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Carmelo

Vimeo Screenshot

Jorge R. Gutierrez, as it turns out, has something of an artistic fascination with death. His first feature film, The Book of Life, opened last weekend. Produced by Guillermo del Toro, it’s a love story that crosses into the afterlife and builds upon the aesthetic and spiritual traditions of Dia de los Muertos. Death comes early on in the film, when Manolo (Diego Luna) is bitten by a venomous snake and sent into the next world. To regain the love of his life, Maria (Zoe Saldana), he has to find a way to come back from the beyond. It may not be the only recent animated feature for kids to address death, after Paranorman and others, but its embrace of such a morbid narrative is an exciting risk.

For Gutierrez, however, this is nothing new. His final film as a student at CalArts in 2000 was a 3D short called Carmelo. It won an Emmy for student animation and played at a number of festivals. He has since mostly worked in television, for Nickelodeon, Disney, and Warner Bros. He created the 2007 Nickelodeon series El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera, which was that network’s first ever flash animation series. The project won a number of Emmys, as well as two Annie Awards. These three most significant projects, CarmeloEl Tigre and now The Book of Life all draw from Gutierrez’s childhood and his heritage in Mexico.

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Wiseau-Films

Wiseau-Films

When Tommy Wiseau appeared from wherever he’s actually from (the consensus is still out on that one) and crafted the bizarre, wonderful, atrocious monstrosity called The Room — the Citizen Kane of bad movies, as it is proudly now known — he clearly didn’t understand what he had actually made. A drama without peers, the salacious story of some harpy named Lisa (Juliette Danielle) who tears apart the sanity and heart of her future-husband Johnny (Wiseau), all just to have an affair with his best friend, Mark (Greg Sestero), it’s a masterpiece of side-plots (Breast Cancer! Bay-to-Breakers! Chris-R!), green screens, eschewing subtly and really capturing the beauty of San Francisco through about five or 100 tracking shots of the Golden Gate Bridge.

In the years since 2002, The Room has, of course, evolved into an unstoppable monster of cult success, leading to midnight Rocky Horror-style screenings (don’t come unless you’re armed with plastic spoons), endless quotables and years of audiences listening with a mix of fascination and admiration (and a little bit of horror) to Wiseau to wax poetic about his life’s philosophy when he inevitably shows up to a showing or two.

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feature summer winners iron man 3

By now, we’ve all probably picked out our favorite moment (or moments) from that first Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer (I’m going with that final Ultron reveal, although Hulk booping Black Widow’s nose is a close second). But there’s one chunk of Ultron’s world debut that not a single person enjoyed: the jokes. Because those were conspicuously absent from this very dark and stormy Avengers reveal.

Rest assured: there will be jokes in Age of Ultron. Just as there have been jokes in every single MCU film to date, plus basically every episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and One-Shot short film. Just as there were plenty of jokes in the footage of Age of Ultron that screened at this year’s Comic-Con (wherein a bunch of sloshed Avengers tried to lift Thor’s hammer, Captain America kinda does, and Thor briefly loses his shit). But Marvel has deemed that laughter and lightheartedness should not be present when the world takes its first look at Age of Ultron; instead, our first impression of the film should be that it is dark and sad and yes, awesome, but awesome in a very non-Avengers-banter way.

And it might just have something to do with Iron Man.

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Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

The idea of playing with an Ouija board never seems to end well. People are accused of cheating or someone actually thinks they have made contact, and the board becomes a frightening vessel instead of a silly board game. Director Stiles White‘s Ouija attempts to dive into this mystery and show whether or not the board really is something to fear.

Debbie (Shelley Hennig) seems to have a thing for Ouija boards, but when she is found dead in her home the apparent victim of suicide her best friend Laine (Olivia Cooke) becomes obsessed with figuring out what really happened. When Laine finds the tattered, old Ouija board in Debbie’s room, she decides to gather their friends to play the game in Debbie’s newly-vacant house to see if they can contact Debbie for answers and hopefully closure.

However the moment the group begins playing the game, things start to unravel and it becomes clear that while they are definitely getting in contact with someone, it may not be their friend. After their initial game, each member of the group starts seeing the same ominous message that was spelled out on the board, and Ouija quickly becomes a race to figure what they have unearthed before their entire group is killed off in not-so grisly fashion.

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Welcome to the Dollhouse

Sony Pictures Classics

Dawn Wiener is dead, long live Dawn Wiener!

Todd Solondz‘s second feature film, Welcome to the Dollhouse, is hailed as the filmmaker’s big breakthrough — a bold, gross, weird and uncomfortably honest look at one awkward tween’s coming-of-age in nineties New Jersey. The film starred Heather Matarazzo as Dawn “Wiener Dog” Wiener, an outcast desperate to fit in with her bone-headed peers, her terrible family and a classmate who repeatedly attempts to rape her. As is Solondz’s signature, the film is admirable and unique, even if you feel like you need a shower after watching it.

The Hollywood Reporter now reports that Solondz is “sort of” working a sequel to the 1995 Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning feature film, as the filmmaker is currently casting for Wiener-Dog, billed as “an ensemble indie that is tied together thematically by a dachshund.” Moreover, “the script tells several stories featuring people who find their life inspired or changed by one particular dachshund, who seems to be spreading comfort and joy.” Of course, anyone who is familiar with Solondz likely won’t think, “oh, yes, a dog” when they hear “wiener-dog,” they’ll think of Dawn Wiener, and they won’t be wrong, because one of the new film’s stories will indeed be about Dawn Wiener.

Wait. How does that work?

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The Dining Room or There is Nothing

David Earle

My own personal Oktoberfest continues, only instead of beer and delicious food, I’m diving headfirst into horror, which sounds kind of unpleasant, come to think of it. Fortunately it’s movies instead of, you know, real-life terror.

Anyway, today I continue writing lists about spooky things because Halloween creeps ever closer, and if you need something to get you in the mood, just check out these super creepy, short horror films you can watch for free.

I had so many I split this into two parts, with part 1 featuring live action shorts and part 2 showcasing animated ones. Check back next week for that one!

And now, in no particular order…

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A24

A24

The film landscape is filled with movies about people struggling with the idea of growing up, acting responsible and accepting that they’re an adult, and roughly all of these films feature a man-child as their protagonist. What Lynn Shelton‘s new film Laggies presupposes is… what if one of them was a woman?

Megan (Keira Knightley) has been watching from the sidelines as friends get married and start careers and families, but while she’s a bit young for a mid-life crisis that doesn’t stop her from losing her emotional footing when her boyfriend proposes out of the blue. The issue is compounded further when she sees her dad getting a handy from a woman who is most definitely not Megan’s mother, and in shock and disbelief Megan immediately hops in the car and heads out into the night. She meets a teenager named Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz) out front of a Grocery Outlet with her friends on the lookout for a “cool” adult willing to buy them some booze, and she agrees to help in exchange for a place to hide out for a few days.

Megan may look too young for a life crisis, but one glance is all Annika’s father (Sam Rockwell) needs to know that she’s also too old to be his daughter’s classmate. She explains her situation — well, a heavily redacted version of her situation that includes no mention of a boyfriend or a proposal — and Craig decides to let her stay through the weekend. She tries at first to treat her new situation as a simple fork in the lazy river that is her life, but she quickly discovers that sometimes you have to get out of the inner tube and stand on your own two feet. Or, you know, insert your own metaphor here.

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Oldboy Ending

Egg Films

It’s been a hell of a week, so it would be great to talk about films that make us happy. Unfortunately, that’s not the show we prepped.

Instead, we’ve got a dissection of characters who are pushed to the breaking point, inspired by Miles Teller destroying himself to become the next Buddy Rich in Whiplash. Who knew jazz drumming was so brutal?

We’ll discuss people incrementally becoming disillusioned, forget to talk about Oldboy and then connect Falling Down to Gamer Gate in one seamless move.

Plus, a 10th anniversary appreciation of what Saw did right as a low budget horror movie made in an astonishingly short amount of time (18 days, no kidding).

You should follow the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on Twitter for more on a daily basis.

Please review us on iTunes

Download Episode #74 

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Johnny Depp

Walt Disney Pictures

There must be a room in Johnny Depp‘s mansion devoted solely to the silly hats he’s worn in past films (do you think he ventures back in there to re-wear them now and again? Could Depp’s Willy Wonka top hat stack on top of his Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter top hat?). And if that’s the case, he’s got another prized piece of headwear to add to the collection: one crisp grey fedora, sporting two large wolf ears and a tuft of extraneous fur. That one’s courtesy of Into the Woods, the latest silly-hat feature Depp’s got in the works (as well as another Pirates of the Caribbean, another Alice in Wonderland and Mortedcai, which may only be going the silly mustache route for now, but where mustache goes, hat often follows).

We’ve seen trailers and images for Into the Woods before, but nothing of Depp’s character, the movie’s version of the Big Bad Wolf (or The Wolf, if you’re into the whole brevity thing). But with a generous assist from Entertainment Weekly, we’ve got a glimpse of Depp, decked out in his formal lupine finest.

And it is weird.

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Saw Movie Bathroom

Lions Gate Films

“If it’s Halloween, it must be Saw.” That was Lionsgate’s tag line to the Saw franchise for years. It all began in 2004 when then-unknown horror director James Wan delivered a very low-budget but very grisly thriller about a new killer named Jigsaw who didn’t actually kill people… he simply set them up to kill themselves. Fine line, there.

The rest was history. Wan went on to direct other iconic horror films, including Insidious and The Conjuring. Star Tobin Bell and his sidekick Billy the Puppet became as recognizable as Jason’s hockey mask. Torture porn (a bit of a misnomer for the earlier, better Saw films) became its own sub-genre. And for nearly a decade, most studio horror movie releases cleared the way for Lionsgate to drop a new sequel in October just before Halloween.

However, before it became a full-blown phenomenon, director James Wan sat down with the film’s writer and co-star Leigh Whannell to talk about the original for the DVD release. Now, for the film’s 10th anniversary, it’s time to look back at this new classic and learn.

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Twentieth Century Fox

Twentieth Century Fox

The longtime attempt at making a movie out of Arthur Herzog‘s “IQ 83” is finally seeing some real progress at Paramount, where Charlie Kaufman has been tapped for a full rewrite and Steve Carell has been cast in the lead. The premise of the sci-fi novel is rather simple: an outbreak of a virus that doesn’t wipe out the population, just lowers its IQ substantially. Firstly, this plot seems quite relevant to anyone frustrated with the idiocy of fear going around concerning Ebola when only one person in the US has died from the disease and only two others diagnosed as having contracted it here. Secondly, it just seems quite familiar to anyone who has enjoyed science fiction set in the future. It didn’t take very long for someone to comment on Deadline’s news posting with the obvious comparison that it sounds like Idiocracy.

As far as the parallel that both IQ 83 and Idiocracy are (or will be) movies focused on humanity getting dumber, and both have a satirical intention regarding the idea that we are already proving to be heading in that direction, that’s a foundational element they share. But there are plenty of other movies — many of them based on sci-fi books — that also involve a future that comes off as being collectively of a depreciated intelligence. This is particularly noteworthy now as we await Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and its apparent attention to be smart about the prospects of human progress in the years ahead. We’ll see. Some movies seem to be set in an advanced future only to be populated by characters who do the stupidest things, a la certain scientists in Prometheus.

Below are common or standout aspects of future-set sci-fi movies that indicate Hollywood expects a lowering of our species, intellectually.

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Joan Didion

Kickstarter

“We’re making it because no one else, incredibly, has made a documentary about Joan Didion. It’s a mystery.”

During my senior year of college, the majority of my otherwise lax schedule (a brief flirtation with a double major had loaded up my credits during junior year) was built around a class called “Road Write,” a high-level class for English majors that was pretty much exactly what it sounds like — a class about the road, and also a class about writing. We read lots of books and poetry by the Beats, lots of books about California (I went to school in Los Angeles, but Road Write’s curriculum covered the entire state without prejudice) about travel, about movement, and about creativity. We also zipped through stacks of Joan Didion, burning through her earlier works like “Play It as It Lays” and “Slouching Towards Bethlehem.” We took trips to Malibu and Big Sur and Palm Springs and Joshua Tree, places that appear throughout Didion’s works. We did art projects. We visited a yurt. We drank a lot.

Our reading list instilled a love for certain authors and stories in us that hadn’t been previously tapped into during lower-level, more classics-driven classes. While some of my classmates turned to the Beats and never looked back, I went nuts for Didion, a passion that hasn’t abated in the decade plus since my semester of Road Write ended. On just a personal level, I want to see a Didion-centric doc so badly that it actually aches, but despite my own desires, such a documentary will provide plenty for even Didion neophytes — which is why it’s pretty great that you can just go ahead and pay for such a film right now.

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Romeo is Bleeding Olin

Gramercy Pictures

The scene starts out typically enough. An exhausted, blood-covered man jumps into a car and peels out of the area with a prone, bloodied female body lying in the back seat. As he drives away, however, she watches. Before he can notice the change, she’s turned around, raised her legs, and wrapped them around his neck.

It’s equal parts sadistic and erotic as she perches on her shoulders, her skirt riding up to reveal her garter belt and panties. She isn’t serious and focused, but delightfully cackling, her eyes closed as if she just heard the funniest joke. He swerves left and right, struggling for air and failing to stop her as blood smears all over the car.

He crashes and is knocked unconscious. With her hands cuffed behind her back she crawls to the front, kicks out the windshield, grabs an envelope with her teeth, and wiggles her way out. She isn’t impervious to pain. When she falls to the ground she cries out, but pulls herself to her feet and wobbles off, kicking off her remaining stiletto to run away.

When Gary Oldman drove off with Lena Olin in the back of the car in Romeo is Bleeding, the incomparable actress revealed the joys of female evil and the potential inherent in leg-based violence. The male gaze, quite atypically, merges with feminism in moments like hers. There is a sexual element of provocation mixed with a feminine release as she attacks with the very body part that differentiates her. The usual source of attack is now the weapon. It’s titillating, it’s cathartic, and it doesn’t need vagina dentata to happen.

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