Trailer: The King’s Man


I love the Kingsman series. It looks like we have a third installment to the series, with a prequel showcasing the origins of the secret agent organization. Ralph Fiennes, Tom Hollander, Aaron Taylor-Johnson (who also worked with director Matthew Vaughn in Kick-Ass), Gemma Arterton, Daniel Bruhl, Djimon Hounsou, Charles Dance, Matthew Goode, and Stanley Tucci are all on board.

The King’s Man is due out February of 2020.

Outlaw King Official Trailer


Outlaw King

Who here has seen Braveheart?

I’m quite sure that a huge number of people have seen Mel Gibson’s second film as director which won him two Oscars: for Best Director and Best Film. While his career has seen it’s major up’s and down’s, he still has done some great work behind the camera as a director.

Now, what does this all mean to this new Netflix Original film coming out this year called Outlaw King? The answer is not much other than both film share a particular historical character in the Scottish king Robert the Bruce. In Gibson’s film he’s a supporting character whose motivations could be seen as very pragmatic and bordering on the villainous.

Outlaw King, by Scottish director David MacKenzie (who directed the great Hell or High Water), will tell the story of the legendary Scottish king Robert the Bruce who won Scotland’s independence from England where William Wallace ultimately failed to do.

I am going on a hunch that Outlaw King will treat Robert the Bruce in a more sympathetic light than how Gibson’s film portrayed him. This time around we have Chris Pine in the role of Robert the Bruce.

As seen in the trailer, it looks like Netflix’s several billion dollar spending spree has come not just luring prominent filmmakers and producers to the streaming site but also allow them the resources to make a film as lush and beautiful as any made under the remaining big studios.

Let’s hope Outlaw King is more on the level of Mudbound and less like Bright.

Film Review: The Wall (dir by Doug Liman)


The Wall tells a very simple story.

Opening with a title card that informs us that “President Bush has declared victory,” The Wall takes place in Iraq in 2007.  Two soldiers — a sniper named Matthews (John Cena) and a spotter named Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) — have responded to a call for help that came from a pipeline construction site.  When they arrive, they see only dead contractors.  Matthews and Isaac spend a day watching the site, finally determining that it is safe to investigate.

Of course, as soon as Matthews approaches the site, shots ring out as a sniper opens fire on him.  Matthews falls while Isaac finds himself trapped behind a crumbling wall, shot in the right knee and slowly bleeding out.  As Isaac tends to his wound and tries to determine whether Matthews is alive or dead, his radio comes to life.  The voice, on the other end, initially claims to be an American soldier but Isaac eventually figures out that the voice actually belongs to the man who just shot him.  The sniper is an Iraqi who calls himself Juba.  He may or may not be a legendary and feared sniper that Matthews and Isaac were discussing mere minutes before being attacked.

And that’s pretty much the entire film right there.  For 81 minutes, Isaac tries not to die while Juba alternates between taunting him and demanding to know why he and the American forces have yet to leave Iraq.  Isaac claims that America is rebuilding Iraq.  Juba claims that the wall that Isaac is hiding behind used to be a part of a school.  Isaac tells Juba to fuck off.  Juba replies, “We are not so different, you and me,” revealing that, if nothing else, Al Qaeda snipers apparently appreciate a good cliché.  If anything, it reminded me a bit of The Shallows, except Blake Lively was now a soldier and the shark refused to stop talking.

I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about The Wall.

On the one hand, it’s a very well-made film.  Visually, the film captures the deadly heat of the desert and it makes good use of its limited setting.  It’s far more watchable than any movie that exclusively takes place behind a crumbling wall has any right to be.  From what I’ve read, it appears that The Wall‘s depiction of both combat and dying is fairly accurate and the film does a good job of putting you in Isaac’s boots, forcing you to try to desperately figure out where Juba could be hiding.

Also, Aaron Taylor-Johnson actually gives a good performance.  Since, with a few notable exceptions, Aaron Taylor-Johnon usually bores me to tears, I was shocked to see how good of a performance he gave as the country-accented Isaac.  It’s especially impressive since he’s on screen for almost the entire film.  It was hard for me to believe that the same actor who was so unbearably dull in Savages was suddenly so watchable in The Wall.  However, he definitely was.

And yet, The Wall is also one of the most thoroughly unpleasant films that I’ve ever sat through.  Admittedly, that’s probably the way it should be.  War films shouldn’t be pleasant and I don’t think anyone could ever accuse The Wall of romanticizing combat.  At the same time, the film itself doesn’t seem to be quite sure what it wants to say about war.  Juba and Isaac do briefly debate America’s role in the Middle East but their discussion has all the depth of a twitter fight between Bernie Sanders supporter and a Donald Trump voter.  Neither Isaac nor Juba are particularly deep thinkers.  They’re both fighting and potentially dying for the benefit of others.  Maybe that’s the point.  The problem is that the film itself doesn’t seem to be quite sure.

The Wall is one of those films where I respect the craftsmanship behind it while, at the same time, having no desire to ever sit through it again.

Here’s What Won At The Golden Globes!


Golden Globes Logo

Here’s what just won at the Golden Globes!  (For a full list of nominees, click here!)

Best Supporting Actor — Aaron Taylor-Johnson (a.k.a., the most boring actor on the planet) for Nocturnal Animals.  (I’m still in shock about this one.)

Best Original Score — Justin Hurwitz, La La Land

Original Song — “City of Stars,” La La Land

Best Supporting Actress — Viola Davis, Fences

Best Actor (Comedy) — Ryan Gosling, La La Land

Screenplay — Damien Chazelle, La La Land

Best Motion Picture, Animated — Zootopia

Best Motion Picture, Foreign Language — Elle

Special Award — Meryl Streep (YAWN)

Best Director, Motion Picture — Damien Chazelle, La La Land

Best Actress (Musical or Comedy) — Emma Stone, La La Land

Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy) — La La Land

Best Actor (Drama) — Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea

Best Actress (Drama) — Isabelle Huppert, Elle

Best Motion Picture (Drama) — Moonlight

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Here Are The 74th Annual Golden Globe Nominations!


Oscar season continued today with even more precursors announcing their picks for the best of 2016!  Perhaps most importantly, the 74th Annual Golden Globe nominations were announced today!  Even though they rarely match up 100%, the Golden Globe nominations are considered to be one of the best precursors for what will be nominated for an Oscar in January.

So, should Silence be worried?  Martin Scorsese’s latest acclaimed film was totally snubbed by the Golden Globes.  That could be an ominous sign for a film that everyone seems to respect but which is still going to be a far harder sell at the box office than either The Wolf of Wall Street or Hugo.

But again, it’s never an exact match between the Globes and the Oscars and the Academy can nominate up to ten films for best picture.  Though it would certainly be interesting (and kinda neat) if it happened, I somehow doubt that the Academy is going nominate Deadpool over Silence.

(For that matter, I doubt Simon Helberg is going to pick up an Oscar nomination for Florence Foster Jenkins.  Just a feeling…)

Below are the Golden Globe film nominations!

(For the TV nominations, why not check out the list over at Awards Watch?)

MOTION PICTURES

Best Motion Picture – Drama
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
20th Century Women
Deadpool
Florence Foster Jenkins
La La Land
Sing Street

Best Motion Picture – Animated
Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
My Life as a Zucchini
Sing
Zootopia

Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language
Divines (France)
Elle (France)
Neruda (Chile)
The Salesman (Iran)
Toni Erdmann (Germany)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama
Amy Adams, Arrival
Jessica Chastain, Miss Sloane
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Joel Edgerton, Loving
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Annette Bening, 20th Century Women
Lily Collins, Rules Don’t Apply
Hailee Steinfeld, The Edge of Seventeen
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Colin Farrell, The Lobster
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins
Jonah Hill, War Dogs
Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture
Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Simon Helberg, Florence Foster Jenkins
Dev Patel, Lion
Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Nocturnal Animals

Best Director – Motion Picture
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight
Nocturnal Animals

Best Original Score – Motion Picture
Arrival
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight

Best Original Song – Motion Picture
“Gold,” Gold
“City of Stars,” La La Land
“How Far I’ll Go,” Moana
“Faith,” Sing
“Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Trolls

Moana

Film Review: The Avengers: Age of Ultron (dir by Joss Whedon)


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In some ways, I think I may be both the worst and the best possible person to review the latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, largely because I’ve seen all the films but I don’t know much about the comics on which they are based. As a result, I can judge each film solely by what is on screen but, at the same time, I know that there are a lot of references that go straight over my head. For instance, when we saw Avengers: Age of Ultron earlier tonight, I had to get my boyfriend to explain to me why certain members of the audience got so excited when Iron Man mentioned an African country called Wakanda. But what’s important is that I would have still enjoyed Age of Ultron even if I had never known why Wakanda was important. The MCU has, so far, managed to maintain a balance between keeping the Marvel fans happy while also remaining accessible to viewers like me. The MCU has created its own separate reality, one that even someone like me can feel comfortable exploring and reviewing.

However, before I get around to giving you my feelings on Age of Ultron, let’s be honest about something.

There are a lot of critics out there who have been waiting for a chance to attack the latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Some of them have disliked the MCU since the very first Iron Man film. They have been lone voices in the wilderness, arguing that the entire franchise is overrated and, in some cases, creatively destructive. Much like the Old Testament prophets, they continue to warn of the future while other filmgoers ignore the pillar of fire forming over the nearest theater. And then there are other critics who have praised previous MCU efforts but have never really been comfortable about it. These are the critics who resent having to write positively about a mere genre film. These are the critics who still haven’t gotten over just how good Guardians of the Galaxy truly was. They have been waiting for an MCU misfire so that they can do their penance for suggesting that Robert Downey, Jr. deserved Oscar consideration for Iron Man 3.

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These critics are going to watch The Avengers: Age of Ultron and they are going to pounce. They are going to point out that Age of Ultron puts too much emphasis on action over nuance and, as impressive as the CGI may be, it’s impossible to deny that Age of Ultron almost robotically follows the classic action movie formula. They’ll point out that none of The Avengers really develop as characters over the course of the film. Depending on how they’ve felt about the MCU up to this point, some of them will point out that Age of Ultron feels a bit like a step backwards. It doesn’t have the political subtext of Iron Man 3 or Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It lacks the satiric edge of Guardians of the Galaxy. And, ultimately, it’s just not as much fun as the first Avengers film.

And they won’t necessarily be wrong. I mean, let’s be honest. I write this as someone who has enjoyed (and, in some cases, loved) the previous MCU films. Avengers: Age of Ultron is not going to be remembered as one of the best of the MCU films. This is a flawed film that never reaches the heights of the original Avengers. All of the criticisms listed above are perfectly valid.

But, with all that in mind, I still enjoyed Avengers: Age of Ultron and I happily recommend it without a bit of hesitation.

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Age of Ultron opens with the Avengers attacking a HYDRA base and we quickly discover that the Avengers are exactly the same as we remembered them. Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) is cocky, self-destructive, and torn by guilt over his past as a weapons manufacturer. Captain America (Chris Evans) is earnest and idealistic. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is … well, he’s a God. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) is scared of what he becomes when he transforms into the Hulk. Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) is still shooting arrows and feeling out-of-place. Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) is still flirty, enigmatic, and apparently in love with Bruce Banner.

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One of the reoccurring themes of the MCU is that whenever Iron Man tries to make the world a better place, he instead ends up nearly destroying it. His latest attempt leads him to create Ultron (voiced quite chillingly by James Spader), a robot who has Tony’s personality and who has decided that the only way to bring about “peace in our time” is to destroy all of humanity. Ultron’s motives are as close as this film gets to any sort of thematic subtext. Ultron stands in for every ideology that would take away a person’s individual freedom in the name of the greater good. Age of Ultron doesn’t explore this subtext as much as I would have liked it to but, at the same time, I appreciated that it was at least there. That’s more than you can say for a film like Man of Steel.

Ultron is not the only new character to show up. Andy Serkis has a small role as a character that will undoubtedly be a villain in a future MCU film. After voicing JARVIS in several films, Paul Bettany finally gets to actually appear onscreen. I can’t talk too much about his character without spoiling the film but Bettany makes good use of his limited screen time.

And then there’s Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen. Previously, they played lovers in Godzilla. In Age of Ultron, they play siblings who just seem like lovers. Taylor-Johnson is Pietro, who can move at super speeds. Elizabeth Olsen is Wanda, whose powers are a bit less defined but mostly seem to consist of being able to do whatever the script needs her to do at the time. (As the film explains it, “He’s fast, she’s strange.”) In the past, I’ve had mixed feeling about Taylor-Johnson. I thought he was brilliant in Nowhere Boy and Anna Karenina but, in other films, I found him to be excessively mannered and a little dull. But, in the role of Pietro, Taylor-Johnson really shines, achieving a good balance of arrogance and vulnerability. As for Elizabeth Olsen, she is perfectly cast as the angry but sensitive Wanda. At the very least, Age of Ultron better serves both of them than they were served by Godzilla.

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(Add to that, Wanda and I share similar tastes in fashion, which will make it easy for me to dress up as her for Halloween.)

Director Joss Whedon does a good job with the film’s many battle scenes, especially the final one. And, as someone who hated the mindless destruction of Man of Steel, I appreciated that, as characters, the Avengers spent as much time trying to protect innocent bystanders as they did battling Ultron and his henchrobots. At the same time, it was hard not to feel that the film’s emphasis on action did sacrifice some of the character moments that have made other MCU films so memorable. Early on in the film, there’s a great scene where the Avengers simply hang out at a party. They dance, they dink, they laugh, and eventually, they all take turns attempting to pick up Thor’s hammer. It’s a fun scene because it brings these heroes back down to Earth and, for a few minutes, we get to relate to them in the way that we would relate to our best friends. Age of Ultron could have used more scenes like that.

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That said, the cast of Age of Ultron provides enough old fashioned movie star charisma that they overcome the script’s shallow characterization. In many ways, it’s like one of the old Frank Sinatra rat pack movies, where you forgive a lot because you enjoy hanging out with the cast. They’re just fun to watch. Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, and Mark Ruffalo; at this point they are so identified with these characters that the actors and their roles might as well be interchangeable.

(And, at this point, if it were revealed the Robert Downey, Jr. owned a suit of armor, would you really be surprised?)

Ultimately, Age of Ultron feels a lot like one of the less acclaimed James Bond films. It’s flawed, it’s imperfect, but fans of the franchise will find a lot to enjoy. Much as you wouldn’t introduce someone to James Bond by showing him Moonraker, you probably wouldn’t want to introduce someone to the MCU by showing him or her Age of Ultron. If, somehow, you’ve managed to exist without ever seeing any other MCU films, then Age of Ultron will leave you confused and wondering what the big deal is. But, if you’re already a fan of the franchise, you’ll find a lot to enjoy here.

And, flaws and all, you’ll walk out of the theater looking forward to the next installment.

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A Vision of the Avengers: Age of Ultron for the Third Time


 

 

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The third and, hopefully, final trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron was unlocked today after a Twitter event which had millions of people tweeting the hashtag #AvengersAssemble. One has to give it up to the Marvel marketing machine. They know how to get the public clamoring for more when it comes to their films.

All that could be said has been said about this film. Just sit back and enjoy (or critique) one of the most highly-anticipated films of the year.