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Review: Jay and Silent Bob Reboot

Written and directed by Kevin Smith, “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot” is a comedy sequel to 2001’s “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back!”, but it’s also an update of sorts on the whole View Askew Universe of films that the “Clerks” movies originated back in the early 1990’s. This time around, infamous ne’er-do-wells Jay and Silent Bob are roped into traveling cross-country from New Jersey to Hollywood so they can stop the reboot of “Bluntman V Chronic” from using their likenesses (again). If that plot sounds overly familiar to “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” then you’ve got an idea where the comedy in this film is forged from.

Having been a fan of Kevin Smith’s work for some time now, I knew walking into the theater that “Reboot” would most likely be a funny self-aware jab at Hollywood’s never-ending remixing of popular IPs, maybe a few fun celebrity cameos, at least of those who could tolerate the cavalcade of genitalia jokes that comes with the territory. What I did not expect was that there was legitimate heart at the core of the movie, I won’t spoil it, but it was a nice surprise. Comedies like these typically work for me, but I happen to appreciate silly, dumb, immature humor, and crass wordplay and I’m well aware of all of the View Askew universe’s little easter eggs (Like Ralph Garman’s quick cameo, Smith’s podcast partner for “Hollywood Babble-On”), I think I even spotted Andy McElfresh from “Edumacation” in the background of one scene. Anyways, my point being that I fundamentally understand if these movies don’t work for you, but Kevin Smith is a personal hero to me in the filmmaking world, I may not always love everything he makes, but god damn does he go for the gold and he just never gives up.

What I found most fascinating about the film was the third act in particular. Smith may not have always been a consumer of marijuana when writing these characters in the past- but this is the first View Askew film since he’s began partaking in the herb- and the difference in depiction is notable. It was as if he took the whole of his crafted universe and meshed it all together, giving updates on everything from the aftermath of “Dogma” (My favorite Kevin Smith film) to tying up loose ends from “Chasing Amy” and nods to the “Clerks” films, even “Mallrats”. This addition to the View Askew universe felt right at home with previous films and yet expanded on these characters’ emotional depth, the sway of nostalgia, and a subtle sense of maturity emerging from those you expect least.

Oh, and holy guacamole the cameos! If you thought “Strikes Back” had a surprising amount of celebrity cameos, then this one will really blow your hair back. I won’t reveal any because spotting them and enjoying the ride are some of the best aspects of the movie. I’m happy to see Kevin Smith getting another film out there, and this is one of his best in years, in my opinion. I sincerely hope this film does well enough for him to gain leverage to finally make his “Clerks 3”, I need that film- No, America needs that film!

Final Score: 37 Snoogans… in a row

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Review: Tomb Raider (2018)

Written by Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons and directed by Roar Uthaug, “Tomb Raider” is the third film adaption of the popular video game series of the same name- whilst also being a reboot that in itself is an adaption of the series’ most recent reboot to the video game series that was released in 2013 (whew, that was a lot). Alicia Vikander stars as Lara Croft this time around in a much more grounded take on the action adventure series than the prior Angelina Jolie films (which, I have to say are quite a lot of fun in their own right). In this origin of the character Lara’s father, Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West), became obsessed with ancient myths and artifacts after the death of her mother and had absconded off to a mysterious island in the pacific near Japan seven years prior to search for the tomb of Himiko, the cursed first empress of Japan. Myth and legend shrouded her legacy, but all cite a supposed apocalyptic scenario that would be unleashed upon the world if her tomb were to be disturbed. Lord Croft had pursued the legend with The Trinity at his coattails, an evil organization looking to weaponize the myth. He sought to keep the tomb hidden and out of the hands of the Syndicate… err, the Nazis… I mean… Trinity– yes them, that’s the one.

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When we meet Lara in the first act she’s living in London on a shoestring budget, refusing to accept her father’s inheritance- signing that contract would be accepting his death. Instead she makes ends meet by training at a small gym and cycling through the crowded streets as a courier. Right off the bat the film sets the mood firmly in the momentum and thrill of Lara’s life. After overhearing the details of a lucrative courier race, in which a paint can is strapped to her bike leaking paint with a fox tail attached and only given a moments head start, she’s accepted the challenge and races through London closely followed by a league of cyclists. This scene was cleverly shot and a fun way to kickstart the film’s energetic sense of fun. Which is one of the film’s best attributes overall.

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Once Lara makes her way to the Croft building to begrudgingly accept her inheritance, she’s given a puzzling cryptex that she solves as she’s being read the specifics of her father’s will, as if she were simply fidgeting. As she does so, a key pops out with a clue that leads her to her father’s own tomb- where she discovers the details of his globe-trotting adventures. She’s quickly off to follow his trail and discover the path he took to his death. She ends up in China before long to question the captain that chartered her father to the remote island. Instead she finds Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) the son of the captain she sought. After some squabbling she offers him a payday worth his while and they set sail, so to speak, for the island dead set in the middle of the devil’s sea.

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Once she’s stepped upon the island she meets the villain of the film, Mathias Vogel, an employee of the shapeless Trinity organization played with serviceable cruelty by Walton Goggins. From there the film goes about the usual tropes of any action adventure movie or video game, i.e. solving puzzles, sneaking past unnamed and heinous henchmen, encountering dizzying thrills, all in service of seeking the eponymous tomb. So that’s all well and good, but is the film successful in its execution of these well-worn adventure themed devices? I would say that it does. While this film never reaches the heights of Indiana Jones, it does enough to separate itself as a story all it’s own while maintaining a solid sense of momentum and adequate adventure thrills. Alicia Vikander was an excellent casting choice for this reboot, while the script never reaches for the wise-cracking snark and personality of her video game peer in Nathan Drake, she does a lot with what she’s given. You can feel her struggle and her purpose in seeking answers to her father’s mysterious end.

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This latest version of “Tomb Raider” gives a lot of potential for a solid string of sequels if the studio so chooses. There could be some polish done in the future, maybe learn what didn’t exactly work in this entry for example, and this could very well turn into quite an enjoyable series. Though the last five minutes of the film do go a bit over the top in their obvious hopes for another shot at the material. While the film lacks some magic in the writing and the plot points feel a bit familiar, it’s still good fun at the theater!

 

 

Final Score: three puzzles, one island, and a good deal of fun

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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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Movie Pitch: The He-Man and The Masters of the Universe Live-action Reboot

Sony Pictures is currently in pre-production (hell) for the live action reboot of the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe property. There have likely already been major choices made and machinations in place by now, but for the fun of it all here’s some of the major ideas I would pursue if given the reigns to a project such as this.

1. Cast Terry Crews as He-Man

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First and foremost, I would immediately seek out Terry Crews for the lead role in this film. From The Expendables to Brooklyn Nine-Nine Crews has the acting experience behind him to advance onto a leading role, and this property is one where I think he would excel in, not only for the look of the character, but also in the nature of the content. This is a fantasy/sci-fi adaption that can hardly be taken seriously, so why do so? I would expect a certain amount of serious threat to raise the stakes and conflict in the story, but there has to be levity here. Much like the recent Thor Ragnarok film from Marvel Studios, this should be a property that embraces the weird and hilarious nature of what’s happening onscreen, and I believe Terry Crews has what it takes to provide us with a compelling hero, but also, can you imagine him screaming “I HAVE THE POOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWEEEEERRRRRR!” in a big budget Hollywood movie? I want that more than I should.

2. Cast Bryan Cranston as Skelator

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Bryan Cranston has the perfect blend of gut-busting comedy chops paired with deadly serious threats. Just look at Malcom in the Middle and Breaking Bad if you have any illusions as to his ability to perform in either category. Cranston has experience in major Hollywood blockbusters and television alike that hearken all the way back to his days voicing costumed villains in Saban’s Power Rangers. I strongly believe that Bryan Cranston would be the perfect Skeletor in this adaption, he’s funny, he can be immeasurably menacing when he needs to, and he can pull off the specific kind of goofy interplay that could work in a film such as this.

3. Get Taika Waititi to direct

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Now that he’s proven himself as a capable big budget filmmaker with Thor Ragnarok, after his smaller but seriously grand films What we do in the shadows, Hunt for the wilderpeople, and Boy– Waititi should get more opportunities to handle larger productions if he so chooses. I think this property presents a great opportunity for the kiwi director as it’s similarly a blend of fantasy and sci-fi genres like his recent success, but also because he might have even greater control with He-Man. I doubt there would be riots over departures from the source material here and he could take the ideas in play to greater rewards thematically and financially, he’s got the Marvel (magic) touch right now and a great sense for what works in good storytelling.

4. Be self aware of the inherent silliness of such a property

My last suggestion for this adaption is one that can be applied to the film as a whole. If you’re going to craft a film about a character that’s the most powerful man in the universe and have him battle a skeleton sorcerer with his giant green-striped battle tiger at his side, well, you should have fun with it. Embrace the oddities that made the cartoon ridiculous but fun in the first place. Also, as always, I would hope for practical effects, real costumes, shooting on location etc you’re making a movie not a video game- embrace it!

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Top Six Movies we don’t need, but are getting anyway…

Inspired by the news that the next “Die Hard” installment will be a prequel, procured here is a list of several other films that we also do not need. Enjoy, or well, try to. I mean, if we wanted to kill off the “Die Hard” Series the easiest way would be to let Bruce Willis continue making horrible horrible installments in this once great franchise.

Point Break Remake

In one of the most uninsipiring trailers in a long time “Point Break”, the remake, tries to channel all of the intense action sequences of the original with varying impromptu Keanu impersonations while hoping to gode a few “Fast & Furious” fans away from “Star Wars” this December. The only thing here that’s gonna break is Keanu Reeve’s heart.

Scarface remake

Is no ground sacred? Are no legends beyond reproach? While Scarface might not be the pinnacle of filmmaking, how can they beat that Al Pacino performance? It’s what made the film! Sheesh, what’s next Ben Hur?

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……………… I’m at a loss. This is literally Film Legend. Why?

Transformers Sequels

This may shock you reader, but I have enjoyed some of the Transformers movies (1 was fun and 3 was entertaining) but after that last one. Wow. I mean, again, not the pinnacle of filmmaking ( AT ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL) but wow, that one hurt. A lot. Do we really need ’10 more years’ of Transformers?

Jumangi Remake

This one is complete heresy. I’m amazed they’re moving forward with this production at all, especially so soon after Robin Williams untimely death. He was the heart of that movie and I can’t really think of any other actor that could appeal to so many, and earn so much laughter in the classiest of ways. Without Williams this is basically just Indiana Jones: The Board Game..movie.

The Newest Friday the 13th reboot/remake

This one is less heresy and blasphemy, but it is a personal grievance. I get that Slasher movies will be made until the end of time, especially when concerning Jason Voorhes, but, why in God’s name does it have to be a ‘found footage’ film? Oh its produced by Michael Bay? This will clearly be the definitive installment then………