Thursday, June 29, 2017

Cult of Chucky Trailer

I have seen pretty much all the "Chucky" movies or "Child's Play" if you will. The movies have ranged from good to funny. Some have even been bad. I mean Chucky is brought to life very well by the power of Brad Dourif's voice. I mean, that guy really makes the character. Much like Robert Englund makes Freddy Kruger who he is. Much like Kruger, as you get older, you get less and less afraid of Chucky. Freddy Kruger nor Chucky are particularly frightening to me anymore. I was certainly afraid of Chucky when I was younger. Most children my age when I was younger were afraid of Chucky. Chucky is a doll, dolls are not meant to be threatening. When they are threatening and when they have exaggerated features with creepy orange hair...yikes. Nightmares as a child! All the time! The Talking Tina episode of "The Twilight Zone" always used to give me the willies too. Sheesh!

But now, the Chucky movies are mainly bloody dark comedies. They are not particularly scary, they are mainly just harmless. I don't think "Cult of Chucky" will be particularly scary. I don't think it will end up being one of the years' best films. I am hoping for a fun time, and anything else will be a bonus. I am hoping this goes back to the glory days when this franchise could produce some chills. But those days may have passed. Bard Dourif can still get me excited, he does creepy extraordinarily well. (He was an actor that Tim Burton wanted to cast as The Joker had Jack Nicholson been unavailable. Imagine how horrifying that would have been!) But I think I'll sleep just fine the night I see it.

Jumanji 2: Welcome To The Jungle Trailer

What the actual fuck is this shit?

I first heard the book "Jumanji" when I was in Kindergarten. I can't remember specific details or anything like that. But I remember the general gist. Chris Van Allsburg's children's book revolved around two siblings who find an abandoned board game at a park. They are instructed to not start the game unless they intend to finish. When their characters run into a danger in the game, that danger comes to life. Its a crazy concept, but the concept worked for a children's book. I remember it being a fun story, and I was drawn in to the peculiar yet fascinating artwork which was all black-and-white. I still pretty young when the book adaptation came starring Robin Williams.

I liked the movie when I was young. As I have gotten older, I don't think much of it. Its a really silly movie, with cheesy special effects and changes made to the film from the book to set up typical Hollywood cliches. I wouldn't recommend it to many and its not a movie I think about often.

Now, there is a trailer for "Jumanji 2." But I refuse to call this movie by its title. This is not "Jumanji." The first "Jumanji" film may have not aged well, but it was, at the very least, a somewhat faithful adaptation. At least the essence and gist of the book was right. In this sequel, four teenagers in detention are forced to clean a large room at their school. Only to get sucked into a video game called "Jumanji?" Yeah, I don't know what this is, but its not "Jumanji." This is a completely different movie that is trying to cash out on something else. Its the most shameless example of this I can think of in recent years.

I refuse to call this "Jumanji 2." I refuse.

Inhumans Trailer

The first "Inhumans" trailer is here!

While I wish that we would get "The Inhumans" on the big screen, I am still happy that we are seeing them in some capacity adapted. The show has put together a stellar cast, I am particularly excited to see what Ramsey Bolton does as Maximus The Mad, that will be something to see.

What will also be cool about this is even though this is a television series coming to ABC, I think its cool that the first episode is debuting on IMAX screens. Could this be the first link in getting Marvel's television characters on the same screen as its movie characters? Many people have this debate, but its true the Marvel TV shows share continuity with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yes, I understand that the shows represent the movies but not the other way around. But I understand what people behind the scenes are saying. Its hard to coordinate Daredevil show up in a movie when he's filming for months in a totally different state. Kevin Feige has said repeatedly that these worlds will collide, and yes its vague. But they could be moving to it, I have faith.

Things I like about this trailer: I love Iwan Rheon as Maximus, he should kill it as the character. I think Lockjaw looks amazing, and he was the biggest question mark for me. (If you don't know, Lockjaw is the teleporting massive dog.) I like the idea of Anson Mount as Blackbolt, the guy was amazing on AMC's "Hell On Wheels." But I just wish we'd see him in full costume. I am praying he gets to wear his full costume by the end of season one. Then its all forgiven! Ken Leung is another underrated character actor who I think will shine, especially since he's playing Karnak!

The Inhumans have had a bumpy road with Marvel getting to be adapted and now that their here, they have definitely grabbed my attention!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Review: Netflix makes a big splash with "Okja"

Okja Review
So far, I've been more impressed by Netflix original series than I have their original films. They struck a cord with "Beasts of No Nation," I'll give them that. But I feel like their movies have ranged from good to mediocre. While I would definitely say their TV shows have ranged from very good to great. I was beginning to think that Netflix was only good for their original TV shows and not their movies. That all changed tonight with "Okja."

Anybody could take a look at "Okja" and dismiss it as another "person and their creature" movie. It has lots in common with "The Iron Giant," "E.T." "Pete's Dragon" and the first "Transformers." But there is more to it than just another "person with a creature" feature. The may seem like its all about a girl and her "super pig" but that's all surface value. The real topic of "Okja" is the Industrial Food Complex that we live in. This is a movie about the food you eat, and how we as a nation ultimately consume it. Its a movie that has some very real things to say about how we process our food. You shouldn't expect anything less from Bong joon-ho. This guy is what science fiction storytelling is all about. The best science fiction take real social issues and twists them in a futuristic landscape, commenting and challenging those issues. Bong joon-ho is becoming the exciting modern science fiction filmmaker. Take his "Snowpiercer" for example, which was about of a group of people hijaking a train that contains the last of civilization, each car representing a different class. Sometimes his metaphors are big and obvious, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have anything important to say.

I can honestly say I have never really thought too much about where the food came from that I eat. I love food and I love to eat, and as my metabolism wanes more and more, I can really see how much I love food and how much I love to eat. You put a dish in front of me, and I will at the very least try it and I feel I become a more and more fearless eater as I grow older (except for salad, I can't stand dressings) But even I couldn't get through "Okja" without really thinking about the grief an animal must go through to achieve our consumption. Now, I am not going to suddenly say I am a born again vegitarian, but I think we definitely could become a little bit more humane about the way animals are raised to slaughter, and how we can keep our meats better for our bodies. Instead of process, process, process.

"Okja" first takes place in 2007, and a colorful businesswoman Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) is starting to notice that Earth is running out of food, but she discovers a "super pig" in Chile and grows twenty-six other super pigs across their regional offices all over the world. Whichever raises the best of the super pigs allows said pig to be the face of the company. It would take ten years for the super pigs to be ready for consumption. So then we move to present day and meet Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun) whose grandfather raises Okja, the super pig in South Korea. After inspected by the Mirando company's zoologist (Jake Gyllenhaal) Okja is the best of the super pigs and they take Okja away. Mija isn't going to have it, and she leaves her home to go find her. With the assistance of the Animal Liberation Front (lead by Paul Dano) she will find Okja again.

The special effects work on Okja is quite frankly impressive. I have never seen a CGI beast that was able to emote so much. If you need any reason to see this movie, see it to marvel at the visual power of Okja. 

The film is littered with great performances. Tilda Swinton plays twins in this movie, and she has mastered the art of slimy villains at this point. She does strange work in the film and it pays off scene after scene. You know else gives a strange performance? Gyllenhaal, and I do mean strange. He is about the weirdest character for a movie I have seen in awhile. But he does it with perfection. The Animal Liberation Front features Dano, Lily Collins, and even Steven Yuen, all of whom do strong work here. But the biggest discovery for me here was Ahn Seo-hyun. She's the lead here and the entire film hinges on us buying her love and care for Okja. Boy, does she bring that and then some! She's absolutely terrific in this movie, and I hope to see her again soon.

These are the types of films that Netflix needs to invest more time in. Something that makes you think, but also includes the entertainment factor. This is a film that includes excitement, deep thinking, outstanding visuals, and even some tender moments. Its a total package without the cheese.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Pitch Perfect 3 trailer

If there was one set of movies that have surprised me the most in recent years, its "Pitch Perfect." I would have never expected to like it. I dragged my feet in watching it. Only watching it one night with the woman who became my wife, and it blew my mind completely. I was flabbergasted because it worked in being funny, romantic, sentimental, and confident in what it was. While I don't think "Pitch Perfect 2" is better than the original, it brought enough spunk to make itself count.

The problem with "Pitch Perfect 2" is that it feels too much like treading water, it has too much in common with the first film. I like that "Pitch Perfect 3" takes the girls out of the college setting. I like that we are going to find out more about their goals and ambitions outside of school. I like that they are challenged between being relevant singers and artists and not just people who imitate famous singers. I think these themes could all play into a sequel that expands on the characters and set up a new challenge for them.

Rebel Wilson is still clearly funny, so there's that.

I'm excited. I never expected to love this series as much as I did. I hope it continues to be good.

Review: "Rough Night" wants to be an all-girls "Hangover." Completely fails in the process

Rough Night Review
Normally, I hate comparing movies to other movies. I like to tackle each film on their own terms, base my reaction to the film's own merits. But sometimes, that's hard to do. Especially in this day and age when everything seems to be a homage of a homage to something that came before. "Rough Night" seems to be marketed as an all-female "Hangover." Funny, since it was distributed by Sony and Paramount Pictures, which also released the all-female "Ghostbusters" movie last year. Originality just doesn't suit them anymore, huh?

Funny enough, "Rough Night" isn't really like "The Hangover." I can tell it really wants to be, but it is certainly not. In fact, it is more in the vein of "Weekend At Bernie's" if you had to compare it to something else, and I will certainly get into why in just a moment. But I am definitely getting sick of comparing movies to other works, it'd be nice to get back to a time when everything felt fresh, am I right?

Jess (Scarlet Johansson), Alice (Jillian Bell), Frankie (Ilana Glazer), and Blair (Zoe Kravitz) have all been friends since college, and Alice and Jess are especially very close. Ten years after college, Jess is engaged to be married and its Alice who plans Jess' bachelorette party. Alice also invites Pippa (Kate McKinnon) a friend of Jess' who she met during a college semester in Australia. The film begins with lots of alcohol, drug use, the typical bad decisions we see bachelor party movies. The girls conspire to hire a male stripper for Jess later that night, who sure enough shows up. After some uncomfortable naughty talk and a girl trying to get "her turn" with the stripper, the stripper accidentally falls over and cracks his head open, dying. The rest of the movie is the girls trying to decide what to do with the dead body in their rented house.

While the movie tries to be a redux of "The Hangover," "Rough Night" is anything but. For starters, despite the participation of Bell, Glazer, Kravitz, Johansson, McKinnon and even Ty Burrell and Demi Moore, its not very funny. I saw "The Hangover" at least four or five times in the summer of 2009, and every time I saw it, I found new laughs. The laughs came hard and repetitive in that film. I barely ever cracked a smile watching "Rough Night." When it comes to comedy, a big factor in deciding whether or not I like and want to recommend the film is based upon how much I laugh. I have an immature sense of humor, I laugh at most things. I have friends who can attest to this. I barely laughed during "Rough Night."

The other big problem I have with the movie is that its story gets boiled down to typical girl drama. Right as the movie begins, you know that a wedge is going to strike in the middle of this group, that's just how they chose to set things up. There is going to be drama that sets them apart and of course we know they will apologize and all be friends by the film's end. Its such a safe and generic way to set up a conflict in a movie that I couldn't stand it. This is a raunchy comedy about a bachelorette party gone wrong, leave the girl drama at home for once.

There is also a ridiculous subplot where Jess calls her fiance (Paul W. Downs) minutes after the stripper's death. Of course, their phones mess up and it sounds worse than what her fiance originally hears and he thinks Jess wants to break it off with him. The film goes out of its way to include the fiance as a major player in the film. I would have edited the fiance subplot entirely and focused more on making this funny and spent more time at the bachelorette party. That should have been the focal point of the entire movie. Every time the fiance showed up, I kept checking out the movie. Its such a tired, trite cliche to include in a film that bored me to death.

Ladies, if you want a good  all female "Hangover" type movie. Check out the film "Bachelorette." It stars Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Kaplan, Isla Fischer, Rebel Wilson, James Marsden and Adam Scott. Its a lot more successful in its attempt to be funny and good compared to this. "Rough Night" just ends up being wasted time, and a night I care not to remember.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Overlooked Film of the Week- "Mail Order Wife" (2005)

Overlooked Film of the Week

Mail Order Wife
Do the names Andrew Gurland and Huck Botko mean anything to you? They are some of the most talented mockumentarians I have ever seen, and they are also some of the most dangerous. Around the time of "Jackass" and "Punk'D" and "Viva La Bam" and other shows of the nature, Andrew Gurland and Huck Botko were hard at work on their own brand of "reality" comedy. They would make "dessertumentaries" where they made fake documentaries about desserts. Except they weren't anything about cooking. Turns out Gurland had some bad blood with his relatives so he would make pastries with hobo spit in them or even sometimes heroine invested blood. His family would then eat the pastries with these mystery ingredients baked into them. They also made a mockumentary called "Broken Condom" where a man who feels he was manipulated into making a child with his wife shames her terribly for getting pregnant. I should mentioned that these movies are listed as comedies. Probably the most well known movie Gurland and Botko were involved in was 2010's horror film "The Last Exorcism" They wrote the script on that one, and were set to direct when they went to make "The Virginity Hit" instead, a mockumentary about a group of friends trying to get their virgin friend laid. 

I never saw any of Gurland and Botko's early work, I did enjoy both "The Last Exorcism" and "The Virginity Hit.'' I do know that their work has been met with just as much hostility as it has praise. Their style of comedy isn't the typical slapstick stuff, nor is really offbeat. Its a dark comedy for people who are not easily offended. So it might be tough recommending a movie like this in the politically correct, SJW landscape we live in today. But I am curious to see what my audience would think of "Mail Order Wife."

"Mail Order Wife" is indeed a mockumentary. That is indeed important to note right before we get into a discussion of this movie. Its a complete fiction, just like the rest of Gurland and Botko's work. After so many mockumentaries and found footage films that have piled on top of each movie year, I think audiences get the idea of how fake these are. The days of "The Blair Witch Project" are over, and I think people understand that these types of movies are fake. They weren't always regarded that way though. In the early days of found footage, many people were fooled by the device. I read about a screening of "The Pourkeepsie Tapes" that took place at a film festival in Austin, Texas in 2007. The people who presented the film tried to sell the film screening as real, and when the audience found out that "The Pourkeepsie Tapes" was indeed fake, there was quite an uproar of negativity at the festival. I think a lot of the early Gurland and Botko stuff was met with poor word of mouth because people believed what they were seeing. So it should go without saying that "Mail Order Wife" is indeed fake.

It's also exactly what you think when you hear that title. A documentary crew gets the approval of Adrian (Adrian Martinez), a chubby doorman who is tired of living alone, to make a film about Adrian's purchase of an overseas wife. The documentary crew help with all the expenses of the overseas wife, just as long as they can film it. Adrian seems like the average Joe kind of guy, who genuinely tired of being alone. Soon, Adrian meets his new bride Lichi (Eugenia Yuan) at the airport. Soon, things begin to be weird fast. Adrian shows Lichi how he likes his toliet cleaned, how much ketchup goes into his chili, how he feeds his pet snake, and its not until Adrian tricks Lichi into a meeting for an eventual sterilization that she leaves Adrian and the documentary is shut down. Much like the duo's other stuff, this comedy has a very hard edge to it. There moments of this film that did make me laugh quite a bit, and other moments I was shocked to look at the screen. There is no tongue-in-cheek antics in most of the early half of the film, which makes this movie more shocking to watch. You don't know if you should be offended or laugh your nerves out.

Five weeks after the doctors visit, Lichi shows up at the documentary director's apartment (Andrew-played by Gurland himself). Lichi has a video tape and it plays like a creepy smug film and Lichi has been the star of Adrian's disgusting fetishes. You can see how Gurland and Botko were approached for "The Last Exorcism," while this is a comedy, there were moments that did just fill with dread. They walk the thin line of horror and comedy like its a tight-rope waiting to snap. Andrew is sympathetic toward Lichi and eventually they form a relationship. 

But is Andrew a better match for Lichi over Adrian? Will Andrew be any different compared to Adrian? The film's grand metaphor is that loneliness is like a disease. And sometimes when we are desperate, we can walk all over people. When we feel power like we never have before, we can abuse it quickly. Its a great portrait of how being lonely can lead to disturbing behavior. Yes, there are some laughs, but I will warn that they are bitter laughs and I can't remember seeing a darker comedy in recent memory. It is truly one of a kind.

Adrian Martinez is somebody who you will recognize. He's been in "Office Christmas Party," "The Blacklist," "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," "Focus" and "American Hustle" to name a few. But this is the best work of his career so far. I will also say that Eugena Yuan is the anchor for the entire film and she carries this difficult material with ease. I can't even imagine telling an actor what they wanted Yuan to do in some of these scenes, I don't know how you begin to discuss it. But its clear she jumped fearlessly into this role and into this world, and the experience is richer for it.

"Mail Order Wife" is a poster boy for not being for everyone, but if you are in the mood for a dark laugh, this will fit the bill perfectly. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What does Phil Lord and Chris Miller's exit from the Han Solo movie say about Hollywood?

Oooohhhh farts!

It was reported yesterday that Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the original directors of the upcoming "Solo: A Star Wars Story" suddenly left the project. Lord and Miller have given us such things as "The Last Man on Earth" on Fox, "The Lego Movie," "22 Jump Street" and wrote and produced "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs." They are clearly highly talented men and they were already filming the Han Solo movie for four months. Kathleen Kennedy, producer of the "Star Wars" movies said it was over "creative differences."

Ah, the good, old-fashioned, creative differences. I have seen this excuse to axe somebody from a project many times before. When we think of the terms together, we think the director had one vision and the studio had a vision. The two parties couldn't come to a compromise on their visions, so one party exits. The exiting party is almost always the director in question. This usually leaves people wondering, didn't the studio hire the director in question in the first place because of their vision?

You'd think the answer would be a definitive yes, but that question gets harder to answer when you get into the modern age of filmmaking and when your in the middle of a huge franchise like "Star Wars." Marvel has had the same problem over the course of its cinematic universe. Yes, it is a problem. Despite what I have said about the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I have liked quite a bit of its output. But even I can admit that when a director is hired to make one of Disney's Marvel films, they are not going to make their own take on the characters, they are making Kevin Feige's take on the characters. Feige has very specific plans for where characters are going to land by the end of their movies, and you are either on board for that or you are not. Again, I have liked nearly all the Marvel movies, but I also know that they've turned away great talent like Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish and Ava Duvernay. I often wonder what the MCU would look like if directors were given complete reign of the characters they are hired to produce and if there is a different way to string them all together.

Believe it or not, there ARE pitfalls to being a director completely closed off from studio interference. M Night Shymalan for example. He hit it big with "The Sixth Sense," so much so that he was pretty much treated with kid gloves by Disney, hoping he would make the next big hit. While "Unbreakable" and "Signs" turned out well, we got "The Lady In The Water," "The Village," "The Happening" and a host of other crappy films, simply because Shymalan isolated himself from the process. Sure, "Split" was a return to form, but did we have to sit through over a decade of crap to get there? I know everybody has one bad film or two bad films, but four or five right in a row? That doesn't look good on your resume, no matter how hard you try to sugar-coat it.

I am thinking that Disney is treating their "Star Wars" franchise like their "Marvel" franchise and they maybe taking their micro-managing a little overboard, which is rubbing several creative artists wrong. I am sure Phil Lord and Chris Miller were creating a zany, offbeat, strange Han Solo film and it didn't fit the thematic anesthetic Kathleen Kennedy wanted for Han Solo. But the question becomes, if you didn't like their style, why did you hire them? Why do studios go to people because they liked their resume only to tell them how to make the very movies they were hired to make on their own? The answer to the question isn't necessarily leave the talent alone, because ego gets in the way. It sure as hell does. We've seen it countless times in Hollywood. A balance between studio and director needs to be reached. The studio can't micro-manage every aspect of their franchises and the directors need to be able to play ball with the needs of the studio, while also implementing their own vision. There needs to be balance to everything in life, making movies is no difference.

It looks like Ron Howard will step in for Lord and Miller. While I am a Ron Howard fan, he seems like a step down from Lord and Miller. I would have killed to see what Lord and Miller had in store for a Han Solo movie. What is really going to suck is if Disney sacrificed a slightly original take by Lord and Miller for a generic karaoke machine movie. If the Han Solo movie only adds up to the audience discovering how Han met Lando, how he met Chewie, why Geedo and Jabba The Hut hate him so much and the Kessel Run and that's it, then I can't say I'm interested. The studios are in a strange era these days as they feel the need to take a popular story and over explain everything about it. I don't need all the mysteries behind Han Solo answered. That's not a movie that would interest me. Sometimes some mystique around characters is nice, sometimes less is more. I would love a Han Solo movie that didn't take the safe, easy route. I would love a Han Solo movie that just had him on a early smuggling adventure, before he met any other big names in the franchise. That could have been great fun.

I wish Ron Howard luck moving forward. I wish Disney luck moving forward. But this era of extreme micro-management is beginning to cause problems as well. Hollywood needs to bring balance to the studio-director relationship like Anakin needed to bring balance to The Force.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

We Are Living in the Laziest Era of Movies...and its causing problems

"The Mummy" opened about two weeks ago, and it was a box office bomb. Despite this, Universal Pictures said they would be moving forward with their Dark Universe movies. Then I read today that Universal Pictures could lose as much as $95 million for "The Mummy" bombing so bad. I didn't like the movie so much myself, my review is up on the site. But I had no idea that the studio would lose so much money in the process. Sure, they could get it all back in international dollars, but with what is coming on the horizon, that looks more and more harder to achieve.

Some have said that "The Mummy" failed as a remake. Definitely part of that films problem was how hard it played the remake game. Tom Cruises character was essentially just a analog of Brendan Fraser's character. But the new "Mummy" was never intended to be a remake, but the beginning of a new shared universe. Universal Pictures saw the business Disney and WB are getting with Marvel and DC. They looked at their catalog and said "hey, we have the classic monsters, let's make a shared universe!" This trend of piggy-backing off of another franchise's success is nothing new either. When "Lord of the Rings" made money in 2001, every single fantasy book series you could think became a movie. When "X-men" made money in 2000 and "Spider-Man" in 2002, that lead to the superhero craze in movies that we are living in right now. I have written about this before, but it becomes clearer and clearer as I get older that we are living in an era of cinematic laziness. Whenever something big catches on, every studio in the business needs to copy it.

But the way Universal Studios approached their Dark Universe was totally wrong headed. When we think of the classic Universal monsters, we think horror movies. Creating a horror shared universe would have felt new and possibly creative. But Universal chose to make "The Mummy" into a typical, high-concept, superheroic action movies. If you ever do see this, you'll agree that it felt like just another origin story. That's the most boring avenue they could have chosen for characters like The Mummy, Dr. Jekyll, The Invisible Man and Dracula. And it's proven that it's a business risk. Many moviegoers interest in five superhero movies a year is starting to wane. So when this film looked just like those films, it lost audiences.

It also didn't help that "The Mummy" suffered from severe "Age of Ultron" syndrome and was mostly a commercial for future films. Nobody really wants to pay $10-12 to watch an incomplete film that's all setup. That reverts back to my point above, your jump off point has to work if your going to get audiences to come back to the theater next year. "Iron Man" is 100% an Iron Man movie. It's only after the credits that Tony meets Nick Fury and learns of the larger universe around him.

If I had to wager a bet, I would say that the Dark Universe might be done after this year. Sure, some have argued that since Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Tom Cruise, Russell and potentially The Rock, Angelina Jolie and Scarlet Johansson are all involved, that the franchise will continue. But $95 million is nothing to shrug off, that is lots of money lost. That's not something a studio can merely sneeze at. We could also have an entirely different conversation about how big name movie stars don't sell movies anymore. I wrote about this during the first year I had this blog, and I could never imagine that it would be so abundantly clear merely four years later. This era of cinema has changed in another way, A-listers don't sell movies like they used to. You can't make an original movie and hire Julia Roberts or Tom Hanks in the lead. If you want to do that, you have to sell your movie as an Oscar contender, you have to take your chances at a film festival or your name has to be Christopher Nolan or Quentin Tarantino. I remember growing up, there was rich diversity at the movie theater. Today, everything is a prequel, a sequel, a remake, an adaptation of a comic, or a novel, or a TV show, or a video game. Nothing comes from a personal place anymore. Nobody takes a risk in the business of Hollywood anymore.

Is that what we all truly want from our movies? Do we really want to see the same stories over and over again? Do we really need live action remakes of all our Disney classics? Or a trilogy of "Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them" which was literally a book within a book? Do we need another franchise based on fucking toys? Apparently, according to all of you, we do. We are allowing these tentpole movies to break box office records. We make fun of Michael Bay's "Transformers" but then we are going to be there for his new one this weekend. If we are growing sick of these types of franchises, why do we keep watching them? I guess I should have hope. I think "The Mummy" proves that there is a wake-up call coming. But will it end up being an anomaly?

There are more of these shared universes around the corner and I hope they take a look at what happened here with "The Mummy"  and see how not to approach a franchise. If studios want this new brand of franchise to work, they need to make one solid film. Don't even announce it as a shared universe, just make one solid film. Then once its a commercial and critical success, THEN tell the world your starting a shared universe. Don't be so quick to fire the gun, you'll do better in the long run that way. Remember, we don't need a movie to just advertise for the future, we want what we've always wanted. Movies that carry emotions, character arcs, and good storytelling. Remember that, and perhaps this lazy era of filmmaking may pick up. Please let the crews you hire take control of their own visions, instead of  forcing production notes into their own movies. We can still make this lazy time memorable, but its going to take a little effort on your part, Hollywood.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: "Sleight" is kind of a magician movie, kind of a superhero movie, and all awesome.

Sleight Review
One thing I hate most when looking around at marketing for movies is when they try to sell a movie as being a mash of two great things. If your movie is just the sum of other movie's parts, there is a part of me that will think you lazy. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of low culture mash-ups that have hit my sweet spot. Sometimes people just get lucky. But when something is blatantly obvious that its pieces of other movies, it loses me. There was one poster I read about "Sleight" right before I watched it that claimed that "Sleight" was "Chronicle meets Iron Man." I suddenly felt a sudden urge that I shouldn't waste my time watching it. What would be the point? I don't want to see two pieces of great movies that I've already seen before, I want to try something new.

Turns out that "Sleight" isn't a mash-up of "Chronicle" and "Iron Man" and thank God for that. Honestly, I can't really compare "Sleight" to anything. Its not a wholly original concept, it takes ordinary and familiar storylines and tweaks them just enough that we don't quite recognize them. Now, after everything I wrote in my opening paragraph, that may seem like a contradiction. I don't mind when movies approach a familiar trope a different way. Take "Dracula" from the 1930's and take "Afflicted" and then look at "Near Dark." Three movies about vampires, but they are all approached in three radically different ways. That's what I like and want from movies, I don't just want the same movie over and over again. "Sleight" has some magic antics in it and some slight superhero antics in it. But not really. Kind of. Sort of. But not really. But to compare it to "Chronicle" or "Iron Man" is a disservice to "Sleight." "Sleight" is "Sleight."

So what is "Sleight?" Well, its about a street magician who performs wild magic tricks that appear superhuman to the eye. Then during the night, he sells drugs for local gangsters. He lost both of his parents recently and now he is the sole guardian of his little sister. He once had a scholarship he was going to use towards college, but that is a no-go now that he has to look out for his sister. Sadly, its taking him in dark places simply to provide for her. But hey, his magic catches the attention of a cute girl who he begins to date, and his magic tricks become more and more elaborate. As he tries to get out of the gangster life for good, it constantly keeps pulling him back in. Should he try to fight his way out?

After all this description, I bet some of you already have this movie figured out. To a degree you probably do, but you may be surprised just how many twists and turns there are before the film's finish line. I thought I had the film figured out a couple times, but when I didn't, I through theories out the window and just enjoyed the ride. I am glad I did too. "Sleight" is clever subversion on some tropes we have been seeing recently in genre films. If this is what comes out of this long slog of superheroes and brands on screen then at least there will be some pros to this era of film. I am going to say though that I am going to keep this review short. I want you guys to discover this. I want to invite family and friends over and watch this film on a loop, discussing everything that is cool about it afterwards. This is a movie that going to get you giddy while you watch it. A movie that you are going to love as it draws closer and closer to its conclusion. And something you may remember big time by the end of the year.

I will say that the film works because of its amazing cast. Pretty much all of whom I have never heard of before. Jacob Latimore plays Bo, the street magician, and he is a pitch perfect lead. Seychelle Gabriel plays Holly, the girlfriend of Bo. They had a radiant relationship in the film and the build believable chemistry by playing people we recognize. Not mere characters in a movie. Everything plays fairly grounded, which is good as things get weirder by the end of the film. But they play it real and raw throughout. Then there is Dule Hill you may remember from the TV show "Psych." In that show he was funny, and at first I didn't think I would by him as a crime lord and the main villain of the movie. But I must confess, Dule Hill does outstanding work in this film. He comes off as a stern, gritty crime lord. Its never once awkward. It never once feels forced. Hill just does really good work here. He's never once funny or jokey and it pays off big time.

"Sleight" is a special drama wrapped in a familiar superhero bow. Its anything but what you may see in the trailers and I think I will be championing this film all year long. 


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Review: "Shimmer Lake" tests the reverse storytelling technique

Shimmer Lake Review
Telling a story in reverse can be a fun exercise, but like many devices in the history of film its only as strong as the person who crafts it. "Memento" is quickly becoming one of the finest motion pictures that I've ever had the pleasure to see. Its the my favorite film of the 2000's, my favorite film of the 21st Century so far and easily becoming one of my favorite films of all time. That film tells its story in reverse, starting from a point where we believe a man got his revenge on the criminal who raped and murdered his wife. As the film dials back in history though, we aren't so sure of the film's hero. "Irreversible" while extremely difficult to re-watch, shows us a film that begins in terrible darkness, then dials back into overwhelming positive light. Showing us that we are completely powerless to stop the events that behold our future. Both films are the two finest examples of reverse storytelling that I can name.

"Shimmer Lake" is the latest film I've personally seen to tackle the reverse storytelling. It tells the story of a bank robbery that goes terribly wrong. The film moves in reverse, moving over the course of a week. We see a local sheriff (Benjamin Walker) beginning his investigation of the bad robbery, as it has left dead bodies. Little does he know his brother Andy (Rainn Wilson) is hiding in his basement, he is a suspect in the robbery. As the film slowly begins to unfold, we trace back through the week and discover who is responsible for the heist and how they got involved. We also soon begin to see how it spiraled out of control and became about something else entirely.

I give any filmmaker credit tackling a device that is by and large, hard to use. By the end of the film, I am not sure if "Shimmer Lake" has the same impact as either "Memento" or "Irreversible," but its a fun ride for the most part. The film benefits from having a mesmerizing cast all doing good work. What's extra exciting is the cast of characters going so far out of their comfort zones. Ron Livingston, Rob Corddry, John Michael Higgins, Adam Pally...these are all actors who normally specialize in comedy. They got careers that were defined by their comedy. Now, "Shimmer Lake" had a few scenes that made me laugh out loud. But its mostly a mystery-drama-thriller. The laughs in this film are mostly jetblack. Its amazing watching these guys tackle some fairly stark material and do such a good job doing it.

The film itself sets up a fun little mystery game that proved fun to play. Like I said, it didn't have a big impact on me. Mostly because if it were told in chronological order, it would have been just a mediocre little crime movie. Most reverse storytelling films begin with a big question, and eventually move back to give that big question an answer. I don't know how well "Shimmer Lake" pulls that off, its ultimately a mixed bag. Its fun to play, I just don't feel compelled to ever watch this one again. Even though I know what happens, "Memento" is such an intoxicating experience that I have to see it at least once a year. I don't know if I'd go back for seconds on this one. Its just kind of ordinary and familiar. The device used in the movie does not elevate the material at hand.

But for what its worth, its a valiant effort and definitely worth catching on Netflix. I don't know what happened to Rainn Wilson, but it was a pleasure seeing him in this. The whole cast is on top of things here. And there is a fun game to play here, but it just lacks any forward momentum and juice.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Michelle Monaghan returns for Mission: Impossible 6

You know, for the longest time I figured Hollywood was analogizing Ethan Hunt to be an American James Bond. Sure, he stayed within the the norms and tropes of the Mission: Impossible TV show. But he remains a different version of James Bond. Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt has a new girlfriend in each movie. Which is funny since he seems to settle down in nearly every single Mission: Impossible movie, right before the credits roll. So it will be interesting to see "Mission: Impossible 6" for this very reason.

Michelle Monaghan, who played Julie in "Mission: Impossible 3" will return for number six. Yes, the girl who Ethan Hunt fell in love with. The woman he nearly left the IMF for. The woman he was engaged to and almost married. The woman he had to save from a lunatic arms dealer. She is returning for "Mission: Impossible 6." Will she be the love interest? Will she be some kind of power player since she knows Ethan's secret? Who knows. But the actress posted on Twitter today that she's excited to spill more of Julie's story. So we can only expect that she will have a meaty role in the upcoming sequel.

Tom Cruise will obviously return as Ethan Hunt. Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin, and Rebecca Ferguson will return for this sixth film. Jeremy Renner has been strangely absent. This sixth film will also add Henry Cavill, Angela Bassett and Vanessa Kirby. Sean Harris, who was the villain in the fifth film, is also returning for the sequel.

More details as they come!


Deadpool 2 details

Its been fun following the details spilling out of "Deadpool 2." I would have never imagined Josh Brolin playing Cable, but the more I think about it, the more I think its perfect. I know there were people like Stephen Lang and David Harbour attached or rumored one time or another. And there was the post-credit scene at the end of the first film where Deadpool himself said Keira Knightley might play Cable. I know it would have been a radical shift from the comic book, but part of me would kind of kill to see it.

But "Deadpool 2" is coming. We got Josh Brolin playing Cable, a character whose cinematic debut has been long overdue. Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead are all returning. Blind Al is returning. Morena Baccarin is returning as Vanessa. Shioli Kutsuna will join the cast in an unspecified role. Zazie Beetz has been added to play Domino. It should be a very good time at the theater!

Here's some pictures of Josh Brolin getting ready to play Cable!

I figured I'd like "Deadpool." But I don't know if I could have imagined myself loving it on the level that I did. Heck, I don't think anybody expected to love it on the level they did. Its one of the most successful R-rated films ever, and it adopted a certain style we hadn't seen in a superhero movie yet. I am very much looking forward to this follow-up.


Monday, June 12, 2017

Review: I know what the "it" is, in "It Comes At Night"

It Comes At Night Review
A24 is a studio that has been interesting (to say the least) to see unfold as a business over the years. They curate a wide range of genres and experiences and they are clearly unafraid to champion movies they believe in. There isn't another studio I can name right now that would have take a chance on something like "It Comes At Night." If anything, that should be important to note. So many studios today plan their years on the tent poles, and nobody takes risks or chances anymore. Which makes A24 as a studio stand out, for better or for worse.

Their latest entry comes in the form of the horror genre. Although I don't know if I would call "It Comes At Night" a horror movie. Yes, there are some psychological horror aspects in the movie. Yes, it has a plot that is ripe for the horror genre. Yes, there is moody scenes, moody characters and moody musical scores. But I don't think the movie is particularly scary. I am also just not sure if horror was what the filmmakers had in mind. This is a movie that builds suspense slowly throughout the film, and feeds on the paranoia brewing within the small cast of characters in the film. There are no boo-scares, which is refreshing to see. There is minimal gore, but I will say there is blood there, just not an over-saturation of blood that we are used to in horror films today. But the way the film is written, how the story plays out and how the characters move along here. I don't think it qualifies as horror. Definitely a thriller with psychological aspects. If that makes any sense at all.

The film's storyline is simple. A deadly virus has riddled the USA? The World? We focus on a family as they survive, day by day. There has been a routine created by the family and a certain set of rules they don't dare break. We meet Paul (Joel Edgerton) the father of this family, his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and their seventeen year old son, Travis (Kelvin Harrison). At the beginning of the film, Sarah's father has been stricken with the deadly virus. Even though he's still alive, Paul and Travis venture into the day with gas masks and gloves. Shoot and kill Sarah's father and then burn the body. Then they go back and lock the quarantine doors. Right from the beginning, there is a jet-black world of survival set up within the characters. Its so routine and matter-of-fact that its disturbing that they even have to live this way to survive. But the sickness itself seems gruesome, and you wouldn't want someone you love to come down with such a thing.

Then one night, a mysterious man tries to break into their house. Paul swiftly captures him. The man's name is Will (Christopher Abbott). Will says he has a family and that he was searching for water. He offers Paul a trade of food for water. Paul doesn't know whether to believe him or not. But he takes a chance and follows Will home. Paul takes in Will's wife Kim (Riley Keough) and their young son Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner). Slowly a trust between the two families is formed. And of course, something will come up to test the families and their newfound trust they built together. 

The film does a fine job of building such unbearable tension that you want sudden relief immediately. But you never once get it. "It Comes At Night" is a grand example of less is more. Its amazing how suspense and tension can be created by basically nothing on screen. Its a mostly well-written script, and the building of suspense feels organic and natural. The roles are pitch perfect across the entire board, and Kelvin Harrison in particular stands out. He makes the film his own solely based upon his performance. If enough people see this, Harrison will have a long and lengthy career, bar-none.

One of the most astonishing problems with "It Comes At Night," and I can't believe I am saying this, but I feel could have benefited from more exposition. Yes, usually movies unleashed too much exposition,but "It comes At Night" should have pumped the breaks and explained more. We learn from the film that the sickness is possibly airborne, possibly spread through touching blood. But the rules of the sickness are never explained. Characters walk freely throughout the day, but get very nervous, don't leave the house, and when they do wear gas masks and other protection during the night. Our humans more susceptible to the disease at night? Has this disease reached all of the United States? Has this disease reached all of the world? We never find out the answers to any of these questions. The movie never stops to explain anything, while that is welcoming, its too far to that corner of storytelling.

There are also several story threads brought up in the film, that I can't believe don't get resolved. When Travis sees Kim, its clear he finds her attractive. The movie plays with the idea of these two people being attracted to each other, even though Kim has a kid and a husband. But nothing materializes from that story. Something big happens that gets both families not to trust each other, a whodunit mystery that sets off all the paranoia, but that part of the film is never resolved. Even though I find it fantastically important to find out who did that one thing that drove the wedge between these families. Much of the movie deals with Travis' nightmares as he reacts to his stress with each new situation his family encounters. While I think the nightmare material is effective, it mostly leads nowhere, and brings no significance to anything else happening onscreen. Is Travis upset? Is he overly stressed out? Does he have some kind of disorder? Can Will's family be trusted? Are they trying to destroy Travis' family? None of this is explored, for a movie that's not even too hours, I wish I had more time to get things explained. 

There is lots to like about "It Comes At Night," but there is just as much that is frustrating to the viewers. This is definitely not a horror film for everyone. This is a movie that leaves you with questions, and they don't get answered. It doesn't play like a conventional horror film. It features a slow burn and works as an experimental and psychological experience. That's not every horror fans cup of tea, so just know up front that this is not an experience for everyone. I also think the film's ambition is ultimately its undoing. But so much works with "It Comes At Night" that its worth a look.


Review: The Dark Universe begins on a shaky foundation with "The Mummy."

The Mummy Review
Alex Kurtzman's "The Mummy" had lots riding on it. Not only was a reboot of a franchise that ended with Universal almost a decade ago, it was the spring board for a whole new shared universe of movies revolving around the classic monsters in the Universal stable. There were lots of moving parts to this thing, and that can quite treacherous and hard to pull off. When began to imagine a Classic Universal Monsters Universe franchise, or The Dark Universe as its called, I figured we'd get a franchise of straight-up horror movies. But with Tom Cruise at the helm and Alex Kurtzman acting as Universal's Kevin Feige, it was clear that this was going to be an action franchise. I was curious as hell to see what Kurtzman was planning to do.

The first half of "The Mummy" is chore to sit through simply because it has a "been there, done that" aurora to it. This film borrows so heavily from the 1999 Stephen Sommers film that it practically feels like a remake. Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) is definitely the Rick O'Connell of this story. He's a soldier of fortune who preserves ancient relics in the Middle East before insurgents come in and destroy them, while selling lesser known relics on the black market. His friend Vail (Jake Johnson) is very much the Benny of the story, if you can imagine Benny never betraying Rick O'Connell. That's the relationship between Nick and Benny. The film opens with a Nick and Vail in a sticky, life-or-death sitaution, getting shot at all sides, much like the opening from the 1999 "The Mummy." Then they stumble upon a tomb, almost by accident. Nick and Vail want to take what treasures they can and sell them. But they are accompanied to the tomb by Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) a super-smart, researcher who finds old relics and preserves them for a shadowy organization. She's beautiful, she's smart, she has a British you know which analogue from the 1999 film she is yet?

Oh, and I should have mentioned at the film really begins with an overlong narration of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) who was the next in line as Queen of Ancient Egypt before getting knocked out of line by the current king having a son. She makes a deal with the Evil God Set and kills her family, only to be caught, mummified and tombed with a curse. Sound familiar yet?

Look, there is a difference between a reboot and a straight up remake. Look at "Batman Begins," that was a reboot of the Batman franchise. You stack "Batman Begins" next to Tim Burton's Batman film and they look like apples and oranges, even though they are about the exact same character. Take a look at Daniel Craig's run as James Bond compared to the rest of the series. The Daniel Craig films feature the same tropes and norms of the James Bond films, but they are tonally and technically different. This "Mummy" movie wants to be a reboot, but it plays for most of its run time as a remake of sorts. That's up until the point Nick, Vail and Halsey get the tomb of Ahmanet on an airplane and then the plane crashes, unleashing Ahmanet. Killing Nick and Vail.

Oh, man. Starting screaming about spoilers all you want, but I truly didn't spoil anything. The trailers showed Nick dying and its fine. Both Nick and Vail don't stay dead. Universal is borrowing the shared universe template from Marvel and DC, so of course nobody actually dies here. Once Nick wakes up from his death-sleep, it is revealed to him by Halsey the shadowy organization she works for is run by Nick Fury. Ooops, I mean run by Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe). But telling how his character works, he is clearly the Nick Fury analogue for the Dark Universe. Dr. Jekyll has dedicated his life to discovering, dissecting, researching and ultimately destroying "evil" in all its forms. This is the point in the film where it stops dead and places Easter egg after Easter egg in front of your eyes, setting up a whole host of future films, much like "Avengers: Age of Ultron," or "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice." Characters don't really die, people are walking around with superpowers, a group getting together to fight evil. "The Mummy" radically shifts from "Mummy" remake to superhero film. No joke.

I promise you, the film shifts again. "The Mummy" was written by David Koepp, Christopher McQuirre and Dylan Kussman. Three fucking people contributed to one script. Its evidently clear early on that "The Mummy" was a bi-product of screenplay-by-committee. But the film feels like one writer tackled the beginning, the other the middle and the other polishing the end, but they never got together to compare notes. Because of this, "The Mummy" is kind of a mess to watch. It feels like different movies almost every twenty or so minutes. (Watch for Jake Johnson appearing as a ghost in Nick's mind. Clearly borrowed from "An American Werewolf in London." Except its laughably stupid, instead of laughably hilarious) The movie never finds a tone, never finds a voice, never finds a definition to the movie. 

Tom Cruise is one of our very few reliable movie stars, and he tries to get this one to work. But something feels off with him this time. Maybe its him working in such a effects-heavy film. It doesn't feel realistic when you see Tom Cruise beating up a bunch of CGI mummies, compared to when he's really hanging from an airplane in a "Mission: Impossible" movie. He does what he can, but the schizophrenic script is no help for him. Jake Johnson is good, but his role could have been written out entirely. You can tell that Russell Crowe had a ball playing Dr. Jekyll, it just seems like he's from a completely different movie. That's the biggest problem here, three different movies got crammed into one. How is Sofia Boutella? She's good, I guess. I never found her scary though. How am I supposed to be scared of a gorgeous lady being made to purposely look gorgeous? Just doesn't work.

I was hoping that Universal would make a shared universe of scary films. I was hoping it was would be in the same vein as the criminally underseen but completely scary "The Wolfman" from 2010. That movie was incredibly scary. But for some reason, Universal is taking their classic monsters and putting them in superheroic action movies. I really don't see the point in doing that simply because Marvel is making money right now. This Dark Universe could have had a style and tone of its own, and I think people want to see these characters in horror films rather high-concept action movies, but turning this into an action franchise may be its undoing. Oddly, this shared universe was going to start with "Dracula: Untold" which came out a few years ago. When that movie tanked at the box office, they started over and decided this "Mummy" film would be the new starting point. Now that "The Mummy" is tanking fast, will they just chop it and start over? Perhaps if they did that, they could move these characters back to the genre they belong in.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Review: I set sail with "Dead Men Tell No Tales" and I don't give two shits what critics say

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Review
Before we begin, let me write up a quick history of my feelings towards the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies. I have seen every single one of them. But the first film was 2003 and that was way before I began writing this blog. It maybe a good idea to run through my history with this franchise before diving into this latest tale. 

I love "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl." Nothing will ever match the first time Johnny Depp played Captain Jack Sparrow, Geoffrey Rush played Barbossa or Orlando Bloom playing Will Turner. Nothing will match the first time I met Keira Knightley and the development of a new Hollywood crush. Back in 2003, as the business slowly began turning toward brand franchise filmmaking. When superhero movies were coming out at every corner, when "Lord of the Rings" set a new standard. "The Curse of the Black Pearl" felt fresh. As far as blockbusters, its one of the very best in recent years. A near-perfect blend of adventure, comedy, romance, even horror and it did it in a wonderful, exciting way.

I wish I could say the same thing about the sequels. The one-two punch of "Dead Man's Chest" and "At World's End" could have been fun. There are pockets of fun buried deep in each movie. But ultimately, the entire experience is pointless and hollow. It feels like somebody tried to bake two cakes by mixing them in only one bowl. Cutting this story into two parts is utterly pointless. There are too many characters, too many drawn-out subplots, too much exposition and not enough time to make it all come together, even between two nearly three-hour movies. Then there was "On Stranger Tides," a movie so bad I try very hard to forget it.

As I walked into "Dead Men Tell No Tales" tonight, I had incredibly low expectations. I was curious to see Javier Bardem's villain, but that was it. I hadn't jumped for joy for this franchise in over a decade and the reviews for this new entry were very poor. Would there be anything I could love or even like about this movie? 

Then after two hours of "Dead Men Tell No Tales," I walked out of the theater and I couldn't believe my opinion. I can honestly say that I smiled throughout the entire film. I can honestly say that I laughed through nearly all of the film's gags. I can say that Johnny Depp has never been more laser-focused on playing Jack Sparrow, and it feels like the first time seeing him. The movie is by no means perfect. Its not nearly as great as the original film. There are still some big problems that keep the film from being great. But a "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequel being as good as "Dead Men Tell No Tales" has never happened, and it feels revolutionary.

We begin with a young boy diving into the ocean and landing on a ship. It comes as no surprise that the ship the boy lands on is The Flying Dutchman. And the boy? Its Henry Turner, Will Turner's son. The boy finds his father, played once again by Orlando Bloom, and Will is cursed. Henry says he will find Poseidon's Trident, the McGuffin of the film in order to break his father's curse. Henry says he will seek the help of Jack Sparrow, Will says no. But Henry promises he will break his father's curse.

Nine years later, Henry works for the Royal Navy and a ship is about sail into The Devil's Triangle. Henry desperately tries to convince the ship to not go into The Devil's Triangle, but they refuse to listen to fairy tales. Of course, that is their undoing as the entire crew, except Henry, is brutally murdered by some ghost men. The ghost men are lead by Salazar (Javier Bardem), who is seeking Jack Sparrow and, you guessed it Poseidon's Trident. Salazar keeps Henry alive to tell his tale to the rest of the world. 

At this point in the film, I couldn't believe how entertained I was. I spent the first half of the movie waiting for something bad to happen. Waiting for something that was going to make me hate the movie. But I only got caught up in the adventure. Javier Bardem, once again, plays a menacing, grueling villain and part of the film's fun is watching him shamble onscreen. Brenton Thwaites, who plays Henry Turner, does a good job and fits in perfectly in the film's style. When Henry finally catches up with Jack Sparrow, well the big fun begins. Depp and Thwaites give off good energy, and keep the film flowing very well. The special effects are some of the best of the series. I mean, watch something as small as Javier Bardem's hair. When he's above water, his hair flows as if he is still underwater. Its one of the many tiny aspects of the film that only add up to the extravagant adventure on display. For the first time in the run of the sequels, the jokes actually land, there are no stupid throwaway laughs. There are some spooky parts, there are some romantic parts and the entire experience is overall excellent.

Here's the problem though, the "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequels suffer from the same thing, including "Dead Men Tell No Tales." There is WAY TOO MUCH exposition. Had "Dead Men Tell No Tales" only focused on Jack Sparrow and Henry looking for the Poseidon Trident and getting it before Salazar, it would have been much better overall. But there is a female astronomer who is accused of witchcraft also looking for the trident, and there is a female who is an actual witch, and Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) returns also looking for the trident, and there are ghost sharks and there's David Wenham playing a Royal Navy guard looking for Sparrow, Turner and the astronomer. All of these people have subplots, and subplots and more subplots. There so much explanation of character motivation that the movie never really gets going until about an hour and half in. What made "Dead Man's Chest" so good was the story was simple. A group of cursed pirates were looking for a way to break their curse, they attack an island to find the curse-breaker, a girl gets kidnapped and two men go after her to save her. That's pretty much the first movie. The next three sequels are so overstuffed with story that it becomes distracting. Its still distracting in "Dead Men Tell No Tales" and had the film been simpler, it would have been better.

What makes "Dead Men Tell No Tales" better than the other three sequels? Well, the villain this time around is much more interesting thanks to Javier Bardem. Johnny Depp never once feels like he's phoning it in, and he gives a performance that feels like its 2003 again. Each actor in particular gives it their all, and it brings a certain life to the film which I felt was missing in the sequels. The special effects work are at an all-time high. I just wish they trimmed the story and exposition down a bit. I also wish they dropped some of the cliches of the franchise, why does every single character have to be connected to each other in some odd way?

But by the end, I was frantic leaving the theater. I felt energized. My expectations were at an all time low, and perhaps that helped too but this movie blindsided me. For the first time in a long time, a "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie worked for me. You may have not liked it, and that's okay. Sometimes in movie fandom, you stand alone. I mean, there were days when Roger Ebert himself sang the praises for "Tomb Raider" and "Van Helsing" and a bunch of other stinkers I would never imagine him liking. If I were afraid to stand alone in my appreciation or dissatisfaction of a movie, I would have never began a blog in the first place. The world may have hated this movie, but I didn't. If you care at all about this franchise, please check this out. It isn't perfect, but in the tradition of summer blockbuster fun, it certainly fits the bill.


Friday, June 9, 2017

Review: "Mindhorn" is a fun little British caper.

Mindhorn Review
If there was a show about a police detective who had a lie detector in his eye, in order to catch bad guys more easily, would that sound intriguing? It sounds like an old, silly, science fiction show that was big in the 1970s and 1980s, doesn't it? Well, this revolves around the film of "Mindhorn." "Mindhorn" in the movie is about a TV show about a police detective with a lie detector in his eye. He used it to solve crimes. It launched the career of actor Richard Thorncroft, who was beginning a relationship with the show lead actress Patricia Deville. Twenty-five years later, Thorncroft (Julian Barratt) has become a washed-up has-been. Patricia Deville (Essie Davis) has fallen in love with the shows old stunt double and it seems like Thorncroft isn't going anywhere.

Then the Isle of Man, the town in which the Mindhorn show was shot, gets a call. There is a killer on the loose. The killer is demanding to talk to Detective Mindhorn. Not realizing that Detective Mindhorn isn't real. Richard Thorncroft however, is very real and the police department of the Isle of Man calls Thorncroft for him to assist in their case against this killer. Thorncroft may have played a good cop on TV, but he's pretty braindead as a cop.

"Mindhorn" is a charming film. It rides on the strength of its leads. Julian Barratt is absolutely hilarious as Thorncroft. A guy that vanished up his own ass and absolutely knows it. He's funny how he tries to an expert in every situation but really is not. Its a magnificent performance, and it guides the movie well. He is accompanied by a grand list of supporting actors, all of whom do good work. Watch in particular for a cameo made by Kenneth Branagh playing himself. Very funny. 

This film has a typical British dry sense of humor. The slapstick in this movie isn't the same style we see in America. The dry sense of humor isn't the type of dry that we see in America. I love British comedy, and that style is very much alive in this movie. While the movie itself works in a fairly straightforward manner, it sure is fun getting from point A to point B.


The first "Black Panther" trailer!

The first trailer for "Black Panther" is here! The solo adventure film featuring the superhero who first appeared in "Captain America: Civil War" last year. This film is significant not only because we are seeing this popular hero for the first time in his own adventure, but it will be the first African American superhero in a long time to have his own film. Sure, there was "Spawn" in 1997. I actually do like that film quite a bit. Yes, it has cheesy special effects, even though it was the 1990's. Yes, the script has some serious issues, but I still do enjoy the film. I guess the others people in the world didn't think the same thing. The film unfortunately didn't catapult Michael Jai White into superstardom, which I think they were trying to set up. But I will always enjoy it. Then there was "Steel" and "Blankman" before that, and well, I think we know how those turned out.

I think Marvel will be a little bit more successful in their efforts. For one, people clearly liked the character in "Civil War," so that will get people in line to buy tickets. Chadwick Bosemen hit a homerun playing the character last year, and we will be anticipating what he will do in his own adventure. Also, Marvel has earned enough clout that people are interested in anything that features the company name. That's what you want when creating a massive franchise like this.

The trailer opens with Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman), who we also met in "Civil War" last year interrogating Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) who we met in "Avengers: Age of Ultron." It seems like Wakanda, Black Panther's home, is a mystery to many people. Some people can't even locate itself on the map. It hides in the cover of being a third world country, but Wakanda is anything but. This is a highly technologically advanced society and the visuals of Wakanda is fantastic. Its not a particularly long trailer, but it sets up a struggle between Klaue and Black Panther. We see some glimpses of Erik Kilmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan, who will also be a villain in the movie. We see a couple scenes of Danai Gurira in action, and "Walking Dead" fans will love seeing that.

Overall, good trailer. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Review: The DCEU jumps back on track with "Wonder Woman"

Wonder Woman Review
I have been sitting here for a few minutes now about how to approach this review. I have had a complicated history with the DC Extended Universe films so far. I loved "Man of Steel," and if you asked me in 2013 if the new DC shared universe was going to sink or swim, I would have undoubtedly said swim. I was as manic as anybody when came to being excited for "Batman vs. Superman.'' Even if it was a shameless set up for a huge chunk of storytelling. The end result? Not so good. If you've been reading my blog, you know why. I have said everything I wish to say about that film, never feeling to discuss it again. That was the single biggest disappointment I have felt with a film in quite awhile. Then came "Suicide Squad," which was a slight step up from "Batman vs. Superman" but was just a generic carbon copy of every action movie being released this summer. I figured DC was having the problems Marvel faced in the early 2000's. Wanting badly to play ball with the big leagues, but having no direction or idea of how to do that.

Then came "Wonder Woman." I can confidently say that the DCEU is split fifty-fifty in my book. "Wonder Woman" isn't just a step up from "Batman vs Superman" or "Suicide Squad." Its not merely just a good movie or even a great movie. "Wonder Woman" is an amazing movie, a mesmerizing movie, and easily the best of the DC bunch so far. Wonder Woman was the best part of "Batman vs. Superman" and her first full-length film in the live-action arena proved to be not just a fluke for the character or the actress Gal Gadot. "Wonder Woman" is awesome on every front.

I could argue that perhaps DC should have stuck with introducing their characters in single films, like Marvel has done. I could argue that perhaps group movies are not the way to go. But that's not necessarily true. Most of the "X-Men" movies have worked just fine and I love "Mystery Men." What' needed to make these superhero movies work is hire people who like the character(s) and simply stay out of their way, let them make the movie they need to make. Its clear from frame one that director Patty Jenkins is passionate about these characters and their world. It seems so simple doesn't it, to simply let the people you hire to just do their jobs. Patty Jenkins brings a massive punch to the director's chair. Creating a world full of magic, but at the same time, a world we can believe in. She gets supreme emotion out of all of her characters. Plus, she orchestrates some damn fine action sequences, even though I personally hate slow motion. Here, she uses slow motion to her advantage, and elevates the action, instead of merely letting it draw to a quick close. Essentially, she made every good decision across the board.

Gal Gadot plays Princess Diana, an Amazonian living on the island created by Zeus. Zeus put them there after Ares killed all the other gods on Mount Olympus. Zeus created the Amazonians in order to fight for mankind against Ares' corruption. Zeus placed a special weapon to defeat Ares, should he ever rise again, called The Godkiller. Priness Diana wishes to wield The Godkiller to fight Ares one day. Suddenly, a plane comes crashing through the safety net around the island, the plane belongs to Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) in the heat of battle during World War I. Trevor is captured by the Amazonians and questioned. He tells them he is a spy for Great Britain, and found plans for a terrible Mustard Gas created by Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya) for the Central Powers, supervised by Ludendorff (Danny Huston). This gas is capable of mass killings. Believing this is the work of Ares, Diana accompanies Trevor back to Earth to stop Ludendorff's plan.

I knew there was something special about Gal Gadot when I saw her in "Batman vs Superman." I remember all the backlash when she got cast in the part. She's too skinny people would say. She needs to eat a cheeseburger others would say. I was curious as hell, and one thing is starting to occur to me. Body type has no place in the casting process, acting does. Plus, in the full costume, Gadot embodies Wonder Woman in way we've never seen before. She wholeheartedly becomes the character. She's loyal, funny, uplifting, encouraging and fierce. I loved every moment she was onscreen here. She commands the screen, just like any lead superhero does. Gadot has taken this whole and completely made it her own.

Gadot is given a great supporting part in the hands of Chris Pine. Here, Trevor isn't just some love interest just for the sake of having one. In fact, at the beginning of the film, and also as it progresses, we have no idea if Trevor is a love interest. The relationship Trevor and Diana share is a friendly one, but the film takes its time setting it up. We get to know these characters, we get to witness them surprising and dazzling each other. Sure, it eventually gets romantic, but by that time, its earned. It isn't shoehorned in just to be there. Its not some mark off of a checklist. These are real feelings, created by real characters and dramatized by actors.

The rest of the cast is solid, across the board. Connie Neilsen is perfect as Diana's mother and has some strong scenes early in the film. Robin Wright is great as Antiope, the woman who trains Diana at a young age. I've been loving Robin Wright on "House of Cards" all week, but I never knew just how badass she could be. I mean, damn, when Anitope and Diana accompany each other in battle, its a moment where breathing ceases to exist. She's amazing in this film, a sort of amazing we've never witnessed from her. Danny Huston creates another memorable villain here. David Thewlis shows up, and creates a strong performance, especially since his character changes the most over the coarse of the film. Patty Jenkins has cast her film perfectly.

The score has Wonder Woman charges into battle will remain stuck in my head for a good chunk of the summer. I am going to call that now. Its primal and brutal and sets the mood in the best possible way. Music can elevate the material in a movie, and its a tool to use wisely, which is what happens here. There has been some complaining about the bait-and-switch at the end of the film, regarding some villains. But you know what? It didn't bother me much. Is it predictable? Yes, I would say that. You may be able to call it a mile away, but the villain's plot in this film is a heavily emotional one, and its hard not to look at it and understand their motivation. Superhero movies have proven that villains are tricky to create. But the villains in "Wonder Woman" work well.

I can feel the life of the DC shared universe. More so than ever before. I can only hope that this is a great chapter in what will ultimately become a fulfilling franchise. "Wonder Woman" is proof that you only need to trust the people you hire, everything else will go as planned.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Thor makes his opinion known about not being invited to Civil War

Ever since January of this year, Marvel and Disney have been hard at work on "Avengers: Infinity War." This big, bombastic accumulation of events in the Marvel Cinematic Universe will take place next year. If you've been reading along, you know how psyched I am for this. I have written hundreds upon hundreds of words already over this and my love for this franchise. Still, I find it hard to believe that in less than a year, we are going to see The Avengers, The Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man and whomever else taking a crack at Thanos. It should be one for the record book.

 The cast and crew of this endeavor are clearly having a great time making this movie. I mean just look below at this video featuring Chris Hemsworth, in total Thor character, expressing his feelings of not being invited to "Captain America: Civil War." "Civil War" was in fact directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, who will also direct the one-two punch of "Avengers: Infinity War" and whatever "Avengers 4" ends up being. "Infinity War" is no longer a two-part movie.

Also attached to this funny video is Robert Downey Jr, Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Kevin Feige and the Russo brothers talking "Infinity War!" Its not much and this part of the video is kind of old, but its still a fun watch!

But the Thor thing before...oh man, too funny! I am going to call this right now, someday, for some reason, Chris Hemsworth will win an Oscar for something. You heard it here first!