Category Archives: Movies

Review: Ant-Man

antmanThere is no denying Marvel Studios is currently one of the biggest American corporate studio out there, with 12 releases so far (out of which three films have crossed the 1 Billion worldwide mark). Due to a devout following and media presence, the studio has become accustomed to taking risks with indie filmmakers and head-scratching choices to direct their projects. From placing Shakespearean thespian Kenneth Branagh at the head of the visual effects heavy Thor to their first unbelievable hit Iron Man back in 2008, with the director of Elf funny man Jon Favreau, or handing off their symbol of patriotism andgood Captain America sequel (also the upcoming Civil War and Avengers 3) to Russo brothers, who had made a name for themselves directing comedy shows, Marvel has pushed their limits of risk by backing James Gunn to turn a gun-totting raccoon and a giant adorable tree into the most fun cinema-goers have had this decade. Now comes their biggest risk to date, their controversy heavy film due to exit of writer-director Edgar Wright.

For a few brief moments, the unstoppable juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) looked like it was about to grind to a halt with Ant-Man. Unlike most other films under the Marvel Studios umbrella, this production has been haunted by doubt and dissension. Fans were nervous about the narrative decisions to relegate Hank Pym – the original Ant-Man in the comic books – to the sidelines, while killing off his wife Janet Van Dyne (who, as the Wasp, is one of the founding members of the Avengers). Then came that hugely publicized parting of the ways between Marvel and original director Edgar Wright, who oozes so much geek cred that people understandably mourned his departure from the project after years of development. Edgar Wright who had been working on the project apparently since 2009, left just two weeks before production began! Stating creative difference with Marvel, mainly as his story apparently didn’t fit into Marvel‘s cinematic continuity & would work more as a stand alone project. Nevertheless, as expected a seemingly odd choice director Peyton Reed (who had previously directed the Jim Carrey starrer Yes Man), took over his reign. Let me make one thing clear, if you though Guardians of Galaxy was weird film, trust me this one enters a whole new level of weird. From the time the film was announced, I wondered how could one make a film on one of the most unlikable comic book character whose powers included the ability to shrink & control ants plus who had only two moments of rise to fame – 1) Yea, in the comic books Dr Hank Pym/ the 1st Ant-Man created Ultron (the big baddie of the recent Avengers film). 2) Pym’s emotional abuse of his wife which suddenly turned physical.

ant-picture-2Nevertheless, the film is ready and instead focuses on the second Ant-Man aka Scott Lang a film starring a nice guy, albeit Paul Rudd, the nicest guy in Hollywood since Chris Pratt. So does the film work? Well most of the time yes & sometimes no! It’s easier to see as a beautiful mess, rather than a well-crafted superhero flick with profound depth and sense . There’s a lot of illogical nonsense that always nearly sends the film to wreckage, but there’s also so much of the fun side to make up for the eventual narrative shortcomings. The story following Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a cat burglar who after finishing his sentence, just wants to reunite with his daughter Cassie and get his life back on track. But he soon discovers that people in the outside world – including his ex- wife Maggie (Judy Greer) and her cop fiancee Paxton (Bobby Cannavale) – aren’t particularly kind to former convicts. Beaten down by circumstances, he agrees to pull off one last heist with his eternally optimistic buddy Luis (Michael Pena). It’s a crime that places him squarely in the path of Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), a retired, semi-reclusive scientist aka the first Ant-Man and the inventor of the so-called Pym Particle, which allows the wearer of his suit to shrink to the size of an insect by shrinking the space between molecules and using the resulting density to possess a strength very much out of proportion to his size. Hank decides to enlist Scott in his life-long mission of preventing the Pym Particle from falling into the hands of the wrong hands. Especially his former protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) who plans to sell it off to the highest buyer. Scott has to learn to fight better than he had to in prison under the training of Pym’s estranged daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly). , he has to learn how to fully harness the power of the suit and he has to learn how to communicate with different kinds of ants, which he can then use to help him get around and accomplish certain tasks. All this requires a lot of training and practice, as well as a little help from Lang’s shady friends (played by Michael Pena, David Dastmalchian and T.I.) And, of course, someone as greedy, power-hungry and unscrupulous as Darren Cross isn’t going to take all this lying down. It’s safe to assume that he has a few tricks up his well-tailored sleeves. Similar to Guardians of the Galaxy, this whole idea sounds ridiculous on paper, but likewise the film is somewhat self-aware of this and just has fun with it while still making the story and drama substantial.

Ant-Man-Marvel-Contest-of-Champions

The comedy is executed well, making me laugh multiple times, a lot of that being due to Paul Rudd‘s and Michael Pena’s performances. The effects and actions scenes are definitely the highlight of the film. Ant Man’s power to shrink brings some refreshing visuals in terms of scale and the fight scenes are very well-choreographed, especially one involving a certain Avenger. I also like how this movie uses different species of ants, already such amazing animals, and on top of that, each species has its own unique abilities to assist the hero. The climax where it’s Ant Man vs Yellow jacket is definitely one of the best in MCU, with all the aforementioned aspects harmoniously coming into play. Truth be told, Ant-Man gets off to a somewhat shaky start. The tale of an honorable rogue who’s looking for a shot at redemption is a well-worn storytelling trope, one that the film initially seems to embrace rather too eagerly. As we watch Scott soldier through a host of tiny indignities, the dialogue – still credited to Wright and his co-writer Joe Cornish, with rewrites by Rudd and Adam McKay – is uninspired, and oftentimes uncomfortably on-the-nose. There’s no subtlety here, and the sense of fun that accompanies Scott’s attempt to hold down a job in Baskin Robbins feels a wee bit forced. Indeed, what makes Ant-Man work so well is its insistence on respecting its characters and taking their concerns and relationships seriously. This provides the film with an emotional anchor amidst all the madcap chaos and gleeful irreverence. Scott’s overpowering love for his young daughter runs parallel to Hank’s own concern for Hope, and even Paxton – initially caricatured as the stereotypical brutish new boyfriend – is given layers and depth beyond what might be expected of a film that seems so silly on the surface. This culminates in the film’s best action sequence: one that manages to be utterly ridiculous, as the camera cheekily zooms in and out of a conflict that’s entirely proportional to the size of its participants; but also deeply heartfelt, when Scott makes a split-second decision between life and probable death. But the film kicks into higher gear, and stays there, once Scott stumbles onto or, more accurately, steals his second chance.

Perhaps, one of the most immediately-noticeable difference of Ant-Man from its Marvel fellows is that it doesn’t engage into explosive battles that generally results to immeasurable destruction. It is noticeably evident on the fact that its most interesting and most jaw-dropping action set piece, happens in a toy train set. Most importantly, this new addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe places its comic prowess at the center of its general effort to validate its entry to the franchise, and that is achieved without putting the natural action/adventure tendency of its superhero, nor the inevitable emotional nature of its characters, at risk of getting overshadowed by the rudimentary elements of the narrative.

LillyBar640Speaking of the cons, despite a surprisingly sound rationalization of the physicality of Ant- Man (small yet compact, “like a bullet”), the film’s action sequences are tragically sparse. It’s a shame, as the unique size-changing fight choreography offers a few precious where the film momentarily sputters with some life and vigor. Surely a couple of minutes of Michael Douglas‘ droning could have been shaved off for a few more shots of unorthodox pounding? Ah, but that would require a director with even a skeletal grasp of energy, pace, or vision (ahem). Among the film’s immeasurable log of missed opportunities: no Lang entering the human body and attacking from within, and not even a fleeting glimpse of a triumphant Giant-Man transformation (at least one climactic moment provides an ideal setup). And the Wasp? Shamefully, unforgivably absent.

Right from the time the news of Paul Rudd‘s casting I was intrigued! Keeping the comic book character in mind & mixing it with Paul Rudd’s charm was sure to be a perfect blend. Rudd is such a delight here, and his presence and effortless take on his character make the mostly messed-up flow of the events, extremely palatable. Rudd puts his goofy and amiably charisma to excellent use as Scott, allowing us to believe that this one man can be as silly as he is strong, and as serious as he is funny. Paul Rudd brings a sort of average guy-charisma to the role, and you root for him and his redemption. Michael Douglas managed to capture Hank’s inner turmoil with what he was given. His anger, cynicism, and some tragic backstory (told to Scott + the audience by his daughter Hope) make Hank a compelling enough character. Although I would say I would have been really interested in seeing a more clearer version of his good ol days as the Ant-Man. Lilly gets the big-screen role she richly deserves in Hope, who’s acknowledged at every point in the film as being better, stronger, and more capable than the men around her think she is. Her character could’ve used more development, but at least her dialogue with Scott and Pym is sometimes amusing. Corey Stoll, on the other hand, is less impressive, barely providing the needed threat to make his presence felt and his belligerence imminent. A businessman who wants to utilize revolutionary technology for evil purposes? This is not a new concept, and one already played out in Iron-Man. Remember Obadiah Stane? Marvel unfortunately continues the trend of forgettable villains. But on moments where he and Lang engage in beautifully-choreographed fight scenes, the ineptitude gets relegated below the more important aspects of the proceedings, and once it does, the breathtaking visual schemes work under the spotlight, capturing Lang’s size-changing skill with epic elaborateness. There’s magic in every size shift, and the visual artistry is at its peak to deliver the moment. Michael Pena brings the laughs as Luis (Scott’s old cellmate in prison who he lives with once he gets out). Director Peyton Reed may not be the most experienced film maker out there, but right from the word go it was quite visible how he used Edgar Wright’s smart writing and humor to excellent use. It’s actually hard to gauge this film using the same measure that made the rest of its pack, mammoth and omnipotent powerful. But in its own right, and sub-atomic scale, this microscopic superhero is clearly a power behemoth, and it will surely spring back to its even bigger form, once the Avenger call is delivered.

On the whole, Ant-Man, may not be the best Marvel film out there (definitely better than Avengers: Age of Ultron and Iron Man 2),  But it’s an incredibly solid effort considering the character arc & the production troubles the film ensued into. Ant-Man may not edge out the other films that make up Phase Two of the MCU in a straw poll – it does, after all, face some pretty serious competition in what has been an unbroken run of truly excellent superhero films. Best to say, Ant-Man is different from other MCU movies, if not better. Its a fun frothy delight which works as antidote to the now predictable MCU movies. Give it a watch!

Overall Rating: 7

Director – Peyton Reed
Starring – Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 117 minutes

Review: Dark Places

1280x720-1EYI have always had a soft spot for mystery films where the audience is kept in an atmosphere of mystery & suspense as the finger is pointed on a different character every 15 minutes! While for the past few years most films of the genre failed to captivate, it was David Fincher‘s adaption of Gillian Flynn‘s Gone Girl starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike which broke the mold. Hence there is is no surprise as another novel (while this novel was written prior to Gone Girl) of the same author ended up getting a big screen treatment. What drew me to this film however wasn’t the genre nor the fact that Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult were going to be in this movie together again after their success in Fury Road, but the dark atmosphere (which I really enjoy) quite evident from the trailers. Even though the film doesn’t include the edge of your seat moments or a tight screenplay in comparison to Gone Girl, but still the story manages to captivate you and leaves you in suspense. Luckily as the title suggests, the film is ungodly & sinister while being an entertaining film. What do you expect from a story with a title like that? The story follows Libby Day (Charlize Theron), one of two known survivors of a massacre that took place in 1985 on the family farm in rural Kansas.

darkplaceeThe other survivor was her teenage brother, Ben (Tye Sheridan in the flashbacks, Corey Stoll in the present), who the 8-year-old Libby (Sterling Jerins) accused of the murder of his mother & two younger sisters, although it soon becomes clear that her testimony was shaky at best. She’s lived off the life insurance money and donations that many caring people have donated to her, but that money is all gone now and her depression hasn’t allowed her to move on with her life. When a young man named Lyle (Nicholas Hoult) offers her some money to come visit their club, “The Kill Club” she decides to go. They explain to Libby that they are a group of amateur investigators who like to explore unsolved cases. They are convinced her brother is innocent and they offer her more money to begin investigating what happened that tragic night. It’s not easy for Libby to revisit these dark memories of her past which have haunted her, but she begins by visiting her brother in prison. He reminds her of some events that took place during that time and as she begins to investigate we are introduced to several flashbacks of what actually happened. Flashbacks provide further clues, especially when we learn about Ben’s relationship with the rich and unstable Diondra (Chloe Grace Moretz) – something he kept secret from his sisters and mother, Patty (Christina Hendricks), a woman suffering under the weight of four kids and major financial strains. Yet beyond a few opening and closing remarks, Libby’s point of view is mostly absent from Paquet-Brenner’s script, which juggles a half-dozen narrative strands as it hops back and forth between events leading up to the murder and scenes of the older Libby trying to figure out what happened. She’s egged on by Lyle Wirth (Hoult), the creepy-friendly treasurer of a local “Kill Club” whose members obsess over serial killings, family massacres and other such atrocities, trying to finger the true culprits.

As with Flynn‘s other tale brought to the cinema, Gone Girl, there is a mystery at the heart of the story that leads to a surprise ending that has been carefully built up but is nonetheless completely unexpected. A constellation of great character actors helps populate this dreary landscape of poverty and despair. And it does end with a note of resolution and hope. Unlike Gone Girl, this movie does not have a major plot twist in the middle. Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner opts for social realism and darkness Which is a good thing, because it keeps the focus on the plot which is thick, and moves at breakneck speed. The past and the present are interwoven seamlessly until the end, which was surprisingly moving! The film does a great job of leading you on myriad paths of misdirection. The audience desperately following leads and evidence to discover the truth of what happened that fateful night in the when a family was brutally murdered, leaving two surviving siblings left standing when the carnage stopped. The multi-layered story is well paced and realistically utilizes real life murders and victims for a believable interpretation of a crime.

darkplacGillian Flynn and her fellow screenwriter of the adaptation, director Gilles Paquet-Brenner, do a marvelous job of refusing to resort to lazy exposition, showing rather than telling. The result is an engaging mystery that garners your full attention in the hopes you might be able to deduce the truth of the heinously bloody murders. Paquet-Brenner has translated the subject matter with cohesively gritty and complementary cinematography. Sure, its has its loop holes here & there, & I would suggest to avoid a comparison to Gone Girl (which is way superior in all forms) as the subject matters are quite different. Even though I would say I am satisfied with the ending, some may consider it a letdown based on the build up & the continuous guessing game of what actually happened! While fans of the novel have been complaining about the casting of Oscar winner Charlize Theron, as she apparently does not match the physicality of Flynn‘s written description. Not knowing this fact, Charlize Theron is flawless as the tortured lead Libby. Her Libby and the medley of supporting characters are gripping and match the brutal content of the film. Her brilliant performance may not get her another Oscar but she has again created a memorable character who suffers and is redeemed. Christina Hendricks is absolutely stellar. Nicholas Hoult, Chloe Grace Moretz, Tye Sheridan and Corey Stoll do a good job in their relatively smaller roles.

On the whole, Dark Places may not a tightly constructed screenplay as one would expect from such a film, yet the performances and the mystery manages to hook till the end of its running time. In my opinion, a satisfying tale of mystery that tells of savage desperation and sadistic cold-hearted murder. Given the weak and bland thrillers of recent years that shy away from the truly horrifying callous of human nature, fans of the genre should be pleased.

Overall Rating: 7.2

Director – Gilles Paquet-Brenner
Starring – Charlize Theron, Sterling Jerins, Nicholas Hoult
Rated – R
Run Time – 113 minutes

Review: Max

i4IjUStThis is film is yet another which divulges you into the feeling of nostalgia! Back in 80s and 90s, family film starring animals such as chimps & dogs as best friends with the star of the film being probably the most popular ones! With the change in decade & film making style, this is one genre of family films which were unfortunately (in most cases fortunately) pushed into the section of direct to DVD movies or TV specials (especially the holiday ones). But still who can forget films such as 101 Dalmatians (1996) or the Air Bud series or Marley & Me (2008) or Turner & Hooch (1989), OK I am just kidding about the last one!  This film is an old-fashioned action-adventure, very much in the tradition of earlier canine movie stars. There are clear-cut good guy and bad guy characters. Right and wrong are well-defined and values like loyalty and self-sacrifice are front and center. There is danger (shown with impressive cinematography) and even death, but no blood – and no swearing or sexuality. This is family-friendly fare at its finest, well almost.

MAX - 2015 FILM STILL - Pictured: ROBBIE AMELL as Kyle Wincott with MAX - Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures   © 2015 Warner Bros. Ent. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

This inspirational story won’t only make you explore your feelings in a refreshing way, it will also teach you about important life lessons along the way. The power of truth, honesty and the importance of opening your heart to those around you –to both humans and animals.- As you watch the growth of the main character in Max you will also feel yourself growing alongside of him. The story follows Max (played by a dog named Carlos, who previously appeared in Project Almanac), a Belgian Malinois (a type of Belgian Shepherd) who is employed as a military working dog, sniffing out weapons, explosives and other kinds of trouble for U.S. Marines in Afghanistan. When his handler, Kyle Wincott (Robbie Amell), is killed, Max accompanies the body back to the U.S. and is even brought to Kyle’s funeral. The dog formed such a strong bond with Kyle and was so traumatized by combat that he won’t obey anyone else. But Max is relatively calm around Kyle’s teenage brother, Justin (Josh Wiggins), so Justin’s parents, Ray (Thomas Hayden Church) and Pamela (Lauren Graham) decide to adopt the dog. Like it or not (mostly not), Justin is put in charge of taking care of Max. Justin learns a few tricks from a girl named Carmen (Mia Xitlali), the cousin of his best friend, Chuy (Dejon LaQuake), and in a very short time, Max is off leash and following Justin and his friends as they daringly ride their bikes through the woods near their homes. Max seems to be warming up to everyone except Tyler Harne (Luke Kleintank), a boyhood friend of Kyle’s and fellow Marine who was since returned from Afghanistan. Whenever Max sees Tyler, he wants to attack. Carmen tells Justin that dogs are usually good judges of character. Justin also senses that there is something not right about Tyler, even as Ray hires Tyler to work for him. Justin approaches another Marine dog handler (Jay Hernandez) for information about Tyler and does some deep forest reconnaissance of his own, with Max in tow.

I don’t want to reveal too much, so I’ll just say that Justin’s and Max’s instincts about Tyler are not wrong and what they discover in those woods jeopardizes their safety and that of their family and friends. The film starts off as a war drama & then quickly changes into the family drama part. Although most parts of the movie are indeed dramatizations, it can nicely recreate scenes inspired by real-life events.

max-1The scene where Max sits by Kyle’s coffin draped with the flag is among the most emotional scenes I have seen in a while. The most beautiful thing about this movie is how remarkably well the actors did at making this film bring out the raw truth and ‘real life’ events displayed throughout this movie. Carlos (real life Belgian Malinois in the film) did an absolutely amazing job at bringing to life the character of Max and making everyone fall in love with this true hero. I have seen some good dog films before but by far this canine outdid every other dog ‘actor’ I have seen. Sure the film has its own faults, mainly when the film unnecessarily tries to circumvent to get the audience to feel something grand and, in doing so, undermines the inherent emotional value of this story at hand. I get its tough being from an army family. The first half of the movie is pretty slow. Some of the dialog is not just old-fashioned, it distractedly lacks freshness and even a little silly. Yet thanks to the good flow of its central characters the film manages to work. First and foremost, Josh Wiggins handles Justin’s character perfectly, with his believable teenage stubbornness, his character is most believable. Thomas Haden Church gives a strong performance of the kind of father who’s experiences in the Marines defined him as a person so much so that he can’t understand why anybody else wouldn’t think or act like him. Church has it all in his look and tone of voice, summoning fright in anyone who dares question his authority. Robbie Amell is likable in a small role. Luke Kleintank, Lauren Graham, Mia Xitlali, Dejon LaQuake & Jay Hernandez do a good job.

On the whole, Max, is something I really wasn’t expecting, with all the right components to make families smile, laugh, tear up, and applaud, this film is destined to be a crowd pleaser! On a technical level, sure it’s a mess, maybe they could have worked with a better story line, but nonetheless you have to admit the characters & the lead dog more than make up for the negatives. Give it a watch!

Overall Rating: 7.2

Director – Boaz Yakin
Starring – Thomas Haden Church, Josh Wiggins, Luke Kleintank
Rated – PG
Run Time – 111 minutes

Movie Review: Before We Go

before we goChris Evans has been around for sometime, acting mostly as comedic goof ball or a charming play boy in most of the movies he has done. Well of course, Hollywood usually doesn’t take pretty boys seriously hence the familiar roles. In my opinion, it wasn’t until he donned himself as a symbol of patriotism in Marvel’s superhero entry Captain America: First Avenger (followed by Avengers, Winter Soldier and the Avengers sequel) and Korean director Joon-ho Bong English language debut Snowpiercer, a brilliant futuristic thriller, people noticed something. But frankly their has always been something like-able about him, you gotta admit, eve though he has starred in some horrid romantic comedies, he was probably the best part of them. It doesn’t come as a surprise, like many of his fellow actors, its time he gets on the directors chair. Especially as it seemed that he was getting pegged as either the hero, fanciable guy or main character who’s point of view determines the story arc like in most of his filmography. So how is Evans as a director? Pretty good actually! Yes! the story may remind people of Before Sunrise, but it takes a slightly different road. It has an interesting and delicate perspective on love, loss & making choices based on profound love and not just lust.

5b094f8fb6b5e25717a88467c9a630e3c7940f58The story follows Nick Vaughan (Chris Evans), a Bostonian trumpet player who is due to go to an interview for the job of his dreams the next morning, & instead of staying in his room resting or practicing, he decides to hang out at the grand central station playing for the crowd & admiring the people. Its here where he meets Brooke Dalton (Alice Eve), an art enthusiast & buyer who misses her last train to her home in Boston. Above all, she has been robbed of her bag & is left with only a ticket for the train which leaves next at 5:30 am. Forced to leave station after it closes, Nick offers his help to make sure she reaches her home in Boston before Brooke’s husband lands in Atlanta. From there, Nick and Brooke spend the next four hours trying to get Brooke back to Boston, then helping each other with their real concerns. The best part of the story, probably the most unusual fact in terms of how Rom Coms usually play out rather banal because the man ends up convincing the woman to drop everything and be in a relationship. This time though, Nick and Brooke start as strangers and end up as connected somehow through their shared experiences.

The movie is not the kind of romance that shows to have a marriage of happily forever after, but instead it shows the deepest life moments in such a few hours. It brought in a realistic message on how one can actually love more than one person in this world. It is funny, thoughtful (but not over dramatized), clever and sensitive at the same time. Finally a film where love, a man and a woman and the relationship between them is treated with respect, gentleness and is elevating, and refreshing instead of getting all mushy from the moment they meet. Its really amazing to know how the film took just 19 days to shoot! Chris Evans‘s directorial debut is completely changing the pace as he shifts away from his action-oriented career as Captain America for something more intimate and personal. And he has not a single problem capturing the drama from a performance point of view. Evans has a certain charm to him that feels welcoming and warm and exactly like the guy that you’d want to wonder around New York City with.

tumblr_n9he0uxlBg1rvecl6o1_1280He’s the best kind of company and his character Nick is essentially an extension of that idea and it works well. Alice Eve comes with a little more baggage, but both seem to be the perfect match as they unravel their lives over the course of one interesting evening. It’s fun watching Evans and Eve go back and forth, constantly bringing up topics of discussion that stretch far past normal standards of conversation. They’re not afraid to get up close and personal and that sort of energy feels authentic enough to give the film some good graces. Even though I have only seen the 1st installment of Richard Linklater‘s Before trilogy, I do understand what the reviews are complaining about! Mainly as that film established a similar theme and is still fresh in the mind of the views even though it came out two decades ago! Plus it feels the film constantly feels the need to remind us why these two characters are still associating with each other — be it a stolen purse, lack of cash or credit card funds or the fact that neither of them seem to know many people in NYC that can help them get where they need to be. And that’s a big killer for the film, because it makes everything feel like an obligation for the story to move forward and less like an organic story coming to life as the night takes over.

Still, as a filmmaker Chris Evans manages to keep the story feeling engaging enough to not be considered a complete waste of time thanks to Evans as an actor and his gorgeous costar Alice Eve. On the whole, Before We Go‘, is fine debut for Chris Evans on the director chairs. With a simple vision to warrant a story, he has made a film which captures hearts. Plus the film highlights how Evans and Eve’s can star in action vehicles, but also steal the show on a much smaller scale. Give it a watch!

Overall Rating: 7.8

Director – Chris Evans
Starring – Chris Evans, Alice Eve, Maria Breyman
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 89 minutes

Z2 Comics Publisher Josh Frankel & Filmmaker and Producer Sridhar Reddy Launch Modern Prometheus Production Company

z2logoblueThe publisher of Z2 Comics, Josh Frankel, and independent filmmaker Sridhar Reddy have announced the formation of a new production company, Modern Prometheus. Frankel and Reddy will both serve as Co-Chairman and will be responsible for sourcing and developing comic book intellectual property and overseeing media finance, operations and production. Modern Prometheus will have a first look option for all Z2 Comics publications, including their recently announced line of creator owned comic books and their expanded graphic novel slate.

Modern Prometheus already has film and television projects in varying stages of production, including:

  • A Welcome to Showside animated pilot, based on the upcoming Z2 Comic book series by Ian McGinty, with an ensemble cast including iconic musician Henry Rollins. McGinty is serving as writer and showrunner and the pilot is slated for completion in the fourth quarter of this year. A Welcome to Showside features the adventures of Kit, a lovable kid with a monstrous secret: his dad is the Great Shadow King and he wants Kit to take over the family business of destroying the world. The first issue of the ongoing comic book series will be released by Z2 Comics in October 2015.
  • A live action adaptation of One Trick Rip-Off, the New York Times bestselling graphic novel from Eisner Award-winning writer/artist Paul Pope. Pope is Executive Producer on the film. The screenplay by Sridhar Reddy tells the story of young lovers Tubby and Vim who want to escape the mistakes they’ve made, the lives they’ve lived, and the city weighing them down. Their plan is simple: all they have to do is rip-off Tubby’s pals, the One Tricks – the toughest street gang in the city. If they pull it off, they’re set for life. If not, their lives won’t matter much anyway.

This deal has been a almost a year in the making and the culmination of a lot of work.

Review: Justice League: Gods and Monsters

Justice-League-Gods-and-Monsters-2015-movie-posterAnimation legend Bruce Timm returns to the popular DC Universe Original Movies with his unique new vision of a Justice League you’ve never seen before. Justice League: Gods & Monsters features a Superman born of General Zod’s blood, a Batman with a healthy dose of bat in the man, and a Wonder Woman rising from the ranks of the New Gods. This ain’t your daddy’s Justice League. They are as likely the world’s saviors as Earth’s despotic rulers. When a group of famed scientists experience untimely “accidents,” a government task force follows the trail of clues to the Justice League — and into a high stakes game of intrigue, mystery and action that asks the question: How do you serve justice to those above the law?

This newest animated movie based on DC Comic characters is a fascinating one in that it really puts a lot of interesting new takes on characters, and while it goes far in some points, it also doesn’t go far enough and explore others. The concept of a Superman not only of Zod’s blood, but raised by immigrant parents is potentially amazing, and worthy of a film all to itself. However to socio and political impact of such a change is only handled by a few sentences or some words in Spanish.

jlgm-group06jpg-806cceChanges for Wonder Woman and Batman too are interesting, and while they get a bit more of a focus on their past, more so than Superman, that is more to really show us what is different in their origin, or provide the reasoning behind something that matters in the film.

The movie reminds me of the classic DC Elseworlds line of comics, spinning out different versions of characters we know. The movie is entertaining, it’s also not super deep other than different versions of characters we know. The murder mystery story is interesting, and gives us a threat that isn’t just another super villain to punch.

The voice acting is solid, I liked the cast, featuring Michael C. Hall as Batman, Benjamin Bratt as Superman, Tamara Taylor as Wonder Woman, and many more who you’d recognize. It’s rare that I’ve had issues with Warner Bros.’ voice casting for their films, and this is no exception there.

I think overall, the movie screams potential for me. There’s tons here to mine and dive deeper in to, I want to see more of it. What we get is very entertaining, but shallow in some ways. I will say, the spin on classic characters, with so many nods for long time fans, will keep DC Comic fans entertained throughout.

Overall rating: 8

Warner Bros./DC Comics provided a FREE copy for review

Ant-Man Holds of Pixels to Stay on Top

ant-man movie posterIn the early reports for the weekend box-office, Ant-Man has barely held off Pixels to remain in the top spot for the weekend. The film earned an estimated $24.765 million, and Pixels earned an estimated $24 million.

Ant-Man benefited from Pixels poor reviews top hold out, and crossed the $100 million mark. It has earned around $106 million, which it earned in 10 days. So far globally Ant-Man has earned $225.5 million and still has numerous territories to open up in.

In other geeky movie news. Minions held on to third place earning $22.1 million to bring its global total to $759.4 million. Jurassic World added $6.9 million domestically to bring its total to $1.542 billion. Terminator: Genisys added $2.4 million and stands at $305.1 million. Avengers: Age of Ultron continues to earn adding $347,000 to its domestic total. It now stands at $1.396 billion.

Domestically, Jurassic World stands as the top domestic earner with $623.8 million. Avengers: Age of Ultron is second with $456.6 million, and Furious 7 is third with $351 million.

Worldwide, Jurassic World has earned $1.542 billion to be in first, Furious 7 is second with $1.512 billion, and Avengers: Age of Ultron is third with $1.396 billion.

2015 Japan Film Fest of San Francisco Adds 16 Films

JFFSF15-LOGO-MAINThe 2015 Japan Film Festival of San Francisco (JFFSF), the first and only fully-dedicated Japanese film celebration for the S.F. Bay Area, has just announced 16 additional films that will screen as part of this year’s program.

Presenting a diverse array of current and acclaimed Japanese cinema, this year’s slate features a number of notable Japanese films across a variety of genres such as action, anime sci-fi, documentary, short film, historical drama, crime drama, coming-of-age, and romantic mystery. The just-announced films augment an extensive roster of titles already announced to run during the weekend of the 2015 J-POP Summit, taking place at Fort Mason on Saturday and Sunday August 8th and 9th

The 2015 Japan Film Festival of San Francisco opens in conjunction with the 2015 J-POP Summit on Friday, August 7th at the Castro Theatre, and runs thru Sunday, August 16th at New People Cinema located inside the NEW PEOPLE entertainment complex in Japantown at 1746 Post St., San Francisco, CA 94115. Tickets to individual screenings are $13.00 each, unless otherwise noted.

The latest announced films will run at the NEW PEOPLE Cinema beginning the week of Monday August 10th with screenings continuing until Sunday, August 16th.

THE KINGDOM OF DREAMS AND MADNESS

Monday, August 10th, 7:00pm

Granted near-unrestricted access to the notoriously isolated Studio Ghibli, director Mami Sunada follows the three men who are the lifeblood of Ghibli – the eminent director Hayao Miyazaki, producer Toshio Suzuki, and the elusive and influential “other director,” Isao Takahata – over the course of a year as the studio rushes to complete two films, Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises and Takahata’s The Tale of Princess Kaguya.

 

HARAJUKU DENIER

Monday, August 10th, 9:20pm

This film unfolds in Harajuku, the melting pot of Tokyo and the epicenter of many popular sub-cultures. The lives of many young and dream-filled eccentrics, teenyboppers, narcissists, tourists, and workers from various countries – cutting-edge filmmaker Shuta Tanaka humorously captures the amalgamation of cultures found in today’s Harajuku in an ensemble cast comedy.

 

LITTLE FOREST – SUMMER & AUTUMN

Tuesday, August 11th, 7:00pm

Here comes the farm-to-table film for foodies! Little Forest, Summer Autumn is a beautiful adaptation of the popular comic by Daisuke Igarashi about a young woman’s self-discovery through farming, cooking, and eating to live through the changing seasons. Ichiko moves back from the city to the tiny village in Northeastern Japan where she grew up and starts living a sustainable lifestyle that she learned from her mother.

 

THE WIND RISES

Tuesday, August 11th, 9:15pm

Hayao Miyazaki pays tribute to engineer Jiro Horikoshi and author Tatsuo Hori in his creation of the fictional character Jiro – the center of the epic tale of love, perseverance, and the challenges of living and making choices in a turbulent world. Inspired by the famous Italian aeronautical designer Caproni – Jiro dreams of flying and designing beautiful airplanes and grows to become one of the world’s most accomplished airplane designers.

 

UZUMASA LIMELIGHT

Wednesday, August 12th, 7:00pm

A nostalgic portrait of kirare-yaku – an actor whose forte is being “cut to death” with a sword in samurai films, Uzumasa Limelight goes behind the scenes of the distinctive film genre. A professional extra named Kamiyama (played by real-life kirare-yaku Seizo Fukumoto) has devoted 50 years of his life as a kirare-yaku. When the studio decides to discontinue its productions, he finds himself at a loss. Will the art of dying by the sword live on?

 

WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE

Wednesday, August 12th, 9:00pm

The newest feature from Japan’s famed Studio Ghibli is a sweeping story of friendship, mystery and discovery that delivers breathtaking animation that only Ghibli can bring to life. When shy and artistic Anna moves to the seaside to live with her aunt and uncle, she stumbles upon an old mansion surrounded by marshes, and a mysterious young girl named Marnie. The two girls instantly form a unique connection that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality.

 

THE CASE OF HANA AND ALICE

Thursday, August 13th, 7:00pm

Directed by multi-faceted filmmaker Shunji Iwai, The Case of Hana & Alice follows Tetsuko Arisugawa (a.k.a. Alice), a transfer student at Ishinomori Middle School. She hears a strange rumor about a murder case in school. Meanwhile, Alice’s classmate Hana is said to know something about the case… Was Judas really murdered? Hana and Alice embark on an adventure to solve the mystery of the “smallest murder in the world.”

 

HAVE A SONG ON YOUR LIPS

Thursday, August 13th, 9:00pm

This touching school drama unfolds around Yuri Kashiwagi, a former piano prodigy, who returns to her hometown to work as a temporary music teacher and supervise the chorus members at the local middle school. While practicing for the regional contest, chorus members get an assignment from Yuri to write a letter to themselves in 15 years. Facing their personal issues, Yuri and her students begin to find their own voices.

 

OUR FAMILY

Friday, August 14th, 7:00pm

From Yuya Ishii, the award-winning director of The Great Passage, comes this honest adaptation of a semi-autobiographical novel about a family that pulls together to fight a terminal illness will resonate close to the heart. Reiko’s daydreams and forgetfulness were not concerning to her broken family until a trip to the doctor reveals that she has brain cancer. With Reiko given only one week left to live, how will this dysfunctional family keep from falling apart?

 

KABUKICHO LOVE HOTEL

Friday, August 14th, 9:20pm

Directed by Ryuichi Hiroki, one of Japan’s leading directors in the erotic fantasy genre known as pinku (pink films), Kabukicho Love Hotel is an erotically charged drama that traces the intersecting stories of a group of employees and visitors at a notorious “Love Hotel” (a type of short-stay hotel in Japan used primarily for sexual activities) in Tokyo’s red-light district- from a sexless young couple with broken dreams to a middle-aged couple on the run.

 

100 YEN LOVE

Saturday, August 15th, 12:00pm

32-year-old slacker Ichiko lives with her parents until a fight with her disapproving sister escalates, prompting her to move out and start working at a local 100-yen shop. One day she meets boxer Yuji, whom she has seen passing by on his way home and becomes attracted to him. After her life takes more unexpected and unwanted turns, she takes up boxing herself and attempts to change her ways.

 

TOKYO SHORT SHORTS 2015: A New Generation of 5 Short Films

Saturday, August 15th, 2:30pm

Co-presented by Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia. By popular demand, JFFSF teams up again with the Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia to present the exclusive SF premiere of five outstanding short films directed by several up-and-coming filmmakers from Japan! Enjoy a colorful mix of comedy and drama that reflect life in Japan with a delicate and witty touch.

 

THE BIRTH OF SAKÉ

Saturday, August 15th, 4:30pm & Sunday August 16th, 12:00pm – Director Erik Shirai will attend both screenings followed by Q&A sessions

The Birth of Saké is a cinematic documentary that reveals the story of passionate saké-makers and what it takes to make world-class saké at Yoshida Brewery, a 144-year-old family-owned small brewery in Northern Japan. Director Erik Shirai and producer Masako Tsumura were granted unprecedented full access to film at the brewery and capture the intense and relatively unknown process (even within in Japan), of traditional saké making.

 

THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA

Saturday, August 15th, 7:00pm

This Academy Award nominated film is legendary Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata’s (Grave of the Fireflies, Pom Poko) rendition of Japan’s most famous folktale, that has been decades in the making. Found inside a shining stalk of bamboo by an old bamboo cutter, a tiny baby girl grows rapidly into an exquisite young lady. The mysterious young princess enthralls all who encounter her – but ultimately she must confront her fate, the punishment for her crime.

 

INITIATION LOVE

Sunday August 16th, 2:30pm

Co-starring ex-AKB star Atsuko Maeda and Shota Matsuda, this romantic mystery is based on the bestselling novel by Kurumi Inui. In the late 1980s, a college student in Shizuoka Prefecture named Suzuki begins a romance with a dental hygienist named Mayu. However, when Suzuki moves to Tokyo for his job and the two are forced into a long-distance relationship, their relationship starts to fall apart as Suzuki begins spending time with another woman named Miyako.

 

0.5MM

Sunday August 16th, 5:00pm

Co-presented by the Legacy Film Festival on Aging. Director Momoko Ando takes on the big subjects of Japan’s historical, social and emotional psyche with her second feature epic. Based on the director’s own novel and starring her sister Sakura Ando in the leading role of Sawa, an oddly determined caregiver for the elderly, the film is a lengthy yet magnetic road movie that brilliantly captures Sawa’s unexpected encounters and unique relationships with the elderly.

Radio of Horror Interviews Director Tom Holland

We interview the Director of Fright Night and Child’s Play, Tom Holland, and talk about the actor who shares his name that has been cast as Spider-Man. Tom talks with us about Worcester MA and Tom Holland’s Twisted Tales.

Review: Trainwreck

trainwreck0Amy Schumer is an important comic pop culture icon thanks to her often intelligent, subversive satire on gender politics and her inherent existence as an empowered female public figure. With Trainwreck, a movie she wrote and stars in, Schumer makes a consequential dive in her career into not just film acting but also into screenwriting. There is a clear attempt to bring a feminist mentality draped in the familiar sleaze that director Judd Apatow has made a staple of modern comedies and it occasionally shines through, but not without some clawing and gasping for air required to brave the unfortunate misogyny and homophobia that ends up ultimately defining the movie more than anything else. Trainwreck is a well-acted movie with some hilarious bits, but as a whole it’s a massively disappointing movie that embraces the kind of straight male thought process it appears on the surface to reject.

Schumer’s main character, naturally named Amy, is not the playful kind of sexually promiscuous woman that modern feminism champions, but the “whore” boogieman that patriarchy loves to demonize. It’s admirable to have a female character that is portrayed as a more average, conflicted character rather than a lazy, feel-good role-model, but that foundation isn’t built upon in any compelling way. Instead, the cheating, aimless woman who jumps from man to man is just a foundation for an aggravating redemption arc, in which the apparent harlot becomes a civilized member of society who strives for a monogamous relationship and perhaps two-and-a-half kids.

What’s so problematic about this is that the movie never even attempts to demonstrate that Amy actually desires monogamy over the casual sex her character shows throughout the vast majority of the movie to love. Sure, it’s apparent that the repeated personal failures of cheating and the drunken, confused mornings in strange beds distresses her, but to say that those two things accurately sum up a sexual lifestyle focused on casual sex is ludicrous and insulting to people who decide monogamy isn’t for them and that sex is an activity sought out for no-strings fun. And that is exactly what the movie preaches, when it gives us a redemption arc about a woman who loves casual sex and doesn’t understand the appeal of monogamous relationships realizes she is broken, something the character says in her own words actually, whenever she accepts society’s obsession with monogamy despite growing reason to be skeptical of such an obsession. trainwreck2

The movie’s entire selection of female characters really is sad, too. There’s a lot of woman poked fun at for being too prudish, there’s a few other women that pose as straw-men for women who love casual sex actually being serial harassers and creeps, there’s a woman in charge of a sex-focused lifestyle magazine who is morally monstrous and cartoonishly blind to the sexism she promotes, and so on and so forth.

Trainwreck is a romantic comedy and the obligatory love interest is Bill Hader’s Aaron, a conflicting character. On one hand, Hader does a wonderful job of portraying a charming and lovely man and has great chemistry with Schumer. Scenes that eschew dialogue for simple moments of kissing and touching are beautifully done. However, Aaron’s character falls pretty squarely into the “nice guy” archetype; you know, the kind of guy Men’s Rights Activists love championing in the face of those blasted, cheating whores who usually go for those handsome assholes. As a whole, the relationship between the two never justifies itself logistically either, the movie never showing evidence to support either of them liking each other to such the strong extent that they do.

Aaron, who is a doctor for famous professional athletes, has a friend in LeBron James, whose character is easily the most consistently feminist part of the movie. He shows genuine, cute concern for his friend Aaron’s pursuit of a woman, not getting tripped up on inappropriate sexual objectification through uncomfortable guy-talk and convincing Amy to pursue Aaron seriously when he could easily slide in for a hook-up. trainwreck3

And listen, the movie really does manage to be funny pretty often. There are lots of great little bits, like when a bunch of men have really hilariously barbaric yet realistic conversations about sports stars. There’s an entire movie-within-the-movie toward the beginning, when Amy goes on a movie date, and it is hysterical but wholly unrelated to the rest of the movie. There’s good drama too, with a sweet father-daughter relationship between Amy and her dad that culminates into a particularly sad and brilliantly-written speech.

It’s just not enough to counter-balance the much more focal portions of the movie that are so problematic. There’s a consistent streak of homophobia in the movie, from subtle to incredibly, horribly uncomfortable. The movie pokes fun at John Cena’s masculinity in a role he plays early in the movie, but it quickly devolves into lazy and unfunny exaggeration that portrays him as almost certainly gay rather than simply less masculine that he’d like to think he is. What’s much worse is a scene almost at the end of the movie in which Amy attempts to sleep with a stereotypically gay but actually straight or bisexual boy played by Ezra Miller, a gay actor defined by his moving role as a gay teen who faces horrible adversity in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

The scene ruthlessly mocks him for enjoying to be submissive in the bedroom through acts that will come off as extremely mundane for any sexually-active gay or bisexual man in the audience. It ends with a sequence of events that embodies the “trainwreck” descriptor more than anything else in the movie, when the movie mocks him again with an out-of-character decision to hit Amy across the face without any kind of consent, prompting her to violently punch him in the face, sending him literally crying to his mother as Amy learns he is 16 and faces no legal repercussion and no extra challenges to face in the movie; in fact, her getting fired at the magazine she worked at seems to have empowered her to take on better career opportunities.

trainwreck1 I don’t want to sound hyperbolic when I said that the scene gave me a physically discomforting feeling in my stomach and made me want to leave the theater. What makes this scene so much worse is keeping in mind a previous moment in the movie whenever Amy combats another character who says that she doesn’t know how to tell her kids about gay people by muttering, “you can just tell them they’re people,” or something similar. Trainwreck is an excellent example of homophobia hidden behind disingenuous Hollywood liberalism.

At the point of that disturbing scene, the movie truly lost me, but the rest of the movie was still poor. You see, there was a moment earlier in the movie whenever Amy shows a strongly-worded distaste for cheerleaders, saying that they will lose women the right to vote. It’s perhaps the only opinion on gender politics the character expresses the entire time, but she throws it away to perform as a cheerleader for Aaron in a big, aggrandized apology over a fight that seemed to require compromise from both of them in the first place. It’s an ending I’m glad was rushed, because I wanted the whole thing to end.

I laughed during Trainwreck, and am impressed by the performances, more than a few jokes, some of the drama and a character moment here and there. Unfortunately, what stuck with me much more was the movie’s backwards messaging that proves sexist, with some thoroughly troubling homophobia along the way. For a movie with so many filthy, raunchy jokes, it’s hard to think of a movie in recent memory more antagonistic towards sexually-free liberation.

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