Tag Archives: Film

Mickey Rourke will star in the upcoming boxing drama ‘Tiger”

Mickey Rourke, once a former boxer who entered the movie industry during the 1970s, made news back in 2014 when he decided to go back into the ring which got an unfavorable publicity for being rigged…but it seems he’s back into the movie biz with his upcoming film Tiger.

The boxing drama is currently in production in Hamilton, Ohio. Inspired by a true story of Pardeep Nagra, a once soccer player who was kicked out due to anger issues, but later picked up by a boxing coach, Frank Donovan, only to be barred from boxing due to his beard, which takes another battle outside the ring but inside the courtroom.

The film will star Mickey Rourke (Wrestler, Nine 1/2 Weeks) as Frank Donovan, the boxing coach, with another notable star Janel Parrish (Pretty Little Liars) along with local extras and crews from Hamilton, Ohio. The film is directed by Alister Grierson, notable for Sanctum and Kokoda: 39th Battalion.

No date have been confirmed, but it is scheduled to release in 2016.

“Ben-Hur” Remake delayed for August 2016

“Ben-Hur,” the new historical epic drama has been delayed for six months from its original date, February 2016 to August 2016. Currently in post-production, “Ben-Hur” is instead scheduled to release with a list of other summer blockbuster films.

Back in 2014, Paramount Pictures and MGM announced that the two studios will help co-produce a new “Ben-Hur” with Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. Burnett and Downey are known for creating the miniseries “The Bible” along with producing “Son of God,” which all together adds up to why the two were willing to take on the this vehement task.

Adapted from Lew Wallace’s novel, “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ,” the upcoming remake was written by Keith Clarke and the Oscar-winning writer John Ridley, acclaimed for the “12 Years a Slave” (2013) screenplay. The film stars Jack Huston as the eponymous character with the Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman as one of the lead characters that aids Ben-Hur on his mission.

This celebrated tale of the Jewish Prince Judah Ben-Hur has been adapted multiple times over the span of almost a century, with the first picture released back in 1925. But the most critically acclaimed adaptation was directed by William Wyler which the film won an imposing 11 awards out of the 12 Oscar nominations. All the pressure is on Timur Bekmambetov the director of the upcoming remake whose notable films are  “Wanted” (2008) and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” (2012).

It is interesting to see a wave of biblical epics returning to big screens. Back in 2014, Paramount worked with Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah” and within the same year Ridley Scott’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings” was released. It appears movies goers are in for a treat with super hero films and biblical epics being the latest trend from Hollywood.

Leonardo DiCaprio producing the Volkswagen Scandal Film

 

Leonardo DiCaprio, the Active Environmentalist, is Producing the Volkswagen Scandal Film

A recent news from Hollywood confirmed Leonardo DiCaprio would be producing a film based on the VW scandal. This past month has been the worst time for Volkswagen, the German automotive company, after admitting to their flagrant ploy of cheating the emission test. This is considered one of the most shocking and the most scandalous automotive fraud in the history of mankind.

Although the script is not completely written, the content of the film is based on a book proposal by Jack Ewing which has been acquired by Paramount and by DiCaprio’s own production company the Appian Way. DiCaprio is known to be an active environmentalist who has produced a numbers of environmental documentaries that have been screened across the nation and even partnering up with Netflix in the past.

Exact details of this film have not been disclosed, whether it would be a film or a documentary. As well as if DiCaprio himself would star in this film. So far the only piece of information regarding DiCaprio’s involvement would be producing along with Jennifer Davisson Killoran via Appian Way. But one thing for sure is we won’t be seeing him driving in a Volkswagen.

Sicario Review

S_D037_09788.NEF

Sicario Review:  An action movie worth the price of admission.

It’s rare that a day goes by without the news reporting trouble at the United States southern border. Between illegal immigration, and the infamous drug cartels, the border is a hot button issue no matter how you look at it. Our election cycles in the US inevitably revolve around what to do about those problems, and our government agencies burn through millions of tax payer dollars trying to combat the cartels. It’s a dangerous game, and an important issue. These topics are explored in director Denis Villeneuve’s latest movie Sicario. Starring Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Bencicio Del Toro, it tackles the brutality of the Mexican drug cartels and those in law enforcement who stand in their way. The pedigree of talent both in front of and behind the camera left me salivating for more from the very first trailer I saw. Unfortunately this film just barely misses greatness. It comes close, but a few nagging issues hold it back.

SICARIO Day 01

The movie begins with a drug bust in Chandler, Arizona. Emily Blunt’s character Kate leads an FBI SWAT force inside a dilapidated home. What they find inside is far more heinous than mounds of cocaine and illicit cash deposits. Hidden behind the dry wall, covering nearly every square inch of the home, are bodies. Corpses, heads wrapped in plastic, line the walls. It’s a gruesome, visceral sight to behold. This scene helps set the tone of the entire story and shows us the gravity of the situations we’ll be witnessing. From there Kate volunteers to join another task force who’s gunning for the head honchos that run the entire cartel. She meets Brolin’s character Matt, and Del Toro’s mysterious Alejandro. Both men seem to be more than they claim, though both occupy different ends of the character spectrum. Brolin is witty and a little more light hearted in all he does. When we first meet him he’s in a government briefing wearing flip flops. If a picture is worth a thousand words that one must be worth a million. To contrast Del Toro plays a more stoic, dangerous, but disciplined kind of man. He’s the titular Sicario, which means hitman in Spanish. Kate is told he’s just a government liaison, but it doesn’t take a genius to see he’s no pencil pusher.

S_D045_11529.NEF

I won’t bother diving too much further into regurgitating the plot. There’s a great deal that needs to be seen and experienced first hand to retain it’s impact, and a great deal more that is very obvious and doesn’t need explained. As I mentioned previously this movie misses the greatness mark by just a hair. It lacks a concrete focus. Early on Emily Blunt’s character is our focal point. She’s our window to this nasty world. There’s some inconsistencies in the character, however. She’s both a seasoned agency veteran, and a wet behind the ears rookie. I felt like she was a completely capable agent, but she was never treated as such by her fellow characters. It’s possible that was the point of it all, but the way it was delivered didn’t work. It seemed more that they just didn’t know exactly what they wanted from that character. There was also an uneven emphasis on Del Toro’s character. Halfway through the film the focus seemed to switch to him, with Blunt disappearing for a little longer than she should have were this her film. Del Toro’s Alejandro story is a revenge tale, and an interesting one to boot. The cartel’s murdered his family and now he’s a gun for hire type of character brought in by various governments to take out problem players. Had the film picked one of these stories and stuck to it completely the film would have played so much better. Go all in on either side, rather than giving us a taste of both. If they wanted to have both stories, perhaps adding a third focus like Brolin’s character would have given more perspective. By making the film more of an ensemble than it was it could have smoothed out the jarring focus switching. A more polished script would have launched this film into greatness, as it has a whole lot going for it, but without it just ends up somewhat lukewarm.

sicario3

When this film works, it really works. The score is one of the best I’ve heard in a long time, and I left the theater with a piece of that music stuck in my head. The performances were all fantastic, Blunt especially. She takes what she’s given to work with and runs with it. Benicio Del Toro gives an amazing performance as well, though I’ve never seen him not do an absolute fabulous job. Josh Brolin holds his own as well, but I wished we got a little more screen time. The highlight of the movie, for me, was how it was shot. The cinematography was absolutely stellar. There’s a shot towards the end of the government task force walking towards a sun set and dipping into the inky black of shadow leaving only the breathtaking ambers and blues of the sky on screen. The music, actors, and cinematography make for a very good film, but the script keeps it from a great film. Close, but no dice.

I do recommend this movie. it’s got enough going for it that it makes for an entertaining film. Like I said, it’s a very good film, just not great. It raises some important points on some sensitive issues, and shines a light on a segment of the world population that would rather remain in the shadows. Catch it in a matinee and have a good time. It’s worth that much.

Mistress America – Review

banner-mistress-america-film_2

I won’t lie to you. Noah Baumbach is climbing rapidly to the top of my most admired directors list. Last years While We’re Young was a sensational film (you can read my review here). Prior to that he made Frances Ha, starring his real life lady love Greta Gerwig, which didn’t excite me near as much as While We’re Young, though it was still a solid, well made indie comedy. Mistress America has Baumbach reuniting with Gerwig once again as he examines the lives of young folk living in America. As you might have guessed by my gushing over the director, I did like Mistress America very much, but there’s more to this film, and my admiration of it, than a simple thumbs up.

mistressamerica

The film takes place, as with Baumbach’s prior films, in the hustle and bustle of New York City. The Big Apple is an instantly recognizable, uncannily cinematic and irresistibly exciting locale for shooting a film and Baumbach wisely matches the vibe of the city with the energy of Gerwig’s character Brooke. Before we’re introduced to Brooke, however, we meet young Tracy. Tracy, played by Lola Kirke, is a plucky, though naive, college freshman. She aspires to be a writer and we witness her in various campus activities, be it study groups or discussing a super exclusive literary club at the school. Tracy’s mother is due to marry a new beau and encourages young Tracy to reach out to her fiancé’s daughter Brooke, who’s also living in the big Apple, as the two are soon to be step-sisters. Brooke gladly takes Tracy under her wing and Lola is soon after swept away in the tornado of Brooke’s life.

What’s interesting about Mistress America is it’s a film that examines the mind, and life, of a constant dreamer. Brooke is a wide eyed, powder keg of anxious energy. She’s a T-shirt designer, an interior decorator, an entrepreneur, and most recently a restaurateur. The restaurant she hopes to open is as idealistic as can be. She wants to open a place where people can come eat, relax, have fun, throw parties and everything in between. A lofty goal, no doubt, but we’re pulling for Brooke, who’s charismatic charm makes us believe she can do anything she puts her mind to. Tracy is equally smitten with the idea, though she see’s that Brooke is the constant dreamer who may not be able to pull it off in the end. Being a writer, Tracy puts her adventures with Brooke into a short story which grants her entry into the aforementioned exclusive literary society. Naturally Brooke finds out that Tracy’s story puts her in a bad light and the two have a falling out. Of course this is short lived as the two have grown to really love each other as genuine siblings. It’s a sappy, touching end to the film, but it feels natural and welcome.

Much like While We’re Young before it Mistress America examines the lifestyles, mind sets, and struggles of those in their mid to late twenties and the generational differences that come with age. Brooke is older than Tracy in the film, I believe by ten years give or take. It’s curious that Tracy, the youth, is the one that see’s the world a little more for what it is rather than Brooke, the consummate starry eyed dreamer. Both actresses knock it out of the park. Greta Gerwig is instantly believable, to the point that you could imagine this being a little more documentary than fictional narrative. Lola Kirke, who I’ve never seen in anything prior, has a smoky allure that perfectly contrasts her characters naiveté. She’s vulnerable, but not to the point of being breakable. She’s confident, smart, witty, but still craves the big sister mentorship of someone like Brooke. This is some of the best casting I’ve seen in a film in a long time, with each supporting cast member holding their own, breathing life into every frame of the film’s modest run time.

mistressamericaphoto

I will say I didn’t enjoy this as much as While We’re Young. I’d dare to say that film was one of my favorite’s from last year, and it could very well be that I saw more of myself and related to the characters in that film more so than in Mistress America. That’s not to say Mistress America is not worth watching. It absolutely is. It’s a funny, touching, entertaining ride that makes you wish you could spend more time with these people. They’re the sort of people you want to get to know and be around, warts and all. Noah Baumbach is absolutely on a roll and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Fantastic Four – Review

F41

If I were asked to describe the latest attempt at a Fantastic Four film in one word that word would absolutely, without question, be joyless. I won’t beat around the bush here. We all knew this film was bad, but how bad was up in the air. This is a film who’s only reason for existing is to hang onto movie rights for a bit longer. It’s sad, really, to see Marvel’s first family treated with such after thought. It was as though the studio assumed that a film with Marvel super heroes is inherently great before the camera’s even begin rolling so why bother trying. Nevertheless I am a film critic so let’s get criticizing.

F42

Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four immediately starts off by deviating from the original origins of the titular super hero team. In this flick Reed Richards is a ridiculously intelligent youngster who’s working on a teleportation device. His partner in crime is a young Ben Grimm, who’s not nearly as bright, but fills the affable “muscle” role that he’s always inhabited in the comics. Soon after Richards teleporter is discovered, at a high school science fair of all places, by Franklin Storm, head of a brainy think tank full of young inventors and geniuses. Before you know it Reed Richards is recruited (not Ben, who’s quickly forgotten for awhile) and is hard at work finishing his teleporter with the help of Storm’s two kids Johnny and Sue. Added into the mix is the negligibly malevolent Victor Von Doom who’s motivation for doing anything is as muddy as the cinematography in this dull, dull picture. In any event the teleporter is soon finished and that’s when we’re introduced to the meddling “evil” government types who want to take the teleporter away and use their own guys to explore the mysterious (and bland) alternate dimension our young bucks have discovered. Not to be outdone these intrepid youngsters decide to teleport on their own, without parental supervision (gasp). For some reason Reed say’s he can’t go without Ben, which I imagine is about how the screenwriter felt having forgot Ben Grimm so many pages ago. Our young heroes go through the teleporter, bad stuff happens, they get super powers, they have a super hero vs super villain fight. The End.

F43

If it sounds like I’m over simplifying the later portions of the film I’m not. The narrative and cohesiveness of the story and characters fall apart around the same time as the lives of our young heroes do. The film sprints towards a rushed ending so quickly that the audience is in danger of whiplash every groan inducing second. No doubt the studio set it all up the way they did so they could get a sequel and start another power house franchise, but they sure missed the mark. This film can’t even claim to be a brainless action film a la Michael Bay. There’s little to no action happening. The final fight between Doom and the Fantastic Four is Reed saying out loud all the things that we the audience can clearly see are happening while each member of the Fantastic Four attempts to do something near Doom. The villain is ultimately defeated with a single punch. He tumbles back into a wormhole and that’s that. It’s exactly as exciting as it sounds.

I don’t know where to place blame here. Was it the studio? Was it the director? The actors? Nothing worked in this movie from the word go. It was a joyless slog through what felt like one film studio flipping the bird to another. I could very easily drone on and on about all the things they could have done to make the film better. There was plenty of small changes they could have implemented that could have allowed the characters to breath, to allow the narrative to excited and hold an audiences attentions, and to make the film fun, which above all else it was NOT. I can’t recommend this film in any capacity, unless you enjoy being painfully bored. Then again, we all knew it was going to be bad. Jokes on me.

Mr. Holmes – Review

MRHOLMES021431713791

It’s for very good reason that Sherlock Holmes has been and always will be one of the most enduring and beloved figures in fiction. He’s wickedly smart, observant, cunning, mischievous and always seems to come out on top. What’s not to love? His detective skills are unparalleled and have inspired such characters as Batman and Dr. Gregory House in the acclaimed television drama House. In recent years there’s been a resurgence of the Sherlock brand, with everything from big budget blockbusters, to a couple of highly successful television shows. The latest Holmesian offering is Mr. Holmes starring Ian MckellenLaura Linney and directed by Bill Condon, who had previously worked with Ian Mckellen on the 1998 film Gods and Monsters. The concept alone should pull the curious in, with Mckellen playing an severely aged Holmes living in the 1940’s, ruminating on his last case and a life lived. Concept alone isn’t enough to guarantee a great film, so how did Mr. Holmes hold up? Let’s take a look.

Holmes3

As this is a Sherlock Holmes picture there is of course a fair bit of mystery. The mystery this time around centers on Mr. Holmes inability to remember the details of his last case, as his advanced age has left his mind fractured and his body frail. His final case was that of a man hiring him to investigate the odd behavior of a wife recently devastated by the pre-natal loss of not one, but two babies. The story of that case is presented to us via flashbacks, as the bulk of the story takes place in a post World War II England. The elderly Sherlock lives in a cottage, spending his days tending to his bee’s, and looking for a remedy for his failing memory. He’s looked after by his Housekeeper Mrs. Munro (Linney) and her young son Roger, played by a fantastic Milo Parker. I won’t spoil the details of Holmes final case, but I can say that how it ties into the current events of Mr. Holmes life with Munro and her son are quite spectacular.

Holmes2

This picture belongs, hands down, to Ian Mckellen and I would not be surprised to see him get a Best Actor nomination at the Oscars. His turn as the legendary detective is nothing short of masterful, and that he’s playing the character at two different ages is something that can’t be missed. The subtle nuances present in Mckellen’s body language to portray the fast approaching senile Mr. Holmes show us an actor at the absolute peak of their abilities. Little things from how he moves, to the intonation in his voice allow Ian Mckellen to give a separation between the older Sherlock Holmes investigating his last case and the much older Holmes living a secluded retirement in the country side. The interplay between Holmes and the young Roger are a highlight of the picture as well. Milo Parker was phenomenal as Roger, and in scripting the boy the writers wisely avoided any cliched, or overused children-in-movies tropes we see so often. I expect to see great things from this young actor in the future.

Holmes1

This is a film you owe yourself to see. It’s truly great filmmaking. The cinematography is lush and inviting and the shots of the English coastline are breathtaking. The production design builds a world of Sherlock Holmes we’d like to never leave. The messy details of his desk and work area feel like they need investigated as much as any of Holmes cases ever did. The directing in this was very well done, and subtle. This isn’t a flashy picture. I’d dare to call it understated, and that’s fitting. A quiet, smaller picture parallels the quiet, smaller life Mr. Holmes leads in his old age. This is a side of Sherlock Holmes that, I personally, have not seen before and I’m extremely grateful this story was told.

Maggie – Review

maggie1

The Zombie apocalypse is upon us! I, of course, am not speaking literally, but rather commenting on the sudden, and all together overwhelming appearance of so many Zombies appearing in movies, television, comic books and beyond. While it wouldn’t be too out of the question to place the blame, if that’s what you want to call it, on the shoulders of The Walking Dead, I believe this resurgence in the Zombie is speaking to something in culture at large. Perhaps it’s playing on fears of a nebulous danger lurking somewhere waiting to destroy society. Perhaps it’s a cathartic release, a rebellion against the bland, mundane, and ironically enough, zombie like culture our reliance on technology has give us. In any event the Zombie is bigger than ever and the latest Zombie romp in theaters is Maggie, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Abigail Breslin. I, like many, jumped at the idea of Schwarzenegger taking on hoards of the undead, but was the movie any good? Let’s take a look.

maggie3

Maggie is unlike any Zombie film I have ever seen before. It’s not action packed by any means, in fact quite the opposite. This is a small picture, somewhat introspective kind of film. At it’s core is a very intriguing premise. We’re introduced to a world where a virus induced Zombie outbreak is in it’s very early stages. Crops are dying, people are falling mysteriously ill, quarantines and strict curfews are in full effect. Wade Vogel (Schwarzenegger) finds his runaway teenaged daughter Maggie (Breslin) at a hospital and wouldn’t you know it she’s been bit. What’s refreshing here is that the characters all know what it means. Maggie has contracted this virus and will turn into a ravenous Zombie in a short amount of time. Wade is informed he only has a week or two before he needs to get his Maggie to quarantine, which we never see, but are lead to believe it’s like a gigantic holding tank for Zombies. Wade whisks his daughter away to his farm house where the vast majority of the film takes place. The idea of a family knowing their loved one has been bit and will turn into an undead cannibal and having to deal with all the grief and sorrow is very intriguing to me and what drew me to the film. Unfortunately I just don’t feel the movie hit the mark it was aiming for. All the quiet moments the director wants us to see and feel aren’t treated with any amount of nuance or subtlety. The characters paint big with big broad strokes when it comes to their emotional beats. I’m not talking so much of over acting or anything of that nature, but rather in tone. More often than not a character or plot point is introduced only for a “tear jerker” of a monologue to take place. Numerous occasions this happens and the first couple are OK, but after a handful of these Zombie apocalypse sob stories you just stop caring. In a film without any action beats to move us along we should be anchored and pulled in by the emotional content of the story and it’s just never compelling enough to keep full attention.

maggie2

What’s really interesting in Maggie is Arnold Schwarzenegger. For years Schwarzenegger has been the king of the action film. That’s his bread and butter. Sure, he’s done the occasional slapstick, goofball comedy, but for a guy so perfectly cast as an emotionless killing machine all those years ago it’s very surprising to see him turn in such a great performance. It’s also surprising to see Arnold Schwarzenegger acting circles around his costars. Going back to the troubles the movie had pulling me into it’s emotional arcs, I would say the leading cause of that is not enough of the performances are convincing, or compelling enough. Abigail Breslin showed great promise as a child star, but her delivery here is lifeless and dull (and that’s before she turns into a zombie). None of the other actors really have much more to work with outside of all those touching monologues so the bulk of the acting is placed on Schwarzenegger’s broad shoulders. It’s said that acting is reacting and Schwarzenegger reacts beautifully to the heavy situation his character finds himself in, while none of his supporting cast seem to really have a good grasp on what kind of movie they’re in. While Maggie may not be a great film, I do hope it doesn’t spell the end of Schwarzenegger’s foray into these meatier dramatic roles. He’s clearly got the chops.

It’s a shame that Maggie didn’t hit all the notes it should have. This concept has such amazing potential and I was so let down by the mishandling of it. Ultimately I would recommend watching it when it comes to VOD, Netflix or any other rental platform for Schwarzeneggers performance alone. Be warned, there’s not much to enjoy in the film other than that. The cinematography is so over-processed by digital color grading and desaturation that, like all it’s emotional beats, you get numb to the artificial images on screen. For a first time director it’s not the worst attempt, but it could have been so, so much more.