December 22, 2014

Podcast Episode 44: THE HOBBIT Concludes Its Completely Unnecessary Adventure

Forty podcast episodes ago, I made Bart sit through back to back showings of the first two Hobbit movies.  It was a grueling experience to say the least and when it was all said and done Bart swore off all future trips to Middle Earth.  But when The Battle Of Five Armies arrived in theaters, we made an about face and decided that, goddammit, we would finish what we started!

I'm actually pretty glad we did.  Make no mistake, the third entry of The Hobbit series still suffers from many of the same ailments as the first two, including massive bloat, an over-reliance on CG and some serious structural problems.  We were all annoyed with The Desolation Of Smaug's needless and incredibly unsatisfying cliffhanger ending, and the hurried siege of Laketown in opening of Five Armies only reinforces the incredible miscalculation that Peter Jackson made in stretching two movies out into three.  On the other hand, the unintentional comedy factor in this movie is simply off the charts.  People have been questioning why Legolas was shoehorned into these movies, and the answer is apparently "So he could perform acts of physics-defying hilarity while battling cartoon orcs."

There's a lot of stuff in this movie that makes very little sense (I didn't know that Graboids came from Middle Earth!) and the first half plays out rather dull, but I have to admit that this is also the first movie of the trilogy that manages to make Martin Freeman's titular Hobbit at all compelling.  And for the first time yet, I actually walked out of the theater with a feeling that I had been honestly entertained.

I'll be traveling over the holidays so this may end up being our last podcast of 2014.  Bart and I are hoping to try some fancy Skype trickery in order to talk holiday movies, including the uneven remake of The Gambler starring Mark Wahlberg.  Either way, we'll be back in 2015 with a brand new, twice a week structure, including our all-news podcast The Daley Planet, so titled by the will of the masses.

See you next year.

December 18, 2014

The Gutless Wonders At Paramount Have Pulled TEAM AMERICA


This morning I told you about the Alamo Drafthouse's plans to screen Trey Parker and Matt Stone's Team America: World Police in protest over Sony's decision to pull The Interview.  The Drafthouse was not alone, as several other small theater chains around the country had also decided to air the decade-old movie best remembered for graphic puppet sex.

Not anymore.

Apropos of absolutely nothing, Paramount has denied these theaters permission to screen the film.  To be clear, no new threats have been issued and the old threats have still not been upgraded by U.S. intelligence or law enforcement officials to the status of "even remotely fucking possible."  This is simply a matter of Paramount being complete and utter chumps.

Sony at least had an excuse.  The theater chains blinked first and left the studio holding the bag, so you can't really blame them for folding.  Well, I can and do blame them but at least I understand where they're coming from.  After getting their teeth kicked in by the press for the last month, they simply we're geared up for this fight.  Paramount has no excuse at all.  They had dozens of theaters ready and willing to show Team America, which would have been great press for the studio and brought the under-appreciated satire back into culture relevance.  Instead the studio decided to boldly capitulate to...I don't even know what.  Fear, I guess.

This is inexcusably pathetic.  If you're in search of something to watch featuring North Korean villains, I've seen people online suggest the Red Dawn remake.  Unfortunately that movie isn't really all that good.  Instead I'd recommend Olympus Has Fallen, (also streaming on Netflix) which is way more entertaining and has 100% more head stabs.

And if you're headed to the movies this Christmas and want to send a message to Paramount that this is complete and utter bullshit, consider passing on Paramount's release of The Gambler.  Having seen it last night, I can assure you there are better ways to spend your money.

CREED Gets A Ladyfriend, Continues Its March Towards Being A Real Movie

My Rocky love runs deep.

Last year when I went to an advanced screening of Fruitvale Station, I spoke to director Ryan Coogler and asked him what his next project was.  When he replied, "A boxing movie," I thought little of it.  Cut to a few months later when it's announced that Coogler's boxing movie is actually Creed, a spinoff/sequel to the fucking Rocky franchise and I basically start frothing at the mouth with excitement.

Coogler's Fruitvale star and the future Human Torch Michael B. Jordan will play the grandson to Apollo Creed, who's become a talented boxer in his own right.  Of course he recruits the Italian Stallion to serve as his trainer, effectively turning Rocky into the new Mickey.  If we're really lucky, than IMDb is correct and Jordan's character name really is Adonis Creed.  Sometimes the world can be a marvelous place.

The project has been in development for a while and last month they even recruited some real life boxers to play Creed's opponents.  Now real life actress Tessa Thompson has joined the cast in an unspecified role that we can safely assume is Adonis's love interest.  I wasn't the biggest fan of Thompson back in her Veronica Mars days, but I hear lots of good things about her work in both Selma and Dear White People.

Mostly I'm just happy that we're getting closer to this movie actually existing.

Stand Up And #RememberTheInterview

I am completely dumbfounded by the events of the past 24 hours.

This is not going to be yet another think piece on the morally reprehensible position of capitulating to the childish whims of an insane foreign power, or a screed against sacrificing our most basic and essential American freedom, that of free speech and artistic expression, out of a position of fear.  And make no mistake, that is precisely what has occurred here.  But at this point, what's done is done.  Sony has completely scrapped thier plans for any and all release of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's The Interview, and while I would have put good money on a digital release after some time had passed and the excitement had died down, it's now looking more and more likely that the film will be shelved entirely.  You see, studios insure movies the same way that you insure your car.  By completely dropping the film, Sony can essentially declare the thing a "total loss" and get a bigger payout.  Granted that's tantamount to me telling Allstate that my car has been totaled because a 9 year old threatened to set it on fire, but still.

So where do we go from here?  Sony and the theater owners can bend over for Kim Jong Un (the fact that we are legitimizing this clown is maybe the most maddening aspect of this entire affair) but that doesn't mean the rest of us have to.  Yesterday I tweeted that regardless of your feelings about Franco or Rogen or even if The Interview was no damn good, it demanded to be seen on principle alone and you can bet your ass that I would have been first in line at the box office on Christmas Day to buy a ticket as the most effective statement possible that I'm not going to be pushed around by petty thugs.  Now that option has been taken away.  So what is a film fan and a patriot to do?

I've seen some people use the hashtag #RememberTheInterview, and I'm absolutely on board.  It evokes "Remember the Alamo," which is appropriate considering that this particular battle is already over and we lost.  So let The Interview be a rallying cry for those who refuse to stand by and let this sort of policy become standard operating procedure.  It's an incredibly dangerous precedent to set.  As Jordan Hoffman pointed out on Twitter, "What happens when the KKK threatens theaters showing SELMA?"  If you don't think that's a valid point, you're nuts.  The threatening of studios and theater chains simply for showing a film is nothing new, but never in the history of cinema have all parties completely caved like this.  IT'S NEVER HAPPENED.  We can not let it happen again.

My hat is off to those mad geniuses at the Alamo Drafthouse, who will be showing Team America: World Police on Christmas Day in place of The Interview.  It's an inspired move, as the villain of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's absurd marionette action movie is none other than Kim Jong Il.  I often lament the fact that there is no Alamo Drafthouse here in New England, but in this case I'm doubly pissed.  If you live near a Drafthouse, you should really get on this.

Drafthouse also has a film distribution arm and I saw them suggest on Twitter yesterday that they'd be willing to buy the film outright.  If Sony really is trying to turn the film into a complete insurance write-off, I'm pretty sure they can't actually sell the damn thing.  But here's a suggestion: simply turn the film back over to Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg for no money and let them do whatever they want with it.  Fuck it, use Kickstarter to launch an independent release.  $10 bucks for a digital download, $20 for a Blu-ray?  Shit yeah, I would pay that.  If you thought the Veronica Mars thing was a big deal...

I'm also down with Devin Faraci's suggestion that the Acacdemy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences should award Rogen and Goldberg with some kind of honorary Oscar this year.  I don't honestly believe such a thing will actually happen, (at least not this year) but wouldn't it be great if they spent a few minutes during the awards ceremony to praise these guys and maybe even show some footage or something?  If we're really never going to see this movie, then air Kim Jong Un's death scene.  Talk about a great "Fuck you."

But what about something more concrete and immediate?  President Obama has urged people to go to the movies and I think that's a fine idea.  Show Dear Leader and the Guardians Of Peace that you won't cater to their bullshit.  My wife's family usually makes a trip to the theater on Christmas Day and you can be damn sure we'll be heading there this year.  It doesn't really matter what you see, although I'd argue that if you want to make a statement with your ticket purchase, Selma is the Christmas release that's most appropriate.  It may not be as cheerful as Annie or Into The Woods, but it's now without a doubt my first choice.

In the meantime, I recommend picking up a copy of This Is The End on Blu-ray or DVD.  Aside from being one of the funniest movies of 2013, it's also a Sony movie from Rogen, Goldberg and much of the same creative team.  It's basically the closest you can get to buying a protest ticket to The Interview.  If you don't already own This Is The End, well, you really should.  It's not only breathlessly funny, but it's also got a really sweet and endearing core.  Now is the perfect time to fill that gap in your home movie library, and if there's someone on your holiday shopping list for whom you still don't have a gift, this is a great option.  It's currently only $10 on Amazon and if you order by tomorrow then Amazon swears it will get to you in time for Christmas, even if you don't have Prime.  I'm ordering mine right now.

This is not okay.  Sony may have thrown in the towel, but I refuse.  This is the closest I'll ever get to the front lines in the war on terror.  I can't shoot a gun, drive a tank or hack a foreign government.*  But I will scream myself hoarse in the name of artistic freedom.


*Sidenote: If it's conclusively proven that the North Korean government did in fact order the hack on Sony, then I say such action absolutely merits U.S. retaliation.  This could start an era of legitimate American cyber-warfare.  Fucking crazy.

December 17, 2014

The Terorrists Win: Sony Cancels THE INTERVIEW

UPDATE: Sony has now officially canceled The Interview's release. There's no mention of any possible digital release, but the statement specifically uses the words "theatrical release," so I wouldn't rule anything out. I can't believe this is really happening. I can't believe we just legitimized Kim Jong Un. 

I'm supposed to go to an advanced screening of The Interview tomorrow night at my local AMC.  I've been looking forward to it all week long.  Now I'm wondering if that screening is still happening.

Sony just confirmed that the five major American theater chains, including AMC, Regal, Cinemark, Carmike Cinemas and Cineplex Entertainment have dropped the film entirely in the wake of violent threats by Guardians Of Peace, the hacker group responsible for the now epic Sony data breach.  GOP has named the Seth Rogen/James Franco movie as the motivation for the attacks on the Culver City studio (and my one time employer) and while many suspect that the group has ties to the government of North Korea, those claims have yet to be substantiated.*

You know what else has yet to be substantiated?  Any evidence that the GOP has the ability to actually carry out any of their grammatically suspect threats of 9/11-style terror attacks.  Look, I'm all about safety first, but this feels patently ridiculous.  U.S. intelligence services and law enforcement agencies have found no credible threat against American theaters anywhere.  So why the fuck are we caving to these assholes?

I honestly have no idea.  I get that no one wants to be held responsible for another Aurora disaster and that the world is still reeling from the hostage situation in Sydney and the massacre in Peshawar, but at the end of the day we're talking about hackers, not suicide bombers.  Al-Qaeda these guys are not.  Besides, it seems unlikely that Sony would shelve the movie entirely.  Whether it gets a limited theatrical run or not, Sony will almost certainly still release it on Blu-ray, DVD and digital platforms.  Hell, I suspect that it could show up on iTunes and On Demand in the next few weeks if none of these theaters change their mind.  (Ironically, digital platforms seem like far more likely targets for GOP than brick and mortar theaters.)  So in the end, what's the real impact other than the unfortunate optics of Hollywood bowing to pressure from a bunch of demented fuckers who are likely halfway across the world?

More importantly, there's a reason that you don't give in or negotiate with terrorists.  Because once that happens, suddenly threats of violence become a legitimate tactic that any criminal can use to actually achieve their goals.  This kind of thing only brings the crazies out of the woodwork.  As my wife texted to me upon hearing the news, "I want to start just demanding stuff.  Send Daniel Radcliffe to my house or else!  Put Benedict Cumberbatch in all the movies or else something something!"  At this point her demands are just as valid. 

*ABC News is now making unconfirmed reports that the FBI may actually be connecting the dots between GOP and North Korea, but they have yet to make an official statement at this time.

December 16, 2014

Podcast Episode 43: Newsbusters Spinoff Pilot

I mentioned in last week's podcast (at the suggestion of my much wiser counterpart Jamie) that it might be time to shake up the format of the podcast a bit.  I recognize that a 90+ minute podcast might be a bit much for some people, so we're trying something different this week.  A bit more digestible.

So Episode 43 is just shy of 50 minutes and deals only with the movie news of the previous week.  Bart and I discuss the new Mad Max trailer, the fallout of the Sony leak, Ghostbusters casting rumors, Star Trek director departures, Star Wars character names and Godzilla's return to Japan.  We also dig into Marvel's Agents Of Shield, which Bart just recently finished binge watching.

I'm hoping to also lay down a movie-only podcast with Jamie in the next few days covering The Imitation Game, although scheduling may get in the way.  We're still working on a name for this new podcast spinoff show, tentatively titled Newsbusters.  I'm open to suggestions.

December 10, 2014

This New MAD MAX: FURY ROAD Trailer Is Everything

The following is the newest trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road.  Watching it practically brought tears to my eyes.  I had one of those slow, inadvertent smiles a mile wide.  At one point, I literally had to remind myself to breathe.


23 JUMP STREET Might Also Be MEN IN BLACK 4. No, Seriously.

Sony's having a rough time of it.  In the wake of their massive data breach (which may or may not have been a North Korean preemptive strike against The Interview) all of their dirty laundry is now being made a matter of public record.  Right now, as we speak, news agencies have teams of investigators (a.k.a. interns) pouring over all the leaked documents in search of juicy tidbits.  I don't really want to encourage this sort of thing, the fact that I am a former Sony employee notwithstanding.  That being said, in the last few days some stories have come to light that simply cannot be ignored.  Chief among them, the notion that there is currently a Jump Street/Men In Black crossover movie in development.

I'll give you a minute to process that.

The end credits gag in 22 Jump Street pretty effectively took the wind out of every possible alternate spin on the buddy cop genre, so why not turn Jenko and Schmidt into MIB agents?  The only real obstacle I can see here is a tonal one.  I can't believe I'm about to say this, but the Men In Black movies actually feel way more grounded in reality than Jump Street, which is constantly on the verge of breaking the fourth wall to comment on the cinematic tropes involved, be they in regards to action movies or sequels in general.  Would we lose all that in the world of MIB?  I would think so, and that thought makes me more than a bit sad.  The meta-ness of it all is what makes Jump Street so damn compelling.

For the record, there is currently no script and it's unlikely that Will Smith or Tommy Lee Jones would be involved, although I wouldn't rule out a Depp-esque cameo at some point.  If they do pop up, I hope it's solely to get killed off in the opening scene.  That would make Jenko the new Agent J, yeah?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt Is Not Committing Suicide In This Teaser For THE WALK

First and foremost, you should really see Man On Wire.  The documentary depicts Frenchman Philippe Petit's 1974 attempt to covertly rig a high wire between the two World Trade Center towers and then go for a little stroll in the sky.  I tackled the film early on in my movie-a-day project and quite liked it.  But the masses don't really go in for documentaries, even ones that are staged like a heist movie.  So of course that means we're getting a narrative version starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, which now comes complete with a vertigo-inducing teaser.

Without any preface, you'd be forgiven for watching this trailer and thinking it's a movie about Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Hairpiece struggling to decide whether or not to jump off that building.

Look, I like JGL and all, but this whole endeavor feels somewhat unnecessary.  Then again, I'm more than a little curious to see if Robert Zemeckis has got any gas left in the tank, if only from a technical standpoint.  I remember reading that he was really blown away with Gravity and that he saw The Walk as his chance to really push the boundaries of IMAX and 3D in the same sort of way.  I'm all for that, but I still suspect that "it's got cool visuals" will be a best case scenario here.

Man On Wire is currently streaming on Netflix.  For what it's worth, so is The Man With One Red Shoe.  Go nuts.

December 09, 2014

Podcast Episode 42: THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING Proves A Whole Lot Of Nothing

I tend to look forward to the avalanche of serious, high class, IMPORTANT MOVIES that overrun the box office each December, all searching for a taste of that Oscar glory.  But I must admit that so far this year I've been largely disappointed.  I think that the Best Actor race is going to be very hotly contested (as it usually is) and while most of these performances will absolutely deserve all that praise and more, the films themslves simply have not measured up.  There's no better example of this conundrum than The Theory Of Everything.

Eddie Redmayne does some astonishing work, both physically and emotionally, as the brilliant cosmologist Stephen Hawking.  Watching him slowly succumb to the ravages of Lou Gehrig's Disease is a heart breaking affair and it's a wonderfully realized transformation.  Felicity Jones matches Redmayne punch for punch as Hawking's wife Jane Wild, who is put in the unenviable position of havingtory to not only spend a lifetime caring for her crippled husband (who's initially given a prognosis of two years to live) but also raising three children without the benefit of live-in assistance.  The strain and pressure that puts upon Jane, as well as the guilt the Hawking experiences over his lack of self-sufficiency, hardly makes for an ideal household.  More than anything else, this is a story about the burgeoning young romance that slowly and inexorably crumbles apart.

That's all well and good, but the movie never really manages to break the surface in regards to the themes, characters, their relationship, or the plot.  In fact, I'm not even sure if the movie really has a plot, strictly speaking.  It's more just a series of events tied together by a Rocky IV-esque number of montages.  There's seemingly no bigger message to unpack here.  I was hoping for something examining the price of success at the expense of family, or the ability of hope and strength to overcome incredible obstacles, or even just a keen juxtaposition of intellectual achievement set against extreme physical degradation.  None of those ideas are actually present in the film, despite director James Marsh's attempt to convince you otherwise in the last ten minutes.

I'm honestly left wondering if this film even needs to be about Stephen Hawking, as the film doesn't seem particularly interested in his work or personality.  You could essentially tell the exact same story with fictional protagonists and the only thing that would be missing is the name recognition that sells tickets.  It's a shame, because Redmayne and Jones really are doing great work and the sun-drenched cinematography by Benoit Delhomme is fairly stunning.  Unfortunately, the largely hollow script by Anthony McCarten simply strands everyone, most notably the audience.

This week marks the first episode of the show sans Bart.  Thankfully, Jamie stepped up in his absence in order to keep the podcast train rolling.  We also talk about the newly minted cast of Suicide Squad, Benedict Cumberbatch taking on the mantle of Doctor Strange, and the intriguing first trailer for the unfortunately titled Terminator: Genisys.

Jamie also makes a smart suggestion which I've been contemplating for a while now.  I ask you readers, would you prefer two shorter podcasts each week, one covering movie news and one examining a new film in detail, or do you like the single stream, longer format that we're currently producing?  I'm open to suggestions!

Next Week: Some combination of The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies and/or The Imitation Game.

December 05, 2014

Podcast Episode 41: FOXCATCHER Wrestles With Facial Prosthetics

It's been a long and fretful week over here, which means that I didn't get last week's podcast cut together until Thursday night.  Now here it is Friday before I'm finally able to write anything up about it.  On top of that, Bart a.k.a. my podcasting Kato will be out of town this weekend, meaning that the podcast will likely be pre-empted next week.  Ah well, sometimes them's the breaks.

Anyway, this week we talk about Foxcatcher, a movie full of strong, Oscar-caliber performances that are somewhat mired in a fairly weak story.  The big three here are Steve Carrell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo and I really love all three characters in their own peculiar ways.  Still, it's hard to top Steve Carrell's Giant Schnoz inexplicably wearing a revolutionary war jacket or referring to himself as Golden Eagle.  That's just some top notch shit right there.

We also delve into last week's big trailer releases, particularly Star Wars and Jurassic World.  These are old news now, but whatever.  You still get to hear Bart's impression of the talking velociraptor from Jurassic Park III.

Next Week: Remains to be seen!

December 01, 2014

The KINGSMAN Trailer: You Had Me At Lisping Sam Jackson

I love (and own) each and every one of Matthew Vaughn's films.  The guy has a great eye for staging action sequences as well as a sharp ear for humor.  He usually maintains a great balance between "cool" and "fun", a feat that is far more difficult than it sounds.  I was therefore confused by the first few trailers for Kingsman: The Secret Service, which stars Colin Firth as a British superspy with all kinds of crazy gadgets.  It's hard not to feel like this is a movie which revels in all that which has been summarily discarded by Daniel Craig's incarnation of Bond.  That could be fun, but something about those early looks felt fairly by-the-numbers.  Maybe it was the whole tutoring-a-streetwise-young-protege storyline that just did nothing for me.  I'm not sure.

But then I saw this new trailer.

Samuel L. Jackson as a lisping supervillain?  I think I'm in love.  I'm also tickled by his henchwoman, who appears to be a literal blade runner.  According to IMDb, her character's name is Gazelle.  That's so incredibly dumb that I can't help but adore it.  I also spotted a rocket pack in there as well as a terrified and professorial Mark Hamill.  But who cares.  I could spend two hours just watching Nick Fury's speech impediment wax on about blood on his carpets.

I am now officially excited about this movie.