Sunday, May 30, 2010

This Week in Movie News (Nerd News)

There were a few big casting announcements made this week and a couple other bits of important news:

James McAvoy to play Charles Xavier in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS -

This film seems like an utter disaster to me just because the idea of having the titular characters played by teenagers just doesn't sound interesting. However, there are a few things keeping me slightly open to the film: 1. Matthew Vaughn is directing 2. Bryan Singer has been heavily involved in the development of the film 3. Chances of it being better than THE LAST STAND and WOLVERINE are very good considering those films are terrible and lastly - I see McAvoy as a good choice for Xavier. Yeah, there are a few people griping about this, but I can imagine it was difficult to find someone worthy of filling Patrick Stewart's chair. I like McAvoy and certainly see a lot of potential in him playing a young Xavier because he has a certain seriousness and presence that is necessary. We'll just have to wait and see who fills out the rest of the cast, most importantly Magneto. The actor who is eventually cast is going to need to have a great amount of onscreen chemistry and tension with McAvoy (Stewart and McKellen had a great friend/enemy relationship). Three actors I wouldn't mind seeing in the part: Michael Fassbender, Tom Hardy and maybe Ryan Gosling. Only time will tell, but I'd be least surprised about Hardy as he worked with Vaughn in LAYER CAKE.

Christian Bale to star in John Hillcoat's THE REVENANT -

This is newsworthy to me because I'm a big fan of Hillcoat. His most recent film was THE ROAD, which was decent, but highly unpleasant to watch. However, Hillcoat was able to show off his knack for a grim visual style. I'm certainly happy to see him return to another violent, period film like he did with THE PROPOSITION. Essentially, from what I've heard, THE REVENANT is about a frontiersman (Bale) who seeks revenge on the men who left him for dead after he was mauled by a bear. That sounds awesome and the pairing of Hillcoat and Bale for this film is just perfect.

BTW, if you haven't seen Hillcoat's THE PROPOSITION, I suggest you get on that as it's one of the best westerns of all-time despite the unorthodox setting of Australia.

Tommy Lee Jones has a role in THE FIRST AVENGER: CAPTAIN AMERICA -

I was never a huge Tommy Lee Jones fan (I took BATMAN FOREVER pretty hard), but I've recently started to come around since his outstanding performance in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. I feel I can now see his appeal. He's got a particular way about him in all his roles that just appeals to me now; something equal parts humorous and severe. We learned earlier this week that he'll play General Chester Phillips in CAPTAIN AMERICA, which means he'll likely be the one who turns Steve Rogers into the superhero. TLJ as a WWII military man is very fitting and I'm very eager to see his rapport with Chris Evans. Good call casting director!

DC wants to be like Marvel -

Speaking of comic book films, Warner Brothers announced that it plans to produce films featuring The Flash, Wonder Woman and Aquaman. THE GREEN LANTERN is sure to be a hit, so they might as well get to work on some of the other big DC properties that aren't Batman or Superman. I'm all for this as long as they put the right people in charge of the things that matter. (directing, casting, writing etc.). That's the only way they can hope to match Marvel's success. Honestly, and I know I'll catch shit for this, but the character I'd be most excited for is Aquaman. He's the butt of a lot of jokes, but I think a film about Arthur Curry has the most potential. The Flash might be more respected, but I don't know what a film focused on him would be about exactly. His villains are lame and he can run really fast, so what? Don't get me wrong, I love The Flash as a supporting JLA character, but not as a feature until I'm proven otherwise. Wonder Women is a bit too out-there for me to take seriously. You'd need to cast someone perfect too, nobody lame like Megan Fox or Beyonce (who has lobbied for the role). I don't want to see any invisible jets is all I'm saying. Returning to my original point - Aquaman, like Green Lantern, has a whole alien world to explore, in his case the sea. I see the epic, fantasy elements as having a lot of blockbuster appeal.

Also announced by Warner Brothers is that a tentative release date for the next Superman has been scheduled for late 2012. Having a superhero film outside the summer season actually seems kinda cool to me and smart. The end of the year can be just as lucrative as summer (see: AVATAR), so why not spread the wealth a little?

Finally, there's going to be a live-action Dilbert movie!

This is the stupidest idea I've heard in a long time. Do people even know who Dilbert is anymore? Didn't they try to make a Dilbert cartoon a few years back and didn't it fail miserably? This is going to lose some very dumb people a lot of money.

That's it, see ya later.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

RIP Dennis Hopper

Today we mourn a great actor and remember a great career. There was just something so peculiar about Dennis Hopper, something so distinct. With all his great performances, he had it in him to be counted amongst the celebrity A-list, but you don’t think of him in the same company as the Jack Nicholson’s, Al Pacino’s and Dustin Hoffman’s because he was more aloof, less accessible to the public eye. We don’t know what we know about Hopper because of his interviews or his time in the headlines, what we have are his performances. There’s an unmatched intensity in those performances, coupled with his unique voice, his chilling sneer and the believability of his (usually) frightening actions that truly has the power to affect an audience. He’s appeared in some big films, Easy Rider (which he also directed) is probably the most iconic, but there are a few that I hold closely to my heart for various reasons. I’m sure everyone has their favorites, but here are mine:

SPEED – This might not be the most critically praised film in Hopper’s filmography, but it certainly had its part in my childhood. There are a few films that I always watched when I was home sick from school, this was one of them. I really loved it as a kid and I didn’t really know why. That was back when I still thought Keanu Reeves was cool and Sandra Bullock was worth talking about, so I assumed they were the primary reason I was so into the story. In retrospect, it was Hopper that held that film together. At its core, it’s sort of a silly film, but having a villain as great as Howard Payne really improves the quality ten-fold. He’s such a dick, you can’t not hate him. Everything he does is just so upsetting, but made all-the-more upsetting because of how much he appears to be enjoying it. “Pop quiz, hot-shot!”: Does a movie like this get remembered at all without a talent like Hopper in the credits?

BLUE VELVET – I’m not a huge fan of this film or David Lynch by any means. I have nothing against them, but neither are really my thing. The most noteworthy aspect of this whole film though is Hopper’s performance as Frank Booth, probably the most evil villain this side of Darth Vader. Every line Booth utters either shocking or funny and oftentimes both. It’s all quote-worthy and anyone who’s seen the film will likely have something derogatory to say about Heineken and only the best about Pabst Blue Ribbon. I’d probably prefer the former, but tonight, I’ll drink the latter in honor of this performance, which is, for my money, one of the best in cinema history.

APOCALYPSE NOW – Unlike the above film, this is one I truly love. Everything about it is great. Hopper, playing a crazed photojournalist, keeps this level of quality up and then some. Essentially, he’s a hype-man for Brando’s Colonel Kurtz. The Kurtz character is one of my favorites, but I doubt he’d be as effective without Hopper’s build-up. Hopper’s involvement also makes this film seem that much more real (though Apocalypse Now is notoriously deficient in actual facts). He belongs to the Vietnam era and to the jungles of the mind and soul that are on display in this film. Most actors just pretend (that’s not a knock, it’s the nature of the profession), but Hopper truly seemed to be living his life onscreen. There, he is immortal.

Rest In Peace.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Milwaukee's Midnight Movie Madness

For information on when these films are playing at Midnight in Milwaukee, read my article at Suburban Bully.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I'm not too familiar with the work of this film: street art. I've heard names like Banksy and Shepard Fairey, but I haven't really followed anything they've done. That's why I found this film to be so interesting. Graffiti, or street art, is pretty cool. These dangerous, elaborate ploys to put up stickers and spray paint of often amusing or thought-provoking work is incredibly admirable. Most of the men featured in this film are true artists. I particularly like Space Invader for all the Space Invader tiles he adheres to public property. The exploits or these often-reclusive people being captured on video is something quite special. It's something normal people would likely never see and for a midwesterner like me it would be rare to even see one of these works of art in person at all. To the aspect of this film that is the simple (narratively, not logistically) task of exhibiting these moments I give an "A".

However, much of the film is actually about the man who captured these moments, Thierry Guetta, Space Invader's cousin. The film's presenter, Banksy, puts out this notion that Guetta is actually more interesting than they are. I would argue that notion, but I suppose the narrative featuring Thierry is what makes this film more than just a simple street-art doc. What's so interesting about this man? He always has a camera on him, he's seemingly neglectful of his family and he seems rather unstable. Thierry has to be given credit for being such a helpful supporter of these renegade street artists for so long, but he also ends up being the harbinger of their doom. When Guetta sets out to make a film from his hundreds of tapes, he ends up with "Life Remote Control", an incoherent mess that inspires Banksy to set him on a new task - becoming a street artist himself. Thierry then becomes "Mr. Brainwash" and goes to work making a name for himself in LA. This culminates in a ridiculously hyped gallery show for the new artist and great success. This seems like a nice ending, but it's not so much when you consider that Mr. Brainwash's work is utter crap. The immense success of his show signifies the entry of street art into the commercial sector, where it ultimately loses life and purpose.

Banksy and others have moved on to larger venues than the street and likely been very profitable from it, but I wouldn't call these people sell-outs like I would Brainwash. Banksy insists that his work was never about the money, which is apparent when you witness his incredibly controversial act at Disneyland on the day of his gallery opening, which likely gained him nothing more than a sense of artistic fulfillment. The top artists still take risks and still do things just for fun. Thierry seems to be all about profits and hype. There's a point near the very end when Shepard Fairey refers to Brainwash's fans as suckers, he couldn't be more right. Street art suddenly became "in", so everyone went nuts for it. Rich people buy it and put it up in their homes for their eyes only, which truly renders it worthless. To make matters worse, the pieces they are buying are uninspired garbage. At one point, Thierry demonstrates how little effort he puts into altering his prints, but these alterations mark the value up 1000%. To be fair, it's not all Thierry's fault, it's also the fault of the lame contemporary art community for being such suckers.

This film is great, I'll say that, but I feel a little less time could have been devoted to Mr. Brainwash. It was an integral point of the conclusion, but some parts of the last act were borderline fluff or filler. He's certainly an interesting part of the evolution of street art, but I wouldn't say he's more interesting that the art itself. On the overall, I'd give this film an "A-".

One final note: There's a lot of speculation as to the authenticity of this film, whether it was a true documentary or not. I'd say it's more interesting if it is authentic, but even if it's not, it ends up at the same conclusion with the same message. I don't think there's much point in arguing about it, but it is a little intriguing.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

This Week in Movie News (Nerd News)

Certainly some interesting headlines coming out of the past week:

James Franco likely for lead role in RISE OF THE APES -

Franco was at Cannes this past week promoting his new film HOWL, in which he plays beat poet Allen Ginsberg. The young actor's credits have been all over the spectrum, which is a refreshing thing to see out of such a talent. He's appeared on television (lately "General Hospital" and "30 Rock"), in comedies (PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, DATE NIGHT), and in big-budget fare (the SPIDER-MAN trilogy). It appears as though Franco has picked his next project in the latter category - RISE OF THE APES. It seems as though every time I do one of these "weekly news" posts, I end up with something about this film. When I heard about this, I wondered what type of role Franco's would be, crossing my fingers that he wouldn't appear as some CG ape. My fears dissipated when I learned that Franco would be playing one of the human scientists who are creating the genetically altered apes. Then I thought again about how this movie still sound stupid, but I'm open to having my expectations exceeded. Franco's involvement improves my opinion of this production from "potential disaster" to "maybe not the worst thing in the world".

Look for Franco later in 2010 when he stars, practically by himself, in Danny Boyle's follow-up to the Oscar winning SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, 127 HOURS, the true story of mountain climber Aron Ralston who had to amputate his lower right arm with a dull knife to escape certain death.

Jemaine Clement to play villain in MEN IN BLACK 3(D)-

This news had me chuckling a bit. I was never a big fan of the MIB films, but they are kind of fun. I found the news of a second sequel a bit surprising considering it will have been nearly ten years since MIB 2 when this film is released. But Will Smith is still incredibly bankable and studios aren't missing any opportunities to round out trilogies with "3....D!". Side note: when did this becomes an okay thing to do? Sure, have your 3D films, but don't make it part of the official title, that's so cheesy. Have we completely forgotten JAWS 3-D!? Anyway, joining Smith and Lee Jones in the film will be Josh Brolin. I can imagine hilarity ensuing when all three of these macho men struggle to defeat Clement, who will be playing a character called Yaz (hilariously fitting for some reason). I could have probably waited for this to come out on DVD, but now I might just fork over the admission price (which by 2012 should only be $15). Good for Jemaine, he sure seems to be getting a lot of work. I was always partial to Bret (Brit) though, what's he up to?

MACHETE trailer just another fake -

Apparently, the MACHETE trailer that came out a couple weeks back was just a fake trailer made by Robert Rodriguez for Cinco de Mayo and political commentary. It was not an actual trailer for the film, but instead pieced together from the original GRINDHOUSE trailer and footage from the new film. I don't know how many people were hip to this. I'll admit, I was fooled. I guess the preview was a bit too topical to be real, but that's what had me excited. I'm sure the real MACHETE will be fun, but I can't help but imagine that this might have been a more exciting alternative.

See him talk about it here

David Fincher wants to go 2000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA -

Huh? I can imagine that being the majority response. That's right, Fincher, director of FIGHT CLUB, SEVEN, and ZODIAC, has reportedly approached Disney about directing a 2000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA film. Disney had previously lined up McG to helm a similar project, but dropped it. It seems as though Fincher's interest has reinvigorated the property. All I can say is: it probably won't happen. Fincher always lines up a dozen projects to do and almost all of them fall by the wayside (remember HEAVY METAL and TORSO?). If it does get made, it'll certainly be interesting to see how it turns out. More news on this as it arrives.

A couple final notes (Me talkin' shit)-

There's been a lot of news about potential WIZARD OF OZ spin-offs and sequels and what-nots being lined up. Just stop it. I don't want to see any of these made. What's the point? I don't really care about protecting the original film's legacy or anything like that, I just think it's a stupid idea. Move on. Nothing like this will ever be successful. Mark my words.

Megan Fox apparently dropped out of TRANSFORMERS 3. I don't know what I dislike more, Fox or TRANSFORMERS. Their parting ways will make each of them slightly better, but still not anything I'd endorse. Fox is toxic and will hopefully fall by the wayside in the near future. Transformers is idiotic, let's just get it over with.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cinema Badger #2 @ Suburban Bully

My second article in The Cinema Badger column is now up at Suburban Bully. It will run every Friday at 9am, so look for it at the same Badger time in the same Badger place.

Cinema Badger #2

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Nathan Fillion to Play Hank Pym (Ant-Man) in Whedon's AVENGERS

There were reports this weekend that Nathan Fillion is a lock to Hank Pym, a genius scientist also known as Ant-Man, in Joss Whedon's AVENGERS film. I pretty much called this when Whedon got the job because the two worked together on "Firefly". Now, rumors like this are to be taken with a grain of salt as they don't usually pan out. However, their strong working relationship would suggest there is some truth to his consideration.

I just wonder what kind of role Pym would play in the film. Attention already has to be divvied up amongst the marquee superheroes, so I imagine his screen time would be minor. But if Whedon plans on taking a few cues from "The Ultimates" (a modern re-telling of the Avengers' origins) playbook, then Pym might factor into the plot a bit more. Sure, he could just hang out in the background and provide some support to the front-line Avengers (which seems likely), but I hope he gets a bigger part. Pym in "The Ultimates" has a hyper-inferiority complex (especially when in the company of Bruce Banner) and an abusive relationship with his wife and fellow Avenger, The Wasp. Essentially, he's kind of a bastard. That's the type of role I'd like to see Fillion take on.

For those not familiar with his work, I'd suggest taking a look at the short-lived series "Firefly" and the subsequent SERENITY film. He plays the Captain of Serenity, Malcolm Reynolds, and charisma just spills out of him in every scene. It's a wonder Fillion has yet to get a chance to shine in a big, Hollywood production.

If reports are indeed true, then the announcement of his casting should take place around Comic-Con in late July. But a lot could change before then. Here's hoping it doesn't.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Trailer Time

Apart from the SUPER 8 and INCEPTION previews that hit the internet last week, there were a few more intriguing trailers that debuted:

First off - THE AMERICAN. This film stars George Clooney and is the follow-up to director Anton Corbijn's well-respected Ian Curtis biopic CONTROL. The trailer suggests a calculated and well-shot thriller. I'm not a huge fan of Clooney (I wouldn't call myself a detractor either), but I did like CONTROL enough to make me very interested in this project. Its release is scheduled for September 1st.

Next up is THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU. Screenwriter George Nolfi's directorial debut stars Matt Damon, Emily Blunt and Terrence Stamp. This thriller based on a story by Philip K. Dick takes on an existential sci-fi twist, something I'm quite fond of. The trailer looks promising and I definitely like Stamp in the creepy-suit role. The film's release was scheduled for summer, but was pushed back to September 17.

Lastly - ANIMAL KINGDOM. This Australian production by director David Michod stars Guy Pearce (one of the most underrated actors currently working). The crime drama garnered some positive attention at Sundance and now boasts four very positive reviews at Rotten Tomatoes. The film will get a wide release this August.

There has also been a lot of coverage for the JONAH HEX trailer that recently debuted. In theory, this seems like an okay movie, but the preview looks terrible. The involvement of Michael Fassbender and Josh Brolin is completely negated by Megan Fox, who might just be the most irritating actress working today. Look it up for yourself if you're interested.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

BLONDE - The Return of Andrew Dominik

It's typical in this day and age for directors to pump out a new film every one or two years. There's certainly nothing wrong with this as it gives cinephiles a chance to build a complete picture of one artist's style and capabilities. However, It's always interesting when a successful director takes their time in between projects to find something (s)he's truly passionate about shooting. One such director is Andrew Dominik, who will return in 2011 with BLONDE, based on Joyce Carol Oates fictionalized biography of Marilyn Monroe.

The New Zealander's debut was 2000's CHOPPER, the biopic of Australia's most notorious criminal, featuring a star-making performance by Eric Bana.

The film garnered some positive reviews and maintains a decent following. Dominik's follow-up wouldn't come for a further seven years. THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD was worth the wait. All petty gripes about the title aside, this was a great and vastly underappreciated film. It earned mostly positive reviews and a couple Oscar nods (one for cinematography and another for Casey Affleck's awesome supporting performance), but it was still criticized as being slow and overlong. No, it wasn't the shoot-em-up heist film that one would expect with a name like Jesse James in the title, it was actually a hundred-times better than that. The film stunned me with its performances, music, and boldness. It's not the film that everyone wanted, it's something completely out of left-field and that's what makes it a marvel. I believe that time will out this film's greatness and its status as one of the best film's of this young century.

It's because of this film that I'm already convinced of BLONDE's potential. Dominik was supposed to return in 2012 with yet another literary adaptation, CITIES OF THE PLAIN, based on the Cormac McCarthy novel. This sounds like an ambitious undertaking and I hope he returns to it, but I'm glad I don't have to wait as long. I haven't read the Oates book, but its received high praise. When skimming various descriptions of the novel, I can see why Dominik is perfect for the film version: "Emotionally volatile, fey, self-absorbed, and frightened, Monroe could also be tough, outspoken, vulgar--her notorious perfectionism a shield against the ridicule and failure that Oates claims she continually feared" (Publisher's Weekly). Dominik isn't interested in stories that exalt and sensationalize its protagonists. He did a great job making Mark "Chopper" Read human. He could have made a film that demonized Robert Ford and enforced the mythic figure of Jesse James ("He took from the rich and he gave to the poor" as the song says), but he didn't. James is positively psychotic and Ford is vulnerable, but you still think he's a sonofabitch in the end even though James has it coming. There are shades of greys to both men that are thought provoking and elicit complicated feelings. This is what I expect from a Monroe biopic. The woman is too quickly honored as some sort of icon. I feel as though I'd care more about her if I got to see all her dimensions. Dominik is the man to capture the light and dark of her character. There's another Monroe film being produced currently that will likely walk the line of fluff, something this film will not.

More promising news about this project is that it will star Naomi Watts. Dominik has proven that he can bring amazing performances out of talented actors (something that's harder than it sounds). Bana, Pitt, and Affleck have all benefited from his direction. It's hard to imagine that Watts won't be able to put in a performance worthy of Academy recognition.

Hopefully, more news about this film will follow shortly, but all I've heard thus far has me already looking forward to 2011.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Check Out My Article at Suburban Bully

I wrote an article entitled "Wisconsin's Film Identity" for a Milwaukee Website called Suburban Bully. This might turn into a weekly thing, so I hope people get into it. Here's the link:

Suburban Bully

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


TITANIC: THE ANIMATED MOVIE, a product of Italy, might just be a the most insane, awful, brilliant, funny thing I have ever seen. It can be watched on YouTube, but I thought it was worth compiling in order here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hey! Look At This: CROPSEY

Whilst checking out trailers today, this one caught my eye.

Here's the description from IMDB:
"Growing up on Staten Island, filmmakers Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio had often heard the urban legend of "Cropsey." It was a cautionary tale invented to keep them out of the abandoned buildings that remained of the Willowbrook Mental Institution. Cropsey was supposedly an escaped patient who would come out late at night and snatch children off the streetssometimes with a hook for a hand, other times with a bloody ax. But in 1987, Jennifer Schweiger, a 13-year-old with Down syndrome, disappeared from their community. For Zeman, Brancaccio, and the other kids of Staten Island, their urban legend became real."

Looks spooky, especially for a documentary. The film is currently making the film festival circuit. I'm not sure if a theater or DVD release is imminent, but the trailer making its way to Apple must mean something.

CROPSEY was awarded the Hammer to Nail's Grand Jury Prize for best documentary at 2009's Tribeca Film Festival.


This is worth its own post. Yesterday marked the release of the new INCEPTION trailer. Details on the next Christopher Nolan project have been kept fairly secret, but now a bit more light is starting to get shed. This new trailer reveals a bit more of the plot, what the title means and who some of the characters are. Take a look:

With each preview, I'm starting to get a bit more excited about this film. In fact, my expectations are just about reaching their limits. July 10th seems very far away at the moment, but I'm hoping it goes by fast. Nolan is a true legend in the making. If one film has the potential to 'wow' me this year, it's this one.

*In other trailer news, those who didn't see IRON MAN 2 this weekend can catch the special SUPER 8 teaser over at Apple Trailers.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

This Week in Movie News (Nerd News)

There's been some interesting news this past week, so let's get to it before the new week starts:

- Toby Jones to appear in CAPTAIN AMERICA as the villainous Arnim Zola. Hugo Weaving was cast as Cap's nemesis Red Skull last month, but it seems as though one antagonist isn't enough for Joe Johnston's film. For those unfamiliar with Zola - he's another Nazi, but instead of the physical terror that Red Skull brings to the table, Zola offers a more intellectual terror. He's a mad scientist type who carried out devious experiments for the Germans in WWII. His greatest feat is that he was able to project his lifeforce into some sort of robot. When said robot is damaged, he can just transport himself into some other form of technology, essentially making him immortal. I'm interested to see the relationship between the two villains in this film, but I can only assume it will be an amiable one (Nazis of a feather). For those unfamiliar with Jones, he's got an impressive resume. He's appeared in FROST/NIXON, W. and FINDING NEVERLAND. He's also an interesting looking fellow with a lot of character to him. I can imagine he'll make for a perfect mad-nazi-scientist.

- RISE OF THE APES, formerly CAESAR, formerly GENESIS: APES has a release date - June 24, 2011. That's soon! This film is truly going to get made after being dismissed so many times. APES will be helmed by British director Rupert Wyatt (THE ESCAPIST) and should start production fairly shortly. I've mentioned before that I'm pessimistic about this film considering its ridiculous plot, but there is some potential. Basically, I'm of the opinion that if it's bad (which seems about 90% likely) it's going to be very very bad, but if it's good it could be quite good. One bit of promising news to come out of this announcement is that WETA (LOTR, DISTRICT 9) will be creating the CG apes for the film. Also, it seems as though they're going to go with a story about genetic tampering instead of the time-travel plot from the original CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. I'm very curious to see how this will turn out.

- A trailer was released this week for Robert Rodriguez's next film MACHETE. The film actually began as a fake exploitation trailer featured in his and Tarantino's GRINDHOUSE double-feature, but Rodriguez was passionate about fleshing out the ideas full potential. To me, it looks like a lot of fun. The cast is crazy and when am I going to get the chance to see character actor Danny Trejo headline a film again. The trailer's release is incredibly appropriate considering Cinco de Mayo and that it seems to be addressing issues that are currently ongoing in the backwards, prejudice state of Arizona (which the trailer briefly addresses). MACHETE will be in theaters this September.

- Steven Spielberg has picked out his next live-action project: WAR HORSE. I say live-action because his next film is actually the first installment in the animated series TIN TIN based on the popular French cartoon. Spielberg has entertained numerous projects over the past couple years and his decision has been closely watched by his fans and film enthusiasts. Frankly, I'm not terribly interested. Despite his legendary status, Spielberg has been faltering this past decade. Since 2000, he's directed seven feature films and I only like two of them (MINORITY REPORT and CATCH ME IF YOU CAN). Particularly despicable was his last outing with the Indiana Jones series. I'll see what he's putting out, but I'm not getting my hopes up. The film we be based on a novel of the same name, a description of the book is as follows:

"In 1914, Joey, a beautiful bay-red foal with a distinctive cross on his nose, is sold to the army and thrust into the midst of the war on the Western Front. With his officer, he charges toward the enemy, witnessing the horror of the battles in France. But even in the desolation of the trenches, Joey’s courage touches the soldiers around him and he is able to find warmth and hope. But his heart aches for Albert, the farmer’s son he left behind. Will he ever see his true master again?"

Look for WAR HORSE in August of next year.

- Speaking of Spielberg - For everyone who went out to see IRON MAN 2 this weekend (which was a lot of us) there was quite a treat in the form of a trailer for an upcoming film called SUPER 8. The debut of the teaser was not much of surprise considering its existence and spot in the trailer lineup was revealed earlier in the week, complete with wild speculation about what the film will be about. Entertainment site HitFix actually managed to guess everything incorrectly about the nature of the film. They thought it might be a CLOVERFIELD sequel - it's not. They thought it was likely not the film that J.J. Abrams was working on with Steven Spielberg - it is. They also assumed that Abrams would likely not be in the director's chair for this film - he is. This will be Abrams next project before he moves on to do the STAR TREK sequel. I'm not a huge follower of his, but he certainly made me a fan with STAR TREK last year. Its appropriate that he and Spielberg are in cahoots as it seems likely that Abrams might be the Spielberg of tomorrow.

The trailer for SUPER 8 caught my attention (and imagination) to say the least. Abrams seems to be returning to the same advertising tactic he utilized with CLOVERFIELD. Like CLOVERFIELD, the details gleaned from SUPER 8's trailer are a bit vague, but it looks to be a promising monster movie. I imagine the preview will hit the internet shortly. You can either wait for this, go see IRON MAN 2 (not a bad option), or just watch the bootleg versions available on YouTube. I won't describe the trailer because you can find that somewhere else, but I will say this - Area 51, train crash, something violently escaping train car.

The official plot description for the film as of today is this: "In 1979, a train carrying important cargo from Area 51 is destroyed, causing all contents to be unleashed upon the world." SUPER 8 hits theaters in Summer of 2011.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

IRON MAN 2 - A Piece of the Puzzle

Despite some less-than-kind reviews, I was still very excited to see the IRON MAN sequel on its opening day. I left satisfied. This is a fine film, you just have to see it for what it is. What is it exactly? I'll get to that.

Most critics seems to be complaining about things that I wouldn't myself. It seems that the biggest issue with IRON MAN 2 is that it didn't quite live up to its predecessor, even the positive reviews made this assessment. I agree with that to some extent, it does lack a certain "zazz", but the sequel also had the burden of very high expectations that IRON MAN lacked. I think most people, myself included, didn't expect a whole lot out of IRON MAN when it was released two years ago. Who the hell is Iron Man anyway? Sure, he has his dedicated followers, but he lacks the popularity of A-list superheroes. The trailers looked good and I was excited by Downey Jr. being on the marquee, but I only expected a decent movie. What we got was a very good movie. I, like most of the film-going community, love to have my expectations surpassed. This resulted in an enormous amount of buzz and praise. Unfortunately, this has been somewhat of a curse for IRON MAN 2, at least critically. I expected IRON MAN 2 to be a very good movie, but the early reviews adjusted my hopes to just "good movie" and that's exactly what I got. Anybody expecting to be blown away is setting themselves up for a disappointment.

IRON MAN 2 is a good in-between film. It's apparent that Favreau is trying to make his own series that will stand apart from the other Marvel films to a certain extent. However, he cannot escape the current of the Marvel Universe. I didn't find this movie to be an advertisement for the impending AVENGERS film, like some critics did (I could have actually used a bit more of the Avengers plot), but it's certainly made itself part of the background. I'm psyched about this because it means that Marvel is serious about making their ambitious experiment in serial narratives work. Nothing like it has ever been accomplished. Crossovers with this level of detail and public interest are unprecedented. Sure, IRON MAN means a lot to them, both creatively and monetarily, but THE AVENGERS and the overarching picture means more. IRON MAN 2 might be a little scatterbrained for some, but I didn't mind. It's just part of a very elaborate puzzle. Whatever risks there might have been in making a film like this have most likely been justified by the impressive box-office it is doing this weekend.

I suppose I should note a few things about the film itself:
The performances are all good. Downey is great again as Stark. Mickey Rourke's blunt and violent Ivan Vanko is deviation from the cunning Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), but a welcome one. He certainly seems to be having a lot of fun with it whilst also taking the role quite seriously. Stark's new corporate rival, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), is humorously despicable and a nice addition. He's sort of a Tony Stark without any talent or genius intellect. Anybody who knows me knows how under-appreciated I think Rockwell is. Perhaps this will get him more of the exposure he rightly deserves. I didn't know what to expect from Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff. I thought she might be more of the villainous Black Widow, but her as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and Tony Stark babysitter was fine too. It's hard not to like her. She's a nice juxtaposition with the physically reserved Pepper Potts. I didn't miss Terrence Howard as Rhodie, Cheadle makes a suitable replacement. The action was fun. The Nick Fury appearances were delightful. Vanko's appearance at the racetrack was just as cool as expected. There's a lot to enjoy about the film. If I had one technical complaint it's that there seemed to be way too many close shots. I would have preferred if the camera had been pulled back a bit on a few occasions. But on the overall I liked it, almost as much as the 1st film. Make sure to stick around after the credits.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

30th Anniversary ALIEN at Union Theatre this Weekend

Well, this'll be a treat. Ridley Scott's classic horror sci-fi film ALIEN will be played at the UWM Union Theatre this weekend. If I had to compile a list of my favorite films, ALIEN and its sequel would easily make the top 10. Even though they are numerous, I love those space films where one crew chooses to answer a distress signal from another and terror ensues. The lesson: don't help anybody. ALIEN maintains a tone from the opening moments that has never and likely will never be duplicated. Jerry Goldsmith's quiet and moody score seems to foreshadow the carnage that the xenomorph will eventually carry out. This, coupled with the juxtaposition of industrial and futuristic set pieces really take Scott's film to the next level. You could just watch this film at home, but why pass up the opportunity to see it in a theatre. That's an experience I've always wanted. To sweeten the deal, the version being presented will be the newly-restored 30th Anniversary 35mm print.

The following quotes are from the UWM Union Theatre's website:

"Thirty years after its initial release, Alien remains a benchmark for the sci-fi genre, and bears little relation to its space-thriller contemporaries. From its ominous opening, unsettling production design (both realistic and creepily unearthly), realistic dialogue (much of it improvised); to the unexpectedness of the first entrance — or exit — of the eponymous creature. Starring Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, and Sigourney Weaver as the unforgettable Commanding Officer-by-default Ellen Ripley in a crucial role, challenging gender stereotypes both on and off the screen."

“(Alien) still vibrates with a dark and frightening intensity…It is a film that absorbs us in a mission before it involves us in an adventure, and that consistently engages the alien with curiosity and logic, instead of simply firing at it.”
– Roger Ebert

Friday, May 7 at 11pm
Saturday, May 8 at 9pm
Sunday, May 9 at 4:30pm

Runtime: 117 minutes

Monday, May 3, 2010


This weekend I had the opportunity to see Joon-ho Bong's lastest film, MOTHER. The film has a one-week limited engagement in Milwaukee and comes with a lot of hype and positive reviews. I'm not a big follower of the Asian film market; I'm even less familiar with the South Korean film market, but I am acquainted with Bong's films, so I was very excited to see his latest. His last feature THE HOST gained a lot of attention and for good reason. It's a touching, scary, and funny monster movie with a great cast. MEMORIES OF MURDER precedes it and is just as good, if not better. I went into the MOTHER screening with high expectations, thinking I would see something similar in quality. I was underwhelmed.

The film has been marketed as a thriller and often called one in reviews. I didn't find it to be all that thrilling. Bong is visually brilliant, creating a dark, moody atmosphere with some great compositions of rural landscapes, but the content is just so empty. For a while, the film seems to be subtly hinting at a story about dubious police work and the subjugation of the lower-class, but it shifts into a story about the Mother's hair-brained investigation into the murder that her mentally-challenged son is accused of. It's supposed to have this noirish feel (which I felt was forced), but the clues and interrogations are just so convenient and accessible. Mother doesn't really seem to struggle for the information she obtains, nor does she take very much time. The "twisted" revelation at the end has been called "hitchcockian" by some reviewers, but I found it all-to-expected. The red herrings are telegraphed because it doesn't seem as though the film wants to commit to exploring them. The first outcome that I predicted is the exact one I got, which is sad, I like surprises.

I know it's supposed to be a big deal how Mother goes above and beyond for her son through the very end, but since no one else in the film acts like a real human being would, it makes her actions seem empty. There's no gravity to her behavior because it's only to be expected out of the film's zany characters. The ending bit about memory was also heavily telegraphed and seemed to be taking a cue from MEMENTO, a legit noir.

Needless to say, I was surprised at how much I disliked this film. I'm disappointed in Bong as I believe he's a much better craftsman than this film showed. It just seems as though disappointment is becoming a trend among 2010 releases. I still suggest you see the film yourself, if you find the time. Chances are you'll disagree with me as most critics are singing MOTHER's praises. The film currently holds an impressive 94% on Rotten Tomatoes with only five negative reviews.

On the docket for the next couple weeks (hopefully):
THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES (Oscar's Best Foreign Film)
Maybe I'll get out to see KICK-ASS finally, but my interest is waning.
Perhaps BIRDEMIC too if I'm bored.

That's right, BIRDEMIC - check out the trailer!

BIRDEMIC will get its Milwaukee Premiere at Midnight on May 15th at the Oriental.

Paramount Not Staying Classy

I had meant to have this as part of my last post, but I forgot. Apparently, Paramount has passed on a sequel to 2004's ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY. Director Adam McKay wrote on his twitter account that the studio had passed on his proposed follow-up to the intensely popular film. He followed up his comments several hours later with some more bad news: Paramount owns the rights to the film, therefore he will not be able to shop it around at other studios. ANCHORMAN 2 will never get made.

I'm disappointed by this. I'm not a huge Will Ferrell supporter. It was actually my dislike of him that kept me from seeing this in theaters. However, I caught it on DVD and was completely blown away. This is one of my favorite comedies of all time and, to me, a sequel sounds like a great opportunity. The important members of the cast are enthusiastic about the project and though their price tags might be a bit higher than when they did the first film, I can only imagine it would be worth the extra money. Paul Rudd and Steve Carell now rival, if not surpass, Ferrell in popularity, but that just means more interest and better box-office returns for the film. Yes, Ferrell's movies aren't always a success at the box-office, but that doesn't mean he still can't draw a crowd. Again, I'm not a huge fan of the actor, but his Ron Burgundy character won me over. Some of his films do so poorly because they look stupid or are completely pointless. I've oftentimes thought to myself "he should just put the mustache back on and go back to doing what he did best". I guess he won't get the chance and he'll be relegated to making more crummy and pointless films.

This decision says one things to me: Paramount doesn't know what people want. It's as if they have a computer making their decisions for them. It sees that ANCHORMAN didn't make a TON of money and that Ferrell's movies haven't done too well lately and it decides "pass". It doesn't see that the film has done huge numbers on DVD, that it possesses an enormous following and that the demand for a sequel is actually quite high. This might be the reason for another decision coming out of Paramount today: a ZOOLANDER sequel has also been passed on. I don't love the film, but it's another good example of a movie with a huge following that would likely play very well in theaters. The film's star, Ben Stiller, wrote on his Twitter account, addressing both films' fates: "Ron Burgundy and Derek Zoolander looking to appear in sequels. Both men destitute, without means or intellect to fund their own comebacks." I only hope that Paramount reconsiders or that someone else gets a chance to make these films and allow Burgundy and Zoolander the chance to shine again.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

This Week in Movie News (Nerd News)

I'd just like to highlight a few interesting stories from this past week:

- The IRON MAN 2 reviews are rolling in and they aren't great. The first film currently holds an impressive 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, with only 15 negative reviews. With less than 50 total reviews, the sequel already has 12 'rotten' ones. The film still holds a mediocre 74%, but even the 'fresh' reviews aren't overly positive. A vast majority of them feature some sort of admission of the first film's superiority. This is very disappointing. There's a chance that the total percentage could turn around significantly (in either direction), but the ratio of good to bad reviews usually holds steady by this point. The trailers really make this seem like an awesome film. I'm not going to let the bad reviews effect my view of the it. I'm still very excited to see the movie, but I'll be greatly disappointed if my expectations aren't met. I guess I'll just have to wait until next Friday to see for myself.

Side note: I'm starting to get pissed off by how much IRON MAN 2 is selling out. All the Burger King and car commercials featuring the character are very irritating. This, more than anything, will effect how I perceive the film.

- The third installment in Nolan's Batman trilogy has a release date: July 20, 2012. There isn't a whole lot of information about the project yet, but pinning down a release date just means that those details are imminent. Nolan is apparently working out the story right now that would provide his series and the Batman character with some closure. This sounds very interesting and I can't wait to see what this film will be about. If he intends to upstage THE DARK KNIGHT, he must have something fantastic in mind.

Many of the commentators who broke this news were quick to point out what a nerdy year 2012 is turning out to be. The STAR TREK sequel (which I'm equally excited for) has a tentative release date of June 29. THE AVENGERS (if all goes as planned) will come out May 4th of that year. Other 'big' films mentioned alongside these are BATTLESHIP (May 25th) and the Spider-Man reboot (July 3rd). I know I'm being petty as I'm really just critiquing the journalists who broke the news, but I don't think either of these films deserves to be mentioned in the company of the other three. Is the BATTLESHIP film really going to be that big of a hit? I don't think kids even play Battleship anymore. And the Spider-Man reboot - I know it's early, but I have very little faith in this project. Marc Webb, an unproven director as far as big-budget films, is at the helm and all early reports indicate that the little tweener from PERCY JACKSON is likely to play the web-slinger himself. I don't love the character or the Raimi film trilogy that much, but I feel as though Webb won't be able to improve on anything that Raimi accomplished. We've already seen the origin story, I have no interest in going back there and putting Peter Parker in high school. It's just a feeling I have, but I tend to be wrong about these things.

News also broke recently that the much-anticipated adaptation of Tolkien's "The Hobbit" is being delayed until 2013. This is a huge letdown as this film would have likely been the icing on the proverbial nerd-cake (a D&D or BSG themed cake no doubt) in 2012. I don't care when it comes out, I just hope it still gets made.

- KICK-ASS director Matthew Vaughn has been offered X-MEN: FIRST CLASS. I don't know how to feel about this. I have faith in Vaughn as a director, but not in this project. I'm a bit of an ageist, but I'm not interested in seeing the X-Men as kids. It just seems as though Fox intends to pander to a teenage audience. I hated this even when I was a teen. If they want to make a serious film, that's fine, but It'll be a hard sell when they fill it up with a bunch of unpolished unknown kid actors. The only thing keeping me from writing the film off completely is knowing that Bryan Singer is involved in some capacity. Singer did a great job with the first two X-Men films (especially X2), but when he left everything went downhill. X MEN: THE LAST STAND was terrible and the WOLVERINE film was even worse. I'm hoping this film gets called off altogether, but if it does get made, I'll be interested to see where it stacks up.

- Lastly, if you're looking for something to do when you're bored, I suggest you travel on over to Rotten Tomatoes and check out the FURRY VENGEANCE reviews. They are hilarious! The movie is currently sitting on an embarrassing 2% with only one positive review in nearly fifty. HA!