Potential Directors For ‘Deadpool 2’

DEADPOOL

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard that Deadpool director Tim Miller has left the upcoming sequel due to creative differences with star Ryan Reynolds. Now, whether the reason for leaving was budgetary reasons or because he and Reynolds had two totally different views for how the sequel should’ve been made (I’ve heard one of the two has a huge ego – guess who that might be), Miller has jumped ship and is now attached to another Fox project, the cyber-crime thriller Influx.

Surprisingly, I’ve seen a lot of people who seem to be okay with the Miller leaving, despite the fact that he was a huge reason for the film’s success this February. Not only did he help find the right tone to make a 4th wall-breaking character like Deadpool work on the big-screen, but the action was rock-solid and Miller himself helped out with the visual effects through his own company to ultimately keep the cost of the film down. Yes, credit should also go to Reynolds and the writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (whose script was hysterical) for helping make the film work as a whole, but losing Miller is a big deal.

Now, everyone at Fox is probably scrambling, trying to figure out who should helm their eccentric sequel. There are some who have suggested either ridiculously lazy picks (Matthew Vaughn) or ones that would never direct a project like this (Quentin Tarantino). So, let’s look at who I think should be considered for the job.

Daniels (Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan)

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You might not recognize the name Daniels, but you may have heard of their film Swiss Army Man, which I think is one of the best films of the year so far. This duo can definitely tackle raunchy humor and not be afraid to take it places that might be pushing the limit, as evident by their earlier works. But one thing that Swiss Army Man showed me (as well as their interactive short Possibilia), was that they could mix the immature fart jokes with genuine moments between the characters they create. Their weird and wild sensibilities would be a great match for Deadpool, and they’ve work in the mainstream market before (they directed the music video for “Turn Down For What” a few years back).

 

Ilya Naishuller

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Probably another name most aren’t familiar with, Naishuller was the man responsible for the chaotic first-person action flick Hardcore Henry earlier this year. Despite the fact that the film didn’t go over with critics, I thoroughly enjoyed it, thanks mostly to it’s innovative camerawork and sheer intensity. The film was bloody, fast-paced and full of colorful characters to move it’s ridiculous plot forward – tell me that doesn’t sound like a great recipe for a Deadpool sequel? Also imagine how awesome a Deadpool POV action sequence would be (something that Naishuller would definitely include if he was given the job).

 

Ruben Fleischer

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This one seems a little too good to be true. Fleischer has not only worked with screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick before on the great horror/comedy Zombieland, but he was also in contention to direct Marvel’s Ant Man a few years back. His stylistic visuals, love for dark humor and experience with studio filmmaking (Gangster Squad) only help matters, even if the latter film left a little to be desired in my opinion. Either way, I could really see this choice becoming a reality very soon.

 

Other potential directors I think would be interesting to see helm the superhero sequel would be Adam Wingard (The Guest), Tarsem Singh (Immortals), Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods) and Chad Stahelski (John Wick). Agree? Disagree? Let me know. Deadpool 2 currently does not have a release date, but is rumored to be eying a 2018 release.

JURASSIC WORLD Review

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“We’re safe in here, right?”

Jurassic World beat me into fucking submission. It really did. Colin Trevorrow‘s dino feature is relentless and fits so many different concepts, themes, visual effects and characters in it’s unbelievably tight two-hour timeframe, you almost feel like you’re gonna go insane once the movie ends. It’s almost unfair how often this long-awaited sequel beats you down emotionally, but it also makes sense. A lot of people grew up with Jurassic Park and the expectations we all had for this film are almost unfair. So while we might not have gotten the “perfect sequel” that we all had hoped for, Trevorrow gives us enough to harken back to our grand memories of the original while also guiding us into uncharted territory, for better or worse. If anything, he proves that you don’t have to be (or imitate) Steven Spielberg to make a Jurassic Park film, something many people were worrying when he was first hired.

Now, opting to not even try copying Spielberg’s style was a smart decision, but Trevorrow’s vision as a director isn’t really “there”. He’s clearly a man of many ideas (a lot of which are great), but there isn’t any shots that stood out and he never guides the camera through the action to give me that sense of “awe” that I should be feeling with a film about dinosaurs. For example, entering “Jurassic World” was done with an awkward low angle side shot at the front doors – not a particularly grand entrance in any sense. However, this also in a way works with the film’s narrative (at least for the first half of the film).

See, this is a time where people have almost become bored of these dinosaurs. This might not be super obvious, due to all the people still at the park throughout the film, but there’s a scene where one of the young boys we follow in the film has a typical conversation with his mom while in the background, the terrifying T-Rex from the original film is stomping around, roaring and eating an animal. While this may be heartbreaking to some viewers (it certainly was to me; I hated that dipshit kid the rest of the film), it’s a clever idea to play around with. Now, I’m not suggesting that Trevorrow’s almost amateurish framing and overall direction is solely because of this concept he’s working with, but it could be. But maybe I’m being easier on him than I should be. Again, this only works as an argument for the first half and while there’s still more money-shots later on in the film, his lack of distinct vision isn’t present.

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And it’s not just behind the camera where his style isn’t very clear. The concept, like I said earlier, is a fantastic concept. It might seem a little too early for some to have a concept like this because this our first time seeing the park functioning. But, we need to keep in mind this is, in reality, the third sequel we’ve gotten to Jurassic Park. It was a concept that was necessary, especially today when general audiences seems to be a lot tougher to please in terms of entertainment. And with this, it takes its concept and turns it on its consumers; Jurassic World, both as a film and as the park, try to give their audiences something bigger, meaner, and more dangerous to keep everyone interested. And, in an extremely fascinating way, both end up failing in this respect.

Again, this obviously meta jab at large cooperations (“Verizon Wireless presents, the Indominus Rex!”, jokes a scientist played perfectly by Jake Johnson after hearing that the company wants to sponsor their next project) is playful and really clever, especially considering how mainstream this franchise is *and* when you consider it isn’t Spielberg making the film. Very ambitious to do, especially when this is only your second feature film and your first time breaking out in Hollywood. But, it starts to fall under the weight of its own ambitions when the “bigger means better” mentality starts oozing into the film’s actual plot progression.

The film eventually turns into a massive free-for-all and, because of this, many different characters are thrust into separate plot points, creating a messy narrative. The thing about the first film is that there really isn’t much to it. There isn’t a lot of action and you don’t really see too much of the dinosaurs. It was ultimately the idea that drove the film. Less is sometimes better than more, and that’s why other films that have been inspired by the film have failed to recapture the magic of it. This film is big, bombastic, and explosive, trying to outdo the original, and ultimately, making the film at-odds with what it’s trying to say. Then, the film awkwardly tries to force the idea of “don’t mess with the original” into its fun, but destructive climax, leaving me to wonder why Trevorrow even made this sequel if his two major themes afterwards were that and “bigger doesn’t always mean better”.

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But, enough with the negatives, because the film isn’t a giant shitstorm. In a way, it’s way smarter than most blockbusters are and its ambitions and personality are certainly much stronger than other similar films as well. And while the narrative as a whole is all over the place, there are some great ideas at play, most of which I already covered. The film also manages to make the plot point revolving the raptors utterly ridiculous, but at the same time make it work perfectly in the confines of the film.

Also, it was such a relief to find out that Bryce Dallas Howard‘s character was actually the lead of the film. Usually, you won’t find me trying to pick apart or praise films because of their “agenda” in terms of gender importance (for example, I don’t see Fury Road as a feminist film, but simply as a film). But here, it worked. I might have been thrown off simply because Chris Pratt was marketed much more than she was, but it left me surprised, which not many blockbusters, or films in general for that matter, can do. Misleading marketing for the win. It also helped that I throughly enjoyed all of the performances in the film (well, almost all of them).

While I really hated the older kid and his creepy perverted ways (as well as the fact that he was a total prick), the sense of adventure that he and his brother find even through all this mess is something that we actually haven’t seen since the original film. And this is why Jurassic World, to me, is best sequel in the franchise so far. Even though he visually has a hard time capturing the “wow” factor that Spielberg did and the script is a mess, Trevorrow gets his characters right, mainly the young and innocent ones. Again, it might be because this is the first time since ’93 we’ve been to some sort of “park”, but seeing the two brothers looking through the cracks of the park (literally) to find enjoyment and fun out of the moment is what sold the deal for me. He might not have the vision that Spielberg had, but his heart is just as big. It’s just more self-aware.

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Jurassic World is the thing it trashes and makes fun of, but the film is full of so many great ideas, concepts, and fun performances you can’t help but appreciate the wackiness of it all. It’s overstuffed and as a cohesive plot, it doesn’t entirely work, but there are moments scattered throughout that Trevorrow absolutely nails. Like, he really nails some scenes in the film, some of which include a hologram gag and another in which an action set-piece is shot and played out like a horror film. His heart is in the right place and he dares to do things with this franchise only few would dare to do, and for that, you have to congratulate the man.

It was announced that Trevorrow would not be returning to the inevitable sequel, and you can see why. He put everything he had into this film, and I don’t think he has anything else left to say in regards to the franchise. And while, yes, it might be a mess, it’s a personal, insane, and most importantly, a heartfelt one.

New “San Andreas” Trailer Looks Like Absolute Garbage

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There’s always that one movie each year that tries soo hard to impress audiences with its over-reliance on CGI and spectacle even when in reality, no one sees the movie as “big event” like The Avengers or Star Wars. This year, it’s the wannabe Roland Emmerich film San Andreas, which is trying very hard to show people that it’s a badass movie. “Look, we got The Rock!” “Look, we got huge, mindless set pieces!” “Look, DESTRUCTION!!!” Well, that’s great, except for the fact that a.) I feel like I’ve seen this movie many, many times before and b.) even with all the action and destruction on display, it just looks boring. Don’t be surprised if this is one of the underperformers of this summer movie season. I mean, just look at that picture above. Ugh. I just don’t see the appeal here.

Have a look at the trailer below:

San Andreas, directed by Brad Peyton (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island), will be released on May 29th, 2015.

“Zoolander 2” Offically Set For Release in 2016

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At Paris Fashion Week, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson offically announced the release of Zoolander 2. It will be released on February 12, 2016. That date doesn’t necessarily give me confidence in the film’s quality, as there have been quite a few stinkers that have been released in February, but I loved the original Zoolander, so here’s to hoping this turns out similar to how Anchorman 2 did. Yes, I really liked Anchorman 2.

Here are some more pictures of Stiller and Wilson making the announcement:

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As I said earlier, Zoolander 2 will be released on February 12, 2016 with Justin Theoroux (Dedication) directing this time around.

New Trailer for Netflix’s “Daredevil” Shows Off Its Mature Rating; Plus New Poster

Let's just hope it's better than Marvel's previous TV outings.
Let’s just hope it’s better than Marvel’s previous TV outings.

Marvel and Netflix have just released a new trailer for their upcoming series Daredevil, and I gotta say, I’m impressed. I’ve been on the fence about this show ever since it was announced, afraid that Marvel wouldn’t want to go “dark” now that it’s brand is reaching out not only to fans, but to kids as well. This doesn’t seem to be an issue here, as the opening seconds of the trailer show off its TV-MA rating. So it looks like we’ll be seeing some brutal action here.

Also, Vincent D’Onofrio as Kingpin looks fantastic. Granted, we haven’t seen too much from him so far, but he looks to be a much better villain than even the MCU feature films have been able to produce. That being said, Charlie Cox still doesn’t convince me as Matt Murdock and his costume is ugly as hell. I know that he’ll eventually wear his red suit that we all know him to wear, but that all black outfit? There’s a reason why the promotional material hasn’t focused on his costume.

Speaking of promotional material, here’s the trailer and also a new poster for the show.

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All the episodes for Daredevil will be released on April 10.

“Chappie” Review

Chappie is entertaining enough, but it completely falls apart in the end when it fails to add any depth to a story that had so many opportunities to bring up intriguing political and social commentary.
Chappie is entertaining enough, but it completely falls apart in the end when it fails to add any depth to a story that had so many opportunities to bring up intriguing political and social commentary.

Let’s take a second to step back and look at Neill Blomkamp‘s career so far. After becoming something of a poster boy after his fantastic feature debut District 9, a lot of people anticipated his follow-up Elysium, which had a intriguing premise, but was overall a disappointment. It was pretty much District 9 remade without the grit, a much higher budget, and with a much more heavy-handed execution of its messages.

So here we have Chappie, which is a weird beast of its own. With much less fanfare behind it than Elysium had, the film has pretty much flown under the radar. It also doesn’t help that Blomkamp’s recent announcement to make an Alien sequel has taken much of the spotlight from this film. And Sony’s piss-poor attempt at marketing the film has done it no favors either, painting the film in one trailer as a family-friendly robot movie and in another showing the film as a big-budget action spectacle. Well, it’s neither.

Chappie, while child-like at heart, is a dirty film. Blomkamp fills the screen with the dark and trashy slums of Johannesburg, while showcasing some colorful graffiti and weapons as well. These go much better with the vibrant characters the film throws at the audience, especially Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser. While their admittedly sketchy “gangsta” appearances match the murky and dangerous locations that Blomkamp chooses, their off-kilter character traits also supplement the color look trying to throw off the dark side.

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As for how the two actors, who are the singers in the group Die Antwoord, actually do acting in the film, they do what they’re meant to accomplish. Ninja was surprisingly strong playing himself(?), while Visser fares much worse. That being said, her poor deliverance of dialogue fits her character, who must teach Chappie how to learn and become his own person. So, like I said, she serves her purpose.

Surprisingly, it’s the more popular actors that don’t fare as well. Dev Patel does an admirable job acting, especially when you consider how shoddy his characterization is. He creates drama where there isn’t any, which might be annoying at times given the situation, but at least he’s trying. Meanwhile Hugh Jackman gets stuck with a horrible role of the jealous co-worker that just has to become an antagonist because you know, why not. And there were times where I actually forgot Sigourney Weaver was in the movie. She does nothing to move the story forward, so her character’s inclusion is still confusing.

Despite some character (and acting) flaws, Chappie breezes by is quite enjoyable. Chappie learns everything a little too quickly, but I felt for his character and thankfully Blomkamp avoided being too mushy with Chappie’s harsh “childhood”, which was my biggest concern. Chappie himself was very likeable and managed to carry the film. While not particularly deep at all, Chappie is an admirable look at raising a child, which in this case is obviously Chappie. Like I said, it’s never deep enough to offer up some juicy political or social bite (which surprised me, given how in-your-face Elysium was about its themes), but it gets the job done.

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That being said, the last ten minutes completely derail the film. I was perfectly fine with the film being a somewhat safe and predictable tale when the story didn’t necessarily leave much room for improvement. However, Blomkamp really tests his audience’s patience with the ending, pretty much undoing most of the hard work that the film had going towards it. It got to the point where the basic and simple vision of the film just wasn’t enough for some of the ambitious ideas it carries along. This leads to a horrific final shot, void of any emotion or deep consequences (those who’ve seen it will know what I’m talking about). Long story short: the twist the film throws at you doesn’t work. At all.

With Chappie, Neill Blomkamp returns to the small-scale world of District 9 and creates a visually stunning and entertaining flick. Sadly, the film is far too safe for its own good and seems to be afraid to ask the tough questions it hints at. So instead, it adds them in the film but manages to avoid actually answering them, leading to a very frustrating experience. It’s as if someone let Blomkamp make a mess around the house, and for a while it’s kind of fun to watch. It’s not too messy, but it surely gets a little out of hand. But when it comes to cleaning the mess, Blomkamp refuses to help because it’s too much work. The smart ideas and fresh political bite are all in sight, but Blomkamp never reaches for it, instead reeling in and hoping the slow-mo does the work.

Chappie is a fun movie to watch for a while, but once you realize it could have been so much more, you can’t help but leave disappointed. I’m kind of worried for the Alien sequel now, despite my undeniable love for District 9.

Grade: C+

Adding A Subtitle To Your Subtitle – A Look At Hollywood’s Obsession With Multiple Parts

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Unless you live under a rock, you know that Mockingjay Part 1 opened in theaters this weekend, and once again sparked controversy. Not because of its length or its material, but because of the fact that it was only the first half of the finale. Some use this “Part 1” and “Part 2” as the subtitle for their sequels (Hangover Part 2 or Godfather Part 2, for example). But, when they become a subtitle for a subtitle, you have to ask yourself if this is really a good thing from a cinematic or economical standpoint, or does it just hurt both?

This “split” craze started with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2010. Now, the Harry Potter franchise started skimming over the books’ content after Prisoner of Azkaban, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. They’re film adaptations, not direct interpretations of the books. Hell, my favorite Potter book, Half-Blood Prince was shamelessly adapted with multiple important elements omitted, but as a standalone film, it was quite solid.

Now, the last book was a long one. Not the longest in the franchise, but still a long book, no doubt. Add that with the fact that Warner Bros. wasn’t ready to let go of their crowing achievement just yet, they did something monumental – they split the final book into two films. This of course led to uproar from some, but relief for others. Those fans of the books who though the last few films strayed too far from the book would be able to get a much more direct adaptation this time around. But those who were angry claimed that Warner Bros. was milking the cash cow for all that it was worth.

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Now, you’d be a fool not to agree with them. The money was a big, if not the biggest factor to their decision to split up the film into two. But, the book was massive enough to make the split seem like an okay idea. And personally, I think both work as single films and don’t feel like just part one and part two. Now you might disagree, but then again, aren’t most film franchises presented in the same way, just without the “Part 1” or “Part 2” in the title?

Let’s take the Hunger Games franchise, for example. Many people thus far are criticizing Mockingjay Part 1 for feeling like an incomplete movie. Having not read the book, I can’t use this as a reference to see where they actually split the film, but let’s just look from the general audiences’ eyes for a second. They complain that there just isn’t enough to justify for the split. This is debatable, because the film does feel much more like a filter than an actual story, unlike Deathly Hallows Part 1. However, people saying that it ends abruptly clearly don’t watch many blockbusters nowadays.

Catching Fire might have been a complete story, but it ends on a massive cliffhanger that leads directly into Mockingjay Part 1. Yet, Fire‘s ending is much better received than the one for Mockingjay Part 1. Is it solely because of the fact that Catching Fire felt more like a complete story so that the ending was more justified, or does the “Part 1” in the title just lead to easy criticism? Because when you think about it, the ending is just saying, “You want to know what happens next? Then buy your ticket for the next one to find out what goes down!”, essentially leading to an empty argument about cliffhangers.

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The same thing goes for Peter Jackson‘s Hobbit trilogy. Granted, these split are mostly from a financial standpoint, but it’s as if most people aren’t even giving these films a shot because they present themselves as only on portion of the story. You won’t find a review about The Hobbit that doesn’t bring up the fact that it’s split into three different parts. It’s lazy backlash for what’s essentially a director’s cut, just spread out.

This leads me to the issue for the studio heads that think every big-budget film must end with a two-part stinger; they lead to some spotty returns or lower critical reception. The drop-off for Deathly Hallows wasn’t that bad domestically and actually gained a little worldwide. And Part 2 debuted to massive numbers, leading every YA franchise to think that they can pull it off too.

Twilight did this with Breaking Dawn, and it didn’t work out quite as well. Part 1 finished off with a little less than every other film in the franchise besides the first film stateside, even if its worldwide take was a little stronger. But, the film also had (and still has) the lowest critical reception of the bunch with a 24% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This lead to the final half also underperforming slightly, being outgrossed by the second and third films domestically, but cleaning up everywhere else.

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Now, we have Hobbit, Hunger Games, and Divergent running into this issue. The first Hobbit should have had no problem beating Return of the King‘s take from a decade before, but it only barely outgrossed it opening weekend and, when adjusted for inflation, would have grossed almost $200 million less than that film had it been released today. With ticket prices raised, the strong fan-base, and a lot of 3D options at hand, this was considered a massive disappointment over here in the states. Granted, it still managed $1 billion from foreign markets, but the fact that it wasn’t one film surely factored into that. Looking at the second, The Desolation of Smaug, only helps this argument.

It seems as if even The Hunger Games themselves are being affected by this. The somewhat large percent drop not only in midnight premiere grosses between Catching Fire ($25.3 million) and Mockingjay Part 1 ($17.0 million), but also in critic ratings (89% compared to 68%) shows that some critics and audiences alike are already tired of the “incomplete” storytelling technique. Which is funny because this is something that Marvel does, which everyone and their grandmothers seem to love as well. The main difference is the lack of “Part 1” in the title. Well, for now.

With many more franchises planning to do the same split with their “final” chapters such as The Avengers franchise, Justice League and even The Stand (which is apparently being split into four separate films, I just feel like this is all getting out of hand, especially for those films that aren’t solely based on a singular novel. What’s the point of having “Part 1” or “Part 2” in the title when all that will do is just turn people off from seeing them until the final half is shown? This is where you have to ask yourself aren’t most sequels the “Part 1” or “Part 2” anyway? It might sound like a dumb question, but with these splits, it’s something that we need to distinguish.

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How are these films any different from Matrix Reloaded / Matrix Revolutions back in 2003 and Pirates 2 / Pirates 3 in 2006 and 2007 besides the fact that those other examples are based off books? These films were shot back-to-back and feel like one massive film split into two separate parts, right? But then again, the third film in both franchises dropped off from their predecessors’ grosses, so maybe it’s the fact that the films were just released too close together (like most of these other “epic” two-part finales today).

So what’s the strategy here, because with the right marketing and a quality product, most of these films wouldn’t have an issue reaching the same heights that they did with these splits. Because, with the international grosses aside, these splits aren’t doing quite well. The critics always criticize them for only being one portion of the story, and many people stateside just don’t seem as interested in seeing a film that’s being marketed as one half of a finale when they can just wait and watch them together once the second part comes out.

It’s just a strange Hollywood faze that’s actually been around for a long time, just presented as sequels instead of alienating audience members with reminders that it’s only one portion of a larger story. Hopefully this trend of “Part 1” and “Part 2” ends soon, because solid products are being downgraded and under-appreciated because of how these splits are presented to the general public. I get that it might be infuriating for those who read these books (even though I’ve read three of the four series’ I’ve brought up and I had no problem with), but for those who don’t know about these franchises, it’s giving them what might be a misconception of the quality of these films.

“Taken 3” Trailer Is Already Better Than “Taken 2”

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It’s safe to say that most people hated Taken 2. I for one loathed it, and told myself I’d never watch another one of them if they ever made a sequel. Well, fuck you Fox. You won. You’ve convinced me to watch Taken 3, or as the marketing calls it, Tak3n, which is something I refuse to call it. But I digress.

For one, the action looks MUCH better this time around, which is surprising considering how crappy the action scenes were in the last one and it’s from the same director, Olivier Megaton. Also, unlike Taken 2, a film that took itself way too seriously for all the stupid shit that actually happens in the film, this installment seems to have a sense of fun. Then again, I feel like a film like this shouldn’t be “fun”.

I mean, it may be a sequel, but if it wasn’t titled Taken 3, it could very easily been named something else. I mean, yeah, you could say Liam Neeson‘s innocence is “taken” this time around, but other than that and the character names, it feels like something outside of the Taken franchise. What was once a dark and sometimes sadistic thriller about a father saving his daughter from a sex trafficking ring has now turned into a generic, studio-churned action flick that thrives on PG-13 cliches and explosions. But, like I said, at least it looks fun. It’s just really strange to see how far this series has come since the original.

Taken 3 will be released January 9th, 2015.

“Gotham” Pilot Review

A slick, but ultimately empty pilot that banks way too much on nostalgia instead of forming a engrossing story to help differentiate this from other similar procedural shows.
A slick, but ultimately empty pilot that banks way too much on nostalgia instead of forming an engrossing story to help differentiate this from other similar procedural shows.

Fox’s Gotham had many Batman fans worried even since it was first announced. Telling yet another origin story, but this time from the point-of-view of Jim Gordon (played by Ben McKenzie)? Sounds like it could very easily have fallen into the same traps that every other procedural drama on television does. And even though it does feel a bit generic at times, Gotham shines thanks to some top-notch production values and some interesting performances. it’s just sadly boggled down by an overwhelming sense of nostalgia that deteriorates from the story at hand.

The main issue that I had with this first episode is that it felt like the producers thought that they absolutely had to feature as many references to all the characters that’d be making an appearance in the show, all into the one hour-long pilot. This ends up being problematic, because instead of setting up an intriguing story, we’re stuck with an annoyingly one-liners, referencing who certain characters will end up being in the future. “Quit with the riddles,” Harvey Bullock tells Edward Nygma, an already annoying twat that I hope isn’t featured heavily throughout the series. The Poison Ivy and Catwoman (or should it be Cat-Girl?) aspects to the episode especially feel forced.

Thankfully, the main actors pick up the scraps that they supporting cast left them. McKenzie is pretty strong as Gordon, a fan favorite character in the Batman lore. But, it was Robin Taylor as The Penguin that stood out to me. Although he’s different from the previous portrayal of the character that many people are used to (many still remember Danny DeVito‘s polarizing performance), he holds his own and seems like he’ll become quite a menacing character as the show progresses. And despite her moronic name, Fish Mooney, played by Jada Pinkett Smith, is also an interesting character to add to the mix, if only because she plays a menacing female character. Even though I like her character now, I feel like I will grow tired of her in the next few episodes. Her character is one of those who tries soo hard to be a badass, and while she might seem threatening now, she could very easily become a joke.

Could The Penguin save this show from mediocrity?
Could The Penguin save this show from mediocrity?

Another component to the pilot that I enjoyed was how great it looked. The production design was solid, especially when compared to other cable television shows. Director Danny Cannon, whose work in film includes gems such as I Still Know What You Did Last Summer and Goal! (sarcasm), does a great job setting the tone of Gotham, the dark and ugly underbelly of the world that many people try to avoid. And although its focus might seem a little narrowed-in on the crime aspect and not other things (is there anyone well-off in this incarnation of Gotham?), there’s still an entire season to cover these aspects. But, I will say that Cannon has improved a hell of a lot when you compare this to his filmography.

Overall, Gotham wasn’t great, but I never expected it to be. In fact, it’s quite solid, but it has some issues that it has to overcome if it wants to continue to keep my interest. So far, the show seems more interested in banking on the audience’s nostalgia when it comes to certain characters instead of forming a well thought-out storyline to help it differentiate from similar shows. The references come full-force in this opening episode, which is alarming, but the strong leads and nice visuals give me hope for this new show. But, it’s going to need more than just pretty sets and some quality performances for me consider this a success. But for an opening, it ain’t that bad.

Grade: C+

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” Review

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES

“Cowabunga!”

If you seriously go into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles expecting high art, you really should adjust your expectations. This reboot of the cult franchise is about as generic as summer blockbusters get, but it gets by thanks to the great chemistry among the lead turtles and some very impressive set pieces later on.

Sadly, director Jonathan Liebesman has had problems showing off a distinct or even appealing visual eye in any of his previous films, and this one is no different. The first half of the movie is very ugly, especially the action sequences early on. Sometimes when handheld cameras are used, the framing is very awkward and the fights also become quite difficult to make out. It doesn’t help that Liebesman tries every so often to mimic his mentor Michael Bay (who serves as a producer here) with swooping pans and crane shots to balance out the “shaky cam” look. This reminded me of when Peter Berg tried to do the same thing with his big budget action flick Battleship a few years back. In other words, it doesn’t work.

However, the second half is significantly better than the first half, mostly because of a very impressive set piece that takes place on a snowy mountain later on. Not only is this scene pretty massive in scope (it might even be bigger than the climatic fight), but this scene is also visually striking, something that really threw me off after the pretty muddled visuals that are presented to the audience beforehand.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES

Staying on the topic of visuals, the character designs for the turtles might seem weird at first, but they actually work and give each turtle their own distinct looks and traits. Also, one of the films villains, Shredder, looks pretty badass with his robotic samurai suit. So, in my opinion, the filmmakers got those set of characters right. However, Splinter looks absolutely disgusting here. I mean, he looks realistic, but that’s mainly why Splinter looks vile. He actually looks like a wet rat, and if I were Megan Fox, I wouldn’t let that thing anywhere near me.

Speaking of Megan Fox, she actually holds her own as the lead here, which is one of the aspects of the movie early on that is was hesitant about. She is presented as a strong, confident woman here (which has become something of a trend nowadays) and is completely different from her character in the Transformers movies. Despite doing a fine job leading the movie, though, her character herself isn’t given much to do, as is the rest of the cast. So, I wouldn’t go in expecting much when it comes to character development. Whoppi Goldberg‘s character and Shredder have it the worst, though.

Thankfully, the chemistry among the four turtles is quite strong and help carry the film to the finish line, so to speak, once they’re involved in the story. Michelangelo has always been my favorite of the bunch, and he’s easily the most enjoyable here as well. But, all the other turtles leave impressions as well. All of the actors seem to be having fun with their roles, which always leads to better performances. But to no surprise, Leonardo, whose motion capture work was done by Pete Ploszek, is the least memorable of the bunch, which is probably because of the lazy voiceover work done by Johnny Knoxville late in the game.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES

Now, while the film might have some impressive set pieces later on and some strong and entertaining chemistry among the titular characters, the story is nothing original. In fact, it’s probably one of the more cliched plots that I’ve seen in a summer blockbuster in quite some time. Granted, most people probably don’t go into a movie like this expecting a complex and intelligent script, but they couldn’t have put just a little more effort into the writing? Also, the “race against time” plot device that this film utilizes towards the end always pisses me off whenever it’s used in a movie, so I didn’t like that the movie ended with this.

When it’s all said and done, this modern-day re-imagining of the Ninja Turtles isn’t the atrocity that many of you assumed it would be. Yes, it’s a very messy film when you look it from all different angles, but it’s also a lot of fun. It’s not only funny and entertaining, but it also delivers a strong female lead performance when many assumed it’d be quite the opposite. As long as Liebesman (assuming he returns for the next one) works on improving his own visual style instead of trying to replicate others and there’s a better script at hand, this updated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle franchise might become a guilty pleasure for me. It just might.

Grade: C+