Friday, May 31, 2013

A Look Inside Heath Ledger's Joker Diary...

A Look Inside Heath Ledger's Joker Diary

I still remember the day I found out Heath Ledger died. I was home from school, I was a senior at my high school. I checked my cellphone when I got home and noticed that an old buddy who had graduated ahead of me had called me. We used to go to movies and talk movies before he graduated last year, a real cool dude who knew his movies. His voice mail told me that Heath Ledger had passed away abruptly. 

Shocked, confusion and wonderment crossed my mind all at the same time. Ledger was only 28 when he died, how could this had happened? When my dad got home from work that night, he asked if I had heard the news and I remember he was just as confused as I was. I felt as if this made me even more curious to see "The Dark Knight" that upcoming summer.

I remember in 2007 when it was announced that Ledger would be playing The Joker in "The Dark Knight." I remember a lot of people panned the idea right away. Me? I was curious if anything, could the pretty boy from "The Patriot" and "10 Things I Hate About You" really pull off the most notorious supervillain in all of comics? Of course, when the movie came out, it was like a bomb going off. Ledger had pulled off the unthinkable. All I could think about for the upcoming weeks was how robbed we were of an actor who was primed to be someone special. I don't know how many of you saw "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus" but that was Ledger's official final film. It's actually quite good if you ask me, but that movie is very weird in much different way compared to "The Dark Knight." I still sit and ponder how dynamic Ledger's career would have been, if he were still alive today.

In Germany, there is a documentary series entitled "To Young To Die" a series which just featured Heath Ledger. On the series, Heath's father Kim Ledger shows us the diary Ledger kept while he worked on "The Dark Knight." 

Kim Ledger discusses how Heath used to get himself wrapped up in all of his characters, but for The Joker in particular Heath spent many nights locked in hotel room creating this character. The diary has many pictures of "A Clockwork Orange." Which is a movie director Christopher Nolan had Heath study to prepare for his character in "The Dark Knight."

What's really eerie is that the final page of the diary has the words "BYE BYE" written on them. Very eerie indeed.

This just goes to show that we were robbed of a true talent too soon. Here's to Heath Ledger.

Stand Up Guys Review

Stand Up Guys Review

Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin play retired gangsters who get together for one night of craziness. Al Pacino's character has been incarcerated for 28 years, and they are celebrating his release. Walken harbors a secret-he has to kill Pacino for the reasons he went to jail. This action-comedy has all the ingredients for a great film, however, for the most part, it fumbles the ball.

Al Pacino plays Val, Christopher Walken plays Doc. As the film opens, its pretty good. The chemistry between Pacino and Walken is what you'd expect...unbelievable. Walken, who seemingly disappeared for a couple years is back and still great. I thought he did really good in "Seven Psychopaths" last year, and it just feels great to watch this great actor again. I really could feel the bond between Val and Doc, and it is quite clear they are the best of friends who have been through a lot. These characters are brought to life effortlessly by these two legendary actors.

However, there a feeling that something is missing right from the get-go. I don't think it has anything to do with the actors, but the script. The script seems to tell the same jokes. Val goes to a local brothel several times and there are jokes about Viagra. There is one hilarious scene where Val and Doc steal a modern car, where you press a button to start. There are a couple good laughs because Val has been in prison for 28 years. Then when the friends break another friend Hircsh (Alan Arkin) from retirement, they make the exact same joke. The film feels lazy in terms of screenwriting.

With three great actors and the situation in which the film sets up, one would think some exciting stuff goes down. People seeing this movie with that mentality will be sourly disappointed. The trio goes to same brothel (again and again), they go to the same restaurant with the same waitress (again and again) they steal a car and go on a pleasure cruise. They discover a naked woman in the trunk and brutally kill the people who put her in that position. More sitting and eating, more sitting and eating...

Then there's an awesome shootout at the end...then the movie is over.

Pacing is a really serious issue along with the script. A pacing issue with a weak script is definitely a recipe for disaster. The film clocks in at an hour and half, but after that much time devoted to brothel-lounging and talk of the "good ol'days," one does get bored quite quickly. The only thing that keeps this film afloat are Pacino, Walken and Arkin. All three actors are Gods with these roles and movies. I just wished they had a better script to work from. 

Most of all, this film reeks of disappointment and what could have been done with this material and these actors. But at least the actors themselves are charming.


X-Men: Days of Future Past stills- MORE 1970's Costumes!

X-Men: Days of Future Past stills

Today, we got some new pictures of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Peter Dinklage, sporting '70's duds for "X-Men: Days of Future Past." Check them out below

We already know who McAvoy and Fassbender are playing. We also know that Dinklage was cast as the main villain, but were not given a name. Considering the storyline the film is based upon, my guess is that Dinklage will be playing Bolivar Trask. The man who was responsible for creating The Sentinels. Sentinels are giant robots designed by the U.S. government to find and capture mutants.

No matter who Dinlage ends up playing, I for one am still really excited to see this!

"X-Men: Days of Future Past" will be released on July 18th 2014.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Machete Kills Trailer

Machete Kills Trailer

Robert Rodriguez writer/director/editor of "Sin City" and the Spy Kids films, is back at work again. In 2010, Rodriguez gave birth to "Machete." The idea came from a faux-trailer which was attached to 2007's "Grindhouse" a two-in-one megamovie which was partially directed by Quentin Tarantino. I never saw "Machete" in 2010, but I plan to really soon, especially after viewing the trailer for the upcoming "Machete Kills."

Rodriguez has put together a stellar yet random cast. Including Danny Trejo, Mel Gibson, Michelle Rodriguez, Sofia Vergara, William Sadler, Cuba Gooding Jr., Antonio Banderas, Amber Heard, Jessica Alba, Demian Bichir, Lady Gaga (yes, you read correctly.), Vanessa Hudgens, Zoe Saldana and "Carlos Estevez." (Guess who!) The cast for the first film was even more random, including Steven Seagal and Lindsey Lohan.

Check the trailer:
So, as you can tell, it will be pretty crazy. But then if it wasn't crazy it wouldn't be Robert Rodriguez.

Machete Kills will be released on September 13th 2013.

Superman: Unbound Review

Superman: Unbound Review

The DC comics direct-to-video animated movies are literally the bomb. They beat out every live-action attempt on the DC characters with ease. They even out-due many of the not-so-good Marvel films. "Wonder Woman" back in 2009 was great, "Green Lantern's First Flight" was better than anything Martin Campbell and Ryan Reynolds did with the character, "Batman: Year One" was epic bliss, etc. I could honestly go on and on about their success. Why DC studios doesn't just get the people behind these wonderful movies into the director's chair for their live-action films is a mystery.

"Superman: Unbound" is good little superhero movie, a great way to warm-up to "Man of Steel" coming out next month. If you have any interest in DC, Superman, or superheroes in general, it would be a good idea to check this movie out. The film features voice by Matt Bomer, John Noble, Stana Katic, Molly Quinn and Stephen Root. Everybody has good work on display in this movie.

One thing in particular that I automatically took a liking to was just how well the story was written. Even though this story is a cartoon and it is intended for kids, the ideas of the story are very adult. When the movie begins, Superman and Supergirl are in a little bit of an argument. Superman does not want Supergirl to rush into fights for world safety. Supergirl thinks Superman doesn't remember anything from planet Krypton, thinking he is writing off his heritage completely. 

With Lois Lane, things are even worse. Lois wants to be seen doing normal things with Clarke Kent, not Superman, Clark Kent. She wants a normal dating life with him, but he is hesitant to fulfill her needs because of what could happen if his enemies find out Clark Kent and Superman are one in the same. These are big ideas to fill a cartoon with, and I love that the movie didn't shy away from everyday dilemmas people have in relationships and family ties.

Superman's problems are put to the test with the arrival of a giant, skull-shaped ship. This ship is powered by Brainiac. Brainiac has a plan to learn everything he can about every planet and civilization in the universe. Which does in part by stealing cities from various planets, and I don't mean in any metaphoric sense. I mean he literally picks the cities right out of the ground. Supergirl recounts a time when Brainiac stole her hometown back at Krypton before it was destroyed. Superman and Supergirl must learn to work together before Metropolis is stolen.

The film features typical animation, but it isn't anything super stylish or sleek. The action sequences are cool for the most part, but feel very Saturday morning-ish. Most of the ideas tackled in the film can appeal to people of all ages, but the dialogue is geared toward younger audiences. If you can look past those small nitpicks, there is quite a bit of fun to be had with "Superman: Unbound."

The only other big problem I have is that 75 minutes, the story closes just as things are getting really fun and cool. But that is common for films like this, the gearing towards younger audiences is the main goal of these films. They are short but sweet little stories about iconic superheroes. It is a fun ride throughout and even a bit challenging at time. The best part is that it is for all ages.


Overlooked Film of the Week- "Inland Empire" (2006)

Overlooked Film of the Week- #7

Inland Empire

Believe it or not, the image above is actually one of the least disturbing moments of the film.

So how many of you have heard of writer/director David Lynch? My guess would be maybe one of two of you. He's been making movies since 1977, major features, short films, and even television shows. If you have ever seen one of his films, trust me you'd remember it. Lynch has a taste for the bizarre and the weird, and his films are normally beyond description. "Eraserhead," "Lost Highway," "Wild At Heart," "Dune," "The Elephant Man," "Mulholland Drive" he makes films that sear themselves into your head, get under your skin and slap you right in the face. There is nothing on Earth like a David Lynch movie and I wish he was a filmmaker who appealed to everyone.

"Inland Empire" is a strange film and based upon the image above, you can guess that its a very dark, scary film. He is an artist known for his surreal, dreamlike imagery. That imagery can tip into the moments of nightmares. I personally believe that Lynch is responsible for creating some of the scariest, trippiest, most disturbing moments in all of movies. So if you are in for a wild ride, jump into Lynch's catalog sometime, if you are feeling adventurous. 

"Inland Empire" is a film that is very difficult to describe. It's a three hour long epic nightmare about a woman who looses herself in a cursed movie role. It opens with a man and a women walking into a hotel room, their faces completely blurred. We learn very quickly that the women is a prostitute and the man is a customer. After they conduct their business we see the prostitute, face no longer blurred, crying, watching a program on TV about talking rabbits.

After that scene is done we meet our main character, Nikki Grace played by Laura Dern. She is an actress who had a long, successful career, fell out of the business for awhile but is now looking for way back in. If only she wasn't held back by her controlling husband. One day, a mysterious woman (played to creepy affect by Grace Zabriskie). At first, Zabriskie talks about "old tales" of a little boy and a little girl. What is even creepier about the exchange is that Zabriskie's character knows EXACTLY what is going to happen to Nikki for the next three hours of run time. I'd highly recommend paying extremely close attention to what Zabriskie says, because all the clues to decode the mystery of the movie are in her dialogue.

Before Nikki knows it, she gets the part of a romance movie called "On High with Blue Tomorrows" directed by Kingsley (Jeremy Irons) and she will star along side Devon Birk (Justin Theroux). Devon is a playboy who is known for sleeping around and Nikki's husband makes Devon understand that if he sleeps with Nikki, there will be huge consequences. 

On the first day of on the set, mysterious noises are heard. And Kingsley breaks the news that the film is a remake of an old Polish film which was never finished. The film was abandoned in Poland after the two leads were murdered by unknown killers. Devon and Nikki plan to keep on with production. And things start to get crazy.

How crazy? This is the point the film starts to get disorienting. Nikki begins to loose herself in her role for the movie. We as the audience get lost with her, are Nikki and Devon sleeping together? Or are they as actors shooting a sex scene? We are never for sure, and that makes Nikki uneasy.

So, yes the film is hard to follow. I invite only the adventurous of film lovers to delve into "Inland Empire." The middle hour of the movie is nonlinear, on purpose. But what keeps the audience watching is that we begin to feel Nikki's road down this dark, cursed movie role that affects every piece of her life. That is due in part to Laura Dern, she is the captain of this entire production and it is startling work. She should have been nominated for an Oscar for her work and she should have won it. The rest of the cast is great, but you've never seen anything like what Dern unleashes onscreen in this movie.

The film was shot on digital cameras, which gives the cinematography a very surreal look. It is the perfect way to watch such a dreamlike movie. I give Lynch full credit for making this movie feel like a recorded document of someone's worst dream. It's a beautifully horrifying production.

If you don't like movies where you have to think, that you have to watch several times, then I'd skip "Inland Empire." This is a long mystery of a movie, but don't fool yourself into thinking that the movie isn't about anything. There is a puzzle buried in "Inland Empire" it is up to you as a viewer to decide if you can solve it. "Inland Empire" is the type of movie that after you watch it, you discuss all the possibilities of its mystery with your friends. I would also note that if you don't like scary stuff, I'd skip this too, because this is a macabre piece of storytelling.

David Lynch is the master of surreal mysteries and this is his crowning achievement.

I'd also like to note that "Inland Empire" has THE BEST closing credits sequence ever. So I highly recommend staying for the credits, you'll be glad you did!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Essentials- True Romance (1993)

The Essentials- #7

True Romance (1993)

Its pretty safe to say that Quentin Tarantino is one of my favorite filmmakers, easily my favorite working today. He has smart, clever characters, he writes the coolest scripts with apparent ease, and his movies take us on journeys we never thought we'd encounter. He's not just a great filmmaker, but he is a God of film-making. It is very clear in his work that he was born to make movies.

One of his earliest offerings he didn't direct, but he did write a very juicy, exciting script. The late Tony Scott directed "True Romance." If you look at the title, your half right on what it's about. Yes, its a love story, yes there are mushy-gushy romantic one-liners in it. But trust me, its all part of the fun. If you are a Tarantino fan, you know that his movies are never what they seem, same is true with this story.

When the film begins, we meet Clarence Worley (Christian Slater in his career-best performance.) Clarence is an average schmo. He works at a comics shop, he loves movies, music, Cadillac's, pie and kung fu. At the beginning of a movie we hear him talking in great depth about his idol and favorite musician, Elvis Presley. He is at a bar, talking to a woman. The audience will be able to tell right away that the girl is at least interested in Clarence. Once he invites her to see a kung-fu triple feature, her interests fades completely, so he goes by himself.

At the triple feature, Clarence meets a pretty girl named Alabama (Patricia Arquette) they hit it off right away  after Alabama spills popcorn all over Clarence. They hang out all night, which leads to them sleeping together, which leads to Alabama's secret. Alabama is a call girl hired by Clarence's boss to show him a good time. Alabama had a troubled time admitting this to Clarence after having such a great time with him the night before. All of this leads them to falling in love and getting married.

This is easier said than done, as Alabama has a pimp named Drexel (brought to life by Gary Oldman, one of the weirdest, yet awesome roles of his career.) Sensing danger, Clarence hatches a plan to kill Drexel so he doesn't come after his newly wedded wife. The stand-off between Clarence and Drexel is by far one of the most tense sequences in all of movies. I have to breathe into a brown bag to calm down after every viewing. If you see this film for one purpose it should be to witness this sequence. I get goosebumps just thinking about it!

After a brutal stand-off, Clarence comes home with a suitcase of Alabama's stuff, which turns out to be a case full of drugs. Clarence and Alabama hit the road to sell the drugs, while cops and gangsters alike are after them.

What makes "True Romance" work so well is how the movie shifts through genres. There are moments where Clarence and Alabama are so believably love struck that they'll make you swoon. There are also moments of very tense drama. Not only is the scene with Clarence and Drexel tense, but so is a scene where Detroit's mafia Don (Christopher Walken) meets with Clarence's father, (Dennis Hopper) demanding he tell him where Clarence is headed. The film is also very funny, there is a character our star-crossed lovers meet on their travels named Floyd. Floyd is played by Brad Pitt and boy, you have never seen Pitt like this before. Pitt plays a laid back pothead and I guarantee that every scene featuring Floyd will make you laugh out-loud. Pitt is a really accomplished actor, with many highlights in his career. But I think Floyd is one of his finest moments.

The reason why the romance, the drama, and the comedy all work is because Tarantino and Scott have put together a fine cast which makes us believe in their characters. All actors are at the top of their game here so the audience goes along with the story. The film also features Val Kilmer, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Penn, James Gandolfini and Tom Sizemore. All actors bring their characters to life in outstanding ways, and they deserve credit for their work.

On paper, I am sure "True Romance" seems like it would be a bloated mess. I bet that in the hands of a another writer and director it would have been. Tarantino and Scott are too gifted of filmmakers to make a bad movie. They both did a really good job getting this movie on its feet. The work by Slater and Arquette is exquisite. It will really surprise you how incredibly emotional the romantic beats will feel to you. With so many genres blurred together, there is something for everyone in "True Romance."

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Look at the Rush Trailer

Rush Trailer

This fall, Chris Hemsworth will be laying the Mjolnir down and will be strapping on a race suit. Ron Howard who has been critically acclaimed since the beginning of his career, will deliver "Rush" a racing drama. We have our first trailer of the film and it looks very cool. I like Hemsworth a lot, and I think it's great that he is branching out a little bit more, showing off his range in other territory. 

The film also stars Olivia Wilde and Daniel Bruhl. Bruhl was the young German sniper from "Inglorious Basterds." His participation in the film has my interest caught, as I thought he did a very good job in the 2009 Tarantino film.

Check out a look at the trailer.

I think its a very nice trailer, and graps your interest right away. One thing is for sure, it looks like we got something to look forward to this Fall.

"Rush" will be released on September 20th 2013

Hollywood Grapevine

Hollywood Grapevine
Here's a mixed bag of stories for upcoming movies!

The Wolverine Stills
I am still hoping and praying that this movie will be good. As I have said before, I love Wolverine. He is not just my favorite Marvel character, but my favorite overall superhero. The fist film about his unique orgin butchered the character beyond belief. But the trailers for this new film have been promising so far, I just hope the movie doesn't disappoint. Here are some new photos from the film.

The Wolverine opens June 26th 2013.

The Amazing Spiderman 2 set photos
Tons of new photos have been leaking the past few months from the Amazing Spierman 2 set. I thought the first film was okay, and I hope this sequel doesn't follow in the same footsteps that "Spiderman 3" did. It looks like this film is going to be filled to the brim with various characters. Sometimes that can work in the films favor, sometimes it hurts the film quite a bit. We will see next year. It looks like Paul Giamatti will have some kind of suit for The Rhino. Take a look below.

Paul Giamatti is a great actor, but I just don't buy him as The Rhino. We will see about this one, I want to love Spiderman really bad. The Amazing Spiderman 2 will be released on May 2nd 2014.

You're Next Trailer
This horror movie has been talked about for quite sometime. And finally after years of finding the right distributer. You're Next will finally hit theaters this August I am pumped.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness Review

Star Trek Into Darkness Review

I have finally laid eyes upon one of the biggest movies of May. A movie that needs no introduction. This is a big one fore me, precisely because I loved the first film so much. The only Star Trek knowledge I carried prior to this new series were old memories of Next Generation. I also delved into some of the older films with Shatner and Nimoy. I want everyone reading to understand upfront that I am by no means a "Trekkie," which may have swayed my opinion as I watched J.J. Abrams new film.

The two big opening scenes I remembered from December. If anybody saw The Hobbit in 3D they saw the big opening sequence, it put a smile on my face before and it put a smile on my face again. It was a great way to open the film, a film which I have already thought a lot about after seeing it earlier this afternoon.

What I think is funny about the film is how reminiscent it is to "Iron Man 3." Both films feature villains who are not who they seem, both films feature an extra villain hiding in the shadows and both films feature altercations in characters who are big in their mythologies, which could anger hardcore fans. With all that said, I think "Star Trek Into Darkness" has all the strengths "Iron Man 3" didn't have, plus very few of its weaknesses.

The film opens with James Kirk (Chris Pine) bidding frantically about a 5 year expedition, it would be the first big mission for the USS Enterprise and he wants it really bad. Even though he is still overly ambitious and still a bit of a hothead. Which makes his first Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto) very nervous. Something distracts the team however from the expedition, two terrorist attacks on Starfleet involving a mysterious man named John Harrison (played to perfection by Benedict Cumberbatch).

Kirk and his crew get the mission to track down Harrison and bring him to justice, which is harder than it sounds as Harrison is located in Klingon territory, an alien race which is struggling for peace with Starfleet. Kirk understands that he must be very careful in finding Harrison without starting a war. Lots has changed in Starfleet since Nero's shenanigans from the first film. The organization is walking the fine line between being a discovery organization and a militaristic organization.

That what the title "Into Darkness" means. When it was announced that the sequel would be titled "Star Trek Into Darkness" I cringed. Hollywood is currently going through a phase were all movies need to be dark, moody, gritty and realistic. No action movie nowadays is swashbuckling or adventurous...they are dark and moody. That can sometimes put a dapper on going to the movies, especially when you want to be entertained. So I was taken aback in a good way to learn that there is a very deep meaning to the film's title. I like that, I like that a lot.

There are moments where every team member shines, but deep down, this is a movie between Kirk and Spock. It plays like a love story, however not a romantic love story but platonic, brotherly love. That close relationship between Kirk and Spock that you see in the old TV show isn't quite shared between the characters at the beginning of this film but as the film draws to close, its there. Kirk in particular has finally learned what it means to be a determined and honorable captain. The Kirk-Spock relationship is the glue to the whole movie, and I give both Pine and Quinto all the credit in the universe. They have become these characters, and it is delightful to watch.

Karl Urban as Bones is just glorious again. He has his funny moments and moments of great dramatic profoundness. There are scenes Bones shares with Kirk and Spock that will make all Trekkies nostalgic for the old show. Zoe Saldana is an actress I look out for now and she gives another wonderful performance as Uhura. Scotty has a much bigger role to play in this new film and he has a scene in particular where he is crucial to saving the day. Simon Pegg nails the character in a truly great way. Alice Eve appears as Dr. Carol Marcus and she does very good work in the film.

Sadly, Sulu played by John Cho and Chekov played by Anton Yelchin are for the most part absent from most of the action. They play pivotal roles in the mission and in the movie, but I would have loved to see more of them. The shortchange of those two characters was the biggest peeve of mine throughout the whole movie. 

Now lets talk about the big stuff the movie features. There has been lots of mystery surrounding Benedict Cumberbatch and his character. I won't reveal too much in this review but all I will say is that there is a big twist and some huge reveals regarding his character. Those twists I feel could piss off some die hard Trekkies. Me? The twists didn't bother me, I was so engulfed by the masterwork of Cumberbatch to really care. Plus, as I stated above, I am not a super huge "Star Trek" fan but I do like this particular character quite a bit. But I let some minor characterization changes slide because I was having too much fun. 

I will say though that I was annoyed by one particular choice in the movie. A major character from the "Star Trek" mythology appears for one quick scene and then leaves. They didn't play that big of a role in the movie and his entire scene felt like one that could have been deleted in post-production. In the first film, Abrams did the same thing. I felt that was a lot different because the character was important to the plot of the first film. In the sequel, the character feels like a production note.

There are plenty of colorful aliens, great special effects and a lot of action. This film will definitely satisfy the Friday night popcorn crowd. There is so much in this movie that will delight audiences that I could spend all night listing them. What really sealed the deal for me was the Kirk-Spock relationship. The character development this time out is a lot stronger and I hope with upcoming entries, that they keep that development strong. 

So at the end of this very long weekend, I am a very happy boy. I am happy because I saw a great "Star Trek" movie. I am happy because this summer movie season may turn out to be great. I am happy because I am so excited to see what Abrams does with "Star Wars." I hope that Paramount doesn't stop now that Abrams is moving on. "Star Trek" can be the next "Harry Potter" or "James Bond" series, where different writers and directors take a stab at these characters and their stories. Today is a good day to be a film fan and I hope you get out and enjoy this movie.

Final Grade: A

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Overlooked Film of the Week- "Melancholia" (2011)

Overlooked Film of the Week- #6


In the years 2009-early 2012, there were many stories having to deal with the end of the world to some extent. The same thing happened in popular culture before Y2K in 1999. Every single time somebody says the world will end at a certain date, pop culture goes wild. Why not? It's profitable, that point has been proven time and again. If we as an audience are lucky, it will even be smart, invigorating and entertaining. Of all the films made dealing with the end of the world, I think my favorite maybe "Melancholia."

In 2011, I firmly believe that Kirsten Dunst should have won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her work in "Melancholia." It is truly one of the biggest letdowns the Academy pulled off in recent years. The Academy has lots of sins to answer for when the world truly does end, but this is surely one of the big recent blunders. You have never witnessed Dunst so alive, so absorbed into a role before. The biggest reason to see the film to watch how great Dunst is, I think most wont believe its her.

But let's back up a bit. "Melancholia" tackles the story of a wedding between a family of individuals who all have radically different opinions about love. The tension and anxiety within the family is clear as the movie plays out. They are all together for better or for worse, the weekend of the wedding. All the while Earth gets destroyed by an incoming planet.

I will warn you right off the bat, this film is the very definition of "art" cinema. The film opens with slow motion images of the world in chaos. Our main characters are running for cover, trees are burning, birds are falling from the sky, a horse falling down dead, shots in space of a huge blue planet in a collision course to Earth. The montage is surreal, haunting and beautiful all at the same time. You got to give the filmmakers credit for pulling off such marvelous images.

After the opening montage is done, the title fills the screen. Then we see the films first part is labeled "Justine." Justine is played by Kirsten Dunst and we meet her and her newly bonded husband (Alexander Skarsgard) are two hours late to their own reception. Once they finally make it we meet her family. Her sister and her sister's husband (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kiefer Sutherland) and how they paid lots of money for a reception that goes disastrously off course. We meet Justine's divorced parents, a father (John Hurt) who is openly very proud of her two daughters, and her mother (Charlotte Rampling) who is disgusted by the celebration, a firm non-believer in love. We also meet Justine's boss (Stellan Skarsgard) who spends the entire evening trying to get work out of his employee. Justine is particularly distant and depressed the whole night, what is bothering her? Why is she so distraught?

The second half of the film is called "Claire." We follow Justine's sister and we also learn more about the planet Melancholia which has been hiding behind the sun for sometime. There is talk in the media of a debate between scientist about whether or not Melancholia will collide with Earth or not. The anxiety begins to evenlope Claire as the idea of maybe losing her son is too much to handle. Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kiefer Sutherland step up to the plate and deliver piercing performances. Together, they carry the second half of the film just as Kirsten carried the fist half. It is great work by everyone all around.

The cinematography and special effects all throughout the film is gorgeous. It feels like a piece of art come to life, coupled with the wonderful performances by all the players, it equals an event you won't want to miss out on. Like I said above, Dunst really seals the deal for me. She makes you feel every ounce of her depression and sadness. 

Writer and director Lars von Trier is an interesting filmmaker. Whether you like his films or hate them, you are likely to get an emotional reaction of some kind out of them. He is a man with a powerful voice and commanding eye, and his films sear your emotions. 2009's "Antichrist" was also written and directed by Trier, it starred Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg. Its a horror film I liked quite a bit but it's definitely not for everyone and its a film I have a very hard time sitting through. He's a creative man and "Melancholia" features some of his most tame work. He tells a very good story well here, and that's the biggest thing I ask for from my movies.

"Melancholia" is available on Netflix Instant Stream

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Fast and Furious 6 Review

Fast and Furious 6 Review

If you asked me ten years ago what films would have evolved into giant franchises by my twenties I would have laughed. Ten years ago I had not invested much into the "Fast & Furious" franchise. The first film was good, but it was a typical summer blockbuster. The second film was a complete waste of time. The third and fourth films were both fun films, but hardly great and very mediocre. With the fifth installment in the franchise everything changed. It seemed like Universal finally got to where they were headed since 2001, and the result was wonderful. 

The "Fast & Furious" franchise has become one of the biggest Hail Mary's come true in film history. It is a series of films that has gone from the darkness to the light. It is also one of the craziest, silliest, completely batshit crazy franchises in film history. What started as a series of crime capers with cars, has suddenly moved to full-blown, non-stop action films with cars. I don't want that last sentence to come off negative, I love the direction this series is headed. I only hope the series keeps firing off on the same cylinders that it is riding on now.

"Fast and Furious 6" is a lot of fun. If you liked "Fast Five" get ready to have another wild ride. If you are new to the series, its a great jumping point. The film may reference incidents from the past, here and there. But make no mistake, you can pick up with this sixth film and have a pretty good idea of what is going on. This sixth installment is my personal favorite so far.

I like this entry the best because the stakes for these characters have never been this high before. As the film begins, we follow Dom Toretto. Toretto has been portrayed by Vin Diesel from the beginning and Diesel has really brought the character into his own. The depth Diesel brings to the Toretto character this time out is inspired, precise and even transcendent. This is the best Diesel's been the whole series and he deserves mad props. In this sixth film, Diesel is motivated by the discovery of Letty. Letty (played by Michelle Rodriguez) is the former girlfriend of Dom who we all believed died in Fast and Furious 4. She is indeed alive and suffering from amnesia. This is the most proactive we have ever seen Dom before in the series and it is gripping and awe-inspiring.

The stakes are high for Brian (Paul Walker) too. Brian has had a serious relationship with Dom's sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) the whole series. As the sixth film begins, Dom and Brian are seemingly racing down a winding road. Turns out they were going to the hospital, Mia has just given birth to her and Brian's first child. Brian has a family to protect now, but he still feels with all his heart to back Dom in his crusade. Both Walker and Diesel make us care about Brian and Dom, and the audience is prepared to follow them into anything.

The film isn't about getting to Letty. Dom and his team are recruited by Hobbs, the international lawman played by The Rock in "Fast Five." Seems Hobbs is after Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), an international criminal who has a scheme that could result in the deaths of millions of lives. If Dom and his team can deliver Shaw to Hobbs, not only will Dom get Letty back, but the whole team gets amnesty. 

Luke Evans has a really juicy bad guy to play. Easily the best and most iconic villain in the series so far. He's ruthless but he has a code of honor that he finds unbreakable. He feels like a villain that doesn't belong in a summer blockbuster like this and I give credit to Evans for bringing him to life. Its splendid work by Evans and I definitely look forward to seeing him in both "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" and "The Crow" remake. I am happy that Michelle Rodriguez is back. She returns to Letty with just as much attitude and precision as before. The Rock gives Hobbs badass charm, a truly wonderful character brought to life by a great actor. Gosh, I am so happy The Rock is back in action films.

The rest of the cast features Tyrese Gibson, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Sung Kang, and Gal Gadot playing the rest of Dom's team. We've seen these actors grow with their characters over the entire series and each actor delivers great work. The chemistry between Gibson and Bridges in particular is awesome. Gina Carano appears as a member of Hobbs team who isn't at all who she seems. I wasn't impressed with her film "Haywire," which was released last year. But she does well with what she has in this film.

The film really shines with its action, the coolest action beats of the entire series. We are not just witnessing crazy car stunts. We are getting full blown action shootouts, ripe with big explosions. The craziest stunt involving a tank is featured in this film and it was just plain glorious to look at. In fact the entire stretch of film on the highway involving the tank will be talked about a lot over this summer movie season. I know it is May and the summer is still young. Trust me, it is that awesome. Another scene I loved is a fight scene in a plane hanger. The scene had Diesel and The Rock fighting side-by-side against a host of bad guys. It felt so surreal yet beautiful at the same time that I wanted to get up and cheer. This film is still plays in the spirit of summer blockbuster but it cranks up the volume and relishes in its silliness. 

At the end of the day, this film works because the actors, the writers and director Justin Lin told a story which makes the audience care about the characters. In the summer movie season, that is a very hard thing to pull off. These characters and this series overall has come a very long way and I give Lin all the credit in the world for believing in this franchise. The end of "Fast and Furious 6" features a post-credit scene which teases that even bigger stakes are on the horizon. I only hope that the actors and Universal can keep the depth and the characterization pumping in the next film. I couldn't believe how incredibly emotional "Fast and Furious 6" was, and I pray I say the same thing about the 7th film. For right now, I am pleased to say that "Fast and Furious 6" is summer bliss. I can't wait to watch it again and come Christmas time, I plan to have a Fast and Furious marathon!


Weekly Top Ten #6- Which movie characters would you grab a beer with?

Weekly Top Ten #6

Which movie Characters would you grab a beer with?

Throughout the history of cinema, there have been some pretty cool characters created by filmmakers. Sometimes I feel a character audiences can really connect with can make a film from not good or mediocre into good or even great. If you watch your favorite films a lot, it almost feels as if your having a visit with old friends.

So to honor this mentality, I dedicated my weekly top ten this week to the ten characters I would want to buy a beer for the most!


This isn't the main list but a warm up. Frankly there are quite a few movie characters I'd love to drink with. So I made five spots for Honorable Mention. They are posted below!

5.) Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon)
He's a private detective who probably has some cool stories, he's gotten himself out of some very sticky situations. Plus, who wouldn't want some advice on how to do some smooth talking? Sam Spade just missed the top ten by a hair.

4.) Rooster Cogburn (True Grit)
Let's face it. I'd probably drink with any character John Wayne portrayed in any of his Westerns. Cogburn just stands out a bit more compared to his other characters. He seems to me to be the most grounded, most likeable, most down-to-Earth character Wayne ever created. Plus, I'd love to go shooting with him afterward!

3.) Han Solo (Star Wars)
He's cool and he apparently loves a good time since our heroes in Star Wars met him at a bar. Plus, I am dying to know if he shot first or not.

2.) Tony Stark (Iron Man)
A cool superhero who loves an occasional drink? Who defeated an electric whip carrying bad guy, a crazy co-worker and alien invaders? Who would pass up that opportunity? Stark came pretty close to making the final list.

1.) The Wolf Pack (The Hangover)
No matter where they are or what these guys are doing, it seems like they always have a great time together. That always makes me smile, because honestly what are friends actually for? The only reason why The Wolf Pack is absent from the official list is because the big negative would be if Alan decided to roofie me.

The Top Ten

10. Randal Graves (Clerks)
On the surface, Randal Graves is a odd and often inappropriate individual. However, if you really get down to the psychology of his character, he is a very smart thinker and a very loyal friend. The repulsiveness of his personality is just frosting on the cake. A guy who definitely seems like a good time. He may hate everyone and everything may seem stupid to him, but I'd be his friend.

9. Gail (Sin City)
I don't know about any of you, but its not everyday one happens upon a machine gun wielding hooker who partakes in vigilante street justice. Which is why I would include Gail on this list. She's really cool, she can kick most people's asses and she would have a ton interesting stories to tell. 

8. Peter Venkman (Ghostbusters)
Bar conversations can detail just about anything. Sometimes the most fascinating of those types of conversations usually center around intellectual ideals and philosophy. Peter Venkman has proven through two films that he's a very smart cookie. I'd love to discuss the fundamentals of Piaget with him over some cold ones...yes and I would want to talk about ghosts too.

7. USA Drinking Team (Beerfest)
These guys won an international beer drinking competition. They have their own restaurant and beer recipe. How cool would it be to actually meet these guys. They are funny, they seem really cool to be around, plus they don't fool around when it comes to drinking games. It would be hard to pass up hanging out with these guys.

6. Gimli (Lord of the Rings)
I would want to play with his ax, check to see if his beard is real, and discuss where all the dwarven women in Middle-Earth REALLY are. Gimli is easily the most likable and cool character in all of the fellowship, plus he likes to knock back an ale or two. He'd have a tale or two to tell us all if you know what I mean.

5. Rob Gordon (High Fidelity)
"Books, records, films- these things matter. Call me shallow, but its the fucking truth." That is a quote by Mr. Rob Gordon himself. It pretty much sums up everything you need to know about him and why he deserves a cold one!

4. Marion Ravenwood (Indiana Jones)
It's true. Marion Ravenwood is the coolest chick in the history of movies. In her scene having a shot contest pretty much dignifies her spot here.

3. David Wooderson (Dazed and Confused)
He loves life, but most importantly loves living his life. What more could you respect from someone. Wooderson is very clearly also all about having a good time and showing people a good time. Which is why he ranks so high on the list.

2. John "Bluto" Blutarsky (Animal House)
I don't know about you, but I'd join their fraternity. They always have something going on at their house. They may not be the cool kids, but who cares, the cool kids suck anyway. Anybody who can down an entire bottle of Jack Daniels and be perfectly fine afterwards needs a handshake of respect.

1. The Dude (The Big Lebowski)
He's the coolest guy on this list. He's the only person on the planet who could get away with going out in public in his pajamas. He can avoid being assaulted just by doing absolutely nothing. Did I also mention he's good at bowling?

I know there are tons of characters I missed, but who would you grab a beer with?

Friday, May 24, 2013

And the Pissing Contest Begins...


I always hoped and dreamed that while the Marvel Cinematic Universe really began to mold together that it would not but heads with Sony and Fox. Sometimes I guess you are not so lucky.

Last year, when the trailer for "The Avengers" hit, I remember boatloads of people asking where certain superheroes were. "Where's Spiderman, Where's Wolverine, Where's Batman?" They would ask. I am going to try to explain this as clearly as possible. First of all, Batman can't be in a Marvel movie, because he is a DC character, completely different comic universe. Second of all, there are legal obligations that Marvel needs to keep intact, which is why Spiderman, Wolverine and other characters sat that film out. 

Way back in the late 90's, Marvel Studios was a very young movie company. And it didn't have millions of dollars thrown at it by the Marvel Comics company, but the studio had wanted to make film adaptations out of Marvel characters. They needed somebody with cash to back these projects, and that's where Sony and Fox came in. They brought lots of money to Marvel Studios and together these studios created what we know now, as the "X-Men" and "Spiderman" franchises. (X-Men began in 2000 and Spiderman began in 2002 respectively.)

I don't know how many of you remember when "X-Men" and "Spiderman" first came out, but it was like a bomb going off. Both films made gigantic amounts of currency, they put Marvel Studios on the map, and slowly but surely the young studio became something relevant. Fox got more rights to many other Marvel characters, including Daredevil and the Fantastic Four. Together, the studios made tons of cash and brought these characters to life. By 2008, Marvel Studios had lots of critical acclaim, and most importantly money to its name. So it wanted to do something big, something never done before in the history of cinema. They wanted to create a coherent and flowing universe with the characters they had left. They were flying solo for the most part for the first time ever. Sure, Paramount and Universal were major production players. But Marvel Studios was taking to the front-lines, creating what would become the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

"The Avengers" made over a billion dollars worldwide, a huge accomplishment. Of course Marvel wanted to make a sequel. I have been reporting on the rumors and all the fun stuff revolving around the sequel and the second phase of this cinematic universe in general. You may think that after the success of "The Avengers" that Fox and Sony would be knocking on Marvel's door, hoping to bring their studios and characters together for a mega movie. Imagine a movie with The Avengers and The X-Men, standing side-by-side, to face Thanos or Apocalypse. That would be awesome and most importantly, that would sell tickets. But sadly it looks like that won't be happening anytime soon.

If you have been keeping a close eye on my blog, you know I've been writing a lot about director Joss Whedon and his plans to include Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver in "The Avengers 2." You will also know that I wrote about the origins of these characters. These superheroes are brother and sister, they are mutants, they are the children of Magneto, and they became Avengers. Remember in the comics, all of these characters exist together. Even though Quicksilver is a mutant and Fox owns all of the characters under the X-Men umbrella, Whedon could still pull it off. Quicksilver is after all an Avenger. Just as long as Whedon doesn't mention the words "mutant" or "Magneto" in his movie, he's home free.

Now yesterday Bryan Singer, who is busy at work making "X-Men: Days of Future Past" tweeted that actor Evan Peters will be portraying Quicksilver in his upcoming movie. If you think that this is the first step in bringing these two universes together, it isn't. Apparently, Quicksilver will only be featured in one scene in "X-Men: Days of Future Past," but Singer will define the character first. (Days of Future Past comes out in 2014, while Avengers 2 comes out in 2015.) Whedon expressed already quite a bit about how he had big plans for the character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Fox is playing a very dangerous game right now with Marvel. A relationship which is sort of on the rocks to begin with. Fox has always been a greedy studio. And if you're wondering why Marvel just hasn't bought their characters back from the studios is quite simple: There is so much money to be made by the studios that everyone gets greedy.

If you want my opinion, I feel like Fox got jealous, ordered Singer to get Quicksilver in their movie (hence the one scene.) thereby forcing Whedon to do something different with his movie. No matter how you look at it, Fox could be burning a bridge right now and things could very well get ugly.

Would you rather see Quicksilver in an Avengers movie or an X-Men movie? Or are you wondering why the studios just can't get along? Can both studios just get away with using the same character? And most importantly, will that be worth it in the end? I think Fox took a cheap shot at Marvel. And with Disney now at Marvel's back, this could be a huge mistake.

More as this story develops.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Early Reviews of World War Z


I am not sure how many of you are aware of this but World War Z went through to hell and back to get made. It was over-budget, a director had to come in to finish the movie. Original director Marc Forster and Producer and star Brad Pitt got so steamed with each other that they refused to keep working together on set. This led to the two men passing notes to one another when they had ideas, questions and concerns, just like in high school. It took several years for this film to get on its feet, and fans of the book were getting wary that this would be a good movie at all.

Today, reported on early reactions to the film and verdict is...

"Just saw World War Z. So much better than World War A-Y"
- Jimmy Fallon

"World War Z: a big, solid zombie movie. Makes up for in scope what it lacks in blood"
-Scott Collura,

"So after all the fuss, "World War Z" turned out to be a surprisingly effective zombie thriller."
-Mike Sampson,

"World War Z is so cool. I love zombies!"
-Kevin Bacon

These reactions and many more can be found  If you follow this link here.

So I am both relieved and proud to find out that World War Z is good. I am big fan of the zombie movie and I am pleased to find out that we have another winner on our hands this summer! 

World War Z will be released on June 21st 2013.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Essentials- Raging Bull (1980)

The Essentials-#6

Raging Bull (1980)

For the most part, sports movies are not really for me. I feel as if the genre has nothing to offer except inspiration and cliche. Each sports movie usually centers around an individual (or team) that is good at a particular sport, the audience watches as they fall from grace, and as they slowly climb the latter back up to greatness. Each sports movie is the same formula every time. 

The greatest sports movies of all time push past these cliches and try something different. They bend or break the rules that standard sports films abide by. Or they just tell a great story well. Martin Scorsese is one of the master storytellers in the history of cinema. With "Raging Bull," Scorsese tells the true story of boxer Jake La Matta (played by Robert De Niro).

Scorsese isn't making the typical sports movie, however. He does what Scorsese does best and outlines the rise and fall of a king. When we meet La Matta he is ambitious, kind and has an edge to change his life and his stance in boxing. His younger brother Joey (Joe Pesci) trains him and gets him boxing fights. 

He then meets a girl. And usually as these stories often go, everything after that changes. We see Jake La Matta rise as a boxer, he's love life blossoms and his relationship with his brother is stronger than ever before.

The reason why the movie works for start to finish is due in part by the chemistry between De Niro and Pesci. If their chemistry wasn't tight, the movie would fall flat. The audience believes in the ambitions of the brothers, they believe when things begin to go well for them. When Jake La Matta enters married life that's when ties between the brothers begin to go downhill. Jake is so controlling and jealous that he lashes against any man who tries to talk to his new wife, even his brother. One of the film's most heartbreaking moments was near the end. Years later, Jake tries to reconcile with his brother, but Joey still burned from the past does not take his brothers offer. It is one of the saddest moments in the history of film.

Jake's wife, named Vicki is played by Cathy Moriarty and she does great work in her role. It is really great how she is able to see the initial sweetness of Jake, then as their marriage goes on. She begins to notice just how detached he really is. It is a stellar performances, one of the many to look for.

Robert De Niro is one of the greatest performers to ever live. Not just an actor or director but performer of any kind. The man is a true artist. He brings the Jake La Matta character to life with firm precision. This performances is just one of the many highlights of this great man's career.

What drives the film from very good to great in my opinion however, is the final scene of the film. After his boxing career, La Matta was a stand up comedian for a time. The entire film is a flashback from this point and La Matta quotes the Bible to himself in the mirror. It proves that individuals can still find redemption, however, they must always be willing to look for it. It is a powerful message to include in a sports movie, which is why "Raging Bull" is one of the best.

To The Wonder Review

To The Wonder Review

I think over this very long weekend coming up, I am going to see if I can find "The Thin Red Line," "Badlands," "The New World," and "Days of Heaven." What all of these films have in common is they are all directed by Terrance Malick. From what I have read over the years, Terrance Malick is on par with Spielberg, Scorsese, The Coen Brothers, Hitchcock, Coppola, Kubrick and Fincher as far as great filmmakers go. After seeing this and 2011's "Tree of Life" I think he is a disastrous filmmaker who needs a change of pace, or a new job or something...

If you didn't see "Tree of Life" in 2011, trust me you didn't miss much. The trailer was so good I considered putting it on my top ten for the year. The actual movie itself was dull, tedium and left me motionless. The synopsis' for the film will tell you that a boy struggles with the relationships he had with his overly nurturing mother and his harsh father and he takes that struggle to manhood. The actual movie is nothing of the sort. "Tree of Life" starred Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain and Sean Penn. But the whole movie featured these big actors looking around, looking at each other, whispering about existentialism. Then right in the middle of the movie there's a great special effects show detailing the big bang, followed by a silly, pointless scene involving dinosaurs. Then we are right back to Pitt, Chastain, and Penn for more looking around and whispering. The film had beautiful cinematography, but that's the only positive thing I could think to say about it.

Malick's new film, "To The Wonder" is about the same as "Tree of Life." Once again, Malick surrounds himself with the great actors Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams, and Javier Bardem. Once again, the film is very beautiful to look at. But sadly, once again the whole film consists of these great actors barely talking, not having coherent conversations. Instead of whispering about existentialism, they whisper about love.

You see, Affleck's character meets Kurylenko's character in Europe and they fall in love. They love each other so much that he asks her to move back to the United States with him. It seems like all is well for awhile but things eventually sour and Affleck reconnects with a McAdams character, which is an old girlfriend Affleck's character had in high school or something. 

I apologize for not using character names, but nobody ever uses any of the character's names in the movie. The only way one could learn the name of a character in a Malick movie, apparently, is to go on and look it up. I find it to be a crime that I watched nearly two hours of "To The Wonder" and I never learn what each character's name was. But hey, the exact same thing happened in "Tree of Life." I guess Malick thinks it is some elitist movie gimmick to make his film more cool. I don't think that choice was cool at all, in fact I found it to be incredibly annoying.

I wish I could talk about the performances by Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, and Olga Kurylenko. But to be frank, there really is not much to them. These actors just look around at each other, embrace each other and steal kisses. There are also scenes upon scenes of McAdams twirling in wheat fields. All the while the audience is busy trying to figure out what this movie is about. It feels like more of a test than watching a movie. The only character that actually sort of talks is Javier Bardem. He plays a priest who talks much about love in his sermons and also marries people. His character is the only interesting one simply because he has the most lines. Had the movie been about Bardem's priest this could have been something. But Malick seems perfectly content filming McAdams twirl in wheat fields for endless minutes.

I think that both "Tree of Life" and "To the Wonder" both have great ideas in them. However, those ideas get lost in Malick's ego or self-parody. I am not sure exactly what he is channeling when he made these two movies, but I have not been following Malick over the years. As I said above, I really want to see his early work and see if any of this stems from his early projects. One thing is for sure though, if Malick continues to make films like this, then I am definitely done with all things Malick.