Month in Review: June 2014

In what we hope becomes a monthly feature, Inside Pulse Movies will look back on the month and discuss in brief the top stories, trailers, and Blu-ray releases.

Best Movie Trailers

The theatrical trailer is the backbone of movie advertising. As such, a trailer can elevate or deflate an upcoming release depending on its presentation. The month of June included so many good trailers that it was difficult to decide on the top five.

5. Sin City: A Dame To Kill For (Trailer #2)

Nine years after Sin City became Robert Rodriguez’s biggest non-Spy Kids hit, and perfect graphic novel fodder that Zack Snyder would emulate with 300 and Watchmen, he and Frank Miller return with four more tales from that sinful city. Favorites Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba and Bruce Willis return, and they are joined by newcomers Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Eva Green.

4. Fury

After the misfire that was Sabotage, David Ayer (End of Watch) looks to return to form with the WWII tank drama Fury. We covered this trailer already, but just know that Brad Pitt plays “Wardaddy,” commander of a battalion consisting of Logan Lerman, Michael Pena, and Shia LaBeouf. If anything, the tank warfare should be top notch.

3. The Drop (Trailer #2, International)

Three years after his Academy Award nominated Bullhead, Michaël R. Roskam makes his English-language debut with a crime story written and adapted to screen by Dennis Lehane (Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River). James Gandolfini, in his final role, plays Cousin Marv, the operator of Brooklyn bar involved in organized crime that is robbed one evening. The robbery sparks an investigation that entwines Bog Saginowski (Tom Hardy) as it digs deep into the neighborhood’s past.

2. The Interview (Teaser)

Normally, a Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy wouldn’t rate this high, but when The Interview caught the attention of North Korea leader Kim Jong-un, who sees the comedy as a declaration of war, well that elevated it near the top of the list. Make sure you have those nuclear fallout shelters ready by October.

1. Birdman

Alejandro González Iñárritu, who previously directed Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel, and Biutiful, turns his attention to a washed-up actor looking to reclaim past glory. Birdman, which has no correlation to Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, looks like the perfect vehicle for any star actor that has fallen from grace and is trying to find a way back into the limelight. The fact that the star of Birdman once played Batman is not lost on this writer. Ensemble piece includes Michael Keaton, Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Amy Ryan, and Zach Galifianakis.

Big Developments in Hollyweird

There are three types of movie project developments worthy of remembrance at the end of every month. They are: A) directors hired, B) actors hired, C) projects that are greenlit, scrapped or delayed.

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The biggest story for June without question was Rian Johnson hired to direct Star Wars: Episode VIII. Scott Sawitz covered the development in his Monday Morning Critic column (from June 23rd) and the misinformation that was derived from industry sources saying that Johnson would be directing both Episode VIII and IX. Johnson wasn’t the only Star Wars hiring, as Josh Trank of Chronicle and the forthcoming The Fantastic Four would be directing a Star Wars spin-off that is currently listed on IMDb as Untitled Star Wars Stand-Alone Project.

Warner Brothers, having seen how its Edge of Tomorrow was tracking for opening weekend, got cold feet and decided to push the Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending back to February 2015. In terms of marketing dollars spent this is setback, since the film was a few months away from release (coincidentally at the EoT promo screening I attended, a trailer for Jupiter Ascending was shown). The studio may claim it was for reshoots or special effects work, which is like polishing a turd then showing it off anew. Then again there might be silver lining in all this. G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which was pushed back from summer 2012 to spring 2013, actually made more – albeit $75 million – globally than its predecessor. I don’t see the same happening to Jupiter Ascending but that may be on account of the Wachowskis having wasted the built-up goodwill they received with The Matrix.

Marvel Studios is quickly trying to make people forget about Edgar Wright’s departure from Ant-Man by announcing that Scott Derrickson (Sinister, upcoming Deliver Us From Evil) will be directing a Doctor Strange movie. Now the question is who will play Doctor Strange. I’ve read casting rumors that have the likes of Edgar Martinez, Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch up for the role.

More comic book casting goodness. As the cast of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice seems to increase by the day, it was announced that Jason Momoa would play Aquaman (Ari Gold was furious and Vincent Chase was devastated by the news). Later in June, Scoot McNairy (currently in The Rover) joined the cast in an unnamed role.

Thanks to a hefty international sum, Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim can now be labeled a franchise thanks to Universal Pictures. Originally a Warner Bros. release, Universal has greenlit a sequel and it is planned for a April 2017 release. This isn’t the first time Universal has aided Del Toro when it comes to one of his properties. The studio also picked up Hellboy from Sony Pictures and released Hellboy II: The Golden Army in 2008.

Probably the most intriguing casting isn’t the fact that Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton and Channing Tatum would be joining George Clooney and Josh Brolin in the Hollywood satire Hail Caesar from Joel and Ethan Coen, it’s that Tom Hiddleston will play Hank Williams in a biopic about the country singer. Can you imagine Loki singing “Your Cheatin’ Heart” in fringed western attire?

Other odds and ends in Hollyweird. Shane Black is writing a treatment for a Predator reboot that he will direct. The biggest hurdle now will be getting a kick-ass team. But I don’t want it to be a team consisting of those that have appeared in Stallone’s Expendables franchise. The star may in fact be someone Black has pegged to headline his long-gestating adaptation of Doc Savage, one Chris Hemsworth. And it looks like a Snow White and the Huntsman sequel is now a go with Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption) at the helm. But the sequel may just be called “The Huntsman” since Kristen Stewart will not be Snow White.

Top Blu-ray Releases

Lego-Movie_BD

June had plenty to offer fans of TV and film, but if I had to pick the singular must-own title of the month the honor would go to The LEGO Movie: Everything is Awesome Edition. From the creative team that also gave us Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street (and its sequel 22 Jump Street), The LEGO Movie just clicks in all the right places. The animated movie doesn’t feel as if it was made simply to move Legos off store shelves. An entire universe is created with these little blocks, plus it has some of the best visuals and gags of any movie I’ve seen this year. One of the few movies I’ve seen more than once in theaters this year, the home release includes some creative special features. How about a spoof trailer of Michelangelo and Abraham Lincoln teaming up as History Cops; or a sample of what the movie would look like if ninjas were added; or fan-made LEGO movies; and of course a “Everything Is Awesome” sing-along!

Grand-Budapest_BD

A close second for new release movies making their debut on Blu-ray is Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. When describing this movie to others, I call it Anderson’s version of an action-comedy. It has traits that are similar to his stop-motion animated Fantastic Mr. Fox. It is also a refreshing treatise about one author allowing others to share in the melancholy nostalgia of the misadventures of a lobby boy named Zero Moustafa and Monsieur Gustave H (played to aplomb by Ralph Fiennes) in the fictional republic of Zubrowska and the pink and rose-colored Grand Budapest Hotel. The video transfer is tops with a special alert to viewers to ensure their television monitors are set to 16×9. The reason is because Wes Anderson and cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman play with the ratios throughout the comedy. Alexandre Desplat’s score is highlighted by the lossless DTS audio, plus the manic sequences of Gustave outrunning enemies and alluding authorities are quite robust. The extras are sorely lacking (a few vignettes, EPK pieces, and a quick tour of the locations with guide Bill Murray), which is a clue to expect a special features heavy Criterion Collection release in a few years.

True-Detective-Blu-ray-Cover

Other great titles that came across my desk this month include the HBO anthology series True Detective. I don’t watch many television programs, and I am not frequent to binge-watch, but there was something about this show that made me want to keep watching. The combination of a complicated murder mystery, superior acting from Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, plus the striking visuals made it addicted viewing. As someone pointed out to me as I was beginning to sit down and view the first of eight hour-long episodes, True Detective is looked at best as a super-length film. Can’t say I disagree. It is a masterful show made into an exceptional release from HBO.

finalmember

Documentary-wise for the month you can’t get any better (or is that stranger?) than Drafthouse Films’ The Final Member. Having watched this doc way back at the 2012 Fantastic Fest, its arrival to Blu-ray assures that some segment of the population will see a bizarre, yet at times heartfelt, doc about one man’s quest to complete a phallus museum. Upon initial viewing I thought this was a spoof but was surprised to learn that Sigurður “Siggi” Hjartarson has been collecting different mammalian penises for his Icelandic Phallological Museum. The one glaring omission is a human specimen, hence the “final member” of the title. Siggi is one of three primary characters, but by the time it is over the most remembered will be Tom Mitchell, a Texan who is willing to have his penis removed before he is deceased. He also calls it “Elmo.” Well, if America can’t be first in education it might as well have the first human penis on display, right? The Blu-ray isn’t loaded with supplemental material (mostly trailers of other Drafthouse Films releases and a tour of the museum) but the best is a pledge application to the Icelandic Phallological Museum. Not a monetary sum, more like something the length of three to five inches.

Honorable Mentions: Magnolia’s Journey to the West with Stephen Chow returning to his Kung-Fu Hustle ways in a fantastical action-comedy; Joe with David Gordon Green making Nicolas Cage look like a decent actor for a change in this Larry Brown adaptation; Sony Pictures television repackaged the superb Breaking Bad into a more affordable box set; Warner Bros. delivered Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders as a “complete novel”; Shout Factory! made audiences remember the cult hit Ravenous, starring Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle; and the Criterion Collection delivered in spades with The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, Peter Weir’s Picnic At Hanging Rock, Douglas Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows, and Judex from Eyes Without a Face auteur Georges Franju.

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