Thursday, July 02, 2015

Steef Chowbes

Yeah, I'll say it - this could be the best film of the year, and whether or not I'll be able to engage is going to be contingent on the degree I can ignore Fassbender's bizarro-world accent (it doesn't even sound like Fassbender's usual voice) as Steef Chowbes STEVE JOBS.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

CREED

WOW.

This project sounded good, but who could've anticipated it'd look THIS GOOD? Love how they're leaning hard on "No. This is Michael B. Jordan's movie first and foremost," holding back on the idea that this isn't an entirely new franchise until the perfect moment to reveal you-know-who.

And then... Holy hell. You had to know he'd end up wearing... yeah. But still...

Friday, June 26, 2015

Review: TED 2

I bet Seth MacFarlane is one of those guys who has multiple groups of friends who don't know eachother, i.e. "the movie friends," "the neighborhood friends," "my smart friends," "my slob friends," etc. It's somewhat common among "self-made" creatives to begin with, and it'd make sense given the way his TV shows, cartoons and films all feel pulled between competing instincts - all of them sincere, but none of them really compatible. By all indications, he appears enormously self-satisfied with his ability to geek-out about Boston sports teams, STAR WARS minutiae, the Golden Age of dance-musicals and Rat Pack ephemera; but creatively the influences have yet to fully coalesce.

TED 2, like TED and FAMILY GUY before it, careens back and forth between gooey sentiment, bro-comedy raunch, "edgy" black-humor, geek-culture reference-drops, Boston neighborhood-scene deep cuts and "ironic" racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. Taken as a set of sketches all framed around the same set of characters, it mostly worked the first time out - but TED 2 makes the Comedy Sequel mistake of assuming that an emphasis on plot and the mechanics of the central joke (re: "How does Ted work, anyway?") will make a satisfactory replacement for jokes that got used-up in Part I. There are some genuine howlers, and the main back-and-forth between John (Mark Wahlberg) and Ted (MacFarlane) still works, but the law of diminishing returns is firmly in place.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Rock to Star in Classic Arcade Adaptation RAMPAGE

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is an actor the film press loves to cover, but not only because he generates clicks and is a good interview: He's also one of the savviest businessmen in terms of managing a personal brand in the business right now, so watching his moves is a great way to read the tea leaves of the film industry.

Case in point: In case you were wondering - for some reason - whether The Rock (or "his people") had seen and/or had any opinion on PIXELS (the Adam Sandler oldschool-video-game-invasion action/comedy)? The answer(s) would appear to be "Yes" and "They think it's going to be a huge hit" - Johnson has signed on for an adaptation of the arcade classic RAMPAGE.

Two Guys You've Never Heard of Will Direct and Star In MARVEL (and Sony's) New SPIDER-MAN

Marvel's official blog has announced that Tom Holland is the new, Marvel Cinematic Universe official SPIDER-MAN. The young British actor (he's 19 but looks like he's barely out of grade school) will likely (read: definately, but we're supposed to pretend everyone doesn't already know this) be hitting the Atlanta, Georgia set of CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR in the near future before embarking on his own franchise-starter solo feature; which the same blog post also reveals will be directed by Jon Watts, who helmed CLOWN for Eli Roth and whose COP CAR (the producers of which are popping champagne right now) turned heads at Sundance.

Holland previously appeared in THE IMPOSSIBLE, a terrible movie you don't need to pretend you saw, remember or have even heard of. Already onboard the project is co-producer Amy Pascal, who'll be in charge of pretending that Sony has any actual creative function on the film apart from following dictates from Marvel boss Kevin Feige.

RIP James Horner: 1953-2015

James Horner, probably the most well-known (by cumulative work and by reputation) Hollywood music composer of the last several decades not named John Williams, is reported dead in a plane crash earlier tonight.

He leaves behind a legacy of work that includes such iconic film scores as STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN, ALIENS, FIELD OF DREAMS, TITANIC, BRAVEHEART, APOLLO 13, GLORY and AVATAR; along with less well-known but highly-regarded scores for KRULL, THE ROCKETEER, WILLOW and dozens of others.

Horner was also credited as co-songwriter of several massively-popular songs tied to feature-scores, including "Somewhere Out There" from AN AN AMERICAN TAIL and the Celine Dion megahit "My Heart Will Go On" from TITANIC. Horner was 62.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Collection

Followers of my Twitter are no doubt aware that I've begun a little side-project/hobby in collection every issue of NINTENDO POWER Magazine. It's more of a "spiritual fulfillment" thing than anything, I guess - begun while cleaning old stuff out of my parents' house and realizing that more of my original collection had survived than I'd thought. At this point I've done pretty well, nudging myself just over the halfway mark. Helpfully, I decided early on that I'm not interested in grabbing up "mint" copies of anything - like I said, quasi-spiritual thing, not an "investment." I see it more or less as "re-homing" copies that fans loved like I loved mine and aren't comfortable throwing out.

Thus far, collector shops and eBay have been doing the job well enough. But now that I'm at the point where bulk-buying big collections of random issues will almost-certainly land me more duplicates than "needs," I figured it can't hurt to also reach out to see if there are any fellow fans/collectors among my friends and readership who are looking to unload such items.

IN BOB WE TRUST - "Who is Marvel's WORST Superhero?"

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Review: INSIDE OUT (2015)

This review made possible in part by The MovieBob Patreon.

If you look close enough, you start to see that for all the talk of Pixar's vaunted originality, they've been (with rare exception) telling a variation on the same basic story since TOY STORY: A world within a bigger world (Andy's Room, Nemo's ocean, Monstropolis, Remy's sewers, Wall-E's Earth, Carl's widower solitude, etc) that seems to be running fine but is in fact quietly-dysfunctional has said dysfunction exposed/further-disrupted by the arrival of a new personality and/or idea (Buzz, Nemo's growing independence, Boo, Remy's sense of taste, EVE, Russell, etc). Attempts by a well-intentioned maintainer of the status quo (Woody, Marlin, Mike, Remy's dad, Otto, Carl, etc) lead to one or more protagonists (usually representing polarized opinions about The Change) being exiled in some way into the bigger world, wherein they quest (usually but not always to return home) and in doing so undergo a mutual shift in perspective that ultimately improves but does not necessarily "upend" the original status quo.

This isn't to say that Pixar isn't original, just that it's all the more remarkable that they've been able to be so original while so frequently working from the same basic structure - an indictment of the idea that polish and refinement can't be as valid, creatively, as re-inventing the narrative wheel all the time. Case in point: INSIDE OUT is probably as close as they've come to outright making "TOY STORY but with _____" ...and it still manages to land as a new member of the studio's legendary Top Tier productions - this is a masterpiece.

MILD SPOILERS FOLLOW:

Monday, June 15, 2015

Thursday, June 11, 2015

RIP Sir Christopher Lee - 1922-2015

Details are still coming in, but this much is clear: Sir Christopher Lee, one of our greatest actors, has died at age 93 from respiratory issues in hospital.

Lee was best known for much of his life as an actor, and for much of that career as the main performer of Count Dracula for Hammer Films and as a sought-after character actor with a devout cult following thereafter; but his notoriety experienced a late-in-life explosion into the mainstream as Sarumon in the LORD OF THE RINGS films and Count Dooku in the STAR WARS Prequel Trilogy. In the mid-2000s, he embarked on yet another career as a heavy metal vocalist. His professional filmography is, frankly, too vast to even begin to recount here.

But the fact is, even in the 25 years of life prior to becoming an actor, Lee lived more life than most men could ever aspire to: An adventurer, scholar, philanthropist, activist, veteran of the theater and decorated (to say nothing of still highly-classified) veteran of the British SAS in World War II. His two autobiographies, "Tall, Dark & Gruesome" and "The Lord of Misrule" are must-reads for fans of Teddy Roosevelt-style "how could this man have actually existed?" tales.

Lee leaves behind a body of work that would be the envy of any actor in any era: As Dracula he reimagined the most iconic monster in horror cinema. As Scaramanga he gave James Bond one of his greatest foes. In LOTR he lived out a personal dream of bringing Tolkien's work to life. Between that was an epic run of character roles, lead performances, villains and even comedy, but he famously said (later in life) that his best role was in the little-scene (in the West) Pakistani film JINNAH - a biography of the founder of modern Pakistan.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Review: JURASSIC WORLD

This review is made possible in part by The MovieBob Patreon.


So here's my darkest movie-geek confession: I don't consider the original JURASSIC PARK to be an unassailable classic. I recognize that this doesn't make a ton of sense, given my love of Spielberg, monster-movies, science fiction and above all else Dinosaurs; but here we are.

It's a great film - yards beyond what any other filmmaker would've likely done with the same material at the time, as is to be expected with Steven Spielberg - and it deserves its place on the pedestal for its iconic setpieces and industry-changing FX work, no question about it. But measured on the long-terms merits? It's a vaunted member of the Three-Star Spielberg Club, standing proudly among MINORITY REPORT, TEMPLE OF DOOM (and LAST CRUSADE, if we're being honest), AMISTAD, etc., but "only" just that. And while I "get" the idea that the original is effectively "Millennials' JAWS," sorry, no - only JAWS is JAWS.

I bring this up mainly to give you some context through which to process this review: If you're looking for someone who views the first movie as Holy Writ to tell you whether or not someone's gone and popped some Groucho Glasses on Michelangelo's David? This ain't that. But if you'll settle for the opinion of someone who thinks the original is great but in all honestly is more of a ONE MILLION YEARS B.C./WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH/KING KONG guy when it's time to get his Dinosaur on, welcome aboard.

(SPOILERS, though not IMO important ones, follow)

Monday, June 08, 2015

In Bob We Trust: DISSED-TOPIA

Review: INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3

NOTE:This review is brought to you in part via The MovieBob Patreon.


The INSIDIOUS movies are easily the most idiosyncratic (successful) horror franchise of the moment, built out of elements like recurring characters, signature visuals, mythology and a unique internal logic that the rest of the genre has largely abandoned in favor of chasing grimy grit-gore (HOSTEL and MARTRS, but more so their lesser imitators) or cheapjack trickery (PARANORMAL ACTIVITY etc). That's what helps it stand out in a field that otherwise seems to be chasing forgettable as an ideal, but it can also be a trap pointing to diminishing returns: Eventually the 80s slashers with their iconic masks and signature weapons (particularly Freddy Krueger, whose as close to a direct ancestor as INSIDIOUS has) ceased to be scary through all the recognizability.

To be fair, INSIDIOUS stock in trade is a fairly unique brew: Small-space haunting/possession stories featuring violently-proactive "rule-breaking" specters (who manage to still be legitimately scary while being designed in an overly-specific "Halloween spook-house" style that shouldn't work but does) and visits to "the other side" ("The Further" in INSIDIOUS-speak) imagined through a weird mix of new-school FX and low-tech settings - usually just an actor holding a single light-source in an empty space full of dry-ice fog. That's a pretty damn unique stamp, and one that can probably sustain the series for a while longer, but CHAPTER 3 shows signs that the limit is significantly lower than the sky.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Take This

Mental health charity Take This (which is run/founded by dear friends of mine and which I continue to be proud to offer help and support) yesterday announced a partnership with IGN that will see their most well-known (so far) undertakings, providing clinician and volunteer-staffed safe spaces called "AFK Rooms" at gaming and fan-conventions, expand in presence beyond the various PAX iterations to other venues including SDCC.

Really proud of these folks. Good people doing the best possible kind of work. Take a look, and if so-inclined please consider showing your support.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Review: SPY (2015)

This review is brought to you in part by The MovieBob Patreon.


Finally, I can feel 100% good about "defending" Melissa McCarthy.

Don't get me wrong: I'd be a fan no matter what - McCarthy is one of the most gifted screen comics working today. However, while a natural born-and-bred movie star all the same, she finds herself in the difficult position where certain facts of her existence are so far outside the "typical" for a movie star (re: age, weight, being a woman who excells at "blue humor" and broad physical comedy) tend to turn her very presence in a film into a "statement" - one that frequently draws responses oozing with an inexplicable vitriol that can't help but make even the least chivalrous cad rise up and say "Hey! Leave her alone, jerk!"

Unfortunately, actors are tied to their movies and their roles, and as such full-throated endorsements of McCarthy as not only possessing great talent but having the right to show it off in movies have had to come bundled with caveats... namely that the movies themselves weren't often all that good. Her starmaking supporting turn in BRIDESMAIDS as the most memorable female version ever of the kinds of raunchy party-animal role pioneered by Belushi, Farley and Kevin James has thus far been a the high point of a rocky subsequent run that's included dismal entries like IDENTITY THIEF, underwhelming fare like THE HEAT and the genuinely abominable TAMMY. (Though she was excellent in the indie dramedy ST. VINCENT and continues to do fine work on the comfortably-ordinary sitcom MIKE & MOLLY.)

But now, with SPY, there's no reason for any equivocations or asterisks: This is as perfect a star-vehicle as has been conceived for a comedian since Adam Sandler pulled on his blue suit for THE WEDDING SINGER. It's the most complete screen performance of her career to date, a career-best for writer/director Paul Feig and will easily end up being one of the funniest comedies of the Summer. The longevity of comedies can be hard to gauge (I'm glad to see people other than me finally coming around to WALK HARD) but right now SPY feels like an instant classic.

More Like It

AOL made a big deal this morning out of debuting what I'll assume is the U.S. trailer for Sarah Gavron's SUFFRAGETTE, a dramatization of the "angry period" of the Votes For Women movement in turn of the century Britain (in response to increased police aggression, segments within the movement turned from peaceful demonstration to physical resistance and anarachist-style acts of violence/vandalism including bombings) with Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep and Helena Bonham Carter.

Not a bad clip, but it managed to undercut what's supposed to be the aggressive "get mad and break shit" hook of the piece (we're in SELMA "Hey! These supposedly more 'respectable' early days of social activism were way more similar to modernity than you've been told" territory) but smothering it's back-half with a slowed-down version of "Landslide" - tonally wrong, and a serious mood killer.

Fortunately, the film is also opening the BFI London Film Festival; and a separate trailer announcing that appearance goes for a more sweeping "action drama" tone overall. Check it out:


Monday, June 01, 2015

Review: ALOHA

NOTE: This review made possible in part by The MovieBob Patreon. If you'd like to see more like it, please consider becoming a patron.

Counting last year's INTERSTELLAR, Cameron Crowe's ALOHA is the third relatively recent big studio/big star movie to ground a "how far we've fallen" moral-center on the lessened public-profile of NASA and Kennedy-era scientific-optimism. Given that all three (Brad Bird's spectacularly-misfired TOMORROWLAND being the third) have been pretty bad films (with ALOHA hopefully representing rock-bottom, because if not...), it would appear that one of the Space Agency's biggest yet least remarked-upon problems is that its self-appointed spokespeople suck at the job.

It almost feels like a digression to bring it up, since mourning the end of the Space Race is a minor element in ALOHA; entering the plot chiefly in connection to the backstory of ostensible hero Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper), whose dreams of Astronaut glory were cut short by public disinterest in space, and the Hawaiian setting's own unbreakable connection to that same kitschy/sincere moment in American pop-culture history when spaceflight and a storybook Polynesian paradise as an easily-visited American state both felt like future-fantasy wish dreams come to life... but that's the problem with ALOHA in general: Everything is a minor plot element. There's no sense of scale or center to the various goings-on trying to comprise a story, nothing to hang onto.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Review: TOMORROWLAND

NOTE: This review is brought to you in part by The MovieBob Patreon. If you like it and would like to see more, please consider becoming a Patron.

Despite the fact that I believe "pure objectivity" in criticizing films, entertainment or anything else is impossible, largely useless as a pursuit and shouldn't be of primary import either to critics or people reading them; I do worry about times when my own biases might get in the way of things. Not because I might violate some nimrod's vision of "ethics" (whatever the hell that means anymore) but because I don't want to write anything I'll be embarrassed about a year or so later.

So, if nothing else, I can say I appreciate having seen TOMORROWLAND in exactly one respect: This is a movie that's made by people I like about a subject that's near and dear to my heart and has a bunch of Big Idea moral/philosophical points to make about humanity, society, art, culture and the ordering of the world itself that could've been pulled wholesale from own psyche... so I'm kind of glad that I found it so plodding, patronizing, preachy and wrongheaded - at least I'm "unbiased" enough to have been able to look past all the stuff I'd otherwise be desperate to like (or even to excuse.)

SPOILERS (which are unavoidable) after the jump:

Monday, May 25, 2015

Here's Some Crazy Guessing About CIVIL WAR, HULK and RAGNAROK

NOTE: This piece brought to you in part by The MovieBob Patreon. If you liked it and want to see more, please consider becoming a Patron today :)

Hey! Haven't done one of these in awhile, and now is as good a time as any. We're between Marvel Cinematic Universe movies right now, and while it's possible that ANT-MAN is going to drop some kind of important Universe-altering plot point, I wouldn't call it likely. Whatever really got between Edgar Wright and Marvel, everything about the production of this I've heard is that a big part of Marvel's solution to "what do we do with what pieces are already assembled from this movie?"  will have been to frontload it with Continuity-Lover Cookies relating to the backstories of the other franchises; the gamble being that making this film/character "essential" to a completist's understanding of  The Lore will overshadow any potential letdown feelings among the core fandom; whose inter-film chattering (yes, like pieces like this) the generation of is part of the MCU's long-term marketing aparatus.

And with the "things to come" tease from AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON being effectively the same as the one from AVENGERS ("That beefy purple guy is up to something!"), that effectively leaves the "where is everything going?" stuff up to rampant speculation until the trailers start hitting for CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. But! These things are planned both long-term and with a lot of wiggle room for potentially go-nowhere threads (where's The Leader right now, again?), and with that plus a working knowledge of Marvel Comics history, it's occasionally been possible to work out where things are going.

So let's try some of that out. Obviously, everything from this point on (i.e. "after the jump") is chock full of **SPOILERS** for the existing Marvel movies and potential-spoilers for the ones that don't exist yet:

Okay! In list form:

In Bob We Trust: BLURRY ROAD

Friday, May 22, 2015

"Chocolate with SPRINKLES!!!"

All the world is gasoline, and Eli Roth is the guy who just can't stop flicking his cigarettes...



So it's FUNNY GAMES if FUNNY GAMES wasn't pretentious self-fellating bullshit - color me onboard.

Pitch Me, Mr. B: CAPTAIN PLANET

NOTE: This piece and others like it brought to you in part by The MovieBob Patreon. Want to see more? Please consider becoming a patron.


Really, guys?

Okay, you're in charge. I just really didn't expect this to be the second most-request thing to see written up. But, okay. Here's how I'd pitch a hypothetical re-invention of CAPTAIN PLANET to a movie studio.

To be fair, this one presents a different challenge from MEGA MAN: Instead of trying to stretch a plot out of a fairly simple (storywise) set of video games, the goal here is not simply to turn a superhero cartoon into a feature film but to "retool" the mythos of the franchise itself from the ground up. To put it charitably, CAPTAIN PLANET was a weird creature - ostensibly an bit of well-intentioned ecological-proselytizing aimed at 90s schoolkids, it was also filtered through the... interesting prism of creator/back Ted Turner's eccentric personal take on the subject and the genre. On top of all that, a lot of it's then-relevant political/social/scientific context has shifted over the decades and likely needs a second look.

Anyway...

It's Fun To Dream

What can I say - sometimes I just can't let a good pun go to waste.