Thursday, June 24, 2010

Reel Interesting: Daniel Day-Lewis as Professor Moriaty?

The usually reliable folks over at are reporting on SHERLOCK HOLMES director Guy Ritchie’s desire to cast Daniel Day-Lewis as the villainous Professor Moriaty in his HOLMES sequel.

It should be made clear that this blurb barely qualifies as news, as it merely states Ritchie’s wishes for casting (if wishes were horses, we’d all be eating steak). In fact, it barely registers as a rumor, as there are no confirmed reports of DDL being offered a read-thru, let alone offered a job. However, the prospect of DDL playing one of the most famed (albeit somewhat forgotten) villains in literature is arousing enough to fuel some speculation.

The source material has the Professor as an equal to Holmes; intelligent and calculating. In the movies, villains who operate under intelligence are usually more of a threat than the ones who operate via madness. DDL has recently put together a strong resume of characters who fit a description of brains and wickedness (William Cutting and Daniel Plainview, for example). The presence of a strong villain would certainly improve upon Ritchie’s new HOLMES universe, and everyone knows DDL could act circles around Robert Downey Jr. On paper, DDL is the perfect fit.

In reality however, DDL is usually very picky about his projects, which explains why we only see him once every two or three years. The script for HOLMES 2 (which is still being written, by the way), would have to be strong and worthwhile to bring him out of his exiles. Reality also suggests that DDL wouldn’t touch a movie like this with a ten-foot pole. He has never jumped into the toilet bowl of big-budget Hollywood films that push spectacle over story and character, and this HOLMES universe is right in the center of the blue water. While Ritchie’s HOLMES had moments of intelligence, it couldn’t help but to push over-the-top spectacle with lots of booms and bangs, along with slapstick buffoonery action sequences that demeaned the characters and offered window dressing on a floater. Such films are exactly why DDL seems to loathe the business.

Lewis just may shock the world and go for the role, and his presence alone would demand a more serious HOLMES film. That would be a good thing. Chances are however, Ritchie’s comments in the press were just a way of getting DDL’s attention because he doesn’t have his phone number; A number that is usually only given out to upper-echelon directors.

What say you?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


The first official trailer for 2011's THE GREEN HORNET has been released and is making its rounds across the interwebs.

HORNET has Seth Rogen playing the title role, and although the trailer seems to reveal his limited acting chops, seeing Christoph Waltz back as a villian may be enticing enough to give this a look.

What's more concerning is that the film is slated for a January release, which is usually where lousy films are banished to die.

HORNET is directed by Michel Gondry, who is probably best known for his ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND.

Enjoy. Or Don't:

Monday, June 21, 2010

Reel News: TOY STORY 3 Easter-eggs!

Before rushing out to see TOY STORY 3, the fine folks over at (link below) have compiled an impressive list of easter-eggs (non-spoiler) that are sprinkled throughout the film. Pixar loves to place references to their past and sometimes future works into their films, and this time they have really outdone themselves. My personal favorites include:

-A postcard from Carl and Ellie (UP) is on the wall in Andy’s bedroom.

-The Lotso Bear actually makes a cameo in UP.

-Buzz Lightyear’s batteries are B&L brand (WALL-E)

-Lightning McQueen and Red (CARS) make appearances as toys in the daycare center.

…and many more. You have to admire Pixar’s strong attention to detail, along with the rich and coherent universe they’ve created. These many references tie all of their films together in clever ways. Marvel should take note!

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Reel Review: TOY STORY 3

Pixar has only done one thing wrong over the years: they’ve made movies that are too good. They originally and seemingly set out to make kids’ films, but their stories and characters wound up being so damn good that adults wound up enjoying the films more than the kids. Suddenly, Pixar found themselves in the business of making kids’ movies that adults can enjoy. With TOY STORY 3, not only did Pixar need to maintain their older audience (who at this point have very fond memories of the first film), but they also needed to polish off a trilogy that would remain faithful to the franchise, and end things with dignity. How did Pixar do? Simply put, TOY STORY 3 is a heavy film that will have adults fulfilled and kids entertained; providing the latter doesn’t get scared out of the theatre.

Young Andy, now at the age of 17, is packing for college and must decide which of his favorite toys he must donate to a daycare or stow in the attic. One thing leads to another, and our hero-toys, led by Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz (Tim Allen), find themselves in the Sunnyside day care. The toys of the day care are led by an evil (!) plush bear named Lots-O-Huggin (or Lotso, voiced by Ned Beatty). Lotso and his minions banish our familiar TOY STORY toys to toddler-land, where they are roughly played with. Woody finds himself separated from his friends in his attempts to get back to Andy, and makes his way back to Sunnyside to rescue them.

TOY STORY 3 is a not-so-original story of friends sticking together, being pitted against each other, and then binding together at the end. What makes it work so well here are the strong characters. From a kids’ point of view, Woody and Buzz and the lot have never been more entertaining or fun to watch. The toys run, jump, and bounce in ways that are sure to keep a lot of size-5’s happy. The story is also a lock to keep adults entertained, as there are heavy-handed elements of friendship and loyalty present throughout. There is also a strong religious undertone present, which doesn’t reveal itself until the very end. When it does reveal, every adult will slap their foreheads, having never seen it coming. Not to worry, for its something that is bound to fly right over the kids’ heads. There are elements and scenes borrowed from other great movie trilogies (STAR WARS and LOTR leap out), and the filmmakers as a whole really threw in everything but the kitchen sink in this their last shot in the TOY STORY universe.

This TOY STORY is darker, more violent, and scarier than any Pixar film made. The violence begins nearly right away, and the darker imagery and peril the characters are put into almost seem out of place in a film with a Disney logo up front. The presence of a strong villain creates great conflict for our heroes to rally against. Lotso also manages to be well developed and actually put into situations where the audience can and will feel sympathy for him.

The grand finale is incredibly fulfilling and loaded with tearjerking moments. It is a bittersweet ending, with proper wraps to every character. This is a strong film that deserves to put near the top of the Pixar greats, if not near the top of anyone’s list of overall greats; adults and kids alike.

And the short film up front, DAY AND NIGHT, may just be one of the greatest short films ever made.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Reel Opinion: The 3D Craze

With the third installment of Disney/Pixars TOY STORY franchise being offered in 3D, even more attention is being drawn to the latest trend in the movies. The questions surrounding 3D in this age are many: Is it worth the price of the overinflated ticket? Is it an art, or just flash? Does it add to the film, or detract from it? The debate is endless.

3D film has been around in one form another since the 1890’s, and really found a home in 1950’s and 1980’s with B-level movies. It was a gimmick; a flashy firework that had audiences ducking for cover as items seemed to come flying out of the screen at them.

What separates 3D Today from the 3D of Yesterday, is that filmmakers have taken 3D to the opposite direction; instead of things coming out at you (which they still do), they chose to use the technique to present massive depth of field. James Cameron’s AVATAR nailed this perfectly; the scene in the spaceship in the sleeping chamber had a corridor that seemed like it stretched out of the theatre and into the street.

Other films have done an okay job at the new technique as well. Robert Zemeckis’ BEOWULF and to a lesser extent, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, had eye-popping fly-arounds which offered great depth and perspective, while still throwing an object or two out into our laps.

Tim Burton’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND, as of this writing, is the most financially successful film of 2010, despite dismal reviews from critics everywhere. This blogger chose not to view the film in 3D, as I was determined on making a judgment on the film on its storytelling merits, without being wowed by teacups landing in my lap. I chose wisely. It’s not out of the question to be wowed by a film in 3D, only to purchase the DVD three months later and say “so what’s the big deal?”.

The gimmick of 3D fails miserably when it is applied in post-production to films that were not meant to be presented is such a way. This year’s CLASH OF THE TITANS suffered from this most, as the 3D picture was muddled and awful. Burton also fell for this, as his NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS comes across as barely visible on screen. Rumor has it Cameron and his pal George Lucas are also falling into this trap, as TITANIC and STAR WARS may be being prepped for 3D releases.

What it comes down to is: does 3D offer substance, or just flash? It depends on the execution. The massive depth and perception the technique can offer is indeed awesome to see. Filmmakers need to be careful to not let that imagery get in the way of their storytelling. AVATAR and BEOWULF are still great watches at home on (glorious) Blu-ray, as will be TOY STORY 3, I’m sure. These films were put together on-set with foreground, middle-ground, and background in mind. That sort of approach makes it an art and can add to your story. I’m a fan of 3D when it works. Because when it does, it’s important to the story. When it doesn’t, it’s just ribbons and lace around a turd.

This blogger will make it a point to view any film in 2D first, as the story must take priority over spectacle. If the story holds up, then hand me the glasses on the 2nd viewing.

Until STAR WARS comes out.

What say you?

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Reel Review: THE A-TEAM

THE A-TEAM is a romp of a film filled with enough good times, wit and spectacle to make it one hell of a fun time. Although big on entertainment, it’s short in any sort of rich texture or deep thought. The flaws that it has are forgivable, as the film is just too damn fun to care about them.

Framed for a crime they did not commit, the A-Team, led by Col. Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson), and rounded out by the charming Face (Bradley Cooper), the lunatic pilot Murdock (Sharlto Copley), and asskicker B.A. Baracus (Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson), embark on a series of schemes to try and clear their names. Along the way they must avoid the capture efforts of the Defense Department (represented by Jessica Biel), and uncover the CIA’s plot to undermine the U.S. Government.

THE A-TEAM is a very masculine men-on-a-mission story. What makes it succeed so well is that the mission is not only for an item (in this case, money-printing plates), but also for their lives as they try to clear their names. The mission is helped along by the buddy-buddy vibe of the group, as the characters’ chemistry feels genuine and real.

Being true to its 1980’s-era TV predecessor, THE A-TEAM’s mission and story is also helped along by the nearly zany and absurd “plans”, which are big on visuals and bangs. The plans, and subsequent action sequences are absurd and over the top, but somehow they manage to keep just enough realism involved where it almost doesn’t seem impossible. What also helps is that THE A-TEAM doesn’t try to take itself too seriously: the absurdity of the situations is actually mentioned in the dialogue several times.

Character development is a bit on the low side. Hannibal is not given much background other than a hard-nosed military genius, and his motivations or character arc are never present. Face and Murdock are also underdeveloped, and seem to exist to provide laughs, as they do get the best lines of the film. B.A. is given an interesting arc, but it’s not really fun to watch until his character comes full circle at the end.

Casting is perfect all around, as each actor fits right into their characters, keeping things fun and interesting all at the same time. What makes the casting work so well is the chemistry between all the actors, as they genuinely seem to be enjoying themselves on the screen, and when the actors are having fun, the audience will too. The actors’ fun carries over into their performances, as everyone is believable. High nods should go to Copley, who is a blast in every frame he appears in. Good credit should also go to Jackson and his B.A., who not only does justice to the iconic role set in stone before him, but manages to make it his own.

Director Joe Carnahan does a fine job with things. The highlight is not so much the action or the CGI (which isn’t too bad), but the smart inter-cutting between the TEAM’s formulation of their plans and the actual execution. It’s a smart move which brings about brisk pacing, and again, keeps the situations grounded. The action sequences are fun to watch, and things never really do get boring.

Several homages to the TV show are present throughout. Lines, vehicles, music, and other subtle references are scattered throughout to make the purists happy. This is a film not meant to inspire intelligent discussion or push a morality lesson, but to entertain and provide laughs. On that basis, THE A-TEAM is the most fun to be had in a movie theatre.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Reel Review: SPLICE

SPLICE is a film that tries to blend horror with the ethics and science that goes into genetic experiments that range from fascinating to gross to outright revulsion. The film makes obvious attempts to be THE FLY of this generation, with its gathering of homemade, crossbred creatures and what-the-fuck moments, but ultimately finds itself lacking any atmosphere or mood, and just becomes another cookie-cutter film with little to care about 5 minutes after leaving the theatre.

Genetic scientists Clive (Adrien Brody) and his wife Elsa (Sarah Polley) are two hipsters looking to please the corporate masses with their landbreaking genetic experiments that result in new life forms. Under corporate pressure, Elsa bends a few rules with a new experiment, and the result is a half-human, half-mutated fuck-thing female they eventually name Dren. Dren evolves in dangerous and disturbing ways, as the ethics of what the scientists have done get pushed to forefront amongst deadly circumstances.

With the actual science presented in the film either already here today or just around the corner, SPLICE feels like a real story. Unfortunately the narrative chooses to focus on making things feel more like a monster movie than a cautionary story. SPLICE looks to scare people off not with loud noises and whats-around-the-corner techniques, but with gross creatures and gross creatures doing gross things. The attempts are light, despite the bloodshed, and there is little to be scared over in this monster movie.

Also suffering are the main characters, as neither one seems to know what they are supposed to be doing in this story. Clive grapples off and on with the ethics of what they are doing, but he does it so much it’s a wonder why he got into the business of genetic-splicing in the first place. His brooding is way out of place for the character. Elsa’s development is also all over the place. She goes from indie-woman to scientist to loving-mother to mad-woman virtually overnight. Hints of her past are given, which is meant to give some emotional weight, but those hints are never fleshed out and her story is nearly forgotten by the end.

Brody and Polley have decent enough chemistry, and they do better together then they do when they are on their own. Polley comes off as wooden, and Brody just seems to be collection a check. The real acting nod should go to Delphine Chaneac, who plays Dren. Dren is a character who does not speak, so pressure is put upon Chaneac to communicate with excellent body language and eye movement.

CGI ranges from excellent to horrid. Drew as an infant is an eye-popper and convincing, but there are other moments that fall flat. Some CGI is attempted to blend with already-there practical effects, but it clashes horribly. Other moments like the exteriors of the lab look cartoonish and awful. Where the visuals are inconsistent, good credit must go to the animal-like noises Dren makes; they are convincing and a little creepy.

SPLICE eventually goes for a big Hollywood-type, action-packed ending, and it feels out of place for what could have been a thought-provoking film concerning man trying to play God. The results of the finale are predictable from miles away, and the shock-impact intended falls way short with a thud. SPLICE is worth a look just for some visuals and a few creepy moments, but don’t expect to be talking much about it later.