Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Overlooked Film of the Week- "The Guest" (2014)

Overlooked Film of the Week- #100

The Guest
I haven't written in my "Overlooked Film of the Week" column it what seems like a lifetime. Not because I ran out of films to write about, nor because I had nothing left to say. I noticed awhile back that I was coming on number one hundred and I tried to make the one hundredth addition to this column something special. It was at this point that I hit a severe case of writers block. I thought, each of these movies I present in this column I feel are special. These are the movies that don't have the big studio marketing money getting thrown at them, and the way they circulate is through word-of-mouth. Too bad, because I think each and every one of these films deserves a fair shot to make the box office big bucks. Because all of these movies are vastly superior compared to your average blockbuster. So while I theme out my column sometimes, I am not going to do something special every time a big number comes along, I feel the time I am taking to write about these movies is what makes them special in the first place.

And you can better believe that "The Guest" is something very special.

I am not going to plunge too much into plot, because the less you know about "The Guest" the better. It can be described as "The Boy Next Door." Yes, that shitty Jennifer Lopez movie that came out earlier this year. But make no mistake, this is "The Boy Next Door" but better. It is not about some guy who has a creepy crush on a mature woman. It is about a mysterious man who stumbles into the life of an ordinary family. This family's son died overseas in the military, and this stranger was apparently in his company. You may be able to predict where this movie goes, as the stranger begins to come off as the perfect person, touching the lives of everyone he comes in contact with, even though its clear he has sinister intentions. What are those sinister intentions? That is what you will find out. The movie doesn't go in the direction you think it will go, even though your brain may tell you otherwise. Plus, the road to get to the end is full of fun and mayhem and by the end, you may not care that some parts where a tad predictable.

One reason "The Guest" will resonate so much with you relies on its lead performance. I don't know much about Dan Stevens, I never heard of him before this. After seeing "The Guest," I can officially declare that I want to see him in every movie for the rest of existence. He is a god in this movie and he delivers an excellent performance. At first his performance may seem like its "going through the motions," but the way Stevens plays the character is so precise, so calculated, so dangerous that you will be glued to the TV every time he appears. This is a guy who could become as star at anytime so remember, you heard it here first.

"The Guest" rolls the man-on-a-mission movie with action and political intrigue. Then it also has the guts to splash into slasher territory. Yes, its true, "The Guest" is one wild ride, and it may feel familiar to lots of you, but the way it is executed makes it feel very original. I don't want to give anything away, because this is a movie that deserves for you to go in cold turkey. This is on Netflix right now, check it out.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Netflix Marvel Cinematic Universe Plan

There seem to be a lot of people who are ready to lash at Marvel. I think they do this simply because Marvel has been so stinking successful so far. When something lesser like "Age of Ultron" comes around, people will claim its the worst thing to ever happen to humanity simply because it is not on par with everything else Marvel has made. I stand by my review of that movie from back in early May. I think the movie has lots of problems, but I still gave the movie a B+. It is still big entertainment and it seems to be promise that this universe will expand more and more. There has never been a franchise of film like this before and that alone is bracing.

As the MCU expands its universe through movies, it is also seemingly expanding its universe through television.

I was a huge fan of "Marvel's Daredevil" and I am overly excited that the show got a second season. But like many of you, I have wondered about the other three shows getting introduced, as well as the mini-series to come. Netflix shed some light on that today. The plan is to have a Marvel show out every six months. That's right, every six months. That is quite the schedule. I don't know if Kevin Feige thought these shows would be so popular, but I bet "Daredevil" exceeded lots of expectations. We will officially get "Jessica Jones" at the end of 2015. Which means, I think its safe to say that "Daredevil" season two and Luke Cage will come 2016. Then "Iron Fist" and "Defenders" in 2017? Who knows. It seems this schedule is changing rigorously. Netflix already plans to introduce The Punisher in "Daredevil" season two, and they said today that its "a possibility" that Punisher could get his own spin-off. There is also a rumor of doing a "Thunderbolts" show as well.

No matter what, I think Netflix is a great platform for Marvel to introduce lots of their second-tier superheroes and let them shine in their own right. I can't wait to see what the future holds for them, and how they continue to expand upon the gigantic story they are telling.

The report also says that it is also not out of the realm of possibility that some of these Netflix heroes may suit up for one of the MCU movies, which would be all sorts of awesome.

I will be keeping my eye on this story as it progresses.

SOURCE:
http://www.ign.com/articles/2015/07/28/netflix-on-marvel-series-release-plan-and-if-punisher-could-get-a-spinoff

Justice League: Gods and Monsters Review

Justice League: Gods and Monsters
What has made the DC animated movies so impressive is pretty clear. They put their characters first before anything else, and they try to tell a good story with them. That is pretty hard and equally remarkable to do in a span of only an hour and fifteen minutes. But DC Animation is able to create an encyclopedia of emotion in just a short running time. In fact, they have perfected the art of it. If the live action DC Universe can be this good, then they will be able to compete with Marvel no problem.

What is amazing about "Justice League: Gods and Monsters" is that it is a movie that takes chances. Sure, there are characters named Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, but these are not the characters we are used to. This is not Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne or Diana. Here, we have Hernan Gerrara as Superman; the son of General Zod who was picked up by Mexican immigrants. Kirk Langstrom; whose experiment to defeat cancer had "vampiric" effects. Then there is Bekka; another daughter of gods. In this world, Lex Luthor is a good guy and Amanda Waller is the President of the United States. Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent are nowhere to be found. Together, they are much rougher Justice League, more vicious, more violent and much more dangerous. This splits the world's view of the Justice League as a whole, and when the League is framed for murder, their worst fear is realized.

I love it. I really enjoy that DC is really playing with alternate realities. I love that they are trying to prove that the traditional superheroes are the only characters that can sell or be engaging. If this is a big hit for DC animation, I hope this means we can adaptations of "Superman: Red Sun." Hopefully this will push Marvel to give us an animated version of "Old Man Logan" instead of an inevitably watered-down version we may get in the future. Then maybe, just maybe, Hollywood will start playing with alternate realities in their superhero movies. The sky is the limit and I hope people start seeing the potential in this.

I will say that this is the most violent of any of the DC Animated movies. I am not quite sure this is a movie I would show kids, because even though the movie is animated, the violence is still pretty graphic. Lots is suggested, but its suggested on a level that children will understand what happened, and that could give them nightmares. There is also some pretty rough language in this one. This is not your standard superhero tale, this is much rougher around the edges and parents should be warned about what they are getting into.

But hey, I think "Gods and Monsters" represents progress. Just as superhero movies are raising the bar on the big screen, they are beginning to raise the bar on the small screen too. This can only lead to more possibilities and more risks. A risk can be a reward in disguise and this proves that correct.

FINAL GRADE: B+


Monday, July 27, 2015

Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey Review

Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey Review
One author I was completely fascinated in grade school was H.G. Wells. I remember getting a huge collection of his books which included "War of the Worlds," "The Invisible Man" and of course, "The Island of Dr. Moreau." For some reason, "Island of Dr. Moreau" really resonated with me. Maybe it was this guy doing dreadful experiments on animals, maybe it was the strange inside the story being told. No matter the reason, I think "The Island of Dr. Moreau" is a brilliant story, and its a story that has been adapted to the big screen a few times. Shocking it is, to learn that nobody has been successful in the screen version of this story.

The 1996 "Island of Dr. Moreau," starring Marlon Brando as Dr. Moreau and Val Kilmer as his sidekick Montgomery is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. Even at such a young age, I felt it was one of the worst movies ever made and my opinion has not changed since. That is not a statement I throw around too much, it takes a very special piece of crap to be revered as one of the worst films ever made, but "The Island of Dr. Moreau" from 1996 was successful. This year, I finally figured out why it was haltingly bad. But I also found out that the course it landed on was not always meant to be the course it met. "The Island of Dr. Moreau" was supposed to be a very different movie, and it pains me we never got to see it after seeing this documentary.

"Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey" tells the untold story of how Richard Stanley's "Island of Dr. Moreau" became John Frankenheimer's "Island of Dr. Moreau." This is a movie that peaks behind the curtain of movie magic and uncovers the ugly truth of the business. Before trying to adapt the H.G. Wells classic, Richard Stanley was a independent horror film maker, who was really beginning to hit some traction in Hollywood. I had never seen or even heard of "Hardware" or "Dust Devil," but after seeing this movie, I am wildly curious to see what Hollywood saw in Stanley to choose him for "Island of Dr. Moreau." Watching and listening to Stanley discuss the book and his ideas for the adaptation, its clear he was passionate about this, he believed in this movie with every fabric of his being. Things started out well. But then the studios got greedy, and there were creative differences and soon, Stanley got kicked out of his own movie.

I wasn't surprised to learn that Val Kilmer was an asshole to people on set. I wasn't surprised to learn that Marlon Brando was an asshole to people on set. What did surprise me was Stanley had a friend who believed in witchcraft, and Stanley used this friend to persuade the studios to bend to his will. Pretty weird, huh? I was also pretty baffled that shooting took much longer than anybody could have ever thought possible, and there was more partying and boozing than there was shooting, at least it seemed like it. When John Frankenheimer was replaced by Richard Stanley, it didn't seem like he had a real vision for the movie, he just wanted to finish and leave, and that lead to some major set-backs, and his actors began to become the animals they were playing. What also blew my mind was that Richard Stanley snuck back onset and was an extra for much of the movie. "Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey" is one of those documentaries that shows us that non-fiction can be just as strange and just as engaging as fiction.

What "Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey" also shows us is that nothing in life is fair. It shows us that sometimes, Hollywood never has the best intentions and that shows in the final product when we sit down in the darkness of an auditorium. Sometimes the hype and the big names fail us, and we are left with a bad movie. Sometimes we need to trust in the vision of the people we put faith in, and this wonderful documentary shows that. There are a couple of other documentaries that deal in this same territory. Movies about the making of a film that was radically different than the finished product. I liked this look at what could have been, and this will not be the last time I talk about this.

FINAL GRADE: A-


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Trainwreck Review

Trainwreck Review
Before we begin, I'd like to tell all of you that I really like Amy Schumer. Her stand is actually quite hilarious. I have seen some of her stand-up skits, as well as some of her appearances on talk shows. I can definitely see why so many people like her. I can definitely see why so people are referring to her as the "it girl." So when a comedy as her in the lead came out, it definitely sparked my curiosity, especially since she wrote the movie too. What I did not know until the end credits was this film was directed by Judd Apatow. This guy produced the "Anchorman," movies, "Pineapple Express" and "Step Brothers." This guy directed "Funny People," "Knocked Up," and "40 Year Old Virgin." Apatow is one of the very best filmmakers working in comedy right now, and I mean that. With so many great people attached to this project, how could it go wrong?

The answer is very wrong, "Trainwreck" is a train wreck of massive proportions.

Let's get the good out of the way before we get too much further in this review. I would be lying if I said I didn't laugh. There are some funny parts in "Trainwreck." You will have to watch lots of terribly movie in order to get those funny parts, but there are some funny parts in the movie. I liked Bill Hader, I liked Colin Quinn, and you will not believe your eyes when you lay them on Tilda Swinton. She disappears in her role, and it took a few scenes in order to really see that it was her. The most surprising thing about "Trainwreck" was LeBron James. Yes, that LeBron James. Yes, I am serious, he's pretty much the best part of the movie. I usually can't stand it when celebrities with day jobs try to act for the sake of it. But James actually does surprisingly well. He plays himself and he is a good friend of Hader's character. But I have to say, the film is rather remarkable in the way it uses James, and how easily he flows in the movie. I still can't stand him as a person, and I don't automatically want a "Space Jam 2" because of this, but I was indeed surprised.

The problems start by the beginning. I don't mind raunchy comedy, there have been plenty of good comedies that had a dirty edge. What makes something like "Animal House" funny was that the jokes landed, and we liked the characters, even if they were drunken dropouts. Nearly every character in this entire movie, including Amy Schumer's character, is outstandingly unlikable. In the comedic genre, we have to be able to identify with the characters, otherwise how can we laugh? I don't find people I don't like funny, and maybe that is a personal hang-up, but almost all the characters in this movie are repulsive and disgusting.

Another key ingredient to a good comedy is...well...comedy. Seems simple right? Well for a movie being written by Amy Schumer, I figured I would be laughing the whole way through. While it is true, there are "some" funny parts, I have to really stress the some. For a two hour movie, I felt the laughs came far and in between. I really have never cared how long a comedy was, as long as I was laughing. You can feel the length of this movie, and before the halfway mark, I already wantedto go home. It's that humorless. Barely any of the jokes landed, and lots of these jokes revolved around sex. If characters are making sex jokes and the sex jokes are not funny, they just come as gross individuals. We all had at least one friend in grade school who knew more about sex and other adult subjects compared to the rest of the class, and they always seemed to lord this information over every body else at school, that's "Trainwreck."

On top of all that, "Trainwreck" is just an odd movie. It tells the story of a party-animal Amy (Amy Schumer) who takes pride in cheating on her boyfriend (Jon Cena). Its also a movie about how Amy butts heads with her married sister (Brie Larson) because Amy doesn't want to settle down. Its also a movie about how these two sisters care for their hateful father (Colin Quinn). Finally, its also a movie about how this party animal finds love with a sports doctor (Bill Hader) and how even the sleaziest of people can find romance. All of those ideas would make interesting movies, the thing is "Trainwreck" doesn't know which story to tell, so it tries to tell all of them. "Trainwreck" is poorly structured and a coherent dead-end, so it ends up looking like a big mess. Plus, its completely confused as far as its theme goes. This is a movie that doesn't know if it wants to be a dirty, sex comedy or a romantic comedy, so it tries to be both. The thing is, those two comedic subgenres are radically different from each other, and the film never transitions well between themes and styles. Once again, "Trainwreck" looks like a huge mess, a bunch of ideas for a movie plastered together with no structure or no coherence.

I can't remember the last time I was sitting in the theater, and was already wanting to go home after the first ten minutes. That should say something, as I have already seen some really bad movies already this year. I guess Schumer better stick to stand-up. I guess Apatow better get back with his usual crew and start making good comedies again. While there are some funny parts, and a couple surprising performances, "Trainwreck" is an unfunny, tonally-odd mess. For everyone involved, it is also massively disappointing.

FINAL GRADE: D+


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Who Played It Best? Ra's Al Ghul

Who Played It Best? Ra's Al Ghul
I guess I might be on a bit of a Batman kick. I haven't even got the new Batman game on Xbox yet, but hey I love me some Batman.

Its funny though, one of these interpretations didn't appear in anything Batman related. One is from the infamous Christopher Nolan "Batman" trilogy and the other from CW's "Arrow." Ra's Al Ghul has always been an interesting villain, only because he's a quasi anti-hero. He wants good in the world, but he feels that all the worlds problems will be solved if billions of people die. Ra's brings up moral integrity in all of us and question's it. That is why he is such a great Batman villain, and honestly, one of the most underrated villains ever. I am just glad that we have already seen two awesome portrayals of him. But who played him best?

My Two Cents
I think Matt Nable is a wonderful actor. Before "Arrow" I could not have told you a single thing about him. I saw him in all of season 3 of "Arrow" and he also starred in a great little, Australian movie called "Son of Gun" earlier this year. He's blown my mind completely, and he's wildly talented. I hope he has a long career ahead of him and I hope I see a lot of him in the future. With all that said, there can only be one winner here. I know Liam Neeson has suddenly become a sellout and he's clearly just working up a persona for a paycheck. But Neeson rocked as Ra's. He really became the character and he did it justice. There are few actors in the world who can stand toe-to-toe with Neeson and while Nable gives a valiant effort, Neeson wins this, no contest.

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

LAST WEEK: WHO PLAYED IT BEST? TWO-FACE
Tommy Lee and Aaron Eckhart took to the streets for a brawl last week. The voting results are in and here is how the vote shook out.
I believe in this Harvey Dent
 


New SPECTRE Trailer

There is a pretty big group of Bond fans who are not fond of the Daniel Craig. They call them "Jason Bourne clone movies." While that is partially true, there is a lot more to it than that, and if these so-called "Bond fans" were the hardcore fans they claim to be, there is one thing they should know. The Bond franchise has always been a reaction to the culture happening around it. You stack every Bond film from every era in its respective year, and it represents everything around it. The Bond films have always been a reflection of what is going on around us, not just from an action movie standpoint, but from a cultural standpoint. There are no clear bad guys in the Daniel Craig movies, and now take a look at Al Queda and ISIS, these are mere organizations, not a country or a clear-cut alliance. The Bond franchise has always taken what is popular and what is happening in the world and applied it to James' unique personality. I like that and I can live with that.

But is it getting out of hand?

Look, one thing I have admired about Craig's run with the character is that all of his movies have been linked. "Casino Royale," "Quantum of Solace," "Skyfall" and "Spectre" are clearly chapters in one big story. I like that MGM has tried to create some coherency within the Bond franchise. Craig, is also not the classic Bond. He eludes the MI6's orders and has moved the tune of his own trombone throughout the franchise, which I think rubs people the wrong way too. But with that said, I have to admit, "Spectre" has me a little scared. There are a couple scenes in this trailer that really present another "Chosen One" type story. That to me, would be a huge mistake. James Bond does not need a "Chosen One" story. Why can't he just be a badass secret agent who is motivated by crown and country? Why all of sudden does storytelling need to link every character and every situation to the lead character?

The last time a studio did that was with "The Amazing Spiderman" franchise. Can we remember how that ended? It wasn't too long ago? It ended with Sony's new business model getting scrapped and them running to Marvel for help. If nothing is broken, there is no need to fix it, so this "Chosen One" crap needs to stop.

I hope I am wrong though. I hope this is just another great Bond movie. But if it revealed that Blofeld is somehow related to Bond is going to kill the whole experience for me, and I don't want this to happen. I have been programmed to love this franchise, and I want to continue to love it.

See for yourself. Am I wrong?



Tuesday, July 21, 2015

American Ultra trailer

American Ultra trailer
For a business that tries to sell even though the final product may not be good, I sometimes feel like I have seen it all. Sometimes a lot of movies do the same thing, go through the same motions. Sometimes, its easy for a lot of people to predict how something will begin and end. There are certain actors who get type-cast, and you can already identify the character they will play based upon them being on a poster. Based on this, you can figure out who you like and dislike.
 
But there are times when I am amazed that I am excited to see something full of actors I normally dislike.
 
I have never been a huge fan of Kristen Stewart, Jesse Eisenberg or Topher Grace. Yet, I am intrigued by "American Ultra," a new comedy coming out soon. What looks like another, standard stoner comedy looks to be filled with unexpected action. This could be another "Pineapple Express" where action and comedy compliment each other satisfactorily. I am always up for completely changing my view of an actor. I originally hated everything about Channing Tatum and thought he would never amount to anything more than another Hollywood pretty boy. But he's turned his career around in a big way, and now I anticipate his presence. Ten years ago, I would have scoffed at the notion of Ben Affleck playing Batman. But I think over the years, he's matured a lot as an artist. Maybe him sitting the director's chair helped with that a bit, who knows. I really think he's going to silence the naysayers next year, and I really hope he does.
 
You maybe surprised by what you see in this trailer for "American Ultra" and it just might be good.
 
 
 


The Gallows Review

The Gallows Review
Why are people so drawn to found footage movies?

For me, I think the device can be a wicked little tool if used in the right way. The best of the genre, the scarce "Blair Witch Projects" and "Paranormal Activites" do it well because they create an unrelenting atmosphere. When used correctly, there is a gritty realism that can be hard to shake. When "The Blair Witch Project" originally came out, everybody believed it was real. I still know several people who are absolutely convinced that three college students died somewhere out in the Maryland forest due to an evil witch. When a movie can be that convincing, that's an example of power, pure and simple. The best found footage horror movies create a disorienting, surreal, yet realistically authentic experience for the viewer, casting a spell over them with ease. The worst found footage movies are those made solely to sell tickets. Its a gimmick with no payoff, empty scares and just as empty character and execution.

"The Gallows" is an excerise in the latter category. It is a gimmick with no payoff. The movies sole creation was to sell tickets, and nothing more. There is nothing scary that happens in the movie, or barely anything that resembles intensity. The ending aims for creepy atmosphere, but ultimately fails. "The Gallows" is just another movie in a long line of found footage movies that focuses on a bunch of asshole kids, who we watch die one-by-one. If you think I have spoiled anything for you, then it would appear you haven't seen too many found footage movies, a fact you should be happy about.

The reason for this whole movie is about Reese Houser (Reese Mishler) who plays football but also videotapes the fall play at his high school. He does this...because, honestly, its never explained. I guess the filmmakers couldn't come up with credible reason for a high school student to be videotaping play practices, football practices while he practices himself, or even high school sessions. No high school on the planet would allow that unless the student had special permission, and that is never explained or explored. The film really needed this found footage gimmick, and as an audience we are supposed to ignore its justification.

Reese has a friend named Ryan Shoos (Ryan Shoos) who is also on the football team, but quit to do the fall play so he can get closer to Pfeifer (Pfeifer Brown), the school's biggest drama supporter. Reese doesn't want Ryan to quit football, and believes he can still win Pfeifer over without doing the play. After discovering a broken door that has never been replaced, Reese gets Ryan and his girlfriend Cassidy (Cassidy Gifford) to break into the school through the broken door and trash the set, therefore Ryan doesn't have to quit football for the play, and can hone his energy on winning over Pfeifer.

And these are our lead characters for a movie? These are the people we are supposed to care about? Seriously? As a 26 year-old, these are the type of punk kids I make fun now. How is an audience supposed to care about a bunch of asshole kids who break into a school to vandalize it? Specifically for the weirdest and least thought-out reasons I have seen in awhile? I have read lots of banter against found footage movies because the audience can't connect to the characters, but "The Gallows" takes the cake on creating the worst characters revolving around the stupidest plot imaginable, nice going "Gallows."

But wait! In 1993 at this very same high school, the students were performing this same play Ryan and Pfeifer are starring in and that lead to the accidental death of the lead in the play. So the spirit of the dead lead comes to haunt Ryan, Cassidy, Reese and Pfeifer. Yes, Pfeifer suddenly appears in the high school at night too, wondering what everyone is doing there. The reason Pfeifer is there is the hugest cheat in any horror film I have seen in awhile, and it is pretty telling that the filmmakers were scraping at the bottom of the barrel to make this thing memorable. Why a high school would remake a play where one of their very own students died in is beyond me, and that is never explained either.

What ensues is a predictable, unscary little horror film. None of these young actors can act and never once do I ever feel like they are in any kind of peril. You can pretty much telegraph when every scare will happen, and the rest of the film is just a bunch of teenagers screaming at each other. There is no mood or atmosphere, nothing that makes a horror film scary. Plus, since these kids are all douches, we never once feel bad for them or identify with them. And that ending, God what a huge cheat.

I can really understand the hate for this once prominent subgenre. If Hollywood had a brain, they'd leave this subgenre alone until someone who knows how to use it breathes life back into it. Because if they are not careful, soon the audiences are going to flat out stop coming. There are so many people who feel the oversaturation of superhero movies is drawing nearer. The oversaturation of found footage horror is already upon us.

FINAL GRADE: D-


Monday, July 20, 2015

What Happened, Miss Simone? Review

What Happened, Miss Simone? Review
I have never discussed this on my blog before, but I am a huge Nina Simone fan. I have a collection of some of her greatest hits on my ITouch, and I listen to it pretty frequently. Listening to a Nina Simone track is unlike anything else, she was in a class of her own when she was hitting the big time. Her songs were so long, yet so unique at the same time, that they felt like experiences more than anything. Unlike so many popular artists in music, Nina Simone was a gifted storyteller. I guess in a way, I am the target audience for something like "What Happened, Miss Simone," a documentary by Netflix which details the story of the rise and fall of this wonderful musician.

I have noticed watching several stories about musicians and rock bands, and something I have noticed about myself is that I am glad I never became a musician, particularly a famous one. Sure, I fantasized about it growing up, who didn't? But now that I have several stories of musicians, both fiction and non-fiction, I am glad I never pursued that course of work. Like several famous musicians, Nina Simone's life was filled with highs and lows. She had to really work hard to be the person she became due to her race, she was politically active in the Civil Rights movements, she had an abusive spouse, she poured so much of herself into her work that she had no time for anything else. This sounds very similar to just about every other musician in history. And this documentary goes about revealing this information in the same way as just about every other music documentary.

There are several quick cuts of scenes of Nina live in concert, and even though this might be kind of a mundane way of revealing her as an artist, it showcases just how powerful a performer she was. There is no secret to why she became as popular as she was for this time period, there is no secret why she touched the souls of so many people. I just wish as a documentary, "What Happened, Miss Simone" was structured differently. Sure, Nina Simone had a hard life, and she was politically active, but how does that differentiate from several other artists and musicians of this time? The documentary does not offer any differences or explores why Nina stood out in this crowd.

I will say that I did learn some things. I had no idea that the great song "Mississippi Goddamn" was written in the wake of racial foul play, that I found interesting. But what I found most interesting was just how sorrowful Nina's life was. There was so much power in her music, that I guess it almost makes sense that she was so troubled throughout her career. Nina was somebody who was dedicated to her job, so much so that she may have missed out on a happy life. It makes me sad that my love of her music came from so much sacrifice on her part.

But, despite having the same mechanics as several other music documentaries, you can bet I will be popping in my Nina Simone tunes sometime tomorrow. This movie definitely got in the mood for some good music. But make no mistake, the movie may not draw in any new listeners, if you are sensitive to how music documentaries are structured, this might be a boring watch for you.

FINAL GRADE: B
 


The Revenant Trailer

Last year, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu made "Birdman," and that movie got him the Academy Award for Best Picture. Deservedly so, if you ask me. I may have personally loved "Boyhood" a little bit more than "Birdman," I am glad Inarritu won. "Birdman" is unlike anything I have ever seen before, and one of the craziest comedies of the last five years.

So what was Inarritu expected to do after "Birdman?" Completely raise the bar on himself. I believe he may have done with that the first look at "The Revenant."

It does not look like "The Revenant" is at all cerebral or even comedic. This looks like it is going to be a piercing drama. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, Domhall Gleeson and Lukas Haas, a pretty impressive cast by itself. It seems like Inarritu is up to make a completely different movie than he made last year, and that to me is the sign of a true artist.

Take a look at "The Revenant" below, it will hit theaters sometime this December.

Quick Synopsis:

"In an expedition of the uncharted American wilderness, legendary explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is brutally attacked by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. In a quest to survive, Glass endures unimaginable grief as well as the betrayal of his confidant John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Guided by sheer will and the love of his family, Glass must navigate a vicious winter in a relentless pursuit to live and find redemption. "

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Ant-Man Review

Ant-Man Review
Last year, everybody thought that "Guardians of the Galaxy" would be Marvel's first major failure. Lots of people said the movie itself would be poor, and they also said it would make the least money out the entire franchise. They thought the setting was too weird, the characters were too weird and absolutely nothing would stick afterward. Well, "Guardians of the Galaxy" was a massive achievement for Marvel. The haters were forced to shut up when "Guardians of the Galaxy" made much more than anybody expected, and was actually a brilliant movie all by itself. So of course, once "Guardians" proved its worth, the haters had to attack another upcoming movie in Marvel's stable, and that movie was "Ant-Man."

Look, I'll admit, even I had my doubts about "Ant-Man." The ability to shrink your size and the ability to control the minds of ants doesn't seem like an intimidating set of superpowers. There were reports that Edgar Wright sat on an "Ant-Man" script for about eight years before finally committing to Marvel. Then a dispute with the studio saw Wright walk off the project, along with three actors. This was roughly a year before release, and Marvel scrambled to get a new director while keeping the original release date. A huge gamble for any studio. But director Peyton Reed was passionate about the project, and everything else was ready to go. The only question was could the film be pulled off, and would Marvel have another hit.

I really don't care how much money "Ant-Man" makes, because box office earnings have never been an indicator of whether or not a movie will be good. Just because a movie makes a lot of money doesn't mean its going to be great, I mean just look at the "Transformers" franchise as whole. "Ant-Man" as storytelling, is another hit for Marvel. Its better than I ever expected it to be and not at all like I imagined. Considering "Ant-Man" is about a superhero that shrinks, the action sequences are some of the most wild action Marvel has ever filmed. The entire cast pours themselves into this project with their hearts wide open. Most of all, Marvel has proven that once again that they can make any of their characters work onscreen, even the most obscure ones, just as long as they find a cast and crew that is just as passionate about those characters as they are. Heck, I can see Marvel making a "Squirrel Girl" movie awesome.

The film begins in 1989, and the first truly eye-opening special effect is at work. Michael Douglas plays Hank Pym, a brilliant scientist and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent circa 1989, who quickly resigns after the agency wants to use his special Pym Particles on a massive scale. Pym believes that nobody should use his incredible shrinking particles as he finds them way too dangerous. He resigns, despite Howard Stark's (John Slattery) pleas not to, taking his beloved particles with him. The de-aging work done on Michael Douglas in this scene is a marvel unto itself. You won't be able to fathom that Douglas played a young and old version of himself here.

In the present day, we see an older Pym, who created a successful technology company after S.H.I.E.L.D. but its all about to be taken over by his protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). Even Pym's estranged daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) has voted  him out of his company. Cross has discovered Pym's secret in giving suits shrinking powers, and he plans to sell the suits to highest bidder. Pym knows how dangerous that could be in the wrong hands, so he finds a down-and-out thief named Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), trains him with his own particle suit and has him steal the suits Cross has been developing. Lang is fresh out of prison and he wants to start making a difference in the life his daughter. His wife (Judy Greer) has moved on with a cop (Bobby Cannavale) and she doesn't think he ever amount to anything.

What makes "Ant-Man" so clever is how the action is staged. Reed is wildly creative in how he uses the shrinking suit for some very big action set pieces. There is showdown inside of a briefcase that I think I'll watch about fifteen times on blu-ray. There is a lot of humor in this movie, but that was to be expected. This is a movie with Paul Rudd, Bobby Canavale, Judy Greer, and Michael Pena in it, of course it was going to be funny. The humor in the movie is never forced like it was in "Avengers: Age of Ultron," it is a very natural, organic experience. People have been complaining that Marvel is little too light on its storytelling, but honestly "Ant-Man" would not have worked as a serious, darker movie. Peyton Reed strikes just the right tone of being funny without overdoing it, creating awesome action and giving us enough of an opportunity to care about all the characters.

The entire cast is solid across the board. Paul Rudd will make you believe he is a superhero. Douglas is outstanding throughout, as is Lilly. Michael Pena, who plays Lang's best friend, is really funny throughout. Marvel has made it a habit to let us down with their villains, and I think Corey Stoll finally delivered a villain that was actually good to watch. I don't think Cross is on par with Loki, but Stoll makes us believe in his need for success, his callous and his insanity. It is a very strong villainous performance.

There are no bad ideas in this business, it all comes down to execution. How committed a cast and crew is to an idea will determine how good or bad the movie turns out. Everybody involved in "Ant-Man" was determined to make this count, determined to make something unbelievable, determined to inspire. I think everybody involved was successful across the board, and I think audiences will be blown away by just how much "Ant-Man" will affect them.

FINAL GRADE: A


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Child 44 Review

Child 44 Review
A thriller about a child serial killer in Communist Russia during the 1950's starring Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke, Noomi Rapace, Joel Kinnaman and Vincent Cassel should have me jumping for joy, right? Well, I certainly thought so. I thought for sure this was going to rock my world. I didn't know going into this film that it was based off of a book. Even now, as I read about it, I have no idea who Tom Rob Smith is, and I had no idea this was the first book in a trilogy. All I knew is that I was sold on the trailers and sold on the actors, and I was hoping for a great, great movie.

Let me start with what works. The cinematography is gritty, edgy, smuggy, and creates a perfect landscape for Communist Russia and the set-up for a thriller. I think Hardy, Oldman, Rapace, Kinnaman, Cassel and Clarke do exactly what they were told to do. I think these six actors could do a rendition of "Whose On First" and make exceptionally entertaining. Even Charles Dance appears for a little while and delivers. The sets and costumes really spell out this era, and everything looks authentic to the time period.  But this is all the extra stuff, this is all amounts to fluff. What kind of story does the movie tell? Apparently, this is a thriller, does it have the ability to thrill? Will this movie have the conviction and execution to shock my foundation as a person? A great thriller is something that has me chewing on it for weeks end, could "Child 44" do that for me?

Look, even though this film is packed with great actors, I wish the movie provided a better accent coach. There were several moments in "Child 44" where each actor's Russian accent slips here and there, and it gets to the point where it becomes distracting. There have been several American, British and Australian actors who have tried various accents, and with varying results. There are so many people out there who think I am weird for liking foreign films. But sometimes I like a good story from an authentic production, and actually watching members of a country playing their nation's countrymen has a feeling no Academy Award winning actor can duplicate. But in "Child 44," it was almost unforgivable how raggedy the accent handling was.

The biggest sin "Child 44" commits is it has a story that is all over the map. I was ready for a gritty tale of a man trying to find a serial killer in a nation that doesn't believe in murder. This is a world that believes that murder is capitalist institution and that living in Communism makes people perfect. Its a great idea for a movie, but "Child 44," takes more time making a movie about living under Communist rule over anything else, and its handled as such a wet blanket that its not even interesting. There is so much focus on the horrors of Communist living that there is barely any time taken to solve the mystery of the movie. When the killer is revealed, its so on-the-nose that its not even thrilling. Look, I think a movie about living under Stalin could make a gut-wrenching movie, but sucked the main story dry.

The worst thing a thriller could do is a) not be thrilling and b) not be shocking when the killer is revealed. I felt "Child 44" fumbled in both those arenas. At almost two-and-a-half hours long, it feels more like an endurance test than a thrilling caper. "Child 44" is so poorly paced that I almost wanted to laugh. The handling of the serial killer and his big reveal is just a wash. Plain and simple and I am not sure if the movie cut back on the Communist crap if the reveal would have been any more surprising. Not a good sign in my book.

 I appreciate good performances and cool sets in any movie, but that is all window dressing to me. If you say your a thriller, I feel I should walk out of the theater thrilled. If you say your movie is going to do one thing, I believe a movie should do that thing, not make its subplots the only plot. "Child 44" is nothing but a reminder of why we need movies like "The Silence of the Lambs" in existence.

FINAL GRADE: C-


Who Played It Best? Two-Face

Who Played It Best? Two-Face
Batman has some of the very best supervillains in the history of the medium. What makes each member of Batman's rogues gallery so special is that they each represent a piece of Bruce Wayne's personality. Harvey Dent, AKA Two-Face was once a good man before taking on a life of crime. He was a District Attorney who was trying to put bad guys behind bars. There have been Batman stories where Harvey Dent and Batman worked side-by-side. When a ounce of acid hit Dent's face, it scarred his psyche more than it did his face, just as the horrid incident of watching Wayne's family die in front of him scarred him. The thing between Harvey and Bruce is self-control, Batman never becomes the monster, while Harvey did. He's a great character, a perfect villain for any Batman movie. Which I suppose is the reason why he has been used twice. My question is, who played him best?

My Two Cents
This is a tough one. First of all, in "Batman Forever," Warner Brothers decided to make Batman campy again, and some of Batman's villains are better for campy-style Batman than others. Two-Face is too serious of a character to turn into a joke. Which is why Nolan bringing the character into his trilogy was a breath of fresh air. Here's the thing though, I think both Aaron Eckhart AND Tommy Lee Jones did exactly what they were told to do. These guys are both way TOO talented to deliver poor performances, even in bad movies, these two are good. I think Tommy Lee Jones did exactly what was expected of him. I also think Aaron Eckhart did exactly what was expected of him, so who was better? I could say one had more of a character to play, but is that the actors fault or the screenwriters? I really need help with this one, so let's put our thinking caps on.

Who do you think played Two-Face best? Sound off in the comment section below. You can also email me your votes at bloggershawn@gmail.com. You will have until next Wednesday to vote.

LAST WEEK: WHO PLAYED IT BEST? JACK RYAN
The least likely superspy was at bat last week in our weekly poll. The results are in and the best Jack Ryan was...

 


Monday, July 13, 2015

Minions Review

Minions Review
I have enjoyed both "Despicable Me" movies, and it has never been surprising that the minions became the most popular thing to come from those movies. It almost seems like they were designed for that. I remember the marketing in 2010 for the first "Despicable Me" movie, and what drew lots of people to the theaters that summer were the minions, these overgrown LEGO-looking people that only spoke gibberish but were funny nonetheless. The first TV spots that landed on television for "Despicable Me" were just the minions goofing off, then the title was presented and that's it. We didn't get a whole lot of storyline in the early marketing, but we were so drawn to the minions because they were cleverly created.

Just because a group a characters become a golden goose for a franchise doesn't automatically mean a prequel or stand-alone movie should be made about them. In fact, prequels are a tough project on a creative level. How can you make a storyline compelling if the audience already knows the outcome of the characters? Any tension or compassion for the project goes out the window. Most franchises are not designed like "Star Wars" where a bunch of key moments from characters' past are brought up and cast a shadow on an entire trilogy. The "Star Wars" prequels were relevant because people wanted to know how a little boy with a chip on his shoulder became the most ruthless villain in cinematic history. And we needed to see the duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin. Those were important, but not every franchise works like that, and most prequels have fumbled because they tell stories that don't really need telling.

On a film level, "Minions" is big fun. The mood is set right at the beginning of the movie as the Universal Studios logo fills the screen and the Minions are humming the Universal tune in the goofiest of manners. These are the Minions we have come to know and love, and if you have enjoyed the Minions so far, you may enjoy this film. If you have children that have loved this series so far, and they can't get enough of the Minions, then take them if you haven't already. There is stuff for everybody to enjoy, just know going in that "Minions" plays it very, very safe.

Most of the film is based on stuff we already know. We know the Minions served Gru in the "Despicable Me" movies because without anybody to serve, their lives are meaningless. We learn that they spent several hundred years trying to find a master, the most vile of all time. In the present day, three minions named Stuart, Bob and Kevin (all voiced by Pierre Coffin) go to New York City to find a master to serve for their brothers. They happen across Villain-Con, a massive gathering of the most evil criminals in all the world. There they meet Scarlet Overkill (voiced by Sandra Bullock), who is the most evil villain in the world, and she quickly becomes attached to the minions. Until they fail her, then she becomes the Big Bad of the movie, and the Minions become our unlikely heroes.

What is stale about all of this is the storyline is exactly what I expected it to be. The minions would somehow become heroic and Scarlet Overkill would show her true colors. I didn't really expect this to harsh or hard to follow, as this is a kids movie after all. But the movie definitely suffers from prequel syndrome. The movie doesn't play on lots of different emotions, because how can we feel anything? We already know that Stuart, Bob and Kevin will get out of any conundrum they get into because this is a prequel. Of course the minions will continue down their road to Gru, that is a fact. So why make the movie at all if you are not going to attempt to be surprising or different?

I guess because children's movies don't require it. I think for what its worth, "Minions" is a fun time, and that seemed to be the goal the whole time. It just doesn't pack the emotional punch that the "Despicable Me" movies did. Nor is funny on the scale of those movies either. I was entertained more by the minions in "Despicable Me" than I was the minions in "Minions."

FINAL GRADE: B


Suicide Squad Trailer

After I heard such good things from the DC panel at this past weekends San Diego Comic-Con, I was pumped to see this. It will be fascinating seeing a superhero movie being told from the other side of the coin, the darker side of spectrum. "Suicide Squad" will kind of be the first of its kind, a movie told from the super villains point of view instead of a hero.

I think its extra fascinating how DC is approaching this film. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), a anti-Nick Fury if you will, discusses building a team in the trailer. She wants this special team to be as dangerous as possible, and its no secret the people she's recruiting have special abilities. She talks about how Superman may have been a beacon, a sort of calling for these super-powered people to come out of their shell. But it is also clear that these characters have history together, and it will be interesting to see the DC cinematic universe unfold simply because it will open right in the middle of everything. When "Iron Man" came out in 2008, it was basically the beginning of a huge story, whereas the characters in the DC cinematic universe will have been operating for God knows how long, and I am curious to see how these stories play out because of that.

The casting of Viola Davis as Amanda Waller is perfect, the kind of perfect Marvel received when they hired Robert Downey Jr. for Iron Man. She is about to prove to the world she was born to play this part. I am equally eager to see Margarot Robbie as Harley Quinn, she looks awesome in this trailer, truly awesome and watching her play off of Jared Leto's Joker will be superb. Oh yes, you see Leto in action. It may only be for a little bit, but we see a glimpse of him. This isn't a Ledger impression folks, its not a Nicholson impression either. Leto's Joker, tattoos and all, will be a complete reinvention of the character and I give WB credit for at least giving us something different, even if I am not totally sold on his appearance yet.

You don't see a lot of Will Smith in action, but he's fine in the footage we do see.

After several years of the Marvel template, and after being familiar with "X-Men" and "Batman" and "Superman" over the years, it is going to be really cool to see something so different. Believe everything you've read so far. It seems "Suicide Squad" will be a weird, haunting, crazy movie. It is going to change the way we view comic book adaptations. Honestly, I can hardly wait.



Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Entire San Diego Comic-Con "Star Wars" Panel!!!!!!!!!

I grew up watching the original "Star Wars'' trilogy. I watched "Return of the Jedi" a lot, but I adored all of the movies. I liked the special editions. I am one of those weirdos who liked the prequels. I have the "Clone Wars" cartoon on DVD, and not the George Lucas/Cary Silver cartoon, the Genndy Tartakovsky cartoon. I breathe "Star Wars" and I never thought we would get another new trilogy in this brilliant saga. I am overly excited that a bunch of new artists will be expanding this universe, taking us down unknown corners of this storyline. I truly believe that these artists are trying to make the best possible "Star Wars" movie they can, and I can see that entirely in JJ Abrams convicting eyes.

I just watched the "Star Wars" panel from San Diego Comic-Con. There is an hour-long look at the SDCC Star Wars panel on Youtube. And boy, is it glorious. Even though I watched this from my computer screen, I can just feel the momentum, I can feel this is going to be something grand. I hope you get the same feeling too. December needs to get here fast!

It just really, really feels JJ Abrams is pouring his soul into this, and the result could be one of the best films in the entire series. I hope so, I truly, madly hope so.

Bad vs. Evil: A look at the SDCC Suicide Squad Panel!

You know what I need to do? I need to start being a little more optimistic.

When the cast for "Suicide Squad" was released several months back, I tore into it pretty well. All over one man, not the entire cast, not half the cast, one man. Look, Will Smith may have an ego bigger than planet Earth, but if he has one thing that I admire, he's dedicated. From what I could tell from the mini-clip of the "Suicide Squad" panel, it seems Will Smith is putting all of his faith into director David Ayer's hands. I like that, I like that a lot. He isn't trying to be the head-hancho, he isn't trying to take all the spoils of war from this production. This is behavior I am not used to when it comes to Will Smith, so that has me hopeful. After this, and the new "Batman vs. Superman" trailer we saw today, it seems Warner Brothers has the supreme chance to really compete with Disney. For somebody who loves both DC and Marvel in equal measure, and just wants to see all of these characters shine, its overwhelming. It's a great time to be a fan of this stuff.

It seems the WB is doing everything they can to do something similar to the Marvel brand, but not entirely copy it. With "Batman vs. Superman," it seems a big theme for that movie will be the world reacting to super-powered people suddenly in existence. Marvel is almost ten movies deep, and it seems the people that inhabit that world are never phased by metahumans walking among them. Seems a little unrealistic doesn't it? With "Suicide Squad," its pretty much going to be the anti-Avengers. In the comics, the "Suicide Squad" is based around of group of DC supervillains, and the government forces the villains to work for them in exchange for shorter sentences. If they flee, they are instantly killed, hence Suicide Squad. Marvel has unleashed its fair share of badasses, but never has a movie really revolved around them, and I love that DC is trying to play cards we haven't seen yet, rather than copying Marvel and hope they can compete. They can compete, simply by being different and I love that they are embracing that.

They couldn't have found a better director to helm this project than David Ayer, that's as good as Marvel nabbing Joss Whedon for The Avengers. And Will Smith promises an insane movie, and all I can say is good.

No footage is up yet, but there are several people covering San Diego Comic-Con this weekend, and from what they saw of the footage, we are in for a treat.

Apparently the "Suicide Squad" trailer is "Creepy and weird all the way through" and will be a " perversion of superhero iconography." Well, that has me all sorts of excited. This report also said some really cool things about Jared Leto's Joker, which definitely sounds like a completely different rendition compared to what Nicholson and Ledger did with the role.

Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but I am ready to plunge into this DC cinematic universe. I know I have been hesitant, but not anymore. That ends tonight, and 2016 can't get here fast enough.

MY SOURCE FOR THIS MATERIAL IS BELOW, PLEASE READ MORE IF YOU WANT MORE INFORMATION: http://www.hitfix.com/motion-captured



"Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice" SDCC trailer

I always love mid-July, do you know why? San Diego Comic-Con begins!

Sure, there are Comic-Cons all over the country, and I wrote an account of my very first visit to Chicago Comic-Con last year. But what makes San Diego Comic-Con so special is because it was the first. That was the site of the very first, and grew, and grew, and grew in years passed. San Diego Comic-Con has become a pivotal part of the year in terms of blockbuster and geek fandom. Studios plan big trailers and big information for their movies and TV shows. Just last night, I saw the big trailer for "The Walking Dead" season six, and it looks like we are in for another good season of that.

Today, I witnessed a brand new trailer for "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice." I was already pretty excited for the first trailer they released back around 5-6 months ago. Very cool trailer, very surprising. There has been widespread controversy over this simply due to casting. After the first trailer, my own personal doubts became curiosities, and now those curiosities have turned to hope.

Any reservations I had on Ben Affleck playing Batman have evaporated.

You will believe Gal Gadot can be Wonder Woman.

I am even warming up to the idea that Jesse Eisenberg will actually give us a decent Lex Luthor.

The two most iconic superheroes clashing for the first time on a live-action camera is reason enough to celebrate, but it looks like Zak Snyder is working tooth-and-nail to give an adaptation unlike anything we have seen before. Here's to hoping he can pull it off.

I believe in this more than I ever have, and I think you will too.



Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Who Played It Best? Jack Ryan

Who Played It Best? Jack Ryan
I feel Jack Ryan as a character isn't as well known as other spies in popular culture. It's true, he doesn't carry the same weight as James Bond or Ethan Hunt or Jason Bourne or Jack Bauer. Honestly, I am okay with that. I have never read any Tom Clancy novels, but my dad sure has. In listening to my dad discuss the novel-version of Jack Ryan, its clear he was never this larger-than-life superspy. Yet Hollywood has tried time and time again to make him that larger-than-life superspy? Why? Because that is the Hollywood way. I bet it drives die-hard Clancy fans up a wall as well. Even so, the character has been apart of the movie canon since the early 1990's, and the character has been played by four separate actors now. Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck and Chris Pine have all taken a stab at the Jack Ryan character, now its time to figure out who played it best.
 
My Two Cents
For me, this comes down to Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford. I am mostly leaning toward Baldwin because "The Hunt For Red October" is the best Jack Ryan movie of all time, so I have a huge bias. But its more than just blind baggage. In the Clancy books, Jack Ryan was never a field agent, he barely carried a gun if he ever did. Ryan was a CIA analyst, and his true character comes out in Baldwin's hands. Sure, a lot of that success comes from the writing, but if there is not a good actor to command the role, all the great writing in the world does nothing. Chris Pine and Ben Affleck in particular are immediately cut from the running for me, simply because their versions of Ryan was all action hero, mere Bond knock-offs. Both actors also failed to enlighten or convince me that their interpretations mattered. While Ford's go at the character isn't quite as broad, I still feel Baldwin did the best job with the character. He also did the best job of creating an authentic Jack Ryan. For these reasons, I am giving the edge to Alec Baldwin.
 
Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comment section below. You can also email me at bloggershawn@gmail.com. You will have until next Wednesday to vote for your favorite Jack Ryan portrayal.
 
Last Week: Who Played it Best? B.A. BARACUS
Last week, TV and Movies clashed in a war for who had the "badder" attitude. From the A-Team came B.A. BARACUS. Who played him best, the results are in and the winner is...
Yeah fool!
 


Big Game Review

Big Game Review
 
At this point in movies, it is hard to bet against Samuel  L. Jackson. He has a commanding charisma that has progressed his career as much as his talent has. It is pretty clear that he loves to work, and money is never really an issue with him. Because he’s had lead roles and supporting roles, he’s been in blockbusters and indie fare. What all of that has in common is that Jackson always treats every role as a challenge to overcome, and he seems to have a hunger to do better than before, no matter how mighty the impact of his presence maybe. When you have Samuel L. Jackson is playing the President of the United States of America, well, that idea just sounds exciting. Jackson’s personality set into a man running our country? Has to be good right? But throw him into the Finnish woods being chased by terrorists? Now that is something I have to see, and it is something I am very glad I had the opportunity to see.
“Big Game” is an action movie, but not your typical action movie. Yes, it features wickedly silly, yet giddy one-liners. Yes, there are action moments that are flat out preposterous. Yes, much of the movie is very tongue-in-cheek. It has all the best ingredients to make a great action movie, except the classic “Mexican Standoff.” Yet, “Big Game” hits harder than most action output recently. I think that’s because “Big Game” is completely confident in itself, and it’s completely in love with itself. This is a movie that knows what it is, and it will aim to please. This is not a movie that tries be anything else except a delirious good time. Underneath all of the familiar, there was still room for a couple of surprises, and those made me smile.
 
Now, the premise may sound silly. Air Force One gets attacked by terrorists while on its way to Europe, and the President is evacuated at the last second. The President is on the run from the bad guys, and his only help is a young boy who was hunting in the wilderness. You maybe snickering, but hear me out. Onni Tommila plays Oskari, and at the beginning of the movie, his dad abandons him in the woods. In Oskari’s village, it is a rite of passage for all boys to survive one day and one night in the Finnish woods, and hunt, kill and bring back whatever they encounter. Oskari’s father is considered the best in the entire town, which puts great pressure on Oskari, but he’s a determined young man who feels he can live up to his father’s stature.  So when he’s thrown into this whirlwind of terror with the President, he feels this could be his big break, his way of proving he is a man to the rest of his village.
 
The buddy system created by Tommila and Jackson is a stroke of genius. With Jackson’s charisma, and Tommila’s wonderful conviction, these two make a great team. Their scenes and dialogue together had a silly smile on my face throughout the entire movie. Then there is Mehmet Kurtulus, who plays the main villain in the movie. Kurtulus’ character is kind of like a Bond villain, but a little bit edgier. His grand plan is broad, but a little sadistic as well. This isn’t the type of villain we are used to seeing in movies like this, but that helped the movie instead of hurting it. Kurtulus’ character had some big moments of humor, and some big fight scenes that made me squeal. Any great action movie needs a great villain, and “Big Game” passed that test on all fronts.
 
There are several great actors sprinkled into the movie, all of whom make an impeccable impact. Jim Broadbent, so good in everything he does, delivers some big laughs as a consultant helping find the President. I also very much liked the work of Ted Levine and Victor Garber. I also have to give a special shoutout to Ray “Volstagg” Stevenson, who delivers another awesome “tough guy” role. I love that this is a movie that uses recognizable but not totally superstar faces. Everybody has something specific to do, and everybody does it well.
 
One thing that blew my mind was that this felt like an action movie involving real people. Too often in action movies, somebody who clearly has no fighting expertise will become a superhero at the drop of a dime, merely for plot convenience. It is often quite distracting, and completely takes me out of the movie. Not here, while there is quite a lot of material in this movie that takes some leaps in logic, it certainly felt like a breath of fresh air to see a movie inhabited by real people.
 
This summer so far has been slow and underwhelming in the world of summer movies. But here is a good one not playing in theaters that you are not going to want to miss!
 
FINAL GRADE: A


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Disney's Prince Charming

Disney has really been pushing their animated classics to become live-action classics. In the last five years we have seen live-action renditions of "Snow White" (two of them), "Alice In Wonderland," "Maleficient," "Oz: The Great And Powerful" and this year's "Cinderella." Don't get to exhausted, there is still plenty in the pipeline. We got "Pan" coming out early this year and "Beauty and The Beast" on the way. We also have two live-action versions of the "The Jungle Book" headed our way too. I am sure there have been other recent live-action-Disney movies I am just not thinking of right now. Just goes to show that Disney will bend and mold its business model in any way it sees fit.

Now, another live action movie has been announced today and its not what you would expect. At first glance, it almost seems like Disney is scrapping from the bottom of the barrel. There is going to be a live action movie based on Prince Charming. Yep, I don't know what princess or how this movie will work, but Prince Charming-the movie is coming soon.

My source says the following:

"Disney is continuing its push into live-action fairy tales, closing a deal for a feature project centering on Prince Charming…Details are being kept behind a moat, but the script is described as a revisionist take on the fairy tales."

A revisionist take on fairy tales? Hasn't that been their approach to all of these live-action movies so far? That sure doesn't give us a whole lot. But I can't even begin to imagine what this will look like. Will this be an origin story? Will we learn where Prince Charming came from? Will we learn how he met Cinderella? Or Snow White? Or whomever this movie revolves around? Will it revolve around any of the princesses? Who knows. It will be interesting to at least see what Disney has in store for this. But since Prince Charming was never really its own story, what could Disney do with it?

If Disney went the Fables route, I'd be overjoyed, but that will never happen.

More on this as it progresses...

SOURCE:
http://www.aintitcool.com/node/72208

Monday, July 6, 2015

Terminator: Genisys Review

Terminator: Genisys Review
I wish I could have walked out with a smile like this after seeing "Terminator: Genisys."
 
What has always surprised me is that the "Terminator" franchise is ripe for different ideas and possibilities, and it could have been a franchise full of longevity. It could have been one of our most long-lasting series' that we continually got giddy for. But somehow, the dream died. I feel like when James Cameron, that was the moment the dream died, because the franchise was never the same after his departure. I know from the marketing for "Terminator: Genisys" that Cameron says it is a rebirth for the series. That is a bold statement from the guy that got this all up and running. That is bold statement to get people to go and buy tickets. James Cameron in the marketing shows that Genisys really is a new beginning, something exciting that we will never forget.
 
There are a couple of things "Terminator: Genisys" gets right. I for one have always been fascinated by the future war. I have always loved what led Kyle Reese to back in time to protect John Connor's mother. When "Terminator: Salvation" came out in 2009, I was pumped to see the future war, and sadly not much of that movie really worked. Had "Terminator: Salvation" used the essence of the old "Terminator" movies and had a better storyline, we'd be raving about it still today. There is lots of awesome future war battles in the beginning of "Terminator: Genisys," but that is where it stops. It is only in the beginning, it is only used to wet our appetite for the movie to come. You know all the scenes of future war in the first two "Terminator" movies, that is about as much as we get, just more expensive. Those scenes are really cool, but just as the movie feels like it is going to kick in, the film begins to halt. I will also say that if you have loved Arnie in this series, you will love him again. Although I think he is both a curse and a blessing in this outing. I deeply felt that "Terminator: Genisys" was full of mistakes.
 
Mistake Number One: It caters too much to the PG-13 crowd. I get it, it is a PG-13 rated movie. But that doesn't automatically mean that a movie has to be bound by certain expectations and clichés. "The Dark Knight" was a movie that pushed the rating to absolute breaking point. For a reboot to two R-rated films to dial it back so much, you can just feel the water running off the movie. Why box in your own movie? Why custom build to fit a certain type of mold when there is already something so great to base it off of? Why not take the movie in a completely different direction entirely? Why do all blockbusters have to work the exact same way in order to be taken seriously? Cameron proved that the R-rating was just that...a rating. What you do with that rating and how made all the difference.
 
Mistake Number Two: The script was built to appease the teenage Twitter crowd. When Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) refers to her pet T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) as "Pops," I cringed. When she tells Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) that he was designed to blend in and Arnie proceeded with several stupid jokes, I cringed. I am not sure if this movie was overall sillier than T3, but it comes shockingly close, and I found that highly preposterous.
 
Mistake Number Three: Trying to discuss this film's plot will cause a massive headache. The introduction to the film is basically a remake of the 1984 film up until Kyle Reese makes it to the mall, then it becomes an entirely different movie altogether. Then another, and another and another until I was exhausted by the whole thing. The entire introduction could have been whipped out the movie entirely, and the film would have still ended how it ended here. In fact, I kind of wish it did. I wish the movie explored the 2017 reality more, I wish it effected the characters more than it does. I liked that the film touched based with the idea of multiple timelines, but does nothing with the idea itself. The film focused on its worse qualities while its better qualities laid by the wayside.
 
I can tell you that Jason Clarke does what he can as John Connor, although I will say they ruin the character completely. I can tell you that J.K. Simmons is wildly entertaining as a certain police officer that our heroes run into on several occasions. I can also tell you that there was a certain crowd director Alan Taylor was trying to find with this movie, and I doubt he found it. This is probably going to enrage the fans of old-school "Terminator." I hope now, after the third attempt that no more "Terminator" movies will be made. Let's just leave it alone now.
 
FINAL GRADE: D+



Ghostbusters reboot adds three

When it was announced that  the "Ghostbusters" would be all-female. I was all for it. I didn't mind it at all, not just because I was a livid fan of the movies. I always liked the idea of expanding the universe, and if that meant a team of all-women, then it could work. It seems Paul Fiege is off to a great start casting-wise. Sure, for an all-female "Ghostbusters" reboot, people like Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig are givens. I don't want that to sound like they won't be great, because I think they will be. I honestly don't know much about Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, but I am as curious as always. Honestly, who won't buy a ticket to see Chris Hemsworth of all people doing comedic stuff?
 
If you are not at least pondering a new "Ghostbusters" movie, perhaps the addition of these three will trip your trigger.
 
Yep, Andy Garcia, Matt Walsh and Michael K. Williams will be joining the "Ghostbusters" reboot in 2016. You may know Garcia best from the recent "Ocean's Eleven" movies, as well as "Godfather Part III." In the "Ghostbusters" reboot, he will play the mayor of New York. You might remember Walsh in his small but effective role in "The Hangover" and Williams from HBO's "Boardwalk Empire." Very little is known about the characters Walsh and Williams will be playing, but I hope they have some great dialogue to work with, as both are very capable actors.

Even if you think that an All Female "Ghostbusters" is just a reaction to a very PC age, you have to be at least a little excited now. This cast is sizing up to be something exciting, and if the writing and execution is all there, this will be a good reboot.

Here's to hoping that happens.

SOURCE:
http://www.aintitcool.com/node/72197
 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Wild Tales Review

Wild Tales Review
"Wild Tales" just single-handedly perfected the anthology film.

There is a segment of this movie, the segment that opens the movie. It shows a model getting onto a flight, and she is assisted by a man who is sitting across the aisle from her. As the flight takes off, they have a little chat. She is a model and he is a music critic. She tells him she once dated a musician and in describing her ex, the critic figures out who it is. In an ironic turnaround, this critic heavily criticized some of her ex's work. Then somebody else on the flight overhears their conversation, a woman who is an elementary school teacher. Apparently, this teacher also knew this mysterious musician, when he was a boy, and she scolds her past with him. Then somebody else, and another person, and another and another. It becomes quite clear that every person on this flight knew this musician, and they all wronged him in one form. All the while we learn this, it is evident that this flight is strangely and eerily small for such a big, commercial plane. We know by this point that something very bad is going to happen to the passengers, and it was this opening segment when I knew that "Wild Tales" had me.

"Wild Tales," the new Argentinian film by Damian Szifron, is a collection of some of the weirdest fables I have seen put on the screen in a long time. The stories really are not connected in any way, but they all have one thing in common, they all are very wild. What drew me in to each story was how freshly unique each experience felt. "Wild Tales" is a movie where you should leave expectation, cliché and prediction at the door, because known of these stories unfold in a manner you will be used to. Even though some segments end just about the way you think they will, its the journey from start to finish that feels so noteworthy. This is not typical Hollywood filmmaking, this is an anti-formula, with each new adventure well acted, well written and well executed.

Among the storylines feature a gangster who walked into the wrong diner, a rich man who has a particularly nasty showdown on a highway, a demolitions expert who has a mistrust for seemingly the entire world, a business deal going down in the light of a major event and the final segment is a wedding from Hell. These are some of the most warped fables you will ever witness. Not only are all these segments wild, they greatly master the wonders of cinematic inspiration. They represent the celebration of filmmaking, and the very best of original filmmaking. Some stories are gruesome and others are funny (in a very dark sort of way), but all seem to offer the proposal that the world is random and it is even dangerous, so we must always be at our best. We never know when karma is going to come knocking on our door, and that idea is beautifully etched throughout the entire movie.

This movie is brought together by some wonderful Argentinian actors. All of whom deliver an emotional punch in each of their respected segments. I can't tell you a single thing about this cast, I have no idea how long any of these actors have been working. I have no idea if these are veterans or newbies of the business. All I can tell you is that Szifron perfectly casted every single role of every single segment. This cast dedicated themselves to this movie, and it shows with every single frame.

In a world that is largely dominated by the release of blockbusters, something so fun and so off-the-radar was an instant delight for me. "Wild Tales" offers up the very best of what can happen when an artist believes in their art, when they are completely taken over by their craft. "Wild Tales" is unforgettable from the beginning shot of a woman getting on a plane to the very last shot at the wedding. "Wild Tales" might be blunt and delirious, but it is one of the best films I've experienced so far this year.
 
FINAL GRADE: A