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Thursday, January 18, 2007

"Sunshine" Trailer - Boyle's Next Film

Fox's next sci-fi thriller from their "Fox Searchlight" branch is releasing another film by Danny Boyle. While I didn't like "28 Days Later" (like most people) and thought that film should've taken a very different direction, I understand the talent he has. "Trainspotting" is pretty good from what I understand. Anyway, his next movie takes place 50 years in the future and our sun is failing us. A team of astronauts are sent to rejuvinate our star, but fail. Seven years later another team is sent and we begin to see things go wrong and their sanity begins to slip. Willing to give Boyle another chance to get it right this time I was blown away by the trailer that was just recently released. It looks awesome!

"Sunshine" comes out this spring and yes, Cillian Murphy is in it. Didn't like him in "28 Days Later", but he proved himself to be a much better actor in "Batman Begins" and "Red Eye". I'm set! It looks really cool.

Pirates 3 Concept Art

Some concept art from "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End". There's some really good stuff here, some pics might contain spoilers, but seeing as none of us know what's going on in this potentially crazy movie I think its safe to look at. As usual, click on the pictures to see bigger versions of them.

Looks like one of the Chinese pirate ships. No doubt Chow Yun Fat's ship.

The Pearl?

Apparently when the title said "World's End", it meant it!

According to rumors we'll meet an interesting guest at this setting...for those of you who know about the whole Keith Richards role.

And the seasons turn...turn...turn....

This interests me a lot. Clearly they're all pirates, but...from where? Who?

All in all these pics don't make me any more excited about the film, but I am more curious about it. Look forward to seeing the final "Huzzah!"

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

First AVP2 Pictures

Though the script-treatment I've seen for this film sucks, the new directors seem really enthusiastic about the film and since the first film blew its not like there's much to live up too. In anycase, "Alien vs. Predator" was a guilty pleasure for me, it was a lot of fun, even if it did suck. That said, the new directors for the next movie have promised to give more action, more excitment and return the series to its rated R roots. (Thank God) Looks like we're in for another genuinely fun[ny] movie. Here's the first pictures from the new movie.

I love this shot so much. Looks like someone is about to get his head blown hell. Love the chokehold. Go Preds! "Alien vs. Predator 2: Survival of the Fittest" comes out December 21st.

For more info on the movie here's an interview with the Strause Brothers directing the film:

Steve Carell Decides to "Get Smart" with The Rock.

While I've known the project was going to happen, I had no idea Carell was a part of it. The remake of "Get Smart", a 1960s TV show staring Don Adams, will be headed by director Peter Segal ("Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult", "Anger Managment", "The Longest Yard"). Carell will be playing Adams' character from the show, Agent Maxwell Smart. The plot revolves around Smart's bumbling attempts to stop the forces of KAOS and how his partner, Agent 99 (Anna Hathaway), endlessly bails him out of trouble. I can see no one better for this remake than Steve Carell. On top of that it's just been confirmed that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson ("The Mummy Returns", "Doom") will be in this film as well. Why does the combination of Steve Carell and The Rock on screen at the same time already have me laughing? On top of that I loved "Anger Managment" from Segal, so the math adds up that I'll probably end up seeing this. "Get Smart" is going for a 2008 release.
Carell and The Rock. God that's funny.

Comic Book Wasteland: Ironman and Superman

Seems like the next comic book superhero movie will be another Marvel creation. Here's the good news: Gwyneth Paltrow is going to star in this for starters. No doubt she will play the love interest in the film. Robert Downey Jr. will be dawning the superhero...uh...armor. The man has proved himself in some serious dramas before, so it will be interesting to see him play a superhero. The next bit of good news is Stan Winston Studios will be doing the effects and already this amazing studio has come up with the designs for the new Iron Man suit:

The bad news is the movie will be headed by a director with limited experience. Jon Favreau's biggest directorial hit seems to have been "Elf". While he could do worse, he's not exactly the kind of guy I would head to kick off another superhero franchise. On the other hand Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios, had this to say about making these films:
"These are popcorn films designed for broad audiences, but there are multidimensional characters that have brought us the best luck with actors"

He makes a good point about this genre of movies. They're generally just fun films, loosely bastardizing Greek mythology. But I think he's forgetting the more serious superhero films all too quickly. "Batman Begins" put an art-house director with comic book material and we got a movie that's not just a good superhero film, but a great film in general. "Superman Returns" was revived with the respect of the character and was serious enough of a revival to sit next to "Batman" as one of the better films. "Spider-Man" may be a bit more off the hook, but the highly stylized look and camera shots give it a very artistic look. Who would've thought making Spider-Man's web-swinging so exciting?
Alas, it seems this new Marvel Studios' attitude is to simply slop out movies based on comics and not really worry about the quality of the project. I think they were better off being affiliated with other studios. (On the other hand those studios didn't do a great job either: "Daredevil", "Fantastic Four", "Elektra", "Hulk", "X-Men 3")
Anyway, I like what I see of Iron Man and atleast there are some good actors in it.

On the topic of Superman, the writers were interviewed recently saying that the next film will have a new villian from the DC Comic universe (probably alien) and will feature more action now that the character of Superman has been re-established to the public. "Superman Returns" was a very well made movie and an excellent return of one of the most popular comic book characters in history. I look forward to the next film.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Sam Raimi Wanting to Do "Spider-Man 4"?

Premiere Magazine had interview with Sam Raimi, director of all three Spider-Man and Evil Dead films, which hinted that he might want to do a fourth film.
According to the interview, Raimi said he'd have to make sure he was still, "fascinated with the character" before he did it. And he said: "At this moment I'm fascinated with him."
Raimi was then asked if he would do another Spider-Man movie without Tobey Maguire. He replied, "I'd rather not... I couldn't imagine it."
This kind of helps confirm my prediction for the ending of "Spider-Man 3". Many thought Venom would be introduced and then saved for the 4th film, but the contracts for all the actors only extend to two sequels after the first movie. Furthermore Raimi acted like he may be ready to move on after "Spider-Man 3" unless he feels otherwise. So it makes sense he'd give a partial sense of closure to the sequel coming out this spring. In any case, if the third movie doesn't suck, I'd love him to make another. He's done well so far and there's still so much that can be done with the character. Plus I'm getting kind of tired of all these trilogies. Movie franchises these days have to be trilogies for some reason. If you have to have sequels to a movie lets have one franchise that breaks the trend a bit and goes beyond three movies. Maybe its a bad idea, maybe not. We'll never know until someone tries.
If "Spider-Man 4" is made it means Tri-Star/Sony Pictures will have to spend more money and time to re-negociate the actors' contracts and prehaps even Sam Raimi's. Hope they're up to it if they want a fourth film!

Monday, January 15, 2007

TRANSFORMERS! (Not Much More Than Meets The Eye)

At first, I was kind of excited about this movie. Two years ago when it was announced Spielberg would be producing the film, I was pretty excited. I thought, "What could go wrong?" Then I discovered Michael Bay would be directing. That could go wrong! While the recent trailer did impressed me with the special effects, I thought to myself, "Where are the Transformers?". The story sounds about as dumb as they come... It centers around a kid's first car which is, naturally, a Transformer. Of course! Great plot. The Transformers come from Cybertron to wage war on Earth and once they get there they disguise themselves as other forms...primarily cars, trucks, jets...etc... Now all of that is pretty standard with the Transformers mythos. However it seems like the Transformer characters themselves will have little to no personality in this movie. This means all our beloved characters from the Transformers universe will be nothing more than pretty special effects, that don't look anything like their respected character designs and we'll get about two hours of Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox's bad acting to carry the story.

Lets take a look here.

Here he is, the young, Autobot Bumblebee. If I saw a Beetle transform in to that I'd be saving up so fast for one!
First lets look at Bumblebee. A very well known and beloved character in the Transformers universe. Bumblebee transformers into a yellow Volkswagen Bug (Beetle). Hence his name, "Bumblebee".

Now here's Bumblebee for the new movie. He transforms into a Chevrolet Camero. Yeah! That makes sense!

Furthermore he looks like a baby sucking a pacifier. The staff thought it'd be a great way to capture that youthful look.

If you look at the lineup here all the transformers look like crap, almost unrecognizable in every way. Their head designs have no vivid features. You can tell where there eyes are, but that's about it! Mouth? Nose? Hell! Cheeks? Furthermore the attempt to make them look more streamlined and "updated" makes them look like they could hardly carry a battle. The thin pipes and metal that are holding everything together look like they'd break off under their own weight, how are they going to wage war?

Now this...

Now this picture...THIS shows some real robots. Guns in hand, ready to kickass, take bullets and laser fire, beatings that they could recover from and keep fighting till sundown. This is what they SHOULD look like. The REAL Transformers in all their glory.

Next we move on to Starscream. Take a look:

Starscream is one of the most popular characters from Transformers next to Megatron and Optimus. He's known for being "the one that transforms into the jet" and being very backstabbing. He constantly tries to betray Megatron and take his place, what he thinks as his "rightful" place, as leader. Pretty nice looking. Looks like he has a lot of character to him right?

Do you see Starscream? I don't either, but this model here portrays the design they're using for Starscream. Now because many reports have come in that the Transformers won't have much character or dialogue, I'm guessing the magnificent treachery of Starscream won't be seen in this movie. So naturally, why give Starcream the recognizable face that can emote? Just make him look like a bug and save the CG animators the trouble right?

But you haven't seen the biggest sin....

This is Megatron. Leader of the Decepticons. One of the most ruthless, popular, maniac villians of his time. His character was a leap of insanity that was far ahead of any 80s action cartoon at the time. He's suppose to look militaristic. He suppose to have a ginormous cannon strapped to his arm. He's suppose to look like a badass, strong, neo-nazi on steroids. So what do we get...

This creature is what is being called "Megatron" for the new movie. Do you see Megatron? I don't see Megatron? I see a bunch of pieces of metal smashed together to make some weird glob of crap, but I don't see Megatron anywhere. And what is with that face? Tyrannotron Rex? This is by far one of the worst designs for any franchise anything ever. Worse than even the American Godzilla. What is he suppose to transform in to? CUTCO cutlery? Hideous! An absolute smack in the face to all those transformers fans who are going to suffer through this. I can imagine how the designer got the idea for this. He was probably drunk, on his lunch break, playing with tin foil that wrapped up his sloppy joe and then suddenly...a revelation! And then....

Now to Optimus Prime. Here's the real one:

The only remotely redeeming design thusfar is Optimus Prime. Although the flames make him look like he's interested in robots of his gender, atleast it's recognizable as Optimus. You have the face mask, the red color, blue legs. I still hate the streamline look to it, but atleast a person can look at it and say, "Hey, that's Optimus Prime!"

It could've been worse, here's how his head originally looked...

The old design on the left, the new one on the right. The new one is a big improvment. He doesn't look so sleepy anymore.

On the up side the original voice actors for Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and Megatron (Frank Welker) will be reprising their roles in this movie. So atleast they'll sound like the real Transformers. But I'm wondering how much that's worth? Apparently Megatron doesn't have many lines, which is ridiculous considering the hatred between Optimus and Megatron has been known for initiating the most entertaining monologues. Guess we wont have a speech-off that is so well known between these characters.
I'm not looking forward to the "human drama" to carry the transformer characters. The simple fact Megan Fox is in this movie proves they really don't care to make something respectable. Shia LaBeouf was interviewed saying that he had signed on for three movies (God help us now...) and that it was his "Lord of the Rings". Yeah... He wishes... Maybe if he could act I'd be more inclined to give him some slack on that comment. But aside of the dumb story Bay has conjured in his little brain for this movie, the real insult are the Transformers. Not many lines. Designs so bad you can't tell what's a limb and whats a head. Unrecognizable characters that have been butchered to the point that they could be anyone. The list goes on.
This movie...I'll end up seeing it. I'll pay the money, I'll walk in and I'll see it. Atleast it has the original Transformers voice actors in it. I can give them that much. But my "Prime" reason will probably be just to slam it. I'm sure the effects will be cool and there will be plenty of money shots in it, but I'm not so looking forward to this sappy, "My first car is a transformer and I care about him deeply!" plot. There's plenty more wrong with this project that I have yet to mention, but right now this movie seems to be putting in giant robots and then slapping the name "Transformers" on it to market it. Speilberg says this movie is going to blow us away, probably because he knows its a bomb.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

REVIEW - "Godzilla Raids Again" (1955)

Being a fan of Godzilla doesn't mean I adore all 28 movies in the series. Perhaps I can somehow enjoy them all depending on my mood, but even then I can tell whether or not I'm watching a good movie. "Godzilla Raids Again" is probably the very definition of "quicky-sequel". After the Japanese masterpiece "Gojira" (Godzilla) came out in November of 1954 to conquer ticket sales, Toho Studio's chief executive wanted a sequel right away. "Godzilla Raids Again" was released in Japanese theaters April of 1955. Guess what? It shows.

Normally I don't blast a movie about being too focused on its characters, but for God's sake if you're going to have a movie that's so character oriented make them interesting. Ishiro Honda, the director of the first film was doing other projects at this time, so a hand-me-down director, known for getting movies done quick, Motoyoshi Oda was picked to direct. The difference between the directors' styles show. In "Gojira", Honda had a sense of urgency and fear that covered the entire movie. Here the urgency is dumbed down and the characters have moments where they act like Godzilla isn't even a threat anymore. The anti-war message is gone and the fear of nuclear holocaust has left the series all too early.

The film is about two friends. Koji Kobayashi (Minoru Chiaki) and Shoichi Tsukioka (Hiroshi Koizumi), who are airplane spotters for the Japanese fishing fleet. When Koji sets down on an island due to plane troubles, Shoichi comes to rescue him. There they discover another Godzilla has been born and this time he's not alone. Angirus, the spikey, horned monster, is engaging in a massive brawl with him.

From here we're told that another Godzilla has been born due to the result of nuclear testing and Angirus has been created as a result as well. At first it goes the route of the original film. There's much depression, urgency and fear going on in the first 10 to 15 minutes of the movie, but then it focuses back on this awkward love triangle among Koji, Shoichi and telegraph operator Setsuko Wakayama (Hidemi Yamaji). I can see where they were going with this since the first film had a love triangle as well, but the problem here is none of these characters need to develop. In the first film the love triangle also had a sense of urgency and drama-- All the characters had faults they needed to overcome or atone for. Here, they bumble around TRYING to develop and we get a look at their night lives and card playing days.

The movie's dark atmosphere returns during the fight in the city between Godzilla and Angirus, but after that the movie not only lightens up, but becomes very slow and hard to watch. From there these plane operators feel the need to strike back for the destruction of their homes, but do very little to show for it. They participate in the climatic battle which could've been edited down several minutes, yet their actions don't seem to have much meaning behind them.
Godzilla appears scary at first; coming off the first movie its not a surprise. But by the end of the film the invincibility of the monster is downplayed. On the other hand this is the first movie in film history that features two giant monsters fighting in a city and the special effects for this battle are fantastic.

The American version was brought to the states as "Gigantis: The Fire Monster"-- The producer wanted to make audiences believe it was a different monster just for the sake of it. The movie was butchered with inaccurate, dubbed dialogue, cheap stock footage from other sci-fi films, stock footage of rural, stereotyped Japanese farmers and an almost complete re-write for the story. (But hey! They got the "spinning newspapers" effects man from "Citizen Kane"! That made a lot of difference!)
The original version of the movie had some good moments. There are a few errie scenes that echo the atmosphere of the original film and the special effects had already improved after just six months. But the characters are very cumbersome to the pace and it was painful to see the metaphors that the first film built disappear. On the other hand it wasn't as ghastly as the American version and the monster scenes are pretty entertaining. It's worth a look, but stay away from the American version.

*1/2 out of ****

REVIEW - "Stranger Than Fiction" (2006)

I saw this movie at a dollar theater last night. It was the only thing showing that looked remotely ok and I wanted to see something for cheap. What I ended up seeing, however, is one of the better films of 2006. More than just a goofy comedy with Will Ferrell improving all his lines, "Stranger Than Fiction" is a smart, very well written movie with strong characters and a sense of purpose for all of them. And thank God Ferrell was actually given a script for a change.

The film was directed by Marc Forster ("Finding Neverland"), a director who seems to flip-flop between mainstream movies and independent projects, executes this movie quite nicely. Ferrell plays an IRS auditor with no life outside his work and endless days ruled by his wrist watch. The day he tries to audit an eccentric owner of a cookie store, Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal), he starts hearing a voice narrate his life. This voice is coming from author Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson), a master of tragedy that hasn't written anything in ten years and has writers block. Her block? She doesn't know how to kill the main character in her latest book. The character's name is Harold Crick who, of course, happens to be the IRS auditor. (Does Eiffel know Harold is a real person? Of course not.) Harold decides to get help when the voice narrating his life says, "Little did he know that this simple seemingly innocuous act would result in his imminent death." I could only spit inconsistant laughter as Ferrell screamed in public, "What? What? Hey! HELLOOO! What? Why? Why MY death? HELLO? Excuse me? WHEN?" His reaction couldn't have been better. Figuring a psychologist isn't doing him much good, Harold goes to see a literary professor, Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman), to see if this narration is one of comedy or tragedy.

In the mix of this bizzare story Harold decides to live up more of what life he has left-- This of course includes getting "closer" to Ana. This subplot is where the film went a little too close to chickflick territory, echoing a faint rememberence of another movie where the character has no life and finds a girl, "Garden State". The scenes with Ferrell and Gyllenhaal range from kind of cute to painfully awkward (And that wasn't the purpose). Luckily this film doesn't devuldge too far in to this relationship and the would-be chickflick remains a subplot.

The movie stays pretty consistant with the comedy, that is, nothing too over-the-top, but right for the moments they're presented. Ferrell really benefits from having a script this time and playing a slightly different character than his "Anchormen" of the past. It's also great how all the characters have a lot to do with the story no matter what their screen time is. Hoffman nearly steals the show, playing a slightly senile, doctor whom is guzzling down coffee in almost every scene. Thompson's scenes are the more serious, and albiet, shocking, of the film. We don't see all that much of her, but she makes an enormous impact on the film regardless.

The main focus of this film is the topic of fate. One that appeals to me a great deal and has been looked at in a lot of movies for the last few years. The question here is, do we or do we not control our own fate? Harold's life is bound by the confines of Eiffel's story and when he discovers who it is that is narrating his life he seeks her out. Once he finds her he asks if she could change it. "Does she?" You all want to know. Is Harold's life a comedy or tragedy? Find out yourself... The point is though it very much parallels Judeo-Christian situations. Perhaps one can not change their fate, but what if they ask (pray) for it to be changed? What if they would rather accept it for a higher purpose? What if there's a compromise that can be made? It's a very interesting narrative that does an excellent job of looking at destiny from different angles. And to keep in theme with this everyone in the story has a purpose. Eiffel's assistant, played by Queen Litifah, has a tiny role in this film; yet even she ends this movie with a new development in her character. Everyone has a reason; in this movie destiny assures it.

The film is a very well acted and written tale about, what the movies claims to be, a man and his wrist watch. The movie runs much deeper than that of course; while being a clever comedy, it hits on several points about a philosophically, controversial topic and gives Will Ferrell one of his better, and funnier, movies. Between this and "Ricky Bobby", go see a movie that was actually put through pre-production.

*** out of ****