Friday, December 13, 2013


The titular dragon in THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG has been one of the great movie monsters waiting to happen for more than 70 years. The creature is pretty much the great dragon of modern literature and manages to define and nearly overshadow the book he was created for, even though he only  actually appears for two chapters of it.

And the dragon is absolutely one of the best things about the film. That's the good news.

The bad news? Smaug really deserved a better movie.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


Not-so-wild Theory Time!

Just today, doubtlessly hoping to steal some of the thunder from Sony's trailer for THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (yes, they actually just stuck a number on the title of the rancid first film), Bryan Singer announced on Twitter (that's a thing that's been happening a lot lately) that the follow-up to 2014's time-travelling all-star line-up X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST would be an adaptation of the APOCALYPSE story.

And here's where things get interesting.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

FROZEN - The New Hotness

Disney Animation has had quite the streak lately. It hasn't gotten the sort of notice that the Disney Renaissance did back in the 90's (understandable, since that saved the animation wing of the studio from being shut down), and hasn't received the same level of critical acclaim and Oscar accolade that Pixar's 2007-2010 run garnered, but they've been quietly recapturing much of the House of Mouse's former glory. Since 2008's BOLT, Disney Animation has had five straight home-runs, including 2010's TANGLED and last year's WRECK-IT RALPH.

And now FROZEN makes six. At some point we may need to dub this a Second Disney Renaissance. Because yes, they've definitely still got it.

Monday, November 11, 2013

THOR: THE DARK WORLD - Brothers in Arms

MARVEL studios is smack-dab in the middle of Phase 2, the "aftermath" of sequels following the now-legendary team-up that was THE AVENGERS. That movie that was almost an end in and of itself considering the amount of legwork that went into getting there, establishing (in some cases RE-establishing) four high-profile comic characters in their own film worlds before bringing them together, along with an ever-growing shared supporting cast.

But now what? How do you go back to the farm after having seen Paris?

Easy - you don't, you go to space. MAGIC space.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


MARVEL just keeps throwing out gold, especially with this particular AVENGERS feeder franchise. I still think that CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER was the best stand-alone film of the bunch (though IRON MAN THREE comes really close), and now the marketing for the sequel has kicked into gear, with trailers and everything.

Heck, even the somewhat formulaic teaser poster has some great design elements (all 'dem subliminal A's).

But the new trailer looks so. VERY. GOOD.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

GRAVITY - Falling in Love with Cinema

This is going to be one of those times that I feel utterly unequal to task of intelligently articulating just how good a movie is, and why it deserves both the near-unanimous critical reception it's recieved AND as much attention from a wide audience as it can possibly get.

But what the hell, I'll give it a shot.

Because to be brief, the movie's REALLY F***ING GREAT.

Monday, October 7, 2013


The job of tackling the final story of the Boy Who Lived was a big one, and many people had expressed interest in it. Alfonso Cuaron, director of PRISONER OF AZKABAN, had said he'd consider coming back for the finale, as did Guillermo Del Toro (who had been offered PRISONER but declined) before his workload on THE HOBBIT made that an impossibility. Lots of big names wanted in on the action.

But David Yates, who began his term at Hogwarts in Part 3 with ORDER OF THE PHOENIX and HALF-BLOOD PRINCE agreed to finish the journey, bringing a close to what Chris Columbus began in Part 1, what Alfonso Cuaron and Mike Newell helped shepherd and continue in Part 2.

And now...

Sunday, September 29, 2013


In hindsight, the way WB handled the directorship of what became their most lucrative investment (and THE ongoing movie event of the previous decade) was a bit risky, especially after Columbus decided not to stay on for the whole enterprise. What followed was a series of the sort of interesting - even bold - choices that most studios don't go anywhere near when hundreds of millions of dollars are on the line. The studio displayed massive confidence in their brand, taking the chance on directors who'd never crafted a tentpole in the hopes of shading the HARRY POTTER films with something unique. The idea of several visions for a single series doesn't usually sound like the best approach, but in a franchise dealing with growing children and a new year of school every entry, it's actually a rather ingenious method.

What's more, each director took it upon themselves to act as an early guide for their successor, from Columbus to Cuaron to Newell - all would show rough cuts of their movies to the "next man" or help walk them through their own approach to the franchise. This close cooperation (along with consistent Art Direction courtesy of Stuart Craig and Stephanie McMillan) is undoubtedly one of the elements that keeps the franchise feeling like one continuous story in a single world, rather than several disconnected films.

We saw how this helped create a sense of cohesion between the first four films in Part 1 and Part 2 of the retrospective. But something was still missing, and with the fourth director the series finally found it.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Big things tend to start in interesting ways. Most know the story of Rowling's "waitress and welfare" period as a single mother laboring to bring the first book into existence, but even after becoming a best-seller, a film version might never have happened. Producer David Heyman didn't give Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone a second glance when it came across his desk. It was only after a secretary brought it to his attention with a positive review that it became a film priority for film adaptation.

Lucky for him.

Here is the second part (Part 1 being found here) of the retrospective on the HARRY POTTER franchise. The next two films marked some transition for the series, with changes in directors, release dates, and even major actors, but it made for some extremely interesting film-making.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


This summer marked the second anniversary since the release of the final Harry Potter movie and the sixth anniversary since the release of the final Harry Potter novel. For a decade this film franchise was the bread and butter of Warner Bros. pictures and a staple of both the holiday and summer movie season. So ingrained has it become in our popular culture that it's easy to forget it began as a fairly risky and completely unprecedented project in terms of scope and ambition - a ridiculously long-term adaptation of an as-yet unfinished book series, keeping the same cast of actors, including children cast when still in primary school.

That's. . . crazy. Even in an industry that was knee-deep in shooting 3 high-budget epic fantasy films at once under the direction of a schlock horror filmmaker from New Zealand, this project was a bold gamble. Especially the decision not to "age-up" the three main leads, an impulse most children's book adaptations give into immediately (looking at you PERCY JACKSON). To say nothing of the fact that there was every possibility the book craze could have turned out to be a short-lived fad, or Rowling could have "pulled a Jordan" or any other number of complications could have arisen.

But the gamble paid off. Warner Bros. invested over one billion dollars into the Boy Who Lived and in return got the (to date) highest-grossing film-franchise of all time. And a film series that arguably only improves as it goes on.

So after marathoning the films, I thought I'd revisit them all in a 4-part retrospective.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

THE WORLD'S END - The Once and Future King

For many, the exposure to British genre filmmaker Edgar Wright began with SHAUN OF THE DEAD or his follow-up (and spiritual sort-of-sequel) HOT FUZZ. However, before hitting film Wright was the show-runner on SPACED, a brilliant little sitcom featuring mainstays Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Meaning that THE WORLD'S END - the final film of the "Cornetto Trilogy" - constitutes the fifth (counting SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD) brilliant geek love letter in a row that Wright's offered up.

It would almost seem unfair how consistently talented this guy is if his work wasn't also so deliciously enjoyable.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

WHITE HOUSE DOWN - Yippie-ki-yay Mr. President!

"What if THE WEST WING and DIE HARD had a baby?" There's a question I never thought I'd ask, but I really can't think of a more apt description for filmmaker Roland Emmerich's (INDEPENDENCE DAY, 2012) newest effects-filled action film. And honestly, as ludicrous as the premise sounds, as ridiculous as the movie itself is, this unexpected combination of timely political issues and balls-out pyrotechnics makes for not only the best film in Emmerich's career, but also arguably the best riff on the DIE HARD formula since the 1988 original.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

RUROUNI KENSHIN: Wandering Samurai

STOP! Anime time! . . . Sort of.

Based on Nobuhiro Watsuki's best-selling manga (which birthed an anime series and several OAV features as well), RUROUNI KENSHIN is the story of Kenshin Himura, formerly an assassin during the Meiji Restoration, now a wanderer. Using a sakabato (reverse-bladed katana), Kenshin has vowed to use his skills to protect life rather than ending it. He stumbles into the life of Kaoru Kamiya, who's dojo has been implicated in several murders that have claimed her school's style as the one used by the killer. A killer that has ties to Kenshin's blood-soaked past. Things get even more complicated from there.

The 2012 film takes the well-known characters into a live-action setting while preserving the feel of the source material. And I LOVE it.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

TOMB RAIDER: Woman in a Man's World

I don't often talk in-depth about video games on this blog, but having finished Crystal Dynamics' TOMB RAIDER reboot some time ago and finding that it's still holding as one of my favorite gaming experiences of the year, and that it feeds into a interesting discussion occuring in the gaming industry right now, I thought I'd look at how this franchise has grown, and why the newest entry is a great step forward for the title's main character.

First, some history. In the mid-1990's, Sony's brand-new Playstation console was in search of an icon to call its own, an answer to the legendary Mario or the still-popular Sonic who were synonymous with their own parent companies. And for a moment there, it seemed that the Playstation's search was over with the arrival of archaeologist/action heroine Lara Croft. Debuting with 1996's smash hit TOMB RAIDER, Lara was an immediate sensation, but not because she was a compelling, relatable character, but because. . . well, because of two obvious reasons:

Lara was Indiana Jones with boobs, a hyper-sexualized male fantasy who, through a half-dozen games, two movies, and a comic series, has been eye candy first, and a character a distant third (sorry).

But then something changed. A couple years ago, Crystal Dynamics decided to take the franchise in a completely new direction and redesign the game-play mechanics and the franchise's main character from the ground up. Going back to Lara's roots, they delivered a younger, less experienced version of the popular heroine to show her violent and heroic origins, and in doing so created easily the most adult take on the character - and one of the most clever female protagonists in years - that the medium had ever seen.

Friday, June 14, 2013


"Is there a place in the world for Superman?"

This is the central question that struggling writers and skeptical fans have been asking about the original SUPERhero for years (if not decades) now. Does this character, who was created at such a different time in our history, who stood for what many think of as outdated or even corny ideals, who can't feel the pains of the world the way we can, still matter to a modern audience?

This question is also at the forefront of MAN OF STEEL, the rebooted cinematic vision of Superman from the film-makers behind WATCHMEN and THE DARK KNIGHT. And overall, I can say yes. Mostly.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


For those going to see MAN OF STEEL this weekend, there's a certain teaser trailer for a certain holiday fantasy film based on a certain beloved children's literary classic that they'll get a chance to see on the big screen when they take their seats.

Alternately, we can just watch it right now on the internet. Because the future!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

IRON MAN 3: Back in Black

Iron Man 3 is a Shane Black movie, and this is a wonderful thing.

For those of you who don't think you know who Shane Black is, you actually do. The man was something of a superstar in the screenwriting scene of late 80's/early 90's Hollywood, scoring big with Lethal Weapon and soon becoming the highest paid writer in the industry. But his early (largely entertaining) work is nothing compared to the movie he made with Robert Downey Jr.

Back in 2005.

Written and directed by Black, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang was the lifeline that eventually lead Downey Jr. to the superstar role of Tony Stark, and is a modern noir masterpiece. The film boasts wicked humor, snappy banter from actors bringing their A-game, and ingenious subversion of the genre.

Which, not coincidentally, pretty aptly describes Iron Man 3 as well

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What Does the "S" Stand For?

The third - and likely "final" - theatrical trailer for Man of Steel has hit the net, and it looks great.

How great?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I Don't Feel Sorry For Rapists


I really really can't believe how utterly out-of-control rape culture has gotten in this country. In the past fifty years the US has seen some welcome advancements in multiple social arenas, but every time I stop to revel in the smell of the 21st century, it seems like someone has to come along and ruin it for everyone.

Now, I normally try to keep this blog relatively politics-free, preferring to focus on geek-centric issues of popular culture and entertainment, but I'm just too furious right now to give a damn about stuff like a new G.I. Joe movie when this kind of stupid crap is making it seem like people think the 19th century is a valid reference point for behavior. So since this is a thing (that just somehow keeps getting WORSE), this is what we're talking about today. Sorry in advance.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Disney Renaissance Part 10: Tarzan

And now we come to the final film of the Disney Renaissance. This movie is generally regarded as marking "the end" of that period in Disney animation history because the films that came afterward didn't quite match the streak of critical and commercial acclaim that Disney had enjoyed in the 90's. The studio strayed from the "adaptation with catchy musical numbers" formula during the following decade, with mixed results.

In many ways, this new trend started with the 1999 hit Tarzan, a movie that eschewed the standard song-and-dance numbers of movies like Hercules and Mulan. It still plays very much in Disney's wheelhouse, recaptured some of the magic that helped Aladdin to be so broadly appealing, and ended up being the studio's most successful film since The Lion King.

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Sad Way to Die Hard

Can't say I didn't see this coming. But A Good Day to Die Hard is horrible.

And no, I don't mean "not as good as the original" or "not good in a 'snooty art house film' way" - I mean it's legitimately terrible even in the field of brain-dead star-driven action vehicles. I'm not even sure I can properly express how not just bad, but bizarrely incompetent the entire affair is.

But I'm gonna do my level best.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Who's the Boss?

A few months ago a friend of mine embarked on a bit of a venture with some associates - including myself - to produce a podcast covering a wide range of nerd-related material from movies to gaming to random popular culture to just plain old shouting matches (the most fun). Because that's sure a niche that no one's bothered to try filling, right?

But all joking aside, I'm excited to present The Load Bearing Bosses. And just so you know we're "official" we even have a logo. . .

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Disney Renaissance Part 9: Mulan

Of all the films of the Disney Renaissance, none went through such a dramatic transformation during their development as the ninth film. Before the idea to focus on a figure from Chinese legend came about, Disney was developing a story called China Doll about an oppressed girl who was rescued by a British prince and went to live happily ever after with him in the west.

Needless to say for anyone who's seen Mulan, they went in a very different direction indeed. Thankfully.

In Memoriam: Tony Scott's True Romance

The director of Top Gun originally wanted to be a painter.

Tony Scott started off as an artist working on canvas before falling into film, thanks in large part to his older brother Ridley Scott. But the background in static visual composition would bleed into the director's film work, from Scott's love of smoky atmosphere to the way he deliberately filled his wide anamorphic frames and layered in fore and background elements. Even when the movie was moving too fast for you to take it in, Scott was sure to paint a memorable frame on celluloid.

And perhaps no film best captures this like Tony Scott's unsung masterpiece, True Romance

Fair Warning: there will be ---SPOILERS---- in this entry.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

J.J. Abrams is directing STAR WARS Ep. VII

And the wait for 2015 becomes even more unbearable.

The Wrap's Lucas Shaw just dropped this bit of nuclear knowledge on the internet, and along with Latino Review's scoop about the line-up for WB's Justice League movie, that makes for a heck of a news day. So it's official - J.J. Abrams (Mission Impossible III, Star Trek, Super 8) will journey from where no man has gone before to a galaxy far, far away.

You know, this could seriously work.

Meet Summer 2015's Justice League


Pretty much THE big question about this project - after the answer to "Is WB actually going to make a Justice League movie?!" was finally given - has been what the line-up would be. The Justice League has hundreds of members comprising the pool for what has been a pretty regular (but nonetheless malleable) "main" roster. And since WB didn't take the Marvel approach and give every hero their own solo movie beforehand, just who exactly would show up was pretty murky.

Until now.

Latino Review, which has been just gob-smackingly accurate in their rumor excavation - especially about DC/WB projects - has revealed the Final Five Members of the Justice League...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Why I Stopped Reading Comics

So the title is slightly misleading - I read a few books semi-regularly, but I've stepped well back from the "main" superhero comics from the two major publishers in the game. And. . . well, it's like this.

By now there's been more than a little hullabaloo about the events that lead to the end of The Amazing Spider-man comic with issue #700, and the launch of the new Superior Spider-man book that ostensibly takes its place. Plenty of widely-read and intelligent culture commentators (like The Escapist's Bob Chipman and BADASS Digest's Devin Faraci) have already weighed in on how this isn't really as bad as some fans are making it out to be. And they're not wrong per say, but it's still an example of why I just can't give a single solitary damn about these comics anymore.

Oh, I'm sorry - for those who don't keep up with this stuff to the same obsessive extent that I do, The Amazing Spider-man ends with Peter Parker switching bodies with Doctor Otto Octavius (a.k.a. Doctor Octopus) and then dying.

No, really.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Top 10 Films of 2012 (and them some...)

This ended up being a great year for movies. 2012 started unusually strong, and - while it seemed to falter a bit during summer - it ended with a string of amazing movies from early fall through December. And since this is the first post of the new year for this blog, I figure I'll do a Top 10 list.

As a caveat, I still have not seen Life of PiZero Dark Thirty, or Argo, but you know what, I don't feel like waiting. I'll amend things in a couple weeks if needed, but here's what won me over the most in cinemas.