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!