Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley Move to D&D Film

The directing duo of Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley have moved from the Flash film over at DC to negotiations for the Paramount Dungeons & Dragons film, replacing director Chris McKay, who left the D&D film to work on Ghost Draft, starring Chris Pratt.

The script for D&D is currently being penned by Michael Gillio, but one can only assume that the directing pair will take a stab at a rewrite before they step behind the camera (they wrote Spider-Man: Homecoming and Horrible Bosses, among many other projects).

Little is still known about Paramount’s AllSpark Pictures, of which Dungeons & Dragons will be a part of, and people keep referring to the collective as a cinematic universe, but I think that is an incorrect categorization.

This does spark a little excitement in me, as I really enjoyed last year’s Game Night from this duo as well as their work on Spider-Man: Homecoming and some of their other projects. I do worry that the film’s tone might be questionably more campy than I would have thought, but that’s purely because I haven’t seen any work by Goldstein and Daley that skews to the serious. Sure, there are elements, but I think this D&D film needs to take itself more seriously and less comedic. That’s just me. It’s just what I want.

So what do you think? Is this the writing directing team for Dungeons & Dragons? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

The Art of Self-Defense (2019)

Director: Riley Stearns

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Alessandro Nivola, Imogen Poots

Screenplay: Riley Stearns

104 mins. Rated R for violence, sexual content, graphic nudity and language.

 

I knew absolutely nothing about The Art of Self-Defense before walking into the theater, and all I can say is this was not the film I expected in all the best ways.

Casey (Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) is not a strong person. He is uncomfortable in social situations, and he is unable to defend himself when attacked one night on the street. He joins a local dojo where he is trained by an odd and influential sensei (Alessandro Nivola, Face/Off, Disobedience). As Casey’s confidence rises, he begins to see problems with the way Sensei operates, and it causes him to question his leader.

It becomes very clear early on in The Art of Self-Defense that the world these characters inhabit is a strange and surrealist version of our own. Casey’s answering machine is sarcastic about the amount of phone calls he receives. There’s also a strange quality about the dojo. I’m still not sure if the Sensei’s teachings are lies in this world or if that’s part of the surrealist world that writer/director Riley Stearns (Faults, The Cub) has constructed.

Eisenberg does fine as Casey, but part of the problem is that he is essentially playing versions of previous characters I’ve seen from him. He’s good in the movie, but there’s no range or excitement about his role because I’ve kind of seen it before. Again, not bad in the bed, but he’s overshadowed.

The reason I’m not talking about Eisenberg is because of Alessandro Nivola, who plays the peculiar Sensei. Nivola steals every scene he’s in with a special quality of strange which makes him equally comedic and stone cold disturbing. He’s the character I’ll be talking about most months from now.

The biggest problem this movie has is that Stearns dawdles a bit near the end of the film and doesn’t focus on what’s important as the film nears a close. There are some revelations about Casey, the Sensei, and the dojo that feel more important than they end up being. The ending makes up for this because it is exactly what I wanted without me knowing I wanted it. It’s a bonkers ending that is perfect for a film like this.

The Art of Self-Defense is not a realistic depiction of karate, nor is it much of a realistic depiction of anything, and for that, it works quite well. Writer/director Riley Stearns has crafted a unique experience that’s weird and wild and different from a lot of other recent films, and while I would have liked more exploration into the plot threads at the end of the film, and I would have wanted something more surprising from the film’s lead, this is still a very worthwhile viewing experience.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Stuber (2019)

or “A less-comedic version of Collateral”

Director: Michael Dowse

Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Dave Bautista, Iko Uwais, Natalie Morales, Betty Gilpin, Jimmy Tatro, Mira Sorvino, Karen Gillan

Screenplay: Tripper Clancy

93 mins. Rated R for violence and language throughout, some sexual references and brief graphic nudity.

 

Yeah, I finally caught Stuber. I was invited to numerous press screenings for this film for months and something always came up. Then, I was available to go to one, and for some reason, I just didn’t. After having seen it, I understand Past Kyle’s decision.

LAPD detective Vic Manning (Dave Bautista, Guardians of the Galaxy, Escape Plan: The Extractors) has just learned that drug lord Oka Tedjo (Iko Uwais, The Raid 2, Mile 22) is planning on doing a drop, but he’s just finished with laser eye surgery and cannot drive. He enlists Uber driver Stu (Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick, Men in Black: International) to drive him around the city as he hunts for clues as to Tedjo’s whereabouts. The two quickly learn that they are nothing alike, and Stu desperately wants out of this situation, something that Manning is not willing to do. Shenanigans ensue.

There’s some suspension of disbelief in the action of Stuber, and in comedy, that’s something that can actually work, but the comedy needs to be there to heighten the surreal world, and that’s unfortunately something that Stuber is painfully low on. The only good laughable moments come from Nanjiani, and many of them are featured in the trailer, so you can save yourself about 90 minutes by just watching that. Nanjiani has great comedic timing, and he’s doing his best, but there’s a lot of time in Stuber wasted on funny scenes that aren’t funny and action scenes that aren’t enthralling.

Bautista is trying his best with the screenplay as well, but he doesn’t have the comedic training of Nanjiani nor does he have the acting chops to play ball here. At least not yet. I’ve been very impressed with Dave Bautista’s work in the MCU and Blade Runner 2049 and Spectre, but he’s just not working with a director that can pull that performance from him and he’s holding a lot of this film on his shoulders. They’re big shoulders, but he’s just not ready to do that yet. He’ll get there, but it isn’t in this film.

Stuber has an interesting premise, one that seems topical and could be mined for some great comedy and action, almost like a Lethal Weapon-type buddy-cop film. That’s what I was hoping for, but it just didn’t work. The writing isn’t clever, and the story was very simple (most of the “twists and turns” were easy to see coming or nonsensical), and there’s no flare to the film. It’s very one-note.

Stuber is, sadly, not good enough for its premise and doesn’t make good use of its leads. It’s a film that fundamentally doesn’t work very well and every funny moment was in the three-minute trailers. I really wanted to like it, and it just didn’t follow-through on its premise. This is one to skip.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Sony Searches for a Venom 2 Director

Hey, I’ll throw my hat in the mix too, why not?

Sony is meeting with several possible directors for Venom 2. Variety is reporting that Andy Serkis, Travis Knight, and Rupert Wyatt are all in talks for the upcoming sequel, which will see Tom Hardy returning as the vigilante anti-hero. Currently, there is no front-runner, but Sony will want to move fast as they hope to begin shooting this fall.

The director of the original Venom, Ruben Fleischer, will not be able to return as he is deep into post-production of the zombie sequel Zombieland: Double Tap (he also directed the original).

Venom 2 is a big-ticket win for Sony, which has struggled in the past to find viable franchises, and Venom, although not a winner with critics, certainly appealed to fans as it grossed over $800 million at the worldwide box office. Assumptions are that the film is aiming for an October 2020 release.

I’ll be the guy that says it. I still haven’t seen Venom yet, but given the box office, this is a good move for Sony, who, as I said, needs more franchises than just Spider-Man, even if they are trying to  merge the two.

Looking at these filmmakers, I would say the best bet would be on Rupert Wyatt. As of yet, I haven’t caught Andy Serkis’s Mowgli, and as far as serious dark films, I’m not sure Travis Knight is the best pic, having only helmed Laika films and last year’s Bumblebee, a noticeably poppy and bright film. Wyatt, however, brought the Planet of the Apes franchise back to life, a very difficult task to complete.

So what do you think? Who should helm Venom 2? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

David Gordon Green is Done with Halloween After Next Two Sequels

The Halloween franchise has survived more potential deaths than most of its cast of characters, most recently being resurrected by David Gordon Green and writing partner Danny McBride for Halloween 2018 last year, but with the announcement last week of two more sequels with Green at the helm, the director spoke to Collider about finishing the story he began between Michael Myers and Laurie Strode.

The two sequels, Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends, are set to release in 2020 and 2021, and will be a continuation of his Halloween 2018 reboot, which ignored all previous sequels to the 1978 original film.

Green told Collider, “They’re never done telling the Frankenstein story, and at this point, Michael Myers is a classic movie monster. But our Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode/Michael Myers saga will be done. The fun of it is also seeing it end, and knowing that it can. If you just keep trying to elongate it and milk it for all of the money, then that’s boring.”

Further on in the discussion, he discussed Halloween Ends as being his last contribution to the franchise, promising that the film will end in a satisfying finale.

Danny McBride recently spoke about their intent to do three films which tell a singular story following the original Halloween, so this is in line with what Green has stated.

For me, I happen to agree with this idea. I was never big on retconning the previous incarnations of Halloween in favor of a new timeline, but that’s the way it went, and I think if that’s the plan, make it a singular story that has an ending. The title Halloween Ends seems to confirm that, but what I will say is that if Green wants to ensure that his film is an ending, he had to do something none of the other Halloween films have ever been able to accomplish, which is a tall order going into these sequels.

What do you think? Is having a true ending the right way to go here, and do you think it can actually ever be a true ending without another sequel? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Far From Home Becomes First Spider-Man Film to Hit Billion-Dollar Club

Spider-Man: Far From Home is officially the first and only Spider-Man film to earn a billion dollars at the worldwide box office. This is a major achievement for Sony, as Spider-Man is really its biggest franchise, and it’s also further proof of the power of this cinematic friendship between Sony and Marvel.

If I’m correct, Far From Home marks the end of the Sony/Marvel deal that started a few years ago, and renegotiations are probably underway already or have been discussed. I’m guessing that once a deal is struck (and I would assume a deal will be struck after the successes of Far From Home and Avengers: Endgame), we will likely see a Spider-Man 3 in Phase 4. Sony will not want to sit on this, and it would make sense not to see anything of a third Spider-Man film mentioned at the Comic-Con panel until all the signatures are in place.

There’s a couple reasons this Spider-Man was finally the one to do it. First, the Tom Holland Spider-Man has been very popular, and Far From Home is his fifth appearance in the MCU, so we’ve been with him awhile. The reviews for Far From Home have been quite good, and are coming off a successful Homecoming and a Best Animated Feature Oscar for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, so the brand name is strong.

Then there’s the Avengers: Endgame hanging over it all. A film like Endgame left us wanting to know what comes next, and it was handled quite well in Far From Home.

So yes, here’s hoping that we will see more Spider-Man in the MCU after this major achievement. So what do you think? Have you seen Spider-Man: Far From Home? What did you think? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Early Review] Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (2019)

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Austin Butler, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Al Pacino

Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino

161 mins. Rated R for language throughout, some strong graphic violence, drug use, and sexual references.

 

I’m a sucker for movies about making movies and Hollywood. I also adore the 1960s as a setting. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is a film seemingly tailor-made for me, including having my favorite director, Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight, Django Unchained) at the helm. So what did I think?

The year is 1969. The once-bankable film star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio, Inception, The Revenant) is making his living by appearing in guest roles on various television series, usually as the villain. His agent, Marvin Schwarzs (Al Pacino, Serpico, Paterno) doesn’t think these roles are helping his career, and he tries to push Dalton into doing Italian Spaghetti Westerns. Rick’s stunt-double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt, Moneyball, Deadpool 2) is searching for work himself as Rick needs a double less and less, but he has a bad reputation in the industry. Rick’s concern over his career is causing him to have a personal crisis, but he is reinvigorated when he discovers that he is living next to director Roman Polanski and his new wife Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie, Suicide Squad, Mary Queen of Scots). All the while during this, out on the Spahn Movie Ranch, a cult is forming led by Charles Manson.

Many have come to the belief that Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a central element to the film. Her character, in fact, is a lot more like a looming presence that the 1960s and the free-love hippie culture are coming to an end very soon. She’s not featured as much as one might think in the film, and neither is Charles Manson, who barely has any dialogue whatsoever.

The stars of the film are DiCaprio and Pitt, and they are the two characters that are most engaging, and they are the two with the best chemistry in the film. Don’t kid yourself about this being a Manson family film because it isn’t, and that’s fine because the incredible Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth are worth the price of admission alone. They are two fully-realized, equally flawed, and equally enthralling. These two are some of Tarantino’s best characters in his entire career, and both actors put their all into it.

The third big character in the film is Hollywood, and it is gorgeously shot. This is Tarantino’s love letter to a world that has changed and, for the most part, disappeared. It’s a rare glimpse into an aging has-been’s world as it begins to crumble and the stunt-double/driver/entourage/friend who tries to keep him in one piece, and without the amazing production design, costuming, and cinematography, the film wouldn’t work half as well.

The pacing is rather strong here as well. I didn’t notice the time flying by and I was surprised when the film had concluded because I didn’t think nearly three hours had gone by that quick. It’s a testament to the world that Tarantino puts to the screen, and it didn’t take me out of the film to see actors I knew from today playing actors I know from decades ago because each was so meticulously collected for the cast, and it’s an impressive damn cast.

If there’s a flaw with the film, it’s only that I’m somewhat divided on its conclusion. I will have to see it again to know for certain how I feel about it. I’m not going to get into any specifics but it is definitely an exciting finale to say the least.

Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is a very strong Quentin Tarantino that’s more melancholic and thoughtful. He takes his time building the story and seemingly every sequence has a purpose in developing character or moving plot. This is a film that may divide audiences more than some of his previous outings, and I’m not sure yet how I feel about everything that takes place, but I loved the theatrical experience, the characters, and the world. Go see it as soon as you can…and don’t spoil it for others.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, click here.

The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

or “The Living Don’t Entertain”

Director: Jim Jarmusch

Cast: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Iggy Pop, Sara Driver, RZA, Carol Kane, Selena Gomez, Tom Waits, Austin Butler

Screenplay: Jim Jarmusch

104 mins. Rated R for zombie violence/gore, and for language.

 

The Dead Don’t Die might have the greatest cast of 2019, but everyone in the film is a guest star in someone else’s movie, but no one knows who that someone is.

In the sleepy and small town of Centerville, the dead have started to rise. Polar fracking has caused the Earth to fall of its axis, causing strange phenomena like sunlight at odd hours or cell phones dying, and of course…zombies. Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray, Lost in Translation, Ghostbusters II) and Officer Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, BlacKkKlansman) don’t know how to stop the phenomenon, and Ronnie has a feeling that this is going to end up bad. The only residents in town that seem to understand the stakes are Hermit Bob (Tom Waits, Seven Psychopaths, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) and a mortician with swordplay skills named Zelda (Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Avengers: Endgame).

The first sin of this zombie comedy is boredom, and it is visited upon the audience rather quickly. I never would have thought a zombie film with this impressive cast could bore, but it did. Director and screenwriter Jim Jarmusch (Broken Flowers, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai) seemingly pays tribute to zombie history in film, but he does it with what feels like an ineffective laziness, never really giving his zombies any bite. His tone is never struck sharply enough to affect the viewer. It’s clear that he studied the genre, but he never delivers on any of the elements the genre requires. His knocks on the current political climate work well enough, from the Make America White Again hat worn by Farmer Frank (Steve Buscemi, Fargo, TV’s Miracle Workers) to the claims of Fake News on the television concerning the cause of the rising dead.

As I said before, most of the cast listlessly moves through the film with deadpan wit. Some of the jokes work, but most do not, and the way the film is written, with Driver and Murray aware that they are in a film, is neither executed fully nor elaborated beyond three lines of jarringly useless dialogue. If that had been the full conceit, that some of the actors knew they were in a zombie film and understood the rules, that would be one thing, but it is never elaborated on enough to really mean anything. In fact, the characters would behave no differently in the film if I had replaced the zombie problem with something like one of them forgetting to turn off the oven at home.

The Dead Don’t Die has moments of greatness, but they are few and far-between. The cast is wasted on a subpar script and an attitude that shows no real love for the genre. Boring is a tough thing to achieve when you have creatures eating human flesh, and it that was the goal, it was met.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Lord of the Rings TV Series Begins Casting

Little is still known about the Lord of the Rings series over at Amazon, but casting has officially begun, something that should shine light on the upcoming project.

Variety is reporting that Markella Kavenagh is being looked at for a role in the fantasy series as a character named Tyra, though that it all the information given and it isn’t know if Tyra is a human of one of the many other creatures in the vast world of Middle Earth.

JD Payne and Patrick McKay are developing the series with Bryan Cogman of Game of Thrones as a consultant. J.A. Bayona will be several episodes.

For me, I know very little about Markella Kavenagh, but I like that they are searching out people who may not be household names for two reasons. This show will be very expensive, and this will be great at keeping costs down. Also, this will help ease audiences back into Middle Earth because they won’t keep seeing big names everywhere. Still, Tyra may not be the lead, so who knows?

All the same, I think this is a good sign, and I’m hoping for the best. I loved The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, so I am quite excited to revisit this world.

So what do you think? Is this a smart casting choice for The Lord of the Rings series? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

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