Movie Mixtape: 6 Movies to Watch With ‘Vox Lux’

Movies to Watch With Vox Lux

Cinema often treats tragedy either as an incubator for profound goodness or for unspeakable monstrosity, recognizing that cataclysmic change – no matter the flavor – is inescapable when the worst happens. For the two young women at the center of Vox Lux, it’s both.

But silver linings can turn out to be tin foil, especially when seen through the starry-eyed glasses of fame. Celeste (Natalie Portman) and Ellie (Stacy Martin) survive a childhood nightmare and convert it into a song. The song lands them both an eager manager (Jude Law) and a ticket on the rocket ship of celebrity.

The film by writer/director Brady Corbet growls with a message about the intertwining notions of televised fame and terrorism and hums with original songs from Sia. That it comes out the same year as a version of A Star in Born starring Lady Gaga is cosmic coincidence that needs to be revisited once both are available outside theaters.

Fortunately, there are several other golden voiced, grim views of success to watch with Vox Lux.

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(Welcome to Role Call, where we examine two performances from an actor – their first defining role and their most recent/last – to get a sense of who they are.)

What does it mean to be the best actor of a generation? And is it possible that kind of talent can remain hidden for decades?

Those are the questions we need to consider when contemplating Viola Davis‘ explosive, peerless ability to embody another person from root to tip, from birth to death, to their very soul.

And if there were any doubt that she was one of the world’s best at what she does, consider the oldest rule in the book: game recognizes game. That’s why Meryl Streep shouted, “My God, somebody give her a movie!” during her 2009 SAG acceptance speech for Doubt and said, “She is arguably the most immediate, responsive artist I have ever worked with,” when presenting Davis with her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Game recognizes game.

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ralph breaks the internet clip

Ralph leaves the arcade for the internet in Ralph Breaks the Internet. For kids of a certain age with SafeSearch and a bunch of sites blocked, that might be a fun option, but for the parents and adult fans of Disney Animation’s bad guy hero, there are enough headlines about social media to make staying in the warm belly of the arcade justified.

Luckily, Ralph (voiced once more by John C. Reilly) has his best friend, Vanellope Von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), to protect him if the cyber bullying gets too rough. It won’t, because this is Disney, so they’ve depicted Twitter as a happy tree full of chirping birds sharing cat videos instead animating five dumpsters on fire next to a billboard that says, “This user didn’t violate our rules surrounding abuse.”

In the first genuine sequel in almost two decades (and arguably longer), Ralph has returned after learning to be a better person in the first film to a contented existence of wrecking things professionally and hanging out with Vanellope after punching the clock. Vanellope is antsy for adventure, and she gets it when a gamer breaks her wheel – sending her and Ralph into the big bad internet to order one. There they encounter a slew of memes, recognizable nostalgia nuggets, and a pile of new challenges.

So what to watch with it? Here are six suggestions.

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Stan Lee Transformation

(Welcome to Role Call, where we examine two performances from an actor – their first defining role and their most recent/last – to get a sense of who they are.)

My Stan Lee story is the same as everyone else’s. I was milling around the Marriott Marquis at one of a hundred sponsored parties at Comic-Con when the Marvel legend walked up to me, struck up a conversation, and chit chatted for a few minutes before moseying along to a comfy lobby couch nearby. I don’t remember if he had a drink. I don’t remember what we talked about. I remember that I shook his hand.

I also remember that there was no force field between Stan Lee the persona and Stan Lee and person. He’s the celebrity most comfortable with celebrity that I’ve ever met – at once energized by the attention without being desperate for it or to avoid it. He was treated like oxygen at Comic-Con: some people gasped and flailed for him while others took him as a casual component of the atmosphere.

Obviously he wasn’t an actor so much as a person hired to play himself in movies. Yet his on-screen personality fascinates because of its singularity. Famous people have been hired to drop in as themselves with a wink and nod since Hollywood’s early days, but Lee created a story engine that would, half a century later, morph into a cinematic powerhouse that held him as its mascot, good luck charm, and ever-present unnamed character. Read More »

Movies to Watch With Overlord

WWII-era body horror is not a crowded subgenre. The blood gets thinner when you account for quality. But even though German Nazism has been tied to the occult since long before Indiana Jones tried to stop them from getting the Ark of the Covenant, it’s not that surprising that jackbooted sci-fi horror isn’t more popular. I mean, the point of making grisly schlock on the cheap is to keep it cheap, and war – even the fictional kind – isn’t cheap.

It’s that arena Julius Avery’s Overlord has jumped into. Once rumored to be another sneaky entry into the Cloverfield franchise (Cloverlord?), the action horror hybrid sends a handful of shaky soldiers into a fortress where Nazis are secretly doing…something…to people. Unfortunately for the paratroopers, they’ve gotta battle Hitler’s horde and the beastly things their scientists have unleashed.

So, let’s unleash six movies to double-feature with Overlord.

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career of jamie lee curtis

(Welcome to Role Call, where we examine two performances from an actor – their first defining role and their most recent/last – to get a sense of who they are.)

Jamie Lee Curtis has always been fascinating because of her contradiction. As the daughter of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, she could have been the poster child for Hollywood nepotism, but she became an actor of the people.

Even though she describes her dad as becoming a post-divorce absentee parent when she was really little, and we can’t really quantify these things with a graphing calculator or anything, it’s still no stretch to assume that her mom’s status gave her a foot in the acting door. Advice, guidance, a little nudge. The benefit of being on backlots throughout an entire childhood.

But Curtis didn’t take the royal red carpet path to easy fame. She leaped out of obscurity with a clang and violin screech inside the flimsy, uncertain walls of indie horror. By the time he rounded up a crew for his low budget horror film, John Carpenter had made a low budget sci-fi comedy, a low budget exploitation action flick, and a low budget thriller, so it couldn’t have been clear that Curtis was hitching her wagon to a rocket ship even though the resulting creative relationship was explosive.

Curtis stuck with the genre for years, and has admirably stuck with the Halloween franchise itself even through its most heinous incarnations.

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12 Horror Movies That Should Have Won Best Picture

The Oscars don’t like horror. Every once in a while, a horror film peeks its head into the rarefied air of the Academy Awards with a costume or technical nod. One even won Best Picture. But, despite Get Out and The Shape of Water getting their due, it’s a genre largely cast out of the process for seeming too middle- or low-brow. As if fear and its construction aren’t worthwhile artistic pursuits. As if dramas can’t also be schlocky or cheap.

It’s in that spirit that I wanted to conduct this little thought experiment considering the scary movies that deserved the highest prize in filmdom.

This isn’t frivolous – which may be too fair to the Oscars because it still uses their biased paradigm into consideration for what horror films could have won when whether they should have won is the main concern. My goal is to argue realistically not only that a horror film was excellent, but that it was better than what won Best Picture that year.

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(Welcome to Role Call, where we examine two performances from an actor – their first defining role and their latest/last – to get a sense of who they are.)

Sean Connery should never have been James Bond. Author Ian Fleming’s vision for the character was a bit more debonair, a bit sleeker, a bit more refined. Not, as Fleming described Connery, an “overgrown stunt man.” But cinema has a funny way of reshaping authors’ visions, overriding them until we can’t help but see the actors’ faces when we’re reading.

So Connery is the eternal Bond. Maybe a bit gruffer than Fleming intended, but every Bond since has chased Connery’s portrayal not solely because he had the advantage of defining the role on the big screen by being first, but because he defined it successfully in the eyes of millions and millions of fans.

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Movies to Watch With Bad Times at the El Royale

Drew Goddard’s Bad Times at the El Royale is a buffet of noir. The music. The language. The location. The lies. The genre is poured on thick as crude oil on a moonless night with a side of extra pulp to chew on.

It’s also a follow-up to Cabin in the Woods, so the twists are conveniently layered on top of the turns. The thrilling pastiche stars Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, and Jon Hamm as mysterious guests at the gimmick hotel on the border between California and Nevada (you can pick which state to sleep in!), spinning fabrications about who they are and what they want during the Great Fall of American Idealism of 1969.

Grab a room key on a giant plastic diamond and let’s check out 6 movies with connections to this Royale without cheese.

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Movie Mixtape: 6 Movies to Watch with ‘Hell Fest’

Movies to Watch with Hell Fest

Just as Halloween is the best day to escape from prison, a theme park haunted house is the best place to go on a slasher killing spree.

The serial murderer in Hell Fest knows this. He or she has donned a crappy mask and a weird cloak to follow Amy Forsyth, Bex Taylor-Klaus, and Reign Edwards around the park, killing boyfriends and being a general bloody nuisance.

Could it have to do with an urban legend about a girl getting killed and hung up for days before anyone realized she wasn’t a prop? Or with Tony Todd and his fantastical top hat? Or with a gang of meddling kids and their hilarious sandwich-eating dog who are curiously missing from the trailer?

We won’t know until the movie jumps out from a shadowy corner this weekend (starting tonight), but here are 6 potential double movies to watch with Hell Fest and keep the scares coming. Read More »