Gael Garcia Bernal is the new Z! Z Stands for Zorro! In the Future!

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Alright, some strange news here.

Actor Gael Garcia Bernal, known for the critically beloved Y Tu Mama Tambien, has now joined the upcoming Zorro reboot, currently titled Z, to be directed by Jonas Cuaron.

Here’s the kicker: Z is set in the future as opposed to the past.

I’m going to be honest here, this sounds stupid. At that point, why even call it a Zorro reboot when it very clearly is an original (and wholly stupid sounding) film that takes elements from Zorro. That’s like calling Avatar a Dances with Wolves reboot. This whole premise is just sad and disappointing.

On the bright side, the people who have read the script have called it quite good. Do I trust those people? Not really.

I honestly don’t know what to think here. I like Bernal. I even like the young Cuaron (who assisted his father with Gravity). But this is not starting out well for me.

What do you think? Is Z going to be the next big thing? What’s your favorite strange reboot? Let me know!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 5th Birthday!] Avatar (2009)

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Director: James Cameron

Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Sigourney Weaver

Screenplay: James Cameron

162 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sensuality, language and smoking.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Achievement in Cinematography
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Achievement in Visual Effects
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Achievement in Art Direction
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Directing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Film Editing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Editing

 

Titanic was a powerhouse at the box office during its release back in 1997. I don’t think anyone could have guessed that director James Cameron (Aliens, Aliens of the Deep) would be the one to dethrone his own film as highest grossing film of all time, but as it turns out, he did in 2009 when he released Avatar, a masterpiece of science fiction and general filmmaking.

Avatar is the story of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington, Terminator: Salvation, Cake), a paraplegic grunt who takes on his dead twin’s job as explorer on the planet Pandora. Jake’s job is simple, explore and make contact with the Na’vi, a species of humanoid blue aliens living on the planet, through the use of neural link with something called an avatar. When he gets lost on the planet by himself, he is saved by Ney’tiri (Zoe Saldana, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Book of Life), a Na’vi princess who is tasked with showing Jake the ways of their community. While the science lead Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver, Exodus: Gods and Kings, The Cabin in the Woods) wants to pursue peace talks with the indigenous Na’vi, the military Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang, Conan the Barbarian, A Good Marriage) is only interested in moving them elsewhere in order to mine the precious element Unobtanium which lies beneath their home.

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James Cameron should be awarded for the directing skills he has. I love the work he puts into his films. His screenplays, however, often fail to truly inspire. That’s where the controversy surrounding Avatar lies. Cameron’s screenplay was very criticized for being essentially the same movie as Pocahontas, Dances with Wolves, Fern Gully, and The Last Samurai. Now, I don’t see that as being a problem, because there are only essentially two stories. The first is the story of a man who leaves home and finds a mysterious place, and the second is the story of a mysterious man who comes to town. Yeah, these films are similar, but so many stories are the same. It’s how you tell them that matters, and James Cameron tells his story well.

Avatar’s cinematography deserves to be experienced, not merely seen. The environments on Pandora are so beautifully envisioned and so deeply realized. The film is edited together very tightly, though the story does run on a little longer than it needed to be. The special effects are so vivid and so well-crafted that they are the most-deserving of the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects that year.

Let’s take a look at the performances here. Sam Worthington definitely has the look of a superstar and there was even a time when I thought he was capable of acting, but since that time has passed and I have realized that isn’t true. His work in Avatar isn’t the worst in cinema, but he is easily trounced by his fellow actors. Stephen Lang’s over-the-top performance works quite well given the out-of-this-world story here.

Can I just have a moment to proclaim Zoe Saldana as the hottest alien working in films today? She is mostly known for the incredible work in three science fiction masterpieces like Star Trek, Guardians of the Galaxy, and here as well.

I give enough props to Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast and the Furious, Machete Kills) for portraying the same character she plays in every movie, and she does it well enough.

Sigourney Weaver adds that extra layer of professionalism to the film that raises the level nicely.

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Avatar isn’t a perfect film, but it comes pretty damn close for all the hype it had. I still find it quite enjoyable, even for a film with a less than stellar screenplay and a runtime a little longer than needed. Still worth it. Still a phenomenon.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Man of Steel (2013)

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Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Ayalet Zurer, Christopher Meloni, Russell Crowe

Screenplay: David S. Goyer

143 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language.

 

So what happens when the king of green-screen takes on the most famous superhero in history. Why, you get Man of Steel. My review is here.

On the far-off planet of Krypton, science officer Jor-El (Russell Crowe, Gladiator, Noah) tries to convince his dying planet that they do not have any time left and must abandon all hope to the stars. As he quells a coup from military leader General Zod (Michael Shannon, TV’s Boardwalk Empire, Take Shelter), Jor-El realizes that all hope for saving his race are gone except for a miracle which has resulted in the first natural birth in years. His son Kal-El is born. Jor-El does one of the most insane things in comic book history by launching his infant son off into space in hopes of saving the Kryptonian species.

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Years later, an adult Kal-El (Henry Cavill, Immortals, The Cold Light of Day), now under the guise of Clark Kent, tries to keep his superpowers under wraps as he lives a normal life raised to Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves, Draft Day) and his wife, Martha (Diane Lane, Unfaithful, Secretariat).That is, until General Zod comes to Earth in search of taking the planet and terraforming it for his own. Now, with the help of Lois Lane (Amy Adams, American Hustle, Her), Superman must stop Zod and save the human race from extinction.

I wanted to like this movie. I am a major fan of the Superman mythos. I love director Christopher Nolan and his work with The Dark Knight series, so when I saw his name on the producer credits for Man of Steel, I was overjoyed. I even like somewhat likable director Zack Snyder, and find him to be a slightly more skilled director than Michael Bay, so I was excited. Then I saw it.

It felt like the team behind the film didn’t know anything about Superman or why his character is so important. We see virtually none of Clark Kent. He reveals himself to Lois Lane way way too early for there to be an actual romance to develop. I like General Zod, but he isn’t nearly as strong as previous incarnations have made the character. He comes off as a lost little leader looking for someone to blame as opposed to the cold and calculated military beast he should be. His flunkies are not anything more than flat uninspired flunkies.

The film has some strong performances from minor characters due to great work by Costner, Lane, and Crowe as well Laurence Fishburne (TV’s Black-ish, The Matrix) as Daily Planet bigwig Perry White and Christopher Meloni (TV’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For) as Colonel Nathan Hardy, but unfortunately, when you cast an unknown, you might get a dud. Henry Cavill is a dud.

Then there is Zack Snyder (300, Sucker Punch), who definitely brings the spectacle, and a lot of it, but he doesn’t give us any heart. This film is all spectacle, no substance. We don’t get any Daily Planet or Jimmy Olsen. We don’t get any Lex Luthor (though I can get waiting on the sequel for him). We don’t get what an origin story needs. Here’s some advice. Don’t do an origin story if the previous incarnation did it so well. Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie did the origin so well, so why try to top it. Do what The Incredible Hulk and just skip past it while referencing little moments. This film was too much like The Amazing Spider-Man and not enough like a reboot should be.

And if I might have a moment to speak to David S. Goyer. Sir, please take a break from superheroes. It’s becoming a little weird.

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Sadly, Man of Steel was not the movie I was looking for. The character of Superman has a little camp, and that’s fine, at least Marvel took on the camp with their version of Captain America: The First Avenger and embrace it a little. Have a little fun. Isn’t that what superheroes usually are about (with the exception of a select few). Hopefully this team can pick up the pieces with Batfleck and fix it for Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. I said hopefully.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Dumb and Dumber (1994)

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Director: Peter Farrelly

Cast: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Lauren Holly, Karen Duffy, Mike Starr, Charles Rocket, Victoria Rowell, Teri Garr

Screenplay: Peter Farrelly, Bennett Yellin, Bobby Farrelly

107 mins. Rated PG-13 for off-color humor.

 

1994 was a very good year for films. I may have already discussed this, but I feel like I need to reiterate. 1994 was one of the best years for films in history. From a critical standpoint, we had such classics as Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, and Forrest Gump. From a comedy standpoint, audiences received a hilarious turkey (or triple play) from Jim Carrey (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Kick-Ass 2) with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb & Dumber. It was a great year.

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Dumb & Dumber is a bit of a comedy enigma. The film is far too stupid and outlandish to be good, and yet it is one of the most incredibly perfect comedies ever constructed.

Lloyd Christmas (Carrey) is an idiot. He has just fallen in love at first sight with a woman he doesn’t even know named Mary (Lauren Holly, TV’s NCIS, Spirited Away) and when he finds a briefcase she has lost in an airport terminal, he vows to return it to her. He enlists dog groomer and best friend Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels, TV’s The Newsroom, Good Night and Good Luck) who, like Lloyd, is an idiot, to help him in his quest and make a new name for themselves in the land of opportunity, Aspen. The trouble is, Mary didn’t lose her briefcase, and Lloyd and Harry have entangled themselves in a plot more menacing than either could have anticipated.

The film is made by its performances. Everybody in this movie plays it straight to the book except Carrey and Daniels, and it is made all the more goofy than it should be. We have some incredible supporting work from Mike Starr (TV’s The Young and the Restless, GoodFellas) as a hitman trying to take our lovable morons out of the picture. There is also the terrific late actor Charles Rocket (Dances with Wolves, Hocus Pocus) who is a family friend of Mary’s.

There are some truly laugh-out-loud moments and one-liners that keep this film at the forefront of fans’ minds long after viewing for the zillionth time. I still cringe at the encounter that the dumb-dumbs have with local law enforcement after getting discovered with an open bottle. I still giggle everytime the guy in the diner yells “Kick his ass, Seabass!” and I still find a happy place every time Seabass tries to get revenge on Lloyd in the bathroom stall of a gas station.

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To make a long story short, or for that matter, a smart story dumb, Dumb and Dumber is a perfect comedy that belongs in a hall of fame alongside other greats like Tommy Boy and Animal House. It stands the test of time even after twenty years and I can see it living on another few decades.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Draft Day (2014)

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Director: Ivan Reitman

Cast: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Frank Langella, Tom Welling, Sam Elliot, Ellen Burstyn, Chadwick Boseman

Screenplay: Scott Rothman, Rajiv Joseph

110 mins. Rated R for brief strong language.

 

I didn’t think I would enjoy Draft Day. I rented it because my brother enjoys sports movies. I also like Ivan Reitman, though his work as of late had been disappointing. I rented it because I thought it would be something I could recommend to my bro, or something I could tell him to steer clear of. That was it. Plus, it didn’t hurt that it was a movie.

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Draft Day is all about Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves, 3 Days to Kill) on the most important day of his career: Draft Day, a day on which Sonny might lose his job, due to his bad calls as a draft manager, or it could redeem him, as long as he doesn’t screw it up. His estranged romantic relationship with Ali (Jennifer Garner, TV’s Alias, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) continues to get tangled, as does his working relationship with Coach Penn (TV’s Rescue Me, Ice Age: Continental Drift). In fact, as Sonny keeps getting more and more risky with his choices throughout the day, he puts himself further and further into being let go from his job and losing all the connections that make his life mean something.

Kevin Costner does great work here, and the scenes in which he is actually interacting with others heighten their performances as well. You can see Sonny’s mind working to fix the situation that he keeps digging himself deeper and deeper into.

Draft Day uses some interesting cinematography and editing techniques to keep the pacing going. I didn’t actually realize that the movie is essentially two hours of talking, which it is.

I found it interesting that this film features three different actors from three separate iterations of Superman: Kevin Costner from Man of Steel, Frank Langella from Superman Returns, and Tom Welling from TV’s Smallville. I just thought you should know.

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Now, the film runs on a bit longer than it should and the football jargon confused me a bit, but I found myself excited for the enticing climax to come and I was not disappointed in the thrills of this movie. I really liked Draft Day a lot, and I feel like people who participate in fantasy football league drafts or even people that love the world of football will like it too. Give this one a go.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

What did you think of Ivan Reitman’s Draft Day? Touchdown or fumble? Let me know!

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)

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Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh, Keira Knightley

Screenplay: Adam Cozad, David Koepp

105 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and intense action, and brief strong language.

 

Jack Ryan has lived a lot of lives. First, there was The Hunt for Red October, where Ryan was played by Alec Baldwin. This was the first in a series of films based on Tom Clancy’s popular character. The chronology continued into Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, where Harrison Ford took on the Jack Ryan role. Years later, the character was revived in a reboot called The Sum of All Fears, starring Ben Affleck. Apparently, that reboot didn’t go over too well, and now Director Kenneth Branagh (1994’s Frankenstein, Thor) has revived him yet again in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, a generic and somewhat cliché reboot that is sure to be rebooted yet again in a decade or so.

Chris Pine (Star Trek, Rise of the Guardians) is Jack Ryan this time around, and this reboot focuses heavily on his first mission and inciting character moments. Jack is recruited by Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner, Dances With Wolves, Draft Day) to work for the CIA, complicating matters with girlfriend Cathy (Keira Knightley, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Laggies). The relationship dynamic is completely void here, and Knightley comes off like a wasted draw. I’m far more convinced by the connection between Cathy and Viktor Cheverin, the film’s central villain, played by Director Brannagh.

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The plot here is more suited for an hour-long spy television show from the 1960’s, and has few scenes even worthy of remembrance. Brannagh gets some nice cinematography which compliments the action set pieces nicely enough, but there just isn’t much here to go on. A beginning to a franchise this film is not, the screenplay is more like several stories weaved together, with dialogue and random character development scenes thrown in. For your money, see something with more Oomph! This just isn’t it.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe


Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) on IMDb

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