Monday, May 31, 2010

Movie News Today - 5/31

Holidays equal slow Hollywood days, my friends.

Del Toro Quits "Hobbit" - Due to MGM's uncertain status, Guillermo del Toro has dropped out of the "Hobbit" production. Genuinely sad news, personally, as I believe his creative visions would have been perfect for this story.

Building the Perfect Action Team - A half serious look at the way to successfully put together an action team for a movie.

"Why I love Robert Downey, Jr." - a fellow blogger reflects on his love for RBJ, a personal favorite of mine.

Box Office Monday

Anyone who visited their local theater this Memorial Day weekend, a traditional movie holiday, knows the pickings were slim. I found myself at a screening of "Shrek," not because I was super excited about seeing it, but because it was hot outside, I wanted out of the house, and darnit, I just wanted to see a movie. "Prince of Persia" struggled to make the impact Disney was hoping for and "Sex and the City 2" received HORRIBLE word-of-mouth review, dropping its final haul well below expectations. To 2010, again I say: you suck.

1. "Shrek Forever After" $43.3 million ($133.1 million total)
2. "Sex and the City 2" $32.1 million ($46.3 million)
3. "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" $30.2 million
4. "Iron Man 2" $16.0 million ($274.6 million)
5. "Robin Hood" $10.3 million ($83.0 million)
6. "Letters to Juliet" $5.9 million ($36.6 million)
7. "Just Wright" $2.2 million ($18.2 million)
8. "Date Night" $1.75 million ($93.3 million)
9. "MacGruber" $1.5 million ($7.1 million)
10. "How to Train Your Dragon" $1.0 million ($212.6 million)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

"Robin Hood"

I think it's safe to say that of all the classic stories the world has ever known, the one of Robin Hood is my third favorite behind Jesus and "Star Wars." I've read a few books about the man and, of course, seen and loved all the movies. Disney’s "Robin Hood" is my favorite animated film of all time that does not involve Buzz Lightyear. My relationship with my mother was severely strained in 1991 when I was informed I would not be allowed to see the "Prince of Thieves" version due to its rating. It took quite some time to get over this insult. Errol Flynn's version of the man is one of the few pre-1977 films that would make it on to my Top 100 List were I to take the time to make one. Even the absurdity of "Men in Tights" doesn't deter my love for the Robin Hood character. So it was with great anticipation that I greeted the opening of the latest installment of the legendary robber-of-the-rich.

Ridley Scott's "Robin Hood" starts us off in a different place than the traditional setting. Think of this is as a prequel to the story you already know. Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe), an archer in the king's army, is Crusading his was back to England when Richard the Lionheart is killed in battle. Seizing an opportunity to increase their fortunes, Robin and his men assume the identities of a group of knights, including Robert Loxley. Upon returning home, Robin finds the country in chaos. The new king, John (Oscar Isaac), rules with an incompetent iron fist, the people are taxed behind reasonable measure, and a rogue knight, Godfrey (Mark Strong), is in collusion with the French in a bid to stake his own claim to the throne. Robin and his men attempt to live a semi-peaceful life (with the occasional grain-heist thrown in to keep it interesting) as he fulfills the wishes of Robert's father Walter (Max von Sydow), taking up his dead son's place next to Marion (Cate Blanchett). Meanwhile, Godfrey is running amok through the countryside under the guise of collecting taxes for King John, bringing the nation ever closer to a full on French invasion.

To be fair, “Robin Hood” really isn’t a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination. It has some extremely strong moments and excellent battle scenes. It also displays some good ideas that could/should lead to a solid follow-up in the next installment and if nothing else it didn’t turn off from the franchise altogether. With that said, this isn’t what I’d necessarily call a good movie, either. The truth is, “Robin Hood” is just remarkably average. That might be acceptable for a run-of-the-mill-Summer-action-movie but not for a Scott-Crowe production with a 237 million dollar budget. Scott has developed a reputation for himself as a great filmmaker and the only problem with that is expectations are sky high for every single film, ESPECIALLY when you take on an iconic story like “Robin Hood.” It doesn’t feel like Scott ever really puts his stamp on this film. Likewise, Crowe very rarely makes a poor or even average film these days and I expect more from him because of that. Here he drifts from scene to scene and doesn’t feel completely invested. In all honesty, though, the problem with “Robin Hood” isn’t the direction or the performances. The problem is the script.

Brian Helgeland’s script, for lack of a better term, sucks. From beginning to end this movie finds its way into every pitfall you could possibly fall into in an action epic. To a man, the characters are weak and poorly developed. There is not a single moment of inspired or significant dialogue. The action sequences are solid but sprinkled in sparsely, leading to more than a few moments of boredom. I am all for a long run time and I’m not opposed to an action movie that doesn’t run straight from one piece of action to the next. In other words, I don’t need Michael Bay’s brand of action to have a good time. But if you are going the route of a longer, slower action piece, the rest of the script better be gangbusters and this one just isn’t. The biggest issue is there are way too many moving parts and not enough development of any of them. Somewhere between three and five villains take their turns being the alpha baddie and none of them are so strong as to demand any kind of respect, either from the heroes or the audience. With so many supporting actors who have “face value,” it feels like Helgeland tries too hard to get them all screen time and lines. Mark Strong is especially underused, though Cate Blanchett also gets the “could have been anyone” treatment. The result is a cluttered story line that doesn’t allow any one part to shine. In addition, “Hood” is full of clichés, rendering it not only a bit of a mess but an unoriginal mess to boot.

All told, “Robin Hood” is not a lost cause and, despite the unabashed setup, I’ve still got some excitement left in me for the franchise as a whole. It’s possible, however, that my love for this story and this character are overriding my actual feelings toward this film on its own. There are some gaping holes here that left my pining a bit for a giant rooster with a guitar or even (call me crazy) a Muslimed-up Morgan Freeman. And maybe that’s part of the problem: when you take on a story that brings forth so many fond memories for so many people, you better be able to deliver an outstanding, fresh take. In the wake of the success of the Christopher Nolan “Batman” series, J.J. Abrams “Star Trek,” and several other retellings that have taken the screen of late, the audience expects more and “Robin Hood” just doesn’t deliver.

Grade: B-

Cate Blanchett looks ridiculous with a sword,

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Movie News Today - 5/28

Gary Coleman Dies - Movieline remembers him in video form.

Joel McHale on "Community" - A great interview with a truly talented, funny guy.

"Harry Potter" Theme Park Opening in June - Being the nerd that I am, I will be making my pilgrimage to see this site in September.

Friday, May 28, 2010

New Movie Friday!

I am declaring, with no legitimate research to back me up, that this is the worst crop of Memorial Day movies the Modern Era (post 1983) has ever seen. Just further proof that 2010 sucks.

Wide Release
"Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" - Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley
Based on the video game series of the same name, Gyllenhaal plays a prince in Persia (shocking, I know) who wields a dagger that allows him to control time. He has to save the kingdom or something. Strike one: "based on a video game." Never a good sign. Strike two: Gyllenhaal looks freaking ridiculous. The first time I saw the trailer I turned to my video game nerd buddy and asked, "Is this supposed to be serious or not?" The main reason being, Jake Gyllenhaal looks absurd. Maybe it's supposed to be a bit tongue in cheek and ridiculous. But I just can't get there. This has "Late Night Netflix Instant Queue" written all over it.
Rated: Gob

"Sex in the City 2" - Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin David, Kim Cattrall
Blah blah blah blah. If there is a plot or point to this thing I'm not interested enough to look for it. I assume it will be about idiotic fashion, sex, and loose morals. Enjoy girls night out, ladies. Oh, by the way, this is getting DESTROYED by critics.
Rated: Travolta

"Survival of the Dead" - Kenneth Walsh, Alan Van Sprang
George A. Romero's latest journey into zombie land, this one about a group of soldiers who take refuge from the zombies only to find themselves caught between two warring families. I'm not into horror stuff though I respect Romero. My real question for this film is how well it will perform in a post-"Zombieland" industry. "Zombieland" potentially changed the landscape for these films and I'm interested to see how that shift from traditional zombie fare will affect this.
Rated: C3-PO

Rating Definitions:
Bauer - So packed with awesome I'll probably be there opening day.
Ludacris - I'm excited to see it but also concerned about some red flags, like anytime a rapper is in the cast.
Vote for Pedro - I'll put off seeing it and hope I'll be pleasantly surprised.
Wahlberg - I'll pick up the DVD and for some reason enjoy it.
Gob Bluth - The phrase, "I've made a huge mistake" is likely to be uttered if and when I do see it.
C3-PO - The odds of me seeing it are similar to the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field.
Travolta - No way, no how will I willingly see this; similar to the odds John Travolta has of ever winning an Oscar.

Movie News Today - 5/27

"Hobbit" Still Delayed - Guillermo Del Toro says "The Hobbit" is still delayed because of the MGM issues. Booooooooooooooooooooo.

James McAvoy to Play Professor X - Casting news for the upcoming "X-Men" spinoff. Not sure what the appeal of McAvoy is but he seems to get a lot of good roles.

"The Flash" to the Screen? - Yet another superhero film on the way.

Gary Coleman in Critical Condition

7 Things We Want From "Iron Man 3" - I'm on board with them all.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Blu-Ray Review: "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus"

"The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" centers around the title character (Christopher Plummer) and his band of carnies that go from town to town setting up their side show. Truth be told, the side show is just a cover for a Battle of Souls between Dr. Parnassus and Satan. The two have made a bet (or a series of bets), the wager being the soul of Valentina (Lily Cole), Parnassus' daughter. With the end of the bet at hand, the group comes across Tony (Heath Ledger), a young man on the brink of death who has the gift of persuasion. Before long business is booming but the group begins to question Tony's motives. The deadline with the Devil draws near, however, which sets off a chain of events that pit Parnassus, Tony, and Satan against each other in a final showdown.

Let's just get this out of the way up front: "Parnassus" is a freaking weird film. It is NOT for everyone. I myself ignored it for a while, assuming it wasn't for me. Terry Gilliam is one of the best, most gifted directors in the industry and I really mean that. Very few people can take a vision to the screen the way he does. With that said, however, his films are SUPER weird. And if you haven't seen a Gilliam movie then you can't understand what I mean. He has a style completely all his own and more often than not, it's too weird even for my slightly strange tastes. So take my statement of this not being for everyone seriously when considering the next paragraph.

"Parnassus" is a magnificent film. Gilliam's script is inspired and pulls some original content from a story that's been told a number of times. The visuals are outlandish, of course, but fantastic and work with the story as opposed to overshadowing it. The performances, however, are the bread and butter here, especially those of Plummer, Ledger, and Tom Waits. Question: is Christopher Plummer the most underrated actor of our time? Answer: Yes, yes he is. The guy brings the noise to every single role. Dr. Parnassus is a doubtful, broken, and desperate man, yet good to his very core, and Plummer brings all of that and more. Likewise, Ledger shows some serious talent in what was to be his final performance. Waits is the equal, if not the superior, to them both, however. His version of Satan is smooth, debonair, and terrifyingly appealing. Waits steals every scene he's in and that's a serious compliment given who he's stacked up against.

In addition to all of this, the finishing of the film is a stroke of genius. As you may or may not know, Ledger died in the middle of production. Rather than starting over or scraping the project entirely, Gilliam cast Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Ferrell in Ledger's place. Gilliam weaves these faces and the changes into his story, making it a plot point within the movie rather than asking us to simply suspend reality and ignore the change in appearance given the circumstance. A masterful finishing touch in my opinion. In the end, "Parnassus" is that rare film that grows on you. While watching I thought it was solid, a day later I described it as very good, and now, a week or so removed, I feel it borders on great. A truly, truly special film.

Grade: A

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Movie News Today - 5/26

New Role for Bale? - John Hillcoat (director of "The Road") has a new film in the works and has Christian Bale attached to star.

"Alice" Close to $1B - "Alice In Wonderland" is having the quietest $1 billion run EVER.

Tina Fey Named Funniest Woman Alive - And I would be inclined to agree.

Linkletter, 97, Dies - TV icon Art Linkletter dies at 97.

"Empire" Reflections - Celebrities talk about their "Empire Strikes Back" memories.

Blu-Ray Review: "The Messenger"

When Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) returns to the US with a war injury, he assigned to a Casualty Notification Unit for the remainder of his service team. Along with his mentor, Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson), Will travels around the base delivering the news of soldier's death to loved ones. It is a horrible assignment that messes with the already fragile mentality of a wounded soldier. The relationship Will forms with Tony is deep but volatile and he begins to find himself becoming closer and closer to a woman he recently informed of her husband's death.

"The Messenger" is an excellent film that gives the viewer an honest look into the life of a soldier when he's not at war. As you might imagine, though, it is very difficult to watch. Will Montgomery is broken and delivering the notifications to families unwilling or unable to accept this news slowly breaks him down even further. Watching the scenes of Will and Tony talking to the families is a haunting experience and makes you wonder how anyone could do this job. However, it's a worthwhile investment if you can fight through the authentic, heart breaking tone of the film. Both Foster and Harrelson (who earned a Best Supporting Oscar nod for the role) are OUTSTANDING and the emotions contained within the film are genuinely human. "The Messenger" at its deepest level is about humanity and how that is personified through the results of war. There are some continuity issues here and there and a couple of unnecessary lulls, but these are only minor bumps in comparison to the strength finished product.

Grade: B+

TV News Today - 5/25

Sutherland on Bauer - Keifer Sutherland reflects on Jack Bauer, the most awesome character in the history of the world. Yeah, I went there.

The Giant "Simpsons" Chalkboard - Every sentence Bart has ever written on the board in the opening credits for "The Simpsons."

100 Questions About "Lost" - Movieline attempts to answer 100 unanswered questions about "Lost." Some of the answers are legit, some not, but all are questions that we Losties would have liked answered. (Are you reading this, J.J? You owe me, man.)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

DVD Review: "Gentelmen Broncos"

Home schooled would-be fantasy writer Benjamin (Michael Angarano) goes to a writer's convention where he meets his hero, Chevalier (Jermaine Clement). After entering Chevalier's writing contest, Benjamin is stunned to discover that Chevalier has stolen his ideas and published a new book without crediting the young writer. Meanwhile, Benjamin has already sold the rights to his book to a local filmmaker who butchers his work, leaving him a bit frustrated and volatile.

A few years ago, director Jared Hess caught lightning in a bottle with the cost-nothing-to-make blockbuster "Napoleon Dynamite." "Napoleon" was a weird piece of ridiculousness that you either loved or hated and I happened to love. To this day if I'm flipping channels and come across the "Canned Heat" dance scene, I stop down to watch it no matter what. Since then, however, Hess has been chasing that success like an Indian casino poker player dumping his paycheck into the flop (not the best analogy I've ever put together, I admit). "Nacho Libre" drew in a big name (Jack Black) and made a little money but flopped critically. "Broncos" takes flopping to a whole new level. With a production budget of around $10 million, this stinker has brought in approximately $200,000 total. It's really hard these days for a movie to not at least break even when it's all said and done, but "Broncos" has made that feat look easy.

This movie has absolutely no flow and very, very few laughs. The script is thin and the story just not worth telling, at least the way it's told here. The whole thing is just uninspired and that immature quirkiness that made "Napoleon" work so well is completely absent here, replaced only with cringe-inducing moments of utter stupidity. In all seriousness, the epic failure of "Broncos" may very well make it the last mainstream movie Hess ever directs, which is sad considering where he started.

Grade: F

New DVD Tuesday

New Releases -
Dear John (2010): Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried - Your typical good/rich girl falls in love with rough street kid against the wishes of her family. Street kid then goes back to war and the rest of the movie is told through pieces of letters they write to each other. Or something like that, anyway. Movies based on books by Nicholas Sparks are not for this guy.

The Road (2009): Viggo Mortensen, Robert Duvall - An incredibly grim, depressing look at a post-apocalyptic future in which a father and son attempt to survive. One of the bleakest films I've seen in a while but definitely substantial.

True Blood: Season 2 (2009): Vampires and stuff. People seem to like this. But then again, people seem to like "Twilight," too, whereas I feel like I could potentially fill an entire blog with entries on why "Twilight" sucks. Alas, I remain on the outside of pop culture society. Meh.

New to Blu-Ray -
Spartacus (1960): Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier - A slave leads his people in an uprising against their Roman rulers. Shamefully, I have never seen this classic piece of filmmaking. Maybe now that a Blu-Ray is available, I'll give it a go. On a side note, there's a Starz original series based around the "Spartacus" story and it is retched. Just thought that needed to be mentioned.

Movie News Today - 5/24

Ridley Scott Into 3-D - Scott acquires a 3-D company with plans for his upcoming "Alien" prequels.

Bloom in for "Three Musketeers" - Orlando Bloom joins the already-jam-packed "Three Musketeers" production.

Video Essay on "24" - An in-depth look at my favorite TV action show of all time.

Mary Lynn Rajskab on "24" - She talks Chloe, "24," and more.

AO Scott: The King of the Negative Review - Movieline hypothesizes that AO Scott writes the best negative reviews in the business. I'm inclined to agree.

Monday, May 24, 2010

DVD Review - "Pirate Radio"

In 1960's Britain, no radio station would play rock 'n roll, leaving the youth of the country without a viable means to accessing their music of choice. Rock's only hope came in the form of ships anchored off the English coast that broadcast the genre 24/7. "Pirate Radio" centers around one of these ships and the DJs who man the airwaves, led by The Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Their semi-legal exploits draw the ire of Sir Alistar Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh), a stuffy government official who hates rock 'n roll and the influence it has on kids. As pirate radio gains listeners, Dormandy and his cronies increase their efforts to make the ships illegal, setting off a war between the rebels and the powers-that-be.

"Pirate Radio" has some solid performances. Bill Nighy, for example, is always enjoyable and seriously, there might not be a better Funny Angry actor in the world than Hoffman. I stinking love that guy. Unfortunately the story unfolds like a Michael Moore documentary: all shock value, little factuality. There's a very interesting story to be told here that I, being the ignorant American that I am, haven't heard. But even someone who knows nothing of the actual story can smell the bias that emanates from "Pirate Radio." I'm not saying I expected a completely fair and unbiased look at the intricate details that surround this story, but director Richard Curtis could have done a better job of disguising his "good guy, bad guy"  approach. The music for "Pirate" is excellent and there are some funny moments (especially those involving Hoffman, naturally). But the end product is unsatisfying and, quite frankly, irrelevant. The whole thing just made me want to watch "Almost Famous," a coming-of-age-in-the-music-business film that actually matters.

Grade: C+

Box Office Monday

Ah how times have changed. Not so long ago if a movie pulled in 70+ million dollars on opening weekend, the studio execs would join hands and skip around the lot together. Now, however, a movie like "Shrek Forever After" can make $71.2 million and be considered a flop. "MacGruber" also came in well below expectations after a huge viral marketing campaign. "Iron Man 2" and "Robin Hood," meanwhile, held strong, though at this point there's no way "Hood" turns a profit anytime soon.

1. "Shrek Forever After" - $71.2 million
2. "Iron Man 2" - $26.6 million ($251.3 million)
3. "Robin Hood" - $18.6 million ($66.1 million)
4. "Letter to Juliet" - $9.1 million ($27.4 million)
5. "Just Wright" - $4.2 million ($14.6 million)
6. "MacGruber" - $4.1 million
7. "Date Night" - $2.8 million ($90.6 million)
8. "A Nightmare on Elm Street" - $2.3 million ($59.9 million)
9. "How to Train Your Dragon" - $1.8 million ($210.9 million)
10. "Kites" - $1.0 million

Friday, May 21, 2010

Movie News Today - 5/21

MGM Deal Falls Apart - The Weinsteins may not be able to acquire MGM.

"The Men Who Made "Lost" Last" - A look at all the important behind the camera workers from "Lost."

Advise for the Writers of "Lost" - Some people who know what they're talking about throw out some advice for the writers of "Lost" going into the series finale.

The Worst of "American Idol" - The 5 worst performances from this year's "Idol." Agreed.

"Looney Tunes" On the Comeback Trail - A look at the impact of "Looney Toons" on a new generation.

New Movie Friday!

Wide Releases
"Shrek Forever After" - Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy
The final chapter in the "Shrek" world. This franchise has been up and down for me. I'm not in love with the original installment, though it's not bad. I find the sequel to be far more entertaining and enjoyable. The third film, though, is absolute crap. Seriously one of the biggest mail-ins efforts in recent memory. I'm optimistic that this will change here if for no other reason than the cast, especially Myers and Murphy, need a hit. The first review I've seen is quite positive.
Rated: Wahlberg

"MacGruber" - Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Val Kilmer
There's no way this is good. There's just no way. No SNL movies are good especially one that's based on a 30 second bit. And yet I find myself secretly laughing everytime I see the trailer. And I DESPERATELY want Val Kilmer to be relavent again.
Rated: Gob Bluth

Limited Release
"Holy Rollers" - Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Bartha
Eisenberg plays an Orthodox Jew who falls into running drugs for a friend. Eisenberg had a great 2009 and I'm interested to see how he follows it up. This could potentially be a good movie but it kind of has the look of a film that will miss the mark.
Rated: C3-PO

"Solitary Man" - Michael Douglas, Susan Sarandon, Jesse Eisenberg
Eisenberg again! Douglas plays a car dealer who attempts to make amends to all those he's harmed. So, basically, "My Name is Earl" without the mustache. Anybody else remember when Michael Douglas mattered? Meh.
Rated: C3-PO

Rating Definitions:
Bauer - So packed with awesome I'll probably be there opening day.
Ludacris - I'm excited to see it but also concerned about some red flags, like anytime a rapper is in the cast.
Vote for Pedro - I'll put off seeing it and hope I'll be pleasantly surprised.
Wahlberg - I'll pick up the DVD and for some reason enjoy it.
Gob Bluth - The phrase, "I've made a huge mistake" is likely to be uttered if and when I do see it.
C3-PO - The odds of me seeing it are similar to the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field.
Travolta - No way, no how will I willingly see this; similar to the odds John Travolta has of ever winning an Oscar.

Movie News Today - 5/20

Franco in for "Apes" Prequel - James Franco continues his string of random roles.

Oldman Joins "Kung Fu Panda 2" - Best actor in the business for my money. His voice talents will be greatly appreciated.

Comic Con Documentary in the Works - Morgan Spurlock (the guy behind "Super Size Me") is planning a doc on the nerdery of Comic Con.

"Star Wars" Movie Marathon - To celebrate the 30 year anniversary of "Empire," Spike TV is throwing quite a party.
"The Goonies" Soundtrack Revisited - A look at the songs from one of my most cherished movies.

Another "IM2" Review - Another of my colleagues has seen "IM2" and also had a lot of fun.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Movie News Today - 5/19

Megan Fox Out on "Transformers 3" - I don't know if this will make the movie better or worse.

That's it. That's all I've got. Sorry y'all, this has to be the slowest movie news day of the last 50 years.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Movie News Today - 5/18

Review for "Star Wars: Episode II" - Another blogger is participating in the Star Wars blogathon and gives a DETAILED review for "Ep 2"

Jermaine Clement in for "MIB3" - Flight of the Concords fans rejoice.

ABC's New Lineup - Movieline looks at ABC's new fall shows.

Memorable Character Deaths - A discussion on some of the most shocking character deaths. This website is super pretentious so ignore about half of them. The other half are solid.

The Deaths and Rebirths of Pilot Season - A few actors who got both axed and hired this week.

TV Shows

How I Met Your Mother
American Idol
Modern Family
The Office
Parks and Recreation
30 Rock
Saturday Night Live

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Blu-ray Review: "The Men Who Stare at Goats"

Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) is a journalist who, after being left by his wife, heads for Iraq to report on the war. While there, he comes in contact with Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), a former "special ops" soldier in the Army whose training was in psychic warfare. He is, in his own words, a Jedi whose abilities include making himself invisible and killing goats with his mind. Sensing a story, Wilton follows Cassady on a mission only to be dragged through the desert into some crazy situations that eventually reunite Cassady with his mentor, Bill Django (Jeff Bridges).

"Goats" is apparently loosely based on a true story, though I have no idea how much of this is fact and how much is exaggeration. Regardless the whole thing is, quite frankly, pointless. "Goats" has an identity problem in that it cannot decide whether it wants to be a dark comedy, a drama, or a political satire. I think it has dreams of being the latter but that's certainly more an assumption on my part than it is anything I could really pick up from this poorly developed film. Meanwhile, the cast all give mailed in performances and make you feel like they all figured out this was a sinking ship early on and acted appropriately. There might be a story worth telling somewhere in here but it definitely doesn't show itself here.

Grade: C-

Blu-ray Review - "The Lovely Bones"

Based on the book by Alice Sebold, "The Lovely Bones" is told from the perspective of Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan), a 14 year old girl who was murdered by her neighbor, George Harvey (Stanley Tucci). Susie is "stuck in the in between": no longer alive but unable to move on to heaven as of yet. Meanwhile in the real world, Harvey carries on, having never been caught, and Susie's parents Jack and Abigail (Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz) are left to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. Susie's spirit runs wild in a dream world of her own imagining but always finds herself haunted by Harvey. As the psychopath gets closer and closer to her sister Lindsey (Rose McIver), Susie tries to communicate with her family to lead them to the right conclusions.

There are two reasons, in my opinion, as to why "Bones" did not do very well either with critics or audiences:

1.) It's too sci-fi/fantasy for the average movie goer but not enough so to reach a sci-fi audience;
2.) It reeks of Shattered Award Ambition, meaning it wants and even expects to be award worthy but it just isn't. That doesn't really bother me so much but I know it drives a lot of people stinkin' crazy and looks like a giant target for anyone who wants to take a shot.

Award ambitions aside, I found "Bones" to be a quality movie.The visuals are outstanding and as with all Peter Jackson films, the actors are put in position to succeed. Ronan does a very good job in a very difficult role. Wahlberg, Weisz, and Michael Imperioli are solid across the board and Stanley Tucci lives up to the Oscar nomination (Best Supporting Actor) he received. Creeeeppppy. What holds this movie back is the story, or rather, the conclusion of the story. Usually if a movie lulls or drops in quality, the drop comes in the second act; the bridge between beginning and end is usually the part that struggles and that's what I've come to expect more often than not. Here, however, the set up is good, the middle act pulls its weight, but then the wrap seems rushed and a little haphazard.

Think of this as the Saturday Night Live Effect: think of how many zany bits SNL put on over the years that ended so bizarrely that you wondered if they were running out of time or coming down from a high. Maybe we could call this the "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" effect. The third act tries to wrap everything up in about five minutes and it is simply a bit lacking. I'm not someone who needs a tidy, happy, cliche ending to every story. Sometimes the bad guy needs to win or the girl needs to get away or the band needs to stay broken up because that's reality. SPOILER: What I don't like, however, is the middle ground ending, the one that says, "Well they never did catch the guy but oh by the way he died later anyway so it's all good." It's just a bit unsatisfying. For me, it doesn't keep it from being a solid movie but it does keep it from being one of great substance as I imagine it intends to be.

Grade: B.

New DVD Tuesday

New releases -

Invictus (2009): Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon - Based on the true story of Nelson Mandella's use of rugby as a means to unifying South Africa. Both Freeman and Damon are excellent. The end product didn't quite live up to expectations but I quite liked it.

Valentine's Day (2010): Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Garner, Julia Roberts - Follows the intertwining lives of a bunch of Los Angelians on Valentine's Day. Not even a decent cast could save this. Absolute rubbish.

Extraordinary Measures (2010): Harrison Ford, Brendan Fraser - Another based on real life film about a doctor who discovers a remedy for a crippling disease. I imagine there's a good story in here somewhere but the marketing was so cliche and cheesy as to come across as desperate.

The Messenger (2009): Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson - Follows the lives of two soldiers whose job it is to inform spouses that their loved ones died in war. This took home two Oscar nominations and consideration for a few more. I'm very much looking forward to this one.

The Spy Next Door (2010): Jackie Chan - I don't know, I think Jackie Chan is a spy who gets assigned babysitting duties for some important kids. I didn't even take the time to look for a synopsis. Think "The Pacifier" but without Vin Diesel.

The New Daughter (2009): Kevin Costner - Nooooooooo!!!!! Confession: I have an absurd obsession with Kevin Costner. Seeing that he's finally slipped to the level of Straight to DVD Hell (with this horror thriller about a new house possessing a girl or something) makes me incredibly sad.

Movie News Today - 5/17

Remembering Jim Henson - A look at Henson's impact 20 years after his death.

Male Bonding in the Movies - A fellow blogger takes a look at male bonding in "The Sting," one of my all time favorite movies.

McGregor in for "Quixote" - Gilliam nabs Ewan McGregor for his oft-delayed "Don Quixote."

"Day One" Trashed - NBC, as desperate for material as it was, deemed the post-apoc series "Day One" so bad it got trashed without airing a single episode. Enjoy the cheese-tastic trailer.

The 5 New Shows Most Likely to be Cancelled - The fall schedule is out and that means there are some terrible new shows coming down the pipes!

Box Office Monday

It's no surprise, of course, that "Iron Man 2" held on to the top spot. It did, however, drop almost 60 percent from last week which is higher than expected. Word of mouth has been only so-so (though I thought it was quite strong) and that's definitely harmed the movies overall impact. "Robin Hood" debuted with a decent take but it is likely to drop severely next week. Two new romantic "comedies" ("Letters to Juliet" and "Just Wright") debuted in solid positions but both underachieved a bit compared to expectations.

1. "Iron Man 2" - $52 million ($211 million total)
2. "Robin Hood" - $36 million
3. "Letters to Juliet" - $13.5 million
4. "Just Wright" - $8.3 million
5. "How to Train Your Dragon" - $5 million ($207.6 million)
6. "Nightmare on Elm Street" - $4.6 million ($56.1 million)
7. "Date Night" - $3.8 million ($86.5 million)
8. "The Back up Plan" - $2.4 million ($34.1 million)
9. "Furry Vengeance" - $2.2 million ($15.1 million)
10. "Clash of the Titans" - $1.2 million ($160.1 million)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Weekend Movie News

A Look at "A.I." - A fellow blogger takes a look at one of the more controversial films of the last decade.

Mark Hamill to Direct - He'll bring one of his comics, "Black Pearl," to the screen. I'm always up for a Mark Hamill comeback!

Willis Joins "Loopers" - Willis in for a high concept sci-fi flick.

Fincher on for "20,000 Leagues" - Another odd move for the director of "Seven."

"Napoleon" to be Animated - Fox is a developing an animated TV show based on "Napoleon Dynamite."

Friday, May 14, 2010

New Movie Friday

Wide Release
"Robin Hood" - Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett
The positive reviews I've seen have called this, "Gladiator with bows and arrows." I'm OK with that but I understand many people aren't. This is supposedly set before all the Sherwood forrest stuff that the Robin Hood legends center around and I'm always up for a good backstory picture. But will it be good? I'm not so sure anymore. And BTW, this reportedly cost $237 million dollars to make. That figure is astounding and sets this up for major failure if it gets poor word-of-mouth.
Rated: Ludacris

"Letters to Juliet" - Amanda Seyfried, Vanessa Redgrave
Seyfried travels to Verona and finds a love letter written years ago. She decides to deliver the letter and sappy craziness insues. I unwillingly saw the trailer for this when my local theater operators decided it was appropriate to show it before "The Losers." It didn't look mindblowingly bad like the recent Jennifer Lopez movie, but it definitely didn't look interesting to this guy.
Rated: C3-PO

"Just Wright" - Queen Latifah, Common
Latifah plays a physical therapist who works to rehab an injured NBA star and get him back in the game. Unlikely romance ensues. If there's anything I dislike more in a movie than Queen Latifah, it's crappy sports action. I threw up in my mouth a little due to the number of cliches in the 3 minute trailer so I can't imagine seeing this.
Rated: Travolta

Rating Definitions:
Bauer - So packed with awesome I'll probably be there opening day.
Ludacris - I'm excited to see it but also concerned about some red flags, like anytime a rapper is in the cast.
Vote for Pedro - I'll put off seeing it and hope I'll be pleasantly surprised.
Wahlberg - I'll pick up the DVD and for some reason enjoy it.
Gob Bluth - The phrase, "I've made a huge mistake" is likely to be uttered if and when I do see it.
C3-PO - The odds of me seeing it are similar to the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field.
Travolta - No way, no how will I willingly see this; similar to the odds John Travolta has of ever winning an Oscar.

Movie News Today - 5/14

Dos and Donts of Series Finales - How to keep your fans happy with an appropriate series finale.

Alan Tudyk Joins "Transformers 3" - Nooooooooooo!!!!!!!!

"Law and Order" Cancelled - After 20 season, NBC is cutting ties with "L&O."

Shia Bashes "Transformers 2" - Even the star of this movie thinks it was bad.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Blu-ray Review: "Daybreakers"

It is the year 2019 and the vast majority of the population has been turned into vampires. Only five percent of the world are humans and that leaves the vampires without a sustainable food supply. Lower class vampires are wasting away and reverting into bat-like creatures while the upper class is looking for a blood substitute. Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is a leading hematologist who happens to come in contact with Elvis Cormac (Willem Defoe), a human who has been cured of the vampire virus. Dalton and Cormac work to create a mass cure while being hunted by Charles Bromley (Sam Neill) and his army who don't want to be cured.

First off, I am not really a fan of horror movies, particularly those centered around vampires. They just don't do it for me. But I was suckered into "Daybreakers" because of the interesting plot line. And I have to say, there's a really good movie in here somewhere. The cast is strong all around and the story is solid with some new innovations into the vast catalog of vampire legend. In the end, however, there are just too many holes and wasteful, gratuitous scenes to call this "good." It's actually quite disappointing in that the directors (the Spierig brothers) come up with some truly original ideas concerning the story and then resort to B-movie rubbish to fill in the other 45 minutes of the film. All in all it's not a complete lost cause. Instead  "Daybreakers" has just enough good to make the bad all the more frustrating.

Grade: C+

"Iron Man 2"

Last year I started a phenomenon that took hold of the masses. And by the “masses” I mean the 8 or 12 nerdiest people I hang out with. It was called the Summer of the Nerd and it was awesome. We celebrated the large amount of nerd fare the summer had to offer and had a blast doing it. Recently, a friend and I just had a debate as to which year, 2011 or 2012, was the more appropriate summer for a sequel to the SOTN and ultimately decided that we might just have to make it a trilogy. Both ’11 and ’12 are rock solid with nerdy goodness. 2010, however, is the black sheep of the nerdy family. It is to the rest of the surrounding years what Timothy B. Schmidt is to the rest of The Eagles: odd, off putting, and completely unhip. Even Schmidt, though, had his moment in the sun, leaving hope for poor little 2010. “Iron Man 2” is destined to be to 2010 nerds what “Love Will Keep Us Alive” was for old Schmitty. (I’m pretty excited about the upcoming Eagles tour if you can’t tell.)

When we left Tony Stark in “Iron Man,” he had taken a route uncommon to super heroes and given away the secret part of his secret identity, announcing to the world that he was, in fact, Iron Man. “Iron Man 2” drops us right back into the snarky world of Stark as his self importance reaches an all time high. From the rebirth of the Stark Expo to his verbal destruction of a senator demanding possession of the Iron Man suit, Stark is publicly riding high and loving it. Behind the scenes, however, Tony is suffering. The technology he uses to keep himself alive is slowly poisoning him and his struggles to find a better alternative have proven useless. While he is at his reckless, self endangering worst, baddies Whiplash (Mickey Rourke) and Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) come out of the woodworks to challenge Iron Man’s power. Sarcasm, one liners, and action packed battles abound.

When Jon Favreau was announced as the director of this franchise in 2007, I was incredibly skeptical. I really enjoy Favreau’s work, mind you, but to ask a guy whose biggest accomplishment was “Elf” to take on a big time superhero action movie like “Iron Man” seemed quite a stretch. To his credit, however, Favs made it clear that he understood the task at hand. (I like to refer to him as Favs because I feel like, if I knew him in real life, he’d be cool with me calling him that.) He dug deep into the comic book mythology and worked extremely hard to make sure that the finished product bridged the gap between the Comic Purists and regular movie goers. “IM2” takes up where the first left off and makes it pretty easy for anyone, whether a comic junkie or not, to enjoy the ride.

Justin Theroux’s script is, for the most part, solid. He takes the elements that made Stark such a brash yet charismatic character in the first film and cranks them up a notch while managing to keep him from going over the top. While Stark is the meat, potatoes, and second vegetable choice of the whole shebang, Theroux and Favs do a pretty good job of developing the rest of the characters and the world in which they live. There are times when the story, at least for me, drifts a bit and I would suggest there are a couple of scenes that are unnecessary. But on the whole, you can deal with a few errant swings when your batter is slugging .500. The action sequences, meanwhile, are more backdrops to the cast rather than main characters. This is a rarity in a world that is dominated by Michael Bay and the like, though this was a principal upheld in the first “Iron Man” so perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise. That does, however, put a lot of pressure on the talent which is where “IM2” truly shines.

Let’s just be open and honest here, friends. I have a huge man crush on Robert Downey, Jr. Always have. Even in the drug years when he was pulling roles that even John Travolta would turn down, his performances never felt flat or uninspired. The dude just exudes talent and I don’t think any role could suit Downey better than Tony Stark. It would be very easy for a guy of Downey’s abilities coming from where he’s come from to take the $20 million bucks he’s getting from a superhero action movie and mail in his performance. Instead he embraces Tony Stark (or maybe he IS Tony Stark) and brings a rocking A-game. Truth be told, I was worried going in that “IM2” was going to get the “Spiderman 3” treatment: too many known faces, too little screen time to go around. Instead, Rourke, Rockwell, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johannson, and the rest all actually provide support for Downey (shocker) instead of clogging up the screen. I particularly like Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts, a role that just seems much more lively than most of her other work.

I will say that I think the first “Iron Man” is a better film from a quality standpoint than the sequel. At times you can feel the pressure on “IM2” to live up to the standard of its predecessor, whereas the first one had no such stress. Sometimes that pressure comes across as strain in the story or even a scene or two of gratuitous action that I personally believe might not have been there in the first one. With all that said, however, “IM2” is an absolute riot. I LOLed (I like to use that phrase in jest because it drives me freaking nuts when people use it for real) more times in the first 30 minutes than I have in a lot of really good comedies. It’s all a bit absurd, of course, and at times the dialogue DEFINITELY crosses the line between tongue-in-cheek and overly campy. But overall the entertainment value is off the charts. “IM2” provides enough laughs to serve as a stellar comedy, enough explosions to work as a straight action film, and enough heroics to be a worthy comic book film. It is a good (if not great) piece of filmmaking that is a must see for any movie fan, nerd or otherwise.

Grade: B+

Man crushes are totally acceptable, right?

Movie News Today 5/13

Olyphant In for "I Am Four" - One of the coolest around is on board for sci-fi thriller.

Penn to Anger Management - Sean Penn will, shockingly, have to undergo some treatment.

The 3-D Craze - An interesting look into the economics of  3-D.

Fox Picks Up "Wilde Kingdom" - Sort of an "Arrested Development" reunion as it were.

Awful Review for "Robin Hood" - A highly disappointing review confirms my fears. To be fair, though, Movieline also bashed on "Sherlock Holmes" which was excellent.

Trailer for "The Adjustment Bureau" - The new Matt Damon movie based on a Philip K. Dick novel, who should be one of the richest dudes in the history of Hollywood by now.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Movie News Today 5/12

Iron Man Suit Features - Wired takes a look at the new and improved Iron Man suit.

Ridley Scott - A profile of one of the better directors of our time.

Pitt in for "The Tiger" - Brad Pitt joins the Darren Aronofsky project.

DeNiro Picks Up New Role - Don't know how good this is going to end up being but I think it's a positive sign that Bob is taking supporting roles instead of pushing for leading roles in bad movies.

Who Should Purchase the Joaquin Phoenix Doc? - Handicapping the sale of this new documentary.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

New DVD Tuesday

The first 2010 releases hit DVD this week. That's not a good thing.

New Releases -

Legion (2010): Paul Bettany, Dennis Quaid - God has had it with the world so he sends angels to destroy the population. Except for Michael. Michael is such a tough guy that he's going to take on a legion of angels with the help of some good ol' boys like Quaid. Great theology abounds.

Edge of Darkness (2010): Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone - Gibson's daughter is murdered and he goes on a rampage to expose the truth. This is Gibson's first movie since 2002 and while he is solid, the rest is only so-so.

Daybreakers (2010): Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe - In a future where vampires are the majority and human blood is running out, the new population is forced to find new ways to survive. This is an interesting concept but as I'm not a big fan of the vampire, I'm out.

New to Blu-Ray -

Karate Kid 1 and 2 (1984 and 1986): Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita - There's a reason why the theme song for part one is, "The Best Around." I defy you to name me 129 movies that are more awesome than "The Karate Kid."

Monday, May 10, 2010

Movie News Today 5/10

First Look at New Lucas Film - George Lucas is producing a WWII fighter plan movie. Here are the planes.

Favreau on "IM3" - Favs drops some knowledge concerning the direction of the "Iron Man" franchise.

Waltz in "Musketeers" - Christoph Waltz is going to cash in his new stardom chips for the famed villain Richelieu in a new "Three Musketeers" adaptation that looks to be truly awful.

Michael Caine Interview - The AV Club gives us a great interview with one of the best.

MGM Purchased - The Weinstein brothers have acquired the rights to the MGM properties, finally.

Justin Theroux Interview - The writer of "IM2" and "Tropic Thunder" gives Movieline a solid look into his writing process.

Summer Movie Survival Guide - A fellow blogger gives you some rules and tips for the summer movie schedule ahead. (Tip number one from me: this summer's movies suck so unless you're a freak like me, just save most of your cash for Summer 11 and Summer 12, which will both take Summer 10 out back and beat the fire out of it.)

Movie Blog Mission Statement

My love for movies started at an early age. When I was three I could, for all intents and purposes, recreate the entire opening twenty minutes of "Star Wars" complete with sound effects. I fell in love with comedies well beyond my years ("Monty Python and the Holy Grail") and just knew that the first "Batman" with Michael Keaton was the best movie that didn't involve R2-D2 that had ever been made. "Jurassic Park" is the movie that really opened my eyes to the magic of film at the ripe old age of 10. And I will still argue that "Independence Day" is a great film because I can't shake the feeling of awesomeness I got watching it from the front row on Opening Day.

I started writing about movies somewhere around 2006 or 2007. As an underemployed, lesser-motivated student, I had lots of free time to kill with daily trips to Blockbuster. I filled up my movie rankings with movies I knew would be terrible, I caught up on some of the classics, and I wrote about it along the way. My production level waned and my writing shifted from site to site, blog to blog for a while, but I have remained committed to trying to write whenever possible. For the last two years or so I have been dedicated to writing for my blog, The Soap Box. I have written about sports, life, and stupid stories that sprang from my imagination. Recently, however, my writing focus has moved more and more towards movies and so The Soap Box Office has been born.

The Soap Box Office is designed to keep the average movie watcher in the know concerning the newest releases, casting news, and movies to look forward to. I don't consider myself to be a critic, so to speak, and I'm not a movie snob. You won't find many vague references to foreign films or language that requires a thesaurus app to comprehend. I'm not convinced that a "classic" is a "classic" just because it's old. I respect the older films but they often bore me. I incorporate my level of enjoyment into my ratings as well as "quality filmmaking" which is something I feel too many professional movie critics have lost as of late. And if those qualities make me an unsophisticated twit then so be it. I'm just a regular dude who sees a lot of movies and I write for other regular dudes (and dudettes, too, if you'll forgive the dated terminology). If I like a movie I'll tell you why and if I think it sucks I'll let you know that, too, plain and simple.

I'll try to do it all in 1000 words or less while providing a little comedy, opinionation (obviously I'm not above making up words when it suits me), and links to the "important" news of the day. If any of that interests you, I hope you'll stop by from time to time if for no other reason that to give yourself something to do at work when you're pulling a Peter Gibbons (that's an "Office Space" reference, naturally). Leave a comment, click a link, or quietly poke fun at my nerdiness to make yourself feel better. Whatever works for you. Just don't bag on my obsession with Chewbacca or expect me to say ANYTHING good about John Travolta and we can be friends.

Where we're going we don't need roads,

Box Office Monday

Was there ever any doubt that "Iron Man 2" was going to wreck shop at the box office this week? We haven't had a really strong movie release in weeks and nothing significant wanted to tangle with Tony Stark by debuting on the same day. "Nightmare" took a major hit in its second week, dropping 72%. "How to Train Your Dragon" cracked the $200 million mark and "Date Night" continues to hold strong, mopping the floor with the other chick flick competition.

1. "Iron Man 2" - $133.6 million
2. "Nightmare on Elm Street" - $9.2 million ($48.5 million total)
3. "How to Train Your Dragon" - $6.7 million ($201 million)
4. "Date Night" - $5.3 million ($80.5 million)
5. "The Back-up Plan" - $4.3 million ($29.4 million)
6. "Furry Vengeance" - $4 million ($11.6 million)
7. "Clash of the Titans" - $2.3 million ($157.8 million)
8. "Death at a Funeral" - $2.1 million ($38.3 million)
9. "The Losers" - $1.8 million ($21.4 million)
10. "Babies" - $1.6 million

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Weekend Movie News

Great Movie Moms - A wonderful look at some of the best moms in movie history.

10 TV Actors Who Need to be in Movies - A big shout out to the most criminally underrated actor in the business, Nathan Fillion.

Will Ferrell Makes Baseball Debut - Absolute genius. Will Ferrell takes the field for an actual Minor League baseball team.

Zach Levi Sings? - The star of "Chuck" makes his music debut.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

"The Losers"

I don’t mean to shock anybody with my following statement, but I must confess I am a nerd. In fact, I am such a nerd that there are different levels to my nerdiness. I am a Sports Nerd, a Movie and TV Nerd, a Super Hero Nerd, at times a Book Nerd, and a Joke Nerd (Conan voice: I love science). Perhaps the only kind of nerd I am not (not counting creepy nerds like the dudes on that toy trains show) is Comic Book Nerd. I never got into the comic book thing. Even as a kid I was far too busy collecting Star Wars figures, organizing basketball cards, and reading “The Hobbit” over and over again to concern myself with comics. So basically, anything that could be done to prevent girls from liking me EXCEPT reading comics. (I was this close to a perfect game, darnit.) This new wave of comic, the graphic novel, has always intrigued me but not quite enough to actually invest in the Time + Money = Knowledge equation. Now that so many of these books are being turned into movies, I’m pretty sure that it’s better for me just to see the movies to save myself from the inevitable, “that’s not faithful to the booooook!!!” comments that seem to be required from these situations. And yet, movies like “The Losers” often leave me wanting to catch up on all the great graphic novels I’m missing out on.

“The Losers” are your typical mercenaries with a conscience lead by Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) based on characters from the graphic novel of the same name by Andy Diggle. They might be out on a CIA endorsed mission of death but they’re sure not going to accept collateral damage. When one of these missions turns south, their handler, Max (Jason Patric), leaves them stranded in Bolivia. Considered dead and unable to return to their lives for the sake of their families, the Losers are left only to ponder their growing desire for revenge. When Aisha (Zoe Saldana), a mysterious woman of questionable integrity but unquestionable sex appeal, shows up with a plan of getting their lives back, the Losers jump on board and bring the war on Max to the U.S.

Each member brings their own skill set to the team. Roque (Idris Elba) is the muscle, Pooch (Columbus Short) is the munitions expert and driver, Cougar (Oscar Jaenada) is the sniper, Jensen (Chris Evans) is the computer geek, and of course Clay is the suave-but-rugged leader of the pack. This crew is the type that enjoys a good shoot out, especially when the odds are stacked against them. From office building invasions to full on fire fights in the streets of Miami (complete with a 50 millimeter cannon), the Losers provide an action junkie’s dream. These guys are ticked and the only time they take a break from stealing helicopters, blowing up Hummers, and taking down airplanes is when the occasion calls for witty banter and slightly camptastic one-liners.

“The Losers” is, quite simply, a fun piece of action throwback goodness. The writing is adequate enough to keep the audience from groaning or becoming disinterested. Sometimes the pacing is too fast and leaves you feeling like you’re jumping from frame to frame. But if you’re making an action movie, you can live with too fast over too slow. The acting, for the most part, is solid. Evans, who was recently cast as Captain America in a new franchise of films, is particularly and shockingly good. Best known for playing the Human Torch in the atrocious “Fantastic Four” movies, I’ve always thought Evans was a terrible actor. Here he is funny enough as to make me wonder if perhaps he brought somebody else’s A game instead of his own. Morgan is an underrated lead and he does a good job of bridging the gap between James Bond and Rambo. Elba, Short, and Jaenada all provide good support as well. The story is good enough, if underdeveloped, and did I mention a 50 millimeter machine gun? Hence, the action sequences are undeniably awesome.

Still, this is far from a perfect comic book hero action flick. Saldana’s character is unnecessary, similar to the female roles in many an action movie. She is underdeveloped and, judging by her work in “Star Trek” and “Avatar,” underutilized. Jason Patric, meanwhile, is terribly miscast. I have no problem with Patric and consider him to be a solid actor. But his Max is just not convincing. This script puts a lot of pressure on the villain to carry a heavy load and Patric just comes across as flat and uninspired. The biggest issue, however, is the film’s overall lack of emotion. Perhaps that’s just not the director’s intention, which I can understand, but I personally found it a bit lacking. The Losers don’t display any heart, even when they’re saving Bolivian orphans from a fast-approaching missile and that lends itself to a certain disconnect with the audience.

“The Losers” is pure entertainment that revels in its comic book nerdery and doesn’t trouble itself with such trivial concerns as reality. Though, I must say, reality is a relative term when it comes to the world of film. There’s much more authenticity here than, say, 2009’s “Taken,” a film I absolutely loved in spite of its complete detachment from reality. I wouldn’t call this any sort of crowing achievement in the comic book movie genre. Rather, it’s quite predictable, full of clichés, and displays a litany of holes. Still, I consider “The Losers” to be an all around good time that reaches out to the potential Comic Book Nerd inside and only strengthens its demands to be heard through all the other levels of nerdiness.

Grade: B-

Spell check tells me I invented three words in this review,

Movie News Today 5/7

"Inception" Trailer - A third trailer for the Christopher Nolan's mysterious summer film.

"Men In Black 3" Is a Go - The summer of 2012 continues to fill up with fare for nerds.

John Favreau Interview - The always-fun actor/director talks "Iron Man 2."

Profile: Julia Roberts - A fairly intimate look at the new, settled Julia Roberts who is still to this day my favorite actress of all time.

How the Internet Changed Pop Culture - A look at some examples of how this whole internet has changed pop culture.

Friday, May 7, 2010

New Movie Friday

There aren't a lot of choices this week but then again, challenging Tony Stark is probably a bad idea.

Wide Release
"Iron Man 2" - Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle.
Potentially the biggest blockbuster of the year, this thing has already blown past $100 million overseas. RBJ plays Tony Stark, the billionaire playboy also known as Iron Man, whose awesomness is opposed by Mickey Rourke and a couple of other baddies. I'm concerned that this is going to get the "Spider Man 3" treatment and try too hard to cram a huge cast onto the screen when what we really want is more Stark.
Rated: Ludacris

"Babies" - Some babies.
A documentary about the birth and short term raising of three babies in three different parts of the world and the differences in their upbringing. I don't like real-life babies a whole lot so I'm not sure you could pay be to watch a movie about on-screen babies.
Rated: Travolta

Limited Release
"Casino Jack and the United States of Money" - Jack Abramoff.
A Michael Moore-inspired documentary about super lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Politics in general make me want to kick puppies so I'm probably out.
Rated: C3-PO

Rating Definitions:
Bauer - So packed with awesome I'll probably be there opening day.
Ludacris - I'm excited to see it but also concerned about some red flags, like anytime a rapper is in the cast.
Vote for Pedro - I'll put off seeing it and hope I'll be pleasantly surprised.
Wahlberg - I'll pick up the DVD and for some reason enjoy it.
Gob Bluth - The phrase, "I've made a huge mistake" is likely to be uttered if and when I do see it.
C3-PO - The odds of me seeing it are similar to the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field.
Travolta - No way, no how will I willingly see this; similar to the odds John Travolta has of ever winning an Oscar.

Movie News Today 5/6

Robert Downey Junior's Stache Cycle - One of my fellow bloggers takes a look at RDJ and his ever changing facial hair.

M:I4 Has Director - The director of "The Incredibles" gets a new movie.

Space Paranoids Game - The first part of thw viral marketing campaign for the upcoming "Tron: Legacy."

"Apes" Reboot - One of Tim Burton's biggest misses was "The Planet of the Apes." The franchise is now starting over with FX work from WETA ("Lord of the Rings").

Terrence Howard to Play Mandela - Since he's not busy with "Iron Man 2" business, Howard will now take a swing at Mandela.

The "Golden Age" for Critics - The GREAT Roger Ebert is down with dumb blogs like this one!

"Iron Man" Armor Upgrades - Pretty funny look at some weird "upgrades" for Iron Man in comics.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Movie News Today 5/5

Studios to own theaters? - Joe Roth makes a compelling argument for studios to own theaters.

Mark Wahlberg Profile - The New York Times takes an indepth look at one of my favorite "Actors I Like Despite My Better Judgement."

Abrams Talks "Super 8" - JJ Abrams debunks the "Cloverfield" sequel rumors about his new film.

New "Ice Age" - Apparently three "Ice Age" movies isn't enough.

"Iron Man 2" Review - Movieline gives the first real review for "IM2" that I've seen so far. It is as I have feared, apparently.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Movie News Today

Roger Ebert's take on 3-D - The greatest film critic of all time hates 3-D and thinks you should, too.

"Pirates of the Caribbean 4" Cheaper - Apparently the fourth "Pirates" movie is taking some budget cuts...all the way down to $200 million.

"Dark Crystal" Sequel is a Go - 30 years after the original, a sequel to the Frank Oz freaky "kids" classic is now in production and will be released in...wait for it...3-D.

Weaving is Red Skull - One of the better villains in Hollywood, Hugo Weaving ("The Matrix"), will take on the nemisis role in the upcoming "Captain America" movies.

"X-Men: First Class" Fastracked - After finally securing a director (Matthew Vaughn), the newest spin off from the "X-men" series will release next year.

Abrams Has New Mystery Film - Super-producer JJ Abrams has a semi-quasi sequel to "Cloverfield" in the works and the trailer may or may not show before "Iron Man 2" this weekend.

"Justified" Renewed - FX has renewed the Timothy Olyphant series "Justified," one of the better shows on TV, for a full second season.

DVD Tuesday

Not a whole lot of good will brought into the DVD universe today but have a look at the bag of nothing nonetheless.

New Releases -

Leap Year (2010): Amy Adams, Matthew Goode - Something about some girl going to Ireland to get the inspiration to ask her boyfriend to marry her. Both Adams and Goode have been riding pretty high lately and you have to believe both of them hoped this thing would never see the light of day.

Tooth Fairy (2010): The Rock, Ashley Judd, others who should know better - The Rock is a hockey player who gets turned into a Tooth Fairy. And it's funny because, you know, The Rock is all manly and they're calling him a fairy AND hockey players often lose their teeth, haha. Boo. And no, I will not call The Rock Dwayne Johnson no matter how hard he tries to make that switch.

Nine (2009): Daniel Day Lewis, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz - A musical that not even critics could completely grasp the plot of. I love Lewis, but this was a tremendous disappointment last year.

New to Blu Ray -

Saving Private Ryan (1998): Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Barry Pepper - The best war movie of the last 30 years, easily one of my ten favorite films of all time, and Pepper plays one of my ten favorite characters of all time. Every single haunting moment of this film is magnificient. It is an absolute masterpiece.

The Notebook (2004): Rachel McAdams, Ryan Gosling - Perhaps a bit overrated in my opinion but still one of the better romances of the decade. My ridiculous cruch on Rachel McAdams probably doesn't hurt this opinion, however.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"How to Train Your Dragon"

I’ve always been a big fan of the well made animated feature. There’s something special about that rare cartoon that crosses the barrier between “fun kids movie” and “all around good movie.” Animation let’s the filmmaker do things that might not be possible otherwise and put you into worlds that are chalk full of imagination. It’s like a free pass to think like a kid for 90 minutes and get wrapped up in talking toys, foxes dressed like Robin Hood, or an old man flying his house to South America. The best-of-the-best from this genre make you forget you’re watching a cartoon as you get sucked in to their subject matter, outlandish as it may be. And so it is with “How to Train Your Dragon.”

“How to Train Your Dragon” drops the audience smack dab into the middle of a Viking village and the life of a scrawny kid named Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel). These Vikings aren’t so much into plundering as they are dealing with dragons. Dragons infest their tiny island and all good Vikings devote their lives to the hunting of and defense against these sheep stealing beasts. This is where problems arise for Hiccup. Hiccup is less the Village Idiot, more the Village Misunderstood Visionary. His lack of size and strength prevents him from taking on the dragons head to head, but what he lacks in brute strength, he makes up for in technological advances. One of his inventions allows him to take down a dreaded Night Terror dragon, something no one else in the village has ever done. Unfortunately the beast lands somewhere in the distance and no one in the town, especially his father Stoick (Gerard Butler), believes him. Determined to prove his worth, Hiccup tracks down the dragon to finish him off. When the time comes, however, he finds himself unable to do so and eventually finds himself forming a very unlikely friendship.

Everything about “Dragon” is solid. The voice work is strong and I must say these characters are extremely well cast. Too often animated movies rely on “name” talent that is designed to get people into the theater but then forces you to focus on those well known voices. Here, however, the work done by Baruchel, Butler, and the rest feels genuine. You’re not distracted by the voices as they just seem like a bunch of real cartoon Vikings (as weird as that description may sound). In addition, the visuals are excellent even if the 3-D aspect is a bit unnecessary. The design of the dragons is an especially nice touch. Toothless, Hiccup’s dragon, is unlike any other dragon I’ve seen on screen. His movements are quite catlike and it has the desired effect of making the dragons seem more pet-quality than you might think.

The script, however, is “Dragon’s” real strong point. Writer William Davies gives the story proper pacing and allows for authentic emotion, something that is often lacking in any movie, let alone an animated one. The bond between Hiccup and Toothless is reminiscent of dog and owner, and that comes across naturally rather than relying on the cliché play-up that so many movies resort to. The two work together as Hiccup tries to fix Toothless’ broken wing and Toothless in turn teaches Hiccup about dragon psychology, something no Viking has bothered to study. It’s an authentic relationship that these two share not only with each other but with the audience as well. The dialogue is full of humor and wit, never leaving the viewer wanting for comedy on top of everything else. Overall, “Dragon” is an extremely original story that is brilliantly told.

“Dragon” is a major step forward for Dreamworks animation. Their previous films (“Shrek,” “Flushed Away,” etc.) have done well at the box office but have failed to garner the critical attention that the Pixar films have. For me, this has always been because where the Pixar movies connect on an emotional, relevant level, Dreamworks features simply aim to make the audience laugh. There’s nothing wrong with that, par se, but great movies connect, not just entertain. “Dragon” manages to connect and entertain along the same lines as some of the better Pixar films. It is 98 minutes of pure imagination in cartoon Viking form and leaves the viewer wanting more from the inevitable franchise that is to come.

Grade: A

My old dog is going to be Toothless pretty soon,