1/27/2020

First Trailer For Disney's Experimental 'Short Circuit' Released


There is no denying that Disney is one of, if not the, most famous animation film studio that has ever existed. Throughout the decades, they have released some of the most beloved animated features of all time, such as 'The Lion King', 'Beauty and the Beast', and 'The Little Mermaid' just to name a few. Even their recent animated films like 'Frozen' and 'Zootopia'  have gone on to much success, and it looks like Disney is trying something fresh and exciting this year.

'Short Circuit', their latest animated project, is an upcoming animated short film collection that is now available for audiences to enjoy on Disney+.

Throughout the trailer, we get small clips from the series of short films which each of them seemingly having their own unique style of animation to them, which is extremely exciting and is a great display of artistic talent on the Disney team. What is perhaps the most exciting thing about 'Short Circuit' though, is that we now know how many short films will be a part of this project, thanks to the trailer. There are fourteen of them. The titles are 'Cycles', 'Downtown', 'Drop', 'Elephant in the Room', 'Exchange Student', Fetch', 'Hair-Jitsu', 'Jing Hua', 'Just a Thought', 'Lighting in a Bottle', 'Lucky Toupee', 'Puddles', 'The Race', and 'Zenith'.

This collection of films sure sounds promising, and we gladly do not have to wait any longer to watch them for ourselves.

Sundance 2020 Review: 'Downhill', An Enjoyable Bunny Slopes Version Of 'Force Majeure'


A snapshot is just a single moment in time. Anybody can stop to grin like a fool for a photograph; it's what happens outside of the frame that matters, and that's rarely quite as sweet. That's where all of the complexities come in, all of the imperfections. Downhill, an American remake of Ruben Östlund’s Force Majeure, begins with an awkward but happy family photograph, a freeze frame of happiness before everything starts to get snowed under.

Written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (The Way Way Back), Downhill is a perfectly enjoyable, toned down version of Force Majeure. And that's perfectly fine, especially when it gives surprisingly nuanced roles for Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, playing variations of character-types we've seen from them before.  They star as Billie and Pete, who along with their two sons have taken a ski vacation in the Alps. It's meant to be a relaxing stay, but Pete can't put his phone away, can't stop admiring the #NoAgenda European trip being taken by his work buddy Zach (Zach Woods).

It's a chance to unwind and reconnect as a family, but on the second day something happens that turns this into the vacation from Hell. A controlled avalanche turns out to be not-so-controlled, and for a few minutes things get very "dicey" as Billie would later put it. There is genuine fear as the snow closes in on them, and as Billie moves to protect the children, Pete just runs away. Not only that, he grabs his phone and jets, leaving his family behind.

Suffice it to say, Billie doesn't take it well. She's pissed, but at first is too shocked to show it. The chill in the air has nothing to do with snow, however. A dark cloud descends over the trip, and Pete can feel it, see it in the way his family looks at him. Pete starts speaking in passive voice ("mistakes were made", "things happened") as if that will make it all go away. But it's not going to go away for Billie. It all comes out in a burst of exasperated anger, in front of Zach and his new girlfriend (Zoe Chao). Billie really dishes it out, too, looking to hurt and humiliate, even dragging the kids out as expert witnesses. Pete denies it, weakly, and sinks into self-pity.


Credit to Faxon and Rash for ironing out the cultural differences so that Downhill can exist on its own. The humor is broader, as one might expect with Ferrell playing another sheepish father-figure like in the Daddy's Home movies. The observations of gender roles within the family structure are still there, just simplified to fit within a 90-minute comedy framework.  Louis-Dreyfus gets the most to work with, as Billie takes a solo day and is immediately put into an awkward sexual situation by Charlotte, their aggressively amorous hotel hostess.  The frustration she feels is legit, and Louis-Dreyfus expresses it while also indulging in some of the embarrassing social humor (she has a terrifically epic fail in a bathroom stall) she perfected on Seinfeld and Veep. 

But does Downhill need to exist when Force Majeure is a perfectly good movie that can be found pretty easily? I hate questions like that, even though they occur every single time we get a remake like this. The obvious answer is "no", it doesn't need to exist, but then no movie needs to. Downhill makes a case for itself with the comic chemistry of its two stars, and it goes down easy like a run on the bunny slopes.

3 out of 5

Head to a Disturbing and Dark Place with the Trailer for 'Swallow'


In today's edition of "What the hell did I just watch?" we have the trailer for Haley Bennett's latest film Swallow. If the intent of this trailer was to let you in on the creepy and dark nature of this films content I think it's safe to say "Mission Accomplished". I'm 100% certain that there are heaps of subtext contained within the film itself, which appears to be a film about a woman who is trying desperately to be what everyone wants her to be and deals with the stress of that by....well, by swallowing things one wouldn't normally swallow. This is a real affliction, and the pressure women feel in this world is VERY real, I'm not trying to be a cynical asshole, I'm just saying this trailer is weird. They do an amazing job of creating that Twilight Zone effect, where everything seems serene and perfect but that one little detail is wayyyy off the norm. Very Fincher, which the trailer points out itself.

Swallow Hits Theaters March 6th, 2020


Sundance 2020 Review: 'The Glorias', Julie Taymor's Gloria Steinem Biopic Is Uneven But Engaging


Life's road is jagged, never a straight line. That's especially true for renowned feminist activist Gloria Steinem, whose life has always been colored outside of the boundaries. A biopic on her should be just as unconventional, which is why the hiring of Across the Universe and Frida director Julie Taymor for The Glorias was so exciting. And for some of the film Taymor delivers the magical realism and evocative visuals we'd hoped for, with multiple Glorias interacting with one another across multiple time periods. But just as often it slips into mediocre biopic conventions which do Steinem's story a disservice.

A sprawling effort that encompasses the vast majority of Steinem's life, The Glorias finds four different actresses portraying her through different stretches. We're introduced to her as a child (played by Ryan Kiera Armstrong), raised by her ex-journalist mom and her father, a carnival barker/salesman (Timothy Hutton) who has a scheme to get out of every financial jam. Taymor and screenwriter Sarah Ruhl's screenplay collides that Steinem's nomadic upbringing with that of her as a teenager (played by Lulu Wilson), and as a young woman (Alicia Vikander) traveling through India. It's there that she witnesses firsthand the injustices visited upon women on a global scale, helping to form the basis of the hopeful feminist hero she would later become. Following in her mother's footseps, Steinem begins making waves in the male-dominated world of journalism, facing sexual harassment and discrimination even as she outshines and outsells her colleagues.

It's during this youthful stretch where The Glorias is at its most engaging, both on a dramatic level and aesthetically. Scenes melt into one another, the many versions of Steinem interacting, giving one another advice and criticisms while journeying on a metaphysical bus to anywhere.  Sometimes these dialogs hit a little too on-the-nose, others are buried under Taymor's self-indulgence. A bizarre, unnecessary sequence finds a chauvinistic interviewer caught in the eye of a hurricane while the many Glorias are transformed into wicked Witches.

Taymor pulls in the reins as Steinem enters her forties (now played by Julianne Moore), conventionally hopping through one event to the next.  We see the formation of the Women's movement, the creation of Ms. Magazine, as well as Steinem's many friendships with activists Bella Abzug (Bette Midler), Dorothy Pittman Hughes (Janelle Monae), and Wilma Mankiller (Kimberly Guerrero). All of these women of diverse backgrounds and philosophies would shape Steinem through to her impassioned speech at the first Women's March, just as women's rights were about to be under renewed threat.

Uneven but still an absorbing ride, The Glorias remains a testament to Gloria Steinem's endurance as leader of a movement that continues to face opposition, and to the complexity of the road traveled to get where she is now.

3 out of 5

Disney+'s 'Falcon and the Winter Soldier' Will be Here Sooner Then Anticipated!


Whew...after the finale of the too-short season 1 for The Mandalorian Disney+ subscribers were looking at a long stretch of nothing new in the original content department. Good news has arrived by way of a Deadline report talking about Noah Mills casting in the series. While it was originally stated that the first of the Marvel TV shows wouldn't be making it's way to the streaming platform until late 2020, Disney reps dropped that the show will go-live this August, just 7 short months away. I'm not sure what the story behind the changed dates is, but I wouldn't be surprised to find out that this was driven by the subscriber drop after the conclusion of The Mandalorian. I mean, that would have been almost a full year of membership fees between shows, and if these original shows were your sole reason for subscribing it wouldn't make sense to keep it during the down time.

In any event, I pray that this pushed up release date doesn't result in rushing to finish the production and that the creative team is given the time they need to make sure this is done up to the standard that we've come to expect from Marvel.

Daniel Radcliffe Fights for Freedom in the First Trailer for 'Escape From Pretoria'


Credit where credit is due, Daniel Radcliffe has gone to some pretty amazing lengths to break the Potter-brand since his days as "The boy who lived". He's headlined pretty much every genre at this point and done and admirable job in each. If you need any proof of this guys range you need look no further then the current trailers he has out at the moment. On one hand you have Guns Akimbo, a batshit crazy action flick where he plays a guy that has pistols bolted to his hands. On the other side of things there's the just released trailer for Escape from Pretoria, which is based on the true story of a white South African man, Tim Jenkin, who was jailed as a terrorist for helping Nelson Mandela's outlawed movement.

I'm all in on this, I mean who doesn't love a good prison break movie, am I right? On my more politically minded side I'm always in favor of a film that explores South Africa during Apartheid. Of all the travesties of the last 100 years I've always felt like apartheid was one of the least represented and one that was most deserving of educating the public. If this trailer is to be believed we've got a socially relevant, tension filled, and well-acted film on our hands here folks.

Escape from Pretoria Hits Theaters in the UK on March 6th, 2020. No US release has been set.



Stylish New Poster for 'The New Mutants' Officially Released


One of the most anticipated movies coming out this year is definitely the latest installment in the beloved series of 'X-Men' films, 'The New Mutants'. The film was originally scheduled to be released all the way back on April 13, 2018. During the beginning of the year, it was announced that the film would ultimately be pushed back to February 22, 2019 in order to avoid being released close to Deadpool 2, another 'X-Men' related film. Then, it was delayed to August 2 to avoid coinciding with the release of yet another film in the franchise, the divisive 'Dark Phoenix'.

But, at long last, it looks like we are finally going to be able to see what director Josh Boone has been cooking up for this horror-related superhero film. With the second official trailer being released just a few weeks ago, we now have a brand new poster released by 20th Century Studios. The poster, which can be seen above, features the main cast of the film against a cool blue backdrop with a stylish font reading the title of the film.

What is perhaps the most visually appealing aspect of the poster is the X-Ray effect that appears on certain sections on the characters' faces, though. It definitely adds to the factor of this being a horror film and brilliantly teases what we can only hope is a movie that is worth the two year wait.

The New Mutants is scheduled to be released theatrically on April 3, 2020.

Quentin Tarantino Confirms He Won't Direct 'Star Trek'


A Quentin Tarantino mulls over his 10th and supposedly final movie, a wrench was thrown in the works when reports surfaced he might direct an R-rated Star Trek film. It seemed an unusual way to close out a career, and I think most of Tarantino's fans have sorta blown off the idea, especially when it became known it would be Mark L. Smith (The Revenant) writing the script. Does Tarantino ever direct another person's script?

In a recent conversation with Deadline, Tarantino puts the kibosh on any hopes he'll be directing Star Trek. This despite his being a huge fan of Chris Pine, as revealed when he listed Unstoppable as one of the top movies of the decade.

“I think they might make that movie, but I just don’t think I’m going to direct it,” Tarantino said."It’s a good idea. They should definitely do it and I’ll be happy to come in and give them some notes on the first rough cut.”

Smith's script is still out there, so I guess it's always possible Tarantino or someone else can come back to it. As we know, Paramount has moved on with a Star Trek reboot led by Lucy in the Sky filmmaker Noah Hawley, so things have moved past both Tarantino and Pine at this point. Whatever Tarantino does next, I think it's safe to say it'll be 100% his own movie and not part of a studio franchise.

Sundance 2020 Review: 'Promising Young Woman', Carey Mulligan Demands To Be Heard In Raging #MeToo Revenge Tale


If Emerald Fennell's raging #MeToo era revenge film Promising Young Woman was just Carey Mulligan out for blood against predatory men, that would be pretty cool. I would be down for that movie. There's so much going on here, though, that Fennell has in mind. She's pissed off, and this is a pissed off movie with a pissed off protagonist in Cassie (Mulligan), a 30-year-old coffee shop employee who spends her nights as a vigilante of justice, luring "nice guys" in by pretending to be too-drunk to know what's going on, and then seeing how far those gentlemanly men will go with her.

It's a fun premise, and Fennell goes for it with gusto, bordering on the surreal. But there's nothing outlandish about Cassie's mission, or the anger she feels at a world too eager to dismiss female victims of assault and give men a free pass to live their lives. The women they leave in their wake get no such accommodation; for some of them, their lives are over. Cassie knows this intimately. The vengeance she seeks isn't for her, it's for someone close to her who is now gone, but Cassie's life has been over just as much since the attack occurred.


Cassie was top of her class in med school before everything went south. Now she's lonely, depressed, and living at home with her concerned parents (Jennifer Coolidge and Clancy Brown) who aren't shy about wanting their daughter to move on. That's not going to happen, though. She's got a job to do, and woe to the men who pick her up, staggeringly drunk, from the club and offer her a ride home; or the guy who ignores her pleas to go home and instead offers her cocaine before shoving his hand inside her; or the men who raped her friend and video taped it, then got away scott-free.

Fennell's twisted mind has her casting these heinous men with non-threatening actors such as Adam Brodie, Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin? Say it ain't so!!), Max Greenfield, and more. But there's one man who may not be so bad and may even pull Cassie away from her life of retribution, and that's the pleasantly dorky Ryan (Bo Burnham), a former college classmate who has been carrying a torch ever since. As their relationship deepens, a question begin to emerge: Why should Cassie believe any of these men are as good as they claim? The world has already proven it doesn't want to believe women, or it holds them responsible for making themselves vulnerable to attack. The excuses are ready-made to let guys off the hook: She shouldn't have had so much to drink; She was asking for it; It was his word against hers and innocent until proven guilty.


The tone swings violently, but never gets out of Fennell's control. At times moody and sorrowful, it also borders on fantasy during Cassie's happy romantic interlude. Anytime people are jamming out to the vapid sounds of Paris Hilton, something outside the bounds of real-life must be going on. There's never a moment that feels inauthentic, however, as shameful as that might be. The things men say and do, Cassie's rage, all of it is uncomfortably real and demands to be addresed.

Carey Mulligan is too-perfect for the role of Cassie, with her disarming beauty and slight frame, she looks like an easy mark. But she's nobody's prey, and Mulligan is more than equipped to show the price that comes with Cassie's vengeful actions. With Margot Robbie as one of the movie's producers, one can easily see her taking on the role. Cassie even dons very Harley Quinn-esque dress when in damsel mode. Apparently, the guys can't resist a woman with rainbow hair.


Promising Young Woman is a movie that takes big risks; some of them payoff and some of them don't. However, you have to admire the sheer ballsiness of them, including a final act that goes so far beyond our expectations it's guaranteed to cause a shit storm of debate. This is a movie that is willing to go above and beyond to be heard. The time for conversation is over, the time for action is now.

4 out of 5

1/26/2020

Sundance 2020 Review: 'Shirley', Elisabeth Moss Uses A Toxic Friendship To Fuel Her Creative Genius


A traditional biopic from Josephine Decker, the filmmaker whose Madeline's Madeline is one of the most visually vivid and unique pieces of cinema in recent years? Of course, there's absolutely nothing traditional about Shirley, a nasty little number about nasty little literary couple Stanley Edgar Hyman and Shirley Jackson. Shirley, a reclusive writer whose horror novels and short stories have seen a sudden surge in popularity, namely The Haunting of Hill House, is a particularly venomous piece of work, and Decker observes her like one observes a snake about to devour a mouse.

Michael Stuhlbarg and Elisabeth Moss play Stanley and Shirley, who bear their fangs not only at one another, but at the improbably gorgeous Fred and Rose Nemser (Logan Lerman and Odessa Young), a young couple invited to stay in their home while Fred moves up the professorial ranks on campus. The dynamic between the four is contentious from the start, in no small part thanks to Shirley. A shut-in who can barely get out of bed in the morning, it's clear she's not just mean but perhaps a little bit insane. Certainly, she's become too much for the outgoing, charismatic Stanley to deal with by himself, which is where Rose comes in. Despite being horrified at Shirley's treatment towards her (Shirley outs her pregnancy to a befuddled Fred), Rose is an admirer and more than a little naive.

That makes them perfect targets for the elder couple, who seem to fuel their own creative genius through the mental manipulation of others.  Shirley is no biopic, it's a horror in the vein of Jackson's literary works, but with a really twisted sense of humor that makes one feel "terrifically horrible", as Rose puts it. For those who like their comedy blacker than old coffee, they'll get a kick out of the way Shirley teases and scorns, befriends and alienates, all to her own satisfaction.  "People like Shirley don't have friends", Fred warns Rose at one point, and he's not wrong. Rose is meant to be a positive influence but, for someone as broken as Shirley, what's positive for her is negative for everyone else.


The best part of Shirley is that it gives Moss another role in which she can delve into another's mad genius. The story takes place following the release of Jackson's wildly controversial novel, The Lottery, during the time when she's been inspired by the disappearance of college freshman Paula Jean Welden to craft the story, Hangsaman. Already a neurotic suffering from severe bouts of anxiety, Shirley begins to identify closely with the lost girl, and other lost girls just like her. It only makes her devious control over Rose all the more insidious and tragic. Shirley takes the hopeful young woman treats her like a character in one of her novels, writing her story at every turn of the page.

Decker keeps the tension tightly wound, mixing in enough humor to lessen the bitterness of Sara Gubbens' script. Even though at times it seems they don't have an idea where it should go, making for a conclusion that muddles any empowering themes, Shirley doesn't shy away from its subject's toxicity. It embraces everything she was, everything she needed to be, warts and all.

3.5 out of 5