More of what’s coming!

A whole wave of exciting new trailers have been flooding in recently, and there’s a lot to be ready for in the months to come.  I’ll give you a run through of what you should be ready for this year:

SPRING BREAKERS – 5th APRIL

Spring Breakers appears to be a stylistic film of some variation, with an odd cast, and what seems like an even odder plot.  James Franco stars in an usual role, playing a drug/arms dealer who bails out four college girls after they’ve been arrested for robbing a restaurant.  His intentions aren’t exactly saintly however, as he looks to use the girls for his own destructive pursposes.  Also cast are Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine.  It does look like it would be a decent film, but it also looks like a film that cares more about chaotic fun than it does about making much sense.  I wouldn’t expect much in the way of a strong storyline, but I’d still say it’s worth a watch – even if it’s just to enjoy an hour and a half of Franco goofing around with his role, or to admire the strong female presence.

ONLY GOD FORGIVES – RELEASE DATE TBC

Now here’s a film that should be hotly-anticipated.  The Drive team of Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling pair up again for another film, and this time they’re moving away from the States, all the way to Bangkok.  With Drive as the only point of reference (until the trailer’s release), it’s safe to say that there are some pretty strong forces behind this film.  It’s going to be more violent than Drive, and I’m counting on that as being an achievement.  In Refn’s hands, I’m comfortable saying that the violence and gore will be good in taste; measured and stylistic.

THE WOLVERINE – 26th JULY

Wolverine’s a film that’s been a while in the making.  If you don’t count the 2009 X-men Origins film (which you shouldn’t) then this is the characters first standalone film.  Okay, well that’s not strictly speaking true, but it should be the first Wolverine film to nail it in the head, as the expression goes.  Origins was too child-friendly, it took a safe approach with a character who’s meant to be deadly, a real force to be reckoned with.  I hope this year’s release is a more faithful depiction, and I trust that it will be.  At least with the new setting, in Japan, there’s already a fresh angle to consider.  Let’s just keep our fingers crossed this time around…

Spotlight: The Place Beyond the Pines

 The Place Beyond the Pines is an upcoming film starring some major Hollywood stars, including: Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta and Bradley Cooper.  Here’s the trailer, if you’ve not already checked it out at the sidebar:

The director, Derek Cianfrance, worked with Gosling on the 2010-film Blue Valentine, which was the modern telling of a doomed relationship.  Beyond the Pines, however, is a break away from Cianfrance’s previous work, as it looks to deal with more sinister topics.  Below is a short interview with Cianfrance, who discusses personal thoughts regarding the film, as well as some of the casting choices:

 One of our main characters (Gosling) is a criminal; a motorcycle stunt-rider turned bank-robber whose crimes cause him to collide with a rookie cop (Cooper).  Ryan’s role may also be far removed from those he’s done in the past, with the partial exception of his nameless character in Drive.  The two may well have similar passions, for example, and both certainly do live a wild, alternative lifestyle, but here his character is also central to a story that’s also about love, fatherhood and the extent that one is prepared to go to protect that.  As he steals in order to provide for his wife and child, it appears that this character could also be dealing with the subject of the American Dream, and how easily it can be broken by moral turpitude.  It looks like another fitting role for a very gifted actor.

I expect that there will be great on screen chemistry, as well as a hard-hitting story with layers of meaning. Everyone should definitely check out this film, even if it’s just during a Spring outing – that’s if the impeccable talents attached to the work haven’t got you hooked on the idea already.

The Place Beyond the Pines is released in the UK on the 12th of April.

Factual Features, Biweekly #2

 In a continuation of the biweekly feature, I’ve been scouting the net for more film-related articles!

 If you are anything like myself, you may also have thought that casting a big-budget film franchise would be easy… Apparrently not! Even the biggest names in the business have been known to madly turn down huge roles. Sean Connery, strangely as it sounds, is one such actor. It may sound like a dismissable rumour, but Connery was in fact offered the role of Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings film adaptation. His reason for turning down the role was that he didn’t actually understand the script, or the books, or the part of the grey wizard. I’m sure most fans are probably glad that Ian McKellan was cast, as it’s hard to imagine Connery really fitting in with the franchise – especially since his recent roles are far from career-defining.

There are few words..

There are few words..

 What’s weirder though is that it hasn’t been the only time Connery could have been cast as a wizard, considering that he could have played Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films. It isn’t exactly difficult to guess why he passed on that offer, too, though. It doesn’t even stop there – in numerous interviews the fellow Scot even mentioned an offer for a part in The Matrix:

 If I knew how much Connery could have made from these roles, I’d probably think he’s insane. Then again, it’s probable that his attachment to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) was probably agreed to out of regret and realisation, it’s just a shame to think he likely regretted being a part of that film even more. Here are some other could-have-been-castings that will surprise you:

 – Will Smith as Neo in The Matrix. Turned down because he said he wasn’t prepared for a serious film role.

 – Dustin Hoffman as Deckard in Blade Runner. Apparently the studio moved on from Hoffman, because he made ‘too many’ demands, particularly for re-writes, in order to see that the character was put in less physically demanding situations.

 – Tom Selleck and the Moustache as Indy in Indiana Jones. I can’t say much would have gone wrong here, actually. In fact, there’s even a screentest to accompany this!:

 – O.J. Simpson as The Terminator in The Terminator. Insert distasteful joke here.

 – And a personal favourite, Bill Murray as Han Solo in Star Wars.

A sensible choice? ('The Lost Roles of Bill Murray' t-shirts designed by http://popchartlab.com..)

A sensible choice? (‘The Lost Roles of Bill Murray’ t-shirts designed by http://popchartlab.com..)

Various names may have been thrown around for the casting of the much-admired rogue, but it’s easily said that Harrison Ford suited the part better than most… Especially Bill Murray.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

I hadn’t heard anything about Burt Wonderstone until about a week before its release, when a trailer on the net lured me towards the film.  This was weird to me, like one of those ‘why didn’t I know about this before?’ moments; staying under the radar until a grand and timely reveal.  And I had become tired of sober titles as of late, so it certainly seemed timely – it even boasted performances from two colossal silver-screen funnymen: Steve Carrell and Jim Carrey.  This fact alone had captured my interest immediately.  So I went along to the cinema, the following weekend, expecting a rare side-splitting spectacle.  Unfortunately, I left feeling a little disappointed.  Here are my two cents on the film:

Carrell’s performance should have anchored the film, but in actuality it didn’t have enough weight.  He’s not at fault himself, though, as it was really the casting choice that lacked a little ingeniuty.  After all, Carrell seems to be best at playing characters who are, plain and simply, missing the point in any given or ongoing situation.  I will reference The 40-Year Old Virgin, where the cluelessness of the plot’s main character results in several awkward and laughable scenarios, generating at least three quarters of the film’s laughs.  His character in Anchorman is similar; although you could probably say that the character of ‘Brick’ has to be missing the point in every situation, ever.  The point mean to make is that Carrell -as the eponymous Burt Wonderstone- doesn’t quite click.  Here we have a character that is generally quite bold, and far too sure of himself.  He’s a long-standing magician that’s been performing in Vegas for a few decades; but past the film’s opening sequence you’re cast into the world of someone who is outdated, who doesn’t want to face his own reality.  Burt is probably slightly more plausible as a character than some of Carrell’s best, but that could be one reason why the film isn’t as special as it could have been.

In some respects the film feels outdated.  It’s all about magic and magicians; old school performing opposing a radical new ‘shock-factor’ spin.  Does this topic material really belong in 2013?  In short, the answer is no.  Jim Carrey’s character is a maniacal performer, who probably belongs in an insane-asylum.  His tricks are more extreme, and contrast with magic in the conventional sense.  People are meant to be surprised and shocked as usual, but they probably wouldn’t stomach the ‘how’s of it all.  In many ways he’s an imitation of real-life personas, like David Blaine, and Dynamo, who’ve similarly made their names performing on the streets.   Even one of the scenes is taken right from a real-life trick; Burt and his performing partner attempt to spend long periods of time inside an elevated glass box in public.

Burt (Carrell) loses his cool, in the "Hot Box"

Burt (Carrell) loses his cool, in the “Hot Box”

Seem familiar?  That’s because the exact same thing was actually tried by David Blaine:

David Blaine doing the exact same stunt, in London, 2003...

David Blaine doing the exact same stunt, in London, 2003…

My point is that these kinds of magicians themselves aren’t often heard about nowadays.  For the past few years they’ve been relegated on-screen to the auditioning stages of gimmicky talent-shows, and hardly get more exposure than that.  Why this film is being made now, when it would have been more fitting when ‘street magic’ was actually a big deal, is questionable.  Perhaps the script was resurrected from the recycling bin of a computer at Warner Brothers, by producers who still thought they could milk it.  If you ask me what’s plausible, I think I’ll go with that version of the story.

Red State

red_state_poster

 I had recently purchased a subscription to lovefilm, after using the one month free trial offer. I was browsing the instant films collection, and to my delight I discovered Red State; this is a film I had previously wanted to see, but hadn’t for the time for. Naturally, then, I was excited, and was judging it with high expectations after seeing its trailer.

 For those who aren’t familiar with the plot of Red State, it’s basically a low-budget horror/thriller about religious extremists who madly decide to go on a killing spree. They justify themselves by their beliefs, in that they are ridding the world of ‘evils’ by targeting and eliminating the likes of homosexuals and in the main case of the movie, a group of young men who are would-be swingers. Would-be, that is, if they hadn’t fallen into the Church’s trap, which sees them drugged by a middle-aged woman, after which they awake in the middle of a highly unusual kind of religious ceremony.

There's no mercy for those two - or anybody else for that matter

There’s no mercy for those two – or anybody else for that matter

 Obviously, with the film being a horror/thriller, very little goes right for any of the characters. After one of the teenagers is tied to a cross in preparation for a horrible ritual killing, the events are interrupted as the church is visited by a young police officer, who discovered the car (identifiable from a dent in a hit and run incident earlier in the film) owned by one of the imprisoned teens. After two escape their binds, gunshots are fired and the cop hears, and the events escalate until the church is being surrounded by a special police unit.

John Goodman's character easily has the film's best lines

John Goodman’s character easily has the film’s best lines

 This is actually like something you would have expected Quentin Tarantino to think up, with its sadistic theme and gore-filled storyline. Coincidentally in fact, Tarantino was a source of inspiration for the director, Kevin Smith, as were the Coen brothers. If you ask me, this film is best described as an almost perfect amalgamation of the two. It even has a humorous twist towards the end, involving some loud, blaring trumpet-like sounds – similar to something you’d get in a Tarantino film, like Inglorious Basterds with the entire cinema sequence towards the end, or even the scene in the very recent Django Unchainedwith the white supremacists who argue about the eye-wholes in their makeshift masks. However, I’ll spare the exact details, in case if you decide to see the film for yourself!

Personally, I’d recommend the film to any fan of the genre, or even of the aforementioned directors, too. It’s not an epic film that will blow you away, but for something shot on a relatively low-budget, it’s really high standard, and rare in my books.

Factual Feature, Biweekly #1

In addition to the usual reviews and previews I will be writing, I’ve decided to add a little sweetener to the blog.  Biweekly posts are dedicated to providing all kinds of weird and wonderful film-related facts that may give you a little insight into the industry, if not a chuckle at the very least!

Our first is taken straight from one of my all-time favourite films: The Usual Suspects. Kevin Spacey gives a stunning performance as the criminal and con artist Verbal Kint, whose interrogation is the focal point of the film.  The film actually centres around this criminal’s interrogation, as he tells how he and four others were led into a lethal trap by a mysterious mob boss known as “Keyser Soze”. One particular scene in the film involves a lineup in which these five characters take part; it’s an iconic scene that I would consider to be one of the greatest in film history. I have included this scene here below, but BE AWARE that the scene includes multiple uses of STRONG LANGUAGE…

The thing that is greatest about this scene is that it’s unscripted, but that is not all. It’s the reason behind this improvisation that’s the best part: what could make a bunch of grown-up men giggle so much, when they are trying to be professional? You’ve probably guessed it, but I’ll tell you anyway; it’s flatulence. According to the DVD extras, it was actor Benicio Del Toro‘s uncontrollable flatulance that set the actors off during the filming of the scene, and that got the reactions you see on-screen in the film. The scene is given a certain oomph, and in the end it’s all just down to an actor breaking wind.

No Hero Like A SuperHero

 Twenty-thirteen is a great year to be a superhero! Recent years have introduced an entire catalogue of characters to the medium of film, and suddenly being a geek is cool. This explosion of the superhero genre, witnessed by the big screen, has even generated unthinkable success. Marvel’s The Avengers, released in the summer of 2012, has now become the third highest grossing film worldwide; raking in around $1.4billion. And the great news -for production companies and fans alike- is that the trend isn’t slowing down any time soon. The upcoming summer period alone is boasting almost half a dozen contributions to the genre. Iron Man and Thor only achieved cinematic identities within the past few years, but their summer contributions are not likely to be overshadowed, despite the additions of a Superman reboot, and the third Marvel film on my watch list, based on the character of Wolverine.

RDJ looking defeated in a still from Iron Man 3

RDJ looking defeated in a still from Iron Man 3

All of the titles make my list of must-see films this year. If you’ve enjoyed the recent superhero boom, Iron Man 3 is a safe bet for your money. This was, after all, the franchise that sold me the brilliance of Robert Downey Jr., an incredible actor that (I’m a little ashamed to say) I hadn’t known much about before. He plays the lead, Tony Stark, in such a convincing way. Just as the late Heath Ledger -who amazed as the Joker- defined his role in the recent Batman trilogy, Downey Jr. defines Iron Man. Moving on to Thor: The Dark World, I also have high hopes for this title. The first film doesn’t exactly impress much where the storyline and the characters are concerned, but as a visual spectacle it proved to be great entertainment. Hugh Jackman is also giving geeks another thing to be excited about, as he unsheaths his claws for a piece of the action too. He will be continuing his quest to perfect the character of Wolverine in the creatively titled: The Wolverine. Hopefully the film will make up for the underwhelming X-men Origins: Wolverine, and the fact that the character didn’t answer the roll call by the time The Avengers came knocking.

For those looking to enjoy more violent genre additions, you needn’t look further than Kick-Ass 2. Released in the late summer, it should be the perfect film to cleanse your palette of superhero kiddy-safeness. Jim Carrey does appear on the cast list, and does in fact play a major character, but don’t let that fool you. The film will follow the vein of the first, in all its bloody glory, and will probably mark a sudden upturn in Carrey’s recent career.

Carrey's lost the plot... - again!

Carrey’s lost the plot… – again!

The sudden popularity of the superhero genre may be something to question. Consider everything that has happened in the world, in the past decade or so. Is it suitable to suggest the possibility that the public has come to want more real-life heroes? The media certainly consumes its fair share of heroic stories, but it is notably more attentive to villains and criminals. So it may be that superheroes are making timely idols. We are increasingly consuming more of them through such mediums as film, and this is probably telling of the kinds of stories we really need to hear. Whichever way you might look at it yourself, it is easy to see that the genre is becoming a cash cow for big film companies. So much so that even Ant-Man is set to join the fray. Could there be any other reason?