When In Doubt, Trust the Trailer

I don’t know about you, but I am rarely influenced by a review for a film that I’ve already decided that I want to see.

How then do I make the decision in the first place, if not by reading the opinions of so-called experts whose opinions I value and trust? First, I take into account the alchemy of cast, director and screenwriter, their track records, news surrounding production, and of course, the plot, especially if it’s based on a book I’ve read and loved.  The coup de grâce is the trailer.

If I enjoy a movie’s trailer, the probability is high that I’ll give the actual film a chance, even if any of the above elements are weak.

Does this formula ever backfire? Pffft. Certainly. How many times have we seen a movie where all of the best jokes or action scenes were in the trailer? I’ve also paid good money to see films that ticked all of the boxes and still turned out to be real turkeys. The Unbearable Lightness of Being (or The Unbearable Length of This Movie, as a friend and I refer to it) comes to mind.  Great book – check. Great cast, including Daniel Day Lewis, Juliette Binoche and Lena Olin – check. Great director (Philip Kaufman) – check.

Great trailer – check:

Add all of that together and what do you get? Nearly three hours of utter boredom that I will never get back. (You may disagree. Roger Ebert gave it four stars back in 1988.)

You want a more recent example? There are plenty, but how about Dreamcatcher? It was directed by Lawrence Kasdan from a novel by Stephen King with a screenplay by William Goldman, starring Damian Lewis, Jason Lee, Timothy Olyphant and Morgan Freeman.

The trailer:

Seriously, doesn’t the Castle Rock logo combined with all the rest give you certain expectations, cause goosebumps or at last instill a bit of curiosity?  Dreamcatcher wasn’t based on King’s best work, I’ll grant you, but astoundingly, this confluence of talent managed to make from it something totally suck-tacular.

At any rate, when thinking about a movie’s trailer, the opposite is also true.  It is said that a film is truly created by the editor. After everyone else has done their jobs, it falls to the editor to arrange the pieces of the puzzle to tell the story and deliver the finished product.  The trailers for these products are designed to sell them. The editors of the trailers have to then parse out that finished product into small digestible bits to feed to whatever audience the distributors of the product want to reach.

If, after the first viewing, usually in a theater in front of a movie I have already paid to see, which leads these marketing wizards to assume that I will want to see this new one, I turn to my companions and shrug “meh”, those wizards have almost certainly already lost me.

If the trailer for a film fails to elicit the intended response, whether that be to laugh at a comedy, feel the beating heart of a love story or the least little bit of dread or curiosity for what comes next in a thriller, I’m probably going to pass, unless word of mouth manages to change my mind.  But, no amount of good press or even the urging of friends I trust can get me to see a movie after the trailer has made me cringe in embarrassment for the participants and/or left me with the desire to never have to see it again. (Which pretty much ensures that I will have to see it every time I turn on the television, but I digress.)

All of this brings me to one of this weekend’s new releases, Snatched. It’s nominally a mother-daughter buddy comedy let loose just in time for Mother’s Day. It stars Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn, both gifted comediennes, although they couldn’t be more different in style or tone.

I love Amy Schumer’s comedy. She’s original and fearless and her standup is hilarious.  Goldie Hawn is an icon. Read  her name and you know with 99% certainty what you’re going to get and that’s okay. She carved out that niche and she owns it. Sure, there have been some misfires during the span of a forty plus year career, but when she was on top of her game like she was in Foul Play or Private Benjamin, Goldie Hawn was a joy to behold and so were the movies. So what the hell happened?

Here’s the trailer:

Destined to make a pile of cash big enough to be seen from space, it’s safe to say that none of my dollars will be included. I wouldn’t see this movie on pain of death.  This movie looks more like a trainwreck than Trainwreck (which was actually pretty good. Another exception that proves the rule, but the trailer didn’t get a cringe, only a “meh”, and I saw it on cable.) I had numerous opportunities to see advance screenings of Snatched free-of-charge, and was never even tempted.

Reviews for Snatched are beginning to emerge online and most seem to confirm my assessment. My favorite comes from Variety’s Owen Gleiberman. For whatever it’s worth, I don’t always agree with him, in fact I usually refer to him as a curmudgeon who seems to be getting crankier with age.

Excerpt from his review:

“The movie is a jungle-set chase comedy that has many antecedents, from “Romancing the Stone” to “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason,” but really, “Snatched” is the generic version of a latter-day Paul Feig comedy — which is to say, it’s an attempt to shoehorn Amy Schumer into the action-meets-yocks-meets-sisterhood formula of movies like “The Heat” and “Spy.” …“Snatched” is a flashy piece of product. It doesn’t quite try to turn Amy Schumer into the new Melissa McCarthy, but it reduces her all the same.

… The movie also looks about 10 times better than it needs to; Florian Ballhaus’ cinematography might have served an elegant Amazon Forest thriller. You could say that there’s no harm in Amy Schumer doing a picture like this one, and maybe there isn’t, but she’s one of those actresses who has the potential to bring a rare full-bodied comic voice to movies. That’s a quality that shouldn’t get thrown overboard.”

You can read the whole thing here, but to summarize, it would seem to bear out the theory that even with a good pedigree, the finished product can ultimately be less than the sum of its parts.  We have a lot of entertainment choices these days. If we’re going to leave the comfort of our homes and fork over the money for a first-run movie, we need to be able to make informed decisions.  By all means, take into account reviews, however they are delivered, by people whose opinions you trust, but ultimately, go with your gut. Trust the trailer.

By the way, that last line of Gleiberman’s review was a dig at the film Overboard, in which Goldie Hawn does what she does best, and while it’s not great, it is one of my favorite guilty-pleasures. It’s one of those movies that I own on dvd and still stop to watch at least a bit of if I happen to run across it on tv. I originally saw it at the theater. Why? Because the trailer made me laugh. Out loud.

Last-Minute Oscar Predictions Post 2017!

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Well, it’s finally here – the Superbowl of Cinema, the Indianapolis 500 of Film – it’s OSCAR Day!  As you can probably tell, I’m very excited! So, before I put the finishing touches on the hors d’oeuvres and my party shoes on my feet, I have time for a quick predictions post.

Here is your list of nominees in the twenty-four categories that will be televised tonight. (If you’re a novice watcher, you might want to take a nap now. We can expect the show to last until midnight.) The show should be a good one. Jimmy Kimmel is hosting for the first time. For years, his post-Oscars edition of his own show has been a highlight.

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My prognostications for what I think will win are in yellow.  If the film or performance that I think should win is different from what I believe will win, I’ve marked it in red.  I’ll update with an * for the actual winner. My average over the last few years is roughly 75%.  There appear to be quite a few “sure things” this year, so we’ll see whether or not I improve my numbers.

Best Picture

Arrival

Fences

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Hidden Figures

La La Land

Lion

Manchester By the Sea

Moonlight *

Hedging a bit, right off -the-bat? Let me explain. Hell or High Water was my favorite film of the year, followed by Manchester… and Moonlight.  Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed La La Land, but in terms of “Best Picture”? I believe there are other films more deserving. On the other hand, can’t we all use a little bit of simple, lovely, well-made movie magic? So, I won’t really be all that upset when La La Land wins.

Best Actor

Casey Affleck *

Andrew Garfield

Ryan Gosling

Viggo Mortensen

Denzel Washington

I’m sticking with Casey Affleck, though Denzel Washington is surging in most polls.

 

Best Actress

Isabelle Huppert

Ruth Negga

Natalie Portman

Emma Stone *

Meryl Streep

I’m happy that Ruth Negga was recognized for the beautiful Loving, just as I’m mystified that her costar Joel Edgerton, as well as director Jeff Nichols and the film itself, were not.

 

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali *

Jeff Bridges

Lucas Hedges

Dev Patel

Michael Shannon

Best Supporting Actress

Viola Davis *

Naomie Harris

Nicole Kidman

Octavia Spencer

Michelle Williams

What more can be said about Viola Davis’ fierce performance in Fences? She should have been in the leading actress category and she’d still win.

Best Director

Arrival, Denis Villaneuve

Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson

La La Land, Damien Chazelle *

Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan

Moonlight, Barry Jenkins

Adapted Screenplay

Arrival, Eric Heisserer

Fences, August Wilson

Hidden Figures, Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi

Lion, Luke Davies

Moonlight, Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney *

Original Screenplay

Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan

La La Land, Damien Chazelle

The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou

Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan *

20th Century Women, Mike Mills

I’ll be very happy for Kenneth Longergan, who wrote a gorgeous movie. Would I be even happier if Taylor Sheridan’s name were to be called? Yes. Yes, I would.

Cinematography

Arrival, Bradford Young

La La Land, Linus Sandgren *

Lion, Greig Fraser

Moonlight, James Laxton

Silence, Rodrigo Prieto

Animated Feature Film

Kubo and the Two Strings

Moana

My Life as a Zucchini

The Red Turtle

Zootopia *

Foreign Language Film

Land of Mine (Denmark)

A Man Called Ove (Sweden)

The Salesman (Iran) *

Tanna (Australia)

Toni Erdmann (Germany)

Documentary Feature

Fire at Sea

I Am Not Your Negro

Life, Animated

O.J.: Made in America *

Lion, Greig Fraser

Moonlight, James Laxton

Silence, Rodrigo Prieto

Film Editing

Arrival, Joe Walker

Hacksaw Ridge, John Gilbert *

Hell or High Water, Jake Roberts

La La Land, Tom Cross 

Moonlight, Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon

Production Design

Arrival, Patrice Vermette and Paul Hotte

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Stuart Craig and Anna Pinnock

Hail, Caesar! , Jess Gonchor and Nancy Haigh

La La Land, Davis Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco *

Passengers, Guy Hendrix Dyas and Gene Serdena

Costume Design

Allied, Joanna Johnston

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Colleen Atwood *

Florence Foster Jenkins, Consolata Boyle

Jackie, Madeline Fontaine

La La Land, Mary Zophres

Makeup and Hairstyling

A Man Called Ove, Eva von Bahr and Love Larson

Star Trek Beyond, Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo

Suicide Squad, Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini, and Christopher Nelson *

Original Score

Jackie, Mica Levi

La La Land, Justin Hurwitz *

Lion, Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka

Moonlight, Nicholas Britell

Passengers, Thomas Newman

Original Song

“Audition (The Fools who Dream),” La La Land, music by Justin Hurwitz, lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

“Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Trolls, music and lyric by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin, and Karl Johan Schuster

“City of Stars,” La La Land, music by Justin Hurwitz, lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul *

“The Empty Chair,” Jim: The James Foley Story, music and lyric by J. Ralph and Sting

“How Far I’ll Go,” Moana, music and lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Sound Editing

Arrival, Sylvain Bellemare *

Deepwater Horizon, Wylie Stateman and Renée Tondelli

Hacksaw Ridge, Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright

La La Land, Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan

Sully, Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

Sound Mixing

Arrival, Bernard Gariépy Strobl and Claude La Haye

Hacksaw Ridge, Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie, and Peter Grace *

La La Land, Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee, and Steve A. Morrow

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio, and Stuart Wilson

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush, and Mac Ruth

Visual Effects

Deepwater Horizon, Craig Hammack, Jason Snell, Justin Billington, and Burt Dalton

Doctor Strange, Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli, and Paul Corbould

The Jungle Book, Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones, and Dan Lemmon *

Kubo and the Two Strings, Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean, and Brad Schiff

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel, and Neil Corbould

Animated Short Film

Blind Vaysha

Borrowed Time

Pear Cider and Cigarettes

Pearl

Piper *

Live Action Short Film

Ennemis Intérieurs

La Femme et le TGV

Silent Nights

Sing *

Timecode

Documentary Short Subject

Extremis

4.1 Miles

Joe’s Violin

Watani: My Homeland

The White Helmets *

Golden Globe Predictions 2017

golden globes, awards, awards shows, predictions, S. A. Young

I’m blowing the dust off of this blog with a quickie Golden Globes prediction post.

Here are my (semi-eductated) guesses, which will probably change by the time the Academy Awards roll around, especially since nominations haven’t even been announced yet, and the Golden Globes are not necessarily Oscar harbingers. The one thing that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association does oh so right, is divide the Best Picture and Best Actor/Actress categories into Drama and Musical/Comedy. This just makes sense to me. Why wouldn’t you compare apples to apples, oranges to oranges, etc?

But then, quizzically, they lump all of the directors, writers and supporting actors/actresses in their respective fields together. So essentially that’s just as head scratching as the Oscars. There are ten “Best Picture” nominees with only five nominated directors and five nominated writers. If there is logic to this, I have not been able to find any evidence of it. The internet, so chock full of experts and theorists, has let me down on the subject. If I live to be a thousand, I may, someday, be able to puzzle it out.

Oh well, as usual, I digress. I did say this was to be a “quickie” post, after all. Here are my picks, with categories in no particular order:

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Best Picture-Drama

Manchester By the Sea

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Best Picture – Comedy or Musical

La La Land

Best Actor – Drama

Casey Affleck – Manchester By the Sea

Best Actor – Miusical or Comedy

Ryan Reynolds – Deadpool ( It’s the battle of the Ryans. I’m going with Reynolds by hair. call me crazy but Deadpool did HUGE money overseas)

Best Actress – Drama

Natalie Portman – Jackie (because Natalie Portman)

Best Actress – Musical or Comedy

Emma Stone – La La Land

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Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali – Moonlight

Best Supporting Actress

Viola Davis – Fences

Best Director

Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester By the Sea (this is a race between Lonergan and Damian Chazelle and I think HFPA will want to reward an older, first time {directing} nominee. It’s a tough category and any one of the nominees – Lonergan, Chazelle, Gibson, Jenkins, or Ford could pull off a win)

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture

Barry Jenkins – Moonlight (This will be the category where the amazing Moonlight is rewarded)

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Best Animated Feature

Zootopia (though I adored Sing)

Best Foreign Language Film

Elle (Isabelle Huppert won’t win for her performance so I think the HFPA will reward her film)

Best Original Score – Motion Picture

La La Land

Best Original Song – Motion Picture

“City of Stars” from La La Land (Everyone I saw this movie with left the theater either humming or singing this catchy tune – although this is tricky. Justin Timberlake could steal for “Can’t Stop the Feeling” from Trolls. It was a radio hit worldwide.)

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Best Television Series – Drama

“The Crown”

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Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy

“Atlanta”

Best Actor – Television – Drama

Billy Bob Thornton – “Goliath”

Best Actress – Television – Drama

Caitriona Balfe – “Outlander” (if anyone beats her it will be Claire Foy for “The Crown”, but I live in hope)

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Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

“The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television

Sarah Paulson – “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television

Courtney B. Vance – “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” (another tough category but I think the OJ:Crime Juggernaut will win out)

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Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy

Issa Rae – “Insecure”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy

Donald Glover – “Atlanta”

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Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Thandie Newton – “Westworld”

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture MBest ade for Television

John Lithgow – “The Crown”

#GerardButler in #Geostorm Now Brewing in 2017 But What Does It All Mean?

Septembers of Shiraz, movie, poster, Iran, based on novel, Adrian Brody, Salma Hayek, Gerard Butler

I’m sensing it’s the end of an era. You know I work really hard at keeping the faith, keeping the torch of Gerard Butler’s career lit (for all the thanks I get from him), but I have no idea what to make of this newest development. We’ve gone from a possible three films in 2015, to no films in 2015. Three films in the can. All three have now been pushed back from their original release dates.

London Has Fallen, the sequel to 2013’s surprise hit Olympus Has Fallen and the closest thing to a safe bet among the three, will, as of this writing at least, be released in January 22, 2016, pushed back from October 2015. I’ve already complained about the fact that the October 2 date was given to what will surely be an execrable remake of 80’s “classic” Point Break (sorry Edgar Ramirez, but I don’t think even you’ll be able to save it). The reason supposedly had something to do with a crowded fall schedule. The original date would have pitted the film, by a director, Babak Najafi, making his English language debut, against Victor Frankenstein with James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe and Robert ZemeckisThe Walk with Joseph Gordon Levitt, among others.

Alex Proyas’ (RepoMan) Gods of Egypt is slated to follow in April 2016, back from an original date of February 12. Despite the fact that I’m a tad peeved that it won’t open on my birthday, The rescheduled date actually bodes well, on the face of it. February is the new January. While the first month of the year used to a wasteland of dumped films that studios had no confidence in, but figured might make a few bucks, and they had to put out something. These days, quite a few studios are “counter-programming” against the late end of December rush to release awards season fodder, by unleashing some films in January that are not meant to garner awards but just entertain those segments of the population that either have no interest in more high-brow fare, or who have already seen everything. So now February has become the dead space between end of year blockbusters and art films and new Spring films. An April date for Gods of Egypt might just signal a little more faith from its studio, Lionsgate/Summit. They’ll need some faith. They’ve got a huge nut to crack. Twelve special effects companies are expensive. $140 million expensive. (Although supposedly, Lionsgate/Summit’s ante was only around $10 million, because of the international pre-sales and Australia tax incentives.)

Lastly, there’s Geostorm which had originally been slated for an October 2016 release. Today it was announced that it has been pushed back to January 2017. Geostorm is the directorial debut of disaster flick maven, writer/producer Dean Devlin. The cast, in addition to Butler includes Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Mare Winningham, Kathryn Winnick, Ed Harris and Andy Garcia. In it, Butler is a “charming but stubborn satellite designer called in to help when the orbiting devices that control the Earth’s weather start to go haywire, leading to fears that the worst storm humanity has ever known could soon befall us all. Sturgess is his estranged brother, with whom he’ll have to work if he’s to stop the meteorological meltdown.”
No reason has been given for this latest move. It’s been deduced that it is to give Devlin (who is also at work on his TNT series “The Librarians”) more time in post-production (where it’s been since March 2015). So it was originally going to be a year and a half from wrap to release, now it’ll be closer to two years. The same can be said of Gods of Egypt, which when into post in July 2014. Both films are ultra- special effects heavy extravaganzas. The latter takes place almost entirely in front of a green screen.

I actually don’t think this will be the final move for Geostorm. Giving Devlin a few more months to tinker is one thing, but the new date is already crowded with the likes of the Magnificent Seven remake, DreamWorks Animation’s Boss Baby, the LONG gestating version of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower (which hasn’t even filmed yet) and the latest Power Rangers reboot. Regardless of what I think of those films, it’s likely that at least one of them will share ticket buyers with Geostorm. So we’ll see.

While all of this may be out of Gerard Butler’s control, probably yet another reason he’s taken to producing his own films (and he only has a hand in one of these, London Has Fallen), he’s been out of the movie-going public’s eye since October 2013. That’s a Hollywood lifetime. I think this was the point. I’d like to believe that even he had tired of the carnival that is his life. While no one has more fun, in terms of his career, it was time to take a step back and reassess. Or at least that’s what I want to believe. While I know it hasn’t all been endless vacations in between Hugo Boss campaigns, none of these three films add up to what I believe is his own (well-deserved) version of a McConaissance. I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but they appear, at first blush, to be more of the same. Perhaps his manager/producing partner Alan Siegel knew of where he spoke when, quite a few years ago, he said (and I’m paraphrasing) that eventually Gerard Butler will disappear completely from in front of the camera and reemerge behind it. Perhaps that’s where he’ll find true creative fulfillment.

Butler will likely be in Toronto this month to attend the Gala premiere of Septembers of Shiraz, during the Toronto International Film Festival. It is the first film he’s shepherded as producer from the purchase of the book’s film rights all the way to the screen, and the first that doesn’t have him in it. It stars the other half of my favorite bromance, Adrien Brody, as well as Salma Hayek and Shohreh Aghdashloo.

Here’s the first clip:

(clip first published on Deadline.com)

The film, directed by Wayne Blair (The Sapphires) and based on the novel by Dalia Sofer, is the true story of a secular Jewish family and the unexpected journey they face during post-revolutionary Iran.

The clip features Farnez Amin (Hayek), pleading for details on the whereabouts of her husband (Brody), who was taken into custody and accused of espionage. “It’s time you understood, sister Amin, that the times when people like you could demand things from us are over. Now, it is our turn,” forewarns Mohsen (Alon Aboutboul).

As events build toward a dangerous bid to escape, Farnez and her husband Isaac Amin must confront their fundamental identity and what their future may hold.”

Movie 43 it ain’t.

I don’t predict huge box office in the US after its as yet to be determined and probably limited release, but it’ll likely have legs overseas and I have no doubt tireless promoter Butler will hand carry it across the globe if need be.

My point, if I have one, is that as the time between films in which Gerard Butler appears on our screens grows longer and longer, and some might well wonder if by the time these films are finally released anyone will still care, we might also ask, will he?

#GerardButler and #AaronEckhart Are a Dynamic Duo in 1st Trailer for #LondonHasFallen

London Has Fallen, movie, poster, Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart

Lionsgate UK has today released the first trailer for London Has Fallen, the sequel to 2013’s Olympus Has Fallen. I can only assume that the release of the trailer had been scheduled around the original October 2015 release date, before it was pushed back to January 2016*. Not that I’m complaining, It’s been a loooong time since I’ve seen Gerard Butler on the big screen (and no, animated voice acting does not count). Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing depends on your perspective. To quote Peter Quill, I’d say it’s a “bit’a both”.

Following the events of the original film, in which Mike Banning (Butler) single-handedly saved the President (Aaron Eckhart) from the clutches of a North Korean terrorist bent on our complete annihilation, Banning has been reinstated as not only a member of the Secret Service, but he’s back on his friend and President’s personal detail.

In the sequel, the two, travel to London to attend the funeral of the British Prime Minister. Terrorists come of the woodwork, seeking to capitalize on this confluence of world leaders.

This is only the first little teaser, but it would appear that President Asher doesn’t have to play the damsel in distress in this one, and gets to assist Banning with the world-saving. Call me crazy, but I like the on-the-nose use of “London Bridge is Falling Down” underneath it.

Radha Mitchell is back as Banning’s wife Leah. Maybe he’ll take her along for that long-delayed honeymoon. (A little snogging would be nice, Butler. Throw your distaff fans a bone.) My guess is that the other returning players, including Head of the Secret Service, Lynn Jacobs (Angela Bassett), Speaker of the House Trumbull (Morgan Freeman), Secretary of Defense McMillan (Melisso Leo)NSA Deputy Director Ray Monroe (Sean O’Bryan) and even blowhard General Clegg (Robert Forster) are probably all left at home manning the switches.

The sequel to the worldwide smash hit Olympus Has Fallen begins in London, where the British Prime Minister has passed away under mysterious circumstances. His funeral is a must-attend event for leaders of the western world. But what starts out as the most protected event on earth, turns into a deadly plot to kill the world’s most powerful leaders, devastate every known landmark in the British capital, and unleash a terrifying vision of the future. Only three people have any hope of stopping it: the President of the United States, his formidable secret service head (Gerard Butler), and an English MI-6 agent who rightly trusts no one.

Directed by Babak Najafi ( Easy Money II: Hard to Kill, “Banshee”), written by Katrin Benedikt and Creighton Rothenberger (who penned the original) and Christian Gudegast (A Man Apart, Den of Thieves**) with Chad St. John, the sequel also stars Charlotte Riley, Colin Salmon,  Patrick Kennedy, Shivani Ghai, Mehdi Dehbi and Andrew Pleavin*** and will be released on January 22, 2016.

More will surely follow.

London Has Fallen, movie, poster, Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart

*I know, I know. The rule is “beware the films of January” – but I’ve also said January is not the wasteland it used to be. I’m holding onto a kernel of hope. It’s Gerard Butler after all. I’m nothing if not loyal. I’m more perturbed by the fact that this film’s date was usurped by the Point Break remake.

**Den of Thieves is in pre-production and also stars Gerard Butler. I have to wonder whether or not it’s in jeopardy, like the oft-rescheduled Hunter Killer, due to Relativity’s financial woes.

***3rd time Pleavin will have appeared with Butler, following the made-for-television mini-series “Attila” and then 300

#MattDamon Knows Help Is Only 140 Million Miles Away in #TheMartian’s First Trailer

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…and he’s gonna “science the shit out of {it}”.

From Sir Ridley Scott, with a cast as impressive as this one boasts, it’s a safe bet that I will see The Martian, even if it were a live action version of Bugs Bunny’s nemesis Marvin the Martian’s life story.  Judging from the just released first trailer, it is not. What it does appear to be is a combination of both Gravity and Interstellar while managing to up the ante on them both.

I.CAN’T.WAIT.

Take a look at this:

While I’m on record as not being a proponent of 3D just for the sake of it, I believe a movie like this will probably benefit from every bit of technological wizardry that’s thrown at it. I’ll see it in IMAX 3D if it’s available.

During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring “the Martian” home, while his crewmates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible rescue mission. As these stories of incredible bravery unfold, the world comes together to root for Watney’s safe return.

While Sir Ridley needs no introduction, The Martian is based on a best-selling (first) novel* by Andy Weir, and the screenplay was written by Drew Goddard, also responsible for the scripts for Cloverfield (and its upcoming sequel), The Cabin in the Woods, and World War Z, as well as a lot of episodes of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “Angel”, “Alias” and “Lost”. Oh yeah, and he created current Netflix hit “Daredevil”.

As he did with Prometheus, Scott has embraced the era of viral marketing. The first promo for The Martian has been released, called “Ares Farewell”. In it, Matt Damon’s Mark Watney “interviews” the crew of the Ares (which for some reason he calls the Hermes. I wonder if the ship’s name was changed?**) as they do their final pre-flight checks. It’s designed to be viewed on your computer or device screen and includes pop-up “tweets”. One of which, “Vogel (Aksel Hennie) has to be the #synthetic right…#AresLive”, is a brilliant reference to characters in Ridley Scott’s previous space films, Alien and Prometheus.

Besides Damon, the cast includes Jessica Chastain***, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Hennie, Donald Glover and Mackenzie Davis.

The Martian, Matt Damon, Sir Ridley Scott, movie, poster

The Martian opens all over this planet beginning with the US on November 25 and the UK on 27th November.

*Weir first published the book in blog form on his own site. When people asked for a downloadable form, he offered it on Amazon for Kindle download at the (then) minimum price of $0.99. Now that’s a self-publishing success story.
**Ares is the Greek God of war. Hermes is the Greek God of transitions and boundaries, as well as being a messenger and a protector and patron of travelers. He’s the equivalent of the Roman God Mercury. Both are typically depicted with wings on their heels and/or helmets. JMHO, but Hermes seems like a better name for the spacecraft taking a crew to Mars.
***Both Damon and Chastain appeared in Interstellar, but shared no scenes together.

#TomCruise is Still Trying to Get That Door Open in 2nd Trailer for MI:5 – Rogue Nation

Mission Impossible, Rogue Nation, movie, poster, Tom Cruise

The Avengers may have kicked off the summer tent-pole season, but for my money, it won’t be official until I hear the opening strains of Lalo Schifrin’s “Mission Impossible” theme.

Call me crazy, but I still get excited whenever I hear the “dun dun dun dun DUN dun”. I still look forward to whatever shenanigans that Ethan Hunt and company are likely to get up to in the latest installment of the Mission Impossible film franchise. Despite how looney tunes Tom Cruise is, may be, or you perceive him to be, he continues to provide a pretty reliable return on the investment of  whatever you paid for your ticket. JMHO, but I think he’s crazy like a fox. He’s still one of the biggest movie stars on the planet, whatever we think of him here at home. And I don’t think the fact that he puts 110% into his performances (or at least 110% of what he has left after the Thetans have taken their cut) can be called into question. Those big global bucks ensure that, even at 52,  Paramount is still willing to let Cruise run amok by doing his own stunts, (which seem to get more outrageous the older he gets and despite the fact that he was injured six times on this film) and the special effects wizards keep getting to invent at least semi-plausible weapons and gadgets. (Can you imagine if Ethan Hunt were to team up with James Bond?)

The IMF team once again includes Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames. The new addition is Rebecca Ferguson (“The White Queen”) plays the film’s Ilsa Faust (a better name for a femme fatale has not been cooked up since, well, since Natasha Fatale), stepping into the shoes vacated by Paula Patton as Ethan’s arm candy. Faust, judging from the trailer, would seem to have some skills as well.

Natasha Fatale

Other newcomers include Simon McBurney, the always excellent and usually menacing Sean Harris and Alec Baldwin as the head of the CIA who apparently wants the heads of the IMF on a plate.

Ethan and team take on their most impossible mission yet, eradicating the Syndicate – an International rogue organization as highly skilled as they are, committed to destroying the IMF.

The Syndicate is the name of the organization that regularly provided the baddies for the original “Mission: Impossible” tv show. (What SPECTRE is to Bond and T.H.R.U.S.H.  is to the Man From U.N.C.L.E. – both of which will be revisited this year. That’s why Paramount moved the release date up from Christmas. MI5 gets to be first. Here’s a bit of trivia: Cruise was cast as Napoleon Solo, but dropped out to focus on MI5.) The film starts where Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (hard to believe that was 3 1/2 years ago) ends, with Ethan prepping his team to investigate the Syndicate.  Anyway, watch this:

“This may be our last mission. Let’s make it count.”  As if. As long as they keep making money, Tom Cruise will keep making Mission Impossible movies. I’m sure someone can figure out how to turn a walker into a weapon.  Bring it.

Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie (who has become Cruise’s go-to collaborator of late), Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation opens in the UK on 30th July and in the US on July 31.