Monday, September 30, 2013

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones Review

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones Review
When film people look back at the beginning of the new millennium, I wonder what they will think of filmmakers creating fantasy backdrops and putting young actors in the mists of it.

What is it about the teenage love story that attracts fantasy elements. Is it that people want those perfect love endings for themselves in the real world? I never knew, but I suppose that would make sense. "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" is based upon a series of novels. This movie focuses on a girl (Lily Collins) whose mother (Lena Headey) mysteriously disappears. The girl discovers she belongs to a secret group of warriors who are battling demons worldwide. Yes, there is a slight love story involved in it all as well, as to be expected.

Yet through a different premise, "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" doesn't add up to much except for semi-famous young people dressing up like goths and killing demons.

Oh, and the title is a little too long.

This isn't a complete dead-end like "Twilight," the acting is actually a step up. Lily Collins is a fairly gifted actress. I think most of her fumbles come from the script, not her performance. Lena Headey also does pretty good work. Kevin Durand, Jared Harris and Jonathon Rhys Meyers are probably the three most recognizable faces in this entire movie, and they make their scenes count. Although, I did really like the rest of the cast; Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan, Kevin Zegers and Godfrey Gao all do pretty well here too.

There are some moments that definitely surprised me. There is a crazy scene involving a dog that mutates itself to look like something out of John Carpenter's "The Thing," which I thought was pretty cool. The effects overall aren't bad, there is a lot here that has potential. I just wish the screenplay worked a little bit better and complimented the good work we see.

If Hollywood continues to adapt this series, one thing is for sure. Get this project some decent screenwriters. If this is done, I think the rest of the series can shine.


Sunday, September 29, 2013

My Reaction to "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
What is a shared universe?

According to comics, its a universe which encompasses an entire comic company's heroes, villains, places, artifacts, themes...all of it in one big world. A universe in which most or all of a comic company's stories take place in. A way to unite all stories under one banner and make things interesting. Alas, while things are getting interesting, plenty of money is being made.

That was one of the biggest complaints I heard people throw at the "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." pilot which aired last Tuesday. Some people don't understand if this is a show based on "The Avengers," or something that happened before "The Avengers" or they don't get how this fits into everything else Marvel is doing. That isn't something that surprises me. Knowing that Disney/Marvel is a completely separate entity compared to Sony/Marvel and Fox/Marvel is going to further confuse everything, so allow me to explain it the best I can.

After reading tons of comics, it becomes second nature that the characters written by Marvel comics exist in the same world. DC and Marvel back in the 1930's saw what big money could be made if their characters existed together in their separate company worlds. In comics, it is second hand nature to me to know that there is a Marvel universe, which is just like ours, but with superheroes and supervillains in it. There is a race called Asgardians and their Gods walked the Earth in the Marvel universe, still do in fact. There is a race of humans called Mutants who are feared and hated by regular humans. The major newspaper isn't "USA Today," but "The Daily Bugle," and there is a super-powered teenager who works as a photographer there. There is a billionaire with a robotic suit, there is a scientist who turns green when angry, there is a family of famous scientists with varied powers, there is a vigilante who wears a skull on his shirt. All of this is just a given when reading comics published by Marvel. Its the same with DC, in that comic universe there are cities in our country called Metropolis and Gotham. The 2000 presidential election wasn't won by George W. Bush in the DC universe, but by a bald criminal with a certain grudge against a certain alien.

Marvel studios in 2008 made a huge gamble and that gamble paid off. The studio is creating its own universe but instead of it being played out across publishing titles, it is being played out across Hollywood studios, release dates and movies. Now in 2013, that universe is being expanded to television. "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Characters in that show know about the Battle of New York from "The Avengers," they know Hulk and Thor and Iron Man. Before the show, I was very excited by the aspect of just how far Marvel was willing to expand its universe. I sat down this Saturday ready and willing to see what Marvel-on-TV would look like.

The pilot of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is full of big ideas, but they're great ideas. Any of these ideas would be great for one season of this show. However, what I am scared of is will these big ideas become the show's demise? One person could look at the pilot and call it a NCIS with superpowers, and that's a fair description. I just hope that isn't the shows ambition. It would be pretty disappointing if after all the hype and hoopla surrounding MCU expanding to TV, that its show only boiled down to NCIS with superpowers. The pilot can be described as a team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents being assembled to find a man with superpowers. That's the pilot in a nutshell, and overall, its a strong pilot. But, if the entire series is just this team looking for super-powered people, that will get old fast.

The episode begins with an explosion in East Los Angeles, California. A man climbs up the building and saves the life of a woman trapped in the building. This grabs the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D. and a group of agents headlined by Phil Coulson (yes, the real Phil Coulson) go to find and talk to the man. However, this mysterious metahuman isn't just being pursued by S.H.I.E.L.D. but also, The Rising Tide. A quasi-WikiLeaks group dedicated to sorting out the corruption within our big, bad government. Like I said, some intriguing ideas. Especially after the big speech the superpowered man makes at the end of the episode. It's clear the world has changed in the aftermath of "The Avengers," and I hope that change effects the rest of this series in a big way.

Joss Whedon, director of "The Avengers," is involved in the series. Remember, Whedon got his start on TV with "Firefly," "Buffy The Vampire Slayer," and "Dollhouse." He's a great TV guy, and now has proven he's a movie guy too. But he's not the only one involved with this series. Whedon, Disney, Marvel, ABC...there are tons of chiefs in this tribe, and according to what I've read, these chiefs have a different opinion on where this show should go. That is why I thought this pilot was overstuffed with ideas, and that is my biggest concern with the show after its pilot. Each idea every big spender has on this show can be fleshed out, but not all at once. Slow this show down, this could potentially have 5 to 6 season run, so why bulldoze through everything? If this show just translates out to a weird NCIS with some other ideas thrown in every once in awhile, then the show will be done after 1-2 seasons. Easily. The low budget of the show compared to the movies has already effected viewership to an extent (The agents fly around in jet rather than the Helicarrier, because ABC can't afford the effects needed for the Helicarrier.), so its going to take something really exciting to keep viewers coming back every Tuesday night.

But this is a movie blog, not a TV blog. So the main purpose of discussing this pilot was to dissect how it fits into the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe. Overall, it fits in really well. There is talk of gamma radiation and Extremis that will make fans happy. There is even a sign advertising Stark Industries on the side of a bus. I am sure there are plenty of Easter Eggs that I missed, another concern I have about the overall show is how they will use these Easter Eggs. Peppering each episode with them won't keep people watching, so it will fun to see how they use them. Samuel L. Jackson has already expressed interesting in making guest appearances on the show. Could other members of The Avengers make a special appearance? Can they legally do that based upon their Marvel contracts? We will just have to wait and see how things pan out. I feel that ABC has to make a strong first season before we can think about big guest appearances though.

So to sum it all up, I liked the pilot. It definitely left me wanting to see the next episode, so that is a plus. It is going to be fun to see how this series continues to fit into the overall Marvel Universe. But I do have some hesitations, one person needs to take control of this show and allow it to shine. They need to take their time with their ideas and establish them in a clever, intelligent manner. If they do that then "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." will be a wildly popular show, if they don't then it might not last five episodes.

The Essentials- Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

The Essentials-#24

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
October is drawing closer and closer...and its definitely one of my favorite months of the whole year. You already know I love horror films and the genre itself. I am currently catching up on "The Walking Dead" on Netflix and I am thinking about trying "American Horror Story" afterward. I love this time of year, so expect lots of Halloween themed posts in the near-future.

When I reflect upon my favorite horror films, I think of the films that truly, deeply frightened me. There have been several times throughout my life where I was up the whole night after watching a horror movie. The Sixth Sense. The Exorcist. The Ring. These are all films that have horrified me, that have plagued my mind even today. I think they are all great films however, movies from this genre that deserve to be seen. Another film I'd add to the list of horror films that kept me up all night is the 1970's "Texas Chainsaw Massacre."

Lots of critics like to denounce "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" merely because of what it stands for. This was the movie that gave birth to the "slasher film." There are many film lovers, professional and unprofessional, detest this sub-genre. I detest the sub-genre. Its wacky, cliche and unnerving. There have been many filmmakers who have used that for their horror film but they never live up to their potential. If every slasher film was made to the template of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," I feel it would be a much stronger sub-genre overall. 

What separates "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" from the rest of the herd is evident right as the film starts. The entire film looks cheap, rugged, it looks like a film that never made it all the way through the editing process. I love that feeling in 1970's movies, there was a in-your-face quality to most '70's grindhouse movies that made them effective. "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," shares that effectiveness. There is a huge sense of realism that splashes across each scene in the film, it feels your watching a documentary of what happened to a group of teenagers who went to visit a relative's grave. The film's cast is also what makes this film stick out. Each actor's first film was "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," very few of the actors credited in this film acted in a movie again. This is also what I mean by realism in terms of this movie. Every person in this movie acts well. The teenagers, the cannibal family, everyone. I don't know where director Tobe Hooper found these actors but they certainly came to work. Gunner Jensen in particular as Leatherface...absolute horror. 

The title always made me smile however, because this is one of the least gory horror films ever made. I think that works for the film rather than against. I always champion horror films that try to avoid violence for grim atmosphere and eerie mood. There is a lot more of that in this movie over bloody violence. The violence we do see is terrifying. It is handled in such a matter-of-fact way that it exploits true power. Lots of violence in modern horror films are so stylized that it isn't scary. People being shot or stabbed in the real world isn't stylized, and neither are the deaths in this movie, which is why its so damn scary.

As October begins to assimilate itself, you'll be seeing lots of reviews for horror films popping up frequently. If you read this blog avidly, if you make lists of films to see based on this blog and if you are fan of all things scary, you owe to yourself to see this movie. As far as the horror genre goes, "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" is basic vocabulary. If you haven't seen it yet, check it out sometime this month, when your friends are over, and the lights are off. You'll be glad you did.

Friday, September 27, 2013

G.I. Joe: Retaliation Review

G.I. Joe: Retaliation Review

Back in 2009, I was no fan of "G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra."

I felt for the most part, the wrong actors were chosen for these characters. I thought the story was hokey, the effects poor, and it had an incorrigible script of massive proportions. I liked director Stephen Sommers' earlier films, but the first G.I. Joe film was dud to me. When I heard the sequel would have a new director, only three actors from the original returning and Bruce Willis joining the fray, I thought things might turn out for the better. That's what I had hoped all along. I loved playing with the toys growing up and dreamed of a great G.I. Joe movie. The cartoon is fun for nostalgic reasons, but doesn't hold up the same as other classic cartoons do. I wanted this movie to really set the standard for G.I. Joe in other media.

Stephen Sommers was replaced by John Chu for some unexplained reason. It seems like Chu forgot he was continuing an ongoing franchise. If you remember from the first film, this series takes in the "not too distant future." Well nobody told Chu, because this film is clearly in present day. Sure, Cobra has some futuristic tech, but Cobra always has futuristic tech. What I was wondering the whole film was where were the accelerator suits, invisible suits and other G.I. Joe tech from the first film? It also seems that the Joe organization got radically Americanized. In the first film, the G.I. Joe's were an international organization, in the sequel they are clearly an American organization. Why the switch? Plot convenience. The President (Jonathon Price) who is being impersonated by the Cobra Zartan (Arnold Vasloo), had the Joe's killed and framed for murdering the Pakistani President. That action by any world leader would be much more slippery and risky if it were an international organization that was attacked, but if it were a rogue organization from one nation? That's a little more plausible.

That leads to another glaring problem with this sequel. Chu decided to set everything in terms of realism that it kills the series as a whole. Tying everything around a global nuclear breakdown as well as tensions with nuclear superpowers doesn't ring true to the G.I. Joe style or story-line. The G.I. Joe toys were never meant to be militaristic propaganda, nor was the comic series, the cartoon or even the first film. G.I. Joe is a science/fiction fantasy adventure. It features cool tech and other elements not linked to reality. Grounding this sequel in reality not only ruins the franchise's continuity, but it makes comments on real world issues that are completely backwards. Real world parallels really have no place in a G.I. Joe movie, this stuff should not be taking itself so seriously. But hey, it worked for Christopher Nolan and Batman, so Hollywood is compelled to copy it.

I'll give Chu a couple points. He can shoot well-staged action sequences and he can get some good work from his actors. The big showdown in the last thirty minutes are pretty exciting, so was the mountain ninja fight about halfway through the film. When Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes fight side-by-side, it felt like geek bliss, one of the highlights of the film. The Rock proves once again this year that he is a charismatic machine. He brings keen power to his role as Roadblock. Channing Tatum proves that he is perfecting the art of dying in his movies within the first 15 minutes. Bruce Willis does classic hammy Willis work, but it felt right with the character. I really got to give to both Luke Bracey and Robert Baker for creating the walking and talking Cobra Commander. This guy seems like he was pulled right from the cartoon and it worked almost too well for this movie. Byung-hun Lee, Jonathon Price, Ray Stevenson, RZA, Adrianne Palicki and D.J. Cotrona all do very good work as well.

In the end, I am both sad and surprised that this franchise isn't coming together in the way I think it should. I had high hopes for this, but the right combination of artists are not getting together to make this what it could be. Paramount needs to find a director and writer who is very passionate about the characters, like Peter Jackson is for "Lord of the Rings," or Joss Whedon for "The Avengers." I say, especially for the sequel, the actors are in the right place for the first time in this franchise, now we just need a crew to support them. We need a script that won't bury itself in realism but won't crank up the corny so much that it looses focus of the story. The stuff that works in this film REALLY works, so much so that it makes me swoon. However, we need a script that won't take itself seriously but also won't become a big joke. It's a lot less trickier than it sounds, my only question is who is up to the task?


The Canyons Review

The Canyons Review
See the look on James Deen and Lindsay Lohan's faces? That's basically my face during the entirety of "The Canyons." Bored, stunned and checking my phone. I think that will be the general consensus on this piece.

I didn't watch this because of Lindsay Lohan, I was kind of interested that the film was written by Brett Easton Ellis, the author of both "American Psycho" and "Laws of Attraction." Both books were adapted into fine films, so I was curious to see how Ellis would handle a script. I discovered tonight that there are some things Ellis can't do. It can't make his ideas interesting in a script. Add in stiff performances and a seemingly braindead director, "The Canyons" becomes a mess quickly. The thing that shocked me the most is how uninteresting Ellis' script is. So rich people are pricks, and Hollywood types are completely amoral. Is that really all that is on his mind? I'm sorry, but I've heard that in film, TV, and in book form all my life. I don't need to be reminded of those facts, especially in a package as soulless and shameless as this one.

I'd like to give a synopsis. But I find it hard to muster up words to describe this film. There is a movie producer (James Deen) with a girlfriend (Lindsay Lohan). They have an incredibly open relationship which involves lots of kinky, weird behavior. They are both cheating on each other, and the whole movie drones through both of them trying to find out the other's secret before the other person does. That's the movie. It seems director Paul Schrader and writer Ellis decided to take that and make it as boring as possible. This was a really hard sit. Especially since Deen, Lohan and the rest of the cast are determined to make themselves as stiff and emotionless as possible. 

I wish I could think of some positive factors, but I just can't.

This is a movie that is dark and depressing simply for the sake of being dark and depressing. I am sure Schrader thinks it's "cool" or "edgy" to fill his film full of despicable people in horrendous situations and call it art. I don't though, I call it a waste of time. I find it hard to imagine anybody else on the planet not calling this a waste of time. If your a Ellis fan, I'd stick to his books, "American Psycho" and "Laws of Attraction." You'll get a lot more bang for your buck.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Weekly Top Ten- Ten Actors For Ant-Man

Weekly Top Ten-#24

Ten Actors Marvel Should Consider For Ant-Man
So we have known for quite sometime now that the film which will open MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) Phase Three will be "Ant-Man." We have known for awhile now that Edgar Wright has landed as the film's director. Wright has also directed "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World," so he will be no newcomer to comic movies. Wright also directed "Shaun of the Dead," "Hot Fuzz," and this year's "The World's End." There is a rumor circling around that "Ant-Man" might come out sooner that November 2015, which was its orginal release month. That is music to my ears, I feel Ant-Man should have been in this universe well before the first Avengers movie. So with this rumor in mind, I created a list of actors who I think could play Hank Pym aka "Ant-Man" very well. I hope you enjoy my list.

10. Adrien Brody
Brody has already proven to have incredible range. His Oscar for 2002's "The Pianist" also solidifies that. Recently, Brody has taken much more mainstream, fun movies. I think Brody is prime for superhero material, and I can't think of a better hero that would fit Brody's style and persona.

9. Michael C. Hall
The "Dexter" actor already has the perfect look for Pym. But a big bonus for Hall is that he's an incredible actor. He has proven from "Dexter," as well as many movie roles that he can be sarcastic and serious, two traits that are good for Pym. Plus, who wouldn't want to see Hall in a superhero movie?

8. Milo Ventimiglia
Now, I'll admit, I haven't like too many movies with Ventimiglia. However, I do believe he is a unique talent who needs the right role. I totally feel that Hank Pym could be that role for Ventimiglia. He's got the looks and the charm for the role and I definitely think he'd do really well with the role. Like Hugh Jackman with Wolverine, this could be a role that creates a career.

7. Joshua Jackson
After "Fringe" I think Jackson could be a very good choice for Hank Pym. I think he's matured quite a bit since The Mighty Duck franchise, and he could really revive his film career once again with a Marvel property.

6. Jason Lewis
Based on looks alone, Lewis has the role. Good thing he's a capable actor too. I could understand why somebody would think that an overall unknown actor might not be the best bet for a superhero that doesn't have the popularity compared to Spiderman, however I think Lewis would pull the talent in spades. He's definitely got the charm to pull it off.

5. Patrick Wilson
Wilson already played "Nite-Owl" in the 2009 adaptation of "Watchmen." So we already know he's got a connection to superhero stories. He's also proved over his budding career that he has striking range. He can be heroic, villainious, passionate, tender, and comedic. He's got a wide arsenal of emotions he can bring to Hank Pym and I think Disney and Marvel would benefit from his casting.

4. Simon Pegg
He looks like Hank Pym. He's expressed interest in the material revolving the character. He's worked with director Edgar Wright on several occasions. He's funny but he can also be very dramatic. He's a nerd with a passion for this kind of movie. Yeah...what is Marvel waiting for?

3. Nathan Fillion
Much like Pegg, Fillion is a big nerd. He would be more than willing to take the role if offered and he would be very proactive in making it the best possible movie. Much like many actors on this list, Fillion has also proven to have quite the range.

2. Ewan McGregor
Right now on the internet, McGregor is one of the favorites for the role. I can definitely see why. He's got the look and the build of Pym. He's got quite the career which could easily lead to the role. He also has yet do anything in the superhero arena. I say why not, he already proved that two actors can play the same character to absolute perfection. Why not put a superhero name under his belt.

1. Alan Tudyk
For the love of God Marvel, make it happen! I know I have said for all the actors on this list that they have wide range and talent, this is why I considered all of these actors. However, Tudyk gets the top spot because he would be absolutely perfect for the role. Perfect. To mention his range and talent almost feels like wasted praise. If Tudyk landed this role, it would be the type of perfect casting that we got from Marvel when they gave Iron Man to Robert Downey Jr. Yes, it is that high of caliber. I truly think Tudyk was born to play this role and I want the rest of the world to know.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters Review

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters Review
I am a lover of mythology. Particularly Greek and Roman mythology. The Olympian Gods, the demi-gods, their adventures, their fables, these were the first superheroes. The first recorded tales of thought-provoking life lessons. Anytime there is a movie that revolves around mythology, I am immediately interested. I look at it with an open mind and an open heart. I saw "Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief" back in 2010. I never read the series of books, but I felt the concept was unique and clever. I wish the movie was, its not that it was bad, but it didn't blow me away. It was okay, it had solid performances and good special effects, but it lacked in the story development.

The sequel kind of feels that way too.

I think Logan Lerman and Alexandra Daddario have become very comfortable with their roles. Brandon T. Jackson even shines in his moments in the film. Douglas Smith as Tyson the cyclops was truly good and the special effects on him were quite remarkable. In fact, all the films effects were fairly effective once again. Much like the first film, this sequel lacks a compelling story-line. I also felt the pacing was tough this time out. I remember "Lightning Thief" keeping things moving at a decent pace. There are several moments in the sequel that unbearably dragged. When I felt the film was halfway over, I wasn't even thirty minutes in. That was definitely a factor I couldn't dig. The movie reaches for a certain intensity, but since this is a family film, that level is never reached.

The film begins with an old tale of a demi-god dying to protect Camp Half-Blood from monsters. Zeus was so touched by this demi-gods sacrifice that he turned her body into a tree of protection, no longer allowing outside threats to attack the camp. Then in present day we re-connect with Percy Jackson (Lerman) and his friends back at the camp. When a giant bull attacks, it is evident that the tree has somehow weakened. It is up to Percy and his friends to find out why as well as finding out where the Golden Fleece is. The Golden Fleece is a powerful artifact that can heal the tree.

Perhaps that synopsis sounds interesting to you, but there were many moments that made me snicker. Not because the film was funny but because of its genuine silliness. When creating fantasy for literature or film, you have to tell your story in an intelligent, confident, and clever way. Otherwise, your story will just end up looking silly. This type of creativity is what separates "Lord of the Rings" and "Harry Potter" from "Eragon" and "Twilight." You have to make your characters, settings, backdrop and theme make since, and tell it in a great way. Despite the performances and effects, I am not sure if "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters" fulfills that request.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Need For Speed Trailer

Of all the video games to adapt into movies, I would have never guessed that "Need For Speed" would ever be among them. That doesn't mean that I don't mind being pleasantly surprised, if a movie works there is no way I would allow myself to not say so. In a "Need For Speed" film, I would also never imagine that Aaron "Jesse Pinkman" Paul would headline the movie. But I've watched a lot of "Breaking Bad." I love Aaron Paul and I love Jesse Pinkman. I think this guy could very well become a star. 

The first trailer for "Need For Speed" has hit the internet. It looks interesting, its a short trailer, not a ton is given forward. But it looks interesting enough and I think Paul is a good actor, good enough to carry an action film on his own. Let's see how this one plays out. 

Overlooked Film of the Week- Bronson (2008)

Overlooked Film of the Week-#24

When you hear or look up the name Nicolas Winding Refn, you will notice he is the director of "Drive." Its easily the most iconic movie in his filmography so far. Everything else he's done too independent and too strange to be on anybody's radar. Too bad, because "Bronson" is a huge highlight in this guy's career, a great catalog of acting, and just a flat out entertaining movie. Yes, its a very strange film, even a deranged film. But the movie has a sick energy that spills all over the entire production and it is headlined by an actor who went underrated during the whole ordeal.

Today, everybody knows Tom Hardy. Before he became the Tom that we know, he played Charles Bronson in Refn's film. This isn't a biographical film about the actor Charles Bronson but the infamously famous British inmate. Born Michael Gordon Petersen, this boy born into a middle-class family could have been anything he wanted to be. What Petersen wanted was fame, no matter what for, he wanted fame, he wanted to be remembered, he wanted to create something to talk about. 

Even if it meant becoming the most dangerous criminal in all of Britain.

The chronicles Michael Gordon Petersen's life as he becomes criminal, to psychiatric patient to amateur, illegal bare-knuckle boxer. The film is narrated from Petersen's point of view, this is what makes the film good in a very weird way. We enter the twisted, disturbing world of Petersen through Hardy's performance. If I were in charge of the Oscars in 2009, I would have given the Lead Actor Oscar to Tom Hardy. I know I've said it before, but I had to say it again. Just like Heath Ledger as The Joker, just like Javier Bardem as Chigurgh, just like Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, Hardy disappears into this role and completely makes it his own. Tom Hardy is a crazy force of nature in this movie, it is the type of character that only the right actor could pull off. It seems Refn found that right actor in Tom Hardy. His performance is so powerful that all the other performances pale in comparison. He turns the film from very good to great in my opinion.

The film is well-staged, well-edited and well-shot. If you enjoyed the music from "Drive," Refn creates an instant iconic soundtrack using a wide variety of music. Not only does the film have a great soundtrack, Refn creates something truly memorable. Even though I wasn't the biggest fan of 2013's "Only God Forgives," I firmly believe that Refn will be filmmaker to look for in the future.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Live-Action Cinderella First Look

First Look: Cinderella
Disney is reviving one of their very popular classics, Cinderella. From the director of Thor (Kenneth Branagh) comes the live action "Cinderella." The picture above is the first view of Cinderella (Lily James) riding a horse. So far, they've got the conventions of the character right. Blonde hair, blue dress, looks good so far.

Lily James will join Cate Blanchett as the Stepmother, Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother, Richard Madden as the Prince, and Stellan Skarsgard as the Arch Grand Duke.

Looking forward to a first trailer.


Monday, September 23, 2013

World of Warcraft casting?

By 2015, we should either have a WOW movie getting released or at least have one on the way. Duncan Jones, the director of "Moon" and "Source Code" will direct the video game adaptation. Jones is an incredible director and I think he could make a stylish, cool adaptation. Today, we got our first list of actors in negotiations for roles in the upcoming movie. Here is the list of actors.

Colin Farrell

Paula Patton

Paul Dano

Anton Yelchin

Travis Fimmel

Anson Mount

Currently, there are no details on the script, so I can even begin to guess who these guys will be playing. I must also say that negotiations don't mean anything and there is no concrete proof that any or all of these guys will get cast. I like Farrell, Yelchin and Dano quite a bit, Patton is growing on me. I have never seen anything with Fimmel so I won't judge and from what I've heard, Mount is very good on the show "Hell on Wheels." 

To all my WOW players, what do you think of this cast and who could they possibly be lined up for?


Insidious: Chapter 2 Review

Insidious: Chapter 2 Review
2013 has been a rich year for horror films and I am happy to report another good one to catch this Halloween season. "Insidious: Chapter 2" is a fitting follow-up to 2011's "Insidious." Its a sequel that doesn't necessarily tread water and it also doesn't abandon the first film's premise. This movie feels like a true sequel to the film that hit theaters in 2011. Fans of the first film are going to have another chilly, trippy, creepy, spooky good time with this sequel, that is definitely something to look forward to.

"Insidious: Chapter 2" begins in 1986, when a young Elise Rainier (Lindsey Seim) visits a young Josh Lambert (Garrett Ryan). Apparently, the spirit world tried to contact Josh when he was very young, it wasn't something that just suddenly came when he was an adult. Seems Elise tried to block the spirit world, she tried to get Josh to forget he could astral project. Whatever those spirits wanted with Josh, they never got them. Its a moody, creepy opening and it begins the film on a high note. Then we go right into another chilling opening credits scene, something that will feel very reminiscent of the first film.

After the opening credit scene is done, we see Renai Lambert (Rose Byrne) being interrogated by police about the ending to the first film. The police aren't buying that a ghost killed Elise in the first film, and that Josh (now Patrick Wilson) is a prime suspect for Elise's murder. Josh and Renai go home though, and then very creepy things start happening to everyone in the house. One thing I think horror fans will respond to right away is the fast pacing. There is barely a time to relax, barely a time to recollect yourself. There is always something going on that will terrify you. The moodiness and tense atmosphere from the first film is back with an iron hand and it will scare you. 

Another thing that works to benefit the film is the story. There is a very grisly story revolving around the spirits who possess the family. Crazy-evil parents forcing their child to do something incredibly sad? Scary. No pun intended but there really is something truly insidious buried in the film's story. This isn't exactly the same story from the first film spewed out once again, but in the same vein of the first film. Couple this with the cunning direction by James Wan and the beyond startling soundtrack by Joseph Bishara, and you've got something truly shocking.

I am glad that Rose Byrne, Patrick Wilson, Barbara Hershey and Lin Shaye return to play Renai, Josh, Mrs. Lambert, and Elise respectively. They are all great in their roles and really make the movie come to life. Patrick Wilson in particular steals the show. He plays the happy and innocent father in the first half but when its time for Wilson to turn on the creep, he does so with flying colors. Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson return as Specs and Tucker and they deliver tiny pieces of humor throughout the film. The script is written beautifully where the humor never overpowers the horror. The end of the film hints at other adventures with Specs and Tucker and if those characters got their own spin-off film? Holy cow, I'd be on-board. Both actors are very funny and engaging throughout and deserve credit for their work.

The thing that bothered me is that this film seemed to rely more on slick camera pictures and some special effects over mood and atmosphere. What made "Insidious" in 2011 so good was how little special effects were used. Some of the best horror movies ever made barely had any CGI in them at all, just complete horror and maybe some good make-up. The make-up in "Insidious" makes me jump every time. I wish there was more of that in this sequel. The slickness of the cinematography is very good, I just feel it overwhelms the picture at some points and makes the adventure much less scary. Does it derail the movie? No. But it was definitely a distraction.

Overall, if you want something to check out this horror holiday, check out "Insidious: Chapter 2," this is a precise follow-up. I hope if they can figure out stories that keep the terror coming in this series, I'd say make more. I am willing to see wherever this series chooses to go. Right now, its off to a great start. In a genre that usually fumbles its sequels, that is a highly compliment.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Weekly Top Ten- Ten Books That Should Become Movies

Weekly Top Ten-#23

Ten Books That Should Become Movies
It would only seem that by 2013 that all the great classics of literature have been adapted to the silver screen, but that's not true. There are plenty of great books which would translate perfectly to the big screen. Even some written many years ago that haven't been adapted yet. Tonight I have created a list of books which I think would make great movies, I hope you enjoy the list.

10. The Juvie Three- Gordon Korman
"Gecko, Terence, and Ajay are serving time in juvenile detention centers until they get a second chance. Douglas Healy, a former juvenile delinquent himself, takes them into his halfway house, hoping to make a difference in their lives. One night there is a scuffle, and Healy is accidentally knocked unconscious. When he awakes in the hospital, he has no memory of them or of the halfway house. Afraid of being sent back to Juvie, the guys hatch a crazy scheme to continue on as if the group leader never left." 

I think this would be perfect for the independent territory, not needing a huge budget. This could be much more effective with a cast of unknowns instead of high-profile young actors. The story is written well enough that it could be adapted into a killer screenplay. 

9. 7 Steps to Midnight- Richard Matheson
"After his identity and life is stolen by a mysterious imposter, mathematician Chris Barton must elude killers as he follows a series of cryptic messages that lead him around the world to a rendezvous with an enigmatic woman."

Richard Matheson wrote the great "I Am Legend" which was adapted into a movie three times. I read this one because of "I Am Legend" and it would make just as good a movie, perhaps even a better one. With the right director and the right actors, this could really be something.

8. The Giver- Lois Lowry
"Given his lifetime assignment at the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas becomes the receiver of memories shared by only one other in his community and discovers the terrible truth about the society in which he lives."

I am greatly surprised that this hasn't been made into a movie yet. After all the big young adult fiction that has been cranked out to the screen lately, one which actually tells a good story is mind-boggling. 

7. Brave New World-Aldous Huxley
"Huxley's story shows a futuristic World State where all emotion, love, art, and human individuality have been replaced by social stability. An ominous warning to the world's population, this literary classic is a must-read."

This has been arm wrestling to be made, even attaching Leonardo DiCaprio for the lead. I say bring this idea back and give it to DiCaprio and his production company. I think this book deserves a great movie.

6. The Catcher in the Rye- J.D. Salinger
"There are many voices in this novel: children's voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden's voice is the most eloquent of all."

Yeah this is pretty unbelievable.

5. The BFG- Roald Dahl
"This celebration of the power of imagination, wrapped up in a brand new package will introduce one of children s literature s biggest heroes to a new generation."

I know usually Pixar is known for its original projects, but I think they should really pick this one up. The animation would be unbelievable. The right voices would eloquently capture the characters.

4. Artemis Fowl series- Eion Colfer
"Artemis Fowl is going straight-as soon as he pulls off the most brilliant criminal feat of his career . . . but his plan goes awry, leaving his loyal bodyguard, Butler, mortally injured."

I seriously can't believe that stuff like "The Host" and "Twilight" gets pushed out from Hollywood. Yet something that has potential to be a hit doesn't. With the right director and cast, this series could be the next big hit.

3. The Call of Cthulhu- H.P. Lovecraft

2. I Am The Cheese- Robert Cormier
"A young boy desperately tries to unlock his past yet knows he must hide those memories if he is to remain alive."

I read this one back in grade school, but it still gets me thinking about it from  time to time.  I think its a real piece of work, and I could have easily put most of Robert Cormier books on this list. If I have kids, this will be one of the many authors I will try to get them to read. He's powerful and this would make a powerful, Oscar-worthy film.

1. The Dark Tower series- Stephen King
"Returns to the rich landscape of Mid-World in a story within a story about gunslinger Roland Deschain, who while investigating a murderous shape-shifter interviews a terrified teen who has witnessed the creature's most recent killing."

This one's been talked about and talked about for years. I am still dreaming that we will finally see this series in its entirety, on the big screen. This is one of Stephen King's great masterpieces. Now in this time, when we have great special effects companies and many great artists in the business  this story should be allowed to flourish. Who wouldn't want to see a magnificent blending of western and Lord of the Rings? I hope and pray we are lucky enough, in this lifetime, to see this.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Prince Avalanche Review

Prince Avalanche Review
Writer and director David Gordon Green is an interesting one. He is one of the very few filmmakers who can make something gross-out, crazy funny (Pineapple Express), he can make something startlingly intense (Undertow) and he can make uplifting drama (George Washington). I don't think there are too many filmmakers out there with such a wide-range catalog, such potent control on a wide variety of genres. Perhaps he likes challenge, perhaps he's got a lot to say, no matter the reason, he's an intriguing filmmaker who should be allowed to flourish.

His latest movie, "Prince Avalanche," is small in scale but big in heart. It tells the very simple story of two men (Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch) who spend the summer working road construction, painting highways. Paul Rudd's character is named Alvin. Alvin has done this type of work before and enjoys it very much. Alvin is the kind of guy who doesn't mind being alone, he may almost prefer it. He needs help though so he gets his wife's brother, Lance, the gig. Lance is played by Hirsch and he's a typical young guy. He wants to drink and he wants to get laid. Lance may seem like a one-dimensional character, but Hirsch is able to evoke lots of charm out of the character.

"Prince Avalanche" could have been a tricky movie. Lance and Alvin are pretty much the entire cast. Sure a couple other characters come in and out, but its mainly the story of these two guys. It is always tough making a movie revovling such a small cast, however Rudd and Hirsch do profound work. They create a friendship that is human, confident and full of energy. And yes, there are plenty of funny parts, why waste the efforts of both Hirsch and Rudd? Of course there is funny stuff. However, with these two actors and their career past, it was almost shocking how effective the drama was. 

What also makes "Prince Avalanche" a delight is how it is able to flesh out its ideas. Lance and Alvin are on-sight the whole movie, camping out to go to work the next day. At first Lance thinks this will be a lonely experience, as Alvin embraces being alone. Not everything is perfect in Alvin's life though, as his wife doesn't understand why he's constantly alone. The film really captures how being alone can not always be the answer. Plus, both men learn good ideas about life from each other. It all works because the film is so confident.

At the end of the day, "Prince Avalanche" is charming and funny throughout. Rudd and Hirsch are able to really sell this thing, and the result is another winner for David Gordon Green. Sure its over before it really begins and the pacing is a slight issue. But the film's nitpicks are far and in between. I had a good time with this movie and I am sure you will too.


Prisoners Review

Prisoners Review
After tonight, I have reflected upon "Prisoners" and I feel with this film, "Gone Baby Gone" and "Mystic River," it is safe to say that I will never allow my children to be out of my sight. If I ever have any.

As my girlfriend and I left the theater tonight, we stopped at her parents' house to get our dog before we went home. My girlfriends mom asked me how the movie was. I got to say, the best way to describe this movie is that it feels like a shot of Jack Daniels. This movie stings on the way down and it wakes you right up. Don't get me wrong by that description, "Prisoners" is an excellent movie. But viewers must be warned that it is a really tough sit. The audience my girlfriend and I saw this with said it all, as there were plenty of moments where the audience made horrific moaning and grunting sounds. This is a movie that gets under your skin, that inflicts scars. You're going to leave the theater feeling like you just survived a horror film. The reason the film works is because it stays true to its convictions. "Prisoners" revolves around two little girls getting kidnapped and their two families struggle to find out who took them. Right away, you should know this is going to be a darker ride. However, especially with the dark movies, context matters. Because everything in this film is treated with confidence and with care. It all works.

Perhaps that says something about me as a film watcher. All my life I have been a lifelong horror fan, thriller fan and suspense fan. I have seen many styles of movies from many different cultures and countries. With that though, I have seen more on-screen depravity then I care to remember. Some of it works for me, while some doesn't, similar to every genre of movie. If you already know that dark stuff turns you off, then I'd steer clear of this one, you'll be glad you did.

Hugh Jackman and Maria Bello play Keller and Grace Dover, the family of one of the girls who goes missing at the beginning of the film. Terrance Howard and Viola Davis play Franklin and Nancy Birch, the other family whose daughter goes missing. These two families are friends and on one Thanksgiving, their lives are changed forever. Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) plays the policemen who gets assigned to find the missing girls, and he works very diligently. Even though Keller believes he already knows who took the girls, Alex Jones (Paul Dano) a strange kid who lives with his aunt (Melissa Leo). Because Keller believes he knows who took them, he goes out of his way to prove it. He does unbelievable things to get his daughter back and when I say unbelievable I mean it.

The work done by the entire cast is terrific, and I don't think its a long shot at all to think we probably will find some of these actors getting Oscar nods this winter. Gyllenhaal especially really lays bare why he's a credible actor, giving one of the best performances of his career. Jackman is equally great as Keller. This is a character we have never seen from Jackman before and he really sells it. I think Paul Dano deserves possibly the most credit however, as his character is the most melancholy and heartbreaking of the entire movie. I won't get into why simply because I don't want to ruin anything. This is a movie you're going to want to see for yourself. It's filled with twists and turns and an ending that will make you shut your eyes and say "REALLY?!?!?!" 

What makes "Prisoners" really stand out for me is how well it embraces its themes. It clear that Keller Dover is a very religious character and religion plays a huge part in the movie. The most painful lesson "Prisoners" tries to teach is this: No matter what religion you belong to, if you do not live a moral lifestyle, you will be punished for it. There is a character in this movie that does some terrible, unethical things to another character; completely depriving them of their rights. By the end of the movie, once some shocking revelations are made, the same exact thing happens to the character who inflicted that pain upon the other character. I can't help but see the parallels. No matter what the circumstances, if we do not treat each other with respect, if we do not live a good-willed, moral lives, we will not get a slice of the promised land. "Prisoners" is a very dark example of that lesson, but it is painted beautifully in the movie.

So despite the darkness, I think you owe it to yourselves to check this out. This will no doubt be an experience I remember the rest of the year.


Friday, September 20, 2013

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox Review

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox Review
This year, DC studios might have had some success with "Man of Steel," but whomever is in charge of the DC Animated studios needs to get those filmmakers to the live action stories, because I feel those filmmakers would tear up the silver screen.

I know I've discussed this before on my blog, but I can't help it. I got to give credit when it is due, and this time, it's due. DC Animations is awesome, creating wonderful story after wonderful story. The artists behind these movies really have a firm grasp on who these characters are. For a guy who never was much of a DC comics fan, these movies make me fall in love with them. "Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox" is another great example to put next to "Wonder Woman," "Green Lantern's First Flight," "Batman: Gotham Knight," "Crisis on Two Earths," and "Superman: Unbound" which came out earlier this year. There is a great energy and great confidence to each of these films and Flashpoint is no different. If you could imagine a live action version of "Green Lantern's First Flight" starring Ryan Reynolds...that would be a movie talked about today for all the right reasons.

One thing that stands out about this movie is that it focuses on one of the lesser known Justice League members. There have been rumors circling around for awhile about the possibly live-action The Flash film. It would definitley be interesting to see. However, I don't know how commercial it would be. If people get out to see "Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox," then a live-action Flash movie is much more possible. The Flash comes front and center in this movie and works very well. The character is very well written and well focused.

The film begins with The Flash fighting a big team of his enemies; including Captain Cold, Captain Boomerang and most importantly Professor Zoom...The Flash's arch-nemesis. Professor Zoom has special bombs placed in specific places which will level Central City. With the help of the Justice League, The Flash thwarts Professor Zoom's plan though Zoom eludes that something much more problematic is on the horizon. The next day, that problem emerges. The Flash sees a world where Bruce Wayne died in crime alley, Barry Allen isn't The Flash, and Aquaman and Wonder Woman are at war with each other. Only The Flash knows that this is an alternate timeline and he has plans to change it back.

The voice talent includes Kevin McKidd, Justin Chambers, C. Thomas Howell, Michael B. Jordan, Nathan Fillion, Ron Perlman, Kevin Conroy, Cary Elwes and Danny Huston. Each actor portrays great talent and they help bring their characters to life. The big surprise though, is just how raw director Jay Oliva makes this. This is the first real animated film by this studio which takes some incredible dark turns. Wonder Woman kills a child for crying out loud. Batman shoots someone in the head and the camera zooms in on his face through the bullet hole in the dead persons head. It is very grim stuff, and I give Oliva credit for never backing down, always living up to the film's convictions. This may not be your child's movie but in the context of the film it all works.

So checking out "Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox?" Totally worth it.


Fast & Furious 7 looks grim

The first two photos from the set of "Fast & Furious 7" got leaked this week and they have caused quite the uproar.

I think Vin Diesel seems to really love his fans. He always talks, leaks little hints and tweaks. The last of the two photos I have to share tonight he posted on his Facebook page. I won't say much, because if anybody hasn't seen "Fast & Furious 6" then I won't give anything away. But I will say that the post-credit scene from "Fast & Furious 6" are setting this seventh film to be a little on the sad side. These photos are definitely on the sad side.

There is a very somber mood and I think this film will. I think there is still lots of magic left in this franchise and I hope that magic shines!