Emily Blunt ("Looper") and Ruth Wilson ("Luther") are said to be both battling to secure the role of Ms. Marvel in the upcoming "The Avengers" sequel reports The Daily Mail.
In the comics the character, a.k.a. Carol Susan Jane Danvers, has superhuman powers including strength and flight. Of course the talk comes from a UK tabloid so take it for what it is.
Production on the next 'Avengers' could commence as early as late next Fall in order to make the May 2015 release date.
GKIDS have announced the English voice cast for Studio Ghibli and Goro Miyazaki's animated feature "From Up on Poppy Hill", the top-grossing Japanese film of 2011.
Set in Yokohama in 1963, the story follows the budding romance that develops as a young man and woman join forces to save their high school's ramshackle clubhouse from demolition.
Amongst those taking roles in 'Poppy' are Gillian Anderson, Sarah Bolger, Beau Bridges, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bruce Dern, Jeff Dunham, Isabelle Fuhrman, Christina Hendricks, Ron Howard, Chris Noth, Emily Osment, Aubrey Plaza, Charlie Saxton, Alex Wolff and Anton Yelchin.
Gary Rydstrom will direct the English language version from a script adaptation by Karey Kirkpatrick. A March 15th 2013 North American theatrical release is planned.
Cam Gigandet and comedian Nick Thune will star in the raunchy indie comedy "Johnson" for 2DS Prods. and Roman's Empire says Variety.
Gigandet will play a charismatic womanizer who receives his comeuppance after his penis mysteriously leaves his body and takes human form (Thune).
Stripped of his manhood and pitted against his alter ego, he must find a way to get his dick back while learning how to be a better man in the process.
Huck Botko ("The Virginity Hit") is directing from a script by Jeff Tetreault, while Reid Brody, Bill Ryan and Danny Roman will produce. Shooting kicks off October 10th in Chicago.
Sienna Miller has joined Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher" at Annapurna Pictures. Steve Carell plays a paranoid schizophrenic scion who created a training center for wrestlers.
He then murdered Olympic grappler Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo). Sienna Miller will play Dave's wife while Channing Tatum is already cast as Dave's brother. [Source: Deadline]
Orange is the New Black
Natasha Lyonne, Pablo Schreiber, Michael Harney and Lin Tucci are all set to join Netflix's original dramedy "Orange Is the New Black".
The story follows an engaged Brooklyn resident whose decade-ago relationship with a drug runner leads to her being detained in a women's prison where she must adapt to the harsh new environment. [Source: The Live Feed]
Nate Parker ("Arbitrage") is joining Jaume Collet-Serra's airplane thriller "Non-Stop" for Silver Pictures and Universal Pictures.
Liam Neeson will play a federal air marshal who matches wits with an embittered American terrorist threatening to kill a fellow passenger every 20 minutes unless the marshal kills himself. Parker plays a passenger who helps Neeson solve the mystery. [Source: Variety]
Untitled Female Expendables
Katee Sackhoff ("Battlestar Galactica," "Longmire') will join Gina Carano in the untitled all-female riff on "The Expendables" at 1984 Private Defense Contractors.
Dutch Southern is penning the script for the film which is pursueng several prominent actresses affiliated with the action genre to be a part of the project. [Source: Variety]
More photos from Hitchcock, Silent Hill Revelation, a dozen motion photos from Sinister, a key scene being shot for Kick Ass 2, a Justice Building in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and Robert DeNiro shooting Malavita.
Posters for Jack Reacher, Broken City, Seven Psychopaths, Not Fade Away, Holy Motors, Silent Hill: Revelation 3D, The Guilt Trip, Great Expectations, Parker, Flight, Amber Alert, Smiley, and banners forThe Hobbit
J.J. Abrams premiered the first footage from "Star Trek Into Darkness" on Conan O'Brien. The catch? The clip is three frames long (ie. 1/8th of a second). See for yourself at TeamCoco.
"Fox's comedy 'The Internship', starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, has been moved up three weeks to a June 7th 2013 release…" (full details)
"The world premiere of 'Bullet to the Head', an action thriller directed by Walter Hill and starring Sylvester Stallone, will screen at the International Rome Film Festival in mid-November…" (full details)
"Guillermo del Toro says that Marvel's 'The Hulk' TV series project has found a writer they want and are now pursuing him - 'we were waiting for this writer, and we were going to do it with him'…" (full details)
"'School of Rock' and 'Bernie' filmmaker Richard Linklater and actor Jack Black are reportedly planning on working together on a third film - a biopic about a real life professional bowler…" (full details)
"MTV has announced that its annual movie awards will be broadcast live on Sunday, April 14th, nearly two months earlier than usual…" (full details)
The very first episode of the live-action "Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn" web series has debuted online. Check it out below:
NBC is closing a deal with Universal Television and Matchbox Pictures for an American adaptation of last year's multiple award-winning Australian miniseries "The Slap".
Based on the 2008 novel by Christos Tsiolkas, the story deals with the repercussions that follow when, at a suburban family gathering, a man physically slaps a child unrelated to him.
Melissa George, Jonathan LaPaglia and Sophie Okonedo starred in the eight episode series in which each episode focuses on a different person who attended the barbecue.
"Brothers & Sisters" creator Jon Robin Baitz will pen the U.S. adaptation.
Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner have all joined the cast of David O. Russell's untitled true story ensemble drama at Annapurna Pictures reports Variety
Previously called "American Bullshit", Bale will play a financial con man forced to work with an ambitious FBI agent (Cooper) to take down other crims, gangsters and politicians.
Adams will play his mistress, Renner will play the leader of the New Jersey state assembly. Russell and Eric Warren Singer are penning the script.
Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison and Ted Schipper will produce. A late 2013 release is planned.
Martin Landau and Virginia Madsen have joined the cast of the Lifetime telemovie "The Anna Nicole Story" which Sony Pictures TV and Storyline Entertainment are producing reports Deadline.
"American Psycho" director Mary Harron has also come on board to helm the biopic about Vickie Lynn Hogan, a pretty but plain small town Texan girl who transformed herself into the voluptuous, Marilyn Monroe-esque Anna Nicole Smith.
Madsen will play Vickie’s mom Virgie, Landau will play oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall who married then-stripper Smith when he was 89 and she was 26. John Rice and Joe Batteer penned the script.
All You Need Is Kill
Aussie actor Kick Gurry ("Speed Racer ," "Spartan") has landed a role alongside Tom Cruise in Doug Liman's sci-fi feature "All You Need Is Kill".
Gurry will play a fellow soldier to Cruise who must fight an alien-like battle day after day in a Groundhog Day-type scenario. [Source: The West Australian]
Untitled London Project
Tom Hiddleston ("Thor," "Wallander"), Viv Albertine and Liam Gillick have joined the cast of Joanna Hogg's as-yet-untitled third feature which will shoot for six weeks in and around west London.
Details of the movie remain under wraps. Hiddleston starred in Hogg's previous two films "Unrelated" and "Archipelago". [Source: Heat Vision]
Kim Basinger has joined the cast of Paul Haggis’ ensemble drama "The Third Person". The film tells the interconnected love stories of three couples who live in three different cities.
Basinger will have a supporting role as the wife of a character played by Liam Neeson. Mila Kunis, Adrien Brody, Casey Affleck, Olivia Wilde and James Franco also star. [Source: THR]
The Second Coming
Sam Reid ("Hatfields & McCoys," "The Railway Man") and Sarah Snook ("Spirited") have been cast in the lead roles for prospective Australian apocalyptic-noir "The Second Coming" which is aiming to shoot next year.
The story is based on Andrew Masterson's novel about a man who believes he is Jesus and is then forced to clear his name after becoming a murder suspect. [Source: iF Magazine]
Heather Graham, Amy Sedaris, Melanie Lynskey, Paul Schneider, Heather Lawless, Anna Camp, Ashley Hinshaw and Celia Weston have all joined the cast of "Goodbye to All That" at Epoch Films says Variety.
The story explores what happens to a man unexpectedly divorced by his wife and forced to adapt to a new life. This includes balancing the well-being of his daughter with his newly-complicated sex life.
"Junebug" scribe Angus MacLachlan penned the screenplay and is attached to make his directorial debut. Mindy Goldberg and Anne Carey will produce, while shooting kicks off in North Carolina in mid-October.
It's James Bond week this week with the film franchise celebrating its 50th anniversary on Friday. One of the most signature elements of the 007 movies though has to be the various opening theme songs which have varied in quality quite considerably over the decades.
Some of the numbers are household names which numerous generations can sing, others are songs one wishes they could forget. On the rare occasion one of the other songs used in the film (either incidentally or on the closing credits) has actually been a better piece of music than what was put up front.
Today I'm ranking those opening themes. The ranking is purely my own personal list at this point in time and done entirely on the songs alone (even though the mini-reviews do cover the title sequences as well). Do you agree with this list? If not, what order would you put it in? Please leave your comments below:
1. "Goldfinger" by Shirley Bassey from "Goldfinger"
The quintessential Bond theme for the most iconic Bond film ever made. Its brassy horns instantly identifiable, its lyrics known around the world, its composition and unforgettable vocals seared into the consciousness of many a Bond fan. Singer Shirley Bassey and composer John Barry were at their peak here, aided by Robert Brownjohn's opening credits cleverly projecting images onto gold-painted stationary women. Simply the best.
2. "Live and Let Die" by Paul McCartney & Wings from "Live and Let Die"
If there were a challenger to "Goldfinger" it would have to be Wings' similarly iconic "Live and Let Die". While the Bassey number was all about the strong vocals, this is all about the instrumental and has to be one of the most recognisable movie themes of all time. From its soft piano buildup to the dynamic guitar and keyboard surges, it's a great piece of music that just happens to be a James Bond theme. The imagery of the credits, with women's faces spontaneously combusting into skulls, is equally memorable.
3. "OHMSS Title Theme" by John Barry Orchestra from "On Her Majesty's Secret Service"
While everyone knows and loves the "Star Wars" theme, you'd be hard pressed to find a 'Wars' geek who didn't love 'The Imperial March' theme as much if not more. The Bond franchise has an equivalent with John Barry's iconic synthesizer-driven instrumental number for this film considered right up there with the original Bond tune. It's music that's both signature Barry and Bond, and the cherry on top of a film that already has an excellent score and several other great songs of its own including "All The Time in the World".
4. "Nobody Does it Better" by Carly Simon from "The Spy Who Loved Me"
One of Carly Simon's most famous songs and one of the few Bond theme tunes that's had a real life outside of the franchise, Marvin Hamlisch composed the number which was unsurprisingly a massive hit. With its incredibly catchy chorus and memorable music, its a power ballad but with an upbeat and even cheeky tone at times. It also has probably the singularly cleverest use of a Bond title in the lyrics. The opening titles are a bit more generic with lots of nude female silhouettes, the most notable being one which uses a pistol as a gymnastics bar.
5. "Diamonds are Forever" by Shirley Bassey from "Diamonds are Forever"
It's not "Goldfinger" but Shirley Bassey's second Bond tune is almost as unforgettable and probably the most famous song about the gem aside from that Marilyn Monroe number from "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes". The haunting opening chimes, the man-bashing lyrics, the beautiful music and Bassey's less energetic but still stunning delivery are all amongst the franchise's best. Same goes for the opening credits with their clever use of the gems and even Blofeld's cat.
6. "A View to a Kill (Dance Into the Fire)" by Duran Duran from "A View to a Kill"
Duran Duran's final song together before their first split, this remains the only Bond theme to crack the number one spot on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. Nearly thirty years on it's surprising how well the number holds up whereas so many other tunes from that era have long fallen by the wayside. It has only brief glimpses of the Bond sound in it and is very much of its time, yet the song is strong enough that those issues don't really matter. The opening credits are gimmicky, but the wind machine meets black light effect is still highly impressive.
7. "You Only Live Twice" by Nancy Sinatra from "You Only Live Twice"
The first Bond ballad is also one of the best. Kicking off with an instantly identifiable string riff, both the lyrics and composition are interesting and deceptively simple. Sinatra keeps her voice cool and collected which results in a richer song for it. One of the most covered of all the Bond theme tunes, it's a great number that also has one of the best opening credits thanks to a theme blending lava with oriental women.
8. "Moonraker" by Shirley Bassey from "Moonraker"
Yes it's the weakest and most somber of the Bassey Bond belters, and it is tied to probably the most derided film of the franchise. That doesn't take away from it being one of the most atmospheric ballads created for the series. The lyrics are generic, but both Bassey and Barry compensate with the haunting music and emotional vocals to make it one hell of a mood piece. Barry's score work throughout the film is also amongst the best of the series ("Flight Into Space" in particular is an amazing work with its eerie vocals and clever orchestration).
9. "From Russia with Love (Instrumental)" by John Barry from "From Russia with Love"
The best James Bond film to quite a few people also has one of the lesser songs, but a big part of the problem is two different versions are used. The song heard in the film with Matt Monro's crooning vocals is what comes to mind when one considers the Bond themes and frankly it's not that great - a slow lounge music number with uninspiring vocals and a sluggish pace. In sharp contrast though is this opening credits theme, an instrumental and much more upbeat tempo version of the song which then segues into the familiar Bond theme. It's an excellent and energetic starter with a beautifully simple opening credits involving light projection on a belly dancer - very fitting for this Istanbul-set tale.
10. "Bond Theme/Kingston Calypso/Three Blind Mice" by Monty Norman from "Dr. No"
Like 'From Russia' above, the opening credits for the very first Bond film are complicated by not being built upon a single theme. Instead it mixes three different tracks starting with Monty Norman's now utterly iconic Bond theme which would easily be On the top position of this list if it weren't weighed down with two inferior tunes. In this case it's a fun if generic calypso dance number to represent the Jamaican locales, along with the jaunty 'Three Blind Mice' which connects with the three assassins who kill John Strangways.
11. "Goldeneye" by Tina Turner from "Goldeneye"
The most Bassey-esque Bond theme not sung by the lady herself, the song is a love letter to John Barry's work. Brilliant lyrics by Bono & The Edge, beautiful music composition by frequent Massive Attack collaborator Nellee Hooper, and robust vocal work by Tina Turner yield arguably the best post-Moore Bond theme. If there's a drawback it's that it tries to imitate the familiar Bond sound so perfectly it never quite stands out on its own. An inspired opening title sequence too with its fall of Communism theme.
12. "The World is Not Enough" by Garbage from "The World is Not Enough"
One of my all time favourite bands, Garbage, took the challenge of a title that makes for a difficult foundation and turned it into a highly enjoyable and surprisingly rich orchestral rock number. Great lyrics, an excellent vocal by Shirley Manson, and a lush slinky sound straddling rock and synth that's both fitting for the franchise and Garbage's own style. The colourful and oil-themed opening credits are also one of my favourites of the series and fit both the song and the movie perfectly.
13. "You Know My Name" by Chris Cornell from "Casino Royale"
If there's a problem with Chris Cornell's "You Know My Name" it's unfortunately Cornell himself. The lyrics and music he and composer David Arnold wrote for the theme are top notch and work perfectly both on their own and within the film itself. The opening credits, with their rotoscoping meets playing card motif, also fit well and actually contain the better version of the song than Cornell's separately released single. Something about Cornell's voice though just doesn't click as well as it should - a shame. Even so it's still a great song.
14. "For Your Eyes Only" by Sheena Easton from "For Your Eyes Only"
Easton's Oscar-nominated ballad, created by Bill Conti rather than series regular John Barry, isn't particularly distinctive. Yet it's a simple and moody piece built upon Easton's clean vocals, solid lyrics and some brief but fascinating musical riffs that fit perfectly with the water-heavy opening credits. The result is what a power ballad should be in many ways. Easton herself appears in the opening credits, the only artist to have done so in the series history.
15. "Thunderball" by Tom Jones from "Thunderball"
Welsh immortal Tom Jones was pulled in at the last minute to record this, easily the weakest song of the Connery-era. Rushed into production after United Artists ditched John Barry's superior "Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang", the result is a bit of a mess. Tedious lyrics, not helped by "Thunderball" being a hell of a difficult title to form a song around, it often sounds like Jones' vocals are squabbling with Barry's mix of trumpets and Bond motifs. It's still a solid opening number, but Jones is the wrong fit and the theme overall too slapshot.
16. "All Time High" by Rita Coolidge from "Octopussy"
It has been dismissed by the artist herself as being an "unfinished work", and was memorably made fun of in this year's sleeper hit "Ted". Yet something about this still works as it hangs around in ways other Bond themes have not. Trying to come off as sultry, Coolidge surprises in that her voice actually takes on a somber tone - singing not as if she's giddy in love but rather wistfully looking back at times long gone. When you consider the way Bond pumps and dumps women, that perspective adds a whole other dimension to the song. The last of the real downbeat Bond themes until we heard the first notes of Adele's "Skyfall" the other day.
17. "The Living Daylights" by A-Ha from "The Living Daylights"
While Duran Duran's "A View to a Kill" has aged well, Norwegian pop band A-Ha's turn at a theme isn't so robust. There's some interesting synthesiser work here and a couple of good hooks (like the brief flute bursts), but otherwise there's simply too much going on and not enough direction. Added to that the lyrics that make no sense along with a god awful opening credits make this a fairly unremarkable number. It's a shame considering this first Timothy Dalton outing is one of the more under-rated of Bond films.
18. "The Man with the Golden Gun" by Lulu from "The Man with the Golden Gun"
Lulu, sounding like a bop girl with sinusitis, tries to out brass John Barry with this energetic upbeat go-go number replete with double entendres and heavy guitar. Barry considers this film his worst work on the series and this remains the only Bond song not to chart in the U.S. or U.K. - one can understand why. The lyrics are childish, but at least the credits are outright soft porn.
19. "Licence to Kill" by Gladys Knight from "Licence to Kill"
Like the film itself, there's a small but loyal contingent who adore this song and I can't fathom why. It's not that the song is bad, rather it's the incredible genericness of it - a bland 80's pop number without any real signature sound. Knight's style is fine but the lyrics are awful and the photo-themed opening credits are arguably the worst in the series. I'm more curious to hear what the original song, a new instrumental version of the theme by Eric Clapton and Vic Flick, would've sounded like.
20. "Tomorrow Never Dies" by Sheryl Crow from "Tomorrow Never Dies"
One of the most famously hated of all the Bond songs, the truth is… it really is crap, but not a complete wash. Sheryl Crow's lazy beach sound is an unexpected choice that doesn't work, and the lyrics aren't much chop either. That said the sound is distinct from previous Bond themes, the accompanying music is strong, and the credits with their circuit board women are interesting if flawed. k.d. Lang's closing credits number "Surrender" - which was originally going to be the opening song - is a far stronger piece and one of the more under appreciated Bond songs. Hell, Moby's Bond theme tune remix done for this film was also a lot better.
21. "Another Way to Die" by Jack White & Alicia Keys from "Quantum of Solace"
Jack White is a strong songwriter, Alicia Keys a great performer, surely this should've come together. Instead we get a sound like two horny cats screeching at each other to try and drown out the trumpets that are over the top brassy, even by Bond film standards. The point of a duet is for both talents to compliment each other, instead the pair are such a contrast it sounds horrifically off-key. The primitive CG of the sand and space-themed titles does nothing to distract either. The musical equivalent of a car alarm.
22. "Die Another Day" by Madonna from "Die Another Day"
Sales wise it is one of the most successful themes and films in the series. However, like the movie itself, ol' Madge's electrosynth dance track definitely belongs right at the bottom of the list. Playing much like a house remix of an actual Bond theme, it's certainly different from every other entry in the series. That doesn't make it work though and it's the kind of music that essentially ages overnight. This is in contrast to the opening credits themselves which cleverly tell part of the film's story - specifically Bond's 14 month incarceration at the hands of the North Koreans.
Combining moments of brutal and nasty violence with well-paced character-driven drama, John Hillcoat's latest effort tries to balance art house respectability with the visceral thrills of genre exploitation fare. Though it finds a comfortable middle ground early on, "Lawless" lacks just enough focus and direction to make it work as well as it should have.
Actors being under-utilised and subplots that don't really go anywhere are the kind of flaws that only detract rather than cripple, which means it still remains a quite enjoyable and skilfully crafted piece of prestige pulp entertainment. Featuring a couple of solid performances and a convincing period atmosphere, Hillcoat embraces the mobster film cliches and turns them into benefits rather than limitations.
He's aided by Nick Cave's script which balances the tonal shifts with a quiet confidence. Benoit Delhomme's cinematography, the sound design, a strong score and gritty production values recreate the period whilst adding an energy and immediacy to it that other films set in said period seem to miss.
Set in Prohibition-era Virginia, the story follows a trio of hillbilly bootlegger brothers as they struggle to both stay in business and stay alive as law enforcement steps up its efforts to shut down their trade. When it keeps to that basic premise, the film clicks as Hillcoat plays up the myths surrounding the brothers along with showcasing to us the extreme lengths they and their enemies will go to. He's a filmmaker who loves to give us characters who claim they abhor violence and yet underneath seem to have little issue indulging in bloodletting to unnecessary lengths.
The film's most memorable creation along these lines is Guy Pearce's oily special deputy Charlie Rakes. An over-groomed dandy with an utterly sadistic cruel streak, it's a role designed to be a touch larger than life but not so much as to be cartoonish. Pearce finds that level perfectly, nailing it with a coldly mesmerising turn just this side of camp. It's a distinct improvement on flamboyant villain roles by him in the likes of "Prometheus" or "The Count of Monte Cristo".
The rest of the cast aren't far behind, even though some of the supporting roles get shortchanged. Arguably the best work after Pearce is yet another excellent turn by Dane DeHaan as the crippled hooch creation whiz Cricket, the young actor disappearing into the role and earning our affection. Tom Hardy's laconic and dominant brother is a deceptively unassuming performance, and the actor nails his few key character moments - sliding between darkly comic and chillingly serious, all delivered in an understated style.
Shia LaBeouf is a real surprise as the younger brother, properly flexing his acting muscles in what feels like the first time in many years. It's also a role - earnest, ambitious, a little bit arrogant and cowardly - that he seems perfect for. Despite being little more than cameos, both Gary Oldman as gangster Floyd Banner and Noah Taylor as his enforcer are fun turns.
On the flip side, Jason Clarke is decidedly underserved as a character while the rest of the male supporting cast leave little impression. Mia Wasikowska's preacher's daughter and her innocent flirting with LaBeouf's character is a sweet little subplot, but it's dwelled on for only a few scant minutes which makes it feel very perfunctory. Jessica Chastain's stripper turned legit gets a little bit more to do, but not much. In fact she seems to be there mainly to serve as Hardy's love interest, bare her breasts and participate in a very brief and oddly handled rape subplot.
In terms of deeper meaning the film isn't quite sure what it's trying to say. The story itself kind of meanders in a distracted way before quickly realising it has to come to an end and rushes to the finish. Clocking in at a little under two hours, one wonders how much was trimmed either in the writing stage or in the editing room. Certainly you get the feeling that the overly judicious and sometimes awkward editing was a bit severe and the film would've worked much better had it had a good half-hour extra to breathe.
This time last year came John Singleton's "Abduction". It was a film that attempted two things, the first being to establish a cost-efficient and heavily Bourne-inspired spy thriller franchise. The second was to be a star vehicle for its young leading man Taylor Lautner who, surrounded by a solid supporting cast, would have a chance to prove his action hero chops outside the big-budget franchise on which he made his name.
I draw that comparison because a year later we're getting the exact same movie. The premise is even less compelling, but to compensate they've aged up the hero and transferred the locale from generic suburban Pittsburgh to various picturesque places around Madrid and along the Iberian coast. Does it make it any better? Well it does in the same way that normal brown excrement, as opposed to black or yellow, at least gives you a visual indicator that your liver and digestive system isn't going to suffer from imminent collapse.
The problem with both movies isn't even the lack of originality, this genre has been mined to death so it's near impossible to offer anything new anyway. Rather it's the lack of effort, an almost palpable sense that no-one is even trying here and certainly no-one is breaking a sweat. The script comes from two writers - one making his debut, the other whose most significant credit is the Steve Austin-led nonsense "The Condemned" which at least had one thing this film doesn't - a sense of fun.
Leading man Henry Cavill is a perfect specimen of manhood, a beautiful face where every feature is chiseled to perfection and yet still very masculine. His pre-"Immortals" 'normal' body is naturally handsome, neither the starved look of a waxed twink or the grotesque puffery of a juicing gym-rat. While he's demonstrated solid enough acting chops on "The Tudors", his big screen outings haven't been so flattering and 'Cold' is his most unfortunate turn yet.
A big part of that problem is his character Will is made to be so thoroughly unlikable. The perfect stereotype of the worst kind of ugly Western tourist, he's arrogant, loud, self-centered, narcissistic, rude and completely devoid of any discernible intelligence, nous or real world experience. He's the kind of guy who walks into a police station, where a lot of people don't speak English, and shouts demands like "don't treat me like an idiot". He certainly sounds like one.
His entire job for 95% of the film is merely to run, scream at people and/or look pensive while all the supporting characters calmly explain every plot point with great detail. Arguably the single worst moment Cavill delivers is his forced 'panic' over finding his family missing. The painful awkwardness of the scene is compensated by some gratuitous glistening chest hair framing.
Despite his prominence, Bruce Willis' role is essentially an extended cameo with him playing the disapproving father figure - it's a walk in the park (and undoubtedly a good paycheck) for the actor who is mainly there to serve as a bankable star name to sell the film. Sigourney Weaver has fun playing a rogue CIA agent whom she doesn't even bother portraying as anything other than a manipulative bitch.
Solid talent who have delivered great performances in the past are all stuck with unimpressive bit parts. These include Caroline Goodall who remains particularly ravaging, Rafi Gavron who made a strong debut in both "Breaking and Entering" and "Rome", and Joseph Mawle who stole the show in the gay cult film "Clapham Junction". All are wasted here, a real shame.
The story makes little sense not because of any complexity but rather due to its gaps of logic. There's a lot of convenient coincidences going on here, mostly involving characters unexpectedly showing up at just the right time. Dialogue isn't just a mix of bad cliches, there's something a little off about the tone as well. Other elements are just so random as to be silly, such as the potential Spanish love interest's connection with the family.
If there's one saving grace here it is at least they haven't made Will into either a sleeper spy or a guy who conveniently knows a ton of martial arts. Director Mabrouk El Mechri also presents his central set piece well, a Bourne Ultimatum-esque action riff involving rooftop leaps and a motorbike chase. I single it out because it's the only one in the film that's cleanly shot and comprehensible even though it ends with a rather dubious multi-storey fall onto cobblestones without injury.
A day-for-night car chase scene in the first act is so heavily computer generated and poorly edited it may as well have been leftover gameplay scenes from one of the lesser "Need for Speed" video games. The night time car chase through Madrid in the final act at least feels practical if not particularly thrilling.
Films like this are green lit for one purpose - to effectively serve as a tax break for the production company or the film's financier. As long as it keeps to a modest budget, even the most awful film will earn a return and the backers can use the money they save from the Government to buy Ayn Rand memorabilia on eBay. The only thing that separates a movie like this from the worst direct-to-DVD titles is the production values and talent involved. It's an embarrassment for everyone involved but, thankfully, no-one but the most forgiving of viewers will end up seeing it.
Not as good as the first or 'Extinction' but better than 'Apocalypse' and 'Afterlife', the fifth entry in the "Resident Evil" franchise begins with its best foot forward. Picking up directly from the end of last entry, the action starts with a fleet of Umbrella gunships descending on the survivors of the last film.
What makes these opening credits so effective is that it pulls off the simple trick of playing out this explosive attack sequence in both slow-motion and reverse. Combined with a military action thriller style opening theme from tomandandy, this visual effects ballet is actually one of the best things this franchise has done. Pity then the entire film can't be played out this way, as what comes next proves easily as convoluted and messy as all the previous entries - even with a lengthy and exposition heavy recap of the first four films at the start.
The earlier films can be differentiated by their distinctive looks, the first with its underground labs, Extinction with its desert setting, and Afterlife's combo of bright white Apple store and grungy Los Angeles. 'Retribution' defines itself by avoiding that kind of categorisation - changing up its environments every few minutes. As a result, the first half-hour seems so utterly random as to be nonsensical.
One minute Alice is a suburban housewife with a loving family, then she's in a white torture chamber wearing napkins, then she's in downtown Tokyo. The infected show up but so do past characters. Is it a holodeck? Almost. It turns out we're in an ex-naval base which has been converted into advanced bioweapons testing facility. The conceit allows Anderson to create several quite different environments for our heroes to make it through on their way to the surface and escape - from those two aforementioned locales to Moscow's Red Square, New York, the icy outside and the bowels of the ex-Soviet facility itself.
Unfortunately that approach also adds to the disjointedness of this entry as a whole, more than ever it feels like a video game with a bunch of preset action set pieces strung together and a storyline roughly built around them. That doesn't necessarily stop a film from being entertaining, rather that particular problem is due to the repetitiveness of the action. There's only so many ways one can spin generic gunfights and Milla Jovovich flip kicking CG enhanced extras in make-up. Every now and then a cool idea will emerge, a Rolls Royce monster chase in a subway or a tsunami engulfing the Kremlin for example, but they are only brief sparks amongst a sea of ashen cliche.
Like a more economically prudent Michael Bay, Anderson is all about overkill. It can't just be any testing base, it has to be buried under the icy waters of Kamchatka. There can't just be zombies in the New York simulation, there has to be Skyrim-esque giants with combination hammers and axes. The Moscow simulation? The zombies are Nazi stormtroopers who can fire gattling guns. It's not enough to escape through the naval base, there has to be an "Aliens"-inspired cocooning and child in peril situation. Why? The same reason this universe has an abundance of ammunition and bulletproof fetish gear - in the eyes of teenage boys it looks cool.
There's a couple of throwbacks to the first film, from the return of the Red Queen as the villain to appearances by the likes of Michelle Rodriguez and Colin Salmon. Yet they're there purely for the sake of fan service - no real driving reason other than to pad out the runtime which already feels overly long at just 84 minutes. Jovovich remains as committed as ever to her action heroine status, while Rodriguez is solid, but everyone else is awkward - especially Sienna Guillroy's mind-controlled and violet catsuited Jill Valentine.
There's little point in dissecting the film too thoroughly as, much like the "Saw" franchise, fans love these films in spite of the painful acting and woeful scripting which mistakes over plotting for cleverness. Like that series as well, this one feels well and truly past its prime. Anderson has visual chops which allow for an impressive look, but style isn't his problem - its substance…of any kind.
Back in January visual effects house BlueBolt posted a VFX breakdown reel showcasing their work on the first season of HBO's acclaimed fantasy drama "Game of Thrones". It was an impressive 3.5 minute montage showing digital mattes and extensions being used to create wide shots of locations like Winterfell, The Eyrie, and King's Landing,
Now visual effects house Pixomondo have cut together a similar reel, this time showcasing their Emmy-winning work on the show's second season. It's an impressive featurette to say the least.
The first half focuses on the locations like Robb Stark's encampment, King's Landing, The Red Waste, Pyke, Qarth, Harrenhal and Dragonstone. The second half mostly surrounds the stunning job they did on the Battle of Blackwater Bay along with creature work such as the wights and Melisandre's offspring.
The most ambitious and seemingly consistent of Chris Nolan's Batman trilogy ultimately proves its least engaging. What started with a grounded but still comic-inspired origin tale and continued with a masterfully brazen crime saga ends with a convoluted yet often intriguing societal revolution epic.
While debates will rage over the various issues that plague this final chapter, there's no question that it mostly works quite well. Nolan avoids the fate of so many superhero franchises before him (ie. Spider-Man, X-Men, Superman, the 90's Batman films) who follow-up a solid debut and a stellar second entry with a fizzer of third outing. By making this a closing chapter, there's less of a feeling of sequel-itis - compounded by Nolan taking some big chances with the story's direction. Even when elements don't work, and quite a few don't here, you can't help but admire the attempts made.
Starting off with an eight year gap between this and the previous film, the continuity delay allows both a resetting of the board's pieces and an exploration (albeit cursory) of the consequences of the events in the earlier films. Wayne, now a limping recluse, is drawn back into action because some intruder with a gymnastics degree kicked his cane. Cue not one but two long stretches throughout the movie where Bruce has to "get back in the game" after self-imposed retirement the first time, and a brutal beatdown the second. The latter proves the more personal, the more convincingly motivated, and ultimately the more rewarding of the two (thus making much of the first feel redundant).
With a scope and ambition so huge, especially in the second half which bares a similarity to the "No Man's Land" storyline of the comics (not to mention the French revolution parallels), the logic flaws are more noticeable than ever. Much like "Sherlock" and "Doctor Who" show runner Steven Moffat, the writing of both Nolan brothers blisters along at a cracking pace and with a desperate desire to please you with all its cleverness. Yet it's also un-involving as everything is surface. A slick, stylish and broadly appealing surface, but that's all - there's little to no emotional involvement or more profound truths on offer.
Certain flaws of this trilogy have remained the same throughout its run be it clunky exposition, dubious character motivations, occasionally risible dialogue and/or uneven action sequences. Many love to wax on about the third act problems of "Batman Begins", easily the most comic-esque of the Nolan's films, because it's where said flaws are the most visible in the series. Yet 'Begins' also remains the most human of the trilogy, certainly the one with the most satisfying emotional throughline.
As one grows older, especially those of us driven by our own inner demons, one realises that the ultimate goal of life isn't love, wealth or even happiness - it's peace of mind. Nolan's entire filmography deals with this quest - his stories focusing on a man or men desperate to achieve true solace but unable to due to their enslavement to their obsessions (which provide a fleeting contentment of their own).
As 'Rises' is a trilogy capper, there are numerous links back to 'Begins' throughout which are often inventive. In fact the strongest elements of the film essentially serve as a coda to 'Begins' and deliver a fitting conclusion to Wayne's story. It could only have gone in two directions and Nolan enjoys dancing us between both possibilities right up until the end - ultimately delivering a satisfying and definitive finale.
Full kudos must go to both Christian Bale and Michael Caine for their work. Bale starts the film in the darkest place the character has been yet and must take him through quite an arc, much of it retreading areas he's already covered. People will nitpick about the time windows (namely the eight year gap and the three month injury recovery periods), but Bale remains the committed steadfast center of this series and sells it - while also getting to enjoy some progression in his character which he didn't really get in the previous outing.
Michael Caine's pseudo-father figure also gets a chance to be more than just a sage advice giver. In one of the film's strongest scenes, Alfred confronts Bruce on his obsession and where it will take him, in the process making a desperate ultimatum fully aware that he'll likely lose his surrogate son in the process. Caine has only a few scenes this time, but he makes the most out of them and gives this otherwise often quite cold film its few real signs of life.
Faring less well this time are returning champs Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman. Both lend stellar support as always, but with so many characters to service they both haven't much to do this time and what scenes they do have only service the plot in fairly anonymous ways. It's a similar problem for several of the newcomers including Marion Cotillard and Matthew Modine. Even with certain character revelations amongst the old and new guard to give them a bit more depth, none of them really get a chance to shine aside from Joseph Gordon-Levitt whose subplot gets both adequate time and a proper arc with some rewarding key scenes.
It's a committed performance from Tom Hardy, but partly due to it being hidden behind a mask and partly due to the character being frustratingly underdone - it doesn't stand out as one of his strongest. Hardy certainly conveys Bane's raw brutality and fighting skill, but the patient and intelligent mastermind side of the character is rarely displayed isn't helped by the choice of what sounds like (at least to me) a geriatric English accent - it may be done for contrast, that still doesn't make it work any better. The few glimpses we see of a true adversary to Batman aren't convincing and ultimately he proves to be little more than a skilled thug.
Anne Hathaway is a standout thanks to a decision to try something quite different with the character of Selena Kyle than previous screen interpretations. This Catwoman (though that moniker is never stated by name) is an opportunistic vixen, a thief who thinks on her feet and can quickly adapt. Her loyalty is only to herself and her own survival, but beneath a flirty and amoral exterior hardened by life lies someone who'll ultimately do right. She dances around the story's periphery, flitting in and out which is why she remains one of the few that manages to stand on her own as a character.
Adding another level of interest is that she's also portrayed as someone who is not as good as she thinks she is, though a subplot involving her care of a street kid (Juno Temple) is a waste. Hathaway is quite convincing showcasing her darker side, though her cute girl next door looks mean she lacks the raw sexuality of Michelle Pfeiffer's now iconic turn in "Batman Returns". While Pfeiffer's delicious dark interpretation portrayed Selena as essentially "damaged goods", Hathaway's take is more layered and certainly the closest interpretation yet to the character in the comics.
From the ticking clock countdown to the opening aerial stunt, Nolan's fetish for the James Bond film franchise is more visible than ever here in his style and sensibility (indeed a key element of the narrative seems a direct lift from "The World is Not Enough"). His skill at filming action hasn't always been his great strength, be it the all too-close fight scenes in 'Begins', or the messy choreography of the chase and finale sequences in "The Dark Knight". Here however he's able to bring a clearness to the various bursts of adrenaline which results in some strong highlights be it Bane's reign of destruction, his mano-e-mano sewer fight with Batman, and the nail-biting finale chase.
There's even a few moments of playfulness and comic relief, but the pervasive tonal seriousness and meticulous attention to detail tends to suck the energy out of the attempted spontaneity. Tech credits from Wally Pfister's cinematography to Hans Zimmer's excellent score are, as usual, amongst the best of the year in the industry. It's a film that cost a small fortune, but it shows be it in the extensive use of practical where possible to the pervasive use of IMAX throughout.
Lacking both the sheer fun and watchability of "Batman Begins" or the tightness and energy of "The Dark Knight", Nolan nevertheless manages to decently cap off his trilogy thanks to his usual raft of top notch talent around him along with some adventurous risk taking with the story. Pacing is strong throughout, but at 164 minutes the film is in need of trimming.
There's too many red herrings or unnecessary plot points, political swipes lack any bite, and too many side characters take much needed time away from the key players. It's constantly self-important, sporadically fascinating and generally entertaining. I quite enjoyed it but, for the first time in this series, I've little desire to rush out and see it again even if it is a smarter and more well composed effort than pretty much any other tentpole fare this Summer. Not great, but good enough to ensure the trilogy's place as one of the strongest film series of modern times.
The media who assembled at the small "The Dark Knight Rises" press day in LA were still reeling from the night before. They'd been shown Chris Nolan's trilogy-ending Batman film the way he hopes most audiences will see it – on a larger than life IMAX screen.
The cinema gave the awesome scope of Gotham city and the world beyond a vibrant new life, drawing you deeply into Nolan's world. And the ground-shaking sound system bought every detail to life, from the thrumming rotors of Batman's new air vehicle (The Bat) to the metallic musicality of Bane's voice (Tom Hardy), every word dripping with malice and violence.
Even though the obvious question was how Nolan expected to better himself after the commercial and critical smash of 2008's The Dark Knight, audiences have come to expect nothing less than brilliance from him. After Inception, Memento, Insomnia and The Prestige Nolan's name has become synonymous with smarts and commerciality, movies that refuse to treat audiences like idiots but don't forget to thrill us.
He always seemed like the last guy to helm the world's biggest comic book superhero series, but Nolan brings the same sensibility to Gotham, and he was joined by his co-writer and brother Jonathan, producers and cast to talk about how he does it.
Question: What's the biggest challenge after two such successful previous films?
Chris Nolan: The challenge with any sequel is that you need to tell a new story and you need a reason to come back to it. That was very important when we started talking about it – what's the conclusion of our story?
We didn't want to do just another episode, we wanted it to be a consistent story across the three films. So the idea of consequences very much came in, we don't forget how we ended the last film the way people sometimes do. We want to have all those things that happened – particularly in The Dark Knight – mean something to the story and feed through it. So that was the challenge, make all those things mean something.
Jonathan Nolan: The challenge for me was just to keep the plates spinning after these stories have been told for 70 years. It's at odds with the needs of a good story that never has an end.
Question: How did you choose Bane as the villain?
Chris Nolan: It was very important that we not try and follow what we did with The Joker or do some pale imitation of what Heath Ledger had done. I really wanted to see Batman come up against a primarily physical adversary. I wanted to watch Christian as Batman stand toe to toe with a villain and not know who's going to win. It was something I'd never seen before.
Question: How important a part of the process was getting the ending right when you went into the film?
Chris Nolan: The ending is the most important thing, I can't really engage or even come into doing the film until I know what the ending is. So for me that always comes first. That was the first thing we had and we had it for a long time before we started.
Jonathan Nolan: Christian and David [Goyer] came up with Bane as the adversary. I wasn't terribly familiar with the character and thought of it mainly in terms of his physical power. He's the only person who can put a dent in Batman. But what I was struck by was the cunning of the character. In the second film one of the questions about The Joker was 'does he have a plan?' He's an anarchist, which is terrifying enough, but Bane felt like a natural fit for the third film because he has a plan and that's more terrifying. That in itself is very apt for the end of the story.
Question: Batman's known for his gadgets. Are you all gadget lovers?
Gary Oldman: I'm not a gadget freak. My video machine is still blinking 12 o'clock. I like the iPhone because I like the pretty pictures.
Christian Bale: Same. Because of my daughter, I take pictures of her and that's it. I don't know what else it does.
Morgan Freeman: Awful. I don't have a feel for them at all. I have a business partner who's a computer geek and whenever I want to do something I have to call her, she's like a 13 year old with computers. Yesterday I couldn't get my television on. It said 'no signal' and I didn't know what to do.
Michael Caine: I'm a Google freak. I like to know everything. I've always thought of myself as a know all and of course I knew nothing really. I have this friend and between us we figured out we knew a lot of stuff. So we call each other when we don't know something, but now we've got Google and we know everything. You can even spell it wrong and they find it for you, so I'm a very happy man. Thank you.
Question: Anne, anything in your personal life or circumstances that you saw as a connection with Selina Kyle that you thought you could bring to the role?
Anne Hathaway: Yes a real respect for mystery.
Question: Chris, what do you like about IMAX when 3D is still so popular?
Chris Nolan: When you shoot with those cameras and you project a film on one of those enormous screens, I've simply never seen anything that matches that image quality. It's immersive power. We had success using it on the Dark Knight and we wanted to expand the use of it on this one.
As far as 3D goes, to me when you project a 2D image on a screen that big it's got a larger than life quality and I think it's very appropriate for these stories and these larger than life characters. 3D tends to be more intimate, more individual as an experience.
But we're not reinventing something here, we're finishing a story which I'd built to a climax, so I wanted the three films to be visually consistent.
Emma Thomas: IMAX is a real reason people get out of their houses and come to the movie theatre because you can't replicate that in your living room. It's hard to get out of the house sometimes because of kids or whatever, so it's the one thing that really sells the movie and gives people something special in the theatre.
Question: Is this the end of a journey for Christopher and Christian or would you guys like to do more together?
Chris Nolan: What was very important to this film was that we were finishing our story. I've been working on Batman for almost 10 years and it's been incredible, it's definitely been a journey and now it's over, and I leave with a certain amount of sadness but I don't have to say goodbye to all these guys and the people I've worked with. But it's bittersweet to say goodbye to the characters.
Christian Bale: Yeah, very bittersweet. At the end of The Dark Knight I wasn't sure Chris was going to make a third one. It's meant a great deal in my life but it's time to say goodbye.
Question: Chris, you're not really one of the 'geek' directors we associate with videogames and pop culture and comic books. How do you approach Batman from your particular sensibility and make the biggest and best superhero trilogy ever?
Chris Nolan: There's been a shift in recent years about how people view the relationship between source material and movies when it comes to comic books. When I started on this project, the studio understood that the source material wasn't necessarily how we were going to treat it in a movie. When we set out to make Batman Begins we just wanted to make a great movie and not pay lip service to or represent the comic book form in the movie.
Lately we've seen a shift towards a closer relationship with the form of the source material and the way in which it's represented on screen. But it was always my intention to remove the [comic] frame and try and give you the experience that you had reading the comic book as far as what it did to your mind, the way your brain put you into that world and the magic of these characters rather than superficial form of what you were reading.
Question: How much of a challenge was it come up with something to top The Joker and Heath Ledger's astonishing performance? And was there ever any thought of referencing the character?
Chris Nolan: The reason we chose Bane is because we wanted a very different film. I wasn't going to set up to get Tom to do better than what Heath had done. I also decided early on it would be inappropriate to reference The Joker, a colleague and friend had suffered a terrible tragedy and to try and reduce that to a plot point in a fictional story felt wrong.
Question: What was the philosophy behind including Selina Kyle?
Chris Nolan: She's a breath of fresh air for Bruce Wayne at the beginning of the film because we're dealing with characters very much imprisoned by their past. Bruce has been in self-imposed isolation for a year and you get to understand why he's drawn out by her. So it was a crucial and really exciting to watch these guys start rehearsing together and see how much chemistry they had to bring that alive.
Christian Bale: He's in a very poor state mentally and physically when he first meets her and he's amused by the fact that she's stealing from him. She brings colour back into his life and makes him laugh. Equally with the character of John Blake [Joseph Gordon Levitt], Bruce is accustomed to being a prince where everyone bows to him, and here's these brash and irreverent people who couldn't give a damn who he is and he likes them because of that. They end up inspiring him to return.
Question: Alfred also has a lot to do with bringing Bruce back to the world of the living.
Michael Caine: I always saw my character as representative of the audience. He's skeptical about everything that was going on and a bit worried when someone puts on a mask and flies over a roof. I'm there to suspend this belief because if Alfred believes it, you believe it.
Question: Do you feel the Dark Knight Rises is in any way political?
Chris Nolan: I don't view the film as political. A lot of people chose to view The Dark Knight that way but in truth, the way we write and produce these films is really about entertainment and about storytelling. I will say we try and be very sincere in the way that we write about and portray the worries about the world when you're trying to construct a villain or threat. If there are resonances about the film in the real world people interpret politically, I think that's the reason for it.
Despite much stronger casting and a more engaging modern tone, Sony's all-too-soon reboot of its popular "Spider-Man" franchise sadly fails to justify its existence. Created for the most cynical of reasons, namely so that the studio can hold onto the film rights to the character, there's a notable lack of vision on offer from director Marc Webb. The film is perfectly serviceable in its own right, but frustratingly never reaches beyond the adequate.
Regardless of what you thought of them, and I'm not the biggest fan of them myself, Sam Raimi at least had a distinct approach and vision for his classic era take on the web-slinger. Much more outright comic book movies than films, Raimi knew how to shoot action well, evolved his characters, and wasn't afraid to play things for laughs - even if it was to his detriment at times. The acting and dialogue were often cringe-worthy, and there were some big structural and pacing problems within all of them (yes even the beloved and overpraised second entry), but they were very much their own thing and on their own terms work for what they are.
Webb's take on "Spider-Man" however is far more anonymous. Tonally akin to the modern run of the comics, the film attempts to occupy a space somewhere between the light-hearted and comic book styled Marvel film verse, and Chris Nolan's dark and grounded approach to "Batman" that avoids comic book touches wherever it can. The result actually isn't that bad, a muted but still charming middle ground that - at least initially - works better than it has a right to.
It's the charm of the cast that carries us through the already over familiar and often dull re-tread of how Peter Parker becomes Spider-Man in the first half of the film. Thankfully gone is Tobey Maguire's best approximation of a wet pillowcase, instead we have the promising and fascinating Andrew Garfield who gives us for a far more engaging and enjoyable Peter. Gone is Raimi's 1950's-esque book club nerd interpretation (which is probably closer to the comic), instead he's replaced by a more assertive, gangly and cute social outcast type who amuses himself and is driven by his own restless energy.
Matching him is Emma Stone's amiable yet indomitable Gwen Stacey, another distinct improvement from Kirsten Dunst's whinging and reactive erect-nippled princess. Both actors are essentially playing versions of their own personalities, and the chemistry between them is strong enough to give their scenes together a natural energy and flow - something often missing from this overly formulaic and frequently stilted genre. The supporting cast is small but do well with what they have, particularly Martin Sheen and Denis Leary as Uncle Ben and Captain Stacey.
Yet the teen romance is hampered by the fact there's not really much to it, no real conflicts or impediments in their way. It's also awkwardly paced, these scenes randomly appearing in ways that make it feel like part of another and more interesting movie than the one we're watching. Weighing them down is the rest of the movie which essentially consists of four elements - the origin elements we've seen before, the serialised TV-style mystery elements about Peter's parents, this entry's villain, and the action sequences.
Lets break those down. The origin elements we've seen before are exactly that. Webb changes the set dressing a little but this new version doesn't add anything distinct or different. Well, maybe the mechanical web shooters, but in practice they make little difference. In fact they actually have a distancing effect from the more amusingly overt masturbation metaphor in Raimi's films.
Considering how accustomed we are to serialised mystery elements in our films and television these days, the ones on offer here feel clumsy. Norman Osborn is kept in the shadows and appears to be essentially serving as the Blofeld/Moriarty of this series. The disappearance of Peter's parents isn't anywhere near as compelling to us as it seems to be to the character. The whole cross-species genetics element seems like a convenient if obvious way to setup the character's rogue's gallery of animal-themed villains in future outings.
The villain is also a wash. Despite being hamstrung with some poor scripting, Rhys Ifans gives a solid turn as the under the gun single-armed scientist with noble intentions and a personal connection to Peter. Ifans plays Dr. Connors quite believably and sympathetically in the first hour, which makes his Lizard transformations and sudden switch to a generic comic book baddie in the second hour feel that much sillier and more ridiculous. There's a distinct feeling of a lot more with his character being cut from the film, in fact the issues of Raimi's first film re-appear here as the movie goes off the rails once the green bad guy comes into play.
There are some good moments to the action. A subway fight scene with Peter first discovering his 'sticky hands' is a fun bit. There's a nice if narratively pointless sequence with Peter above a storm drain using his webbing as a motion detector. The rest though is either too poorly choreographed, haphazardly filmed or overly animated to have any impact, especially by the point of the final set piece.
There's also a lot of problems. Almost as cheesy as some of Raimi's worst excesses is a sequence involving every crane operator in New York defying their union-mandated work hours. Spidey's banal one-liners early on seem to quickly vanish, and Gwen doesn't get much of a chance to be assertive against the giant Goomba beyond a brief bit with a makeshift blowtorch. You want plot holes? How about the Lizard transmogrifying a SWAT team into fellow reptiles who then seem to be forgotten about for twenty minutes.
We've become accustomed to reboots of faded franchises. The best of them, such as "Casino Royale," "Batman Begins," "X-Men: First Class" or "Star Trek", delivered a fresh and impressionable new take on old material. 'Amazing' wants to be its own thing but never seems to put the effort in to become that. It's perfectly fine, an improvement in some ways and a downgrade in others from what came before, but it's also spineless - too afraid to take any risks with a character and story in desperate need of some freshening up. It's not the dud it could've been, but that's hardly high praise.
An oddly empty take on Guy de Maupassant classic novel, stage directors turned filmmakers Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod's version of "Bel Ami" is a handsome but dramatically inert affair which never finds its focus. Far too loyal to the wording of the book rather than the spirit, what you end up with is a character piece paradoxically driven entirely by plot. Each of the players are thinly drawn and often forced by the compressed story into awkward scenarios that either aren't justified or notably lacking any of the novel's nuance.
To their credit Donnellan and Ormerod get the production values right. Looking more lavish than its fairly tight budget would let on, the film convincingly recreates Belle Epoque-era Paris with gorgeous costumes and strong art direction. The cinematography and music aren't on the same level but are serviceable enough. Pacing is messy, the 102 minute runtime is far too brief for a tale of this size but the film itself seems to drag on for much longer.
Comparisons have been made to "Dangerous Liaisons" due to the mix of period European upper class with sexual politics, even though the film adaptations couldn't be any more different in their tone. The characters of 'Liaisons' were distinct and ruled by an emotional and sexual inner fire barely contained by the corsets and corsages. Here however, the characters are ice - relatively interchangeable anonymous beings who seem to lack any real passion whatsoever.
The problems come down to both the script and direction as some stellar actors are utterly wasted. Philip Glenister and Colm Meaney are forced into tedious supporting roles and straight jacketed into pouring out exposition. It's galling in particular to see the wonderful Kristin Scott Thomas treated in such a manner.
While it's not at Poison Ivy-levels, Uma Thurman can't help but dial up her high-class vamp routine a few degrees further than she should. Even so she comes out of this ok, as does Christina Ricci whose Clotilde is the only one of the women of the story whose subplot seems to have made the transition to screen without being entirely gutted (thus making her the most interesting character).
Full kudos to him for pursuing more serious actor roles, but Robert Pattinson makes the mistake of many young actors in trying too hard in the places where a more subtle approach is required. Scoundrel characters are difficult to play because they are, in many ways, like sociopaths. A charismatic, amiable and highly adaptable surface floating over a ruthless, calculating and single-minded personality underneath.
Pattinson however spends much of the movie sporting a visible sneer of distaste - never convincing in his ability to seduce and manipulate. His ultimate motivation of doing whatever he can to avoid the poor house seems tacked on, while it's never explained how such an 'id'-dominated individual so driven entirely by instincts could survive, let alone engage in complex mind games, in Parisian high society. A less self-conscious approach on the actor's part would've helped greatly, but when even a supporting cast of award winners struggle with their under-served characters - it's no surprise the highlight of Pattinson's work here is his ass flexing and thrusting.
There's an interesting story at the heart of "Bel Ami" but it never gets the chance to escape. Some attempts are made at bringing in political elements such as control of media and war in North Africa, but they are merely underserved distractions in an already over-laden narrative. Tackling the work with a deadly self-serious approach was a mistake as the filmmakers simply don't have the necessary experience, smarts or skill to pull off such an ambitious endeavour.
A more manageable, engaging and melodramatic take would've likely delivered better results even if it takes away from the veneer of 'respectability'. Too stolid by half, "Bel Ami" is a sadly dull affair despite the pretty veneer - the film is far too concerned with its 'costume' and not nearly enough with its 'drama'.
An improvement on the second film but not as fun or fresh as the first, the third "Men in Black" shows little sign of its troubled production - or even its age. Even though it has been 15 years since the first and 10 years since the second, director Barry Sonnenfeld and the behind-the-scenes team are so consistent in their approach, tone, design and production that it feels like MIB3 could well have been shot immediately after the last one.
Seemingly quaint in its modest 'please like me' approach, this instalment of 'Men' will only truly appeal to the faithful with its lack of trying to be anything other than what it is. There's no desperate need to prove itself, the film sticks to what it knows - allowing for a familiar and breezy entry that, though feeling forced and already quite dated, makes for a pleasant if bland diversion.
Will Smith does his usual routine of being a good host, Tommy Lee Jones pops up (albeit briefly) only to collect his check, while Emma Thompson and Bill Hader have small and unremarkable roles. It's the other supporting players who're the most memorable - Josh Brolin doing a superbly realised impersonation of Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg as the sweet and overly perceptive alien Griffin, and Jemaine Clement hamming it up as the delightfully icky villain Boris the Animal.
There's actually a bit of heart to this one with a nice emotional element that adds heft to the already fairly good third act set piece, but to get it the film trades in its laughs. Some jokes do fall entirely flat, but the level of humour is so barely above the ground anyway that the duds have no real impact and could easily be mistaken for just straight forward dialogue. The few that do hit however only produce a mild smile.
The emphasis in this entry is more on the sci-fi and action than the comedy beyond the obligatory jokes about celebrities being aliens. Full kudos to Rick Baker and his alien creature design which is often superbly realised. It's a serviceable entry, designed to not really to strain itself. The 1969 scenes are distinctly better than the present day elements which feel obligatory.
Those looking for faults will find them in spades from some galaxy-sized holes in the screenplay to the lack of energy or creativeness. Yet because the film is amiable, solidly paced, and trying desperately to be liked rather than demanding you comply and beat your sensory perception to death, it's hard not to be sucked in (even if only a little) by its charms.