Posted on Friday, September 15th, 2017 by David Chen
[This post contains SPOILERS about the new Darren Aronofsky movie mother! For a look at the film without major spoilers, please read Chris Evangelista’s review from the Toronto International Film Festival. mother! is in theaters today.]
A poet and his wife live in a peaceful, idyllic home, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. While the woman is happy, the man begins welcoming strangers into their home and sharing his belongings, until the cost to his wife becomes unspeakably high.
This is the plot of Darren Aronofsky’s mother! which can be interpreted in many ways, but seems most obviously to be an allegory about the creation of the world, as told in the Christian Bible. I found the movie to be provocative, bold, and original, even as its basic conceit began to wear on me during the course of its two-hour runtime. This is a movie that will polarize people and cause some to walk out of theaters.
It’s also unlike most things we’ll see in at the mulitplex this year and for that, I’m grateful (it is absolutely insane that Paramount, a major studio, is releasing this). Here are five things I found to be the most interesting about the film.
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After directing The Primary Instinct in 2014, I wanted to shift my focus to smaller scale projects. While The Primary Instinct was a tiny film to begin with, it still required many months of planning and over $50,000 to produce. So I tried finding stories from sources all around me, that I could film myself with a very small crew (if any).
In my search, I stumbled upon the world of professional yo-yoers, who compete annually in Seattle at the Pacific Northwest Regional Yo-Yo Championships. What drove these people to master the yo-yo? What did they get out of it? What was it like to be a winner, vs. someone who just competed for the love of the game? I tried to tackle some of these questions in a short documentary I made called Doctor B. You can watch it after the jump.
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Posted on Friday, February 17th, 2017 by David Chen
After nearly two decades, the X-Men franchise under 20th Century Fox’s stewardship has begun to feel too constrained by storytelling mechanics and full of characters that are warmed over. After the third or fourth time that you’ve seen the X-Men crew go up against a powerful supervillain and face off against a city- or world-destroying force (often accompanied by a blue beam shooting towards the sky), you begin to wonder whether this franchise still has new stories to tell.
These days, films that deviate heavily from the formula have felt refreshing (e.g., Deadpool, Days of Future Past), while those that hew closely to it are tiresome (e.g., X-Men: Apocalypse). This is why James Mangold’s Logan is a goddamn miracle. It unapologetically blazes its own trail in the X-Men universe. Logan throws the whole X-Men chessboard into the air, settles on the few pieces it wants to use, and then plays them off each other in ways we’ve never seen. The results are thrilling, and give me hope that the genre as a whole can still be fresh and inventive. It’s a near-perfect film, and one that I’ll be thinking about for a very long time.
Spoiler-free thoughts on Logan follow.
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Posted on Thursday, January 12th, 2017 by David Chen
Sometimes humans can be terrible at predicting things, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun when we try. My previous attempts to predict my favorite films of the year are often wildly inaccurate — inevitably, my actual favorite films of the year will contain lots of entries that I couldn’t have possibly foreseen.
That being said, for 2017, the job is slightly easier. There are sequels on the docket that lots of people are actually psyched to see, rather than follow-ups people didn’t need (Alice Through the Looking Glass) or ask for (The Hunstman: Winter’s War). Still, I have no doubt that my favorite films of the year will be those that I couldn’t have possibly predicted at this stage.
After the jump, check out my picks in chronological order based on release date. Also, I recorded an episode of my new podcast with Joanna Robinson, Gen Pop, in which we both discuss the films that have us most excited. Listen below (and also see Jacob and Ethan’s lists).
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Posted on Friday, December 23rd, 2016 by David Chen
This is a year where you had to work to see great films. Unlike last year, the vast majority of my favorite movies of 2016 weren’t movies that received wide releases, nor were they films that earned over $50 million at the box office. Instead, they were often quieter releases that I had to read up on in order to make sure I caught them during the 1-2 weeks they were playing in my city.
The good news is, if you did the work, you were richly rewarded. While the movie industry as a whole is not doing so hot, movies as a form of storytelling still feel as vital as ever. What follows are my top 10 movies of 2016. Read More »
Posted on Tuesday, December 13th, 2016 by David Chen
Imagine a world where the Star Wars prequels never existed. If instead of Episodes I-III, we got Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, there would be a lot fewer adults disenchanted with the world of Star Wars today (not that the franchise is currently wanting for fans). Rogue One does so much right when it comes to filling in the gaps before Episode IV that it’s easy to overlook some of its flaws. It’s that rare prequel that actually makes the film that follows it more impactful and emotionally resonant. It is a thrilling, ambitious, and occasionally spectacular experience that takes the Star Wars franchise in exciting new directions.
That’s not to say the film doesn’t have its flaws though, which include a bit too much ambition when it comes to introducing side characters. But fans of Star Wars will find that this movie not only honors their memories of the original films, it also has enough memorable moments, characters, and ideas to make the journey worthwhile. Hit the jump to see my full video review of Rogue One and see the rest of our coverage here.
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Posted on Monday, December 12th, 2016 by David Chen
Damien Chazelle’s La La Land dazzled me when I first saw it. Its deftly choreographed musical numbers had me pining for the film musicals of yesteryear. And the deeply felt performances by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone (who play aspiring artists Sebastian and Mia) helped me find a deeper level of respect for those who give everything in pursuit of their creative dreams.
The soundtrack for La La Land was recently released, and I’ve spent a great deal of time over the past few days listening to it. But the more I listen, the more bothered I am by the film’s ending and how it seems to betray a lot of what came before it. Let’s talk about the ending of La La Land. Note that this article will contain SPOILERS for the film.
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Posted on Monday, November 21st, 2016 by David Chen
Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals hit theaters this past weekend and while /Film’s Angie Han found it “pretty but hollow,” the film continued to haunt me long after I left the theater.
Specifically, I found the film’s ending to be enigmatic, and worthy of further conversation. After the jump, you’ll find some of my thoughts on it. You should assume that there are massive SPOILERS for the film in this article and in the comments.
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Nate Parker’s Birth of a Nation was one of my most anticipated films this year, due to the rapturous response people had to it at Sundance. Just from reading the plot summary and seeing the trailer, the film’s plot seemed to speak to many aspects of race and racial violence that we desperately need to have in our national conversation today.
Unfortunately, since Sundance, the film has been embroiled in controversy around its director and star. Moreover, the way the film depicts women, whose sexual violation is used as a way to motivate its men to take action, is deeply problematic at best.
I’m trying something a little different this week. Rather than a quick 3-4 minute video review, I filmed my friend Wendi and me having a lengthy, 30-minute conversation about the film, its depiction of women, and the real-life controversy surrounding it. I hope you find it interesting.
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Posted on Wednesday, September 7th, 2016 by David Chen
Clint Eastwood’s Sully has one of the most tense, nail-biting plane-landing sequences ever put to film. Based on the real-life story of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s “Miracle on the Hudson,” Sully features Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckart as pilots flying US Airways Flight 1549 on the morning both of its engines failed shortly after takeoff. As the plane begins its descent into the Hudson River, we see diverse groups of New York civil servants galvanized into action, all of them attempting to save innocent passengers’ lives. It’s riveting and inspiring, even as we already know how this particular story will end.
Unfortunately, the rest of the film is not as compelling, featuring a few interesting ideas about the events of that day that are never fully explored. See my full video review of Sully below.
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