Thursday, January 31, 2013

Quickie: A cool new poster for Iron Man 3

Based on the first trailer, and now this poster, Tony Stark is in some deep trouble.  Iron Man 3 is coming soon!  This is unlike many of the generic superhero posters we've seen in the past few years.  Robert Downey Jr. appears to be falling towards the earth, almost helplessly.  I loved this poster, and felt like sharing.  Enjoy.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Quickie: J.J. Abrams will direct the next Star Wars film

It was announced this week that J.J. Abrams would take over the Star Wars franchise.  Abrams has been tapped to direct part 7 of the multi-billion dollar franchise.  I have to admit, I don't really care about any of the Star Wars films.  They did nothing for me.  I don't know why, or how it connects with so many damn people.  I don't get it.  But... BUT... I love J.J. Abrams' films!

The man knows how to create character driven films, only using the spectacle to add to the final product.  This is something George Lucas threw out the window with the absurd Episodes 1-3.  This was inevitable by the way.  Since LucasFilms was purchased by Disney, we knew a slew of new films were coming.  I have faith in Abrams, but STILL don't care about Star Wars.

Ps. It's been reported that Abrams will now only produce Star Trek 3 (if green lit), maybe not direct.  We'll have to wait and see.

More veterans join X-Men: Days of Future Past

Shawn Ashmore as Iceman

Ellen Page as Shadowcat
X-Men: Days of Future Past is casting a hell of a lot of veteran mutants.  I mean actors.  Back in November, director Bryan Singer spilled the beans and announced that Sir Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart were rejoining the X-Men.  Just a few days later it was announced that Hugh Jackman would also star in the film as Wolverine.  This week brought back 3 fan favorites from the original trilogy.

Shawn Ashmore, who played Iceman is returning to the franchise.  So too are Ellen Page as Shadowcat, and Anna Paquin as Rogue.  Fan boys across the country have to be excited about this!  The continuity we all complained about, may actually make sense with the time travel plot of the film.

Anna Paquin as Rogue
What's great is all three actors' star power has gone up since they were in X-Men: The Last Stand.  Ashmore is in a critically acclaimed show called "The Following".  Page is an Oscar nominated Actress for the film, Juno.  And Paquin is riding high after her HBO show, "True Blood" has blown up!  I personally love this news and can't wait to see how all of these great characters play into the film's plot.

There are doubters out there though.  Too many characters crippled 'The Last Stand', as it does many superhero films.  Let's hope the man that created this universe (Singer), doesn't let us all down.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Quickie: Pirates of the Caribbean 5 gets a release date

Does anyone care anymore?  There's another Pirates movie coming folks.  Pirates of the Caribbean 5 will be released July 10th, 2015.  The first three films were mildly good (actually the first one is the only one that stands out in my memory).  The first three in the franchise were directed by Gore Verbinski.  Disney decided to make a fourth, and had Rob Marshall direct it.  The fourth being Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.  No official word yet, but I'm sure Johnny Depp will return to the role that elevated him to superstar mega blockbuster A-list celebrity of all celebrities.  Does anyone care anymore?

Quickie: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie poster revealed

It's been a few months since a director to The Hunger Games was announced.  Francis Lawrence is taking over the franchise and today, fans got a treat.  Check out the first official poster to the blockbuster sequel.  The original cast will all be back, with some new additions.  Are you excited for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty review; a controversial, and amazing example of film making

"The greatest manhunt in history".  Is there a better way to describe the CIA's mission to find Osama Bin Laden?  The man behind the September 11th attacks, who lead the al-Qaeda terrorist organization.  The film was planned, even before the May 2011 capture of Bin Laden.  The real life events proved to be far more spectacular than anything Hollywood could have dreamed up.  Taking on the challenge of directing this masterpiece?  The first woman ever to win an Academy Award for directing, Katheryn Bigelow.  Zero Dark Thirty is the film.  Let's go!

What I liked about the film:
The Story
The way Navy Seal Team Six brought down the F.B.I.'s most wanted man in the world, was incredible in and of itself.  We all watched the aftermath of the raid on the Pakistani compound, and cheered with joy.  It was a huge victory for our great country.  We learned about some of the events leading up to the capture.  Zero Dark Thirty chronicles it beautifully.  The movie follows Maya (played by Jessica Chastain).  She is a CIA rookie who becomes obsessed with finding the most wanted terrorist in the world.

Moving at a very swift pace; every important detail leading the CIA to Bin Laden is covered.  It is easy to follow and shows the good and the bad involved in solving a case like this.  The credit really must go to Mark Boal.  Boal was Bigelows partner on this project from the beginning.  How fitting they were both nominated for Academy Awards for this film, earlier this week (Boal for Original Screenplay/ Boal and Bigelow for Best Picture).  Boal won the academy award two years ago for writing The Hurt Locker.  Bigelow took home the gold for Directing and Best Picture.

The Acting
Jessica Chastain transforms, right before our eyes.  At the beginning of the film, she is a wide eyed rookie.  She is naive to the methods of the CIA.  We watch her character research, and obsess over every possible lead involving Bin Laden's whereabouts.  She because a force to be reckoned with by the third act.  By that time in the film, she no longer requests anything; she demands.  She is so confident in her findings, no one will stop her from finding Bin Laden.  It is a great performance that will definitely stand the test of time.

The supporting cast is great.  Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler and Mark Strong give superb performances in their supporting roles.  While the three actors were all great, this is Chastain's show.  She is the driving force behind the film's narrative.

The Reality
It's a funny thing about controversial films.  They attract a lot of attention because someone is either upset or offended at what they saw onscreen.  Anyone remember Passion of the Christ?  Zero Dark Thirty is controversial because of graphic scenes depicting the torture of detainees.  I don't want this to become a political post, so I will just say this... we know there was torture to detainees.  They have been covered, extensively, by the media.  If these things happened, right or wrong, why is it so bad that they are being depicted onscreen?  That's the real question.  Now the U.S. Senate wants to tell the American people that the torture was not the only thing that led to vital information.  We may never know the truth.

It was only a year and a half ago Bin Laden was killed.  These events are still fresh in the minds of many many people.  The movie reminded me a lot of United 93.  Zero Dark Thirty does what United 93 did, it shows how important the collection of information can be.  The settings are real, the situations are real, and THAT, makes this film even more relevant.

Call them a power couple if you want; these two work beautifully together.  I read story after story about the making of this film.  Boal was meticulous in his research for the film.  And was on the set, day in and day out; assisting Bigelow with every facet of the story.  The pacing, editing and camera work, is where Bigelow really shines.  Much like she did with The Hurt Locker, she builds the tension and suspense in a scene until it explodes (figuratively and literally). She is such a talented director, I'm upset with the Academy for not recognizing this brilliant piece of film making   She may have missed out on a Best Director nomination, but she may still win the big prize... Best Picture.

The Climax
Let me tell you something, the climax of the film is one of the best I've seen in my entire life.  Much as it was in real life, the raid on the compound is the culmination of a lot of build up.  Bigelow captures the raid perfectly.  The screen is dark as night; yet surprisingly, we can see exactly what is happening.  The reproduction of the compound is beautiful, and beautifully shot.  The choreography and staging of Navy Seal Team Six was perfect.  I was literally on the edge of my seat the last 30 minutes of the film.  Never mind the fact we know exactly how the film is going to end, it still had my heart pumping.  These are the types of movies that keep me excited for more real life stories yet to be told on the big screen.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Score
Alexandre Desplat is a FIVE TIME Oscar Nominee.  He is terrific at what he does.  But I was very disappointed with the score in this film.  I can't remember any of it immediately leaving the cinema.  I know sometimes this is purposefully done, but I don't think that was the case with this film.  The irony?  Desplat is nominated for an Academy Award this year for another film dealing with a Mid-East conflict... Argo.  Like I said, he is normally an amazing composer, just not here in my opinon.

The Verdict:
The Best Stories, are the Real Ones
Zero Dark Thirty, Argo, United 93, Schindler's List.  What do they all have in common?  Oscar Nominated films based on real life events.  That's just four examples, the list goes on and on.  The point is, regardless how long ago the real life events took place, the stories are forever.  The Social Network chronicled Mark Zuckerberg's rise to fame, just a few years after the true to life events occurred.  Zero Dark Thirty was released yesterday, a mere 20 months after the real life events that inspired it.  The movie is a top contender for Best Picture in this year's Oscar race.  And while I am yet to see Lincoln, I would say Zero Dark Thirty has a pretty damn good chance of winning it all.

Django Unchained review; a worthy Oscar candidate

Best Picture.  Best Original Screenplay.  Best Supporting Actor.  These are three of the major Academy Awards categories.  And guess what?  Django Unchained has been nominated in all of them.  Quentin Tarantino wrote and directed the western about a bounty hunter that saves a slave, only to have him become his partner.  It's a tale of American History, as well as revenge.  Let's go!

What I liked about the film:
The Performances
Christoph Waltz plays the bounty hunter I mentioned above.  He won his first Academy Award acting in Tarantino's last film, Inglorious Basterds.  Waltz is magnificent in this film.  The way he spouts off his dialogue just draws you in.  He is charming, even though he kills for money.  You can't help but fall in love with his character.  When he 'buys' Django, only to free him, it shows his human side.  Terrific.

The other performance that stood out was that of Leonardo Dicaprio.  He plays a plantation owner in Mississippi.  He.  Is.  Ruthless.  Dicaprio plays him with all the entitlement in the world; just the way the character would have been in the late 1800's.  Many felt the actor was snubbed for Oscar contention; and after seeing the film, I can't help but agree.

Jaime Foxx plays the titular character.  I was surprised Tarantino didn't write more for the actor.  Foxx can act with his eyes alone, but the best dialogue was reserved for Waltz.  I enjoyed Foxx' performance and believed his quest for revenge.  It was amazing watching him transform from a shy slave, to bonafide badass at the end of the film.  I loved his character's growth.

Kerry Washington plays Django's wife, and the reason for the new appointed bounty hunter's quest.  She is beautiful and a great actress, but had little to work with here.  She mostly screams.  Samuel L. Jackson reconnects with Tarantino and plays a great character.  He is a life-long servant of Dicaprio's character, and has completely forgotten where he came from.  He treats his fellow black slaves as if he owned the plantation; and that made for a very interesting dynamic.  Jackson is great.  Playing up the servant role when he needed to, and quickly turning it off when he needed to match Dicaprio wit for wit.  The acting in this movie was superb.

Tarantino has a style of writing his movies in a way that definitely borrows from the past, but you just know it's him.  Much like Inglorious Basterds, he borrows from real history, but puts his Tarantino spin on it.  The way he crafts Django's story is seriously impressive.  I've said this before, and I'll say it again; in my opinion, the Best Original Screenplay category is the most difficult Oscar category to win.  To create, from scratch: the world, the characters, the story, the backgrounds.  I mean this take an imagination that very few people have.

Then take that screenplay and translate it onscreen into an entertaining story.  His direction is top notch in the film.  His choice of music is fantastic (Tupac playing in the background of a gun fight anyone?).  The editing is tight and the long run time flies.  Awesome.  Just awesome.

What I didn't like:
The Second Act
This is petty in comparison to the rest of the film, but I want to point it out.  Django Unchained felt like two movies, or two halves.  It didn't feel like there were three acts.  It felt like a first 'half', and a much longer second half.  The first half matches up Waltz and Foxx.  They begin a partnership and go on numerous bounties.  Then, with very little transition, we move to Dicaprio's plantation to save the Kerry Washington character.  It would have been nice if the second half of the film was structured a little bit tighter, into two separate acts.  If you've seen the film, let me know if you noticed this.

The Verdict:
Worth the Attention it's Receiving
I really enjoyed the film.  Much more than I thought I would.  In fact, this is the first Tarantino film I see in theaters.  While I own all of his films on DVD/Blu-Ray, I rarely shell out the cash to see his movies in theaters.  This was definitely worth the money.  It was entertaining and forces us to pay attention.  Tarantino may be a better writer than he is director.  But anyway you spin it, this was a terrific film.  Go see it before the Oscars, you won't be disappointed.