Posted on | April 13, 2014 | Add Comments
For the past two years, Flack and I have taken the long drive up to Toronto, Canada to attend the TIFF Kids film festival to find films for the PCFF. We’ve seen some incredible films, not to mention the pleasure of reclining in the irresistibly comfy theater chairs, perusing the building’s movie bookstore, and just staring in awe at the Bell Lightbox building. This year, we’ll be back again and the lineup of films looks as good as ever. We’ll hopefully be bringing you written updates all throughout next weekend, starting on Friday and going through Sunday. For now, here are the films we’re looking forward to.
A fourteen-year-old boy wants to become a proffesional musician just as his late father was. His mom, however, isn’t supportive of this dream. Felix will have to win over his mom, face up to school bullies, and find the aid of his dad’s bandmate in order to follow his dreams. This has all the makings of an feel-good family drama.
Pelle, a 12-year-old living in a small Danish town, has a boring, average life. But all it takes is a bite from an ant and he’s given superpowers. Pelle must face the villain Flea who is terrorizing his town and in doing so, cope with his new powers and learn the meaning of being different. Enter Antboy. Could be the perfect superhero adventure for younger ones.
Side by Side
The intriguing trailer for this brother-sister runaway film manages to clip together a lot, while still leaving questions unanswered. Equal parts adventure, drama, and coming-of-age story, the film promises to be both exciting and harrowing at the same time.
In addition to these films, we’ll also have access to the “Screening Room”, where we’ll be able to choose from a library of DVD’s (from this year’s festival) to watch on a computer workstation. It’s one of the many privileges of having Industry Passes.
See you in Toronto!
Posted on | April 6, 2014 | Add Comments
Ravishing fantasy adventures that appeal to young and old have always been Japanese animation wizard Hayao Miyazaki’s trademark. Films like My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, and others have gained him international acclaim, a legion of fans, and an Oscar. Personally, I’ve always been a fan; his films’ childlike wonder and sometimes philosophical themes are a always a nice refresher from the crass glut of American CGI.
Miyazaki’s latest film, The Wind Rises, is also his last (you may recognize the title; the film was nominated for Best Animated Feature at this year’s Oscars). Moving away from make-believe worlds of wonder, the film is loosely based on the life of Jiro Horikoshi, a designer and engineer of many Japanese fighters during World War II. The film follows Jiro, from childhood and college, to designing and engineering, past earthquakes, death, and war. Dream sequences, a trip to Germany, failure, innovation, and romance are all on the menu in this epic wartime love story.
With such success with his “kids movies”, you might think Miyazaki would falter with a serious historical drama rated PG-13. And if you thought that…you’d be wrong. The Wind Rises is easily one of his best works, filled with character, depth, and subtext that will probably reward repeated viewings. Like always, the animation itself is the most impressive aspect of the film (and that’s not a bad thing). Miyizakaki, and his Studio Ghibli, have made visual leaps and bounds since My Neighbor Totoro, released 25 years ago. Backgrounds don’t look grainy, characters no longer have a cute simplicity, and fast-moving action has lost the blurriness of yore. Though the less complex technology worked with his previous films, it almost feels like Miyizaki couldn’t have made Wind Rises until now. The sumptuous, rich visuals have 3-D dimensional scope that wows you in every shot. The movie is like a thousand gorgeous paintings: it could be silent film and still be a must-see.
Perhaps that is what makes the rest of the film so impressive. The brain has as much to think about here as the eyes have to see. Miyizakaki’s script is thoughtful and ponderous, with a lot to say about life, love, and war. Most interesting is the exploration of the relationship between man and machine. Jiro builds planes of beauty and complexity, only to watch them be flown off to kill, kill, kill. By creating these planes, is he encouraging war? Or is he simply designing masterpieces of engineering? There’s so much to chew on here and the filmmakers want you bite it all off.
Wind Rises is also peppered with a strong cast of supporting characters: Jiro’s younger sister, his boss, his best friend, and, maybe most fascinating of all, an on-the-run criminal staying at a nice hotel. In telling the story of a man’s life, it’s inevitable for a film to drag a bit here and there. Near the middle, Wind Rises is a little slow but its meandering feel makes it a unique achievement. It’s like we’re living with main character, watching the world from inside his head.
What a way to go out! The Wind Rises‘ arresting animation and contemplative story make this a true masterpiece and one of the best animated films in recent years. Farewell Miyazaki and thanks for the ride.
Posted on | April 5, 2014 | Add Comments
2 1/2 stars
Think back to 2008, long before Marvel Studios was at it’s current world dominating state, when the first Iron Man film came out. It was a witty, fun film that had a hero who wasn’t as perfect or brave as Superman, nor as dark and brooding as Batman. He was somewhere in between, with added parts wit, snark, and humor. Now skip ahead six years, to 2014. Not only have two more Iron Man films been made, but Thor and Captain America films have also been added to the mix. They have all had a couple of sequels, and as if that wasn’t enough, they’ve been thrown together along with other heroes in The Avengers. And now, here we are, in 2014 with Captain America returning to the big screen.
This time around, brothers Anthony and Joe Russo are squeezing into the director’s chair, taking over after Joe Johnston directed the first installment, The First Avenger, but they unfortunately lack any artistic flair that you can tell is theirs. With Thor, Kenneth Branagh put his Shakespearean stamp on the caped demigod and in Iron Man, Jon Favreau mixed witty humor with frightening realism. Here, the Russos don’t seem to know where they want to head with the film, other than follow the lead of Kevin Feige, the mastermind president of Marvel, who has schemingly connected all of these superheroes into one, big money-sucking giant. I’m pretty sure I would have liked the film a good deal more if there was less of the Marvel universe setting-up and more of a down-to-earth superhero story.
That being said, once I realized that the film wasn’t going for superheroism told through poetic direction, I did manage to sit back and enjoy the never-ending twists and turns of the film. And boy, are they fun. Every scene involves some new character being either thrown into the mix, being reintroduced, or dying, to the point that that the film reaches beyond exhaustion and into guilty, giddy fun. The film is part sci-fi, part paranoia, part mystery-thriller, part action caper, part rogue-on-the-lose…and that’s much of what makes it enjoyable. The fact that the film isn’t going for an obvious tone (i.e. Shakespearean or witty-dark) gives it an all-over-the-map aspect that is ridiculous, but also crazy fun in it’s own right.
That brings me to one last point and that is the fun. If you were asked what a superhero film was ten years ago, you might have answered “a fun, enjoyable adventure”. But today, that is becoming less and less true. Superhero reimaginings almost always seem to go darker and more violent and that is certainly true here with The Winter Soldier. The fun of the ’40s shtick in the first film gives way to the “Don’t trust anyone!” tone that is evident from the beginning. Early on in the film, Captain America is tasked with rescuing captive members of the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization who are being held by pirates. When Cap lands on the ship, I expected him to heroically maneuver his way past the pirate guards. But, I was shocked to see that he instead went straight for the kill, knocking them off in different, equally violent ways. As I watched the film develop, I yearned for the excitement and adventure of not only the first film, but other earlier superhero flicks. Unfortunately, the way Marvel is heading, the chances of an honest-to-goodness adventure, are becoming slimmer and slimmer.
Posted on | April 5, 2014 | Add Comments
Captain America: The Winter Soldier 2 Stars
Everyone’s second favorite red and blue Spandex-clad superhero is back…but not exactly better. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is longer, louder, and more violent than it’s predecessor, 2011′s The First Avenger, and that’s not a good thing.
In his first big-screen adventure, a scrawny Steve Rogers became the Captain America, and fought World-War II bad guys and Hugo Weaving’s super-villain The Red Skull. As the film ended, he was resurrected to the modern day, after sleeping for 70 years. Now, after saving the world in The Avengers, Cap struggles to come to terms with an increasingly scary world. Chief among his worries is who to trust: Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and newbie Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford, looking kind of unsure what he’s doing in a superhero movie) all want the titular hero on their side, whether for good or evil. Speaking of good, Cap gets a new sidekick, named Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie). And speaking of bad, The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) wants to kill everyone, even if he may or may not have been Captain America’s best friend long ago. As S.H.I.E.L.D. (the good guy one) and HYDRA (the bad guy one) fight for world domination, things get dark, apocalyptic, and very, very unpatriotic.
As you can tell, there’s a lot going on in this movie. Read: too much. For 2 hours and 15 minutes, directors Anthony and Joe Russo tediously manufacture another boring blockbuster about the end of everything. The major problem is obvious: the Russo brothers are less interested in the personalized flair of past Marvel hits then they are in in low-lit, mopey-faced spectacle. The tone from the get-go is calamitously violent, with only the occasional one-liner.
If there’s one thing you can never fault Marvel for it’s that they manage to find a different genre for each movie. Last time Cap fought his way around, director Joe Johnston found a delicate balance of serious war-movie patriotism and tongue-in cheek cartoon goofiness that managed to set his film apart. The Iron Man movies are smart comedy-thrillers, while the Thor franchise is a galactic fantasy on a grand scale. The Winter Soldier fits into the “Generic 2014 Action-Movie” genre and the results are what you’d expect.
Starkly contrasting it’s precursor, the film’s script is sometimes hilariously inconsistent with the Captain America myth we know and love. I mean really, why is a flag-waving comic-book icon running around dispatching terrorists like he got mixed up with the latest Iron Man movie? Worse, the film tries to justify this by being “topical” i.e. mentioning present-day issues like national security and global war, while cartoon characters run around shooting each other.
The problems don’t stop there; the two villains of the film are both monotonous retreads of other superhero nemeses. In a coulda-been-great performance, Robert Redford plays Alexander Pierce as just another shady government official without much to do. The Winter Soldier fares a little better, but not much. Despite a killer backstory, he mostly just gets to blow things up while looking sad and confused behind a mask. And what about our hero? Chris Evans has none of the relatable do-gooder charisma we saw last time; instead he plays Cap as a frustrated myth with more biceps than brains.
The Winter Soldier is one of the worst superhero films I’ve ever seen but there are a few upsides. Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson actually look alive, while Anthony Mackie has the makings of a real star. Like The Avengers, there’s also fleeting sight-gags and in-jokes (the War Games reference and an inspired use of Marvin Gaye were bonuses). The one thing that really stood out to me, however, will surprise you: some of the time, the film actually surprised me with shocking twists I didn’t see coming.
If you didn’t get the memo, I was pretty disappointed by this film. I could go on about the film’s repetitive action sequences, predictable narrative arc, and ridiculous amount of product placement (really Marvel, you don’t have enough money already?) but if you want to know more, go see the movie. Just know: you’ll be marveling at what a bad decision you made.
Posted on | March 23, 2014 | Add Comments
Muppets Most Wanted, Kermit and friend’s latest big-screen adventure, opens with an epic, infectious musical number titled “We’re Doing a Sequel”. It may be the film’s highlight; it’s an elaborate, show-stopping sing-along with cameos, comedy, and obscure movie in-jokes abound. “We’re doin’ a sequel/That’s what we do in Hollywood!”, sing Kermit and Fozzie Bear. “And everybody knows that the sequel’s never quite as good!” Unfortunately, that last line rings true of the film.
In 2011, Disney re-united the gang for The Muppets, a sentimental reunion adventure that also starred Jason Segel and Amy Adams, plus Walter, a new Muppet. The film wasn’t a monster success but it was an immensely entertaining movie and the perfect way to introduce the Muppets to a new generation. This time around, the reunion plot is out of the way, so the filmmakers could’ve gone in any direction.
Muppets Most Wanted scraps all of it’s predecessor’s story lines (and human characters) for an international caper/prison-break musical. The film begins with The Muppets signing Dominic Badguy (Rickey Gervais) as manager for an upcoming world tour. Dominic, who happens to be an evil criminal, quickly takes control from a sad-faced Kermit. Before long, Dominic’s amphibian partner Constantine swaps places with Kermit, who ends up in a Siberian prison lead by Nadya (Tina Fey). The rest of the group doesn’t notice anything, of course, so it’s up to Kermit to escape from prison and prove Dominic and Constantine as criminals.
With top-notch musical numbers, a suitably bizarre plot, and an all-star cast of comedians, the right ingredients are all here (it’s a Muppets movie for goodness sake!). But despite some fantastic elements the parts never really come together. Let’s start with the major issue: the script. There’s simply too much going on as the movie cuts between four plot-lines: Kermit in prison, the Muppets’ world tour, Dominic and Constantine’s epic heist plans, and a comedic-sub-plot involving an Interpol inspector (Ty Burrell) and CIA detective Sam the Eagle. It’s too bad the screenwriters didn’t give all these threads enough time to develop. Unfortunately, the whole movie feels like a lesser re-tread of previous Muppets outings.
A cluttered script isn’t the film’s only problem: The climactic sequence drags, individual Muppets don’t have enough to do, some of the jokes fall flat etc.
Still, there’s plenty of reasons to be entertained by Most Wanted. Not all the one-liners works but this is a Muppets movie and there are plenty of moments throughout to keep you laughing. The human cast, while not as interesting as last time, features a truly top-notch roster of comedians. Rickey Gervais, Tina Fey, and Ty Burrell are all wonderful in small, comedic roles (who knew all three could sing!?). The puppeteering here is also pretty phenomenal, as our furry stars manage more elaborate hilarious stunts than ever before.
Like its predecessor, Most Wanted is a full fledged musical (a rarity these days). While not quite as wittily written as The Muppets, the musical number’s are still contagiously fun. Songwriter/actor Bret McKenzie’s songs draw on 60′s girl groups, 70′s disco, and classic show tunes to create a pastiche of infectious pop fun.
It’s too long, too cluttered, and too unoriginal but Muppets Most Wanted manages too serve up enough bizarre Muppets mayhem to keep you entertained. Director James Bobin keeps the laughs funny, the songs catchy, and the action exciting. I’ll take the Muppets over The Lego Movie any day. Waka-waka!
Posted on | March 5, 2014 | 1 Comment
Flick and Flack aren’t just movie critics anymore. We’re filmmakers, too. Our most recent film, Robot and Boy, is a touching 24 minute sci-fi adventure about a robot who lands on earth and the boy who takes care of him.
We were lucky enough to show the film in the Youth Filmaker Show at the 2014 Providence Children’s Film Festival (just a few weeks ago). We loved having the opportunity to share our film with more than 200 people. After the screening, we participated in a Q&A with our cast and other filmmakers. You can read all about the event in the Brown Daily Herald.
So far, Robot and Boy has been a success. But for success to continue…we need your support! That’s why we’re selling a limited edition Robot and Boy T-shirt. The shirt has beautiful artwork on the front and credits on the back. Trust us, it’s awesome. With an affordable price and cool design, how could you miss out? You must order before Wed. March 5th at 9pm ET, so get yours at: teespring.com/robotandboy
Posted on | March 2, 2014 | 1 Comment
For the fifth annual time, Flack and I hosted an Oscar Party. Two films, endless trivia, good food, and speeches. That’s right, Flack and I both read our speeches to add some excitement and opinion to the night. Below, you can read my speech.
The unlikely friendship of a bear and mouse. A woman surviving alone in space. The untold story of backup singers. A dysfunctional father-son duo road trip. All of these stories and more were watched on screens big and small and all of them are up for an Oscar.
This year was an interesting year for film, with directors like Alfonso Cuaron taking bold chances with breakthrough special effects and Morgan Neville taking bold chances in different ways by telling an unknown story with true drama.
Going into this year, critics, industry know-it-alls, and audiences alike were predicting movie theaters to decline and while, yes, Netflix is growing bigger by the second and at home movie-watching technology is also growing at a surprising rate, there were a number of films that were undeniably great “movie theater experiences”. Take “Nebraska” for example, a film that is by no means a 3-D action spectacle, but is, by all means, a great “movie theater experience”. The B&W cinematography showing beatiful vistas was perfect viewing for the theater. Meanwhile, “Gravity” used IMAX and 3-D technology that felt uniquely new and different. After spending 16 minutes watching the camera slowly pan over Earth in one continuous opening shot, you are hurdled into a frightening crash sequence, one that uses sound, visuals, and storytelling to a combined effect of pure horror.
Music was also used to interesting effect this year, with more and more directors opting for pre-existing, well known music, rather than a score of their own. “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” did this well, using songs like David Bowie’s Major Tom prominently. But, orchestra scores were also used well. Mark Orton used strings to interesting effect in “Nebraska” and Randy Newman used horns and drums to create a foot-stompingly energetic score for “Monsters University”. One more notable soundtrack mention would be “Inside Llewyn Davis” in which Oscar Issac and more sang folk ballads with minimal guitar strumming and maximum vocal chords.
With such a diverse year for films, there’s a lot to celebrate, which is what tonight’s all about. In just a few minutes we’ll be treating you to two screenings of Oscar nominated films. In the den: “Frozen”, nominated for Best Animated Film, a chilly musical comedy. And in the living room: “20 Feet From Stardom”, a documentary following multiple backup singers.
So without further ado…The films!
Posted on | March 1, 2014 | 2 Comments
They’re almost here.
After 6 months of obsessive predictions, studio scheming, marketing madness, Red Carpet overload, and one awards show after another, the Oscars (and the end of the awards season) are just a little more than 24 hours away.
Every year, the September-February thrill ride starts with Telluride and Toronto and just keeps on going. From Golden Globes fun and the Oscar nominations, to non-stop campaigns and Academy Q&A’s; through gossipy controversy and endless critique, past last-minute releases and release-date changes, over Oscar bets, shocking interviews, a nominee change (!), and… When does it stop?
Every year Awards Season feels a little bit…predictable. Yes, there’s the acting category surprises and the films that came out of nowhere to be claimed as “frontrunners” and the ballyhoo-causing cast and crew disputes that threaten to change everything (and normally change nothing). But, through all the nonsense, there’s always one film that gets called a Best Picture lock, gets called an “also-ran”, has a surprise comeback, gets rejected again, and ends up winning.
That’s exactly why this year’s Oscar race feels genuinely refreshing. When was the last time a nerve-wracking three-way-race for Best Picture had everyone biting their nails off? That’s certainly the case this year, with 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, and American Hustle all vying for the big win. But enough with all this talk…who’s going to win?
Well, I’ll cut to the chase: 12 Years a Slave. Sure, Gravity is as suspenseful and groundbreaking as movies get and American Hustle is the type of crowd-pleasing ensemble period-piece dramedy that seems like a shoo-in. But 50 years from now, voters will want people to look back at 2014 as the year the “Important Movie” won and12 Years a Slave fits that bill. Of course, they’ll also want to recognize a fine cast, careful direction, and a resonant script. But Oscar voters aren’t always known for picking Best Picture based on which is their favorite. Though it sounds (and is) silly, voters sometimes have other agendas. By selecting 12 Years a Slave, voters will be selecting the the indie studio flick, the critical favorite, the hard-to-watch controversy, the predictable-ish frontrunner, and the historical drama. Honestly, none of those descriptions will make the Academy look bad. So when everything boils down, there’s no real suspense for me. Based on everything I know about the Oscars, 12 Years a Slave will win Best picture. Now we just have to see if the Academy agrees with itself.
Here’s my other predictions…
Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Best Actor: Mathew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Best supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Best Original Screenplay: American Hustle
Best Adapted Screenplay: 12 Years a Slave
Best Animated Feature: Frozen
Best Documentary Feature: 20 Feet From Stardom
Best Foreign-Language Film: The Great Beauty
Best Cinematography: Gravity
Best Costume Design: American Hustle
Best Film Editing: Gravity
Best Makeup & Hairstyling: Dallas Buyers Club
Best Original Score: Gravity
Best Original Song: “Let It Go” from Frozen
Best Production Design: Gravity
Best Sound Editing: Gravity
Best Sound Mixing: Gravity
Best Visual Effects: Gravity
Best Animated Short: Get a Horse!
Best Documentary Short: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Best Live Action Short: Just Before Losing Everything
Alright, alright, alright. On with the show…
Posted on | February 12, 2014 | Add Comments
Posted on | February 3, 2014 | Add Comments
Flick and Flack love Shuttercal, the locally created website that allows you to upload a photo every day for 1 year creating a visual document through 365 days worth of photos. We started using Shuttercal this year and have been thoroughly enjoying it. We like being able to capture every day moments, memories, events, and happenings with such an easy, unique tool. When we were asked to star in this ad, we couldn’t resist. We had fun meeting the creators and filmmakers and filming the ad and we hope you have just as much fun watching it! And with just the click of a button you can watch it below.keep looking »