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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

HypeCast: Batman v Superman - Dawn of Justice

        Hello, and welcome back to the HypeCast, a film-centric podcast hosted by Collin Sherwood Elwyn and Tyler Mitchell. In today's episode, Collin and Tyler take a blow-torch to discuss Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the new feature "film" from "director" Zack Snyder. Spoiler Alert: it's terrible, and yet Mitchell and Elwyn feel compelled to talk about it for an hour and a half. Topics include the the movie's delirious bouts of schizophrenia, the wild swing-and-miss of casting Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, embarrassing plugs for future D.C. superhero flicks, and Tyler's inability to dislike anything involving comics. Collin shares a story about sneaking into the movie on the grounds of moral objection, but manages to cite his four favorite scenes in the film, one involving a Jolly Rancher. It's cherry. Warning: occasional naughty words are contained within. Continue at your own risk. Here We Go!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Release Date: 3-25-2016)

        Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a title bout, though not one contested between the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel. Perched atop the movie’s shoulders are an angel and a devil, each whispering into the film’s ears, holding the reigns in alternate succession. The force of good argues in favor of narrative intrigue, occasional restraint, and the merits of thematic unity. The satan spawn, on the other hand, relays the virtues of scattershot storytelling, repugnant violence, and physically and emotionally weightless destruction. It’s fitting that the movie would serve as a proper introduction to Warner Bros. intended DC Comics universe, because while the Justice League and their compatriots are figuring things out on the fly, so is director Zach Snyder, and his whirling dervish of a film.

We begin with the obligatory murder of Bruce Wayne's parents, though the film coldly recognizes our familiarity, and uses the tragedy as window-dressing for the opening credits. Next up is pure exhilaration in the form of an adult Wayne (Ben Affleck) experiencing the battle royal of Snyder’s previous feature, Man of Steel, from the ground floor, the sequence eagerly invoking 9/11 imagery. From there we're jarringly transported to the Middle East, where reporter/Superman distraction Lois Lane (Amy Adams) appears completely hopeless until the man in red and blue (Henry Cavill) arrives to save the day, leaving mindless collateral damage in his wake. Don’t worry, I’m not about to write a complete synopsis of every scene in the film; I only specify the three opening passages because they provide a window into the movie’s heedless ambition. Within a span of under 20 minutes, we experience reverent adherence to DC’s sacred texts, exhilarating Bourne-style action, and confusing geo-political mumbo jumbo. Snyder, teamed with screenwriters David, S, Goyer and Chris Terrio, wants to have his cake and eat it too, and while each idea contained within Batman v Superman is at least passable, there’s simply no making sense of it all.

        As a matter of fact, ‘sense’ is at an all-time premium in Snyder’s latest, especially when it comes to David Brenner’s editing. The film at large plays like 25 individual scenes all spliced within one another, making the proceedings difficult to follow, and explicitly unemotional. It’s hard to image a flick with such gruesome depictions of violence that so struggles to impress on anything other than a physical level, but the constant feeling of narrative whiplash sucks the blood out of the proceedings. It’s interesting to have scenes begin and end so abruptly as to force viewers to parcel through what's happening at the start of each new passage, but interesting isn’t necessarily good... a fact that seemingly never occurred to Jesse Eisenberg.

        The re-imagining of Lex Luther as a flamboyantly unhinged trust fund kid is inspired, and Eisenberg gives the role his all, but the casting immediately sticks out as ill-conceived. Saddled with the lion’s share of ponderous dialogue in a film with a surplus, Eisenberg proves stunningly hammy. At least he’s having fun though, which is far more than could be said of our leads, Cavill’s Superman/Clark Kent both blunt and bland from first frame to last, while Affleck plays Bruce Wayne with the solemnity of a monk. The film knowingly paints him as ‘the darkest Batman yet,’ but relies almost exclusively on CGI whenever a melee starts, creating an enormous divide between the man Affleck plays, and the crime fighter who lurks about the shadows.

Zach Snyder knows how to make a movie. The guy clearly grew up on Spielberg, Scorsese, and Hitchcock, and is aware of cinematic gestures, but everything he does successfully feels disingenuous. There’s not a single scene within Batman v Superman’s runtime that reads as unique, and the director’s aesthetic follows the blockbuster playbook with religious zeal, though he obviously skipped the chapters on audience engagement and character development. How else can you explain the brutish, unpleasant nature of the titular showdown, or the heartless CGI romp that immediately follows? That’s where the devil on the movie’s shoulder finally wins out. The film explores vigilante justice and the responsibility god owes to man for the better part of its runtime, but it takes literally one word from Superman’s mouth to sideline the flick’s larger ruminations in favor of pixilated WWE. It’s an intelligent movie made both by and for morons, and while I was surprised by its philosophical interests, everything once again boils down to punching an ugly monster that a computer made. I guess Superman doesn’t bleed like a human, so why should the movie?

Grade: C-

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

HypeCast: Up-and-Coming Young Directors

        Hello, and welcome back to the HypeCast, a film-centric podcast hosted by Collin Sherwood Elwyn and Tyler Mitchell. In today's episode, Collin and Tyler discuss a slew of young directors who are on the rise, and might some day be household names. Being fan boys and all, they start with a group of guys who apparently only helm movies that make at least a billion dollars world-wide: Joss Whedon, J.J. Abrams, Rain Johnson, and Colin Trevorrow. Don't worry, they eventually skew smaller, heaping praise onto the work of Matt Reeves, James Ponsoldt, and Denis Villeneuve while wondering what the future has in store for Jennifer Kent, Paolo Sorrentino, and Robert Eggers. It's basically an hour-long movie buff nerd fest, so buckle in, folks! Warning: occasional naughty words are contained within. Continue at your own risk. Here We Go!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

HypeCast: 10 Cloverfield Lane and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

        Hello, and welcome back to the HypeCast, a film-centric podcast hosted by Collin Sherwood Elwyn and Tyler Mitchell. In today's episode, Tyler is forced by his wife into seeing Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, the new wartime dramedy staring Tina Fey, and finds himself with almost nothing but good things to say (points for Lauren). Perhaps not the laughter riot fest that some might have hoped for, Mitchell praises both its relatively straight-faced nature, and the performances of Margot Robbie and Martin Freeman. Then Collin takes us on a ride down 10 Cloverfield Lane, a movie that probably shouldn't share a name with the 2008 found footage flick Cloverfield, but manages to get Collin gushing all the same. As a matter of fact, Elwyn has nothing but praise for the hyper-intelligent puzzle/thriller, which marks the third time since the turn of the calendar year that he's gone bananas for a flick. Is he going soft in his old age? Does his brain still work? Tune in next week to find out! Warning: occasional naughty words are contained within. Continue at your own risk. Here We Go!

Podcast Itinerary:
0:00-27:56---Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and a lot of random digressions
27:57-56:55---10 Cloverfield Lane

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane (Release Date: 3-11-2016)

        When Cloverfield arrived at the beginning of 2008, opinions were divided to say the least. While the revolutionary viral campaign led it to what was then the biggest January opening of all time, many filmgoers reacted negatively to the movie's hand-held camera work, and ultimately open-ended nature. I personally adore the film, but I had no idea there was such a cult surrounding it, the flick's quasi-sequel 10 Cloverfield Lane drawing in just under $25 million in its first three days of existence. It's no secret that modern audiences are all about supporting interlocking franchises, with Marvel Studios still riding high, and this month's Batman vs. Superman staring down tremendous box office returns just for alluding to an expanded universe, rather than having already constructed one. The new Cloverfield undoubtably received a boost from its association to the previous feature, which is a bummer of sorts. Not only have hoards of audience members already emerged frustrated with the tenuous connection between the two movies, but the latter is the rare modern tentpole entertainment that's completely capable of standing on its own two feet.

         Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars as Michelle, a young woman who we meet in a nearly wordless opening as she frantically grabs her things, and appears to flee her own apartment. Her flight is interrupted by Howard (John Goodman), a mysterious man who either abducts or saves Michelle depending on which character you ask, storing her in the deep recesses of his underground bunker. The shelter's only other inhabitant is Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), a small-town dunce who agrees with Howard that above the surface is the last place anyone would want to be, suggesting that some sort of doomsday might be afoot. As the three attempt to wait out an unseen apocalypse, Michelle's ever-roving eyes pick up one clue after another, tirelessly searching for more concrete information, or a big enough opening to make a break for it.

        10 Cloverfield Lane marks the feature directorial debut of Dan Trachtenberg, and based on this evidence, we should probably get used to hearing his name. From first frame to last, the 34-year-old imbues his film with a remarkable sense of urgency; where other pictures of this persuasion prefer to dangle carrots on the screen to ensure that the audience is nice and hungry by the closing passages, Lane gobbles up every delicious treat it finds before moving directly onto the next, creating a constant flurry of excitement through rule-breaking and discovery. Trachtenberg's team is his match every step of the way, from Bear McCreary's ever-percolating electronica score, to Jeff Cutter's curious, caffeinated camera work, and Stefan Grube's masterclass in the editor's room, which is sharp enough to cut diamonds. The film wears its PG-13 rating proudly, largely avoiding the gore, torture, and rampant violence that one would almost naturally expect from this type of story, but don't think for one second this diminishes its omnipresent intensity. Your heart will still be pounding long after the credits roll.

        While each and every facet of what's going on behind the camera is of rarified quality, it's the thespians in front of it who will undoubtably take the lion's share of the credit. Gallagher Jr. is charming and natural in a largely thankless roll, but his character is forced to the backseat by the pair of electric performances at the flick's center. Now 63-years-old and a veteran of the film industry for over three decades, John Goodman delivers some of the best work of his career, always dancing the impossibly thin line between mania and clarity. As expertly written as Howard is, the film wouldn't work without Goodman's intimidating physical presence, and a myriad of expressions that undulate from passive to downright hysterical. The guy's a national treasure, and while we should count ourselves blessed to see him in such a juicy role so late into his career, Winstead is only just getting started. Best known as the object of Michael Cera's affection in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, the up-and-comer is finally allowed to spread her wings in a part that would remind us all of the resourceful badassery of Ellen Ripley had Star Wars: The Force Awakens not so recently repurposed that character in the form of Daisy Ridley's Rey. Quick to think and even quicker to act, Winstead possesses the rare ability to convey tremendous intelligence with nothing more than a simple glance.

        Her brains and ingenuity keep us invested even as the story neglects to provide her with much backstory. Same goes for Howard, who will undoubtably be seen as a lunatic by certain viewers, but whose sharp scientific mind and knack for reading people make him less of a monster, and more of an ideal foil. Most thriller/horror movies like this struggle to present us with a single competent character, but this one has two, creating a wonderfully imaginative game of cat-and-mouse wherein you're never quite certain who owns the upper hand. No, 10 Cloverfield Lane will not be a Best Picture nominee at next year's Oscars, and it's also not the type of film folks rush out and implore you to see. The stakes aren't high enough, the stars aren't big enough, and it lacks an entire back catalogue of lead-up films that tend to power the broadest type of audience excitement. It's a shame, because Trachtenberg's film is roughly 187-times more engaging and fun than almost all the flicks I just described, and it doesn't need the world to topple over to keep your hands balled into fists. The creative team behind the film certainly doesn't hurt, but at the end of the day, what 10 Cloverfield Lane most effectively reminds us is this; some times the only thing you need to tell a damn good story is to have a damn good story to tell.

Grade: A

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

HypeCast: The Witch and Leftover Flicks from 2015

        Hello, and welcome back to the HypeCast, a film-centric podcast hosted by Collin Sherwood Elwyn and Tyler Mitchell. In today's episode, Tyler and Collin travel back to the 1630's and dawn puritan garb as they watch and discuss The Witch, the frightening directorial debut of Robert Eggers. Both are pretty high on the flick, with Elwyn essentially going gaga over this taught, intense examination of faith, trust, paranoia... and, ya know, Satanism. Truth be told, they basically can't shut up about it, resulting in a rushed lighting round wedged at the end of the show that covers a slew of films Collin managed to catch just before the Oscars. Tyler finally gets to elaborate on his love for What We Do In the Shadows, and they also talk about Batman vs. Superman for some reason! Lucky you! Warning: occasional naughty words are contained within. Continue at your own risk. Here We Go!

Podcast Itinerary:
0:00-48:36---The Witch
48:37-51:21---Random digression about Batman vs. Superman and the films of Zach Snyder
51:22-56:25---What We Do in the Shadows
56:26-1:01:05---Diary of a Teenage Girl
1:01:06-1:05:32---Youth and 99 Homes
1:13:44-1:14:28---The Assassin
1:14:29-1:15:25---Welcome to Me
1:17:22-1:20:38---Clouds of Sils Maria

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Hype Starts Here's Top 40 Movies of 2015 (15-1)

15. Brooklyn
        Director John Crowley might have not been around for the immigration boom of the 1950's, but his sympathy for that era is present in nearly each and every frame of his breakout feature Brooklyn. Saoirse Ronan stars as Eilis Lacey, an Irish girl intent on improving her future prospects by moving overseas to that titular metropolis, abandoning every vestige of the life she knew before along the way. Tactile in its yesteryear recreation and deeply nostalgic in its every move, Brooklyn is a period romance constructed out of very familiar parts that manages to appropriately convey the plight of homesickness in an age when the world seemed impossibly large.

14. MacBeth
        It's no secret that Michael Fassbender is my favorite actor working in film today, but even a detractor couldn't say no to the idea of him starring as Shakespeare's damned Scottish king. Director Justin Kurzel treats the legendary source material with respect and reverence, allowing the madness and rage of the original text to shine straight through, and adorning it with rarified beauty and grandeur. Marion Cotillard,  David Thewlis, and Sean Harris round out a phenomenal cast, all committed to bringing this stylish nightmare to life.

13. End of the Tour
        Only four movies into what will hopefully be a very long career, James Ponsoldt has already established himself as one of America's preeminent cinematic chroniclers of inter-human connection. End of the Tour couldn't be more heartfelt if it tried, nor could it be more basic; the film is entirely comprised of a weekend's worth of conversations between David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) and Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg), who is collecting information for a profile of the late literary icon. Segel has never been better than he is in this modest gem, sweet, wounded, and as thoughtful as the movie itself.

12. Carol
        Portland's own Todd Haynes doesn't exactly crank out movies, Carol arriving almost a whole decade after his second most recent feature I'm Not There, but this one was worth the wait. In 1950's New York, Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) has a chance encounter with a mysterious older woman (Cate Blanchett) that goes on to change both of their lives forever. The film's stars are positively electric, each scene they share creating a lustful tension that's impossible to miss. Ravishing and intricately designed in its every detail, Carol is half love story, half feast for the senses.

11. Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
        It might not actually be the year's best film on a pure qualitative level, but there was no more exciting movie experience in 2015 than when the lights went down, and that familiar Lucas Films logo started glistening. J.J. Abrams managed to bring Star Wars back to life with this kinetic, fun, and emotionally resonant entry into the ongoing interstellar saga, featuring star-making performances from Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, and the world's most lovable soccer ball, BB-8. A rollicking ride with enough nostalgia to soften even the hardest of hearts, I can hardly wait for Episode VIII.

10. Anomalisa
        Anomalisa is what it feels like to have a storyteller open up your skull and do donuts all over the parking lot of your mind. The film marks screenwriting-savant Charlie Kaufman's first foray into animation (not to mention his first feature in nearly a decade), telling the story of a lonely middle-aged man (voiced by David Thewlis) who spends a night in a Cincinnati hotel parseling through the pieces of his existence. Oddly hilarious and soul-searchingly dark, it's great to have Kaufman back, even if his latest makes you hate yourself by the time the credits roll.

9. Phoenix
        Universally adored by critics, yet nearly impossible to track down, I've only been able to find Phoenix buried within the recesses of the itunes store library, but it was well worth the search. Nina Hoss stars as a German singer who's forced to undergo facial reconstructive surgery in the aftermath of World War II's violent conclusion. Clearly modeled in the image of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, Phoenix smoothly recreates the 1940's while affording Hoss the role of a lifetime, but it's the film's thesis that sticks with you, a murky rumination on how an entire nation evaluated itself in the aftermath of all that terror.

8. Inside Out
        Pixar is the only American studio who seems almost obsessed with making both children and adults weep, and writer/director Pete Docter is their most accomplished tear-jerker. The man behind Monsters Inc. and Up is back at it again with Inside Out, an overtly meta exploration of how emotions tangle and intertwine in the brain of a young girl. Boasting of layers upon layers of introspection and metaphor, the film marks Pixar's most ambitious entry in their already-lofty canon, breaking down the machinations of a young mind with both specificity and grace.

7. Wild Tales
        Argentina's Oscar nominee from 2014 for Best Foreign Language Film, writers and critics have described Wild Tales as an unpacking of the country's modern sentiments and frustrations; to me, it was just rip-roaring time at the flicks. Comprised of six completely unrelated chapters that run the gamut from black comedy to stirring drama, Wild Tales is a film about how righteous indignation represents a slippery slope with pure madness awaiting you at the bottom. A Coens-style depiction of how we're all going to hell in a hand basket, writer/director Damián Szifrón's film is the ultimate argument that we all ought to stop taking ourselves so seriously.

6. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
        Winner of the Audience Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a downright hilarious comedy and a genuinely heart-breaking drama woven perfectly into one another. A high school social circle drifter (Thomas Mann) with a deep love for classic and world cinema befriends a classmate who's been recently diagnosed with cancer (Olivia Cooke), and sets out to make a film in her honor. Dying Girl makes great use of the tried-and-true high school comedy playbook established by John Hughes in the 80's without ever losing its sense of individuality, a warmth and love for both film and human connection radiating off of every frame.

5. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
        The third and final chapter of Swedish auteur Roy Andersson's self-described Trilogy about Being a Human (following Songs From the Second Floor and You, the Living), Pigeon is almost as bizarre and esoteric as its title. As with the previous two features, the film is a series of single takes wherein the camera refuses to move, soaking in one perfectly symmetrical, painterly image after another. Each scene only casually interacts with the one before it, creating an odd comedic sensation that feels disjointed until a single horrific scene near the end clarifies what's been going on in the film's brain all along. Part magic trick, part cruel joke, and wholly astounding.
4. Sicario
        Director Denis Villeneuve is one of cinema's best kept secrets, as capable of crafting entrancing epics as any household name director, but if he keeps making movies like Sicario, he might just join their ranks. An examination of the War on Drugs as scene from the front lines, the flick is an almost unbearably intense journey down the rabbit hole straight to hell. The tension never lets up, and is bolstered by a three-pack of incredible performances (Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benicio Del Toro), as well as Roger Deakins' typically magnificent cinematography. It's not the stuffy, detail-oriented depiction we're used to seeing from this subject matter; it's a horror movie.

3. Love & Mercy
        Biopics of legendary musicians seem to come out at least twice a year, but Love & Mercy manages to stand out from the pack by changing the rules of a stale genre. The film tells the story of Beach Boys frontman Brian Wilson, and splits its time between the 60's and 80's, where Wilson is played by Paul Dano and John Cusack, respectively. Cusack's mentally frayed portrayal is strong and affecting, but the movie belongs to Dano, whose peculiar energy has never been put to better use as he battles to create the classic album Pet Sounds before his mind and spirit completely fall to pieces. Director Bill Pohlad accomplishes the seemingly impossible; he takes you inside the ears of a musical genius, and lets you hear the world from his perspective.

2. Spotlight
        As evidenced by the #2 to the left of its title, I might not believe that Spotlight was the best movie of 2015, but it was certainly the year's most perfect. The film chronicles the Boston Globe's 2001 investigation into sexual crimes and ensuing cover-ups that the Catholic church had been committing for years without ever being outed. The subject matter could hardly be more important, but it's the execution of this true story that elevates the movie beyond simple message-oriented entertainment. Each actor in the film is outstanding, and Tom McCarthy, directing from a nimble script he co-wrote with Josh Singer, has enough faith in the story's intrigue to not let flashy directorial decisions distract from the proceedings. A worthy spiritual successor to All the President's Men, and a mightily deserving Best Picture winner.

1. Mad Max: Fury Road
        As anyone who's attempted to convince a non-action fan as to the wonder of Mad Max: Fury Road can readily attest, words tend to be pretty inadequate when considering what makes this two hour car chase so damn special. Simply put, the eternally-delayed fourth entry in director George Miller's post-apocalyptic opus is the most movie movie you're bound to ever see, an utterly masterful action spectacle who does things to our eyeballs that have never been done before. Each image is unique and gorgeous, every edit propulsive and razor-sharp, each sound pummeling you into slack-jawed submission. The sparse dialogue is almost unnecessary; Fury Road tells you more through its awe-inspiring imagery than five movies could with their words. My heart still hasn't stopped racing.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

HypeCast: Oscar Recap and TV Catch-Up

        Hello, and welcome back to the HypeCast, a film-centric podcast hosted by Collin Sherwood Elwyn and Tyler Mitchell. In today's episode, Tyler is kind enough to offer a plug for the new website that Collin just started writing for,, which features reviews and think-pieces on film, music, and video games... check it out! On the real though, today's show is all about recapping the Oscars, a ceremony which created great joy between our two hosts with its selection of Spotlight for Best Picture, and Mad Max: Fury Road for everything else. Collin has so many disparaging things to say about Leo winning Best Actor for grimacing a lot in The Revenant that he forgets to make his joke about how the George Clooney's smug cloud from that one episode of South Park might now belong to DiCaprio. Upon finishing our conversation about a four-hour TV show, Tyler catches us up on what else we should be watching on the small screen, including James Franco in the weirdest show ever. Collin also lies about covering some more movies, but the guys will be back at it next week, so try to forgive him. Warning: occasional naughty words are contained within. Continue at your own risk. Here We Go!

Podcast Itinerary:
0:00-44:09---Oscar Recap
44:10-55:06---Better Call Saul
55:07-1:04:35---Jessica Jones
1:13:26-1:17:07---Preview of Next Week's Episode