Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Draft Day Review

Draft Day Review
It easy to make a movie about a particular piece of culture. What's not easy is to make that movie appeal to the general audience. In particular "Draft Day" is about a very specific day in our nation's National Football League. I love football and I love the NFL. I grew up in a house that was glued to the TV every Sunday, all day long. While most of the world by agree, not everybody agrees. My awesome girlfriend didn't really get into football until I got serious with my friends in fantasy football and still, she isn't an avid watcher. There are always different strokes for different folks in this world and I firmly believe in that ideal. 

"Draft Day" is not a normal movie of this style. "Draft Day" is a movie that can appeal to the general audience, no matter who sits down to watch it. Fans of football will be fascinated by the world of drafting and just how much knowledge and effort goes into drafting players for the NFL. We as the audience really get a deep understanding of the NFL Draft Day from a business point-of-view. I've got a couple of college buddies who love football dearly, who also happened to graduate college with business degrees. I have no doubt that they will love this movie. For people who do not really watch football, they will be reeled into the interesting story, brought to life by two wonderful leads in Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner. The film was directed by Ivan Reitman, who brought us the magnificent "Ghostbusters" in 1984, one of my personal favorite films, has delivered a riveting drama. He also sprinkles some good humor here and there which adds to the flavor of the film. 

"Draft Day" takes place on the eve of the first round picks for the 2014 NFL season. Kevin Costner plays Sonny Weaver Jr., the general manager of the Cleveland Browns. Sonny has had a long history with the Browns, and the success of the team matters a great deal to him. The entire film focuses on Weaver's battle with the Seattle Seahawks over who will get the first round pick, who is Bo Callahan (Josh Pence), quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner from University of Wisconsin. How Weaver handles the deal, how he works within the draft and how he is able to make moves for the benefit of the Browns is what "Draft Day" is all about, and its all captivating.

The biggest positive "Draft Day" has for it is Costner, who gives a effortless and talented performance. Costner has been in a real swing lately, but I loved him even before that. I don't know why he fell out of film for what seems like a millenia and I do not care. He is back in full form now and he is absolutely crushing it. No matter what movie he is in or what character he is playing, he is absolutely crushing it. Jennifer Garner plays Ali Parker who is a lawyer for the Cleveland Browns and Weaver's secret girlfriend. I must say that for a long period of time, I did not really like Garner as an actress. I simply felt she made poor decisions. She seems to be in witless comedies a lot, she seems to play a bimbo a lot and she was involved in a superhero franchise that...well...let's not get into that. I have to say though that she may have found her footing. Miss Garner, if you ever read this, try to find more roles like Ali Parker in the future. It seems Garner lights up when she has someone smart and grounded to play. It seems she is perfect when she can play somebody who does not have any major character transitions. If Garner can conjure more work like this and score more roles like this, she'll become more respected in no time. And, dare I say it, maybe even be awarded an Oscar nod. That's just my two cents though.

The supporting cast is equally solid. Actors like Frank Langella, Terry Crews, Sam Elliot, Chi McBride, Tom Welling, Denis Leary and Ellen Burstyn all do very good work in the movie. Plus, the film is full of so many memorable faces who all do outstanding work that it almost feels overwhelming. Did you like Chadwick Boseman in last years "42?" You'll love him in "Draft Day." Do you like David Ramsey in TV's "Arrow?" You'll love him in Draft Day. Even somebody like Sean Combs does very personal, calculated work as a sports agent. I personally love that Pat Healy, who did near-perfect work in "Cheap Thrills" earlier this year had some good scenes in this movie. Like I said, the supporting cast is solid and everybody gets a great moment to shine.

I know I said that the movie would appeal to the general audience and I genuinely believe that. But I have to admit that the NFL jargon gets pretty over-saturated after awhile, and maybe some people who don't watch football on a regular basis could get bored. I can also honestly say that if the movie focused more on the draft and how it works, the film would have been stronger overall. The many sub-plots of the movie do not really work because they simply are not fleshed out enough. All movie long Ali and Sonny discover that they are going to have a baby, and there is suppose to be some emotional payoff by the end of the film due to that sub-plot. The emotional punch of the sub-plot is never felt because it never fully thrives. There is also so much to learn about Sonny's past and why the Browns mean so much to him. Its sad that none of it really matters in the script. Yes, there are big personal issues that steer Sonny as a person, but its never fully explored, never fully realized. Sometimes, "Draft Day" feels like it drifts into another movie entirely, which can get kind of annoying after awhile.

No matter, there is still a lot to like about "Draft Day" if you open your mind and enjoy. Hats off to Costner and Garner for taking a fairly one-dimensional script and making something real out of it. This movie didn't need to matter, but both Costner and Garner made it matter. The great acting and humor are all just a big bonus. This will be a gorgeous, unnoticed hit and I hope you jump to it before everybody gets a chance to check it out.

FINAL GRADE: B

Who Played It Best? The Hulk

Who Played It Best? The Hulk
"Who Played It Best?" will be a weekly poll on my blog. Each Wednesday, I will collect a group of actors known for playing the same character in the movies. You will have the entire week to vote for who you felt played the character the best. I will announce the winner next Wednesday.

The Hulk has been appearing on the silver screen for a little over ten years. Even though the character has been very popular for many years, its always been a tough road to get him onscreen. The early drafts for a hulk movie go back as far as 1990. I have read comics for awhile, I think The Hulk is a very cool character, and he's had some stories written with him, front and center, that I think deserve the cinematic treatment. Much like some of you, I have been kind of disappointed by the film output. No matter how bad a certain Hulk movie was, we missed out on much worse, trust me. Early 1990's scripts with The Hulk featured our green hero doing battle with Insect Men...yes Insect Men. Another idea was to turn the film into a comedy of sorts featuring either Jim Carrey or Adam Sandler courting Dr. Banner. Yeah, like I said, we missed out on some bad ideas. 

I still can't believe that The Hulk has been in movies from 2003 to 2013 and in less than ten years, the character was portrayed by three different actors. Eric Bana started it all with "Hulk" in 2003, and honestly, I always wish to forget that boring excuse for a superhero movie. The idea of Insect Men is bad, but a gamma-radiated poodle maybe worse. Then when Hulk was brought into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Edward Norton got the gig. (Bana said in interviews that he viewed playing the character as a "one-time-thing.") Sadly, as much as it pains me to admit this to myself because I love Eddie, he was too difficult to work with. There were fights between Norton and the crew about where the character should go and how his movie should have ended. Its too bad Norton left, because the imagining the onscreen chemistry between Norton and RDJ is putting my imagination in overdrive! Norton was replaced by Ruffalo in 2010 for "The Avengers." When that mega-movie finally came out I thought Ruffalo did well. Which leads us to...

My Two Cents
Despite throwing my opinions of the Hulk movies out there, this is actually a hard choice for me to make. The best part of the 2003 Hulk movie was Eric Bana. I'll even go as far to say that Bana was so good, he nearly got me to like a bad movie. Norton has been a favorite actor of mine for years, so I have a bit of a bias when it comes to him, it also helps that Norton made a great movie and had a great script to work with. As good as Ruffalo was in "The Avengers," I lean the edge more so on Bana and Norton. Ruffalo is wonderful, no doubt about it. But he did not get a lot of mileage as the character, he just didn't. "The Avengers" was a big ensemble-piece, and some character arcs were shortened for the sake of time. I get that, I just give the edge to Bana and Norton. Both of those actors had an entire movie with the character, that gives me much more to judge. Alas, it should be noted that Bana and Norton never actually played The Hulk. Both "Hulk" and "The Incredible Hulk" featured the green monster in total CGI. Much like Andy Serkis in "Lord of the Rings," Ruffalo actually did some of The Hulk's movements for "The Avengers" using Avatar-esque technology. So that may help with your decision. One thing is for sure though, Marvel should consider a stand-alone Ruffalo Hulk movie, I need it. I need to see Thunderbolt Ross become Red Hulk. I need to see a superpowered Phil Dunphy. I need to see Hulk throw down with The Leader. Really Marvel, get on it.

So which actor played The Hulk better? Let me know by next Wednesday. You can start voting today. You can email me (bloggershawn@gmail.com) or just simply leave a name in my comments section below.

LAST WEEK: WHO PLAYED IT BEST? CAPTAIN JAMES T. KIRK
My second "Who Played It Best?" was last week. It was a tale of two Kirks, Chris Pine and William Shatner to be specific. It was a fun vote, generating lots and lots of talk. I was incredibly surprised by the final outcome. But, that is part of why I do this, for big surprises. Here's who you voted as the best Captain James T. Kirk.

By roughly 70% of the vote, Chris Pine beat William Shatner.

Interesting as always gang!

GET YOUR VOTES IN BY NEXT WEDNESDAY SO WE CAN DECIDE WHO THE BEST HULK WAS!


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Monster Vs. Monster! Asian Godzilla Trailer!

It seems that everywhere overseas, things are better.

Well, at least cinema-wise. Instead of getting their theaters drenched with genre revival after genre revival, Asian cinema is crafting a new definition of originality. This is not the first time I have gone off on a tagent, praising our neighbors of the West, and it definitely won't be the last. I just can't help that they get lots of cool stuff, even when it comes to trailers.

Depending on what you read, you may have heard that there will be multiple monsters in the upcoming "Godzilla" movie. There are already theories circling online about the monsters and how they may or may not have been seen in the trailers. Tonight, it will be made official that there will be multiple monsters in the movie. Godzilla may begin the film as a foe who ends up a friend, or maybe it will be vice versa. No matter what happens, I hope the ending result is better than what we got back in 1998.

My favorite part of the trailer wasn't seeing new monsters and new threats for the movie.

It was the very last line of the trailer by Mr. Ken Wantanabe!

Godzilla will once again hit our shores on May 16TH!

THE CAST OF STAR WARS EPISODE VII ANNOUNCEMENTS! OFFICIAL!

Besides the shooting schedule and a somewhat together release date, details of "Star Wars: Episode VII" has been kept under wraps. So tight have the details been for this film that it makes this reveal even more exciting. I understand why all the secrecy of course. This is "Star Wars," a version by J.J. Abrams of all people. J.J. likes to keep us all on our toes, and for "Star Wars?" Who wants all the rabbits out of the hat at a drop of a dime? Right now, I can't even imagine what this film would even look like. Sure, there are books and video games and comics out there that dig into the expanded universe of "Star Wars," but George Lucas has stated on occasion that the only content that is canon to "Star Wars" is what happens in the movies. That basically means that Abrams can do whatever he wants with these characters and get away with it. I like that, I like that he can start from scratch from a creative point. Abrams has had me guessing for awhile, and I still can't imagine where this is going.

The announcement of official casting details has been displayed today. There are some casting options that seemed set in stone, while there are some big surprises too. From the picture above, you can see Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, so we know that Han Solo and the Skywalkers are back. We knew about a month ago that Peter Meyhew would be returing as Chewbacca and so are Anthony Daniels as C-3PO and Kenny Baker as R2-D2.

What comes next is what is really exciting. It seems that the rumors for Adam Driver are true, as he is seen in the picture above. It also appears that John Boyega from "Attack The Block" is in the movie, and so is Golden Globe nominee Oscar Issac!! Plus, Andy Serkis and Max Von Sydow have joined the mix. That's right, Gollum and Father Merrin are going to be in a "Star Wars" movie.

What new adventure lays before our old band of heroes? What kind of villain will Driver be playing, if he is still a villain? What will our newcomers bring us? This is all incredibly exciting, now my curiosity is in overdrive, unable to process this information. One thing is for certain, Abrams has put together a wonderful cast, old and new alike. Now, the big question is, can he make a great movie? Can he put faith in those "Star Wars" fans who lost it all after the prequels were released? We shall find out on December 18th 2015. I'm getting in line now, who else?

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Sabotage Review

Sabotage Review
Arnold Schwarzenegger is back in a gargantuan action thriller. By his side, he has Josh Holloway, Terrance Howard, Sam Worthington, Joe Manganiello, Max Martini and Mireilli Enos. They all play a badass group of undercover DEA agents who go around the movie taking down drug dealers. I like that we have been blessed with a wealth of new films for Schwarzenegger to play. He may never win an oscar, but boy does the guy have tons of charisma. He creates another personal visage here in "Sabotage" and its part of the fun for the whole film.

On the other hand, anybody expecting another "Schwarzenegger" movie will be surprised. "Sabotage" is a dirty movie. "Sabotage" is an ugly movie. Its populated by terrible people, including the heroes we are supposed to root for. Not only is "Sabotage" an epic action thriller, its also dark film noir. Its a movie that is missing its moral center, as no character in this entire production has one. Its not the type of action we expect from Schwarzenegger. With Schwarzenegger movies, we expect cartoonish action, silly plots, crazy one-liners and lamented for a movie that not to be taken seriously. "Sabotage" represents the cold, gritty, dark action that also exist in the spectrum. I am amazed at how well Schwarzenegger handled everything he was asked to do.

We meet this DEA team in the midst of a mission. They are taking down a big group of drug lords when they come across a huge stash of money. They plan to steal some of it, split it evenly between the group, then create a diversion to wash away the evidence. Everything seems to be going well, until the money they hid is not in its hiding spot. Not only that, but one of their teammates was killed during the mission. The entire foundation of trust and respect the team had on the DEA evaporates, and the group members begin to question each other's loyalty. Especially when the group begins to die one-by-one. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Breacher, the teams leader, and he must find out who took the money and who is killing off his team of agents. 

We have seen Schwarzenegger is R-rated action films before. We have even seen him tackle some gritty stories in his time as an action star. But "Sabotage" represents the darkest corner of his entire career, and like I said, I am amazed by how well Schwarzenegger handles himself. Schwarzenegger still carries that wonderful charisma in pockets of this film, but there is a stone-cold malice to his character that I found deeply intoxicating. It was so much fun to see Schwarzenegger out of his comfort zone, particularly in an action movie. If you are expecting typical Schwarzenegger, "Sabotage" is not it, but its still a ride worth going on.

The rest of the cast does good work here too. Breacher's team in this movie are not your usual cop movie heroes. There is a callous attitude among the whole group, a team of cops that you'd never want to cross. I like the dynamics of the group, I like it when the team is all together kicking butt in the movie. It is interesting that each member of the group is unabashedly crazy, and each actor is able to portray that level of craziness without every becoming hammy. Sam Worthington in particular is shockingly comfortable in this movie, and he displays some of his finest acting to date. Holloway, Howard, Manganiello, Martini and Enos all have great moments and I like that each member of the team shines at some point in the movie. 

Director David Ayer does nothing by half-measures for his movie. The action pieces are grimey and the editing is stylishly in-your-face. The storyline may seem familiar, and it maybe hard to sit through a movie where you feel like you are not rooting for anybody, but "Sabotage" is worth a look. Much like any other Schwarzenegger film, its fun and it will breeze right by. If you are going to go dark though, you can't go halfway and "Sabotage" definitely does that.

FINAL GRADE: B

Kevin Smith's Christmas-Themed Horror Film


Sometimes, Kevin Smith reminds me of Quentin Tarantino.

Back in 2011, Smith announced during the Sundance premier of his first horror film "Red State," that he'd be retiring from directing soon. He stated that he'd make one more comedy about hockey, then he'd be done. Then soon after, he announced that his hockey comedy would be split into two films. 

Well, then that ended up not happening.

It seems in recent years that Smith has decided he likes the "horror genre" and is going to stick with it. He's got a walrus-themed horror film he's been working on for awhile now, entiteld "Tusk." The film will reunite "Red State" collaborators Michael Parks and Kevin Smith. It will also star Justin Long, Genesis Rodriguez and Haley Joel Osment, quite the cast as you can see. "Tusk" is set to be released sometime this fall (definitely an October release.), around the time "Tusk" gets released, Smith will go to work on yet another horror film. 

Smith sounding like Tarantino yet? Or is it just me?

After "Tusk," Smith will be making "Anti-Clause" a horror movie about a child-eating monster, which will be set during Christmas time. It has also been confirmed that Smith will bring back Parks, Rodriguez, Long and Osment for "Anti-Clause." That does not surprise me at all. Smith, like many directors, tends to rehire actors he works with in the past, so this will be no different with his chain of "horror films." Apparently, "Anti-Clause" will follow an anthology format, and Smith may not be the only director working on "Anti-Clause." But there is nothing to confirm that as of now. With all of this "horror" on the way, Smith still seems to want to make "Clerks III," but that will not be for awhile now. In fact, I have absolutely no idea if it will get made at all. We will have to wait and see.

I liked Kevin Smith in his early days, but his career has been...well...interesting these days. I liked some things about "Red State," but I didn't really buy into all of it. Its definitely not a movie I'd try to own. One thing that bothered me about it was that it really wasn't a horror movie. Smith can call it a horror movie all he wants, but its not. There is some intense situations in it, but nothing that alludes horror. I don't know if Smith is turning a new lead, distancing himself from comedy to try something new. But his last few comedies were not up to par with the rest of his filmography. I am somewhat intriuged by "Tusk" and I am geniunely curious to see what walrus-horror is, I only hope that this is indeed a horror movie this time. No matter what, I will always have respect for Smith, no matter how muddy his career gets. Let's hope these next two horror films really do something.

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Overlooked Film of the Week- "Silent House" (2012)

Overlooked Film of the Week- #54

Silent House
This weekend my girlfriend and I went down to my hometown of Peoria, Illinois to visit my family. My girlfriend's birthday is next weekend and we wanted to carve out some time with my family to celebrate her special day with them too. I actually had some big surprises of my own that came to fruition in the most wonderful of manners. It was a great weekend. While I was playing Mexican Train Dominoes with my girl and the fam, the 2014 Godzilla movie came up in conversation. I explained that I am open-minded about the movie, particularly due to its casting. Elizabeth Olsen came up, and my parents weren't familiar with the first name, but definitely the last name. Elizabeth Olsen is the youngest sibling of the famous Olsen twins, and in my opinion, she's the sibling that has all the talent.

So its true, I love Elizabeth Olsen. She's incredibly talented as an actress, she's cute and she seems to have a good head on her shoulders. Much like Jennifer Lawrence, I like that Olsen is creating a filmography that doesn't tie her up in typecast. Watch any movie in her resume and pay close attention to the characters she plays. The people she plays do not look like each other, she plays a different style of character every time she gets in front of the camera. I think its great that an actress so close to my age is taking her career seriously, that's something you can't say about all of them. She's not a constant, annoying teen in teen comedies, she isn't a balloon-head in comedies, she is careful with her picks and her career is paying off from them.

"Silent House" is a quiet, little addition to her resume. A horror movie that may seem familiar at first glance, but pays off in ways that other "haunted house" movies have not. We meet Sarah (Olsen) at the edge of her home, she seems to be having some private time to herself when a friend she doesn't recognize comes to her house unexpectedly to see her. Sarah doesn't remember her but the friend assures her that they were friends when her and Sarah were young. She eventually leaves, and she goes back into the house to meet up with her uncle and father. They are revamping their house in order to cell it, making it a huge, cluttered landscape. Soon her uncle leaves the house for tools, her father gets knocked out, and a terrified Sarah is seemingly trapped in a huge house with a mysterious stranger.

Sounds familiar right? But do not forget what I said. There is more to this horror film than meets the eye. First of all, the film is great about showing us that less is more. Sure, the modern age may get impatient with type of slow-burn, but for me, it worked just fine. We barely get a glimpse of Sarah's attacker and we barely see what is going on while she is ducking and hiding, but all of that is used to scare us. It is quite harrowing and I loved every moment of it. Second of all, this is a film full of surprises. Its a movie to really pay attention too; pay attention to the dialogue shared between Sarah and her mysterious friend, pay attention to how Sarah talks about her memories, pay attention to the attitudes of the uncle and the father. This will lead to an unforgettable climax that had my jaw hit the floor. There is something quite sinister at the heart of this tale and it shocked me deeply.

I also loved the use of real time in this movie. "Silent House" is 87 minutes long, making the movie take place over 87 minutes out of the day. Much like FOX's "24," "Silent House" uses the "real time" device to near-absolute perfection. Not only that, but the film is shot as one continuous scene. No flashbacks, no camera tricks, no cut aways, the entire film purposely looks as if somebody shot the whole movie with a single camera and never stopped recording. This gives the movie a very disorienting, disturbing atmosphere that was absolutely hypnotic. It seems the crew behind this movie was definitely channeling Alfred Hitchock's "Rope" when they thought of this movie and it payed off for them in spades. The entire cast is effective, and Olsen really digs into her character, making a rather one-dimensional role seem awfully human. Anybody who needs proof that Olsen can handle Scarlet Witch in the upcoming "Avengers: Age of Ultron" can look no further than right here.

Stylish and spooky, "Silent House" is something to watch when the lights are all off!

The Essentials- "Annie Hall" (1977)

The Essentials- #54

Annie Hall
I know I have always patted myself on the back for giving every genre a fair shake, and that is true. I hope I don't come off like I am conceited or that I have vast knowledge compared to everyone else. I do, however, like to demonstrate that I am fearless. One of the goals of this blog is to make as many of you film-lovers as fearless as I am. I will also admit that being a fearless moviegoer takes its toll and it is not always easy. One of the genres that continually lets me down more so than others is the romance genre. For the most part, those movies never get over their own cliches. It takes a very special mind to help me overcome the obstacles that plague the romance genre. I never once imagined that one of those people would be Woody Allen.

There have been bits of romance and love in most of Allen's films, but he tackles those ideas in much different ways than the average norm. Usual themes that appear in all of Allen's films are cheating and divorce, and that definitely does not end with "Annie Hall." But with "Annie Hall," Allen created a transcendent romantic comedy. He made something that was occasionally funny. He created something that was occasionally lubby-dubby. But Allen had some serious thoughts about the conventions of a genuine, real relationship with another person. He really captured the insecurities, the confusion, the arguments, the wonder and the sheer excitement of being in a relationship with somebody new. Even though Allen's approach to the material is quite funny at times, I think there is a geniune gloss of realism that is carefully etched into every scene, in every plotpoint, in every developing character. Allen's characters feel like real people, and besides a few slapstick moments, the movie feels like somebody documented a couple's relationship. That is the beauty and magic of "Annie Hall" and it becomes pretty clear why this is one of Allen's most precious moments.

I love the film's opening. I love that Alvie Singer, Woody Allen's character gives the audience his philosophy of life in a nutshell by a couple of jokes. Not only that, but Allen drops a major twist into the opening. Right away, we learn that this movie will not be the simple "forever after" story. Right away, we learn that this love story may or may not have a happy ending. Too many times in Hollywood, our romance movies are just that...romanticized. We get sold that a relationship is only rainbows and butterflies and once you find that one, special person you can relax and fate will step and take care of both of you forever. That is not how it works, that is not real life. I have been dating the same girl for a long time now, coming onto 5 years. I don't regret anything and I'd quickly relive all of it with her again, but there were many bumps along the way to get to where we are today and I am sure there will be more bumps in the future. That's life though, that is what happens when two different people co-exist in the same atmosphere. People in relationships have disagreements, different viewpoints, different ideas for the relationship. Anybody who tells you differently is whipped, or the person in the relationship with them is. Easily, the best thing about "Annie Hall" is that it tells a human story, about seemingly real people and tackle a subject worth tackling. 

The film's story is simple. "Annie Hall" is an odyssey between two people. What's interesting about the story is that it is told in NON-chronological order, yet we still get a cohesive story. Alvie Singer gives us a brief introduction, then we see how he was raised as a young man. Then the films veers us right in the middle of Annie and Alvie's relationship, they are haplessly in love and are discussing their past muses. Eventually, the films get back on a track that seems chronological. I don't want to make the film sound like its hard to follow, because its very easy sit through. There is just a fun game that Allen is playing, not only is the film a romantic comedy but its also a fun way to discuss memory and how that plays a serious role in remembering any relationship. 

The work by Woody Allen and Diane Keaton is flawless. I think out of all the women Woody Allen regularly worked with, it was his chemistry with Keaton that felt right every time. No matter what type of movie they were in, they always felt like real people. Allen and Keaton both had a knack for being incredibly funny and incredibly dramatic at the same time. Watching  these two actors interplay with each other is the best reason to see the movie. There are many great actors, including Paul Simon and Tony Roberts who show up in the film, but its Allen and Keaton that drive the whole thing. There story is the glue to the movie and they make it all worth while. (Also look for a cameo by Jeff Goldblum, in the first movie he ever made!)

The romantic comedy maybe sappy, and soapy sometimes. But that is what they are suppose to do and that's what they are meant for. Yet, its always refreshing to see a romantic comedy be real. Its refreshing for a romantic comedy to deviate from the cliched genre norms and dare to tell a story based on real life. This was a shining moment for Woody Allen and he created one of his best movies with "Annie Hall." Not only that but Keaton and Allen displayed some of their best acting with this movie. "Annie Hall" is full of surprises and it deserves to be checked out.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Another Superhero joins "Batman vs. Superman"

It looks like "Batman vs. Superman," which is planned to hit theaters in 2016, is quickly filling up with heroes. Time will tell if that was a smart move or not.

Actor Ray Fisher has officially joined the cast for the "Man of Steel" sequel and will definitely be playing Cyborg. Cyborg is pretty self-explanatory, he's a half-human, half-robot superhero in the vein of RoboCop. Cyborg's parents both worked for a major scientific lab in the comics, Cyborg was badly hurt, so his parents used experimental technology on him to save his life, the result was turning their son into a superhero. Pretty easy to understand, by Cyborg has been a popular character within the Justice League and Teen Titans stories in the DC Universe for quite sometime now.

This confirms that Michael B. Jordan must have been offered the role before it landed in Fisher's lap. Jordan will appear as The Human Torch in the upcoming "Fantastic Four" reboot. Fisher has no previous acting experience in movies, but he's been a hot commodity on stage. His most appealing work to date was from "Fetch Clay, Make Man," something that brought a lot of attention to Fisher. Fisher's name was also previously thrown around for a role in "Star Wars: Episode VII." Whatever he's been doing on stage, its obviously working, and he could become a huge star. 

Here's the thing though...is this still "Batman vs. Superman" or is WB too scared to call it "Justice League?" There are more heroes and big DC characters in this movie already, that it seems Superman and Batman maybe deluded down quite a bit. I hope that is not the case though. I really wish Zak Snyder and the WB could have held off on any Justice League or Batman mumbo-jumbo and just told us a good Superman story within two or three films, THEN bring in Batman and the other heroes. That's just how I would have tackled the idea myself.

There are some ways that Snyder could side-step this and still make a great sequel. In Christopher Nolan's Batman movies, the emergence of Batman helped, but it also open a doorway for more villains. That theme could be used again for "Man of Steel 2." Could the emergence of Superman catch the attention of other super-powered beings hiding in the shadows? Perhaps. I feel that would be the best way to tackle the material, and possibly the easiest way to make the film about Superman.

What do you guys think of Cyborg being in the movie?

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

RDJ teases "Age of Ultron!"

Robert Downey Jr. has had a lot of fun as Iron Man. He loves the character, he loves working with Marvel, he loves working on these films. That could not be more evident when Downey Jr. talks about his experiences as Iron Man. I think that is great, I always love when the actors get attached to the characters they play. It shows determination, and love for their work. It also shows us that they take it  seriously, which is all I want as a fan.

Another thing evident about Robert Downey Jr. is that he loves the fans. He has walked this journey as Iron Man along with the fans. Tonight, he has done a little teasing with "Avengers: Age of Ultron." He has posted a couple pictures he has taken. Live from the set.



So it isn't much, but its a little something. The posting of these pictures is very Downey Jr. in many ways. I hope he is having a good time and I can't wait to see this sequel.

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Who Played It Best? Captain James T. Kirk

Who Played It Best? Captain James T. Kirk
"Who Played It Best?" will be a weekly poll on my blog. Each Wednesday, I will collect a group of actors known for playing the same character in the movies. You will have the entire week to vote for who you felt played the character the best. I will announce the winner next Wednesday.

Tonight, a legend of science fiction goes head-to-head with himself. I know you will probably tell me how William Shatner played Captain James T. Kirk on television, but the original Star Trek cast made about six movies together, and Shatner even appeared in one of the Next Generation films that were made sometime in the 1990s. Chris Pine has made two movies as the character, starting with the 2009 reboot. Pine has only two movies under his belt, while Shatner has roughly seven films under his belt. I have no clue if that makes a difference whatsoever, but it could. 

I always enjoyed the Star Trek movies. Growing up as a huge fan of science fiction in general, I always was drawn to it, even if I was a casual fan. My dad always said that science fiction futures were always negative, but Star Trek made that untrue. Star Trek featured a future where we didn't blow ourselves up, we didn't destroy our planet, we didn't lose lives in a huge, galactic war. We came together and began discovering the far reaches of space. I always liked Star Trek a lot for that, I liked how positive a future it pasted for us. I always thought Captain James T. Kirk was a really cool character, somebody that was easy to be drawn too. I feel both Shatner and Pine did that well, in their own rights of course.

My Two Cents
This is a tough decision for me, which is part of the reason why I chose to take up this blog. I need more perspectives on these questions of who played who the best. This is an extra tough decision because the Kirk's that have been portrayed in the movies. The Shatner version of the character knew his father, he was greatly inspired by him. Not only that, but the early "Star Trek" films were space opera swashbucklers. They were high in adventure, deep in spirit, full of glory. The reboot is a totally different animal. In the first film, Kirk's dad dies in mere minutes of James T. Kirk being born. Pine's version of the character never knew his father, and that clearly affected the way this Kirk grew up. I understand why Paramount made the choice, they did it so that they could go in any direction creatively without ruining the continuity Shatner's version created. Pine's version also paints Kirk as more of an action hero, somebody who is more reckless. Pine's version is also showing us a very early Kirk, a version that we never saw with Shatner, a young up-and-coming Captain. So does Pine get an edge for portraying a version of the character we never saw with Shatner? 

As last week, you will have until next Wednesday to vote. Please let me know, who played Captain James T. Kirk the best? William Shatner or Chris Pine?

LAST WEEK: WHO PLAYED IT BEST? BATMAN
Our first "Who Played It Best" took place last week. It was between Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney and Christian Bale over who played Batman best. The voting is over, the results are in and the winner is...

Michael Keaton!

Michael Keaton has been awarded the best Batman by you, with a little over 59% of the vote.

TO VOTE BETWEEN CHRIS PINE AND WILLIAM SHATNER FOR CAPTAIN JAMES T. KIRK, REPLY TO THIS BLOGPOST OR EMAIL ME (bloggershawn@gmail.com). PLEASE DO THIS BY NEXT WEDNESDAY!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Equalizer stills

I never knew about "The Equalizer" was a 1980's TV show. I didn't know this information until I dug more into the readings about the film. Now that I know its a show, I wonder what it was like. I'd love for the show to appear on Netflix eventually, just to see what it was like. For right now, I'll settle with the movie coming out with Denzel Washington and being directed by Antoine Fuqua.

I love Denzel Washingtion. I especially love him when he's playing a creative, calculated badass a la "Man On Fire." The last time Denzel Washingtion and Antoine Fuqua teamed up, they made "Training Day" in 2001, a cop movie I still enjoy and find vastly underrated. I think the gritty atmosphere that Fuqua creates is intoxicating, no matter how good or bad the movie is that he makes. So no matter what, "The Equalizer" will be somewhat good. We have our first two stills ready today, and the I can already tell that the atmosphere is in place.


"The Equalizer" will be released in September, I can't wait to see the first trailer!

SOURCES:

Monday, April 21, 2014

Rio 2 Review

Rio 2 review
I want to start this review by stating that I very much enjoyed "Rio" back in 2011. I liked the many songs, I liked the characters, I liked how energetic it was. I was absolutely hypnotized by the mesmerizing animation of and how the colors seem to wash over the audience in the theater. I usually cannot stand the presence of both Jesse Eisenberg or Anne Hathaway, but their voice-work was well-done and utilized to a tee. It didn't revolutionize the animation genre nor did it change the genre, but it was a fun time at the theater. Sometimes that is all you need.

Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway are back in "Rio 2," reprising their voices for Blu (Eisenberg) and Jewel (Hathaway). Also returning are Jamie Foxx, will.i.am, and Tracy Morgan return as Nico, Pedro and Luiz respectively. So does Leslie Mann and Rodrigo Santaro as Linda and Tulio, the humans who took care of Blue and Jewel in the first film. This sequel takes place a few years after the first film and Blu and Jewel have a family now. While Blu and Jewel are enjoying life in Rio de Janiero, Linda and Tulio are exploring in the Amazon. A crisis with Linda and Tulio forces Blu, Jewel and friends to make their way to the Amazon. In the Amazon, Blu and Jewel come across Jewel's family. Meanwhile, Nigel, the villain from the first film (voiced by Jemaine Clement) is back to get revenge on our heroes for nearly killing him in the first film.

Jewel's family introduces us to most of the new characters in the film. Andy Garcia voices Eduardo, Jewel's father. Bruno Mars voices Roberto, the childhood friend of Jewel. Both Eduardo and Roberto do not approve of Blu's lifestyle or his trust in humans. There is also a rivarly between the Blue Macaws and the Scarlet Macaws, whose leader is Felipe, voiced by Philip Lawrence. I liked the voice work by all the new cast members. Garcia, Mars and Lawrence all create memorable presences through their voices, it is astounding work.

Once again, the film is full of unrelenting color. The animation effects done by Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox Animation is once again beautifully surreal. The details of this animated world get better and better with each new film. The sun-drenched locations are pure eye-candy, and both adult and children alike will be drawn by the power of the wonderful animation. Eisenberg, Hathaway, Foxx, will.i.am, Morgan, Mann and Santaro once again do very persistent voice work. I feel the cast does a good job of making their characters unique, funny, and actual characters. Too many times in children's films, characters are stiff types just for the sake of the children. Here, the cast is able to create rich characters and their characters are complimented by great voice work.

So the thing that bugs me the most about this film is how familiar the premise is. If director Carlos Saldanha put so much effort in creating genuine characters and dreamlike locations, why create such familiar story. Do animation studios seem trapped in typical children's film norms? Do studios think that children will not accept newer styles of storytelling? This is definitely a case where the kids will love this animated adventure moreso than the adults. Perhaps that is what a family seeks when seeing family films, for which "Rio 2" could fit the bill perfectly. But for parents looking for more maybe bitterly disappointed. As I stated above, Blu is not accepted by Jewel's family. So, of course, he will try and fail countless times to gain their respect. His attempts to please Jewel's family will hit a climax so bad it may feel like Blu's life will never be the same, until he steps up, becomes the hero he is and saves the day. I feel most of you could guess that premise by my descriptions above. I don't feel like I particularly spoiled anything, as this has been the product of most children's films for decades. 

The reason why the "Toy Story" trilogy has resonated so much with me over the years is how it was able to challenge its audience. Yes, its true that each film in the trilogy is essentially Woody trying to be there for Andy, but the execution of each film is totally different from the other. In each film, Woody faces a different crisis, in each film there is a different foil. Overall, I also feel that each film in the "Toy Story" trilogy tries to say something very important to all ages. It throws ideas at its us and we are left to sort out those ideas and find out what they mean to us. I feel all great animated films do just that. Each animated film does not need to be the typical finding-a-hero fable, they can be something more. I guess that is what I strive to see as I get older, some new experiment that can touch the hearts of all people. 

If you are only worried about whether or not your child will like the movie, you can relax. "Rio 2" is a good-looking and charming movie. You adults out there may find the film's story a little too familiar, but it is still full of fun. The voice talent is all there and they pull no punches. By and large, this was a welcome back to this story and these characters and there is enough here to enjoy.

FINAL GRADE: B-

Movie Question: What Movie Turned You Into A Movie Buff?

Movie Question- #1

What Movie Turned You Into A Movie Buff?
I've got a goal I want to achieve this year with my blog: I want to get my readers involved as much as possible.

Starting tonight, I will asking my audience movie questions. I am going to try to find as many fun, thought-provoking questions related to film as possible and see how much feedback I get. I am not going to say that this will be a daily or weekly occurrence, but one that will happen as often as possible. I am trying to brainstorm as many questions as possible for you guys and I am going to make them as fun as possible.

I think my first question is a good way to start this irregular column off. For movie fans, movie fandom started at different times. There is not one movie that really marked a particular time for everyone across the world. Maybe movie sparked that fandom in a group of people during a particular era, and maybe a movie has possessed iconic power ever since, but movies affected us at different times for different reasons. It really depends on the individual, what their tastes are and at what point in life that sweet spot inside us all gets hit. Not every movie fan is the same and our tastes definitely change with time. I can assure you that my top ten favorite films list is much different today than it was 5 years ago, but there is always one movie that triggers that love for everything cinema.

For me, it definitely started young. Before the summer of 1996, I went to the movie theater frequently with my family and we watched a lot of movies as family. I think at time though, I enjoyed the sensation of visiting the movie theater instead of the art itself. At around seven years old, I definitely didn't think of movies as art. It was just something fun I would do every once in awhile with my family. I certainly had my favorites by then and I don't think it was really a passtime for me, but I would not say I was a full-fledged movie lover at this point. That all stopped in the summer of 1996, when I saw something that completely rewired me as a person. Its not what you think it is; its not a movie that struck the attention of Oscar voters, it wasn't something the critics had a lot of love for. That doesn't matter to me though, it never has. The film that turned me into a movie buff was "Independence Day."

As a young boy, I looked to the stars and wondered just how big the universe really was. This may sound silly, but I believe that there is life on other planets. To me, there has to be, how can there not be? The universe is merely limitless, and its hard to imagine that we are the only planet in the universe with life, out of all the star systems, out of all the planets. Whether or not that life is intelligent enough to travel across space and find us remains to be seen. In the movies, the life on other planets always found us. Every time they were not so friendly. As much as I liked aliens on film, it was "Independence Day" that really made me sit down and pay attention. I thought the aliens in "Independence Day" were the most interesting that I had seen. I loved their massive flying saucers. I loved how facing them in combat was not as easy as the humans had hoped. I also got a huge kick out of the their psychic powers, even though I couldn't watch that particular scene for many years. 

More than anything else, I left the theater that summer chemically recharged in a way I had never felt before. I learned that movies were a the reason to sit in the theater, not the spectacle of the theater itself. I learned that movies had more power than I could have ever imagined. After that point, movies were more than just a great pass time. I learned that movies could make me think, how they could begin to show me what I thought was real and true in the world. Movies began to open me up to many thoughts and emotions I never, ever felt before, and I can thank "Independence Day" for that.

So what was that movie for you? What movie opened you're mind and soul to the world we visit when we sit in the dark? What was the movie that woke you up? And how did that movie possess the power to do that to you? I am very curious to see what films turned people into the buffs they are today. Perhaps you are not the movie buff like me, and in that case, what movie made you start paying more attention to the world of film. When I get together with old friends, we speak as if we have our own language, especially when it comes to talking movies. Was there a movie that really got you thinking about the world of film in general? What was that film and why? If you'd be willing, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

This will not be the last question I ask,  I hope you like this little exercise.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Overlooked Film of the Week- "Lawless" (2012)

Overlooked Film of the Week- #53

Lawless
"Lawless" was based off a book The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant. Matt Bondurant was a great relative of the Bondurant brothers, which the book and movie are based on. The Bondurant brothers -- Forrest, Howard and Jack -- ran an illegal bootlegging business in the deep country of Virginia in the 1930s. Like many bootleggers of the time, the Bondurant brothers worked for themselves, they were not connected to other big organized crime groups of the time. That changed when corrupt officers of the Virginia Commonwealth wanted a cut of the Bondurant profits or they would be arrested. The brothers stood up for themselves and never had to payoff anybody during their endeavors. The brothers were known for being unable to die. Howard, the oldest brother, was the only one who survived from his unit in World War I.

The film follows the book pretty well. It features blistering performances all around. Tom Hardy plays Forrest; the middle brother and leader of the racket, Jason Clarke plays Howard; the oldest brother and Shia LeBeouf plays Jack; the youngest brother and our narrator through this world. Its a wonderful trio of actors at a particular high in their careers. Tom Hardy, in particular, is absolutely menacing as Forrest. His voice, his mannerisms, his presence is utterly unbelievable. Every time Hardy is on-screen, it will be hard to focus on anything or anyone else. Jason Clarke is a diamond in the rough, somebody who absolutely deserves to be more known than he is. Clarke is electric as Howard. Then there's Shia LeBeouf. Look, I know the guy has gone off the deep end recently, but he should regress. LeBeouf is capable of visual thunder nearly every time he's on screen. I think he's matured quite a bit as an actor and artist. His work in "Lawless" is the glue to the story, and he makes every story beat payoff well.

In last week's edition of Overlooked Film of the Week, I discussed Guy Pierce's work in "Memento." I discussed how impressed by his heroism in that movie and how he had great range. Those of you who know Pierce for being bad won't be disappointed here. Guy Pierce plays Officer Charley Rakes, a representative of the Virginia Commonwealth who puts the pressure on the Virginia's moonshiners. Pierce's work as Rakes is instantly iconic, something truly special and truly scary. Charley Rakes has his eyebrows shaved off, he has quirks in his personality that are never explained, and he's awfully violent. Pierce uses a unique accent that only makes Rakes more terrifying. Its a great role for Pierce and throws down like he never has before.

The other major players include Jessica Chastain, Dane DeHaan, Gary Oldman and Mia Wasikowska. Jessica Chastain does great work as Maggie a dancer from Chicago who Forrest hires as a clerk at his gas station. Dane DeHaan plays Cricket, Jack's best friend and who is crucial in a few moments of the film. DeHaan does the niave, innocent persona overly-well. Gary Oldman plays a gangster from Chicago. Oldman doesn't have many scenes in the film, but he makes every single one count. Mia Wasikowska plays Bertha, the love interest to Jack. LeBeouf and Wasikowska have great chemistry together and they do good work together.

With all the great performances aside, I must warn that "Lawless" is a rough movie. We get a grimy look at the world of moonshine making during the 1930's. This is a movie populated by bad people doing bad things to each other. If that does not sound entertaining to you, then I'd say skip "Lawless." Its a great look at actors at their best and it's 1930's landscape is absolutely breathtaking. The music of the movie only enriches all the great material on display. Even though "Lawless" is gritty to the bone, there is so much going for it and so much to love that it is hard to not recommend.

Check out "Lawless" as it is hillbilly fun for the whole family!

The Essentials- "The Usual Suspects" (1995)

The Essentials-#53

The Usual Suspects
I don't know if there are many of you who haven't seen "The Usual Suspects" yet. Its one of the first examples of a great puzzle movie. Its also defined the surprise ending in the 1990's. I always loved a movie with an ending that punched you right in the gut. An ending that forced you to rethink and reinterpret every single thing you just saw. I live for those types of movies, and "The Usual Suspects" was one of the earliest examples of it. "The Usual Suspects" works on several levels. It works as a brain teaser and it works as a gritty crime drama. Its got a cast of actors that could arguably be an example of the right people coming together for a movie, net necessarily the best. Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, Stephen Baldwin, Benicio Del Toro, Kevin Pollak, Peter Greene and Peter Postlewaite were the "whose-who" of supporting actors from that decade and they absolutely nailed it.

The film begins on a boat, and the boat is littered with bodies. We see Gabriel Byrne laying on the main deck's floor, he doesn't look like he's in good shape. Something has ignited a stream of gasoline to light up in fire, and just as it is about to ignite the source, urine stops the fire. Byrne and this mysterious man have a conversation, something that will play into the mystery of the film later. After this scene on the boat is done, we go back in time a bit. We learn that Dean Keaton (Byrne), Verbal Kent (Kevin Spacey), Fred Fenster (Benicio del Toro), Michael McManus (Stephen Baldwin) and Todd Hockney (Kevin Pollak) have been chosen as suspects for a stolen merchandise vehicle. Each of these men are hardened criminals, but none of them stole the vehicle, this brings them together to do crimes together.

Everything seems to be going well once a mysterious lawyer (Postlewaite) shows up on behalf of Keyser Soze. According to the lawyer, each of the men have stolen from Soze, so they will do a dangerous job for Soze or Soze will kill them and people these men are connected to. Keyser Soze is a crime myth, a legend, somebody nobody believed truly existed. But these five men all have lots on the line, so they plan to pull off the mysterious job, and get to the bottom of the Soze myth.

Kevin Spacey really stands out in this movie. Verbal Kent is one of the only survivors onboard the bloodied boat from the film's opening, and the entire movie is told from Kent's point-of-view in flashbacks. Spacey's work is well-done, narration-wise and acting-wise. Benicio del Toro isn't in the movie as much as the other actors, but he is a scene-stealer in this. Byrne also has a pretty lengthy time on-screen and he really makes the most of all his scenes. He does outstanding work, and he stands out the most of all the actors. Pollak and Baldwin also do spellbinding work that is all well-done.

The film's ending is a huge shock to the system. "The Usual Suspects" does not cheat the audience, it does not leave specific information until the very end. "The Usual Suspects" is very smart about how it reveals its big secrets at the end. This is a world where nobody is who they seem. Nearly every character, including our ragtag, criminal protagonists, all bear secrets from each other. How the audience learns these secrets and how director Bryan Singer slowly, but surely reveals his secrets is superb. The ending and how its build up is very calculated and incredibly relenting. If you have not seen this movie yet, check this out and crank it up.

There have been many movies made with "surprise endings" that never lived up to the rest of the film, but "The Usual Suspects" does not suffer from that. Its a movie that is a great action movie, a great mystery, a great drama, and a great actor showcase. Its amazing just how much director Bryan Singer got right.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Trailer Talk

Trailer Talk

The Jersey Boys
There was a time when Clint Eastwood would make one movie a year, just like Woody Allen. While I think that a record like that is impressive, it can also be disastrous. As much as I admire both Eastwood and Allen, I think churning out films at a rapid pace like that starts to catch up with you eventually. I think Clint Eastwood has had many fumbles in his directing career that I feel could have been polished over had he taken more time with it. 

Its been awhile since Clint Eastwood has sat in the director's chair and that could be promising. He adapting "The Jersey Boys" from the Broadway stage and the trailer alone looks outstanding. I think "The Jersey Boys" is a great story and in Eastwood's hands, it could be magnificent. This film looks to be set in the style of Eastwood, but it definitely seems more chipper and that's cool. I love that Christopher Walken is in this and I love that Vincent Piazza is in it too. Piazza has been tearing it up as Lucky Luciano in HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" season after season. I am happy to see him making a bigger breakthrough.

"The Jersey Boys" will hit theaters on June 20, 2014.

The Immigrant
I could be talking a little out of turn  here, but "The Immigrant" could be an early candidate for Oscar picks in 2015. It has the style, it has the grandeur, it has the actors and the costumes. It looks marvelous and I hope it showcases the brilliance of Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Renner and Joaquin Phoenix. Phoenix in particular keeps proving why his time away from film was sourly missed and I am glad he has made such a comeback.

Its a very potent trailer and it could be something to look for.

"The Immigrant" will open on May 16th 2014.



Friday, April 18, 2014

Transcendence Review

Transcendence Review
Well, I am a little heartbroken tonight.

I wonder though, am I really heartbroken? Or am I guilty of swallowing the hype and blindly rushing into a film that looks cool and features a star-studded cast? The answer is of course I am. I am a human being, it happens to the best of us. I thought the trailers for "Transcendence" looked promising. I was intrigued by the film being a directoral debut for Wally Pfister. He worked so closely with Christopher Nolan on his Batman movies, perhaps Nolan taught Pfister a thing or two. (Nolan himself served as an executive producer for this film.) It has a cast that features Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Kate Mara, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy, Cole Hauser and Clifton Collins Jr. "Transcendence" had all the right ingredients that would make it something to discuss, something to truly love.

So I am shocked to report that "Transcendence" is just a well polished version of "The Lawnmower Man" with a bigger budget and better actors. 

Depp plays Dr. Will Caster who is an artificial intelligence researcher and on the brink of changing the world with his team of scientists. He plans to use his particular AI to create a much better world through technology. Caster is soon gunned down by an anti-technology terrorist group. On the brink of death, Caster's wife and colleague Evelyn (Hall) and his friend Max (Bettany) attempt to upload Caster's mind into a computer so that he can live on and finish his work. Everything seems golden as Evelyn is able to interact with Caster, but Max is always begging the question of whether or not it really is Caster, or something else.

Look, technically speaking, "Transcendence" is a feast. If you absolutely must see this film, try and find the best possible screen you can. The visuals in this movie are arresting and daring. The sound, editing and cinematography are all of the highest order. There are several moments in "Transcendence" that feature astonishing beauty and detail. As I sat in the theater, taking in all of the pretty scenery, a particular thought instantly popped into my head. For a movie that is so anti-technology, its really ironic that the film crew put so much time and attention into the visual effects.

The script by Paglen was put on a special script list in 2012, as it was praised for being a popular script that had not been used yet. I wonder if the final script deviated a lot from that 2012 script, because what Paglen wrote here is a carwreck. Every single cliche you can think of is on nice display. Does the AI Caster begin to develop a God complex? Oh yes. Will Caster's old colleagues eventually turn to the terrorist group who killed him for help in defeating him? You, bet. Will Caster's wife be in denial until the very last minute? Oh, you bet your boots she will. While "Transcendence" is filled with interesting ideas that could have made an equally interesting movie, Paglen goes for the easy cliche each time. The whole script leads right to a final showdown that, while being visually stunning, is one of the most preposterously goofy showdowns I have seen in awhile. Its sad that given how widespread the science fiction genre is, and given the possibilities raised in "Transcendence" that Paglen wrote something so ordinary.

Johnny Depp is a huge blank in this movie, and that's really too bad. He's capable of undeniable wit, charm and even intelligence in his roles, but here he looks like he was in a mediocre movie and just let it happen. Rebecca Hall and Paul Bettany really try to give this movie a pulse, and they help quite a bit, but the script really pulls them down. Morgan Freeman and Cillian Murphy are good, but they only have a few scenes in the movie and they don't really do anything that impacts the story. Kate Mara is pretty good here, but she seems to channel her character from Netflix's "House of Cards" and nothing more.

I always hate being letdown, especially given the potential of this premise and the talent involved. But "Transcendence" is just a big bag of bland. Not only that, but its a film that clearly hates technology and clearly hates the possibilities technology could layout for us in the future. Its a film full of possibility and it could have been something that could either confirm or challenge our beliefs on technology, but all it strives for is the familiar. While the film is wonderful to look at, "Transcendence" is all surface with nothing substantial to offer the audience.

FINAL GRADE: C

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Gone Girl Trailer

Gone Girl Trailer
I have not read the "Gone Girl" book, but I really want to. Hopefully, I can get to it before October before David Fincher's adaptation of it is released. The film will star Ben Affleck and Roseamund Pike. The first trailer was released earlier this week and I have just got around to watching it.

One thing is for certain, it definitely feels like a Fincher movie. As I said, I have not read the book so I don't know if Fincher's undeniable visual style fits the story or not. But no matter what, Fincher has a style I dig, so I am on board. There is also a stitch of comedy laced in the trailer as of the particular music choice made for the trailer. 

I heard on the radio that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross will score the film. This will be the third collaboration between Fincher and the Reznor/Ross duo. Reznor and Ross both were awarded Oscars for their musical work on "The Social Network" in 2011. This is all just more reason to check out Fincher's next film. I am certainly excited by what I have seen.



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Cesar Chavez Review

Cesar Chavez Review
I think the biographical genre is a troubled genre. A studio will come together and find an important person in history and make a movie out of their life. The sad part about the genre is that each film made within it seems to come from the same template, which is disappointing. The other major problem with the genre is that just because someone did something big or important, doesn't automatically mean their story will translate out into a movie. 

A movie about Cesar Chavez has been the dream project of director Diego Lunas for many years. His passion for the project is laced into every scene of "Cesar Chavez." The attention to detail is quite astounding and the technical merits of the film are incredibly high. Not only that, but the cast does everything Lunas asked them to do and more. Michael Pena has been waiting for years for the right role to set him loose, and I think he just arrived at it. Pena is easily one of the best actors of his generation and he creates striking power as Chavez. Rosario Dawson, America Ferrara, John Malkovich and Wes Bentley round out the rest of the important cast members in the picture, and they all do equally unflinching work. Setting these actors, on their rustic sets and filling the background with a magnificent score sounds like a great film. It sounds like a film which would be fitting for an actor like Chavez. I will also go as far to say that I think the film makes some insightful comments on unionization, immigration and the old racism problem that once plagued (and somewhat still does plague) our beloved country. Lunas made some great choices with his film here, and it is hard for me not to highlight them.

That is right about where the problems begin. The sad part about "Cesar Chavez" is that it is built like 95% of all other biographical films. "Cesar Chavez" is a Wikipedia page version of Chavez' life. Instead of focusing on one particular defining moment or a couple defining moments, Lunas tries to stuff Chavez' entire life into a film that isn't even two hours long. The problem with doing that is we never get a real sense of a character and it feels like a movie, that is definitely a problem with "Cesar Chavez." It also doesn't help that Lunas' screenwriters wrote the most boring version of this story possible. This is exactly what you'd expect a movie about Cesar Chavez to look like. There is no tension or no gripping drama anywhere in the story, so the whole movie just passes by lifelessly.

Even the writing attached to these characters is quite tedium. I think what Chavez accomplished is very important and I think he was an intelligent and innovative person, but the most I got out of this movie was that he was a Hispanic Martin Luther King. I know for a fact there was more to him than that, I know there were aspects about Chavez's life that made him a unique civil rights activist, yet none of it is demonstrated in the film. The villains in the film are obviously white, yet they are written so broadly that I expected them all to be twirling mustaches in every scene. Nobody is given a solid narrative, Pena truly tries to strangle life out of this movie, but it simply doesn't work. He falls to the weight of the sloppy script.

Its too bad that this movie doesn't add up to anything overly-special. "Cesar Chavez" is just your standard biographical film and that's sad all around.

FINAL GRADE: C

Who Played It Best? Batman

Who Played It Best- #1

Batman

"Who Played It Best" will be a weekly poll on my blog starting this week. Each Wednesday, I will collect a group of actors, known for playing one particular movie character. You will have the entire week to vote for who you felt played the character the best. I will announce the winner next Wednesday.

Batman is one of the most iconic superheroes ever created. He has created an everlasting legacy in the comics as well as the silverscreen. No matter which director tries to fuck the character up onscreen, Batman has always lived on. I think that shows his popularity, Batman fans will sit through as much torture as needed in order for the right director to come along and get the character right. Batman is a cool and unique character, and no matter what happens, he will live on.

Even though my picture above only shows four actors, Batman has been played by five so far (six pending if you include Ben Affleck. Sense we haven't seen a hint of Affleck's performance yet, I will not judge him yet.) Batman has been played by Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale and Adam West (West made a movie based on his television series in 1966, I have the marvelous blu-ray.) I enjoy the Adam West movie, I enjoyed his series. I have a very special place in my heart for his 1966 film, but I am not sure Mr. West will have a chance against the other four candidates.

My Two Cents:
I predict that the vote will come down to Bale and Keaton. Out of the four actors above, those are the only two actors who successfully captured both Bruce Wayne and Batman on film. Bruce Wayne and Batman are both vital pieces of personality that make Batman work. I feel an actor has to master both personalities to get the character right. The trick is that both of those personalities couldn't be further from each other. Wayne is a billionaire playboy, while the superhero is a brooding hero. Underneath it all, not matter if its Wayne or Batman, the character is incredibly smart but flirting with falling into insanity. Out of the four actors above, its Keaton and Bale who created each part of the personality on film.

Val Kilmer did good, but I've always told my friends and family that Kilmer was a great Batman but a boring Bruce Wayne. George Clooney was a great Bruce Wayne, but a terrible, horrible, poor Batman. (Seriously, when does Batman ever smile?) But Keaton and Bale? Both actors were great at playing Bruce Wayne and they both were great at playing Batman. These were actors who could do both, and they did them well. When I think of Batman, I think of both Keaton and Bale in equal measure. They both create an everlasting memory in my mind.

Out of Keaton and Bale, who do I like more? Well, that's a tough question for me to answer. Tim Burton directed Michael Keaton in "Batman" in 1989 and "Batman Returns" in 1992. While Burton's films were dark, Burton captured the essence of the comic book movie well. He also kept things a little on the goofy side (Who remembers all the Prince music in the 1989 film?). Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale on the other hand, took their trilogy of films in a different direction. Nolan kept his trilogy dark, he kept his trilogy gritty and drenched it in realism. Villains like Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Killer Croc and Solomon Grundy didn't show up in Nolan's films on purpose, because how can you ground those characters in reality? While Burton and Nolan took their films in very different directions, I feel both Keaton and Bale did exactly what they were told to do. Read enough Batman comics, and you'll notice just how flexible Batman is as a character, which is part of the reason why he's lasted for 75 years.

So who do you think played the character best? To vote, you can send me an email (bloggershawn@gmail.com) or simply respond to the blog post in the comment section below. You have until next Wednesday and I will announce the winner then. Happy voting.