Thursday, July 31, 2014

Into The Woods trailer

Into The Woods trailer
So it looks like this movie will be "Once Upon A Time," but if The Evil Queen never cast that spell over the world. Yes, I realize that this movie is an adaptation from two popular Broadway writers, but you have to admit that this is ill-timing. It seems that Disney has really been whoring out their products as of late. All the live-action remakes of their classic films, the success of "Once Upon A Time" on ABC, the sudden and in my opinion, shoehorned inclusion of "Frozen" characters into ABC's "Once Upon A Time" (and no I don't just mean their own take on The Snow Queen, but Anna and Elsa from "Frozen."), I don't really see a point to it all. I can't imagine Disney is running low on money, as its one of the most profitable conglomerates in our nation right now. So this Grimm character all-star musical, which just happens to feature an all-star cast, seems like an odd movie to release at this juncture. It also doesn't help that I am getting sick of both Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp and having them in the same movie sounds almost suicidal for me. 

This is all my drawn-out way of saying that this trailer did nothing for me. I am getting tired of merciless retreads for the sake of cash grabbing and ego-stroking. It is going to take one hell of a special movie for this idea to win me over. For anybody who cares, I have posted some of the first images from the movie, as well as the first trailer for the movie. We shall see if any more marketing wins me over, but I'd still love to see what you guys think.










And The Trailer


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lucy Review

Lucy Review

A 59% rating on Rotten Tomatoes is being generous to this movie.

I truly mean it, critics have been lenient, lenient, lenient on “Lucy,” the new film by director Luc Besson. I’ll never understand how a director that gave us “Le Femme Nikita” and “The Professional” all of sudden started making crap like “The Fifth Element” “The Messanger: Story of Joan of ark,” and “The Family.” But I think he’s taken a major downgrade shift in his career and we are all the poorer for it. But I honestly can’t believe what critics are latching themselves onto as they walked out of “Lucy.” Where they drawn to the film’s ambition? Where they drawn to the films message that mankind isn't living up to its potential? Whatever the case, I remain puzzled that the percentage of positive and negative reviews on Rotten Tomatoes is so high for “Lucy,” because underneath the special effects, acting and ambition, this is a soulless, lifeless movie that structurally confused and mind-fumblingly brain-dead.

I remember snickering once or twice during the commercials for this movie. I laughed at the moment when Professor Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman) says “We only use 10% of our brains, imagine if we could use 100% of our brains capacity.” The 10% brain myth is just that, a myth. Go and do some research before sitting down to watch “Lucy.” I know that we are currently in the month of July and “Lucy” fits the bill of dumb, summer fun, but we begin our journey with Lucy (Scarlett Johnasson) in a blisteringly dumb state of mind. We use more than 10% of our brains capacity and scientists are just beginning to understand how efficiently and how well we use our brains. If you haven’t seen “Lucy” yet, and if the dumb science will bother you, skip entirely. This is a movie that at one hour and twenty-two minutes is over before it really begins, and although it is part action-movie, the action sequences are so preposterously boring that you will probably take a nap during them.

If the film’s only flaw was using the 10% brain capacity myth as a starting point, I think I could have forgiven the rest of the film. But “Lucy” goes on to tell us that math doesn't explain the universe or our way of life and that only time does, even though you learn how to tell time during math class. I have loved brainless action movies before and I probably will in the future. If the film was confident in itself, if it allowed itself to engage and entertain its audience, if everybody tried to take this film’s idea with fun and pride, I’d be all for it. But “Lucy” never feels like it wants to entertain. Like I said, the action sequences fall flat. The acting is just mediocre at best. I think Scarlett Johnasson does what she can and she tries hard to make her lead role matter. She certainly makes her action scenes count, that is for sure. But her character is so stiff and so unexplored that it’s hard to gauge her. There is a moment in “Lucy” where she has gained so much of her brain power that she no longer feels emotion and she suddenly turns into a robot the rest of the movie, yes a human robot. She was so unbelievably boring to watch the last half of the film that I had a severe headache. Morgan Freeman also does what he can in his role, but he is in so little of the movie that his participation is puzzling. His lecture in the trailers adds up to about 89% of his screen-time.

 Another glaring problem is that the film wants to do two jobs at the same time. “Lucy” ends up being another example of if the director chose to tell one of the two stories he is trying to tell rather than the two stories he wants to tell, the movie would have been better. One story revolves around Lucy, who gets tricked into becoming a mole for Korean gangster Mr. Jang (The awesome Choi Min-sik). The new, experimental drug accidentally ruptures inside of Lucy’s body and she begins to react to it, thus unlocking the rest of her brain capacity. She then decides to help the police recover the rest of the drugs being shipped all over the world. Then another, smaller story revolves around Professor Norman, who is teaching college students what can happen if someone were to possess 100% of their brain capacity, which leads to one of the most bewilderingly silly college lectures ever committed to film. Lucy will eventually meet up with Professor Norman so that they can understand each other. For what reason, the film never gives a good enough answer. The movie is too busy trying to shoehorn in crazy, telepathic fights, car chases and gun fights and doesn't do a good job explaining the boundaries and discoveries of brain capacity, even though the movie is trying really hard to be smart.

I have to say that I love Choi Min-sik. He was the lead character in the original “Oldboy” movie that was released in 2003 (or 2005 depending on which country you live in and whether or not you attend film festivals.), I have talked about his films numerously already on this blog, from “I Saw The Devil” to “New World.” He is a great, overseas talent and I love that he is becoming a face of American movies. But once again, there is no way for American audiences to really understand this actors talent, he’s barely on the screen. We don’t get to know and understand any of our characters because we spend the whole movie focusing on boring Lucy starring at people, starring into the sky, or starring into the mirror. It is funny how boring our lead character is, and how the film wastes the supporting players.


Like I stated above, the film makes a couple faint comments on the idea of humans not living up to their potential, but neither does this movie. How can you argue such a topic when you try to tell two stories in a movie that runs way under two hours? How can you try to educate people on brain capacity when your facts are nowhere near straight? How can you argue that this is an action movie when the most exhilarating thing that happens is Miss Johnasson starring into the abyss? I think director Luc Besson should have understood the potential for this idea, mindless action movie or not, before sitting in the director’s chair. I find this “Lucy” to be a huge miscalculation and a missed opportunity. Shame, this one looked awesome. 

FINAL GRADE: D-

Who Played It Best? Rooster Cogburn

Who Played It Best? Rooster Cogburn
"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.

When I think back on the Westerns that I consider essential, "True Grit" is one of the films that comes to mind. Its a powerful tale of revenge and retribution. It shows the great stakes a daring adventure can exhibit. Its grand and stoic and heroic. I love every moment of it. Now, you are probably wondering which one? There was one film, starring John Wayne that came out in 1962 and there was a 2010 remake, starring Jeff Bridges. I can honestly say that I loved both versions of the story. I think both actors gave it there all in the role. So the question is, who played Rooster Cogburn best?

My Two Cents
Both the 1962 and 2010 versions of the movie may tell the same story, but they go about it in completely different forms. Much like many westerns that were being released in the 1950's and 1960's, there is a sense of adventure throughout the entire movie, even though the mission Cogburn was going on was more than daring. There is epic music, bright landscape and somewhat uncanny performances. The 2010 remake is nothing like it, the remake is cold and stern. There are no bright days in the remake and when people die, it is hard. Believe it or not, both of these retelling affect the performance. Even though I feel both actors do a good job doing the sarcastic, quick-witted, dangerous Cogburn well and exploit all of those traits, what both Bridges and The Duke did for the role was completely different. But for me, nobody can beat The Duke, so I give him the edge. Always have, always will.

Which version of the character do you prefer? 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? FREDDY KRUEGER
1..2..Freddy's coming for you...3...4...better lock your door. Krueger is definitely the most iconic horror villain in all of movies. So far, both Robert Englund and Jackie Earl Haley have played the character. Who did it best?
The classics are really killing it on this column!

See ya next week!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Trailer Talk

Trailer Talk
So a new sleuth of trailers came in left and right over the weekend. I definitely didn't get a chance to discuss them all. Tonight, I am going to go over some of the new trailers released this weekend, and discuss what I liked.

The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies
So I will admit, I hate the name change. It seems to me that Peter Jackson's need to tamper with every little prick and pot of his new trilogy is starting to become redundant. I always thought that calling the last chapter of this saga "There And Back Again" was putting everything in full circle. It also put a nice bow on this long, and admittedly drawn-out, story. So its true, I can't stand the title change. With that in mind, its a good thing that they cut such a nice looking trailer for the last chapter in this saga.

The best touch of the trailer was Pippin's song from "The Return of the King." It put a very melancholy touch on the entire trailer, and if you've read the book, you know what's coming. Sometimes, matching the right song to a trailer can work wonders and I think it worked here. I also like that we have barely scratched the surface of what The Battle will entail. I am excited to see this one and I am excited to conclude this series.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I
This is a tine-tiny trailer but it basically covers all the footage that was shown at Comic-Con International this weekend. I am still not a fan of splitting the last book in a fantasy-novel-series-turned-film franchise into two films, but there is no doubt that I am more than rabid for this entry in the series. I like the way the characters have grown and I am totally engaged in the story. This trailer is short and sweet, but it totally hit the spot.
Tusk
Kevin Smith's second horror film, "Tusk", has been a question mark for me. While I somewhat liked his venture into horror, I didn't love "Red State." But I think Smith left room for himself to grow as a horror filmmaker, and I am not sure this trailer reflects that growth. One thing I did like about "Red State" was the gritty dark of the cinematography, "Tusk" has none of that, it some parts of the trailer, it feels like another Smith comedy. I don't know if "Tusk" will be more light-hearted compared to "Red State," but it just doesn't feel right. Check it out for yourself.


Horns
This debuted at Comic-Con International. Harry Potter has turned into Pan the Satyr God. Interesting.

A rich mix of trailers if you ask me, let me know what you thought of them.

The Purge: Anarchy Review

The Purge: Anarchy Review

Last summer, I reviewed a movie called “The Purge,” starring Lena Headey and Ethan Hawke. If you remember I didn't quite like the film that much. If you remember even further, I put the film on my list of ten worst films of 2013. I hated “The Purge” because it squandered an opportunity, and nothing gets my goat more than a movie that completely blows its premise. When your idea for a movie is an annual “holiday” when all crime is legal for twelve consecutive hours, why not have as much fun as possible with the premise? Better question, why would you make the film a simple home invasion horror movie? “The Purge” had all the ingredients for a crazy, B-movie but got lost in something silly and miscalculated.

Two weeks ago, the sequel “The Purge: Anarchy” was released, which is a sequel to the first film. Once again, James DeMonaco sat down in the director’s chair and once again wrote the script. After viewing the initial trailers for the sequel, I figured DeMonaco took those criticisms to heart. Instead of making another home invasion movie, DeMonaco sets his sequel in downtown Los Angeles. Instead of a rich family, he focuses on three separate groups who interlink together. We have Sergeant (Frank Grillo), a police officer out to kill a man who wronged him, Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez) a young, struggling couple whose car breaks down on the wrong night and Eva (Carmen Ejogo) and Tanya (Justina  Machado), two sisters just trying to survive the night. The film also includes gangs of people with sniper rifles, armored cars, motorcycles, and flame throwers. I had a feeling that this was going to be the crazy movie I hoped for with the first one.

I will say this much for “The Purge: Anarchy,” it is a step up from the first film. But overall, I still don’t think the film works as a whole. I think “The Purge: Anarchy” is at its strongest when it focuses on the three groups of people, helping each other to survive the endless hordes of “Purgers” trying to kill or kidnap them. Had the film remained as a mindless, survival actionier, it might have worked better. The action scenes are much better this time out. The use of new ideas, new weapons, new vehicles and a new setting benefit the sequel. There is real planning and malice the Purgers use on Purge Night, and I liked seeing the different ways groups work to do their dirty business. Even though the film is more of an action movie rather than a horror movie, the glimpses of how dark human nature can be were truly horrifying in this sequel and I thought DeMonaco did a great job bringing those scenes to life.

The film also benefits from a great cast. DeMonaco had a great cast last time, but wrote characters for them that were one-dimensional and plastic. While I am not sure DeMonaco’s talents as a writer have improved, Grillo breathes life into the movie. If you saw the trailers for “The Purge: Anarchy” and if you are Marvel fan, then you were probably thinking that Frank Grillo would have made a perfect Frank Castle. It’s true, Grillo seems to be playing a version of Frank Castle in this movie and he does a really good job as a man who sets a personal mission for himself, but can’t bear to see good people die, even if it is the Purgers right to kill this one night a year. Ejogo and Machado are the moral compasses of the group, and they do a good job with their respected roles. Gilford and Sanchez have the throw-away job of being the dumb, young couple, who just duck, scream and open their eyes big, but they make the most of it and do okay with their roles. They both have a couple of big moments in the movie and when those moments happen they shine brighter than I thought they would and that was nice.

Here’s the thing, had the movie only focused on Grillo’s character, going after criminal scum on Purge Night, that would have made a cool movie. Heck, this group of people just surviving the night for an hour and a half would have made a cool movie. The thing that derails this sequel, just like it did the first film, is that DeMonaco can’t help but bring the film to the bigger picture. “The Purge: Anarchy” is just another “rich vs. poor” fable. Sadly, it was boring in the first film and it is boring again. DeMonaco wants his audience to think long and hard about the Haves vs. The Have Not’s in this country, but how he executes his ideas is unapologetically inert. With a premise which revolves around a night in which one can commit any crime for twelve hours, why make a movie that takes itself so seriously? I also had to laugh when the film makes a few anti-killing remarks in the film. So murdering people, even if it’s a government right, is wrong? Wow, thanks for the astounding insight Mr. DeMonaco. You just said what at least 100 million other action movies have said, and most of those movies said it better. This movie would have worked much better as a mindless action movie in the vein of a Michael Bay film, but it wants so bad to tell a compelling story that parallels our country today. The way DeMonaco writes however just doesn't gel well with the movie he’s making.

Also like the first film, everything in this movie is so painfully obvious that it takes me out of the movie every time. DeMonaco sets up big scenes he wants to end with an emotional crescendo, but they are written so obviously, so cliché-ridden that it’s hard not to predict the outcome. Plus, those outcomes are so mind-numbingly lame that I roll my eyes and giggle to myself each and every time. On a night where crime is legal, I find it very hard to believe that the most amoral of people would suddenly become big sweethearts and begin helping strangers through the night. I am going to speak in an extreme figure of speech here, but if The Purge where real, I don’t see strangers rallying together and treating each other nicely. The real Purge would be ugly, and DeMonaco has yet to dip into the nastiness a Purge would really produce.

With the word “anarchy” in the title, one would think that the film would be filled with balls-to-the-wall action. Well, that is not quite the case. While I said I did enjoy the spurts of action in the film, those action sequences are so far and in-between that I nearly wanted to cry. Plus, all of the action is over before it really begins, which doesn't seem Purge-esque at all. At the end of the first film, it was said that downtown Los Angeles was riddled with bodies, well I guess Los Angelinos took a break this year, because The Purge in this movie is the quite possibly the lamest imagined Purge I could think of. There are barely any bodies in the city, barely any action and barely any groups of people fighting. Plus, why does the film only focus on murder? Wouldn't people turn to arson, and set entire cities on fire? Wouldn't people break into stores and loot them dry? Wouldn't techno-geeks rip people off on computers all night long?

While the acting and brief action is all superb, it is all not enough to make an overall better movie. After two films based on the same premise, James DeMonaco further proves that he doesn't have a strong understanding of the possibilities of his premise. For a movie that is called “The Purge: Anarchy” and features very little anarchy is a film I have a hard time fully recommending to the masses. Although, I still think it is an overall better movie, I just feel DeMonaco has work on writing better characters and work on leaving out the heavy-handed political remarks. If he goes for a third film, I think he would benefit from somebody else taking over screenwriting duty, and I know for sure the audience would too.

FINAL GRADE: C

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Comic-Con International: Mad Max Panel

For the longest time, it seemed that “Mad Max: Fury Road” would never happen. There were several rumors, several set-backs, several false starts, and several shoots and way too many re-shoots. For awhile I thought “Fury Road” would end up like “Ghostbusters 3,” something that would be discussed for years but then never happen. But finally, after much patience and persistence, “Mad Max: Fury Road” is finally upon us and it looks spectacular.


If you are not familiar with Mad Max, it began as a dystopian action trilogy in the 1980’s. In the original trilogy, Mad Max was played by Mel Gibson and he fought renegade biker gangs and freaks in armored cars. The popularizing of armored cars and crazy punks in the future was nearly coined by Mad Max and it had somewhat of an effect on pop culture once it was all said and done (Tupac’s music video from “California Love” was definitely based on the “Mad Max” films). It’s a wonderful group of films and I love the trilogy as a whole. I am ready to go for “Fury Road” and after viewing the trailer, you’ll want to indulge in all things Mad Max as well.

Check out the Character Posters below, they premiered at Comic-Con:





There was also footage shown at Comic-Con, and lucky us a trailer was released a day after its panel. Here is the trailer below. Most of the footage shown at Comic-Con is in the trailer.



Pretty cool stuff, and further evidence that 2015 and 2016 are going to be explosive years for movies. I can't wait to see what happens as the future gets closer and closer to us.

SOURCE:

Comic-Con International: DC Panel

I just got done discussing the Marvel Panel which took place at Comic-Con International over the weekend. Now it’s time to get into the DC stuff. I know that I am a Marvel boy at heart, but I do still like DC and I have always loved Batman. I think the idea of Batman and Superman encountering each other on a live-action screen has been in the hearts of comic book fans for years. Now it’s happening to abruptly that I can barely contain myself. Not only will this be a Superman vs. Batman movie but an introduction to the DC Cinematic Universe and Justice League in particular.
Ever since this project began and Warner Bros. started casting their characters there has been controversy at every corner. Nobody liked the idea of Ben Affleck as Batman, nobody liked the idea of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. Heck, I’ve been giving them Hell over the Jesse Eisenberg as Superman’s arch-nemesis. But through it all, they have been full steam ahead on making this movie and making it as good as it can be. I have to say, I thought it was silly to not believe in Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and I think the image they released over the weekend will shut the haters up:

I already here fanboys getting into frenzies because her costume is not red, white and blue. But here are a couple thoughts, first of all it’s a dark picture so the coloring maybe off. Second of all, costumes evolve over time in the movies and perhaps by the time “Justice League” is released, so I don’t see a big reason to get all up in arms over this. Who knows? Maybe by the end of the film she’ll be in the uniform we know and love. But already I am digging how she looks.
The footage from Comic-Con was released on the internet yesterday for a very short time. If you were lucky enough to see that footage before it was taken off the internet, then you know how cool everything looked. If you missed out, I’ll tell you it was very short but sweet. We see Ben Affleck in his Batman uniform. Although it isn’t a usual Batsuit, it looks more like armor and his eyes are glowing white. It looks very much like a Frank Miller comic book come to life and that is what I dug most about the footage. Batman looks into the sky and turns on the Bat-signal and in the middle of the signal is Superman, hovering in the sky. Superman eyes turn red and he looks like he is ready to engage Batman. Batman doesn’t even flinch, he is ready for whatever Superman is planning for him.
And just like that, the footage ends.

No looks at Wonder Woman or Lex Luthor, or Cyborg, or Aquaman or anybody else in this movie. They haven’t been shooting for too long now so having anything at all was pretty cool. I think the footage turned several naysayers into believers, and I can honestly say that the next few years are going to be years to look forward too.

SOURCE:
www.aintitcool.com

Comic-Con International: The Marvel Panel

I know its Sunday night and I am late to the punch. But I have had a long, busy weekend away from a computer. I feel it is time to weigh in on Comic-Con International. Comic-Con festivals take place every year all across the country, even the world. I am happy and blessed to be attending my very first Comic-Con festival in Chicago this August, so be sure to check in then to hear who I see and what I hear. But it’s Comic-Con International in San Diego, California that is the crème of the crop, the big tamale. This time of year, in late July, it’s one of biggest geek times of the year. I have already read and looked into everything that was introduced over the weekend, and I have some thoughts I wanted to share with you.
Knowing me, you probably know exactly where I want to start.
Marvel Panel

Avengers: Age of Ultron

I will admit, while I was glad that people got to see footage from “Avengers: Age of Ultron” as well as “Ant-Man” at Comic-Con this year, I was slightly disappointed that we didn’t learn any new information about the release dates they recently announced. We know there will be a “Thor 3,” “Captain America 3,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” and it has been pretty much guaranteed that “Doctor Strange” is on the way. We have heard whispers of “Black Panther” and possibly another solo “Hulk” film for Phase Three as well. Some players are set, but we just don’t have any dates yet, and I thought we would have learned more about them after this weekend.

Oh, well…at least “Age of Ultron” sounds as cool as I hoped for and I am absolutely rabid to feast my eyes on the footage myself.

Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, James Spader, Cobie Smulders, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, and Josh Brolin were among the actors who came to represent the anticipated sequel. It seems ScarJo missed out due to being pregnant, which is completely understandable.

The Footage Description from Hitfix:
“As the footage begins, the Avengers are relaxing, sitting around the main downstairs area, all of them enjoying a little down time after the film's huge and sure to be amazing opening sequence. Thor sets Mjolnir down on the coffee table carefully and they all begin to discuss the idea of "whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy," and what that actually means, which leads to what seems inevitable: a contest to see who can actually lift it.
This is where you see Joss Whedon's touch at work. No one else is like him in the way he loves to take fantastic settings and characters and then explore the mundane fun small details of what it would be like to actually be those characters. Watching Tony Stark and Rhodey, working together to try to lift the hammer while constantly ridiculing the idea of enchantments and "worthiness" or seeing Bruce Banner try to lift it but laughing as he does so, pretending to be mad but with no chance of becoming the Hulk, all while Thor looks on laughing, is hilarious. My favorite touch was when Captain America steps up and tries and moves the hammer about a tenth of an inch, and for just a moment, there's a look of worry on Thor's face, followed by a gale of relieved laughter. Great stuff, all driven by character, and a reminder of just how well we know all of these people at this point. Thor finally wraps things up by telling them that there's a simple explanation for why none of them can lift it.
"You're not worthy."
As they're all still laughing, there's a strange noise, though, and they are suddenly joined by a very creepy, half-finished, mangled version of Ultron, who comes strolling in, voiced by James Spader, and I like that they didn't try to over-process that very strange and alien voice that he already has. "How could you be worthy?" he asks. "You're murderers." He talks about how they don't belong on the planet, how they don't deserve it. In the close-ups, it's clear that there are parts of old Iron Man suits all incorporated into Ultron's body, which is actually sort of disturbing and weird. Suddenly a group of Ultron drones burst into the room, and the reel kicked into high gear.
There was some remarkable imagery in what they showed us. First and foremost, we got a taste of the fight between Iron Man in his full Hulkbuster armor and the Hulk, who is on a full rampage. They were very careful not to show why or how that's happening, though, simply giving us a taste of the combat and the scale of the mayhem. There was an amazing glimpse at the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver in action, and it looks like Whedon's found a very different way to handle Quicksilver's powers visually. I love that when the Scarlet Witch starts to use her power, her face grows pale and her eyes glow red. They didn't show any footage of The Vision, which surprised me, but they did use this crazy creepy slow vocal version of the song "I've Got No Strings" from Disney's "Pinocchio," thematically appropriate since much of this movie deals with Tony Stark's guilt over his creations and how they get away from him.
"This is the end," Tony says at one point in the footage. "The end of the path that I started us on." Cars flip. Things explode. Heroes take a savage beating. And in the end, there is an eerie shot of Tony, looking down at Captain America's broken shield and, all around him, the dead bodies of the other Avengers strewn over a shattered landscape.”

Well that just sounds epic. I love that Whedon seems to be making this more of a character piece, and I think our heroes will really be put under the wringer. I am not quite sure if our heroes will gingerly eat Sharma after defeated Ultron at the end of this film and they will be in a much different place as Phase Three begins. I figured Spader would be awesome as Ultron and that seems all but proven. I can’t wait to see this footage for myself and Marvel might have another winner on their hands.

Ant-Man

Well, the road to “Ant-Man” has been troublesome to say the least. We know that director Edgar Wright left the film in the middle of production due to differences he had with Marvel. Now, this week we learned that actors Patrick Wilson, Kevin Wiseman and Matt Gerald all left the film as well. Some people think the actors departure had to do with Wright’s departure. But nobody will probably ever know for sure. So it’s been tough for Marvel getting this movie on its feet. They found a new director in Peyton Reed and he seems energized to take on the task. What makes me nervous is that the film still plans to meet its summer 2015 release date. With all of these set-backs, can Marvel still pull a good movie out of the wreckage?

Michael Douglas and Paul Rudd were present at the Comic-Con promoting the film. We learned that Corey Stoll will play Darren Cross, the film’s villain and that Evangeline Lilly will indeed be playing Janet who will eventually become The Wasp.

The Footage Description from Hitfix
“It starts with a long tracking shot through Pym's personal lab. We hear the conversation between Scott Lang (Rudd) and Hank Pym (Douglas). Pym is trying to convince Lang to help him steal something. Lang protests that he's not a superhero and Pym tells him that's exactly the point. "You're not an egomaniac." Lang keeps trying to wiggle out of it, and Pym growls at him, "Jesus Christ, Scott, it's like you already shrank your balls." In the end, it sounds like he talks him into it, promising, "It's just a small job," just as the camera stops on a shot of the Ant-Man helmet.
What followed was a really lovely little glimpse at the actual suit in effect. It's just after Lang breaks in to steal some of the tech that Darren Cross managed to take from Pym in his business take-over. He's running from the building, shrunk down to ant size, and he can hear Pym talking to him through the earpiece in the helmet. Pym tells him that he's got to get to the edge of the building, where there will be a ride waiting. That ride turns out to be a flying ant, and Pym tells him to just use the helmet to command it.
Good advice, but then Lang trips and falls, and the helmet starts to sputter and spark. As security starts to close in, Pym tells Lang to just jump off the edge of the building, and when he does, a group of ants swoop in beneath him. He manages to saddle up, get some control, and then fly directly into an air vent in a building, as the title treatment came up.”
Well one thing “Ant-Man” has going for it is that it won’t feel like any other superhero film in the MCU. I love that this is a heist film at its heart and that will be a fun direction to take it. Even though Wright is absent at this point, I think his presence will still be felt in every frame. I think “Ant-Man” will either be the first misfire from the MCU or it will be their little engine that could, I am so hoping for the latter.

Check back here in a little bit and write-up my thoughts on the other side of the river…aka the DC panel!
SOURCES:

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Witching and Bitching Review

Witching and Bitching Review

Spanish director Alex de la Iglesia made a film back in 2010 called “The Last Circus,” it was a movie that blew my mind completely. While kind of a crazy movie, it was filled with iconic images, it was well acted and it really hit my emotional center. It was filled with derangement, it was filled with debasement and it was filled with absolute emotional power. It was a metaphor for the Spanish Civil War and if you watch enough movies by Spanish and Mexican filmmakers, you will understand that that war was an event that pierced the minds of these artists. “The Last Circus” quickly became a movie to remember for me and Alex de la Iglesia became a director worth keeping an eye out for.

Now in 2014, de la Iglesia is at it again, but he is venturing into completely different territory. The website Wikipedia and IMDB have labeled de la Iglesia’s new film, “Witching and Bitching,” a drama and horror film. While I definitely agree it’s a horror film, and there are some dramatic beats in the film. I would also call “Witching and Bitching” a comedy. There are so many comedic beats that land perfectly in this movie that it is hard to ignore. I love that de la Iglesia brought a sense of humor this time out, as “The Last Circus” was quite dark at times. While de la Iglesia channeled The Spanish Civil War with “The Last Circus,” this time he is channeling The Basque witch trials, which were the equivalent to our Salem Witch Trials, though the Spanish trials were much bleaker. While mixing metaphor, drama, horror and comedy into one big bowl seems like a tight job, de la Iglesia makes it all look effortless. While I will say that I prefer “The Last Circus,” and at moments “Witching and Bitching” stalls, I will still say that it is a strong film worth checking out.

The film’s premise is simple. The film begins with the robbing of a pawn shop by Jose (Hugo Silva) and Tony (Mario Casas). Much to Tony’s dismay, Jose has also brought his young son onto the heist, as it his day with his boy and he did not know what else to do. As Jose and Tony are making their getaway, they stumble into a foggy forest and they quickly find out that they are being stalked by an old coven of witches. The witches, led by Graciana (Carmen Maura) and Maritxu (Terele Pavez), want Jose’s son to spearhead a witch revolution and take over the world, but Jose can’t let that happen. Meanwhile, Tony and Jose are being chased by Silvia (Macarena Gomez), Jose’s ex-wife and two police inspectors (Secun de la Rosa and Pepon Nieto) and they are eventually tossed into the mix to save Jose’s son.

I easily identified with Jose quickly, while he is definitely a flawed man (he brought his son on a heist for crying out loud), he is trying to be a part of his son’s life. Silvia is trying, tooth and nail, to gain full custody of the boy, and Jose is fighting hard to make this all matter. When the witches reveal themselves and the film makes a huge left turn, Jose goes into full hero mode and shows how good of a father he is. I thought the performance by Hugo Silva was spot-on, making good use of Jose’s dramatic and comedic scenes. This is my first experience watching Silva onscreen and I can say that I look forward to seeing him again.

The rest of the cast is equally solid. The work by Maura and Pavez is hammy and over-the-top at times, but I think that was the intension. They are also straight-up horrifying at times and their transitions are handled wonderfully. I also liked Mario Casas’ Tony and thought he had lots of good scenes. Macarena Gomez is plays a magnificent bitch and I also found her performance very good too. Eva, played by Carolina Bang, is a sympathetic witch who eventually falls in love with Jose. Carolina Bang also played a major role in “The Last Circus,” and I liked hero a lot in both films. She is a beautiful and talented actress, and hopefully she make some kind of American debut sometime (wishful thinking on my part, I’m sure.).

The special effects used in the film are terrible, but somehow it added to the flavor of the film. It often feels like you are watching a straight-to-DVD movie, but it still was fun to watch. I will say that the film lags at times, something that was not apparent in “The Last Circus.” There are several moments of long, tension-filled scenes that building up to the film’s climax. I still think that Quentin Tarantino is the master of writing the “build-up” scenes. There are moments where the action slows down and then picks up again in “Witching and Bitching” and it just doesn’t translate out onscreen well enough. But these nitpicks aren’t enough to derail the experience completely.

If you can imagine a Spanish version of “From Dusk Till Dawn,” then you’ve got “Witching and Bitching.” It’s a movie that juggles many genres at once, and does so with a swift hand and an honest heart. While I don’t feel the final product comes together like his last movie, de la Iglesia has a vivid imagination that he plasters on the screen and he an artist I can’t wait to see more of.

FINAL GRADE: B

Friday, July 25, 2014

Enemy Review

Enemy Review

Right now, I am sitting in my apartment stunned. I am taken aback at the moment that I don’t know what words to use. I am not sure if the review I am about to write will sound like a review. I just got done watching “Enemy,” the new film with Jake Gyllenhaal and I am absolutely knocked flat. But at the same time, I have no idea how express my feelings. When I describe the plot, it will sound far from anything resembling a cohesive narrative. Plus, it is going to be hard to really discuss much of my reactions and feelings because I wanted to keep these initial thoughts as spoiler-free as possible. This review is really going to whore itself out, and I apologize for that, but tonight I am rabid with excitement. I don’t just want you to see “Enemy,” I need you to see it.

That is essentially what I look for when I sit down to watch a psychological thriller. I want to be speechless; I want something I am going to think about for days, even weeks. I want to brainstorm theories and clues that lead to figuring out the story. This is exactly what “Enemy” did for me tonight; it reminded me of why I fell in love with the psychological thrillers in the first place. I sure glad it did too, as I feel the genre has been gasping on life support for over ten years now. The last great year of psychological thrillers was, in my opinion, 2001 (a year that gave us “Memento,” “Mulholland Drive,” and “Vanilla Sky” among others.) and while other films were sprinkled in here and there, nothing matched the capacity of what those three special films touched. (I still love “Shutter Island” but I will say that “Inception” is more action thriller than psychological thriller). I took a chance on “Enemy” tonight and it blew my mind completely. I can say this much about the film, as of July, 25th 2014, “Enemy” is my favorite film of the year so far and it is going to take something truly special to knock this off the pedestal. I think you all need to get out and see this now, before everybody starts to discover it and everybody starts talking about it. If I can get enough of you to see this, I would definitely like to write a second review of this, so we can all get into the real thematic meat of this thing and try to decipher all the story threads “Enemy” beholds.

The story is going to sound mysterious but here it goes. We see Jake Gyllenhaal walk down a dark corridor and take a key out of his pocket to unlock a door. Once inside, he joins a circle of greasy, sweaty, sleazy men watching some kind of erotic show. After this initial scene is done, we see that Jake Gyllenhaal’s character’s name is Adam and he is a professor of history at an unnamed college. We see that he is a glum individual who seems to do the exact same routine every day. Then one day, a co-worker recommends a movie to him and although claiming he hates movies, decides to take the guy up on his recommendation. Adam sits down to watch the movie and he can’t believe his eyes and neither could I, but there was Jake Gyllenhaal in the movie Adam was watching.

Weird, huh? At this point, I had no idea if “Enemy” was going to be a doppelganger movie or a case of mistaken identity or what. But what was happening, was keeping me on the edge of my seat, with my eyes glued to the screen. Adam then goes into full stalker mode and discovers that the actor in the movie is named Anthony Claire (who is also played by Gyllenhaal). Adam wants to meet Anthony face-to-face, and Anthony is reluctant at first but eventually gives in. The first stand-off between Adam and Anthony is awkward one, a situation where Adam eventually retreats. Also, the rest of the movie Adam’s girlfriend (Melanie Laurent) and Anthony’s wife (Sarah Gadon) have a very troubled time telling the two men apart.

And…well…that pretty much covers it. By that I mean, that gives you a basic outline of the film’s plot without getting into potential spoiler territory. If you don’t like movies like this, movies where you have to pay attention, movies where there is a puzzle to put together, where there is a riddle to be solved, where there is a game to play, then I strongly suggest you skip “Enemy” altogether. If you are hooked on that description alone, then I highly recommend you track “Enemy” down as soon as possible. After the movie was over, I searched backward, making sure I saw what I saw, trying to make some sense out of what I just watched. I got online and tried to find clues and theories of other film critics. This is all wildly exciting to me, and I hope it is for you too. I have barely scratched the surface of what “Enemy” offers; I haven’t discussed the mysterious dialogue and references to Adam’s college lectures and the seemingly endless amounts of spiders.

Oh, and the ending is quite possibly the most shocking ending you’ll see all year. I know we still have five months until 2015, but I am calling it right now. If you see this movie for any reason, see it for the ending.

The film strongly benefits from a rousing performance by Jake Gyllenhaal. His job in this movie isn’t easy, as he is essentially playing two separate characters. Adam is quiet and reserved somebody who keeps to himself on a normal basis. He is committed to his job and to the few people in his life, but other than that, Adam is an island unto himself. I would not describe Anthony in the same way, Anthony is full of life and there is a great energy to his scenes. Gyllenhaal could not have played both parts better, breathing unique life into both the personas. Even though Sarah Gadon and Melanie Laurent don’t have nearly as much time onscreen as Gyllenhaal does, they both do supreme work in their roles too. Add the surprising cinematography and the haunting score by Daniel Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, and you’ve got something worth remembering.

One goal of this blog is steer my readers toward something, to see whether or not they like it or not. Every time I write something on this blog, I am definitely selling you something. I either try to keep away from a movie or shove it down your throat. If I my writings have inspired you to form a mere hint of curiosity toward a movie, whether old or new, then I my goal is complete. I am begging you to see “Enemy” ASAP though, I want to have another discussion, I want to explore every frame of every scene of this movie. You can also bet that this won’t be the last time I watch this movie. One thing is for sure, I will definitely write a second-look of this movie and I hope all of you join in on the conversation.

FINAL GRADE: A+

Thursday, July 24, 2014

My reaction to the "50 Shades of Grey" trailer


Well, the trailer for “50 Shades of Grey” hit the internet today. I know because I heard about it on the radio for two weeks straight, and some of my co-workers have been discussing it as well. I never read the book by E.L. James, nor do I feel I ever want to. The idea that the trilogy has been labeled “mommy porn” sets up all the red flags I will ever need. But I was intrigued enough to watch the trailer this afternoon.

Telling from the reactions of my co-workers, I think “Fifty Shades of Grey” looks right and certainly feels right. This is exactly what an erotic-romantic thriller should look like. However, will that be a good thing in the end? I am sure all of the fans across the world will go gah-gah over the movie, but will attract new audiences? I am not sure how much potential there is for the general audience when deciding to see a movie that revolves around the most explicit of sexual encounters. I am willing to bet this film will at least get an R-rating, but how about an NC-17 rating? How would Universal market something like this with an NC-17 rating?

Another thing that kind of makes me nervous is the fact that the whole “Fifty Shades Trilogy” originated from “Twilight” fan-fiction. I hated the “Twilight” movies with a burning passion. I hated the acting, hated the direction, hated the characters, hated the story and hated the underlining themes within the story. I am not just a dude trying to be macho when I discuss my disdain for all things “Twilight,” I think the grand metaphor of that trilogy is quite honestly, a disgusting one and something that is potentially damaging. If “Fifty Shades of Grey” amounts to nothing more but “BDSM Twilight” then sorry, but I am not interested, I am going to need a little more than that for this future film series to win me over.

This is all coming from a guy who has never picked up any of the novels, so what do I know?

Wanna See The Trailer For Yourself? Click the link below:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Warcraft has made it to San Diego!


What you are looking at is the word art for the upcoming "Warcraft" movie. 

There are have been whispers of a "Warcraft" movie here and there. You better believe that I have been keeping up with it and looking after it. I never once became infatuated by the Warcraft video games, but I am definitely interested in a Warcraft movie. I am not exactly sure why I am raising an eyebrow over a Warcraft movie. Maybe its because I know its based on a sandbox-style game, so the possibilities are endless. Maybe its because Colin Ferrell is attached to play in the movie, and he is in dire need to just back into the mainstream. No matter what the reason, I will be interested to see what happens with this film and I hope it ends up being awesome.

Not only did the film's logo pop up today, but also some armor has shown up at San Diego Comic-Con today. A lucky participant was nice enough to snap a photo.
So it looks like for the upcoming movie, The Alliance will play a part in the film and that is exciting unto itself. This is getting me excited and I like what I am seeing so far. What do all my Warcraft buffs think?

"Warcraft" will be released on March, 18th 2016.

SOURCE:

Who Played It Best? Freddy Krueger

Who Played It Best? Freddy Krueger
"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.

Of any horror icon in American cinema, I think Freddy Krueger will be the one that will be imprinted in the pages of history. There is so much to Freddy Krueger that separates him from all the other slasher murderers that we could discuss it all night. Krueger hails from the dreamworld, so he has the ability to do anything he would like, and that also makes him immortal. Not only that, but he's not just some silent and/or moaning giant with a machete. Freddy Krueger had a sense of humor, he had a personality, he had something that made him different from the herd. Freddy Krueger was so juicy as a character that he literally put New Line Cinema on the map, the studio has been dubbed "The House That Freddy Built" and it will be referred to that forever. No matter what, no actor can play a part forever, and I think Robert Englund made a good run with the character as the original actor for the role. In 2010, the film was remade in an attempt to kick-start a new franchise, with abysmal results. I think both actors made a clear mark on the franchise at one point, so I must ask, who played it best?

My Two Cents
I think both Robert Englund and Jackie Earle Haley are both incredible actors. Quite honestly, I think both actors did a good job in the role. For some voters, it will boil down to what you prefer in your horror films. Do you prefer there be light at the end of the tunnel, or do you like jet-black darkness all the way through? If you like the light, then you'll probably prefer Englund. His Krueger may have been evil but boy did he make you laugh. Englund's version of Krueger is quite possibly the coolest horror villain ever and I never thought I'd associate the words "cool" and "horror" together, but it is true. Haley's film brought the franchise to very dark roots, with a ending that suggests absolutely no hope. If you like that aspect about horror films, then I assure you, Haley did exactly what he was hired to do, so its hard to argue against him, even though I harbor personal feelings about the film as a whole that I would not call positive. One voting aspect might also fall under who had the most traction with the role. Englund made eight movies as Krueger, while Haley only made one. So perhaps Englund had more time to make a big splash in the role. Overall, I think both actors did good enough for your time and attention.

Which version of the character do you prefer? 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? THE KARATE KID
Two masters of martial arts where up against each other last week. One Jaden Smith went head-to-head with the classic Ralph Macchio for the right to bare the best name for The Karate Kid. So who won out last week?

Can't beat a classic

VOTE THIS WEEK FOR THE BEST FREDDY!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Battered Bastards of Baseball Review

The Battered Bastards of Baseball Review

Kurt Russell has always been a favorite actor of mine. I think he is charming and charismatic, and he capable of real cinematic thunder. He has had a career that has included action, historical, romance, comedy and drama; and film after film; he has created something human, original and unforgotten. What makes Kurt Russell so absorbing to watch is because, you can just tell he loves what he does. When you love what you do, and you care about the movie you are making and how the outside world will react to it, it shows. If Kurt Russell was recorded telling ghost stories around a campfire for two hours, I would watch it and I would be delighted by it. It is always pleasing to see someone so committed to their craft. With all of that said, did any of you know that at one point, Kurt Russell played baseball?

Such a fact I learned this evening when I viewed the documentary “The Battered Bastards of Baseball,” a remarkable true story brought to life by Netflix. I have to say that Netflix is on a roll right now, with their original television shows and their documentaries. If this is any indicator that Netflix will rule all when they bring Marvel’s Daredevil to life, it was made loud and clear. I was never a fan of baseball growing up, I thought it was boring to watch and even more boring to play. That always dumbfounded me because baseball had always been referred to as an all-American kind of sport, but it is a sport I simply cannot stand. With all that said, I absolutely loved “The Battered Bastards of Baseball,” an unbelievable true story, a classic underdog story, a story that illustrates Americans when we are at our best and when we demonstrate what it means to be free.

The documentary centers on Bing Russell, the real-life father to Kurt Russell who became famous for his role Deputy Clem on television’s “Bonanza.” In 1973, Bing Russell created the first independent baseball team in America at the time, the Portland Mavericks. Even though the city of Portland was considered a vastly unpopular city to host a baseball team, Bing operated outside of Major League affiliation. Tryouts where open to the public and several men from all across the country who had been rejected by the Major Leagues came by the handfuls to try out for the team. Among the players who received a spot on the team was Bing’s son Kurt Russell, who eventually became Vice President of the team. While the country to skeptical of the team’s success, Bing broke all the rules and had grand successes. The team destroyed attendance records, and they even had fairly decent year of baseball for team that was made up completely by the public.

But it was not just attendance records Bing’s team was crumbling; he was changing everything about the sport, anything that may have been considered taboo at the time. Bing hired the first female general manager of baseball, he hired the first Asian American manager in a sports arena, the Mavericks had the first ever ball-dog, they relaunched several controversial careers; such as Jim Bouton. The teams batboy was Todd Field, who would become a film director, Fields film “In the Bedroom” would go to receive five Academy Award Nominations in 2001. Suddenly going to a baseball game was going to some kind of special event. There was a player who would burn brooms, yes literally burn brooms and he was just one of the many quirky characters who played for the Portland Mavericks. There was a kinetic energy that seems to cast itself on each Mavericks game, and there was no doubt that it appealed to the city in a big way.

A great actor is, in some ways, a great storyteller. Watching Kurt Russell reflect upon his time with the Portland Mavericks is part of the reason the documentary so watchable. You can see the nostalgia written all over Kurt Russell’s face, and you can see the same nostalgia all over Todd Field and everyone else that stops by for commentary. This was clearly a shifting, different and entertaining time for baseball and we certainly learn why. Russell in particular allows you to feel the energy he had, making you apart of his river of memory. It made the documentary all that more convincing and worthwhile.

I think something like “The Battered Bastards of Baseball” is important because it is a representation of America. A man had a dream and he did not allow the big business to control that dream, he made that dream come true. The idea of an independent sports team was unheard off, and it was heresy to think about. Despite its instant popularity and its need to shatter everything the country new about a business model, the Major League Association tried to take what was not there’s. I can respect somebody like Bing Russell enormously for never playing anybody’s ball game except for his own. He also seemed to have made a good point, perhaps going the independent route is not a bad thing, and maybe that is why most “professional” sports are so lackluster to sit through. The men that made up the Portland Mavericks were not just ballplayers, they were characters. They breathed new life into a sport and gave it new meaning. Today, many professional sports are so business oriented that it seems most players forgot what inspired them to pick up a ball; the fun of the game. These guys made baseball fun again, which is what it was always about.

As I said already, Netflix is killing it with their original pieces so far. This is an outstanding documentary in a year that has been exceptional for the genre. Hats off to all involved for telling a story worth telling and knowing exactly how to tell it. 

FINAL GRADE: A