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Out in Theaters: ‘BLADE RUNNER 2049’ 

Let’s get one thing straight, Blade Runner 2049 is superb and stupefying. Dreamlike production design, fiercely thoughtful direction, poetic and often brilliant storytelling, sublime world building and excellent performances across the board all add up to a sequel that fits perfectly into the cinescape that Ridley Scott imagined nearly 30 years ago while carrying its story forward in exciting, imaginative and wholly fulfilling new ways. Expanding on themes of humanity and identity native to Phillip K. Dick’s novella “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”, Blade Runner 2049 both expands a world wherein humanoid androids and their homosapien masters co-exist while narrowing it down to a small ensemble of meaningful characters, all who have their part to play. This time the focus is K (Ryan Gosling), a LAPD Blade Runner who struggles with his own identity while hunting down and “retiring” outdated android models.  Read More

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The Best and Worst Aspects of ‘STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS’

There has been an awakening. With a $238 million opening weekend, the box office roared to live, stoked by the Mustafar-sized conflagration of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, quickly making this seventh Star Wars film the biggest opening of all time and putting it on track to dethrone the highest grossing films ever. But all money aside, the real question on everyone’s lips were, is it good? Thankfully, the answer was a resounding yes. With a 95% score on Rotten Tomatoes, critics and fans alike have rallied around the J.J. Abrams product like Ewoks on a post-Empire Endor. But that doesn’t mean that the film didn’t have its share of lows amongst the highs. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS’

A long time ago in 1977, Star Wars (back then there was no ‘A New Hope’ to it) struck a cultural nerve, resonating like a tuning fork to the farthest reaches of the known galaxy. A flurry of rabid fans stormed the theaters, salivating for a product that was by and large rejected at first glance (Fun Fact: Fox had to strong-arm theater programmers by withholding the right to screen The Other Side of Midnight unless they also screened Star Wars, a film 99 out of 100 people probably don’t recognize today.) If they only knew the power of this sci-fi behemoth, one that even today holds the record for second highest grossing film when adjusted for inflation, there is no doubt that they would have flooded their holy grounds  with screening after screening of the lauded space opera but history is a fickle thing. Just ask all those people caught on the news praising Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. Read More

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AHMYGAWD Watch the New ‘STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS’ Trailer NOW

I usually don’t watch trailers. I couldn’t help myself with the first teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and I couldn’t stop myself from watching this next (and potentially final) trailer. Join the dark side and watch Han (Harrison Ford), Chewie (Peter Mayhew) and Leia (Carrie Fischer) join new Star Wars members Finn (John Boyega), Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) to battle New Order Sith Lord Kylo Ren.  But don’t take my word for it, watch it yourself. Read More

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Disney Takes INDIANA JONES Property, Will Make Fifth Film Because Fuck Your Childhood

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In the most heartbreaking news article of the week, Disney has acquired the rights to Indiana Jones and plan on making a fifth film in the beloved franchise. Heralded as one of the greatest film trilogies in the history of film trilogies (although some are admittedly lukewarm on the ultra-campy Temple of Doom), the utterly heinous fourth film sought to dismember all fan love for the franchise. Now, a fifth film is in the works to challenge how far you can push viewers until they snap.

Subbing a grizzled and aged Indiana Jones for the snarky, cock of the walk ruffian who made the hat and whip combo into a thing, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull left a stain on the franchise unlikely to be wiped away by a follow up chartered by Disney. Introducing Indy’s son in Mutt (Shia Labeouf) was a play to pass the torch but was widely panned by all, making the likelihood of his playing a serious role in any future installments slim.  

But the question remains: what to do with the character? Sure, Ford could probably play him one last time, and perhaps try to make up for the utter disappointment of his last outing, but he’s hardly in physical shape to play the character any further on down the line (the guy isn’t getting any younger). This doesn’t leave the future of franchise with many options. Since the whole Shia/Mutt thing isn’t really an option, this really only leaves them with one choice: to James Bond it.

Instead of going back and rebooting Raiders with the same story, they can just pass the mantel to a new, younger actor without ever explaining the change and continue down a whole new line of whip-cracking adventures. This will allow them to remain in the same Nazi-filled time period, breathe new life into the character, and set him up as a mainstay for decades to come. But any duplicitous attempts to shoehorn any ol’ actor into Indy digs to take on supernatural/Nazi will be met with fierce fan uprising. However, if they put a proven talent in the role, people might not have such a knee-jerk freakout and may accept Indy as a changing man. Then again, what is Indiana Jones without Harrison Ford?

I guess I’d rather not really think about too much and instead will bow my head in respect for our lost friend, Indiana Jones (1981-89).

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Character Posters for ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND CONTINUES

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Playing up the epic element and riffing on monster movie posters, the cast of Anchorman: The Legend Continues takes over New York City in the macro. Towering above skyscrapers, stomping on cars, and lounging on buildings Ron Burgandy is joined by his faithful news crew as they trudge closer to their Christmas Day release.

“With the 70’s behind him, San Diego’s top rated newsman, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), returns to the news desk in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. Also back for more are Ron’s co-anchor and wife, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), weather man Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), man on the street Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and sports guy Champ Kind (David Koechner) – All of whom won’t make it easy to stay classy…while taking the country’s first 24-hour news channel by storm.”

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Paul Rudd as Brian Fantana

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Steve Carrell as Brick Tamland

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David Koechner as Champ Kind

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Will Ferrell as Ron Burgandy

Anchorman: The Legend Continues is directed by Adam McKay and stars Will Ferrell, Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Kristen Wiig, Sacha Baron Cohen, Tina Fey, Greg Kinnear, Kayne West, James Marsden, Nicole Kidman, Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson, Amy Poehler, Jim Carrey. It hits theaters on December 20, 2013.

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Out in Theaters: ENDER'S GAME

“Ender’s Game”
Directed by Gavin Hood
Starring Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Viola Davis, Ben Kingsley, Moises Arias, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
114 Mins
PG-13
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Ender, a natural born strategist, waxes philosophy like he’s Sun Tzu. Taking “The Art of War” to its next logical step, Ender believes it’s not enough to understand his enemy. For him, truly understanding your enemy comes hand-in-hand with loving them. When you know someone well enough to predict their moves militarily, you glimpse into their soul. All at once, this zen of inter-connectivity gives Ender an upper hand in battle but also puts him in a constantly state of moral dread. He knows he can be a mighty conqueror the likes of Caesar but doesn’t know if he should be.  

Based on the popular young adult novels by Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game is built on a foundation of tough philosophical questions like these. Tackling ethical issues that date back to the dawn of fighting with sticks and stone and span to our current climate of piloted drone warfare, moral quandaries are given precedence in the film, but often come across as heavy-handed and poorly thought through.

For a movie entirely about tactics, it’s lacking in tactical approach to philosophy as process. Socrates, famous for breaking down prejudices in order to reach universal truths championed the dissection of established beliefs through reasoning alone. To discover truth, he used critical analysis to better understand the world around him and the many false beliefs that dominated society at large. Here, Ender’s Game is philosophy as a means to an end, an “I told you so” of childish rashness rather than a contemplative, almost meditative, study. Rather than a thought process, here philosophy is a bat. Like Bonzo, you’ll want to be sure to cover your head from the beat downs to come.

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Philosophical dissection of Ender’s Game aside, the film floats by on the freckled charm of Asa Butterfield (Hugo). Unlike his peers, Ender has a preternatural tact for foreseeing the consequences, good and bad, of his physical actions and a pension for using violence to prevent future violence. Butterfield does a fine job at conveying the dueling nature of Ender’s innocence and incessant scheming. At once aggressive and acutely aware of his dangerous aggression, Ender is a morally complex character – a suiting trait for the morally complex world he inhabits.

On Earth, 50 years have passed since a devastating alien attack almost wiped out the planet’s population. Like a post-9/11 America, tapestries hang in offices and homes alike, wallpapering sentiments of “Never Forget.” At the hands of the bug-like Formics, Earthlings faced their demise but managed a narrow victory in a play of much-celebrated battlefield bravado. One man, we are told, single-handedly chased the enemy off and ever since, Earth has awaited the return of their ruthless enemy, all the while training legions of child soldiers.

Picked as the last hope for humanity, children are utilized for their fast processing skills, unfaltering obedience, and gullible code of honor. Ender is chosen to lead not because of his tendency towards violence but because of his thought process within said violence. Never the one to start a fight but always the one to finish it, he’s not a sadist, but a tactician. For these qualities, Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) sees Ender as the ideal candidate to lead Earth’s troops into the final battle with the Formic.
   
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Joining Butterfield is a legion of youth actors that act little more than their age. Moises Arias as Bonzo and Hailee Steinfeld as Petra both do caricatures of the seething bully and flirty love interest but Abigail Breslin as Ender’s sister Valentine is really the most reined in of these child performers. Her character is harmony, her performance refined, a nice counterpoint to the violent lifestyle that Ender’s profession has surrounded him by. She and bullying older brother Peter are the fulcrum points around which Ender measures himself. As Colonel Graff says, he needs to fall somewhere between them. He must harness both violence and peace – he must become a cocktail of serenity and rage.

As Ender trains to become a commander, he must undergo physical challenges that hone his motor skills and mental games meant to whet his battlefield acuity. In a turn of revamped Quidditch – except without brooms, magic, or gravity – the “launchies” spent most of their days training in an arena-based game of space dodge-bullet, where they earn points for blasting each other with stunners. Like Quidditch, the game can be won, regardless of points accumulated, if one team member passes through their opponents’ gate unscathed. Unlike Quidditch, this tournament has bearing outside the arena as the victor will go on to lead Earth’s army against the evil bug aliens. Perhaps this convoluted plot point is more an issue with the source material than the movie, but I’ve never heard of a Superbowl winning team captain going on to lead an army.

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Why the young launchies must spend so much time pushing their bodies to the limit when all eventual warfare is exclusively done through drone command is never addressed. Nor is the fact that regardless of the grueling training, none of the launchies – all of whom are on one side or the other of the scrawny-to-chubby spectrum – seem to put on any bulk or shed any pounds. They’re all in the same physical shape as day one. Surely this has to do with the fact that the film employs underage performers, and you can’t quite push a 12-year old to shed pounds like Christian Bale, but oversights like this are noticeable throughout and work to diminish the sense of reality director Gavin Hood is working so hard to create.

As the film pushes towards a close, the inevitable last act twist is somewhat foreseeable but nevertheless cements the relative worth of the film. Barking out commands with the crackly voice of a teen in metamorphosis, Ender leads his troops to video-simulated victory after victory until a crushing reality is revealed: maybe it’s not a game after all.

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In blurring the lines between video game violence and real world violence, Hood explores the hefty moral consequences of drone warfare, even when he’s being too clunky for his own good. While I admit to not having read the book, the ending comes out of left field, begging for a sequel and an impending franchise. There’s a delicate art to franchise building that used to revolve around worth but nowadays is left at the behest of the filmmaker. It’s as if a “what comes next?” cliffhanger is a necessity for any movie that costs over $100 million dollars. The question is: if you build it, will they come?

While the communist undertones, expressed here as the “hive mentality,” may be outdated now, many of the issues seen in Ender’s Game are even more relevant today than they were when it was written (i.e. drone warfare, bullying, surveillance, video game violence, child soldiers, etc.) However, Hood can’t help himself but to let them fly in your face, like the drilling of drones in the film’s finale, never really developing the ever-important why? behind it all.

C

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ANCHORMAN 2 Markets By Ice Cream and Trucks

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A new trailer for the much anticipated sequel to the modern comedy classic Anchorman was released today. Perhaps my youthful impressions of the film are clouding my judgement, but this one seems to ramp the stupidity to new heights, which I couldn’t be more excited about.

The trailer shows Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and friends working for a news station called GNN, in an effort to make the news more fun. Obviously a stab at the state of the sensationalist, entertainment first, state of modern cable news, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues might actually provide a valuable social critique, amongst its many, many, tasteless jokes. It will probably be mostly tasteless jokes though. Anything else would be a colossal disappointment.

Advertising for the film has been bordering on ridiculous, though, possibly threatening to wear out Ron Burgundy’s welcome before the film is even out. Besides the fact that you can’t turn on the TV, without being sold a Dodge Durango by Burgundy, you can now cry over your lost Border Terrier with a carton of Ben and Jerry’s “Scotchy, Scotch, Scotch” flavored ice-cream.

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Here’s to hoping a fraction of Anchorman 2’s advertising budget went into the film. If the trailers and talk of copious celebrity cameos are any indication, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues should give its target audience a massive laugh, when it comes out December 20th, 2013.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is directed by Adam McKay and stars Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, Harrison Ford and Christina Applegate. It opens on December 20th, 2013

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Harrison Ford Talks Potential Role in BLADE RUNNER Sequel

In an interview with IGN, Harrison Ford has confirmed that he and Ridley Scott have been in preliminary talks around an as-of-yet unnamed sequel to Blade Runner, a much anticipated follow up to the 80’s cult-classic. Ford, who has been a household name since George Lucas’s wildly popular Star Wars films, originally played the lead in Blade Runner as Rick Deckard, jaded hunter of an fugitive androids known as replicants in the gritty and high-tech future of the movie.

Given that the book the original film was based off of, Phillip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, has several sequels with the second happening only months after the first, it is unclear whether or not this sequel will have Ford reprising his role. Further, the official silence and thus rumor surrounding the sequel make it difficult to conclude what this interview could mean.

Ford revealed that he had Ridley had been “chatting about it” when asked whether or not he would reprise his role, but when pressed about his sometimes acrimonious relationship to the first Blade Runner, he responded, “Everybody has an ambition when they come into a film and that everyone’s ambition may not be so focused on the same thing. I truly admire Ridley as a man and as a director and I would be very happy to engage again with him [in] the further telling of this story.” 

A script for the project is currently being written by Michael Green, who wrote the screenplay for 2011’s Green Lantern along with scripts for TV series like Heroes, Everwood, and Smallville, along withHampton Fancher, the writer of the screenplay for the original Blade Runner. Previous details to emerge are that this sequel will probably take place years after the original and feature a female protagonist, although nothing will be certain until the screenplay is finished.

Scott, who will follow upcoming film The Counselor debuts will religious drama Exodus and potentially a Prometheus sequel on his plate before he starts work on the Blade Runner sequel, has confirmed none-the-less that the sequel will be coming up in the future: “It is happening.” About his talks with Ford, he remarked, “With Harrison Ford? I don’t know yet. Is he too old? Well, he was a ‘Nexus-6’ so we don’t know how long he can live.”  Given Scott and Ford’s production schedules and the dearth of much more information regarding Ford’s likelihood of being cast, or any of the other potential casting decisions for that matter, the rumor mill will no doubt keep turning for a while to come before more tangible information about this production is released.

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