Tagged: Jeremy Renner

Box Office Democracy: Arrival

I went in to the theater knowing less about what Arrival was and what it was about than any movie in recent memory. I had skimmed the first few sentences of the Wikipedia page but only knew the absolute broadest strokes. I was beyond pleasantly surprised; I can’t recall being so enthralled by a movie that was so far off my radar since Drive. Arrival is the best kind of science fiction that provides us with some fantastic things and concepts, but what it really tells is a mundane story through a fresh lens fantastically well.

Arrival has the kind of plot that sounds boring in summary— a linguistics professor is called to translate the language of a visiting alien— but ends up working well. The movie got me thinking about linguistics and the intricacies of language more than I have since I decided not to take an introductory level class in the subject back in college. There’s an inherent tension involved in any alien encounter, and something about the way the score does string hits that kind of sound like the way the aliens talk gives even the safest moments a hint of looming doom. There’s this overlay of global tension, that other countries might attack their local aliens and that this will spark a war for some reason, but none of that ever feels terribly compelling. I care about the characters they’re making me care about; I don’t care about vague threats that never make much sense.

There’s a turn in the story— I don’t want to call it a twist; there’s a massive shift in perspective in the third act. I usually don’t care about spoilers but I won’t give this away because I appreciated that I came in to Arrival with very little idea what the movie was about. The third act is brilliant, it’s clever, it’s suitably science-fiction-y, and it puts the whole film in to sharper focus. (This might be getting too close to what it is but I’ll never pass up a chance to give Zack Snyder grief: Arrival makes Watchmen look terrible.)

There aren’t enough good things to say about Amy Adams and the job she does here. She nails the big moments like being afraid of the aliens the first time she meets them and the big moments of grief and sadness, but the bigger moments seem easy. The small moments are what set the whole film apart. There’s a moment where she struggles with her hazmat suit the first time she has it on, the weight and the cumbersome nature seem to be smothering her and it communicates how awkward and massive that moment must have felt in a way that slack-jawed awe never would. There’s this need to lace so many touching moments with a sense of bittersweet inevitability in retrospect and it’s there, and it’s heartbreaking, and it’s beautiful. Forest Whitaker is excellent and Jeremy Renner does some of the best work I’ve ever seen from him, but Amy Adams is special in this film.

Arrival is an incredible science fiction film. Easily the best entry in the genre since Ex Machina although they’re nothing alike so there’s very little basis for comparison. With six weeks of allegedly top notch movies still to come, Arrival is comfortably on top of my list for best film of the year. It’s a haunting film that commands attention when on the screen, but more importantly infests your thoughts for days after.

Marc Alan Fishman: Defending Wizard World

Chicago-Comicon-logo

Last weekend, Unshaven Comics were the guests of ComicMix, sitting in their booth at Wizard World Chicago. ComicMix was more than generous to allow the squatting, and I figure it behooves me to publicly thank them here.

So, after treating an insane bout of con crud upon coming home, I’ve had some time to troll social media to see what the world thought of the 39th variation on the original Chicago Comicon. The consensus amongst most of my friends was largely positive. But a few folks took to their feeds to take Wizard to task and dog-pile on the once crown-jewel of Chicago-based comic conventions. Perhaps it’s the massive dehydration I’m working myself off of, but I’ll be damned… I feel compelled to defend Wizard World Chicago.

First, let it be said: I myself have taken to putting Wizard World on blast before. I’ve also given them helpful advice. Suffice to say, WWC is my home show. This was the first con I ever attended as a fan. This was the first con I ever showed in as a creator. I have a love/hate relationship with it, as it is for so many cherished memories of our youth that don’t hold up upon later scrutiny. But somehow, within reading the dour thoughts of a random Facebook friend left me desiring to stand over the limp body of WWC and shout “leave her alone!”

Let’s be honest with ourselves: The advent of the Mega Con has mutated what was once the Comic Con. The big publishers now save their budget for San Diego, New York, and maybe a small handful of others. Why the Chicago snub? Same reason I assume they aren’t showing in Austin, Seattle, Baltimore, or a handful of other large metropolitan shows: It’s expensive, and thanks to the marketing of the TV and movie brands, the need to remind people they publish comic books isn’t as needed as it once was. Erecting a large booth, paying the travel and hotel costs of big named talent, and hosting panels with executives (who should be back bean-counting, and figuring out ways to enrage the internet) just doesn’t make sense when balancing the books at the end of the year. Obviously I could argue that the millions of dollars of profit earned for those TV and movie licenses might otherwise bankroll a larger convention showing – especially in America’s third largest city – but even if that were true, the big boys would sooner show up at C2E2.

So, without the big named publishers (or, really, any named publishers), Wizard World Chicago has opted instead to promote its contractually obligated appearances of a litany of celebrity guests. Because of this, my wife got to meet Nathan Fillion, Jeremy Renner, and Brett Dalton – all of whom were super nice and gave my wife lasting memories and keepsakes. A large showing of fans making their way to WWC come primarily for these meet-n-greets. I was once amongst those who bashed this concept. Spending potentially hundreds of dollars for an opportunity to take a picture with someone, to me personally, seems like a complete waste. But on the same token, taking into account how many hundreds of dollars I once used to purchase comics, graphic novels, statues, and other miscellanea leaves me at a stalemate. Autograph seekers are a part of pop culture as much as comic book collectors. And as much as it pains me to say it: Nathan Fillion will bring far more paid attendees to a convention than the promise of that one penciler on that book you like.

Wizard World Chicago has been a show in flux over the last few years. Call it growing pains, if you will. The shift from being a show that celebrated comic books first and foremost to the more general pop culture has left some in a state of bitterness. I myself was one of them for a long time. But hindsight is always 20/20. Comic books are a part of pop culture. Wizard is a business, and as such, pop culture is larger than comics alone. The shift to truly becoming a pop culture show means larger attendance. More vendors. More exhibitors. More panelists and programs. To decry the death of the Chicago Comicon because of Wizard is to blame San Diego, Reed, and the other convention giants around the country.

Wizard World Chicago is many things to many people. So long as comic books are at least some of those things? Then, leave WWC alone. It will never be what it once was. But if it continues to draw a large crowd willing to checkout the always-expanding Artist Alley, then who are we to judge? For those seeking the old-school Comic Cons of yesteryear, well, there’s still plenty of fantastic one day shows. Wizard, simply no longer is one of them.

 

Box Office Democracy: “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is a very good spy action movie. It expands and builds on the previous entries in the series although sometimes in ways I’m not entirely sure are necessary but it’s consistently compelling and visually interesting, often funny, it checks every box I would put on a hypothetical action movie checklist. Unfortunately I think the landscape for these movies have changed and being very good might not cut it anymore. Movies need to either push the genre in new or interesting directions (like a Mad Max: Fury Road) or be so consistently excellent the movie becomes a non-stop delight to sit and watch (the approach taken by the last three Fast & Furious movies) or it feels lacking to me. Tom Cruise isn’t enough by himself and Tom Cruise: Movie Superstar is all that is being offered here.

Let’s not take anything away from Tom Cruise as a movie star, because he is a phenomenal one and this is a stunning showcase for him. He is charming and magnetic and because he’s willing to do his own insane stunts the movie looks more authentic. It’s not a very active improvement, though; it’s more like appreciating how it doesn’t look like bad CGI than being particularly amazing in its own right. Tom Cruise is good in a way that makes me think “Tom Cruise is amazing” but not in a way that makes me thing “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is an amazing movie” and that’s a problem. He’s appealing in the role but he never makes me think anything about the character, I know I’m watching Ethan Hunt but I never ascribe any character traits to him, he’s a stunningly blank character for the lead of a fifth movie in the series.

The plots haven’t advanced very far along in five movies either. For Rogue Nation the Impossible Mission Force is disgraced in the eyes of the government and Ethan and his team must work to stop the bad guys with no official support for their actions. This is exactly the same premise of the last entry in the franchise. All they did this time was change the particulars; it isn’t about stopping a nuclear missile, it’s about shutting down a criminal anti-IMF, and the force of government resistance are represented by Alec Baldwin who plays his part as director of the CIA and I can only imagine his process was deciding he was going to play Jack Donaghy from 30 Rock and the director would have to fight him for every bit of seriousness. This is not intended as a complaint; it works quite well. There are also some legacy problems due to the longevity of the series. In a world where good and evil intelligence operatives have been able to do perfect face masks to pose as others for almost 20 years, you would figure no important people on earth would have sensitive conversations without blood tests or some such. As it is you just spend the entire movie waiting for that iconic face pulling off shot and this time around I saw it coming a mile away. It hurts the credibility of the movie.

I’ve complained a lot here and while I think the film deserves it I want to emphasize that it was a perfectly enjoyable way to spend 2 hours and 20 minutes on a hot summer day. It’s fun to watch, the action spectacle is as good as Hollywood is capable of doing. Rogue Nation crosses the globe to incredible exotic locales and it’s fun to see motorcycle chases through Morocco. The supporting cast is a hoot and a half, Simon Pegg is delightful, Ving Rhames is wonderfully gruff and while he sometimes feels like he’s acting on autopilot it’s never distracting. Rogue Nation is a very good movie but I want it to be excellent, these days the genre almost demands it and it just isn’t there yet. I hope the inevitable sixth movie can push it in that direction, and with the track record of this franchise I wouldn’t rule it out.

Molly Jackson: 1984 in 2015

I’ve been spending time reading a lot of blogs lately. Reading the comments section on any website is always a dubious and risky venture. People are so willing to put anything out into the Internet without any regard for who might see it. It seems that most people believe there is anonymity in a username.

We are in a very different age of computers. Now, anything said by anyone can be heard around the world instantly. And yes, I know you’ve heard that a million times over. So, why does it seem like people keep forgetting that everything is accessible to everyone?

The police aren’t the only ones who need to be aware of everyone with a smartphone watching them. Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner “joking” about Black Widow in an interview last week; did they really forget once more that this was worldwide? Yes. Yes they did. Just like Marvel forgot that those Iceman pages could be outed before the issue went on sale, or that Disney’s industry-only Avengers toy list wasn’t going to be rehashed on the web.

We are watching the world figure out how to exist in a place where we are all constantly under watch, even if we don’t realize it. These celebrities and companies need to remember that they are being “Big Brothered” all of the time. It’s not fair either. People always want a chance to relax and be themselves.

Us regular people would do well to remember that too. Every time we put a piece of ourselves on the web, there is a chance that it will be seen around the world. I’ve written things quoted in Malaysia (which is a trippy experience) and I’m small fry. Others have been quoted from Twitter on late night TV. And those crappy, derogatory comments on the Internet might just come back to bite you back.

Gone are the days of complaining to your friends about something a celebrity said or what a comic did. Now, we can all complain together worldwide. Complaining comes with a cost now. You can be a target too now. And always remember, the Big Brother Internet is always watching.

 

REVIEW: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

Blu-ray-Osleeve_Template [Converted]In the wake of revisionist takes on classic fairy tales, it was only a matter of time before someone came up with an approach that was tongue-in-cheek or so over the top it was going to be a wacky delight. I thought that was going to be Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters as the adult versions of the classic kids were first seen with crossbow and rifle, decked out in black leather and ready to kick ass. The trailers made it look like it could be tremendous fun and the cast of Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, and Famke Janssen made it appealing.

Unfortunately, writer/director Tommy Wirkola couldn’t decide on a consistent tone for the film so sometimes it was a straight drama, sometimes a dark comedy, sometimes just boring. He’d been harboring the concept since 2007 and the pop culture zeitgeist caught up with him, allowing him to bring the notion to life. Originally slated for 2012 release, it was finally unleashed in 3D in January and now, on Tuesday, it comes to home video from Paramount Home Video. Surprisingly, despite tepid reviews and so-so box office, just this week there’s been talk of a sequel percolating.

In short, Hansel and Gretel survived their encounter with the witch when they were children and grew up to hunt down the rest of the black-hearted breed, hiring themselves out to towns in need. Wirkola amends the legend, codified in print by the Brothers Grimm in 1812, by having the parents gone early on. Additionally, he posits that mom was a white witch, an extremely rare breed whose blood contains special properties.

Muriel (Janssen) wants that blood and knows that Gretel has the blood flowing through her veins. Her goal has been to capture children from around Germany and sacrifice them in a Sabbath ritual that, coupled with Gretel’s blood, will make them immune to fire, the one thing that can kill them.

Things fall into place in the small town of Augsburg where the siblings have been summoned to find the missing children. While the mayor is smart, the sheriff is the stereotypical fists-first narrow-minded sort, expertly played by Peter Stormare.

Renner and Arterton work well together and Wirkola cheats the audience by keeping them apart for long stretches. The heart and soul of the film is their bond and the script gives them too few opportunities to demonstrate that. While we know Renner can handle the action, Arterton is a revelation and she clearly is having a good time, even without her normal accent.

There are witches aplenty and a lonely troll Edward (Derek Mears) who works for the witches until he encounters Gretel. There’s also an annoying proto-fanboy in the form of Ben (Thomas Mann) to help with some of the exposition. The posse also gains the help of another white witch in the form of the redheaded Mina (Pihla Viitala), which sets up the climax which features a visually interesting assortment of witches.

The film features anachronistic dialogue, mannerisms, cultural mores and most blatantly, the weaponry employed by the title characters. They make the film quirky but Wirkola does not do enough with them so things plod along with few surprises and weak dialogue. No wonder the theatrical release clocks in at a brisk 87 minutes. The Blu-ray, though, comes complete with an extended cut, adding ten minutes of promised comedy and mayhem which just makes things a little better, but not enough to change your overall opinion.

The transfer is lovely and looks nice with solid sound. There are just three short extras including a too-brief Reinventing Hansel & Gretel (15:41), which whisks you through the Making Of; The Witching Hours (9:01) with an emphasis on the inventive designs for the evildoers; Meet Edward the Troll (5:25), a look at how Mears and an animatronics team brought the troll to life.

Watch Marvel’s Avengers gag reel

Avengers gag reel - Jeremy Renner,  Chris Evans, Joss Whedon, Scarlett Johansson

Well, everybody else has the Avengers gag reel, so why not us? See Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Gwynneth Paltrow, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Mark Ruffalo, Samuel L. Jackson, and somebody named Joss and how they spent their summer vacation playing Avengers vs. Chitauri. Watch it now, and you’ll feel better for the entire day.

Gag Reel from “Avengers” by Flixgr

When Archers Collide

We know, you’re all out buying Hawkeye #1, which we will also be picking up in a few hours. Clearly, it’s the season of the archer and for those following the Olympics, the archery competition has been fun. But now, we have a weird crossover.

The Hunger Games global phenomenon has inspired a surging popularity in the sport of archery demonstrated even further by the success of the United States Archery Team at the Olympics, as well as the highly anticipated Blu-ray and DVD release of the film on August 18 from Lionsgate. Team USA member Khatuna Lorig was there at the beginning to teach actress Jennifer Lawrence how to shoot a bow and arrow in preparation for her iconic starring role. In this image, Olympian Khatuna Lorig poses as “Katniss Everdeen” in a replica jacket from the film, with a symbolic mockingjay pin, in celebration of The Hunger Games’ huge and lasting impact on the sport.

As most recall, archery experts said Jennifer Lawrence’s skill with the bow was far superior to that of Jeremy Renner’s work with the same weapon in The Avengers. This sort of seals the deal on that topic.

MIXED REVIEW: Glenn and Mike Geek Out Over “The Avengers”

We each saw The Avengers at fan-filled midnight screenings, separately but equally. We tried to avoid any spoilers here, but we can’t guarantee we hit that mark. And, being who we are, there are a couple of teasers in this dialog.

MIKE: Did you see it in 2-D, 3-D, or IMAX?

GLENN: 3-D.

MIKE: Me too. This was the first movie ever that I can recommend in 3-D.

GLENN: Which is amazing, considering it was upsampled to 3-D. The film was converted to 3-D during post-production for the theatrical release. But it certainly paid off.

MIKE: The 3-D imaging credits were as long as the Manhattan phone book.

GLENN: Someone asked me point blank if The Avengers is the greatest superhero movie of all time. I said I don’t know about that, it has some very tough competition. But hands down, it’s the greatest superhero battle movie of all time. Act Three in particular is just completely packed with the loving destruction of the New York skyline, and in 3-D it’s incredibly staggering. It’s also fast and fun, as compared to the smashing of Chicago in Transformers: Dark Of The Moon… that just felt drawn out and more akin to a disaster movie. Here, it’s battle, action, and a much better feeling of scope and scale.

MIKE: Yes. It was a real superhero battle in the classic Marvel sense: everybody fights each other then gets together to fight the bad guys. And I’ll never be able to look at Grand Central Terminal the same way again.

GLENN: Or the Pan-Am building. Or 387 Park Avenue South, or Marvel’s address on 40th Street. All of that and they didn’t blow up any of DC’s offices. Have we reached detente?

MIKE: Well, they blew up CBS’s first teevee studios. Which is funny, as this was a Paramount movie.

GLENN: Not really a Paramount movie, Disney bought ‘em out but they had to keep the logo on.

MIKE: And, of course, Paramount got a truckload of money and, I’ll bet, a piece.

GLENN: Exactly.

MIKE: Did you notice they hardly ever referred to anybody by their superhero name – other than The Hulk, who is obviously different from Banner, and Thor, who is, obviously, Thor.

GLENN: I think everybody got name-checked at least once.

MIKE: Yeah. Once or twice. Period.

(more…)

Jeremy Renner’s First Mission

This is going to be Oscar-nominee Jeremy Renner’s year beginning with this week’s release of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol on Blu-ray followed by next month’s role as Hawkeye in The Avengers. Later this summer, he appears in the fourth Jason Bourne film, playing another espionage agent in The Bourne Legacy.

Here’s a chat with the actor courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment.

Q: Hey Jeremy. Congratulations on Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Not only was it a huge box office success in its films release, but you actually managed to survive making the film. That’s a surprise considering the amazing stunts in the movie.

A: (Laughs) Yes, it’s good to be alive. There are some amazing set pieces, my friend.

Q: Let’s talk about the biggest one. It involves Tom Cruise hanging outside the tallest building in the world – the Burj Khalifa – which stands almost 830 metres (2,723 feet) high in Dubai. Can you talk about the stunt?

A: Yes. As you say, the Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world. It’s twice the size of the Empire State building in New York. We were on the the top of it and it is so high that when you look down it is like the view from a plane. It’s intense. All the stunts are practical and that made that a lot of fun. There’s a lot of challenges to overcome, but luckily we had a man like Tom to lead the way. (more…)

Paula Patton Talks About the IMF Team

Gorgeous Paula Patton caught everyone’s attention in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, which propelled the actress towards the A List. With the film out this week on Blu-ray she reflected back on the produuction in this interview, courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment.

Q: Hey Paula. Let’s start with the obvious question. What is it like working with Tom Cruise?

A: Amazing. Honestly, it was a dream come true. I always thought he was an amazing actor from the first time I saw Risky Business. The movie that had a huge impact on me was Born on the Fourth of July. I was blown away how he played the all-American charming guy, goes away to Vietnam, is crippled and what he goes through. It blew me away. I remember very distinctly the moment I was told I would have a screen test with Tom. It was very old Hollywood the way they did it. It was at the Paramount lot, I had my own trailer and hair, make-up and costume. I have never had that before for a screen test. They put me in a golf cart and took me to the sound stage and I said to myself ‘OK, don’t freak out’. It was a great thing. We met each other and I was immediately at ease. We had great chemistry and a connection. It is because he is very human in that way. He is so kind to everyone whether it is a personal assistant, grip or gaffer. He just has great humanity about him and that’s why he’s so special.

Q: Who do you play in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol?

A: I play Jane Carter, an IMF agent. I have had a mission that went awry. Myself and Simon Pegg’s character have to break Ethan Hunt out of jail. There’s a bombing at the Kremlin and it gets pinned on us even know we did not do it. We get disavowed from the IMF and that’s where Ghost Protocol comes into it. We are still working, but the government won’t save us. It is a scary place to be. Also, because we are all thrown together as a team and Jeremy Renner’s character joins us we don’t know the other’s motivations. We don’t know who to trust. Jane is great character to play. She is very strong and lives in a man’s world. She’s vulnerable because she has experienced failure and loss and has to prove herself again. She is in a place of turmoil and also she is living on the edge because she has one chance to make what is wrong, right. (more…)