Tag Archives: woody harrelson

Andy Serkis to Direct Venom 2

The Hollywood Reporter has an exclusive that Andy Serkis will be directing Venom 2. Serkis seemingly confirmed the news on Twitter. Tom Hardy will return in the title roles of the Marvel Comics characters Eddie Brock and Venom.

Venom earned $213.5 million domestically, $642.6 million internationally for a worldwide total of just shy of $856.1 million. It was the 13th highest-grossing film of 2018 domestically and 7th highest-grossing worldwide.

This will be Serkis’ third directorial gig after 2017’s Breath and 2018’s Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, which ended up on Netflix after being made at Warner Bros.

Serkis rose to fame through his motion-capture work such as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He also was part of the second unit directing with the Hobbit trilogy. Serkis was Klaw in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther, so he’s already been part of the Marvel family. Though Venom is with Sony, Spider-Man’s last two films have been joint ventures between Sony and Marvel.

Kelly Marcel wrote the script for Venom 2. It’s expected that Woody Harrelson will also be part of the film after he was teased at the end of Venom as Cletus Kasady, aka Carnage, a villain of the character as well as Spider-Man.

Movie Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

We’ve all heard the rumors and know the reality that Solo: A Star Wars Story, the latest entry into the yearly Star Wars movie release schedule, was a full on production disaster. Directors were replaced. Rumors of actors unable to do the basics and in need of coaches. A script that was a mess. With all of that you’d expect what has wound up on screen to be an utter disaster. But, that’s the farthest thing from reality. Solo: A Star Wars Story is actually pretty fun.

Is it high art? No. Is it as good as the original trilogy? No. But, it’s a solid popcorn film that has enough new and enough winks and nods to make Star Wars fans and non-fans happy.

If you go into the film expecting what has come before, you’l be disappointed. Solo: A Star Wars Story is a departure from what has been released in many ways. While it is the second stand-alone film, Rogue One being the first, it’s also the first real stand alone film. Rogue One was a prequel to the original trilogy tying directly into it with its final scene and delivering a pretty key story to the adventure. Solo is something different. While the film obviously ties into everything that has happened, it also isn’t a vital tie-in. It’s a film set in the Star Wars universe as opposed to a film that’s a must watch fleshing out the story of the original trilogy.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is interesting in so many ways because of all of this. The film is the right direction for the franchise and while it stumbles at times, it’s entertaining. The story follows Solo as he joins the criminal underworld and we see key moments of his career. There’s his meeting of Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian but there’s also a lot that’s new. There’s also some interesting fleshing out of the Star Wars universe with hints and direct tie-ins that should make long time fans happy.

Solo is a gangster/crime/heist film set in the Star Wars universe. At its heart there’s little that’s new. A job is screwed up and the crew must make up for it with a bigger heist. That plot has been seen before. But, it hasn’t been seen in a Star Wars film. The heist plot has been seen in the animated spin-offs though and this film feels like it has more in common with Star Wars: Rebels, the latest animated television series, than anything else.

The film hits the right notes and at times things feel like a checklist when it comes to that. We get Chewie, Lando, and the Kessel run. None of it is surprising and it’s all fan service. But, it’s a fun ride with some great visuals and a presentation that feels unique.

The cast is all over in their ability. Alden Ehrenreich steps into the role Harrison Ford made as Han Solo and at times he channels Ford and at other times he’s about as far away in delivery as one can get. It’s not bad but it’s also not a star-making turn. Joonas Suotamo repeats as Chewbacca and the character feels appropriately younger and more physical. Woody Harrelson as Becket is the gang leader and he brings his curled smile that he delivers in so many roles. Emilia Clarke is the love interest who is good but something is missing that we get at the end of the film. Where her character goes is what we should have seen more of. Donald Glover steals the show as Lando Calrissian. He channels Billy Dee Williams at times sounding exactly like Williams. Glover’s performance emphasizes how off Ehrenreich’s Solo is at times. Glover is so good it makes every else look far behind (other than Suotamo). Thandie Newton‘s Val is underused and Paul Bettany‘s creepy Dryden Vos is a sleezy mob boss and great on screen. The film’s break out star is Phoebe Waller-Bridge‘s L3-37, the film’s robot compadre. L3-37’s belief in robot rights and being convinced of Lando’s crush is the thing of entertainment and delivers something special to a film which would be so much less without.

As I mentioned, the film visually is great and the characters and sets look fantastic. This is a grittier film in many ways showing the coldness of space and the Empire’s machine. This is a Star Wars universe I want to see more of. We can have stories set in the world that isn’t just an extension of the original trilogy’s story. We need spin-offs that can stand on their own.

The film isn’t perfect, far from it, but it is fun and entertaining. There’s some great sequences and it’s possible my lowered expectations due to the on-set drama may have had me expecting very little. While it may nit be as good as the original trilogy it’s definitely better than the prequels and well worth the price of admission. And, the film has me wanting to see what’s next.

Overall Rating: 7.0

Movie Review: War for the Planet of the Apes

Somebody get Andy Serkis an Oscar, stat. And possibly Woody Harrelson. Then get ready to think deep thoughts about what it means to be human, to feel all the strong feelings you can think of, and to watch one hell of a summer action movie.

War for the Planet of the Apes is one of the few third films in a trilogy that in no way disappoints. It is, in some ways, the best of the three. It’s the strange summer blockbuster that doesn’t skimp on the action but still manages to leave us deeply pondering our own existence.

The new film ends only a few years after the close of the last film. Caesar (Serkis as the masterful CGI-mocap ape creation) is considering leading his people out of their home in the woods north of San Francisco to a new promised land. (They lay on the Moses symbolism pretty heavily). far away from the humans whose soldiers continue to lead attacks against them.

Their leader is The Colonel (Harrelson) whose soldiers form a squad (really more of a cult) called Alpha-Omega.  Their attacks on the apes are not without purpose, as we learn (slowly, deliberately) the Colonel’s tragic backstory and why they believe they are fighting for their lives. As part of this, they end up enslaving most of Caesar’s people and force them to build a giant wall around their base, setting up a final act that is mostly a prison break.

There is a battle of wills between Caesar and The Colonel, and an internal ethical struggle they both face on the brink of extinction. How far will I go? To see revenge? To protect my people? They are perfect foils for one another and especially amazing performances given that Harrelson and Serkis are playing off each other with one of them in a mocap suit.

But one of the best parts of the film is one of the new characters– a former zoo chimp who calls himself Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) who dresses in human clothes and adds very needed comic relief to a very otherwise heavy, dense narrative.

And for those who missed the first two films? Everything you need to know is told in a couple of title cards at the opening. You’d be fine walking into this completely unaware of any of the other films — a true rarity for a franchise film such as this.

Perhaps even more spectacular, there are numerous nods, references, homages, and Easter Eggs to the other films in the series. Fans will get payoff in ways the rest of the audience won’t quite grasp, but it never feels like fanservice or like anyone is left out.

In short– it’s the perfect film no matter how familiar you are with the Apes universe.

Speaking of homages, they are almost too numerous to mention. But needless to say that the fact that Harrelson is playing a Colonel should not be lost on anyone, as the second half of the film could basically be described as Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now running the prison camp in The Great Escape. Having mentioned the heavy Moses symbolism, this also draws heavily from both the Old Testament story and The Ten Commandments as there is a definite Charlton Heston vs. Yul Brenner level of gravitas in the interplay between our two lead characters.

There is also a surprising amount of prescient social commentary in the film. The fact that the humans are trying to build a wall should not be lost on anyone and may, perhaps, date the film a little bit. The Colonel plays the best on-screen fascist in a big budget Hollywood film since Domhnall Gleeson yelled at stormtroopers in The Force Awakens. So the commentary hits home, if a bit on the nose. But if you take it as a human instinct to desperately and futilely build walls in order to protect ourselves from forces beyond our control, the commentary lands a little more softly.

But, regardless of politics, it should inspire all of us to consider how desperation and grief lead us to make decisions opposed to our morals.

It bears considering, however, in a world filled with CGI apes that the film still can’t manage to pass the Bechdel Test. One can even bring the claim that female characters are “refrigerator-ed” to provide reason for the male characters to act. This was a trap the second apes film managed to avoid with stellar performances by Judy Greer and Keri Russell that did not transfer over to this final chapter. A lone ray of hope here is the continued stellar work by Karin Konoval as Maurice the orangutan, who continues to act as Caesar’s conscience. While tropey (and it should be mentioned Maurice is apparently canonically male, which is why the film fails Bechdel) her performance here is so excellent that it deserves praise among of cast of apes who all do amazing work. Amiah Miller also puts in a great performance as the mute human Nova, adopted by Caesar. But unfortunately those do nothing for the gender politics of the film. Even in a post-apocalyptic future, both and ape and human society remains rigidly patriarchal. *Sigh*

Oh, and did I mention that are some great action scenes with giant explosions? The film begins with an assault on Caesar’s camp, and ends with a climactic battle between opposing forces. While the Apes franchise is never trying to be The Fast and Furious, there’s enough action in here to be enjoyable.

Some may complain the 142 minute runtime is too long, it’s hard to say what deserved to be cut. A great movie can never be too long, and a bad one can never be over too quickly.

It’s worth noting that director and co-screenwriter Matt Reeves will next tackle Batman, taking over directing duties after Ben Affleck decided starring in and directing the film would be too much. Given Reeves’s work on the Apes film and his study of nuance and character, ability to weave action and dark characterization, The Bat should be in good hands.

As amazing as Spider-Man: Homecoming and Baby Driver have been, this, by the width of a chimp’s hair, is the best movie currently in theaters.

4.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Wilson

A lonely, neurotic and hilariously honest middle-aged man reunites with his estranged wife and meets his teenage daughter for the first time.

Based on the celebrated graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, Wilson stars Woody Harrelson in the title role and the end result is a bit mixed in quality. The first thing to understand about Wilson the character is that he’s generally unlikeable. He’s a middle age man that in many aspects is anachronistic and through every situation, he wanders into it’s clear he wonders what his legacy in the world is.

To understand the movie, you need to really understand the graphic novel it’s based off of. Wilson isn’t as much a narrative story as it is a series of short situations that have more in common with newspaper strips than a graphic story. There’s a big picture theme through it all and some work together to form a story, but this isn’t your traditional story. With those short strips (usually a page) the art style too changes mixing up the visuals as a caustic and grumpy tone remains constant.

So Harrelson in the title role has it tough. Even in the comic Wilson doesn’t have much of a personality beyond “dick.” He’s grumpy and gruff and seems to lack a filter saying what he’s thinking as if he’s just given up on societal niceties. So Harrelson is walking into a role where the character is unlikeable and he pulls that off. This is Wilson the comic character brought to life and doing anything beyond “straight guy” honest delivery of the material would betray the character. Adding a sparkle, a smile, a wink, diminishes the character who is none of those things.

Joining Harrelson is primarily Laura Dern as his ex-wife Pippi who’s recovered from what is told to us was a hellish period of her life with stories that aren’t recounted so much as hinted at by things like tattoos. That allows us the viewer to imagine the situations, which honestly is probably funnier than anything Clowes could come up with. Dern does exhausted and weary well and you can see her evolve in her demeanor and appearance as she grows up compared to Wilson’s devolution.

Also joining them is Isabella Amara who plays Claire, the daughter neither know who is the impetus by which the main story gets going. She’s pretty solid but is primarily the audience to Pippi and Wilson’s crazy. She’s not much more than a prop at times for Wilson’s mania or to act as a stand-in for the audience.

Cheryl Hines, Judy Greer, Mary Lynn Rajskub, and Brett Gelman, all stand out during their scenes delivering entertaining performances and controlling the tone or setting it in some ways. Which is impressive since Harrelson is such a presence (for good and bad) in the film.

Directed by Craig Johnson with a screenplay by Clowes, Wilson is interesting in that it attempts to create a narrative but it comes off as a series of vignettes. That really stands out to me as the graphic novel was a series of vignettes. They attempted to create a story out of something that really wasn’t. Some of the funniest moments from the graphic novel is included by what Johnson misses is that interesting visual from the comics. Each story has a different visual and we saw in the comic adaptation American Splendor what and how mixing visuals can work. The film visually would have been stronger if it took some inspiration from that film mixing in different styles including animation with the live action.

The film itself isn’t bad in any way, but it also falls short from what I had hoped (expectations probably didn’t help). The movie feels like a mid-life crisis High Fidelity. Instead of figuring out the direction of one’s life, it’s more focused on what one’s legacy will be. The laughs are there but with such a dark tone it’s an uncomfortable one and with an audience, you could feel that exude from them. Calling this a “dark comedy” is an understatement.

There’s some narrative choices when it comes to the story, especially at the end. Some time frames shift and I left wondering why. If there’s a difference to it all and if so, what it was. Clowes feels like he’s saying something a little different with those choices, but I’m not sure if it’s meant to be different. Some of the message and themes shift a little due to this change.

There’s also issues with the women generally portrayed as all negative, but by the end it’s clear that Wilson corrupts everything he touches and the negativity is a natural and justified reaction.

Wilson is one of the most under the radar comic adaptations of 2017 and it’ll be one that should be debated as to the end result and if it’s better or worse than the original graphic novel. Like American Splendor, Wilson shows not all “comic movies” involve spandex, and some of the most thought-provoking don’t involve them at all.

Overall Rating: 7.65

Wilson Gets a New Trailer

Woody Harrelson stars as Wilson, a lonely, neurotic and hilariously honest middle-aged misanthrope who reunites with his estranged wife (Laura Dern) and gets a shot at happiness when he learns he has a teenage daughter (Isabella Amara) he has never met. In his uniquely outrageous and slightly twisted way, he sets out to connect with her.

Wilson comes to theaters, March 24, 2017.

Wilson Gets a Red Band Trailer

Woody Harrelson stars as Wilson, a lonely, neurotic and hilariously honest middle-aged misanthrope who reunites with his estranged wife (Laura Dern) and gets a shot at happiness when he learns he has a teenage daughter (Isabella Amara) he has never met. In his uniquely outrageous and slightly twisted way, he sets out to connect with her.

Based on the acclaimed graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, Wilson comes out March 24, 2017. The film is directed by Craig Johnson with a screenplay by Clowes. The film also features Judy Greer and Cheryl Hines.