Archive for the ‘film’ Category

Review: Pitch-perfect Ready or Not is a sharp and witty blood-soaked delight

August 21st, 2019
Samara Weaving delivers a standout performance in the new horror comedy <em>Ready or Not</em>.

Enlarge / Samara Weaving delivers a standout performance in the new horror comedy Ready or Not. (credit: Fox Searchlight)

An unsuspecting bride finds herself fighting for her life on her wedding night in Ready or Not, a wickedly funny, blood-soaked thriller that made its world premiere last month at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Toronto. I was on board in principle the moment the first trailer dropped in June, but good trailers don't always indicate a good film. Fortunately, Ready or Not lives up to its trailer.

(Some spoilers below.)

Grace (Samara Weaving, Picnic at Hanging Rock) can't believe her good fortune when she falls in love with Alex Le Domas (Mark O'Brien, Halt and Catch Fire), a member of a wealthy gaming dynasty—although the family prefers the term "dominion." After a picture-perfect wedding on the family estate, Alex informs Grace that there's just one more formality to be observed: "At midnight, you have to play a game. It's just something we do when someone joins the family." The new family member must draw a card from a mysterious box to learn which game they will be playing.

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Posted in Entertainment, film, film review, Fox Searchlight, Gaming & Culture, Ready or Not | Comments (0)

Spider-Man is out of the MCU thanks to Sony/Disney standoff [Updated]

August 20th, 2019
Face of Spider-Man is superimposed on city skyline.

Enlarge / "Mr. Feige, I don't feel so good." Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige will not be producing the next two Spider-Man films with Sony Pictures. (credit: Aurich Lawson / Marvel / Getty)

Update, August 21,2019, 11:15 AM: Sony Pictures has released an official statement via Twitter, mostly focusing on what happened with regard to Kevin Feige's producer role:

Much of today’s news about Spider-Man has mischaracterized recent discussions about Kevin Feige’s involvement in the franchise. We are disappointed, but respect Disney’s decision not to have him continue as a lead producer of our next live action Spider-Man film. We hope this might change in the future, but understand that the many new responsibilities that Disney has given him—including all their newly added Marvel properties—do not allow time for him to work on IP they do not own. Kevin is terrific and we are grateful for his help and guidance and appreciate the path he has helped put us on, which we will continue.

Original story:

Deadline Hollywood reports that future blockbuster films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe will likely be missing a key figure: Spider-Man. Apparently, Sony Pictures and Disney/Marvel have failed to reach new terms for the franchise acceptable to both parties. That means Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige will not be a producer on the next two Spider-Man movies reportedly in the works.

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Posted in Entertainment, film, film franchises, Gaming & Culture, marvel cinematic universe, spiderman | Comments (0)

First trailer for Dolemite Is My Name pays tribute to a blaxploitation legend

August 12th, 2019

Eddie Murphy stars as controversial comedian Rudy Ray Moore in Dolemite Is My Name, coming to Netflix this fall.

Eddie Murphy is all pimped out and ready to rid his community of evildoers in the first trailer for the comic biopic, Dolemite Is My Name. It's Director Craig Brewer's tribute to Rudy Ray Moore, a singer, dancer, and comedian in the 1960s and 1970s who went on to make a classic of blaxploitation film. (NB: The trailer is not entirely safe for workplace viewing.)

Moore claimed he got the idea for the Dolemite character while working in a Hollywood record store, where one of the locals used to tell obscene tall tales about a man named Dolemite. Moore adapted the persona into his act and released three albums of his frequently raunchy material accompanied by jazz and R&B musicians. Because of his delivery style (which typically involved rhyming lyrics), Moore is often called the "Godfather of Rap." (Snoop Dogg, who has a cameo in the biopic, has said, "Without Rudy Ray Moore, there would be no Snoop Dogg, and that's for real.")

Moore slowly built up a cult following, despite the fact that his albums (including the cover art) were much too vulgar to be publicly displayed in record stores. With the rise of "blaxploitation" films in the early 1970s, Moore saw an opportunity to bring the character Dolemite to the moviegoing masses. He financed his first film himself with royalties from his record sales. The result was the instant blaxploitation classic Dolemite, released in 1975, about "the ultimate ghetto hero" in the tradition of Shaft. Dolemite knew kung-fu, was a sharp dresser, was known for his sexual prowess, and was committed to ridding his neighborhood of criminal influences. The film's success spawned several sequels, although Moore's material never really made it to the mainstream.

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Posted in blaxploitation, dolemite is my name, Dolomite Is My Name, Eddie Murphy, Entertainment, film, Gaming & Culture, Netflix, Trailers | Comments (0)

Review: Jump scares, monsters abound in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

August 11th, 2019

Reading a book brings all manner of ghosts and monsters to life in Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark.

Monstrous creatures from terrifying tales come to life for a group of teens in Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark, the new horror film produced by Guillermo del Toro. The movie is based on a series of children's books from the 1980s by the late amateur folklorist Alvin Schwartz (he died in 1992), who drew upon common folklore and popular urban legends for his anthologies.

(Some spoilers below.)

Technically, Schwartz was a curator, collecting scary stories from all over and preserving those oral traditions on the page. Remember that classic campfire ditty, The worms crawl in the worms crawl out/the worms play pinochle on your snout? So did Schwartz. You'll also find variations on the killer with a hook for a hand who preys on couples necking in parked cars. So, too, the hapless babysitter who discovers the call is coming from inside the house, along with plenty of other frightening fare. It's all delivered in a breezy, conversational format, complete with tips on how to most effectively read the stories aloud to scare your friends. (The 2018 documentary Scary Stories delves more into Schwartz's source material.)

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Posted in CBS films, film, film review, Gaming & Culture, horror, horror films, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark | Comments (0)

Universal pulls The Hunt after most recent deadly mass shootings [Updated]

August 8th, 2019
In <em>The Hunt</em>, Betty Gilpin plays Crystal, a woman who must fight for her life when she's hunted by wealthy "elites."

Enlarge / In The Hunt, Betty Gilpin plays Crystal, a woman who must fight for her life when she's hunted by wealthy "elites." (credit: YouTube/Universal)

[Update: August 10, 2019] Universal Pictures has now pulled the planned September 27 release of its satirical thriller, The Hunt, Deadline Hollywood reports. Here is the studio's statement:

“While Universal Pictures had already paused the marketing campaign for The Hunt, after thoughtful consideration, the studio has decided to cancel our plans to release the film.  We stand by our filmmakers and will continue to distribute films in partnership with bold and visionary creators, like those associated with this satirical social thriller, but we understand that now is not the right time to release this film.”

Co-star Hilary Swank, appearing at the Locarno Film Festival, declined to discuss The Hunt or the surrounding controversy, according to Variety. However, she did say, “No one’s seen the film. You can’t really have a conversation about it without understanding what it’s about.”

My take: Swank is correct that it's a bit unfair to pass judgement on a film few people have actually seen. Trailers are just marketing tools and can often be quite different in tone from the actual film. That said, this is probably a smart move on the part of Universal, given the current socio-political climate.

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Posted in Entertainment, film, Gaming & Culture, the hunt, Trailers, Universal Studios | Comments (0)

Beware the friendly neighborhood devil worshippers in Satanic Panic trailer

August 2nd, 2019

Rebecca Romijn stars as a high society devotee of the devil in need of a virgin sacrifice in Satanic Panic.

A pizza delivery girl runs afoul of a wealthy socialite and her satanic cult in Satanic Panic, a new horror comedy from Director Chelsea Stardust. Yes, it's kind of a bonkers premise, but the trailer is a lot of fun, mining the same cheekily irreverent vein as the Happy Death Day films.

Samantha "Sam" Craft (Hayley Griffith) is a pizza delivery girl with regrets. She took this job for the tips, which turned out to be a bad business decision. "In four hours, my total earnings are an expired Applebees coupon and a sweater that smells like racism," she complains. But when an order comes in from the well-heeled enclave of Mill Basin, she takes on the job, even though its technically outside the joint's delivery zone—apparently on the assumption that she'll finally get a decent tip. What she gets instead is captured by a satanic cult in need of a virgin sacrifice so they can summon Baphomet, a demon from hell, thereby ensuring they stay rich and on top. "Death to the weak, wealth to the strong!" cult leader Danica Ross (Rebecca Romijn) declares.

Sam doesn't seem to be entirely without, er, allies. The skeevy, lecherous Samuel Ross (Jerry O'Connell) helpfully offers to deflower her to save her skin: "No virgin, no sacrifice. Let me protect you." Her best bet is Danica's rebellious daughter Judi (Ruby Modine), who warns, "My mom and her butt buddies are booty-calling Baphomet. And they're not gonna stop til you're strapped to a barbed wire altar." Sure, Danica and her acolytes have all the power, but Sam and Judi have youthful spunk and a keen desire to live. This being a comedy, I like their chances.

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Posted in Entertainment, film, Gaming & Culture, Rebecca Romijn, Satanic Panic, Trailers | Comments (0)

Operation Avalanche, the only good conspiracy—fake the Moon landing, get promoted

July 20th, 2019

With this weekend's 50th anniversary of the Moon landing, it's worth remembering most conspiracy theories are more-or-less the same: a shadowy cabal of all-powerful, all-knowing elites comes together to manipulate us commoners, for whom they have nothing but contempt. The cabal changes—globalists, Lizard People, the media, the Vatican, whatevs—but the song remains the same.

So a few years back when I heard someone had made yet another a low-budget mockumentary about faking the Apollo 11 Moon landing, that's what I was expecting. Maybe even Kubrick would be evoked again. Instead, imagine my surprise when 2016's Operation Avalanche turned out to be light on conspiracy against the sheeple and heavy on a bumbling, baby-faced doofus who comes up with a plan to fake the Moon landing as basically a way to impress his boss.

Psychologists speculate that people are drawn to conspiracy theories because a world controlled by dark forces is still preferable to a world in which no one is at the controls. But truthers will find cold comfort in Operation Avalanche's view that the masters of the universe are more likely to be a grinning nincompoop whose best friend's wife greets him with "Don't touch me."

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Posted in apollo, Apollo 11, conspiracy, Conspiracy Theory, Entertainment, film, film review, found footage, Gaming & Culture, Hoax, mockumentary, Moon landing | Comments (0)

New trailer for IT Chapter Two ratchets up the horror

July 18th, 2019

In IT Chapter Two, the Losers Club must confront the horrors of the past and put an end to the unspeakable evil that has terrorized the town for so long.

Pennywise the demonic clown gleefully inflicts all manner of psychological and physical torment on the grown-up members of the Losers Club in a new trailer for IT Chapter Two. The trailer was shown during New Line Cinema's "ScareDiego" event, a prelude to San Diego Comic-Con that has been happening annually for the last three years.

(Some spoilers for first film and novel below.)

Set in 1989, IT essentially adapted half of King's original novel, telling the story of a group of misfit kids calling themselves "The Losers Club." The kids discover their small town of Derry is home to an ancient, trans-dimensional evil that awakens every 27 years to prey mostly on children by taking the form of an evil clown named Pennywise. Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) loses his little brother, Georgie, to Pennywise, and the group decides to take on Pennywise and drive him into early hibernation, where he will hopefully starve. But Beverly (Sophia Lillis) has a vision warning that Pennywise will return on schedule in 27 years, and they must be ready to fight him anew.

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Posted in Entertainment, film, Gaming & Culture, IT Chapter II, stephen king, Trailers, Warner Bros. | Comments (0)

Stuber review: The world’s worst Uber ride becomes pure popcorn comedy

July 12th, 2019

AUSTIN, Texas—July has barely gotten underway, but we have finally reached peak 2019. This weekend, a film whose entire premise hinges unironically on the modern app-driven gig economy will hit theaters.

"Uber hates this movie, by the way," comedian Kumail Nanjiani said after a crowd of RTX Austin 2019 attendees just watched his ridesharing-meets-'80s-buddy-cop flick, Stuber. "It's about a guy who kidnaps someone in an Uber—it's like if Titanic was made for Carnival cruise ships."

If hearing "Uber" and "movie" that close together immediately gives you chills, don't fret: Stuber proves to be less of a marketing grab than Stranger Things 3. The ubiquitous modern taxi company had no direct involvement even though it had a role to play, says director Michael Dowse. That's because of the Kleenex principle: using a fake brand would take people out of the film immediately.

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Posted in Dave Bautista, film, Gaming & Culture, Kumail Nanjiani, Uber | Comments (0)

Archival footage, audio immerses viewers in Apollo: Missions to the Moon

July 7th, 2019

This year makes the 50th anniversary of the first manned lunar landing, so naturally we're seeing a slew of films and TV programs celebrating that milestone, like last year's First Man biopic. The latest is a new documentary, APOLLO: Missions to the Moon, making its debut on the National Geographic Channel. Ars had the opportunity to sit down with filmmaker Tom Jennings and former NASA engineer Frances "Poppy" Northcutt back in June to talk about the making of the documentary, and revisit this pivotal moment in space history.

NASA's Apollo space program is well-traveled ground in popular media, so Jennings faced quite the challenge in coming up with a fresh take. Fortunately, this is also one of the most well-documented periods in 20th century history. The Emmy and Peabody Award-winning director pieced together his documentary using nothing but  hundreds of hours of archival TV footage, radio broadcasts, film and audio from NASA Mission Control, black-box recordings from Apollo capsules—even the occasional home movie. There are no narrators or talking heads, and the end result provides a much more immersive experience for the viewer than your typical science documentary.

Jennings has used this approach before to produce documentaries about the late Princess Diana and the tragedy of the Challenger space shuttle. "Instead of someone telling you what is was like, I wanted to try and create something that's almost like a motion picture, but everything is real," he said. "I think that audiences, if they just give it a minute, get drawn in, in a way they might not in a more traditional documentary. For people who lived through it, it's a way to re-experience it, and for those who aren't old enough to remember, it's as close as we can get to experiencing it for the first time."

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Posted in Apollo program, documentary, Entertainment, film, Gaming & Culture, Moon landing, NASA, National Geographic Channel, neil armstrong, science, science history, Space exploration, space flight | Comments (0)