Friday, January 29, 2016

Overlooked Film of the Week- "What We Do In The Shadows"

Overlooked Film of the Week- #102

What We Do In The Shadows
How many vampire movies will be made? How does their popularity fluctuate? What draws us to vampires and werewolves and other mythic creatures? Do we find them intriguing or are they just a backdrop to greater and bigger ideas? I think its the latter, these characters survive through the time because artists and writers find new ways to keep them relevant. That wouldn't happen if the storytelling they were involved in didn't matter to some degree. We keep seeing these creatures because people are finding innovative and enriching ways of telling stories with them. You maybe like me and you can't stand "Twilight," but that doesn't mean it hasn't meant something to millions of other people around the world.

"What We Do In The Shadows" is a mockumentary comedy about a film crew capturing the days in the lives of a group of vampires who all live together. The main vampires are Vladislav (Jermaine Clement), Viago (Taika Waititi) and Deacon (Jonny Brugh). The entire movie revolves around these vampires, all hundreds and hundreds of years old. They are trying to settle into the lifestyles of this modern world as well as keeping their identities as vampires a secret. Its not that hard, they can fly, they can morph into bats, they have mind-control powers and just about every other power a vampire has ever had over the ages of the lore. The film also touches base when they bite a man named Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) and he joins the group. It brings a completely different style and norm to the group as this modern man becomes a vampire. It shows just how bringing a man from today into an ancient secret group can have both pros and cons.

What I instantly loved about the movie is that clearly Clement and Waititi, who also wrote and directed the movie, really did their homework. They clearly absorbed the Universal horror films, they clearly read everything they could find on vampire mythology and Vlad The Impaler. There are references to "Nosferatu" and "Twilight." There was a gag that referenced "The Lost Boys" that was so grand that I smiled big from ear to ear. "What We Do In The Shadows" is a celebration of everything that comes out at night and has sharp teeth. But its not just a comedy taking shots at easy targets. Its really a compliment to this medium. The movie takes on a story of its own, and finds another innovative and unique way of telling stories with vampires in the backdrop. Something that is offbeat and funny and even sometimes full of surprises.

I think the acting work done by Clement, Waititi, Brugh and Gonzalez-Macuer is all superb. Each of these actors is a true discovery and I can't wait to look through the filmography of each of these guys and keep them on my radar. They handle the story-line well. They create identifiable characters. They have near-perfect comedic timing. This is a very weird movie, and they definitely embrace the weird and turn into something hip. Everyone is so good that I really can't say I have a favorite character, nobody really jumps out at me more than anybody else. There are moments in this movie where everybody shines, everybody has that one perfect moment. When I can't pick a favorite character, I find that to be a masterstroke of character creation.

But the genius of "What We Do In The Shadows" is that even though it references just about everything vampire, it uses those references and those parodies to tell an original story. Many have tried at that, and many have failed. So when something this fresh hits, its kind of a miracle. This is proof that no matter if you make a movie about vampires, aliens, werewolves, fairys or Minotaur's who eat cement for lunch, if you write a good story with rich characters, people will most likely love your movie.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

2015 Award Circuit: Carol Review

2015 Award Circuit: Carol Review
The 2015 Award Circuit will be a collection of reviews of films that are in some kind of award runnings within the months of January through March. Not only will this prepare me for the big night (AKA Oscar Night), but it will also allow me to catch up with some of the critically acclaimed films I missed out on in 2015. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy watching and writing them.

To simply call "Carol" a LGBT film or anything of the sort would totally be wasting its merits. Yes, it is a movie about two women who slowly fall for each other, but much like "Brokeback Mountain" a decade ago, there is much more going on here than meets the eye.

Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) is a gorgeous and elegant woman who is going through a harsh divorce from her husband Harge (Kyle Chandler). Not only that, but because of the separation, she is fighting for custody of her daughter. One day during the Christmas season, Carol makes a purchase with a shop girl named Therese (Rooney Mara). They make small talk, seem to like each other. Then Carol accidentally leaves her gloves on Therese's table. Therese mails the gloves back to Carol that same night. Carol and Therese begin to meet more frequently and there is something that keeps drawing them back together, to discover more of each other. Yes, somewhat of a romance flourishes between the two.

I think the romance in "Brokeback Mountain" came from a loneliness between the two men. In "Carol," it seems stemmed from a particular need. Therese is in a state of uncertainty, there is a man who has proposed to her, but she doesn't know if she wants to commit. Meeting Carol makes her emotions, her wants and her needs that much more confusing. Carol is suffering from the ugliness of her divorce, and while that put an impossible amount of strain on her, there are also memories of her past that point to several different avenues. Perhaps Carol isn't who we think she is, or who her husband thought she was. If "Carol" is about anything, it it about uncertainty and how we use that to navigate our emotions and our dreams. We try to find out who we are and what we really want out of our lives. We want to figure out the type of person we are going to be, and once we figure it out, we embrace it. That is where "Carol" heart truly lies.

As much as it is a optimistic movie, it is a movie that really embraces the 1950's. The sets, the costumes, the music, the cars...all give the movie hypnotic glow. "Carol" feels just as much a time machine as it does an emotional think piece. Not only that, but it explores some of the norms and attitudes of the era without flinching, which is exactly what the film should have done. The feelings  towards homosexuality, towards women and their place in our society, towards being clinically insane is all tested here, and it is rough reminder of what our society looked like at one point. The filmmakers never pull back, they never pander. They tell the story with an authentic glimmer of imagination.

But what really makes "Carol" click is the beautiful relationship created by both Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. Their performances are the glue to the entire story, and I am not surprised at all that both of these actresses are up for Oscars next month. They are both profound and subtle and earn every piece of their relationship with each other. I liked that their relationship is a slow burn, and it takes a lot of the movie before its evident that Carol and Therese are into each other. Relationships, whether intimate or friendly, take time to nurture and when they are romantic, you need time to go over your feelings, making sure they are what they appear to be. "Carol" celebrates that time and relishes is, creating something that looks and feels believable. I also give credit to Kyle Chandler, who delivers another great performance in a career of great performances. For any fans of Fox's "Gotham" series, Corey Michael Smith who plays Edward Nygma on the show, makes a brief appearance in the movie. He's very good here too.

I enjoyed that "Carol" wasn't about two women fall in love for the sake of it. There is real passion and real drama in the story that unravels. It is brought to life by two stellar performances under a very realistic 1950's backdrop. There is much to appreciate here.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The 5th Wave Review

The 5th Wave Review
I would like to state upfront that I have not read The 5th Wave book. Honestly, I can't keep up with all of these young adult novels being written at a massive rate. There is all sorts of other stuff I read on top of all the movies I watch, and so lots of stuff goes underscored. Even if I did have the time, I don't know if I am the target audience for these books. But there is no denying out popular they are, since we seem to have a couple of them adapted into movies every year. I want it to be clear that I haven't read the books before getting into this review.

This movie starts, as all these young adult stories do, with a girl. She's a high school student named Cassie (Chloe Grace Moretz), she's a typical high school girl who is dealing with typical high school things. That's up until ships start showing up in the skies. These ships belong to aliens, and with most alien movies, they didn't come to play nice. These aliens, known as Others, attack the earth in four waves. They set off an EMP that destroys all the worlds technology, they create several natural disasters which destroys all islands and coastal cities, and then they design a modified version of the bird flu which kills thousands. The fourth wave involves the Others coming to Earth, but in human hosts. There is no telling who is an Other and who is not.

I enjoyed how "The 5th Wave" reinvented the alien invasion movie. In a time where alien invasions have been plentiful onscreen, "The 5th Wave" actually feels kind of fresh. The opening moments are actually quite solemn because of how matter-of-fact everything is. It feels realistic, it feels authentic and it feels frightening. There is a realistic anesthetic to the first half the movie that I greatly admired. There is a scene where a bunch of adults get into an argument with the military which goes south and the military ends up killing the adults. The moment is effective because it never feels like it is coming out of a Hollywood movie.

I wish I could say the rest about the film, because this feels so different from the average alien invasion. For a little while, I was tricked into believing that this was going to be more than the average young adult story as well. Sadly, after Cassie gets separated from her family (in the silliest way imaginable as the military randomly decided to separate the children from their families.) and she's on her own, things go south. The rest of the movie is determined to follow the same young adult story cliches. Cassie has to become a slight survivalist in order to live, she wants to find her brother Sam (Zackary Arthur), she receives help from Evan Walker (Alex Roe) and they fall in love. Sam is on a military base in order to train to fight the Others. Sam is there with Ben Parish (Nick Robinson) who just so happens to be his sisters' former crush. So of course there is an awkward moment when Cassie, Evan and Ben are all together in a scene. Could there be a love triangle? Maybe, we'll have to wait for a sequel.

The thing is, I don't know if I really want a sequel. "The 5th Wave" has a lot more in common with "Divergent" than "The Hunger Games." Look, you may have enjoyed the book, but whatever made the book enjoyable is not translating to screen properly. I can buy Chloe Moretz as a badass chick way better than most young actresses who land these roles, simply because I loved her in the "Kick-Ass" movies. But the character she was hired to play for the rest of the movie shoves her down, mostly due to such a sloppy script. Arthur, Roe and Robinson are fine, but they are just cliched characters. Liev Schreiber and Maria Bello play two military commanders who are training children to fight the Others. They are both very good, but we've seen this type of work from both of them before, its not particularly illuminating here.

Some might say that there is twist in this movie, but if you are paying attention, you can telegraph it from a mile away. Had the movie been smarter about the secrets that lie in the movie, I think I may have had a better time with "The 5th Wave." I also think I would have had a better time with this movie if it did a better job breaking away from the young adult cliches. We have seen the formula so many times now that a film has to stick out now in order to mean anything. Just going through the motions may grant you a hefty box office, but that doesn't mean your franchise is built to last. We are seeing the same thing happen with young adult stories that we saw with the fantasy and superhero genres in the early to mid 2000's. "Lord of the Rings" and the first "Harry Potter" made box office bank, so Hollywood adapted the shit out of every fantasy book they could get, with bland results. "X-Men" and "Spider-Man" also made box office bank, so Hollywood adapted every superhero they could get, with bland results. If an idea in Hollywood catches momentum, the studios will squeeze every penny they can get out of it, and story and character won't add into it. If you want to adapt a young adult novel into a movie, go right ahead. But why must history repeat itself? Don't pander, make something original. Make your movie stand out in front of the rest of the crowd. Approach your adaptation from a different angle. Watch all the "Hunger Games" and "Divergents" there are out there and pay attention to how they fail and succeed. I don't mind these adaptations, but my patience for them is running thin.


TV REVIEW: "Agent Carter (Episode Three, Season Two)



After learning about zero matter last week and the shady energy corporation Isodyne, Peggy Carter is hot on the trail. She enlists the help of Howard Stark who is oddly making movies at this time. Funny, movie-making never seemed like something in Stark's resume and I figured we would have had more information in the movies. But oh well, so he's making movies when Peggy comes for his help. She is feeling really guilty about Wilkes' death and she wants to know more about the zero matter and how its tied to social club Senator Chadwick belongs to. The symbol for this social club looks similar to the HYDRA variations we saw earlier in the current season of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and it seems like this social club could be connected to our favorite terrorist organization. We will have to wait and see though. Peggy goes undercover at the club and tries to bug the place, which goes south. This social club has very top-of-the-line technology blocking all bugs.

This stunt gets her thrown off the case by Thompson, and its the second of many examples this episode which explores how bad women had it during this time period. I am glad that this season is really embracing these sexist ideals this season, simply because it was so brushed over last season. I have been kind of bothered by the lack of social and political commentaries by the Marvel movies as a whole, simply because that was so relevant in the comic books. I always harbored the suspicion that being owned by Disney, almost everything that made the world realistic was given a cutesy-poo gloss. Here, this season seems to have the opportunity to really explore the issues that plagued this time period and I hope the season embraces them.

On a brighter note, Peggy seems to be working vigilante style, bristling at the rules and circumstances shes been given. That's no surprise though, and I am also glad to learn that Wilkes is still alive. Whether that is a good omen or a bad omen, I will be interested to see how his character plays out. I liked him in the premier last week. We also got our first great look at Whitney Frost's new powers after surviving her encounter with zero matter. She scares herself almost to death, and it will be cool to see where her character goes from here. Peggy figured out that Frost is connected to Isodyne, which will put her on route to meeting Frost again very soon. This season seems to be moving much faster and at a much better pace then last year, which is a good sign if you ask me.

Oh and the FBI agent Kirkwood Smith plays? Yeah, he's connected to the Chadwick and his social club. So he's probably going to be another villain for the season. We shall see though.

What did everyone else think?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Darkseid in "Batman vs. Superman?"

Ever since major marketing began for "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice," there has been a lot of chatter around the beach scene. The one where Batman is wearing a trench-coat. He fighting men armed with machine guns and wearing Superman's iconic symbol on their arms. There is a scene where Superman swoops down into a hangar and removes a disabled Batman's mask from his face. There is also a moment in the recent theatrical trailer where what appear to be gargoyles flying in to help Batman.

Its something that has sparked lots of chatter since its showing and I have discussed the beach scenes with friends quite a bit. If you ask me? I think its a dream. Unless Batman and Superman literally amass entire armies of followers for this brawl, then I am convinced its a dream. I bet that Bruce Wayne is having some kind of nightmare involving Superman, because clearly he won't trust him in the beginning of the movie. That would be the best explanation I think.

A new image popped up online today, and I am sure it will send DC fans into a frenzy. In "Dawn of Justice," we are already scheduled to meet Alfred Pennyworth, Lex Luthor, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, maybe Flash, maybe Cyborg and what appears to be Doomsday. Its a hefty cast, but today's image points to someone even bigger. The biggest of big bad's in the DC Universe. The DC answer to Marvel's Thanos...Darkseid.

Check out the image below:
The symbol Batman is looking at is Darkseid's symbol. It would really be nuts if Darkseid was introduced in this movie as well. It will be interesting to see the revelation this points to. I wonder how many people will play the compare and contrast game as Thanos is already well on his way on the Marvel side of things. But that is most definitely Darkseid's symbol, so I have a feeling he is coming. I figure he'll be the bad guy the Justice League unites to battle in the two-part Justice League movie coming out in a few years. But could we see him as early as March. 

If Bruce really is dreaming, I wonder if its a dream similar to what Thor had in "Avengers: Age of Ultron." A kind of bad omen if you will.

We shall see, what does everybody think of this?


Ride Along 2 Review

Ride Along 2 Review
In 2014, I saw and wrote a review for "Ride Along," an action, cop, comedy starring Ice Cube and Kevin Hart. "Ride Along" was a film I would have liked just fine, had the movie been a little less ordinary. I felt the best efforts from both Ice Cube and Kevin Hart were wasted and the script was so pedestrian that it pretty much didn't matter. I like Ice Cube and I like Kevin Hart. Ice Cube has starred in some of my favorite movies and he always does good work, whether the movies are good, bad, indifferent. He's one of those actors you can always rely on. I recently watched some Kevin Hart stand-up, and he's just a stitch. He is very capable of humorous material and he can make some very blank moments in something shine bright. So yeah, I like these guys, I want them to do good work.

As I called the first "Ride Along" a comedic "Training Day," "Ride Along 2" is more of a "Hangover Part II." It is a completely unnecessary sequel to a movie that never warranted a sequel to begin with.The movie is a complete water tred of the last movie, except it tries way too hard to fit the "Ride Along" template from last time. Ben (Hart) isn't a student of law in this movie, he's a full fledged cop now, and the way they fit him into the story is just a little ludicrous. As is the way the movie goes out of its way to be just like the original.

The thing here is, the original wasn't that stellar. If this sequel really wanted to be something, it would have tried something different completely. I bet Ice Cube and Kevin Hart would have been game, and believe me when I say that they both try to make this count. Like I said above, Hart makes some stupid moments in this movie highlights, buts not enough. Going through the motions for some quick cash is a waste of Cube and Hart's efforts, and its a waste of audience's time. Once again, a great cast is assembled, featuring Olivia Munn, Ken Jeong, Benjamin Bratt, Glenn Powell, Bruce McGill, T.I. and Tyreese Gibson and they are all equally wasted. Its just too much like the original, Cube and Hart don't get along, there is a case they are hot on and they hurt more than they help, Cube and Hart argue, they get thrown off the case, they go after it anyway, they save the day. You could have called it a mile away.

Had the original been good, I may have liked this movie more. But it wasn't, which is why I scratched my head at the idea of seeing this get a sequel. Director Tim Story doesn't really seem that interested in making things better. Heck, he doesn't seem interested in going the normal sequel root and making things bigger, badder and crazier. "Ride Along 2" feels like a car stuck in neutral. It doesn't go anywhere, and given the cast involved, it could have been better than the first.


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Diablo Review

Diablo Review
I am always curious about actors who are the children of other actors. I like to watch them to see how much of their parents they have in them, and also how much of their own style and personality goes into their own roles. Watching Tom Hanks and Colin Hanks side by side is definitely interesting, because I feel their filmography are absolutely nothing alike. I don't think anybody has ever become a carbon copy of their parents. I think the same can be said about Scott Eastwood. He's appeared here and there so far, but I bet 2016 will be the year he makes his big mark. He's set to appear in "Suicide Squad" this summer and if he sticks out in that ensemble, he could surely score the role of Han Solo. The thing is, I am not sure "Diablo" was the best way to open the year.

"Diablo" caught my eye because its a Western. I love a good, old-fashioned Western. I also loved the fact that Scott Eastwood was in it, because let's face it, he probably absorbed all the great Westerns his father starred in growing up. I definitely wasn't expecting "A Fistful of Dollars" with "Diablo," but I was expecting something cool, something daring and something kick-ass. It starts off promising, like several Westerns do. A group of bandits burn the home of a man, nearly kill his horse and kidnap his wife. So he goes on a long walk down the road for revenge and rescue. Seems pretty cool, huh?

Well sadly, from there, "Diablo" isn't much of a movie at all. There is a beautiful cinematography to it, and the musical score isn't bad. I am just not sure I get what I am watching. First of all, I get really lost by the constant collection of familiar actors who just appear then never return. We see Tzi Ma, Walton Groggins, Danny Glover, Adam Beach, and Joaquim de Almeida. But they just show up for a scene or too and then are gone. It doesn't fit into the story in any sort of way. It just feels like scenes that say "hey, I am that guy from that movie! Look at me!" Then they are gone. Walton Groggins is as good as ever, but his character seems rehashed from "Justified" and "Django Unchained." Plus if you guess what purpose his character serves, you'll be bored by the rest of the movie.

Yeah, there is something up with Groggins' character, and he is linked in a specific way to Eastwood's character. But the revelation hurts the film rather than helps it, and finding out the revelation lands with a hollow dud. The thing is, they make it incredibly obvious that the revelation exists and they pretty much make it easy for you to guess. I suppose we weren't supposed to be surprised by anything in the movie, yet it was still directed like we were. 

What's weird about "Diablo" is that it feels like a horror movie at the end, and I don't want to feel intensified or depressed by a Western. I want to feel retribution, I want to feel like I just got home from an adventure. I want to feel that adventure. I want to see a good man get his revenge. I don't want the final moments of a Western to feel like a cowboy version of a slasher movie. Which is what "Diablo" does.

The worst thing about it is that I feel like I don't get anything off of Eastwood. He maybe Clint's son, but he's got to earn it as a performer. This was his first big lead role, and it feels like he isn't in it much. He has one of those characters that just gives looks, and walks around solemn. But the moments he does talk are glowingly bad. If he wants to become a huge up-and-coming actor, he's going to have to do better than this.

The best part of the movie? Its pretty damn short, so at least I was done with this mess pretty much from when it began.


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Suicide Squad Second Trailer

Yeah, whoever thought that DC wouldn't make it for being too serious compared to Marvel shouldn't have anything to worry about. I found little pockets of humor in the latest "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice" trailer. And this new "Suicide Squad" trailer? Not to be taken seriously at all.

It doesn't matter if there is humor or not, Warner Bros. is creating a different identity and style with their movies, and that's pretty clear in this trailer. While its pretty damn exciting to see the DC universe come to life, its in a totally different style compared to Marvel. This franchise will have its own life, its own mood, its own themes, it will not just be a redux of what Marvel is doing. Honestly, its the best decision they could have made.

Whats cool about this trailer? Basically everything. Leto is going to be one hell of a Joker, mark my words. And Margot Robbie has become Harley Quinn. No, she doesn't play her well, she is her. Like RDJ to Iron Man and Mickey Rourke to Marv, she was born for this role. I think Will Smith will be charmingly awesome as Deadshot and Jai Courtney is a pleasant surprise. This movie looks like it will be a relentless action extravaganza and I can't wait. I am interested to see how DC pulls off dropping the audience in the middle of this universe, instead of going the origin route like Marvel did. Will they be able to get the audience to buy into this world that already has a rough history? I will be interested to see how they do it.

I can't wait to start seeing these superhero movies, 2016 needs to go hyper-speed.




I reviewed the entire first season of "Agent Carter" last year, it gave me something to do on Tuesday evenings as I was waiting around for "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." to come back. I thought the first season was overall strong, but didn't live up to "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." I thought that out of all the comic book shows, Marvel or DC, it was at the very bottom for me last year. Well, I take that back, I enjoyed this much more than "Gotham." It felt very long for a short season, story arcs drew out past the point of stagnation. I figured it really took its time to get going, and on a shorter schedule, that can hurt the show rather than help it. But I liked Hayley Atwell and I liked lots of the energy of the show. I am glad to be seeing this new season.

Tonight's two hour premier certainly started with a bang. We see a woman walk into a bank with a familiar red hat, we think its Peggy Carter. But its not, its Dottie Underwood (Bridget Regan), Peggy's arch-nemesis who got away at the end of last season. She is holding up a bank, but this was a Soviet spy, is there more to this stick up? The thing is, the SSR has beat them to the punch and waiting for Dottie in the bank's vault is Peggy Carter, and a mano-ah-mano cat fight ensues. Its all well-staged work and it was a great way to open an episode. Peggy brings Dottie back to the SSR for interrogation. Peggy finds a mysterious pin with a somewhat familiar looking symbol on it. Its apparently the only thing Dottie wanted, but what does it mean?

Of course we won't get into that on the first episode. Peggy is asked by Chief Jack Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) to go to Los Angeles to assist West Coast SSR Chief Sosa (Enver Gjokaj) in a mysterious case. Yes, Sosa was the half-crippled agent who may have had a thing for Peggy last season, and they certainly play up those sparks this time. Not a lot though, a lake in LA has frozen in the middle of summer, and there is a body in a block of ice right next to the frozen lake. What is causing this? Carter's investigation leads to Dr. Jason Wilkes (Reggie Austin) who works for Isodyne Energy, run by the eccentric Calvin Chadwick (Currie Graham). As you might have guessed Isodyne is fooling around with something they don't quite understand and yep, Chadwick is dirty. Dr. Wilkes maybe dirty too, I can't really tell. But its pretty clear that Wilkes and Carter may share a romance this season. The moments when Wilkes flirts with Carter feels natural and quirky and completely realistic and they share some good moments together. 

We learn that Isodyne is working on what is called zero energy, an endless absorbing substance which makes anything in its orbit vanish without a trace. We may know as zero energy right now the darkforce, a substance that powered many people in the Marvel comic books. It has been confirmed that this season will connect with November's "Doctor Strange" and they weren't kidding. It will be amazing how its gets done. It has already been absorbed by Chadwick's mistress Whitney Frost (Wynn Everett) and if you know comics, you know who that is already. So it will be interesting how they use it for this season of the show.

Meanwhile, Dottie is handed over to the FBI and Thompson is visited by an old friend in the bureau named Vernon. Vernon is played by Kurtwood Smith and I find that to be as awesome as awesome could get. I have a feeling that the SSR will become SHIELD by the end of the season. The conversation between Thompson and Vernon feels that way, how SSR is no longer relevant in a post-WWII world. I think its pretty clear what they will be setting up here, and according to me, its about damn time. After this first season, the SSR is pretty pointless so it makes sense for it to become SHIELD now. I am also guessing that Dottie is ripe to escape, and that Dottie will become the Grant Ward of this show, that famous yet annoying villain who will never die or go away. I don't know if that is a curse or blessing yet, we will have to wait and see.

The first two hours of season two were quite exciting. I think it fired up faster than last season which is good. It certainly has me excited for some big stories this season. Hayley Atwell looks great and her chemistry with James D'Arcy is once again splendid. Edwin Jarvis has a wife now, and she is a great character unto herself. I can't wait to see that dynamic play out more. Overall, off to better start than last time.

What did everyone else think?

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Real Problem With The Academy Awards

It was another controversial weekend that just ended. But I was expecting that, after The Academy drops their annual Oscar nominations, it always spurs controversy. The Academy is known for leaving glaring omissions on their ballots, and I was prepared for the worst. I was thinking about gathering my thoughts and writing a piece about this years surprises and snubs on the ballot, but something else happened. This year's ceremony seems to be shrouded in a different kind of controversy, and I have already talked this over with friends. I wasn't expecting to blog about it, because my feelings towards this will get a little political and I hate getting political on a personal blog. But I feel like this can't be ignored. Especially since there are two celebrities willing to boycott the Oscars because of their beliefs.

I am speaking, of course, about the diversity (or lack thereof) in this year's Oscar nominations.

It seems like lots of people were talking about how so many African American artists were left out of the nominations in all categories this year, and linked this to an abundance of white voters in the Academy. Okay, I can understand some people would have wanted to see more diversity in the categories. After all, "Concussion," "Straight Outta Compton," "Creed" and "Beasts of No Nation" are just four of the several movies released in 2015 that had good performances by African American artists. So why shouldn't the Academy recognize them? Why isn't the Academy more diverse with who it includes? I get it. But today really set me off. Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett-Smith plan to boycott and get others to boycott the Oscars because they are apparently too white. To that I say no, nada, balderdash. From a woman whose husband has been nominated for Oscars on more than one occasion, she should have known better. Are these two people really that desperate to be relevant again?

I think the Oscars are many things, but what they are not is racist.

Now I get some of the grievances brought up over the weekend. Do I think the Academy could benefit from being more diverse? Sure. I think diversity is a good thing for any business and any institution. Diversity means more knowledge and more passion from a different angle, I love it. I get it. But how exactly has the Oscars not been diverse? I would ask that of Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett-Smith, how are the Oscars not being diverse? Simply because no black performers are up for any of the awards this year? Did Mrs. Smith forget that her husband has been nominated several times in the past? Have they both forgot that Sidney Piotier, Hattie McDaniel, Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jennifer Hudson, Mo'Nique, Hallie Berry, Lupita N'yongo, Forest Whitaker and Morgan Freeman have all won Oscars in the past? Most of those actors have been nominated several times before their wins and several times after. The diversity doesn't stop there, Jewish People, Polish People, Italian People, Mexican People, Asian People, Indian People, and Spanish People have either been nominated or won Oscars in major categories. So again, I ask the question to Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett-Smith, how are the Oscars too white? The president of the Academy is a black woman and the host is Chris Rock this year, is that not enough?

I think what is upsetting these two celebrities is the lack of black performers in any of the categories. Its not about diversity really, its about an under-representation of black performers. Okay, I can understand why that would bother someone...if it has been going on for years. It hasn't though, look at that huge list of black performers who have been nominated or have won. I didn't even name them all. Does the Academy have to nominate a certain amount of black performers in order to be PC? What if those performers didn't give the best performance of the year? I have seen "Concussion." I have seen "Straight Outta Compton." I have also seen "Creed." I think Will Smith, O'Shea Jackson Jr and Michael B. Jordan are all on top of their game in those movies. Are they top five best actor great though? I don't think I could agree. If that makes me an ignorant, racist bigot then I suppose I will tattoo that on my forehead, but its the way I feel. I would absolutely hate for Academy categories to fill up on black performers just for the sake of filling up on black performers. If five African American actors gave the five best performances of a given year, then I'd be all about them getting nominated. But nominating them just because of their skin color, seems crazy to me.

Now, I don't think the Academy has to change. But I think the opportunities given to black performers needs to change. Why are black performers predominately given comedy roles or roles having to do with Civil Rights and slavery? Would it really be so outlandish to cast a black actor in a lead role for just an ordinary drama? Or science fiction movie? What makes "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" so shell-shocking is the casting of John Boyega. He isn't the comic relief in that movie. He isn't some grand metaphor for black struggle. He's just one of the heroes of the movie, and I can't explain how refreshing it was to see a black actor playing a hero without any sort of gimmick. There needs to be more roles like that one for black actors. We shouldn't put our black actors into a box, having them only star in historical dramas and comedies. Ironically, Spike Lee made a comment in a movie about the latter. Everyone should check out "Bamboozled," because its shockingly accurate. Its a movie that dares to call the black comedy a modern day minstrel show and its crazy what Lee gets away with in his script. I think its a relevant disservice going on in Hollywood, and if anything needs to change for race relations in show business, its that.

But that has nothing to do with the Oscars. The Oscars have always been very generous in keeping their categories diverse every year, whether any of you care to analyze or not. That isn't the real problem the Oscars have. The Academy voters maybe rich and white, but more often then not they keep things diverse. They are also pompous film snobs who bring their own baggage and their own agendas to the voting pools. They don't vote by category with an open mind and an open heart on what really deserves the Oscar. They vote based upon that baggage and those agendas. The Academy has never been about the movies, and that's what really breaks my heart about the entire ceremony.

Think about it. Think over all the recent winners and what they won for, then really analyze what those movies were about. Last year, Michael Keaton should have won Best Actor in Lead Role for his work in "Birdman." That was the best performance of the year by miles and a once-in-a-lifetime performance by Keaton. The Golden Globes saw that, but the Oscars? Not so much. Eddie Redmayne won for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking, a man with ALS. While Redmayne gave a great performance, he didn't out-do Keaton. But Redmayne won to spread awareness on ALS. That same year, Julianne Moore won for playing a woman with Alzheimer's. Again, its a great performance, but it wasn't the best of the year. But Moore spread awareness on Alzheimer's so she got the win. Any year that features movies about deep social and political issues get the awards at the Oscars. It doesn't matter if they are the best or not. Matthew McConaughey won for playing a man with AIDS, Sean Penn beat Mickey Rourke (the clear winner) in 2008 for playing a gay politician. When it comes to the Oscars, its about the issues the movies are about, instead of the merit of the skill and performance that made those movies worthwhile. Unless your name is Meryl Streep or Daniel Day-Lewis, you'll never just win based on having a powerful performance, you need to be in an important movie about a current social or political issue in order to receive the golden statue.

There is also a specific type of movie the Academy looks for in nominations that really pisses me off. A movie has to be important, has to fit a certain mold in order to make a nomination. My girlfriend asks me all the time why fantasy, science fiction, horror, action or superhero movies are never represented in any of the major categories. While there have been exceptions (Lord of the Rings), the answer is that those movies are looked down upon. Don't ask why, I can't begin to understand the mind of a pompous film snob who makes up the Academy. Movies in those genres are frowned upon, like they can't be taken seriously. So they only end up in effects-driven categories. But the thing is that they can be in the major categories. You know why I love "The Dark Knight" and "Captain America: Winter Solider" so much? It isn't because of Batman or Captain America or The Joker or Bucky Barnes. Its because those are the two best movies about how our country has changed post-9/11. Those are the best movies about living in a culture of fear, about how attitudes change knowing terrorists are out there. Sure, "Oscar-worthy" and "important" movies have been made about these ideas, but they don't shine as bright as either of those superhero movies. Those movies are more than super-powered people beating each other up. They had real ideas and important thoughts on their minds. So why didn't the Academy salute that? Its because The Academy can't take them seriously and deem them unworthy. That to me is unfair. If a movie has something relevant to say, it shouldn't matter what genre it hails from. The nominations for each category shouldn't be limited to certain types of movies or certain genres, it should be a representation of the best things cinema had to offer that year. Importance and genre shouldn't enter into the equation, but somehow it does. And before you start telling me that Heath Ledger won for his portrayal of the Joker, let me ask you something, do you think he still would have won had he been alive? I am willing to bet big money that if Ledger never died, he would have never been nominated. 

Honestly, I think we got lucky that "Mad Max: Fury Road" got nominated for anything this year.

So again, the Academy isn't racist. That's not bigotry on my end. That's not ignorance. That's not racism. Black performers are under-represented this year because that's just how things shook out. Let's not crucify the Oscars because of the appalling things that have happened in this country in recent years. Will Smith and all the other black actors were good this year, but not great. In fact, the only black actor that truly got snubbed this year was Idris Elba for his incredible work in "Beasts of No Nation." Everyone else? Meh. That's not the real problem. The real problem is that the Academy doesn't make picking and choosing nominees and winners based on the movies, and that needs to change. Yes, make the Academy more diverse. Yes, give black performers more opportunities to shine. I don't disagree. But more than anything, make a cinema award ceremony about the movies! I don't care what a movie has to say in order to enjoy, I am interested in how it says it. Too many bests have gone with no award due a movie with a chip on its shoulder. That shouldn't be the case. Whether they nominate white, black or blue people...make it about the movies. That's the real problem with the Oscars. 

But I regress, we mustn't forget that movies are art. Art is subjective. If you are getting into a huge tiff on the opinions of what a few film snobs have on certain movies, then you are taking everything far too seriously. So smile.       

Moonwalkers Review

Moonwalkers Review
I have read my fair share of conspiracy theories. It seems for every major event that has taken place in this country, there is a conspiracy theory to go along with it. There are some that seem plausible and some that seem way too out there. Was 9/11 an inside job? Is our government made up of shape-shifting reptile aliens? Was the tragedy at Jonestown a CIA cover-up for a failed mind-control project? Was rap music invented by the CIA in order for minorities to kill each other? The ideas people come off with feel so weird coming out of my mouth and even as I type them. But it just goes to show that if someone speaks with enough clarity and passion about something, there are some who will believe them.

"Moonwalkers" is a movie that revolves around a conspiracy theory. It never once says that its based on a true story, but it sure does aim for authentic. Ron Perlman plays Kidman, a CIA agent who is given a great, personal task. The American government is in the full swing of the Cold War in 1969, and they are afraid that the Soviet Union might beat them to the moon. No matter what, the American government is determined to get to the moon first, even if they have to fabricate it. Kidman is sent to London in order to find the famous director Stanley Kubrick, he plans to convince the famous director to make a short film of American astronauts landing on the moon. Kidman comes into contact with a rock band manager Jonny (Rupert Grint) to find Kubrick for him. Things don't go as planned and that leaves Kidman and Jonny in charge of making a filmed fake moon landing. Oh yes, there are those that believe that the American's winning the space race was staged, and this is a movie about that conspiracy theory.

The rest of the movie is a big trippy, funny adventure as Hellboy and Ron Weasley bounce off of each other. And honestly, who wouldn't want to see that? Who wouldn't want to see that pair getting high and chasing women? Who wouldn't want to see that pair stealing money from British firms and blowing their heads off? Perlman and Grint's chemistry and energy in this movie is exquisite. There is really nothing to it on a substance level, but that's okay. We have so much fun watching these two men getting themselves into shenanigans that its not bad. 

What surprised me the most is just crazy this experience gets. I was expecting a kind offbeat comedy if anything. What I got was a movie that had moments of comedy. It had moments of trippiness (Perlman's character has a particularly looney reaction to a drug). It had moments of crazy action (the final moments of shootout were pretty nuts.) I wasn't expecting this from the movie, but I certainly enjoyed what I got. Rupert Grint is kind channeling Weasley in this a little too much, and we have seen Perlman play this kind of tough guy before. But its okay, because you'll be having so much fun with it. This is a classic example of a movie that is a little bit better than it had to be. So pop this on and enjoy the ride.


Friday, January 15, 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane Trailer

What is "10 Cloverfield Lane?"

I remember seeing "Transformers" in 2007 and watching this mysterious trailer for a movie that would become "Cloverfield." The trailer in front of "Transformers" was unnamed when released, which made the experience even more invigorating. The idea of showing some intriguing shots, without giving away the entire premise of the movie, then don't give us a title for that movie? I don't think that I had ever been done before, but feel free to fact check me.

If there is anybody who loves to play the "mystery marketing" game, its J.J. Abrams. There was a world of excitement circling who Benedict Cumberbatch would be playing in "Stark Trek Into Darkness." Abrams made trailers for a novel he was involved in and didn't name those trailers either. Yeah, trailers for a novel. And the novel itself, S. isn't an ordinary novel either. No matter what he does, Abrams doesn't like to put all of his eggs in one basket. He loves to watch his fans squirm. In a day and age where stuff for movies gets spoiled months in advance, its refreshing that somebody who still treats movie marketing as a magic trick.

Some people on YouTube are calling "10 Cloverfield Lane" a sequel to "Cloverfield." Which makes sense, but watching the trailer, I wonder if it is a direct sequel. I mean the found footage device has been abandoned. We have actors we recognize in this trailer, like Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman. Its being described as a "spiritual sequel." What could that possibly mean? I am betting that this is a movie that takes place in the "Cloverfield" universe. I am thinking it will be a completely separated incident but whatever it is, it is connected to what happened in New York City in 2008. It looks like John Goodman is keeping a monster in his house, there is no way a Clovie could fit in a basement. Right? 

J.J. Abrams wouldn't tease a movie is connected to "Cloverfield" then we go to the theater is March and its completely unrelated, right? Since its J.J. Abrans we are talking about, I don't put anything past him.

All I know is that I enjoyed "Cloverfield" more than I thought I would in 2008. I have discussed fan theories for sequels to it in the years to follow. I love that we are getting some kind of follow-up, whether its a sequel or something else set in the "Cloverfield" universe. We won't know much for now, but the good news is we only have to wait until March. What are your thoughts and theories on this?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

RIP Alan Rickman

RIP Alan Rickman
Man, cancer has been a bitch this week. Another legendary actor has fallen this week.

I have decided to do something a little different this time in my reflection on Alan Rickman, I am going to make a top ten list of his best performances. The performances I will always remember the best out of Rickman's wonderful career, because trust me, everything he touched seemed to turn to gold. So making a top ten list was hard, but if you only know Rickman from "Harry Potter" or "Alice In Wonderland," I urge you check these ten movies out.

10. Severus Snape, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II" (2011)
I could have easily cheated and put all eight movies in the "Harry Potter" franchise in this spot, but I think Rickman is so good in this last movie that he could have been nominated for an Oscar. If you know the books, you know Severus Snape had a big moment in this final film. When Snape's big moment comes, Rickman didn't just take it and run with it, he flew with it. Rickman always did a good job of making us question Snape's loyalties, but in the final film, he really sold his passion, his secrets and his bravery in a single stretch of film. It is riveting work, and one of the highlights of the entire franchise.

9. Tybalt, "Romeo and Juliet" (1978)
This is the first movie Alan Rickman ever starred in, and in it he really represents the viciousness and snide required to play Shakespeare's Tybalt. Even in his first big role, Rickman forshadowed a remarkable artist who would only grow in the upcoming years.

8. Sheriff of Nottingham, "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" (1991)
You are going to see very quickly that Rickman specialized in villains for a good portion of his career. But what Rickman excelled at was giving a unique voice to all of his villain characters. The Sheriff of Nottingham was no different, and he was easily the highlight on an arguably mediocre Robin Hood movie.

7. Elliot Marston, "Quigley Down Under" (1990)
Alan Rickman versus Tom Selleck is the reason to see this movie.

6. Lord Shahbandar, "Gambit" (2012)
Now while Rickman was a very vile guy in most of his movies, "Gambit" was one of those rare moments where he really let his silly side unleash itself. It wasn't often when we Saw Rickman so mindbogglingly loony. But those moments paid off just as much as his most villainous of performances.

5. Steven Spurrier, "Bottle Shock" (2008)
I have been pretty harsh on biopics in my time on this blog, so of course leave it to none other than Mr. Rickman to show us what a really good biopic looks like. In "Bottle Shock," all of Rickman's greatest strengths are on display and he creates a portrait of a man who is both witty and driven.

4. Alex Dane/ Dr. Lazarus, "Galaxy Quest" (1999)
"By Grabthar's Hammer, by the suns of Warvan, you shall be avenged!" Yep. Still funny.

3. Marvin The Paranoid Android, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"
Rickman had one of those iconic voices that you would know if you just heard it. You never had to match a face to that face, you knew it was him. Even though Rickman was a brilliant performer, he had a knack for voice work, and in "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," they used Rickman's voice at its most eloquent and most amazing.

2. Hans Gruber, "Die Hard" (1988)
Possibly the most well-known performance on Rickman's resume. Well, there is a reason for that. Never was Rickman more fun to watch as a villain. Never did Rickman command the screen like he did here. Rickman really gave Gruber a personality, if it weren't for Gruber being bad, you'd probably want to grab a drink with him. He wasn't just the "bad guy," he had real character and real development. His intelligence and adjustment actually made him a real foil to Bruce Willis' cop character. This is what great bad guys look like.

1. Metatron "Dogma" (1999)
While its not as remembered when we think of all the great movies we were praised with in 1999, "Dogma" was a movie that really challenged the status quo. It had the balls to look at religion and say "you know, you are kind of doing it wrong." and I am sure its blacklisted in every Catholic church across the planet. In the film, Rickman lets his dry wit take the best of him. He is given a lot of the best lines in the film and delivers every one of them perfectly. He is given some of the best scenes in the film and makes them look effortless. In one single performance, Rickman showed us what separated him from all the other actors in the business and why his work was so memorable in the first place. Hence, this is number one.

I'd love to hear your favorite Rickman performances. Let's celebrate this man's filmography. And always, Rickman shall be missed.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

2015 Award Circuit Review: Love & Mercy Review

2015 Award Circuit: Love & Mercy Review
The 2015 Award Circuit will be a collection of reviews of films that are in some kind of award runnings within the months of January through March. Not only will this prepare me for the big night (AKA Oscar Night), but it will also allow me to catch up with some of the critically acclaimed films I missed out on in 2015. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy watching and writing them.

I have always been a big fan of the Beach Boys. The first babysitter I ever had growing up pretty much ingrained the music of the Beach Boys into my brain. That was the one band she always listened to, and every time I got into her car to go some place, the Beach Boys were always playing. I never sat down to research their upbringings. So I knew next to nothing when I sat down to watch "Love & Mercy," the movie whose primary focus is that of Brian Wilson and how he contributed to The Beach Boys.

I can't stand biopics. I always try really hard to give everything that comes out each year a fair shake, no matter what. But I am a human being with interests. Some genres interest me more than others, and its usually biopics that feel more like homework for this blog rather than a reaction to a particular hobby. I've stated time and time again that I feel most biopics feel like a Greatest Hits collection on somebody's life. I have felt in the past that most biopics feel like a skimming of a Wikipedia page or listening to somebody karaoke a old song. There is depth or emotion created when actors breeze through the life and times of a person, or group or band. There is no depth to their actions and little no emotion. Most biopics tread this line, and it is nauseating. The best biopics focus on a particular moment in someone's life and how that moment defined them. Those are usually better because the character and emotions are better fleshed out. 

How does "Love & Mercy" do it? Well, it tries to have it both ways, and the result is a movie that features lots of stuff to like and some stuff that annoys. The movie's main focus is Brian Wilson, who was the braintrust behind The Beach Boys. He wrote several of the songs and had huge success. He sadly was a man who suffered from auditory hallucinations. When Wilson grew up he was under the legal thrall of an abusive therapist Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti) and Wilson finds salvation in the friendship and eventual romance with a car saleswoman Melinda (Elizabeth Banks). She helps him get out of Landy's manipulation.

The film goes back and forth between Wilson's young years writing music for The Beach Boys and to his middle aged years under Dr. Landy. The young version of Wilson is played by Paul Dano and the older version by John Cusack. Do I think Paul Dano and John Cusack deserved their nominations for Golden Globes this past weekend? Yes. Both Dano and Cusack do extraordinary work, very provoking and elegant performances by both men. Both Dano and Cusack have always been good, and they display why they are so great here. Cusack in particular bounces off of both Elizabeth Banks (who gives a career-high performance) and Paul Giamatti with style. Set in a wonderful historic backdrop, it makes the movie ever more better.

The thing is, it feels like every other biopic, and sadly I feel the younger stuff isn't needed. Its Brian Wilson in his young years where the movie fails, because that's the artificial, tedium history of Brian Wilson. When the film jumps to Wilson as a middle-aged man being saved by the love of his life, that is really something. The film tries to cram so much history into its two-hour run time that it almost becomes overwhelming. The thing that keeps me watching is how incredible both Dano and Cusack are, but I'd much rather watch Cusack's movie compared to Dano's.

But they are both awesome, and the reason to see the movie is them. Elizabeth Banks should have received a nomination too, I thought. The backdrops of the 1950's, 60's, 70's and 80's is all very well done. I just wished the story wasn't such a hodge podge of history. 


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

RIP David Bowie

RIP David Bowie
It may seem weird to honor the death of a musician on my movie blog to some of you. But any real fan of David Bowie will know that they were moved by his presents on screen just as much by the music he performed. He poured his heart and soul into his music, and he was a wonderful musician. But I also would argue that he did the same for his movies.

The instant iconic performance on everyone's radar is The Goblin King in "Labyrinth" just because its his most popular performance. I think "Labyrinth" is a very cool movie, and for being populated by muppet like puppets, its pretty imaginative. I think The Goblin King is a wonderful character, and is profoundly and impeccably brought to life by Bowie. Its fun to watch Bowie throw down in this character and its pretty clear why its so iconic. Bowie clearly wanted the character to be iconic, so he went for it.

For me though, the best  thing Bowie did as an actor was his work in "The Man Who Fell To Earth." Released in 1976, Bowie plays Thomas Jerome Newton, an alien who is transported to Earth in order to find a way to get water to his planet before it is destroyed. While on Earth, he uses his superior knowledge of technology to make a fortune on Earth, while also being chased by the government. Also, who knew that he'd fall in love to. "The Man Who Fell To Earth" may sound like the regular alien movie we are used to seeing in the 1970's but it was so much more. As Thomas is making money off of his conventions, he spends more time spending money and getting into the world of drugs and alcohol, and losing focus of his real mission. "The Man Who Fell To Earth" is a study of humanity, when we are at our best and also when we are at our worst. And it is beautifully realized and crafted by Bowie.

I normally hate it when musicians make the jump to movies, but sometimes they surprise us. Like Ice Cube, David Bowie had a rare talent when he was onscreen. You can observe that in "Labyrinth" or "The Man Who Fell To Earth." You should also check out "The Prestige," "The Last Temptation of Christ," and "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me." Check out his cameos in "Zoolander" and "Yellowbeard." I also regret to inform you that David Bowie was gearing up to cameo in "Guardians of the Galaxy 2," which I bet would have been bigger than awesome.

Whether you loved his music or loved his screen presence, its no secret that David Bowie is an artist that will be terribly missed.

Its Us Review

Its Us Review
Relationships can cause much happiness and togetherness for those who are in them and at the same time they can cause lots of frustration and resentment. Sometimes they get to the point where the couple in question wonders if they are really compatible with each other. They wonder if  they can really let this work and if not, how long do they keep trying? 

"Its Us" has a fantastic opening sequence. As Joe (Colin Thompson) and Eliza (Eliza Coupe) are coming home from some kind of unnamed convention. They talk about it, and why it frustrates Joe in the first place and that leads to a heated debate, which leads to a heated argument. The argument eventually gets physical and they hurt each other. This fight spills over into the next day, as nobody really said sorry. There is a moment before the morning when the couple get back into their car after their fight and its just silence all the way home. Now, I have never physically assaulted any girl I was dating and no girl for that matter. But other than that, I can relate to this. If you've ever been in a serious relationship, I bet you can relate. How a frustration can lead to an argument and that argument leads to fight and that fight leads to silence. Its amazing how sometimes the best thing to do is just shut up and let the silence do the dealing. 

The thing is, that won't work for this couple. They say themselves that they bring the worst out of each other. They are trying so hard to piece themselves together, and they think its just the city they live in. Los Angeles. Joe works as an agent, and his job brings lots of stress in his life, stress that he brings home. Can they repair themselves if they simply leave LA and everything they have created there? They try it, they go all the way to Vermont. While it is a welcomed change for the first few weeks, things begin to fall into their old ways, and new secrets are revealed.

Its refreshing to see a romantic comedy that isn't totally lovely-dovey. This is a realistic romantic comedy. This is a movie that deals with real issues that can plague a couple. Fighting too much, wondering what the solution is. delegating what brings stress and anxiety to their lives. It all felt very real and sincere. The movie was also written and directed by Colin Thompson and it is a smart and creative outlook when a couple reaches the moment that they question if they can possibly work. The work by Colin Thompson and Eliza Coupe is so authentic, so grounded, so willfully created that its hard not to be drawn into their story. They both give outstanding performances that further elevate the material.

I will say that even though the movie is 88 minutes long, it feels awfully long at points. Its the big misstep I feel Thompson makes, stopping cold in the middle of this war of wills between this couple deeming they are in love. There are just some moments where things kind move in slow motion, and you can feel the time press by. Still, so much of this works in a big way, and I was shocked how much this one stuck with me.


Monday, January 11, 2016

Han Solo Short List

Just in case everybody forgot or hasn't paid enough attention, we are getting a new "Star Wars" movie each year until 2020.

Now that doesn't mean that there will be twelve episodes of "Star Wars" altogether, but there will be a new "Star Wars" movie each year until then. In 2015, we got "The Force Awakens," and we will get episode VIII in 2017 and episode IX in 2019. So what is happening in 2016, 2018, and 2020? Well, those years are put aside for the anthology movies, movies that are going to be used to expand the universe of "Star Wars" and take a step back from the Skywalker story. For example, this winter we will lay eyes on "Star Wars: Rogue One." A movie that will focus on a small group of rebels immediately after the events of "A New Hope." No Skywalkers, no Yoda, none of those guys, it will feature a whole new set of characters. It will basically be a live-action "Star Wars: Rebels," just not featuring the characters from that TV show. (At least I think, its hard to tell what is canon now and what is not.)

Another anthology movie is going to be about a young Han Solo and I have read recently that just about every young actor you can think of is gunning for the role. Of course they are, its a role of a lifetime! Disney has found another batch of great directors in Chris Miller and Philip Lord, who gave us the "21 Jump Street" movies as well as "The LEGO Movie." These guys make great movies, so I am sure they are going to hit a home-run when it comes to Han Solo in his young years.

Variety released a short list of actors who will potentially play the part of a young Han Solo, and the list pretty much shakes out as one would expect, especially knowing the rumors about how many actors want to take a swing at this role.

Here is the short list:

Blake Jenner- "Glee"

Scott Eastwood- "Pride," "The Last Ride"

Ansel Elgort- "The Fault In Our Stars"

Dave Franco-"Neighbors," "21 Jump Street"

Miles Teller- "Fantastic Four," "Whiplash"

Jack Reynor- "Transformers 4"

Logan Lerman- "Perks of Being A Walflower," "Percy Jackson"

There are definitely some surprises on that list, but it shakes out as well you'd imagine. What "Star Wars" has done so well at is putting the right face on the character. It doesn't matter if the actor is well-known or not, the crew finds the right people to fill the shoes of the characters they create. I personally feel Miles Teller, Dave Franco or Logan Lerman would be a little too safe to cast. But who knows, they are all good actors at least, so maybe they will fit the bill perfectly. Its interesting because the ages of these guys is slightly all over the place, which will make time a fun thing to play with. I wonder if we'll learn how Han met Chewbacca.

Anyway, what do you think of this short list? Anybody not mentioned you'd like to see as Han Solo?