SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY #3

I really want In Time to be grrrrrreat!

In Time (in theaters this Friday, October 28!) is a film I’m very much looking forward to seeing. Have been for a while. The more footage I see from it, the more I think this has the potential to be a really, really good movie. I absolutely love the concept of time replacing money and how in the future, you stop aging at 25 (it’ll be interesting to see how they explain that). I’m a huge fan of writer/director Andrew Niccol, for two big reasons; he wrote/directed 2005’s Lord of War, a highly underrated and underseen film that is some of Nicolas Cage‘s best work, but perhaps most of all because he wrote The Truman Show, one of my all-time favorite movies and one of the most original story ideas of the last 25 years (not to mention Jim Carrey‘s best performance).

I’m starting to like Justin Timberlake more and more as an actor, but I’m not quite sure he’s ready to be a lead in an action/sci-fi movie. This will be a great test of that. I love Amanda Seyfried and Olivia Wilde, and any movie with Cillian Murphy in it has a chance to be great. It’s also got That Guy From Mad Men (Vincent Kartheiser), who looks to be the primary antagonist. I think it’ll be cool to see actors in their 20’s and 30’s playing characters who are actually decades older. I’m hopeful the writing and the acting will make these scenes credible, but it’s a promising concept nonetheless.

For fellow movie nerds, I offer some other evidence of greatness from the crew list; In Time was shot by Roger Deakins, god of cinematography, the editor is Zach Staenberg, who cut The Matrix trilogy, and the production designer is Alex McDowell (Fight Club, Minority Report, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Watchmen).

I’ve been avoiding reading any early reviews, because I want to go into this thing as spoiler free as possible. My hopes are high on this one. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a truly original futuristic vision in a movie, and I think think think this has the potential to be just that. I’ll probably be giving this the full review treatment next week, depending on my reaction to it. If I hate it, I’m not gonna waste my time, but if I love it, I’m gonna do whatever I can to make sure YOU get off your ass and check it out.

First Impressions: Terra Nova

Here’s another project, this time for television, that I’ve been hoping against hope would be at least good. I’d been sorta following it since it was first announced, if only because Steven Spielberg is one of the executive producers. However, he’s listed as executive producer on so many movies and TV shows these days that I find it difficult to fathom he’s intimately involved in any of them. Have I seen The Spielberg Touch in Terra Nova? Mmm, nnnnot really…so far. I mean, the Jurassic Park comparisons are obvious, but Spielberg didn’t invent fictional stories involving dinosaurs, he just showed us how effectively they could be brought back to life via computer-generated imagery (that’s CGI to the cool kids). The storylines in Terra Nova aren’t at all similar to the JP movies. If you were under that impression, you’ve been misinformed.

I’m writing this after watching the first two episodes of the show, which I’d had sitting on my DVR for a couple weeks. I really enjoyed both episodes, particularly the 2-hour pilot, which got better and better as it went along. Put it this way. In case Spielberg’s name alone wasn’t enough pedigree, the show is also executive produced by Brannon Braga (who worked on Star Trek: The Next Generation & Voyager, as well as 24), and Jon Cassar (who executive produced 24 and directed 60 of its best episodes), and the pilot was directed by Alex Graves, an executive producer and the directing wizard behind 34 episodes of The West Wing. You put all 4 of those names on anything, and I’ll give it a shot. Basically, this show was made for me, and me alone. Right?

In case you missed the endless promotions for the show, the setup is fairly simple; it starts in 2149, where humans have (gasp!) killed the environment and made the planet all but unlivable. There’s nothing green left, and pollution has made it so you can’t see the blue of the sky or the stars at night. All hope is lost, UNTIL, they find a wormhole or some method of time travel, and a select group of people are chosen to set up a new human colony 85 million years in the past, WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH.

See what I did there?

If I understood the pilot properly, they somehow setup an alternate timeline, so that what these humans do millions of years in the past wouldn’t affect the world they left behind. They are literally creating a new future in what is basically an alternate universe. If any of that made sense to you, you’re a well-tuned sci-fi geek, and like me, you’ve seen way too many Star Trek time travel episodes (of which there were many). It’s a very interesting, if not far-fetched concept. Regardless, where humans go, drama and trouble follow, no matter what planet or time period they’re in.

The story centers around one family who had to break the rules just to stay together in their journey to the past (in 2149, you’re only allowed to have 2 kids, but they secretly have a third, who they literally smuggle with them into the past). I like this cast, particularly the parents, played by Jason O’Mara and Shelley Conn. The kids aren’t too annoying yet, though the teenage son (played by Landon Liboiron) needs a good bitch slapping. I actually find the teenage daughter character (Naomi Scott) quite endearing. Most of the actors are relative unknowns and I like that. The only prominent name among them is the great Stephen Lang, who plays basically the exact same character he played in Avatar, except this time he’s not a complete douchebag. He’s the experienced military man who commands the security forces of the colony and also serves as the sort of mayor/leader of the people. I find it strange that he’d take a role so similar to one he made famous just 2 years ago, but he’s really good here, which is all I really care about.

I’d have assumed there’d be some sort of council making the decisions and not military people, but they haven’t really explained who decided how the colony would operate and be governed, which is something that needs to be addressed. This thing is gonna continue to be filled with small plot holes and things you can pick apart, but so far those little details haven’t taken away from my enjoyment of the two episodes I’ve seen. The effects are really good (by TV standards), the sets are interesting (though we still haven’t seen a whole lot of the colony), and the writing has been better than I expected. The action scenes have also been more intense than I would’ve thought, but I guess with a bunch of 24 veterans involved, that shouldn’t surprise me.

One other big thing…I like that it’s episodic (where each episode has its own contained storyline and set of issues that are resolved within that episode), as opposed to serialized. It seems like every show I follow nowadays is one continuous story, where you can’t miss a minute or you’re out of touch. My two favorite shows of all-time (Star Trek: TNG and The West Wing) were both episodic. I think it’s just more difficult than ever for TV writers to come up with original concepts week in and week out. In serialized TV, it’s very hard to pick out individual favorite episodes, whereas I can list 5-10 of my favorite West Wing episodes off the top of my head. In serialized TV, people often talk about how good an entire season is as opposed to singling out individual episodes. For instance, my favorite season of 24 is season 3. In 24‘s case, that show was really only 8 episodes, each split into 24 parts. I’m not saying one method is better than the other, but pretty much everything I’ve been watching recently (V, The Event, Entourage, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, The Walking Dead) has been one way, so Terra Nova is a nice change of pace in that regard. Now that I think about it, pretty much everything HBO does is serialized. At least all their dramas are. Coincidence?

Anyway, I’m going to set up my DVR to record Terra Nova every week going forward. It’s been good enough for me to at least see it through season 1. It looks like they have 13 full episodes in the can, and will at least air all of those. The show’s ratings have been okay, but need to get better for Fox to justify a season 2. Effects-heavy shows like this are very expensive (reportedly $4 million/episode in this case). However, with the power players involved behind the scenes, hopefully Fox will show some patience.

Terra Nova, thus far, is good, not great, but I think it has a strong foundation and is showing promise, which are the important things. I like the cast, and I like the people involved behind the scenes. I recommend checking it out. One thing they really need to change is the opening titles, which are almost nonexistent at this point. The show needs an opening titles sequence, not a friggin title card, which is basically all it has at the moment. Just sayin, brah.

Reaction: recent film news

File Under: AHHHHHHHHH!!! AHHHHHHHHH!!! AHHHHHHHHH!!! NO! STOP! Paramount and Hasbro seem determined to not only make a 4th Transformers movie a reality as soon as possible, but they want to also shoot a 5th Transformers movie at the same time, so that they could be released back-to-back and save production and salary costs. Hasbro claims talks are “underway” with director Michael Bay, but Bay himself came out in the forums on his own website and denied that he is in such negotiations. Bay has been saying he wants to a smaller project next- a “based on a true story” Miami-set crime thriller called Pain and Gain, but we’ve been hearing about this project for at least 5 years. Bay makes so much money personally off these Transformers movies, that he’s been finding it hard to step away, and despite repeated claims that he’s done after the third one, I won’t be surprised one bit if another gargantuan payday lures him back again. It’s too bad he isn’t driven by things like originality, or creative challenges, or substance. [Variety]

Here’s a quick description of Pain and Gain:

The true story follows a couple of steroid-abusing knucklehead bodybuilders from Florida who become criminals involved in an extortion ring and a kidnapping plot that all goes horribly wrong. The film has been described as a mix of Fargo and Pulp Fiction or even “Point Break with bodybuilders.”

Now I think that actually sounds interesting, more like something from his Bad Boys days, but it doesn’t sound like Bay is much interested in making a film that’s rated R and that probably won’t come anywhere near a $100 million gross. However, he’s just arrogant enough to believe his name alone will carry a movie to box office glory, so who knows. The film’s reported budget is just $20 million, or a week of catering on a Transformers movie. I don’t know if Bay can actually wrap his head around working off a budget that small, but we’ll see. If Bay’s career is salvageable, a project like this would make for a good start. You can actually read the 8-page 1999 Miami New Times article that inspired the movie HERE.

I don’t actually care whether or not they shoot two more TF movies back-to-back. If Bay is at the helm, I’m not going to see them in theaters. That’s a promise. I’m done. I wouldn’t go to another Bay-directed Transformers movie if 30 minutes of it were Megan Fox and Rosie Huntington-Whitely making out on the beach at sunset with 3D explosions going off all around them. Dark of the Moon was the straw that broke my back, and maybe I’m late in discovering this, but I now realize this man will never change. And like I said in my review, it’s fairly obvious he has no desire to. Changing his style or taking on a risky project would put the size of his backend paychecks in jeopardy, and it seems he just can’t have that. Besides, he actually thinks he’s created this amazing franchise that people give a shit about. Nobody has the heart to tell him that the masses just need something to do for 2.5 hours during the summer. Something bright, noisy, flashy, and most of all…something that won’t force them to think. About anything. Oh yeah, and something filled with clichés, stereotypes, and is degrading to attractive women. The fact that Dark of the Moon finished with a $1.119 billion worldwide gross (good for 4th all-time, though that should come with a giant asterisk considering how much of that gross derived from inflated 3D prices) certainly won’t dissuade him from making more Transformers movies. He reportedly pocketed $125 million off of Revenge of the Fallen, which “only” took in $836.3 million worldwide. If he makes two more of them back-to-back, he might be a billionaire when all is said and done, at which point the Wall Street protesters could “Occupy” his front lawn, and he’d respond by blowing them all up. Hmmm, maybe this is a good idea…

P.S. Bravo to Shia LaBeouf for stating in no uncertain terms he’s done with Transformers movies. At least you can take him at his word. It’s pretty clear that audiences have shown they’ll show up to these movies no matter how fucking dumb they are, and LaBeouf could continue collecting 8-figure paychecks pretty much as long as he wanted, but I think he’s done with the grind, done with having his ass kicked by Michael Bay’s explosions, and I believe that he actually wants to do other, more interesting and challenging projects.

I could do this forever, kid. And I probably will.

-Some vague news broke this week that Matt Damon will finally be making his directorial debut soon. All that we know so far is that he co-wrote a script with ya boy John Krasinski, the two of them both plan to also star in it, and it’s supposedly “in the vein of Erin Brockovich“, which at least indicates it’s a drama. Damon has long been on my list of actors who I think would make good directors, and the project is set up at Warner Bros., which gave Ben Affleck his first two directing gigs, and is a very director-friendly studio in general. That’s an encouraging sign. Given that Krasinski is also a Boston boy, I’m hopeful that this project has a Massachusetts setting as well, but we don’t know. I’m not too hot on Krasinski as an actor just yet. He hasn’t made good choices in movies since becoming a big deal off of The Office (which I haven’t ever seen more than 5 minutes of- sue me), so I can only hope that’s changing with this project. I’m going to assume he and Damon didn’t write a white-washed romantic comedy, which has been Krasinski’s specialty thus far. [Deadline]

-Speaking of significant actors making their directorial debuts, Angelina Jolie has been quietly making her debut film, which she also wrote. This is a romance set during the Bosnian War in the early 90’s called In the Land of Blood and Honey. We just got the first trailer for it, and as usual, I recommend switching the video quality to 720p:

My first impression is that the dialogue is a little cheesy in parts, but overall I like it. I’ve got nothing but respect for Jolie for taking on such an ambitious project for her big debut behind the camera. This is no glamour project. It’s gritty. It’s foreign. She doesn’t star in it and there are no big name Hollywood actors doing fake accents. She cast the film locally, which is admirable. Given Ms. Jolie’s many world travels as a UN “good will” ambassador, I have full confidence that she did her research on the script. She claims she wanted to shine a light on an important conflict that happened recently but is mostly forgotten outside of where it occurred. Word is she also shot it in both English and in native Serbian/Bosnian, which certainly didn’t make things any easier. This will roll out slowly this December/January as an awards contender, and I’ll definitely be checking it out.

Shrek the Third was so fucking atrocious that I skipped 4th the Shrek/Shrek 4/Gimme Your Money/whatever it was called, but I will be seeing Puss in Boots. Cuz I like the character, and the trailers and promos have been funny. So now you know that.

For example:

-I’ve hesitated to call a 4th American Pie movie (called American Reunion) a good idea, but all of these people really have nothing better to do, so why not? Who does it harm? My only hesitation is that when there’s this long of a gap between the third and fourth movies in a franchise, the results are usually piss poor (Indiana Jones and Scream being good recent examples). So I was leaning towards it being a really shitty idea, but then this red-band teaser trailer came out, and I’m kinda hopeful that it might actually be decent. I actually Laughed Out Loud during this trailer, which is rare even for comedies I’m excited about. Check it out (switch the video quality to 720p- DO IT):

If you tell me didn’t laugh at that even for a moment, I’m throwing the red challenge flag at you, cuz you’re lying. I’m not gonna say I’m excited about it now, but the potential for excitement is there. We’ll see when we get the first full-length trailer and the plot is revealed. The whole cast is back, which is good, and it comes out in 2012, the greatest year in cinema since 2000. So there’s that.

-In case anybody still doubted that Tyler Perry, though incredibly successful, was a terrible filmmaker, he just cast Kim Kardashian in a role in his next movie. And it isn’t a joke. [THR] Do any of you ladies need any more evidence of what you can achieve if you just make a sex tape with a celebrity and leak it on the internet? If you want to be famous, but don’t care how you get there, it really is this easy.

-This past week, ESPN’s news magazine E:60 did a riveting story on former WWF wrestler Scott Hall, known best as his alter ego Razor Ramon and later in WCW when the nWo was a huge thing. As it turns out, the years have not been kind. I don’t follow wrestling anymore (I got out of it around 2000 when Vince McMahon swallowed up ECW and WCW), so I had no idea it was this bad for him, and has been for years. If you’ve seen the magnificent film The Wrestler, this story will look frighteningly familiar. Hall appears to have all the ailments you saw from the Mickey Rourke character in that film, most notably a very weak heart. This was hard to watch, particularly since it appears that Hall will likely soon join the list of former wrestlers who died far too young. If you were, like me, a diehard pro wrestling fan in the 90’s, this is a must watch: WATCH HERE.

This one’s for Scott Hall:

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