Archive | June, 2011

**Trailer Time**: “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” & Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse”

30 Jun

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

The Mission: Impossible franchise and I have a love-hate relationship. The first film was one of my favorite action films of the 90’s and I loved how it wasn’t so much about Tom Cruise being a badass, as it was him getting a team together and working with them to pull off some really stealthy missions. Except for the end, there weren’t a lot explosions and gunfire, the suspense was created in them not being caught. Mission: Impossible II was an atrocity. Instead of stealth, we had lots of them getting caught and fighting their way out, plus some ridiculous motorcycle kung-fu.

It was a John Woo film, I don't know what else I would've been expecting.

The film could’ve been done without a “team” because Tom Cruise just did whatever he wanted and kind of asked his friends along to watch. The third film got the franchise back in my good graces because it mixed the two styles up and also added some great characters as well. Phillip Seymour Hoffman was by far the best villain that the series had.

Here we are at the fourth film. Tom Cruise is getting old, so Jeremy Renner is teaming up with him in what is rumored to be a “passing of the torch”. When I watched this trailer, it seemed more like the second film. There were lots of random explosions, people sliding across floors with guns, and now Simon Pegg’s character has a gun too. So, it already looks like Pegg won’t be helping the team too much from behind the computer, and is getting in on the action.

Even though he's proved he's pretty good at it before.

While I will still definitely see this film, because the trailer could be deceiving and it has an awesome stunt at the end, I am just a little skeptical. However, I still hold out hope that it at least returns to the tone of the third one. I like the fact that they are going back to the “disavowed” list like the first film, because it was best when they had to improvise with the resources that they had, and didn’t have some big company to fall back on.

War Horse

Steven Spielberg is trying to bank on the Christmas season, with not one, but two wide release films, both including a young male protagonist and an animal. The first is The Adventures of Tintin, but now he just released the trailer for his epic War Horse and it looks beautiful, even if it does look a little sappy and I’ve never been a fan of horse films.

Especially you, Hidalgo.

 The book, upon which it is based, is a poignant look at war and friendship during World War I, as a horse is separated from his young master and moves through various phases of the war, encountering several different people on different sides.

I think that Spielberg is a great pick to direct this film, and I absolutely love the visual style that is employed. I just hope he can capture the emotions that the book portrays, but Spielberg rarely fails at that.

In case you missed it, here is the trailer for The Adventures of Tintin:

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Haley Joel Osment Will “Wake the Dead”

28 Jun

Haley Joel Osment was once the talk of Hollywood after 1999’s The Sixth Sense earned him an Oscar Nomination at the age of 11. He then floundered around doing some other films like Pay it Forward and Secondhand Lions before practically disappearing off the screen. Well, he’s back, and he seems to have found a new way of dealing with dead people, bringing them back to life.

According to Variety, Osment is slated to star in an upcoming film called Wake the Dead, which will join the ranks of numerous Frankenstein reboots that are about to hit the screens. However, Osment is the only official star attached to any of them. Wake the Dead ,  based on a graphic novel of the same name, is a modern take on the Mary Shelley novel and Osment will play the main character, a college student who is trying to figure out a way reverse death. Slash, the Guns N’ Roses guitarist, and his company Slasher Films are producing.

That's madness. Slash isn't real, he is like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.

I am glad to see Osment return to the screen, since he did display a lot of talent when he was younger. He apparently removed himself from the main Hollywood scene to focus on schooling, which is a smart move, so now that that is over maybe we will see him pop up more.

As for the project itself it might be fun to see this type of adaptation, but with all the Frankenstein reboots set in motion, it might just feel like it is beating a dead horse.

What are your thoughts about this? Are you glad to see Osment return? Is the adaptation a good idea? Or should Frankenstein just stay dead this time?

Quick Takes: Some Humorous Letters to Projectionists

28 Jun

We posted Michael Bay’s letter to projectionists this morning, and my brother sent me this from Grantland.com. Apparently, some other directors have sent letters to projectionists now in order to ensure that the proper atmosphere and ambience is given to the audience in their films. Obviously, these are spoofs, but some of them are just downright hilarious,  especially J.J. Abrams trying to capture the theatrical feeling of 1979. It’s good for a laugh to get you through this dull Tuesday!

You can check out the letters here.

Michael Bay’s Letter to Fans & Projectionists

28 Jun

Michael Bay has made a lot of movie that I frown upon (to put it lightly). However, there is one thing about him that I respect, and that he really does have a passion for making movies (even if they’re bad). Even though he and James Cameron (or Jim as Michael Bay refers to him) are good friends, I don’t get the soulless vibe from Bay. He just knows how to make movies that will make money, but he also appreciates film as an art and he doesn’t seem calculated about it. He knows his fan base, teenage boys, and loves them.

That last sentence sounded wrong.

Anyway, realizing that about him, and appreciating his love of film, will never make me say that movies like Transformers 2 or Pearl Harbor are “good”.

Bay’s most recent installment in the Transformers series comes out this Wednesday and was conceived and shot in 3D, using the technology that James Cameron used in Avatar. In case you weren’t aware, there is a big difference between a movie that is “3D”, and a movie that is “conceived and shot” in 3D. The latter actually plans on and utilized 3D cameras and technology during the filming, while the former just adds it afterwards in what is called “post-conversion” 3D and looks more like a diorama than having the depth and scope of a film like Avatar. While I am normally against going to see 3D movies because most of them are “post-conversion” and a waste of money, I will probably see Transformers: Dark of the Moon in 3D to see what all the rage is about.

Michael Bay has even gone so fars as to write two letters, one to fans and one to projectionists, explaining how to have the optimal 3D experience for his film. Here is the one from fans (courtesy of Michael Bay’s blog):

THANK YOU NOTE FROM MICHAEL BAY (6/26/11):

I just want to take the opportunity to thank all the fans around the world for letting me have fun with the Transformers franchise. It has been a wonderful opportunity to have worked with about 4000 crew members around the world. These artists are some of the very best in the entire film business. I’m honored to have had you work along side me. We had an amazing time.

‘Dark of the Moon’ has some of the most technically challenging sequences ever shot. And shot in 3D. I must urge you to find the very best theatre and see this movie in that format. 3D was a forethought, not an afterthought in this movie. I’m glad Jim Cameron and Steven Spielberg really convinced me to shoot in this new technology. We used and invented many new techniques to make the 3D sharper, brighter and more color contrast. I think theatre owners heard their audience that they need to respect the specs of the projectors and not dim the bulbs to save money.

Many theaters are presenting it in the brand new 7.1 sound, which is awesome. This is the most complex, intricate sound track that me and my Academy Awarding winning sound team have done. They really out did themselves to make this a big picture experience. Hopefully you will have as much fun watching this movie as we all had making it.

Thanks,

Michael Bay

This could read one of two ways.

1) He truly cares about his fans’ movie experience.

Or 2)

Go see it in 3D so I can make it rain! Booyah!

 My inclination is to believe that he has more respect for his fans than to try coerce more money out of them, he already has enough, but then again he is friends with the Devil (James Cameron).

Here is his letter to projectionists (courtesy of Deadline.com):

While he may come off as demanding and kind of cold, I kind of appreciate his efforts to bring his viewers the best possible experience, even I don’t exactly enjoy those movies. However, projectionists are coming out from their enclosed doors and into the sunlight to tell people that many studios do this anyway, and it really isn’t that special. What do you all think of Bay’s efforts? Are they out of genuine love for his fanbase? Will you see Transformers: Dark of the Moon in 3D?

TAKE TWO: Bad Teacher

27 Jun

Bad Teacher

Rated: R

Starring: Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Jason Segel, Lucy Punch

Director: Jake Kasdan

Chris’ Take: Bad Teacher is shameless.

And I don't mean like the hilarious Showtime show.

Films like this, where the protagonist is the projection of the darker side of our nature, are usually good for a laugh. However, unless you have some sort of way to relate to this person as a decent human being, the jokes run ragged and it becomes confusing as to why we are rooting for this person.

Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) hates her job as a middle school teacher, and is set to quit. After her plans to marry a sugar daddy fall through, she is forced to continue educating the young until she can find another man to latch on to. The new substitute teacher, Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake), comes from a rich family, so she immediately tries to seduce him. Elizabeth finds out that Scott has a thing for women with large breasts, so she buckles down by any means necessary to beat out arch-nemesis Amy (Lucy Punch) in the state’s standard test and get the bonus that will pay for implants.

I normally hate Cameron Diaz in just about anything, and I didn’t find her as annoying as I usually do. I liked her as the sarcastic and lazy Elizabeth Halsey. She played the role well and she did provide a fair amount of humor. However, the script didn’t offer her enough to work with to make her a well-rounded character. Films like this usually have moments where the character learns something, and then overcomes some sort of struggle which allows the audience to relate to them and share in the victory of the character (even if it is twisted), like in Bad Santa or Bad News Bears.

The old one, not the crappy new one.

The problem with Bad Teacher is that Elizabeth really doesn’t learn anything, she just kind of cheats her way into every victory without any consequence at all, so the movie really is without shame and it is kind of unsettling. I am usually for movies that find a way to defy conventions, and this one certainly did, but it was missing something to tie it all together and I can’t put my finger on it.

Jason Segel stole the show every time he opened his mouth. Justin Timberlake has proved he has comedic chops, and was touted as the second star of the film, but Segel outshone him in every scene.Unfortunately, he was not around very much in the movie, and the romance between him and Cameron Diaz was  forced and un-convincing. The only thing they had in common was that they liked to smoke pot and make fun of other teachers. Segel’s character didn’t add much to the movie as a whole either. He was like a side note, even creeping in each scene like he had no involvement in anything going on, making a welcome quip and then leaving.

The comedy was solid for a while, I laughed a fair amount, but it started to fizzle out about two-thirds of the way through the movie. Disgruntled, but witty lines from Diaz were soon replaced by more physical comedy and sight gags, and never found a good mix of dialogue and visually driven humor. Director Jake Kasdan has a talent for finding that balance, as seen in the under-appreciated Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, but it wasn’t prevalent here.

While I’ll try to refrain from spoiling anything in case you still want to see this movie, I thought the ending ruined anything positive that had been set up previously in the film. It didn’t make sense. It was like there were 15 minutes of character development that all of a sudden happened and we missed. It seemed like completely different characters showed up to film the ending scenes. I usually think movies could benefit by cutting several scenes, but I think Bad Teacher would’ve been better if it had maybe 10-15 more minutes in it to explain how we got to the conclusion.

I think this film could’ve been a solid “B” to “B+”, but because of the unlikability of its protagonist and the debacle of an ending, it falls far short of that. I still hold out hope for Kasdan’s feel for directing comedy, but if this movie proved anything positive, it’s that Jason Segel’s comedic future still looks bright.

OVERALL: C

Like Chris, I usually steer clear of all movies involving Cameron Diaz, at least since Gangs of New York, and I love that movie despite her.  However, this role seemed like a perfect fit for Diaz, and I had high hopes that she’d return to the comedic chops we saw in There’s Something About Mary.  While Cameron’s portrayal of Elizabeth Halsey was adequate, Chris is dead on in noting that the lack of character depth and her complete unlikability made it difficult to root for this character.  It was obvious while watching this film that the scriptwriters ( Gene Stupnitsky, Lee Eisenberg) were trying to break some conventions when writing; however, these rules are in place for a reason and while the attempt is noble, the result was unfulfilling.

It’s clear from previous roles that Justin Timberlake has a talent for acting.  However, aside from sketch comedy, he hasn’t really proven his comedic abilities.  Whether it be the roles he is cast in, or something else holding him back, he is no different in Bad Teacher.  On the other hand, Jason Segel’s stock will continue to rise as he (once again) steals nearly every scene he is in.  In fact, the only flaw I saw in Segel’s performance was the forced chemistry between his character and Diaz’s, but I’ll chalk that up to poor scriptwriting.

Segel's extensive work with inanimate objects prepared him well for working with Diaz

Overall, I’ll say that Bad Teacher was a disappointment, simply because it seemed to have a lot more potential than it displayed.  Jake Kasden has created some successful comedies in the past with Orange County and the hilarious Walk Hard.  Like the last film we reviewed, Green Lantern, I think Bad Teacher could have benefited from a longer run-time to further develop the characters.  Bad Teacher was a disappointment but it certainly was not a failure, though I’d suggest it as a rental and not something that needs to be seen in theaters.

OVERALL: C

Christopher Meloni Joins the ‘Man of Steel’ Cast

27 Jun

Christopher Meloni, of Law & Order: SVU fame will be joining the increasingly impressive cast list for one of next years most anticipated films Man of Steel.  Meloni recently relinquished his longtime role on NBC’s popular drama and looks to be making a smooth transition back into full length features.  Accompanying Meloni in the next Superman film will be Henry Cavill, Michael Shannon, Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, and Julia Ormond.

While Deadline announced the news on Friday, they did not have any insight into which role Meloni would play.  This of course lead to various speculations, the most obvious being that he would possibly play Lex Luthor.  However, Latino Review is now reporting that Meloni’s role would be as a general.  No other specifics were released about the role, like whether this general would be Human or Kryptonian, but that does suggest that the role of Lex Luthor is either absent from this film, or still up for grabs.

Meaning Mad Men fans will still be petitioning for this to happen

As far as Christopher Meloni’s role is concerned, I have my own speculation.  There is one military General already well established within the Superman lore, General Sam Lane.  In addition to being a high ranking military officer, Sam Lane also happens to be Lois Lane’s father.  His involvement in a fight against a Kryptonian invasion led by General Zod (Shannon) would provide more conflict and emotional depth to the Lois Lane character (Amy Adams) and possibly also provide emotional conflict for Superman (Cavill).  With every casting announcement I get more and more excited to see this film, and it is closely battling Ridley Scott’s Prometheus for my most anticipated movie of 2012.  Man of Steel is directed by Zack Snyder and is scheduled for release in December of 2012.  Now excuse me, I’m gonna go fondle my sweaters.

Fondue Cheddar!

Opening This Week (01 Jul, 2011)

27 Jun

As expected, Car 2 sped past all the other competition in the box office this past weekend, with a final weekend total of $68 million. Bad Teacher had a decent start for an R-Rated comedy, enough to take the #2 spot with $31 million. Green Lantern‘s light dimmed significantly, dropping to #3 with $18 million, an almost 66% drop in revenue from last weekend. If two summers ago is any indication of the box office this weekend, we will have a new #1 this weekend:

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Opens June 29th)

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro

Director: Michael Bay

Synopsis from IMDB: The Autobots learn of a Cybertronian spacecraft hidden on the Moon, and race against the Decepticons to reach it and to learn its secrets.

 Trailer:

Chris’ Take: I really hope that there is more Navy involvement in this movie. That provided most of my entertainment in the last film. I love learning about new weapons systems that I didn’t know we had. Apparently, Shia LaBeouf and Michael Bay have apologized about how crappy the last Transformers movie was, and vowed to make this one better, even going as far as filming it in 3D. I heard a lot about the 3D technology used in this film, so I will probably try to see it in that format. There are 4 reviews in so far on RottenTomatoes, and 3 of them are good reviews, but they are pretty luke warm. We’ll see what happens, but like a car wreck that I can’t look away from, I will probably stick around to watch this one.

Larry Crowne

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Cedric the Entertainer, Bryan Cranston

Director: Tom Hanks

Synopsis from IMDB: After losing his job, a middle-aged man reinvents himself by going back to college.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: That Thing You Do was one of my favorite films when I was younger, and that was Tom Hanks’ last directorial effort. While this film looks fairly formulaic, pretty much anything Hanks is involved with turns out to be at least “decent”. So, I am not normally one for chick flicks, but I think this could be one that I could be convinced to see. There aren’t any early reviews yet, but if you’re looking for a nice alternative to the bombastic Michael Bay Transformers film, this is probably a safe bet.

Monte Carlo

Rated: PG

Starring: Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester, Katie Cassidy

Director: Thomas Bezucha

Synopsis from IMDB: Three young women vacationing in Paris find themselves whisked away to Monte Carlo after one of the girls is mistaken for a British heiress.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: I guess they needed a movie that appealed to tween girls in order to cash in on a group that might feel ostracized during the weekend release of Transformers: Dark of the Moon. There was not a single clever moment in the whole trailer, and based on the talent found in this group, I doubt there will be through the whole movie. No early reviews yet, so nothing really to compare it to. Anyway, if you’re looking to drop off your tween daughter for some harmless fun while you get some adult time, this would be a great movie for them . Just make sure you make them pay their own way.

Limited Releases

Terri

Rated: R

Starring: John C. Reilly, Creed Bratton, Jacob Wysocki

Director: Azazel Jacobs

Synopsis from IMDB: Centers on a large 15-year-old boy in a small town as he struggles to adjust to his difficult life.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: John C. Reilly is co-starring in another indie film with a guy’s name as a title, and focuses on a troubled large person (Cyrus and Terri). While Cyrus seemed more for laughs, this seems like a film that has a more poignant dramatic focus. I think it will also be nice seeing Creed out of The Office. With 75% on RT, this probably will be a decent and thoughtful viewing.

The Perfect Host

Rated: R

Starring: David Hyde Pierce, Nathaniel Parker, Helen Reddy

Director: Nick Tomnay

Synopsis from IMDB: A criminal on the run cons his way into the wrong dinner party where the host is anything but ordinary.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: I was just musing the other day, while watching Wet Hot American Summer, about what happened to David Hyde Pierce. He is a humorous, yet quirky fellow, even if he would probably be pegged as a nerdy chemistry type for the rest of his career. When I watched this trailer, I didn’t really know what to make of it. It seemed like an odd mix of The Collector, Weekend at Bernie’s and House Party. I am a bit confused, but a bit intrigued. The reviews are mixed (50% on RT), which seem to mirror my confused state about this film.

Finally, if you’ve read this far, you really probably have nothing better to do today do you? To reward you, in honor of Michael Bay’s “genius”, I give you one of my favorite South Park clips: