Features

Multiverse Short Film

Why Watch? At the opening of this short film from Michael DiBiasio, a young woman (Rebecca De Ornelas) obsessively tucks her hair behind her ear, gets a text message and then tentatively heads for her front door. It’s a sequence that becomes overbearingly familiar as she experiences a series of hollow social encounters filled with literally blank faces. Where Groundhog Day set out to make repeated sequences entertaining and fresh, Multiverse uses quiet echoes for an opposite, alienating effect. Coupled with an agoraphobic’s eye view of abjectly meaningless jaunts into generic parties and bar scenes, we get to share in her angst to the point where tossing on some stretchy pants and staying in feels like a damned fine idea. The editing also aids the disconnected feeling — shooting us from the doorknob straight into the middle of a crowd — and the cinematography keeps focus on De Ornelas while almost always framing her slightly off-center (not to mention she’s the only set of eyes we get to see). She is unmistakably alone and surrounded. This is a great example of transforming something benign into a nerve-gripping trial. Heading down a hallway becomes the space walk from 2001. Going to see a comedian becomes the grownup version of dreaming you’re naked in school. By the end, you can easily imagine Franz Kafka watching this, putting his arm fraternally around DiBiasio and then buying him a beer.

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TMNT Leo

By the second time Groot said his famous line in Guardians of the Galaxy, the little girl with the red-faced mother behind me in the theater had cracked the code. From then on, every time a character tossed a question or confused glance toward the arboreal humanoid, she’d yell “I Am Groot!” in unison with Vin Diesel. When Groot shoved a limb through a dozen henchmen and slammed them Hulk-style against a wall for good measure, she shouted out his catchphrase, and when he produced only a sheepishly demonic grin in return, she lost it. When he wrapped his limbs around the other guardians as they plunged from the sky, I could hear her whisper “Groot?” like an ad for Kleenex over my left shoulder. When he danced inside a flower pot, she danced too. She was probably about the same age I was when I saw Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles back in 1990, so I imagine the memory will stick with her. She might dress up as Groot for Halloween, play with his action figure, eat sugar cereal with his face on it (that’s still a thing, right?) like I did with the talking turtles. After this weekend, there’s also a new generation of kids who will become Michelangelo on Halloween night as well as a group my age, shaking our oatmeal fists while ineffectually saying, “This is what the real Turtles was like.” As you could have guessed, the new incarnation of TMNT was big enough to launch a sequel, and it’ll be another adventure with […]

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Superman 3 Computer

The life of a film critic is one of the swankiest and most lucrative jobs you’ll ever have. Forget doctors and lawyers. Forget international business. Forget technology. Film criticism, particularly that which involves publishing on the internet, has me rolling in money like Scrooge McDuck. I’m not just rich, I’m stupid rich. Still, when it gets to be the middle of the month, and I’m paying bills, I can come up a little short. There never seems to be enough money in my bank account to comfortably live. It’s around this time that I start to think creatively about how to make even more money than my swag-filled, jet-setting life already brings me. Sure, there’s always the possibility of becoming the trophy companion of a supermodel. I certainly have the rippling muscles, two-percent body fat, and inguinal arch of Ryan Gosling. Then again, I’m happily married, and that might be a deal-breaker for a sugar momma. After recently watching Superman III and Office Space, I realized that the best way to make ends meet might be a life of crime. After all, I live most of my life on computers. Just ask my 2,693 Twitter followers. That’s got to be worth something. This got me thinking: Could I use the banking glitch we saw in Superman III to get even richer than I am today?

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Paramount Pictures

The Weekend Watch is an open thread where you can share what you’ve recently watched, offer suggestions on movies and TV shows we should check out (or warnings about stuff to avoid) and discover queue-filling goodies from other FSR readers. The comments section awaits. I’ll get the ball rolling with the movies/TV my eyeballs took in this weekend.

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Inbetweeners 2

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Mutant Turtles Superman Legend

“We’re turtles! Fighting turtles! Not normal slow-poke turtles!” The above quote is not, unfortunately, the refrain of a song in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The newest film in the franchise, demolished by critics, may not actually be much fun at all. Fortunately that doesn’t really matter for us, just as it didn’t matter for Hercules or Planes: Fire and Rescue or Maleficent earlier this year. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a great excuse to talk about cartoons, the bonkers relatives of this floppy blockbuster that share its reptilian heroes if not its sense of style. The (likely badly translated) quote above is from the theme of Mutant Turtles: Superman Legend. To call it a television “series” would be accurate but also something of a fib, given that this obscure entry in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles canon ended after just two episodes. It was produced in 1996 by the Japanese animation studio Ashi Productions, otherwise known for such television as Magical Princess Minky Momo and Space Warrior Baldios. They also produced Vampire Hunter D, the 1985 horror cult classic (though not its sequel, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust). I know what you’re thinking. Why on earth would we take the time to look at this bizarre two-episode series, low-budget and entirely ridiculous, rather than the highly regarded and enormously successful American animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987-1996)?

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Crimson Gold

As our review has already pointed out, the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie is a disaster. Even for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie. Don’t get me wrong, I have a soft spot for the first one, released in 1990. But even though it has a certain goofy charm, it’s not a good movie. That’s a shame for someone like me, who actually enjoyed the cartoon quite a bit and before that grew up on the old, slightly more mature Eastman and Laird comics. This time both the Turtles and their movie are ugly and utterly unlikeable, but the worst part is probably in how ridiculously unoriginal the plot is. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is awfully similar to the story running through the first two Amazing Spider-Man movies, but it makes them look like Nolan’s Dark Knight films by comparison. The TMNT movie also reminds us of Tim Burton’s Batman, xXx, Howard the Duck and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. And very slyly of the TV series Arrested Development. But this week I don’t want to just recommend mainstream movies you should know, even bad ones to make a point that even Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Howard the Duck are better than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A movie this bad requires a real cleansing afterward. Therefore, I’ve selected 10 films you’d likely find in an art house theater, all docs, foreign films and classics to help wash away the filth staining your soul following the latest adventures of Leonardo, Donatello, […]

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Emmett in The Lego Movie

Years ago, if a movie became a hit, it would spawn a sequel starring diminished returns, followed by either a third entry that tarnished the screen or went straight to home video. In special cases (read: horror) you could expect a dozen movies stemming from one big hit, creating a sine wave of varying quality. The old pattern wasn’t good, but it was reliable. It’s also the same as the new pattern, except for one sinister addition: overwhelming knowledge. What worked about the grind-a-great-thing-into-the-ground method of olden times was that we weren’t bombarded with it all at once. We knew it would happen, but we didn’t know it would happen, and it definitely wasn’t shoved in our faces. It could be a few months (or even years) before hearing that the Movie We Loved was getting another installment, and the distance gave us optimism even though the track record for sequels was abysmal. It was still an opportunity to spend more time with characters and worlds we enjoyed. If it was ultimately disappointing, so what? We weren’t expecting it to be as good as the first time around. You can probably guess that I’m using all this lawn protection to exclaim in one voice that The LEGO Movie is fantastic, and news of ad nauseam sequels is awful.

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First Position Documentary

Dancing is a kind of performance that lends itself incredibly well to cinema. Both art forms are heavily steeped in movement, and a film allows the viewer to get closer to a dancer than they ever could in reality, to study and appreciate the remarkable physical capabilities possessed by any good dancer. In recent years, dancing has flourished in nonfiction media. Besides the numerous documentaries on the subject, there are multiple popular reality television shows involving dance competitions, such as So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars. But in fiction film, dance struggles. We’re far from the heyday of Busby Berkeley musicals and the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films. There are a few exceptions to this, however, the most notable being the Step Up series. Each film in this franchise has proved financially successful, and Step Up: All In, the fifth installment, is poised to repeat that pattern when it opens this weekend. The 3D sequel acknowledges the current dance TV craze by centering around a competition-based reality show taping in Las Vegas. Step Up: All In may showcase some true dancing talent on screen, but because it focuses on a fictional contest between fictional characters there’s not any reason for us to care who wins or loses. So, for this week’s Doc Option we’ve selected a few necessary nonfiction alternative that also form their plots around dance competitions, the stakes of which are genuine reality. To one degree or another, these three docs are about how young people use their talents to build their prospects for what lies ahead in […]

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Guardians of the Galaxy Kiss

Over a century old, superheroes are inextricably rooted in nostalgia. We usually meet them first when we’re kids, growing up with them and building memories – which character we first rooted for, which villain we first hated, who we first dressed up as for Halloween (or any given Tuesday). While it’s exhilarating to see characters from the page brought to life in a modern faddish flurry, something almost always gets lost in translation when some of them are “updated” for our modern world. Acknowledging that these are beings of another time, even ever so slightly, helps make these films feel like an experience instead of just another blockbuster. A prime example? The Guardians of the Galaxy, which figured out a way not only to combine action, drama, humor and heart, but also figured out a way to infuse a great sense of nostalgia thanks to a soundtrack full of funky beats from the 1970s.

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Pay It Forward Movie

Who have you randomly bought pizza for this week? Today on the show, we’ll speak with comedian and TV writer Ricky Smith about his Random Acts of Kindness Everywhere movement, his documentary Follow Me and his Twitter-based rise into the entertainment world. Plus, Geoff will answer screenwriting questions about the phantom of writer’s block and montages. More importantly, we want to invite you to check out Geoff’s Six Week Spec Writing project where 10 aspiring writers will be chosen to produce a spec script in a month and a half while chronicling their trials and tribulations. At the end of the road, they’ll have free hosting at The Black List and four professional script readers providing feedback on their screenplay. You should follow Ricky (@rickonia), the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on Twitter for more on a daily basis. Please review us on iTunes Download Episode #68 Directly Or subscribe Through iTunes

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Bill Murray Zombieland

Thanks to Marvel, post-credit sequences are not just a nice surprise, but now they’re a cinematic prerequisite. They have evolved from extra perks to a completed story, to world-building links that piece seemingly disparate movies together. Even when they take a completely different approach, like Guardians of the Galaxy does, it’s in the interest of showing Marvel’s reach, rather than nodding to the magic of the film in question. Being the glue to future films is always a risky proposition. Movies like Masters of the Universe and Young Sherlock Holmes used these sequences to tease a future that would never come. And some, like Dogma, portray promises not delivered, like Alanis Morissette’s God in that movie literally closing the book on the View Askewniverse. Will we get to a future where superheroes fall and a post-credits sequence nods to a Marvel future never realized? I don’t know. But one thing is sure: There is a great world and history of post-credits sequences outside of Marvel’s spandex and space travel – one generally dominated by comedy. We covered some a few years ago, but here are some more excellent post-credits sequences to delight in.

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Tri Star Pictures

There’s been a lot of talk recently regarding the lack of female superhero films in general and the lack of great ones in particular, but I’d argue the singular fun one has been sitting right in front of us since the mid-eighties. And it stars Helen Slater in the title role. And it’s not Supergirl. The Legend of Billie Jean is about a young woman who stands up for truth and justice, changes into a sexy costume (of sorts), has sidekicks and a nemesis and even has her own catchphrase in “Fair is fair!” It’s cheesier than a constipated cow, but the story and character beats deliver fun and excitement all set to a catchy ’80s soundtrack. The supporting cast is a roster of familiar faces in Christian Slater, Yeardley Smith, Peter Coyote, Keith Gordon and Dean Stockwell, but the film belongs to Helen Slater. The film just hit Blu-ray a few weeks ago, and it includes the commentary track recorded for the 2008 DVD release featuring her and Smith. Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary for The Legend of Billie Jean.

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True Detective

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Into the Storm 06

Technically I have been in a tornado. But it was a teeny one in Connecticut, caused no real damage, that I know of, and was from my vantage point not a well-formed funnel shape. If it hadn’t been for a news report stating that a tornado went through where I had been driving, I would have just thought it was a freak storm that came suddenly out of nowhere, passed really quickly and was dangerous enough to make me pull over and strong enough to make a passing bicyclist jump into my backseat for temporary emergency shelter. I would never consider myself a tornado survivor, because that would be an insult to people in the Midwest who’ve encountered the real deal. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be in such a disaster, as there’s something more terrifyingly visual about tornadoes than hurricanes and blizzards and other major storms I’ve been through. The shape of a tornado allows it to be a sort of villainous presence in cinema, and I assume it’s the same in real life. But there I go making assumptions based on what I’ve seen in the movies again. I like to believe that a special effects driven disaster movie like Into the Storm (pictured above) goes for some level of authenticity in its depiction of tornadoes, but while watching it this week my mind wandered to all the representations of tornadoes in cinema through the years, and I realized that tornadoes in the movies tend to be pretty ridiculous — […]

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This Land is Mine Short Film

Why Watch? In the spectrum of using an inappropriate platform to deliver an important social message, this short film from Nina Paley (Sita Sings the Blues) reaches Monty Python levels of purity and dedication. Eschewing the typically dry, somber way that profound conflict is often portrayed (while utilizing the absurdity of action movie violence), This Land is Mine strips away everything except murderous domination in order to color a history of a land with many names. Israel, Palestine, The Levant. This short doesn’t exactly offer illumination on the current crisis happening in Gaza, but it condenses thousands of years to show one angle on and beyond the devastation. Again, wacky animation with Andy Williams boldly crooning “The Exodus Song” and a body count rising is a teaching method with teeth. It’s aggressive, semi-satirical and proves you can laugh with your jaw on the floor. There’s a read on this movie that it crassly shares a hopeless message of the land being doomed to bloodshed, but I don’t see it that way. Instead, I think of it as a simple reconstruction of reality — pared down as it may be. No, the Eastern Mediterranean isn’t defined solely by its wars (not by a long shot), but it’s powerful to see so many people singing the same song.

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Singin in the Rain

If you could only pick ten movies to represent the entire history of American cinema, which would you choose? This was the challenge undertaken by The Guardian’s chief film critic Robbie Collin, who may have made the first list to feature both Batman and Gene Kelly tap dancing through Paris. Indiewire’s Max O’Connell created his own list in response, and a few of us here at FSR wanted to play along, too. The goal was to create a list of ten movies that summed up over a century of American film and then explain only one of our choices (which means it’s up to you to ask Adam Charles why he picked Face/Off). Leave your own list in the comments section so we can endlessly debate and appreciate. The impossibility is part of the fun.

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Thanos-The-Avengers

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Tom Hanks on the Piano in Big

Classic movies can sometimes be uncomfortable to watch. Many things that were socially accepted during the Golden Age of Hollywood are not today, and vice versa. And representations and treatment of minorities of race, religion, sexual orientation and gender were often inauthentic — whether because of customary ignorance or concealment. But it’s not just the movies of our grandparents’ era that fit into this idea where we need to consider the times when appreciating cinema, whether it’s awful stereotypes in The Birth of a Nation or marital rape in Marnie or the general villainization of Native Americans for decades. We’re now far enough away from the 1980s that it’s time to reexamine just what we thought was okay and particularly what we found funny back then. Many of the plots of hit comedies from that decade would never fly today. Some of it is leftover political incorrectness and downright racism and sexism, but there have also been cultural and technological changes in the last 25-35 years that make other scenarios dated and maybe even incomprehensible to young viewers now. One element of many 1980s movies that wouldn’t work for modern audiences is all the homophobia employed in insult humor and gags involving gay bars. There was also a huge issue regarding seemingly innocent, mostly non-physical sexual assault back then, from ghosts and super-powered guys peeping on and stripping unsuspecting women to more common non-supernatural forms of voyeurism. Hollywood could easily remake many of the movies guilty of those issues and leave out […]

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The Jungle Book

It’s about to be, well, a jungle out there (sorry) as both Walt Disney Pictures and Warner Bros. are hellbent on giving the world a new version of The Jungle Book. So, yes, two versions of The Jungle Book, a beloved children’s book that has already been turned into a movie plenty of times before. But while we wait to hear more about about Andy Serkis‘ feature (that’s the Warner Bros. film, and one that is apparently set to be titled Jungle Book: Origins, because it sounds appropriately sci-fi, oh wait, what?), Jon Favreau‘s set-to-be-CGI-heavy take on the material continues to know it out of the park when it comes to casting. The latest addition to the cast — Bill Murray as Baloo, come on, people – just proves that, no matter what the final outcome is, this new Jungle Book has a solid lineup of talent behind it. But who is everyone playing? Baloo is the bear, right? What’s a Kaa? Who is Raksha? We got you on this. It’s time to relive your childhood.

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