Posts Tagged 'todd phillips'

The 2017 Biggie Awards (and my Top 10 & Bottom 5 of 2016)

The 28th Annual Biggie Awards

for the love of movies.

Celebrating achievements in film for the year 2016

So 2016 has come and gone. A year I had big hopes for about 15 months ago turned out to be quite a dud in the grand scheme of things. It was even worse than 2015. For the second year in a row, I rated no theatrical release a ‘9’ on IMDb. There were no masterpieces, no all-time greats. There were some really good movies, and I put almost 20 more films on my “Movies I Love” list, but in terms of quality and the ability to stand the test of time, even the second or third-best movies of most past years would have easily won my Best Picture award over this lot.

Lobster Farrell bury
Me waiting for 2016 to be over.

2016 also broke a pretty long streak of spectacular even-numbered years. It was such a mediocre year that it even gave us a Steven Spielberg movie I couldn’t bring myself to watch (The BFG). General cinematic malaise aside, there were, as always, some highlights…

Continue reading ‘The 2017 Biggie Awards (and my Top 10 & Bottom 5 of 2016)’

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Mini-Reviews: FAST & FURIOUS 6, THE HANGOVER: PART III

Two movies. Two reviews. Zero tolerance. Let’s get right into it. MINOR SPOILERS ahead.

fast_and_furious_six_ver3All roads lead to this, and this road leads to 5 more sequels.

Well, at least in this instance the trailers were honest. Fast & Furious 6 was exactly what I thought it would be, to the letter. It met my expectations with the precision of a neurosurgeon, the precision of a finely tuned Michael Bay explosion, or the precision of a LeBron James flop. Oh, you want more? Fine.

The problem with Fast Five being so successful is that the filmmakers’ only thought going into 6 was, “We have to go bigger!” This is the least creative, most brainless solution to the What do we do now? quandary, but it’s also the one that sells the most opening-weekend tickets, which is all Universal ultimately cares about. Fact is, bigger is NOT always better. In fact, it rarely is. It simply makes things more complicated.

Continue reading ‘Mini-Reviews: FAST & FURIOUS 6, THE HANGOVER: PART III’

IT ALL ENDS: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Deux Review (and series retrospective)



In case you hadn’t heard, it’s all ending.







The Harry Potter behemoth has endeth, at least in theaters. At least for now. Like I’ve said a billion times, I’m not a “real” Harry Potter fan. I’ve only read the first 3 books, and honestly, that was so long ago that I’d need to read them again before I started the Goblet of Fire book. One day down the road, I’ll probably sit down and read the books, but probably not anytime soon. I think the entire world could use an extended Harry Potter vacation once this movie dies down. The previous movies didn’t really inspire me enough to want to immediately dive into the books, and The Deathly Hallows won’t, either.

In terms of wrapping up various plot elements and storylines, Deathly Hallows: Part 2 certainly does that, but as we’ll discuss, I feel it does so far too quickly in some cases. Regardless, as an “ending” to a series, it satisfies all the basic requirements from a storytelling standpoint.

Having just rewatched Part 1 and now seen Part 2, I really just wish they’d had the balls to make one Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as a gigantic 3 hour, 15 minute movie. A true epic. At the very least, Part 2 should have been as long or longer than Part 1. Currently, Part 1 is 150 minutes long (that’s 2½ hours, noobs) and Part 2 is 130 minutes long. That split should have been 130/160 or thereabouts. I did enjoy Part 1 more the second time I watched it (it looks amazing on Blu-ray), but I still feel it’s very different than the previous 6 movies, and it should’ve been shorter so that Part 2 could be longer. It just seems logical to me that Part 2 should’ve been longer, ESPECIALLY given that it’s the last movie in the series.

Where do the Deathly Hallows movies rank for me among the entire series? It’s tough to tell. For a long time, I said Goblet of Fire was my favorite Potter movie, then I rewatched Prisoner of Azkaban this past winter and really enjoyed that one (Azkaban seems to be the unanimous “best in show” amongst movie geeks, Potter diehards and critics, but that’s never been a foregone conclusion to me). I also like the original film a lot. Chris Columbus is a fairly….we’ll call him “non-visionary” director to be nice, but he did a wonderful job introducing moviegoers to this fantasy world back in 2001 and should at least be given credit for that. So the short answer is that Deathly Hallows (both films put together) is among the top 3 Potter movies. If I were to watch them all in a row, I might end up putting Part 2 as #1 in the series, but again, I need to watch some of the others again to have a definitive favorite. If I were to choose a “least favorite” from all 8 movies, it would probably be Deathly Hallows: Part 1 or The Chamber of Secrets. But even with Chamber, I haven’t seen it since it first came out (in 2002), so maybe that opinion would also change upon further review. Long story short, I have no idea in what order I’d place these movies.

Honestly though, in the end I really don’t care enough to rank them all. I really LIKE the entire Harry Potter series. I don’t love it. I like all of these movies, but none of them were truly great on the whole. The only consistently great thing about all the movies is the craftsmanship that went into them, but we’ll get to that. I think Part 2 is good enough to consider for Best Director and Best Picture nominations (and even potentially some of the supporting acting categories) at my own awards come January, but it’s unlikely they’ll make the final cut given how backloaded this year appears to be. Miserable 2011 remains wide open for the taking as far as awards season goes.

That’s the big picture. Now let’s bust out the magnifying glass and get our hands dirty, shall we? As always with the Potter series, my opinions are based on what we’ve seen in the movies only. If I criticize something that’s addressed properly in the books, goodie for the books. I’m talkin movies, baby.

WHAT I LIKED

The cast. Duh. Almost every noteworthy British actor has been in at least one of these films, and almost all of them are here in one capacity or another. With regards to our trio of heroes, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, they are each as good as ever. I say that as a good and bad thing. It’s good because they’ve been consistently solid over a 10-year span, which is amazing in itself, but none of them have any truly great dramatic moments, even in this, the finale. There are hero moments aplenty, but nothing that required any of them to really stretch, and I was disappointed by that. The movie goes through the key beats, but doesn’t take any great risks with any of the characters. It’s frustrating. I think Radcliffe, Watson and Grint are pretty good actors, but it’s impossible to determine from these movies what their true range is. I’m just guessing though, that in 50 years, when you look back at each of their careers, you won’t list any of the Harry Potter movies as their best work. Hopefully not, anyway. I know that sounded like faint praise, but most of the best lines and individual character moments in these movies have gone to the professors or villains or other student characters.


Ron is no longer impressed by your evil.

It was good to see Ralph Fiennes finally get some serious screen time, and his Voldemort is certainly a worthy villain, but I still feel there was potential for more. I also wish Voldemort were more hands on. He prefers having other people do most of his dirty work, and even when it’s time for him to kill Snape, he has the snake finish him off. Man up, son! If it’s so important that Snape die (as you’ve just spelled out in your exposition), kill the fucker yourself! Voldemort is a villain, but we’re never made to truly despise or fear him through any of his direct actions. Truly terrifying villains do their own evil in critical moments. The best recent example of this is Heath Ledger‘s Joker in The Dark Knight. In that film The Joker kills almost everyone that opposes him himself, which makes the audience fear him and puts us on edge whenever he’s on screen, because what will he do next? You never really get that sense from Voldemort, and I really never have. He pops in and out of the earlier films, but is never the primary antagonist until this last one. It’s like the Potter movies were a video game, and Voldemort is the Big Boss at the end of Level 8. He’s looming over the proceedings, making quick sneak attacks or talking shit, but you don’t actually get to fight him til the end. I’m not a fan of that. It would have been much cooler to me if he and Harry had had another epic confrontation in at least one of the earlier films. He inspires fear in his fellow bad guys just because he’s the most powerful among them, but how often is that power truly put on display in any of these movies? I’d argue very rarely (though his 1 vs. 1 with Dumbledore in Order of the Phoenix was pretty epic). Voldemort is a good villain, but definitely not a great one. People fear him more on reputation than actual deed, which works much better on the page than it does on the big screen (take note, screenwriters). In movies, we have to see people do things to understand what they’re capable of. Voldemort fights Harry man-to-man (or man-to-teenage boy) at the end, but that’s about all the fighting he does in the movie. He comes in at the very end of the Hogwarts devastation after his minions have done the heavy lifting. Anyway, I’m off point a bit, but I got my Voldemort “Like” and “Didn’t Like” out of the way.

Make no mistake, Fiennes definitely brings a lot to the role, and has the most fun with it in this movie. I was happy whenever he was onscreen. I really liked the forest scene when Potter finally confronts Voldemort face-to-face. When it first seems as though Potter won’t show up, Voldemort seems genuinely sad when he says, “I thought he would come.” Awww.


“AHHBLOOBAKADOOBA!!!”

Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore. I was wondering how they’d bring him back for this one, and I’m really pleased with the way it was done. We get to learn some new details about the motives of his actions in previous films, and I found that whole sequence of Harry viewing Snape’s memory fascinating. That “Wizard Heaven” scene with Harry near the end is also excellent, because the focus is primarily on the writing. I like how the movie uses death as a major theme, and I thought it handled that theme both delicately and profoundly, with Dumbledore acting as Harry’s sort of Grim Reaper. I wasn’t expecting that.

Dumbledore has some wonderful dialogue in this film, and Gambon is up to the task in delivering it perfectly. As a writer, this line was especially meaningful to me,

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.”

Ain’t that the truth?

The visual effects. As always with this franchise, the effects are nearly flawless. Whatever these movies cost, you can always be sure every penny of it is on the screen. I’ve nominated 5 of the first 7 movies for Best Visual Effects at the my own awards, and this will likely make it 6 of 8 total. Special kudos go to the Gringotts dragon sequence (the moment where it busts through the glass dome of the building and takes a moment to enjoy the fresh air was absolutely wonderful- it’s little moments like that that elevate good effects work to the stuff of legend), all of the work done on Voldemort’s snake, Nagini, and pretty much every second of the final battle scenes. I particularly enjoyed the look of the evil giants. Very cool stuff. The thing I found curious, though, was that ILM was not involved with any of the effects on either Deathly Hallows film. They had been the primary effects company on every Potter flick until this one. I’m sure I could do some research and find out, but I wonder why they weren’t involved with the finale. They were probably too busy creating all those spikey gray robots for Michael Bay‘s movie. Special shout out also to visual effects supervisor Tim Burke, who has worked on every Potter movie but the first one, and also supervised the effects on Ridley Scott‘s Gladiator, Hannibal and Black Hawk Down. I’ll be very interested to see what Burke does next now that Potter is finished.

Eduardo Serra’s cinematography. Gorgeous wide angles, closeups only when they’re needed, an excellent sense of mood in the visuals. I don’t see how this movie could’ve been photographed any better.

-All the other technical aspects. The sound design is superb, and of course, as always, the production design, art direction, costumes and makeup are A++. These movies are a wonder just to look at. They really ought to keep some of these sets in place (many of which have been standing since the first film) and save them as tourist attractions. If I were in England for a week, that’s something I’d want to see. Production designer Stuart Craig should get a Knighthood for his work on these films. He was a damned good designer before the Potter series, but has done nothing but these movies for the past 10 years; a remarkable achievement.

Alexandre Desplat’s score. Desplat [IMDb] is one of the most overused composers in Hollywood right now, and though he’s done a lot of good work, he didn’t seem capable of the kind of grand, thematic score a movie like this demands. His score for Part 1 was downright mediocre, so imagine my delight when his work on Part 2 was actually damned good! I was hoping for it to be a tad more epic/grand, but it’s an excellent score by any standard, and in my view the best work he’s done yet. There were a couple of very good new motifs in this film. Of course, when compared to The Great One, John Williams, no one really measures up, but I was glad to see Desplat bring back some of Williams’ Potter themes on this one. I just wish they’d had one composer through the entire series. It’s one of the only areas they weren’t able to stay consistent. For example, I can’t help but imagine what would have been had Howard Shore done the music for this entire series like he did for Lord of the Rings, or if Williams had at least come back for the final film. A boy can dream, can’t he?

For today’s Recommended Listening, here’s my favorite track from this score, called “Courtyard Apocalypse”, as performed by the almighty London Symphony Orchestra. I’m sure you can guess what scene that title refers to.


-Last but certainly not least, the fine direction of David Yates. Yates, previously known only for directing various British TV series, has directed every Potter film since Order of the Phoenix, and he’s been steady every step of the way. He’s a natural at big budget effects filmmaking, while showing equal skill at handling actors of all ages. You rarely get both qualities in a director, and more recently you don’t seem to get either. It’s tough to tell how much of his own visual style is in these movies, but the visuals in all 4 of his Potter movies have been a sight to behold. British directors are awesome, I think it’s just that simple. I’ll see pretty much anything this guy does next, but first he’s said he’s taking a long holiday (British speak for vacation), and no one can begrudge him that. I’m always relieved when directors this good are given considerable clout. It’ll be interesting to see how he wields it going forward.


WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

The run time. As I explained above, I think the runtimes of the two films should have been reversed, so that key moments in Part 2 could have been stretched out, or rather given the time they deserved. Where the runtime most affects Part 2 is in the handling of the deaths of some memorable secondary characters. The two that stick out most to me were the deaths of Lavender Brown (Ron’s jealous, obsessed girlfriend from Half-Blood Prince played marvelously by Jessie Cave) and Fred Weasley (played by James Phelps). Brown of course had a major role to play in Half-Blood Prince, then in Part 2 she appears in a couple scenes (with no lines), and is killed off as a footnote. Fred Weasley’s death is much more egregious, primarily because we don’t even see it occur. This is a character who has appeared in every single movie, a character (along his twin brother) who audiences have come to love. Not only do we not see him die, but the scene where we see his body laid out on the floor, with the other Weasleys mourning him is way too quick and kind of dismissive for such a popular character. At the very least, he should have had a really good death scene, with the other twin seeing it and avenging him, or something like that. But no, here, it’s…we see the twins just before the battle, we see him dead, family has a quick cry, and we’re moving on. We lose track of a lot of the main characters during the final battle. What was Ginny doing the whole time? This is Harry’s future wife, and she has about 2 minutes of screen time in the final movie. FAIL.

In general, the secondary characters are underserviced in both Hallows films. Snape appears in literally one scene in Part 1 and is then a major player in Part 2.
Bellatrix Lestrange (played by the marvelous Helena Bonham Carter), who had been a very good baddie since first appearing in Order of the Phoenix, has a few important scenes in Part 1, then appears in Part 2 basically just so she can get killed. It’s these kind of inconsistencies between the final films that bugged me. My point is that you can’t have a character play a huge role in one movie (i.e. Brendan Gleeson as Mad-Eye Moody in Goblet of Fire) and then have that character quickly killed off, sometimes offscreen, in the final movie (or in Gleeson’s case, the first 10 minutes of the first part of the final movie). You gotta give them at least one moment of glory. These are problems that could have been rectified with that extra 20 minutes of screen time, which no one at all would have minded (at least no one who has enjoyed all of the other movies).

They brought back pretty much every big-name actor from the previous films, seemingly just so they could say, “EVERYBODY was back for the last film!” Well, that’s great, but simply cutting to them one or two times (which they did with Emma Thompson as Professor Trelawney and Jim Broadbent as Professor Slughorn) doesn’t really qualify as having them all “back”. The only person that got a bump in screen time from the previous few films was Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall, which was great. She had been greatly reduced in the past few films, and didn’t appear at all in Part 1. Last, but not least, in Part 2, we don’t see Hagrid at all until the final 20 minutes or so. When, where and how was he captured?

I can’t help but compare certain moments here to how Peter Jackson & crew handled similar situations in The Return of the King, so let’s compare The Battle of Hogwarts to the battle at Minas Tirith, the centerpiece of the final Lord of the Rings film. I’m gonna separate the battles into 3 categories: Buildup & Preparation, The Battle Itself, and The Aftermath. Mmkay? Now, on a scale of 1-10, Return of the King would get a 10 on all 3 fronts (criticize the long endings all you want, but that battle is undeniably one of the best extended sequences of any kind in movie history). In comparison, I’d give Deathly Hallows: Part 2 a 7 on buildup & preparation (it happens a bit too fast, we don’t ever see Voldemort’s army gathering- they just kinda show up at the outskirts of Hogwarts), an 8 on the battle itself (great action and effects, nice busy frames, but points off for losing track of some key characters and dismissing the deaths of others), and a 6 on the aftermath (didn’t like how they handled reactions to the major deaths, and the movie is rushed to its conclusion immediately after the battle is over). Almost every beef I have with the last hour of the movie could’ve/should’ve been solved with another 20 or so minutes of runtime. Part 2 is the shortest film in the entire series by 8 minutes. Boo! Hiss!

-I wasn’t crazy about finding out ahead of time that Harry would be brought back to life after being killed by Voldemort in the forest. Kinda lessens the impact of that confrontation. I dunno if it’s the same way in the book (I’m sure it is), but in general, you don’t want your audience to be more in the know than your characters that deep into the story, especially about something that important. If we didn’t know (or simply weren’t blatantly reminded) that Harry had the resurrection stone in hand before facing Voldemort, you would have at least maintained some level of suspense and doubt, especially amongst those of us who haven’t read the book. And you could have even kept the Harry & the ghosts scene. It would have come across logically as a 17-year old kid knowing he might be going to his doom. Just don’t tell us that he already knows he’ll be brought back to life. Again, the execution of these scenes as they stand was wonderful, but if you simply rearrange a couple of details, it would’ve been more compelling.

-It doesn’t make any sense at all that at the beginning of this movie, Hogwarts is seemingly operating business-as-usual. Apparently, classes are still in session, even with Death Eaters hovering above the premises and evil henchmen on the grounds abusing students. You’re telling me that in the magic world’s darkest hour, with the long-standing headmaster having just recently been ASSASSINATED, with the “Dark Lord” imminently returning and his evil operatives operating a fifth column inside the school, parents are consenting to send their young kids (first-years are mentioned specifically at one point) to Hogwarts like everything is hunky dory? I’m sorry, that’s fucking absurd. That’s not just a plot hole, that’s a black hole of logic.

-This is sort of a non-issue in the grand scheme of things, but for credits sequence geeks like me, it’s kind of a big deal. I thought the series deserved a more fitting final end credits sequence than we get here. Don’t you? Something more than just names over a black screen? I feel really strongly that they should have done a big picture credits sequence at the end of this one. I mean, you’re wrapping up 10 years of movies here. Indulge a little. They did something like this after Return of the King, with those really nice illustrated photos of basically every cast member. What I would have done for Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is something akin to what you saw at the end of Slumdog Millionaire. Of course, it wouldn’t be that flashy, but for all of the kids, I’d have put their names up, and then 3 pictures or really quick video clips; one showing how they looked in the first movie, another from Azkaban or Goblet of Fire, and then the third of what they look like now at the end of the series, so the audience could see their progression. It would have been a cool way to remind everyone how cool it is that all of these kids have been there since the beginning. Then each adult character would get two pictures/clips and the actors’ name, one showing them in a lighter moment, and the other showing them in serious mode. It would be nice recognition for the adults, because I doubt most of the general audience could tell you who Michael Gambon is. Or who Robbie Coltrane played. Yes, that would have added a couple minutes to the runtime, but you’re telling me 90% of the people in the audience wouldn’t stay through the entire picture credits sequence? I say they would. For the diehard fans, and people who have seen every movie in theaters, this would have been a much better final sendoff than the typical, boring end credits that we got. It’s the little things, people.

-Here’s a final nitpick for ya regarding the “19 Years Later” sequence at the very end of the film: Are you really telling me that at age 36, Harry Potter is still wearing the circle glasses? He wouldn’t have chosen a new design that actually made him look like an adult? He couldn’t have undergone some wizard lasik by then and just been rid of the glasses altogether? Hermione doesn’t have a spell for that? Retinus Improvus! There, I just made one up.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
8/10 (IMDb), 4/5 stars

Wow. That’s the first movie in a while where the likes greatly outnumbered the dislikes. More of this, please.

Here’s the bittersweet finale of Desplat’s fantastic score:
 

A DECADE OF POTTER

I have called The Lord of the Rings trilogy the greatest accomplishment in cinematic history. What I mean by that is that not only was it the most difficult adaptation to get right perhaps EVER, but that they shot them all at once over a 3-year period, and that they all turned out as masterworks is astonishing (the extended cuts are among the greatest films ever made, in my view). Seriously, check out the documentaries on the Extended Cuts and you’ll understand what I mean. On a “degree of difficulty” scale from 1-10, having those films turn out the way they did is an 11.

As far as degree of difficulty, I might have to put this decade’s worth of Harry Potter movies in second place all-time. That doesn’t mean I think this is the second-best series of movies ever (I don’t), but the fact that this has been relatively smooth sailing from a production standpoint is a frickin miracle. There are literally hundreds of things that could have derailed this franchise over the years, or at the very least forced it to lose a lot of momentum. They only had to recast a couple of parts (one, Dumbledore, because Richard Harris died in 2002 after playing the role in the first two films), none of the kids ever quit (I believe they were originally all signed up for the first 4 movies, then all had to be re-signed after Goblet of Fire), none of them ever had a drug problem or had to leave the movies and go to rehab for an alcohol addiction (though Mr. Radcliffe has recently come out saying he had a drinking problem, but has been sober since 2010), and you never heard about anyone in this cast or crew being difficult on set or making egotistical demands. In fact, when the movies were being made, you never really heard anything about them until it was time to reveal the first trailer. This kind of good fortune is unheard of in the movie industry. Just ask the people who made Citizen Kane, Jaws, Apocalypse Now, Titanic, or just about anyone making a high profile, big budget movie in the past 50 years. It ain’t easy to make one, let alone 8 in a row. Hell, even a movie coming out next year, Men in Black 3, has had serious production problems since day 1.

Warner Bros. has kept this train rolling, and a lot of credit has to go to producer David Heyman, who has overseen every Potter movie, and who I believe is the one who first showed interest in turning the books into movies in the late 90’s. All told, there was never more than 2 years between movies, an amazing logistical feat. Then you have Steve Kloves, who wrote the scripts for every movie but Order of the Phoenix (where he was unavailable due to a scheduling conflict). How does one choose what to include and what to exclude from these increasingly massive books? And when do you rearrange the sequence of events, or place certain events in different locations? And how will that go over with the fans? The fact that Kloves was able to handle that with such consistency for 10 years is quite impressive, no matter what you think of these movies as adaptations. Most movies this big have 3 or 4 writers (sometimes more who go uncredited). J.K. Rowling never actually wrote any of the scripts, but every indication is she happily cooperated with Kloves and the filmmakers every step of the way, even telling certain actors what their characters’ futures held before the books came out so they could take that information into account for their performances. Pretty damn cool.

Consider also that these kids (all of whom are still under 22) have now been involved in 8 movies that cost $100 million or more. That’s something the majority of actors and filmmakers twice their age can’t say. That takes a hell of a lot of mental and physical toughness. The combined production budget of all of these movies is well over $1 billion. Really, after all this time and fame and money, all before the age of 21, it’s a miracle these kids are still sane. And imagine if one director had made all 8 movies? I don’t think even Peter Jackson would have survived that. I can’t express strongly enough how surprised I am that Dan Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint seem to have turned out so well after all these movies. Kudos to Chris Columbus and his casting team for making such solid choices from the beginning. Not only did they fill the main parts with good actors, but it seems like they’re all good people as well.


OH, HAI!
U IZ GROW’D UP!?


I won’t call her “hot”. How about “insanely cute”?

OH, HAI, Luna!

So I can’t pick a favorite movie just yet, but who are my favorite Harry Potter characters? That’s easier to do. Of the Big Three, Hermione is easily my favorite. I feel like she was the most fleshed out character in the series. She had the most personality and some of the best individual character moments throughout. I like Ron, but he was mostly one or two notes, either the loyal friend or the comic relief. It’s funny, because Harry Potter himself is not a very compelling character, and easily the least interesting person of the three. Really, “chosen one” characters are rarely that interesting aside from the fact that they have the most world-changing potential or inherently have the most skill or power amongst their peers. As far as being strong, three-dimensional characters, The Chosen One rarely fits that bill. He or she is usually introduced into a story as a necessity in defeating an imminent evil. They usually don’t have to grow or change much as people or adapt to their new hero roles. They were born for it, so they just end up doing it. That’s pretty much Harry Potter in a nutshell. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Frodo, for instance, is a normal guy who has to adapt to being The Ring Bearer. Luke Skywalker is the son of a Chosen One, but he has to learn all his powers and adapt to being the only Jedi in existence after Obi-Wan and Yoda die. Other characters I loved; Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch, pictured beautifully above), because I love characters who speak their mind plainly, and because she seems to not have a filter. I was a big fan of Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright), but she never got the screen time she deserved. I’d also have to go with Mad-Eye Moody, Hagrid, and the Weasley twins. I really like a lot of these characters. Credit to Rowling for coming up with so many characters and giving each of them their own voice.

I’d actually be interested in seeing a movie about Albus Severus Potter one day down the road. What is the wizarding life like for the son of the Chosen One? Is it a big budget spectacle where he faces new evils and does heroic deeds like his father? Or is it a low budget drama where he grows up as a rebel, feeling a sense of entitlement because of who his father is, commits crimes while in London, then he knocks up an older girl at Hogwarts (or Ron & Hermione’s daughter, which REALLY fucks everybody up), and overdoses on some experimental hallucinogenic potion? I’d pay to see that movie, wouldn’t you? Albus Potter and the Gryffindor Gangstas. Coming Summer 2015.

Wrapping things up, the only place I feel Warner Bros. fucked up with this series is in the quality of the DVD and Blu-ray releases. I only own a few of the movies, but most of the special features are either lackluster or aimed primarily at children. There’s nothing for a geek like me to dig into; no hour-long documentaries, no commentary tracks, and very few deleted scenes. Maybe they do have stuff like that and they’re just sitting on it for a huge box set release sometime down the road, but I’ve heard nothing to that effect. And why didn’t anyone think to do extended cuts? I hate to compare Potter to Lord of the Rings again, but how many additional copies would they have sold of each movie, with 30+ minutes of completely finished, fully integrated new scenes? Come on. Shit, Warner Bros. owns New Line, which released the Lord of the Rings extended cuts. After those were so popular, nobody thought to do something similar with Harry Potter? With all these fans clamoring to see more stuff from the books that wasn’t included in the theatrical releases? I immediately thought of it years ago, yet I don’t have a job at Warner Bros. Marketing. What’s wrong with this picture?

I hope somebody writes a really good behind-the-scenes book about how this all came together, with a bunch of cool facts, photos and anecdotes that people haven’t yet heard about. I’d buy such a book the day it came out. That’s all I got at this point, or all I care to discuss anyway. I hope all the Potter diehards out there are able to cope now that it’s all over. There’s still two more Twilight movies coming, right? Right? Bueller? Not the same audience? How would I know.

If you’re wondering, yes, this was a pain in the ass to write. I’ve been working on it on and off for two weeks. It probably would have been much easier if I were a Potter diehard, but I’m not. The reason I wanted to be so thorough is because I deeply respect the work done by everyone involved with these movies. Like I said, the fact that they pulled this off as smoothly as they did is something that may never happen again, so even if you’re sick of Harry Potter and happy beyond words that the movies are over, you need to at least be able to appreciate the simple fact that it happened in the first place. Would you rather a franchise like THIS has eight movies, or a “franchise” like Saw or Final Destination? I’ll take 8 Harry Potters over 8 thousand shitty Scary Movie spinoffs like Date Movie, Epic Movie, Disaster Movie or Vampires Suck any day of the week.

Finally, congratulations to Warner Bros. and the thousands of hard-working people involved in making these movies the global phenomenon they are. Your success is well-deserved.

LINKAGE:

There have been endless amounts of Harry Potter retrospectives on all manner of websites these past few weeks. I have neither the time nor the desire to seek out all the good ones, but here are a few tidbits that I’ve stumbled upon in my travels that I think are worth your time to check out.

-Here’s an interesting breakdown of where all the Potter money has come from. It’s estimated the franchise (books, movies, TV rights, video games, merchandise) has brought in $21 billion total. [HOLY $HIT]

-Here’s a cool set of “then and now” photos showing the progression of most of the Potter kids through the years. [Yahoo!] Really, just search “Harry Potter kids then and now” for about a trillion galleries like this.

-Also, take a look at the domestic box office of every Potter film listed on one page. Interesting that it’ll be the first and last movies that made the most. Actually, I guess that makes sense. [Box Office Mojo] Those are some frighteningly high numbers. Even more frightening? Avatar‘s worldwide gross (close to $2.8 billion) is more than the domestic grosses of the entire Harry Potter series. I’ve just gone cross-eyed.

-Film School Rejects did an amusing, but also mostly accurate list; “7 Reasons Why Hogwarts is the Worst Cinematic School Ever”. [FSR]

Now, related to that list, can I toot my own horn here for a moment? I’ve been knocking the logic of the Potter universe for years on most of those points. Here is what I said in a Livejournal post 5 YEARS AGO, on March 8, 2006, in a post called “I bet Harry Potter gets attacked in the 5th year, too!”:

I have a fundamental issue with J.K. Rowling’s storytelling, as should you.  And it’s this…when is Dumbledore gonna wake the fuck up?  Every single year, there’s a massive conflict at the school involving Harry Potter which places every student and teacher’s life at risk, yet each year they go in all happy dokey like nothing’s wrong and it’s gonna be a swell year of peace and prosperity and learning at Hogwarts.  You’d think by now this kid would be in protective custody.  Or they’d send him packing because he’s such a massive insurance risk.  At the very least, enrollment at Hogwarts should be down.  Shit, you send your kid there and he or she could be killed because of Harry Potter’s feuds.  This kid could get my kid killed!  Over a stupid lightning bolt on dude’s forehead!  I ain’t sending my kids to Hogwarts!  Fuck that.  The point is that the good guys in the Harry Potter world play on the defensive constantly.  This is bad battle strategy at the very least.  They just sit there and wait for trouble to come to them, no matter who it puts in danger.  Dumbledore even says it, “Dark times lie ahead, Harry.”  SO!?  DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!  God forbid Dumbledore prevent something from happening.  No no no, he’s gonna wait until his students are attacked.  Think about it.  In Star Wars, the Rebels attack the Death Star (twice!).  The Jedi try to find out who the Sith are and understand they must be destroyed first.  In Lord of the Rings, the Hobbits take the Ring to Mount Doom to destroy it.  They don’t sit around and wait for Mordor to come get it.  The good guys have to take the fight to the bad guys, because the bad guys aren’t gonna quit.  You can win the battle, but they’re just gonna regroup and come back at you.  And eventually they’re gonna win, or at the very least do some major damage.  You can’t just sit there and assume “Oh next year’s gonna be nice and quiet around here.”  Are you kidding me?!”

This is me doing a curtsy.

-Another important series has recently come to an end, this time on NBC. That would be Friday Night Lights, one of the best TV dramas of all time. I thought this was the type of show that could have run for 8-10 seasons, but because of poor ratings, it lasted only 5 (and we were really lucky to get the 5th). Its fans, myself among them, are passionate, and for years we’ve been telling anyone who would listen to check out the show and be converted. Well, it’s over now, but every season is available on Netflix or for purchase, so I’ll now ask you all one more time to do yourselves a favor and give it a chance. Most of the seasons are HBO-length (13-15 episodes), so if you got into it and really loved it, you could probably finish the entire series in a week, week and a half.

For people like me, who don’t even try to get into most TV shows unless they come recommended by others, it was a refreshing breath of fresh air. It’s not a cop show. It’s not a medical drama. It’s not a legal drama. It’s not a generic romcom. It’s not shot in L.A. completely on soundstages. It’s REAL. It’s also not a sports show, if that’s what’s held you back from giving it a chance. People who don’t care about football love this show. There’s typically only one football scene in each episode, and the discussion of football is always secondary to the personal conflicts between the characters.

There have been several rumors going around that they may still make another Friday Night Lights movie, this time with the show’s cast, but I’ll believe that when I see it. However, I fully endorse the idea. Duh, WINNING.

Here’s a pretty cool oral history of the show, with actors, producers and other filmmakers describing what it was like making the show, from inception to completion. A fascinating read for fans, or for anyone interested in alternative filmmaking methods, which was one of the primary ingredients to the show’s creative success. [GRANTLAND]

RANDOMNESS:

This gave me a pretty big LOL last week. George C. Scott watches Jack and Jill trailer:


I had completely forgotten this movie even existed. For good reason, too, it seems. I guess Adam Sandler is long overdue to try the dual role/cross-dressing gimmick. It’s such a fresh angle. When was the last time he made a good comedy? It’s not even worth checking. I guess I just never thought Al Pacino could be so reduced as to appear in one of these Sandler movies. Mr. Pacino, I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

-I try my absolute best to avoid celebrity gossip as much as possible, but…WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING, TODD PHILLIPS?!?! This has not been a good year for my favorite working comedy director, creatively, and apparently, personally. I just died a little inside, bro.

On that note, we’re finally finished here.

THE HANGOVER: PART II – Review and Analysis

DISCLAIMER: I’m just copy/pasting this review from the one I posted on Facebook, with a few additions and clarifications. There’s no need for me to go into much more detail on this movie, but I do want to say a couple more things about this “franchise” in general.

The Hangover: Part II is so similar to the original that it could just as easily be called a remake as a sequel. Despite how much I enjoyed the film, I can’t help but feel insulted by how little they changed from the first one. There are two noteworthy differences between The Hangover and Part II. One is the new location (Bangkok) and the second is the prominent use of a monkey, which you could actually argue just replaces the prominent use of a tiger in the first movie. So the location may be the only major difference. Instead of the lame “Part II” subtitle, they should have just called it The Hangover: Bangkok. In the long history and tradition of Hollywood sequels, this may be the least original one ever made. And that’s saying something.

What’s missing here, as every reviewer before me has noted, is the freshness and the surprise of the original. The question isn’t “How will this end?” anymore, it’s “What new jokes will we see to get us from the same beginning to the same ending?” And that’s really all it is; new jokes and new situations to end up at the very same places.

Having said that, the movie is very funny. Not quite as funny as the original, but I was LOL’ing fairly frequently. However, a lot of the new jokes made use of male nudity that I can only describe as…excessive. This movie has more dicks in it than a feature-length porno. And that’s not an exaggeration. Very disturbing. I also thought too many of the jokes were centered on Zach Galifiankis‘s Alan character. If Alan wasn’t the one being funny, every time someone else was funny, there’d be a cut to Alan showing his funny reaction.

Overall, the cast is good. I liked Ken Jeong having an expanded role, I thought they made pretty good use of the brother-in-law-to-be (the kid who gets “lost” this go-around), but make no mistake: this one, though focused around Ed HelmsStu character’s wedding, is all about Galifianakis. I’m not totally sick of it yet, but I’m at least weary of his act. I think of anyone in this cast, Ed Helms has the brightest future. I can easily see him moving into drama and following the Tom Hanks model, though obviously not with that level of success. Audiences will eventually tire of Galifianakis, especially when he’s eventually given his own movie to himself. Then the next pudgy, hairy comedian will come along with a new shtick, as seems to be the tradition in comedy. Bradley Cooper isn’t required to do much for his character, but he’s fine enough. I did think Paul Giamatti was underutilized in his little part, but it is what it is. The focus has to stay on the primary characters. As per the first film, the women in this one have little to do, least of all any comedy, and are even more irrelevant than the women in the first movie. At least there, a couple of them had things to do other than scream into a phone, “Where are you?!” If you want to see women being funny, Bridesmaids is still playing and worth your time.

Finally, the filmmaking, as always with Todd Phillips at the helm, is superb. The movie looks better than almost any other comedy, because Phillips is an excellent visual director. He doesn’t tone down the quality of the filmmaking just because he’s making a comedy, and I respect that a lot. He also doesn’t need to be wasting his time with sequels like this. I still hold out hope he’ll expand and do other genres, as he clearly has the talent. The cinematography here is gorgeous, he shoots in nice wide angles, and the editing is equally skillful. I think Phillips could make an action movie or a drama just as easily as he handles comedy.

In the end, my original fears about why this was even made were confirmed. There was no NEED for another one, and they sure as hell didn’t come up with a story good enough to warrant a sequel. It was done for money, and nothing else. These characters started as mostly realistic people who exist in the real world, and now they’ve become this cartoonish “Wolfpack” that we’re now supposed to EXPECT is constantly getting into these kinds of situations. Actually, that’s the clever thing they pulled off here. They’ve set it up so that if there’s a Part III, we’ll no longer be surprised. At the end of the movie, they basically state that this is what they are now, a group of normal guys who sometimes end up doing absurdly insane shit while they party. It doesn’t score many points for originality, but it does set them up nicely for another movie, whether we want to see one or not.

Again, I really enjoyed this movie, I like these characters, and I laughed a lot, but I have literally never seen a sequel with such an uninspired plot structure, and that laziness in storytelling, done just so everyone involved could cash in even more on the success of the original, is just WRONG. It actually offends me. I’ll tell you this right now; if they make a third one with the same cast and same director with the same structure again, I will not pay to see it in theaters. You have to draw the line somewhere.


“I feel like I’ve shot this before.”

And that’s the end of my original review. I did enjoy the movie, but I can’t include it with the original on my “Movies I Love” list, because I can’t love anyone who has as little respect for me as this sequel did.

Of course, Part II had a massive opening weekend. It opened on Thursday the 26th, giving it a 5-day Memorial Day opening. It took in $85.9 million between the Wednesday night midnight shows and Sunday for the weekend, and when you include Monday for the 5-day weekend, it’s already made $135 million on a +/- $80 million budget. It’s over $200 million worldwide. That’s easily the biggest opening ever for an R-rated comedy. If there’s a positive to take out of this, it’s more evidence for the stupid Hollywood suits that people will show up en masse for an R-rated movie. Yes, it was a sequel, but still. I’m not all that impressed with those numbers, because it’s going to take a huge plummet this weekend once audiences realize they’ve been duped. Despite this mega-opening, and for the reasons just stated, I’m still calling that it will not outgross the original (which finished at $277 million).

The bad news? Warner Bros. has predictably already put a third Hangover into development. They’ve hired writer Craig Mazin (who co-wrote Part II and had a hand in Scary Movie 3 and 4) to starting working on Part III. No, there are no plot details and the main cast, as well as Todd Phillips, have said they won’t commit to a third one unless there’s a good idea. Then again, they also said that about the second one, so that tells you how concerned they are about “good ideas” when a huge payday is involved. To be fair to Phillips, even he has said that if there were a third one, he wouldn’t want to have the same structure as the first two, and I will choose to take him at his word on that. Again, I just don’t think any of these guys could say no to this guaranteed payday on Part II, and I can forgive them that. I can forgive that once, anyway.

As I said above, I will not see a Hangover III in theaters if it’s the same people doing the same thing for a third time. I don’t think that’s gonna happen, though. Mazin joked that he’d like to see the third one end with many of the main characters dead from their newest adventure. If the movie had that kind of balls, I’d be excited about it. There have to eventually be some kind of consequences for these guys and the people around them. But how do you make that funny? Well, I’m not the one writing it, that’s their problem to figure out. I just don’t believe Warner Bros. will allow them to be that brave with it. But if that’s the direction they’re thinking, I’m on board. You cant’ just put these guys in another new city (Amsterdam has been thrown around) and have them go through one crazy night of partying. There has to be some evidence of their actions other than a camera phone or digital camera. Regardless, going forward I will view The Hangover as a standalone film, and I’ll simply refuse to acknowledge the sequel(s) as existing in that same world. Whatever helps you sleep at night, right?

-We’re halfway through the first season of Game of Thrones, and it continues getting better and better. For today’s Recommended Listening, I found this excellent video the other day of a dude covering Ramin Djawadi‘s theme song on the electric guitar. Love it.

and of course, the original:

Movie Extravaganza #2: The Semi Summer Movie Preview

As summer movie season kicks into full gear this weekend with the release of  Thor, I thought this was a great time for another big all-movie post. There’s been some stuff I’ve been wanting to talk about and some recent news worthy of your attention, analyzed for you by two thumbs pointing at this guy. First things first, some very cool new trailers debuted last week. The second (and likely final) full-length trailer for Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the second (and much improved) trailer for X-Men: First Class, and the first official trailer for The Deathly Hallows: Part 2. In case you haven’t seen any of them, take a look. I strongly recommend changing the video quality (in the bottom middle of each) to at least 720p to watch them in HD.

I’ve got my fingers crossed so tight on this that my index finger is about to snap, but Shockwave looks great, and there’s a lot of interesting and big stuff going on here, like that cool beacon thingy. And you can’t tell for sure, but I think Optimus Prime‘s trailer (which FINALLY makes an appearance) turns into that jetpack he wears. Just a guess, but remember who called it. On the other hand, I’m a little bothered by the fact that this trailer shows a clip from what looks to be the very last scene in the movie (Prime talking to Sam on a pier or boardwalk, with John Turturro in the wheelchair behind him). A great trailer from a visuals standpoint, but it looks like it gives way too much away. Perhaps more than anything, I can’t wait to find out how Shia LeBeouf ends up with a British supermodel girlfriend who’s even hotter than Megan Fox. I think if the director’s name wasn’t “Michael Bay“, this mightn’t have happened. Just a guess.


OH, HAI. NICE LIPZ.
P.S. I totally buy that you’d fall for Shia LaBeouf.

I’ve been very hesitant on this since day 1 (I’m still not over how bad X-Men : Last Stand was), and the first trailer wasn’t too inspiring, but this second one is a marked improvement. You get to hear more dialogue, and it looks like they’ve properly captured that X-Men us-against-the-world tone. I’m really digging Michael Fassbender as Magneto, too. His delivery of of that line “We already are” is pitch perfect and 100% Magneto. I’m really rooting for this to be very good. If all else fails, I get to look at January Jones and Jennifer Lawrence, which is always satisfying.

Deathly Hallows: Part 1 was the first movie in the entire series that I didn’t like. I won’t say I disliked it, but I definitely didn’t like it. It sits in this kind of opinion limbo. At the time, I couldn’t even write a review of it, it baffled me so much. I still need to watch it again, but I don’t expect my overall opinion to change. That said, even while I complained about the first part, I said back in November that I expected Part 2 to be amazing despite the problems I had with Part 1. I still hold that expectation. In my dream of dreams, this last one will be so good and so emotionally powerful that it’ll be worthy of Best Picture consideration and perhaps some acting nominations, but none of the others have been serious contenders in those categories, and they’ve been very consistent in quality (one of the series’ biggest strengths), so I doubt this will transcend the others even if it is the best of the decade-long series.

How Green is My Lantern?

Now we move to a brand new trailer that has me going, “Uh oh.” That trailer belongs to Green Lantern, which I am predicting will be this summer’s biggest box office bomb. I’ve been trying, really trying, to get excited for this, but I’m about to give up after this latest trailer. It just looks fuckin silly, doesn’t it? Like all these superhero movies, I don’t know shit about the comics, but surely the Green Lantern comic isn’t this silly looking. Is it? I know this is obvious, but it’s just so…GREEN. Like, really green. Too green. Then you’ve got all these incredibly goofy looking aliens and creatures. And all these goofy looking aliens speak English, and look incredibly goofy doing so. Maybe some super Lantern nerd can explain to me what I’m supposed to find cool about that. Then you’ve got Peter Sarsgaard as the main villain, and he ends up going from a normal-looking scientist to this maniac with a giant (goofy looking) ballooned forehead. It looks like we’re going to see a literal mad scientist in this movie. And that’s supposed to be scary and intimidating? Good grief. I can’t pick out one thing about this movie (other than the chance to see Blake Lively again) that has me excited. And that’s a damn shame, because it’s directed by Martin Campbell, who, granted, is hit and miss, but who just 5 years ago he gave us one of the best action movies ever in Casino Royale. Why he took this project on I’ll never know, but it looks like a massive pile of computer-generated [GREEN] dog doo. Don’t believe me? See for yourself, brah…

I guess the fact that Ryan Reynolds is in it should be a giveaway. This will be his third comic book movie, after the mediocre Blade: Trinity and the mediocre X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I normally like this guy (he gave one of the best performances in one of the best movies of 2010 in Buried), but he needs to stop it with the comic book movies. The fact that Marvel might give him another movie with the potential Deadpool spinoff is truly terrifying. ENOUGH!

-Can I say that I’m more than a little concerned about the Hangover sequel? In a way, I wish I hadn’t seen that second trailer. Of course it’s funny as hell, and the movie looks funny as hell, but it also displays such an apparent lack of creativity that my confidence in the film is a bit rattled. To start, the fact that they couldn’t come up with a cool subtitle and are just calling it the Hangover: Part II is a bad sign. It just is. You’re telling me Todd Phillips couldn’t come up with a good subtitle to the sequel of one of the most successful comedies of all time? NOBODY in the Warner Bros. marketing department had any good ideas? It’s not a huge deal in the bigger picture, but it’s indicative. When they first announced this sequel was actually happening, I’m on record (somewhere on my MySpace blog) as saying it was a bad idea. For one simple reason: how could anything even remotely that epic ever happen to the same people again? It would just come across as stupid if it did, wouldn’t it? Well, apparently the answer to that question is…easy, just have it happen in a different country. That appears to be the only difference from a narrative standpoint. In this new trailer, one of them is getting married (again), we see that they wake up after another crazy night (again), having no idea what happened the night before (again), and they’ve lost one or more of the people who started the night with them (again). The lack of creativity in that is stunning. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw the trailer. Usually, comedy sequels change up the plot a little bit, but this kind of repitition of ideas is normally reserved for bad horror sequels. Is The Hangover: Part II a bad horror sequel? My god I hope not. But right now, the only changes I see are the new location (Thailand) and a different cast member getting married this time. And a monkey. Let’s not forget the monkey.


Ken Jeong, you slay me.

Did Todd Phillips and the cast really do this only for the money? Given what I know of him and the various opinions he’s had recently, I thought Phillips was above that, but perhaps not. Phillips himself (who made more than $50 million on the first movie because of a brilliant contract stipulation) is making $10 million plus 10% of the first-dollar gross on the sequel, meanwhile Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zack Galifianakis each got $5 million upfront plus 4% of the first-dollar gross. Those will end up being huge paydays for all 4 of them. That also means a big increase in the budget, because with those salaries, the movie costs $25 million before you even start shooting (the original was made for under $40 million), and once it’s released, Warner Bros. has already forfeited 22% of the grosses. I guess it would be incredibly difficult to say no to such a huge guaranteed payday like that, but I’m hoping there was more effort put into the script than we’ve been shown thus far. If it is just a carbon copy of the original, I will be sorely disappointed. The original Hangover isn’t just one of my favorite comedies, it’s one my favorite movies overall (if you MUST know, it currently sits at #164 on the newly updated Biggie 200 list), and I’ve never been so amped up for a comedy sequel, despite my reservations.

If he exhales, that shirt will explode.

-So I’ve now seen Fast Five in theaters twice (I rarely have the time to see anything twice nowadays), and my love for this movie got me to thinking about how The Fast and the Furious is just about the most unlikely franchise in movie history. I’m fascinated by the trajectory this series has taken since the original came out a decade ago now. No action franchise (or franchise of ANY kind) has unfolded quite like this. Let’s trace the steps, and try to keep up.

You have the original film, The Fast and the Furious (which is loosely based on a Vibe magazine article called “Racer X”), which became a surprise hit in 2001 (grossing $40 million on its opening weekend on a $38 million budget on its way to a $144.5 million haul) and put Paul Walker & Vin Diesel on the map as potential leading men. Then you have a terrible sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious, that lost one of those leading men (and the original director, Rob Cohen) because he wanted too much money and basically thought he was above it, and that sequel still manages to perform well ($50 million opening, $127 million total). Diesel and Rob Cohen try to start a new franchise in xXx around the same time to middling results. So a better director on 2 Fast (John Singleton) makes the worst film of his career, but his career gets a bump anyway because that shitty movie is a hit. Singleton, having just made a very good low-budget movie (the greatly underrated Baby Boy) with up & coming singer Tyrese, gives him his first big mainstream starring role opposite the lonely Paul Walker, who badly needs a new street smart, non-Caucasian buddy.

Next, a couple years pass, because they still can’t get Diesel to star in part 3, and they can’t get Walker back either because he, too, is attempting to branch out. But not to be deterred, Universal puts the third movie in motion anyway, hires a new director (Justin Lin, who has directed each movie since) and tries to reinvent the franchise by giving it a new star (Lucas Black) and a new location for The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Apparently, hiring an Asian director for the Tokyo-set movie made it more authentic? I dunno. Also, we’re supposed to buy into the fact that because these cars drift around corners, it gives it a cool new twist, as opposed to Americans racing cars in straight lines. So yes, the franchise is now making sequels based on subgenres of street racing. Still with me? More characters are introduced (most notably Sung Kane as Han). Though that movie is just okay, it’s the goddamn Godfather Part II compared to 2 Fast. BUT, without Walker or Diesel’s involvement and the stench still lingering from part 2, the franchise loses some brand recognition, and it opens to a relatively paltry $23.9 million on its way to a franchise-low $62.5 million domestic total. [Also, strangely, we’re now (right now, in 2011) supposed to believe that the events of Tokyo Drift take place AFTER Fast Five. Wrap your head around that.] However, because Vin Diesel has now failed TWICE at starting new franchises (xXx and the Pitch Black sequel The Chronicles of Riddick), he makes a cameo in the final scene of Tokyo Drift, essentially telling us all, “Fine, I admit I don’t have any other other options. See you in part 4.”

SO, Tokyo Drift underperforms, but big studios don’t just give up on sequel-spewing franchises, and LUCKY FOR THEM, after a couple more years, both Paul Walker & Vin Diesel are no longer being allowed to topline movies (Walker because he struggles with that whole ‘acting’ thing, and Diesel because of his ego), and both need big paydays and starring roles to reinvigorate their careers. Fast & Furious is born, with the gimmick being that the entire original cast is back (the other two obviously being Michelle Rodriguez & Jordana Brewster). Brewster probably doesn’t want to do any more of these movies, but she too has not capitalized off the success of the original and has few other options.

By the way, when was the last time a sequel was made where all they did was remove the The‘s from the title of the original?! Again, we’ve never seen this before.

There’s more racing (and some terrible use of CGI cars in that dumbass sequence where they have to drive across the Mexican border and UNDER a mountain), but the focus shifts to more of a crime movie then a fast cars/racing movie. More new characters, most notable among them the superthin, superhot Gal Gadot. Paul Walker’s character (I had to look up his character name, that’s how memorable he is) Brian O’Conner goes from cop to criminal, and in doing allies himself with his bitter rival Dominic Toretto. Sad face, as Michelle Rodriguez supposedly dies and says goodbye to the franchise. Fast & Furious returns the series to box office glory (as audiences hunger for more of what they got in the first movie), opening to a massive $71 million on its way to $155 million total. Michelle Rodriguez ironically gets the last laugh, as she co-stars later that same year in the biggest movie of all-time, something called Avatar.

Finally, we get Fast Five, at worst a tie for best movie in the series, featuring an orgy of characters from all 4 previous films, and some new ones to take the franchise forward (Dwayne Johnson as The Terminator DEA Agent Hobbs). It reinvigorates the series again, with the best, most inventive action scenes in the franchise and cool new locations shot in Brazil and Puerto Rico. So even while the cast is familiar, the setting and the action is fresh. That’s smart. At the end of Five, we get bludgeoned over the head with a bonus scene (which brings back a character from way back in part 2!) that clearly indicates part 6 is on the way. This is further guaranteed when Five opens to $86.2 million in its first weekend on its way to becoming the highest grosser of the series.

Hopefully, that didn’t make you go cross-eyed, but it shows just how strange a road this has been for everyone involved. So many things had to happen for the franchise to end up like this or for it to even have extended this long. Other than Saw (which is supposedly done), there aren’t any currently active franchises at movie 5 or beyond, which is incredible given that Hollywood is more sequel-crazy than ever. And like I said in my Fast Five review, I doubt there’s ever been an instance where a part 5 is considered the best of the series. Though none of them have been great (and only the original and Five can be considered “good” in my view), I’m still interested in these movies. I also respect the series in one big sense…it’s 2011, and in an era where most mainstream movies are still almost completely whitewashed, this is the most ethnically diverse franchise perhaps in the history of cinema. And yes, I realize it depicts almost all of its minority characters as criminals and sex objects, but still, I’m glad to see a wide mix of races headlining movies this popular. That in and of itself is a good thing, and perhaps the most fundamental reason I’m into these flicks in the broader sense.

Finally, the new head of Universal Pictures has come out and said that they want to change the tone of the series again for the sixth movie, and they’ll probably be removing the racing elements altogether and making it a pure heist movie. I can get into that, and from what I’ve seen in two viewings of Five, audiences aren’t even close to being weary of these movies. At least this series TRIES to reinvent itself by mixing up the cast and switching scenery, which is the second big reason I give it props. It entertains the shit out of you without trying to be anything more than it knows it is. It’s an honest franchise that doesn’t bullshit its audience, and I think the masses appreciate that. I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but I am very much looking forward to 6 Fast Six or Furious 666 (or whatever the fuck it’ll be called). And no, there’s no confirmation yet on which cast members are in for part 6, though Dwayne Johnson has come out and said he wants to be part of it. Whether Diesel, Walker or Brewster want to continue remains to be seen, though I don’t see any of them doing much else in the next couple years. I wonder now if any of them even want to.

Apparently, this car fits into Dom’s wallet, because no matter where in the world he goes, the 1970 Charger shows up with him.

-Speaking of Fast/Furious-related items, I’m a little perturbed by director Justin Lin’s choice to follow up Fast Five with the proposed 5th Terminator movie. For some reason, people think this is a good idea, despite the last two sequels both underperforming at the box office (hint hint: we’re not interested unless it’s made by Cameron, a-holes!). And they think it’s also a good idea to bring 64-year old Arnold Schwarzenegger back to play, I dunno, the Terminator sent back through time to kill John Connor‘s grandfather at the nursing home? So, obviously T5 is a terrible idea, but I’m more concerned with Lin’s awful decision-making. Dude needs to fire his agents. He will never have more clout than he does right now, with Fast Five a monster box office hit around the world. He can do almost anything he wants as a follow-up, and he wants to continue making sequels? And not just a normal sequel, he only wants franchises that are at part 5 or beyond, apparently. Come on, man! Have you no creative ambition? No dream projects? No desire to work off a real script? No desire to work with actors who aren’t sleepwalking through the shoot, simply looking for a payday? I don’t know why this pisses me off, but it does. Not only that, but he’s also said he’s open to doing the sixth Fast/Furious movie. COME ON!!! Cuz I guess directing 3 of them isn’t enough. There’s so much more to explore in this multi-layered, richly characterized world. Oh wait, no, there isn’t. It’s time to move on, Justin Lin. You’re that rarest of things in Hollywood…a minority filmmaker with clout! USE IT. This would be like LeBron James coming off his MVP season last year and then, as a free agent, choosing to sign with the Minnesota Timberwolves. In other words, it’s a giant fucking step backwards!

Director Justin Lin with Vin Diesel.
“Hey Vin, wanna just do these Fast/Furious movies together for the rest of our lives?”
“Justin…I LIVE FOR THIS SHIT!”

Since most of you won’t get that last reference…

-I admit that prior to the movie version coming together, I’d never even heard of The Hunger Games. But now this is apparently one of the most anticipated movies of 2012 (it’s pretty far down my list). What I find curious is that it’s currently May, 2011 and they haven’t shot a single frame (in fact, the movie is still casting), yet they already have a release date of next March. Unless I’m mistaken, this is going to an effects-heavy project. Going from pre-production to release in 10 months on a large scale movie like this is generally not recommended. This trend of the studios stubbornly sticking to predetermined release dates is harming the quality and potential of a lot of movies. I for one don’t particularly care about Hunger Games (other than my love of Jennifer Lawrence and the fact that I like director Gary Ross), but for such a high-profile project that Lionsgate would like to turn into a trilogy, they seem to be rushing things a bit. Also, the fact that the male lead’s name is Peeta is bit off-putting.

RANDOM AWESOME MOVIE SCENE TIME!

RANDOM AWESOME MOVIE COMPILATION TIME!

“Get out of there!”

For today’s Recommended Listening, here’s my favorite track off the Chemical Brothers‘ fantastic score to Hanna. This little diddy’s called “Container Park”:  

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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