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.