Archive for June, 2008



16
Jun
08

In Passing… Stan Winston (1946-2008)

 

 

Special effects master and makeup artist Stan Winston passed away last night at the age of 62. Winston’s start was doing gargoyle makeup for the 1972 TV movie, “Gargoyles.” From there he would do makeup for such movies as “The Wiz,” “The Thing, “Edward Scissorhands,” “Pearl Harbor,” “A.I.,” and “Constantine.” He’s more renown, however, at being the special effects guy for, “Aliens,” “Leviathan,” “The Relic,” “Predator,” “Constantine,” and the recent “Iron Man.”

 

Best wishes and deepest sympathies for the Winston family.

 

For more information, check out the L.A. Times article at:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/entertainmentnewsbuzz/2008/06/stan-winston-de.html

 

Stan Winston’s IMDB resume:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0935644/

 

Special thanks to Mike Sampson at JoBlo.com for his post on this.

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16
Jun
08

Movie Review: The Incredible Hulk

 

 

Hulk SMASH!

 

Starring Ed Norton, Liv Tyler, William Hurt, and Tim Roth. Directed by Louis Leterrier.

 

For the purposes of this movie review, I’m only dealing with the current “Hulk” movie, not the 80’s TV show, the cartoon, or any of the comics, and only limited dealing with the 2003 Ang Lee movie.

 

Like “Iron Man,” this movie wastes no time. The opening credit sequence shows that Bruce Banner (Norton) was a scientist exposing himself to gamma radiation, being watched over by assistant Elizabeth Ross (Tyler). Something goes wrong and Banner becomes… something else. The lab is destroyed and “Betsy” winds up in the hospital. Her dad General Ross (Hurt) bans Banner and he leaves. From that point Banner is on the run (watch for S.H.E.I.L.D. references as well as the  names Tony Stark and Nick Fury).

 

And that’s just the opening.

 

Banner is now living in Brazil keeping under the radar by working at a bottling plant, practicing yoga and breathing exercises, learning the language by watching “Sesame Street,” and keeping in contact with “Mr. Blue” as to how he can get rid of the “Hulk-ness.”

 

When his blood accidentally makes it into a bottle of fruit juice it affects a mild-mannered citizen (Stan Lee) and Hurt gets the best of the best to help tear down the slums of Brazil/ find Bruce Banner. Inducted into the group is Russian-born English-bred and on-loan to the States Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth). After destroying the bottling plant Blonsky stares into the face of Hulk and like Ahab to Ishmael he makes a new life goal of bringing Banner/Hulk down. When Blonsky confronts Ross about what’s going on, Ross confides that he was trying to re-initiate a “super-soldier” program using Banner and that’s how Hulk came about. Blonsky, apparently as crazed as Ross, signs up for some “super juice.”

 

Not to be outdone in the Crazy Department, Banner wakes up in the jungle and decides that having nothing to lose, he should go back to Culver University (where it all started) and get the data he needs to send to “Mr. Blue.” This means also running into Elizabeth and the distinct possibility that he will not make it to New York to meet up with the scientist, but it does assure the destruction of military stuff.

 

I’ll stop there. While this film is largely plotless, it’s enjoyable on about the same level of “Iron Man.” Is it better than the previous movie outing? Yes, by 100 times. Is this a film? No. This is a comic book that you are watching (sorta like how “Iron Man” was). Yes, there’s destruction. The villain in this movie makes sense as opposed to “super demigod” Nick Nolte. And yes, I was actually behind the Hulk to win.

 

The only problem that comes with doing a Hulk movie is the problem with dealing with Superman: these characters are limited. Bruce Banner is boring compared to the primal rage of Hulk like Clark Kent is boring compared to how super Superman is.

 

Aside from that, I got no complaints. Why should you see this? Well, it’s probably the best Hulk film yet. It’s a little more than popcorn fun, the CG is well done, Norton does a great job, etc. Watch for the cameos of Stan Lee as (again) a mild-mannered senior citizen who drinks “Hulk” blood and Lou Ferrigno as a security guard (and he moonlights as Hulk’s voice). Tim Blake Nelson is Stearns/ Mr. Blue, a scientist intrigued with the Hulk.

 

Extra credit if you can comment on the review with the Bill Bixby reference.

 

My grade: B+

13
Jun
08

Movie Review: Son of Rambow

 

 

Make film. Not war.

 

Starring Neil Dudgeon, Bill Milner, Jessica Hynes, Will Poulter, and Jules Sitruk. Directed by Garth Jennings.

 

Setting: England, some point in the 1980’s. Will Proudfoot (Milner) is a young schoolboy with a great ability to do drawings. His main problem is that his family is under the religious regime of the Brethren, a sect that outlaws media, art, and most of the outside world influences. Enter Lee Carter (Poulter), the “trouble” kid. He smokes, helps his brother bootleg movies, and gets into trouble just about every day. When these two opposites meet, Lee makes Will feel indebted to him, and pulls him into helping to win a filmmaking contest. When Will watches “First Blood” for the first time, he transforms from mild-mannered kid into the rambunctious “Son of Rambow.” What follows is a tale of friendship, religion, family, and small-scale filmmaking.

 

What I liked about this movie: it’s endearing. Instead of your CGI-based movie, or the standard sugar-coated Disney fare, this film has heart whereas the others have money. It’s not a perfect film; it has its flaws and it can meander, but overall I enjoyed it.

 

The only movie I could even compare it to would be “Bowfinger.” Thing is, it’s not as campy or corny as “Bowfinger” was. However, it does show filmmaking on a small scale: getting the people, the prima donna actor, “losing control” over the production… all of that is in here. Again, it’s a nice movie. Not great, not earth-shattering, but nice. And that’s all it really aims for.

 

My grade: B

12
Jun
08

Top Five Movie Twists

WARNING: If you have not seen of the following movies, you might not wanna read any further. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

With the release of M. Night’s “The Happening,” most people are counting on his “one-trick pony” movie twist that is usually found at the end of the movie. In “Sixth Sense,” Bruce Willis was dead. “Untraceable” showed that Bruce Willis really was a superhero, and Samuel L. Jackson was his nemesis. And “Signs?” Well, apparently interstellar space travelers don’t hold up so well against Louisville Sluggers.

 

In honor more for the “movie twist” than Shamma-lamma-ding-dong (had to get that one in), here are five of my favorite movie twists:

 

“North by Northwest” (1959) – Cary Grant is Roger Thornhill, a New York ad exec who has a case of mistaken identity. It seems James Mason and Company think that he’s a spy named George Kaplan, which necessitates the need to kidnap, drug, and try to kill him. Throw in the mix a murder that Kaplan was credited with, the femme fatale Eva Marie Saint, and the fact that Grant goes from one side of the country to the other, eventually scaling down Mount Rushmore, and you’ve got one of the greatest spy (and Alfred Hitchcock) movies ever made. THE TWIST: George Kaplan is a fake CIA identity that does not exist.

 

“Session 9” (2001) – David Caruso plays Phil, a member of a HazMat clean-up crew. When the crew (led by Peter Mullan) get the contract to clean the abandoned Danvers State Mental Hospital, things are going okay. For about a day. When Hank (Josh Lucas) disappears one night, things go to hell quickly. When Hank returns with a knife stuck inside his eye socket and repeating words, “What are you doing here?” you know that it could only get worse. However, the major star of the movie was the hospital itself. It’s something you have to see to believe… THE TWIST: Gordon (Mullan) kills everyone, supposedly being “possessed” by Simon.

 

“Dark City” (1998) – Rufus Sewell wakes up and remembers… nothing. He doesn’t know his name and he receives a mysterious phone call from Dr. Schreber (Keifer Sutherland) saying that he’s in danger and has got to leave his apartment. Sewell eventually finds that his name is John and he’s on the run from cops who think he murdered some prostitutes, his girlfriend who cheated on him, and a group of alien beings that control the city by making everyone sleep while they make “adjustments,” led by Richard O’Brien. And it’s nighttime. All the time. THE TWIST: The entire city is floating out in space.

 

“The Usual Suspects” (1995) – Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey) is the only criminal left after a boat heist that went wrong. Verbal was one of five criminals hired to payback their dues. As he narrates the tale to Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri), he mentions the name Keyser Soze. The tale weaves and wraps around this mysterious figure, who is all but a myth. “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he doesn’t exist.” THE TWIST: Kevin Spacey IS Keyser Soze.

 

“Cube” (1997) – Independent sci-fi fare about a group of people who wake in a room. They’re trapped in a gigantic object that rotates around, opening new rooms and closing others, as well as opening to room that have wire that can cut through you, fire, poison gas, etc. No one knows who built it, no one knows who runs it, but everyone is trying to find a way out. One of the best mystery/sci-fi movies of the Nineties. THE TWIST: The only person to make it out is the person who can’t say anything (he’s mentally handicapped).

11
Jun
08

Movie News and Views June 11, 2008

 

The latest and greatest… Not a lot worth reporting, but here goes.

 

         “Iron Man 2” – Apparently, Marvel wants to start shooting next year and release the movie in 2010. Add to that the fact that the CEO doesn’t want to pay director Jon Favreau the regular director’s fare, which is great when the guy took a pay cut to make a movie for Marvel that has now grossed near $1 billion. According to other sources, Marvel thinks that “Iron Man” sequels will stand on their own, irregardless of the director. Yeah, right. Let’s not forget the fact that it took almost 3 years for this movie to come out. Why spend three years when you can do it in 1? Quality assurance I’m sure…

         A stuntman was killed on the set of John Woo’s new movie, “Red Cliff.”

         Sony/Columbia Pictures have now signed to do a movie based on “The Smurfs.” Insert your own “Smurfy” comment here.

         “Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen” has commenced production.

         Will there be a “Spider-Man 4?” The studios are asking for it, and a script is being written. Closed-door talks are underway with the main subject being possible “re-casting.” Sam Raimi is quoted as saying that he would like to direct again…

         Pixar is gearing-up for “John Carpenter from Mars,” based on the character created by Edgar Burroughs.

         Leo DiCaprio is going to play Atari founder Nolan Bushnell. No word if yet if he has to do research by spending hours playing “Pong.”

         “Capricorn One” is the next to go through the Hollywood Remake Machine.

         F. Gary Gray will be directing the new Marvin Gaye biopic.

         Ben Kinglsey will play the main villain in the new “Prince of Persia” movie (based off the videogame).

         Adam Sandler has now created a horror division called Scary Madison so he can produce his new movie, “Shortcut.” It’s about two brothers who find the perfect shortcut in their congested town until they find out why it’s never been used before…

         Guy Ritchie (the patron saint of “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch”) will be re-booting the Sherlock Holmes franchise.

         Brian DePalma will be helming a movie about the “Boston Stranglers.”

         “Halloween 2” is looking for a new director.

10
Jun
08

Queen at the Movies (a Top 5 list)

The British rock band Queen, lead by late singer Freddie Mercury, contributed some of the most popular and memorable music to the world from the 1970’s to the 1990’s. Whether you were at a sports game and heard “We Will Rock You,” or “Another One Bites the Dust,” or sat through “Highlander” (which they soundtracked), Queen’s presence in pop culture has been widely acknowledged. Today, I list the Top Five Uses of Queen Music in the Movies:

 

“Blades of Glory” (2007) – Will Ferrell and Jon Heder are ice skaters who hatch a plan to resurrect their careers by joining up for a “couples” ice skating event. While you know this is a Will Ferrell movie (and that he’s gonna find a way to win) the actual surprise (or maybe not) was their choice for the music to skate to: Queen’s “Flash” theme (for the movie “Flash Gordon”). The bass drum and piano chord opening made the entire scene worth it.

 

“Shaun of the Dead” (2004) – When Shaun (Simon Pegg) and his friends are holed-up in the Winchester Bar, Shaun finds that not only does he have to fight off the undead outside, but the bar’s owners are undead and they’re inside. The jukebox kicks on and begins playing Queen’s, “Don’t Stop Me Now,” and Shaun and friends are beating the male owner of the Winchester on the head with sticks and shovels, while his girlfriend and mom sit on the side bopping along to the music. “Kill the Queen!” “What?!?” “The jukebox!” Good double-entendre there.

 

“Grosse Pointe Blank” (1997) – Martin Blank (John Cusack) returns to his hometown from a 10-year sojourn and is sent to kill the father of his love interest (Minnie Driver), as well as watching out for a hitman sent to kill him, Federal Agents, and rival hitman Dan Akyroyd. In one scene he attends his 10-year high school reunion and is talking with a former classmate who introduces him to her kid. Martin stares at the kid, possibly pondering the miracle of life. Enter Queen’s “Under Pressure.”

 

“Iron Eagle” (1986) – When Col. Ted Masters (Tim Thomerson) is caught and taken hostage in the Middle East, it’s up to his son Doug (Jason Gedrick) and friend Chappy Sinclair (Louis Gossett, Jr.) to hack into computers, scramble some jets, and complete a covert rescue mission. And when you’re blowing up bad guys and their equipment, you may find yourself kicking-on your cassette player and dispensing justice via Queen’s “One Vision.” Just maybe.

 

“Wayne’s World” (1992) – It’s just another day in the life of Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) and pal Garth Algar (Dana Carvey). When they go to pick some friends of their up, what music is better to blast in the Mirthmobile than Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody?” A huge song in the UK upon its original release, the song did moderately okay in the United States. With its use in “Wayne’s World,” the song’s re-release shot it to #1 on the Billboard Charts. “Magnifi-co-oh-oh-oh…”

09
Jun
08

Five, Top Five: My Fave Bond Films

“Goldfinger” (1965) – Following “Dr. No,” “Goldfinger” was Sean Connery’s second outing as Bond in a film that, in my opinion, was far better. Bond deals with megalomaniac Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe), who plans to contaminate the gold at Fort Knox, with the help of his assistant (with the razor Bowler hat) Oddjob (Harold Sakata) and private pilot Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman). Besides becoming the measure of Bond films and inciting homages/clichés, this film has one of the most memorable cinematic scenes: Bond is strapped to a lead table with a laser cutting towards his genitals. He exclaims, “Do you expect me to talk?” Goldfinger (walking away) stops and replies, “No Mister Bond, I expect you to die.” Classic.

Useless trivia: the replica of Fort Knox is currently house in the Patton Museum, located in Fort Knox. Also, Gert Frobe could not speak English. He mouthed/said the words to the best of his ability and someone else supplied the voice for Goldfinger.

 

“The Man with the Golden Gun” (1974) – Roger Moore was Bond this time around and like my previous selection, this was Moore’s second Bond film (“Live and Let Die” the first). Bond is sent to track down Scaramanga (my FAVORITE Bond Villain, played by Christopher Lee), an assassin who kills for a million bucks-a-pop with a single bullet made from gold with the target’s name on it. Although he has a third nipple, Scaramanga has done well for himself in keeping posh surroundings on a private island with midget security force of Nick Nack (Herve Villechaize). Bond travels to meet Scaramanga and their ensuing fight is in a surrealistic room.

Useless trivia: the room where Scaramanga killed his victims was designed by Surrealist artist Salvador Dali.

 

“The Living Daylights” (1987) – My favorite Bond movie of all time, “TLD” marked the beginning Bond movie for Timothy Dalton (whose Bond career would finish with “License to Kill”). When Russian agent Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbe) wants to defect to the West, he enlists the help of British Intelligence to get him out, asking for Bond especially. Bond is sent to kill an “assassin” who turns out to be Koskov’s girlfriend (Maryam d’Abo). Taking her along for the ride they cross continents pursuing Koskov and finding out that he’s working with washed-up American arms dealer General Whittaker (Joe Don Baker). This was hands down one of the best Bond stories. Favorite quote: “We have nothing to declare.” “Except this cello!”

Useless trivia: Timothy Dalton was originally cast for the role. He was working on “Brenda Starr,” and pulled out. Producers then went to Pierce Brosnan who wanted to do it, but contractual obligations with “Remington Steele” forbade him from participating. The Producers went back to Dalton who was delayed in working on “Brenda Starr,” which allowed for him to be able to film.

 

“Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997) – Another example of an actor’s second Bond outing being better than the first. This time Pierce Brosnan was able to helm the superspy as he went against megalomaniac media mogul Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) whose plan for world domination was by controlling the news, and by inciting a war between China and Britain. Helping Bond to save the world is Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh), a Chinese secret agent who can hold her own and whose gadgets can go against Q’s any day. Throw in better action sequences than “GoldenEye,” Terri Hatcher as a “Bond girl,” and one of the best Bond themes (done by Sheryl Crow) this is another of the Best Bond movies (with the exception of the villain).

Useless trivia: This was the first movie produced by Barbara Broccoli, wife of Albert Broccoli. Albert passed away after the release of “GoldenEye.”

 

“Casino Royale” (2006) – Not to be confused with the 1967 “Casino Royale” (taking the title and James Bond name) but more in line with the 1954 TV version, Bond went blonde with actor Daniel Craig. Needing to “re-boot” the franchise after the failures of “The World is not Enough,” and “Die Another Day,” “Casino Royale” was the blood-transfusion the cinema doctor ordered. Craig played the pre-Bond: no gadgets, no fancy one-lines, non-suave, and definitely rough around the edges. He teams up with Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) to prevent Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), a banker to world terrorist groups, from winning at the Casino Royale. With non-stop action sequences (I almost needed an oxygen tank to watch it in the theater) and a great theme by Chris Cornell (of Soundgarden and Audioslave fame) I can’t recommend this movie enough.

Useless trivia: Daniel Craig is the only actor to play James Bond who was not alive when “Dr. No” was released. In fact, being born in 1968, he missed the releases of “From Russia With Love,” Goldfinger,” “Thunderball,” and “You Only Live Twice.” It is possible that his parents took him to see “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (w/ George Lazenby.