Monday, December 30, 2013

Frozen review; Disney takes it up an notch

Believe me, I know I'm late to this party.  But when it comes to seeing Disney films in the theater, it usually involves waiting until I can take my nephews.  That being said, Frozen is a Disney film for all ages, a film that anyone can appreciate.  I don't want to waste any more time, let's go!

What I liked about the film:
The Story
Disney is so damn good at their storytelling.  They don't begin such a long, arduous, animated filmmaking process without nailing the story first.  Frozen tells the story of two sisters and how they realizing their importance to each other.  The film offers up a grand adventure, as most Disney films do.  But there was something a bit deeper in this film, that we only see in a few animated films.  On top of the adventure and emotional drama, there's a nice balance of comedic characters as well!  Speaking of comedy...

The Cast/Characters
Frozen offers up a slew of great new characters.  There is the female lead, Anna, voiced by the wonderful Kristen Bell.  She plays a princess who is eccentric and adventurous at heart.  She lives in a castle with her sister, Elsa, played by Idina Menzel.  Elsa is a Queen with magic powers that allows her to create ice/snow from her hands.  Menzel played the lead character on Broadway's Wicked.  The sisters have been forced to live apart, in the same house, for years.  So they are just now getting to know each other, in their adult years.

There are some great male characters in the film as well.  Kristoff is voiced by Jonathan Groff.  The character is a manly man who falls for Anna, while on a journey to find Elsa.  Josh Gad rounds out the main characters, as a lovable snowman that the sister's dreamt up when they were younger, and is now alive.  Gad's subtle, yet perfect comedic style worked perfectly for the character.

The Animation
Pixar has usually overshadowed the CG films made at Disney in-house.  But Pixar should look out!  For every bomb Pixar produces (Cars 2), Disney is creating some VERY good films (Tangled).  The animation in Frozen is among the best I've ever seen in an animated film.  And once you see the movie, it only takes a few scenes to understand the complexity of the animation.  Taking an entire city and showing us how it freezes over is a tough task.  The animators made Elsa a superhero of sorts, with her powers; but showed us her fear and vulnerability as well.  I really got lost in this world Disney created.

The Not So Cliche
The movie had several opportunities to jump the shark and fall back on cliche story devices.  Especially the climax of the film.  But it doesn't!  It goes down a different path, towards originality that we rarely see in animated films.  I'm trying to be discrete here; so if you see the film, Tweet me and let me know what you think.

What I didn't like about the film:
A Predictable Ending
For all the things the filmmakers did against the grain; I saw the ending coming about 30 minutes into the film.  I understand the plot device and why the writers wrote the 'surprise' the way that they did.  But as I mentioned above, the writers did so many things we WOULDN'T expect.  To have the twist be so predictable for me, let me down a little bit.  But just a little bit.

The Verdict:
Another 'One of my Favorite Disney Movie'
For me, Frozen was even better than Tangled, and I absolutely loved that film.  The story, the actors, the animation and the songs were all terrific.  It was entertaining, exciting and emotional throughout.  The climax will have grown men holding back tears.  Just really good filmmaking from the studio whose been doing it since the 1930's.  I totally recommend Frozen to people of all ages.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Saving Mr. Banks review

I'm guilty.  I AM GUILTY!  I walked into Saving Mr. Banks with unrealistic expectations.  But is it my fault?  Is it the mainstream media's fault?  Is it the blogosphere's fault?  Maybe all of the above are responsible for me expecting so much more out of this film.  Saving Mr. Banks is of course the story of a story.  Don't follow?  Well it's simple really.  Sometimes the story of how a film gets made, is just as interesting as the film itself.  Films like Finding Neverland give us the background of artists, and their inspiration for their popular works of art.  Saving Mr. Banks tells us the story how the film, Mary Poppins, was brought to life by Walt Disney.  Let's go!

What I liked about the film
The Acting
I have sort of spoiled what I thought of the film in the introduction, but that doesn't mean I disliked every aspect of the film.  The acting in the film is EXACTLY what I was hoping it would be.  Emma Thompson is spectacular.  She plays the author of the Mary Poppins books, P.L. Travers.  She is a very stern, conservative woman who is having the hardest time giving up the rights to Mary Poppins, so Walt Disney can make a film out of it.  The film moves along two concurrent timelines.  The creation of the Mary Poppins film, as well as flashbacks into Travers' upbringing and her relationship with her father.  Thompson steals this show.  She makes us want to shake the stubbornness out of the character at the beginning of the film.  We never quite 'hate' the character, we're just as frustrated with her as the rest of the supporting characters.  Then, something magical happens, we sympathize with the character by the end of the film.  We care about her, want her to move on with her life, and want her to be happy.  Loved this performance!

Not to be outdone by Thompson, is Tom Hanks in really a perfect role for the actor.  He plays the ever charming Walt Disney.  I say it was a perfect role because Hanks seems to have that intangible goodness to him, that I feel Walt Disney had about him before he passed away.  He's likable and has just as interesting a back story as Travers does in the film.  I will say this, it was hard to look at the man on the screen as Walt Disney, rather than Hanks PLAYING Walt Disney.  Still a great piece of acting on his part.

There are a few supporting roles that I'd like to point out as well.  Colin Farrell plays Emma Thompson's father in the flashback sequences.  He is terrific!  He is a man struggling with alcoholism, while doing his best to keep his family together.  There was something humbling about knowing Farrell had his own issues with alcohol, and was able to really bring some realism to the film.  Paul Giamatti, Bradley Whitford, B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman are all employed by Walt Disney.  They play various characters put in place to make sure the movie is made without a hitch.  They all do a fine job, but Giamatti has some really wonderful scenes with Thompson that I absolutely loved.

The Nostalgia
Mary Poppins actress Julie Andres, Walt Disney, P.L. Travers
The movie takes place in the early part of the 1960's, and I loved what the filmmakers did to take us to that era.  Production Designer Michael Corenblith and Costume Designer Daniel Orlandi took us to Southern California in the 60's.  It was beautiful; especially seeing Disneyland mocked up to look like it did 50 years ago.  Awesome.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Pacing/Editing
My main problem with this film is it's storytelling, pacing and editing.  For example; we are watching the height of an emotionally draining scene involving a young P.L. Travers and her mother in a lake.  Then SNAP, we switch back to the 1960's during the making of Mary Poppins.  There is no time to really absorb what we just saw, considering the extremely sensitive subject matter, before it is gone off-screen.  An impromptu visit by Walt Disney to P.L. Travers home offers one of the best scenes in the movie... only to have it abruptly end with no rhyme or reason to the cut.  Call it picky, but it took me out of the movie.  I was left asking myself 'why did the filmmakers do that?', instead of letting the movie really take me in.

A great example of a film that handles flashbacks perfect is, Slumdog Millionaire.  Similar to Saving Mr. Banks, it told two concurrent stories.  But with 'Millionaire', the cuts made sense, and the flashbacks explained the events of the present.  Flashbacks are often viewed as a lazy ploy by a screenwriter to tell a great story.  I disagree, I think if they're done correctly, they're a powerful tool.  I was just disappointed in way they were executed in this film.

What Story Are You Trying To Tell?
I saw the movie less than 48 hours ago and can barely remember anything about it.  I know I loved the performances by the two lead actors.  I know I was drawn into the period of time the story took place, but nothing else really stuck.  I am actually a fan of the director, John Lee Hancock.  And there are a handful of scenes I could probably recite to you right now from his previous films like The Rookie and The Blind Side.  But there's not much that happens in this movie.  There is scene after scene after scene of P.L. Travers turning down one idea after the other that is brought forth by the Disney staff.  I just don't see any value in re-watching this film, and that's too bad.  I'll explain in more detail in a minute, but are we telling the story of how Mary Poppins was made; or are we telling the story of P.L. Travers' upbringing?  Of course her upbringing leads to her unwillingness to let go of the character, but WHERE IS MARY POPPINS?  The real life inspiration is only on-screen for a few minutes.  We don't get to see the inspiration interact with the young Travers very much at all.  And if we don't see them interact much, how can we begin to understand why the older Travers is so emotionally attached to this character?  Don't worry, I didn't give anything away that trailers didn't already.

The Verdict:
I Wanted So Much More Than Charming
Farrell, Novak, Richard Sherman, Thompson, Hanks, Whitford
I wanted Saving Mr. Banks to be an Oscar-worthy film, with an amazing performances.  I wanted it to be a great story about forgiveness, and having the will to move forward with your life.  I wanted it to be so much more than just a 'charming' movie.  I think I got some of what I wanted.  Emma Thompson will hopefully be recognized by the Academy for her heartbreaking performance.  Tom Hanks gives yet another likable performance.  But the film?  The film ultimately fell flat for me.  It felt repetitive and wasn't quite sure which story it really wanted to tell; the making of Mary Poppins, or P.L. Travers' upbringing.  And one thing I've learned from watching literally hundreds of hours worth of filmmaker interviews is, if you don't know what story you're trying to tell is, your film will show it.  And that's what I believe happened here.  I realize I am in the minority disliking the film, but we're just going to have to AtD on this one.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

X-Men: Apocalypse film announced for 2016

You thought the Hollywood studios were going to slow down their onslaught of superhero films?  Think again!  Last month, Sony announced that they were going to expand the Spider-Man universe into more films.  Warner Brothers announced last week that they were developing several lower-budget films, based in the DC Comics universe.  That doesn't include WB's casting for Batman vs. Superman, or their new television shows being developed.

Marvel themselves announced last month, they were developing several television shows, exclusively for Netflix; one character being the ever popular Daredevil.  It wasn't long before 20th Century Fox jumped on this expansion train!

A few months ago, the studio announced an X-Force film, featuring some really popular Marvel characters they own the license to.  Today, Foxsigned writer/producer, Simon Kinberg, to a 3 year deal to expand the X-Men and Fantastic Four universe of films for the studio.  This news coincides with another major announcement made today, by Bryan Singer, via Twitter.
WHOA!  What the?  What the heck?  Just like that?  There's no other news attached to this announcement, but one could guess it is a straight sequel to the 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand.  And that it will more than likely feature a very popular X-Men villain, named Apocalypse.  Sure there is an X-Men film being released next year, but that appears to be more of a hybrid film, bridging the two franchises (X-Men and X-Men: First Class).  I'm curious to see what news comes about in the next few weeks.  And also, what actors will reprise their roles.  That was a major challenge in making the X-Men film for next year, work.  As usual, we'll have to wait and see.

Quickie: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 trailer premier

The trailer to The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has been released and it looks pretty awesome.  A ton of action and multiple villains has me asking though, 'will this turn into another Spider-Man 3?'  For that, we'll have to wait until next May.  The movie again stars Andrew Garfield as the hero, alongside Emma Stone.  Newcomers to the franchise are Jamie Foxx, Paul Giamatti, Dane DeHaan and Chris Cooper.  The sequel is again being directed by Marc Webb.  Check out the trailer below.

If I have time this weekend, I've got a lot to say about this trailer, I'll post it then.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire review; hope will always triumph over fear

Last year, The Hunger Games was a phenomenon.  A book adaptation starring Jennifer Lawrence, in the lead role of Katniss Everdeen.  The film was based on the book written by Suzanne Collins.  Fast forward a year and a half and we've got the sequel, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.  Director Francis Lawrence has taken over the franchise, and the entire original cast has returned.  If the first film was only the spark to something greater... this film totally catches fire!  Let's go!

What I liked about the film:
The Acting/Characters
Jennifer Lawrence just keeps getting better and better.  Seriously, this young woman is an incredible actress, and she shows it in this film.  She perfectly portrays what Katniss is dealing with internally.  The character is dealing with the fact that she has killed people.  She will never be able to shake that off, and she's essentially been trapped in a fake life.  Lawrence has to juggle confusion, anger and compassion without having the character fall apart.  It's only because of Lawrence that the film's narrative can be carried out so flawlessly.  Not only is she a beautiful actress, but she's an incredibly talented one as well.  And the final frame of the film will have you mesmerized by her performance until the next film.

The supporting characters get to shine in this sequel, without taking away from the main characters' arcs.  Josh Hutcherson returns as District 12's other tribute, Peeta Mellark.  While I felt Hutcherson came off as a whiny, love-struck woos in the first film, that's not the case here!  Hutcherson is strong, confident, and knows who he is.  I really enjoyed this character's growth!  Liam Hemsworth returns as well, as Katniss' hometown love interest.  I think Hemsworth did a fine job with the little material he had.  Now I've never read the books, but I sure hope there's something more for him to do in the future of the series.

Woody Harrelson plays a terrific mentor to the tributes.  He's still battling alcoholism, but has a fondness for Katniss and Peta that he can not deny.  Elizabeth Banks returns as a fashion loving socialite that also loves the tributes, but can do little to stop the events in the film.  She figuratively, and literally, adds a lot of color to the film.  Lenny Kravitz and Stanley Tucci are just awesome in their respective roles despite limited screen time.  And then there are the men of the Capital.  Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the new 'Game Master' running the new Hunger Games.  He's devious and has a plan much bigger than The Hunger Games themselves.  And lastly, the amazing Donald Sutherland.  His portrayal as President Snow is, well, perfect.  He's a man hellbent on staying in power, at any cost.  He will kill, he will burn entire cities to the ground, to ensure the people of the Districts fear the government.  If Katniss Everdeen is the spark to a revolution, he will diffuse it with all the water in the Great Lakes if that's what is necessary.  He's creepy, and absolutely brilliant.  I love it.

Everything is Stepped up a Notch
The Set Design, the special effects, and even the stakes are bigger, better and higher in this movie.  Granted the budget was twice that of the original film, but it truly shows.  You can see that every penny was well spent.  New costumes, a new 'arena' where the tributes battle, as well as new challenges within the Hunger Games, all give you a sense of an elevated scope.  Ignoring the bigger and better special effects, you get a sense that something BIG is happening off-screen.  And that has nothing to do with budgets or CGI, he has to do with great storytelling.  Francis Lawrence and company really brought their A-game.

It is my favorite aspect of the series so far, and has so much to do with Suzanne Collins writing in the books.  The first movie was symbolic of a spark, the beginning of something greater.  Director Gary Ross and company, only hinted at an uprising among the people of the Districts.  He captured signs of hope, and defiance, towards the Capital.  This movie, symbolically, catches fire with that hope.  It's a movement that President Snow, and the Capital in general, are not ready for.  I would find it incredibly difficult to personify hope, and fear; but Francis Lawrence has done exactly that.  I really can't wait to see what the next film has in store, when it comes to this amazing concept of hope always winning over fear.

The Director
Francis Lawrence made so many great choices int his film.  The pacing and storytelling are superb.  There is no time wasted; every word spoken means something, and there's very little filler. Often times sequels feel like a re-telling of the first film, with more money thrown at it.  Lawrence made the film his own, without alienating fans of the first film.  I am SO happy he will be back to direct the two movies based on the third and final book, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay!

What I didn't like about the film:
The Tone/Comedy
Ok, hear me out after I make this statement... the movie is too funny.  I'm serious about this.  The film deals with very very serious subject matter.  A dystopian government that does everything in its power to keep its people oppressed.  A reality-show, based on a game where kids are expected to kill each other, as a 'tribute' to the government.  Now, I'm ok with sprinkling in a bit of humor here and there, to lighten up the mood.  But in a theater packed full of people, the audience was laughing at certain scenes that I doubt the director intended to evoke laughter.  That was a problem for me because it took me out of the experience.  I'm curious to discuss this with my Twitter followers, did anyone else get that feeling?

The Verdict:
Can't Wait For Mockingjay
There are some movies that are nothing more than a setup for a final film.  Take Iron Man 2 building up towards The Avengers; or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 1 for example.  I'm sure people would argue those are good films, but they just felt like a setup picture.  And Catching Fire does an amazing job of avoiding this.  The story itself is self-contained, and on its own, manifests an eagerness to see what happens nexts.  The direct and the cast are just awesome in this movie.  I really can't wait to see what the next two films will bring us.  I'm totally in!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Quickie: Disney's Maleficent teaser trailer and poster, starring Angelina Jolie

Check out the poster above, and the first teaser trailer below, for the Angelina Jolie starring film, Maleficent.  The film is of course based on the villainess in Disney's Sleeping Beauty animated film.  The film was originally going to be directed by Tim Burton, who directed Disney's other live-action adaptation, Alice in Wonderland.  Burton stepped aside due to a busy schedule, and in came Robert Stromberg.  Check out the trailer.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen reunite for The Avengers: Age of Ultron

I have sort of avoided posting this 'rumor' for a few months now.  Back in July, at the San Diego Comic-Con, Marvel officially announced the sequel to it's mega-hit, The Avengers.  The sequel is titled, The Avengers: Age of Ultron.  And none other than James Spader would be playing the primary villain in the title.  That was the big headline news as far as the movie; but there was some other drama brewing that concerned some lesser known characters.

It's a long story, but we've got time and I'm not going anywhere.  Before Marvel was making it's own films featuring its characters, they were licensing them out.  Sony Pictures has made 4 Spider-Man films so far, while Fox made Daredevil and numerous X-Men films.  Here's where it gets interesting.  Joss Whedon, who directed the first 'Avengers' film, and is set to direct the sequel, wanted to use a character named Quicksilver.  Well Fox ALSO has the rights to the character, as he has sometimes been featured in X-Men comic books.  So in a classic case of ego-driven charm by the two studios, the character will be featured in two different movies, with two different actors, in two very different franchises.  Evan Peters got the part of Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past, and it was recently announced that Aaron Taylor-Johnson would play the same character in the 'Avengers' sequel.

We all know that Johnson has a history with comic book films.  He starred as Kick-Ass in two films based on the character of the same name.  I really enjoy Johnson's acting and I think he will be a terrific addition to an already star studded affair.  The character is an interesting one, as long as he doesn't get sidelined by the bigger named heroes in the film.  I really like Johnson's casting here.  But wait, there's more!  Quicksilver has a twin sister!

There's not nearly as much drama with this casting choice.  Quicksilver's sister, Scarlet Witch, will be played by Elizabeth Olsen.  Olsen has been rumored for months to be playing the part, but only today it was made official when she let it slip in an interview.  I have to be honest, I don't really know any of her work.  I have never seen any of her films; but every time I read a review by a film critic I respect, they are usually raving about her acting skills.

Olsen, Johnson, Cranston at SDCC 2013
Another really fun fact is that this is a reunion of sorts for Johnson and Olsen.  They've already filmed the re-booted, Godzilla, set to be released next year.  The film stars the two young actors, as well as the incredible Bryan Cranston.  The Godzilla film may be yet another re-boot/sequel/prequel thing going on; but it can't be any worse than the 1998 debacle starring Matthew Broderick can it?  Can it?  Let's hope not.

Funny thing is, in the Godzilla film, the young actors play husband and wife; while in the 'Avengers' film they'll be twin siblings.  Eesh!  Wierd.  But a fun movie fact nonetheless.  I'm obviously very excited to see the sequel to The Avengers, and what director Joss Whedon has up his sleeve for us this time around.  The Marvel universe of films has not let us down yet, and I don't expect this film to be any different.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Thor: The Dark World review; Marvel does it again

Marvel just can't miss.  Since 2008's Iron Man, they have had one success after another.  Their films offer up a great balance between action, comedy and drama.  2011's Thor was no different.  It took the Marvel cinematic universe to outer space.  Our mighty hero Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth, in all his muscular glory.  His brother, the God of mischief, Loke... played by the devilishly handsome Tom Hiddleston.  Their dad, the Allfather, Odin, was played by the incredible Anthony Hopkins.  There was something so gracious and grandiose about the film.  Something Shakespearean.  While the first film felt a bit 'small' compared to other Marvel films; that is simply not the case with the sequel.  Thor: The Dark World is bigger, better and funnier!  Let's go!

What I liked about the film:
The Tone
In my opinion, the Marvel films do well because of their tone.  Not too serious, not too light.  As I mentioned earlier, their movies have the perfect balance of action, comedy and drama.  And adding to that point, 'The Dark World' may be Marvel's funniest film yet.  The movie never gets too serious.  After all, this is a film set in modern time about the God of Thunder.  C'mon!  It shouldn't be too serious.  The action in this film is much much better than that of the original stand alone film.  The set pieces are bigger, but lend themselves to the story.  It's not Thor vs. 1,000 guys for the sake of eye candy.  It's Thor and his men vs. an army to move the story along.  And the drama is wonderful in this film.  I got choked up a few times when the director and company toyed with my emotions.  Great, great tone in this film.

The Acting
Not to beat a dead horse here, but no one appeared to take themselves too serious in this film.  Hemsworth demands attention as the titular character.  And I love what the writers did with his story arc, following the events of The Avengers.  Hemsworth presents the audience with a nobility, few young actors could pull off.  And it doesn't hurt that he's totally chiseled in this film.  Whoa!

Tom Hiddleston is amazing in this film!  Unlike his mono-tonal performance in The Avengers (which I loved), he has much more to work with in this film.  Even more so than the first Thor film.  He portrays angst, anger, sympathy and more.  Hemsworth and Hiddleston's banter in the film felt genuine and real.  I have a little brother, and I could imagine saying some of the things the characters were saying to each other.  Just great stuff written for these two tremendous actors.

Supporting roles are executed fairly well here.  Natalie Portman returns after her absence in The Avengers.  The writers found a clever way to make her integral to the story (which I'll discuss in a moment).  Jaimie Alexander returns as Lady Sif, and has a few wonderful hints of jealousy towards Portman's character.  While they don't have much to do, Alexander and Ray Stevenson play great friends of Thor.  Kat Dennings again gets the funniest lines in the film.  She does wonderful in this goofy role that I can't really picture anyone else playing.  Stellan Skarsgard also brings some comic relief, as he reprises his role as Dr. Selvig.

Idris Elba gets an expanded role from the first film, and does well (as he always does mind you).  Christopher Eccleston joins the franchise as a very cool villain.  Really liked his performance; and it shined through even with all the makeup he had to wear in the film.  This cast is great.  Each actor brought something to the table; and was able to add something to the film.  While not all the characters have a notable arc, the ones that do, really shine through.

The Music
Brian Tyler delivers one of the most emotionally charged scores I've heard in a long time.  There is one particularly sad scene that had no dialogue whatsoever.  Just a few scenes with Tyler's music playing in the background.  I was nearly in tears.  The action packed leitmotif, and the slowed down drama pieces were very well done.

The Director
Alan Taylor elevated the franchise to new heights.  Most of his choices are spot on!  The tone, the editing, choice in music, set design, costume, etc.  He took the world built by the previous director, Kenneth Branagh, and took it up a notch.  I really admire a lot of his choices on this film.  Let's think about this for a second.  This is a superhero film, that takes place in outer space with a ton of CGI; what could go wrong?  Green Lantern, that's how it could go wrong!  Taylor keeps the film grounded, but light on its feet.  He has the protagonists showing off his abilities much more than the first film where Thor was stuck in a small town in New Mexico.  So happy with Taylor's decision to direct this sequel.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Insanely Stupid Story
How many times have a seen a movie that begins with an event that happened years ago (5,000 years in this case); and the current time of the film is the next time this great, big, huge event is going to happen again.  And our hero needs to stop it before the villain takes advantage of this once in 5,000 years great, big, huge event?  I can think of 5 films off the top of my head that use this generic, gimmicky, creative-less story telling device.  Writers Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely did so many things wrong, I had a hard time appreciating what they did right.

The story is dumb, and certain characters' motivations for their actions are dumb.  I left the theater asking, 'well why would that character do that?  It seems like an awful lot of trouble for that.'  Certain characters are written into the film just to ensure they have a reason to be there.  And there's quite a bit of there he is!  No he isn't!  THERE he is!  And I really hate when writers get lazy and default back to those creative-less ways of moving the story forward.  I do have to give the writers credit for two thing.  The first being that most of the film took place on Asgard, and I loved that!  The fish out of water bit worked in the first film, but would have been redundant in this film.  And the second; as the trailers have given away, Loki helps Thor in his mission.  The writers did an amazing job giving him motivation to ignore their past, and have the two brothers help each other.  And we never really know which side of the fence Loki stands on.  That was good!  See, not that harsh right?

The Verdict:
An Extremely Entertaining, yet Formulaic Film
'The Dark World' is an extremely entertaining movie.  The tone of the film is just right for this character.  It has found its place in not only the Marvel cinematic universe, but in the comic book film genre as a whole.  It was never afraid to make fun of itself, which I really loved.  There is action, comedy and drama; but the poor story stopped me from making this an top-five favorite comic book film.  Stilled enjoyed it very much and would recommend everyone checks it out!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

X-Men: Days of Future Past trailer hits, and it's a star studded affair

No one could have known what the first X-Men movie would do for the comic book movie genre, when it was released nearly 15 years ago.  The original film has spawned a slew of comic book films, spin-offs, sequels, prequels and reboots.  X-Men: Days of Future Past is technically a sequel to X-Men: First Class, but it appears to be much more than that.  Check out the trailer below and my thoughts after. 

The tone has director Bryan Singer all over it!  And I'm more than ok with it.  When it was announced he would return to the franchise he made famous, I was very excited.  It felt like this brand, this franchise, was back in good hands.  The story loosely follows the graphic novel by the same name, and bridges the X-Men and X-Men: First Class franchises.  Stars from the original trilogy, like Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen and Halle Berry are back.  So too are the actors from the 'First Class' film.  James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence all return as the younger versions of the older characters.

There appears to be A LOT of characters in this film.  I don't know how Singer and his writers are going to give everyone a fair share of screen time.  And to be honest, it feels more like a sequel to the original franchise than it does to 'First Class'.  That may be a move by Fox to better market the film, but I don't want to think about that too much without seeing more of the film.  The action is subdued in this trailer, it's more about the setup, and I can't blame Singer for that.  It's a complex film with a lot of moving parts; setting up the 'world' in the first trailer was probably a good idea.  I think it goes with out saying, but I'm in.  I can't wait to see what Singer and company pull off in this movie.  

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Captain America: The Winter Soldier poster and trailer

Back in 2011, I loved Captain America: The First Avenger.  It's style and tone proposed something that was very different from other Marvel films before it.  It's star, Chris Evans embodied the role of a man that was 'all American'.  He did a great job.  Since then, Evans has starred as a part of The Avengers.  And now he's back, in the next stand alone film, Captain America: Winter Soldier.  Check out the trailer below and my thoughts after.  

Well, remember that style and tone I was talking about earlier?  Yeah, it's pretty much gone.  I mean, I understand the character is in a different time in the world; but the 1940's never looked so good before the first film.  Now, the film has almost a futuristic feel to it.  Everything from the transportation, to the costume, to the weapons; all feel like they're right out of the future.  It's definitely interesting what directors Anthony and Joe Russo have done though.  This character was a 'fish out of water' in The Avengers.  They're still playing on that joke, but not making it the focal point of the film; based on what we've seen so far of course.  
The lovely Scarlett Johansson is back, in a much bigger role that previous Marvel films.  Looking forward to that.  I also love the brief shot of Frank Grillo in the trailer too.  I wont spoil it here, but his character is a big deal in the Captain America universe.  It's still a little unclear who Robert Redford's character is, and where his true intentions lie.  Samuel L. Jackson is briefly shown as Nick Fury, again.  And finally, who is the Winter Soldier?!  If you read the comics, you know already; but I'm not about to spoil it here.  Wait to you find out who it is!  Good stuff.

Lots of missing pieces, but a great trailer nonetheless.  Looking forward to yet another great Marvel film.  

Paul Rudd, Rashida Jones close to signing with Marvel as Ant Man and Wasp

Rudd and Jones in the 2009 comedy, I Love You, Man
If you saw I Love You, Man in 2009, there's one thing you probably noticed.  The lead couple, played by Paul Rudd and Rashida Jones, have some great chemistry together.  They performances were both subtle and heartwarming; as Rudd's character searched for someone to make his best man at his wedding.  Well, it appears as though they'll re-team in a MUCH different capacity.  In a Marvel superhero film nonetheless!

The two are said to be close to signing on to Edgar Wright's, Ant-Man.  It's a film slated for a 2015 release.  Rudd would play Dr. Hank Pym; who invents a size altering suit.  Jones would play Janet van Dyne, who later takes on the moniker of Wasp.  Her character, much like Ant-Man, can change in size.  This casting is all categorically 'rumor' at this point.  There are however multiple sources verifying that deals are being worked on.

I love Paul Rudd, and I really like Rashida Jones' acting too.  I watch her show, Parks and Recreation religiously, and was sad to hear she would be leaving the show this season.  Rudd has been very busy the last 5 or 6 years.  From The 40 Year Old Virgin, to Admission, he's a model of consistency in Hollywood.  His films generally make money, and are usually critically praised (minus Wanderlust of course).  I would be more than ok with either of these actors being cast in these roles.  I'm not so sure fanboys and girls would be though.

As long ago as May 2010, fan favorite Nathan Fillion was rumored to have nabbed the role of Ant-Man.  And a few weeks later, the internet ran amok with the rumor that Eva Longoria would play Wasp.  Now we have to wait and see when actors will officially sign on.  I'll keep everyone posted!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Out of the Furnace poster and trailer, starring Christian Bale

Christian Bale stars in the new film, Out of the Furnace, with Casey Affleck.  At it's core, it's a story about brothers.  Check out the trailer below and my thoughts after.  The film is directed by Scott Cooper and also stars Woody Harrelson, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe and Zoe Saldana.  

This looks to be an intense film!  Bale looks like his Oscar worthy self.  I'm a little leery of the Harrelson villain.  It's a bit cartoonish at this point, and I'd like to see more before making a conclusion of course.  Affleck appears to do well, but I'm not buyin' that he's an underground fight club participant.  We see little from Whitaker, Dafoe and Saldana, but I'm sure they're going to bring their A-game to this one.  In my honest opinion, the trailer is not that great.  Not to say the film will not be; but the trailer didn't make me want to see the film.  Bale's inclusion in the film, makes me want to see the film.  So we'll have to wait until December to see if all the pieces come together.  Anyone else interested in this?

Gravity review; an experience you won't soon forget

Alfonso Cuarón may be the best film director, you've never heard of.  And if you have heard of him, you'll agree that we need to see more of his work in the United States.  Cuarón wrote and directed Children of Men in 2006.  A terrific film about a world where humans could no longer reproduce.  He also directed what some consider the best Harry Potter film of the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  It's been 7 years since we've seen Cuarón's work, and boy was it worth the wait.  The elder Cuarón, and his son Jonás, wrote this year's space exploration thriller, Gravity.  The film stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.  Let's go!

What I liked about the film:
The Cast
The film sports some of the best visuals you will ever experience in a feature film.  But all that is for not, if there is no story to tell, with really interesting characters.  That's where Bullock and Clooney come in.  Let me start with Bullock.  She gives a performance that puts her Oscar winning role in The Blind Side to shame.  Bullock plays a scientist who is running away from something.  No spoiler here.  She is living her life in a zombie like state.  With very little experience, she's asked to board a space mission, to repair a telescope in space.  After she unexpectedly floats away from the telescope, we start to peel back her character's layers, and discover what makes the character who she is.  Bullock plays it perfectly!  She evokes the same fear we have as an audience, with not knowing what will happen.  Her inexperience, is our inexperience.  Her character has such a terrific arc over the course of the film, you can't help but feel for her.  Bullock is definitely an A-list actress, but has just enough 'girl next door' in her to keep her relatable.  You'll have yourself asking, "what would I do in that situation?"  Just a brilliant performance that will most definitely be recognized by the Academy.

Clooney is just flat out perfect for the role!  Maybe too perfect, and I'll get to that later.  He plays a sort of rebellious astronaut; but at the same time, he's an experienced, fatherly figure to Bullock.  He gets the funniest lines in the movie ( for what little humor there is in this serious film).  I really enjoyed where the writers went with his character.  He and Bullock had great chemistry in the film.  When you see the movie, you'll know how vital that chemistry is to the success of the film.  Awesome!

The Visuals
The special effects are masterfully done in this movie.  We've seen a lot of 'space movies'.  But really, seriously, nothing quite compares to this movie.  The detail on planet Earth, from outer space, is impeccable.  You can see every coastal region, the different colors of the ocean depending on the depths of the water, every mountain range.  It is something that will definitely require multiple viewings.  Special effects company, Framestore, has created a character out of space.  I mean seriously, SPACE, is a character in the film!  Awesome!

While on the subject; this is a movie you MUST experience in the theater.  I know how annoying going to the movies can be.  I know how annoying people are these days, and how little respect they have for the movie-going experience.  But trust me, this will not be the same film on your ginormous big-screen TV at home.  My only regret is that I didn't see the film in IMAX, or in 3D.  Yes, I said it.  I, the hater of all things 3D, wish I would have seen this movie in 3D.  But you really have to to appreciate the size and scope of the film.

The Director of Photography
Have you ever heard of Emmanuel Lubezki?  If not, it's too bad, because he has captured some of the most memorable films in history through his lens.  He has been nominated for FIVE Academy Awards; for everything from Sleepy Hollow to The Tree of Life.  What Lubezki does in Gravity is nothing short of perfect.  He makes the audience a part of the film.  With every toss and tumble of the characters, we lose our sense of balance and need to look to the theater floor to regroup.  And I'm not talking about the stupidly over-used shaky cam of the 2010's.  I'm talking about pulling the audience in, and making them feel like a bystander to the events onscreen.  There were several scene in which I caught myself holding my breath, until the unrelenting action slowed down; then finally exhaling.  He was able to magically capture emotion... like fear and a sense of urgency, through his lens.  What an amazing job.

The Score
Steven Price is a Grammy winner, but has only worked on a few feature films.  You wouldn't know it after listening to the music for this film.  This had to be a tricky thing for Price and director Cuarón.  The very first frame of the film is text, explaining to the audience that there is no sound in space.  And silence is just as powerful as a roaring orchestra can be.  Price masterfully uses both beautiful music AND silence throughout the film.  Yes there was the obvious, fast paced music during the action, but the subtle character driven moments are what I loved the most.  This blended perfectly with the performances of the actors, gave us no choice but to feel what the director wanted us to.

The Writer/Director
Speaking of the director; Alfonso Cuarón is the best film director, you've never heard of.  I'm saying it again because hopefully this will be a push for super stardom.  And maybe that's not something Cuarón wants.  But I really hope we get to see more of his beautiful, thought provoking writing and directing.  In a day and age of ridiculous, big budget action films, movies like Gravity prove you can have the best of both worlds.... action and visuals, with character driven stories.  If you pay attention, it's a rare breed of director than can pull off this difficult task.  Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, James Cameron, and now Alfonso Cuarón.  Bravo, Alfonso and Jonás.  Bravo!

What I didn't like about the film:
Tell Me More
There is only one, small issue I had with the film.  There is not enough time spent on George Clooney's character.  We learn so much, with very little dialogue, about Sandra Bullock's character.  But we're left wondering who the Clooney character really is.  What life events made him the man he is in the story?  What are his motivations?  He can't just be the funny father figure, can he?  There has to be more to him, and I would have loved to see it.

The Verdict:
A True, Instant Classic
I mentioned James Cameron above, and here's a quote he gave this week, that sums it up for me...
I was stunned, absolutely floored.  I think it's the best space photography ever done, I think it's the best space film ever done, and it's the movie I've been hungry to see for an awful long time.
I couldn't agree more.  I love space exploration films.  Apollo 13 directed by Ron Howard, is among my favorite films of all time, but Gravity is better.  Nice touch by the way, having Ed Harris voice mission control; a similar role in Apollo 13 that garnered an Oscar nomination for the actor!

I know I keep saying this, but Gravity is an experience, not just a film.  It's so rare that a movie grabs us, and forces us to take the ride alongside the characters.  The writing and directing are top notch, along with a memorable performance by Bullock that will stay with me for a long time.  The visuals, cinematography and score are also terrific.  What more could you ask for?  The Oscar race has officially begun, and I think Gravity is well on its way to the top of people's lists for best films of the year.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Need for Speed trailer starring Aaron Paul

I'm a huge fan of the TV series, Breaking Bad, starring Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul.  The series finale is tomorrow, and like so many fans, I can't wait to see what happens to our main characters.  Before watching the show, I'd never seen Paul in anything else.  So the TV show is really all I know of his work, and that's just fine!  Because he is spectacular in the role.  That being said, the actor is changing gears (see what I did there?).  

Paul is headed for the big screen, in the video game adaptation, Need for Speed.  The film is directed by Scott Waugh, who brought us Act of Valor last year.  The film also stars Dakota Johnson, who was just cast in the highly anticipated 50 Shades of Grey film.  The cast is rounded out by Michael Keaton and Dominic Cooper.  Check out the trailer below and see my thoughts after.

It looks interesting, I'll give them that.  I am worried that it looks an awful lot like another popular car-themed movie franchise.  No need to state the obvious.  So if the racing and the action set pieces are going to be similar to a competitor, what else can differentiate the film?  Characters!  And that's where you can see Paul's terrific acting skills will help the film.  The trailer doesn't give much away, but it does show us there will be some character development involved.  The voice over technique is popular in trailers, but often has us wondering where it fits in the movie.  Overall I think the trailer did its job and makes me want to see the film when it is released, March 14th, 2013.  

Friday, September 27, 2013

DC Comics pushing TV shows: "Gotham" showcasing a young Jim Gordon is in the works

TV Shows starring DC Comics characters are all the rage these days.  You'd have to credit Smallville for this trend.  The show featuring a young Clark Kent, aired for 10 seasons, and garnered a faithful following.  Last year, Arrow debuted featured DC's Green Arrow character.  Now it's been announced that Grant Gustin will star in a show about The Flash, set in the same TV universe as Arrow.  There's more...

NBC is developing a Constantine TV show now, based on the comic book Hellblazer.  Some of you will remember the 2005 film by the same name, starring Keanu Reeves.  Constantine, the film, did well, but not well enough to warranty a sequel/franchise.  Comic book film guru, David S. Goyer, is helping to develop the project for NBC.  It's in its early stages at this point, but sounds like an interesting idea.  If they can figure out how to blend TV drama with the supernatural aspects of the comic book and movie, it could be interesting.  But I worry that the entire show will have to be carried by one lead actor.  I'm sure Goyer and company will flush out supporting characters, but we'll have to wait and see.

Lastly, this one is the one I'm most interested in... Gotham on the Fox network.  The show is about the young Jim Gordon, working his way up the ranks of the Gotham PD.  The Christopher Nolan trilogy of films did an amazing job of showing us a little bit more about the character than we had seen in past incarnations.  Gary Oldman portrayed the character so well, he was a spitting image of his comic book counterpart.  And I think there is a lot of interest into who this character is, and what makes him tick.  Not many details were released, but there are a few interesting things revealed.  The show will not have Batman in it.  Perhaps the superhero will be referenced, but will not actually appear.  Also, Batman villains will be a part of the show.  Can't wait to see a young Scarecrow, or the Riddler before they become the super villains we know and love to hate.  Once casting rumors start to heat up, I'll post an update.  Any thoughts?