Chad Liffmann

Film Review: The Great Wall

by Chad Liffmann on February 17, 2017

White male hero leads dumpster fire movie to a forgettable fate.

Do we LOOK like we’re having fun?

I chose the above picture for very specific reasons. I could’ve chosen a more beautiful shot of a heroic looking Matt Damon atop The Great Wall of China. But no, I preferred this one for the way it captures the feeling one has while watching The Great Wall — the feeling of trudging through the sewer, acting unfazed while knowing deep down that the journey will result in nothing but a sh*tty mess. If you were considering watching The Great Wall as a fun activity this weekend (or at some point), let me save you the two hours you’d never get back. First, The Great Wall is offensive for its white savior narrative. Second, it’s poorly shot and edited. And third, it features cartoonish special effects and thus can’t even manage to string together two minutes of respectable cinema without an embarrassing element restarting the clock.

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John Wick proves once again that style can be substantive

Baba Yaga is coming!

In 2014, John Wick combined a Taken-esque simplistic revenge tale with the unrelenting action of Korean and Indonesian action films like The Raid and doused it in stylized modernity. Directed by first-timer Chad Stahelski, who was the stunt coordinator and choreographer for dozens of action titles including multiple Keanu Reeves films like The Matrix trilogy, the film was highly regarded for its action sequences and instantly iconic central protagonist — a solemn hitman with an uncanny ability to kill. John Wick: Chapter Two continues mere hours after the first story left off, if not a day, and it maintains the same action sensibilities of the first film, including the knack for avoiding action cliches like checking bullet proof vests in the middle of gun fights and disregarding armed baddies after “offing” them with a single punch or non-fatal shot. The sequel also expands upon the original’s soft intro to an alternate world in which a secret society of assassins exists, with assassin currency and assassin leadership. This element may be exciting to some and a bit boring to others who prefer the franchise’s most prominent strength—lavishly choreographed action sequences. And still, John Wick: Chapter Two is a stellar sequel that packs a slick punch, in which carefully staged gun fights transcend violent skirmishes to become blood-splattered works of escapist art scored by cool electronic thumps.

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BLAP! ZLOTT! KAPOW! LEGO Batman punches its way to be one of the most entertaining DC movies yet

Batman is reeeaaally annoyed by Robin.

Fresh off the disappointing start to the expanded DC cinematic universe with Batman v Superman and Suicide Squadin swings The LEGO Batman Movie, a refreshingly funny meta action flick. Will Arnett reprises his vocal role as the caped crusader, his second feature film appearance since stealing the show in the 2014 smash hit The LEGO MovieIt was only eight months after The LEGO Movie‘s initial theatrical release that Warner Bros. announced that Arnett/Batman was to get his own flick, ultimately helmed by Robot Chicken producer Chris McKay. The quick trigger finger wasn’t without merit. Inspired by Christian Bale’s most recent take on Batman in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, and with the endless ability to skewer the super hero universe and genre that have been constantly under the microscope lately, LEGO Batman was a sure bet. And, indeed, the bet paid off. The LEGO Batman Movie is a fun, frenetic, visual marvel with a little less witty humor and heart than its LEGO film predecessor. But with enough laughs and dazzling animation to ensure its blockbuster status, it also places among the best superhero films of the last few years.

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A biting, hilariously crude musical parody.

I don’t believe there’d be many folks who’d argue that Silence of the Lambs isn’t ripe for parody. The distinct characters, the famous lines, the bone-chilling seriousness of it all — all primed for spoofing. The good news is that the feat has been accomplished in a fun, shockingly crude way by Cloud 9 Theatricals, Lang Entertainment Group, and Ray of Light Theatre in their production of Silence! The Musical (show now extended through March 18th! – tickets here). The show is an incredibly tight, minimalist production punctuated by musical numbers culled from infamous lines of dialogue and plot elements of Jonathan Demme’s 1991 film. Scott Hayes and Anne Norland, who I had the chance to interview, play Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling, leading the bill of the 10 member cast. Yes, that’s right, the picture above includes 7/10 of the total cast. Aside from the two leads and Brian Watson as Buffalo Bill, the remaining seven cast members wear multiple hats, playing an assortment of characters including a chorus of lambs, FBI agents, work colleagues, guards, etc. The manic energy and precisely crafted parodical elements of the show make Silence! a ridiculously fun time at the theatre.

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Silence! The Musical opens at the Victoria Theatre in San Francisco on Friday, February 3rd — tickets here. The “unauthorized parody of Silence of the Lambs” is a show you are not to miss. In eager anticipation for the show, I got the opportunity to ask the two leads, Anne Norland (who plays Clarice Starling) and Scott Hayes (who plays Hannibal Lecter), some questions…

Before landing your roles, had you seen “Silence of the Lambs” and what were your thoughts on the film?

Anne: I am such a scaredy-cat when it comes to scary films or images. I was familiar with Jodie Foster’s accent and style in the movie, but I actually only really sat down and watched the movie start to finish in preparation for my callback for Silence! It scared the shit out of me. Psychological dramas are the scariest for me. It’s not gore-y or sneak-out-of-the-closet-and-spook-you like a slasher movie, but it’s freaky because that Giallo style gets under your skin (…no pun intended?). Any minute, someone might try to shove me in a well or bite into my face.

Scott: I actually saw the film the night after it opened back in 1991. Not only do I recall it being terrifying, but also remember the audience as a whole responding with gasps and screams. It was a genuine collective experience in the best way.

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Film Review: Split

by Chad Liffmann on January 20, 2017

Shyamalan works really hard to avoid his own traps, and manages to deliver an entertaining thriller.

Creepy personality #1

I really wish M. Night Shyamalan would share a writing credit for once. His screenplays are constantly in need of supervision and a seasoned story writer to cut the fat. The stunted dialogue, contrivances, and lecture hall exposition can sometimes take precedent over plot progression. The same is nearly the case in Split, Shyamalan’s newest film and the most promising return to his mid-late 90s form after many disappointing tries. Split is a tense thriller and features a tour de force from James McAvoy. The film still succumbs to a few stereotypical pitfalls of the thriller genre, but the final product is still an entertaining, and at times chilling, experience featuring shades of Hitchcockian tactics.

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Film Review: Silence

January 6, 2017
www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcNKM4TI41E

Scorsese has, at long last, delivered his faithful long-lasting delivery on faith I’m not opposed to a film with a 160+ minute running time. What I do mind is when that movie doesn’t utilize its extended running time properly. It’s hard to fault Martin Scorsese for ensuring that his new film, Silence, runs a simmering 160 minutes. […]

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Film Feature: Chad’s Top 10 Films of 2016

December 31, 2016

Spinning Platters film critics present their top 10 films of 2016 Spinning Platters film critics Carrie Kahn and Chad Liffmann each share their ten favorite films of 2016. Here is Chad’s list, presented in descending rank order. And check out Carrie’s list! 10.) Hail, Caesar! It takes a few viewings to fully appreciate the tremendous wit and […]

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Film Review: Assassin’s Creed

December 21, 2016
www.youtube.com/watch?v=4haJD6W136c

The long wait for a good video game adaptation continues. Callum Lynch sits in the mess hall of a secret lab, having just been ported into the memories of a master assassin, his ancestor. He holds an apple firmly in his hand and says, “what the fuck is happening?” Mr. Lynch, you took the words right […]

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Film Review: Passengers

December 21, 2016
www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BWWWQzTpNU

Half male fantasy, half space actioner, all catastrophic. Bro, imagine you have your own giant resort space ship and you can do whatever you want, right!? Now imagine you get this hot chick with you and then you both get to do whatever you want. WHATEVER. YOU. WANT! How sweet would that be?! Okay, so this stupid […]

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