Warner Bros. Pictures

Here’s something that is true: filmmaker Kevin Smith is a consummate comic book fan, one who almost got to see his own vision of Superman hit the big screen a couple of decades ago (the film that would have been titled Superman Lives, a failed feature that was so tweaked, rewritten, and run into the ground that it was eventually in the nineties), one who has also penned some special series about another favorite comic book superhero (that would be Batman) and someone who is clearly excited about what Zack Snyder‘s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice holds for DC Comics’ most beloved superheroes and the DC universe at large. Here’s something else that is true: Kevin Smith is not involved with Batman v Superman, and the proliferation of rumors that link the busy filmmaker to a film that he’s not even remotely attached to have become so bizarre and bloated that it’s incredible that anyone could discuss them with a straight face, no matter how desperate everyone seems to be for information on the much-hyped film.

The latest Smith-centric rumor that recently hit the web held that Smith penned an entire fake script for the production, which was then purposely leaked it to the press to throw them off the trail of the film’s actual direction. This is, of course, not true. Smith himself took to the Internet today to straighten out a rumor that gained significant traction, well, on the Internet. Cinema Blend clued their readers in to a Smith announcement (Smith-nnouncement? Smod-ment?) earlier today that vowed to clear up the confusion, at least in his own way.

So did Kevin Smith, a director who has a history with both Superman and Batman and an abiding love for comic book heroes write a fake script for a film that he has zero involvement in beyond his own intense fandom? Of course he didn’t. Come on.

Beneath Short Film 2014

Frank Maldonado

Why Watch? At first, this short film from director Frank Maldonado feels like an unauthorized music video, but it quickly coalesces around an enigmatic chase and several shots of self-destructive emotion.

Beneath features a young man wallowing in angst and whatever’s handy at the bar, riding the subways of New York City until he spots a thuggish figure in a ripped-up black hoodie who inexplicably starts following him.

Boasting that it was shot in a single night throughout Brookyln, Manhattan and Coney Island, the short film feels like it — but only because the story takes place over the span of one night leading into the sunrise. It’s gorgeous, shot with precision that makes great sense of motion (a shot of our hero walking away from us as a train heads speeding toward us is particularly strong) and showcases the loneliness of the young man regardless of whether he’s lost in thought under a shower head or surrounded by the metropolitan crowds. The editing also helps to blur the night together, flashing between moments as a collective instead of a linear series of events, placing us into his troubled headspace.

It also works well because it leads in an unexpected direction. In spite of being mostly abstract — and swimming in neon-soaked visual nods to work like Only God Forgives – there’s a significant payoff for wordless curiosity.

Orange is the New Black Cast


Last week Noah Berlatsky at The Atlantic made a wholly misguided, and frankly puzzling argument about Orange Is the New Black. An argument that, in his own words, “may seem like a silly complaint.” To summarize the silliness, he felt the show does a great job in representing the diverse population of women in the prison system, creating complex and gratifying roles for varied women — black, Latina, elderly, lesbian, bisexual, trans — but leaves out a very, sorely underrepresented group. You bracing yourself? Because you probably already guessed which group of ladies Berlatsky thinks is getting the short end of the representation stick.

It’s men. He’d like to see more men on OITNB, the show about a women’s prison, based on one women’s real-life experience during her stay in a women’s penitentiary surrounded by women.

The Guardians of the Galaxy

Marvel/Walt Disney Pictures

What’s the best movie trailer you’ve seen so far this year? More specifically, of all the summer movies coming out in 2014, which of them has had the best trailer? Other than the first full length trailer for Luc Besson’s mind-bending actioner Lucy, I can’t think of any trailer more striking than whatever latest preview Marvel has released for Guardians of the Galaxy. And we all thought this one would be Marvel’s toughest sell to date, as it explores areas of the cosmos yet unexplored in the path in and out of The Avengers. How it all plays out with general audiences remains to be seen, but one thing remains abundantly true as this latest extended trailer hits the Internet: this movie is like nerd Fruity Pebbles. Colorful, delicious, sugar-filled, a little strange and when it’s over we’re going to need a nap.

Tilda Swinton in Snowpiercer

The Weinstein Company

Warning: Spoilers for the ending of Snowpiercer

Somewhere along the way, purchasing a ticket for Bong Joon-ho’s long-awaited Snowpiercer became a populist act that echoes the content of the film itself.

Months of coverage followed Harvey Weinstein’s threat to cut the festival favorite. Knowing the kind of backlash that would ensue, Weinstein opted not to cut the film himself but instead asked Bong to shave 20 minutes off and add an explanatory voice-over to bookend the film. Bong refused, and the web backed him by reporting on the story, supporting the director’s vision and pushing for its unblemished release. While The Weinstein Company narrowed the rollout of Snowpiercer from a wide to a limited opening, no cuts were ever made, and it would seem that the voices of many overcame the far more powerful voice of one.

It’s a strange case of life mimicking art, with movie fans and erstwhile supporters of artistic integrity using collective action against a major cultural gatekeeper. After traveling worldwide mostly without incident, film fans and prospective moviegoers pushed Snowpiercer to pry open the door and enter the American moviegoing scene on its own terms.

But, as the film itself shows, the relations of power are never quite as simple as they seem.



Welcome back to This Week In Discs!

If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon.

Discs Section: Pick of the Week

blu LAKE PLACIDLake Placid

An otherwise quiet lake in New England becomes a hub of bloody activity when a giant crocodile makes itself known by biting a diver in half. The local sheriff (Brendan Gleeson) calls in wildlife officials including Bill Pullman, and the pair are soon joined by academics Bridget Fonda and Oliver Platt. Together they work to capture or kill the beast, but the croc has other ideas.

Steve Miner’s film belongs on the same shelf as Tremors as a terrific horror comedy that balances the laughs and the monster mayhem to near perfection. The cast is stellar across the board with spectacularly fun performances from Platt and Gleeson in particular. Betty White’s foul-mouthed turn is still a lot of fun too. The effects, a mix of practical and CGI, work like gangbusters to bring the croc to life, and the end result is an all-around fun as hell flick. Just make sure you avoid the progressively crappy sequels. (All three of them.)

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, featurette, trailer]

SLC Punk 2 Concert

Liberty Spikes Productions

There’s an open discussion about nostalgia happening now where participants either decry our reliance on it based on Buzzfeed Gif-sticles and co-opting major studios, or vaunt a highly personalized flavor of hazy memories by looking uncritically at the past. Then there’s Punk’s Dead: SLC Punk! 2, an attempt at opening the wounds of the 90s cult classic and rooting around inside.

Like the mohawked engine that could, the production has taken a successful crowdfunding campaign (no doubt fueled in part by nostalgia) and converted money into moving images — some of which director James Merendino saw fit to share with us.

The second coolest image is from the concert scene where now-older characters reconnect. Merendino used the IndieGoGo money to bring Screeching Weasel and anyone who donated at least $10 to the cause together for a show that scored over 1,200 participants. The coolest image, as you’ll see below, is the grave of a beloved friend.

The Last Man on Earth

American International Pictures

Last weekend, Cargill and I did something we had never done before. (Watch good movies?) QUIET YOU!

The good folks at Minneapolis’ CONvergence foolishly agreed to host the first ever live broadcast of Junkfood Cinema! Despite the ‘cast falling on July 4th, we sashayed around expectation and opted not to discuss Independence Day. Instead, we devoted our main topic to the late, great Richard Matheson. We chat about our favorite films based on his works as well as break down all three filmic versions of I Am Legend.

We finish things off with a few questions from the audience, (people actually showed up, crazy right?), which leads to a nearly orgasmic conversation about the Thai actioner Born To Fight. Seriously, that film makes Gymkata look like…Gym…nada. Burn.

If you weren’t able to listen live, please enjoy this cached audio of Junkfood Cinema Live!

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

Download Episode #18 Directly

Phase 4 Films

Phase 4 Films

Savage Harvest is a 1981 movie starring Tom Skerritt as the patriarch of a family under siege by a pride of lions in Africa. It is awesome. Heatstroke gives the impression early on that it’s aiming for a similar feel — albeit with the lions replaced by hyenas — but what follows is nothing of the sort.

There is only one hyena. And it’s less of a carnivorous threat than it is the reassuring reincarnation of Stephen Dorff (probably).

Paul (Dorff) is a hyena expert teaching classes on hyenas. The divorced father of one is planning a trip to South Africa with his girlfriend Tally (Svetlana Metkina), but a call from his distraught ex-wife worried that their daughter Jo (Maisie Williams) is using drugs leads to the ornery teenager joining the research safari. Tally has little interest in taking care of a child, but she tries her best in the face of Jo’s constant attitude and ungratefulness. Their relationship is made even more tenuous when Paul runs afoul of a pair of poachers and the two ladies are left to fend for themselves against the deadly forces of nature and of man.

Juliette Binoche in Clouds of Sils Maria

IFC Films

Hollywood is a fickle business, and it’s no secret that it’s at its most treacherous when you’re attempting to navigate its murky waters as an aging actress, especially one who used to be a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young starlet. Roles that were once piling at your feet faster than you could say “is it really necessary for my character to wear this crop top?” are — not suddenly, but gradually enough to not notice their slide — drifting away and being handed to the next new cute thing. Even if  you’re still respected and revered and praised, you’re not going to be called an ingénue anytime soon. The tides have changed.

With the new international trailer for Clouds of Sils Maria, Juliette Binoche is figuring this out all too well for herself when Chloe Moretz storms into her life. Binoche is Maria Enders, an actress who found great fame as a young woman playing Sigird in a play called “MalojaSnake.” Twenty years later, when the playwright who gave her this starmaking role dies, she’s compelled, albeit hesitantly, to join a new production of the play — this time playing the role of the emotionally fragile older woman. Jo-Ann Ellis (Moretz), Hollywood’s heavy-partying It Girl takes on her former role and challenges her as an actress and apparently her sanity as well.

NYAFF 2014

NYAFF 2014

NYAFF 2014 runs June 27-July 14 in New York City. Follow all of our coverage here.

Being a member of an elite police surveillance team requires more than a few skills, and Yoon-joo (Han Hyo-ju) thinks she has what it takes. She’s observant and aware of her surroundings, she knows how to blend in to a crowd and she’s capable of defending herself if necessary. Her only weakness really is a refusal to follow orders when it means letting an innocent person suffer, whether they be partner or passerby.

Her skills are put to the test when a brash and brutally effective team of bank robbers starts targeting the city’s financial institutions leading to deadly confrontations. Her boss, Chief Detective Hwang (Sol Kyung-gu) believes his team is up to the task, but when the criminal mastermind known only as James (Jung Woo-sung) catches their eye he realizes too late that some of them may be in over their heads.

Cold Eyes is a simply-plotted but fantastically entertaining thriller that manages impressive action sequences and scenes of suspense alongside character development and a sense of humor. It shouldn’t be a difficult combination, but so few films seem capable of finding that balance as well as this one.

Mr Petrified Forrest

University of Southern California

This is another edition of Short Starts, where we present a weekly short film(s) from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career.

Various things can happen to a famous director’s student films. Mostly they wind up hidden from us, sometimes permanently in the case of something intentionally destroyed, other times simply held from being uploaded to YouTube or another video site. It’s not often that a currently successful filmmaker is proud of his or her schoolwork, no matter how much money, passion and talent he or she put into it. That’s a shame, because a lot of these pre-professional shorts (and occasional features) aren’t that bad. Many have won awards, deservedly so. Others helped the student get a foot in the door, which obviously means there was promise there. In very, very rare circumstances, a student film will get distribution, possibly in an altered form. That was the case for Matt Reeves, director of the new sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes as well as Cloverfield and Let Me In.

Reeves attended the University of Southern California, where he made an award-winning short film titled Mr. Petrified Forrest during the 1991-1992 year. Other now-prominent people who worked on it include J.J. Abrams, who co-produced and composed the scored under the name Jeffrey Abrams and also created a plane crash scene (on his parents’ lawn) that looks like a Max Fischer production of the Lost pilot. Regular Abrams collaborators Bryan Burk and Greg Grunberg were also producers, the latter additionally appearing as a limo driver. Actress Amanda Foreman, who also went on to work with all these guys on Felicity and was more recently in both of Abrams’s Star Trek movies, is the female lead. And filmmaker James Gray edited the film along with Reeves, with whom he’d later write The Yards.

Pip Andersen and Crystal Clarke for Star Wars 7


Misdirection. It’s the classic technique of going “HEY LOOK OVER THERE” while secretly preparing an elaborate magic trick and/or hiding the garbage bags containing your neighbor’s corpse. But misdirection isn’t just used by magician serial killers anymore. Now, even the folks at LucasFilm have employed this tried-and-true method in the latest casting development for Star Wars: Episode VII.

Yesterday, the company put out a press release announcing to the world that the long process of holding open casting calls and scouring through millions of young actors mesmerized by the words “Star” and Wars” has paid off. Officially joining the cast are two unknowns: Crystal Clarke and Pip Andersen.

Clarke, an American acting student, will make her feature debut in next year’s The Moon and the Sun, the I-desperately-hope-it’s-true story of King Louis XIV, and how his “quest for immortality leads him to capture and steal a mermaid’s life force.” Fingers crossed on that one. Andersen, on the other hand, was a competitor on MTV’s Ultimate Parkour Challenge. Less impressive, but for all we know Ultimate Parkour Challenge had an episode where the contestants had to reenact scenes from the original Star Wars films while also flipping between a series of really tall dumpsters.

So Disney stood up and shouted, “Look! Look at these ridiculously good-looking young people! Watch as they do parkour!” (And yes, the press release did link to a Sony ad where Andersen wears a Spider-Man outfit under his clothes and does backflips in and out of various buildings.) And as we’re enraptured by the siren song of new Star Wars actors, the studio quietly announced that Star Wars: Episode VII is delaying its production for two weeks in August. In the very same press release, no less.

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