Last Week in Movie News (16 May – 22 May)

573f502b0fd8cHere is some of the major movie news that dropped last week, along with links to the full stories:

Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, and Karl Urban were all confirmed to be appearing in Thor: Ragnarok, as the characters Hela, Grand Master, and Skurge, respectively. Mark Ruffalo will also be reprising his role as Bruce Banner/The Hulk.

The second trailer for the upcoming Star Trek Beyond was released:

A spinoff movie from Suicide Squad featuring the character Harley Quinn is in development at DC/Warner Brothers. It will also feature other female heroes and villains from DC Comics.

Schedules allowing, Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes 3 could begin filming this fall.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is set to star in The Janson Directive, which is intended to become part of a Robert Ludlam-based cinematic universe that may crossover with the character Jason Bourne in a future film.

After it was revealed that Michael Keaton was no longer in talks to join the cast of Spider-Man: Homecoming, it appears that he may have re-entered negotiations with Marvel to play a villain in the upcoming film.

It was revealed that the official title for the fifth Transformers film will be Transformers: The Last Knight.

Oddly enough, it seems that the plans for a Tetris movie are moving forward.

After nearly 20 years of trying to get it made, Terry Gilliam’s long-awaited The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is set to start filming in September.

This week, Captain America: Civil War crossed the $1 billion mark at the box office, becoming the first movie of the year to do so, and thus also becoming the highest-grossing movie of 2016 so far.

Warner Brothers appointed new heads of their DC Comics movie division.

Angry Birds took the #1 spot at the box office this weekend, grossing $39 million and ending Captain America: Civil War’s 2-week run at #1.

 

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Movie Club – Unbreakable Discussion

timthumbWelcome to McKoo’s Movie Club! For more information on how it works, click here. The movie that we are discussing this week is Unbreakable. Needless to say, there are spoilers ahead, so please return after you’ve watched it if you haven’t yet.

Unbreakable is a film that was ahead of its time. Today, cinemas are inundated with superhero movies (starting next week, some multiplex theaters will have three different superhero movies playing there simultaneously). Yet when Unbreakable was released in 2000, the modern age of superhero movies had not yet fully begun. With the exception of the first X-Men film, which was released only a few months before Unbreakable, the only major superhero films that had been released were the Christopher Reeve Superman series and the Burton/Schumacher Batman franchise. Yet Unbreakable addressed common themes and elements from superhero stories (primarily comics) that have seeped into many of the most successful comic book films of today, such as the origin story, a hero’s weakness, and heroes and villains having a symbiotic relationship. Unbreakable truly feels like a movie that should have been released today, rather than 16 years ago.

One aspect of the film that I particularly enjoy is that it uses visuals rather than dialogue to tell the many parts of the story. In fact, in some instances, it uses simultaneous visuals and dialogue to tell two separate stories. One example of this is when David wakes up in the hospital and the doctor begins to question him. While we learn from the dialogue about the crash and David’s miraculous survival, we also see the story of a dying patient played out in the foreground as we watch his labored breathing become more difficult, and then we finally see a wound open up and bleed profusely. At once we see the story of two survivors of the train wreck: one that is inexplicably unharmed, and one that is mortally injured.

Visual motifs are also used throughout the film, especially seeing images upside down, and seeing reflections, sometimes just for a moment, but other times for entire scenes (such as the conversation between young Elijah and his mother that is mostly observed through a reflection off of a television screen). This could symbolize the skewed world that Elijah mentions that is observed by heroes and villains. Likewise, just like in comic books, many characters are associated with a specific color. Elijah’s clothes are almost always primarily purple, David is often seen wearing green and he wears the all-green overcoat during the climactic scene with the home-invader, who in turn wears the completely orange janitorial jumpsuit.

Additionally, the score for this movie may be one of James Newton Howard’s best scores. Rather than having a score filled with bombastic themes that are appropriate for most superhero films, the main musical theme of this film is much more slow and haunting to match the grounded tone of the film. At the same time, it is just as easily “hum-able” and recognizable when it is used in the movie as some of the most popular superhero themes, such as John William’s Superman theme or Danny Elfman’s Spider-Man theme.

Lastly, the mind-shattering ending is what cements the film as a success, in my opinion. We spend the entire film focusing on all the aspects of David that make him a hero, and the film just as poignantly points that Elijah is in every way his opposite, and yet what should be the obvious conclusion that the opposite of the hero must be the villain isn’t made clear until the reveal in the final scene that Elijah was the mastermind behind all of the recent tragedies in the city. Here, Elijah reiterates the theme of opposites (which has been emphasized by the previously mentioned visual motifs of reflections and upside-down shots) by stating this his existence and actions had no true meaning until there was a hero to take his place at the opposite end of the spectrum. This is very similar to a theme that was played out in 2008’s The Dark Knight when the Joker suggests that Batman’s existence is what has brought a crazed criminal like himself into play. A similar theme is discussed in a scene of the recently-released Captain America: Civil War. As mentioned before, this highlights a symbiotic relationship and one of the fundamental questions about superheroes: do superheroes come into being to stop supervillains? Or do supervillains exist to give opposition to superheroes?

As I said at the beginning of this discussion, many of the questions that this film poses are extremely relevant to today’s superhero-dominated cinema. I personally think that this movie is a must-watch for anyone who is a fan of the genre, and I also feel that this movie may have gotten much more critical and audience attention had it come out today.

What are your thoughts about this film? Please sound off in the comments section below! Likewise, please share this movie club with your friends on social media – it will give you more people to discuss these movies with, and may even provide you opportunities to watch it with them!

NEXT WEEK’S FILM: X-Men: Days of Future Past. It is available to rent on Netflix DVD, Google Play, Amazon, and VidAngel.

Last Week in Movie News (09 May – 15 May)

the-wolverine-slashes-past-the-competition-heres-your-box-office-roundup__131023035823Here is some of the major movie news that dropped last week, along with links to the full stories:

The filmmakers of Wolverine 3 have confirmed that they are planning for the film to have an R-rating.

Michael B. Jordan was added to the cast of Marvel’s upcoming Black Panther film. This marks the second time that Marvel has recruited an actor who played the Human Torch in a Fantastic Four film (after famously casting Chris Evans as Captain America).

Another trailer for the upcoming Steven Spielberg adaptation of the Roald Dahl novel The BFG hit the internet:

It was confirmed that a movie about the lesser-known DC superhero Booster Gold is in development.

A producer at 20th Century Fox has confirmed that the studio is still considering a sequel to last year’s disappointing Fantastic Four reboot.

One film site claims that the main villain in the upcoming Justice League film will not be Darkseid, as has been heavily rumored, but it will instead be the lesser-known character Steppenwolf and that Darkseid will be the main villain in the second film. While the site that claims to have this scoop is not a major film news site, several major film news sites have reported this story, citing the original site as the source. Time will tell whether this was a true scoop, or if it was just another unsubstantiated internet rumor.

A Zorro reboot is in the works. It will be entitled “Z” and it will take place in the future.

The trailer for the long-awaited film adaptation of the popular video game Assassin’s Creed arrived:

Captain America: Civil War was the #1 movie at the box office for the second weekend in a row with an estimated $72.5 million earned in the domestic box office this weekend. This brings its current worldwide total to $940 million, and it is estimated that it will be this year’s first film to reach $1 billion. Due to its box office earnings so far, the Marvel Cinematic Universe film franchise has now become the first franchise to earn a cumulative total of $10 billion for all of its films (for reference, the Harry Potter franchise, which is in second place, has earned a total of $7.7 billion).

Movie Club – Captain Phillips Discussion

Captain_Phillips_PosterWelcome to McKoo’s Movie Club! For more info on how it works, click here. The movie that we are discussing this week is Captain Phillips. Needless to say, there are spoilers ahead, so please return after you’ve watched it if you haven’t yet.

“Look at me. I am the captain now.”

Having just watched this for the first time recently, this movie was far more powerful, emotional, and suspenseful than I was expecting. However, once I realized that the director was Paul Greengrass (who had previously done some of the Bourne films and is scheduled to return for the fifth one this summer), I wasn’t as surprised. He takes a lot of the high-stakes style storytelling from those action movies, and transplants them into this life-or-death drama. This movie was one of the biggest emotional rollercoasters that a film has sent me on in quite some time. Prior to watching this, I actually knew that Captain Phillips was going to survive, being somewhat familiar with the true story that this film was based  on, yet I still was on the edge of my seat with anticipation of what would happen next.

One of the many reasons that this film works so well is the superb acting. Tom Hanks gives yet another stellar “I’m in an impossible situation, but I’m going to pull through” performance that I would say is on par with his role in Apollo 13. If this movie can’t convince you that Tom Hanks is one of the best living actors, I don’t know what will. One of my favorite things about this performance is how he made the character feel real – at first, he almost seemed a little stuffy and unlikable (kind of like an annoying boss who seems to think that one should have absolutely zero fun while on the clock, even if you’re still being productive). Yet as the movie progressed, we got to see that he is courageous and genuinely cares about the safety of his crew. This seemed like a true-to-life reminder that just because someone rubs you the wrong way initially, it doesn’t mean that they are devoid of good qualities.

Barkhad Abdi, who plays the main pirate Muse, also delivered a spectacular performance. It comes as no surprise to me that he was nominated for an Oscar for this role. Rather than just being a two-dimensional villain for the sake of villainy, I really felt this character’s unyielding determination to prove himself. Had this been a superhero or crime film, I felt that he would have been a similarly well-developed character that you would typically go on to see becoming a terrifying crime boss, like Fisk from Netflix’s Daredevil.

I also enjoy the performance from Barkhad Abdirahman, who plays the young pirate Bilal. Largely because of his portrayal, I was actually quite sad that his character died. It was obvious that while he made a poor choice and had to be accountable for his actions, he was also a product of his circumstances. It made you wish he had a better chance at life. While Muse was definitely the complex and driven villain, Bilal was just as definitely the tragic villain who you wanted to turn good, and felt that his death was a tragedy.

Being a huge sci-fi fan that I am (especially of properties like Star Trek and Firefly) I love how this felt like it could have easily been some kind of adventure taking place on a damaged and stranded spaceship, and yet it took place in very real locations with very real conflicts. It also contained some themes that one often sees in superhero films – people in desperate situations that are willing to sacrifice themselves to save others (Phillips), as well as being rescued from nefarious individuals (the pirates) by other individuals with great power and resources (the Navy). Given, one could rightly say that sci-fi and superheroes appropriate these themes from real-world stories like this, but I feel like I see these themes used in the fantastical world of sci-fi far more frequently, and it was refreshing to see these story elements utilized in a grounded and real-world setting.

Lastly, I loved seeing this mind games that the characters played with each other (including Hanks, the pirates, and the Navy). For me, intellectual sparring can be just as compelling to watch as actual physical battles, and this movie was full of mental maneuvers. Despite the number of times various characters said “No tricks!,” there were plenty of tricks played by all.

Please let me know what you thought of this movie in the comments section! Was this movie as suspenseful for you as it was for me? If you’ve seen this before, was it as suspenseful the second time around? Did you see any of the sci-fi and superhero story elements that I did, or did this seem entirely like a real-world drama? What was your favorite performance of the film? Sound off below!

If you enjoy the concept of an online movie club, and want your friends to participate as well, please share this on social media!

NEXT WEEK’S FILM: Unbreakable. It is available to rent on Netflix DVD, Google Play, Amazon, and VidAngel.

Last Week in Movie News (02 May – 08 May)

alden-ehrenreich-could-be-the-star-of-the-young-han-solo-casting-wars-933815Here is some of the major movie news that dropped last week, along with links to the full stories:

Alden Ehrenreich will be playing the young Han Solo in an upcoming Star Wars spinoff film.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure had to stop production indefinitely because its lead actor, Dylan O’Brien, was seriously injured while filming a stunt.

Seth Grahame-Smith, who was set to direct the upcoming superhero film The Flash left the project due to “creative differences.”

A picture showing costumes for the title characters in the Power Rangers reboot was revealed:

prangersThe directors of the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War Part I & II revealed the the films will be retitled and that the two films will be “very different movies.”

A Space Jam sequel is in the works, with LeBron James set to star.

It may have been accidentally revealed that Captain Marvel will make her first appearance in Avengers: Infinity War.

The upcoming Mummy reboot, which will star Tom Cruise, is looking to add Russell Crowe to the cast.

Star Wars star Daisy Ridley is set to play the title role in the upcoming film Ophelia, which reimagines the classic Shakespeare tale of Hamlet from the character Ophelia’s point of view.

Captain America: Civil War was the #1 movie at the box office this weekend, making $181.8 million, and becoming the fifth largest opening weekend of all time. However, this is still well below the $200-$210 million it was predicted to make. No official word yet from anyone as to why it made significantly less than predicted.

Captain America: Civil War Review

Captain-America-Civil-War-main-posterThe following review contains NO SPOILERS.

tl;dr – I’m not sure if Civil War is a perfect movie, but it is a perfect comic book movie. I honestly believe that years from now, this will be considered the Empire Strikes Back of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Bold claims above, I know, but this movie packs an emotional punch. I really don’t want to spoil anything, but I’ll say that the state of the MCU at the end of this movie is about the same state that the Rebellion is in at the end of Episode V, hence the reference above. I’m still processing this movie, so I don’t know if I can definitively rank it with other comic book movies. But it might be the best MCU movie so far, and it might even be the best comic book movie of all time. Might. Like I said, I’m still processing.

Being a massive comic book fan, I personally consider the original Civil War storyline to be one of the best stories that Marvel has ever published. Saying that, I also have to say that I was extremely satisfied with this film. No, it doesn’t even come close to following the storyline from the comics (none of the Marvel movies really have), but it followed the spirit of the comic perfectly. Both Cap’s and Tony’s viewpoints have merit, and I feel the story will successfully create a divide among moviegoers, just like the original story divided comic book readers. While the marketing for this film has been pretty good, I know several people who are confused about why they are fighting. That will not be the case when you watch this film. Lines are drawn, and they are very clear, and everyone will pick a side for a specific reason. Everyone. Oh, and unlike a certain other superhero fight movie that came out this year (*cough* BvS *cough*), the title fight is a significant portion of this movie, and there may be more than one round of fighting.

This is Marvel’s most serious movie to date. Don’t get wrong there is some terrific and spot-on humor. It might actually some of the best-utilized humor in the MCU. Unlike some of the jokes in Age of Ultron, which seemed scripted (obviously they were, as it was a movie, but a lot of them felt very unnatural), my initial reaction is to say that all of the gags in this movie felt like they would actually happen in these given situations with these specific people. Especially the ones from Spider-Man.

Oh yeah, Spider-Man’s in this movie. I’ve heard a lot of people say that this is the best Spider-Man we’ve ever gotten in a movie. While I thought he was amaz-, nope, spectac-, nope, sensatio-, nope, um, really good, he’s only in the movie for like 10-15 minutes. I’ll need to see his full movie next year to determine whether I really regard him as the best (as am I a huge and unashamed fan of the both the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield iterations of Spider-Man). But he was really good, and I’m now even more excited for his movie next year.

Prior to this tangent, I was talking about the seriousness of this movie. As I said, just as Empire Strikes Back took a dark turn after the original Star Wars, this movie sees most of our favorite characters go down dark paths. It’s not as dark as say Marvel’s own Daredevil show or even something like the Dark Knight trilogy, but this isn’t your happy-go-lucky Avengers team that we’ve seen up until now. Bad stuff happens, and that bad stuff has consequences. Much like the original comic, the story goes past the point of no return, and I doubt that things will ever be the same for most of these characters.

Speaking of characters, they all get their moments to shine. Everyone, and I mean everyone, of the Avengers gets their own little storyline in this movie. The character that I was most surprised about getting a significant story was Sharon Carter, however. She was criminally under-utilized in Winter Soldier. And while she isn’t featured in this movie quite as much as I wish she’d be (she is one of the best supporting character from the Captain America comics), it was certainly a pleasant surprise to see her as much as we did. All that said, the comments that “this isn’t an Avengers movie, this is a Captain America movie” are totally false. Sure, almost everything that happens in this movie can be traced back to Captain America, but it’s in the same way that almost everything that happens in Age of Ultron can be traced back to Tony. If this movie needed to be called “Captain America: Civil War”, AoU should have been called “Iron Man: Age of Ultron.” Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a complaint, I loved this movie, but “Avengers: Civil War” would have been a more fitting title.

There is really so much more I could say. The acting was great. The action was mind-blowingly amazing. There were so many moments that made my comic-book-nerd heart happy. Spider-Man was wonderful. Black Panther was set up extremely well for his upcoming movie. There were so many great character interactions, especially between members of the same teams, and members of the opposite teams. (So pretty much all of the character interactions). Every character gets a moment to be cool. And, while I definitely have a side (Team Cap all the way), there is no clear-cut choice between who is right and who is wrong.

I don’t feel like I need to rant any more about this movie. If you haven’t seen this yet, stop what you are doing and go to the theater right now. If you’ve already seen this, you should probably go see it again (I definitely will). Let me know what you think in the comments below, and be sure to use spoiler warnings where appropriate! If you enjoyed this review, please consider sharing it on social media! 

 

Movie Club – Captain America: The Winter Soldier Discussion

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Welcome to McKoo’s Movie Club! For more info on how it works, click here. The movie that we are discussing this week is Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Needless to say, there are spoilers ahead, so please return after you’ve watched it if you haven’t yet.

Two years later, and I still think that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of Marvel’s best movies. While I enjoyed The First Avenger, as well as Cap’s scenes in Avengers, this was the movie that really cemented the cinematic success of the character in my eyes (as well as in the eyes of many other moviegoers and critics). While those previous two films portrayed him as a morally upright character, this movie puts those aspects to the test when his opponents aren’t Nazis or alien invaders, they are his own countrymen working for his government. Winter Soldier takes him beyond his “boy scout” role portrayed before and makes him more like Edward Snowden meets Jason Bourne. In doing so, Marvel also began a trend that continued with films like Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man: mixing the superhero genre with other film genres (such as space opera and heist film) to diversify their movie offerings. Here, Winter Soldier combines a superhero movie with a political thriller.

The fact that this is a compelling action movie that stands up with some of the best action films becomes even more impressive when you consider that this is the first action movie and the first big-budget film directed by the brother duo Joe and Anthony Russo, who were previously known primarily for their work on TV comedies. Many people were skeptical when they were handed the keys to this movie, but after this success, they’ve also been hired to direct Civil War (which comes out today), as well as both parts of the upcoming Avenger: Infinity War.

The film also contains great acting all-around. As mentioned before, Captain America becomes an indispensable part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with this film, and that is largely due to Chris Evans’ portrayal of the character. Once again, I thought he did well in First Avenger and Avengers, but I thought he gave a fairly replaceable performance (in other words, just about any good actor could have played the role, and I would have been fine with it). It’s in this movie that he seems to start finally making the role his own. Additionally, Samuel L. Jackson also delivers the best Nick Fury scenes to date. While he was relegated to the role of a talking head for most of his other scenes in previous Marvel films, the car chase scene involving Nick Fury toward the beginning of the film is arguably one of the best films in the movie. Also, for all of those who have been clamoring for a Black Widow solo film, this is the closest we’ve gotten so far, and what makes the character successful is once again the acting. Much like with Cap, I enjoyed Scarlett Johansson’s portrayal of Widow in Iron Man 2 and Avengers, but I didn’t start to believe that she was a vital part of the character until this movie.

Being a fan of the comics, I loved the story of the film as it simultaneously took some cues from one of my favorite comic book storylines of all time (Ed Brubaker’s run on Captain America) by bringing in characters like the Winter Soldier, but it also managed to keep me guessing. I loved the fact that this movie was able to successfully bring back Hydra, one of the best and most formidable terrorist cells in Marvel comics, and that it was able to do so while also providing social commentary on current events such as NSA surveillance. One of the most relevant lines from the film is delivered by Arnim Zola (whose presence in a computer was another great Easter Egg for comics fans) when he says “humanity is finally ready to sacrifice its freedom to gain its security.”

Lastly, as mentioned before, the action scenes in this movie are what makes it really shine. In my opinion, this is one of the best “one person awesomely beats up everyone he encounters” movie since The Bourne Ultimatum. Whether it’s the scene on the freighter, Lemurian Star, that starts the movie off, the scene on the causeway of Winter Soldier and Hydra versus Cap and company, or the final heart wrenching fight on the helicarriers, this movie is packed with amazing action.

So what are your thoughts on this movie? Please add to the discussion in the comments section below! And be sure to come back next week!

NEXT WEEK’S FILM: Captain Phillips. It is available for rent on Netflix DVD, Google Play, Amazon, and VidAngel