Antiviral

2013 reject awards

Another year, another creeping sense of dissatisfaction with the standard awards program. Sure it’s important to celebrate the best of the best of the best in the usual categories, but it all becomes a bit stale when the Oscars will be the dozenth major body to denote a best actor or cinematographer or score. Instead, we offer this alternative: a look at the strongest work of the movie year through the lens of odd trends and pure randomness. To wit, a header image that features our task-master-in-chief Neil Miller wondering if he forgot to send out invitations to the gala (he didn’t). We’re repeating an award from last year because you demanded it, but 2013 gave us enough weird and wonderfulness to fill up a whole new ballot otherwise. Please feel free to make up your own awards in the comments section.

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discs strike back2

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Strike Back: The Complete Second Season Michael Stonebridge (Philip Winchester) and Damien Scott (Sullivan Stapleton) weren’t always best of friends, and while they still argue on occasion they’ve also learned that they can trust each other when the bullets start flying. Their latest adventure finds the duo along with their new commander (Rhona Mitra) running and gunning their way across Africa in search of stolen nuclear triggers. Technically the series’ third season, this is Cinemax’s second as the producing entity, and they continue to show why no one even talks about that initial UK season any more. They also continue to show that a TV show can actually best many a lesser action movie in nearly every aspect. The acting and cast here are solid, the cinematography is theater-worthy, and the action sequences are impossibly great for a television series. They also impress with their awareness of both weaponry and tactics that add to the feeling of legitimacy. Hell, Cinemax even ensures the show maintains their high (or low?) standards when it comes to T&A. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries]

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10 You May Have Missed 2013

The middle of the year brings a lot of things, but we can probably all agree that the most important of those things are lists. With that in mind, Landon Palmer and I set out to highlight ten of our favorite films of the past six months, but instead of being a straight forward list of the year’s best movies so far we chose to zero in on the great, smaller movies that may have bypassed your radar as they slipped in and out of just a handful of theaters. This factor is most obvious in the absence of Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor from Landon’s selections. The films we’ve chosen run the gamut of genres and countries of origin, but they share a sense of quality sadly missing from the majority of Hollywood films opening wide in theaters these days. (Although if you have to see a wannabe blockbuster choose Roland Emmerich’s White House Down… the damn thing is dumb as dirt but sweet Jesus is it fun.) You may have heard of some of the films below, but all of them are worth seeking out at your local arthouse or VOD provider of choice.

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Pain and Gain Red Band

This is the month we’ve been building towards ever since the start of 2013. This year was made for this month. Why did the Mayans postpone their destruction of our dear Earth? So they could see what Michael Bay‘s small movie was like. Pain and Gain is his first non-Transformers movie in nearly eight years, and it’s about time the Mayans and the rest of us saw it. That Hasbro series had its moments, but not in the way The Rock and The Bad Boys films did. Pain and Gain looks to fit into that half of Bay’s career. Summer comes early with his dark, ‘roided up comedy, and the same can be said for the movies we’re seeing from Danny Boyle, Shane Carruth, and Joseph Kosinski. In fact, Kosinski’s Oblivion is the only blockbuster on the list. April is shaping up to be a huge month for smaller movies.

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The Best Movie Trailers of 2012

Everyone knows you can’t judge a book by its cover, but were you aware that movies shouldn’t be judged by a trailer either? I know, seems counter-intuitive, but while the trailer advertises a feature the two aren’t interchangeable. Terrible trailers sometimes give way to fantastic films just as brilliant trailers sometimes reveal ridiculously bad ones. It’s a crap shoot really. The list below features twelve of our favorite trailers that premiered in 2012. Some of the movies turned out to be gems, others ended up being far less impressive and a few won’t be released until 2013, but all of them made us excited to watch one more movie…

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Kicking off this week with its Opening Night Gala for Hitchcock, Hollywood’s own AFI FEST effectively wraps up the year’s film festival-going season (a season that lasts approximately eleven months). Such calendar placement means that AFI FEST comes late enough in the year to serve as a last hurrah for titles that have been playing the festival circuit as far back as January (at Sundance) or as far away as France, Berlin, and Venice, and is the perfect opportunity for Southern California-based film geeks (or those willing to put some miles on their passport) to catch up on films they’ve been anticipating for months. Of course, of the 136 films playing at this year’s festival, we’ve managed to catch nearly a fifth of them at other fests, and we’re quite pleased to use this opportunity to remind you as such. Confused over what to see at the festival? Be confused no more! After the break, jog your memories of our always-extensive festival coverage with reviews for twenty-eight films set to play at this week’s AFI FEST that we’ve already seen (and, you know, reviewed). It’s like getting your festival coverage whole days early!

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This year’s AFI FEST is certainly bringing festival-goers some of the year’s biggest titles, with world premieres of Hitchcock and Lincoln, not to mention favorites from this year’s festivals like Silver Linings Playbook and Amour, and yet, when I finally sat down to begin putting together my festival schedule, it seemed to be the smaller films that caught my eye and ended up on my personal must-see list. Certainly, films I have heard about from colleagues who have caught screenings of them at other festivals are accounted for here, but my tendency to gravitate toward lesser-known titles has led me to discover some amazing little gems such as films from director Ava DuVernay (I caught her film I Will Follow at AFI FEST back in 2010 and enjoyed her latest Middle of Nowhere during the LA Film Festival this year) and, of course, my love for music-focused stories always cause those films to get top billing from me. Check out the five films I am most looking forward to seeing during this year’s AFI FEST and let me know if you are also looking forward to any these films or if hearing about them here has piqued your interest enough to add them to your own most anticipated lists!

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Austin Cinematic Limits

As was also the case with the previous seven Fantastic Fests, I wish I had more time to see more films at Fantastic Fest 2012. That’s the bad part about having an all-consuming day job, it prohibits me from going totally hog wild at local film festivals. Sure, said job pays my mortgage, but I am really pissed off that it prohibited me from witnessing Joe Swanberg knocking out Devin Faraci at the Fantastic Debates. The previous night at the Chaos Reigns Karaoke Party, I did catch Swanberg perform Counting Crows’ “Mr. Jones” (which, I should note, is one of my least favorite songs of all time) which was followed closely by Swanberg’s boxing coach Ti West performance of The Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” — though, I have got to say that the karaoke performance of the evening goes to Tim League‘s krautrock interpretation of Enya’s “Orinoco Flow.” Sadly, though, that is the only Fantastic Fest event that I was able to attend. Yes, I even had to miss the Red Dawn-themed closing night party! Of course my liver has been continuously thanking me for not destroying it, but my liver clearly does not understand that half the fun of Fantastic Fest is waking up each morning with a massive hangover. Just you wait until next year, liver! You will suffer the alcohol-fueled wrath of Fantastic Fest!

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Contracting an illness is not something most of us long for. It’s often an unpleasant, uncomfortable, and incapacitating affair to be ill. For the highly-skilled technicians of the Lucas Clinic, disease is their discipline. Turning common cold into commodity, the Lucas Clinic offers fans the unique opportunity to become physically connected to their favorite celebrity by having the diseases of those celebrities injected into their own bodies. As if that wasn’t creepy enough, actual biological material from these stars has been reproduced into slabs of meat that are then devoured by the masses. Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) is one of the clinic’s most accomplished employees, but he’s bitten off a bit more than he can chew…and no, we’re not talking about a broiled pop singer steak. He’s injected himself with a virus from a particularly popular starlet, a virus from which she ends up dying. The clock ticks away as Syd struggles to make sense of her demise before death becomes a common bond between the two of them.

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Brandon Cronenberg

It’s never easy living the shadow of someone else, and especially to follow in the footsteps of greatness. For Brandon Cronenberg, that imposing shadow takes the shape of a giant fly, several killer mutated children, and scores of exploding heads. His father, David Cronenberg is a director beloved by genre film fans the world over. Brandon has made the difficult decision, under those circumstances, to become a filmmaker himself, and has come bursting out of the obscuring darkness with his debut film Antiviral. Though maintaining that the themes and imagery of the movie are not beholden to his father’s work, Antiviral’s plot, involving the consumption of celebrity biological material by obsessed fans, fittingly speaks to a common creative gene within his family that spurs an inclination toward body horror and social commentary. In our few moments with Brandon during Fantastic Fest, we covered everything from the intangible construct of identity, to hulking out, to forgettable David Spade comedies. As horror fans ourselves, it speaks highly of Brandon’s genuine personality and rich intellect that the subject of his father never came up once.

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Antiviral

In Brandon Cronenberg‘s Antiviral, a young man is infected with the same virus that killed a mega-celebrity, and he has to solve the mystery of her demise to save his own skin. Of course, from the looks of the trailer, there are a million other things going on. Our man Simon enjoyed it at Cannes and noted the fairly clear father-son connection between the subject matter and the director’s own famous father. And the connection goes deep. So deep that Max Renn could be the one chasing modernity down the rabbit hole here. Instead of television, like it was with Videodrome, it’s the obsession with celebrity – a fitting new direction for our times. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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The Paperboy John Cusack

Last year’s Cannes Film Festival featured this year’s Oscar winning Best Actor performance thanks to the inclusion of the wonderful The Artist in competition, and though the films seem to have been chosen for their artistry and provocative subtexts more than any really commercial pointers (as always happens the year after the festival is deemed “too commercial”), there have been some seriously fine performances this year as well. There wasn’t an Uggy this year, but there was a murdered pooch in Moonrise Kingdom, a bitey Killer Whale in Rust & Bone, and a striking performance from an armadillo in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Me and You, so we’ll have to wait and see who emerges with the best animal performance. Probably won’t come from Madagascar 3 though…so for the time being, let’s stick to the humans.

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Being the son of a famous artist can certainly have its drawbacks, and the most pronounced for Brandon “Son of David” Cronenberg will undoubtedly be certain expectations that he will take up his father’s filmmaking tricks and become a great in his own right. Especially difficult for Cronenberg Jr. will be some of his father’s fans’ unwillingness to forget former successes, and perpetually demand that he make Videodrome again, and the inevitability that they might now turn to him for that opportunity. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be such a concern, because based on the experience of Antiviral – included in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes film fest – the son of The Fly director has every intention of following in his father’s oddly-shaped footprints.

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After literally days of rampant speculation and fanciful rumor-spreading (on my part), this year’s official line-up for the Cannes 2012 Film Festival has officially been unveiled by officials in the South of France. Officially. Unsurprisingly, and as predicted, my own 13 film wishlist was largely completely wrong – but I did predict a massive four (including the absence, thankfully, of Terrence Malick), and in my defense, Michael Haneke’s Love was the 14th film on my list until I decided to oust it for timing reasons. Brad Pitt, Robert Pattinson and Tom Hardy will battle each other as Killing Them Softly (the awfully renamed adaptation of Cogan’s Trade), Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis and the other needlessly renamed flick, Lawless (why not just keep it as The Wettest County?) compete for the Palme d’Or.

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