Tag Archives: Movie

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.

Netflix: Beasts of No Nations has been released in theaters

All eyes are on Netflix, but this time at the theaters with its first feature film, Beasts of No Nations, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga — notable for Sin Nombre (2009) and Jayne Eyre (2011) — with its biggest star as Idris Elba — notable for Pacific Rim (2013), Prometheus (2012) and Thor (2011).

Revolutionizing the way people access their movies and TV shows with Netflix’s streaming service, which caused big movie rental companies such as Blockbuster to go bankrupt, the major chain theaters are now the ones upset over Netflix trying to grab a screen at their own theaters. So far, AMC, Cinemark, Regal and Carmike theaters have rejected to premiere Beasts, primarily due to Netflix’s provision of simultaneously releasing Beasts on their streaming service.  The theater owners have expressed their concerns over this business model, stating it will only cause more people to watch either at their houses or online instead of their theaters. So far the only theater cooperating with Netflix is Landmark, which will release Beasts on October 16.

Although Beasts is getting a limited release, what does Netflix gain from this theatrical release when people could watch online that very same day? Simple, it is to qualify for the Oscar nomination. For any films to be eligible for an Oscar, the current rule is for the movie to appear online “on or after the first day” of the theatrical release. A brilliant move by Netflix.

Netflix has continued to be the top streaming platform with their original TV series like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and Daredevil gaining popularity with millions of viewers . They have even been nominated for multiple Emmy Awards, along with recent news of their feature documentary — that was partnered up with Leonardo DiCaprio’s production studio — getting nominated for an Oscar.

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.

Mistress America – Review

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

Irrational Man – Review

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Woody Allen is one of, if not the, most prolific writer/directors to ever live. His output has been steady, nearly annual, since the 1970’s and though he’s a much older man now he’s showing no signs of slowing. Beginning with Midnight in Paris many, myself included, believed we were seeing a new golden age of Woody Allen films. Indeed, his film Blue Jasmine scored Cate Blanchett a Best Actress Oscar and his last 3 or 4 films have been highly regarded. His latest film, aptly titled Irrational Man, seeks to continue this tradition of yearly, well made comedy drama’s from a true auteur. Does it succeed? Let’s take a look:

Irrational Man is the story of Abe (Joaquin Phoenix), a middle aged philosophy professor who’s just taken a new job at a Rhode Island University. Abe’s reputation precedes him as revealed to the audience via voiceovers from other characters and hushed whispers from students around campus. Abe is a sort of a rockstar professor with a penchant for alcohol and sleeping with his students. Clearly a winning character, but nonetheless Abe’s flaw’s are perhaps intended to be his strengths. His drinking makes him feel like a more open and somewhat avant garde philosophy instructor. Still, all his apathetic bravura aside Abe is a very depressed individual. He has two separate romantic flings happening with young student Jill (Emma Stone) and his fellow professor Rita (Parker Posey), though neither fill him with the spark for life he claims to be missing. He later overhears an anonymous woman’s troubles in a custody hearing involving a corrupt and awful Judge. Abe takes it upon himself to eliminate this Judge and in doing so his life perks up and he’s filled with meaning again. Even the planning of the murder brings him a new light and purpose. After the deed is done Abe doesn’t feel guilt, instead his happy spree continues unabated. Once Jill finds out, however, things take a nasty turn for poor Abe.

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This isn’t the first time Woody Allen has played in the field of crime, murder and the consequence behind the act. Films such as Crime and Misdemeanors, Manhattan Murder Mystery, and Match Point all dabble in similar subject matter. Irrational Man seems most influenced, however, by Fyodor Dostoevsky’s classic novel Crime and Punishment, with the book even being referenced by the characters at one point. The film asks the question “is a murder justified if it’s for the greater good?” That’s the question, at least I think, the film wants to ask. The problem for me, however, is that the real theme at play is “is a murder justified if it makes one feel better?” Abe rationalizes the murder, irrationally, in order to bring a lightness into his own life. He presents the idea to himself, to others, and to the audience as him taking care of one of society’s ills, but his so called selfless act is the most selfish act he could do. Perhaps this is Woody Allen’s comment on the nature of charity? Do people do good things for others because of others, or do they do good things because it makes them feel better? The trouble here is that murder is murder and in a just society murder is wrong.

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Woody Allen’s films have both the blessing and curse of being able to feel the directors hands at work. You’re very aware you’re watching a Woody Allen film, and many of his usual flourishes, such as the voiceover, actually pulled me out of the film. The information given in these voiceovers didn’t add anything we would not have gotten otherwise through images or character interactions. Ultimately, given the subject matter, this story needed a director more capable at handling heavier material. There’s a inappropriate whimsy at play in this film. The skip in his step Abe gets after his murder sets the tone of the film. The weight of what he’s done is never there, with a backdoor plan to run away to Spain to escape justice presented to us as laughable, easy way out. I’d truly love to see a film like this told by a director such as David Fincher. The audience should be appalled by what Abe did, rather than being made to feel like he did the right thing, or that is act is justifiable. The character can feel that, absolutely, but I don’t think the audience should be in on those feelings.

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I’m torn by this film. I am a huge Woody Allen fan. He’s made some of my favorite films and I’m certain he’ll continue to make new classics as he goes. Irrational Man, however, is not one of these classics. It’s not poorly made, per se, but the tone and subject matter never match. The acting is fabulous with Emma Stone’s performance cementing my opinion that she’s one our greatest actors in the business today. Phoenix is spot on again, though there was never any doubt. He’s a great actor. It’s delightful to see Parker Posey pop up in this film. The so called “queen of the indies” gets her chance to shine and shine she does. Ultimately though the stellar cast and performances just can’t shake how uncomfortable the playful tone and grave subject matter made me.

 

Maggie – Review

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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.

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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.

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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.

Child 44

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There is no murder in paradise. That statement opens up Child 44 and presents us with an interesting premise. In a propaganda filled world such as the Soviet Union after World War II we are told that murder is a capitalist disease. Surely in a communist utopia like the USSR no one would feel the urge to commit such a heinous crime. As we all know, however, human nature is unavoidable and murder does happen. Child 44 is a film about a string of murders that the authorities do not dare solve, for fear of dissolving the illusion of paradise. I was hooked by the premise, but how did the rest of the film stack up? Let’s take a look.

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As I mentioned above this a flick that takes place in the Soviet Union after World War II, and as such there’s a great deal of paranoia and tension as the secret police hunt down so called “traitors. Our lead character Leo Demidov, played remarkably well by Tom Hardy, is one such secret police officer who we’re told is one of their best investigators. His closest friend and fellow officer Alexei (Fares Fares) finds his son murdered, though the official government report says the young boy died in a train accident. After all, can’t have murder in paradise. As the title suggests Alexei’s son is not the first. The government has been suppressing a number of child murders. At first Demidov tows the party line and goes along with these official reports, but after a string of curious, and sometimes confusing events, he unravels the mystery of the slayings. As with many crime thrillers of this nature it’s not so much the who or what, it’s about the how. I won’t spoil the ending here, but I will say the end is very underwhelming.

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It’s hard for me to say what this film was truly about. It’s a film about a string of child murders being denied by the communist government, but not really. It’s a film about a disgraced secret police officer standing against the tide of communist propaganda to seek the truth, but not really. It’s a film about so many things, but not really, and that’s the major problem I had with it. Child 44 was adapted from a novel and it’s very apparent when watching the film that you’d need to read said novel in order to understand a great many events and connections taking place in the film. I went to the film with someone who had read the book and they said a lot of the characters and a few of the events were still in the film, but the connective tissue that would make those elements make sense was missing. The villains in the movie, of which there are really only two, don’t have clear motivations or character arcs. We’re introduced to one early in the film, who’s shown to be cowardly and meek, then we flash forward a few years and he’s this moustache twirling villain. How did this man get like that? The same type of head scratching ambiguity surrounds the actual child murderer. When he’s introduced in the movie it’s clear as day that he’s the serial killer, but we don’t get to know him. We don’t get to know why he does what he does. Perhaps it’s hinted at in dialogue, but I didn’t feel it was done explicitly enough to get the point across the audience. Child 44 ultimately feels like it could have worked much better as a Netflix mini series. It’s a large story that got short changed down to a two hour movie.

On the more technical side of things I felt Child 44 did not succeed either. The cinematography was dull and uninspiring, and was done almost entirely with a handheld style. Certain calmer, more emotional moments in the film are completely ruined by bouncy, distracting camera work.  The performances were all very good, at the very least, with Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace giving it their all. Even Joel Kinnaman, who played the moustache twirling villain I mentioned above, does a fine job. Though we’re not given his whole story the performance doesn’t feel forced. It just feels like something got left out. Overall I can’t give this film a very high recommendation. If you really, really dig movies like this regardless of quality or if you are a diehard Tom Hardy fan I suppose I could see you getting something out of it, but for me it all felt very, very flat. It’s a shame to see an interesting concept get bogged down by an uninteresting film.