Monday, June 29, 2015

The Movie Breakdown Episode 96: Can't Get Enough of 'Inside Out' and Return to the 'Titanic'

Last week, I offered my review of Inside Out and now Scott has seen the modern classic and so, we enter into further discussion. We also look at the potential impact the feature will have on cinema. As well, we review a massive hit from the past in Titanic. From there we have several more movie reviews including the original Ted, War of the Worlds (2005) and Housebound.

As always, if you love the show then please spread the word.



The Movie Breakdown Outline:

00:00 - 10:33 Intro (Discussing the Confederate Flag and its symbol of racism)
10:34 - 22:03 Inside Out review part 2 (how success proves female driven movies can be hits)
22:04 - 28:39 Ted (2012) review
28:40 - 46:48 Titanic (1997) review (and remembering the legacy of James Horner)
46:49 - 58:52 War of the Worlds (2005) review
58:53 - 1:06:01 Housebound (2014) review
1:06:02 - 1:12:44 Standard Operating Procedure (2008) review
1:12:45 - 1:16:30 Box Office Game Update
1:16:31 - 1:21:46 Dumbing down of Terminator: Genysis ads
1:21:47 - 1:23:51 Ben Affleck producing FIFA scandal movie
1:23:52 - 1:27:46 Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension trailer
1:27:47 -  Review rundown & closing

Movie Ratings:
Inside Out **** (CS & SM)
Ted **½ (CS & SM)
Titanic **** (CS) & ***½ (SM)
War of the Worlds *** (CS & SM)
Housebound ***½ (CS & SM)
Standard Operating Procedure ** (SM)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

'Sleeping with Other People' Trailer Promises a 'When Harry Met Sally' With Jerks

I never saw the Leslye Headland directed Bachlorette, but it occasionally goads me on Netflix but I've been able to dismiss it as a Bridesmaids knock-off. Though it has an appealing cast with talented and funny people like Rebel Wilson, Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher and Lizzy Caplan, which makes me think maybe one day I should allow it to lure me in. I also was delightfully surprised by the humour and smarts in the 2013 remade About Last Night that was written by Headland. Her second directorial effort is Sleeping with Other People, which feels like a far more cynical and edgier When Harry Met Sally. So, maybe Headland's thing is taking popular movies from the past and throwing in a modernized spin (because you know, Bridesmaid is so ancient and needing to be refurbished).



Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie get me excited about any project they're in because their energy is so contagious and warm (so, essentially I am saying they give people fevers, so don't share straws with them). In the trailer, they have a sizzling chemistry and both are naturally likable, which is pretty crucial here since their characters are assholes. It is a rather steep uphill wanting me to wish happiness for two players and cheaters, but to be fair, the history of romantic comedies tend to start us off with pretty disposable and retching characters, and at least this time around the picture seems aware that they need to be redeemed.

It look to be a hard-edged raunchy comedy type with ample amounts of sweetness that pulls it off in clips like Brie stoned out of her mind while teaching kids how to dance. The supporting cast is pretty great with Adam Scott always endearing in whatever he does. There is nothing here that makes me think this won't be predictable, but it also look like it could be surprisingly fun and engaging. So, essentially this year's About Last Night, so that pesky Headland is convincing me more and more to try out Bachlorette.
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It Isn't Just Hollywood Obsessed with Remakes

As much fun as it is to whine about the state of Hollywood and like to believe foreign studios are pure places that create fresh and original movies, facts seem to get in the way of that pleasant daydream. Hollywood Reporter has revealed that German film production company Bavarian Studios is dipping into their film library and looking to remake the cinematic classic and the picture that turned Wolfgang Petersen into a hotly sought after director in Hollywood, Das Boot. 

The picture is not only considered one of the best to ever come out of Germany but has made it high on many respected critics' lists for best of all-time. The late 1970s and 1980s was filled with memorable and insightful war pictures that carried a rather strong "anti-war" message and even though there isn't any in the trenches action sequences and the majority of the story takes place in the claustrophobic setting of the submarine, Das Boot deserves to be remembered alongside other movies of the time like Platoon, Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, and The Deer Hunter.

I'd consider all those pictures in the subgenre of "anti-war" pictures that use the action and violence to convey the banality and cycle of deep seeded destructions that comes from most wars. Das Boot's narrative is very different without much gunfire or heavy-hitting battle sequences that push most of the above movies, but the emotions and atmosphere and tension all comes from the ideas and dangers of war. For simplicity sake let's call it a war picture and as far as war movies go, it is the E.T. or Gone with the Wind or Casablanca or The Good, the Bad and The Ugly or Goodfellas or Jaws of its genre (I tried to avoid the easy Citizen Kane comparison). And if anyone announced a remake of those above pictures then blasphemy would be screamed and pitchforks would be brought out.

It might not be Hollywood or American, but it is one of the most important works in cinema. It is pretty brazen to even contemplate remaking a movie held up in such high esteem by film critics and fans. Yet I guess that is what happens now, but I have a feeling this might be an It's a Wonderful Life situation where suddenly someone realizes what they're actually trying to do.

The reality is that the masses don't hold dear to Das Boot like they do E.T. (or even The Last Starfighter or The Goonies for some), which means the outcry may be minimal, especially since the production will likely be away from the American system. In all honesty, anything can be remade and all I ever hope is that someone has a reason and a creative purpose for returning to the material. If they have a different take on the story or are being driven by inspiration and passion then it may all work out great. I sense the motivation may be a little green though.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

They Must Have Finished that 'Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension' Script

It looks like Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension isn't just a threat used against naughty critics to make them go to bed on time. There is now a trailer to prove this is going to be an actual movie and to really strike fear, it is going to be in 3D. This movie has been talked about ever since Paranormal Activity 4 was released back in 2012 and has been haunted by several delays and pushing back of the release date. One obstacle would have been the focus on the "spin-off" The Marked Ones, though I'm still not sure why we don't call that one the fifth other than it wasn't about stupid, rich white people.  Then there was that pesky script that they still had to write with three months left before the then schedule released date. I have a sneaky feeling for the last two years all they've had is a title and a knowledge they weren't ready to end the franchise but lacking a story to justify a next chapter.



The trailer looks like a pretty typical Paranormal Activity movie with little children being spooky, people examining videos instead of running, and a whole slew of those popular jump scares. At least in the case of this franchise, the scares mean a legitimate threat rather than a neighbour patting the protagonist on the back or a cat jumping out from the shadows. I also thought the opening sequence where the girls on the old videos could see guys in the present was creepy and a little chilling.

It was also announced earlier this week that this is going to be the final instalment of the series (it hasn't been specified if that counts the spin-off too -- but I sense that will be their way around that promise if this one shovels mountains of money). Jason Blum and company are promising answers will be given, we'll finally see Toby, and even get to jump into that fabled ghost dimension. This also seems to be the most special effect heavy of the franchise with more than just moving blanket and closing doors but rather actual CGIed ghoulies swirling about. I'm not really sure if it is the upgrade that the filmmakers believe though.

This series just hasn't been my thing except for the surprisingly good Marked Ones. That also means it is on a streak for quality (one), and even if I can't muster much excitement, I know there has been a crowd dying for this series to return. It look like it wants to end with a bang and maybe a "boo" too.

The Rise of Amazon and Netflix in the Movie Business is Great While It Lasts


Amazon is continuing its push into the movie industry by purchasing the rights to distribute the Kevin Spacey and Michael Shannon starring Elvis & Nixon.  Both Amazon and Netflix have turned into the equivalent of mid-sized film studios by making aggressive purchases of potential award challengers and financing movies that the big studios no longer back outside of Oscar time.  If you ignore Netflix's four picture deal with Adam Sandler, the streaming services' upcoming slate of original movies will fall under mid-budget adult-focused fare that has largely been missing from the multiplexes now that every major studio is obsessed with their own version of The Avengers.

There is many reasons to get excited about the emergence of Amazon and Netflix as players in the movie industry, but the biggest is just the promise of some actual variety at the mainstream level. Likely most of their pictures aren't entering the multiplexes, but the streaming services are legitimate powerhouse in the entertainment business and their pictures will likely get more mainstream attention than if they were being distributed by a smaller group like A24 or Magnolia (great companies with solid movies but rarely do they have something that catches the masses attention).

It reminds me of the 1970s and 1980s when there were several smaller film studios like Cannon or Orion that specialized in mid to low budget pictures that still had the backing and finances for wide release. They weren't in the league of the big six and they didn't knock out the big summer event spectacles (though Orion birthed the original RoboCop) but they made popular movies that were able to reach all the cinemas with healthy TV advertising and trailers before the big budget tentpoles. They were smaller studios whose pictures that weren't doomed to the arthouses and videos like today.

Netflix and Amazon follows these studios' philosophy as they want to make commercial and popular features but give the filmmaker a large degree of creative control and assure the vision be fulfilled by not following the cookie cutter formula expected from most big budget movies. It is an exciting prospect to see some of the more creative filmmakers like Terry Gilliam, Cary Fukunaga, Jim Jarmusch and the Duplass brothers given a chance to make the movies their passionate about and have a budget to carry it out. Gilliam's deal with Amazon will finally make the long anticipated and never believed would happen passion project, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, finally become a thing we can watch rather than just hear it be moaned about over how big studios are unwilling to finance it.

Those smaller studios that made wide release mid-budget pictures are no longer around for a reason. The movie culture changed and it was too hard to compete with the big guns and their pictures eventually just didn't earn enough to keep the companies alive. This is where I wonder if Netflix and Amazon trying to become legitimate film studios will become a short term bit of euphoria. The plans are great and great movies will come out of this but do they have a business model to actually sustain film production?

I'm still baffled how this new movie strategy is actually going to make them money. I know Amazon has plans to release their pictures in the cinemas and then after four to eight weeks put it up on their Amazon Prime streaming service. While Netflix is avoiding movie theatres by putting it straight up on their service. Both strategies may not end up being that different as the major movie theatres have proven to throw hissy fits when a distributor doesn't follow the traditional model of putting a movie in the theatre and then waiting three months before going on video. It may be a challenge for Amazon to get any kind of wide release, but with Netflix set on coinciding release dates, it will definitely kill any chance of their movies being screened in any theatre chain of significant size.

The reason this is a problem is that movies make back a budget on theatrical release and in a much smaller degree VOD. The theatrical release isn't going to be substantial unless major theatre chains suddenly feel the pressure to relent on their stringent release windows (which will only happen if they fear losing money by missing out on a big hit). Yet Netflix and Amazon are dropping millions and millions of dollars to buy movies and also have some rather expensive production deals in place. In the case of the Sandler deal it has been reported to be close to what he had with the big studios,which is around $60 million.

I'm baffled in how this is a profitable strategy for the streaming services. Do they think that the promise of a potential Oscar nominated Best Picture or brand new Sandler fart jokes or a new indy darling will trigger a massive jump in subscribers? I'm not sure with Prime but I know with Netflix that there aren't any visible sponsors or advertisers. As I mentioned, there will likely be minimal money recouped at the movie theatres. I'm not master of economy or business, but it seems to me that the only way these movies are going to make money and justify their higher price tag is increased subscriptions. Or maybe this is why Sandler has a deal in place, as he can mentor all filmmakers on how to cram a movie with product placements.

The foray into the movie business seems to be creatively driven. Netflix and Amazon want to give talented directors and writers a chance to make fresh and innovative movies. A chance to give opportunity for creative folks that aren't getting a chance at the big studio level, I love that and it will likely make great movies. I just don't know how long this party can last in the current movie environment.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

An Example of Why "Mission Impossible" is Much More Fun Than "Fast and the Furious"


When it comes to big stunt, globe-trotting, special effects action spectacles with a liberal dosage of tongue-in-cheek humour, Mission Impossible scratches that itch far more effectively than Fast and Furious. I'll admit the car smashing through the window of one high-rise into another high rise was a pretty great visual in Furious 7, but it can't really compare to Ethan Hunt desperately clinging to a flying plane (which from everything I heard was a legitimate stunt without any CGI assistance). The fact it is a human on his own doing the dives and leaps and rolls rather than someone in a decked out sports car is what makes it a great thrill and gives the action sequences higher stakes. It is all fantasy and ridiculous, but Tom Cruise throws himself into this role and in recent years has been able to be both kick-ass and make an ass out himself with equal skill. If you want any example of his pure dedication then watch him run, because nobody takes it more serious than Cruise. Not too much running in this trailer, but a pretty fantastic array of action sequences and stunts, and looks to be a pretty fun popcorn muncher for the end of July.



The plot in these type of movies are completely secondary. We know it is all just an excuse for some exotic locales, ear popping jams, and sequences that defy physics and reality. Though IMF having to battle its evil doppelganger sounds fun and Ethan seems to be on the run, which is always best for this series. I also am intrigued to see if Alec Baldwin turns out to be the devious mastermind behind the Rogue Nation that each trailer has hinted. But again, all that is just secondary and the real show is what massive stunts are they holding back from the trailers that will drop all the jaws on opening night?

RIP James Horner: His Innovative Scores Turned Good Pictures into Epics


The two time Oscar winning film composer James Horner died yesterday in a plane crash near Santa Barbara. For many of us it is easy to remember the actors and directors that make great movies, but often ignore some of the other immense talents that are responsible for ascending a good movie into a classic. Music is undoubtedly one of the most crucial parts in making a picture emotionally connect with an audience and is often the injection that turns a scene into an adrenaline rush Most directors are well aware that music is essential in turning a story into something grand and momentous, which is why you'll often see filmmakers turn to the same composer for their scores.

Director James Cameron turned to Horner on three occasions, Titanic (where Horner picked up two Oscars), Avatar, and Aliens. Horner's music played a major part in transforming Cameron's genre movies into high-class prestige pictures. Titanic is a 1970s style exploitative disaster flick that has a slick gloss that pretties it up to be awards-worthy and the music plays a huge part in making it artful and prestigious. 

The three pictures were grand special effects spectacles, but it was the music that dug memorable scenes into our guts and lifted us up to soar along with the action. It brought forth the artistry and amplified the magic. Aliens has one of the most pulse-pounding and nerve-crushing scores for an action picture that both rockets you forth with energy but then chills your spine in the darker and quieter moments. It is a masterpiece of scoring that helped turn the movie into an instant sci-fi classic.

Horner knew how to make emotion pulling compositions that heralded the pictures as something epic and can't miss. Pictures like Field of Dreams, Apollo 13, Braveheart, A Beautiful Mind and Glory are big event movies that stirred our feelings and emotions. Each of those movies have scenes that plunge right to our souls and linger inside us for years, and they're buried deep because of the perfectly accompanied scores that were innovative and unshakable. When I reflect upon my favourite moments in movies like Field of Dreams, I always hear the music playing in the background due to it being intertwined with the events as if it was a character. The movies that got Oscar nominations like A Beautiful Mind and Bravheart became awards-worthy thanks in a large part to Horner.

He played a big part in adding thrills and excitement in action fare that allowed us to race right along with the heroes. Movies like Patriot Games, The Rocketeer, Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan, Troy, and The Amazing Spider-Man flew above their genres due to their engrossing scores. Scores that trumpeted the big moments and most importantly, sucked us right into the adventure. 

We have three more picture that will contain Horner scores this year in Southpaw, Wolf Totem, and The 33. All movies that are about the human condition and will be emotional roller coasters, which needed the Horner touch to pull them off. He was one of the truly great composers and he will be deeply missed.

RIP James Horner 1953 - 2015

Monday, June 22, 2015

Miles Morales as the New Spider-Man for Marvel Comics Exposes the Diversity Problems with Marvel Studios


Marvel Comics is continuing to outshine Marvel Studios when it comes to diversity in it characters. New York Daily News is reporting that when the Spider-Man comic book series gets relaunched in the fall that the person under the mask will be half African American and half Puerto Rican Miles Morales. Morales was Spider-Man in the Ultimate series, which was set in an alternate world where Peter Parker had died. The Ultimate universe is now being amalgamated into the "real" Marvel Universe this summer in the "Secret Wars" storyline. This now means an upgrade for Morales who will be the actual Spider-Man while an older Peter Parker will play an Obi-Wan role.

Brian Bendis, the writer of the series and along with artist Sara Pichelli created Morales, understands the huge significance of turning one of the biggest and iconic Marvel characters into a minority. He tells a story about how many Black kids wouldn't be allowed by their friends to play Batman or Superman because they didn't look like those characters but they could be Spider-Man since anybody could be under that mask. Now, the modern Spider-Man is someone many kids can actively identify.

Identification is a crucial element in entertainment when trying to connect with a diverse audience. For too long Black and Asian characters have been subjugated to roles of the comedic sidekick. There is rarely a character that many young children could see themselves in. Something a white male like me never ever had a problem, as almost every hero was easy for me to imagine could represent me but with muscles and athletic skills.

We seem to have stumbled upon a period when certain entertainment groups have suddenly recognized the value of creating a diverse array of characters that can resonate with a rather large portion of the audience that isn't white males. Fox landed a massive hit with the largely Black starring Empire, a series about a hip hop record company, and ABC's new hits came from shows like Black-ish and How to Get Away with Murder (the second has the double whammy of a Black female lead).

Marvel Comics in the last year has probably showcased the greatest amount of progression towards diversity. Along with Morales as Spider-Man, there is now a female Thor, a black Captain America, and female Muslim as Ms. Marvel.  Lo and behold, none of these additions have led to rock-bottom book sales. If anything, Morales was so popular that the demand for him to get the main role was likely a big step towards Marvel making this change.

It is these shifts that make things at Marvel Studios look so archaic. The movie industry as a whole is clearly behind as is apparent with their big tentpoles that almost always have while male leads with females left with damsel-in-distress roles and minorities playing the trusty friend for a scene or two (in the case of Jurassic World then disturbingly forgotten after he served his purpose). The fear is likely that a minority or female can't be a major box office draw for a big budget spectacle. Though Maleficent and Lucy would inconveniently contradict that belief and television is proving audiences are starving for diversity. Despite what some huffy and puffy types grasping to the "nothing needs to change" lie may spout, there are Blacks or Asians or Indians or First Nations or woman that want to see themselves represented and be able to have their own fictional hero that they can cheer.

Marvel Studios is doing some token playing in the diversity game. A Black Panther picture starring the fantastic Chadwick Boseman is on the way and we'll be getting the Carol Danvers' version of Captain Marvel (a comic book series that has proven to be really successful and have an incredibly loyal audience, which means the picture will be one of those "huge surprise hits"). But these movies just feel like a tossing of the bone that sadly makes them secondary in the same way that Ant-Man isn't the real Marvel event of 2015.

The tone deafness from the movie studios is proven by the blocking out of fans cries for the next cinematic Spider-Man to be Miles Morales. Both Sony and Marvel studios have confirmed that yet again it will be Peter Parker. All the names tossed around to play Parker have been white males. I have a sneaky feeling that both studios have it set in their minds that if they're going to get a hit out of the Spider-Man franchise then the lead must be white.

It is a huge misstep not only because it would allow Marvel Studios to make a really giant push towards diversity and please a large group of movie goers that get shortchanged in representation during the big summer movie season, but it is also a lost opportunity at a real fresh start for a franchise that has become a little rusty and corroded.

In 18 years, we're now coming upon three reboots for the Spider-Man movie franchise. This is absolutely ridiculous. There was already a lot of backlash the second time around that they essentially served up the same characters and stories. Now, we're supposed to get excited by yet another reset button pushed Parker, just because Marvel Studios is sharing the controller. It is hard to escape the deja vu or the urge to reach for the Gravol, when we're stuck on a spinning wheel. We've been here and it was fun, but what it really needs is a major redesign.

Putting Miles Morales on the big screen and casting a fresh face to play him would be a gigantic symbol that Sony and Marvel Studios really are going to try something new. It would open up some fresh stories and allow us to avoid getting the exact same origin story disguised as the first movie. There has been an argument that Black actors don't draw well overseas, but I think most of the time it is a self-fulfilling prophecy as they are not given movies and stories that are big draws overseas. The constant reboots have become a bad joke, and abandoning Andrew Garfield's Spider-Man was a real chance to create something intriguing and different. It's time for Peter Parker to stop losing his Uncle Ben and avoid any nasty radioactive bites for a change.

We're left with a Marvel Comics that is flowing with diversity but a Marvel Studios failing to measure up. The big over-arching Marvel Universe story that is connected in every movie is set to wrap up when the next two Avengers are released in a few years. When the whole universe hits that reboot, will Marvel Studios then have a female Thor or an African American Captain America? Will people even care by that time? Will superhero movies still even be draws at the box office?

Marvel Studios won't be the powerhouse forever. A new action sub-genre will emerge in the summer eventually and despite movie studios' current obsession, the super hero craze will fade. Hopefully, before that time comes Marvel Studios recognizes that times have changed. They need to embrace diversity and try to appease all the different types of movie goers, the same way they are actively doing in comics. The time for a different Spider-Man on the big screen is now. Since casting of that character still hasn't been announced, the clock hasn't struck on that change of direction. I don't see that happening, but hopefully, movie studios start paying attention to what is actually happening in comic books and television.

The Movie Breakdown Episode 95: Pixar Weaves Cinematic Greatness Once Again with 'Inside Out' and Celebrating 'Jaws' 40th Anniversary



The movie I'v been eagerly awaiting for over a year and the much-needed downpour to quench the year long Pixar drought, Inside Out, is reviewed this week. It is also a little over 40 years since the very anticipated and hyped original big summer movie, Jaws, chomped its way into cinemas, so we review that picture and discuss its historical significance,

As always, if you love the show then please spread the word.



The Movie Breakdown Outline:

00:00 - 00:40 Intro
00:41 -23:27 Jaws review
23:28 - 27:33 Rob Zombie providing music for Planes trailer and recycled songs for marketing
27:34 - 39:35 Inside Out review
39:36 - 57:32 State of minorities depicted in cinema and the undercurrent of racism in soceity
57:33 - 1:05:14 The Wood review
1:05:15 - 1:13:06 Prince Avalanche review
1:13:07 - 1:14:42 Scott's Communication Breakdown
1:14:43 - 1:17:10 Box Office Game Update
1:17:11 - 1:23:16 Trailer reviews
1:23:17 - 1:30:00 FIFA Propaganda movie and history of corporate commercials disguised as features
1:30:01 - Review rundown & closing

Ratings:

Jaws **** (CS & SM)
Inside Out **** (CS)
The Wood *** (CS & SM)
Prince Avalanche ***½ * (CS) & *** (SM)

Friday, June 19, 2015

Turbo Kid Trailer is Just Missing the Cheesy 1980s Voice-Over

Self-aware tongue-firmly-in-cheek 1980s horror throwbacks is an emerging trend in the indy movie scene. But B-films in the 1980s weren't just horror, and there were an army of terrifically cheesy and campy sci-fi adventures clogging up the cinemas. Based off the Turbo Kid trailer, this movie is intent on fully embracing the zany and cartoony vibe of the long lost sci-fi camp adventures of another era. The only thing missing from the trailer is the "In a world. . . " voice-over intro.



This is sort of like a candy-coated, Saturday morning cartoon influenced, Canon films looking space version of Mad Max except the bad-ass cars have been replaced by bikes. It also is taking itself far less seriously and proudly shows off its sub-par special effects and has an aesthetic that reminds me of the cover art of an Atari game box. It is definitely aiming to kick-off right away as a cult classic that is gobbled up by the late night viewing crowd.

'The Secret Life of Pets' Trailer is Light and Fluffy Like Mr. Whiskers

With Disney's Zootopia dropping its first trailer last week and now trailers for both The Secret Life of Pets and Kung Fu Panda 3 being released, it looks like animals are now all the rage for animated features again. This may be the greatest news ever for Everett who has a deep love for animated animals and if he had the pull, would nominate all three for Best Picture just based off their existence. While I'm just left wishing these came out a few years earlier so that he could have chosen well-animated and interesting movies for our "Daddy and Son Movie Nights" instead of all the Jungle Book, Finding Nemo, Madagascar and The Lion King knock-offs from Netflix.



Okay fine, he did also pick Happy Feet, the original Kung Fu Panda, and Shrek so it hasn't all been nightmares, but I'll never be able to erase Turtle Tale 2, Delhi Safari, and Khumba from my memories.

There is no point focusing on animated mockbusters when we have this delightful and charming teaser trailer for The Secret Life of Pets. I know Summit essentially sneaks up to our bedroom and sleeps on our bed when we're gone, so I wasn't in a huge need to solve the mystery of a pet's life when the humans are away. This was cute with the cat trying to fight the urge to eat a whole turkey, a dog's big plans being waiting by the door, and another dog using a mixer to get a massage.

This doesn't show any signs of an actual story here, but the teaser is to just make us smile and now get warm fuzzies every time we hear the title. Plus it has one of the funniest and most engaging voice casts with the likes of Louis C.K., Ellie Kemper, Jenny Slate, Kevin Hart, Lake Bell, Albert Brooks, and Hannibal Buress. The world will literally explode by defying all divine laws if the movie isn't hilarious.

Plus Illumination Entertainment can boast one of the best non-Pixar and Disney franchises in Despicable Me and has figured out how to make smart and sly funny features that appeal to both adults and kids that doesn't just rely on being a steady stream of pop culture references. Plus it has cute animals, so it guarantees at least one night of my son transfixed to the screen.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Matthew Vaughn Hopes Prequels are the Elixir for Regaining Fan Love


In a shocking M. Night Shyamalan-like twist, a filmmaker wants to make a prequel to fix a franchise and earn back fan's goodwill rather than to destroy it. Yahoo Movies reports that Matthew Vaughn wants to make a prequel to Kick-Ass that shows the origin story of the Hit-Girl. The movie will act as a bit of an apology for the sequel that turned out to be a big disappointment to critics and fans. The original Kick-Ass picture was a surprise hit that was a witty and genre-bending self-aware superhero action-comedy.

One of the best parts of the original picture was the over-the-top and quirky performance by Nicolas Cage who did a great interpretation of a 1950s sitcom father blended with 1970s action movie vigilant with a heaping mixture of 1960s Adam West's Batman. Although I don't think there is any need to delve into yet another origin story, especially since Hit-Girl is pretty well-established at this point and I always stand by the idea that if the prequel story was any good it would have been included in the original, But I'll happily take any excuse for Cage to reprise this role that is perfectly suited for the actor's grandiose embrace of camp. Chloe Grace Moretz was terrific and had a believable and wondrous chemistry with Cage, and a movie that focuses entirely on them is pretty appealing. You have to set the clock back in order to include Cage for obvious reasons for those who saw the picture (yes, yes, yes I know it's a spoiler).

I'd rather it be about one of their adventures and an original story rather than an attempt to "explain" who is Hit-Girl, I seem to remember that was already covered in the original picture, and plus you don' get the satisfying pay-off for her revenge narrative as that gets covered in the first Kick-Ass as well. But Hit-Girl and Big Daddy taking down different baddies and checking out guns over hot cocoa sounds like a fun time at the cinema.

But what I like about this news the most is a filmmaker actually admitting he disappointed his fanbase and harmed a franchise. There isn't any attempt to defend himself or claim that fans didn't get it. He accepted his defeat and is ready to make amends. He also realizes he has derailed plans for Kick-Ass 3 and doesn't have a clamouring audience without some evidence that things are back on track.

Of course, that isn't to say this prequel is a guaranteed hit either. But Vaughn seems to be well-aware of what made the first one so fun and is ready to give us more of that and give us one more delightful foray with Big Daddy. I just hope that doesn't spark attempts at Chappie and The Gunman prequels.

Though I suddenly realized something, prequels as the "make good" has already become a thing this year. The first Insidious was well-received but the sequels was a disappointment critically (though it still did well in the box office). Then this year Leigh Whannell got things back on track with a really good Insidious Chapter 3 that took place before the events in the original and gave us time with a beloved character they had killed off. Maybe I shouldn't be so hard on prequels after all.

Let's Just Assume Every Movie Ever Has a Sequel Planned


There was once upon time in a kingdom far, far, far away that studios would at least wait until a movie was released and proven it could make bucket loads of money before having eyes on a sequel. Then they'd rush through making a picture that was nothing much more than an act of Deja vu. You can at least say in modern times that sequels have a much better chance of being good, because studios lay out plans for subsequent pictures right away and filmmakers have created worlds big enough to contain numerous "fresh" tellings.

Yes, Virginia, sequels has always been a thing that studios yearned to have, but usually they waited for a reason. Okay fine, money is the reason always, so it doesn't change now. Once the bets of a successful sequel were backed by a successful original. Yet the studio executives at Lionsgate are super duper hopeful that The Last Witch Hunter is going to conjure up cauldrons full of cash and be a huge hit this October. Vin Diesel, the man who is predicting Furious 7 will win Best Picture, has posted on his Facebook page that a sequel to his next feature is already being planned.

Not only does this remind me of Beautiful Creatures and The Mortal Instrument: City of Bones, movies that already had sequels eager to come and play before there was a proven audience (hint: there wasn't), but it also makes me think that a marketing person at Lionsgate is either really bad at making trailers or wanted to pull a giant practical joke on the public. Because the first trailer screamed a lot of things but it sure as hell wasn't the promise of the next big franchise.

In a year with Hitman: Agent 47, The Transporter Refueled, and Point Break coming out, the trailer hinted at one of the most derivative and blatantly recycled pictures that has haunted my dreams in a long time. I liked Blade quite a bit, was less excited about Underworld, and I, Frankenstein killed any interest in the "hunting mythical creatures in modern times" subgenre. Yet here is another one and I am supposed to be excited because we haven't seen witches sliced and diced in a skyscraper crammed setting. From the little clips, it seems dated by about a decade and really super serious about really corny and campy material.

I just assumed Lionsgate believed January was already full and so they wanted to quietly slip this movie in October amongst the other horror fare and then quickly forget about it. This screamed "movie that is using up valuable counter space, so burn it off now and maybe we won't suffer too many losses."

But nope, this is going to be the latest and greatest franchise, and everyone should buy their tickets now. We've got this October's Star Wars on our hands, and it might be even grander and more anticipated then this December's real Star Wars. I can't wait for all the awesome Witch Hunter actions figures that are destined to be the hottest Christmas item of the decade -- only to be beaten by the sequel's action figures that I assume are already being made.

Seriously, people did watch that trailer, right?

The Sickness of Racism and Hatred Strikes Again but Today We Need Love and Compassion


A cyanide laced bowling ball has been plunged right into the gut with the latest tragic evidence that racism is a festering plague in our society. Nine innocent Black were murdered in a shooting perpetuated by a vile and despicable White male in a shooting at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The church was host to many significant events including playing a major role in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. There has been much progress taken place since that time, but sadly, there has been many things over the last few years that has proven a rift still exists, equality hasn't been fully achieved, and a toxic hate is tarnishing further movement. Last night's atrocity made me think about the violence and attacks that took place in Alan Parker's 1988 Mississippi Burning (a Best Picture nominee), which were based on real event back in 1964, except it is now 2015.

The suspect Dylann Storm Roof is now in custody and all signs point to him acting alone. I'm sure he is missing several cards in the deck and will never be mistaken for a scholar, but this wasn't an act of insanity, but rather cold-calculated brutality. This piece of garbage sat beside the church's pastor, state Senator Clementa Pinckney, for an hour during a Bible study, and then after it was finished committed the senseless violence that killed the pastor. I can't imagine the evil it takes to be surrounded by a congregation worshipping and praising and embracing warmth then unleash the most hateful and cold-blooded act possible. This was likely entirely created from one deranged and malicious mind, but it was fuelled by true racial tension that has been flaming through the area. This happens only a few months after protests in the same area erupted after a cop killed an unarmed black man and then planted a Taser beside the body. An issues that was volcanic due to decades of racial tension that have at times simmered and other times boiled over.

It also comes after countless protests and riots from wrongful deaths of black males in America. Unrest coming from people feeling they can't trust or feel safe from their authority figures. It has been a raging debate from two opposite sides and both have committed their misdeeds. Through the protests and uprisings that have at times gone way too far, the message has been an entire race feeling that progress hasn't come far enough and the persecution hasn't subsided. Now, we have an act of violence that feels transported from some sadistic time machine from a period that we all wanted to have escaped and forget. The marches and screams have always tried to make clear that these things aren't buried in the past.

The shooting was committed by a single man, but this is the cruel and fatal result that comes from some of the hate-tinged rhetoric from the far right that has turned Blacks into "The Other" and tried to demonize their backlash against prejudice. No one will endorse last night's actions and even the racist trolls that poison comment threads will remain quiet today. There has been a dialogue that spurs and encourages these shitheads into believing they must become dark saviours and take back what they believe is rightfully their own. It is an attack against multiculturalism and change and understanding and most definitely love.

Love is what we need today. A prayer that somehow some understanding and compassion can come out of this. That we can sort out the real causes here. Most importantly, try to uplift and support each other and recognize we still need to fight for change. A change where we stand by the truth we are all brothers and sisters.

This is why art needs to continue to uncover the hatred. It needs to reveal the longstanding pain and suffering. It is why pictures like Selma and 12 Years a Slave are still crucial and relevant to today. It is also why a movie like Straight Outta Compton coming out in August is going to be very powerful and important. Hopefully, through the slickness and violence and uncomfortable moments, we can see that important message. Remember the necessity for love.