A Few Thoughts on the Affleck Kerfuffle

Ben Affleck, Superman vs Batman, movie, casting news

courtesy imdb

Zack Snyder, director of Watchmen, Sucker Punch and of course, 300, is already hard at work on the sequel to this summer’s lucrative Superman movie, Man of Steel: Superman vs Batman.  This, by the way, is only a working title. By the time the flick hits theaters on July 17, 2015, I’m sure the producers will have come up with more memorable, something spectacular, that all the fans will love!

Again, my kingdom for a Sarcasm Font!

Regardless of what they call the next film, there will be scores of vocal fans who will hate the title.  In this matter only one thing is absolute: All of the fans will never be altogether happy about anything. Ever.

While the producers want the fans to be passionate about their projects based on much loved pop-culture icons; to look forward to the films and eagerly await the opportunity to plunk down their hard earned cash on tickets and movie tie-in memorabilia etc, they also know that they must be prepared to have every decision, every tidbit of news, met with skepticism by an army of magnifying glass-wielding nerds ready to separate the fly shit from the pepper.

This, of course, brings me to an observation about Snyder’s casting of Ben Affleck as Batman/Bruce Wayne.

By now, anyone with access to a computer, and with any interest, knows that Affleck will be donning the cowl and the cape in Snyder’s movie and everyone, it seems, has an opinion on the matter.  That said, what follows, is mine.

I rather like it when a director or writer or god forbid a studio, instead of trying to be all things to all people, goes their own way and adheres to their own “vision”, whatever that may be.  Snyder, at his core, is a fan boy. He knows the world. He walks the walk and talks the talk. He knew that he wasn’t going to make every one of the legions of Superman fans happy with the movie he was making, so he made the movie he wanted to make. Whether you loved it or you hated it, you still had to buy a ticket to see it. Obviously enough people saw it and loved it, to have spawned the sequel.

The decision to go to the next level by tackling not one but two beloved super hero icons in the same movie, was itself met with a lot of hue and cry. Once the hubbub died down, thoughts naturally turned to casting. If Henry Cavill was guaranteed to repeat as Supe, who would be Batman?

It was known that Snyder (as well as DC Comics and Warner Brothers) wanted to go “40-ish”, a little older than Superman.  A lot of names floated around all summer. Some inspired, some downright preposterous.  One name that was never in the mix was that of Ben Affleck.

Snyder gave his reasons for what, at first blush would appear to be a head-scratcher of a decsion, thusly:

“Ben provides an interesting counter-balance to Henry’s Superman. He has the acting chops to create a layered portrayal of a man who is older and wiser than Clark Kent and bears the scars of a seasoned crime fighter, but retain the charm that the world sees in billionaire Bruce Wayne. I can’t wait to work with him.”

Personally, I don’t see what the big deal is.

One, the role of Batman will likely be, if not a cameo, at most a supporting role in Henry Cavill’s Superman movie. Affleck will not be carrying the movie by any stretch, not to mention they’ll both be surrounded by the A-list likes of a returning Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne and Diane Lane.

Second, I happen to like Ben Affleck. I’m on record with my opinion that he’s a better director than he is an actor (and his casting as Batman renews speculation that he will direct the Justice League movie), but I also think his thespian skills are wildly underrated.   Frankly, given the dark tone of Snyder’s first Superman movie and having seen Affleck in Hollywoodland, a movie for which I have long sung the praises, he could have pulled off The Big Blue Boy Scout (and watch him do pull-ups in The Town. He’s nearly as ripped as Cavill under that nice-guy exterior).  He’s not going to embarrass anyone, so lighten up.

Third, I don’t think any known actor would have satisfied the masses other than Christian Bale and that just wasn’t going to happen.  Bale’s Dark Knight was iconic, of that there is no doubt, but he said it over and over again. He was done. No one believed him. Maybe now they will.

I have to agree with film critic Scott Weinberg* who posited that

“The only reason Affleck seems weird is because you’ve seen him in 35 movies already. If he was younger (“newer”) it wouldn’t be an issue.  …If it’s a nobody, we’re all psyched, but if it’s someone we know, we’re all furious. Every time!”

He has a point. We lived in a web-less world  way back in 1988 (yes I know the movie came out in 1989), so news traveled slower and it was a bit more difficult to gauge public opinion, but do you think Michael Keaton was a popular choice for Batman?  More recently, do you think everyone was happy with the casting of Heath Ledger as The Joker?   No and no.  Even without Twitter and Facebook, the internet was aflame with Heath-hate when Christopher Nolan gave him the job. Today, people genuflect at the memory of his performance.

Back to Affleck, my biggest concern, and I know I’m not alone in this, is that his next directorial effort, Live by Night, based on another book by Boston writer Dennis Lehane, will be pushed back. (He’s already dropped Tell No One.) Again I say, Ben is a good actor, but he’s a great director and I want to see that movie more than Superman vs Batman.  But that’s Just My Humble Opinion.

Besides, I’m more concerned with who Snyder is going to cast as Lex Luthor. *wink wink*

*via Twitter

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Trailer or Spoiler: The Counselor with Michael Fassbender – UK Edition

MichaelFassbender, movie, The Counselor

courtesy 20th Century Fox via imdb

The latest and greatest – the international – trailer for Sir Ridley Scott’s The Counselor has just hit. We looked at the domestic version a couple of weeks ago.  This one packs about 30 seconds more footage, as well as recutting what we’ve already seen. We get a lot of information here, not to mention a better idea of why Fassbender is already being touted as a probable Oscar nominee.

As thrilled as I am to see more of this, I have to ask yet again, “How much is too much?” Has the entire game been given away? Who are the producers aiming for with this trailer? Who could they possibly be trying to reel in, that isn’t already impressed with the combination of Fassbender, Bardem, Cruz, Diaz, and Pitt all directed by Sir Ridley Scott from an original script by Cormac McCarthy?

As we know, Michael Fassbender stars as a lawyer who gets in over his head when he enters the drug trade. While this new trailer, the longest one yet,  does go deeper into the plot with a decided emphasis on character, and definitely amping up the drama, is it possible that the producers are hoping to entice fans attracted to less high-brow fare than films with this pedigree, say Jason Statham flicks like Parker or The Transporter, or perhaps The Fast and Furious franchise? I’m not suggesting that there is anything inherently wrong with those movies and certainly not with liking them, but I’m always curious about what motivates some of the marketing decisions behind a film, and this trailer looks to have been cut with an eye toward the fans of those films.

Have a look:

trailer courtesy 20th Century Fox UK via YouTube

So this time around we get more sexy times with Fassbender and Penelope Cruz. “Life is being in bed with you,” Fassbender whispers. “Everything else is just waiting.”   (The female demographic is a lock.)

Speaking of sexy, we have what appears to be a deliciously sinister Cameron Diaz,  (in what may be her best role ever in years as “Malkina”) whose character seems to enjoy playing mind games (among other things). Love the tatts.

Cut to Bardem and his wacky hair and we’re back in the action.

“You are the world you have created, and when you cease to exist, this world that you have created, will also cease to exist,”  drug kingpin Reiner warns The Counselor.

Whoa…philosophy. Not for long though.

Enter Westray, played by Brad Pitt (and his bad hair). Is he aiding and abetting or is he scamming our good Counselor? (The Counselor, by the way, is both the film’s title and Fassbender’s only moniker).

Even if we hadn’t been told, it’s obvious from the quick cut of him breaking down and the shots of an obviously freaked Cruz, that Fassbender is indeed “in way over his head” and things are going to get really ugly.

But the question still remains, does this give too much away? Almost all of the questions I asked in my last post, have been answered. Now, as indicated above, I’m extremely eager to see what Sir Ridley has in store for us, but I am a guaranteed butt in the seat.  I’m one of those they had with the cast, director and script. Period.  And although each new bit revealed is a tantalizing treat, I don’t want to see the whole thing BEFORE I buy my ticket. No matter how much I think I know, I want to watch it all unfold, in the dark, with my vat o’popcorn.

It is a shame that it appears, in order to lure those ticket buyers that they’re still working on, that producers feel that they will have to spell it all out with placards and hand puppets.  But that’s JMHO and I can always just refuse to watch the next trailer. (Yeah, right.)

The Counselor also stars Dean Norris, Rosie Perez, John Leguizamo, Natalie Dormer, and Goran Visnjic.  It opens on October 25th in the US and 15th November in the UK.

***********

OH! And in other Fassy news: how cool is it that Marion Cotillard will be playing Lady Macbeth opposite Michael Fassbender?  I wonder if James McAvoy (an actual Scot) is pissed. He did just end a run in the play in London’s West End, after all.  So we have The Scottish play starring a German/Irishman and a French woman, directed by Aussie  Justin Kurzel (The Snowtown Murders) from a screenplay cowritten by actor/director Todd Louiso (of Jerry Maguire fame), an American.  And yet, I’m ever hopeful.

Worth Another Look: Olympus Has Fallen on DVD

Olympus Has Fallen, movie, dvd, blu-ray, Gerard Butler

As you’re by now aware, movie audiences were treated to not one, but two, White House under siege movies this year. The wildest (and yet more serious-minded), the one people actually went to see, Olympus Has Fallen, has just come out on dvd. Now we’ll all be able to watch Gerard Butler and Dylan McDermott go mano y mano over and over again til our {heart’s} content and in the privacy of our own homes. Woot!

Since my initial review, first posted in March, this movie has gone on to exceed expectations and OVER-perform in nearly all of the markets in which it was released, world-wide. There’s no question it benefitted from being first out of the gate, but as of this writing, it’s the number one dvd rental in North America (per imdb) and has been the number one movie rental in American hotel rooms two months (the only 2 in which it was available) in a row. (I’m presuming they aren’t counting porn, but maybe they are!)  It’s not rocket surgery, but it is a LOT of fun.  Just the thing to watch while sitting on the couch in your jammies with a big bowl of popcorn and a couple of adult bevvies. In any case, I thought this would be a good time to revisit my thoughts on the subject. What follows is a slightly abbreviated version of my review, ending with a listing of the special features on the home editions:

Antoine Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen is probably the wildest ride you’ll take since the last time you rode Space Mountain, the Cyclone or even Kingda Ka*.  Watching this action adventure is the equivalent of a turn on one of the world’s scariest roller coasters with a release of adrenaline and dopamine that makes us feel frightened, shocked,  giddy and intensely alive.  Whenever I get off a rollercoaster, I want to get right back on. I felt the same way after I saw this movie.

Gerard Butler stars, in what has been described as “Die Hard in the White House”. It follows a down-on-his-luck ex-Secret Service (Butler) agent who becomes America’s only hope when 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is taken over by terrorists.

When the White House (Secret Service Code: “Olympus”) is captured by a terrorist mastermind and the President is kidnapped, disgraced former Presidential guard Mike Banning finds himself trapped within the building. As our national security team scrambles to respond, they are forced to rely on Banning’s inside knowledge to help retake the White House, save the President and avert an even bigger crisis.

…We’ve all heard the term “edge-of-your-seat” thriller. If you’ve never actually been on the edge of your seat while watching a movie and thought that was just so much hyperbole, that is exactly the place from which you will watch most of this movie.

If you’ve seen a trailer or clip, you know that the relative calm with which the movie opens, a picture of a happy family that just happens to include the President of the United States (Aaron Eckhart, looking extremely Presidential, I might add), won’t last. It’s like the clickety-clacking of that rollercoaster slowly making its way up to the first peak and then WOO HOO!

We get a brief respite while we and the characters on screen recover. When the action starts again, it really starts and seldom lets up for the next hour and a half.

Director Fuqua’s pacing and the talented cast keep us from looking too closely for the zippers up the backs of the monsters. The plot moves so fast and the actors sell it so well, that we don’t have time to look for holes. (… when you’re biting your nails and dodging bullets you don’t have a moment to think about whether or not  “that would really happen”.)

If you think the sight of the Washington monument moments after a plane hits it looks familiar, it’s supposed to. It evokes one of the defining moments of our country’s recent history for a reason. It’s designed to deliberately stir our patriotism precisely so that when the shooting stops, you understand the journey that the people who inhabit the United States on screen under President Asher, have just taken.  It neatly sidesteps jingoism by giving the bad guy (Rick Yune as Kang) a cause, but does not delve too deeply into his back story except to let us know that however just that cause may or may not be and how cool, calculated and brilliant he may appear, he took the train to Crazy Town long ago.

It avoids predictability by resolving one subplot in particular quickly, without dragging it out into cliché and also by not treating the hostages as “damsels-in-distress” waiting to be saved, but as tough patriots determined to go down swinging if that is their fate. Again, I have to stress the brilliant casting.

Without an actress of Oscar winner Melissa Leo’s caliber, we might not buy a female Secretary of Defense or what she undergoes in that bunker. The same could be said of Angela Bassett’s Director of the Secret Service. Her part was originally written for a man, since there has never been a female director. She is completely plausible and despite the fact that we never learn a single thing about her background, with Bassett’s performance we can understand how tough Lynn Jacobs would have to be to even be considered for the job.

Can we talk about Gerard Butler now? I think readers of this blog know that I’m kinda partial and I’m not one who sees anything wrong with the fact that he mixes genres and continues to try new things, but if he was going to return to action/adventure, this was the movie to do it with.  Butler is more than credible as Agent Mike Banning, the head of the President’s protection detail, mentor and guardian of the President’s son, as well as Agent-in-Exile Mike Banning, with visible, barely contained anxiety stemming from his role in the death of the First Lady and the desire to get back “in”. G does “damaged hero” very well and this movie lets him play to those strengths. We absolutely buy him as an ex-special forces commando able to thin the enemy’s numbers single-handedly. We especially buy his banter. The many one-liners he gets off are hilarious and speak volumes about the man and how he handles himself under pressure. Credit the writers, Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt, as well as Butler.

Do I even have to tell you that Morgan Freeman was completely believable as the Speaker of the House who becomes the Acting President? We’ve seen him in charge before and we always believe him. In fact, there are factions in this country who think he’s so good at acting like the president that they think he should run for the real job. (Mr. Freeman, I’ve read, takes that as a compliment to his abilities, but has no plans to run.) Freeman’s very casting is almost a spoiler.  How could everything not turn out okay on his watch?

Speaking of spoilers, I’m trying not to divulge anything that is best left for viewing, for instance there are more than a few of those one liners of Banning’s that I’d love to quote, but I will refrain. I can tell you that the fight scenes you may have seen, as well as the battles and carnage, are but the tip of the iceberg. I am serious when I tell you this movie doesn’t let up until the last two minutes of screen time. I can also tell you that the audiences with whom I saw the movie laughed, whooped and gasped at appropriate times and then erupted into cheers and applause when the bad guy finally bought it.

There will be people for whom this movie will be too much. Too much noise, too much blood, too much suspended disbelief, just too much. (For me there was a little too much kettle drum in the score.) This is a hard-R action movie. Lots of shit gets “blowed up” and the F-word is carpet bombed.  It won’t please everyone, nor should it. Those that like this sort of thing will love it.

Olympus Has Fallen, dvd, movie, blu-ray, Gerard Butler, Radha Mitchell

courtesy OHF Facebook page

The only nit I’ll pick was that I think there was probably originally more to Mike Banning’s relationship with his wife that didn’t make the final cut. Radha Mitchell is very good in her limited screen time and both she and Butler do convey a sense of the state of their relationship with very little, but I do believe we were denied a love scene. Just puttin’ that out there.

Olympus Has Fallen, starring Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Angela Bassett, Morgan Freeman, Rick Yune, Dylan McDermott, Robert Forster, Cole Hauser and Radha Mitchell, is out on dvd and blu-ray in the US now, Australia tomorrow, August 21, and on 2nd September in the UK.

DVD Bonus Features (basically there are none. Boooo)

-Ultraviolet digital copy

BLU-Ray on the other hand, has a lot of Bonus Features:

-Bloopers

(Check out a partial reel at the link, courtesy AccessHollywood )

-The Epic Ensemble: A look at Antoine Fuqua’s direction and an overview of the main cast’s work.

-Under Surveillance: The Making of Olympus Has Fallen: Cast and crew examine the core story, the process of fleshing out the idea, Antoine Fuqua’s vision of the film as a “cautionary tale,” the plausibility of the plot, technical consultation, creating a conceivably real assault on the White House, shooting in Louisiana standing in for Washington, set construction, and the role of both digital and practical effects.

-Deconstructing the Black Hawk Sequence: A detailed, inside look at digitally creating one of the film’s biggest action pieces.

-Ground Combat: Fighting the Terrorists: An examination of Fuqua’s insistence on reality and choreographing the action scenes.

-Creating the Action: VFX and Design: A broader examination of the film’s visual effects.

Previews: Additional Sony titles.

DVD Copy.

UV Digital Copy.

*The tallest coaster in the World, fastest in North America. 0 to 128 mph in 3.5 seconds and catapulting you 45 stories into the sky.  Not for love nor money.

Hae a Taste a’ This: Welcome to the Punch Now on DVD

James McAvoy, Mark Strong, Welcome to the Punch, movie

courtesy IFC Films via imdb

It’s  a safe bet that you missed Eran Creevy’s action thriller Welcome to the Punch when  it was in the theaters last Spring, at least here in the US. Luckily, it has just become available on dvd. If you’re a fan of  British crime flicks, the neo-noir stylings of Michael Mann, the frenetic style of crime thrillers by the late Tony Scott (whose brother Sir Ridley exec. produced here) or Asian crime thrillers like Infernal Affairs (Creevy made Welcome to the Punch as an homage to that film), then you’re going to want to check this out, and since one of the film’s stars (and one of our favorites), Mark Strong, is going to be on my tv for the next nine weeks in AMC’s gritty new drama, “Low Winter Sun”, it would seem now is an ideal time to talk about the movie.

Synopsis:

Former criminal Jacob Sternwood is forced to return to London from his Icelandic hideaway when his son is involved in a heist gone wrong. This gives detective Max Lewinsky one last chance to catch the man he has always been after. As they face off, they start to uncover a deeper conspiracy they both need to solve in order to survive.

Writer/director Creevy made a bold entrance with his first feature, Shifty, a minor hit in the UK produced for next to nothing and earning a BAFTA nomination. Welcome to the Punch is his ultra-stylish sophomore effort.  Taking place almost totally at night, there are several slick and violent set pieces filmed by Creevy’s Shifty cinematographer Ed Wild against the backdrop of London’s Canary Wharf and colored in various shades of blue. Visually, it reminded me of Heat and Thief (both by the aforementioned Michael Mann), thematically, it’s very much like the former.

Alongside Strong, the hyper-talented cast includes James McAvoy (who between the trifecta of Welcome to the Punch, Trance and the upcoming Filth, might finally be able to leave Mr. Tumnus* behind – at least in my mind), Andrea Riseborough, David Morrissey, Shifty star Daniel Mays, Jason Flemyng (whose apparent goal is to be in every Brit crime movie made in his lifetime), Ruth Sheen, the fabulous Johnny Harris (who looks like and sounds so much like a younger Eddie Marsan that I had to keep reminding myself that he wasn’t Eddie Marsan) and Peter Mullan, who should just be in everything. (That he wasn’t Emmy-nominated alongside Elisabeth Moss for “Top of the Lake” is pure sacrilege.)

The film opens with career criminal Jacob Sternwood (Strong) and his gang pulling off yet another high tech, meticulously planned bank heist. McAvoy’s detective Max Lewinsky is on hard on his tail, but ends up with a debilitating bullet to the knee, thanks to Sternwood, who gets away yet again.


courtesy IGN via YouTube

Flash forward three years and it is Sternwood’s son Ruan (Elyes Gabel), who sets the game in motion yet again. We see Sternwood living the life of a retired bank robber in Iceland (and keeping himself mighty fit too, thank you Giacomo Farci**). A phone call from his son shatters the quiet, if not altogether happy or content, illusion of safety he’s created.

Lewinsky, still suffering the consequences, both physical and emotional, of letting Sternwood get away, has a chance to redeem himself by luring Sternwood back to London to save Ruan, who has followed his father into the family business.

Max’s immediate supervisor, Nathan Bartnick (Mays), constantly reminds him that it was his impulsiveness that nearly got him killed. His partner, Sarah (Riseborough) wants to be supportive, but he shuts her out instead of showing her the ropes. Max’s superior and former mentor Thomas Geiger (Morrissey) appears to have his back, but then nothing is as it seems, is it?

The script may be a bit trite,  corrupt police and politicos and the little people who get in their way, but if it doesn’t necessary bring anything new to the table, the presentation is well worth your time.

The modernization of London is a theme so sharply angled construction sites overlook both sleek modern buildings like the bank in which the film opens and the rain-soaked metallic shine of industrial areas, like the container yard central to the plot and from which the film gets its name. The cool blue lighting, both inside a dim and deserted club and outside lit everywhere by neon, works with the muzzle flashes from copious amounts of gunfire to heighten the tension and add to the thrill.

This is definitely style over substance. As I said the plot isn’t going to tax anyone’s synapses too heavily. Creevy even uses Geiger to lay out the entire story for those in need of a catch-up. I will say, however, that he has given his cast a lot of credit and trusts them to do most of the heavy lifting in terms of character development.

A tilt of the head from Strong at the beginning and we know Sternwood’s assessing the risk between leaving Lewinsky hobbled or killing him outright. The fact that he leaves him alive speaks volumes about Sternwood. Even with everything that comes after, it’s not a decision that he regrets.

I actually like that we don’t know the exact nature of Max’s relationship with Sarah. Sure, they’re partners, but has it always been strictly professional? Would one or both of them like it to be otherwise? Again, it’s what isn’t said that gives us the clues.

Johnny Harris’ heavy Dean Warns could have been a mindless thug and gotten the job done, but he spits out a particularly memorable line of dialogue and from those few words, layers of the character peel away. We may see mayhem and violence, but he sees honor and duty.

Sadly, Peter Mullan doesn’t have a lot to do, but then I’m just greedy. His Roy Edwards is Sternwood’s partner in crime and BFF. He does get one of the best lines in the movie: (to Sternwood) “I can shave this {goatee}, but you’ll still look like a bag of smashed crabs”. Funny, but imagine it said in Mullan’s whisky and cigarette smoke-shrouded Scots burr.

The movie of course belongs to McAvoy and Strong. McAvoy very convincingly conveyed his desperation and determination to capture Sternwood and his frustration at being hobbled by the constraints of his superior officers as well as his physical limitations. His howl of pain when he isn’t able to literally pursue his quarry is gut-wrenching.

As for Mark Strong, it should come as no surprise that he very ably gives us a man who is both capable of cold, calculated violence and of being a worried and loving father.  We, like Max, feel his anguish and know his tears and his pain are genuine when he learns of his son’s death, as well as the guilt for having led him down the path to that morgue. What is the real treat here is that Strong is the co-lead. It’s rare that we get so much of him in one film. As his profile has increased, Strong’s film roles have taken him all over the world. He nearly missed the birth of his youngest son because he was in Morocco making Body of Lies, so he takes smaller roles which mean less time away from home. Welcome to the Punch was made in his backyard. (As far as I’m concerned, if it means we get more Mark Strong, all movies can be British movies.)

Welcome to the Punch had a larger budget than Creevy’s first film, so of course, the expectations were higher. If Punch didn’t exceed those expectations, neither did it squander Creevy’s evident potential and I look forward to his next film. In the meantime, Welcome to the Punch is a fun little thriller whose cast is so good that the movie will bear repeat viewings just to watch them work.

JMHO, but I give it 3 & ½ hobbes 2 (out of 5).   What did you think? Agree? Disagree? Let me hear it.

*Mr. Tumnus was an anthropomorphic faun, McAvoy’s character in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

**Giacomo Farci is Mark Strong’s personal trainer

Oh Yeah, He’s Been Bad All Right: New Trailer & Clips from The Counselor

Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, The Counselor, movie

20th Century Fox via Scott Free

There’s a brand new trailer for Sir Ridley Scott’s neo-noir thriller due out this fall. (I had intended to post it yesterday, but George Clooney, apparently still upset by the fact that Fassy can play golf without out his hands, had to steal his thunder.)  As I mentioned last week, The Counselor is based on a script by the author of No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy, and stars Michael Fassbender as a lawyer who gets involved with the high stakes world of drug smuggling.

This two minute bit of white-hot celluloid (an antiquated expression to be sure, since it’s probably only pixels) is an example of a trailer done right. It’s packed with glimpses of all of the major players including Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz, and Brad Pitt, and yet it hasn’t spelled out anything.

What do we really learn? We can figure out that Fassbender is about to get in over his head, but how do Pitt and Bardem feel about it? What are their roles? What’s up with Bardem’s hair? Or Pitt’s?  We see Cruz and Diaz (and her leopard print tats) enjoying a spa day. Diaz covets Cruz’s engagement ring. Are they friends? I don’t think so. How do they know each other? And what is the significance of the caress that Scott (or whomever cut the trailer) makes sure that we see? (Again I must mention Diaz’s character is called Malkina. She is definitely up to no good.)

It’s clear that Fassbender loves Cruz from the opening seconds (“I intend to love you until I die.”), and that she adores him as well (“Me first”). It also becomes clear that he wants to keep her in the dark about what he’s doing, indicated by his expression when she asks “Have you been bad?”, which gives her response a darker, more ominous meaning. (It’s even more clear from the short clip below that Cruz is the “good girl”, naïve in at least one crucial aspect of their relationship and I think we can take it that it carries over into all aspects.)

In fact the overall tone of the trailer is sinister and dangerous, the tension so thick you could cut it with that wire strung across a highway. We aren’t given any specifics, but this trailer has achieved the desired effect, which is to make us crave more, and to find out just exactly how bad Fassbender has been.  (Dare I hope that the answer is very wicked indeed?)

The Counselor also stars  Dean Norris, Rosie Perez, John Leguizamo, Natalie Dormer, Rubén Blades, Bruno Ganz, and Goran Visnjic. It opens October 25 in the US and 15th November in the UK.

Ridley Scott and author Cormac McCarthy join forces in the motion picture thriller THE COUNSELOR, starring Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, and Brad Pitt. McCarthy, making his screenwriting debut and Scott interweave the author’s characteristic wit and dark humor with a nightmarish scenario, in which a respected lawyer’s one-time dalliance with an illegal business deal spirals out of control.

Fassbender & Cruz:

Fassbender & Pitt:

Fassbender & Bardem:

Danny Ocean’s Grandfather Fights the Nazis

Matt Damon, George Clooney, movie, The Monuments Men

courtesy 20th Century Fox via USA Today

Way back in January 2012, Oscar nominee George Clooney, then enjoying the hoopla surrounding his performance in The Descendants, announced that his next film behind the camera would be based on the true story of a group of “soldiers” (really architects, art historians, museum curators, etc.) tasked with protecting priceless art treasures from the ravages of war and from Hitler’s grand plan to wipe out the culture of the Jewish people.  (“This sounds promising!”)

As soon as the project announcement was made, casting rumors began to circulate. Daniel Craig and Bill Murray were the first names to surface. (Craig didn’t stay, but Murray can be seen in the trailer). Cate Blanchett, with whom Clooney worked on The Good German, came next .  After that, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban and Hugh Bonneville all added their names to the dotted line. The last “get” was Matt Damon, who replaced Craig.  I’m sure that took some real heavy duty arm-twisting on Clooney’s part.

Based on the book “The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History” by Robert Edsel, the screenplay is by Clooney and his producing partner Grant Heslov.  The cinematography is by Phedon Papamichael who shot The Descendents and The Ides of March. The score is by gifted and prolific Oscar winner Alexandre Desplat, but Clooney’s imprimatur alone put high expectations on this movie before a single frame was lensed.

Filming began on March 6, 2013.

On March 11, I saw the first mention of the film in the same sentence as “Oscar contenders for 2014”.

In April, Sony showed some early footage at CinemaCon in Las Vegas.

Here we are in August and by now nearly everyone capable of making an awards contenders list for the upcoming season has The Monuments Men firmly entrenched in nearly every possible category including actor, director, and screenplay.  This is gonna be big! HUGE!  (Despite the fact that it’s not traveling to Venice or Toronto – or even, as of this writing, New York – for a festival).

So now we have the first trailer. I’m not quite sure what to make of it. What’s the tone Clooney’s going for? Where’s the gravitas?  I wasn’t looking for another Schindler’s List, but I wasn’t  expecting Ocean’s Eleven Takes on the Nazis. Have a look:

Is it me?The delivery of the dialogue implies one thing, the song playing under the trailer implies another (more in keeping with the subject matter).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I won’t see it, because I will. There’s too much here that promises to be a good time at the movies. Clooney being Clooney is very entertaining. When he teams up with his friends, like Matt Damon, they have great fun and it translates to the screen.  This is a very impressive cast and the opportunity to see them work together, again is too good to miss.  I guess I was just expecting “more”. More what exactly I can’t quite say yet. And why isn’t simply a “good time at the movies” enough anymore?

Then again, this is only the first trailer. Perhaps my questions will be answered before the very awards season conscious December US release date.

In a race against time, a crew of art historians and museum curators unite to recover renowned works of art stolen by Nazis before Hitler destroys them.

The Monuments Men costars a lot of fine European character actors like Diarmaid Murtagh (Vikings, Starz Camelot) and opens on December 18 in the US but not until January for the rest of the world, including the UK on the 9th.

Just my humble opinions. Feel free to put me in my place in the comments. In the meantime, check out the images courtesy USA Today:

More Hemsworth! More Hiddleston! More Hopkins! More THOR!

…oh yes and more Elba!

Chris Hemsworth, Thor, movie

courtesy Marvel via imdb

I know we just talked about it last week, but  this new trailer for Thor: The Dark World has a good deal more of everything we’re looking for than that teaser we were given a few months ago.

At the top of the list is gravitas. Perhaps it is because the comic book Thor is based on long cherished Norse mythology, but he is both more serious and taken more seriously than a lot of the denizens of the Marvel canon. They’ve got Sir Anthony Hopkins playing Odin for Asgard’s sake!  Of course, the somber tone was set when this sequel was titled Thor: The Dark World.

The new trailer also does a better job of reminding us how visually stunning Thor’s world is, plus it gives us a better look at the key players, including Natalie Portman’s Jane, making it clear that her relationship with Thor is  at the heart (pun intended) of this story. We get more of  Ray Stevenson’s Vollstagg (who appears, thankfully, to have lost some of the curl in his hair), and Jaimie Alexander’s Sif.  Idris Elba’s profile has increased a hundred-fold since the first film and so naturally we get a better look at Heimdall, Also of note, is the trailer time given to Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. It was recently confirmed that Loki will not be a part of the upcoming sequel to The Avengers (which, despite the fact that it makes sense in terms of the character, is a still a bummer), so enjoy him while you can.

Watch this:

First, I have to say that I am always surprised by how deep Chris Hemsworth’s voice is.  Second, I love the way they tied this to last summer’s The Avengers. Five words (and a slap) lets us know where this movie falls in the timeline and that the characters are aware of the events from that film.

Marvel’s “Thor: The Dark World” continues the big-screen adventures of Thor, the Mighty Avenger, as he battles to save Earth and all the Nine Realms from a shadowy enemy that predates the universe itself.  In the aftermath of Marvel’s “Thor” and “Marvel’s The Avengers,” Thor fights to restore order across the cosmos…but an ancient race led by the vengeful Malekith returns to plunge the universe back into darkness. Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all.

Thor: The Dark World also stars Stellan Skarsgård, Christopher Eccleston, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kat Dennings, Zachary Levi, Tadanobu Asano, and Rene Russo and will be in UK theaters on 30th October and in the US on November 8, in glorious 2D!

edited to add pics! D’oh!