July 23, 2014

Benedict Cumberbatch vs The Enigma Machine In The First Trailer For THE IMITATION GAME

Alan Turing has been all over the news in recent months.  First he received a posthumous pardon from the Queen of England after the state convicted him in 1952 for gross indecency, a.k.a. being gay.  Even if he hadn't committed suicide, a royal pardon would have been cold comfort after the British government had him chemically castrated for his "crimes."  Then in June there were claims that a computer had actually passed the Turing Test, a method for distinguishing artificial intelligence from human intelligence, although those claims remain suspect at best.

Now Turing is getting his own movie, The Imitation Game, which looks primarily focused on Turing's time as a British codebreaker during World War II.  He was largely responsible for breaking the Nazi's seemingly impenetrable Enigma code, which helped to turn the tide and (spoilers!) bring victory to the Allied forces.  I really hope that Turing's homosexuality is more than a historical footnote here, but I suspect this movie has little interest in telling that story.  Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Turing alongside Keira Knightley, Mark Strong and the seemingly ageless Matthew Goode.  Charles Dance also shows up, for all you Tywin Lannister fans out there.  There is no sign of Peter Dinklage or a crossbow. 

For those of you who prefer the written word to the moving image, Turing has a heavy presence in Neal Stephenson's incredible and dense novel Cryptonomicon, required reading for anyone interested in modern or historical cryptography. I first discovered Turing in middle school when I was reading Richard Hanley's The Metaphysics Of Star Trek.  You know, like all the cool kids do.

July 22, 2014

Edgar Wright's Next Movie Is Called BABY DRIVER. No, Seriously.

We were all very sad to see Edgar Wright depart Marvel's Ant-Man movie, but when Kevin Feige closes a door, Working Title opens another, more British door.

Deadline is reporting that Wright's next movie will be Baby Driver, a film that seems destined for a better title.  Apparently Wright has been working on the script for some time, whereas the title was slapped together haphazardly.  The project must be decently developed at this point because Wright's frequent producing partner Nira Park and the chaps over at Working Title have this thing on the fast track (to a better title).

No word on whether or not Simon Pegg or Nick Frost will have any involvement but I kind of doubt it at this point.  The Cornetto Trilogy is brilliant and finished.  I suspect that all parties involved understand the value of moving on to explore new artistic avenues, although that doesn't preclude a reunion tour of sorts a few years down the line.  In fact, one seems almost inevitable, but only when Wright, pictured above contemplating a less dumb title, is good and ready.

There's also no word on the film's plot.  According to Mike Fleming at Deadline, "The project...is described as a collision of crime, action, music and sound."  I describe that sentence as a collision of words, punctuation and grammar.

Kind of like that title.

Get Your Time Travel On With Ethan Hawke In This PREDESTINATION Trailer

One of the movies I was most upset about missing at this year's SXSW was Predestination, the new time travel movie from the Spierig Brothers starring Ethan Hawke, Noah Taylor and newcomer Sarah Snook.  (Helluva name.)  Hawke plays a temporal agent who prevents crimes before they occur, on the hunt for the adorably named Fizzle Bomber.  Snook plays his possibly androgynous protege.  Noah Taylor plays Creepy Noah Taylor.

I shamelessly love almost all time travel movies and Predestination looks like it's got a lot of moving pieces and fascinating theoretical science at play, along with some strong anachronistic production design.  In fact, the mad bomber stuff looks like the least interesting part of the movie.  That probably says something.

I have only hazy memories of Daybreakers, the Spierigs' futuristic vampire movie which also starred Ethan Hawke.  I think I enjoyed it?  I really couldn't say.  I remember that it looked cool.  And I remember Willem Dafoe was in it, so it couldn't have been all that bad.  I am somewhat distracted by Hawke's husky monotone in this trailer, especially after having just watched him at his animated best in Richard Linklater's Boyhood.  Then again, a lot of that footage was shot about a decade ago, because Boyhood is like a little time machine in and of itself.  In fact all movies are like time machines, man!

I totally just blew my own mind.

This Trailer For THE ONE I LOVE Hints At One Weird Ass Romcom

My wife and I just recently started watching Mad Men, one of many highly regarded TV shows which we've been accidentally ignoring for years now.  The rampant misogyny has Jamie crawling up the damn walls, which makes the show infinitely more entertaining for me, what with all my white male-ness.  She's particularly frustrated by Elizabeth Moss's character Peggy, who so far (we're about halfway through Season 1) comes across as a character we want to like but who keeps doing lots of really dumb stuff.  You kind of want to slap her every time she makes googly eyes at Vincent Kartheiser's Terrible Acting.  It remains to be seen if we will ever stop thinking of her as Zoey Bartlet.

It's slightly easier to forget her West Wing heritage in this trailer for The One I Love, mostly because she's blonde.  She appears alongside a dorky Mark Duplass in the romantic comedy that might also be a drama in which a couple spends a weekend an estate with some kind of magical guest house.  The trailer is designed to make you walk away wondering exactly what happens behind that red door, but name dropping Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman in one of the pull quotes probably gives you a pretty clear indication.  My money is on some kind of Malkovich-esque portal that lets them into each other's minds or something of that ilk.


I'm a sucker for these kinds of movies, so I'm in.  You go, Peggy Bartlet!

Podcast Episode 23: THE RAID 2: BERANDAL Is The GODFATHER II Of Action Movies

The Raid: Redemption is an incredibly tight little action flick, delivering a streamlined and compact story about a squad of cops forced to fight their way out of a tenement slum after a bust gone bad.  It's punctuated by loads of intense, brutal action sequences that propel the film forward at breakneck speed and will have you screaming at your television in horror and delight.  Its economy and intelligence make it easily one of the best action movies of the past ten years, and the idea of a sequel seems instantly foolish.

And then The Raid 2: Berandal happened.

Holy.  Fucking.  Shit.

The Raid 2 isn't an great action movie.  It's just a straight up incredible film.  End of line.  The fact that it also contains some of the most astounding action scenes I've ever witnessed almost feels like icing on the cake as opposed to the meat of the dish.  Director Gareth Evans (not to be confused with Godzilla director Gareth Edwards) performs numerous feats of what Bart refers to as "camera magic" here, managing to shoot from seemingly impossible positions and giving the audience a sense of immersion during combat without depending solely on the use of quick cuts and shaky cam.  And when he's not shooting action, the shot composition is still captivating, giving way to scope and beauty that feels all too rare in today's cinema regardless of genre.

Everything in The Raid 2 is cranked up to eleven.  As opposed to a simple premise in a single location spanning an afternoon, we've got an intricate crimeland drama that bounces all over Jakarta and unfolds over years.  Rama, our hero and the only element tying the two films together, undergoes a dark and serious evolution, transforming from idealistic rookie cop to tortured and weary undercover operative.  You could argue that the fights in The Raid start to feel repetitive after a while.  (You'd be wrong, but you can argue it.)  The Raid 2 offers a wide variety of violence.  There are executions, betrayals, subway attacks, prison riots and a full-on brawl in a single toilet stall.  You like car chases?  Oh mama, does The Raid 2 have a car chase for you.  You've got a wild-haired hitman who takes on a night club full of attackers.  You've got a goon who kills guys with a baseball bat and a ball.  You've got a hot deaf lady whose weapon of choice is a pair of hammers.  And through it all you've got star Iko Uwais performing inhuman feats of strength and agility.  Most importantly, all this insane action works in service of a smart and expertly told organized crime story that ranks right up there with all your American favorites of the genre.  It's The Godfather meets The Departed, but overflowing with more blood and brutality than both of those films combined.

Bart and I saw a double feature of both Raid films over the weekend and we chat about each film in Episode 23 of the podcast while also expressing cautious optimism over a proposed set of Universal Monster remakes under the banner of a shared universe.  We also speculate on what we can expect to hear from Marvel at San Diego Comic Con as they begin to roll out Phase 3 and introduce a whole new set of increasingly weird heroes.

If all the stars align, next week's podcast will cover both Luc Besson's female-centric actioner Lucy as well as Brett Ratner's hopefully hilarious Hercules, starring Dwayne Johnson with a lion for a hat.

July 18, 2014

SyFy's Upcoming 12 MONKEYS Series Looks Surprisingly Not Terrible

My 12 Monkeys DVD is seriously calling to me.  First there was the totally sweet, totally trippy trailer for Terry Gilliam's upcoming The Zero Theorem.  Now we've got our first glimpse of SyFy's attempt to convert Gilliam's post-apocalyptic time travel story into an hour-long series and it actually looks pretty decent. Former X-Man Aaron Stanford looks to be filling the shoes of Bruce Willis as the man from the future trying to solve a mystery in the past while Amanda Schull plays Madeleine Stowe and Zeljko Ivanek may or may not be a ponytail-less David Morse.  Or perhaps he's Brad Pitt with a better tailor.  This point remains unclear.

I won't lie, I'm a little disappointed that the weird visual flourishes that defined Gilliam's film, stuff like Bruce Willis's clunky plastic suit and the council of future elders who gave him his orders, seem to be absent here.  Then again I'm not entirely surprised either.  Still, I'm always up for a good time travel story and if executive producers Travis Ficket and Terry Matalas can give us a compelling mystery using a stripped down version of Gilliam's story, I'm in.  Especially if they're really gonna play with the time travel stuff.  Might we actually get to see Stanford's James Cole jump into a bunch of different time periods?  I certainly hope so, mostly because I want to see 80's Zeljko Ivanec.

SyFy could use a marquee property that hearkens back to the glory days of Battlestar Galactica as opposed to all this Sharknado bullshit.  The series debuts in January of 2015, at which point the original film will be 20 years old.


July 17, 2014

The Universal Monsters Will Get A Shared Universe Because Of Course

Shared universes!  They're all the rage now that The Avengers became Marvel's personal money printing machine.  They suddenly feel like the instant solution to revitalize a worn out character or franchise.  Starting in 2016, DC is throwing every character they can think of at the wall to see who sticks.  Sony wants to spin Spider-Man, their lone superhero, into an expanded world consisting primarily of villains because those are the only characters they own the rights to.  There are even rumors that Fox is looking to leave the door open to future X-Men/Fantastic Four crossovers.

Now Universal is looking to apply that same conventional wisdom (which seemed outright ludicrous a mere decade ago) to their classic stable of monsters, which have been languishing for decades.  The Joss Whedon of this endeavor will be Chris Morgan, the mastermind behind the second half of the Fast & Furious franchise a.k.a. the unlikeliest franchise success story of the 21st century.  Alex Kurtzman, ex-partner of imminent Star Trek destroyer Bob Orci, will also be involved.  Hopefully in a minimal capacity.  After the horrendous 2 Fast, 2 Furious, the racing franchise seemed destined for the Hollywood scrapyard, but Morgan was able to not just revitalize the franchise, but elevate it into something both viscerally exciting and emotionally resonant.  Imagine what he could do with material that's already great?

I must admit to my own ignorance when it comes to the Universal Monster classics, despite having purchased the recently remastered box set last year.  I've still only gotten around to watching Boris Karloff as The Mummy, the same character which is scheduled to kick off this new effort.  We'll also be getting new versions of Dracula, the Wolf Man, Frankenstein's Monster, Bride Of Frankenstein, the Invisible Man and Gill-Man from Creature From The Black Lagoon.  In other words, assuming this whole thing doesn't collapse with a few quick duds, it's possible these guys will be invading cinemas for at least a decade.  As to the logistical questions, like when will these movies be set, will there be some Brendan Fraser/Nick Fury-esque human hero that serves as the connecting tissue, and will we get the classic character designs (we fucking better), well...who knows right now.

I should amend my previous statement.  I've also seen Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein, which features a bunch of the Classic Monsters as farce, and Shane Black & Fred Dekker's Monster Squad, which pairs the old ghoulies with some shit-talking 80's kids.  They're both pretty great.  But I'm really looking forward to digging into the rest of the Monsters this October, when I'll be mainlining all kinds of fun horror films once again.

If they shoot these new movies in black and white, I'll be in heaven.