zaterdag 31 januari 2015

Today's News: a lot of stuff to round up January

The second half of the week yielded quite a bit of little news items:

Looks like a fairly solid thriller with a cast to match. Too bad it's already been done - Citizen X, remember? - and thus isn't a particularly original project, even though this time it's based on a book about the historical murders rather than the historical murders themselves. Those ridiculously heavy Russian accents also don't help. Do audiences really need such reminders in dialogue to remember the story is set in Russia? You'd think the set-up, names and uniforms alone would do the trick. Other than that, this film looks like a decent thriller flick. Considering the current strained relationship of most Western countries with Putin's Russia, you cannot help but wonder whether this is an appropriate time to release a film about a psychopath running rampant in the Rodina aided by a corrupt system of bureaucrats defending an ideology that doesn't always have the best interest of its subjects at heart. I can imagine there will be some complaints from Russian citizens about the contents of this film, whether the film proves to be of good quality or not (probably more so in the case of the former, since then it will receive more attention). Since The Interview didn't spark WW III, maybe this will, though that's undoubtedly giving it too much credit in advance.

Once again Marvel leads and the rest follows. Now that the House of Ideas is firmly getting its grasp on the small screen, expanding its Cinematic Universe on telly too, other studios are eager to do the same. And so Fox plans an X-Men series accordingly. I don't mind, as the conventions of television offer a much broader narrative perspective on the vast X-realm with its many hundreds of characters, in a way the movies could only touch upon. Makes you wonder why they haven't tried this before (and I don't mean like the various animated series). Of course, a conservative studio like Fox likely needed someone more innovative to indicate it can be done successfully, which Marvel has now shown with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Since public interest in anything Marvel is at an all-time high, it seems the right time to produce an X-show. In fact, they better hurry before the popularity of the franchise goes into decline, which is an option I don't exclude, now that Channing Tatum is set to take over the reigns from Hugh Jackman as the leading X-protagonist (shifting the focus more from Wolverine to Gambit), a prospect I'm not looking forward to. I do hope there'll be room for a new creative route, rather than copying the style of the movies. The X-universe is a deliciously diverse place (as befits its message of peace and tolerance to those who are different), so it would behoove the series to reflect that fact and explore any X-citing angle imaginable.

Is it me, or is Chris Pratt everywhere these days? There's not a movie project goes by that doesn't at least once features his name attached, or so it seems. Sure, Pratt looks like a really likeable guy and he made a fine Star-Lord. But does that warrant the thought of 'Oh hey, we need a leading man for this project, let's ask Pratt because he's so darn kewl' all the time? Apparently that's the default casting thought going around Hollywood these days. Sure, put Pratt in Jurassic World. Go ahead and stick him in Indiana Jones. Just make sure the rest of those films looks as dashing and charming. As for recasting Harrison Ford, it was only a matter of time. I always imagined Indiana Jones a lot like James Bond. You can have him be played by any number of actors, as long as the movies continue to incite that same level of adventure and excitement as they always do. In Indy's case, I'm not one of those unrealistic and conservative types that sticks to the original ad infinitum, even though he was the most iconic in that role. I'm willing to allow other actors in that persona. But not Shia LaBeouf, please. Better ask Chris Pratt whether he feels up to it. Oh I forgot, they're already doing that...

Okay, so the jokes in this trailer mostly revolve around bodily excrements and random popcultural references, as is usual in Hollywood comedy nowadays. Bear with me (pun, yes). Do I detect a plot that may very well be too intelligent and too philosophical for a film like this? The question of sentience, what makes a human being a human being and the limitations human beings themselves arrogantly set as to what constitutes life that should be allowed to have the same rights as ourselves, that sort of thing. There's some definite 'Measure of a Man' level story opportunities involved here! And of course, none of it will matter much, as it will just prove interspersed between a flatulence joke here and a cameo by the guy who used to be Flash Gordon there. Still, I can't help but give Seth MacFarlane credit for at least trying. I bet 'The Measure of a Man' ranks among his favorite episodes of Trek. And I also bet this movie is gonna be your totally average run-of-the-mill raunchy comedy, the type you've forgotten the day after you watched it.

Unlike this film which, too, is mostly about sex but doesn't touch upon it in a comedic fashion. Madame Bovary is one of the most scandalous works of literature to come out of the 19th-Century. However, for a contemporary audience that watches too much HBO, it'll be hard to make it as impactful as once this story was. Sexual shenanigans outside of holy matrimony are an everyday occurrence in the dramatic arts now and are not likely to shock anyone. So what relevant meaning is there for today's audience? Probably not anything novel. Doesn't stop a decent collection of both seasoned and young actors from practizing their craft in a wonderful fashion, complete with rustic landscape shots and lavish period costumes. That sort of thing at least never gets old. And if the characters decide to ditch said costumes while fooling around in said rustic landscapes, if not shocked or flabbergasted at such audacity, we'll still be intrigued some.

James Franco by comparison is one of those actors who effortlessly seems to switch between raunchy comedies and serious drama. Or between acting and directing, for that matter. Hot off starring in The Interview, he's ready to direct a John Steinbeck novel, dazzling us with his versatility, if we hadn't become used to it already by now. I applaud such diversity, as well as Franco's taste in casting. He seems to have caught quite a few talented names for this latest project of his (and Selena Gomez, too). Even though he's been directing all kinds of stuff for a while now, I haven't yet had the pleasure of checking any of it out. Whether this will just add to that pile of unseen (by me) titles, time will tell. It's not like I ever read a John Steinbeck novel. But you can wake me for a performance by Ed Harris or Bryan Cranston any time (though preferably not when I'm asleep).

zondag 25 januari 2015

Today's News: more comes every day

The latter half of the week certainly picked up some speed:

I'm not surprised this cult classic is getting another remake. The premise is just too much fun to ignore for more than a generation. Extraterrestrial ball of ooze wreaks havoc on Earth by devouring the population and growing ever larger: what's not to like? Of course, the Blob will only be as convincing as its FX and I doubt CGI will look as neat and realistic as the subject matter warrants. It sounds like the director just doesn't want to get his hands dirty on practical effects (and I reckon they would get very dirty indeed with the type of practical effects needed for a film like this). So as happens too often these days, computers prove to be the easy way out, but not the fun way. However, doing the Blob digitally this time around does set it clearly apart from its predecessors, making it a clear example of the zeitgeist, as befits the franchise. The 1958 version showed primitive practical effects and a lot of, by present day standards, redundant teen culture manifestations to woo the babyboomers to embrace the film (which they did). The darker Eighties' film showed quite a progression in terms of effects, but ideologically speaking it was a rather cynical film in which the government was even more sinister than the titular entity itself and a juvenile delinquent had to defeat the thing instead. Also, gore galore. And now comes the latest version, which has a Blob all CGI. Proof of the times indeed. It'll be interesting to see how it portrays humans though.

Of course Amazon wants to get in on the movie business. All of its competitors are starting to go down that route after all. It was just a question of when rather than if. Not surprisingly, this announcement doesn't follow long after Netflix spread the word it's doing the same thing. Amazon however, is still primarily known as a web store rather than a producer of television shows. Its name hasn't been established as strongly in terms of audiovisual production yet. That's likely also the basis for the decision to keep the movie industry happy by not offering their productions up for streaming simultaneously as releasing them in theaters, a convention Netflix was all too eager to break. Of course, audiences won't mind either way as long as the product proves to be appealing. Netflix does beat Amazon too in that regard, for the moment, thanks to making deals with the likes of Marvel. As for the future, we will see. It's too bad the Amazon execs haven't yet specified any of these upcoming movie projects of theirs, I would have loved to know what they're concocting for our pleasure. That is, if they've indeed already started production, rather than just making the announcement they will soon. If they're too release a dozen movies in the next two years, they better get started.

'Starting with a clean slate' sure sounds like a great idea for this sequel. The previous slate didn't resemble the source material much, and that proved a damn shame, as the original was not only shockingly different but also vastly more ingenious and innovative and made the movie feel dull and predictable by the inevitable comparison. Hopefully the writers take a closer look at Max Brooks' novel this time around. Which begs to ask the question whether that book could ever be translated to the big screen in a satisfactory way. Given the format it's written in, a two-hour movie just doesn't feel the right way to go. A TV (mini)series might allow for a closer adaptation, but the fragmentary, semi-documentary style the book dabbles in also doesn't seem too well suited for that either. There's simply too many stories and characters to make for a clear red line through it all. The only thing they all have in common is the interviewer gathering these distinct narratives and the living dead that star in them. Perhaps a series of webisodes would make for the best way to adapt these stories, but that's not a format that many audiences are too comfortable with, nor is it often used in a way to make the major bucks the studio is hoping for (which the movie did, despite its dissimilarities to the book). Oh well, whatever form it'll take, we'll always have the novel if things go south.

Another talented, Academy Award nominated actor sought by Marvel to join its ranks. As to who he's playing, that's indeed the million dollar question. It certainly won't be Strange's loyal servant Wong. Aside from the fact that casting a minority in a role that traditionally was reserved for another minority is a route that many might deem offensive (and possibly rightfully so), it seems a waste of his abilities as an actor. Besides, this guy just spent Twelve Years playing a Slave, I doubt he's looking for another servantile role (though that would certainly be the stuff of irony). And now that his (rather exotic and easy to mispronounce) name is finally getting the attention it deserves in the industry, something more intriguing and major is needed to win Ejiofor over. So he's either going to play the adversary or the mentor to the protagonist, for sure. My money is on the former, also because I want to see him as a bad guy again, since he did so well playing one in Serenity (the creepy and ideologically singleminded Operative, remember?). I have no doubt his acting talents would be well suited in either capacity though.

I'm less interested in this bit of casting. Scodelario sure is a pretty girl and may have some decent acting capabilities under her belt (though not much of it was apparent in The Maze Runner), but it seems she's cast as just another generic love interest, kinda similar to Keira Knightley in the first Pirates of the Caribbean. We really don't keep watching these movies for those types of supporting actors, but for the catchy shenanigans of master actors Depp and Rush. It's Barbossa and Sparrow that the vast majority of the audience loves best, and that's not likely to change (though after four movies, their staying power is undeniably tested). Whatever scene from any of the previous Pirates movies first comes to your mind, it's surely not one starring Knightley and Bloom, I bet. Of course, that doesn't mean the studio should release a movie starring just the two ever disagreeable Captains (though I cannot help but wonder as to the result). New characters are obligatory to keep things (at least feeling) fresh. But it's the zany, outrageous pirate characters that make for the most memorable performances, not the bland star crossed lovers in the background. Scodelario is likely to do a decent job, but as for new characters, it's Javier Bardem playing the new pirate baddie that sounds most intriguing. Aarrrrr!!

woensdag 21 januari 2015

Today's News: lots of little news items

Plenty of news this week, but nothing really major. The usual atmosphere in January.

Bring it on! If Season 2 is anywhere near as creepy and offbeat as Season 1, I'm game. The trailer sure indicates the eerie, Gothic mood of the show remains unchanged. It's just the characters that get mixed up in new plot twists which causes the major change in pace. From the looks of it, Eva Green's Vanessa Ives takes centrestage again. I don't mind, as Green is a very appreciable actress, though I do think a little more attention to some of the other characters would have been and remains most welcome. It would have made the revelation about Josh Hartnett's character a little easier to digest, since it now came mostly out of the blue, though I reckon Season 2 will definitely address matters more on that front. But hey, anything involving supernatural characters in Victorian London very much piques my interest. If the second season proves half as intriguing as the first, I won't complain.

I predicted this was gonna happen in my previous discussions of casting for this DC movie (look them up via the tags below, if you disbelieve me). Suicide Squad is an ensemble movie filled with colourful characters, and its ranks have been filled with some big A-list actors to portray them. Of course, egos were bound to come into conflict with one another over how much screentime their character featured and what the exact nature of their supervillain of choice ought to be sooner rather than later. And so Hardy is the first one out, as new sources (not mentioned in my article) claim was the result just because of creative differences over his character. I expected it to be Will Smith, so that at least is a little surprising to me. I would also have liked to see Hardy stay on board more than I would Smith, as I consider him to be the more interesting actor (since he's not yet a superstar, unlike Smith). However, I wouldn't be surprised to see more of the cast follow Hardy's example soon. I hope they won't, since the majority consists of solid actors who might do very well with the subject matter. But it's hard to deny director David Ayer might have bit off more than he could chew with a cast as loaded with impressive names as this one.

The big trick this first movie, about a bunch of rebellious illusionistsbreaking into banks, pulled out of its hat was introducing its franchise ambitions. Its ending sure revealed there was much more going on behind the scenes than at first believed. It proved quite an incredulous close which strongly required wanting to be fooled to accept it. Many audiences didn't, and therefore condemned the film's finale as a ridiculous and illogical cop-out. But the movie performed well enough in a summer of weak blockbusters, which makes the studio hopeful this franchise will spawn a few blockbuster installments of its own. At least they got a decent cast to make it happen. Most of the veterans from the first move are back for more magic shenanigans, while this first cast photo shows Daniel Radcliffe and Lizzy Caplan have been added to the cast. Decent additions for sure and at least one of them knows his way around the world of wand waving magic tricks. Otherwise, I remain skeptical about this project. It seems it's gonna go down the road of Ocean's Eleven, except with illusionists robbing banks rather than with gentlemen con artists pulling off casino heists. Which is fine for many audiences, but not my cup of tea.

Not overly fond of this notion. The X-Files was a good show, but its curse was it overstayed its welcome, continuing for two more season than felt obliged. Similarly, one movie was warranted at the peak of its popularity, but the second one was an exercise in redundancy, which barely even felt like connecting to the series proper. Why bother digging up such fossils? Well, money, obviously. As noted, the show was a smash success back in its days. There's still plenty of fans who crave their weekly dose of extraterrestrial and supernatural mystery. However, I think the majority would agree that this is basically just blatantly repeating past glory. Though I'm usually not high on reboots, I think it would be the wiser way to go in this franchise's case. Duchovny and Anderson have moved on, and I doubt they would feel much for anything other than a limited series, as Duchovny already suspected to be the case. Why not have a new duo of talented actors take over for them? If the new take on the show is indeed a limited series, that would be a great opportunity to have the torch be passed from the old cast to the next generation, while also testing the waters and see whether The X-Files premise still connect to modern day audiences who are more used to an ungoing narrative rather than old fashioned episodic storytelling. However, a limited series can't address the mythology of the original show much, since that was basically concluded, nor does it have much opportunity to introduce a mythology of its own if there's only gonna be a handful of episodes. I bet we'll see a miniseries at first, which tells a rounded story but keeps options open for a follow-up regular running series which stars main characters other than Mulder and Scully. No mystery that's probably the safest way to go, and I want to believe Fox feels the same.

I won't discuss this particular preview much here, simply because I can't. I have yet to catch up with The Walking Dead Season 4 and the first half of Season 5. So I have no idea what tragic events preceded this trailer. It's the downside of living in the Golden Age of Television: there's too much good series to go round and not enough time to watch them all. I'm not following TWD as closely and obsessively as some other shows, though I hope to return to the zombie apocalypse soon. But until that time, I try to stay away from any information regarding the show, so as to avoid potential spoilers. Fortunately this 30-second teaser didn't show too much, and what it did reveal, I missed to such an extent that I don't feel spoilered. Thankfully, since this is often an unfortunate side effect of the job of posting news about movies and TV.

zondag 18 januari 2015

Oscars 2015: The predictions

Time for the annual ritual! Determining which films will take home some of those much craved statuettes is a hard job as ever, especially if you haven't yet seen most of these films (many titles still need to be released in the Netherlands). So I'll freely admit a lot of it is a simple guessing game, but I'd like to think some of my expansive knowledge of and keen insight into the motion picture phenomenon serves me right in getting at least a third of these right. And as always, some wishful thinking works its magic, too.

Best Film:
First Choice: Boyhood. Obviously.
Second choice: The Grand Budapest Hotel. I'm rooting for this one, but I doubt I'd get my way.

Best Actor:
First Choice: Eddie Redmayne. I have yet to see (this movie and) a review that's not raving about Redmayne's stellar performance. Redmayne is one of those talented kids who finally seems to make good on that promise.
Second choice: Michael Keaton. Quite a comeback performance.

Best Actress:
First Choice: Julianne Moore.
Second choice: Rosamund Pike.There's not so much Gone Girl among the nominations as there ought to be. This one should have to make up for it.

Best Supporting Actor: 
First Choice: J.K. Simmons. The performance among the nominess I've heard the most positive feedback about.
Second choice: Mark Ruffalo.Because it's high time.

Best Supporting Actress:
First Choice: Patricia Arquette.None of these nominees seem convincing. So I'll go with Arquette, because Boyhood seems the safest bet.
Second choice: Emma Stone.

Best Director:
First Choice: Richard Linklater. Unique movie, so unique directing.
Second choice: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.

Best Screenplay:
First Choice: Birdman.
Second choice: Foxcatcher.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
First Choice: American Sniper.
Second choice: The Theory of Everything.

Best Animated Film:
First Choice: The Box Trolls. It better be... Laika is long overdue in the Oscar department. And none of the others show this level of craftsmanship, be they good movies all.
Second choice: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.

Best Foreign Film:
First Choice: Leviathan. Seems like a perfect time to peeve the Russian establishment some more with the social critique this movie displays.
Second choice: Ida.

Best Cinematography:
First Choice: The Grand Budapest Hotel. Considering the love for cinematography put on display in TGBH, it would be odd if it didn't win.
Second choice: Mr. Turner.

Best Editing: 
First Choice: Boyhood. A project cut together from bits of footage spanning over a decade, that's gotta be a worth an editing award or two.
Second choice: The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Best Production Design:
First Choice: The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Second choice: Into the Woods.

Best Costume Design:
First Choice: The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Second choice: Into the Woods.

Best Hair and Make-up:
First Choice: The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Second choice: Guardians of the Galaxy.

Best Score:
First Choice: The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Second choice: The Imitation Game.

Best Song:
First Choice: Selma. Okay, so I haven't heard any of these songs except for Everything is Awesome, and that's definitely not gonna be it. It gets obnoxious fast.
Second choice: Begin Again.

Best Sound Mixing:
First Choice: Birdman.
Second choice: Whiplash.

Best Sound Editing: 
First Choice: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Say what you will, the sounds wasn't at flaw here.
Second choice: Birdman.

Best Visual Effects:
First Choice: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. It's high time this form of elaborate mo-cap and Andy Serkis' pioneering work on it got some major acknowledgment.
Second choice: Guardians of the Galaxy.

Best Documentary: 
First Choice: The Salt of the Earth.
Second choice: Virunga.

And there you have it. Time and Academy voting will tell whether I'm correct or incorrect in any or all of these.

woensdag 14 januari 2015

Today's News: bunch of trailers & bunch of Razzies

So far I have succeeded in my goal to post at least one bit of news on MS every day. Here are the most recent results of that:

Age of Ultron definitely promises to be a darker movie than the much more lighthearted and cheerful first Marvel ensemble movie that preceded it. Makes sense, in this universe of ramifications and consequences. The general audience probably hasn't kept close track of events as much as the legions of fans have (myself included), but the current state of affairs in the MCU is no cause for more playful superhero shenanigans. Serious stuff has gone down, you know. S.H.I.E.L.D. is in shambles, HYDRA has its tentacles firmly in place wherever there are power bases of mankind to be found, Loki secretly rules Asgard and Iron Man has lost most of his fortune, respect and technology. And then there's those various Avengers we haven't heard from for the least three years, not to mention several new names in their roster to shake things up. Obviously, these people have a lot on their plate and Joss Whedon has no intention of making things too easy for them. The shit is going to hit the fan and previously mounted tensions will erupt. From the look of things, Iron Man will have to take the blow of most of it, after his plan of creating artificial peacekeepers goes horribly awry and the rest of the team has to clean up his mess. However, as per the comic book lore, it seems the team will have to worry about their unpredictable and uncontrollable comrade the Hulk the most. Whatever the outcome, the team will be shaken up severely and it's conceivable that for every new member introduced, a veteran will step down. And we wouldn't have it any other way, since such dramatic results make the MCU the ever interesting place that is.

This project has been in the works for many years, though it can't be said a lot of actual work was done on it. I'm not surprised it still will happen one day though. This movie has a definite high concept but is obscure enough for the general audience not to be aware of its status as a remake. And it has some clear franchise potential, allowing the main character to escape from other places once he's out of New York in any number of follow-ups. I'm glad originator John Carpenter is involved to some extent, though I know full well 'executive producer' and 'creative influence' can mean any number of things, many of which are not as involving as they sound. I'm pretty sure this remake isn't going to be anywhere near as gritty and grimy as its predecessor. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the studio notched the rating down from R to PG-13, so as to reach a wider audience for that franchise they're aiming for. Too bad, but I can live with it. I'm more interested in how this new dystopian future of theirs is going to play out. The bleak future from the original's 1997 has come and gone and it happily proved not to be as bad as advertized. Nevertheless, there's ample social anxieties in the present to capitalize on and I hope Carpenter will utilize his 'creative influence' steadily enough to ensure this new future is gonna be dirty and rotten but still a heck of a lot of over-the-top fun, as it proved in 1981.

Ignoring the trailer for The Messengers, which looks like typically ludicrous Christian Apocalyptic drivel, I have to ask what's up with the current trend of making the naturally abject notion of a walking cannibal corpse a thing to be romanced and sexualized? I can understand how that works for those other undead in popular fiction, the vampires, since they're normally not in a state of decomposition and generally use their powers of hypnotism to sexually lure their victims in for their blood, which can result in a lot of sultry sex. But a rotting body hellbent on devouring brains simply ought not to be sexy, which clearly doesn't stop folks from fantasizing about it and making TV shows out of it. I gotta say, with the right blend of relative humour the concept can work, as was evidenced in the fairly hilarious Warm Bodies. Can it work over a prolonged period of time rather than a two hour movie though? iZombie will have to prove it can. I gotta say, the female protagonist sure does look cute despite being dead. The zombies in this show clearly aren't as far gone physically as the majority of their cinematic brethren. Then again, the trailer suggests the main zombie is a bit of an anomaly, as she also has kept her ability to reason. That makes the whole zombie element of the show seem a lot less alarming. Her ongoing drive for consuming human flesh apparently isn't as strongly developed, as a job at the coroner suffices to keep that necessary flow of brains coming. Or there are much more people killed in town than ought to be usual, perhaps. I hope the struggle for humanity in the deteriorating zombie brain is gonna be handled as consistently and convincingly as the skeptic would demand, rather than the show quickly devolving into a buddy cop routine or an all-out romantic comedy, as the trailer also indicates could very well be the case.

Few surprises here. It seems ripping on Michael Bay's movies - though often justified - is simply the socially expected and obligatory rather than the objective thing to do. As usual, the GRAF makes little secret of her disdain for the movies and actors she disses (though most of them deservedly so). When you list a title as 'Age of Ex-stink-tion', you can't be said to refrain from any emotional bias. I guess that just comes with an Award foundation that doesn't treat the movies it nominates, or itself for that matter, any serious. Maybe a more objective and refined sort of Worst Movies award foundation is in order to properly serve as a balance for the Oscar circus. Not that the likes of Michael Bay would care much: this particular object of movie mockery doesn't worry in the least about any damage to his reputation the Razzies may cause, considering his ongoing success at the boxoffice still has made him filthy rich and powerful in Tinsel Town. However, I would like to see some Razzie nominations that don't include Bay, Adam Sandler or Jennifer Aniston for a change. I guess the new category of Razzie Redeemers at least is a step in the right direction of the GRAF preventing making too strongly a mockery of itself.

And I'll also take a shot at predicting the winners:

Worst Movie: Transformers 4: Age of Extinction

Worst Actor: Adam Sandler / Blended

Worst Actress:  Cameron Diaz / The Other Woman en Sex Tape

Worst Supporting Actress: Nicola Peltz / Transformers: Age of Extinction

Worst Supporting Actor:  Kelsey Grammer / Expendables 3, Legends of Oz, Think Like a Man Too en Transformers: Age of Extinction

Worst Director: Michael Bay / Transformers: Age of Extinction

Worst Screen Combo: Transformers: Age of Extinction

Worst Script: Transformers: Age of Extinction / Ehren Kruger

Worst Remake, Rip-Off or Sequel: Annie


zaterdag 10 januari 2015

Today's News: planning, casting, piloting and trailing

Look at the news these last few days yielded:

Shit, this is starting to look derivative... Robot cops, the fine line between men and machine interspersed with explosive action sequences, unique robots developing a personality and starting to display Saviouresque symptoms... What's new here? You'd think RoboCop and I, Robot never happened. However, they did, and judging from this latest trailer Chappie will add little of novelty to the robot repertoire. However, this is Neill Blomkamp we're talking about, so I do hope he's got some tricks up his sleeve so he might surprise us yet. If he does, I'm betting it resides in the area of social commentary, which is rather his forte. Execution of both District 9 and Elysium proved not devoid of flaws, but the heart and the action both sure were in the right place. It's not like the dystopian future of Elysium differed that much from previously portrayed divides between a small elite and a vast multitude of have-nots. And it was still a damn fine flick. Chappie will likely at least be that. I would have hoped for some more original storytelling besides that, but I'll take what I can get. It's not like there's that much intelligent Sci-Fi directors to go round these days, so I support the few folks that try. Unless they really miss the mark completely (eh, Nolan?).

So now we know when the devil gets his due. Even though actual footage of the series still has not been released (they better hurry with that, with only three months to go), the new poster sure sets the tone. This is definitely gonna be one of Marvels darkest projects. I wonder whether that is the best way to go when you're building a second shared Marvel universe for television. You'd think a lighter choice would be a better decision to reel viewers in. However, it's all in the name. You could start with light fare like Jessica Jones, but only the true Marvelites would know that name. Daredevil is more well known, partially thanks to Ben Afflecks crappy movie, though that was over a decade ago. Yet people likely still remember it. But the real strong name of course is Marvel. That suffices for most audiences. And if the company has its way, the same will soon ring true for Netflix, so a series like Marco Polo can count on a large enough number of spectators just because it has the Netflix logo attached to its credits. It seems to work well enough for HBO. And considering the quality the company offers thus far, I wouldn't mind if the same holds true for Netflix.

More younger versions of X-characters, more talent needed to fill their boots. Though the majority of the actors and actresses mentioned in the original article I am not familiar with, I do believe there's some fair choices here. I'm divided between Team Turner and Team Ronan. Turner does a fine job on Game of Thrones, and the populairty of that show definitely gives her a mean edge. However, Ronan has a far more impressive resumé which encompasses a wide array of dramatic roles, some of them which proved quite heavy but she pulled them off admirably. Unbiased by the GoT sympathy for Sansa Sophie, I'd say Ronan should get the part. However, GoT does make me prejudiced against any actors who didn't star in it, so I won't deny I'd love to see what Turner could do with the character of Jean Grey. Hailee Steinfeld has a similar background to Ronan, so I would not mind her winning the part either. I'm glad it didn't go to Moretz though; I like her work, but I'd hate to see her get typecasted as 'that comic book girl'. She's got Hit-Girl, let it end there. As for the guys and girls up for Cyclops and Storm, for the most part I can only say 'who the heck are all these people?'. I only know Tye Sheridan from Mud, in which he performed quite well. Here too, there's a sympathy vote working its magic, as Taron Egerton currently has buzz because of Kingsman. The fact it was directed by Matthew Vaughn who, as the director of X-Men: First Class, could pull some serious strings also adds in his favour. But then too he'd end up with a comic book stigma, even though X-Men and Kingsmen at least are wildly different, far more diverse in nature than Kick-Ass and X-Men. There's just so many elements to consider here. Since I have zero influence in the whole casting process anyway, I'm just going to let this one roll on and I'll bitch and whine about the final choice when actually one has been made. Still, I can't help it: Go Sansa!

Another good movie gets a follow-up for television. There's a lot of that happening these days, and not all of the titles involved are justified for the small screen treatment. I would say Minority Report is among those. Sure, there's story a few possibilities remaining after the events of the movie. However, the issue is that it follows the movie directly and thus might spoil its deliciously undefined ending. The last half hour of the film can be interpreted in two very different ways, and I'd hate to see the series ruining the movie by picking the less ingenious of the pair. And even if the series opts to ignore the matter entirely and leaves us in the dark as we should be, I still feel no particular need of watching a follow-up to a by then 15-year old flick. Even if it doesn't tread the same paths as its predecessor. Though it at least beats the prospect of a full-on remake, like 12 Monkeys is currently undergoing.

woensdag 7 januari 2015

Today's News: a threesome of trailers

The first trailers for 2015 are in!:

2015's first big trailer of course had to come from Marvel Studios. The ant-icipation for Ant-Man is slowly building, now that most fanboys have had time to get over Edgar Wright's departure. Seems Ant-Man as a project is still doing alright and traces of its original director's touch remain to be felt. The trailer sure hints at Wrightian humour, quirkiness and the necessity not to take this subject too seriously, which is reflected on the rather silly but appropriate minimalist teaser poster. Other than that, it appears a fairly thirteen-a-dozen superhero flick, with distinct overtones of a heist movie. The notion of the villain being equipped with the same powers as the hero is hardly a novel approach for Marvel, when the likes of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk are taken into account. I guess any really new ideas that ought to set Ant-Man apart from his fellow superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe will have to spring from his questionable personality and his resulting status as a former delinquent. None of the other superheroes have had a criminal record thus far. Of course, we have seen flawed characters, Tony Stark's being a prime example (being an arms merchant sadly doesn't come with a criminal record). Ant-Man's strength may lie in introducing a very unheroic hero, the kind that comes home after saving the world and abuses his spouse (as per the comics). I doubt Marvel has the balls to go as far as the hilarious Irredeemable Ant-Man character on the big screen - also because that persona is a whole other character, just with the same name and powers - but there's still ample opportunity for shying away from the superhero routine here by making the titular figure a recnognizable all-too human human being. And otherwise, we'll have to make do with his talking to ants to spice things up a little.

This really isn't my thing. Peanuts never intrigued me much as a kid, nor does it do better in my adult years. This trailer, too, just seems to appeal too much to kids, feeling rather childish throughout, without containing any gags that would win over more mature audiences. The style of animation appears hardly enticing and not on par with contemporary animated films, though that may have something to do with the selfimposed limitations set by the producers to acknowledge the supposedly iconic style of the original comic book strips. I have to give the creators of this film credit for honoring the original work at least, rather than going all-out and making it look nothing like the Peanuts everybody knows. Maybe I'm just biased against this film because I'm a cat person.

Zero fascination for this film results from watching this trailer, either. There just doesn't appear to be anything new to this premise, other than that it combines the age-old Frankenstein routine of 'don't play God and resurrect the dead just because you can' with a sort of demonic horror element where the scientists in error are picked off by some ghostly apparition one by one. The PG-13 rating also won't help, since it won't allow the movie to go for particular strong moments of scare. Heck, Frankenweenie looks more scary and original than this bloodless B-flick! You wonder why the studio thought it would be a good idea to waste a budget on this film, or why decent actors like Mark Duplass, Olivia Wilde and Evan Peters would bother performing in this one. Maybe there's just more than meets the eye here, and the trailer tells us it's one thing while the actual product turns out to be quite another. I very much doubt that though. I don't think I'll wake up for this one.

zaterdag 3 januari 2015

Today's News: 2015, first catch

Happy New Year everybody! Let's just pick off where we left off, I'd say. So here's the first few bits of news for 2015.

This is some mouthwatering concept art. Clearly the product of someone who harbours great love for the Alien movies, especially the first (and finest) few installments. However, it's obvious this is more of a fanboy having a ball for his own pleasure than a workable first attempt at another Xenomorph infested film. It clearly has designs to directly follow Aliens, considering the presence of Michael Biehn (who ingloriously died in the first few minutes of its successor, Alien 3). The fact that the mythos has since been watered down by two more sequels, a prequel and two spin-offs, plus taking into account the age of both Biehn and Sigourney Weaver (not to mention the likely possibility both actors would not really be interested in doing another one), doesn't make for good chances of making a movie out of these doodles, no matter their fabulous look. A graphic novel of course is not an impossible option, so who knows what the future holds? Probably nothing in this regard, as Blomkamp has stated he did this mostly for fun and has since moved on working on real projects. Too bad, but maybe it's for the good. Let's face(hug) it: this imagery mostly hearkens back to the success of the first two films by applying iconic imagery and actors from those films. But applying them to what? No story is presented, nor even a medium in which it might otherwise be told. These images are completely empty of context, except for the love Blomkamp and us Alien fans bring to it ourselves. The first teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes to mind, which uses an all too similar tactic without delivering the necessary context of a narrative. At least in this Alien case, we'll never have to lament the fact that such great artistry was used for such a disappointing final product, which I continue to consider a very likely scenario for that upcoming Star Wars flick. Yet still, if there's ever gonna be another Alien movie (and I mean an Alien movie proper, not the upcoming Prometheus 2), Blomkamp would be my first choice for the directing chair.

As for directing, Sly Stallone is doing that in 2015. And acting. And writing and producing too. He sure is keeping himself busy. Too bad there's so little original projects involved, it's mostly him building on his past glories of Rocky and Rambo. At least with Creed, he's acknowledging his age by playing a mentor figure rather than an actual price fighter. Not so with the fifth Rambo movie, which is basically Stallone blowing off steam on camera and making money at the same time. To show he's keeping things up to date, this time he'll singlehandedly wipe out a whole Mexican drug cartel. If only that sort of thing would happen in the real world. The only one out of these three projects currently in the works that gets me the least bit excited is the one that seems to be most original. Then again, there's ample biopics about mobster bosses already, so it's hardly a unique concept. I doubt Scarpa could ever turn out as memorable as the likes of The Untouchables, Scarface or American Gangster. Doesn't really matter if it doesn't though. You just do your thing, Sly.

Also not a wholly original concept is a team of detectives investigating crimes that involve superpowered individuals. Remember The 4400 for example? Heck, even Agents of S.H.IE.L.D. often dabbles in that particular premise. Of course, the notion of setting it in a world where superhumans are a fairly everyday occurrence is more innovative, as is introducing an ex-superhuman as a cop character. That does make for some interesting novel story possibilites, and I hope Powers will utilize them to maximum effect. The cast sure helps, too. Casting Sharlto Copley is like striking gold, and I'm also happy to see Noah Taylor again. However, it's Michelle Forbes in a silly, sexy superheroine outfit that gets me most excited (in dual fashion, I must admit). The new TV division of the PlayStation Network seems to have a solid first show on their hands. Hopefully they didn't opt for this project simply because it's based on a comic book series about superpeople and those are currently hot. That sort of thinking is currently killing their mother company Sony's Spider-Man franchise, because they don't know how to proceed handling the character but because of his strong brand name they exploit him all the same. You need something more than just a popular character to win the audience over, preferably including a good story that keeps spectators hungry for more. Powers could have that in spades, and might very well deliver proof that there is still talent to be found amongst Sony's ranks where comic book adaptations and superhumans are involved. Or so we can only hope at this point.