Saturday, August 31, 2013

Cast This

Cast This
Some big casting news was dropped the last couple weeks, take a look at who is joining some upcoming blockbusters!
Tony Jaa and Kurt Russell join Fast & Furious 7

Anybody who has been reading my blog lately knows how I feel about the reemergence of the Fast and Furious franchise. I am so happy this series has found its footing and I think we are in for a big seventh edition to the series. That just got bigger this week. Last week we learned "Ong-Bak" star Tony Jaa will be joining the cast, and this week we learned that action legend Kurt Russell has joined the cast. We have no idea who they will be playing. Right now, it is being rumored that Russell will be playing the role Denzel Washington turned down a few weeks back. We don't know, but the anticipation is still high!
And Marvel's Rocket Raccoon will be...
Yep, its true Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy" has the most random cast ever assembled for a motion picture. I don't think I'd have it any other way.

It is being reported that Bradley Cooper will join Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Michael Rooker, Glenn Close, Lee Pace, Djimon Housnou, Benicio Del Toro and John C. Reilly (and possibly Vin Diesel) in the upcoming outer space Marvel adventure. Cooper will be voicing the Rocket Raccoon.

How do I feel? Well, intrigued and curious as hell. I think Cooper is a good actor and I think he will have something very special up his sleeve for double-R. What will make or break the character though, is the writing. I was wrong to think that Thor would be the hardest character to bring to life onscreen, it will be Rocket Raccoon. However, no matter what, I have faith in Marvel. I can't wait for this next summer.

Now, the next big question is...will Marvel include Howard The Duck in future MCU projects?



Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Essentials- House On Haunted Hill (1959)

The Essentials-#20

House On Haunted Hill (1959)
As the summer slowly starts to come to a close, and the weather begins to cool, you'll notice I am going to get more and more excited for Halloween. I think you'll see Hollywood getting ready for Halloween too. The months of August through October are prime years for the genre and it is one of my favorite times of the year. Many people may think the horror genre is too scary or that it is too gory or exploited. I disagree completely. I think the horror genre is good for exercising our inner demons, but it is more than that too. The horror genre is important, that's right important. The horror genre is possibly the only genre that studies us a culture and a society. If you look at every decade and look at the horror movies released during those decades, they are a comment on the social issues of that era. They confirm or challenge the beliefs of those years, and I have never seen a more specific study on film.

I believe "House on Haunted Hill" is a classic of the genre. There are parts that are silly and campy, but there are also moments of thrill and elements that disturb. It is one of the earliest and best examples of the haunted house movie, a sub-genre that I think is making a big comeback now. The movie features the wonderful Vincent Price, the 50's generation Bela Lugosi or Robert Englund. He is outrageous in this movie, he has a mysterious gaze, iconic voice and stern stature. But despite Price, there is still loads of fun to be had.

The idea for the film is pretty simple. A group of people are invited a rich mans house for a party. The house they are invited to is said to be haunted. If person in the group makes until the next day, they will be paid $10,000 for their participation. (May not seem like a lot by today's standards, but remember, this is a '50's film.) The party begins in the early evening, allowing any of the party-goers to leave whenever, but once midnight strikes, the party-goers are locked in for the night. Vincent Price plays Fredrick Loren, the millionaire who throws the party, and there is a very specific reason for throwing that party, which revolves around his fourth wife.

One thing that I love about "House on Haunted Hill" is that its surprisingly smart. I think audiences will really be shocked at how effective the film's twists and turns are. There are plenty of double-crossings and plot sucker-punches to keep the audience more than interested. All the actors involved throw themselves into this cheap thrills film. The result is something to marvel at. Even though the movie possesses the will to shock, there is still lots of fun to be had with "House on Haunted Hill."

Yes, there is also real world parallels. As characters begin to die, it pretty evident that someone is involved with the murders. There is also one woman who witnesses strange happenings around the haunted mansion. Of course, in true Hollywood fashion, nobody believes her. The paranoia is one of the film's biggest pieces of muscle that drives the film home. If we look at the 1950's, it was in the heart of the Cold War, a period of time where paranoia was rapid. Where there could have been communists living next to us as neighbors. A general mistrust became commonplace in the American world, a world view that has re-emerged since 9/11. The movie captures that since of paranoia very well, and I give the movie tons of credit for it.

This is only the beginning of revving my engine for the horror movie season, I hope you have as much fun as I am!

Overlooked Film of the Week- High Fidelity (2000)

Overlooked Film of the Week-#20

High Fidelity
They may or may not surprise you readers out there, but when I was growing up, I was just as obsessed with music as I was with movies. I have a very bi-polar taste in music, and I think what I have in my Ipod would surprise many of you if you were to scroll through it. Meeting Rob Gordon, the main character of the great "High Fidelity," I was completely gut-punched by how well I connected to him. It was surreal looking at a movie character I had so much in common with, that I could relate to on nearly every level. Before the movie really began, I knew that "High Fidelity" would be a movie I would watch over and over again.

As the movie begins, the latest girl in Gordon's life, Laura (Iben Hjejle), is leaving him. He is so flabbergasted by her absence that he takes the time to create a list of the top five break-ups that really hurt, that really made him reflect on life. For the audience, we figure these are the five examples of what Gordon is chasing every time he gets into another relationship. The making of this list forces Gordon to go out and find each girl on the top five and try to find some reason to his failures in relationships. On this quirky, funny road we also encounter his music shop that he owns and his two work collegues, Dick and Barry (played by Todd Louiso and Jack Black)

What makes Gordon such a rich character is that, for me he's easily to relate to. He makes tons of top 5 lists, and for as long as I have loved movies, I am constantly making lists. Call it silly, call it nerdy, but its the best way to get a read on something sometimes. Today, I have a wonderful girlfriend who I love, care for and trust with every fabric of my being, however there was a time I was a hopeless romantic. I think we have hit that time in our lives at one point or another, and Gordon's journey re-meeting all of his exes is familiar in a weird way. Plus he's a big music and movie guy, so that helps for me too. The character is brought to great life by John Cusack, easily the highlight of his career.

But he's not the only superb performance in this movie. Jack Black nearly steals the show as Barry, and he displays some of his very best comic work. Catherine Zeta-Jones and Lily Taylor are both fantastic as two of Gordon's former flames that he revisits on his quest to find out what is wrong with him. Tim Robbins is pettishly quirky as Ray, the guy Laura left Gordon for. He's got a charismatic smug about him and it is perfectly brought to life by Robbins. Joan Cusack also shows up as Laura's sister, and she makes her supporting role count. Hjejle was a real discovery as Laura, and its strange to me that I've barely seen her since "High Fidelity."

Great performances aside, "High Fidelity" features lots juicy dialogue you will want to memorize and quote. Since most of the film takes place in a record shop, there is plenty of good tunes to tap your foot to as this story plays out. Music from all genres and all years, and it all compliments the movie victoriously. However, what makes "High Fidelity" matter is that there is a very human story at the center of this funny comedy. Sometimes, comedy's are working overtime to make its audience laugh that they forget about the story they are telling. They forget that the movie actually involves people in some kind of plot, its all about the jokes at times. Not with "High Fidelity," there are several characters and situations which we as humans will be nodding our heads to. As if a film crew came together to tell a story about us as individuals.

"High Fidelity" is going to be movie that will stick with me forever, and if you let it, the movie will do the same for you.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Kick Ass 2 Review

Kick Ass 2 Review
When "Kick-Ass" was released in 2010, it can be said that I lost my mind over it. It was a faithful adaptation of the comic, but it also became something of its own. I think the end result really works. Its a demented, confident, funny, outrageous, offensive and brilliant superhero movie. A movie that is completely in love with what it is, but it never gives up its soul. 

I wish I could say the same about "Kick Ass 2," they had the perfect comic sequel to adapt from. Sadly, they barely use that inspiration. A lot of the subplots this second time out are distracting rather than intriguing, and honestly they do not go anywhere. The funny, crazy humor of the first film gets sacrificed for sappy, emotional beats that don't add up. None of the characters are really fleshed out enough for any of the emotional stuff to really pack a punch. Despite a great, no-pun-intended kick ass last half hour, "Kick Ass 2" is surprisingly flaccid. Instead of upping the ante on everything that made the first film great, they tell a boring story that doesn't go anywhere fun or cool.

As the sequel picks up Mindy/Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz) is being forced by her new guardian (Morris Chestnut) to lead a normal, high school life. However, that doesn't stop her from training Dave/Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) how to fight, as he joins Justice Forever. Justice Forever is a superhero group that was inspired by Kick-Ass, led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey) together they are making a difference in New York City. That difference is tested when Red Mist/Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plosse) returns as "The Motherfucker," a crazy supervillain who does recruiting of his own. Chris wants revenge for his father's death and he goes through unspeakable means to get it. And yes, all of this leads to a big showdown.

I'll give this sequel a couple points. The performances are there across the board. Taylor-Johnson really steps it up in the sequel, and comes off much more natural and believable. Moretz, once again, delivers a nasty awesome Hit-Girl, sadly though, there is not much Hit-Girl in this outing and that's sad. Jim Carrey is a real surprise and no doubt the highlight of the movie. I love his make-up just as much as his gimmicky voice. However, much like Hit-Girl, he is gone before we ever get to love him. If it weren't for Carrey being as popular as he is, the character would not have been on any of the posters. Mintz-Plosse is an okay actor and to be honest, I don't really think he stands out much here. 

There are so many colorful characters in this sequel that add to the fun. Clarke Duke who was always spot-on as comic relief in the first film returns and does some fighting himself as "Battle Guy." Donald Faison is surprisingly touching and endearing as Dr. Gravity. I don't think I can write a review of this movie without mentioning Mother Russia. She's a big presence in this movie, too bad she's reduced down to a barely eligible henchmen. Chris' right-hand man Javier is brought to great life by the always-superb John Leguizamo, he does really great and I really wanted more of him. 

That's the biggest thing I took away from this sequel, wanting more. When I walked out of the theater back in 2010, I felt refreshed, rejuvenated, like I hadn't breathed for a millennium. Here, I it was more of a "meh." The characters we grow to love do not get fleshed out, there screen time is replaced with offensive, unneeded rape jokes and subplots we don't need. Nobody really wants to see Hit-Girl get a bunch of "popular girls" sick. We'll see plenty of that with Chloe come this October in "Carrie," put back the hard laughs and crazy action of the first film. Most of the humor in this movie isn't even that funny and lands with a big thud. All the humor felt very natural in the first film, which is disappointing. The first and second acts of this movie are so slow that when the movie finally picks up in the third act, it feels like too little too late.

As the film draws to a close and the big fight between heroes and villains unleashes, it was sad to figure out that it didn't live up to the climax of the first film. The big fight at the end of "Kick-Ass" seems rehashed from the first film. The Motherfucker fights Kick-Ass, Hit-Girl fights Mother Russia, we see our heroes get beat up pretty bad while the bad guys spout out corny one-liners and yadda, yadda, yadda. The first film worked for me because everything that led up to its climax was earned and I believed the characters I saw. We spend so little time in the sequel getting to know our new characters that we just don't care if they get hurt or die. And for the characters we do know? They are not pushed forward in anyway. "Kick-Ass 2" ends up being a rowdy, decent sequel and its really too bad. Despite some great performances and good action beats, I just can't give my entire heart over to this sequel.

I apologize for referencing the first film so much in this review, but that is part of the point. If I can't get the first film out of my head as watch the sequel, then there is definitely something wrong with it.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Coffee Town Review

Coffee Town Review
I don't know how many of you have ever gone to Starbucks, or a place like it, to study or get work done. I sure have, and many people have too. Coffee shops are nice places to get busy work done, and how those shops grew into workplaces is beyond me. I don't often argue against nature, and I don't plan to tonight.

Glenn Howerton (famous for "Always Sunny in Philadelphia") plays Will, a guy who works for a website, and takes much pride in his office being the local coffee shop. He is the main character of "Coffee Town," a new comedy about Will and his adventures at the coffee shop. He talks to his friends, tries to pick up girls and most of all, tries to save his local coffee shop by being turned into a bar. 

"Coffee Town" is refreshingly original, completely unlike most comedies being churned out recently. Its got a story unlike anything we've seen and it is handled in a unique way. Right as the film started I was engaged by the film's style. The film is brought to life by a great cast. You fans of "Always Sunny" maybe surprised that Glenn Howerton can actually carry an entire movie, and that he actually has range. Will is completely unlike Dennis from that show, and I like that. Too many times actors get caught in compelling type-cast, I don't see that ever happening to Howerton. If you love TV's "Eastbound and Down," Steve Little shows up as Chad, one of Will's best friends and he nearly steals the show. I have never seen anything with Ben Schwartz before, he plays Gino, Will's cop friend. Schwartz is funny and awesome in this, he's definitely an actor I will look out for in the future. Adrianne Palicki is Becca, a regular at the coffee shop who Will has a crush on. Palicki gives a one-dimensional real life, and makes all her material count.

Another thing that makes "Coffee Town" great is simple, I laughed. I laughed quite a bit actually. The film features a wicked blend of offbeat and slapstick humor, a fan of any sub-genre will leave this movie satisfied. Steve Little is basically channeling Stevie from "Eastbound and Down," but it is put to extraordinary effect. The added humor to the film's already unique style gives an experience worth having. It all creates a movie you are going to want to watch a lot.

I always love it when I watch a movie I knew very little about, and I end up loving it from start to finish. If you like comedy in general, check this out. You'll be glad you did.


Bryan Cranston is Lex Luthor for "Man of Steel" sequel

Bryan Cranston will be Lex Luthor?
Whether you love it or hate it, Ben Affleck will be Batman in the upcoming "Batman vs. Superman" film coming in 2015. It's done. There is no going back now. The casting has many passionate dissenters, and seemingly just as many defenders. I personally wouldn't argue against someone who was upset by that casting choice.

However, I will defend to the death the actor they chose for Lex Luthor.

I have found on multiple websites today that Cranston has been chosen to play the supervillain for the upcoming sequel in 2015. If it is completely confirmed, then Affleck-haters, consider the movie saved. Cranston is a great actor, a guy who I have said before would be great for the part. I am so glad he got it, seems almost unreal.

If you are unfamiliar with Cranston's work, get on your Netflix account and watch all the available seasons of "Breaking Bad," that's basically the ultimate audition for Lex Luthor. I am more than sure that Cranston's Lex Luthor won't just be a Walt-rehash. I bet he will have something genuine and new up his sleeve and I can't wait to see it. 

And there is talk that Cranston may play Lex Luthor in 6-10 movies?? Yep, I'll be there!

I'm sorry Gene Hackman, I'm sorry Kevin Spacey. Get ready to be blown out of the water.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Overlooked Film of the Week- The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001)

Overlooked Film of the Week- #19

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion
I guess re-thinking my favorite films of the 1970's put me in a Woody Allen kind of mood.

For a guy who releases a new film every year, its easy to write him off as a phony. But underneath it all, for every "Celebrity," or "Scoop," or "To Rome With Love," or "Mighty Aphroditie" that Allen makes, there are just as many "Annie Hall"s, "Crimes and Misdemeanors," "Manhattan"s and "Hannah and her Sisters" that he gets made. No matter if the rest of his career turns out to be crap, I will always consider Woody Allen one of my favorite filmmakers, and a guy who has shaped my cinematic vocabulary.

"The Curse of the Jade Scorpion" is one of his more underrated offerings. A movie that is ill-remembered as is most of his late '90's or early 2000's fair. But for me, it hits my pleasure center every time I watch it. "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion" isn't one of Allen's most important works, but it is one that possess the ability to entertain with ease.

Woody Allen plays C.W. Briggs, a 1940's insurance clerk for a highly prestigious insurance investigation company in New York City. He's a talented gum-shoe, who has had a very successful career. However, Briggs often butts heads with Betty Anne Fitzgerald (Helen Hunt) a new efficiency expert who doesn't like Briggs's old-fashioned techniques of investigation. I would have never imagined Helen Hunt and Woody Allen having great chemistry, but they sure do. Their acting is just one of the many highlights of this splendid little film.

Briggs and Fitzgerald go out to a colleague's birthday party, where a magician named Volton (David Ogden Stiers) is performing an act. For one of Volton's acts, he asks for the assistance of Briggs and Fitzgerald. Volton hypnotizes Briggs and Fitzgerald using an old Chinese artifact called the Jade Scorpion, Volton makes Briggs and Fitzgerald believe they are in love with each other. When Briggs and Fitzgerald snap out of the trance, they have absolutely no memory of what just transpired. Its a hilarious scene, and Hunt and Allen milk out great work from the script. When Briggs gets back home he gets an unexpected call from Volton, who puts Briggs under a trance and gets him to rob rich clients belonging to Briggs's company. When Briggs wakes up in the morning, he has no memory of robbing anybody. The rest of the movie is a slapstick comedy as Briggs tries to find the thief who is robbing all of these people, extremely oblivious that he is being used by a mad magician!

Not only are Woody Allen and Helent Hunt good in this, but the entire cast is very good. David Ogden Stiers has a commanding voice as Volton, and his performance is a big highlight of the film. Dan Aykroyd shows up as Chris Magruder, Briggs's boss and who is romantically involved with Fitzgerald. Aykroyd is his typical self, full of comedic charm. Charlize Theron plays Laura Kensington, the daughter of a rich family who house gets robbed. Theron and Allen have several funny scenes together. Even Elizabeth Berkeley from "Saved By The Bell," shows up as a secretary. Its a great cast all doing good work.

What also makes "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion" work is that Allen taps back into his mind of his old '70's comedies. This is a screwball comedy over anything else, but it is funny enough that you will have a smile on your face. This was unlike anything else he made during this particular time, and I like that. I like when filmmakers try something different, put a new spin on a genre. I'm sure you all will find much to love from this one too. 

Weekly Top Ten- My Favorite Films of the Seventies

Weekly Top Ten- #19

Celebration of the Decades- #4

My Special Top 20 of the 1970's

Oh man, it's finally here.

There was something going on in Hollywood during the '70's. Something I that do not think really happens much anymore. The studios have become greedy in their old age, unwilling to give advice, encouragement or anything of the sort. All the studios care about nowadays is the American dollar, I can't argue over that, but I do think it wouldn't be bad to be civil about it. None of that existed during the '70's. I have read that filmmakers used to get together to discuss their ideas with other filmmakers. Compare notes, get ideas, bounce suggestions off of each other. It didn't matter if somebody was involved in a particular film or not, it was just a kind gesture. It was so refreshing to read about, that friends in the industry cared about each other art. It is something that is drastically missing today.

I bring all of that up because I feel that is the reason why the 1970's was the best decade for American movies. Each film had a cast and crew full of people driven to do their best. There was hunger to send out the best product every weekend. It wasn't a competitive hunger per se, just a need to do the finest at any given moment. Every single weekend, the audience was the winner, and I am sad I wasn't alive to be apart of it.

So because the '70's were so good, I do not think a top ten would due justice, so today you get a top 20. As I stared at a list of roughly 50 1970's films all week, I realized something. This is the only decade so far where I feel bad about leaving someone off. So in order to feel better, I made a list of 20 films, and stopped there. After you read the list, I think you'll have a great idea why the length had to be as large as it was.

20. Grease (1978)
This look at an entire senior year of high school in the 50's is essential because it showcases how John Travolta became a movie star. Travolta's and Olivia Newton-John's chemistry is perfect example of actors bouncing off of each other well. Add in great music and costumes and you've got a classic.

19. The 36th Chamber of Shoalin (1978)
The 1970's was the decade in which karate movies really proved their longevity. This is by far one of the best reminders to why it was such a hot, daring genre in the first place.

18. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
Sharply witty yet shockingly haunting, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" is a perfect of example of how astounding Jack Nicholson could be. Not only that but Louise Fletcher proved how cringing she can be. This movie is full of memorable characters, scenes and dialogue and is a prime example of why the '70's were so glorious to begin with.

17. Alien (1979)
This quiet, slow-burning horror film featured one of the most iconic designs for an alien ever. (Memorable for all the right reasons, I assure you.) A great ensemble and plenty even a few action beats for the rowdy crowd. This may not have been alike any other alien movie to come out this decade, but it is definitely the one that left the biggest scar on me.

16. Blazing Saddles (1974)
Easily one of the best R-rated comedies ever created, "Blazing Saddles" is Mel Brooks' Opus Magnum. What appears at first to be a clever spoof on the western, turns into one of the craziest, most delirious motion pictures imaginable. It works so well because Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder throw themselves at the material, oh and there's MONGO!

15. Jaws (1975)
Steven Spielberg successfully tapped into the fear of the ocean, and was also able to create a monster hit out of a horror movie. That was something that had not really been done prior, and re-watching this on blu-ray really shows why audiences had such a reaction to it so many years ago. With a great cast and a great fake shark take only so far. But what Spielberg did best was that he became grimly relentless, and I think it worked well.

14. Network (1976)
Peter Finch gave a stand-out performance in a movie that I feel has become a eerie omen. The story about a fictional television network that is struggling with ratings, it is almost bewildering to see certain parallels with television today. Throw in a great cast and you've got something to think about.

13. Manhattan (1979)
Woody Allen had a  great decade in the 1970's, but nothing can compare to his luminous, delightful "Manhattan." This is a normal Allen film, but what makes it stand out from his work is the true conviction of his character performances and his script. Plus the black-and-white coloring gives the film a rich style that is hard to resist.

12. Patton (1970)
What's crazy about "Patton" is that I feel this movie would earn this high of a spot just based on its opening monologue alone. George C. Scott has never been this believable, this charming, this determined. It is a rich performance, and fortunately the rest of the movie lives up to it.

11. The Godfather Part II (1974)
I may prefer "Goodfellas" over Francis Ford Coppola's epic masterpiece, but there is no denying Coppola's vision and its power. The opening of young Vito Corleone being processed as an American citizen is as unforgettable as the moment Michael Corleone has his older brother killed. This may not be my overall favorite gangster movie, but it surely punches me in the gut every time I view it.

10. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
This one stuck with me throughout childhood, and I find myself still watching it quite a bit as I get older. The set design is flawless, as if pulled from someone's imagination. Great performances, great songs and some wonderful costumes and make-up all add to a great dream of a movie.

9. Star Wars (1977)
There is no denying that the Force will be with me. Always.

8. The Sting (1973)
Robert Redford and Paul Newman are great here, featured in a story that earns all of its twists and turns. I always love a good crime caper, but this isn't exactly what one may think of when you ponder the genre. It's got a real since of humor, but never dumbs itself down to a lower standard. 

7. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
No other film haunted me more from the '70s, no other film featured images that startled me beyond belief. And this was the decade of "Halloween," "The Exorcist" and "Carrie." But the images do not compare to the manic performance by Malcolm McDowell as Alexander De Large, a monstrous creation given life to one of Britain's legendary talents. 

6. Smokey and the Bandit (1977)
Proof to why "Eastbound and Down" is such a wonderful song.

5. Chinatown (1974)
If the biggest compliment I can give to this mystery is that Hitchcock would have loved it, I think that is proof enough to why "Chinatown" matters. Nicholson is charming yet tense in this, and he never resorts to his "Crazy Jack" persona. It also features an ending that gives new meaning to blowing your mind.

4. Apocalypse Now (1979)
As "The End" by The Doors echoes every scene, Marlon Brando throws himself at the macabre that is Kurtz. One of the best casts from this decade creates a piercing portrait of life in Vietnam and just off the rocker some soldiers got. The horror...indeed.

3. Taxi Driver (1976)
Even Martin Scorsese was tearing it up in the 1970s. For me, this was the performance that defined Robert De Niro's career. It's a crazy performance and only gives some of the flavor that made this movie so memorable. Throw in some surprising action and you've got a winner.

2. The Godfather (1972)
You see the picture above? That's Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone, if you haven't seen "The Godfather" yet, he thinks you need to ASAP. Otherwise, you will make you an offer you can't refuse.

1. Young Frankenstein (1974)
So how is it that a movie that spoofs nearly all of Universal's old horror films make the top spot of arguably the best decade of film ever? Because it absolutely shouldn't have. "Young Frankenstein" is possibly the least important film on this list, but it is definitely the most entertaining. Not saying the movie is immature, but it hits my pleasure spot in ways the other nineteen movies can't. This is the best comedy of all time, bar none. Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle and Marty Feldman are unforgettable. And Madeline Kahn...hilarious!

So that is my list. Thank you for reading. Interesting as always gang!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Trance Review

Trance Review
Danny Boyle is a British filmmaker who is putting together quite the filmography. He is a artist who has range with storytelling, no two of his films very much alike. With "28 Days Later," and "Shallow Grave," he tackled the horror zombie genre, with "Sunshine" he tackled sci/fi, with "Slumdog Millionaire" and "127 Hours" he  sampled potent drama and with "Trainspotting," well I don't really know what to call that. Do you see what I mean? He doesn't stick to one genre, he commits his talents in wide variety. I think we as an audience have become richer for it. Now in 2013, Boyle has given us "Trance," a shocking movie that has now become one of my favorite modern psychological thrillers. 

I think this movie hit a deep nerve with me because of how important memory is to me. I know we are all guilty of forgetting important things and losing things. It is the very pinnacle of human nature that we are not at the top of our game everyday. However, one one of my grandparents had a very severe case of Alzheimer's. I learned firsthand just how terrible the disease actually is and it has stuck with me ever since. Memory is unbelievably valuable, and "Trance" really taps into that importance.

As the movie began, there were several times where I thought I knew where this was headed. There is a great opening monologue from Simon (James McAvoy) about paintings and art. I thought at first this would be a fun little crime caper that is more unusual than before. Simon is a big art guy in London who works at an art auction. At the very beginning of the movie, a four man group breaks into an auction, attempting to steal a painting. Simon tries to save the painting, but a gunman (Vincent Cassel) hits Simon on the head with his shotgun, and he is hospitalized.

"Oh!" I thought "This is going to be a movie about how Simon gets his memory back from the attack." However, when Simon gets better he finds his car and apartment broken into, and gets a visit from the gunman who knocked him out, who reveals himself to be Frank. It seems Simon was working with Frank and his team to steal the painting together, and Simon hid it somewhere. He can't remember where he hid it. So Frank hires a hypnotherapist named Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) to help Simon remember where he hid the painting. The catch is Elizabeth figures out Simon's situation fairly quick, and she wants in on the recovered loot. "WHOA!" I then thought, "So Elizabeth and Simon are going to grow close, dupe the thieves, and run off with the painting happily ever after!" But as Elizabeth puts Simon under hypnosis, we then learn that maybe Simon and Elizabeth knew each other before the heist, yet Simon can't remember that either. At this point I stopped trying to guess where this movie was headed and decided to let it play out.

That type of storytelling, where I can't help but guess the ending of the film is what makes a great thriller. When things get nuts in "Trance" they really get nuts. I was on the edge of my seat the entire movie, with my heart pounding out of my chest. A nearly two hour movie literally felt like 15 minutes, and after it was done I wanted to immediately watch it again. That is the power of great cinema and "Trance" features that power in large handfuls. A great psychological thriller really picks at your brain, really makes you think, throws out the pieces to an elaborate puzzle and forces you to put the pieces together. That is exactly what "Trance" does.

Once again, Boyle has put together a near-perfect cast. James McAvoy really milks the innocent charm out of Simon, making him a harmless quirky guy for most of the run-time. But when it is time for his character to get his hands dirty, the transition is flawless. Rosario Dawson is a modern femme fatale as Elizabeth, a role that would make Alfred Hitchcock himself impressed. I also think that Vincent Cassel is an underrated treasure, he creates great villains every-time he is in front of the camera. With his cold eyes, wicked smile and glaring features, he's truly intimidating. He throws himself at every thing Boyle asks him to do, and he deserves lots of credit for his work.

What really makes the film work is how cleverly written the screenplay is. Joe Ahearne and John Hodge put together an edgy headgame, and works more than I thought possible. I wish I could get into lucrative detail about why the movie works so well, but I am never one to spoil any fun. Get out and rent this one ladies and gentlemen, it will surprise more than you know.


Hollywood Grapevine

Hollywood Grapevine
Here are some new stories circling around movies today.

Has Marvel/Joss Whedon found their Scarlet Witch?
It was reported last week that actress Elizabeth Olsen is final negotiations for Scarlet Witch in the upcoming "Avengers: Age of Ultron."

Who is Elizabeth Olsen? If I had to describe her, I'd call her the Olsen sister with talent. Yes, she's the sister of the Olsen twins, but don't let that fool you. She is actually good, check her out in "Martha Marcy May Marlene," "Silent House," and "Liberal Arts." She seems to finally be breaking into the mainstream with the upcoming "Oldboy" and "Godzilla" remake too. 

Aaron Taylor-Johnson (from Kick-Ass) is still attached to play her brother, Quicksilver, but that has yet to be confirmed. All I know for right now is that the Scarlet Witch character is in excellent hands, nicely played Whedon.

The X-Men movies and new Fantastic Four movies will share universe.
It looks like we can expect to see a movie featuring Hugh Jackman's Wolverine and The Thing fighting side by side, and one where Patrick Stewart's Professor X has intellectual conversations with Reed Richards.

Mark Millar, Fox's new Marvel guru, says that the current X-Men franchise and the upcoming Fantastic Four rebooted franchise will share the same universe. I feel Fox has seen the success of what Marvel has been doing independently over the passed few years, and they want to cash in themselves.

The Fantastic Four reboot is being directed by Josh Trank, who directed last year's "Chronicle." This is exciting news, because I think we will actually get a great Fantastic Four movie. And we can expect adventures with X-Men sometime after!

The Fantastic Four reboot will hit theaters on March 6th, 2015.

Ben Affleck exits "The Stand," Scott Cooper steps in.
For years now, Hollywood has been trying hard to get Stephen King's epic story "The Stand" to life. I for one, would love to see a movie version of "The Stand." It truly is one of Stephen King's best works and deserves better than the television version we got back in the mid-1990's. Marvel comics took a stab at a comic version of the story recently, with interesting results.

The story is essentially "Lord of the Rings" in America. After a deadly virus kills 97% of the world's population, the survivors begin to choose sides, one led by Mother Abigail, a 100+ year old woman who has visions of God, and the other side led by Randall Flagg, who gives the term "dark lord" a whole new meaning. The two sides quickly become aware of each other, and they know they are a threat to each other. Which leads four volunteers from Mother Abigail's side to walk cross-country to confront Flagg.

Filmmakers such as George Romero and Harry Potter's David Yates were attached to bring the book to life. It seemed for awhile that CBS Films settled for Ben Affleck. Affleck even went as far as writing a script for the movie. However, because of Batman and projects of his own, Affleck has stepped down from "The Stand." All I can say is "DAMN!" seeing Affleck's version of this material would have been unbelievable. 

CBS Films has chosen Scott Cooper to direct and write "The Stand." Cooper recently directed "Crazy Heart" in 2009 with Jeff Bridges, a movie I love very much. "The Stand" and "Crazy Heart" could not be more different from each other, but that doesn't mean anything bad. What I am curious about is how Cooper plans to adapt the book. "The Stand" is a 1100+ page long book, if it were up to me, I'd go the "Lord of the Rings" route, making at least three 3-hour-long movies. But I am not sure, if that is CBS's plan. That could be a big deal, as "The Stand" is rich with characters and details, its a sprawling story that needs the necessary respect to flourish. 

I want every Stephen King adaptation to be good, and I hope this one is too.

That's all my stories for right now, catch you all later. Thanks for reading.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Jack The Giant Slayer Review

Jack The Giant Slayer Review
Sometimes movies get released that have a few things going for them, but also fumble the ball quite a bit as well. 

"Jack the Giant Slayer" is a movie that is going to feel like a glass half-full to many audiences. It's a PG-13 movie that is surprisingly kid-friendly, and despite some good-looking CGI giants, the rest of the special effects are rather cheap-looking. The actors do what they can with the material that is given, but the material doesn't amount to much. 

Nicholas Hoult plays Jack, a young farm boy who develops a crush on Princess Isebelle (Eleanor Tomlinson), a girl who wants to break out of her royal shell and see the world. If only her father and king (Ian McShane) would let her. Isebelle sneaks out of the castle and stumbles upon Jack once more, and suddenly water mixes with magic beans Jack had to grow bean stocks. I would explain why and how Jack got the magic beans, but how get obtains them is so lazy and pedestrian that the film-makers should have just run across the camera saying, "Look, we need Jack to have these magic beans for the story we are going to tell, don't mind us while we pass them on!" Hoult and Tomlinson get pretty decent chemistry off of each other, but Tomlinson's character never really becomes a "character," she is a type. She is only included in this story so that Jack has someone to rescue from the giants. 

Jack gets the beans is just as convenient as his participation for the quest to rescue Princess Isebelle. What qualifies Jack to go with a handful of knights up the bean stocks makes very little sense, the king seems to trust him and its very convenient for the plot, so Jack goes. Ewan McGregor plays a leader of the knights on the expedition to save Isebelle, and McGregor is one of the few saving graces in this movie. He gently etches in the nobility and quirkiness of his character, and it works very well. Stanley Tucci also shows up as Roderick, the man Isebelle's father has in line to marry her, and who has a piece of ancient magic he plans to use with the giants for sinister reasons and those reasons happen to be positively bland. Seriously, Tucci's subplot killed a lot of the film for me, simply because it was so predictable and lazy. Tucci does okay with what he has, but his character was very poorly-written.

Another weird choice with "Jack the Giant Slayer" is how odd deaths are handled. Deaths are handled so broadly, so overly-Shakespearean that I laughed out loud at them. It came across so pathetically unrealistic to me when a character pulls a knife out of his chest, revealing no blood on the blade, and proceeds to scream wide-eyed. It felt like watching a different movie. Another odd choice is when there are not two but THREE points where it feels the movie is coming to close, but it doesn't. It keeps trucking along into one big action scene that ends up boring. When a giant versus human war is boring, you know something is unnaturally wrong. Like I said above, the humor for this movie seems completely out-of-place. The film feels like they aimed for a family film, yet there are scenes of head squashing and killing. In the end, the choices made in "Jack the Giant Slayer" seem to be made by monkeys smoking marijuana. 

The design of the giants further proves the point that the filmmakers were aiming for a younger audience. They are so absurdly created that you can almost hear childlike laughter in your mind. There is also a slapdash quality to it all, because they look like creatures from many different other CGI movies made for kids.

Okay, so the movie had some good performances, some okay CGI, and Ewan McGregor. But it also had unneeded subplots, bad narratives, kid humor and one ending too many. This movie painfully needed an editor at least, to clean up some of the boredom from this production. I definitely think its a problem when an hour and fifty-six minute long movie feels like a two hour and fifty-six minute long movie. 


Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Power of Few Review

The Power of Few Review

One thing I hate the most: Movies that are not about a goddamn thing, a plot that leads nowhere.

Another thing I hate even more: Movies that are not about a goddamn thing, but try to pretend they are.

Such is the case with the colossal trainwreck that is "The Power of Few." It is a movie that features many plot-lines and non-linear storytelling. There is a big wrap-up at the end that ties everything up in one big bow, which would have been shocking if the movie was actually about something compelling. If all of these interwoven storylines actually went somewhere of logic, I could care more. All "The Power of Few" amounts to is a bad movie trying to be cool, which I find even more insulting. The big twisty wrap-up is only surprising if you have never seen a motion picture before in your life, its a flop. The sad thing is, it would have been a flop no matter what. It doesn't matter if the movie is being told in linear or non-linear storytelling, the story is still one-note and predictable. "The Power of Few" was just something that was destined to fail.

The movie revolves around a couple different stories. Two gang members are trying to kill somebody for whatever reason. (Literally, it is never explained why they want to kill this one guy.) A boy tries to care for his infant nephew by robbing a baby store of its medicine, two young-lovers are caught in a crime-scheme, and a fat girl walks around eating a candy bar. All the while two homeless guys look on at the imploding story. All the stories are latched together by a news-story saying something sacred has been stolen from Vatican City. The film features Christopher Walken, Christian Slater, Moon Bloodgood, Jesse Bradford, Juvenile, and Anthony Anderson. It is sometimes off-putting to see a half-way decent cast wasted on such a piece of trash. Christopher Walken has never looked this bored anytime in his career, playing one of the homeless guys that watch these mini-stories collide. Anthony Anderson is a good actor in general, but him playing a gang member nearly made me want to laugh. 

The other sad part is that none of the stories above are really fleshed out enough for us to even care. There are no big beats where we learn anything about the characters, or their motivations or anything else of minor importance. The mini-stories are over really before they begin, which makes the entire experience rather subversive. It seemed like director Leone Marucci had a couple different ideas, meshed together and see if it would work, it didn't. Every plotline in this movie does not lead anywhere, then for Marucci to throw in a big point at the end isn't provocative. It's a lazy attempt to win back his audience, and it failed.

Despite the star-power, I would steer clear of "The Power of Few." Because in this movie, the few don't have the power to make anything in this movie matter.


Ben Affleck is Batman

Ben Affleck is the next Batman
Well, we no longer need to speculate about the upcoming "Batman vs. Superman" movie coming our way in 2015, because the Caped Crusader has been officially cast. Ben Affleck will do battle with Henry Cavill in the upcoming, highly-anticipated superhero movie.

I have to say, even I am a little surprised by the pick. Especially after all the names that fluttered around the role since the concept announcement at Comic-Con. Will Affleck be a good Batman?

As I posted an article on my Facebook about the casting, I couldn't believe what some people said about it. I figured this casting choice would be polar and controversial. This casting is going to be a disagreement pissing contest until 2015 gets here. But, there is a big argument that still has its seeds planted in many movie buff's minds. 

Many people are already writing Affleck off because of "Daredevil."

Let's back up a bit. I will be the first to tell you that Affleck's career isn't flawless. Particularly his early career, which was filled with ups and downs. I have a guilty love for "Armageddon" and his writing and participation in "Good Will Hunting" is superb. But Gigli? Reindeer Games? Pearl Harbor? Paycheck? Forces of Nature? Those are all horrible, horrible life decisions. Yes, I was very unimpressed by "Daredevil," just like so many of you, but here's the thing: "Daredevil" was NOT Affleck's fault. The script, story-structure and character development was sloppy. And after "X-Men" and "Spiderman" were hits in 2000 and 2002, what else is a studio suppose to think? Of course Marvel thought they were untouchable! Of course it is easy to see what happened next. They just began greenlighting anything and everything, sure that people would follow them blindly. Sadly, they were wrong. The go-ahead for "Daredevil" also led to "Hulk," "The Fantastic Four franchise," "Elektra," and "Ghost Rider." Marvel nearly lost all its credibility just for thinking so highly of themselves. A bad performance by Affleck was the least of "Daredevil's" worries, the damage had already been done. So leave Affleck alone about "Daredevil," its time to move on.

In hindsight, Affleck's career really hasn't been that awful. Sure, I detest everything I mentioned above. But we always have to remember that while "Reindeer Games," and "Pearl Harbor" were coming out, so was "Dazed and Confused," "Boiler Room," "Dogma," "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" and "Changing Lanes." His career isn't bad per se, just inconsistent. His Kevin Smith days are very good, simply because I feel Smith understood what Affleck could and could not do. That's the secret about Affleck, if you can understand his strengths and weaknesses, he's puddy in your hands. I think more and more directors now are getting that about Affleck. And if you look at Affleck's directing career, it seems he is starting to get that about himself. It seemed like huge floodgates inside of Affleck opened up after he directed "Gone Baby Gone" in 2007. He's had creative juice like never before ever since then. After getting an Oscar this year, its safe to say Affleck is on fire and has certainly found sure footing.

All of this leads though, to the fact that can Affleck play Batman?

My answer is yes and no...leading more toward no. I know I did lots of ass-kissing above, but I am just not sure Affleck is able to tackle something so iconic as Batman. If he was attached as a producer or writer, I'd raise an eyebrow, but as the actual character himself? That is going to be a tough sale, and Zack Snyder better have something very special up his sleeve that makes us believe Affleck as Batman. Can Snyder bring out the best in Affleck? It is hard to say, as I believe Snyder's work has been inconsistent too. Sure, I love "Man of Steel," and "300" and the "Dawn of the Dead" remake. But at the same time I felt "Watchmen" was very limp and "Sucker Punch" is quite possibly the biggest "coulda, woulda, shoulda" of the last 5 years. I am not sure if Snyder can bring out the best in Affleck, and since Affleck won't be directing himself, its hard to say where this is going to go.

My biggest fear is that Affleck is going to end up like George Clooney. We will remember Affleck for being a great Bruce Wayne but a horrible Batman. Affleck has all the tools to be a playboy full of swagger, but does he have the depth to really be grim and edgy? He has yet to prove it, and it makes me nervous. I am nervous because Warner Brothers is already taking a huge gamble to put a Batman/Superman movie on screen right now. It's full of ambition, but will that ambition be enough? Snyder already proved it wasn't with "Sucker Punch," I don't want Snyder to fall from grace all of sudden. Which leads to...

Good luck to Snyder, Affleck and the rest of the crew. It will be interesting to see where this vision will lead us. But one thing is for sure, Snyder better know what the heck he is doing. Affleck may have had a monster hit recently with "Argo," but he is still involved with dreck like "To The Wonder" and "The Company Men." Can he pull off the Dark Knight? Right now, I am too afraid to answer. Let's just hope now, with Affleck involved, that Bryan Cranston will sign on as Lex Luthor.

Oh and I am not sure, but is Affleck the first actor to wear three popular superhero outfits onscreen?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Essentials- Dazed and Confused (1993)

The Essentials-#19

Dazed and Confused
There was a certain time in everyone's life when things began to change. There was a certain time when you were young, but you were thinking about life and what kind of person you wanted to be. There came a night where you looked yourself in the mirror and said "I am going to have a party at my house, my parents won't be there, I am going to drink this, I am going to take that, if I get caught, whatever, what happens will happen and eventually it too shall pass." There came a time where you sneaked out of your house late at night.  With every single person I knew in high school and college, there eventually came a time when they said "I don't give a shit." Me personally? By my sophomore year of college, I was open with my parents that I had been drinking underage with my friends. Something that I thought would be a startling revelation actually was pretty natural. "Dazed and Confused" captures that time in a young person's life where we ignored consequences and just went with the flow. 

In "Dazed and Confused," we follow a bunch of different high school cliques on the first night of summer. Whether it's freshman trying to score before school, high schoolers trying to prove their work, super-seniors being cool, or just seniors trying to prove their seniority, there at least one person everyone can relate to. The film forces the audience to tap into their younger days, and a great part of how the film pulls that off is through the cast. I have so many favorite characters that its hard to narrow it down. Matthew McConaughey's David Wooderson is instantly iconic, easily one of my favorite overall movie characters. But I also really loved Wiley Wiggins portrayal of Mitch Kramer, a freshman trying to get girls before high school starts. He definitely got me to reminisce memories of my freshman high school days, and for that I give him credit. I also really dig Rory Cochrane's Ron Slater, he's very funny in this.

There is also Jason London, Milla Jovovich, Ben Affleck, Parker Posey, Adam Goldberg, Shawn Andrews, Nicky Katt, Sasha Jenson and Michelle Burke who all give outstanding performances. What the film does effortlessly is move through each clique with ease. We never feel like we didn't get to know somebody, not one character feels left out or not flesh out appropriately. The movie does a great job with character development, better than most films released on a regular basis. I also love that even though the film is rich with characters, the movie still manages to feel like a blur, just like what a night like that would feel like in the real world. 

At the end of the day, my love for this movie boils down to its ability to flash me back to my younger days. Many movies try to evoke that kind of thinking from its audience, but very few are successful in its attempts. "Dazed and Confused" is the real deal. Each actor is perfect for their role, each piece of music compliments its scene beautifully, the humor, drama, its all there, treated with the utmost respect. If I went another 10 on my "Best of the 1990's" list a few weeks ago, you could count this movie on the list. For now, it will always be a movie I love a lot. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

New "Amazing Spiderman 2" photos reveal big spoilers...

New "Amazing Spiderman 2" photos

WARNING: These photos contain major spoilers regarding "Amazing Spiderman 2" YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

I wonder if this new Spiderman franchise is suddenly going all out because while the first may have been solid, it wasn't generally liked by everyone. Perhaps taking "The Avengers" route in reverse may help save this franchise...but it all comes down to great writing and direction. Does Marc Webb have that in him? We will all have to wait for 2014 to roll around.

Here are some new photos from the movie. If you don't know what I mean by "The Avengers" in reverse...well just wait for the last photo. SPOILERS!


So we may get a "Sinister Six" movie after all. The biggest threat Spiderman ever faced, six of the most lethal of his rogue's gallery. Could be pretty awesome if done right, we will just have to wait and see.

What do you guys think of a potential "Sinister Six" movie?