Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone trailer

Seriously, who doesn't love magic?  How many of us remember being kids, and saying to ourselves, 'how did they do that?'  That kind of wonder is the reason I'm still fascinated by magic.  And there really aren't a ton of movies about magic/magicians.  There are several serious films; one of my favorites being Christopher Nolan's The Prestige.  Check out The Incredible Burt Wonderstone starring Steve Carrell and Steve Buscemi; as lifelong friends, who are magicians in a Las Vegas show.  The characters may, or may not be a spoof of Siegfried and Roy, the famous magicians, who also play in Las Vegas.  They're having a good run, until Jim Carrey's character comes around.  Carrey's character is a Criss Angel type that goes against the duo's beliefs.  Check out the hilarious trailer below, and my thoughts after.

I don't think I've made it a secret, how big of a fan I am of Steve Carrell.  Throw in Buscemi, and Jim Carrey... about magicians!  And I'm in.  I want to see this movie.  The comedic tone is there, the actors are funny as hell, and the spoof element is relevant.  It seems like every year, 'magician' David Blaine has some new publicity stunt that he calls magic.  Much like the main characters locking themselves in a box, Blaine pulled off the stunt in 2003.  I love Alan Arkin, the lovely Olivia Wilde, and James Gandolfini; I want to see this movie!

Pain and Gain trailer

While I do not post  much about Michael Bay, I do know this much.  Bay will return to the Transformers franchise, with a fourth entry starring Mark Wahlberg.  It started as an internet rumor, and it actually became reality.  I didn't care much about the news, because I lost interest in the Transformers franchise after Revenge of the Suck.  BUT, this seems interesting.  Before Transformers 4, Bay and Wahlberg will release Pain and Gain.  The 'true story' of bodybuilders caught up in an extortion plan gone incredibly wrong.  The movie also stars Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie.  With some comedic relief from Tony Shalhoub, Ed Harris, Rebel Wilson, Ken Jeong and Rob Corddry.  Check out the trailer, and my thoughts after. 

Well, it's definitely a Michael Bay movie.  And unfortunately, to me, that's a bad thing.  The movie reminded me a lot of the Bad Boys films.  Especially the Miami setting and the color and contrast of the film.  I don't know, there's just something about it I didn't like.  If I had to pin point one thing, it would be that the movie doesn't know what it is.  Is it a buddy comedy?  Is it a heist film?  Is it a revenge film?  I guess it's just the first trailer, but I have no idea what category this falls into.  We'll have to wait to see more, but what do you think for now?

Dreamworks Turbo teaser trailer

At first, you may think this is Dreamworks answer to Disney Pixar's Cars.  But wait and see the entire trailer before that conclusion.  Check out the trailer and my thoughts after.

I know you all recognized the voice right?  That's Ryan Reynolds providing his voice to the lead character.  The beginning of the trailer had me thinking the movie was a total rip off of Cars.  But it doesn't take long to see the irony of the movie's title... Turbo.  About a snail who obviously hopes to go fast.  The teaser trailer is a cute look at the visuals, without divulging the premise at all.  Let's wait and see if the next trailer has to offer before saying any more.  Along with Reynolds, the movie also stars the voice talents of a ton of great actors and actresses.  Luis Guzman, Bill Hader, Samuel L. Jackson, Richard Jenkins, Ken Jeong, Michael Pena, Michelle Rodriguez, Maya Rudolph, Paul Giamatti and Snoop Dogg.  I hope it's as good as its talent!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Man of Steel official theatrical trailer.. Wow!

Get ready for a treat!  Today, Warner Brothers released the first theatrical trailer to Man of Steel.  The Zack Snyder directed Superman film, ready to hit theaters next June.  Take a look at the trailer, I have a lot to tell you after!

Well?!  Wow.  What a trailer.  It totally achieves what it's supposed to.  Whet the appetite and tell us nothing!  This trailer has a lot of new footage, that the teaser did not.  I feel Christopher Nolan's presense in this trailer by the way.  It may be too early to tell, but a "real life" approach to the Fortress of Solitude appears to be in the trailer.  Also 'grounded in reality' are the Kents, trying to comfort Clark as a child.  He saves a bus full of children, and doesn't know what to make of it.

An older Clark (Henry Cavill) is trying to understand his powers, and seems to runaway to an Alaska-like land, where he can figure out what to do.  This part of the trailer was the most intriguing to me.  Have any of the movies REALLY delved into the Clark Kent character?  I'm sure an argument could be made for the Richard Donner '78 Superman film.  But that's about it in my opinion.  Back to the trailer... and then the action shots appear!  We see alien like spaceships hover upon Smallville.  We also get our first glimpse of the Daily Planet team.  And, a very short look at Michael Shannon as General Zod is also in the trailer.

Last but not least, we see the beautiful Amy Adams as Lois Lane.  She seems to be calming our hero down, as he is surrounded by military personnel.  What an impressive trailer.  Check it out and let me know what you think.  I am very excited about this film!

Fun Movie Fact:  Before changing the release date to June 14th, 2013... the movie would have been released THIS Friday.  I wish!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Quickie: Dane DeHaan cast as Harry Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Dane DeHaan has been cast as Harry Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  The character was famously played by James Franco in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy.  In the comics, Osborn is Peter Parker's best friend, and confidant.  But in various iterations, Osborn take's over his father's mantel as the Green Goblin, Spider-Man's arch enemy.

I loved DeHaan in Chronicle, and I think he'll do terrific in this.  He has a way of acting with his eyes that will keep the audience guessing where the character's true alliance lies.  Director, Marc Webb is piecing together a nice cast.  Andrew Garfield Spider-Man, Jamie Foxx is about to sign as the villain Electro, Emma Stone will be back as Gwen Stacey, and Shailene Woodley as Mary Jane Watson.  DeHaan's casting is a very welcomed one!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

UPDATE: Two familiar faces join Bryan Singer's X-Men: Days of Future Past

UPDATE: Just yesterday I posted about Sir Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart rejoining the X-Men.  Today, The Hollywood Reporter says that Hugh Jackman may also join the party as, of course, Wolverine.  This makes perfect sense, as Wolverine is an integral part of the story told in the comic books.  I hope this is legit, but we'll wait for an official announcement.  

Director Bryan Singer, has made a pretty cool announcement via Twitter. Check it out!

If you are a fan of the original X-Men trilogy, this will mean a lot to you. Sir Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart are rejoining the superhero franchise.  As Magneto and Professor X respectively.  This time around, it's in the newly rebooted sequel, X-Men: Days of Future Past.  I am so excited about this news.  Being familiar with the story behind 'Days of Future Past', I knew there should be cameos from older characters we've already seen in the X-Men film universe.  Add to this the two clever cameos in X-Men: First Class, and you can see where today's news makes perfect sense.

Also important to note, a few of our favorites from X-Men: First Class will be returning as well.  James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender and Nicholas Hoult are all back for more action in the sequel.  One name you wont see in the tweet below?... January Jones.  Thank God.  She was the only bad casting choice in my opinion and was basically a drone.  Check out the tweet below.  This X-Men fan is very excited!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Skyfall review; an instant Bond classic

Instant classic?  A term that is used all too often, when it shouldn't be.  But specifically speaking to the 50 year history of the James Bond franchise, Skyfall is truly an instant classic.  It's Sam Mendes' turn to direct the legendary British spy franchise.  It stars Daniel Craig as 007 for the third time (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace).  Judi Dench also returns as M.  There are also newcomers to the franchise.  Ralph Fiennes (who was rumored to play 007 before Craig), joins the franchise in a great supporting role.  Naomie Harris and Bérénice Marlohe are lucky enough to call themselves the new "Bond girls".  Ben Whishaw plays the great character of Q, producer of all of Bond's gadgets.  Last but not least, Javier Bardem plays one of the most memorable Bond villains in cinema history.  Let's go!

What I liked about the film:
The Actors/Characters
If you've read any reviews for the film, before this one, you've probably noticed all the attention Bardem is receiving for the character of Silva.  Rightfully so!  He is incredible in the film.  He is a sick and sinister man, hell-bent on getting revenge on M; for something that happened decades earlier.  He is magnetic in this movie.  And I've noticed the success of certain Bond films are directly attributed to the villain; Skyfall is no different.

Daniel Craig gives ANOTHER great performance.  After Casino Royale, there was talk of an Oscar nomination for Craig.  That same argument could be made for this film.  We get to see him down and out and where he came from.  The writers dive very deep into the Bond back story, and it's a treat to watch.  Craig and Bardem are magic onscreen together.  Everything from their dialogue to their sexual tension.  Yes!  I said sexual tension.  No spoilers, watch the film.

Dench IS the character, M.  It's hard for my generation to imagine anyone else playing the character.  Fiennes and Harris are nice additions, and do a lot, with a little.  They create memorable characters for the little screen time they have.  And I wanted to point out Whishaw, as Q.  He is another example of great casting in this Bond reboot.  The character is young, sarcastic, charming, challenging and brilliant in just a few scenes in the film.

Mendes constructs some great action sequences that pay homage to the character, and to the spy genre as a whole.  There are trains, cars, motorcycles  helicopters, OH MY!  And believe it or not, it is all to the benefit of the story.  The action set pieces are unique, clever and memorable.  The end of the first scene is so exhilarating, that the woman sitting next to me at the theater, actually exhaled at the end of the scene.  That is pretty awesome.

It's still early, but I believe Roger Deakins will be nominated for an Academy Award for his work on this film.  It is one of the most beautiful looking films of the year; and easily among the best looking Bond films in the franchise.  There are a lot of memorable scenes, but the one that sticks in mind involves Bond fighting another man atop a skyscraper.  All we see are the men's silhouettes, while an amazing light show plays behind them.  It's stunning to look at and forces you to focus on the story being told on screen.

Thomas Newman recorded such a great score for this film.  It plays perfectly with the action on the screen.  A chase scene through a subway station gets the blood pumping all way to the finish.  Then there are scenes involving Bond and his ladies that swiftly tells a love story.  Just awesome!  I can't wait to buy this soundtrack.

The Dark Knight Effect
There are a lot of similarities between the Christopher Nolan classic, The Dark Knight, and Skyfall.  I wont talk about it in too much detail.  But I will tell you that the two films contain the following similarities: the score, the villain, the tone and specific plot points.  It's almost impossible to ignore.  For a spoiler-filled comparison, click here to read Lewis Wallace of Wired, explain in great detail.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Climax
The first two acts, and part of the third, are an action packed thrill ride.  And then the climax happened.  I am not going to spoil anything here; but the climax is very calculated, and very much on purpose.  I just didn't like it.  It is very small in comparison to the rest of the film.  It mostly takes place in a house where Bond, M and an old friend take on Silva and his goons.  While it was amazing to look at, it was a let down.  After you see the movie, let me know if you agree to disagree.

The Verdict:
An Instant Bond Classic
Most action films are just one action set piece after another, tied together by awful dialogue and character development.  Skyfall is NOT that film.  It takes a character so many people love, surrounds him with interesting characters and takes him to various locations throughout the world, to tell a great story.  We learn a lot about Bond in this film.  We learn how he overcomes adversity, what his childhood may have been like, what drove him to become an agent; great details that make the character who he is today.  With Mendes behind the wheel, we've been given a Bond film for the ages.  Let's hope Mendes is willing to return for another round of Martinis... shaken, not stirred.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Now You See Me trailer, a heist film with a group of magicians

How about a movie directed by Louis Leterrier, about a group of magicians, who pull off a heist to steal from the rich and give to the poor?  That awesome premise, with this cast... Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Common.  Whoa!  Just check out the trailer for Now You See Me, and read my thoughts after.

I can't help it, I'm a sucker for magic, and for heist movies.  Now You See Me obviously offers both.  I really like the light comedic tone; similar to Tower Heist.  But there's also a darker undertone, similar to The Prestige.  I love the main cast.  Eisenberg and Harrelson have already worked together in Zombielandand that was a great action-comedy film.  Fisher and Franco have also done some great comedic work (Wedding Crashers, 21 Jump Street).  Three of my favorite actors are also in the film: Caine appears to hire Freeman to uncover the magicians' secrets.  And Ruffalo appears as a hot headed cop chasing the quartet.  

Leterrier knows how to direct action films (The Transporter, Clash of the Titans).  This movie appears to have plenty of action.  Let's just hope this is more Transporter than Clash of the Titans.  I'm in.  I love the premise and hope the movie executes what's been promised in the trailer.  

Wreck it Ralph review; A fun, nostalgic look a video games past

I know I'm a few weeks late with this review; but life has been busy since I saw this film.  Let me begin with a short trip down memory lane.  I remember seeing Toy Story for the first time, and thinking to myself, 'where was this movie when I was a kid?"  I mean, Disney Pixar made every kid wonder, what toys do when we're not around.  That was 1995, in 2012, Disney has us asking a different question; what do video game characters do when we're not around?  That question is answered in Wreck it Ralph.  The animated film is directed by Rich Moore and stars the voice talent of John C. Reily, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch.  Let's go!

What I liked about the film:
The Premise
As I mentioned above, the film has an incredible premise that begs the question... What do video game characters do when we're not around?  Much like Toy Story asked.  It's such a simple premise that has infinite possibilities.  Now throw in a dash of Despicable Me, where a villain may not be such a bad guy.  And boom, you've got Wreck it Ralph.  Ralph is the villain in a vintage video game, and he really doesn't like being the bad guy.  So he begins a fun filled adventure to change the way people view him.  Sweet, simple, and again, infinite possibilities.

The Video Game World
I'm not necessarily raving about the animation, which is wonderful by the way; what I'm more impressed with is the way the filmmakers created a world where multiple video games coexist.  To achieve this shared universe, the writers created a 'Game Central Station'.  Sort of a made up train station where all the video game characters cross paths.  It's so clever and is a very integral part of the story.  There is a great scene where Ralph wonders into a first-person shooter game and makes the comment, "When did video games get so violent? It's scary out here!"  It was very cool to see all the characters I've played on the small screen, up on the big screen together.

Also a treat, the animation of each character reflects the time in which their video games existed.  Ralph and other older characters look and move differently than those characters in today's video games.  The sound design is also very clever, with sound effects and themes we can't help but remember from years ago.

The Voice Talent
John C. Reily can seriously do it all.  He's done great comedy films (Step Brothers), and he's even been nominated for an Academy Award (Chicago).  This may surprise you though, because Reily has such a recognizable voice, Wreck it Ralph is the actor's first attempt at voice acting.  He does such a wonderful job portraying a sad and lonely character, that just wants to be loved.  The vulnerability in his voice is just one facet of his character.  There is a Shrek-like, temper inside his character, that Reily brings to the forefront a time or two during the movie.

Also wonderful are the supporting characters, and their voice actors.  Sarah Silverman, using a barely recognizable voice, plays a tiny friend that Ralph meets in a Candy Land like game of race cars.  She also adds a vulnerability to her character that makes the friendship much more realistic.  Jack McBryer plays Felix, the hero in the game Ralph is supposed to terrorize.  He is just spot on, he totally nails in.  And the wonderful Jane Lynch plays a soldier that is a part of a game that is invested by alien bugs.  She's loud, proud, and a total leader in the film.  Good stuff.

What I didn't like:
The Story
As great a premise Wreck it Ralph offers, it's a very weak story.  There are characters that grow, and a definitive beginning, middle and end.  But it's that middle part that gets me.  Much of it takes place in the game called Sugar Rush, and very little actually happens.  It is this second act, that makes the movie drag, and also reach a much younger audience than this 30+ blogger.  So I get it.  But a story is a story, and this one was a weak one at best.  I have a feeling Pixar would have taken some extra time to iron out the details on this before they began animation.  Nonetheless, a very good movie.

The Verdict:
A fun, nostalgic look a video games past
Seeing Bowser from the Mario Brothers, Sonic the Hedgehog, Q-Bert and a long list of others; had to conjure up some fond memories of innocent video game play that took up a full Summer weekend.  Video games are much much different today than they were when I was a kid.  The magic and wonder of where the games could take us, is all but gone.  Replaced instead with high definition graphics and more violence than an Oliver Stone film.  That's ok though.  Because we'll have films like Wreck it Ralph and Toy Story that remind us of a much simpler time in our lives; when all we wanted to do was play with our toys and our video games.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Dr. Strange and Black Panther films are coming, according to Lord Stan Lee

Picture by DeviantArt user, YamaO
Two of the most popular 'second tier characters' in the Marvel universe are getting their own movies, sooner rather than later.  According to comic book legend, Stan Lee, a Dr. Strange film is confirmed, and Black Panther film is in development.

If you're not familiar with either character, don't worry, you're not alone.  They're not the most popular characters in the comic books, but they do have a following.  Regardless, the characters appear to be coming to the big screen.

Marvel is now in its second phase of films, following The Avengers.  It appears these two films would fit somewhere in Phase 3 of their films.  Also in Phase 3?  Ant-Man.  That movie will be directed by fan favorite, Edgar Wright.  Wright directed such hits as Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

Picture by DeviantArt user, Dave-Wilkins
Not to look too far into the future, but I THINK, Black Panther will fit somewhere into future Avengers films.  In various iterations, Black Panther actually assists The Avengers in their quest to save the world.  My first experience with the character is actually Marvel's animated film, Ultimate Avengers 2.  I never really read the comics.  But in the past few years, the character has picked up a serious following.  Actor Djimon Haounsou actually voices the character in an animated series; and has been rumored to play the character in a future live-action adaptation.  We'll see if that ever happens.  For now, it's pretty cool knowing we'll see more characters in the Marvel universe on the big screen.

Jamie Foxx cast as The Amazing Spider-Man 2 villain, Electro?

Jamie Foxx is in negotiations for the sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man; the hugely successful reboot directed by Marc Webb, starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.  In interviews today, Webb all but confirmed the rumors; saying he has 'electric' news about Foxx joining the comic book franchise.  The villain, Foxx is said to be playing?... Electro.

While I don't know much about the villain in the Spider-Man universe, I know the actor.  Foxx is a gifted actor.  Films like Ray, Horrible Bosses and Law Abiding Citizen made me a fan for life.  Those films show the actor's wide range.  He is a character actor that can do it all.  I find it a bit difficult picturing him in a comic book film, but I said the same thing about Heather Ledger once, and we all know how that turned out!

I'm great with this news, and look forward to seeing this character on the screen.  And what Foxx can bring to the role.

Francis Lawrence directing The Hunter Games: Catching Fire AND the two part Mockingjay

This blogger very much enjoyed the first Hunger Games film.  And while I thought it could have been better, I am anticipating part two of four next year.  I was hoping Gary Ross would return to direct the sequel, but that is not going to happen.  In fact, Francis Lawrence has been hired to replace Ross.  It's been known for a while that Lawrence would direct The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.  But check out this gem...

Lawrence will ALSO direct The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, which will be split into two films.  Four films.  That is a lot of time and energy, pretty much back to back, on The Hunger Games trilogy.  That alone is the reason Ross dropped out of the sequels.  He didn't want to tie himself down to the franchise for the next four or five years.

I am a HUGE fan of Francis Lawrence.  Constantine, I Am Legend, and Water for Elephants are some great films.  He can do it all.  And if you look at just the three films I've listed, they sort have all lead up to a trilogy with the popularity of The Hunger Games.  He'll need to know how to direct action, adventure, loneliness and romance; all of which are a part of the trilogy of books.  This reminds me of David Yates directing the last four Harry Potter films, and it turned out great!  I love this news, how about you?

Frank Grillo cast as Captain America villain, Crossbones

Got some pretty cool news for all of you Captain America fans.  The sequel to the hit comic book film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, has cast Frank Grillo.  Grillo will play a prominent villain, Crossbones.  The actor has a pretty extensive resume, but most people have seen him in the last 12 months in one big hit, and one big sleeper.  The hit being The Grey, starring Liam Neeson.  The big sleeper is what has me excited about the news; he starred as a trainer/mentor in last years, Warrior.

I must admit, I haven't seen a lot of his TV credits, but the two movies above have me sold!  Grillo's character in The Grey showed hints of a troubled past, a tortured soul if you will; something that will play perfectly for a comic book movie villain.  His role in Warrior showed he could sit passenger and let another actor take the lead.  Again, something important in a comic book movie.  I'm very excited about this casting. Director brothers Anthony and Joe Russo have me sold!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

All in one Day: Disney buys LucasFilm, 3 new Star Wars films announced, AND Bryan Singer to direct X-Men

What; A; Day!  Wednesday October 30th is a day that will live in geek-infamy.  Cases of nerdgasims have swept the nation.  Disney has purchased LucasFilm for an estimated 4 billion dollars.  That's right, the Star Wars franchise, characters, merchandising, are all property of Disney.  Not just that; Disney will acquire special effects house, Industrial Light & Magic, as well as the sound effects company, Skywalker Sound.  Ready for the icing on top?  Disney ALSO gets the rights to the Indiana Jones franchise.  Ho-ly wow!  This is just too much.  But for founder of all these goodies, George Lucas, it's brilliant.  He is 68 years old and is ready to retire.  And Lucas put it best, this is a 'retirement plan' for him because Disney will allow a whole new generation to continue his work.

Almost immediately after announcing the purchase, news came that a new Star Wars film would be released in 2015.  And yes, it is a continuation of the first 6 films.  An Episode 7 is coming folks, hate it or love it.  2 additional sequels will be released after that.  I personally don't care for the Star Wars franchise and don't really feel one way or another about this piece of news.  I know there are millions of Star Wars fans, but it just doesn't do it for me.

And finally, this gem.  We were all sad about Matthew Vaughn dropping out of X-Men: Days of Future Past, the sequel to X-Men: First Class.  But wait.. director Bryan Singer will indeed take over the franchise he helped pioneer!  Singer directed the first two X-Men films, and left the franchise before the quality of the films went down hill.  I'm very excited by this news and trust that Singer will bring quality to this franchise.  I'm still waiting to hear Vaughn's excuse for leaving... nothing yet.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Official still from The Wolverine, and where in the X-Men time line it takes place

Empire Magazine just released this awesome still.  Hugh Jackman, playing Wolverine, appears to be trapped.  But notice something interesting?  His claws are made of bone.  Maybe it's a flashback?  I thought this little piece of information was interesting.  There's been a lot of speculation on where in the X-Men time line The Wolverine will land.  Continuity was a big problem with X-Men: First Class and where it fit with the four previous X-Men films.  Director of The Wolverine, James Mangold, has helped to answer this question.  His film will take place after the events of X-Men 3: The Last Stand.

This is kind of interesting.  It takes our buff hero back to where we found him in the very first X-Men movie, alone.  He's depressed about what happened to the love of his life, as well as his friends, and now he's on his own.  So it only makes sense that he would seek friendship and love in Japan.  And I really appreciated Mangold's justification for this.  If his Film was set anytime before the previous trilogy, there would be constraints to his story.  It would have to fit a previously created mold.  Let's hope this new found freedom let's Mangold and Hugh Jackman tell us an amazing story.

Matthew Vaughn will NOT Direct the X-Men: Days of Future Past, but another X-Men director might

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it appears that Matthew Vaughn has decided not to direct the X-Men: First Class sequel, X-Men: Days of Future Past.  The news actually came out yesterday.  No reason has been given just yet.  We'll have to wait a few days to hear the PC excuses.  But there might be a silver lining to all of this...  Bryan Singer could be directing the sequel instead.

All of us nerds remember Singer directed the first two X-Men movies, as well as Superman Returns.  His visual style and storytelling launched the comic book movie genre to a whole other level.  Vaughn revitalized the X-Men franchise after the atrocious X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  And perhaps the most impressive thing about it was, he did it in just over a year.

Even though I was really excited for Vaughn to come back, if Singer does take over, I'll be more than okay with it.  What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Iron Man 3 poster and trailer

It's time!  The first trailer for Iron Man 3 has arrived, and it's a doozy.  There are a few new additions to the threequel.  Director of the first 2 films, Jon Favreau has gracefully exited the franchise; making room for Shane Black to take over.  Actors Guy Pierce, Rebecca Hall and the great Sir Ben Kingsley are also new to the comic book franchise.  Veterans, Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle return.   Check out the trailer below and my thoughts after.


Much darker than you expected huh?  Because of its serious tone, fans have dubbed it, 'The Iron Man Rises'.  I thought that was great.  It is definitely not the same Tony Stark/Iron Man we've seen in the first two films, or in The Avengers.  And I'll be the first to say it... that may not be a good thing.  What I loved about Iron Man was, tonally he was somewhere between The Dark Knight and Sam Raimi's Spider-Man.  Not has dark and brooding as Batman, but not nearly as campy as Spider-Man.  Is that the case here?  I don't know, it's too early to tell.  I'm not the biggest fan of the Iron Patriot armor either.  I think it looks cheap and cheezy, in comparison to the Iron Man suit.  I'm also curious how the filmmakers will make Ben Kingsley's villain character, The Mandarian, work in the real world.  Either way, the trailer has hit and the anticipation for the film is through the roof.  What do you think?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Taken 2 review

Taken was released in 2008, and was never expected to become the international hit that it did.  In fact, it was supposed to be released straight to DVD at one point.  Luckily for all of us, it wasn't and we all got to experience Pierre Morel direct Liam Neeson in a great action film.  Luc Beeson is back, as writer and producer of Taken 2.  Liam Neeson returns, this time directed by Olivier Megaton.   Famke Janssen also returns as Neeson's ex-wife; and Maggie Grace (who was taken in the first film), returns to play his daughter.  In this sequel, the father of a man Neeson kills in the first film, seeks revenge for his death. The villain is played by Rade Serbedzija. Let's go!

What I liked about the film:
Fast Paced Storytelling
Every spy franchise has something distinct about it.  For 007, it's his cool, suave demeanor.  For Jason Bourne, it's his rough, grounded style combat. And in the Taken franchise, it's all about fast paced, no time wasted, action.  And I love what they did in the sequel.  The first act is definitely reserved for setup.  The second and third act are non-stop action.  Very little time is dedicated to anything but car chases, shoot outs, and hand to hand combat by our aging star.

Megaton definitely gets the credit here.  He keeps the story going.  Even when the main characters are in just one location, the story is constantly moving forward.  That's as vague as it gets without giving anything away.  But I can tell you that the camera angles, swooping shots, and choice of lighting, show Istanbul in a way we've never seen it before on film.  The past paced storytelling is solidified when we realize most of the movie takes place over the course of just one day.

In the first film, we learn that Neeson's character has "a very particular set of skills; skills [he] acquired over a very long career".  And we get to see more of those skills in the sequel.  Take for example his mapping skills.   I'm not telling you anything here that the trailer didn't already give away: he and his ex-wife are taken and blindfolded.  Neeson then times the turns the van is making in his head, to later retrace the drive.  I thought that was a very clever way to explain how he knows where to go later in the film.  We also get a glance at his weapons and supplies.  That's something we didn't get to see in the first film.

The action is more of the same from the first film.  Neeson plays a little bit detective, a little bit spy, mix in a few shoot outs, and finish it off with some hand to hand fighting.  I'm not complaining about the action, just want to make it clear, it's more of the same.  What is not more of the same is the involvement of Neeson's daughter in the film, Maggie Grace....
Minor Spoiler:
Neeson and Janssen must escape their captors, and they need Grace to help them do so.  Using a spy sized phone, Neeson gives her very simple, step by step instructions to Grace.  In my opinion, this was a clever way to include Grace in the action. Ignoring how absurd it is of course.
End Spoiler

What I didn't like about the film:
No character arcs 
There is absolutely no arc to these characters.  Minus a romantic element to the main characters, there are the same people at the end of the film, that they were at the beginning of the film.  The same goes for the villain, just an empty, lame duck bad guy.  Serbedzija is a great actor too, it's too bad there wasn't better material written for him.  He's reduced to nothing more than a statue in a penthouse awaiting updates from his henchmen.

Same movie, just with a high gloss finish 
Taken 2 suffers from the same thing The Hangover 2 did; it's essentially the same movie as its predecessor.  Action films like The Bourne Supremacy and The Dark Knight pushed the envelope to tell the evolving story of its characters.  Taken 2 and The Hangover 2 just repeated a successful formula, with very little risks taken (no pun intended).  Another thing the movies have in common is, the element of surprise is gone.  The first films in these franchises brought something fresh and new to audiences, that is now gone with the sequels.

The Verdict:
Still a fun movie 
Even though there is little to no character development, and it's beat for beat like the first film, I still enjoyed it.  The setting, fast paced action, and espionage kept me interested.  I really liked how Megaton portrayed the skills the Neeson character has.  It was clever and new to me.  To enjoy the film, you must watch it with suspension of disbelief.  You're going to see a timid, teenage girl, drive like James Bond, and you're asked to just go with it.  And if you should so choose to "just go with it", Taken 2 will be a fun, albeit empty, ride.

Argo review; a thrill ride you don't want to miss

For those of us in our 30's, the story behind the film, Argo, is totally new to us. It's the late 1970's and Iran has taken Americans at the US Embassy hostage. 6 American employees manage to escape, and seek refuge at the home of the Canadian Ambassador in Iran. What happens from there, to get them back to the United States, is unbelievable. Ben Affleck directs and stars as Tony Mendez; a CIA agent enlisted with the retrieval of the 6 hostages. Let's go.

What I liked about the film:
"The unbelievable true story"
How many times have you read that line describing a movie based on a true story? The CIA asks for Hollywood's help in creating a fake movie; so that a CIA operative can go to Iran, and rescue 6 Americans, and fly them out of there as a Canadian film crew? Yep, it may be crazy enough to work. What is the title of this fake film?  Argo; a science fiction rip off of Star Wars.  What's also interesting is, the team that successfully pulled off the mission had to keep it a secret for decades; before the case was finally declassified under President Clinton. This type of thriller is right up DIRECTOR Ben Affleck's ally.

The Director
Speaking of Director Ben Affleck, he does it again. This is the third film on his directing resume, and he doesn't disappoint. Everything from the choice in actors (I'll get to that in a moment), to cinematography, to score; are all brought together really nicely. The costumes, vehicles, backdrops, are all convincing, and help to tell a story that took place 30 years ago. Affleck did a great job of cutting in real news coverage of the events surrounding the film. He reminds the audience, just how bad the situation in Iran was; and where the current distaste for Americans may have stemmed from. I also appreciated how Affleck did not try to make any political statements, one way or another. He just told this particular story. He is a natural born storyteller and I can't wait to see more of his work in the future.

The Actors
Affleck does a fine job in the movie, and has a great character arc. At the beginning of the film, he is trying to juggle is "secret" life from that of his real one. Affleck is definitely the star, but there is a lot more help in the cast. Bryan Cranston plays his boss, and is so good! Fans of the hit tv show, "Breaking Bad", will see a much different side of Cranston. He is Affleck's boss and mentor, and looks out for him. I really enjoyed the sincerity he brought to the role. 

John Goodman and Alan Arkin add so much humor to the film. They play a Hollywood make-up artist and producer respectively. They assist the CIA in "selling" the fake movie to Hollywood press. This makes it easier to believe the 6 people to be rescued really are who they say they are. Goodman and Arkin have a chemistry that is so convincing, you have to ask yourself if the actors are friends in real life. While I will not list them all, I think it's important to note that the 6 actors/actresses playing the embassy personnel are all wonderful. They sell the anxiety and fear that the real men and women must have felt hiding in the country.

What I didn't like about the film:
Forced Suspense
I enjoyed so many aspects of this film, but I did not appreciate the forced suspense. There are a few scenes in the film that are meant to build suspense, or have us fear that the escape will not be successful, and it falls flat. I'm not giving anything away here; but there is a scene at a bazaar where the "film crew" are scouting with a local translator. One of the women to be rescued takes a picture, to appear as though she's really doing her job. A local doesn't appreciate this, and craziness ensues. I think this is a bit of a stretch and could have been handled differently. That's just one example by the way. But the climax of the film had my heart racing. So it's a small price to pay.

The Verdict:
A great story that needed to be told
I really enjoyed this film. The story, acting and directing were all great in my eyes. And one has to remember the time in the world during which this all took place, to fully appreciate it. The tension between Iran and the United States still lingers today. And without siding on either side of a political fence, the characters in which this movie is based on, can be the real spotlight. Ben Affleck has a long and bright future ahead of him if he keeps churning out great stories like this one.