Monday, August 31, 2015

Southpaw Review

Southpaw Review
Boy, has Jake Gyllenhaal been a roll as of late. He stunned me last year in "Nightcrawler," a movie I think everyone needs to see at least once. I recently revisited "Nightcrawler" a few years ago, and I am stunned silent. So much raw power in one performance, and I think its insane. I can't believe Gyllenhaal pulled it off so well. But then I take it back, because I know how good Gyllenhaal is. I think we are just beginning to see how talented and how versatile a performer he truly is, and time will tell just how wide of a range he will create for himself.

"Southpaw" is no different. Once again, Gyllenhaal packs lots of raw power into one performance. Gyllenhaal alone is worth the price of admission, and he's already surrounded by great performers doing outstanding work. Forest Whitaker. Rachel McAdams. Heck, even Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson comes off like he's won an Oscar before in this. There is even a performance by a young, up-and-coming performer named Oona Laurence, who does impeccable work as Gyllenhaal's daughter. This is definitely a movie which could contend for the acting spots in this years awards circuit, although it may have come out a little too early to be in the running.

As for the movie itself? Well, its just a boxing movie. This is just a grittier and grimier version of "Rocky." If you've seen "The Fighter," you've seen "Southpaw." If you've seen "Cinderella Man," you've seen "Southpaw." Directed by Antoine Fuqua, "Southpaw" is an effort which decided to leave the "just" intact, instead of ripping it out and making something of its own. The memorable performances by the principle cast may distract you with their shock and awe, but that is all they are, a mere distraction. A placeholder in order to shift your attention away from the familiar plot and overreaching clichés. The movie has very good performances, great. But performances aren't everything, nor should they ever be. The great movies of our time are great because they are all encompassing. The acting, the writing, the direction, the sets, the costumes, the music, all of this and more has to be on par with one another, in sync to each other's beats. If a movie has a good performances, I will certainly let you know, but I have never been able to give myself to a movie just because of its performances. Which is why I firmly believe that "Southpaw" is good, but could have been so much better.

"Southpaw" tells the story of Billy "The Great" Hope (Gyllenhaal), a kid who grew up in the system but became a great boxer. He has a beautiful wife Maureen (McAdams), a cute daughter (Laurence) and a comfortable life. But then tragedy strikes, and he not only loses his family, but his manager (Jackson), his home and his morale. He doesn't know how he can possibly recover, until he finds work at a gym, run by Tick (Whitaker). Tick agrees to retrain Hope as a boxer but Hope has to work as the gym's janitor. But what am I doing rambling on and on? You already know how this ends, and if not, you can probably figure it out faster than it would take me to type it. "Southpaw" doesn't even try to hold anything back, it throws everything you would expect to happen right at the screen. There is no twisting or playing with any clichés, any norms, anything really. This is as regular as sports movies get, and I find it a little unbelievable that so much talent was wasted on such an ordinary script.

If you love sports movies, if you crave those familiar clichés and love just how ordinary the genre prides itself on, go ahead and see "Southpaw." Its a little rougher around the edges, and its acted out better than it needed to be, so compared to most other sports movies, it will fit the bill perfectly. But if you wanting this genre to stop playing it safe, skip it. Because that ship doesn't dock there. But for what it is, "Southpaw" does pack a punch.

FINAL GRADE: B

RIP Wes Craven

RIP Wes Craven
Wes Craven was the master of suspense in the world of film.

Seems like a faint praise, doesn't it? Seems like the usual jargon someone conjures in any eulogy for any excellent filmmaker. But Wes Craven was above any sort of merit one could put to his name. Wes Craven helped shape the landscape the horror genre called home for decades, for better or for worse. He helped build an empire in the particular genre, then he turned around parodied it and only Craven himself could get away from it. There was always lots of blood and guts in Wes Craven movies, and while I prefer genuine scares over gore, Craven was able to blend the best of both worlds for the betterment of our nightmares. 

Take "The Last House on the Left." From the films premise, it sounds like standard operating procedure for horror movies, but Craven helped cement it. For those who haven't seen the film, it was quite notorious for its time. There is a scene were two women are brutally dismembered and killed. Craven created a scene so tragically disorienting and so gruesomely realistic that it you could not be shaken by it. There was no overacting by the actors, there was nothing cartoonish or unauthentic about the direction. It literally looked like someone caught a murder on camera, and the first time I saw it, I didn't know whether to be scared or get on the phone and report a crime. It was that brutally clear, and it was relenting that this one moment wasn't the most upsetting moment in the entire movie.

Wes Craven didn't just create shockingly realistic deaths, he created memorable characters. Characters that will be sunken into the world of American cinematic canon. Wes Craven gave us Freddy Krueger, and after all the sequels and character-changes, that may seem like a small wonder. But let's face it, no matter how many "Nightmare on Elm Street" movies you have seen or have not seen, Freddy Krueger is a brilliant character. He's somebody that has adapted into every era. He is a character that can be crushingly funny yet cripplingly repulsive in equal measure. Much like The Joker, every time Krueger shambles onscreen, you won't know whether to scream, laugh or vomit. There are very few characters that have such power, and Craven delivered one to us and made it all look so easy.

With "Nightmare on Elm Street," Craven helped shape the slasher movie. In the late 1990's, the world thought they had all the subgenre had to offer. Then Craven completely out-did himself, he did his own little victory lap around his exposed id. Wes Craven made "Scream," a movie that may seem like a parody to most at first glance, but there is so much more the movie offers than a relapse of slasher movie norms. Craven took the sub-genre he helped create and gave it a 180 degree turn. He created a movie that commented on slasher movies while also revolutionizing them forever. There is no dumb luck involved when Craven created so many memorable and long-lasting franchises in the horror genre, Craven demonstrated an excellence in what made the genre tick in the first place.

Though "Last House on the Left," "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Scream" are his most memorable films, Craven made many a nightmare. "The Hills Have Eyes" has stayed on my mind ever since I saw it. "Red Eye" was a low-key thriller that was better than it needed to be. "The Serpent and the Rainbow" wrapped itself around me within its strange world. Most of all Wes Craven proved to us that horror movies matter. They can exercise our inner demons, they are a comment on our culture on our emotions, they represent humanity at its worse, yet educating us on why we are great. Wes Craven's films did all of that and more, which is why he should be remembered.






Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Schumer are writing a movie?

Amy Schumer and Jennifer Lawrence are going to write a movie together.

Yes, its true.

I have really enjoyed Jennifer Lawrence's career so far. When I saw her for the first time, it was on a cool summer's night as I strolled into a Peoria theater to see "Winter's Bone." Her first big performance blew my mind completely, and I had a deep feeling that Lawrence would become something special, and sure enough she has. Whether its independent fair like "Bone" or Mainstream Oscar bait like "American Hustle" and "Silver Linings Playbook" or gargantuan blockbusters like "X-Men" or "Hunger Games," Lawrence delivers. I don't know if any of you think she's overrated, but I certainly would argue for her merits.

Then there is Amy Schumer. Look, I do dig Amy's stand-up and her appearances on talk shows is quite charming. But "Trainwreck" was just...blah. I couldn't believe just how bad that movie was, and she wrote that film. I  give her credit for wanting to explore different dimensions of emotion like any other solid actor would, but "Trainwreck" was a huge miscalculation in my book, and felt like a casual, modern Adam Sandler movie.

With that said, I am not sure whether to be excited or not about this. I like one girl's stand up and I just flat out love the other. One has already proven she isn't a screenwriter, but how will the other one fair? Its a tough call. I have to say that I am a little curious to see what they come up with and I am wondering if Lawrence and Schumer will be starring. It will be interesting seeing Lawrence doing some raunchy, slapstick type comedy, if this is the direction they choose to go down. Right now, everything is just speculation.

What do you all think of this?

SOURCE:
http://www.hitfix.com/motion-captured/jennifer-lawrence-and-amy-schumer-are-co-writing-a-movie-and-will-win-hollywood

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Pixels Review

Pixels Review
There are some summer movies that are ridiculous for the sake of it. That is what makes them true to the nature of the season in which they are released in. The summer movie season has been notorious for dumping big movies with crazy plots which throw logic every which way but the straighten arrow. Sometimes, especially during the summer movie season, it is okay to turn your thoughts off and sit back to enjoy the show. Let's be honest here, movies aren't meant to be shrouded in realism, no matter what some movies do. They are meant as an escape and for entertainment and during the summer months, sometimes its forgivable to go a little overboard.

Adam Sandler is an actor I admire, but he hasn't been himself for several years now. He's like an Eddie Murphy who still works, he just seems to pride himself on making terrible choices. His output these passed few years have been head scratchers, to put it in nice terms, and its terrible that his movies still make money, because it seems Sandler has overshadowed his obnoxious humor over everything that worked in his earlier career, and that's a shame. Sandler was once a prominent actor who we could always count on, now he's simply a self-parody of all of his worst qualities. At the same time, his movies have this cutsey-poo, sentimental values that don't mesh well with all of his fart and poop jokes and his crazed demeanor. There is nothing else like an Adam Sandler movie, but I am not sure that is a good thing.

There are signs of life in Adam Sandler career, and that shows in "Hotel Transylvania." I was hoping for the same thing with "Pixels." I get it, its a really weird movie. If you haven't seen it already, its essentially a movie about aliens watching our old video games and designing an invasion on Earth by creating weapons based upon those old games. In response to this invasion, the President of the United States gets the best gamers in the world to use their expertise in defeating the threat. Its a silly, silly movie and most critics have been harsh on it simply because of how silly it is. Yes, this is a movie that throws logic out the window. The video game experts in this movie (played by Sandler, Josh Grad and Peter Dinkage) use light energy canons, and they literally "play out" the game scenarios because of the aliens. Playing a video game is one thing, actually being the game is another. I love Lui Kang from "Mortal Kombat," but actually fighting Shang Tsung myself? That wouldn't pan out too well for me. But in the season of dumb summer fun, I felt I was able to forgive how hokey that part of the movie was...for the most part at least.

"Pixels" real problems stem from the most basic of circumstances. For an Adam Sandler movie, its really not that funny. Hey, I don't think "Blended" or "Grown Ups 2" are great by any means, but at least they can get me to crack some sort of a smile. When I sit through a Adam Sandler movie stone-faced, that to me is a big problem. As far as its humor goes, "Pixels" is a typical, modern Sandler movie. A bunch of unfunny obnoxious humor with a hidden Disney life-lesson buried under all of it. I don't really understand how Sandler feels he can balance between being nuts and being emotional, but it still doesn't work. While I will say that the toilet humor is pretty non-existent in this movie, I did expect to laugh some, which didn't happen in "Pixels."

Sandler and Grad do what they can. I think Peter Dinkage does a good job, but the script lets him down. Michelle Monaghan shows up as an aide to the President, who is played by Kevin James. Both James and Monaghan are good, and they deliver as much as they can. I loved the cameos by Sean Bean and Brian Cox. I think this cast understood how hokey this premise was, but they made the most of it anyway, and I can at least appreciate their efforts. I just wished that this movie could matter on some level.

"Pixels" could have been a fun movie, and there was a lot of dumb stuff in the movie that I could give a pass too. I didn't mind that the aliens were giving the humans "a set of lives" just like in a real video game before they completely conquered the Earth, even though it made zero sense of a conquering standpoint. I didn't mind the aliens using video game characters to defeat us, even though their powers could have had us destroyed right from the very beginning. The sad part is that it doesn't seem like Adam Sandler is trying hard anymore, which makes something like "Pixels" frustrating to sit through.

FINAL GRADE: C-

Nintendo May Make Movies?


When video games turn to movies, they usually don't end up well. I think as a whole, most people including gaming fans rarely get excited for video game adaptations. Even though we have "Assassin's Creed'' and "WarCraft'' on the horizon, I think the response to those movies are still pretty weathered. We really are not completely taken over by these movie ideas, we are giving ourselves over to them. Because we have burned in the past too many times when it comes to video game adaptations, and taken as a whole, we collectively know better.

One of the movies which led to the mistrust of video game adaptations was "Super Mario Brothers" in 1993. I don't know what that movie was, but it wasn't Super Mario Brothers and that is a stone cold fact. Somebody decided to take all of the joy and zeal out of the Super Mario game and make a movie that had no idea what it was trying to adapt. There was also a slapdash quality to the making of that movie that has poisoned all other video game adaptations. I don't know what Hollywood thought when it came to most video game adaptations made in the 1980's, 1990's and early 2000's. But the silly quality to all of those movies made was strong and evident, its almost like Hollywood wanted to make these adaptations bad. I don't know why though, there is such as strong video game culture in our country, that these would be gold minds when it came to profits made.

Nintendo in particular have kept their adaptations slim after 1993, but it seems that is about to change. The information is pretty sketchy as of right now, but it sounds like Nintendo maybe edging closer to making movies again, whatever that may mean.

"As we look more broadly at what is Nintendo’s role as an entertainment company, we’re starting to think more and more about how movies can fit in with that—and we’ll potentially be looking at things like movies in the future."

That is what Shigeru Miyamoto and Shinya Takahashi said about the matter. These two guys are running the Software Planning Division at Nintendo and they are in charge of whatever is coming with Nintendo and movies. Now again, this doesn't really say much about if these will be adaptations of Nintendo characters or if Nintendo will make original ideas with their brand name. I don't know what this could possibly mean.

I hope that Nintendo tries to do something original with their brand, hopefully creating new worlds separate from their video games. That is what I truly hope for, as I feel I have had my fair share of video game adaptations over the years, but who knows. If Nintendo at the helm, it could mean anything. We shall see.



SOURCE:
http://www.joblo.com/movie-news/nintendo-might-be-game-to-make-movies-again-136

Monday, August 24, 2015

Cop Car Review

Cop Car Review
Most movies follow a chronological order that it never breaks from. Its story stays on a straight arrow, playing it safe, never retreating from its destination. But some movies like to throw curve balls. Some movies like to shake up what you know and what you think you know about a movie and trying something different entirely. There are so many movies that follow such a basic outline that it could possibly render the entire medium useless, but there are movies still being made that want to break those barriers, that still want to take a shot at something ambitious.

"Cop Car" isn't a deep movie, its not something that is Earth shattering. Its not something that will send its actors to an awards ceremonies, even though the film is packed with good performances. But it doesn't work like you think it will work. The movie does a good job playing with your expectations, you think you know how the movie will end up, then it begins with its curve balls, they aren't huge changes to the order of movies, but they made the experience different and fun. Sometimes that is all you need.

Two boys Harrison (Hays Wellford) and Travis (James Freedson-Jackson) are on an unsupervised pilgrimage through the mainlands of Colorado. They are having a good time with their unplanned freedom when they stumble upon a seemingly abandoned cop car. They start getting in it, looking around, pretending to drive it. When all of a sudden they find the car keys. This is every little boys wet dream to stumble upon a cop car, so of course they take the car for a spin. At first, "Cop Car" feels like a warped adventure movie between these two boys. The work by Freedson-Jackson and Wellford is stunningly superb. They may not be child actors everybody is familiar with, but they deliver in every single scene. They force the audience to buy into their urging adventure to take the cop car out on a spin.

Then we meet the officer it belongs to, Sheriff Kretzer (Kevin Bacon). Kretzer was not at his car because he was covering up a horrendous crime and when he goes back to his car to get something, he notices it is gone. What could have possibly happened? He decides to go get his car back. At this point you may think you have this one all figured out. You may think that this becomes thrilling cat-and-mouse game about how Kretzer gets his car back from the boys. For a long stretch of the movie, that is what happens. Even the movie itself had me stumped, acting as if I had already figured everything out. I don't know what has gotten into Kevin Bacon recently, but he's more alive than he's ever been lately than anything else in his entire career. He's a ball to watch in this, and whether you end up liking "Cop Car" or not, you'll certainly love the performance by Kevin Bacon. Easily one of his best performances in years. But as I sat on my couch watching, I couldn't help but keep thinking, is this it? Is this really what this adds up to be?

Turns out "Cop Car" is a movie where nobody is who they seem, and events will play out as if they are following the norms of the genre, but then your expectations will tweaked a bit. "Cop Car" is a fun little caper, a groovy little mystery. Like I said above, its not something completely special, buts much more entertaining than expected and much better than it had to be. Its a brilliant showcase of actors, and there are not a ton of characters in the movie, which makes the characters much easier to identify with. Heck, if it wasn't for the constantly shifting locations, "Cop Car" could have been an interesting stage play.

As the summer begins to slowly come to a close, you may end up liking the old-school yet unexpected charm of "Cop Car."

FINAL GRADE: B

Friday, August 21, 2015

Who Played It Best? The Fantastic Four

Who Played It Best? The Fantastic Four
The "Fantastic Four" have always been popular in comics because they don't really feel like any other group. They aren't like The Avengers or The Justice League; huge legions of bountiful egos. They aren't like The X-Men who righteously looking for a safe haven. They are a family of popular superheroes who have no problem being in the public eye. They are the family superhero equivalent of the Kardashians. They are supposed to be whimsical, comic and fun and so far, Fox has not been able to grasp that. What seems like fairly straightforward material always wraps the studio in a  hump. They either make it too light (2005) or just make too somber (2015). With two tanking franchises, I am itching to know who played the team best.

My Two Cents
I think for this one, some actors from both incarnations can overlap. Looking at Mr. Fantastic for instance, Ioan Gruffudd was a magnificent Reed Richards, almost as if he was chiseled out of the comic books themselves, I had no zero hope for Miles Teller in the role, but as I stated in my review, he did surprise me. No matter how much I am shocked by Teller delivering, I can't get past how perfect Gruffudd was in the role, and he had he worked from a better script...oh my God, we would have been in for a treat. Chris Evans is also the blatant winner in my book for Johnny Storm. I like Michael B. Jordan, but the character he played? Not Johnny Storm. Not by a long shot. I don't know who the fuck that was but it wasn't Johnny Storm. The character Chris Evans created WAS Johnny Storm, through and through. For Sue Storm, I would go with Kate Mara. Sue might have been a blank of a character in the new movie, but Mara still did a much better job that Jessica Alba did. But the Thing? That's hard, because I felt both Micheal Chiklis and Jamie Bell were both awesome in the thing. Again, they both had poor, poor scripts to work from, but they both did well. I think if my life depended on it though, I would give the edge to Chiklis, there is just that one scene when he finds love in rock form in the first movie that is so on-the-nose perfect, I just can't see another actor doing those dimensions as perfect as he could.

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 Friday to vote.

LAST TIME ON WHO PLAYED IT BEST?
  The battle for the best Ra's Al Ghul was so epic, it lasted an entire month. But the results are in, and the winner for best Ra's Al Ghul is...
Because, you know, particular sets of skills and all...


Straight Outta Compton Review

Straight Outta Compton Review
For as many great true stories there are out there, it seems strange to me that there are so few great biopics out there. Much like the sports movie, it seems the biopic movie is strangled by the cliches that have become familiar in the genre. Every musical biopic seems to take the same form. A person (or group of people) start with nothing, they have a dream to make it big in music, they are constantly told they'll never make it, they get a chance and seize it, for awhile its good, there is some turmoil, something gets in the way of the success, but then the group or person gets back on the straighten arrow right before the credits roll. I have just described every musical biopic known to man, they all follow that template religiously. 

"Straight Outta Compton" is very a musical biopic movie. We quickly meet Eric "Eazy E" Wright (Jason Mitchell), Andre "Dr. Dre" Young (Corey Hawkins) and O'Shea "Ice Cube" Jackson (O'Shea Jackson Jr.). These disgruntled young men are quickly created out of the environment they were born into, and they have plenty to say about Compton and the world they grew up in and they create music about their experience. They are constantly told that they will never make it, but they recruit MC Ren (Aldris Hodge) and DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.) and are quickly signed to label with Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti). They have lots of success, but they get into political trouble after the controversial single "Fuck Da Police" is released, they experience inner turmoil, but they make up right before the credits roll. By design, "Straight Outta Compton" is just like every other musical biopic ever made.

But here's the thing, "Straight Outta Compton" is actually swiftly entertaining. The actors throw themselves at their roles and give it there all. The backdrop of 1980's and 1990's southern California is exquisitely believable and the script by Jonathon Herman and Andrea Berloff is slick and crisp in a way that is almost revitalizing. "Straight Outta Compton" may follow the same cliches as most biopics, but it dares to entertain, tries to be more  than the average movie. 

One thing that stands out is the performance of O'Shea Jackson Jr. Yes, Ice Cube's very own son plays his father. He's a splitting image of his own father, so why not? This isn't some stunt casting though, as O'Shea becomes his father in every fashion. When O'Shea Jackson Jr raps, I couldn't tell if it was actually him rapping or if they dubbed over him with his father's raps. I think there is a bright future for O'Shea Jackson Jr, if acting is what he wants to do. I was also very impressed by the work done by Mitchell and Hawkins, who delivered excellent work as Eazy E and Dr. Dre. The movie kind of takes the form of being Eazy's story, and Mitchell tells the story eloquently. Paul Giamatti could do roles like this in his sleep, and he delivers once again to an already impressive resume.

"Straight Outta Compton" took the usual musical biopic and put it on steroids. The movie that follows is highly entertaining and fresh from start to finish. Anybody who was a fan of N.W.A., both past and present, will enjoy this movie thoroughly. It's a movie that may play by the rules, but at the same time shatters the rules in many ways. That is tough to do, and director F. Gary Gray deserves credit for how he utilizes the norms of this genre and how he chose to bend them.

FINAL GRADE: B+

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Thor's Ghostbusters Outfit

I would have never have guessed that Chris Hemsworth would ever do anything comedic. I think that there is an insanely spectacular actor hidden inside Hemsworth's body, we just have not seen him yet. There are pockets of acting in "Thor" and "Avengers" movies that screams this guy could win an Oscar. But comedy? Never thought of it.

I haven't seen "Vacation" yet, but I am insanely intrigued by Hemsworth in "Ghostbusters." Especially after this photo landed.

Who is Hemsworth playing? How does he fit into the story of the all-female "Ghostbusters" reboot? We will have to wait and see.

SOURCE:
http://www.aintitcool.com/node/72752

Air Review

Air Review
I have always enjoyed Norman Reedus, but it seems he is mostly celebrated because of his work on "The Walking Dead," and I think that is a bit of a shame. Reedus has had an extended career before anything pertaining to zombies. He was great in "Blade II," he was great in "The Boondock Saints." He appeared in "American Gangster," "Cadillac Records," "Deuces Wild" and "The Conspirators." When I began watching "The Walking Dead" when I was junior in college, I was a bit skeptical, but it was Norman Reedus who kept me watching, not Daryl Dixon, Norman Reedus. I think when actors get attached to a character for too long, the character gets stuck. That can leave both pros and cons toward an actors career.

"Air" stars Norman Reedus and it was produced by Robert Kirkland, who wrote "The Walking Dead" comics. So automatically this is going to be marketed by the help of "The Walking Dead." That alone is both a blessing and a curse, but it is well needed since "Air" isn't much of a movie at all, and what does resemble a movie is often disappointing.

"Air" takes place in an apocalyptic future. Most of the worlds breathable air is gone and most people are dead. We meet Bauer (Daryl Dix...I mean Norman Reedus) and Cartwright (Djimon Hounsou), they have been tasked by the government to find or create a new air source to save the planet. Unfortunately, we are told all of this information, and very little of the movie is actually shown to us. One of the best things Mark Twain ever said was "Don't say the old lady screamed, bring her on and let her scream." To authors, that means show, don't say. The same can be said about movies. Nobody finds a movie particularly exciting or entertaining if they are just being told everything through a narrator, or in this case a futuristic monitor. 

As the two men go about their research, they are likely to but heads. Of course this is what happens when two men are left in a bunker at the end of the world, they begin disagreeing. We have seen countless times before, I just wish "Air" didn't play everything so safe. One of the men is stuck on their sense of duty, while the other begins worrying about survival. Its the most basic way to approach this idea, sadly everything is played safe. They try to wow you in the beginning by trying to explain what it is the researchers are doing, but its so poorly explored that it doesn't even matter what their doing. They will eventually be at each other's throats by the end of the movie, rendering anything worth thinking or philosophizing about worthless.

Both Reedus and Hounsou do their best to make all of this relevant, and for the most part, they deliver good performances. But honestly, it ends up not being enough. This could have been a cool idea for a science fiction movie, but sadly its so tied up being like almost everything else in the genre that it is never allowed to thrive.

FINAL GRADE: C-

Monday, August 17, 2015

Toy Story 4 Details


I immidately detested the idea of making a "Toy Story 4" when I heard about it. I know how hard it is to make a great trilogy. There are not really many great trilogies. Think about it for second, because lots of people consider a "great trilogy" to have at least two-out-of-the-three movies to be good in order to get such a supreme status. In my book, all three movies have to be awesome in order to reach such a compliment, and there aren't that many out there. "The Hobbit" is overstuffed, "The Star Wars" prequels don't land like the originals, heck, even "The Godfather Part III" has nothing on the first two films. Most trilogies run out of steam by the third film, leaving a very small list of truly great trilogies. "Toy Story" was always an exception. Each movie as fantastic as the last.

That is why I scoffed at the idea of making a fourth. Why destroy what a remarkable creation with a fourth film? What if the fourth film is bad, I mean what if its just plain good? It will taint the rest of the trilogy. If the fourth film is nothing less that flawless, people will forever remember it as the film that "was good, but not as great as the original trilogy." Why would Pixar want to do that with themselves?

Well, it seems its not a bad dream. "Toy Story 4" is coming...and its going to be a love story between Bo Peep and Woody.

Yep, you read that right.

We are supposed to hold our breath to see a love story between Bo Peep and Woody. I am baffled, because didn't Woody say Bo Peep was given away in "Toy Story 3?" I sure remember it. The "Toy Story" movies have been good because they tell human stories that we can relate to. How can I relate to a love story revolving around toys? This sounds like "Heartbeeps" for a new generation.

I remain skeptical of this idea, and until a trailer can somehow win me over, I will remain as such. But how are the rest of you thinking? I would love to hear all your thoughts.

SOURCE:
http://www.aintitcool.com/node/72712

Creep Review

Creep Review
Over the course of the year, I've been pretty vocal about my disappointment with found footage over the year. It seems that everyone is using the same old formula to absolutely no avail. Its pretty clear that most filmmakers are just using the device for easy cash. I have been pretty dissatisfied by films like "Area 51," "Unfriended" and "The Gallows" this year, and I thought the use of this device would never improve in any fashion.

I stumbled across "Creep" tonight, and while I was not totally jazzed by the idea of watching a found footage movie, I was a big fan of Mark Duplass. He's been in such films as "Safety Not Guaranteed," "Zero Dark Thirty," "The League," "Jeff, Who Lives At Home," and "Tammy." Last year, he was in one of my favorite movies of last year, "The One I Love" which was charming, weird and an all-around sensational experience. Duplass not only stars in the movie, but he wrote the script as well. Could he have created something that was worthwhile that used this tired device. The way everything was laid out, I knew this was going to be a horror film of some kind, I just didn't know how scary or how good it would end up being.

The throws you into the mess right away, as Aaron (Patrick Brice) is hired to do a job he found on Craigslist. The job is simple, just video tape the life of a man and not tell anyone about it. Seems simple enough, right? Seems like a quick way to make some money, right? Aaron meets Josef (Duplass) and while Josef has a weird sense of humor and a strange personality, Aaron is optimistic about what he's set to do. He also seems to put up with lots of Josef's shenanigans as Josef opens up to Aaron about surviving cancer, and wanting to make a video for his unborn son who may only know him from the following video being made by Aaron. 

As you watch the movie, even as Aaron gets out of his car to the remote cabin Josef has invited him to, there something off about the whole thing. At the very back of your head, you know something terrible is about to happen, and you waiting patiently to see what it will be. While "Creep" works in the same vein as most found footage films to that end, this is a different kind of animal entirely, and I mean that in every sense of the word. Events unfold in a manner you think you can expect, but then there is a small left turn. "Creep" is a movie that wants you to think it will play by the usual rules of found footage horror, but then tweaks them a little bit, here and there. While I think the ending is a little to regular, it left me satisfied and I had a silly smile etched on my face afterward. Plus, Duplass has done a good job of making the audience obscenely confused by what genre this is supposed to be. Some horror films like "Re-Animator" and "The Howling" walk along the tight-rope of horror and comedy, and Duplass had a comedic upbringing. As events begin to unfold, you won't know whether you should laugh or throw-up.

"Creep" plays by some of the same rules that have defined the found footage genre, but overall I liked what I saw. Mark Duplass delivers another unforgettable performance as Josef and any actor who can garner sympathy playing a complete lunatic deserves some credit. He's a little menace in this movie, and he'll make you believe it all. I will also warn that "Creep" does have a couple boo scares that got me good, and by the end, it feels a little too ordinary, but I liked enough of what I saw. There was also so much unpredictability that I had fun along the ride. I dig the set up for possible future films, and I wish this movie got a larger opening compared to other crap like "Unfriended" and "The Gallows," which is quite possibly the best thing I can say about it.


FINAL GRADE: B

Sunday, August 16, 2015

D23 2015

What is the D23 Expo?

Its basically a big, Disney-themed Comic-Con event that takes place every year. Instead of focusing on all things geek and nerd, the D23 Expo focuses on everything pertaining to the world of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse. There were some big announcements this year, and I can only imagine that with Star Wars and Marvel under Disney's banner, these events will be more exciting. There was some cool stuff that was announces this year and I can hardly wait to crack into any of it.

Moana Announcement
"Moana" will be Disney's big animated film next year that isn't connected to Pixar or Marvel or any other chains attached to the brand. This will be an original idea, and apparently it struck a chord with several attendees at the expo. It seems like typical Disney fair, a princess will go on daring journey to a chain islands set two thousand years in the past. She will be accompanied by voyager who will apparently be voiced by The Rock. New Princesses, daring journeys, underdogs proving their worth, celebrity voices...it sounds Disney enough. But apparently The Rock cried reading the script, so I bet Disney will be able to tuck on our heart strings a bit for this one. I will be keeping an eye out for trailers on this one, and it is set for release Thanksgiving next year.

Gigantic Announcement
Disney is known for its celebration of old school fairy tales. That will never change and that is what we love about them. As of late, Disney has always announced what they are going to do. We knew what to expect from films like "Alice In Wonderland," "Robin Hood," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Cinderella." But now, they have a trend of titling fairy tale movies differently, apparently to draw bigger crowds. I have no idea if that is working for them or not, but after "Tangled" and "Frozen," next is "Gigantic." While "Tangled" focused on Rapunzel and "Frozen" focused on interpretations of the Snow Queen fable, can you guess what "Gigantic" will be about? I liked "Tangled" and I liked "Frozen" up into the point Disney decided to oversell it, and I am hoping they are smarter with the craze "Gigantic" could potentially create. Disney does a very good job with its animated movies, and I don't want to not like something simply because it has become overused and annoying.

Star Wars
First of all, get a look at the old style poster for "Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens"
Love it!

Now let's talk a little about "Star Wars: Rogue One." And no, "Star Wars: Rogue One" is not the title for Episode VIII. In the upcoming future, we are going to be getting lots and lots of "Star Wars." Disney is planning to unleash independent movies in between each episode. This is becoming to be known as the "Star Wars Anthology" movies. These stories are set in the "Star Wars" universe, but the characters won't be interacting with the Skywalker family or any characters being introduced in the regular saga franchise. These anthology movies I am looking forward to the most. I love that we are going to be getting stories not pertaining to the Skywalkers, and Disney is giving themselves the opportunity to really expand their universe. "Rogue One" already has a great cast including Mads Mikkelsen, Felicity Jones, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Ben Mendelsohn and Forest Whitaker! Yeah, can't wait! Here is the first official image of "Star Wars: Rogue One!"
It was also announced that Colin Trevorrow, director of "Jurassic World" will direct Episode nine for Disney!

Pirates of the Caribbean
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" will be the fifth installment in the series. While I agree that this is a money-making franchise, the quality of this franchise is beginning to fade for me. I loved the first movie, felt the two sequels were okay, but simply tried to do way too much at one time. Please, don't get me started on "On Stranger Tides" though, yeesh. This will hit theaters in July 2017.

Captain America: Civil War Footage Description!
Read and Enjoy! From Ain't It Cool News: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/72735

"The down to earth feel of Winter Soldier was evident from frame one. There's some kind of op Cap is on with Falcon and Black Widow. Falcon is on a rooftop in a fancy new duds (red and black outfit), Cap is peering out a window and Black Widow is in civilian clothes sitting at a table outside a cafe.
”Eyes on target, folks.” - Cap. They're looking at a particularly heavy vehicle in traffic. Falcon launches Red Wing, which is not a bird like in the comics but a winged drone that he can control. It flies under the car, gets readings and pings the guys inside. A battering ram is detected. Bad news all around.
The heroes converge on the car, disable it and Crossbones comes out with some goons. The first thing he does is throw some kind of sticky bomb on Cap's shield, forcing cap to throw it up and out of harm's way, so the rest of the fight is hand to hand. Falcon blocks bullets with his metal wings as he fights some guys, Widow does her running leap leg takedown things and Cap is focused on Crossbones, who is more than holding his own.
”This is for dropping a building on my face,” he growls as he punches Cap back into a brick wall. Crossbones raises a fist and a blade pops out. Cap blocks, knocks the gauntlet off of that hand and Crossbones answers with another blade on his left fist.
Cap pretty handily takes Crossbones out, helmet is knocked off and looks at Crossbones' disfigured face. The bad guy smiles. “You don't remember me, do you?” He mumbles something about “your pal, your buddy, your Bucky...” and we're quickly reintroduced to the Winter Soldier a few moments later. Before that we get a voice over and see official bureaucratic types (including a clean cut Martin Freeman) in government looking buildings. There's a voice over that was close to this:
”The world owes you an unpayable debt. While a great many people see you as a hero there are some who prefer the word vigilante. People are afraid.” I couldn't place the voice, but it might have been William Hurt.
Cap responds “This job... We try to save as many as we can. Sometimes that doesn't mean everybody.” That plays over some random destruction and post-battle imagery.
Then we find Bucky. His memory seems to have returned. “Do you know who I am?” - Cap “Your mom's name is Sarah and (with a smile) you used to wear newspapers in your shoes.”
That's when Stark is introduced.
”What would you call a group of enhanced individuals who inflict their will anywhere they choose?”
Cap: ”I know they're not perfect, but they're still the safest hands out there.”
Tony: “Sometimes I want to punch you in your perfect teeth. If we have no limitations, no boundaries, we're no better than the bad guys.”
The way the footage was cut that didn't come across so much as “I hate you and now we're going to fight,” but more an argument that goes from playful to deadly serious.
The footage did ramp up with the costumed heroes charging at other heroes. Looks like they're in an airport of some sort. I don't think we saw who was on the other side, but for sure Cap, Winter Soldier, Scarlett Witch and Hawkeye were on one side.
Hawkeye and Black Widow engage in a little fisticuffs. Hawkeye gets Black Widow on the ground. She says “We're still friends, right?” With a smile, Hawkeye responds: “Depends on how hard you hit me.” She smiles back and you get the feeling the fight is gonna continue.
There were some quick battle shots and a brief shot of Black Panther. His vibranium claws slide out of his finger tips and the crowd went bonkers.
They decided to end the footage on a comedic note. A van door is roughly slid open, revealing a sleeping Scott Lang. He wakes up and seems super happy to be there. He's starstruck by Cap. He shakes his hand and keeps shaking. And keeps shaking. And keeps shaking. “What an honor. I'm shaking your hand too long” (still doesn't stop shaking). Scarlet Witch is smiling behind him. He turns to her, while still shaking Cap's hand, “I know you, too. You're great.” Turns back to Cap. “Thinks for thanking of me...”
Sounds cornball, but it works. You know how likable Paul Rudd is and he oozes that all over this scene. Maybe I should have phrased that better..."



Jungle Book Poster
I can't wait to see what Jon Favreau does with his live action "Jungle Book" movie, due next year!


Overall, it sounds like it was a cool expo this year, for more on each of these stories, go here: http://www.aintitcool.com/

What do you all think of these developments?


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Captain America: Civil War, First Look at Black Panther


With "Captain America: Civil War" coming next year, there is already several factors that film features that has fans excited. It is the follow-up to arguably the best film in the MCU so far. It will see two heroes square off against each other in year that will remembered as the year heroes squared off against each other. It features an incredible ensemble cast which will include Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Paul Rudd, Martin Freeman, Emily VanCamp, Frank Grillo, Daniel Bruhl, Don Cheadle, and William Hurt. We will also see the introduction of Spider-Man into the MCU.

Another factor that has fans talking, and me personally excited is the introduction of the Black Panther. If you remember in "Avengers: Age of Ultron," the characters talked a great deal about a country called Wakanda and a resource called Vibranium. Vibranium is the metal that made Caps shield as well as Ultron's body. It is a metal mined from the country of Wakanda, which also happens to be Black Panther's home. Black Panther will have a stand-alone movie in 2018, but he is making his big screen debut next year. He will be played by Chadwick Boseman. 

Here are some early set photos which show us Black Panther in action. What is also interesting is that he sharing this scene with Bucky Barnes, aka The Winter Soldier. Why are Bucky and Black Panther together? Is Bucky chasing Black Panther or are they in some type of alliance? We have heard for months now that Black Panther really won't be taking anybody's side in the civil war, but will more of a third party, does that third party include Bucky?

Time will tell, for right now, check out the photos below.





The suit looks cool, the photos are pretty neat.

SOURCE:
http://www.comingsoon.net/movies/news/471199-first-look-at-black-panther-in-new-captain-america-civil-war-set-photos#/slide/1

The Hateful Eight Trailer


Any year with a new Quentin Tarantino movie is a good year.

This Christmas, we'll be getting a brand new Western from Tarantino himself.

If you're expecting another film in the vein of "Django Unchained" you can forget that. You can tell by this trailer, that "The Hateful Eight" is something else entirely. I have heard people speak of it as if it could be a stage play and I believe them. Telling from the trailer, it seems that nearly the entire movie will take place in the same location. This is a different style of movie we are used to seeing from Tarantino, so that alone is exciting.

Other than that, looks like a typical Tarantino movie, which isn't bad in my book. And yes, I actually do have a book ;).



I can't wait to see Tim Roth and Michael Madsen reunited with Tarantino once again. And I'll be patiently waiting to see how Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kurt Russell do with this material. Who else is excited?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Will Gene Wilder Step out of retirement?

"Young Frankenstein" remains to this day as one of my favorite films of all time.

I have wrote about it on this blog before, and its possible I will again. But ever since I watched this back in 6th grade, after picking my picks for in-school fantasy football pool, I fell in love with it. It was something that sent a chemical rush through my brain, completely rewiring my brain. The world certainly felt like it shifted after my first viewing of the movie. Now, that may sound awfully hyperbolistic, and for that I apologize. This is a comedy, the best of all time. Its also a parody, the best of all time. But when we attach ourselves to our favorites; whether its movies, or bands, or foods or hobbies or whatever, we don't much care what anybody else thinks. I am happy with my list of favorite films, and I am honored "Young Frankenstein" has sat so high on that list for so many years.

Part of the appeal for that is Gene Wilder, an actor I have admired for my entire life. My admiration for Wilder started young, one night when my brother introduced me to "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." I could a four hundred page book about my love for that movie, but I will say that Wilder was the driver of that vehicle, and he lent a lot of the success to that movie. Gene Wilder is one of the greatest actors who ever worked in the medium, creating some of the most memorable characters the history of cinema has to offer. It has been downright sad that we have seen so little of him recently, but I understand the need to retire.

In speaking of retirement, it just so seems that several reports are coming in and Gene Wilder may break out of retirement to do one last movie. He is being pursued by none other than Steven Freaking Spielberg. Apparently, the director and the actor have been meeting about a potential movie, or are going to meet in the near future. I don't care when they meet, I just know I have to see Gene Wilder again. 

What does Spielberg have up his sleeve? Right now, that's a little hazy. One report suggests an animated adaptation of "The BFG", another novel written by Roal Dahl (the guy who wrote "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"). I certainly hope this isn't it, because if Wilder is getting pulled out of retirement, I want to see him. I want him to guide my emotions, I want to see him swagger on the screen in real life, not just simply hear his voice. But hey, that's my own personal hang-up. Right now, I am just glad that this is a possibility, and hopefully it will become more.

SOURCE:
http://www.aintitcool.com/node/72651





White God Review

White God Review
I will never forget the day when my girlfriend texted me a picture of a half-Yorkshire Terrier, half-Maltese puppy. I won't forget it because on that summer, as I stared at my phone on my break of selling electronics at Wal-Mart, the dog I was looking at was going to ours. As apart of her present from graduating college, my girlfriend got a puppy, what she's always wanted. For the past three-ish years, Charlie has been ours. I have grown up with many dogs in my family's house before, but Charlie felt special because he belonged to us. I didn't have to share him with my parents or my brother, he is my girlfriends and he is mine. I have always loved all dogs, and finally help completely take care of one has only reinforced my love for these animals. I think these animals are amazing, they help rescue lives, they serve our country, they help cops capture criminals, they are are able to do what seems like countless tasks, and they truly are our best friends. Sadly, not everybody thinks like I do, and it seems that for every dog-lover out there, is a person who is willing heartlessly harm these wonderful animals, and this realization makes me very sad.

To call "White God," a "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" with dogs would be short-changing the merits of this movie. Yes, "White God" has lots in common with "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." Kind of. Sort of. Yes, it revolves around a dog who sees the ugly side of human-and-canine relationships. Yes, he begins a revolt against the canine oppressors. Yes, he has a love-sick owner who is desperately trying to find him. Honestly, that is where the similarities stop. 

What's fascinating about "White God" is that the 200 or so dogs used are all real dogs. There are no CGI dogs or any clever special effects anywhere. The scenes where hundreds of dogs are stampeding through the streets are all real dogs. This gives the film an undeniable authentic feel across the entire film. "White God" is not some kind of summer action blockbuster. This is a movie that actually has a lot on its mind. A movie that takes a stance against prejudice and authority. It is a movie that studies what means to be an outsider. As one dog's story is perfectly paralleled by his owner's life and how she tries to fit in and destroy herself out her misery of losing her best friend.

The movie is about Lili (Zsofia Psotta) and her half-breed mutt Hagen (Luke and Body). The two friends are inseparable, even after Lili's mom drops her off at her fathers doorstep after she accepts work in Australia. Lili's father Daniel (Sandor Zsoter), detests dogs and so does seemingly everybody living in his apartment complex. Once Daniel is faced with bringing the dog to the shelter or getting fined, Daniel abandons the Hagen on the street, while a distraught Lili does everything she can to find him again. Hagen's journey is quite harrowing, as he lives among stray dogs, trying not to be caught dog catchmen, surviving organized dog fights and the like. Make no mistake about it, sitting through all two hours of "White God" is an endurance test, especially if you have a soft spot for dogs. There is some unbearably terrible imagery involving dogs, and there are some very sad parts in the movie. While I couldn't help but get swept away by the craft of the movie, people who cry the instant a puppy dies in any story should be warned to stay away from this one. This isn't some kind of sentimental tale. This is a movie about what drives us to the people we love. What sets determination in our minds when the world is pushing us down. What it means to be an outsider. All of these themes are handled with tenderness and care. All the while this bizarre tale is unfolding in front of us.

What's amazing is how Hagen becomes a character. The dog trainers on set for this movie did their jobs tenfold. Hagen is a full fledged character in this movie, not some kind of device being used to set off a certain emotional response. We feel every little emotion we see pouring out of Hagen's eyes. Honestly, the same can be said about all the dogs we come across in the movie, such as the Jack Russell Terrier Hagen befriends or the Rottweiler who confronts Hagen during a particularly brutal stand-off. Director Kornel Mundruczo creates characters out of every single one of them, and what transpires is an experience unlike any other.

This isn't some Disney type tale and I'd love to push people to see this just to discuss the ending and what it means. The last forty-five minutes of the movie could have ended up as a joke, but the way the characters had been built up lead to a satisfying payoff once things get really crazy. I was trying to guess how this would finally conclude, and what I didn't expect was a crazy-calm and I am sure people will have different reactions once the credits start to roll. For anybody who has a love for this medium or wants to see the best movie to feature dogs in the last ten years, definitely check this out.

FINAL GRADE: A

Monday, August 10, 2015

True Story Review

True Story Review
In 2001, a New York Times writer named Mike Finkel loses his job over a story containing misguided research. Desperate to keep writing and provide for himself and his wife, every avenue he tries to go down only has him coming up short, no newspaper or magazine is going to touch him after the faulty article he wrote. Then, as if out of the blue, he gets a call from a writer in Oregon asking about an alleged killer Christian Longo, who stole Finkel's identity when he killed his entire family. Instead of being outright disgusted, Finkel is drawn to Longo, and he plans to write a story about why Longo did what he did. Longo wants to help co-write the piece, and the two men plan to write it as a book. Mike suddenly tumbles down a rabbit hole, and he eventually doesn't know which end is up.

This great material for a movie. In many ways, it could have been another movie to put on the shelf next to "The Silence of the Lambs" and movies of that nature. But despite the wicked source material, and despite involving Jonah Hill and James Franco, "True Story" never connects. Not completely at least. With the inclusion of Hill and Franco, this isn't some kind of parody of the true story. Hill and Franco are in it to be serious, and they commit to the material thoroughly. Taken as a whole, they both do good work. But at the same time, there is a bland quality to their work. Neither actor makes the material particularly exciting or intriguing, which is shocking since its James Franco and Jonah Hill we are talking about. Some people complain when an actor plays the same character over again, and it can be argued that Hill and Franco do that on a timely basis. But when something like "True Story" comes along, they fumble with it.

I suppose its not entirely their faults though. Director Rupert Goold puts together a script that is wobbly and underwhelming all the through. Never once is the material that exciting, never once is there a spark of inspiration or thrill during any moment of the movie. "True Story" is oddly regular, and for a film about a real guy who got his identity stolen and to get caught up in a murder mystery should feel pretty exciting. Its not though, its tedium, inept and boring.

I think Felicity Jones does solid work here, and there is big moment between her and Franco that is really delightful. Had the movie spun on that type of energy the whole way through, we may have had something here. I also like the music composed by Marco Beltrami that sets the mood in just the right way. There is plenty of good here, it just doesn't coast on it for an entire movie. The script was not there in the beginning and all the extras in the world can't mold a lazy story into something marvelous.


FINAL GRADE: C+


Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Essentials- "Stand By Me" (1986)

The Essentials-#101

Stand By Me
I have been one of Stephen King's biggest fans all of my life, and I can never completely grasp why so few filmmakers have been able to adapt his work successfully. While I understand that he is a very weird writer, and there needs to be some incredible thought processes going on in order to even attempt to adapt half the stories he's brainstormed, that's not an excuse for me. There is no such thing as a bad idea in movies, it depends on context and execution. It just seems nobody seems to grasp those two important factors when attempting something by Stephen King, and that has bothered me for quite some time now. 

Maybe "Stand By Me" worked because its one of those rare King stories that never goes completely off-the-rails in terms of storytelling, theme and content. Maybe since its so grounded in reality, it is able to imprint on an audience better. Or maybe, somebody was finally able to tap into what makes Stephen King so great in the first place, and used all of it to their advantage. I am not really sure, I just know that "Stand By Me" is something that hits my sweet spot every time I watch it. "Stand By Me" plays like a nostalgic time machine. A journey to a time period in which I never got to experience, and watching people I will never be able to meet. Even though I was never living in the time these characters do, that doesn't mean I don't identify with them. They go through several human emotions in this movie, such as want, desire, need, things we all feel everyday. 

The story is pretty simple. Four best friends Chris (River Phoenix), Vern (Jerry O'Connell), Teddy (Corey Feldman) and Gordie (Wil Wheaton) hear about a dead body on the outskirts of the town they live in, and since they have never seen a dead body before, they would like to go out and see it. They think that if they find it first and report it to the authorities, they will be heroes. So the entire movie is the journey they embark on to find this body. While also competing with an older gang of ruthless boys, lead by Ace (Kiefer Sutherland).

Its a great showcase for several great actors who grew up to be great. I can't believe that Wheaton is pretty non-existent these days, because he is the heart and soul of the group. I know he went on to act a lot in the upcoming years after this, but his presence today is abysmal. Its really too bad, because he really stood out in this movie. As did River Phoenix, the frienship between Chris and Gordo is the glue to this group of friends, as well as our eyes through this daring journey. If the actors were not up for the part, the movie would have failed. But Phoenix nails everything he was given to do, and its a shame we lost Phoenix so young, because who knows what he would have done now. Jerry O'Connell and Corey Feldman are both pretty funny and Sutherland is twisted in this movie. I also like the subtle yet sincere work by John Cusack and Richard Dreyfus.

What I also love is that this looks like the landscape you would find in rural America in the 1950's. I love each song in the movie and it perfectly highlights the themes, moods and emotions of the movie. I love the radio shows throughout the movie. I love every old-school style and costume in the movie. When I say this feels like a time machine, I mean it with every sense of the word. The team behind this movie embraced the time period, and it really shows here.

So if you've been bitterly disappointed with most Stephen King adaptations, trust me, you won't be with this one.


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Fantastic Four Review

Fantastic Four Review
There is a scene at the end of "Fantastic Four," a scene right before the credits begin to roll. In that one scene, it feels like everything is coming together. The characterization of these superheroes seems to be the best that its ever been, compared to the series started ten years ago. The actors sell the moment flawlessly, and the writing is superb. It feels like an understanding of these characters, and just when the life of this movie is about rejuvenate itself, the credits roll, feeling like some sort of cruel joke. As I walked out of the theater today, I thought to myself, does 20th Century Fox even care? If the answer is no, why are did they even bother rebooting this franchise? Are they really so stuck in greed mode against Disney that they are going to make a movie about characters they clearly do not understand?

Before we get too much further, let me say one thing. If I had to choose between Tim Story's "Fantastic Four" movies from ten years ago, or this new movie, I'd choose this new movie. "Fantastic Four" is a slight improvement, but its an improvement nonetheless. There is great acting work done by cast that is clearly giving it all. There are some character beats that fans of the comic book will absolutely love. But taken as a whole, "Fantastic Four" is another letdown. It is another example of what not to do in order to get these characters right. Honestly, I don't get why its so hard. Four scientists get radiated by cosmic rays, they come back to Earth with extraordinary powers. Even though they are different, they are still a family and they work as a team in order to save the day. Seems like pretty simple stuff and prime material for a good superhero movie, doesn't it? So why does 20th Century Fox continually mess it up?

"Fantastic Four," in a lot of ways, is the movie many people claimed "Man of Steel" of being. Its an exercise of brood and somber overtones for no apparent reason. Its a superhero movie with zero fun or excitement. It's a movie that is tonally confused, not understanding if it wants to be a science fiction thriller, a superhero movie or a horror movie. Its made clear that the studio has no idea what makes these characters special and what makes them unique. Having a story which involves the government turning this foursome into weapons is painfully familiar and absolutely unneeded. Dr. Doom (Toby Kebbell), who is one of the most popular and most dangerous villains in all of Marvel comics comes off as a clumsy joke and he is featured in the lamest climax in any superhero movie so far. This is not the Fantastic Four and that is, once again, definitely not Dr. Doom.

The movie takes its ques more from the Ultimate Marvel storyline. As Reed Richards (Miles Teller), grows up, he dreams of inventing things that will change the world and with the assistance of Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), he invents a teleportation machine. This breakthrough leads him to a internship at Baxter Institute, where he works under Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) and his adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara). Dr. Storm is working toward inter-dimensional travel, and with the help of Richards, he is able to pull it off. Reed, Sue, Grimm, Sue's brother Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) and their associate Victor von Doom (Kebbell) all travel to another dimension in secret to explore it before anybody else does. Once in the dimension, some bad stuff happens, they get powers, they go back to Earth and everything from this point is a depressing, lifeless story. 

Lots of people like to complain about light and dark in comic book stories. I feel it really depends on the character. Both Marvel and DC have their fair share of light and dark stories. In fact, some of the best Marvel crossover events were bittersweet. The heroes saved the day, but a cost was paid. Marvel does like to be more broad and swashbuckling with their storytelling, and Disney has been really embracing those notions, sometimes a little too much (I am looking at you, "Age of Ultron"). But what I hope we will all understand that it need to tell a dark or light story should depend upon the character. Batman works better with a more serious tone, and it would be silly to make a Punisher movie with him cracking silly jokes while he blows the heads off of mafioso. A serious, brooding "Fantastic Four" movie simply doesn't work. 

I will say that Miles Teller surprised me here. I didn't think he'd be able to pull off Reed Richards, and I was sorely mistaken. Teller really nails the awkward brainiac points of  the character, and when Richards emerges as the leader of this new super team, it feels natural. In fact, everybody does really good work here. Both Mara and Jordan create a sibling relationship that feels real. Toby Kebbell is actually really good as Dr. Doom, and its killing me that he didn't have a better script to work with, because he would have ran with it much more if he did. The studio completely wasted one of comics most treasured villains and his plot at the end is laugh-conducing. Also, if you are not careful, you could miss the entire action scene at the very end of the movie if you have to use the restroom.

I am shocked, because I feel like Josh Trank was the perfect guy for this job. He made one of the greatest superhero movies in "Chronicle." If the studio got in his way during the production of this, then that is a massive shame. There is a reason why so many hardcore Marvel fans are screaming for Fox to give the rights back to Disney, and once "Fantastic Four" tanks this week, which I am sure it will, then Fox may have to pony up. After two failed attempts at these characters, they need to realize that they just don't understand the possibilities with these characters and how they can make a good movie. Holding on to them out of greed is immature and potentially dangerous, and I assume they will begin to get that once they see weekend numbers on Monday morning.

With that said, I can see pieces of the actual Trank film. I believe those moments are the best moments in this movie. Whether or not Fox is to blame or not, "Fantastic Four" is still a disappointment. There is still a great "Fantastic Four" movie out already, its called "The Incredibles." That Pixar movie gets the style and tone of the Fantastic Four much better than any Fantastic Four film could. If you want my advice, stay in tonight and pop that in, it will be a much more entertaining evening for you.

FINAL GRADE: C-