Fans of darkly themed gothic films can look forward to RJ Mitte (of Breaking Bad fame) starring in role in Breakthrough Entertainment and Black Fawn Films upcoming film, The Oak Room.
Behind the same visionary minds that brought movies such as I’ll Take your Dead, Let Her Out and Antisocial, The Oak Room positions itself as a dark thriller. Featuring both iconic and rising Stars such as RJ Mitte, Peter Outerbridge and Ari Millien. The surreal, character-driven narrative of The Oakr Room is set in a sleepy, rural Canadian small-town, during an unrelenting snowstorm, in which a mysterious drifter returns to his home, settling a bet that quickly turns violent with the local bartender of the said sleepy town.
“We’re really excited to bring this riveting, northern gothic thriller to market,” states Breakthrough Entertainment’s Vice President of Distribution Craig McGillivray. “The Oak Room features some truly amazing performances from RJ Mitte, Peter Outerbridge, and Nicholas Campbell. This film is the type of story that will have audiences on the edge of their seats and instantly wanting to re-watch it.”
The Oak Room will debut debut at Cannes’ virtual film market “Marche du Film” next week.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, 20th Century Fox has purchased Stan Lee’s life rights, and is moving ahead with a film very loosely based on Lee’s life. “Loosely based” is the key phrase here — Fox is reportedly taking an unusual angle with the project.
Sources close to the Reporter indicate Fox will use the life rights to make a 1970s period action movie with Stan Lee as the main character. Tonally, the film will reportedly crib from the Roger Moore-era James Bond films and Kingsman: The Secret Service. Unless Lee had a past as a quippy secret agent that he’s kept secret until this moment, the film will be a fictional account. $5 says there’s a scene where somebody refers to a female secret agent as a “She-Hulk,” Lee’s eyes bug out, and he writes that down on a notepad or something. “I gotta save that for later!” he’ll say.
(Speaking of The Secret Service, fun fact: the Mark Millar comic on which Kingsman is based featured a similar cameo from Star Wars star Mark Hamill as himself. Hamill would later star in the film adaptation as Professor James Arnold, filling a similar role as his fictionalized self)
The film will reportedly be produced by Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey, of Temple Hill Entertainment. Bowen and Godfrey are primarily known for their work in the Young Adult scene, producing the Twilight and Maze Runner films, in addition to The Fault in Our Stars and the upcoming Power Rangers film. Stan Lee himself and POW! Entertainment CEO Gil Champion will executive produce the film. Currently, no other talent has been attached to the project.
Stan Lee is no stranger to film, nor to fictional versions of himself getting into larger-than-life scrapes. Several different versions of Lee have appeared before in Marvel Comics, and Lee’s well-publicized Marvel film cameos have historically been well-received by fans. The Hollywood Reporter published a retrospective of Lee’s comic cameos to go along with the report — including the obvious (Lee and Kirby are turned away at Reed Richards & Sue Storm’s wedding) and not-so-obvious (a negative caricature found in the pages of DC’s Mister Miracle)
Curiously, neither Marvel Studios nor Marvel’s parent company Disney are mentioned in the Hollywood Reporter’s story as alternates for the life rights. Although a hypothetical Disney-produced Stan Lee biopic would assuredly be less interesting than whatever this Fox project ends up being, it also seems like an easy home run — a Saving Mr Banks for the families who grew up around Spider-Man. It’s unclear if these life rights are exclusive to Fox, or if the door is open for Disney to produce a more traditional Stan Lee biopic.
No one asked for an Independence Day sequel. In fact, I’m sure that if there was a poll sent out to moviegoers asking which 90s blockbuster they never wanted to see get a sequel 20 years later, Independence Day would have been near the top of the list. However, that didn’t happen and director Roland Emmerich had a few unsuccessful movies in a row. So now, out of sheer desperation, Independence Day is back and boy does it ever feel like a movie that no one particularly wanted to make. Sloppily written, pedestrianly executed, and completely lacking in any sort of personality or nuance, Independence Day Resurgence is the braindead waste of time and talent that everyone assumed it would be. Yet perhaps worst of all, the movie isn’t even ironically amusing in its braindead excesses. Nope, this is just an annoying, empty shell of a sequel that offers nothing but the lowest common denominator. We can only hope that it isn’t successful enough to spawn the sequel set up in the closing scene.
So, it’s been 20 years since the last Independence Day and humanity has rebuilt itself. Jeff Goldblum’s scientist character has spearheaded studies to adopt alien technologies, so now there’s a weapons base on the moon, the army fires laser guns, and the president flies around in a hover-copter. But wouldn’t ya know it? Those aliens aren’t done with us yet. After sitting dormant for 20 years, one of the crashed alien ships starts booping and beeping and all of the captured aliens spring back to life. Bearded ex-president Bill Pullman rises from retirement because he can feel something is wrong and he needs to start spitting out inspirational speeches to everyone around him. Brent Spiner awakens from a coma with all sorts of alien mythology in his head that he needs to let loose. Judd Hirsch is also wandering around cracking wise for some reason.
Will Smith refused to return, so his son (Jessie T. Usher) is now a pilot to fill in the roll in the overblown screenplay. Meanwhile Liam “Don’t Call Me Chris” Hemsworth plays a flyboy so wild that he was sent to the moon to be contained (they’ll need him). There are other new characters as well played by culty actors like Charlotte Gainsbourg, Maika Monroe, and William Fichtner, but they aren’t worth describing. No one plays an actual person here and they all barely fit into the convoluted plot. The key thing is the aliens return and blow stuff up, so the humans have to blow them up back; but how? Fortunately a secret orb appears offering all the answers. Why? I doubt even the five credited screenwriters could offer a satisfying explanation, so I certainly can’t.
Yes, this is one big dumb stupid movie. Though to be fair, that was expected. In fact, that’s a requirement of this franchise. However, it’s also clunky and forced in ways that spoil all the bonehead charms of the last installment. Without a cozy disaster movie structure to lean on that connects the cast, characters seem to bump into each other at random and subplots cut into each other in ways that almost always disrupts both the narrative and action momentum. Obviously Jeff Goldblum brings his uniquely neurotic charms to the table. That guy is incapable of delivering anything less than a watchable performance. Everyone else just seems lost though, especially Bill Pullman who is so sullenly serious and emotional at all times that it looks like he’s about to have either a poo or a heart attack. The attempts at humour nearly always ring false and generally involve bathroom activities. The characters are so cardboard that there are no emotional stakes. Racial stereotypes are piled so high that this almost feels like a recruitment film for a nefarious organization. It’s sloppy, stupid stuff. The sort of thing that Trey Parker and Matt Stone could turn into comedy gold without changing a word, they just need to add sarcastic inflection.
Of course, no one was ever going to buy a ticket to an Independence Day sequel for the storytelling or characterizations. This is all about the boom-boom and even that disappoints. The big alien attack is so quick that pretty much all of it was revealed in the trailer. The war scenes are all fairly pedestrian with CGI ships crashing into each other willy-nilly and no particular style or focus to the staging. The alien design is still strong, but shown off in such dull detail that it looses all mystique. Worst of all, the realities of contemporary blockbuster production pretty much rob the movie of all scale. It’s essentially a series of increasingly uninspired CGI cartoons with a cast standing in small sets or next to green screens for reaction shots. There aren’t any impressively large models and there certainly aren’t many trips out too huge locations. The movie looks like it was made on a computer in a closet with a dumptruck full of money and there’s very little sense of wonderment.
Independence Day: Resurgence is 110% a bad movie. However, the worst thing is that it’s not even entertainingly bad. The whole thing is rather dull and there are no surprises. It’s exactly what you’d expect but not in a good way. The fact that it barely even ends, opting instead for a cliffhanger finale, doesn’t even give anyone a sense of closure to leave the theater with. The whole thing is just one big dumb n’ dull waste of time. It won’t make you angry with the filmmakers, just frustrated at yourself for even bothering to buy a ticket. Who this movie is supposed to appeal to is a mystery to me (the target audience of 12-year-olds weren’t even born when the last movie was released), but hopefully they won’t show up. As painful as this unnecessary sequel is to watch, it’s safe to say the threequel would be worse. This is a product of Roland Emmerich and an overpaid team of filmmakers spinning their wheels. There won’t be any treads left for the next movie. It’ll be a pure trainwreck.
Nicolas Winding Refn seems to go out of his way to be a polarizing filmmaker. With titles as varied as Pusher, Bronson, Drive, and Only God Forgives, the guy has grown to specialize in titles that draw in audiences with titillating exploitations and seductive visuals, then push them away with an often alienating, ponderous aesthetic and graphically disturbing content. He’ll happily sleaze his way out of pretentious art house lovers’ favour and challenge gorehounds a little too deeply. By consequence, his films play for peculiar audiences somewhere in between trash-loving artistes and filth mongers with patience. There’s no such thing as a crowd-pleasing Refn picture and that’s pretty much the point. His latest effort The Neon Demon is technically a horror film, but hardly a conventional one. Sleazy, sexy, gory, surreal, thoughtful, dumb, slow, haunting, and hypnotic, it’s a flick that attempts many things and succeeds at most. Love it or loathe it, you’ll never forget the insane collection of images bombarding your optic nerves in this bizarre two hours.
Elle Fanning stars as a 16 year old fresh off the bus from a nowhere town. She’s struck out for Los Angeles in pursuit of modeling fame. We’re introduced to her being photographed as a bloody corpse to lay on some thick foreshadowing. Soon she’s signed on by a sleazy agent (Christina Hendricks,) gets a room at a dirtbag hotel run by a particularly scumbag-ish Keanu Reeves, and kicks off her career. Every photographer and fashion designer who meets Fanning is entranced by her beauty, while fellow models (embodied as Barbie doll backstabbers played by Abbey Lee and Bella Heathcote) loathe her on sight. A make-up artist with a creepy smile (Jena Malone) takes a special interest in Fanning. But like everyone else in the world, that kindness quickly turns nefarious.
It would be easy to write this off as your typical ‘innocent naïf corrupted by La-La-Land tale.” Only, with it being a Refn joint, it’s told slowly through nightmarish neon images and a hypnotic score, plus a few pit stops into cannibalism and necrophilia.
It should be stated right off the bat that there’s no sense of reality or naturalism hidden in The Neon Demon. Instead, it plays more like a surrealist sensory experience with performances that are either deliberately exaggerated or delivered in a dream-like deadpan. Not a frame of the movie is anything less than beautiful. Even quiet shots of empty streets are framed though exaggerated shadows with slow creeping camera moves that draw dread out of every sequence.
The score by Cliff Martinez (who also provided the music for Refn’s Drive) pulses with a retro synth vibe that slithers under the skin. The music and images blur together to tell the story as much than any of the words spoken. It feels very much like an homage to the giallos and dark fairy tales of Dario Argento/Goblin like Suspiria or Deep Red. The only difference is that Refn feels very much in control of why audiences will giggle between the freak outs.
Because as much as The Neon Demon creeps out like a horror flick, it’s also rather hilarious. The mockery of the evils of the fashion world is so loud and needlessly nasty that you can’t help but giggle at how absurd things become. When the gore arrives, it’s artfully framed, clearly symbolic, and absolutely disgusting. Yet it’s often so extreme and over the top that it feels like the punchline to a long joke. While it’s entirely possible to view the film literally and enjoy the sleazy, sick, and hypnotic charms, it’s probably best to describe it as a dark comedy.
Refn’s crafted both a hysterically arch rendition of a land of psychotic fashionistas and a lunatic take on art house horror. It feels like he’s made a pure exploitation movie that just happens to be told in art house language. Strip away the aesthetics and cut it down to 70 minutes and this could have easily filled out grindhouse double features in the 70s. It would also have been beloved by pretentious critics for attempting any sort of social statement. But pile on the art house trimmings and those same eggheads will despise it for using a language they are used to taking seriously.
On a weird level, the movie feels like a prank that Refn is pulling on cinema snobs, particularly online armchair critics. Something to divide those who can appreciate this art trash romp for what it is and those who are upset that it’s not what they want it to be. The guy pulled a similar trick with the deliberately confounding and disturbing Only God Forgives, which felt like he was courting hate as much as love following his unexpected success with Drive. This is almost comes across as a film calculated to alienate those who despise Refn’s art/trash aesthetic as much as a means to court more genre fans into his weird little corner of the sandbox. The filmmaker is nothing if not self-aware, and it’s amusing to see him create work calculated to draw controversy amongst the small and strange world of internet film lovers.
The Neon Demon will certainly get people talking, one way or the other. It would be nice for Refn to return to the more frenetic pacing and character-driven work of The Pusher Trilogy, Bleeder, and even Bronson at some point, since they are easily his most satisfying features. For now, it’s fun to watch the guy provoke and laugh from the back of the theater as he irritates and elates his viewers in equal measure. Hopefully he’ll get over that impulse soon though. He’s more talented than that, and surely has a few more stories with actual content left in him.
The Conjuring made $300 million worldwide a few years ago, making it a record-breaking hit for contemporary horror. That means a sequel (and that Annabelle spin off you already forgot about), was pretty much guaranteed even though no one particularly remembers much about it. The movie was merely an effectively constructed scare factory by director James Wan (Saw, Insidious, Furious 7) that peddled in Christian fears to pretend it was actually a true story. Since mainstream horror was dominated by torture, remakes, and camcorder hauntings for so long, it worked like gangbusters on audiences because they forgot about the old stylistic tricks that Wan trotted out at high speed. The sequel serves up more of the same only bigger, more expensive, and far longer. There’s a chance people will fall for it all again, but there’s also a more hopeful chance they’ll cry fowl at seeing the same old tricks without much variance.
This time the “true story” pulled from the files of Lorraine and Ed Warren (a pair of actual ghost hunting hoax conmen given icky credibility by these types of movies) is that of the Enfield Poltergeist. It involved a family in North London complaining of supernatural shenanigans with all sorts of photographic “evidence”. The movie obviously presents that silliness as real and on a massive scale, while we all get to play along pretending that’s true alongside some half-hearted discussions about it’s legitimacy (which are impossible to actually engage in, given the story takes place in a world already filled with real ghosties after the last movie). Still, Wan takes his time setting the stage. Creepy events pile up in a London home where a stressed cockney mother (Frances O’Conner) watches helplessly as her kiddies are haunted, and her youngest daughter (Madison Wolfe) is possessed. Meanwhile back in the U.S., the Warrens (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) have retired from ghost hunting, but are pulled back in Godfather III-style when a nun-demon starts haunting their dreams.
The set up actually works fairly well. Wan takes full advantage of his bigger budget to stage increasingly elaborate haunting scenes with all sorts of impossible camera moves and pregnant silences punctuated by loud noises and prankster ghosts. It’s glossy, slick, Hollywood haunted house stuff that hits the right visceral notes that The Conjuring dabbled in, only even more elaborate (that time on the Furious 7 set certainly didn’t encourage Wan to embrace subtlety). When Wan’s on his game, his limitations (like competent storytelling, or crafting characters that feel remotely human) don’t matter much because he constructs the movie purely through jump scare set pieces that conceal the shoddy storytelling. Unfortunately, that effective set up takes a full hour to play out. The Warrens don’t even get to London until a full 60 minutes into the film, and then The Conjuring 2 sputters trying to make up for lost time explaining the stories and situations.
This two hour and 14 minute horror movie is at least 30 to 40 minutes too long. Most of that unnecessary runtime comes right in the middle as Wan stages a passionless debate between scientists and the Vatican-approved ghost busting Warrens about the reality of paranormal activity. There are also drab attempts to humanize the breathing mannequins used to populate Wan’s set pieces that are corny and irritating (especially a cringe-worthy sequence of Wilson singing Elvis to the scarred children that grinds the movie to a standstill). Some of the actors, especially the dependable Farmiga and the quite talented young Wolfe, are quite good when ghosts chase them around. However, the script’s attempts at domestic reality are pretty brutal, and should have been cut since they don’t add any of the emotional weight that was clearly intended. Eventually, Wan picks up the pace again for a spooktacular finale with one big scare scene after the next, but it’s too late at that point. The carefully crafted tension of the first hour has long since disappeared. What we’re left with is a ghostly light show with big production values building up to a final fight with the demon that is so ridiculous and anticlimactic in nature that it feels more like a parody punch line than an actual finale.
So yeah, The Conjuring 2 is quite flawed, and way too damn long for a genre that really should tap out at 90 minutes. However, there’s no denying Wan knows how to craft a big scare scene, and it’s fun to see him use so many expensive toys to craft one of the biggest Hollywood horror train sets ever mounted. That just might be enough to please all those folks who showed up for the last Conjuring flick looking for little more than the big screen equivalent of a fairground haunted house. However, it doesn’t make it a particularly good horror movie. This is a let down after the last one, which was already quite overrated. It’s a horror flick that’ll separate the genre nuts from the casually curious. Have you seen classic horror flicks from the 70s? If so, you’ve already seen everything you could possibly get out of this sequel, and you’ll only enjoy the craftsmanship. However, if you’ve only seen The Conjuring and other mainstream horror larks from the last decade that you can barely remember, then this sequel is for you! It would be nice to believe there were more folks in the former group than the latter, but unfortunately we don’t live in that fantasy world. The Conjuring 2 will likely be the most successful horror flick of 2016. God help us all.
There are two sides to the new glossy Hollywood thriller Money Monster. On one hand, it’s attempting to be a big, dumb, high concept thriller, like Phone Booth that used to clog up multiplexes in the 90s with an easily condensed trailer premise, a few movie stars, and a whole bunch of stupid entertainment. On the other hand, the movie also wants to be a poignant statement about Wall Street’s openly criminal practices. It’s tough to have it both ways, and Money Monster can’t quite pull it off. Sure there are exceptions like Paul Verhoeven’s gruesome-twosome of Robocop and Starship Troopers that mix self-consciously stupid genre entertainment with absurdist satire. But those flicks work because the tone is always irreverent. Director Jodie Foster can’t quite get that balance right here, gleefully mocking silly genre conventions to the point of slapstick, while also getting sombrely serious any time she wants to make a point. It’s an awkward seesaw effect, but at least things can be pretty funny whenever the filmmaker isn’t taking herself too needlessly serious.
George Clooney stars as one of his typical, dumbbell dicks. In this case, he runs an obnoxious stock tip show and lives his life with the same dedication to empty pleasure and greed that he peddles on the air. Julia Roberts plays his burned out director, holding the show together from the control room and desperately trying to keep Clooney on track through his earpiece. Their Friday show starts out typically, with a ridiculous hip-hop dance routine and Clooney secretly sucking back liquor while spitting out a script that was written for him. Things change dramatically when Jack O’Connell shows up as a truck driver who recently lost his life savings from following one of Clooney’s “can’t miss” stock tips. The company in question unexpectedly lost $800 million as the result of a computer glitch that no one can explain. Now O’Connell has a gun in Clooney’s face and straps a bomb to him on live TV, while demanding some sort of explanation from a crooked CEO played by Dominic West. The cops show up, things get tense, bullets are fired, and it’s all delightfully stupid.
Foster has quietly become a decent director over the course of a handful of small movies that ride the line between light entertainment and lefty message-making. She handles herself quite well as a technical craftswoman here. The camerawork is clean and controlled. Suspense sequences are stylishly put together without being overly flashy, and most importantly, she never takes any of the genre games too seriously. Afterall, this is pretty dumb stuff. The movie doesn’t even bother to explain how O’Connell was able to march into a live TV broadcast with a gun and a bomb without raising any sort of suspicion. Clooney plays it all with his tongue jammed directly in his cheek, practically winking at the audience over how silly everything is and inviting the audience to laugh along with him. And her best, Foster matches that tone in the filmmaking. Sure, it’s tight and tense and a few plot twists head off in unpredictable directions, but it’s also all presented in a very arch and knowing tone that lets everyone know that they needn’t take any of it too seriously.
At least that’s true until Foster actually wants us to take things seriously. Whenever the movie lurches into obvious message making about secret Wall Street criminality, Foster stops the fun and presents everything so earnestly that she may as well just look right into the camera and say, “Pay attention you morons, this is important!” Lines like, “take stock of the situation” drop double entendres with an epic thud. Cameras point at the screen to implicate the audience. Every character gives at least one big earnest speech that stinks of cheese. And worst of all, none of what the movie is trying to say is even particularly insightful. It’s hard to imagine anyone will come out of Money Monster questioning themes that they hadn’t considered before. If anyone enters theater ignorant to the ways in which white collar crime has crippled the economy and destroyed the middle class, then it’s unlikely they are capable of picking up on subtext (even the type so bold that it becomes text).
So, that politically rousing nonsense can get a bit tedious. Thankfully, the movie is mostly a big, silly, high concept thriller, and a fun one for those who like such things. The pacing is tight, the performances are knowingly goofy, the visuals are strong, and there are an endless stream of laughs both deliberate and otherwise. For those who miss big, dumb, 90s thrillers, that set up a concept within 20 minutes and then slowly run it into the ground to the point of absurdity, there’s plenty to enjoy and laugh at here. Just make sure to turn your brain off when you enter the theater and never turn it back on, especially when the movie asks you to. Thinking too much will get in the way of the big, dumb, pleasures of this movie that desperately wants to be smart, and can’t quite pull it off.