Guest Review: Beauty and The Beast (2017)

guestpost
Directed By: Bill Condon
Written By: Stephen Chbosky & Evan Spiliotopoulos
Runtime: 2 hours 9 minutes

I cannot begin to explain how excited I was to get to review this movie. If I hadn’t been in a theater with about twenty-five other reviewers, I might have burst into tears as soon as the title appeared on screen. Beauty and the Beast was the first movie I ever saw in theaters, and it will always have a special place in my heart. It’s still one of my favorite movies. It’s a beautiful film, has some of the most memorable songs of all time, and features a princess whose defining characteristic is her love of reading. When I heard about the live-action remake, I was both excited and nervous. I’m not the kind of person who worries that a bad adaptation of a beloved classic will destroy my childhood, but I still wanted to like the new version. Luckily for me, I was not disappointed.

If you’ve been living under a rock your entire life and don’t know the story, Beauty and the Beast is about a beautiful bookworm named Belle (Emma Watson), who lives in a small French village with her father, Maurice (Kevin Kline), where her bookish ways are misunderstood by the other townspeople, including Belle’s brawny, brutish suitor, Gaston (Luke Evans). One night, when a traveling Maurice unwittingly trespasses in a castle in the middle of the forest, he is taken prisoner by the beast (Dan Stevens), a prince who was cursed (along with his servants, who were all turned into household objects) by an enchantress. The only way to break the curse is for the beast to find true love, and to be loved in return. Belle bravely offers to trade places with her father, and, over time, begins to see what kind of man the beast can be past his appearance.

As someone who is very sentimental about the original, I can safely say this is an incredibly faithful adaptation. Much of the dialogue from the original is included verbatim in the remake, and there are lots of little moments and details from the animated version that are featured in this one, making me feel wonderfully nostalgic. At the same time, the remake offers some much-needed updates. For example, Belle is a better-developed character in this version. Besides just being a bookworm mostly interested in fairy tales, she helps her father with his creations and shows her own innovation. She’s also more relatable, showing her self-consciousness about how the other villagers view her as “odd.” The romance between Belle and the Beast is better handled as well. The movie shows how their friendship develops first, which makes the transition to romance more believable. The fact that Emma Watson and Dan Stevens have excellent chemistry helps sell it as well.

Besides the actors behind the titular characters, the rest of the cast give wonderful performances as well. Luke Evans and Josh Gad were born to play Gaston and Le Fou. Kevin Kline is a less scatterbrained (but still dreamy) Maurice, and the chemistry between him and Emma is heartwarming. The household staff all gave solid performances, and Ewan McGregor as Lumiere and Ian McKellen as Cogsworth were especially entertaining.

Besides the adaptation in general, I was mostly nervous about how the singing would be. Emma Watson is a fantastic actress, but I wasn’t sure how she’d do as a singer, and she had some pretty big shoes to fill. Fortunately, she did not disappoint. Watson has a lovely, bright-toned voice, and while it’s not as full-sounding as Paige O’Hara’s was in the original, it was still an excellent fit for the character. Luke Evans gives a decent performance as well; while there isn’t as much bravado in his voice during Gaston as I would like, he really shines in Kill the Beast. Ewan McGregor nails Be Our Guest with his warm, sparkling voice, although something about the number overall feels kind of underwhelming; I’m not sure if the tempo is a little slower, or if the phrasing could be tighter, or there isn’t as much background chorus as there was in the original, but it doesn’t pack the same punch the Oscar-winning number did in the animated version, although it is still enjoyable. Emma Thompson’s rendition of Mrs. Potts’s titular song holds its own against Angela Lansbury’s, which is no small feat. Naturally, Broadway royalty Audra McDonald as Garderobe is the best singer out of the cast, and while her song at the beginning isn’t particularly memorable, she still makes it sound amazing; seriously, she could sing the dictionary and make it sound good. My last music-related critique is that the orchestra is pretty overpowering and tends to drown out the singing a bit.

Lastly, the movie is visually stunning, as anyone who has seen the trailers has probably already gathered. The big group scenes are beautifully shot and reminiscent of the original. The sets are lovely, and the castle is especially breathtaking. The CGI for the beast and the other enchanted characters is very impressive. Most memorable, though, are the costumes; they remain faithful to the animated version while still adding incredible detail. While Belle’s trademark yellow ball gown is gorgeous, my favorite is the one she wears in the final scene of the movie; if I ever get married, I will walk down the aisle in a replica of that dress. 
 While I’m sure I will continue to be skeptical of this wave of live-action remakes Disney has been churning out, Beauty and the Beast is excellent, both as an adaptation of an animated film and as a movie on its own. Whether you’re a hardcore, nostalgic Disney fan like I am or a casual movie-goer, I have no doubt you will enjoy this.

4Reels

laura_review


Have you seen ‘Beauty & The Beast’? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: The Girl on the Train (2016)

girlontrainbnr

When this project was first announced, I was hoping I’d finish the book by the time the film comes out. Well I didn’t get to the book, but I was still anticipating this one, largely for the female-driven story.

Comparison to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (which I reviewed almost exactly two years ago) is inevitable, given that both involve a missing person and is told from a female perspective with some mental, emotional turmoil. Reading the character descriptions in the novel, where the protagonist Rachel Watson is described as ‘not beautiful and can’t have kids,’ it seems that the stunning Emily Blunt, who’s actually pregnant with her second child during filming, doesn’t seem to fit the role. That said, I think Blunt did a terrific job in making Rachel a believable train wreck (pardon the pun). She rides the train every day and passes by the same neighborhood, a leafy, posh Hudson River Valley where she used to live with her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux).

girlontrain_blunt

Rachel still can’t reconcile with her past and she drinks away the blues, filling up her plastic water bottle with booze whilst she voyeuristically watches Megan Hipwell from the train. In Rachel’s eyes, Megan lives the life she’s always dreamed of. A beautiful woman married to a handsome, rich guy who seems to love her, as they’re shown being constantly lovey–dovey. But one day, Rachel sees Megan kissing another man and she goes berserk. It’s as if something snaps in her and she somehow felt *betrayed* that Megan would stray.

Watching this film makes me want to pick up Paula Hawkins’ 2015 best-selling novel, as surely there are tons of story/character nuances that are simply lost in a feature film. Certain internal things, such as the moment Rachel got upset by Megan’s infidelity, is conveyed visually by her lashing out in the bathroom of Grand Central Station. While her chronic drinking problem might’ve made her prone to destructive behavior, this scene made her seem like a deranged, violent person.

girlontrain_blunt2

Though the film did manage to keep me engrossed throughout, thanks largely to Blunt’s performance, the narrative feels disjointed. I don’t know if it’s meant to make the audience empathize with how the protagonist is feeling but it can be quite frustrating. Director Tate Taylor (who directed The Help with a multi-narrative plot) adapts the film from Erin Cressida Wilson‘s screenplay. Her last script was Men, Women & Children, which I wasn’t at all entertained by, though this one is far more watchable by comparison. I was rather skeptical when Taylor signed to do the film, as I was expecting someone more like David Fincher who made Gone Girl such a gripping and visceral film that’s also wildly entertaining. The Girl On The Train is a dark and somber tale, but the film itself could’ve been less drab.

girlontrain_evansbennett

Performance-wise, I find it odd that we’ve got a British actress playing the protagonist when the filmmakers moved the story from London in the novel to NYC. She keeps her British accent throughout though it’s never clear where she’s actually from. In any case, Blunt approaches the role with razor sharp precision, not just by looking unglamorous but she also embodied Rachel’s tormented peace of mind. Newcomer Haley Bennett as Megan has the most screen time out of the supporting cast. I think she has some screen presence, but at times I find her scenes too melodramatic. Later we find out her life isn’t so dreamy after all, and she too has a dark past that haunts her, but yet I can’t find myself to sympathize with her. To be fair, none of the privileged people who love to indulge in their own misery is easy to root for.

girlontrain_therapy

The rest of the characters are pretty much one dimensional. Rebecca Ferguson‘s good as Tom’s second wife Anna, but her acting skills seems underused here. Luke Evans is all rugged perfection as Megan’s husband Scott but he seems to be more eye-candy than anything. Another handsome actor, Venezuelan Edgar Ramírez, seems oddly cast here as Kamal Abdic, who’s from Serbia or Bosnia in the book, but he’s speaking Spanish in the film. Ramírez seems charismatic enough but his character is so boring it barely made any impact. I also have to mention Lisa Kudrow as Tom’s ex boss Amanda whose role is basically a cameo, but an important one.

girlontrain_theroux

Lastly, there’s Tom the antagonist, who actually seems untrustworthy from the start. Initially, the only image of Rachel comes from his point of view and she’s portrayed as a truly unhinged woman with drunken, violent outbursts. I think Theroux a skilled actor but there’s not much to work with when he’s given a paper-thin character who’s more of a caricature douchebag than a menacing sociopath. I’d think in the novel there’s more to his character than presented here?

The reviews haven’t been kind for this, sounds like another case where the book is much more superior than its cinematic adaptation. The novel might be a ‘thriller that shocked the world,’ but I don’t think the film lives up to that. I do think it’s still worth a watch, especially if you’re a fan of Blunt who proves herself once again that she’s a versatile and skilled actress. The movie itself isn’t quite as thrilling as it could’ve been, though I wasn’t exactly bored by it. It works more as a psychological drama than a taut whodunit murder mystery.

3Reels


Have you seen ‘The Girl On The Train’? Well, what did YOU think?

Five for the Fifth: MARCH 2015 Edition

FiveForFifth2015_Spring

Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. First things first… well, Twitter erupted with geekgasm yesterday when the third Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer dropped. I have to admit I dug it enough I watched it three times in a row during my lunch break. I’m lucky to have the 23-inch Apple Cinema HD Display at the office 😉

I wasn’t super excited about the first two trailers but now I’m slowly getting more enthusiastic about this sequel. Though I’m much more excited about Captain America 3 that opens May 2016.

For those who’re averse to comic-book stuff, no fret. Far from the Madding Crowd also opens on the same weekend (May 1).

In Victorian England, the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer; Frank Troy, a reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood, a prosperous and mature bachelor.


I never read Thomas Hardy’s famous novel that the movie’s based on but I like the look of this one, sounds like something I’d enjoy. Carey Mulligan is lovely & talented, and this is from the director of The Hunt, Thomas Vinterberg, which was one of my top 10 films of 2013.

So are you excited for either one of these?

….

2. Check out the FIRST LOOK of Oliver Stone’s thriller SNOWDEN. The film is currently shooting in Munich, before moving to locations around the world.​ Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Snowden before he became the NSA whistle-blower – Edward was an ordinary man who unquestioningly served his country.

Levitt_SnowdenThe movie also stars Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Rhys Ifans, Joely Richardson, Timothy Olyphant … and Nicolas Cage! Hmmm, I wonder which role he’d play, and most importantly which hairdo he’ll be sporting 😉

In any case, I’m not convinced yet about Levitt as Snowden, here’s what my casting wish for the role:

I knew the chance of Richard being cast is slim to none, he’s just a big enough name yet for such a role. Now, I’m not exactly a big Oliver Stone fan as director, we’ll see how much creative liberties will be taken for this movie. I think if you want to see the real Snowden, just watch the excellent doc Citizenfour instead.

What’s your initial thoughts of SNOWDEN?

3. Well, Cinderella hasn’t even opened yet and the interweb has been abuzz with the casting of yet another live action Disney adaptation, Beauty & The Beast. Apparently it’ll be a musical, with Emma Watson as Belle, who was cast months ago. Well, this week we’ve got casting news of the Beast himself AND its villain, Gaston: Dan Stevens and Luke Evans respectively. Behold the gorgeous all-Brits main cast:

BeautyandBeastCast

I actually just rewatched some clips of the animated feature not that long ago and looking at the drawings below, I’d say the casting is pretty spot-on physically. Though Stevens would likely have to undergo long hours in the makeup chair to get all big and furry as Beast, which is too bad that they have to cover up that handsome face!

BeautyandBeastAnimated

I personally like this casting. These are impossibly beautiful actors but fortunately they can act and have charismatic screen presence. It’d have been horrid if they cast say, Alex Pettyfer and Liam Hemsworth for example. Not convinced with Bill Condon as director though, but I haven’t seen Dreamgirls yet, so I suppose he has experience directing a musical.

What do you think of this casting bit?

….

4. Oh for the times they are a-changin. Nothing could be truer for media distribution landscape, as companies like Amazon and Netflix are entering the foray. Well, this is creating some interesting *shake-up* as four major theater chains are refusing to show Beasts of No Nation, the Cary Fukunaga drama starring Idris Elba that Netflix bought this week for $12 million, because the company is debuting the film simultaneously on its streaming service (per Variety).

Apparently the reason is that “… they do not want to provide screens to films that do not honor what is typically a 90-day delay between a theatrical debut and a home entertainment release.”

Elba_BeastOfNoNation

A drama based on the experiences of Agu, a child soldier fighting in the civil war of an unnamed African country.

NetflixLogoWell, since I have Netflix, it doesn’t bother me much, but this news certainly made me pause a bit. What if it’s the kind of movie I’d LOVE to see on the big screen? There’s only a handful of indie theaters near me, so there’s a likelihood none would even show such films. How big of a game changer this will become remains to be seen, but we might know sooner rather than later. Netflix also announced similar plans to the sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon that’s supposed to be out in August. It’s also partnering with a bunch of celebs on various projects, the latest is a partnership with Leonardo DiCaprio on documentaries that will premiere exclusively on Netflix.

What are your thoughts on this development?

5. The first 2015 Five for the Fifth’s guest is Natalie from Writer Loves Movies blog!

WriterLovesMovies

We’re seeing some interesting Artificial Intelligence films lately (Her, Ex Machina). Chappie is out soon too. As a kid I loved Johnny 5 from Short Circuit! But as a grown up I’d have to pick Her‘s Samantha, such a clever film.

So, what’s your favorite cinematic AI?


Well, that’s it for the March 2015 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀

Musings on the final Hobbit trilogy: The Battle of the Five Armies

TheHobbitBattleOfFiveArmies

Seems like it was ages ago since I saw the first Hobbit film. But in fact it was exactly two years ago that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was released. There were – and still are – quibbles about how a 320-page book warrants a three-film adaptation, and I was actually one of those people who didn’t mind it. I LOVED the Middle-Earth universe that J.R.R. Tolkien built, and The Lord of the Rings is perhaps my favorite film trilogy ever and so in my mind it was a worthwhile journey. The second film introduced us to the best CGI-dragon ever conceived on film, and so The Desolation of Smaug was even more exciting second chapter in The Hobbit journey. I listed 10 reasons why I loved that movie, with the wine barrel sequence and of course Smaug himself being the major highlights.

For some odd reason though, the third and final film just didn’t give me as much of a rush as the first two. I mean, I saw the trailer, then the second one, but I wasn’t feverishly anticipating it. In fact I didn’t even post hardly anything about it until I finally saw it early this month at a press screening. Perhaps I’m not the only one who’s feeling meh about the final Hobbit. Per EW, though the film won the box office this weekend with $56 mil, compared to the rest of the Hobbit films, The Battle of the Five Armies didn’t fare as well: The first film in the trilogy made $84.6 million its opening weekend while the second took in $73.6 million. The studio marketing machine emphasized on the phrase “One Last Time” and how one feels about such sentiment depends on how one feels on this franchise. As for me, as much as I’ve enjoyed the excursion to Middle Earth, there and back again as it were, I was ready to bid my farewell to Bilbo & co.

There are a few things that I love about the first two films that I still like this time around, so let’s start with those…

  • I still love Martin Freeman as Bilbo, he’s just so easy to root for. He pretty much is the most selfless character in the whole Middle Earth, and he pretty much risk his neck every time he goes out of his way to prevent war. I’ve always liked his casting and not only he has a believable resemblance to Ian Holm but he has that manic energy and whimsical antics that makes him so fun to watch.TheHobbit3_Bilbo
  • The character arc of Thorin is a strong one here, and Richard Armitage shows that inner conflict convincingly. The role takes advantage of the actor’s specialty of projecting ‘dark, brooding, conflicted’ in a magnetic way. The scenes where he struggles with the dragon sickness is one of the main highlights in the film, though how he recovers from it seems too quick and too easy, and perhaps there’s more of it that’s left in the cutting room floor?
    TheHobbit3_Thorin///
  • The slithery Smaug, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, is still awesome to behold. I’d say if there is one thing that makes it worthwhile to see The Hobbit movies in 3D glory, it’d be to see Smaug. Too bad the fire-breathing dragon didn’t quite have much screen time despite that awesome cliffhanger we saw in the second film. The action-packed sequence in Lake Town, involving Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) doing what he does best, is thrilling to watch. The special effects with Dolby Atmos sound is especially incredible in this sequence and I have to admit I wish Smaug had more screen time. But of course, he’s done his duties… that is to lead everyone to the main event: The Battles of the Five Armies.

    TheHobbit3_Smaug

Now, people who have been anticipating the battle sequences, this movie certainly delivers. It’s amazing how in the book, the only reference to the battle only amounts to a sentence, but here we’ve got at least a whole hour worth of battle sequences. We’ve got the Dwarves, Laketown people, and the Elves fighting a whole bunch of Orcs and Goblins, including a whole army of the Dol Guldur Orcs that are supposedly VERY scary and powerful.

That brings me to the not-so-good things about this film:

  • You’d think that the battle would be the most exciting part of the film, I mean I was expecting something in the vein of Battle of Helms Deep in LOTR: Two Towers, which was one of the most amazing rain scenes ever filmed, but it’s not even close. Somehow I find the whole sequence to be rather boring and by the end of it, I was getting so battle fatigue I couldn’t care less who wins. It’s hard enough to keep up with the current participants as it is, we’ve got Thorin’s cousin, Dwarves of the Iron Hills, joining in. Led by Billy Connolly whose accent is so distracting it’s hard to concentrate on what the heck is going on. I have to admit that my mind wandered for most of the battle scenes. In fact, I started noticing the strange looking codpiece that Azog, the Orc chief, is wearing. Seriously, I never noticed that before but I couldn’t stop giggling once I noticed that.
    TheHobbit3_AzogOrcs
  • I think the battle would’ve held more meaning to me if I had a firm grasp just what’s really at stake here. But even those lovable dwarves in the first two films just aren’t so fun here as they’re barely even in the movie! Even the dramatic tension surrounding the Arkenstone of Thrain, that is THE single most important gem of the whole Erebor’s vast treasure, just wasn’t as compelling as I’d imagine. I get that it’s a family heirloom for generations until it’s lost to Smaug, but somewhere along the way, its significance to the people is dwarfed (pardon the pun) by the overwhelming visual spectacle and action extravaganza. What’s worse is that the two main characters, Bilbo and Gandalf, often end up in the sidelines during most of the action. I don’t know why Peter Jackson would rather give a lot of screen time to Alfrid (Ryan Gage), the conniving servant of the Laketown Master, that doesn’t serve the story much at all. He sort of became a comic relief by the end before he disappeared and never to be seen again.
    … 
  • The unnecessary and uninvolving romance between Tauriel and Kili is once again aggravating because it’s yet additional filler on top of the already piled-up filler to make up the three films. I literally roll my eyes every time they appear on screen and the repeated farewell scenes. No offense to Evangeline Lily and Adrian Turner but really, I feel nothing for their characters and their supposed *relationship.* Meanwhile, Legolas (played by the eternally youthful Orlando Bloom) is reduced to nothing more than a Ninja Elf with his Matrix-like moves. Never mind the character inconsistencies with the follow-up movies, when the fight scene was over, some people actually applauded him in the theater.
    TheHobbit3_TaurielKili
  • Despite all of those thrilling fight and battle sequences, I was left feeling meh and unfazed. Even when one major character perished, followed by yet another seemingly-endless farewell, I still remain emotionally-detached. I mean I cried when Boromir met his end and I still get teary-eyed thinking about that scene. Now, it’s no fault to the actors in The Hobbit as I think they all did a good job in their respective roles, but more of a problem with the script (done by no less than FOUR writers: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro).
  • The scenes with Gandalf, Galadriel and Saruman as they battle the evil Sauron seems disconnected with the battle of the five armies. I don’t know if it’s the choppy editing or that simply an issue that there are just too much going on. In the Lord of the Rings, it’s clear who the main enemy is, but The Hobbit trilogy overall lacks the focus that gives the quest real meaning.
  • [SPOILER WARNING]
    Towards the end, there’s all these references to The Lord of the Rings. Thranduil (Lee Pace) told Legolas to find Aragorn, even though he didn’t specifically mentioned his name, it’s obvious who he’s referring to. Now, I don’t know how old Aragorn is supposed to be during The Hobbit timeframe, but this scene just feels forced to me. Pretty much every reference to LOTR, whether it’s Bilbo playing with the ring, the appearance of the demon Sauron, feels like nothing more than nostalgia. I suppose the continuity is to be expected, but it just further proves how much The Hobbit as a franchise just won’t hold up on its own and it reinforces the fact that they don’t measure up to LOTR movies.

TheHobbit3_ThranduilBard

In summary, the final Hobbit does have its moments and some of the action sequences are pretty entertaining. The attention to detail is amazing too, there’s really a lot to marvel in terms of visuals, and I remember ooh-aahing Thranduil’s Elven Elk with its majestic antlers. But overall, there are more bad than good here, which is pretty disappointing. I expected something more epic in terms of story, not just visual spectacle. It’s actually the shortest of all the Hobbit movies, only 144 min compared to 169 and 161 min of the previous two films, yet I checked my watch the most often whilst watching this. I’d think that even the most ardent Middle Earth fans should feel relieved that it’s finally over, if only it could’ve ended on a much higher note.

I don’t think I’ll be revisiting the Hobbit movies anytime soon, but for what it’s worth, it does make me want to rewatch my Lord of the Rings extended box-set.

2halfReels


Well, what did you think of the final Hobbit movie? 

10 Favorite Things about The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

TheHobbit2_Smaug_Bnr

Much has been debated about whether or not it’s a good idea that The Hobbit gets the same trilogy treatment as The Lord of the Rings trilogy when there is only one book being adapted. Now, I actually didn’t mind it and given how much I adore the Middle Earth universe, I welcome the extended film adaptation.

My interest in these movies increased tenfold when the casting was announced. It’s chock-full of my favorite actors, with Richard Armitage topping that list, then Lee Pace, Luke Evans, the BBC Sherlock duo Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch, and of course the LOTR veteran Ian McKellen back as Gandalf. All of them did a wonderful job bringing their respective characters to life. Heck I even like Orlando Bloom as Legolas, I’m not fond of him as an actor but I can’t imagine anyone else in that role.

So here are 10 things I love about the second part of The Hobbit trilogy:

10. The livelier pace
Right of the bat, the film feels more energetic as we finally get to the quest in question. There’s a bit of a flashback scene with Thorin and Gandalf that sets everything up, and since it features my favorite Brit Richard Armitage, I certainly welcome this intro 😉

TheHobbit2_lonelymountain

There are half a dozen major action-packed sequences that really genuinely thrilling, so despite some slower moments, the 161-min running time still feels like a breeze. There is even more sense of urgency to get to Erebor and it definitely makes me even more eager to finally get there myself.


9. The fantastic special effects and set pieces
The technological wizardry is what you’ve come to expect from Peter Jackson movies. As I’ve posted the film production trivia a few days ago, you’ll see that it took a bazillion production workers nd extras, as well as props, prosthetics, sets etc. to bring the Tolkien universe to life. But it’s the endless imagination of PJ and his crews that really makes these films such a fun escapist experience. Ok so there are some sequences that look digitally animated but with a fantasy film like this, it certainly comes with the territory. I’ve also gotten used to seeing it in 3D High Frame Rate(48Frames/Second) and I have to say I enjoyed it even more this time around.

TheHobbit2_spiders

I even enjoyed the Spider attack scene in the forest though the amazing details on those giant spiders did give me the heebie-jeebies! There are so much details to creating each character and creature, as well as the new settings such as Lake Town and the dwarves kingdom of Erebor that virtually transport you to Middle Earth.

8. The adventure in Lake-town
The addition of Luke Evans as Bard definitely adds more excitement to the story and there’s more adventure in store for Thorin & co. even just getting into the fictitious community of Men upon the Long Lake.

TheHobbit2_Bard_LakeTown

They took a chance with Bard, not knowing if he’d betray him, so it adds to the suspense. It also features one of the funniest bits of the movie, which is a great continuation from the wine barrel escape (more on that later). There’s also some fun scene with always amusing Stephen Fry as the Master of Lake-town, as well as some action packed sequence involving the Orcs and Elves. The town itself is beautiful to look at, apparently Peter Jackson and his crew built about 40 buildings on caster to make up the town.

7. The strong link to the Lord of the Rings story
Gandalf is separated from Bilbo and the Dwarf group this time around, working with his fellow wizard Radagast to get to The Dol Guldur. Inside the ruins is the creepiest sequence of all the film as Gandalf had to confront the Necromancer (once again voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch).

TheHobbit2_Gandalf_DolGuldur

The terrifying eye of Sauron once again makes an appearance, establishing just what is REALLY at stake beyond the quest involving the Dwarves getting their gold back from a dragon. The duel between Gandalf vs. Necromancer reminds me a bit of the scene where he fought the Balrog creature in an epic battle in which he fell down the Bridge. There’s something so sinister seeing an imprisoned Gandalf watch the Orc army marching off towards the Lonely Mountain and he can’t stop them.

6. The awesomely bad-ass Elves
I always like the elves from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but here, led by Legolas and the Woodland Elf Tauriel. She’s not in the book so I think purists might have a different opinion about her (and Legolas appearing in The Hobbit), but I quite like Evangeline Lily as the warrior Elven princess. As the head of the Elven guard, she’s definitely as bad ass as Legolas, who’s even more swift and agile with his bow and arrows. They both move at breakneck speed as they fight the Orcs, yet there’s something so graceful and elegant about their moves that are so fun to watch. There’s an interesting dynamic between Legolas and Tauriel, hinting at a romance between the two (though seems like Tauriel has more of a thing with Thorin’s nephew Kili, played by the gorgeous Aidan Turner, in this movie).

TheHobbit2_TaurielLegolas
TheHobbit2_Mirkwood

One of my favorite scenes from the LOTR trilogy are those set in the ethereal Rivendell, now in this sequel, we’re taken to where the Wood-elves and its leader Thranduil live. I always enjoy the long shot of the lush and beautiful vista of the Elves’ dwelling place. Lee Pace‘s Thranduil has a bit more to do in this sequel, as there are memorable exchanges with Thorin as well as with his son Legolas.

5. Finally getting to Erebor
At the end of the first movie, when everyone was at the top of the large rock and saw the Lonely Mountain in the distance, I remember how I couldn’t wait for the gang to finally reach it. Well, it was so worth the wait!

TheHobbit2_KeytoErebor

There’s something so emotional about the sequence when they finally reach that abandoned palace. It’s apparent that Bilbo and the band of Dwarfs are so weary after such a long journey, both physically and emotionally, so it’s such a huge joy to see them finally reaching their destination. Bilbo once again saves the day and we get to live vicariously through him as his REAL adventure begins as he reach the mountain of gold and jewels… and finally having to face the Dwarves’ arch nemesis!


4. Thorin! Thorin! Thorin!
It’s no surprise that I have a special fondness for Richard Armitage‘s character, but really, can you blame me? It’s one of the best casting choice in The Hobbit, a close second after Martin Freeman as Bilbo. Armitage has even more to do here (yay!) and he sure delivers with stately gravitas. Armitage didn’t sing again here, but he gets to showcase his thunderous deep voice of his in several occasions,  especially in the scene in Lake-town when he appeals to the Master and the people of the town about his quest. I also love that he gets to show his range here as an actor, obviously displaying leading-man charisma but also a certain vulnerability and even tenderness.

TheHobbit2_ThorinInLakeTown

There’s an emotional scene as the gang reaches Erebor, starting with indescribable joy that soon turns to grave disappointment. Thorin displays one of his rare smiles, he’s actually grinning ear to ear at the possibility of finally entering his palace once more, but within minutes we see how his high spirits quickly leaves him. It’s all on display on his expressive face as the camera zooms in on him. His humanity is palpable, here we really see Thorin as not just a leader on a mission, but a man on a very personal journey that means everything to him and the people he loves.


3. The Wine Barrel scene
There’s been many discussions of this escape sequence in many interviews and boy, it definitely lives up to the hype!! If you don’t remember anything about this film, you’d likely remember this one. The scene of getting into the barrel itself is a hoot, which was big enough to fit a couple of Dwarves (well one for the extremely obese Bombur). Once they get to the Celduin river, all hell break lose!

TheHobbit2_WineBarrel

It’s such a huge rush to watch this scene, no wonder filming this seems to be the most memorable for the cast involved! Not only do they have to survive being bounced around in the river, which runs from the Lonely Mountain south through the Long Lake with some fierce streams, they also have to battle the ugly and vicious Orcs (or Goblins as known in the Hobbit books). The fight scenes involving the three different races (Goblins, Elves and Dwarves) along that river are relentless and exciting, definitely one of the most exhilarating action sequences of the year.


2. Bilbo the hero
What I appreciate most about this film is that each challenges Bilbo, Thorin and the gang encounter built on their character. I think Bilbo’s character arc is even more fleshed out. He told Gandalf that he’s found his courage and though it was told as an alibi, he’s certainly not lying as he’s evolved to be a brave fighter of his own right. The way he rescued the dwarves from the giant spiders show his growing strength and deftness with the sword, but my favorite part is his scene in Erebor.

TheHobbit2_BilboInErebor

He still has his whimsy intact, which makes me love Martin Freeman‘s casting even more. The way he moves and all his nervous gestures are part of his charms and why it’s so effortless to root for him. His zany-ness makes for pure comedic gold, even when he’s literally surrounded by gold trying to find the Arkenstone, which is like finding needle in a haystack!
..

1. Smaug
The mythical dragon is everything it’s cracked up to be and more! When Bilbo inevitably wakes him up with all the ruckus, it turns out the lonely dragon is one chatty giant lizard. I guess he’s been all alone for so long with nobody to talk to that he simply can’t shut up, ahah. Benedict Cumberbatch did some motion capture on top of just providing the voice of Smaug, which gives it such a lifelike realism to the creature.

TheHobbit2_Smaug

We get to see every bit of Smaug in its glorious detail from head to toe, which is all kinds of awesome. He’s slithering about tormenting Bilbo with his enormous presence, but it’s the banter between the two that I enjoy the most. It’s dramatic as well as hilarious that I wish the Smaug sequence could’ve been longer! Nice to see the BBC Sherlock duo together again, Cumberbatch’s wit and that iconic voice certainly creates enough of a presence that it was fun to see him interact with Martin Freeman.

The final confrontation with Thorin & co. is thrilling as they’re trying to outwit and outmaneuver the sly Smaug. With Gandalf being away facing off against an even darker power of evil, Bilbo and the Dwarves are pretty much on their own. “If this is to end in fire, then we will all burn together,” Thorin proclaims defiantly, and the fight in Erebor is certainly a fiery one.

I really enjoyed the Smaug sequences that when he flew away and the closing credits came on, I felt like it was a tad too soon!


Kili (Aidan Turner)
Kili (Aidan Turner)

Now, I wish I could give this film a 5/5 but there are some REALLY slow moments that I feel grounds the film to a halt. One scene in particular is the lengthy flirty banter between Tauriel and Kili. Now, as Tauriel isn’t even in the book, I can”t imagine that scene is crucial to the story. It’s also odd given that there was much talk about Tauriel & Legolas romance that we barely see. Kili gets a lot more screen time in this film, so I’m curious about his character arc in the final installment.

Overall, it’s a great follow-up of an epic journey. The ending promises that even more lives are at stake in Middle Earth with Smaug being unleashed. Boy I’m even more eager to see the final film.

fourreels
4 out of 5 reels

So what do you think of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Weekend Roundup: Cabin in the Woods + Fast & Furious 6

I ended up venturing out of my comfort zone a couple of times this Memorial Weekend. Thankfully neither one is disappointing. On Friday night, we were debating between three movies, as you can see in my tweet below.

Well, it came down to Cabin in the Woods as I’ve been curious about it for a while and the fact that Joss Whedon’s produced and wrote it sounds like it’s worth seeing. This is not so much of a review, but more of my reaction and overall thoughts of the movies. Here goes:

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2011)

CabinInTheWoodsPoster

Five friends go for a break at a remote cabin, where they get more than they bargained for. Together, they must discover the truth behind the cabin in the woods.

Now, I don’t watch barely any horror movies, but even so, the storyline seems pretty cliché. But from the trailer and even the poster, I had an inkling that there’s more than meets the eye here and sure enough it was. I think a lot of people have seen this movie by now as it was quite a hit a couple of years ago, but I’m still going to give a warning in case some haven’t seen it.

[SPOILER ALERT – keep reading at your own risk!]

Right from the start, you could pretty much guess just what is this cabin about. You see people in some kind of scientific facility, going into a control room with a bunch of TV monitors and what do you see no them? The cabin of course! Boy, that realization immediately made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, and the goblins haven’t even showed up yet!

Trust me, even the scariest cabin you’ve been on, even those that’s supposedly haunted or whatever, is nowhere near as terrifying as this one. And that is because the whole thing has been rigged. Before you know it, one by one starts getting attacked, though at first I was under the impression that this whole thing is some kind of game, like a much sicker and deadly version of SURVIVOR where each had to do something drastic [kill each other] to survive or something.

CabinInTheWoods_Stills

Well, I’ll tell you that my reaction to the film kind of fluctuates as it progresses. Sure there are truly scary parts here, albeit some are run-of-the-mill horror stuff where people gather in a spooky basement even if they know they shouldn’t be there, reading and touching stuff they know better not to. But somehow, I kept thinking that the whole thing is human-controlled, which made it somehow less scary to me, and made me ten times more curious just WHO is behind this stuff.

The acting is not much to write home about, apart from the amusing roles of Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford as the two main controllers. I haven’t seen them playing such jerks, ahah, but they’re quite convincing. Mr. Thor Chris Hemsworth is the only one I know from the rest of the cast, but there’s nothing extraordinary about the five college kids.

As far as the plot goes, I have to admit it’s pretty creative. So apparently the whole scenario at the cabin is part of an ancient ritual sacrifice that’s happening all over the world. There are footage shown at other facilities and there’s some kind of competitive nature between the various locations.

Now, here’s one main beef I have with this movie:

Just why in the world is a control room with a big red button that says ‘PURGE SYSTEM’ where two of the characters got into is NOT guarded as well as it should’ve been? I mean, if you’ve seen this movie, you know just how crucial and critical that the BIG RED BUTTON does NOT get pushed, whether by accident or not. It’s akin to a button that launches nuclear warheads being aimed at our own neighborhoods, no? Except that this sounds like a far more terrifying way to die than being nuked!!

If THIS is what's gonna happen w/ one button being pushed, wouldn't there be EXTRA security to guard the darn thing?!
If THIS is what’s gonna happen w/ one button being pushed, wouldn’t there be EXTRA security to guard the darn thing?!

Another thing that sort of bothered me after the movie is how my expectations about the plot doesn’t quite aligned with what actually transpires on screen. The whole time I was watching this, I was under the impression that ALL the monsters had been man-made somehow. That the people in labs all over the world created those creatures as killing instruments, and they have a system to trap unsuspecting victims that’d become the ‘stars’ of their shows, for a lack of a better word. So the main purpose of this whole ‘game’ is motivated by greed or fierce competition (where the facility that produce the most killings the fastest win). So when that Purge System button got pushed releasing the creatures from their confinements, the people lost control of their own monster creations, and they’re running rampant killing everybody as they’re basically built as killing machines. I feel like it’d be far more sinister when humans actually create those monsters that end up being the root of their own demise.  Anybody else feels this way, or am I the only one??

Still, the idea of mixing supernatural things with technology – and the idea that people could actually contain ALL of those goblins and demons and confine them into elevators – is pretty imaginative. I could see why this movie was a hit with the critics (92% on Rotten Tomatoes for a horror flick is impressive!) Director and co-writer Drew Goddard thew plenty of humor thrown in as well to lighten the mood, though it certainly has plenty of blood and gore as well to please horror fans. Again this is NOT my genre, but I do appreciate the unusual storyline and overall it’s pretty entertaining.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


FAST & FURIOUS 6

Fast6Poster

Hobbs has Dom and Brian reassemble their crew in order to take down a mastermind who commands an organization of mercenary drivers across 12 countries. Payment? Full pardons for them all.

So, another movie that’s not exactly my cup of tea. I’ve got to admit the high rating from critics and audiences alike got me curious about this one. No, I didn’t bother watching the other five movies in this franchise as I don’t think I’d be at a loss in regards to the story, and I was right.

All I had to do was go to the IMDb page for this movie and after about five minutes, I got enough ‘history’ of Dom and his ‘family.’ Interesting that his name is Dom (short for Dominic), is it to suggest he’s like the Don in a racer ‘mafia’ or something?? [shrug] In any case, so basically Dom (Vin Diesel, still clad in his favorite wife-beater) and his BFF Brian (Paul Walker, the pretty blond former LAPD) was involved in a Rio heist the last time around which toppled some kingpin’s empire and thus left their crew with about $100 mil. The crew are now scattered all over the globe since their run-in with the law, unable to return home. But then Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson w/ the perfect moniker The Samoan Thor) shows up in his posh villa in Spain offers him a chance at redemption in return for his help to catch a ruthless criminal Shaw (Luke Evans). Apparently one of the catch Hobbs threw at Dom was a photo of his lost love Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) who’s supposedly been killed. So the chance of finding Letty again PLUS getting a full pardon for his entire crew turns out to be an offer he can’t refuse.

Fast6Stills

As this is the first time I encountered Dom’s crew, I’m most entertained by Tej (Ludacris) and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) who’re constantly bickering. They’re the comic relief of sort and I love that they’re not above making fun of their whole group. The women are pretty much the killer eye candy, not quite a femme-fatale but at least not the ‘damsel in distress’ type. There are endless fight scenes between Gina Carano and Michelle Rodriguez, but then again what else is Gina to do, we all know acting nor emoting is not her strong suit. The rest of the guys are pretty much only rehashing what they’ve been doing in the last five movies (except for Dwayne Johnson who’s only joined the franchise in the previous sequel Fast Five). The two main players Diesel and Walker are the least interesting people in the whole bunch. Yes I know the rest of the group aren’t exactly magnetic either, but still, those two are pretty dull indeed.

But hey, you go see this movie not really for the stunts and well, Taiwanese director Justin Lin delivers the goods big time with the most ridiculous car chases from start to finish. Seems as if the filmmakers go out of their way to create some extra outrageous stunts, which is ludicrous even by Michael Bay standards. Case in point: two people from two opposite vehicles jumping across a bridge with cars on the highway going 100 MPH, then somehow manage to catch each other midair and landing on the hood of a running vehicle and come away absolutely unscathed. I mean, come on!! The funny thing is, the very same characters were discussing just a few scenes ago about how they got their scars from doing relatively ‘safer’ stunt than this one they pulled off here!! If you’ve seen the latest official trailer, you’ll know exactly which scene I’m referring to.

Fast6Stunt
Trust me, this is nowhere near as ludicrous as what’s about to happen next

Luke Evans as the villain Shaw started out quite promising. The Welsh actor is hunky with tons of sex appeal and screen charisma to boot (hence he’s one of my choices to play 007), but I feel like his role is underwritten. He appears cool but lacks menace as there’s not much substance to his character. Plus the ending is rather anti-climactic despite such a bombastic action sequence. Oh, it was fun to see an Indonesian actor Joe Taslim (The Raid) displaying his kick-ass fighting skills as one of Shaw’s minions, though I’m still baffled as to why he was speaking Indonesian at one point in the movie, ahah.

Well overall this movie was worth the price of a matinee showing. It’s still a heck of a lot better than Die Hard 5 and according to my hubby who had to endure the G.I. Joe sequel, it’s a hundred times better than that one, ahah. I’m not about to check out the other five movies prior to this, but you know what, I just might give Fast 7 a shot. Yes, with $310 mil worldwide gross so far, I don’t think we’ll be seeing the end of this franchise any time soon!


3 out of 5 reels

What are your thoughts on these movies? I’m especially curious to hear what you think of my reaction to The Cabin in the Woods Let me know in the comments!

007 Chatter: Seven actors we think could play the next James Bond

In anticipation for Bond 23, a.k.a. Skyfall coming on November 9th, 2012, Ted and I are starting a new monthly series called 007 CHATTER… look for it sometime in the first week of each month.

I’ve also added a new category for this, so click on 007 Chatter on the category drop-down menu for all Bond-related posts.

A few weeks ago Daniel Craig said in an interview that he would love to keep playing Bond until the producers tells him he couldn’t anymore. Now I personally think  Craig at 44 is already showing his age, I mean he looked like he’s already in his mid 50s in most of the photos from Skyfall [like this one]. I honestly can’t imagine how old he’d look five years from now!

Anyway, regardless of when Craig will hang up his Bond mantel, we thought it couldn’t hurt to come up with a list of actors we believe would be great as the next 007. Btw, although we’ve seen some people suggesting that non-Caucasian actors should also be consider playing Bond, we actually won’t be doing that here and here’s Ted’s reasoning why [which I agree]:

Let’s be real here as much as I like to see a non-white actor playing the part, there’s no way the studio or the producers would consider it. I don’t want to sound like a jackass or anything but some of  you probably remember the uproar when Craig was cast as Bond in Casino Royale back in the mid 2000s. The media and fans alike were all over him, they called him ugly, too short, he’s blond and can’t drive stick gear and he’s white! Imagine the backlash the producers will get if they cast a non-white actor for the role. I’m being realistic here so I don’t believe we’ll ever see a non Caucasian actor as 007, well, not in my life time anyway.

So again, it’s not like we’re opposed of the idea of a black Bond, the opposite is true, but we’re just being realistic in that we don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon.

Anyway, with without further ado, here are the actors Ted and I believe should be considered for the next James Bond, starting with the two we both absolutely in agreement with.

RUTH’s & TED’s PICKS:

Luke Evans

TED:
He’s not a household name yet but that will change when The Hobbit opens this December. He’s playing Bard in the movie and for those who’ve read the novel, you know how vital his character is to the story. Apparently Peter Jackson has expanded the role, in the novel he didn’t appear until half through the book.

I believe people will think of him as the next Bond once they see him in action, actually if you saw him in Immortals then you know he can definitely play an action hero. I think Evans has the look and acting chops to play Bond. He’s young enough and by the time Craig’s done with the role, he’ll be in a perfect age to play Bond. I say he’s a mix of Sean Connery and Timothy Dalton, two of my favorite Bond actors.

RUTH:
Aside from Immortals, which is the first film I saw Luke in, I also saw a few interviews with him and he certainly oozes charisma. Bond should be handsome but not a pretty boy that’s why I think Luke is perfect. He’s tough-looking with that manly square-jawed face, but still has that elegant quality, not thuggish the way some people criticize Craig for. Oh, I’ve also seen him in person at Comic-con (not personally, though I had a pretty good seat at Hall H during The Raven panel). Mr. Evans looked appropriately rugged 😉
… 

Richard Armitage 

TED:
Another actor who I think will be a household name after The Hobbit came out. He’s playing Thorin, and again for those who read the book, you know he’s pretty much the second lead in the story. I first saw Armitage in the excellent British TV series MI-5 and thought to myself this guy will be great as 007. I think he’s the combinations of Pierce Brosnan and Sean Connery, but I believe he’ll be a much better Bond than Brosnan. With his deep voice and piercing blue eyes, I think he’ll be quite popular with the female Bond fans.

RUTH:
I was thrilled when Ted suggested him as I’ve been a fan of his since I saw him in BBC’s North & South. Interestingly, both him and Evans will be in The Hobbit [man, what I’d give to work for just a day on the set of that film!!] The tall, lean actor has since done mostly TV works, most notably as the baddie Guy of Gisbourne in BBC’s Robin Hood and most recently the MI-5 series where he’s very much Bond-like! Not sure if the Bond producers have seen him on that show or not, but can’t imagine they’d have to look to far for their next candidate! Oh and btw, I think he’s the most like Dalton to me: both are the same height at 6’2″ (which was the tallest Bond so far), intense with piercing eyes, AND has that irresistibly deep, raspy voice to boot!

TED’s PICKS

Joshua Bowman

I don’t think many people know this guy unless you’re a fan of the TV show Revenge. I started watching the show last year and noticed him and I thought he could be a good James Bond. He’s quite young so hopefully he’ll grow as an actor and maybe when he’s old enough, the producers of Bond films will give him a call.

Christian Bale 

Yes I know he already played another iconic character but how cool would it be if Nolan decides he wants to do a Bond flick and demands that the producers cast Bale as the next Bond? Come on now my fellow Nolan fan boys and girls, you know you’ll be jumping up and down with excitement. I don’t think I need to say anything more about why Bale will be great as the next 007, we all know he can act and also be an action hero.

RUTH’s note:
I actually suggested Bale as Bond in this post I did back in 2010. Check out the awesome fan-made video of Bale as the suave super spy!

RUTH’s PICKS

Karl Urban

RUTH:
If you’ve read my review of RED from 2010, then you know that I’ve been pushing for Urban as Bond. I first saw him in the Lord of the Rings movie, and even amongst such a massive cast, he was quite memorable. He’s also great as Kiril in the second Bourne movie and also in JJ Abram’s Star Trek. What I love about Urban — well other than the fact that he’s devastatingly handsome — is that he’s got that quiet intensity. He barely talked as the Bourne villain but he’s got such a strong screen presence that he really didn’t need to. He can also be funny as he displayed in Star Trek. But seeing him in RED makes me think he’d be perfect as Bond! Yes I know that the last Bond actor from Down Under wasn’t successful but hey, let bygones be bygones okay? I’d say give this one at least a screen test!

TED’s Note:
I like Urban but I think he’s still somehow looks too young for Bond and he needs to beef up a bit. Maybe his role in Judge Dredd will get him notice even more.

Jason O’Mara

The first time I saw O’Mara was in the ABC series Life on Mars. Though he’s playing American, right away I thought he’s a Brit. I was close, he’s Irish. Most recently he starred in the recently-canceled dinosaur sci-fi Terranova and seeing him do some of the action scenes make me think he’d be good as Bond. He’s tall and lean [ALWAYS a plus, in my book Bond should be at least 6 feet tall], rugged, but can also clean up well. I also think he’s got that effortless swagger without being cocky. If he got the job, he’d be the second Irish James Bond since Pierce Brosnan.

TED’s Note:
Good choice here since he already played a secret agent in the underrated TV show called The Agency a few years back. He might already be on the producer’s short list of actors to take over the role of Bond.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

Ok, this is kind of an off-the-beaten-path choice as he’s neither British/Irish nor Australian, but hey, if he could pull off a convincing British accent, why not? Most of you know him as the king’s slayer in Game of Thrones, but I first saw him in the prematurely-canceled New Amsterdam on CBS and took immediate liking to him. Yes, he’s a blond but then again, so is Craig. I think seeing him in the Danish crime thriller Headhunters trailer recently makes me think he’s got that edge about him that’d work as Bond. I think I’d rather see Nikolaj rising out of the water in a Speedo than Daniel [ooops, did I just say that out loud?] 😉

If you select ‘Other,’ please let us know in the comments who it is.


Ok, so these are our picks. Time to discuss amongst yourself. I’m sure you all have an opinion [or two] about Bond casting 😀

Upcoming Flix Spotlight: The Raven

Relativity just released this eerie-looking new poster for The Raven. Now, I still prefer this teaser poster that was released last July. I just think that one is much more creative and so brilliantly creepy. This new one isn’t not bad, I kind of like the subtle raven design on the title, but the wings reminds me a bit of this Constantine‘s poster.

Unfortunately, I also learned that this movie’s released has been pushed back from March 9 to April 27. No reason was given for this delay, which is a bummer as I’ve been curious about this for some time.

I’ve always been fascinated with movies about writers and lately I’ve been watching quite a few of them because Gregory Peck has played a number of writers roles, from novelist, journalist to screenwriter.  The title of the film refers to a narrative poem by Poe that was first published in January 1845. Per Wikipedia, it tells of a talking raven’s mysterious visit to a distraught lover, tracing the man’s slow descent into madness. So no, it’s not a remake of the 1963 horror comedy of the same name starring Vincent Price and Peter Lorre.

Here’s the official synopsis:

In this gritty thriller, Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) joins forces with a young Baltimore detective (Luke Evans, Immortals) to hunt down a mad serial killer who’s using Poe’s own works as the basis in a string of brutal murders. Directed by James McTeigue (V for Vendetta, Ninja Assassin), the film also stars Alice Eve (Sex and the City 2), Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges) and Oliver Jackson-Cohen (Faster).

When a mother and daughter are found brutally murdered in 19th century Baltimore, Detective Emmett Fields (Evans) makes a startling discovery: the crime resembles a fictional murder described in gory detail in the local newspaper—part of a collection of stories penned by struggling writer and social pariah Edgar Allan Poe. But even as Poe is questioned by police, another grisly murder occurs, also inspired by a popular Poe story.

Realizing a serial killer is on the loose using Poe’s writings as the backdrop for his bloody rampage, Fields enlists the author’s help in stopping the attacks. But when it appears someone close to Poe may become the murderer’s next victim, the stakes become even higher and the inventor of the detective story calls on his own powers of deduction to try to solve the case before it’s too late.

Director McTeige with Cusack
I’m intrigued by the story and James McTeige is the director of the stylish and compelling V for Vendetta, so this is quite promising. I think Cusack isn’t a bad choice as Poe, though I’m more familiar with his romantic/whimsical side in things like High Fideliy, Serendipity, etc. From what I heard at the Comic-Con panel, he seemed quite well-versed on Poe, which is always a good sign. There’s also Brendan Gleeson, whose presence is always welcome in any film.

One major highlight for me in this is Luke Evans, the dashing Brit I’ve been watching for some time. He played Zeus in this Fall’s Immortals, but he wasn’t given much to do there but look good in his barely-there mystical outfit. I think he gets to flex his acting muscles on this one as he has a more prominent role here. My pal Ted astutely suggested a few times would make a great James Bond when it’s time for Daniel Craig to retire his tux. I absolutely concur! 🙂

Here’s the latest trailer from a few months ago, as soon as they released the newest one I’ll swap it:



P.S.
Thanks to a tip from my friend Dezzy from Hollywood Spy, The Raven was filmed in Eastern Europe, mainly Budapest, Hungary and Belgrade, Serbia.

I also heard on NPR a few weeks ago that the Poe’s Historical Museum in Baltimore is in danger of being closed down as city leaders have chosen not to subsidize it (per LA Times). Perhaps an interest in this movie might help save Poe Museum?

What do you think folks? Does this one interest you?