Old Dogs, New tricks:
Jeff Boam’s Winter Movie Preview
Within the synopses of this winter’s crop of profiled new movies, you’ll notice a recurring theme or, more specifically, a recurring age bracket. Proving that they’re no longer just Expendables, the forthcoming cinematic season sees Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger headlining bullets-n-brawn action flicks Bullet to the Head, A Good Day to Die Hard, and The Last Stand, respectively (Willis boasts a major role in April’s G.I. Joe: Retaliation as well).
Their average age is 63.
Not to be outdone, Hollywood legends Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin play social security collecting con men in the dramedy Stand Up Guys.
Their average age is 73.
It begs the question: are these movies hip, or do Stallone and the gang need a hip replacement? Based on the rip-roaring trailers, all involved seem to be having a blast, which is great news for moviegoers. It all goes back to silver screen legend Jack Palance, whom I interviewed before his death in 2006. The Hollywood tough guy became famous for playing heavies in everything from Shane to Batman to the comedy City Slickers. “Once a film is finished, you kind of just forget about it,” he told me. “Most films are your favorite while you’re working on them.” But don’t just take his word for it. I’ve invited some local celebrities along to give their two cents to see if John McClane and Company still have what it takes to kick some AARP. Read on.
Gangster Squad (Jan. 11)
Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling
It’s called LA Noir and it’s been an almost sadomasochistic obsession of Angelino moviemaking since German expressionism crept into the dark corners of Hollywood in the ’30s. From realizing the hardboiled detective fiction of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Mickey Spillane into the film noir wave of the ’40s (The Maltese Falcon; Double Indemnity; Kiss Me, Deadly) to the more modern killer kiss-offs (Chinatown, The Long Goodbye, LA Confidential), the City of Angels never seems to look better than when it’s drenched in shadows and shadowy activity.
There’s even a popular video game called L.A. Noire, not to mention an upcoming T.V. series on TNT from producer Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, AMC’s The Walking Dead) called LA Noir, which is based on the book by John Buntin. Until then, audiences have the all- star Gangster Squad to quench their deepest dark fallen Angel desires. In this PG-13-rated crime thriller based on real events in 1949 Los Angeles, Sgt. John O’Mara (Brolin) leads a secret crew of LAPD outsiders (Ryan Gosling, Michael Pena, Robert Patrick) to take down ruthless Brooklyn-born mob king Mickey Cohen (Penn). The Plus: the players. Here, Ruben Fleisher (Zombieland, 30 Minutes or Less) directs a cast that includes Brolin (Men in Black 3), Penn (The Tree of Life), Gosling (The Ides of March), Pena (End of Watch), Patrick (The Men Who Stare at Goats), Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man), and Nick Nolte (Warrior). The Minus: the controversy. Following the shootings at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colo., in August, Warner Bros. shelved Gangster Squad for five months to reshoot a sequence involving a shootout at Hollywood’s legendary Ming’s Chinese Theater. Ultimately, knee-jerk editorial tinkering raises concerns as to the quality of the story.
The other line:
“I have been dusting off my copy of LA Confidential since the announcement of this flick. Gosling and Stone have crazy onscreen sizzle and Penn looks to be in rare form. Add Brolin, one of our most underrated actors, and we have a late Christmas present.” — J.W. Colwell, PA Live Movie Guy, co-host of the “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Nerdy” podcast on iTunes
“I’m in, but I wish they’d call this by its real name: Untouchables 2: Gangsters Go West.” — Dave DiRienzo, Rock 107 Morning Show with DiRienzo and the Prospector co-host
“I was looking forward to this one until Warner Bros decided to pull the trailer, postpone the film, and cut out the movie theater shoot-out (which looked extremely cool). Knee-jerk reactions suck!” — Mike Evans, electric city/diamond city Sights and Sounds columnist
“I was really looking forward to this until the studio recut it after the Aurora shootings. And the more I watch the trailers, the more this film looks like Sin City, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I worry the hasty editing and the (apparently) stylized way it was filmed will take down this flick like a two-bit street thug.” — Sam Falbo, Managing Producer, Scranton Public Theatre
“Another in the long line of the ends justify the means American Justice flicks. Sorry, but all mob movies should be made by people named Coppola or Scorsese.” — Prospector, Rock 107 Morning Show with DiRienzo and the Prospector co-host
The Last Stand (Jan. 18)
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Johnny Knoxville
While critics and audiences alike agree that Terminator and its 1991 blockbuster sequel Judgment Day merit a modern classic status, the follow-ups (Rise of the Machines, Terminator Salvation) haven’t earned the right to ride their coattails. Then came the cancellation of Fox’s Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles T.V. series and the bankruptcy of the series’ current production house, Halcyon Company. Now that Annapurna Films managed to secure the screen rights for two more Terminator movies, however, it is rumored that the next go-round marks the return of a key aggregate to the franchise after a decade: Arnold Schwarzenegger. Along with other franchise rejuvenator The Legend of Conan (due: 2014), Terminator 5 serves as one of the steps in the action star’s return to glory in Hollywood following an 8-year run as the governor of California … after The Tomb and this actioner, however. In the R-rated The Last Stand from hot South Korean director Jee-woon Kim, the leader of a drug cartel (Eduardo Noriega) busts out of a courthouse and speeds to the Mexican border, where the only thing in his path is a sheriff (Schwarzenegger) and his inexperienced staff (Knoxville, et al). The Plus: the player. There’s no discounting his box office heyday (Conan the Barbarian, Predator, Total Recall, True Lies, etc…). Following the success of The Expendables flicks, however (though Sylvester Stallone stars, both Schwarzenegger and fellow ’80s action star Bruce Willis play supporting parts), this actioner defines the adage “striking while the iron is hot” to a T. Having Knoxville (The Dukes of Hazzard), Forest Whitaker (Vantage Point), Luis Guzman (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island), and Harry Dean Stanton (HBO’s Big Love) along for the ride under the direction of Kim (The Good, the Bad, and the Weird) certainly can’t hurt. The Minus: the material. Have you seen those trailers or T.V. spots? If Schwarzenegger blows it with another stinkeroo along the lines of The 6th Day or Collateral Damage, the title of his latest may prove particularly appropo.
The other line:
“Yes, it looks bad and, yes, it looks horribly written, but I am so back for Arnie 2013 — the year that the ’80s action star rises again! ‘I’m the Sheriff’ is the first catchphrase of 2013!” — Colwell
“I wouldn’t watch this movie if a naked Kate Upton personally rolled me into the theater Hannibal Lector-style.” — DiRienzo
“This movie looks incredibly stupid but God help me, I want to see it!” — Evans
“How many movies does the Governator have coming out this year, 25? This formula: hard-boiled law man leads misfit staff in seemingly unwinnable fight against ruthless criminal, has been done and overdone. Is it really worth the $8.50 to see Ah-nuld make a tongue-in-cheek reference to his earlier films before punching out a bad guy? Wow … I just talked myself into seeing this.” — Falbo
“There’s a new-old sheriff in tinsel town and don’t let the plastic surgery and Botox fool you; he’s just as hardcore as he was in Terminator, Predator, True Lies, Red Heat, Raw Deal, Running Man, Jingle All the Way, Kindergarten Cop, and the governing seat in charge of California. Never thought I would say this, but I’m pretty sure Knoxville is going to carry this move. Alternative title: The Austrian Oak and the Jackass Joke.” — Tom Graham, electric city/diamond city staff writer
“From what I hear, The Last Stand by South Korean director Jee-Woon Kim has The Govenator doing some serious Gangdam Style and Knoxville standing there with the look of shear joy on his face!” — Marko Marcinko, musician, Music for Models; educator
“Without HGH, this movie would have to be titled Arnold Can’t Stand. He’s old!” — Prospector
Broken City (Jan. 18)
Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe
OK, there’s an elephant in the room. True, Mark Wahlberg began his career as Marky Mark, lead rapper of the Funky Bunch. That’s ancient history, however. You see, he’s since earned some good vibrations from Hollywood. The rapping gig and a short stint as an underwear model led to roles in Basketball Diaries and Fear — turns that caught the industry’s eye. With the critically lauded lead role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights, however, he proved that his acting career was more than just a hat trick. Hit (The Perfect Storm) after hit (Italian Job) after hit (Invincible) followed. Then, Wahlberg’s Oscar nomination for 2006’s The Departed saw his star rise even more, which helped to get his passion project The Fighter (a true sports story set near his home town of South Boston) produced to great commercial and critical acclaim.
Before he stars in Pain and Gain with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Transformers 4 next year, however, there’s the matter of Broken City. In this R-rated thriller from Allen Hughes (From Hell, The Book of Eli), an ex-cop in a city rife with corruption (Wahlberg) trails the wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) of the mayor (Crowe) only to find himself embroiled in a larger scandal. The Plus: the players. Between the respectable business of Contraband and the blockbuster grosses of Ted, 2012 didn’t shape up too shabbily for Wahlberg. Teaming him with Crowe (Robin Hood, Les Miserables), a huge star in his own right, would normally make for killer box office. The Minus: the competition. Broken City is opening against The Last Stand, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first lead role in nearly a decade. This weekend ain’t big enough for two action stars.
The other line:
“If it’s January, we must get a gritty Wahlberg flick, but this one has a pedigree: Crowe.” — Colwell
“The trailer for this movie quotes Tweets from @BadBreak_Billy and GypsyLullaby7, because that’s who America trusts for opinions on movies. (Check them out on Twitter and you’ll hope they never reproduce).” — DiRienzo
“Mark Walberg playing someone in law enforcement. What a stretch! Pass!” — Evans
“I watched the trailer. All I learned was that Mark Wahlberg is going to be real ‘bad ass’ in this movie. There’s 30 seconds of my life I won’t get back.” — Imel
“Is this a documentary about the City of Scranton?” — Prospector
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (Jan. 25)
Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton
In a city full of dreamers, it only makes sense that fairy tales would become one of the hottest commodities, however fractured. Blame director Terry Gilliam. Ever since his The Brothers Grimm bowed in 2005, Hollywood has been taking a lot of pages from, well, Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
In 2011, Catherine Hardwicke directed Amanda Seyfried in a Gothic re-imagining of Red Riding Hood. Next, Julia Leigh directed Emily Browning in a very adult re-telling of Sleeping Beauty.
Then came two takes on Snow White in 2012, broken dud Mirror Mirror and the ridiculously successful Snow White & the Huntsman. Now, moviegoers have Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, the first project from MTV Films to be released in the IMAX 3D format. In this PG-13-rated adventure comedy, siblings Hansel and Gretel (Renner, Arterton) take vengeance on the witch who tried to cook and eat them in a gingerbread house 15 years after the incident. The Plus: the players. Renner is burning hot after starring in back (The Hurt Locker) to back (The Town) to back (Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol) smash hits. After warm (Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time) and warmer (The Clash of the Titans) turns, Arterton is also due a hot streak. The Minus: the odds. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters was first set to bow in March of 2012. First, it got moved to January 11, but then got delayed again to avoid competition with Gangster Squad. It doesn’t sound like Paramount, the studio releasing the picture, has much faith in their product.
The other line:
“I didn’t care until I found out this was directed by the same guy who made Dead Snow. That was the gory flick about Nazi zombies — Nazi zombies! Now you won’t be able to keep me away from the theater!” — Evans
“I like the premise but I feel like this needs Danny McBride!” — Prospector
Bullet to the Head (Feb. 1)
Sylvester Stallone, Jason Momoa
After years of direct-to-DVD gems (D-Tox, Avenging Angelo), Sylvester Stallone resurrected his career with updates of two of his most popular franchises, 2006’s Rocky Balboa and 2008’s Rambo. He truly staged his comeback, however, with 2010’s The Expendables, an explosive mercenary tale chocked full of more action heroes than the discount rack at the video store.
Not wanting to give up a good thing, Stallone has slated more muscle-bound team-ups onto his calendar, The Tomb with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Grudge Match with Robert De Niro being the first out of the gates … after The Expendables 2, of course. In this R-rated actioner from veteran director Walter Hill (48 Hours, 16 Blocks), a cop (Sung Kang), and a hitman (Stallone) form an alliance after watching their respective partners die at the hands of a common enemy (Momoa). The Plus: the player. The $312 million global box office of The Expendables 2 cemented the return of Stallone, once the biggest Hollywood star in the world, to blockbuster filmmaking. Having Kang (The Fast and the Furious), Momoa (Conan the Barbarian), and Christian Slater (Hard Rain) under the direction of Hill (Red Heat) only adds to the allure. The Minus: The expectation. This isn’t The Expendables 3 (that flick is set to bow in 2014). Outside of that franchise’s ensemble, does Stallone still have what it takes to open a major motion picture by himself?
The other line:
“Yes, it looks bad and, yes, it looks horribly written but I am so back for Sly 2013 — the year that the ’80s action star rises again! Plus, Walter Hill is still one of our best action directors!” — Colwell
“Stallone’s tattoos in this movie look awesome. They look like a gypsy’s curtains turned into a ladies’ shrug sweater and draped delicately over his shoulders.” — DiRienzo
“Looking forward to a really old Schwarzenegger kicking some ass! A really old Stallone? Meh … not so much.” — Evans
Stand Up Guys (Feb. 1)
Al Pacino, Christopher Walken
The last time that acting legends Al Pacino and Robert De Niro shared a movie together, Heat certainly didn’t result. Thankfully, however, the universally despised Righteous Kill won’t be the last time that these screen legends team up. Along with Joe Pesci, Pacino and De Niro are set to reunite under the direction of Martin Scorsese for an adaptation of Charles Brandt’s I Heard You Paint Houses, the deathbed confession of hitman and reputed Jimmy Hoffa assassin Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran. Until then, each actor is seeing fit to party pensioner-style. In December, De Niro joins fellow 60-somethings Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas, and Kevin Kline in the bachelor party comedy Last Vegas. First, however, Pacino lives it up in Stand Up Guys. In this R-rated comedy, a pair of aging con men (Pacino, Alan Arkin) try to get the old gang back together for one last hurrah before one of the guys takes his last assignment — to kill his comrade (Walken). The Plus: the players. When it comes to screen legends, Pacino is one thing (The Godfather, Dog Day Afternoon, Scarface, Scent of a Woman). Walken (Annie Hall, The Deer Hunter, True Romance, Pulp Fiction) and Arkin (Catch 22, The In-Laws, Little Miss Sunshine, Argo) are another matter entirely. The Minus: the odds. While an occasional project might hit a homerun, none of these actors seem particularly choosy as of late (Pacino: 88 Minutes, Jack and Jill; Walken: Man of the Year, Balls of Fury; Arkin: Firewall, The Change-Up), which doesn’t speak well for the script for Stand Up Guys.
The other line:
“I love the con man genre and this cast is to die for. The hipster universe may implode because Walken, Arkin and Pacino in the same film could spin it off its axis.” — Colwell
“They should have called this movie ‘Jesus Christ, These Guys Look Old’.” — DiRienzo
“A solid cast and what looks like a solid story. Maybe we can forgive Al Pacino for getting involved with Jack and Jill.” — Evans
“These old timers need to sit down in there jazzy’s and just ride off into the Italian mafia sunset. Enough with trying to relive the past. Give these Guy’s a better script.” — Marcinko
“Can they? See? It’s another old person joke.” — Prospector
A Good Day to Die Hard (Feb. 8)
Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney
Some walk by night, some fly by day. In the case of former Moonlighting star Bruce Willis, however, his career flies high no matter the time of day. From playing aging action heroes (The Expendables 2, G.I. Joe: Retaliation) to working with indie Hollywood’s hottest auteurs (Moonrise Kingdom, Looper), this superstar continues to do it all. Following his fifth go-round in the Die Hard franchise, Willis will reprise his role of Frank Moses in this summer’s Red 2 (due in theaters on Aug. 2). In this as-yet-unrated actioner sequel, New York cop John McClane (Willis) travels to Russia to help out his seemingly wayward son, only to find that the younger McClane (Courtney) is a CIA operative working to prevent a nuclear-weapons heist by a dangerous underworld figure (rumored to be Patrick Stewart). The Plus: the franchise.
Even though it proved to be the least popular with critics and moviegoers alike, A Good Day to Die Hard made more than $383 million internationally on a $110 million budget. In the glow of post-Expendables ’80s action hero worship, A Good Day to Die Hard should make a killing. The Minus: the odds. The first three Die Hard installments were R-rated, as were both Expendables flicks (though Sylvester Stallone stars, both Willis and fellow ’80s action star Arnold Schwarzenegger play supporting parts). The jury’s still out on Die Hard 5.0, but based on the PG-13 slapped on the last chapter, hopes aren’t running high for some Hard-R action.
The other line:
“Yes, it looks bad and, yes, it looks horribly written-sensing an action movie trend for 2013 yet? I went with some friends to see Live Free or Die Hard and while it’s not a great Die Hard and they hated it, seeing Bruce Willis kill bad guys while making quips made my inner child beam, so I am so there!” — Colwell
“Wait, Patrick Stewart is the bad guy? Make it so!” — DiRienzo
“Or break a hip! But I won’t stay away.” — Evans
“Let’s hope Bruce Willis learned something from Sylvester Stallone while they were filming Expendables 2. Much like Rocky Balboa largely ignored the existence of Rocky 5, this installment in the Die Hard franchise should pretend that the last film never happened. In fact, the studio should pay people to forget it. Starting with me. I have to say, Patrick Stewart as the villain is an excellent choice. I hope a Euro-baddy ala Alan Rickman and Jeremy Irons helps recapture much of what was missing in the last effort.” — Falbo
“I know a guy whose real name is John McClane. Every time he leaves the room, I usually mutter ‘Yippee Ki Yay Mother bleeper’ and laugh to myself. Alternative title: If at first you don’t succeed, Die Hard again and again and again and…” — Graham
“When I heard they were making another Die Hard sequel, I came up with the perfect title: Die Already!” — Prospector
Jack the Giant Slayer (March 1)
Nicholas Hoult, Stanley Tucci
In a city full of dreamers, it only makes sense that fairy tales would become one of Hollywood hottest commodities … oh wait, we’ve already been down this road. Following his boffo box office twofer X-Men and X2: X-Men United, director Bryan Singer could’ve held the keys to any franchise. He went big, choosing the Man of Steel. With 2006’s Superman Returns, Singer relied heavily on the influence of the series’ original director, Richard Donner … unfortunately while alienating some critics and moviegoers. Now, before the director returns to the X-Men series with his original cast for the First Class sequel Days of Future Past in 2014, he’s set to get himself a little tale. In this modern day fairy tale adventure from director Bryan Singer (Apt Pupil), the long-standing peace between men and giants is threatened, as a young farmer (Hoult) leads an expedition (Tucci, Ewan McGregor, Bill Nighy, Warwick Davis, Ian McShane) into the giants’ kingdom in hopes of rescuing a kidnapped princess (Eleanor Tomlinson). The Plus: the players. Here, Singer (The Usual Suspects, Valkrie) is directing Hoult (X-Men: First Class), Tucci (The Hunger Games), McGregor (The Impossible), Nighy (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), Davis (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2), and McShane (Snow White & the Huntsmen). The Minus: the material. Post X-Men, Singer has had his hand in a number of projects, some good (Fox’s House) and some not-so-good (Fox’s Munsters Reboot Mockingbird Lane). If the crappy CG-heavy trailers are any indication, Jack the Giant Killer might have more in common with the latter.
The other line:
“Somewhere, Kerwin Mathews (look him up and watch his flicks) is spinning in his grave. This looks like Clash of the Titans— too much CGI, great cast trapped in an effects nightmare … but I do like Bryan Singer. I hope I’m wrong.” — Colwell
“No suspense in this movie. If the Philadelphia Eagles can beat the Giants this year, anyone can (Boom!).” — DiRienzo
“No smart quip here. Just — PASS!” — Evans
“It’s a classic story with a modern twist and tons of special effects. They should make a movie adaptation of Gulliver’s Travels? Wait. They did? They made 40 of them? Were they any good? Ted Danson? Jack Black? Oh lordy. Alternative title: One-liners from Ben Kenobi.” — Graham
“OK, is it me or does this sound a little bit like a plot to a Nintendo Video game?” — Prospector
Oz: The Great and Powerful (March 8)
James Franco, Michelle Williams
Merely five years after the conclusion of director Sam Raimi’s super-successful Spider-Man trilogy, Sony was looking to start from scratch under the direction of Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer). The result proved to be the box office hit The Amazing Spider-Man — the sequel of which is already in the works for 2014. This left Raimi, whose 4th Spider-Man flick was rumored to star everybody from John Malkovich as the Vulture to Anne Hathaway as Black Cat, in a bit of a creative quandary. The horror maven (the Evil Dead trilogy) and later-day master of suspense (A Simple Plan, The Gift) has only directed one movie since wrapping on Spider-Man 3 (the relatively low-budget spooky film Drag Me to Hell), but this is all about to change with a return to two properties. Later this year, a Raimi-produced remake of the original Evil Dead arrives in theaters. First, however, the filmmaker is revisiting the land made famous in his favorite all-time film: 1939’s The Wizard of Oz. In this as-yet-unrated fantasy adventure, a stage magician (Franco) is hurled into a fantasy realm where he must use his wits to stay ahead of three enchantresses (Williams, Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis) who have plans for him. The Plus: the players. Here, Raimi (For the Love of the Game) is directing Franco (127 Hours, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), Williams (Blue Valentine, My Week with Marilyn), Weisz (Dream House, The Bourne Legacy), Kunis (Friends with Benefits, Ted), and, of course, Bruce Campbell (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, USA’s Burn Notice). The Minus: the confusion. Lest any body confuse this property with the similarly plotted Broadway hit Wicked, they will be in for a big surprise. Oz: The Great and Powerful falls completely separate from that musical, its novel, and the entire L. Frank Baum line of books.
The other line:
“This isn’t your parents’ Oz; great cast and I love Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis and Michelle Williams as the Witches. And now, some nerd math: Raimi + flying monkeys = Disney $.” — Colwell