Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Unfriended Review

Unfriended Review
"Unfriended" is the found footage genre taken to the extreme.

No, I don't mean that in a good way at all.

I suppose, in a way, the game presented in "Unfriended" is the next step in the road down found footage. Having a movie completely made up of Skype, Facebook, Instagram and other forms of digital discussion with a microphone and computer camera. In a way, "Unfriended" is clever in the way it tries to tell its story, using the most modern of technology to tell a urban legend of the 21st Century. The thing is, the story is so cliché that I felt it wasn't worth telling, and it is filled with characters we couldn't care less about.

Here is one big problem with the found footage movie, they are almost always filled to the brim with people we can't connect with. What is the point of watching any movie if you can't connect to any of the characters? When a group of friends are being stalked by a supernatural force, they spend most of the movie bickering with one another, calling each other names, and almost partaking in a competition to see who can be the most offensive. One might say that, just as the 1980's slasher films were about teens being killed as a stance against underage sex, that maybe this movie places its stance against cyberbullying. Here is the thing though, I cared about the characters in those 1980's slasher films. If I didn't like them, I cheered against them. None of the characters in "Unfriended" I cared much about, nor did I like to cheer against them. This is the most unrighteous, bland group of characters to ever inhabit a movie like this.

What can I really say about these actors who play these characters? Not really much at all. That has always been the tough thing of found footage, you get a group of young actors to play types, not actual characters. These are all self-indulgent, oversexed, high school dipshits who deserve everything that happens to them over the course of an hour-and-a-half, and it makes it really hard to identify and emphasize with someone who you'd find repulsive after getting to know for five minutes. I don't get why young actors choose to star in movies like this, because it seems like the perfect way to put a dead-end on your career. Plus, how this evil spirit comes to haunt them is very unimaginative, and even hilarious at times. When the ghost got her ex-friends to play a twisted version of Never Have I Ever, I couldn't help but break out in obnoxious laughter. What was anybody thinking when they sat down to make this?

I really don't have much else to say. I don't have the energy to rail against this movie. It's not good enough to be mediocre and it is certainly not good enough to be good. You know there is something wrong with a movie when I can't passionately discuss why it may or may not work for me. I especially hate movies when I have such a nonexistent reaction to them, and "Unfriended" positively reeks of that. Sure, its clever in its set-up and its as slick as slick gets as far onscreen mechanics, I have no feeling from anything else in it. This is a movie that left me cold. I don't have an urge to like or dislike it, and I have no words to tell you why. This is definitely a terrible, terrible experience. Go, and you might be the one who becomes unfriended, because nobody will want to hang out with such a sourpuss.


What say the early reviews of "Terminator:Genisys?"

Sometimes, I myself am a sucker for advertising. When I originally heard about "Terminator: Genisys" I wasn't completely turned over to it. I had been burned by the ongoing need to reinvigorate the franchise. I was never a fan, and I felt that the only good Terminator movies we would ever see would be the first two James Cameron films. Recently, James Cameron himself has been name-dropped quite a bit in "Terminator: Genisys." That kind of gave me hope, the trailers themselves didn't, but Cameron himself saying what's-what sure did. Now the first few reviews for "Genisys" have begun to pop up online. So far, the consensus isn't too grand.

Here are a couple early reviews for you guys.


""Goddamn time-traveling robots."
"Precisely, JK Simmons. Precisely.
Yes, I am aware that James Cameron's name is all over the commercials for "Terminator: Genisys" right now, and yes, i am aware that both of the writers on the film (Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier) are people I dig whose work I like a lot. And while I'm even willing to concede that this is probably better than either "Terminator: Rise Of The Machines" or "Terminator Salvation," that is such a low bar that I'm not sure I'd consider it a compliment.
From moment to moment, "Terminator: Genisys" is decently produced, and there are a few beats here and there that are clever or decently staged. But taken as a whole, "Terminator: Genisys" is representative of the worst of franchise filmmaking, and as someone who fell in love with the original "Terminator" in a theater in 1984, it sickens me. I had a palpable reaction of disgust tonight, one that I masked until I dropped off my kids.
 They loved it, by the way. I suspect that in some ways, they represent the Terminator fans who keep saying, over and over, "I WANT TO SEE THE FUTURE WAR!" I have good news and bad news for those fans. There is indeed more of the future war this time, and it's staged on an impressive scale for a few minutes. But the bad news is, it's exactly as boring as I would have guessed. Look! Giant machines! Look! Explosions! Look! Very technically well-rendered images that basically look exactly like the Fantasy II stuff that was done for no money back in 1984! Only longer! And more expensive!
The most interesting idea in "Terminator: Genisys" is that the timeline is being rewritten yet again, and in a way that suggests that they could keep doing so as long as they can afford to keep making digital Arnold Schwarzeneggers. The film opens with what feels more like a big budget remake of the original, complete with some shot by shot recreations of events we've seen before. There is an inevitability to things as John Connor (Jason Clarke) leads the human forces against the machines on several fronts, finally beating them and then pushing forward to seize the time machine that sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to protect the helpless and vulnerable Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). Events either play out in the exact way we've seen them play out, or they show us something we've known but haven't seen. It's only once Reese shows up in LA that things take a left turn, and the scene that this entire film seems to have been built around is the exact moment that the film starts to get interesting. When the original T-800 shows up, everything's identical. He approaches the punks to demand their clothes, but before he can kill them, he's interrupted by another T-800, this one older, leading to a big brawl between the digital young Arnold and the current Arnold, a sort of irresistible pop culture moment. The twists continue as, instead of Kyle Reese tracking Sarah Connor down over time while the Terminator stalks LA, murdering every Sarah Connor in the phone book, Reese finds himself facing a cop (Byung-hun Lee) who is also a T-1000. The only reason he survives the encounter is because Sarah shows up, already kicking ass, giving her a chance to deliver his iconic line: "Come with me if you want to live."
Unfortunately, once those two scenes play out, the movie turns into a far less interesting thing, The goal here is "Destroy Skynet before it goes online," and there is a ton of energy spent on trying to keep the characters in motion before they descend on yet another building full of computers that must be destroyed. There is even a convenient and literal ticking clock displayed throughout the building so we can appreciate just how tense everything is, so you know it's all terribly important.
The reason this review has been particularly difficult to write is because it takes so much energy and so many words just to describe the basic ideas in play, while my main impulse is to just say, "A bunch of stuff happens that should never have happened." I feel like I beat this broken drum, but nothing after the end of "Terminator 2" has ever felt narratively necessary. Even worse, all of it feels like wheel spinning. What this film seems to reinforce is that this entire franchise is "Groundhog Day" at this point. John Connor, Sarah Connor, and Kyle Reese will spend eternity locked in this same redundant dance, constantly destroying each other and constantly being reborn in an infinite number of timelines. The world blows up and dies an endless number of times, and every single time, the Connors and Reese all have front row seats. By telling us that this reset button can be hit, what "Terminator: Genisys" does is tell us that none of it matters. It is a Sisyphean struggle, and an exercise in pure futility. "There is no fate but what we make" has become "There is no fate because time is a circle that cannot be escaped."
There's another "big twist" in the film, but it is wildly uninteresting and underserved plot point, and Matt Smith (Toshi leaned over to me when he showed up and loudly whispered, "OH MY GOD IS THAT DOCTOR WHO?!?") has a very small but significant role. Wait, did I say significant? I meant he plays a role that is designed to be shocking and amazing and instead just feels like a very silly attempt to keep dragging this damn thing out.
There are some big weird problems with the various performances here. From the first trailers, it seemed shocking to me how much Emilia Clarke looks like young soft Linda Hamilton from the first film, but she never figures out how to play this person, and because of the refigured timelines, she can't just imitate what we've seen before. Jai Courtney is, sadly, a bust as Kyle Reese. It was easy to believe that Michael Biehn's Reese had grown up on a battlefield in the shadow of a dead civilization. He was like a hunted animal, all sinew and jitters and teeth and claw. Courtney plays this as... well, nothing. He says his lines, and he runs around and shoots, but there's not even a hint of actual character work or emotional inner life. He is bland on bland on bland, and Jason Clarke seems determined to go toe-to-toe with him to see who can be the most boring playing robot-killing future soldiers. Schwarzenegger's fine in his role, but they keep writing the character too broad, and JK Simmons almost successfully turns a nothing role into something fun.
Alan Taylor's work as a director looks exactly like what a studio movie is supposed to look like right now, complete with an almost pathological distaste for the way physics work, but once he's done doing the Cameron shot-for-shot remake, his own sense of style seems to be completely generic. There's no joy in this filmmaking. Go back and watch the first "Terminator." Cameron is almost drunk on the momentum of that film, and there's an energy to everything that is palpable, whether it's the way Reese's crazy eyes seem to communicate both longing and horror so constantly or the deadpan humor that Cameron finds in the cold emotionlessness of the Terminator. In the second film, you can feel Cameron stretching into the realm of giant budget filmmaking, almost daring himself to dream up these giant set pieces just to see if they can be done. There's a constant sense of invention, and he has a great eye for story and character details. Once again, it feels like it was urgent for Cameron, like he had to make these films.
There is nothing about "Terminator: Genisys" that suggests that this film was a compelling, urgent, essential dream for anyone involved. This is all about squeezing cash out of people who are fond of the original films, calculated and without any of the soul of Cameron's films. Just as there is an assembly line we glimpse here, rows of T-800s on hooks, there is an assembly line that pushed this film out. That's a shame. The Terminator has been so thoroughly neutered that all that remains of the once-terrifying nightmare is a punchline-spouting Ken doll, a perfect central figure for a franchise content with simply spouting catch phrases instead of telling us a story with balls."

Read more at http://www.hitfix.com/motion-captured/review-terminator-genisys-squeezes-the-last-bit-of-life-from-the-franchise#FUEOyKO4rcigI0LX.99"
"Nordling here.
 If you watched any of the trailers, TERMINATOR: GENISYS’s marketing campaign spent a lot of time spoiling crucial plot points.  They even got James Cameron himself to give his Godfather’s blessing to the new movie, and Arnold’s always been a workhorse when it comes to selling his films.  I’ve been a Schwarzenegger fan since I was a kid, seeing CONAN THE BARBARIAN for the first time.  I’m always rooting for him to succeed.  I imagine it’s a lot like my dad seeing everything John Wayne ever did, even when Wayne advanced in years and he was no longer the box office draw he once was.  There’s a brand loyalty there that’s difficult to shake, so it definitely makes me wince a little bit to say that TERMINATOR: GENISYS is a terrible movie, full of bluster and nonsense.  Don't be mad at the TERMINATOR: GENISYS trailers giving too much plot away. Instead, appreciate how the ad campaign actually warned you of the film’s awfulness ahead of time.
 GENISYS, like JURASSIC WORLD, rides in on waves of nostalgia, and that may be enough for audiences.  But whatever you may think of James Cameron, he knew not to overstuff his two TERMINATOR films with more plot and action than they needed.  The first TERMINATOR is tight as a drum, and the second matches its spectacle with a big heart worn prominently on the sleeve. They work because they never try to be above the audience, while at the same time giving the audience lots to think about and chew upon. These are films with Arnold Schwarzenegger at the height of his action hero powers, and Cameron wisely directs Arnold to his strengths.  Alan Taylor is certainly no James Cameron, and more than anything, I just felt bad for Arnold, mugging for the camera and used as a running joke for much of GENISYS’s running time.  He deserved better than this script, which has to be one of the worst scripts in a very long time.
 These aren’t mere plot holes – these are plot singularities, sucking in all logic, theme, and character until nothing can escape.  Even now, I’m still trying to piece it together.  Alternate timelines, the motivations of certain characters, even the T-800’s backstory makes no sense.  Time travel movies normally orchestrate their plots with a little more finesse than this. The nonsensical plot makes it impossible to care what happens to Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), or John Connor (Jason Clarke).  There are no stakes, because we’re constantly reminded that what happens is inevitable, and even when we’re told that certain events have changed the timeline, they change right back.
 The movie so desperately wants to be ranked with the first two that it even recreates much of the first act of the first TERMINATOR, but it does it simply for the nostalgic reminder to the audience.  It doesn’t mean anything.  Sure, watching an Arnold on Arnold fight looks fun, but the filmmakers are desperately hoping that you don’t figure out that the scene makes no goddamn sense.  It shouldn’t even exist.  In fact, much of the film’s plot would collapse on itself with a little syllogism. We’re constantly reminded of Kyle and Sarah’s great love, but if any of the writers ever thought it through, why not simply shoot Kyle and cause all these alternate timelines to cease to exist?  Where does Sarah’s T-800 come from anyway?  Who programmed it and why?  Does Skynet exist outside time, simply willing itself into existence?  Who knows?  There may be an interesting idea or two in GENISYS, but it’s buried under cacophony and distraction.
 The action sequences are good, but, again, they don’t mean anything.  Again, there are no stakes, and thus everything is simply interesting to look at but has no emotional or dramatic point.  Arnold gives as much as he can, but each sequence feels inert.  The story arc of John Connor is especially egregious, and feels like a plot point that the filmmakers wanted to anchor the film around as some kind of twist for the audience.  But the twist doesn’t work, because the filmmakers don’t allow us to get invested.  This is a singularly bad script, and writers Patrick Lussier and Laeta Kalogridis cannot bring together each plot strand to form a coherent whole.
TERMINATOR: GENISYS is likely the last of this franchise, and that’s a blessing.  It means that Arnold Schwarzenegger can move on to the next stage of his career, whatever that may be, and I hope for the best for him, and I’ll always be a fan.  If he picks roles that challenge him in his older years, all the better – although SABOTAGE isn’t a great movie, Arnold is actually quite good in it, and I think there’s a script out there that will absolutely give him the great role he deserves, playing to his abilities and reminding us all why we worshipped this guy in the 1980s and 1990s.  TERMINATOR: GENISYS is a waste of talent and money.  Don’t be back."
Definitely not the best news. But as always, I will judge the movie for myself. I will say that my expectations are about the same. We'll just see if this one surprises me personally.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Ted 2 Review

Ted 2 Review
I really loved the first "Ted" movie. It was big and demented and full of humor. That is exactly what I have come to expect from Seth MacFarlane. I love "Family Guy" and I am also very fond of "American Dad!" and "The Cleveland Show" for as long as it lasted. I know this isn't the type of humor everybody hopes for, but it certainly works for me. MacFarlane's humor can be rough and a little harsh. It is also as raunchy and as slapstick as raunchy and slapstick can possibly get. It can be a little too much, even for me. In fact, last year, it was a little too much. I wasn't as fond of "A Million Ways To Die In The West," and that was something I had high hopes for. But I loved "Ted" so much, so how bad could "Ted 2" be?

Well, "Ted 2" is a sequel, and many of the films problems are sequel problems. I figured since MacFarland got his start on television, he'd have different ideas and we would have a wide venue of different paths of comedy to take. But MacFarland essentially made the same movie over again. I didn't know what to expect with MacFarland's sequel, but I didn't expect him to aim so low. Much like an episode of "Family Guy," "Ted 2" kind of goes off into different directions. First, it seems the film is about Ted (voiced by MacFarland) trying to have a child to save his marriage. Then the film turns into a fable about what defies a human or living being. While a quick story within a bigger story may work for television, I don't know how well it translated out into film.

But hey, here is the thing. I did laugh a lot throughout the film. I am not sure if I was hyperventilating like I did the first film. But I did like a lot. Like I said above, I am a huge fan of the comedy that MacFarland produces, so perhaps I am a target audience here. If you like shows like "Family Guy" or "American Dad!" or if you liked the first "Ted" film, then "Ted 2" is worth at least a look. That style of humor is laced throughout the entire movie, and it never lets up. I think MacFarland is much more effective with landing his jokes than say he was with "A Million Ways To Die In The West," even though I think the New York Comic-Con scene near the end was a little too over-the-top.

John (Mark Wahlberg) and his best friend Ted go on several adventures in the movie. John stands during Ted's wedding to Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth), but sadly a year later, they marriage is on the verge of extinction. In order to help this, John donates sperm to Ted, which ends badly. Ted and Tami-Lynn try to adopt but there is controversy over Ted not being human, so Ted plans to go to court. They hire newbie lawyer Samantha Jackson (Amanda Seyfried) to help them. Will it be enough to convince Ted he's a human?

Its kind of a goofball story, but MacFarland had a lot of leeway to do some big things with his script. I will say again, there is lots of funny material in the movie. But from a storytelling standpoint, "Ted 2" is a little disappointing. Giovanni Ribisi returns as Donny, and even though his evil plot is a little different, the execution and reasoning behind it is all the same as the first movie. There are so many similarities between this movie and the first movie, that it almost doesn't feel like a sequel. It feels like a continuation of what came before. The film might feature big laughs, but it lacks the inspiration of a good story.


More Spiderman Details

Kevin Feige spoke out today about some of the upcoming "Spiderman" movie details. I have to admit, some of the things he had to say about the highly anticipated movie was a little bit surprising. How surprising? Well, what if I told you that "Spiderman" is going to be a high school soap opera?

“It’s the soap opera in high school, and those supporting characters, that are interesting,” said Feige. “Just as we hadn’t seen a heist movie in a long time, or a shrinking movie in a long time, we haven’t seen a John Hughes movie in a long time. Not that we can make a John Hughes movie - only John Hughes could - but we’re inspired by him, and merging that with the superhero genre in a way we haven’t done before excites us.”

Yep, I am a little stunned by that too. A high school soap opera mixed with the superhero movie? Interesting, definitely interesting. I am not saying I hate the idea, because it could be good. Feige has done some good things playing genres. I mean "Captain America: The Winter Solider" was more of a political thriller than anything else. It also seems that "Ant-Man" will be a heist movie more than anything else. But it seems that these movies won't loose their superhero status, or what makes superheroes movies work. I also like that Feige mentioned that the villain in the movie will be someone we haven't seen yet. It makes sense, Spiderman has a huge rogues gallery. There are lots of villains they could look at.

"Right now we’re interested in seeing villains we haven’t seen before.”

So don't expect Doc Ock, or Green Goblin. Expect Vulture, or Chameleon, or Scorpion, or Shocker, or Hydro-Man or Mysterio or even Carnage. That's cool, lots of great villains to look at and lots of great storylines to use as well.

So, some interesting ideas tonight, what do you guys think?


Friday, June 26, 2015

The Walking Deceased Review

The Walking Deceased Review
It was bound to happen at some point.

The zombie bubble of popularity fluctuates like nobody's business. George A. Romero brought the genre to roaring life (literally) and it slowly became popular, then that popularity went down a few notches. The want and desire for the zombie genre has been going up and down ever since. Right now, we are living in a time of loving this genre. So it is only natural that a movie would appear that attempts to rip the genre apart?

If you've been following with what is most popular in the genre right now, you can probably guess how "The Walking Deceased" goes along. Yes, its pretty clear that the biggest inspiration of parody comes from "The Walking Dead." You see it in the title, and three of the characters are based off of Rick, Carl and Daryl. In fact, the boy with the sheriff hat is constantly called Carl even though his name is Chris. There is even an elderly couple who come off as evil but are actually really nice, kind of like Herschel Greene. But there are other references in the movie too. There is a zombie trying to win the love of a human (Warm Bodies), there survivors named after the cities they are from (Zombieland), the group sets up shelter in a mall (Dawn of the Dead) and there is also a character that has a sort of "Resident Evil/Book of Eli" thing going on. There are also references that I probably didn't catch. Sometimes, it gets really exhausting trying to keep up with all of them.

"The Walking Deceased" isn't the type of parody that tries to make the audience laugh, its the type of parody that remakes certain scenes or certain scenarios we remember from popular culture, then tosses a throwaway joke just to make sure we label the film as a comedy. The "Chris' name is Carl" joke overstayed its welcome. The goofy one-liners never once landed. I am sitting here trying to remember a time in this movie when I actually laughed or when I actually cracked a smile, and I can't remember at all. There was a time when parodies were smart about their humor. When they approached the humor of something in a big and even sometimes, epic way. The filmmakers knew what they were making fun of, and they soaked it up before they began to make the parody. Nowadays, everything is so safe, so manufactured, so completely devoid of effort that it makes me cry.

I get it. This was a direct-to-video movie made on a nothing budget that just so happened to hit Netflix. The thing is, I don't know if there is really anybody out there that finds any of this remotely funny. It feels as if the filmmakers knew this was going to be effortless, but they went and made it anyway. Its hard for me to really put a grade on a movie like this. Since this feels like a movie that tries to be trashy fun. The thing is, there is absolutely nothing memorable about the movie. Even  the "bad" isn't memorable. This is just a waste of time, and I am not sure how audiences are supposed to feel about this as a whole.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Batman directed by Ben Affleck

So its been known for awhile now that Ben Affleck will play Batman for the DCCU. I may not have jumped for joy when this news came out, but I was curious. I wondered what Warner Bros. saw in Affleck to force them to want to pick him. Its pretty clear now that Affleck will be around for a lot more than just "Dawn of Justice." It sounds like he will appear in "Suicide Squad" and he will definitely appear in the one-two punch of "Justice League." A long time ago, there was a rumor that sometime after "Justice League," Ben Affleck would get his own solo film. That film would be called "The Batman" and it would come out sometime around 2019.

Well, that rumor has resurfaced and it seems that not only will Ben Affleck star as the Caped Crusader, but he will possibly direct the film too. I guess now the film is possibly slated for sometime in 2018, which will be in between the two "Justice League" films.

It will be interesting to see if this all turns out true, and whether or not Affleck will direct. I have loved Affleck's directing career much more than his acting career as a whole. But I feel his directing has somehow improved his acting. The decisions he's been making as an actor the last five years have been good, by and large. I think more people are, little by little, beginning to take him seriously as an artist. At the end of the day, I want to like a movie than panning it, so if Affleck can make a big-budget, awesome Batman movie, I'd be all for it. It would be the first time Affleck tackled something of this scale (Still wish we got the Affleck directed, and Affleck written "The Stand" adaptation!), and I am curious to see if he could pull it off.

What say you? Ben Affleck starring and Affleck directing Batman movie? Yay or Ney


Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension Trailer

"Paranormal Activity" was not the first found-footage movie ever made. But I felt it broadened the landscape of what could be done with the sub-genre. After the wild success of "The Blair Witch Project," everybody wanted a slice of that profit. They did whatever they could to replicate it, and most failed. "Paranormal Activity" brought some much needed maturity to a failing subgenre. Not only that, but it became a great series of films, that's right films. Taken as a whole, I have enjoyed the Paranormal series, they are pretty smart about their horror, and they are trying to expand a storyline over the coarse of the film. They are not just making more of the same each year to make the big bucks. I will say that they have kind been at a stand-still with their mythology, and I hope they start bringing closure to some of the series' big questions and we really start developing some understanding of this story.

We finally have a trailer for "Paranormal Activity: Ghost Dimension" the fifth film in the franchise. I am a little uneasy about it. What has made this series so popular is the use of so little. This series has prided itself on "less is more," and from the looks of this trailer, it seems they are beginning to sell-out. This will easily be the most CGI-driven movie, and that's sad. This trailer just looks like every other movie with ghosts and I was hoping for some more of the same from this series. I hope that doesn't tangle up the storytelling one bit, and I guess as long as they start tying up some of these loose ends, I will be happy.

What do you think of this trailer?

Who Played It Best? Agent K

Who Played It Best? Agent K
"Men In Black" is a movie I absolutely love. I have discussed before I genuinely like movies about aliens in general. But when this movie came out, I was still pretty young. I had already seen several movies with aliens in them. Big ones, little ones, action-packed ones, emotional ones, and I generally loved them all. But even so young, I noticed something different about "Men In Black." It had a style unlike any I had ever seen up until that point, and I think it helped change the landscape of science fiction in general. I love Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K, but I am equally blown away that two people have already played Agent K. So, who played him best?

My Two Cents:
I love Josh Brolin. He has quickly become one of my all-time favorite actors. But I don't think we saw enough of him to really gauge what he could do with the character. This installment I predict, will come down who had the most time to make the character theirs. In this case, I believe it is Tommy Lee Jones. He helped set the standard for this character. He helped set the stage for this character. He was the first person out of the gate to play to this character. Brolin only played the character once, while Jones had the character for two and-a-half movies. Therefore I give the edge to Jones.

Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comment section below or email me (bloggershawn@gmail.com). You will have until next Wednesday to vote.

The battle between Movie and TV collided last week as we looked at four actors who played Hannibal Lecter at one point, the results are in and the winner is...
See ya next week!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

American Heist Review

American Heist Review
Here is a nice movie cocktail for you. Take a direct-to-video crime drama script, add two good-looking, well-accustomed actors, then add the hollow, unexplored philosophy of "Killing Them Softly," throw in the familiar heist moments and a throw-away romance from Ben Affleck's "The Town" and a nice splash of Grand Theft Auto. You know what you get? "American Heist" is what you get.

"American Heist" is slick to watch, and it goes down easy. You can tell that Adrien Brody, Hayden Christensen and Jordana Brewster are trying really hard to make this matter. And I'll give Christensen this, he is more alive here than he has ever been in his entire career. Look at the "Star Wars" prequels, look at "Jumper." In general and in my opinion, I find Christensen to be a very bland, very dull actor. There are times when you cheer for him here, and there are times when you can identify with him. It's just tough because the rest of the film is so unimpressive. There is very little in this film that you have seen before and much better. "American Heist" is pieces of other crime dramas, and if you haven't seen a huge number of movies yet, there is a chance this could work for you. Due to the cast, and the slickness of the action and cinematography, the film is well polished. But its just better than your average Video-On-Demand film that you watch when nothing else is on.

Christensen plays James and Adrien Brody plays Frankie. Frankie is a man fresh out of prison, and James is a simple mechanic who is haunted by a life he had with his older brother. He wants to rekindle an old flame (Brewster), not jump in on a life-changing job and return to his criminal urges with his older brother. But James wants to open more garages and start a small business, which his bank is unwilling to invest in, and as you could have guessed, he has no choice but help his brother and his friends with their huge bank robbery. Oh, and get this, James is the getaway driver!

Could you have guessed the synopsis before I finished writing it? I bet you could, and I am sure you can guess how it ends. The final shootout between the cops and the robbers feels too borrowed from films like "The Town" and "Heat" to really be inspiring. There is a moment when one of the robbers shoots a police helicopter out of the sky. I remember laughing and mocking the scene in my head as I watched. I guess the stuff that is cool in a Grand Theft Auto game isn't automatically cool in the world of movies. That is the problem with a lot of the movie, it just feels too borrowed from other movies. It never once feels like its own thing. Even the rhetoric about how banks are destroying our country MIGHT have been more apparent if it weren't for a movie about this subject coming out three years ago.

Adrien Brody is proving he has range. I love that he can do something as offbeat and odd as "The Grand Budapest Hotel," then also do something like this. I just wish I liked this better. Brewster also does what she can. But she gets the female role in which she gets herself into a romance we know can't end well, yep that character. Underneath all the style and coolness, "American Heist" is just another straight-to-video actionier that features more pop culture references than an episode of "Family Guy."


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Rampage: The Movie

There was a video game I played on my old Nintendeo 64 called "Rampage: World Tour." You got play as a George; who was a King Kong-like gorilla, Lizzie; a Godzilla-like lizard or Ralph massive werewolf. The object of the game was to destroy every city you visited across the world. This wasn't the first game in the "Rampage" series. This is a game that has been around for years, when you needed a fistful of quarters to play your favorite video games. This idea is ripe for a disaster movie, it just never happened. Until now.

Yep, "Rampage" is being developed into a movie. It is going to star The Rock, who will play some kind of human who is trying to save the world from the three monsters. So basically, swap out his character from "San Andreas," drop him in this movie and we are pretty much ready to go. The Rock has been a go-to guy as of late. He has some kind of role in the budding DC Cinematic Universe. He is linked to the "Big Trouble in Little China" remake. He is quite busy, but I like it. I am glad he is doing more action and no more of those silly family films that nobody ever seemed to like. Sure, it sounds like The Rock will be playing the exact same character he played in "San Andreas." But if the movie keeps the fun, laid-back, silly style of the video game, this could be a whole different movie.

So far, "Non-Stop" writer Ryan Engle is penning the script for this. There is nobody attached to direct and nobody else attached to star. Definitely more on this story as it develops.

Until then, here is a little taste of what to expect:

SOURCE: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/72041

The New Spiderman

For the third time in this new millennium, we have an actor playing Spiderman. This time, Spiderman will show up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so he will be interacting with RDJ's Iron Man, Chris Evans' Captain America and the like.

Our new Spiderman is...
Some probably don't know who this is, and if you don't, check out "The Impossible" from a couple of years ago. The movie featured Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts, and it was about a family surviving a tsunami. Holland was great in it, and even though he is a young actor, he is ripe with potential.

I have already heard the outcry for a relatively young actor to play Spiderman. I think those people have either never seen a Spiderman movie, or were not paying too much attention to the Tobey McGuire or Andrew Garfield movies. In the comic books, Peter Parker got his superpowers when he was in high school, that's right high school. Both film versions got that aspect of the character history right, it just didn't look or feel right because both Tobey and Andrew were in the mid-twenties when they made their respected movies. Several movies throughout history feature twenty-something's playing high school students, and it just looks off. Holland maybe 19, but he looks like a high school student, and he is at least around the age of a high school student. This will give the movie a piece of authenticity it has never had before. Hey, I was not the biggest fan of the "Karate Kid" remake in 2010, but one thing that movie got right was that "the kid" was a kid. Holland is a great actor who actually looks the part. So lets keep this in mind moving forward.

I also think that Marvel has made enough good decisions that I will trust them with their decision making from here on out. They have cast all of their characters perfectly, lead characters, supporting characters, cameo work...doesn't matter. It is all as close to perfect as they could possibly achieve. Marvel and Sony saw something special in Holland, or they would have never given him the part. They considered several actors, both studios fought over who should don the red and blue spider-suit. This was a tough decision, because the decision matters. Spiderman is one of the most popular heroes of the Marvel stable, both studios knew they had to get it right. I don't know about you guys, but at this point, I trust Marvel. I think we are in for another good time.

What say the rest of you on this casting?


Monday, June 22, 2015

All Female Ghostbusters photos

Here is our first look at the new all-female "Ghostbusters" movie.

Judging by the pictures alone, it is really tough to tell if this is going to be a reboot or not. It could certainly go each way. No matter how good Wiig and McCarthy are, I really hope this is set within the same universe as the other two movies. It simply makes sense to do that, and I don't see any reason to erase that story completely. Still, these photos have me curious. We are not seeing too much ghost action yet, but I suppose these images are cool.

Hollywood Grapevine

It was a pretty slow week last week. That's not because I didn't have anything to really write about, just nothing that tickled my fancy. Plus, I got a big promotion at my day-job and that has been sucking the energy from me in some ways. I am very happy and blessed that I got this position, it just made for a slightly slower week last week. But I've been scourging the internet today and tonight, and I found some interesting stuff that I'd like to drop my opinion on.

Independence Day 2 Title
"Independence Day" was a huge part of my childhood. I can't just not be excited for it. I think I've probably watched that movie the most growing up. Instead of Saturday morning cartoons, I put on "Independence Day." I love the movie, and the prospect of a sequel has been far overdue. I get it though, former Fox executive Tom Rothman torpedoed the sequel for years, for God knows what reason. (I may write a special piece on Tom Rothman and how he could have single-handedly destroyed Fox.). But now, we are finally getting a sequel. Tonight, we finally got a title. The sequel to "Independence Day" has been titled "Independence Day Resurgence." Since the aliens are coming back to Earth to pick a fight with us, I suppose that title is fitting. This seems like a sequel that will tread water, but the nostalgic little boy inside me won't be able to resist seeing this on opening weekend. Here's to hoping its good!

SOURCE: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/72019

Wolverine 3 to be based on Old Man Logan?

Wolverine on screen has had high and lows, and that's too bad. He has one of the most unique and richest backstory of any superhero. If handled by the right people, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" could have been on par with "Spiderman 2" and "The Dark Knight." Sadly, the wrong people were in charge of that dreck. Thankfully, I can rest easy knowing that Fox learned from its mistake and gave a good Wolverine movie people have been craving for years. But all good things must come to an end, and Hugh Jackman has announced that after "X-Men: Apocalypse" in 2016, a third solo Wolverine movie will be his last run as the character. I can understand why, Jackman will have played Wolverine more times that both Connery and Moore played James Bond. I can totally understand why he would want to move onto different things. But that's not the big rumor, the big rumor tonight is that Wolverine 3 will be based on the "Old Man Logan" storyline.

Written by Mark Millar, "Old Man Logan" is set in an alternate universe of Marvel, and fifty years in the future. Red Skull got seemingly every supervillain in the Marvel Universe together and killed all the superheroes. Knowing they couldn't physically kill Wolverine, they killed him mentally and emotionally and in these fifty years, he has not popped his claws once. He lives a peaceful yet desperate life, trying to keep his rent paid to his landlord, who is none other than The Hulk. Yep, when the villains tried to kill Hulk, the green meanie kind of lost his mind. Things look up for Wolverine when he decides to go cross-country with a blind Hawkeye for a big payday, but what is it Hawkeye is up to?

Here's the thing. No studio can make an adequate adaptation of "Old Man Logan" unless they make a deal with Disney. The characters of Hawkeye, Hulk and several other characters who are owned by Disney are too important to the overall plot of "Old Man Logan." Even with Fantastic Four in the hands of Fox, a movie adaptation of this now just wouldn't feel like a true adaptation of the sequel. Fox has to be sure they have something very, very special in their hands in order to make this work and I just don't know if they do. If we get a scene of Jackman fighting a dinosaur, it may turn into something. We shall see.

SOURCE: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/72007

Let me know what you think of these stories.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Inside Out Review

Inside Out Review
If there was one animation studio that was destined to be perfect, it was Pixar. From 1998 until 2010, they completely redefined what it meant to make a family film. Too many times these days, a family film is code for a "kids movie." The kiddos will enjoy it, but the adults will be bored. They basically work as pacifiers for a few hours in a quiet theater. Pixar was destined to change that. They made films that catered to every person of every part of life. Sure, the characters were cute and cuddly, and the film had big humor and fun times for children. But the emotional payoffs were felt by the adults as well, and the stories told several adult ideas. By 2010, it seemed that Pixar was going to give into the corporation world. They started becoming like every, other studio. They pounded out two sequel/prequels that were only mere cash grabs. They stopped being creative. They stopped being clever. They stopped making the adults feel like they were apart of the audience. I never thought that Pixar would ever get it together again, and that made me tremendously sad.

But then they made "Inside Out."

This is a near-perfect return to form for Pixar. Its a movie that is cute and cuddly, features good humor and big fun for children, but gives us that something extra. That something extra is what defined Pixar, what settled in their brand. I have missed that for five years. I can confidently say that everything we loved about Pixar is back again. Once again, we are given top-notch, state-of-the-art animation. Once again, we have a unique world filled with unforgettable characters. And, once again, we are given a mirror of a metaphor and the audience decides what that means. We are given a story in which everybody in the theater can relate to.

"Inside Out" is about our emotions. It is a movie about how people strive to only be happy. But it is also a movie about how difficult that is to achieve. I am not saying that people are a depressed lot all of the time, but life happens. Sometimes the cards life deals us are not what we want, and that disrupts our happiness. We have all experienced setbacks. We have all experienced hardships. We have all had our fair share of trials and tribulations. We make plans and more often then not, those plans fall through. I was given a wonderful opportunity at my job, but it was a hard road to get there, and it completely deviated from my original plan after college. Things change, but sometimes those changes can be lead to good things and even greater things. The emotions we experience on the way through that change is important because it helps us grow and develops us into the people we become. That is essentially "Inside Out" in a nutshell.

The film begins with a surreal yet beautiful image of a newborn opening their eyes for the very first time. These eyes belong to Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) and just as Riley begins to cry, her emotion Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler) is born, and she gets Riley to laugh. It seems Joy imprints on Riley in a huge way. She doesn't want Riley to be anything but happy. Even if she has to get Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kalling), Anger (Lewis Black) and Especially Sadness (Phyllis Smith) away from the emotional controls in Riley's head. When Riley moves from Minnesota to San Francisco and has to create a new life for herself, it becomes difficult to stay happy. But Joy continues to fight for Riley's happiness.

The film is epically clever. The way certain core memories create "personality islands" and give us the traits that make us all unique is especially harrowing. The moments with the "train of thought" are hilarious. Taken as a whole, the entire world in our heads is madly breathtaking. This is what has been missing in most Pixar films in awhile, the acute attention to detail. The richness of creating something big out of the smallest details. It also helps that every piece of animation is flawless. (There is a particular scene involving a place called Imagination Land which is particularly cool.) There were several times where I laughed out loud, and not with the children in the audience, but because something genuinely funny happened. The film gets every bit of being an adolescent right. There is a moment near the end of the movie where Riley bumps into a random boy, and how the boys emotions react to the bump is seriously amazing.

The voice work is strong across the board. I love the work by Poehler, Kalling, Hader, Black and Smith. They create instantly memorable characters out of their voices. There is one particular character who completely stole the show for me. That character is named Bing Bong, an imaginary friend Riley had growing up who accompanies Joy and Sadness on the films adventure. The character is brought to life by the voice of Richard Kind, whose voice is perfect for a character like this. Bing Bong is a half-dog, half-elephant, half-dolphin thing that only a child could muster. He is both funny and sincere, and when his character completes his final scene, it carries some of the most raw emotional power Pixar has created thus far, and it left breathless.

But what ultimately won me over is what won me over with all three "Toy Story" films, or "The Incredibles," or "Finding Nemo," or "Ratatouille," or "Wall-E" or "Up," or all of the best of the best from Pixar. "Inside Out" is a human story about human ideas, and those ideas are universally met throughout the entire theater. These are ideas children can ask their parents about on the way to the car, and everybody's world can open up in a big way. So, if you ask me, it is safe to say that Pixar is back on track, and they never looked so good. I purposefully left lots of tidbits about the movie out of this review. This should be something you experience freely, something that speaks only to you and oh, you will be glad it did.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Unfinished Business Review

Unfinished Business Review
"Unfinished Business" is a weird movie.

I don't mean in an artistic sense. I don't mean in any sort of way that elevates the material. It is just weird in a stand-off, unwelcoming way. Its a movie that wants to be funny, its a movie that wants to be rude, and at the same time, it wants to be all fuzzy and heartwarming. Those ideas have never gone hand-in-hand in the movie world. There have been several great comedies that have had a deep, endearing message underneath all of the laughter. What made those particular comedies so great was that it earned every laugh while also earning the message. "Unfinished Business" doesn't do that, and it fails at being both a wholesome movie about family, and a raunchy comedy.

The film opens with Dan (Vince Vaughn) fighting with his Boss, Chuck (Sienna Miller) over a business deal. Chuck is the manager of Dynamic Systems, but we are never really told exactly what it is Dynamic Systems does. We just know that Chuck is giving Dan 5% less commission on a business deal he just took care of. Now Dan wants to start his own business, because he eventually wants to send his bullied kids to private school. Two co-workers follow him into this independent business, Tim (Tom Wilkinson) and Mike (Dave Franco). A year later, the business hasn't really done much, but they finally get a call from investors who invite them to a business trip in Germany. It also just happens that Chuck is there competing for the investors money.

Why does the trip require the group to be in Germany? Because it gives Dan's character a ticking clock, an amount of time before he has to get his children ready for private school. Why is Chuck purposefully in competition  against the trio? So that the film has a bad guy. As far as movies go, this is about as ordinary as ordinary gets. This is about as familiar as familiar gets. The biggest letdown is most of the movie isn't very funny. Dave Franco is very good at portraying an asshole, he is kind of known for it. Here, he is the awkward, Michael Cera type. While he lands some of his material, most of it falls flat. Had Cera himself played the role of Mike, perhaps the movie would have been a lot better. But for most of the film, it seems like Dave is just trying too hard. Then there is Tom Wilkinson, an actor I have admired for a long time. Wilkinson is known for his dramatic stuff, it is what we come to expect from him. I love it when actors try something new, I love it when they break their comfort zone, and I especially love it when they try to get out of their typecast persona. But if you are going give Wilkinson a goofy character, give that character something to do. Wilkinson is the typical old pervert, who really doesn't add much to the team aside from an aspiring speech in the middle of the movie. He's a big cliché, and Wilkinson deserves better.

You're all probably wondering how Vince Vaughn is in this, as he is the lead character. He's fine, I guess. Vaughn has become one of those comedic actors who feels like he's playing the same character every time. I am not saying that is particularly bad, its just tough to gauge him as a performer. If you have liked Vaughn in the past, you will probably like him here. If you are not particularly a fan of Vaughn, you'll probably not like him here. He doesn't bring anything new or fresh to the table here, so that is odd.

The biggest thing that didn't work for me is kind of what I alluded to above. We get the idea that Dan is a hard-working, family man. He wants to create a better life for his family at any cost. While that's a great message, it is played up in volumes in this movie. I must also say that this movie is full of raunchy jokes, lots of nudity and the worst of the worst language. The movie doesn't transition well at all with its ideas, making for a very weird movie. Imagine if both "Forest Gump" and "Schindler's List" were not only uplifting movies about courage and in the latter case, survival, but also were gross-out comedies? They wouldn't be the same movies would they? "Unfinished Business" tries so hard to be both that nothing about it makes sense.

I didn't get much out of "Unfinished Business," which is why I found it so frustrating.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Cast This: My Top Five Picks for Captain Marvel

When Kevin Feige made the big Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase Three announcement last year, I was in an uproar. That is mainly due in part to me being a Marvel fan nearly all of my life. For the average movie-goer, some of these titles may have not made sense. Sure, its easy to get excited for "Captain America 3" or "Guardians of the Galaxy 2" or "Thor 3" or the one-two punch of "Avengers: Infinity War." But Phase Three is going throw several new characters at us, and believe it or not, some these new characters are going to be very important. Not just to the MCU, but to movies in general.

"Captain Marvel" is extremely important because it is going to be headlined by woman.

Sure, we have seen female superheroes already, both in movies and on TV. But think about it. How many superhero movies have been made where the lead character is a woman on a solo mission? There really aren't that many. Heck, Black Widow hasn't got her solo movie yet. This is part of the reason why Captain Marvel is important. The character of Carol Danvers shattered gender-bias in comic books and she became a dominate member of the Avengers. She brings girl power to a whole new level, without a team of men by her side to help her. There were several times in the comics where it was Carol leading the team, yes we haven't really seen women lead a team of superheroes in any movies yet. So, I really want "Captain Marvel" to work as a movie.

So finding the right actress is pivotal.

So who is Carol Danvers?

Carol Danvers worked for several branches of the United States military and United States government before taking a job at NASA. So before she ever got superpowers, she was a badass. When she worked at NASA, she eventually became knee-deep in complications with the Kree Empire, that's right, those aliens we've met already on "Guardians of the Galaxy" and even ABC's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." After being exposed to Kree radiation, she was given powerful superhuman powers and became Captain Marvel. That is pretty much it in a nutshell.

So one of the things I am looking for in actresses for this role is somebody strong. Of course, people think of the blonde hair and yes, I would like Danvers to be blonde. But that doesn't mean find the first blonde, muscle lady and cast them. (I am looking at you Katee Sackoff). Part of the Marvel genius has been finding actors who have talent first, THEN transforming them into people who look like superheroes. I mean, shit, Paul Rudd and Chris Pratt's transformations have been wildly impressive. Its also easy to pick Jennifer Lawrence because she is such a hot commodity right now, but I think there are plenty of great actresses who could fill this role and make it worthwhile. So, please keep that in mind as you read my choices.


5. Katheryn Winnick
Where Have We Seen Her? History's "Vikings"

Why She'd Be Good: She has already proven over three seasons of "Vikings" that she can play strong-willed and powerful. She definitely has the looks already, and she is one of those actresses that could really break out with the right role. Carol Danvers could be for Winnick what Wolverine was for Hugh Jackman.

4. Rosamund Pike
Where Have We Seen Her? "Die Another Day" in 2002, "Wrath of the Titans" in 2011 and most recently, "Gone Girl"

Why She'd Be Good: Let's get something straight, the wrong actress walked away with the Golden Bald man for Best Lead Actress last February. Pike's work in "Gone Girl" not only proved how strong an actress Pike is, but solidified that she has dimensions. Pike can be charming, funny, strong, weak, evil, good and humble all in one role, and perhaps all at the same time. Somebody who has such command over character is alright in my book.

3. Alice Eve
Where Have We Seen Her? "She's Out of My League" and most recently in "Star Trek Into Darkness"

Why She'd Be Good: Seriously, how has nobody mentioned Alice Eve yet? I have read many casting wish lists for Carol Danvers and Alice Eve has not been in any of them. I suppose I should mention that Eve has been involved in both worlds of independent and blockbuster cinema. She knows how to handle a big production and she knows how to strike emotional value from her characters. She is definitely somebody I feel is getting overlooked, and that's too bad.

2. Emily Blunt
Where Have We Seen Her? Boy, where to start? "Devil Wears Prada," "Charlie Wilson's War," "The Adjustment Bureau," "Looper," "Edge of Tomorrow" and most recently "Into The Woods."

Why She'd Be Good: Funny story about Emily Blunt. During the pre-production of "Iron Man 2," director Jon Favreau went after Blunt to play Black Widow. Blunt was busy at the time and couldn't commit, so the role ultimately went to Scarlet Johansson. I still wish to this day Blunt got the role, because she would have been perfect. But hey, we can't win them all. I can say she'd be just as perfect for Danvers. Marvel also has a reputation to go after previously considered actors for parts in the future. After Blunt's work in "Edge of Tomorrow," that just might raise her stock with Marvel a bit. Plus, Blunt has been acting long enough to be able to handle any character. And she could probably dye her hair blonde and still look beautiful.

1. Yvonne Strahovski
Where Have We Seen Her? The girl from TV's "Chuck"
Why She'd Be Good: Go track down and watch all five seasons of "Chuck," and you'll learn quick why Yvonne Strahovski is the best possible actress to play Carol Danvers. She has the look, she has the chops, she has the power to possess every single trait needed to bring this character to life. She has done enough adventure-type stuff to really shine in this role. She can do anything needed for the role and be very successful with it.
So these are my top five for Carol Danvers. Yay or nay?
"Captain Marvel" will hit theaters July 6th 2018.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Slow West Review

Slow West Review
Westerns are a dying breed, so when one comes around, I find it to be something special. I have always been fascinated by Westerns. They are apart of our country's mythology and that alone is bracing. I already went into "Slow West" knowing Michael Fassbender was going to rock whatever part he was given to play. Fassbender is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors working right now. I was also curious about his supporting cast. Kodi Smit-McPhee has had an interesting filmography so far and I love both Ben Mendelsohn and Rory McCann in equal measure. I was more than ready to take this ride.

One thing that appealed to me about "Slow West" is that it feels like a classic Western. This isn't some over-simplified, overly-stylized Western to fit into our Modern era. This is a movie that is filled with romanticism. Jay (Smit-McPhee) has a mission, to find his long, lost love, who he believes is somewhere in the 1800's landscape of Colorado. He comes across an unsuspecting bounty hunter (Fassbender) who decides to be his guide. We get many flashbacks of Jay and his time with his loved one, and the acute details of the characters is the key to this film's success, not the kinetic way that people die. This is a classic Western, through and through.

Michael Fassbender and Kodi Smit-McPhee have really good chemistry together. The bond they create over this movie feels genuine, it feels authentic and it feels grounded. There aren't any zippy one-liners or any cheesy dialogue in the movie. The film is driven by these two incredible men and these actors make sure you feel it. It is going to be enormous fun when these two come back together again for "X-Men: Apocalypse." The work by Ben Mendelsohn is equally bracing. Mendelsohn has been slowly and surely climbing the latter of coolness for a couple of years now and I think very soon he is going to be a household name. He is definitely a guy you recognize if you know your recent films and perhaps even your recent TV shows. He gives another spellbinding performance, equally grounded compared to Fassbender and Smit- McPhee. It is truly great work.

There is wonderful cinematography on display here. Every ounce of this film feels like the classic Westerns of yesteryear. My only big gripe is that I wanted to stay in this world longer. At a little under 90 minutes, it seems this story zips along and finishes in a flash. I wish I had more time for this world to develop. But hey, for a subgenre that is pretty nonexistent, I will take something like this any day.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Jurassic World Review

Jurassic World Review
If you've been paying attention over here, then you know I haven't been the kindest when writing and debating over "Jurassic World." Its not that I thought it would fail, I just went in with very limited expectations a few reservations. The sequels to the original "Jurassic Park" are just copies of the first movie, the perfect example of mere treading water. Sequels that serve to be just like the original, except bigger and louder. To me, that is the worst kind of sequels. I prefer the type of sequel that expands the story, mythology or landscape it created in the first film. I like a different adventure or obstacle for our characters. Those are the type of sequels I like. But, I should say that sometimes treading water pays off, and I was curious to see what Colin Trevorrow could do in this world. Trevorrow was sixteen years old when the original "Jurassic Park" came out, so to Trevorrow, this like playing with a older sibling's toys, this was playing in someone else's sandbox and I am sure it was a great feeling. I really don't know how I'd react if I was chosen to direct a Marvel movie, or a "Star Wars" movie, but I hope my love for the material would show through.
"Jurassic World" wants to play the reboot card. This is a movie that totally tears the second and third movies from existence. Because let's face it, had the second and third movies existed, there is no way the world would allow "Jurassic World" to ever open its doors. "Jurassic World" references the original 1993 movie all the way through, and it seems Trevorrow wanted to trim the fat off this franchise and make a direct sequel to the 1993 original. I also couldn't help but smile at the message "Jurassic World" creates. Whether Trevorrow meant to do this or not, "Jurassic World" is a comment on blockbusters in general. It seems a big portion of the movie-going public want their sequels to be beefed up versions of the film they saw before. Who cares how the "Transformers" trilogy was taken as a whole when there are Dinobots in the fourth movie. I don't think "Avengers: Age of Ultron" can hold a candle to the first Avengers movie, but Vision and the Twins sure were cool. I even hear people complaining that the astounding special effects used in "Lord of the Rings" looks cheap now. We demand bigger and louder with our sequels, and it seems we are living in a culture where quantity has to supplement quality. In "Jurassic World," Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is in charge of the Jurassic World resort off the coast of Costa Rica. As the film opens, she is about to open a exhibit featuring the Indomius Rex, a huge, hulking, genetically-modified dinosaur which was created because the Jurassic World-goers have grown tired and bored by regular dinosaurs. The world populist is now demanding dinosaurs that are "bigger, scarier, with more teeth." The refer to this idea over and over again. It's tough to not see the real-world parallels in entertainment.
What is ironic about it is that, taken as a whole, "Jurassic World" is a standard summer blockbuster. Everything that I have been worried about over the last five months has been realized. "Jurassic World" is just an excuse to get people running scared on the island, its an excuse to have military security killed off one by one. No matter how much I like Chris Pratt, no matter how cool I think the dinosaur action is, this is just another standard "Jurassic" movie. Nothing new is tried, and it just feels more of the same.
But then again, what else should I expect from a movie called "Jurassic Park." I don't think audiences are expecting anything different than dinosaurs cutting loose on innocent bystanders. This isn't Academy Award worthy material, but Trevorrow sure does polish it well. I can honestly tell you that "Jurassic World" is the most confident and most fun "Jurassic" movie in awhile. The attention to detail is astonishing. Jurassic World the theme park feels like a real place. How organized, and how detailed the theme park is feels very grounded. This looks like a real place, not a film set and that attention to detail was bracing, this movie will make you want to book a vacation to Jurassic World immediately.
Let's talk about the characters some more. So we have Claire running the day-to-day management at Jurassic World. On the same weekend, she has to babysit her nephews Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson) who are with their aunt while their parents work out their marriage. its clear Claire isn't a big part of their life, and I am sad to report that this subplot of Claire becoming a responsible family member never really resonates in the movie. But the actors all do a good job. There is just too little time. Especially when we get introduced to Owen (Chris Pratt), a raptor whisperer who becomes vital when the I-Rex breaks loose on the island. There is also a subplot involving Vic Hoskins (Vincent D'Onofrio) who wants to breed raptors and use them as weapons of war. D'Onofrio is great, but his villain is so basic that he might as well twirl his mustache. Had the movie kept it simple and just focused on I-Rex reeking havoc on the island, I think the film might have been stronger, but these subplots never seem to come fully accomplished by the films end. But the actors do their best to sell it. Everybody loves Chris Pratt, and he is once again great here. He makes you believe in some of the absurdity in the film. I love his chemistry with his right-hand man, played by Omar Sy. I also have to give special mention for Jake Johnson, who makes something out of his ultimately convenient, needless character.
For people going into "Jurassic World" wanting a big monster movie, they will not be dissatisfied. That point separates "Jurassic World" from nearly the rest of the series. This film is so confident when it comes to its action set pieces that its hard not to kind of love it. There is a scene involving the I-Rex, a T-Rex and a raptor that is so batshit-cool that it makes the movie a must-own for blu-ray. The dinosaur carnage is so fun, so beaming with energy that it aggravates me that the human side of the movie is so paper-thin. Had the characters been more dimensional and unpredictable, I think the movie would have been stronger overall.
In the end, "Jurassic World" is another blockbuster, but something that is ultimately worthwhile. Sometimes, people just want a good, old-fashion monster movie, and "Jurassic World" is exactly that. There is a lot of fun to be had here, and that is what won me over at the end of the day. I just can't shake this feeling that greater movie got away from Trevorrow, and if he returns to this world, I hope he creates better human characters to follow.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

RIP Christopher Lee

RIP Christopher Lee
Sir Christopher Lee passed away at age 93.

For several modern film geeks, when someone mentions Christopher Lee's name, they immediately think any movie pertaining to Middle Earth. I can completely understand why, part of the reason why those movies work so well is because they were universally perfectly casted. In Christopher Lee's case, its absolutely no different. Even if someone isn't a "Lord of the Rings" or "The Hobbit" fan, maybe "Star Wars" is more your cup of tea. Perhaps you remember Christopher Lee from the prequels. Perhaps you remember a particular Sith Lord going toe-to-toe with a particular little, green, Jedi. But Christopher Lee had worked in the movie business for a very long time before his passing. He was one of those go-to actors when it came to villain roles. He had one of those iconic voices that was tailor-made for an actor who specialized in villainy.

I mean, let's take Saruman and Count Dooku out the equation for the moment. Beginning in 1958, Lee was one of the many actors who portrayed Count Dracula, He played the popular vampire from the late 1950's up until 1972. It seemed that when Lee wasn't playing Count Dracula, he was playing Dr. Fu Manchu in a string of Fu Manchu franchise films. When Roger Moore took his run as James Bond, Lee appeared as Francisco Scaramanga in "The Man With The Golden Gun." In the easy my favorite Christopher Lee movie, and one of the most important films of his career, Lee shine brightly as Lord Summersile in "The Wicker Man." "The Wicker Man" is one of those horror movies that is more mood and atmosphere over anything else and Lee made sure you felt every bit of it. If you haven't had the chance to experience "The Wicker Man," not only will the movie not disappoint you, but neither will Christopher Lee.

Not only was Christopher Lee a talented actor, but he has several voice acting accolades to his name. In his later years, Christopher Lee collaborated with director Tim Burton on several occasions. Lee provided voice acting for films such as "Corpse Bride" and "Alice In Wonderland." Lee even appeared in some of Burton's live-action fair such as "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "Dark Shadows." All leaving a brilliantly unique signature on all of his roles.

The world of acting lost one of its best bad guys. But what is great is Lee's legacy. It seems if one wanted to roam through Lee's filmography, it would take them years to get through it all. That is how deep his filmography goes. Lee was one of a kind, and he will be missed.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Spy Review

Spy Review
While I really enjoy Melissa McCarthy, I detest to an extreme how she is treated in Hollywood.

For the most part, even beginning as far back as "Bridesmaids," Hollywood has treated McCarthy like she is the female Zack Galifianakis. She is always the weird person who acts the weirdest and says the strangest stuff, and its all funny because of McCarthy's appearance. She is also the butt end of every "fatty fall down" joke, which seems to come in a surplus for movies starring McCarthy. Not only is it annoying that nobody seems to know how to use the fine talent McCarthy clearly possesses. But it also has to be ridiculing to only add up to so little.

Well it seems Paul Feig doesn't have that problem. He knows exactly how to use McCarthy's talent and he zeroes in on it like a ballpoint laser in the hilarious "Spy." It is also pretty remarkable that McCarthy isn't the only great thing about the movie. But hey, more on that later. Something like "Spy" is refreshing because we are seeing McCarthy play a human being, not some weird loser you would never give the time of day to if they walked up to you on the street. McCarthy's Susan Cooper comes off as your everyday desk jockey for the CIA and it comes off believable that she would use state-of-the-art technology and a hidden earpiece when assisting field agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law), someone whom she also has a crush on. This feels like somebody real and there is an uncanny authenticity to McCarthy's performance. Sure, she has some funny scenes and she has some pretty outrageous dialogue as the film presses on. There are moments of classic McCarthy, but they don't overwhelm the movie. Finally, somebody gets her.

When Agent Fine is brought to harm, Cooper is up for some revenge and she volunteers to go undercover to weed out Raina (Rose Byrne), an international criminal who put Fine in harms way. Even though Cooper has had limited field training, she is awarded the gig and she shadows Agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham) during her investigation and they both uncover a terrorist attack involving Raina. I continue to love Byrne's plunge into comedy and she really has got the "Evil Bitch" character down pat and she plays that character well. I never once thought Jason Statham and slapstick would ever go together, but he has officially proven me wrong here. Jason Statham continues his badass persona while also getting the audience to snicker at him during some scenes. It's material I'd never guess he'd be able to pull off and Statham proves just how much range as an actor he has.

This cast is off-the-charts great. Not only do we get the McCarthy performance we deserve. Not only do we get great material from both Byrne and Statham. We also get another wonderful performance by Jude Law. I love how his character plays with normal expectations, then completely crumbles those expectations in the best way possible. I also have to single out the work done by Miranda Hart. Hart plays Nancy, Cooper's best friend in The Agency and a techie like her. Some of the funniest and best overall material in the film is between McCarthy and Hart, together they nearly steal the show. There is also great work done by Bobby Cannavale, Allison Janney, Morena Braccarin, Peter Serafinowicz and even 50 Cent.

I love that the opening titles features a James Bond style credits sequence. I actually may go as far to say that it could compete even with a couple of them. The action sequences in this film are surprisingly efficient. I was expecting for the fight scenes to have a comedic, fun zing to them. When it actuality, they are all pretty badass. I never would have thought to put Melissa McCarthy in the same sentence as badass, but right now I do so with pride. Melissa McCarthy is refreshingly badass in her action scenes.

In a month where "Jurassic World," "Entourage," "Insidious Chapter 3"and a huge host of other well-known franchises hit the big screen, it can hard sometimes to remember what else is out there. "Spy" was refreshing because it has no ties to any franchises, even though it pays homage to a few. Its a movie that finally figured out how to use Melissa McCarthy. Plus, as the summer really starts to get going, its just a good time at theater. I can't seem to figure out a reason to argue against that.


Who Played It Best? Hannibal Lecter

Who Played It Best? Hannibal Lecter
Hannibal Lecter is the most popular serial killer in popular culture history. He is so well-known that it seems we only identify with one person playing him. Anthony Hopkins is easily the one actor who popularized the character. Sometimes we forget that Hannibal has  been played by not two, not three but FOUR separate actors. But before the big-screen treatment, Hannibal Lecter was born in literature, the movies were  based on a series of novels by Thomas Harris. The first time Lecter was onscreen, he was played by Brian Cox in the 1984 movie "Manhunt." But the character really got popular when Anthony Hopkins played the character in 1991 in "Silence of the Lambs." Hopkins went on to play the character again in 2001 and 2002. In 2006, the series went back in time for a prequel, when Gaspard Ulliel played the part. Today, Madds Mikkelsen plays the part on television for NBC. So, after all of this exhaustive discussion, who played the character best?

My Two Cents
This will come down to the Hopkins fans and the television fans. As good as Brian Cox was in "Manhunter," Hopkins was way better and he got the most traction out of the role. I think Gaspard Ulliel tried, but is work in the film was the least of that particular movie's worries. Its really Hopkins who really picked up the role and ran with it, which is why his take on the character is so popular. For the first time in several years though, Hopkins is getting some competition in Madds Mikkelsen. "Hannibal" on NBC is a strong show, and not something you would ever expect to see on a primetime network. But still, if my life was threatened, I would still give the edge to Hopkins.

Agree? Disagree? Fire off in the comment section below. You can also email me your votes (bloggershawn@gmail.com) You will have until next Wednesday to vote.

I am still drunk in love with "Mad Max: Fury Road." So much so that I based last time's "Who Played It Best" on the character. The results are in and here is how the vote shook out.
Sorry Tommy