Weekly Trailer Round-Up: Glass, Aquaman, Shazam, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Gridenwald, Patient Zero, I Still See You, Second Act, On The Basis of Sex, The Walking Dead


First, in 2000, there was Unbreakable.  Then, 16 years later, there was Split.  This January, M. Night Shyamalan brings us the third part of his Eastrail 177 trilogy, Glass.  The first trailer for Glass was dropped at SDCC this weekend and it leads off this week’s trailer round-up.

Also dropping at SDCC was the first trailer for Aquaman.  The DC hero that everyone loves to ridicule is finally get a movie of his very own.  The trailer hints at the origins of Arthur Curry, features the expected underwater action, and features enough ironic line readings that it could almost pass for the latest entry in the MCU.

If Glass and Aquaman are not heroic enough for you, there is always Shazam.  Back in the 1940s, Shazam was known as Captain Marvel and his adventures were published by Fawcett.  Claiming that Captain Marvel was clear rip-off of Superman, DC attempted to sue Fawcett out of business and then purchased the character, renaming him Shazam.  Now, Shazam is coming to theaters.  Shazam’s appeal has always been retro so, naturally, the trailer is full of references to Game of Thrones and self-reflexive humor.

Following the 2014 Godzilla reboot and Kong: Skull Island, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the third chapter in Legendary’s Monsterverse.  This one will see Godzilla meeting Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah.  Godzilla: King of the Monsters will be released on May 31st, 2019.

Also released at SDCC was the latest trailer for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Gridenwald.  Fantastic Beasts will be released on November 16th.

In Patient Zero, Matt Smith and Natalie Dormer try to find a cure for a virus that is transforming humanity into zombies.  The film is scheduled to be released through video-on-demand on 14 August 2018, before a limited theatrical release on 14 September 2018.

I Still See You is the latest B-movie to feature Bella Thorne getting stalked.  Will you see I Still See You when it’s released on October 12th?

In the upcoming comedy, Second Act, Jennifer Lopez plays an ambitious woman who is mistaken for a high-level business consultant.  With a plot like that, Second Act sounds like it could be the funniest film of 2004.  Second Act will be released on November 21st, 2018.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has already been the subject of one of the year’s most successful documentaries.  She gets the biopic treatment with On The Basis of Sex.  Felicity Jones plays Ginsburg while Mimi Leder returns from her cinematic exile to handle directing duties.  On The Basis of Sex will be released on December 25th.

Finally, the trailer for the 9th season of The Walking Dead dropped at SDCC and promised a new world with new rules.  Season 9 premieres on October 7th.

 

Film Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (dir by Burr Steers)


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I had high hopes for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the just-released film which, like the novel upon which it is based, attempts to combine Jane Austen and The Walking Dead.  The source material was good.  The cast — with Lilly James as Elizabeth Bennet, Jack Huston as Wickham, and Matt Smith as Parson Collins — was impressive.  The trailers looked great, promising a combination of zombies, ornate costumes, and a very British sense of humor.  Sadly, however, the ultimate film is a bit of disappointment.

Actually, it’s more than just a bit of a disappointment.  It is a HUGE disappointment.  To have so much promise and then to turn out so bland — well, it’s enough to make you wonder if maybe zombies have become so common place in popular culture that they’re no longer as interesting as they once were.  Don’t get me wrong, as a symbol of the impossibility of escaping death, zombies are great nightmare fuel.  But, when you see them in a relatively bloodless PG-13 film like this, you realize that it takes more than just a few random zombies to make an effective horror film.

Plotwise, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is exactly what it says it is.  It tells the same basic story as Pride and Prejudice, with the exception being that England is now under siege from zombies, the Bennet sisters have now been trained in how to kill zombies, Mr. Darcy (played by Sam Riley) is now Col. Darcy and he’s an expert at tracking down zombies and killing them, and Wickham is now more than just a cad, he’s a cad who wants to help the undead overthrow the living.  As I typed all that out, I realized I was probably making the film sound a lot more fun than it actually is.  And really, the movie should be fun but it’s not.

Director Burr Steers never manages to capture the proper tone for telling this story.  The satire is never as sharp as it needs to be.  The scenes that are meant to pay homage to Austen try a bit too hard to capture Austen’s style without contributing any of her insight and the romance between Elizabeth and Darcy is sabotaged by the fact that Sam Riley and Lilly James had absolutely no chemistry together.  The scenes with the zombies are bland, largely because this is a PG-13 rated film and bloodless zombies aren’t particularly scary.  A typical episode of The Walking Dead is more graphic than anything you’ll see in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Which is not to say that there aren’t a few moments when Pride and Prejudice and Zombies kind of works.  It has moments but they’re isolated and they never really come together to build any sort of narrative momentum for the film as a whole.  Sam Riley is a bit of a dud as Darcy but Lilly James, Jack Huston, and especially Matt Smith all give good performance.  (Smith, in particular, is so good as Collins that I would like to see him play the role in an actual adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.)  Early on in the film, there’s a fun scene where the Bennet sisters destroy a horde of zombies and it actually strikes the right balance between comedy and horror.  Before that, we get the traditional scene that we get in all Austen adaptations, of the Bennet sisters preparing for a ball and, in between lacing up corsets and discussing whether they will all be able find husbands, they also carefully conceal the daggers and knives that they will be carrying just in case they happen to run into any of the undead.  It’s one of the few scenes that suggests what Pride and Prejudice and Zombies could have been if it had only found a consistent tone.

For that matter, I also liked the animated opening credits, which wittily explained how the zombies first appeared in England and, not surprisingly, suggested that it was all the fault of the French.  And the film also had a fairly effective scene that shows up in the middle of the end credits and suggested what would might happen if Pride and Prejudice and Zombies 2 is ever put into production.

But ultimately, even those moments that worked only left me frustrated that the rest of the film did not.  For all of its potential, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies disappoints.

Horror Trailer: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies


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It looks like they’ve actually gone ahead and made the damn thing. I remember writing about news of the Seth Grahame-Smith horror mash-up novel being green-lit for the big-screen all the way back in 2010. Yet, nothing much ever came of it. Directors were hired and the cast was set, but each passing year something would derail the project and things would go back to square one.

Now, over five years since that initial announcement back in 2011 we finally have proof that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has actually completed filming and will soon be up on the big-screen this February 16, 2016.

Trash Film Guru Vs. The Summer Blockbusters : “Terminator Genisys”


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Patrick Lussier just can’t catch a break.

Think about it : after toiling away in tinseltown as an editor for a couple of decades, he finally hits it semi-big as a director with the (go on, admit it) deliriously fun and sleazy 3-D remake of My Bloody Valentine in 2009. Since then? Well, shit — it’s all been downhill.

Apparently he was then considered Hollywood’s new “go-to guy” for 3-D flicks for all of about five minutes, but when his next one — the (again, go on and admit it) flat-out awesome Drive Angry tanked at the box office in spectacular fashion, it was back to the editing room (or, as is most likely the case, laptop) for poor ol’ Pat. And again, most of the movies he worked on — like the criminally-underappreciated Apollo 18  — were way better than their tepid reception among audiences and critics (but what do they know, anyway?) would indicate. Other projects his name was attached to, like Halloween 3 (and no, I’m not talking about Season Of The Witch), failed to materialize altogether.

Then comes another big break — hell, the biggest break of all — out of the blue. The long-shelved script he wrote (or co-wrote, as the final credits would indicate, since it was later tinkered with by Laeta Kalogridis) for yet another Terminator sequel/reboot was “back on” at Paramount, with Alan Taylor of Thor : The Dark World  “fame” slated to direct. It even had a name : Terminator Genisys. And Lussier would be getting an executive producer credit on this big-budget blockbuster as well.

So what happens? It absolutely tanks at the ticket windows. And so the hard-luck saga of Patrick Lussier continues. I predict we’ll next see him as an editor on Paranormal Activity 9 or Insidious Chapter 6.

All of which is one heck of a shame because, once again contrary to popular belief, Terminator Genisys is actually pretty damn good stuff.

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Damn good stupid stuff, to be sure, but so what? Apologies to all the James Cameron fans out there who don’t like to acknowledge this simple fact, but  1984’s original The Terminator had much more in common — both in budgetary and stylistic terms — with the Roger Corman fare that the future director of Titanic and Avatar cut his teeth on than it did with the billion-dollar bonanzas for which its auteur would eventually become famous. In point of fact, it’s essentially one of the last low-budget sci-fi exploitation pictures that didn’t go straight to video. And it’s absolutely awesome.

I’m not here to tell you that Terminator Genisys is as good as that was. Shit, it’s not even close. But it is much closer to the original in spirit than it is to the later, much-more-lavish sequels/prequels — the last two of which, Terminator 3 : Rise Of The Machines and Terminator Salvation, were positively atrocious. This, at least, feels like a “proper” Terminator flick again.

Are there plot holes big enough to plow an armored tank through? Absolutely. But that’s just part and parcel of the goings-on with a movie of this nature — and besides, they engage in this sort of “timey-wimey” gimmickry on Doctor Who all the time these days, and it’s praised as “quality” television rather than the cheap and obvious stunt it is (and speaking of Doctor Who, don’t blink — sorry, couldn’t resist! — or you’ll miss Matt Smith in this). I’ll take it served up as it is here without any pretense towards faux-intellectualism, thank you very much. And anyway, are people really complaining about getting to see present-day Old Arnold Schwarzenegger duking it out vs. CGI-reconstructed Young Arnold Schwarzenegger? Where’s your sense of fun, folks?

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I guess it all just depends on who you ask. While Terminator Genisys currently “enjoys” a rather atrocious 21% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where the critics hold court, it’s faring much better on the IMDB scorecard, where the fans have their say, with a perfectly respectable 7.1 out of 10. In other words, real people like this movie.

And what’s not to like? We’ve got “liquid metal” T-1000s squaring off against Ah-nuld’s earlier T-800 model. We’ve got cheesy one-liners galore. We’ve got a new plot twist involving John Connor (here played by Jason Clarke) that’s actually interesting. We’ve got a reasonably dashing new hero in the form of Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney). We’ve got Oscar winner J.K. Simmons doing the “old man tilting at windmills who no one else will listen to” role that he’s perfected down to a science (when he’s not selling his soul to Farmers Insurance, that is). We’ve got explosions, aerial battles, and likable good guys vs. suitably despicable bad guys. We’ve got an amped-up version of the internet that’s out to destroy the world, with requisite Luddite authorial sympathies attached. And, oh yeah, we’ve got this grin —

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My only gripe is that Emilia Clarke just plain can’t cut it as Sarah Connor. She tries her best, sure, but she’s no Linda Hamilton. Consequently, her love story with Courtney’s Kyle Reese ends up falling a little flat. But that’s small potatoes compared to everything Taylor and company (including, of course, Lussier) get right here — rather than trying to one-up the original, which never really worked anyway, they just set out to add a worthy celluloid appendage to it. When looked at that way, Terminator Genisys is — against all odds and the loud chorus of naysayers out there — a tremendous success indeed.

Film Review: Lost River (dir by Ryan Gosling)


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I had high hopes for Lost River.  Not only is it the directorial debut of one of my favorite actors, Ryan Gosling, but it was also booed at Cannes.  Some of the best and most interesting films ever made have been booed at Cannes.  The reviews that I had read of Lost River indicated that the film was a mess but it was, at the very least, a visually intriguing mess.  I was expecting the film to be pure style over substance but you know what?  I like style.

So, with all that in mind, I finally got a chance to sit down and watch Lost River last night and … bleh.  It’s not a terrible film.  You can watch it and feel that Ryan Gosling does have some promise as a director, if not as a writer.  (Along with directing, he also wrote the film’s screenplay.)  There are some nicely surreal images, though almost all of them appear to have been borrowed from other better films and, as a result, even the strangest of images are rather familiar.  (To be truly impressed by Lost River, it helps to have never seen anything directed by Mario Bava, Dario Argento, David Lynch, or Terrence Malick.)  He gets a memorably unhinged performance from the great Ben Mendelsohn but then again, when hasn’t Mendelsohn given a memorably unhinged performance?

Anyway, Lost River takes place in Detroit, presumably because Detroit features a lot of dilapidated neighborhoods that look interesting on film and allow Gosling to pretend that his film is about America urban decay.  Billy (Christina Hendricks) is on the verge of losing her house but, with the help of sleazy bank manager Dave (Ben Mendelsohn), Billy gets a job working as a performer at a club.  At the club, she and Cat (Eva Mendes) perform elaborate routines which always end with them pretending to die in some excessively brutal and bloody way.  The club’s largely affluent audience loves it.  Dave loves it so much that he’s inspired to sing a song on stage.  Later on in the film, Dave does an elaborate dance because every independent film has to feature an out-of-nowhere elaborate dance.

Meanwhile, Billy’s son, Bones (Iain De Caestecker), is trying to raise money to save the house by stealing copper out of abandoned buildings.  However, this gets him in trouble with Bully (Matt Smith, struggling to speak with an American accent), a psychopath who has declared his section of Detroit to be “Bullytown.”  Bully rides around in a convertible, sitting on a throne that’s been attached to the back seat.  When Bully discovers that Bones has been stealing copper from buildings in Bullytown, Bully declares that Bones must die.

(At some point, you have to wonder if Bully was doomed from the minute that his parents decided to name him Bully.  Maybe if they had named him The Doctor, he could have lived a very different life.)

Living next door to Billy and Bones is Rat (Saorise Ronan, who gives a good performance and deserves better than this role).  Rat is called Rat because she owns a pet rat that’s named Nick.  Got all that?  Rat also lives with her grandmother (Barbara Steele), who never speaks but spends all of her time watching old home movies.  Why would you cast an icon like Barbara Steele and then not allow her to do anything other than sit in a chair and silently stare at a television?

If Lost River was just an exercise in pure style, I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more.  I would much rather a film be too obscure as opposed to being too obvious.  Unfortunately, while Gosling the director is having a lot of fun being as stylish as he can be, Gosling’s the screenwriter proves himself to be heavy-handed and patronizing.  By setting the film in Detroit and having random characters show up to talk about how America is dying and the poor are getting poorer while the rich get richer, Gosling lets us know that Lost River is meant to be more than just an exercise in technique.

The problem is that, as well-intentioned as Gosling may be, you can’t help but get the feeling that he has absolutely no idea what it’s like to be poor or what it’s like to live in a dying American city.  According to the 2010 census, 82.7% of Detroit’s population is African-American.  If you’re making a movie the deals, no matter how strangely, with what it’s like to be poor and desperate in Detroit, why would you decide to exclusively cast affluent-looking Caucasians in all of the main roles?  The few black characters who appear in Lost River are largely there to either comfort or share wisdom with the main white characters before then quickly moving on, never to be seen again after their minute or so of screen time.  It comes across as being condescending in only the way something written by a wealthy white guy can be.

Lost River is a misfire, an attempt by a filmmaker to try to make a statement about something that he really doesn’t seem to know much about.  Judging from the film’s visuals, Gosling has some promise as a director but, in the future, he should probably try to work with a better screenwriter.  If you don’t listen to the dialogue and just consider the film as an exercise in visuals, it’s mildly diverting.  (That said, even the nonstop parade of surreal images gets boring after a while.)  Lost River is not terrible.  It’s just bleh.

Terminator: Genisys (Official Trailer)


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I’m not sure if the 5th Terminator film is a prequel or a sequel. Time travel and paradoxes and all that jazz sure make it difficult to figure that out.

Now, what we do know is that Terminator: Genisys (whoever came up with that title should be shot) will take things even farther than the first film which is suppose to kickoff a divergent timeline that makes the first four films a moot point.

So, this means that Terminator: Genisys may be both prequel and sequel, but also a reset of the whole franchise. See what I mean about confusing.

Here’s to hoping that screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier have a better handle on all this jumbled time travel and resetting stuff.

Terminator: Genisys is set for July 1, 2015 release date.

Back to School #48: Scent of a Woman (dir by Martin Brest)


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Along with my current series of 80 Back to School reviews (48 down, 32 to go!), another one of my long time goals has been to watch and review every single film to ever be nominated for the best picture.  So, imagine how happy I was to discover that by watching the 1992 film Scent of a Woman, I could make progress towards completing two goals at once!  Not only was Scent of A Woman nominated for best picture of the year (losing to Unforgiven) but it also features a major subplot about life and discipline at an exclusive New England prep school!  Even better, it’s been showing up on Showtime fairly regularly for the past month or so.

“Wow,” I thought as my boyfriend and I sat down to watch this movie, “could life get any easier?  Or better?”

And then we watched the film.

You know how occasionally you watch a film just because you’ve heard that it was nominated (or perhaps even won) an Oscar or because it has an oddly high rating over at the imdb or maybe because someone said, “Roger Ebert loved this film so, if you don’t watch and love it, that means that, by that standard of the current online film community, you really don’t love movies?”  And then you watch the movie and you’re just like, “What the Hell?”

Well, that was kind of my reaction to Scent of a Woman.

Look, the film’s not all bad.  It has a few good performances.  It looks great.  It’s certainly better than Gigli, the film that director Martin Brest is perhaps best remembered for.  It features a great scene where Al Pacino (playing a blind man) dances the tango with a woman that he’s just met.  (Then again, I have a notorious weakness for dance scenes…)  It’s not so much that the film is bad as much as it’s just that the movie itself is not particularly good.

Charlie Simms (Chris O’Donnell) is a scholarship student at an exclusive prep school in Massachusetts.  Much like Brendan Fraser in School Ties, 1992’s other prep school melodrama, Charlie is a poor kid attending the school on a scholarship.  While his rich friends prepare to go home for the Thanksgiving weekend, Charlie knows that there’s no way that he can afford to fly back to Oregon.  In order to raise the money so that he can at least go back home for Christmas (how poor is this kid’s family!?), Charlie gets a temporary job for the weekend.  His job?  To look after Lt. Col. Frank Slade (Al Pacino), who is blind and yells a lot.

Anyway, as you can probably guess, Frank convinces Charlie to drive him to New York and they have all of the adventures that usually happen whenever a naive teenager spends the weekend with a suicidal blind man.  Frank bellows a lot and tells about how, through his sense of smell, he can always tell when there’s a beautiful woman nearby.  Frank also yells a lot.  Did I already mention that?  Because, seriously, he yells a lot.

Charlie has other problems than just Frank.  It seems that a rather mild prank was pulled on the headmaster (James Rebhorn) of Charlie’s school.  As a result, a bucket of paint was poured down on both the headmaster and his new car!  Now, the headmaster is looking for those responsible.  He just needs two witnesses.  He’s already gotten one student to confess.  And now, he’s blackmailing Charlie with a letter of recommendation to Harvard.  All Charlie has to do is name names and his future is set…

Will Charlie name names and sacrifice his honor just to get into a college that could assure him a great life?  Or will Frank convince Charlie that honor is the only thing that matters?  And finally, will the film end with a big hearing in front of the entire school in which the headmaster attempts to badger Charlie, just to be interrupted by a sudden appearance from bellowing Frank Slade?

Will it!?

You can probably already guess and, since we have a no spoiler policy here at the Lens, I’ll just assume that you guessed right.  (Or you could just look at the picture at the top of this review…)

The prep school subplot pretty much just adds to the film’s already excessive running time.  But it is interesting to watch because the other student — the one who names names — is played by a very young Philip Seymour Hoffman.  (Or as he’s credited here, Philip S. Hoffman.)  This was one of Hoffman’s first screen roles and he gives a memorable performance as an unlikable character.  If you were to have seen Scent of a Woman in 1992, you would not have guessed that Philip Seymour Hoffman would eventually be an Oscar winner but you would know that he was a very talented character actor.

Otherwise, Scent of a Woman is a fairly forgettable movie.  If I hadn’t known ahead of time that it was nominated for best picture, I never would have been able to guess.  I’m not enough of an expert to be able to name every good 1992 film that was not nominated to make room for Scent of a Woman but I imagine that when that year’s Oscar nominations were announced, there were quite a few people left scratching their heads.

Can you figure out which one grew up to be Philip Seymour Hoffman?

Can you figure out which one grew up to be Philip Seymour Hoffman?