In my mind there are only two Predator movies and one of them is good. Outside of the legendary action-gasm that is Predator, the only real sequel is the not quite so legendary Predator 2: The New Batch, with no Arnie, but at least a modicum of what you liked about the first film. The main thing it did though was visually tie together the Predators and those acid-bleeding, xenomorphic, pains-in-the-ass, Aliens; for a duology of AvP movies I pretty much never cared about, and after seeing them,still don't (though I have to give props to Requiem for saving money by not lighting anything).
But there is a new, Predator-only, honest to Abe sequel in the works, which is apparently somewhat based on Robert Rodriguez's old 1996 script, Predators (click here to see how not well he writes), that may or may not just rip off the comics. I haven't finished reading it yet. Then I have to read to comics.
Thing is The Double R has been hip deep in cooking, making kid's films, and floating projects from Barbarella to Red Sonja remakes that may or may not star Rose McGowan, to finally attaching himself to make Machete, the fake-film he trailered before Grindhouse. Please watch that trailer here. Anyway, the director gig for this new Predator film is still in the air. And while it looked like Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, The Descent) was tapped for this new sequel, it's looking more like Nimrod Antal (Vacancy, and the excellent Kontroll) might be taking the helm. I haven't seen Vacancy, or Marshall's Doomsday, but the fact is if I had to choose between them, I'd take Nimrod. He's very character driven, while visually owning a style which, based on a script that may have Arnold return to the role of Dutch, might help. As a pirate. Seriously. I hope it gets a re-written. That said, I loved Kontroll, and if you want to keep up with this on a real time basis just visit AICN. Harry is always on The Double R's jock, but I'll (and you should) read anything Mr. Beaks writes.
As a side note, Devin over at CHUD points out that while in the American sense of the word Nimrod seems insulting it, in fact, means "hunter". Not a bad coincidence.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 June 2009 13:34
Scorsese Pops Another Cap
It seems as though Martin Scorsese has found a muse in Leonardo DiCaprio. After casting him in Gangs of New York, The Aviator, and the good but overrated The Departed, The Cap again has the lead along with the ever more impressive Mark Ruffalo (see David Fincher's Zodiac like yesterday) in his latest film Shutter Island, the trailer for which is up in glorious Quicktime hi-def over at Apple. Click here to drink in the new.
I'm excited, as it seems Scorsese is going back into a B-potboiler mode he hasn't indulged in since Cape Fear, plus it's just cut together wonderfully. Not only that, the cast is great. I know The Cap has his haters but I'm not among them (he put my doubts to rest in The Aviator because I never figured he could pull off Howard Hughes, and he not only pulled it off, he killed it). It's really the surrounding players like Ruffalo, who is just so goddamn good no matter the role, that get me excited. Or Ben Kingsley, who blows my mind simply because he'll work for Uwe Boll or Scorsese with equal aplomb. But even more heart warming are the glimpses of Ted "I'd Fuck Me" Levine who is hopefully playing psycho again, and the legendary Max Von Sydow, another guy that can go to Ming The Merciless from fucking Bergman films with credibility. The film is based on the Dennis Lehane novel (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone) with a plot that drips with gritty, 1950's, noir sensibility that, combined with Scorsese's masterful hand at suspense, is sure to make for riveting cinema. My ass is already in a seat.
Last Updated on Thursday, 11 June 2009 10:51
As part of the ongoing cinemization (new word!) of all things Marvel, he of no lips Kenneth Branagh's upcoming Thor adaption has seemingly confirmed a second cast member. In addition to Chris Hemsworth (Star Trek) in the title role, it looks as though mountain-master and Great Wall of Teeth, Brian Blessed will be playing Thor's dad, Odin. For those who haven't read the comic or Norse legends (that would include me) Odin is a God who fucks Elder Goddess Gaea and has a son named Thor, who is later immortalized in a KISS song. As a result, Odin decides Thor needs to learn humility and thus puts Thor into the body of a disabled medical student named Donald Blake, with no memory of his lineage. After discovering his Hammer, Blake learns to metamorphose between his human and God forms, though his life as a human, and being a Mama's boy, has made Thor more than a little protective of the puny mortals he's lived with on Earth. Action and cross-overs probably ensue. Thank you, Wikipedia.
The reason I say "seemingly" though is that IMDB only confirms Hemsworth in the title role, with Sam Jackson rumored as Nick Fury (Avenger's crossover), and a fellow named Tom Hiddelston rumored for the role of Loki, Thor's arch-nemesis brother and Jim Carrey enabler. To me Hiddleston seems plausible, as he has appeared in the Branagh starring BBC crime drama Wallander. However the scoop on Blessed originates from a film blogger named Rich Johnston and his fledgling site Bleeding Cool who, according to Devin Faraci over at CHUD, has a less than stellar record of accuracy.
But count me stoked if it is true as Brian Blessed is practically a legend unto himself. If you're a fan of the 1980 version of Flash Gordon you don't need to know more to love this, but if you aren't check out this guy's Wiki page. They changed the name of the Japanese obstacle show Unbeatable Banzuke to Unbeatable Brian. No shit.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 June 2009 12:38
"The Summer of 2009 continues as John Conner battles Skynet in Terminator Salvation, one of two movies we'll be reviewing this week on Siskel and Ebert! I'm Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune! And I'm Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times!"
-an intro I made up because I fucking miss those guys.
Terminator Salvation is the not so long awaited sequel to every other Terminator movie you've ever seen. Whether you were a fan from the beginning, or barely noticed T3, Terminator Salvation practices the young art of the re-boot. We finally get a glimpse at what life is like after Judgment Day, everything the first two films hinted at, and with a sort of collective cultural knowledge and back story that you'd expect, but with an all new cast and a mandate for a new trilogy. The recently canceled Sarah Conner Chronicles introduced even more back story, but I guess people weren't paying attention. I never saw a single episode because what most people forget is that everything after T2 was built on James Cameron's two most seminal films. Terminator 3; the graphic novels; the TV show. I'm not saying those efforts sucked (well, T3 mostly did), just that they should level the critical field. The first Terminator was a B-Picture, and to be brutally honest, Cameron only did the same thing with T2 that he did with Aliens. Bigger. Stronger. Faster. And Better.
The only reason I bring that up is to diffuse all the vitriol that might come with Terminator Salvation. There's been a surprising amount.
Terminator Salvation begins in 2003, in a prison cell containing Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a Death Row inmate who gets his Last Rites from his own cancer stricken advocate Dr. Serena Kogan (Helena Bohnam Carter), and an offer to protect the future if he donates his corpse-self to Cyberdyne Systems. Flash forward to 2018, and we find humans in the shit. Judgment Day has happened, and the human resistance is in its nascent stages. John Conner (Christian Bale) is a fighter for the Resistance and a stalwart, despite the fact he's only a solider and following orders from a submarine off the coast commanded by Old Micheal Ironsides. Conner loses his entire brigade in an attack on a Skynet radar nest and after being airlifted out takes matters into his own hands by jumping out of the plane into the middle of the ocean. Seemed stupid to me too, considering he has pregnant wife named Kate (Bryce Dallas Howard), but he survives the 200 fucking foot drop and gets picked up by the submarine that houses the leadership of the Resistance. They have a new weapon they want to test. A killswitch they want to engage.
From the burned out rubble of the Skynet radar nest rises a man who looks the spitting image of Marcus Wright. Covered in mud he does a Shatner and then sets out to discover our secondary protagonists Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin, who was Chekov in the last review) and Newt, (OK, her name is actually Star, played by a little girl named Jadagrace. Fuck her parents. She is more useful and less talkative than Newt, though). They are Resistance Fighters as well, though they are only waiting to hear John Conner's next radio message and have no real affiliation to the actual Resistance. Meaning they are kinda fucked. After rescuing Wright from a T-600 badass killing machine, the three of them wander through the Mad Max wastelands until they come across some poor saps holed up in a gas station who think they can just wait all this crazy robot bullshit out. Needless to say they can't, and when a Harvester shows up, Marcus Wright begins to get a grasp of what he's woken up to.
In case you're wondering, yes, Terminator Salvation is good; and like Star Trek almost in spite of its screenplay. The sums of this film and Star Trek were calculated by last year's writers strike, meaning both films went into production by the deadline set by the writers strike, and the scripts could not be re-written during production. It's too bad because a couple of more passes at this script and Terminator Salvation could have been something really great. It does deliver on many fronts though, not the least of which being one of my biggest fears, the director, McG. Yeah. The Charlie's Angels guy. Turns out McG is not a problem at all. His direction of the many and frequent action sequences was great (one POV gag when Conner's helicopter goes down almost made me yell FUCK YEAH! in middle of the seemingly polite crowd). His pacing was fine, which is a little miraculous since a chunk of this flick hit the cutting room floor. He's saddled by a pretty crappy script to begin with, one that was changed due to an internet leak of the film's original ending, and Bale insisting on re-writes to fatten up the John Conner character. But for all that tinkering Bale seems to be riding shotgun again. He's not a problem, and makes a fine John Conner, but much like in The Dark Knight, the foreground characters are more compelling and fleshed out. Anton Yelchin fucking owns the character of Kyle Reese now, and the introduction of Moon Bloodgood re-invests the series with a sexy ass-kicker. Marcus Wright is the actual lead role (that was initially offered to Bale) and Sam Worthington is trying to do subtle in one of the loudest action movies I've ever seen. There are mixed results there (he did pull a Shatner once or twice), but he had enough gravitas for the overall character to work.
But you probably want to know about the Terminators, and the FX, and the action. Well, they are pretty shockingly badass. The look of the film hearkens back to Private Ryan, but Legacy Studios (started after Stan Winston died) delivers the special FX goods as beautifully as ILM or WETA ever have. The MotoTerminators are wicked, the Harvester is wonderful in it's design and morbid intent, the T-600 is almost like a heavily armed zombie that only cares about blowing your brains out, not eating them. The thing is fucking creepy, and more so because it's not CG. Visual references from The Road Warrior to Blade Runner are worked in to very cool effect, along with some great sound design that accompanies the very frequent action sequences. It's nearly constant machine sounds, gunfire, explosions, and pulse weapons. The thunderous honks and buzzes of the machine language were unnerving. They sound like evil Sneaker Pimps. But all that incredible design is secondary to the cache that the Terminator endo-skeleton has as a cinematic icon. The T-600 was the model that was mass produced before the T-800 (a.k.a. Arnie) and we see plenty of them fucking shit up here. But like I said this film more or less chronicles the nascent stages of the Resistance so if you want to see massive armies of T-600's, HK's, and pissed off people looking to fuck each other up Gondor-style in this, then wait for the sequel.
Which to me is this film's biggest problem. No sense of closure. Star Trek did that, too. You can lay blame on a script's lack of polish all day, or how much was cut, but it seems the idea of the re-boot comes with the tacit agreement with the audience that there will be a trilogy. Hence you feel like you've been set up. If they shot all three at the same time, like Rings, and released them once a year that would be cool. Now you have a three year wait, and honestly, while the flick is good, a kick ass first two acts in a choppy film with good performances that wants to keep you salivating for three years has to be better than this. Yes, it's often thrilling, but seeing something way better than I expected just means it benefits from low expectations. The film's saving grace is that despite the structural design flaws, it's a blast to watch. Star Trek had a sense of humor, but Terminator Salvation was more exciting. That I like both of them is kind of amazing since both franchises burned out in the 20th Century. But that is what Terminator Salvation does best; invoke a sense of '80's-style adventure.
Back then I think it would have gotten at least one Thumb Up.
Aragorn Hits The Road
In an effort to keep from falling asleep at my desk I am posting this trailer for the upcoming adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's brilliant and depressing The Road, which was supposed to be out last year but was pushed back to a late 2009 release date for post-production work. For those of you who haven't read it (see my one and only book review here) The Road chronicles the post-apocalyptic journey of a father and son across a barren U.S. wasteland as they try to survive the elements, keep from starving to death, or getting eaten by the extras from Deliverance. It's a deeply lyrical work that is crushingly bleak, and I wondered in the review how they would make it work on screen, given that's it's basically two people walking and not saying much. The films stars Viggo Mortensen, Robert "Surf or Fight!" Duvall, Charlize Theron, and the ridiculously monikered Kodi Smit-McPhee as Mortensen's and Theron's kid.
As for the look and tone? We get some evidence from the trailer that just went up over at Yahoo Movies. Click here to get a gander at that in HD. It looks like Theron's role has been expanded from the book, but the rest of it looks faithful enough. Still, I gotta wonder how this is going to play as this looks as much of a downer as the book largely is (though I could not put that fucker down). It's directed by John Hillcoat, whose main claim the fame is the enjoyable Aussie-Western The Proposition. I'm liking the vibe I'm getting from this so far though if they lightened up too much it'll destroy the beautiful sense of humanity imbued by the unbreakable bonds of father and son. If it doesn't lighten it up enough? It'll be a good week for who ever owns Kleenex.
Shoot some cannibals on the way to The Boards!