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Tag Archive: Aaron Eckhart


Erased movie poster

The movie trailer.  It’s the video “cover” you’re not supposed to judge a movie by.  But sometimes a movie trailer gets it all exactly right–setting the correct expectation with viewers without over-hyping or over-emphasizing only the best parts of the film it is promoting.  Take the trailer for Aaron Eckhart’s Erased as an example.

From the beginning, Erased (originally titled The Expatriate, but renamed for the U.S. release) appeared to be a blend of a summer action flick like The Bourne Identity (with Eckhart playing an ex-CIA agent on the run), the Robert Redford espionage thriller Three Days of the Condor (where one day all his co-workers turn up dead and his world upside down), and Liam Neeson’s Taken, since he has to protect his little girl along the way.  Eckhart’s role also seemed to echo that of Ben Affleck’s role in Eckhart’s prior film Paycheck, since he appeared to create some future technology that leaves him to unravel what happened to his stolen life.   Well, what you see is what you get.  And it’s all very satisfying.

Erased

Aaron Eckhart is an under-rated lead.  If you put aside the dud that was I, Frankenstein, Eckhart delivers an emotional performance every time.  As adman Nick Naylor trying to save big tobacco in the brilliant Thank You for Smoking, as the guy that had us all wearing “I Believe in Harvey Dent” badges after his performance as Two-Face in The Dark Knight, after his almost unrecognizable performance opposite Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich.  And as the vile mastermind opposite Ben Affleck in the superb Philip K. Dick adaptation Paycheck.  With Erased, a flick with a botched release schedule back in 2012 and 2013, he could have had his break-out role.

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i-frankenstein moving poster

Review by C.J. Bunce

I, Frankenstein is a fantasy-horror motion picture released earlier this year, based on a graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux.  Starring Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight), Bill Nighy (Underworld, Shawn of the Dead, State of Play), Yvonne Strahovski (Chuck), Miranda Otto (Lord of the Rings), and Jai Courtney (A Good Day to Die Hard, Jack Reacher), all signs pointed to the possibility that the film could be minimally watchable.  But retellings of classic monster stories are tough to get right.  In our ongoing pursuit at borg.com to identify the best of Blu-ray 3D home video we screened I, Frankenstein in Blu-ray 3D.  Despite having some pretty stellar 3D special effects, the film unfortunately can’t overcome its thin effort to retell the Frankenstein story.

With creators of Underworld behind the scenes, it’s no wonder this film has the look of that franchise.  It also shares the same dark vibe as the respectable and fun monster mash-up Van Helsing.  But its clunky twist on Frankenstein’s monster isn’t saved by the serious acting of lead Aaron Eckhart, or the quality bad guy villainy portrayed by Bill Nighy.

Adam Frankenstein

Good monster retellings?  Try Young Frankenstein (1974), Phantom of the Opera (2004), Van Helsing (2004), the American Werewolf series, Wolf (1994), Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992), The Mummy (1999), and the short-lived Dracula (2013) TV series.  These all show how retellings of classic monster stories can be done right.

Nicely done action sequences and fiery explosions?  It’s got ’em.  Beautifully-rendered, in-your-face 3D?  It’s got that, too.  And if you only want to watch special effects with the backdrop of a classic, then this may be something for one of those moments.

But I, Frankenstein is about a legion of gargoyles and their gargoyle queen (Miranda Otto) who are in a battle with demons under the control of a demon prince played by Nighy, posing as a modern-day biotech businessman.  Nighy’s character wants Dr. Frankenstein’s journal, to be able to resurrect soulless bodies for demons in hell to fill.  Otto’s character attempts to recruit Frankenstein (the monster has taken his creator’s name) to her cause, even giving him the rather silly name of Adam (which nobody else ever uses). Hundreds of years after their initial meeting, Frankenstein and the gargoyle queen reunite in the present day (still wearing the same costumes).

Huh? 

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i-frankenstein moving poster

It has the overall look of the Underworld series and the Hugh Jackman Van Helsing movie.  And it appears to be a Highlander-inspired story–a fantastical character thrust into our present-day world–this time with a better actor playing the lead.  And exactly how many CGI flying demons can you fit into one movie?  We don’t care, we just wish it was showing this week since we’re getting to Halloween with no good spooky flick to see in the theater if you’ve no desire to watch a remake of Carrie.

The first full trailer for I, Frankenstein is full of genre actors we can’t get enough of.  Start with the lead:  Aaron Eckhart as Adam, who takes the last name of his creator, Dr. Frankenstein, as has occurred in countless retellings over the past two hundred years.  Eckhart’s best known role is of course as Harvey Dent/Two-Face in the most recent Batman trilogy.  But he was brilliant in the Philip K. Dick story adaptation Paycheck, in Thank You for Smoking, and Erin Brockovich (and almost unrecognizable).  He just doesn’t make enough movies for a guy who has so much coolness and charisma.

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Tatiana Maslany Nerd HQ panel 2013

Following up on yesterday’s rundown of all the Nerd HQ panels, borg.com has all of today’s panels in full from Nerd HQ for you to watch from home if you weren’t one of the 250 people who saw it live at San Diego’s Petco Park, opposite San Diego Comic-Con International today.  Nerd HQ offered up even more fun panels including cast member from Orphan Black–their first Con panel.  Note that you may want to skip ahead a few minutes on each video to get to the beginning of the panel.

Enjoy!

First up, the Hannibal panel including series co-star Hugh Dancy:

Next up, the “Mystery” panel, which ended up featuring Chuck’s Zachary Levi, Rob Zazinsky from Pacific Rim, and Firefly’s Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion:

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Nerd HQ 2011

Matt Smith!  Eva Green!  Aaron Eckhart!  Tatiana Maslany!  Joss Whedon!

Nerd HQ returns again for its third year as an added stop for Comic-Con attendees next week from July 18-21, this time changing its venue to the home of the San Diego Padres at Petco Field, via the Gaslamp Gate.  As with past years the highlight of Nerd HQ will be its panel series with admittance limited to 250 attendees. We attended the first Nerd HQ back in 2011 and were able to talk to Zack Levi (Chuck) and catch the panel and autograph signing with Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap, Enterprise, Men of a Certain Age) discussed here at borg.com. Nerd HQ offers an option for those who could not get tickets to Comic-Con and those Comic-Con attendees who want to sample some of the events outside the annual “greatest show of the year.”  Compared to the large audiences at Comic-Con it also offers a more intimate opportunity to ask questions to major genre guests who are only a few feet away.

Tickets are for sale today beginning at noon Pacific Time, and with 250 seats per panel they will sell out quickly.  Each panel costs $22 with all proceeds going to charity.  Last year the events raised $140,000 for Operation Smile.

Here is the initial schedule of panels, the scheduled guests, and a quick link to where to buy tickets today:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Thursday evening brought in the newest national movie theater marathon, this time for Christopher Nolan’s third and final Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises.  Starting at six p.m. with Batman Begins, followed by The Dark Knight and culminating with a midnight showing of the new feature film, fans of Nolan’s vision of Batman surely got their fix.  Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy is as it’s described–dark.  But none as dark and bleak as the third and final installment.

Can you have fun at a movie that is so dark?  The “dark” I am referring to in the context of Nolan’s film is “the bleak future ahead.”  Batman films before Nolan also were dark, but in a fantasy, comic book way.  I miss the sleek Batmobiles of earlier films.  To be fair, the current various DC Comics Batman series are pretty dark–gruesome at times–so maybe movies are just mirroring the evolution of the comic stories.  There’s a bit of a battle between making your story seem real and still have the rules of comic books apply.  Battle scenes in the current franchise, with Tumbler tanks that could be right out of an Iraq army base, take away some of the fun, the fantasy, of watching superhero films.  I want my Batman movies to be not only dark but also fun, and I am looking for escapism, not realism.  If you have the same mindset, can you still have fun watching the new Batman movie?  Sure.  What I am not sure of is whether you may like The Dark Knight Rises more were you to see it without the benefit of the Dark Knight Marathon.

   

I attended last night’s screening of the full marathon with borg.com writer Art Schmidt.  And we had fun.  Crowds at these big screenings really want to be there, and really want to like the new movie.  But where I had the most fun was re-watching Nolan’s second installment–The Dark Knight–on the big IMAX screen.  And I think the crowd simply responded, audibly, better to The Dark Knight than The Dark Knight Rises.  Would I have liked The Dark Knight Rises more had it not been viewed at the end of such a solid film as The Dark Knight?  That’s the question I am left pondering.

I’d seen both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight in the theater when first released.  I was not a fan of Batman Begins, other than I liked Michael Caine’s Alfred and Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox.  I will acknowledge in the first two films the nods to Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One as a positive thing.  I should have liked Liam Neeson as Ra’s Al Ghul, but didn’t.  Last night, in the right mindset for a fun evening of movie watching, I was pleasantly surprised that I found Batman Begins to be better than I had remembered from viewing it in its initial release.

But it was installment two, The Dark Knight, that proved to be the highlight of the entire night.  It cemented the reasoning for Heath Ledger being awarded an Academy Award for his performance as the Joker.  His performance was both creepy and comical, despite his grim, psychotic nature.  But Aaron Eckhart’s brilliant performance as Harvey Dent was not far behind.  The writers of this “trilogy” seem to me to have screwed up somehow.  Why?  After watching all three films the real hero of the trilogy is unquestionably Harvey Dent.  Despite him turning criminal after going through the murder of his fiance and the destruction of his face, he is entirely a sympathetic victim who acted heroically until his world was devastated.  But this is all wrong–the hero of a Batman trilogy should be Batman, plain and simple.  After watching the newest film, The Dark Knight Rises, we are left with a vision of Batman as a whiny adult who could not get beyond early tragedy in his life.  Sure, he had it tough, and yes, he is a sympathetic character, but the character never really moves beyond the mindset of the young Bruce Wayne sitting in a cave.  Classic Batman stories do not rely on Bruce Wayne moping around about his problems–he is able to push them aside and help other people.  For me, the fatal flaw in Nolan’s trilogy is this basic thread at the core of Bruce Wayne’s character.  What Batman fans want is a movie where Batman gets to be the hero, where he saves the day, and leaves a better world behind.

Most of The Dark Knight Rises does not even feature Christian Bale in the Batsuit.  I’ve always thought a detective story focusing solely on Bruce Wayne and his analytical skills would be a great idea.  For a book, yes.  But now I know it doesn’t work for a movie.  Fans want to see Batman being Batman.  And not being beaten to a pulp by an ugly thug who has little motivation or character development.  Tom Hardy’s Bane is just bad for the sake of being bad.  Without revealing details, I think a plot twist at the end is predictable, and a last-minute attempt to make us feel sorry for Bane is too little, too late.  You cannot really even tell what actor is playing Bane.  The marquis credits say it is Tom Hardy, a solid young character actor who has been in Star Trek Nemesis, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Blackhawk Down and Inception, but how would any of us know who he was with that face-covering breathing apparatus?   What does that thing even do?  He acts like Darth Vader, even holding someone up by his neck.  He sounds like Ian McKellan’s Gandalf.  His dialogue is muffled.  He speaks in loud shouts like the ringmaster at a circus.

Marion Cotillard’s character Miranda seemed to be an afterthought in the script, a character whose actions would have insulted the intelligence of the Wayne and Fox characters from prior films.  There is no chemistry between Wayne and Miranda, yet out of nowhere they are a couple—right after Wayne speaks longingly of Rachel (who was killed by the Joker in the last film), and while we movie goers see him developing some attraction to Anne Hathaway’s Salina Kyle.  (Seeing Batman Begins back to back with The Dark Knight also showed why Katie Holmes was better cast as Rachel than Maggie Gyllenhaal).

Caine, Bale, Freeman, and Oldman all were underused in The Dark Knight Rises, and when used they play caricatures of their roles from past films, even repeating scenes from the past two films, often doing things that seem out of character, like Caine turning his back on Bruce, like Gordon turning his back on Batman.  Matthew Modine added to his list of drab roles by playing a police officer who came off as annoying and irrelevant.  There are points where you don’t know whether to cheer the street mob or the police, the bad guys or the good.  Ultimately everything becomes a free-for-all and Nolan tries to make Gotham a cross between the Holocaust and New York City in John Carpenter’s Escape from New York.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a nice opportunity to shine in the film, but too much time is spent on his character, and not enough on Bruce Wayne or Batman, where the focus should have been.  Throughout the movie you can’t help but look for how Gordon-Levitt will fill Batman’s shoes one day–like Shia LaBeouf’s Mutt in the last Indiana Jones movie.  Note to Hollywood producers: if you are going to reboot your franchises every five years you don’t need to worry about taking valuable screen time to build up having younger characters pick up the reins for the title roles in future movies.

The best part of the movie was without a doubt Anne Hathaway as Salina Kyle.  Although there were a few directing decisions that seemed like missed opportunities—like what could have been a more overt and less subtle switch from innocent maid to deceitful thief in a key early scene—her dialogue was the best of anyone’s in the film and her performance was also spot on.  Her character had chemistry with Wayne, and if there was a saving grace to the movie it was the scenes of Batman and Catwoman together.  Hathaway seemed literally to bring out better acting by Bale.

One good scene had Fox introduce Wayne to some new gadgetry, straight out of any Q scene in a 007 movie.  Cameos from actors in past movies were also a nice addition, added some fun to the film, and the story at least made an effort to try to tie up storylines from early films.

Despair and hopelessness accounted for a long film that I thought would never end.  Once it got to an ending, the creators could not decide which ending to use, so they used them all.  The sound was loud throughout without letting up, lots of thumps and bass notes to tell you when you’re supposed to feel angst or fear.  I know operatically the third scene of a three-part work often can have a large gothic, epic feel winding up to a conclusion, but the film did not feel like an ending, more like another installment in a continuing franchise.  But the foundation of this third installment rests on the proposition that Harvey Dent was a bad guy in installment two.  Harvey Dent was a victim who turned bad in the end.  Gordon and Wayne do the right thing by not revealing the criminal acts he committed after his life was ruined.  After all, Harvey Dent was dead.  Yet so much of The Dark Knight Rises hinges on Gordon’s conflicts with this decision to keep this quiet.  In the big scheme of things it’s not the gravity needed to support a film.  It’s not enough to support a story and what happens to cause Gotham to fall apart.

The crowd had a good time but there sure was a lot to discuss afterward.  Ultimately disappointment was what I walked away with for the new film, happy that I got to see The Dark Knight movie in the theater again, and it really left me looking forward to a new director and a new vision for future Batman films.

The Dark Knight Rises at our theater included a great, extended trailer for the next James Bond 007 film, Skyfall, including revealing the new Q actor as the young Ben Whishaw from The Hour—a very cool switch-up from the older characters playing Q in the past.  We also saw a previously released trailer for The Hobbit, which looked great, and a fun preview for Expendables 2.  The big reveal we were waiting for was the teaser trailer for DC Comics’ coming Superman reboot Man of Steel, and it was disappointing–very bland and unremarkable for what we heard was to be an exciting new preview.

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