Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Only God Forgives Review

Only God Forgives Review
Back in 2011, a Danish filmmaker named Nicolas Winding Refn made "Drive," starring Ryan Gosling. If you have ever heard me talk about it, its pretty clear I lost my mind over it. I called it one of the best films of 2011, a statement I still stand by today. Before "Drive," Refn made "Bronson" in 2008 with Tom Hardy. If I was personally in charge of the 2009 Academy Awards, I would have given the Lead Actor Oscar to Tom Hardy that year. The sentence you just read is how I describe "Bronson" to people, ever single time I talk to people about it. Even before that though, Refin made the "Pusher" trilogy and "Valhalla Rising," a set of films I am very eager to see.

Even though Refn and Gosling are reunited, and Gosling is pretty much playing the same character as he did in "Drive," "Drive" and "Only God Forgives" are different. In fact, I feel it is a disservice to compare "Drive" to "Only God Forgives," in any form or fashion. "Drive" was genuine, stylish and filled with exclamation marks of violence, "Only God Forgives" is very experimental and filled with harsh exclamation marks of violence. There is a reason why "Only God Forgives" went straight to VOD and ITunes and not the theater. I feel major studios had absolutely no way of knowing how to market this thing.

If you look at "Bronson," "Drive" and "Only God Forgives," Nicolas Winding Refn crafts simple story art and paints it with blood. Character development is never really is forte, he creates mean-spirited, low-lives and forces them to collide with one another. All the while this is going on, I am not sure Refn ever has the audience in mind. With that said, both "Bronson" and "Drive" are simple yet engaging movies that just happen to be grisly and upsetting. "Only God Forgives" is only grisly and upsetting.

The storyline for "Only God Forgives" is once again straightforward. Brothers Julian (Ryan Gosling) and Billy  (Tom Burke) run a Thai kick-boxing front for their drug business in Thailand. One night, Billy decides to rape and murder an underage prostitute. A vigilante-ish cop named Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm) gives the prostitute's father permission to butcher Billy. Julian's mother (Kristen Scott Thomas) forces Julian to get revenge. The rest of the film is a blood-soaked race between Chang and Julian toward a vengeful finish line. It's a story we've seen many times before, and Refn does very little to make this experience unique or exciting, he only seems interested in having his characters kill in gruesome ways.

Gosling is good at what Refn gives him to do, but like I said above, he's a wordless mute who kills people in clever ways. I wonder if Refn and Gosling will work together again in the future. If so, I hope Refn brings new tricks. Watching Gosling sit and stare is beginning to become cliche, no matter how badass Gosling is. Kristen Scott Thomas performance is interesting to say the least, as she is a Real Housewife taken to the extreme. She plays the character well though and relishes in every line. Most of the characters are hard to judge because there isn't a whole lot of speaking going on, "Only God Forgives" is high on mood and atmosphere, which are both astounding. What the movie lacks quite a bit of is complete narrative.

I can tell you that there is great make-up work near the end of the film used on Gosling. I can also tell you that Refn has a knack for matching music to his scenes, and that is true in this movie too. The cinematography takes the mood of the film to great heights. This all just seems frustrating that a lot of good work went into a movie that just didn't take off like other films in Refn's filmography. I thought for sure that I would be blown away by this experience. While the movie is good, I am not head over heels in love with it. I am still a Refn fan, I just wish this was a better experience.

I just hope that Nicolas Winding Refn does not become the next M. Night Shyamalan, a promising director who had a great early career, but slowly and systematically destroyed it. I also hope he doesn't become like Terrance Malick and force is styles into self-parody. I want to love everything he does, so my fingers are crossed for what he does next. There is quite a bit of "Only God Forgives" that works, but there is just as much that doesn't work, which is frustrating and even a little disappointing.


First Avengers 2 posters

First Posters for Avengers: Age of Ultron!

When it was revealed a couple weeks ago that the title for The Avengers sequel was going to be "Avengers: Age of Ultron" I was unfamiliar with that particular Ultron storyline. I read as much as I could about that storyline and holy cow it sounded cool. However, I am not quite sure how much of the comic version of "Age of Ultron" will be incorporated into the sequel, as Whedon says they will be creating their own original story. Hank Pym who first invents Ultron isn't getting introduced until Phase Three of MCU (unfortunately) so expect a much different story this time around.

Based upon the first two posters, it looks as if Tony Stark is going to be involved in creating the Ultron robot and also based on the posters, it looks like Ultron is going to be a huge challenge.

Check 'em out!

Looks like our favorite heroes are going to be put through quite the wringer in the next couple years!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

X-Men: Days of Future Past goes viral!

X-Men: Days of Future Past goes viral

So for those of you that really dug the viral commercial for "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," wait until you get a look at what I have for you today. After viewing "The Wolverine" last night and now watching the commercial today, I am completely smitten over Days of Future Past.

It looks like in the upcoming X-Men film's story, Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinkage) has been working on Sentinels since 1973, improving them for many years. For those of you that did not read the comics, Sentinels are giant, mutant-seeking robots created by the U.S. Government to "stop the mutant threat."
 In the "Days of Future Past" comic storyline, the Sentinels got so powerful that they took over the world essentially themselves and began a mutant genocide. 

That is where the old and young X-Men come in, in the movie they work together to stop that timeline from occuring. And I cannot put into words how excited I am to see this movie. 

The images and commercial below will likewise get you guys giddy. There are images below of Sentinels through the years, as well as the Sentinel head presented at this years Comic-Con. The commercial is just...awesome!

Now the viral commercial, possibly my favorite viral marketing piece I have had the pleasure to see.

See what I mean? Chills ladies and gentlemen, chills. I love that the Sentinel design is pretty similar to their design in the comics, I also love how realistic the commercial is. I shall start a petition to get this commercial running on national television right now! Who is with me?

X-Men: Days of Future Past will hit theaters May 23rd 2014.


Monday, July 29, 2013

The Wolverine Review

The Wolverine Review

Wolverine is my favorite superhero, I am fairly sure I have made that point before. The X-Men are some of my favorite heroes ever put to comic illustration but Wolverine stands high above the rest of the fray. He has one of the most unique superpowers and origin stories ever written for comics. He is the ultimate badass appearing in comics today, he seems like a guy I'd surely get a beer with if I had the chance. I love Batman quite a bit too, but let's face it. As awesome as Batman is, Wolverine would own him in a fight. That is clear as day.

In 2009, I went to go see "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," when I talked about the X-Men 2013 Comic-Con footage, I gave a laundry list of reasons to hate that movie. I don't consider that an origin movie, it is a bastardized fan fiction that somehow got greenlit. I couldn't believe Fox could completely destroy the credibility of my favorite comic book character, but through it all he lived on in film. Now in 2013, we got "The Wolverine."

"The Wolverine" is not a sequel to "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" it is a sequel to X3. We meet Logan in Canada, but certain events which took place in X3 haunt his dreams, the X-Men have disbanded and Logan is on his own. This is a very different Logan we are used to seeing, but he is still just as badass. During WWII, Logan was POW in Nagasaki, on the day America dropped an atomic bomb on the city, Logan rescues a Japanese officer from the blast.

Years later, Logan is approached by Yukio (Rila Fukushima) who speaks for the officer he saved, the officer is dying of cancer and wants extract Logan immortality. While Logan views his mutant power as a curse, he refuses to part with it. He has nightmares of becoming mortal, but they are just dreams right...?

...Wrong, and soon enough, Logan is on the trail of how he lost his powers, why the officers granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto) is getting kidnapped by Yakuza and why this is all happening. Of course, Logan's solution is simple, questions and claws.

I am very happy that for once we actually have a "good" stand-alone Wolverine film. Yes folks, its true, "The Wolverine" is actually good. This is not another embarrassment, not even close. It isn't the most flawless, perfect Wolverine film that could ever be made. But, good God, we got a good Wolverine film. Something I don't feel bad about putting on my DVD shelf, something that really respects the character and how he's been written over the years, the joy this revelation fills me with is unbearable.

Hugh Jackman has basically become Wolverine at this point, he has perfected the art of the character. If Jackman ever retires from the character, the next actor will have huge shoes to fill. Just as Robert Downey Jr. embodies everything that makes Iron Man who he is, the same can be said about Jackman and Wolverine. This time, Jackman has the best version of the character ever written and he throws himself into it in the best possible way. Fukushima as Yukio is a great discovery, and she gives great life to the most badass female ninja ever committed to film. I hope to see this budding actress in more action later down the road. The Japanese cast over all is very good. Hiroyuki Sanada plays Mariko's brother, if you remember how noble he was in "The Last Samurai," let me just say that Sanada can be a greasy, evil villain as well. Sventlana  Khodchenkova plays Viper, the mysterious mutant behind Logan loosing his powers, she is also very effective.

I love that this story is written so well. Director James Mangold and screenwriters Christopher McQuirre, Mark Bomback, and Scott Frank have crafted a very human yet epic superhero film. For the first time ever, Logan is written very well. The awkward clumsiness, jokey cuteness and constant screaming is put on the back-burner and Wolverine becomes a full-fledged character. I cannot begin to tell you how refreshing that is to see. But don't be fooled, the action set-pieces in this film are astounding. When story and action can come together in equal measure, the result is breathtaking. So is the result (mostly) throughout "The Wolverine."

I get a minor hang-up with the third act. There are so many twists and turns throughout this entire movie that it almost feels like too much story. If they just focused on a couple key points, I think the film would have been better overall. I like story but too much of it is a bad thing, just as too much of anything is a bad thing. Plus, the characters get a lot sillier near the end of the film, but the final battle is pure fun. (Especially when Logan goes head-to-head with The Silver Samurai!) One thing I also found annoyingly interesting is what happens to Logan at the end. Logan will loose something very important to his character, something dear to him. How they address this in the future (i.e. X-Men: Days of Future Past coming May 23rd 2014) will be very interesting. But right now, I couldn't believe he lost that.

Oh and did I mention Days of Future Past? Because you will want to stay after the credits. Yes a set-up for the upcoming movie is after the credits. It leaves you with a big, epic cliffhanger that you will want to purchase a time machine and go forward to May 2014. My smile got really big and I almost wanted to get up and clap! 2014 needs to hurry up and get here.

For now, "The Wolverine" is a great start and thankfully a good film. I almost teared up to finally see something that respected how cool this character can truly be and how compelling a story you can gain from him. While its not perfect, its bold and that's good enough. I hope to see more stand-alone adventures with Logan and Yukio. Because the setup for these two to go around and kick butt is impossible to resist. A good Wolverine movie exists, now I can die a happy man.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Essentials- "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" (1987)

The Essentials- #15

Planes, Trains and Automobiles
I can't begin to tell you what it is about 80's comedy that I like so much. I felt there was a golden age of great comedy that ended by 1989. This golden age could very well have roots in the 1970's too, but the comedic output of the 1980's was just as essential. The films involving John Candy where some of my favorites. He was an actor who died before his time and whose comedic talents where also before his time. "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" was a classic among the genre and still lives up today.

What was interesting about 1980's comedy was that the best examples blended slapstick comedy with grand emotion. Particularly the movies made by late writer and director John Hughes. John Hughes was a comedic movie-making genius. Hughes made us all laugh very hard, but he was also a man who had something to say. With "The Breakfast Club," it dealt with the cruel world of high school popularity, the arrangement of clique's. It studied the effects of certain friend groups and how those groups effect individuals. With "Uncle Buck," we are dealing with a truly dysfunctional family, one which features many participants who don't know they are dysfunctional. These family members have to make decisions about how they will be viewed and it scares them.  In "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" we are dealing with kids who are very afraid to grow up, yet it coming faster and faster. They wonder to themselves how they will handle it, and by the end of the film it still not all figured out. In all of Hughes' films, there was always something very humane about them. He spoke directly to us as a society and culture.

In "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," the story is very simple. An advertisement executive (Steve Martin) is trying to get to the New York City airport two days before Thanksgiving. He needs to travel from New York City to Chicago to make it home in time for the holiday. He's got a flight that will take him directly home, so it all seems simple. Except he can't get a cab, the airport is busy, and worst of all the snowstorm in the Midwest delays all flights. The ad exec meets up with a shower curtain holder salesmen (John Candy) and they go on a wacky, hilarious odyssey throughout the American Midwest to get home in time for Turkey Day!

Steve Martin and John Candy had wonderful chemistry. They played off each other so well throughout all of the films comedic scenes. My favorite scene by far is the long stretch where Martin and Candy are driving on the interstate one night. Candy begins dancing to Ray Charles and the scene leads them to drive between two semi gets me every time. I love how the landscape of the American Midwest is highlighted in the best possible way in winter. Who said the season had to be warm in order to be beautiful. Most of all, "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" is a film about how broken people heal. It's film about desperation and stress and how the holidays amplify those emotions. It is also about how two men decide to change for the better, and that is always my favorite part.

If you haven't gotten around to seeing this, it is the best during the holidays. So save until then and cuddle together with family and friends. Although, I must add these need to be adult family members. The film is rated R after all.

"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" viral marketing campaign has begun...

"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" viral marketing

So if your a filmmaker, and you want a unique and savvy way of advertising your film, one way to do that is through viral marketing. One of the many reasons why "The Dark Knight" was so successful was its maniacal viral marketing campaign. If anybody remembers in the summer of 2007, all of the websites for the Batman sequel, where if you found certain clues, they would unlock trailers and pictures. It was immensely fun to keep up with that. In 2010, "The Last Exorcism" had lots of fun going on with Chatroulette. Last year, "Prometheus" delved into the marketing. It can be incredibly effective if used properly.

This year, "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" as began their advertising campaign, using viral marketing. I thought "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" was one of the biggest surprises in 2011, it was a film I adored very much. It feels like Fox is creating a very cool and clever way of advertising the follow-up to that great prequel.

Check out the video below:

If we remember from "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," a virus was accidentally created which was deadly to humans. It seems by the sequel, that virus has gotten a name and begun spreading. This is really exciting, I love how real the viral video is. I hope there is more to come, as it is still a long road before the sequel is released, which will be sometime in May 2014.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Good Day To Die Hard Review

A Good Day To Die Hard Review
Whelp, one thing is for sure tonight. I am glad I saw "Red 2" before this, because I felt I would have been too disillusioned to sit through more Bruce Willis after this. 

I think that the "Die Hard" franchise is out of steam. It is a series which should be put to bed immediately.

The first film is a classic, no two ways about it. It's clever, its big on its action but it takes time to nurture its characters. The second, third and fourth films never worked on the same level as the first one did. The fourth film particularly felt like something from a different franchise. They aren't necessarily bad films, but they aren't great ones either. I've been hoping and hoping for somebody to come along and breath life back into this franchise, but I feel its time to stop hoping. Give up. Move on. I will always have the first film, that's good enough.

In the movie, Jack McClane (Jai Courtney) is a CIA agent keeping tabs on Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch) a Russian whistleblower who has a file containing dirty secrets about certain Russian officials. These officials have Komarov arrested, and Jack is arrested for assassinating someone. Jack plans on getting a shorter sentence for testifying against Komarov. John McClane (Bruce Willis) learns of his son's situation, and goes all the way to Russia to help him. Even though he has had no contact with his son for several years. Soon before the trail, bad guys hired by the corrupt Russian officials try to kill Komarov and Jack before they can testify.

Its a pretty simple story, pretty hard to mess up. So what happened? Well first of all, as good as Jai Courtney is as Jack, he's not much of a character. We never learn why Jack hates his father so much, we never learned what led him to the CIA, we never learn why he and his father haven't spoken in years. At in "Live Free or Die Hard," we got to know his daughter Lucy, even if it was just a little bit. Here, Jack McClane isn't a character, he is simply a device to get John McClane over to Russia to kill bad guys. Very disappointing.

Second of all, it seems like sometime between "Live Free or Die Hard" and "A Good Day to Die Hard" John McClane obtained superpowers. I remember throughout the entire series, when McClane fought, he had marks to prove it. He was bruised and blooded throughout the entire series. To a degree, there was a realistic essence to the action of the series. Not anymore. John McClane throws himself out of buildings, get into several car crashes, and throws himself through just about everything. Yet, he has absolutely no scratches on him at all. The realistic tone has always been apart of this series, but I guess not this time.

Third of all, these are some of the most uninteresting and stupid bad guys in the history of the franchise. In all the other films in the "Die Hard" stable, each villain, major or minor, were special. They had their own mannerisms and ticks, they were separated from the rest of the herd. The bad guys here are non-characters like Jack McClane. They are merely characters who were hired to get shot by Bruce Willis. What a waste. I will mention though that the lead bad guy hired to kill Jack, John, and Komarov apparently likes to dance. That's it though. The most clever trait this film could come up with was a Russian assassin who likes to dance.

Fourth of all, the first "Die Hard" was clever, "A Good Day to Die Hard" is just loud.

There is no doubt that Bruce Willis was born to give life to McClane. Willis certainly has several moments where his witty lines made me smile, but its not enough. I feel the film as a whole is a huge mess. Nothing about the movie is interesting and the action beats are laughably bad. Most of the characters, good and bad, are types. There is a twist or two, which I guess director John Moore threw in to keep things provocative. But they fall flat and don't work. This won't end Willis' career but I think he's done with McClane. I hope so at least, I'd like to see make more stuff like "Red 2," "The Expendables" and "Looper." I don't want him to make another needless sequel to a tired franchise. "A Good Day to Die Hard" is a failure on almost every level, and I think the series is done.


Red 2 Review

Red 2 Review
Every once in awhile a sequel for a film I personally didn't think needed one gets made. And every once in awhile that random, unneeded sequel works in a very big way. Such is the case this year with "Red 2."

I got a huge kick out of "Red," which originally came out in 2010. It was a ton of fun and I still plan to read the comic books which these movies are based upon, because I am sure they work just as well as these films do. As much as I liked the first film, I am always wary of sequels. I never mean to be, but it has always been a cardinal rule in the back of my mind. I have been burned too many times in the past to think otherwise. Sometimes, I get a surprise from a sequel though. "Red 2" is definitely one of those surprises.

I liked how the film opened, when we reconnect with Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) he is still with Sarah Ross (Mary Louise-Parker), and Moses is trying proactively to impress her. Little does he know that she feels their relationship is getting stale, and she wants something very exciting and innovative to happen to recharge their connection. Boy, oh boy is she in for something exciting...

Moses is warned by his old friend Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich) that someone is trying to kill them and that they need to get somewhere safe, Moses is hesitant at first, until Boggs' car blows up. Then Moses, Sarah and Boggs are thrown into a whirlwind as it seems every government in the free world has hired someone to kill them. A mission they took in 1979 catches up with them, and they need to find a WMD that is ready to level London.

Not only do we reconnect with Moses, Boggs and Sarah, but also Victoria (Helen Mirren) who has been hired by MI6 to kill the trio. We are also reintroduced to Ivan (Brian Cox) who has a much smaller part in this sequel, but boy does he make his little time count. It's a very dense cast; including Anthony Hopkins as Mr. Bailey who created the mysterious WMD, Catherine Zeta-Jones as a Russian agent who once had a fling with Moses, Neal McDonough as Jack Horton a CIA agent on Moses' trail, Lee Byung-hun as Han who is described as the best contract killer in the world, and David Thewlis as The Frog, a mysterious man who sells information and also has a taste for wine. With such a big cast, I was pleasantly surprised how well written each character was. Each character had the opportunity to shine, never feeling rushed and never dragged out.  Each actor does an outstanding job of bringing this cast together, so good to the point that I can't tell you which character I liked the most.

With a cast this big as well as the many twists and turns the story features, it could be easy for people to get lost in the shuffle. The twists begin to come at you so repetitively that I felt like this sequel was aiming too high. I thought it might end up reeking of desperation. But the writing, directing and acting is so careful that it works. By the end of the film I was having so much fun, I didn't care how jumbled certain parts of the movie were. I was also impressed that this movie didn't follow standard action cliche. For example, When our trio begins to work with Katja (Catherine Zeta-Jones' character), its pretty clear her and Sarah despise each other and are competitive for Moses' affections. With that said, you would probably think that there is a sub-plot where Sarah catches Katja kissing Moses. Then you would probably think that Sarah would leave in sadness and regret, while Moses chases after her. And you would probably think that it take a huge situation at the end of the movie for Moses and Sarah to rekindle their relationship...BUT...that DIDN'T happen and I was happy.

"Red 2" definitely feels like something original. I can't tell you how refreshing that feeling is.

Like I said above, there are some jumbled scenes. "Red 2" is a movie you are going to want to pay attention to, not exactly a movie to have on while doing something around the house. I also felt there were a couple character narratives that happened strictly for the convenience of the plot. For example, Byung-hun character is bloodthirsty for Moses practically from the very beginning of the movie, they paint his hatred for Moses in very broad strokes. However, when Moses asks for his help, it only takes about five seconds for Han to decide to become a good guy. There are couple things about these characters that felt rushed. But I felt all of these minor flaws where tiny nitpicks. The film is filled with so much fighting, guns, bullets, cars, explosions, one-liners, laughs and jets that none of the flaws seemed to matter.

Late July and throughout August annually is the time of year when the summer movie season slows down. During this slow period, we tend to get lots and lots of crap cramping up the movie theaters. However, in a slow part of the season, its great that a movie comes out of nowhere, possessing the ability to surprise. "Red 2" is that movie. Fans of the first film should get in line right now. If you are new to the series, that's okay too. You can see this without seeing the first film and be just fine. I hope you all enjoy this like I did.


Stoker Review

Stoker Review
Does the name Park Chan-Wook ring a bell? If not, allow me to educate you all today. He's a South Korean filmmaker famous for directing the original "Oldboy." A movie I have discussed a number of times already on this blog, and is getting the American treatment this October. Along with "Oldboy" he has made a number of films in South Korea, and he is one of the most acclaimed and popular filmmakers in that nation. And now, he has made an astounding debut in the United States of America.

His first American film is called "Stoker," starring Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Jackie Weaver, and Dermot Mulroney. For those that know Chan-Wook well, you are probably expecting an extremely violent shockfest. Well that is not "Stoker," not exactly. "Stoker" has a lot more in common with early Alfred Hitcock than with anything affiliated with Chan-Wook's Korean career. I think its a great introduction for Chan-Wook with American audiences, however I am not sure if the film is flawless.

The film revolves around the estranged Stoker family, mainly India Stoker (Wasikowska). India is deeply effected by the sudden death of her father (Mulroney), but it has brought her and her mother, Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) closer together. All of that is somewhat challenged when India's Uncle Charlie (Goode) comes to live with them a for awhile, helping the family mourn their loved one and keeping them company. Right away, the audience will notice something off about Uncle Charlie. India is, at the very least, curious to why Uncle Charlie has decided to bond with his niece after being absent for so long. India suspects Uncle Charlie has ulterior motives for coming to the family, but she can't figure them out. And she also can't help but be drawn to him in a mysterious way.

India is a shy loner, who is often ridiculed by her peers at school. She was incredibly close to her father and she has been taking his death very hard. When her and Uncle Charlie slowly but surely begin to bond, she finds a new found confidence that is very edgy. This film is a wonderful showcase for Wasikowska, an actress I've admired since I saw her in 2010's "The Kids Are All Right." She gives a mesmerizing performance and its definitely the highlight of the film. Nicole Kidman gives a delightful and unstable performance as Evelyn Stoker, who also becomes infatuated with Uncle Charlie. Matthew Goode is an actor I've enjoyed for awhile now and I couldn't believe how much his character shocked me in this film. 

The performances are solid. If you are at all familiar with Chan-Wook work, you know things always get crazy. That is no different with "Stoker," things get very ugly very fast when the truth about Charlie is revealed. Chan-Wook doesn't shy away from the shock. There is a scene involving India in the shower that is so disturbing it made me cringe. But there in also lies my biggest problem with the film, by the end it feels like the movie shifts from crazy to conventional Hollywood. That shift left me a little on the disappointed side. Plus, near the end, it seems like Chan-Wook still wanted to wow us with his old tricks. Blending those tricks with typical Hollywood banter left the ending kind of a mess in my eyes.

Overall, this is a stylish, good little thriller. I think you all will be impressed by the film's many performances, even to the smallest amount. Lucas Till even shows up as a bully and he makes it count. The performances and Chan-Wook's style carry the film a long way. However, those of you who were expecting a crazy, visceral experience should be warned to drop those expectations. This is definitely not typical Chan-Wook, but its a great start for American viewers. I think once Park Chan-Wook finally makes his American masterpiece, myself and my countrymen will be flattened by it.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Weekly Top Ten- Ten Actors I Think Could Play Batman

Weekly Top Ten-#15

Ten Actors I Think Could Play Batman
At Comic-Con, "Man of Steel" director Zack Snyder said the next Superman movie would revolve around Superman going head-to-head with Batman. Its an ambitious idea to tackle no doubt, but its been hoped for for years now. 2015 is going to kill us with kindness and I can't wait for it to finally get here.

So the big question is, who will play Batman? They have big shoes to fill after Bale did a damn fine job as the character for almost a decade. So who will go toe-to-toe with Henry Cavill in 2015? I have created a list of actors who I think would at least do the role justice. I'd select any of these actors in a heartbeat for the role, and I think WB should at the very least consider them. Let me know what you think.

10. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
I am not the type of fan to think that Batman doesn't have to be a certain age. The best part about the character is his timelessness. Some of the best Batman stories ever written (stories that included Superman as well) involved an older Batman. So at 42, I think Coster-Waldau has the acting chops, physique and charms necessary to pull of the character. Check him out in "Game of Thrones" if you disagree.

9. Richard Armitage
Okay, I get this probably wasn't the best picture in the world to post, simply because Amitage needs to shave. But the guy looks like Wayne, he's proven in "The Hobbit" that he can act, he's brooding yet charming at the same time. He has also proven with "The Hobbit" that he can do big-budget blockbusters completely unscathed. So why not consider him?

8. Luke Evans
He's got the look, he's got the talent, he's worked with Henry Cavil before and they've got wicked great chemistry on-screen together. Overall a fairly small career, Evans has proven big things and that he has real range. Not always easy to do for a first timer. I think Evans is the next big thing, and I think a job like playing Batman can prove it.

7. Garrett Hedlund
Here's a younger yet stellar actor, who after I saw perform in 2004's "Friday Night Lights," I knew he'd go to become a big star. He's done all sorts of movies, from big to small. He at least is somewhat open to superhero stuff, as he auditioned for Captain America back in 2010. He has also proven in a lot of his material that he can provide for every personality trait The Caped Crusader possesses.

6. Alexander Skarsgard
He's got a brooding look, he's got tons of talent. He's fairly well-known yet not big enough that he could not make a huge dent on screen. He hasn't come remotely close to doing anything in the superhero genre, but there is always a first time for everything, isn't there?

5. Liam McIntyre
Spartacus blew me away, and this was an actor who had mighty shoes to fill when he stepped up to Season 2 of the immensely popular Starz show, after the beloved Andy Whitfield died of cancer. He's got a commanding voice that just makes me giddy to imagine it behind a bat-mask. He's a television actor who desperately needs a big breakthrough, deservingly so. Plus:
Yep, that's Liam playing Arkham City for PS3, so I'm thinking he would be more than open to playing the role.

4. Josh Holloway
He proved how awesome he could be on "Lost," has quite the Wayne-esque personality. He's got the build and the look of the superhero. I just don't know if he's ever been challenged the way the character should challenge its actor. Bruce Wayne is a guy who witnessed the death of his parents. I never seen Holloway go that dark, could he?

3. Armie Hammer
Was originally cast as Batman in the 2007 Justice League movie that never got made. Hammer has proven with his budding career so far that he has range, "The Social Network" wasn't some fluke, the guy is capable of visual thunder. I think by playing Batman he is a star that is about to go supernova.

2. Karl Urban
I know he's a bit on the older side and he already has many franchises to his name, but there is no doubt that he could really make Batman and Bruce Wayne come alive. He has proven that he can be noble, cunning, smart, and very likable onscreen. No doubt he would rock the role if he ever agreed to do it.

1. Ryan Gosling
You would not understand the grief I've gotten just for mentioning Gosling as a worthy candidate. I suppose Gosling's harsh critics have never seen a single movie in his entire career. In "Crazy, Stupid Love" Gosling proved he could be a playboy yet charming, strong attributes of Bruce Wayne. And in the rest of his career; like "The Believer," "Drive," "The Ides of March," "Blue Valentine," and to a lesser degree, "Gangster Squad," he has proven to be angsty, brooding, grim, and gritty. The exact characteristics I'd chose to describe Batman. Many people tell me that Gosling is too big of a name for Batman. Honestly, that's not fair. Gosling has very recently hit the star bubble, but most of his career has been dedicated to the experimental and the independent. I think we are just beginning to see what this guy is capable of, and if he ever steps into the mainstream, I think he'll wow us like never before.

So that's my list, post yours!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Will Spiderman and his Amazing Friends show up by the Fourth Amazing Spiderman film?

Its been known for awhile now that Marc Webb, director of "The Amazing Spiderman" is planning not two but THREE sequels to the 2012 superhero reboot, making it a four movie event. Tonight, Webb's plans for the fourth film in his "Amazing Spiderman" franchise is going to feature other superheroes.

"I think this was conceived of as a trilogy so there was a defined architecture to the story we were telling and we had sort of a rough outline of what was going to happen," Webb began. "I think [for] the fourth movie, what we've discovered is there are so many ancillary characters, that have enormous, cinematic potential that there may be other ways to exploit those characters, in a way that is exciting and fun and worthwhile. It might not just be a Spider-Man movie." says Webb. "You know, what was fun about the comics is that there's an entire sort of encyclopedia of characters and stories and histories and nuances and idiosyncrasies and off-shoots, I think that that is something that seems to be really successful and has a lot of potential so it's sort of, as yet, undefined, but intentionally so." 

So is he saying that we may see the Black Cat? Will Harry Osborn become the anti-hero version of Venom? Will we see Spiderman's Amazing Friends show up by the fourth film? It may sound cool on paper, but I do have some reservations.

First of all, Marc Webb needs to make a good "Amazing Spiderman 2" and a good "Amazing Spiderman 3" before we even come close to having the "Spiderman 4" conversation. I understand "Amazing Spiderman" made a decent amount of money, but that doesn't mean anything story wise. It was a mixed bag of reactions from critics and fans alike. I have said it before, and I'll say it again: Sam Raimi may not have followed the comics as closely as Webb has, but the emotional journey of his characters is what made his first two Spiderman movies worthwhile. I never thought Webb brought lots of emotionalism to the character, and that was far from the only thing Webb decided to leave out. If Webb makes a poor second and third entry in his series, this fourth film idea will evaporate quickly. Just because we know that "Amazing Spiderman 4" is set for release in May 2018, doesn't mean that it can't get cancelled between now and then.

Second of all, I don't really know how excited I am for "Amazing Spiderman 2," in particular the casting of Jamie Foxx as Electro and Paul Giamatti as The Rhino scares me. I know Foxx and Giamatti are both high profile actors, but that's the problem. They are so high profile that I feel like it looks weird that they are playing these characters. Myself, as well as many other comic movie fans still have a bad taste in our mouths from "Batman Forever" and "Batman & Robin." A-Listers don't automatically mean box officer numbers nor do they mean their movies are built to last. I like Foxx and Giamatti a lot, but are they right for Electro and Rhino?

Third of all, Sony has had ideas for not only a superhero ensemble but a supervillain ensemble in the form of Spiderman's Sinister Six, an idea I like a lot more than this. But the truth is, are big superhero ensembles already becoming cliche?  Did "The Avengers" create a slave trend? Are studios going to create a new norm where every year we can expect superhero team movies? Look at what DC studios has been trying to do since Avengers. Look at what Fox is doing with their X-Men stories. After many years of looking over general public reaction, the idea of constant superhero team-up films is going to get stale fast, and once that happens people are going to get less giddy by the time MCU Phase Three comes to close. And I for one don't want that day to come so soon. But alas, studios look at a team-up concept with dollar signs attached to it, and so it goes.

I hope what Webb is cooking up for us surprises me in a way I have never been surprised before. I want to love Spiderman, should I keep hope alive?


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Before Midnight Review

Before Midnight Review
If you haven't laid eyes to Richard Linklater's "Before" trilogy, you are definitely missing out. I don't think there is a better trilogy that showcases the passion, love, devotion, frustration and anxiety involved in a romantic relationship. Relationships always need work, and I think they change once in awhile. I can definitely say that the relationship of almost 4 years with my own sweetheart has changed over that time, and I think with each year our time together improves. Our love strengthens, we learn more about each other, and we enjoy more life together. It is an overpowering experience in the best way possible.

I think this trilogy has more to say about the wonders and difficulties of love than any other movie(s) made. This is a set of films for people who don't like romantic movies. Each film does not follow the standard conventions of the "romantic movie" yet it speaks volumes about the subject. The trilogy follows Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Deply). The first film entitled "Before Sunrise" was released in 1995. Jesse meets Celine for the first time on a train to Budapest to Paris. After much conversation on the train, Jesse convinces Celine to walk around the streets of Vienna. At the end of the day, they don't exchange numbers, but they plan to meet each other six months later. In 2004, "Before Sunset" was released. Nine years have passed, and Jesse has written a book about his time in Vienna. He is married now, doing a book signing in Europe, when he meets Celine in Paris. He's got to catch a plane back to America in the morning, so they only have one day together in Paris. What each movie does is effectively capture the furious fire and passion when two people meet and become interested in each other, how they become lovesick over each other, how they fight and how they swoon over each other. They are two powerful films, and so is the third.

It's been almost 20 years since "Before Sunrise," and Ethan Hawke is in Greece walking his son (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) through the airport to his gate. After a long, fun summer, Jesse's son is going back to his Mom in Chicago. Jesse is heartbroken that he doesn't get to see his son as much as he'd like. Jesse is in Greece and his son in Chicago and the boy's mother makes things purposefully difficult for Jesse. When he goes back to the car we see Celine in the passengers seat and twin daughters in the back. Turns out that 9 years ago, Jesse didn't make that flight.

This isn't the Jesse and Celine we are used to. Yeah, they make each other smile and laugh, they have their fun conversations. But there is something in the middle of them that nagging them. Celine can't seem to get over Jesse's faults, but Jesse feels that he is still as in love with Celine from when they first met all those years ago. I think its human nature that we as a species reach an age where we just don't want to go through life alone, and this movie paints that point in broad strokes.

If you don't like talky films, I'd say skip this film and the entire trilogy. Like I said, this isn't a fairy tale romantic movie, this gets down to the nitty-gritty. This whole trilogy has broken down Jesse and Celine's relationship to fractions. But the conversations in this film feel so human, so heartfelt, so realistic that it feels like a real discussion between two people. The genius of the movie is how these two souls talk to each other. In a mostly music-less film, the talking is deeply effective.

Jesse and Celine not only have grown as individuals but so have Ethan Hawke and Julie Duply. It seems with each passing of decades, new struggles, new lifelessons, and new battles are sprouting around the couple. These actors have really become these characters. By the end of this "Before Midnight" I feel like I have gotten to know two individuals, not watching actors play characters. Hawke and Duply pour their souls into these characters and give them incredible life.

Overall, this film works best because it isn't a romantic movie in a fairy tale kind of way. Because, let's face it, that's not real life. True love is not about meeting Mr. or Mrs. Right, riding off to the castle and living happily ever after. Our world is much more complicated than that. In a complicated world, all one can hope for is to find someone who understands you and loves you, who will take care of you, who will support you for who you are, support your goals, support your dreams, support your passions. They may not be the person you completely dreamed would sweep you off your feet, but gosh they sure can make you laugh. If you are able to find someone like that, than you better get them and hold on. In an imperfect world, that is more than enough. 

All of this is beautifully and masterfully told in one of the years best films so far. And I hope Linklater, Hawke, and Duply continue to return every ten years so that we can check up on Jesse and Celine.


Overlooked Film of the Week: "I Saw The Devil" (2010/2011)

Overlooked Film of the Week- #15

I Saw The Devil
I am not sure if I have ever mentioned my love for Asian Cinema on my blog before. But let me just say this out loud, I thrive on Asian Cinema on a near primal level. What I love about the movies of the east is that they don't hold anything back. For living in a free country, we sure have a hefty load of censorship, but not in Asia. That is why their horror, suspense, and dramatic films are all raw, pulpy and absolutely hypnotic. With "I Saw The Devil" in particular, there are several scenes in this film (including the picture above) that I absolutely guarantee would be edited out of an American production. So when you sit down to watch a Asian film, your getting quite the experience.

"I Saw The Devil" is violent and grim, essentially its the story of James Bond versus Buffalo Bill from "The Silence of the Lambs." If you can imagine how awesome a movie like that would be, the fun and glow of James Bond going head-to-head with a serial killer isn't what we get with "I Saw The Devil." "I Saw The Devil" is extremely gritty, but at the same time it has a brain, and it will pick at yours if you let it.

The film begins with a woman on her cell phone with whom sounds like her husband. It's a snowy night, she's in the middle of nowhere, and she's stranded on a non-busy road. The man is keeping her wife company until help arrives. A drifter keeps bothering the woman, trying very hard to get a ride. She is most definitely creeped out, and does not want to help this man. He gladly leaves, but soon enough he eventually comes back and attacks her. His scene where he attacks the girl always makes me jump, no matter how many times I've seen the movie. The drifter then viciously rapes and kills the woman and dumps her body miles away from her car, her husband still on the line.

The woman's husband Kim Soo-hyeon (Lee Byung-hun) is stricken with grief, but ripe with revenge. He works for the South Korean government, and he has a wide variety of skills to make this drifter pay. He catches up with his wife's killer (played to striking perfection by Choi Min-sik.) Soo-hyeon brutally torments his wife's killer, but does not end his life. He wants to keep this going, he wants to enjoy every bit of revenge, he wants to make this deranged animal pay for not just his wife's murder, but the other woman he's killed. So Soo-hyeon let's him get away. He finds him and hurts him again. As Soo-hyeon slowly kills this man, it gets harder to hurt the guy. The killer is smart, and he's learning from his attacker. Soo-hyeon suddenly finds himself in a lot of trouble. He beings to think, did he let this go too far? Should he have given the man a faster death? But worst of all, is Soo-hyeon becoming the same monster that he is trying to defeat?

You will remember Lee Byung-hun as Storm Shadow in the G.I. Joe movies. I like Byung-hun a lot, but he has a career high in this movie. At the beginning of the film, he is sad but slick and dangerous. He comes off completely sure that he will kill his target and make him pay. But when he realizes how ugly things have gotten, he feels pain. He feels, incredible, nauseating pain. The crossover was nearly heartbreaking, and Byung-hun sells every minute of it. Choi Min-sik played the main character in the original "Oldboy." It was interesting to see him play a sweet yet vengeful hero in that movie and then see him as a sick, twisted murderer in "I Saw The Devil." Choi Min-sik is a impeccable actor, and I sincerely hope he gets an American debut so that my other countrymen can witness his talent. 

"I Saw The Devil" is everything you would want from a great horror-thriller. It's an idea that could have easily been wrapped up in goofiness, and in the hands of an American studio it very well could have been. I hope if you seek this out, you check out many other great films the Asian world has to offer, it's a great world of film and is worth checking out.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

RIP Dennis Farina

RIP Dennis Farina
He was an actor whose face was more recognizable than his name. He was an actor who could be funny and dramatic, sometimes in the same movie. He had a commanding voice, a great resume and before acting, he was a Chicago police officer. Dennis Farina appeared in many movies I hold as important today, and he died at age 69.

Farina was born in Chicago, IL. He served in the U.S. for three years and then spent 18 years in the Chicago Police Department burglary division before becoming an actor. He has lent special commentary on specific crime drama's, including Michael Mann's "Heat" in 1995. 

Farina died in Scottsdale, AR due to a pulmonary embolism.

Farina starred in many great movies, including "Snatch," "Out of Sight," "Saving Private Ryan," "Midnight Run," "Get Shorty," "Manhunters," and my personal favorite, "Big Trouble." He was also a series regular on "Law and Order."

For me, Dennis Farina will definitely be missed, and he will have a legacy which will live on in a very special place in my heart.

To Leave Or Not Leave A Major Franchise...

J.J. Abrams done with Star Wars?
Badass Digest, a film website, left a pretty hefty rumor regarding Star Wars 7 and J.J. Abrams. The site said this week that Abrams had decided to opt out of "Star Wars" in favor of "Star Trek 3." It was quite possibly, the biggest rumor of the weekend, and many believed that the director had completely bailed on the project altogether. Apparently, Abrams did not want to shoot in London, and I guess there were other issues which made Abrams want to leave the project.

Today, Lucasfilm has sent a confirmation about whether or not J.J. Abrams left, I suppose this rumor got so big that the studio felt compelled to draw a line in the sand once and for all.

So has J.J. Abrams left "Star Wars 7?" The Answer is NO

Lucasfilm has stated the following:

"There is no truth to the rumor. J.J. is having a great time working on the script and is looking forward to going into production next year."

So there you have it, I am glad Abrams is still attached! Star Wars 7 will come out sometime summer 2015!


Monday, July 22, 2013

X-Men Comic-Con Panel! I wish I was there...

Comic-Con Footage Description

A Closer Look at "X-Men: Days of Future Past"

Everything I have read this weekend just tells me that I need to get my ass to San Diego one summer for a Comic-Con celebration. It has got to be the coolest thing in the world for a guy like me. It may shock you that I haven't attended yet. Trust me it shocks me too.

It seemed like this was definitely the year to go, too. Not only have I been swooning over the description of  "Thor: The Dark World" and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" but seeing everything revolving around the X-Men has been eating at me in a big way.

Simply put, the X-Men drew me to Marvel. It wasn't Spiderman, it wasn't The Avengers, it wasn't The Fantastic Four or anybody else. It was a group of people who were hated and feared by the rest of the world, a group of people that were born with extraordinary power that they did not want, but they chose to prove that they could be normal and they wanted to change the world for the better. That is such a great message, and to tell it in great detail in the frames of a comic book, its transcendent. 

Overall, I have been really happy with the X-Men movies. X1 and X2 are great, pulp comic movies, they work every single time you watch them. I think X3 isn't nearly has bad as people like to say, I think "Daredevil," "Hulk," "Fantastic Four films," "Elektra," "Ghost Rider," and "Spiderman 3" are all far worse. The third chapter just didn't fire off the same cylinders that the first two did. The really only bad entry in the series was "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" it ruined the character, it looked cheap, it was poorly acted, the story was dumb and at moments made zero sense, it didn't stick to continuity of the franchise in any way, but most of all, it ruined the origin of the most beloved superhero in my world. That movie made me weep for what could have been, and I hope "The Wolverine" changes that.

But nothing can compare to the excitement I have for "X-Men: Days of Future Past," not only am I geeking out about seeing the new and old stars of this entire franchise in one movie, but they are getting together to tell one of the best Marvel stories ever told. And from the description footage I read tonight, it looks like we are in for an unforgettable motion picture next year.

I invite all of you to read the description below from good ol' Drew McWeeny of, my go-to site for all things Comic-Con this year, and check out the pictures from the panel presentation. The nostalgia is definitely in overdrive, and I cannot, cannot wait to feast my eyes on some kind of trailer in the near future (pun totally and utterly intended.)

The Footage Description!

 There's a lot going on in what we saw. What's apparent is that Wolverine is approached by Professor Xavier and Magneto, played once again by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, and Xavier is well aware that at some point, he died. He remembers what happened to him in "The Last Stand," but somehow he's back, and he tells Logan that he needs his help if they're going to prevent a full-scale war that will wipe most of the world's mutant population out completely. We get a glimpse of Bishop (Omar Sy), and we see a much older Rogue (Anna Paquin) as well as Storm (Halle Berry). They figure out a way to send Wolverine back in time so that his consciousness will appear in his younger body, and Xavier needs Logan to convince the younger Xavier (James McAvoy) and the younger Erik (Michael Fassbender) to set their differences aside for the good of everyone.

"What's the last thing you remember?" Stewart asks as we a see a close-up of his eye opening. 

A much-older Wolverine (an interesting image after you see how little he's aged from WWII to today in "The Wolverine") replies, "I had a little glimpse into the past." When we see the place where they are, it's one of the most surreal sets I've ever seen in an "X-Men" movie. I want to see the future they have ended up in, because I guarantee we barely saw any of it in this footage. Everyone's wearing armor of some sort, with both Stewart and McKellen in very similar outfits.

"You're going to have to do for me what I once did for you," Stewart says.

McKellen steps up next to him. "You need me as well. Side by side to end this war before it ever begins."

It seems like the McKellen version of Magneto has been humbled based on what we see here, like he's finally seen the price of the path that he advocated for in all of the films. He knows what it will cost everyone, human and mutant alike, and it's not worth it. 

Logan asks what he's supposed to do and they tell him to find Xavier and convince him first. We see a shot of McAvoy heading into Cerebro, and it's obvious it's far more refined than it was in "First Class." We also see a shot of Fassbender, floating above the front steps of a building, using his powers to rip aside some sort of gate. He warns Wolverine that the younger Erik is on a darker path than Charles, and we see Mystique, one tear rolling down her blue cheek.

Xavier is pleading with Logan by this point. "Lead me. Guide me. Be patient with me."

With his best Eastwood sneer, Logan says, "Patience isn't my strong suit." And then  a quick cut and ZAP. He's back in time.

Here's where things get crazy. We see a door in the floor of the Oval Office open. I'm pretty sure we saw a shot of Nixon. We got a great shot of Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Task, complete with a '70s porn-stache that has to be witnessed to be fully appreciated. There's a crazy shot of a shirtless younger Wolverine positively shredded from bullet holes. We see the Beast freaking out at one point. We see someone being held underwater, unable to breathe.

And then at the very end, we see McAvoy, tears in his eyes, touching Logan's face, and in voice-over, McAvoy says, "I don't want your suffering. I don't want your future."

The final shot gave me chills. It's McAvoy and Stewart in frame together, looking at one another, as Stewart says, "Please. We need you to hope again."