- The D23 Expo was jam-packed with Disney goodies, primarily from Star Wars properties The Force Awakens and Rogue One. And a Star Wars theme park where I can go sit in a Mos Eisley cantina and listen to Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes live? Take my money!
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales officially reinserts Orlando Bloom into the franchise, reminding everyone of the existence of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and Orlando Bloom.
- A Furiosa spinoff from Mad Max: Fury Road is still on the table, but no word on whether Charlize Theron (who had a hell of a time on the set of Fury Road) would be willing to return. Doesn’t seem worth it without Charlize, does it?
Continue reading Film & TV News: August 17
- EW released a few new pictures from Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, featuring Jesse Eisenberg as a hairy Lex Luthor and Gal Gadot as socialite Diana Prince. Oh, and Batman and Superman.
- This weekend is San Diego Comic-Con, and even though some of the usual suspects aren’t participating this year (like Marvel Studios) it’s still going to be a heck of a lot of fun. Unless you’re not attending, of course. Ah, well. You can still sit on your couch and catch glimpses online of Batman v. Superman, Warcraft, Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight and — fingers crossed — Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
- Paul Thomas Anderson is rumored to be considering directing a live-action Pinocchio with Robert Downey Jr. attached to star, because nothing else makes sense as a follow-up to the marijuana-fueled Inherent Vice besides a Disney flick.
Continue reading Film & TV News: July 5
- The great Christopher Lee passed away earlier this week at 93. He’ll be remembered for countless roles, for Dracula, for Saruman in Lord of the Rings, for Count Dooku in Star Wars, and for his symphonic metal concept albums (yes).
- Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight will be screened in 70mm, meaning theaters near you will either have to outfit their booths with new projectors or decide against screening a Tarantino flick. It’s a great power move by Tarantino, because once major theater chains have that capability alongside their digital projectors it opens the door for more films on actual film.
- Videosyncrazy, David Fincher’s HBO series about the music video industry in the 1980s, has mysteriously halted production. No word on what the primary issue is, but as Fincher’s the perfect guy for a series like this we really hope the pieces get reassembled soon.
- Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur, having already completed all of the voice work, has now turned around and completely recast nearly every voice actor. Production on this one has always been rocky, but Pixar’s no stranger to that. As long as it’s not called Cars, we’re safe.
Continue reading Film & TV News: June 15
John: In Bruges is the debut effort of far-too-unknown writer and director Martin McDonagh. Starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, this is the kind of film that makes you feel guilty about bursting out into gut-wrenching laughter. Farrell plays the young, impatient thrill-seeker and Gleeson portrays the classic oldie who only wants to take in the beautiful architecture of Bruges, Belgium, where the whole film takes place. This might seem like a familiar dynamic, but there’s a twist: they’re a pair of assassins-in-hiding after a job gone wrong.
The brilliance to the film really starts with its basic premise. Bruges, one of the most aesthetically beautiful and quaint little towns in the entire world, has become the hideout and eventual battleground of the hitmen and, ultimately, the mob boss they work for. There’s a vague element of mystique, as well, an almost dream-like quality to the film that fits so well because of how easily Bruges might compare to one’s idea of heaven. I suppose it’s possible that is what allows the layer of absurdity the film also possesses to work as well as it does. At no point does it feel like some of the more ridiculous occurrences are too much, or that they do anything but add to the awesomeness of the film. It is a true shame that Mr. McDonagh has, as of yet, only made two films (the second being 2012’s Seven Psychopaths). The Oscar-nominated writing, fun performances and harsh themes all make the film immensely enjoyable for anyone with even a slight taste for the darker comedy. If that’s you, then In Bruges is fun as hell.
Continue reading Netflix Picks #3
Oldboy is not for the faint of heart, but for everybody else it is one hell of a ride. The South Korean film makes Se7en look like Cinderella and director Chan-wook Park makes Quentin Tarantino look like Nicholas Sparks. For better or for worse, there are few movies comparable to Oldboy when it comes to pure intensity.
The plot starts simply: an average man, Dae-su (Min-sik Choi) is inexplicably imprisoned for 15 years, framed for the murder of his wife while imprisoned, and then suddenly released in equally inexplicable fashion. Upon his release, he meets both a young girl, Mi-do (Hye-jeong Kang) and the man who had him imprisoned, Woo-jin Lee (Ji-tae Yu). Rather than killing Lee on the spot, Dae-su accepts the challenge to uncover the reason for his own imprisonment.
Continue reading Oldboy (2003)
Chris Pratt dominated 2014. From reprising his role as the lovable Andy Dwyer on the hit comedy Parks and Recreation to his starring roles in blockbuster smashes The LEGO Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy, which will garner the attention of this review, he seemed to be everywhere you looked. While I assert that Pratt was at his best in Guardians, his attempts at seriousness in various parts of the film felt a bit like he was trying too hard. But, his first scene in the film was absolutely brilliant, as he gets a little funky and sings into a space rat as though it were a microphone. This scene sets the stage for the tone of the remainder of the film: a collection of comical ridiculousness that you simply can’t take your eyes off of.
Guardians is a borderline Star Wars spoof, while at the same time paying all due respect to it. The genius of the film is found in the clever dialogue that evidences this point. One scene that comes to mind in particular is the one in which all the guardians decide to fight together against Ronan, all standing up to somehow state their dedication to the cause. Bradley Cooper’s hilarious Rocket comments, “Great. Now we’re all standing. A bunch of jackasses standing in a circle.” While the mocking of the cliché trope that is standing up to display emphasis is something I found to be tremendously clever, I also recognized the themes, such as devoting oneself to a just cause regardless of the dangers attached to doing so, that are so similar to those of the original Star Wars trilogy. Thus, Guardians is a sort of revitalized Star Wars reboot that stresses humor over drama but nevertheless paints a potent emotional portrait when it needs to, despite Pratt’s overacting at times. In addition, the film resolves itself in an incredibly familiar way. A band of outlaws come together to save the galaxy and are rewarded with impunity and heralded as heroes by the galactic authorities. Sounds a lot like A New Hope to me. To take it one step further, I honestly wouldn’t have been disappointed had this film instead been titled Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.
Continue reading Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Nothing says “happy holidays” like an incredibly violent, utterly vulgar, yet strangely comedic look at slavery and racism in the Antebellum South. Quentin Tarantino’s latest effort has garnered exceptional critical support, seeming to morph together styles and tones from three of his previous cinematic achievements: Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill, and Inglourious Basterds. The scope of the film is quite epic, occurring over months in various Southern states, yet it in no way takes itself too seriously. Instead, Django is extremely humorous and several of its minute details, when given closer examination, actually seem rather bizarre, almost finding itself belonging to the Wes Anderson genre of film. While dealing with a very serious topic and maintaining an ethically appropriate opinion of said topic, Djano truly reels in its audience with its Oscar-winning dialogue and impeccable acting. The film may seem controversial to some, but anyone really paying attention will easily be able to understand the stance the film is taking.
The film has a subtle but significant Reservoir vibe to it. The plot is intricate and well thought-out; dramatic irony (when one or more characters are aware of something that others are not privy to) is abundant; and there is even a particular scene in Django that is a directorial parallel to a different scene in Dogs. Let’s discuss the similarity in complexity of the plot. These movies are no rivals to Inception when it comes to complex storytelling, nor are they trying to be, but they do certainly contain these types of elements. Dogs places a police officer undercover in the mafia, thus tricking the mafiosos into believing that he is one of them. Django places an African American in the fourth largest slave plantation in Mississippi, posing as an expert in the well-regarded field of Mandingo fighting; in front of Leonardo DiCaprio, no less. This similarity simultaneously explains both the intricacy of the plot and the abundance of dramatic irony. And then there are the scenes using the slow-motion walk. If you do not recall what I am talking about, you now have an excuse to go rewatch these fantastic films.
Continue reading Django Unchained (2013)
Sam Peckinpah is nearly always divisive in his filmmaking, but perhaps never more so than with Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. Unlike The Wild Bunch or Straw Dogs, Alfredo Garcia (or BMTHOAG, as it may be lovingly referred to) isn’t necessarily controversial because of the level of violence. While other Peckinpah films seem set as classics even in spite of their explicit scenes of brutal violence, most people just can’t decide whether Alfredo Garcia is any good or not.
The set-up comes in the wake of the proclamation that serves as the film’s title. Alfredo Garcia has impregnated a young girl, and her powerful father offers a million dollars to the man who delivers him from the neck up. Warren Oates plays Bennie, a piano player in a rundown bar who eventually becomes tangled up in the hunt for Garcia at the prospect of a large payoff. His girlfriend, played by Isela Vega, comes along for the ride – and needless to say there are vicious consequences. Soon the head of Alfredo Garcia is in Bennie’s possession, but a darker drive swells up within him and his plans change.
Why would people dislike Alfredo Garcia? For starters, the set pieces from the first half of the movie leave a lot to be desired. In fact, there aren’t very many set pieces at all between the initial “Bring me the head!” scene and a mid-movie altercation with two biker thugs. This altercation serves a) to begin to show a few cracks in the otherwise happy-go-lucky demeanor of Bennie (as Warren Oates brilliantly snarls “you two guys are definitely on my shit list”) and b) to show the promiscuity of Bennie’s girlfriend. Both of these revelations are compounded and built upon in later scenes, but during the scene in question the sense of urgency and pacing of Garcia seems lost.
Continue reading Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)