The DC Extended Universe has been widely criticized as a trainwreck since 2013’s Man of Steel hit theaters worldwide. Heaven knows I sure as heck haven’t been kind to these films. In some way, shape or form, every single entry has completely missed the point of the core of its characters to the such a laughable extent that Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice displayed the single character who actually is a warrior, has no reservation about killing enemies and carries a freaking sword and shield as the ONLY “hero” who doesn’t kill anybody. I’ve frankly given up hope on the DCEU, but the trailers for Wonder Woman wouldn’t stop knocking at my heart with hope. I’m beyond thrilled to say I’m glad I opened the door one more time to that hope and was greatly rewarded.
Unlike most superhero origin stories, Wonder Woman’s is actually worth telling. This isn’t because it sets up the character and sets them up on their path like every other cape movie, but because it offers a genuine look at humanity through simultaneously naïve and cynical eyes, only to have each viewpoint completely change by the end of the film. Diana’s journey challenges the idea of preconceived notions and champions the merits of seeing humanity for what it is, warts and all.
Director Patty Jenkins performed a masterful job of showing the horrors of the aftermath of war without needing to go into the gory detail presented in past war films like Saving Private Ryan. Somehow, seeing the parade of wounded as Diana (Gal Gadot) and Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) are headed toward the front line is a somber occasion as Diana is fully confronted with the terrible realities of war’s casualties instead of just studying war from an academic point of view. Compounding that was seeing innocent people being so devastatingly affected in the trenches of No Man’s Land that finally spurs Diana into action.
The year: 2017. The superhero film genre has dominated Hollywood for the last 10 years but you haven’t hit a homerun since The Dark Knight. All of your recent offerings have been the subjects of rather polarizing……discussions…and some old man already gave the other guys a HUGE head start for the year. You need a hero, and fast!
Enter Gal Gadot; the savior the DCEU needed.
First, let’s get this out of the way; yes, it’s another origin story. Yes it’s another WWI/WWII era film in what seems like an endless stream of said films (Dunkirk, anyone?). Here, however, it is done to the point where you’re actually interested in seeing how that world would deal with an injection of some good ol’ estrogen from the embodiment of feminism herself.
The movie opens to a call-back from BvS where Bruce Wayne sends Diana the original photograph of she and her DC version of the “Howling Commandos” (I’ve never read WW before so if this is an old origin story and her team has a name please don’t kill me) which leads to the retelling of her time as a child and her first mission with the team during WWI. She was a rambunctious youth, always trying to sneak away from her mother to train with the other Amazons of Themyscira, but her mother Hippolyta wouldn’t allow it. Eventually she gets her way (obviously) and is trained to become the strongest warrior the island had ever seen. After saving a drowning Cpt. Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) who crash landed on the island days earlier and learning about, “THE war,” taking place in Europe, AND knowing it is the duty of the Amazons to protect man from themselves and to stop war from spreading over the world, Diana steels herself and leaves the island with him to put an end to it once and for all.
It seems like there’s a never ending amount of complaining that Hollywood is out of ideas and is incapable of putting anything original on the silver screen. If you’re only talking about the mega-blockbuster releases and endless superhero properties being translated to the big and small screens, you may have a point. However, if you’re willing to take a chance, you might just stumble across a wonderful and bizarre curiosity with unexpected emotional depth like Swiss Army Man.
Hank (Paul Dano), a hopeless young man literally at the end of his rope on a deserted island, finds himself rescued by a corpse named Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) and the excess of flatulence stored up in his body. Once back to land, they embark on a journey to find home and themselves.
To really say anything else about the plot would give away important points and rob the film of its magnificent eccentricity. Before getting to extoling the films numerous virtues, it’s important to address one very important caveat. If you are comfortable with a frank discussion of uncomfortable topics like flatulence and…self-love, you have a truly remarkable and unique cinematic experience ahead of you. If those kinds of things turn you off to a film, though, it’s safe to say you should probably skip it altogether.
Starting with the two leads, Dano and Radcliffe have a striking chemistry that makes me hope they make more films together in the future. Hank trying to teach Manny about being human again while figuring out what that very idea means to him is a beautiful plot thread that is always present in the film. There’s as much humor and hope as there is heartbreak and despair running through the film that keeps the audience engaged and emotionally invested.
I used to be a fan of Michael Bay’s. I knew that his films weren't brilliant by any definition of the word but most of them knew exactly what they were and played to his strengths. (I am one of the few defenders of Bad Boys II and not only do I defend it, I honestly think it is Bay’s masterpiece.) I lost a lot of my faith in him after the last two Transformers films. They both seemed like they played to a boring and clichéd formula and it appeared that Bay was just going through the motions or better yet that he was sleepwalking while making them. So I was excited when he announced he would be returning to his Bad Boys roots by making a moderately budgeted, hard “R”, crime thriller called Pain & Gain.
Pain & Gain is based on a true story and it involves three bodybuilders (Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Anthony Mackie) at various stages in their lives, trying to achieve the American dream any way they can. Things predictably go horribly wrong for them after they kidnap a wealthy dirtbag businessman (Tony Shaloub) in an attempt to steal all of his assets. That last sentence is probably an understatement as this movie gets so crazy that by the end of it I was questioning how “true” it really was. (more…)
This was the third year that we’ve put on the critics’ horror movie panel at the Horrorfest part of Starfest. It has become a tribute to carry on the legacy that Denver critic Reggie McDaniel ran with for so many years at the convention. While I get great guests to be on the panel, Barry has really thrown himself into organizing it and put together an amazing show. Previous guests include Tim Schultz from the Mile High Horror Film Festival, Keith Garcia from The Denver Film Societyand Christian Toto from Breitbart’s Big Hollywood.
This year, I had the great honor of being on the panel with Brad McHargue from Mile High Cinema and Michael Felsher, owner of Red Shirt Pictures. It’s very easy to say that we all rocked the room and that we could have easily gone another hour, both points being true. What made me really enjoy being on the panel, though, was the feeling like somehow I stumbled into the room and found myself with the best seat in the house. Special thanks to Christopher Page from Jonja.net for the picture he took at the panel.
NOTE: This panel contains NSFW language. You have been warned.
Remakes always give us pause because not very many of them are good. The Horror genre is especially remake crazy, especially in the last few years. Some of them have been great, ( 1982’s The Thing and David Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly), some of them have been decent, (2009’s Friday the 13th remake and 2006’s The Hills Have Eyes) but most of them have been bad (Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake and the remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street).
When it was announced that The Evil Dead was being remade I was cautiously optimistic. I love the original film and always have, but it is definitely dated and could be primed for an update. It was then announced that Sam Raimi, the creator and mastermind behind the original, was going to be producing the remake. The red band trailer then came out last year and I was really impressed with it and the buzz coming out of screenings of the film at SXSW was extremely positive. So I had some expectations for this film. I wasn’t going into it thinking that it was going to be another bad remake. Did it live up to those expectations?
Honestly right now I am still in shock that we will never have another Roger Ebert review. I also don’t even know where to begin with trying to put into words what he meant to me and the influence he has on me but here goes my attempt.
I will start off by saying that there has not been a celebrity death in my lifetime that has ever brought me to tears or affected me like his death has. I had just read his blog post (entitled A Leave of Presence which you must read if you haven’t) that he posted two days ago about slowing down the amount of films he reviews. His last published words were “Thank you for going on this journey with me. I'll see you at the movies.” Nothing could be more appropriate than that.
Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were the first film critics I followed when I was a very young child. I would watch their show on PBS every Saturday. I would think that their word on any movie was the truth and when they endorsed a movie I had to see it no matter what. My mom and dad would get sick of me always saying, “Well, Siskel and Ebert gave it two thumbs up, so it has to be good.” When my mom informed me that Siskel had passed when I was 10, at first I didn’t believe her. I was then devastated by it and is one of the most vivid memories I have of a celebrity passing away when I was a child.
In the coming days, Roger Ebert’s praises will be sung from the film community. This is as it should be. You’ll find all kinds of resources to read up on the work of a man many knew and respected. I highly recommend you check them out. His film commentary was second to none, even when you disagreed with his opinion. I’m not going to get into any of that, though. All I can do to pay tribute to Mr. Ebert is tell you how he affected me and my love of film.
Film figures pretty prominently in my life. My uncle works in the business and loves movie history. My grandfather had a great love of film, and I’m a geek. Movies were always going to figure into my life one way or another. As I got into high school and college, I really started getting into movies. Of course I dug the silly guy flicks of the time like Tommy Boy, Wayne’s World and the Hot Shots! movies. I also was touched by films like Schindler’s List and was intrigued by more independent films like Grosse Pointe Blank and Pi. I started wanting to read about movies.
Of course, all of this was well before the internet was anything remotely resembling what it is today. My only outlet of finding out about movies was the Friday edition of the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph. Every Friday morning, I’d go get the paper and see not only what was coming out, but what the reviewers (I didn’t like calling them critics at the time) were saying about those movies. Unfortunately, the reviewers they had mostly sucked while I was in high school. The one time I would get excited would be when I could read Roger Ebert’s critique of film. Where the rest of the hacks they had writing did little more than spell out the plot and then go down talking points of what was good or bad, Mr. Ebert always had a way of getting to the heart of a film and really try to understand it. Gone was the stodgy image I had of snobs who only liked “important” films. He found a way to make me want to understand the art and beauty of film.
In an equally important way, he loved a good fun movie, too. Roger Ebert showed me that it was possible to love the entertainment that a good movie can bring without ever stopping to seek important film that touches the soul and expresses the human condition in ways that I could never understand otherwise. He’d also never shy away from the opportunity to take a literary baseball bat to a truly awful film, but there was a distinct difference between films he truly despised and films that he was thoroughly disappointed with because the film had so much potential to be more than the final product. He had such a love of film that he rarely went into a movie hoping it would suck. He understood why it was always better to have good movie over a bad one.
I don’t know that I will ever consider myself to be a film critic. Roger Ebert has always been the gold standard of that word for me and I don’t see myself ever being on that level. One thing he did help instill in me was a true love of the medium and a desire to show that love to other people. THAT, I can do.
e End, but we also had the chance to sit down with director Don Coscarelli. While I wasn't able to make it, the amazing Lydia was more than up for the challenge. The film is in theaters now and available to watch on various VOD services.
Edit: Just in case you were curious about the Beastmaster Jr. short that Mr. Coscarelli mentioned in the interview, I'm embedding it below:
There’s no doubt that The Starz Denver Film Festival is a highlight every single year around here, and this year was no exception. We have a ton of reviews headed your way soon, but I thought I’d post the one interview I had the opportunity to do before we unleash the onslaught of reviews.