Tag Archives: JJ Abrams

Binky International Film Festival: Day One

Hello and welcome to the first ever (and maybe even the first and the last, we’ll see about that next year) Binky International Film Festival! As I have explained in my previous post, this year I’m doing something different to end 2011 with, instead of just making a list, I’m actually going to revisit all the movies I’ve seen in this past year (well, not all, just the ones released in 2011, though there are one or two that were released in 2010 but I never got around to watching them until 2011) and share my thoughts about them with all of you fabulous people of the blogosphere. Why? Why not, it’s the holidays, isn’t it? 😉

Today, our genre is “Big Budget Awesomeness” (note: “special effects-heavy” falls into the category even if the budget isn’t astronomical) and there are quite a few to get through so let’s not delay this any longer! Binky International Film Festival officially opens!

“Big Budget Awesomeness”

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1 & 2

Opening Weekend: November 19, 2010(part 1), July 15, 2011 (part 2)
Approx. Running Time: 146 min (part 1), 130 min (part 2)
Director & Screenwriter(s): David Yates & Steve Kloves (parts 1 & 2)
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, etc.
Budget: £150,000,000 (part 1), $125,000,000 (part 2)

Okay, first I would like to formally apologize to all you Harry Potter fans out there for not actually liking the movie franchise that much. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of the book series. But I was so disappointed by the first two movies and Daniel Radcliffe that I just couldn’t get into it. But two years ago I got bored and had nothing to watch during the holidays so I decided to catch up on the movies. And as it turns out, even though I’ll never like them as much as the book, they were alright. And Radcliffe’s acting improved greatly as he and the rest of the cast grew up right before our eyes. But still, I wasn’t crazy about the movie franchise, so when Part 1 and 2 of the final Potter installment came out I didn’t rush to the cinema to see them, instead I waited for the DVDs. But even so, I actually quite like both movies.

First of all, this time around everyone can act. The actors all brought their A-game and the three stars; Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson all have become seasoned actors. Second, the adaptation stayed pretty close to the book, so no complaints there. Third, the special effects got even more amazing, obviously. And finally, I never expected that I would get choked up watching the very last movie, but I did. I guess these crazy wizards have become more than just characters from my favorite book series but have felt like my best friends and family. I will miss this franchise, and sorry Twilight fans, but there is NO greater series than Harry Potter. Even Stephen King thought so too.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

X-Men: First Class

Opening Weekend: June 3, 2011
Approx. Running Time: 132 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): Matthew Vaughn & Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn. Story by Sheldon Turner & Bryan Singer
Stars: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, etc
Budget: $160,000,000

This was one of the most anticipated blockbuster release of 2011 and I’m happy to announce it did not disappoint. At all. Not even the slightest. In fact, X-Men: First Class was so good it made me forget about the disappointment that is X-Men 3 or X-3 or whatever it was called. A lot of what made this prequel awesome came courtesy of one Michael Fassbender, who was beyond amazing as young Magneto. But James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence were pretty great too, not to mention Nicholas Hoult, who you probably know as little chubby Marcus in About A Boy who grew up to be the sexy, diabolical Tony in UK’s hit teen series Skins. This installment of X-Men opted for great writing and acting instead of relying on special effects – and it made the movie more than just a comic book adaptation that only fanboys can appreciate. If you’re not big on comic books and superheroes, I still recommend you check out this movie, because it is more than just a superhero movie. It’s about the choices we all make as humans (and mutants) that in the end will determine where we end up in life.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Sucker Punch

Opening Weekend: March 25, 2011
Approx. Running Time: 110 min (127 min extended cut)
Director & Screenwriter(s): Zack Snyder, screenplay by Zack Snyder & Steve Shibuya, story by Zack Snyder
Stars: Emily Browning, Abby Cornish, Vanessa Hudgens, Jena Malone
Budget: $82,000,000

The public’s reaction to this movie’s a bit polarizing and most critics hate it but I happen to enjoy this movie very much. After Inception, I am game for any movie that deals with the subconscious mind, and Sucker Punch is really about that – but without the clever high concept of Inception, instead it chooses simpler route to explain the fantastical elements of the mind: mental illness. And sure, I too have a problem with all the girls dressing like warrior strippers half the time. I mean, If the imagination sequences come from the mind of a resilient girl being subjected to some horrendous electroshock therapy, why do the girls look like they are created in some geeky guy’s wet dreams? Nonetheless, the core message of the movie stuck with me and despite it all, it does have good self-empowering message. Zack Snyder did a great job creating the dark, sinister but ultimately hopeful world of the subconscious and if you get past the whole fanboy objectification of the female characters, it’s actually a pretty decent, if a bit sad and dark, movie to watch.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Super 8

Opening Weekend: June 10, 2011
Approx. Running Time: 112 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): JJ Abrams
Stars: Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning
Budget: $50,000,000

Super 8 was also among the most highly anticipated blockbuster of 2011 and I waited with bated breath for this movie to be released, only to be sorely disappointed by it, about Cloverfield-size of disappointment to be exact. JJ Abrams, I think you’re kind of a genius, but you can’t keep pulling this kind of shit on us impressionable movie junkies, you know! The next time your movie is shrouded in mystery and is overly hyped up, I’m going to assume it’s a hybrid of Cloverfield and Super 8 disaster. You should be ashamed of yourself, Abrams! Seriously though, I think the hype was what made the movie a disappointment, mostly because it was nothing more than Transformers but with pre-teen kids in the Shia LaBeouf/Megan Fox roles. I feel bad for Kyle Chandler, he can do no wrong in my eyes after Friday Night Lights, but this was a serious mistake. He should’ve waited for Star Trek. Shame on you, JJ Abrams!

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

I Am Number Four

Opening Weekend: February 18, 2011
Approx. Running Time: 109 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): DJ Caruso & Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Marti Noxon
Stars: Alex Pettyfer, Dianna Agron, Timothy Olyphant
Budget: $60,000,000

Let’s put it this way, 2011 is not a good year for aliens, well, except for the Transformers kind. But when you’re wedged in between a beloved boy wizard and sparkling vampires, do you even have a chance? In the case of the aliens in I Am Number Four, also adapted from a popular young adult book series, the answer is not a chance in hell. And neither Harry Potter nor Twilight is to blame this time. Who is to blame? Everyone but Timothy Olyphant, who is sublime, as he usually is in everything he’s in (I may be bias). Alex Pettyfer may know how to woo his co-stars, but he’s not a good actor. Period. And I don’t really see the appeal, frankly. Dianna Agron plays Dianna Agron in this movie, which is not necessarily bad, but we need more from a leading lady. Halfway through the movie, she doesn’t seem like she cares that much anymore, and neither do I. Or anyone, for that matter.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

Cowboys and Aliens

Release Date: July 29, 2011
Approx. Running Time: 118 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): Jon Favreau & Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof,  Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby. Story by Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby & Steve Oedekerk.
Stars: Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde
Budget: $163,000,000

Talk about a major blockbuster bummer, we can’t escape this highly overrated sci-fi adventure movie from Jon Favreau, Cowboys and Aliens. It’s almost as bad as Super 8, but not quite. It’s not that bad but it’s definitely not good either. It’s just pretty damn mediocre, despite boasting the acting greats of both Indiana Jones and James Bond. Jon Favreau clearly isn’t a Firefly/Serenity geek because if he were, he would’ve known how to make this space western genre a lot more interesting. As it were, Cowboys and Aliens is nothing more than a 2 hour yawn-fest. The only thing I’m grateful of is not actually seeing this in the cinema and pay good money for it.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Immortals

Release Date: November 11, 2011
Approx. Running Time: 110 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): Tarsem Singh & Charley Parlapanides, Vlas Parlapanides
Stars: Henry Cavill, Frieda Pinto, Stephen Dorff, Isabel Lucas, etc.
Budget: $75,000,000

If X-Men: First Class is my favorite blockbuster of 2011, then Tarsem Singh’s Immortals is a close second, and I’m not just bias because I’m a huge fan of his first incredible movie The Fall. Immortals is amazing for so many reasons, not only the brilliant, artistic, fantastic, dream-like special effects, but also for Henry Cavill’s beautiful… body. And acting. But mostly his body. Mickey Rourke plays the villain beautifully here, and once again, just like The Fall, Tarsem takes us to a fantasy world that is like nothing you’ve seen before. And the best part of the movie: Stephen Dorff is cool again. Immortals has resurrected Dorff’s image and career and that is all right by me.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

And that concludes Day One of Binky International Film Festival. Check back in for Day Two tomorrow, where we will be watching a few “Sundance darlings” of 2011.

See you then!

Binky Bee

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Pilot Watch, Week Two: The Oh So Good and The Awesomely Bad

"I'm on TV" By Patrick J. Adams

It’s week two of new Fall pilot premieres and you know I’m still here to watch and report to you lovely people of the blogosphere what I think of the new pilots the networks have to offer for this season. It’s not easy, getting through all these pilots, which is why I should warn you that I didn’t watch all that premiered this week, only the ones featured in my Ten New Shows To Watch This Fall and a few others that I was curious enough to check out.

This week, more shows premiered, but only two really deserved a mention (since I already reviewed New Girl last week, even though it technically didn’t premiere until last Tuesday night): Person of Interest and 2 Broke Girls. The rest are kind of blah, with the notable exception of Revenge, a show that is camptastic for its “melodrama for melodrama’s sake” approach that actually works. So which shows are worth your time and DVR space and which shows you (and the networks) need to forget ever existed? Read on and (let me) be the judge! 😉

1/ Two Broke Girls, CBS, Mondays 8.30/7.30c

This Fall not only marks the beginning of the female domination in comedy, it’s also the season that brings not one, but two indie princesses to mainstream television: Zooey Deschanel with Fox’s New Girl and Kat Dennings (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Charlie Bartlett) with CBS’ 2 Broke Girls. And if ratings for both shows are any indication, it seems that mainstream television audience is just as much in love with these indie darlings as the film festival hipsters.

2 Broke Girls tells the story of an unlikely friendship between a street-smart Brooklyn diner waitress and a down-and-out former Upper East Side princess, as they work together raising money to launch a cupcake business. Created and executive produced by Sex and The City’s Michael Patrick King and comedienne Whitney Cummings, who incidentally also had her own sitcom launched on NBC on the same week, this show may not be groundbreaking comedy but it’s still fun and sweet at the same time. Sure, some of the jokes are a little lame. But both leads, Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs, are great actresses and they can convince us to smile even when the jokes felt flat. This show is also smart enough not to portray broke socialite Caroline Channing as an airhead vapid narcissist a la Paris Hilton (which would be annoying) but instead gave her depths and intelligence (after all she did go to Wharton Business School). All in all, this show is a great addition to CBS’ Monday night lineup and I’d rather commit my time to this one than Kutcher-infused Two and A Half Men.

Verdict: Give It A Watch, You’d Be Pleasantly Surprised.

2/ The Playboy Club, NBC, Mondays 10/9c

Thanks to the success of Mad Men (that show has just won its fourth consecutive Emmy, which is no easy feat), this season the Big 5 networks are trying to ride on the show’s coat tail by launching their own version of the “retro” genre: ABC is premiering Pan Am this Sunday night, about (what else?) Pan Am stewardesses in the 60s, possibly inspired by that episode of Mad Men (in season 3 if I’m not mistaken) when Don Draper hooked up with a Pan Am stewardess, and NBC premiered The Playboy Club, about (what else?) Playboy Bunnies in the 60s, also quite possibly inspired by the fact that Mad Men’s Pryce dated an African American bunny from the club, if I remember my Mad Men correctly. And guess what? I don’t know about Pan Am (yet, check back here next week for my review) but NBC’s The Playboy Club doesn’t even come close to the greatness of Mad Men. It doesn’t even deserve to be called “a poor man’s Mad Men”. If Matthew Weiner saw the pilot, he’d be laughing so hard, he’d wet his pants, I’m telling you.

You’re probably thinking, “Oh but it can’t be that bad, you’re just bias because you can’t stand Eddie Cibrian.” And it’s true, I can’t stand him, but still. I watched the show to support Dr Simon Tam Sean Maher and I went into it hoping that I’d like it despite my hatred of all things Cibrian (because my love and loyalty to Firefly and its alumni is that great), and even with my unwavering allegiance to the crew of Serenity, I can’t say anything good about this show. The problem isn’t just Cibrian, though he’s a part of it, the problem is in its heavy-handed exposition and the fact that it tries REALLY hard to be Mad Men, to the point of unoriginality (Cibrian’s Nick Dalton is Don Draper if he were a Playboy Club-frequenting lawyer, the Bunny Mother Carol Lynn is Joan Holloway if she were a “Bunny Mother”, the new Bunny that accidentally killed a mob boss is Peggy Olsen if she were an ambitious Playboy Bunny). Fellow WordPresser and Twitter friend Madmonq puts it this way: “[The] Playboy Club is like a retarded inbred midget trying to play Don Draper“. Harsh, but true. I love you, Sean Maher, but you really need to find a new job, STAT!

Verdict: Don’t Waste Your Time, Watch Castle Instead.

3/ Revenge, ABC, Wednesdays, 10/9c.

I feel like I shouldn’t be reviewing this show and instead just direct you to the New York Magazine’s Vulture review of the pilot, because I think it succinctly describes the exact appeal of ABC’s new guilty pleasure show (“Like the television equivalent of Peach Melba, it may be out of style, but it tastes pretty good.”). No, seriously, do read the review after you finish checking out this post because I agree 100% with their assessment and I have nothing new to add, really. 🙂 Revenge, as the review in Vulture stated, is straight up melodrama and in an era where bad TV shows try too hard to be ironic, tongue-in-cheek, or subversive to mask the fact that they’re really truly awful, it is like a breath of fresh air. It’s camptastic, yes, but it fully owns up to it and doesn’t try to be anything else. That’s what’s so great about it.

That’s not to say that the show doesn’t take itself too seriously, because it does. It takes itself so seriously that I don’t think anyone even cracked a real joke in the pilot. Scandals abound and every character has a secret a la Desperate Housewives, only it doesn’t even try to pretend it’s a satire. It’s not a satire, it’s pure and simple melodrama and for some reason, I am sucked in. Like Dynasty and Dallas in the past, I simply MUST watch this show. And if you’re not too much of a hipster and can appreciate the good ol’ days of campy, melodramatic primetime soaps, I promise you’ll love this one too.

Verdict: Just Watch. You’ll Love It. But Totally Deny That You Do.

4/ Person of Interest, CBS, Thursdays, 9/8c

Out of all the pilots that have premiered in the last two weeks, I have to say that this one is my new favorite drama. And considering that it’s on CBS, well that’s definitely saying something. It’s not just because it had Michael Emerson, and executive-produced by JJ Abrams, though it helped, the reason why I’m falling hard for this show is because it is that good. And not just for a CBS show, for a TV show in general. After last year’s disappointing Undercovers, JJ Abrams has finally redeemed himself (again) in my eyes.

Person of Interest has an interesting premise and is probably the most high concept procedural on CBS right now. It tells the story of a presumed dead ex-CIA agent (or something, they were pretty vague on what government agency the protagonist used to work for) played by Jesus Jim Caviezel, who is hired by a genius (and also, presumed dead) billionaire named Finch (Michael Emerson) to help him stop a future crime before it happens. I told you it’s high concept! It is definitely a welcome change from the usual crime procedurals of CBS, while still retaining the user-friendly format of high tech, crime solving badassery that the CSI and NCIS franchises are known for. It’s smart but kickass, it’s entertaining but at the same time paranoid, it’s got a great cast – with Taraji P. Henson playing a cop investigating our elusive protagonist, and it’s relevant in this post-9/11 world, where there’s only a thin line between vigilance and paranoia. If you want a smarter, more interesting procedural than the many CSI franchises, you have to give this one a try.

Verdict: Watch It or You’ll Regret It.

5/ Charlie’s Angels, ABC, Thursdays, 8/7c.

Remakes don’t always work on TV, especially when the remake is of a beloved TV show of decades past. NBC tried to reboot both Bionic Woman and Knight Rider without much success, and The CW also failed miserably when they tried to resurrect Melrose Place for the Facebook generation. Still, the relative success of The CW’s 90210 (now in its third season) and CBS’ Hawaii 5-0 (now in its second), not to mention the fact that Nikita somehow magically got a second season pickup, gave ABC enough confidence to give this Charlie’s Angels reboot the green light, especially since it’s produced by Drew Barrymore’s production company, the same one that produced both movies. And the result? Well, let’s just say it was so bad, I actually felt sorry for the three angels, especially Minka Kelly – and Victor Garber, who was just hired recently as the Voice of Charlie. They must’ve fallen on some hard times to want to be involved in this piece of crap.

The problem with this show is this; it’s plain stupid. Really bad writing and the acting is not exactly Emmy-worthy either. Sure, even the original wasn’t exactly Emmy-worthy but it was a different time, there wasn’t that many channels to choose from back then. There weren’t an abundance of brilliant shows being churned out by the cable networks every season to set a standard for quality. And yes, the movies weren’t exactly genius either, but we forgave the stupidity of both movies because they were campy and funny. This reboot is neither smart nor funny, which means it’s just awesomely bad. Hawaii 5-0 looks like groundbreaking television compared to this one. It’s so bad I gotta wonder what the execs in ABC were smoking when they gave the OK. I mean, that must’ve been some powerful hallucinogenics, right?

Verdict: Do Yourself A Favor and Watch Community and Parks & Recreation Instead.

6/ Hart of Dixie, The CW, starting Monday, Sept 26, 9/8c.

This show technically doesn’t premiere until Monday, but as executive producer Josh Schwartz promised via Twitter last week, the pilot episode has been available on iTunes for early viewing since Thursday, in an effort to drum up interests and get a positive buzz going. And of course, I can’t resist to check this show out early. How can I? Summer Roberts Rachel Bilson has finally returned to TV, and I’ve missed her. Plus, she brought Friday Night Lights’ Scott Porter along for the ride. And I’m always happy to see an FNL alumn back on my television (why do you think I checked out Charlie’s Angels? :-)).

Hart of Dixie tells the story of Dr. Zoe Hart (Bilson) who left Manhattan for Bluebell, Alabama when her career as hotshot NYC surgeon stalled thanks to her poor bedside manner and inability to remember any of her patient’s name. It’s a fish out of Manhattan story, that’s kind of been there, done that, plus it’s really hard taking Bilson seriously as a surgeon, especially since she still slips into Summer Roberts speak every now and then (“Diarrhea and diaper rash? Ew!” was seriously one of her lines), BUT, it’s still a charming little show with a good soundtrack and sprinkled with Southern hospitality and polite back-stabbing here and there that I think I’m going to keep watching. Besides, Rachel Bilson’s wardrobe in this show is so inspired. I’d watch every week just to get some style inspiration.

Verdict: Not For Everyone, But If You Loved The OC, This May Charm You As Well.

And there we go, the six pilots I happened to watch this week. Sorry I’m a little late with this, it’s been a crazy weekend! But I’ll be back next weekend for more pilot premiere reviews. Next week it’s Pan Am and Suburgatory’s turn. Will they delight or disappoint? I guess we’ll see!

Xoxo

Binky Bee