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Top Ten Fake “Transformers: The Last Knight” Spoilers

You don’t have to wait until June 21st to get the inside scoop on Transformers: The Last Knight

10 - It's come to this: To get parts in non-Star Wars movies, C3PO has to do nude scenes now.
10 – It’s come to this: To get parts in non-Star Wars movies, C3PO has to do nude scenes now.

9 - John Goodman reprises his voice role as Hound because damn it, he's going to make 9 movies a year whether you like it or not.
9 – John Goodman reprises his voice role as Hound because damn it, he’s going to make 9 movies a year whether you like it or not.

8 - Watch as Sir Anthony Hopkins whisper acts his way through another paycheck.
8 – Watch as Sir Anthony Hopkins whisper acts his way through another paycheck.

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they-live

They Live! Movie Review

By Stevie Wang

In “They Live!,” a drifter stumbles upon a conspiracy about aliens who secretly rule over the human race. By wearing a pair of sunglasses, the drifter is able to see that aliens are disguising themselves in positions of great power such as company owners, police officers, and politicians and are essentially governing the human race and working for their own interests. Humans are completely oblivious to their rulers and are kept from seeking the truth due to consumer goods and materialism.

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Why Trolls Was the Perfect Movie to See on Election Night

I don’t know about you, but I had absolutely no desire to be in the world while election results were coming in on Nov 8. So instead, I went to my favorite “escape from the world” place: a movie theater. A friend and I decided on Trolls. An hour and a half of bright colors and rousing musical numbers just seemed like a good idea before finding out who gets to screw up the country over the next four years.

Trolls was actually a pleasant surprise though. It wasn’t just good in a fun kids movie sort of way, it actually made me realize some important things I needed to remember as my country becomes as divided as I’ve ever seen it. [Spoilers below].trolls

Lesson 1: We can still be happy without shitting on other people

The antagonists of this movie are the Bergens, unhappy creatures that believe the only way to be happy is to eat the trolls. What makes the dynamic of Bergentown especially interesting is that any Bergen under the age of 20, including the king of Bergentown, has never actually tasted a troll, as the trolls escaped captivity 20 years before the primary plot arc of the film. So your primary villain isn’t someone who is just straight up evil, it’s someone who has been socialized to believe a lie, and that belief inspires him to do evil things. The movie isn’t a story of good triumphing over evil, it’s a story of good teaching evil the error in their ways.

Unlike some, I personally do not believe all Trump supporters are just straight up evil. I do however, believe many view the world as a false dichotomy. They have trouble seeing how immigrants and native-born citizens can live in peace and even benefit from each other’s presence, and instead believe one group can only benefit at the expense of the other. They believe that the rights of Americans are more important than the rights of people born elsewhere, even though such people are equally human. And I think for many, those beliefs were instilled in them at a young age. They voted for Trump not because they’re just terrible human beings that Satan sent to destroy America, but because they genuinely believe that was the only way to restore their own prosperity after other systems have failed them. Sad!

Trolls is a reminder that it doesn’t have to be “us vs. them” even when the world around us constantly tells us that it is. There are ways to be happy and successful without infringing on the rights of others. (more…)

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Top 10 Greatest Movies that Premiered on the July 4th Weekend

This is not the typical yearly list of the best 4th of July themed or raw-raw-USA patriotic movies of all time. You’re welcome.

With The BFG, Purge: Election Year, and Legend of Tarzan opening this Independence Day weekend, I thought it would be better to list the top 10 greatest movies that have premiered on this holiday weekend in the past.  Mostly because, I don’t think either of this year’s entries will have as lasting an impact in cinema history like the following.

 

#10 Men In Black
Opened July 2, 1997

Some master puppet work, special effects makeup, and CGI give Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones plenty to play off of.  It’s a fast paced 98 minutes of two government agents working autonomously (which may be why they are so efficient) to save humans and friendly aliens from the scourge of the galaxy’s worst.

#9 – Terminator 2
Opened July 3, 1991

Arguably regarded as Schwarzenegger’s best action film, writer/director James Cameron lets loose with cutting edge CGI (for the time) in this time-travel sci-fi action thriller where Robert Patrick’s motorcycle cop would haunt anyone pulled over on the highway for speeding .

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Captain America: Civil War Review

So I finally got around to seeing one of the most anticipated movies of the summer, Captain America: Civil War. In general, I’m not that into superhero movies, primarily because I find they’re often over-simplistic for my taste: These are the good guys. Those are the bad guys. Now watch them blow stuff up.

Luckily, Captain America: Civil War does not fall into that trap. There’s two opposing sides, but rather than a battle of good vs. evil, it’s a battle between two different interpretations of good. The conflict is introduced when the UN finally expresses discontent with the Avenger-caused destruction of previous Marvel movies, which is best summed up this way:

Oddly enough, I’ve seen the same meme used to describe U.S. foreign policy.


So the Avengers have a choice. Do they want to give the governments of the world increased control over their operations (#TeamIronMan) or continue to be as independent as they’ve always been, even if that makes them outlaws (#TeamCap)?
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Zootopia has Racism, Micro-Aggressions, and Misogyny and That’s Okay

*SPOILER WARNING* This essay heavily uses textual evidence from throughout the film.

The name “Zootopia” (a portmanteau of “zoo” and “utopia”) works ambivalently as the declaration of what this animal society wants to be and as an ironic joke about its failure to meet those aspirations.  The joke is on us though since it’s one large Aesop’s fable about prejudice in the real world. The city motto is “anyone can be anything [and not be limited by what they are],” an ideal that protagonist Judy Hopps takes as her own personal motivation to become the world’s first bunny police officer.  However the anthropomorphic pretense of the film forces characters to test their devotion to the ideals of this claimed post-racial utopia.  Judy believes that foxes can be trusted, despite personal experience and warnings from well-meaning though racist parents, but is she willing to bet her life on it?  This is the “Chekov’s gun” of the film, represented by something that literally goes where Judy’s police issued side-arm would be if this weren’t a cartoon.  Judy reaches for the “gun” when fear overwhelms logic for the film’s argument about how we don’t live in a society rid bigotry, but only a society that wants to be rid of it.

And sloths. We want to be rid of bigotry and sloths.
And sloths. We want to be rid of bigotry and sloths.

It’s a very daring choice to make a world full of prejudice and have this spread over into other marginalized characters as well as the main characters.  It’s writing 101 to throw the worst and most unfavorable traits at your villains, not the heroes.  Supporting lead Nick Wilde (a fox) carelessly calls Judy “carrots” and “cute,” which the rules of the film sates are racist slurs for rabbits.  Judy accidentally performs a micro-aggression on Nick, praising him as a “real articulate fella.”. (more…)

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From Page to Screen: Bubba Ho-tep

This post introduces a new theme in addition to page to screen adaptations. That is: things you may have missed. In case you don’t know, Bubba Ho-tep is a movie, and a short story, where neither Elvis nor JFK are dead. They are both in a Texas rest home and have been robbed of their identities by fate and the powers that be. To make matters worse, an Egyptian mummy has started to raid the home and steal the soles of residents. Elvis and Jack are the only ones who know and therefore the only ones who can do anything about it. You can watch the trailer here, though it doesn’t do the movie justice.

He's gonna take care of business.
He’s gonna take care of business.

I think a lot of people view this movie as a silly B-movie send up, and I had a similar opinion before I watched it. Now, it might just be my lifelong affection for Bruce Campbell, but from my first viewing I was in love. Sure, it has a ridiculous premise and outlandish characters, but I have only ever seen a beautiful portrayal of aging and the struggle to maintain one’s identity and dignity. Why else would the cast feature such American icons as Elvis, JFK, and the Lone Ranger? When I found out the movie was based on an existing story I was the most excited to see more of the world.

This adaptation was interesting because I have more experience with novels being adapted into films and this was a short story. As such it means the expansion of the world as opposed to the reduction. The film allowed for more time with the characters and the introduction of the funeral home workers who pick up the bodies of residents. They, in particular, brought the “youth” perspective of the plight of the rest home residents and the lack of empathy and interest the rest of the world have for them.

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From Page to Screen: Pinocchio

It wasn’t until fairly recently that I even knew Pinocchio was a children’s novel and not a fairy tale out of Grimm’s or the like. And, boy howdy, is it a doozy; thirty-six chapters of absolutely bizarre Italian children’s literature circa 1880s. Granted, the chapters fly by like in Moby Dick, with each only being about three or four pages long. The book actually reads like an epic fable with very simple moral that is omnipresent: go to school and mind your parents.

Pinocchio-1940-poster
You deserve everything coming to you.

The main differences between the book and the Disney film (I’m sticking with that adaptation for brevity’s sake) consist of a larger role for Jiminy Cricket in the film, who is only referred to as the Talking Cricket in the book; a smaller role for the fairy in the film, who is the Blue Haired Fairy in the book; and the actual character of Pinocchio, who is sweet and naive in the film as opposed to an amoral ass in the book.

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From Page to Screen: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?/Blade Runner

I have had an inkling for a while to make this a thing. There are two things I love in life: books and movies. Actually, there are a lot of things I love in life, but those two are really high up on the list. I’m especially fond of considering the translation of books into movies, and now that I have a public platform I can stop bothering my friends with this all the time.

So, to begin, we’ll throw in a third thing I love: dystopia. Thus we have our discussion of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?/Blade Runner. It recently occurred to me that I had never read Philip K. Dick’s book, which is reason enough for me to read most things. Coincidentally, just as I finished the volume the theater near my apartment started a classic sci-fi series with the opening film being Blade Runner and a discussion following the film. It was an electric dream come true!

I know that you can never get everything in the book into the movie, but I was surprised to find in the first paragraph that book Deckard has a wife. Unfortunately, she is inextricably linked to some other very big ideas that had to be omitted, like Mercerism, the religious treatment of empathy, and all the real animals. Though I understand their exclusion, it is a shame nonetheless. The religious aspects of the people left on Earth were fascinating. Empathy is the only thing that separates humans from androids and empathy, through Mercerism, is the only thing that most people have to get them through the day. The androids of the film seem to have genuine affection for each other and Roy shows Deckard mercy in his final living act, but the androids of the book are clearly lacking in this most human experience. Reading along as a book android methodically snipped the legs off a living spider to see if it could still walk with four was bad enough, I can’t imagine how John Isidore felt. Especially given the reverence of life and the importance of taking care of living animals that is present in the book.

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Trailer of the Year Awards – Cop Car

Our third nominee for the Trailer of the Year Award is definitely going to be a long shot in taking the top prize, but it’s a fun trailer full of all the right camera shots, a campy tone, with accelerating soundtrack all topped with Kevin Bacon as the bad guy with a mustache that might win ‘Stache of the Year.

Two young boys come across an abandoned police cruiser with the keys still inside, they decide to leave well enough alone, walk to the nearest adult and tell them what they found.  Oh no, wait… that’s the boring version.  These kids take that sucker for joyride.  Sirens, lights and high speed, it’s all fun and games until the cop (Bacon) who left it behind comes looking for it.

Film opens August 7, I hope it’s as campy-fun as the trailer.

TOMORROWLAND

Tomorrowland: Where daring optimism meets crushing reality

I hoped to like Tomorrowland a lot more than I actually did.

love Brad Bird. Iron Giant and The Incredibles are both two of the finest animated films ever created. When he announced that he was directing a secret Disney project, I was intrigued. When we found out that it was going to be called “Tomorrowland”, I was thrilled. When I saw the first trailer, I had no reason to doubt that this would be an exciting and original piece of Asimovian science fiction. And parts of the movie are definitely that.

Without spoiling anything, here’s the set-up:

TOMORROWLAND
Britt Robertson as Casey Newton.

A brilliant, optimistic, yet rebellious young adult, Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), is given a mysterious pin which transports her mind to a fantastical futuristic utopia (“Tomorrowland”) where anything is seemingly possible. When the pin stops working, she goes on a mission to discover where it came from and find out how she can get back to the place she saw.

At first she heads to a novelty shop in Texas, where her questions about the pin’s origin wind up getting her attacked by androids with laser guns. She’s rescued by a 12-year-old girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy) and ultimately dropped at the doorstep of Frank Walker (George Clooney), an exile from Tomorrowland with a clock counting down the end of the world.

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DEADLINE EXTENDED – 2015 Liberty Lab for Film

May 15 is here and if you thought you missed out on applying for 2015’s Liberty Lab for Film, then good news… you’ve got seven more days to get your act (or three acts) together and apply for a $10,000 grant, a Hollywood insider to mentor you and 100 days to make your film.

You can read more about the program here or below on the next page.  But perhaps you are more easily persuaded by the visual and would like to watch a short reel showing off last year’s lab participants.

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Trailer Tuesday: “San Andreas”

sanandreas-guginoHow many times can one country be destroyed? Well, when it comes to Hollywood, the opportunities are literally endless.  The latest trailer for “San Andreas,” starring Dwayne Johnson, serves as no exception.  We have seen America go anywhere from being blown up by aliens, to being thrust entirely underwater by natural causes.  No wonder we’ve got issues here, we’re obsessed with seeing our homeland get demolished! But that’s another issue for another time.

Although the story is cliche, this trailer was pretty darn cool.  For us Angelenos, we’ll immediately recognize some stock-footage-type videography sweeping over the Griffith Observatory with the massive city of Los Angeles making up the backdrop, all played over an eerie but somehow serene cover of “California Dreamin'” by the Mama’s and the Papa’s. Great song choice for this, by the way.  Our main macho man Ray (Johnson) is seen with a couple of beautiful young women, assumed to be his daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) and wife Emma (Carla Gugino); just a couple of the token action movie hotties whom we’re sure to see hanging from buildings as the hand of The Rock’s mighty grip desperately tries to save them…Tangent complete.

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The Best Offer: Art, Life and Deception

The Best Offer PosterA few days ago I finally caught up with Giuseppe Tornatore‘s last film, The Best Offer (La Migliore Offerta, 2013). I believe the film did not get much attention when it came out but I it is, in my opinion, a sophisticated and entertaining piece that deserves a watch.

Tornatore, best known for his Academy Award winning film Cinema Paradiso, tackles in this occasion the intersection between life and art through the perspective of the eccentric and mysterious auctioneer, Virgil Oldman, masterfully played by the talented Geoffrey Rush. Mr. Oldman is a loner whose entire existence is dedicated to the acquisition and auctioning of precious works of art in detriment of every other aspect of his private life. This includes contact, proximity or intimacy with other human beings. He seeks a pristine, calculated perfection in his surroundings that can only be achieved by excluding most people from his sphere of trust.

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The AFI 100 Movie Challenge

The AFI 100 Movie Challenge

The Academy Awards happened recently; a night where most of the country gathers around their TVs to celebrate the one thing we all have in common: a love for the movies.

However, for as much as I pride myself in film knowledge, the famous Oscar montages tend to inform me as to how few of Hollywood’s greatest pictures I’ve actually seen.

This led me to a challenge; an attempt to tackle 100 of the greatest films of all time.

Every 10 years the American Film Institute revises what they assert to be the list of the top 100 films ever made.  Here it is: 100 Years 100 Movies 10th Anniversary Edition.

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