New Rise of the Guardians Trailer
Jul 2012 09

I know what you’re thinking: “Rise of the Guardians? Isn’t that the rubbish CGI owl film that Zach Snyder tried to poison the world with back in 2010?”.

No, I haven’t decided that Zach Snyder’s critically-maligned kiddie-mation Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole  is ripe for re-visiting. I actually wanted to draw your attention to the upcoming Rise of the Guardians, because I’m putting my swingers on the line and saying that it will be good. Why? Well, how about the fact that it’s from the rapidly-improving Dreamworks Animation, of course. Or, if that’s not enough for you, what about the fact that this is the Studio that brought us the criminally-underseen How to Train Your Dragon (a film I rate as 3rd behind Avatar and Hugo in the best use of 3D stakes)? Still not enough for you? what if I were to say that it involves a world where Santa Claus, the Sandman, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and Jack Frost do battle with a new threat for the safety of all child-kind?

Santa: he ain’t playin’

Getting somewhere, huh? Ok, it’s probably a bit soon to be making predictions about the quality of a film that isn’t coming out until November, but if it can capture something of the fun and awe of How to Train Your Dragon, then it will have a good chance of being successul. And c’mon, how long has it been since Pixar had a legitimate challenger in the computer-animated film genre? Too long, I say. I haven’t yet seen Brave, and I love Pixar as much as the next rabidly-loyal fan, but it could do with some genuine competition to make sure that we can avoid the kind of complacency that led to Cars 2 (a film that, unfortunately did obscenely well finances-wise, if not review-wise).

Check out the trailer below, and then feel free to abuse me, but I’m sticking to my guns. I’m going to believe.

TA

Man of Steel Trailers: Like London Buses
Jul 2012 23

So, no sooner does the first Man of Steel trailer play at the start of The Dark Knight Rises, does it become apparent that there are actually two different teasers. Ok, so they’re not that different. The footage is the same, they both contain a solemn monologue by a father figure over footage of a fishing Clark Kent. But which father figure? In one version of the trailer, Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent narrates, and in the other, it’s Jor-El (Russell Crowe) his Kryptonian father. There doesn’t seem too much rhyme or reason behind the choice of which trailer plays at which showing. But either way, it’s clear that people don’t seem too excited about this Superman film. The gist seems to be that Superman is too powerful, the world more cynical now, that he’s just too, well, boring.

Man of steal? Looks like Superman’s been opening some vaults.

I can see why Superman would come across as a boring do-gooder to some, but here’s why you should be excited:

Christopher Nolan is producing. That’s right, Chris Nolan is bringing his Batman experience to bear, and he’s brought his co-writer from the Batman films, David Goyer along for the ride.

The cast? The convincingly superhuman looking Henry Cavill as Superman, alongside Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, Diane Lane and Laurence Fishburne. Established acting heavyweights one and all. Except Cavill, maybe. That comes later.

Zach Snyder is directing, which might raise alarm bells for some, but maybe it’s time that Superman had a bit of kick-ass style? Zach Snyder has his flaws as a director, but when it comes to cinematic action, the guy knows what he’s doing. He’s an interesting choice to pair with Chris Nolan, who picked Snyder from the cream of Hollywood talent for this gig.

If nothing else, it’ll be different. This ain’t your father’s Superman movie.

Check out the trailers below, and let us know what you think about the film (coming out in 2013).

TA

The Dark Knight Rises: 33 Things About the Movie
Jul 2012 25

Film School Rejects is an excellent site devoted to films. Since we are still in the midst of debate about TDKR, I thought it was worth sharing some recent articles posted by FSR. After posting my mostly positive review, I have spoken to many people about TDKR. Some were overtly positive about the film (fanboys so blindly in love with Batman, that I think they might need to invent a new porn subgenre), others who thought that the film was great but definitely flawed (like me, although it’s worth pointing out that The Dark Knight wasn’t perfect either), and some detail-orientated film nerds who let the films flaws ruin the experience for them.

For the record, I think that Bane’s voice was annoying, that there were plot holes, and that certain things didn’t make sense. But Nolan and co. got so much right in making the film, that ultimately that is what tipped the scales, and I enjoyed the film on balance.

The first article is 11 things that didn’t work in The Dark Knight Rises:

Link

The second article is 11 things that did work in The Dark Knight Rises:

Link

The third article is 11 things that were just okay in The Dark Knight Rises:

Link

Plenty of food for thought there, and I think most of their points are broadly right. Here’s hoping that this is the first of many blockbusters that provoke such debate.

If you agree, disagree, or would like to add to any of the articles’ points, feel free to post a comment below.

Also, as one last treat, and speaking of raging fanboys, here’s the entirely self-financed trailer for a fan-film called Grayson. It depicts a world where Batman has been killed, and Robin steps up. The guy himself directs, writes, and stars. Perhaps surprisingly, it doesn’t look completely terrible:

TA

Jul 2012 27

A quick glance through the pages of any 2012 film magazine or website should be enough to demonstrate that we currently living through the golden age of the superhero movie. Never before have our cinema screens been so overrun by spandex-clad bodybuilders fighting the forces of evil. And with good reason. Movies after all are big business, and the superhero movie is a Hollywood producer’s dream in terms of its appeal to the ‘four quadrants’ – specifically; both male and female, the under 25’s and over. In these dark times popular culture needs its heroes, and it seems, finally, they have arrived.

And while as an audience we are increasingly expecting more depth and gravitas from our men of steel, these are still films for the family. The grownups go to the movies too, but this year in particular they have been seriously neglected. There have been exceptions:  At the start of the year we were treated to David Fincher’s ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’, and more recently Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus’. But generally the childless among us have had little reason to step away from the wonderful world of drama now available on our television sets.

Which is why the recently released trailer for Quentin Tarrantino’s ‘Django Unchained’, is such cause for celebration. Having danced around the genre of spaghetti western his whole career, we are finally being offered a genuine western from the master of the Mexican standoff. A look at the trailer shows us what’s in store: Tarrantino favourites Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson underpinning the action, a star turn from Jamie Foxx – an actor bitterly underused since his Oscar Winning portrayal of Ray Charles, and finally a villainous role for the De Niro of our generation – Leonardo Di Carprio. All of this twisted with the director’s now-standard black gold dialogue.

Critics of the filmmaker may sight his previous movie ‘Inglorious Basterds’ as reason to disregard his upcoming film as more pop-history junk. But place that movie alongside recent Hollywood historical offerings such as ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ and ‘The Raven’ and its clear to see Tarrantino’s talent for meshing entertainment with issues shine through. Granted, slavery is a huge issue and Tarrantino has had his run-ins in the race department. Most notably with Spike Lee’s searing criticism of his use of the N-word in 1997’s ‘Jackie Brown’. But these misgivings should be viewed as merely hurdles for Tarrantino to overcome – he is after all a filmmaker with such a unique voice and   style that I cannot but wish him the best. In an age of sanitized supermodels he remains an auteur – who takes his audience to places they may not feel comfortable to go. Places in modern cinema, where it is rare to be invited.

Lightness of touch and a real sense of humour is something our current superhero filmmakers seem to have overlooked, and it is this refusal to take himself seriously that is so appealing about Tarrantino’s latest. Real life issues such as slavery may no longer have a place in the modern multiplex, but I have a feeling that if anyone can bring the adults back to the movies, it’s Quentin Tarrantino. I can’t wait.

JP

Sleepless Night: The French Take on Taken?
Aug 2012 01

Most people want to be action film heroes. Sure, there might be some who might try to deny it, pretending to be too “mature”, or say they’re “pacifists” and other made up words. But ultimately, we all want a glock in our hand, and a cause in our heart.

However, what with our increasingly sedentary lives, allied to an abdomen-expanding diet, these days most regular people are further away than ever from being action heroes (or heroines). We all like to think that if it came to it, we’d have it in us to rise to the challenge. If only we had a suitable cause, an emotion-fuelled motivation, a vindictive and psychotic nemesis to spur us to action, we’d be unstoppable.

While we sit around watching soap operas, waiting for said motivation to come along, we watch action movies to sate our appetites for righteous violence. 2008’s Taken starring Liam Neeson (written and produced by Luc Besson), showed that a “particular set of skills” and a kidnapped daughter can do wonders for your get-up-and-go. And maybe Taken was just the start? Unknown followed in 2011, and Taken 2 is due to come out this year. All of these are French/European movies, with a less large-scale story premise than your average Nuke-obsessed 80s testosterone ‘n’ bullets-fest.

In this vein of effective French action movies comes Sleepless Night. Like the recent Indonesian action flick The Raid: Redemption, a man has to enter a hostile building, and work his way to the top through many (many) henchmen. Unlike The Raid, where the protagonist had a whole SWAT team with him, cop Tomer Sisley has to do this all on his lonesome. His partners have betrayed him, and a vengeful club-owning mobster has kidnapped his son. Cue much adrenaline-saturated fighting, and a liberal sprinkling of some pulse-pounding tension. One of the most effective things about the film is its sense of place, it gives the audience a good sense of where everything and everyone is, even in the midst of some frantic gun-and-fist-play. With some believable performances and some suitably gritty visuals, you’ll be in for a cinema seat-based treat.

‘Hey Dad, I know this isn’t really the time, but I really need to go to the bathroom!’

Sleepless Night won’t rock your world, change your life, or finally give you that action-star motivation, but if you like this sort of thing, and you’re feeling French, you’ll be in for a cracking and visceral action movie. Check out the trailer below, and leave a comment, if you’re hard enough.

TA

Killing Them Softly: Sounds Like The Fugees, But is Actually Brad Pitt’s New Film
Aug 2012 04

Brad Pitt is an odd actor, as it happens. With his matinee idol good looks, and ridiculously toned physique, you’d think he’d be set fair for a nice, safe career in mainstream movies and nothing more (He’s married to Angelina Jolie for f*&%’s sake!).

It’s clear though, that he’s always yearned for respect, respect as a serious actor, and as an artist (or should that be ‘artiste’?). If he is slightly limited as an actor (he can’t have everything), he’s often made the most of what talent he has (I’m not knocking the guy, he’s a good actor, just not a great one). And with that talent, he’s taken a loose version of the ‘one for you, one for me’ approach to his film choices. He’s gone for studio-shmoozing, mainstream successes like Ocean’s Eleven and Mr and Mrs Smith, but he’s also dared to stray outside his comfortable spotlight, and done more left-field flicks such as Twelve Monkeys and Burn After Reading.

So, with this penchant for the not-so-mainstream fare in mind, it’s perhaps no surprise that his latest film is another collaboration with Aussie auteur, Andrew Dominik. Pitt worked with Dominik on the divisive, but (at least in my opinion) majestic The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. This was a film that was at an immediate disadvantage, in a lot of ways. Brad Pitt’s mainstream fans would be turned off by the length and glacial pacing of the movie, and those drawn to the film by Dominik’s debut (the Eric Bana-launching Chopper) wouldn’t know what to expect from a film so different in setting and subject matter. Upon its release, despite gorgeous cinematography, a wonderful, intentionally charisma-less performance from Casey Affleck and some rave (some not so rave) reviews, the film more or less tanked. Box Office Mojo has it down as making $15 million from a $30 million budget. Not exactly gangbusters.

If that hairstyle doesn’t just scream “wrong side of the tracks” I don’t know what does

Killing Them Softly is a crime tale in which Brad Pitt plays Cogan, a point man (a sort of scout) working for a hitman who begins to look into an audacious robbery of the mob’s assets. A simple enough story that clearly has a lot of potential to take some dark twists and turns. The early reviews coming out of festivals have been positive, and since Andrew Dominik was able to use Brad Pitt’s real-life star persona to draw possibly his best performance out of him in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, we have reasons to be optimistic about this one. Reasons to be negative are: the involvement of Harvey “Scissorhands” Weinstein, and that we really don’t know what to expect from Andrew Dominik at this stage.

It’s likely that this film probably won’t have huge fanfare around its autumn debut, despite the involvement of the Weinsteins. So this is the perfect opportunity to nonchalantly recommend it to friends and thenceforth be worshipped as some kind of film-recommending GOD.

Killing Them Softly will probably be released circa October in your local independent Cinema. Check out the trailer below, and feel free to leave comments ALL IN CAPSLOCK and abusing my mother, if that’s what works for you.

http://youtu.be/4RaEF2aIbJQ

TA

New Film: Antiviral by Cronenberg… Not That One
Aug 2012 12

There’s no doubt about it, David Cronenberg’s films aren’t for everyone. In his 80s/early 90s heyday, his disturbing and distinguished films may not have created the ‘Body Horror’ genre, but they certainly defined it. The Fly, Scanners, The Brood, and the infamous Crash all brought a heretofore unseen psychological depth to splatter, finding new and interesting ways to make people feel all icky inside.

Hardcore Cronenberg fans have been somewhat disappointed by his recent output. A History of ViolenceEastern Promises, Spider and A Dangerous Method have all disappointed fans by having a distinct lack of exploding heads and vaginal imagery. Now, however, perhaps those fans’ perverse bloodlust will be satisfied by the latest Cronenberg joint. Except it’s not David who made the forthcoming Antiviral; it’s his son.

Cut that hair!

There’s no doubt about it, making your directing debut not just in the genre your father specialised in, but the very epoch of the genre that he more or less made his own takes balls, and Brandon Cronenberg is clearly in possession of big ones, hewn from brass. Even the plot smacks of classical Cronenberg: Syd Merch (Caleb Landry-Jones) works for a company who specialise in harvesting diseases from celebrities, and then infecting paying clients with said diseases.

Early festival reviews have veered between joyous and underwhelming, but when it came to the Cronenbergian cinematic output, at least in the early days, it was ever thus. Whether Brandon Cronenberg will make it as a director, it’s too early to say, but as first films go, this certainly a provocative and attention-grabbing one.

Check out the trailer below, whatever the critics say, watching Antiviral promises to be an interesting experience. Currently it has no set release date, so fingers crossed it hits soon.

TA

Seven Psychopaths: The Cinematic Follow Up to In Bruges From Martin McDonagh
Aug 2012 15

Anyone who saw 2008’s In Bruges knew that they were witnessing the arrival of a cinematic talent. Sure, Martin McDonagh had already made a name for himself as a successful playwright, but In Bruges really got the attention of the mainstream (myself included). Hell, his brother, John Michael McDonagh wrote and directed last year’s critically-acclaimed The Guard (the most successful Irish independent film of all time), so there seems to be a natural talent for storytelling in the McDonagh family.

There’s no doubt about it, when you have a film as darkly comic, effortlessly stylish, and critically-lauded as In Bruges, you tend to garner a certain amount of credibility. Martin McDonagh is currently the director and writer that all the big names want to work with. Why? Well imagine the shot in the arm it can give an actor’s career to work with such an acclaimed director, still on his way up? Like a filmic defibrillator, applied to your career, the awards people take notice, and suddenly you’re cool again. What’s not to like? Don’t believe me? May I point you in the direction of previous examples, such as Tarantino, Q. and Soderbergh, S.

What’s that? You want further proof? Well, how’s about the cast for his latest film, Seven Psychopaths? We have: Colin Farrell (natch), Abbie Cornish, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Olga Kurylenko, Tom Waits and Gabourey Sidibe. Not bad, right?

“Never, EVER turn your back on Woody Harrelson!”

I mean, with a title like that, most people’s interest would be piqued, but a glance at that cast-list would induce most right-thinking moviegoers into a frenzied stampede to their latest multiplex, demanding tickets with mad vigour. So what’s this new film about then? It’s that screenwriter’s favourite: a struggling screenwriter. Here played by Colin Farrell, the poor scamp somehow manages to unintentionally embroil himself in the world of Los Angeles organised crime when some of his questionable friends kidnap a mobster’s dog.

Plenty of potential there, you might think. Especially when you consider how much In Bruges made of a couple of bored hitmen in Europe’s premier medieval city.

“Bloody dog!”

We can expect to catch this promising piece in around October time, since that’s when our American cousins will be getting their teeth into it. Watch the trailer below, and then feel free to gnash your teeth in rage, and type a comment with angry fingers if you disagree, or be nice. Your choice.

TA

Forget The Expendables 2, The Last Stand Will Be Arnie’s REAL Comeback
Aug 2012 17

The Expendables  and The Expendables 2 may mark Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to screen acting, but mark my words, 2013’s The Last Stand is the Governator’s real return to the silver screen. Sure, The Expendables films beat The Last Stand to it, but check out some of the reviews, and it’s clear the most critics don’t think either the original or the sequel are one of those “so bad it’s good” films. And in my opinion the joke has worn off, they’re just bad. The Last Stand actually has some pedigree behind it, despite its admittedly unremarkable title.

It’s good to see him pointing a gun again

Arnie plays a border-town sheriff, forced out of LA by a scandal, who reluctantly joins a last-ditch attempt to stop a US-bound drugs baron. So far, so generic. But what really sets this apart (Arnie’s return aside) is the choice of director. Handling megaphone duties is South Korean auteur Kim Ji-Woon, whose best known works The Good, The Bad, and The Weird and I Saw the Devil marked him out as one to watch, even within a generation of talented Korean filmmakers. Kim Ji-Woon’s films have varied style and genre, but have always had impact and kineticism, something this film would arguably benefit from, in order to make the most of this plot. But also, Schwarzenegger has always been at his best when working with true directors, not hacks. Despite making some word-class dross in his time, Arnie’s place in cinematic history is assured, after his work with James Cameron resulted in the iconic Terminator movies, as well as Predator and Total Recall.

Still looking badass in leather and shades

So, Kim Ji-Woon’s involvement is legitimately attention-snaring in its own right, coming as it does in the midst of other renowned Korean filmmakers directing their first English-language films. Bong Joon-Ho’s Snow Piercer is coming in 2013, and features Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt and Jamie Bell. If The Host and Memories of Murder blew you away, you’ll already be cursing the fact that you can’t yet book tickets for this one. Perhaps my favourite Korean director, Park Chan-Wook is releasing his film Stoker in March 2013, and Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, and Matthew Goode is a cast list to whet the appetite. His Vengeance trilogy shocked, disturbed, challenged and entertained in equal measure, and these films are certainly ones to watch.

Check out the trailer for The Last Stand below, and feel free to leave a comment, hopefully making parodic reference to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s political career.

TA

Aug 2012 29

One small step… Make my day.

September marks the US release of Clint Eastwood’s 64th film as an actor, ‘Trouble with the Curve’. The story of an aging baseball scout who takes his daughter along for one last recruiting trip, features a supporting cast including Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake and John Goodman.

A quick look at the recently released trailer promises another dose of legendry Eastwood magic. As surely one of Hollywood’s few leading men whose career has remained so vibrant into their 80’s, Eastwood will have chosen this story to return to acting once more, (despite claims that 2008’s Gran Torino would be his last role) because he sees something very special in the script.

Fans of Eastwood latter works will recognise Curve’s potential for heart-warming Americana, with the finer points of baseball taking a back seat to human drama…Don’t expect Dirty Harry 6. This l0oks set to be yet another graceful swan song from the master of the heart-string and one of the big screens greatest heroes.

But with the sad passing of one of the world’s most respected heroes this weekend, Mr. Neil Armstrong, who better than Clint to step into his space-shoes for the biopic? Universal has previously  acquired the nonfiction rights to “First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong”, and now it can simply be a matter of time before the original Starman’s life is brought to the screen.

There can be no other choice for the role of Mr. Armstrong in his golden years, all mention of 2000’s Space Cowboys aside. The only question is who would play the young Armstrong in the flashbacks? Answers on a postcard…

Trouble with the Curve is released in the UK on November 30th.

JP

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