Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2











Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 opens on Friday, May 5th.

Are you excited? Of course you are. I know I am. Why wouldn't you be? The first one was a gigantic hit, and now Guardians of the Galaxy is one of Marvel's hottest and most loved franchises. Everybody is excited. Early reviews seem to love it. This is going to be huge. 

But it wasn't always like this...

Three years ago, no one expected this film to work. No one expected it to connect with audiences. I mean, one character is a talking raccoon, and another is a tree that only kind of talks. That's nonsense. People don't like nonsense. They like SVUs and NCISs, for christ sake. And once you get past the nonsense characters, the rest of them are the type of D-tier, deep-bench Marvel characters that only super nerds ever knew or cared about. They're the type of characters that can barely support their own book, when they have one, and then, not for long. Three years ago, after carefully building their brand, the first film was Marvel's big risk. Before the movie came out, I blogged all about it right here in a snarky, but amusing manner.

Then the movie came out, and well... here we are.

Being that it opens on Friday, we are now literally hip deep in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 promotional material and trailers. Hip deep, people! So, even though you've surely seen them all at this point, and are most likely well aware of everything surrounding this movie, I wanted to share my favorite trailer of the seemingly endless and relentless bunch that has come screaming at us over the past few months.

Let's watch...


You gotta love the use of "The Chain" in that trailer.

All right, so what else is there to say? From the first film, and the trailers for the new one, you probably have a good idea of what all of the razz-ma-tazz, high-flying, shoot 'em up, seat-of-your-pants action is going to be like. And, except for a maybe couple of new ones, you already know all of the characters, even without the help of this handy-dandy old blog post.

The first new character is Mantis. She is being played by Pom Klementieff. As far as I can tell, Pom has been in nothing that I have seen, especially the American version of Oldboy, because I EXTRA did not see that piece of shit.

Anyway, Mantis is one of those old, vaguely powered and kind of mysterious Marvel Comics characters that has been around forever (her first appearance was in June of 1973), but she never really found a niche, so she was used a lot of different ways, in a lot of different stories, and as a result, she now has an almost completely nonsensical history. I mean, for instance, she went from Asian cliche to Green Space Woman cliche at some point in the last four decades. I'm sure there's a story behind it, but... it's probably nonsense. In the end, she was ranked 99th in the Comics Buyer's Guide "100 Sexiest Women in Comics" list, so at least she has that going for her.

She's also had her share of unfortunate looks...



Yep, that's just embarrassing for everyone involved.

So, when it comes to how they'll use this weird, random, old character in the movie...? Your guess, True Believer, is as good as mine. Although, I'm leaning toward "comically". 

As for Kurt Russel? Well, he's Star Lord's Dad, but other than that, we probably shouldn't get into it, as it is both super weird, and probably better as a surprise within the context of the film. Besides, it's Kurt Russel, what other information do you really need? He'll be awesome.

And that's that.

Friday is the day, kids. You're going, right? I certainly am. Maybe not Friday, but soon after that. Oh, wait... Also, there's this. It's awesome, because Nacho Vigalondo is awesome, and so is the movie Colossal, which is a film you definitely need to see, if you haven't already.

Go see both films, Colossal and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Do it.
Jon


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

BMW films: The Escape








Today's film is called The Escape.

The Escape is not to confused with the short film I posted earlier this week that was called just Escape. Note the lack of a "the". This one is one of the latest in the BMW film series called The Hire. Once upon a time, these were kind of a big deal. The film series began in 2001, and they were basically a "commercial event". In the early days of the Internet, the intent was to drive TV viewers to the website in order to see the full film, and since this was before the age of Youtube, once there, they would then have to wait half an hour for their 56k modem to download the god damn things...

Anyway, the basic idea was for well-known filmmakers and actors to make a short film, each one centered on a mysterious, unflappable, and super cool Driver-for-hire (Clive Owen) performing various jobs that just happen to show off the latest BMWs.

The first "season" of films were actually pretty cool. John Frankenheimer directed one. So did Ang Lee, Wong Kar-Wai, and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. The Guy Ritchie short with Madonna, as a spoiled mega-star who needs to make her movie premiere fast, was particularly entertaining. The high speed car antics really seemed to suit Ritchie's style. The rest of the short films varied from espionage-tinged noir to cutting edge crime thriller, and they were all a pretty good time, more or less. If you haven't seen any of them, you should look them up.

The second "season" turned out to be pretty disappointing and kind of forgettable, despite having Tony Scott, Joe Carnahan, and John Woo each directing a film. I only saw them once, and can't remember much about them except that they were pretty panned at the time. Some of the synopses sound interesting, but like I said, all I can really remember at this point was being disappointed, so if you want to check them out, go ahead.

As a result of that failure, only a mere four years after unveiling the initial effort, BMW abandoned the idea, claiming it was too expensive. Until now that is, apparently, as over a decade later, the third "season" has begun. This time, Neill Blomkamp, a once promising director whose early success now seems more like a fluke than anything else, is the writer and director, and the film not only features Clive Owen returning as The Driver, but Jon Bernthal, Vera Farmiga, and Dakota Fanning all show up as well. That's a nice cast, so hopefully Blomkamp delivers.

But I'm wary...

Every synopsis I found for The Escape was terrible, the wikipedia article being particularly shitty, so I cobbled one together. Here it is: The disappearance of geneticist Dr. Nora Phillips exposes an illegal cloning operation at a corporation known as Molecular Genetics. As the FBI raids the facility, the Driver is hired by corporate security to deliver the one surviving specimen to an unnamed customer. The specimen turns out to be a human clone, a scared young woman called Five. However, during the escape, the Driver’s conscience takes over, and he must avoid the FBI, as well as the murderous private security thugs, in order to save her.

Sounds awesome! Let's watch...



That was... kind of inert.

Blomkamp can shoot some good action scenes. I won't deny that. However, like most of his films, there are some narrative leaps here that you are just supposed to roll with, I guess, and it doesn't work. Blomkamp focuses too much on establishing certain details, without connecting the bigger narrative tissue, and the whole thing feels weightless. I mean, shit, he doesn't even show us the Driver removing the hook that Holt attached to the car, or how the car avoided FBI pursuit, the main chase scene is just over--boom, time to wrap up. That's a disappointing cheat.

Not that I didn't enjoy the chase sequence, but it was a little too short, honestly. I expected Blomkamp to kind of excel here, but it seemed like he was more interested in the character of Holt, than he was anything to do with the Driver, which is unsurprising, honestly, considering that it's Blomkamp and his military fetish, but shit... I came for some high-speed car antics, man, so let's see it. Show me what you got, as the Cromulons say. Unfortunately, based on his filmography, it looks like Blomkamp does indeed show us what he's got, and it's just not that impressive.

Too bad,
Jon


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Teddy Bears are for Lovers






Today's film is called Teddy Bears Are For Lovers.

As with most of these short films, the Director and Writers have a string of other short films in their respective IMDBs, and not much else. That's not a knock, it's just how these things seem to go. It's either other short films, or the they've worked in the Visual Effects Departments of really well-known movies. Not this time, of course, but often... Anyway, Director Almog Antonir, and the writers Matt Hawksworth and David Ernestro Vendrell have worked together on several different projects.

I have seen none of them.

Here's the synopsis: Collin, a 20-something Casanova, becomes haunted by the teddy bears he gave to his ex-girlfriends in this short horror comedy featuring a quintet of animatronic (not-so) cuddly companions.

That is a terrible synopsis. Hopefully the film is better...


That was great. Just great. I loved it.

Here is a short film that does everything a short film is supposed to. It tells a full story, no dangling plot lines or delusional "smaller piece of a bigger picture" aims, and the full story they tell is one that is realistically well within their ability to create on film. The film also serves as a nice showcases of the creators' talents, in this case, both story-wise, and the impressive puppetry and animatronics, and all without losing the narrative of the film.

Most importantly, it's fun, funny, and entertaining.

The synopsis I posted above is pretty shitty, even though it gets the basic idea of the film. A better explanation of the film is this: Over the course of his love life, this dude has given various women teddy bears, as symbols of their love. But when the dude dumped them, the women then took out their anger on the poor Teddy Bears. Now, betrayed, maimed, and pissed off, the Teddy Bears have decided to carve their revenge out of the Dude's ass.

Shit gets real.

It's a great idea, and the Writers and Directors use it perfectly. It's well shot, the pace is strong, and so is the writing. Even the set is well made. This film isn't going to blow your minds or anything, but it really is good. I'm a big fan how it introduces the story and provides the motivations as the story is in motion, no need for info-dumps or ham-fisted soliloquies or any other time-wasters like that, just an economical and smart use of dialogue. You'd think that would be too big of a deal, but watch enough of these short films, and you'll quickly see how special it really is. Best of all, this film had a specific goal in mind, and the writing shows how much they thought about the best way to accomplish this. I appreciate that. I applaud it. This is a rare thing in short films too, honestly.

Plus, the puppets look great too. They move great, and their personalities are readily apparent and distinct. I love them. From the bitter and angry ringleader Stitches, to the crazed and murderous One-Eye Barry, to the despondent Harold Huggerson, the mentally-broken Dumpy, and the loyal and valiant, but ultimately doomed Mr. Snuggles, they're all so perfect. ...And so are their deaths. Sure, sure, there's a huge Meet The Feebles vibe, but that's kind of hard to avoid with this genre, right?

In the end, Teddy Bears are for Lovers is a good time. I highly recommend checking it out.

Be nice to your teddy bears,
Jon

Monday, April 24, 2017

Escape





Today's short is called Escape.

The Writer/Director/Cinematographer/Editor is a man named Gairo Cuevas. There isn't much information on him. He's worked on a handful of his own shorts and as a P.A. for a short time on a show called G Word that I've never heard of before. He has a website for his short films called Loser Status Productions. It looks like it hasn't been updated since 2014. Escape seems to be pretty new, posted within the last year or so, so he's still active and making short films, so that's good.

Here's the synopsis: Felix receives his pair of VR sunglasses from a crowdfunding campaign, and immerses himself in a game full of mystery.

Full of mystery, you say? Let's take a look.



Well... that felt incomplete.

Now, granted, this might not totally be the Director's fault. A lot of short films have almost no budget to speak of, and are made on the fly due to the generosity of friends and family, and the ingenuity of the creators, and often times it's unavoidable that the seams show.

That being said, I think the film made a lot of bad decisions. The VR glasses were supposed to be from some crowdfunding campaign, right? Maybe having the actor mumble that info into the phone while motionless on a random bench in what appears to be an anonymous Business Park, wasn't the best way to show that? Film is a visual medium after all. Why not show the campaign? What did the site promise, and how? Why not have friends discussing it excitedly? Were there rumors that the game wasn't everything it promised? Why not show the interminable wait for the glasses to arrive? As it stands now, the entire background and set-up of this film is almost non-existent.

It feels like a two shoot with no planning and no money.

Then, the main actor guy puts on the glasses, and we're in the game, and... it just doesn't make any sense. It's just a dark room? Was that what was advertised? What is this game supposed to be? And why the trick? What was the point of the scam? Was the main actor possessed by something from the game? Why? What's the end goal? Questions, questions, questions...

The film is just too vague for the story to be satisfying in any way, and the visuals aren't strong enough to float the film, and as a result, any scares the film might have had end up come across as pretty limp.

Meh,
Jon


Monday, April 17, 2017

The Narrow World







Today's short film is called THE NARROW WORLD.

This film was written and directed by Brent Bonacorso. To the surprise of no one, I'm not familiar with his work, which, according to IMDB, is three other short films.

Here's the thing with that... at this point, I've been posting quick reviews of Short Films for awhile now. I don't know how many of these things I've watched, but there's a good number of them grouped under the Short Film Label. And as the days and short films pass, my now somewhat reliable lack of familiarity with anyone involved in these films has passed from the reality of a neophyte, to a quirk of the blog, and on into a realm where it now feels more like a strange re-occurrence. Honestly, I guess there's no end to these short film guys, because it's god damn rare that I come across someone where I'm actually familiar with their previous work. In fact, I think it only happened once.

That I can remember, at least.

So, I did a little research. It turns out that Brent has an upcoming feature film called YOU GET ME starring Bella Thorne and Halston Sage, the former is apparently the new Teen Queen It Girl for some reason, and the latter is completely unknown to me, despite the fact that I've seen a couple of movies she's in. Brent has also done some music videos for Elton John and Katy Perry, I guess. Plus, he also did the opening titles for the HBO docu-series THE JINX, which is kind of awesome. So, he's an up and comer, I guess, and getting some respectable work too.

Good for him.

Here's the synopsis: THE NARROW WORLD is the story of a gigantic alien that crashes to Earth and takes up residence in Los Angeles. Contrary to expectations, when the alien is neither hostile towards the tiny humans around it, nor communicative in any way, it falls on the populace to decipher what, exactly, this visitor wants and what it means for them. One man sees more to it- a message, perhaps, that may tell us less about the alien, and more about our deepest inner selves, about the mysteries of the soul.

Sounds profound...



That was all right.

The central idea of a massive and supremely powerful alien life-form landing on the planet and turning out to be neither savior nor destroyer is an intriguing one. I like the idea that its indifferent inaction would make the planet either stew in self-reflection, or lash out angrily. There's some interesting stuff there. I don't think the film actually nails the emotional arc it's aiming for, now maybe that's due to the skills of the actors, maybe it's the juxtaposition with the subject matter or genre, or maybe it's just a victim of the time constraints of a short film--most likely it's a combination of all three--but it doesn't quite land. I appreciate the effort, and it's not like it completely failed or anything either, it just lacks the oomph it feels like they were aiming for, y'know?

Opening with a Shakespeare quote maybe wasn't the best idea. Doing so adds an expectation of depth, one that if you don't deliver--especially with genre stuff--it ends up making you look a little bit pretentious.

So there's that.

The documentary style was a good decision, I think, especially for the creature, but the set design of the two male characters felt pretty generic. That being said, the rest of it looks great. It's shot well, with a good use of the city, and other than the "military attack" sequence, the effects are pretty top notch for the small budget of a short film. The wide shots really work, and probably provide the most emotion for the creature, giving it a nice lonely, melancholy tinge. That really amps up the otherworldly feeling.

One thing, I was confused by the part where the other creatures show up. Did they show up? Or were they just on the way? I couldn't tell if the scene that showed the other creatures was a dream/imagined future type of thing, or if it really happened. The film only showed the single giant robot after that, so it's hard to say.

Ultimately, this is an interesting and impressively done short film, but by shooting for the moon, narrative-wise, and falling short, it's not quite as exciting a watch as you'd want a 15 minute short film to be. I recommend it, but I don't expect many people will want to re-watch it.

Neither destroyer, nor savior,
Jon

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Lost City of Z









Today's film is called The Lost City of Z.

The title alone is enough to grab my interest. The type of imagery that the title invokes dovetails nicely with my love of the whole giant monster/skull island type of films. It's the life of exploration and mist-shrouded adventure thing, the journey to the edge of the known world, even if it's all from a very colonial, very Western World POV, I can't help but love the romance of it. And then to find out that it's based off a book by David Grann with the same name, all about the doomed Amazonian expedition of the legendary British explorer Percy Fawcett?

Well, now I'm excited.

Side note: The idea that there was once a time when "Explorer" was a perfectly acceptable job title just kills me. Also, I'm totally going to buy that book.

However, there's a few things with the film that I'm worried about, mainly Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, and writer/director James Gray. Other than Hunnam's appearance in one of my favorite films of all time, Children of Men, I'm not really a fan of anything these three have ever done. I'm not NOT a fan, of course, none of them are awful, but none of them are really great or interesting either, at least in my opinion. These three together are the type of names that would normally be enough to put me off the film, or at least ensure that I made no effort to go see it in theatres, if at all.

The thing is, I'm hearing nothing but good things. Effusive praise, as it were. Lots of it too. I've seen several different reviews calling it an early contender for best of the year. People are going on and on about the film, and loving the shit out of it. They're using the type of language that might seem hyperbolic, were it not for the fact that this film, and the people involved, are not usually the type that critics get hyperbolic about.

So I'm curious too.

Here's the synopsis, which honestly seems like there was little to no effort put into the writing: A true-life drama, centering on British explorer Col. Percival Fawcett, who disappeared while searching for a mysterious city in the Amazon in the 1920s.

Well, that's underwhelming. Let's take a look...



Yeah...

That looks interesting. It looks good, but it didn't really impress me.

I still want to see it, because like I said, I love the idea, and the setting, and all that stuff. I'm into this kind of thing. Plus, despite the average-ish trailer, there's the huge response to the movie to keep in mind. For a Charlie Hunnam movie? That's not a usual thing, and yet... people seem to love it. The aggregate on Rotten Tomatoes is 90% with 70-some reviews. That's impressive. I mean, everyone (except certain dark corners of dumb fandom) understands that Rotten Tomatoes is not an exact indicator of quality, it's not a ranking, but when 90% of reviews are positive...? That's a good sign, so I'm going to check this out. You should too.

The Lost City of Z opens on 4/14/17. That's tomorrow, people!

Go see it,
Jon



Friday, April 7, 2017

Colossal





Today's film is called Colossal.

I saw this film at Fantastic Fest, and I loved it. Hands down loved it. It was my favorite film of the festival, and I think that's really saying something as this past Fantastic Fest had an especially impressive list of films. It was positively crowded with great stuff, including such titles as: Arrival, Safe Neighborhood, Elle, Tony Erdmann, Age of Shadows, Down Under, The Crew, The Handmaiden, Shin Godzilla, The Invisible Guest, Raw, Popoz, The Playground, AND The Greasy Strangler. That's an insane amount of incredible films. I loved them. They were great. 

But my favorite was the one with Anne Hathaway.

I'm just saying.

The Writer/Director of Colossal is Nacho Vigalondo. He's a writer, director, and actor that hails from Spain. He mostly does what I'd call "grounded sci-fi" films. They're usually of the "funny, quirky, and weird" variety, mixed with one big crazy idea like Time Travel, or Alien Invasion, or Giant Monsters attacking the city. Y'know, fun stuff.

I've enjoyed the films of his I've seen, although I still haven't been able to catch Timecrimes, which is the one he is so far the most known for. It's supposed to be great. Everyone seems to love it, and everyone says you have to see it, but it's a little difficult to track down a copy. That's not  too surprising, I guess, it is a ten year old Spanish film, after all. I'm hoping Netflix and/or Itunes make it available once Colossal hits. I say Timecrimes is the film Nacho "is SO FAR the most known for" because I think Colossal is going to put him on a lot of people's radar. Deserved so, as he's a talented artist and an actually a nice approachable guy too. Nacho is a regular at Fantastic Fest, and it might be fair to say that he enjoys a good party, and is a bit of a cut-up.


Here's the synopsis: Gloria (Anne Hathaway) drinks too hard and parties too much. Her boyfriend has enough of it and throws her out. Gloria returns to her hometown, dreaming of making a new start, but instead revives her childhood friendship with Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who runs a bar. After drinking a night away with Oscar and his friends, she wakes up to discover a gigantic monster rampaging through Seoul and realizes that somehow the monster is connected to her.

Sounds "funny, quirky, and weird," amirite? Check out the trailer...


That's a good trailer, mainly because it doesn't actually show you what the film is really about.

Yes, it looks like it's spilling a huge amount of beans, doesn't it? Anne Hathaway and her drinking buddies are funny drunk, and then she discovers that she is somehow connected to a giant monster that is attacking Seoul, South Korea. Gasp! Spoiler! She's controlling the beast! Awww, the cat's out of the bag, right?

Wrong!

That's not what the film is about. Well... it is, but it's also not. There's a lot more than that. Colossal is a good example of a genre film done right, one where allegory and narrative mesh perfectly. Whether you're a fan of them or not, Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis are not just great in their roles due to their own natural talents, but they're also surprisingly great in their roles for the meta-baggage they bring with them. This film is not just "funny, quirky, and weird," but smart too.

Without giving anything away, Colossal is a film about bad decisions, about regrets, and the mistake that haunt us and define our lives. It's also about taking back control of your life. It's about trying to be better. It's about good friends, and bad friends. It's about funny drunk, and not so funny drunk. It's also about giant monsters.

Seriously. Go see this film. I loved it. I highly recommend it. It's fun. It's funny. It's great, and totally worth your time, and it opens on April 7th, 2017. That's today!

Go see Colossal,
Jon

P.S. Here's a couple of awesome posters