I got asked for some Netflix recommendations so I gave someRead More
Whenever I see a big-budget movie like Captain Marvel in theaters, I always try to see it in IMAX. The most obvious reason being that yeah, the screen is bigger and it usually takes over my entire field of view, which just makes it easier to get engaged in the film and enjoy it! But if I plan to leave the house for a movie these days, I’d prefer that movie offer some sort of experience or technology I can’t otherwise get at home.
And more often than not, blockbuster movies have IMAX releases that are essential to the intended viewing experience or even directorial intent, but it’s a coin toss whether that footage makes it to home video, so I try not to chance it. Especially with internet streaming, so many movies are often cropped now to make it easier for the viewer, because on smaller-than-IMAX screens the jump between IMAX cameras and standard cameras in shots can be jarring to experience on say, an iPhone.
So, in November of 2013, I drove out with my dad from Pendleton, Oregon to Boise, Idaho to see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire at the closest 70mm IMAX screen to me at the time, which was essential to experiencing the film’s whopping 50 consecutive minutes of IMAX footage, a filmmaking record that wouldn’t be beat until last year’s Avengers: Infinity War; the first film to be shot entirely with IMAX cameras. For the last 50 minutes of Catching Fire, the protagonist Katniss Everdeen played by Jennifer Lawrence is dreading the impending second Hunger Games she’s being forced to compete in. And at this point in the movie, the beautifully complicated and woefully timely themes of media, youth, celebrity, and economics the Hunger Games is all about goes out the window completely when (SPOILERS) Katniss’s confidant and friend Lenny Kravitz gets brutally murdered right in front of her moments before she competes in a fight to the death her government is forcing her to take part in. And director Francis Lawrence illustrates this turning point and new pressure on Katniss by composing one of my favorite shots of really, any blockbuster film.
It’s at this moment the film transitions from its constrained, standard 2.35:1 aspect ratio to IMAX’s full signature 1.78:1 ratio, and sustains it for the rest of the film, gripping us to the action right from Katniss’ perspective. And it’s not a coincidence that this perspective and shot is wider, grander, and more engrossing than the rest of the film. The stakes and scope in the second Hunger Games are somehow larger, and this shot and choice subconsciously show us that, visually.
It’s a really good movie, and you should rewatch The Hunger Games series sooner rather than later.
But I have a strong memory of going to that film, standing in line with my dad.
He couldn’t really understand why I said things like “I identify most with Katniss Everdeen” or “She’s my favorite character” when there are perfectly fine male characters to identify with, such as Peeta or Gale or Woody Harrelson, and I wasn’t really able to articulate at the time what I meant by those things beyond just being engrossed by the female lead. Regardless of the gender, as the protagonist, it’s essential that we care about Katniss and whether she dies in the Hunger Games or not. Otherwise, the film wouldn’t work.
For the past few years now though, around when people realized Star Wars was going to highlight women and people of color, and that Ghostbusters would be gender-swapped for the changing times, there’s this super gross flurry of angry white guys on the internet who want nothing more than to see these films fail, and eliminate the possibility for tempered discourse or criticism of these important, ultimately progressive, blockbusters. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes even went so far as to eliminate their “want to see” feature because minority-led blockbusters are suspectable to fake review campaigns.
Though, if you remove yourself from your own perspective for a moment, and check out the Top 100 Highest Grossing Films of All Time for example and look for films with female protagonists, you’ll see exactly why studios have made it a priority to reverse engineer their franchises into more inclusive, diverse, films that ultimately reflect the world we live in.
Because it makes money, yes absolutely.
But also because there are infinite worlds and stories left unexplored that can truly only come from people whose experiences and imaginations are different from the people who have made and financed Hollywood movies for the last 75 years or so.
Which brings me to Captain Marvel.
As a film, Captain Marvel carries a lot of narrative weight not just as an origin story, but as a franchise-launcher, a preamble of sorts to next month’s Avengers: Endgame, and as a quasi-Hollywood statement piece. There are a lot of moving parts that don’t always align, but one particular thing I admired was how it actually utilizes the technique in IMAX that I hadn’t seen since Catching Fire. The aspect ratio would ebb and flow fluidly at optimal times to make the widening of perspective as fluid as possible. Something the film itself often works overtime to do, just to make bold shots and images less jarring to a skeptical audience.
From a marketing standpoint, touting Captain Marvel as the first Marvel Studios film led by a female superhero is immediately enticing for, like, at least half of its audience and the population. And, through her cult indie appeal and recent Academy Award, Brie Larson seems to be one of the best women and rising actresses to lead the charge on changing how blockbuster movies get made and who they’re made for.
Which was all she was doing when she made the comments that made internet manbabies so angry!
In case you have misogyny stuck in your ears, there’s a stark difference between saying white guys shouldn’t watch or review movies, than what Brie Larson’s saying here. The fact is, there are a disproportionate amount of white male film critics and therefore, white male perspectives usually dictate how movies are viewed critically. Like on Rotten Tomatoes. And, while media itself becomes more reflective of what the world actually looks like, a similar change must occur in film criticism too so that more minority filmmakers get their movies reviewed by minority film critics, dramatically increasing the likelihood of getting seen by mainstream audiences.
It’s not rocket science.
You can get annoyed by whatever hokiness you’re still feeling about all the Oscars Black Panther won, but Disney makes up for 40% of the Box Office now. Disney is the mainstream and yes, they want to make the most money possible, but they’re recognizing that they set the precedent for the rest of Hollywood and even if you don’t care for the groundbreaking movies they’re making, that doesn’t make them not worth recognizing.
So no, I don’t think it matters what white guys think of Captain Marvel. There’s plenty of time to pick apart the film while it does its groundbreaking. Like, if you’re thinking of writing a bad review of Captain Marvel before you’ve seen it, or you feel that ‘boycotting’ over ‘sexism against men’ is a valuable use of your time and Twitter characters, try instead widening your field of view and make your perspective IMAX sized.
Because your boycott didn’t work, and they aren’t gonna work.
Pageant Material (2019), dir. Jonothon MitchellRead More
Earlier this week, Disney • Pixar uploaded the short film Purl to YouTube, a first for the company. Pixar SparkShorts are a series of shorts technically indistinguishable from their (mostly) masterful theatrical films, and the shorts that have classically preceded those.Read More
Superheroes are meant to be rebooted.Read More
I decided to wait a bit on my Ant-Man review because I am in the unique privilege of not running a film-focused website, so I don't need to meet a deadline or rush it out opening weekend. So I don't. Which makes me happy! This makes this clickbait, you're here because you want to be stuck in the Quantum Realm with me and talk about Ant-Man, and that also makes me happy!
It also means I get to be a little spoilery (but not yet!) and maybe a little more thoughtful, so I'm hoping to apply that freedom now to perhaps the most plain, by-the-numbers Marvel Studios movie in some time, and explain why.
First, to those like me who idiotically keep meticulous track of how Disney Summer Sausages -- I mean Blockbusters are made, you know that the original Ant-Man was a bit of a hodgepodge. And if you don't, you may still have among an array of feelings on the film, but generally, the first Ant-Man film was well-received, a modest hit by Disney-Marvel standards, and an overall good time.
Ant-Man (2015) blend of nine years (!!!) of pre-production visualization from action auteur Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs The World), quick revisions from comedy directors Adam McKay (Step Brothers), Peyton Reed (Yes Man, and the eventual director of both Ant-Man & Ant-Man and the Wasp), Paul Rudd, and Earth's largest entertainment company in the midst of building cinema's first extensive long-form storytelling structure through the highest-grossing franchise of all time. Something had to give (and we'll always be a little sad for it, Edgar), and what was left was a tonally bipolar but ultimately inventive, charming film that serviced the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole, but may be a weaker film for it.
Now, with a more singular (or at least less chaotic) vision for this year's Ant-Man and The Wasp, did the stability help the film? Especially after the dour note Avengers: Infinity War left on? Well, sorta!
Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, and Michael Peña along with the entire X-Con gang return for the sequel. In fact, it seems as though everyone but the antagonist from the first film returns, and that's kinda different from most Marvel movies. Now that there are 20 of them (yes, 20), it's apparent some of them carry certain patterns, traits, and tropes. And even among continuations like Iron Man 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Ant-Man and the Wasp is the most sequel-feeling of all the Marvel films.
That's because it's very much 'more of the same, but better', unlike the drastic departures in tone and feel between the Captain America films and Thor sequels. Ant-Man and the Wasp decidedly, and perhaps tragically, is not balls-to-the-wall insane or inventive like Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok. And had Marvel obtained its 2017 confidence when Ant-Man was in production, it would've likely produced a more memorable result in the process, with or without Wright at the helm.
But even with the global dominance of Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel and director Peyton Reed chose to remain...small, instead focusing on the tone of 90s VHS Disney Family Chase Films™️like Honey, I Shrunk The Kids or Escape From Witch Mountain or even Tomorrowland. It's the kind of high-concept sci-fi that isn't entirely well-executed, but simply delectable to me because of the sheer inventiveness that can arise when creative people are given hundreds of millions of dollars to make crazy unbelievable things all the more believable.
I call Ant-Man and the Wasp a mediocre Disney sci-fi film as a term of endearment; it's among great company like The Black Hole, Tron, hell even this year's A Wrinkle in Time had some great ideas even if they didn't quite make it to screen. Even in all its weird gross corporate-ness, Disney still is giving super creative minds the ability to manifest super creative ideas into existence. Ant-Man and the Wasp doesn't quite reach the wildly creative set-piece heights of Edgar Wright's contributions to the original film, but it's still a worthwhile family trip to the cinema, and those will always be in short supply.
Mild Spoilers Ahead
No one dies in Ant-Man and the Wasp. At least not before the first set of credits roll. Being that this takes place during the events of Infinity War, the first post-credit scene serves as a morbid cliffhanger, meant to catapult us into 2019's still-untitled Avengers 4. Obviously we're all first in line for it next year, but I can't help but feel a sense of time-wasted after watching the film. Yes, I knew something to this effect would take place. But, why work so hard to make an intentionally palate-cleansing fun film, only to virtually undo it by killing 3/4ths of the main cast, however temporarily?
It's a minor quibble, and obviously somewhat necessary, but in terms of audience experience, I think that scene in particular did a mild disservice to the rest of the film. Perhaps teasing the looming nature of Thanos' Snap would've given the film and ending a better sense of satisfaction. It just doesn't sit right with me.
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
At the intersection of Atlanta’s booming film industry and the diverse, grassroots creative efforts of its citizens is the Atlanta Film Festival. In its fourth decade, the festival (which is one of only two dozen Academy Awards-qualifying festivals) was stacked this year with nearly 200 films and a cumulative 25,000-member audience throughout the ten day affair.
Aside from some big-name films headlining the festival like Jason Reitman’s Tully and Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade (my personal favorite from the festival), AFF17 placed a particular spotlight on its inclusive line up, where 70% of the films in the festival were directed by a woman, person of color, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, or all three. In other words, the minorities were the vast majority in the Atlanta Film Festival, and that feels really good.
To highlight their LGBTQ+ stories and characters, they featured them in the #PinkPeach category. Each of these moving, queer films featured accompanying short films, which were also very queer themselves.
Directed by and starring Arshad Khan, Abu is a story as old as time, but told in a quasi-documentary fashion. As the Atlanta Film Festival describes it, “Using home videos and classic Bollywood films, Khan crafts an intimate portrait of his Pakistani-Muslim family grappling with the realities of having a gay son in a modern world. Torn between sexuality and religion, tradition and migration, a gay son and his father test the boundaries of love, home, and the meaning of family.” It also screened with the fifteen minute short film Ablution, another touching story about a disabled Muslim father reconciling the coming out of his son.
How can I see it?
Abu is currently slowing being released in theaters nationwide, but currently only in very select cities.
“Having recently embraced her own identity, Sid, a transgender woman, finds herself tangled in a complex web of expectations and aspirations when she discovers she has a 14-year-old son. With new relationships adding to the struggle of culture, religion, and romance in Sid’s journey to acceptance, everyone’s in for a wild ride. Venus also screened with the short film Umbrella, directed by Rhys Ernst. Against the backdrop of rising anti-trans legislation, Umbrella chronicles the stories of four transgender individuals across America united in their passion to create change.”
How can I see it?
Venus is making the rounds at festivals internationally, but no word yet on public distribution.
“All throughout the United States, there exists a vibrant and mythical subculture dedicated to the existence of real life mermaids. In the exploration of the history and present of this peculiar passion, Mermaids takes us on a journey into the lives of five incredible women who spend their free time, and sometime work hours, donning full-size tails at pools, beaches, and bars. In watching them transform into the sea-creatures of their dreams, we gain beautiful insight into the complicated lives of women who differ in every way but are drawn to the same ideal of unearthly beauty and freedom.The film also screened with the short Pink Dolphin, a story about the one and only Pink Dolphin living in the ocean looking for his companions and trying to survive from the assaults and taunts of other sea creatures.”
How can I see it?
Mermaids is now streaming everywhere movies are sold, and is available on blu-ray and DVD.
Lean on Pete
Although Lean on Pete isn’t particularly queer, you’re likely familiar with director Andrew Haigh’s previous, very gay work such as the classic romance film Weekend and the HBO show Looking, which ran for two seasons and a feature-length finale. Pete is a road trip movie, but with a horse. It tells the story of a young man and an aging racehorse named Lean On Pete in search for a new home. Starring Charlie Plummer and Steve Buscemi, this
How can I see it?
Luckily, Lean on Pete is distributed by A24, and is now playing at Tara 4 Cinemas in Buckhead.
Lastly, it was the Trans* community that stole the whole festival. In fact, Man Made made its premiere at AFF 2018. It made such a big splash, it was awarded Best Documentary. Locally made in Georgia and directed by T Cooper, Man Made is about the world’s only all-transgender bodybuilding competition. What precedes this triumphant moment for four trans male bodybuilders are a set of personal and diverse journeys taken on the path to self-identity and empowerment. Told through the intimate and honest lens of a trans filmmaker, this documentary intertwines the nuances of manhood, the drive for social justice, and the competitive desire to forge our own paths and be our personal best.
How can I see it?
Man Made is making its festival rounds for the next several months, but keep an eye out for a more wide release later this year!
The Atlanta Film Festival is a wonderful experience where your involvement whether as a viewer, volunteer, or filmmaker could make an impact on a person’s life and artistic perspective in some way. If you missed it this year, or didn’t see enough (like me), make it a priority. Celebrating culture, art, and diversity though our strongest storytelling medium will never not be important. You never know, you may get inspired to go out and make something for yourself.
Tyler Scruggs is a writer and musician living in Atlanta with his partner Mark. When he’s not churning out internet content for TylerScruggs.com and other publications, he’s paying too much for coffee and buying movie tickets week in advance. Feel free to validate him on Instagram (@Scruggernaut), Twitter (@TylerScruggs), or on Scruff (you’ll know it when you see it).
American Animals director Bart Layton is a documentarian. A peep over at his IMDb page reveals that, despite a pretty extensive filmography, this is his first narrative feature. However, he brings his documentary skills to the table in an impressive way. And while it's something I haven't quite seen before, it's not quite enough.
The premise of American Animals is simple; best friends Spencer (played by the increasingly wonderful Barry Keoghan) and Warren (American Horror Story golden child Evan Peters), bored with their lily-white suburban lives at Transylvania University in Kentucky, set out to pull of an audacious art heist at their own school. It's equal parts The Social Network and Fight Club, but without the laser-sharp focus of either.
In an otherwise straightforward heist film, Layton through his documentarian eye, begins to warp the film by intercutting the narrative with interviews of the real-life felons. Not only that, the counterparts occasionally replace the actors with themselves. Through this, you're able to better understand character motivations, but the structure of the film never provides sufficient suspense, because it's predated on the spoiler that they're going to fail. Because while they're executing their clearly flawed heist, the real-life counterparts are talking directly to you about how stupid they really were.
Ultimately, American Animals doesn’t quite justify its runtime. The contributions of the real life counterparts, while technically impressive and quite entertaining, undercuts any momentum the film might have in telling its story. American Animals doesn't really have anything to say other than "Look at this, this happened. Don't do this."
Curiously, this is the first film released under the MoviePass Ventures label. Its parent company, MoviePass (the movie theater buffet service that can comfortably be described as ‘sketchy, but worth it’), purchased the film at Sundance earlier this year. Much like the heist that goes awry in American Animals, MoviePass is gaining traction as a stunt pulled on the whole industry. Personally, I’m very curious to see what effect its association with MoviePass has on the Box Office. Especially considering it’s not by any means a tentpole film that people would necessarily flock to the theaters to see opening weekend.
Simply put, American Animals is a movie to see with your MoviePass, but not much else.
American Animals - 3/5
American Animals is in theaters June 1st.
Eighth Grade is equal parts indie film and arthouse cinema, all while going toe-to-toe with John Hughes' best work.Read More
Hello everyone. I’m Tyler Scruggs, and I’m kind of an idiot.
I’m an idiot for a number of reasons, but not in the least of which is I’m an idiot because I love Star Wars. Like, so much. I love Star Wars so much, I’m genuinely excited to see Solo: A Star Wars Story, perhaps more than any other Star Wars movie in my life. I swear to God; the more I think about it, the more clips I see, and the more Denny’s I consume, the more I salivate at the thought of sitting down in my comfy IMAX 3D seat on Thursday, May 24th, 2018 at 7pm and just wonder what I’m about to see.
Usually, when you’re seated for a Star Wars film (Solo is the 9th Star Wars film in total), you go in expecting, or at least hoping for it to be, well, good. Disney and LucasFilm have a plan in place to release a new Star Wars film like, every year for the foreseeable future and now four films into this venture, every spin-off so far has been met with a mountain of major production problems (LucasFilm virtually removed Rogue One director Gareth Edwards during reshoots, leaving Tony Gilroy to oversee extensive reshoots, including the film's ending).
Solo's production woes seem somehow stickier than Rogue One's. Not only are fans not up for the idea of a Han Solo origin story (the latest trailer below has only about a third of the views Rogue One gained in the same time period), LucasFilm also replaced the original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller late in production with Ron Howard. Apparently, when they hired the creatives behind The LEGO Movie and 22 Jump Street, they expected them to not make an outright comedy. And to top it off, lead actor Alden Ehrenreich was struggling to capture the iconic magic of Harrison Ford's Han Solo. Who could've guessed that? (omg u guys Donald Glover is an action figure now)
There are enough articles ragging on Solo: A Star Wars Story, and this isn't one of them.
Much like this piece, there's a necessary detached sense of irony when it comes to Star Wars, the entity. As a brand, it's so interwoven into American culture, it's a world of themes and iconography that means a million different things to a million different people. It's impossible to really expect anything. In its third theatrical era, following the original and prequel trilogies, people are more divided and emotionally invested in Star Wars now more than ever. Last year's The Last Jedi felt like it shook the planet the way fans either viciously loved it or passionately hated it. Even I admit it took longer than movies usually should for me to understand and appreciate The Last Jedi. But isn't that the point? We forget that movies and art are supposed to be things that make an impression on us, and not just self-gratifying evening content to give us something to tweet about for a week.
A Young Han Solo film has been in development since before before Disney purchased LucasFilm in 2012, when George Lucas himself hired Lawrence Kasdan (writer of The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Force Awakens) to write a script for what would eventually become Solo: A Star Wars Story. There's *some* reason this film exists, but what is it?
Solo: A Star Wars Story is a new story (discarding 30 years of extended-universe books and comics), written by the guy who wrote two-thirds of the original trilogy (and his son), and at one point in time was a comedy-heavy film under the helm of the guys who made a career out of bad ideas that subversively turn into good films. But it's now credited as directed by Ron Howard, a legendarily competent, if unimpressionable filmmaker.
It's so easy to dissect and turn cynical corporate hodgepodges like Solo: A Star Wars Story. And to me, it's far more fun to dig in and find the charm and light side of these films. Despite all these issues, and despite what essentially feels like a neutering of a creative vision once again, there's still a sense of Star Wars HopeTM to be had. I mean, there's a new character named Therm Scissorpunch. That's, um, cool I guess?
If there's one lesson to take away from The Last Jedi, it's that failure is the greatest teacher. The way in which the film shattered expectations alluded in The Force Awakens, could it be indicating something? Could there be surprises in Solo that we don't see coming? Has the Star Wars machine eaten itself?
Or, should we take the advice of Han Solo's mentor Tobias Beckett (played intriguingly by Woody Harrelson):
“Assume everyone will betray you, and you will never be disappointed.”
Solo: A Star Wars Story is in theaters May 25th.
Tyler Scruggs is a writer and musician living in Atlanta with his partner Mark. When he’s not churning out internet content, he’s paying too much for coffee and buying movie tickets week in advance. Feel free to validate him on Instagram (@Scruggernaut), Twitter (@TylerScruggs), or on Scruff (you’ll know it when you see it).