“Please enjoy this film that took 19 years to make!”
This sentence greeted me as I sat down at a pre-release screening of Glass last week, as the final part of a letter from its writer/producer/director M. Night Shyamalan to the audience. The upshot of the letter was basically, “Please don’t spoil Glass” (which I’m about to do, so…sorry!) but I could not help but latch onto that last sentence as I steeled myself for the crossover between two of Shyamalan’s earlier films, Unbreakable and Split. As a fan of the former film, a meditation on loneliness as filtered through a comic-book lens, I was hopeful that this follow-up was worth the wait.
Now that I’ve seen Glass, I fear that it would’ve taken the director at least another 19 years to make this movie any good.
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Black Mirror: Bandersnatch isn’t the first movie to test the concept of a Choose Your Own Adventure-style narrative with diverging pathways on-screen. In late 2017 and early 2018, Steven Soderbergh did it with his murder mystery app and HBO movie, Mosaic. With its availability on the worldwide streaming service of Netflix, however, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch has taken the concept to a new level, giving a global viewing platform to a new kind of interactive cinematic storytelling.
In the movie, the viewer becomes a backseat driver for the main character, but while it might feel like you’re steering the story for a while, it soon becomes clear that Bandersnatch — to quote Lost — “has a way of course-correcting itself.” As it presents viewers with decisions, it doesn’t quite go all-in on the idea of a branching narrative with different conclusions. Instead, it wants to mix and match endings, showing you multiple outcomes without committing to any single one.
The movie prefers you to make certain choices over others, so much so that it will return you to those choices and give you a second chance to choose the right one, as it were. In a way, this goes along with the idea of a video game, with Pac-Man not giving up on reaching the final level even though he’s died. It also goes along with the age-old theme of free will versus determinism, which is something that Bandersnatch has on its mind. Let’s take a spoiler-filled look at the movie’s tangled decision web and examine how viewer missteps and system course-corrections enforce the notion of choice as an illusion.
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Posted on Wednesday, December 26th, 2018 by Trey Mangum
Out of all of Marvel’s properties, Runaways had arguably the hardest page-to-screen adaptation. There’s a lot of wacky shit going on in the comics, and all of that wouldn’t transition to screen well – especially in a live-action version. But for Season 2 of the Marvel drama, the series retools and grounds many of these elements, and the result is some of the company’s best television work. Read More »
(In our Spoiler Reviews, we take a deep dive into a new release and get to the heart of what makes it tick…and every story point is up for discussion. In this entry: The House That Jack Built.)
It’s been five years since Lars Von Trier released Nymphomaniac, the bold and astonishing two-parter that figuratively put a period (or exclamation mark, if you rather) on the end of his filmography. Where does a provocateur like Von Trier go from there? What else is left to say? The answer is The House That Jack Built, a deranged, pitch-black comedy (yes, really) that explores the life of a narccisistic serial killer, played by Matt Dillon (again: yes, really).
As is typically the case with Von Trier, the story is far more thematically complex and layered than that short synopsis might suggest, and every bit as unsettling and occasionally brutal as you might expect. But is the director’s cut – which screened in theaters for one night only – as controversial as some have claimed?
Major spoilers to follow.
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(In our Spoiler Reviews, we take a deep dive into a new release and get to the heart of what makes it tick…and every story point is up for discussion. In this entry: Creed II.)
Step back into the ring with Creed II, a sequel to Ryan Coogler’s 2015 Rocky spin-off Creed. The main cast is back, but Coogler is not. The result? An exciting, entertaining sequel that never manages to match the strength of the first film. Much like Adonis Creed himself, the Creed franchise will need to forge its own legacy if it wants to continue.
Major spoilers follow.
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The halls of the Markos Dance Academy are barren; blanched of color and body, wide deco door frames and high ceilings gape like hungry mouths. The sizes seems preposterous for how few people dwell there: a handful of young women in the company and their teachers. But though the women are small in number, there exists in their building an unflinching, insurmountable terror. A thicket of wicked in its bowels. Numbers don’t matter when evil is thirsting in the shadows.
Luca Guadagnino’s palatial Suspiria — a remake of Dario Argento’s 1977 original — is in a league of its own, arguably the most interesting horror remake of all time, and definitely the best. Assembled into six chapters and an epilogue, it’s a nearly 3-hour behemoth, which will annoy some and liberate others, while forging a cinematic identity unto itself. You’ve never seen anything quite like this. You might be grateful for that.
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The second season of Iron Fist has most of its characters struggling to figure out who they are and what their purpose in life should be. I, after watching all ten episodes of the season, went through a similar process. It was a journey, but at the end – like some of the show’s characters – I have realized who I truly am: I am a person who wants to watch more Iron Fist.
It’s shocking, I know. I still don’t really believe it myself. It took time to get there — to the end of the eighth episode, “Citadel on the Edge of Violence,” in fact.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Below is an overview of what makes this season better than the last (The Good), what isn’t so great (The Bad) and what makes me excited to see what’s next in store for these characters (The Crazy).
Warning: spoilers abound.
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(In our Spoiler Reviews, we take a deep dive into a new release and get to the heart of what makes it tick…and every story point is up for discussion. In this entry: Crazy Rich Asians.)
“China is a sleeping giant. Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will move the world.” That is the rather grandiose Napoleon Bonaparte proverb that Crazy Rich Asians opens with, setting the stage for a wild, escapist fantasy of a film that is both keenly aware and uncaring of the burden it carries. Crazy Rich Asians knows it presents a landmark moment for Asian-Americans in film, and right off the bat, it declares its intentions. It’s a weighty promise for Jon M. Chu’s romantic-comedy to live up to — but does it live up to it? Yes, and no.
On a barebones level, Crazy Rich Asians doesn’t quite shake the world. It’s a romantic-comedy that follows a standard meet-the-parents set-up, with an outrageously wealthy twist. But add in the all-Asian cast and Asian-American heroine, and you’ve got something revolutionary.
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(In our Spoiler Reviews, we take a deep dive into a new release and get to the heart of what makes it tick…and every story point is up for discussion. In this entry: Mission: Impossible – Fallout.)
“The end you’ve always feared is coming,” the villainous Solomon Lane tells Ethan Hunt halfway through Mission: Impossible – Fallout. “The fallout of all your good intentions.” If the Mission: Impossible franchise has one specific problem, it’s this: it took a very long time to tell us who Ethan Hunt was. From the beginning, Hunt, as played by Tom Cruise, was a bit of a cipher.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation changed that. The previous entry in the Mission franchise took a step back and finally asked, “Who is Ethan Hunt?” The answer: he’s kind of a crazy jerk. Someone who will risk everyone’s life just to come out ahead. This was a fascinating development in Ethan’s character trajectory, but perhaps director Christopher McQuarrie – who is the first Mission franchise filmmaker to return for a second time – realized it was a bit too much. That the series couldn’t realistically continue if Ethan Hunt remained a borderline sociopath.
Which brings us to Fallout, the most breathless, exciting, action-packed installment in the series yet. I don’t know if I’m quite ready to call it the best entry in the series – Rogue Nation still holds that distinction, as of now – but I am ready to declare Fallout to be the most thrilling Mission. A film so relentlessly entertaining that it might actually exhaust you. Believe the hype: this really is the best action movie since Mad Max: Fury Road.
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(In our Spoiler Reviews, we take a deep dive into a new release and get to the heart of what makes it tick…and every story point is up for discussion. In this entry: Sicario: Day of the Soldado.)
Did you remember to send a card to your parents for The Day of the Soldado? Did you take advantage of Amazon’s Day of the Soldado Cyber Monday Sale? I sure hope so, because Sicario: The Day of the Soldado has come and gone. And now we have to talk about it. For reasons beyond mortal comprehension, someone, somewhere, said, “What if we made a sequel to 2015’s Sicario, but got rid of all the good stuff?”
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