August 28, 2014

Mike Epps Securing His Legacy As Fake Richard Pryor

I must admit that I have yet to watch a Lee Daniels movie.  I tried to attend an advanced screening of Lee Daniels' The Butler but the theater closed it off when I was next in line.  I sort of let it go after that, but was recently reminded that among the many celebrity cameos in the movie lies John Cusack playing Richard Millhouse Nixon.  As a shameless lover of all things Cusack, that feels like something I have to see.  I also kind of want to watch Lee Daniels' The Paperboy, if only to see Nicole Kidman actually piss all over Zac Efron.  I have no real desire to watch Lee Daniels' The Precious.

My streak of ignoring all the man's movies will probably come to an end with Lee Daniels' The Richard Pryor.  It's a project that's been gestating for quite a while, with Michael B. Jordan, Marlon Wayans and Nick Cannon all competing to play the greatest comedian of all time.  Ultimately they each fell to the talents of Mike Epps, a.k.a. Black Doug from The Hangover.  At this point Epps is making a career out of impersonating Pryor, having also played him in an upcoming Nina Simone biopic starring Zoe Saldana.  So at least he'll have had some practice.

I love Richard Pryor immensely and would love to see Daniels knock this out of the park, but I remain a bit skeptical.  I heard that The Butler was fairly cloying and emotionally manipulative and Pryor's story requires quite a bit of edge.  The presence of Oprah Winfrey as Pryor's grandmother does not give me great hope.  Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson are still vying to play Pryor's widow.

Epps is a somewhat surprising choice I'll admit, only in that he hasn't really anchored a major release before.  But the guy has some chops.  A few months ago I stumbled into Talk To Me, the story of legendary D.C. area radio DJ Petey Green starring Don Cheadle and Chiwetel Ejiofor.  Epps had a few nice scenes as Ejiofor's prison-bound brother and he certainly wasn't playing comic relief.  I have a sneaky feeling that Epps will kill it as Pryor.

At least we should all be thankful that we didn't end up with the host of America's Got Talent.

August 27, 2014

Podcast Episode 28: SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR vs MACHETE KILLS! Robert Rodriguez Double Feature!

If you'd like to become completely disenchanted with Eva Green's breasts and the female form in general, boy have I got a movie for you.

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For is an ugly film from top to bottom.  Soulless and lacking any of the thrills of its predecessor, it strands too many talented actors on screen with hackneyed dialogue and plots that go absolutely nowhere.  There's no joy to be found anywhere in the movie.  At least in the original film, you could tell that folks like Clive Owen and Brittany Murphy were really digging in and having a ball.  Here, Josh Brolin and Jessica Alba feel completely lost in the wilderness.  Not even a heroin-addicted Christopher Lloyd or Stacey Keach as a potato mutant (!) can save this grim, disgusting retread.

Bart and I were so depressed walking out of the theater that we decided to pair it with another movie for podcasting purposes.  We landed on the opposite end of the Robert Rodriguez spectrum with Machete Kills, which is easily the director's best movie since the first Sin City.  It starts out fairly straightforward, with Danny Trejo's ex-Federale character Machete getting drafted by President Charlie Sheen to track down a madman with a nuclear missile, but it eventually winds its way into a completely insane sci-fi revenge flick chock full of the kind of Itchy And Scratchy-level cartoon violence that I can't help but fall in love with.  I found the first Machete film more than a little disappointing, but Machete Kills actually left me hungry-bordering-on-desperate for the promised third entry.  This is a movie that demands to be seen with lots of friends and lots of beers.

Episode 28 of the podcast finds Bart comparing Eva Green's Sin City performance to the water level in Sonic The Hedgehog and hatching a scheme to bring Danny Trejo into the Expendables universe while I somehow end up lamenting the lack of full frontal penis shots.  We also talk about Ant-Man finally starting production, The Rock as a possible Shazam and some potentially spoilery rumors regarding Star Wars: Episode VII.  The news remains at the top of the episode for those of you who are still waiting to see the movie(s) in question, but at least when it comes to A Dame To Kill For I feel like our 30 minute discussion is probably more entertaining than the actual film.

Next Week: Ghostbusters 30th Anniversary Re-Release and another movie TBD.

August 22, 2014

ANT-MAN Has Officially Begun Shooting And Here Are A Million Updates

Ant-Man has been an endless source of drama the last few months, with Edgar Wright being famously pushed out of the director's chair after the script by Wright and Joe Cornish was chopped to bits by the Disney machine.  But after a few weeks of chaos, Marvel enlisted the excellent Peyton Reed to step in and right the ship along with some script rewrites by Anchorman director Adam McKay.

Principal photography finally began in San Francisco this week and the image above is your first look at Paul Rudd as con-man Scott Lang.  Pretty good!  I mean he MUST be a criminal because he's wearing a hoodie.  That's how that works, right?  Now when are we gonna get a good look at that suit?

Along with this image came news of a number of new additions to the cast, including Judy Greer, Bobby Canavale, rapper TI and comedian Gregg Turkington.  Wood Harris is on board as well, which means that the MCU has now absorbed both Stringer Bell and Avon Barksdale.  It's only a matter of time before Bunk shows up, hopefully as a drunken officer of the Nova Corps.

John Slattery will also be reprising his role as Howard Stark, last seen in an old film reel during Iron Man 2.  It looks like we'll be getting some flashbacks to S.H.I.E.L.D. days gone by with Stark and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) pitted against each other as scientific rivals.  In Iron Man 2 we got a 60's era Stark, but I suspect we might jump a little farther forward here, hopefully the 70's. Sign me the fuck up.  I'm finally catching up with Mad Men right now and Slattery is pretty much my favorite thing.  Mostly because of this, which I still can't believe they got away with airing on television.

Last but certainly not least, we've got a peek at Evangeline Lilly's very specific hair style for the film, courtesy of her own Instagram feed.

Lilly is playing Lang's love interest and Pym's daughter Hope Van Dyne, but her haircut is very reminiscent of Pym's wife Janet Van Dyne, a.k.a. The Wasp.  Janet will not be appearing in the film, although it's unclear whether she's dead or simply AWOL.  Either way, Evangeline Lilly can throw down like the best of them so it seems almost certain that we'll see her don those Wasp wings eventually, though not in this film.  That's okay, it gives me something to look forward to.

As sad as we all were to see Wright go, Reed is a very exciting choice to take over and I suspect that he's going to do great things with the most comedic Marvel movie to date.  Expect loads more tidbits and spy-shots as filming progresses.  Now what's a brother got to do to see that Comic Con footage of Douglas telling Rudd that he has tiny balls?

Sigourney Weaver Passes On THE EXPENDABELLES. Linda Hamilton Charges Her Cell Phone.

Despite its surprising lack of terribleness, Expendables 3 looks to be a serious disappointment at the box office.  And yet somehow plans continue for an all-female spinoff called (I shit you not) The Expendabelles.  The last few months it's only existed as a vague idea and a very silly title, but now there appears to be some form of a script and so offers are being made to ladies with a history of cinematic ass-kickery.

Unsurprisingly the first offer went out to Sigourney Weaver and thankfully she turned it down.  Frankly I'm not all that surprised, especially in light of the revelation that the script revolves around a team of mercenary women who are forced to infiltrate the island lair of maniacal villain by posing as high priced call girls.  Sigourney Weaver is way to classy for that bullshit.  Besides, she's gonna be involved in the next 27 Avatar films that James Cameron has planned, so it's hardly as if she needs the paycheck.

In the end I expect that, much like the testosterone-y version, we'll get a mix of real actresses and some MMA types.  Gina Carano seems like a lock and I wouldn't be surprised to see Rhonda Rousey make another appearance, despite being the weakest link of the third entry.  Michelle Rodriguez, Kate Beckinsale, Milla Jovovich, Katee Sackoff and Lucy Liu are all likely candidates, but they're definitely going to need a big, Stallone-esque name to anchor this thing and there simply aren't a lot of options.  Linda Hamilton is probably a good fit, as is Jamie Lee Curtis or Daryl Hannah.  I'm not sure if Pam Grier or Gena Davis are still combat ready, but I'd love to seem them show up in some capacity.  And hey, what's Brigitte Nielson up to these days?

Then again, if they can't inject some serious star power into this thing I wouldn't be surprised to see it simply fade away.  That's probably for the best, as it took Stallone three tries to figure out how to make these movies right.  I suspect a female version wouldn't get quite so many chances.

August 21, 2014

I Have So Many Questions About This OUTCAST Trailer

Holy shit, this Outcast trailer.  Is this a real movie?  I mean, I want to wallpaper my cubicle with that picture, but it can't even touch the rollercoaster of emotion that comes with watching this trailer.  Let me give you running transcription of my bewildered reactions as I watched it for the first time.  (I've watched it approximately 17 times since then.)

00:00 - Cage in the Crusades.  Wait, is this a sneaky sequel to Season Of The Witch?

0:10 - Long hair.  Beard.  Giant sword.  This looks promising.

0:17 - Twitchy Cage Rage Face!  Excitement rising...

0:30 - Wait, what?  Did YouTube just jump to a different trailer?  What is happening?

0:43 - I'm starting to get a distinct Man With The Iron Fists vibe, but without the sheer majesty of fat Russell Crowe brandishing a knife-gun while fucking an infinite number of Asian prostitutes.

0:53 - I had no idea people were still paying Hayden Christensen to star in movies.  Good for him I guess.  Or more specifically, good for his agent.


1:10 - Is it English?  Irish?  Pirate?  I must get to the bottom of this!

1:15 - His character is called The White Ghost?  Seriously?  How is that not the title of this movie?  The disdain with which Cage spits out the words "I am The White Ghost" is absolutely staggering.

1:24 - That Wheezy Cage Laugh is wonderful.  "You're 14?  HYSTERICAL!"

1:30 - What is with Christensen's haircut?  Have stylists in Silver Lake been ripping off 19th Century disgraced crusaders this whole time and I didn't know it?

1:37 - The scar over Cage's right eye looks terrible.  Did they really make him keep one eye closed the whole time?  It just looks like he's squinting at his lines off camera.  If you're not gonna throw down with some proper disfigurement makeup, at least give the man an eye-patch.  Then again, I can absolutely see Cage refusing to use a patch and INSISTING on doing it himself.  This seems completely plausible.

1:40 - The tiny ponytail on top of Cage's head is really the cherry on top of this absurd sundae.  I can't wait to marathon this movie with Left Behind and The Wicker Man.

1:53 - Seriously though, Outcast is a terrible title and is destined to be confused with about six other movies.  This trailer should have ended with, "This Winter, Nicolas Cage Is....THE WHITE GHOST!"

According to IMDB, this movie comes out the day before my birthday.

Can't.  Fucking.  Wait.

August 20, 2014

Podcast Episode 27: THE EXPENDABLES 3 Finally Gets It Right

It's about damn time.

My love of all things Stallone is pure, eternal and well documented.  Thusly, I have subjected myself to both The Expendables and The Expendables 2, movies that sound brilliant on paper yet fall completely flat in execution.  It's such a disappointment, so much so that I have stupidly revisited each film, thinking they can't be as bad as I remember.  But they are that bad, and then some.  These are movies whose idea of entertainment is a collection of tedious, poorly shot action sequences and awkward, forced comedic banter between guys who have trouble speaking coherent sentences.  Sure, it's fun to get guys like Stallone, Willis and Schwarzenegger all on screen together, but you also have to give them something interesting to do, something more than standing around shooting off-screen villains and regurgitating 20 year old catchphrases.  Chuck Norris is the most egregious example of this mindset: his mere presence in Expendables 2 elicits chuckles, but the guy is too old to actually do any real ass-kicking.  Instead he just sort of meanders around, has a beard, delivers some plot information and then wanders off.  Such a waste.

Expendables 3 finally learns from the mistakes of its predecessors.  Newcomers Antonio Banderas, Wesley Snipes, Kelsey Grammar, Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson all inject a sense of pure, uncut fun that the franchise has been sorely lacking.  Snipes owns the movie's opening 20 minutes, so much so that I was sad that he was barely present in the film's second half.  But that's okay, because as Snipes fades into the background, Banderas gets his time to shine impossibly bright.  He's charming and funny and sad and a badass on top of everything.  Grammer and Ford each have smaller roles but they both have a couple of killer moments, while Gibson channels his particular brand of crazy into a great maniacal villain.  Conrad Stonebanks plays like a darker, twisted version of Martin Riggs without ever resorting to any ham-fisted references, as opposed to Schwarzenegger who drops not one, but two different variations on "Get to the choppah!"  There's also a younger crew of new Expendables, but they seemingly exist solely to make the older Expendables look more awesome.  This goal is successfully achieved through wooden acting and lack of personality.  Seriously, Rhonda Rousey makes Dolph Lundgren look like Lawrence Olivier.

This is what The Expendables always should have been and it's a shame that it took three full movies before they figured it out.  At this point most people have long since given up on this 80's action-star revival showcase and I can't blame them.  As I said, the first two movies are a downright chore to sit through.  But whether you've turned your back on the Expendables or never really bothered with them to begin with, you should give the third entry a shot.  It's still not great filmmaking, (I'm more than a little worried that Patrick Hughes is taking the reins on the American remake of The Raid) but it's remarkably entertaining and it blows some stuff up.  At the end of the day, that's all I ever wanted.

Unlike myself, Bart and Jamie had never seen an Expendables movie before, but that didn't stop us from podcasting the shit out of this one.  We shook up the format this time around and moved the current events stuff to the top of the agenda for those of you who want to hear us memorialize Robin Williams or pontificate about Aquaman and DC's upcoming TV slate without risking any Expendables spoilers before you get a chance to see the movie.  I think we'll give it a few weeks to see how it feels.  The only thing we failed to talk about regarding Expendables is the incredible and casual revelation at the end of the film that Schwarzenegger and Jet Li are actually lovers.  I think that also implies that Li and Lundgren were lovers in the first film?  Either way, it's amazing.

Next Week: Is Sin City still relevant?

August 12, 2014

Podcast Episode 26: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES Is Totally Buck-Buck

The newest reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a singular film experience in that it's the first time I've ever sat in the theater and felt like a movie was trolling me in real time.

To be fair, I am CLEARLY not this movie's intended audience despite having been a member of the original generation of young TMNT fanatics.  No, this horrorshow is custom built for today's nine year olds.  And not even the smart nine year olds but the dumb ones, the kids who need everything explained to them six times between a series of explosions and fart jokes lest they get distracted by something shiny and wander out into traffic.  This is a movie in which six-foot talking turtles who know karate aren't cool enough, so these turtles are also bulletproof and super strong, able to knock giant steel shipping containers 50 feet into the air with a single kick.  It's also got a faint whiff of racism - Splinter sports a fu manchu and wraps himself in Japanese affectations not because he comes from Japan, but because he finds a ninjitsu book lying in the sewer.  That's right, Splinter is essentially a rat doing yellow-face.

Character development?  Compelling relationships?  Coherent storytelling?

"FUCK THAT," this movie gleefully screams.  "We've got a car chase in the snow down a mountain with a close-up of Megan Fox's ass!"

The various incarnations of Ninja Turtles from my youth are hardly sacred, but this clusterfuck of blurry CG and leaden dialogue makes the first live-action film from 1990 look like Citizen Kane.  You can criticize the turtle suits all you want (and I actually think they hold up pretty well, all things considered) but at least that movie operated on a modicum of logic and it gave you 30 seconds to catch your breath between fight scenes.  The turtles in that movie are all distinct and multi-faceted.  Not only could you tell them apart, but you actually gave a shit about them individually.  The only difference between these version of the turtles is the color of their respective masks.  Oh yeah, and Michelangelo REALLY wants to bone Megan Fox, which is exactly as creepy as that sounds.  Oh yeah, and the actual ninja stuff is astoundingly unimpressive.

But here's the thing: I watched this movie in a theater full of kids and they went BONKERS for it.  Completely and utterly.  However, they were also whooping and cheering for the movie as soon as the lights dimmed.  These kids were obviously primed to love this thing before they every walked in the door and I suspect that has more to do with the movie's marketing than with the content of the film itself.  Apparently there is currently a Ninja Turtles cartoon airing on television, but I had to go look that up to be sure.  Before Michael Bay and director Jonathan Liebesman stepped in, the Turtles haven't felt like a real cultural touchstone in years.  Sadly, I expect that will all change as children are drawn into this hyper-kinetic bastardization like moths to a flame.  It's no surprise that the film massively outpaced industry estimates at the box office, nor that Paramount has already greenlit a sequel.

Episode 26 of the podcast features our longtime friend and Ninja Turtles fan Colin FX Garstka.  We marvel at the sheer idiocy of what we've witnessed, reminisce about the Turtles of days gone by and suggest which vintage characters we'd like to see introduced in the future.  Sadly, Krang feels pretty unlikely but giant insect/scientist Baxter Stockman doesn't seem totally outside the realm of possibility.  We also fancast the proposed all-female Ghostbusters and get psyched at the prospect of Bill Murray and Christopher Walken lending their voices to The Jungle Book.

For those of you who want to skip over the Teenage Mutant Ninja Nonsense and get right to Lady Ghostbusters, you can start it at 59:30.

Next Week: At the end of the episode we settle on Let's Be Cops, but it actually looks like we'll be talking about Expendables 3 instead.

August 05, 2014

Podcast Episode 25: The GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Are Here To Save The Summer

To quote a certain blaster-toting raccoon, "Oh...YEAH."

This summer has been pretty fucking grim.  With the exception of 22 Jump Street, it's been a a steady stream of mediocre box office filler like Hercules or outright trainwrecks like Transformers: Age Of Extinction.  That's not to say that the summer's been a complete waste, but even the few bright spots like Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, Snowpiercer and X-Men: Days Of Future Past have been largely dark and serious affairs - all three movies center around global apocalypse!  Where's the humor?  Where's the rollicking adventure?  WHERE'S THE GODDAMN FUN?

Turns out the fun lies with a sentient tree on the far side of the galaxy.

Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy, by far the company's biggest gamble to date, is an outright cinematic miracle.  On paper this, this movie simply should not exist.  Seriously, the very idea of a studio giving the Troma-raised James Gunn $170 million to make an outer space movie starring That Guy From Parks & Rec, a professional wrestler, a green-skinned assassin, a walking tree who only speaks three words and a smart-ass cyborg raccoon is absolutely preposterous.  The fact that it not only exists but has the same pound for pound entertainment value as The Avengers, a movie that needed five other films to set the stage before it could even happen, is mind boggling.

And yet, all these things are true.

Guardians Of The Galaxy finally sends the Marvel universe rocketing out into space and it's a fascinating place packed with oddball characters with whom you can't help but fall in love.  Sure, each character has their own particular set of quirks (Drax doesn't understand metaphors, Star-Lord is a font of 80's pop-culture references) that are essentially appealing on their own but it's the performances that truly elevate the material.  Chris Pratt cements himself as legit movie star (surely a relief to the Jurassic World producers) and Dave Bautista is an absolute joy on-screen, while Bradley Cooper brings a both acerbic wit and a wounded vulnerability to Rocket.  And for all the jokes about Vin Diesel playing a tree who only has one line, you'd be surprised just how much context and emotion can be conveyed solely in the phrase "I am Groot."  Special recognition should also be paid to Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan as Gamora and Nebula, the daughters of Thanos.  Both characters are a tad clunky on the page, constantly tasked with delivering necessary exposition and explanation.  Yet each of these actresses just ooze so much charm and personality on screen that they're almost able to trick the audience into walking away thinking their characters are more substantial.  Still, they're each total badasses, and while their characters feel a bit thin I expect both will be much better served in their second outing.

This wonderfully endearing collection of misfits is what sets Guardians apart not just from the rest of 2014's summer movies, but all other Marvel movies as well.  The Avengers is probably the closest analog here, but even they are just a bunch of folks who fight together out of a sense of duty and honor.  They feel more like a group of friendly coworkers who do a job and then go home to their respective lives.  By the time the end credits roll, the Guardians are already so much more than that.  They're not just friends, they're family.  That's a dynamic that we haven't really seen in Marvel's previous films and it's so simple and affecting that I didn't even realize it was something I had been missing.

And that music!  THAT MUSIC!  Holy hell.  I really dig the score by Tyler Bates, particularly his main theme, but I defy you to walk out of this movie without humming any of the ridiculously catchy tunes that create the rich musical tapestry which seems happily omnipresent throughout the film's running time.  My only gripe is that Guardians didn't come out in June.  If it had, Peter Quill's Awesome Mix Volume 1 (available for download, naturally) would have absolutely been everyone's soundtrack of the summer.

Episode 25 of the podcast, featuring the return of my brother Tim, sees us breaking the film down character by character, along with lots of speculation as to how the Guardians might fit into Marvel's bigger picture heading into Phase 3.  Jamie reveals her own master plan for how Captain/Ms. Marvel should be woven into the MCU and, in light of Simon West's stated desire to see a space-based Con-Air 2, we all list off movies that deserve a crazy sequel set in outer space.  Also, I'm an idiot for not only saying there are five Infinity Stones (there are six) but also for referring to Yondu as Yondo through the entire podcast.  What can I say?  It was late and I still had to pack for an early flight.

Next Week: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, with special guests!