Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ben Affleck is Batman

People everywhere blink and yawn.


Ta. Da.

The 41-year-old American actor/director/screenwriter that you have probably heard of before, Ben Affleck has been confirmed as "the next Batman." (Is DC taking cues from Doctor Who now?) I don't think this is a good idea, but upon refection, I know it's not Affleck I protest to. The last thing we need right now is a new Batman, you might even go so far as to say.... he's the hero we deserve, but not the one we need right now.... ha... (or is that joke too obvious?)

Seriously though, we haven't gotten over Christian Bale and his gravely growl yet, so of course Ben Affleck isn't exciting to us! Putting all that aside though (just pretend it's actually about ten years in the future) Affleck is at least a very interesting choice.

First of all he's actually American, which is more than can be said for his growly predecessor (not that it matters since Bale is a perfectly convincingly American) and more than can be said for his soon-to-be alien "buddy" Henry Cavill.

Bats and Supes.

Affleck does seem well-cast for the Bruce Wayne part of the deal, and he no stranger to being a action/super hero either, though never to much critical acclaim. Critically, he best feature is directing, and I add my voice to this opinion as well. I never liked him at all until I caught The Town on the TV one day, and suddenly I respected him as a director. And curiously enough, his acting steps up a notch when he also directs.

Which leads to the most interesting factor of his casting. Apparently Warner Bros. has been eying him to direct The Justice League, and now that he's connected to the franchise, that idea becomes more and more likely. If he is hired to direct, I would be pleasantly surprised, but currently, my slight interest in all this Superman/Batman/Justice League stuff remains unvarying by this bit of casting news, and my low opinion of the franchise is only strengthened.

Here's something fun though, Batman and Superman discuss their upcoming "Vs." movie in a HISHE Super Cafe! If you haven't seen it, it's a must-watch, and if you have, I have given you the perfect excuse to watch it again. You're welcome.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding

It's 1937, and in the upstairs of a picturesque British home a young bride named Dolly (Felicity Jones) is preparing for her wedding and swigging from a rum bottle. Downstairs, Dolly's family and friends mingle and wait for her to come down, among them, an out-of-place young man named Joseph. (Luke Treadaway) He doesn't know really why he's there. You see, he's not sure, but he might think he should be the one to marry Dolly today. But uncertainty has always been against him, and "time and tide waits for no man" -- he may be too late. But Dolly invited him, so he waits for a chance to speak to her, to understand her, and hopefully himself, and resolve their haunting past.

"Remember; this is the happiest day of your life!"

This was a lovely little movie. Leisurely. Very leisurely, but with an undertone of urgency as we wait with the characters, hoping everything will soon become clear. While we wait we are treated to the dysfunctional group's comical quirks and idiosyncrasies by a talented supporting cast with many recognizable faces. Elizabeth McGovern is the controlling mother of the bride; Fenella Woolgar and Mackenzie Crook are a feuding couple with a rambunctious boy who loves to blow things up. Dolly's tomboy sister Kitty complains about men while her fashionable friend works hard to maintain her grace and composure in the awkward situation. Occasionally, the family-reunion-we-can-all-identify-with narrative takes a little break and sends us back in time a year or so to an idealistic, golden-hued summer and reveals more of Dolly and Joseph's past, and slowly, the pieces fall into place.

Dolly and Joseph rowing through the past.

There's nothing to surprise in the plot though. In fact, it's downright predictable. And it doesn't try to be anything else. Enjoyment in this movie comes from the detailed, understated acting, featured mainly in Treadaway, Jones and McGovern, but not lacking in anyone; each little character is well developed, flawed, but sympathetic in their way. Or from the laid-back, true-to-life, thought-provoking script, that adds comedy and unique realism to a situation that could easily wander into tedious mellow-drama. Or even from the elegant filming style, and equally elegant and gorgeous costumes. If "Cheerful Weather for the Wedding" is one thing, it's beautiful to look at. If you take the title literally, you may be disappointed -- this is very much a lightly thoughtful, extremely artistic, small Indie dramady. It's unlikely to be really appreciated by many, but there is by no means nothing to appreciate.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The 12th Doctor - Peter Capaldi

Here he is in all his mischievous-looking glory!

Peter Capaldi, the Twelfth Doctor!

My first thought: "Wow, he's a bit old... and STILL not ginger!" At 55, he is older than I was hoping for, but really, I can't complain... I was actually a tiny bit worried he might be a woman, so this, this is great. I've never seen this guy in anything besides the episode of Doctor Who he guest-starred in. (By the way, this restores my hopes for Colin Morgan possibly being The Doctor sometime. Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey, they can explain away anything!) And he didn't have a huge role in "The Fires of Pompeii" anyway, so now, all I want to do is see him in action! I cannot judge any more until I have -- he certainly has the looks for The Doctor though doesn't he? But here's the real question... the first question... the most important question I will ever ask.... what's he going to wear??? Oh, and what's he catchphrase? Let the speculation begin!

Exciting facial hair? Unlikely.

This is a good look.
Anyway, from his brief interview, he appears to be a nice, energetic fellow. Strangely, and contrary to my novice belief, (This is my first regeneration) my anticipation for Twelve hasn't gone down at all after knowing the actor who is to play him... in fact I think it has gone up quite a bit. So, what do you think? Yay, or nay, or reserving judgement?

Endeavour - Series 1

I am a fan of BBC's Sherlock. I live in the US, so I watch it on PBS Masterpiece Theatre. Since there are only three episodes of Sherlock each season, with year-long breaks in between, there is a lot of time spent waiting for it to come back. During that time, other British crime dramas have to fill the void. Detective Inspectors, Agatha Christie adaptations and mystery TV movies like Page Eight or The 39 Steps would keep me from going crazy while waiting, but recently, I realized: I'm doing it wrong! I should be really enjoying all these shows I use to "get by." I opened up to them, and they flooded in. Through Inspector Lewis, I was introduced to Endeavour from its beginning.

Endeavour takes place in the very early years of Inspector Morse's career. I've never actually seen any of Inspector Morse, but I know Lewis was his DS, and when the show ended, Lewis continued on with a promotion and his own show, and now with Endeavour, we're going back in time to see what shapes Morse into Morse.

The time is the mid-1960's, Oxford, England. Endeavour Morse is a young Detective Constable. He's introverted, sometimes awkward socially, and quite good at solving mysteries -- seeing connections where most see coincidence, and never cutting corners to close a case quickly. He is played by Shaun Evans, and I can tell you right now the majority of this review is going to be praise for this actor and the character he has inherited, which should be acceptable considering this show is just as much about the crime-solver as it is the crime.

Last year when the pilot movie aired on Masterpiece, I felt a little out of the loop not knowing the previously established characters, but I immediately liked Morse for one very particular reason; his countenance around a dead body. It's not wholly uncommon to see characters look away from a victim if it's particularly sad or gory; it lends the character sensitivity, but with Morse there's an obvious, but hard to pin-point difference. At a distance he stares intently, then turns sideways, no matter if it's gory or not -- and not in a "horrified, going to be sick" kind of way, but in a habitual way; sad and uncomfortable, but respectful. Instead of a gimmick to make us feel sympathy for the victim, it's a natural part of a character we're already identifying with, and the brief moment isn't wasted.

And that's just one of his many defining traits, but I think, my personal favorite. Morse is such a richly complex character, that when I watched series 1 over again to pick up any tidbits I'd missed, I instead was even more perplexed; not by the murder mystery, but in trying to fully understand the hero. His awkwardness bluntness and reserve make him easily misunderstood to some co-workers but the audience also sees his quality, romanticism, determination and loneliness and he becomes endearing. There are as many clues to his character as for the murder; no sideways glance or casual movement is meaningless. Even shot compositions complement the character; in group shots, he's sometimes out of place with everyone else synchronized; when he's featured, the composition is slightly too high or angled, or off center in the wrong direction... and it's perfect.

I couldn't find a picture to show my above point, so here's a picture of Morse and some coins. Just as good.

Since I haven't seen Inspector Morse, I judge these characters without prejudice, and little if any knowledge of their future incarnations, if they even have any. So I have no idea if Shaun Evan's Morse matches John Thaw's at all; all I know is that he does an incredible job with an incredibly complex character. Mannerisms and ticks and odd traits are wonderfully fleshed out and the entire character is set apart, but totally believable. Fred Thursday is the DI of the show though, and leads all the investigations. He's a goodhearted, knowledgeable leader, played by Roger Allam, and is one of few who actually likes Morse, but it's a tough love -- he gives good but sometimes difficult advice in Morse's best interest. We also see Thursday's family, which is a lovely touch. There's two regular antagonistic characters, Chief Superintendent Bright, (Anton Lesser) and DS Jakes. (Jack Laskey) CS Bright is a puny, cowardly authority with a temper, and a huge interest in wrapping up cases as quickly as possible, no matter if the right guy is arrested. Obviously, he doesn't care for Morse and his "find every speck of truth" attitude. Jakes' dislike of Morse stems more from envy, and he's not a wholly bad sort, just a bit of a self-absorbed grump. And PC Strange (Sean Rigby) is a nice chap, and a good, encouraging buddy for Morse.

Jakes, Morse, Bright and Thursday.

I still feel as though I'm new to British crime dramas because I still have to really pay attention to understand the plot. I like my American shows, but when my family watches them, we try to "call" the bad guy or plot twists as early as possible, and we're pretty good at it. Endeavour is so different though, that I don't even think to try and predict it. I spend all my mental efforts paying very close attention. The plots aren't too complicated; they keep you thinking, but by the end, you understand. Upon my second viewing though, I noticed there's usually enough clues to let someone possibly figure out the puzzle, not just guess it through predictability. (By the way, I look forward to a third viewing in the future.) I loved all four episodes, but I must say Fugue stands out as the best. I have a fondness for serial killer mysteries, but besides that, Fugue was exceptionally sharp and well made in general -- very intriguing, taut suspense, and even had some action.

So, in close, Endeavour is a rare high quality "triple threat" TV series; immaculately acted, cleverly and thoughtfully scripted, and artistically filmed, each complementary to the other two. At the complete opposite spectrum from a forty-five-minute drama flash-bang that has become the norm -- it's wonderfully refreshing, deep, and classy. I'm glad to have expanded my horizons to shows like this, but now I realize it doesn't solve my original waiting problem... in fact it doubles it. I guess I'll just have to learn to wait patiently. A hard task, but the payoff is always fully rewarding.

I'll leave off with my favorite quote of the series:
Morse: "I'm a good detective!" Thursday: "And a poor policeman! No one can teach you the first; any fool can learn the second."

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Upcoming Movie Roundup -- August

Well, this looks like a generally dull month of new movie releases. The most potentially interesting movie, Elysium, just got an R rating, which is disappointing to me because I try to stay away from R-rated movies as a general rule. Sadly, the strong rating is also a good sign for the movie's quality. If I get to a theater this month it'll most likely be to play catch-up. Unless I take a sudden fancy to some surprise hit, or perhaps read and love this series of books...

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
Releasing on the 7th; PG.
Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) and friends are back for round two. With the addition of fan-drawing actors Nathan Fillion, Anthony Head and Stanley Tucci. And I must say, it's working on me. I almost want to see this for Nathan Fillion alone. I saw The first film on a whim because it was free, and I enjoyed it. (Never mind that it was late and my brothers were cracking jokes about it the whole time.) Cheesy, a little immature, but definitely fun. So I'm mildly interested in the franchise now, but I have never read the books, and I will not go to theaters to see this one unless I have. By the trailer, I'd say they at least made an effort to kick it up a notch, and I did mention Nathan Fillion right?

Releasing the 16th; PG-13.
Liam Hemsworth leads a office mystery/thriller. The lesser Hemsworth (as he will probably always be to me) stars as a usual, unusually good-looking guy who get caught in the middle of a corporate war between Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford. Mystery, danger, drama and action ensues. Apparently. This movie looks good, in the most purely superficial sense of the word. It's pretty and glossy but as to a meaningful plot, it doesn't look quite as promising. (The trailer appears to summarize the whole movie excluding the ending.) The cast is what interests me most; Oldman and Ford are always great, and though he is the lesser one, Hemsworth isn't bad either, and I'm really interested to see if he can pull off being the action hero. Still, the cast isn't enough to convince me to see it, (especially if the film is as inappropriate as the trailer implies) but if the plot surprises and turns out better than it appears to be, or if Hemsworth surprises and holds up against his villainous co-stars, I may surprise, and take an interest.

the 16th, limited; PG-13.
Cazy-Austen-fan Keri Russel saves up her money and goes on a Austen retreat, where people live how they would have in those days. Hilarity and romance may or may not ensue. This movie is like a good-news/bad-news scenario. Good news: it's made specifically for people who love Jane Austen. Bad news: it's really more like a spoof of Austen, and it's produced by Stephanie Meyer. (What...?) J. J. Feild plays the apparent hero... named Henry, which is both good, because I like Feild, and bad, because that reference is a bit too obvious for me. I want to see it because of it's Austen connection, but I'm afraid it could easily wander into territory that is a bit (for lack of a better word) sacrilegious. Early reviews on RT are pretty negative, which supports my theory, but, then again, Bret McKenzie (Figwit!) is also in it, so... maybe I'll have to give it a watch sometime after all.

Bonus: I'm mentioning "The Way, Way Back" again, since I still haven't seen it because its still not in my theater. (And because there's nothing else I want to talk about.) Since it's original release in the beginning of July, I've been tracking reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Turns out, bad idea, because I'm dying to see it more than ever, and who knows when I'll get the chance. Reviews on RT are generally glowing, saying that if you're tired of half-hearted summer action flicks full of numbing explosions from beginning to end then this movie is like a beautiful breath of fresh air. A truly funny and moving coming-of-age story with top-notch performances all around, and Sam Rockwell tearing it up in his most Rockwell-iest role ever. I must. See. This. Movie!

What new releases are you looking forward to this month?