2017 Archives - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies


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If this is your first time reading Pixels in Praxis or are averse to spoilers, check out our FAQ before proceeding.

LOCALHOST can be purchased on itch.io.

"My mind feels too clear. My memories are automatically sorted, processed. And all of human experience isn't enough."

These words come from the red drive, arguably the most tragic of the artificial intelligences I'm tasked to delete in the middle of LOCALHOST's night.  I've felt that inability to stop the rush of memories before where every decision and feeling I've made or experienced blindsides me at once.  But that rush, that overwhelming sensation, is part of the human experience.  That the red drive, supposedly a man who uploaded his consciousness as he lay dying of cancer, never experienced the existential anguish of feeling the entirety of your existence laid bare brings up two important questions.

The first - am I being tricked?  Red has a personality and communicates terror but using broad strokes.  It's as if red's AI learned the words of existential angst but didn't quite get the hang of the helpless intensity of being painfully present.  The second - why don't I care?  Or, more to the point, why don't I empathize?

I'm aware as I make my conversation choices that these are fictionalized drives of AI, programmed by fictional programmers but made by a real team that had to include some programmers.  Even as I write that I realize I'm uncomfortably aware of exactly where I am and what I'm doing.  This collection of electronic signals communicates artificiality through carefully constructed encounters that are animated with uncomfortably familiar mannerisms.  My brain fires similar electrical signals to make these hands work, and I'm struggling to contain the associated feelings.


Changing Reels Season 2 Episode 7 – Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

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In this episode Courtney and Kristen discuss the origins of Wonder Woman, polyamorous relationships and the strong and complex women in Angela Robinson’s Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. They also spend time with their online short film pick of the week, Heather Fink ‘s The Focus Group written by and starring Sara Benincasa.

Show notes:

If you like what you hear, or want to offer some constructive criticism, please take a moment to rate our show on iTunes! If you have a comment on this episode, or want to suggest a film for us to discuss, feel free to contact us via twitter (@ChangingReelsAC), follow us on Facebook and reach out to us by email (Changing.Reels.AC@gmail.com). You can also hear our show on SoundCloud or Stitcher!

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Coco (2017)

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Miguel loves his family, and his family loves him, but Miguel isn't allowed to play or listen to music.  He hides himself to play guitar along with recordings of his hero, the deceased star Ernesto de la Cruz.  When he tries to obtain a guitar for a talent competition, Miguel is whisked away into the land of the dead where he may have to give up music to keep his life.  Lee Unkrich directs Coco, with the screenplay written by Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich, and stars Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, and Benjamin Bratt.

Leave it to a "kids" animated film to create a vision of the afterlife more existentially terrifying than the prospect of oblivion.  In Coco, the afterlife is populated by the animated skeletal remains of those whose families and communities still remember them on the Day of the Dead.  That means inequality continues for the masses after we die, and the only thing keeping our sliver of ego intact is the living effort to remember the dead.  I'm sure this particular idea of ego continuance is reassuring to some folks, but I dunno how I'd feel about fading away as some rich jerk reigns supreme because a few thousand desperate folks went to the jerk's seminar.

Setting aside obvious questions - like why the dead can't celebrate each other since they're clearly fine creating huge arenas to house their now spirit-bound egos - Coco is pretty good.  It's not to the quality peak of WALL-E or Inside Out, but sits well above the increasingly tasteless "the Holocaust - but for toys!" approach of Toy Story 3.  The only thing to avoid, unless you really want to or have an undergraduate seminar paper to write, is the previously mentioned idea of the still class-structured afterlife (which, I promise, is the last time I'll point out as terrifying).  Otherwise, listen with your eyes and follow along with your ears, and you'll likely have a pleasant time.


Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

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Four high school students, brought together in detention, find a dusty old cartridge and unfamiliar video game system.  The cartridge is Jumanji, and is about to take them on a trip they couldn't anticipate.  Jake Kasdan directs Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, with the screenplay written by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, and Jeff Pinkner, and stars Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, and Dwayne Johnson.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (just Welcome to the Jungle moving forward), for all its mediocrity as entertainment, at least serves as a valuable template for success.  It's not content to recreate the Joe Johnston's 1995 film Jumanji and serves as an example of how to take a concept in directions that are fun in theory.  Save one throwback at the beginning of Welcome to the Jungle, this Jumanji is its own beast.  Toss in some reliably entertaining character work from the likes of Jack Black, Karen Gillan, and Dwayne Johnson for near billion dollar success.

Truth be told, I was digging Welcome to the Jungle far more when the four characters destined to be replaced by superstars were existing in world outside Jumanji.  There's an uncertain edge to the teens' interactions with adults.  This results in great scenes where Martha (Morgan Turner) and Bethany (Madison Iseman) both use feminist talking points to try and get out of trouble to dubious effect with spectacular reaction shots of their adult conversation partners.  Whichever of Welcome to the Jungle's four screenwriters (Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, and Jeff Pinkner) is responsible for writing those moments should take a moment out of the day to pat themselves on the back.


The Disaster Artist (2017)

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Before The Room became a midnight sensation, Greg Sestero was one of many in an acting class dreaming of "making it".  Not all paths to the top are filled with inspired success, and Greg's journey meets its maker in the form of the perpetually greasy, eternally enthusiastic, and ethnically questionable Tommy Wiseau.  James Franco directs The Disaster Artist, with the screenplay written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, and stars Dave Franco and James Franco.

The first oddity of James Franco's The Disaster Artist comes right at the end.  In split-screen, we watch how James' recreation stacks up against the bizarre-to-the-point-of-untouchable moments in Tommy Wiseau's The Room.  The weirdness comes from James' technically accurate reflections, not perfectly accurate as the odd cadence of Wiseau's film can't be intentionally recreated.  What few synapses that had the urge to fire moved my fingers to write, "Why is this?" in my notes before realizing I had spent the better part of an hour and a half writing only one other note "Dave Franco's getting into this."

My lack of notes in preparation for writing this review of The Disaster Artist might strike some of you as inattention from my part but - let me assure you - aside from that one burst of passion from Dave there was not a single moment of note in The Disaster Artist.  I might be the perfectly wrong person for this film as I've seen The Room more than once (once was enough but friends gotta introduce it to friends and there I was) and read Greg Sestero's entertaining account of The Room's making.  The trick to enduring The Room more than once is not watching it and occupying yourself during the many go-nowhere moments until the staggeringly terrible bits come up.  Those moments ("You're tearing me apart", complimenting a dog, etc.) expose Wiseau's psyche so nakedly that we tend to gloss over how boring the rest of The Room is.