September 30, 2014

The First Trailer For The Third TAKEN Is Weirdly Compelling

Five minutes ago I couldn't have cared any less about a third Taken movie.  The glut of near-identical films depicting Liam Neesons as a sullen action hero embarking upon a mission of tortured vengeance has muddied the waters a bit.  After Unknown, Non-Stop, A Walk Among The Tombstones and particularly Taken 2, the idea of Liam Neesons, Action Hero has become downright pedestrian.  At least in The Grey he got to fight wolves.

But then this trailer happened and now suddenly I'm on board once again.

It's completely ridiculous that they're still reading off Bryan Mills's super-spy resume three movies in, but the addition of Forest Whitaker is an absolute delight.  I particularly love that he appears to be playing the exact same character he played in The Last Stand.  This gives me hope that these movies secretly take place in the same world, allowing for the possibility that Arnold Schwarzenegger, Luis Guzman and Johnny Knoxville will show up at some point to bail Liam Neesons out of a jam.

Also, can we please call a moratorium on sequel titles that swap a letter with a number?  It doesn't look like clever wordplay so much as the illiterate ramblings of a YouTube commenter.

Hollywood Is Out Of Ideas: TETRIS Movie Will Soon Drop


The Wall Street Journal is reporting that producer Larry Kasanoff and Threshold Entertainment, whose most impressive credit to date is 1995's Mortal Kombat, have made a deal to bring Tetris to the big screen.  That's right.  Tetris.

How did we get here?

Kasanoff would like you to believe that, much like The Lego Movie, Tetris could somehow serve as a rich canvas for crafting a major blockbuster.  "It's a very big, epic sci-fi movie," says Kasanoff.  "What you [will] see in Tetris is the teeny tip of an iceburg that has intergalactic significance."  That sounds more than a little bit grandiose, particularly coming from the director of Foodfight!

Short of some kind of Last Starfighter-esque tale in which a champion Tetris player is recruited by aliens to use his mastery of block-based puzzles to save the universe, I simply don't see how you build a compelling story around the classic video game in any meaningful way.  This feels like nothing more than yet another cash-in on brand recognition, and when the brand in question is a 25 year old video game, you have to wonder who really gives a shit.

According to Kasanoff, "This isn't a movie with a bunch of lines running around the page.  We're not giving feet to the geometric shapes."

Too bad.  That's the best idea I've heard yet.

The Trailer For P.T. Anderson's INHERENT VICE Is The Greatest Thing You'll See Today

Last night, while I was watching the Patriots give a Monday Night Football performance worthy of a high school JV squad, the internet was freaking the fuck out over the first trailer for Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice.

That excitement is justified.

Anderson's last few movies (There Will Be Blood and The Master) are each genius level films in their own right, but they're also pretty dark and nihilistic so I understand why the majority of audiences didn't exactly find them accessible.  But this looks like a return to Anderson's more populist work, exhibiting not just a lighter touch but some sheer hilarity.  And the continuing collaboration between P.T. and Joaquin Phoenix makes me happier than words can express.  Phoenix's work in The Master is easily one of the most underrated performances in the last five years and if we're all very very lucky, Inherent Vice will pave the way for his entry into the Marvel Universe as Dr. Strange.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to spend the rest of the day watching and endless loop of Josh Brolin shouting for pancakes and Joaquin Phoenix falling down.

September 29, 2014

Podcast Episode 32 - Denny Crane vs. RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART 2

We've now officially past the halfway mark of our Epic Rambo Rewatch, which is the part where I'm left scratching my head wondering, "Why were these movies so popular?"  As we noted in last week's conversation about First Blood, when people think about the character of Rambo, they're usually thinking about him from Rambo: First Blood Part II.  And yet, this Rambo is kind of...boring.  Stallone is at his best when he's allowed to be just a touch goofy, but here Rambo has become an emotionless cypher of destruction, morosely slaughtering dozens of faceless Vietnamese and Soviet soldiers in his attempt to rescue a group of American POWs.  At least in the first installment Rambo was dealing with some pretty serious emotional trauma, which made his violent behavior kind of fascinating.  Now he's basically a killer robot, which is ironic considering the movie's clear-cut hatred of technology and rigid systems.  Is this really what we wanted from our action heroes in the 80's?   All righteous fury and no semblance of humanity?

And while Rambo is an absolute void of personality, the same can be said of the direction by George Cosmatos.  Sure, you've got plenty of combat, chase sequences and machismo, but it's all fairly perfunctory with no trace of any real joy or style.  Even the part where Rambo obliterates an enemy soldier with his one of those exploding arrowheads feels somehow unremarkable, which might be the film's single biggest crime.  There's no actual tension to any of the action, nor do you ever emotionally invest in Rambo's need to liberate his fellow soldiers.  It's almost hard to believe that this is the same guy who directed Tombstone.  It's very easy to believe that this is the same guy who directed Cobra.

In our latest podcast, Bart and I delve into our disappointment over one of Stallone's signature roles while simultaneously discovering the joy that is Charles Napier's rich and varied filmography.  We also question the likelihood of Ryan Reynolds' long delayed Deadpool movie, chuckle at the cast of Police Academy fending off lava-spewing giant spiders and the marvel at the possibility that William Shatner's greatest role might in fact be Denny Crane.

Next Week: We gird our loins for Rambo III.

September 26, 2014

Canine Channing Tatum vs Evil Lizard Men In The Latest JUPITER ASCENDING Trailer

One of my biggest disappointments of the summer was the loss of the Wachowski's sci-fi epic Jupiter Ascending which was intended to hit theaters in July.  We can argue about the diminishing value of the later Matrix movies from now to eternity, but I remain a staunch defender of both Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas.  I'll grant you that their aspirations sometimes exceed their capabilities, but I hardly see that as something worth punishing.  There are few other filmmakers nearly so bold or exciting in their filmmaking choices, to the point that even the Wachowski's failures are significantly more interesting than most director's successes.  You've got to admire them for painting on a huge canvas.

We may have to wait until February to witness Jupiter Ascending in all its weirdness, but in the meantime here's a third trailer to tide you over.

We've got winged lizard people, rocket boots, badass spaceships and another inevitable Sean Bean death!  If nothing else, this trailer is really giving the hard sell on the actual story while still showing plenty of oddball alien shit.  Again, some of this stuff might just fall flat on screen, but I still can't wait to drink it all in.

Happy early birthday to me.


There's something magical in those childhood moments when you discover a great movie totally on your own and not because a friend or an adult sat you down and told you, "This is a good movie."  Those instances always seem few and far between and those films are the ones you will cherish forever, even if they don't exactly age well as you grow older.  Those movies are special because you actually began to assert your own tastes.  Those are YOUR movies.

Real Genius is my movie.

Young Val Kilmer is an eccentric young genius attending a Caltech-esque university and trying to build a powerful new type of laser for his dick professor, played by William Atherton in full on Walter Peck mode.  Kilmer takes in shy young prodigy (Gabe Jarret) as his roommate and plenty of crazy campus hijinks ensue, including one scene where they turn the dorm hallway into a frozen skating rink that may also explode at any moment.  Also there's a weird guy who lives in their closet.  Kilmer and Jarret eventually finish their laser project only to discover that they've unwittingly been constructing a military funded assassination weapon, thus prompting a mission of hilarious sabotage and juvenile revenge.

It is perfect in every way.

NBC is now developing Real Genius as a single camera comedy.  At first I was kind of excited at this prospect.  This could be like Community but with super geniuses!  That sounds amazing!  But then I kept reading Deadline's story and saw that it's being shifted into a workplace comedy.  So it's The Office with super geniuses?  BOOOOO.  The setting is one of the things that makes the film truly unique, along with the odd mingling of the military and the academic.  Plus Kilmer's Chris Knight is pure lightning in a bottle.

The original film isn't exactly a widely beloved title in the first place, so if you're going to make that big of a departure from the source material, why bother even calling it Real Genius?  Just because it's an existing property that will make it marginally easier to market?  Fuck that noise.

Still, I'll probably watch it.

Start Your Weekend Off Right With This Killer BATMAN Music Medley

I love me a good film score and superhero movies are often known for their iconic musical themes.  When I was a kid, there was nothing quite like the one-two punch of John Williams' Superman and Danny Elfman's Batman.  But I also respect the hell out of James Newton Howard's work on Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy.  When Batman Begins first came out there were a lot of complaints that it was missing a memorable theme that you could hum to yourself while walking out of the theater, but Howard's score is kind of sneaky brilliant - you might be hard pressed to remember the tune off the top of your head, but it's instantly identifiable as soon as you hear it.  And then there's Neal Hefti's impossibly catchy theme song to the old Adam West Batman series, which finally hits Blu-ray this November!

Batman Evolution by The Piano Guys is great because it's not only a masterful performance of all three pieces of music, but the video itself is wonderfully staged.  Including each of the Batmobiles is a great move that can't help but bring a smile to your face.  I also love their construction of West's Batcave and the way they twitch with every "POW!"  Hearing the Elfman theme woven into the Hefti theme as it transitions over is inarguably cool and also that guy has a giant bat sticking out of the bottom of his cello!

Happy Friday.

Watch Kevin Hart Set A Grandma On Fire As THE WEDDING RINGER

When I was in high school I used to do competitive speech and debate (you know, like all the cool kids) and a few times I competed against this really funny guy from Florida named Josh Gad.  We used to watch a tape of him competing at the National Championship tournament and just stare in awe.  This guy would obliterate everyone in the room and leave you feeling lucky to have had the privilege of seeing him make you look like an amateur.

Gad has since gone on to great success as both the original Elder Cunningham in Trey Parker and Matt Stone's amazing Book Of Mormon and as the voice of Olaf, the lovable snowman from Disney's Frozen.  Now he's got a new movie called The Wedding Ringer, which is destined to a life of being accidentally sent to Netflix users looking to revisit the glory days of Adam Sandler.  Gad plays a guy with no friends who hires Kevin Hart to be the best man at his wedding.  So it's I Love You Man meets Can't Buy Me Love.

I had extremely low expectations for this trailer.  The Goonies joke made me chuckle.  The gay dancing joke made me cringe.  Then they murdered an old lady with fire.

That's comedy.


September 23, 2014

Podcast Episode 31: Drawing FIRST BLOOD In Our Epic Rambo Rewatch!

I've been hankering to revisit both of Stallone's most successful franchises, Rocky and Rambo, for quite some time.  I'm intimately familiar with his pugilistic masterpiece, but amazingly I've only seen each of the Rambo films a single time each.  Bart has only seen one film all the way through.  That situation is simply untenable.

Thus we've begun to reexamine this bloody series starting with First Blood, which I remember as being easily the best movie in the series.  When you think of Rambo, most people think of the character's second incarnation: a shirtless, headband clad uber-soldier cutting a swath of righteous destruction through an enemy jungle.  (Either that or you think of this scene from UHF or most of Hot Shots Part Deux.)  It's easy to forget that the first entry in the series is actually a harrowing nightmare of PTSD-fueled violence set in small town in Oregon, or that the film has quite a bit to say about society's mistreatment of military veterans.

But there's also a lot of Stallone being a total badass, so that's what audience chose to focus on.

In our latest episode, Bart and I discuss Rambo's gritty origins, determine whether Brian Dennehy is a complete dick and ponder whether or not Rambo should have died in the end as originally intended.  We also chat about Matt Damon's imminent return to the Bourne franchise, speculate as to a future King Kong/Godzilla face off and discover Google's spectacularly unflattering celebrity profile pics.

Next Week: Rambo: First Blood Part II

September 15, 2014

The New MOCKINGJAY PART 1 Trailer Looks Like A Movie I Might Finally Enjoy

I've always suspected that the best parts of the Hunger Games story would be found in the last installments and from the look of this trailer those suspicions seem to be correct.  We've finally moved past the pretense of the Games, which have only been marginally successful on screen, and now we're digging into an all out rebellion against the Empire.  Err, the Capitol

I feel like most people were pretty unhappy about the way things wrapped up when Mockingjay came out, but those are just the half-remembered whispers I overheard while I was busy not reading any of the books.  This certainly looks like the most cinematic of Katniss's adventures so far and I'd be lying if I said the idea of an authoritarian dictatorship and a plucky rebellion each pitting their own puppet warriors against each other didn't sound like fun.  I could go without the love triangle stuff, but what are you gonna do?  If nothing else, it's a chance to see a new Phillip Seymour Hoffman performance on the big screen and we don't have many more of those left to enjoy.

I expect to come home and find my wife watching this trailer on an infinite loop from now until November.

Podcast Episode 30: ROGER RABBIT And Robin Wright At THE CONGRESS

The first 30-40 minutes of Ari Folman's The Congress is absolutely riveting.  Robin Wright plays a fictionalized version of herself, an actress who threw away her early stardom in order to take care of her young son.  Now, as the filmmaking process stands on the edge of a massive shift away from flesh and blood actors, Robin is offered one last contract by a studio who wants to digitally scan both her physical and emotional likeness in order to insert her into whatever film they see fit.  Folman and Wright clearly have a lot to say about the power of choice and the nature of control, and maybe it's just my love of Hollywood inside baseball but the whole thing is fascinating.

And then we jump 20 years in the future and becomes largely animated, and while the visual palate is both fun and stylish, the story goes somewhat off the rails here. I think it's mostly because the status quo of this new world is not very firmly established before the audience is dropped into a communal hallucination where it becomes difficult to distinguish reality from imagination. It's a visual feast to be sure and often quite funny, but it also borders on incoherent at times.  I was expecting to see Wright interacting with various incarnations of her artificially created self, but instead she gets embroiled in some kind of revolution before emerging into an apocalyptic nightmare in search of her son. 

Still, even in its weaker moments the film is always engaging, and in its stronger moments you cannot tear your eyes from the screen. You should watch this movie if only for the actual scanning scene where Harvey Keitel, as Robin's agent, delivers a heart-breaking monologue that will burn itself into your memory. 

And since we're dealing with blurred lines between humans and cartoons, we also talk briefly about Who Framed Roger Rabbit, although that conversation was ultimately cut short by my wife's insatiable desire to see college football. 

Jenna Gabriel joins us for all this plus a discussion of film vs digital projection, Tarantino's takeover of the New Beverly Cinema, the design of the newest Batmobile and the dubious merits of Space Jam. 

Next Week: In light of a possible fifth entry, we kick off a month-long rewatch of the Rambo series. 

September 12, 2014

Keanu Reeves Will Avenge This Puppy In The JOHN WICK Trailer

Keanu Reeves is that special breed of actor who does not have a whole lot of range, but who shines like a supernova when given the right role.  If we're lucky, John Wick might be just that kind of role.

Reeves plays a former hitman in search of bloody vengeance after Theon Greyjoy and his Russian mafia friends steal his Mustang and murder his beagle, seemingly by punching it to death.  I was supposed to be a beagle.  I like to think that Keanu Reeves would avenge me too.

Watching Reeves kill dozens of people over a dead dog sounds AMAZING, but when you through in Willem Dafoe, Ian McShane, Adrianne Palicki, John Leguizamo and Lance Reddick's Accent, well I'm positively intrigued.  This trailer gets bonus points for turning "Wick" into "Wicked," which I chose to interpret not as an adjective one might use to describe a witch, but as the verbal form of the name Wick.  I now expect Reeves to glower at a room full of goons at some point and yell, "Prepare to get Wicked!"

Director Chad Stahelski is a prolific stunt guy, having worked on the Matrix films, Serenity and Catching Fire, for which he also served as second unit director.  John Wick is his directorial debut and I hear the flick is a preposterous amount of fun.  I really wish I could see it at Fantastic Fest next week.  I imagine it'll play like gangbusters down in Austin.

Sidenote: Can we all just agree to stop titling movies with generic dude names?  How have studio marketing departments not figured this out yet?

Take A Gander At The Newest Batmobile

A series of low-res phone images hit the web a few days ago giving us our first decent look at Batfleck's new whip in Zack Snyder's upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice.  That's what happens when you leave the thing parked and unattended on the streets of Detroit.  But Snyder's no dummy and figured, "Well if the cat's out of the bag, we might as well make the cat look like fucking alien warship."  Thus we get the official image above.

I'll admit, I'm not a huge fan of this particular image.  Something about the perspective seems a little off, mostly because the wheelbase seems to be about a mile across.  Perhaps we'll learn that those shafts and pistons up front are there to separate the wheels from the chassis of the car, presumably to give those center machine guns a wider lateral target range.  Still, from the image above this thing looks an awful lot like Nolan's Tumbler.

The spy photos actually give a better view of the Batmobile in that it actually looks like a car.  I also dig the kind of gull-wing doors that open up and look like the points of the bat cowl.  That's exactly my kind of stupid and almost gives me hope that this thing might not be all gloom and doom.  Almost.

September 11, 2014

The Trailer For Netflix's Doc PRINT THE LEGEND Promises You'll Finally Understand Why 3D Printing Is Important

One of the better movies I had the privilege to see at this year's SXSW was the documentary Print The Legend, detailing the rise of the 3D printing industry.  As someone who works in technology (and sometimes specifically with 3D printers!) I'm particularly fascinated with this burgeoning means of production. The potential for 3D printing is practically limitless: imagine if you could buy stuff from Amazon the same way you buy music from iTunes. You click buy, download a digital file and send it to your printer and within a matter of minutes you have a new case for your iPhone or a stylish new coffee mug. 

The technology is not quite ready for prime time, but I think the comparison drawn in the opening seconds of this trailer is apt: nobody thought regular folks would want to use a personal computer at first either. We all know how that turned out. 

Lest you think this is going to be a dry 90 minutes explaining the minutiae of an impenetrable technology, let me assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. The filmmakers follow the rise of Makerbot, the biggest innovators in there world of consumer grade 3D printing, alongside the birth of the fledgling Formlabs as they struggle to bring their first device to production.  And just to spice things up we also spend quite a bit of time with Cody Wilson, the Texan who's been freaking out the general public by using the technology to create working firearms.  It's exactly as terrifying as you think. 

The Doc will hit Netflix on September 26th. I highly recommend you add it to your queue.  

September 10, 2014

Shameless Self-Promotion! Vote For Our Fantastic Fest Bumper!

I know, I know, I've been AWOL recently.  News article output has been dodgy.  Reviews have been almost non-existant.  Hell, we even took this week off from the podcast for the first time in months.  What can I say?  August was a busy month for me and the slow transition to fall is kind of depressing.  But for the last two weeks or so my creative energy has been largely focused on a short film project and now I need your help.

This year's Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX is rapidly approaching.  This is an incredible festival full of truly awesome and bizarre films from all over the world and I want to go SO DAMN MUCH.  Sadly, I won't be able to make it there in person this year, but hopefully my projected image can be there in my stead.  If you've never been to a film festival, it's common practice to play short bumpers, usually about one minute or less, before each film.  These bumpers tend to be quick and clever, but usually a festival only makes like five or six in total, meaning that festival goers who screen 10-20 films over the course of the week tend to see the same bumpers over and over until what once was fun soon becomes dreadful.

But not Fantastic Fest.  They hold a bumper contest each year, challenging fans to create their own short films to entertain audiences at the Drafthouse.  The theme this year was "transhuman," to be interpreted however you see fit and the only other requirement (besides a 45 second time limit) was that the last line of dialogue had to be "That's fantastic!"  So my podcasting partner Bart and I decided to throw down.

Check out our entry, entitled Fuzzy Feelings, at the link below and then click on the little blue "Like" button above the video to vote for us.  (Don't try clicking on the little heart, which seems intuitive but is actually incorrect.  This confused me for a while too.)  Festival organizers will choose a number of these bumpers to play during the festival, but the top five will screen separately and the audience will vote for a winner.  The prize is a pair of passes to next year's festival and I REALLY want to go to next year's festival.

So click here to vote for Fuzzy Feelings!

And don't just vote!  Share the link out on Twitter and Facebook.  Turn that shit viral.

Thanks again.  I promise there's lots more content on the horizon.

September 05, 2014

Yes, This CARVER Trailer Was Made By A 13 Year Old Girl

A few years ago I learned about Emily Hagins, a budding filmmaker who shot her first feature, Pathogen, at the age of 12.  It's a damn fine little zombie flick considering that the director was still in the midst of puberty.  She followed that up with My Sucky Teen Romance and later this month her Halloween set coming of age story Grow Up Tony Phillips will be released.  Hagins is both skilled and ambitious, so I look forward to watching all of her future films.

But she's not the only adolescent filmmaker named Emily out there.  Emily DiPrimio launched a Kickstarter campaign at the age of 13 to fund Carver, a love letter to the classic slasher films of yesteryear.  You've got to respect a teenager who chooses to emulate John Carpenter over Paranormal Activity, so I was happy to donate some funds to her project.  Now we've got the film's first trailer (courtesy of the fine folks at Badass Digest) and it's pretty great!

The acting is usually the weak point when it comes to these kinds of projects, but it's hardly terrible to the point of distraction.  Most importantly you've got a strong backstory, child murder, an iconic villain, and was that a crane shot?

I can't wait to see this thing when it's done.

September 04, 2014

Podcast Episode 29: Free-Roaming Vaporous Drag Queens! On GHOSTBUSTERS And THE BIRDCAGE

September is an odd time at the box office.  For the most part, studios tend to essentially take the month off from major releases while the American public is largely distracted by the end of summer and the beginning of yet another school year.  October is all about horror and by the time November rolls around we're already talking about Oscar contenders, but there's nary a big budget franchise nor a prestige title to be found in the coming weeks.

That's not to say that there's no reason to go to the theater.  In fact, there is a slew of really fascinating films that will have limited releases in the coming weeks, stuff like The Congress, Wolfcop, The Guest, Wetlands, Zero Theorem, The One I Love and James Gandolfini's final film The Drop from Bullhead director Michael Roskam.  These are movies that will require just a little bit of extra effort to seek out and they might not all be home runs, but I can guarantee you that none of them will be boring.  I for one am pretty damn excited.

But because that stuff isn't going to reach a super wide audience, that makes it less than ideal material for podcasting purposes.  Therefore, while I'm hoping to talk about a lot of these more peculiar films, we'll also be pairing them up with some older, more familiar titles for your listening pleasure.

Episode 29 is actually a double feature of classic titles starting with Ghostbusters, which has been newly restored and back in theaters this week in celebration of the film's 30th anniversary.  (If you missed your chance to see it on the big screen, you can pick up both films on 4K Blu-ray in two weeks.)  Ghostbusters is our favorite movie of all time so we try not to gush over the film too much.  We even swap our own personal ghost stories!  We also talk The Birdcage, a movie I've never been particularly fond of and which I don't think I'd seen since the 90's.  While a lot of my initial problems with the film seem exacerbated by the passage of time (some of this stuff is the gay equivalent of the laughing Sambo) there are enough moments of brutal honesty and sincere emotional connection to even out the proceedings.  I can certainly appreciate why this was the movie a lot of people turned to in the wake of Robin Williams' death.  I wish we had talked about this, but I think it's very telling that most of the political stuff which played as broad parody in 1996 is now simply accepted reality.  The conservative senator and leader of the morality coalition is found dead in the arms of an underage black prostitute?  That's a headline which would barely raise an eyebrow these days.

We also chat about the supposed "No Jokes" edict in place for DC's superhero films, Marvel's continued pursuit of Joaquin Phoenix to play Dr. Strange and some of the festival films that have us most excited, including Birdman and Rosewater.

Next Week: TBD