This video comes to us by the team of Alexander Germanotta and Shahan Jafri, aka Orson Whales. These two alumni of the VCU Photography and Film department have been killin' it for a while, and this awesome-looking clip for Elle Varner and J. Cole's brand new R&B/hip hop crossover single--which is pretty great in and of itself--just shows that these guys are reaching a whole new level with their work. Keep kicking ass, guys--make us proud!
This past weekend, Richmond Copwatch held their first ever fundraiser, something they called a Smash-A-Que. Basically, they brought out an old police car and charged people to smash it with a sledgehammer. Pretty crazy, right? Kontra of Kromatic Photography was on hand, and shot plenty of footage of the festivities, which was then edited down into a two-minute film of highlights featuring a soundtrack by The Exploited. It is that highlight video that we now present to you. Be prepared, because some crazy (and kinda dangerous) stuff happens in this. But that's OK, because it's all in service of a cop car getting smashed, and who doesn't love that?
Video by Bo Braden
Edited by Alex Fuller
Final Destination 5 (2011)
dir: Steven Quale
One Christmas not long after I graduated from high school, my always well-meaning but occasionally somewhat obtuse mother bought me the first Final Destination (2000) on DVD because, as she put it, it looked like something I would like. In her defense, I did spend an embarrassing amount of what everyone older than 40 and at least a little bit unhappy with what their lives had become kept telling me were the best years of my life watching horror movies alone and wearing at least one Nine Inch Nails shirt. But come on, mom. Final Destination? As a Lucio Fulci enthusiast and an admittedly snobbish nerd with a loser resumé that could make Stephen Lea Sheppard Hulk-green with envy, I ignorantly swore off ever watching the thing, and went on with my advanced studies in Final Fantasy, obscure 1970’s giallo films, and never getting laid.
Fast forward about a year to an evening of perfect drunkenness with my 5 or 6 equally inebriated (and lame) roommates finally sitting down to heckle our way through what we assumed would be a total cheeseball trainwreck of awful, vapid modern horror. And it kind of was, but not without its surprising charms and the alcohol-enhanced joy of never quite knowing just how RIDICULOUS the death scenes were going to become. All in all, an enjoyable diversion that did little to prepare any of us for the orgiastic bloodletting of the first sequel, which successfully trumped its predecessor’s casually misanthropic inventiveness with an opening scene that will probably remain the Holy Grail of cinematic vehicular manslaughter for as long as stories are told through a visual medium. Predictably, the concept wore thin over the next two sequels, each weaker than the last, and notably more concerned with the cruel punishment of uninteresting characters than the impressive dynamics of Rube Goldberg-inspired machinations of doom. So of course, my expectations for this newest—and, in a move that would be best for the series, hopefully last—installment were pretty low. Fortunately, the tasteful inclusion of admittedly gimmicky 3D and a script that considers just enough small details that one would never find in the previous two entries provides a modicum of improvement, which pays off in the overall enjoyment of the proceedings. Most notably, we are presented with characters worth giving at least a little bit of a damn about, a few setpieces that can compete with the finest from the first two films (especially the gymnasium scene… yeesh), and some genuinely interesting visual ideas. It probably won’t be on your mind a week after you see it, but I definitely drove home from the theatre very carefully.
More movies after the jump...
Strange Bedfellows is a brand new comedy webseries created and directed by Johnny Hugel and starring John Reaves, Nathan Plummer, and David Marie-Garland. In Strange Bedfellows, John, David, and Nathan all share a loft apartment, and John's greatest obsession is the desire to create a late night talk show based out of said loft. Episode 1, "The Mug," premiered on Vimeo this week, and we're proud to present it to you here. Everyone involved in this series is a veteran of the Richmond local comedy scene, so you can expect a lot of laughs from this series--as should be obvious from watching the video above.
dir: Mike Mills
Mike Mills seems like a pretty cool guy. Of course I don’t have much to base that on, aside from a brief interview I heard with him on NPR and this movie, having skipped out on what is probably his other most well-known film, 2005’s Thumbsucker. Although now that I’m thinking (and writing) about it, I may have actually seen that one and just have no memory of it. Maybe it was terrible? Probably just mediocre. Either way, I had pretty much no expectations going into Beginners aside from recently tuning in to that interesting aforementioned interview and a surprising desire to take my girlfriend to see a romantic comedy. Surprising not because I’m a shitty guy who never does things for his lady, but because my lady happens to have pretty good taste in things and was understandably perplexed—and a little bit annoyed—by my unprecedented desire to take her to see a romantic comedy. It figures that this wouldn’t turn out to be a romantic comedy at all, but rather a creatively pieced-together memoir of life that most likely originates from Mills’ own vaguely disguised personal experiences.
I’ve never been one to pop off much of a load over sentimental musings delivered with what the (boring) kids refer to as a “twee” sensibility, but luckily Mills avoids falling into that regrettable territory through a precisely crafted combination of genuine, humanistic storytelling and the time-warping, montage-indebted style of pacing and editing that was unfortunately made overly adorable (and briefly popular) by Jean-Pierre Jeunet with 2001’s Amélie. Yes, the characters in Beginners can come across as fairly precious artist-types with a little too much time on their hands and seemingly inexhaustible incomes, but they are also portrayed in a realistic, warts-and-all manner, their attributes instantly recognizable as those of actual humans, probably due to Mills’ own existence as a graphic artist. Their stories are relatable to anyone who a) has a family, b) has a job or c) has been romantically involved with someone else. The performances from all of the leads are fantastic. Ewan MacGregor continues his career as one of our most underrated current actors that also happens to have an adorable face and a thinly veiled accent that drives the girls wild, and Chrisopher Plummer is absolute perfection here. The movie could have been about him alone and it would be worth the price of admission, and possibly a small box of popcorn for whomever you brought along with you in your shallow attempts to appear softhearted and mature. Luckily for you and your conniving genitals, this movie is pretty great all across the board, and you and your date will probably leave the theatre feeling so simultaneously inspired and wistful that you’ll break into a hotel swimming pool, share stories about your first flirtations with love, and fingerbang the night away. Did I just make this weird?
More reviews after the jump...
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
dir: Michael Bay
Well, shit. I was more than prepared to tear this thing apart, actually having spent ample time reminiscing on the execrable nightmarish hemorrhoid that was 2009’s Revenge of the Fallen and getting myself all riled up with vitriolic rage and vocabulary-stretching disgust so that I could hammer out a magnum opus of disgust, a Nobel-worthy dissection and desecration of the latest soul-rape from cinema’s most reprehensible asshole. And then I paid my unbelievable 16 dollars, put on my stupid 3D glasses and proceeded to have my brain totally destroyed by hands-down the most enjoyable summer movie I’ve seen since I was young enough to buy into the over-hyped bullshit that allows such a concept to exist in the first place.
Before you cry foul and refuse to read any of my reviews ever again, take some solace in the knowledge that I am just as surprised as anyone that I enjoyed this movie. Probably more surprised, considering the great lengths I went to in order to prevent anyone that I have ever remotely cared about from subjecting themselves to the immediately regrettable ordeal of sitting through the second entry in this disappointingly shitty franchise. But fuck, dudes, the third one is good! It’s everything that the first two should have been: mindless, childish, exhilarating abandon. Legitimate escapism. An absolutely astounding good time. Bay has miraculously managed to tone down almost everything that makes him such an abhorrent figure even within the overwhelmingly vapid world of Hollywood moviemaking and somehow created a film that is reasonably coherent, genuinely funny and, most importantly, a whole lot of fun. The appalling racism of the previous entry is thankfully gone, although most of the characters do still exist as little more than common stereotypes (boo-hoo). The overtly sexist reduction of all females to mere vessels of objectification is toned down significantly, although new leading lady Rosie Huntington-Whiteley does little more than look pretty, get herself into trouble and occasionally use her “feminine wiles” to help save the day (oh well). Shia LeBeouf is allowed to portray the goofy dork that he will always invoke rather than a laughably unconvincing badass hero. The ceaseless and poorly executed potty humor of its predecessor is replaced with—and I can’t believe I’m typing this—hilarious comedic turns from a surprising array of talented cameos. And most importantly for a film like this, the action set-pieces are finally well-choreographed and easy to follow, thus making them more exciting and rewarding to the thrill-seeking viewer.
Yes, Bay still values a fetishistic approach to his visual depiction of everything and still harbors an immature obsession with all things military-related, but for the first time in his gag-inducing oeuvre this actually seems OK. This is, after all, a summer blockbuster based on a goddamn line of action figures that were aimed towards a specific age group of a specific gender to whom soldiers were always “awesome” and the opposite sex was understood to be little more than “hot.” Kids are dumb, and so is Michael Bay, and that kind of makes him the perfect choice for these films. It’s nice to see that he’s finally figured out how to make this equation work. The invasion and destruction of Chicago actually delivers on all of the empty promises made by a sad list of underwhelming alien-invasion films from the past few years, and the final (hour-long!) action scene outdoes even the most audacious sensory overloading elements of Christopher Nolan’s overrated Inception (2010) without any of that film’s poorly conceived intellectual hogwash. This is a big dumb movie done right, and for the first time since 3D’s questionable comeback I didn’t feel the least bit ripped off. But perhaps the best thing about this entire movie is that it reminded me of a personal trait that I once took great pride in but have regrettably let slip from my grasp: the staunch refusal to ever pass judgement on any work of art or tangible experience without first giving it a try. Michael Bay owes all of us an apology for the majority of his work, but I think I might owe him one, too.
More reviews after the jump...
This 2010 short film by Carlos Puga premiered at Sundance 2011, and also screened at SXSW 2011. It's a documentary about moped crews in RVA. Tons of crazy moped action, with plenty of familiar faces lurking around the city. Check it out.
This is RVA TV's first in a new video series highlighting the brightest artistic talents. In this episode we talk to artist/creative mind Yussef Agbo Ola. Even though he's still too young to drink, his photography, fashion line and art directing has landed him widespread support from the richmond arts community, at the top of an international fashion competition put on by Garmz and most recently his first gallery show at VCU.
The Tree of Life (2011)
dir: Terrence Malick
Much like noise music, green bean ice cream and unexpected anal sex, the films of Terrence Malick are certainly a love-em-or-hate-em affair. Personally, I love the guy, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t understand why many people might prefer ingesting broken glass to sitting through 3 hours of his “spiritual” musings in an uncomfortable theatre surrounded by mouthbreathing cinephiles barely managing to hide their weird awe-induced boners. If you’re not familiar with any of his work, The Tree Of Life probably isn’t the best place to start. My first Malick film was 1998’s The Thin Red Line, and I’ll freely admit that it took a good amount of time to grow on me. But once you’re hooked it becomes difficult to fathom what your initial problems with his cinema were in the first place. Dude has a way with images; every single frame oozes with a meticulous obsession that manages to come across as uncannily natural, as though the viewer has simply stumbled across a random, non-professional’s diary that just happens to be written with exemplary skill and passion. His musings (and muse he does) tend to be a bit simplistic, as though siphoning the myriad images, ideas and philosophies possible within life on Earth into basic—but exhaustively depicted—archetypes is okay as long as you make the effort to recognize the miasma before simplifying it. And, honestly, with filmmaking this strong it is okay. His are movies that breathe and use that gift to effectively suck you in. Nevermind his tendency to meander; these are breath-taking locales and we are lucky to be invited. The Tree of Life is essentially an invitation into Malick’s own childhood, from whence, it becomes obvious, was spawned his own particular outlook on the dualistic nature of the universe and man’s exhilarating but tiny existence within it. Without giving too much away (there is a lot of joy inherent in the very act of discovering a Malick film without the unnecessary weight of prior knowledge or critical opinions), I will say that this film’s most astonishing achievement is its ability to convey nearly the entire spectrum of experience and emotion that I myself (and, I’m assuming, most American males) went through during the formative years of my adolescence. And this is something that Malick pulls off almost entirely with images. It’s a highly personal work that also succeeds in tapping into a universal sensibility, a shared consciousness. I could gush about the cinematography, the unexpected dinosaurs (yay!), the father-son dynamic that will probably hit a little too close to home for many viewers, and the transcendent observations about the patterns of nature that are usually reserved for eating mushrooms in the woods with your best friends, but I’d rather let Malick’s film do the talking. So just shut up and listen.
More movies after the jump...
"This is a speculative music video I made for The Legendary Buck 65. It is comprised of over 60 fictional movie title cards inspired by the lyrics of the track "Superstars Don't Love" off Buck's 2011 release "20 Odd Years"." - Travis Hopkins
Super 8 (2011)
dir: J.J. Abrams
Nostalgia can be an exciting thing, but it can also be dangerous. My girlfriend and I are planning on moving to Philadelphia late this fall, and I have recently found myself spending a lot of time staring off into space and ruminating on all of the life-altering experiences and bullshit wastes of time--both of which have existed in equal measure--that ten years living in the city of Richmond, VA have provided for me. It’s a city that I love but that I find frustratingly unprogressive; time can stand still here, and quite often does. This can obviously be a good thing when your only goals in life are to drink beer by a river, take comfort in familiar conversations about familiar events with familiar faces in familiar locations, and spend less on your monthly rent that you do on records, alcohol and plane tickets to other, more exciting cities. Relaxation can be an art, comfort an almost spiritual exercise, and there is probably no city of equal size anywhere else in the country (the world?) that can provide equal opportunity to both continually rediscover and constantly refine the skills of appreciating and mastering total fucking chillage. But what about when opportunity itself takes on a different meaning for you? What about when your enjoyment of stress-free coasting is eventually overpowered by your desire to experience legitimately, even dangerously new things? Change becomes necessary for all forms of dynamic life, and I’m feeling the drive now more than I probably ever have before. And yet nostalgia persists. The only way to overcome it is with a stubborn refusal to succumb to its admittedly intoxicating charms, to instead peel back the visage of idealized memory and see the past for what it really is: the fucking past, equal measures positive and negative, good times and bad, gold and shit. This is something that J.J. Abrams could probably stand to consider a bit more. His own brand of nostalgia is certainly as intoxicating as any. His employment of homage throughout his own creative work, to the ideals and aesthetics of the culture and cinema he spent his childhood immersed within, tend to be equal parts flattering and revisionist. He pays his respects while infusing old standards with new sensibilities, although it is debatable whether these sensibilities are wholly his own or simply a prismatic reflection of the current cultural zeitgeist. 2009’s Star Trek was an undeniable pleasure, simultaneously tipping its hat to that franchise’s well-established universe while cleverly integrating an entirely new historical background for its characters and their adventures. But it simply couldn’t have existed without an already mythical set of characters, technologies and storylines; it was far from an original idea. His newest film is equally unoriginal, essentially playing out like a well-calculated combination of producer (and cinematic godfather) Steven Spielberg’s 1982 classic E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and Brad Bird’s critically respected but somewhat underappreciated The Iron Giant (1999). Abrams manages, with much aplomb, to keep things reasonably fresh, with his usual mastery of modern effects and undeniable knack for writing characters that feel instantaneously familiar and realistic (although the adults in this new effort remain woefully underdeveloped). Anyone who’s seen the two aforementioned films won’t find anything new here, but it’s a story worth experiencing as often as you feel the need to treat yourself to a purely escapist entertainment. This is popcorn cinema at its most effective, and you’re essentially guaranteed to have a good time, not unlike those moments when you revisit your own past through rose-colored lenses, basking in the innumerable joys of nostalgic reverie. But the lack of ingenuity, of any palpable danger or risk that would have resulted from the inception and development of a single truly original--or even personal--conceit leaves the film feeling more than just a bit uninspired. It’s a nice place to visit because of your own inherent sense of comfort within these surroundings; just make sure you don’t fall into the trap of nostalgia--which has so clearly laid claim to Abrams himself--and get stuck there.
More movies, y'all, after the jump...
If your not familiar with skateboarding, Richmond local Gilbert Crockett is killin it. Here is a Vans Shoes montage from the Maloof Money Cup contest that happened this past weekend in New York.
dir: Vincenzo Natali
The discussion and analysis of gender politics can be some tricky shit. My own personal approach to the topic is one of strict intentional avoidance, as it is inevitable that if my mouth should open during a conversation about gender politics, it will momentarily be forced shut by the stinging contact of some angry lady’s palm. I’m an intelligent and insightful person disguised as an idiot, my own boorish comments doing much to incorrectly belie the fact that my outlook is essentially feminist and (hopefully) in direct opposition to the chauvinistic tilt of our stinking, stupid world. I just lack the mundane pigheadedness necessary for making every single conversation an active framework of a dedicated and unwavering worldview. I enjoy conflict, argument and full-fledged devil’s advocacy. Plus I like jokes, however politically incorrect they may be. Also, I’m really into tits. C’est la vie, ya’ll. The gender politics in Vincenzo Natali’s absolutely RIDICULOUS Splice could themselves fuel an exhaustive array of shouting matches between a cartoonish cross-section of absurdly pierced lesbian riot grrls, shirt-tucking virginal academics, porn-addicted philosophers, and genetically mutated rapists. There are no clear answers here, which is all fine and good in my opinion. I’m a fan of cinema that raises more questions than it answers. I’m also a fan of bizarro science fiction that features DNA-assisted incest and genetically modified nudity. I was a huge fan of Natali’s Cube (1997). I have never been a fan of Adrien Brody (he looks an Art Spiegelman illustration of a penis) but I’ve been pretty into Sarah Polley since Avonlea. Am I a fan of Splice? I have no idea. It’s a great credit to Natali that I feel like I should watch this one at least 2 or 3 more times before I know for sure what I think of it. Not quite as flattering, however, is the admission that I may not really want to. It just might not be worth it. Therein lies the problem; this is essentially one of those Magic Eye visual puzzles where you finally discover the hidden image, but it’s just a crudely drawn question mark. Intriguing ideas with spotty delivery. Natali is capable of better.
(More movies, y'all, after the jump...)
Looking thru the lens of someone surrounded by media and a foretelling of what we are mired in 2011.
Long-time local Hip Hop legend Swerve 36 talks WORK with up-and-coming local Hip Hop legend Black Liquid for ThatCrack.com
dir: Rodrigo Cortés
I just recently made the long-overdue decision to drag myself out of the dregs of social obscurity and technological lameness by upgrading to a “smartphone.” It wasn’t an easy decision to make, due primarily to my own stubborn and stupidly Matrix-based refusal to embrace any new device that could, in some way, “like destroy what makes us people, maaaaaan.” Thankfully my equally stubborn and reasonably boner-based desire to be able to look at breasts and vaginas, however tiny they may be, at any given moment and in any given location, finally urged me forward into the brave new dawn of internet-dependent human cyborg communications. So far I’ve utilized this magical box of microchips that I carry around in my pocket to bore strangers with tweets about my bowel movements, look up the hours of restaurants that are within walking distance from my apartment, and download apps ranging from an encyclopedia of marijuana strains to an exhaustive dictionary of Mexican slang. I will never, ever use any of these apps, but it’s nice to know that they’re there. There is a strange sense of comfort inherent in owning something so needlessly useful and permanently available, and it’s a concept that is not lost on the frustratingly likeable Ryan Reynolds’s character in Cortés almost-good cinematic experiment. Spoilers be damned, there isn’t too much to ruin here by informing you that the entirety of this film takes place within the confined space of a coffin which both Reynolds and the camera never manage to leave. His own cell phone serves as his only link to the outside world as he attempts to figure out exactly why he has been buried alive, by whom and what it will take to be rescued. The answers to these questions are predictable and unfortunately border on ethnocentric, misinformed bigotry (the “terrorist” voice on the other end of the line is a laughably racist depiction, and his diatribes against the U.S. invasion of Iraq may be well-meaning on the part of the filmmakers but come across as pedestrian and overly vague), but the technical execution is certainly something to behold. Cortés's undeniably impressive mise-en-scène manages to maintain interest for the entire length of the film, somehow infusing each frame with enough variety to prevent the admittedly limited scenario from becoming redundant. Reynolds deserves some credit here, too. Dude is the sole actor, and the restrictions that result from his predicament render it impossible to rely on his usual charms, themselves dependent upon his attractive physical presence. He manages to infuse the dialogue-based performance with subtle depth; in just one example that counters his usual typecasting as a smart-assed and goofy but ultimately righteous embodiment of underlying misogyny (in films made by undercover sexists), his sudden bursts of vocal rage here—usually directed at women—accurately depict the hidden tendency towards violence that often accompany many standard alpha-male interactions with the fairer sex. It is not a flattering portrayal, especially when considering the actor’s usual likeability. Still, one cannot help but feel sympathy for this character, himself a simple worker damned to a cruel fate by forces over which he has no control and foreign policies and situations of which he is dangerously ignorant. It’s too bad that this technically stunning film wasn’t provided with a better script, as the few other elements involved end up working so well.
More movies, y'all, after the jump...
Richmond VA's Whoa is making noise on the Internet. With the release of his first music video Where Ya Paper At feat. Sean Ray from the mix-tape All Work, No Play. Where Ya Paper At received nearly 80k views in two months, so it's not hard to see that Whoa is doing his thang.
After shooting All Work, No Play in Manhattan, Whoa returned to his home-base in VA to shoot his second video, Fortune First. From Midlothian Village to Jackson Ward, Fortune First Makes a high quality visual statement for central VA Hip Hop.
Today at the Byrd, you may have your last opportunity to see Jurassic Park in a theater, and for a good cause.