Posts Tagged 'sucker punch'

Review: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES (and more!)



I stab you with this 3D sword!!!

An exercise in creative futility, this Pirates movie, though slightly more cohesive than the bloated At World’s End (which, along with Avatar and Spider-Man 3, is right up there with the most expensive movies ever made), it isn’t any better, which is what everybody was expecting demanding if they insisted on moving forward with this franchise. Almost everyone involved with this series admitted that At World’s End went a bit off the deep end (literally and figuratively, as it turns out!), but they don’t seem to realize that all we wanted was a stronger, more focused story, as existed in the original movie. We didn’t get that, yet the studio wants people to pay even more money than they did for tickets in 2007 to see this one in 3D. That said, I’d rather watch the 2 hour, 50 minute At World’s End than see this again any day, because though it’s long and completely over the top, it isn’t boring. We often say that most sequels don’t need to be made, but this should be held up as the very definition of that thesis.

If it’s possible to mail in a $200 million summer megablockbuster, they’ve managed it here. And by the way, am I the only one who finds it hilarious that they consider $200 million “scaled down”? For almost everyone involved (the studio, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, the writers, Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Kevin McNally (who plays Gibbs) and even composer Hans Zimmer and other key crew members carrying over from the first 3 movies), there appears to be no real reason this got made other than to stuff bank accounts. There sure as hell wasn’t a great story waiting to be told. They simply did it under the bullshit guise of “Well, the audience wants more, so we’re just giving them what they want.” Even after just seeing part 4, I can barely recall what it was about, and that doesn’t really bother me. We’re never given any logical reason why ANYONE involved actually wants to find the Fountain of Youth, and the payoff once they do make use of it is completely unsatisfying, despite the fact that every main character (and an army of Spanish dudes) is hunting for it. There is nothing remarkable about this movie at all, yet I will now attempt to make several pertinent remarks about it.


“Which way to the bank?”

WHAT I LIKED

-I liked the really quick Judi Dench cameo. But pay attention. Read these three sentences and that’s how fast it is.

-Though Hans Zimmer mostly used cues from the first 3 movies, one of the cool new things he did do was bring Rodrigo y Gabriela in to do some acoustic work with the new themes and for reprisals of some of the old motifs. Though I got the soundtrack, and they did a lot more work on the soundtrack album than what actually appears in the film. Or I just didn’t notice them as much in the film, because NOTHING really stood out. I’m trying to get into more Spanish guitar/acoustic acts and love when they’re used in movies. I also have a couple Rodrigo y Gabriela albums, so it was cool to see them involved here. Despite using a lot of the same old themes, as always Zimmer does manage to bring something new and unique to the table. In general though, I don’t see why Zimmer felt the need to come back and do this. That will be the running theme of this review: Why did you participate in this?

For today’s Recommended Listening, here’s a sample from the soundtrack that features Rodrigo y Gabriela. The track is called “South of Heaven’s Chanting Mermaids”:  

Penelope Cruz was better than I thought she’d be. I didn’t know if she had the charisma required to play opposite Johnny Depp in a big summer movie, but those doubts were quickly alleviated. I thought she was pretty good, but even though we’re told she and Depp had a romance that ended poorly, we’re never given any of the specific details of where or when that fling took place, or precisely why it ended poorly. Or maybe we did get that information and I’ve already forgotten it because it didn’t make any sense. That’s entirely possible.


O, HAI Penelope.
U iz lookin’ good!

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

-I love Ian McShane, and I love the idea of him playing Blackbeard, “the pirate all other pirates fear.” It’s a great setup for a proper villain. Unfortunately, there’s no such payoff in this movie. Here, Blackbeard is all talk and no real villainy. He’s not intimidating, and unless I’m mistaken, he never kills anyone by his own hand. The only time he does anything that’s supposed to be truly terrifying, it ends up being truly stupid. He sets this guy out on a small boat in front of his big ship, then uses the ship’s two massive flamethrowers (obviously) and lights the smaller ship ablaze. And this is supposed to be scary and prove how evil he is. Meanwhile, all I could think of was the fact that all the guy on the smaller boat had to do was JUMP INTO THE WATER to survive, but hey, let’s not nitpick! So yeah, Ian McShane is utterly wasted here, and it’s a damn shame. I’m actually offended, now that I think about it. Does Disney have a viewer complaint line?

-They excluded Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, which is good (and probably saved the production $30 million), but the problem is they replaced them with another young couple, except this time the girl is a mermaid. She’s cute and all, but for the dude, it seems like they purposefully tried to cast someone who looks a bit too much like Bloom. And the carbon copy Sam Claflin is the result of this casting search. Well, bravo Pirates casting directors, you found an Orlando Bloom clone. Unfortunately, you still don’t have a script that allows him to do anything worth a damn. I’m not blaming the actors for being boring. I have no idea from watching this if either of these two are good actors, but the exposure will surely get them other chances to prove their worth, and that’s fine with me.


This is about as interesting as this love subplot gets.
He whispers sweet nothings whilst she’s stuck in a puddle.

-If you were excited about the prospect of zombies in the Pirates franchise, get rid of those expectations. These are the most pointless zombies (there are really only 2 of them) in movie history. Seriously. In fact, almost all of the supernatural and fantasy elements of this movie are handled poorly. The mermaids are okay, but I definitely feel they could’ve been handled better. The big scene where they’re introduced is really goofy. Also, the visual effects shots of the mermaids underwater aren’t that impressive. I did like when the first one (played by a model of course) appears. A group of guys is put into a raft as bait, and they sing songs to try and attract the mermaids, and with one cut, all of a sudden one of them is just THERE, leaning on the back of the boat, innocently staring at them. That was cool. Everything else the mermaids do? Ne jabba no badda.

-The stunts and effects sequences are far below what we’ve seen in the previous movies. Gore Verbinski is a much more capable director than Rob Marshall in this regard. The action set pieces in the first 3 movies are clever, visually interesting and exciting. That is rarely the case here. In fact, it’s never the case. And the producers and writers need realize that these bloodless sword fights are incredibly tedious. There are 2 or 3 sword fight scenes here, and I just wanted a remote so I could fast forward through them. If you’re not gonna be lobbing off limbs or impaling people with swords, the fight choreography better be spectacular. That’s pretty obvious to me, but apparently not to the writers, producers, director and stunt guys on these movies. But what do I know? These guys seem to believe that even though the audience knows nobody’s going to get killed in a sword fight in these movies, we should still be invested in these scenes. That’s fucking ignorant. At least in Dead Man’s Chest, the big swordfight took place on the roof of a house and then on a giant spinning wheel, so it was at least cool to look at.

Of course, Disney (and the now completely creatively bankrupt Jerry Bruckheimer) has said they want more Pirates movies, but hopefully the critical reaction and mediocre fan reaction will dissuade that from happening anytime soon. Even Johnny Depp came out and said that while he still loves playing the character, he wants them to “hold off for a bit” before trying to make a fifth one. Hopefully, by “hold off for a bit” he means about 50 years. Funnily enough, if reports are accurate, a script for a fifth movie has already been turned in. Just file that on the shelf for a few decades, mmkay?

On Stranger Tides is not good enough to recommend, and not bad enough to scream, “Stay away!!!” I am not surprised by this (based on the trailers), and thankfully, I don’t really care, either. You can make up your own mind on seeing it in theaters. As always, all I ask is that you not see it in 3D.

To finish, here’s a recent quote from Mr. Depp:

“Really, ultimately and truly, these films are made for the people that go in and pay their hard-earned money to see these things,” Depp said. “And if the people get tired or something, that’s when it stops.”

Consider me exhausted. Can it stop now?

Check out some other like-minded reviews:

A.O. Scott is more critical, but also more concise. [NY TIMES]

Quint over at Aint It Cool feels pretty much exactly the way I do. [AICN]

Eric D. Snider sums it up nicely and amusingly. [EricDSnider.com]

————–

Basically, this movie isn’t worth 100% of my effort to do an in-depth review, but I simply had to share the following with you, because it doesn’t make sense unless I describe it within the context of seeing this movie.

-I didn’t like 5-10 people in the packed audience I saw it with. To my right was a group of 6 or so 18-22 year olds who had to verbally describe everything we were seeing during the trailers. Hey douchebags, there isn’t a prize for the person who can identify which movie is being advertised first. This ain’t Family Feud. Second, if you’re gonna scream the title out, scream out the right fucking title. It’s not called Cowboys VS. Aliens, dumbass, it’s Cowboys & Aliens. And thank you so much for pointing out for your stupidass friend which one was “the guy from James Bond” and which one was Harrison Ford. And thank you for pointing out that that’s Hugh Jackman in the Real Steel trailer. DER YA THINK SO!!??!! And no, jackass, it does NOT look “good.”

Also, though this theater is usually pretty good about this stuff, there was a projection issue for the second straight time I’ve been there (when I saw Bridesmaids last weekend, I could swear there was no surround sound the whole time). So, thanks to the theater staff for not noticing the two medium-sized blotches on the screen that were constantly out of focus, something that could only have been caused by a smudge or fingerprint on the glass in front of the projector. Projection issues drive me INSANE, but as the trailers progressed, for some dumb reason I hoped once the movie started they’d go away. They didn’t. Unfortunately, the only thing I hate more than projection issues is getting up and leaving the theater during a movie that I’m seeing for the first time. I was able to sit through all 2:17 of Stranger Tides and tolerate it, but I wanted to murder someone on the way out. Maybe I could’ve killed one or both of those two twats who sat in the row in front of me texting without remorse for the first 20 minutes of the movie. By the way, the sheer arrogance of that in today’s day and age is beyond my comprehension. I think we’re getting to the point now where almost everyone understands that you shouldn’t be texting during a movie. I rarely see it happen anymore, and we’re the better for it. That just makes it all the worse when someone does do it. Fuckin twats (I should use the c-word, but I’ll refrain). If it’s so goddamn important and the movie isn’t worthy of your attention, GO THE FUCK INTO THE LOBBY AND TEXT WHAT’S LEFT OF YOUR TINY FUCKING BRAINS OUT! And when you’re done, before you come back into the theater, go into the restroom and FUCK YOURSELF!!!

I’m also appalled that I was apparently the only one in the audience who noticed the focus problems, or cared enough to even consider telling someone.

Before we go, there were a couple of other recent thingamajigs that grabbed my attention. And I need to react to the end of The Event.

-Sony and Marvel just released the first poster and new text logo for 2012’s Spidey reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man. I like the font from the other movies better, but this’ll do just fine. I’m liking what I’ve heard about what they’re doing with this new incarnation of Spider-Man. They’ve scaled it down a bit (which is easy when your last movie cost $275 million BEFORE marketing costs were factored in), and from the set photos and descriptions, it sounds like they’re trying to do a lot more of the action this time around without relying on CGI the way Sam Raimi‘s films often did. They’re even doing some of the webslinging stuff for real, which will be really cool to see. I’m not passionate about it, but among all the comic book stories we’ve seen brought to the big screen in the past decade or so, Peter Parker is definitely one of the best characters of the bunch.

But wait! There’s more!

Oh, NOW it’s gonna be rated R? Like it should have been in the first fucking place? And what’s in that extra 18 minutes? More absurd, meaningless, illogical, inconsequential bloodless video game action? Did the writing get any better? No thanks, Zack Snyder.


RAAR! Standard serious-face cast photo.

-More frustration on the TV front. The Event finally wrapped up its first season, and was of course promptly cancelled by NBC after a MASSIVE cliffhanger ending. FUCK. YOU. VERY MUCH. This is now two alien invasion series I’ve followed in one year that have ended with a cliffhanger and been cancelled, the first being ABC’s V. ABC’s V? Giggity. Anyway, The Event was better than V in almost every regard, mostly because it was structured like a season of 24 (one of that show’s longtime writers and producers, Evan Katz, was a big creative force on The Event). What they failed to realize was that one of the best things about 24 was that you knew the main plot of each season would be resolved in the 24th episode. There were characters and through lines that carried over to subsequent seasons, but we knew where we stood after each season. I believe that should have been the case here as well, but as it drew closer to its end, I began to realize there was no way they’d wrap up this increasingly large mythology in one season. And now I’m fucked. Again. This time, there was some encouraging news, as I’ve read that the series may be picked up by a cable network for a second season. I guess NBC would rather create the 258th incarnation of Law & Order instead.

Worse yet, despite there being several big “events” during the course of the season, we’re led to believe in the final episode that the actual capital-E Event is yet to come. In case I’ve lost you, this means The Event was cancelled before we find out what the fucking Event actually is. See why I’m so frustrated? There was nothing great about the show per se, but it was definitely solid all around. A solid B+. It was shot beautifully, the effects were very good by TV standards, and the writing was decent (even if most of the ideas for twists and turns were ripped straight from things we’d seen a dozen times on 24), but it was the cast that really did it for me. I absolutely loved Blair Underwood in particular as President Martinez. It’s time for this guy to get some bigger roles and fast. The show featured a couple of my favorite character actors in prominent roles in Bill Smitrovich (playing Vice President Jarvis) and the always great Zeljko Ivanek as Blake Sterling, the DNI (that’s Director of National Intelligence, noob). I also liked Laura Innes as the alien leader Sofia, even if she was basically a Xerox of almost every 24 villain we’ve seen. Also solid was Ian Anthony Dale as Agent Lee, the superhot Taylor Cole as Vicky Roberts, Lisa Vidal as the First Lady. I was most surprised by Jason Ritter, who was much better than I expected him to be as the series’ protagonist, Sean Walker.

The show featured a lot of the things that made 24 suspenseful, with a lot of X-Files sensibilities mixed in, to make it a cool, genre-bending sci-fi action drama. I would very much like to see it continue, if for no other reason than the fans of the show deserve some fucking closure. I thought this was just gonna be a one-season show originally, but that tells you what I know.

I liked this show a lot, but I don’t know if I can recommend it to people who didn’t give it a chance, because until we find out what its fate is going to end up being, you’re going to wind up disappointed and wanting more at the end. I don’t want anyone else to experience what I did when I watched that finale on Monday. Sigh, at least I know Game of Thrones has already been picked up for a second season and Entourage is definitely entering its final season. Thank you, HBO, for having your shit together.

I leave you with this…

I’m wondering, why do women hate socks and shoes? I’m being serious. I know this is stupid, but when I notice trends (fashion trends especially), I can’t help but openly muse about them. My theory: as soon as winter is over, and for as long as they can tolerate the open air, females prefer exposing their feet whenever they leave the house. Women of all sizes, colors and ages. Ladies, I want to know why you despise socks and shoes so much. By my unscientific measurements, I’d say between the months of April and October, 8 in 10 women (that’s 80% for you math noobs) wear some form of flip flops or sandals when out in public. It seems to me the only time women wear anything else during moderate-to-warm weather is when they’re going to work, going to the gym, or going out at night, but even then, most women wear open-toed shoes or other, fancier forms of flip flops and sandals. Just from random daily observation, I’d say the rate of men who follow the same pattern is probably half that. Guys seem to prefer socks and sneakers, even in warm weather. This has to be a psychological thing. Can SOMEONE, male or female (preferably female), explain this to me? Check this out in your own travels. Women hate socks. I’m telling you. And again, I realize it’s stupid, but one doesn’t control the things that preoccupy the mind.

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SUCKER PUNCH Review

Why do I use Jena Malone’s poster at the top? Because, surprisingly, she ended up being my favorite character in the film.

Sucker Punch arrives in theaters this weekend as the first “event” movie of 2011. It’s basically a summer movie being released in March. It’s the first original movie (i.e. not based on a previous book, comic, movie, etc.) that director Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead, 300, Watchmen) has made, and that was the main draw for me from the moment I heard this project announced. I’m always curious what “visionary” filmmakers like him are capable of creating on their own. If you’ve read my movie opinions for any length of time, you’ll know I have much more respect for a great piece of original work than I do for great adaptations, mostly because creating superior original ideas for film is much more difficult (and, I’d argue, more creatively rewarding). Snyder came up with this idea and co-wrote the script with Steve Shibuya, who had previously only done crew work.

Since I loathe writing plot summaries in my reviews, I’ll just copy/paste/paraphrase from a synopsis on IMDb; “A young girl (Baby Doll, played by Emily Browning) is locked away in a mental asylum by her wicked stepfather, where she is scheduled to undergo a lobotomy in 5 days’ time. Faced with unimaginable odds, she retreats to fantastical world in her imagination where she and four other female inmates at the asylum plot to escape the facility. The lines between reality and fantasy blur as Baby Doll and her companions battle various creatures and enemies to retrieve the 5 items they need that will allow them to break free from their captors before it’s too late.”

I started writing this review less than an hour after seeing the film, and I’m still not sure whether or not I liked it, or whether I’d call it good or bad. I know I enjoyed watching it. Or maybe a better description would be…the 13-year old boy in me enjoyed it. Since I can’t yet determine whether or not I think the movie is any good, I’m thinking the easiest way to come to a conclusion while writing this review would be to do the old what’s good and what’s bad format. Let’s do it. MINOR SPOILERS ahead.

WHAT I LIKED

-I really liked the movie’s soundtrack. THIS is how soundtracks should be done. It almost feels like a musical at points. The soundtrack is composed primarily of covers, and I especially liked the use of a new version of The Pixies‘ classic “Where Is My Mind?”, which is performed here by Yoav (whoever that is) alongside the film’s star, Emily Browning. Only problem there is that it’s hard for any film to use that song without audiences thinking back to Fight Club. There’s also a nice version of Jefferson Airplane‘s “White Rabbit”, performed here by the lovely Emiliana Torrini (who performed one of my all-time favorite original songs for a movie, “Gollum’s Song”, from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers).

-Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung were fun to look at. I’m not too interested in psychiatry, but if there’s a place in the real world with female inmates that attractive, I may have to consider a change in career plans. Oops, there’s the 13-year old in me talking again.

-Did I mention it’s fun to look at? Seriously, the visuals are almost worth the price of admission alone. The girls, the effects work, the costumes, the production design, it’s all wonderfully done. The film reportedly cost $82 million, and every penny of that is on the screen.

-Although this movie is in no way similar to Inception, I couldn’t help but be reminded of it a few times as we go from Baby Doll’s reality to her first layer of fantasy to her second, batshit crazy layer of fantasy where we see all the huge CG battles. Much like Inception, this becomes sort of a dream within a dream within a dream. I like the ambitiousness of it, and I think the movie is pretty creative in that sense, but the problem is…

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

…the script itself just isn’t that good. I didn’t ever have any real emotional investment in the characters, and the subpar, sometimes plain bad dialogue doesn’t make up for any of the flaws in the storytelling. What I’m saying is, except for how the film LOOKS, there’s nothing exceptional about it. During the fight sequences, this feels much more like a video game than a movie…

…and that’s because at no point during the fantasy sequences do you feel any of the girls are actually in danger. If there are no real consequences to doing these ridiculous, unrealistic stunts, then there’s no emotional investment, and thus, no reason for me to care. Also, modern filmmakers need to learn that when everything your heroes fight is computer-generated, and we all KNOW it’s computer-generated, the absurd stunts themselves become less impressive by default. I thought the first battle with the undead Nazis was pretty cool, the castle siege/dragon fight was okay, but the fight against the robots in the train was awful. The movie took brief pauses after each CG sequence, seemingly to allow the audience time to react or applaud, and I’m sorry, but there isn’t going to be much of that going on anywhere. You have to earn those reactions, not try to force us into them.

-The performances of the girls are pretty good considering what they’re working with, but there was nothing Scott Glenn could do to overcome the utter cheesiness of some of the shit he’s forced to say as the girls’ Yoda-like mentor in the fantasy sequences. Same goes for Oscar Isaacs as the asylum caretaker/club manager. Isaacs was fantastic as the villainous king in Robin Hood last year, but here he walks around with his two mute thugs in tow, making stupid threats and twirling his mustache with his silly scheming.

-The absurdity of what Snyder believes this girl would imagine herself doing and wearing strained credibility. It appears that the real world parts of this story take place no later than the 1960’s, yet I’m supposed to believe that a 20-year old girl in that time period is supposed to imagine herself and her friends dressed up in fashion that’s sexy in 2011 while they’re fighting enemies based in a World War II setting? Or a medieval setting? AND she can imagine futuristic robots and cities? Give me a break. This was a major logic flaw that I could not get past. Basically, this 20-year old girl in 1960 (or whenever) has the imagination of a 15-year old boy in 2011. That’s what I’m supposed to believe, and I’m sorry, but I couldn’t make that leap. I can’t imagine any 20-something girl fantasizing anything remotely like this if they were imagining themselves kicking ass.

I’d be very interested to see what a female writer/director would have done with this same story. I think it’s a cool concept, but the execution left much to be desired.

Plus, it’s just too damn simple-minded! These epic fight scenes in her fantasies are metaphors for such daring tasks in the real world as…stealing a map! Or…stealing a lighter! Come on, brah.

-More absurdity in the plot. Yes, I’m aware that we’re supposed to make a leap of faith in every movie in accepting that almost every one of our protagonists is attractive. But again with the superhot insane asylum inmates. At no point do we see any of the other girls besides Baby Doll doing anything crazy in the asylum. I guess we’re just supposed to assume they’ve all been wrongly imprisoned. But then, when Baby Doll comes up with her plan of escape, who is it that agrees to go with her? Why, it’s the 4 hottest inmates at the asylum, of course! Ugh. When you’re engrossed in a good story, you don’t think about stuff like this, but here it was a glaring issue.

-The tease. So apparently Baby Doll’s dancing can mesmerize any man while her cohorts steal whatever it is they need to steal to escape, but we the audience never actually get to see it. She starts wiggling around like someone awaiting a fatality in Mortal Kombat (I kept waiting to hear a voiceover yelling “FINISH HER!”), and then the camera tightens in on her face as we’re whisked away to her fantasies. That bugged the shit out of me. At least show what it is that’s so titillating ONCE, dude. That’s just basic filmmaking; showing is always better than telling. That’s one of the primary rules of screenwriting. Simply seeing a bunch of dudes stupefied after she’s done dancing doesn’t convince me it was all that great. PROVE IT! And yes, that’s a nitpick, but I don’t think it’s an insignificant one.

-I know this is a tired complaint, but as good as Snyder is at using slow-motion, I hold out hope that he’ll stop using it as such a crutch. I get particularly annoyed when he uses it in normal, real-world settings. There’s no reason that 50% (it may have even been more) of the first 5 minutes of this movie needed to be in slow-mo. Just let a guy open a fucking door in regular speed, will ya? Jesus Christ. When it comes to his next project, next year’s Superman: Man of Steel, Snyder needs to mature and cut his use of slow-mo by about 95%, or that film is going to look incredibly stupid. Personally, I don’t want to see Superman doing anything slowly. As a filmmaker, it’s not good if your most distinguishable visual attribute is your constant use of slow motion.

So there you have it. I guess I’m coming down on the side of the people who claim it’s a nice-looking, soulless mess. It’s funny, filmmakers fight against the studios for years trying to make one film that’s all their own. In Christopher Nolan‘s case, the massive success of his two Batman movies allowed him to do whatever he wanted, and he turned that opportunity into a homerun with Inception. Here, to keep him in the fold, Warner Bros. let Snyder do whatever he wanted, and Sucker Punch is the result. I dunno, I just wanted more from Snyder’s first big chance at having complete creative control. If this movie underperforms at the box office, he may not get the chance to do his own thing again with this kind of access to virtually unlimited resources. To make another baseball analogy (which is always fun), Sucker Punch is an out, but not a 3-pitch strikeout. It’s a 10-pitch at bat that ended with a foul out deep down the left field line.

Sucker Punch is a lot of big ideas built upon a very shaky foundation. I find it interesting that Zack Snyder, who recently made perhaps the most muscular movie in cinematic history (300), has now made the biggest masturbatory fantasy ever for teenage boys. I’m not sure what that says about him. If this review seems a bit messy or uneven, I apologize, but that’s what this movie does to you. Believe me, it’s much easier to trash a movie that’s complete shit. I still want to like Sucker Punch, but the fact remains it’s simply not a good movie.

It took an hour to write this caption, because I did it in SnyderMotion™!

No matter what opinion you hold about Sucker Punch, it has become one of those movies that critics have taken great pleasure in hating, which often results in some very amusing reviews. Here are a few I’ve found immensely entertaining and/or insightful:

Rotten Tomatoes (where it has a very “rotten” 21% rating)

Massawyrm at Aint It Cool News

Matt Goldberg at Collider

Vince Mancini at Filmdrunk (basically agrees with everything I’ve said, but says it a little funnier)

A.O. Scott at the NY Times

And finally, my boy Richard Roeper at The Chicago Sun-Times

Today’s Recommended Listening will be Metallica‘s “Whiplash”, because that’s how I felt after coming out of Sucker Punch

Super Movie Extravaganza Time!

The best part about going to 11am matinee movies on a Friday? The entire audience (aside from me) is people who qualify for senior citizen discounts. This is mostly a plus, as they don’t talk too much and they don’t text or use their phones at all. For the most part, old people have their priorities straight while they’re watching the movie. I respect that. That said, one thing a lot of them do tend to do is provide their own annoying narration. As a movie is unfolding onscreen, they’ll often try to predict what’s gonna happen next…out loud. “There’s already somebody in the house!” OH, REALLY? How could ya tell? From the broken glass and the door left ajar? THANK YOU, GRANDMA! “Ohhhh, he’s gonna shoot him!” THANK YOU, GRANDMA! No shit! That’s why he pulled his gun out! “Oh, got him!” THANK YOU, GRANDMA! But if I wanted celebratory commentary, I’d watch Gus Johnson call an NCAA basketball game.

Senior citizen narration. It’s irritating at times, but if it’s a choice between that and 4 teenage boys behind me being obnoxious with unfunny wisecracks through the entire movie, I’ll take the seniors’ narration.

Another funny thing happened while I was watching The Lincoln Lawyer on Friday morning. There’s a part where a man and his dog get killed in the man’s apartment. So a police officer tells Matthew McConaughey‘s character, “They shot [character name]”, which elicited a minor “Oh no” from a few senior citizens in the audience. Then the next thing the cop says is, “And they shot his dog, too,” at which point almost the entire audience (there were at least 50 people there), in unison, GASPED loudly, in complete shock and disgust. I had to L-O-L right then and there, just at the audience reaction, because of how telling it was about our culture in general. Very strange. Human misery and suffering…ehh, oh well. Even if it was a character we liked (which it was). But murdering a dog in a movie (even if it’s not shown)?! That’s about the worst thing you can do. Screenwriters take note.

Anywho, over the last week or so, there’s been a lot of interesting news out of Hollywood. So this is a post of all movie news and reaction. A lot of my movie nerd friends will have seen this stuff reported already, but dammit, you haven’t heard MY take yet! And away we go…

-Hey, great news! Men in Black III comes out next year!!! Yeah, I don’t care either. But they’re making it. That’s not the interesting part. The interesting part is how they’ve decided to make it. I insist you read this Hollywood Reporter story about just how fucked up the production has gotten. They deliberately started shooting the movie with only a third of the script complete, which is strange even by Hollywood standards. Really, if you’re at all interested in Hollywood insider biz stuff, it’s a fascinating 2-page read.

I’d been hoping that this movie never got made. My primary issue with the project is that it’s a complete waste of time for everyone involved. However, because Hollywood is so reliant on franchises these days, Sony was gonna make this movie no matter what it took, and once Will Smith finally agreed to do it, it was full steam ahead. Only now, Will Smith isn’t satisfied with the script, which is difficult to remedy once you’ve already started shooting. It’s troubling to me that the first decision made on most big movies these days is the release date. And because Sony has committed to a date (May 25, 2012), they’ll do whatever it takes to get the movie finished in time, even it means releasing a complete turd of a movie. They’re counting on all of us to show up opening weekend regardless, pay more than we should for 3D (oh yes, it’ll be in 3D), sit in our seats, shutup, and deliver a $100 million opening weekend.

The second Men in Black, though it did well (but not as well as the original), was a complete disaster of a movie. There has been no clamor amongst fans for a third movie, so this can only be a blatant money grab by EVERYONE involved (which makes it even more shameful in Smith’s case, because he can make big money doing any project he wants, and THIS is what he chooses- doing the same thing…again). I know damn well Tommy Lee Jones doesn’t want to do this again, but with a likely $20 million+ payday, I can’t name many people who would turn that down. Unlike Smith, Jones doesn’t make anything near that on his other movies. Hell, they had a hard time getting Jones back for part II. I think recent history has shown that sequels made so far apart just for the sake of continuing a tired franchise beating a dead horse (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull anyone?) have not fared so well creatively. It was 5 years between Men in Black and MiB II, and it will now be 10 years between II and III, and 15 years between the first and third. Perhaps if a movie is this hard to put together, it’s for a reason. Just a thought.

I enjoyed the original Men in Black, but for as long as I’ve wanted to make movies, I’ve wanted to see a serious, X-Files-type story about the so-called men in black, who have been a pop culture superstition for decades. It’s still possible we’ll get one eventually, but it would have to use another title, and it would have to be far removed from these more light-hearted versions. One day, I hope.

Kevin Costner has been cast in Zack Snyder‘s Superman. He’ll play Jonathan Kent, adopted father to Superman, opposite Diane Lane as Martha Kent. I love Diane Lane and I love Kevin Costner, so this is all good, baby. I’m not too familiar with the Superman canon, and it’s unconfirmed how big a part the Kents will play in the film, but it’s solid casting nonetheless. I appreciate how Costner has started taking more supporting roles of late, as his leading man star has faded considerably. I still think he could carry a film just fine, but until people pay to see him as a lead, he’s not gonna get those parts (unless he pays for the movie himself). Until that happens, better to see him in a supporting role than to not see him at all. So long as he keeps away from the Boston accents.

-I, like many others, was very disappointed to learn this week that Darren Aronofsky had suddenly vacated the director’s chair of The Wolverine. The film features a supposedly very solid script by Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects), and was based on one of the most popular Wolverine comic storylines ever, one set in Japan. It’s supposed to be very raw, less reliant on CGI and more on a lot of hand to hand (and adamantium claw to katana) combat. Hugh Jackman is already deep into his physical training for the movie (and he’s sounded ecstatic about it since day 1), and it was set to shoot on location in Japan for much of the second half of this year. It’s yet unclear whether the recent Japanese earthquake/tsunami was going to delay or elongate the shooting schedule, but Aronofsky’s primary given reason for leaving the film was that it would take him out of the country and away from his family for too long. This is very depressing news. Any intelligent person who saw X-Men Origins: Wolverine knows how flawed that film was, but to have its sequel directed by a talent like Aronofsky had a lot of geeks (myself included) incredibly excited about its potential. And I’m not even a huge Wolverine fan. The film will reportedly still go ahead as scheduled, but obviously with another, likely lesser director. Many of us anxiously wait to learn who that will be. Seeing what Darren Aronofsky would’ve done with a mainstream property like this had a lot of people drooling. I now have to wipe my mouth clean.


RAAR! NOW HIRING: DIRECTOR!

-I’m very interested to see Morgan Spurlock‘s latest documentary, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, which finally got a trailer this week. Basically, it’s about the grip advertising holds over our culture, and he financed the movie (or so he claims) solely by selling sponsorships that will appear onscreen during the film. It’s certainly a unique idea. Check it:

-Just about as fast as Arnold Schwarzenegger left office as Cal-ee-foe-nee-uh’s governor, he stated that he wanted to get back into acting. But what is the market for a semi-retired 60+ year old action star? That remains to be seen. Is he willing to try new genres and new types of roles, or does he really think he can get back into the action game at this late stage of his career? Is it physically possible for him to do what his 65-year old buddy Sylvester Stallone has been doing of late? Stallone has been performing on screen as though it were still 1985. Of course we can question HOW he’s managed to do that, but one has to assume that type of physical strain is not for every senior citizen actor.

I mention this because Tom Arnold recently opened his mouth and said that he thinks a True Lies sequel could be Arnold’s comeback movie. Anyone with any sense thinks that’s absurd for any number of reasons. First of all, James Cameron isn’t available to direct anything but Avatar sequels until 2016, at which point Arnold would be pushing 70. Would Schwarzenegger do a True Lies sequel without Cameron at the helm? Is Cameron even interested in writing it? Would Arnold get involved in a True Lies sequel that wasn’t written OR directed by Cameron? From everything I’ve read from him over the years, the answer is no. Yet every now and then Tom Arnold (and it’s usually ONLY Tom Arnold) tries to stir the pot by starting new True Lies 2 rumors that never go anywhere. This annoys me greatly. I think Tom Arnold is the only one in the world excited about the chance to make this movie. I for one don’t think it’s ever getting made, with or without Arnold Schwarzenegger. That ship has sailed. It’s 17 years and counting since True Lies (one of my favorite movies) came out in 1994. Again, why would anyone want to do it after so much time has passed? And where is the audience demand for it? Pretty much nonexistent, I’d wager. Add True Lies 2 to the list of “sequels nobody asked for.” I love the first movie, but what are you gonna do, have a 65-year old Arnold Schwarzenegger and 53-year old Jamie Lee Curtis back together for more zany espionage and adventure? No thanks.

-On the other hand, a sequel that a lot of people want to see (even if it makes no sense) is a followup to Taken, which is now actually going to happen. I guess for a long time there was a scheduling conflict that wouldn’t allow Liam Neeson to shoot it when they wanted to shoot it (wait, wouldn’t you WAIT for Neeson no matter how long it took?), but that scheduling conflict has apparently been resolved and the sequel will shoot late this year or early in 2012, potentially lining it up for a December ’12 release. The sequel will have the same writers as the original (Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen) and be directed by Olivier Megaton, whose most notable credit to date is the third Transporter movie. That’s not confidence-inspiring, but his last name is almost Megatron, so I’ll go with it for now.

Supposedly, the studio was considering other actors to star in the sequel (presumably not as the same character), but that would have been one of the all-time bonehead moves, no? You don’t make a sequel to Taken without Liam Neeson. That should be against the law. I can’t imagine they’ve come up with a plot believable enough to make this worth it, but I’ll see it anyway, dammit. The original is one of the all-time “if you come across it on TV, you’re not turning it off” movies, and it’ll be a tall order to recreate that magic. I truly can’t wait to hear what the plot of this movie is going to be. Maybe some Russian gangsters will kidnap his dog. There’s a great way to garner audience compassion! We’ll sell it as “Taken meets Marley & Me.” See you in HELL, Marco from Tropojë (yes, that’s how it’s spelled)!

Liam Neeson is offended by your arrogance, and here’s every single punch, chop and collision from the original Taken to prove it:


WINNING, anyone?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been officially added to the cast of The Dark Knight Rises, and it looks like he’ll be playing Alberto Falcone, the son of Carmine Falcone, played by the great Tom Wilkinson in Batman Begins. With such a big ensemble cast, this is going to be one massive, interweaving story. The only news I’m still waiting to hear on this project (easily my most anticipated movie of 2012) is whether or not James Newton Howard will again team with Hans Zimmer on the score. Zimmer is already confirmed back, but no word yet on JNH’s involvement. I think he’s gotta come back to wrap this thing up nicely. And for the love of god, more composer collaborations like this in the future! Like, if Zimmer ever teamed up with John Williams, I don’t know if my heart could take it.

-I’m sort of ashamed to admit this, but I really like the new trailer to Fast Five. Granted, it shows waaayyy too much, but the action looks amazing. And the reason it looks amazing it because it appears most of it was done practically, with real cars and real stuntmen. In some of the earlier installments, they’ve used CG cars, which ALWAYS look awful (seriously, why has this not been mastered yet, VFX guys?). At the very least, the Vin DieselDwayne Johnson 1v1 fist fight should be badass. Keyword: should be. The Fast and the Furious may be the stupidest, most unnecessary franchise in cinema history, but if it goes out with this kind of a bang, I’m willing to turn my brain off, sit back and enjoy the ride. Besides, I’ll get my usual dose of gratuitous T&A shots of the numerous hot chicks who randomly hang around the cars. What do you have to lose?

And did I mention, Fast Five is NOT in 3D! WohoO!!! That alone may make it worth the price of admission.

Sucker Punch opens Friday, which means more of YOU in my life, Emily Browning:


O, HAI!

Today’s Recommended Listening is a solid track off of Lupe Fiasco‘s new album, Lasers. It’s called “All Black Everything” and you WILL like it.  

My Ten Most Anticipated Movies of 2011

2011, aka The Nolan Off-Year. Christopher Nolan has been releasing a movie every other year since 2006, so while we wait for his 2012 Batman finale, The Dark Knight Rises, we must first live through 2011. As it turns out, there are some pretty cool and interesting films on tap. 2010 was a very good year for movies (a big upgrade over the disappointing 2009), so let’s see what you got, ’11. If you had no idea what was coming out this year, well, that’s one of the reasons you keep me around as a friend. I’ve done the homework for you. After digging through several lists of hundreds of movies coming out this year, here’s what interests me and tickles my cinematic taste buds the most;

Looking at this camera only reinforces that I never want to shoot in 3D.

1. TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON (July 1)

I can’t believe I’m doing this after the disaster that was Revenge of the Fallen, but I can’t help myself. The original was my most anticipated movie of 2007 and the sequel was my most anticipated movie of 2009. Michael Bay also had my most anticipated movie of 2001 in Pearl Harbor, so this is the 4th time he’s topped this list. Despite his many flaws, he’s like a drug I can’t get enough of. Combine that with my childhood love for Transformers and I’ll be right back in line for the midnight show, excited as shit to see giant fucking robots, explosions, and…an entire movie taking place at sunset (as per Bay’s requirements). I’m still hesitant to believe Bay has learned his lessons from the second movie, but after reading THIS big piece about him on Collider, my fears began to subside. The only way you can fix a problem is to acknowledge its existence, and Bay admits to almost everything I hated about Revenge of the Fallen in that interview. Whether or not he’s full of shit remains to be seen, but the way those guys described some of the footage they saw from Dark of the Moon got my geek antennae all warm and fuzzy again. The teaser trailer was really cool, and I think they spent more time on this one on the story, even though it is coming out just 2 years after the last film again (blame the greedy studio for that, not Bay). Bay also claims that this one will be darker, which is cool, but everyone says that after Dark Knight. Yes, they got rid of Megan Fox. No, I don’t really care. They replaced her with a British Victoria’s Secret model, so apparently Shia LaBeouf is just one irresistibly sexy bitch. I’m very interested to see what they’ll do with Shockwave as the main villain, though I guess Megatron will still make an appearance. I don’t know how that will work, but logic was never Michael Bay’s strong suit. Bay shot some of the film in 3D, despite previously bashing the medium as a gimmick. This is probably so he can make more money off the premium ticket sales. Or is that being too cynical? See, I’m already bashing the thing and I haven’t even seen it. But I am very excited about it! No, really! I know one thing they’ve done right already…they gave Optimus Prime his trailer! It better magically disappear in the movie just as it did in the cartoon. I’ll be very upset if it actually serves some practical purpose. [IMDbTRAILER]


BAM!!!


Yeah, Optimus and I are boys. What of it?

-As an aside, I dug through my old MySpace blog and found my Revenge of the Fallen review, which is probably the best, most entertaining movie review I’ve ever written. Forgive the small fonts, but whenever MySpace redesigned their site, they literally reduced the size of the blogs. It looked much better when I originally posted it. Check it out if you’ve forgotten just how ridonculous that movie is, and what a big mountain they have to climb to get the series back to where it was on the first film.

Still waiting for a moment like this in the live-action Transformers movies;

2. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2 (July 15)

Despite how disappointed and utterly confused I was by Part I, I still have faith that the series will end in spectacular fashion. This one will also likely by 2½ hours long, but most of it should be character-building action, which I’m all for. There isn’t much else to say here, but apparently all the cool stuff in the trailer was from Part II. I will remain spoiler free until it comes out, so who lives and who dies and what happens should all be new to me come July. Interestingly enough, since this is a huge Warner Bros. release, we may also see the first teaser trailer for The Dark Knight Rises attached to it. Here’s hoping. I don’t care if it’s just some Hans Zimmer Batmusic, the logo and the release date. Just give me something. P.S. Per my New Year’s resolution, I will not be seeing Potter in 3D. [IMDbTRAILER]


Spielberg on set.

3. WAR HORSE (December 28)

Unless it’s called Tin-Tin, any Steven Spielberg-directed movie will make my top 5 most anticipated of any year. Unfortunately, the last taste in our mouths of Spielberg directing anything was Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, one of the most absurd movies I’ve ever seen. And it pains me to say that, but I have to be honest. This one is based off of Michael Morpurgo‘s book of the same name (which was later adapted to a stage play), and the story takes place during World War I (an underused time period in modern films), where a kid’s beloved horse is sold into the British cavalry and sent into action. The horse ends up in the thick of things, being used on both sides of the war, and the kid, too young to enlist, sets out on his own to find the horse and bring it home. That appears to be a story right in Spielberg’s wheelhouse, and I have every confidence he’ll knock it out of the park. There are no big stars in the cast (the most recognizable one is Emily Watson, playing the boy’s mother), and they did a huge search in the UK to cast the role of the boy, Albert. A kid named Jeremy Irvine eventually won the part. I’m very interested to see a trailer for this, but we likely won’t get one til the summer. [IMDb – No trailer yet]

4. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (December 21)

I have no real reason to be so excited about this, other than the hype I’ve heard and the insane popularity of Stieg Larsson‘s books. I became hooked when David Fincher agreed to direct it, and then by the excellent cast they’ve put together. Fincher cast his Social Network star Rooney Mara in the coveted lead role of Lisbeth Salander. Then they cast the great Daniel Craig in the lead male role, Mikael Blomkvist, and we also get Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgard, and Christopher Plummer. I heard an interview recently where Fincher admitted he was hesitant to get involved with another murder story, but that he was excited about the prospect of creating a movie franchise for adults. I’m so happy that Benjamin Button and Social Network have cemented Fincher’s place as one of Hollywood’s prestige directors (meaning he’s one of the first people called when the best projects come up), even though his fans have known that since the mid-90’s. By the time this opens in December, I probably still won’t have read the books, but I will have seen all of the original Swedish movies, which are coming up soon on my Netflix list. It’s interesting that the Lisbeth Salander of the Swedish movies, Noomi Rapace, is now being cast in some big mainstream American projects (one of which is coming up on this list). Needless to say, I’m interested to see what all the fuss is about. [IMDb – No trailer yet]

5. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL (December 6)

A lot of people may disagree with me, but I think the Mission: Impossible films have gotten better and better each time out. This is usually the exact opposite of what happens with most Hollywood franchises. Though J.J. Abrams is not directing again, he’s back in a producing capacity and was involved in coming up with the story, both of which are good things. The director this time is Brad Bird, and this marks his live-action directing debut (he previously did the fabulous The Iron Giant, and The Incredibles and Ratatouille for Pixar). Normally, I’d be skeptical of an animation director taking on a project like this as his live-action debut, but not in Bird’s case. I think this was a smart choice, and I also like that Tom Cruise was humble enough to take part in a story that’s supposedly set up to phase him out of the series. Jeremy Renner is Cruise’s protégé in the film, and apparently if there’s a 5th movie, Renner would become the star and Cruise’s Ethan Hunt would be gone or reduced to a small part. Another very smart move I think. Not that I lack confidence in Cruise (I think I’m one of 15 people left in America who still love the guy as an actor), but in order for a franchise like this to continue, you’ve got to get new blood involved and turn over the lead role from time to time. Renner is überhot right now, and it was a wise casting choice. They seem to be borrowing a page from the Bond films, and that’s not a bad formula to emulate (new leading men, new directors each time, etc.). Simon Pegg returns, which incites smiley faces everywhere. Also joining the cast are the beautiful Paula Patton and the excellent Anil Kapoor (of Slumdog Millionaire and 24: Season 8 fame). We don’t know anything about the story, but some of it takes place in Dubai, and in the photo above, you’ll see Tom Cruise doing stunts on the Burj Khalifa, the recently completed tallest building on Earth. I can’t wait to see what they did with that. A few months ago photos came online (I couldn’t find it again to post here) of Cruise literally sitting on the top of the tower. It was mindboggling. That dude has some balls. Should be f’n awesome. [IMDb – No trailer yet]

6. SUPER 8 (June 10)

J.J. Abrams‘ next directorial effort is shrouded in maximum secrecy, but we know it’s a sci-fi movie in the vein of old-school Spielberg (who is a producer on this, but that could mean nothing). Or so we’ve been told. Regardless, after what Abrams did on Mission: Impossible 3 and Star Trek, I’d get in line to see him make a Barbie movie. You heard me. I really can’t say much else about it. It seems to take place in the late 70’/early 80’s and involves a creature or aliens on the loose. I know, that sounds like Cloverfield, but I’m assuming Abrams isn’t gonna rip himself off. The cast includes my boy Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) and a bunch of other white people. Watch the teaser trailer and see if you can make anything out of it. Just the fact that they’ve been able to keep it such a secret in this day and age is applause worthy. [IMDbTRAILER]

7. SHERLOCK HOLMES 2 (December 16)

I simply adored the first movie. Turns out Guy Ritchie
was the perfect filmmaker to modernize the character, and they pulled it off with visual flair, clever action scenes, smart writing and terrific performances across the board. Almost all of the original cast and crew are back (though my girl Rachel McAdams has not been confirmed), and they add the aforementioned Noomi Rapace in the female lead, and Jared Harris as Professor Moriarty, Holmes‘ greatest foe. The introduction of Moriarty in the sequel reminds me of how Christopher Nolan saved The Joker for his second Batmovie. I’m not saying this sequel will be anything close to as good as Dark Knight, but I like the idea of bringing in your big gun villain after you’ve spent one movie setting up the world and your main characters. In that sense, there’s great potential here, but in the end it will all depend on the writing. Robert Downey‘s comeback still amazes me. After Johnny Depp, he might be the second-biggest movie star in the world right now, and no other actor can say they’re simultaneously carrying 2 franchises like he is. [IMDb – No trailer yet]

8. THE HANGOVER PART II (May 26)

I think the original was perhaps the best comedy of the 2000’s. I’d have to do some digging to see what else would be on that list, but The Hangover has to be right up there. With its massive success, a sequel isn’t surprising, but I have to admit, I was not keen on the idea of a sequel to this story. I mean, what could possibly bring these 4 characters together again, and what could they possibly be doing so that they’d end up in another set of such insane circumstances? After all, you have to up the ante for a sequel. I just thought (and might still think) that anything close to what they went through on the original happening AGAIN would be too much of a stretch. They haven’t released a whole lot of info on the plot, but this one will supposedly follow what happens when the guys travel to Thailand for Stu‘s (Ed Helms) wedding. So they’ll have to introduce whoever it is Stu is marrying (looks like she’s played by Jamie Chung), and then international hijinks will ensue. Since they got the cast back, and since Todd Phillips is back, I’m psyched to see it regardless of whether or not I think it should have been made in the first place. The first one was mostly based in reality, and I just think if that kind of stuff happens to them again, you run the risk of making them all look cartoonish. But I’m open to being wrong. I’m also very curious to see all these cameos (Liam Neeson and Paul Giamatti have small parts, and even Bill Clinton shot a scene, which may be a first for a former President). [IMDb – No trailer yet]

9. THOR (May 6)

For some reason, I get the sense this will be hit or miss. Either it’ll be very good or very disappointing. I have some confidence given Marvel’s recent history and how they’re tying these films together for The Avengers in 2012. We’ll get some carryover from the Iron Man movies (Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson and maybe a Sam Jackson as Nick Fury cameo or some other surprises), and Chris Hemsworth looks pretty damn good as Thor. We’ve also got Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, and relative newcomer Tom Hiddleston (who’s also in War Horse) as Thor’s brother, Loki. I admit I’ll be going into this one pretty cold, as I’ve never read a Thor comic and know next to nothing about the mythology. So it’ll be cool to experience some discovery of a new world. I’m curious how much of the film takes place in Asgard versus how much is on Earth. I like the trailer, and whatever the machine thingy they’re fighting is looks pretty badass. It’ll also be interesting to see what Kenneth Branagh brings to the table as director. He’s certainly never done anything with this scope. Hopefully, he placed some of that Shakespearean gravitas on the film. If Marvel had total creative control of the project and didn’t let him do at least some of his own thing, then you wonder why they’d hire him. [IMDbTRAILER]

10. THE BEAVER (April 8 )

Though I don’t think it’ll make any money, I’m just hopeful Mel Gibson delivers the type of performance that allows him to stage a comeback in the industry (though you could argue he won’t make that kind of comeback until something he’s in does make money). I’d like to see a Michael Vick level turnaround, and based on how good the script for this thing supposedly was, I don’t believe that’s outside the realm of possibility. And I think under the steady hand of Jodie Foster in the director’s chair, the circumstances are ideal for Gibson to turn in a great performance. But we’ll see. I’m putting this in the top 10 because that’s how much I love Gibson as an actor. I think he’s a vital performer, and I want him back in the mix, both as an actor and perhaps even moreso as a director. Kudos to Summit for releasing the film. I’ll reward them by buying a ticket to their next goofy Twilight movie later in the year. [IMDbTRAILER]

10 RUNNERS UP (in A-B-C order):

THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (March 4) – A very interesting sci-fi premise in a real-world setting, based on a Philip K. Dick story (shocker). Matt Damon and the lovely Emily Blunt star, along with Mad Men‘s John Slattery. [IMDbTRAILER]

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES (March 11) – This looks very cool, but at the same time I won’t be surprised if it’s a complete disaster. However, I love the way they’re describing it, which is that it was shot Black Hawk Down-style from the perspective of a group of Marines as they fight off an alien invasion in LA. I’ll see pretty much any alien invasion movie, but few of the filmmakers involved have done anything in the past that I’ve loved. I guess there’s always a first time. I hope. The second trailer (which I’ve linked) is much better than the first one they released. [IMDbTRAILER]

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (July 22) – Here’s another instance where I know nothing about the Marvel mythology. I’m also a little nervous that we haven’t seen a trailer yet, and that it’s kind of flying under the radar, even though it’s an important release, particularly with regards to the Avengers movie. At first I was hesitant about Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America, but I’ve since been put at ease by some of the publicity photos. The cast around him is pretty strong (Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones), and Joe Johnston is a competent enough director. I’m reserving judgment, but they gotta show us something soon. I’m curious to see what kind of Captain America they present in this day and age. I’m surprised the PC Police didn’t intervene and force them to rename him Captain Democracy or some shit like that. Something tells me this isn’t destined to be a hit overseas. [IMDb – No trailer yet]

COWBOYS & ALIENS (July 29) – Yet another alien invasion story, though this one comes with a very cool twist. It takes place in the old west. I love westerns, and I love alien invasions. Put the two together…and I’m intrigued. You also gotta love that title, simple and to the point. I think Jon Favreau has proven himself to be a competent director of summer blockbusters (though I’d like to see some more ‘vision’ out of him), and with Daniel Craig as your lead, you can’t go wrong. Then there’s a grumpy Harrison Ford (who ALREADY WORKS AROUND THE CLOCK!!!), as well as Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano…and Olivia Wilde! Woot woot! Should be pretty neato, and whether it’s good or bad, it’ll be unique. [IMDbTRAILER]

NO STRINGS ATTACHED vs. FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS (January 21 & July 22) – I just covered this in my New Year’s post, but I also intend on seeing both movies. Aside from Ashton Kutcher, I’m a big fan of the actors involved, and it’ll be interesting to compare the two films as well as seeing if the first one to come out (No Strings) affects the other’s prospects at the box office. It looks like they’re both gonna be R-rated, which is also a plus. It’ll be good to see Natalie Portman doing something lighter, and I’ll watch Mila Kunis in anything. Sort of reminds me of the “two movies with similar plot devices coming out within months of each other” situations we saw with Dante’s Peak vs. Volcano, or Deep Impact vs. Armageddon in 1998. [IMDb & IMDb – See trailers in the previous post]

HANNA (April 8 ) – This movie looks like an absolute trip. Eric Bana plays the father of a 14-year old girl (the amazing Saoirse Ronan), who he’s trained to be a cold-blooded killer. Then there’s Cate Blanchett as a government agent who’s been trying to track him down. It’s directed by Joe Wright, who did an excellent job with Atonement. I’d have a hard time describing the plot, so just trust me and watch this trailer. Ronan looks like she could give Hit Girl a run for her money. Oh, and The Chemical Brothers did the score. Badass. [IMDbTRAILER]

SUCKER PUNCH (March 25) – Zack Snyder, the king of slow motion, returns with this completely original, visually stunning, utterly awesome-looking action/fantasy. Forgive me, but I’m just gonna copy the plot summary straight from IMDb for ya; “A young girl is institutionalized by her wicked stepfather. Retreating to an alternative reality as a coping strategy, she envisions a plan which will help her escape from the facility.” Snyder’s got this whole scenario set up where we get this really cool looking fantasy dream world that looks part Inception, part Sin City, part 300 (all movies I love). I just think this looks fantastic, and because it’s an original story, I’m rooting for it to succeed in the same way I rooted for Inception last year. This is easily one of the most fascinating films of 2011, and it’s not gotten a lot of attention yet. The cast looks fantastic (both literally and figuratively), and I really wanna see how Emily Worthing does with her first big starring role. Girl is hawwwt! [IMDbTRAILER]


OH, HAI Vanessa Hudgens!

MONEYBALL (September 23) – They’ve been trying to get this movie off the ground for years, and for a long time it had Steven Soderbergh attached to direct. Instead, we’ll get Bennett Miller (Capote) directing, with Brad Pitt starring as Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane. This is based on the acclaimed nonfiction Michael Lewis book about Beane’s successful effort to build a winning team on a small market budget. Doesn’t sound like a really good basis for a movie, does it? That’s probably why it’s been in development for about 5 years. However, in the end, we’ll be getting a movie with a script that was worked on by both Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian, two of the best writers in Hollywood (in fact, in my book, probably #1 and #2). We’ve also got Philip Seymour Hoffman as A’s manager Art Howe, as well as Jonah Hill and Robin Wright. With the talent involved behind and in front of the camera, I have faith that they’ve turned this into a story worthy of being told on the big screen. I’m also looking forward to seeing a sports movie that doesn’t require on-field drama to be compelling. And if you still think this sounds boring, consider that this time last year, few people thought a movie about the creation of Facebook would be worth a damn. [IMDb – No trailer yet]

SCREAM 4 (April 15) – I’m torn on this one. The original Scream movies (the last one came out in 2000 if you can believe it) are my all-time favorite horror series. That’s saying something considering I’m not a big fan of horror movies in general. I fell in love with the brilliant, original Scream in 1996 at age 16 while working at a movie theater, and I loved both sequels. That said, if we’re being honest, here we have another example of a sequel that probably didn’t need to be made, but much like the Hangover followup, we’ve got the original creative team back in place. Wes Craven is at the helm, and series creator Kevin Williamson wrote the script. As such, I retain a glimmer of hope that there’ll be some interesting new ideas here given the different world we live in now, both culturally and technologically. I kinda wish they’d rebooted it with a whole new cast, but Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courteney Cox are also back. It’s tough to tell from the teaser trailer who the main characters are, but a slew of actresses (Anna Paquin, Hayden Panettiere, Marley Shelton, Kristen Bell, and Friday Night Light‘s Aimee Teegarden) all make appearances, making me wonder who gets the Drew Barrymore/Jada Pinkett scene at the beginning of the film. They’ve been talking about making a 4th Scream for a decade, and now we have it. We’ll see if it was worth the wait. Damn, I miss my Scream mask and black robe. Scaring the shit out of the girls on Halloween in 1997 is one of my fondest high school memories. [IMDbTRAILER]


Mr. Scream rides the bus?

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (June 3) – By the way, there’s a new X-Men movie coming out this year. That’s how bad Brett Ratner‘s X-Men: The Last Stand was and how much it decimated my passion for the franchise. It was so bad that I couldn’t muster enough interest in this to put it in the top 10. And X-Men is easily my favorite comic series. It LOOKS like they’ll be getting the series back on track here, rewinding the story back to a point where Professor X and Magneto were friends. Together, they discover their powers and fight off some great threat (which is unnamed to this point), and presumably at the end of the film they’ll part ways, setting up the legendary rivalry. I really like this premise. And let’s face it, after The Last Stand, there’s nowhere to go but up. They brought in Matthew Vaughn to direct, who is hot off of Kick-Ass. We’ve also got two fine actors in James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, playing Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr respectively. Like I said, X-Men is my favorite comic series, and Magneto is my favorite comic book villain, so I have high hopes here. However, those hopes are still somewhat jaded after the bitter taste of excrement that remains in my mouth after The Last Stand. Have I mentioned how bad X-Men: The Last Stand was? [IMDb – No trailer yet]

Other Notes:

-Why isn’t Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides anywhere on this list? Because it didn’t need to be made, and that’s painfully clear when you watch that trailer, which I won’t even link to.

-I still get confused trying to tell Green Hornet and Green Lantern apart. This much I know; the one with Ryan Reynolds in a green CGI suit looks incredibly dumb. And really, how many fucking comic book movies is this guy gonna be in? He’s been in so many different comic storylines (Blade: Trinity, Wolverine, now this) that it feels like the universe is about to implode. The Seth Rogen green superhero movie looks okay, though there are way too many homophobic jokes in that trailer, are there not? How many times does the Asian dude say some variation of, “I’ll go with you, but I’m not touching you.” Just awkward. Though I’m very interested to see what Michel Gondry does with a big-budget effects movie like this, I’m not expecting it to be very good.

-I didn’t see it, but I keep hearing last year’s Valentine’s Day was one of the worst romantic comedies ever made. Why do I mention this? You know why. Yes, they made a sequel. It’s title? New Year’s Eve. That deafening sound you just heard was every moviegoer in the country simultaneously sighing in disgust.

-Fox is going bonkers with origins stories this year. In addition to X-Men: First Class, we’ll be getting Rise of the Apes, which, you guessed it, will set up the Planet of the Apes mythology. As if there was a great demand for that. I’m intrigued that they got James Franco, Frieda Pinto and Andy Serkis to star. Might be good, might be crapola.

Adam Sandler‘s comedies continue to suck ass of late, but I have to admit, Just Go with It looks sort of funny, and it has a premise I can’t remember seeing before. This will mark the screen debut of supermodel Brooklyn Decker, who I’ve been in love with for several years. Regardless of whether or not it’s funny, just watching the trailer I can already see the ending coming from a mile away. Think he ends up with Jennifer Aniston? Spoiler alert!

-Even though I did not like Pineapple Express, the followup pairing of director David Gordon Green with actors James Franco & Danny McBride, Your Highness, does look hilarious. Natalie Portman, who’s about to get an Oscar nomination for Black Swan, will be hot in 2011 as well, with this, No Strings Attached, Thor, and the very promising The Other Woman. Attagirl.

There you have it. Those are the movies I’ll be keeping my eye on this year. Of course, several foreign films, documentaries, and indie films will end up in the mix (as they always do), but it’s tough to predict what those will be at the beginning of the year. Last I checked, I don’t have any tickets to this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Enjoy your 2011 at the movies! And remember, we’re only one year away from the epic 2012, where we’ll get The Dark Knight Rises, a Zack Snyder-directed Superman, the third Daniel Craig Bond movie, The Hobbit: Part I, The Avengers, The Spider-Man reboot, the Star Trek sequel, and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln movie starring Daniel Day-Lewis.

P.S. Do me a favor, be a smart moviegoer, and see as few 3D movies this year as you can. I will be seeing NONE. In case you didn’t know, everything that comes out 3D is also available to see in regular 2D as well. You don’t HAVE to see everything in 3D just because they advertise the shit out of it being in 3D. Unless it’s Avatar or a CG-animated movie, it probably ain’t worth it. Tell Hollywood you’re tired of paying an extra $3-5 for crappy post-converted 3D and you’re on to their greedy tricks. Do it so that our best filmmakers don’t feel they need to jump on board the bandwagon. When fucking Martin Scorsese
is shooting a 3D movie, you know things have gone too far.


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