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Nightcrawler tips his hat to cinematic history while still carving its own place.

At the core of Nightcrawler, its clear to see the forefathers that Dan Gilroy studied for his impressive debut as a director. Its core idea of portraying the inherent power […]

At the core of Nightcrawler, its clear to see the forefathers that Dan Gilroy studied for his impressive debut as a director. Its core idea of portraying the inherent power of film and how it could be abused is easily linked to Network and Peeping Tom, movies that put forth the question of whether our entertainment with murder and suffering has any limits both by questioning the audience itself and pushing the characters over Ethical Street and way past Mental Breakdown lane. Whereas its character-centered structure and main character’s disregard for social rules/narrow focus on transformation are both reminiscent of Taxi Driver. However, much like with Tarantino’s films, Nightcrawler is still joyously unique without being bogged down by its references and ancestry.

Jake Gyllenhaal has become an indie darling, anchoring films like Prisoners and Enemy with his hard-won star power in order to perform roles that he simply could not have performed during his Prince of Persia days. His role as Louis Bloom requires the sort of trick that very few performers can quite nail, where his dialogue and his mannerisms must be both enrapturing and disgusting. Most importantly, we’re supposed to believe that this slimy man who speaks only in office administration “wisdom” can captivate the people around him. Gyllenhaal is remarkably successful at this wire walk act and he’s probably half the reason the film works so well.

The other half is one of the better scripts of 2014, with zippy dialogue, dark humor and a sense of tone and place that could only come from years of experience. While Dan Gilroy’s work before Nightcrawler is pretty much the work of a gun-for-hire, Nightcrawler suggests a passion for noir and the skills to showcase those passions on the page and the screen without coming across as a fan so much as a student. The script goes in truly unpredictable places thanks to a character who is not easy to pin down and whose ambitions (and the escalation) are both clear and impossible to fully comprehened.

With all of this said, the film has some flaws that need addressing. While Rene Russo is wonderful as Nina, the script’s treatment of her seems to be missing a few beats in order for her final decisions to fully work. And in general, there’s a sense in the second half of characters announcing that Lines Have Been Crossed in blunt ways, which distracts from the fact that watching Louis’ cross those lines is so damn fun in the first place. But those are minor gripes for what is a very remarkable film crackling with life and energy in spite of (or perhaps because of) some its self-indulging cliches, such as the “Mirror Cracking” scene.

The cinematography and the editing deserve mentions here. Nightcrawler looks like snuff stuff, deadly and erotic. Los Angeles is a town that has been obviously portrayed through film as either hell or heaven and everything in between. While Nightcrawler’s cinematography does not go out of its way to do so, it subtly accomplishes a great deal of dread simply by showing the dark side of a city that is often seen as utopia.  More than that, the coverage knows how to increase the tension and power of every moment. Scenes like Louis’ coverage of a home invasion are brutal and almost unbearable, thanks to a script that knows where this character is and more than that, thanks to the editing knowing when to switch point of views and makes us question how much are we to relate to Louis in his equalization of filmed violence to pleasure and money.

Admittedly, Nightcrawler’s focus towards satire does not really click. While it’s angle on the perverse pleasure of cinematic violence is more than valid, it’s angle on our daily news coverage seems to be an exaggeration. But after all, this is a movie where the protagonist could be revealed as an alien from outer space trying to adapt to our capitalist society and I don’t think any person in the audience would be really surprised. It’s dealing in exaggerations is a feature rather than a bug.

Overall, Nightcrawler is an impressive debut by already established Hollywood royalty finally finding its place outside of what its expected of them. If Dan Gilroy was to make more movies like these, I think most of us would be thankful.

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Martin Luther King Jr is humanized in Selma

One of the most frustrating aspects of biopic films in American/British films is how overtly simplistic they are. Biographies tend to lionize their protagonists and reduce their life to moments […]

One of the most frustrating aspects of biopic films in American/British films is how overtly simplistic they are. Biographies tend to lionize their protagonists and reduce their life to moments meant to stir emotion through orchestral scores and sweeping shots meant to showcase genius or courage.  They also tend to not show why these characters/people were remarkable, instead showing the historical consequences of their genius and/or courage as we barrel through a series of wikipedia notes (and sometimes, it’s even less accurate)

While Selma has been criticized by many as inaccurate in its portrayal of LBJ, the truth is that the problem at play is not about accuracy. Historical films are not really documentaries. It’s fine to contort history into a dramatic context in order to create a more powerful narrative that audiences can relate to. The issue is when emotional truth is lost. While Selma might have decided to go against LBJ’s personality and principles, it still manages to be a film that’s true to both the reality of the civil rights movement then and the reality of racial oppression in America today.

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Galavant Aspires To Great Things But Does Not Achieve

Swashbuckling adventure stories lend themselves well to self-parody, perhaps better than any other genre. It probably has to do with the genre already being rather comedy-heavy and light-hearted to begin […]

Swashbuckling adventure stories lend themselves well to self-parody, perhaps better than any other genre. It probably has to do with the genre already being rather comedy-heavy and light-hearted to begin with, but movies like The Princess Bride, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, and of course Monty Python and The Holy Grail have been cult classics due to how they play with the formula, the latter going into outright absurdity. Galavant is the newest attempt to join that list with one added twist. It’s also a musical with new songs in every episode. Such an ambitious idea alone is worth taking note for the month it takes up Once Upon A Time’s time slot.

The story opens with a song about our hero Galavant (Joshua Sasse) and how he’s gone off to rescue his one true love Madalena (Mallory Jansen) from the clutches of the evil King Richard. (Timothy Omundson) Unfortunately, when he comes to interrupt the wedding, he’s found that Madalena actually rather likes the comfort and privilege of being a queen. A depressed Galavant leaves the castle and proceeds to drink himself into a blind stupor. Two years later, he’s approached by Princess Isabella (Karen David) who needs her help to save her kingdom. With his squire Sid (Luke Youngblood) with them, they head off to adventure and hijinks.

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Saving Sleepy Hollow: The Things That Keep It From Regaining Its Former Glory.

I love Sleepy Hollow. I love the time-displaced Ichabod, I love Abbie and her loose-canon sister Jenny, and I love the imaginative monsters it’s given us week after week. I […]

I love Sleepy Hollow. I love the time-displaced Ichabod, I love Abbie and her loose-canon sister Jenny, and I love the imaginative monsters it’s given us week after week. I love it even now, after a series of grave mis-steps, including new characters that haven’t worked out as well as had been desired, pacing issues, and just a general loss of focus moved the show from something I was frequently excited to see to something a lot more lukewarm. The mid-season finale -a thing that TV is apparently doing now- featured a pretty big shift for the show, so I had hoped for a more positive shift. However, the addition of an archangel as a villain seems to imply that rather than restructuring what worked and made the show unique the show is moving in a more generic, safe direction.

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Heavyweight Champions of 2014: Interstellar

Space exploration is probably one of the most fascinating human concerns in our times, since it says so much about the idealized human spirit that we constantly chase as a […]

Space exploration is probably one of the most fascinating human concerns in our times, since it says so much about the idealized human spirit that we constantly chase as a society. We’re Survivors, We’re Craftsmen, We’re Heroes, bound not to this Earth but to this universe, and whose dreams are equal to our reach as well as our thirst for knowledge. Or some other philosophical wax.

I have personally always found it fascinating because it’s easy to link it up to another narrative that involves the re-examination of our collective and individual identities: the immigrant story. Much like in immigrant stories, the travelers are people who are searching for better lives and a place where they can finally let go of the emotional baggage that has haunted them in their previous lives, either due to their culture or due to their mistakes (sometimes and most often, both) It is in space, then, that most sci-fi storytellers decide to test and examine how much we’re bound to these concepts of countries, borders, cultures and “home”. And most importantly, the ones that compel me go a long way towards liberating or stripping these characters of these in order to reach a raw, naked emotional truth.

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Why Blockbusters Franchises Won’t Destroy Cinema

I just returned from seeing the Hobbit. I had enough fun, having seen the things that I expected to see with the creativity that Peter Jackson brings, but felt that […]

I just returned from seeing the Hobbit. I had enough fun, having seen the things that I expected to see with the creativity that Peter Jackson brings, but felt that the intent of a children’s book was lost in favor of conforming to the current model of high-octane action franchises. This was something the original Lord of The Rings trilogy managed to pull off without losing the appeal and charm of the initial book. With the Hobbit, a lighthearted children’s book, things became a bit more of a problem. There are plenty of angry reviews of the Hobbit though, so I find it immensely more interesting to talk about its place in the current landscape of films.

As 2014 has passed, you’ve no doubt seen a number of articles, discussing the very subject, many lamenting the overpowering presence of the franchise, bemoaning the presence of Young Adult novel and comic book adaptations. Oftentimes the word ‘teenager’ will be used in a derogatory context, as though teenagers are some subhuman mass dedicated to ruining meaningful film rather than a subset of the human population that are no less deserving of fiction that speaks to them. The general idea is simple, that the dominance of big franchised blockbusters is polluting the market and preventing more meaningful, artistic films. There was even a pretty good movie that lived under that pretense this year.

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Greetings from your New Editor In Chief

I was against writing this post from the start. Nerdstock doesn’t exactly get many eyeballs so the idea of change is not exactly a dangerous one, by any means. And by that very same token, there’s not an actual need for transparency. But more than that, I didn’t want to seem presumptuous for taking charge of the situation, since it was bestowed upon me upon circumstances that I feel don’t prove that I deserve the title. But I suppose that’s that writer self-perception working out against you.

So, I guess an explanation is in order. As of a month ago, Chris decided to make me an admin and to let me take over as Editor In Chief of Nerdstock.com. His reasoning being that I was writing the bigger load for the website and that I was providing quality content for the site.  I was very tempted to say no but I realized, as much as Chris did, that he wasn’t in a position where he could take Nerdstock to the heights we both wanted to take it to.

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The Last Colbert Report Says Good Bye To Stephen Colbert And One Of Most Unique voices In Comedy.

This Thursday night saw the ending of The Colbert Report. Having gone for nine years and over fourteen hundred episodes, Stephen Colbert has left Comedy Central to take over for […]

This Thursday night saw the ending of The Colbert Report. Having gone for nine years and over fourteen hundred episodes, Stephen Colbert has left Comedy Central to take over for David Letterman, which made me wonder if the people behind the ‘Cancel Colbert’ movement had made a wish upon a monkey paw since it required him to retire the character with the same name. While I wish Stephen Colbert well on his new endeavor and will watch his show the night it airs, I feel something of a sorrow to see the character of Stephen Colbert go. There was a unique magic to Colbert, a dedicated parody that ended up growing into a mad, beautiful character with a life of his own.

Stephen Colbert started out as a clear-cut parody of Bill O’Reilly. His first episode featured ‘truthiness’ which was a word mocking the gut-based emotional responses that typified O’Reilly. One of my favorite moments of the show came when Colbert managed to get O’Reilly to come on his show’ ‘Don’t you see!’ O’Reilly cried. ‘This is all an act.’ This prompted a dumbfounded Colbert to reply ‘If you’re an act, then what am I?” Of course Colbert couldn’t have lasted nearly a decade without evolving. Colbert grasped the ideas of a comical blowhard and grew him out into an auteur egotist, having had his own superpac, talking about a series of novels where his self-insert was the most heroic womanizer in space, holding a years-long grudge with K-pop artist Rain that culminated in a dance-off, and much more.

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On Die Hard, The Best Christmas Movie of All Time

The idea of Die Hard being a Christmas film is not new by any means. After all, it is a subversive joke often told when the inevitable question about “the […]

The idea of Die Hard being a Christmas film is not new by any means. After all, it is a subversive joke often told when the inevitable question about “the best Christmas film” comes up. Usually and to many, the joke means that Die Hard is only peripherally a Christmas film when in reality it’s a purely thrilling action affair with very few concerns outside of being Rambo in a building. Which is a very understandable position since Die Hard’s underlying ideas and humanism are easy to ignore or treat as simple comedic fodder.

But I would posit that Die Hard’s approach to almost all of the characters we see in the screen is completely humanizing. Almost every bit player gets to have a personality and the audience’s understanding if not necessarily their sympathy. Very few action movies dedicate to characterization like this. And I would argue that this angle is what turns Die Hard into one of the most compelling Christmas dramas out there.

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When You Play the Game of Thrones, You Win or You Die. (Hint: You die.)

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” That particular saying is bandied about so frequently nowadays that I’m worried it’s actually permanently engraved into my skull, […]

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.”

That particular saying is bandied about so frequently nowadays that I’m worried it’s actually permanently engraved into my skull, taking up valuable space I could be using to remember details about taxes and other Important Adult Skills. So as I eagerly fired up Telltale’s latest endeavor, Game of Thrones, that particular line was ringing in my ears. ‘I’m going to be fine’, I reassure myself. ‘I’ve read the books and seen the show, I know these characters better than they know themselves. I can be clever. I can be cruel to save my own life. I’m gonna rock this.’

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