Friday, January 31, 2014

RBR: Kick-Ass 2

While it became a cult favorite for many, I had had my issues with the first Kick Ass film about a teen who decides he wants to become a real life superhero despite no actual superpowers. Based on a graphic novel, the first film was flawed for reveling in its debauchery rather than making an effort to try to say anything on the topic of vigilante justice and our fascination of superheroes. Despite those issues, I was curious to see if this follow-up would be more of the same or make an effort to improve upon its previous attempt. Sadly neither of those turned out to be the case as this sequel is a sloppy, uninteresting mess of a sequel. It pulls its punches (somewhat) in terms of the gritty violence that was on display first film for a more mass marketed approach to gore and violence. It's also bogged down with a revenge storyline that holds no weight. The fact that they have to saddle the film with a weak subplot involving Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moritz) struggling to deal with mean girls in high school is evidence of that. The only silver lining in the film is Jim Carrey playing Sgt. Stars and Stripes, a new vigilante who is trying to band together with other like-minded do-gooders. Sadly, he's killed off far too early in the film leaving us with a lot of time to fill and nothing much to offer. This film does a disservice to fans of the first film and fans of film in general. This was one of my worst films of the year thus far. Rating: * 1/2

Snake prize

Earlier this week it was announced that Jake "the Snake" Roberts would be a part of the Class of 2014 for the WWE Hall of Fame. This was a big deal for me as Jake was the wrestler that originally got me hooked onto wrestling way long ago. It was also special because I got to see this announcement live and in person as I was in attendance at Quicken Loans Arena for Monday Night RAW. Check out the video which chronicles his career below.

Lex-cellent news

From comingsoon.net
Warner Bros. Pictures announced today that Jesse Eisenberg has been set to star as Lex Luthor and Jeremy Irons will play Alfred in the upcoming Zack Snyder untitled Superman/Batman film. The dual announcement was made today by Greg Silverman, President, Creative Development and Worldwide Production, and Sue Kroll, President, Worldwide Marketing and International Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures.

Snyder stated, "Lex Luthor is often considered the most notorious of Superman's rivals, his unsavory reputation preceding him since 1940. What's great about Lex is that he exists beyond the confines of the stereotypical nefarious villain. He's a complicated and sophisticated character whose intellect, wealth and prominence position him as one of the few mortals able to challenge the incredible might of Superman. Having Jesse in the role allows us to explore that interesting dynamic, and also take the character in some new and unexpected directions."

The director added, "As everyone knows, Alfred is Bruce Wayne's most trusted friend, ally and mentor, a noble guardian and father figure. He is an absolutely critical element in the intricate infrastructure that allows Bruce Wayne to transform himself into Batman. It is an honor to have such an amazingly seasoned and gifted actor as Jeremy taking on the important role of the man who mentors and guides the guarded and nearly impervious facade that encapsulates Bruce Wayne."

Eisenberg received Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award and BAFTA Award nominations for his starring role as Mark Zuckerberg in David Fincher's The Social Network. He also starred in Woody Allen's To Rome with Love and Louis Letterier's Now You See Me. He next appears in The Double and NightMoves.

Irons won the Academy Award for his portrayal of Claus von Bulow in Reversal of Fortune. His work in the film also garnered him a Golden Globe Award. He won an Emmy Award and a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award for his performance in the TV miniseries "Elizabeth I," opposite Helen Mirren, and recently starred on the small screen as Rodrigo Borgia in Neil Jordan's highly acclaimed Showtime series "The Borgias," for which Irons earned a Golden Globe nomination. He was recently nominated for a SAG Award for the PBS Great Performances television miniseries "The Hollow Crown," for his performance as Henry IV.

Snyder's film stars Henry Cavill, reprising his role as Superman/Clark Kent, Ben Affleck as Batman/Bruce Wayne, and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince. The film also reunites Man of Steel stars Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne and Diane Lane.

The new film is currently being written by Chris Terrio, from a screenplay by David S. Goyer. Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder are producing, with Benjamin Melniker, Michael E. Uslan, Wesley Coller, David S. Goyer and Geoff Johns serving as executive producers.

The film is set to open worldwide on May 6, 2016, and is based on Superman characters created by Jerry Siegel &Joe Shuster, Batman characters created by Bob Kane, and Wonder Woman created by William Moulton Marston, appearing in comic books published by DC Entertainment.

Pawn jockey

In his 20+ years of hosting late night talk shows, Conan O'Brien has amassed quite a collection of props from bits, as well as fan art sent to him. Conan figured it was about time he started making a bit of scratch off this junk so he took some of the pieces to a pawn shop. Check out his adventure there below:

RBR: A.C.O.D.

File this one under 'Wasted Potential'. You take an excellent cast that features Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins, Amy Poehler, Catherine O'Hara, Clark Duke, Jessica Alba, and Jane Lynch. You put them in a movie with an interesting story about what kind of people do kids of divorce turn out to be once they become adults. All of that should add up to something pretty great and yet this never reaches those heights. Scott plays the titular A.C.O.D. (which stands for Adult Child of Divorce). His younger brother announces he's going to get married. In order to prepare for the wedding, he attempts to get his estranged parents to start talking to each other once again. Dealing with them dredges up bad memories, so he also seeks out his former shrink (played by Lynch), who never was an actual therapist but still made a lot of money writing a book based on his issues growing up. The way the events play out in this film makes it feel like the pilot for a TV show. A lot of characters get introduced here that have some interesting quirks about them, but never fully get fleshed out. In addition, there's no really clear climax to the film. It really feels like an introduction without any clear resolution. If this had been a pilot, I would have been very invested to see where things go from there. As a standalone movie, I feel cheated. Despite the charming cast, there's nothing to sink your teeth into here. While there are certainly far worse movies that have come out in the past year, I cannot in my right mind recommend this one because I have no doubt that others will end up feeling just as disappointed as I was with this one. Rating: **1/2

Slay West

Seth McFarland, creator of Family Guy and Ted, tries his luck in front of the camera this time in the new Western comedy, A Million Ways to Die in the West. Thankfully he's brought along several other funny people to help round out the cast including Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman, Giovanni Ribisi, Charlize Theron, and Liam Neeson(??). Here's your first look at the film set to come out this summer.

RBR: Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

The Jackass films take on a different life in Bad Grandpa as leader of the gang Johnny Knoxville dons old person makeup to play Irv Zisman, a newly widowed gentleman who is ask to drive his grandson cross-country to be with his dad after his mother is sent to prison. This narrative serves as a loose thread to string along a series of vignettes of Knoxville and the boy behaving badly in front of unsuspecting onlookers. Such narrative really isn't needed here and it would have worked better if they had simply gone more with the approach of the previous Jackass films of having it simply be a compilation of scenes. I had also wished that they would have gone further with some of the scenes. Not in terms of shock value, they make sure to maximize that. But rather in terms of commentary. There's an uproarious scene late in the movie where the grandson is entered into a beauty pageant and ends up performing a strip tease as mothers and daughters watch on in horror. The beauty pageant circuit is rife with material to mock and shed light on, yet the movie seems content with providing its shock moment and then moving on to the next bit. Despite these issues the film offers up some solid laughs in several scenes that carry the film to a moderate thumbs up. If you've enjoyed the previous Jackass films there's no reason why you won't find something to enjoy in this entry as well. Rating: ***

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The killer B's



The new season of Survivor, which will divide tribes this time by Brains, Beauty, and Brawn is set to premiere next month. Today the cast for this upcoming season was announced. Here are some more details on the season and this newest set of castaway from EW.com
After a successful season of having former players compete with/against their loved ones on Blood vs. Water, Survivor will try another brand new concept when Survivor: Cagayan premieres with a two-hour episode on Feb. 26 at 8pm on CBS. This time, 18 contestants will be separated into three tribes: brawn, brains, and beauty. And while all of those contestants will be new players — marking only the third such all-newbie season in the past nine installments — one of the names may be familiar: former NBA All-Star (and recent visitor to North Korea as part of Dennis Rodman’s basketball troupe) Cliff Robinson.

Robinson played 18 seasons in the NBA for the Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors and New Jersey Nets — averaging over 14 points a game and making the playoffs every season but one (sorry, 2004). So how did he end up on Survivor? “He’s a fan of the show,” says host Jeff Probst, who in the past has also welcomed other professional athletes or coaches like Gary Hogeboom, Jimmy Johnson and Jeff Kent to compete on the reality hit. “There’s a common thread through all the former athletes and people that have been involved in sports like Jimmy Johnson, and it’s the competition. Jeff Kent talked about it a lot. He said, ‘This won’t define me, but it is something I want to try.’ Cliff was the same way. He made a lot of references during casting to the high he got from having to win in order to eat. He’d say, ‘Because if I don’t win, I might not be asked back, and if I’m not asked back I don’t make my money, and if I don’t make my money I don’t eat. So I have to win to eat.’ And that’s the essence of Survivor: You have to win to stick around.’”

Robinson — who, naturally, will be on the brawn tribe — is not the only figure from professional sports to appear on Survivor’s 28th season. Miami Marlins president David Samson will also be competing, even though that meant leaving his team in the middle of the season last summer to play (Survivor: Cagayan was filmed in July and August). “I was surprised that David could get away from his job while his team was still playing,” says Probst. “But he was definitive in his answer and very to the point: ‘I have it worked out. Next question.’ And that’s how he plays this game.” (Samson will be on the brains tribe).

The rest of the cast includes a pro poker player (brains tribe), a former Miss Kentucky Teen USA (we’ll let you guess what tribe she is on), a nuclear engineer (again, pretty obvious), two former NFL cheerleaders (one on brains, one on beauty), and two police officers (both on brawn). For a full cast list, see below.

The whole concept of brains, brawn, and beauty was something producers stumbled into late in the process of planning out season 28. “We didn’t really know until late in casting,” Probst tells EW. “We were deep into casting and loving everybody. It was very exciting. It’s the first time we’ve had all new players in a while. We were feeling really good. And it was actually [casting director] Lynne Spillman who came over as we were having something to eat and said, ‘I got an idea: What if we separate them into brains, brawn, and beauty?’ It was a pretty exciting moment because after 27 seasons, finding a new fresh way to continue the social experiment is not easy.”

Probst says part of the fun of the season comes from seeing how the players will react to the labels they are given. “The brawn tribe does get bumps and bruises, and if they need wood they just pull a tree down,” says Probst. “And the beauty tribe does sit around and bowl with coconuts and walk around in their underwear and talk about their haircuts or their latest modeling job, And the brains tribe, just as you would have expected, sits around talking about the greatest way to structure a shelter and where they should put it. And the funny part is watching each tribe have success or failure in their perceived expertise. The brains tribe does not necessarily have the best camp, but in talking to them, you would be certain that they did by the way they talk. And it’s interesting watching that play out and how much of that is because they really are the smart tribe and how much is that they believe they are the smart tribe because they’ve been told they are the smart tribe, so they start behaving as the smart tribe.”

Probst told EW back in December in his first comments about the season that going back to the all-new players concept was a nod to fans that asked for an installment with no returning players: “We listened to our fans. That was really it. They’ve been saying over and over, ‘We love the returning players, but we’d like to see a cast of new players.’ And that’s why we did it.” In another nod to old-school Survivor, there will be no Redemption Island this time around, so when players are voted out of the tribe, they are out of the game for good.

RBR: Despicable Me 2

The first Despicable Me was a pleasant surprise thanks to the wonderful voice work by Steve Carell and the story containing a lot more heart than you would expect given that it centered around a notorious supervillian and his quest to take over the world. Given its box office success it was only natural that a sequel would be made in short order. This second effort contains some of the same charm as the original, but also feels like a missed opportunity. This time around Gru (Carell) is recruited by the Anti-Villain League to help stop another evil villain. There are two problems with this set-up. First, the actions of the villain in question are rather undefined so it becomes hard to become invested in seeing him captured. Second, the Anti-Villain League quickly dumps Gru after he opts to focus on a criminal that the organization does not believe is the culprit. It makes you wonder why they bothered seeking out a villain in the first place if they were simply going to dismiss him so quickly. Really all of that set-up is a lazy way to pair up Gru and a female agent who works for the AVL who has the hots for him. Of course being a sequel the film also amps up the amount of screen time for Gru's Minions. This is a case where more is not exactly more. Overall, this sequel still has some decent laughs and looks great but remains underwhelming. Kids will no doubt love it, but for everyone else they are better off rewatching the first film. Rating: ***

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Ride Conan Ride

If you enjoyed Ride Along this weekend (and based on the record breaking box office many of you did), then perhaps you might enjoy some more antics from Kevin Hart and Ice Cube. They did a remote piece with Conan for his show a couple of months ago as the three of them drove around LA. Enjoy!

RBR: Prisoners

Similar to last year's End of Watch, Jake Gyllenhaal has come out with a thriller that probably deserved more awards recognition than it has received. This year, it's Prisoners, a tense, twisty kidnapping drama that will keep you invested all the way through. Gyllenhaal plays a detective who's put it upon himself to investigate the abduction of two little girls. Unlike in End of Watch Gyllenhaal is probably the weak link here. He gives a rather mannered performance complete with heavy blinking and glowering that causes you to pay too much attention to him. The more compelling performance comes from Hugh Jackman who plays the father of one of the two kidnapped girls. Jackman plays a survivalist family man who becomes hellbent on finding out who took his little girl. Fairly early on he becomes convinced that they were taken by Paul Dano, who perfectly plays the creepy guy that would make anyone believe he's the prime suspect. Dano is discovered driving an RV that the girls were playing nearby when they were last seen. Jackman goes to extreme lengths to prove Dano is guilty even after the police move on in their investigation. The actions of Jackman produce some uncomfortable questions that will stick with you long after the movie is finished. Besides Jackman and Gyllenhaal, the film is filled with an all star supporting cast that includes Terrence Howard as the father of the other abducted girl, Viola Davis and Maria Bello as the two mothers, and Melissa Leo, who plays Dano's aunt. With several characters and twists aplenty, the film keeps you guessing as to who is really behind this evil crime. While I correctly pegged the victim early on, the film did a nice job of making me constantly second guess myself. I should also point out the incredible cinematography of the film. The look of the film is nicely atmospheric. I don't normally pay attention to something like that, but since it was so noticeable here, I looked at who the cinematographer was and it turned out to be Roger Deakins, who did Skyfall. It's no wonder I took notice of it. Deakins who was nominated for his work on Skyfall has once again been nominated this year for his work on this film. Like most thrillers, this one does have its issues in terms of some plot holes. If you find yourself getting caught up in the story, however, you're likely not to care. It also could have been a bit tighter. With a runtime of 2 and half hours, it drags out the final act longer than it needed too. Still, this is a solid thriller that deserves to be seen if you missed it in theaters. Although given its subject matter I don't know how well parents will appreciate the film's difficult storyline. But if you're simply in the mood for a good psychological drama, this one is one of the best from 2013. Rating: **** 1/2

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

It's revealing time

If you thought the 2005 Fantastic Four was the first and worst representation of the comic heroes on the silver screen you would be wrong on both accounts. Back in 1992 famed B-movie director Roger Corman took a stab at making a film about this superhero quartet. Though never officially released, version of the film have been leaked over the years to make it the stuff of legends. Now this cheesy, odd adaptation is getting new life in the form of a documentary about the making of the film and the curiosity behind it all these years later. Watch a trailer for the documentary below.

Get the clock started

We got some news on 24: Live Another Day yesterday including a new cast addition and the premiere date. Here's the information from tvline.com:
The time has come for a major 24 casting update: Yvonne Strahovski has boarded Fox’s forthcoming 12-episode event series, 24: Live Another Day, in a major role, TVLine has learned.

The Chuck and Dexter MVP will play Kate Morgan, a brilliant but impulsive CIA field operative in London. She joins franchise vets Kiefer Sutherland, Kim Raver, William Devane and Mary Lynn Rajskub, as well as Emmy winner Judy Davis, The Wire‘s Gbenga Akinnagbe and True Blood‘s Giles Matthey.

24: LAD, which will be shot in London and pick up four years after the series finale, will essentially be 24 ”compressed over 12 weeks,” Fox president Kevin Reilly previously explained. “It will go chronologically over the day, but it will skip hours.” It’s set to debut on Monday, May 5.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

People are literally falling for our Prices

Check out this instant classic moment from today's The Price is Right after this woman wins Most Expensive.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Book and movie review: Jack Reacher

As you no doubt know if you regularly read this blog, I began reading Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels after it was announced that they would be adapting one of the books into a movie. I wanted to read them in order and vowed not to see the movie until I had gotten through the book the the film was based on (which was the 9th in the series). It was a bit of fortuitous luck then that I recently bought myself an iPad and have been reading the books at a faster pace on there. At the same time, the film just happened to come onto Netflix instant viewing this past week. Now that I have read the book and seen the movie, here are my quick reviews for both.

Book: At times I've struggled with the Reacher series. I've found some of the stories to either have obvious twists or go too far with Reacher's approach at serving his brand of justice. However, this 9th book that the film was based on, titled One Shot, was one of the best in the series to this point. The best aspects of Reacher's character (his intellect, his steely resolve, his nobility) are emphasized and some of his weaker or more cliched qualities are only hinted at. The story itself moves very well with few slow points. It helps that this time there are plenty of compelling characters, both good and bad. I also enjoyed the fact that its location was a small town in Indiana. I've never enjoyed when one of the books takes place in a larger city where Reacher is constantly butting heads with big time bureaucrats. While there is plenty of action and violence, it's not drawn out in the same way that it has been in some of the other novels. This one is much more of a detective story and for that reason, One Shot is a solid page-turner. Grade: B+

Movie: Many people griped before the film was even released when it was announced that Tom Cruise would play the titular character. Given that the character is described as 6'5", muscular, with blond hair and blue eyes, the last person you would picture in that role is Cruise. I was willing to put that physical disparity aside for the sake of enjoying the movie. However, I ended up still believing Cruise was miscast because of the way he portrayed the character. Reacher is a loner by choice, but Cruise still uses his movie star charm that draws people in not tell them to stay away. Reacher also has a grouchy disposition most of the time, but Cruise still cracks wise and never treats this with the seriousness that he should. The movie also falters like most book adaptations do by taking shortcuts when it comes to delivering the complicated, intricate plot within a two hour timeframe. Three major female characters from the book have been completely removed from the film, leaving the burden on Rosamund Pike, who plays a lawyer who helps Reacher. While Pike can be good, she offers nothing of interest here. The film does a nice job of bringing in some A-list talent for the supporting roles including Robert Duvall, Richard Jenkins, and Werner Herzog as a deranged Russian villain (is there any other role for him?), but they do not do enough with their respective characters (at least in contrast to the way they are developed in the book) to justify their presence here. Despite some adaptation problems and Cruise being miscast, the film is not a total loser. The core story remains intact for the most part and is still interesting on the screen (it's understandable why they chose this one for the adaptation). Director Christopher McQuarrie also does some nice directing, particularly in the opening sniper scene and with an extended car chase sequence. While no doubt a disappointment for fans of Lee Child's books, the film offers some pulpy intrigue for those looking for some escapist fare in a movie. Given that a sequel has already been announced, I'll be interested in both reading the books that lead up to the next adaptation and to see if they address some of the problems that plagued this film. If you're a Netflix subscriber, this is probably worth a watch, especially if you're trapped inside by the weather over the next few days. Grade: B-

Friday, January 3, 2014

Go inside the House

From indiewire.com:
When season one of "House of Cards" premiered on Netflix February 1st of last year, it arrived with a major filmmaker attached -- David Fincher, who made his television directing debut with the first two episodes, and remains attached in the upcoming second season as an executive producer.

Fincher was joined by an impressive array of guest directors on the series -- James Foley ("Glengarry Glen Ross"), Charles McDougall ("Queer as Folk," "Sex and the City"), Carl Franklin ("Devil in a Blue Dress," "Out of Time"), Allen Coulter ("Hollywoodland," "The Sopranos") and, hey, Joel Schumacher.

Now Netflix has added director's commentary from all six episode directors on season one, available as an alternate audio track with each installment. It's an awfully cool feature, especially in the two Fincher episodes, which find the "Social Network" filmmaker talking in detail both about the scenes on screen and about how the series came together with writer/showrunner Beau Willimon and stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright and the rest of the cast. Among other things, Fincher shares what he said during the first read-through, when he greeted the group of actors, including those he'd worked with before and ones he hadn't.

I walked in and I got to say the thing I've always wanted to say to a cast, which is "Every single person in this room represents our first choice, so don't fuck this up. Cause if you do, I will never forgive you."

Season two of "House of Cards" will premiere in its 13-episode whole on Friday, February 14.