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Tag Archive: Woody Harrelson


Review by C.J. Bunce

Eighty-five years ago today, April 1, 1934, two Texas highway patrolmen, 26-year-old Edward Wheeler and 22-year-old Holloway Murphy were on motorcycle patrol, checking on a car they thought may need assistance.  Instead, they were gunned down by Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker.  It was Easter Sunday.  The two notorious criminals had repeatedly evaded the law, in part because they were sheltered in an era where the stupidity of the masses outweighed sense and a large segment of the populace viewed them as some kind of folk heroes.  Despite being captured by two former Texas Rangers, Frank Hamer and Maney Gault, that legendary hero status stuck somehow, thanks in part to Hollywood, and specifically the rather popular and also critically acclaimed movie Bonnie and Clyde starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.  That film portrayed a rollicking, at times humorous, ride, which in fact, shared little of substance about the criminals and their victims.  Hollywood is now doing an about-face with a new, edgy, thoughtful drama, which includes the murders of Wheeler and Murphy and others, in director John Lee Hancock‘s The Highwaymen, now on Netflix.

Hancock, who wrote screenplays for the Kevin Costner/Clint Eastwood film A Perfect World, the screenplay for Eastwood’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and wrote and directed the 2004 version of The Alamo, offers up a reserved, measured tale not of the infamous criminals this time, but the two aging men, Hamer and Gault, who knew how to track and kill criminals.  That’s thanks to a script by John Fusco, who has experience writing historical accounts for the screen, as found in his Billy the Kid story Young Guns, the Babe Ruth biopic Babe, the 1890s horse rider tale Hidalgo, and his heavily researched series Marco Polo.  Despite the sometimes dry “historical drama” label, The Highwaymen is by no means devoid of compelling storytelling.  Plus, headlined by Kevin Costner, playing the elder more experienced former Ranger Frank Hamer, and Woody Harrelson as the slightly less experienced B.M. “Maney” Gault, the film showcases the chemistry between the duo.  In one key dramatic sequence the two lawmen come upon a temporary residence for the criminals, looking for clues among the closeted clothing in what could be the bedroom of any small town couple of the day.  But Harrelson may get the most satisfying scene, as he responds to being cornered by a group of Barrow supporters while in a public restroom.

The film is fueled by a compelling musical score by Thomas Newman (Spectre, Skyfall, Road to Perdition, The Shawshank Redemption, Fried Green Tomatoes, The Man With One Red Shoe), the kind of a soundtrack that will no doubt stand well as its own creative work.  His score sets the tempo of the picture while not overtaking it, as happened with Ennio Morricone’s Oscar-nominated score for Costner’s The Untouchables, a similar era film that will no doubt be compared to The HighwaymenNewman’s music is entirely different, a balance of post-Civil War, Western, and Depression-era motifs with guitar that echoes the former Rangers’ cowboy, horse-riding past.  Cinematographer John Schwartzman delivers the kind of bleak, spacious, 1930s America perhaps last scene in László Kovács’ film work on Peter Bogdanovich’s depression-era film Paper Moon.

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No one could have predicted when the original Star Wars won six of ten Academy Awards in 1978 that a new Star Wars film would be nominated 41 years later.  At the end of 2019 all will be known–with Episode IX to be released in December the entirety of George Lucas’s nine-part Star Wars saga will be complete.  Although the Skywalker family and its legacy is done, Disney and Lucasfilm will be sure that Star Wars is very far from over.  But expect this year to be full of nostalgic products looking back over the course of the four decades since we first saw the words, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away…”  Two movie souvenir compilation books will take Star Wars fans across the film franchise.  Solo: A Star Wars Story Ultimate Guide presents interviews and photographs behind and in front of the camera from Ron Howard’s film.  And today Star Wars: The Saga Begins arrives in book stores, taking a rare look back at the Star Wars prequel trilogy.  We have previews of both books for you to check out below.

In Star Wars: The Saga Begins readers will find articles collected from Star Wars Insider, the magazine that has provided fans with the latest fandom and news since 1994.  In September 1997 with Issue #35, fans got their first glimpses at what would follow the original trilogy, as publisher and fan club president Dan Madsen provided updates in each issue with producer Rick McCallum.  Unfolding until 2005 and beyond, Star Wars Insider provided first looks at new prequel ships, characters, and locations.  Interviews explained what was happening behind the scenes of The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith from the likes of director George Lucas, actors Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmid, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Temuera Morrison, Daniel Logan, Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Daniels, and Brian Blessed, plus concept artists Ralph McQuarrie and Doug Chiang, composer John Williams, costume designer Trisha Biggar, sound designer Ben Burtt and many more.  Star Wars: The Saga Begins is packed with concept artwork and prototypes of creatures and props, plus storyboards and costume designs.  And it has hundreds of photographs.

A similarly designed look at Solo: A Star Wars Story can be found in Solo: A Star Wars Story Ultimate Guide Readers will find Star Wars Insider interviews and profiles from director Ron Howard, writers Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan, actors Alden Ehrenreich, Joonas Suotamo, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau, and Thandie Newton, plus composer John Powell, creature maker Neal Scanlan, and costume designers David Crossman and Glyn Dillon.  The Ultimate Guide is full of good detail shots of the Millennium Falcon and sections featuring the newly designed Imperial armor and ships created for the film.

Here are previews from each book, courtesy of Titan:

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We haven’t seen Kevin Costner as an Oscar contender for thirty years, but the latest Netflix release has all the right elements for that kind of potential with Costner back with his Gary Cooper-esque style, and that Oscar possibility may line up for Woody Harrelson, too.  The first trailer for The Highwaymen has arrived and if you’re as much of a fan of The Untouchables as we are, this new historical drama about bringing the crime duo of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow to justice in 1934 may be just for you.  And with theatrical releases slated for two weeks in advance of its Netflix premiere, it may also be the Netflix movie that gets you to buy tickets and see it on the big screen.

Director John Lee Hancock (The Founder, The Rookie, Saving Mr. Banks, The Blind Side, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Snow White and the Huntsman, A Perfect World) is putting aside the comedy of the famous 1967 version–Bonnie and Clyde with Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, which garnered ten Oscar nominations–opting for a gritty, realistic take on the brutal murderers and their bloody end.  Originally developed years ago by screenplay writer John Fusco (Crossroads, Young Guns, Marco Polo) to star Robert Redford and Paul Newman, the movie tracks Costner as Frank Hamer and Harrelson as Maney Gault, both real-life ex-Texas Rangers commissioned as special investigators by banks to finally capture the infamous robbers and murderers.  It’s hard not to see Costner’s Eliot Ness from The Untouchables, but this time taking on older cop Sean Connery’s role in the story, or even the Clint Eastwood role instead of the convict part he played in Hancock’s 1993 hot pursuit movie A Perfect World.

The supporting cast could hardly look better, with Kathy Bates (Misery, Titanic) as Governor Ma Ferguson, and Hancock’s The Founder co-star John Carroll Lynch as Lee Simmons, along with Hancock’s The Blind Side co-star Kim Dickens.  It also features Thomas Mann (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Kong: Skull Island), and perennial TV and film favorites W. Earl Brown (The X-Files, Deadwood, True Detective) and William Sadler (Wonderfalls, Deep Space Nine).

Here is the trailer for The Highwaymen:

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Merry Christmas!

It’s that time of year again, time to take a look forward at what movies should be on your radar for 2019.  Are you going to see them all?  Heck no.  These are the genre films we think borg readers will want to know about to make their own checklists for the coming year–and they are only the films we know about so far.  We pulled 78 of the hundreds of films that have been finalized or are in varying stages of final production, slated for next year’s movie calendar.

What looks to top the list for most fanboys and fangirls?  The last of the nine films in the Star Wars saga.  Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, and Spider-Man: Far From Home.  Shazam! is DC’s contribution.  Quentin Tarentino returns to movies to direct Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Martin Scorcese is back with an all-star cast in The Irishman (on Netflix).  M. Night Shyamalan finishes his dark superhero trilogy with GlassArnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton return in TerminatorJordan Peele is back with another horror film with Us.

Do you like sequels?  This is your year.  Another Men in Black, X-Men, Shaft, Happy Death Day, Lego Movie, Hellboy, John Wick, Kingsman, Jumanji, The Secret Life of Pets, How to Train Your Dragon, Fast and the Furious, Zombieland, Addams Family, Charlie’s Angels, Godzilla, Shaun the Sheep, Annabelle,and Stephen King’s It and Pet SemataryDisney is trying to get you to move into your local theater with another Toy Story, Aladdin, Dumbo, Frozen, and Lion King–all in one year.  Yep, lots and lots of sequels are coming.

Some films don’t have locked-in release dates yet.  Amazon Prime and Netflix haven’t revealed dates for these 2019 releases:

  • Martin Scorcese’s The Irishman, a film about Jimmy Hoffa starring Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, and Bobby Cannavale (Netflix)
  • The Kid, a Western biopic with Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Dane DeHaan, and Vincent D’Onofrio (Netflix)
  • The Man Who Killed Hitler Then Bigfoot, starring Sam Elliott (Netflix)
  • 6 Underground, a Michael Bay film starring Ryan Reynolds, Ben Hardy, Dave Franco, and Mélanie Laurent (Netflix)
  • The Last Thing He Wanted, Dee Rees directs Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck, Willem Dafoe, and Toby Jones; journalist quits newspaper job to become an arms dealer for a covert government agency (Netflix)
  • The Laundromat, Steven Soderbergh directs Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, James Cromwell, about the Pentagon Papers (Netflix)
  • Radioactive, Rosamund Pike plays Marie Curie, with Anya Taylor-Joy (Amazon)

Some of these films will have revised release dates, or get pushed to 2020.

So grab your calendar and start making your plans–here are the movies you’ll want to see in 2019 (and many you might not):

January

Glass – Superhero, M. Night Shyamalan trilogy part 3, stars Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, James McAvoy; continues where Unbreakable and Split left off – January 18.

Serenity – Mystery/Thriller, stars Anne Hathaway, Jason Clarke, Djimon Hounsou, Jeremy Strong, Diane Lane; sorry, no relation to Firefly – January 25.

King of Thieves – Heist Comedy, stars Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay, Charlie Cox, Michael Gambon, and Ray Winstone – January 25.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For a movie that had some pretty rough previews, including Tom Hardy as a journalist with some indecipherable dialogue and a scientist who mispronounced a key word in the story, the end result may come as a surprise: Venom is actually a pretty good movie.  Do we credit a great post-production and re-shoots, including a complete redo of the strange “symbiote” explanatory scene, or does Sony need to simply work on improving its movie trailers?  Frankly all that matters is what made it to the screen.  Fans of the comic book anti-hero and villain, of alien invasion movies, of that unique character design from co-creator artist Todd McFarlane, of Tom Hardy, and non-traditional superhero movies, you’ll have to work to find anything wrong with this movie.  It’s a good Halloween month monster movie and you don’t need to know anything about the character or Marvel Comics to jump right in.  But you just might want to check out the comics after you see it.  Like Frank Miller caused Daredevil to become popular, McFarlane made Venom big in the 1980s.  Unlike McFarlane’s movie Spawn, an R-rated film that was too dark for mainstream audiences, the PG-13 rating for Venom makes this movie accessible to everyone.

A mix of the classic alien invasion flick, the horrifying McFarlane character look, with the grimy city vibe like the Detroit of Robocop, Venom has elements that make it feel like it belongs in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, regardless of its origin as a Sony film.  As for quality and delivery, it falls somewhere above Blade, Iron Man 2 and 3, The Fantastic Four, the Hulk movies, and Spawn, X-Men 3 and X-Men: Apocalypse, and somewhere below Hellboy and Deadpool.  For most fans of adaptations of comic books on the big screen, that will be enough.  Full of good humor moments, the film doesn’t take itself seriously.  We meet the archetype from 80 years of superhero comics with Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock, an Everyman, a down-and-out guy who can never get a break who gets caught making a few mistakes.  Usually this archetype ends up captured by Batman (or insert other superhero here) and thrown into the slammer, but this time he encounters a body shifting alien presence that merges with him, blending the best and worst of both beings.  Beginning with a crash landing as a SpaceX-inspired ship returns with some specimens from outer space, we eventually meet four alien beings, the lowliest of rank who calls himself Venom.  Merged with Eddie, Venom needs to eat living lifeforms to continue on and he doesn’t grasp the subtleties of only killing bad guys just yet.  Audiences will get to watch these aliens, the symbiotes, body-shift through several random characters (like Denzel Washington’s character in the movie Fallen), including the key cast and an animal or two–and it’s mostly great fun.

Venom is probably a rare time audiences will see Michelle Williams in a stock role.  Usually every part she takes on results in an Oscar-worthy performance, but it’s nice seeing her do something less dramatic.  And she gets some great scenes directly with Venom (including an Easter Egg scene that points straight back to the origin of the character originally discussed between Marvel Comics editor Jim Salicrup and writer/co-creator David Michelinie).  This may be Tom Hardy’s best role since Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (where he was the only good thing in the movie), as he at last gets to play a spectrum of emotions and demonstrate a broad acting range.  Despite what we heard in the movie trailers, his regional American accent is spot on in the final cut and his dialogue is delivered clearly–none of that crazy speech we saw him bring as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises Not hiding behind make-up or masks as in Mad Max: Fury Road, Dunkirk, or Star Trek: Nemesis, Hardy again proves he’s one of the best actors around.  The sound department gets it just right–Hardy’s voice is also the voice transformed into the monstrous, demonic sounding Venom, and it’s unique and effective.  No doubt some elaborate work went on behind the scenes for Hardy-as-Eddie to be arguing with Hardy-as-Venom.  Some of the best lines, and laugh-out-loud moments come from Venom, reminiscent of Gollum and Sméagol.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Maybe you don’t need the Old West to have a great Western after all.  Bringing back the feel of the first third of the original Star Wars: A New Hope with a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid level of fun and humor, Solo: A Star Wars Story is finally in theaters with something for every Star Wars fan.  The saloons may be different and so are the sidearms, but this is the story of a young gunfighter, complete with the related outlaws and mercenaries, partners and betrayals, card playing, and gunfights.  With the sweeping adventure of The Empire Strikes Back, the perfectly rebuilt and repackaged nostalgia of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and a jumping off point for a galaxy of possibilities for beloved characters we only thought we knew, director Ron Howard delivers.  Not weighted down by the gloom and doom of the Dark Side in Rogue One or the rest of the Star Wars films, this Star Wars story creates new and original locations and situations for a few familiar characters plus many new ones and still ties into the overall episodic stories, taking place after Revenge of the Sith, but before Star Wars Rebels and Rogue One.  Yet we meet many new characters and questions are raised in the film that beg for one or more sequels to this branch off the main Star Wars saga–we can now have many new tie-in novels, comics, TV series, and maybe even movies to keep it all going.  If you didn’t think The Last Jedi captured the nostalgia or fun of earlier Star Wars films, then Solo is for you–not since The Empire Strikes Back has an entry in the saga been such a rollercoaster ride.

Surprises?  In a film that could have just filled in the blanks, the surprises were dished out from beginning to end, including some big ones we won’t mention here.  The overall tone is something out of Amazing High Adventure, and it makes perfect sense: It’s Silverado in space.  Screenplay writer Lawrence Kasdan (who wrote the screenplay with son Jonathan Kasdan), known for writing Westerns Silverado and Wyatt Earp, prior Star Wars entries The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens, and that greatest of adventure movies Raiders of the Lost Ark, was the perfect match to veteran director and movie icon Ron Howard.  The Western inspiration is supported visually in the Frederic Remington-inspired colors and landscapes.  You can spot the World War II movie references along the way, too, that Kasdan and Howard no doubt enjoyed as moviegoers over the years, like Von Ryan’s Express.  The relationships between characters evoke gangster movies and even pirate tales like Treasure Island.  Science fiction fans will see parallels to Han’s band of mercenaries in both the crew of the Ghost in Star Wars Rebels and Joss Whedon’s Serenity crew in the Firefly television series.

The Kasdans smartly injected those scenes every fan has thought about, pulled from passing references throughout the original trilogy to become fully realized plot threads, and then they folded in so much more.  Without the religion and mysticism of the Force, Solo: A Star Wars Story breaks the precedents of the saga as space fantasy to become arguably the first end-to-end science fiction movie of the franchise.  And it’s not just a fun movie.  Viewers will get plenty to think about.  Characters here are sometimes swapped into positions taken by other characters (and beasts) in prior movies in a way that will make moviegoers want to take another look at the prior films again.

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The Marvel Comics character Venom is a creature of the 1980s, and not having the benefit of 50-70 years in the histories of comicdom like so many superheroes in movies these days, mainstream audiences know very little about the character.  Well-known genre actor Tom Hardy is taking on the role of the once villain/now anti-hero Eddie Brock, seen only once taking on the black tar-like goo suit before by those who made it to Sam Raimi’s Spider-man 3.  That film featured That ’70s Show’s Topher Grace in the role.  Kids in the 1980s first witnessed the genesis of the character in the wildly popular Marvel Comics mini-series Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars, Issue #8, by writer Jim Shooter and artist Mike Zeck.  Most kids appreciated the new look.  Originally intended to give Spider-man a new black and white costume, the story became one about a symbiotic suit that attached to Spider-man, which went on to attach to Eddie Brock, who became Spidey’s Public Enemy #1 as the very Todd McFarlane-styled character known as Venom in later stories.  But don’t look for images of that guy just yet.

The first teaser for Sony Entertainment’s film is out, showcasing more of the noir look of the film and Tom Hardy’s established acting talent than anything typical of most superhero tales.  In other words, no look at Venom yet.  It’s long for a teaser, but reveals little about the plot or character.  Hardy has earned his sea legs in genredom.  He was only one of a handful of actors to play a Star Trek villain in the movies, starring as the Captain Picard clone Shinzon in Star Trek Nemesis.  He reprised Mel Gibson’s Mad Max in Mad Max: Fury Road, and in that other giant comic book franchise he played the B-team villain Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.  Along the way he proved himself in several dramatic roles, in the likes of Band of Brothers, Black Hawk Down, Layer Cake, Inception, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and as the World War II flying ace of the current Oscar-nominated film Dunkirk.  

  

With Venom Hardy takes on another comic book B-team character, but without a full face mask as in The Dark Knight Rises and instead with his face covered in only part of Venom as in Mad Max: Fury Road, maybe Hardy will have a greater opportunity to make an impact and make this character his own.  This is Sony’s first follow-up to their successful redux of Spidey in Spider-man: Homecoming, and word is out that new Spidey Tom Holland was on-set for Venom, possibly doing some filming.  Four-time Oscar nominee and star of the current Oscar-nominated film All the Money in World, Michelle Williams plays Eddie’s ex.  Solo: A Star Wars Story co-star Woody Harrelson also has a role in the film.

Check out this brief teaser for Venom:

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Unlike yesterday’s sneak peek, everyone gets coverage in this trailer, and it definitely has a Blade Runner feel with its music, and the story clip seems like an “assemble the team,” Seven Samurai/The Magnificent Seven story concept (the very first expanded story concept for Star Wars, originally published in the 1978 Marvel Comics), or maybe a Firefly ship crew-focused story.

We have first looks at a young Han (Alden Ehrenreich), Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), and Lando (Donald Glover).  More Millennium Falcon.  New characters played by Emilia Clarke (Qi’ra pronounced Kira) and Woody Harrelson (Tobias Beckett).  The droid that looks like Qi’ra or Lando’s partner is called L3-37, voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge.  And that’s Thandie Newton as a new character named Val.

Solo shot 2

And, in case you missed them, trailers for Avengers: Infinity War and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom are all below.

Check out the exciting new trailer for Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story:

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At last Star Wars fans finally have their first look at Ron Howard’s prequel movie Solo: A Star Wars Story, and there’s plenty to see.

We have first looks at a young Han (Alden Ehrenreich), Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), and Lando (Donald Glover).  And even a younger Millennium Falcon!

And new characters played by Emilia Clarke (Qi’ra pronounced Kira) and Woody Harrelson (Tobias Beckett).

And lots of Imperials…

Check out the teaser trailer for Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story, with the full trailer to follow tomorrow:

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The granddaddy of American genre franchises offers up its next entry next week.  Billed as the final chapter, War for the Planet for the Apes at a minimum will bring the reboot universe into a complete trilogy story, focused on star Andy Serkis as Caesar.  The story continues two years after the events in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (directed by Reeves), the sequel to the first of the reboot series, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (co-produced by Clark).  So unlike many franchises these days, the same people are creating the beginning, the middle, and the end.  Thanks to director Matt Reeves and producer Dylan Clark, we should have some continuity among the films.

War for the Planet for the Apes introduces to the films Woody Harrelson as a military leader bringing mankind’s last stand to the apes.  War for the Planet of the Apes co-stars Karin Konoval (The X-Files, Tru Calling, Fringe, Supernatural, Psych, Arrow), Judy Greer (Ant-Man, Tomorrowland, Jurassic World), Chad Rook (Timeless, Supernatural), Ty Olsson (Continuum, Supernatural, Battlestar Galactica) and Steve Zahn (That Thing You Do!, Sahara).  

The final poster is out (above, top) and a few more trailers revealed.  We have a full scene below featuring the introduction of Zahn, known for his comedic performances, revealed as a new ape referred to as “Bad Ape,” a reference given by humans while he was kept at a zoo.  Quickly we see what all the buzz is about with respect to the show’s special effects and Andy Serkis’s unique acting talent.  Will the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences award Serkis with a full acting Oscar, breaking the barrier for motion capture performances?  Also, make sure you watch below the very sly teaser of sorts incorporating what looks at first blush to be someone’s YouTube upload from a visit to a zoo.  First up, here is a great look behind the scenes at the motion capture technology and Andy Serkis’s role:

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