Category: Movies


Jupiter Ascending poster

The 1984 adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune was a hit and miss film.  Mixing science fiction and fantasy, and more of a space fantasy than science fiction, it only managed to grab a small legion of fans that would later make it a cult favorite.  But unless your name is Star Wars, it’s difficult to get that sub-genre just right.  Sibling writer/directors Andy and Lana Wachowski are rolling out their own version of space fantasy next weekend with the teenager-aimed movie Jupiter Ascending.

The Wachowskis are known for their Matrix series, their screenplay for V for Vendetta, as well as writing, directing, and producing Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas.  What these films all have in common is a certain mash-up of sci-fi tech with often surreal, fantasy elements.  Like the The Matrix’s cloaked reality, the written-directly-for-film Jupiter Ascending has its own cloaked world, hidden in plain sight.  It also has a plot that could have been written by Frank Herbert.  Yet instead of going for older viewers, the casting of Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum as romantic interest is looking to pick up the gap between the Twilight crowd and the next Divergent or whatever is coming next.

Jupiter Ascending cyborg

Three full trailers have been produced, revealing a Han Solo-esque Sean Bean and a Loki-esque Eddie Redmayne.  The Wachowskis’ visual style seems to be a lighter twist on Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy world stylings.  Extra special effects sequences supposedly are what caused the studio to bump the release date from last summer to February 6, 2015.  The effects and outer space sequences might be enough to get die-hard sci-fi fans into the theater, especially since the film will have a version offered in IMAX3D.

After the break, check out the trailers for Jupiter Ascending, and see if this is one for the theater for you, one to wait for video, or one to pass on.

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Brosnan 2015 Bond ad

We haven’t seen them all yet, but these early released new ads for Sunday’s big game will be hard to beat.  Danny Trejo as Marcia Brady?  Pierce Brosnan back as Bond?  More Schwarzenegger as Terminator?  You’d have to drift back to the Bowl ads of 2012 for commercials this good.

Wait no longer.  Check out this new trailer, with plenty of Arnold and Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke as the latest Sarah Connor, in Terminator Genisys:

We’ll be first in line for Terminator opening weekend.

If you don’t agree with us that Daniel Craig is the best James Bond of all, maybe you’ll be happy with the visuals of Pierce Brosnan back in a The Spy Who Loved Me setting:

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They Live poster and glasses by Matthew Skiff

Sometimes you find an artist that seems to be very in sync with your interests.  If you’re into John Carpenter movies, the Twin Peaks TV series, 3D glasses, and anything that glows in the dark, then you might find yourself stumbling upon the website of artist Matthew Skiff.

Skiff has a great understanding of design, blending clever retro-style elements, eye-popping color combinations, and nifty classic poster techniques to give us an entirely new look at some genre greats.  Take for instance his poster for They Live, shown above, to be viewed with blue-red polarized 3D glasses that were included with the print.  As with Roddy Piper’s hero in the film, you need to wear glasses to see the messages hidden in plain sight.

Matthew Skiff They Live print close-up

The same technique was used for an earlier print for Twin Peaks, featuring Agent Cooper and Bob–with Bob revealing his true self to those with the 3D glasses.

Twin Peaks Matthew Skiff

Or glow-in-the-dark ink that reveals the secret of the crystal ball…

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Fantastic Four 2015 poster

Some trailers instantly reel-in moviegoers, even if they are the shorter “teaser” versions of movie previews.  One you won’t find on the list of best trailers or teasers is the first released for the reboot of super-team Fantastic Four in The Fantastic Four, just released.  Like the not-so-amazing and unnecessary reboot of the Spider-man movie franchise, here again Marvel Studios is re-launching another one of their classic superhero titles.  As moviegoers, and fans of the superhero genre in particular, why are we supposed to care about this new version?

Clearly this next film is another origin story.  Yawn.  We already saw the origin story of the team in the 2005 Fantastic Four movie starring the superb British actor Ioan Gruffudd as a perfect Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic, with Michael Chiklis as comic-book-character-come-to-life Ben Grimm/The Thing, Jessica Alba as a great Sue Storm/Invisible Woman, and Chris Evans as a brilliant Johnny Storm/Human Torch.  In fact the Human Torch and The Thing should be on everyone’s top list of comic book characters realized on the big screen.  So why do it all over again ten years later?

If you’re going to take hundreds of millions of dollars to do something again, to please fans you need to make the new entry exponentially better.  Not just a little better, and not just with bigger effects, or a younger cast.  Otherwise fans of the series aren’t going to play along, or if they do, it is with full knowledge the studio is only squeezing as much revenue out of the franchise as they can regardless of whether there is anything redeeming about the new version.  This isn’t to say the new movie might be good, a lot of fun, or even great.  But it’s the studio’s job to sell us on it.  That’s what trailers are for.  They’re like book covers.  This teaser gives us nothing to get excited about.  It might as well be the trailer for Hulk or Iron Man 2.

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The Man in the High Castle Times Square

Review by C.J. Bunce

The more I read Philip K. Dick’s novels, and I’ve read roughly half, the more I want to take a highlighter to paragraphs throughout his works that keep me coming back for more.  Oddly enough, those tidbits I liked best from his Hugo Award-winning, 1963 novel The Man in the High Castle, didn’t make it into the Amazon Studios pilot released this month on their streaming service.  Enough of his framework is there, however, to make science fiction fans, especially alternate history fans, want the new studio to pick up the series and show us what more they can do with this unique work.

The Man in the High Castle generally is considered Dick’s best work.  The TV pilot and novel follow a small cast of characters living their average lives in a world where Nazi Germany and Japan won World War II.  The superpowers have divided America, leaving a neutral zone of sorts in between, and this arrangement is the key political focus of the story.  In the novel, life is more mundane and the vile realities more subtle.  In the TV series the theme is more like Red Dawn–the studio must think modern audiences need that over-arching theme of American rebellion for the show to take hold.  A key element missing from the pilot is the Japanese desire for American nostalgia.  A key character in the novel, an antique salesman named Robert Childan, is absent from the TV version.  It’s this character I was most fascinated with in the novel, so it was a strange watching the story progress without his contribution.

Davalos The Man in the High Castle

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Big Trouble in Little China Rain Thunder Lightning

Last month the CEO for Funko released a hefty list of licenses that will be getting the retro-Kenner action figure treatment this year, as reported on here and here at borg.com.  The licensed properties include the original Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Jaws, Terminator 2, Aliens, The Dark Crystal, E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, Fight Club, Gremlins, Breaking Bad, The Fifth Element, V for Vendetta, Scarface, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Big Lebowski, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The A-Team, and The Munsters, among others.

For action figure collectors, one of the most requested films for the ReAction line, especially in light of last year’s release of Escape from New York figures, was that other John Carpenter film starring Kurt Russell, the cult classic Big Trouble in Little China. 

And Funko has just released final images of the figures and packaging for six figures from the film, and what great picks!  Best of all, 85-year-old, Minnesota-born, Golden Age of TV actor James Hong finally gets his own action figure, as Lo Pan!

Big Trouble in Little China Lo Pan ReAction Funko

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John Carpenter Christine Plymouth Fury

Director John Carpenter announced this week that Hot Wheels will be issuing a die cast metal version of his famous car Christine, the 1959 Plymouth Fury from his horror film based on Stephen King’s novel.  It doesn’t have a sound chip for playing Little Richard’s “Keep a Knockin'” but it’s still going to be a cool mini-ride.  Other new releases include Richard Dreyfuss’s truck from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and the Emergency! red rapid response truck from the 1970s TV series.  Not familiar with the retro entertainment line from Hot Wheels?  It gets better.

Stripes Urban Assault Vehicle    Electric Mayhem School Bus

So far the Hot Wheels plant has rolled out something for everyone, coming up with a pretty broad array of vehicles.  Remember the green GMC mobile home “Urban Assault Vehicle” from Stripes?  It’s coming in 2015.  Remember Mr. Miyagi’s yellow 1948 Ford–the one he gives as a gift to Daniel-san for finishing his karate training in The Karate Kid?  They’ve got that, too.

Dreyfuss Close Encounters of the Third Kind truck

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Michael Keaton in Birdman

Review by C.J. Bunce

It always makes sense to be wary of movies that trickle out to the public in limited release.  If you’re not in the movie business, you may also want to be careful about seeing films about the movie business, especially shows about Broadway.  Sometimes knowing what is behind the stage door ruins the magic.  A Chorus Line, The Player, Barton Fink, are all about staging theater or film.  But it often seems like writers choose this topic as a crutch–these are the topics drama college professors praise, of characters full of angst, a script riddled with expletives and characters bantering long speeches full of dialogue and situations calculated to shock and surprise.  They hope the industry insiders will latch onto the movie even if the movie-going public could care less.  These movies come off as self-indulgent and trite, the stuff of drama school or Summer stock.  Birdman unfortunately is another one of those movies.

Michael Keaton plays an actor named Riggan.  You would never know Riggan was his name from watching Birdman as it sounds more like Reagan as uttered by the cast.  Riggan has some kind of schizophrenia, causing him to think he is being talked to by the Birdman, a costumed character Riggan played that once earned him fame.  There’s not enough of the Birdman in the film to understand whether Riggan simply has mental problems or he really has some magical power.  Or maybe it’s intended to be allegorical.  It’s hard to know.  Riggan is trying to produce and act in a play, doing something to get recognized, to make himself relevant, when in fact, he’s still a household name.

Keaton in Birdman

Behind Birdman is a variety of movie gimmicks, all arising out of an ambitious director.  Ambition is a great thing, to be certain.  Yet director Alejandro González Iñárritu throws too much at the audience at once, and although he is certainly getting noticed on the awards front, Birdman doesn’t have the balance to stand the test of time.  Slathered in tongue-in-cheek irony, Birdman relies on the misconception that Michael Keaton, who played Batman in real life, is a washed-up has-been who hasn’t had a good job in years and we will all have some nostalgic reaction to this.  (In fact, Keaton has hardly seen a year since he started in movies where he wasn’t in one film or another).

So the publicity folks want to spin this film as the next Sunset Boulevard, another story of a has-been actor struggling with self-worth.  It’s a mirror image of the New York film and theater industry looking back on itself.  A critique?  Poking fun?  Maybe actors care about that.  Maybe producers and movie moguls.  But why should audiences?  It just doesn’t come close to the subtlety and grand storytelling that made Sunset Boulevard so superb.

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Michael Keaton in Jackie Brown

With the popularity of Quentin Tarentino’s other writing and directing achievements, Jackie Brown tends to get short shrift. Based on Elmore Leonard’s novel Rum Punch, it’s the exception in Tarentino’s film arsenal where the story concept didn’t originate from the mind of Tarentino.  Yet there are enough changes made by him to make 1997’s Jackie Brown a standout film for the heralded director, and it may very well be his best all-around film, full of style, suspense, and pulp cool.

The prime reason for that is his handling of the character of Jackie Brown as a tough, no-nonsense survivor, and Pam Grier’s ability to fill those shoes perfectly.  The cast of top Hollywood stars and character actors, including Samuel L. Jackson, Robert DeNiro, Bridget Fonda, and the great Robert Forster fills in the remaining blanks. But you may forget the key role played by Michael Keaton as straight-shooter cop Ray Nicolette.

Michael Keaton as Ray Nickolette

Keaton played a supporting role in a previous ensemble cast effort under a popular director, Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing, as Dogberry, the closest on-screen attempt at showing what Charles Schulz’s Pigpen would look like all grown up.  Part of the conceit of Keaton’s new film Birdman is the intended irony of a washed-up actor that once played a popular character called Birdman, and the obvious comparisons to Keaton’s Batman and lack of promising acting gigs in recent memory.

In fact Keaton has always been a working actor plugging away at film roles through the years and Dogberry, along with Jackie Brown’s Ray, may have helped fuel the vibe since Keaton was either content to join these ensemble casts with small parts, or that was all he was offered.  Either way, these weren’t major leading man roles as he has found with Birdman.

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Michael Keaton in Mr Mom

Classic comedy from the 1980s includes some of the most re-watchable films.  There are the perennial favorites from the creative talents of the original Saturday Night Live cast, like Caddyshack, The Blues Brothes, Stripes, and Ghostbusters.  Many of the best were written by John Hughes, with National Lampoon’s Vacation, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Planes, Trains & Automobiles among them.  But while these movies can be found all the time on cable, one of Hughes’ best comedy classics inexplicably rarely surfaces.  That film is Mr. Mom, the movie that solidified Michael Keaton as not only a comedic actor audiences loved, but a leading man who could hold his own as top name on the marquee.  The physical comedy Keaton uses in his latest film Birdman has its roots in Keaton’s performance as Mr. Mom’s put-upon co-worker, husband and dad.  In fact early on Keaton recognized his own talent at physical comedy, taking the stage surname Keaton because of Buster Keaton’s similar talents.

Keaton plays Jack Butler, recently laid-off from his Detroit auto plant job.  When he can’t find work, wife Caroline, played by Teri Garr, decides to dust off her marketing degree and take a job working for Ron Richardson, played by Martin Mull.  Jack is laid off with co-workers including one played by Christopher Lloyd, and his boss is played by Jeffrey Tambor.  Ann Jillian plays a single neighbor out to land the homebound Jack, and Carolyn Seymour, who will be familiar to Star Trek fans for her humorous guest appearances, is one of the people who works for Ron (and despises Caroline).  Until this year you could have said each of these actors was at the top of their game in Mr. Mom, although the newfound accolades for both Keaton and Tambor seem to qualify that assertion.

Garr Mull and Keaton in Mr Mom

If you saw Mr. Mom in theaters upon its release in 1983, you may be surprised when re-watching the film 30 years later how many lines you remember.  It’s not quotable to the extent of Caddyshack, but you may find you can quote lines along with the film.  Pop culture references to contemporary movies were a signature of Hughes long before Joss Whedon would perfect them in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

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