Stop What You Are Doing And Go See Edge Of Tomorrow!

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Something really disappointing has happened.   People have seemingly given up on Tom Cruise.   Whether be it as a result of his off screen antics, a string of unsuccessful or lackluster recent outings or him crossing over into that unfortunate age where you are no longer marketable to the younger demo, it appears audiences have lost interest in Mr. Cruise.   So much so that most have largely ignored his most recent fare.  And that is a shame.  A huge shame given that most people are going to miss out on his newest film  Edge Of Tomorrow which is a bona fide classic.

Here is why you should get over whatever issues you have with Tom Cruise and get your ass out to see Edge Of Tomorrow pronto:

1) It’s the best “Tom Cruise” movie in years

Regardless of your thoughts of Mr. Scientology face, no one can deny Tom’s film legacy.  Risky Business.  A Few Good Men.  Jerry McGuire.  Mission Impossible.  Rain man.  The guy is a star.  It is a fair argument to say that it has been a while since he has had a home run in terms of a character. (don’t hold your breath for a Jack Reacher sequel).  Until now.  This is the one.   This is Cruise playing a real character for the first time in a long time.  His performance is against type and unexpected.   And he is really, really good.

2) It’s also the best “Sci Fi” movie in years

Based on the Japanese novel All You Need Is Kill (which could have been a damn fine name for this movie) this film has just a completely original and terrific concept.   Think Aliens meets Groundhogs Day meets Saving Private Ryan.   The fantastic script provides twists, turns, smartly written characters and a good dose of comedy.  The effects are top notch.  The action sequences are spectacular.  All around super creative stuff by director Doug Liman and crew.

3) The aliens are cool

The Mimics (as they are called) are refreshingly different.   The way they move and attack is quite unlike anything presented before on film.   They are like a techno hybrid of a spider and a squid.   Menacing and interesting.   Well done.

4) The Mech suits are pretty badass

Yes, Mech Suits are becoming pretty run of the mill nowadays.  They show up in practically every videogame and a whole mess of movies.   That said, the gen one looking suits of Edge Of Tomorrow seem kind of authentic.   They seem lived in.  Almost practical in a way.  Cutting edge technology that seems almost possible.   And those guns…oh those guns.  (The Marines from Aliens would be proud)

5)  The best Bill Paxton since Hicks.

Why don’t you put HIM in charge?  Yes…very smart move.   Paxton kills it in this movie from his very first line.   You will love it.

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6) Emily Blunt kicks all kinds of ass

Emily Blunt as the Angel of Verdun is fantastic.   She deserves to stand beside Ripley and Sarah Connor.   And she does it all without doing the obvious “trying to play tough” like some lesser actresses before her.   Her sword play alone will make you cheer.

7) You get to see Tom Cruise die.  A lot.   No I am serious.  A LOT. 

If you can’t get over your Tommy issues this film will be appropriately cathartic.  Thanks to the time loop premise Cruise bites it countless times.  And in many creative ways.    That alone should get you to see this movie.

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Godzilla- Movie Review

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Godzilla sure can roar.  He just doesn’t do it enough anymore.

The major complaint over the newest incarnation of the Toho icon Godzilla is that the film just doesn’t have enough monster to be a proper monster movie.   Those judgements aren’t incorrect.   For a movie that clocks in at 123 minutes it definitely takes it time in showing the title character.   Herein lies the dilemma with making a movie about a 300 ft tall sea monster.   Obviously you can’t have Godzilla be the major onscreen character that drives the story.  This isn’t a Dreamworks animated film after all.    So you are required, or better yet forced to have some human characters lead the narrative.  I don’t envy filmmakers who are challenged with this task.  Few films have found the proper balance of interesting human protagonists and giant killing force of nature.   The original Jaws and maybe Jurassic Park spring to mind.  Sadly Godzilla just isn’t one of these.

The movie wants desperately to be taken serious therefore it is jam packed with a bunch of very dramatic characters with a lot of issues and pathos.  Sure we all love us some Bryan Cranston but no one cares about the emotional wreck scientist or the do-gooder soldier (played by Kickass’ Aaron Taylor Johnson who I just don’t buy as a leading man) with daddy issues.   Or the steadfast and strong wife (Elizabeth Olsen in a thankless role) who spends the whole film caring for her son and waiting by the phone to tell her husband “Please…just come home”.   Or the doctor and the admiral who literally do nothing but think.  Always thinking.   All of these characters are nothing more than cardboard, melodramatic, generic placeholders until the monsters show up.   And spoilers: the monsters don’t arrive on screen for almost an hour.  Another decision, to perhaps ape Jaws or to try to make a “film” rather than a movie,  Godzilla and his MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) opponents are teased and held off screen for a looooong time.   This is easily the movies fatal mistake.  I found myself at points longing for monsters to just get on with it and fight to save us from watching actors with concerned looks on their faces.

All that said.  What did work?   God. Effin’. Zilla did.   The creature icon is perfectly and ferociously realized.   Anytime he is on screen will make any remaining memories of the horrible Roland Emmerich 1998 movie quickly vanish.   When the monsters do throw down they throw down indeed.   It is just excellent stuff but as above…there is just not enough of it.  Director Gareth Edwards (who’s only previous film was the indy flick Monsters from 2010) definitely has vision.  The movie looks great.   And he certainly knows his way around staging action.  He has a future in this business for sure.

There is nothing horrible in this movie per se.   There is no annoying sidekick.   No Godzilla babies.   No uploading a computer virus on a laptop to destroy the MUTOs.   It’s a well made movie with a cast of all around good actors (for the most part).   What sinks this movie ultimately is that it is a Godzilla movie in 2014.   These are just hard films to make well.  What is the right way to tell a story about giant destructive daikaiju?   Like it or not you have to have human characters to propel the action but as an audience for this type of movie all we ultimately want is the action.    It’s a tough formula to crack regardless of how big the guy in the title is.

Maybe having Mothra in the sequel will help add the necessary drama?    And the Oscar goes to…

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Comic Books Own Your TV!

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With all of the major TV networks and other media platforms confirming their upcoming programming for 2014 and beyond a huge message was delivered.   Comic books rule television!   It’s long been understood that comics have owned movies (since the 2000′s?  Hell, one could argue since the 1990′s).   But the rising trend is now the small screen adapting comic books.   This new direction has me very excited as where better to exploit graphic novels long form and episodic storytelling than television?

There have been so many series announcements that we have surely crossed into the surreal.  It is like an impossible dream.  Geeks best be pinching themselves.   Just look at this line up and tell me we aren’t living in blessed times:

Agent Carter- ABC

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Marvel’s second series from ABC and spin off from the Captain America franchise follows Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) as she goes on missions for the covert SSR in 1946.   Period piece.  Espionage.  Old school tech.  Plucky female lead.  Check it.

Constantine- NBC

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Based off the DC/Vertigo comic Hellblazer, this series follows John Constantine (Matt Ryan) a petty dabbler in the dark arts who investigates the supernatural.   It’s not Keanu Reeves.  That is pretty much all you need to know.   Not convinced?  This trailer should hopefully clean the awful 2005 movie taste out of your mouth:

Gotham- Fox

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A prequel’ish series that focuses on the early exploits of Detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and all the crazies who will one day become Batman’s rogues gallery.  Also features some kid named Bruce.  An interesting albeit maybe a better idea on paper than it is a show.  Regardless I assume many will check this out initially thanks to this slick trailer:

 The Flash- CW

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Speeding out (see what I did there?) of the DC comic book The Flash and a spinoff of Arrow (kind of?) has Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) using his super speed to stop baddies.   This will be the second time at bat for the scarlet speedster on the small screen.   This one surely will more closely follow the CW model for superheroes- younger, hunkier and with more pop music.

iZombie – CW

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Based on the fun, short lived comic from DC/Vertigo (created by Chris Roberson and Mike Allred.  Worth a read.)   About a gal named Gwen, a former medical student who works in a coroners office because she needs access to brains.   Because she eats them.   Because she is a zombie.  Eating said brains helps her cling to her humanity but by doing so she inherits the corpses memories.  Equipped with these memories she embarks on solving the deceased homicides.  Now that’s a premise.   The show gains extra geek points due to the involvement of Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas.

Powers- Sony Playstation Network

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The inaugural series for the just announced Playstation media platform (poised to compete with Netflix, Amazon Streaming et al) is set to be Powers based on the long running book created by Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Oeming.   Blending the superhero and police procedural genres, the premise revolves around two agents who investigate cases involving superhumans.  A perfect concept for television.   If they can capture the voice of the comic book series then this will be a winner.

 Pax Romana – Syfy

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Syfy steps up their game by turning Jonathan Hickman’s Image comic Pax Romana into a mini series.  A time travel story that finds a special forces unit going to ancient Rome in hopes of changing the future and stopping World War 3.  This is an ambitious comic and I trust an equally ambitious TV event.   This has all the makings of being something special.  Seek out the comic series nonetheless.  It is really something unique (in terms of story and execution)

 Clone- Syfy

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Another Syfy series adapts the series from Image Comics and Robert Kirkman’s (Mr. Walking Dead) Skybound Imprint Clone.  Not to be confused with Orphan Black, this show centers on a retired soldier who investigates a break-in at his house and finds the would be burglar is a clone of himself.   Can two clone programs survive on TV?  We’re about to find out.   Having the red hot Kirkman as an executive producer can’t hurt.

Letter 44- Syfy

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More Syfy (they are pretty damn committed to these funnybooks) as they adapt the Oni Press series Letter 44.   A newly elected president finds a letter left for him from his predecessor that informs him about the secret discovery of extraterrestrial life.    Sounds fun.

Ronin- Syfy

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Syfy (is there an echo in here?) is set to give the mini series treatment to the legendary graphic novel Ronin from DC Comics and creator Frank Miller (yes, that Frank Miller).   The story follows a samurai who is time displaced to New York City in the 21st century to fight demons.  Oh hell yeah.  Please don’t screw this up.

 Winterworld- Xbox Originals

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Not to be outdone, Microsoft is now getting into the programming game with the launch of their Xbox Originals.   Amongst the twelve series set to debut is Winterworld based on a independent comic from the 1980s that depicts a world covered in ice from pole to pole and the surviving humans who have formed tribes that must fight to live on.   Sounds promising.  If not a little cold.

Now consider none of the above takes into account the already announced five Marvel series (including Daredevil) deal with Netflix and the forthcoming Preacher series from AMC and Seth Rogen.    Or all the current television programs that are set to continue including The Walking Dead, Agents of Shield and Arrow.    That’s a lot of comic book influenced television folks.

Good or bad, cancelled or renewed, the verdict is still out on how most of these programs will fare.  However no one can discount how special of a time this is for television.   Not only is the entire delivery system changing.   Not only is the way we watch television evolving.   But TV is wising up to what comic fans have known for a long time.   That great stories are being developed in comics.   It has taken television a while to catch up to that fact but they have finally discovered the wealth they can mine from them.

Now it’s just up to us to find the time to be able to watch all of these.   Is there a new day being developed any time soon you think?

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Please Don’t Die Before December 18th 2015

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They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  In the case of Star Wars it is worth a thousand tweets.  Or more.  Countless more.  Who could have imagined that a mere picture of fifteen people sitting on couches could inspire so much excitement?   But it sure did.

After months of speculation, on April 29th 2014 Lusasfilm finally announced the cast of Star Wars Episode 7.   And in a refreshing development literally no one on the internet bitched and complained.   Unprecedented!   What squelched the usual hate from the digital masses?  A thing we like to call smart decisions.  To date this project seems to be making all the right moves.   First with the hiring of JJ Abrams to direct.  Then acquiring the script writing services of Mr. Empire Strikes Back Lawrence Kasdan.   And now the casting.  As was long expected, the original crew of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford are back.  Seeing Ford lounging in this picture brought great joy to me.  Despite my position on the prequels now, I do willingly admit that in advance of those movies I was extremely excited.  For the simple fact that we were going to get more Star Wars.  I was in a fervor.  But I can confidently admit that the enthusiasm I had in the late nineties can’t hold a Tusken Raider’s gaffi stick to what I possess now.  This time we aren’t just getting more Star Wars.  We are getting the sequel to Return Of The Jedi.  We are going to see the further adventure of Luke Effin’ Skywalker.  As old as he might be…Han Solo is going to be back on the big screen.   Han and Chewie are going to be sitting in that familiar cockpit and piloting the god damn Millennium Falcon. If that doesn’t light a fire in your belly than you might need to check your pulse.  This is a dream come true for generations of fans.   But what will Han wear?  A vest or a jacket?   It tantalizes the brain.

The original gang are set to be joined by an interesting and diverse selection of actors.   This is what pleased me most about the announcement.  Not a single piece of stunt casting in sight.  No Efron.  No Gosling.  No household names.  No hot young actor to help bring in the younger demo.   All of the choices seem to be based on an attention to character, personality and acting chops.  These are actors who are not so identifiable that they can’t get lost in the roles.  Oscar Issac, Adam Driver, newcomer Daisy Ridley, Andy Serkis (how cool is it that Andy Serkis is going to be in Star Wars?) plus a handful of other smart choices.  Plus in a great move Max Von Sydow seems set to class up the joint and follow in the footsteps of Alec Guiness and Ian McDiarmid as the requisite British thespian castmember.  Who wants to take bets he is on the darkside hmmmm?

So here we are.   This is really happening.   Star Wars Episode 7 is on its way on December 18th 2015.   20 more months of speculation, rumors, set photos, leaked plot points and teasers of teaser trailers.  And this life long Star Wars fan can not wait.

 

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Johnny Depp Needs To Be Weird

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With the recent underwhelming box office performance of Transcendence many are starting to question the bankability of superstar Johnny Depp.   What went wrong for an actor who up until recently was Mr. Surething?   Have audiences finally tired of Depp?  Or is something else at work here?  Ultimately any actor is judged by their choices.   Some movies are gonna catch fire and some just aren’t.  They can’t all be home runs. It’s an unfortunate and unpredictable part of the movie/audience relationship.  However thanks to a career of interesting choices Johnny (may I call you Johnny?) has now typecasted himself into an eccentric corner.   As a result of playing peculiar and odd characters over and over it now seems audiences expect Depp to be strange.    So much so that when he tries to play it straight moviegoers flat out reject him.     The proof is in the box office pudding.

Below is a list of Depp’s top box office performers (source: boxofficemojo.com)

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Notice a trend?  Outlandish, Keith Richards inspired Pirate.  Massive success.   Lovelorn, sensitive American tourist.  Misfire.   Freakish madman from Wonderland.   Box office champ.  Famed mystery author.  Box office dud.   Odd man-child chocolatier.  Money!   Hunky rare book dealer.  Bomb!

Depp has played strange so often and to such great effect that he has in essence weird-casted himself.  Moviegoers seemingly are not willing to accept him in a typical Hollywood leading man role.  If he is an investment banker who has a proper haircut and wears a suit than audiences are completely uninterested.   However give him a crazy wig, a sketched out voice and claws for hands and we all race to get in line.   We have been conditioned to only want to see him play bizarre characters.   There is an expectation now that he has to be eccentric.

Johnny Depp’s filmography reads like few others.  It is filled with outlandish and peculiar characters.   To say his resume is unconventional would be a gross understatement.   All actors have their niches and yes, typecasting happens to the best of them.  He is truly in a unique position/quandary.   Who else but him could (or would) play half of these weirdos?  It’s a strange niche but it’s his niche nonetheless.   He might as well embrace it with bells on.  Literally.  Bells everywhere.  Just cover himself in bells.  That would cure this current box office slump I bet!

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier- Review

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Welcome to the modern age Caps…so glad you could join us.   Freed from his origin story and its World War 2 setting, Captain America is unleashed fully into current day and age in a dazzling sequel that marks not just a huge improvement over the original but one of Marvel Studios best.

There were many who found the first entry in the series (2011′s Captain America: The First Avenger) somewhat lackluster in comparison to the other Marvel films.   Though I enjoyed it largely, it was far from my favorite.  However regardless of your feelings it was the right decision to set the first film in the 1940s to firmly establish not just how scrawny Steve Rogers became the super soldier Captain America but more importantly to create the core of the character which is “a man out of time”.  Thanks to the first film forming that base, the Avengers and more importantly The Winter Soldier work so much better.   And it is that very time displaced struggle that roots this new film as Cap finds himself at odds not only with a mysterious yet familiar new adversary but also S.H.I.E.L.D itself.

Everything in this film is bigger.   The story, the stakes, the action and the repercussions for future films (and presumably the TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D).   This is smart, high quality film making.   You have to hand it to Marvel Studios as they have continuously demonstrated a keen eye for creative talent that on the surface could have been viewed as risky or unproven.  (Jon Favreau on Iron Man,  Kenneth Branagh on Thor, Joss Whedon on The Avengers etc).  God knows what crystal ball they used to predict that TV stalwarts (Community and Arrested Development to name a few) and You, Me and Dupree masterminds Anthony and Joe Russo could pull this off but damn if they didn’t knock it out of the park.  The directing Russo brothers have confidently structured a tense, clever and exciting movie with riveting, jaw dropping action.  The film features some of Marvel’s best choreographed fight scenes to date especially when Cap and The Winter Soldier throw down.

Initially I was skeptical for the old Johnny Storm Chris Evans playing Steve Rogers but after this third outing all concern has completely been erased.  Evans has never been more comfortable playing Captain America and now he completely owns the role.  All major players are given ample to do here.   Scarlett Johansson, Sam Jackson (who’s Nick Fury easily has the most to do here than any previous appearance) and the very welcome Robert Redford are all at the top of their game.  But it is Anthony Mackie as the Falcon who should enjoy the most success post this film.   He is clearly having a ball.  He is like a firecracker just lit.  Dude is going to explode.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the real deal folks.  Beyond highly recommended.  It is a fun, bombastic and most importantly intelligent movie.  It is easily one of the best superhero films to date and that is no small compliment.  The film also marks a very pivotal chapter in the overall Marvel cinematic universe.  Marvel continues to raise the bar not only for themselves but for the entire superhero genre.  It will be interesting to see what they can do next to top it?   I for one can not wait.

Who would have ever thought Captain America could have been such a compelling film character?   Tickles the brain…

 

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The Movie Podcasts You Need To Put In Your Ears

If you love movies, you need to listen to podcasts.  It’s just that simple.  There is so much great content surrounding the conversation of film available that if you aren’t listening you are truly missing out.  Regardless of your cinematic interests you are bound to find a show that appeals to your discriminating tastes.   Here are just a few of my current favorite podcasts that scratch my movie itch on a regular basis.   Do yourself a favor and seek these out and jam them in your auditory system.

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 ”Mining the depths of film entertainment for all mankind…”

Four friends watching widely recognized bad movies & cult classics and riffin’ on them for an hour plus.  This is clearly what the internet was intended for.  If you get a kick out of mocking or memorializing flicks like Ladyhawke, Waxwork, Tremors or Troll 2 than this is the podcast for you. From the mind of prolific podcaster Scott Johnson and his Frogpants Studio, Film Sack is a very well produced show with great segments (including identifying tropes, members having to sum up their thoughts on the movie in a Twitter post of 140 characters or less, devising an alternate title, uncovering the movie’s Star Trek connections and much more).   Most importantly the show succeeds by the excellent chemistry between the four hosts.    Their conversation ranges from the absurd to the insightful but always is fun.  The energy and hilarity of their exchanges is infectious.  The clips segment of each show is worth the download alone.

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The Golden Briefcase (the official podcast of film site Firstshowing.net) is your quick fix for your inner film nerd.  Hosted ably by movie fanatics, writers and aspiring filmmakers Tim Buel and Jeremy Kirk, the Briefcase is a deep dive into the world of movies.   Each show covers a pick of the week, new home entertainment releases and a main topic that relates to a film that is about to drop in theaters that Friday.  The hosts are joined each episode by a guest from the world of film blogging and podcasting which helps keep the conversation fresh week to week.   This podcast definitely caters to the more serious film geek as the hosts really know their stuff and tend to drop references to filmmakers and movies that the uninitiated may not recognize.   That said, the program thankfully rarely dips into pretentious film snobbery which is a testament to the hosts not taking themselves too seriously.   This show is the ideal remedy to satisfy your hardcore movie discussion cravings.

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“Where we analyze, scrutinize and celebrate the Star Wars movies, one minute at a time.”

Star Wars Minute is a daily podcast where each episode is entirely devoted to one individual minute of the Star Wars movies.   Sound crazy?   It is an ambitious and bizarre undertaking but thanks to hosts Pete The Retailer and Alex Robinson it totally works.   One might be skeptical on how much conversation there can be around a single minute of film footage but surprisingly each episode is packed with information, observations and  hilarious tangents.   The fellas are joined each week by a guest (past co-hosts include comedian Doug Benson, writers from The Daily Show and more) and this only benefits the show as each new voice lends their unique perspective on all things Star Wars.  The podcast has already completed their minute by minute dissection of A New Hope and are now about half way through The Empire Strikes Back.  So there is ample content available in their archive for your listening pleasure.  Whether you are a die hard Star Wars supporter or just a mild fair-weather fan there is something for everyone to enjoy here.  Super fun stuff and you may never look at the Star Wars movies the same way again.  Plus Star Wars Minute includes arguably the best sponsor ads around.

*All of the recommended podcasts are available via iTunes, Stitcher and other internet places.

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The Best Movies To Watch On Saint Patrick’s Day

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If you enjoy a good pinting session among friends, haunting pubs of particular character, shamrocks and the color green like I do than Saint Patrick’s Day has to be one of your favorite times of the year.  It is truly a magical day.   Yet sadly little has been done in support of this holiday from Hollywood.   Countless films are associated with Christmas, Halloween and Thanksgiving but there are virtually no movies that are immediately identified with St. Patty’s Day.

So with no accessible film sub-genre devoted to this holiday handy, what is one to do when hoping to kick back and prepare (or recover in most cases) for the feast of Saint Patrick?  Worry not friends, I got you.   Here is the ideal movie viewing selection to get you into the spirit of Saint Patrick’s Day.

In Bruges – 2008

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Despite being set in the picturesque medieval Belgium city of Bruges, this is a real Irish movie at heart.  Criminally underrated and far and away the best Colin Farrell film ever.  It’s a gangster film but not the one you expect.  Plus it has plenty of beer drinking.  (And after watching, try not to want to visit Bruges.  I have and can report that it is ripped from a fairy tale.  Just amazing.)

The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy – 2001-2003

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There is a mysticism attached to both Ireland and Saint Patrick’s Day so a healthy dose of fantasy just seems required.  What better recommendation is there than Peter Jackson’s landmark Middle Earth trilogy?  This beloved film series demands revisits and March 17th is as good as any time to indulge in the lush green landscapes and epic adventure of these cherished classics.  And aren’t Hobbits kind of like leprechauns anyways?  A spiritual distant cousin at worst.

Old School – 2003

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Once it hits your lips, it’s so good!   Indeed it is Frank…indeed it is.   Beer bongs, buddies and streaking.   All the ingredients for a swell St. Patty’s Day party.

The Commitments - 1991

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The greatest Irish film ever.  Director Alan Parker’s gem of a film based on a Roddy Doyle novel follows a group of working class Dubliners who form a soul band.  Good music, good casting and just a great little movie.   Perfect for this time of year.

The World’s End – 2013

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The third and final film in the Cornetto trilogy (the collaborations between director Edgar Wright and duo Simon Pegg & Nick Frost) is a fun, bizarre, hyper kinetic sci fi action comedy built around an epic pub crawl shared by a group of childhood mates.  What says Saint Patrick’s Day more than a group of old chums catching up as they venture out to multiple pubs and fight evil robots?  Wright’s keen eye for style and action are heavily on display here and the film features one the best performances of Pegg’s career.   Debate if you must which is your favorite of their three films but it can’t be denied that the World’s End isn’t a damn fun flick.  As a proud child of the 80′s, the ending of the movie in particular hit a real sweet spot with me.

Leprechaun – 1993

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Well duh?!?

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Hold Up, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D Just Got Better

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When Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D was originally announced it was met with obvious excitement.   On paper what was not to like?   A television series extension of the immensely successful Marvel cinematic universe that would support and enhance said world on a weekly basis.  Check.  A program about the secret agents who investigate the strange cases that take place in a world filled with superheroes.  Check.  The inclusion of the popular character Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) to provide further synergy with the movies.  Check.  Joss Whedon.  Mother Eff’ing Check.   It clearly sounded like it had all the pieces in place for a must watch TV show.  Right?  Wellllllllll.   Despite drawing in a monster rating for its premiere, its audience has steadily eroded week to week.   And after just fourteen episodes none of your tried and true fanboy friends are watching it anymore.  So to quote the wisdom of Mike LaFontaine….wha’ happened?

The failings of SHIELD initially can be attributed to three key things.

1) The characters were completely uninteresting

Each of the members of the core team appeared to be Whedon shrapnel.  They all seemed like unused and rejected characters from his previous shows.  A fast talking, pop culture spewing, spunky female lead.  A couple of eccentric, super smart Brits.   A tough as nails and cold as ice ass kicking chick.   A bland, generic, hunky ass kicking dude.   And Agent Coulson.  Who maybe was proving he was best used in small doses and not as a central character.   Buffy’s scooby gang this seemingly was not.

2) Not enough SUPER

For a show set in the Marvel universe it certainly didn’t feel that way.   The program felt more akin to Fringe than it did to The Avengers.   Which in no way is intended to be a slam to Fringe (which was fantastic and should be watched in its entirety now on Netflix!) but SHIELD was more focused on being a procedural about tech and gadgets than it was on superheroes.   The problem is the audience has been conditioned to understand that Marvel means superheroes.  So when you don’t deliver on that you are going to disappoint.   A perfect example: my wife while trying to half-pay attention to an episode asked “Wait, what’s her powers?”  To which I had to answer “They don’t have powers.  They are just regular humans.  That woman is flying a plane”.

3) Unrealistic expectations

The audience expected Iron Man.  Plain and simple.   That was never going to happen.   TV can not reproduce what a $200 million dollar movie can.   That is just an unfair comparison.  By the fact of it being a television show you immediately have to accept this is Marvel at a smaller scale.   This is an unfortunate byproduct of “synergy”.   Movies cast a long shadow.  People want what they see in the movies.   Unfortunately as much as we want Robert Downey Jr to show up it’s not very likely he will.   Furthermore, the audience has to understand that TV’s role here is a support and extension of this universe.  There is no possible way Marvel/Disney would ever cannibalize an opportunity that could better be served in the movies.  So it is futile to assume that Doctor Strange, the Punisher or any other character that a film franchise could be built around are going to be introduced in this TV series.  Not happening folks.

But wait…during all this hating, dismissing and abandoning, something happened.   Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D turned a corner.   While everyone has been jumping ship the series finally seems to be finding its feet.   The most recent episodes, most notably March 4th’s T.A.H.I.T.I.” (episode 14) have marked a significant improvement and appear to be correcting the initial flaws.  (Perhaps we are at a point in the season that the creative staff could have course corrected based on feedback and we are now just seeing the fruits of those labors.)  The characters back stories are starting to be filled in and thus they are slowly becoming more rounded and interesting.  Clark Gregg has definitely gotten much more comfortable in his new lead role position.   Skye (Chloe Bennet) has been appropriately toned down and has probably benefited the most from back story color.  And let’s be honest, Ming-Na Wen’s May has always been pretty awesome.  Character definition takes time.  Unfairly I think people forgot that few shows right out of the gates have their characters nailed down.  Series need to find their voice and this is a process that can sometimes last an entire season.  Think back to some of your favorite shows.  Most took a few episodes to get rolling.  (Whedon’s Angel I recall took a good long time to catch its groove)

The show is also establishing its own mythology as seeds are being planted and paying off.  It wisely decided to provide answers on the mystery of Agent Coulson’s rebirth early as opposed to letting it drag out for the entire season (or longer).   In doing so, it has opened up more stories and mysteries which have helped propel the narrative.   And the show is starting to finally feel SUPER.   The world is properly being populated now with “powers”.  The origin of Deathlok has been unraveling and though maybe not yet perfectly realized it holds a ton of promise.  There are whispers of a Clairvoyant being set up as the seasons big bad.  (This is Disney’s version of a Mutant I presume given they can’t use that term thanks to 20th Century Fox having the rights to the X-Men)  Asgardians are coming with Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) from the Thor movies joining for an episode in a nice bit of crossover from the films.   And a key reveal in episode 14 tied to Coulson’s rebirth mystery promises things are about to get REAL interesting.   Trust me…it’s getting comic booky.   Oh boy, if that is who I think it is…I will shut up now.

For all of those who loved the “idea” of this show and who dreamed about a weekly television series set in the Marvel Universe, heed my words that it’s time to revisit Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.   Is it perfect?  Is it the program we all hoped for?   Not yet.  But it’s getting there.   And I’ve got renewed faith that it is going to develop into something special.

I almost forgot.  Did I mention Bill Paxton also turns up as Agent John Garrett?  Come on.  SOLD!

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The Most Podcasted Movies Ever

It is reported that there are currently more than 115,000 English language podcasts available.  Have an interest?  Chances are there are numerous audio shows dedicated to that particular passion of yours.  Still lamenting the TV show Firefly?  Then you best listen to Sending A Wave. (An entire show centered on Firefly/Serenity.  More than 100 podcast episodes produced about a TV series from 2002 that only lasted 14 episodes) Obsessed with the Thundercats?  Better subscribe to ThunderCatsNOW (in depth conversation about all things Thundercats) Like ummm…farming?  Then you should listen to Straight From The Heartland hosted by Pam Fretwell (renowned farm broadcaster).

But more than anything it seems, if you like movies you need to be listening to podcasts.   There are virtually thousands of programs devoted to the reviews, analysis, commentaries, debates and spoilers of movies.  Anything and everything remotely possible about movies is discussed.  There is nothing podcasters like more than to jaw endlessly about films.

While new movies and classic films are a steady topic, there is a strong passion on podcasts to discuss “awesomely bad” movies. Those ironic and nostalgic set of flicks that we remember from video store visits, cable TV viewings and nights at the drive in theater.   No place better than podcasts exhibits our undying love for these cult classic, b movie masterpieces. The spirit of Mystery Science Theater 3000 truly lives on.

Seeing as a number of podcasts dig into these so bad they are good, guilty pleasure movies (like Film Sack, The Greatest Movie EVER!, Cult Film Club, The Schlock Treatment, and many others) it got me thinking that there had to be a certain amount of films that were going to be constantly referenced.  The “required” movies that no podcasters could ignore. Those films that if you had a podcast and you talked about movies then it was necessary that you HAD to talk about these ones.  Upon some investigation I discovered my assumptions were correct.  There were indeed a selection of flicks that kept popping up from show to show.   So after doing some tedious research I have compiled a list of the films that are most discussed on podcasts.  If you needed further proof that the internets most vocal and powerful representatives are children of the 80′s please see below:

Big Trouble In Little China (1986)

John Carpenter.  Kurt Russel at his most Kurt Russelly.  Martial Arts and mystic mumbo jumbo.   Classic.

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The Monster Squad (1987)

Kids versus Dracula, Frankenstein and the rest of the classic monsters.  The 1980s in a nutshell.

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Commando (1985)

“Remember, Sully, when I promised to kill you last? I LIED.”     That’s just one of the famous quotes from this AH-nold jam.

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Highlander (1986)

The definition of cult classic.  And look at Lambert’s hair.

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The Re-Animator (1985)

A bizarre, schlocky and horrible horror movie loosely based on a H.P. Lovecraft story.    What’s not to love?

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Roadhouse (1989)

Do you really need to ask why people are talking about this for hours on podcasts?   Ok…fine.  This happens in the movie:

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Starcrash (1978)

Bad. Movie.  Bad. Sci-Fi. Movie.  Terrible, terrible movie.  Every one of your friends has seen it.

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Lifeforce (1985)

See above.

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Street Fighter (1994)

In the long line of atrocious videogame movies this could very well be the worst of them.   Sadly this is Raul Julia’s final film.   Nice little period at the end of that biography.

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CHUD (1984)

THE VHS MOVIE.   Picture yourself in a blockbuster video store.  Now try to imagine a copy of CHUD not being there.   Impossible.

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Miami Connection (1987)

Motorcyle Ninjas and Martial Arts Rock Bands.   You are very likely going to record a podcast about this movie aren’t you?

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These movies epitomize what is great about loving movies.   Movies allow us to join tribes.   We become a part of a community that loves, hates, shares, criticizes, mocks and memorializes them.   Most of all, movies inspire conversation.  There is quite honestly nothing better than making fun of movies with your friends.  Quoting dialogue.  Digging plot holes.  Imitating characters.  Singing songs.  It is some of the best conversations you can have with your pals.   We all want to talk about movies we love or hate.   And podcasts have proven that people want to listen.

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