THE #1 INDEPENDENT MOVIE BLOG IN YOUR HEARTS

Magnet

Magnet

The idea behind the original ABCs of Death anthology film was a good (and risky) one — 26 directors, each given a letter of the alphabet as inspiration for a short film involving death — but the execution was severely lacking. The actively bad ones far outweighed the good and mediocre combined resulting in a painful slog of a film with minimal highlights. The announcement of a sequel was met with understandable trepidation by many who still can’t shake the memories of the first film’s overabundance of juvenile humor and unchecked talent, but happily ABCs of Death 2 is an entertaining and frequently engaging collection of ideas and imagery.

And it’s 100% free of farts.

It seems immediately clear that the filmmakers, while still given freedom in regard to their finished shorts, were also given a guiding hand sorely missing from the scattershot first film. There are ideas at play here beyond simple gags or special effects shots, and while most remain contained one-offs, many others use their time to comment on social ills or highlight the art and craft of filmmaking. The shorts still feature some laughs along the way, but it’s a recognizably more somber and serious collection than its predecessor.

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Film scores

KCET

Film series are a great way to tell a story that cannot be contained to a single film. Successful films usually end up getting sequels, but series are stories intended to be digested over the course of several films. The cast will (usually) stay the same throughout a series, but there is another important element that should remain consistent to help link each film to the next – the music.

While it is not a requirement to stick with a single composer throughout a series (and sometimes you have no choice but to change things up due to schedules and prior commitments), having a singular musical voice working on a film series helps keep a consistent feeling from film to film. Most film series have kept the same composer throughout the series, and the few that have changed composers from film to film had it fit the story or ultimately ended up returning to the original composer.

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Smosh.com

Smosh.com

Prepare to feel very, very old. Lionsgate has picked up the rights to The Smosh Movie, and will be distributing it around the globe, per Variety.

Smosh, of course, is the smash YouTube sensation with a viewer base of more than 30 million people. It’s official: if you don’t know what Smosh is, you’re no longer “hip,” “in,” or “with it.” Just another old-timer mashing the screen of a smartphone he doesn’t really need in the first place.

Here’s a quick Smosh history, just in case. Smosh is two people: Ian Andrew Hecox and Anthony Padilla. In 2002, the two guys began posting silly Flash animation videos online. In 2005, they upgraded to silly Youtube videos. Then, they lip-synced the Pokemon theme song (note: the actual video is no longer on Smosh, so here it is on someone else’s channel).

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Channing Tatum Magic Mike Flexing

Warner Bros.

Though Channing Tatum has made a great home for himself staying in school way past his age limit, he’s lined up a very compelling project to produce and utilize as a potential starring vehicle as someone who left college behind long ago and found his genius in an arguably unorthodox way. Struck by Genius is the true story of Jason Padgett (based on his memoir of the same name), a hard-partying dude who suffered a serious, traumatic brain injury at the age of 31 after getting brutally mugged.

The violent incident isn’t even the whole story here; it’s the fact that Padgett’s brain injuries led to him becoming the first documented case of acquired savant syndrome — with the added result of extreme mathematical synesthesia as part of the package. Effectively, after being brutalized, the shift in Padgett’s brain turned him into a mathematical genius who could see geometric shapes and mathematical formulas everywhere he looked. What’s your excuse for struggling through 10th grade Algebra?

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Gwyneth-Paltrow-and-Luke-Wilson-in-The-Royal-Tenenbaums

Touchstone Pictures

Whether you’re home for the holidays or sitting shiva after the loss of a loved one, family get-togethers can be rough. Never mind if yours is a “dysfunctional” clan or not. Aren’t they all, anyway? It may be relative, but we all have our family dramas and difficult times when reunited with our most direct relatives. If not, you’re a lucky one, except when it comes to trying to relate to a lot of movies. The rest of us like to see stuff like This Is Where I Leave You for both the identification and the exaggeration, the former allowing us to laugh at ourselves, the latter hopefully leading to an understanding that everything could be worse.

Movies about family get-togethers can also be a source of learning. We already relate to the basic experiences, but how much do we connect with the specifics of how the characters survive those events? A bunch of these movies feature complete parallels as far archetypes and plot and jokes, so it would seem they’d be universal. And a lot of the times everyone turns out just fine in the end. So, for your next get-together, perhaps this fall for Thanksgiving or next summer for a road trip or full-on reunion, consider the following steps, each one applicable in the movies and, of course, therefore in real life. 

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Batmobile in Batman vs Superman

Warner Bros./Clay Enos

The movies of director Zack Snyder are about as polarizing as any studio filmmaker’s, so when he tweeted out a picture of the new Batmobile from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, we can assume he was prepared for some criticism. Fans complained about a particular aspect of the vehicle that does not conform to the version seen in the comics: the guns. This new Batmobile is front-loaded with weapons that would not look out of place in an American military vehicle.

It’s a concerning decision, especially since Batman’s code of ethics precludes him from intentionally killing people. But the real problem is that it shows how little Snyder has learned from the mistakes of Man of Steel. We all remember the outcry from fans when Snyder had Superman kill General Zod in that movie’s climax, and it appears that Snyder is doubling down on the violence, despite that criticism.

But it is unfair to lay all this at Snyder’s feet. There has been an increasing militarization of our superheroes afoot for decades, and Snyder is only continuing that tradition. In the Marvel world, superheroes perpetually exist in a military milieu. Tony Stark is a reformed defense contractor, while The Avengers was essentially about a Special Forces unit that prevented another 9/11.

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Columbia Pictures

Columbia Pictures

Do you remember a time, a simpler time, when Ghostbusters was just a movie about some innovative guys who decked out a former firehouse to house New York City’s unruly spirits, a scientist who was simultaneously attempting to woo a woman and also figure out how to get an ancient Sumerian god to stop possessing her and her refrigerator, and a beloved childhood figure stomping through the streets of New York City to wreak havoc and commit some casual murder? Dan Aykroyd sure does.

But the difference between the rest of us and Aykroyd is that while Ghostbusters II was a beautiful triumph of a sequel that deals with the very real and sensible repercussions of what happens when heroes have to face the consequences of their city-destroying attempts to help the public (and when painting-dwelling spirits want to steal a baby), and the love for the franchise has never truly died — it’s just stuck in a proton pack somewhere — the great majority have realized there’s a point at which you leave perfection to perfection.

Aykroyd, one of the biggest proponents of a third Ghostbusters movie, that one that never seems to actually be happening, spoke in London at an event promoting his vodka brand, where the conversation turned to Ghostbusters. The third movie is just the tip of the iceberg; Aykroyd, who wrote the first two films alongside the late, great Harold Ramis and will be penning the third as well, wants to see an entire Ghostbusters universe a la the Marvel machine.

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Eraserhead

Libra Films

I love looking at filmmakers’ early work. Sure, it might be juvenile or lacking the grace of experience, but it’s also the artistic eye before fame, celebrity personas or narrowly honed visions. It’s the work they made before output was partially (if not totally) influenced by investors, studios and critics. First films can be like cinematic diaries of the directors’ vision – like David Lynch’s iconic Eraserhead, which is now on Criterion Blu-ray with almost all of his short films – or whiffs of artistry before the mainstream.

Some, sadly, are still out of reach to the Internet masses, though they’d be fascinating first glimpses at cinematic themes and techniques. Long before 12 Years a Slave, Steve McQueen debuted with a revealing video installation, Bear, which only makes the rounds at live events. Kathryn Bigelowplays down” her first film from 1978, The Set-Up, where Gary Busey and another guy fight each other as semioticians deconstruct the images – a film that certainly speaks to her future work, but hasn’t been released for modern audiences. And though someone who thinks they’re clever put up a slave scene on YouTube, insisting it was Spike Lee’s first film, his debut – the Super 8 film Last Hustle in Brooklyn – is actually about “Black people and Puerto Rican people looting and dancing.”

Those three might remain out of reach, but here eight filmmakers’ early visions that speak to humor, darkness, unexpected twists, and for one – an artistry before an obsession with Star Wars.

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George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez in Out of Sight

Universal Pictures

Out of Sight is the film George Clooney is the most proud of, and for good reason. Beyond being just an all around fantastic movie, it showed how much charm and range Clooney has as an actor. In fact, director David O. Russell was originally opposed to casting him in Three Kings, but after Clooney pleaded with him to watch Out of Sight, Russell’s mind was changed. Not only did it help land him that role, it led to a series of great collaborations with director Steven Soderbergh. Since the 1998 Elmore Leonard adaptation, the two have paired up five times, and that’s not including the pictures they’ve produced together.

Sadly they haven’t collaborated in years, but plenty of the talent involved in Out of Sight have continued to produce excellent work. Soderbergh is killing it on television with The Knick, George Clooney is still George Clooney, and screenwriter Scott Frank has gone on to direct two exceptional crime films. Seven years after his fantastic directorial debut, The Lookout, Frank returns behind the camera with this week’s A Walk Among the Tombstones.

Before jumping into what we learned from the commentary for Out of Sight, here’s a fun little anecdote: Scott Frank took on this adaptation purely as a job. He couldn’t have asked for a better work-for-hire gig, because it landed him an Oscar nomination and a movie that’s stood the test of time.

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Sgt. Pepper's

Universal Pictures

Cargill and Brian serve as grand marshals as they lead a parade of weirdness through your brain streets. In the first movement of their two-part schlock symphony, the guys delve into some of their favorite bizarre musicals from the late seventies and early eighties. This initial trio of flicks takes them from the Heartland to Skatetown all the way to The Village, people.

Strike up your bandwidth and join the junk masters as they wax melodious on this first batch of singing, dancing oddities.

You should follow Brian (@Briguysalisbury), Cargill (@Massawyrm), and the show (@Junkfoodcinema).


Download Episode #24 Directly

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Tom Hardy and a Dog in The Drop

Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

In 2011, director Michaël R. Roskam made a big splash with his riveting debut film, Bullhead. Like plenty of foreign directors that have made an impression in the States, he’s following up that critical darling with an American picture. Not all have succeeded in that transition, but Roskam has made a smooth passage with The Drop, an emotionally compelling and admirably old-fashioned crime film.

Adapted by Denis Lehane and based on his own short story, “Animal Rescue,” The Drop is about people grappling with the past. At the center of it all is Bob Saganowski (Tom Hardy). He’s a quiet man who keeps to himself, only interested in tending bar for his cousin Marv (James Gandolfini), a former gangster who used to own the place but lost it to a local Chechen crime boss (Michael Aronov). For him, Bob and Marv handle “the drop,” which involves the safekeeping of all the mob’s money in the bar. One night before closing, the place is robbed. While Marv and the boss search for who is behind the holdup, Bob begins a close friendship with a stranger (Noomi Rapace) after the two find a beaten pit bull left in a trash can.

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The Maze Runner Last One

Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Two things struck me while watching The Maze Runner. One is that director Wes Ball definitely nailed his pitch to make “Lord of the Flies meets Lost.” The second is that there are a number of English actors in this movie who speak with an American accent for no discernible reason. This wouldn’t be so weird except that there is one English actor, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who got to keep his. Well, not exactly his, because he purposefully changed his dialect slightly for the role, but he still got to be the sole English actor on screen who actually sounds English. Except for the one noticeable and unfortunate moment when English actress Kaya Scodelario accidentally lets her American accent slip.

That’s when the whole thing started to bother me, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. The only members of the Maze Runner cast I knew to be English beforehand are Brodie-Sangster and Will Poulter — who does a pretty great job with his speech, I’ll point out. I wasn’t familiar with Scodelario, yet as soon as I heard her mess up, I could tell she wasn’t from the U.S. either. And that immediately took me out of the movie, at least for a brief period. Following the screening, I couldn’t help but look up the rest of the players. One of the other major characters, Alby, is also played by a Brit — Aml Ameen. I believe that’s it (not all the young actors have birthplaces listed on IMDb or elsewhere). Four of the leads, three of them who had to mask their true voices. But why? And should I care?

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Lucifer Comic Character

Vertigo Comics

You know the rules. There must be one new comic-to-TV adaptation per week, every week, lest Superman come down from his throne on high and smite us with his cool Superman powers. Two weeks ago, we were given Supergirl. Last week, (Teen) Titans. And for September 14-20, our weekly allotment is Lucifer. Deadline tells us that Fox has a put pilot commitment (that is, “shoot a pilot and air a pilot, or face a severe fine”) for a Lucifer series, based off the DC/Vertigo comic of the same name.

Lucifer is basically who you think he is — big guy, red skin, horns, jumbo pitchfork. Except in the DC comics chronology, he’s rocking a more angelic look, as a stately blonde fellow in a suit with a large pair of wings. This Lucifer first popped up in Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman,” (the same “The Sandman” that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is so interested in adapting), as a demon bored of the whole Hell thing and looking for a new gig. Eventually he moves out and opens a piano bar in L.A., which would become the setting for his eventual “Lucifer” spin-off comic, and also this Lucifer show.

Tom Kapinos will be the showrunner for Lucifer, which feels like a good match. He also created Californication, where a malaised David Duchovny wandered about the glitz of L.A. Lucifer is the same thing, give or take a pair of six-foot wings.

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