Angelina Jolie and Taylor Sheridan team up in the Those Who Wish Me Dead trailer


When it comes to writing, anyone who’s watched either Sicario, Hell or High Water or Yellowstone know that Taylor Sheridan’s a force to be reckoned with. The Sons of Anarchy alum has a pretty good track record. With his latest, Those Who Wish Me Dead, he’s also working in the Director’s chair, his first film since 2017’s Wind River.

Whether it’s onscreen or through activism, Academy Award Winner Angelina Jolie (Girl, Interrupted , Maleficent) always maintains a powerful presence. Jolie’s performance mixed with Sheridan’s script should prove to be really interesting. Based on Michael Koryta’s book, Jolie plays a forest firefighter who finds herself protecting a small child on the run. The film also stars Nicholas Hoult (The Favourite), Jon Bernthal (The Accountant), Tyler Perry (Gone Girl), Aiden Gillen (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword) and Finn Little (Angel of Mine).

Those Who Wish Me Dead is part of the WB’s Same Day Premieres, meaning that HBO Max subscribers can watch the film when it’s released on May 14, or in theatres.

LeBron James steps onto the Court in the Space Jam: A New Legacy trailer!


I’ll admit to being a little excited for this newest generation of 1996’s Space Jam. I love cartoon / live action mashups, and Space Jam: A New Legacy looks like it’s all that and then some. Director Malcolm D. Lee (Roll Bounce, Night School) leads the update with LeBron James taking center stage. In this version, LeBron’s son is trapped in a different dimension. To save him, LeBron has to play against the Monstars, much like Michael Jordan did in the previous film. He won’t be playing alone, however, as he has various Looney Tunes characters to assist him.

Space Jam: A New Legacy also stars Sonequa Martin-Green (Star Trek: Discovery), Don Cheadle (Avengers: Endgame), along with a series of cameos from some of the NBA’s finest. The film, produced by Ryan Coogler (Black Panther) is set to release in theatres and on HBO Max on July 16.

The Tournament beckons in the Mortal Kombat Trailer


Way back in 1995, Paul W. S. Anderson made his big break with the original Mortal Kombat film. 25 years is high time for an update. Produced by James Wan, this Mortal Kombat seems to be a little stronger with the story it’s sharing. So far, I’m liking the cast here. The Raid‘s Joe Taslim as Sub-Zero, Hiroyuki Sanada (Avengers: Endgame, The Wolverine) as Scorpion, True Blood’s Mechad Brooks as Jax, and those are just the names I recognize. I’m just happy they added Kung Lao to the mix.  I’m hoping there will be more fighting action in this version, and a great soundtrack to boot.

Directed by newcomer Simon McQuoid, Mortal Kombat’s release date is set for later this year, and since it’s a Warner Bros. Picture, there’s a good chance HBO Max may get it early as well.

Cruella steps into the spotlight with a new Trailer


Disney’s had some success with focusing on their villains lately. With Angelina Jolie’s turn as Maleficent having done well, it’s time for another classic enemy to take the stage. Academy Award Winner Emma Stone (La La Land) is Disney’s newest Cruella DeVille, the nemesis to all 101 Dalmatians. This film looks like it’s a prequel, focusing on how Cruella came into power and possibly why she despises spotted dogs so. The cast includes Mark Strong (1917), Emma Thompson (Late Night), Paul Walter Houser (Richard Jewell) and Dev Patel (Lion)

Cruella is directed by Craig Gillespie, who is known for I, Tonya, The Finest Hours and Fright Night.

The release date is set for May 28, 2021, though no statement on how this will play on Disney+ at this time.

Airborne (dir. by Rob Bowman)


Airborne

1993’s Airborne is a guilty pleasure kind of film for me. It’s not a spectacular film by any means, but it has just about everything I adore from the 1990s.. Hockey, Rollerblades, Music, and a fun cast. Sometime last year, I was able to rent it off of Amazon, but it’s no longer available. I’m assuming it will eventually make the move over to HBO Max, but in the meantime, it’s available for rental on Youtube.

Airborne was Director Rob Bowman’s first feature after working on such shows as Star Trek: The Next Generation and Parker Lewis Can’t Lose. He’d later go on to become a producer/director on The X-Files before eventually directing the first motion picture for the series, X-Files: Fight the Future. He’s since directed Reign of Fire and produced the ABC detective comedy, Castle.

Airborne is the tale of Mitchell Goosen (Shane McDermott, Swan’s Crossing), a kid who loves surfing and rollerblading more than anything. When his parents win a trip to Australia for six months, they send Mitchell to live with his cousin in Cincinnati. Of course, he’s a little out of place, but his cousin Wiley (Seth Green, Without a Paddle) tries to make things a little easier for Mitch.  Mitch’s laid back surfer attitude is a hit with the ladies, but the guys aren’t really liking his style. Jeff (Chris Conrad, The Next Karate Kid) has it out for Mitch, especially when Mitch meets Nikki (Brittany Powell, Fled) and costs Jeff’s hockey team a win against the annoying prep squad. Punishment for losing the hockey game is pretty messed up by high school standards, with the usual pranks laid out for both Mitch and Wiley.  Will Mitch be able to adjust to Cincinnati life, make new friends and live without his surfboard? I enjoyed the way Mitch finds a solution to his problem that fit his style.

There’s not a lot to say about the casting here. Among the leads, there’s a lot of young talent that went on to greater work. Some other notable faces are Jack Black (Jumanji: The Next Level), Alanna Ubach (Bombshell), and Jacob Vargas (Devil). They round out the cast well, but you don’t get to know too much about them.

Being 1993, Airborne took place just as the Internet was getting really started. This meant that outside of playing a Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis after homework was done, you went outside and played something like Stickball, skateboarding, basketball, street hockey or rollerblading. I think the nostalgia of it all is what brings me back to Airborne over time (especially now with so many limits on going outside). The rollerblading scenes in the film are great for the time period, thanks in part to Team Rollerblade. We have close-ups of riding, along with action shots that capture all of the intensity of riding in traffic. Stunt skaters slide under trucks, down along stairs , leap over cars and make some great moves in the big race.

Airborne is not without some cheesy moments. The music, while fun, is very dated. It’s the same kind of music you’d expect from 1990’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Cool as Ice. The film has a number of filler scenes where Mitch is lost in a musical montage. Some tracks include the classic Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy”. and Jeremy Jordan’s “My Love is Good Enough”. There’s not a whole lot to be said about it. It was the Nineties. Additionally, it would be cool to find out what happened to Mitch after the six months. Did he decide to stay in Ohio for a while? Did he return to his parents, but still keep in touch with everyone on the skate crew? I suppose Mitchell Goosen’s future is left somewhere in the fan fiction world.

Overall, Airborne is a time capsule of a film, focusing on a time just before the Internet captivated everyone and going outside to play was the norm. It’s a good watch if you have a few hours to burn.

A rivalry begins in the Godzilla vs. Kong trailer


Back in 1986, Optimus Prime muttered 6 six words to Megatron that would sear itself into the minds of kids for a generation.

“One shall stand, One shall fall.”

And here we are, 30 years later, still using that phrase, or something like it. as Godzilla vs. Kong  offers the tagline “One Will Fall”.

After 3 mega movies (Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island & Godzilla: King of the Monsters), we’re finally ready for a kaiju matchup of truly epic proportions. Godzilla vs Kong pairs the two legendary monsters against each other, though for what reasons, we’re not entirely sure. Neither side wishes to concede, and the battle looks like it’s going to be both in the water and on land. From the newly released trailer, it looks like Kong’s the current hero. The returning characters of Mark and Madison Russell (Kyle Chandler and Millie Bobby Brown) from Godzilla: King of the Monsters seem to feel that something’s wrong with our atomic breath spewing hero. Dr. Chen (Zhang Ziyi, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) is also on hand to help. After saving the world twice, why would he suddenly turn on mankind? I’m not sure I like the idea of Godzilla being a villain in all this, but they have to have a reason to fight, I suppose.

While it doesn’t look like anyone returns from Kong: Skull Island, we still have Kong and some supporting characters in Alexander Skarsgard (The Legend of Tarzan), Julian Dennison (Deadpool 2), Jessica Henwick (Underwater), Eiza Gonzalez (Bloodshot), Danai Gurira (Black Panther), and Lance Reddick (John Wick 3 – Parabellum).

Godzilla vs. Kong is due in IMAX and on HBO Max on March 26th, 2021.

Love and Monsters (dir. by Michael Matthews)


love-and-monsters-movie-posterDylan O’Brien is one of those actors that I’ll run to watch anything they’re in. I did so for 2017’s American Assassin, and have been making my way through MTV’s Teen Wolf. The guy oozes charisma, so when I found out his latest film, Love and Monsters, was available both in theatres and on Demand, I scooped it up without blinking.  It’s kind of ironic that both he and his Teen Wolf co star, Tyler Posey, both have films this month (Posey is in Alone, also on demand) where their characters are caught up in apocalyptic nightmares.

Love and Monsters is a lighthearted monster film about stepping out of one’s shell, making some mistakes and growing along the way. O’Brien carries the film with humor and action, along with help from the supporting cast.  It’s still a monster story, but it’s one just about anyone but the youngest of viewers can watch (and even then, it should be okay).

Sometimes, you just have to come out of your shell, which really isn’t easy to do when the world is suddenly populated with giant creatures. Joel (Dylan O’Brien, American Assassin) loves Aimee (Jessica Henwick , Underwater), but they happen to be separated in underground colonies about 90 miles from each other. Everyone manages to survive in their own way, and going up to the surface is particularly dangerous when everything wants to eat you.  Joel does the small work around the underground bunker he’s in – making Minestrone, cleaning up the place – because he can’t handle the monsters outside.. When Joel decides to make the trek to reach Aimee, he has to learn how to survive in a world where everything wants to eat you. Befriended by a dog, Joel meets some friends along the way. Love and Monsters is a near perfect fit for the post Quarantine world. It speaks of isolation, communication over distances, while still hitting some themes on taking some risks (calculated, when possible), and learning to trust one’s instincts.

Love-and-Monsters-Boy and his Dog

Joel (Dylan O’Brien) and Boy (Hero the Dog) navigate the unknown in Love and Monsters. 

The cast for Love and Monsters is so nice. In addition to O’Brien and Henwick, we have a pair of Marvel Alumni in Michael Rooker (Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy), and Ariana Greenblatt (Little Gamora in Avengers: Infinity War) as Clyde and Minnow, respectively. They help to add to the comedy that O’Brien’s already offering.

I think what surprised me the most about Love and Monsters was the look of the monsters themselves. I was expecting something more along the lines of your typical Syfy channel movie fare. The CGI and monster effects in Love and Monsters are pretty good. I would have liked to have seen more monsters, but I really enjoyed it what was offered. Marco Beltrami and Marcus Trumpp also get some kudos for the soundtrack, having worked with Wes Craven and Guillermo Del Toro in the past. The theme for Love and Monsters has a pinch of Hellboy to it, and fits well to Joel and Boy’s (Hero the Dog) adventures.

If there are any problems with the film, I guess it would be that it moves a little faster than anticipated. That’s hardly a complaint. At about an hour and 50 minutes, it moves somewhat fast. Additionally, if anyone’s expecting a full fledged horror film, they might be a bit disappointed. It’s a comedy first, with monsters. As long as you’re not expecting serious horror, it’s great, but the film does have it’s moments of little jumpscares. There’s also the notion that if you’ve already watched How to Train Your Dragon or Zombieland, Love and Monsters might not feel entirely new. It does, however, manage to take what’s going in the world right now with social distancing and reference it without directly saying it has anything to do with it. I feel audiences might relate to Joel’s isolation from that aspect, and his journey based on any trial we’ve ever gone through in learning a new skill or stepping outside of our comfort zones.

Love and Monsters is a cute surprise of a film that might have you chuckling more than jumping around in your seat, but that’s okay. At least it’s entertaining. I really wouldn’t mind a sequel to this.

Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (dir. by Ernest Dickerson)


Demon Knight PosterI remember going to the movies for Demon Knight. I loved Tales from the Crypt on HBO, and the idea of a movie was cool at the time. My sister and my best friend joined me for the showing. It was treat to watch. I left the cinema thinking of different tales that could come up using some of the elements in this story.

For those unfamiliar with Tales From the Crypt, the show aired on HBO during the late 1980s, and part of the 1990s. Based off of the old horror tales from EC Comics, each episode was a horror story. Unlike Tales From the Darkside, Monsters and Darkroom, Tales from the Crypt had the bonus of being on cable. This meant they were able to get away with more gore and nudity than their prime time counterparts. Perhaps that’s the only real disadvantage with the film. At least with Tales From the Darkside: The Movie, the story could push into darker elements with their restrictions lifted.

As with every episode of the show, Demon Knight is sandwiched between a scene with the Crypt Keeper (John Kassir) greeting the audience with some corny jokes and introducing the story. Frank Brayker (William Sadler – The Mist, Bill & Ted Face the Music) is on the run from The Collector (Billy Zane – Titanic). With his options dwindling and the strange seven-star pattern tattoo on his hand slowly forming a circle, Brayker makes his last stand at a motel with a group of individuals. In his possession is a key shaped vial that has the power to create wards. These wards hold back the army of demons that wish to reclaim the key and bring darkness across the land. Can Brayker make it through the night, while protecting the key and everyone around him? That’s pretty much the plot.

Demon Knight CryptKeeper

The Crypt Keeper is ready for his close up in Demon Knight. 

Having previously worked as a Cinematographer for Spike Lee, Ernest Dickerson made the jump to directing with 1992’s Juice. Demon Knight was his follow up and for the most part, it’s good. The creature design is interesting, reminiscent of Top Cow’s comic book, The Darkness. The demons are thin and indeed strange to behold, but they mostly take a back seat to Billy Zane’s Collector, who tries to seduce everyone into turning against the rest of the group.  Zane brings a lot of humor to the movie with his villain, as does Thomas Hayden Church (Sideways) playing that one guy you’d really like to slug in the mouth. CCH Pounder (Avatar), Jada Pinkett (Collateral), Brenda Bakke (L.A. Confidential), the legendary Dick Miller (Gremlins and just about everything Joe Dante did), and Charles Fleisher (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) and Gary Farmer (Forever Knight) round it all out. It’s Sadler’s film to carry, however, and he does a great job here playing the hero.

From a sound/musical standpoint, Demon Knight boasts a interesting soundtrack, which I picked up around the time I first saw the film. Filter’s “Hey Man, Nice Shot” seemed like the only song featured in the film, but Ministry’s “Tonight We Murder”, Henry Rollins “Fall Guy” and Pantera’s “Cemetary Gates” are the standouts. The pacing of the film is pretty even, despite being a one shot. There’s not enough of a slowdown to feel bored. Demon Knight is just one regular Tales from the Crypt tale in a longer format. I would have preferred shorter pieces in this larger timespan, but that’s more a nitpick than anything.

Overall, Tales From the Crypt: Demon Knight is a fun film to visit around Halloween. Just make sure your doors and windows are locked (and sealed, if possible), when watching.

 

The Sleeper Awakens with the new Dune Trailer


Just about everyone’s waiting for Denis Villeneuve’s remake of Frank Herbert’s Dune. Having grown up on the David Lynch version (and making my way through the novel), it has some big shoes to fill. Thankfully, what we’ve seen of it so far seems interesting. Villeneuve should have an easy time with the source material, though the movie has had its share of reshoots and dealing with the pandemic. We’ll see how it goes.

We finally have a trailer and some Wormsign!!. I’m liking the look of it. Chalamet’s Paul Atreides has some attitude to him, and I’m curious to see what Stellan Skarsgard does with the Baron Harkonnen.

Enjoy.

<- Artwork of the Day: A Bloody Business Artist Profile: Stewart Rouse ->

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (dir. by Robert Zemeckis)


WhoFramedRogerRabbitPosterI can’t quite remember how I found out about 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Growing up, most of my movie news came from four major sources – Entertainment Tonight, Siskel & Ebert, the occasional movie poster you’d see at a bus stop or cinema. If you were really lucky, the production company would sometimes create a “Behind the Scenes”/”Making of” showcase a little after the movie premiered. If possible, I would read the billing block of a poster to see if I could recognize anyone familiar, Just seeing Amblin Entertainment meant you’d have Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall involved. Nothing new there. I knew Robert Zemeckis and Alan Silvestri from Romancing the Stone and Back to the Future. Movies have had mixes of animation and live action – Bedrooms & Broomsticks, Mary Poppins, etc., but the big buzz here was the film planned to somehow involve both the Disney and Warner Bros. animation studios. It was an alien concept for me, because they couldn’t be more different from each other. Historically, animation on the WB side of things were edgy and almost dared to be even raunchy if they could get away with it. Disney, on the other hand, was pristine and extremely  kid friendly. Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse? Daffy Duck vs. Donald Duck, all on the same screen? It was the 1980’s equivalent of asking Marvel (which ironically, is owned by Disney now) and DC (which the WB has owned for decades) to write a single Justice League / Avengers crossover story.

At the time, Steven Spielberg was already well known for blockbusters like the Indiana Jones films and E.T., but did he really have enough clout to bring two major companies together like that? It blew my 13 year old mind and I became completely obsessed.

Around the time Who Framed Roger Rabbit came out, I picked up anything I could find about it. I had Alan Silvestri’s soundtrack, a poster, a stuffed Roger doll, and the video game when it came out. I even read Gary Wolf’s novel. I begged my parents to let me see it, and it was one of the rare times where my Mom took my sis and I to the movies instead of my dad (the major movie buff, who took us to see Robocop twice the year before). I think she went in part to shut me up, and to give herself a break from my nearly 2 year old brother. It remains one of the two best movie related memories I have of her.

In the world of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, humans and cartoons share the same space in Los Angeles. Cartoons live in Toontown, owned by Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye). It’s the story of Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins – Hook, Mermaids), a Los Angeles Private Eye with a bit of a grudge against toons. For a quick buck, Valiant is hired by R.K. Maroon (Alan Tilvern – Firefox, Little Shop of Horrors) to snoop on Acme. Valiant’s work puts him in the path of Roger Rabbit (Charles Fleischer, Back to the Future Part II), after Eddie takes some racy pictures of Acme playing patty cake with Roger’s wife, Jessica (Kathleen Turner, Romancing the Stone). Roger angrily swears they’re still a happy couple and that Acme somehow coerced her before running off into the night. The next morning, Eddie is informed that the Marvin Acme’s been killed overnight. To make things worse, Acme’s Will is missing, leaving the fate of Toontown up in the air. All of the evidence points to Roger, but Roger asks for Eddie’s assistance in clearing his name. Can Eddie save Roger before Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd, Back to the Future) and his pack of weasels get their hands on him?

The production for the film required jumping over a number of hurdles. Zemeckis, himself a cartoon fan, wanted to bring some of the Warner Bros. characters along with Disney characters. Even better, he also wanted to add some of Tex Avery’s classic style to the film. Similar to what he did with Ready Player One, Spielberg negotiated with some of the studios, and while he couldn’t get everyone, he did manage to get Disney, WB and a few others to commit. With this in place, they had to somehow merge animation with live-action in a way that made it look like the cartoons were interacting with their environment.

This would require one really huge magic trick, made up from an assortment of parts.

Since it was around 1986-1987, there really was no CG, yet.. James Cameron made 6 stuntmen in Alien suits look like 600 through the use of Oscar Winning Editing, and the technology that gave us the paradigm shifting dinosaurs of Jurassic Park wouldn’t occur for another 3 or 4 years. For Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the approach was a mix of robotics, puppetry, sleight of hand gadgetry, and a lot of imagination.

The art was handled by Richard Williams and his team, who would go on to win a Special Achievement Oscar for his contribution to the film. They had to draw every cell/frame by hand, on paper and then have them inked. These would then go to Industrial Light & Magic, who would add shadow, highlights and special effects To make things harder, the artists had to work around Zemeckis’ filming style and figure out how to fit the characters into each scene.

Take Jessica Rabbit’s performance of “Why Don’t You Do Right?”, sung by Amy Irving (Carrie, The Fury). At first glance, it seems a really easy shot. Girl steps on the stage, performs and leaves, right? However, there are so many things happening here on an effects level that I still don’t fully understand how they did it after all these years. ILM handled the lighting, from the sparkles in the dress, the use of the handkerchief and the great moment where Jessica blocks the spotlight in her walk from Acme to Valiant. I had to later explain to my mom that the “Wow” I whispered in the theatre during that scene had little or nothing to do with puberty. It was because I hadn’t seen anything like that before with a cartoon, and I’d hate the Academy forever if the movie didn’t win an Oscar for that.

Having cartoons on screen is one thing, but making it feel like they were interacting with people is another. Hoskins was the anchor that tied most of it all together. Having to work with nearly nothing – not even a green screen – and perform the physical actions required of the role was quite a feat compared to what some actors do with the motion capture rooms and digital walls we use today. Near lifesize models of Roger were created to help Hoskins handle some of the physical “grab and move” sequences, and actor Charles Fleischer actually spent time dressed as Roger on set (but off camera, of course) to feed his side of the conversation to Hoskins when filming a scene.

Puppeteers were brought on for moments were toon characters needed to hold objects, such as guns or knives. There is a moment of the movie where you can see one of the holes for the guns that the weasels, but it’s a pretty minute hiccup with all of the great work that was done. For the car sequences with Benny the Cab (also Fleischer), they used a special mini-car with a driver in the back. The car and driver were painted over (still, frame for frame) by the animators.

And ff course, it wouldn’t be a Zemeckis film without Alan Silvestri at the helm, musically speaking. Silvestri’s score for was a mix of detective noir and cartoony antics, which made for a perfect fit for the film. Overall, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is one of those films I cherished growing up, and it’s almost impossible for me to avoid recommending it.