ericvespe FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

Not Specified
from Austin, TX

  • Activity

    • SXSW Review: Sparse Sci-Fi Flick PROSPECT Delivers Tension And Great Performances

      3 months ago


      One of the more pleasant surprises of this SXSW was a little intimate grounded sci-fi film called PROSPECT. It's a simple story told exceptionally well. We follow a teenage girl and her father trying to strike it rich prospecting for gems on an alien planet before their ship home leaves them stranded.


      Everything that can go wrong goes wrong (of course), from faulty equipment to run-ins with murderous plunderers, all while the window for getting off the planet shrinks.

      Prospect is one of those smaller movies with a big scale that really lets you soak up the production design and cinematography in lieu of big action sequences or constant VFX landscape shots. The movie I kept hearing it compared to around the fest was Moon. It's a radically different kind of movie, but in terms of tone that's not too far off.

      Writer/Directors Chris Caldwell and Zeek Earl put the plot focus squarely on character as they slowly dial up the tension on our heroine, who is portrayed as smart and good-hearted, but not perfect. Not every plan of hers works out, she's not immune to the pressures and the seeming hopelessness of her situation.

      Sophie Thatcher plays Cee and acts her ass off, through a domed space helmet for, like, 90% of her screen time. She's put in a rather interesting situation that pairs her with someone she's not a fan of, to put it bluntly, and has to depend on a devious, murderous rogue named Ezra, played by Game of Thrones and Kingsman 2's Pedro Pascal.


      Ezra's the kind of dude that would sell his mother if it got him the edge in a tough situation. He's not to be trusted and Cee knows this, but doesn't have much of a choice. On a planet where the environment is deadly and desperate mercs comb the alien landscape sometimes strange bedfellows have to be made and you can't get much stranger than these two.

      That's where the real kernel of greatness is in this movie. Pairing two people who don't trust each other together in a hostile environment and forcing them to depend on each other to survive is a great dynamic and both actors knock it out of the park.

      The pacing is a little... deliberate and I'm sure the more OCD among us will have a little trouble hanging with the movie, but I was riveted the whole way through because there was always something to hold my attention, whether it was marveling at the costumes and production design or being sucked into the character dynamics unfolding as the clock ticked down.

      Caldwell and Earl show a talent for worldbuilding here. They don't dump a ton of exposition on you, instead letting the characters' actions tell you everything you need to know about the reality of this sci-fi future. They sprinkle just enough otherworldly weirdness into the visuals that it doesn't look like they just slapped a yellow filter on the camera and went into the woods to shoot, somehow striking that balance of recognizable and absolutely alien that gives us a grounded reality that doesn't look like some Sy-Fy Channel reject.

      I very much dug this one. Not sure when everybody will have a chance to see it, but it's too good to fall through the cracks. When it comes time make sure to check it out.

    • Ready Player One Is A Damn Blast!

      4 months ago


      Forgive me if this review feels a bit jumbled and ramble-y, but it's 3:30am as I sit down to write it. I have a screening I have to leave for in about 5 hours, but I'm honestly still amped up after having seen Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One.


      Right up front, this was the very first public screening of the movie, which was held during SXSW at the Paramount, a giant movie palace (balcony, paintings on the ceiling and everything) with the majority of the cast and Steven Spielberg himself present. The audience was electric, super into it buzzing even before the film started. There is no way this film has a better audience experience. There was cheering after the action scenes, roaring laughter at some of the jokes, pointing fingers constantly entering your periphery as different people noticed different iconic vehicles/characters/designs.

      All that stuff is infectious, so it has to be said that it could influence an opinion. Now you know the setting.

      My quick history with Ready Player One: I read the book once, right before it was published. I knew Ernie Cline a bit. He was in my extended circle. We all camped out for Episode 1 together. I sat down to read the book thinking I'd give it a chapter or two and pat him on the back, tell him I'd started it and good job or whatever. I was on an international flight when I started reading and when I looked up the flight was almost over and I had finished the book. It's a very fast read and compels you to keep going. It was a pulpy adventure success and I was happy for Ernie, but I honestly didn't think much more of it. Until Steven Spielberg got involved.

      You never count out Steven Spielberg. The man is a master filmmaker and even when he strikes out he at least swings big. By just about any measure I'm an easy mark here. He's my favorite filmmaker taking a stab at one of the geekiest things ever written.

      The thing is, Spielberg's a bigger geek than you are. No shit. He was a gamer before there was a word for it. At a core level he understands the appeal of the Oasis, the central online gaming reality the story revolves around, and he just happens to also be one of our most visually inventive filmmakers to boot.

      Some of the early marketing was off-putting to me. It felt like CG spectacle and I didn't get any sense of the characters, but I kept telling people openly mocking it that you discount Spielberg at your peril. And it turned out I was right.

      For those who don't know the world, Ready Player One is about a poor kid who lives in a future world that's not quite apocalyptic, but super shitty and drab. The one escape isn't movies or TV or reading... it's gaming, thanks to a system called OASIS, which is essentially the internet, but a video game. Everything you could possibly imagine is there. You can create any identity you want, play any kind of game you want, go anywhere you want. It's not quite real, but it's not too far off, either.


      Because it's a world of unlimited possibilities just about every pop culture character can be found in there. You like Overwatch or Halo or Nightmare on Elm Street or Iron Giant or Batman or Back to the Future or He-Man or Gremlins or a million other things? You can choose that as your avatar. Or you can be something wholly original. The one thing nobody is is themselves.

      Our hero, Wade Watts, is fascinated by the man who created it all, the Steve Jobs or Bill Gates of the Oasis, a socially awkward (and sadly deceased) genius named James Halliday who, in true Willy Wonka fashion, left a series of challenges within his huge gamescape that, if solved correctly, will lead to a hidden easter egg, which grants the winner complete ownership of OASIS. This isn't like someone getting to own a big game franchise. It's not even like someone getting to own Sony or Microsoft. Everybody is plugged in. This place has its own currency. This is like someone getting to own the internet itself.

      Naturally there are powerful corporate interests that want to own this for themselves and they want to pump it full of ads and pay to play features... they essentially want to revoke net neutrality and take humanity one step closer to a dystopian, corporate controlled reality.

      The key to solving these puzzles is to understand the creator and what he was obsessed with. Halliday was a child of the '80s, so his nerdy obsessions are rife with pop culture references and hints, but underneath it all there's a story of a sad, lonely man. Yes, there's a trillion things to dig in a nostalgic way, but what Spielberg does so well is build the world and the characters within it that you're invested in them.

      Much of the book is changed in this adaptation, but the breakneck pacing, sense of high adventure and huge beating heart are still there. Spielberg's sense of geography and ability to construct pulse-pounding action scenes is still as sharp as ever.

      There will be some that will write this off as a nostalgia trip and conveniently overlook how ingrained in the actual plot and character all the references are. This isn't a movie where you need to know everything on screen. I didn't know everything I saw, and I'm pretty fuckin' nerdy! All you have to be is invested in the characters and be willing to go for a ride. If you can then you're going to find yourself having a ton of fun.

      In Ready Player One Spielberg gave us one of the geekiest films ever made. It's certainly the geekiest film he's ever made, and that's saying something.

      I wish I could be a little more critical of it. There were a few moments that don't work and some over-explaining that happens in a few scenes, but I had the goofiest grin on my face the entire runtime of this movie and I'm still smiling. I'm sitting here, dog-tired with a big day of interviews and movie-watching coming up and I'm still smiling like a frickin' doofus over this movie.

      It's just flat out fun. This will be a litmus test movie. We might be able to get along if you don't like this movie, but we're never going to be good friends. If you can't enjoy something that wants to make you happy so earnestly then I don't know if it's going to work out between us. Sorry, bud.

      Again, consider that I saw this in possibly the best setting ever and I'm just about exactly the target audience for this movie, but goddamn did it make me happy.  

      I might come back with a few more coherent (and not sleep-deprived) thoughts later, but this is where I'm at hours after the experience. 

    • SXSW Review: John Krasinski's Very Scary 'A Quiet Place'!

      4 months ago


      A Quiet Place does something pretty incredible. It takes what could be an arty, lofty uber-indie premise and somehow retains the freshness of those kinds of movies but does it in a wholly commercial way.

      I've seen dozens of these kinds of movies at film festivals. It Comes At Night jumps to mind. They're usually focused on a dysfunctional family isolated in the country after a plague/invasion/zombie apocalypse/whatever. It's a typical indie premise because it's cheap. You just need a handful of actors, go rent out a farm somewhere for a couple weeks and then depend on atmosphere and mystery instead of showing the very expensive threat. These movies usually bring the mood, but not the payoff. A Quiet Place brings both.


      The movie takes place in the near future (I believe it's 2020) and we begin with a family very quietly looking for medicine for their sick son in an abandoned drug store. They sign to each other, tiptoe around in bare feet and act like anything that could possibly make a sound is a live bomb.

      We come to discover that there are deadly creatures that are fast, heavily armored, blind and very, very hungry. Within a matter of months these creatures have reduced humanity's population to almost nothing. Although it's not explicitly stated I assume the family at the center of this story survived the initial onslaught because they've all learned sign language to communicate with their deaf daughter and just happened to be quieter at the right moment.

      Also left mysterious is where these things came from. Are they aliens? Mutations? Science experiments gone wrong? It doesn't matter. They just are. The fact that the movie doesn't try to over-explain the threat is one of the reasons it works so well.

      In fact the only time the film falters at all is when it yells to the cheap seats really early on by throwing a ton of exposition on a white board surrounded by dozens of newspaper headlines with headlines like “IT'S SOUND!!!” It's the only time I was taken out of the movie, where I felt the filmmakers telling me something instead of showing it to me.

      But for the most part the movie establishes its rules through action and doesn't break them. I'd wager a good 80% or more of the movie is without dialogue, characters either communicating with looks or subtitled sign language. That's the little bit of the indie spirit I mentioned. How many wide-release studio movies do you know that have so little characters speaking? The story is practically designed to show and not tell.

      It being a thriller also means they can weaponize their sound. Yes, there's tons of jump scares, but they don't feel cheap. In a film where any sound could mean death any sudden sound is going to be a stinger by sheer fact that the movie hangs on the premise that everybody has to be as quiet as possible.


      In fact I found while watching it that I was clocking my own noises. I was conscious of any noise I was making... from a sniffle to a laugh to small throat clearing. I was so into the story that I was worried I myself was going to make a noise loud enough to bring hell down on this family, who I genuinely cared about.

      That's the film's other great strength: you do care about these people and the fact that they're all so clearly established without multiple conversation scenes is a testament to how disciplined the writing and directing is. The characters make intelligent decisions, but are still human, fearful, in pain, emotional. Cinematically the film is a knockout, with gorgeous photography, great production design (minus that exposition white board I hate so much, of course), and incredible effects from ILM. Emotionally the actors all sell their characters so you actually care when they're in danger.

      Perhaps the very real love and history of caring for each other helps us buy John Krasinski and Emily Blunt's relationship. That wouldn't surprise me, but I wouldn't take away from what they pull off here by attributing it solely to a comfortability between the two. The kids, Millicent Simmonds (from Wonderstruck) and Noah Jupe (Wonder, Suburbicon) are equally fantastic. Simmonds wrestles with anger and a guilt while Jupe is trying to keep his terror under control. She's the stronger one, but he's the one that can see their troubled family for what it is. Maybe that's why he's so scared because he knows the love that is there and he doesn't want to lose it.

      In short, the movie is smart without being up its own ass, scary without betraying its emotional core, and it pulls you into the world, which is kind of why movies exist in the first place. Fresh, fun, scary. This is a big, big recommend for me. Thankfully you don't have to wait to long to see it since it hits theaters April 6th.


    • The New Terminator Film Ignores Everything That Happened After Terminator 2, Adds Mackenzie Davis to Cast

      4 months ago



      They're going to keep taking a stab at Terminator into they finally make another good one. As cynical as I want to be about yet another Terminator movie there's something interesting about this one. 

      For one, James Cameron is back in a creative capacity. He helped break the script and will be godfathering this project along for director Tim Miller (who last directed the first Deadpool). That's good news. 

      Schwarzenegger will be returning and so will Linda Hamilton, who is coming back as Sarah Connor and the story will ignore all Terminator movies past T2. (Sorry Edward Furlong, seems like you're shit outta luck).

      This is a tact becoming more and more popular with these large, often convoluted giant franchises. Halloween is doing that and for a hot minute the Alien franchise was going to do the same thing with Neill Blomkamp at the helm before that got scrapped for Ridley Scott to keep making his weird prequels.

      Variety just reported that Mackenzie Davis has been cast as the first new face for this attempt at rebooting the Terminator franchise, potentially as the new threat. Apparently the producers are still on the hunt for the film's new protagonist that will likely take the torch from Hamilton.

      Davis is awesome. She was the co-lead of Black Mirror's best episode (San Junipero, of course) and turns in an energetic performance in Jason Reitman's upcoming Tully. I don't know if I quite buy her as a threat, but we'll see how this new movie uses her.

      The new Terminator has a release date of July 26th, 2019 and according to Schwarzenegger starts shooting very soon. 

      Count me as cautious, but optimistic on this one.

    • A Wrinkle In Time Isn't Perfect, But It's Pretty Damn Good

      4 months ago



      My personal history with A Wrinkle In Time is short. I've known it existed as a book, but I never read it growing up and it just never got into my “to read” pile as an adult. So, I went into Ava DuVernay's adaptation pretty much blind.

      And I liked it. A lot.

      Is it perfect? Nope. There is some on-the-nose exposition at the beginning that had me dreading the rest of the movie. Young Charles Wallace overhears two teachers talking about his sister, Meg, our protagonist and they are there to explain to the cheap seats Meg's whole backstory, why she's withdrawn and moody and why the school bullies are drawn to her in two or three back and forths. Very lazy, but at least DuVernay and screenwriters Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell make these character integral to kicking off the next scene, in which Meg confronts one of her bullies.

      And the rest of the movie is fairly clear of that kind of exposition, letting the actions of the characters and visuals propel the story instead of some character explaining to us what's going on at every step.

      At the end of the day, that's a nitpick. I can easily see some people being turned off at the heavily CG'd fantasy worlds that unfold as Meg, Charles Wallace and Meg's friend Calvin go on an adventure to find her missing father, but thanks to a particularly layered and charismatic leading performance by Storm Reid I was in for the ride.

      The film emotionally hooked me thanks to that character and the overall message of hope, kindness and empathy. It also helped that when “The It” comes into the picture DuVernay didn't shrink away from making it creepy. I got tone flashes of some of my favorite '80s kids fantasy, like The Neverending Story, Legend, Something Wicked This Way Comes and Labyrinth as I was watching this. It's always appreciated when a family film decides to embrace the weird and unsettling and this one does just that.

      But the real takeaway here is the message of positivity, not just for the world, but for yourself as well. Put love out into the world, but don't forget to keep a little bit of it for yourself. The villain of the piece is an entity that feeds your deepest, darkest fears. It's not something that influences you to be mean to other people... that happens, but it happens because you don't like yourself. You obsess over your flaws and don't view them the things that make you unique.

      For children watching that's a powerful pill buried in the spoonful of sugar of the fun adventure story, especially since most of them are about to experience the brain-melting lightning storm of hormones and self-doubt that comes with puberty.

      The acting is great across the board. Chris Pine proves yet again he's one of the most charismatic actors in the business right now, Levi Miller continues to be a promising up and comer (he was Peter Pan in the recent not-great PAN and was the lead of a fun little Christmas-set horror flick called Better Watch Out), Deric McCabe is a bit precocious as the loud, super smart 6 year old Charles Wallace, but I found him to have a definite spark that kept him from becoming annoying and, as I mentioned before Storm Reid really makes this movie for me.


      She brings such a level of depth to Meg without making her a broody young teen. She's so good at making the character feel effortlessly real that I know she has some real chops. Every time you see something on the screen that looks easy you know it was anything but. A whole lot of work goes into making things feel like no work went into them.

      She's great and has a great support system. Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling are essentially the Blue Fairy, The Fairy Godmother and the Good Witch of the North mixed together and split into three people and they play their omniscient beings of good and light with a knowing smile. There's some trickster in them and that helps keep them from just being a type.

      Ultimately, I cared about the story because I cared about Meg and SHE cares about the story. You like Calvin and her dorky little brother because she likes them. You want to see her reunited with her father because she so desperately needs it to happen. You get wowed by the fantasy worlds she enters because she is. Meg is the key and also happens to be the best thing about the movie.

      I don't know if A Wrinkle In Time is as big of a movie as something like Black Panther, but I am positive that for a certain age range this film will be hugely influential and important. I'm an adult that dug it, so there will be those, too, but this is a film that kids are going to obsess over. Children of color, white kids, boys and girls... it's about as an inclusive story as you could hope for and the way DuVernay filmed it was designed to draw you into this crazy world.

    • Michael Bay Directing Robopocalypse?

      4 months ago



      Looks like Michael Bay might be taking over Robopocalypse directing duties from Steven Spielberg. For a long, long time Spielberg was trying to adapt Daniel H. Wilson's quite good book with a goofy-ass title and he got close. I remember reading an interview with Spielberg during that process and he was genuinely excited about the adaptation process, just said the script wasn't quite there yet and someone else was coming in to do another pass.

      Then it just seemed to fade into the background as Spielberg focused on his more drama-centric stuff like Bridge of Spies, War Horse and most recently The Post. 

      The book reads like World War Z, but instead of a zombie apocalypse it's a... well, you know what the title is. But it's told in that oral tradition style that World War Z did so well. 

      Michael Bay is a bit... heavy-handed... to do this, but we do know he loves robots at war. The problem is the reason you'd make this particular story isn't the backdrop, but the character work in the human story. Can Bay be trusted with that? I'm not so sure. 

      Variety reports that Bay would make Robopocalypse after a mysterious action film called 6 Underground, written by Deadpool's Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, so it's at the very least a couple years away still if it happens at all. But it is interesting. What do you guys think of this development?

    • Everybody could use a little more Pooh in their lives...

      4 months ago


      Okay so Disney isn't content with just giving us Star Wars and Marvel movies, they've also been going through their back catalogue for a while now and making hugely successful live action versions of their films. Alice in Wonderland (love it or hate it, it made a ridiculous amount of money), Jungle Book, Cinderella, Malificent, Pete's Dragon and they have Peter Pan, Dumbo, The Lion King, Mary Poppins Returns and Aladdin in the works as we speak. 

      Christopher Robin kind of slipped under the radar a little bit, probably because we also recently got that Finding Neverland-ish Good-bye Christopher Robin and this one was able to stay hidden in that one's shadow until this very second. 

      But now there's a trailer and Ewan McGregor is playing a growed up Christopher Robin having trouble finding the proper work/life balance... until some piece of Pooh comes back into his life. 

      It's actually a pretty good trailer and pulled at some nostalgic heartstrings I didn't even realize were there. Looks like they threw Paddington in a blender with the original Mary Poppins. I can dig that... 

    • Red Sparrow Is A Super Solid Espionage Movie!

      4 months ago



      Red Sparrow is really solid. It's the kind of made-for-adults slow burn espionage film that thrived in the '70s here in the US and pops up occasionally overseas. Paul Verhoeven's Black Book is the last movie I can remember evoking the very unique tone.

      Gone are the YA sensibilities you might expect from a reteam of Hunger Games director and star Francis Lawrence and Jennifer Lawrence (no relation) and in its place is a Cold War powder keg that is punctuated with moments of extreme violence and sexuality.

      Basically you have Jennifer Lawrence playing Dominika, a Russian Prima Ballerina whose creepy uncle enlists into the state's seductress spy program after she breaks her leg and thus becomes... not as graceful? I don't know how ballet works, but her life is pretty much over. Her passion was dancing and she worked towards being the best since she was a small child and now that's gone.

      Also gone is the money, nursing care for her sick mom and the housing provided by the ballerina company. She's desperate and agrees to use her beauty and former fame to help entrap an enemy of the state. Of course that goes violent very quickly and she's forced to choose death for her and her mother or enlisting to become a Sparrow. 

      She chooses option B.

      What I really liked about this movie was how delicately and intricately the intrigue was laid out. Dominka is smart, but always in danger. How much leverage does the State have over her? How many chess moves ahead is she at any given time? Who is she playing?

      That mystery is what makes or breaks a good espionage thriller and I think Francis Lawrence nailed it here. 


      The plot is less focused on solving the core mystery of figuring out who is the mole within the Russian hierarchy that is being protected by the US and more about how the hell Dominika is going to survive. She's not Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde. She can't fight her way out of any situation. But she's far from weak, but she's not Wonder Woman. Her superpower lies in smarts and manipulation.

      There are a couple of moments in the movie where she's in life or death situations and has to fight and when those happen the violence is brutal, realistic and dangerous. A knife is scarier than a gun here and I love it when a movie can feel dangerous for its lead. 

      Lawrence gives it her all here and crafts a character that is strong because of her weaknesses. She's on a pretty hot streak at the moment. Love or hate mother! you have to admit that she gives a tour de force performance in it, despite what the dipshits that run the Razzies think. 

      She's using her fame to help interesting projects that would not get off the ground without her A-list power and that's something she should be commended for. I'm sure she's offered every rom-com script in Hollywood, but she's choosing weird instead.

      Red Sparrow isn't a movie designed to wow you with giant set pieces. It's built to pull you into a world and make you care about the leads. You'll try to figure out who's playing who and at what point and if you're anything like me you'll be a couple steps ahead of the movie at some points and then realize you're way behind at other points. 

      I dig this one a lot.

    • Holy Shit! Avengers: Infinity War Moved Up! You Can See It April 27th!!!

      4 months ago



      Well, well, well... Looks like we're all going to get to see Avengers: Infinity War earlier than expected! Marvel and Robert Downey Jr. teamed up to make the announcement on Twitter via a smart bit of cheeky PR. Check it out here

      It's such good news! It means we all get to see it earlier than expected and lets us have a chance to go back a couple of times before Deadpool 2 and Solo come out. It's quite possible that was the point of the move, to minimize the overlap between Infinity War's Box Office and Solo's and also don't forget that Deadpool is soon enough going to be welcomed into the Disney Marvel family, too.

      Excited yet? I'm excited. That's next month! I mean, it's still, like almost two months away, but technically this is March and it releases in April, so I'm still right! 

    • Tarantino Titles His Next Flick, Casts Brad Pitt & Leonardo DiCaprio

      4 months ago



      First of all, I know there's some controversy around this project and I myself am not all that interested in seeing a Manson Family-ish movie, but you know what I am interested in? Anything that Tarantino wants to do. If he wants to tell this story then he'll tell it in his way and that in and of itself is more interesting than 90% of other Tinseltown news. 

      He's calling the new project Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, which automatically frames the new film in an epic light. Sergio Leone started the Once Upon A Time trend with Once Upon A Time In The West, which is just flat out great. Seek it out if you haven't seen it. It uses Widescreen unlike just about any other movie ever made. 

      Many years later Leone made Once Upon A Time In America, another fantastic film that gave the epic treatment to a whole new genre. It was more a Godfather-ish Italian Crime story. 

      Robert Rodriguez took that title trend and applied to a goofy action flick called Once Upon A Time In Mexico that is distinctly Rodriguez, even if it's nowhere near the same league as Leone's movies. 

      The point is Once Upon A Time In... has come to mean something to cinephiles. If you use that title you think epic story told in the unique style of its director and shot in wide-wide-widescreen. 

      So Tarantino using the title paints a picture already of his plans of doing a period '60s film set in Hollywood. Knowing his tastes I'd expect a long film overflowing with colorful, richly drawn characters.

      Two of those characters will be played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt. DiCaprio will play Rick Dalton, former western TV star, and Pitt will be his stunt double, Cliff Booth. Both are trying to figure out their place in the world as they age out of the system they know. Also, Rick happens to live next door to Sharon Tate, the most famous victim of the Manson Family. 

      We know that Tarantino has approached Margot Robbie to play Sharon Tate, but we don't know if she's signed on yet. 

      Anyway, that's the news. Pitt and DiCaprio are onboard and the movie's called Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. I personally can't wait to see how this one comes together. 

  • Comments (8)

  • ericvespe's Pictures

    There are no images yet. Create an album!

  • Questions

    No questions have been answered yet

  • Videos

    ericvespe's Videos