Friday, October 5, 2018


Posted By on Fri, Oct 5, 2018 at 11:46 AM


By virtue of an odd look or a silly voice, Tom Hardy has been the best thing in event pictures like The Revenant or The Dark Knight Rises. In that context he's the triumph of mannerism, of the strange and idiosyncratic winning out over supposedly epic but mostly empty things. In the former he delivers a strange monologue about how his Dad ate a squirrel that was God, and it's the most sincere thing in the movie. In the latter he is so resolute while wearing a bondage mask in an otherwise contractual Batman trilogy ender that people have imitated his voice for years.

It is unfortunate that Ruben Fleischer's Venom repeats the pattern, and doesn't craft him a better vehicle. Venom sprang from Spiderman’s rogues’ gallery, which was divvied up to make a buck. Spiderman has been licensed back to Marvel Studios, but Sony still owns his nemesis. So we get a formulaic hero origin story for a nightmarish monster.

Venom is one of three alien Symbiotes (or parasites, as they don’t like to be called) brought back from space to merge with involuntary human hosts. Defined by his evil Spiderman look, lusty tongue and large number of teeth. Venom infects investigative journalist Eddie Brock (Hardy) when Brock gets too close to Steve Jobs/Elon Musk amalgam Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) and his alien experimentation on the homeless.
Tom Hardy (right) in Venom
  • Tom Hardy (right) in Venom
In the opening minutes Brock loses, in the manner of an 80's movie or a comic you bought and finished in 15 minutes, his job, his girlfriend Anne and "everything I ever cared about." Michelle Williams, who plays Anne, has had a career similar to Hardy. She's associated with sincere arthouse dramas, but like Hardy's beginnings in Star Trek, she started in the Halloween franchise and Dawson’s Creek. Fleischer uses both actors well. He doesn't try to chain their sincerity to the bargain basement blockbuster plot (color graded dark blue and green, so you know the world is tough), but instead plays up their sense of humor, emphasizing their mundane reactions to terrible and ridiculous things.

As Brock, Hardy's built an entire character around the moment in Star Wars when Han Solo stammers "We're all fine here now, thank you. How are you?" He is constantly interrupting his own apologies and muttered explanations, his voice breaking in a transplanted New York accent that Williams matches. Once infected, he’s wonderful, apologizing to henchmen as his CGI self disembowels them, sating parasitical hunger with gross meals of chocolate and tater tots, going to a restaurant and bathing in a lobster tank, then eating the lobsters. He also voices the interior Bane-like voice of Venom, who is everything Eddie isn't: Suave, powerful, and prone to wax eloquent about how delectable pancreata are.

The tone doesn’t gel. The action scenes, when they get away from the comedy of a mild-mannered guy apologizing for his uncontrollable urge to violence, are the same ones that you’ve seen all your life, and which will continue after you’re dead. There is a long car chase with black SUVs, and a de rigueur end fight between two identical visual effects. San Francisco is mainly defined here by inclined streets and the homeless, though photographed at night so that it looks like cinematic New York. Paul Thomas Anderson muse Melora Walters shows up in another downtrodden role as a vagabond with grime on her face. Jenny Slate plays a scientist whose thick glasses define her non-character.
Michelle Williams on line one.
  • Michelle Williams on line one.
Another way in which it reminded me of a colorful 80's movie: Poverty is just a fact of life, and the homeless are punchlines or plot points. The evil CEO is God-like. Or if not the 80's, it’s like a 30's B-picture: fun and funny in small bits, but unable to have the plot follow the choices of its characters in unexpected directions.

The scary images of the Symbiotes entering people’s skin and undulating beneath are just gatekeepers to a power fantasy, one the movie cops to when a character muses on how nice it was being possessed. The problem is there are more modes of being in the world than idiotic idealists and omnipotent CEOs. For example, the corporations that have messed with the Spiderman universe are not run by evil geniuses. They’re just part of a system that perverts art for money.

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Monday, October 1, 2018

Music Video Monday: Stephen Chopek

Posted By on Mon, Oct 1, 2018 at 10:54 AM

Music Video Monday throws it in reverse.

No budget music video auteur
Stephen Chopek will release his next album Begin The Glimmer on October 12th. The lead song on the album, recorded by Harry Koniditsiotis at 5 and Dime and mixed by Doug Easley at New School, is called "Made Of Puzzles."  I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this the first music video ever made with an automotive backup camera. Chopek says the theme of the song and video is  "Don't look back; but if you do, be aware your surroundings and use caution."

If you would like to see your music video appear on Music Video Monday, email

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Barry Jenkins' If Beale Street Could Talk Anchors Huge Indie Memphis Lineup

Posted By on Wed, Sep 26, 2018 at 11:04 AM

Kiki Lane and Stephan James in If Beale Street Could Talk
  • Kiki Lane and Stephan James in If Beale Street Could Talk

Director Barry Jenkins' highly anticipated followup to his 2016 Best Picture Academy Award winner Moonlight will have its Mid South premiere at Indie Memphis 2018.

If Beale Street Could Talk
 (which is named after a W.C. Handy song, but not set in Memphis) is based on a 1974 novel by James Baldwin in which a woman, played by Kiki Lane, seeks to clear the name of her wrongly convicted husband, played by Stephan James. Jenkins made his Indie Memphis debut in 2008 with his first feature Medicine For Melancholy.

Jenkins' film is one of more than 40 features which will screen during the festival, which will take place November 1st-5th, with encore screenings November 7th-8th. The opening night feature is Mr. Soul, a documentary by directors Melissa Haizlip and Samuel D. Pollard, about Ellis Haizlip, the first black talk show host who regularly featured musicians like Stevie Wonder and Patti LaBelle on his program. Closing night is director Andrew Bujalski's Support the Girls, about a day in the life of the employees of a sports bar. Bujalski previously appeared at Indie Memphis in 2013 with his groundbreaking feature Computer Chess.

Boots Riley, the director of this year's sleeper hit Sorry To Bother You, will be the keynote speaker at the Black Creatives Forum, a new program debuting at this year's festival. Riley will also present a screening of Terry Gilliam's 1985 surrealist masterpiece Brazil.

Amy Seimetz, director of The Girlfriend Experience series and star of Upstream Color, will be on hand to present Barbara Loden's Wanda, a rarely seen 1970 film that has been called a founding document of feminist cinema.

WANDA Trailer from Janus Films on Vimeo.

On a lighter note, comedy legend Chris Elliott will be honored with a screening of his so-bad-its-good cult film Cabin Boy. No word on whether Elliott, who was a writer and performer on the original Late Night With David Letterman, will hide under the seats.

A record 112 Memphis directors will have films in the festival this year, including Brett Hanover's Rukus, a documentary/narrative hybrid years in the making which won the Grand Jury award at this year's Nashville Film Festival.

Rukus (2018) - Trailer from Brett Hanover on Vimeo.

Indie Memphis will take place at the Orpheum Theatre's Halloran Centre and at Playhouse On The Square, Studio On The Square, Theaterworks, and the Hattiloo Theatre. By popular demand, the block party will return, with the Cooper street blocked off during the weekend of the festival, and music and panels hosted in a giant tent. Festival passes are currently available on the Indie Memphis website. The Memphis Flyer will have continuing coverage of the festival throughout October and November. 

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Monday, September 24, 2018

Music Video Monday: Brennan Villines

Posted By on Mon, Sep 24, 2018 at 12:55 PM

Has Monday got you feeling stabby? MVM is here for you. 
Memphis pop maniac Brenden Villines is having an incredible year. First of all, he signed with Rockasaurus Records. Then, he appeared on the NBC talent show The Four, and made some big waves. Villines has an uncanny knack for picking a perfect cover song, like he did with Ozzy Ozborne's "Crazy Train". His rendition of "Wild Horses" at last year's Gimme Shelter benefit for homeless charities brought the house down. National audiences got a taste of his interpretive talent with this piano rendition of The Proclaimers "500 Miles."

Last week, Villines released the first video from his upcoming EP "Make It Work". The song is called "Better Than We've Ever Been," and here's what the artist has to say about it: "I wrote the song in 2016 after participating in a very historic Black Lives Matter march in Memphis, Tennessee, where I’m from. People from all walks of life coming together and insisting that enough is enough in regards to police brutality, racism, homophobia, transphobia, the list goes on. The country was also at the height of division in the wake of the upcoming presidential election. At the end of the day, everything is far from perfect, but we are better going through it together as a people.”

The video is directed by Andrew Trent Fleming and it's a doozy. In a mood that we can all relate to, our hero struggles to get out of bed in the morning, knowing that he will be faced with a firehose of bad news.
  • Truth
Then, Villines appears as his new news alter ego Lan Jevinson.
Reporting live, baby!
  • Reporting live, baby!

After jovially running down a pedestrian with a car full of M-town's finest dancers, Villines then brutally stabs a rando on the street, played by Jacob Wingfield, who doesn't seem to mind the violence.
The best-natured reaction to a stabbing this reporter has ever witnessed.
  • The best-natured reaction to a stabbing this reporter has ever witnessed.
Will Winfield survive? Will Villines be brought to justice for his crime spree, or will he lead us all in a joyful singalong? Find out in this dramatic installment of Music Video Monday.

If you feel up to joining Brennan on Music Video Monday with your own music video, email

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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Let's Do The Time Warp Drive-In With John Waters

Posted By on Sat, Sep 22, 2018 at 5:29 AM

Divine goes on a fabulous crime spree in Pink Flamingos
  • Divine goes on a fabulous crime spree in Pink Flamingos
September's Time Warp Drive-In honors the patron saint of bad taste, John Waters.

The first film of the evening is Water's underrated 2000 romp Cecil B. Demented. Honey Whitlock (Melanie Griffith) is a movie star who is kidnapped by the Sprocketholes, a group of "kamakazie filmmakers" including Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mike Shannon, Alicia Witt, and Stephen Dorff as the titular demented director.

Next is an early Johnny Depp vehicle, Cry-Baby. It's about as fifties rock and roll, juvenile delinquent, bobby sox-y as you can get, daddy-o!

Then, at midnight, the infamous Pink Flamingos. This is the movie that made Waters internationally infamous for leading lady Divine's...shockingly inappropriate dietary choices. Here's just a taste of the drag legend's take-no-prisoners performance, where she calls in the press to watch as she gets her kill on. Don't watch this is if you're at work or around decent human beings.

I have never seen the final film of the evening, Waters and Divine's followup to their breakthrough semi-hit, Female Trouble. But I have to say that this is one of the most kick ass trailers I have ever seen.

The show starts Saturday night at sundown at the Malco Summer Drive-In. 

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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Don Lifted Premieres Contour Visual Album

Posted By on Thu, Sep 20, 2018 at 9:24 AM

Lawrence Matthews combines two of his multi talents with his newest project. Like his first album under the name Don Lifted, Alero, Contour is an autobiographical remembrance of teenage trauma. Each song on the album comes with an accompanying video, created by the artist along with Martin Matthews, Kevin Brooks, and Nubia Yasin.

Contour the visual album will bow tonight at Studio on the Square with a free screening at 8 p.m. The album will then go on sale and hit streaming services at midnight Friday. To give you a flavor of the work, here's "Take Control Of Me", a video from Alero  directed by frequent Matthews collaborator Kevin Brooks.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

This Week At The Cinema: Rebels, Dinosaurs, and Gershwin

Posted By on Tue, Sep 18, 2018 at 11:56 AM

Lots of new and old sights to see this week in Memphis.
James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause
  • James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause
First off, tonight at Malco Ridgeway, Indie Memphis presents an unusual biopic. Nico, 1988 is set in the last year of the life of Christa Päffgen, the German actor, model, singer, and Warhol superstar who sang with the Velvet Underground on their first album. Nico has been called the "first Goth girl", and led a short but eventful life. Italian director Susanna Niccharelli's film chronicles her last tour of Europe, and her attempts to come to grips with her chaotic past and reconnect with the son she left behind years before. Tickets are available on the Indie Memphis website.

Meanwhile, at the Paradiso, Universal celebrates the 25th anniversary of a classic. Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park is widely considered to be the birth of the modern CGI era, and it's a rip-roaring good time to boot. This birthday celebration will be unique, because it features a crowdsourced, fan-made remake of the film. If it's anything nearly as good as the Star Wars Uncut project, it's totally worth your time.

On Wednesday at Crosstown Arts, Indie Memphis presents Drifting Towards The Crescent. Laura A Stewart's moody, experimental documentary focuses on the poor, rural communities in Iowa and Missouri that sit on the banks of the Mississippi river. This film premiered at last year's Indie Memphis Film Festival, and you can get tix on their website.

Drifting Towards the Crescent Trailer from Laura Stewart on Vimeo.

Over at the Paradiso, a harrowing story of obsession and rock climbing. The Dawn Wall documents Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson's attempt to climb the last stretch of unconquered rock in America, El Capitan's eastern face, known as the Dawn Wall. The show starts at 7 PM.

On Thursday at the Paradiso, it's a film of a stage production that is itself an adaption of a film that was inspired by an orchestral rhapsody. The 1951 film An American In Paris was an MGM musical starring Gene Kelly and directed by Vincent Minelli, both at the height of their powers. It was loosely based on George Gershwin's visit to the City of Lights during the bohemian 1920s, when he composed the title track as a student of Maurice Ravel. The Broadway production helmed by director Christopher Wheeldon captured in this film won a Tony award in 2015.

Friday at Crosstown Arts, the Wish Book series brings artist John Pearson to town for a retrospective of his experimental photography and film work. "Lay of the Land" is an exhibit of Pearson's California landscape photography, made without film or cameras, and a retrospective of his experimental video works from 1999 to present. You can get more information at the Crosstown Arts website.
From John Pearson's "Lay of the Land" exhibit at Crosstown Arts
  • From John Pearson's "Lay of the Land" exhibit at Crosstown Arts
Finally, on Sunday, September 23, Turner Classic Movies presents film legend James Dean's greatest role, and a founding document of American teenager-hood. Rebel Without A Cause was directed by Nicholas Ray, and released about three weeks after Dean's death in an automotive accident in 1955. It's a gorgeous CinemaScope production with a memorable scene at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. Dean is amazing, of course, but also very good are co stars Sal Mineo, Natalie Wood, Jim Backus, and a young Dennis Hopper. Showtime is 2 PM at the Paradiso.

See you at the movies! 

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Monday, September 17, 2018

Music Video Monday: F*ck

Posted By on Mon, Sep 17, 2018 at 11:20 AM

Today's MVM is NSFW.
’90s indie rock fans will recognize the un-Googleable name of Tim Prudhomme, Geoff Soule, Kyle Statham, and Theodore Ellison's band that released two albums on Matador records before being asked to change their moniker. Now, Prudhomme lives in Memphis and, as you will see, he is a big fan of the Flyer. Fuck is on the comeback trail with a new album called The Band, a recent West Coast tour, and a new music video about the scourge of social media called "Facehole." Catch the wave!

If you would like to see your music video featured on Music Video Monday, we here at the Memphis Flyer strongly recommend giving us a cameo, like our friends in Fuck did. If you don't want to do that (and frankly, we don't blame you), just email, and odds are you'll get in anyway. 

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Thursday, September 13, 2018

Outflix Finale Features Drama And Community

Posted By on Thu, Sep 13, 2018 at 5:29 AM

Pip Brignall and Jo Weil in Sodom, Outflix 2018's closing night feature.
  • Pip Brignall and Jo Weil in Sodom, Outflix 2018's closing night feature.

After a week full of thought-provoking and engaging cinema, Outflix Film Festival comes to a close tomorrow night with three films about navigating queer identity, within one’s self, through the LGBTQ community, and in relation to society at large. Being recognized, being witnessed, as a queer person can be hugely empowering, or deeply shameful, depending on the context, and these films explore those contexts, as well as the ones in between.

Sodom, (4 PM) directed by Mark Wilshin, kicks things off quietly, with a narrative that plays like a contemporary gay version of Before Sunrise, but with way more skin. Two men, not quite strangers but obviously not friends, are brought together by strange circumstances on a deserted street somewhere in Europe. During their night of unplanned fellowship, Will (Pip Brignall) and Michael (Jo Weil) question what it means to come out as gay, to look gay, and to simply be gay. The narrative circles around the idea that, as gay men, they are forced to make a choice of whether to act on their desires and potentially face expulsion from their communities, or to repress those feelings, play straight, get married, and live a lie. Wilshin gets melodramatic at times, but keeps coming back to the steamy side, luxuriating in beautifully filmed images of the male body.

A scene from Leilah Weinraub’s documentary Shakedown
  • A scene from Leilah Weinraub’s documentary Shakedown

The next feature of the night, Leilah Weinraub’s Shakedown (6:30 PM) is an experimental documentary about the black lesbian club scene of early 2000s Los Angeles. Whether they arrived at the Shakedown dance parties on purpose or by accident, the subjects of the film describe the feeling of coming home, of rightness, of acceptance, upon finding the scene. The film delves into this tight-knit queer subculture and its role as a co-created chosen family, and the power and pleasure that kind of group can generate. This joyful documentary provides a sensuous, raw look into a world that no longer exists, but lives on thanks to Weinraub’s intimate videos.

Corey Michael Smith in 1985. - DUTCH RALL
  • Dutch Rall
  • Corey Michael Smith in 1985.

The final film of the night and of the festival is 1985 (8:30 PM), a narrative feature directed by Yen Tan, which received rave reviews at SXSW and has won several awards on the film festival circuit. Adrian (Cory Michael Smith) returns to his hometown to visit family and old friends during the height of the AIDS epidemic. He struggles to integrate the old life he left behind with the world he found, and is rapidly losing, in New York City. Shot on black and white film, the look and texture of the movie reflects its dark subject matter; the weightiness of the AIDS crisis is palpable. It’s a heavy way to end the festival, but seems to send a strong message—despite all our gains, the LGTBQ community still faces prejudice, violence, and systemic oppression, in our town and all over the world. The work is far from over. After we come to terms with our queer identities, we have to come to terms with the struggle, and to join the fight.

Tickets for the final night of Outflix 2018 can be purchased in advance online, or at Malco Ridgeway Cinema Grill.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Outflix Celebrates A Wild Weekend Of Queer Cinema

Posted By on Tue, Sep 11, 2018 at 1:01 PM

This weekend the queers were out in full force for the first days of the 21st Annual Outflix Film Festival, the local LGBTQ film fest organized by OUT Memphis. As a gigging queer myself, I sadly wasn’t able to attend the whole festival, but I managed to swing by Ridgeway Cinema for a few hours of queer cinematic experience.
Malco Ridgeway Cinema Grill lit up with the LBGTQ rainbow for the Outflix Film Festival. - ALANNA STEWART
  • Alanna Stewart
  • Malco Ridgeway Cinema Grill lit up with the LBGTQ rainbow for the Outflix Film Festival.
Opening weekend at Outflix included outsider narratives, including stories about artists, performers, and yes, filmmakers. Many of the films explored the intersection of art and sexuality, where either the queer person or the artist finds themselves set adrift from mainstream society and struggles to make a place for themselves. In the two biopics I saw this weekend, Wild Nights with Emily, directed by Madeleine Olnek, and Mapplethorpe, directed by Ondi Timoner, the narratives center around an eccentric queer artist (poet Emily Dickinson and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, respectively) who, finding themselves ostracized by their communities, devote their lives entirely to their craft and into living as authentically as they can in a world stacked against them, even though doing that means sometimes having to hide their true identities.
Molly Shannon (left) as Emily Dickinson in Wild Nights With Emily
  • Molly Shannon (left) as Emily Dickinson in Wild Nights With Emily
In these films, some well-meaning little voice always chimes in, “You’re ahead of your time. Nothing like this has ever been done before. The world isn’t ready for your work. You’ll be loved when you’re dead.” But Dickinson (Molly Shannon) and Mapplethorpe (Matt Smith) didn’t have time to listen to that obnoxious little voice, and pressed on with their work. They couldn’t wait for the world to change; rather they took a role in changing it.
Matt Smith in Mapplethorpe
  • Matt Smith in Mapplethorpe
Like these two artists, many queer filmmakers today are making movies specifically because they haven’t seen their stories told before. Director Laura Madalinski spoke at a Q & A after Saturday’s screening of her first feature film, Two In The Bush, saying that she made a romantic comedy about queer polyamory and sex work largely because there had never been one before. Madalinski and her partner/co-writer Kelly Haas wanted a movie that they could see themselves reflected in. Madalinski remembers deciding, “We’re gonna make it ourselves! And we did!”

The film, shot in 10 days with a budget of $45k, follows in the tradition of DIY queer filmmaking, in which the process itself is centered around community and mutual support. Folks help each other out because they are passionate about their stories, and because they recognize that the project is not simply a movie, but a contribution to the greater cause of queer liberation.

In the documentary Dykes, Camera, Action! pioneering lesbian filmmakers cite their activism as the source of their artistic endeavors. They realized that in order to change the world, they had to create a new one, and film was their tool. If their voices didn’t exist in media, mainstream cis-heteronormative culture could continue to pretend that they didn’t exist. Making films explicitly about their queer identities and bodies meant that they refused to be erased; they insisted on not only being seen, but being reckoned with.

These early lesbian films broke away from traditional narrative structure because, as Su Friedrich points out, queer lives do not follow the same trajectory as heterosexual lives, and conventional formats would not do justice to their stories. Queer filmmakers experimented with new techniques as they pursued ways to share their perspective with wider audiences. That idea affected my experience of watching Wild Nights With Emily, in which queer director Madeleine Olnek repositions Emily Dickinson in a queer context, compared to Mapplethorpe, with a well-known gay artist as its subject, but a formulaic biopic structure that feels distanced and stale. Despite its subject matter being over 100 years old, Wild Nights feels incredibly personal, emotional, and surprisingly modern. The film moves non-linearly, with flashbacks and flash-forwards, lyrical vignettes of Dickinson’s poetry, and moments in which Dickinson (Molly Shannon) breaks the fourth wall by addressing the audience, letting us know that the film is aware of its function.

Whether or not the straight normie world recognizes it, queer folks have always been here. We’re everywhere. And this week we’re at Outflix.

Outflix runs through Thursday, September 13. For a full schedule and more information, visit their website.

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Monday, September 10, 2018

Music Video Monday: Daz Rinko

Posted By on Mon, Sep 10, 2018 at 11:36 AM

It's Monday. New week. Who dis?
MVM MVP Daz Rinko's got a new ride. The Memphis rapper directed this video for his new single "New Whip, Who Dis?", the first from his upcoming album Black Boy Joy 2: The Bigger Picture. Shot and edited by 35Miles, with animation by Andrew McGinnis, this funky vibe is all about car trouble, and what it takes to get out of it. Take a look:

If you'd like to see your music video on Music Video Monday, email

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Friday, September 7, 2018

Outflix 2018 Weekend Preview

Posted By on Fri, Sep 7, 2018 at 11:57 AM

Wild Nights With Emily, starring Molly Shannon (left) and Amy Seimetz, plays opening night at Outflix.
  • Wild Nights With Emily, starring Molly Shannon (left) and Amy Seimetz, plays opening night at Outflix.
Outflix 2018 is in full swing this weekend. You can read about this year's festival in this week's film column. Here are some trailers and previews for movies playing at this weekend's festival at the Malco Ridgeway Cinema Grill.

First up is Alaska Is A Drag, a fish out of water drama by Shaz Bennet about a transexual in the hyper macho world of the New Frontier, screening Saturday at 5:15 p.m.

Kill The Monsters, showing Saturday at 8 p.m., is director Ryan Lonergan's polyamorous road trip epic. Shot in luscious black and white, this one looks like a winner.

Kill the Monsters - Trailer from Ryan Lonergan on Vimeo.

At 10:30 p.m., former Doctor Who Matt Smith (who recently crossed the streams by landing a "key role" in the next Star Wars movie) stars as legendary photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Director Ondi Timor's biopic immerses the audience in the squalid glamour of 1970's New York. Newcomer Marianna Redón co-stars as punk rock goddess Patti Smith, Mapplethorpe's longtime partner in the 1970s.

Matt Smith as Robert Mapplethorpe in Ondi Timor's biopic.
  • Matt Smith as Robert Mapplethorpe in Ondi Timor's biopic.

Sunday kicks off at 1 p.m. with an import whose title says it all: My Big Gay Italian Wedding.

Then at 3:15 p.m., feel the squeeze of the gig economy while simultaneously navigating a lesbian marriage comedy with Freelancer's Anonymous by Sonia Sebastian.

At 5 p.m., Hollywood royalty Piper Laurie stars in Snapshots, a generational drama about love and loss.

The final film of the evening is a documentary by director Caroline Berler about lesbian filmmakers, Dykes Camera, Action!, at 7:15 p.m.

Dykes, Camera, Action! 1 min Trailer from Caroline Berler on Vimeo.

Watch this space for more coverage of Outflix 2018. 

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Friday, August 31, 2018

Ten Things About Ten Years Of Marvel Movies

Posted By on Fri, Aug 31, 2018 at 10:59 AM

The Paradiso is filling the traditional late summer movie doldrums with some repertory at the IMAX. For the last week it has been the spectacular presentation of 2001: A Space Odyssey providing an unparalleled cinema experience. This week, Marvel Studios is celebrating their 10th anniversary with an IMAX marathon. In the Marvel spirit of giving people what they want, here are 10 highlights from the 20 Marvel movies, arranged in the form of a numbered list to give it that little bit of extra narrative tension. Everybody loves lists, right? Let's do this.

10. The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Marvel
Back in the lean comic years of the 1980s, a struggling Marvel sold the film right to some of its creations. Marvel's A-list superheroes, The X-Men, Spider-Man, and the Fantastic Four wound up with Fox or with the Sony corporate hegemony, where films of varying quality were made in the early 2000s that whetted the appetite for comic book films. When producer Kevin Feige took over in 2007, just as the studio's business model was changing from licensing its intellectual property to making their own films, Marvel was forced away from their flagship heroes to mine deeper into comic history. This proved incredibly freeing, and opened up new opportunities. Guardians of the Galaxy (Saturday 3:40 p.m.), for example, was one of the most fun blockbusters of the past decade, even though it comes from one of the more obscure corners of the Marvel comics library.

9. Marvel's Biggest Failure
Of the 20 films Marvel screening this Labor Day weekend, exactly one, Ant-Man and The Wasp (Monday, 10 PM) has a titular female lead. And Evangeline Lilly as The Wasp gets second billing to the worst lead actor in the entire Marvel universe, Paul Rudd. Black Widow, portrayed iconically by Scarlett Johansson, is arguably the most interesting Avenger. If Marvel had wised up and given her a solo movie five years ago, they could have stolen DC's Wonder Woman thunder, and we could have possibly avoided the Ghost In The Shell debacle.

8. The Most Comic-Book-y Comic Book Movie
I'm going to offer the hot take that Christopher Nolan has been bad for the superhero genre. He successfully brought gritty realism to comic book movies, but in the process he sacrificed the comic book form's biggest strength: outlandish visuals. Marvel films, especially the later ones, have embraced the possibilities of CGI. None have veered farther from photorealism than 2016's Doctor Strange. Director Scott Derrickson channels the Sorcerer Supreme's creator Stephen Ditko with wave after wave of psychedelic freak outs — while also lifting some licks from Nolan's Inception for good measure.

7. You Need A Good Villain
You know why Batman is everybody's favorite superhero? Because he's got the best villains. Superhero films live and die by the charisma of the bad guy, and the plausibility of their plan. The best recent example was Michael Keaton as Vulture in Spider-Man Homecoming (Sunday, 9:50 p.m.). The sotto voce threats he delivers to Tom Holland's Spider-Man while Peter Parker is trying to bone his alter ego Adrian Tooms' daughter Liz on homecoming night may be the single best acted scene in any Marvel movie.

6. The Guardians' Secret Weapon
Who is the heart of the Guardians of the Galaxy sub-franchise? If you said ubiquitous hot guy Chris Pratt's Star Lord, you're mistaken. The correct answer is Karen Gillian as Nebula. Gillian has been low-key walking away with every movie and TV show she's been in for the better part of a decade. She propped up Matt Smith's mediocre Doctor Who for three years as Amy Pond, one of the best companions in the show's 50-year history. Just last year she stole the Jumanji reboot out from under The Rock. Nebula, tortured and twisted and intensely physical, plays nemesis to her sister Gamora, and the scenes between Gillian and Zoe Saldana always crackle with emotion. When she reluctantly teams up with them, in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Sunday, 7 p.m.) her pouty sarcasm fits right in with the rest of the crew. In real life, Gillian just wrote and directed her first feature film, The Party's Just Beginning.

5. The Third Act
The "Marvel Third Act" has become a shorthand for a big ending where our colorful heroes fight a horde of grey, identical monsters, with lots of attendant property damage, but no consequences for the heroes. It was perhaps best executed in 2012 by Joss Whedon in The Avengers (Friday, 3:40 p.m.), but its unimaginative imitators have been a plague on the multiplex ever since. Interestingly, Whedon commented on the Marvel Third Act in Avengers: Age Of Ultron (Saturday, 7 p.m.), when the destructive aftermath of the Battle of Sokovia would haunt the heroes.

4. Smaller Is Better
One of the problems with writing stories about superheroes is that they're larger than life. That means the stakes must always be growing larger to give the overpowered protagonists a decent challenge. But after the fifth time you've seen someone save the world, you think maybe it isn't that hard. The best Marvel stories turn out to the ones where the stakes are smaller, and the heroes alone. Ant-Man (Saturday, 9:55 p.m.) excels despite its flat lead because the conflict is almost beside the point. The real fun is the giddy special effects sequences that are like a jazzed-up version of The Incredible Shrinking Man.

3. The Evolving Hero
The creeping Batmanization of the world compels every lead character to be dark, tortured, and brooding. Only manly men who experience no pleasure in their lives can aspire to the title of hero. Marvel has resisted this, and their bread and butter has become redefining what a hero can be. In Captain America: Civil War (Saturday, 1 p.m.), Vision, played by Paul Bettany, wears a sensible sweater/oxford combo and cooks breakfast for his superpowered girlfriend Wanda Maximoff (Elisabeth Olsen). Then, in Avengers: Infinity War (Monday, 7 p.m.), he offers to sacrifice himself to save half the universe.

2. Killmonger Was Right
Why was Black Panther (Monday 3:40 p.m.) so good? The number one reason is that director Ryan Coogler did his homework and delivered a perfectly constructed action movie. Each scene builds on the last and leads to the next. And most importantly, both the hero Black Panther (the unbelievably charismatic Chadwick Boseman) and the villain Killmonger (the unbelievably charismatic Michael B. Jordan) have believable motivations and coherent cases to make for their sides. T'Challa is the king and defender of the status quo in Wakanda. They have been kept safe by their advanced technology for hundreds of years. But Killmonger rightly points out that while Wakanda has stayed safe, they have allowed the colonization and genocide of Africans outside their borders. Killmonger wants to use the power of Wakanda to rectify that situation and colonize the white world right back. Black Panther defeats Killmonger, but T'Challa is moved by his vision and opens Wakanda up to the world, hoping to make it a more just place. It's a rare bit of moral complexity in a genre that is pretty much defined by its black and white ethical structure.

1. Captain America: The First Avenger
Coming in at number one on our countdown that is in no way an actual countdown is Captain America: The First Avenger (Friday 1 p.m.). Director Joe Johnson hits the superhero sweet spot with this Nazi-punching triumph. Johnson's influence looms large over the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He is a special effects innovator whose debut film Honey I Shrunk The Kids, was basically a look book for Ant-Man. His 1990 film The Rocketeer, about a man who finds a super flight suit and battles Nazis in the 1930s, was a box office failure at the time, but provided a template for The First Avenger. Chris Evans, who had previously played The Human Torch in Sony's failed Fantastic Four adaptation, gives a performance on par with Christopher Reeve's Superman as the once-scrawny kid from Brooklyn who would become the moral center of the Avengers. The overriding theme of all of the Marvel movies is Stan Lee's maxim "With great power comes great responsibility," and no one sets a better example than Captain America. 

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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

This Week At The Cinema: Memphis Masterpieces

Posted By on Tue, Aug 28, 2018 at 2:02 PM

Memphis filmmakers take charge this week.

Tommy Foster and friends in his short film "This Must Be My Lucky Day"
  • Tommy Foster and friends in his short film "This Must Be My Lucky Day"

Tonight, Indie Memphis presents the 15th anniversary screening of Morgan Jon Fox's debut film, Blue Citrus Hearts. You can read all about the history of one of the most significant indie films ever made in Memphis here, in my film feature for this week's Flyer.

In a late add to the program, Fox's film with be proceeded by a rarely seen short masterpiece by Tommy Foster. "This Must Be My Lucky Day" was a rare detour into video art for the beloved Memphis artist, who passed away earlier this year.

Shot by Brandon Hutchinson, who co-founded the Digital Media Co-Op along with Fox, the deceptively simple film is a visually distinct and beautiful example of the experimentalist mindset that dominated the early years of Indie Memphis.

I found it on YouTube in its entirety. You can watch a little bit of it to get the flavor or consume the whole thing. Either way I promise you'll want to watch it again on the big screen tonight at Studio on the Square, beginning at 7 PM. 

On Wednesday, a sneak preview of the directing debut of Lawrence Matthews, aka Don Lifted. The Other Side of Broad is a documentary about the intersection between the charter school movement and racial discrimination and economic gentrification.

Matthews and his team, Nubia Yasin and Justin Thompson, captured the stories of Binghampton families who are being displaced in the aftermath of the 2016 transformation of Lester Middle School and East High School into charter and STEM schools. Matthews says that what was being sold as a way to improve inefficient public schools has instead turned out to be a way for real estate developers to exert pressure on residents of a community who have been deemed undesirable.

The Other Side Of Broad will screen at the newly renovated Caritas Village on Wednesday, August 29th at 7 p.m., proceeded by a photography exhibit and reception beginning at 6 p.m. Tickets are available at the Indie Memphis website.
The Other Side Of Broad
  • The Other Side Of Broad

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Monday, August 27, 2018

Music Video Monday: Lucero

Posted By on Mon, Aug 27, 2018 at 12:01 PM

Michael Shannon in Lucero's music video for "Long Way Back Home." - LUCERO
  • Lucero
  • Michael Shannon in Lucero's music video for "Long Way Back Home."

Music Video Monday is here to kick your ass.

I know your music video is good. Great, even. But does your music video have Michael Shannon in it? Does it have more plot and character than the last Transformers movie? Was it directed by Jeff Nichols, helmer of Mud, Midnight Special, and Loving?

I'm just gonna assume the answer to those questions is "no", and conclude that your music video is not as good as Lucero's "Long Way Back Home". That's OK. Keep reaching for the stars! Meanwhile, watch this video. Why not? Why does anyone do anything?

If you would like to see your music video on Music Video Monday, email

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