Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Being a Teenager in 1980s New York Can Be Super Heroic According to the 'Ten Thousand Saints' Trailer

Asa Butterfield must now live in a world where he won't shoot webs from his wrist or fire off witticism while awash in snazzy blue and red. Butterfield was at one time rumoured to be the heavy favourite to play the next Spider-Man, but Tom Holland, the real next Spider-Man, proves why you don't put betting money on potential casting choices. Even though Butterfield won't be in one of the next big blockbuster pictures, he also gets to avoid being accused of killing a beloved franchise (so, win?). Also the new word is that the next Spider-Man will be a John Hughes-ish high school coming of age tale that just happens the bullies are super-villains. This means that Butterfield hasn't really missed out that badly since his next picture, Ten Thousand Saints, is a coming of age tale set in the streets of New York -- so, basically the new Spider-Man except with far less webs and swinging.

This isn't just a coming-of-age story in New York, but it is 1980s New York with its punk music, AIDS fear, and crazy hair. I like that there is a definite flavour of the decade throughout the trailer, but it isn't the blatant pop-culture dropping and nostalgia over-load that can hamper the authenticity in many period pieces. There is a more timeless feel that teenage angst and fears carry from every generation, such as pregnancy fears or doubt in parents. While New York seems to be a defining part of the feature, it is at its core looking to be a character driven story that focuses on a boy navigating through the city with his immature father and potential love interest.

It helps that the father is the great Ethan Hawke who is delivering his usual energy and charisma and feels to be channelling a bit of his father from Boyhood. Hailee Steinfeld is a great potential girlfriend and its looks like the movie is interested in making her character deep and nuanced rather than just the object of the lead's affection. Steinfeld is a fantastic actor that has been wonderful in everything she has done and hopefully this is another stand-out role. There is some pretty great supporting roles with Emily Mortimer and Emile Hirsch (who may be playing the hard-edge corner of a love triangle).

I'm a sucker for all the things that are promised in this trailer, and the only downside is that it is probably the type of movie that just gets played in New York and I'll have to wait 5 years for it to come to Netflix.

'No Escape' Trailer Shows You What Not to Do with Your Kids on a Saturday Afternoon

I'm not really sold on Owen Wilson as an action star, even if No Escape isn't his first foray into the genre (Behind Enemy Lines, Armageddon), but that is why Pierce Brosnan is around to mentor him on how to hold a gun and kick ass like a middle-aged wrecking ball. I'm a little torn over the Lake Bell casting as I love that she is in a bigger budget wide-release picture that will earn her more eyeballs but she looks to be stuck in the "wife who needs to either be rescued or patiently wait with her kids as her husband saves the day" role. Though considering Bell's disdain for such roles, I have hope the trailer is just misleading.

The trailer is largely showing the same clips and scenes offered in the previous trailer. Including what is one of the more stomach pounding scenes for a father to witness in Wilson tossing his daughter from the top of one building to another where his wife must catch her (and he must have a hell of a throw). My sense isn't there won't be anything as nail biting and arm-rest squeezing as that moment, which makes me wonder why it wouldn't be saved for the paying customers. Director John Erick Dowdle frames it well and makes it a nerve zapping moment, which at least gives him one thing I can credit him for as his past portfolio doesn't light my world fire with stuff like Quarantine (I haven't seen either Devil or As Above, So Below but neither rocked it critically).

The original trailer focused more on the uprising and Wilson's family being stuck in the middle of the violent rioting and escalating confrontations. The promise was for violence and chaos and maybe a little political messaging. This time around the trailer is going the more personal route. With a scenes of Wilson reflecting on the chaos and shots of his family to show the stakes of his situation. Hopefully, Dowdle realizes that a genre picture like this would be out of its depth to try to explore the uprisings that have sprung throughout the world in the last several years but rather make it more about the family's own personal struggle and need to survive.

In that way it will be a disaster picture but rather earthquakes and tsunamis, it is gunfire and rebels. But at least this time, the hero will get to punch something. If disaster flick is what this will be best labelled, I'll have to say I happily got my fill with San Andreas already.

'Snowden' Trailer Shows Very Little Yet Still Manages to Unsettle and Excite

This morning on the "Best of the Mid-Year" podcast I listed Snowden as one of my most anticipated movies for the second half of the year, despite not seeing any trailers or photos. The interest was largely due to it being the latest Oliver Stone picture, and even though his output has been inconsistent quality-wise the last two decades, he is still one of the most audacious and irreverent directors around. Plus the story of Edward Snowden leaking classified NSA documents to the press so the public can know about the government's privacy breaches is not only one of the major news stories of the last ten years but is also the kind of challenging and conflicting material that is perfectly suited for the very left-winged and political Oliver Stone. The director of JFK will assuredly intertwine some fiction and exaggeration to put forth his message and story, but the scope will likely be immense and the brains will be kicked into gear while viewing it.

To be honest, even after this teaser I can say my anticipation comes from knowing very little. The only real revelation for me was that I was unaware that Nicolas Cage was in this picture, which actually makes me all the more excited (though I assume he won't be punching women dressed in animal outfits or screaming about bees). The cast is pretty impressive and hopefully, Stone call pull out the kind of performances that put stars like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, and Melissa Leo in Oscar talks. It will be a busy fall for Gordon-Levitt, though but The Walk will turn out to be the more mainstream friendly picture (thus maybe the one more likely to give him an Oscar shot).

The teaser does feel like an on-his-game Stone even if all we see is the American flag with an ominous version of a Sunday school song playing in the background. It is a rather eerie rendition of "This Little Light of Mine." The long shot of the American flag makes one feel uneasy and uncomfortable. Stone is a proud American but one who isn't afraid to shake his country up and challenge it. Though Snowden will likely be a complicated and nuanced character, I'd be shocked if Stone doesn't side with him and make him the hero in this narrative.

This is the kind of material Stone seems passionate about. If he can avoid getting preachy, overt with the message or even didactic, this should be a complex and thought-provoking thriller that is incredibly relevant and controversial.

The Movie Breakdown Episode 97: The Best of the Mid-Year

We're already six months into 2015, and I've now seen 31 movies from this year. Obviously, not that many compared to most movie critics, but still more than enough to get an idea of how 2015 is turning out. Scott and I look at the year so far and celebrate it by us both giving our "Top Ten of the Mid-Year" lists. Then from there, we look at the movies we're most looking forward to seeing that are being released in the second half of 2015.

As always if you have a great time with the show then please spread the love.

The Movie Breakdown Outline:

00:00 - 9:49 Introduction and overview of 2015 so far
9:50 - 1:06:50 Top Ten Movies Lists (10-2)
1:06:51 - 1:09:23 Honourable mentions and stand-out performances
1:09:24 - 1:14:16 Worst movie of the mid-year
1:14:16 - 1:20:19 Best movie of the mid-year picks
1:20:20 - 1:29:04 Most anticipated movies for the second half of 2015
1:29:05 - Top Ten List rundown and closing

Christopher's Top Ten Movies of the Mid-Year:

10. Tomorrowland
9. Paddington
8. Insidious: Chapter 3
7. The DUFF
6. Cinderella
5. Focus
4. Spy
3. It Follows
2. Mad Max: Fury Road
1. Inside Out

Scott's Top Ten Movies of the Mid-Year:

10. Jurassic World
9. Insidious: Chapter 3
8. San Andreas
7. Avengers: Age of Ultron
6. These Final Hours
5. Spy
4. Kingsman: The Secret Service
3. It Follows
2. Inside Out
1. Mad Max: Fury Road

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.

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


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.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

'The Peanuts' Trailers Shows How to do a Nostalgic Remake

It is a tricky situation taking a beloved children's work from the past and trying to transform it into a relevant and popular piece of modern entertainment. You want to warm the souls of those nostalgic for what they remembered and cherish, but you also need to make it contemporary and entertaining for the children and youth that aren't being fuelled by fond memories.

Like any form of pop culture, it is an artifact of its time and it resonated with it audience because it spoke into the zeitgeist of its period. To bring it to a contemporary audience and targeting a demographic that didn't exist during a piece's height while also trying to please those who did grow up with it takes some experts maneuverings to justify why it has been resurrected.

It need to elicit the warm glow of nostalgia while also feeling fresh and entertaining to an audience that sees it as something entirely new. Or you can just go all Jem and Holograms and make something that vaguely resembles the original work.

Luckily, The Peanuts Movie looks to have been made by people that actually read the Charles M. Schulz comic strip and watched the TV specials.

The feature has updated computer animation while maintaining much of the aesthetic and look of the original characters making it have a classic feel but still delivering what children would expect today. More importantly, the trailer plays out exactly how you expect a Peanuts story to go with poor Charlie Brown fumbling through life, Snoopy up to imaginative hijinks, Lucy making Charlie's life rough, and stuffing it full of all the classic characters.

It is also a story that is classic Peanuts without feeling like it has been recycled. Charlie vows to be a winner in his quest to win the heart of the pretty red headed new girl. There is a sweetness throughout the trailer and looks to have a focus on the Brown and Snoopy friendship. It will also provide us with classic moments like Brown finding a way to fail at pitching even when matched up against an inanimate object. The "Dream Big" tagline promises pure Schulz storytelling where it can be self-deprecating and the humour comes from Brown getting beatdown but at its core it is an uplifting and feel-good story.

Of all the reboots, remakes, and reimaginings of the last decade this one feels to have been the most effective in capturing the essence and spirit of its source material. If you loved the Peanuts, this seems to be promising everything you could desire.

The Movie Breakdown Episode 94: 'Jurassic World' is One Giant Roller Coaster Ride

Scott and I review one of the biggest and most anticipated pictures of the summer in Jurassic World. It is a popular franchise that largely has its positive reputation from the original movie, but does it finally have a worthy sequel? As well, we offer reviews for the 1976 and 2013 Carrie, as well as the mind-bending time travel picture, Primer, and Colin Trevorrow's (director of Jurassic World) first feature, Safety Not Guaranteed.

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

Podcast Outline:

0:00 - 10:32 Intro (Jurassic World stomping the box office, looking at studios success in box office)
10:33 - 33:53 Jurassic World review
33:54 - 43:23 Safety Not Guaranteed review
43:24 - 57:58 Carrie movies - 1976 & 2013
57:59 - 1:06:46 Primer review
1:06:47 - 1:15:51 Atari: Game Over review
1:15:52 - 1:17:37 Box Office Game Breakdown
1:17:38 - 1:25:38 Remembering Christopher Lee
1:25:39 - Review Rundown & Closing

Movie Ratings:
Jurassic World *** (CS) & *** (SM)
Safety Not Guaranteed ***½ (CS) & ***½ (SM)
Carrie (1976) ***½ (CS) & ***½ (SM)
Carrie (2013) ***½ (CS) & *** (SM)
Primer ***½ (CS) & **** (SM)
Atari: Game Over **½ (CS) & *** (SM)

Monday, June 08, 2015

The Movie Breakdown Episode 93: Melissa McCarthy is an Expert 'Spy' and 'Insidious: Chapter 3' Shocks

Scott and I tackle two big new releases in Spy and Insidious: Chapter 3, and both pictures turn out to offer up a great deal of surprises. This is a pretty must-watch show for long-time listeners who remember our rants against past Blumhouse pictures. As well we discuss a slew of trailers, an early 1980s high school comedy classic, a 2014 Blumhouse thriller, and an unnecessary remake. As always, if you love the show then please spread the word.

The Movie Breakdown Outline:

00:00 - 8:40 Intro (picking who would play Sepp Blatter)
8:41 - 19:30 Left Behind review
19:31 - 36:13 Spy review
36:14 -48:33 Insidious Chapter 3 review
48:34 - 57:47 Stretch review
57:48 - 1:07:17 Fast Times at Ridgemont High review
1:07:18 - 1:23:30 Red Dawn (2012) review
1:23:31 - 1:35:03 Box Office Game Rundown
1:35:04 - 1:35:49 The Good Dinosaur trailer
1:35:50 - 1:37:10 Bridge of Spies trailer
1:37:11 - 1:38:59 Mistress America trailer
1:39:00 - 1:43:13 Everest trailer
1:43:14 - 1:51:00 Suffragette trailer
1:51:01 - 1:53:41 Z for Zachariah trailer
1:53:32 - 1:55:39 The Walk trailer
1:55:40 - 1:58:38 The Perfect Guy trailer
1:58:39 - 2:00:33 Review rundown
2:00:34  Closing


Left Behind ½* (SM)
Spy ***½ (CS & SM)
Insidious Chapter 3 *** (CS & SM)
Stretch *½ (CS) & *** (SM)
Fast Times at Ridgemont High **** (CS) & ***½ (SM)
Red Dawn * (CS & SM)

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

'Suffragette' Trailer Heralds First Big Awards Contender

If Suffragette even turns out half-decent then it has to be considered a strong Oscar contender. It has many elements that the Academy laps up like being a period piece, based on historical events, has lush visuals, and strong chance to be a commercial success. This will likely be a big draw to the 30 and above female crowd, which have proven to be one of the stronger movie going demographics. Plus after all the rage over the last Academy Awards being a celebration of males, this is a picture that is about women, stars women, written by a woman (Abi Morgan), and directed by woman (Sarah Gavron). Luckily for Suffragette, the first trailer hints at a pretty great looking movie to back it all up.

The visual and set-pieces in this picture look gorgeous, which provide a great contrast to the violence and chaos. The images are shrouded in greys and rusty yellow tinges that throw you in a somber mood. I love that amongst the volatile acts, carnage, and fevered emotions there was a soft and delicate song playing that delivers a quiet subversiveness to the proceedings like a march down town square. Maybe this is to be blamed on being a father to a baby daughter, but I felt the emotions get stirred and the events left me a little rocked (I fought the tears away though).

This is the side of the women suffrage movement that has often been ignored. The picture brings a lot of relevance and discussion to modern issues. The militant underground women were pushed to the brink, with the Carey Mulligan's character declaring violence and war was the only way to reach the stubborn male authority. The nest needed to be rattled to get some attention.

The movie feels contemporary due to a lot of the chaos and riots that have unraveled over the past few years that have been a sign of how the lack of change has been crushing entire groups of people. It also is a fitting push and reminder of where women are today and the status quo doesn't resemble a perfect or even acceptable society. This picture will have a message and a whole bunch to unpack, but it also looks like the grand and well-paced picture that shows prestige fare can be exciting and riveting too.

The trailer is elevated by the peeks into not only a great cast, but one that definitely looks like they're amped to blow us away. Mulligan is a superstar in the making and one destined for constant awards buzz. She is a powerhouse in delivering her lines with an authentic fury and sincerity that proves she controls the stage. Hopefully, this will be her first Best Actress nod, and she has a cast that will allow her to shine as well. Considering this is during awards time, Meryl Streep might be getting her annual award recognition with a supporting nod here rather than the Best Actress in Ricki and the Flash. I'm sure she'll bring a great strength to the major historical figure, Emmeline Pankhurst. Brendan Gleeson is always great and his fatherly line delivery will make him a complicated villain. Helena Bonham Carter is one of those actors that everyone knows but isn't given her proper recognition as one of the best character actors in mainstream movies.

My prediction is this turns out to be a "surprise hit." This movie and Straight Outta Compton feels like movies that aren't deemed mainstream that are striking at a time when we need them and have the advantage of looking like great movies. Suffragette is the type of movie that will have legs for several weeks at the box office, which will mean it will be remembered awards time. I'm predicting a Best Picture nod and one that will deserve it.

The Planned 'Night on Bald Mountain' Picture Opens Up the Limited Possibilities of Rebooting Movie Scenes into Features

If you're getting tired of hearing about classic movies getting remade then Disney Studios has some fresh news for you; Hollywood Reporter revealed the studios plans for Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless to write the screenplay for Night on Bald Mountain. You may be thinking, well I don't remember the movie, so it must finally be an original concept. It isn't but rather the groundbreaking idea of adapting a scene from a movie. That is right, why bother rebooting an entire movie when you can get more mileage out of just a single scene.

To be fair, Night on Bald Mountain is from 1940s Fantasia, which was an anthology movie that had eight animated segments that were accompanied by classical music. It isn't like they're trying to adapt a two hour feature from Lloyd Dobler holding a stereo over his head (but think of the possibilities). Instead, this will be a dark fantasy adventure with a similar vibe and atmosphere to last summer's hit, Maleficent. I remember being rather chilled down the spine as a child with Bald Mountain that had a giant winged devil monster who raised dark spirits and creatures from the dead. I'm assuming there is going to be a lot of additional scenes and an actual story added to this live-action adaptation -- maybe even as an added bonus, some dialogue.

I could go on about how I have a lack of faith in the scribes who brought us the screenplays for Dracula Untold and the upcoming The Last Witch Hunter. Or offer my hesitation over if this darker material could really work as a family feature or if fantasy (outside of Maleficent and The Lord of the Rings franchise) has actually proven to be blockbuster worthy in recent years. Instead, I want to focus on this revolutionary idea of adapting scenes from movies.

We all know deep down that it is inevitable that Back to the Future will be remade, especially since its 30 year anniversary will pop the movie back into the minds of countless studio executives. Since the movie will ultimately be made for financial rather than creative reasons, we mind as well stretch it out as much as possible and turn it into a much more respectable franchise than a pitiful three movies. If they start adapting scenes from the original with additional story and depth than Universal has a powerful string of movies before they've even made it halfway through the original's narrative.

The first scene of the movie where Marty McFly gets blown away by a higher powered amp could turn into a dramatic tale of McFly having to toil away at a part-time job to make money to buy his first guitar and the heartwarming tale of an instructor teaching him to dig deep to find the musician buried deep inside of him.

The Marty McFly hitching rides on the back of trucks while going to school scene can turn into a wacky road adventure as he meets many truckers on his journey and eventually must decide if will he get to school on time or rescue a young girl's balloon that floated out of her grasp.

Remember when Marty tries to get into the battle of the bands? Well, obviously there has been a toe-tapping jukebox musical waiting to be unleashed for 30 years now.

Mad Max: Fury Road has proven that one giant feature length car chase can be a great action picture. Little did we know that all this time that movie was waiting to be made from the scene where Marty McFly is trying to drive away from the Libyans. You can update it into making them North Koreans, because that meant gold for the Red Dawn remake and The Interview.

We don't just need movies to be about Marty either. What about a crazy buddy comedy where Biff Tannen learns from a dear buddy the proper punchline to "make like a tree."

Universal can even break into the arthouse scene with a trippy experimental sci-fi picture that details the visions Doc Brown experiences after he bangs his head on the toilet and learn about the flux capacitor.

But Back to the Future isn't the only movie ripe with all this potential. Just imagine one day we can finally get an epic romantic comedy adapted from all these scenes where a broken-hearted lover sadly stares out a rain-soaked window.

'Paper Towns' Trailers Excites Me Over the Return of the High School Movie

The Fault in Our Stars was a big hit last summer and the success revived a genre that has been largely absent from the mainstream for several years: the coming of age high school movie. If it wasn't a hit last year, it is pretty likely the rather smart and entertaining The Duff would have been annexed to VOD. Sadly, John Green's magic came about just a year too late as fantastic movies like The Spectacular Now, The Way, Way Back, and Short Term 12 were denied anything close to a wide release. It took a touching story of cancer stricken teens to prove teenagers want to see themselves in more than just movies set in tyrannical dystopias.

The crown jewel of "not-quite-a-craze" is Green's Stars adaptation. In crushing news for 20th Century Fox, the story didn't really open itself up for franchise potential unless they wanted to add in a supernatural component. It looks like the new franchise plan is to jump on the Green brand and just adapt his collection of YA novels. So, we have Paper Towns and the one that will really prove if high school teen movies are truly box office draws during the competitive summer time.

I liked this second trailer way more than the first one that dropped several weeks ago. It still frames almost the exact same story of boy crushing on girl, has one terrific and crazy night with her, she suddenly disappears, and he is off on a road trip to find her. This time it dropped any of the silly thriller-ish vibe and showcased clips that gave attention to the teenage characters and their friendship. We get introduced to Quentin's friends and get to experience their interplay and chemistry. At its core it is still a romance and the trailer teases the Quentin and Margo relationship that is likely deemed by the studio to be the big selling point for teenage girls. I sensed charm and personality here and some nuances to the supporting characters. This is less some odd "search out a missing girl" thriller and more of a Stand By Me coming of age symbolic journey, except at the end is a beautiful girl rather than a dead body.

I also like that it has the bravery to eschew casting stars deemed box office gold and rather go with less proven but still talented actors in Nat Wolff and Cara Delevingne. This once was a genre that offered the big break to young talent and even turned some into big stars. Wolff does have some experience but it has largely been in smaller supporting roles (his biggest being The Fault in Our Stars).

This still may be really silly and melodramatic. It looks to demand some serious suspension of disbelief as teenagers apparently replace police for solving a missing person case. I really sense a love for the characters here and a great energy. This will also serve as a palate cleanser as we'll be deep into the special effects season and needing something different and lighter. This is a genre I have a huge soft spot for and I'm excited for the genre getting a coveted alternative to special effect tentpoles spot.

This summer actually is a great one for the coming of age fans, as there are two others slated as well. This is the most mainstream one and may end up being the only one to play at the multiplexes. It is also the one I'm the least excited about. Dope and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl look like fantastic, sweet and quirky teen pictures daring to do something different while maintaining the charm and spirit of the genre. Both have received great early reviews at festivals and should be worth tracking down when they're released.  

Ted 2 Red Band Trailer Ups the Raunchy and Forgets Everything Else

The latest Ted 2 Red Band trailer is supposed to get me all riled up for some raunchy comedy goodness and a heaping helping of cursing, but instead I couldn't shake the feeling that the opening gag was used way back in 1999 by the Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me trailer. I realize this isn't the first time in history a joke has been borrowed from elsewhere. The obvious common thread is that both comedies came out in a year that a long-awaited kick-off to a new Star Wars trilogy was being released. It does encourage my belief that Seth MacFarlane's jokes are often either rather derivative or just a parade of 1980s pop culture references with a "fuck", pot or a dick joke thrown in (for special scenes, all three together). 

My only real curiosity is how they resolve the whole Mila Kunis character not being in this movie. The original ended with what I seem to remember was Patrick Stewart promising our lovebirds living happily ever after. Will the opening gag be Stewart lied to us all? Or is pop culture obsessed MacFarlane going to do a Chuck Cunningham? Or will they just throw in some occasional, "Gosh darn it, I need to get home to my wife?" lines as a gag?

Why does this concern me so much? Well, because I wanted an excuse to post this trailer but everything in it from the pot jokes to throwing food into a blind man's ass cheeks leaves me rather flat. I thought the original Ted was funny at times and decent for a first time film director, but it also suffered from some of MacFarlane's worst instincts (feeling more like a series of pop culture sketches than an actual story, jokes trying way too hard to being controversial but forgetting to be funny).

The sequel seems to leap farther into the juvenile and to the point the viewing experience threatens to cause nausea and a strong desire to jab things in the eyes. That just isn't my favourite kind of viewing experience. But hey, it probably is still better than Chappie and I willingly watched that.

Purposeful B-Movie Horror Comedy Officially a Tired Trend

Back in my "Slumhouse Days" where a treasure chest threatened to crash through our ceiling and the power went out every other day, we had a tradition of gathering the troops and watching b-reel horror movies. It allowed us to all perform our own versions of Mystery Science Theatre 30000 and impress ourselves with our startling wit. Even back then as we tore apart these cheesy and campy pictures, I stood by the belief that most of these low-grade special effects and Pinocchio-like acting pictures were aware of exactly what they were and who they were attracting rather than misfires. In the case of Alligator, Dead Alive and Re-Animator, it is accepted they were aiming to be absurd schlock, but my argument may get torn apart for midnight favourites like Troll 2 and Jaws: The Revenge. 

The 1970s and 1980s b-movie camp festivals clearly have endeared themselves to many independent filmmakers. This is why we've ended up with stuff like Tucker and Dale vs. Evil and Zombeavers. These are self-aware pictures purposefully embracing and lovingly playing with the clichés and tropes of the countless low-grade horror pictures trotted out during those decades.

The shoestring budget probably makes most young independent directors think this is a great way to break in. It is a bit of a challenge as the filmmaker actually needs to try to make a scary movie while also putting in dollops of cheese and camp that winks to the well-worn tropes and clichés. It needs to avoid overt parody or you're stuck with a Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer movie and no one but their parents want that. It also needs to create an atmosphere and feel that makes you nostalgic for the time period that often requires practical effects with ridiculous gore (but done in a way where actual effort in put into it even if it looks cheesy). The actors and events must be played straight with an undercurrent of wit, self-awareness, tongue-in-cheek humour and subversiveness. Even though one is mimicking past pictures, there still has to be a sense of originality and attempt to bring something fresh to the genre or the viewer throws up their hands and wonders why they just didn't dig into their old movie collection.

So here we are with Stung. A movie with a title and poster that makes it very clear they are jumping purposefully on the schlocky b-movie bandwagon. The problem is that wasps or any kind of bug is about as creative and fresh as alligators, sharks or bears at this point. Isn't it time for some gorillas or hippos or sea urchins to wreak campy havoc? The trailer gets some points for the casting of Lance Henriksen who screams 1980s and his performance is suitably over-blown. There is ample gore that looks practical and ridiculous, but then we have the very CGIed bees. It loses the whole vibe and aesthetic when putting in cheaply produced modern technology because then it looks like a knock-off of Asylum.

We have carnage and gore, but no signs of any real scares. And to be honest, there doesn't really seem to be any laughs here too. The more I write, I'm starting to think this may have been an attempt at a straight up horror movie and it was a savvy marketing guru at IFC Midnight that realized they need to sell this as cheap comedy camp to draw in the paying crowd.
This at least is a fine example that even the independent movie scene can be derivative and make stuff that exists just so someone can trick themselves into thinking they're at the cool table. On the winning side, it has now given me the idea for my big sea urchin hippo monster script.

99 Homes Trailer Shows Andrew Garfield More Than Former Spider-Man

As the movie sites are busy speculating this week who will end up being christened the new Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield is out to prove there is indeed a fulfilling life post web-slinger. He is starring in a timely and dramatic thriller called 99 Homes and it looks set to make us quickly forget he got ousted from a big blockbuster series and also remind us he is an actor worth watching.

This feels like a modernized Wall Street in that the narrative is exploring a real contemporary problem that is widening the gap between the financially prosperous and the struggling working class. Like the 1980s Oliver Stone film, it will try to balance message with thrills and drama.  From the trailer it looks to be a well-paced thriller that can hopefully overpower the potential preachier moments. There also looks to be a focus on the emotional turmoil of the main characters, which will be it easier to connect.

Also like Wall Street, we have a villain in a central role spouting his toxic values and attempting to corrupt an impressionable and naive young man. If you want someone sleazy and heartless then Michael Shannon is there to rock it. Has he ever played a hero or anyone sympathetic? The guy is always an oozing slimeball that can make drinking a coffee look cruel and inhumane. The little clips of him showcased here hints at another charismatic and powerhouse performance.

Garfield looks to be primed to go toe to toe and looks stellar in the trailer. Garfield is baby faced and charming, which is necessary for us to stick with him and keep him sympathetic while he does questionable acts like working for the world's moat evil man and kicking people out of their homes. The narrative will likely be a battle for Garfield's soul as he tries to justify his actions for the sake of supporting his family.

Speaking of performances needing mention, Laura Dern is always underrated and looks to be showcasing her talents in a supporting role. Wild from last year helped put her back on people's radars and this look ready to cement her again as a prime talent. She may turn out to be the most sympathetic character in this picture (has she ever been unlikable in a movie?).

This has played at some festivals already (including TIFF) where the reviews have been positive but not glowing. I'm guessing this will play out more as a tightly paced thriller than prestige picture. That is great if the acting get the chance to shine and the picture doesn't let message overwhelm the story and characters. This looks different and full of "straight from the news" relevance, so I'll be keeping an eye out for it. I really hope this can be a picture to elevate Garfield as one worthy of awards talk.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

The Good Dinosaur Teaser Averts Expected Disaster

Going into 2014, it was dark days for animated feature fans as it would be the first time since 2005 that we wouldn't get a Pixar feature. Yet somehow, it turned out to be a pretty solid year for animation, but that doesn't stop me from being goofy-ass giddy over two Pixar pictures being released this year. We've already seen several trailers for the first one, Inside Out, which not only looks very different with a delicate exploration into emotions but also has had great early reviews. We now get a peek at the feature scheduled for November, The Good Dinosaur.

There has been lots of talked about the troubled production for this picture, which was originally scheduled for a summer 2014 release but pushed to this November. The concern right now is not only that this is a movie that got a substantial push back but also the initial work has all been scrapped and it has been several months of scrambling to get it ready for November.

Admittedly, a movie being pushed several months or a year is often not a good sign for a movie's quality (look at World War Z or Jack the Giant Slayer as solid examples) and the fact the entire movie had to be reworked does seem worrisome. Except this isn't actually a new thing for Pixar who had problems with Toy Story 2 and Ratatouille in the past and also had to turn over the features rather quickly. Those are two of the best movies the studio has produced. A studio by the way that has a pretty amazing track record, and may have the best quality percentage of any studio in history.

Plus this teaser looks spectacular and should be enough to wipe away any unjustified concerns. The images are bright, vibrant and full of life. There are so many fine and exquisite details in the little clips shown here. The landscape and world looks epic, and I'm eager to explore it. This is yet another major proof that Pixar's animation is light years ahead of every other Hollywood animation studio with its attention to detail and creating scenes full of Easter eggs and life.

The movie plot is a giant game of "what if" and obviously pure fantasy over any type of science. I don't want hard science in a family adventure, but rather something fantastical and imaginative. This looks exactly to be ready to serve that.

This is a boy and his dog story, with the twist that the dinosaur plays the "boy" and the actual human boy is named Spot (so you can easily figure out his role). In typical Pixar fashion, the synopsis hints at an opening act designed to make us cry as the lead Arlo (a young Apatosaurus) loses his father and then just because when it rains it pours, also finds himself lost from his home. So he must journey back to the Clawed-Tooth Mountains with his new pal. Nothing really groundbreaking at the plot level, but the brief clips promises something pretty engaging and the switching of roles is fresh.

Plus even in the brief minute and half, you get some of the vintage Pixar wit and humour. I've already fallen in love with the potential for this adventure.

The most exciting part for me is I've already promised Everett that this will be the first movie he gets to see at the theatre with daddy. He has been asking me about it on a daily basis. He was ecstatic to watch this teaser with me. I think he would have been happy to watch it over and over all afternoon, and to celebrate, he informed that he has to wear his dinosaur pajamas tonight. Yet I'm likely more amped and thrilled for the daddy and son outing than Everett, and it makes the movie even more special.

I'm glad my son's first foray to the theatre looks like it should be a wondrous one.