Posts Tagged 'the dark knight rises'

The 2013 Biggie Awards (& My Top 10 of 2012)

The 24th Annual Biggie Awards

aka The Biggies

for achievements in film for the year 2012

I’ll be the first to admit I had unfair expectations for 2012. Given the impressive roster of movies on tap, I predicted as early as April of 2011 that 2012 would be the best year in movies since 2000, which I consider to be the best year for movies in my lifetime. In the end, it wasn’t quite the year I wanted it to be, but it was still quite a year. Actually, by my official tally of new entries on my “Movies I Love” list, this was the best year for movies since 2007. I “loved” 24 movies in 2012 (for comparison, 2000 holds the record with 31). What I liked most about 2012 was that it had a lot of variety, as I think you’ll see reflected here in my nominees.

We’ll get into most of the specific films in the descriptions under each category, but there are a few things I want to mention up front.

Continue reading ‘The 2013 Biggie Awards (& My Top 10 of 2012)’

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Review & Perspective: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

The Dark Knight Rises arrived in theaters as my most anticipated movie of 2012, and if I think about it, one of my most anticipated movies EVAR. As in, top 5 on my “keeps me up nights I’m so excited to see it” list, right up there with The Phantom Menace, The Matrix Reloaded, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers & Return of the King, Spielberg’s War of the Worlds and the first Transformers. That’s not an official list, but it gives you some historical comps. It’s been four long years since The Dark Knight rocked our socks with its awesomeness (it remains the best comic book movie ever made), and even though Christopher Nolan has continued to shit greatness in the interim (Inception), ever since 2008 I was always more excited about any and all news regarding his third Batflick. What’s the title gonna be? Who is the next villain to get the Nolan Treatment? The instant I walked out of that theater in July, 2008, I was wondering how soon Warner Bros. would announce a release date for the followup. And it didn’t happen. Forever. Even as The Dark Knight broke the almighty 3-day opening weekend box office record (which has since been topped twice by two 3D-enhanced juggernauts, Harry Potter 7-b and The Avengers), went on to gross more than $500 million domestically and just over a billion worldwide. Nowadays, when studios get results like that, they announce the release dates for the next 3 movies in a series. But it wasn’t until April 30, 2010 that they announced the release date (which I correctly predicted in 2008 would be in 2012), and the Dark Knight Rises title wasn’t announced until October 27, 2010. I remember being hugely underwhelmed by the title choice (Huh? You’re just gonna add one word to the title of the last movie? was my reaction at the time), but I trusted that it would all make sense once we saw the film. And even with all the trailers and ads prior to release, you don’t fully come to appreciate the title until literally the final shot of the movie, at which point it does in fact make perfect sense…as I thought it would. Continue reading ‘Review & Perspective: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES’

STOP SPLITTING UP THE FINAL MOVIES OF EVERY FRANCHISE, YOU GREEDY WHORES!!!

When I saw this news story, I wanted to smash my laptop over a newborn child’s head. This has been a growing trend in Hollywood, and it’s becoming increasingly irritating because it’s so blatantly a greedy money grab, giving audiences little choice but to pay to see the split version of one movie to get the whole experience. I fucking hate it. It’s greedy. It’s arrogant. It’s disrespectful. It’s in bad faith. Most importantly, it turns the experience of the all-important final chapter of a series into a disjointed, ultimately dissatisfying one.

Unless I’m mistaken, this all started just two years ago with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows being split into two films by Warner Bros., when in hindsight it really should’ve been just one 3 hour, 15 minute film. They could do the split because they knew audiences would show up for the finale of the Potter franchise. As a result, instead of one Deathly Hallows movie grossing $1.5 billion worldwide, they got Part I ($956.4M) and Part II ($1.328B, with 3D surcharges) grossing a combined $2.3 billion worldwide. That’s a lot more than one Deathly Hallows movie would gross. It makes financial sense, and I understand that. It’s an easy decision for a soulless corporate boardroom to make. However, because money is the ONLY logical reason to do it is precisely why it’s such a slap in the face to the paying customer. There isn’t a single reason you can give me from a creative or story standpoint that these movies should be split up. Audiences have proven they’ll show up to really long movies (Titanic, Avatar, all 3 Lord of the Rings, the middle two Pirates of the Caribbean flicks, etc. etc.), so that can’t be an issue. Instead, the movies are forced to suffer creatively as the writers stretch out one movie into two, inserting scenes that would normally be left to the deleted scenes section of the DVD release (for good reason). No, this is only done for money, because they know we’ll show up regardless. This is unprecedented. Imagine if a popular company like Apple deliberately overpriced their products because they knew their slavishly loyal customers would gladly pay up no matter what. Oh, yeah. Shit.

So, because of how successful the Harry Potter model was, now we have Twilight: Breaking Dawn being split into two atrocious movies instead of one to drag out the end of that tedious franchise. And now, Lionsgate just announces that the final book in its mega-grossing Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay, will be released as two movies, one in November 2014, with the finale coming in November 2015. Because that’s fucking fair. People should have to wait a fucking year to see the second half of the ending of the series. What’s gonna be the tagline for Part 1, “The final chapter begins…”? Fuck you! Just show us the whole fucking finale, you pricks.

To further illustrate my point regarding the lack of creative reasoning to split this movie up, according to Amazon (shocker, I haven’t read the books, so I had to check), Mockingjay is 9 pages longer than Catching Fire, which will merely be one movie in 2013. 9 pages?! So Catching Fire can be condensed into one 120-140 minute film, but there’s SO MUCH STUFF to cover in Mockingjay that it should be 2 movies at a combined 4-4½ hours? That’s 13.3 extra minutes per page if both Mockingjay movies average 2 hours. We’ve already seen how stretching out one bad movie (Breaking Dawn) into two only resulted in making the first part worse (i.e. Part I of the Twilight finale is essentially an elongated, 2-hour episode of Vampire Teen Mom that could’ve easily been cut in half).

What’s next? Should we make trilogies out of each individual book in a series? Turn 3 books into 9 movies? With as much money as The Avengers has made, why not make The Avengers 2 its own trilogy? The Avengers 2: Part 1- Loki Again, The Avengers 2: Episode II- Coulson’s Revenge, and The Avengers 2-C: Once More into Your Wallet.

Imagine if George Lucas had thought of this concept 20 years ago. Jesus Christ. Try this title on for size: Star Wars: Episode VI- Return of the Jedi; Part I. You run out of separating punctuation marks. And don’t for a second think he wouldn’t have done this if it had been in vogue back then. Ya know who wouldn’t fuck over his audience like this? Christopher Nolan. The Dark Knight Rises is one 2 hour, 45 minute movie. It isn’t two 2-hour movies released a year apart. Nolan wouldn’t dare cheat us like that. We’ve already waited 4 long years between The Dark Knight and TDKR. We shouldn’t have to wait an additional year between The Dark Knight Rises: Part I and The Dark Knight Rises: Part II. Cuz that’d be fucking dumb, and Nolan understands that.

Can we establish a President of Hollywood? I think this is a fantastic idea. If we could do this, I’d probably vote for Nolan as the inaugural President. In this role, not only would he continue making his own awesome movies, but he would also have broad decision-making powers over the entire movie industry, so he could end moronic trends like this. There would be a cinematic Bill of Rights, and The First Amendment is the studios don’t get to treat their paying customers with blatant disrespect. The Second Amendment would be no charging extra for 3D on live action movies that were converted to 3D in post. (Second Amendment sub-amendment: no charging extra for 3D re-releases of movies we’ve already seen, i.e. you don’t get to charge extra for Titanic 3D. Ticket prices are already double what they were in 1997. We’re paying extra enough by way of inflation, Mr. Cameron.) The Third Amendment would forbid remaking a popular movie less than 50 years after the original came out (i.e. one generation should not have two Total Recalls). The Fourth Amendment: at least 10 years between reboots of existing franchises. The Fifth Amendment: Michael Bay is barred from making additional Transformers movies. And we could go on and on (actually this is now a fantastic idea for a separate blog post…).

It was annoying enough in recent years that Hollywood wanted every movie to potentially be a franchise. Now, they want every existing franchise to be Movie 1, Movie 2, then Movie 3-A and Movie 3-B and having you believe you got 4 movies instead of 3. For shame.

Also…

Peter O’Toole announced his retirement from acting this week, after nearly 60 years as a professional actor. He won nearly every acting award there was to win, but never an Oscar. He was given an Honorary Oscar in 2003 for his body of work, but never won one for an individual performance. He was nominated 8 times (all for Best Actor in a Leading Role), most recently in 2007 for his amazing work in Venus, which you really should see. Of course, he is best known for his performance as T.E. Lawrence in David Lean‘s 1962 masterpiece, Lawrence of Arabia (currently #19 on my all-time favorite movies list). Actually, now that I look at his list of credits, I really need to see more of this man’s work.

I love his brief, yet eloquent statement:

Dear All,


It is time for me to chuck in the sponge. To retire from films and stage. The heart for it has gone out of me: it won’t come back.

My professional acting life, stage and screen, has brought me public support, emotional fulfillment and material comfort. It has brought me together with fine people, good companions with whom I’ve shared the inevitable lot of all actors: flops and hits.

However, it’s my belief that one should decide for oneself when it is time to end one’s stay. So I bid the profession a dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell.

Ever,
Peter O’Toole

You will be missed like few others, sir. Thank you for your inspiring contributions to the world.

-I’m glad the New York Times did this piece on Matthew McConaughey‘s resurgence as a real actor. Very interesting stuff about the introspection that led him to make better career decisions (creatively, if not financially) over the last couple years. I’ve been hoping (and screaming publicly) for at least 5 years that this day would come, where he left behind the droning romantic comedies for more interesting projects and characters worthy of his talent. I can’t wait to see Killer Joe;

REVIEW: THE AVENGERS (PLUS the fallout of its massive success, and looking ahead in the Marvel movie universe)

Before we get into the review, I just wanted to do a little bookkeeping, especially with regards to the money this thing is bringing in. The Avengers is officially a cultural phenomenon. People who don’t normally see movies in theaters have seen it. People who don’t normally see comic book movies have seen it. People who don’t talk about these kinds of movies are talking about it. People who don’t talk about box office results are talking about it. The fact that everyone on earth was talking about how much money it made helped it make even more money. I was watching Bill O’Reilly‘s show the Monday after that huge opening, and even he made mention of the crazy records it’s breaking. It’s insanity. I am finishing this piece after seeing it 3 times (at 3 different theaters!) and having thus contributed $19 to that billion-plus dollar haul. Let’s face it, without me, this movie is a total bomb. You’re welcome, Marvel.

Continue reading ‘REVIEW: THE AVENGERS (PLUS the fallout of its massive success, and looking ahead in the Marvel movie universe)’

My Top 5 Concerns Going Into THE AVENGERS

The Avengers is now but 2 Fridays away, after 4 years of buildup through 5 other superhero movies. One of the most unique and challenging attempts in history at a cinematic merger is complete. That fact alone makes this a really big deal. Nothing like this has been attempted before in the hundred-plus years people have been making movies. I always had serious doubts this movie would even happen, let alone come together this smoothly. Now that it’s here, despite my excitement and trust in the talented people involved, I’m still a little hesitant to believe it will work. Or at least work the way I want it to (that’s a big caveat there).

Continue reading ‘My Top 5 Concerns Going Into THE AVENGERS’

Review-a-palooza: COWBOYS & ALIENS & CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE.


I loved this friggin movie. Loved it. It had gotten pretty solid reviews, but I don’t believe any of that stuff this year until I see it with my own eyes. Well, Crazy, Stupid, Love. delivers the goods. And guys, don’t dismiss it because of the title. I’ve already recommended the film to a few male co-workers and been quickly rebuked because of the title. Stop it. Grow up. It is well-written, funny, authentic, superbly shot and directed, and features a solid soundtrack. However, that all pales in comparison to the film’s best asset, and that’s its sublime [but whitewashed] cast. I should’ve realized with a cast this good that the script had to have been at least somewhat legit. I’m looking through Steve Carell‘s filmography, and yup, this is easily his best role since The 40-Year Old Virgin, which came out in 2005. It’s tougher than it looks to pull off the range this character demands. There’s real drama, real sadness, and real comedy. The guy comes across as an actual human being, as opposed to the live-action cartoon characters Carell usually plays. He’s funny without being goofy or over-the-top. And he’s subdued. Carell’s comedy is typically very loud and in your face. It’s the complete opposite here. You believe him as a loser, you believe him as a broken man, you believe him as a father, and you are even made to believe him as a ladies man after his character gets a serious style and personality makeover. Amazing work, I thought. I’m sure he won’t make it into the top 5 when it’s all said and done, but I put him on my ‘to be considered’ list for Best Actor. That’s how good he is, folks.


Next up is the impeccable Julianne Moore as Carell’s wife, whose admitted affair with the Kevin Bacon character kick starts their marital strife. Julianne Moore can do anything, it’s as simple as that. Between this, her brilliant work last year in The Kids Are All Right, and her work in the underrated Chloe, Moore is on quite a hot streak. Her character commits the ultimate marital sin, and yet because of the script, her performance, and the obvious mutual breakdown in the love between her and Carell, you don’t hate her. Again, not an easy acting task. The scenes between her and Carell are each spectacular in their own way. Bacon plays a supporting role, but does so with great skill and gets a few really good moments despite his minimal screen time. This is also yet another excellent link in the chain if you’re playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.


The last person I’ll shine the spotlight on is the phenomenal Ryan Gosling, who I seriously need to consider putting on my top 10 list of best working actors. He doesn’t always choose parts that would let you call him one, but the dude is a movie star, no doubt about it. The guy is spewing charisma in this movie. The scenes where he is changing Carell’s appearance and showing him how to talk to women are magical. This character is a model example of the old adage “Men want to be him and women want to be with him.” I love the nuance of his performance, just the looks and gestures he makes that take a really good performance and make it great. His bromance/mentor chemistry with Steve Carell is just as convincing as his romantic chemistry with Emma Stone. Gosling just has that It thing, that presence that the best movie stars always have. He can do any genre, play any part. Frankly, I wish he would get some of the roles that are offered by default to Leonardo DiCaprio, because as good as he is in all these smaller movies (Blue Valentine, Half Nelson), he’s just as good in mainstream studio films (The Notebook, Fracture). I’m actually shocked he hasn’t worked with more A-list directors. Actually, now that I look, he hasn’t really worked with any. What gives? Mr. Scorsese, Mr. Spielberg, Mr. Nolan, Mr. Eastwood, Mr. Coen & Mr. Coen, etc., get with the fuckin program.


A bedroom scene that doesn’t make you want to vomit.

Every supporting role is similarly well cast. I loved veteran character actors John Carroll Lynch & Beth Littleford as the parents of the 17-year old babysitter who has a crush on Carell. Marisa Tomei is the only one whose character seems a bit unrealistic, but she’s so good and so funny that you can look past it. Even Josh Groban, of all people, comes out of nowhere and delivers a solid little performance in his big screen acting debut. The performances of the kids are also fantastic. There’s Joey King as Carell & Moore’s young daughter, Jonah Bobo (great name!!) as their love-struck 13-year old son, and Analeigh Tipton as the kids’ babysitter. There was a lot for almost everyone to do, which is incredibly rare. It’s a true ensemble, which I always prefer to star vehicles. The only problem with the cast is that with one exception (Liza Lapira as Emma Stone’s wise-cracking Asian friend), it’s entirely white people, and I promised to point that out, and I’ll do so now, even for a movie I admire. I’m not sure any of the individual performances will hang around to earn Biggie nominations at the end of the year, but if I don’t end up giving this film a Best Ensemble nomination, this will have turned out to be a spectacular year for that category.

Aside from the cast, the thing I liked most about the film was the script, and how that script was unafraid to confront certain situations, both amongst adults and teenagers, and the fact that it does so with a PG-13 rating is nothing short of astonishing. It takes an honest look at adultery, how a separated couple handles their kids, and it even deals with teenage sexting/nudity in a way that is at once unsettling but also undoubtedly true to life in today’s twisted world. I appreciate and respect that. Most movies choose to play it safe and pander as opposed to challenging the audience in any way to form their own opinions. There’s even a pretty big plot twist, rare indeed for a romance. There’s a confrontation scene near the end of the movie that is borderline classic, because of the near-perfect execution by the actors and filmmakers. This movie will have you smiling throughout, whether you want to or not, both from the humor and because you’ll like these characters so much.


I don’t want to wrap up without mentioning who the filmmakers I keep complimenting are. The film was written by Dan Fogelman, who is known mostly for working on kids movies (Cars, Fred Claus and last year’s Tangled). It was directed by the duo of Glenn Ficarra & John Requa, whose most popular credit may be that they wrote Bad Santa, but they most recently wrote and directed last year’s semi-controversial Jim CarreyEwan McGregor flick, I Love You Philip Morris. I look forward to seeing more from all of these guys down the road.

The only semi-major issue I had with the movie is that it never quite settles on a tone. It is at parts straight comedy, at parts straight drama, at parts melodrama, and it ends with some sap (though still funny and somewhat daring) that’s normally reserved for soul-draining romantic comedies. That said, there’s almost no sentimentality but for a few moments at the end. Other than that, it probably came across like this is now one of my all-time favorite movies. It’s not quite that, but I do genuinely love it, and because it’s only the 7th movie this year I can strongly recommend (you didn’t ask, but the others so far are Hanna, The Lincoln Lawyer, Win Win, Fast Five, X-Men: First Class and Harry Potter 7-b), I got a little extra enthusiastic. Forgive me. It’s been a bad year, but this would be a damn fine movie in any year. Go see it. Pretty please. And by pretty please I mean NOW! It’s an excellent date movie, or just go with whoever you’d go see any other comedy with. Again, gentlemen, don’t be afraid because of the title. Don’t be ignant. Girls, just drag the motherfucker out if you have to. You’ll love it, and he’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Crazy, Stupid, Love. (PG-13, 118 minutes)

8/10 (IMDb), 4/5 stars


I enjoyed Cowboys & Aliens more than I thought I would (the advance buzz and reviews were decidedly mediocre-to-negative), but I didn’t love it. It’s solid enough, but there isn’t much great about it, and there’s also nothing innovative about it other than the concept of aliens in the old west. As it stands, it’s a typical PG-13 summer alien invasion movie. The visual effects are above average, the stunts are really good, and the alien creature effects are pretty cool. It’s a very good looking movie and it flows well, but it does lack the heart & soul that takes a movie from “like” to “love”. That criticism is valid. The movie doesn’t do anything new with the western genre or the alien invasion formula. That said, I love westerns and I love alien invasions (though they’ve officially been played out), so with those two genres combined and the pedigree involved, there was no chance I wasn’t giving this movie a chance in theaters.

This project took about 14 years to develop from concept to graphic novel to a movie finally being released. I won’t bore you with the details (which you can find here), but such a long development period usually doesn’t bode well for the final product, though I think this turned out surprisingly well for a project that had so many hands in the kitchen. There are no fewer than 6 credited writers, which explains why the movie is pretty safe and doesn’t feel like anyone’s singular vision. It also seems like there are as many producers as cast members. IMDb lists 16 different producers, executive producers and co-producers. I’m fairly certain there was only one director (Jon Favreau), although 2 other directors (Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard) are credited as producers. Have you gone cross-eyed yet? Favreau is a capable enough director, and seems to be one of the cooler people in Hollywood, but I still think he’d be better off doing smaller movies and comedies as opposed to huge summer blockbusters. I for one am happy he’s not returning to direct Iron Man 3 (he’s off that franchise primarily because Marvel and Paramount forced him to turn Iron Man 2 in an extended Avengers trailer rather than an Iron Man story).

The cast is full of good names, and the performances are solid, but the script doesn’t give anyone the material to really stand out. That’s par for the course now on most summer movies, where the aliens, monsters and other computer-generated creations get most of the focus. We already knew Daniel Craig was a solid leading man (Bond 23 next year!), but I’m much more interested to see what he does in Dragon Tattoo in December than I was in anything he did here. Harrison Ford was pretty good, too, and it’s always good to see him, even if he has De Niro/Pacino Syndrome and isn’t really trying anymore. Here he did give a bit of an effort. I certainly enjoyed watching him more in this movie than I did in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Holy Shit What a Waste of Time. Wait a minute…how often does Harrison Ford work? Around the mothafuckin clock, son! Anywho, there are a bunch of other actors I really like in the movie (Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano, Clancy Brown, and Adam Beach), and it’s always nice to look at Olivia Wilde, even if she is fast becoming the most overexposed actress in Hollywood. And the dog! The dog gives a wonderful performance, too. Don’t forget the dog.


OH HAI THAR!

The one member of the crew I’ll single out for praise is Matthew Libatique for his damned fine cinematography. Libatique shot both Iron Man movies for Favreau and was Oscar-nominated for his work last year on Black Swan. There a lot of gorgeous, classic-looking western vistas (the film was shot in New Mexico), but he did a particularly great job in the nighttime and darkened interiors, which are very hard to shoot on film without massive, conspicuous studio lights. The scene in the center of town when the aliens first attack is especially great from a lighting standpoint (though admittedly, it seems as though they shot that on a soundstage, where you can more easily control the lighting). They managed to shoot their low light scenes without assistance from big lighting rigs, which I was extremely happy to see. One of my biggest peeves in movies are exterior night scenes where you can clearly tell there’s a HUGE studio light just off camera (it’s usually hidden behind a tree) shining a glaring white light onto a darkened street or forest or whatever. I HATE that. It’s so friggin unnatural, but audiences have been trained to accept them. I have never accepted them. To me, they’re as obtrusive and inappropriate as a boom mic showing on screen. So that’s my “dark exterior/studio light” rant.

But yeah, the movie looks great. As an aside, kudos to Jon Favreau for supposedly resisting studio pressure to shoot the movie in 3D. He reportedly insisted they shoot the movie on film (shooting in 3D usually requires using digital cameras) and not converting to 3D in postproduction (a process that is becoming increasingly ridiculed). Bravo, sir.

As far as the aliens go, I thought they were pretty cool. They don’t have a revolutionary design, but they are a bit different from some recent aliens, and they did look cool in closeup. Kudos again to Favreau, who made sure they used prosthetics whenever possible, instead of relying on CGI 100% of the time. I wasn’t a huge fan of the alien ships or their technology (really, they came to earth to mine gold?), but the creatures themselves were pretty good. My only big problem is that in the final battle sequence, it’s unclear what can and can’t kill them. Sometimes several bullets and arrows can’t kill or even slow down one alien, but a single knife stab to the chest from a child kills another. Other times, one spear can kill them, other times multiple gunshot wounds in quick succession kill them. A little consistency would have been nice.

The film has its issues, but I’ll say that it is worth seeing in theaters. If you don’t have a big TV and surround sound, you’ll be missing out if the first time you see it is at home.

Cowboys & Aliens (PG-13, 118 minutes)
7/10 (IMDb), 3/5 stars


Nice bracelet, brah.

-Before we go, I need to make a TV recommendation. HBO Documentaries recently debuted a fantastic new film called There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane. I saw the title on my cable guide and was intrigued, so I looked at the description (“Diane Schuler and seven other people die after the woman drives in the wrong direction on a parkway.”) and my interest was piqued. First off, 8 people dying in one car accident? That’s fucked up. You usually don’t hear that unless a bus was involved. And what would make this accident so interesting as to merit a documentary about it? After that brief description alone, I immediately thought those two things, so I decided to watch the first few minutes. That “first few minutes” ended up being the entire 105-minute film. I couldn’t turn it off. It is a riveting piece of human drama.

Basically, this otherwise stable woman went off the grid while driving her two kids (son, 5 and daughter, 2) and her brother’s 3 kids (all daughters, 8, 7 and 5) home from a campground. Something goes wrong during that trip, and she ends up obliviously driving full speed the wrong way on a highway, eventually causing a massive 3-car collision that killed all the children but her son, as well as 3 men (ages 81, 49, 74) in another vehicle. The film shows as many details as are available about the crash, but the mystery is in the fact that investigators can’t confirm with certainty what actually caused Schuler to become intoxicated or otherwise lose control of her faculties, despite most of the evidence pointing in one direction (the autopsy revealed her blood alcohol level was almost 3 times the legal limit, and she had traces of marijuana in her system).

The controversy in the case derives from the fact that after the accident, her husband Daniel and sister-in-law Barbara have been very public in fighting the autopsy results and have insisted that Diane would not drive drunk. They did interviews on many major news outlets (clips of which are shown in the doc), hired their own investigators, and are even fighting a legal battle to exhume Diane’s body to do a second autopsy. Both Oprah and Dr. Phil each did an entire show on the case. I guess Law & Order also did a “ripped from the headlines” episode using pretty much the exact set of circumstances. What’s most fascinating about the piece is watching this husband and sister-in-law fight every piece of evidence showing Diane was probably drunk or high, or both. I’m no psychologist, and even I have no hesitation saying that I’ve never seen two human beings in such denial. It really is stunning to observe. The husband insists she somehow had a stroke or other “medical issue” (a term they both repeat over and over again), which caused her to lose focus. The documentary also shows the families of the other victims, and how some of them are offended by the continued public denials of Schuler’s family.

On top of the spellbinding human interest angles, the film is superbly crafted by director/producer Liz Garbus. Actually, now that I think about it, pound-for-pound this is probably the best movie I’ve seen in 2011. If you have HBO and DVR (or HBO GO), I beg you to seek this out and watch it now while it’s still in heavy rotation.

Apparently, this accident was a huge news story when it occurred in July 2009, but I can’t recall hearing or reading about it, or maybe I did and dismissed it as another car accident story. The accident has its own extensive Wikipedia page (which is a fascinating read itself) and inspired a documentary, so I clearly wasn’t paying attention.

Here’s a quick trailer:


And HERE is the official page for the film on HBO.com.

BONUS: Warner Bros. just released the first image from the upcoming Zack Snyder-directed, Christopher Nolan-producer Superman reboot Man of Steel, featuring your new British Superman, Henry Cavill. I think he looks pretty damn good in costume. This was one of my most anticipated movies of 2012, but it was recently pushed back to June of 2013, which is sad, but it gives them almost another full year to work on it, which is good. Check out the flippin sweet full-size image HERE.

BONUS BONUS: Warner Bros. also released the first official picture of Anne Hathaway in costume as Catwoman. Find a good full-sized look HERE. Note that they went for practicality over sexiness, which is exactly what we should’ve expected from Nolan’s Batmovies. I like it, but now there are rumors that there might also be a sexy time costume as well. If there is, it’d be the first time Chris Nolan went down that road, so we’ll see. What I’m most curious about when I look at that photo is why she’s riding Batman’s bike. Is she not a villain in the movie? I dunno. I’m actually surprised by how many set pictures and spy video has come out from the Dark Knight Rises set. In my view, there’s been too much. It seems like every exterior scene they’ve shot in Pittsburgh has been photographed or captured in detail on video, including what look to be a couple of pivotal action scenes. I won’t even link to the set pics or video, and I’m probably gonna stop looking at it myself going forward. If you want to be spoiled, you can seek it out yourself.

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.  


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