dinsdag 30 december 2014

Today's News: thus, 2014 is concluded

The last bits of news for 2014 are in. Expect the flow of news to pick up once 2015 has entered our lives.


Looks like it aspires to be quite the cinematic spectacle. But will it be? I have severe doubts. The theatrically forced acting that has ever plagued the Dutch school of actors sure doesn't lend itself to this sort of film. The dialogue just feels as wooden as the ships the main characters are sailing on. Also, the FX are not on par with their British and American counterparts. They just don't seem real, but have an awkward level of artificiality to them. At the same time they recall a sense of stylized unreality, reminiscent of the paintings of the Dutch Golden Age, but I think that's just a result of the limitations of the budget rather than a conscious choice on the director's part. And speaking of director Roel Reiné, at least his acquantaince with helming action movies on a limited budget (though not with the finer entries of the genre, considering titles as Death Race 2 and 3 and The Scorpion King 3)) seems suited for the big battles taking place in the film. So far the same can't be said for his directing actors, which is not a good thing considering the stellar cast of this epic. At least they got Tywin Lannister Charles Dance in there, who can act his way out of any scrape. Hopefully the Dutch actors will take a note or two from him. I hope there is a national audience for this picture, even though there certainly didn't seem to be for a very similarly themed movie like Kenau, which flopped only last year. Like Michiel de Ruyter, it was released off-season, which makes me question why this expensive historical epic underwent the same fate. January just isn't a good time to release big productions like this one. I want to be enthusiastic about this movie, as I love historical drama and this particular period hasn't been covered as thoroughly as it should have, but so far my scepticism rules supreme.


I'm much more excited about this one though. The Brits get better production values and acting on the small screen out of a lower budget (per minute, that is) than the Dutch do in theaters. The first season of Penny Dreadful proved a delightfully eerie and subversive portrayal of the rich Victorian age and a fabulous new conceptualization of famous literary characters. Even though the pairing of the likes of Frankenstein, Dracula and Dorian Gray at first sounded like a poor repetition of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, this series proved a far superior narrative. So far at least, as the story is far from finished yet and they can still muck it up in many ways. Whether that will be the case is not something you can determine from this teaser, which shows far too little of the upcoming plot progression (dammit!). In fact, it hardly shows anything we didn't know already. Of course, that's the usual stuff of teasers, creating awareness with showing as little footage as possible, to make people hungry for the trailer, which in itself makes them want to watch the series itself. Considering I was already aching for more when the credits of Season 1's final episode rolled, the teaser's job was already done.


This trailer, however, fails to get me excited for the final product. It feels like I have seen the whole film already. Of course, this fault is a result of the limitations of the movie's plot, as it doesn't seem to have much of that at all. Mobster boss' ex gets locked in her apartment and must fight off numerous assassins to stay alive, that's basically all she wrote. Unless there's some major plot twists at play that are not revealed in this trailer, this is one of those films you watch only for the action. It takes a pretty accomplished action director to get the most out of a small set like this though, and if the trailer is any indication, Everly's director may not be up to the task. I don't see any particularly innovative cinematography or editing here, just bland shots of people taking bullets. Nor are the characters colourful enough to keep the attention fixed. This film feels like a far cry from a similar vehicle like The Raid, though clearly inspired by that recent superior action film. Hopefully the trailer proves a misdirect and the final film has more to offer than suggested here, otherwise Everly might soon end up in the same bargain bin as Death Race 3 or The Scorpion King 3.

zondag 28 december 2014

The Best of 2014

As is expected of everyone with more than just a keen love of film - read: obsessive film nerds and the like - the last few days of December are marked by the obligatory lists of best films, worst films, etc. Why would this blog of mine be any exception to that rule? So here's my personal Top-5 of Best Pictures of the year.

5: Gone Girl

David Fincher's exploration of the darkness behind the facade that is the American Dream packs a mean punch. It's a very cynical film, filled with black humour, that shatters the hopes for wedlock of the uninitiated and might be painfully recognizable for those who have been married for a while. Nevertheless, it enlarges such fears and reservations of wedded couples to absurd extremes. No side is chosen in this battle of the sexes, which introduces a seemingly perfect married couple that is tearing itself apart as diabolical schemes to gain the upper hand between both protagonists, the pair of them positively horrible people, explode to national outrage as the relentlessly hungry media, also not spared the necessary critique, are drawn into this very personal little conflict. As usual, Fincher makes sure the ingenious narrative is always one step ahead of its audience, as he surprises us with more than just a few unexpected plot twists here and there and leaves the opening of the film intentionally ambiguous. You might decide against tying the knot after having seen this picture.

4: The Wolf of Wall Street

Though technically a 2013 movie in its country of origin, Martin Scorsese's latest masterpiece sure left its mark on Dutch theaters in the year that followed. Another magnum opus in an oeuvre that largely consists of those, Scorsese's j'accuse against the world of Big Money proves both a harrowing descent into utter debauchery and stupendous opulence, as well as an infectiously hilarious comedy, since it's all just too unreal to be believed. The veteran director once more gets the most out of his muse, Leonardo DiCaprio, in a rollercoaster ride of the life time that is Jordan Belfort's. Once simply an ambitious but caring man intent on looking out for his wife, he turns into a ravenous money monster once his position on Wall Street is secured due to his talents of outrageous scheming and charismatic persuasion. What follows is a near orgy of sexual escapades, trophy wives, excessively expensive vehicles and all the drugs large quantities of money can buy, including the Holy Grail of Quaaludes. You cannot help but both admire and abhor this man, but when you see him rolling out his Porsche half paralyzed from an overdose of opiates, drooling something fierce, while afterwards abusing his wife and kid, you know that all the money and power does not make this man someone to be envied. And you wonder how many thoroughly decadent people are still ruling the upper echelons of Wall Street thanks to Belfort's example...

3: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The Star Spangled Avenger's second solo feature (sort of, since he's fortunately not without his allies) exceeds the level of its predecessor on every level, while doing a great job shaking up the Marvel Cinematic Universe to its core. Both a successful homage to political spy thrillers of the Seventies and a fabulous spy thriller in its own right, this movie marks Marvel's most intriguing plot to date. Poor Fourties' icon Cap (Chris Evans) still needs to adjust to the brave new world that is the 21st Century, but finds himself at odds with a much changed Home of the Free that in many ways is not his own anymore. To make matters worse, his worldwide peacekeeping employer S.H.I.E.L.D. turns out to be infiltrated by a villainous secret organization hellbent on world domination and marks both him and his friends as traitors to the American cause. To top all his misery, a painful ghost from his past returns to thwart the super soldier's attempts to save his country from shadow tyranny. A fantastic combination of explosive action, intelligent story telling and carefully crafted intertwining with the rest of the Marvel Universe makes the second Captain America movie the most wonderfully balanced Marvel movie to date.

2: Guardians of the Galaxy

And now for something completely different, Marvel must have thought. So rather than doing another superhero movie, as is all the rage in Hollywood, they decided to turn to one of their lesser known assets and delivered this delightful space opera. Infectiously setting up the cosmic corner of the Marvel Universe, James Gunn's talents for quirky, off-beat humour are paired with an almost Whedonesque sense of writing dialogue for ensembles, as we are introduced to an unlikely bunch of interstellar outlaws who find themselves forced to rely upon one another to save a planet from destruction at the hands of a rampagingly zealous madman. Brilliant visual effects, enticing new characters and locations and an irresistable sense of the excitement to experience in the farthest reaches of space echo the enjoyment of the old Star Wars trilogy, but with a character distinctly its own. Though the plot may not be as strong as that of Cap 2, the genuine sense of fun Guardians of the Galaxy instills in its audience simply exceeds even that film. 2014 proved a great year for Marvel, so hopefully the company can keep up this momentum a while longer.

1: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson's latest turns out to be his finest as well. All his usual ingredients - quirky humour and characters, auteurist visuals, dysfunctional family issues and a top cast having an absolute ball - are thrown into the sweetest mix imaginable. The film looks like a wonderfully prepared cake and digests as such even more so. At the same time, Anderson turns total filmophile and utilizes every old trick in the book to acknowledge the equally rich history of the medium. Editing, sound, special effects and photography are all applied to their limits, making for a picture so thoughtfully stylized it might as well be a classical painting. If there is one director that is not to be missed by anyone who claims to love the cinema, it's Anderson. And if there's one movie on his resumé that is not to be missed by anyone, it's The Grand Budapest Hotel. The only downside seems to be it's gonna be next to impossible to top this film...

woensdag 24 december 2014

Today's News: It's the most boring time of the year

The Holidays are never a particularly hot time for movie news (unless your movie is called The Interview). This year proves no exception. I guess it's a good thing, as it gives me less work and more time to spend with my loved ones. Or stuff.


This is basically bad news in the guise of good news. Of course, the real bad news I mentioned previously, which was Duncan Jones passing on Trek 3. I guess we have to make do with an action director then, which doesn't bode particularly well for the movie's plot. Justin Lin sure isn't the worst choice as action directors go, though. He successfully and rather unexpectedly turned a franchise in decline around and crafted Fast & Furious into the powerhouse blockbuster series it is today. Obviously, Paramount Pictures is hoping he can pull off the same scheme for their ailing Star Trek franchise, which has known nothing but woe since J.J. Abrams traded in Trek for Wars. I hope Lin realized what he was in for, basically assuming command of a previously sinking ship, with little to no input on the script, as there's no time for decent rewrites, now that the 2016 date, hailing the franchise's Fiftieth Anniversary, is definitive. An approach both fast and furious is sure required here. As if the script isn't enough of an issue, I genuinely doubt Lin's capability to handle Trek. He has proven good at what he does - against all odds, the F&F movies got better and better - but he does action movies and has no experience with the science fiction genre, intelligent or otherwise. Maybe his hiring is another clear sign that Paramount isn't at all interested in decent Sci-Fi, but just wants another Star Wars like action flick that once more proves the new Trek isn't anything like real Trek. The rumour that the studio is hoping to add Rocket & Groot type sidekicks is also getting more credible, as there's various of those to be found in Lin's oeuvre thus far (though they be human as opposed to antropomorphic plants and animals). I'm glad Paramount at least went with the most sensible bad choice, but I'm not applauding their choice as a bright future for the Star Trek franchise.


I also don't applaud whaling (at all!), but I cannot deny this film looks fascinating. Of course, that cannot be credited to the overly digital stupendously large whale smashing the boat. It's the story of the perseverance of man in his struggle against nature's wrath that piques my interest here. Maritime stories of men at the mercy of the wide ocean have proven a popular trend of late (e.g. Kon-Tiki, Life of Pi, et al.) and In the Heart of the Sea might make a fine addition to that list, helped by a decent 1800s period look. A good cast is in effect, though a better choice for the leading man might have been found than Chris Hemsworth, but I suppose you got to put in one popular name for the general audience (or so studios often seem to think). I doubt the story will offer many surprises with the God of Thunder leading these desperate and starving men through their hopeless plight: besides, if they had all died, it seems highly doubtful the Essex story would have been historically documented at all. I just hope the ignorant audience won't consider whalers as brave and romantic men having chosen a courageous trade slaughtering large, dangerous creatures, though I could not believe any Western bred director would consider such an ideological message in this day and age. In the Heart of the Sea mostly isn't about whaling anyway, it's about survival against impossible odds first and foremost. And history has taught us that such a whale of a tale has always intrigued mankind.

zondag 21 december 2014

Today's News: not a very busy week for news

The end of the year is nigh, the slow flow of news is a telling sign of that. Good thing too, since I got plenty of work to do in these last few weeks of 2014.


Well, that's just nice! Five eligible directors and the one I trust most to save Star Trek from going down the drain immediately says he's not interested. A damn shame, since intelligent Sci-Fi is exactly what Trek is in dire need of to once again differentiate it from the action oriented likes of Star Wars, and intelligent Sci-Fi is just Duncan Jones' forte. Justin Lin and Daniel Espinosa are mostly mindless action directors (no offense, guys!), so not the types Trek needs. I haven't seen The Imitation Game (yet), nor have I sampled any of Morten Tyldum's domestic fare, so I can't speak of his suitability for Trek 3. Considering his first overseas film stars Benedict Cumberbatch, who previously played a character I so do not want to see again in the next Trek film, I'm inclined not to give Tyldum the benefit of the doubt, though I agree that is rather narrow minded of me. That leaves Rupert Wyatt. His Rise of the Planet of the Apes indicated a compatibility with smarter science fiction, but once again, his oeuvre isn't particularly elaborate and I don't feel like judging a director's capacities for Trek on just the one film. Duncan Jones was just what the franchise needed, in my mind. Very disappointing to know he won't be involved. And if such bad news isn't enough of a downer, the news reached the Internet this week that Paramount is eager to incorporate witty sidekick characters á la Rocket & Groot into the next film because of the success of Guardians of the Galaxy. Which once again goes to show that studio execs, at least the ones working at this studio, only follow what's hot and trending, rather than appreciate 50 years of Trek history that did pretty well without such blatant attempts to make the franchise resemble other popular properties. I truly fear for the future of Trek, it increasingly doesn't seem to have one that's worthy of the lore that came before...


Wow, Suicide Squad really seems to have a thing for casting Oscar nominees. Guess DC's strategy to differentiate itself from Marvel is to cast mostly actors with past Oscar buzz. The majority of the main Marvel actors are well suited at what they do, but, with a few exceptions, Oscar material they are not. Director David Ayer seems to have his job cut out for him managing all this movie's talent and the unavoidable egos that come with it. I'm glad they casted Davis rather than Oprah Winfrey. That latter choice just seemed to much like the stuff of 'silly Internet rumour', even if Winfrey is serious about a solid action career. Davis is known to excel at heavily dramatic roles, but has co-starred in plenty of action movies that don't take themselves overly seriously. Suicide Squad definitely falls into that category and so does the role of Amanda Waller, the government liaison tasked with overseeing all the villainous egos in the Squad itself. Seems like she and Ayer have that much in common, hopefully they'll be able to teach each other a thing or two.


Hayley Atwell is also one of those actresses who's in all regards skilled at her job, but not someone likely to get nabbed for an Academy Award anytime soon. Especially in her return to the small screen for Agent Carter (maybe she'll win an Emmy though, you never know). So far, I like what I've seen of this new show, and I always like seeing Hayley anyway. Nevertheless, with this series the Marvel Universe once again emphasizes its spy stuff, something which I feel it's overdoing. We already have Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. running and that titular organization, though it took a blow recently on the big screen, is still very active in the Marvel movies as well. Now we get a show which spends a lot of its time exploring the origins of S.H.I.E.L.D. Too much espionage for my taste. Granted, the Marvel Universe is not just about superhumans, but it is hard to deny that's its most appealing aspect, so I would call for more superheroes and less shady spy organizations. Of course, with five upcoming Netflix series dealing with that subject, the future looks bright enough in that regard. And at least Agent Carter has the charming historical Fourties period to distinguish itself from the later S.H.I.E.L.D. shenanigans. So it's not just all repetition of the same thing, just variation.


Speaking of those upcoming Marvel titles, here's a closer look at one. After Agent Carter, Daredevil is the next Marvel series planned for 2015. And this one is a bit more super, though much more grounded in reality than his contemporaries on the big screen. He's not fighting aliens or gods, just busting criminal asses on the streets of New York. Something a bit more relatable. His outfit also isn't nearly as fancy as we're used to from superheroes. However, word is ths suit above is just an initial garment, and not the familiar final red garb, which will make its appearance later. Hopefully they'll manage to find a careful balance between fancy and gritty, the way the 2003 movie just didn't. At least Charlie Cox, like Atwell, is one of those reliable actors you can fully trust to make things work, without his demanding an Oscar in return.


Bradley Cooper, however, does have his eyes fixed on an Academy Award. And he's also a part of the Marvel Universe, though not as visible as most (he's responsible for that funny raccoon from that recent space movie, remember?). Third time may prove the charm, having been snubbed for an Oscar twice already, but clearly taking a precise aim for one again in Clint Eastwood's American Sniper. Eastwood being a sort of Oscar magnet also helps his cause no doubt. Seems both director and star made a strong dramatic movie, if the trailer is to be believed. Very American too, and not just in regards to the title. Eastwood is not one to sugarcoat his country, and it apears American Sniper will make no secrets of the negative effects of American actions abroad against those citizens taking said actions. Nor will it need to defend itself from showcasing such actions, as the need for them is not without cause. Or maybe the trailer is dead wrong and the film is actually a ideologically black & white patriottic puff piece, who knows. Hopefully the movie will do this fine trailer justice.

zaterdag 20 december 2014

Today's Column: don't give in to hype, that leads to the Dark Side

My last column for MovieScene (this year):


I'm getting increasinly tired by people asking me to embrace the hype surrounding the new Star Wars movie. They shout 'just roll with it!', like a friggin' soccer droid, willfully ignoring the fact this hype will continue for a whole more year and might end up in fatal disappointment. Expectations are already soaring to outrageous heights, and it just seems totally unlikely any fan will ever get what they are currently hoping for. Unless they keep their expectations low of course, which the majority opts against, but I consider the best way to stay sane. Based on the few loose images and deplorable lack of context the teaser provides, vast legions of fans already believe this film will be on par with the original trilogy. Even though nobody still knows what it's all about. We don't know these characters and their situations, but that doesn't stop the die-hard believers from playing a long-term guessing game, which mostly consists of projecting their desires for this movie's plot and its place in the larger canon onto a handful of random shots, chosen mostly for instilling the feel of the good ol' days. The fans' eagerness is coupled with a frightfully obnoxious and zealously disturbing faith in J.J. Abrams, since he supposedly "rescued" Star Trek from falling into obscurity (even though that franchise is currently worse off than ever). Granted, his work on Star Trek showed he had more affinity with Star Wars, since both movies felt more like a Star Wars film than an actual Trek movie (which shows you just how little he cared and Trek was just another rung up the ladder to doing Wars for the man). But they didn't feel like a good Star Wars film. Abrams might be a self-proclaimed Star Wars fan as much as the common nerd-on-the-street, but that doesn't mean he'll automatically direct a fantastic new addition to the saga that will get everyone what they want. As goes for most major franchises, some of the worst stories have been created by people considering themselves major fans, but who still failed to grasp just what made a good installment, with dire results.

This teaser, which mostly consists of coupling legendary set pieces and vehicles with unknown new characters and questionable new gimmicks - I still haven't heard a satisfying theory as to what use two small additional sabers on the side could be - is not enough to make me cast off any doubt and go along with the hype. I prefer to take any new bit of information on the film, be it rumours or actual footage, with a grain of salt. And I would have thought most fans would have learned their lesson when they got swept away with the hype surrounding Episode I, which proved the folly of getting one's hopes up to such immeasurable and unrealistic heights. Maybe The Force Awakens turns out good - honestly, I hope so - but just to be on the safe side (which is the side between Light and Dark, mind you), I won't let the hype get me drunk on excessive joyful anticipation.

zondag 14 december 2014

Today's Double News: ascending inside out

Time is often against me, and so it proved this second half of the week. This is all the news I could muster:


This is getting somewhere, conceptually. Though there's still a lot of questions to be answered. I had a tough time visualizing how this whole interplay between the voices and the characters they control would work. I guess I got my answer. It does seem a somewhat static concept though. Are these voices really gonna stay confined to being simple talking heads in a conference room playing off each other as they suggest the actions of their subject? That has a tendency to get boring. I assume it's gonna be more visually interesting that that, somehow. I like the little details, like each set of voices taking on the characteristics (moustache, glasses, hairstyle and the like) of their host. I do believe limiting the voices to a set of five does sell the human psyche a bit short, but at least it makes for coherent storytelling, not plagued by an abundance of different emotional characters. Would have made more sense if some other emotions popped up in the minds of other characters, as everybody has some more strongly developed emotions defining their personality. Maybe that will still be the case, but we just don't see it from this trailer (which is basically more a clip of the film than an actual trailer, it must be noted). For now, the concept still isn't worked out as much to get me really excited about this film, but at least it proves intriguing and - as far as I'm aware - inspired.These days, that's as much as you could hope for in a Pixar movie.


Yay, character posters! No big budget Hollywood flick's promotional campaign would be complete without them. Typical set-up of archetypal characters here. You've got your lead, a female for a change; her love-interest; the villain; and the wiser, older gentleman whose services will mostly consist of providing expositionary dialogue, to help both the protagonist and the audience get acquainted with this new world. Interesting to see Sean Bean is by now considered old and wise enough to play the part of the latter. But hey, any excuse to get him (and an excruciating death scene on his part) in your film is well worth the effort. I still wish the leading couple would have seen different casting, as the acting of neither Kunis nor Tatum appeals to me. But hey, it's not about their acting (or about me, sadly), it's about their popularity with the audience, and both stars are undeniably hot at the moment in that regard. I won't deny that despite the dull leads, this movie has very much peaked my interest. Even though in many ways it seems like it's copying Dune a bit too much, the notion of humanity being just a resource of vastly superior extraterrestrial life to exploit at will is a nice change of pace. Though no doubt the plot will devolve into the typical 'chosen one' routine of old. The set-up may prove fascinating (and the visual effects, too, naturally), the execution likely less so. Oh well, we didn't expect the ingenuity of the original Matrix come again from the Wachowskis, now did we?

woensdag 10 december 2014

Today's News: Kingsmen, earthquakes, giant monsters: but worst of all, extinction

This is my batch of news the week has yielded thus far:


This was bound to happen sooner rather than later. I'm surprised we had to wait for the announcement as long as we did. The new Godzilla remake by Gareth Edwards quickly proved to be a big success worldwide, so of course the original studio is looking to bring back the original monster in its country of origin ASAP. And I don't mind at all. It's been ten years since the "last" Gojira flick, the terrificly entertaining Final Wars, which happened to be its Fiftieth Anniversary celebration. In hindsight, it's a damn shame there's no new Japanese feature to celebrate its Sixtieth, and I suppose the American feature will have to do (and it does fine at that). The question of course is not whether 'we need this', since 28 (!) Gojira movies have proven the creature isn't particularly versatile in both its themes (continuing nuclear angst, almost exclusively) or story make-up: Gojira needs to be destroyed by man, or Gojira destroys other creatures, that's basically the two most prevalent plot routines the majority of the movies follow. I doubt a proper 21st century Gojira will add much novel substance to the franchise, but as long as it delivers decent suit-acting and highly enjoyable Kaiju monster fights accordingly, most people won't particularly care, nor will I.


Well, this looks positively uninspired. It's basically a remake of Earthquake, though with different human characters. Which of course we won't give a damn about, since disaster movies for the audience really are all about the disaster itself, while the characters serve merely as canon fodder. Throwing a movie star like Dwayne Johnson in the mix doesn't change a thing about that. In fact, it may be somewhat alarming for his career, since disaster movies have an awkward habit of (ab)using actors and stars that are at the tail end of their career. That's why Kylie Minogue is in this film, for example. One cannot help but wonder why Johnson signed up for this project (though it may have something to do with the director, with whom he has worked previously). One also cannot help but be puzzled as to why studio execs greenlit this picture. It simply offers nothing new it appears, both in terms of story but also visually. We've already seen Los Angeles get whacked somethin' fierce by a giant earthquake in 2012. It's really doubtful San Andreas' level of digital destruction will surpass that of the alleged Mother of all Disaster Movies, especially with a director at the helm who is new to the genre. It's highly doubtful someone who doesn't specialize in flicks of extreme demolition could match a disaster movie made by Roland Emmerich. I can't stop San Andreas' director from at least trying, but I can honestly say anybody who has seen 2012, a movie only five years old, will look at this trailer and be befuddled by its apparent excessive redundancy. Only a true major earthquake wrecking the American west coast could add a much needed sense of actuality or urgency to this one.


A sense of urgency, however, is exactly what typifies Kathryn Bigelow's latest directorial effort, the shocking short Last Days. The focus on terrorism which could be called a trademark of her oeuvre proves well suited to this short synopsis of the evil at work in the illegal ivory trade, which is not simply threatening but downright causing elephants to go extinct before our eyes. African terrorist organizations like Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab kill these innocent and magnificent animals (and other species like rhinos, too) en masse to sell their tusks to shady South-East Asian criminal networks who make useless trinkets and bogus medicine to sell to stupid rich people in that part of the world. And consequently, the terrorists use the money to kill innocent people as well. It's a lose-lose scenario for both man and beast. Fortunately, we have talented filmmakers like Bigelow and other good people who care enough to combat these despicable practices. In my mind, they're the true heroes of our age, since particularly on the African continent itself, fighting these heinous crimes is not without risk. Graphic material notwithstanding, if I had my way I would show Last Days upfront of every movie playing in theaters. Everything to make the general audience, blissfully unaware of these exact goings-on as they tend to be, recognize the painful reality, so they can sponsor the fight against elephant poaching before there are no more elephants left to poach, which sadly could prove to be a lot sooner than most people would think. Kathryn Bigelow, I salute you for supporting this cause!


And then there's the typical movie terrorist with his grandiose plots and schemes that only involves killing people and just leaves defenseless animals alone. Gotta love the maniacal mastermind with his diabolical ploys that are so completely over-the-top they can only be put down by larger-than-life characters, to effectively remind you you're just watching a movie and reality is nothing like this. Kingsman: The Secret Service sure seems a film in that veign, where only the most British of characters can ward off the impending evil. The kind of evil Samuel L. Jackson is only to happy to supply as he eagerly acts his way through villainhood (do I detect a lisp in his voice, mayhaps?). This new trailer gets me a little more enthusiastic about this project, though that is mostly thanks to the cast infectiously appearing to have a great time with the subject material of silly one-liners and nifty gadgetry. Otherwise, the premise is hardly unique or inspired. I guess we can just chalk this one up as a 'fun ride devoid of any pretensions'. That's fine with me. The ignorant general audience can't consider the plight of endangered species all the time. How about three minutes of elephant suffering mixed with two hours of mindless entertainment then?

zondag 7 december 2014

Today's News: marvelous termination of Trek director


This trailer is receiving a lot of negative feedback. I can understand why. The plot exposed in the first half of the trailer bears a striking recemblance to that of the original 1984 Terminator movie, so much so you would think it's a remake. Then the twist kicks in and things start to turn out differently. The cheap explanation for this (dis)similar turn of events is the 'alternate timeline' route so popular in recent years. Where everyone hailed it as an inventive and effective way of rebooting things while paying homage to the original works with 2009's Star Trek - I didn't, I thought it was disrepectable baloney - by now people have gotten rightly sick of it. Which doesnt leave much to look forward to for Terminator: Genisys. It's apparently another chase movie with all the usual suspects in place. Poor Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese have to try and shake off two different Terminators - the genuine article and the nifty liquid metal type - but get help from an older model reprogrammed in the future. Basically, the plot of T1 and T2 combined. With slick modern FX of course. Some nice new faces (among them both Emilia Clarke and Jason Clarke: no relation, just the eerie hand of fate involved in this bit of casting) in age old roles. And old fossil Schwarzenegger once again doing his Terminator thing, since he's the guy that always says 'I'll be back' and sticks to that promise. Problem is, he need not be involved. Terminator Salvation showed us there's different ways to explore this universe than dragging poor old Arnold in the mix and rehasing the same plot over and over again. Sadly, Salvation failed to convince audiences and box office of that fact. So now studio execs think we'll settle for the routine of the first three movies instead, just tweaked via messing with timelines because that is 'a thing' right now. If only it was an alternate time line, where alternate things happened. From a story perspective, we seem to be stuck in a time loop instead...


Double casting of Marvel protagonists this week. First, Benedict Cumberbatch has finally been outed as Doctor Strange. Not so surprising, since his name kept reappearing in this casting contest. With Tom Hardy opting for Suicide Squad after all, Cumberbatch proved the last man standing. So the British actor will soon assume the mantle of the Sorcerer Supreme and defend us from interdimensional wrongdoers accordingly. I'm cool with that. Sherlock and The Hobbit have made me largely forget about his Khanberbatch debacle of Star Trek Into Darkness. The other Marvel casting news comes a bit more out of left field, since the project hadn't been discussed as much. Breaking Bad's Krysten Ritter will play Jessica Jones in the new Netflix show that is now called A.K.A. Jessica Jones. And it will debut in the fall of 2015, shortly after Daredevil first paves the way for the announced Defenders miniseries which will incorporate both characters plus two more. Since Ritter so far hasn't had any starring roles, I hope she proves up to the task. She surely made me cry when Heisenberg dramatically let her die in BB, so she's got my sympathy already.


Well, that's just good news for Trek, for two reasons. First, giving the director's chair of a big blockbuster movie to someone who has never directed anything in his life is just an asinine idea (similar to handing the captain's chair to untested cadets, as inexplicably happened in the first Trek relaunch flick). Second, Orci already showed to have little respect or affinity with 40+ years of Trek lore in his piss poor screenplays of the previous two Trek reboot movies. So now someone can step in who does care and at least knows the score of directing. I'm fairly positive that person won't be Edgar Wright, who's on top of Paramount's short list. Considering the studio is in a real hurry to get this starship off the ground - should have built it in a space dock, guys - the new director will have to make do with the script that is available, which leaves little to no room for improvements at rewriting on his part. Wright just left Ant-Man after prepping it for the better part of a decade due to script issues with Marvel; you really think, as big a fanboy as he may be, he'll take kindly to not being allowed the slightest bit of leeway, with another big studio telling him exactly what to do and forebidding him any input of his own? Not gonna happen. Star Trek 3 is in real trouble. The 50th anniversary of the franchise is just around the corner and there's a strict deadline to be reached. There's no director, a script written by rookie writers involving the old and new cast alike (bad idea!!), and shooting is supposed to start within two months. If it's gonna be made at all in time, it's gonna be terribly rushed, and no movie profits from that. Once again, I blame J.J. Abrams for the trouble the franchise is in. He just left a series he never did care that much about to do what he always wanted to do (Star Wars), and things just deteriorated rapidly in his wake. Not to mention cast contracts will expire after having three pictures and I doubt any of them is willing to continue. The only good thing about this debacle is that the studio can only fix it by reboting the franchise yet again. It doesn't seem it can get worse, so a fresh fresh take may be just what Trek requires...

zaterdag 6 december 2014

Today's News: suicide Avengers code

This week's news, first batch:


Quite a stellar and diverse cast, but I see some possible problems here. The first addresses the casting itself. To my mind, casting Will Smith in an ensemble movie isn't your best bet. The man is a Hollywood superstar, they tend to demand attention too strongly to cope well with sharing the screen. Especially with actors that aren't in their salary class, as these other cast members simply aren't. Will Smith kinda has a bad reputation in this department since Wild Wild West (if set rumours are to be trusted, that is). Whether he'll readily accept having his face covered continuously in the role of Deadshot also remains to be seen. Of course, you can argue that The Avengers does a pretty good job joining various superstars together for a big epic project, but let's not forget most of them were made that famous because of the work they did previously for Marvel, well aware that they needed to reign in their temperaments in a joint venture soon enough. Their own movies more or less prepared them for that mission, as most of them followed the same strategy of becoming superstars and thus shared the necessary common ground. This is not the case for Suicide Squad, as most of these characters are totally new to the big screen and so they haven't been prepped in their own titles for the audience and neither have the people playing them. They get thrown in the mix together from the get-go instead, and it just very much remains the question on whether they have any affinity with the role at all, whether the audience accepts them in these parts and whether joining these characters and actors together is a good idea. Which brings me to the second issue: the Joker. Like Will Smith is a huge A-lister thrown in with a bunch of actors of a lesser profile (no offense, gang, but that's just the situation), the Joker is a villain much more iconic than the rest of them, especially after the well remembered terrific performance by Heath Ledger not so long ago. Is it really a smart move to introduce a new take on this character, one that is supposed to be around for at least a decade, in an ensemble movie like this, rather than setting him up in the more traditional way, as Batman's most recognizable antagonist in the Caped Crusader's own film? (An argument that can be made for the new incarnation of the Dark Knight himself just as easily, it must be noted.) Probably so. But then, the Joker doesn't adhere to logic like that, he's much too erratic to care. We'll just have to wait and see how this works out. At least the majority of the casting seems pretty nifty. It'll be very interesting to see what Jared Leto brings to the role of the Joker. And he even has his girlfriend Harley Quinn by his side this time. The more madness, the merrier.


Speaking of the Avengers, they just got some leeway to improve their sequel's scope just that much more. From the looks of it, it's not just the action scenes that get a bit more jibe, but also the characters, including a few we might not have expected to partake in this giant superhero flick. Both Idris Elba and Tom Hiddleston have been revealed to be present in Age of Ultron. That is surprising, considering the story line mostly seemed to center around Tony Stark and his invention, the rogue robot Ultron, running rampant. A little HYDRA espionage plot spilling over from the Cap movies was also already known to be injected through the addition of Baron Von Strucker to the cast. So is there room for some Norse gods? Apparently Marvel is making room. Since more Loki is never a bad thing when Hiddleston plays the part, I'm certainly not complaining. I'm not counting on major scenes of divine exposition though. Probably just some hints at the bigger Thor picture to indicate that while the Avengers get into the usual mischief on Earth, trouble is still brewing in the background on Asgard to plague Thor in his next solo feature (aptly subtitled Ragnarok). Seems that universe building Marvel so excelled at in Phase 1 is now seemlessly flowing into Phase 3.


More of Source Code I'm less positive about. Its whole take on time travel and temporal loops was already nothing new to me thanks to the likes of Star Trek, The X-Files and The Twilight Zone. Though it was still a fresh take on the notion and resulted in an enjoyable and intelligent movie, more of the same would spark a similar feeling of repetition I don't exactly welcome. Of course they can introduce a new main character and director - as they'll have to, since it strongly appears both Jake Gyllenhaal and Duncan Jones are not inclined to be involved, and I can't blame them - but even when tweaking the concept, there's only so much you can do with it. This announced sequel just has 'blatant cash grab' written all over it. Of course, that is hardly a novel thing in Hollywood. It's endless cycle of rehasing and reimaging concepts and franchises that once proved lucrative is quite similarly stuck into an ever revolving loop that knows no end. It's just that in this case, the audience is the poor subject that develops a gnawing, relentless sense of déja vu, the feeling of having experienced it all before. As they have.

zondag 30 november 2014

Today's News: some catching up required

It's been a busy week what with Sinterklaas and the news surrounding the Jurassic World trailer (and that other trailer too, which I won't mention here since it's been picked apart frame by frame everywhere else already), so here's a belated crop of this week's news from my hand:


The more I see of this movie, the more I want to see it in theaters. I know I shouldn't get my hopes up since it's by all accounts a rather generic raunchy Hollywood comedy starring all the usual suspects, but still it has piqued my interest. It probably has something to do with my fascination - coupled with a healthy dose of abjection - for dystopian societies, even though this one is sadly all too real. Everything we hear about North-Korea, and not everything being as trustworthy as it is considering the various ideologies at work, makes it sound a very incredulous yet all too actual place. I would never want to live there, but it's so shady and abhorrent there's this vast web of projected fantasies and horror stories surrounding it that remains intriguing. Of course this movie doesn't pretend to tell the truth about the nation, nor does the country ever tell the truth about itself. But it's so inherently 'other' that it's hard to deny its fascination. Even when that's exploited for stereotypical Hollywood jokes. This trailer made me snicker on more than one occasion. Some of the jokes might very well hold an uncomfortable and alarming truth though. But then, so did The Great Dictator in its days, even though the truth in hindsight was far more sinister than the fiction and in many ways, painfully unfunny. It's unlikely The Interview will ever be considered as great a classic as that film, but it's definitely in the same league, though obviously more contemporary.


Why the heck not? As Skyfall showed, the rebooting has already progressed quite far in the 007 franchise, now that old characters appear in new guises (M, Q, Ms. Moneypenny). Much as keeps happening to the protagonist himself in fact, and that has worked out pretty well so far. Why would the same principle not apply to Bond's primary nemesis Blofeld? There's no reason it shouldn't. Of course, the studio has its mind firmly set on a powerful actor who can elegantly balance the precarious line between too realistic and too campy, which is the route the franchise currently seems to be taking, as Skyfall indicated (strong drama and character conflict, but also an outrageous villain and a pit full of Komodo Dragons). Christoph Waltz perfectly fits the bill. It's not the first time he plays an evil character who feels both all too frighteningly actual and totally over the top (e.g. Inglourious Basterds), so he knows the drill. It'll be delightful to see what the new look of the character will be. I doubt the bald head and the facial scar will be as overtly present as on previous incarnations. Probably a toned down version of that. And will the cat stay? If not, it'll definitely be referenced. It should.


For some reason, this just can't excite me. I can't quite put my finger on it, since it has some things going for it that I like, including a full scale alien invasion. Maybe it just looks too generic, maybe the jokes and the bleeding heart message are too bland. Maybe I'm kinda done with Jim Parsons playing a social outcast, even though this is not our society for a change. It could be the trailer just gives away too much of the plot for me to care about the final product. Perhaps the aliens look too much like cuddly toys aimed for selling to kids. I shouldn't judge ahead so strongly, I know, but on all accounts I'm guilty as charged. Wouldn't be the first trailer for which I did so this week, though that other trailer got it worse. Probably because it gave away so little of the plot by comparison.


This movie, too, doesn't excite me that much, but in this case I know where the fault lies. It feels repetitive. It's from the same comic book writer as Wanted, and it has a lot of striking similarities with that title. Both feature secret organisations fighting to keep the world in balance. Both recruit an unlikely regular guy as their new agent and pin a lot of hopes on him because he looks so ordinary  but he's oh so special. Both star some grand actors to suck us into the world of the piece. Both feature all kinds of outrageous gun fights and assorted action scenes. The only thing Kingsman apparently doesn't have that Wanted did, is a strong female character - 'twas Angelina Jolie in Wanted's case - learning the upstart the tricks of the trade and giving us a good butt shot in the process. This time we have to make do with the very British Colin Firth to introduce both the young protagonist and us, the audience, into this crazy world. These posters indicate there's still room for some neat female butt though. No firing curved bullets this time, but there's room for other far-out stuff like a hit woman with robotic legs. And what's with the pug? Truth be told, I didn't care much for Wanted, so this movie will be hard pressed to do better.


Don't. Just don't. Please. This movie featured a solid plot that didn't seem to leave much room for more, unless it's more of the exact same. And I don't need a plot regurgitated for me to appear in a new guise for a younger generation. The only way this could be a sequel is if it featured recurring characters, and so far the old cast doesn't seem eager to jump on the same bandwagon again to sing the exact same tune. Even the studio itself seems a little hesitant on this one. First, the production was rescheduled to a full year later. Second, the number of sequels has been lowered from two to just the one. What does that tell you? It just seems nobody's heart is in this. The original 1996 movie really does suffice. If the studio truly does feel like making more dough on this title, just re-release it for its 20th anniversary (preferably not in 3D, but that's not a likely scenario these days). That's really all the celebration we need, for it's still a great thrill ride of a blockbuster flick.


Well, that just looks adorable! Not that I expected otherwise from Aardman, but am I glad their style remains consistent. From the looks of it, it's not the fairly basic plot that counts here, it's the fun to be had out of it, coupled with the wonderful style of animation Aardman always delivers. I do have this unshakeable feeling it looks aimed a little too much at a younger audience, which may mean there won't be a subtitled version in Dutch theaters, only a dubbed one. That would be a damn shame, so I hope it proves untrue. I for one am definitely up for more delightful British humour, preferably in their own language. Then again, language? The trailer doesn't offer any actual lines of dialogue. Nor does IMDb have a cast list available, as if there's no voice acting present. If that's the case, I need not worry about shitty dubbing at all, and everybody is happy. Excellent solution to save on dubbing and subtitling costs, Aardman!

zaterdag 29 november 2014

Sinterklaas 2014

We're celebrating Sinterklaas early this year. Like I did the last two years, I gave my sister another season of Game of Thrones (or at least, I will, as I'm taking the risk of posting this before actually giving the gifts, because I have time to spare), accompanied with a rather lenghty piece of poetry, and here it is:

Voor Saskia

Ook dit jaar wordt de traditie voortgezet
En doneert Sint je hier de boxset
Van 'n heel seizoen Game of Thrones
Zodat jij kan kijken naar al dat schoons
Dat de hele wereld in de greep heeft
En zich nog wel 'n paar jaar voortsleept
In het derde seizoen mogen we kijken
Naar de immer groeiende berg lijken
Die de Oorlog der Vijf Koningen veroorzaakt
Maar al door één koning is gestaakt
Toen die gruwelijk werd vermoord
Op bevel van diens broers' kille woord
Want Stannis duldt geen tegenspraak
Maar is toch in het slop geraakt
Toen in de strijd om Blackwater Bay
Z'n vloot zonk naar de bodem van d'zee
Nu is hij danig in mineur
En om te verdrijven de sleur
Verbrandt hij de verraders levend
Zodat de Rode God hem kracht zal geven
Maar zal die godheid zelf niet beven
Voor de macht van die andere zeven
Die in Westeros de hoofdreligie vormen
Waaraan hun aanhangers niet wensen te tornen
En zelfs koning Joffrey zich naar moet schikken
Terwijl die toch al wat moet slikken
Van zijn ijzige oude opa, de nieuwe Hand
Die feitelijk bestuurt het ganse land
Want de baas is nu Lord Tywin
Die krijgt lekker altijd zijn eigen zin
Omdat de eigenlijke macht ligt bij het geld
En anders gebruikt hij gewoon geweld
Z'n zoon is al verwijderd uit z'n positie
Misschien maar goed ook, in zijn conditie
Want met 'n halve neus is 't moeilijk speuren
Naar de verraderlijke kleuren en geuren
Van menig castraat en intrigant
Die wil overnemen het hele land
Als er dan nog 'n volk is om te besturen
Want de heerschappij valt te bezuren
Als de White Walkers de Night's Watch uitroeien
Omdat Jon Snow liever lag te stoeien
Met die lekk're roodharige meid
Die hem ontnam z'n maagdelijkheid
En nu met een groot leger ontheemden
Het lot van de Muur komt ontvreemden
Gelukkig is Jon aan het infiltreren
En kan hij moog'lijk het tij nog keren
Als hij zich van Ygrittes boezem kan ontrukken
Anders gaat hem dat dus niet lukken
En ligt bij Bran de laatste hoop
Heden is hij op de loop
Voor de dwaze Theon op de vlucht geslagen
Die onderhand alweer is verslagen
Door Ramsey Snow, de enge psychopaat
Die hem 't hele seizoen lang martelen gaat
Hoort allemaal bij deze show
't Blijft immers een serie van HBO
Komt ook bij het scheiden van romp en kop
Zoals gebeurt met die arme koning Robb
Want dat was een veel te goede knul
En meneer Martin vindt goedheid maar gelul
Dus wordt zoon evenals vader onthoofd
Terwijl ook z'n moeder van 't leven wordt beroofd
Zijn koninkrijk door Lord Bolton wordt ingepikt
En z'n volk voor de Lannisters zwicht
Maar er rest nog hoop in Essos
Want daar gaat Daenerys helemaal los
Om zich aan haar nieuwe missie te laven
Het bevrijden van alle slaven
Want slavernij zal zij niet tolereren
En dus moet en zal zij domineren
Over het ganse Slaver's Bay
Maar haar draken zitten daar niet mee
Als zij reduceren de stad Astapor
Van rijk en groots naar geblakerd en dor
Zal Yunkai hetzelfde lot ondergaan
Of kunnen haar huurlingen verslaan
Des prinses' achtduizend koppen
Of weigeren zij haar te stoppen
En sluiten zij zich bij haar aan
Om met zijn allen naar Westeros te gaan
En daar terug te pakken de Ijz'ren Troon
Voor haar goedheid haar verdiende loon?
Maar gebeuren kan er nog van alles
Om haar goede intenties te verknallen
Want de serie loopt nog wel 'n paar jaar voort
En menigeen zal er nog worden vermoord
Maar jij hebt al gelezen alle boeken
Dus dat hoef je niet meer op te zoeken

Janos Sint en Hot Piet

I better start thinking about the poem for Season 4 next year, if it's gonna be as long (if not longer)...

Happy Sinterklaas everybody!