Marvel, Paradise Regained

Yesterday, I covered how Marvel set up a series of deals that helped rescue them from financial difficulty but horrifically tied their hands. Now, Marvel has a wonderful cinematic universe where, just like in the comics, stories cross over each other.

Daredevil

The Daredevil and Punisher licenses have lapsed (Yay!). Marvel and Netflix made a wonderful series out of Daredevil (and I daresay spent less than they did on the mediocre movie). I have high hopes for Jessica Jones (November!), Power Man, Iron Fist, and The Defenders.

Agents of SHIELD

So why doesn’t Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. work? It was sold as being part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This means The Avengers as that is basically what the MCU is, given the absence of mutants, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and others. Yet for being based on The Avengers, there is no sign of Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, or any superheroes at all. The closest they come is that Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) guest stars in two episodes. That’s two episodes out of two full seasons. In the second season, they added Bobbi Morse aka Mockingbird but haven’t done much with her.

Another part of it has to do with SHIELD. SHIELD as a comic book evolved out of the James Bond series. Nick Fury was a spymaster with a vast array of incredibly cool gadgets but that was in the 70s. The cinematic Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is based more on The Ultimates line of comics and works well.

Unfortunately, a television series could not afford Samuel L. Jackson on a regular basis so the leader of SHIELD is seen in only three episodes and even then it’s briefly. So they resurrect Agent Coulson to lead the team so that we have at least one familiar face. The gadget antics wore out their welcome long ago. It’s why when Daniel Craig became Bond, they went back to basics and ditched the outlandish gadgets. Unfortunately the SHIELD team thinks these items can substitute for plot. They don’t really understand how a Mcguffin works.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has already had a wide array of supervillains, drawn from a long history of comics. While many of the heavy hitters like Dr. Doom and Magneto are unavailable, we still have Loki, Malekith (who was much cooler in the comics), Thanos, Yellowjacket, Ironmonger, Whiplash, The Mandarin (sort of), The Red Skull, Arnim Zola, Ultron, and others, heck they even manage to shoehorn Strucker and Klaw into a movie that didn’t need them.

Who does SHIELD have for a supervillain? Umm, The Enchantress guest stars in an episode. Kyle MacLachlan periodically guests as Calvin Zabo. Who?

SHIELD has started to introduce the Inhumans, one of the few properties not sold off. Unfortunately, they do so in a rather lame fashion. Black Bolt? Nope. Medusa? Nope. I guess they are saving those for the eventual Inhumans movie.

Agent Carter

There is the real crux of the problem. Marvel appears to be saving everything for their blockbuster movies, leaving nothing for SHIELD (or Agent Carter for that matter). There was even talk of a spinoff from SHIELD featuring Bobbi Morse (Mockingbird). Why do a spinoff when you cannot even get the original right?

Obviously, the Inhumans are SHIELD’s big push this year, until the inevitable spring tie-in with Captain America: Civil War. I am a die-hard Marvel fan from my kid days but I feel I have invested too much time in this already.

Excuse me, The Flash is about to come on.

Regal You So Crazy Part 2 – Mockingjay

Regal Cinemas

Apparently Regal got a good reaction to their limited edition $100 Spectre card. Now they have a $100 limited edition The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 2 card.

Mockingjay 2

Guests with the Regal Ultimate Ticket can receive one admission to “Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2″ each day for the entire run of the movie in Regal theaters. This limited edition stainless steel collectible is laser etched and features the iconic Mockingjay symbol. Each will be personalized FREE with the recipient’s name. Hurry! Production is limited to only 1,000 available units.  Be Part of the Revolution. Again and again.”

Ultimate Mockingjay

There are a few things that Regal has clarified since the introduction of the Spectre card. Customers receive 100 points on their Regal Crown Club card. They tout this as a bonus but it is just the same number of points you would have received had you spent that $100 on individual tickets. The card is good for IMAX and RPX showings as well.

I like the tchotchke but with RPX showings being $13 in our area, I’d have to go see the movie on eight different days to get my money’s worth.

Obviously the big question is will they do this program for Star Wars?

Also on the Regal front, I received an email about Regal’s new My Way Matinee program. This is a serious misnomer as it is pretty much the opposite of my way.

“In partnership with Puzzles International and the autism community, Regal Cinemas brings you My Way Matinee. This program is a way for individuals, families and friends to enjoy a morning at the movies in a comfortable environment. The auditoriums dedicated to the program have their lights up, the sound turned down and audience members are invited to get up and dance, walk, shout or sing!”

While this program does not at all appeal to me, I do applaud Regal’s efforts to reach out to the autism community. It is interesting that they note “enjoy a morning at the movies” because both Regals in my area stopped showing morning movies as soon as summer ended.

Lots of Special October Theater Screenings

Wow! I love special screenings and there are a remarkable number of them this month. Sadly, I won’t be able to attend most of them due to work and family obligations but YOU, you could go!.

Fathom Events, your source for special if overpriced movies, is showing the RiffTrax version of Miami Connection tonight at 7:30. For those not familiar with RiffTrax, it is very similar to Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) in execution (people onscreen mocking the events in the movie). Tomorrow night (10/7 at 7:30), Fathom presents the extended version of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The extended version of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies concludes the trilogy on 10/13, also at 7:30.

Dracula

Turner Classic Movies presents a Dracula double feature on October 25th and 28th at 2 and 7. The original Bela Lugosi version of Dracula will be shown followed by the Spanish version that was filmed at night on the same sets. Finally on October 29th at 7:30, Fathom and SpectiCast are bringing back John Carpenter’s Halloween.

Not movie related but Fathom Events is bringing a filmed live version of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet to theaters on 10/15. It is four hours long but I’m going to that with a couple of dear friends.

Back to the Future

Regal Cinemas is presenting the entire Back to the Future trilogy on the big screen one day only, 10/21/15 (naturally, for those who are familiar with the timeline). Strangely, it appears to currently be priced as a single matinee ticket. AMC and other theater chains are also participating so check your local listings. Unfortunately for me, this embarrassment of riches conflicts with a local showing of The Exorcist at Carolina Cinemas, 10/21 at 8.

My Fair Lady

Epic Cinemas is also getting into the trend of bringing back classic cinema to the big screen. On 10/18 at 2 and 10/21 at 7, they will be showing My Fair Lady.

I love that the theaters are doing all of this. My only complaint is that they usually do a terrible job of advertising and the screenings are often close to empty. This of course leads to a cancellation of future showings. Regal used to have a classic cinema series but abandoned it due to poor attendance.

 

Everest – Disaster or High Peak?

Last week I was lucky enough to get to see Everest in the theater.

Everest

On the morning of May 10, 1996, climbers (Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin) from two expeditions start their final ascent toward the summit of Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth. With little warning, a violent storm strikes the mountain, engulfing the adventurers in one of the fiercest blizzards ever encountered by man. Challenged by the harshest conditions imaginable, the teams must endure blistering winds and freezing temperatures in an epic battle to survive against nearly impossible odds.”

Everest should have been a fairly simple movie to write. There are numerous accounts of the incident in print, including several first person books from survivors. Not only do you have an easy to follow timeline but all the necessary details and a lot of sample dialogue. They hired two of the best Hollywood scriptwriters, Simon Beaufoy (Oscars for 127 Hours and Slumdog Millionaire as well as a nomination for The Full Monty) and William Nicholson (Oscar nominations for Gladiator and Shadowlands).

In spite of this, I did not find the script to be written particularly well. While it is an actual event, too much of the writing smacks of 70s disaster movies. Characters are somewhat stock and we don’t particularly care about them until disaster strikes. I mention this because the shallowness of the characters is pretty much my only complaint against the film.

Visually, Everest is an absolute marvel. I had seen the original IMAX movie taken at that time, watched interviews with a particular survivor (not spoiling it for those who somehow missed news coverage when it happened), and read Into Thin Air (the best of the books on this topic) yet it wasn’t until I saw this film in RPX that I had a real, visceral understanding of what it means to climb Everest.

Everest is directed by Baltasar Kormakur. Previously I have seen his 2 Guns and Contraband. They were okay but not impressive. Everest is absolutely riveting. The film is nicely paced and very informative without being pedantic. It was filmed in part on Everest at base camp as well as in the Italian Alps.

Yes, we are introduced to a variety of caricatures, I mean characters in the early stages. We have earnest team leader, Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) and laid back team leader, Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal). Our hopeful climbers include Texan alpha male Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), nice guy mailman Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), journalist Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly), and veteran female climber Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori). The native Sherpa guides are often ignored in Everest stories but at least two are here as minor characters, Ang Dorjee (Ang Phula Sherpa) and Lopsang (Pemba Sherpa).

Performances are just fine across the board. Josh Brolin does not have to stretch to play Beck Weathers – the role seems written with the actor in mind. Jason Clarke is fabulous as Rob Hall. His performances really vary with him usually being in the background of a film and underplaying his role. While this didn’t work well with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, here he steals the show (if steal is an accurate term for an ensemble piece).

Even though I knew the complete story, including the fates of those involved, I found the RPX presentation harrowing. Everest is definitely not a movie to see on television or even a small theater screen. Go see this on the biggest screen you can. Now.

Let’s All Go to the Lobby!

I have a tiny house. Our living room doubles as my movie room. The kids have grown up and moved out (for now) and we don’t really throw parties (except the occasional barbecue) so it isn’t too much of a problem.

Popcorn!

Unfortunately I have way too many posters and tchotchkes. Still that didn’t stop us from picking these up at a local flea market.

Hot Dog!

 

When I saw these, all I could hear in my head was the ‘Let’s All Go to the Lobby’ song.

Soda

We haven’t hung them yet. There is no wall space left but my dear wife is going to attach these to the curtain behind the television.

Finding the Grail – Woohoo! New Theater in Asheville!

The closing of Cinebarre left a bit of a movie void in Asheville. Asheville Pizza is now the only second-run theater and that’s way on the north side of town and has but a single screen. The Carmike and the fading Beaucatcher are out by the mall (ugh). Regal Biltmore Grande is out in the tony Biltmore Park area and is our fancy theater for the latest releases. Carolina Cinemas (south of Asheville) and the Fine Arts theater (downtown) are Asheville’s venues for art, foreign, and independent film.

Grail Moviehouse

 

Enter The Grail Moviehouse, a new two-screen, 250 seat theater in downtown Asheville.

THE GRAIL MOVIEHOUSE IS AN INDEPENDENT, LOCALLY OWNED THEATER,
SCREENING ART AND INDEPENDENT FILMS, LOCALLY PRODUCED CONTENT,
CLASSICS, AND A REGULAR ROTATION OF CINEMATIC SURPRISES.”

The Fine Arts theater downtown already shows art and foreign films but, with only two screens, there should be more than enough movies to go around. Of course I am most intrigued by The Grail Moviehouse’s intention to show classic movies. They have an ad for an old favorite on their website:

The Tingler

 

They have a nice two and a half minute sizzle reel showing the theater being built on their blog (accessible from the website). Concession-wise The Grail Moviehouse will have the necessary traditional favorites but they also plan to reach out to local venues to round out their menu.

I am very much looking forward to opening day sometime in 2016.

“Movies people love for people who love movies.”

That’s me!

 

Black Mass – Whitey Bulger the Departed

24Black Mass is currently playing in theaters. There are some minor spoilers that follow as this is supposedly a true story. I don’t feel that it’s really a spoiler when we’re discussing public figures with public fates. Still, don’t read any further if for some reason you are unaware of how the story ends.

Black Mass

Black Mass (2015) – Rated R

The true story of Whitey Bulger, the brother of a state senator and the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf.”

You were just saying? “Just saying” gets people sent away. “Just saying” got me a nine-year stretch in Alcatraz, you understand? So, “just saying” can get you buried real quick.

Black Mass is a good overview of the working relationship between childhood friends FBI agent John Connolly and mob boss/informant James “Whitey” Bulger. Director Scott Cooper jumps in after Bulger has served a stint in Alcatraz and Leavenworth (Atlanta too though that is not mentioned).

As is typical of Hollywood telling a ‘true’ story, Black Mass has the basic gist correct but a lot of the facts are wrong or omitted. In the movie, Bulger brings Flemmi in on the FBI arrangement whereas in reality Flemmi had been a FBI informant for almost a decade before Flemmi and Bulger worked together. Catherine Greig, a rather important part of the Whitey Bulger story, was to have been played by Sienna Miller but all of her scenes were cut. Bulger’s other brother is omitted as is Connolly’s brother in the DEA.

Cooper’s previous two films, Crazy Heart and Out of the Furnace, were marked by star performances by Jeff Bridges and Christian Bale respectively. Black Mass is no different. For all of its pacing and factual flaws, Black Mass has an outstanding (and quite scary) performance by Johnny Depp as Bulger and a wonderfully underplayed one by Joel Edgerton as FBI agent out of his depth Connolly.

The character of Connolly in the film is quite simplified as is his movie fate. The real Connolly is quite a bit more complex (and brighter) and suffers a more complex fate. My guess is that because Connolly is still alive, the producers felt it necessary for legal reasons to ‘vague’ up his involvement in Bulger’s affairs. Certain things are able to be inferred as Connolly’s clothing improves and he has a flashy watch and so forth.

Cumberbatch is welcome but mostly wasted as Senator Billy Bulger as is Kevin Bacon playing frustrated FBI agent McGuire. Dakota Johnson appears briefly as Lindsey Cyr, Bulger’s common-law wife. Peter Sarsgaard adds Brian Halloran to his collection of well-played lowlifes. Finally, an always welcome Corey Stoll appears late in the game as a crusading attorney.

While the film is just pretty good, there is an absolutely chilling scene between Bulger (Depp) and Marianne Connolly (Julianne Nicholson). I think that one scene is the best work that Depp has done in a long time and I could certainly see a nomination come Academy Awards time.

While this is the supposedly true story, it has a healthy dose of fiction. If you want to see a completely fictionalized version, try Martin Scorsese’s The Departed with Jack Nicholson essentially playing Bulger as Frank Costello. The Departed is an absolute classic, itself based on the Chinese Infernal Affairs movies (though it is better than the source material). If you are more interested in Bulger, then go with Black Mass for Depp’s performance.

 

Oh Regal, You So Crazy! Spectre Ultimate Ticket

Regal Cinemas

I love Regal’s special offers and try to take as much advantage of them as I can. Their newest offer is hilarious. They are offering what they call the Regal Ultimate Ticket to Spectre. For $100 plus shipping (seriously, they aren’t even covering the shipping of a card!), you get an anodized steel collectible card that they will personalize with your name.

Spectre

 

So what does this card do? It allows you to see the new Bond movie at Regal Cinemas every single day. Of course they do specify only once a day and there is no mention of it being valid for RPX or IMAX. Of course as this is the only intrinsic value of the card and tickets run $8-10 in my area, I’d have to see Spectre at least ten times to get the value of the card (slightly less if they allow it to be used for RPX or IMAX).

I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie ten times in the theater. My guess would be that if I have, it would have been Star Wars or Grease when I was a kid. I’m not above seeing a movie two or three times but ten? Speaking of Star Wars, I could really see this being a hot item for that movie.

On the other hand, this might make a great collectible.

Hot Dog! Lots of Regal Offers!

Regal Cinemas

* Tomorrow (9/17), Regal and a number of other chains are offering a double feature: Maze Runner and the new sequel, The Scorch Trials. The neat thing is that Regal (mine at least) is offering the double feature for the same price as a ticket to just the sequel. The double feature starts at 6 with The Scorch Trials premiering at 8. I love double features and marathons but I’ll be working.

* Starting Thursday, receive an Everest patch with IMAX 3D ticket purchase while supplies last. I have found that most theaters forget about this type of promotion so if you go, make sure to ask if they have them.

* Speaking of IMAX, Regal still has the deal where if you see two eligible IMAX films using your RCC card, they will give you $10 off a ticket for a third. I went to see Mad Max Fury Road on IMAX last weekend and it was amazing on the huge screen.

* The first 50 ticket holders to go see Captive will receive a collector’s ticket

* As usual, Regal still has $2 candy Monday and $2 popcorn Tuesday

 

Regal Crown Club

* If you download the Regal app to your phone, September’s coupon (which can be used on multiple visits) is $1 off a hot dog. I’m not sure if this is just regular hot dogs or also the footlongs and the corn dog minis.

Friday This ‘n’ That – Zombie Rights! TCM! More!

Night of the Living Dead

It is an absolute shame that, due to a distributor error, Night of the Living Dead entered the public domain. Not just George Romero but the rest of the creative team received almost nothing for their groundbreaking work. There had been other zombie movies and certainly Night of the Living Dead owes a debt to The Last Man on Earth, another public domain film, but NotLD essentially started an incredibly profitable genre.

While there is no recourse to the lost copyright, Joe Sena of Fourth Castle Media went after the next best thing. He applied for and received the trademark on the name. Now there can be official NotLD merchandise. He has stated that this month he is turning over the trademark to the original makers of the film (Image Ten), so that (hopefully) they can finally profit off the fruits of their labor.

Athens Movie Palace

I am hoping to get back to the Athens Movie Palace this month and review it. Until then, if you are curious about how an independent movie house is set up and functions, try reading their blog here. I found it fascinating.

TCM

For those of you who are rich as Croesus, the TCM Classic Film Festival will be back in Hollywood April 28th – May 1st of next year. The official website is here. If-you-have-to-ask, you-can’t-afford-it passes go on sale in November. The theme is Moving Pictures. Last year the Spotlight Pass was $1649. Yes, that is just the pass and not lodging or meals.