott only weeks to reshoot all of Spacey's scenes with Plummer before All the Money in the World's Christmas release date next month.

So with that cavalier spirit in mind, I thought I'd reimagine another one of Spacey's films (The Usual Suspects) with Plummer taking over the reigns. In my video "The Usual Plummers" Chazz Palminteri slowly realizes that it was Plummer -- not Spacey -- who was Keyser Söze all along...

Video Remix: Terence Stamp in Soderbergh's "The Kryptonian"

Steven Soderbergh is an envelope pusher. Always has been. He's also been a video essayist himself in the past. So I thought it'd be appropriate to do a little remix on one of my favorite entries in the Soderbergh canon, his 1999 Terence Stamp-starrer The Limey.

What I did here was reinterpret Stamp's character of Wilson as an older version of General Zod from Superman II. I used the final minutes from The Limey and Soderbergh's jump-cut flashback structure to incorporate moments from Zod's visit to Earth in that 1980 film. It gives the scene a different kind of resonance and reflection.

Watch for yourself.

Review: "Lady Bird"

There is a sequence about halfway through Noah Baumbach's 2012 film Frances Ha where its heroine Frances (Greta Gerwig, who also co-wrote Frances Ha) makes a trip home to Sacramento, California from the east coast for the holidays. During this section we get the sense that Frances is quietly happy to be home but she also suffers a mute desperation while reliving the origins of her youth. For example, her mom rushes her while she seeks privacy in the bathroom, she's obliged to sit through church services with her family and an entertainment excursion involves some thrifty clothes shopping for deals. Coincidentally, all of these settings and sequences serve as showcases for Gerwig's directorial debut Lady Bird (which she wrote as well). It's no wonder that this new film begins with a quote from Joan Didion: “Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento.”
Starring two-time Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan in the title role (although he…

Video Essay: "Doug Liman: Opening Moments"

It struck me while watching American Made a month or so ago that Doug Liman really cares about every moment in most of his movies. I mean this literally. In several of his directorial efforts he's started his films off with an energy or stylistic trait that's hard to ignore.

To shine a better light on this, I created this video essay that walks you through a handful of his films to convey an often overlooked feat that Liman does almost without effort. Take a look!

Surprise! New 45-Second TV Spot for "Star Wars: The Last Jedi"

We're taking a 45-second break from film reviews and video essays to share with you a happy surprise. During tonight's Game 7 of the World Series, a brand new TV spot for the much-anticipated Star Wars: Episode 8 - The Last Jedi hit screens everywhere. Rian Johnson wrote and directed this one, and considering how dope The Brothers Bloom and Looper are, this Star Wars installment looks promising.


Also, this is our new favorite GIF.