Love or hate, I pay attention to everything that the filmmaking partnership of Lana and Andy Wachowski produces. I’m never indifferent to their work.
The first Matrix film blew me away. Not so much the sequels. I was befuddled by the still-stunning visuals of Speed Racer and absolutely adored the compelling V For Vendetta. I dug the action of Ninja Assassin and really enjoyed the complex and touching Cloud Atlas. But even while sitting in a theatre and watching one of their films, I always wondered what the next big Wachowski sci-fi storyline would be. Today, we finally get a glimpse.
Long spoken of, if only in quiet and careful conversation, the first trailer for next summer’s Jupiter Ascending dropped today. There isn’t even a poster for the film yet!
Starring Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, and the always-incredible Sean Bean (there’s even a small role given to director Terry Gilliam in the film), take a look at this hard-core sci-fi epic.
It’s only the first trailer, but will Jupiter Ascending be a hit or a miss? Let us know what you think in the comment section below!
Earlier this year, when the first trailer to Thor: The Dark World was released, I found myself surprisingly excited. Here was what looked to be a bit of a throw back film; a bit of a Marvel Studios homage to the those great swashbuckling sword and sorcery movies of the early 1980’s: Conan, The Sword and the Sorcerer, The Beastmaster and Krull. Those were movies that I loved as a kid – and love even more now.
With Thor: The Dark World, it seemed liked the eightification of comic book films was upon us. And in this particular case, I was ok with that. There was no better decade for this kind of genre than the decade that spawned all of those cool movies of my youth, happily spent at the video rental store.
Thor: The Dark World, was more than that, though. It was a movie that combined muscular heroes and dreaded villains with big-budget sets and fantastic special effects with well-known actors, working inside a shared fictional universe, playing well with at least three other important film franchises. A truly twenty-first century aesthetic.
It’s Saturday. Let me tell you more about the movie, Thor: The Dark World after the jump.
A quick summary (spoiler alerts!): new preacher comes to a small town were everyone is creepy and boring and low and behold they’re actually a cult and the new family is the sacrifice for the demons of Hell. One is left alive to close the gate of Hell again and she must watch a new family come to town to start the cycle over again.
It’s not a bad premise for a short little horror film. You can tell that Slash grew up with horror films and he knows the tropes. The movie is filled with them. From the blonde haired blue eyed skinny virgin being the one to survive, to the slightly chubbier, dark haired, sex starved sister being the one who is sacrificed to the demon. They have their prerequisite 2.5 children, we get a little stringy haired creepy walking girl action in there, we get foreboding dream sequences, we get creepy towns people being all ritualistic. You can go on and on. There are plenty of tropes to find. I do take exception to the fact that the virgin heroine seemed to need to be faultlessly pretty, tow headed and compliant and the sacrificed sister is slightly defiant, sarcastic and just good at talking to guys so its automatically implied she’s a slut and has to die. But that is the trope and they use it.
It’s comic book domination this summer at the box office. We’ve already seen Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel and we have 2 Guns, from BOOM! and Kick Ass 2 to look forward to. So in honor of a truly comic book summer you get Red 2 AND a The Wolverine review.
First, Red 2. Obviously it’s the second in the franchise and the first was a fun, wild romp, bringing together Hollywood’s older generation. Almost everyone’s back except for Morgan Freeman, who was killed in the first movie. In addition, we get Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Byung-hun Lee.
If you didn’t see the first movie, it’s about retired agents from branches of the secret service around the world, who must fight for their lives when the current governments are set against them. The second movie is much the same premise, though a clean nuclear bomb is thrown into the mix. It hardly matters it’s basically the same movie as they make the characters and dialogue entertaining enough to show the same premise about 10 more times. We get Mary-Louise Parker’s character to fill in as the audience’s surrogate again, we get all he characters kicking ass, a femme fatale in and a mad genius in Anthony Hopkins (who I’m always glad to see on screen). Bruce Willis’ character, Frank, must recruit friends and enemies alike to clear his name and then save London from a nuclear bomb.
Along the way we get plenty of action and I just have to gush that Helen Mirren is hilarious, dry and badass. She gets to dress up and pretend she’s insane. She’s dryly checking in as she’s bathing her latest kill in acid, calmly asking Frank if he’s being controlling. Her ultimate scene comes when she’s firing two guns out a swirling, drool-worthy 2013 Lotus Exige S, the music screaming in the background.
Malkovich turns down the crazy on his character, which was a welcome relief for the second flick. Any more than one movie of that and it would have gotten stale.
Zeta-Jones’ Russian official was not quite as believable. She’s too well known as a Latin actress despite the fact she’s actually from the UK. How’s that for a brainteaser? That didn’t stop the chemistry she had with her co-stars and she was a welcome addition to the ensemble cast.
Byung-hun Lee shows off his amazingly trained body at the start of the film, always a bonus! He’s nattily dressed in suits for most of the rest of the movie … Oh, and his martial art skills are a thrill to watch.
We’re not talking any grandiose themes in this film, unless you count the underlying subtext that the government betrays everyone and anyone. It’s a fairly simple plot with great fun, great effects by ILM and hot fast action.
It’s the perfect summer popcorn flick that doesn’t attempt to preach, or make itself into something more than it is. Prop you feet up at your local theater and enjoy.
Added bonus: every single trailer before the film was for a film I wanted to see.
8 elderly assassins out of 10
After the forgettable 2009 X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the buzz was that Hollywood was a little hesitant to take on another stand-alone X-Men film. With the success of First Class, it seemed a little more viable, so we got this summer’s The Wolverine. There are few better characters to get a stand-alone film than Wolverine. He’s the bad boy, he’s hot, he’s vicious and we want to see him claw things! Perfect summer movie there. As long as we didn’t repeat badly animated bendy claws and a decapitated Ryan Reynolds, I was going to be good. What we got this summer was a fairly deep examination of a great character. Yes, it’s still a mutant vs. mutant movie, but we do get to see some of what has been torturing Logan since the end of X-Men 3, how Jean Grey’s death has effected him, and what it means to be Logan. Is it true, what the movie proposes over and over again – that the only thing an immortal really seeks is the means to a good death? It certainly appears so as we see Logan holed up in the mountains, unsuccessfully trying to drink himself to death.
In a confrontation with some local hunters, Logan is stopped from killing them by a new ally, Yukio (Newcomer Rila Fukushima). She takes him to Japan where her master, Yashida, wants to thank Logan for saving his life many years ago after the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki in WWII. From there, the plot winds through betrayal and counter betrayal, with Logan and Yashida’s granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), getting some down time to fall in love and help heal Logan’s broken heart. The emotions presented throughout, do a pretty good job of exploring Logan’s attitudes and hang-ups. It wasn’t as emotionally arresting as something like Shame, or even another Jackman movie like The Prestige, but there was enough there to make it believable and get us through what would be a long run time for a straight action flick.
The device that let us see a more human side of Wolverine, was a good one. With his powers of healing suppressed, Logan is forced to deal with pain, needing help, and wounds that would probably kill a lesser man. We see Logan take bullet after bullet and that adds a dimension to the character that isn’t touched on very often – Logan feels every cut, slice, bullet and stab to his body. He simply has the mental fortitude to ignore and work through the pain. It was only mentioned once in the first film, when Rouge asked if it hurt when his claws came out and he replied “Every time.”
You can tell that Hugh Jackman genuinely enjoys playing Wolverine and it doesn’t hurt that he really does fit the bill physically as well. In an interview with a local radio station in LA, he was telling the hosts how he contacted The Rock, Dwayne Johnson, to get tips on how to put on lean muscle. The answer was 6,000 calories a day of chicken and broccoli, with one cheat day. That chicken and broccoli served you will Mr. Jackman.
The movie was also mostly unburdened by what seems to happen to superhero sequels – Hollywood tends to throw in any character they can, and the kitchen sink, in an effort to pep things up. This was certainly the case with X-Men Origins: Wolverine, where it was more a showcase of look how pretty all our mutants are, than a real story or plot. The Wolverine and director James Mangold allow us to have a superhero movie centered around the hero himself rather than the extraordinary things that happen to him. It’s what fans have been clamoring for, for a long time. Part of the original success of X-Men in the comics was the fact that they were extraordinary people that ordinary things happened to. They dealt with racism, hate and prejudice. It’s nice to see even a glossed over Hollywood version of that in this film.
My one complaint, and I’m sure it’s a girlie one, was the fact that Logan leaves his new love, Mariko with a rather blasé line that he has to move on because he’s a soldier. Here was this woman that helped put him back together again and all she gets is a: “ ‘I love you.’ ‘I know.’ ” line that isn’t very satisfying. It’s not as if the comics have a happier ending for Mariko. I guess she has to make her multi-million dollar company as a consolation prize.
Finally, for the life of me, I can’t figure out why people race out of the theater after the credits start rolling on a Marvel movie. Everyone knows there’s a goodie at the end.
**SPOILER** We get to see Wolverine re-recruited by Professor X and Magneto for the upcoming war with the Sentinels, as shown by the teaser news clip in the scene featuring Trask Industries.***
8 Logan Ronin out of 10
I blame Cabin In The Woods.
A few Saturday nights ago BBP’s David Ward, JP Fallavollita and myself gathered in my basement den, a copy of the Evil Dead reboot ready to go in the player (it’s out today on DVD/Blu-Ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment). None of us had caught this one in the theatre, so there was actually some real anticipation in seeing how this well-regarded reboot turned out. All the right pieces were in place – original director Sam Raimi and star Bruce Campbell were producing, and had handpicked director Fede Alvarez to update the film for a new generation. Meanwhile, the plan for this incarnation was going to be pure, balls to the wall horror.
However, while Evil Dead 2013 does indeed deliver the evil (and the dead), at the end of the day, there was something lacking for me. Check out the trailer and then find out what it was after the jump.
Prolific Hong Kong director Johnnie To is back, with his first actioner shot on the Chinese mainland. Gritty and intense, Drug War is a true police procedural, relentlessly following the intricacies of an elaborate police sting to break up the highest levels of drug production in the country. The film moves at a breathless pace, but does it give fans of classic bullet ballet the old ultraviolence they so eagerly crave? Find out after the jump!
The tone is set right away, as the film jumps frenetically between stone-faced Captain Zhang (Sun Honglei)’s unfolding operation at a provincial toll booth and the drug boss Timmy Choi (Louis Koo), driving injured through the city streets after an explosion at one of his labs. Their paths are bound to cross, though not before a few convolutions play out in the early minutes. Once he’s been caught, Choi makes a desperate deal with Captain Zhang, rather than face an automatic death penalty under Chinese law. Choi will introduce Captain Zhang to a high level distributor and a supplier, who are to meet for the first time that night. They decide to hold two meetings, with the Captain impersonating the distributor for one, and the supplier for the other. From there the complications spin out, as they work their way up the food-chain and across the grimy industrial landscape of Jinshan. Honglei really gets to work his acting chops in the impersonation scenes, especially once he takes on the forced joviality of the bloodless distributor nicknamed Haha. Koo, a regular from To’s Hong Kong movies and expertly dubbed in Mandarin here, is equally excellent as the gangster Choi, a man who will sell out anyone to survive.
Drug War‘s realism is remarkable, capturing the details of policework with deft economy. After a busload of drug mules have been arrested, To cuts right to the sordid details of their processing in hospital, cops and nurses waiting around for the evidence to emerge. (Toronto’s infamous Mayor Rob Ford may want to rethink his alleged habit after seeing how drugs “pass” through our borders…) The cinematography from To’s regular DOP Cheng Siu-keung is moody and effective, casting a noir-ish eye on contemporary China. A set-piece at the Jinshan harbour is a true standout, as countless red-flagged boats are ordered by the undercover Captain Zhang to set sail en masse, demonstrating his power to doubtful partners.
There is violence, rest assured, but the film simmers a good while before it boils, reaching a suitably explosive crescendo. Apparently To had to tone the violence down, to comply with local censorship rules. What sets it apart from its HK and Hollywood action brethren is To’s clinical detachment this time around. We don’t get to know the main characters outside of their immediate work, and there’s no relationship between Captain Zhang and the fetchingly stern detective Yang Xiaobei (Crystal Huang) to make us, you know, care. Under To’s assured direction, the absence of what so many mainstream movies take for depth is hardly an obstacle. The film’s momentum is inescapable, and captures the modern drug war perfectly: anarchic, treacherous, and full of unexpected consequences.
Drug War debuts on Sunday, July 14th at 9pm, at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto as part of the Century of Chinese Cinema program. Director Johnnie To will be in attendance to introduce the film, and it will appear several times after that. For the full schedule and tickets, click here.
On the weekend of June 21st to the 23rd, Philadelphia area moviegoers were treated to an experience of which few have had the privilege. Local film screening outfit, Exhumed Films showed the complete 4 hour version of Quentin Tarrantino‘s magnum opus Kill Bill at the International House. Before this past weekend, this version has only been seen twice before: once at Cannes, and once in Tarrantino’s private theater in L.A. The cut features new scenes, additional gore, and nixes some of the bridging scenes from when the film was split. Most famously, the big fight scene during Volume I never fades to black and white as Uma Thurman’s Bride cuts up several dozen Yakuza.
Exhumed Films, known mostly for their annual 24-Hour Horrorthon, hosted three shows, all of which sold out quickly. For attendees, it was a bloody entertaining way to start off the first official weekend of summer. For this Tarrantino fan, seeing the film the way it was meant to be seen was real treat. Hats off to Exhumed Films for making it happen!
Happy 75th birthday, Superman! You don’t look a day over…well, how old is Henry Cavill, anyway?
That’s right. We’ll use Henry as our benchmark as he’s the most recent actor to portray the world’s most recognizable superhero in the sure-to-be-a-blockbuster film, Man of Steel, opening in wide release this coming Friday. That means, as of today, only three more sleeps to go. And just so you know, Henry is thirty. So says Wikipedia.
With every new mass media incarnation of Superman, be it film or television, one can’t help but reflect on what’s come before – both in terms of visuals and in their corresponding auditory illuminations. Opening scenes of films and opening themes of music for those same films, I think, not only showcase the times in which those pieces of art were produced, but they’re also representational of what you’re likely to experience over the coming two hours of cinema viewing.
Walk with me, then, through the first few moments of the characters broadcast origin and through two previous Superman films – comparing the differences and similarities of works of cinematic art separated by over five decades of human history. We’ll take a short respite in the realm of television, and then continue on our journey, making our way to the opening scene and musical theme of the brand new Man of Steel film.