12/19/2014

REVIEWS OF REBOOT ANNIE AND THE ORIGINAL THEATRICAL

year: 2014 rating: *
ANNIE 2014: To make people forget what you’re taking the place of, the most effective device is to mention that particular thing to get it… or in this case… to get her out of the way, quick.

So begins the new ANNIE inside a classroom where a redheaded white girl wraps up an annoying presentation... and then it's time for the next student, also named ANNIE, played by last year’s Oscar nominated Quvenzhané Wallis, who not only trumps this movie’s pseudo Annie but the original, Aileen Quinn’s iconic orphan, is outdone in one aspect – compared to a haves and have nots opening number inspired by The New Deal, FDR never had such posthumous promotion.  

ANNIE, a MR. DEEDS style mainstream comedy with pop culture references galore, introduces each character as if they were cameos in a parody instead of a genuine remake, or in this case... altering from the 1930's into modern day... a reboot.

Wallis sleepwalks through the pains and joys of the title character, and replacing Carol Burnett as the mean orphanage… or rather… Foster Home den mother is Cameron Diaz. Almost letting her guard down right off the bat, Miss Hannigan seems more like a cranky Aunt than a villain with a hatred for little girls… Providing the orphans nothing to really fear. In fact they seem completely at home, and in control: The place ain't too shabby. 

Warbucks Unnamed
The real heavy is Bobby Cannavale, stepping into the Tim Curry role as a nefarious climber seeking a big raise from his boss, the new Daddy Warbucks in the form of Jamie Foxx as Stacks, a cell phone magnate running for New York City Mayor and, losing in the polls, he takes in an orphan for a needed boost. 

During their pivotal field trip bonding experience, Foxx and Wallis have the awkward non-chemistry of two actors who just started rehearsing lines. Stacks isn’t very uptight to begin with for his eventual heart-melting transition to matter, while Annie doesn't seem to really need anything, much less a new parent. Songs between the duo border banal and creepy. And as Rose Byrne attempts tying loose ends together, there’s just not anything between anyone – even the dog seems bored.

The original hard knocking classics aside, the new tunes lend nothing to an actual story, which isn’t an entertaining rags to riches coming-of-age musical but a pointless attempt to bring a famous Comic Strip/Broadway/Cinema character back to life by throwing everything into the pot, hoping something will land.

Not to jump on the breaking news bandwagon, but SONY PICTURES scrapped the wrong film!

1982 rating: ***
ANNIE 1982: “Why a kid would want to be an orphan,” barks the villainous Miss Hannigan, “is beyond me!” Well who can blame the bitter lush: No matter how bad these poor little tykes are treated in that rundown dilapidated orphanage, they're having loads of fun singing and dancing like there’s no… tomorrow!

Although this big budget extravaganza’s loaded with great actors like Albert Finney as bald millionaire Daddy Warbucks, Tim Curry as a con artist and Carol Burnett as the bearer of the quote above, Aileen Quinn’s ANNIE steals the show.

Displaying an everygirl persona mixed with a dynamic musical talent, Quinn provides the essential energy for the iconic redhead without lacking pathos and vulnerability.

Even when given a dream-week to stay with Daddy Warbucks for his publicity, her true aim is having a real family. Determined to find her original parents, Warbucks makes a radio campaign with a hefty reward – perking ears of the wrong people.

Aileen Quinn
While Annie slowly warms the heart of the steely industrialist, songs break out in just about every other scene. The tunes are catchy, showcased with incredible dance numbers.

Albert Finney with Quinn
The time-period sets look and feel authentic; from poverty stricken streets and alleyways to the plush Warbucks mansion, veteran auteur John Huston takes us to a polarizing time of haves and have-nots in the Depression-era '30s with vibrant reality.

Although one particular overlong scene, as Warbucks (constantly regarded as a greedy Capitalist) is talked into the New Deal by President Roosevelt, distracts from Annie’s personal adventure, we sporadically return to the orphanage where Miss Hannigan and her nefarious brother's plot to recover the reward: providing the audience – especially the younger ones – a constantly suspenseful edge, making ANNIE a kid's movie with just about everything: including a heroine with everything to gain or lose.

12/16/2014

REVIEW OF THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES

2014 rating: **1/2
The first post-production buzz concerning the third HOBBIT was that it had another name...

Smaug Fully Loaded
No longer THERE AND BACK AGAIN, which is what Bilbo Baggins called his adventurous autobiography, the new title, BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES, is pretty self-explanatory. And on the visual end, the 3D is so clean and clear, losing the essential celluloid grain, the picture resembles a BBC Miniseries shot on video... But names and technology aside, there’s a good and a bad to this final installment of Peter Jackson’s nine-hour epic based on a relatively short novel, which at times felt like “butter stretched onto too much bread.”

At the conclusion of THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG, the vengeful flying beast, after being awakened and thoroughly ticked off, was ready to paint the town flamethrower red. But the full-on dragon attack isn’t much. And followed by an hour of ponderous melodrama, the movie should have been retitled DAYS OF OUR DWARVES…

Nothing beats Tolkien Art
Either suffering along with Thorin Oakenshield and his greedy lust for gold, hearing tempting voices much like Bilbo and Frodo would for The Ring... or as bowman Bard incessantly whines about how his people are the Nots to Thorin’s Have… and the pointless romance between dashing Kili and love interest Tauriel: It’s both a blessing and a curse when the movie starts living up to the shiny new moniker:

For the Elves and humans are ready to fight Thorin, while those grotesque Orcs have it in for everyone, including a last minute dwarf army. But how can we spend two long hours on a battlefield?

"What about me?!?"
Veering off the rowdy front lines to take part in several personal bouts between key rivals are not only the best scenes, we finally get connected to the action and the characters – and the characters through their actions instead of endless expository dialogue (tying into LORD OF THE RINGS). Ironically enough, the most important player isn’t Bilbo, who seems peripheral at the end of his very own trilogy.

Initially hired by Dwarves as a burglar to steal the dragon’s gold, other than his stint with Smaug we never get to know him the way we did Frodo… or Sam. Which doesn’t mean Martin Freeman didn’t do a good job in the role. But if this ambitiously flawed saga were called OAKENSHIELD, it would have been literary blasphemy against creator J.R.R. Tolkien, sure, but Thorin's the one Peter Jackson chose to dwell on throughout. Bilbo was merely an employee. 

12/15/2014

TOMMY LEE JONES DIRECTS THE HOMESMAN

year: 2014 rating: **
Right before the journey gets underway, a helpful blacksmith tells Hilary Swank’s Mary Bee Cuddy that the townsfolk like talking about death and taxes, but when “crazy” is brought up, everyone hushes…

That hush occurs way too often as Cuddy and reluctant hired-hand George Briggs, played by veteran actor Tommy Lee Jones, take three demented women across the barren landscape with a few obstacles including Indians and narrow minded white folk: yet when Briggs is really needed to alleviate the hopeless melancholy, he doesn't always deliver.

As director, Jones attempts a dark, brooding art house anti-Western, only there’s a mismatch of disturbing images and the odd couple relationship between the independent woman and the gruff rogue drifter: Clichés aside, the latter plays out a lot more natural. Too bad they weren't just hauling grain. While important catalysts, the human cargo distract from the two people we should have known much better.

THE HOMESMAN is nicely bookended with an intriguing setup, first learning about our assertive Plain Jane heroine and concluding with a table-turning epilogue. Unfortunately, the hard trail in-between is but a tedious stretch of prolonged, awkward silence.

12/13/2014

CHRISTIAN BALE IN EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS

year: 2014 rating: **
Right before the strategic waves crash down, when the Red Sea finally parts, it's really more... drained.

That's what it feels like sitting through two-and-a-half hours of Moses and Ramses going back and forth: one holds a grudge, the other has conversations with God himself. Though not from a Burning Bush… that’s but a rudimentary apparition to get the ball rolling… Here the Creator takes form of a really tough child who gives the famously temperamental Moses a run for his money.

Bale & Edgerton
Directed by Ridley Scott and starring the always-intriguing method-acting Christian Bale, EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS is a different sort of Biblical epic – while visually immense, the geography mostly centers on two locations where each grouchy leader resides. 

Bale does a passable job in the lead role, a sort of MOSES: FIRST CLASS budding superhero partaking in LORD OF THE RINGS style swordplay, while Joel Edgerton, as the antagonistic Ramses (looking more like Brando's Colonel Kurtz than a nostalgic Yul Brynner), can’t shed his omnipresent frown...

Very understandable since Moses has more than a slight edge, including the ability to thwart a barrage of plagues: impressive scenes to watch but the searing melodrama had by each character is enough for the audience to pray for a conclusion.

12/10/2014

MOORE BOND SEVEN: A VIEW TO A KILL

The final Roger Moore performance as Secret Agent 007 James Bond
year: 1985 rating: ***
The first and only time a disclaimer appears before the movie begins, telling us the villain isn’t based on anyone actual… Perhaps since the computer race was just starting, nerves could have been touched...

After all, Christopher Walken’s Zorin isn’t a bald cat lover yearning to take over the world with a simple little nuke… This guy has his sites set on Silicon Valley with microchips to – making a complicated plot point short – allow bad things to happen.

Roger Moore, surprisingly older than Sean Connery, looked young for his age… His sly boots in the eyes of a smitten Moneypenny and an ever-lecturing M is now old shoe. In fact, during one scene where the three are hanging out at a horse track, they all seem like contemporaries. But Roger Moore still pulls off the super agent with ease… Perhaps too much so…

At one point he tells fellow agent Tibbett (a new Felix type played by Patrick Macnee, probably to make Roger look young) that pretending to be someone else has become second nature… Moore's Bond has been around the block six times and this adventure is a breezy piece of cake, although there are some snags in the icing. 

Poster Artwork
The best parts take place at Zorin’s immense compound, a castle-like world onto itself, much like Drago’s lair in MOONRAKER…

Here’s where Bond gets to dangle the ladies and have his usual sneaking-around/close calls… Eventually cozing up to Stacey, played by SHEENA starlet Tanya Roberts, the plot shifts to San Francisco with a seismic warning and a hazardous oil tanker, where we experience a few neat action sequences along the way – but where’s our main villain?

In other films the heavy constantly reminds us of the danger Bond and the entire world faces… But a neglected Christopher Walken is out of the loop for so long that at one point, you might forget there’s any threat at all. This allows his wicked (and now extremely dated) henchwoman Grace Jones as May Day to do the dirty work.

A VIEW TO A KILL, complete with a catchy Duran Duran opening song and the usual variation on that particular theme, is a whimper to Moore's finale to the sublime bang of his previous venture, OCTOPUSSY, feeling like a big budget TV Movie of the Week… Begging for the next 007, Timothy Dalton, to dirty things up once again.

12/09/2014

TWO LEFTOVER REVIEWS: PENGUINS & THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING

year: 2014 rating: **
PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR: The coolest chase scene in the Roger Moore James Bond MOONRAKER has nothing to do with outer space but, taking place in Italy, the resilient spy darts through busy sidewalks and canals, including a getaway using one of those romantic canoes going from the water onto land back onto water, and pretty much that exact thing happens in PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR…

And in keeping with the 1970’s Bond genre vibe, most of the film attempts the same freewheeling aura, on purpose…

The main villain has an island lair ala Christopher Lee in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN and is able to live underwater much like the heavy in THE SPY WHO LOVED ME… Only Dave is a bitter Octopus with a rather pathetic backstory: throughout his career as a water park attraction geared for kids, penguins would always steal his thunder… And now he wants revenge.

PENGUINS starts out pretty good, going back to when they were younger: three (and soon four) rogues wanting to split from the cookie-cutter pack… But ironically, right when their adventure gains momentum, our flightless heroes serve as mere patsies to an overblown, overlong and overcooked spy parody, which any character could have been stuck in.

year: 2014 rating: *1/2
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING: Our subject, Stephen Hawking, was on the verge of discovering THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, but the director obviously didn’t realize before a montage sequence shows two people getting married, and then their babies growing into toddlers before our very eyes, we should know the characters just a bit.

The romantic setup at Cambridge University, bathed in an opulent nostalgic glow of academia, does look wonderful. And yet the meeting of Stephen and his first wife Jean is so quick and easy, it’s not one bit interesting.

As an actor and probably the next Oscar winner, Eddie Redmayne transforms from a quirky, ambitious student into the tortured, wheelchair-bound genius, but the performance shouldn’t be compared to Daniel Day Lewis in MY LEFT FOOT since this particular vehicle seems more like an actor’s workshop than a fleshed-out biopic with a genuine character arc.

It’s as if the scriptwriter wanted Hawking’s controversial philosophies on Atheism, through the prism of discovering a powerful Black Hole, to have a cinematic soundboard – with an intellectual date movie buried within the stardust. (Hawking himself said the movie was "broadly true," and it sure is broad.) Yet after tedious bouts of soap opera diatribes we never really know the man behind the suffering and brilliance, and how he managed to bridge his personal life with his breakthrough in science, and beyond.  

Like an actual Black Hole, this particular THEORY has an intriguing design with absolutely nothing inside.

12/08/2014

WALTER MATTHAU IS KOTCH WITH DEBORAH WINTERS INTERVIEW

year: 1971 cast: Walter Matthau, Deborah Winters, Felicia Farr, Ellen Geer, Larry Linville rating: ***1/2
One of the best Walter Matthau/Jack Lemmon collaborations, and they’re not even in the movie together. Instead, Lemmon’s behind the camera in his first and only directorial project: a quirky comedy-drama starring Matthau as an old man named Kotcher i.e. Kotch, who has little importance to the world. His son, a successful businessman, provides his dad one benefit greater than a place to sleep and listen to giant headphones.

Walter Matthau and Deborah Winters
Kotch spends time babysitting his two-year old grandson, Duncan, but no longer alone. His son and irritated daughter-in-law hire a babysitter, Erica, a preoccupied teenager and Kotch isn’t pleased.

Erica, played by the lovely and talented Deborah Winters (who stole scenes as Eli Wallach’s rebellious daughter in the riveting counter-culture classic THE PEOPLE NEXT DOOR) is really no different than most flaky teens. Fooling around with her boyfriend while babysitting Duncan, Kotch gets Erica fired. But he’s no longer wanted around the house and is sent to be "interviewed" for a retirement home.

Poster Artwork
The film really begins after Kotch goes his own way – taking to the road after making amends with Erica who, now pregnant and living in Palm Springs, needs a place to stay.

So while Matthau, hair dyed white as a man twenty years older with a delightfully rambling persona (he loves to talk and no one wants to listen), is the heart of the film, Deborah Winters provides the soul. Their friendship is natural and takes it’s time without being corny.

Winters doesn’t play for the camera or try to tug emotions like in many feel-good flicks. She portrays a determined young person the way they really are: with a one-track mind to remain on her own path, right or wrong; and her character-arc isn’t forced or overwhelming.

By all means not a perfect film – a few scenes drag and some of the dialogue feels written for the stage. But whenever Matthau and Winters share the screen, learning through each other’s contrary personalities, it's tender and moving and truly a project of love.
KOTCH Interview with Actress Deborah Winters
Deborah Winters Interview
In the early seventies, a young, beautiful, talented actress named DEBORAH WINTERS starred alongside Walter Matthau in KOTCH, directed by Jack Lemmon, centering on an old man who, ostracized by his family, befriends a pregnant babysitter and helps her... while she helps him... cope with everyday life...

DEBORAH WINTERS: I went in and read for Jack Lemmon: this is the only picture that Jack directed. You know, actors don’t usually end up liking to direct and the reason is it's extremely difficult to direct a picture. It’s very, very hard work and the work begins before you’re filming, and then of course during filming, and it’s long after filming: doing all the editing and post-production…

A Familiar Director
It’s too much work. They like to go in and memorize some dialog for the day’s shoot… The make-up man and the hairdresser makes them up and makes them look good, and then they shoot for one day and they go home, and when the picture’s over they relax.

Deborah Winters
It took Jack six years to get this film finally made… And I came in, of course, more on the tail end of it. Nobody would give him the money and he really loved the story and thought it should be made. So he kept working on it and working on it...

And it was something where I went in to audition and Jack felt I really understood "Erica Herzenstiel," and I was the one he wanted from the very beginning... It was a great compliment and I loved working with both of them. They were fantastic men, and characters, and very funny together.

Deborah Winters
Jack used to talk to me privately, and say, “You know I can’t tell Walt what to do. You know when he hasn't done the scene right. You make a mistake and I’ll have to yell cut and then it won’t be me, it’ll be you… You do that for me, okay?” He used to call me “Debs” and I’d say, “Okay, okay.” So then I would know when Walter got off track, or he would ad-lib too much… And I’d make a mistake and we’d have to start over.

Walter told me one time after he was nominated for the Academy Award, and the song was nominated as well. And I met him one day and he said, “Deborah, you should have been nominated too.” And I said, “Oh no,” you know… And he said, “No, you really should have been. The reason you weren’t nominated was they thought you were that girl. They didn’t realize you were doing an acting job.”
Walter Matthau, Deborah Winters
Walter Matthau and director Jack Lemmon

12/06/2014

WEEKEND REVIEW OF THE PYRAMID

year: 2014 rating: *
When the plot unravels like bandages on a mummy, a group of researchers are stuck in THE PYRAMID and all smell something reminiscent of crap, and one of the guys says to another that the last time he smelled something so rank was when “you had beans the other night.” At which point a giant rock falls and kills off one of the two cliché fart joke idiots. So there is a God!

But in this horror/suspense/adventure flick it's probably more like The Devil: for what's loose underground within a mazy labyrinth isn’t human, and there seems to be absolutely no way of getting out.

Our victims include a bickering father and grownup daughter archeologist team and a reluctant camera crew, shooting everything via handheld… yes it’s that kind of movie, again… and these poor trapped souls have zero chemistry with each other. Perhaps it's intentional since the body count aspect of doomed humans hunted by ferocious rat creatures is what everything amounts to anyway. And when the main antagonist is finally revealed, the best and corniest scenes occur simultaneously – after an hour of screaming in the dark, we can, for better or worse, actually see something!

This “monster” climax is also the one thing separating PYRAMID from the more ambiguous AS ABOVE SO BELOW, another shaky BLAIR WITCH style thriller set within endless catacombs that isn't good enough for another movie to be called a “pale imitation"... but if the shoe fits.

12/02/2014

BUSTING THROUGH THE ORIGINAL ROBOCOP TRILOGY

"Serve the public trust, protect the innocent, uphold the law."
1987 rating: ****
ROBOCOP: One of the coolest and most unique revenge movies ever, and you can’t have vengeance without a nasty gang of villains worthy of being destroyed… And there are several tiers of heavies in the original ROBOCOP…

First are the street trash baddies who wind up putting our human hero and soon to be robotic lawman, Peter Weller’s Officer Alex Murphy, into the greedy hands of Miguel Ferrer as Bob Morton, a scene-stealing corporate climber who one-ups the nefarious second in charge Ronnie Cox as Dick Jones, working under The Old Man played by HALLOWEEN 3 trickster Dan O’Herlily…

Back to the urban dwellers who get the ball rolling: A different sort of role for the usually uptight Kurtwood Smith. His gang leader, Clarence J. Boddicker, while looking more like someone’s scruffy accountant, is a genuinely lethal lowlife. Under his command are an eclectic lot including SWAMP THING actor Ray Wise, a black dude with a demonic cackle and a ratty biker who resembles an older version of Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers...

Poster Art
Let’s not bother with any more names... except Officer Anne Lewis, played by cult starlet Nancy Allen, one of the few cast members (besides a black corporate weasel and a propaganda anchorman) to make it through all three ventures.

As tough as she’s vulnerable, Anne is the only person who knew the man behind the steel – enough to bring out memories of his wife and child, something the scientists didn’t expect: our Frankenstein’s monster is still human after all.

ED 209
Once the man-into-metal change occurs, the best scenes involve RoboCop taking to the streets in several montage arrest sequences, and eventually going after the men who made him what he is – climbing the corporate ladder with guns blazing.

Miguel Ferrer
But the niftiest adversary is the initial crime-fighting robot that went haywire, initially causing Ferrer’s Morton to leapfrog into position two… for a little while, anyhow.

ED 209, a formidably unstoppable machine created to clean the streets so the corporation can take over, makes the dream-like stop-motion process beloved and sorely missed.

Although his battles with Robocop aren’t the mainline, those scenes are real knockouts in a movie directed by Paul Verhoeven, setting up a future where surreal commercials (subliminal Reagan bashing) and corporate sponsored newscasts are the mass opiate, it’s a real human hidden behind steel that makes for a now iconic hero that had a nearly perfect vehicle backing him all the way.

1990 rating: **1/2
ROBOCOP 2: This isn’t the first time Irvin Kershner directed a second movie/first sequel of a science-fiction franchise. Only he doesn’t do ROBOCOP the justice he did for STAR WARS with EMPIRE STRIKES BACK… Then again, there wasn't an amazing script to go by…

Belinda Bauer
Writer Frank Miller keeps some of the humorously futuristic attributes that made the original shine. Although the sporadic commercials here are less politically relevant as a peripheral description of society, giving a wry sense of campy déjà vu: still reminding us of a strange world where one particular section of Detroit needs fixing – for all the wrong reasons. A planned high-rise “Utopia” is still in the works to replace the urban blight... sweeping up both the criminals and the innocent. 

Ironic that the very end of the original has our hero saying his name, "Murphy" instead of “RoboCop.” You’d think the sequel would progress with the title character struggling with his inner humanity. But with a more pronounced robotic walk and exaggeratedly halting speech, Weller is doing an imitation of Robo this time around. Instead we center on Dan O’Herlihy as the corporate tycoon known simply as The Old Man...

Foreign Poster
Yet he's peripheral to the true heavy played by the always-watchable Tom Noonan as Cain, an assassin dealer of a new drug called Nuke, which, once injected into the neck, seems to give the pleasure of a lifetime... and then some.

Along with a sexy doctor (Belinda Bauer) working behind the scenes in her own high tech Frankenstein’s laboratory, and a foulmouthed 11-year-old sidekick who deserves a 100 year time-out, much of the film centers on Cain and his various methods of urban tyranny, providing a fair amount of intriguing ultra violent exploitation – but where the hell is RoboCop?

Our hero still has his faithful partner, Nancy Allen’s Anne Lewis, and sporadically daydreams of his wife and child. But for the genuinely cool stuff we have to wait till the end: when a new drug-addicted machine, fitfully called RoboCop 2, lets loose at a demonstration, Robo shows his stuff, resulting in an 11th hour stop-motion battle that finally gives us something… or rather, someone… to root for.

1993 rating: **
ROBOCOP 3: Like Richard Kiel’s JAWS becoming a good guy at the end of MOONRAKER, the destructive robot ED 209 helps a group of uninteresting and annoyingly melodramatic street revolutionaries, thanks to a homeless little girl: the antithesis of that evil garbage pale kid from part 2…

And Nancy Allen returns, partnered once again with RoboCop: a new actor replacing the iconic Peter Weller.

Jill Hennessy & Robo
Enter Robert John Burke, who seems more stiff than Weller ever did… as if the personal interior had fully morphed into a genuinely kindhearted robot without the tortured struggle to remain human. And, sounding more like a wind up doll/action figure, he soon joins forces with the freedom fighter underground.

Robot Samurai
Meanwhile, the corporation is lectured by a Japanese CEO, no longer run by Dan O’Herlihy’s Old Man: Now Rip Torn, as a more vulnerable yet cantankerous chief, vainly barks orders at the upper level heavies – while on the streets a gang called the Splatterpunks have taken over, somewhat.

Yet with the exception of the beautiful Jill Hennessy as the good doctor/scientist, fitfully named Lazerus, trying to revive and protect Robo, and Stephen Root as a crafty trailer to the cause, none of these entities come together or mean much until the new main villain enters: a powerful Samurai Warrior seeming like a misplaced device from a cable or straight-to-VHS movie: which the third ROBOCOP is a throwaway replica of. 

11/30/2014

STEVE CARELL & CHANNING TATUM WRESTLE AGAINST TYPE IN FOXCATCHER

year: 2014 rating: **
If uncomfortable silence merited how good a film is, then FOXCATCHER… based on philanthropist Jon du Pont and Olympic Wrestling Gold Medalist brothers Mark and David Schultz… would be superior to THE GODFATHER and CITIZEN KANE, combined…

But too much prolonged awkward silence, backed by a melancholy piano score, leaves a lot to be desired: especially with such an intriguing true crime origin.

In the co-lead role is Steve Carell who, with a distracting prosthetic nose and a few extra pounds, portrays Jon du Pont with such anti-social behavior it’s difficult to spot an actual human being. Much of the film is a morbid seduction between the reclusive "coach" and Channing Tatum’s Mark Schultz. Du Pont takes in the lonely wrestler for his Foxcatcher team, living on the grounds of his plush, historic estate while training for the upcoming 1988 Seoul Olympics. Besides wrestling they travel and… snort cocaine. And while polar opposites physically, the odd couple has something in common…

Poster Art
While du Pont can’t please his mother, Mark, with a perpetual chip on his shoulder, lives under the shadow of his more talented brother. And Channing Tatum proves that Carell’s not the only actor playing eerie to the hilt…

Channing Tatum
In many ways, Tatum's performance is equally bizarre and uncomfortable. With the cadence of a hunkered ape and the personality of an ice block, the mainstream superstar definitely vanishes into this unique indie role. Unfortunately, the film never provides the right amount of tension to stretch beyond dazed reactions to both coaches controlling his psyche: the millionaire and the older brother...

Enter Mark Ruffalo’s doomed David Schultz, the most interesting performer on board – finally, someone with an actual pulse! He loves his wife, plays with his children, listens to The Grateful Dead during picnics, and becomes suspicious of what the audience already knows. And yet, within the story, he remains peripheral to his brother's downward spiral, supposedly caused by du Pont's creepy mentoring...

Thus, in a film promoted as a coach obsessed with an athlete, given the tragic turnout we were obviously centered on the wrong pair.  

11/29/2014

SKIMMING OVER THE FIRST STAR WARS FORCE AWAKENS TEASER TRAILER

Providing A Glimpse Into STAR WARS VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS Teaser Trailer
Wilson or Spalding?
It’s difficult to tell anything really important from a trailer, much less a teaser trailer, but let’s give it a shot with the upcoming STAR WARS EPISODE 7 with a new (or at this point, not so new) title, THE FORCE AWAKENS…

Alas, the teaser takes the title literally… We open with a pan of what looks to be the desert planet of Tatooine, and right when our eyes adjust to familiar nostalgic terrain, and a deep dark voice is muttering the words, “There has been an awakening, have you felt it,” it actually happens…

"What the hell?"
Suddenly and quite stupidly, popping up like a groundhog provoked by a cattle prod, a black man rises into a nervous close-up… He’s wearing, of all things, a Stormtrooper uniform sans the mask…

Already this bizarre, awkward intro has caused much controversy… It seems that if you have a problem with this kickstart, you are racist… But the problem isn’t the color of the actor’s skin, but the melodramatic way he rises up into the frame, and, wearing that uniform, it seems straight out of SPACEBALLS or some kind of contrived STAR WARS parody, or perhaps a brand new installment of THE HANGOVER (you wake up in the middle of the desert wearing most of a Stormtrooper uniform from last night's costume party: what happened last night?)... But that’s only the beginning of a teaser that does in fact improve, but isn’t without a few questionable images…

New Saber
An R2 Unit’s head on top of what looks to be a soccer ball is rather peculiar… As a friend (Mark) hilariously pointed out on Facebook, "Kenny Baker must get dizzy as hell inside that thing."

Onward evil Stormtroopers...
This new rolling droid is awesomely made up for with a preparing army of fully-geared Stormtroopers, strategically poised for what feels like battle or surprise attack: an image reminiscent of WW2 troops ready to launch from their Normandy beach vessel, only evil...

We then see an ominous figure dressed in a black robe, moving through a dark forest setting straight out of the latter HARRY POTTER installments… He opens his lightsaber, which is in the shape of a cross: already gaining the most geek complaints and yet, it doesn’t bother this rabid STAR WARS fanatic one bit...

The cute Daisy Ridley
Not forgetting inserts of a young Princess Leia doppelganger riding a cross between an Endor Speeder and a prequel Podracer, and an intense guy (ala Wedge Antilles via Llewyn Davis) inside an X-Wing fighter – then a fleet of Xers skimming a lake like speedboats…

The Falcon Returns
Closing the show with the fan-adored Millennium Falcon thrusting through blue skies, battling roaring Tie Fighters… This is a supercool image, if overly CGI, reminiscent of director JJ Abram’s reboot STAR TREK as the camera shakes during intense aerial maneuvers.

Some thoughts onto who the narrator is… It sounds like Adam Driver speaking through a device to make him spooky, but word just came in it's Gollum doing a labored pseudo imitation of Darth Vader… And as for why Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher or fellow OT alumni Chewbacca, R2D2 and C3PO weren't shown… That’s obviously for the next teaser…  Making this initial show a mere teaser of a teaser to come.
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