Archive July 2014
Hercules tells the story of the legendary mercenary Hercules (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). After completing his 12 feats, which have become more myth than fact, Hercules and his legendary band of mercenaries have been hired to help the kingdom of Thrace end a civil war. Haunted by the death of his family and his apparent hand in their demise, he hopes that this will be his last job before he can go live out the rest of his days in peace and solitude. However, after their apparent victory, things don’t seem to be quite as they seem and they might have just been fighting on the wrong side this entire time.
Hercules is a solid film, it’s not going to win any awards and isn’t a masterpiece of film making. It is simply a fun popcorn film to kick back and enjoy. What largely hinders this film is the implementation of it’s plot and various subplots. The main plot was fine in terms of structure, it simply dragged along for the first half. The film opens up with what boils down to Hercules and his band of mercenaries kicking ass and taking names. From there we get a training montage, some back story that comes in multiple parts, and a couple battles. What makes it drag for the most part is the multiple spots of back story. Instead of giving it to us all in one go, which would be the most efficient delivery and would allow for more action sequences. Not to mention that the majority of the subplots are either poorly executed or awkwardly resolved. I won’t go into too much detail but essentially, by removing a few subplots or by smoothing them out a bit, the first half of the film would have been much better and more entertaining.
The last half of the film is much better and is far more entertaining. There are fewer subplots and the action really takes center stage. Not only that but the balance between humor and action is perfect. It turns the film into just a fun ride. You get to see Dwayne bust some skulls with the other mercenaries while cracking jokes. If the first half of this film was like the second half, it would have been a home run. Unfortunately that just wasn’t the case. Thankfully, there was an awesome cast that helped smooth out the rough bits. With the big man himself, Dwayne Johnson dominating the screen both physically and in terms of acting, the rest of the cast wasn’t left too far behind. However, Rufus Sewell, who plays Hercules best friend, Autoclycus, nearly steals the show. You might recognize him from his portrayal of the villain from A Knights Tale. He by far has the best delivery and has some of the most memorable lines. Plus, his character is the cool rogue of the group and who doesn’t love that character. The rest of the mercenary cast, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Aksel Hennie, Reece Ritchie, and Ian McShane, all do a great job and have very good chemistry with each character adding a little more to the pot. Honestly, you get the feeling that these actors have been great friends for awhile and they just decided to be in a movie together. Regardless, this cast really helps to cover up the weaknesses of the plot structure and strengthens the film over all.
All in all, Hercules is a fun film to just sit back with some popcorn and enjoy yourself. It doesn’t knock anything out of the park but is just a solid film to enjoy with some friends, especially if you are a fan of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
My Rating: 6.5/10
Sherlock has made a strong reentry into pop culture in the past few years. Starting with Robert Downey Jr. and Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes in 2009, Sherlock made a successful comeback back into pop culture. One year later, Benedict Cumberbatch and Steven Moffat brought Sherlock into the modern world with the BBC Sherlock mini-series. Fast forward two more years, CBS revealed Elementary, a reinterpretation that introduced more than a few twists to the classic detective story. Each version has its own strengths and weaknesses but all give a fun and entertaining take on the worlds first real superhero. I will go through each version displaying their unique elements and styles.
Let’s start at the beginning, Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes. This version is possibly the closest to the original stories of the great detective. Based in the same time period as the Victorian detective, Guy brought his signature flair to the detective. Guy stayed incredibly close to the original material, including everything from the love-hate relationship between Lestrade and Sherlock to the detective’s incredible knack for disguise. Out of all three of these Sherlock’s, this is easily the most direct retelling of the classic stories. What Guy did really well was take these classic skills that Sherlock has, deduction and analysis, and apply them in ways they haven’t been applied before. Specifically, these skills where applied to combat. This resulted in a very slick scene where Sherlock breaks down his opponents weaknesses and exploits them in the most effective way possible. Easily one of the most inventive and cool uses of Sherlock’s powers of deduction. Now what kind of representation of Sherlock would this be without Watson. This version of Sherlock and Watson takes place later in their careers, with Watson moving out and on his way to getting married. Watson, while still a doctor, is a little more rough and tumble than he is normally portrayed. Adds a nice comparison to Sherlock’s more surgeon like qualities. While Guy’s action hero take on the classic detective is a very nice rendition, it is a little far from the original telling of Sherlock. Sherlock was always elevated above violence, able to essentially deduce his way out of any situation. Regardless, a great take on the detective with some well placed and believable action to update the classic tales for the modern audience.
The BBC Sherlock mini series is simply a modern retelling of the classic detectives adventures. Stephen Mofatt and Mark Gatiss took the history’s greatest detective and his trusty sidekick and placed them in the modern era. This isn’t a direct retelling since they often twist and change certain aspects of each mystery. For instance, the very first episode of the series they tackle A Study in Scarlet, which makes sense since that is the mystery where our two heroes first meet. However, there are a few key things they decide to change. Both versions had the final victim scrawling Rache in their last moments. The difference is, the original had Scotland Yard thinking it was meant to stand for Rachel, Sherlock deduces it is the German word for revenge. In the modern retelling, it gets flipped. Scotland Yard believes it to be the German word while Sherlock deduces it is most likely the name Rachel. These kind of little changes are pretty common in these stories which helps to update them and keep them fresh. Not to mention the most notable part of this Sherlock series is the representation of Sherlock himself. Thanks largely to Benedict Cumberbatch’s acting capabilities and his portrayal. They take the idea of Sherlock’s social ineptness to the extreme, to the point where Sherlock is about as rude and anti-social as you could get, which Benedict just nails. His performance elevates Sherlock to a different level which amplifies the struggle he has interacting with everyday people. This whole concept of being on a different level is amplified by the representation of Moriarty, who is essentially an insane, evil version of Sherlock. This duality between the two with Moriarity representing what Sherlock could become adds a level of tension to the series that further elevates the actors representation of their characters. All in all, the BBC Sherlock likes to elevates its characters to a superhuman level, which creates this world of hyper intelligent people wrestling for control in a world of chaos. A very comic book take on the classic detective.
The last entry in this series is the CBS crime series Elementary. This version of Sherlock is the furthest from the source material so far. Essentially they took the basic idea, a brilliant deduction based detective, and placed him in a more familiar setting for American audiences. They take Sherlock and place him in a partner crime drama with Watson in New York, you’ll start to notice more than a few similar shows when you start looking into fall line ups. However, the changes don’t stop there. John Watson in this series actually goes by the name of Joan Watson and is played by Lucy Liu. My initial fear was of a romance that would eventuaaly bud between these two partners, thankfully it doesn’t and this switch actually pays off. The other biggest change is how they represent the Sherlock character. They humanize him a little bit and make him more fallible, unlike the BBC Sherlock who is beyond any normal person. The best way to describe this Sherlock is that he actually cares for others, it’s just hard for him since he can see through pretty much all deceptions. Joan helps to anchor him down and show the importance of relationships. Not to mention they turn their relationship from just Watson kind of tagging along to actually learning from Sherlock and become a consulting detective in her own right. A nice little twist on the classic pair to help keep things fresh. However, I have to say their version of Moriarity is by far the biggest twist and best version I have see. Partly because Sherlock can’t beat Moriarity in this version, he is far too close and it requires those around him to help him overcome. There you go, three different takes on Sherlock with each just a little bit different from the last. My suggestion for watching these, watch the two Guy Ritchie films, followed by the BBC Series, finishing with the Elementary. That way you watch the two most similar followed by the most original take. Regardless how you watch them, you’re in for a treat.
Begin Again is the story of two people down on their luck. Dan (Mark Ruffalo) has just been forced out of the music label he helped found. Currently on a “break” with his wife, he is struggling to repair his life and his relationships. Greta (Keira Knightley) has just left her boyfriend of five years who she was with on his way to stardom. An aspiring musician and songwriter who believes in the purity of music, she has booked her ticket back home to England when by chance Dan hear’s her sing the night before she leaves. The song brings Dan out of his self-pity party and he decides that he wants to record an album with her. From here, we see their journey and the inevitable resolution.
Begin Again is a fun little film written and directed by John Carney (Once). There are a few things that Begin Again does well. It does an excellent job of being real. Often times films have this feeling of being scripted, which is partly because they are. Moments that are either awkward or intimate are often very smooth. Characters always know just what, when, and how to say what is needed. Begin Again doesn’t quite fit this idea. The characters are awkward when it’s awkward and often say the wrong thing or even rephrase what they just said. Part of this can be attributed to the writing, the rest of it can be attributed to the actors. They do a great job physically representing their characters. Mark Ruffalo gradually goes from hunched over and erratic to more confident and upright. Keira Knightley has a wonderful transformation that starts out happy and open to life to closed off and insecure. Not until Dan (Mark Ruffalo) enters her life and helps her to realize her potential. They both help to draw each other out of the dark and depressed place they are in. The other actors do equally as well however, they don’t have as much screen time which makes it harder to see. Not to mention the reactions the characters have when they are at their lowest seem very genuine.
This film is great because it defies certain Hollywood conventions. For example, at first is seems that Dan and Greta would eventually end up together. In fact, it seems that is what the film is building towards since they share more than a few emotionally close moments. In the end, their relationship remains as close friends and their actions are meant to symbolize the vulnerability they both feel. There is even this moment at the end of the film where nothing is said but they share this look where they both seem to realize that they wouldn’t work. They seem to realize they helped them get through their low points but that they weren’t attracted to each other. This whole relationship was very refreshing when it seems main characters always end up together in Hollywood.
With a strong supporting cast made up of some up and coming actors as well as some very recognizable musicians, Begin Again has a strong foundation which is easy to see throughout the film. However, the weakest part of the film by far is it’s musical stars. Since they are so recognizable they seem a little out of place and can pull the audience out of the film, not to mention their acting skills leave a little to be desired. That being said, Cee Lo Green and Adam Levine both do a great job of being them. Cee Lo is a charismatic, smooth talking, teddy bear while Adam is a rock star with a big ego. Now they might not be anything like this in real life, but, these characters seem very natural for them.
Ultimately, this film does a lot of things right while doing very few things wrong. If you won’t a little more of a relaxed movie to kick back and watch, then try this one on for size. With romance, drama, and well balanced humor you could do a lot worse than Begin Again.
My Rating: 8.5/10
If you haven’t heard yet, following Marvel’s shining example DC is attempting to create their own shared movie universe. However, it seems that this easier said than done. With numerous setbacks since the Man of Steel, a Justice League movie seemed farther and farther away. Than like a light in the darkness, Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice was revealed! Geeks, nerds, and fans shed tears of joy as the one of the ultimate questions in comics would be answered, who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman. Unfortunately it seems this question may not be answered, at least not in the way people want it to be. Alright, so the main problem with DC’s approach is they are going for gold right out of the gate. Unlike Marvel who decided on a slow burn, establishing each character in their own franchise which resulted in the geek storm that was The Avengers, DC has decided to bet the farm by placing numerous heroes and villains in one movie. With four heroes (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman) and possibly FIVE villains (Lex Luthor, Victor Zsasz, Morgan Edge, David Cain, Amanda Waller), it seems things are getting awfully crowded. In their defense, the majority of these villains rely on their corporate powers which could help to balance out the equation, especially when they would essentially be facing three demigods and Batman. This isn’t even to mention that Doomsday is consistently rumored to appear as another villain possibly bringing the count to SIX villains. The inherent problem with this many main characters is they become underdeveloped in their own way. With each character vying for screen time, characters will undoubtedly be left behind. The likely two that would get the short end of the stick would be Wonder Woman and Aquaman, the movie is called Batman vs Superman after all. This could create some problems down the line for these heroes in their solo films. Mainly, their solo films should be a chance for them to grow, which again is what Marvel did. However, if Batman Vs. Superman lays a weak foundation, those movies will essentially have to start the character development over which could easily bore the audience. Now that you understand the inherent problems with this upcoming film, let me introduce you to my solution. Batman Vs. Superman is supposed to be the film that introduces these characters to each other for the first time. Now, if only there was some comic series that told the story of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman all meeting for the first time………
As it turns out, there is. This Trinity tells the story of how the big three or Trinity of the DC Universe, meet. The story goes that Ra’s Al Ghul is out to destroy global communications to send Earth back to the stone age. He recruits Bizarro, think evil Superman with a far lower IQ, and Artemis, a fellow Amazon from Themyscira, to aid him in his plan. Of course, with each hero chasing their respective villain, it’s easy to see how they end up meetin. Now, some tweaks would obviously have to be made to the story. For instance, audience members may still remember Liam Neeson’s portrayal of Ra’s Al Ghul from Batman Begins, which could be confusing. Not to mention that both Bizarro and Artemis have their own complicated back stories that would just complicate the story. However, this idea of destroying the worlds communication systems while possibly retaining some form of technological advantage sounds very similar to something another major DC villain would do. Enter Lex Luthor, one of the smartest, richest, and most powerful men on the planet who has the resources to turn these heroes against each other.
To make things a little simpler, let me outline how my Trinity film would go:
The first thing you would need to do is establish that Superman is strong, but still beatable. This raises the stakes of the film and shows that he can’t just punch his way out of every situation. Enter Batman, with his resources he would easily be able to acquire some Kryptonite which would be a great way to introduce the two characters as well as Superman’s signature weakness. You have Batman warn him about Lex and give some other vague mention that Superman isn’t the only Superpowered being on Earth. Next, Lex would be fully introduced, possibly at a press conference that Clark is attending where Lex is denouncing Superman and his actions. We notice that Lex is wearing a ring with a green gem stone that when Clark approaches makes him weak in the knees.
Lex’s anti-superman campaign would eventually lead to Wonder Woman’s introduction. Not as an ambassador, which is the role she later adopts, but as an executioner who is tasked with bringing Superman back to Themyscira to answer for his role in Zodd’s invasion. You see the Kryptonian terra former would have had to have caused devastating results for the rest of the world, with Themyscira somehow receiving an extra portion of damage and destruction. Superman is still a little cocky after his victory over the invasion force making him overconfident. This lead to Wonder Woman laying the smack down on Superman. She achieves this primarily in two ways, her physical strength as well as her magical abilities. This would eventually lay the ground work for introducing the audience to Superman’s second major weakness, magic. After an intervention on Batman’s part, they are able to sit down and sort through the entire situation. This of course reveals Lex’s deception and they proceed to plan their attack. Lex of course has hired some goon or created some machine to do his fighting for him and makes his escape during the fight. In the aftermath of the final showdown, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman reveal their true identities to each other and the Justice League begins.
Now, for the after credits scene, Lex would be sitting in his office, just lounging with a few bodyguards when all of a sudden a squad of armed gunmen enter, incapacitating the body guards and clearing the room. Enter Amanda Waller, who introduces Lex to the Doomsday Initiative by tossing a corresponding folder on the table.
Ok, now that we have my main points on the table let me fill in the gaps. Lex would have been observing Superman, including his first meeting with Kryptonite, which is how he learns of it. Batman would have more screen time than is mentioned but he would mainly be flexing his detective skills on screen by investigating Lex. It would also be revealed that Lex was feeding the Amazon’s false information somehow to turn them against Superman. All this observation would be possible through Lex’s vast communication’s network which includes more than a few surveillance satellites.
With this plan, you place the focus on the heroes while still laying ground work for things to come. From here, you would have each subsequent DC movie be a Trinity member running into other future League members, where they ultimately recruit them. Batman meets Flash since they both have CSI backgrounds. Not to mention their public images are mirrors of each other since Flash is well loved by his city as opposed to Batman’s negative public image. Superman would recruit Green Lantern since they both have alien backgrounds. Don’t worry, there are three other (technically four) Green Lanterns that could be used so that the Ryan Reynolds’ Green Lantern movie would not have to be revisited. Lastly, since Wonder Woman and Aquaman both have Greek backgrounds, it is a no brainer that they should meet first. Not to mention they both aren’t strangers to magic in the DC Universe. Each film would of course reveal a little bit more about the Doomsday Initiative. Finally, after all these team up films, you would have the Justice League film which would bring them all together and would pit them against Doomsday, which results in the “death” of Superman. The film would end with two button scenes, one showing Superman in some sort of chamber where he is obviously alive but unconscious and an introduction of the Martian Manhunter who will act as the warning for Darkseid.
Essentially, what DC needs to realize is that Marvel is so successful because they use the slow burn to their advantage. Always teasing whats next to hype up their next film. Sure, they can go for the hail mary pass right away, it’s just going to be more difficult to pull off with out sacrificing the development of some of their characters.
Big Cast: As with any Disney film, the voice cast is sure to be spectacular. Big Hero 6 however, is on the verge of having a truly phenomenal cast. With only three cast members announced as of yet, there are sure to be a few pleasant surprises headed our way. Maya Rudolph is currently the biggest and most recognizable star. With more than a little voice acting experience under her belt combined with her comedy chops, she could very easily end up stealing the show. With Jamie Chung and T.J. Miller joining Maya, this cast selection is definitely headed in the right direction.
Note: The full cast has finally been announced! Along with the above cast, Alan Tudyk (Firefly), Genesis Rodriguez (Man on a Ledge), Damon Wayans Jr. (New Girl), and Daniel Henney (Occult). With these actors just representing the core group, this cast is shaping up to be big indeed.
Big Cooperation: If you search for Big Hero 6, you’ll most likely come across two separate properties. One is the movie whose trailer is above, and one is a comic book published by Marvel. That’s right, the next superhero film to hit theaters after Guardians of the Galaxy is coming from a joint venture between Disney and Marvel. Obviously, the film is not a direct adaptation. Instead, Disney seems to be focusing on the idea of a boy and his robot and placing it at center stage. If this film is done well, it could very well open the door to many other more obscure superhero films to appear on the big screen, both in animation and live action.
Big Heroes: The hero team that this film is based on is quite a robust group of characters. With Hiro, the boy genius who we see in the trailer, builds his robot Baymax, which actually transforms into a dragon. Agent Honey Lemon, who invents the Power Purse which has the ability to summon any item she wishes. GoGo Tomago, who has the ability to turn into a living entity of fire. The Silver Samurai, who is exactly what he sounds like and who also had a version of himself appear in The Wolverine. Sunfire, who rounds out this team and acts as its leader initially but eventually passes the role to Hiro. This is only the founding members and with characters still unconfirmed, Disney can pick and choose the best heroes to make the best film possible.
Big Action: Superhero films are known for their incredible action sequences. With the potential list of characters for this film, the possibilities for action are limitless. If you need any help imagining what it could like, just read the point before this one.
Big Animation: With every new animated film, the animation gets just a little bit better. When looking at this one simple, short trailer, it is already easy to tell that Big Hero 6 will be no different. Notice the supreme level of detail, smooth look, and even the lighting and focus of the scene looks superb. Simply pause the trailer at any point and take in the entire scene. Look at how all the different elements of the scene are so well done individually so that when brought together, they form an even better whole.
I’ll see you in the theater.
Big Hero 6 hits theaters November 7, 2015
Cage (Tom Cruise) is a solider in the US Army who joined up within the PR division so he could avoid combat. However, when the last stand of humanity begins he is ordered to go to the front lines to record it. He attempts to get out of it but in the end he is forced to fight against his will. In combat he finds himself facing a slightly bigger mimic, the aliens that they are fighting. This mimic is bigger, badder, and bluer than the others. When Cage kills it and is drenched in its blood however, he finds himself in a Groundhog Day style loop. With every time he dies, the day starts over and he gets another chance at survival. With the help of Rita (Emily Blunt), a war hero who used to have the same ability, and Dr. Carter (Noah Taylor), a physicist who warned that the enemy mimics had this ability, are out to try and kill the mother mimic.
Edge of Tomorrow is first and foremost a fantastic sci-fi film. If it had to be summarized it would probably be a cross between Alien, Star Troopers, and Groundhog Day. A weird combination, nonetheless, this film borrows aspects from all of these films. It does a great job of balancing the inherent repetitive nature of the main plot device while still keeping things new and entertaining. This was obviously my biggest concern going into the film and I was pleased with how well they handled it. In fact, they actually use the repetitive nature of the film to their advantage which results in more than a few light-hearted moments that help the audience get past the initial repetition. The action in the film was well done and they do a great job of not repeating the same scenes over and over again as the film goes on. You often find out through exposition that Cage and Rita have already gone through this situation multiple times. Ultimately, if you enjoy sci-fi films, than this one is an excellent addition to your must watch list. Even if your not a huge fan of sci-fi, it is still a great film that would not be a waste of time.
Now, while this movie did a lot of good things, one of them was not the ending. I will do my best to make this spoiler free but be warned that there will be a few spoilers in from here on out. The ending, in my opinion, was ruined twice. Meaning they had two opportunities to have a great ending and they botched both of them. The first time around they completely ignore what this whole movie has been about, infinite re-spawns to borrow the video game terminology. In a situation where there are no stakes, where Cage has an unlimited number of attempts, the film sometimes seems pointless. However, he eventually loses these powers thus raising the stakes since he know longer has the option to be reckless and is faced with the very real possibility of dying. You would think the film makers would keep like this since it makes the audience more invested in the film since the main character now has to be careful of paying the ultimate price. However, in the end, in a “twist” ending he regains these power so that the day will start over and he gets to be with Rita, who he has fallen in love with (did I forget to mention that whole subplot?). Instead of killing the main character making this whole adventure mean something, the director decides to just bring him back so we as the audience can have a happy ending.
Looking past this ending, they had the opportunity to redeem themselves slightly by making the last few moments incredibly romantic. After Cage wakes up for the last time, he of course immediately goes to Rita to supposedly confess his love in someway. The last scene shows Cage approaching Rita who questions him. as to why he is interrupting her training. His response is to shrug and nervously chuckle at the whole situation before the credits roll. On the surface this isn’t a bad ending. However, when you take into account that earlier in the film when Cage is trying to get Rita to open up and we see their love slowly growing, she confides in him her middle name. All the director would’ve had to do is have Cage walk up and say “Hey Rose” or even just Rose. It would have tied the film together more completely and would have made a very sweet ending. Instead, the instead decides to just kind of end.
All in all, despite the ending Edge of Tomorrow is still a great addition to the sci-fi genre. It’s funny, action-packed, dramatic, and romantic. If you haven’t seen it yet I highly suggest it.
My Rating (With a different ending): 8.5
My Rating (With the current ending): 7
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is an upcoming film directed and written by Ned Benson who up until this point has only written and directed a few shorts. It stars Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, Lawless, Coriolanus), James McAvoy (X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Last King of Scotland, Wanted), William Hurt (Into the Wild, The Incredible Hulk), Viola Davis (The Help, Prisoners, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close), and Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs). It chronicles the love story of Conor (James McAvoy) and Eleanor (Jessica Chastain) from meeting and well into their marriage. The central conflict of this film revolves around the disappearance of Eleanor (see what they did there…) after a fight.
On the surface, this seems like your run of the mill romantic drama. Boy falls in love with girl, girl falls in love with boy, they fight, they break-up, and they get back together. However, you have to look outside of the story to see why this film is truly unique. When you search for this film on IMDB, you find there are three films that appear, respectively labeled Him, Her, and Them. What Ned Benson did was create a three part film experience, or really an experiment. He filmed it at first as a two part film series, Him and Her. Each film covered the same story however, each film was filmed from the perspective of each respective person. As you can see from the trailer above, they shot many of the same scenes but emphasis was placed differently depending on whose perspective we are seeing in the movie. After both films debuted at the Toronto film festival he went back to the cutting room and re cut the two films into one, which later debuted at the Cannes Film Festival. All three versions of the film received rave reviews at their respective festivals.
This kind of film style has never been done before and is especially ambitious for a directors debut. What Ned Benson has done here is remove the objectiveness within film. The audience is no longer seeing the film an objective standpoint. Instead, the film goes into the minds of the main characters, applying their bias and perspectives to the scenes. This style of applying the bias of the narrator(s) isn’t unheard of. A great example is Shutter Island, where throughout the course of the film you start see a few hints that the narrator can’t be fully trusted, which made apparent by inconsistencies in the story. Eleanor Rigby simply takes this idea to a new level.
Needless to say, this film is shaping up to be an interesting experiment in film making and could very well be a thoroughly enjoyable film.