28 July 2012

Olympic 'Skyfall' Teaser

Wow. I have no words for how spectacular that footage looks. That would have made for an excellent Olympic opening in itself.

25 July 2012

Christopher Nolan's Farewell Letter to Batman

Thanks to a very devoted fan over at SuperheroHype, we have access to a letter closing out Christopher Nolan's ties to Gotham and the guardian who watches over it.
Alfred. Gordon. Lucius. Bruce . . . Wayne. Names that have come to mean so much to me. Today, I’m three weeks from saying a final good-bye to these characters and their world. It’s my son’s ninth birthday. He was born as the Tumbler was being glued together in my garage from random parts of model kits. Much time, many changes. A shift from sets where some gunplay or a helicopter were extraordinary events to working days where crowds of extras, building demolitions, or mayhem thousands of feet in the air have become familiar.
People ask if we’d always planned a trilogy. This is like being asked whether you had planned on growing up, getting married, having kids. The answer is complicated. When David and I first started cracking open Bruce’s story, we flirted with what might come after, then backed away, not wanting to look too deep into the future. I didn’t want to know everything that Bruce couldn’t; I wanted to live it with him. I told David and Jonah to put everything they knew into each film as we made it. The entire cast and crew put all they had into the first film. Nothing held back. Nothing saved for next time. They built an entire city. Then Christian and Michael and Gary and Morgan and Liam and Cillian started living in it. Christian bit off a big chunk of Bruce Wayne’s life and made it utterly compelling. He took us into a pop icon’s mind and never let us notice for an instant the fanciful nature of Bruce’s methods.
I never thought we’d do a second—how many good sequels are there? Why roll those dice? But once I knew where it would take Bruce, and when I started to see glimpses of the antagonist, it became essential. We re-assembled the team and went back to Gotham. It had changed in three years. Bigger. More real. More modern. And a new force of chaos was coming to the fore. The ultimate scary clown, as brought to terrifying life by Heath. We’d held nothing back, but there were things we hadn’t been able to do the first time out—a Batsuit with a flexible neck, shooting on Imax. And things we’d chickened out on—destroying the Batmobile, burning up the villain’s blood money to show a complete disregard for conventional motivation. We took the supposed security of a sequel as license to throw caution to the wind and headed for the darkest corners of Gotham.
I never thought we’d do a third—are there any great second sequels? But I kept wondering about the end of Bruce’s journey, and once David and I discovered it, I had to see it for myself. We had come back to what we had barely dared whisper about in those first days in my garage. We had been making a trilogy. I called everyone back together for another tour of Gotham. Four years later, it was still there. It even seemed a little cleaner, a little more polished. Wayne Manor had been rebuilt. Familiar faces were back—a little older, a little wiser . . . but not all was as it seemed.
Gotham was rotting away at its foundations. A new evil bubbling up from beneath. Bruce had thought Batman was not needed anymore, but Bruce was wrong, just as I had been wrong. The Batman had to come back. I suppose he always will.
Michael, Morgan, Gary, Cillian, Liam, Heath, Christian . . . Bale. Names that have come to mean so much to me. My time in Gotham, looking after one of the greatest and most enduring figures in pop culture, has been the most challenging and rewarding experience a filmmaker could hope for. I will miss the Batman. I like to think that he’ll miss me, but he’s never been particularly sentimental.

24 July 2012

What to See in Toronto

The Toronto Internation Film Festival is the most accessible of film fests, but this year a few of the artier films are making their debut along with the more mainstream fare. Two of my most anticipated films are included on that list such as Derek Cianfrance's followup to Blue Valentine and Ben Affleck's third directorial effort. The film that is sure to get the most attention, however, is Terrence Malick's To the Wonder. Whatever the reaction will be to Malick's latest tone-poem, it will be fun to see first-hand.

The Place Beyond the Pines
Derek Cianfrance, USA (World Premiere)
Luke (Ryan Gosling) is a professional motorcycle rider who turns to bank robberies to support his newborn son. But when he crosses paths with a rookie police officer (Bradley Cooper), their violent confrontation spirals into a tense generational feud. The Place Beyond the Pines is a rich dramatic thriller, tracing the intersecting lives of fathers and sons, cops and robbers, heroes and villains. Also starring Rose Byrne, Ray Liotta and Eva Mendes.

To The Wonder
Terrence Malick, USA (North American Premiere)
After visiting Mont Saint-Michel — once known in France as the Wonder — at the height of their love, Marina (Olga Kurylenko) and Neil (Ben Affleck) come to Oklahoma, where problems soon arise. Marina makes the acquaintance of a priest and fellow exile (Javier Bardem), who is struggling with his vocation, while Neil renews his ties with a childhood friend, Jane (Rachel McAdams). An exploration of love in its many forms.

Ben Affleck, USA (World Premiere)
When militants storm the U.S. embassy in 1979 Tehran, six Americans manage to slip away. Knowing it’s only a matter of time before they are found, a CIA “exfiltration” specialist comes up with a plan to get them out of the country: a plan so incredible, it could only happen in the movies. Starring Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman and Kyle Chandler.

23 July 2012

Review: The Long Goodbye (The Dark Knight Rises)

"Because he's not the hero we need right now, but he's the one we deserve."

Eight years have passed since Gotham last needed Batman. Without the ornaments and implements of Batman, Bruce Wayne rings hollow. When we last left the Dark Knight he was on the run from the police and held in contempt by virtually all of Gotham. Shouldering the weight of Harvey Dent's crimes and suffering the loss of Rachel, he is in his own personal hell. Any semblance of a normal life ended with a sick joke and a cleansing burn.

Gotham itself is also in a transitional phase. The dark, transient city from Batman Begins was melded into a shiny metropolis for The Dark Knight and now is waiting to be torn apart in Rises. The have-nots have dragged on for far too long and now the socialites are ticking down the seconds before the doors burst open.

What Christopher Nolan does with this Batman trilogy is take a mirror and—under the guise of being only a comic book movie—holds it up to society and forces us to look. By grounding Gotham in Pittsburgh the audience cannot pretend this was a piece of fiction, this is a living, breathing organism that is suffocating in corruption. We don't have to look very far to see the resemblance. Bruce has no trouble comprehending what has happened to his city and, in his shame, has retreated to Wayne Manor.

Still, Bruce, with all of his high-tech-wizardry, is just a boy in a cowl looking for his parents. He is made of flesh and blood and he can be broken. Which is what make Bane (a very fearsome Tom Hardy) such a fearsome opponent. It would be impossible for any villain to surpass the peaks Heath Ledger climbed as the Joker, yet the Joker never really presented any physical challenge. Tom Hardy's Bane is frightening, stomachs clench when he appears onscreen. In political terms, the Joker was nothing more than a theorist with a bad sense of humor—Bane is a terrorist. More importantly, a terrorist with a plan. Everything will change in this madman's eyes. We will all fall.

Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne/Batman has been the most definitive take on the character offered on film. The only other real competition for that mantle is Michael Keaton. Keaton's Batman was fine enough, but he was stranded when it came to mining depth out of his character. What Bale has done is elevated the status of a once campy t.v. idol and made it real. Bruce's life is formed through his parents being taken from him violently. Yes, he has dark periods, but Batman is his solution. Batman is not a costume he puts on, he is the instinctual urge that Bruce constantly represses. He no longer has a choice in the matter. Batman has been labeled a public enemy, so in the shadows of Wayne Manor he must remain.

In Harvey Dent, the once bright beacon of hope, we saw a slide into darkness that would have destroyed Gotham. His memory has been manipulated into creating a police state aided by a police commissioner plagued by the lie of the past. Gary Oldman's Commissioner Gordon has been overlooked as far as characters go. He is the heart of Gotham that Batman can never be. Amongst the corruption that had infiltrated the city, he tried to remain steadfast.

However, both Dent and Gordon fell, only Bruce can be what Gotham truly needs. He knows that sacrifice must mean something and his promise to his parents must mean something. Batman must come back, if only for people like John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who believe in what Batman stood for. His mettle will be tested in combating Bane and he must do so with an undependable ally in Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway, surprising no one in spectacular, femme fatale fashion).

Christopher Nolan was up to the arduous task of following up one of the greatest films of recent history, and he didn't disappoint. He faced questions about casting Anne Hathaway and she turned in one of the most spectacular female characters in comic book film history. In making a third film he had to surpass expectations and avoid the pitfalls of the trilogy letdown.

The director not only managed to avoid the pitfall, he tore the genre-layout to shreds and, now, he can lay claim to one of the greatest trilogies of all-time. A better finish could not have been asked for. What impresses most is that Mr. Nolan manages to tear Bruce/Batman out of the stasis that his left the character without closure for almost a hundred years. By not rigidly adhering to what stories have come before, we are treated to something much more.

***1/2 out of ****

22 July 2012

'Man of Steel' Teaser Trailer

Masterful use of scoring music to what's onscreen. This teaser resembled less a cookie-cutter comic book trailer rather than a Terrence Malick film. Most importantly, there is none of the slow-motion expected of a Zack Snyder film.

19 July 2012

Just How Big Will 'The Dark Knight Rises' Be?

According to the folks over at Visible Measures, The Dark Knight Rises could be even bigger than The Dark Knight. I'm going to let that wash over you for a moment... bigger than one billion dollars worldwide. When comparing internet views of the respective trailers for each film, Rises quadruples the 2008 release.

Perhaps even more interesting is how it compares to The Dark Knight when it released back on July 14, 2008. As of its release date, The Dark Knight had scored 48+ million views, with no views coming from the movie studio. Of course 2008 was a different time for online video – there was less content and less people watched less frequently – but a discrepancy of over 150 million views between the two films is titanic.

How that translates into ticket sales is anyone's guess, but it can only mean good things for Christopher Nolan as he prepares to send Batman to take a bow.

10 Words or Less: The Dark Knight (2008)


18 July 2012

'The Master' Has A Poster

The is-it-about-Scientology-or-isn't-it film that has easily swept most of the conversation of the blogosphere has debuted its new poster exclusively to The Huffington Post. One of the more unique pieces of marketing that I've seen in a while. Kudos to the team behind Paul Thomas Anderson's latest feature, you've done a great job.

16 July 2012

Thomas Jane's Punisher Comic-Con Short

I wanted to make a fan film for a character I’ve always loved and believed in – a love letter to Frank Castle & his fans. It was an incredible experience with everyone on the project throwing in their time just for the fun of it. It’s been a blast to be a part of from start to finish — we hope the friends of Frank enjoy watching it as much as we did making it.

One of the best aspects of Comic-Con is that true appreciation of character and art is often found on display. Moments when Ryan Reynolds recites the Green Lantern oath with a small fan, when Andrew Garfield dressed up in costume for the press conference for Amazing Spider-man, so on and so on. This year we got to see Thomas Jane give back to the fans with a fan-film short featuring the Punisher (whose rights belong to Marvel again, btw).

Maybe Jane will see himself in a Marvel-production of The Punisher, maybe not, but the sentiments are welcome.

15 July 2012

Unscripted Movie Magic

Some of the best lines in cinema history are completely made up on the spot. Here are twenty-five of the best unscripted movie quotes of history.

14 July 2012

Warner Bros. Goes Dark with 'Man of Steel'

As the saying goes, if one of your properties makes billions of dollars, then  just keep applying that same treatment to all of your films. That's not a saying? Oh well. You still have a Man of Steel comic-con poster to enjoy.

Edgar Wright Teases Our Obliteration

One can't help but wonder if this poster for The World's End is a barebones layout of the plot via this exchange in Shaun of the Dead. Deceptively simple, yet brilliant.

12 July 2012

Marvel's Avengers Assemble Epic Box-set and Artwork

It is a little too early to think about Christmas shopping, but if there is a geek in your family, than this is the Holy Grail of gifts. Marvel recently announced the release of a six film box-set including all of Marvel's outings from Iron Man to The Avengers. The set not only includes ten disc with a great deal of special features but each film is housed in its own must-see sleeve created by Matthew Ferguson.

The box-set is available for pre-order on Amazon now, but for a look at the artwork head below.

(Courtesy: Marvel.com)

Skyfall Debuts New Q

Dapper, young fellow isn't he? This is our first look at the character in Sam Mendes' SkyfallBen Whishaw is stepping into some rather large shoes following Desmond Llewelyn's turn as Q for thirty three years of the Bond franchise. It will be interesting to see if he brings his own comic edge to the films, or is relegated as a background character with lots of shiny objects at his disposal.

(Courtesy: 007.com)

11 July 2012

Aronofsky's 'Noah' Not What You Expected

Many were surprised when Darren Aronofsky announced that his next film would be an adaptation of the tale of Noah. Not surprisingly, Aronofsky's tale will be a tad different than you may have imagined, including "six-armed angels". Hit-Fix's Drew McWeeny says this after reading the script for Noah:

Sure, the basic broad strokes of the story are pretty evident. Noah (Russell Crowe) hears the voice of God warning him that the world cannot be allowed to survive in the corrupted, ruined form Noah sees around him. It is a violent, freaky, scary world that Aronofsky and his co-writer Ari Handel have created. I’m particularly excited to see how Aronofsky brings to life the Watchers, eleven-foot-tall fallen angels with six arms and no wings. They have a major presence in the script, and they’re fascinating. Early on, when Noah needs to go see his grandfather, he has to move through the homeland of the Watchers, something that is not easy to do. 

Yep. Just like the good book said, six-armed angels combating with a world-weary protagonist.

Second 'Gangster Squad' Trailer

So much testosterone. Between Sean Penn and Josh Brolin alone, they could get flood the entire state of California.

Bane Wants You to See 'Dark Knight Rises' In IMAX

Did I mention that he isn't very good at asking? No? Well I'm sure he won't mind if you don't go... it's not like he is a terrorist or anything. As a reward, if you go to the midnight showings on July 19th, you well receive one of these posters. Presumably to scare visitors in your home. 

09 July 2012

Nolan "Finished with Batman" After Dark Knight Rises

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, director Christopher Nolan  confirmed his involvement regarding a potential Batman reboot and a Justice League film.
Batman will outlive us all, and our interpretation was ours. Obviously, we consider it definitive and kind of finished. The great thing about Batman is he lives on for future generations to reinterpret, and obviously, Warners will have to decide in the future what they’re going to do with him. We’ve had our say on the character. I’ve got no plans to do anything more, and certainly, no involvement with any Justice League project.
Obviously this comes as a disappointment to Warner Bros., but letting Christopher Nolan pursue his own creative interests is in the best interest of all involved. Keeping him around in a producer's role for a project he isn't interested in helps no one.

08 July 2012

Review: Along Came A 'Spider-man' Reboot

It has hardly been ten years since Spider-man made its onscreen debut. A journeyman director known for horror took a well-known comic book and turned it into one of the largest global franchises in movie history. Two years after that, Spider-man 2 overtook its predecessor, raking in over $700 million worldwide in the process. It seemed that there was no limit to the heights Tobey Maguire and Sam Raimi could reach. That is until Spider-man 3.

While the third installation of the Spider-man franchise made the most amount of money, it also left most moviegoers discontent with what they had received. Too many villains, too much mascara-clad Peter Parker, too much everything. Raimi, Maguire and company had lost their way. The phoenix burned itself into ashes.

Enter a new Peter Parker for a new generation. He is an outcast, he is angsty, he is English. Andrew Garfield endured a great deal of vitriol when he was announced as the new face of Marvel's most famous web-slinger. What Garfield may not have had in physique, he made up for in determination to infuse authenticity to the role.

Director Marc Webb isn't satisfied with only trotting out another Spider-man movie, he wants to tell a different story. This Peter Parker isn't so much nerdy as he is completely alienated. The loss of his parents set him apart from other kids. Upon the chance discovery of his father's old files, Peter completely changes his life. He meets his father's old partner Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) and finds out Gwen Stacy, the girl he has had his eye on, is Connors' intern.

The rest of the story is fairly familiar to audiences, but what Garfield, Stone and Ifans do with these interactions is what makes the new Spider-man worth watching. Moments where Peter spends dinner with his new beau and her domineering father (trademark Denis Leary) or his Uncle Ben (couldn't Martin Sheen have been in longer?) are played with an enthusiasm that some of the secondary character relationships missed in the Raimi franchise. More appreciated, Stone's Gwen Stacy isn't always waiting to be saved. She has her own motivations and ambitions. Stone's heroine has wit to go with her dazzling smile, something that was missing from Spider-man's female characters. These considerations make it apparent that Amazing Spider-man is unfurling its own origins in a carefully timed fashion rather than rushing to the climactic battle with the main baddie.

Peter Parker could have been another teenager lucky to receive powers, but he is grounded by his spectre-like existence in this world. He never really fits into the world, but as Spider-man he can take all the grief and crap piled on him and shoot it right back. The snark so closely associated with the arachnid-icon is indulged more frequently than past films. With that said, Garfield's interpretation of Peter Parker is darker. He rebels rather than back down. The danger is amped up as well: consequences of Peter's costumed proclivities are palpable. He cracks wise because he is in a horrifyingly real situation and quite often the people he cares about are harmed due to his actions.

Whether Webb's character arcs will continue to develop as the series begins anew is only speculation at this point, but this jumping point is a good start. Garfield and Stone have the chemistry to make it last.


Rest In Peace: Ernest Borgnine

January 24, 1917 – July 8, 2012

Ernest Borgnine died today at the age of 95.  He was best known for his roles as Lt. Com. Quinton McHale of TV's McHale's Navy, for which he was nominated for an Outstanding Lead Actor In a Comedy Series Emmy in 1963, and for 1955's Marty, where he played the title role of a lonely Italian-American butcher, and for which he won an Academy Award for Best Actor.  versatile actor, Borgnine was also known for his more villainous roles, such as the role of Coley Trimble in Bad Day at Black Rock, the sadistic Sgt. 'Fatso' Judson in From Here to Eternity, and as Dutch Engstrom in Peckinpah's iconic The Wild Bunch He is survived by his wife Tova Traesnaes, four children, and his impressive six decades of work.  Rest in Peace, Ernie.

07 July 2012

Monsters and Mecha-Suits? Must Be Pacific Rim's Poster

If there is ever any doubt that Guillermo Del Toro is beloved, go to Comic-Con, you'll notice the legions of fans chanting his name. Those unfamiliar with Pacific Rim should read the synopsis below. Do so quickly, the chanting starts in about twenty minutes. Guillermo Del Toro... Guillermo Del Toro... Guillermo Del Toro...

When legions of monstrous creatures, known as Kaiju, started rising from the sea, a war began that would take millions of lives and consume humanity’s resources for years on end.  To combat the giant Kaiju, a special type of weapon was devised: massive robots, called Jaegers, which are controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked in a neural bridge.  But even the Jaegers are proving nearly defenseless in the face of the relentless Kaiju.  On the verge of defeat, the forces defending mankind have no choice but to turn to two unlikely heroes—a washed up former pilot (Charlie Hunnam) and an untested trainee (Rinko Kikuchi)—who are teamed to drive a legendary but seemingly obsolete Jaeger from the past.  Together, they stand as mankind’s last hope against the mounting apocalypse.

06 July 2012

Review: Vets Outshine Leads in 'Savages'

Business makes for strange bedfellows, but for Chon, Ben and O, strange bedfellows makes for everyday life.

Audiences watching Savages may be wondering how their shared relationship works, but they are asked to accept it relatively early as intimate scenes come fast and frequently. The film depends on the audience's ability to believe that Chon, Ben and O really love one another and that love never seems to coalesce.

Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson and Blake Lively perform admirably, but their chemistry is always in question. That wouldn't be a problem if we weren't asked to believe that Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and Ben (Aaron Johnson) are best friends and they would do anything to save O (Blake Lively), currently held in a compound guarded by a particularly psychotic Lado (Benecio Del Toro, in gleeful killer mode). Elena (Salma Hayek) wants Ben and Chon's successful drug business, and if she has to kill people to get it, she will. Yet, Elena underestimates these two Laguna residents and her mistakes pile up into corpses. What once started out as a business transaction has transformed into a brutal, bloody war.

The slights of Savages aren't given much time to build to a fault as heavily stylized action scenes are often made the sole focus of the film. Vibrant colors lend themselves to pictures like this and Stone does best when he puts a gun in Taylor Kitsch's hand and lets him go to work. Still, the veterans of the cast outshine the young leads frequently. Salma Hayek is in prime form as a cartel leader with a serious case of Empty Nest Syndrome. Similarly, Benecio Del Toro and John Travolta's turns are highlights. When the film focuses on these storylines and puts Hayek, Del Toro and Travolta front and center, the technicolor excess works. 

If gruesome violence is too much for your sensibilities then there it should come as no surprise that sex is thrown into the mix as well. Multiple decapitations, rape, torture, all make an appearance in the film. Oliver Stone has returned to a primal state after several years of prestige films and documentaries about Latin America. The last time Stone was this colorful and violent was during turns as helmer of U-Turn and Natural Born Killers.

Oddly enough, for all of the harshness of the film, Stone takes the easy way out before concluding the film. In this case of Stone's genre flicks Savages is much closer to the former rather than the latter. 


05 July 2012

'Dark Knight Rises' Imax Poster Suggest Unthinkable

Will Batman live to see the end of Christopher Nolan's epic trilogy? Perhaps. Yet, with every new tagline, every line of dialogue introduced in the trailers, and each poster like the one above, the possibility exists. Killing off the face of a franchise is almost unheard of, but Christopher Nolan has made the better part of nearly $2.5 billion worldwide for Warner Bros., so we may very well be saying goodbye to Dark Knight on July 20th.

02 July 2012

'Django' in 60 Seconds

The Ecstasy of Gold, is there a better piece of music to use in a western?