Friday, April 24, 2015

A Guide to Upcoming Summer Blockbusters: Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron: Opening May 1

The Good: Have you seen The Avengers? Considering that it made about $1 and a half billion worldwide, I’d guess it’s a safe assumption that you have. And don’t you remember? It was awesome.

Everyone, myself included, was quite skeptical about how Marvel and director Joss Whedon would pull together five movies worth of backstory and characterizations for our titular heroes in any sort of coherent sense that was not just 150 minutes of explosions. But Whedon managed not only to make a coherent movie of a Norse god, an unfrozen man from the ‘40s, and a playboy but make it fun and immensely enjoyable.

Since then, Marvel’s “Phase 2” pictures have been pretty solid, especially last years Captain America: The Winter Soldier. And of course, in my opinion, Marvel has never made a bad movie so the main question would really just be: will Avengers: Age of Ultron be great or be better than its predecessor.

Not to mention that all of the advance reviews have been glowing.

The Bad: If there is one bad thing about a well-constructed shared universe, it is a glut of characters and AoU looks to only contribute to that problem. In addition to Iron Man et al. from the first Avengers, we have the addition (to the Avengers movies at least) of Rhodey’s War Machine as well as Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Vision and James Spader himself as Ultron. For a movie that was already bloated to begin with, AoU is starting to look like Mama June from White Trash TV. Again, none of the advance reviews I’ve glanced have pointed this out as a problem per se but it’s always a concern when your above the line cast can fill a football team.

The Prognostication: Oh, I have no doubt. This movie will kick ass and then some. And it will make a billion dollars for Joss Whedon in the process. And it will only get people more amped up for the next batch of Marvel movies. If you think otherwise, well ... there’s no helping you son.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Get Ready for More Furiousity!

My summer movie guide to Furious 7 may have prematurely called an end to the franchise with the death of its lead star Paul Walker. Especially since it is became the fastest film to gross $1 billion worldwide.

But for fast of the fast and furious variety, it seems smart to set aside April 14, 2017 on your calender for the next installment, according to de-facto series star Vin Diesel from CinemaCon today. And maybe Kurt Russel will play a bigger part!

Aside from the release date and some vague details, nothing else is known but considering the amount of money still being delivered from this seven film series, Universal Picture would surely be stupid to stop milking that cow while the audience is still sucking its teat.

Paul Walker may have been an integral part of the franchise, his death (and apparently very touching tribute at the end of the last film) will not end the Furiousness. In fact, maybe it will just increase it.

Theater Scum: The Age of Little Boys

Two completely different movies just bide our time until The Avengers comes out.

The Age of Adeline

In my travels, I’ve never really been impressed by Blake Lively’s performances. This doesn’t look too much better as Adeline is in a freak car accident that renders her forever young (that was a movie!). She runs away from relationships because they all die and she doesn’t until she meets her one true love and ... well, we can surmise the rest. This feels like a romance book inspired by Benjamin Button with a smidge of every other rom-com thrown in.

Verdict: Let it die.

Little Boy

The titular “little boy” is enamored with his father and all the wonderful bonding they have together. But, oh no! War strikes and daddy is called away, leaving “little boy” to be mopey until he figures out he can move mountains or something. Kevin James is also in this sporting a creeper mustache.

Verdict: Schmaltzy, touching, and worthless

**NOTE: Either of these would be better choices than Paul Blart 2. What kind of filthy world do we live in where that makes $25 million?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

'Full House' Revival Planned ... Why?

The Tanners are returning to your television after a twenty year hiatus. Or should I say ... the Fullers are returning? Because you see, the apparently real show is apparently really titled Fuller House! Because DJ’s last name happens to be Fuller! Oh boy, this sounds ridiculous already!

John Stamos dropped the news on Jimmy Kimmel last night that the rumored Full House reunion was on with a 13 episode order from Netflix. This time around, DJ (Kirk Cameron’s less insane sibling Candace Cameron Bure) is newly widowed, pregnant, and with two rambunctious boys who enlists the help of her younger sister Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) and enternally annoying best friend Kimmy Gibler (Andrea Barber) to help out.

Series creator Jeff Franklin is back on board with Stamos to produce and likely guest star with negotiations with the rest of the series originals said to be ongoing.

No doubt this will delight folks of my general age who religiously watched this show before the Olsen twins were of legal age. However, I’m willing to bet that most of those potential fans have not revisited the show in any recent timeline to see how schmaltzy and cheesy and pandering it really is.

In a world where kids from the 80s and 90s are greenlighting all the “new” shows with The X-Files, Coach, and Twin Peaks, I think I’d be more accepting to a Saved by the Bell reunion. That at least will have the benefit of giving Dustin Diamond a purpose in life beyond fulfilling his lifelong Screech potential.

Never Give Up! Never Surrender! Galaxy Quest Lives Again!

Well, on TV possibly.

Deadline is reporting that Paramount Television (apparently undeterred by the failure to transfer Axel Foley to the small screen) is developing a TV series based on everyone’s second favorite Star Trek movie, Galaxy Quest.

No other details are readily available but I’m fairly confident in thinking Sir Alan Rickman will not be stooping to broadcast TV to reprise his role of Dr. Lazarus. Best case scenario for this would be a limited production run (on Netflix, because Daredevil is awesome and GO WATCH IT!) that would allow the hilarious space hijinks to continue without a huge time commitment from all of the actors who made the movie what it was.

By Grabthar’s Hammer ... let’s do this shit!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Random Movie: You're Next (2011)

This movie demonstrates that family get-togethers can in fact get worse.

You’re Next is reminiscent of a lot of other recent films like The Purge or The Strangers with a group of people (a rather large one this time around) trapped in their home, being picked off by villainous folks outside. For their 35th wedding anniversary, Paul and Aubrey invite their four adult kids and their respective significant others to their country house to celebrate. They should have known that was the beginning of their downfall.

The film does an excellent job of establishing the characters in the scant minutes available before the carnage begins with some friendly banter between brothers, a nice exchange with the patriarch, and the interrogation of the siblings’ significant others. But all hell breaks loose when cross-bow arrows come flying into the family dinning room as they continue arguing over .... whatever siblings are wont to argue about. This quickly turns the mood from frustratingly hilarious (we’ve all been there before) to terrifying as the group realizes they are being targeted.

With a large cast of potential victims, very little downtime is spared after the assault begins but shockingly, the characters are reasonable and level-headed (especially Sharni Vinson’s Erin, one of the brothers’ girlfriend). They strategize for distractions, set traps in case the intruders enter the home, and (mostly) put the bickering aside instead of being insufferably hysterical lunatics that generally populate this genre. Unshockingly though, some of these best laid plans go horribly awry in grim fashions as the movie goes on.

Director Adam Wingard utilizes the best of the large family estate and the sprawling characters to keep the pace steady and uncomfortable, even as the potential victims wind down. But the film successfully strikes a distinct balance between humor and horror which makes it an outlier in the list of movies that attempt the same and fail miserably. I hope not to spoil much to say there is a twist toward the end of the film that isn’t exactly out of the blue but it fits the narrative and is not pronounced enough to be completely obvious when it’s revealed.

Even though You’re Next may borrow lots of elements from lots of other horror films, it feels fresh because of the delicate weaving of those elements with a great cast and a number of great and suspenseful sequences.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

'The Gallows' Hopes to Continue Blumhouse Productions' Winning Streak

What do The Purge, Insidious, Paranormal Activity, and Sinister have in common?

Jason Blum, previously just a junior producer on lesser Hollywood features, has become the major player in horror cinema since his participation in launching the first Paranormal Activity that kicked the horror genre out of pointless remakes and big-star titles and into original, low-budget productions that actually ... were scary.

Just one look at the filmography of Blum’s production company Blumhouse turns up a couple of duds that did nothing for me. But more than not, the films under Blumhouse’s shingle are more of the cerebral, under-your-skin type horror than fake jump scares. Of course, there have been many independent horror films over the years to accomplish the same feat but these productions aren’t limited to VOD or straight-to-DVD status. These are opening in 2000+ theaters each and every time.

The Gallows looks to try and continue that trend. Even looking at the teaser above, it does not tout any major stars or reality-TV character cameos. Only that the film comes from Blumhouse, the makers of some of the more well-received horror films in the past decade. That’s star-power in and of itself.

Friday, April 17, 2015

New 'Batman v Superman' Trailer Out; Puck Underwhelmed

Maybe my general dislike of this premise is that I never saw, nor felt any compelling reason, to see Man of Steel. But now, Batman v Superman: Blah Blah Blah seems to be using that as a launching point for the next generation of DC comic movies.

And, uh ... well. I’m not convinced.

The world seems to be against Supes for whatever transpired in his last outing and Batman is just along for the ride? Does he have an actual beef with the Man o’ Steel? Or is this just some hokey plot meant to mesh together two superheroes?

Unfortunately, the trailer is more or less vague other than implying that Batfleck has evil eyes for Superman. And I’m not sure how I feel about the Batfleck voice either. It sounds too ... robotic?

Anyways, call me nonplussed for now. But I’m sure we’ll be subjected to about 13 more trailers before this comes out next year.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Smokey to Return for 'Last Friday'?

Everyone can agree that Ice Cube and F. Gary Gray’s Friday is a great movie. Most everyone else can agree that its sequels were not as great for one reason: a dearth of Chris Tucker.

After Friday came out in 1995, Tucker enjoyed a career-high shortly thereafter with roles in the Rush Hour series, The Fifth Element, and some Charlie Sheen movie. But the elusive Tucker was happy enough bantering with Jackie Chan while likely bathing himself in his millions to consider returning to the Friday series where he big break came from.

Ice Cube (not be confused with NYPD’s finest Ice-T), while promoting a special screening of Friday on April 20 (420, natch), tells The Wrap though that may be changing:
“I think all the parties involved, all the people that’s been in the franchise, people from the first one to the third one, want to do another one.”
Considering Tucker’s only substantial role in Hollywood aside from the Rush Hours was an excellent supporting part in Silver Linings Playbook, one can hope he will be included in this last hooray to Craig, Deebo, and of course Big Perm Worm.

Cube says:
“It’s really up to the movie companies to step up. When they see stuff like this, they’ll realize how much people love this movie. Sometimes you owe it to the fans to do what the fans want. I hope they step up.”
So come on New Line/Warner Brothers/Whomever. Keep their heads ringin’.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Thank Odin! No Origin Story for the New Spider-Man

Among the chief concerns by many when it was announced that Spider-Man was officially joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe was worry that we'd be subjected to yet another G-D origin story. But Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige says nope!

Crave Online reported the quote from Feige who seems to be just as weary of Spider-Man Begins as the rest of us.
"There is a young kid [already] running around New York City in a homemade version of the Spider-Man costume in the MCU, you just don't know it yet,"
So fear not, fellow interwebbers. We will not be subjected to yet another tale of a young nerd named Peter Parker who gets bitten by a mutated spider and yada yada yada. So, at the very least this seems to mean that Marvel won't be as tone-deaf as Sony when it comes to what needs to go in a Spider-Man film.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Random Movie: Dumb and Dumber To (2014)

Considering the first film came out over twenty years ago, you would think that Dumb and Dumber To would have something new-ish to bring to the table. You would be wrong.

For our main protagonists, Lloyd (Jim Carrey) and Harry (Jeff Daniels), nothing much has changed in twenty years. They are still the same immature, adolescent goofballs that they have always been. Even though Lloyd spends two decades in assisted living faking a comatose state, once the two are reunited, it is like nothing has changed. With the same dingy apartment, the same blind, bird-obsessed neighborhood boy, and the complete lack of any and all cognitive thinking, Lloyd and Harry are basically in the same place that they were at the beginning of the first film.

Perhaps not shockingly then, Dumber To follows mostly the same beats to get the boys out on the road to find someone wherein all sorts of hijinks will occur. In this case, it is Harry who is driven to go cross-country from Maryland to Texas to find the missing daughter he never knew he had in order to get a kidney. Lloyd of course comes along for the ride as well as Travis (Rob Riggle) at the behest of the family to make sure everything goes smoothly. Suffice to say, the two manage to get themselves intertwined within another family feud fueled by lust and greed as they cross the country in a hearse, a zamboni, and even the Mutt Cutts truck for a bit.

In the preceding twenty years since the first film came out, I would have thought a better story could have been developed rather than a rehash of the first. There still remains good chemistry between Carrey and Daniels but here they come off less as simply imbeciles and more like two-thirds of The Three Stooges which may have ruined the Farrelly Brothers, but that's just conjecture. Sure, there are some changes, notably Kathleen Turner playing the previously alluded to Fraida Felcher as Harry's baby-momma but by and large, it is just a rehash of the first film, only with less funny, and tired, jokes.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Rubbish! No More Simpsons DVDs

Given that at present 27 seasons of The Simpsons have been produced, yet several are not available beyond FXX's constant reruns, countless fans will be disappointed to hear no more DVD sets are coming their way.

I've already made the argument why I believe DVDs and other physical forms of media are important but this news courtesy of show producer Al Jean on Twitter introduces a new wrinkle.

For dedicated Simpsons fans, in spite of the lackluster quality of many, many of the latter seasons, collecting the newly released (although generally seven to eight seasons behind) DVD box sets just added to the collection. But now? If you have feverishly bought every single set available now, you will have a gap from seasons 17-19 (with the 20th season getting its own out of order bare-bones release) and the rest of the series until it ceases, probably somewhere in the 43rd season. Or when the zombie apocalypse finally happens.

Given that all of the box sets previously have contained commentaries, deleted scenes, and other special features, Jean promises those will be made available through online sources (if you are a US resident). But that still won't fix that emptiness or feeling of incompleteness when you, the die-hard Simpsons fan, look at your collection to see gaps and faded dreams.

God speed, Simpsons DVDs.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Why 'Sinister 2'?

The original Sinister was a kick in the gut as far as horror films go.

Having grown up with a steady diet of Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers, and whatever other random shlock was out at the time, I typically don't respond well to horror films for their intended purpose: to scare. But I'll be damned if Sinister didn't get me time and time again but not with cheap jump scares and cats in pantries, but with truly disturbing imagery and an unsettling tone throughout.

Much like James Wan's recent non-Saw output, such as The Conjuring or Insidious, I do respond to those low-key but emotionally terrifying scenes that present a real danger to the characters, rather than one composed by lazy screenwriting to justify a horror label.

And much like The Conjuring, Sinister was not big on jump-scares or fakeouts but real scenarios playing out to real-ish characters that carried emotional weight. But since Sinister focused on Ethan Hawke and his family, I wonder what direction this sequel will take.

Considering Sinister was a modest box office hit and well received with critics and audiences, a sequel does not surprise me but if anything, this seemed like a one-and-done story contained within that movie. Of course, the teaser trailer just released doesn't really show anything major and I'm guessing the basic story will be the same surrounding deranged old family movies.

Still, out of all the recent horror movies that I've seen, I'm less interested in a Sinister 2 only because I feel like that story has run its course. Of course, this is all based on speculation from a teaser and nothing else but my opinion still stands. And I'm still terrified of lawnmowers.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

News Roundup: Play-Doh Machete Vs. Gordo

More Machete!

Even though both movies released thus far have only grossed about $30 million, it seems that someone is bankrolling Robert Rodriguez's next entry into Danny Trejo's Machete series. Only this time, it's in space! And it might be titled Machete Kills In Space! And you know, I can't think of any other floundering series that has turned to space and hasn't come back into relevance.

Next: Slinky: The Movie

Hasbro, not content with ruining childhood through bad Transformers movies, is reportedly looking to make a movie from everyone's childhood diet-staple, Play-Doh. Deadline reports Paul Feig is in talks to direct the film but the rest of the details are sparse. Granted, this sounds like a bad idea but then again The Lego Movie did as well. Maybe it'll turn out not horrible? Nawwwwww.

The Gift of Creepy Joel Edgerton

The trailer was just released for co-star/director Joel Edgerton's upcoming The Gift. I like Jason Bateman and I like Rebecca Hall and I like Joel Edgerton. All of these things added together with a creepy bowl-cut sound like a winning receipe.

Random Movie: The Kingdom (2007)

If there was ever a movie at odds with itself, The Kingdom is it.

Released in 2007, Peter Berg’s film about an attack on Americans living in Saudi Arabia likes to attempt straddling the line between political thriller and mindless action film. The story written by Matthew Michael Carnahan seems to try delving deeper into the social and political ramifications of Americans killed abroad and the subsequent FBI investigative team sent but is constantly undercut by half-handed dialogue and shoot-’em-up scenes to keep it from becoming “boring.”

Most jarring is the third act of the film which changes from a milquetoast Tom Clancy novel into a milquetoast Tom Clancy novel-based film in which the main team, led by the quite charismatic Jamie Foxx, is pulled into a rugged Saudi neighborhood with machine guns and RPGs apparently just laying around. After an hour and a half of diplomacy and some sense of restraint, the film pivots into a full out action, go ‘Murica type of film.

Other than Foxx, who gets a rather cliched bonding arc with the Saudi’s lead investigator Al Ghazi, most of the other cast members have little to do. The film progresses in such a way that there is never any real sense of character to start with (all but Foxx I believe are introduced by name via on-screen text) but the pace is nice and brisk since it so hastily switches between boring diplomacy and sort-of action sequences but again, this weakens the film that doesn’t really know what genre it wants to fall into.

Of course, while the film is largely apolitical other than the denouncement of terrorism outright, the ending must involve two characters on separate sides of the fight repeating the same mantra of “We’ll Kill Them All.” It’s hokey mostly because we know it’s coming as the film wears its subtext on the front of its T-shirt.

But of course, all of those complaints don’t render the film a complete failure. The cast is great, if underutilized (poor Jason Bateman), the direction is competent if borderline shaky-cam, and the story is engaging even if it doesn’t really know what it wants to accomplish. At the very least, the freeway scene of Suburbans being blown up gives us a new twist on the Clear and Present Danger version.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Happy Hour! Terrorists Blowing up Trucks!

In spite of the fact that international espionage is certainly not any 12-year-old's ideal movie plot, 1994's Clear and Present Danger was and remains one of my favorite action movies and the watermark for Tom Clancy's unsteady Jack Ryan series.

But okay, while the political in-fighting, old-school computer hacking (aka guessing passwords), and Mexican drug cartel stuff is in fact interesting, one nearly 10 minute sequence clenched my love for this movie.

Unfortunately, only a snippet of it appears on Youtube but the scene where Jack Ryan and his CIA cohorts are besieged in the streets on Bogota, is pure excellence in staging and direction on director Philip Noyce's part.

So, it's Friday! Enjoy! Watch some Suburbans get blown up (which between this and Speed made the Suburban my dream car)!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

In the Best News of the World Ever, Bob & David Reunite

Although there's been a smattering a tours and reunions, most folks have been missing Bob Odenkirk and David Cross since 1998.

Well, okay, that's not exactly true between Arrested Development for Cross, and Breaking Bad & Better Call Saul for Odenkirk, but Deadline has news that Bob and David are coming back to their proper home: sketch comedy.

Netflix has picked up the show with the two acting as executive producers for four half-hour episodes and a 'making-of documentary.' I don't know what any of those words mean because Bob & David are coming back and I'm insane!

Yay Netflix! Boo Communism! Words! No word yet on a return for Pit-Pat, the Pansexual Spokes-thing though.

Theater Scum: Gold 'n Furious

One of these things is not like the other.

Furious 7

We've already discussed this last week but all the early reviews indicate this entry is fasterer and furiouserer than the preceding films, which were already quite fast and furious. It'll make a billion dollars and you'll probably see it just for Jason Statham's apparently awesome villain.

Woman in Gold

What appears to be a touching, if ultimately kind of boring movie, starring future Fast & Furious villain Helen Mirren in a valiant effort to get a priceless family heirloom back. And she's aided by brilliant attorney ... Ryan Reynolds? Well, okay then movie. I'd wait for Netflix on this one.

Clint Eastwood Heading to the Olympics?

Considering the 84-year-old director has helmed nine films in the past decade, that may not be much of a stretch.

But Clint Eastwood isn't going for the gold in a 400 meter dash. Yahoo reports Eastwood is heavily considering a film based on the Centennial Olympic Park bombing that took place in 1996's Olympic Games in Atlanta.

So far, Jonah Hill has been cast as Richard Jewell, the security guard who discovered the bomb and later became the top suspect, with Leonardo diCaprio in talks to play his defense attorney.

Even if you don't particular like Eastwood as a director (I was ambivalent toward J. Edgar and completely uninterested in Jersey Boys), you have to admire his stamina.

Clint Eastwood is the Hugh Hefner of Hollywood.