Here’s the Trailer for Marvel’s The Defenders!


Much as how all of the early films in the MCU were leading to the creation of The Avengers, all of Netflix’s Marvel series have been leading up to the creation of The Defenders!

The time has come.

I assume that, while the Avengers are defeating big-budget threats, The Defenders will keep peace on Earth by fighting Sigourney Weaver and ninjas in hallways.

Oh, and Elektra’s back…

Daredevil Has No Need For Iron Suits or Magic Hammers


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“I accept your conviction. The lone man who thinks he can make a difference.” — Wilson Fisk

Today we saw the release of the official trailer for Netflix and Marvel Television’s first of five series based on characters from the Marvel Universe. Daredevil will be the first out of the gate and it looks to darken things a bit in the Marvel Cinematic Universe by bringing to the small screen one of it’s street-level heroes.

Daredevil (aka Matt Murdock) will soon be joined by Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist in their own web series on Netflix before teaming up for the Defenders series.

Under the guiding hands of showrunner (and Whedon alum) Stephen S. DeKnight, Daredevil will soon be available for bingewatchers everywhere on April 10, 2015.

Trailer: Daredevil


daredevil“Bless me father for I have sinned.” — Matt Murdock

Marvel has pretty much been dominating the big-screen with it’s yearly event offerings. 2015 will not be an exception with Avengers: Age of Ultron set for a summer release expected to rake in the box-office by the money bins. Now, Marvel has set it’s site on the small-screen with it’s first Netflix Original Series that will be the first link in a five series set that will culminate in a team-up series called the Defenders.

This first link will be a new, and hopefully better take, on the street-level superhero Daredevil aka the Man With No Fear. The blind lawyer by day and vigilante by night whose blindness since childhood has helped him developed the rest of his senses beyond human levels. We shall not speak of the film adaptation starring Ben Affleck over ten years ago.

Marvel’s Daredevil will release all 10-episodes on Netflix this April 10, 2015.

Film Review: The Theory of Everything (dir by James Marsh)


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Earlier this year, when I was sitting in the audience for the unfortunate Nicholas Sparks film The Best Of Me, I found myself staring at the sight of an oil rig worker (played by James Marsden) relaxing by reading Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.  And, before I could stop myself, I laughed out loud and I may have even loudly said something along the lines of, “Oh come on!”

At the time, I got a lot of dirty looks but I stand by my reaction.  It’s such a cliché.  Any movie character who is meant to be intelligent and soulful will be seen casually reading a copy of Hawking’s book and scrunching up his brow as he considers whatever it is that Hawking has to say.  It makes sense, of course.  If the current cult surrounding Neil deGrasse Tyson proves anything, it’s that it is currently in to pretend to be fascinated by science.

I have to admit, though — science has never been my subject.  The cold logic of it all bores me to tears and there’s no bigger turn-off then listening to someone brag about being a “rational thinker.”  (Rational thought is incredibly overrated.)  As long as things work like they’re supposed to, the how and the why don’t really concern me.  Whenever I hear someone complain that there are “too many unanswered questions,” I think to myself, “Good.”  I like unanswered questions.  I like irrational feelings.  I like mysteries that can never be solved.  They fuel imagination.  They inspire great art.  They make life interesting and unpredictable.

(Please understand, I am not anti-science.  I’m anti-pretending-to-care-when-I-don’t.)

With all that in mind, you might think that I would be bored by The Theory of Everything, the recently released biopic about Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his marriage to Jane Hawking (Felicity Jones).  And, I’ll be honest.  If not for the fact that the film has been pegged as being a certain Oscar contender, I might not have ever wanted to see The Theory of Everything.  However, seeing as how The Theory of Everything is a certain Oscar contender, I did want to see it.

And, up until the final 30 minutes of the film, I was surprised with just how much I liked The Theory of Everything.  I have to admit that the film’s science still went over my head.  As far as that was concerned, the only thing I really learned is that there’s a difference between General Relativity and Quantum Field Theory but don’t ask me to explain that difference.  (And, for the love of all that is good, please don’t try to explain it to me…)  But, to be honest, the exact details of Hawking’s theories aren’t really that important to The Theory of Everything.  Instead, the film is content to have supporting characters assure us that Hawking’s work is brilliant and important and that’s really all that it has to do.  After all, everyone in the audience already knows that Stephen Hawking is a genius.  The appeal of The Theory of Everything is not the science but instead the human behind the science.

The Theory of Everything works for two very old-fashioned reasons — it’s well-directed by James Marsh and it’s well-acted by Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones.  For all the time that the film devotes to people talking about how Hawking challenged the conventional view of the universe, The Theory of Everything is, in many ways, a conventional biopic.  But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  A familiar story well-told is still a well-told story.

The film starts with Stephen as a student at Cambridge and we follow him as he awkwardly courts Jane and takes her on an amazingly well-filmed and soul-achingly romantic date.  Shortly after this, he’s diagnosed with motor neuron disease.  (As I discovered while doing some research for this review, Hawking was actually diagnosed before he even met Jane.)  Told he only has two years to live, Stephen’s first instinct is to isolate himself from the world but, largely as a result of Jane’s love and support, Stephen instead continues his work and becomes world famous.  The film suggests that it took a combination of Stephen’s logical (and skeptical) genius and Jane’s devout and unwavering faith (in both his genius and the God that Stephen doesn’t believe in) for him to eventually become the Stephen Hawking that we all recognize today.

And it’s all extremely well-done and touching, up until the final 30 minutes of the film.  Going into the film, I did not know much about Stephen Hawking but (thanks to Wikipedia), I did know that he eventually left Jane for another woman.  I have to admit that I did not expect the film to deal with this part of the story.  To the film’s credit, it does attempt to deal with the end of Stephen and Jane’s marriage but it does so in such an awkward way that it’s obvious that the filmmakers weren’t quite sure how they should handle the situation.

After all, the film had just spent 90 minutes presenting Jane as being an occasionally frustrated saint and Stephen as being idiosyncratic but likable.  And now, suddenly, Stephen is going to have to act like a jerk.  The film doesn’t know how to handle this and, as such, those final 30 minutes feel fake in a way that the rest of the film does not.  When Stephen tells Jane that he’s leaving her for another woman, it’s presented as being an almost mutual decision made by the two of them.  Tears are shed but there’s little visible anger, with the film going so far as to suggest that Stephen is leaving Jane because he wants her to be able to live the life that she put on hold to take care of him.  It’s even implied that Stephen was kind enough to pick out a new husband for her.

That new husband is played, quite well, by Charlie Cox.  When he first told Jane that he’s attracted to her, I assumed that the scene was included so that Jane could gently rebuff him and show us how devoted she is to Stephen.  However, thinking back on it now, it almost feels as if that scene was largely included so it could provide some cover for Stephen.  It’s as if the filmmakers are saying, “See?  Stephen wasn’t the only one tempted to end the marriage…”

And I have to admit that the way the film handled the end of Stephen and Jane’s marriage felt so false to me and the way Jane was treated and portrayed seemed so unfair that, as soon as I got home, I actually did the following google search: “Was The Theory Of Everything unfair to Jane Hawking?”

And the first result that came up was an article in The Guardian that essentially stated: “Yes, The Theory of Everything was unfair to Jane Hawking.”

Reading the article, I discovered that, according to Jane’s autobiography (upon which the film is ostensibly based), both her marriage to and divorce from Stephen Hawking was far more complex and intriguing than what was presented in the film.  For one thing, the marriage ended not with tears of acceptance but instead with a shouting match.  And trust me, if any actress could have done justice to Jane Hawking’s anger, it would be Felicity Jones.  By the time the film ends, both the character and the actress have earned the right to express their anger.  But neither one of them gets that opportunity, largely because that version of the Hawking marriage would also have been far less crowd pleasing.

And, if anything, The Theory of Everything is specifically designed to be a crowd pleaser.

And don’t get me wrong.  It’s a good film and it’s one that left me with tears in my eyes.  Do I recommend the film?  You bet I do.

I just wish that, during those final 30 minutes, the film could have been a little bit more honest with itself.  It’s a good film but it’s hard not to regret missing out on the film that it could have been.

theory-of-everything-new

Horror Film Review: Dracula Untold (dir by Gary Shore)


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Last night, I finally got a chance to see Dracula Untold, the new film that claims to show us not only who the world’s most famous vampire used to be but also how he became a vampire in the first place.  And I have to admit that I had strong hopes for Dracula Untold.  I certainly did not think that it would be a great film but I was hoping that it would at least be fun.

And can you blame me?

After all, it is October and what better time of the year is there to see a film about the early days of a horror icon?  Add to that, the film’s commercials all hinted that, at the very least, Dracula Untold would be full of over-the-top action, melodramatic performances, and ornate costumes.  Sure, there was no hint to be found that Dracula Untold would actually turn out to be a good movie but how can you go wrong with the promise of a little baroque spectacle?

As well, who doesn’t love vampires?  Who hasn’t, at some point, been intrigued by the mix of romance and morbid dread that epitomizes the vampire legend?  And, of course, long before there was ever an Edward Cullen or a Lestat, there was Dracula.

So, yes, I had high expectation for Dracula Untold but I don’t think they were unrealistic.  Ultimately, I was just hoping to see a fun and entertaining vampire film.

And, in all fairness, there were a few moments when Dracula Untold managed to be just that. Unfortunately, those moments were few and far between.  For the most part, this latest Dracula film turned out to be rather bland and predictable, a well-produced film that failed to leave much of an impression.  It was neither good enough to be memorable nor bad enough to be enjoyable.  Instead, it just kind of was.

Dracula Untold opens in the Middle Ages, with the man that we know as Vlad the Impaler (Luke Evans) ruling Transylvania.  Despite his fearsome reputation, we quickly see that Vlad is actually a very wise and benevolent king who truly loves his wife (Sarah Gadon) and his young son (Art Parkinson).  However, when the new sultan of Turkey (played by Dominic Cooper) demands that Transylvania send him 100 young men to serve as slaves (much as Vlad himself was forced to do when he was younger), Vlad goes to war against the Ottomon Empire.

With his forces outnumbered, Vlad does what any self-respecting ruler would do.  He goes to a cave and he talks to the Master Vampire (Charles Dance, under a ton of makeup).  The Master Vampire agrees to give Vlad all the powers of a vampire but there’s a condition.  In order to become human again, Vlad must go for three whole days without drinking any blood.  If Vlad does drink blood, he will be cursed to be a vampire for the rest of his life.

Vlad takes the deal, fully intending not to drink any blood.  As a result, Vlad can do all sorts of neat CGI tricks, like turning into a bat and fighting his enemies in slow motion.  However, he can’t go out in the sun without his skin starting to burn and silver causes his eyesight to go all blurry.  And, of course, he starts to crave blood almost immediately.  As Vlad tries to defeat the Turks before losing his special powers, he also discovers that his own soldiers now fear him and his dark powers…

I don’t want to be too hard on Dracula Untold because, while my overall reaction was one of disappointment, there are still bits and pieces of the film that works.  Charles Dance, for instance, gives a great performance as the Master Vampire.  Dominic Cooper camps it up as the film’s nominal villain and, as a result, he’s a lot of fun to watch.  Luke Evans is pretty to look at.  The final showdown between Evans and Cooper is well-directed.

But, ultimately, the things that worked in Dracula Untold were the exception to the rule.  For the most part, Dracula Untold is uninspiring and forgettable.  Clocking in at 92 minutes, Dracula Untold is almost too short and quick for its own good.  You never really find yourself becoming immersed in the film’s world and the majority of the film’s supporting characters were so thinly drawn that I struggled to keep straight who was who.  (I swear, at first, it seemed as if one of Dracula’s friends was actually killed three separate times.  It was only afterward, as I looked over the film’s credits, that I discovered that “friend” was actually three different characters who were so indistinguishable from each other that I had just naturally assumed that they were all meant to be the same guy.)  There are occasionally hints of an intriguing political and sexual subtext, particularly in the scenes between Evans and Cooper, but the film is always in such a hurry to get to the next battle scene that those hints are often pushed to the side within minutes of having been brought up.  It becomes obvious early on that Dracula Untold was mostly made to serve as the cornerstone of a new franchise and, as such, the film ultimately feels like a 90-minute prologue to a story that you’re not really sure will be worth all the build-up.

It’s not so much that Dracula Untold was a terrible film as much as it was just a painfully generic and predictable one.  And a character as iconic as Dracula deserves better.

8 Quickies With Lisa Marie: 13 Assassins, Bunraku, The Double Hour, Jig, Meek’s Cutoff, Of Gods and Men, One Day, and There Be Dragons


As part of my continuing effort to offer up a review of every 2011 release that I’ve seen so far this year, here’s 8 more quickie reviews of some of the films that I’ve seen over the past year.

1) 13 Assassins (dir. by Takashi Miike)

The 13 Assassins are a group of samurai who are gathered together to assassinate a sociopathic nobleman in 19th Century Japan.  As directed by Takashi Miike, this is a visually stunning film full of nonstop, brutal action and Miike powerfully contrasts the old school honor of the 13 Assassins with the soulless evil of their target. 

2) Bunraku (dir. by Guy Moshe)

There are some films that simply have to be seen to believed and Bunraku is one of those films.  In the aftermath of a global war, guns have been outlawed but this attempt at social engineering has just resulted in greater societal collapse.  Nicola (Ron Perlman) is the most powerful man on the East Coast but he lives life in paranoid seclusion and instead sends out nine assassins to enforce his will (his main assassin being Killer No. 2, played by a super stylish Kevin McKidd).  Two strangers ( a drifter played by Josh Hartnett and a samurai played by Gackt) arrive in town and, with the help of a bartender played by Woody Harrelson, they team up to destroy the nine assassins and ultimately Nicola himself.  Bunraku, which comes complete with an ominous narrator and sets that look like they belong in a Lars Von Trier film, is a glorious and fast-paced triumph of style over substance, an exciting and fun celebration of the grindhouse films of the past.  With the exception of a miscast Demi Moore (playing Perlman’s mistress), the film is very well-acted but it’s completely stolen and dominated by Kevin McKidd, who can poke me with his sword any time he wants.

3) The Double Hour (dir. by Giuseppe Capotondi)

It took The Double Hour about two years to make it over here from Italy and when it did finally play in American arthouse theaters, it really didn’t get as much attention as it deserved.  That’s a shame because the Double Hour is a pretty entertaining mystery-thriller that’s full of twists and turns and which features an excellent performance by Kseniya Rappoport as an enigmatic hotel maid.  It hasn’t been released on region 1 DVD or blu-ray yet but apparently, there’s some interest in doing an American remake which will probably suck.

4) Jig (dir. by Sue Bourne)

Jig is a documentary that follows several competitors at the 40th Irish Dancing World Championships held in Glasgow in 2010.  I always try to be honest about my personal biases and I have to admit that one reason why I absolutely loved this film is because I not only love to dance but I love Irish stepdancing in specific and, as much as I love ballet, stepdance will always hold a special place in my heart.  I’m not quite sure how to put it into words other then to say that it just makes me incredibly happy as both a participant and a  watcher.  For me, Jig captured that joy as well as showing just how much dedication and sacrifice it takes to truly become proficient at it.  This film — much like Black Swan — made me dance.

5) Meek’s Cutoff (dir. by Kelly Reichardt)

I’ll never forget going to the Cinemark West Plano and seeing Meek’s Cutoff last May.  The theater was nearly deserted except for me, Jeff, an elderly couple, and two women who were, in their appearance and manner, almost stereotypically upper middle class suburban.  As the film’s frustratingly ambiguous conclusion played out on-screen and the end credits started to roll, one of the women angrily exclaimed, “WHAT!?  Well, that won’t win any Academy Awards!”  In many ways, Meek’s Cutoff is a frustrating film.  Based on a true story, it follows a group of 19th century settlers as they try to cross the Oregon Trail while following a guide (Bruce Greenwood) who might be totally incompetent.  Plotwise, not much happens: the settlers kidnap an Indian and demand that he lead them to water, Michelle Williams plays a settler who doubts that any of the men in the party know what they’re doing, and everyone continues to keep moving in search of … something.  The film is, at times, really frustrating and I think it’s been overrated by most critics but, at the same time, it remains an oddly fascinating meditation on life and fate.  Add to that, both Greenwood and Williams give good performances and the film’s cinematography is hauntingly beautiful and desolate at the same time.

6) Of Gods and Men(dir. by Xavier Beauvois)

Of Gods and Men is a quietly powerful and visually stunning French film that’s based on the true story of 7 Trappist monks who were kidnapped from their monastery and murdered by muslim rebels during the Algerian Civil War.  The film imagines the final days of the monks and attempts to answer the question of why they didn’t flee their monastery when they had the opportunity to do so, but instead remained and chose to accept their fate as martyrs.  This meditative film also features excellent performances from Lambert Wilson and Michael Lonsdale and avoids the trap of both easy idealization and easy villainy. 

7) One Day (dir. by Lone Scherfig)

This is another one of those films that was dismissed by almost every critic except for Roger Ebert and you know what?  For once, I’m going to agree with Roger.  I absolutely loved One Day and I think that all the haters out there need to take a chance on romance and stop coasting on the easy cynicism.  One Day follows the love affair of a writer (Anne Hathaway) and a TV personality (Jim Sturgess), visiting them repeatedly on the same day over the course of 20 years.  The film starts with them as college students having a wonderfully awkward one night stand and it ends with Sturgess and their son walking up a beautiful green hill and it made me cry and cry.  Hathaway and Sturgess have a wonderful chemistry together and the film also features some good supporting performances from Patricia Clarkson (as Sturgess’ dying mother) and Rafe Spall (bringing humanity to the thankless role of being the “other guy.”) This is one of the most deliriously romantic films that I’ve ever seen and I loved it.  So there.

8 ) There Be Dragons (dir. by Roland Joffe)

There Be Dragons came out in May and it didn’t get much respect from the critics.  I’ve also read that it was considered to be a box office failure, which is odd because I seem to remember that it was actually in theaters for quite some time.  Anyway, There Be Dragons is an oddly old-fashioned war epic that attempts to mix the fictional story of a Spanish revolutionary (played by Wes Bentley) with an admiring biopic of the founder of Orpus Dei, St. Josemarie Escriva (played by Charlie Cox).  The two stories never really seem mix and instead, they just coexist uncomfortably beside each other.  It doesn’t help that Wes Bentley gives one of the worst performance of 2011.  On the plus side, Charlie Cox gives a good and believable performance as Escriva and the film looks great.  The film is so sincere in its desire to make the world a better place that its hard not to regret that it doesn’t succeed.

Quick Review: Stardust (dir. by Matthew Vaughn)


Just after getting Layer Cake out, director Matthew Vaughn decided to work on an adaptation on Neil Gaiman’s Stardust along with Jane Goldman. Of the four movies he’s made so far, Stardust maybe the most low profile Vaughn film, but next to Layer Cake, it actually is one of my favorites. It’s a strange but enjoyable fairy tale that evokes memories of films like It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World or Without a Paddle in some ways. What makes it special is that it an idea that only Gaiman could have come up with, really. Understanding the world of Stardust requires a little suspension of belief, which is normal, given that it’s a fantasy film. Gaiman’s story is definitely a strong one, but may not be the easiest to follow.

Like Contagion, Stardust has multiple characters going after a single goal. On his deathbed, the king of a faraway land (played by Peter O’Toole) decides that his seven sons (named Primus through Septimus, respectively) aren’t quite ready to take the throne when he passes. Taking the family jewel around his neck, he gives them a challenge. The first heir to successfully find the stone will be named King. He launches the stone out to the heavens for them to find. The stone hits a star and causes both to fall from the sky.

A trio of witches, lead by Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer a villain role she plays like she’s enjoying it) witness the falling star and set off to reclaim it, as stars have the ability to regenerate their youth. Our hero, Tristan Thorn (Charlie Cox) also goes after the star to impress the girl of his dreams, Victoria (Sienna Miller) and pull her away from Tristan’s rival, Humphrey (The Tudors’ Henry Cavill).

The race for the Star becomes a little more complex when we find that Stars, which crashing down actually appear to be human. Yvaine (Claire Danes) is simply looking to get to her place in the night sky when the chase begins.

Although many of the roles in Stardust are done well, Mark Strong is easily the standout of this film as Prince Septimus. With this role, it’s easily understandable as to how Vaughn tapped him for Kick-Ass. Though his screen time isn’t as strong as Pfieffer’s, he’s memorable in all of this scenes. Pfeiffer also a number of moments where she appeared to have fun with her role. Stardust also contains a few cameos with Robert DeNiro and Ricky Gervais. Fans of other Vaughn films will find other actors from his movie, such as Jason Flemyng and Dexter Fletcher.

Stardust is a fun film, but being a fantasy one, it has the potential be lost on some viewers. Still, it boasts what feels like a familiar theme wrapped up in new story, which actually serves to be one of Stardust’s stronger traits.