Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Nerd News

Lots of Batman news going on that I haven't made time to comment on.

1. Nolan's Batman 3 = THE DARK KNIGHT RISES -

For those who haven't caught this already, that will indeed be the title of the next, and reportedly final, film in the Christopher Nolan Batman series. I'm not wild about it, though I'm not going to put up much of a fuss. It just seems there could have been a lot more dynamic titles to choose from. Adding the word "Rises" just seems a little lazy. Perhaps it will seem more relevant as more details about the film arise, or maybe it's just a way of tethering the film to the immensely successful sequel in hopes that it might possess some of the same magic. Anyway, I'm sure it'll grow on me.

2. Rumor has it a list of high-profile actresses have met with Nolan and Co. to discuss a couple roles in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES -

One role - that of a love interest, another - that of a villain. Some astute observers have split the actresses into two camps, implying that each is vying for a particular role.

Group #1: The Young
Blake Lively
Anne Hathaway
Keira Knightley
Natalie Portman (though Portman is versatile enough for both groups)

Group #2: The Not-As-Young
Rachel Weisz
Naomi Watts

Frankly, I'm in favor of most of these actresses landing a role. The only name I'd like to see excised from the list is Lively. Her performance in THE TOWN was more than passable, but she has a big role in the upcoming GREEN LANTERN and I don't think it's necessary to see her in two big DC properties.

3. This film might have some source material -

Word around town is that this 3rd installment might be loosely based on the graphic novel "Prey". This comes as no surprise as each of the previous films has a connection to a particular graphic novel; BATMAN BEGINS has "Year One" and THE DARK KNIGHT has "The Long Halloween". I've never read "Prey" but apparently it's considered a follow-up to "Year One" and involves the villain Dr. Hugo Strange. Strange is obsessed with Batman and manipulates people in power, including Commissioner Gordon, into creating a task force to hunt down the vigilante (which would follow the conclusion of THE DARK KNIGHT seamlessly). He then deduces the true identity of Batman and uses that to play mind games with him. Frankly, this sounds like an awesome 3rd film and a great way to end things off. There isn't a villain in Batman's Rogues Gallery that can stir up as much excitement as The Joker, so this film needs to have a tense and exciting plot. Hugo Strange is a great antagonist and certainly captures my attention more than The Riddler (long rumored for the film). Tom Hardy is the only new actor officially cast in the film and it's already confirmed that he'll play a villain. He'd be a good fit for Strange as the guy has menacing down (see BRONSON or even STAR TREK: NEMESIS). This rumor, like every other, is at the moment still just a rumor. We won't know things for sure until production gets along next year, but this sounds like it's a major possibility considering Nolan's style and the natural progression of the storyline laid out in the last film.

4. A live-action Batman TV show may follow the film trilogy -

This is definitely just a rumor, but one that's making the rounds. I'm on board with this idea and really hope it's true. Granted, a Batman show might turn out goofy and fall on its face, but I don't think that's likely. DC will be sure to funnel a ton of money into it and it's said that the feel they're looking for is in line with the Nolan films. DC is apparently pretty keen on the idea of reintroducing the Joker character in this new medium since it wouldn't step on the toes of Ledger's creation. This is smart; Batman vs. The Joker in any prolonged format could spell some serious ratings. The last detail mentioned in regard to this rumor is that the people in creative control are looking for someone like Karl Urban for the Batman role. That doesn't mean he's officially cast since this is in the very early stages and Urban is very busy for the foreseeable future, it just gives an idea of what kind of actor they're looking for.

5. Under Aronofsky, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE 2 becomes simply THE WOLVERINE -

This news only further validates my excitement for this film which began when Aronofsky was announced as director. People have moved on from the original X-MEN trilogy, there's no need to harken back to them with this X-MEN ORIGINS nonsense. The first WOLVERINE was silly, over the top and just a downright slap in the face to fans of the character. THE WOLVERINE is just such a classier title and it carries with it the edge that the character requires. The screenplay, written by Christopher McQuarrie (THE USUAL SUSPECTS), tells of Wolverine's experiences in Japan.

6. The SPIDER-MAN Reboot recently had some less-than exciting casting news -

The couple of Uncle Ben and Aunt May will be played by Martin Sheen and Sally Field. I really couldn't care less who plays these parts, except I would rather it be anybody but Field for Aunt May. I just don't care for the woman. She was such an ass in MRS. DOUBTFIRE; I think that turned me against her. Anyway, Denis Leary has also been cast in the role of George Stacy, Gwen's father. This is fine. I don't watch "Rescue Me", so the only performances of his that I have to judge him from are DEMOLITION MAN and THE SANDLOT, both of which he's just fine in. Emma Stone, Andrew Garfield and Rhys Ifans have already been cast in the film as Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker and Dr. Curt Connors respectively.

7. ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER has gone into pre-production with WANTED director, Timur Bekmambatov, at the helm -

I haven't read the novel on which this film is based, but it sounds like a lot of fun. Retconning Lincoln's life to include a secret war against vampires which began after he watched them kill his mother as a child. I'm not at all a fan of WANTED, but I have faith in Bekmambatov's talents based on his WATCH films. Those films possess a unique brand of horror that might translate well in this film. It's scheduled to come out in June of 2012.

8. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES has a director in Mike White -

There you have it. Mike White's only directing credit is 2007's YEAR OF THE DOG, which isn't exactly encouraging, but who knows. I was hoping for someone a bit more high-profile like Neil Marshall. I was a lot more excited about this film when David O. Russell and Natalie Portman were involved.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Music Video of the Week

I said I'd try it out last week in my trailers post, so here goes. I'm not sure if it'll stick since, in all honesty, I don't really see that many music videos. However, it's often enough that one comes along and strikes my fancy for me to give this thing a shot.

"Little Miss Jack" - The Growlers

A friend showed this to me a while back and there was never really any question that this was going to be my first "MV of the Week". The Growlers are a band from Long Beach, Ca and I must say they've really got my attention. Their lead possesses a strangeness and a sound that I don't think I've seen/heard anywhere else. They also seem to be having a lot of fun with their peculiar brand of rock, a sense of fun that you don't really see in bands today who are too interested in being douchey or whiny or faux-punk. The Growlers seem to be the genuine article, what Devendra Banhart called a "true rock band".

As for this particular video, it's something I keep coming back to because it has this twisted-fun story to it. Unfortunately, I'm also forced into repeated viewings because it's the only place I can hear this catchy little tune. For some reason, this doesn't appear on any of their albums and seems to have been written solely for this video.

Their 2nd album, "Hot Tropics", came out earlier this year and is very good once you get into it. They have also made numerous videos for songs on that album.

PS. Recommendations are always welcome for this section.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

HARRY POTTER 7 Pt.1 Review

Even though I like to think of this two-part final chapter as being just one very long movie, I'll still share my thoughts on the first half:

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS Pt.1 is the very best film in the series. I know a lot of people reserve that title for PRISONER OF AZKABAN and while that film was special at the time of its release, a little hindsight reveals a ton of flaws and lazy plotting. My personal favorite prior to this was the 5th film, but even that is blown out of the water by DEATHLY HALLOWS. Why is this one so much better? I believe the answer lies firmly with the decision to split the book into two parts. Even the best HARRY POTTER films suffer from the above-mentioned laziness in storytelling. Even if you don't read the books, the films always have a pace and plot that telegraph the fact that they are adaptations of far more in-depth stories. Granted, that is a potential pitfall of any book-to-film adaptation, it's no excuse as it is not an inevitability. DEATHLY HALLOWS doesn't so much solve this problem as much as it circumvents it by doubling the time in which to tell the story.

This first half of the final installment mixes action and drama in a patient way that the previous films could not. The striking and emotional sequences in the film's first act are great. The suspense and fun are there, but so is a life-and-death seriousness that sometimes evades the series. Voldemort's villainy is also pushed to new levels that put Fiennes' performance legitimately in reach of the antagonist big-leagues for the first time in the series.

My biggest concern going into this film was how Yates would depict Harry, Ron and Hermione's time on the road considering how much sickening levity was present in HALF-BLOOD PRINCE. Frankly, I found it a bit boring to read, but the film gives this section of the tale an atmosphere and feel that the book failed to. An even more appropriate title for this movie might have been: HARRY POTTER AND THE END OF THE WORLD. At times, I felt as though I was watching a post-apocalyptic film about the wandering survivors of society's collapse and, in a sense, I was. The wizarding world, as it were, is crumbling and threatening to take everything else with it. Understandably, this is an incredibly serious situation for our protagonists and the film truly captures the essence of that seriousness. The scenery is both beautiful and grim and the tension of their travels is present in the actors' performances. Grizzled Harry Potter is quite a sight to behold. Over the last decade, these three young actors have clearly built quite a repoir, but never is it more apparent on screen than it is in this installment. For me, these three characters reach their full potential when removed from all the light-hearted distractions and superfluous, milksop classmates that the walls of Hogwarts provide.

The film ends on a somewhat depressing note, but in a way that is a great lead-in for the second half. The music builds, signifying that the end will be coming soon and we are treated to a damn-near brilliant scene of Voldemort robbing Dumbledore's grave. The effects-laden shots that precede the credits are both stunning and frightening.

I also forgot how much I enjoy House Elfs. Dobby plays the tragic hero in a surprisingly powerful series of events and Kreacher is back with his humorous curmudeoning.

Never once did my viewing experience sour from that dreadful sense that something is getting brushed over or excised completely. All the necessary information from the book is there and much more. Certain parts were even clarified for me, including the titular Deathly Hallows, which were explained in a stunning animated sequence that avoids the cheap feel of standard exposition. Having a 4-5 hour window in which to tell the story makes a world of a difference.

I applaud Yates' willingness to make such a dark film. Most of the negative reviews will likely stem from the lack of whimsy present in his style (just as they did for his first outing - HARRY POTTER 5), but such criticisms are misplaced. The world of Harry Potter is no longer a place for play. The children this series was initially meant for have grown up with it and require a more sophisticated telling of the tale, such as the one this film provides. To some, THE DEATHLY HALLOWS does not match the expectations for what a Harry Potter film should be, but, speaking as one of the above-mentioned childhood fans: this is my Harry Potter. If you want light-hearted fun, then visit the amusement park. I, however, will be patiently waiting out this extended intermission.


And here's a little of what we have in-store for us in part 2:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Trailer Time Returns

It's been awhile, but there's been a couple big trailers released recently that deserve a bit of attention:

GREEN LANTERN - Dir. Martin Campbell - 6/17/11

The trailer release for this film has been highly anticipated and will accompany HARRY POTTER 7 this weekend, but someone in charge was kind enough to release it on the web a few days in advance. Making a GREEN LANTERN movie is a tricky thing and a lot of my interest in it stems from my curiosity about how it will turn out. Hal Jordan's story is fun and new in that it incorporates this galactic realm while most superheroes are tethered to Earth. All indications point to the primary conflicts in this film taking place on Earth and all of Hal's training being out in space. I guess this makes sense as things will inevitably move further away from Earth in the sequel, but still, I feel that the more this story remains grounded, the less special it will be. I'm not terribly sold on Hector Hammond as the primary antagonist, but I think Peter Sarsgaard has the potential to sway me.

Ryan Reynolds is a pretty good fit for Jordan (as he showed before at Comic-Con), but his look in the Green Lantern garb falls short of impressive. As a matter of fact, all of the CG showcased in the trailer could be described the same way. To me, it looks more like a video game than a big-budget film. However, the film doesn't hit theaters for another 8 months and the effects department likely won't be sitting on their hands for that duration. I'm optimistic about improvement. Anyway, I'm hoping this film does well as I'm interested in seeing more high-profile DC films in the near future.

YOUR HIGHNESS - Dir. David Gordon Green - 4/8/11

I've been pretty jazzed about this film for a while. It was supposed to come out at the end of this year, but was pushed back. Pretty much everyone involved in this film is very likable (excluding Zooey Deschanel), so I can't imagine not liking it. I appreciate what they're going for, which appears to be a fun, medieval adventure film with a lot of comedy. I found the effects and amount of action apparent in the trailer to be very promising. However, I hope that most of the film's juvenile humor was showcased in the trailer and that there isn't a ton more of it. This film could be so much better than that.

RED RIDING HOOD - Catherine Hardwicke - 3/11/11

So far, the most appreciated TWILIGHT film has been the original and a lot of the credit for that has to go to the director, Catherine Hardwicke. Frankly, I didn't really notice anything special about her style since the movie was too mired in dreck to have me appreciate anything about it, but the buzz around her has me optimistic about her talents. RED RIDING HOOD is her follow up and the trailer is...interesting. The story seems solid. A werewolf is terrorizing a village - is a plot I can get behind. Even the overly stylistic look of the film doesn't necessarily turn me off. What bothers me about what I see in the trailer is the similarities to TWILIGHT. Why do all the male leads look like such douche-bags? Is it really necessary for them to have such hip, gelled-up hairdos? Don't tell me one of them is the werewolf, because that would suck. I'm just hoping Gary Oldman can tether this film to some sort of respectability.

BATTLE: LOS ANGELAS - Jonathan Liebesman - 3/11/11

The alien-invasion film is certainly making a comeback with a vengeance. Some people find this to be a tad irritating, I don't. This isn't a sub-genre that lends itself to quality filmmaking, typically, but I believe there's potential there for something special if everything is done right. Will BATTLE do everything right? I don't know, probably not. The director has never really proven himself to be a world-beater and the trailer actually gives away very little about the film. It is, however, a fantastic trailer. It's dark and ominous and very dramatic. The music used in it is called "The Sun's Gone Dim and the Sky's Turned Black" by Johann Johannsson and it's kind of a masterpiece. This opens the same day as RED RIDING HOOD and I must say I'm more likely to see this.

I've included the music video for "The Sun's Gone Dim" below (and actually, I think might start doing a "Music Video of the Week" post):

Speaking of alien invasion movies...I gotsta add this one too:

COWBOYS AND ALIENS - Jon Favreau - 7/29/11

This looks like it might be a lot of fun. I've been following this film's production for a while. It was announced after the first IRON MAN, but the starting date got pushed to after IRON MAN 2 and Robert Downey Jr. dropped out as the lead. It appears to be an ambitious follow up to the those films though, even without RDJ. Frankly, from everything I'd heard about the plot, I anticipated something a bit more campy than what I saw in the trailer, and I'm not at all disappointed by this. I like that the movie seems to be taking itself seriously. However, I'm most interested in this film because of its cast; Craig seems to fit his role nicely. Olivia Wilde is a fresh face. It was awesome to see Deadwood vet Keith Carradine in the preview. It's also good to see Harrison Ford acting in something that people might like again. Clancy Brown and one of my personal favorites, Sam Rockwell, also star.

Having Orci, Kurtzman, and Lindelof ("Fringe" "Lost" STAR TREK) for screenwriters is a pretty good sign for this film as well.