Trailer: Oldboy (Red Band)


OldboyRemake

Today saw the release of the red band trailer for the remake of Park Chan-wook’s classic neo-noir Oldboy. This remake by Spike Lee already looks to pay homage (or imitate) the look and feel of Park’s adaptation of the Japanese manga of the same name by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Mineshigi. We see quick glimpses of the hallway fight scene and a montage of the main character’s 20 years spent locked up in an unknown hotel room.

There’s a great chance for Spike Lee to make this remake his very own by using the Park film as a template but not as gospel. The Park adaptation itself took some liberties with the story told in the manga. Lee and the screenplay by Protosevich could do same to allow this Oldboy a chance to stand on its own instead of becoming another Gus Van Sant Psycho.

Though I wouldn’t mind to see what Lee has in mind as Josh Brolin’s character’s first choice of a meal once getting out.

Trailer: Only God Forgives (Red Band)


OnlyGodForgives

It looks like we the makings of a new Scorsese/DeNiro combination with Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling partnering up once again for another film after their critically-acclaimed neo-noir crime thriller with Drive.

Only God Forgives transplants Refn and Gosling away from the smog and seedy glamour of Los Angeles to the anything-goes locales of Thailand. Refn has described this follow-up to Drive as a modern Western set fully in the Far East with Gosling in the role of the cowboy antihero. The red band trailer once again shows that Refn will not be skimping on the beautifully shot violence and ramps up on the film’s look of heightened reality that made his previous film such a unique viewing experience.

There’s still no announced release date for Only God Forgives, but we will surely be on the look out for when it does finally come out.

Quickie Review: Olympus Has Fallen (dir. by Antoine Fuqua)


OlympusHasFallen

“The most protected building on Earth has fallen.”

Die Hard has become it’s very own subgenre of action films since it was first released in 1988. It was a simple enough story that combined the “one against many” type of story with the “siege tale”. It was a perfect combination that has since been copied, imitated, but truly never duplicated to the highest level of success the original film had upon release. There’s been a few films that added their own unique take on this action film template. There was “Die Hard on a boat” with the underappreciated Under Siege. Then we have Air Force One which was “Die Hard on a plane”. The latest action film to try and put a new spin on the Willias-McTiernan classic is Antoine Fuqua’s latest film, Olympus Has Fallen.

The film pretty much takes what worked with the three films before it that’s been mentioned above and combines them to make a film. We have a lone, highly skilled operative in the form of Secret Service Agent Mike Banning in the role that made Bruce Willis famous and, for a time, resuscitated Steven Seagal’s career. Then we have the Presidential angle but instead of Air Force One it’s the White House this time around. The plot of the film is simple enough that even a person not well-versed in film could follow it. A group of dedicated and highly-trained North Korean terrorists do a surprise attack on the White House as the President of the United States and his South Korean counterpart try to find a way to defuse a situation that’s been growing in the DMZ between the two Koreas. It’s now up to Agent Banning, on his own, to try and stop whatever plans the terrorists have brewing with the President as hostage while also dealing with an inept group of higher-ups trying to deal with it far from the action.

Olympus Has Fallen doesn’t break new ground with the way it’s story unfolds and it’s characters develop. The film was pretty much beat-for-beat and scene for scene lifted from the three other films mentioned above. The characters may be different and the circumstances they find themselves in somewhat different, but the screenwriters played everything safe except the action sequences part of the film. It’s these action scenes which brings Olympus Has Fallen to a new level of violent artistry that the previously mentioned films never reached.

To say that this film was violent would be an understatement. Where other films of this type a certain cartoonish tone to it’s violence this time around Fuqua goes for a much more serious and, at times, disturbingly difficult to watch level of violence to make the film stand out from the rest of it’s kind. The assault on the White House itself and the surrounding area has less a look of a fun action film and more of a war film. People die in droves and it doesn’t matter whether they’re Secret Service, police, terrorists or innocent civilians. All were fair game in this film.

Even the action once we get to Banning playing the Willis role looked more brutal than what Willis and even Seagal ever got to do. Gerard Butler may not have had the charisma and wit of Willis in the same role, but he convincingly played his role as more Jack Bauer than Officer McClane. Butler as Banning was all business and efficiency while Willis as McClane was more the witty, smartass who just keeps finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Olympus Has Fallen won’t be hailed as one of the best films of 2013. It won’t even be talked about as one of the top action films this year, but despite the story being a derivative of every Die Hard and it’s clones before it the film does succeed in being a very enjoyable piece of popcorn flick. It was full of tension and big action setpieces (though the CG effects looked very cheap at times) that Fuqua has gradually become known for. The characters in the film were just a step above being one-dimensional and the story itself becomes less eye-rolling and more worrisome considering the real tensions coming out of the Korean Peninsula at this very moment.

One thing I’m sure of is that of the two “Die Hard-in-the-White-House” films this year (there’s the bigger-budgeted White House Down later this summer from Roland Emmerich) I have a feeling that Olympus Has Fallen might be the more fun. It’s probably going to be the more violent of the two and that’s an assumption I’m willing to make without even seeing how Emmerich’s film turns out.

Trailer: Olympus Has Fallen


OlympusHasFallen

I’ve always wondered why Gerard Butler hasn’t been tapped to be an action hero star since his turn as Leonidas in 300. He definitely has the looks and physicality to pull off such films and do so without being snarky about it. He has instead been stuck doing romantic comedies and the brooding anti-hero roles. This pattern may just change depending on how well his next film does.

Olympus Has Fallen is the next film from Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, King Arthur, Shooter) and looks like a new take on the Die Hard template of “one against many” that’s worked well with some films and turned out bad with others. This time around the film looks to be “Die Hard in the White House” type of story with Gerard Butler in the role of Bruce Willis. Though from some of the dialogue shown in the trailer it also sounds like a version of Under Siege (one of the better Die Hard clones)

The White House used as a setting for a siege has rarely been used (though the tv series 24 did it in it’s later seasons). The trailer show’s a bit of back story to Butler’s Secret Service character and what brings him back to the fold after a tragedy in his professional past puts him on ice.

Olympus Has Fallen is set for a March 22, 2013 release date.

Trailer: Evil Dead (Full Red Band)


EvilDead

Remake. Remake. Remake.

I can hear the howls now. Not another horror remake and one of a classic in the genre that many fans consider one of the holy grails of horror cinema. Guess what I say to those people. SHUT THE FUCK UP!

With the complete blessing from both Sam Raimi and Bruce “Who is God when he wants to walk amongst his creations” Campbell and them back but in the role of producers and mentor to the remake’s director, Fede Alvarez, and the young ensemble cast I have much more faith with this particular horror remake than others of its kind.

The trailer itself looks to go on the far extreme on the horror side of the original. I didn’t get a sense of much of the black humor of the original film (and it’s subsequent semi-remake), but I think that’s a good thing. Why remake a classic beat for beat when one can go their own way and explore something even the original never did.

One thing I can say about this full red band trailer that has me jumping up and down like a horror fan on bath salts…

VIOLENTLY AMOROUS TREE: Check!

LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS OF BLOOD: Check!

GRAPHIC DISMEMBERMENT: Check!

CHAINSAW: Check!

DEADITE POSSESSIONS: Check!

FACE-EATING (or Extreme GIRL-ON-GIRL MAKE-OUT SESSION: Check and Check!

Evil Dead lands it’s bloody, possessed corpse on everyone this April 12, 2013. Until then….

….Shop smart. Shop S-MART.

Review: Drive (dir. by Nicolas Winding Refn)


Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn has made just a handful of films with most staying under the radar of most of the general film-going public. He first caught the attention of indie film fans with his Pusher Trilogy over in Denmark, but he really caught the attention of these fans with his explosive collaboration with Tom Hardy on the Bronson biopic. He would follow that film with the violent existentialist Viking film Valhalla Rising. It would take another major collaboration with another rising star in Ryan Gosling for Winding Refn to finally have his major breakout film which has caught the attention of not just the indie film fans and cineaste crowd, but the general public at-large.

Drive was first screened over at this year’s 2011 Cannes Film Festival where it premiered “in competition” for the Palme d’Or. While the film didn’t win the top prize for best film at Cannes it didn’t garner Nicolas Winding Refn “Best Director” award and his work on this film more than merits such an accolade. The film would begin to screen at other major film festivals before landing at the Toronto International Film Festival before making it’s major public release in North America. Everywhere the film went the consensus reaction to the film has ranged from positive to calls for the film as one of 2011’s best.

So, it would seem most everyone has been quite positive with their reaction to Refn’s Drive. Is this film just another indie arthouse title which the elitist film fans have begun to hype up to levels that would border on cosmic? Or is this film actually as good as it has been talked up to be by such film fans and those of the general public who have seen it? I think the answer lies somewhere in-between.

Drive has been called an action-drama to crime-thriller to film noir and even an existentialist meditation of the film variety. Some have even called it a modern urban fairy tale from the many traditional tropes and themes inherent in fairy tales. The film actually seems to defy genre labels as it’s all those and even more. Nicolas Winding Refn has made a film with so much variety in its cinematic DNA from other classic films and storytelling styles that watching the film once is not enough to find them all.

The film makes a strong statement with it’s introduction of the character who remains nameless but could be called “The Driver” or “The Kid”. Ryan Gosling’s performance in this opening sequence will set the foundation for his character from beginning to end. His driver role is not much for chit-chat and unnecessary talking with those who have hired him to be their expert getaway driver. He’s meticulous with his equipment and intractable when it comes to the rules he has set down for his clients. He would be theirs for the five minutes they need him to drive them away from their criminal acts. Whatever they do before or after those five minutes doesn’t matter to him and he sticks to this rule explicitly. Another rule which he lays down is that he will not be carrying a firearm. These rules have had some audiences bring to mind Jason Statham’s Transporter character and they would not be totally wrong to say so. What Gosling’s driver has over Statham’s is the air of realism to the role. It’s a realism that borders on hyper-reality as the film moves on to it’s climactic conclusion, but real nonetheless. Gosling’s “driver” will not do extensive and elaborate fighting skills the way Statham’s would.

The film would move from it’s powerful introduction and into a much more calm and somewhat serene section as the nameless driver gradually gets to know his next door neighbor in the form of Irene as played by Carey Mulligan. Their relationship will form the core of the film’s narrative and it’s the driver’s growing affection not just for Irene but her young son that would dictate some of the decisions he would make right up to the end of the film. It’s a relationship built not on extensive dialogue banter but mostly on meaningful glances and silent understanding between two characters who seem to have found a kindred kinship between them. It’s this growing relationship between the two and Irene’s son which almost look like a familial unit forming until the return of Irene’s incarcerated and newly-released husband Standard. This is a character played by Oscar Isaac as a man desperate to take full advantage of his last chance at normalcy and redemption, but ultimately doomed to fail.

Standard doesn’t just become the only wrench in the happy life Gosling’s character seems to want to have with Irene and her son. Into the picture also happens to come in is his mentor and business partner Shannon (Bryan Cranston doing a great job as the good-natured, but opportunistic fool character many Shakespearean tragedies always seem to have) and Shannon’s even seedier acquaintances in Hollywood mogul-turned-mob boss Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks in a chilling performance) and his more boisterous, but not as smart partner in Nino (Ron Perlman).

The film seems to settle on the low gears for the first hour of the film, but it’s during a botched robbery attempt where the driver becomes embroiled in that Drive finally moves into the high gears and stays there until the very end. Refn’s decision to use the first hour to round out and build the characters in this film definitely pays off in the end. The audience becomes quite clear as to who the players are and what motivates them to do what they do the rest of the film. Even the most secondary and tertiary roles in this film has a part to play. Even Christina Hendricks in the role of a low-level moll to a gang of criminals gets to have her time to shine if just briefly.

Once the narrative shifts from character study to an almost Cronenbergian exercise in violence and brutality does the film finally able to hook in the last few audiences who may have still been iffy about Drive. Not to say that the final 45-minutes of the film was a non-stop action film, but it does move at a consistently higher gear pace than the first hour. We see the driver having to show to the audience that he’s not just an expert wheelman for Hollywood (stunt driver by day) and the criminal underground (getaway driver by night). It serves the film well that Gosling’s character has the barest minimum of lines of dialogue. We see all we need to know about this character through his behavior that brings to mind roles played by such past luminaries as Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood.

Most likely it would be in the second half of the film that should satisfy the action junkies. While the action scenes are not of the Michael Bay-type they do show that Refn has a fine grasp of what makes an action scene thrilling. Whether the scene calls for some of the most well-done car chase on film since Frankenheimer showed everyone how to properly do it in Ronin or scenes of sudden brutal violence which calls to mind similar scenes from Cronenberg’s last two films (A History of Violence and Eastern Promises). Both types of action were done efficiently with little to no glamour to gloss over things. The burst of violence actually adds to the mystique of Gosling’s “Man With No Name” role. One particular scene in the apartment elevator where Gosling, Mulligan and a goon sent by the mob makes for one of the best scenes in the film and of 2011.

As much as these scenes of action and violence will be the ones to get the most attention from the general film-going public in the end it’s the excellent screenplay by Hossein Amini of the James Sallis’ novel of the same name which really holds everything together in conjunction with some top-notch performances from everyone involved. The film makes or breaks itself on Gosling’s performance as the driver and he delivers on all cylinders. His performance was quite reminiscent of past performances such as James Caan as Frank in Michael Mann’s Thief, Steve McQueen also as Frank in Bullitt, but in my opinion Gosling’s work in this film brings to mind young Clint Eastwood as “The Man With No Name” in Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western trilogy. Both characters were the type to let their actions speak for them and were both full of quiet confidence not to mention restrained violence which would erupt when needed.

Much has been said about Albert Brooks’ turn as the mob boss Bernie Rose. how the role was quite the 180-degrees from people’s perception of the actor who usually did comedic roles. I say that Albert Brooks always had a dark side to his comedic talent. I mean he was and is megamaniacal villain Hank Scorpio from The Simpsons. In all seriousness, Brooks’ as the mob boss was the other pillar which held all the other performances focused. In fact, Gosling’s character and Brook’s Bernie Rose could almost be considered mirror-images of each other. They were characters who had found their place in the world and the role they would play and didn’t struggle against it. Everyone else in the film struggled against their lot in life. It was also these characters who had the bulk of the film’s dialogue.

Drive has been hyped (for some overhyped) since it first premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, but it’s one of those rare films which has more than earned and surpassed the hype which has preceded it’s general release to the general public. It’s a film which bucks traditional genre labels by combining the themes, ideas and foundations from many different film and storytelling genres. For fans of action there’s enough thrilling action to sate them. For those who are fans of film noir this film definitely carries within it the DNA set down by the film noir of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. For some who wish to watch a film which explore existential themes then Refn’s film has that too. In the end, Drive manages to be a film which caters to so many different audiences without ever pandering to them or dumbing the story down. It’s a film made by a filmmaker who continues to impress and who has made his best film to date.

Drive is a film that is not for everyone, but it’s also a film that everyone should see and experience at least once. It is also one of the year’s best films and, so far, my top film of 2011.

SDCC 2011: Drive (dir. Nicolas Winding Refn) Red Band Trailer


One of the films I’ve really been following since last year and can’t wait to see this September is the latest film from Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn. I’ve loved his work since I first got introduced to his Pusher Trilogy and saw his two most recent work with Bronson and Valhalla Rising. He is following up the latter with what I could only describe as his own take on the neo-noir genre film, Drive.

At San Diego Comic-Con 2011, the latest trailer for Drive was introduced during the FilmDistrict panel which also had Guillermo Del Toro and his upcoming produced horror film, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. This latest trailer for Refn’s Drive is of the red band variety but from what I could tell from the trailer it shouldn’t be NSFW.

The trailer really doesn’t delve too much into all the plot points of the film. It does give a sense that the film has been influenced by past genre crime films and some of the classic grindhouse chase films of the 70’s. One thing I’m sure of is that this film’s cast looks to be one of the best for any film being released in 2011: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Ron Perlman, Oscar Isaac, Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston and Christina Hendricks just to name a few.

Drive is set for a September 16, 2011 release here in the United States.

Source: IGN