July 31, 2014

Three More Minutes Of BIRDMAN! "There You Go, You Motherfucker!"

While everyone else is fawning over 3 seconds of Johnny Depp's wolf-fingers in that new Into The Woods teaser, I'll be watching this new Birdman trailer on a constant loop.

Now if you'll excuse me...

July 29, 2014

Podcast Episode 24: HERCULES and LUCY Raise The Bar For Stupid

If you like dumb action, then have I got a podcast for you.

This week Bart and I tackled not one, but TWO action movies that sound great on paper but ultimately fall short of their own massive potential.  I had very high hopes for each of these movies to clear a very low bar.  Instead they both managed to trip over it.

First you've got Lucy, the latest film from Luc Besson starring Scarlet Johansson as a party girl who gets accidentally dosed with a new synthetic drug that gives her superpowers.  In fact, the entire premise is built upon the patently untrue assertion that humans only use 10% of their brains, so as the drugs activate more and more of Lucy's mental capacity (illustrated by towering percentage title cards interspersed throughout the film) her ability to control matter, energy, time and space all increase exponentially.  Now that sounds pretty fucking stupid, but it's the kind of stupid that I kind of adore.  And Johansson's flat, emotionless persona (this makes her performance in Under The Skin look downright bubbly) only makes her delivery of such dialogue as "I can feel my brain" all the more entertaining.  Throw in scene after scene of Morgan Freeman either soliloquizing idiocy in the guise of hard science or staring at Johansson in abject befuddlement and we could have had an all-time classic on our hands.  If only Besson had used all that brain percentage nonsense as the starting point for any kind of compelling story or character trajectory.  Instead the movie wanders aimlessly while Lucy does and says non-specific cosmic shit and Korean gangsters, led by a criminally underutilized Choi Min-sik, shoot up French hospital seemingly just because.  That's what's most frustrating about Lucy: while there's plenty of entertaining action and slick special effects, it's all completely unmotivated by anything at all.  Shit just occurs.  It's exhausting.

On the other hand there's Hercules, starring The Rock wearing a lion for a hat.  Actually, it's more of a hoodie, since he literally flips the lion head back and forth depending on his particular mood.  At one point he tosses a horse across a battlefield.  Yes, that's right, HE THROWS A GODDAMN HORSE.  How is this not the best movie of all time?  Part of the fault lies in the script and part of it lies in the marketing.  None of it lies in The Rock.*

I'm honestly not sure if Paramount's marketing department was trying to do some kind of cute subversion-of-expectations thing or if they just didn't know how to sell the movie they had and settled on a deceptive bait & switch routine instead.  Seriously, just watch this trailer:

That looks like an epic tale of a Greek demi-god battling a host of weird creatures while defending an oppressed people from an army of demons sent from the underworld, right?  That is not the case.  In fact, not only is Hercules not that kind of movie, it actively mocks and berates those movies.  This Hercules is just a really strong dude with a mind for military tactics.  He's not even really a soldier, he's the leader of a band of mercenaries.  They play into Hercules' own mythology and even employ his nephew as a storyteller who bolsters his allies' confidence or weakens his enemies' resolve, depending on the situation.  Herc, along with his merry band of badasses, wanders the countryside from job to job, hoping to retire and live out his days in solitude after maybe causing the death of his wife and children.  And here's the thing: that doesn't sound bad!  A grizzled, guilt-ridden Hercules who outsmarts his enemies a travels with a group of hired guns?  Sign me up!

But you lied to me, Paramount.  You got me all hot and bothered to see The Rock fight mythological monsters and then five minutes into the movie you basically spat in my face.  All that business with the Hydra and Nimean Lion and Cerberus the three-headed dog?  It's all bullshit.  What's in that trailer is essentially the sum total of what's in the movie and none of it turns out to be real.  That cool fire whip that grabs Hercules by the neck?  In the actual movie that's a whip made of bones and those fire effects are nowhere to be seen.  All John Hurt's talk of "an army descended from Hades"?  I don't even think that line is ever spoken.  That's some trailer-only ADR right there.  It's such a shame.  When it comes right down to it, what I really want is to watch a Hercules movie where The Rock kills a guy with one punch to the face, not one where he sneakily hides arrowheads in his fist to make himself look cooler.  Still, I probably would've enjoyed this movie so much more if only I didn't feel like I had been tricked into seeing it.

Bart and I cover all this and plenty more in Episode 24 of the podcast before delving into some of the news that came out of San Diego Comic Con and then drooling over that Mad Max: Fury Road footage.  I'm happy to say that this is easily the best sounding episode of the podcast to date thanks to some newly  acquired microphones.  (Thanks, eBay!)  Also, there's a silly little easter egg for those of you who listen all the way to the end.

Next week we're talking Guardians Of The Motherfucking Galaxy.  I can't wait.

*How do you know when to refer to him as Dwayne Johnson and when to refer to him as The Rock?  I've chosen to employ Justice Potter Stewart's approach to pornography: I know it when I see it.

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.

July 16, 2014

Behold ULTRON, The Avengers' Latest Nemesis!

Guardians Of The Galaxy hits theaters in just over two weeks, and after that it's a loooooooong wait until Marvel returns with Avengers: Age Of Ultron.  Today we get our first look at the eponymous villain courtesy of this upcoming Entertainment Weekly cover.  We can also see Ultron's army of drones, the latest incarnation of the Iron Man armor and Captain America's newly modified costume.  EW also managed the feed this image into their Obvious Pun Generator, giving us the weird Mr. Roboto joke shoved off into the corner.

If you click over to the article you'll also get some extremely mild spoilers as to Ultron's origins and character motivations, but it's all basic first act stuff.  (UPDATE: There are also 8 photos, including a look at Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver plus the Avengers partying after a hard day's work!  I should have noticed it earlier, but EW's layout is nonsensical at best.)  Ultron's character design sticks pretty close to the comics, so new real surprises there.  All we need now is to hear James Spader's dulcet tones emanating from his mechanical maw.  By my count, this leaves Paul Bettany's The Vision as the only major known character yet to be revealed.  Hopefully they stick with his super colorful getup which, in case you're unfamiliar, looks like this:

Expect Marvel to unleash the first footage of the film at next week's San Diego Comic Con.  If they're feeling  particularly magnanimous, the rest of us might get to see it too.

July 15, 2014

This APES/BOYHOOD Mashup Is Worth Your 98 Seconds

I was fortunate enough to see Richard Linklater's Boyhood in Austin at SXSW and it is exactly as groundbreaking and wonderful as you've heard.  It's a film that revels not in life's major turning points but in the minutiae that gradually adds up to indelibly color our worldview.  I'm going to see it again tomorrow night and I can't fucking wait.

I also can't wait to see Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes again and this mashup, featuring the music and pull quotes from the Boyhood trailer intercut with footage of Caesar, demonstrates exactly why this franchise is so great.  Sure the action is all top notch, but the reason it's so effective is because the apes are all so damn lovable. These aren't effects, these are multi-dimensional characters that live and breathe and in whom you become very emotionally invested.

Apehood, courtesy of Nelson Carvajal, perfectly illustrates the beauty of Andy Serkis's performance. By leaning heavily on the coming-of-age stuff from Rise, it almost feels like a dramatization of the documentary Project Nim, about a family in the 70's who adopts a chimp and teaches him sign language.  When we get a shot of Caesar in full war paint sitting solemnly astride a horse, it actually kind of hits me in the gut.  That sharp contrast really accentuates the inherent tragedy of Caesar's arc.  

I would watch the shit out of this movie.

This Trailer For Disney & Marvel's BIG HERO 6 Looks Like Tons Of Inflatable Fun

When it was first announced that Marvel was joining the Disney family, we all got excited at the prospect of Pixar animated superhero movies.  It seemed only a matter of time before this new corporate synergy bore cartoon fruit and now it seems that time is at hand, although it's Disney Animation and not Pixar has answered the call.

This November will see the premiere of Big Hero 6, an animated feature based on the Marvel comics about a team of young heroes operating out of the future city of San Fransokyo.  They're led by Hiro Hamada and his inflatable robot Baymax.  Up till now we've only seen some vague concept art and a quick character-based teaser, but now we've got our first real look at the tone and scope of the film and I really like what I'm seeing here:

For a better look at the rest of the team, check out these character images over at Ain't It Cool.  TJ Miller's character apparently turns into some kind of fire-breathing demon creature, so obviously I'm on board.  Maybe we'll get really lucky and somehow these guys will make their way into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, interacting with Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlet Johansson, Who Framed Roger Rabbit-style.

Marvel will be hitting San Diego Comic Con in full force next week, so I'm a little surprised they didn't save this to premiere at their Hall H panel.  Maybe they'll show a longer sizzle real that will only make its way onto the interwebs in Google Glass-captured bootleg form.

Podcast Episode 22: Bow Down Before Your Ape Overlords At The DAWN OFTHE PLANET OF THE APES

Sometimes you sit in the theater, the lights go down, and within moments you're acutely aware that you're seeing something special.  That the next two hours are going to hit you on many different levels and that you're witnessing the birth of a new classic.  There's a visceral connection.  It's electric.

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is just such a movie.

As an eternal fan of smart and cerebral science fiction, I'm almost astounded that I'm fortunate enough to be able to see Dawn just one week after having my world rocked by Snowpiercer - even amidst an avalanche of calculated bullshit like Transformers and Ninja Turtles, there's still truly earth-shattering cinema happening all around us, stuff that doesn't sacrifice intellect on the altar of commercial appeal.  With Dawn we may not have wall-to-wall action beats, but the action we get is truly thrilling and it all works in service of compelling and fully developed characters who each act according to their own tragic yet totally emotionally valid worldview.  The final showdown between apes feels incredibly raw and personal, while an ape siege on the human city is shot with both energy and precision.  You won't be left wanting for action and yet this is a movie in which the first 20 minutes pass in near silence while apes communicate in subtitled sign language.  And while the apes are certainly the heroes, there are plenty of characters to love and hate within each species.  Even the villains, human and ape alike, aren't really villains so much as they're emotionally scarred or misinformed individuals trying to do what they feel is just and necessary to ensure their respective society's survival on a hostile, disease-ravaged planet that sits perched on the brink of total collapse.

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes was surprise hit, succeeding largely because of the incredible performance of Andy Serkis as Caesar in collaboration with the groundbreaking digital artistry of the folks at WETA.  Both sides of that equation have taken a huge leap forward here.  Serkis continues to amaze as the strong, yet thoughtful and soft-spoken leader of an near utopian ape civilization.  His physicality is fantastic, whether he's scrapping with rival Koba, swinging from tree to tree or hunting a herd of deer.  But it's the quiet moments, when he first holds his newborn baby, tries to connect to his adolescent son or rediscovers an old video tape of James Franco's Will Rodman where Serkis's performance truly astounds.  And while it goes without saying, it simply MUST be said that WETA's work here is simply jaw-dropping.  People will marvel about how "photo-real" the apes all look and they're right to do so; at some point you will forget that you're not actually looking at real creatures or practical effects.  But it's the deep and soulful translation of the actor's emotions that really bring the characters to life and WETA should be commended for using digital effects to appropriately enhance and reinforce the on set performances instead of simply burying them under impressive CG monkey hair.

If nothing else, I am most grateful that this blog has helped to instill in me a lifelong love of the Apes franchise (sans Burton).  I started this site with the original Planet Of The Apes and re-watching all five of the original films plus Rise in preparation for this newest entry reminded me of just why these movies are so special.  On the surface you've got all manner of simian fun and adventure, be it rubber-suited or computer generated, and you can enjoy the films on a purely surface level.  But even in the less successful entries (I'm looking at you, Conquest and Battle) there are still Big Ideas at play and enough social commentary to fuel a dozen thesis papers.  Dawn continues this proud tradition, commenting on everything from gun control and animal cruelty to xenophobia and false flags.  At a time when even Star Trek, the eternal flame of intellectual science fiction, has largely submitted to deafening explosions, needless chase scenes and inexplicable MacGuffins, it's comforting to know that the fire of smart sci-fi will contine to burn bright so long as there are long and awesomely/awkwardly titled Apes movies out there.

Bart, Jamie and I welcome newcomer Jess Hilbun and returning favorite Jeff Schwartz to discuss all this and more in Episode 22 of the podcast.  The girls advance the theory that Caesar is secretly modeled after Harry Potter (he has a scar!) while the guys revel in the dark camp of the original five films.  We also debate the awards worthiness of performance capture (I think Andy Serkis is fully deserving of an Oscar and hope it's just a matter of time) and we ponder whether the kids of today can still appreciate an animated classic like Dumbo.  Also, our dog poops while we're recording.

The summer blockbuster season has officially peaked, and I'm ready for Guardians Of The Galaxy to carry me into the fall.

July 10, 2014

Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me That Ian McKellen Was Playing An Elder Sherlock Holmes?

I'll cut to the chase: Ian McKellen is starring in Mr. Holmes, playing a 93 year-old Sherlock who's retired but still tackling an old case with the aide of his housekeeper's son.  Bill Condon is directing.

Why am I just now learning of this?

The wife and I had the good fortune to attend the closing weekend of his Broadway double feature alongside Patrick Stewart, including the final show of No Man's Land.  McKellen was incredible in each show, but his performance in Waiting For Godot was nothing short of jaw-dropping.  We both walked away certain that we had just seen the work of our greatest living actor.

Now he's portraying the world's greatest detective.  How did nobody figure this out before now?

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 5 Now With More Baldwin!

The success of the Mission: Impossible franchise is pretty damn unlikely when you stop and think about it.  The first entry was not exactly a hit, but it's better than you probably remember it being while the second one is almost certainly far worse.  It seemed as if that would be the end of the line until J.J. Abrams showed up and turned it all around by essentially recycling the plot of the Alias pilot wholesale, or so says my wife.  But it managed to recapture the heart of what made the TV show so much fun, namely the interplay between the various team members and seeing how each agent's unique skill set contributed to the mission, as opposed to rubber masks and Tom Cruise's innate unkillable-ness.  Brad Bird's Ghost Protocol is just flat out great in every way and actually left me excited for more.

Christopher McQuarrie is taking the reins for the fifth installment and that already has me all a twitter.  Fans of the underrated Jack Reacher can you tell you why.  Cruise, Simon Pegg and Jeremy Renner are all returning for another go around and if that's not enough to get you excited, it appears that none other than Jack Donaghy himself is in talks to join the cast as some kind of senior CIA agent, while Rebecca Ferguson is the favorite for the female lead.  I am unfamiliar with her work in The White Queen on Starz, but I'm REALLY looking forward to seeing her in Brett Ratner's Hercules movie starring The Rock.

If we're really lucky, Baldwin will simply revive his sweaty, foul-mouthed FBI agent from The Departed.

We're probably not really lucky.

July 09, 2014

Prepare To Trip Balls With THE ZERO THEOREM Trailer

I am always in favor of more Terry Gilliam no matter the circumstances, and the circumstances are usually pretty shitty when that guy decides to make a new movie.  He's the director who can't catch a break.  But by all accounts the filming of his latest bucket of crazy, The Zero Theorem, was filmed with minimal interruption or wrath of God to derail the production.  I've been meaning to rewatch both Brazil and 12 Monkeys for a while now and this looks like as good an excuse as any to do so, with Gilliam himself saying that the three films form a sort of thematic dystopian trilogy.

The Zero Theorem features a bald Christoph Waltz as some sort of mathematician trying to solve an existential quandry through arithmetic.  It also features That Werewolf Guy From Harry Potter, Peter Fucking Stormare, Tilda Swinton's British Accent and a white haired Matt Damon in a zebra suit.  Spark up the bong and check out the latest trailer below.

September 19th is fast approaching.

Marty McFly's Hoverboard Could Be Yours For A Mere $25,000

I've been counting down the days until 2015 because that's the year that Robert Zemeckis promised me access to hoverboard technology.  And Robert Zemeckis is nothing if not a man of his word.  But for those of you with gobs of money who have little patience or faith in the prognostication prowess of the director of Death Becomes Her, you 'll have a chance to grab one of Marty McFly's authentic boards when it goes up for auction this fall.

Vue Entertainment and Prop Store will be overseeing the largest auction of movie memorabilia ever held in the U.K., with items including the aforementioned hoverboard, Arnold Schwarzenegger's biker outfit from Terminator 2, a miniature Batmobile from Batman Forever and a Golden Ticket from Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory.  These are the big ticket items, estimated to fetch anywhere between $25K-$45K.  You can also get a crew jacket from Star Wars: Episode I for around $150, if you're into that sort of thing.

I think I'll just wait it out.  According to Zemeckis we'll have invented anti-gravity, commercialized it and made it affordable and commonplace enough to appear in kids toys all in the next fifteen months.  Then again, his estimates are also going to come up over a dozen Jaws movies short.  Maybe he was including Sharknado and Sharktopus.

July 08, 2014

Podcast Episode 21: All Aboard The SNOWPIERCER And Praise Be To The Sacred Engine!

There hasn't been a lot to love at the theater so far this summer, and the few standouts like X-Men: Days Of Future Past or Godzilla, feel more like conditional victories than anything else.  Neither film is truly outstanding in its own right, but each exceeded audiences middling expectations.  It's increasingly rare, especially during these bombastic summer months, that we see something which truly catches us off guard and succeeds solely on the merits of the art on the screen.

Snowpiercer is just such a film.  Based upon a French graphic novel, it's the story of revolution and class warfare among the last known survivors of a global environmental disaster.  After efforts to curtail global warming lead to a new ice age, one small pocket of humanity survives aboard a massive train which circles the globe once a year, with affluent citizens living in comfort at the front of the train while the dregs subsist in squalor at the tail.  Curtis (Chris Evans) leads a party of revolutionaries who are determined to make it all the way forward and seize control of the engine, but the further forward they progress, the more it becomes clear that they have no idea the full scope of their rattling, rolling world.

The film is the English language debut of Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho, and much like Stoker, the analogous film from Park Chan-Wook (who serves as a producer here) the film manages maintain the singular and bizarre Korean sensibilities of the director without for one second threatening to alienate American audiences.  Of course it always helps when your lead character is played by Captain America himself.  This is a movie that's chock full of weird - one look at Tilda Swinton's character will assure you of that - but that's also what makes the film feel truly unique.  It's certainly not subtle in its messaging, depicting the struggle between the downtrodden heart of humanity and the cold, bloodless systems which constrain and destroy us in the name of our own welfare, ensuring that the fat get fatter while the rest of humanity starves to death.

But all that blunt social commentary is wrapped in a thrilling action movie that is staged and shot with breathtaking soul and beauty.  The night vision battle or the shoot out across the curve of the train tracks stand out as smart, inventive filmmaking, while the absurdity of the aquarium car sushi bar or Tilda Swinton's "shoes are not hats" speech are to keep the audience slightly off balance in the best possible way.  It's also a film that's unafraid to treat its audience as intelligent adults, withholding certain information for as long as possible and expecting you to actually pay attention for the full running time and connect some dots on your own.  And it's funny!  The classroom scene featuring a pregnant Allison Pill as teacher with an unsettlingly wide smile will go down as an all timer.

Snowpiercer is one helluva statement from Bong Joon-Ho, announcing him to American audiences with authority and cementing his place in pantheon of remarkable talents.  Jamie, Bart and I chat about all this and more in Episode 21 of the podcast, along with some kvetching about studios' compulsive need to fuck with the internet's collective head through deception and misinformation.

Note: Apologies for any muddied sound quality.  I'm still working on the audio engineering part of this whole crazy podcasting thing and while I think the last two weeks have been great in terms of content, the actual audio is not exactly ideal.  This episode was recorded in a different location than normal, and while I'm grateful to Jenna for providing us with both a quiet room and badass Vietnamese spring rolls (a.k.a. Asian burritos), it was essentially an empty wooden box with quite a bit of echo.  Rest assured, we're working on some solutions for the future that will not require my spending a big stupid pile of money.

Next week: Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes!

Thoughts On Last Night's 17 Minute GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Preview, Plus A Bonus Third Trailer

You guys.


I know I said a few weeks back that I was going into media blackout mode regarding Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy, but last night I broke my own rules and attended a 17 minute free preview screening.  I was initially very hesitant to go, but my wife (who is often smarter than I) went ahead and secured the tickets and it seemed like a fun sort of mini-date.  I've done these sort of events before, notably when Warner Brothers debuted the opening mid-air attack sequence from The Dark Knight Rises, but never this close to a film's release date.

I'm not gonna give you a blow-by-blow of exactly what I saw on screen, mostly because I'm not a douche.  But rather than give us the film's opening scene (which I expect will be mostly young Peter Quill getting abducted and sent hurtling into space) we're instead treated to a big action sequence set inside an intergalactic prison and it feels like it's the first time that Star Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot are forced to really come together and work as a team.  It was a perfect introduction to each individual character and I was really struck by just how distinct and fascinating everyone was even with only minimal background information - Rocket doesn't know what a raccoon is and Drax is likely to emerge as an unlikely source of hilarity since he comes from a race of people who communicate everything literally, so the concept of a metaphor is completely foreign to him.  (It's like the opposite of the "Darmok and Jalad at Tenagra" episode of Star Trek: TNG.)  But the relationships between each character were also great - Rocket and Groot are already best buds, but their relationship with Peter Quill is a little more adversarial while Drax and Gamora seem to be tenuous allies at best.

On top of all that, we got a look at some great practical aliens, creative, fast-paced action, effective use of 3D and exactly the sense of humor and just plain old FUN that I've been hoping for from this movie.  I didn't think it was possible, but it appears that I've somehow managed to underestimate Guardians Of The Galaxy.  This thing is going to be a MONSTER.  Get ready for lots of Rocket costumes this Halloween because 10-year-olds are going to absolutely flip their shit once they meet that foul-mouthed little hellion.

After the prison scene we were treated to a slightly longer version of the trailer below, which I think is still totally great in that there's lots of fun new characters revealed (Blue-skinned, mohawked Michael Rooker ahoy!) without giving away any real plot.  Plus they've finally eschewed Blue Swede's Hooked On A Feeling, which was really starting to annoy, in favor of Cherry Bomb by The Runaways.  So prepare to have that stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

I think that Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is going to seriously impress me this weekend, but after last night's preview event my expectations for Guardians Of The Galaxy could not possibly be any higher.

Get ready.

July 03, 2014

No Mirror Is Safe From Channing Tatum In This FOXCATCHER Trailer

Channing Tatum and Steve Carrell look poised to win all the awards this year with Bennett Miller's Foxcatcher, the true story of Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Tatum) whose complicated relationship with his brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo) and team sponsor John Du Pont (Carrell) leads to shocking and violent consequences.  It also seems to lead to a lot of sharply protruding jawbones.

It's been a while since I revisited Miller's Capote but I'm awfully fond of Moneyball, which sort of feels like a diet version of The Social Network.  That film works largely because of the script's breezy sense of fun, so hopefully Miller will be able to handle this markedly darker tone with just as much energy.  I'm also curious to see how Tatum fares with what looks like a lot of heavy lifting in a serious drama, and one where he's not cast largely for his good looks and charm.  Tatum has built up a lot of goodwill with me the last few years because of his strong comedy work and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little wary of the return of Wooden Channing.

That said, I find wheezy, graying Steve Carrell with his marble-mouthed Southern drawl downright enthralling.

July 02, 2014

Netflix Takes You Out To The Ballgame With This Trailer For THE BATTERED BASTARDS OF BASEBALL

Team USA's dreams of World Cup victory came to a screeching halt yesterday, which I suppose means that most sports fans' attentions will swing back to focus once again upon the great American pastime of baseball.  In a baseball town like Boston that's pretty easy business, even if the Red Sox are currently looking pretty dismal in fourth place.  But for those of you who need a little reminder why baseball is so damn great, Netflix has got you covered.

Starting next week you'll be able to stream The Battered Bastards Of Baseball, a documentary about the independent minor league Portland Mavericks.  It's a great underdog story about a bunch of muttonchopped, mustachioed dreamers who just wanted to play ball.  It's even got some star power in the form of the one and only Kurt Russell, who once played for the team that was owned by his father Bing Russell after a long acting career of his own back in the glory days of the Hollywood western.

At this point it seems inevitable that we'll eventually get a narrative adaptation with Russell playing the role of his father.  It remains to be seen if that will play as fun as Mario Van Peebles playing his father Melvin plus Melvin's onscreen alter ego Sweet Sweetback in Baadasssss!  Unlikely, but you never know.

July 01, 2014

Podcast Episode 20: TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION Falls Down Like A Fat Ballerina

"Some things should never be invented."
Sunday morning I was cleaning up around the house and I found The Sting playing on TV.  It's one of my all time favorite movies and the best Newman/Redford pairing - Butch and Sundance are fine, but they're no Hooker and Gondorff.  It's also got one of the single greatest scripts in the history of movies, full of smart narrative twists and clever dialogue.  ("Relax kid, we had him ten years ago when decided to be somebody.")

So it was probably unfair to follow that up by going to see Transformers: Age Of Extinction, a movie that is aggressive in its lack of plot or character development.  It's almost three hours long and the overwhelming majority of it consists of car chases, fight scenes and action sequences that are completely untethered from any semblance of storytelling.  Characters both human and robotic all run around blowing stuff up with absolutely no motivation for any of their actions.  Shit just happens, and it keeps happening until it stops happening and then something else happens while the audience is completely overwhelmed by sensory overload.  You almost don't have time to realize that nothing you're seeing makes any damn sense and it isn't until the two hour mark, when Tiny Negro Transformer sits everybody down and describes the plot that's apparently been happening entirely off screen, that you full appreciate the full measure of insanity to which you've subjected yourself.

But Bay doesn't give a shit about things like "story" or "character development."  He cares only about awesome things being awesome and in that regard he does not disappoint.  Age Of Extinction brings new meaning to the phrase, "sit in the theater and turn off your brain."  This is three hours of pure, uncut id, outright pummeling the animalistic pleasure-centers of the human brain through spectacle and imagery devoid of any context or meaning.  The fact that this is (and continues to be) one of the most profitable franchises of all time only proves that Bay is satisfying some kind of carnal craving by theater-goers worldwide.  But from an intellectual standpoint the whole thing is endlessly fascinating and from a cinematic standpoint, doubly so.  You simply can't argue that Bay is incompetent.  He knows exactly what he's doing and what he's doing defies all logic and reason.  You need only look at the IMAX presentation, in which he constantly changes the aspect ratio not just from scene to scene, but from shot to shot.  A single exchange of dialogue will haphazardly swap from full frame to widescreen so many times it will make you dizzy.  But each individual shot is composed with such care and precision it's absolutely remarkable.

Is Transformers: Age Of Extinction a good movie?  No.  Not at all.  Not by any appreciable metric of filmmaking.  But is it an entertaining experience?  Weirdly, yes.  This isn't a case of "so bad it's good."  This is a case of "so wrong it's right."

The 20th (!) episode of the podcast goes into all this and a lot more.  This week we welcome certified film scholar Jason Michelitch to the show and we try to wrap our heads around just what sort of madness Bay hath wrought.  We also introduce our new Trailer Of The Week feature (because The Rock as a lion-hatted Hercules simply demanded it) and discuss the future fate of Predator, Pacific Rim 2 and Harrison Ford's legs.

Next week we'll be talking about Snowpiercer and I cannot wait.