November 2014 - Posts

Review: 'The Walking Dead' Season 5, Episode 8, 'Coda': Can't Go Back, Bob

Whose Episode Is It? Since it's the 2014 finale, the gang's all here! But it's Beth's episode, in more ways than one. Achievement In Grossness Rick's drive-by evisceration of a particularly nasty zombie takes the cake this week. Intestines usually do. But we've got more important things to talk about! How Far is Too Far? Rick's deterioration continues, as he runs down Officer Bob and shoots him in the head, simply because the man wouldn't stop running. The rest of Team Rick's story this episode is mostly pure plot, so, presumably, the tensions between the Ricketeers about the extremes some members are willing to go to is a slow-burn storyline that will extend into next year. Works for me! Fortunately for everyone involved, the two remaining officers propose that everyone tell Dawn that Officer Bob was eaten by zombies, so the deal can still go forward. Officer Shepherd, in particular, seems to be on top of things. That's the sort of go-getting...
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Review: Paul Schrader's Compromised 'Dying of the Light' Features a Committed Nicolas Cage, But Not Much Else

In the pantheon of directors clashing with studios over final cut — Orson Welles' "The Magnificent Ambersons" and "Heaven's Gate" come to mind — Paul Schrader's "Dying of the Light" isn't likely to hold a major spot in the history books. But there's just enough going on with this formulaic espionage tale to suggest that whatever original ideas the writer-director had would have been superior to the underwhelming B-movie distributor Lionsgate eventually put together. Schrader's script, initially set to be directed by Nicolas Winding Refn pre-"Drive" and star Harrison Ford, follows aging CIA agent Evan Lake (Nicolas Cage) suffering from a brain disease and forced to retire. Haunted by memories of the elusive Middle Eastern terrorist named Banir (Alexander Karim), who tortured Evan decades earlier before eluding capture, the agent goes rogue and tracks the villain down for a final confrontation. Aided by a younger colleague (Anton Yelchin), Evan...
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Review: 'The Newsroom' Season 3 Episode 4, 'Contempt,' Finds Its Villains

Top Story: The newly-minted Mr. McHale is going to jail, after practically volunteering himself to be held in contempt. Will's confidence from last week regarding his possible incarceration was replaced with relative indifference in Week 4, as the left-side's favorite Republican pundit was sentenced to an indefinite prison stay he absolutely knew was coming. The best case the former prosecutor made for himself was by stating his sentencing could only be "coercive," meaning its reasoning could only be derived from the belief Will would eventually give up the name. His resolute nature—"I can't give you the name of my source; I'm just not allowed to"—illustrated that such an argument would be invalid, but his new wife/then fiance (who he desperately wanted to be with) and his demanding job (which was in flux due to Lucas Pruitt's bid to buy ACN) had to factor into his desire for freedom, hence the judge testing Will's resiliency with the predictable ruling. But...
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Specialty Box Office: 'Imitation Game' Plays To One Of Best Limited Debuts of All Time

The Weinstein Company clearly knew what they were doing by delaying "The Imitation Game" a week. The Morten Tyldum-directed Alan Turing biopic trumped all its fellow fall Oscar hopefuls by finding one of the best per-theater-averages of all time. In 4 theaters, "Imitation" grossed an epic $482,000 for a $120,500 per-theater-average. That's the sixth best per-theater-average ever for a live action film, following "The Grand Budapest Hotel," "The Master," "Moonrise Kingdom," "Dreamgirls" and "American Hustle." "Budapest" notably holds the overall record with $202,792, meaning "The Imitation Game" has to settle for 2014's second best. Notably, the numbers for "Game" -- which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing, the closeted gay man who cracked Nazi Germany's Enigma code during World War II -- topped the trio of films that recently opened that each feature a performance Cumberbatch will...
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Attention, Filmmakers: Here Are the Secrets to the 'Serial' Podcast's Storytelling Success

For now, at least, there are still two Americas: the half that is totally consumed by the podcast "Serial," and the one that will be once someone convinces them to start the first episode. If you know someone who's listening, and they have not already talked your ear off about it, you should feel free to ask them -- it will not be difficult to pry an opinion out of them. But if you're in the latter half, and none of your friends is yet a convert, here's what you need to know: "Serial" is a new show from the producers of "This American Life" that has, in two short months, become the most downloaded podcast in the world. For the entire first season, it's covering a single murder case -- the murder of high school student Hae Min Lee, which took place near Baltimore in 1999. Each episode of "Serial" takes a different angle on the crime and the conviction of Lee's ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed, who has been in prison for fifteen...
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The Films of Terrence Malick, Ranked From Worst to Best

Terrence Malick has only released six films over forty years, and while he has three more movies in post-production, he's not going to premiere them until he's good and ready. Few directors rival Malick in maddening non-prolificacy, and in a generation of filmmakers who have become personalities as well as artists (Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, Woody Allen, David Lynch), Malick remains one of the few truly mysterious men behind the camera and in the editing room (did you act for Malick? No guarantee you'll be in the film, even if you're the protagonist in the script). But that's much of what makes him fascinating. However much the results may frustrate certain actors, it's hard to argue too much with the results. The task of ranking Malick's films is a difficult one – by this writer's estimation, he hasn't made a not-great film yet, and numbers 2-5 could be re-ordered on a different day – but in honor of the great director's 71st birthday, here are his works from worst to...
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The Films of Ridley Scott, Ranked From Worst to Best

Over a nearly 40-year career, Ridley Scott has established a reputation as a master technician, a meticulous, painterly filmmaker, a strong director of actors, and one of the most uneven of all great directors. Scott has made as many bad, mediocre or just-OK movies as he has made good-to-great ones. He seems incapable of distinguishing a good script from a sloppy one, which means that his undeniable gifts as a craftsman usually augment whatever idiocies lie in the text. But Scott has a number of bonafide classics under his belt, as well as several overlooked or undervalued films. For his 77th birthday, Indiewire has ranked all of his features, from worst to best. READ MORE: The Films of Alfonso Cuaraon, Ranked From Worst to Best 21. "1492: Conquest of Paradise" (1992)On paper, Ridley Scott directing a film about the divisive historical figure Christopher Columbus sounds promising – Scott has always flourished when dealing with stories about when obsession and ambition...
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Spike Lee Demands That 'We Stop This Madness' at Passionate 'Do the Right Thing' Reading

When Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing" came out in 1989, it was a swift kick in the ass for moviegoers. Vulgar and vivid, stylish and street-smart, it’s that rare breed of film that's graced with a keen sense of modernity as well as startling foresight. Deeply rooted in the racial tension of the Reagan Era (and, let's be real here, every era before and since), Lee's joint attempts to vivisect the nebulous nature of bigotry, the hypocrisy bigotry begets, and gentrification two decades before 20-something Brooklynites and their Mac Books were taking over coffee shops. The film hit theaters like a hell spawn, igniting controversy and earning copious acclaim. For his incendiary portrayal of home-bred bigots, Lee gazed with wide, unflinching eyes at his home neighborhood of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. The epicenter of the film is a pizzeria, run by Italian-American Sal (Danny Aiello, giving his best performance) and his two sons, one of whom, Pino (John Turturro), doesn't even bother to...
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Should You Watch 'Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever'? A Handy Personalized Guide

Hello, reader of this review of the Lifetime film "Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever," starring "Parks and Recreation's" Aubrey Plaza as the voice of the Internet-famous Grumpy Cat. You're here because either you're looking for in-depth analysis of a movie about a talking cat -- or because you want to figure out if the film, which premieres tonight at 8pm, is worth watching.  If you were looking for the former, my apologies. But if you were looking for the latter, you're in luck. Below, for the curious and unsure, please find a number of specific criteria that might help you decide if "Grumpy Cat" is worth your time.  If You Knew Who Grumpy Cat Was Prior to Seeing Commercials for This Movie  Maybe. I'd never want to say that because you once laughed at a picture of a cat on the internet, you should spend two hours of your life (with commercials) watching a pretty silly movie. But hey, you might already be a fan. If You Don't Like...
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The Films of The Coen Brothers, Ranked From Worst to Best

A Coen Brothers film has a certain singular rhythm, a certain irreverently acute love for Greek tragedy and Homeric adventures. In "Barton Fink," a Hollywood producer demands that his film have "that Barton Fink Feeling." The Coen Brothers’ films all have that Coen Brothers Feeling: the malaise of modernity, an endless fascination with losers and emasculated men. To celebrate Joel Coen’s birthday, we ranked all of the film Joel directed or co-directed with Ethan. And since they’ve never helmed a bad film, even the bottom-ranking entries are better than most other filmmakers’ best offerings. READ MORE: The Films of Alfonso Cuaraon, Ranked From Worst to Best 16. "True Grit" (2010)The Coens remain more faithful to the Charles Portis novel than the 1969 Henry Hathway/John Wayne film, but something feels flat and lifeless here. Jeff Bridges's grumpy, groggy Rooster Cogburn is a sight to behold, though one can't help but see the spectral presence of John Wayne...
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Review: Christian Bale's Moses Can't Liberate Ridley Scott's Bland 'Exodus: Gods and Kings'

Ridley Scott has excelled at visionary science fiction, but the historical epic hasn't suited him quite as well. With the Crusades-set "Kingdom of Heaven," the sullen "Robin Hood" and now "Exodus: Gods and Kings," the director depicts seminal mythological events in bland, matter-of-fact terms. While there's a certain academic curiosity to wielding this approach to interpreting the Bible, Scott's overlong adaptation of the Old Testament's second book with a squinty-eyed Christian Bale in the Moses role feels like a missed opportunity for the director to flex his fantastical tendencies. After all, what are the 12 plagues if not an alien invasion story? Instead, this telling of Moses' deflection from the Egyptian kingdom that raised him in order to take on God's orders and free the Israelites from slavery is strictly by the book. Still, there's no doubting its impressive scale: With no shortage of fire and brimstone, it borrows heavily from the Cecil B....
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Attention, First-Time Filmmakers: Here's All the Advice You'll Ever Need

Jill Soloway's 7 Tips for First-Time Directors: In a rousing keynote address at the recent Film Independent Forum, Jill Soloway chronicled her journey after she'd already written for "Six Feet Under" and served as showrunner for "United States of Tara" and "How to Make It In America," but before she'd directed "Afternoon Delight" and created "Transparent." 13 Great Tips for First-Time Directors from LAFF: Making your first film can be a daunting process, to say the least. Advice from filmmakers who have managed to make a film -- and actually get into a film festival -- can be instructive. Indiewire asked filmmakers with films screening at LAFF 2014 to share their advice for first-time filmmakers. Here's the best of what they had to say. Hot Docs Tips on Making Your First Documentary: Not sure how to get started with your first documentary? At Hot Docs 2014, Academy-Award nominated documentary director...
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Here Are the Three Big Lessons From the 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Trailer

We know what you're thinking: Another item about the new "Star Wars" teaser? The fleeting glimpse at J.J. Abrams' upcoming entry in the biggest franchise in movie history is breaking every corner of the internet today; is there any good in adding to the noise? But here's the thing: When the original "Star Wars" hit theaters in 1977, it had an immediate, irrevocable impact on the way blockbusters were produced and marketed; it follows that the latest attempt to add to the story tells us plenty about the marketplace for big-budget American movies today — specifically, how they hold sway over millions. Anyone serious about movies should care about how they're perceived, so even if you're more excited about next year's Cannes lineup than another lightsaber showdown, the attempts to keep "Star Wars" relevant illuminate much about the way mainstream film culture processes the medium today. Here are a few brief takeaways -- but first, that...
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TV Disclaimers: What You REALLY Need to Know Before Watching These Shows

On "The Late Show" this week, David Letterman debuted a rather unfunny segment about "TV disclaimers," or the warnings you see before shows begin. Most commonly, viewers will see "Parental discretion advised" with a TV-14 or TV-MA tag applied in bold print across the screen. Dave, though, with all his hip and wily ways, added what he considered more pertinent information for fans of the most boring CBS shows on air. Despite the bland jokes—and Dave completely misunderstanding why people watch TV today—we here at Indiewire thought it might be worth revamping the segment a bit, by applying warning labels you might actually need. We can't promise they're any funnier than Dave's, but we can promise they're useful for up-to-date audiences and newcomers alike. Take a look at our "Game of Thrones" entry above, and then 10 more guides below. "The Leftovers""True Detective""House of Cards""Orange is the New...
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7 New Netflix Shows to Binge Watch in December (And the Best Episodes of Each)

1) "The Honorable Woman" (available December 18)Why Should I Watch It? SundanceTV is making the most of its original series. Between "Rectify" and "The Red Road," the young company owned by AMC Networks is ready to surpass its parent company in quality after "Mad Men" goes off the air in 2015. Yet "The Honorable Woman" makes a case for its network's superiority now. Thanks to a calculated and commanding performance from star Maggie Gyllenhaal, this twisty and exciting spy game is one you won't want to miss. Best Episode: "The Ribbon Cutter," the miniseries' fourth episode, illustrates the beauty of its medium with incredible precision. Not only does it answer many of the secrets hidden within the first three episodes, advancing the story rapidly, but it also creates new stories for us to sift through in the second half of the limited series—no easy task for a flashback episode.  READ MORE: Review: 'The...
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