John Wick-Helmer Chad Stahelski Has Interest in Blade!

You may not know Chad Stahelski right now, and outside of the John Wick franchise, it’d be hard to blame you. The director of the trilogy, set to return to the franchise with the 4th and 5th installments shot back-to-back, was mostly known in the industry for his stunt choreography in films like Captain America: Winter Soldier, The Matrix, and The Hunger Games, but now he’s becoming a hot director among action films, with an upcoming take on Highlander in the near-future.

Stahelski was recently speaking with Comicbook.com when he was asked it he’d ever take on a Marvel film of his own, and he said:

“If the opportunity ever came, the one that really jumps out to me would be like ‘Blade.’ If they were going to redo ‘Blade’ or something like that, just because I feel that one, for some reason, the vampire martial art action vibe. That would be a cool one to stretch and try and reinvent.”

For this film fan, I find that Stahelski is doing impressive work with Keanu Reeves in the John Wick franchise, and given the choice of him continuing on that path of leaving to do a Blade film, I’d rather see him do more Wick. Purely selfish, but I like when he has an edge and Marvel won’t give him that. Even as far as Highlander goes, that’s a tough egg to crack, and I think he’s capable, but much like Justin Lin’s work on the Fast & Furious franchise, Stahelski seems to only get better with each film.

All that being said, if Marvel approached him for Blade and he said Yes, I could only be excited. His stunt coordinating on Winter Soldier and its follow-up, Civil War, were both so kinetic and raw and they excited the realm of superhero films and became hard action films. What Stahelski could bring to a vampire martial arts action film could only be good, and I’m all for it as long as he keeps turning out good work (the most frequent John Wick film is the best one yet, fight me).

So what do you think? Would you like to see Chad Stahelski keep on directing John Wick films or should he broaden out by trying to nab a Blade film? Is there another property you’d like to see him tackle? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

John Wick: Chapter 4 is scheduled for release on May 27, 2022.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Toy Story 4 (2019)

Director: Josh Cooley

Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Madeleine McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Jay Hernandez, Lori Alan, Joan Cusack

Screenplay: Andrew Stanton, Stephany Folsom

100 mins. Rated G.

IMDb Top 250: #132 (as of 7/9/2019)

 

We didn’t need a Toy Story 4. That’s what I kept saying. We just didn’t need it. Toy Story 3 was a great ending to a solid trilogy and we didn’t need to muddy the waters with another installment almost destined to be terrible. We trusted Pixar not to ruin this one, and our trust in them was worth it.

It’s been two years since Andy gave his toys over to Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw, American Sniper, Ant-Man and the Wasp) and departed for college, and the toys have been on a great many adventures since then. Andy’s favorite toy Sheriff Woody (Tom Hanks, Cast Away, The Post) is struggling, though, as he has been seemingly forgotten by Bonnie when playtime occurs, but he remains vigilant in his duties to protect her, so when she becomes nervous at kindergarten orientation and makes a new toy, Forky (Tony Hale, Batman Ninja, TV’s Arrested Development), out of some trash and crafting supplies, Woody takes it upon himself to teach Forky how to be the best toy he can be. During this time, Bonnie and her family are on a vacation in the RV, and at one of the stops, Woody spots a lamp at an antique store that he believes may belong to Bo Peep (Annie Potts, Ghostbusters, TV’s Young Sheldon), a toy that one belonged to Andy’s sister, one that he cared for very deeply. Woody and Forky also come across the menacing Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks, Ginger & Rosa, TV’s Good Girls), a defective antique toy who wants Woody’s voice box for her own. Now, Woody must return Forky to Bonnie without getting caught by Gabby Gabby, and he is also forced to confront his own wants in the process.

Let’s cover the purpose of Toy Story 4, because if there was one criticism in just about any fan’s mind as they enter the theater, it’s the question of WHY? Why Toy Story 4? Well, I will say this. I think Toy Story 4 is the second-best film in the series behind the third film. That being said, I think Toy Story 4’s ending is so much better than the third film. It leaves up in a very satisfying place and works very well in questioning everything that came before. It’s a film that looks at the toys we have and asks a lot of questions.

This is very much Woody’s story, and he goes on it mostly without the help of the other toys, encountering lots of new characters in the process. While Toy Story 3 is the ending of the story in relation to Andy, Toy Story 4 takes a good hard look at Woody, a toy that has always been in service of his human, but he is confronted with the very real idea that he may not be Bonnie’s favorite toy. His character arc, especially in relation to Forky’s existential crisis of self, is very well-layered and something I’ve always wanted more out of.

The new characters are so wonderful as well. Keegan-Michael Key (Keanu, TV’s Friends from College) and Jordan Peele (Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, TV’s The Twilight Zone) appear together as Ducky and Bunny, two sentient toys made sown-together at the hands, and they are an absolute delight. Key and Peele use the classic comedic timing and chemistry that they’ve been known for to make this the funniest of the Toy Story movies. They had me in stitches, never once ruining the scene by trying to hard.

Then, there’s Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves, The Matrix, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum), a Canadian daredevil toy with a motorcycle capable of performing incredible stunts, or at least, that’s what the commercials had said. I love all the character Reeves packed into such a limited screen time. He worked tirelessly on embodying his character with the director, and it shows in the work. His is a similar character to the one that Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen, El Camino Christmas, TV’s Home Improvement) was in the first film: a toy that is coming to terms with its limits. He is broken on the inside because he was never able to meet the expectations of his commercial.

The only real flaw I had with Toy Story 4 is that I believe that Gabby Gabby is probably the worst villain of the entire franchise. It sounds like I may be in the minority on this one, but I’m going to speak my reasons and let them stand. I never found Gabby Gabby as a villain to be very menacing. Yes, she’s a little creepy and her henchmen ventriloquist dummies are certainly frightening and strange enough, but I never really saw her as villainous in the way that I saw, say, Lotso from Toy Story 3. Maybe it’s just me, but I felt like she was antagonistic but never villainous.

Toy Story 4 also feels, at times, like a big game of I Spy. The antique store, where a good portion of the film is set, is chock full of Easter Eggs and references to other Pixar films, to Toy Story films, and to other pop culturally iconic movies, most notably The Shining, which has always had a somewhat odd connection to the Toy Story franchise. Then, there’s voice cameos galore, many of which I didn’t catch until someone told me about them after the film ended. It’s just a celebration of so much magic that Disney and Pixar can craft.

Toy Story 4 is the perfect true finale to the franchise, one I hope they actually keep to, and I absolutely adored this movie. It’s the ending that feels most earned, not just throughout this installment, but through the entire series. It’s a powerful finale that will drive many to tears, this writer included. I really enjoyed it.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Early Review] The Bye Bye Man (2017)

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Director: Stacy Title

Cast: Douglas Smith, Lucien Laviscount, Cressida Bonas, Doug Jones, Carrie-Anne Moss, Faye Dunaway

Screenplay: Jonathan Penner

96 mins. Rated PG-13 for terror, horror violence, bloody images, sexual content, thematic elements, partial nudity, some language and teen drinking.

 

Welcome to 2017! I’ve got high hopes for this year!

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And they were trashed immediately after this film. Okay, just kidding, but wow, so bad…

Elliot (Douglas Smith, TV’s Big Love, Miss Sloane) is very happy in his new rental house with his girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas) and childhood friend John (Lucien Laviscount, TV’s Scream Queens, Honeytrap). That is, until strange happenings begin in the home, all linked around a mysterious nightstand with markings on it, reading, “Don’t Say It Don’t Think It” repeatedly and a name, “The Bye Bye Man.” Naturally, upon learning the name of the creature, Elliot, Sasha, and John begin seeing things that aren’t there and Elliot finds himself followed by the mysterious entity (Doug Jones, Pan’s Labyrinth, Ouija: Origin of Evil) and his pet dog, haunted by the past and what he must do to stop it.

I was mildly irked through the first half of the film, which isn’t nearly that bad. There is a midpoint, however, when everything this film has spent time building completely unravels. I found myself practically getting up and yelling at the screen and all the stupid things these characters are doing. Why! Why would you do that? Why would you realize that everything you are seeing is a lie and still keep believing it? Why would that one girl do something so horrible and selfish for her own survival and then risk trying to save a family in a rollover right after explaining the Bye Bye Man’s abilities? Why, I say, Why!

As for the characters, they are more like caricatures. Elliot walks into clichés head-on, and Sasha and John are so poorly performed that it’s tough to believe anything. Sasha is seen as pretty dumb, and John is seen as kind of dickish. Why would I care about any of them? For supporting players, Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix, Pompeii) and Faye Dunaway (Chinatown, The Seduction of Dr. Fugazzi) are wholly misused in the film, given nothing to grasp onto for any semblance of a story.

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The saving grace of the film is Doug Jones’ terrific performance under all that makeup as the titular monster, but he can’t bring up a sinking ship. The Bye Bye Man is pretty dreadful, and it hurt me, especially after such a great year for horror. I should try and remind myself that this film was shot over a year ago and sat on the shelves until now, so I shouldn’t have hoped for much.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Doctor Strange Teaser Premieres to (Mostly) Positive Results!

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Hey everyone, I just saw the teaser trailer for Doctor Strange, the fourteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I got a lot of thoughts.

First of all, this is a teaser trailer, so people need to just take a moment to understand that it isn’t necessarily supposed to explain the plot. Secondly, this is easily the most interesting addition to the MCU yet. We barely scratched the surface of Marvel mystical last year in Ant-Man, so diving in head first seems like a pretty solid way to go. Overall, I really enjoyed the tease and cannot wait to see more. It gave us a glimpse of dimensional play that the film will take on, and I’m hoping director Scott Derrickson is able to really give it a creepy and unnerving feel when the film drops, as of right now, I’m not exactly sure of the tone.

The faults? Yeah, I can see that there are bits of The Matrix and Inception here and that’s understandable. It does play with similar themes of perceptions and reality. I guess I’ll need to see more to fully critique those aspects. Tilda Swinton didn’t exactly drop my jaw as The Ancient One, so again, not convinced on her yet, although I want to point out that I take no ill will towards the decision to change out the gender and race if the actor/actress fits the role.

Doctor Strange is the story of Stephen Strange, a renowned surgeon who loses his ability to use his hands and travels the world looking for a cure. Along the way, he becomes trained as the Sorcerer Supreme and gains all new powers of the mystical world surrounding him.

Doctor Strange arrives on this plane November 4.

So are you stoked for Doctor Strange? What’s your favorite Benedict Cumberbatch performance? Let me know!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Jupiter Ascending (2015)

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Director: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski

Cast: Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth

Screenplay: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski

127 mins. Rated PG-13 for some violence, sequences of sci-fi action, some suggestive content and partial nudity.

 

I have been a fan of The Wachowskis (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas) since the original Matrix film (it took three viewings for me to properly enjoy it, but it matters not). I loved the entire Matrix trilogy, and I count Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas as two of my all-time favorite films (even if the rest of the population would rather the two films not exist), but when I saw the trailer for Jupiter Ascending, I was so excited to have the sibling directors release a new film that would draw the audience back in. For some reason, moviegoers just haven’t embraced these filmmakers since their breakthrough with The Matrix, and I was hoping for Jupiter Ascending to change that.

And then it was pushed back. Whether or not a film is good or bad, pushing it back, especially to the graveyard of the late winter months, is a death sentence. When it came out, fans gave it that death sentence. I was nervous to see the film as it has so much riding on it.

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Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis, TV’s Family Guy, Black Swan) is an illegal alien working as a janitor with her widowed mother. She lives an unlikable life. That is, until she is swept off her feet by Caine Wise (Channing Tatum, 21 Jump Street, The Book of Life), a hybrid humanoid creature made by splicing human DNA with wolf DNA. Caine informs Jupiter that she is the inheritor of the Earth which is currently being held by the Abrasax family who each want the Earth for themselves and want Jupiter out of the picture. They seek out help from Stinger Apini (Sean Bean, TV’s Legends, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring), another hybrid, who recognizes Jupiter’s importance, and the three set out to lay claim to the young woman’s planet.

Channing Tatum has really grown as a performer in the years since bursting onto the scene, and his physicality and charismatic approach to Caine really give us a unique character to connect. His chemistry with Mila Kunis’ Jupiter is pretty strong as well. Kunis is a great everywoman, even if I wasn’t quite convinced that she was a janitor.

On the other side of those performances, I wasn’t all that content with Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything, Les Miserables) as the eldest Abrasax, Balem. His delivery came off in shouts and whispers but never in a cohesive way. I also absolutely hated Douglas Booth (Noah, Romeo & Juliet) phoning his performance in as the youngest Abrasax, Titus, a sensual and foolish child.

I felt the notion of water throughout this entire film. From the cinematography, where the shots all flow in such a cyclical way, like liquid through the inside of a pipe, to the action sequences, played out like the spinning of a top, everything was just gorgeously mapped out.

Michael Giacchino’s score is another win here, with elements from Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz (two major influences on the film) in his score.

Now, the pacing is a bit off, some sequences rocketing from beginning to end, while others hitting a wall and staying there, but it could’ve been a lot worse.

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The Wachowski siblings are known from creating worlds, especially worlds that cause the audience to think and interpret, and many don’t like that. Nowadays, we as an audience ask for original content and then choose not to embrace it. Audiences and critics complained about a lot of the things in this film that don’t work (the bee scene with Kunis was rather strange, I’ll admit) that they forget about all the things that work so well here. The film is not perfect, and it doesn’t stand as the toppest of tiers for these filmmakers, which is sad, because Jupiter Ascending may serve as a death knell for these original artists, especially if their upcoming Netflix series Sense8 doesn’t work as well. I hope you see this film, I hope you embrace it, and I hope you like as much as I did, or more.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

John Wick (2014)

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Director: Chad Stahelski

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alife Allen, Adrienne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan, Dean Winters, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Willem Dafoe

Screenplay: Derek Kolstad

101 mins. Rated R for strong and bloody violence throughout, language and brief drug use.

 

You have to give credit to Keanu Reeves (The Matrix, 47 Ronin). As soon as he has convinced you that he has nothing more to offer, along comes a film like John Wick, and he totally redeems himself.

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John Wick stars Reeves in the titular role, a man who has just lost his wife Helen (Bridget Moynahan, TV’s Blue Bloods, I, Robot). When he makes an enemy of Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen, TV’s Game of Thrones, Atonement), son of the terrifying Russian mobster Viggo (Michael Nyqvist, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Europa Report), John decides that he must come out of retirement. John’s previous job: professional and international hitman, and he is very good at what he does.

Keanu Reeves owns this role and he has a lot of fun in it. Apparently, when you turn on John Wick’s violent switch, it isn’t so easy to turn it off. It does help that he has such a versatile group of supporting players from genre favorites like Ian McShane (Kung Fu Panda, Hercules), John Leguizamo (Ice Age, Chef), and Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man, The Fault in Our Stars), who all supply some deliciously cheesy hype for the man named John Wick (though, I should point out, be prepared to hear this name constantly throughout the picture; people cannot stop uttering it).

I enjoyed the plot of the film, the classic revenge tale with elements of secret societies and a code of honor involving a hotel sacred ground for hitmen. I wanted to have more elements of this world fleshed out further, but John continues on his mission. Did the film run on too long? You bet your ass it did. There was a clear-cut ending twenty minutes earlier that would have been perfect and set up the franchise well, but it just kept going.

Director Chad Stahelski, relative newcomer, offers up an interesting vision of his created world, and the cinematography adds elements of action from martial arts to Matrix-style gunplay, which Reeves knows all too well at this point. The film did spend a bit too much time on unimportant exposition as to playing to its strengths.

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All things considered, John Wick is a pretty fun flick that is a bit too long but has the makings of a new franchise. It is nice to see Keanu back in action and I hope this series continues providing stylistic action and exploring its world a bit more.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

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Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Ian McKellan, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Orlando Bloom

Screenplay: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro

144 mins. Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images.

 

Let’s just take a moment to appreciate the work that Peter Jackson (The Lovely Bones, King Kong) and his creative team has accomplished. Six films, two trilogies, and hours upon hours of extended editions have comprised the Middle-Earth Saga.

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman, TV’s Sherlock, Hot Fuzz) and the company of dwarves have just let the diabolical Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game, Penguins of Madagascar) loose on Lake Town. It’s up to Bard (Luke Evans, Dracula Untold, Fast & Furious 6) to stop the evil dragon and reclaim their lives. Tempers soon flair up as the treasures of Erebor are up for grabs and Thorin (Richard Armitage, Captain America: The First Avenger, Into the Storm), consumed by greed, has decided not to honor the agreement made with Bard and his people. Meanwhile, Gandalf (Ian McKellan, X-Men, The Prisoner) continues his battle against the dreaded Necromancer.

The finale to The Hobbit trilogy is a far different film from its predecessors, and with a very simple plot, revolves entirely around the Battle of the Five Armies, one of the biggest battles in Middle-Earth history. It is very similar to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, where the entire film revolves around the climactic ending as opposed to standing on its own. It is definitely my sixth favorite Middle-Earth film.

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Ian McKellan is a torn Gandalf here, caught between his allegiance to the Company of Dwarves and his commitment to reason and peace. McKellan continues to impress.

Evangeline Lilly (TV’s Lost, Real Steel) is great as Tauriel here, the elf who has developed feelings for the poisoned dwarf Kili. Her relationship with Legolas (Orlando Bloom, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, The Three Musketeers) and his father Thranuil (Lee Pace, TV’s Halt and Catch Fire, Guardians of the Galaxy) are further delved into in this film and helps to increase her internal and external conflicts as the story progresses.

As far as the Company of Dwarves, we get more great but wholly underutilized work from Ken Stott (Shallow Grave, One Day) as Balin, the dwarf who will one day claim Moria, and James Nesbitt (Coriolanus, Match Point) as Bofur, the dwarf who, above all else, just wants his home back.

I also loved the continual references to future events and foreshadowing from The Lord of the Rings, like the cameo appearances from Cate Blanchett (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, How to Train Your Dragon 2), Ian Holm (Ratatouille, Lord of War), Christopher Lee (Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, Dark Shadows), and Hugo Weaving (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas). My only major issue was that I wanted more. Tolkien fans will know that Balin ends up in Moria with Oin, we know that Gloin has a son named Gimli, we know Saruman’s fate, but I wanted to see more in this film.

Director Jackson continues to prove he can handle action and large-scale battle sequences, the action here is incredible. His cinematography mixed with the amazingly well-put-together sequences, and Howard Shore’s deep and thunderous score.

It took me a while to really enjoy Billy Boyd’s final song, “The Last Goodbye,” but once I did, I really felt it tied together not just this film, but the trilogy and in fact the entire saga.

If you get the chance to watch Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance capture for Smaug and the Necromancer, do it. He is incredible to watch even without the CGI placed over it.

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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies isn’t Jackson’s best work, but it certainly is a perfectly fine finale to an epic series. I feel like the theatrical cut of the film is missing some key details, and I hope that the extended cut has the ability to expand this on the film and show us some more connective tissues.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, click here.

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, click here.

 

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones, click here.

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

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

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Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Ian McKellan, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis

Screenplay: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro

169 mins. Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Visual Effects
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Production Design

 

It took eleven years for The Hobbit to be made. I’m talking from the release of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring to the release of An Unexpected Journey. Difficulties with securing rights and two bankruptcies as well as shifts in director and a few actors, it seemed very unlikely that The Hobbit would ever see the light of day. Well, it took some time, but now we have not one but three Hobbit films to witness, but they certainly have a lot to live up to, so do they?

As Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm, Ratatouille, Lord of War) gets prepared to disappear from his 111th birthday, he begins writing a book of his most important physical and emotional journey, which took place sixty years previously. His story involves the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellan, X-Men, The Prisoner) and a company of dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage, Captain America: The First Avenger, Into the Storm) on a quest to free Erebor, the dwarves’ home in the Lonely Mountain from the treacherous dragon Smaug. Along his journey, Bilbo will come across many perils, including trolls, rock giants, and a creature named Gollum (Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Arthur Christmas).

You can bet your ass I was first in line for the initial Hobbit film, and I walked out supremely satisfied. There was a lot of nervousness standing in line. I mean, The Lord of the Rings was a massive tome squeezed into three films, and yet The Hobbit, shorter than any of the individual volumes was crafted into three movies. I worried about pacing, and also the nine years from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King to then. So much of the film was up in the air.

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Ian McKellan worried me, as his performance, along with Christopher Lee (Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, Dark Shadows), who portrayed Saruman, completed their performances over green screen. My worry was met with joy as I found McKellan provided another powerhouse nuanced performance yet again.

Then there was Martin Freeman (TV’s Sherlock, Hot Fuzz), newcomer to the franchise in the roll of young Bilbo, who had a lot of weight to carry. This wasn’t The Lord of the Rings, where large sections were split amongst several major characters. This was The Hobbit, and he was The Hobbit. Thankfully, given the comedy that features a lot more in the livelier of the two tales gave Freeman plenty of room to play and ultimately, he proved his dramatic chops nicely as well.

Richard Armitage’s role as Thorin was another importantly placed action, and another well-placed one. Armitage is virtually unrecognizable in the extensive dwarf makeup (for which the film was nominated for an Oscar) but still proves himself worthy of the dwarf prince.

Filling out the dwarven party are some terrific little performances for Bofur (James Nesbitt, Millions, Coriolanus) and Balin (Ken Stott, One Day, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian) as well as, really, the entire party. The whole cast just fires on all cylinders here, including returning players Cate Blanchett (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, How to Train Your Dragon 2) as Galadriel, Hugo Weaving (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas) as Elrond, Elijah Wood (TV’s Wilfred, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) as Frodo and Andy Serkis as Gollum.

Director Peter Jackson (The Lovely Bones, King Kong) wields the camera differently in this film, taking full advantage of his cinematography grasp with RED cameras, 3D sequences exploding off the screen, and 48 frames per second (which takes a moment to get used to, but really looks gorgeous when utilized).

I also really enjoyed the musicality of the characters here. We get some great musical moments here especially in the opening with “Misty Mountains” performed by the dwarven party. It is a beautifully realized moment to open the franchise on and becomes a truly hummable song through the entirety of the viewing.

As far as the visual effects go, I would have enjoyed a little more practical work, but with the grandeur of the franchise at this point and the physical limitations of the aging cast, I can understand, and it looks just fine.

Now for fans of The Lord of the Rings, there are certainly plenty of callbacks for characters including Gloin (Peter Hambleton) who is Gimli’s father and a member of the dwarven party. Fans will also recognize Balin’s name. It is interesting to note that many of the returning characters like Frodo, Galadriel and Saruman are not actually in The Hobbit, but they certainly help with the suturing of both massive stories into one large saga.

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I loved the first installment of The Hobbit franchise and I am so happy to see Peter Jackson behind the camera again. The film deserved to be nominated for Best Picture and it pisses me off that it was the first film in the Middle-Earth Saga to be snubbed, but such is life. We move on. Home is behind…the world ahead.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, click here.

 

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones, click here.

31 Days of Horror: Day 9 – Fido (2006)

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Director: Andrew Currie

Cast: Carrie-Anne Moss, Billy Connolly, Dylan Baker, K’Sun Ray, Henry Czerny, Tim Blake Nelson

Screenplay: Robert Choniak, Andrew Currie, Dennis Heaton

93 mins. Rated R for zombie-related violence.

There have been many “boy and his dog” movies, but there has never been one like Fido, an overlooked zombie movie from about 8 years ago. It takes place in an alternate past, where some time around the 1950s, a zombie outbreak occurred, and was quelled. In the aftermath, a company called ZomCom was created, among its many creations were collars used to domesticate the zombie menace and essentially enslave them to do menial tasks and become like pets. Timmy Robinson (K’Sun Ray) and his family just got a new zombie of their own. His mother (Carrie-Anne Moss, The Matrix, Pompeii) is all for it. His father (Dylan Baker, Spider-Man 2, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues) is not. As a status symbol of their community, the zombie, named Fido (Billy Connolly, Brave, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies) grows an unlikely friendship with Timmy, and trouble ensues.

It is difficult to classify a zombie movie as cute, but this one is. The environment is as though we never stepped out of the 50s, but we also get the addition of zombies as domesticated animals. It is a unique environment, and one that we are unlikely to see again. The strong acting performances from Moss, Baker, and Connolly are what carry this movie. We also get a great supporting turn from Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Kill the Messenger) as Mr. Theopolis, the next door neighbor whose relationship with his zombie may not be politically correct, even in this world.

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As it comes down to it, Fido is a fabulous movie and one that doesn’t leave you for some time, the goofy premise and strong acting chops make this a satire worth remembering.

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

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