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Don’t be a tease! Another Magic Mike XXL trailer

9 May

Channing Tatum, his band of male strippers, and their thongs return for the sequel that no one was asking for.

It’s not fair to say that no one was asking for the sequel; producers were begging for a second Magic Mike. These days in Hollywood, a commercial success means a guaranteed sequel. And say what you will about Magic Mike, but it had women lining up to throw their money at the movie. On a budget of just $7 million, the film pulled in more than $110 million at the domestic box office. So three years later all of the main characters from the original film have to squeeze into their policeman and firefighter and naval officer “uniforms”.

If you are unfamiliar with the details of the original film (and I expect many of you are), allow me to catch you up. Channing Tatum reprises his role as Magic Mike, a self-titled entrepreneur who is looking to get out of the “taking your clothes off for money” business. So naturally, he recruits a 20-something to take his place when he he hangs up his ass-less chaps at the end of the summer. Naturally, there are several scenes where Tatum gets to exhibit his dancing skills–he actually was a stripper before giving it up to pursue a career in acting. As the movie ends, we see Mike leave the stripping profession to focus on his custom-made furniture business.

The Trailer:

In the most played out of sequel cliches, the trailer starts with getting the band back together. Mike of course looks unfulfilled by his furniture business–let’s face it, what could give your life more meaning than stripping. What follows is the stripper equivalent of an A-Team montage. We see that the rest of the ‘dance crew’ can help but feel the calling to remove their clothes to music. Joe Manganiello is given to the stripper spirit that he feels compelled to grind on a refrigerator in a convenience store. At this point it should be clear that this movie is hoping to capture the Fifty Shades of Grey crowd. It is essentially socially-acceptable mommy-porn.

Back to the trailer. Why are the strippers reassembling? Because there is a national(?) stripper convention in Florida! Because we all know that is a thing! And of course, they can’t use the same tired routines that they had three years ago–if there is one thing people look for in their strippers, it is unique choreography! And new routines always spell success!

Bring it On

The Verdict:

This movie looks all sorts of bad. I don’t see how there could be a single redeeming quality in this film. It does not seem to have any of the charm that made the first film bearable. It is a blatant cash grab and without any semblance of originality. How man times have we seen this same story? Team/group must recruit the former leader to reunite for a final performance/competition. Along the way there will be a creative/romantic problem that will be solved in the third act. The story ends with our group winning and the man character getting the guy/girl! If you are feeling the itch to watch a movie featuring male strippers, watch the endearing and funny Full Monty.

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New Trailer – Jurassic World

23 Apr

Universal hopes to recapture the wonder of 1993’s Jurassic Park, but can the excitement be brought back from extinction?

22 years ago, Steven Spielberg made us believe that dinosaurs could be brought back to life, and it would be simultaneously cool and terrifying. Jurassic Park demonstrated the danger of man’s hubris–believing that they could control the most fearsome creatures to ever walk the earth. And viewers bought into Spielberg’s vision–Jurassic Park netted more than $1 billion at the box office.

The tyrannosaurus rex, brontosaurus, and velociraptor became overnight stars. Who can forget the first time the dinosaurs appeared on screen? We were all like Dr. Grant (Sam Neill); speechless and awestruck. Sitting in theaters, we shared the wonder of seeing the long-dead reptiles live and in flesh, and we all felt the terror when the power went out and the dinosaurs took control. We all knew the science was unrealistic (seriously, DNA cannot live for tens of millions of years in a fossilized mosquito), but that didn’t matter. For just a couple of hours we were kids again!

And then something terrible happened. More specifically, two somethings terrible happened–The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III. There is no getting around it, those movies were just bad, really bad. Now, 22 years have passed since the events of the first Jurassic Park and we return to Isla Nublar (not Isla Sorna where moves 2 and 3 take place). It is clear that the writers are hoping to pretend the events of the original sequels did not happen–something anyone who saw those movies can empathize with. And the producers are placing this billion dollar franchise in the hands of a director who has only one previous feature-length directing credit to his name. Colin Trevorrow helmed the cult dramedy, Safety not Guaranteed; a movie that grossed just over $4 million. Now, he is leading a movie that has a budget of more than $180 million. That’s a big risk…

The Trailer:

When your movie stars Chris Pratt, it is a good idea to lead your trailer with him. Pratt has been on fire since 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty, and cemented his status as a blockbuster star with last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy. In Jurassic World, it appears that Pratt may be the “Velociraptor Whisperer”, but Jurassic World is a much better title. And comes a scene that is at the center of some online controversy. Pratt is telling a scientist–played by  Bryce Dallas Howard–how the dinosaurs are motivated by the need to hunt and…make dino-babies. Joss Whedon, the man behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, took issue with the scene, after a self-styled feminist pop-culture blog posted an article gawking at Pratt in the scene.

Park - concept art

Now we get the see guests in the park that John Hammond envisioned more than two decades ago, and what’s not to love? You can take a motorized hamster ball and drive it among dinosaurs; you can observe a goat being eaten from the safety of a glass tube that is designed to look like a tree trunk; you can sit in the ‘splash zone’ for a show featuring a blood-thirsty, prehistoric, Shamu; and you can stroll down the park’s main street for some shopping!

Swimming Dinosaur

We hear that the park was a hit, but people just are not impressed by dinosaurs anymore–large numbers of visitors only visit the park with the promise of a new exhibit. Now the company in charge of the park thinks they have a winning idea: they want to genetically modify dinosaurs!

A nameless scientist, portrayed by Omni-present B.D. Wong, says the new ‘attraction’ was “designed to be bigger than a T-rex!’ And apparently she really wanted to be an only child, because she ate her sibling. The brains at corporate also decided to make their new pet smart–she removed a tracking implant that she shouldn’t remember having implanted. As if that weren’t enough, she is like 19th Century American frontiersmen–she kills for sport. How do the humans respond to the threat? By using a two-pronged approach: one, loosing Chris Pratt and his band of velociraptor hunting buddies; and two, allowing Vincent D’Onofrio to unleash everything but tactical nuclear weapons to stop the beast.

Will it Suck?

Is there any demand for another Jurassic Park movie? Can the movie rise to the nostalgia-inflated heights of the original film? Will a new generation buy into the idea of a dinosaur theme park? Those are some big unknowns confronting a blockbuster in a summer as jam-packed as 2015. Last year, this movie cruises to a huge box office total. But this year, movie-goers have so many options–Avengers 2, Mission Impossible 5, Mad Max: Fury Road, Tomorrowland, etc. If this trailer is any indication of what we can expect, the biggest crowds for this movie, may be in the movie. The trailer had plenty of action, but by creating a monster, you lose what captured the imaginations of audiences with Jurassic Park–the most fearsome animal ever gets loose and we can’t stop it! In 2015’s Jurassic World, Godzilla-lite causes chaos on some remote island.

Pratt and Raptors

Jurassic World releases June 12.

New trailer – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice!

20 Apr

Zack Snyder returns to the DC Cinematic Universe, this time pitting Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent against one another.

To paraphrase Jacobim Mugatu, “Comic book movies are so hot right now!” The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Iron Man all topped the box office and became part of the zeitgeist. They were all also part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The movies based on DC characters have not been nearly as commercially successful, and you rarely hear anyone say ‘want to go see the new DC movie?’ Previous DC releases include: the Zack Snyder-helmed Man of Steel, the one-off Superman Returns, and Batman movies starring Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, and Christian Bale. Now DC Entertainment and Warner Brothers are counting on Ben Affleck to once again reinvent the role of the World’s Greatest Detective. And therein lies the problem.

Mugatu - Comics

(To illustrate how thoroughly Marvel dominates DC in theaters, here is are links to box office totals for Marvel Movies and DC Movies)

As recently as April of last year, those in charge of the development at DC had no plan to create a unified universe (it is only in the last several months that they have shared any road map to future films). Operating without a coherent plan means that fans have no character to latch onto and root for. Compare that to say, Iron Man. Robert Downey Jr. has been Tony Stark since 2008! Age of Ulton will be the sixth film that he appeared in as Stark. DC does have a plan now, and they are counting on Dawn of Justice to set up the Justice League movies.

The Trailer:

Wow, that was dark, wasn’t it? I don’t mean dark, ‘but it looks like they’ll work it out’. I mean dark like ‘these two heroes actually want to kill one another’. I have to admit, this trailer lost me almost from the start. I don’t mind when a movie uses a voice over as exposition (see: intro to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), but I HATE it when a preview doesn’t show me characters and instead gives me fake panel discussions–as you would see on CNN–debating the true nature of Superman. Zack Snyder sold me on Man of Steel by couching it as a movie that would examine the alien background and implications of someone with Kal-El’s powers living among us. And what does this trailer feature? A discussion about the alien background and implications of someone with Superman’s powers living among us! You already made me sit through a 143 minute movie that was supposed to answer that, but didn’t!

Let’s continue. After an interminable ‘dolly shot’ and some heavy handed lighting effects (they are lighting up the statue of Superman like this movie will shed light on his true identity–see what they did there) we finally see that the words “False God” are spay painted on the chest of Superman. So are we to believe that Batman is now a common graffiti artist? Probably not, but either way, just make an action movie! I know that I don’t want to see another meditation on the theme of ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. (Haven’t there already been like five Spiderman movies?)

False God

Now to the meat of the trailer! Action, right? NOPE! Ok, I’ll admit that we see the Batmobile and Batplane and that is cool. But outside of that, all we get is a look at Batman in a mechanized suit and some vague soliloquy about wrath or some such nonsense.

I am left with so many questions after this trailer: why do Batman and Superman hate one another? Has Batman manufactured kryptonite, or made a deal with Lex Luther to acquire the material? And finally, where does this take place? That is a big question. As you will recall, Man of Steel, ended with an outrageously destructive battle in Metropolis. The folks over at comicsalliance.com did the math on this and estimated that the battle between Superman and Zod caused $750 billion in damaged to property and had a total economic impact of $2 trillion. For comparison, the attacks on 9/11 had a total impact just north of $120 billion. So yeah, I guess this can’t take place in Metropolis.

Will it suck?

I am rooting for this film, but I do not have faith that a movie based around two superheroes fighting can be the spark that DC is looking for. And the climactic battle will likely be pointless–both characters have to be alive to be present in the upcoming Justice League movies. This is a setup that feels like there should be major consequences–arguably the two biggest characters in comics are meeting for a battle, but they both just shake hands and make up at the end? Now, let’s look at the director. Zack Snyder is often venerated as a director with a highly stylized vision. But his last three films; Man of Steel, Sucker Punch, and Legend of the Guardians were all average, at best. His glory days of “300” are far behind him. He has a lot of weight on his shoulders as he is at the helm for this film and both Justice League pictures. So yes, this will suck for many reasons, but maybe the main one is that DC is trying to cut corners and expect the same success as Marvel

Batman V Superman - Suck.

Rejoice! Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Teaser Trailer #1

1 Dec

A long time ago, in movie theaters all across the world, we had to sit through a Star Wars reboot in The Phantom Menace, that never did what it was supposed to do… I mean, sure there were bright spots, like new spaceships, a kick-ass soundtrack that charted on MTV’s Total Request Live, and Darth Maul – the baddest villain in the galaxy, wielding a double-sided lightsaber(!)……but by the time it was over, that guy had been cut in half, and dropped down a reactor pit, along with all of our hopes of the Star Wars prequel trilogy we had been waiting for a generation to see…

(sigh)....we hardly knew ye

(sigh)….we hardly knew ye

But that….that is all about to change:

That’s right Jedis and Padawans – the new Star Wars…post-quel(??) is in production, and the first teaser trailer has broken the Internets (take that Kim Kardashian!)

Helmed by director J.J. Abrams, this new trilogy is poised to be the Star Wars sequel we’ve always wanted; the one we’ve always needed…I guess you could say it’s his destiny. And with nary a George Lucas in sight to muck things up with pages and pages of trade negotiations, the slick new trailer is fun, and frightening, and fantastic, all at once.

Opening on a desert planet (Tatooine?), the first glimpse of life is a helmet-less stormtrooper, in the midst of what appears to be a frantic escape. Followed (in order) by: a new soccerball droid, a wave of storm-para-troopers preparing for battle, a homegrown misfit who appears to be our female protagonist, X-Wings skimming the surface of a planet-based battle, and wait…..what’s this:

I think I just wet myself...

I think I just wet myself…

A new villain, and a new lightsaber….with a hilt! Holy smokes, if there ever was a Star Wars god answering prayers, he must have heard mine! The clip is rounded out by the booming sounds of the original score we’ve come to know so well, and a loop-de-loop ride-along with the Millennium Falcon (which only promises that Han and Chewie aren’t far behind), leaving us with the aching feeling that December 2015 couldn’t come soon enough.

But what’s it all mean?

So many things to go through here, that had all been picked over by nerd-blogs 30 minutes after this thing hit the web, but we’ll start with the main controversy (if you even want to call it that) – the black stormtrooper. Now, whoever this guy is (actor John Boyega, but that’s not important), he’s clearly in a stormtrooper outfit….and from what we learned from the prequels, all stormtroopers were originally clones of Jango Fett….who was clearly not a black guy.

Not black.

Not black.

But over the course of six movies, and 60 years of fighting an endless war, maybe the Empire ran out of clones and needed to hire some actual people to staff it’s massive army? Or maybe, as we’ve seen in previous Star Wars movies, he’s just dressing up like a stormtrooper, to maybe rescue a princess from a space station? I don’t know what the deal is, but he appears to be our protagonist, or at least one of them. A female is seen jetting off on a speeder bike, resembling maybe a Luke Skywalker-esque hero, who is looking for some action away from her desolate desert home planet? What’s clear from the clip is there are going to be an all-new cast of characters in this film, because so far, we haven’t even seen our Lukes, Leias and Hans, even though we know they are all signed up and ready to go. But enough about the good guys…

(gulp)...

(gulp)…

The MOST talked about thing in this new trailer, was not a black stormtrooper, or the Millennium Falcon, or even the bad guy himself – it was all about that lightsaber…with a strange and fantastic new T-shaped hilt, it was so intriguing, even Stephen Colbert had to take time away from talking to a ham loaf with glasses to weigh in on it:

You don't question a nerd who speaks Elvish...

You don’t question a nerd who speaks Elvish…

Of course, there have been many variations of lightsabers over the years: different colors, double-sided, even lightsaber whips (if you delve into the expanded universe). But it’s always fun to see a new saber, and isn’t the Dark Side so much cooler than the Jedi, anyway? No telling who this cloaked figure is, but judging by the red blade, he’s most likely bad, and judging by the cast listing, he’s most likely Adam Driver. We liked him in Girls, and can’t wait to see who his character turns out to be. Will this be the main bad-guy for the entire Ep. 7/8/9 Trilogy, or are they going to jazz us up with someone cool, only to get rid of him, one movie in (see above: Darth Maul)? Hopefully they’ve learned their lesson and keep the heavy around for all three episodes. After all, did they kill off Darth Vader one movie in? No, they kept him around for all three movies, and guess what – we loved it!

So, ultimately, the question remains, will it suck?

No. One-hundred-thousand times, No. The Walt Disney Co. paid big bucks for Lucasfilm and the rights to the Star Wars franchise, and they poached the most able-bodied director in J.J. Abrams, who just recently pumped some much needed juice into the Star Trek movies (although, admittedly Into Darkness kinda sucked). But despite Super 8 being a poor-man’s E.T. knock-off, and Lost you know, kind of falling apart, Abrams gave fans a new hope. That maybe someday they’d make a cool Star Wars sequel that aged with us (we’re too old now to play with Ewoks), had an edge, some sex appeal, and made us the cool ones for once, for liking it. Well, that day may not have come yet, but at least we know they’re trying, and this is our best-bet to put the wind back in our sails, after Phantom Menace and Co. sucked all the air out. Are we excited to see The Force Awakens when it comes out next December? You betcha! But will we start lining up now, camping out to be first in line? Well, let’s just put it this way – wild tauntauns couldn’t drag us away.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

17 Jan

This past year marked the 10th anniversary of the attacks on 9/11, and Post-9/11 Hollywood has been all about Iraq-war documentaries, Michael Moore and ‘How long do we have to wait before we can make a fictional 9/11 movie?’ Which is actually tough because the documentaries started as soon as the first plane hit the North Tower, and Michael Moore had to wait until George W. Bush’s re-election campaign, but how long did Hollywood have to wait before it could successfully make a dramatic 9/11 movie without being accused of treading on a national tragedy? Well apparently five years, as the first major ‘based-off-actual-events’ film to tackle the subject was Paul GreengrassUnited 93, released in April of 2006, which told the story of the doomed fourth plane that crash-landed in rural Pennsylvania, and then again four months later with the Nicolas Cage-driven World Trade Center, which focused more on the first responders at ground zero on the day of. Then in the years after we got Adam Sandler‘s Reign Over Me and Robert “Edward” Pattinson‘s (shudder) Remember Me, that told completely fictional stories that somewhat revolved around the events (and were both not very good movies). But now there’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, opening nationwide over ten years after the fact, that begs the question “How much time has to pass before it’s okay to publicly hate a movie about 9/11…?”

The movie in question centers around Tom Hanks, who works inside the World Trade Center and perishes that day with nearly 3,000 others, and the wife (Sandra Bullock) and son (newcomer Thomas Horn) who are left to grieve. While the mother-and-son relationship looks to be stilted at best, father-and-son seem to have an intellectual bond, as both are inquisitive about their surroundings, and keep each other on their toes with riddles and scavenger-hunt games that they presumably keep mom out of. Which in turn makes dad’s death that much more traumatic, since the mother seems to be seen as a secondary member of the household, and since the tragedy itself was so senseless and inconceivable. But just as his world is crumbling all around him, the young man finds one more quest left by his father, almost from beyond-the-grave, wherein the key to unlocking it seems impossible to find, yet the answer that lies forever on the horizon will put the boy at peace with dad’s death, and be the last bit of fatherly wisdom that will prepare the boy for his new life as a man……

Give me a break!

The trailer starts off with father and son playing “reconnaissance” games with one another and practicing karate in the living room, which is believable enough; who doesn’t think Tom Hanks would be the best dad in the world? But then he dies, and son Thomas Horn goes on this massive quest, presumably throughout all five burrows of New York City, to find the one lock that fits the one key left to him by dear-old dad, which holds a life-changing revelation that provides all the answers he’ll need, as a pre-teen who has to begin to live the rest of his life without a father. That may sound cynical, but maybe it’s the fact that they set the whole thing to the tune of Bono and U2 that makes me groan so incredibly loud.

My biggest contention lies not with the story, which I imagine was a wonderful novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, but in the execution, which seems to come off as overwrought. In what world does a 10-year-old travel around the biggest city in the world, meeting a kaleidoscope of strange people, of all ages, and of all colors? There was a woman in real life who let her 9-year-old ride the subway by himself, and the whole country tried to crucify her. And then there’s that mystery of a key that could open up the secrets of the universe, or just as easily a sock drawer. I mean, how many of us still have keys to old apartments that for one reason or another we still have lying around?  Plus, that kid just kind of annoys me. I mean, does every syllable need to be pronounced in every sentence? I know there’s hyper-intellectual kids out there (this one himself was found by producers after appearing on an episode of Kids Week Jeopardy!), but there’s a fine line between being precocious, and being obnoxious. Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone and Uncle Buck was a lovable scamp; that kid from Jerry McGuire was a delight! Jake Lloyd as a young Anakin Skywalker in Phantom Menace….? Obnoxious.

So, will it suck?

Yes. When I go to a movie that is going to make me cry, I don’t want to be able to physically see the producers just off screen squeezing the tears out of a scene. I want a natural arc to get me to be surprised that I’m so emotionally invested in a movie that I’m literally blubbering like a baby. This film seems like it’s forced, and yes, a lot of it stems from that U2 song in the trailer. You could play “Where the Streets Have No Name” while I’m running to the mailbox and you’d think that I just got a letter from a long-lost love, or that I just won a Nobel Prize for curing cancer, when in actuality it was just a bunch of porno mags. Don’t squeeze me. And yes, you may call me out for my cynical take on what is supposed to be a deeply moving movie about a young boy who loses his father on the worst day in Homeland Security, but hasn’t 9/11 made us all a bit more cynical? At least I’m honest about it.

The Dark Knight Rises – Trailer #2 Goes Viral!

19 Dec

Has it already been three years? Well, three years, five months and one day to be exact, but ever since we sat in the theater on opening day to watch The Dark Knight, the second installment in the amazing ‘Batman’ trilogy Christopher Nolan is putting together, we’ve been waiting patiently for the thrid and final film, to complete what is looking to be the best movie arc since the original Star Wars (let’s be honest, Indiana Jones took a dive in Temple of Doom, and the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy was just waaaay too long and complex). Well, we are now one day closer to getting the final film, as an official trailer for The Dark Knight Rises has hit the web, and we couldn’t be happier to voice a collective “Hell Yes!”

A couple months back we got just a peek at the first teaser, showing Gary Oldman‘s ‘Commissioner Gordon’ painfully speaking from a hospital bed, and flashing a glimpse of main baddie ‘Bane’ played by Tom Hardy. A tease if I ever saw one! Combined with The Dark Knight regularly airing on basic cable, we felt it was high time the producers gave us a bit more, and a full trailer we now have. Eerily opening with a boy singing the National Anthem at a ‘Gotham Rogues’ football game, it sets the tone for a movie that promises no one will be left standing by the end of this thing, and we couldn’t be more excited. With Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler Alfred apologizing for failing to protect our hero, a memorial service for ‘Two-Face’ D.A. Harvey Dent, and an ominous warning from a so-far de-clawed Catwoman (played by Anne Hathaway) that would send shivers up the spines of the 1%, we’re confident Nolan’s got quite a movie brewing here. Oh, and not to mention Hardy’s ‘Bane’ blows up an entire football field in front of 80,000 strong; the Rogues will probably be playing the rest of their home games at Gotham U.

An uprising appears to be in the works in this one. With Hathaway’s ‘Selina Kyle/Catwoman’ whispering an address in Bruce Wayne’s ear on behalf of the have-nots, and Bane leading a rousing, AK-47 brandishing band of busted out convicts, the streets that were once safe under the watchful eye of the Bat, will run red with blood in his absence. With Nolan coming out and saying this film takes place 8 years after the last one left off, it appears Bruce has been actually running his companies rather than sleeping during board meetings, and the proletariat have gotten sick of watching the rich get richer and fatter at their expense. A scene in which a fancy house party gets trashed, and tuxedo clad guests get drug out by their bowties, only enforces that maybe Nolan is pulling an “art imitates life” maneuver; expect to see Occupy tents alongside rabid fanboys, waiting outside theaters on opening day.

But what’s the endgame here? The trailer clearly says this will be the “epic conclusion” and a final showdown on the steps of city hall between Bane and an older Batman could prove that this will be a showdown unlike any other. We’re playing for keeps in this one, winner take all, and the whole city is up for grabs. What happens to Gordon who is stuck in that hospital bed from the first teaser? Which side will Catwoman officially fall on? And who is flying that awesome Bat-plane; the one that looks like a stealth helicopter on steroids?! But more importantly, what happens to the Bat, who is out of practice, out of shape, and out of sequels? With the whole of Gotham depending on him, can he save the day and restore peace, society, and economic equality?

So, will it suck?

NO! A hundred thousand times No. With a pedigree like this, and such a kick-ass trailer, is there any way they can miss? Nolan’s built a franchise that could run on auto-pilot and still be more entertaining than Green Lantern, The Avengers and all of the X-Men combined, plus have plenty left over to blow out every other movie hitting screens this summer. Knowing his attention to detail and cerebral history, we’ve just gotta believe he pulled out all the stops to make this one just as good as the last, and even though the deck is stacked against him without the benefit of a Joker running around, The Dark Knight Rises will come out on top as one of the most entertaining movies in all of 2012, and should fit neatly in the textbooks as the proper way to make an action movie. It will be a bittersweet end to a great reboot, but I personally can’t wait, and I would sit through a thousand horrible movies this winter and spring just to watch this trailer over and over and over again. Plus, was that a cameo by Pittsburgh Steeler Hines Ward…???

Avengers Unite!

11 Oct

The Long Awaited Avengers Trailer

Some would say it was the comic book nerds who most anticipated the release of The Avengers first trailer.  I suspect those who didn’t admit to drooling over the idea of a bunch of badasses joining forces were in denial and have probably been set straight by their psychologists by now.

Paramount kept teasing its fans by pushing back release dates of the trailer.  Now that it’s here, I’m not sure what they had to tweak to make it better.  It starts out with the disposable military and police that prove useless in hero movies.  They fire their impotent bullets at a target in the sky, I’m sure is an enormous death machine.  As the yet unseen monster/robot marches, the street erupts with fire that sends cars airborne.  Cut to The Avengers’ secret facility that I’m sure will be host to the most amazing training montage we’ve ever seen.

It looks like the big villain is Loki, Thor’s envious brother.  This isn’t much of a surprise if you saw both of this summer’s hits, Thor and Captain America.  There were hints in both those blockbusters if you were paying attention.  Loki was the best part about Thor if you don’t count staring into Natalie Portman’s seductive eyes.  No offense to Thor, but villains are much more interesting and Loki was beautifully rendered.  From Odin’s betrayal to his treasonous plans, we were able to connect the dots from dutiful servant to traitor.

King nerd Joss Whedon helms this action and hero packed movie.  Although he’s had some duds; creating Dollhouse for TV and writing Alien: Resurrection for film, he’s had super hits with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly.  I know Firefly didn’t do so well in the ratings but man, does it have a cult following.  Whedon will do this movie justice and utilize his talent exactly as they need be.

Marvel has spent a lot of time and energy making its movies not be terrible.  It’s almost like it respects the fan base that’s made its titles successes, thus leading to the chance to make more money on the movies.  I’m going to go ahead and assume that not all of Marvel’s fans are happy with the films it’s produced.  But I don’t think anyone can say it is forsaking its foundation.  Comic book movies are hard to make well.  Depending on how long the characters have been around, there could be a hundred different plot twists and turns.  It is impossible to incorporate every bit of canon into a two and half hour movie.  Marvel has done well to protect its babies and has done well to find new fans.

WillItSuck?…No.  I admit ensemble movies are hard to pull off.  There’s more than one star competing for the audience’s attention.  Usually what happens is the star power is diluted until it’s evident the studio could have saved a ton of money and made a better movie had they gone with relative unknowns.  But for every few Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve (Why are the shitty ones about holidays?), there are the Magnificent Seven and Boogie Nights.  The more demonstrative characters will get the appropriate amount of screen time and the lesser characters will balance it out.  These characters have been established in either their own franchises or have been a common thread throughout each movie.  We won’t get lost like in Armageddon.  It was difficult to care about any character because they were getting killed off so fast we barely knew their names.  One critique though, do we really need The Hulk?  Two fine actors have sucked in the role, now we’re going to offer up a third?  Doesn’t seem right.  Oh well.

The Avengers / May 2012

The Avengers / May 2012

Red Lights: Point/Counterpoint

20 Sep

A new trailer is out for Red Lights, the Robert De Niro movie where he…um…sits on a bed, and….like, truth is stranger than fiction, or something? Experts Josh and Joe hash it out in this week’s “Point/Counterpoint”.

Joe: Ok, first off, the whole idea is to base my judgment off of only the trailer.  This means I will ignore what an IMDb search could give me regarding cast, director, plot, etc…So, that being said, based ONLY on this trailer for Red Lights – my opinion is: WHAT!?  Seriously, the pacing of the trailer is nice.  It’s not too fast and not too slow.  It builds up a rhythm that keeps my attention.  But the pay-off and reveal is nothing more than Robert De Niro looking creepy.  My very first impression is that the movie will SUCK – because the trailer is a very cheap tease at NOTHING.

Josh: You mention a “tease” and that’s just what this is – a “teaser” trailer (industry speak). But yeah, there’s one shot; that’s it, that’s all they give us. But there’s also a lot of build-up. Three quarters of the trailer is increasingly suspenseful music over voiceless text narration that repeats buzz words and phrases (that curiously mirror the plots of recent popular movies), and give us De Niro, sitting on a bed, turning around. Yeah, it looks creepy, but he also looked creepy in Meet the Parents, and those were supposed to be funny movies (okay, the first one was pretty good). My problem with the trailer is that yes, it gives us NOTHING, but what does “Red Lights” mean? Are they street lights? Tailights? Is it a UFO thing? And what’s with the “coded” language in the background of all the text shots? It’ll probably play somewhere in the plot, but let’s be honest, the little hints we got DON’T justify me being extra curious to find what this movie is all about; it more just pisses me off that they held so much back.

Joe: But let’s not gloss over your mention of MEET THE PARENTS.  Thanks to Bob’s (industry slang) recent choices of film we are left with a creepy De Niro that doesn’t really have any impact.  Imagine, just for a minute, that we are back in the late 90’s.  In a world without Meet the Parents or Rocky and Bullwinkle.  A world where De Niro hasn’t tried to ANALYZE anything yet.  In this world – right up to the boiling point of brilliance known as HEAT – De Niro had us by the balls.  The guy could do no wrong.  Sure, he had a few dogs leading up to Meet the Parents (Frankenstein? Yikes)  and even found a way to still have a decent flick sneak out after – my opinion is that The Score (2001) & City by the Sea (2002) are his last good movies – but there is a reason and a point to all of this rambling.  Here it is: Robert De Niro used to be able to hold enough weight (again, think back to the 90’s) to make a TEASER trailer like this actually work.  And, as long as we are throwing our minds into the 90’s, we could argue that a TEASER trailer like this one for Red Lights would seriously play 10 times BETTER in 1996 than it does now, 15 years later.  Why?  Because of the “buzz words and phrases”

Josh: “No matter what you think you know…”

Joe: …that are sprinkled throughout…

Josh: “No matter what you believe in…”

Joe: …the creepy build up…

Josh: “The truth is the most dangerous illusion of all…”

Joe: …to an old man’s face.  I mean, think about it – the text that tempts us in this teaser could easily be thrown in front of The Matirx all the way up to Inception and be selling the same movie.  So, after a bunch of nonsense and rambling, I’m trying to drive home that this concept of a trailer could really work…but the words and phrases need to be (and this will be tough for hollywood writers) original AND we need a creepy face that belongs to an actor who could give us the “wow factor.”  And since I don’t want to leave you assuming that I don’t have a plan I will tell you whose face could have given us the “wow factor” without us rolling our eyes:  Michael Keaton.  You throw Keaton’s mug up there and we’re all going to be whispering, “Was that Michael Keaton?”  “Man, he looked creepy!”  “What was the last movie he did?”  “I want to see that movie!”

Josh: Oh Jesus, again with the Michael Keaton?! You know, Michael Keaton had a chance to be creepy in the 90’s and that was Beetlejuice. You know what, scratch that; I think the snowman in Jack Frost freaked me out more than anything. I mean, what they hell was that? On the first warm day of the year I’m going to have to watch my dad die all over again, in a horrible, agonizing, Raiders of the Lost Ark face-melting way? Yikes indeed! But back to De Niro, yes, you make a good point, how can we ever take him seriously again? Whether he’s a cry-baby mob boss, or appearing in an Eddie Murphy movie, he’s lost that edge, and “Travis Bickle” or “Jimmy Conway” seem like distant memories (not to mention a young “Vito Corleone,” which frankly, is unrecognizable at this point). Does that mean that Bob is gone for good? No, not at all. It’s just this trailer looks like a cheap thriller that’s been done before, and if it does end up that he’s some suspenseful, supernatural code breaker, then no thank you; I’ve already seen The DaVinci Code. I smell a paycheck movie…

Last Words:

Joe: Fine, fine, fine.  You smell a paycheck movie.  I smell a potentially GREAT movie that will NOT find an audience until word of mouth and DVD because they are trying to sell the film on the mug of De Niro – and all that will do is keep people from bucking up and taking a chance because they are still scarred from Hide and Seek.

Josh: And I say it’s going to suck, because they’re resorting to a gimmick in the TEASER trailer, and the only gimmick you need in a Robert De Niro film, is Bob’s fine acting. And besides, when’s the last time you enjoyed being teased by and old-ass Robert De Niro on a bed…?

Moneyball

24 Aug

Ah, sports movies. They’re a dime a dozen, and they all tend to be tremendously inspiring (even the funny ones), because as we all know, it’s not whether we win or loose, it’s how much you tug at the heartstrings of sports fans, already used to the ups and downs of the game. Oh, and also how much money you make at the box office. Whether it be about baseball, football or even robot boxing (yes, there is a “robot boxing” movie coming out this fall (and yes, it looks a bit “Rock’em, Sock’em”)), one thing remains – there will always be a winner, and there will always be a loser; a metaphor for life, that if you work hard, you can overcome anything. All sports movies get schmaltzy toward the end, but that’s why we love them, which bodes well for Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, as front office men trying to build a winning baseball team in this Fall’s upcoming Moneyball.

Based on the true story and best-selling sports economics book of the same name, Moneyball follows Pitt as Billy Beane, the real-life GM of the Oakland Athletics, who despite having his hands tied with a paltry sum of money to buy a big name roster, put together a winning team by using a new system of acquiring undervalued players. With his numbers-crunching sidekick, played by Hill, Beane was able to look at the stats to find the biggest performers on the field, who weren’t necessarily ready to be asking for big, million dollar paychecks. And history showed that despite having a small payroll, he really was able to make it to the playoffs four years in-a-row in the early 2000’s, a feat that left the MLB guessing how he did it, and copying him ever since. We have to tip our pro-model caps to his ingenuity.

The movie, though, kinda comes off looking like Major League. As Beane is putting together his ragamuffins, we get the sense we’re watching our beloved Cleveland Indians from that late eighties film. As a lifetime catcher, we watch them try to transition Scott Hatteberg (played by Chris Pratt) to first base, as he’s got a great on-base percentage, but can’t stop a ball to save his life (a la Roger Dorn). Their pitching is more likely to hit the back stop than the strike zone (“Wild Thing” Ricky Vaughn), and there’s even a shot of the guy with double knee braces, which is almost lifted entirely from Jake Taylor’s double ice packs. But, to be fair, this is a different movie, and let’s be honest, The Bad News Bears pretty much did it first.

But halfway through the trailer, we get the “this isn’t working” scenes; people questioning his unorthodox decisions, a coach (Philip Seymour Hoffman)  that wants patiently for this trick to work, and Beane’s young daughter asking if her dad was really going to be fired. But, as these things normally do, the team starts coming together. Wild plays and, more importantly, wins start to manifest on the field, and fans begin to rally behind their A’s. The schmaltzy music kicks in (there’s that schmaltz again!), and we’re left to believe, “hey, they might actually pull this one off!” Could the daring decision to, oh I don’t know, actually put together a good team, finally pay off? In Tom Berenger’s words, the only thing left to do, is win the whole f**king thing.

So, will it suck?

No. Despite the heavy comparisons to Major League, this doesn’t seem to be a re-tread, or at the very least, not one that’ll take away from the film. There’s a handful of comedic parts in the trailer, that should pepper throughout the movie (hey, it’s baseball, not brain surgery!), and even though we know the A’s don’t win the World Series (or make it past the first round of playoffs), we know that somehow they’re going to stick this one out, and that yes, hard work and smarts will always trump big pocketbooks….to an extent. Watching Pitt (who looks surprisingly like Robert Redford) have a go at the majors looks promising, Jonah Hill looks toned down (which is a refreshing change of pace), and Hoffman as manager Art Howe looks to be the strong silent type. And have we mentioned earlier drafts of script were written by Aaron Sorkin, who worked wonders on the biographical The Social Network, 2010’s best film? Not to mention Pratt, who is dynamite in TV’s “Parks and Recreation”, director Bennett Miller, who had a ball with Hoffman in Capote, and co-screenwriter Steven Zaillian, Oscar-winning scribe of Schindler’s List, Gangs of New York, and the upcoming The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. They’ve nearly enough to field their own baseball team, and with Moneyball, they might not win Hollywood’s World Series, but you can be sure they’ve got enough juice for the playoffs.

30 Minutes or Less

3 May

by brian

Aziz Ansari and Jesse Eisenberg team up for a stoner/buddy/action/caper movie which promises to be a laugh a minute.  Ansari has been poised for years to make a break out.  He spent two seasons on MTV’s “Human Giant”, has had bit parts in Funny People, Get Him to the Greek, and I Love You Man.  Ansari has been on the rise lately having hosted the MTV Movie Awards, a standup special and, of course, his wimpy Tom Haverford on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation”.  He will help Eisenberg get past his subdued and seemingly Asperger’s afflicted acting style.  Once he was considered the poor man’s Michael Cera, Eisenberg has a chance to stretch his comedy legs.

30 Minutes or Less rounds out its cast with the always funny Danny McBride and Nick Swardson.  They are the ridiculous catalysts.  The writers of the movie are unknown in terms of actual work, but seem to be competent to bring a comedy such as this to the big screen.

Now the bad part.  This movie would be hilarious if it weren’t for the fact that the unbelievable premise actually happened and ended fatally.  In 2003, Pennsylvania pizza delivery man, Brian Wells, walked into a bank and demanded $250,000 or the timebomb strapped around his neck would go off.  Once police arrived, they arrested him and left, what they believed to be a tremendous bluffer, handcuffed on the sidewalk.  As television cameras rolled and the images were broadcast live, the bomb timed out and blew a fist-sized hole in Wells’ chest.

If folks see this movie without knowing the grusome inspiration, they will have a great time.  I am actually very surprised this script made it past the Hollywood legal litmus test.  Once moviegoers learn about the unfunny and all too real event of which this movie is making light, they will feel awful they helped financially support the makers of this film.  This is a poor attempt at comedy following a horrifying episode.  If you still aren’t convinced, go ahead and Google “pizza delivery guy bomb.”  Just don’t do it at work and make sure you start running the water for your shame bath before you hit play.

So, Will It Suck?

No.  The movie will be funny.  Ansari will continue his well deserved comedic rise.  Eisenberg’s already built up enough fame equity to come out of this relativley unscathed.  McBride and Swardson have a devoted following already, so they’re safe.  The writers, Michael Diliberti and Matthew Sullivan better make a sincere Mother Theresa biopic or something before their karma is damaged beyond repair.

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