1/25/2020

Marvel Axes Hulu's 'Howard The Duck' And 'Tigra & Dazzler' Animated Shows


When Marvel's recent restructuring made Kevin Feige the head guy for all of Marvel Studios, including TV, it quickly became clear that no project was safe. Runaways, Cloak & Dagger, both popular live-action series in their own right, were brought to an end and I think we've been waiting to see if the same would happen to the four animated shows greenlit for Hulu just last year. Well, we're starting to see the ax fall on them now.

It's been confirmed to Newsarama that Hulu animated shows Howard the Duck and the troubled Tigra & Dazzler have been canceled by Marvel. Both series have some big names attached, which makes this a little surprising. Kevin Smith was acting as writer/exec-producer on Howard the Duck, and revealed the series' cancellation himself...

"I got a text from [fellow executive producer] Dave Willis in the morning saying, 'We got Tigra and Dazzler’d,'" Smith said. "I called him and asked ‘Is that what I think that means?’ And Dave said he had just got the word that there will be no Howard the Duck show. The only explanation was ‘We have no plans for this character at this time,'."

Getting "Tigra & Dazzler'd" is in reference to the late December story which saw that show's entire writing staff fired and the show set back to square one. At the time, an entirely new creative team was to be hired but that has now changed. The series is now off the books for Marvel.

Development continues on the two remaining series, Hit-Monkey and M.O.D.O.K., the latter which just revealed its full cast led by Patton Oswalt. Presumably, they will continue forward and actually debut this year, but at this rate would anybody be surprised if both are canned tomorrow? This should also signal the end of The Offenders, a big crossover effort between all four series.



Have Your Tissues Ready, 'Bambi' is Getting the CGI Treatment at Disney


This is why Disney is a global institution. Think back to your first traumatic experience, got it? Now odds are at least some of you reading this had the fate of Bambi's mother come to mind. Hell, I'm pretty sure that the founder of PETA probably got their ideas from seeing this movie at a young age. So what would make that scene better? Well, making it more realistic of course! If you thought seeing Mufasa get trampled was bad, this is going to be SOO much worse. Regardless of how you felt about The Lion King the box office receipts have shown Disney that the smart play is to CG-ize all of the classics, and Bambi's the next in line. Personally I don't think the change takes some of the magic away, especially when you're talking about the old cell-shaded animation but if it brings even some of that joy (and sadness) to the next generation then good on them.

Just in case you were wondering how real this is Disney has already put a team together with Geneva Robertson-Dworet (Captain Marvel, Tomb Raider) and Lindsey Beer (Sierra Burgess Is a Loser, Chaos Walking) writing the screenplay. No release date is planned but we'll be sure to keep you informed as more news develops.

Sundance 2020 Review: 'Black Bear', Aubrey Plaza And An Actual Black Bear Highlight A Genre-Bending Mind Trip


I don't know if there's been a movie more suited to Sundance's NEXT lineup than Black Bear, a rip-roaring, razor-sharp comedy about toxic relationships and modern filmmaking. A sort-of Cabin in the Woods for romantic-horrors, it defies easy description and that makes it all the more fun. You never have any idea what in the shit is truly happening, but you do know that a literal black bear has something...SOMETHING, to do with it.

Not quite a cabin in the woods, but a ritzy resort home in the mountains is where Black Bear takes place. It's one of those places that is perfect for either a serial killing or a really bad break-up. We're not quite sure which we're going to get, but we're certain it's going to be one of them. Broken up into two diametrically-opposed chapters, Black Bear begins with the introduction of indie filmmaker Allison, who makes "unsuccessful, small movies" nobody has ever heard of. She's visiting the home ostensibly to find new inspiration. The place is run by the comically mismatched couple Gabe (Christopher Abbott) and his pregnant girlfriend Blair (Sarah Gadon). Their first encounter as a trio is hilariously combative, with the script by writer/director Lawrence Michael Levine (husband to Black Christmas director Sophia Takal) teasing betrayals, reconciliations, insta-friendships, more betrayals. Gabe and Blair can barely seem to stand one another; she casually insults him at every turn ('It's good to talk to a genuine artist", she says, ignoring that Gabe is a musician), then plays him off Allison so she can tear him down for it later. Gabe's not much better; he's braggadocious, stubborn, and too flirty; knowing just how far to go to piss off his hormonal companion while still feigning ignorance of the situation. And then there's Allison, who is content to go with the flow, siding with whoever gets her through the next moment unscathed.

If all Black Bear had going for it was these three sniping at one another, it would still be terrific. Levine's script takes a scalpel to feminism, toxic masculinity, and more with a wit that is rarely seen. He's aided by three actors in Plaza, Abbott, and Gadon who are able to shift on a dime to keep up with all of Levine's narrative twists. Suffice it to say, this is no simple relationship comedy and none of the actors are allowed to stay on the same wavelength for more than a few minutes. And all of that comes before the second chapter arrives and flips the script in ways that are too good to be spoiled here, but introduces a whole meta aspect that makes you reevaluate what had been previously experienced.

What does it all amount to? The Hell if I know, and it doesn't even seem to matter. Maybe Levine is drawing a connection between creative genius and madness, in particular for those in romantic entanglements? Who knows? Black Bear is smart, maybe too smart, and such an emotionally-heightened mind trip you might feel right at home with the titular creature poking its nose where it doesn't belong.

4 out of 5

Sundance 2020 Review: 'Come Away' Gives Peter Pan And Alice In Wonderland Grim Origin Stories


If Brenda Chapman's name is familiar to you, it's probably also what will draw you to Come Away. A longtime animator on Dreamworks' The Prince of Egypt, she was later hired to be Pixar's first female director on 2012's Brave. She then fell into controversy when Pixar unceremoniously removed her from the gig she had developed, giving the female-led movie to a male colleague. Come Away is Chapman's live-action feature debut, and it's as original a work as you'll find, reimagining as siblings Peter Pan and Alice before she went to Wonderland. Despite the promise of a truly magical storybook endeavor based on two of the most iconic fairy tale characters in history, the film is too grim and lifeless to spark wonder in either kids or adults.

While big names Angelina Jolie and David Oyelowo may attract curious audiences, the attention goes to Jordan Nash and Keira Chansa as Peter Pan and Alice. Their parents Rose (Jolie) and Jack (Oyelowo) married across races but also across social classes, making for a much harder life than Rose's dour, wealthy sister Eleanor (Anna Chancellor) cares for them to have. But the children are happy, living in an idyllic home in the English countryside along with eldest brother David (Reece Yates), who really drives their adventurous spirits.


The opening minutes of Come Away are as imaginative and vivid as hoped for. Chapman's keen eye brings to life their make-believe battles: twigs morph into swords read for combat, arrows fly, a flipped over rowboat becomes a vast pirate ship full of cantankerous scallywags.  Not only that, but elements of their lives hint at their future storybook adventures: Alice's tea parties attended by fluffy stuffed rabbits and a toad; a tiny bell given to her as a gift from Eleanor is known as a tinker's bell and houses her very own personal fairy; Peter's imaginary friends sprint the forests with reckless abandon, howling at the moon like a pack of Lost Boys.

Then tragedy strikes, and suddenly the family is fleeing from reality and hiding in fantasy worlds of their own making, some good, some decidedly not so. Come Away becomes bogged down in grief as each character seeks a welcome retreat. Jack turns to gambling, wasting away the family's limited resources on an addiction previously conquered; Rose begins to drink, pulling away from her remaining children; Peter dreams of escape, of fleeing to a place where homework no longer matters and where he can be a kid forever; Alice seeks out a Wonderland where rabbits run around with pocket watches. The people in Alice's life often shapeshift before her eyes, becoming familiar characters from Lewis Carroll's novels.


The material is too dark and grim for children to grapple with, worsened by the long-feeling runtime. Chapman and screenwriter Marissa Kate Goodhill struggle to depict personal tragedy, a common thread in children's novels, in a palatable way for the very audience Come Away aims for. At the same time, adults will find the material dull and lightweight, despite some vague interest in seeing how this whole Wendy/Peter saga wraps up in a way that connects to the stories we know.

Ultimately, Come Away does manage to get there in bookended sequences featuring a grown-up Alice (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw), but it's a laborious process that only leaves us feeling sadder. Would it have been too much for a simple "happily ever after"?

2.5 out of 5


'Anaconda' Reboot On The Way From 'Snow White And The Huntsman' Writer


I'm probably not alone in this, but the 1997 creature flick Anaconda is a guilty pleasure. How could it not be? it's Ice Cube, Jennifer Lopez, Owen Wilson, Jon Voight, Eric Stoltz, Kari Wuhrer (!!!), grizzled character actor Jonathan Hyde being stalked by a giant anaconda on the Amazon River. It's not a very good movie, but few guilty pleasures truly are, and it spawned a bunch of really awful sequels that aren't worth remembering.

But the original movie still has a following, and Sony wants to tap into that with a reboot. They've hired Snow White and the Huntsman writer Evan Daugherty to pen a script which they hope will be similar to The Meg. While I would argue the original Anaconda knows how silly it is, The Meg's self-awareness manifests more comedically than in horrors, which I think would be the right way to go.

Might I suggest casting Ice Cube's son, O'Shea Jackson Jr., for a role?

No director is attached to this yet, but it seems like the perfect chance for a young, up 'n coming filmmaker to build a rep. I'll be following this one closely.

1/24/2020

Be A Part of Sundance Without Going to Park City with 'The Climb'



You don't have to get a plane ticket and a hotel to join in the Sundance fun (like our own Travis Hopson), you can do it right from your local theater! The Climb will be screening this Sunday night at 8:30 PM and will be accompanied by a live-streamed intro and Q&A from the premier at Sundance!

If you're in the DC Metro Area you can catch this awesome event at either:

Cinema Arts, Fairfax (9650 Main St, Fairfax, VA 22031)

or

Bow Tie Harbour Center 9, Annapolis (2474 Solomons Island Rd, Annapolis, MD 21401)


Check out the official press release below for more info!



SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL LIVE presents THE CLIMB
In A Sundance Film Festival First, Simulcast Film Q&A Will Screen Across 10 Theaters Nationwide on January 26, 2020

PARK CITY, UTAH — Sundance Institute​ today announced a first-of-its-kind collaboration with ​Sony Pictures Classics​ and ​Trafalgar Releasing​: on January 26, the Utah premiere of ​The Climb, screening in the Spotlight category of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, will be simulcast across ten cinemas across the U.S., with the following Q&A simulcast live from The Ray Theatre in Park City, enabling independent film fans in markets nationwide to participate in the buzz of Festival from afar.

The Climb, directed by ​Michael Angelo Covino​ and written by Covino and ​Kyle Marvin​,​ is based on Covino’s short film of the same name, which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. The feature-length expansion is​ the story of Kyle and Mike, best friends who share a close bond—until Mike sleeps with Kyle's fiancée. A portrait of a tumultuous but enduring relationship between two men across many years of laughter, heartbreak, and rage, ​The Climb ​ won the Coup de Coeur Prize after its premiere in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, and also screened at the Telluride Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival. More information on the film is available ​here​, and the film’s trailer is available​here​.

“We’re thrilled to co-create this innovative approach to amplify this remarkable film," said ​John Cooper​, Director of the Sundance Film Festival. “We’ve followed ​The Climb ​ from as the filmmakers evolved it from Sundance short to Cannes premiere, and are excited to share the live excitement of a Sundance Film Festival screening with a broader audience, in real time.”

“This pilot program is one of many ways Sundance Institute is exploring new ideas to showcase bold, independent work beyond the traditional bounds of our Festival,” said ​Keri Putnam​, the Institute’s Executive Director. “Collaborations like this the underline Sundance’s mission of supporting independent artists and introducing audiences to new work as technology and culture evolve.”

“Going to Sundance to watch movies is a truly unique and special experience,” said Covino and Marvin. “We’re beyond excited that people around the country will be able to share in that experience without the altitude. We’re grateful that Sundance thought of us for this innovative approach to how a festival can be experienced.”

Sony Pictures Classics Co-Presidents ​Michael Barker​ and ​Tom Bernard​ said, “Sundance has always been at the forefront of introducing new cinema and artists to audiences, and we are excited for this unique partnership to share ​The Climb​ and the festival experience live with fans across the country. Michael Angelo Covino’s journey with ​The Climb ​ began as a short at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, and it feels natural to come full circle with this special event in Park City.”

Kymberli Frueh​, SVP Programming and Acquisitions for Trafalgar Releasing has added: "Trafalgar Releasing is delighted to collaborate with Sundance Institute and Sony Pictures Classics on this Sundance Film Festival first, presenting ​The Climb ​ and live Q&A to audiences in select cinemas across the U.S. allowing more people than ever to experience this iconic festival."

The participating theatres are ​Bow Tie Cinemas Harbour 9 ​(Annapolis, Maryland), ​Cedar Lee Theatre (Cleveland Heights, Ohio), ​Cinema Arts Theatre​ (Fairfax, Virginia), ​Harkins Theatres Tempe Marketplace 16 (Tempe, Arizona), ​Landmark’s​​Kendall Square Cinema ​(Cambridge, Massachusetts), ​Landmark's Keystone Art Cinema​ (Indianapolis, Indiana), ​Landmark’s Lagoon Cinema ​(Minneapolis, Minnesota), ​Landmark’s Ritz Five​ (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), ​Prado Stadium 12​ (Bonita Springs, Florida) and ​Sun-Ray Cinema (Jacksonville, Florida).

Tickets are on sale now HERE​. Sony Pictures Classics will release ​The Climb ​ in Los Angeles and New York on March 20, 2020, followed by a national roll out.

Sundance 2020 Review: ''Falling', Viggo Mortensen's Directorial Debut Gives Lance Henriksen A Career Best Role


Viggo Mortensen returns to Sundance for the first time since 2016's Captain Fantastic, but this time the multi Oscar-nominated actor has added writer and director to his credentials. Falling is a deeply personal family saga that began as Mortensen reconciling a troubled past with his father, but morphed into a fictional story about a son coping with his strong-willed, abusive father's slip into dementia. Mortensen, frequently matched with a powerful performance by Lance Henriksen, lays the groundwork for a moving family drama but too often resorts to shouting matches over genuine character insights.

Drifting between the present and the past, Falling stars Mortensen as John Peterson, a gay man living in California with his partner Eric (Terry Chen) and young daughter, however his stubborn old man Willis (Henriksen) still runs the family farm back home in upstate New York. With his mind slipping, John fetches his father to bring him back west, only to find Willis' frequent mood swings and drifts in and out of reality to be a constant source of painful memory.

Willis' outbursts manifest in one racist, homophobic tirade after another, with the words "shit, whore, fag, slut" and worse never too far away. Mortensen isn't quick to forgive the old-timer for his archaic attitude, but he does show, through the gentle use of flashback, how easily Willis falls into memories of his younger self, his two failed marriages largely due to his philandering, and how this drives him to outrage.  Despite his frequent bashing of John and Eric's relationship (he still refers to the latter as John's Japanese boyfriend, he is neither), he connects warmly with their daughter Monica, even if some of his life lessons prove problematic.  He seems most comfortable out in nature, whether hunting or caring for his horses.

It's a confident, assured directorial effort by Mortensen, who breezes through the various time periods (with Borg/McEnroe star Sverrir Gudnason as young Willis) with ease. Some confusion is expected and deliberate, as Willis can barely keep track of the many people in his life, confusing one wife with another on multiple occasions. Mortensen, who only agreed to star so the movie could get made, writes himself a passive role, one in which John lets demeaning insults brush off his shoulders up until the moment he can take no more.  When that expected clash finally happens, the pent-up rage and frustration is undeniable but also wraps up too neatly over a cup of coffee and a morning crossword puzzle.

In his extensive career as a beloved character actor, typically in sci-fi and fantasy projects, Henriksen has never had a role that asks us to engage with him quite like this. It's a difficult role; Willis is as cruel as they come, but Henriksen finds a few cracks in the armor that manifest in surprising ways.  Still, there's hardly a single interaction, even when extended members of the family get involved (Laura Linney briefly appears as John's sister), that isn't just a bunch of people listening to Willis scream at them. We become as exhausted from it as they are, making the healing process these characters undergo tough to be taken at face value. It becomes a question of whether someone who has caused so much pain is worthy of forgiveness. Falling makes the case that it is never too late to move beyond the hurt and chart a new course. It's a passionate, heartfelt debut for Mortensen, and a film many will relate to because of how tough the material is to watch.

3 out of 5

Review: 'The Last Full Measure' Starring Sebastian Stan, Christopher Plummer, And Samuel L. Jackson


The Last Full Measure is a sobering tale of the heroic acts of William H. Pitsenbarger, a U.S. Air Force Para Rescueman who saved over 60 men of the U.S. Army first infantry division on April 11th, 1966. William H. Pistenbarger sadly died that day. This movie is about the journey to get him a posthumous Medal of Honor. Sebastian Stan plays Scott Huffman, a Department of Defense staffer who ends up getting the job of researching him after one of his fellow Pararescuemen talks to the secretary of the U.S. Air Force. A lot of the movie is following Huffman as he talks to the men that Pitsenbarger saved that day about his efforts. This where we get to see the real performances from Samuel L. Jackson, William Hurt, Ed Harris and Peter Fonda. Stan does well to hold his own with these great older actors – playing a more naïve man who doesn’t quite understand the sacrifices these men made. This film allows these actors who often play very strong and stoic men, to play with emotion and regret.

The way the film looks isn’t that impressive but the director, Todd Robinson, pulls off some good battle scenes. The visual feeling of this movie gives off CBS Sunday Night movie vibes. A lot of the visual framing doesn’t feel vast enough to feel cinematic and more like something that would be better seen on television. None of this effects the feeling of the story, it's very heartfelt and brings you into Huffman’s journey to know about this man and his heroism and how this man’s activities have affected so many other people and his family. Bradley Whitford is also stars, playing the devil on Huffman’s shoulder telling him that he should just think about himself and his career advancement. He feels like a polar opposite of his character in The West Wing which is probably on purpose. Gotta get that meta working your minds while we watch these movies.

Overall is this a movie you should see? I’d think so and I think a lot of people who might not be that familiar with the events of the Vietnam War and the many lives it’s affected. Over the years, as it gets further and further away, and the men who fought in it get older and older the freshness of that pain fades, but shouldn't be forgotten. This film might also help give context to what’s going on with current men and women serving and recent vets who’ve fought in the constant wars in the middle east, that have been going on for 20 continuous years. There is a need to shine a light on what men who fought in these wars been through and how it’s traumatized their psyche. This film does a great job of doing this. It can bring about empathy and reflection so that overcomes many of the shortcomings that film has in its craft.

3 out of 5

Review: ‘John Henry’, Terry Crews Wields The Sledge Hammer In This Modern Retelling



The next adaptation of the John Henry legend is here with Terry Crews staring in/as John Henry. This modern take of the tale of the steel-driving man lands John Henry (Terry Crews) in the gang filled neighborhoods of Southern Los Angeles. Splicing home footage of a young John Henry (Rich Morrow) from the early 90s with modern footage, we learn that Henry used to be involved with a gang himself – one that his cousin Hell (Maestro Harrell) was deeply rooted in and vowed to lead one day. After a violent encounter and a freak gun accident, Henry leaves the world of gangs behind and vows to not use a gun and restrain from violence in the future.


Having always been a soft spoken and reserved man, Henry continues to live his life in the suburbs of Los Angeles with his quick-witted father BJ Henry (Ken Foree) who takes every opportunity possible to let John and everyone else know of his former sexual exploits and how renowned his ‘member’ used to be in his younger years. A local gang, led by Hell (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), decides that prostitution is a more profitable venture than drugs and begins kidnapping women from the streets. This gang happens to wear fully white sweat suits as are their outfit of choice, unfortunately bloodstains are probably not easy to get out of bright white clothing. One of the kidnapped women, Berta (Jamila Velazquez), manages to escape and by pure happenstance finds herself at Henry’s house – leading to a chain of violence that was decades in the making. Don’t worry, a sledgehammer will be involved soon enough.


John Henry is the debut feature from Will Forbes who both wrote and directed the film. There were some stylistic elements Forbes employed that I enjoyed – a couple of Rear Windowesque cigarette nods and intro scenes that look like they were pulled straight from a graphic novel come immediately to mind. Music is a big part of John Henry – from flamenco guitars to rap to old John Henry ballads, the score serves to drive the film. It also is a precursor of things to come, with each different group in the film seemingly having their own theme songs.

The highlight of the film was certain pieces of dialogue scattered throughout. From conversations between John and his father to two gang members arguing about everything from The Human Centipede to recidivism, these conversations had some hilarious moments. Unfortunately, these elements I enjoyed did not do enough to raise John Henry above being a mediocre film overall. The action becomes over the top and at times mindless. One of the central issues was with the main villain, Hell. Hell seemed like an afterthought – added in because there needed to be a showdown between our hero and a final boss. We needed more to really cause the audience to hate him and root against him. Crews gives a solid performance, but even that wasn't enough to make John Henry worth seeing and unfortunately it is not.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Disney+ 'Obi-Wan Kenobi' Series Put On Hold Indefinitely


UPDATE: On January 24, 2020, actor Ewan McGregor has stated that the Obi-Wan Kenobi Disney+ series is happening as scheduled, and further adds on that a large portion of the reports as of recent are "bulls---".

Without a doubt, one of the most anticipated upcoming shows coming to the popular streaming service Disney+ is none other than the series tentatively referred to as Obi-Wan Kenobi. The show is set to follow the adventures of the iconic Jedi master, with 'Star Wars' prequel trilogy actor Ewan McGregor set to reprise his role as the character, much to the excitement of fans across the world.

Sadly, though, it looks as if fans of the character are going to have to wait a little bit longer until they get to see the adventures of the Jedi master in a galaxy far, far away, as it is being reported that the series is being put on hold "indefinitely". This comes after sources say that the crew working on the show was sent home from work. In addition, it is said that Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy was not happy with the scripts for the series, which is more than likely the main reason why the show is being put on hold. The scripts are supposedly being rewritten with the goal of everything coming together by the time summer rolls around.

Another thing that is certainly worth noting is that the original scripts for the show were extremely similar in nature to the plotlines of 'The Mandalorian', another 'Star Wars' show that received massive critical and audience acclaim since its debut in November 2019. Not much else is known regarding the upcoming program, but hopefully it isn't too long before we get to learn more about this mysterious show.