Reviews

In which Zach and Mike discuss 2017’s Wonder Woman.

Here’s a great video about the history and symbolism of Wonder Woman.

And here’s the “Born Sexy Yesterday” video Mike mentions during the episode.

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CivilWarSpiderManI’m facing a conundrum. This is one of the few times I can remember that my fandom has butted up against my cineaste tendencies in a significant way. I think Captain America: Civil War is about 30 minutes too long. This isn’t unusual, movies are long these days. And I even think there’s a pretty easy way to get some run time back without affecting the story too much. The problem is, that would involve cutting Spider-Man out of the movie.

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There are many, many, many, things you can fault the prequel trilogy (Episodes I, II, and III) of Star Wars with. The one thing you absolutely can’t say about them is that they in any way, shape, or form resemble the original trilogy (Episodes IV, V, and VI) of films, despite having quite a few of the same heroes and villains. The prequels are largely flawed and had they stuck a bit closer to the originals I think they would still have been seen as a failure for those same reasons.  However, they are so completely, wildly different from general plot to planets to aliens to technology that most fans felt they had gone too far and were too different from the movies they all knew and loved.

Did The Force Awakens then over correct and cater too much to the “old guard” of fans? Well, yes and no. Continue Reading

In 2002, writer-director Richard Linklater made what I believe to be a decision driven purely by madness. In his mind he must have thought “How can I make filmmaking a real challenge. What constraints can I lower upon myself that would ensure one single slip up would cause me to lose days, months, and possibly years worth of work?”

The answer, apparently, was to spend the next 12 years filming Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, and his own daughter Lorelei Linklater living out what I now think is the truest ever paradigm of the “coming of age” movie.

For one or two weeks every year between 2002 and 2013, Linklater, cast, and crew would gather and literally film a day in the life of these characters. The sheer audacity of this can’t be overstated. So much could have gone wrong . I don’t think I have ever seen a braver, ballsier effort from a director. The cast could not be signed to contracts because of a California labor law that prevents contracts of longer than 7 years. The script was not complete when shooting began and Linklater actually would rewrite entire sections of script based on the real lives of the players as well as the footage shot from the previous years filming installment. What if somebody was hurt or injured and couldn’t complete their part? What if somebody was horribly disfigured? What if Ellar Coltrane, 7 years old when filming began, just decided he didn’t want to act anymore?

What if somebody died?

Apparently Linklater told Ethan Hawke to finish the film for him if he died during production. How many movies have to make plans for something like that happening?

Oh and by the way, it’s an incredible film. While so much of the buzz around it is, rightfully, placed on the production, the film itself is nothing short of a masterpiece for Linklater and Co. The “day in the life” storytelling style perfectly fits the narrative. The performances are rock solid across the board. Particularly Hawke and Arquette in somewhat thankless roles as parents who can’t always seem to get their shit together. Y’know, just like real life.

I won’t spoil too much of the story as I think it’s best to go into Boyhood with as little advance knowledge as possible and just let the subtle and well told narrative take you where it may. The film and cast always give us exactly what we need, never too much. When Arquette’s character remarries partway through the film and then divorces later on, it’s never spelled out for us, there’s no offhand remark about that character that isn’t around any more. We as the audience are expected to extrapolate all we need from the information given. It is immensely refreshing not to be handheld through a story.

I completely love the representation of the modern American family. As a single child of an adopted single mother, I’m not always interested in the traditional movie ideal that boy has to meet girl and they must be in love and stay together forever. A lot of times life doesn’t work that way. People grow up, people grow apart. Parents divorce and remarry and then sometimes do it all over again. The really strong families find a way to thrive and succeed despite all that shit and Boyhood succeeds at depicting this in a way I don’t think any other film ever has.

Boyhood was stuck in my brain for days after watching it. Even writing about it now has me wanting to experience it all over again. I think “experience” is a perfect term for Boyhood. Love it or hate it I think it’s important that everybody experience this film. Hopefully you’ll grow a little bit along with it. I know I did.

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What do you do when you’re responsible for kick-starting the largest film franchise in history? If you’re Jon Favreau you go and make a small personal movie about sandwiches….

Okay it’s not about sandwiches. It is about food though. Specifically one man’s love of food and how it affects all of his interpersonal relationships.

Favreau writes, directs, and stars as Carl Casper. The titular chef who, at the beginning of the film is divorced, barely communicating with his son, and laboring under a dictatorial owner who won’t let him cook the food he wants to cook. After a video of Carl verbally assaulting a food blog critic goes viral, he is fired and forced to re-evaluate his life. He acquires a run down food truck,  a sous chef (John Leguizamo), and sets out cross country to serve awesome sandwiches and reconnect with his son (Emjay Anthony).

This is a straight forward and well told story about food and how it can bring people together, or tear them apart. The characters are all strong and very well acted. The cast is stellar and there are a few great cameos that I won’t spoil here. It is small and personal in a refreshing way. We all have Favreau to thank for the current Marvel cinematic monster that is tearing its way across every movie theatre on the planet. But I love seeing him return to these smaller character pieces.

There’s also a very interesting subplot about social media and the many ways it can be used to build a community, or destroy a reputation. Not a week goes by where some athlete or celebrity makes some terrible decision on Twitter, Facebook, etc. and it dominates the news cycle for the next week. I think they could all do themselves a service by watching this movie.

My one large issue is that the movie wraps up in a bit too nice of a bow and it comes off very saccharine and tropey (Is that a word? It’s a word now.) I recently watched Boyhood (I will also be writing about it soon) which presents such a beautiful, realistic picture of a modern family unit. Chef unfortunately chooses the “Hollywood” ending and it plays very false, especially right at the end. However, this one issue aside I think Chef is very well worth watching.

P.S. Roy Choi was the chef consultant on this movie and it shows. All of the cooking scenes are gorgeous and are probably some of the best I’ve ever seen on film.

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I might be 21 days late with this, but happy new year everyone. Yeah okay, so I’ve been a little lax with the writing this year, what can I say? It’s January, and so far 2015 is shaping up to be one of my best years ever. That’s another way of saying that I’ve been having way too much fun. What fun you ask? Well, I saw Birdman over the weekend and I hate to succumb to the hype train, but I was impressed. So impressed I felt the need to share why, because there’s a lot there. (I also feel the need to give a quick warning here: I don’t feel like I spoil the plot at all, but if you were wanting to go into this movie blind, I do detail a bit of the technical accomplishment of the film, which you may want to discover yourself. Also fair warning: Arty farty bullshit is on full display below). Continue Reading

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Welcome to a new recurring feature where I highlight a lesser known, hard to find, or just generally overlooked film. In this case the 2014 comedy-drama The Skeleton Twins. I was greatly looking forward to this movie during the press cycle but unfortunately it was a limited release and therefore did not run in my area, and presumably many others.

Craig Johnson wrote and directed this film about an estranged brother and sister who are both on the verge of suicide and must work together to rebuild their relationship. Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader are absolutely perfect as the titular twins. Comedians often make wonderful dramatic actors and this is no exception. Their long history working together on SNL coupled with their impeccable comedic timing makes their relationship the strongest and most believable in the entire film. And it has to be. This is a movie that could come off as overly saccharine or cloying but Wiig and Hader keep things incredibly grounded and believable while still managing to show off their significant comedic chops in a few scenes (one of which is unfortunately spoiled by the trailer). Luke Wilson and Ty Burrell also have very good turns as Maggie’s husband and Milo’s former lover respectively. The Skeleton Twins is all about Maggie and Milo but the supporting cast does a wonderful job of inhabiting their world and helping to inform us how and why they have become so damaged and dysfunctional.

The movie is very brisk and tightly paced at 93 minutes but never feels rushed. Oft times I find dramas tend to be over long or paced in such a way that they feel longer than they really are. The Skeleton Twins does not suffer this problem. When the credits rolled I actually found myself wishing we had spent just a bit more time living with these characters. I think wanting a movie to be longer is a pretty solid sign of a movie worth watching.

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Hello all, my first episode is up today, woo! In honor of this momentous occasion I thought I would share a bit of my weekend experience with you. This past weekend, delightful girlfriend and I watched all four of the Tremors movies. How did she talk me into doing this you ask? Well she can be pretty convincing. I quite like the original and remember watching some of the sequels and also remember them being awful. Do my memories of these movies still stand? Or was I pleasantly surprised by some of them. Well I decided I’d share some of my thoughts with you on this future holiday. Continue Reading

Reverend Billy, Buy Nothing Day NYC 2005

During my first year of grad school I shared an office with a group of Indian students, and when Thanksgiving break rolled around we got to talking about it, and to my upmost pleasure I learned that they thought Thanksgiving was actually an American celebration of Black Friday – where people get off work and eat a big meal to prepare for all the shopping they’ll do. From their two-ish year perspective they had made a completely logical conclusion from all the data they had received – completely logical but one many Americans might refute. I loved the thought of them skyping home to tell their families in hushed voices about this brave new world of consumption and corporatocracy – where the people have a feast to celebrate and prepare for days of hedonistic spending. I of course tried to set the record straight, “Oh no, Thanksgiving is really a holiday about – actually no you’re right.” It’s in this spirit of an outsider’s totally not false perception, in honor of Black Friday, that I continue our indie recommendations by asking: Have you seen What Would Jesus Buy? Continue Reading

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Greetings everyone. The number of mainstream movies I haven’t seen would probably shock you. Friends and acquaintances constantly gasp “What?! You haven’t seen such and such big summer movie that everyone loves and is awesome?” Yeah, s’pose not. But for every big movie I haven’t seen there are lots of little indie films I’ve watched. You can call me an unrepentant hipster if you like, go ahead, but for some reason I find lower budgets, unique ideas, and smaller executions far more compelling than expensive CGI things fighting each other. It’s just the way I am. So in that spirit I’ve decided to start sharing some of the more obscure films you may not of heard of, or missed in the shuffle of huge budget over exposure. These are simply movies that I’ve found compelling in some way that sit comfortably beneath the radar, and perhaps through my recommendation you might find a few new unexpected favorites. So to start I’ll ask: Have you seen Primer? Continue Reading