I had the opportunity to go to an early Sag Awards/Weinstein Company sponsored screening of Lee Daniel’s The Butler earlier this week. As the film doesn’t open for a few weeks and I rarely put movie reviews here I didn’t think I’d end up doing on, but as I started writing on Facebook I realized I had more to say than planned so I decided to try and stretch it a bit and say even more than that. So here’s a review.
Lee Daniel’s The Butler has some really interesting and quality performances, especially from Cuba Gooding Jr. and David Oyelowo, Vanessa Redgrave was her always fabulous self in a small role that didn’t need her but suited her and Liev Schreiber IMHO stole the show; Didn’t recognize him at all. Yet if you go for the story about a Butler who served over 30 years in The White House, you’re better off reading the original article from Washington Post about Eugene Allen, the actual white house staff butler of 30 years that inspired the film. That article has NOTHING about a son who marched with MLK, the Black Panthers, Free Mandela and later became a Congressman that Hollyweird forced into the film to give an excuse to follow another path of history. While this first paragraph actually just caused OMGSPOILERS for the film, they are not he kind that anyone should truly get angry about.
Unlike Lee Daniel’s sophomore effort The Paperboy, an adaption of the same named Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Lee Dexter which the author adapted himself or even Lee’s Oscar award winning first effort Precious, The Butler is very by the numbers. There are what could be thought the occasional “shocking” moments, but I’m not robbing you of those if you truly want to see the film. There’s also plenty reasons to. Even with the complete stunt castings of Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan or Robin Williams as Eisenhowser, there’s something very special about John Cusack’s Nixon. I don’t think his dialogue would’ve been as funny or clever in just a capable actor who did an awesome Nixon. They needed the candor of Cusack. Folks like Mariah Carey, Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, and even Lenny Kravitz was much less stunt casting more about Lee Daniels I believe trying to develop his own troupe to work with for any future productions. That includes David Oyelowo who was amazing and was just as equally amazing in Paperboy.
One of the more interesting/intriguing parts of the screenwriter Danny Strong and I assume producers The Weinstein Company to make what seem like arbitrary changes to Eugene Allen’s life is the amount of facts from the article they chose to keep in the film as well. From dealing with LBJ’s harsh racial epithets to Nancy Reagan’s invite to dinner, all parts of his life that were fascinating, that adding or changing facts like where he used to work or how he got the job just seem like pointless changes that didn’t add or take away from the story being told.
Although that story is just that, a story about a Butler in the White House while TRYING to say something about the Civil Rights movement in America over the last 70 and even more so years, without saying anything new or making a particular stance or than the kind of stance a film with a black director and a black cast could make. That is not a slight to the Civil rights movement, it’s to the film itself. It’s just a film that is kind of just there. Not bad, not grand, but a movie that stands on its own strengths and that is a definite early contender for Oscar nomination simply on what it tries to accomplish even if it is a forgettable movie as well.
Before closing out I do want to commend one very important factor of the film and one that is pulled off amazingly. The make up and prosthetic work is amazing. They made Forrest Whitaker pass for 30 years old as well as his actual age and a man in his late 80’s. This awesome makeup work follows through on what they did with the actor’s portraying president’s (it’s pretty impossible to hide such recognizable faces, but they did add aspects that conveyed the role through features such as Nixon’s nose) as well as with every other actor from Oprah to Lenny Kravitz, it deserves the Oscar more than anything else even.
It’s no secret that I am a Canadaphile, it’s been a major part of who I am going back to childhood. We’re not just talking shows most people know or like, I’ve gotten into the shows we never got here at least as they aired in Canada or without a DVD. Shows like Murdoch Mysteries, Blue Murder, Grand Star, and even Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town. Although the one I plan to speak of for this article did air in America on the lesser known FearNet, but that is an extra premium channel at least on my cable service, so the only way I ever saw the show was through the luck of eOne Entertainment’s DVDs.
I got the first season of TODD and THE BOOK OF PURE EVIL when the cover first caught my eye, mostly the title and a very healthy dose of young Canadian talent who’d starred in some awesome Canadian shows including the stars show Alex House from Dark Oracle, it had longtime Canadian TV talent Chris Leavins dressed as what appeared a nerdy teacher, and top of that Jason Mewes was on the cover as a janitor. I grabbed it off the shelf right away, took it home, spun those episodes and loved it and then it was over. I searched the internet for where it would air if there was more to see. That was when I discovered it was either move to Canada (I want to, but that’s another story) or pay more on my cable bill to watch it on FearNet and I was like “Nooooooooooo!” and I just let the show go to the back of my mind and be happy I had that first season DVD full of funny, supernatural, gory, musical, awesome, weird action.
Then I heard word that Season two would be coming to DVD so I got excited and started looking into it. That was when I also discovered that the show would not be returning for a third season and not all plot lines got completed. Unfortunately I did NOT hear or discover the successful campaign for the animated film, but that didn’t stop my desire to see the second season, especially since I didn’t get FearNet.
In this second season they amped (sic) up everything. That’s usually the case of course with a show like this, the characters get older, so everything can get more mature. The evil is out there so it can only do what evil does and get more powerful, ambition gets more desperate, sexiness gets sexier and blood and gore well that has to get even crazier.
As in the the first season DVD, eOne made sure to stock this thing with enough extras that you’d have reason own this physical item more than just getting the episodes alone. Commentary tracks, deleted sequences, making of footage, the full versions of the music sequences. Oh, did I forget to mention the musical part of the show? Yeah, it’s a balls to walls heavy metal rock musical on top of everything else. Now you might be thinking that sounds weird, but if you’re anything like me, and I KNOW there are amazingly people with my pop-culture sensibilities, they’ll be your favorite segments.
TODD and THE BOOK OF PURE EVIL – The Complete Season 2 dropped on June 25th at a SRP of $19.98 and is available from your regular outlets (Best Buy, Target, Amazon, that local place) and I suggest you go and grab it and also season one if you haven’t. You’ll be getting many half hours of music, comedy, blood, sex, gore, silly, fun and awesome extras as well, what could be wrong about that? Nothing… absolutely nothing.
(disclaimer: I was provided a review copy of Season 2, but only at request and was already a huge fan of the program)
In my mind and to others I describe The Aquabats Super Show as Power Rangers on Acid, while Jason DeVilers and Ian Fowles would probably disagree I stand by that description. I’m not sure if they would also agree with my assessment of sister show Yo Gabba Gabba being for stoners and toddlers alike, but I think its more with how they want the show to be viewed as well as how the network sees it. In the fact of the Aqubats that network is the soon to be renamed The Hub Network. The same channel that gives us My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Transformers Prime, G.I. Joe Renegades, Dan Vs. and more cartoons that have a definite large demographic (at least from my viewpoint and from whom I know watches the programs).
On June 1st, the show returns with the episode “The Return of the Aquabats” at 1 P.M. In the first episode we get privy to aliens, an amazing fight, a press conference featuring a performance from Tony Hawk, a cartoon designed by Thom Nicolette and animated by Too Many Legs, a new Parker Jacobs little bats toon and more insanity.
One of the intriguing differences in the new season is the direction the cartoons will be taking, confirmed to me in my interview with Jason and Ian. In the first season the cartoons were a serilized adventure done in a anime/mangaesque style created by Eriko “PEY” Uruma and usually animated by Cartoon Saloon. This time around each episode will have cartoon done in a different style, conveying each member of The Aquabats view on the origin of the Aquabats and how they joined the team. In the first episode we Eaglebones’ sci-fi western tale which is so wacky and funny I really am excited to see what they came up with for the other four.
One of the more exciting developments for the show as a whole is their daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Children’s Series. Yet, I must once again state that this show might be developed, produced and sold as a children’s show it is so many ways for adults and yet kids can watch it. Everything in it is just so over the top, and some references just like “Woah”, yet it was delivered to e that kids watching now can return 20 years later to the show and be “OH, so THAT’S what I didn’t get” and so it’s more Kid’s in mind and adults can watch it from that stand point. I’m not sold on that, especially with things like the VANS “Yo Gabba Gabba” or that Aquabats fans are definitely not generally children, but hey, let them have their fun.
As long as they keep bringing that fun. One of the things I really hope to see in the future is an Aquabats Super Show soundtrack album, but from my interview it sounded like they’d rather rewrite/re-record the songs done on the show as more full length productions before doing that.
Before closing I should point out that the first season of Aquabats Super Show is also now available on DVD from the awesome as usual SHOUT! FACTORY.
Oh also, The Aquabats Super Show! is now an AWESOME FORCES! production. I mention that because their company graphic is is an AWESOME FORCE!
When I first heard about THE SWEENEY the only thing I knew was that it starred Ray Winstone and he’d be a tough as nails, grizzled, rough & tumble cop. That sold me on wanting to see it. I knew nothing about the fact that it was an extremely popular television series in the 1970s. Nor that it was based upon an actual elite police squad that was taken down for truly working on the gray side of the law, using corruption and illegal tactics to take down bigger bad guys, but in the end being thrown in jail themselves.
In 2012’s THE SWEENEY, the elite police squad is just as gray. They’re the law, but they work outside the law and this isn’t sitting pretty with IID or Internal Affairs as we know them here. In many ways because of the fact that the story itself in over 30 years old and is just adapted for modern audiences with current technology, film style and such it can at times come off as cliché. I personally have NO issues with this, the best crime stories are not about the plot points, but the way they are delivered. THE SWEENEY delivers with bombastic, exhilarating action and intense, very natural acting.
The film as a whole had only one flaw. For the American audience or at least my own ears, I had to actually put the subtitles on. These are some of the thickest, most roughest United Kingdom accents I have ever heard in my life. Ray being the harshest of all, pulling in all his cockney to be a right bastard. That’s isn’t a detriment though, since I’m reviewing a Blu-Ray so subtitles? Just put them up there. Sure for someone who’s blind or can’t read this will be a problem, but do blind people watch action films? And do people without enough education to know how to read bother with films that have complicated plots with twists and turns and tons of character development? Maybe they do… but they can still enjoy this film, because well, if they can do that, then this film will have something for them.
The gun fights are crazy, the car chases are awesome, the cinematography is brilliant. Hell, just for the robbery, shooting and foot chase through Trafalgar Square which is covered extensively on the extras makes this film a must see.
Yet that isn’t the only greatness. There are two co-stars that bring a lot of notable excitement to the film on top of Winstone’s insanity. Hayley Battle, whom American audiences learned to love in Captain America is almost more dangerous and obviously way sexier than Ray (unless you’re thing is old, grizzled, beat up men) and turned in amazing performance. Between Falcon and this she’s quickly becoming a favorite of mine. This was also the first true star turn for musician Plan B also known as Ben Drew. His George Carter is just as important if not more important than Winstone’s Regan and he delivers a fantastic performance that really carries the film for at least 1/3rd.
THE SWEENEY is available on DVD ($20) and Blu-Ray/DVD Combo ($25) and dropped on April 2nd, 2013 (so you can go buy it now!)
America during the time of pre-Civil War and Civil War itself was tumultuous, violent, full of bravery, regime, and the building of a nation that has evolved technologically and lawfully if not spiritually or mentally. The prejudices of the time are still rampant. The attitudes and personalities of the time a constant. The only thing that has changed is how society as a whole looks at these attitudes. From who are president is, to the type of entertainment audiences divulge and live off of.
It is quite fascinating to me that in 2012 two of the most lauded film makers of my generation and what I predict generations to come would approach a time period around the same time although very different, and yet extremely similar.
Over the winter I had the opportunity to see Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner’s LINCOLN and Quentin Tarantino’s DJANGO UNLEASHED. Clocking in at a combined 5 hours and 30 minutes they are both truly epic films filled with violence, stellar casts, amazing dialogues and what seem like lost opportunities in which even such expansive running times were not enough to deliver all the story and awesome that exists, especially in Tarantino’s DJANGO. There’s so much awesomeness in DJANGO that a comic book adapted from the original script being published by DC Comics.
I saw LINCOLN at the prestigious ZIGFIELD theater with a friend. It was a joint early Academy and SAG screening and Mr. Spielberg presented the film beforehand. A playbill/book was handed out which basically gave out some historical background that didn’t actually make it into the final film. In my opinion Tommy Lee Jones truly steals the film. His performance while still very “him” has a panache and delivery of conviction. His character a true hero of the times, at least as depicted here. History is very unclear and a bit possibly misguided in their presentation of Thaddeus Stevens and film has never been kind to him, probably because of the fact that he was actually a man who truly believed in equality, a rarity in those times and sadly even up till the 70’s. The cast was used in spectacular fashion here, everyone truly got a moment to shine, even the very short appearance by the rarely seen but always enjoyable Lukas Haas. It was an all together wonderful experience as well as an educational one and at least for me showed that Spielberg might still have it, either that or we’ll be able to say “Well at least did a couple good movies” in the future.
I saw Django Unchained at the IFC Center and got lucky enough to meet someone cool on line. The IFC room they used had really weird seats that went way too far back, making it a bit uncomfortable for a three hour film, but I think any theater has that problem, there’s no real answer. This is what I said about the film on Facebook directly after viewing it.
Django is a 3 hour spaghetti Western with some awesome Tarantino dialogue, amazing cinematography and severe waste of some of the talent used. It is not as good as Inglourious Basterds, but it is a very strong movie and for a guy who always says that a movie would be better if it had more nudity, the film delivered there for all genders.
Retrospectively it may have actually been better than Basterds, although with Basterds I never felt like any character was shortchanged, but I still really feel that Zoe Bell was completely unused. I felt her role and her inclusion in the film could’ve led to something quite amazing. We never get the one thing Spaghetti Westerns or any Western really offer. Even the Western comics that Quentin loved. He never get a real one on one battle between the hero and that one tough enemy who we don’t know if he can beat. Not a single villain is a bad ass. They’re all pushovers. Mentally strong and that is shown, but I would’ve loved just one battle where Django had to really fight one on one, mano y mano with a ne’er do well that was more than him and Django had to use HIS wits to defeat. Saying that, the film really paints an intriguing picture of pre-Civil War South, the South that Lincoln would soon have to contend with, the degenerate,m backwards thinking, bigoted racist South. I have to think Django got drafted during emancipation and died in the war or went into hiding and died an old man with not much to speak for but his freedom, yet sometimes… Freedom is all anyone asks for.
Both these films state that, freedom, equality be it by the land of the law or the societal measures, freedom is a thing one should be grateful for, always.
One of the most exciting and coolest companies I discovered in my pre-NYCC research and then further at the show was Redbubble. Since the show I’ve been tracking the site when I can finding designs that truly struck my fancy and I thought would make cool T-shirts or stickers to own or in the very least wallpapers for my computer.
Redbubble is an absolutely awesome art community site,much like Flickr, Deviantart, and even Threadless, but has its own special vibe & design style that truly makes it stand out. Founded in 2006 by three artists & writers to help create a new marketplace for creative visual artists of all realms, the company has grown to feature over 200 thousand plus artists and help assist in over one million orders in nine million products ranging from shirts, stickers, iPhone cases, prints, calendars and full expanding branding for artists to stamp their visions on and see profit for their creations.
Working with various different companies to get the items printed everything is of high quality which I experienced first hand through a totebag, various stickers and a logoed shirt which have all come in very handy and have stood up to regular use.
The easiest and most exciting thing on Redbubble is its very intelligent alogorithm search engines and suggestions of new best work to find art you really love. I’ll be sharing some of that at the end, basically in my own preference, but I want to publicly thank Peter Tomassi and the entire staff at Redbubble. At NYCC they proved they don’t just run an excellent site, but can run an awesome convention booth experience. This was the first year they had brought product to the show for sale and their success blew me away. They really tried to cater to the current pop-culture fan with shirts ranging from TV, to movies, to comics, video games and basic nerd language. The booth itself was really set up greatly and the workers were totally sweet.
My favorite type of images to find on Redbubble have been the ones that mashup a popular concept with something you wouldn’t expect or that just looks at the character, person, pop culture phenom in a new way that really catches the eye. It could be a movie, cartoon, professional wrestling, TV show, actor, it doesn’t really matter, I just really like images that switch things up. There are few artists I’ve found on the site who I really like such as Lapuss and Leigh Wortley. Here’s three images I really liked on Redbubble, the first is New Mutant’s Warlock and Cyber in Calvin & Hobbes style by Leigh, the second is Fozzie Bear as Clockwork Orange’s Alex by Chris Wahl and the last is Showtime’s Dexter if it was a 1940’s WB Cartoon by Lapuss.
All three of these are available as shirts or stickers. I haven’t personally decided what to get or to get all three or to get everything on the site. It’s that awesome.
This took me a long time to write as I tried to consolidate my thoughts on various films coming out and what information, trailers, websites had provided in a way to actually at minimum really interest me. There are a lot of films not listed that still excite me coming soon such as TOTAL RECALL, PARANORMAN, THE MASTER, ARGO, WRECK IT RALPH, RISE OF THE GUARDIANS, GREAT GATSBY, JACK REACHER, and LES MISERABLES among others. So here’s others and why I might want to see them.
The Expendables 2: The first Expendables was lacking a bit in the end. It was fun and action packed, but a lot of it was too little, too late. I get a bit of a feeling that the character development here will also be lackluster, but we are guaranteed a few things. Tons of awesome action from Chuck Norris, a Stallone vs. Van Damme fight and Arnold Schwarzenegger quipping with Bruce Willis. The trailer showed very little of Crews or Couture so I’m going out on a limb and guessing that Helmsworth and Yu replace them early in the film. That’s just a guess though. There’s lots of explosions, fights and whatever, so hey, it has that.
Robot and Frank: This is the first full length feature for director Paul Schreier and screenwriter Christopher Ford, but not their first work. Previously Ford worked on the puppet cop comedy Fuzz and Paul has made some great commercials. For this near future story in which a retired crook teams with a robot meant to just get him out a slump they’ve been able to garner quite some major talent. Frank Langella is the Frank in the title and his possible girlfriend is Susan Sarandon. It’s hard to believe Sarandon is old enough to play a potential mate to Frank Langella, because she still looks fabulous. Liv Tyler and James Marsden are Frank’s children and Jeremy Sisto is the cop who suspects Frank is back to his old tricks. It all looks really fun and sweet.
Killer Joe : This will be the second time playwright Tracy Letts will have teamed with director William Friedkin to bring one one of his emotionally charged, extremely powerful productions to the “silver” screen and with it everything is amped up. As his last film was an adaptation of a confined room thriller, this is a large scope epic twist after twist crime drama. On top of having a disturbed Matthew McCouhney who has truly come into his own as a talent, the film also stars the amazingly sexy and talented Juno Temple, whom I have the hugest celebrity crush on.
The Campaign: Two completely unlikeable characters played by guys who know how to really nail that “fuck I hate that guy” in Will Ferrell and Zach Galifaniakis. The trailer is full of vitriol and bad humor, but I’m hoping that since it’s a Jay Roach film and a Chris Henchy script there’s way more than meets the eye. I just finally saw “The Big Year” which on paper sounded excellent, then trailers made it look so horrendous I avoided it like the plague and then I finally saw it and discovered that the it was one of the worst editing jobs on a film in forever. So yeah, this actually might have promise. Zach is playing a super flamboyant guy who might not know he’s gay and Will is doing his best Mitt Romney.
KILLING THEM SOFTLY: Andrew Dominik tackled another very difficult book to translate to screen, teaming up once again with Brad Pitt to bring Cogan’s Trade byGeorge V. Higgins to life. The last film based on a Higgin’s film is the modern classic Friends of Eddie Coyle, so with the track record of that and Dominik’s track record of CHOPPER and the very slow, but mesmerizing Assassination of Jesses James By The Coward Robert Ford. Pitt is joined by crime veterans Ray Liotta, James Galdofini, and Sam Shepard. I’m not too keen on the title change and like Gangster Squad and even Lawless these movies that grandioize crime and guns might get these films pushed back or who knows.
LAWLESS: This could be the secret best film of 2012, directed by John Hillcoat, who has proved his ability of making amazing modern westerns with The Proposition and The Road worked from an adaptation by muisician/poet/novelist Nick Cave of the “based on a true story” novel by Matt Bondurant, the ancestor of the characters in this film. It has a questionable lead in Shia Lebeouf, but with Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman and Guy Pearce as costars it should be a strong period piece about moonshine, guns and gang warfare.
GANGSTER SQUAD: With L.A. Confidential, the video game L.A. Noire, the upcoming TV show L.A. Noir, the more recent Public Enemies and plenty more, films about the Mafia in L.A. Might seem old hat. What makes Gangster Squad different then? Well, for one Director Ruben Fleischer. After Zombieland and 30 Minutes or Less it’ll very interesting what he does with a script from a TV writer based off a seven part L.A. Times series of articles built in truth and fiction. The other major thing will be the first actor in over 20 years to tackle a major figure like Mickey Cohen will be an actor practically born for the role in Sean Penn.
Soldiers of Fortune: While the director is a complete unknown and it seemed to take three unproven screenwriters to develop this, the cast and plot sell it strong. The trailer shows it to have plenty of action, a good assortment of interesting characters who might be one dimensional, but rounded enough to know who they are when they’re shooting and being shot at. I don’t expect much from it, but one doesn’t ever expect much from self appointed action films. They’re action films, they know what they are and shouldn’t be criticized unless they have no good characters. That is the most important thing. Good characters and no plot holes (such as they mention no one has a gun and five scenes later they all have guns but there’s no scene where they finally find guns).
Anna Karenina: In what will be in my accounting, only the fourth and in by some merits only the third full scale adaptation of the Leo Tolstoy classic, in terms of current standards to the past, the most talented pairing and cast (well, no one can beat Garbo, but still), director Joe Wright uses a brand new adaptation by one of the best playwrights and screenwriters of the last 45+ years Tom Stoppard. With Jude Law and Aaron Thompson in the meaty roles there’s strength, so that even if Keira Knightly falters, her beauty and the talent around her will keep her up. I haven’t had issue with Keira personally, but I know people do, so I played Devil’s Advocate here.
LOOPER: I’m not completely sold on Joseph Gordon-Leavitt being Bruce Willis or Bruce Willis being Joseph Gordon Leavitt but espite that, the third original feature from Rian Johnson looks amazingly cool. After BRICK and THE BLOOM BROTHERS he is definitely becoming one of those type of directors who makes films you just feel like you need to see. He’s also not keeping it simple in terms of choices as a director. While all three films are centered around crime, they’re so different it’s even more interesting what he might do after LOOPER. LOOPER also might have the best chance of having an interesting novelization done for it by someone like Tim Lebbon, Terry Bison or Alan Dean Foster. Especially since this is the rare original scripted film here.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower: After 10 years since it was published and its author experiencing the trials and tribulations of creating a TV show, having it canceled, saved and canceled again and even get a third season in comics, the highly touted and best selling book has been adapted from a screenplay by the author who also directed. This film has the major factor of being Emma Watson’s first major starring post Potter role and if the trailer is indication, she will be a force for years to come.
PITCH PERFECT: This might seem like a stupid comedy with singing, but I have a feeling it will actually be much more intelligent. Much like MEAN GIRLS seemed like it’d be lame then you realized that Tina Fey wrote it and boom it was awesome, this film is written by Tina’s best friend and a top writer on 30 Rock, Kay Cannon. She did base it on a real story, merging elements from college acapella competitions detailed in a book with the same name. On top of the writer though the director is Broadway’s Jason Moore, who has directed Avenue Q, Shrek and even Les Miserables. Then you have the cast who are actually talented actresses and singers Brittany Snow and Anna Kendrick are the main leads, but filling out on singing is worldwide pop music phenom Ester Dean and the Australia’s funny fat girl Rebel Wilson handles the stupid comedy.
(An interesting aside, Mean Girls was also based off a non-fiction book and merged concepts and elements from it to create the comedy)
(all images here are fixed remake versions based on the official marketing by the studios)