Anything and Everything About Movies!

This summer is absolutely packed to the gills with blockbusters. We have comic book movies, tentpoles comedies, huge action flicks and many, many more that we have barely scene a frame from. Now we’re bringing you a trailer for a film that won’t be out until December.

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The theatrical trailer for Transformers: Dark of the Moon has landed online. We see some pretty fantastic looking footage on the moon, followed by some really impressive stuff back on Earth. We’re talking full-on invasion this time around. We get our first look at Frances McDormand as well. However, as we all know from the second flick Revenge of the Fallen, simply watching robots fight for 2+ hours does not a good movie make (understatement). This one has to be better thanRevenge of the Fallen, right? Hitting 3D theaters on July 1st, Michael Bay’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon stars Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Josh Duhamel, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Tyrese Gibson, Patrick Dempsey, and voice work from Hugo Weaving, Peter Cullen, and Leonard Nimoy.

Here’s the first synopsis for Transformers: Dark of the Moon:

When a mysterious event from Earth’s past erupts into the present day it threatens to bring a war to Earth so big that the Transformers alone will not be able to save us. The movie stars Shia LaBeouf, John Turturro, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Patrick Dempsey, Kevin Dunn, with John Malkovich and Frances McDormand.

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You know what a Fast and Furious movie is by this point.  They’re loud, obnoxious, somewhat-heartless, sometimes unintentionally hilarious, rarely intentionally hilarious, incredibly aggressive action movies.  You know that’s what you’re getting when you buy your ticket and the only thing that’s changed about the series is that it’s become less about racing and more about squeezing in familiar faces to pull off some high-octane crime.  Fast Five ditches the racing almost entirely and replaces it with a heist film that recalls Ocean’s Eleven but with brawn instead of brains.

World’s Worst Law Enforcement Agent Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) and his girlfriend Mia (Jordana Brewster) have busted Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) out of prison by staging a gigantic bus crash that killed no one and only freed Dom.  Some films spend their entire runtime figuring out how to free a prisoner from captivity.  I like to imagine that Brian and Mia wrote down their plan to free Dom and this is what it looked like

Step 1 – Force prison bus into gigantic crash using fancy driving.

Step 2 – Free Dom.

Step 3 – :)

The three make their way to Rio where they join up with former accomplice Vince (Matt Schulze) for a spectacular train heist.  Most of Justin Lin’s action scenes in Fast and Furious felt inert, but this time around he’s really upped his game and pulls off some impressive set pieces.  The train heist goes a little south as Zizi (Michael Irby), the guy who hired Vince, is along on the job and tries to kill Dom and the gang, but ends up murdering some hapless DEA agents instead.  Dom, Mia, and Brian get free with a GT40 that contains a microchip.  The chip contains the locations of the cash houses of nefarious businessman and Zizi’s boss, Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida).  The trio decide to rob Reyes and bring in a cast of supporting characters from the previous films to pull off the heist.  However, this not only puts the gang in the crosshairs of Reyes and his infinite supply of goons, but Dom, Vince, and Mia are pegged with the murder rap for the DEA agents.  The U.S. government sends in Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), an agent hellbent on bringing the three fugitives to justice.  Hobbs is like Tommy Lee Jones’ character from The Fugitive if someone said “Yeah, but let’s bulk him up and strip away the charm and intelligence.”

But that’s really Fast Five in a nutshell: bulk it up and strip away the charm and intelligence.  The film desperately wants to recall Ocean’s Eleven, right down to having two members of the heist constantly bickering with each other like Casey Affleck and Scott Caan.  But while the film pretends like it’s going to set up a fast-paced, clever heist, it eventually comes to the stupid solution you knew it was going to reach because this is a Fast and Furious movie and clever plotting is for sissies.

And if bringing in a sinister bad guy and relentless manhunter sounds like a lot of plot threads for a Fast and Furious movie, it is.  The movie runs over two hours long but just because it’s bigger, that doesn’t mean it’s stronger.  There are plenty of places where the movie could trim the fat, but for the filmmakers, bigger equals better.  However, fans of the franchise will most likely be overjoyed with having more—more chases, more fistfights, more babes, and more stuff blowing up real good.  Fast Five is the franchise on steroids and while folks like me shudder at that thought, fans are probably giddy at that prospect.

For all my problems with the franchise, Fast Five is probably my favorite so far (note: I haven’t seen Tokyo Drift).  It drops almost all pretense, wisely gives Paul Walker’s boring Brian O’Connor as little screen time as possible, and has some of the best action sequences in the franchise to date.  But there are times when Fast Five feels like it has to mean something as if we’re going to care about characters who pretend to be human but can survive massive car wrecks and falling hundreds of feet without so much as a scratch.  I don’t care that Dom is mourning the loss of a loved one and has found a connection with a local Rio cop (Elsa Pataky).  I don’t believe Dom when he tries to talk about “family” with his fellow criminals.  You can’t have the camera spend an eternity glaring at the asses of hot young women and then make me believe that Fast Five is about anything more than jamming sex and violence into your lizard brain.  If you want to do that, fine.  Just don’t lie to me about it.

There are so many problems I have with the Fast and Furious franchise but at this point I’ve simply ceased to care.  Fast Five is at its best when it shares that indifference and instead focuses on making the best action scene with the slickest production value possible.  The characters are simple, the action is loud, and the bravado is so thick you’ll choke on it.  Were you expecting something else?

Rating: C+

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Warner Bros. has released a new trailer for The Hangover Part II. Overall, I’m pretty happy with this new trailer. It gives a solid sense of setting, does a good job of setting up the obstacles without giving too much away, and makes use of a track from the new Kanye album (always a plus, for me). Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel as if the trailer is a little too self-referential to the original (i.e. Alan’s love of terrible toasts and penis jokes, and Stu’s fear of once again breaking his teeth). Just my opinion, though.

 

Here’s the trailer [from Apple]:

Here’s the official synopsis for The Hangover: Part II:

THE HANGOVER PART II
In theaters on May 26

(Warner Bros. Pictures/Legendary Pictures)

Director: Todd Phillips
Writers: Scot Armstrong, Todd Phillips, Craig Mazin
Producers: Todd Phillips, Dan Goldberg
Executive Producers: Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, William Fay, Scott Budnick, Chris Bender, J.C. Spink

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Jeffrey Tambor, Mike Tyson, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong

Comedy. In the follow-up to the record-breaking hit comedy “The Hangover,” Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Doug (Justin Bartha) travel to exotic Thailand for Stu’s wedding. After the unforgettable bachelor party in Las Vegas, Stu is taking no chances and has opted for a safe, subdued pre-wedding brunch. However, things don’t always go as planned. What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what happens in Bangkok can’t even be imagined.

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Warner Bros. has sent us the teaser poster for The Hangover: Part II.  When I went to go seeSucker Punch last week, they showed the teaser trailer and the audience ate it up.  People are ready for more shenanigans and as we all know, shenanigans are made funnier by the presence of a monkey that’s dressed like a person.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the official synopsis for The Hangover: Part II:

Director: Todd Phillips
Writers: Scot Armstrong, Todd Phillips, Craig Mazin
Producers: Todd Phillips, Dan Goldberg
Executive Producers: Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, William Fay, Scott Budnick, Chris Bender, J.C. Spink

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Jeffrey Tambor, Mike Tyson, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong

Comedy. In the follow-up to the record-breaking hit comedy “The Hangover,” Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Doug (Justin Bartha) travel to exotic Thailand for Stu’s wedding. After the unforgettable bachelor party in Las Vegas, Stu is taking no chances and has opted for a safe, subdued pre-wedding brunch. However, things don’t always go as planned. What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what happens in Bangkok can’t even be imagined.

 

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID 2; RODRICK RULES is a surprisingly enjoyable sequel to last year’s surprise hit about a 11-year-old boy’s attempt to navigate the hell that is American middle school. The new film, based on the best-selling follow-up novel by Jeff Kinney, is more focused on the young protagonist’s family life, specifically his relationship with his vindictive older brother, who was the most entertaining character in the first film anyway. Now in seventh grade, diarist Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) is focused on impressing the new blonde student Holly (Peyton R. List) but his overtures lead to embarrassment mostly because of his bullying and obnoxious big brother Rodrick. Their mother, a local advice columnist (Rachael Harris) finds her two son’s inability to get along unacceptable so she orders them to bond and gives them a weekend alone to do it.

The sequel’s shift in focus from Greg’s friends to his family was a good move as it provides a showcase for the talents of Devon Bostick as Rodrick. With his greasy hair, goofy sadism and dim view,Bostick, who looks like a cross between Jimmy Fallon and Keanu Reeves, is a talented young comic actor and the filmmakers were wise to let him cut loose here. The sequel doesn’t disregard what made the first one a hit though, existing in an irreverent (often literal) cartoon atmosphere with a predictable reliance on poop jokes. There is something refreshing about the brother’s relationship as well as the film’s ultimate unwillingness to redeem Rodrick in any overtly sentimental fashion. Bright, fast-paced and often very funny, DIARY OF A WIMPY KID 2; RODRICK RULES conveys, in a good-humored, sharply observed way, the small, painful cruelties and unpredictable rules of early adolescence, and it celebrates awkwardness without feeling the need to convert it into cheap triumph. It’s far from great art, but an entertaining enough way to spend 95 minutes.

3 1/2 of 5 Stars

 

SUCKER PUNCH Review

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Imagination does not exist in a vacuum.  We’re inspired by experiences both internal and external.  We build our dreams on the dreams of others and if we possess a brilliant imagination, then we can transform these ideas into something fresh and new.  With his new film Sucker Punch, director Zack Snyder shows he not only misunderstands how imagination works, he also has no understanding of inspiration, empowerment, or joy.  The movie swims through the wet dreams of a teenage boy but pretends at higher aspirations of thoughtful escapism and transcendent determination.  For a movie where dragons battle fighter jets and teenage girls in skimpy outfits take down samurai golems, Sucker Punch is a surprisingly dull and self-serious affair that can’t be bothered to develop its heroine, but wants a round of applause every time she defeats a CGI monstrosity.  Despite all of the energy put into the stunning vistas and designs, nothing in Sucker Punch’s visuals comes close to the majesty of its delusions of grandeur.

 

A girl (Emily Browning) is sent to an insane asylum by her cruel stepfather after the girl attempts to kill him and accidentally murders her little sister instead.  The stepfather bribes an orderly (Oscar Isaac) to have the girl lobotomized in five days.  This is the “reality level” of Sucker Punch even though everything has the same slick production design and editing tricks as the rest of the movie.  “Reality” is just grimier and with a more limited color palette.

The second before the girl is given the lobotomy, the scene flips and now the girl is in a brothel where in five days she’ll be sold off to the High Roller.  Inside the brothel, the girl, now dubbed “Babydoll”, fashions a plan to escape by obtaining a map, fire, a knife, and a key.  She’ll obtain each of these items in the brothel because when she dances, she and her fellow prostitutes Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone), Amber (Jamie Chung), and Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), go into a second imagination level where they engage in giant sci-fi fantasy missions to obtain the items needed for escape.

If that sounds confusing, it’s because it doesn’t make much sense and because Snyder has undercut any stakes his movie may have.  The movie takes not one but two steps away from reality and any consequences within the fantasy worlds are automatically rendered void.  If Babydoll happens to be killed by a bunch of steampunk German soldiers, so what?  It was just a fantasy inside her fantasy of being sold into sexual slavery.

If you’re wondering why a teenage girl in 1960s Vermont would fantasize about being in a brothel and then set up fantasies within that fantasy that would appeal more to a 13-year-old boy than a girl dealing with the loss of her mother and sister, I don’t have an answer for you and neither does Sucker Punch.  Reading Steve’s set report, I learned that there were books about dragons and robots in Babydoll’s father’s study, but we never see that material.  We barely spend any time with Babydoll to learn who she is a character and why she would set her fantasies inside a brothel or why she thinks of herself as a katana-wielding badass who battles alongside mech-warriors.  Also, if she really envisioned herself as a soldier fighting alongside other soldiers, why are she and her compatriots dressed in burlesque gear rather than battle armor?

Which brings me to my next point: can we please stop pretending that giving a hot girl in skimpy clothing a weapon and letting her destroy shit constitutes “female empowerment”?  Can we just take that notion, murder it with a shovel and bury it in a shallow grave?  Here’s what constitutes female empowerment: well-written, memorable female characters.  With the exception of Cornish—who manages to convey at least some semblance of inner strength—the lead actresses seem adrift at what to do with their characters other than pout, whimper, seduce, or fight things that don’t exist.  The notion that the female characters are “empowered” is further undermined by having the voice of “sage” wisdom come not from the asylum’s chief psychiatrist Dr. Gorski (Carla Gugino) or even Babydoll’s dead mother, but from Scott Glenn playing a guy with no mirror in “reality” who spouts fortune-cookie platitudes like “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything,” even though the platitude is in no way helpful or even applicable to the situation at hand.

With no characters or coherent structure, it’s not surprising that the gigantic set pieces lack gravity.  Loads of camera tricks, expert fight choreography, and an avalanche of CGI fail to impress when they’re not in service of characters and the story.  When Babydoll first receives her mission from Scott Glenn, he then informs her that she has to fight giant stone warriors.  Why does she have to fight them?  Do they represent anything in the real world?  What happens if she loses?  What’s laughable is that after Babydoll defeats her enemies, the film takes a moment to pause for hypothetical cheering from the audience, but in my theater you could hear a pin drop after every set piece.  Snyder gives us a dazzling array of CGI animation, but can’t be bothered to give the audience a reason to care.

Sucker Punch has an abundance of visual effects, but it’s sorely lacking when it comes to character and story.  Snyder’s passion clearly lies with creating vast worlds where retro-fitted war-planes can take on fire-breathing dragons and hot girls in fishnet stockings can mow down a train car full of enemy robots.  But he never bothers to come up with a reason why.  The film is exploitative garbage that takes itself far too seriously to be aware of its own trashiness.  It’s just a collection of male adolescent daydreams that puts the emphasis on “This looks cool” rather than “This is worth caring about.”

Rating: F

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