Friday, October 28, 2016

'John Wick' stunt coordinator might be new 'Deadpool 2' director


I tried to refrain in talking again about the search for a "Deadpool 2" director, but I believe this is big news. They supposedly have a front runner for the job and it's the guy who was stunt coordinator for "John Wick."

I can seen why they'd want to hire David Leitch. "Wick" had quick, relentless stunt work ala "Deadpool." There's barely a cut in those action scenes, they almost feel like how a "Looney Tunes" episode would look like if it were rated R. 

I personally welcome a new director to "Deadpool 2," but mostly because the now fired Tim Miller was arguing over a bigger budgeted CGI fest. No, just no. That would completely take away the foundation of what "Deadpool" is all about. It's a pushback against the usual Blockbuster superhero movie. So really, forget about Tim Miller, he wanted to give us another CGI fest. What happened to creative ideas with whatever you have at your disposal? 

Deadpool had a budget of just $58M dollars.

A First Look at 'The Big Lebowski' Spinoff - Jesus Quintana movie 'Going Places'

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This is actually the first I hear of this. A movie spinoff has been shot about The Jesus? You might remember Jesus Quintana from the Coen's "The Big Lebowski." He was such a highlight despite having, what, around 2 or 3 minutes of on-screen time? 'You don't mess with The Jesus.' The above image is the first still to get released from production.

"Going Places" Co-stars Bobby Cannavale, Audrey Tatou, and Susan Sarandon, and is inspired by an excellent French film entitled “Les valseuses,” which I caught on French TV many eons ago.  Turtorro is directing, writing and stars in the film, which is currently shooting in NYC. 

According to Variety "Turturro’s version follows a trio of misfits whose irreverent, sexually charged dynamic evolves into a love story as their spontaneous and flippant attitude backfires time and again. In the French film, Depardieu and Dewaere played young men who travel around France, committing petty crimes and running from the law. When they make enemies with a gun-toting hairdresser, their journey becomes one of constant escape."

Eight year olds dude.

Mel Gibson On Past Controversy: "I Was Loaded and Angry"

Thursday, October 27, 2016

'Moonlight' is back to having a perfect 100 score on Metacritic



This obviously doesn't spell a Best Picture win, look at "Boyhood," but it is nevertheless an unprecedented accomplishment.

Here's what I had to say about the movie for Awards Daily, full article can be found HERE

"What can be said about Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” that hasn’t already been said? Set during three transformative periods in the life of an African-American  gay man, the film is not only a mesmerizing journey into the “African-American experience,” but it also shatters cinematic taboos that not many have dared touch before it. This was the first major film I can recall to feature two black men who kiss onscreen. Unheard of, but an incredibly important landmark moment and the very definition of a film that can change lives. Jenkins splits the film into three different time frames as he follows his protagonist Chiron’s struggle for self-identity in a society that refuses to acknowledge his sexual freedom. The three actors playing Chiron (Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes) were all revelatory and Jenkins (a former Telluride Film Festival volunteer) makes good on the promise of his first feature “Medicine for Melancholy.” His “Moonlight” deserves to be called a milestone."

Ingmar Bergman's 'Persona' Celebrates 50 Years

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persona n 1: an actor's portrayal of someone in a play; 2: Jungian psychology A personal facade one presents to the world, a public image is "as fragile as Humpty Dumpty"

It would be a good idea to know the above definition before going into Ingmar Bergman's "Persona." One of the most influential films in cinematic history that is celebrating its 50th birthday today. 


The film's opening is a kind of montage of cinema's earliest, most eeriest of work. It is meant as a statement for many things, which will be tackled soon, but let's first mention it as a proclamation of the tide changing. The cinema becoming something completely different, new and vital. Bergman shows us its history and how he is about to shatter the conventions are pave the way for a new language.


The two characters, Alma the Nurse (Andersson) and Elisabet Vogel (Ullmann), a stage actress, have very little in common. Their personas meld together in the most surreal kind of ways. This was "Mulholland Dr." before Betty and Rita were even born.


Elizabeth is an actress that went mute halfway through a stage performance. Early on in the film we have a scene where her doctor presents the diagnosis of her condition. 


Returning to the psychological, we fairly early on are confronted with a scene where Elizabeth’s doctor, in very straightforward terms, presents the diagnosis of her condition as being of her own choosing. She claims her choice to stop speaking is "sincere" and that, eventually with time, she will return to communicating with the world around her.

There are clues as to why she chose to stop speaking. Throughout the film we see Elizabeth looking at the disgust of the outside world through Television:  Vietnam, the infamous Buddhist monk burning himself and images of the holocaust haunt her mind.

Image result for persona film

Based on the doctor's recommendation, Elizabeth is sent on a retreat and taken care of by Alma the nurse. The twist, and it's a complicated one that can't really be described thoroughly in just a line or two, is that their personalities merge and they become a sort of blend of each other. In the most iconic shot of the film both actresses faces merge with half of one face and half of the other blending to become one. 

The film contains elements that strongly suggest a comparison between both female protagonists, and the peculiar elements of “twinning.” Bergman has even acknowledged that the idea for the film came from a meeting he had with Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullman and was triggered by how similar they were in appearance.

But the most important scene of the film might be one that is much less spoken of. Alma, at that point battling wits with the strong-headed Elizabeth, purposely leaves broken glass on the floor which cuts Elizabeth's foot. The moment cuts through the divide between the two women and reveals a weak person in Alma. The psychological battle both have been going through is revealed to be a victory for Elizabeth, despite the cut. 

Why is this scene important? Because after this "victory" the screen goes black and that's where the film becomes a whole other beast. We are confronted back to where the film started and the eerie opening montage of cinema's earliest, most shocking works. This sequence mirrors exactly how the film started. As Roger Ebert so finely described it: "In both cases, a projector lamp flares to life, and there is a montage from the earliest days of the cinema: jerky silent skeletons, images of coffins, a hand with a nail being driven into it. The middle "break" ends with the camera moving in toward an eye, and even into the veins in the eyeball, as if to penetrate the mind."

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Why is it such a victory for Elizabeth? Because she has proven to be the stronger character. A person proud of her beliefs and self-identity. Alma is the tonal opposite, a weak-minded woman that never fully grasped who she was. My favorite scene in the film is also one of the most erotically charged in the history of cinema. Alma recounts a day at the beach she had many years ago where she encounteed two men that pleasured her to orgasm. The imagery is so forcefully real that it's images still linger in my head many years later. That orgasm is the greatest and most intense feeling Alma ever had, also the most "real" she's ever felt in her life, everything else has been laborious and fake. Her self-identity has never found. Keeping that in mind can help one go through "Persona" shift to the surreal in its second half.

"Persona," just like many of David Lynch's films, is a psychological exercise. Carl Jung’s concept of "Persona" was, in simple terms, the mask which we present to the world outside us, including others, which in turn represents a mix or in his words a compromise between the individual and society. In "Mulholland Drive" Betty and Rita switch identities, once the key enters the lock, in the last 45 minutes of the film and we enter Naomi Watts' mindset. The weak and the strong switching identities.



Although "Persona" has a similar technique once the foot is cut by glass and the screen goes black, the difference is that the identities don't switch. The psychological impact of "Persona" is that the strong invades the weak. We are thus in Alma's head for the remainder of the picture as she tries to fight her subconscious merging with Elizabeth's stronger identity. Heavy stuff, but some of the most fascinating and intriguing concepts ever put forth by a filmmaker.


50 years on "Persona" still seems to be ahead of its time, which is no small feat, and still seems to be the obsessions of many cinemagoers worldwide. There has never been anyone quite like Ingmar Bergman and there probably never will be. 

Garth Edwards: 'Rogue One' Doesn't Unfold The Way You Think It Does

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Via USA Today's Winter Movie Preview:


“Events take place that just shatter her life and send her off to basically be raised as a soldier in the midst of a war. She ends up not the person she was supposed to be.” Her journey is also a very Star Wars-y one: to redeem the sins of the father. “Even though we’re not telling the story of Luke Skywalker, it was important to me that we capture the same themes and emotion. But the film doesn’t unfold how you think. It’s not the same path as Star Wars.”

“The thing every [filmmaker] typically struggles with is ‘How does it end?’” says director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla). “But we knew how our film was going to end. Our problem became ‘How do we reverse engineer from that and know where to start?’ You’ve got a finite number of options and you go through them all like a puzzle to find the one that’s going to lead to the strongest result.”

It still looks great from the trailer, but if you haven't read our scoop about the on-set and off-set problems the film, but more specifically Edwards, has had you can read all about that HERE

This Year's 'Best Picture' Contenders UPDATED

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Obviously this gets adjusted on a weekly basis. Look at what happened to "Billy Lynn" when it premiered in NY? Two of the ten films listed below have not been seen  by myself or any other critics: "Fences" and "Silence." Those could easily underwhelm and get thrown out of the race. It's been a weak year for contenders, but that makes the race all the more interesting. I do think that we have a clear number one movie and it will likely stay like that until February 26th, 2017. When's the last time that happened this early in the race? 1998 with Saving Private Ryan? We all know what happened with that film come Oscar time ....


'Inferno' is another terrible movie in the Dan Brown trilogy, but at least Tom Hanks' hairdo has somewhat improved

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Editor's Note: This is a reprint of an earlier review that was written on 10.10.16

I don't really have much to say about Ron Howard's third film in the Dan Brown trilogy, after "The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels & Demons." I mean, there is an audience for these movies. The first two made a lot of money, but I just don't get it. These are, at their core, just really silly movies, with Tom Hanks donning absurd hair plugs, or is it a wig? Although in this new film he actually has a decent haircut. I will give you that moment for moment this might be the 'best' film of the trilogy, but what exactly does that mean? Not really a compliment. What really bothers me is that Ron Howard is a decent filmmaker that shouldn't be wasting his time with these, but, as they say, money talks and he seems to be fully invested in these films.

'Doctor Strange'

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I didn't know quite what to expect with "Doctor Strange." I'm not really a comic book fan, although I've read my fair share of Batman and Superman comic books when I was a kid. Those endless reading nights have not followed me to adulthood, but I get it. I get the whole craze. I like much of the stuff that I see when it comes to Marvel movies, but maybe not enough.

Benedict Cumberbatch is well cast as Dr. Stephen Strange and, for a moment there, it looked like the film had a fighting chance. The comedic bits at the setup are freshly conceived and take advantage of Cumberbatch's personality. He and Rachel McAdams have chemistry to spare, she's his assistant at the emergency room, but they quickly get separated for the remainder of the film. 
"Doctor Strange" sets up an arrogant, but bright surgeon who loses function of his hands in a nasty car accident and attempts to gain it back by delving into spiritual mysticsm.  Oh Geez. Tilda Swindon is The Ancient One and teaches him to appreciate life past the fancy cars and womanizing. It feels all too familiar.

The movie's concept of magic is some kind of nonsense about the spiritual manipulation of quantum physics. There is banality in the way not just the filmmakers, but the actors as well buy the banality in their dialogue. The movie is meant to be a mindfuck, but it becomes such a disparaging barrage of nonsense that only a pre-pubescent boyed mindset could possibly salivate its "ideas."

Director Scott Derrickson had at his disposal a unique story to add to the Marvel Universe, but he seems to have had a blueprint to follow the same trajectory as the other Marvel films. 

Don't get me wrong, the visuals are stunning in "Doctor Strange" and deserving of, at the very least, an Oscar nomination, but the movie feels stale and unforgiving. The kaleidoscopic effects are great and work as a kind of tribute to original Dr. Strange concept artist Steve Ditko. The film's clear highlights are the visuals which astound and capture the spirit of the vision at hand. These are action scenes like you have never seen before. The climax, which has another end-of-the-world scenario, a Marvel specialty, unfolds with some much needed freshness by twisting the genre's cliches upside down. If only Derrickson could do more of that with the rest of the movie. 
The villains are also very weak, they don't engage or infuriate you. That's a major problem for a movie that tries to get you involved in tits story. What a waste of thetalents of actors like Mads Mikkelsen and Tilda Swinton, who feel like cliched caricatures. Mikkelsen is a great actor, but his character is severely underwritten. You just don't really hate him enough. The same can be said about the movie, there really is no genuine involvement, no emotional core to build upon for the audience member. 

Known for "Sinister," a underrated horror film, Derrickson shoots the fight sequences with punch-drunk allure, shattering dimension upon dimension and, at times, blowing our minds with staggering visuals of alternate universe after alternate universe. The film is obviously not a disaster, but given the hype and the marketing behind it I expected something much better [C+]

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

There Will Be 8 Superhero Movies in Total From Marvel and DC Coming Out In 2017


If you were already discouraged by the constant barrage of superhero movies invading multiplexes nationwide then then this a depressing fact. There will be 8, count 'em 8, major superhero released next year. Mind you, a few of these titles look intriguing, especially Patty Jenkins' feminist take on "Wonder Woman", so let's all calm down and see how these turn out. 

The 7 Most Shocking Movies I Have Ever Seen

'The Incredibles 2' Moves to Summer 2018; 'Toy Story 4' is Now a 2019 Release


Good news if you're an "Incredibles" fan, like myself, the sequel to the brilliant 2004 Pixar film has been moved up to Summer of 2018. The bad news? Toy Story 4 has been bumped to 2019. "The Incredibles" is still considered one of the very best movies of the superhero genre and for good reason. Back in the day I wrote this about the film:

M. Night Shyamalan's 'comeback vehicle' SPLIT


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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tim Miller and Ryan Reynolds fiasco was over 'Deadpool 2' budget


"Mad Max: Fury Road: Black & Chrome edition" Now Streaming On Amazon

One does have to wonder about the actual colored version, the one that got released last year, and the eye-popping colors and landscapes that were perfectly captured by cinematographer John Seale. It will be hard to top that pop masterpiece. It is almost inconceivable to think of "Mad Max: Fury Road" as anything but a colored film. Its Western vibe fits perfectly with its sandy colors. To take a away color from such an eye-popping experience might to the film a major disservice.

Yes, maybe George Miller did intend for a "Black & Chrome" version at first, but it was such a perfect cinematic display that I wonder if he is actually hurting the original film instead of just letting it be and age like fine wine over time.  

Well now we can see it for ourselves and make up our minds about this troubling dilemma. The "Mad Max: Fury Road: Black & Chrome edition" is now streaming on Amazon. HD version is $6 or you can just buy it for $20.

Director George Miller has repeatedly said that the Black & Chrome cut is the "best version" of "Mad Max: Fury Road," it surely was the version he wanted to make all along, but the studio didn't want any of that.  

First Images of Tadanobu Asano and Yōsuke Kubozuka in Scorsese's 'Silence'

'The Promise' has 86,553 reviews on IMDB with only 3 public screenings - 55,126 1-star ratings #ShameOnTurkey




The Turkish government is trying to stop "The Promise" from getting any sort of mainstream media attention. 86,553 votes have been cast on IMDB for the film, 55,126 of which are 1 star rating. The other 30,630 are 10 star ratings. Yikes. It is quite clear that some kind of power or force is trying to stop this film. 

There have been only three public screenings of the film, I was at the premiere and saw it at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this September and thought it wasn't very good, mostly due to the unnecessary love story added into the plot, but the Turkish Government's behavior here is atrocious. They are trying to silence the voice of ancestors and the pain they inflicted upon millions of people because of the genocide they created way back then. They have yet to recognize what happened, so a movie depiction is way out of their train of thought. 

Armenian communities have been campaigning for decades to get some kind of recognition of the genocide from world governments. "In 2010, a US congressional panel narrowly voted that the incident was indeed a genocide, a decision the Turkish government criticised, saying it had been accused of a crime it “had not committed.” The Independent

IMDB has a policy to not interfere with any film's ratings, but sometimes exceptions have to made. Case in point: "The Promise."


My review for The Film Stage can be found HERE

Monday, October 24, 2016

Andrew Garfield calls Scorsese's 'Silence' "meditative and brutal simultaneously"


"Patriot's Day" test-screened a few days ago

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The Boston Marathon bombings as directed by Peter Berg. Word of mouth says this could be great, but we will have to wait and see. There are no festival showings as we speak. The news that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross will be scoring it brings additional street cred to the film.


A reader has sent me his thoughts on Peter Berg's "Patriot's Day" which was test screened last Tuesday:

"Had the opportunity to attend the very first audience screening for the upcoming film "Patriots Day" last Tuesday. I know this film isn't on a lot of people's radars, but I really think it should be. Had to sign an NDA so I can't say much about it, but what I can say is that the film is absolutely fantastic and is also very respectful to the source material. Definitely going to be a contender for "Best Picture", which goes perfect with it's late December/early January release date. I might go as far to even say that it's the best film I've seen all year (until I see Moonlight lol)."

I do like the fact that this is being scored by Ross and Reznor, but the trailer left me with a lackluster impression, so much so that I took it off my Oscar predictions (HERE)

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross will Score Patriot's Day
Patriot's Day Looks Like Another "America Rah Rah" Peter Berg film

New poster for Robert Zemeckis' "Allied" is a beauty


There aren't many films left for critics in 2016. I have seen everything that can been seen at the moment. There is now just a "shortlist" of what's left with potential. The following have NOT been screened for critics as of today: Martin Scorsese's "Silence," "Stephen Gaghan's "Gold," Ben Affleck's "Live By Night," Denzel Washington's "Fences" and  "Robert Zemeckis' "Allied." The latter just released a new poster and it looks like a beauty. I emailed a friend about it who responded "What are you TALKING about?  It's supposed to be a WWII espionage and assassins drama, and the poster makes it look like a glitzy, swoony scene from "High Society." I guess I'm a sucker for highly stylized posters that have nothing to do with the actual plot.

Fan petition, and Ryan Reynolds, want Tarantino to direct "Deadpool 2"

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After having reported this weekend that Tim Miller had dropped out of the sequel to "Deadpool" due to "creative difference," there is a Change.org online petition to get Quentin Tarantino to direct "Deadpool 2." The match wouldn't be that crazy a stretch, watch "Kill Bill: Vol 1," but I can't see Tarantino doing any of this, especially since he usually chooses his projects based on his own whacked out obsessions and I don't really think "Deadpool" could qualify as a QT obsession at this point. He's in fact hinted that his next project might have to do with the year 1970.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

'Madea' beats 'Jack Reacher' with $27M opening at weekend Box-office


Graph courtesy of BoxOfficeMojo

No, you did not read wrong. "BOO! A Madea Halloween," which I did not know even existed until ... now, has taken the top spot at the weekend Box-Office ending October 23rd with a $27M intake. That's 4 Million more than "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" which still fared fairly well all things considering. The 2012 original "Reacher" opened up with a scant $15M opening, but built up a solid core of fans through home video, plus it will likely get high-grossing domestic receipts.

Take a look at "Keeping Up with the Joneses". Brutal. That's the second Galafianakis dud in less than a month, after "Masterminds" choked just a few weeks ago.

On the indie side "The Birth of a Nation" is all but done. Nate Parker's controversy has dimmed any hopes of not only box-office success, but any kind of Oscar hopes. The film has made only $14M in three weeks and gotten mixed reviews. Going in a completely different direction is Barry Jenkins' "Moonlight" which is the best reviewed movie of the year and got a per-screen average of 100K this weekend, playing in only four theatres total in LA and NY, but going wider in the next few weeks.

What happened between 'Deadpool' director Tim Miller and its star Ryan Reynolds?


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