Saturday, August 31, 2013

Review: "Rush Hour 2" Improves on the Original (Happy B'day, Chris Tucker)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 113 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

Rush Hour 2 (2001)
Running time:  90 minutes (1 hour, 30 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for action violence, language, and some sexual content
DIRECTOR:  Brett Ratner
WRITER:  Jeff Nathanson (based upon the characters created by Ross LaManna)
PRODUCERS:  Roger Birnbaum, Jonathan Glickman, Arthur Sarkissian, and Jay Stern
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Matthew F. Leonetti
EDITORS:  Mark Helfrich and Robert K. Lambert
COMPOSER:  Lalo Schifrin


Starring:  Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, John Lone, Ziyi Zhang, Roselyn Sanchez, Harris Yulin, Alan King, Jeremy Piven, Saul Rubinek, and Gianni Russo with Don Cheadle

The subject of this movie review is Rush Hour 2, a crime comedy and action film from director Brett Ratner and starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker.  The film is a sequel to the 1998 film, Rush Hour.  In the new film, Chan’s Lee and Tucker’s Carter are on vacation in Hong Kong when they get caught up in a counterfeit money scam.

Chief Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) is once again the foil for Detective James Carter (Chris Tucker) as Carter comes to Hong Kong on vacation and spends much time subjecting Lee to verbal barbs.  The rest and relaxation is cut short when an explosion kills two American agents.  Lee learns that this case may be tied to crime boss Ricky Tan (John Lone).

Tan is a former policeman and was the partner of Lee’s father until Tan betrayed him.  Lee and Carter follow the case back to Los Angeles, where they meet Isabella Molina (Roselyn Sanchez), a sexy customs agent.  Isabella informs them that Tan is part of an international scheme to launder 100 million dollars in counterfeit U.S. currency.  Lee and Carter head to Las Vegas, the epicenter of Tan’s scheme, for an explosive showdown.

Rush Hour 2 is Rush Hour, but with some improvements.  The screen chemistry between Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, which was quite good in the first film, is even better this time around.  It’s as if three years haven’t passed between the first film and this one.  They have a near-flawless rhythm and flow, and their performances turn this flimsy joke of a crime plot into action/comedy gold.  Rush Hour 2 does have one big problem – there’s not enough of it.

7 of 10

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Updated:  Saturday, August 31, 2013

The text is copyright © 2013 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog for syndication rights and fees.


"Pacific Rim" Has Over $400 Million in Worldwide Box Office

Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures Pacific Rim Crosses $400 Million Worldwide

BURBANK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Guillermo del Toro’s widely praised action adventure “Pacific Rim” has crossed $400 million dollars at the worldwide box office, becoming the director’s highest grossing film ever. The announcement was made today by Veronika Kwan Vandenberg, President, International Distribution and Dan Fellman, President, Domestic Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures; and Legendary Pictures.

Internationally, “Pacific Rim” is still in release in a number of territories and has grossed $302 million thus far. In China alone, the film is the biggest of any Warner Bros. Pictures release ever and the fifth-biggest MPA film gross in China’s cinema history. The film’s record-breaking release in China also furthers Legendary’s growing presence in the territory.

“The worldwide performance of ‘Pacific Rim’ is a clear testament to the quality and originality of Guillermo’s world-building,” said Jon Jashni, President and Chief Creative Officer, Legendary Entertainment. “We are pleased that audiences continue to respond so passionately.”

“From Moscow to Beijing, ‘Pacific Rim’ has captivated critics and audiences alike in markets all over the world, and become a box office juggernaut,” Kwan Vandenberg said. “Congratulations to Guillermo, his cast and crew, and our partners at Legendary for this exciting benchmark.”

Fellman added, “Critics and early screening audiences were the first to love ‘Pacific Rim’ and it’s exciting to watch the whole world follow suit. We congratulate Guillermo and his team on both sides of the camera, as well as Legendary, for the tremendous success of this film around the globe.”

From acclaimed filmmaker Guillermo del Toro comes the sci-fi action adventure “Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures Pacific Rim.”

When legions of monstrous creatures, known as Kaiju, started rising from the sea, a war began that would take millions of lives and consume humanity’s resources for years on end. To combat the giant Kaiju, a special type of weapon was devised: massive robots, called Jaegers, which are controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are synched via a neural bridge, called “The Drift.” But as the enemy grows more powerful with each attack, even the Jaegers are proving nearly defenseless in the face of the relentless Kaiju.

On the verge of defeat, the forces defending mankind have no choice but to turn to two unlikely heroes—a washed up former pilot (Charlie Hunnam) and an untested trainee (Rinko Kikuchi)—who are teamed to drive a seemingly obsolete Jaeger. Together, they stand as mankind’s last hope against the mounting apocalypse.

“Pacific Rim” stars Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Rob Kazinsky, Max Martini, Clifton Collins, Jr., Burn Gorman, and Ron Perlman.

Oscar® nominee Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”) directed the film from a screenplay by Travis Beacham and del Toro, story by Beacham. Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, del Toro and Mary Parent produced the film, with Callum Greene serving as executive producer and Jillian Share Zaks co-producing.

Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures present a Legendary Pictures/DDY Production, a Guillermo del Toro film. The film has been released in 2D and 3D in select theaters and IMAX®, and is being distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company. This film has been rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief language.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Review: Morgan Spurlock Made a Star Turn in "Super Size Me"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 195 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Super Size Me (2004)
Running time:  96 minutes (1 hour, 36 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for language, sex and drug references, and a graphic medical procedure
EDITORS:  Stela Georgieva and Julie Bob Lombardi
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  Morgan Spurlock, Bridget Bennett, Dr.Lisa Ganjhu, Dr. Daryl Isaacs, Alexandra Jamieson, and Dr. Stephen Siegel

Morgan Spurlock’s documentary Super Size Me dips into a controversial issue:  how much does the fast food industry contribute to America’s obesity “epidemic?”  The question is a national debate that usually centers on the personal responsibility of consumers versus the omnipresent advertising of producers and marketers of convenience foods and of fast food chains, in particular McDonald’s.

In the Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock is the star, writer, producer, and director.  He, as the lead character (and he is indeed that in this film), eats McDonald’s food products three times a day for 30 days.  The experiment is more like a dangerous stunt, but it sheds more light on an important matter.  Over the course of the film, we get to watch Spurlock’s body and mental fitness literally change as he eats more and more of the poisonous (but surprisingly tasty) slop that is McDonald’s food products.

McDonald’s is an obvious choice, being that they are the biggest fast food chain in the world.  Many people automatically associate the corporation’s name with the term “fast food,” and the corporation is a lightening rod for media attention, something a documentary sorely needs.  Truthfully, few people eat three meals a day at McDonald’s, but many people eat there at least once a day (to which I can personally attest to knowing some) or at least once a week, which many nutritionists consider too often.  However, by going overboard by eating McDonald’s so often, Spurlock makes his point.

Super Size Me isn’t anti-McDonald’s, so much as Spurlock is speaking against the overwhelming marketing presence of the giant corporations that spend over a billion dollars a year in advertising.  His argument is partly that if adults must exercise personal responsibility, don’t fast food companies have any responsibility in selling food they know to be (to put it mildly) unhealthy.

In the end, the most important thing is whether or not Super Size Me works as a documentary.  The film takes an irreverent look at both obesity and at one of the main causes of obesity, fast food chains.  However, the film is a little light on expert testimony.  For all the doctors and nutritionists that appeared, it would be better if Spurlock had interviewed more historians and specialists on the effects of advertising on both adults and children.

Still, Spurlock made a very entertaining, a very informative, and ultimately very convincing film.  He’s is a great lead, very open and giving to both the camera and audience, and that helps to sell his Super Size Me.  If he didn’t give a lot of hard science, he certainly gave a hard reminder about how bad it is to eat too much crappy food.  Super Size Me does that in an engaging, informative, and hilarious way; that counts for a lot.

8 of 10

2004 Academy Awards:  1 nomination: “Best Documentary, Features” (Morgan Spurlock)

Updated:  Friday, August 30, 2013

The text is copyright © 2013 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog for syndication rights and fees.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

"The Conjuring" Still Conjuring Big Box Office

New Line Cinema’s “The Conjuring” Scares up $200 Million and Counting at the Worldwide Box Office

BURBANK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--New Line Cinema’s “The Conjuring” has surpassed the $200 million mark at the worldwide box office, and has earned more than $220 million to date. The announcement was made today by Dan Fellman, President, Domestic Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures and Veronika Kwan Vandenberg, President, International Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures.

James Wan’s supernatural horror thriller enjoyed the largest opening weekend ever at the domestic box office for an original horror film, at $41.9 million, and garnered critical acclaim across the board. The domestic numbers currently stand at $131.9 million.

Internationally, “The Conjuring” has taken in nearly $90 million from 37 markets, buoyed by excellent debuts across a number of territories this weekend, including France, Italy and the Philippines, as well as Mexico and Belgium, where it enjoyed the biggest openings of all time for a horror film in those territories. The film has held strong in virtually all foreign markets, with Brazil yet to open.

In making the announcement, Fellman said, “The terrifying phenomenon experienced by this real family and translated so effectively to screen by James Wan has now become a phenomenon with audiences. We congratulate James and the cast and everyone involved in the film.”

“We’re thrilled with the incredibly strong numbers we’re seeing across the map, which is an outstanding feat for a film of this genre, especially one that is not a sequel or based on another property,” Kwan Vandenberg said. “Huge kudos to James Wan and his cast and crew for creating a fantastic film that has cast an electrifying spell in theaters around the globe.”

Based on the true life story, “The Conjuring” tells the tale of how world renowned paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren were called upon to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in a secluded farmhouse. Forced to confront a powerful demonic entity, the Warrens find themselves caught in the most horrifying case of their lives.

From New Line Cinema comes a feature film drawn from the case files of married demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren. “The Conjuring” stars Academy Award® nominee Vera Farmiga (“Up in the Air,” TV’s “Bates Motel”) and Patrick Wilson (“Insidious”) as the Warrens, and Ron Livingston (“The Odd Life of Timothy Green”) and Lili Taylor (TV’s “Hemlock Grove”) as Roger and Carolyn Perron, residents of the house. Joey King, Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland, Mackenzie Foy and newcomer Kyla Deaver play the Perrons’ five daughters, and Sterling Jerins is the Warrens’ little girl, Judy. Rounding out the cast are Marion Guyot, Steve Coulter, Shannon Kook, and John Brotherton.

James Wan (“Saw,” “Insidious”) directed the film from a screenplay by Chad Hayes & Carey W. Hayes (“The Reaping”). The film is produced by Tony DeRosa-Grund, Peter Safran and Rob Cowan, with Walter Hamada and Dave Neustadter serving as executive producers.

New Line Cinema presents a Safran Company / Evergreen Media Group Production of a James Wan Film, “The Conjuring.” The film is being distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company. This film has been rated R for sequences of disturbing violence and terror.

Announcing Paramount Double Feature: Star Trek and World War Z



Paramount Pictures, a division of Viacom, Inc., is giving moviegoers a chance to see two of its summer blockbuster films, “STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS” and “WORLD WAR Z,” with a special double feature at select AMC Theatres, Carmike Cinemas, Marcus Theatres, Regal Cinemas and other participating theaters nationwide in RealD 3D and 2D.

Beginning Friday, August 30th through Thursday September 5th, the double feature allows fans to relive the excitement of two of the summer’s biggest hit films for one ticket price.  Tickets are on sale now at,, and at participating theatre box offices.

“STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS,” directed by J.J. Abrams, follows the crew of The Enterprise as they are called back home to Earth in the wake of a shocking act of terror from within their own organization.  In defiance of regulations and with a personal score to settle, Captain Kirk leads his crew on a manhunt to capture an unstoppable force of destruction and bring those responsible to justice.  As our heroes are propelled into an epic chess game of life and death, love will be challenged, friendships will be torn apart, and sacrifices must be made for the only family Kirk has left: his crew.  The film earned more than $450 million worldwide upon its release in May.

“STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS” is written by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman & Damon Lindelof and directed by J.J. Abrams.  Abrams is producing with Bryan Burk through Bad Robot Productions, along with Lindelof, Kurtzman and Orci.  Jeffrey Chernov and Skydance Productions’ David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Paul Schwake are the executive producers.

“WORLD WAR Z,” with more than $500 million at the worldwide box office to-date, is Brad Pitt’s highest grossing worldwide release.  The film revolves around an ex-United Nations investigator Gerry Lane (Pitt), who traverses the world in a race against time to stop a pandemic that is toppling armies and governments and threatening to decimate humanity itself.  Mireille Enos and James Badge Dale also star.

Paramount Pictures and Skydance Production present, in association with Hemisphere Media Capital and GK Films, a Plan B Entertainment/2DUX2 Production “WORLD WAR Z,” directed by Marc Forster from a screenplay by Matthew Michael Carnahan and Drew Goddard & Damon Lindelof, and screen story by Matthew Michael Carnahan and J. Michael Straczynski.  Based on the novel by Max Brooks.  Produced by Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Ian Bryce.

About Paramount Pictures Corporation
Paramount Pictures Corporation (PPC), a global producer and distributor of filmed entertainment, is a unit of Viacom (NASDAQ: VIAB, VIA), a leading content company with prominent and respected film, television and digital entertainment brands. Paramount controls a collection of some of the most powerful brands in filmed entertainment, including Paramount Pictures, Paramount Animation, Paramount Vantage, Paramount Classics, Insurge Pictures, MTV Films, and Nickelodeon Movies. PPC operations also include Paramount Home Media Distribution, Paramount Pictures International, Paramount Licensing Inc., and Paramount Studio Group.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Review: "Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin" Shames Us for Forgetting

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 59 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin (2003)
Running time:  84 minutes (1 hour, 24 minutes)
PRODUCERS/DIRECTORS:  Nancy D. Kates and Bennett Singer
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Robert Shepard (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Rhonda Collins, Veronica Selver, and Gary Weimberg
MUSIC:  B. Quincy Griffin

DOCUMENTARY – History/LGBT/Civil Rights

I was recently searching Netflix, looking for a movie I could review in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (also known simply as the March on Washington).  I suddenly came across the name of a person involved in the American Civil Rights Movement of whom I had never heard.

That man is Bayard Rustin, and he turned out to be the perfect subject matter for this remembrance for several reasons.  One of them is that Rustin was the chief organizer (official title: Deputy Director) of the March on Washington (August 28, 1963), where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous and historic “I Have a Dream” speech.  The second reason is that there is an award-winning documentary about Bayard Rustin.

Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin is a 2003 documentary film from the producing and directing team of Nancy D. Kates and Bennett Singer.  Brother Outsider was originally broadcast as an episode of the long-running PBS documentary series, “P.O.V.” – Season 15, Episode 9 (January 20, 2013).  The film was also shown at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival, where it received a nomination for the festival’s “Grand Jury Prize Documentary” award.

Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin presents a broad overview of Rustin’s life.  Rustin was an American leader and activist in several social movements, including civil rights, gay rights, non-violence, and pacifism.  Rustin was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania in 1912, and Brother Outsider follows his life from there.  West Chester is where Rustin began his life as an activist, when as a youth he protested Jim Crow laws.

The film chronicles Rustin’s arrival to Harlem, and his subsequent involvement in communism and later in the anti-war movement.  The film also recounts Rustin’s run-ins with the law enforcement officials over his activities and also how he was monitored by the FBI.  The film discusses Rustin’s life as an openly gay man, which got him into trouble, both with police and with his colleagues and contemporaries.  Of course, the film’s centerpiece is Rustin’s long involvement with the Civil Rights Movement, so the film covers the March on Washington.  There is also an examination of Rustin’s relationship with Dr. King and with his mentor, A. Philip Randolph.

Rustin’s friends, family, companions, and figures from the Civil Rights Movement speak on camera about Rustin.  That includes Civil Rights figures such as Eleanor Holmes Norton, Andrew Young, and actress Liv Ullmann.  The film uses a lot of archival footage, which includes film and video of Dr. King, Malcolm X, Strom Thurmond, H. Rap Brown, Stokely Carmichael, Robert F. Kennedy, and President Lyndon Johnson, among many.  Brother Outsider also includes a sequence from the 2001 HBO movie, Boycott, starring Jeffrey Wright.

In a recent article for, writer and CNN contributor LZ Granderson talks about Bayard Rustin’s marginalization in Civil Rights history, which Granderson attributes to homophobia among some African-Americans and in some segments of the black community.  Running through Brother Outsider is the question asking why Rustin remained in the background of the Civil Rights Movement, never really coming forward.  I don’t think the film ever directly answers that question.

Watching the film and understanding the pariah status that gay people had in the United States for the majority of Rustin’s life, one can understand that Granderson is likely right.  Rustin’s status or lack thereof in Civil Rights history has been affected by his being openly gay.  Rustin was both a “brother,” to many in the social movements in which he participated, but his sexual identity also made him an “outsider.”  For portraying this, Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin won the GLAAD Media Award for “Outstanding Documentary” in 2004.  Rustin’s place in history is being restored.  On August 8, 2013, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Bayard Rustin (who died in 1987) the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

As a documentary about the Civil Rights Movement, Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin is essential, not only because it brings Rustin to light, but also because it is a good overview of the movements that preceded the Civil Rights Movement.  The film also draws attention to the figures that both influenced the movement before it began and also built the movement in its early days.  Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin, as a documentary, is essential Civil Rights viewing.

8 of 10

2004 Black Reel Awards:  1 nomination: “Black Reel Television: Best Original Program” (Public Broadcasting Service-PBS)

2004 Image Awards:  1 nomination: “Outstanding TV News, Talk or Information-Series or Special”

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

For the time being, LZ Granderson’s column, “The man black history erased,” can be read (as long as the article remains posted) here or

The text is copyright © 2013 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog for syndication rights and fees.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Review: "King-Size Canary" is a Tex Avery Classic (Remembering Tex Avery)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 101 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

King-Size Canary (1947) – animation
Running time:  8 minutes
DIRECTOR:  Tex Avery
WRITER:  Heck Allen (story)
PRODUCER:  Fred Quimby
ANIMATORS:  Ray Abrams, Robert Bentley, and Walter Clinton
COMPOSER:  Scott Bradley


The subject of this movie review is King-Size Canary, a 1947 animated cartoon short film directed by Tex Avery and produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM).  In 1994, animation historian Jerry Beck conducted a poll of animators, film historians, and directors, and King-Size Canary was the voted the 10th greatest cartoon of all time.  Pinto Colvig performed the voice of the “Cat” and Frank Graham the voice of the “Mouse,” but did not receive a screen credit.

King-Size Canary starts with a mangy cat on the verge of starvation.  The feline gives an itty-bitty, scrawny canary some “Jumbo-Gro” fertilizer, which in turns makes the canary grow to monstrously large yellow bird.  Thus, the cat has to engage the colossal canary in a pitched battle to see which will end up the other’s meal.  A vicious bulldog and a wily mouse also join in on a madcap comic adventure of gigantic proportions.

If there is a quintessential Tex Avery cartoon, King-Size Canary makes the short list.  In animated cartoon shorts, Fred “Tex” Avery is the most revered name next to Chuck Jones.  Everything that marked Avery’s cartoons, the quasi-normal realities, the series of sight gags – sometimes each more outlandish than the next, and the other improbably elements are all in ample supply in a cartoon that has less than eight minutes of narrative time.

Avery always wanted to make his cartoons wild and wooly, and he does here.  From a dog whose right eye becomes a searchlight to funny animal behemoths chasing each other across the country, King-Size Canary is a feast of gag comedy.  Much of that material would never make it into today’s cartoons, especially the gag in which the cat pours a bottle of sleeping pills down the dog’s mouth to knock him out.  This is a classic short and a superb example of cartoons for big kids, from a time when cartoon shorts were shown in theatres to entertain adults as much as children.

9 of 10

Friday, May 12, 2006

Updated:  Monday, August 26, 2013

The text is copyright © 2013 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog for syndication rights and fees.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bay, Wahlberg in New Photo from Set of "Transformers 4"

Pictured left to right: Jack Reynor; Mark Wahlberg; 2nd Assistant B-Camera Casey “Walrus” Howard; 1st Assistant B-Camera John Kairis with back to camera; B-Camera Operator Lukasz Bielan; Director Michael Bay; and Director of Photography Amir Mokri.

Just Another Day On The Set Of Transformers 4


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Review: Ben Affleck Miscast as a Superhero in "Daredevil"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 18 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Daredevil (2003)
Running time:  103 minutes (1 hour, 43 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for action/violence and some sensuality
WRITER/DIRECTOR:  Mark Steven Johnson
PRODUCERS:  Avi Arad, Gary Foster, and Arnon Milchan
EDITORS:  Armen Minasian and Dennis Virkler
COMPOSER:  Graeme Revell


Starring:  Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Colin Farrell, Michael Clarke Duncan, Jon Favreau, Joe Pantoliano, Erick Avari, Scott Terra and David Keith

The subject of this movie review is Daredevil, a 2003 superhero film starring Ben Affleck in the title role.  The movie is based on the Marvel Comics character, Daredevil, created by Stan Lee and artist Bill Everett.

The movie’s plot also borrows heavily from elements Frank Miller introduced during his stint as writer-artist on Marvel Comics’ Daredevil comic book series and on several other Daredevil publications.  Stan Lee is one of this film’s executive producers.  Oscar-winning screenwriter Brian Helgeland apparently contributed to the screenplay, but did not receive a screen credit.

Before I get into the heart of the review, I want to start off by saying that Daredevil really ain’t nothing special, and that makes this pretty run of the mill, except for the subject matter.  If you just have to see it (and I can only imagine that comic book fans feel this way as the character originates from a long running Marvel comic of the same title), see it in a movie theatre; otherwise, it may not be worth the time, money, and effort of going to the movies.

Another note before getting into the review:  although he doesn’t get credit, renowned comic book writer/artist and cartoonist Frank Miller just might be the major contributor to this film.  Miller, wrote and drew, the comic book, Daredevil, for Marvel Comics from the late 1970’s to the early 80’s and again wrote the title in the late 80’s with sometime New Yorker cartoonist, David Mazzuchelli, as the comic’s illustrator.  Miller created the character Elektra Natchios (played in this film by Jennifer Garner of TV’s “Alias”), but he did not create all the characters used in this film.

However, the stylistic approach used for the characters comes almost exclusively from Frank’s work.  This movie wouldn’t exist without Frank’s legendary accomplishments; Frank’s Daredevil stories are available in book form as Daredevil Visionaries:  Frank Miller Vol.’s 1-3 and Daredevil: Born Again.  In fact, the 1989 film version of Batman owes very much to Frank’s work on the character in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, which is always in print.  Miller is also a screenwriter, having penned Robocop 2 and Robocop 3, and his original script (presumably the for second Robocop) will be adapted into a comic book by Avatar Comics.  Now, to the review.

Attorney Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) was blinded as a child by a chemical that, though it robbed him of his sight, heightened his four remaining senses.  His hearing developed a kind of radar sense that allows him to “see” objects through the sound waves that bounce of those objects.  In the movie, we see the radar sense in operation as a rather cool looking visual effect.  After the accident that blinded him, young Murdock (Scott Terra) trains his body to be as superior as his heightened senses.  After criminals murder his father Jack (David Keith), young Matt grows up to be the costumed crime fighter, Daredevil, prowling the night in a tight, red leather uniform and pounding criminals into dust, literally.  Daredevil don’t play that; he’ll dispense justice to the extreme even if it means that a criminal might lose his life.

Matt meets Elektra, who is an ass kicking, martial arts hottie, and they have a brief romance, but when a crazed assassin named Bullseye (Colin Farrell) kills her father (Erick Avari, The Mummy), Elektra seeks revenge.  In her haste for revenge, she doesn’t realize how complicated matters are and that hanging over all their heads is master manipulator and super crime boss, Wilson Fisk - The Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan).

Daredevil is much darker than many super hero movies, almost as dark as Batman Returns, but the former does share the latter’s leather fetishistic theme.  There are lots of really good fight scenes mixing martial arts, boxing, and gymnastics.  Like Spider-Man, Daredevil uses quite a bit of CGI (computer generated imagery) to create human-like figures that can rapidly bounce off walls and scale ceilings while fighting.  In fact, in addition to the “bullet time” technique used so famously in The Matrix, CGI is the only other way live action film can mimic the impossible acrobatics of comic book fight scenes.  Daredevil’s fight scenes are exciting and even thrilling, but many times the CGI is so obviously fake, particularly in the jerky manner in which the CGI figures move.

The story has its moments.  Some of the romantic elements are genuinely sad and sentimental, and some of the drama is palatable.  However, like Spider-Man, the best stuff is during the fights are when Daredevil soars over the CGI New York skyline.

Director Mark Steven Johnson’s love for the material is evident.  He really tried to capture the feel of the comic book in his film.  However, some of the film is awkward, forced and clunky.  The movie drags, and sometimes it races headlong through the story without any substantial development.  There are too many characters, some who, if given more screen time, would have made a better movie.  Jon Favreau, as Matt’s law partner Foggy Nelson, is simply delightful, but Johnson uses him strictly for comic relief.  Farrell strains and overacts as Bullseye; by the time, Johnson reigns Farrell in enough to make Bullseye a good villain, the movie’s almost over.

Suffice to say, Daredevil is an average movie going experience, and might serve as a decent video rental.  It’s special only to comic book fans; most everyone else will find this to be just another movie, unless you’re into the strange and the unusual.  There is a really funk vibe going on with all those leather suits and the rest of the characters’ impressive wardrobe that’s worth experiencing on the big screen.

4 of 10

2004 Razzie Awards:  1 win: “Worst Actor” (Ben Affleck; also for Gigli-2003 and Paycheck-2003)

2010 Razzie Awards:  1 nomination: “Worst Actor of the Decade” (Ben Affleck; also for Gigli-2003, Jersey Girl-2004, Paycheck-2003, Pearl Harbor-2001, and Surviving Christmas-2004; Affleck nominated for 9 ‘achievements,” and “winner” of 2 Razzies)

Updated:  Friday, August 23, 2013

The text is copyright © 2013 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog for syndication rights and fees.

Review: "Elektra," Well, It's Better Than "Catwoman"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 10 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Elektra (2005)
Running time:  97 minutes (1 hour, 37 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for action violence
DIRECTOR:  Rob Bowman
WRITERS:  Raven Metzner, Stu Zicherman, and Zak Penn; from a story by Zak Penn (based on movie characters created by Mark Steven Johnson and comic book characters created by Frank Miller)
PRODUCERS:  Avi Arad, Gary Foster, and Mark Steven Johnson
EDITOR:  Kevin Stitt
COMPOSER:  Christophe Beck


Starring:  Jennifer Garner, Goran Visnjic, Kirsten Prout, Will Yun Lee, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Terence Stamp, Natassia Malthe, Bob Sapp, and Colin Cunningham with Jason Isaacs

The subject of this movie review is Elektra, a 2005 superhero film starring Jennifer Garner in the title role.  The film is based on the Marvel Comics’ character, Elektra, created by Frank Miller.  Elektra is a spin-off of the 2003 superhero movie, Daredevil, and Stan Lee, co-creator of the Daredevil character, is an executive producer on this movie, as well.  The new movie focuses on Elektra as she tries to protect a single father and his young daughter after being hired to kill them.

After dying in the 2003 film Daredevil, Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner) is alive and kicking in her own comic book based film, Elektra.  Elektra ain’t by no means great, but it’s far better than the lumbering, big budget blunder that was Daredevil.  And while Elektra isn’t worth a trip to the theatre for most moviegoers other than comic book fans and admirers of Ms. Garner’s figure, it’s worth a view of DVD.

The sai (a martial arts weapon) enthusiast Elektra is now an assassin for hire, and The Hand, the order of dark ninjas who trained Elektra and revived her from death, have hired her to kill Mark Miller (Goran Visnjic) and his daughter Abby (Kirsten Prout).  Abby is the “current generation’s” treasure, a gifted martial artist who can change the balance between good and evil.  Elektra is drawn to Abby and refuses to killer her, choosing to protect her and her father from The Hand.  Elektra’s refusal of The Hand’s contract and her subsequent interference sets The Hand’s master assassin, Kirigi (Will Yun Lee), and his quartet of dark super ninja after the trio.  Elektra seeks help from her first teacher, the blind sensei Stick (Terence Stamp), in hopes that he will take Abby and Mark off her hands.  Stick, however, has other plans, and forces Elektra to defend the girl and discover her own better nature, including dealing with her mother’s death and Kirigi’s part in it.

Elektra is a mildly entertaining action, superhero fantasy film with some nice fight sequences.  But even those action scenes ultimately seem forced and overdone; maybe it’s because only the fight scenes can save what is otherwise an exceedingly dry faux drama.  The acting is poor.  Terence Stamp is woefully miscast as Stick, and Goran Visnjic barely seems alive as Mark Miller.  Kirsten Prout’s Abby only elicits sympathy when the script places her in extreme danger.

A star on the hit television series, “Alias,” Jennifer Garner’s film career is mostly miss, except for a nice turn in 13 Going on 30.  There are moments in this movie when she assumes a pose as Elektra and looks like a clumsy, wall-eyed poseur.  Ms. Garner even walks as if she just learned that she has a nice ass, but still hasn’t quite got the rhythm using it in a provocative walk down pat.

Still, this film has some nice moments, and the fight scenes (which feature lots of wire-fu) are pretty good for an American film production.  To bad one of the (over extended) fight scenes uses CGI bed sheets as an obstacle for the hero.  It makes you wonder what the filmmakers were thinking.  It’s the eye-rolling stuff like this that ultimately hamstrings Elektra.

5 of 10

Updated:  Friday, August 23, 2013

The text is copyright © 2013 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog for syndication rights and fees.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Ben Affleck is Batman in 2015 "Superman-Batman" Team-up Movie

Ben Affleck Revealed as Batman in Warner Bros. Pictures’ New Super Hero Feature Film, Now Slated to Open July 17, 2015

The Oscar®-winning star joins Henry Cavill in the first ever onscreen match-up of DC Comics’ most iconic characters.

BURBANK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Ending weeks of speculation, Ben Affleck has been set to star as Batman, a.k.a. Bruce Wayne. Affleck and filmmaker Zack Snyder will create an entirely new incarnation of the character in Snyder’s as-yet-untitled project—bringing Batman and Superman together for the first time on the big screen and continuing the director’s vision of their universe, which he established in “Man of Steel.” The announcement was made today by Greg Silverman, President, Creative Development and Worldwide Production, and Sue Kroll, President, Worldwide Marketing and International Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures.

The studio has slated the film to open worldwide on July 17, 2015.

Last month’s surprise announcement of the new movie featuring both Superman and Batman created a wave of excitement and immediately fueled discussion and debate—among fans as well as in the media—about who would put on the cape and cowl of Bruce Wayne’s alter ego.

Snyder successfully re-imagined the origin of Clark Kent/Superman in the worldwide blockbuster “Man of Steel,” which has earned more than $650 million worldwide to date, and climbing. The director will now create an original vision of Batman and his world for the film that brings the two DC Comics icons together.

Affleck will star opposite Henry Cavill, who will reprise the role of Superman/Clark Kent. The film will also reunite “Man of Steel” stars Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne and Diane Lane.

In the announcement, Silverman stated, “We knew we needed an extraordinary actor to take on one of DC Comics’ most enduringly popular Super Heroes, and Ben Affleck certainly fits that bill, and then some. His outstanding career is a testament to his talent and we know he and Zack will bring new dimension to the duality of this character.”

Snyder also expressed his excitement about the casting of Affleck, noting, “Ben provides an interesting counter-balance to Henry’s Superman. He has the acting chops to create a layered portrayal of a man who is older and wiser than Clark Kent and bears the scars of a seasoned crime fighter, but retain the charm that the world sees in billionaire Bruce Wayne. I can’t wait to work with him.”

Kroll added, “We are so thrilled that Ben is continuing Warner Bros.’ remarkable legacy with the character of Batman. He is a tremendously gifted actor who will make this role his own in this already much-anticipated pairing of these two beloved heroes.”

Affleck recently starred in the Academy Award®-winning Best Picture “Argo,” which he also directed and produced, earning acclaim and a BAFTA Award nomination for his performance in the film, as well as a number of directing honors. In 2010, he starred in and directed the hit crime thriller “The Town.” His recent acting work also includes “The Company Men,” “State of Play,” and “Hollywoodland,” for which he received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor. Earlier in his career, Affleck starred in and co-wrote (with Matt Damon) “Good Will Hunting,” for which he won an Oscar® for Best Original Screenplay.

The new Super Hero film is being scripted by David S. Goyer from a story he co-created with Zack Snyder. Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder are producing, with Benjamin Melniker, Michael E. Uslan and Wesley Coller serving as executive producers.

Production is expected to begin in 2014.

The film is based on Superman characters created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster, and Batman characters created by Bob Kane, published by DC Entertainment.

Review: Welcome "The Strangers" into Your Imagination

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 58 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Strangers (2008)
Running time:  85 minutes (1 hour, 25 minutes)
MPAA – R for violence/terror and language
PRODUCERS:  Doug Davison, Nathan Kahane, and Roy Lee
EDITOR:  Kevin Greutert
COMPOSERS:  tomandandy


Starring:  Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman, Gemma Ward, Kip Weeks, Laura Margolis, Glenn Howerton, Alex Fisher, and Peter Clayton-Luce

The subject of this movie review is The Strangers, a 2008 horror film from writer-director, Bryan Bertino.  The film stars Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman as a young couple staying in an isolated vacation home, where they are terrorized by three unknown assailants.

The film follows Kristen McKay (Liv Tyler) and James Hoyt (Scott Speedman), who are returning from a friend’s wedding reception.  They decide to stay in a remote summer vacation home owned by James’ parents.  Instead of feeling joy, their minds are on a new complication in their relationship.  Shortly after arriving, someone shows up at the door asking, “Is Tamara here?”  Not long afterwards, Kristen and James find themselves confronting a masked trio that begins to taunt and torment them in a series of acts that grow increasingly cruel.

The Strangers is not only a horror movie, but also a mystery thriller, a suspense movie, and a crime film.  It especially recalls the scary movies of the 1970s.  Because “the strangers” (or intruders) stalk Kristen and because they use masks to hide their identities, this film often seems like a slasher movie.  It particularly bears a resemblance in tone and execution to John Carpenter’s 1978 slasher classic, Halloween.

This heady mix of mystery, thrills, and suspense entitled The Strangers maintains an effective atmosphere of creepy dread and spine-tingling anticipation.  Writer-director Bryan Bertino smartly uses sound and the interplay of artificial light and naturally-occurring darkness to enforce in the movie’s audience that something dangerous is there, unseen, but definitely there.  The Strangers has visual and thematic cues that evoke earlier movies about home invasion or with scenes depicting a home invasion, such as A Clockwork Orange, The Last House on the Left (1972), and Panic Room.

It is the suspense and terror, not the bloodshed and gore, which makes The Strangers such a good film.  The fear seems so real that it is surreal, and the movie has a dream-like quality, as if we were watching something on the edge of our consciousness, about to intrude on us as we doze off.  Ultimately, The Strangers is just fun to watch.  It is a reminder that the horror genre still has the capacity to seem fresh and new, regardless of production budgets. Even without computer-generated images and effects, horror can offer something delightfully surprising that can engage our imaginations or even blow our minds.  The Strangers is the new thing not afraid to use the old tricks that are timeless in their effectiveness to scare us.

8 of 10

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The text is copyright © 2013 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog for syndication rights and fees.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

“Get Shorty” Author, Elmore Leonard, Dies at 87

by Leroy Douresseaux

American crime writer Elmore Leonard died Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at the age of 87.  Known as “the Dickens of Detroit,” Leonard was the bestselling author of 45 novels and numerous short stories.  Leonard’s pared-down writing style featured snappy dialogue and black humor.  Many of his novels were turned into films.

The 1990 novel, Get Shorty, was turned into the 1995 film starring John Travolta, and the 1992 novel, Rum Punch, became Quentin Tarantino’s 1997 film, Jackie Brown.  Leonards’s short story, “Three-Ten to Yuma,” became the classic Western film, 3:10 to Yuma, in 1957, which was remade in 2007.  Leonard’s fiction was also the basis for a few television series, including the FX cable series, “Justified,” which is based on two novels, Pronto (1993) and Riding the Rap (1995), and a short story.

I read only two of Leonard’s novels, Get Shorty and Rum Punch, but I have enjoyed many of the films and television series adapted from his fiction.  Negromancer offers Mr. Leonard’s family our condolences.  R.I.P., Mr. Leonard.

Review: "3:10 to Yuma" an American Classic

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 45 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

3:10 to Yuma (1957)
Running time:  92 minutes (1 hour, 32 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Delmer Daves
WRITERS:  Halsted Welles (based upon the short story by Elmore Leonard)
PRODUCER:  David Heilweil
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Charles Lawton, Jr. (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Al Clark
COMPOSER:  George Duning
BAFTA Award nominee


Starring:  Glenn Ford, Van Heflin, Felicia Farr, Leora Dana, Henry Jones, Richard Jaeckel, and Robert Emhardt

The subject of this movie review is 3:10 to Yuma, a 1957 Western film and thriller from director Delmer Daves.  The film is based on the short story, “Three-Ten to Yuma,” written by Elmore Leonard and first published in the March 1953 issue of Dime Western Magazine.  3:10 to Yuma stars Glenn Ford and Van Helfin in a story of a rancher who escorts a notorious outlaw to the train that will take him to prison.

A crippling drought has hit Dan Evans (Van Heflin), a poor rancher, hard.  Fate steps in when Evans and his two young sons run into outlaw Ben Wade (Glenn Ford) and his gang robbing a stage coach of a fortune in gold.  When Wade is later caught, the town marshal of Brisbee offers a bounty to any men willing to escort Wade to the small dusty town of Contention.  There, they’ll board a train and take Wade to the prison town of Yuma.

Desperately in need of money for his cattle, Evans accepts the $200 bounty, in spite of his wife, Alice’s (Leora Dana) protests.  Evans joins the town drunk, Alex Potter (Henry Jones), and, Mr. Butterfield (Robert Emhardt), the owner of the gold, in escorting Wade.  Soon, the trio is held up in a small hotel in Contention with Wade.  They’re waiting for the 3:10 to Yuma while Wade’s gang closes in on the town, fiercely determined to free their leader.

Sometimes a film is so full of stereotypes in terms of characters, setting, and plot that the film is indeed a stereotype.  There are, however, rare occasions when such a film hits all the notes with perfect pitch, and what could have been nothing more than typical (entertaining, but typical) becomes an exceptional movie.  That’s what 3:10 to Yuma is – an outstanding horse opera.  Not only is it a great western, 3:10 to Yuma is also a thriller and a crime drama.

While managing to be a western, this is also a broader story about a man doing something because he should, not that he necessarily wants to put his neck on the line.  This could also easily be a tale set in the city, especially the way director of photography Charles Lawton, Jr. and director Delmer Davis stage 3:10 to Yuma in an interplay of liquid shadows and brilliant light as if this movie were Film-Noir.

As for the elements that are familiar to western movies:  there’s a really, good and humble man, and a cool, overly confident villain (who is also apparently an accomplished lover).  The citizens of two little towns want the bad guy to get his just punishment for his crimes, but most of the men are too afraid to stand up with the hero, whose only stouthearted partners are the portly owner of the stolen gold and the town drunk.  There’s even a lonesome setting – the barren Southwestern dry lands.  The hero also has a worried wife, and two sons who really want their dad to take on the bad guy, and the bad guy’s partners are a gang of nasty bad guys.

Still, all these familiar elements come together in harmony under the gaze of Charles Lawton, Jr.’s perfectly focused cinematography.  The cast work their engaging little drama, with its aspirations of being an epic, all while the strains of George Duning’s thrilling score dances overhead.  How director Delmer Daves transformed the ordinary flick into a memorable western, I’m not sure, but perhaps it is that he captured every moment at the right moment.  Maybe, it’s Glenn Ford’s superb performance as Ben Wade – especially during those intimate moments with Felicia Farr’s Emmy.  Perhaps, it is how Van Heflin and Leora Davis are so convincing as a couple with a long history and an even deeper love.  Or it could be every single thing in 3:10 to Yuma.

8 of 10

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

1958 BAFTA Awards:  1 nomination: “Best Film from any Source” (USA)

2012 National Film Preservation Board, USA:  National Film Registry

Updated:  Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Review: "3:10 to Yuma" Remake a Superb Modern Western

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 13 (of 2008) by Leroy Douresseaux

3:10 to Yuma (2007)
Running time:  122 minutes (2 hours, 2 minutes)
MPAA – R for violence and some language
DIRECTOR:  James Mangold
WRITERS:  Halsted Welles and Michael Brandt & Derek Haas (based on the short story by Elmore Leonard)
PRODUCERS:  Cathy Konrad
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Phedon Papamichael (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Michael McCusker
COMPOSER:  Marco Beltrami
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Logan Lerman, Dallas Roberts, Ben Foster, Peter Fonda, Vinessa Shaw, Alan Tudyk, Luce Rains, Gretchen Mol, and Ben Petry

Director James Mangold’s rousing, edgy Western, 3:10 to Yuma, is a remake of a 1957 film of the same name that starred Glenn Ford and Van Heflin.  Mangold (Walk the Line) isn’t robbing the grave of Hollywood classics; instead, he has fashioned the Western as a modern, suspense-thriller that is as close to an old-fashioned horse opera as a modern film can be.  Both the first film and Mangold’s remake are based on the short story, “Three-Ten to Yuma,” written by Elmore Leonard and first published in the March 1953 issue of Dime Western Magazine.

Rancher Dan Evans (Christian Bale) struggles to support his ranch and family during a long drought.  Desperate for money, Evans agrees to transport the captured outlaw, Ben Wade (Russell Crowe), from nearby Bisbee to Contention, the closest town with a rail station.  There, they’ll wait for the 3:10 train to Yuma, where Wade will be imprisoned while awaiting trial for his numerous crimes, mostly murder and robbery.  Holed up in a Contention hotel, Wade attempts psychological havoc on Evans, offering Evans much more money in exchange for his freedom than he would get for holding Wade captive.  Meanwhile, Wade’s henchmen, led by the vicious Charlie Prince (Ben Foster), storm into town offering money to any man who will shoot Wade’s captors.  Complicating matters, Dan’s son, William (Logan Lerman), has stubbornly joined his father on this deadly mission.

Mangold’s sturdy remake isn’t an exercise in pointless violence, although the film is indeed violent, and while it is more graphically violent than Westerns from the 30’s to the 60’s, this modern version of 3:10 to Yuma heals the wounded heart of the Western genre which has, with a few exceptions, been in steep decline on the big screen.  This is a grand character study, and acting its chief strength, relying on the considerable talents of Russell Crowe and Christian Bale.

The good guy/bad guy relationship between Crowe’s Ben Wade and Bale’s Dan Evans has to be played just right in order to work, or the relationship will seem like a tired old storytelling cliché.  The characters that Bale usually play seem like the everyman as quiet man.  Evans isn’t a hero or even a brave man, as we usually think of bravery, and his son William reminds him every chance he gets, by words, with a stare, or in his sullen expression.  Evans, however, is determined this one time – in dealing with Ben Wade – to be heroic.

On the other hand, Russell Crowe’s Ben Wade is the devil – pure and simple.  Supernaturally wily, he seems faster, stronger, smarter, and more vicious than any other human he encounters.  He has given in to his pure instincts and wants – like an animal, but much more dangerous because he is ultimately a human without the checks and balances of ethics and morals.

The viewer wouldn’t be overdoing it by seeing Evans as the Christ-like sacrifice and Wade his devilish tempter.  The good/bad dynamic, however, is a staple of the Western, and 3:10 to Yuma is rife with the genre standards.  That is how this extremely well-acted and superbly-directed film honors the American Western, and 3:10 to Yuma honors this venerable genre with gusto.

8 of 10

2008 Academy Awards:  2 nominations:  “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score (Marco Beltrami) and “Best Achievement in Sound” (Paul Massey, David Gaimmarco, and Jim Stuebe)

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review: "Olympus Has Fallen" is an Entertaining, Cheesy Action Movie

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 57 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

Olympus Has Fallen (2013)
Running time:  120 minutes (2 hours)
MPAA – R for strong violence and language throughout
DIRECTOR:  Antoine Fuqua
WRITERS:  Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt
PRODUCERS:  Gerard Butler, Ed Cathell III, Antoine Fuqua, Mark Gill, Danny Lerner, and Alan Siegel
EDITOR:  John Refoua
COMPOSER:  Trevor Morris


Starring:  Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Finley Jacobsen, Dylan McDermott, Rick Yune, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Phil Austin, Sean O’Bryan, Robert Forster, Lawrence O’Donnell, and Ashley Judd

While watching Morgan Freeman play an “Acting President of the United States” in Olympus Has Fallen, I remembered that he played the President during a disastrous time in another movie, Deep Impact, one of my very favorite films of all-time.  Olympus Has Fallen will not hold a place in my heart like Deep Impact, but it is, if nothing else, an entertaining and effective action movie.  Like me, you may very well feel the need to kick some enemy of the United States ass while watching it.

Olympus Has Fallen is a 2013 action thriller and semi-disaster movie from director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Tears of the Sun).  The film follows a disgraced, former Secret Service agent who finds himself trying to rescue the President after terrorists attack the White House.

Olympus Has Fallen opens on a snowy Christmas evening, when tragedy strikes.  Eighteen months later, Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is a disgraced Secret Service agent working at the U.S. Treasury Department.  While pondering the state of his life, Banning witnesses a full-on invasion of the White House.  Now, Kang Yeonsak (Rick Yune), a terrorist mastermind, is holding President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) hostage, and Kang’s demands, if met, will change the United States and the world forever.  Fate has given Banning a chance at redemption, but he may not have enough time to save the President or the world.

In some ways, Olympus Has Fallen is a throwback movie.  I can see Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, or Bruce Willis playing the lead in a movie just like Olympus Has Fallen from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s.  Lower the budget of such a movie, and your lead becomes Dolph Lundgren or Steven Seagal.  I can even imagine the voice over for an “old school” version of Olympus Has Fallen:

A pan-Asian devil has taken the White House,
The President – held hostage; the world in danger,
Now, only one man – one Caucasian man – can save the world
Bruce Willis-Stallone-Schwarzenegger, etc is Mike Banning in

Seriously, this is a slightly above-average, American-macho-done-up action movie.  Director Antoine Fuqua does his best low-rent Michael Bay.  Fuqua seems to borrow the loudest and most obnoxious stylistic elements of Bay’s The Rock and Armageddon to make Olympus Has Fallen.

Here, Gerard Butler is either being a really bad actor – a 21st century Dolph Lundgren – or he’s being tongue-in-cheek.  Even MAD Magazine couldn’t mock the action hero in a way that would surpass Butler’s caricature known as Mike Banning.  As a villain, Rick Yune is Butler’s over-the-top mirror image.  Yune’s Kang belongs in a Jean-Claude Van Damme straight-to-DVD movie, not in a big-budget feature.

The opposite of Butler and Yune is Morgan Freeman who plays Speaker of the House Allan Trumbull as extra-deadly serious.  Angela Bassett, as Lynne Jacobs, Director of the Secret Service, is sometimes over-the-top hysterical and frantic; it made me wonder if Bassett had forgotten that she was in an action movie and not a soap opera.

Still, Olympus Has Fallen is fun to watch, because it is as much a disaster movie as it is a shoot ‘em up about a lone wolf-type.  And the disaster part of it really appealed to me.

5 of 10

Monday, August 19, 2013

Monday, August 19, 2013

Warner Bros. Sets "Winter's Tale" for Valentine's Day 2014

Warner Bros. Pictures Announces February 14, 2014 Release for Akiva Goldsman’s “Winter’s Tale”

BURBANK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Warner Bros. Pictures has set a winter release date for “Winter’s Tale,” written and directed by Oscar®-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (“A Beautiful Mind”) and based on the novel by Mark Helprin. The film, from Warner Bros. Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures, will open in North America on February 14, 2014, with international dates to follow. The announcement was made today by Dan Fellman, President of Domestic Distribution, and Veronika Kwan Vandenberg, President of International Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures.

Stated Fellman, “We look forward to unveiling ‘Winter’s Tale’ as Akiva’s directorial debut. It features a remarkable roster of acting talent and a sweeping, romantic story that’s ideally suited for the holiday play period.”

“With its pedigree and stellar international cast, this epic, moving tale will have broad appeal overseas,” said Kwan Vandenberg. “The February date provides us a strong corridor in which to launch the film worldwide.”

Set in a mythic New York City and spanning more than a century, “Winter’s Tale” is a story of miracles, crossed destinies, and the age-old battle between good and evil.

The film stars Colin Farrell (“Total Recall”), Jessica Brown Findlay (TV’s “Downton Abbey”), and Oscar® winners Jennifer Connelly (“A Beautiful Mind”), William Hurt (“Kiss of the Spider Woman”), Eva Marie Saint (“On the Waterfront”) and Russell Crowe (“Gladiator”). It also introduces young newcomers Ripley Sobo and Mckayla Twiggs (both from Broadway’s “Once”).

“Winter’s Tale” marks the directorial debut of Akiva Goldsman, who also wrote the screenplay, based on the acclaimed novel by Mark Helprin. Goldsman is also producing, with Marc Platt (“Drive”), Michael Tadross (“Sherlock Holmes”) and Tony Allard (Showtime’s “The Baby Dance”). Kerry Foster and Bruce Berman serve as executive producers.

The behind-the-scenes creative team includes five-time Oscar®-nominated director of photography Caleb Deschanel (“The Passion of the Christ,” “The Patriot”), production designer Naomi Shohan (“Constantine,” “I Am Legend”), costume designer Michael Kaplan (“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol,” “Star Trek”) and editors Wayne Wahrman (“I Am Legend”) and Oscar® nominee Tim Squyres (“Life of Pi,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”). The music is composed by Oscar® winner Hans Zimmer (“The Lion King,” “Inception,” “Man of Steel”).

A presentation of Warner Bros. Pictures, in association with Village Roadshow Pictures, the film will be distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company, and in select territories by Village Roadshow Pictures.

Review: "Thunderbirds" is a Good Family Film (Happy B'day, Jonathan Frakes)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 13 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Thunderbirds (2004)
Running time:  95 minutes (1 hour, 35 minutes)
MPAA – PG for intense action sequences and language
DIRECTOR:  Jonathan Frakes
WRITERS:  William Osborne and Michael McCullers; from a story by Peter Hewitt and William Osborne (based upon the television series by Gerry Anderson and Sylvia Anderson)
PRODUCERS:  Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, and Mark Huffman
EDITOR:  Martin Walsh
COMPOSERS: Ramin Djawadi and Hans Zimmer

ACTION/ADVENTURE/FAMILY and FANTASY/SCI-FI with elements of comedy

Starring:  Brady Corbet, Soren Fulton, Bill Paxton, Ben Kingsley, Vanessa Anne Hudgens, Anthony Edwards, Sophia Myles, Ron Cook, Deobia (Dhobi) Oparei, Rose Keegan, Phillip Winchester, Dominic Colenso, Ben Torgersen, Lex Shrapnel, Harvey Virdi, Bhasker Patel, Demetri Goritsas, Genie Francis, and Andy Smart

The subject of this movie review is Thunderbirds, a 2004 science fiction and action-adventure film from director Jonathan Frakes (best known as “Commander William T. Riker” of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”).  This film is loosely based on the 1960s British science fiction television series, “Thunderbirds” (1965-66), created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson.  This Thunderbirds movie features live-action, human actors portraying the characters, while the television series used “Supermarionation” marionettes (a kind of puppet) as the characters.

Thunderbirds 2004 finds the Thunderbirds’ trapped and their secret base invaded by their arch-nemesis, and only the youngest Thunderbird is free to save the day.  I like this film’s story, but I would have preferred marionettes playing the characters.  However, I was shocked to find that I really enjoyed this movie, which owes as much to the Spy Kids franchise as it does to the Thunderbirds TV series.

After narrowly averting an oil rig disaster and rescuing a small group of rig workers, the Thunderbirds, led by papa Jeff Tracy (Bill Paxton), return home to their secret headquarters, Tracy Island, a lush patch of land that hides a giant secret base, the home of the Thunderbirds’ organization, International Rescue.  What the Thunderbirds don’t know is that a tracking device was placed on their rescue vehicle by a henchman of long-time Thunderbird adversary, The Hood (Ben Kingsley).

The Hood launches an attack on Thunderbird 5, IR’s secret space station.  Jeff Tracy and three of the older boys rush off to TB5 to rescue eldest son John (Lex Shrapnel), who operates the station.  The Hood invades Tracy Island and takes over Thunderbird headquarters from where he launches another attack that traps Jeff and his fours sons on TB5.  Now, it’s up to youngest son and headstrong troublemaker, Alan Tracy (Brady Corbet), to gain maturity beyond his years if he’s going to rescue his father and brothers and stop The Hood’s diabolical plan to rob the biggest banks in the world.  Luckily he has his friends Fermat (Soren Fulton) and Tin Tin (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) to help him, and here comes Lady Penelope (Sophia Myles) and her driver/butler Parker (Ron Cook) on the way.

Of course, Thunderbirds is the live-action update of the hit 1960’s British TV series and cult favorite, “Thunderbirds,” created by Gerry Anderson and his wife, Sylvia.  Obviously some people are going to have a difficult time accepting human actors in place of the series original “actors,” marionettes.  However, this is a fun family movie in the vein of the Spy Kids and Agent Cody Banks franchises.  The focus is not on the Thunderbirds as a team, but more on Alan Tracy and his friends Fermat and Tin Tin as a sort of makeshift young Thunderbirds.

That aside, Thunderbirds is a great kids action movie, superbly directed by Jonathan Frakes, best known as Commander William T. Riker of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” but Frakes has also directed several episodes of various TV series and a few feature films.  Frakes and the screenwriters deftly keep the action exciting without being intense, and they flirt with bawdy humor via verbal gags, taking advantage of Fermat and his father, Brains’ (Anthony Edwards) stuttering.

Bill Paxton seems to need half the film to warm up to playing Jeff Tracy, and Ben Kingsley is simply having fun, although he’s always a regal presence.  Nevertheless, the stars are the young trio of Alan Tracy, Fermat, and Tin Tin, and the young actors, who give striking performances, gamely carry this nice family thrill ride.

7 of 10

Updated:  Monday, August 19, 2013


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Indie Drama "Little Accidents" Begins Production


Elizabeth Banks, Boyd Holbrook, Chloë Sevigny, Jacob Lofland and Josh Lucas Join Indie Drama

Production is underway in West Virginia on the independent drama LITTLE ACCIDENTS, the first feature film from writer/director Sara Colangelo. The film, which was developed at both the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters and Directors Labs, will star Elizabeth Banks, Boyd Holbrook, Chloë Sevigny, Jacob Lofland and Josh Lucas.

LITTLE ACCIDENTS follows the disappearance of JT, a 14 year-old boy in an American coal town which has already seen its share of tragedy after a mining accident. JT’s disappearance draws together three local residents from very different walks of life. Together they struggle to navigate the web of secrets surrounding the boy’s death, unaware of how connected they truly are.

Colangelo previously directed the award-winning short film by the same name, which debuted at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and explored some of the same themes as her debut feature.

“Sara Colangelo's script for Little Accidents is one of the strongest first features with which I've been associated,” said Anne Carey, President of Production for Archer Gray.  “She is both a subtle and ambitious filmmaker. The strength of her script attracted a terrific cast of actors, an excellent crew and a great group of producers.  I am very excited that this film is one of the launching titles for Archer Gray Productions.”

“We had the pleasure of being introduced to Sara and the project through the Sundance Institute and WME,” said Jason Michael Berman and Thomas B. Fore, producing partners at TideRock Media.  “We fell in love with Sara's script, which paints the Appalachian coal-mining community in an authentic and heartfelt way that hasn’t often been portrayed in popular culture.”

“Little Accidents is an extraordinary film that takes the viewer on a complex and deeply emotional journey,” said Chris Columbus, partner at Maiden Voyage.  “Sara Colangelo is a visionary filmmaker.  Maiden Voyage Films is thrilled to be part of this exceptional project.”

The film is being produced by Anne Carey of Archer Gray Productions, Jason Michael Berman and Thomas B. Fore of TideRock Media, and Summer Shelton. Executive producers are Chris Columbus and Eleanor Columbus of Maiden Voyage, Amy Nauiokas of Archer Gray Productions, Ruth Mutch of Soaring Flight Productions, and Kwesi Collisson, Mike Feuer and Todd Feuer of Mindsmack Productions. The project’s DP is Rachel Morrison.

Elizabeth Banks is also shooting William Pohlad’s Love & Mercy, and can be seen this Fall in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire as Effie Trinket.  Boyd Holbrook had his on-screen debut in Milk, and can be seen in the upcoming films Walk Among the Tombstones, Untitled Terrence Malick Project, Jane Got a Gun and The Skeleton Twins.  Oscar nominee Chloë Sevigny (Boys Don’t Cry) is known for her recent roles on HBO’s “Big Love” and F/X’s “American Horror Story: Asylum.”  Jacob Lofland’s on-screen debut was in 2012’s Mud. Josh Lucas has recently been in films J. Edgar and The Lincoln Lawyer.

Colangelo is represented by WME, who packaged the project and will be representing the film for sales, as well as Victoria Cook at Frankfurt, Kurit, Klein and Slez PC.  Elizabeth Banks is represented by UTA, Untitled Entertainment and Ziffren Brittenham LLP; Boyd Holbrook is represented by CAA and Kanner Entertainment.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Review: "Broken City" Well Put Together

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 56 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

Broken City (2013)
Running time:  109 minutes (1 hour, 49 minutes)
MPAA – R for pervasive language, some sexual content and violence
DIRECTOR:  Allen Hughes
WRITER:  Brian Tucker
PRODUCERS:  Remington Chase, Randall Emmett, Allen Hughes, Stephen Levinson, Arnon Milchan, Teddy Schwarzman, and Mark Wahlberg
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Ben Seresin (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Cindy Mollo
COMPOSERS:  Atticus Ross, Leopold Ross, and Claudia Sarne

CRIME/DRAMA with elements of a thriller

Starring:  Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jeffrey Wright, Barry Pepper, Alona Tal, Natalie Martinez, Michael Beach, Kyle Chandler, James Ransone, Griffin Dunne, Justin Chambers, and Chance Kelly

Broken City is a 2013 big-city crime drama from director Allen Hughes.  Starring Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe, the film follows an ex-cop seeking to unravel a complex political mystery involving a powerful mayor.

Broken City opens by revealing a controversial police shooting.  Seven years later, ex-cop Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) owns a private detective agency that is on the verge of bankruptcy.  Taggart gets a big break when New York City Mayor Nicholas Hostetler (Russell Crowe) offers him $50,000 to learn the identity of the man with whom his wife, Cathleen (Catherine Zeta-Jones), is having an affair.

When the suspected adulterer is found shot to death, Taggart thinks that he may have been double-crossed.  However, Taggart’s path to payback takes him into a complicated political conspiracy involving many elements, including a controversial real estate deal, a contentious mayoral election, and police Commissioner Carl Fairbanks (Jeffrey Wright) who despises Mayor Hostetler.

If you found my summary or synopsis of Broken City unusually vague (compared to what I normally offer), it is because I am trying to reveal as little of this film’s plot and story as possible.  I really enjoyed Broken City.  It reminds me of a smoky old Film-Noir movie from the 1950s that focuses on “the city” (such as John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle).  Broken City is also the first feature film that Allen Hughes has directed without his twin brother, Albert, with whom he has collaborated on such gems as Menace II Society and The Book of Eli.  Allen rarely falters in this solo effort.

Hughes works from an excellent screenplay by Brian Tucker, although I think Broken City would work even better as a novel or television series.  However, Hughes manages to squeeze every subplot, relationship, conflict, and bit of motivation onto the screen.  The result is a cynical tale of big city politics, cronyism, and murder that delivers surprises as if they were mean left hooks.

Broken City is something of an ensemble film.  The viewer enters the world of the film through Mark Wahlberg’s Billy Taggart.  While this isn’t his best performance, Wahlberg proves once again that he is both a fine actor and a true movie star because he will make you want to follow both Taggart’s investigation and his personal journey.

The rest of the cast takes what they are good at doing and distills it into powerful supporting performances.  For Russell Crowe, that means a meaty, masculine, and menacing turn as the powerful Mayor Nicholas Hostetler, a character which feels like a co-lead, but is more of a supporting player.  There is not enough Catherine Zeta-Jones who is smoky and husky as the bordering-on-fatale First Lady Cathleen Hostetler.  The always-superb Jeffrey Wright makes a pugnacious turn as the police commissioner, but the story also needs more of his character.

So that is the glaring flaw of Broken City.  It needs to be bigger in terms of its scope, and it needs to be longer in terms of length.  If any crime drama deserves to run at least three hours, Broken City is it.  Still, this movie was one of 2013’s first really good dramas, and it is hugely entertaining with a killer last act.

7 of 10

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Friday, August 16, 2013

"Cutie and the Boxer" Opens August 16, 2013

TWC/Radius Presents


Written & Directed By Zachary Heinzerling

Download the CUTIE AND THE BOXER trailer here:


SYNOPSIS:  A reflection on love, sacrifice, and the creative spirit, this candid New York story explores the chaotic 40-year marriage of renowned “boxing” painter Ushio Shinohara and his artist wife, Noriko. As a rowdy, confrontational young artist in Tokyo, Ushio seemed destined for fame, but met with little commercial success after he moved to New York City in 1969, seeking international recognition. When 19-year-old Noriko moved to New York to study art, she fell in love with Ushio—abandoning her education to become the wife and assistant to an unruly, husband. Over the course of their marriage, the roles have shifted. Now 80, Ushio struggles to establish his artistic legacy, while Noriko is at last being recognized for her own art—a series of drawings entitled “Cutie,” depicting her challenging past with Ushio. Spanning four decades, the film is a moving portrait of a couple wrestling with the eternal themes of sacrifice, disappointment and aging, against a background of lives dedicated to art.

Review: "The Black Cat" Offers First Pairing of Karloff and Lugosi (Remembering Bela Lugosi)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 213 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Black Cat (1934)
Also known as: The Vanishing Body (1953)
Running time:  65 minutes (1 hour, 5 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Edgar G. Ulmer
WRITERS:  Peter Ruric; from a screen story by Peter Ruric and Edgar G. Ulmer (based upon a story by Edgar Allen Poe)
EDITOR:  Ray Curtiss


Starring:  Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, David Manners, Jacqueline Wells, Lucille Lund, Egon Brecher, and Harry Cording

The subject of this movie review is The Black Cat, a 1934 film that blends the genres of crime, horror, and mystery.  The film was released by Universal Pictures and produced by Carl Laemmle, Jr.  The Black Cat was re-released in 1953 as The Vanishing Body.  This was the first of eight movies that paired actors, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff.  This is apparently one of the first movies to have an almost continuous movie score, which was composed by Heinz Roemheld.

The Black Cat takes its name from the Edgar Allen Poe short story, “The Black Cat” (first published in 1843), but little else.  Television and screenwriter Tom Kilpatrick contributed to the writing of this movie’s screenplay, but did not receive a screen credit.  The Black Cat the movie follows an American couple, honeymooning in Hungary, who becomes trapped in the home of a Satan- worshiping priest.

Peter Alison (David Manners) and his wife Joan (Jacqueline Wells) are American honeymooners vacationing in Hungary when they encounter a peculiar psychiatrist, Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Bela Lugosi) on a passenger train.  Later, the couple shares a taxi with him.  After the taxi accident is involved in an accident, the trio is trapped in the home of a Satan-worshipping priest, Hjalmar Poelzig (Boris Karloff).  Poelzig, an accomplished architect, desires Joan for a satanic ritual.  Unbeknownst to Peter and Joan, Poelzig and Dr. Werdegast are old acquaintances with a bitter history together.

I love gorgeous black and white movies, especially the beautiful horror films Universal produced in the 1930’s and 40’s.  The Black Cat is a superb example; the photography is excellent and the film has an eerie, but handsome dream-like quality.  A hip hop artist once commented on how films from Hollywood’s golden era of studio films had such class because everyone dressed so well, even the characters who weren’t wealthy.  The cast of this film wear the finest suits, in particular Lugosi’s Werdegast and Manners’ Peter Alison.  Lugosi’s ultra sharp suits add some kind of peculiar quality to his character that I just can’t explain; he looks so good in them that I can call him a mack.  Lugosi’s lounge attire:  smoking jackets, bathrobes, and top quality pajamas defy reason; they fit him like a tuxedo and would seem quite appropriate as formal dinner wear.

The most prominent element of The Black Cat is the art deco flavored art direction.  It does seem out of place in rural Hungary, but the mansion’s interiors add a special quality to movie.  Watching the story unfold in this art deco museum reminded me of a black and white version of a David Lynch creation like “Twin Peaks”.  It’s surreal, real, and dreamy, an atmosphere that I couldn’t ignore.  This is wonderful work by art director Charles D. Hall and set designer, director Edgar G. Ulmer.

Yes, the acting is a bit forced at times, but this kind of movie is special.  No one makes this kind of film anymore.  A kooky story, two famed, cult horror movie stars doing their shtick, exquisite costume design and the sleek designs of an art deco set are things too good to be miss.  This is perfect for Halloween, or just whenever you’re in the mood to see a kind of movie lost in time to us – gone, but not forgotten because quite a few gems like this still exist.  The Black Cat is also the first of eight screen parings of Karloff and Lugosi.

6 of 10

Updated:  Friday, August 16, 2013