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.
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.
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.
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.
It just seems appropriate to write this review on November 5th, aka Guy Fawkes Day. For the past few years, the Guy Fawkes mask made famous in V For Vendetta has become the signature of hacker group extraodrinare Anonymous. If you look most mainstream media coverage, they are either a bunch of houligans making mischief or dangerous outlaws bordering on a terrorist organization. With no clear picture of the group available, We Are Legion: The Story Of the Hacktivists aims to tell the story of this group, and it’s absolutely fascinating.
To say that found footage films, or shakycam movies, have been hit ormiss in their relatively short history is a bit of an understatement. There have been a few strong entries, but the entire genre has been mostly dismissed as an annoying fad that needs to go away as soon as possible. Suddenly, out of Sundance comes v/h/s, and the rave reviews declared that the genre was legitimate and here was proof positive. So does v/h/s live up to the hype? Yes and no…unfortunately more no than yes.
I’ve never shied away from the fact that I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Dark Knight. It’s not that I think it’s a bad movie. I just happen to think it’s vastly overrated. With that in mind, my expectations for The Dark Knight Rises were set fairly low to be sure, yet somehow it found a way to still disappoint me. By necessity for this review, I’m going to need to get into some spoilers. I’d highly recommend you skip those, so here’s your capsule review: the film looks gorgeous and takes full advantage of IMAX screens. The film is also incredibly convoluted and needed to be at least 45 minutes shorter. Anne Hathaway is great in it. It’s a decent film, but a severe disappointment as a Batman movie. Godspeed and I hope you enjoy the film.
Joss Whedon. I’ll be the first person to admit that he’s talented and has a certain charm. However, I’m not a card-carrying Whedonite. I adore Firefly and Dr. Horrible, but can’t stand Buffy, Angel or Dollhouse. His run on Astonishing X-Men was good until the big reveal, and then it lost me. I definitely don’t hate the guy’s work, but he isn’t a lock for me…until 2012. Between Cabin In the Woods and now The Avengers, I’m 100% sold on the man. I might not love everything he does, but I’m guaranteed to at least give anything he does a shot.