Trailer: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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We just live in this world now. A world in which we’ll be getting a new Star Wars trailer about every four months or so. And I think most of us are fine with that. Perhaps the most exciting thing for fans with this awakening of The Force (that is capitalized is it not?), is the names of the directors being asked to help guide the projects. We’re finally going into some (hopefully) new directions, creatively speaking, with the series in names like Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) and Phil Lord & Chris Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street) taking the helm.

Also for the first time, we’re getting major studio versions of what we might call “spin-offs” from the series. It’s the same universe and larger over-arcing story, but new characters and personal stories that fit into the battle of dark vs. light that don’t necessarily revolve around the Skywalker lineage. Case in point, 2016’s Rogue One will be directed by Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Godzilla); cashing in on his ability to work with Kaiju in favor of All-Terrain Armored Transports.

Rogue One casts a whole slew of recognizable names including Felicity Jones, Forest Whitaker, Ben Mendelsohn, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Diego Luna and more! This international cast brings more than just interesting faces, it brings some newer ideas to the table as well such as old school martial arts.

As glossy as portions of this trailer are, it hints at a darker look at Star Wars as well; a grittiness if you will. I hope to see that sort of creative look and feel to the Star Wars universe over the next few years. When churning out a new Star Wars film every year for the foreseeable future, there is certainly a risk of going into the Marvel (i.e. “vanilla”) territory. Hopefully, these names will be allowed to be a little bit more creative as time goes on. I think this trailer does flirt with that notion just a bit.

Ladies and Gentlemen… Rogue One: A Star Wars Story…

Review: Everybody Wants Some!!

 

Frontiers are where you find them.

I haven’t written much about movies for awhile now. Mostly due to work, family and other outside interests, but I haven’t really felt the immediate need to scribble down my pearls of wisdom regarding my film viewing. It’s not that I haven’t seen anything good or that I haven’t thought of anything to write about, but there’s been a definite lack of “passion” towards expressing my thoughts down in pixels.

But then a film like Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! comes along and specifically speaks to passion – and not just in an overly simplified generic “follow your bliss and do what you love” kind of way. Through its casual, “let’s all hangout” vibe, it suggests an open, accepting, come-what-may approach to life that embraces the uncertainty ahead and suggests that there’s no rush to find out exactly who you are. Just make sure you enjoy the process. That sounds a bit dangerously close to the cliche that “it’s the journey not the destination”, but the film is never that reductive (even if it does occasionally feel a bit overly written in some of its philosophical meanderings).

The story centres around a university freshman named Jake who is about to start his baseball scholarship and takes place completely within the 4 days before the start of classes in the Fall of 1980. Jake meets his housemates/teammates, parties with them and engages with life. That’s pretty much the extent of the plot. Actually, usage of the word “plot” here may be an overstatement. The movie is about interacting with your environment, the people in it, what they bring to it and what you can give back. There’s no major 2nd act conflict, no life changing moment and very little tension as our characters converse, drink, compete, drink, annoy each other, drink and philosophize – usually with a beverage in their hand. And it is so incredibly refreshing to just simply spend time with them.

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Carlos’ Review Round-Up

Here’s a quick sampling of my week’s watches. You can find more of my reviews at Always Good Movies.

 

Everybody Wants Some (2016)

Directed by: Richard Linklater
Country: USA

Celebrated filmmaker, Richard Linklater, takes us to a modest Texas college at the beginning of the effervescent decade of the 80’s to tell us an energizing tale about a bunch of students who have in common the fact of being baseball players and love beautiful girls and exciting parties.

If “Boyhood”, shot over 12 years, was a richly intense and incredibly realistic drama, “Everybody Wants Some” is something totally different. To start, it’s a comedy, and a very American one in every sense, following the same lines as the 1993 success “Dazed and Confused”. It’s the type of film with which there is not much to learn, and still, we can’t take our eyes off the screen and pretend that nothing’s going on. Nostalgic in a positive way, the film is suffused with numerable feel-good situations that are sufficiently funny and vitalizing to retrieve the unforgettable vibes of that bygone era. The accurate visuals as a part of the unimpeachable period recreation and the lively performances by the boys did the rest.

» I can handle the truth...


The cute freshman, Jake (Blake Jenner), exhibiting a relaxed and content disposition, arrives at the campus where he introduces himself to his baseball teammates. The simple fact of being a pitcher is enough to provoke some initial friction in some of the old-timers, who end up accepting him with authority but also friendliness. Among the vets and freshmen there are a few who deserve a special mention: the seductive Finnegan (Glen Powell) who loves to talk about his penis with the girls; the competitive Glen McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin) who freaks out just for losing a ping-pong game; Jay Niles (Juston Street) who was transferred from Detroit carrying a risible bad temper; the cool dude, Willoughby (Wyatt Russell), whose biggest happiness is to smoke weed with friends; the weird Nesbit (Austin Amelio), champion of the silly knuckle-flicking game; and Billy Autrey (Will Brittain), also called Beuter, who is the most restrained of the guys due to his serious commitment with a girlfriend who says she may be pregnant.

With three days left before the beginning of classes, the enthusiastic guys have plenty of time to hang out together in bars and parties, where they drink, dance, and enjoy the company of beautiful young ladies.
The inevitable true romance is reserved for Jake and Beverly (Zoey Deutch), a smart first-year student of theater and dance.

As a curious observation, we conclude that there are no heroes or villains here, just likable characters with their very own personalities.
Mr. Linklater totally discards any type of drama as the little conflicts among some of the friends are easily and quickly forgiven and overcome. What he actually should have done was to give a bit more preponderance to the music throughout the film.
However, he shows how to turn an apparently trivial script into a good movie, just by creating the adequate spirit, as high as the title suggests.
“Everybody Wants Some” is a new American classic bursting with feel-good energies and the unequal grace of youth.

» ...Hide the truth


Born to Be Blue (2015)

Directed by: Robert Budreau
Country: Canada / USA / UK

I was always a big admirer of Chet Baker’s music, but that’s not the reason why I recommend “Born to Be Blue”, a part real, part fictional drama written, directed, and produced by the Canadian Robert Budreau.
Ethan Hawke, despite the physical dissimilarities, was chosen to play the trumpeter, and he does it intimately enough to make us forget such an important detail.

The film takes us to the early 50’s where we can listen to the beautiful standard ‘Let’s Get Lost’, immortalized by Mr. Baker, one of the greatest representatives of the West Coast jazz scene. The black and white images tell us that we’re before a memorable moment recovered from the past.
The present, portrayed in color, shows a quite different reality. Now a heroin addict, Chet Baker lies on the floor of a prison cell and gets the visit of a filmmaker who wants him to play himself in a movie about his earlier years as a heroin addict. During the shootings, Chet makes an impression on Jane (Carmen Ejogo), a struggling actress who agrees to go out with him. That night was only pleasurable until a certain point because Chet’s dealer resolved to settle their accounts by breaking all his teeth. This was the cruelest punishment for the trumpet player who’s told he won’t play again.

» I can handle the truth...


Emotionally devastated, Chet will ever accept this sentence. With his mouth still sore, he tries to play until he spits blood.
However, Jane stays always by his side, becoming his dear girlfriend and supporter. With her, Chet finds a genuine love that gradually makes him recover the lost stability and gain not only the confidence to play again but also the strength to stay away from drugs. After an arduous adaptation to the instrument, new opportunities will come up and the success is in no one’s hands but the musician’s.

Mr. Budreau’s approach is aesthetically neat, giving us more a good general idea about the man’s life than a detailed portraiture.
Even though, we get concrete notions about Chet’s relationships, namely with his sour father, a professional musician who gave up playing and says to be embarrassed about his son; his old producer and friend, Dick Bock; and his fellow jazz trumpeters, the friendly Dizzy Gillespie, and the usually critical Miles Davis.
By using spasmodic flashbacks, the film might not always be chronologically elucidating but evokes the times with honesty and sensitivity.
Amidst the entertaining moments, there were two magical ones, when Chet sings ‘My Funny Valentine’ and ‘I’ve Never Been in Love Before’ with all his soul.

» ...Hide the truth


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Blu-Ray Review: Fear Eats the Soul

Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Screenplay: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Starring: Brigitte Mira, El Hedi ben Salem, Barbara Valentin, Irm Hermann
Country: West Germany
Running Time: 94 min
Year: 1974
BBFC Certificate: 15


Rainer Werner Fassbinder is a director whose name I’ve heard bandied around for a long time, but I’ve never got around to watching any of his films. Thankfully Arrow Academy are releasing a collection of 10 of his most famous features on dual format Blu-Ray and DVD (full details further down the page) so I decided to take the plunge and review one of the most well known titles in the set, Fear Eats the Soul (a.k.a. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul).

Fassbinder was an interesting character, to put it mildly. Openly bisexual at a time when that was taboo, he had a myriad of sexual relationships with his regular cast and crew and had problems with alcohol and drugs throughout his adult life which eventually killed him at the age of 37. However (or maybe fuelled by all the cocaine he took), he had a creative prolificacy like no other. To quote Wikipedia, “in a professional career that lasted less than fifteen years, he completed forty feature length films, two television film series, three short films, four video productions, twenty-four stage plays, four radio plays and thirty-six acting roles in his own and others’ films. He also worked as an actor (film and theatre), author, cameraman, composer, designer, editor, producer and theatre manager.” Quite how he managed this is baffling, but he had a skill for swiftly putting together a production, frequently of a high enough standard to gain great critical acclaim.

In fact, Fear Eats the Soul was meant as a throwaway experiment, shot in just two weeks in between the higher budget films Martha and Effi Briest. It went on to be one of his most critically successful films, winning prizes at the Cannes and Chicago Film Festivals. It tells the simple story of a 60-odd year old German woman Emmi (Brigitte Mira) who falls in love with a 40-odd year old Moroccan immigrant known as Ali (although his real name is that of the actor who portrays him, El Hedi ben Salem – Ali is just the name most Germans give to Moroccan immigrants). The couple face horrible treatment from their family, friends and colleagues due to their age and racial differences. This causes a strain on their relationship.

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Trailer: Swiss Army Man

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For those of you who thought Weekend At Bernies didn’t have enough feels, or enough special effects, two directors named Daniel bring you Swiss Army Man. Paul Dano, in a rare film where he does not appear to get beaten up by somebody, instead puts the corpse (ahem, the farting corpse) of Daniel Radcliffe through the paces of The Sundance Movietm. All joking aside, this film is getting stellar reviews, and is being released by the consistently astute A24.

Blu-Ray Review: Three Days of the Condor

Director: Sydney Pollack
Screenplay: Lorenzo Semple Jr, David Rayfiel
Based by a Novel by: James Grady
Starring: Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, Max von Sydow
Country: USA
Running Time: 118 min
Year: 1975
BBFC Certificate: 15


Sydney Pollack is a director whose career is full of well known and often well-respected films (Tootsie, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, Jeremiah Johnson etc.) but he doesn’t really attract the same kind of admiration that other directors who found fame in the late 60’s and 70’s do. Perhaps he had less of a signature style than most so is seen as a ‘director for hire’, but it’s hard to find many others with so many solid titles under their belt and so few clunkers (although his 90’s/00’s work isn’t as strong as his 70’s/80’s output). I must admit I’ve not seen a huge number of his films and some I haven’t seen for years (Tootsie and The Firm), but I love his underrated gangster movie The Yakuza and can’t resist a 70’s thriller, so didn’t hesitate to volunteer to review his 1975 film Three Days of the Condor, finally released in the UK (it’s never been available on home video for some reason) on dual format Blu-Ray & DVD as part of Eureka’s excellent Masters of Cinema collection.

Based on a novel called Six Days of the Condor, the film adaptation was originally going to be directed by Peter Yates and star Warren Beatty, but Beatty turned it down. The producer’s second choice, Robert Redford, was interested, but only if his friend Sydney Pollack could direct it. Yates was promptly paid off and Redford and Pollack began to make the project their own, rejecting the original script which they weren’t happy with (largely because they weren’t convinced by the novel itself) and forging the film that would become Three Days of the Condor.

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DVD/Blu-Ray Review: Ran

Director: Akira Kurosawa
Screenplay: Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni, Masato Ide
Based on ‘King Lear’ by: William Shakespeare
Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu
Country: Japan, France
Running Time: 160 min
Year: 1985
BBFC Certificate: 12A


There are only a very small number of directors who have a fully ‘clean’ track record in my eyes (not including newcomers or those who died young). Even filmmakers like Spielberg or Scorsese, whose films I largely adore, have the odd clunker here and there or seem to have lost their touch over time. Akira Kurosawa however has blown me away with every film of his I’ve seen. Admittedly I’m far off watching everything he’s released, so I’m sure one or two of his lesser known titles won’t have the same impact, but I’ve watched a fairly healthy 8 from his filmography and haven’t been disappointed yet.

Ran, often considered his final masterpiece, is a film I first and, until now, last saw at least 15 years ago. At the time I did like it, but I’m not sure I fully appreciated it as I can remember feeling ever so slightly disappointed. I think it was the weight of expectation behind seeing it. I’d heard great things and from stills I was expecting an epic action extravaganza, but the battle scenes only make up a relatively small portion of the running time. What also probably didn’t help is that I saw it on VHS (probably in pan & scan) as DVD’s were only just beginning to grow in popularity at the time and high definition home viewing was but a dream. So I was delighted to be offered the chance to review Studiocanal’s new 4K restoration of the film, which is coming to cinemas, Blu-Ray and DVD in the UK. It gave me a chance to revisit the film with a more mature and clearer eye.

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Mamo 442: Where Are They Gonna Poop?

Mamo!

The Mamo Summer Box Office Contest is here! Matt & Matt handicap the big releases of the summer of 2016 and invite YOU to do the same. Captain America! Alice! Suicide Squad! Ghostbusters! Independence Day! The Big Fuckin’ Giant! Who will win??

We have a NEW game system this year, thanks to Mamo listener Andrew Robinson! Please visit boxofficetournament.com, create an account, and draft your picks. You can revise your draft as many times as you like until you hit “LOCK PICKS” or midnight on May 1st arrives, whichever comes first. Then your entry is set in stone!

Note: grosses are to be entered in the hundreds of millions, i.e. 400, not $400,000,000.

Second note: You may cross-post your picks to the comments here for added discussion, but ONLY entries at boxofficetournament.com will be considered for the contest.

Third note: blu-ray to the winner, care of RowThree.com! May the best prognosticator win.

Cinecast Episode 435 – We’re Not Offending Anyone

As the weird release scheduling system of the cinematic landscape in late March and April eases up a little bit, Kurt and Andrew confound their own scheduling system with the new overnight job and such. Fortunately, they both find some common ground with the little-seen Eye in the Sky; a great send-off for Alan Rickman in which he gives a nice speech on the morals of the military machine… and then brings a talking doll home to his granddaughter. The film is not without some problems but it’s an engaging and dramatic thriller with a great cast and possibly the best screenplay of the year so far. Outside of the cinema, Kurt treads over alien territory for a second time with Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin. It’s a shame more people aren’t willing to give stuff like this a better chance. Meanwhile, Andrew stays at home to check out the WGN original series, “Underground.” Which is kind of like 12 Years a Slave meets Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette directed by Guy Ritchie. And of course we’re both chomping at the bit for Game of Thrones to finally get started with season 6. All this and a few things more lie waiting within. Tune us out as we play in the background!

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

We’re now available on Google Play!

 

 
 

 
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