Initially, Talk to Me, the new supernatural horror movie from twins Danny and Michael Philippou, was scheduled to be an eight-week production. But when the first-time feature filmmakers opted for promising young Australian talents over proven stars, the budget shrank. The shoot? Reduced to five weeks. Which was fine, doable enough—until the day of the big montage scene. In it, a group of Australian teens takes turns clasping a magical embalmed hand, which in turn makes them possessed by the dead. The Philippous intended to film a demonic party game with the rapid cuts and laughing gas of a drug trip. One issue was that they ran out of time to take all the pictures they needed.
“We wanted 50 set-ups and the first [Assistant Director] said, ‘It is mathematically impossible to get all these shots,’” says Michael.
The 30-year-old twins, though, didn’t think so. “We were like, ‘We need to shoot this Racka style,’" says Danny.
For the previous 10 years, the Philippous had been making exuberant Internet candy under the YouTube handle RackaRacka. You’ve very likely stumbled across their work. The channel has 6.8 million subscribers, and its videos—in which they imagine, for instance, faceoffs between the characters in Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, or Ronald McDonald caught in a pizza delivery car chase—have netted over a billion views. Working as an all-hats DIY filmmaking duo, they learned to do it all—and quickly. Racka style.
So, the pair urged the assistant director to give them carte blanche over the set for a couple of hours. When they did, Danny says, “It was like a bomb hit the set: We had two cameras, and we were screaming orders and playing music.”
Suffice to say, they got the shots. Though, afterwards, a producer pulled them aside and said, in Danny’s words, "This is not how a feature film set is run.” The Philippous apologised and said they’d calm down moving forward. “But there's a certain magic in that chaos,” Danny says. “And I think you can feel that energy through the screen.”
ESQUIRE: You two are twins and you work together. For the unfamiliar, how do you distinguish Danny versus Michael?
DANNY PHILIPPOU: I'm the nerd twin. Michael's the jock twin. He's physical and I'm geeky. I'm the weak twin.
MICHAEL PHILIPPOU: I like travelling. Danny likes staying at home. When we're filming, Danny makes me get hit by cars while he films it.
DP: But I'm the smarter twin—he's the dumber twin.
In a lot of your RackaRacka YouTube videos, you make a huge mess—just destroying everything. When I watch videos like that I always wonder what the clean up is like—
DP: The worst part. You have so much fun destroying everything and then it's like, "Cut!"
MP: And a lot of people filming with you are like, "I'm going to go now."
DP: That was an amazing part of [filming] Talk to Me. Being able to destroy things and then be like, "Later!" and bail out of there.
MP: Sometimes, when it's funded or we've got demo houses, we make more of a mess because it's going to get knocked down. Once at our dad's house, we filmed and let off this little bomb—and the metal casing went through the roof. And we're like, "Oh shit." So we patched up the roof, but we didn't realise it had gone through the tiles as well. It was raining and my poor dad was reading the newspaper and there were drips of water. We looked up and the whole roof was sagging.
DP: Poor dad. We always fixed up what we destroyed. He was always nice about it, but poor dad. We really fucked his house up.
You guys started making videos at nine years old. Looking back, is there one that's near and dear to your hearts, where you can remember yourselves getting the filmmaking bug?
DP: All of them! I remember we did this movie called Evil Flamingo. It was a series of movies. We used my sister's flamingo doll to pretend it's murdering a bunch of people. We were probably 10 or 11. We started doing practical effects. We would put it in black and white, use tomato sauce as blood, we'd put fake eyes on my friend, and the flamingo was pulling the eyes out of this guy's head. We were so young. I remember being so obsessed with practical effects. We used to do it out of necessity. We didn't have any editing software. That was actually Evil Flamingo 2.
What was the inspiration for the Evil Flamingo videos?
DP: Chucky. I wanted to do my own killer doll movies.
MP: I think Evil Flamingo 2 was one of the first times where we were like, "Let's make it engaging the whole time."
Were you guys known as the crazy filmmaker kids in school?
DP: We used to differ between filmmaker kids and just delinquents. We were pretty aggressive kids.
MP: We weren't allowed in the same class in primary school. So I'd gather all these kids from my class, and Danny would from his class, and we'd meet on the oval and fight.
DP: But our friend Timani's older sister, Nelly, really steered us towards a more creative, fun path. We would always debut all of our movies and TV shows for her. And we hadn't seen her in like ten years, because she moved away when we were nineteen. Then we saw her for the first time at the Sundance premiere of Talk to Me.
How have you iterated, based on the feedback you’d get from friends and the Internet, as you were constantly making things?
MP: We never wanted to do YouTube. We kind of fell into making YouTube videos, because we were making these fake fail videos that were going really viral—and going on Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O'Brien—but no one knew who made them. A friend said, "You should make a YouTube channel just to say who's making them." So we made it and then there was one video that just took off. It was at 3,000 views, then we went to sleep and woke up and it was at 500,000. At the end of the day, it was 1.5 million, and we had 100,000 subscribers in that one day. And we're like, "What if we actually put effort into this?" From there, every video was an idea or sequence we always wanted to do. The more we created and it grew, we had the ability to do that with makeup artists, stunt performers, and VFX. It was a lot of fun, and that's why we did it for so many years.
DP: One of the reasons I stepped back from YouTube and wanted to do something outside of it was I couldn't be as vulnerable on the YouTube stuff. I couldn't be as personal. It was always specific content for a specific audience. The stuff we liked watching was very different than the stuff we liked making. That's why the film stuff was where we always wanted to be, and this felt like the right time to be like, Let's tackle this side of us we haven't shown yet. And that's with story and character.
MP: Before YouTube, I had a short film called Deluge that we'd shot. It was about a father and son in a suicide cult, and I was never going to upload that to RackaRacka. I was like, My audience is gonna fucking hate this. Stepping outside of that was the goal here.
What were you watching during that time?
DP: I remember my favourite TV show that I watched and rewatched was called In Treatment. It's an HBO show about a therapist just talking to his patients. I was so in love with that show.
MP: And then things like The Hunt and Memories of Murder—films that worked so well on a character level. It's got like a hundredth of the budget of a big Hollywood thing, but for some reason it's so much stronger. And it's just so well thought out in terms of character and story.
DP: In In Treatment, even just the buildup to a character throwing water on another character, it was like someone just got shot. Because you were invested that much into the character—something that small carried that much weight.
MP: Maybe we were drawn to that because we had done all the big fight stuff.
In Talk to Me, one thing I was struck by is how mean these kids are. All the Australian people I've met have been very friendly. Are Australian kids just really mean, then they're nice when they travel?
DP: [Laughs.] It depends on the friend group. In our friend group, the way we connect is by absolutely roasting each other.
MP: It's the most multicultural friend group. People from all over, all in the same network, and the way we connected is just by bagging the shit out of each other. And you grow closer because of that. Those people are still our best friends today. When I look at the film and you say they're really mean, I'm like, Are they? [Laughs.] I know they are. There are things that are so cruel from Hayley [played by Zoe Terakes], but some of the things Hayley says we laugh at.
DP: When you watch it with Australians, everyone just pisses themselves laughing. Taking the piss out of each other is an Australian thing.
During the film’s possession sequences, one of the characters has a sexual experience and makes out with a dog. Tell me about filming that.
MP: With that scene, we had everyone play through each other's possessions. Not kissing a dog, but going through the actions. And on set he's not kissing a real dog. It's all done through effects. But we've all had those [embarrassing] experiences growing up, and some are filmed and you feel bad for the people. It's not like back in the day where it can be talked about and forgotten. It's immortalised. Even just mistakes people have made. Which kind of sucks. Young people can't really grow safely or learn from experiences because it can always be shoved in their face.
Talk to Me deals with loss and grief. I read that you had a bad car accident when you were sixteen, Danny. What happened?
DP: I split my eye open and they thought I might've broken my spine. I was in the hospital afterwards and I couldn't stop shaking. The doctors would come in, turn on the heaters, and give me extra blankets. Then my sister came in, sat next to me, and held my hand. As she did that, the shaking just stopped. I was shaking not out of being cold, but out of being in shock. And the touch of my sister, someone I loved, brought me out of it. So human touch and the connections between people was always a really strong thing for me. Before we had the hand as a motif, it was just evident all the way through the film, and it just felt right to have the hand be the representation of it—this clingy, desperate hand needing connection.
Were you driving the car?
DP: No, I was in the car with three other friends, and I was sleeping in the back seat. They went through a red light and we got t-boned. I remember waking up and the car was spinning around. I was thinking my friends were dead, not understanding where I was. And I was so out of it that when I was asked my name, I was saying the street I lived on. The way Riley's face swells up in the movie was the way my face was swelling up. You could not recognise me. I was so deformed and disfigured.
In the movie, Mia [played by Sophie Wilde] feels guilt for being responsible for Riley's accident. Were those feelings drawn from that incident?
DP: Those feelings were drawn from our neighbours who we watched grow up. I remember their mom would ask me to drive them to school, and I was always terrified of doing that. I had this intrusive thought in my head of, What if I fucking crash the car and kill them right now and I have to go back and face their mom? All throughout the film, I was drawing from things that scare me personally.
And yet you guys both seem like daredevils. Michael is even a certified stuntman. So how did you push through that fear?
MA: I've always been drawn to doing something dangerous, especially when it's related to telling a story. If it's in my head, I'm just going to do it. I don't want anybody else to carry that risk. But it's something in me that's always just wanted to perform that stuff. Maybe it's the only time I feel present or something. And I'm scared when I agree to some stuff. We do these live events where I can get paralyzed or be killed, and beforehand I'm thinking about news articles if it goes wrong. But when you pull it off and you look back at the footage it's like, "Ohh, you survived that!" There's something about that that's so exhilarating.
DA: Even on a small scale, pushing through things is like that. Even the fear of doing a movie—in the daytime, I was so confident about it. But at night, all those doubts start to creep in, and you're like, I don't know what the fuck I'm doing. I've never made a movie before. I can't believe there's millions of dollars on the line. I'm just questioning and overthinking it. Then when the day comes, you just have to take the leap.
MA: It's like everything you want is at the edge of fear. And I feel like a lot of people don't pursue things because of how people will react initially, or they’re thinking about what will happen if they fail. But if you actually just push that aside and start, no matter where you end up, you're going to be so thankful that you did. The worst thing for me is saying, "What if…?" at the end of life. There's parts of my childhood where I'm like, "I wish I just did that." I think from an early age, I tried to just go for it.
Was there a specific moment where you learned that lesson?
MA: A few moments. It was something I saw from a friend who was getting bullied by three kids. He pushed a bully. Then at lunchtime, the three biggest, scariest kids in our grade came and beat the shit out of him until he was on the floor and bleeding. They beat the crap out of him until they were out of breath and then the bully said, "You had enough yet?" This kid got up and punched him in the face. And that defiance was so striking to me. There was a time when I was getting bullied and I used that as inspiration. I did this thing and got my ass kicked after, but I was proud that I stood up for myself and my friends.
From: Esquire Us
Get sucked in by the drama and Cillian Murphy's stare.
Now this is a story all about how / the world got flipped turned upside down / with a bomb from the Manhattan Project cadre / here's the life of Oppenheimer (and his thousand-yard stare).
Christopher Nolan isn't making films, he's creating an experience. For his latest trick, he presents the biopic of the father of the atomic bomb, J Robert Oppenheimer. Adapted from American Prometheus written by Kai Bird and Martin J Sherwin, the film chronicle the famed theoretical physicist's life, from student life at Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge to being the director of the Los Alamos Laboratory to getting his security clearance revoked due to tenuous communist ties.
It seemed strange for Nolan to take up a profile like Oppenheimer (played by Cillian Murphy). Especially, when it's shot in Nolan's preference for the IMAX experience. There are no action scenes, nothing that befits the movie being shot on large format film stock—IMAX 65mm and Panavision 65mm film—(there was an estimated 17.7km worth of finished film stock) but Nolan sees it apt to highlight Oppenheimer on such a scale.
It's quite amazing how it all came together. There's nary a dull moment throughout the film's three-hour running time thanks to Nolan's deft direction, stellar ensemble and immaculate sound engineering. Not content with a linear re-telling of Oppenheimer's life, the film jumps back and forth to key moments and not only that it switches between the perspectives between Oppenheimer and Lewis Strauss (Robert Downey Jr), a senior member of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC); one in colour and the other in stark black-and-white, respectively.
The sound and music for Oppenheimer is something to behold. Faithful to the physics, the sound follows after we see the explosion. This is also true during a storm, where we see the flash of lightning, followed by the boom of thunder. When the first nuclear weapon test started, the expected sounds of the explosion were sidelined by Oppenheimer's breathing as he saw the conflagration of fire and billowing smoke. In the theatre, we sat transfixed by the near-silence of the explosion before the sound kicked in.
In his second time working with Nolan, Ludwig Göransson took Nolan's advice in using the violin as Oppenheimer's central theme. Göransson said that the stringed instrument could go from "the most romantic, beautiful tone in a split second to neurotic and heart-wrenching, horror sounds".
The best example is the nuclear explosion at Trinity (the codename of the site where it took place). We were at the edge of our seats in the lead-up to the experiment. Which is weird because all the historical accounts said that the experiment went off without a hitch. But how it was edited and soundtracked, you hope the experiment will be successful.
Cillian Murphy, who is well-known for his tenure in the TV series, Peaky Blinders, puts on a defining performance as Oppenheimer. Demonstrating the complexity of Oppenheimer with nuance would hobble a lesser actor but not in Murphy's hands. With Murphy, Oppenheimer comes across as a sympathetic Frankenstein (the doctor not as most erroneously would assume, the monster), a man who witnessed the mysteries of the atoms with awe and, later in the film, as a nuclear shade who is now the self-appointed martyr for ushering in the Atomic Age.
Furthering adding to fleshing out Oppenheimer, Murphy went on an intense transformation by reading up on the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu religious text that Oppenheimer would quote from and going on a diet that reduced him to his character’s stick-thin frame.
Downey Jr gives one of the best performances of his career as the embittered Strauss, who has a fractious relationship with Oppenheimer. Driven by ambition, Downey Jr displays a man who is an imposing figure in America’s nuclear program but dwarfed by his pettiness against a slight from Oppenheimer. Emily Blunt plays Oppenheimer's wife, Kitty, and she holds her own in this movie. Her deathstare towards her husband's ex-colleague or her bemused reaction during an interrogation, Blunt conveys the hidden pillar of strength in Oppenheimer's marriage.
I'm just glad that Murphy is back to playing the lead for a major film. To my limited memory, the last films that Cillian Murphy headlined were Sunshine and 28 Days Later.
Because there's something mesmerising about the way he stares at you; as though vacant but yet arresting at the same time. I'm pretty sure if there was a short film of just the camera pushing in slowly into Murphy's haunted mien, people would pay money to see it.
I mean, look at him. Now imagine if this was in colour, you will DIE IN THOSE POOLS OF BLUE.
Seven words: NOT SEEING CILLIAN MURPHY'S DONG ON IMAX.
I'm joking. Mostly. I'll explain. This is Christopher Nolan's first R-rated movie and it touches on Oppenheimer's love life with Jean Tatlock (played by Florence Pugh). Nolan felt that the sex scenes between Oppenheimer and Tatlock were necessary to showcase the couple's deep connection. There were rumours that this might show full frontal nudity from both actors but alas, nothing from Murphy. Not even a bare buttock. (We are all about having more male actors go the full monty on the big screen. CHILL IT WITH THE DOUBLE-STANDARD HOLLYWOOD.)
I get that Nolan doesn't want to shy from the intimate moments between Oppenheimer and Tatlock but it felt gratuitous. And it would be nice to have more insight into Tatlock's life and motivations. The character does not seem fully fleshed out. Even Emily Blunt's Kitty barely escaped this bare-bones characterisation.
The number of established actors that are part of this cast. Aside from the marquee names like Matt Damon as Lieutenant General Leslie Groves and Florence Pugh as Jean Tatlock, there are other notable faces to spot. Personalities like Jason Clarke as Roger Robb; Josh Hartnett as Ernest Lawrence; Dane DeHaan as Kenneth Nichols; Benny Safdie as Edward Teller; James Urbaniak as Kurt Gödel; Jack Quaid as Richard Feynman; Olivia Thirlby as Lilli Hornig; Casey Affleck as Boris Pash; Kenneth Branagh as Niels Bohr; Gary Oldman as President Harry S Truman and so on.
The only notable person not in the cast is Sir Michael Caine. Having appeared in all of Nolan's production since Batman Begins in 2005, this is the only film that doesn't feature him.
Also, don't forget the end-credit scene that sets up the Oppenheimer sequel. JK.
Oppenheimer is now out in theatres.
I must admit, after the culmination of She-Hulk, where CGI blurs of green pixels were twerking, smashing, and screaming bloody murder left and right, I really needed some good news from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Yes. Nearly a year later, the scars incurred from the She-Hulk finale still haven't healed.)
Thankfully, Deadpool 3—Ryan Reynolds' eagerly anticipated MCU debut—has been providing us with a continuous supply of upbeat information. After flirting with Hugh Jackman for over a year about getting the man to trade The Music Man for his old Wolverine threads, he finally worked his magic. Now, Deadpool 3 is filming, and Reynolds—via an Instagram story—offered up a brilliant look of himself and Jackman in costume. You can view it below. Notably, Jackman finally suits up in Wolverine's classic comic-book threads, banana-yellow suit and all.
So, what else has our favourite Canadian said about the film? In late September, Reynolds posted a video with a long preamble about Deadpool 3, which culminates in Jackman himself walking in the background, confirming his return.
Here's what Reynolds had to say:
Hey everyone, we’re extremely sad to have missed D23, but we’ve been working very hard on the next ‘Deadpool’ film for a good long while now. I’ve had to really search my soul on this one. His first appearance in the MCU obviously needs to feel special. We need to stay true to the character, find new depth, motivation, meaning. Every ‘Deadpool’ needs to stand out and stand apart. It’s been an incredible challenge that has forced me to reach down deep inside. And I…I have nothing. Yeah, just completely empty up here. And terrifying. But we did have one idea.
Later on, Jackman offered his side of the story. In a new interview with Empire Film Podcast, he opened up about the the plot of the film. In short? We're getting Wolverine vs. Deadpool. "Ten being really close, zero being the reality, we’re zero. We’re opposites, hate each other," Jackman said. He added of his crabby, three-clawed hero: “ [Wolverine is] frustrated by [Deadpool], wants to be a million miles away from him or wants to punch him in the head. Unfortunately, he can’t be a million miles away from him in this movie, so I’m probably going to punch him in the head a lot." Something tells me Deadpool 3 will have a different tone than the X-Men movies where we encountered Jackman's tortured, isolated character.
Deadpool 3, or whatever the heck this thing is called, has a release date: May 3, 2024. Maybe we'll know the full plot of this film by then.
From: Esquire US
Since the first teaser trailer for Greta Gerwig's Barbie was made public in December 2022, anticipation for the movie has increased. Now that we're getting closer and closer to the 21 July release date, the hype could not be higher. The question on every Barbie (or Ken) fan's mind is: will the movie live up to all of this excitement? Some very lucky people got to see it on Sunday night at the world premiere. When you're done oohing and ahhing at the aesthetically pleasing and on brand premiere outfits the cast was flaunting, you can read on to get a gist of how the first official screening of the film made audiences feel. Barbie's world may be made in plastic, but was it fantastic?
From the glowing reactions that viewers shared on social media, it sure seems like the bright pink summer blockbuster might just be a dream come true. Joseph Deckelmeier, writer at ScreenRant, described the film as “funny, bombastic and very smart." He praised the cast's performances as "pure entertainment." And what more could you want from a pastel coloured fantasy film? Variety's Kacy Stephan took to Twitter to share her thoughts on the screening, calling it "a nuanced commentary on what it means to be a woman in a whimsical, wonderful and laugh-out-loud funny romp." ComicBook.com writer Jamie Jirak gushed that director Gerwig "tackles the positives and negatives of Barbie so beautifully." And demands that the Academy "give Ryan Gosling an Oscar nomination, I'm dead serious!”
If you're not already on the edge of your seat awaiting the official release of the candy coloured and bubble gum pop fuelled spectacle, read some more praise for the film and get ready!
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From: Esquire Us
We've heard about the new Timothée Chalamet-fronted Willy Wonka film for a while now. As a teaser, the actor posted an image of himself back in 2021, where he's bedecked in the signature purple coat and brown top hat. The caption—"The suspense is terrible, I hope it will last."—accompanied the image. While reaction to the images was mixed, the actor was correct: the suspense is terrible.
But now we have the full-length Wonka trailer. We follow a young Willy Wonka before his candy empire as he tries to realise his dream of having a chocolate shop, he has to face off with the Chocolate Cartel. Although Chalamet displayed mannerisms and whimsy that millennials might reference Johnny Depp's portrayal of the 2005 version of the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Wonka is actually a prequel to the Gene Wilder-led Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971).
Y'know, Gene Wilder. This face that launched a thousand Condescending Wonka memes.
While this isn't based on any existing Roald Dahl's work, fingers crossed that this prequel brings back the awe and wonder of the 1971 film. We spy musical numbers, that familiar tune of "Pure Imagination", the involvement of Keegan-Michael Key, the directing prowess of Paul King of Paddington and Paddington 2 (fight me, Paddington 2 is pretty great film). Oh, and... a (much smaller) Oompa Loompa; one that's played by Hugh Grant as he launches into a dance and the Oompa Loompa song.
The Wonka film comes out on Christmas Day in theatres.
After nearly three decades of life—having forfeited by dreams of becoming a baseball superstar, a Margaritaville mixologist, and a magazine editor—I've finally decided what I want to be when I grow up: Sonny Hayes.
Simply... Sonny Hayes.
Hayes, if you're unfamiliar, is a fictional F1 driver. Relative unknown Brad Pitt will play the (admittedly fictional) racer in Joseph Kosinski's upcoming F1 movie, which is currently untitled—and thin on plot details. Hayes even graced the real-life British Grand Prix this past weekend, filming scenes alongside fellow driver Joshua Pearce (Damson Idris). According to ESPN, Kosinski's production set up camp on the racetrack itself, whipping around a F2 car, setting up shop in its own garage, and trotting out both characters for the national anthem. "I'm a little giddy right now, I've got to say," Pitt told Sky Sports. "It's great to be here. Having such a laugh, time of my life."
Now, there's no release date for the film—which, by the way, has F1 legend Lewis Hamilton on board as a producer—but Pitt did divulge a few details about its plot."So [Sonny Hayes] has a horrible crash, kind of craps out and disappears and is racing in other disciplines... His friend, played by Javier Bardem, is a team owner. They're a last-placed owner, 21, 22 on the grid. They've never scored a point. They have a young phenom played by Damson Idris. He brings me in as a kind of Hail Mary, and hijinks ensue."
Pitt also hinted that we'll see some of Kosinski's signature camera tricks, a la his last film, Top Gun: Maverick: "Tell you what's amazing about it," Pitt continued. "You'll see the cameras mounted all over the car. You've never seen speed, you've never seen the G-forces like this. it's really amazing."
But I don't want you to think about that right now. At this very moment? I'd simply like to direct your attention to how damn cool—and believable!—Pitt looks in F1 gear. Look at the shot below. The man's strutting across the grass in a white suit, has ads for god-knows-what all over it, and he doesn't care about the prying journalist and his newsboy hat. He even unzips his suit at the top, because the man is biologically flame-resistant! To hell with it! Sonny Hayes even wears little racing booties, which only Sonny Hayes can make cool.
Anyway, Sonny Hayes, if you're reading this? Just know you're my hero
From: Esquire Us
Now this is how you do an animated Marvel film.
Spider-Man aka Mile Morales (played by Shameik Moore) travels across the Multiverse, where he meets the Spider-Society—an organisation of multidimensional Spider-People charged with protecting its very existence. It's all fun-and-transdimensional games until Morales is confronted with the truth of his origins.
I didn't think that the sequel would improve on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse but there you go. The film has equal parts action and a more intimate unpacking of the characters. Despite being 28, Shameik Moore, who voices Morales, nails that teenage register; there's that gung-ho front that's anchored with that adolescent uncertainty. We get to see the dynamics of the Morales and we are reminded about how we, as teenagers, tend to butt heads with our own parents and widen the generational gulf.
It's great to see Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld) take her place in the spotlight. In the last chapter, we just got a quick recap of her origins—bitten by a radioactive spider; joined a band; saved her dad; couldn't save her best friend, Peter Parker—which gives us what we needed to know her in 30 seconds. For Across the Spider-Verse, we get more depth to her character and how she has to wrestle with her relationship with her policeman father, George Stacy (Shea Whigham), as a daughter and as the police's most-wanted vigilante, Spider-Woman.
The new antagonist, the Spot (Jason Schwartzman) goes against the mould of your classic Marvel villain and that's refreshing. This is a dude, who resorts to robbing ATMs because that's all he can do. He starts out as a wannabe crowing for Spider-Man's attention and eventually becomes worthy. There are cameos galore, especially, when we get to the Spider-Society. There, we meet the many versions of Spider-Man that range from the brooding Ben Reilly (Andy Samberg) to the happy-go-lucky Pavitr Prabhakar, there is not a wasted minute introducing each of the Spider-Person.
And the visuals... let hosannas ring around this eye candy. When Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was released, critics crowed about their pushing the envelope in the animation field. With Across the Spider-Verse, the envelope is now pushed off the table, rolled down the hill and opened up to reveal the winner of next year's best-animated film. Eye-popping and ground-breaking, the art comes at you fast and furious. Each dimension and its characters come with their own style: Stacy's universe is more hand-painted with changing colours to reflect her emotions; Brown's universe is, according to the filmmakers, 'hand-cut, pasted, drawn, glued together' to evoke the DIY look of punk rock posters; O'Hara's world is like a 'Syd Mead-style illustration of what the future might look like'. These different styles give a more varied and believable layer to this world- I mean, universe-building.
Also, please more of Pavitr Prabhakar and lessons in grammatical redundancy:
No Spider-Man Noir? For shame!
There are a host of cameos at the Spider-Society, some as a one-note joke and others, surprising. Aside from the fire soundtrack and visual narrative touches, look out for the two narrative turns in the film: the first is a gut punch when we find out more about Morales' origin but the second twist sets up what's the come in the next chapter.
Then, there's the scene where the Spot travels to a real-world convenience store where he talks to the owner Mrs Lu (Peggy Lu). If you're like me and have wasted your time watching less-than-marvellous adaptations of anti-hero IP, you'd recognise the set from Venom and Venom: Let There Be Carnage.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is now out in theatres.
See where The Super Mario Bros Movie stands in the long and complicated history of video game adaptations.
If you were a big-ticket Hollywood screenwriter, one of the toughest gigs you could get is the task of turning a video game into a coherent movie. Usually, video game stories are meant to be played and interacted with—not just consumed. It’s why running and jumping as Mario feels amazing... but hearing him talk in full sentences with Chris Pratt’s voice is unnerving.
Most games also tend to run about 30 to 60 hours long—if you don’t get addicted—and reducing all that to a tight 90 minutes is a nearly impossible task. Video games are also inherently ridiculous. You upgrade stats, collect coins, complete quests, and play out an experience unique to what you make of it. It’s something a fixed medium like film can’t even seem to get something simple like Sonic the Hedgehog right. Remember some of his adorable and cool friends like Tails and Knuckles? Well, they don’t even show up until the sequel.
But perhaps most daunting? People love their video games. The characters, the storylines, the visuals: they're all subject to insane scrutiny because you invest your time and energy and 3am. bags of Doritos to be part of these worlds. Now, we have a new adaptation to put under the microscope: The Super Mario Bros Movie. Read on to see where it stands in the long and complicated history of video game adaptations.
Jean-Claude Van Damme is one of the best action stars Hollywood has even seen, so it was only logical that a guy who starred in dozens of Die Hard clones would eventually get to work with the film’s scribe himself, Stephen E de Souza, on an adaptation of Street Fighter. Outlandish and full of impressive fighting choreography, the '90s film made for an incredibly campy rework of the 2-D arcade fighter. Especially since it (awkwardly) favored the one American character as its lead over its Japanese protagonist. Still, Van Damme can sure kick ass.
Bet you didn't think Pixels would be on here, huh? 2015 probably told you to hate anything and everything Adam Sandler. Well, it's 2021 and we like the Sandman again. Pixels is a loving, if... uneven ode to the arcade classics of the '80s (think: Pac-Man and Centipede). Plus, it stars Brian Cox and Peter Dinklage. And Michelle Monaghan. Yeah. Pixels deserves a replay.
Uncharted had so much going for it. A genuine star in Tom Holland, who plays the leading adventurer, Nathan Drake. Mark Wahlberg as his co-star. Plus, an apt director in Ruben Fleischer, whose breakout film, Zombieland, is still massively rewatchable. We hate to report that Uncharted is half of what it could've been. Which means that there are still some quips, gargantuan action setpieces, and various acts of Tom Hollanding would seeing. It's just all wrapped up in a film with scattershot pacing and not much character development for its lead.
The creative team behind the Assassin's Creed film took the correct approach. Ubisoft, the game studio, decided to snag the creative reins of the project itself and attach a reliable talent who believed in the potential of the franchise. This talent, of course, was budding Hollywood leading man Michael Fassbender. What he did with the film may not have been exactly a box office pleaser, but it was an example of a video game movie that was done artfully, made with a deep, meticulous understanding of the game series’ lore.
Say what you will about Paul WS Anderson, but he created a world all his own in the Resident Evil film series. The movies, frustratingly, diverge greatly from the storytelling of the games, but Milla Jovovich has become something of a screen icon thanks to her enduring leading role in them. While they take a lot of liberties with the Resident Evil franchise, the world-building in the films is captivating enough to make these a stand-out in the genre.
World of Warcraft is one of the most beloved video game series of all time. Its fan base is large, spanning generations of kids who, in some cases, have been playing it for decades. Duncan Jones’ take on the series showed, perhaps for the first time, what happens when a huge fan of a video game is given the keys to a film franchise. Jones is an outspoken WoW-head, and his knowledge of the series was apparent in this film.
We hate to say it, but Sonic the Hedgehog 2 doesn't go quite as fast as its predecessor, losing some of wit and charm from the first outing. That said, Ben Schwartz's gleefully chaotic work as Sonic, with a superb Idris Elba added to the mix as the echidna Knuckles, makes Sonic the Hedgehog 2 firmly one of the better films on this list.
Sure, the Mortal Kombat reboot was never going to reach the bloody, campy heights of its 1995 predecessor. But it's still a treat for gamers who grew up slicing and dicing back when the fighters were merely two-dimensional.
After Angelina Jolie’s lukewarm take on the franchise in the early 2000s, it seemed like Tomb Raider would never achieve its full potential onscreen. The series itself is extremely cinematic, and, aside from the burdensome exploitation and sexism in the games, it offers what could be a very strong woman-led Indiana Jones-type movie series. In 2018, Alicia Vikander starred in this much darker—and much more realistic—version of Tomb Raider, and she really nailed it.
The Super Mario Bros Movie is for kids. For. Kids. Please remember that, as you watch one mister Chris Pratt Mario cheese his way through Mushroom Kingdom. The Super Mario Bros Movie doesn't totally have a plot—does any Mario game ever veer too far from Mario-beats-Bowser, anyway?—so it leans on the hits. Meaning: a Mario Kart scene here, a Super Smash Bros moment there, and cameos that'll delight even the crabbiest of trolls. Just enjoy it, OK? Life's too short to dunk on an animated plumber.
Final Fantasy is another major gaming franchise that has a subculture all its own. For decades, fans wondered how their beloved RPG would look onscreen. Advent Children, the only film on this list that’s not live-action, answered that call in 2005. The imaginative and at times fully bonkers take on the beloved Square Enix series used computer-generated 3D graphics instead of real life actors, and it really blurred the line between film and gaming.
Listen, if I could give the top spot to "Speed Me Up"—the song of last summer, this summer, next summer, and the summer after that—I would. But my editor won't let me. Instead, props goes to the movie itself, which proved to be a surprisingly fun outing for the blue guy, despite months of production troubles. For better or worse, we'll probably always remember Sonic the Hedgehog as the last movie we saw in theatres before the pandemic.
OK. Wreck-It Ralph isn't technically a video game movie, in that Wreck-It Ralph doesn't exist as a game IRL. But the film imagines a world where arcade game characters meet up in a digital romper room, leading to a celebration of a film about video games and the bad guys that inhabit them. It's weird. It's wild. It has heart. And a Bowser cameo. What else do you need?
Pokémon as a franchise has always been a stalwart: there are the cards and the TV series and the animated films. Oh, and then there's the game itself, which has defined an entire generation. Even with all that, when Detective Pikachu was announced, there was some (rightful) skepticism about what a live-action film starring the beloved creatures might look like. Not only did the visuals deliver, but Ryan Reynolds and Justice Smith make the outing a blast to watch. Pokémon Go stream it now.
What is there to say about the Mortal Kombat movie that hasn’t already been said? It’s campy. It’s exciting. It’s dumb. It’s brilliant. The spirit of the '90s is alive in full force in this film, and to this day, the techno-futuristic-cage-match title still stands as the most satisfying video game movie to date. Sure, it may not be the most “high-art” example on this list. But Mortal Kombat perfectly captured the essence of a game franchise, and it cannot be beat.
Originally published on Esquire US
As a moviegoer—and I don’t want to speak for all moviegoers, but, hey, that’s what I’m going to do—the ideal scenario is to not just get a lot of movies coming out, and to not just get a lot of good movies coming out, but to get a lot of different kinds of good movies coming out. Surprising studio tentpoles, captivating genre pictures, audacious little indies, you name it. Great films that appeal to different tastes and identities, made in different styles and with different means.
This year hasn’t always done that. The pickings have often been slim (particularly for moviegoers who don't live in Los Angeles or New York City), and the films themselves disappointing. But April saw the best mix of films thus far—ranging from the maximalist surreality of Beau Is Afraid to the understated charm of Showing Up. There were enough strong releases this month that it felt time to finally start picking favorites. Here’s my inaugural ranking of the best movies of 2023, followed by my most anticipated releases for the rest of the year.
Sometimes a great piece of art smacks you in the face, other times its effect creeps up on you. Kelly Reichardt’s films tend to work in the latter mode, and Showing Up—one of her best—is no exception. The film follows Lizzy (Michelle Williams), a dour sculptor who works at a small Portland arts college, in the leadup to a new exhibition. Showing Up captures the realities of a working-class art-making process—the distractions, frustrations, and sporadic victories—better than any movie I can recall. Williams and Hong Chau (who plays her landlord and a fellow artist) are both better here than in their respective Oscar-nominated turns from last year. A pleasurable as the bulk of the movie is, the quietly transcendent ending is what moved me from a place of simmering enjoyment to full-boiled enthrallment.
If How to Blow Up a Pipeline was a pure popcorn thriller, it would still be one hell of a time at the movies. But Daniel Goldhaber’s follow-up to his 2018 camgirl horror flick, Cam, harnesses its edge-of-your-seat adrenaline for admirably audacious ends: To urge viewers to rethink what modern eco-activism should look like. Without becoming didactic about its politics, the film creates a context in which attacking oil infrastructure is a heroic act. It’s a subversive piece of pop entertainment, one that riffs on cinematic classics while having an eye to the future. It’s probably the film most likely to make you say “Hell yeah!” upon exiting the theater.
There is so much happening beneath the surface in Saint Omer, documentarian Alice Diop’s narrative debut. In depicting the trial of Laurence Coly, a woman charged with killing her 15-month-old daughter, as seen through the eyes of Rama (Kayije Kagame), a novelist and literary scholar, Diop constructs a meta-narrative about true crime spectatorship, cultural dislocation, myth, and motherhood. Where the French justice system tries to explain—and ultimately condemn—Coly for her actions, Diop works in the mode of observation. She’d rather raise interesting questions than seek simple answers. Leaning on long, expertly composed takes, she emphasizes the richness and inscrutability of human faces. Maybe we can’t ever truly understand each other, but there are ways to try.
I’m worried that if you haven’t seen Godland—and chances are, you haven’t—because almost anything I mention about the film will make you less likely to want to see it. It’s starless, set in the late 19th century, and takes a nuanced look at colonialism, religion, and mortality. See what I mean? But please, don’t be deterred. Hlynur Pálmason’s third feature is much less forbidding than the Icelandic elements he captures so breathtakingly in his third feature. This story of a young Danish priest’s harrowing journey to a remote region of Iceland is stunningly photographed, occasionally quite funny, and ultimately one of the few movies that actually warrants adjectives like “sublime” and “epic.” Herzog fans rejoice.
It’s abundantly evident from watching A Thousand and One that A.V. Rockwell, who directed the film, grew up in New York—and has both genuine love and deserved derision for her hometown. Rockwell’s feature debut follows Inez (a revelatory Teyana Taylor) from the mid-'90s, when she gets out of Rikers, to the present. As she tries to rebuild her life in Harlem, with a son she smuggled out of state custody, the threat of being discovered and the pressure of providing for him large. Rockwell’s character study highlights the ways people define a place, and how a place rubs off on people. A Thousand and One is clear-eyed about the toll of gentrification without being overly sentimental for a more vibrant, but still imperfect past incarnation of the city. In totality, the movie finds great beauty and pathos in a nuanced, unexpected, and drawn-out sort of tragedy.
With The Civil Dead, Clay Tatum and Whitmer Thomas have made one of my favorite comedies in… *thinks*... a long time! The film, written by the pair and directed by Tatum, finds Thomas playing a ghost only Tatum’s character can see. But this ain’t your average haunting. Rather than explore trauma or evoke fear, this is a ghost story about friendship–and how being a friend can sometimes get a little annoying. If those sound like small stakes, well, maybe they are. But the key to a good buddy movie is a good hang, and The Civil Dead delivers that and then some. Enormously funny and wonderfully idiosyncratic, it’s a very promising debut.
You have to admire Mia Goth and Alexander Skarsgaard for their sheer willingness to go there. In Brandon Cronenberg’s third feature, what happens during a vacation at a luxury resort quickly makes the drama at a White Lotus hotel feel tame. There’s enough graphic—and hallucinatory—sex, drugs, and violence that the film just skirted an NC-17 rating. Exiting the theater, my own brain felt as though it had been chemically altered. After the come down, though, the ideas Cronenberg raises about identity, self-destruction, and tourism stuck with me—though, admittedly, perhaps less so than the wonderful absurdity of Mia Goth sitting on the hood of a moving car, taunting Skarsgaard’s James, and throwing fried chicken at him.
It’s hard to flat-out love a movie as bleak and tragic as the Dardenne brothers’ latest, but it’s even harder not to be deeply affected by it. Tori and Lokita follows a pair of African migrant children trying to survive and stick together, in modern Belgium. It's about how they are failed by bureaucracy, taken advantage of by the underworld, and ignored by everyone else (implicating viewers, including all those who will skip this film because of its heaviness). The 11 year-old Tori and 17-year-old Lokita are forced to operate well beyond their years. In playing them, Pablo Schils (Tori) and Joely Mbundu (Lokita) achieve the same feat. Their performances are subtle and convincing, touching and gripping; crucially, they imbue these characters with the vivid humanity society denies them.
Ari Aster’s latest is an early front-runner for most polarizing movie of the year. You’ll either get down with Aster’s sense of humor and submit to this absurd, punishing epic of mommy issues and paralyzing anxiety, or you’ll be alienated and put off by it. I erred more in the former camp—admiring the film’s abundance of detail, Aster’s visual imagination, and, yes, all the puerile humor. Aster’s use of a certain Mariah Carey track alone pays off the three-hour runtime.
Is attention-getting an art or a disease? In Norwegian director Kristoffer Borgli’s utterly absurd, dryly hilarious debut feature, it’s a little bit of both. When her artist boyfriend gains a dash of notoriety for his stolen furniture sculptures, Signe (Kristine Kujath Thorp) takes an alarming dose of a dangerous Russian drug—in a deliberate attempt to attract sympathy–causing her face to break out in lesions. Borgli, whose short films hit a similar caustic tone and clinical aesthetic, is a master of threading the line between body humor and body horror, between grotesquery and beauty, a cringe and a cackle.
Forget identifying buses or street signs. Your response to M3GAN could function as its own CAPTCHA: if you didn’t have fun, you’re probably a robot. Blumhouse marketed M3GAN as a horror movie, and yes, there are jump scares and bursts of violence to back that up. But there’s something so uncanny, and consistently hilarious, about the way this luxury AI doll—who’s played physically by Amie Donald—moves. Whether M3GAN was prancing through the woods like a demon or dancing in a hallway, she had my theater keeling over in a good sort of pain.
Carla Simón’s sophomore feature is a portrait of a peach-harvesting family in present-day Catalonia that faces the end of an era: their orchard is about to be destroyed to make way for the construction of solar panels. It’s the sort of conflict that’s usually framed in stark good-versus-evil terms in movies. But what’s so refreshing about Alcarras is that Simón doesn’t judge so much as observe, humanizing—but not lionizing—the people caught in the current of progress.
Perhaps it’s because of his approach to collaboration that Lukas Dhont is able to so evocatively capture the amplified feelings of early adolescence. Dhont is a keen observer of the way children are socialized out of their early emotional abandon. When 13-year-old best friends Léo and Rémi enter a new year of school, their intimate bond is broken by the growing awareness of how their outward affection is perceived by their peers. Friction mounts, and without the words or self-awareness to address what they’re each feeling, their relationship meets tragic ends. The stomach-hollowing guilt that mingles with grief isn’t shocking; but rather, its power resides in the ways it feels achingly familiar.
Part of the magic of Kyle Edward Ball’s feature debut is how it manages to feel both fresh and nostalgic. Another part: its slow pace and fuzzy white noise threatens to lure you to sleep, while its dimly glimmering nighttime perspective on a suburban home is the stuff of (millennial) childhood nightmares. Ball has a gift for framing, and is clearly fluent in translating analog horror to the digital age. No wonder his film has been such a viral sensation.
Like Ocean’s 13, Magic Mike’s third and final chapter may not be the franchise’s best, but general tepid response to it probably has less to do with the movie itself than the incredibly high bar set by the first two installments. In Last Dance, Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) is retired from dancing and earning a living bartending at high-end parties–until he meets Maxandra (Salma Hayek Pinault). She's a rich dilettante who, after procuring Mike’s steamy services, hires him to come to London and put on an extravagant show at a historic theater. The film has its moments as a love story. But Last Dance is at its best as a movie about the artistic process and the complications that arise when making art relies on a wealthy, mercurial benefactor.
Jesse Eisenberg’s directorial debut is, more or less, exactly what you’d hope for from the veteran actor: smart, wry, thoughtful, and personal. In adapting his own audiobook (based, to some extent, on his own romantic history), Eisenberg turns to Julianne Moore and Finn Wolfhard to play a high-minded social worker and her vapid teen musician son. Moore, in particular, gives a sterling performance—channeling a vein of lofty, humorless do-gooderism that can be off-putting as it is well-meaning.
The bulk of the press around Pete Ohs’s Jethica revolves around the sheer accomplishment of the movie. Ohs has pioneered a filmmaking method in which he acts as his entire crew, allowing him to make aesthetically dynamic features for less money than most shorts. (The bill for Jethica was $10,000.) But as with Ohs’s previous film working in this style, 2021’s Youngstown, you don’t need to grade Jethica on a curve to enjoy it. The film is a stylish New Mexico-set comic noir about a woman who is haunted by the ghost of her stalker. Ohs brings to the film both the playful spirit of a home movie and the rigor and eye of an auteur. He collaborated on the story with his small cast, and they take the film in several surprising directions, with Will Madden (as Kevin) giving an especially standout performance.
There have been a lot of Rosemary’s Baby-inspired pregnancy thrillers in recent years, some interrogating popular notions of motherhood and others flipping the script and putting the baby bump on a man. And of all these films, Huesera: The Bone Woman, the snap-cracking, bone-chilling debut from Mexican director Michelle Garza Cervera, may be the best. Garza Cervera captures the bodily horror and gendered double standards of pregnancy without veering overly didactic. Her tale is inspired by Mexican mythology, and it brims with evocative imagery, potent surreality, and edge-of-your-seat tension.
Not much happens in Hannah Ha Ha, the microbudget debut from filmmakers Joshua Pikovsky and Jordan Tetewsky. Hannah (Hannah Lee Thompson), 25 and aimless, spends her summer days working on the family farm, biking around, and giving guitar lessons to children. When her ambitious brother (Roger Mancusi) comes to visit, he urges her to strive for more—and she’s left navigating what she wants with her life. But the film, shot through a hazy, impressionistic filter, is sensorially rich, evoking the smoky smell of evening bonfires, the sticky sweat induced by the thick New England air, and the bright chirp emanating from the green trees. It’s the sort of film that lingers after you’ve seen it, like a memory that could be your own.
The senior year experience chronicled by Ethan Eng in Therapy Dogs is far from extraordinary. Eng and his fellow small town Canadian teenagers are reckless, bored, awkward, and full of boundless energy. To entertain themselves, they attack lockers, hang from car roofs as they drift in parking lots, and climb up a tall water tower. But in the process, Eng subtly interrogates his cohort’s budding masculinity. The filmmaker paints a vivid, often exhilarating portrait of what it is to be young now—both how it’s unique to this moment and just like any other time.
From: Esquire US