film

Movie Pitch: DOOM (REBOOT)

Way back in 2005 there was an adaption of the infamous video game property DOOM starring Dwayne Johnson and Karl Urban. That film ended up being a commercial and critical failure earning only a paltry 56 million (worldwide total) on a 60 million budget. The major problem with the film, in my opinion, was that it diverted from the simplistic and satisfying nature that made the games so fun. Instead the story placed the focus on a search and rescue mission wherein a squad of space marines are sent to Mars and discover that the monsters of the film are actually scientific aberrations created by infecting the humans of the Martian site with a Martian chromosome synthesized from the bones of a long forgotten genetically advanced race. What? Where are the demons from Hell? The film gave more questions in the end than answers, and it wasn’t paying homage to the true spirit of the games at all. Now, if I were given the opportunity to draft a reboot of the property I’d follow the basic blueprints from the recent video game update in 2016.

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The basic plot of the story is that in the future we humans became entrenched in an energy crisis, so, the solution that we came up with was to build a technical facility on Mars that houses a portal to Hell where we siphon the dark energy from the demon realm to charge our i-phones. Eventually acolytes or otherwise corrupted individuals,  such as Olivia Pierce, make a pact with the demon realm for power and unleash the demons onto the Mars facility halting the energy production for Earth. The DOOMSLAYER, or main character, is reawakened by Dr. Samuel Hayden (the facility director on Mars that now inhabits an android after his human brain was lost to a deadly cancer) as a last ditch effort to stave off the demonic invasion.

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After being awoken, the DOOMSLAYER (the caps make it more fun!) goes on a violent journey serving up bone crunching and head splitting action until he travels to Hell and severs the connection between worlds. It’s a fast paced and gory affair with heavy metal accompanying the glorious melding of science fiction and fantasy in this revamping of the video game property and I think this new iteration could be translated into a supremely entertaining action/sci-fi/fantasy film. The three main points of focus here should be similar to the game in it’s momentum, horrifying character designs for the demons, and the absolutely gruesome displays of violence. This would definitely be a hard-R rating, but with movies like “Logan” and “Deadpool” out there earning accolades and cases of cold hard cash,  this proves that there’s an appetite for over-the-top violence when done right.

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As far as casting is concerned, I have four characters that I believe the story hinges on, and four actors that seem particularly appropriate for the requirements of such an adaption. Firstly I’d pursue Tom Hardy for our hero in the DOOMSLAYER (still fun, every time). He’s proven in recent performances like “Mad Max: Fury Road”, “The Dark Knight Rises”, and “Dunkirk” that he can act particularly well with a lack of dialogue, but he’s also especially great at conveying personality and attitude through actions like in “Fury Road”, and the DOOMSLAYER requires a certain amount of attitude through characterization.

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As for Dr. Samuel Hayden I would cast James Spader in the motion capture and voice over role as the mechanical genius overseeing the facility long after his body had rotted away. Up until the writing of this article I had assumed that it actually was James Spader doing the voice over in the video game reboot, he sounds exactly like Spader’s rendition of Marvel Comic-book villain Ultron. That role was actually from Darin De Paul, but I say bring on Spader, the android doctor had a dry sarcasm embedded in his performance that would be perfect for the character actor to play off of without entirely riffing his Ultron performance, they are definitely two different characters with different motivations and intentions.

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As for the ultimate villain of the story, Olivia Pierce, I would cast either Tilda Swinton (who would be fascinating in this role-though I doubt she would take it on), or Elizabeth Debicki. Both actresses have the look of the villain down, plus I feel they could both give some extra characterization to a villain that does have motivations behind her actions, but they are slightly cardboard-thin in the game. We can give slight altercations to improve such things through the acting, but still I believe both women would pull excellent performances out of an over-the-top adaption such as this.

 

This last role isn’t one that was in the game or the earlier film adaption, but instead of doling out weapons upgrades to the DOOMSLAYER through another A.I. type character like the recent video game reboot did-I would create a sort of comic relief character that would function as this role. I would cast Charlie Day in this role. As a facility worker that hid from the demonic invasion, you could have Day play the role of the scared but capable engineer that has secret knowledge of the weapons division. He could pop in and out of the story communicating to the DOOMSLAYER and providing support by pointing out where things like the chainsaw, rocket launcher, or say the B.F.G. are hidden. He could also support in the closing of the portal to hell at the end of the film, severing the connection between the realms. The DOOMSLAYER could choose to stay in hell? Or we could have Dr. Hayden take matters into his own robot hands by transporting the crucible (magical blade used to kill Olivia Pierce in the game) back to Mars to research for energy creating purposes, but not the DOOMSLAYER. There’s a lot we could do with the ending, but nonetheless, I think having a comedic relief character portrayed by Charlie Day could be a benefit to the film’s entertainment value.

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The last major choice I would pursue with this adaption would be to secure the writer-director team behind the “John Wick” movies, Chad Stahelski, David Leitch and Derek Kolstad. I believe the style and fast paced nature of what they’ve accomplished with “John Wick” and its sequel proves that they know how to direct action-not just well, but creatively. They’ve shown that they know how to build mythology effectively, and provide flare and personality through the action on the screen. If they can transfer their slick gunplay action to the realm of the DOOMSLAYER, they’d benefit greatly from this material.

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Combine all of these elements and I believe we’d have a hit on our hands. The market and box office numbers in the last few years have proven that the fantastical and the hyper violent can be a boon both creatively and financially. With committed talent and a stripped down bare bones idea of DOOM in place, I’m pretty sure we’d have an entertaining and profitable movie to put in theaters. I know I’d want to watch this!

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Review: The Cloverfield Paradox

There Will be spoilers in this article, as it would be difficult to discuss the film without acknowledging them. You have been warned.

On Sunday during the Super Bowl a trailer was revealed for the newest film in the evolving Cloverfield series titled “The Cloverfield Paradox”. An intriguing and quick snippet marketed the latest installment as a sci-fi horror with mysterious ongoings, but more importantly- the film would be available immediately after the Super Bowl on Netflix. So, I thought I’d give it a shot, I adored the initial Cloverfield film and the secret sequel in “10 Cloverfield Lane” was a nice little surprise when it was released- why not give this flick a watch? Written by Oren Uziel and directed by Julius Onah, “The Cloverfield Paradox” is a science-fiction thriller set on an international space station in a future timeline where the Earth is embroiled in a dire energy crisis that threatens to throw the nations of the world into world war three.

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First let’s discuss the best part of the film, the cast. The crew of the Shepard consists of seven experts from different fields of study and different countries of origin. They include our lead, Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) from Britain, Kiel (David Oyelowo) the commander of the Shepard and an American, Mundy (Chris O’Dowd) an Irishman and the comedic relief, Monk (John Ortiz) the doctor aboard the ship and resident representative of the faithful alongside Oyelowo’s American Kiel. Next up are Schmidt (Daniel Brühl) the German electrician and Tam (Ziyi Zhang) the Chinese scientist who together are the only relationship on the Shepard while, curiously, Tam is the only specialist that speaks her country’s language. The last member of the Shepard is Volkov (Aksel Hennie) the Russian navigator that ironically instigates the others into fisticuffs and arguments.

The movie opens during a blackout in Britain before the Shepard takes flight. We’re introduced to Hamilton and Michael (Roger Davies) a doctor in London, and her husband. They discuss her options between staying on Earth and helping as best as practically possible while getting over their shared grief, or to secure her position on the Shepard and use her skills to the greater betterment of humanity. Ultimately, we know the choice that she will make, which leads me to one of the issues I have with the film. While I did enjoy my time with this film, and I’d be doing a disservice to myself and this review by saying otherwise, the movie does telegraph a lot of the the film’s ideas in play a smidge too much for me, which clashes a bit with the mystery box style so beloved by the properties that J.J. Abrams has had a hand in producing. To it’s credit though there are some excellent moments and scenes that fully encapsulate the “What the hell just happened and how do we deal with this?” aesthetic, such as the earth disappearing from view after the particle accelerator is turned on, and the mysterious woman that the crew finds in the walls of the ship.

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Eventually the crew discovers the Earth on the opposite side of the sun. They can receive signals but they cannot transmit any, thus during their celebration they discover that the Earth is in the midst of a forty month war across Europe as the energy crisis has erupted into a full blown world war. They also see a newsflash of their ship, now called The Cloverfield in pieces floating in the ocean. They quickly realize that they aren’t in some future or past, but rather they are in another dimension. One where the Particle accelerator blew up the space station instead of transporting it across dimensions.

So, here I’d like to take the time to discuss the confusing response to the film’s release and what I enjoyed about the film overall before getting into my own theory on what happened across all of these films. I was quite taken aback by the anger and vitriol thrown at this movie from all corners of the internet after it’s release. Some called it a comedy, while others trash the film as somehow tricking moviegoers into watching a movie, and even a few seemed to outright hate this film and conveyed feelings of betrayal. I’m not sure how so many people came to despise this movie when nobody had to even pay for it, with the exception of the monthly Netflix fee. It’s not a truly horrible film, nor is it a pillar of exceptional science fiction filmmaking. It’s just fine. I would argue that it’s the perfect sort of film to get a streaming release as it did because it can be enjoyed at the viewers’ leisure without undue costs.

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I really enjoyed my time with this film. It wasn’t the best film I’ve seen, or even the greatest film I’ve seen recently (that award goes to you Shape of Water!), but it certainly wasn’t awful either. There was some good tension among the various crew members with alliances known and unknown that, paired with the quick pace of the film, helped to keep me engaged. The film had a good production design, the special effects were handled efficiently, and we got some deliciously gross body horror involving space worms! Hell, we even got a bit of space espionage to boot. While the film can be a bit predictable at times there was enough positive aspects to the film that they outweighed the negatives for me.

In fact, I personally believe the film gave another layer of intrigue to the Cloverfield series. If you factor in the multiverse theory, I think this film does help to explain more of what happened with the film series. First let’s simplify things with labels. Let’s call the first film in the Cloverfield series Earth 1, the Shepard crew’s Earth as Earth 2, and the Earth that they travel to in Paradox as Earth 3. I’m not sure if the events in “10 Cloverfield Lane” exist on their own separate Earth or if that was just a smaller story taking place on Earth 1 later in the timeline. For now, let’s say it happens on Earth 1 for clarity.  The Shepard’s particle accelerator malfunction at the beginning of Paradox is the inciting incident that triggers a wave of effects throughout the multiverse resulting in untold horrors of monsters and aliens being catapulted across space-time and colliding with various Earths. This is doubly proven when Hamilton crash lands back on her own Earth and a noticeably larger Cloverfield monster bursts through the clouds while her husband Michael screams into his phone “Tell them not to come back! Tell them!” After which I had a hearty laugh and then scrolled around Netflix to see what’s next..

Final Score: Two Earths and an infinite amount of Cloverfield Aliens

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Review: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Written by Guy Ritchie and Lionel Wigram and directed by Ritchie, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is a genre throwback to the bygone Bond era of spy films- to a time when characters like Bond made the most sense, the height of the Cold War. However this film, based on the popular television show of the same name airing in the 1960’s, has a twist on the suave American spy trope, pairing Henry Cavill’s C.I.A. agent Napoleon Solo with Armie Hammer’s Russian KGB muscle Illya Kuryakin to stop a threat greater than they pose to each other. Which is, of course, Nazis.

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The plot is simple enough, former Nazi scientists were not only scooped up by American intelligence after the war, but also by more sinister forces that seek an atomic bomb and the plans to create thousands more. This puts iron curtain enemies like the CIA and the KGB into a prickly situation, working together to thwart a greater evil for the greater good. The movie unfolds with a great opening action set-piece that showcases both Armie Hammer’s Illya and Cavill’s Solo quite well while providing a snappy sense of movement, Guy Ritchie’s sense of style shines in this scene and others like it later on. Which brings us to the potential negatives of the film. The characters and the plot are fairly serviceable but they don’t outright stun or awe. The performances, not to forget Alicia Vikander’s charming role as Gabby Teller the mechanic in West Berlin who gets wrapped up in these international spy-games, and the style of the direction are what makes this movie work. Particularly entertaining is the chemistry between the two leads Hammer and Cavill, if they had more time to flesh out the characters that they inhabit here these two could become more than they are, but I had fun with what we did get.

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I suppose it all depends on your level of expectation going into a film like this. I was looking for an entertaining spy genre flick. One with action, humor, thrills, maybe even a bit of wit and charm thrown in for good measure and for the most part, that’s what I got. This film worked for me. I’d even be ready to throw down some cold hard cash to see a sequel if another one came along. Who knows if that will happen, but I would gladly welcome another adventure with these characters.

Final Score: 2 spies, a couple nazis, and 1 atomic bomb

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Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, or “Space Avengers.. Again!”

Written and directed by James Gunn once more, “The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” brings us back into the fold of the galaxy’s most ragtag team of cackling thieves, opportunistic miscreants, and charming rogues. Proving to be Marvel’s riskiest property yet, the sequel delves deeper into the past and motivations for more of the characters while also aiming to be as filled with comedy as it is with tragedy. After all, isn’t that the age old recipe of a good story?

Set two months after the events of the first film, we find our heroes doing a job protecting powerful batteries from the onslaught of a tentacle wielding and fanged-tooth monster of inter-dimensional origins. After the beast is slain, in one of the best opening credit sequences since “Deadpool”, we’re swiftly introduced to the people of the planet Sovereign, a golden colored species that hired the team because of their well known status after the events of the first film. The people of the Sovereign are easily offended and typically issue death penalties for transgressions against them. So of course Rocket Raccoon maligns them of being considered “douchebags” offhandedly. He also steals from them, as he is wont to do. This kicks the thrust of the film into motion and we’re off! I won’t tread into spoiler territory here, but rather instead focus on what the film did right in my opinion. This is a much more character driven film than the first. That one had its moments and particular storythreads that were serviced quite well, but the sequel dives deeper, especially into characters that you would not expect to get meaningful exposition from.

There is a great effort here to build the world of the MCU’s Cosmic side, and I think this film handles that aspect exceedingly well. Not just in a sense of there being many inhabitable star systems, but even in the size ratios of spaceships. The look of this movie is a fine example of a beautifully chaotic color palette. Neon colors and vibrant hues fill the screen one moment just before another psychedelic barrage pours onto the silver screen as characters bounce across the galaxy, fire their blasters, or leap into danger with their blades drawn. I can’t understate how impressed I was with the framing and the cinematography on display, it was a visual feast to behold.

This film delivers on all fronts for me personally. The threat of the film has increased exponentially since the initial story, and they balance it all with a style of humor that is perfect for this series. Dave Bautista’s Drax has some of the very best comedic lines and jokes throughout the film, but everyone gets their fair share of comedic timing. Bradley Cooper’s Rocket Raccoon has a memorable riff on the mutinous ravager known as “Taserface”. It’s a great bit and it works on every beat. Of course Kurt Russell’s character of “Ego” is a joy to behold in his performance. If you thought it was a weird choice to have a film where two of your main characters are a wise cracking Raccoon and a Tree alien who can only communicate with a single phrase, then buckle up because this film outdoes these notions with strange but fascinating creative choices.

If you enjoyed the first Guardians, I suspect you’ll get a real kick out of the sequel. Personally, this is one of the most satisfying sequels I’ve seen from Marvel Studios and it gives me nothing but boundless hope for “Infinity War” and the rest of this universe unfolding before our eyes. Oh, and Stan Lee’s cameo for this film is a great example of the lengths the studio will go in dredging through the many many characters in their lore, I loved it, and you just may too!

Final Score: 300 songs (There’s even a Zune joke thrown in for good measure!)