Thursday, April 30, 2015

'Legend' Trailer Offers Double the Tom Hardy Action

StudioCanal proves today that they aren't just tarnishing the legacy of horror classics, but they're also doing their part in clogging up the adult geared movie scene with gritty crime drama biopics. Though to be fair, I've heard of Legend being in development for a few years and just because a movie sounds familiar to several other recent releases doesn't mean it can't be distinct and great.

Based off this trailer, it seems safe to assume we won't be getting any unicorns or demonic Tim Currys. There is a story about the real life identical twins, the Kray brothers, who were gangsters ruling organized crime in 1950s and 1960s East End of London. If a movie demands charismatic toughs then they need the right actors, and it looks they've landed it with Tom Hardy and Tom Hardy. I especially approve of the Tom Hardy pick. Seriously, Hardy has to be one of the clear break out talents of the last few years who has gone from the muffled (and often mocked) Bane to Locke where the entire movies was made by his nuanced emotional turns and captivating charisma. He is now attaching himself to some of the most appealing upcoming movies that range from Mad Max: Fury Road to Alejandro González Iñárritu's latest, The Revenant.

Plus Hardy is being supported by great visual director in Brian Helgeland who has proven to be quite adept at making time period pictures feel authentic but also be full of vibrant set piece that pump life into the story. 42 was one of the best movies of 2013 and much of that came from the well-choreographed baseball scenes along with sets and sounds that felt like they were taped right from the 1940s.

You can get touches of that great visual style in this trailer. Some scenes have a crispness and sheen that feel like they came from a work of art that brings a different kind of nostalgia. It is a film with personality. A personality that also comes from a well-made trailer that juxtaposes the Hardy violence with the sweeter sounding tunes of Roy Orbison's "Running Scared." The shots and editing of the action sequences have patience but also a distinctness that makes these typical crime movie scenes stand out as something special. The car crashes and beatdowns are framed in a way that will mean something and have a long standing resonance rather than being forgotten for the next cool scene.

Plus this is also scripted by Helgeland who has given us fantastic scripts like Mystic River and L.A. Confidential and . . . um, The Postman.  If you want to be immersed into a time period and also take a complicated twist on crime then you can't get much better in the last 20 years than Helgeland (or at least, looking for someone who has the punch but is stylistically different than Martin Scorsese). Of course, this praise is coming from a teaser that mostly was just Hardy beating people up and cars crashing through walls, but it was done with whole lot of grace and cool.

It also looks to be set for a September release, which means it would be great viewing when you get tired of watching Black Mass after the fifth screening.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

'The Last Witch Hunter' Trailer has a 'Blade' and an Evil 'Underworld'

Vin Diesel is a huge global box office star. . . when he is in a Fast & Furious movie. Otherwise, he is the "I wonder when there will be another Fast & Furious movie" guy. I do fully endorse him going after other movies, because as I've made clear, I'm not the most Furious fan. The problem is that his non fast and furiously moving car movie starring roles have been less than inspirational. His latest looks like a derivative and even worse dated fantasy actioner in The Last Witch Hunter.

I can imagine how this movie got greenlit. Studios see all the money Peter Jackson has ranked in with the Lord of the Rings franchise and so fantasy remains a genre they're convinced can still be mined for gold. Yet Seventh Son was a flop so they're not so trustful in medieval or adventures set in distant lands. Then an exec came into the meeting after his vacation and talked about how he'd just read this really great urban fantasy novel.

"Urban fantasy?  Is that like swords and creatures mixed with high rises and guns?"

"Well, actually there are some more complex themes and . .  ."

"Got it! It has to be at night and have grey scenes with lots of snow and some lens flare."

"Ummm. . . "

"Don't worry; we won't forget swords, high rises, and guns!"

"But. . . "

"To ensure we have a hit, we will hire the guy who directed Sahara and The Crazies remake!"

So, this is mainstream urban fantasy. It looks a lot like Blade except this time it is witches. Witches that for all I know drink blood and die from stakes to the heart. It also just seems like every other stylized supernatural actioner that is largely indistinguishable with its biggest story element being "warring factions" And then a subplot of "a fury of greys and blacks and silvers smashing about to simulate white hot action." So, essentially Underworld or I, Frankenstein or probably a bunch of other movies that I forgot the moment they got released. Plus it has the bonus of a title card that looks ripped from something 10 years ago yet is missing the "In a world. . . " voice over.

This is why trailers are a good thing, kids. It lets us know what needs to be slashed from the "watch" list.

'Irrational Man' Trailer Feels as Woody Allen as Woody Allen Can Feel

Woody Allen is one of the all-time most prolific directors as he has created a movie almost every single year since he started in 1966 with What's Up, Tiger Lily? Even more impressive is that despite that output, he has been able to make some of the funniest, most irreverent and thought-provoking comedies ever, and has critically acclaimed all-time classics like Annie Hall, Hannah and Her Sisters and Crime and Misdemeanors. An output like that also makes it inevitable some stinkers make their way through, and there is even a long-standing theory that has arisen over the last decade that every other Allen movie is worthwhile. Since Blue Jasmine was one of the best of 2013, then it seems safe to get excited about Irrational Man in 2015 (I still haven't seen last year's Magic in the Moonlight).

Trailer serves up a pretty common Allen story. The protagonist has hit rock bottoms and is overwhelmed with a slew of neurosis and issues. Then of course there is an ill-conceived romance that probably is bad for both involved and will pluck out all their quirks and faults for uproarious banter. But Allen's best work hasn't ever really been about having an original plot. It is the witty dialogue and the awkward comedy and of course, the great performances.

It looks like Emma Stone has become Allen's recent muse to replace past recurring stars like Diane Keaton (1970 and 1980s) and Mia Farrow (they were an actual couple). I'd say she is a great choice who brings a strong screen presence and has a sharp wit. Being attached to an Allen project helps her chances to be seen enough to earn her another Oscar nomination. Unfortunately, there isn't anything stands out in the short clips we see of her here. It will be the performances that make this movie work with its typical plot of a philosophy professor suffering from an emotional breakdown who tries to get rejuvenated by a relationship with a younger woman.

Actually, that plot can be a little shaky ground for Allen. It is far from the first time he has had a plot about an older man in a relationship with a younger woman (last year had it too). It has happened quite often, actually. It will bring up memories of recent accusations and probably trigger many think pieces he'd rather ignore. But it is also just Allen being Allen and everyone else can be damned.

If you're going to have an emotionally wrecked, drunken professor than Joaquin Phoenix is your man. I'm sure he'll have great chemistry with Stone. Also Parker Posey seems to be joining in on some affair action as well and I love that she is back in a movie that people will actually see (Allen movies are the one guaranteed independent picture to find an audience every year). I must confess that I confused Parker for Sally Hawkins until I consulted IMDb. That may just be a sign of how long she has been out of the spotlight and also Hawkins was in Allen's last Oscar nominated movie, Blue Jasmine.

At this point I'm not really all that giddy for this like I have been with his past movies, because as I wrote, it feels tired and worn out. But the Allen name and the cast should still be enough to give it a shot.

The World Gets the New Coke Story We've Long Demanded

The 2015 Best Picture nominee list has made it abundantly clear what studios have decided the adult movie goers are demanding: lots and lots of biopics.  The last few months of movie announcements have given hope that studios may realize that the over 30 crowd wants to see more than that. Our dreams have come true as there are now a growing number of historical pictures about major companies and corporations.

Though to be fair it isn't like the Mark Wahlberg starring Deepwater Horizon is going to be a feature length promotion reel for BP (and there is also a strong chance the oil company may avoid any prominent mention in the movie about the 2010 oil disaster). I actually have whole lot of interest for the Michael Keaton starring The Founder, which is based on McDonald's founder Ray Kroc and how he went about getting the company from the McDonald brothers and turning it into a massive global franchise. It is being described as a dark character-driven drama similar to The Social Network and so I wouldn't expect any Happy Meal tie-ins. 

The recent trend of movies about big businesses hasn't really launched as most of these pictures are still at the pre-shoot stage, but it will be interesting to see if there is any backlash from the major business in how they're depicted. Or if the level of how wide the movies are released will potentially be determined by how much the companies are skewered. It could turn out to be a Saving Mr. Banks situation where everything was done to redeem and protect the saint Walt Disney to the point they even tried to downplay his smoking habit. Of course, The Social Network is an example of a great movie that didn't shy away from a negative depiction of Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg.

The great dream of all global powerhouse corporations getting their own feature may be becoming a reality as one of the biggest brands in the world, Coca-Cola is getting the movie treatment. Deadline has reported that the Deadpool movie scribes Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese will be writing the screenplay about the infamous New Coke launch in the mid-1980s. The screenwriters optioned Thomas Oliver's book The Real Coke, The Real Story for the right to chronicle one of the biggest and well-known marketing blunders.

New Coke was a response to Pepsi steadily gobbling up Coca-Cola's market shares and then fears of Pepsi being the more popular drink were seemingly confirmed by many blind taste tests (I remember getting to participate in a Pepsi Taste Challenge at a beach and quickly being ushered away after choosing Coke). So, the best way to beat Pepsi was to taste just like it by being a sweetening the formula. This keen strategy fails to remember all the loyal Coke drinkers who may not appreciate the sudden taste transformation ("if I wanted Pepsi then I'd have peed in my Coke!"). New Coke was a flop right out the gate and Coca-Cola was left scrambling, which lead to Coca-Cola Classic. Of course, Classic was just old Coke but with a snazzier can and name (because I don't age, I just go vintage). Then Coca-Cola saved the world and New Coke went the way of Colecovision and ALF.

It is a really fascinating story and one that a child of the 1980s will gleefully gobble up since it was such a big part of the cultural dialogue of the time. Fiction based in the 1980s is a growing trend at the moment with stuff like The Goldbergs, Halt and Catch Fire and The Americans (and of course, all the properties from the time are being remade, why hello Robocop and Fuller House).

The Coke movie can be a big dose of nostalgia love. Tons of potential for a whole slew of other 1980s artifacts to pop up and of course, all that glorious hair and shoulder pads. Hopefully, they know to not go overboard while also embracing the time period. I'm a big sucker when a period piece does the set pieces and costumes properly and makes it feel authentic. Of course, there is also the chance it could just be a whole bunch of pandering pop culture references that don't fit into the specific time period (sorry Goldbergs, but you can't have a Ghostbusters poster on a bedroom wall and have Poltergeist debut in the theatres).

There are a few interesting ways they could go with the story too. It could either be an example of complete corporate incompetence in response to panic that then details a recovery that actually secures Coca-Cola as the soda king of the world forever and ever. Or you could play into the conspiracy theorist belief that this was all a giant publicity stunt with the plan to always return to the original Coke formula. I don't think the second option is actual reality, but it could make a fun movie with a slimy but suave Aaron Eckhart convincing executives to trust him and let him work his magic. If they did go the conspiracy route, I can't shake Oliver Stone as the perfect person to make this a dark and stylistic take down of business practices that would blend drama and thriller.

I'm guessing Stone isn't the frontrunner to helm. Considering the scribes also brought us the screenplays for Zombieland and G.I. Joe: Retaliation, I'm not convinced we've got a drama or a movie gunning for Oscar nods. This may be a broad comedy with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn as the targeted leads. The 1980s setting may be overblown and it will be all about madcap hilarity (and references to how it will all be better when a search engine gets invented).

I'm not saying it isn't material ripe for a comedy. I do think it is great material that could work in several genres (sci-fi or horror may be harder). I hope the writers and eventual helmer trust the true story enough and not be afraid to have a bit of depth and complexity. After that, we can finally get the long awaited "Where's the Beef" movie.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

'Don't Look Now' Because Another Horror Classic is Being Remade

Close your eyes tightly because producers Andrew Rona and Alex Heineman from StudioCanal are daring to do a remake of the classic (and I dare say masterpiece) horror movie, Don't Look Now. I'm left completely baffled why someone would dare to create a movie that will automatically be compared to one of the most visually stunning and riveting horror pictures in cinematic history.

I'm not a huge fan of remakes but I also don't automatically jump to the conclusion that each one is a sin against cinema. The problem is that most remakes lately have been done on movies that are already firmly established in pop culture like Robocop and were already great the first time with no real reason for revisiting like Halloween. Cash is often the inspiration for the glut of remakes. I do think a remake can work if it is based on a movie with great potential that missed the mark the first time, an intriguing story that could use a different perspective (this is why Rise of the Planet of the Apes worked despite being a reboot of a classic), or is about a lesser known work that won't draw immediate comparison.

As much as I'm a huge fan of Don't Look Now, I realize it isn't firmly planted in the modern culture conscious like The Exorcist or Rosemary's Baby. The casual movie goer will just see the remake as the latest supernatural horror but the movie buff or real horror fan will immediately put it up against the 1973 Nicolas Roeg directed and Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie starring incomparable classic.

The visuals of the original picture are a work of art and something that is a monumental challenge to replicate. The movie is rich in metaphors, symbolism and imagery that tells a story and demands special attention. You're forced to question everything you see and constantly guess what the cathedral or painting is foreshadowing. It demands close attention to details and awards you for catching something in the background but never overtly tries to steer your attention. Throughout the movie there are crucial plot points happening behind the action that are being implemented in a subtle way such as the little figure in the red raincoat running about, which makes you wonder if the recently deceased daughter has been reincarnated.

The imagery alone shows this is exactly the kind of mainstream movie "they don't make anymore" especially for the horror genre. I'd guess the movie is being chosen for a remake because supernatural horror does well in the box office. It isn't supernatural horror by modern standards since it avoids any blatant jump scares or special effect laden haunting. The scares come from an unsettling atmosphere and chilling slow-build to create a shake-you-to-core experience. It is especially haunting because the terror comes from real fears like the marriage grasping at its crumbling foundation after losing a child. We follow a protagonist who is stalked by guilt and tormented by what is left of those he loves. The majority of the movie makes you question if it is just the character's own growing paranoia and insanity rather something truly otherworldly. You're left unhinged as each character has dark secrets and seems untrustworthy from the nuns to the wife to the husband. By what is now considered horror, many would label this a dark drama since it doesn't have gruesome kills or bodies flying across the screen but rather is a complex character study that leaves you dreading bed time.

Don't Look Now remains unforgettable by film buffs for many reasons but there are too scenes that are etched in film history. I can't imagine a remake missing them but also don't think they could ever be truly be duplicated.

The ending is one that has made many horror montages and something that still leaves me breathless. Though by today's expectations would almost be considered anti-climactic as there is no major confrontation or a scary chase down dark hallways or any major final showdown. Yet it was the perfect and most fitting ending that has been slowly built up the entire movie and I couldn't think of anything that could replace it. Yet that massive gut punch of the revelation of who is behind the red coat could never be pulled off now because it is expected thus will feel deflated. If you anticipate it then it is no better than when we cheer on Freddy Krueger for all his pointless kills, because the real thrill and fear is gone. I couldn't imagine what could be a possible worthy replacement without just feeling like hallow reenactment.

The second is the infamous sex scene that at the time of release there was hot debate if Sutherland and Christie had actual sex since it was so explicit and realistic. Looking at the PG-13 mania of today or even how R-Rated movies don't seem to have characters who make love, I can't even fathom an attempt to duplicate it. The scene was vital as the passionate and intense lovemaking feels like overcompensating for the doubt and bitterness that exists between them. The evidence of a rift grows when they are more distant and disconnected after the sex. The sex is both passionate and heartbreaking. I can't think of a director that could make a sex scene today with the levels of storytelling and nuance. I'm afraid if it was even attempted that it would lose all meaning and purpose since it would be sanitized and missing all elements of realism.

If this stays away from the mainstream and becomes an independent horror then there may be a chance for it to be a decent homage. The independent horror scene is creating incredible features with depth like It Follows and The Babadook that respect pacing and atmosphere and trust the viewer to figure things out. But all that hope gets a giant arrow impaled through it as I remember these are the producers eager to make one of the six Robin Hood movies cramming up developmental and believe they've struck gold with the original idea of making it like Pirates of the Caribbean. I guess, we can all look forward to a supernatural movie that is eerily similar to Frozen.

Maika Monroe Suddenly Spoils my 'Independence Day 2' Hate

Any listeners of The Movie Breakdown know that I've been won over by Maika Monroe. Her incredibly nuanced performance in It Follows was a major reason for turning the picture into a horror masterpiece as she expertly conveyed both a quiet strength and vulnerability that made her something that is lacking in many modern horror pictures -- a protagonist we desperately want to see alive at the end. She really elevated the material in The Guest in yet another fantastic lead role. She currently is the queen of indy thrillers, but finally, she might have a chance to demonstrate her fantastic talents to a larger audience.

She also has done something that I thought was impossible. She has made he slightly interested in the sequel that no one has ever demanded, Independence Day 2 (though based on current trends, I'm sure the 2 will disappear soon and called something witty like Independence Day: Red, White and Boom), as it has been reported she has signed on to be one of the stars of the movie.  I've be dreading its impending summer 2016 arrival ever since it has been announced this is a real thing rather than a threat to make young children behave properly. This announcement doesn't mean a second chapter makes any more sense or Roland Emmerich will suddenly make a good movie. I do expect many fans out of nostalgia and the need to see things explode will flock out to the cinemas and that does mean Monroe will be seen by many more people. I'm all for talented actors getting more exposure and bargaining power.

Monroe is great because she clearly doesn't look down at genre fare. She has Oscar caliber performances in both The Guest and It Follows, but likely most from the Academy are only vaguely aware such movies exist. The point is she throws her all into movies that higher prestige actors would slum for a pay cheque. The point being that while Bill Pullman and Judd Hirsch may make it very obvious why they returned, Monroe will make the script and story that much more riveting by becoming a character that feels real. Or at least, that is what her past has proven (though she has worked with good scripts).

My only hesitation about her signing is what is the real definition of "starring in"? In the article announcing her signing on, it is also announced she is the "love interest" of the Liam Hemsworth character. A description like "love interest" promises as much depth as "Cheerleader # 3" or "Hotdog Stand Guy." I have fears we may be reliving last year's Godzilla where the best that was found for the super talented Elizabeth Olsen was fretting and running while she awaited her husband to save her. She was a glorified object, and "love interest" makes me fear the same fate for Monroe. Because clearly the character description for Hemsworth won't be "love interest for Monroe". I question how much of an actual star she will be in this movie, but I really hope to be wrong.

Or maybe I want to be right. I really don't want to see this. It is best I'm not given any reason to be excited. Let's ignore that last paragraph and continue pretending this movie is all a bad dream.

The Word of the Day is 'Complicated'

I've been wanting and trying to write an article reflecting on the rather significant news events from last night that I'm sure almost everyone is now quite aware. The decades upon decades of history that was triggered by another decades upon decades of history along with the boiling over current tragedies of the last several years resulting from long time simmering hot emotions and frictions can make it rather hand to compose and articulate as a privileged white male. It is even harder to compose something thoughtful when in the background a three year old is making elephant noises and claiming a fort must be made to avert the invading hippos.

I may write something about all this in the future. I may not. It sort of depends how things play out and what comes out from the current dialogue. I am not really confident in thinking I'm the best person to really shed much light on this dark situation.

What I do know is there isn't one easy answer here. There isn't a clear villain and hero. In certain parts of the narrative there clearly are evils and instigators and innocents and champions. But on the grander scope of the entire situation, there isn't an easy answer. There isn't a right and wrong here. Parts can be isolated to find some actual truths, but it still adds to much more labyrinthine story. The whole thing is a giant mess that has been piled on for several years now. The issues stem from a growing justified hatred, bitterness and distrust coming from the aforementioned decades of racism and nasty politics.

For now, I think it is just better to say it is complicated.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Adam Sandler's 'Ridiculous Six' Incidents Reminds Us Comedy is Offensive But Also Should be Funny

Adam Sandler movies aren't really known for their sensitivity and progressiveness. To be fair, I almost always subscribe to the theory that almost any joke isn't offensive if it is actually funny. The problem is that funny isn't the right word to describe Sandler "comedies" from the last several years. Though the counter-argument was that they at least had a huge paying audience, but the Sandler fans willing to pay to see him in the cinemas have dwindled. This could be one of the reasons that motivated Sandler to ink the four movie Netflix deal (the service claims his movies are still hits) that provides very similar budgets to his cinematic movies.

It appears Sandler's first Netflix movie The Ridiculous Six is following more than just a similar budget of his past movies but also staying true to his movie tradition of poking fun at other cultures and people. But this time around he has gleefully dived far enough into the offensiveness pool that it has led to several Native American actors threaten to walk off the set.

I'm sure this is yet another incident that allows the usual suspects to once again moan the rise of "political correctness" and how humourless the "P.C. Crusaders" can be. You can go a long way back to many classic comedies that contain jokes that play on racial stereotypes or contain very risqué jokes. Mickey Rooney in yellowface is an offensive and awful joke that some are able to give a pass and can still praise the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's with a "it was a different time." The really great Walter Matthau thriller (with strong comedic elements), The Taking Pelham 123, has a really uncomfortable scene near the beginning with Matthau dealing with some bewildered Japanese businessmen, but I can accept it as an artifact from the past. This isn't necessarily to defend those movies, because offensive and racist is always going to be offensive and racist. The perceptions at the time were different. I'm left wondering why a 2015 production would think that tired stereotypes and offensive caricatures was the road to comedy gold.

Ridiculous Six isn't even the first western comedy that has risqué and politically incorrect humour. Blazing Saddles is long held up as a comedy classic and I believe also likely the reason we even have movies like this or A Million Ways to Die in the West. Saddles does have what can be described as tasteless humour and does play on some stereotypes, but it also has an African American lead and was created with the intention to skewer various elements of classic Westerns including the inherent racism that exists in many of them (like the depiction of Native Americans).

I'm well aware that racial jokes haven't suddenly evaporated from modern culture. Russell Peters and Chris Rock have established themselves as stand-up comedian superstars with a huge portion of their jokes playing on stereotypes and racial humour. I'm not claiming that white people can't make offensive joked either because Louis C.K. as made his name on controversial jokes and even has an entire routine over disgusting racist slang. The big thing about Blazing Saddles and these comedians are they are almost always funny. You might think to yourself, "I can't believe they went there" but you're laughing too hard to take umbrage.

The key thing in all of this is that if one is going to be controversial and insensitive and offensive, then you better make sure you're actually funny. Saddles, Louis, Peters and Rock have their detractors, but for the most part they avoid mass backlash because their jokes are brilliant and hilarious. Brilliant and hilarious aren't words often associated with modern Sandler.

Vanilla Ice is apparently cast in The Ridiculous Six, and has defended the movie by saying they aren't trying to make Dances with Wolves but rather a comedy. Yet I've read some of the material that has been considered offensive or is causing the actors to walk out, and I'm left questioning if it is really a comedy. Comedies are still supposed to be funny, right?

There is potential this could be the funniest Sandler movie of all time and that I've incorrectly judged the movie before seeing it. I'll happily gobble up crow if this turns out to be a classic (though remember I eagerly want to cheer for Sandler). I have a hard time thinking we're dealing with genius comedy when the name Beaver Breath is apparently such a crucial and golden joke that the producers refuse to remove it from the script despite it offending some of the cast. If that is the top shelf must not remove material then I'm really scared to see what is the filler stuff. It is a third-rate Grade 7 joke at best and something that should be easy to discard if it means keeping it will lose a huge part of the cast. I have fears the writers were high-fiving themselves over the brilliance of the gag.

The golden Native American jokes don't end, as there are such wonders liker another character called Sits-On Face, a gag with an Apache women squatting and peeing while smoking a peace pipe, a sure to be legendary comic line in ""Say honey: how about after this, we go someplace and I put my peepee in your teepee?", and feathers inappropriately placed on a teepee to look like genitals. If you're going to offend the Navajo nation and many other Native Americans then you'd at least hope you had jokes at least a bit witty and could garner a chuckle. The jokes in this movie are more offensive because this is what is being passed as comedy. The Ridiculous Six might even be a much better and funnier movie if they are forced to give into some demands, so this time around the outrage might also improve the movie (if the producers stop trying to argue it isn't mean to insult anyone in front of many insulted actors).

After the last few movies not called Grown-Ups 2 turned out to be financial disappointments, I had believed and hoped Sandler had been motivated to create more ambitious pictures. At least, he seemed to be working in more ensemble feature with both Pixels and The Ridiculous Six. Both movies are melding comedies with other genres as Pixels has obvious sci-fi elements and Six being a Western. The movies are trying to be something different than the past. Except not having a typical Sandler movie plot isn't the same as avoiding doing a typical Sandler movie. We'll find out about Pixels this summer, but at this point, Six seems the same juvenile and unfunny jokes that have diminished the Sandler name.

Hopefully, Sandler or a producer wakes up and realizes the reality of comedy. Yes, most comedy is playing around with offensive subjects. Comedy is abrasive and risqué. Most comedy is about playing around with dark thoughts and tackling material that is perceived as too-hot to handle. But it seems The Ridiculous Six is forgetting the most important part, it has to be funny.

The Movie Breakdown Episode 86: Is it Time to Get Excited About Johnny Depp Again?

As Furious 7 continues to scorch at the box office, Scott and I thought it would be safer to stray away from the cinemas. Instead, we review Oliver Stone's 2012 Savages, because an allegory for big business practices told through a Mexican cartel kidnapping some benevolent drug dealer's shared girlfriend always feels relevant (plus star Blake Lively is also in this weekend's new release The Age of Adaline). Also just as the above title promises we talk Johnny Depp, and more specifically, his transformative role in the trailer for the upcoming Black Mass crime drama. It is another hour and half plus of in-depth movie talk and if you love the show then as always please spread the word.

00:00 - 6:44 Intro (some UFC talk)
6:44 - 10:08 Judging actor performances based on personal life
10:09 -  Reemergence of the musical (Josh Gad deal, Coen's Hail, Caesar, Bob the Musical)
21:54 - 30:42 Black Mass trailer (argument over buckets and plus segues)
30:43 - 53:23 Savages review
53:24 - 1:02:52 The Visit trailer
1:02:53 -1:10:13 Challenge of making a truly dark thriller
1:10:14 - 1:15:18 E.L. James gets her husband to write next Fifty Shades screenplay
1:15:19 - 1:23:14 Star Wars Rogue One new plot synopsis (Scott apologizing to his dad)
1:23:15 - 1:25:44 The Little Prince trailer
1:25:45 - 1:32:10 Jurassic World & Fantastic Four trailers (Scott's rant against dark comic book movie trend, more Taylor Kitsch talk)
1:32:11 - Closing (more pee talk and Christopher's unprofessionalism).

Friday, April 24, 2015

'The Visit' Trailer Bring Back Intrigue in M. Night Shyamalan

I am aware the narrative that every film writer is taking with the first The Visit trailer is the chance for M. Night Shyamalan to resurrect his career. I'm not being original here but the director taking on a micro-budget horror traps me in thoughts of him returning to his roots. Roots that signify where his greatest strengths lie and his best chance to obtain acclaim again.

It is fitting that Johnny Depp's trailer for Black Mass dropped around the same time (and both movies will be released in September). These men where once the golden boys of Hollywood but veered into becoming caricatures. Hopefully, these movies are chances for redemption.

Shyamalan's fall could be blamed on his obsession with the twist but the bigger problem was straying away from his strengths and no longer making smaller and more intimate scary thrillers. His first few movies were great less for the plot or twist and more for his ability to create a disturbing atmosphere and slowly fraying at our nerves. The Visit has garnered interest because deep down many critics remember movies like Sixth Sense and Signs, and want the director to prove he still has some of that dark magic left.

The Visit throws us into an old horror setting standby with the isolated farmhouse. The horror gets ramped up with everyone's greatest fear, the grandparents. We all remember waking up in a cold sweat while being haunted by the memories of the whiskery kiss causing mild rug burn and the smell of decade old hard caramels.

The big criticism by many is the appearance this is "found footage." I write "appears" because it contains music, professional angles, and scenes that make no sense for someone to be shooting. But after years of railing against the "found footage" genre, I've realized it doesn't matter if the camera being on makes no sense or if footage couldn't possibly been compiled a certain way. It is better to just see it as a stylistic choice and give it the same leeway we afford all fiction we enjoy.

I see signs of a moody and atmospheric horror picture here that in the trailer provided a few spine tingles. There is something wrong about the grandparents and I don't think it is just old age. But the trailer also makes me a bit apprehensive that it may sometimes slip into unintentional comedy. We've got the goofy frantic scratching at the wall and the grandmother doing her best witch from Hansel & Gretel impersonation. These over the top scenes don't work when a movie seems to be trying so hard to be a deadly serious horror.

It has something that most modern horror trailers lack and that is being genuinely unsettling. It leaves many disturbing questions like if the kids' own mom is aware and why she is so unwilling to listen and is the grandfather involved or just clinging to his "sick" wife?. It looks to be a mainstream jump-scare fest, which is a bit of a downer after seeing the slyly paced and unsettling masterpiece in It Follows. There is a market for "this place is haunted and damn, that cat made me jump" kind of movies and the trailer shows promise that this one might be one of the better PG-13 scares of the year.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Black Mass Trailer Shows a Very Different Johnny Depp

Black Mass has been highly positioned on my most anticipated pictures of 2015 just based on the promise of Johnny Depp playing one of the most notorious criminals in American history, Whitey Bulger. Based entirely off the two minute trailer (as far as I know the movie won't be screening anywhere until the fall), many movie critics and pundits have already marked Johnny Depp as a lock for an Oscar nomination. The Academy does have a soft spot for actors who physically transform themselves (unless there name is Jake Gyllenhaal) and make major overhauls to their physical appearance. Depp isn't really a stranger to changing his looks and putting on costumes, but this time he isn't a swaggering pirate or whatever the hell he was supposed to be in Mortdecai. The very exciting thing is that Depp is finally taking on a very dramatic role and playing an unrepentant, ruthless criminal in what should be a hard-nosed, violent, provocative drama.

It has been too long since we've had a good crime drama, and this feels like at least in tone to follow the lead of the classic Goodfellas. The protagonist of this story is a violent and irredeemable psychopath that terrorized Boston and one of the more controversial figures in American history. From the brief clips, the picture seems completely willing to allow Bulger to be vile and not try to make him relatable or justify his violence. Making a dislikable protagonist that you must follow for over two hours is a hard thing to actually pull off in cinema. Martin Scorsese is one of the few masters who can create complicated and unforgivable protagonists but keep the viewer riveted. Black Mass is bound to be compared to much of his works, which I'm doing already and admit isn't fair.

Director Scott Cooper has two features to his credit in the critically acclaimed Crazy Heart and the rather disappointing Out of the Furnace. One thing Furnace has is a strong atmosphere and it isn't afraid to be very dark and showcase complicated characters. I trust Cooper to embrace the complexities of Bulger and not try to dial things back. The scenes demand to be uncomfortable and disturbing.

The trailer also has a great sense of style cutting to Bulger's violent acts in-between a very awkward dinner conversation. Even without the slick edits, the scene at the table looks like it has potential to be a classic and has loads of tension. Plus it also likely works as foreshadowing for things in the future. The scene also shows the inauthenticity of Bulger as he becomes an infamous informant for the FBI (largely believed to have done it to take down his rivals).

Depp does look great here and this may finally be the redemption he's needed over the last few years. He is a great actor that many have lost faith in due to his increasing acceptance of cornball roles. This is drastically different than anything he has really done. This looks like it can be a fast-paced and stylized adult drama. From the brief clips, there is a strong potential this could be a runner for one of the best of year. Yes, it is yet another biopic but a dark and kick your teeth in type of movie that has become increasingly rare in Hollywood. Consider my excitement appropriately ramped up.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Tap Dancing Over the News that the Coen Brothers are Going Musical (Even Though They Really Always Have)

I don't want this site to become a place where I just "report" movie news that is essentially nothing more than marketing material like casting announcements, trailers, or plot synopsis. I have read many movie critics and writers bemoan the current state of journalism that they feel has become nothing more than a hype machine for the upcoming big films. My goal with this blog and the eventual movie site is that it becomes a place to discuss and analyze the impact, importance, and relevance of classic (and not so classic) movies and also continues the conversation of current movies long after they've been released.

I also believer modern culture has made it important to talk about trailers and press releases and the hype surrounding movies because it has become embedded into the current conversation. Part of the excitement of movies is the anticipation, which is fine as long as we remember to talk and analyze the movie long after the trailers and hype have been forgotten. The art is the most important thing, and the art is the actual living-breathing movie.

Sometimes I just can't stop myself from getting giddy over a movie that is still almost a year away. This is exactly the case with the Coen brothers latest feature (scheduled to be released next February), Hail, Caesar! I bubble with excitement over anything that has the Coens attached as directors even if I don't know anything about the plot. Prior to this morning, all I knew about the latest feature was that it was based on a story set in the 1950s about real-life Hollywood fixer, Eddie Mannix. Essentially, a fixer was someone who was responsible for covering and toning down the many scandals running rampant with high profile stars (Mannix worked for MGM and from what I know, that seems to be the studio that largely employed them -- also probably the biggest movie studio at the time).

The Coen brothers' recurring collaborators and musical composers, Carter Burwell and Skip Lievsay were present at the "Dolby Institute: Sound of the Coens" Master Class that was part of the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival. It was there they revealed the plot synopsis of the movie and gave a bit more info on what to expect. The fixer storyline was confirmed with additional information it would be based on a single day and Mannix will be solving major problems while walking through many of the sets of movies being filmed at the time. There is no confirmation if these will be completely fictionalized pictures, fictionalized pictures based on actual movies, or actual movies being produced at the time. The peaks into several different movies seems to be a crucial part of the picture's structure and likely the provider of a healthy dose of nostalgia and atmosphere (things the Coens had proven to be great but also subtle masters in period pieces like True Grit, The Hudsucker Proxy, and Miller's Crossing).

The big whopping news, or at least something that I was completely unaware of prior to this, is that it will be a musical comedy. Though Burwell was quick to state the bigger narrative wasn't actually a comedy but rather a very serious movie about faith. The comedy and lightness will come from the scenes of the movies being filmed. Having large chunks of comedic scenes amongst a somber and dark tale is also a really common Coen trait. Coens actually have to be one of the best directors at making drastic tonal shifts while keeping the narrative true and cohesive. Their movies always feel like a complete story despite the massive shifts in genres and style.

The thing that makes this movie really stand out from Coen canon is the fact this is being labelled as a musical. Based off the comments, you have to assume the plan is to make this a true musical, which means people working through problems through song and dance. It is a brilliant move based off it being set in the 1950s and that genre being the ultimate blockbuster powerhouse at the time. It fits with how many younger cinephiles view the 1950s. As far as I know, people actually sang to each other and danced in the rain and broke into tap-dancing during board meetings. Even if the musical numbers are stuck to the "filmed movie" sequences, it still will help elicit the feelings and emotions of the time period and pull us into the movie.

Coen brothers are known for making almost genre-less pictures. Movies that can jump from thriller to biopic to drama to slapstick comedy. True Grit was different than most of their other movies because it really was a true Western. Though they have a trademark style and it is hard to not know you're seeing a Coen brothers' movie from the cinematography, dialogue and sets, they have mastered making very different movies with varied messages, themes and plots. The brothers like to challenge themselves, which is why a musical is so compelling as it seems to be the hardest genre for a director to really throw themselves into (when they often do distinctly different pictures). Along with True Grit (and possibly Blood Simple and Miller's Crossing) be their only other true easy to label genre picture.

The crazy part is even though up to this point I'd never peg the Coen brother for a "musical comedy", they may actually be perfect for it. Music and score is one of the most important parts of the Coen filmmaking process. It is often how they draw you in and bring the atmosphere to life. You feel the movie and believe the setting often due to their musical choices. The score to Fargo is something burned into my mind and instantly pulls me into the tone and feel of that movie. You can feel and taste and be plunged into movies like No Country for Old Men or Barton Fink or O Brother, Where Art Thou? thanks to carefully crafted score and songs. I can't think of a single Coen movie where the song isn't one of the most important players.

This is also a natural progression for the Coens because in many ways, Inside Llewyn Davis was already a musical. The music was a main character in that movie and defined the movie far better than an actual labelled musical like the dull 2014 Jersey Boys. I believed music was a defining part of Davis' life and that the song choices by each character helped add to their personality and traits. It had several full length songs and every single one made you feel something like sadness or anger or laughter. The songs were marvellously crafted and blew away many of the songs from recent movie musicals for emotion and personality. I still remember watching Davis up on the stage and feeling like I'd been pulled back in time to the New York folk scene and literally being in the night club listening to him. A musical movie done well must be seen on the big screen, and Inside Llewyn Davis is a cinema experience.

Though I have to believe it will be an actual musical based on the things said, the comedy won't be central. Most musical are comedies, because singing brings a certain lightness. It is hard to do a dark and gritty musical. Sure, Les Miserables exists and isn't a giant cheerfest. It is a challenge to make a darker and somber work in the world of song and dance. I'm intrigued to see how they balance catchy tunes with a story about covering up dangerous scandals and heartbreak. Coens are the best filmmakers for tackling such a task.

The other exciting part is that musicals are potentially on a comeback thanks to the popularity of Frozen and Into the Woods. Josh Gad just recently landed a lucrative deal with Universal to make a musical movie, so it is a genre studios have renewed faith (Universal also happens to be behind the Coen movie). This also gives me hope the movie will then be positioned favourably by Universal and give the picture a fair shot at wide release. It also has the talented star power with George Clooney, Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum and Scarlett Johansson to convince Universal they could have a hit if they promote it. Even if I'm forced to await its arrival on Netflix or have to make a road trip to see it on the big screen, this has secured the top of my most anticipated for 2016 (until it gets bumped to 2017).

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sony's Eternal Struggle for a Cinematic Universe Lands on Valiant Comics

Sony Pictures has been the snotty nosed kid on the school bus promising anyone who walks by that they could go to their birthday party if you'd just sit with them when it comes to the great big race of creating a "cinematic universe." They've tried or may still be trying to do that with Spider-Man as they've promised a Sinister Six and a Venom movie as well as some still to be mentioned female super hero picture based in the Spider-Man universe along with obviously more Spider-Man sequels. Of course the mass disappointment of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has stalled that party and now that they're loaning the hero to Marvel and shoving him back into high school, it seem like at least some slight white flag waving over Spider-Man being their launching pad for a humongous expansive universe that launches countless spin-offs.

Failing that they still have eyes on the big cinematic universe Robin Hood that also every other studio is yearning for, because apparently, we don't live in a world where we've had an endless stream of movies based on that character and had a flop directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe a few years back. Also it is best to ignore the fact that The Lone Ranger and John Carter proved that recognizable brands that reigned on radio and serials don't mean modern hits.

All this shows that Sony really wants to play the game that Marvel studios has mastered and will desperately gobble up anything that can lead to a big "Avenger-like" accumulation movie after a string of successful build-up movies. Sony will do it even if it means being in bed with a smaller comic book company like Valiant. This isn't to say that Valiant isn't a successful company, but they sure aren't Marvel or DC. Unless you're a major comic book fan, you likely can't name a single character created by the company. It seems like a gamble to have major box office dreams riding on a smaller comic book company just because Marvel (a brand even non-comic book fans knew about before it became a major movie studio) is now a juggernaut.

Sony hopes movies based on any comic book series are enough to launch a major franchise. They have hopes the big cinematic universe dream will come true as they launch their destined to be hits Bloodshot and Harbinger movies.

I have to confess that I don't know a whole lot about Valiant other than it followed what seemed like a big craze of the late 1980s and early 1990s of Marvel writers and artists leaving the company to create their own. I remember reading in Wizard magazine about what was supposed to be the massive rebirth of independent comics where the actual creators retain rights of their works. The company that got the most buzz was Image comics, which is best known for Spawn that also had its own TV series and movie. Though hopefully Valiant's goal isn't to make something similar to the Spawn picture.

It isn't like Valiant is setting the world on fire even if their comic books have their diehard fans. The comic book movie craze seems to be at its peak, despite what studios want to believe, and by 2017 Bloodshot might be screened to an apathetic market. I am definitely hesitant to believe there is a market for two Bloodshot and two Harbinger movies that build to a giant accumulation movie. Actually, the whole plan of doing this with two relatively unknown comics seems like a parody ripped from a Saturday Night Live sketch. Except it is sadly true, and probably would have been better severed to just see if there are fans for one Valiant movie. Of course, that isn't how the industry operates anymore, we need those 2025 dates locked up now for the fifth sequel to a series that hasn't even screened an original yet.

If Sony and Valiant believed in making a mid-budget movie with modest goals then it could be a surprise hit. Based off how crazy movie budgets have become and the fact I sense expectations are this is tentpole (even if most haven't even heard of these comics), this is going to need to be one of the highest grossing movies of its year to justify continued life. The bigger problem is these are unrecognizable characters in really recognizable stories. Super-powered beings on the run from an evil corporation sounds like something I've seen a millions times before (Harbinger). At least it seems more original than a soldier being brought back from the dead by a secret government agency (Bloodshot).

As always, I want to be made a fool and be proven wrong when slagging an unseen work. I really want to be forced into confessing my ignorance and singing the praise of the eventual movies. Even if this franchise doesn't seem to be something the masses are begging to see, it does have some incredibly appealing talent behind it so far.

Matthew Vaughn has become the master of comic book adaptations as he brought life back to the X-Men franchise with X-Men: First Class after Brett Ratner's X-Men: Last Stand squashed it. He has made some of the most vibrant and irreverent comic book movies in Kingsman: The Secret Service and Kick-Ass. He is only a producer for Bloodshot, but his name still brings lots of hope.

If directing is what is needed for optimism then it is here with David Leitch and Chad Stahelski. They rocked on the scene with last year's John Wick, which was a fast paced action picture with not only a great sense of humour but some of the best choreographed and directed action sequences in the past decade. I may not know a thing about Bloodshot or Harbinger, but Sony is smart by putting them in very creative hands.

Tomorrowland Trailer Lets the Imagination Soar (and not Just for Boys)

In the early 2000s, I'd probably have sworn off cinema forever if I was told that in the eternal search for the next franchise that Disney would start mining its theme park rides to the point we would have three different possible ride-based franchises. Of course, that would be before Pirates of the Caribbean proved to be a ridiculously fun movie (they only ever made one, right?) and the other two most recent attempts have superstar talented directors attached with Guillermo Del Toro slotted to redo The Haunted Mansion (ignore the Eddie Murphy version, everyone else has) and Brad Bird ready to unveil this May, Tomorrowland.

Brad Bird established himself as one of the hottest and most respected directors by creating instant classic animated features like The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille. Then he shook everything up by showing he can do great action too with the critically acclaimed, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. He was the name that many fans desperately wanted to be attached to Star Wars but passed on it so he could make this picture for Disney.

This is now the third trailer (okay, okay, fine one was a teaser) and while each one has showcased great set designs and spectacular special effects, the tone of the movie has effectively been quite different. The first was just pure mystery with Britt Robertson's coming across the button and being shocked when touching it transports her to a wheat field that has the view of some magnificent future city (almost like some kind of Tomorrowland). The second revealed important things like George Clooney and a grumpy House-like Hugh Laurie along with knowledge this magical land has had to stay a secret for some reason. The second seems filled with fantasy and hope and possibly dealing with big concept ideas and willing to splash in some real emotion for the summer tentpole season (a thing often absent).

Now, we have the trailer clearly designed to draw in the teenage boys with a long stream of action sequences. Not only action sequences but ones with robot soldiers and laser blasters and plenty of explosions. It was almost like it was begging you to not pass this movie off as something touchy and feeling but really it does want to kick ass.

But the action sequences are well done. It has opened up some interesting story tidbits. I'm curious to see who is behind sending out the robot officers designed to capture poor Robertson. Of course, what caused hermit Clooney to hide away and be so grouchy about a young woman coming to his door. Amongst the action, there are still things I want to find out. I can still see some grander attempts at dealing with social issues through fantastic fiction (actually something Bird did masterfully in The Iron Giant, which is a touching and deep tale that avoids didacticism).

There is definitely enough room for two family-oriented action space operas. I saw enough evidence in the past trailers to believe that this movie does have an ample amount of heart and wants to be more than high tech crashes and smashes. Bird has proven he can also choreograph and design engaging action sequences, and I'm glad a female talent like Robertson is allowed to play along (more importantly, be the central focus). He is also a director that cares about more and understands the best science fiction has always been about something. Even if you don't want to dig, this looks like a marvelous family friendly adventure.

As a kid I once made up a treasure map and then pretended to have found it in my math book. I convinced many of the kids in my class to follow the map during recess and try to find the ancient treasure hidden away in the playground. I was always drawn to the stories of the common and simple kid who gets plunged into an epic adventure like The Goonies or E.T. or Cloak & Dagger or Star Wars (though that kid has the advantage of already living in space so not the same). I still find something incredibly appealing about a story where the average person gets thrown into a magical world and goes on an epic quest, and I'm sure there are many kids that will have their imaginations run wild with modern movies that serve that up. I'm really excited that for a change it is now a girl that gets to go on this adventure and have a chance to be a hero.

Run for Your Lives, Because 'Fuller House' is Now for Real

Much like that hideous scar on your left leg from excessively scratching the chicken pox when you were a kid, Full House refuses to ever go away. The last two decades since the series finally stopped churning out new episodes. I've comes across many series box sets lying about people's homes or folks openly admitting they spend hours of their free time watching reruns. The actors may have gone to other things like rehab or voice work for better series, but the legacy of the show has never died. It will haunt and stalk us forever just like the creature from It Follows (which just so happens to be something that I'd like to watch a hundred time more than another episode of Full House).

Confession time, back in the late '80s, Full House was indeed must-see Friday night viewing for me. I remember even looking forward to the new episodes during the day at school. I even imagined being on a date with D.J. I'm clearly now divulging too much information. For me, Full House seems to be a series that perfectly encapsulates another time when TV was very different. A time when it was largely believed to be a thing that played in the background as you folded the laundry. There wasn't any character development or challenging stories or feeling that any episode actually mattered for progression. It was also beyond schmaltzy and sappy with a message that a little light piano music can solve any problem and a cute little girl spouting "You got it, dude" is the epitome of comedy.

Despite my less than ringing endorsement, Netflix has decided to go forward with Fuller House the series sequel to the original series. Now, we get to see D.J, Kimmy, and Stephanie play the single parents with all the crazy hijinks of managing precocious kids. Since the original series keeps popping up on the "Popular on Netflix" list, there is an audience for it and they are likely doing cartwheels over this bit of news.

I think Netflix is the right place for it. It is the place people binge all the shows from the past and so it clearly is the spot where nostalgia can reign supreme. This show's entire appeal is going to be on the nostalgia crowd and pulling up the memories from past episodes and seasons. It needs to be a built set (preferably the old one pulled from the dumpster) in front of a live audience with all the necessary catchphrases and there must be a silly conflict that can get wrapped up in 22 minutes after a heart to heart. It has to be light and mushy and cheery and take itself completely serious. It also must be something no one in my family wants to watch, but now with that declaration, I now know what will be Danika's favourite show ever.

Nostalgia seems to be the trend in series right now. We've got Craig T. Nelson returning to NBC so he can be Coach again, The X-Files will be doing a six episode events series on Fox, Heroes is doing a big event for NBC, Twin Peaks even without David Lynch seems to still be a thing, and The Muppets Show is very close to being a reality (I endorse that one though, so it might not happen). I'm pretty sure I'm missing fifty other revivals and by the end of the day we'll likely have an announcement of a brand new gritty Golden Girls reboot.

Gritty or mature or "reimagined" is the big hoopla for returning properties. In some of these cases, I think that modernizing the series is crucial for its success. But Fuller House must play entirely to the old memories and nostalgia of those who've destroyed their DVDs by replaying every episode for the last 10 years. This must reek of mothballs because it is so dated.

I'm still convinced a fan could save lots of money by just rewatching the same episode over and over again. They'd get all the major plot points and value of the entire series from any single episode. But Netflix doesn't seem to see the genius of just releasing the same episode every week.  

Fuller House will presumable be 13 "different" episodes. It must scream late 1980s and early 1990s sitcom with maple syrup overflowing out of the screen and with sweetness that will rot teeth. It must be formulaic and predictable. This is the series that panders to all those that have looked at the last decade that most see as the new Golden Age of TV and grumble that actually they just don't make them like they used to. Now they do, and it will be called Fuller House.

Monday, April 20, 2015

'Jurassic World' Trailer is Chewing Away my Excitment

Jurassic World is one of the most highly anticipated big special effect spectacles of the summer from a franchise that somehow continues to have incredible good will and bubble up mass excitement despite only the first movie actually being great. It is interesting how much love can remain for a franchise that hasn't really earned it; it is sort of like people willing to continue going to a theme park that has rides that turn you into the main course.

In my review of the original Jurassic World trailer, I compared it to the Jaws franchise as both have a classic original movie but never really had the material for a sequel because no matter how it is jazzed up, it will always be the same running/swimming away from a carnivorous predator.  

The one major plus is Chris Pratt is dripping with charisma. From what can be seen in both trailers, he plays a perfect balance of humour and intensity. He easily shifts from a "I realize this is all ridiculous" to having the chops of a real action star. A perfect casting for the silly, over-the-top Saturday matinee adventure hero that this script clearly demands.

On the downside, Joss Whedon seems to be rather correct that Bryce Dallas Howard has been left with being the picture's dull stick in the mud. Her job seems to be rolling her eyes at the charming and lovable Pratt and try to defend why she stupidly made a genetically enhanced dinosaur that is now killing all the other attractions. I had hope from the previous trailer where she was wielding a safety flare she would kick ass, but her greater purpose seems to be the humorless, egotistical, workaholic female who either needs to be saved or gets eaten for her mistakes. She doesn't even get to be the smart one as Pratt has to inform her about the fact that dinosaurs hunt and this is why everything is going to hell.

To be fair, despite the fact I'm in agreement with Whedon on this, you can't really judge the character off a trailer or clip. There may be whole lot of story missing here and Howard's character may turn out to be far more important. It doesn't look good here, but maybe the marketing team is scared a strong female will cause all the fanboys to cower in their mom's basement or spend time engaging in Twitter wars against female celebrities instead of going to the theatre to see the movie.

I was pretty overjoyed with the announcement that Colin Trevorrow was directing and Derek Connolly was writing as they were the same team that made the critically lauded comedic drama with sci-fi sprinklings in Safety Not Guaranteed. It gave hope for a character-focused tentpole that doesn't forget we need to care about those running from the giant hungry dinosaurs and the people in the end are more important than the CGIed monsters.  Failing that, it would at least have a sense of humour.

The sense of humour seems to be intact, but this trailer is absolutely ridiculous. Pratt leading a velociraptor army, a pterosaur making off with a park patron, large dinosaurs being eaten by giant dinosaurs, somehow every creature got out of it cage once again, guns blasting everywhere while body fly and I'm sure the dancing dinosaur with a top hat is being saved for the movie. It is all absurd and that can be a glorious thing actually, if the insanity has a focus and a story. But the trailer is just a collection of quickly churned out craziness. If the movie tries to keep that pace with non-stop dinosaur stomping with nothing but Pratt's snark to substitute for real characters we care about then this is just Transformers replaced by giant hungry lizards. It need pacing and atmosphere, but I'll say it again, people we want to cheer.

Pratt is oozing personality to spare and I still trust the instincts of Trevorrow and Connolly. Even if this trailer is just a flurry of images from someone's dream after a binging of rocky road ice cream sprinkled with Doritos then chased by whiskey, I have faith there is still a heart, real story, and characters to be found. No matter what I foolishly think, this is still going to be an insane hit.

'Fantastic Four' Trailer Serves Up Super Hero Deja Vu

It has been a crazy week for dropping trailers for the big heavy hitters lined up for 2015. Due to my already aforementioned fiery nosedive in writing here, I missed them all (but covered a few on this morning's podcast). I may still try to write some pieces on a few of those trailers (specifically one that contained an old furry pal and his scruffy scoundrel friend), but probably best to kick-off my "why yes, I'm writing on here again" with an analysis of the newest trailer for a big summer tentpole in the rebooted Fantastic Four.

Apparently, the last trailer that was released a month or so ago was only a 'teaser', though I'm struggling to decipher the different between those and trailers anymore. Except one is longer and more likely to spoil crucial plot points.

The biggest strengths of this movie reboot has been the great young cast that has actors who have earned their reputation in highly acclaimed works with Miles Teller (Spectacular Now, Whiplash), Kate Mara (127 Hours, House of Cards)  and Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station) along with having director Josh Trank who made his name on the supernatural teenage adventure Chronicle. Though the found-footage element was a bit of a detractor for me in Chronicle, it had a depth and focus on characters that has been absent in most every other superhero movie. He also proved to have a knack for bringing out great performances as this is where I discovered the great talents of Jordan and Dane DeHaan.

Prior to the first teaser dropping, several sites grabbed snippets of Trank interviews that had him saying his filmmaking style would be very evident in this version of Fantastic Four. This led many to believing we'd end up with a found-footage movie, because apparently, that is all anyone got out of the really good Chronicle. The first teaser quickly dismissed that and proved that wasn't what Trank was hinting at.

The first teaser was more subdued and quieter than every other super hero movie trailer I had seen. It seemed to be spotlighting the humans behind the super powers. It got me to believe this would be a far more character-driven story that much like Chronicle would delve into the internal struggle that occurs when one is suddenly being blessed or cursed with super powers. I had hoped for an allegorical coming of age story that elevated drama and character development over action. I was always aware this was still a big budget tentpole and so it still needed some dazzling special effect laden action sequences, but my deep hope was this movie would stand out from a very overstuffed mainstream film scene by almost trying to be a bit of different genre than all other super hero movies.

This trailer seems to be designed to punch me in the gut and scream, "Hell no, we want to be like every other super hero movie that has flooded the marketplace." Don't me wrong, that isn't the same thing as being bad. I've enjoyed every movie that Marvel Studios has churned out and I like many of the movies that have come out of the other studios (though the track record is far spottier). What I'm saying is that it is time for something different and attempts at change that aren't just cosmetic (to be fair, Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Captain America: Winter Soldier are real attempts at that but still action trumps all).

I also much concede this is the official main trailer and not the movie. The trailer is usually the creation of marketing folks with the number one goal of enticing the masses. This usually means making the new movie to look like all the other movies that made Mount Everest size amount of millions. A trailer isn't always what a movie truly ends up being (last year's Lucy is a great example) but you're still getting glimpses of scenes from the actual movie that will be screened (usually).

My first reason for reservation is that the majority of the trailer is the origin story. Though a slight twist, essentially one we've seen twice now in regards to the Fantastic Four. In 2015, I think most of us can agree we're pretty much sick with origin stories especially since they now exist in movies that aren't even with super powers anymore like The Lone Ranger and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. It is often a blatant first chapter with the sole purpose to launch several more movies rather than being its own compelling story. I really hope this iteration of the origin story gets wrapped up in the first 30 minutes and we can move on to an original story. Actually, we got all we need to know about their transformation in a 2 minute trailer so maybe we can skip it and call this our primer.

There seems to be a darker and more somber tone in this picture. There are hints that the powers aren't gifts or wanted. We get an intriguing emotional punch with Reg E. Cathey's Dr. Franklin Storm declaring he wants his children back. The statement opens up some interesting story possibilities as either it means there is a long stretch of them truly trapped in another parallel dimension where he wants them to literally return or referring to him not connecting with them in there transformed forms.  There are hints of the new group having to work through the major upheaval in their life. The stars have the talent to bring in that pathos and add lots of subtext to the story.

But "darker" also means it reminds me a whole lot of last week's Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer where Scott and I complained about how everything had to be shot at night and the visuals seemed to be overcompensating with an overly bleak visual sense. The Nolan-esque gritty and somber looking comic book movies are growing tiresome since that visual style isn't distinctive anymore. It is partly what made Guardians of the Galaxy or Kingsman: The Secret Service stand out since they were both visually bright and cheery (even if both still were violent and action intensive).

Speaking of not being distinctive, the Thing smashes stuff and gets to fly through the air, Johnny Storm bursts into flames, and Dr. Doom looks menacing. The special effects are updated and as stated it is all darker, but I didn't see anything all that different from the Fantastic Four movies that aren't that much liked. Based on the trailer, this looks pure special effects action that at this point doesn't seem all that dazzling or distinctive.

At this point, it would better to be almost a bubble gummy callback to the Christopher Reeve Superman pictures that has that "gee whiz" and tongue-in-cheek charm or to dare to use that gritty visual to make an actually hard-edge picture with intense dramatic story arcs. Otherwise, it is just another Man of Steel or X-Men or Iron Man but now called Fantastic Four.

I realize every other site had already spent countless words on Dr. Doom. Yeah, he looks cool even though we see very little. I hope we continue to see very little until it comes time to pay to watch this movie. One gnarly looking villain doesn't make the most anticipated movie of the summer. The very different and rebooted Fantastic Four we were promised seems to be very hidden in this latest trailer. I still cling to hope though that it will show itself, because I do love this cast and director.

Gareth Edwards May Make 'Star Wars: Rogue One' a Cool Prequel

My ambitions of writing on here (more than) daily have been shot down into a fiery rumble this past week, but I have dug down deep to avoid spending a thousand plus words on an excuse disguised as a "State of the Blog Address." Especially since recent Star Wars news has tractor beamed me back here on the site and instilled me with the Force to write several articles on here this week, including several trailers, reviews, and think-pieces that should have been posted here last week.

At the moment, I must talk about news that broke yesterday at the Star Wars Celebration convention in Anaheim, because it is still real hot and feisty.

Director Gareth Edward, best known for helming 2014 very well-done Godzilla and became an indy darling with Monsters, dropped some pretty big news regarding the first of the Star Wars spin-off/standalone movies, Star Wars: Rogue One.

We finally know to not call them spin-offs or standalone pictures but rather they're "anthology films." It is about time we've got yet another studio buzzword that already had a perfectly suitable name but clearly needed to be "branded" so that every other single studio can parrot it. So, now we live in a wondrous age that every corporate bean counter tries to rally the paying customers with words like "cinematic universe", "reimagining", and finally, "anthology films." I can hardly hold my excitement for "anthology films" of Ghostbusters, Transformers, and Paul Blart: Mall Cop.

Okay, maybe there was something a bit more exciting than new corporate movie talk. Edwards also revealed the plot of next year's Star Wars movie, and it has done something that is rather rare, actually get me excited for a prequel.

I usually stand by the belief that if the story contained in a prequel was really worth telling then it would have been included in the original story and it was left out for a reason. Most prequel movies have largely confirmed that belief with the Star Wars prequels often standing up as the ultimate example for most (my hate isn't as strong but still feel it diminished rather than enhanced the canon while also made one of the coolest villains ever into a whiny dork). The only movie prequel (novels are much better at this) off the top of my head that I can really endorse as an absolute "must-watch" experience (though I openly admit I must be missing another or unaware it is a prequel) is Rupert Wyatt's 2011 Rise of the Planet of the Apes. In in that case, it was less an actual prequel and more an entire reworking and restart of the franchise that only loosely followed rules established by prior movies (the main one being fixing the silliness of Tim Burton's 2001 Planet of the Apes reboot by putting it back on Earth and making humans the cause of the uprising).

Rogue One's synopsis tells us the movie will be about a band of rebels going on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star. And yes, it is that DEATH STAR, Edwards confirmed that the events will be taking place in-between Revenge of the Sith and the original Star Wars (that some persist on calling A New Hope). The stealing of the plans by the rebellion, which essentially kicks off the major events of the original trilogy, is probably the one unseen event that I've always wanted to witness. It was the rebels first known victory and likely one that took espionage and a daring heist that stars characters that remained unknown in movie canon. There clearly is a fast-paced story that contains a lot of possibility for complex characters and subplots.

The interesting thing is that Edwards claims the picture won't have clear-cut heroes and villains, which is drastically opposed to every previous Star Wars movie that really has never dealt with shades of grey (yes, Han Solo was a scoundrel but there was never any hiding he was one of the good guys), Edwards' comments also oppose the knowledge that the stolen plans were done by the rebels (clearly good guys) from the Empire (very definition of bad guys). How can you have blurred lines with those two groups clearly being what should be the focus of the movie.

The movie is being marketed as a rogue group going on a mission to steal the plans of the Death Star, which leads one to believe these are the event that happen right before the original Star Wars and is about the successful Rebel capturing of those plans. It isn't specifically stated that is the case, though. There is potential this could be a failed attempt at getting the plans. It also isn't necessarily the well-known rebel alliance that tries to get these plans but rather a rogue group with a potentially dastardly agenda for those plans (that is happening while the Civil War rages on). This would then darken the picture considerably with criminals going against the Empire. If it does turn out to be another rogue group that would also solve any need to have characters like a young Princess Leia present in the movie.

Even if this is supposed to be a very different, darker and more ambiguous Star Wars, I can't see the filmmakers ready to serve up a downer ending in a standalone picture where the Empire triumphs by protecting their plans. Plus everyone who is going to watch this particular movie is not only expecting but really wanting to see the Rebels steal the plans. Star Wars is always a crowd pleaser even if our favourite smuggler ends up frozen in carbonite or an appendage goes spiraling down a chasm.

My prediction is that this will be the movie about how the plans actually get stolen. It will also turn out that the Rebel Alliance may have to acquire some outside sources like some less than savory smugglers or bounty hunter to help them out. This may be where Lucasfilms wants to cast Ben Mendelson who is eternally destined to play slimy and untrustworthy folks and would make a fantastic ruthless gun-for-hire that helps out the Rebels for a price.

The picture is also being sold as a war story. I'm sure there will be some in-the-trenches action sequences that are used to provide atmosphere and create the stakes for the big heist. The opening scrolling words of the first movie also makes it clear the plans get stolen during the Rebels first victory that is achieve by a secret base going boom.  At one point I heard an Ocean's Eleven style movie but I'd assume it won't be as light or wacky or comedic, but rather much more action focused. It will likely jump between the first big battle victory to the spies and rogues uncovering the sought after prize.

The other exciting part of this movie is that Felicity Jones is currently being billed as the star. Based off that news and the trailers for The Force Awakens, we will have two straight Star Wars pictures with females in a major role that has them jumping into the action. There was also word bouncing about that we may have our first female fighter pilots in this movie. It is safe to assume Jones is going to have big part in the heist and may even be the leader of the group. All that is clear is she is part of Rebellion and has a strong chance to be the lead. A rather substantial make-up for Edwards' last picture that had the talented Elizabeth Olsen relegated to damsel in distress.

That pesky Star Wars once again has slashed down my pessimism. They've made me actually care about one of these spin-off movies (sorry, anthology), and actually, I'm almost as excited for this movie as I am for this December's big kick-off movie to the newest trilogy.

The Movie Breakdown Episode 85 Podcast: Follow Us in Seeing One of the Best Horror Pictures in Years

Scott and I have been big horror movies fans, but this podcast would often make you feel otherwise. We've had our recommendations like the classic Don't Look Now, but haven't been very kind to most modern horror pictures. This week we're absolutely ecstatic about David Robert Mitchell's foray into the world of horror, It Follows. Following an in-depth discussion of that picture, we also share our thoughts on the latest trailers for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (we're killing them on number of episodes produced) and Terminator Genisys (we're beating them on properly spelt titles). Then from there, our regular listeners get another rare treat in a very passionate and enraged Scott as we discuss the recent craziness surrounding Wonder Women directors.

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

The Movie Breakdown Outline:

00:00 - 00:33 Introduction
00:34 - 11:44 The highly anticipated Devil's Backbone, Texas review ("it was all a ruse" movies)
11:45 - 49:06 It Follows review
49:07 - 53:17 Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens trailer review
53:18 - 57:55 Terminator: Genisys trailer review
57:56 - 1:04:27 The Rover review
1:04:28 - 1:07:17 Monkey Kingdom review
1:07:18 - 1:15:09 Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer review
1:15:10 - 1:18:44 We eat crow as we now gush about potential Flash Gordon movie
1:18:45 - 1:28:58 The chaos and ranting about the Wonder Woman director craziness
1:28:59 - Closing (review rundown)

Movie Ratings:

It Follows **** (CS) **** (SM)
The Rover *** (CS) *** (SM)
Monkey Kingdom *** (CS)