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The Top Twenty Movies of 2015 — Part Two!

Yesterday I began my list of the Top Twenty Movies of 2015, listing numbers twenty through sixteen.  Now, on with my list!

Celebrity Sightings In New York City - July 16, 2014

15. Trainwreck A perfect vehicle for Amy Schumer (who wrote the film, in addition to starring in it) and a wonderful combination of her very specific comedic sensibilities with those of director Judd Apatow, it’s no surprise that Trainwreck was a breakout hit for Ms. Schumer.  That a raunchy comedy can have a woman as the lead shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is.  The film is hugely funny and elevated by a spectacular cast including Bill Hader, Colin Quinn, Brie Larson, Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller, Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, a who-knew-he-could-be-so-funnt LeBron James, and many more.  But the film is Ms. Schumer’s show and she crushes it from start to finish.  Trainwreck would be higher on my list if it didn’t fall into a few romantic-comedy cliches in the third act, but it’s hard to criticize a film that is so joyously funny and filthy.  (Click here for my original review.)

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14. Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation I still can’t believe how much better this film wound up being that this year’s James Bond installment Spectre Both films are about our super-spy hero uncovering a super-secret criminal organization that, it turns out, is responsible for most of the acts of terror happening around the world.  Both are globe-hopping action-adventure stories, both feature our hero assisted by a small cadre of allies and meeting a woman who shares the adventure.  And yet Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation crushes Spectre in every way.  I just re-watched Rogue Nation last week, and I was again bowled over by what a fun, thrilling roller-coaster-ride it was.  Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie has a perfect command of tone, creating a film that is a ridiculously entertaining romp that also has serious physical and emotional stakes for our heroes.  The film is gorgeous to look at and extremely well-edited.  The action sequences are spectacular.  That Tom Cruise hanging-off-an-airplane stunt that opens the film got everyone’s attention, and rightly so.  The sequence is magnificent.  (And once again an example of this Mission: Impossible film out-Bonding Bond, as this opening action sequence — a Bond-movie trademark — is far more memorable than anything in Spectre.)  But there are so many other amazing action sequences in the film, from the extraordinary opera fight, to the underwater break-in, to that last big shoot-out-and-chase through the streets of London, and don’t forget my favorite: the escalatingly crazy car-and-motorcycle chase in-and-around Morocco.  Making great use of the ensemble from the last two M:I films (including Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, and Ving Rhames) … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Crimson Peak

A new film by Guillermo del Toro is always a source of great excitement for me.  Add to that the idea of Mr. del Toro, a master of horror and fantasy, involved in a haunted house movie?  Delicious.  Crimson Peak has not been successful at the box office, which is a shame because it is a great film, original, clever, gorgeously made, and with some wonderful performances, particularly by the lead trio of Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, and Jessica Chastain.  While the film does not approach the quality of Mr. del Toro’s masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth, it’s nonetheless a terrific film and a wonderful story.

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Young Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) has been raised by her businessman/architect father after the death of her mother when she was just a girl.  Edith dreams of being a writer, but has thus far found only rejection.  Though she has a friendship with a handsome young physician (Charlie Hunnam), she finds herself wooed by a visiting British aristocrat, Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), who has come to America looking for Edith’s father to invest in his inventions.  But Sir Thomas and his sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain), are hiding a secret, one which will threaten Edith’s life when she joins Sir Thomas and Lucille back in their ancient mansion home, nicknamed Crimson Peak by the locals.

What I love most about the films of Guillermo del Toro is the way that each is an utterly original creation and a fully realized fantasy world.  Each film of Mr. del Toro’s is a peek (no pun intended) into an entirely original universe, with its own rules and unique characters and situations, into all of which Mr. del Toro digs deeply.  Each of his films benefits from an enormous amount of thought and care paid to the world-building of that particular story.  I love this feeling of stepping into a fully-realized universe of the film, one which exists beyond the boundaries of the particular story being told in that film.

Mr. del Toro is also a master at tying the fantastic elements of his stories to real, human characters, who are always the center of his films, no matter how wonderful the ghosts or monsters or other fantasy creations in the film are.  (As much as I enjoyed seeing Mr. del Toro operate with the first huge budget of his career with Pacific Rim, that film stumbled because it lacked Mr. del Toro’s usual sharp focus on character.)  Though Crimson Peak is also a decently-budgeted film (it is listed on-line at a budget of $55 million, which is a lot more money than many of Mr. del Toro’s earlier films but a tiny pittance compared to most big-budget blockbusters … [continued]

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The Top 15 Movies of 2013 — Part One!

Hello, everyone!  I have been working very hard over the past several weeks to prepare all of my annual Best of 2013 lists!  First up: my list of the Top 15 Movies of 2013!

I saw a lot of movies in 2013, and in particular, over the past month-or-so I have been scrambling to see not only all of the big end-of-the-year releases, but also to try to catch up on as many 2013 movies that I had missed as possible.  Even so, there are still a number of 2013 films that I just wasn’t able to find the time to see, including but not limited to: Saving Mr. Banks, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Only God Forgives, Short Term 12, Stories We Tell, Prince Avalanche, Nebraska, Rush, Under The Skin, and more.  I also have yet to see Spike Jonze’s new film Her, which hasn’t been released here in the Boston area as of this writing.  (It opened in NYC and LA at the very end of December, but wasn’t released anywhere else until this week.  Though many people included Her on their end-of-the-year best-of lists, I sort of feel like, if I enjoy it, it should go on 2014’s list!  But we’ll see.)  So, anyways, if you loved one of those films and wish it was on my list, my apologies!

There were a lot of movies that I enjoyed in 2013 that didn’t make this list.  These include: Blue Jasmine, Captain Phillips, All is Lost, Man of Steel, The Heat, Elysium, Machete Kills, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Frances Ha, The Kings of Summer, 42, The Bling Ring, and others.  (That last bunch of films were among the many movies I watched in the last few weeks, as part of my “Catching Up on 2013” project.  I hope to post reviews of all those films, and more, on the site in the coming weeks.)

But for now, without any further delay, let’s dive into my list of the Top 15 Movies of 2013!

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15. Drew: The Man Behind the Poster This is the very last film I saw, just last week, before making my final decisions about this list.  It’s a documentary about the extraordinarily-talented Drew Struzan, one of if not the very best movie poster illustrators who ever lived.  Mr. Struzan has illustrated so many iconic movie posters: for all of the Back to the Future films, for all of the Indiana Jones films, and for many of the Star Wars films (one of the posters for the original film, the iconic original Revenge of the Jedi poster, and all of the posters … [continued]

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Want to loose an hour of your life?  Spend some time reading through the comments section of this article that poses the question: what is the single best episode of any genre TV show ever?  I don’t agree with all the responses, of course, but I agree with a LOT of ’em… and they all make me want to devote the next year of my life to go-ing back and re-watching all of my favorite sci-fi shows…!!

Can you believe The Simpsons is entering its 25th season???  That is just insane!  Here is a great interview with current Simpsons show-runner Al Jean.  I have about two years’ worth of Simpsons episodes sitting unwatched in my Tivo queue.  I still love The Simpsons but somewhere along the line I just lost my eagerness to see the new episodes as they aired each week… and now it’s been many, many months since I have watched one of the latest episodes.  It’s hard for me to believe this has happened!  Maybe this will get me excited for the show again: the news that Guillermo del Toro directed the opening couch gag segment of this year’s Treehouse of Horror episode, that aired last night.  Cool.  I haven’t watched the episode yet, but it just might be time to dip into my queue and check it out!  Click here to watch the entire opening segment, and to hear more from Guillermo del Toro about creating that elaborate sequence.

This is interesting: Pixar’s in-development film The Good Dinosaur has had its release date pushed back by A YEAR AND A HALF.  Wow.   That means that 2014 will be the first year without a new Pixar film since 2005.  On the one hand, I am pleased to see a major studio taking the time to get a movie done right, rather than rushing to meet a release date.  On the other hand, while I don’t know the full story, I feel badly for the original director, Bob Peterson, who was removed off the film he had helped to create and develop.

From J.W. Rinzler’s upcoming book The Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, io9 has collected a fascinating (oops, wrong Star franchise) list of 10 things you probably didn’t know about Return of the Jedi.  This is a must-read for all Star Wars fans.  Speaking of Star Wars and i09, I also love their list of the 9 least-competent Jedi.  I don’t know anything about the expanded universe characters, but they’re certainly right on the money about Qui-Gon Jin.  (And Ben Kenobi.  And Yoda.  And Luke.)

I’ve been very critical of Star Trek Into Darkness on this site.  … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Pacific Rim!

The first feature film adaptation of Hellboy back in 2004 was my introduction to Guillermo del Toro.  I have subsequently watched all of his films (except Blade 2 — I just have absolutely no interest in those Wesley Snipes Blade films) and pretty much loved every one of them.  Through the magic of DVDs/blu-rays, it has been great fun to track Mr. del Toro’s progression from his smaller-scale Spanish films, Cronos (click here for my review) and The Devil’s Backbone (click here for my review) to a slightly larger budget and canvas with Hellboy, Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (click here for my review), and the magnificent Pan’s Labyrinth, which right now stands tall as my very favorite of Mr. del Toro’s films.

But it’s been quite a while since Mr. Del Toro has helmed a new film.  He spent years developing The Hobbit films with Peter Jackson, only to withdraw from being their director when it seems that the films would never emerge from legal limbo.  He then turned to the development of what he described as a dream project, an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, but after about another year pursuing that project, it too fell through.  Ironically, the Peter Jackson-directed The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey made it to theaters before Mr. del Toro’s new film.

That new film is Pacific Rim.  It is a movie that comes tantalizingly close to greatest, but unfortunately falls short.

Pacific Rim is a movie about giant monsters fighting giant robots.  If that premise excites you, then despite the film’s flaws, you are going to enjoy this movie — particularly if you see it on the largest movie theater screen possible.  If that premise sounds boring to you, then this is a movie you should skip.

Pacific Rim brings to big-budget life the Japanese genre of Kaiju — big monsters.  Godzilla would be the most famous Kailua, but there are many many Kaiju films featuring many many different Kaiju.  Clearly Guillermo del Toro was a fan, because what he  has done is create a love letter to this type of film, taking the b-movie “man in suit” concepts and translating them to big-budget action spectacle.  I have read a few breathless internet reviews of Pacific Rim that compare the scale of the world-building in the film to that of Star Wars.  I like Pacific Rim, but I think that’s way over the top.  However, Pacific Rim does remind me of Star Wars in the way that both films have taken old-fashioned, b-movie concepts, re-mixed them, and brought them to life using cutting-edge special effects.

In the world of Pacific Rim, a mysterious … [continued]

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First of all: Arrested Development.  Sadly for me, life has intervened and, despite my years-long anticipation, I have not yet seen a single second of the new Netflix season.  But rest assured, friends, that very shortly I will be devouring these new episodes and I will be back here, of course, with my detailed thoughts.  Hopefully very soon!!

This will take some time to read, but boy is it worth it: the Onion A.V. Club’s in-depth, career-spanning interview with comedian Patton Oswalt.

I wasn’t nearly as in love with Skyfall as the rest of the world seemed to be (click here for my original review), but I am excited by the news that, contrary to reports from late last year, Sam Mendes just might return to direct the next Bond film.  I hope that happens.  No let’s bring back QUANTUM and make them a real, SPECTRE-like threat to Bond!

This is hilarious and I have never loved George Takei more.  Click here to see Mr. Takei’s written responses to various bigoted anti-gay marriage protesters.

Speaking of Star Trek, I love this piece about a non-Star Trek fan who discovered Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  I still feel strongly that the under-loved Deep Space Nine is the strongest of the Star Trek series.  Sigh.  I miss the days of great new Star Trek on TV every week…!

Still speaking of Star Trek, this is a fantastic piece that dissects crazy, ill-advised efforts that J.J. Abrams went to in order to mislead folks (OK, flat-out lie) about the identity of the character Benedict Cumberbatch was playing in Star Trek Into Darkness.  I was tremendously disappointed by the Trek sequel (click here for my review) and this article supports and further fleshes out many of the points I made in my review.

I posted the first teaser for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show, but I don’t think I ever posted the longer, three-minute version.  Check it out.

Same goes for this deliriously huge trailer for Guillermo del Toro’s new film Pacific Rim.  This was released a few weeks ago already, but if you haven’t seen it yet, you should take a look:

I lamented the cancellation of Star Wars: The Clone Wars a few weeks ago, so I am happy to see that many of that show’s key creative players are involved in a new, in-the-works Star Wars animated project, set between Episodes III and IV.  I still feel terribly disappointed that the Clone Wars story was cut off unfinished.  Dare I hope that this new series will resurrect some unfinished story-threads and characters from the Clone Wars series…?

I’ll leave … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

Well, I had less-than-happy things to say last week about the teaser posters for Star Trek into Dark Knight (ahem, Into Darkness) and Man of Steel. But both films have shut me up for now by unveiling pretty awesome teaser trailers, first Trek and now Man of Steel:

http://youtu.be/KVu3gS7iJu4

That’s a pretty fantastic trailer.  I’m not wild about having to sit through Superman’s origin yet again, but so far it looks like it’s being presented with class, and with some new imagery.  I am a bit surprised that this Zack Snyder Superman trailer is so light on action.  I had assumed that the reason to hire Zack Snyder to direct your Superman picture would be so it’d be chock-full of great super-hero/super-villain punch-em-ups.  But so far both trailers for Man of Steel have struck the same reverential tone as Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns. I loved Superman Returns (I know, I am the only one) so this doesn’t bother me, it’s just a bit surprising.

Here’s another awesome trailer, for Guillermo del Toro’s long-awaited next film.  It seems to be about giant monsters fighting giant robots.  I am there.

I am not a huge kaiju fan, but I did grow up watching Tranzor Z on American TV (a Japanese cartoon about a huge robot piloted by a young boy who controlled the robot from a control-ship in the robot’s head) so I’m down with the whole people-controlling-huge-robots-to-fight-evil sub-genre.  And with del Toro at the helm, I think we’re assured of some spectacular action and weirdness.

Here’s another interesting trailer, for Oblivion:

OK, Tom Cruise is playing Wall-E and Morgan Freeman is playing Morpheus, but that could be interesting.  Original sci-fi = good.  From the director of Tron: Legacy = worrisome.  We’ll see…

With The Hobbit so close I can taste it, here’s a great article on the ways in which J.R.R. Tolkien pulled a George Lucas and ret-conned his original version of The Hobbit after writing The Lord of the Rings.

Sticking with Peter Jackson for a moment, this is very pleasant news that he is still planning on directing a second Tintin film!  (The plan was always that Steven Spielberg would direct the first film with Peter Jackson producing, and then they would swap roles for the second film.  But with Mr. Jackson working on The Hobbit for the past few years, I had thought that plan had been abandoned.  I loved the first Tintin so I’d be delighted to see a sequel…!)

Someone made a bookshelf shaped like the Guardian of Forever??  Why is this not in my home right now???

That’s all for me today, my friends.  Sorry the Skyfall cartoons have been a bit … [continued]

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The Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2011!

Click here for my list of the Top 15 Movies of 2011: part one, part two, and part three, and here for my list of the Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2011: part one, and part two.

Now let’s dig into my list of the Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2011!

10.  The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret: Series One As a huge fan of Arrested Development, this six-episode IFC series that reunited Will Arnett (Gob Bluth) and David Cross (Tobias Funke) was something of a disappointment.  More agonizingly awkward than actually funny, it’s on this list because that fact that this weird, short little series exists at all on DVD is one of the reasons that I love this format!  I had missed this series when it aired on IFC, so I was so pleased that it was released on DVD.  The show isn’t without merit, but it’s nowhere near the genius of the late, great (and now possible resurrected!) Arrested Development.

9.  Marvel’s super-hero movie blu-rays: Thor, Captain America: The First Adventure, and X-Men: First Class I praised these three Marvel super-hero movies in my list of the Top 10 Movies of 2011, and I was equally taken by their blu-ray releases.  Not only do all three films look absolutely gorgeous on blu-ray, but all three are accompanied by some fairly in-depth featurettes exploring all aspects of the films’ production.  None of these are super-elaborate special editions, and I do wish that, for all of these films, the featurettes had been edited together into one longer, comprehensive making-of documentary.  But these are very, very solid releases, with a lot for fans of these films to dig into.  Extra props for the wonderful “Marvel One-Shot” shorts included on the Thor and Captain America discs, that further connect the Marvel films leading up to The Avengers.

8.  Louie: Season 1 I’d been reading about this show for a while, and having now finally watched the season one set I can say that this show deserves all the praise it’s been getting, and more.  In it’s structure, the show resembles Seinfeld: clips of Louie C. K. performing stand-up are intercut with vignettes of his life.  But in other respects the show is the exact opposite of Seinfeld.  Whereas on Seinfeld all of the story-lines would wind up beautifully dovetailing by the end, on Louie the individual scenes on the show often have little or nothing to do with one another.  We’ll watch a seven-minute sequence of Louie and his buddies playing poker, and then after some more stand-up we’ll shift to an entirely different scene … [continued]

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From the DVD Shelf: Mimic (The Director’s Cut)

I had previously seen Mimic once, back when it was originally released to theatres in 1997.  I think I went to see it because the trailers looked interestingly creepy, and because I had so enjoyed Charles S. Dutton in Alien 3.  (I still think that Mr. Dutton is one of the best aspects of that sadly misguided Alien sequel.)  I remember thinking Mimic was OK, but it wasn’t a film I was ever drawn to re-watch.

Years later, when I began to discover the films of Guillermo del Toro, and I realized that he had directed Mimic, I began to think it might be interesting to go back and re-watch the film.  That desire to rediscover an early del Toro film was counteracted by what I’d periodically read or hear, in interviews with Mr. del Toro, about how difficult an experience making Mimic was for him, and how many of the decisions represented in the finished film did not at all represent his intentions.

I started hearing rumors, a few years ago, about a possible director’s cut of Mimic, and so I was thrilled when this was finally released to DVD and blu-ray this past summer!  It’s rare — and so always a cause for celebration — to see a filmmaker given an opportunity to go back and try to restore a film that was taken away from them (I’m thinking of the Richard Donner version of Superman II as one example — click here for my review).  As Mr. del Toro describes in the DVD’s special features, there were many things that he had wanted to film but was unable to, so many aspects of his original plans for the film are not represented in this new director’s cut.  What he has done is to go back and trim out much of the second-unit footage that was included in the original edit, footage which he did not direct.  He was also able to re-incorporate into the film many scenes and plot-threads that had been excised from the theatrical cut.  The result, Mr. del Toro describes, is a film that is as close to “his” as we’re ever going to get.

Mimic is, at its heart, a B-movie.  (The plot does involve bugs that grow to mimic humans!)  Mr. del Toro readily admits that in his commentary, and he discusses how his filmmaking strategy has always been to elevate B-movie ideas by taking them 100% seriously and applying as much care as he possibly can in the telling of those stories.  It’s a technique that has served Mr. del Toro very well.  Mimic, though, even in this new director’s cut, never really breaks out of it’s B-movie essence.  … [continued]

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From the DVD Shelf: Cronos (1993)

I really enjoyed the two Hellboy movies directed by Guillermo del Toro, and the exquisite Pan’s Labyrinth made me a fan of his for life.  Last year I tracked down his 2001 Spanish-language horror film The Devil’s Backbone, which I really enjoyed (you can read my review here), and I was delighted when, a few months ago, the fine folks at the Criterion Collection released a beautiful new edition of Mr. del Toro’s 1993 debut film, Cronos.

Jesus Gris is an elderly antiques dealer.  One day in his shop with his granddaughter Aurora, he discovers an ancient, scarab-shaped amulet hidden in an old relic.  The amulet turns out to be a powerful device that offers its user the promise of immortality — but at a great cost.  When Jesus inadvertently allows the scarab to prick him, he quickly finds himself drawn into a nightmare in which his humanity seems to rapidly spiral out of his reach.

Cronos is an impressive achievement for a first-time writer and director.  (Mr. del Toro wrote the script in addition to directing the film.)  While it’s clear that many of the ideas and stylistic techniques that Mr. del Toro would hone in his future films are, as yet, unpolished, Cronos is still a very competently made horror film.  There are some genuine scares in the film, and some suitably gross makeup effects.  But Cronos isn’t just a film designed to make you jump or squirm.  As with much of Mr. del Toro’s work, there’s a fascinating, original story that drives the film.  The kindly Jesus’ descent into, well, into events that I won’t spoil for you here, is tragic because of Mr. del Toro’s skill at establishing characters who you really care about.  I’m also continually impressed by the originality of Mr. del Toro’s stories and designs.  The scarab device and the other creatures and effects in the film are all singularly unique creations that aren’t in any way derivative of other films or other stories.  I was totally surprised when, late in the film, it becomes apparent that this story is actually Mr. del Toro’s take on a familiar genre of horror.  But because his approach to that genre was so new and clever, I wasn’t able to predict where the film was going at all.  Even in his first film, it’s clear that Guillermo del Toro possesses an unparalleled imagination, and the skill to bring his unique imaginings to the screen.

As with The Devil’s Backbone, I wasn’t at all bothered by having to watch this Spanish-lamguage film using the subtitles.  The story and imagery are so strong that the subtitles weren’t an impediment at all to my engagement … [continued]

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News Around the Net!

This is a pretty funny assemblage of 1980’s movie references.  Don’t miss Topher Grace’s dynamite Marty McFly impersonation that comes at around 2:30.

I was sad to read of the passing of famed composer John Barry. He’s responsible for so many pieces of iconic James Bond related music, it’s staggering.  He wrote the scores for eleven Bond films, including Goldfinger and From Russia With Love.

In happier Bond news, is it possible that Javier Bardem will be the villain in the next Bond film?  James Bond vs. Anton Chigurh?  What an inspired idea!

In even-happier-than-that Bond news, comes this casting possibility.  I really hope these casting rumors pan out!  I’m very excited with the way Bond 23 looks to be shaping up so far…

Click here to read The New Yorker‘s fantastic profile of Guillermo del Toro.  It’s a lengthy piece, stuffed full of delicious tidbits of information on the many projects that he has in the hopper (and some — like The Hobbit with him as director — that sadly will never be).  I really hope that his adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness actually happens.

I’m a dreamer, and I dare to dream that someday we’ll get another awesome X-Men movie.  (I adored X-Men and X2, but was disappointed by X3 and thought X-Men Origins: Wolverine was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.)  I’m starting to think it just might be happening when I read articles like this about The Wolverine, the upcoming film directed by Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Black Swan), written by Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects), and based upon Chris Claremont & Frank Miller’s famous, amazing Wolverine mini-series from 1982, set in Japan.  My hopes are VERY high for this one, gentlemen.  Please don’t let me down!

The moment I knew was coming has arrived: Brandon Routh is officially not playing Superman in Zack Snyder’s upcoming film.  Readers of this site know that I am a fierce defender of Superman Returns, and in particular I thought Mr. Routh was phenomenal as Clark Kent/Superman.  I totally understand that Mr. Snyder wants to set his film apart from Bryan Singer’s film, but I’m still really disappointed that we’re not going to get a whole series of films with Mr. Routh in the lead.  It’s a big disappointment.

And, I must add, this rumor that Jessica Biel is up for the role of Lois Lane has me VERY worried.  Urgh, that’s a terrible idea.  But then I read that that Jessica Biel rumor is just that — a rumor.  OK, whew, I thought, bullet dodged.  But then I read … [continued]

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Have you heard that they’re making new Looney Tunes cartoons to show theatrically?  Check out this glimpse of the first new Road Runner cartoon in far too many years:

Battlestar Galactica lives on!  Rumors are that SyFy are working on an on-line BSG spin-off, tentatively titled “Blood and Chrome” that would depict a young Bill Adama during the first Cylon War.  I LOVED the glimpse at a young “Husker” Adama that we got in Razor, and would LOVE to see more.  I hope this comes to pass!

I’ve been reading for years about the Alamo Drafthouse’s Rolling Roadshow film series, in which famous films are screened in a location connected in some way with the film.  It’s always sounded like a cool idea, and these special posters for the upcoming tour are just phenomenal.  I love movie posters, and these are about the coolest posters I’ve seen in a long, long while.

If there’s one sliver of a silver lining from MGM’s financial woes forcing Guillermo del Toro to leave the in-development Hobbit films, its the announcement that he’ll next be directing an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s Mountains of Madness, a project that del Toro has been talking about for years.  Should be awesome.

As readers of the site are probably well aware, I am one of the few people on Earth who unabashedly loved Superman Returns.  So I wholeheartedly second this plea from CHUD that Brandon Routh be allowed to reprise his role as Clark Kent/Superman in the next Superman film.  I thought Routh was pretty much perfect, and I would be thrilled to see him continue.

Speaking of superheroes, I’m sure you’ve all heard about the official announcement of The Avengers‘ cast and line-up at Comic-Con last weekHere are some more details from the panel.  Pretty astounding cast, if you ask me, and I think Joss Whedon is a perfect choice as director.  Now please please please don’t screw this up, gang!!

Here are some fascinating reports from the Thor panel & footage from Comic-Con, as well as the Captain America panel.  I cannot wait to see some actual footage from these two films.  I really hope Marvel is able to pull these movies off.

Behold The Infinity Gauntlet!!  Awesome.

OK, enough Marvel, let’s talk DC!  I was very underwhelmed by our first look at Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern, but I love this peek at Sinestro.

Lost‘s Damon Lindeloff is re-writing the Alien prequel that Ridley Scott is directing? Pretty cool.

If they ever actually make another Judge Dredd movie, I love the idea of Karl Urban under the helmet.

Some interesting TV [continued]

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“Que Es Un Fantasma?” Josh Reviews The Devil’s Backbone!

I really enjoyed his two Hellboy films, but it was the beautiful, wonderful Pan’s Labyrinth that made me a fan of Guillermo del Toro for life.

Since I think so highly of his recent films, I decided it was high time that I sought out some of his older works.  Which lead me to The Devil’s Backbone, del Toro’s Spanish-language film from 2001.

As was Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone is set during the Spanish Civil War.  As the movie opens, a twelve-year-old orphan named Carlos is left at an orphanage in the middle of nowhere.  As Carlos struggles to settle in to his new home and find his place amongst the boys there (some of whom are friendly, and some of whom are cruel) and the stern adults (all of whom have their own stories and their own problems), he discovers what he believes to be “the one who sighs,” the ghost of a missing boy named Santi.  As the Spanish Civil War lurches towards its conclusion, the plight of everyone at the orphanage becomes more dire, and the terrible secrets of what happened to Santi at last come to light.

Del Toro is a master at combining emotional, character-driven stories with a touch of the fantastic.  Pan’s Labyrinth might be his masterpiece in this area (so far), but The Devil’s Backbone gives that film quite a run for its money.  Right from it’s opening moments it is gripping and genuinely creepy.  This isn’t a film that is all about special effects or big “money shots” of monsters and creatures.  No, it’s a story about desperate people in extraordinarily difficult circumstances.  The supernatural element is almost secondary — which, to me, is what makes that supernatural element so effective when it enters the story.

As I watched this film it became clear to me that del Toro has quite a way with child actors.  Just as Ivana Baquero was so terrific as Ofelia in Pan’s Labyrinth, young Fernando Tielve is quite compelling here as Carlos.  So much of the film’s story rests on his shoulders, and he is just terrific. And he’s not alone.  There’s a large group of boys of varying ages at the orphanage, all of whom are very engaging.  The kids all feel real, and each boy has a distinct character and personality.  This is quite a feat.

I am not a fan of horror films, generally.  Scary, violent movies are a dime a dozen these days at one’s local cineplex.  But don’t dismiss The Devil’s Backbone because of all those other terrible films.  This is a terrific, engaging, unique story, and one that I can’t wait to watch again.

In the mean-time, … [continued]