Tuesday, July 31, 2012

G.I. Joe: Retaliation director, Jon Chu, in talks for He-Man reboot

What an ongoing saga!  He-Man: Masters of the Universe may have started as a toy (much like the Transformers did), but has blossomed into much more (much like the Transformers did).  He-Man has been adapted into everything from cartoons, to a live-action motion picture starring Dolph Lundgren.  A live-action reboot has been in development for almost a decade; at one point Brad Pitt himself was rumored to be starring in the film.

Today comes a bit more concrete news.  Jon Chu, director of the delayed G.I. Joe: Retaliation, is in talks to reboot the shirtless hero.  Chu's claim to fame came way of the Step Up sequels, as well as the Justin Bieber documentary, Never Say Never.  What do you think?  I'll tell you what I think...

Based SOLELY on the Step Up sequels and the G.I. Joe trailers, he'll be an acceptable choice.  Chu has a distinct style that has shown through on his very short resume of films.  I think he'll be able to create a dark and gritty world for fans that have grown up with He-Man.  And stars seem to want to work with Chu.  He had no trouble recruiting actos for 'Joe', and should have no problem with He-Man either.

You see, He-Man is exactly the type of property the studios are looking for.  Something with a built in audience (past and present), and can possibly be the jumping off point for a franchise.  I wonder who would/could play the hero?  What about Liam Hemsworth?  Or Thor's younger brother in real life, if you will.  Hemsworth actually looks the part of more modern versions of He-Man.  More so than his older brother, Chris.  Elder brother Chris is already a part of multiple franchises including Thor, The Avengers and Snow White and the Huntsmen, he doesn't need the work.  What do you think about Chu directing?  Or my idea for casting Liam Hemsworth?  Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Man of Steel, first poster and teaser trailer

It's heeeeeeere. The first official poster and teaser trailer to Man of Steel, the next Superman film.  Take a look at the teaser below and look for my comments after.

How about that Henry Cavill huh?  The scruffy look is working for Clark Kent.  Honestly?  I don't know what to think.  I mean I like how 'different' the footage looks.  It's definitely different from any of the previous Superman films before it, and that's a good thing.  Director Zack Snyder and producer Christopher Nolan are taking a new approach... ignore all the previous films.  They're starting anew, and that means a 'different' look like I just mentioned.  There's barely any flying in the trailer, so its too early to judge if it's more or less realistic than Superman Returns (2006).  With all that being said, now we look forward to a full fledged trailer.  Possibly towards the end of the year, as the movie will not premiere until Summer of 2013.  So?  What do YOU think about the first trailer to Man of Steel?

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises review, an epic of the greatest scale

It's been four long years.  Four long years since we saw HIM ride off into the darkness.  Four long years since he took the blame for murders he did not commit.  Four long years, fans have waited to see what has become of The Dark Knight.  Four long years to see the conclusion of one of the greatest trilogies in film history.  Christopher Nolan has given us a Batman that is sure to stay relevant for many years to come.  His dark, and grim take on the character and the world he inhabits somehow resonated with people across the world.  The trilogy showed us Batman's beginning, also his fall from grace. But today, The Dark Knight Rises!

What I liked about the film:
The Cast
What really makes an epic?  It's a tricky question.  There are a multitude of answers to that question.  Of course, you need a story.  A human story.  Forget that it's about a man in a cape and cowl fighting crime.  The actors in this great trilogy, and in this movie specifically breath great life into their characters.  Christian Bale is superb as the battered and beaten, Bruce Wayne.  Bale may be the most underrated aspect of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy.  He gave us a memorable Bruce Wayne AND a memorable Batman.  In this trilogy, Bale was often overshadowed by Batman's adversaries.

Anne Hathaway is a newcomer to the franchise and proves... me... wrong.  I complained, endlessly, about her casting!  But deep down inside, I told myself, 'Christopher Nolan knows what he's doing'.  And I was correct.  She was terrific as the anti-hero, Catwoman (even if she's never referred to by that name).  The character of Selina Kyle writes her own moral code, keeping the audience guessing as to which side she's really on.

Michael Caine gives an Oscar worthy performance in his powerful, albeit short, performance.  Same goes for Morgan Freeman as the supplier of Batman's toys.  Gary Oldman turns in another sincere performance as Commissioner Gordan, Gotham City's top cop.  Inception alumni make up the rest of the supporting cast.  Joseph Gordon Levitt has a much bigger role than previously expected. He plays a police officer with motives very similar to Bruce Wayne's.  Marion Cotillard plays a Wayne Enterprises board member.  She has very little screen time as well, but the woman can act with nothing more than her eyes.  And speaking of acting with nothing more than eyes....  Tom Hardy plays the masked villain, Bane.  But I'll get to him later.

The Director
Christopher Nolan was recently honored with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.  Not that he needed it to prove he was one of Hollywood's elite directors.  You see, what makes him so special is, behind all the flash, spectacle, and explosions, he's a pure storyteller.  What is the story of Batman, really?  At its core, it's about a boy, who lost his parents, and his journey through life trying to cope with that loss.  We've seen many stories similar to this one; but Nolan finds a way to make it epic.  All the while, keeping fanboys satisfied with all the mythos that makes Batman so special.  He may be done making Batman films, but he is no where near done grasping our imagination with his films.

The Story
Once again, Christopher Nolan and his brother, Johnathan, team up for this script.  The story is complex and has many pieces to its puzzle.  It may need a second viewing to truly appreciate it everything.  Take out Batman and the gang, and you've got a script that will resonate with a lot of people.  Politics, economics and sociology are all covered in the 2 hour and 45 minute film.  I'm sure people know how hard it is to direct a film of this size and scope, but does anyone understand how hard it is to write one?  Characters need to be flushed out, plot needs to be ironed out, etc.  Kudos to the Nolans for sticking to what matters, Bruce Wayne's story.  Keep an eye out for things you've seen in the past two films.  Also pay attention towards the end of the film for several wink winks.

The Score
I didn't expect anything less from Hans Zimmer.  He knows these characters, he knows this world.  Hell, he helped to created it.  He had a tough task following Danny Elfman's terrific score in the 1989 film, Batman.  But, in my opinion, he's surpassed the quality of the film that came decades before him.  As he's done with other Nolan films, Zimmer found a delicate balance between the heart warming moments and the action sequences that make the film rise to another level (no pun intended).  I will definitely be picking up the soundtrack this week and look forward to his interpretation of Superman, in next year's Man of Steel.

The Special Effects / Spectacle
When reviewing The Avengers, earlier this year, I made a bold statement and said it contained the best special effects I'd ever seen in a superhero film.  We may have a tie.  While The Avengers was very CG-heavy, The Dark Knight Rises relies more on practical effects to tell its story.  The addition of "The Bat", Batman's new flying vehicle, I'm sure required some computer effects, but looked as real as it could flying around the buildings of Gotham.  The special effects are really taken up a notch.  Everything in this film is bigger than the previous two.  I can't wait to see it again.  Nicely done.

What I didn't like about the film:
I'm a big fan of Tom Hardy.  His work in films like Inception and Warrior show he can create some amazing characters.  But he didn't do it for me in this film.  It's not fair to compare him to Heath Ledger's portrayal of The Joker in The Dark Knight; BUT, if you did, it wouldn't even be close.  To be honest with you, Liam Neeson (the villain in Batman Begins) is better and more charming than Hardy was in this film.  Yes, he is physically a monster, a mercenary who was raised in a prison, but I didn't fear him at all.  I'll be interested to see what you all think, do you agree that maybe Hardy/Bane weren't the best choice for the film?

The Coincidences 
Oh the coincidences.  Characters just randomly show up to various settings, and just in time.  And I'm not just talking about 'save the day' type situations; in general, characters just SHOW up.  I had two eye rolling moments where I thought to myself, 'this is silly'.  Without giving anything away (it was shown in the trailer), a scene involving Bale and Cotillard is cringe worthy.  the coincidences can be written off as silly and could have been handled differently perhaps.

The Verdict:
The Dark Knight it is not, but epic it is
In the words of The Joker in The Dark Knight, 'you've changed things'.  Christopher Nolan has forever changed the genre of Superhero films. Much like Richard Donner did with Superman in 1978.  His real life approach to characters, setting, and above all, story, is what makes these epic films so great.  It's Bruce Wayne's story we're following, his journey.  I don't think the film is as good as its predecessor, but still amazing in so many ways.  The film does bring Bruce Wayne's story full circle, and definitely concludes in a satisfying way.  It's hard to review these films without spoilers, but it wouldn't be fair to do that to you.  Go experience Nolan's story telling and be thankful we have directors like him that take a great deal of pride in everything they do.  To Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman and the rest of the cast and crew that treated the franchise with so much respect, thank you.  Until the next time we see Batman on the big screen, we have Nolan's films to keep us plenty busy.  If only there were more films like yours.  If only....

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Disney's planned Snow White film scrapped, what's going on with the studio?

Remember Disney's planned Snow White film, The Order of The Seven?  It was set to star Saoirse Ronan (Atonement) and was to take place in Asia.  After Mirror, Mirror and Snow White and The Huntsmen, Disney decided to try it's own live-action film about the apple eating princess.  But budget issues arose and the film has now been scrapped.  It's not that big of a deal that a movie gets scrapped, but let's take a look at a few more examples of how Disney is majorly struggling right now.

Who can forget the John Carter debacle?  The movie was an absolute, certifiable flop.  It cost Disney hundreds of millions of dollars and was only able to muster up 73 million dollars, domestically.  In fact, the movie did so bad, Disney was forced to write off 200 million dollars from it's financials last quarter.  Does that accounting talk mean?... It hit Disney's bank really, REALLY hard.

All the studios are begging for profitable franchise films they can bank on for years, not just Disney.  But John Carter proved something; you can have all the spectacle in the world, if you've made a bad movie, no one will show up to your party.  Last year's Green Lantern was no different.  Warner Brothers simply kept throwing money at their problem, hoping it would improve the film, and it didn't.  A god-awful script was just too much for a shirtless Ryan Reynolds and CGI to overcome.

If the John Carter fiasco wasn't enough, what about the one involving the Lone Ranger budget?  The movie was announced with a dream team of filmmakers, all with solid track records.  John Carter comes along to throw doubt in every executive, and Disney is forced to cancel the film due to its massive budget.  A few weeks later the film gets the go-ahead with a reduced budget.  Production is still in progress, but what now?  What else could happen to this poor studio?  The movie is on its way to going 50 million dollars over budget, placing it right back where it was at when the project was canceled.

I'm not crying over Disney's issues, and neither should you.  But these stories do beg the question, what is going on with this studio?  It WAS the executive team.  I posted a few weeks ago the solution to all their problems, it's Alan Horn.  He's been hired to take over as Chairman of the Board.  I this these missteps would have been averted with a guy like Horn in the driver's seat.  Disney will always have it's animation department and merchandising deals to carry the load, but it'll be interesting to see what else Horn can do to bring it back to greatness.

Hans Zimmer will score Man of Steel

It wasn't a sure thing as recently as a year ago.  And now it is, Hans Zimmer will score the latest Superman film, Man of Steel.  I am a huge fan of this man's work.  His music can be heard in such films as The Lion King, The Dark Knight and Inception.  But the real issue here is, this is a lose/lose situation.

For 2006's Superman Returns, director Bryan Singer opted to stick with the iconic Superman theme created by John Williams for the 1978 film.  That theme is what most of us grew up to.  That was probably a smart move by Singer.  His Superman fit into the universe created in the '78 film, so why screw up a good thing?

But Man of Steel promises a completely revamped Superman.  So how does Zimmer win over the fans of the original theme?  It's simple, do what he's always done!  Zimmer has ALREADY had to come in for another superhero and re-create the theme.  In 1989, Danny Elfman also created an iconic theme to a superhero... Batman.  When Christopher Nolan rebooted the franchise, Zimmer was able to come in and create an entirely new sound for the character.  I love his work and have no doubt he will create a new theme we'll be humming long after watching the film.

superman theme
John Williams' classic Superman Theme.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Michael Fassbender to star in the Assassin's Creed video game adaptation

Assassin's Creed is an unbelievably successful video game franchise.  With multiple sequels and a killer story line, it's anyone's guess why it wasn't adapted sooner.  Well good news to all the fans of the games... Michael Fassbender will star, and produce, the film!

I think it's safe to say Fassbender officially an A-list actor.  His performances in such films as X-Men: First Class and Shame have earned him his status in Hollywood.  I think he is a fine choice in pretty much anything, but this will be very interesting.

Video game adaptations generally flop at the box office.  For every Resident Evil franchise, there are 15 films like Doom and Prince of Persia.  It will be interesting to see the tone the future director selects, and how the studio will market it.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man review, another worthy reboot

The Amazing Spider-Man is the reboot to the incredibly popular trilogy directed by Sam Raimi and starred Tobey Maguire as the web slinger.  It's only been 5 short years since Spider-Man 3, Raimi and Maguire's final crack at the superhero.  Sony decided to start a new, and here we are today.  Marc Webb became famous after 500 Days of Summer; he was tapped to direct this reboot.  Sony's decision had fans scratching their heads.  They doubted what the director of a romantic comedy could bring to the table of a big budget action film?  I'll get to that in a moment.  Then came the "you can't win" casting of Andrew Garfield.  I PERSONALLY was excited because I knew the calibur of actor that Garfield was.  Also cast was Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker's love interest.  Rhys Ifans plays the villain in the movie, Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard.  Denis Leary plays Gwen Stacy's father and the captain of the police department.  Rounding out the cast are Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Uncle Ben and Aunt May.  Let's go!

What I liked about the film:
Our New Spider-Man
Andrew Garfield; I hate to say 'I told you so', but damn it I told you so.  The actor is terrific.  Physically, Garfield is more like the comic book hero than Maguire was (tall and skinny rather than short and ripped).  In my opinion, his take on the character was more grounded in reality than the previous trilogy.  Then again, everything in this movie was more grounded in reality than the previous trilogy, except maybe the villain.  Garfield gets to show off his acting chops in some great scenes with Emma Stone, Martin Sheen and Sally Field.  You believe the pain he feels about losing his parents and the mystery behind their leaving him.  Garfield's Peter Parker is not as big of a nerd as Maguire's, and that's a good thing.  Again, staying grounded in reality made for a better film I think.  Nice job.

The Rest of the Cast
Emma Stone is one of my favorite young actresses today (and I have a bit of a crush on her too, don't tell anyone).  She plays the Gwen Stacy character pretty straight, with touches of vulnerability here and there.  The filmmakers used the Gwen character and not Mary Jane Watson, made famous by Kristin Dunst in the previous incarnation.  Gwen is equally as smart as Peter Parker, maybe even smarter.  And thank goodness they didn't take the damsel in distress act too far like ALL THREE of the previous Spider-Man films before it.  Dennis Leary didn't have much screen time but was really really good.  He has some awesome scenes in the movie I don't want to spoil here.  Martin Sheen and Sally Field made for great parental figures to our hero.  They were caring, loving and tough when they needed to be.  I liked how they were kept out of the action.  Unlike the time aunt May was swung around New York in previous films, come on!

James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves wrote a superhero film within a love story.  That's what some of the best superhero films have been able to do.  Take for example Superman (1978); director Richard Donner has gone on record to say, if he could convince the audience that Superman and Lois Lane were in love, he could convince them an actor could fly.  Garfield and Stone's real life relationship shined on screen, their chemistry was undeniable.  The writers also chose to go the Batman Begins route, and focus on the man behind the mask.  And like Batman Begins, it's not until half way through the movie do we even see the character in spandex.  Like I've stated above, I liked how much the movie was grounded in reality and how it was about the people, not the action.

The Score
James Horner (Avatar, Titanic) wrote a beautiful score.  Soft and caring when the movie was too, then grand and epic when it needed to be.  And also stealing from Batman Begins, Horner doesn't reveal Spider-Man's new theme until the climax of the film.  When scoring Batman Begins, Hans Zimmer stated that the character hadn't yet earned the theme, until the very end.  I thought that was an amazing way to use music to reflect the growth of a character.  Awesome.

The Special Effects/Action 
The special effects and the action look different than any of the previous Spider-Man films.  The hero is acrobatic, and doens't rely on martial arts to defeat his attackers.  This is another way to stay grounded in reality.  Peter Parker is a nerdy kid, why would he know how to fight?  Instead he uses his speed and abilties to defeat his opponents.  Also important to note, Spider-Man's web shoots out of a device created by Parker, unlike the organic origin used by Maguire.  Another thing I enjoyed: the physics in the movie are accurate.  Spider-Man doesn't just magically swing from one building to the other without logical reason.  There's even a line in the movie explaining the physics.  Spider-Man has to swing forward while hooked to SOMETHING!  Sam Raimi ignored that tiny little fact.

Marc Webb
I was a doubter.  I doubted "what the director of a romantic comedy could bring to the table of a big budget action film".  I was wrong.  His vision was the right one.  The one Sony should have used back in 2002 at the launch of the original franchise.  His new cast, the tone, the style and even his new camera use was awesome.  There are a few point of view shots that will have you wishing you were the hero.  He also opted to keep out the campy junk; like the wrestling, and the specifics of how Peter Parker created his costume.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Villain
Hold up, hold up, hold up.  Rhys Ifan did a wonderful job as Dr. Curt Connors.  The actor's turn to the dark side was great, he was very believable.  The motives for the change were my only gripe about the character.  Would the need to help millions push someone to do what the villain does in this movie?  Maybe not.  Is it a deal breaker?  Not at all.  The odds had to be great for our hero to be challenged, and the filmmakers did what they had to do to make it so.  The only other dislike is, I wish there was more of Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben!  I think the filmmakers could have treated the character with more care than they did.  Small price to pay for such a great film.

The Verdict:
I Finally Care About Spider-Man
Thank you Marc Webb for finally making me care what Spider-Man is up to.  As you can tell, I was never a fan of the original trilogy, much less the character himself.  Webb, Garfield and company have created a new world for the character to live in that far exceeds the previous.  This is a tough tough world we live in, and our movies need to reflect that; not the campy world Raimi projected through his films.  Even if you're not a comic book fan, you will very much appreciate this movie.  And lastly, The Amazing Spider-Man offers up the best Stan Lee cameo to date!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Magic Mike review; a fun and entertaining strip fest

Steven Soderbergh is basically Hollywood royality at this point in his career. The man can do no wrong in the eyes of many. And even if he is perceived to have "done wrong", people throw him a muligan and call it a valiant effort (Haywire). This time around he's telling a much lighter story, one that mirrors the life of its star. Magic Mike is of course being coined "The Male Stripper Movie", that's accurate to a certain extent. It is very loosely based on Channing Tatum's life in Tampa, Florida as a male exotic dancer. Let's go.

What I liked about the film:
The Stars of the Show
Channing Tatum is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors. In the past year, I think he's proven he's a versatile actor; starring in movies with a broad range of subject matter and genres. From The Vow to 21 Jump Street and now Magic Mike. His character is the lead of a male stripper group; in some situations is very carasmatic and totally confident, and in others he has to be vulnerable and weak. I think Tatum is going to have quite the career, watch.

 The other guys in the stripper group are really just supporting actors there to show off their bodies. The only supporting actor that gets anything to sink his teeth into is Alex Pettyfer (I Am Number Four). He plays a 19 year old kid that is broke and living with his sister, played by Cody Horn (Flipped). Pettyfer idiolized Tatum's character once he discovers his job and lifestyle. After a few funny events, Pettyfer is now dancing with the group. He did a nice job of showing how fast a young man could fall into an unhealthy lifestyle.

Last but not least is Matthew McConaughey, who, is, awesome! He has the most animated and perhaps funniest character in the film. McConaughey owns the strip club where the men dance. On the surface he appears to be Tatums ally, but once Pettyfer catches his attention, we realize he may not be as loyal as he seems. McConaughey needs better roles like this one if he ever wants to be regarded as a good actor, and not just some guy that keeps his shirt off.

The Comedy/Writing
The movie is extremely funny. Most of that comes from the men's dialogue. There are some obvious scenes where the actors were adlibing, and it added to the realism of the film. You start to believe the actors were indeed friends with their onscreen counterparts, there was some great writing by Reid Carolin. Nicely done. 

The Story/Soderbergh
It's really a simple story. The movie is mostly about Pettyfer's coming of age, while Tatum is trying to better himself and leave the stripping behind him. Minus a few scenes where Pettyfer's character gets himself into some serious trouble, the movie was simple and light. Soderbergh does a wonderful job telling the story. He keeps it grounded in reality. The movie has a unique look too; at one point, my wife asked me if the colors were off, and they were. It gave Tampa a distinct look that separated it from the flash of Hollywood or the grit of New York. Amazing work.

What I didn't like about the film:
Cody Horn
Not to pick on the only female character in the film, but Horn was awful. She breaths absolutley no life into her character. Her chemistry as a overprotective sister to Pettyfer fell flat for me. She and Tatum had no chemistry either. Soderbergh usually casts the best of the best, but his casting of female leads in his last two films have been off. First MMA fighter Gina Carano in Haywire, and now Horn in this film. Considering she doesn't have much screen time, I'll overlook this aspect of the film.

The Verdict:
Not Perfect, but Fun
I had a hell of a good time watching Magic Mike. Watching the actors strut their stuff to a room full of hot and bothered women was hilarious. The actors were in top form and explored multiple sides to their characters. It was fun and light, and never took itself too serious; all the while made stripping appear to be a respectable and legitamite business. Kudos to Soderbergh and Tatum. I am a big big fan of both their work and will continue to support them as their resumes grow.