Apr 30, 2013

The Pan Pacific Defense Committee wants you!

These new viral posters for "Pacific Rim" reach back to hallowed antiquity for their graphic inspiration, exhorting the humans of a world under siege to join the war effort and fight the accurs-ed Kaiju. Guillermo del Toro has said he wanted "a very, very romantic look" for his modern day clash of the titans. With, as he told the LA Times; "a lot of crazy rain, wind, all the drama of an Emily Bronte movie in a high-tech movie.”

Click the thumbnails to see larger versions of the posters.

"Pacific Rim" opens July 12th.

Trippy new TV spot for "The Great Gatsby"

I read F. Scott Fitzgerald's tale of post WWI decadence years ago but I don't remember it being quite the surreal, mind-expanding journey through an art director's brain that this film is looking like. Not that that's a bad thing. Just a little unexpected (though Lana Del Ray seems like a perfect fit).

"The Great Gatsby" starring Leonardo DiCaprio opens May 10th.

Apr 29, 2013

New "Pacific Rim" Wondercon trailer

Guillermo del Toro's "Pacific Rim" is shaping up to be the monster movie of the year and maybe the best since "Cloverfield". The quality of the footage released so far has been consistently superb and in this trailer, initially screened at Wondercon, we get a more rounded sense of the narrative and scale of the action. I'm getting goosebumps.

"Pacific Rim" opens July 12th.

The top 10 movies for the weekend of April 26 - April 28, 2013

1) Pain and Gain $20 Million
2) Oblivion $17.8 Million
3) 42 $10.6 Million
4) The Big Wedding $7.5 Million
5) The Croods $6.7 Million
6) G.I. Joe: Retaliation $3.7 Million
7) Scary Movie 5 $3.4 Million
8) Olympus Has Fallen $2.8 Million
9) The Place Beyond the Pines $2.6 Million
10) Jurassic Park 3D $2.3 Million

The number one movie a year ago this week was Screen Gems' "Think Like a Man" which held on to the top spot for a second week with a $17.6 million haul.

(Green indicates new release)

Apr 28, 2013

"Fast and Furious 6" trailer: hot rods save the world!


In this final trailer for the upcoming "Fast and Furious 6" the kids from the neighborhood are all over that international crime thing, working with the man to bring down G.I. Joe-type global threats. How did we get here? I have no idea but it looks like fun!

"Fast and Furious 6" is due in theaters May 24th.

Apr 27, 2013

"Iron Man 3" - 2013 - movie review

"Iron Man 3" opens on New Years Eve 1999 in Switzerland. Tony's at a Y2K party and gets approached in an elevator by tech weirdo Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce, the rich man's Val Kilmer) who tries to convince him to get behind his hi-tech think tank. Tony basically blows him off and Aldrich spends the rest of the night doing his Phantom of the Opera meets the Joker routine on the building's roof. Something tells me we haven't seen the last of him.

Fast forward to the present where Tony narrates how he's a different man now. He's tinkering endlessly on some new technology, a suit that can be called from a distance. In what seems like a pretty forced piece of exposition Tony informs us that in the aftermath of "New York" he's desperate to protect the one thing he can't live without. That would be Pepper Potts (Gwenyth Paltrow), who listens dutifully. As a result he's not sleeping and begun to suffer anxiety attacks.

Meanwhile someone called The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) has suddenly become America's most wanted. He breaks into national TV broadcasts and sounds dire warnings about the end, sending the always day-late-and-a-dollar-short national security apparatus into full hissy-fit mode. Shortly afterward, over at Stark headquarters, our long lost pal from Switzerland suddenly shows up hocking his think tank's latest techno breakthrough "extremis" to CEO Potts. Pepper is amazed and more than a little turned on. Are you seeing this Tony?

At this point we're not exactly sure what "extremis" does but we're pretty sure it's not your standard iphone app. Shortly thereafter Tony's head of security Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) is seriously injured when a suspicious character he's been following suddenly turns into a human candle then explodes. It's a damn good thing Tony's been a-tinkering and managed to developed those 40+ Iron Man suits equipped with his latest "Come 'ere boy!" technology. Something tells me he's going to need them.

After his buddy is injured Tony gets personal and broadcasts his intention to take down the Mandarin and provides his address in case the bearded one is up for some old fashion fisticuffs. He's not really. What he does instead is send his minions in helicopters with air to ground missiles to take out Tony's Malibu house, sending it plunging into the ocean in a billion pieces. The worst part of the whole attack is watching poor Jarvis twitching in his mechanical patheticness as Tony and the Saucer Section slide into the ocean. Thankfully no one is hurt (miraculously it seems, not even Jarvis) though the world now believes Tony went down with the ship.

Though Tony survives the prototype suit he's wearing has more software glitches than windows Vista. He needs to regroup and so finds somebody's old workshop garage and settles in. Thing is those workshop garages tend to belong to people and it turns out this one is guarded by a local kid who the Disney marketing department told the producers the series badly needed.

From here the story becomes one of Tony getting back on his feet and facing down the menace, which he does with the help of those 40-odd spare suits, the moral support of the kid from marketing and some old-fashioned, Hollywood illogic (as in: arch villain captures hero but neglects to kill him after vowing repeatedly to do just that). Downey plays his role with his usual aplomb and the supporting characters - now comfortably familiar with the drill - all do their best to earn their enormous paychecks while shouldering the burden of the story's narrative twists (of which there are a couple of interesting ones and a couple you can see coming several miles away).

Make no mistake, Iron Man 3 is better than Iron Man 2 but it lacks the sense of surprise that made the original a must-see event for pop-culture vultures. It certainly kept my attention throughout (though it sagged noticeably in the middle) and devotees of the franchise will probably love it. Nonetheless it's become so incredibly predictable in spots and the writers have had to go to such absurd lengths to try and keep it fresh that it seems like we've reached the end of something with this film, and maybe we have. (Where do you go from 40+ suits?) Paltrow herself when asked about IM4 recently said “I don’t think there’s going to be [an Iron Man 4]. I think we’re done with Iron Man.” Iron man was never, after all, a top tier superhero character and in this film, with the sense of freshness just a fond memory, it's beginning to show. Left to his own devices IM cannot carry a story on his back like, say, Batman can. He needs help. In the case of this movie, lots of it. So much in fact that there are times during the film where Stark feels like a supporting character himself.

To at least some degree Iron Man 3 suffers as a direct result of the success of "The Avengers". While the character had a resurgence of sorts in that movie following the disappointing IM2, it was, it seems now, a false dawn. It worked because in that flm he was little more than a smart ass counter point to the rest of the cast: classic comic relief. Gimli. Here he's back in the spotlight alone and I'm left thinking; "The Avengers sure was a great flick."

Verdict: ★★★☆☆

Apr 26, 2013

New clip from "Iron Man 3"

Tony gets all vulnerable in this clip from the upcoming release, emoting toward Pepper (Commando) Potts about how his world has changed "since New York" and how he's really just "a man in a can". Gee, now that you put it that way...

Look for the canned man to hit theaters next weekend.

Apr 25, 2013

Abrams says a few words about "Cloverfield 2"

One of the most one-sided conversations in movieland for the past few years has been between fans of "Cloverfield" and the film's maker, one J.J. Abrams. Fans have been clamoring for a sequel almost since the original hit the screens but Abrams himself has said virtually nothing on the subject, neither affirming nor denying that he wants/intends to make a sequel which leads fans to fill in the blanks themselves.

Well now in an interview with Playboy (NSFW) Abrams finally says something about a sequel for the ugly sucker from the deep.

seems we can safely return this head to its owner
 “Part of me just wants to let ['Cloverfield 2'] go, though we’ve had a couple of discussions about cool ways to do it. I’m looking forward to seeing Pacific Rim this summer. It feels like there are some really big monsters coming down the pike that could inspire something we do.”

"A couple of discussions..."? "...could inspire something..."? Not exactly words you can take to the bank. And with 2 gi-normous film franchises now set to occupy his time and energy for years to come it seems likely that Cloverfield will wind up one of the more intriguing on-offs in recent cinema history. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing. Not every film needs to become a franchise (though I wouldn't mind some day visiting the parallel universe where Cloverfield was the franchise and "Transformers" the one-off).

Apr 24, 2013

Be careful Bread-head man!

Sometimes it's the simple things that bring the biggest smiles.

New clip from "Star Trek Into Darkness" - UPDATED

The promo clips are flying out of Paramount's marketing department as we close in on the May 17th release date for "Star Trek Into Darkness". This clip is oozing with naughty overtones and reminds me just a bit of another scene from another sci-fi movie. Hmmmm...

UPDATE: After creating this post I found a Japanese teaser trailer (below) for "Into Darkness" that contains some previously unseen footage. Rather than create yet another "Into Darkness" post I'm adding it to this one. Enjoy!

Apr 23, 2013

Stallone chooses director for "Expendables 3"

Patrick Hughes
Sly Stallone finally got the Aussie director he wanted, sort of. Stallone teased recently about bringing Mel Gibson on board to direct the third installment of his Geritol/HGH franchise but in the end he went with Patrick Hughes. Hughes came to light with his debut "Red Hill" which impressed a lot of industry types but didn't make much noise at the box office.

While I'm sure Hughes will be able to handle the project one has to wonder exactly what happened to Mel. If I had to guess the notion of having Stallone hanging over your shoulder 24/7 during production questioning everything you do wasn't a prospect an accomplished director like Gibson could stomach. Though that's speculation on my part. Perhaps he just didn't want to do it or had a scheduling conflict or maybe Stallone himself was just jerking everyone around with the Gibson tease, trying to generate buzz for his project.

Whatever the reason it's Patrick Hughes for E3. We wish him well.

First trailer for "Thor: The Dark World"

It's been a long time coming for this fan of the original film but the waiting is over at last with the release of the first trailer for "Thor: The Dark World". Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard and just about everyone else (including one prince of the realm who we last saw being led away in intergalactic handcuffs at the end of "The Avengers") returns for a second go-round, this time with Alan Taylor at the helm.

Here's the skinny:

Marvels "Thor: The Dark World" continues the big-screen adventures of Thor, the Mighty Avenger, as he battles to save Earth and all the Nine Realms from a shadowy enemy that predates the universe itself. In the aftermath of Marvels "Thor" and "Marvels The Avengers," Thor fights to restore order across the cosmos...but an ancient race led by the vengeful Malekith returns to plunge the universe back into darkness. Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all.

Is it November 8th yet?

Apr 22, 2013

Spock has left the building in this new "Star Trek Into Darkness" clip

NotKirk: "What would Spock do?"
Bones: "He'd let you die."
NotKirk: "Ouch! Alright then set a course for Blahblah IX and get us the hell outa here!"

"Star Trek Into Darkness" opens May 17th.

The top 10 movies for the weekend of April 19 - April 21, 2013

1) Oblivion $37 Million
2) 42 $17.7 Million
3) The Croods $9.2 Million
4) Scary Movie 5 $6.1 Million
5) G.I. Joe: Retaliation $5.7 Million
6) The Place Beyond the Pines $4.9 Million
7) Olympus Has Fallen $4.4 Million
8) Evil Dead $4.1 Million
9) Jurassic Park 3D $4 Million
10) Oz the Great and Powerful $3 Million

The number one movie a year ago this week was Screen Gems' "Think Like a Man" which debuted in the top spot with $33.6 million.

(Green indicates new release)

Apr 21, 2013

First trailer for Keanu Reeves' "Man of Tai Chi"

MoTC marks Mr Reeves directorial debut so it's no surprise that he'd choose familiar territory to launch his career in the chair. As of this writing the film hasn't secured a distribution deal or release date but I have a feeling that will change.

Apr 20, 2013

"Oblivion" - 2013 - movie review

First and foremost Joseph Kosinski's "Oblivion" is the best looking movie I've seen since "Prometheus" and together the two films have set a new visual standard for all films, not just sci-fi, to aspire to moving forward. That alone makes it worth the price of admission. But incredible visual style is not the only thing the two films share. Both are also seriously flawed beneath the surface. Ridley Scott's sorta prequel to his 1979 masterpiece "Alien" suffered hugely from head scratching plot turns and characters that seemed like they were plucked out of mid air and dropped into the story.

With Oblivion the problem isn't that you sit there wanting to hold up your hand to block out Fifield or have to stop yourself from laughing when Charlize Theron says "father" the problem is that, beneath the incredible visual eye candy a dozen other (original) films are lurking uncomfortably, including Prometheus (though the only thing besides incredible visuals Oblivion has taken from Scott's film is the aforementioned tendency to leave me scratching my head). The trailers for Oblivion hinted that all might not be well in paradise with this production. Any time a film's visual touchstones are taken from post card racks you know there's an imagination deficit at work, and sure enough, Oblivion falls into what can only be described as narrative oblivion once you get past the setup.

And what is the setup? Well, it's the year 2077. Earth has been abandoned after alien marauders nearly destroyed the moon and our crusty but trusty satellite lost its ability to do its job (controlling tides and the like). As a result earth suffered multiple environmental catastrophes. Unable to withstand the sh*tstorm humanity shipped off to Saturn's moon Titan for some R and R. Cruise's Jack is tasked with making sure any alien stragglers aren't able to sabotage the hydroelectric power generators on earth that supply far away humanity with its electric power. Specifically Jack's job is to repair the drones that do the actual sentinel work of finding and airing out any alien miscreants.

So far so good. I kind of like the premise. It's an interesting twist on the much overused alien invasion premise that utilizes the moon, which certainly doesn't get enough credit in popular culture for the yoeman's job it does holding our planet together. So I'll let it slide that there's no conceivable way - even under ideal circumstances - that human beings would be able to overcome the scientific, technological and logistical hurdles of colonizing one of Saturn's moons by the year 2077. So, okay. Between the gorgeous visuals and an interesting premise the film grabs my attention and for the first act holds it fairly well.

The problems arise shortly after the stunning and mysterious Olga Kurylenko crash lands. In short order this potentially visionary film begins to degenrate into a love triangle between Jack, the mystery woman in the pod and Jack's loft-mate Victoria. Throw in a 'forgotten tribe' of human survivors ala "Beyond Thunderdome" led by Morgan Freeman (who shows up for a cup of coffee) who compete with the menage-a-cast for narrative space and we're now firmly in Promethean head-scratching territory.

The writers, it seems, spent a few evenings watching recent sci-fi classics with notebooks in laps and simply crossed out where their notes said Keanu or Harrison and wrote in Tom. Or crossed out TIE fighter and Death Star and wrote Bubble Ship and Grand Canyon. If all this love and theft had resulted in a coherent experience I'd have no (or at least not much) trouble with it. But it seems to be there just to divert from the story's shortcomings rather than make sense of them. Granted, if you're young enough not to recognize all the narrative, uh, sampling it obviously won't bother you. Who knows, you might even think the story works just fine. Personally I found it little more than distracting and disappointing because I was really hoping for something original with this film.

Ultimately its characters that drive our interest in stories. If the characters are compelling no amount of visual shortcoming is going to keep people away. If on the other hand your movie is all surface and no soul you've got problems. The characters in Oblivion never have a chance to breath before they suffocate under a heavy blanket of lazy narrative decisions and post modern appropriation.

The bottom line is I walked out of Oblivion feeling almost exactly how I felt walking out of Prometheus last year. Blown away by all the visual miracle-working, confused as to why a production with a budget north of $100 million couldn't find a better writer.

Verdict: ★★★☆☆

Off the beaten track trailer of the day - "The Shadow Sea"

For this OTBTTOTD we're highlighting a film-noir project being put together by a friend of ours, Richard Chambers. Richard is a fellow artist and film maker who spends most of his time in Bangkok these days. The trailer here is a Proof of Concept piece created for the film's soon-to-be-launched indiegogo financing campaign. Shot guerrilla style utilizing only volunteers and donated equipment the trailer's a pretty good example of what a dedicated bunch of people can do when they put their minds to it. Check it out.

Brief synopsis: Past and present, east and west collide on the streets of Bangkok as a former Las Vegas hitman attempts to shine a light into the darkest corners of the city.

The indiegogo campaign will be up in a few days. In the meantime you can learn more about the film at its facebook page here.

Apr 19, 2013

Sound design featurette for "Oblivion"

This 10 minute long, eleventh-hour featurette from "Oblivion" focuses on sound but what really captures my attention is the look of the film. I can't wait to see it.

"Oblivion" is in theaters this weekend.

Teaser poster for "Thor: The Dark World"

One of the most anticipated movies of the year for me is the sequel to "Thor". Not much has been heard about it as Marvel has focused on priming the pump for "Iron Man 3" the past couple of months. But now, with IM3 almost ready to go focus should start to shift to other properties and right on cue we have the first teaser poster for "Thor: The Dark World".

Not much to go on here except that it seems the god of thunder is going to have to take his insulated cape wherever he's going. The movie opens November 8th. Can't wait.

Apr 17, 2013

Final theatrical trailer for "The Lone Ranger"

Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp play out pretty much the entire movie in this final trailer for the July 3rd Disney release. Sure looks an awful lot like POTC on sand dunes but maybe that just me. Will it be the cash cow that launches a new Lone Ranger trilogy? Who knows? Enjoy the trailer.

Apr 16, 2013

Poster for "300: Rise of an Empire"

Zack Snyder's a busy guy these days what with "Man of Steel" due in theaters in two months and all. He's also producing the sequel to his hit "300" - "300: Rise of an Empire". That film is due in August and we now have the first serious poster for it depicting a gravely serious Spartan soldier casting his gaze over the bow of his ship as a sea battle seems to rage in the background.

If there's an element of this whole production I don't quite get (or should I say I'm not quite buying) its the "300" connection. "Rise of an Empire" has nothing to do with Leonidis and the brave 300 of the original film. It follows parallel events on land and sea that have little to do with the 300 Spartans of legend and more to do with Xerxes. Why not just call it "Xerxes: Rise of an Empire" and be honest about it?

Whatever. As you can see on the poster the film opens August 2nd.

New "Man of Steel" trailer

With the summer season approaching the trailers are coming fast and furious. Zack Snyder's "Man of Steel" hopes to recast Kal-el as something more than a squeaky clean do-gooder by infusing him with some serious self doubt and swathing his movie in low light and emotional dialogue. Will it work? Who knows? But I've got to say that at this point I find Snyder's melancholy outsider much more interesting than past depictions of him as antiseptic and invincible.

"Man of Steel" opens June 14th.

New TV spot for "Pacific Rim"

Guillermo del Toro makes his bid to join the short list of blockbuster directors with "Pacific Rim". The Kaiju, gi-normous creatures from beyond, run roughshod o'er the earth until mankind pulls it together to make a last stand with our own monsters: giant, remotely-controlled robots called Jaegars. Okay, so it looks like "Transformers" meets "Cloverfield". It also looks like 917 pounds of fun!

"Pacific Rim" opens July 12th.

New trailer for "Star Trek Into Darkness"

The trailers for Mr Abrams' Trek sequel continue to make promises I, for one, am hoping the film keeps. This newest trailer delves more into Kirk and the consequences of his notoriously rash temperament.

The trek into darkness begins May 17th.

Apr 15, 2013

The top 10 movies for the weekend of April 12 - April 14, 2013

1) 42 $27.4 Million
2) Scary Movie 5 $14.1 Million
3) The Croods $13.1 Million
4) G.I. Joe: Retaliation $10.8 Million
5) Evil Dead $9.4 Million
6) Jurassic Park 3D $8.8 Million
7) Olympus Has Fallen $7.2 Million
8) Oz the Great and Powerful $4.8 Million
9) Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor $4.5 Million
10) The Place Beyond the Pines $3.8 Million

The number one movie a year ago this week was Lionsgate's "The Hunger Games" which held on to the top spot for a fourth consecutive week with $21 million.

(Green indicates new release)

Apr 14, 2013

New clip from "Iron Man 3"

Tony's in a world of hot water as The Mandarin lays siege to his Malibu mansion in this new clip from "Iron Man 3".

Apr 13, 2013

Off the beaten track trailer of the day - "La Casa Triste (The Sad House)"

Wow. What a beautiful looking piece of work Guadalajara based Sofia Carrillo has crafted here. Apparently she uses objects found in flea markets and the like to create her films and achieve this incredible sense of frozen time. Amazing stuff.

Apr 12, 2013

"Godzilla" production featurette

"Godzilla" is still over a year away but production is well underway in Canada and now we have the first full featurette from the location. While the audio focuses almost exclusively on the benefits of Vancouver as a destination for Hollywood projects if you mute said audio you get an interesting, extended glance behind the curtain. This version of the tale of the iconic reptile from the deep is directed by Gareth Edwards and stars Ken Watanabe and Juliette Binoche. It's due in theaters May 2014.

"Star Trek Into Darkness" banner (I think)

While I appreciate that JJ Abrams has for the most part tossed the old Trek movie template in favor of a more up-tempo, irreverent, action-oriented take on things this latest banner leaves me scratching my head (and not because I've run out of Selsun Blue). Take a good look at the banner below and answer me this question: What's wrong with this picture?

While the new banner is full of heroic (as well as demonic) presence with all of those torqued bodies, furrowed brows and icy stares and the sense of 'realism' is reinforced by the desaturated color one thing I don't see anywhere is a visual reference to Starfleet. Nary a uniform, star ship or for that matter even a lowly insignia appear anywhere in the banner (The one possible exception is some very vague, structural-type massings in the background that could suggest the Enterprise. But you've really got to be looking for them.) Hell, even Spock's pointy ears are hidden in shadow. So few are the indications that this is a banner for a futuristic sci-fi film that if it didn't have the words "Star Trek" in it it could stand in quite nicely for a contemporary action film simply called "Into Darkness". While this is no doubt precisely what Abrams and Co intended it is nonetheless a wee bit jarring for this long-time Trek fan.

"Star Trek Into Darkness" hits IMAX screens May 15th.

Apr 11, 2013

Mel Gibson as director of "Expendables 3"?

Sylvester Stallone has cast an interesting line into the water via twitter wherein he floats the idea of Mel Gibson as director of the upcoming "Expendables 3" and then asks for feedback. Is this something he's doing with Mel's consent? Is Sly just fishing for publicity to keep his project in the public eye? Would Mel even consider such a thing? Here's Sly's twitter tease, written after he had introduced the idea of Mel directing "Expendables 5" in a previous tweet:

No , I was kiddiing about , but seriously , what about Mel Gibson directing EXPENDABLES 3? Opinions anyone ? Curious..... 3:49 PM - 11 Apr 13

Personally I think the idea of Gibson getting back on the directorial horse is a great idea. Trying to bring a Sylvester Stallone script to life however may be asking more than even Gibson, with his Academy Award winning pedigree, could deliver. We'll have to wait and see how this pans out.

"Django Unchained" yanked from Chinese cinemas

Just about everyone in Hollywood has been on their knees in front of China's unelected for a few years now chopping up their movies to appease the politburo and their henchmen in the Chinese censorship bureau. Most recently Quentin Tarantino agreed to alter his latest film in order to secure release in ol' Cathay. However FilmBiz Asia in now reporting that "Django Unchained" has been unceremoniously yanked from screens across the reich for what state oracles hilariously refer to as "technical reasons". Gee, you mean appeasing tyrants doesn't always work? I'm shocked.

Reminds me of a line from "The Empire Strike Back" - Darth: "I'm altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further."

Apr 10, 2013

4 featurettes for "Oblivion" starring Tom Cruise

The producers of "Oblivion" have released a batch of featurettes that touch on design and story aspects of the film. While it's dangerous to judge a book by its cover the fact is that "Oblivion", as seen in these short promotional pieces, has an incredibly beautiful cover. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the substance lives up to the packaging.

"Oblivion" opens April 19th.

Apr 9, 2013

Full trailer for "Elysium" starring Matt Damon

This may be the mother of all dystopian future films if the trailer is any indication. It may also be a slightly tweaked version of the "Battle Angel Alita" story James Cameron's been putting off making for more than a decade. Whether its an entirely original idea or not it looks amazing. Check it out.

"Elysium" starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster opens August 9th.

Apr 8, 2013

"Olympus Has Fallen" - 2013 - movie review

It's garbage trucks full of crazed Korean reunification wackos against Leonidis in "Olympus Has Fallen".

In the 20-odd years since the collapse of the Soviet Union Hollywood has been groping around for a dependable foil. In recent years that job has fallen to Fat Boy Kim and the Rodman-ettes from Pyongyang, who've been holding down the fort nobly while everyone waits for the day when Putin will hoist the hammer and sickle once more over the Kremlin. Not content to demonize just one part of the Korean peninsula however the makers of "Olympus Has Fallen" have decided to give their bad guy roots in both North and South Korea, to make him one of those "reunification" extremists! Oh man they're the worst! But wait! Isn't re-unification a good thing? Wouldn't it mean an end to decades of tense, often bloody conflict? Wouldn't it result in the reuniting of countless families ripped apart by arbitrary political lines of demarcation and freedom for 20 million hostages of that walking Cabbage Patch Doll?

Well, whatever. I'll just get on with the story. Gerard Butler is a secret service agent who loses his spot on the Presidential detail when he saves the Commander-in-chief instead of the first lady in the wake of an accident near Camp David (you tell me how that works). He's consigned to working at the Treasury Department and finds himself there one fine day when all hell breaks loose in D.C.

The dastardly reunificationers have infiltrated the highest levels of the South Korean government and enter the White House with the South Korean PM on an official visit. Suddenly the White House comes under attack from the air. The President and South Korean PM are whisked away to the secure bunker underground. Once there the reunis reveal themselves, kill the PM and take the President and several members of his cabinet hostage. 

Turns out what the bad guys are really after are codes to disable nuclear missles in flight; the thinking being that if they have that then they're basically bullet proof. They intend to use the president's son as leverage to jar loose the last of these codes but he escapes early on pulling the rug out from under that dramatic device for some reason I don't quite understand.

Meanwhile outside garbage trucks full of crazed reunis unload on Pennsylvania Avenue and lay seige to the place while the local defensive contingent of Secret Service agents and marines offer themselves up as targets: at one point walking upright out the front door into a hail of machine gun fire and, predicatably, falling like ten pins. Once they're taken care of the reuni madmen go about unloading their seige equipment in a nice, leisurely fashion and settling in for the long haul.

With most of his inept co-workers dead from trying to stop bullets with their heads it's up to GB (who saw the attack coming from his dismal office at Treasury and made his way down to the action on foot) to take on the murderous reunifying horde practically by himself. He'd better hurry too because the official US response to such an attack is apparently; capitulate. It's an M.O. that everyone involved subscribes to, which was a little surprising to be honest with you. But... whatever.

So over at the Pentagon the guys are enjoying a catered dinner or something while monitoring the situation on their big fancy screens (in order to keep up on current events you see) when in walks Speaker of the House Morgan Freeman. As both the President and Vice President are in dispose in the White House bunker he's the acting President and as everyone else has adopted a policy of capitulation he sees no sense in fighting city hall and decides to give our baddie anything he wants. Good thing there's at least one American on the job who isn't going to bend to the wishes of the usurper. (What? Gerard Butler isn't American? You're kidding?)

While all this is going on GB is stealthily working his way through the big house incrementally making things tougher on the seigers while portraits of former presidents look on approvingly and outside... nothing happens. Average folks watch it all on tv at the bar and the army bunks down for the night content that they've got the situation contained.

The whole thing plays out way more like a Roger Moore era Bond film than anything else and maybe that's what it's supposed to be. Now that Bond has gotten serious somebody needs to fill the nonsense void and what could be better than tasking Leonidis with recapturing the White House. "This is Sparta!" I laughed way more than I gasped during "Olympus Has Fallen" and that's okay. It was sort of like watching "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" only with higher production values.

In the end "Olympus Has Fallen" satisfies a certain kind of niche for jingoistic, macho, chest thumping fun. It's not patently bad, though it's not particularly good either. Let's just say that if you like your politics simple ("You sold your soul!" "Oh yeah, well you sold yours first!") your villains hard to pin down (Come on, these are North Koreans, right? Right?) and your heroes foreign (that would be Mr Butler) then this is the movie for you.

Verdict: ★★☆☆☆

The top 10 movies for the weekend of April 5 - April 7, 2013

1) Evil Dead $25.7 Million
2) G.I. Joe: Retaliation $20.8 Million
3) The Croods $20.6 Million
4) Jurassic Park 3D $18.6 Million
5) Olympus Has Fallen $10.1 Million
6) Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor $10 Million
7) Oz the Great and Powerful $8 Million
8) The Host $5.1 Million
9) The Call $3.5 Million
10) Admission $1.9 Million

The number one movie a year ago this week was Lionsgate's "The Hunger Games" which held on to the top spot for a third consecutive week with $33.1 million in ticket sales.

(Green indicates new release)

Apr 7, 2013

New stills from "Star Trek Into Darkness"

JJ Abrams "Star Trek" sequel is one of the most highly anticipated films of 2013 and the trailers released so far have only stoked the oven of hope that this will be a Trek film for the ages. While the release date is quickly approaching it's not approaching fast enough for my taste so I went searching for something to satisfy my Trek appetite and came up with this new batch of photos from the film over at ropeofsilicon. Enjoy.

"Star Trek Into Darkness" opens May 17th.

Apr 6, 2013

New "Iron Man 3" clip

Tony gets all personal in this new clip from "Iron Man 3". Apparently the Mandarin has gone and pissed him off and in true Tony Stark fashion he calls out the bad guy for some mano a mano. Even gives his home address which, if the trailers can be considered accurate, may not have been such a good idea.

"Iron Man 3" hits theaters May 3rd.

"Pieta" - trailer

When is it too late for redemption? That's the question that drives director Kim Ki-duk's moody and intense "Pieta". Winner of the grand prize at the Venice International Film Festival "Pieta" has finally secured a US release date of May 17th. Here's the synopsis...

"...a loan shark living an isolated and lonely existence uses brutality to threaten and collect paybacks from desperate borrowers for his moneylender boss. He proficiently and mercilessly collects the debts without regard to the pain he causes his countless victims. One day, a mysterious woman appears in front of him claiming to be his long-lost mother. After coldly rejecting her at first, he gradually accepts her in his life and decides to quit his cruel job and seek a decent, redemptive life. However, he soon discovers a dark secret stemming from his past and realizes it may be too late to escape the horrific consequences already set in motion from his previous life."

Apr 5, 2013

"Dark Skies" - 2013 - movie review

"Dark Skies" is a well-executed low budget sci-fi film that borrows heavily from early Spielberg but is not an outright homage to the master the way last year's "Super 8" was. The thing that prevents it from being an homage is the ending; which you'll have to see for yourself.

The Barret family seems from all appearances to be your average middle class clan. Since we live in 2013 that means that at any given time at least one of the two parents is out of a job. As the story begins it's dad (Josh Hamilton) that's down on his luck. Mom (Keri Russell) is a real estate agent and their two kids Sam (Kadan Rockett) and Jesse (Dakota Goyo) are your typical 10 and 13 year olds. The family on display here is nearly a carbon copy of "Close Encounters" Neary family right down to the number of family members, the age and sex of the kids and the parental bickering caused by economic stress aggravated by external forces beyond anyone's control or comprehension.

But while there's some tension in the family at the outset things don't get really rough until one night while on a stroll through the quiet house mom discovers her fridge has been ransacked (another CE reference) and the back door is open. At first no one says much about it and then the youngest son Sam begins acting strangely; peeing his pants, walking in his sleep, telling tales of "the Sandman" visiting him during the night. Slowly, inexoribly tensions escalate with both parents experiencing strange black outs, bizarre natural phenomenon befalling the house and Sam sinking ever deeper and more often into his voodoo-like trances.

Finally, after losing an entire afternoon (not to mention her job) as a result of an on-the-job blackout mom has had enough and begins scouring the internet for any morsels of information that might lead her toward an answer. What she discovers is that hers is not the first family to experience such disturbing goings-on and that there's a guy who lives in a nearby town who claims to have the answers she's looking for. That man is Mr Simmons (Edwin Pollard) who spins a yarn for the concerned couple about an alien invasion that's already taken place and paints a picture of the invaders among us and what they want.

"Dark Skies" as I said borrows heavily from Close Encounters; from the middle American setting to the composition of the family to their roles and relationships to the aliens-raiding-the-fridge to a scene late in the film where tension is built by showing screws being unturned by unseen forces. But CE is not the only film that's left its fingerprints all over Scott Stewart's "Dark Skies". Another obvious influence is "Signs" and, to a lesser degree, "Paranormal Activity" (which should come as no surprise since the producers of this movie also produced PA).

Still in spite of the fact that at about 2 dozen points during the film I found myself thinking: "Hey, that's from ____________ " the film still worked for me because its well directed, well acted and if you're going to steal ideas from others you should steal from the best and do it well, and Stewart has done that here. Keri Russell and the kids do a great job with what they're given as does veteran Edwin Pollard. Maybe the only one in the cast who seems a bit out of place is Josh Hamilton, who never seems quite sure who his character is.

As I said at the beginning the thing that separates "Dark Skies" from "Super 8" is the ending and there's two reasons for that. The first is narrative and as such I can't really talk about it other than to say it's not Spielbergian in tone and the other reason is the blatant way the film opens the door for the sequel in its final frames. Spielberg would not have imagined doing such a thing when he was making his seminal blockbusters of the 70s and 80s and as such JJ Abrams made sure his homage to Spielberg also was not a cheap set up for a franchise. But these are the folks who made a half-baked horror flick like Paranormal Activity into a serial cash-cow and so it's not really a surprise that they'd grab for the franchise ring with this film's last breath. Still, it's all so TV.

Verdict: ★★★☆☆

Apr 4, 2013

Deleted scenes from "The Avengers"

I don't know how long these will be up before the lawyers strike but for what it's worth here are two deleted scenes from "The Avengers" care of Marvel’s ‘Phase One’ Collector’s Edition.

The first clip is an extended dialogue between Loki and "The Other" regarding Loki's plans for earthly conquest and rule. It seems his otherworldly ally's faith in him may not be as strong as he's like it to be, but they throw their hat into the ring with him nonetheless.

The second clip is a very brief featurette on the origins and execution of the now-famous "schwarma" scene.

New "World War Z" poster

Well, if Brad is on his knees in the face of the destruction wrought by billions of marauding sprint-zombies what chance do the rest of us have?! Oh the humanity!

Look for the zombie apocalypse to hit June 21st.

Roger Ebert dies

The world became a little less familiar today when it was announced that film critic Roger Ebert had died after years of health problems. The details of his death are not as important as the life he led, which was one he dedicated to the art form of moving pictures. He was a tireless champion of film, both gi-normous, summer tentpoles and tiny, independent features as well as an unabashed champion of the movie experience. As such he was a vocal opponent of things he felt turned the cinematic experience into a gimmick (like the recent rash of 3D blockbusters). The lucidity of his writing proved that intelligent discourse didn't have to be elitist and his humor and geniality shone through even when he didn't exactly love a movie.

As Steven Spielberg said today "His reviews went far deeper than simply thumbs up or thumbs down". He was a student of film history and didn't voice opinions he hadn't thought out. Partly because of this he was appreciated by many in the film industry who were always assured that the nation's best known critic would at least give their movie an honest chance.

“The death of Roger Ebert is an incalculable loss for movie culture and for film criticism." Martin Scorcese.

I don't know what I could add to that, except that I grew up watching, listening to and reading Roger Ebert. He was part of the fabric of the culture. As he now departs to join his former reviewing partner Gene Siskel in the big balcony in the sky that culture becomes ever-so-slightly less user friendly.

Apr 1, 2013

The top 10 movies for the weekend of March 29 - March 31, 2013

1) G.I. Joe: Retaliation $40.5 Million
2) The Croods $26.7 Million
3) Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor $21.6 Million
4) Olympus Has Fallen $14.1 Million
5) Oz the Great and Powerful $11.7 Million
6) The Host $10.6 Million
7) The Call $4.9 Million
8) Admission $3.2 Million
9) Spring Breakers $2.7 Million
10) The Incredible Burt Wonderstone $1.3 Million

The number one movie a year ago this week was Lionsgate's "The Hunger Games" which held on to the top spot for a second week with a $58.5 million haul.

(Green indicates new release)

Off the beaten track trailer of the day - "Hentai Kamen"

What can you say about a guy who melds his inner crime-fighter with his inner pervert? I'm not sure. Maybe the official blurb will help:

Kyosuke Shikijo is a promising star of the high school kempo club, and he is in love with Aiko Himeno, a transfer student and everyone's idol. When Aiko is taken hostage by bank robbers one day, out of desperation to save her, Kyosuke manages to sneak into the bank, but puts on a pair of knickers in girls' changing room instead of a mask. In that instant, the perverted blood inside Kyosuke explodes and transforms him into Abnormal Superhero. He saves Aiko, and Abnormal Superhero is born. Kyosuke's sense of justice from his father, who was a detective and died in the line of duty, and the perverted blood from his mother, who was a sadomasochist, awakens his latent ability, transforming him into Abnormal Superhero with superhero power.

Well alright! Now that we've got that straightened out let's take a look at the official trailer.