Box Wars, where people dress up in elaborate cardboard costumes and stage massive battles, is definitely a great subject for a documentary. The biggest problem with Justin McConnell’s (“The Collapsed”) new film, “Skull World,” is that it rarely gets beyond the “this is super cool” level of examination and analysis. Which is too bad, and feels like a missed opportunity.
Sunday, June 30, 2013
Thursday, June 27, 2013
Though there have certainly been female fronted buddy cop movies before, the genre is dominated by boys being boys. Leave it to Paul Feig to follow up his raunchy bachelorette-party comedy “Bridesmaids,” by adding a new tweak to this well-worn genre. And that’s really all “The Heat” is, a slight adjustment to the formula, but one that pays off big time. If you want to laugh really, really hard, and you’ve already seen “This is the End,” go see “The Heat.” It doesn’t break any new ground, but it is super goddamn funny.
Big, loud, heroic, and fun, Roland Emmerich’s take on “Die Hard in the White House” (the first this year was the more serious “Olympus HasFallen”), “White House Down,” is also bloated, ridiculously violent, and kind of dumb. And all of this is wrapped up in one bombastic package. The film wears its politics on its sleeve, but it’s a jumbled mess of simple, watered down jabs at the right, big business, and the American war machine. I’m as left-leaning as they come, but the way the film goes about trying to have a message is so asinine and rudimentary that you have to wonder why even bother.
Neil Jordan’s moody new film “Byzantium” is a sprawling, novelistic take on a familiar genre. Not his first horror rodeo, the “Crying Game” director offers up a revisionist approach to a vampire story. His film contains many of the hallmarks you expect—eternal life, themes of undying love, an epic scope that spans historical epochs. While this strategy has enough twists and tweaks so that it fit doesn’t feel like a story you’ve witnessed a thousand times before, the meandering nature is also its biggest drawback. Occasionally bloody and violent, “Byzantium” is primarily a somber tale of a woeful, savage life.
Saturday, June 22, 2013
Every year, in addition to more than 400 features, the Seattle International Film Festival also presents an extensive series of short. While fests like this may be your only chance to see many of the full-length films, the odds are even worse that you’re going to stumble across most of these smaller offerings. There aren’t a lot of mainstream distribution avenues for short films, they don’t get released into theaters, so if you miss them now, you’re probably shit out of luck. Digging into the darker side of things, the films in the “Nightmare Mystery Theatre” program offer you quick glimpses into the twisted, violent, and horrific.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
After all the well-documented production problems surrounding the adaptation of Max Brooks’ best-selling zombie novel, including extensive rewrites and weeks worth of reshoots, here’s something I wasn’t sure I’d be able to say: World WarZ is a damn good movie. Far from a perfect feature, but Brad Pitt, Marc Forster, and company, didn’t do too bad. It’s nothing like the book—Brooks was right to call it an adaptation in name only—but if you can get past that fact, the film is surprisingly effective hybrid of action and horror.
Monday, June 17, 2013
Watching Pandora’s Promise, the new documentary from veteran documentarian Robert Stone, is a strange endeavor. As far back as you can remember, the argument over nuclear power has seemingly been stuffy men in crisp white lab coats spouting technical mumbo jumbo, while loose living environmental activists espouse the evils inherent in the technology, and state the potential for disaster. Nuclear power is the bogeyman in countless movies, shows, and books, and is portrayed at this monolithic monster.
At its best, Jim Van Bebber’s 2003 exploitation flick “The Manson Family” is like watching a hallucinatory nightmare come to life. Vivid and savage, the film is full of images that stick with you long after your viewing experience comes to a close. To mark a full decade of madness, SeverinFilms has unleashed a new 10th anniversary Blu-ray to fuck with your mind and conscience. What more do you need beside orgies, drugs, and murder, with a special emphasis on the orgies?
Sunday, June 16, 2013
At this point in the game is there really anything to say about “Enter the Dragon” that hasn’t already been said? It’s the greatest martial arts movie of all time—we can argue all we want, and there are great examples of the genre that I also love dearly, but there’s no getting around how awesome and culturally relevant the film is. It also just turned 40-years-old. I feel like we should make if a cake with black frosting and a tombstone on it, just for laughs, but it might kick our collective asses. Instead, why don’t we celebrate with a stacked new 40th Anniversary Blu-ray release?
Saturday, June 15, 2013
Director Peter Young’s new documentary, The LastOcean, is one of those films seeks to make you angry. Not punch throwing angry, necessarily, but it would certainly like to be a call to arms, or a rallying cry. And for the most part, it succeeds. Young manages to accomplish his goal at the same time he presents both sides of the issue at hand, and, most importantly, without ever being preachy or sanctimonious.
Thursday, June 13, 2013
After turning out a seedy, brutal, genre bender of a horror film like “Kill List,” the obvious next move is to make a romantic road trip comedy, right? It is if you’re British director Ben Wheatley. That guy is a straight up lunatic. I’m never sure what he’s going to turn out next, but I always want to see it. And given his established sensibilities, this isn’t your standard take on the matter at hand. All the comedy in his latest offering, “Sightseers,” is dark, pitch fucking black to be precise. The film is a violent, hallucinatory Bonnie and Clyde story, tracing two youngish lovers on a gory rampage across the countryside. This film just proves once again, that, not only is Wheatley someone to keep an eye on, but that he has zero regard for convention.
Neil Blomkamp’s upcoming sci-fi film “Elysium” has everything I want out of a movie. There’s a great cast, plenty of action, a cool setting, and, perhaps most importantly, a story with a point, one that makes you think. And there's Sharlto Copley looking like a post-apocalyptic madman. It was already near the top of the list of movies to be excited about for 2013—along with “PacificRim” and “Snowpiercer”—but this new extended trailer is flat out phenomenal. You walk away with a much more in depth understanding of the story. Without wasting too much more of your time, you better make damn sure to mark August 9 on your calendar.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
“Snowpiercer,” the English-language debut of South Korean director Bong Joon-ho, is one of my most anticipated movies of 2013. I can’t wait to see what the guy behind “The Host” is going to do with an apocalyptic ice age and endlessly moving train. While we don’t have a North American release date (Korea will get it on August 1), now we have this international trailer—the first—to start you salivating. There isn’t much more to say other than watch this video, watch it now, watch it often.
Here’s the beginning of what could have been an awkward story. Seated for the world premiere of “Last I Heard” at the Seattle International Film Festival, I chatted with a guy in my row before the lights went down. I had my notebook out, and the pen I stole from work at the ready as a few more people filled out the row. Others occupied the seats around us, and as I started jotting down the few facts I knew about the movie—gangsters, Paul Sorvino, prison, to be honest, I didn’t know much going in—to remind myself of later, it dawned on me, I was sitting next to stars Renee Props and Andrea Navedo, and had been talking to writer/director David Rodriguez.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Does watching a bunch of foul-mouthed, weed-smoking, pill-popping celebrities attempt to survive the end of the world sound like a good time? If it does, your summer just took a significant upturn with This is the End, the directorial debut from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the dynamic duo behind Superbad and Pineapple Express. Not only are we talking about an apocalyptic tale, this is also the vulgar, balls out, R-rated comedy you’ve waiting for. (The Hangover Part III was a miserable failure on that front.) Just because this is exactly what you expect it to be—raunchy, improvised humor—doesn’t make it any less of a freaking blast.
Sunday, June 9, 2013
Sure, he may have devolved into scolding empty chairs on stage in front of the entire world at political conventions, but Clint Eastwood is still one of the baddest men on the planet. He’s also happens to be one of the greatest living American filmmakers. Now you can celebrate both facets of his iconic career with the “Clint Eastwood 20 Film Collection” Blu-ray from Warner Bros. This is exactly what it sounds like it, and is just as awesome as you expect it to be. Through the films in this compilation you get to explore Eastwood both as iconic tough guy actor, and as intricate, intimate director.
Saturday, June 8, 2013
Haven’t you always wanted to see a bunch of cranky, foul-mouthed octogenarians have it out with swarming hordes of the undead? If so, you’re in luck, because the world now has Matthias Hoene’s “Cockneys vs. Zombies” to play with. Not the most technically proficient horror movie you’ll ever see—the story is predictable every step of the way, for one thing—but what the movie is, is a goddamned blast. Sure, it’s cheap and hokey, but there is gore, guns, and screaming senior citizens, all of which infuses the movie with a giddiness that makes you want to clap your hands and squeal like an imbecile. This isn’t looking to balance horror and comedy. The intent here is definitely skewed toward laughs, though laughs soaked in blood and viscera.
Thursday, June 6, 2013
Though they may seem unlikely bedfellows, when you throw William Shakespeare and Joss Whedon together, you wind up with one hell of a popcorn movie. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, that’s what Whedon does. He has a fantastic pop sensibility, and turns out great, whip-smart movies that are equally entertaining. And even given his pantheonic placement in academia, that’s precisely what the Shakespeare did in his day, deliver populist entertainment that was never watered down. And when you put the Bard in the hand of the man who directed “The Avengers,” what you get is the latest adaptation of “Much AdoAbout Nothing.”
You’ll be hard pressed to find a film this year—maybe ever—that captures both the burning desire and the abject terror at the prospect of growing up as “The Kings of Summer.” Certainly a generic title, it’s better than “Toy’s House,” the name on the tag the movie wore to the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. Don’t be swayed by the moniker, however, this is a fantastic, bittersweet coming of age movie that manages to be wildly funny, deathly serious, and, most of all, engaging, all at the same time.
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Good god, watching “The Punk Singer,” Sini Anderson’s new documentary about Kathleen Hanna, makes me feel like I’m 16. This movie brings back vivid memories of mail ordering seven-inches I read about in crappy photocopied zines that I picked up at basement shows, sending a few carefully concealed bills, hoping I’d actually get one of those records that changed my life every couple of months. There were more than a few times where a random package arrived in the mailbox and it was a record I sent for six or eight months earlier and completely forgot about. Groups of us sat for hours in one or another of our bedrooms, annoying the shit out of anyone else in the house, making endless mix tapes of each other’s records.
Monday, June 3, 2013
Lee Sung-gong (Nam Yeon-woo) is a wiener. That’s the long and the short of it. As the protagonist of South Korean director Lee Don-ku’s new revenge drama “Fatal” (“Ga-si-kkot”), he is the kind of character that the entire world takes a giant crap on. Everyone, including his so-called friends, pushes him around; he has a glum, dead end, demeaning job; buses don’t even stop for this guy when he stands there waiting to get on. Even little dogs pick on this man. As you can imagine, “Fatal” is a story of him gaining a spine for the first time in his miserable life, and exerting a modicum of power upon the world around him. But it is also a mediation of guilt, compliance, and the lasting effects our actions have on each other.
One of the key components in speculative fiction is imagining various potential futures based on the current state of the world. In her new film, Yesterday Never Ends, Spanish writer-director Isabel Coixet’s (Map of the Sounds of Tokyo) takes the current economic crisis in her native country and extends it by a decade, out into the year 2017. In this iteration, the crisis worsens, taking the entire country down with it. Unemployment is at seven million, civil unrest runs rampant in the streets, fiscal cut backs hamstring every social service, and the government is powerless to do a damn thing about any of it.
“Better living through chemistry,” quips psychiatrist Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) as he cracks an energy drink before running off to see another patient. Early on in Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects, Banks is about to meet Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) for the first time, a woman he will proceed to prescribe a series of anti-depressants to.
Sunday, June 2, 2013
Playing music is tough, and something you better damn well have a passion for, because it’s almost impossible to make a living at. Even if you do love it, you’re in for some long nights and rude awakenings. I spent a fair amount of my life driving six, eight, ten hours from one show to the next, playing for a handful of people (once in Columbus, Ohio, out audience consisted of three people, all of them in another band) who couldn’t care less, and walking away with twenty-five bucks and no place to crash aside from the van. And five grumpy dudes that have been on the road for a month all trying to sleep in a weighted-down half-ton Chevy is not nearly as romantic as it sounds.