“Don’t Tell Me to Calm Down!” (See what I did there?)

You'll notice that there are two versions of the poster above. One has been labeled secular and the other "Christian". You may recall, I had some less than enthusiastic words to say about the first poster for Machine Gun Preacher that was released. (And I wasn't alone, but that's neither here nor there.) Well, much to my surprise, I like the so-called "Christian" one better. Despite the presence of the cross, it's less stylized than the other version. There's much less obvious photoshop and manipulation of images. Mainly though, while there is no machine gun present in the "Christian" version, it doesn't pull its religious punches either and I like that. Let's not be coy about this: Sam Childers is an ordained minister who felt called by God to go to Africa and save those children. God and religion are at the heart of his story. It doesn't matter what you or I believe, it's what Sam believes. This is Sam's story and if you're going to tell it or watch it being told, God is going to be a big part of it. Having said all of that, I do understand that having the two posters was a business decision, an effort to appeal to the widest audience possible and I don't care whether it's the cross or the gun that gets the butts in the seats.

Okay, I've gone off on another tangent. (And I know you're shocked!) The good news is that I can hear the diesel engine of the publicity machine cranking to life for this movie, Marc Forster's Machine Gun Preacher starring Gerard Butler (don't pretend you didn't know that already), Michelle Monaghan, Michael Shannon and Kathy Baker. Thank you, Mr. Kavanaugh! (*waves* Hope the honeymoon was swell!)

There's a first clip from the film out there on the wide world of web.  Entertainment Weekly has it at their site. It's an exclusive and they mean to keep it that way (for now.) But you really should see it so, by all means, go over there: http://insidemovies.ew.com/2011/08/30/machine-gun-preacher-gerard-butler-exclusive-clip/ and watch it. In it, Gerard Butler's Sam Childers is having a rather heated discussion with his friendly neighborhood banker, trying to get him to come around to the notion that he really needs to give Sam the money for a truck. I don't think I'd argue with Sam or Gerard Butler when they get that angry. I can almost hear the mouths of the critics starting to slam shut every time I watch it. And those hating on Butler's American accent need to accept that our boy's been putting in the work. His accent is pure heartland in this clip, with nary a trace of the Highlands.

This new clip, I can (finally) show you. It has Sam coming face to face with the problem of the orphaned and refuge children for the first time. (It's powerful stuff, but I do confess to getting a little frisson of delight watching the Patented Butler Pimp Stride. It's been too long, ya know?). 

Relativity released a song from the soundtrack, an original by Chris Cornell called "The Keeper." I really like the song and I especially like that they released it one day early before it went to iTunes and the proceeds from any purchase made on that day went to help Sam Childers' "Angels of East Africa" foundation. If you haven't heard it, take a listen:

Asche & Spencer, who scored most of Marc Forster's other films, is responsible for the soundtrack. Here's a bit from Stay (with Ryan Gosling and Ewan MacGregor)It's pretty cool stuff.  

I can't wait to hear the Machine Gun Preacher soundtrack in its entirety. By the way, just so you know, If this next song,"One Man's War" by Australian singer-songwriter Aaron Hendra, makes it onto the soundtrack, I am starting, here and now, a campaign to get it nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Original Song from a Motion Picture. Watch this video, listen to this song and I defy you not to be moved:


..and here's an accoustic version:

Who's with me?

Machine Gun Preacher opens in limited release in the US on September 23.

Jason Momoa in a Kilt…

…does it get any better than that? And honestly what were you people expecting?

I was sorely tempted to title this post “The Best Ass in Showbiz” but that would only have been cheap titillation. And that would just be wrong…especially when discussing a movie like Conan the Barbarian

I kid.

Besides, seriously? Jason Momoa has a great ass.

Okay, squealing fan-girl moment over with, I can now tell you my impressions of the movie. Let me just say right off the bat, I liked it. I had a lot of fun watching it and in my estimation that is all one should expect from a movie of this nature. It could be said that I wanted to like this movie just as I wanted to like Cowboys & Aliens or Green Lantern and to that I have to say, of course I wanted to like it! Why else would I buy a ticket if it were not something I expected to enjoy? Why would you? JMHO, but the trick is to set your expectations at the appropriate level.

After months of anticipation, Cowboys & Aliens debuted on the day of its release at about 34% on Rotten Tomatoes. I personally, had only read one review before going in (and it wasn’t bad) because I don’t like to have my opinion tainted by the opinions of others, no matter how much I tend to agree or disagree as a general rule with the writer. JMHO, a lot of reviewers (at least the lesser ones) do get influenced by each other and by more mainstream critics.

Using Cowboys & Aliens as an example, I have to wonder just what people were looking for. The movie does a good job of setting itself up as a traditional western then turns the good guy vs bad guy trope on its head by morphing into a movie about alien abduction that just happens to be set in the old west.

Are all of the standard clichés from every western you’ve ever seen present and accounted for? Yes. That’s part of the reason it’s so much fun. You’re watching a rootin’ tootin’ cowboy oater and then…ALIENS! The movie plays it straight too. It comes from the position that these people don’t know what a plane is, they aren’t used to anything flying around their heads, let alone alien invaders from another world. They have no preconceptions about what an alien should look like when most of them have probably never seen an Asian or an African American. Native Americans probably still looked ‘other worldly’ to a great many inhabitants of the old west, most of whom were of European descent.

In any case all of the above plot points would be enough to get me into the theater, but along to support this high concept are Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford and that combination, together with Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard producing and Jon Favreau directing, is just too enticing to pass up.

For my money it was a good story well told and well acted. The aliens were appropriately creepy, Harrison Ford was as grumpy and Daniel Craig as stoic as expected…plus you know…the leather chaps… but I digress. Bottom line, I enjoyed my two hours spent in the dark taking the wild ride for which I had purchased a ticket.

This leads me to the movie that I saw yesterday. Those who walked into the 2011 version of Conan the Barbarian expecting a remake of the Arnold Schwarzenegger film would probably be disappointed, but it wasn’t Sinbad or even the original Clash of the Titans either (or the remake of that film for that matter). It’s far grittier than the earlier version, and one should know what to anticipate when the opening scene takes place in the middle of battle where our hero is literally born. We’re introduced to Conan’s warlord but loving father (ably played by Ron Perlman, whose facial hair deserves a credit of its own.) After a leap in time we see the adolescent Conan developing into the warrior we will come to know. Leo Howard who plays Conan at this stage is very convincing. I’ve read that he and Jason Momoa consciously worked together on their facial expressions and mannerisms so that the younger would more accurately transition into the older Conan. JMHO, but they did a very good job. (That’s one of the things I always look for, whether or not filmmakers have cast someone who could believably grow up into the adult actor.) The village is destroyed in front of young Conan’s eyes and after being introduced to who will become the major players in his life, he is left to feel at least partially responsible for his father’s death.

After another fold of time, Conan’s all grown-up (oh yes…very grown up) and of course, looking for revenge. Along the way he does good deeds like liberating slaves from captivity (and if a few of said slaves happened to have been beautiful semi-clad women then naturally he gives them the opportunity to show their gratitude). Once he gets pointed in the right direction, our Barbarian begins his quest in earnest and that’s where the fun really begins.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you need to have your thinking cap on when you enter the theater by any stretch of the imagination. The movie is smart enough to stay out of the land of ridicule and parody, but it’s not asking a lot of its audience other than that they enjoy themselves. Basically it barrels along on its own bloody momentum. Unlike a lot of films in this genre which only seem to use the big action set pieces parenthetically around the plot, CtB is almost non-stop action. It’s a lean, mean fighting machine; all sweaty, grimy, and bone-crunchingly gory with blood flinging everywhere. (This shouldn’t actually come as a surprise to anyone who’s seen a trailer or even looked at a poster. And if you hadn’t, what are you doing at this movie?) There’s not a lot of plot exposition, or character development. We’re shown who the characters are and they behave accordingly. There’s not a lot of dialogue, but then again, there’s not a lot that needs to be said. As Conan says, “I live, I love, I slay, I am content.” That pretty much sums him up. There are a few sidekicks, some heroic and wise, others mischievous and definitely meant as comic relief. The villains are appropriately vile to the point that one wants to yell “boo…hiss!” when they are on screen, just as one should at any Saturday matinee worth the salt on the popcorn.

Rose McGowan’s sorceress is just wacky enough, tempered by some overt sexuality and perhaps some covert hints at incest, to keep from being over the top. Rachel Nichols is not only a beautiful damsel in distress but has her own moments of ass-kicking heroics. I loved Stephen Lang’s Khalar Zym. Without resorting to camp, he was clearly having a blast playing the very evil, very very bad, bad guy. As for the new Conan…sigh…Jason Momoa was everything one could hope for in a Barbarian. His Conan is a take-no-prisoners, barely verbal tough guy oozing charm and sex appeal through every bulging, rippling muscle. He wields his mighty sword very convincingly. Did I mention he has a great ass? Reportedly Momoa is already signed on for two sequels. I hope they get made because I’ll buy a ticket to that. And I won’t be alone.

Director Marcus Nispel is best known for the reboots of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th franchises, although I know of no plans to continue with either of them. I think he’s struck paydirt here. Nispel is also known as a journeyman director who can be hired to carry out the vision of the studio and the producers rather than his own grandiose plans, but I think here he managed to do it right. There are not a lot of quiet moments in the film, but even when there are, he manages to keep the narrative rolling along. A lot of the credit goes to the special effects and CGI gurus for creating gorgeous and yet brutal landscapes, creepy monsters and crumbling relics, but the film is pretty much a crazed wham bam thank you ma’am action-fest from start to finish. It may not aspire to be like the Conan of yore but it does manage to respect the old school action yarns that came before it.

What all of this has led up to is my assertion that sometimes expectations can be too high. Regardless of how seriously anyone who writes about movies for a living may take the art of filmmaking, or how much pride we stock in our knowledge of arcane movie lore etc, etc, there are movies that are made for sheer entertainment. They don’t have a ‘message’ and they don’t harbor illusions of winning awards or accolades. Are some more well made than others? Certainly. I’d like to think that I am discerning when it comes to what I will spend my time or money on. I don’t get paid to see everything that comes down the pike and I don’t like everything that I do see. But when it comes to a movie like Conan the Barbarian, which is based on a comic book, what I expect is a comic book of a movie. JMHO, but films like this ask only that you sit back, relax and enjoy and, as I’ve said before, stop looking for the zippers up the backs of the monsters.

Machine Gun Preacher (Finally) Gets a Poster!

 Ahead of next month’s Toronto International Film Festival, Marc Forster’s Machine Gun Preacher has finally gotten its first poster. I’m just not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand I’m thrilled that the tarp is coming off of the publicity machine and it’s is being dusted off and oiled up for this film. Speaking as someone who’s been following the progress of the movie since before filming began and has been waiting impatiently for its release, it has been excruciating to see posters and pics and trailers for films that will be coming out long after Machine Gun Preacher‘s September 23rd date.

On the other hand, I’m not crazy about this poster.I don’t love it and I really wanted to love it. I feel disloyal even thinking those words let alone typing them. Maybe it’ll grow on me. But I’m not the ticket buyer anyone has to worry about. I’m a given. I worry about what those unfamiliar with the story or Sam Childers or even Gerard Butler (are there still such people walking among us?) might think.

It’s great that Gerard Butler is front and center, but I’m trying to figure out just who they’re playing to, what audience they’re trying to attract. I understand the child peeking out from behind Butler’s hand, even though I think Butler’s*image is badly photoshopped and the scale is all wrong, but what’s with the garish blood spattered title that looks like it belongs on a cheesy horror flick? It just seems incongruous with the film’s tag-line "Hope is the greatest weapon of all".

I can only assume that my bff, Ryan Kavanaugh, and Relativity Media have a master plan and I’m trying very hard to keep the faith. And as I said, I am very happy that they are starting to advertise this film. It’s got a good buzz on going into TIFF and I know they want to build on that. The internet film community is eagerly awaiting the finished product and Butler’s name is being uttered, if not yet with respect, then at least without disdain for the first time since 300. The one-two punch of Machine Gun Preacher and Coriolanus are, without question, going to do wonderous things for his career and I know that the first poster for one is not going to effect that one way or another.

I’ll deal. I don’t hate it…Maybe it’ll grow on me.

*I wasn’t initially clear. I meant Butler’s image appeared photoshopped, not the child. Sorry for any confusion! 

Watch This and Prepare to Have Your Ass Kicked!!

"Blood, swords, monsters, "sexual content", what more could you possibly need from an August movie, or any movie?" – The Monocular Group

Okay, now I can well imagine that some of you might be as tired of the Conan slash Jason Momoa pimping as you were of the Daniel Craig/Cowboys & Aliens love-fest.If so, you might want to stop right here… (I can’t bring myself to mention the Gerard Butler pimping. If you’re tired of that, you’re in the wrong blog and I can’t heaaaaar youuuuuu…)

For those of you still with me, the wee gifty below is a fan made trailer for Conan the Barbarian, set to the soothing strains of Metalocalypse Dethklok’s "I Tamper with the Evidence at the Murder Site of Odin".


This thing is so full of professional grade cinematic mayhem and barbaric goodness that Lionsgate actually tweeted it. Lionsgate…The distributor of Conan the Barbarian that has already spent big bucks commissioning their own trailers for this film. Lionsgate wants you to see this.

Hit play and hang on…

Well? What did I tell you? You just had your ass kicked, right? Now tell me you liked it.

Conan the Barbarian opens next Friday August 19th. "heads will roll" … "in your fuckin popcorn"

I am in no way done with the pimping. You have been warned.

“Sweet Is My Revenge”

…picking up jaw from the floor…

It’s no secret how long and how impatiently I’ve been craving a trailer for Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus. This was worth the wait…

One of the things I noticed and liked very much about it is that it showcases most of the major players. We see Ralph as the title despot certainly, but we also get a glimpse of Gerard Butler’s fervor as Tullus Aufidius, Jessica Chastain’s sweet Virgilia, Brian Cox’s scheming politico Menenius, James Nesbitt’s hot-headed Sicinius and of course, Vanessa Redgrave’s powerful and power hungry Volumnia. I hope Ralph is as generous a director as whoever cut the trailer is an editor.

But mainly, I have to say I felt this. If the passion and the intensity evident in the trailer are maintained throughout, I’m not sure I’ll survive one viewing, let alone multiples…but I can’t wait to try. December 2nd!!

"Sweet Is My Revenge" indeed…

This look sick to you?!?!

It looks "sick" to me too, although I’m quite certain I don’t mean it the same way the "mommies" would mean it. As we can plainly see, rumors of Gerard Butler’s imminent demise were greatly exaggerated.

Holy crap! That’s not just ripped it’s completely shredded! 

And there’s fresh PINKY!!! Playful Pinky…Pinky on purpose…*demented poodle dance*

Grabbing another brass ring at the ongoing carnival that is his life, Gerard Butler got to fulfill a dream today by taking to the pitch at Parkhead with his beloved Hoops, Glasgow Celtic. G got to play with the big Bhoys in a charity match to benefit Oxfam and East African famine relief, Celtic Legends vs. Manchester United Legends. Despite the early pasting by the match’s commentators for a missed goal opportunity, G looked pretty good. Especially for a 41 year old smoker. Whatever he’s doing, whether it’s working out like a fiend or sticking pins in voodoo dolls it’s working.

The match was originally organized to benefit a Celtic player whose career was cut short by injury, John Kennedy, but Kennedy himself asked that the majority of the proceeds be given to help with the crisis in Africa.

As Celtic manager Neil Lennon told the Daily Mail, "The history of our club was that it was started as a charitable organisation for Irish immigrants in Glasgow and we have carried that through year after year on donating to charity ever since." I think that fits.

I’m pretty sure this is what "chuffed" looks like

Westeros, Take Me Away!

I don’t talk a lot about television. I don’t watch a lot of television…but as their long-running and successful marketing slogan says, "It’s not tv, it’s HBO".  There has been no better example of that than this past season. The Fall gave us "Boardwalk Empire" and in the Spring we were gifted with "Game of Thrones". 

Even if you don’t have HBO, you are probably aware of both of these exceptional new series. "Boardwalk Empire" dominated last year’s Emmy Awards and "Game of Thrones" is poised to be its only real competition this year.

Aside from their obvious differences, what these two shows have in common, other than their network, is that they are both made with high-gloss cinematic production values. Each episode is like a mini theatrical film, rather than episodic television. Both shows are worthy of one’s time and attention for the hour a week that they air, certainly, but they also inspire loyalty and devotion in their fan bases, "Game of Thrones" in particular. Not even the the long running entries in the Star Trek canon have developed as rabid a following, and in so short a time. After four years in development, the show was renewed for a second season after only its second episode.

"Game of Thrones" had a built-in audience certainly. George R. R. Martin’s books upon which the show is based, are extremely popular and his readers are some of the most loyal for any genre. When the latest book, "A Dance With Dragons", was released earlier this summer, people camped out days in advance for a chance to get into a signing.  Part of that was no doubt sparked by the popularity of the HBO series, but many had been doing that since just after the 2nd book was released. (There are currently five, of a planned seven, in print)

I have not read the books. I came to the series based on the cast, the subject matter and the previews that were shown prior to the premiere. I have neither the space, nor the inclination to rehash the whole of the first season. The plot is too dense, there are too many characters deserving of vivid description and there are countless places on the web for you to find all the information you could possibly want, including spoilers for the second season, if that’s your desire.  My intention was to provide just a little background before I show you this phenomenal special effects reel.

I don’t need a reason to listen to the soaring theme music (which was inexplicably overlooked for an Emmy nomination. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. The score for How to Train Your Dragon failed to win an Academy Award last year. No, I’m still not over it.  Although the show did garner an impressive 13 other nominations, one GLARING absence was Sean Bean for Best Actor in a Drama for Eddard Stark. Bean had the role of his career. After a lifetime of playing villains, with the possible exception of Boromir, Bean was cast as a genuine hero and he devoted body and soul to playing him. All of Ned’s joys and sorrows, the whole of his life, could be seen in Bean’s craggy and weathered visage. Would his fate have resonated as far and wide as it did, if he had given it less?) But I digress…back to the clip.

Basically it’s a little more than three minutes of something being created from nothing with the aids of CGI and green screens and the actors who are able to imagine that they see what we will eventually see, all set to the lush, majestic strains of that incredible music. It does what such music is supposed to do, it stirs the emotions and sets the "theme" for what we’re about to see and it perfectly compliments the incredible, evolving opening title sequence. (Which was nominated for an Emmy. They got that one right. They also got right, very right, Peter Dinklage’s nomination for Supporting Actor for Tyrion Lannister. Sorry, another digression…)

The opening credits:

Sean Bean talks about Ned (with that Yorkshire accent…*swoon*):

And did you honestly think I was going to do a Game of Thrones post with absolutely NO Khal Drogo? Pffffft.

Game of Thrones season 2 is expected to air in the Spring of 2012.