Netflix’s Earthquake Bird, which hit the streaming service last Friday, uses expat life in Tokyo as the backdrop for a murder mystery. Scored by Atticus Ross, the film stars Alicia Vikander, Riley Keough, Jack Huston, and Japanese actors Naoki Kobayashi and Kiki Sukezana—the latter of whom recently played the central antagonist in AMC’s The Terror: Infamy. Ridley Scott also serves as a co-producer here, as he did with that series.
There’s a long line of Hollywood movies set in Japan, many of which betray a decidedly ethnocentric perspective. When we first meet Vikander’s character, she’s working as a translator, doing subtitles for Scott’s 1989 yakuza thriller, Black Rain. As a Netflix film, Earthquake Bird comes on the heels of last year’s The Outsider, another such thriller that cast everyone’s least favorite Joker, Jared Leto, in the role of an unlikely yakuza enforcer. In contrast to that movie’s hollow posturing, Earthquake Bird is much more grounded in some semblance of recognizable reality. It isn’t a perfect film, but parts of it ring truer than the typical “gaijin in Tokyo” flick, because it was made with an eye toward authenticity by a director who lived in Japan and an actress who committed herself to learning Japanese.
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(Welcome to Knives In, a series about the movies to watch before Rian Johnson’s Knives Out arrives in theaters.)
Put on your murder-solving hat, because /Film has given me jurisdiction to dive deep into one film a day in preparation for the release of Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, which hits theaters next week. Each film relates to Johnson’s “whodunnit” in its own unique way, and each picture should hopefully be viewed prior to patrons watching the new movie on the big screen.
Today, we’ll be discussing the 1946 film The Big Sleep, and how the movie is a perfect companion piece to Johnson’s modern day murder mystery.
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When you can help write your own history, you can tell a slightly different story than the truth. Such is the case with Pixar Animation Studios, arguably one of the most influential creative units in all of Hollywood in the 25 years since it released its first feature-length animated film, Toy Story. Pixar is, of course, synonymous with the Walt Disney Company and has been for a long time. Its characters have been seen in films, on TV, and serve as the core elements of a lot of themed attractions and lands at the Disney theme parks worldwide.
But there was a time, not too long ago, when Pixar was on the outs with Disney to the point where the House of Mouse was more than happy to both sever its distribution deal with Pixar, and take matters into its own hands with sequels of their own. This is the story of Circle 7 Animation.
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Hollywood doesn’t pump-out many non-franchise action-thrillers these days, so perhaps we should be thankful for 21 Bridges. And perhaps that this movie hails from producers The Russo Brothers, a duo responsible for so many blockbuster franchise movies, is a good sign. But lordy, does the end result have to be so lifeless?
21 Bridges is a yawn-inducing long night’s journey into day, where a supposedly hotshot detective doesn’t pick up on big twists we spot a mile away, and where characters fire off dialogue that’s supposed to be weighty but comes out clunky. You get the sense that 21 Bridges wants to be a throwback to old school police action-thrillers, but you’d be better off avoiding this and renting one of those old school flicks instead.
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It took long enough, but it finally feels like we’ve gotten to the plot of His Dark Materials. It was partly on the fault of the series, for taking the Game of Thrones approach that unwisely split up our disparate storylines to give the impression of an epic, sprawling saga.
But for the first time, His Dark Materials feels focused toward an end goal that unites our two biggest groups of characters: Lyra and the Gyptians. It was a major misstep to separate these two storylines in the first place – the familiarity with which Lyra greets the Gyptians in the third episode of His Dark Materials, “The Spies,” feels out of step with the cushy isolation that she existed in before. But now that Lyra and the Gyptians’ storylines are united, His Dark Materials finally feels like it’s settling into itself.
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According to the Wall Street Journal, the Justice Department is moving to completely wipe out the Paramount consent decrees, a ruling which, for the past 70 years, has regulated how movie studios distribute films to movie theaters. If those decrees are indeed overturned (and it looks like they will be), it could have devastating consequences to the theater industry as we know it, and the entire movie landscape could shift as a result. Here’s what this means in practical terms.
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For his third feature in a row, writer/director Trey Edward Shults (Krisha, It Comes at Night) dives back into the subject of a family in crisis with Waves. This time around, he sets his drama in South Florida to trace the epic emotional journey of a suburban African-American family, led by Ronald (Sterling K. Brown), a well-intentioned father who puts a great deal of pressure on his high school athlete son Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr., from Luce, last year’s Monsters and Men, and Shults’ It Comes At Night), while tending to ignore his quiet, studious daughter Emily (newcomer Taylor Russell).
When tragedy strikes, the family—who also includes stepmom Catharine (Renée Elise Goldsberry)—has to find the strength to regroup and forgive flaws even in the darkest times they have every faced. Emily is able to find some kind of solace with the help of a new boyfriend Luke (Lucas Hedges). Waves is a sometimes uncomfortably real and emotionally raw experience, in which all of the characters find very different paths through suffering and recovery, but it’s the journey that Shults paves for his characters that makes the film such a worthy and fulfilling experience.
/Film spoke with Shults, Harrison, and Russell in Chicago recently during the Chicago International Film Festival, where they discussed the very personal events that led to the screenplay, and the ways in which the actors found their way into their very different characters, and the way Shults represented each with unique visual languages. Waves is currently in limited release, opening in top markets on November 22, and continuing to rollout throughout the holiday season.
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For decades, Anthony Daniels has been hidden by a golden mask, a globally recognized droid with an instantly recognizable voice that’s played by a man few would notice walking down the street. As the man and voice behind the beloved Star Wars character C-3P0, he’s helped usher audiences into this vast space saga like no other performer. At the outset of the release of Star Wars the human contribution made by Daniels was downplayed, with early marketing efforts avoiding how such an indelibly neurotic character was brought to life. After struggling to come to terms with both the massive success as well as his connection to this iconic automaton, Daniels is finally in a space to tell his tale, rivets and all.
His new book, I Am C-3P0: The Inside Story, is a briskly told tale of a young stage actor who found the role of a lifetime, a man who struggled at first to make sense of just how he could navigate the success and anonymity of what brought his creation global attention. The film provides some fascinating insights, and is told with a droll, eminently British dry wit that’s indicative of the man. Like his costume, some of the more burnished moments are matched with events that are tarnished, yet throughout the telling there’s a sense of both gratitude and bemused amazement for what the last four decades have brought this soft-spoken, intelligent performer.
With the calculated odds high that The Rise Of Skywalker promises an even more integral role for Threepio, a capper for a saga that began with lines of dialogue spoken in wonderfully neurotic fashion from that iconic auriferous visage, making this a perfect time to reflect upon this remarkable journey that has shaped generations.
/Film spoke to Daniels while he was in Toronto for the launch of his book.
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This post contains spoilers for The Mandalorian.
Writing about The Mandalorian episode-to-episode feels like folly, since the show seems so clearly designed for the binge era of streaming. Granted, “Chapter 2: The Child” arrives just three days after “Chapter 1” (which looks discernibly Star Wars but zips past anything discernibly human), though were the gap a traditional seven days, the hook might not have been strong enough to linger in people’s memories and draw them back for more. Yes, there is a little green baby that resembles Master Yoda. No, this infant’s presence doesn’t immediately challenge the Mandalorian — perhaps it might in episode 2?
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Video games are not required to be fun in a traditional sense. They just aren’t. So, if the entertainment medium is ever going to evolve artistically rather than stagnate and regress with the zombified fad of online competitive multiplayer, money pit loot boxes, time-wasting mobile games, and the first-person shooter obsession that has oversaturated the market more than superhero films could ever do for the movie industry, it’s going to take an awakening from consumers that gaming, even at 61 years old, is still in its infancy having nowhere near tapped into its unprecedented potential as a legitimate art form.
Not to go on a lengthy detour regarding the mixed critical and commercial reception Hideo Kojima’s (instantly recognizable for the iconic Metal Gear Solid franchise and his status as one of gaming’s only true auteurs) latest masterful accomplishment Death Stranding has received, but it’s difficult to accept that many of its naysayers went in to the 50-plus hour experience with the notion presented above: gaming does not and should not be limited to conventional methods of entertainment or whatever is trending, or what’s to be expected from a mainstream AAA blockbuster title.
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