Matt Singer Biography
When I first wrote about the true-crime documentary series The Jinx a couple of weeks ago, I was the only person I knew who was watching it. A few weeks later, it’s all anyone is talking about. It’s been one of the top trending topics on Twitter for three days straight, and my personal feed is clogged with debates about the case and the ethics of the filmmakers’ behavior. As I left my hotel in Austin yesterday morning, pundits were discussing the show on CNN; as I wrote most of this piece at the Austin airport, two men at the table next to me in the food court were talking about it as well. I spent a month recommending the show to people who looked at me like I was crazy (“The Jinx? Like the kid’s game?”). The show went from total obscurity to inescapable pop-cultural phenomenon in a matter of hours.
Furious 7 almost certainly won’t be the last Fast & Furious movie. But at times it feels like a series finale. There are numerous callbacks and homages to the franchise’s entire 15-year history. The setpieces are bigger and crazier than ever; it’s hard to imagine anyone topping them. And before the chases really get rolling, the mood is often downright mournful. Two different scenes are set in graveyards, and characters talk about taking “one last ride” together.
Movies are often compared to dreams. If that’s true, then filmmakers are dreamers. When Eric Zala and Chris Strompolos were kids, they dreamed of making movies, so they spent most of their childhood summers in Mississippi making a shot-for shot remake of Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. The project eventually consumed seven years of their lives and nearly destroyed their friendship, but in the end, Zala and Strompolos completed their film, which they called Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation.
Ex Machina is Alex Garland’s first film as a director but it’s very simpatico with his screenplays for movies like 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and Dredd. As a writer, Garland likes to work in compact universes — an abandoned city, a spaceship headed to the sun, a gang-infested high-rise — where characters are trapped together and pitted against one another. In Ex Machina’s story of a brilliant technologist who creates artificial intelligence, he’s found a man who fashions himself as something of an inquisitive god, and there’s a bit of that notion in Garland’s work as well — he builds little petrie dishes of life, testing mankind’s resolve under extreme stress to see whether we crack under the pressure. His findings are usually not promising.
If comedy filmmakers weren’t already jealous of their television brethren, they will be after they watch HBO’s 7 Days in Hell, which uses the cable network’s permissive attitude toward adult material to tell envelope-pushing jokes that no mainstream movie could ever hope to get past the MPAA. 7 Days in Hell is funny enough to play in a multiplex (even if, at 50 minutes, it’s not quite feature length), but its hilariously vulgar jokes would definitely saddle it with a box-office poisoning NC-17 rating. On HBO, though, anything goes, and thank goodness because director Jake Syzmanski and writer Murray Miller were able to produce a mockumentary that giddilypulses with a sense of absolute freedom — freedom from content restrictions and freedom to experiment with weird strains of comedy that would never fly in a mainstream Hollywood film.
Unfriended wants to do for social media what The Ring did for VHS tapes — take a piece of everyday technology and turn it into an object of uncommon terror. A bunch of teenagers on Skype have their group call interrupted by an intruder who claims to be a dead classmate who killed herself after she was cyberbullied. The entire movie takes place on a computer screen as one of the girls in the group, Blaire (Shelley Hennig), browses the Internet, checks her Facebook, and chats with her friends about the anonymous assailant who abuses and threatens them and then starts picking them off one-by-one. What follows becomes an original gloss on a very unoriginal subgenre. Its very clever and creepy merging of movie and technology is nearly ruined by a stale horror clichés.
The news out of Disney’s shareholder meeting keeps on coming. This one isn’t much of a surprise: Disney is making Frozen 2. In a related story, the sky is blue and water is wet (until a princess with freezing powers comes along and turns it into ice).
For months it’s been rumored, now it’s confirmed: Rian Johnson, the writer and director of Brick and Looper is officially the writer and director of Star Wars: Episode VIII. Disney CEO Robert Iger also revealed to company shareholders today that Episode VIII has its official release date: May 26, 2017 — 40 years and a single day after the release of the very first Star Wars back in 1977.
Robert Downey Jr., presenting a bionic Iron Man arm to an exceedingly well-dressed 7-year-old fan named Alex, who was born with a partially developed right arm. The arm wasn’t built by Tony Stark, but rather by a college student named Albert Manero who makes low-cost 3D-printed bionic limbs for children. But Downey received the honor and pleasure of presenting him with his new arm, and comparing it to one of his own Iron Man suits.
There’s a new Liam Neeson movie this week, as it seems there is almost every week lately. Since Taken debuted in some seven years ago, Neeson has become one of the most prolific actors in Hollywood, churning out gritty B-movies and action pictures at a clip of two or three a year. (His last film, Tak3n, came out less than two months ago; his next, Ted 2, comes out in June.)