It’s been close to five years since the last film in this long-lasting franchise, but now we get our first look at “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One.” I should, however, state how frustrated I was to see it will not be released until July of 2023 which is such a buzz kill. All these exciting images are presented to us, and now we have to wait just a little over a year to see them on the silver screen. This reminded me of how thrilled I was when I first watched the teaser trailer for “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions,” and how deflated I was when we saw the year 2003 plastered at the end of it. We were so excited, and then we were made to wait a full year before we went back to the “real world.” That’s like putting salt in the wound!
Well, with Tom Cruise returning as Ethan Hunt once again, we are greeted with various images we have come to see in the “Mission: Impossible” films such as him palling around with his colleagues played by Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson and Vanessa Kirby among others. We also get glimpses of insane car chases which go through downtown cities, trains traveling through the countryside, and our heroic characters partying at a members’ only rave in the most glamorous of places. So yeah, this definitely looks like a “Mission: Impossible” film.
Having watched this teaser trailer several times now, this particular sequel looks to be not much different from the others which preceded it. Perhaps this is because Christopher McQuarrie is returning to director’s chair for the third time, or maybe I am just reacting to how Tom Cruise still looks like he hasn’t aged a day since “Mission: Impossible III.” I’m not surprised to see him “grinning like an idiot every 15 minutes” here and, in this trailer, we see him running really fast, and all by his lonesome as usual. When was the last time anyone rang alongside him anyway?
What stood out to me most in this trailer was the appearance of Henry Czerny who returns to this franchise as Eugene Kittridge for the first time since the original “Mission: Impossible” film from 1990. Hearing him talk to Ethan and explain how he needs to take a side makes me feel like this sequel will have very high stakes, and this always helps to add to spectacle on display.
One other thing; seeing Ethan ride a horse is something I have not seen him do before in this franchise. At least I can count on the filmmakers bringing in that as something new. Plus, I have not seen a train fly off the rails since “Back to the Future Part III,” and that should be quite the sight to see. And then there is Cruise driving a motorcycle off of a cliff, something we already knew he was going to do. It makes me wonder what motorcycle enthusiasts think of such a stunt. Once they learn what kind of motorcycle he let crash to the ground, they may be incredibly heartbroken.
And if you look closely, you will get glimpses of newbies to this franchise which include Esai Morales, Hayley Atwell and Cary Elwes among others. These are actors you can always depend on, and I have no doubt they will be great additions.
“Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” is set to open in theaters on July 14, 2023. If you haven’t already, check out the trailer above. Whether or not this will equal or be better than “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” one of the best action films of recent years, remains to be seen.
The following review was written by Ultimate Rabbit correspondent, Tony Farinella.
I have stated in the past I’m not the biggest fan of superhero/comic book films. I know they are insanely popular, and they make up most of the current box office these days. However, they have never quite tickled my fancy. A recent exception to the rule would be 2019’s “The Joker.” It was my favorite film of 2019. When a superhero or comic book film is dark, gritty, and focused on character development as opposed to explosions and car chases, I can get into the film and appreciate the characters and the story. I’m happy to report “The Batman” is a really, really good movie that surprised the hell out of me.
When Robert Pattinson was named as the latest Batman, a lot of fans of the franchise were disappointed and fixated on his previous work in the “Twilight” franchise. Between “The Batman” and “Good Time,” directed by the Safdie brothers, Robert Pattinson has proven he is a solid actor when given the right material. Everyone has their favorite Batman from the various films in the franchise. I haven’t seen all of them, so I can’t say with any clarity which one is my favorite or which actor has done the best job. I don’t feel as though Pattinson was asked to do a lot here, but what he does do is slightly above average.
It’s rather tough to judge Pattinson’s performance, as there is a lot going on in this nearly three-hour film. It wasn’t a standout performance or one that blew me away. At times, it felt like the film was protecting him and didn’t give him a lot to do. When the film was over, I was impressed with the film and not really thinking about his performance as Batman. I would have liked to have seen more from Catwoman, played by Zoë Kravitz. Considering the film’s length, I felt as though they could have included her a little bit more in the film. There are also stand-out performances from Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Andy Serkis, and an unrecognizable Colin Farrell.
It’s Halloween in Gotham City, and it turns out to be a night of mayhem after its mayor Don Mitchell Jr. is killed by the Riddler. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), of the Gotham City Police Department, calls Batman into action as he feels he can be an ally in this case. This is not met with open arms by the Gotham City Police Department. This will also not be the first body that is found dead by Batman and James Gordon. The Riddler is leaving behind cards with various clues, taunting Batman. In some ways, this film had the feel of “Se7en” to it. This is much more of a dark thriller/horror film than a superhero film, which was appreciated. It helped that the film was directed by Matt Reeves of “Cloverfield,” “Let Me In,” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and “War for the Planet of the Apes” fame. He knows how to make a tightly wound thriller with human elements.
What makes “The Batman” work so effectively as a story is that the Riddler, right or wrong, has a motive behind all of his killings. He sees all the lies and coverups that are happening in Gotham City. He just wants to expose the truth to the public. Speaking of the Riddler, I would have liked to have seen more from Paul Dano in this film. I understand they want to build up to showdown between Batman and the Riddler, but it left me wanting more. I imagine that is for us in the eventual sequels. Again, I would have liked more from the Riddler and Catwoman.
There is also a moral dilemma at the heart of the film. Bruce Wayne/Batman is looking to figure things out about his family with the help of the family butler, Alfred (Andy Serkis). He’s piecing the clues together at the same time the audience is figuring them out as well. There is a rhyme and a reason to everything which happens in this film. At times, it felt like a smarter “Saw” film with some of the traps, letters, and messages that were being sent out by the Riddler. The film is an intense ride which really packs a wallop. That being said, I would have trimmed about 20-30 minutes from it. That would have made it a four-star film.
I’m really surprised they were able to get away with a PG-13 rating with all of its dark material, which deals with subjects such as mental illness, grief, death, trauma, and explosives. While I have no issues with films that are willing to be bleak and dark, it felt like an R-rated film to me, which is high praise. I’m going to give the film three and a half stars because of the run-time. At times, it really gets bogged down and can feel tedious. In the end, this is a very enjoyable look at Batman from director Matt Reeves. The way the film is shot is absolutely brilliant. The dark, brooding cinematography and tone were very much appreciated. I really, really liked “The Batman.”
* * * ½ out of * * * *
4K Info: “The Batman” is released on a three-disc 4K Combo Pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. It has a running time of 176 minutes and is rated PG-13 for strong violence and disturbing content, drug content, some language, and some suggestive material. One disc is the 4K, another disc is the Blu-ray, and there is an entire Blu-ray disc devoted to the special features, which are over two hours long!
Video Info: Released in 2160p Ultra High Definition, “The Batman” is simply stunning with its dark black imagery. It’s a remarkable 4K, and it’s exactly why the format is really finding its way into the homes of more hardcore film collectors. The film also comes with Dolby Vision. You won’t be disappointed by a single scene in this film. It’s breathtaking. For the Blu-ray, you get your usual 1080p High Definition. The special features come on a separate Blu-ray disc as mentioned earlier.
Audio Info: For the 4K and Blu-ray, you receive the following audio formats: Dolby Atmos-TrueHD: English, Dolby Digital: English Descriptive Audio, English, French, and Spanish. Subtitles are also in English, Spanish, and French.
Vengeance in the Making: A Making-of Documentary Featuring Cast and Crew
Deleted scenes with director’s commentary
Anatomy of a Car Chase featuring the Batmobile
The Batman: Genesis
Even though the film is incredibly lengthy, I’d love to watch it again. I really liked the direction they went with this film as far as the Riddler having an agenda behind his killings. I also thought the moral dilemma and the code Batman lives by was really tested throughout the film. It’s an impressive movie. I’m not going to discredit the work of Robert Pattinson in the film, as I thought he did a fine job, but it did feel like the film really didn’t allow him to show off more of his acting chops. He’s really hiding behind the Batman character. This might have been by design. However, I would have loved to have seen a performance that rivaled the film. Once again, maybe it was not the intention of the filmmaker or the people behind the film. Still, if you enjoy your superhero movies with a dark edge to them, you will not be disappointed by “The Batman.” There is no stone left unturned with the special features as well. Without question, this is a day-one purchase at your local retailer. I can’t wait to see what they come up with for the sequels.
**Disclaimer** I received a 4K/Blu-ray copy of this film from Warner Brothers to review for free. The opinions and statements in the review are mine and mine alone.
With Sam Raimi returning to Marvel Movies for the first time since “Spider-Man 3,” I honestly got really excited. With a title inspired by one of the many H.P. Lovecraft stories out there, and a look which makes this film seem like “The Evil Dead” as if it were produced by Kevin Feige, this “Doctor Strange” adventure looked to be more than the average superhero flick as it ventured into the horror genre, something we have not seen a Marvel movie do recently, if ever before. Plus, I was looking forward to the Bruce Campbell cameo you know is coming and to see where Raimi was going to put his classic 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 car on display as it has been featured in every one of his films. Come on, you know that car is going to make an appearance at some point.
Well, what stunned me about “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” was how much of Raimi’s visual flair ended up onscreen here. When it comes to Marvel Movies, I assume they are usually made by committee to where the director does have some say, but the producers usually get final cut regardless. But watching this one made me realize how much leeway Feige and company gave this celebrated filmmaker, and that’s even though said leeway only goes so far. As for the screenplay, well, just read on.
I went into this “Doctor Strange” sequel believing it would take place after the events of “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” but some have said this one is actually a prequel to it. Is it? I don’t know and would love it if someone could give me a definitive answer on this. What I can tell you is that it starts off with Stephen Strange and America Chavez (played by Xochitl Gomez) running away from an ever so fierce demon while trying to find the Book of Vishanti, this movie’s answer to the Necronomicon. But it is soon revealed that Stephen was just having a bad dream, or was he?
America then appears to Stephen again while he attends the wedding of his beloved, Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), to someone other than him. After defeating an octopus demon with one eye with the help of Sorcerer Supreme Wong (Benedict Wong), they learn America is being hunted by demons because she has the power to travel through the multiverse in a way few others can only hope to.
It should be noted that this “Doctor Strange” sequel went into production without a finished screenplay, and it shows. Trying to explain everything which goes on here is very difficult as the number of universes these characters travel through is endless to where I am surprised no one had totems like those “Inception” did. Surely everyone here would eventually wonder if they were actually in the correct universe, right?
When it comes to the visual effects, I am back and forth on them. The opening featuring a lot of CGI to where I found myself not being the least bit enthralled at the action. As the show went on though, the effects became quite immersive and very clever, and there’s an absolutely brilliant scene in which Stephen and America find themselves flying through different universes which vary in colors, depth and weather. It reminded me of when Cameron Diaz chased after Catherine Keener while traveling through the mind of a celebrated actor in “Being John Malkovich.” With creativity like that, I wonder how far the imagination can stretch.
And yes, the actors are all terrific here as one would expect. I don’t even want to think about what other actors could possible inhabited have inhabited the role of Doctor Strange any better than Cumberbatch. While this is the second film where this Marvel character has the lead, Cumberbatch has already played this doctor in various other MCU adventures to where he can play a role like this in his sleep. With a simple move or inflection of his voice, this Oscar nominated actor can communicate so much even without uttering a single word.
Benedict Wong offers strong support throughout as, like Cumberbatch, is not about to let any of the visual effects upstage him in the slightest. Xochitl Gomez excels at playing a young adult who has more to deal with than the average teenager as she navigates through puberty while being afflicted with a special superpower. Rachel McAdams reminds us of what a pleasing presence she can be as Christine Palmer, the love of Stephen’s life who got away from him because superheroes can’t always have loving relationships. And there’s no leaving out the great Michael Stuhlbarg who portrays surgeon and Stephen’s one-time colleague, Nicodemus West. It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t have a lot of screen time; Stuhlbarg makes every single second he appears onscreen count for all they are worth.
But for me, the best performance in this “Doctor Strange” sequel comes from Elizabeth Olsen who returns as Wanda Maximoff, better known as the Scarlet Witch. While Wanda may have been good in the past, we see here going rogue here as she attempts to reunite with her children, and these are kids who may not actually exist if you know what I mean. While this particular character could have easily turned into a one-dimensional villain whose selfishness comes at everyone else’s expense, Olsen gives Wanda an emotional depth which makes her threat to those around her all the fiercer. If there is one reason to check out this sequel, it is for Olsen.
After writing all of this, I imagine you must wonder why I have such mixed feelings about this MCU film as its screenplay needed another draft or two. I would have liked it if there were some sort of Thomas Guide available for the average audience member as the story is hard to navigate through to where it is difficult to become emotionally involved in everything going on. Perhaps it is best to view the previous events which took place in both the first “Doctor Strange” movie and “Wandavision” before stepping into this latest chapter as it will help ground you in every single event going on here.
Also, the pace drags in ways it should not, and taking this into account is especially frustrating. While many complain about the average movie lasting around two hours and 30 minutes, and this is not counting the half hour or so of commercials we are forced to experience at our local AMC theater, this one only lasts 126 minutes, and yet there were still moments where I found myself almost falling asleep. This should be a sign of when something or anything drags slower than your ordinary snail as we live in an age where we have no choice but to pick up the pace.
When it comes to “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” I cannot help but describe it as a near miss. While there is a lot here to admire, the final cut is undone by a screenplay which needed another draft or two before production began. While some filmmakers can get away with giving us an enthralling motion picture which everyone involved made up along the way, this one does not quite qualify. It really sucks to say this, but there you go.
As for the post credit scenes, one features an Oscar-winning actress who I did not expect to see here, and the other features an actor from many cult films pointing out the bleeding obvious. I hope you enjoy what they have to offer.
I first saw this trailer when it played before “Mad Love” which starred Drew Barrymore and Chris O’Donnell. This was at Crow Canyon Cinemas, a movie multiplex I once worked at, and the volume was not all that great as the teenage audience, desperately waiting to see O’Donnell take his shirt off, were talking endlessly before the lights finally went down. I saw it again at the UC Berkeley theater, which was once known as the New Beverly Cinema of Northern California, and I got a better idea of what was on display as I could actually hear what was being said that time around.
“Strange Days” is a 1995 science fiction thriller which starred Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett and Juliette Lewis, and the film featured a kind of technology which allowed those who used it to experience recorded memories and physical sensations of others. But despite it being co-written and produced by James Cameron and having been directed by Kathryn Bigelow, it flopped hard at the box office. It is only over time that this film has gotten the cult following it truly deserved as this one offers the viewer a cinematic experience you cannot find elsewhere.
This particular trailer for “Strange Days” was its teaser trailer which had Fiennes selling us on this technology. The dialogue is taken from a scene in which he is trying to get a potential customer to buy some recorded memories, but this time Fiennes is looking straight into the camera, attempting to sell the audience on what he has.
Fiennes starred in this film not long after his Oscar-nominated turn in “Schindler’s List,” and I love how he tells us about this technology here without showing us a thing. His words suck us in to the possibilities of what we could experience if common sense didn’t kick in on a regular basis. It’s a brilliant piece of acting as he succeeds in making us want to open Pandora’s Box and experience pleasures which are ever so forbidden.
I also love the sound design of this trailer as it features a hum throughout which is much like the one I heard as I entered the American Conservatory Theater to watch the first part of “Angels in America.” There is something so comforting and alluring about such a hum that I cannot help but be drawn into the subject matter in a heartbeat.
By the way, can anyone tell me what song was used at the end of this trailer? I really dug it and would love to know where it came from. Perhaps it was by the band Deep Forest as they were supposed to be composing this film’s music score (it would later be done by Graeme Revell), but I don’t know.
If you have not watched “Strange Days” yet, I encourage you to do so as it deals with themes which are more pertinent today than when this film first came out.
WRITER’S NOTE: This review was written in 2011, back when the McConaughey renaissance was just beginning.This almost marks the 1,000th post on The Ultimate Rabbit website!
Okay, now how many dramas and thrillers featuring a lawyer as the main character have we had these past few years? Heck, how many novels featuring lawyers have been thrust at us? After everything written by John Grisham and Scott Turow, you’d think the world would have had enough of legal thrillers whether or not they made it to the silver screen. It all reminds me of that joke we’ve all heard:
“What do you call a thousand lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? A good start!”
As a result, I was in no immediate hurry to check out the latest legal thriller adapted into a movie, “The Lincoln Lawyer.” This particular one is about a defense lawyer who has no scruples about what he does, but he ends up getting involved in a case which haunts his conscience like no other. Looking this plot line over, it sounds like “Primal Fear” all over again. How many times have we been down this road? Yes, I agree, far too many.
But alas, while “The Lincoln Lawyer” breaks no new ground in the legal thriller genre, it does contain many clever twists up its sleeve which distinguishes it from others of its ilk. It is based on the novel of the same name by Michael Connelly who is best known for writing detective novels and crime fiction. One of his previous books, “Blood Work,” was turned into a movie by Clint Eastwood, and it is one of the very few Eastwood directed movies which really sucked. It turns out, however, that “The Lincoln Lawyer” was actually Connelly’s first legal novel, and it introduced the world to one of his most popular literary creations, Mickey Haller.
Mickey Haller is a criminal defense attorney who spends his time defending the kind of people we would all rather see behind bars. Instead of a regular office, he works out of his Lincoln Town Car which he gets driven around in by Earl (Laurence Mason), a former client of his who is working off legal fees he owes. He has an ex-wife, Margaret McPherson (Marisa Tomei), whom he is still on good terms with even though she works on the opposite side of the court as a prosecutor, and they have a daughter whom they both dote on, and you at times wonder why these two ever bothered to divorce. If James Carville and Mary Matlin can maintain a marriage, why can’t these two?
Anyway, Mickey ends up defending Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), a Beverly Hills realtor who is accused of viciously assaulting a prostitute. The case, after some research, looks to be an open and shut deal for this ever so confident lawyer. However, more problems arise to where things are not what they appear to be.
That’s all I’m going to say about the plot. To say anymore would be to give away a good deal of what happens. What I will say is that it makes for a good story in how someone has to find a way to find justice without being forever disbarred from practicing law.
Much of the success of “The Lincoln Lawyer” belongs to the actor chosen to play Mickey, Matthew McConaughey. After seeing him in so many useless romantic comedies, he gets one of his best roles to date here. Believe me when I say he is perfectly cast in this role, and he nails Mickey’s sly confidence and cocky demeanor as he works his way through the courtroom to get what he wants and needs. Mickey is to an extent an amoral character, one who appears to care less about whether or not those he represents will commit crimes again after he gets them off. But McConaughey is so cool here that we find it impossible to hate Mickey, and we love his (if you’ll forgive the expression) “Rico Suave” ways which he utilizes around everyone he meets. Whether or not you agree with what he does, we all would love to have his coolness and persuasiveness when it comes to talking with and influencing others.
It also helps that McConaughey is surrounded by a great cast of actors who give him plenty to work with. Tomei remains as terrific and super sexy as ever in her portrayal of Margaret, and she shares strong chemistry with McConaughey throughout. We also get an entertaining turn from the always dependable William H. Macy as investigator Frank Levin, Haller’s right-hand man who succeeds in getting the facts whether he does it legally or illegally. We also get strong turns from John Leguizamo, Michael Peña, and Frances Fisher who all bring their best selves to this material.
But one performance I want to single out here is Ryan Phillippe’s. As a Beverly Hills playboy who has had everything handed to him on a silver platter throughout his life, Phillippe excels in convincing everyone around and the audience of Louis’ intentions. Still, there is that glimmer in Louis’ eyes which suggests not everything he says or implies is on the level. Phillippe has been better known these past few years as Mr. Reese Witherspoon, but however things went down in that relationship, he deserves to be noted for his acting here and in other movies he has been in. Watching him onscreen here is riveting because he always leaves you guessing as to what will happen next.
Directing “The Lincoln Lawyer” is Brad Furman, and the only movie he previously directed is “The Take.” I really liked how vividly he captured the urban environment of Los Angeles, and it never felt like he was filming on some ordinary Hollywood set. With a story like this, Furman could have easily gone in that direction, but he gives each scene a solid reality which doesn’t feel all that far from the one we inhabit. He also keeps the suspense up throughout and gives us some tension filled scenes which keep us at full attention as if someone is about to come from behind us and bash our brains in.
Like I said, “The Lincoln Lawyer” does not reinvent the legal thriller genre, but it reinvigorates the genre with a strong and enigmatic main character and a story with twists we haven’t seen in some time. In a way, this movie brings McConaughey around full circle as he made his big breakthrough in the film adaptation of John Grisham’s “A Time to Kill.” Soon or later, this man who keeps telling us to just “keep on livin’” had to play another lawyer. I hope for his sake he gets to do a follow up to this one as he has this character down flat. Maybe others could have done it better, but who comes to mind as quickly as McConaughey?
Paul Schrader’s 1979 film “Hardcore” is one I have been meaning to watch for years. Many of my film friends have sung its praises, and I have been a big fan of Schrader’s work both as a screenwriter (“Taxi Driver”) and as a director (“First Reformed” and “Patty Hearst” among others). Regardless, this quickly became one of the many films I kept promising myself I would watch but never got around to it. But then one evening, I saw it was playing at the Nuart Theatre in West Los Angeles, and I realized the time had come to finally give it a look. Besides, this might be my only chance to see it on the silver screen.
“Hardcore” opens up on Christmas in Grand Rapids, Michigan to the tune of Susan Raye’s “Precious Memories.” Schrader quickly settles us into the peaceful and family-oriented environment which looks to be filled with church-going people who love and fear God in equal measure. You just might mistake it for the average Norman Rockwell painting which often gave us images that were all too wholesome to be believed. Everything looks to be together on the same page while singing faith-based songs and sharing in traditional ceremonies without question. Of course, it’s scenes like these that make me wonder when the cracks in this atmosphere will begin to show.
The main character of this piece is Jake Van Dorn (played by George C. Scott), a well-to-do businessman with strong religious beliefs. Originally, this part almost went to Warren Beatty, but as great an actor as Beatty, he would have been wrong. Scott is perfectly cast as he has the face of someone with deeply held beliefs to where questioning them could be hazardous to your health. Eventually, you know these beliefs will be tested in the extreme as the title “Hardcore” refers to more than the sexuality on display here.
Jake’s peaceful existence becomes undone when his daughter Kristen (Ilah Davis) goes missing while on a church-sponsored trip in California. He enlists the help of the police, but after seeing all the photos on the wall of missing children, some of who still haven’t been found in years, he decides to hire a private investigator named Andy Mast (Peter Boyle) to dig a little deeper. But what Andy finds is something Jake never could have expected nor be the least prepared to deal with.
Watching Jake view a porno film in which his daughter Kristen is having sex with two men is an unnerving scene as Scott portrays a deep shock and grief which illustrates the living nightmare any parent would be thrilled to avoid. While it threatens to contain, as Ralph Garman and Kevin Smith would call it, “exquisite acting,” and the scene has become an infamous meme for many, I am curious as to what depths Scott dug to capture such an unforgettable moment of devastation. Such a scene is impossible to erase from the memory once it is viewed, and it comes to inform the relentlessness and anger he will come to experience up to the movie’s end.
From there, Jake ventures into the seedy underworld of Los Angeles, or the one which existed back in the 1970s. Like “Taxi Driver’s” Travis Bickle, he is “God’s Lonely Man” as he ventures into a place he does not belong. His brother-in-law tells him early on that God is testing him, and it is clearly the case as ventures deeper and deeper into the city’s sleazy subculture where there are an endless number of sex shopkeepers, adult theaters, and massage parlors that do more for their clients than a simple rub down. At one point, he even disguises himself as a pornography producer in an increasingly desperate effort to find his daughter, and I kept wondering if and when he might give in to temptation.
“Hardcore” was Schrader’s second film as a director, following his brilliant debut with “Blue Collar.” As with “Blue Collar,” he had quite the time wrangling his cast. Scott was said to have not gotten along with Schrader, and at one point promised the director he would finish the film only if he vowed never to direct another motion picture ever again. Well, we know Schrader promised Scott just that to get him back on set, but thank God the filmmaker never followed through on his word. This is just as well as we still had other films like “American Gigolo,” “Cat People,” “Light Sleeper” and “Affliction” to look forward to.
Indeed, this is a film that could have been upstaged by its behind-the-scenes drama which, in addition to Scott’s behavior, included an ending forced on Schrader by the studio. Indeed, the ending is “Hardcore’s” biggest flaw as it doesn’t jibe well with all which came before it, and it feels lazily staged with a shootout that feels tacked on above all else. It is thanks to Scott’s performance in the final moments that I am willing to forgive the conclusion as he keeps it from ringing completely hollow.
Still, I think “Hardcore” is a triumph for Schrader as it allows him to dig deep into themes he has explored in his many works such as the conflict between man and immorality. Moreover, there is authenticity on display here which would be hard to find today as Schrader managed to gain access to real-life sex houses and adult theaters to where there is no doubt we are dealing with the real thing and not just some cheap set. Certain sticky stains on the windows make this abundantly clear by the way.
Looking at the credits, Schrader had quite the crew to work with. The film was executive produced by John Milius who remains one of the best screenwriters ever, the score was by Jack Nitzsche who helps add even more of a lurid feeling to the sights Jake is forced to take in, and the cinematography was by Michael Chapman who performed visual wonders on both “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull.” Seriously, the color palette Chapman uses here aids the story considerably, and I cannot help but believe it greatly influenced the later works of Gaspar Noe and Benoit Debie.
I enjoyed Peter Boyle’s performance as private detective Andy Mast as he makes this character look all too comfortable in a city that thrives on decadence than what might appear on the surface. Even as Andy gives in to his baser needs and desires, he knows how the story is going to end and makes very few apologies for who he is. While the ending feels a bit too similar to the one from “Chinatown,” Boyle makes it work as his dialogue rings very true in a cynical and sad way.
But another performance worth singling out here is Season Hubley’s as Niki, a prostitute and part-time adult actress who aids Jake in his search. The scenes she has with Scott represent the best “Hardcore” has to offer as their dialogue regarding both sex and religion illustrates their differences and similarities in ways only Schrader could have pulled off. She fully inhabits this character to where I never doubted how much of a survivor Niki was and will continue to long after the end credits have finished.
Like William Friedkin’s “Cruising,” “Hardcore” is a journey into a subculture that no longer exists in today’s world. These days, it is much easier to gain access to pornography through the internet, and it makes me wonder how Jake would deal with a similar situation in today’s world. Things would be a bit easier to trace, and that’s even though some lost children might forever stay lost (please feel free to prove me wrong on this). As devoutly religious as Jake is, I imagine in a time where the world wide web and cell phones control our lives more than ever, he would most likely be more isolated and closed off from those around him than ever before.
“Hardcore” is indeed classic Paul Schrader even with its inescapable flaws, and I have no doubt “8MM,” the 1999 film directed by the late Joel Schumacher and written by Andrew Kevin Walker, would not have existed without it. “8MM” also pales in comparison to it by the way. I look at movies like these and wonder why studios won’t leave the filmmakers alone in making them. You know how dark the material was when you started funding the project, right? So why insult everyone’s intelligence by trying to make things a little less dark?
The following review was written by Ultimate Rabbit correspondent, Tony Farinella.
There is nothing about “Dog” that will offend your cinematic senses, nor is there anything in the film which will reinvent the wheel. This is a simple movie with a simple concept. For a lot of filmgoers, they probably love the idea of a dog movie starring Channing Tatum, who also co-directed the film with its screenwriter, Reid Carolin. For some people, they are fine with a film that just leaves them feeling happy and does not require a lot of thought behind it. They simply kick back their feet and enjoy themselves. At times, I believe film can be a great form of escapism when done right. In the case of “Dog,” there are individual moments that worked in the film, but as a whole, it’s missing a lot of key ingredients.
“Dog” follows Jackson Briggs (Channing Tatum), a former U.S. Army Ranger, who is having a tough time adjusting to regular life. He has brain injuries and PTSD. When the film opens, he’s making sandwiches at a sandwich shop, which is clearly not the best use of his skills. Because of this, he’s eager to do something that will challenge and excite him. He wants to be put on the rotation for Pakistan, but there are major concerns about his health and if he will be able to handle it. He assures them he is fine, but it is clear he’s struggling.
When one of his former squad members is killed in a car accident, he is given the task of driving Lulu, a Belgian Malinois military dog, to Arizona for the funeral. If he does this successfully, they will put in a good word for Briggs for a future tour. After the funeral, Lulu, because of its violent nature, will have to be put down. From here, the film turns into a road trip movie with Briggs and Lulu. The dog causes a lot of headaches for him, especially when he’s trying to have sex. There is also a comical run-in with a psychic and her paranoid husband, played by former professional wrestler Kevin Nash. It was great to see Nash on the big screen once again. There is also a cameo by comedian Bill Burr.
There are other encounters along the way for both Briggs and Lulu. Some of them are successful and some of them are unsuccessful. Some of them are funny, and some of them are what you would expect in a road trip movie featuring Tatum and a dog. I imagine that was a big selling point for the film. Considering the low budget for the film and its final box office numbers, it was a low-risk, high reward project for the studio. From an artistic standpoint, the film has real issues with its pacing. It’s very slow-moving and tedious to sit through at times, even though it’s 101 minutes. Tatum is a fine actor, but he’s not the kind of actor who is going to keep my interest for an entire film as the lead. Even though I love animals, the same is true of the dog.
This is a feel-good flick with a lackluster story. It’s not a bad movie. It’s average, run-of-the-mill, and forgettable. After it was over with, there wasn’t anything from the film that really stayed with me. Considering its subject material (the impact and healing powers of animals and the real struggles the military deals with from a mental health perspective), they could have done a lot more here. Instead, they played it safe and easy with a formulaic film that needed a little more bite to it, no pun intended. There are some laughs to be had here, especially with some of the cast members I mentioned, but they are few and far between. I’m sure a lot of families and Tatum fans will enjoy this film. It didn’t do it for me, however.
* * out of * * * *
Blu-ray Info: “Dog” is released on a two-disc Blu-ray and DVD Combo Pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment, which also comes with a digital copy of the film. It is rated PG-13 for language, thematic elements, drug content, and some suggestive material. It has a running time of 101 minutes.
Video/Audio Info: The film comes on 1080p High Definition with two audio tracks: DTS-HD MA: English 5.1 and Dolby Digital: English Descriptive Audio. Subtitles are in English and Spanish.
Should You Buy It?
I can’t think of any reason to buy this film unless you are part of the Channing Tatum fan club. The film has its heart in the right place, so I can’t fault it for that. It just doesn’t want to try to break out of its formula. The film follows all of the familiar beats one would expect in a film like this, and it ends exactly how you would expect it to end. It follows the formula from A to Z. It does not take any chances or have any surprises, whatsoever. I don’t even think it’s worth a Redbox rental. It’s a film you can completely pass on, and you will be just fine. The Blu-ray does not come with any special features, which is a bummer. It would have been nice to see how Tatum worked with the dog and some of the challenges it presented for the actor. I feel like the Grinch giving this film a bad review, but its screenplay is just lazy and the pacing is really rough. I’d pass on this one altogether.
**Disclaimer** I received a Blu-ray copy of this film from Warner Brothers to review for free. The opinions and statements in the review are mine and mine alone.
As single mother Sara, Emily Blunt is a powerful presence in Rian Johnson’s “Looper” and she more than holds her own opposite Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis throughout. It’s been a busy year for the actress as she has appeared in several movies including “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” and “The Five-Year Engagement,” but “Looper” gives her an opportunity to play a different kind of role which allows her to be tough and vulnerable all at the same time. It presents a big acting challenge for Blunt, and those who know her best know she’s always up for one.
“I think I really just want to challenge myself, more than anything,” said Blunt. “People have been asking me if I’m gravitating to these sci-fi roles, but I don’t feel I necessarily am because they’ve been sort of sporadic as to when they come out. But I do like the idea of creating a backstop that is high concept for the characters to really have stuff to play with within that.”
Blunt has described Sara as being a “very tough cookie” who lives an isolated existence on a farm out in the middle of nowhere. Sara looks to have completely shut herself from the outside world and spends the days working on her farm and taking care of her five-year old son, Cid (the amazing Pierce Gagnon). The beauty of Blunt’s performance is how she pulls back the layers of her character to show us what’s underneath.
“I think that I really loved the tough exterior with the inner guilt that she sort of torments herself with,” Blunt said. “I love that unraveling of the character that you don’t know why she’s so tough, you don’t know why she’s so protective. Gradually it unfolds throughout the course of the third act. So really what I said to Rian (Johnson) was that we’ve got to make this whole sequence in the third act like that movie ‘Witness.’ It’s got to have that sort of pastoral tension to it and the feeling of someone coming in that’s alien to your world and disrupting everything and how frightening that must be for her. So, I think really I wanted to make sure we maintain the mystique of the character as long as we could.”
In preparing to play Sara, Blunt had to resort to using what she called those “dreadful sun beds” to get the tan her character has from working outside in the sun all day. Blunt did say she took some time lay out in the sun a lot before shooting began, but also admitted it takes a really long time for her to get a tan. Still, using the sun beds and getting makeup put on top of her tanned skin proved to be preferable to getting a spray tan as she hates the smell.
Blunt also gets to ditch her British accent for a Kansas-sounding one in “Looper,” and she worked with a dialect coach and listened to people from Kansas to get it down right. But what really helped was listening to one Oscar-winning actor in particular.
“The person I listened to a lot was Chris Cooper who’s from Kansas and grew up on a farm. I loved his voice and it sounded very grounded. I found it more helpful to listen to guys than girls because of the toughness of the character,” said Blunt. “I watched ‘American Beauty’ and I watched ‘Adaptation’ but I mainly listened to his interviews, him giving interviews and stuff.”
Watching Emily Blunt from one movie to the next shows her having an understated power to completely transform herself into whatever character she plays. It’s like she almost makes her preparation look effortless, except of course for those scenes where she chops wood with a big axe. As a result, she has become one of the most interesting actresses working in movies today, and we all look forward to seeing what role she will inhabit next.
The following review was written by Ultimate Rabbit correspondent, Tony Farinella.
From reading up on “Cursed” through the IMDB trivia section, the story behind the scenes of this film might be more interesting than the film itself. I say this as a huge fan of the film. I think it’s a really, really good Wes Craven/Kevin Williamson collaboration. Is it as good as their work on the “Scream” franchise? No, but there is a reason so many fans of the duo have discovered and enjoyed “Cursed” since its initial release in 2005. Their usual brand of humor, self-awareness and gruesome kills are featured at times, in this film. This Shout Factory Blu-ray features both the theatrical cut (PG-13) and the unrated cut. I highly recommend you check out the unrated cut. I’ve seen both cuts, and the unrated cut, even though it’s only two minutes longer, features more gore.
“Cursed” stars Christina Ricci and Jesse Eisenberg as Ellie and Jimmy, a sister and brother duo living together after the unexplained death of their parents. Jimmy is seen as a dork and feels forgotten about by his sister while Ellie is working on the “Craig Kilborn Show” as a producer. Oddly enough, Kilborn was no longer on the air when the film was released because it was delayed for two and a half years. Jimmy is in high school and being constantly picked on by Bo (Milo Ventimiglia) who resorts to homophobic insults every chance he gets. Bo’s girlfriend, Brooke (Kristina Anapau), does not approve of his behavior, and she also takes a liking to Jimmy’s dog named Zipper.
Ellie is romantically involved with a smooth-talking ladies’ man named Jake (Joshua Jackson) who is about to open up a horror-themed nightclub. His past causes Ellie to wonder if he really cares about her or if she’s just another notch on his belt. One night, Jimmy and Ellie have a car accident where Jimmy swears he saw a werewolf or a monster. Ellie doesn’t believe him, and a police officer played by Nick Offerman is even more skeptical. Before long, they can’t start to ignore the strange and weird things happening to their bodies and the feelings they are experiencing.
Let’s talk about the cast as I felt like, every time I turned around, I saw an actor or actress I was familiar with on screen. Shannon Elizabeth is in the film, and she’s game for a grueling and demanding part in the film. There is also the always reliable Judy Greer as a fast-talking publicist who finds herself butting heads with Ellie throughout. There is also a cameo from Scott Baio as himself, and it’s just about perfect. Portia de Rossi plays a psychic, and she makes the most out of her limited screen time. Singer and songwriter Mya has a fun turn as the best friend of the Shannon Elizabeth character. As far as the standouts from this amazing cast, the brother/sister relationship between Eisenberg and Ricci is the heart of the film, and it feels very real. They felt like brother and sister. Joshua Jackson also has just the right amount of mysterious charm to him, and Greer is a spitfire as always.
Any problems with “Cursed” are not the fault of Craven or Williamson. They were at the mercy of the studio. It felt like they were both looking to make a witty werewolf film to turn the genre on its head just like they did with “Scream” while the studio and producers were looking to make a PG-13 film. It’s why we are left with a film that shows hints of greatness and other moments which were aimed to be studio-friendly. There are too many jump scares for example. At times, the film plays it too safe. Other times, in the unrated cut, they really go for the gore.
However, when it was all said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of “Cursed.” The script is witty, sharp and timely for the early 2000’s. When I see its flaws, like the jump scares and poor special effects, I know it is the studio and not Craven, and that’s even though it’s his film. When I see the material that works, such as the strong acting, the self-awareness and the gore in the unrated version, I see what could have been if the studio let Craven make the film he wanted to and stayed out of things. It’s clear the studio didn’t know how to market “Cursed” as it had a budget of $75 million, and it only made $29.6 million.
While this might sound like a negative review at times, I think “Cursed” is a cult classic which will gain more appreciation now that it’s released on this two-disc set from the fine folks over at Scream Factory. I think it will get a second life. There is a lot of good in this film, and it allowed me, as the viewer, to overlook the studio’s interference. I really wish audiences could have seen the original werewolf design by the legendary Rick Baker (“An American Werewolf in London”) in the film. Even though his name is in the credits, his work is not featured in it. That’s a major mistake on the studio’s part. This is a really good movie which could have been great. I still like it a whole lot.
Do yourself a favor and read all of the drama surrounding this film. It’s a miracle it was released at all. A special shout-out to Scream Factory for giving “Cursed” its day in court. It’s an enjoyable ride, warts and all.
* * * ½ out of * * * *
Blu-Ray Info: “Cursed” is released on a two-disc Collector’s Edition Blu-ray set from Scream Factory. It comes on a 1080p High-Definition Widescreen (2.40:1) transfer with an audio track of DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and with subtitles in English. The theatrical cut has a running time of 97 minutes while the unrated cut is 99 minutes. The unrated cut is the one to watch.
NEW 4K scan of the original camera negative
NEW A Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing – an interview with actor Derek Mears (13:57) – Derek Mears talks about his start in Hollywood as a stuntman and his background and training. He talks about his start on “Wild Wild West” and how he met Rick Baker on the film. He also discusses how it can be hard in Hollywood to be seen as an actor and a stuntman as they want one or the other. Baker was how he got involved in “Cursed” as the werewolf. He details some of the issues when shooting the film, but he was mostly thankful for the opportunity to work with Craven, Baker and Williamson. I really enjoyed his enthusiasm and love of horror films.
NEW A Movie That Lives Up to Its Title – an interview with editor Patrick Lussier (17:57) – He talks about his early work with Craven going back to 1991 on TV. The fact they offered Craven a ton of money to make this film, and it would have put a lot of crew members out of work is ultimately the reason why he chose to direct it. Craven had his concerns about the tone of the film and if it would be similar to “Vampire in Brooklyn” and the problems he had on that one. Lussier was only supposed to be on “Cursed” for six weeks, and in total, he worked 19 months on the film. WOW! He goes into tremendous detail on the issues that plagued the film from start to finish. In his words, “It was something to have survived.” There were issues with Dimension Films changing the ending, test scores influencing them, and cast and crew members coming and going. He ends it with a great quote on Dimension Films, “They don’t pay you for what you do. They pay you for what they do to you.”
Behind the Fangs: The Making of “Cursed” (07:33): This is a previously released special feature which includes interviews with the cast and crew.
The “Cursed” Effects (06:45): This is another previously released special feature which includes interviews with Derek Mears, Greg Nicotero, and Judy Greer. It’s kind of odd to see everyone speaking so positively about the film and its effects, considering all of the drama surrounding what went on.
Becoming a Werewolf (07:58): Jesse Eisenberg hosts this special feature which is clearly tongue in cheek. Eisenberg and Nicotero have some fun together in playing this straight for laughs. Craven pops up here as well to join in on the fun. It’s also written and directed by Eisenberg, and his trademark humor is evident throughout.
Creature Editing 101 (05:32): Now this special feature is really interesting to watch considering what he said in his new interview that is included on this Collector’s Edition Blu-ray. He’s much more politically correct here.
Select Scenes with Audio Commentary by Special Effects Artist Greg Nicotero and Actor Derek Mears: The following scenes are featured: Car Wreck, Parking Garage, Tinsel and Final Fight.
Should You Buy It?
As a horror fan, this is a film definitely worth adding to your collection. “Cursed” is a film a lot of people have talked about online over the past few years. They have been clamoring to see the Craven cut of the film, but it’s not clear who owns the footage, and also the original ending was never shot. It has achieved cult status thanks to the fans. I’ve even revisited it a few times over the past year, and I’ve grown to enjoy it more and more with each viewing. I also can’t help but wonder, “What if?” when I watch the film. I wonder what could have been if the studio had let Craven do his thing and stayed out of his way. I also wish Scream Factory would have released this film on 4K as they have been releasing a lot of their titles in this high-definition format. It looks pretty good on Blu-ray, but I imagine a full 4K release would have been really, really fun to look at, especially during the gorier scenes. If you love Scream Factory and horror films with an interesting backstory, this is a must-own. I think it’s only going to grow in popularity after this Blu-ray release.
There are two new special features here which are really good, but it would have been quite a treat to have a few modern interviews with some of the main cast members. I imagine they would have some fascinating and bizarre stories to tell. You can pre-order the film now on the Shout/Scream Factory website as it will be released on May 10th.
The following review was written by Ultimate Rabbit correspondent, Tony Farinella.
Even though “Singin’ in the Rain” is celebrating its 70th anniversary with this 4K release, in my 36 years on this planet, I have yet to see it until now. I was familiar with a few of the songs from the film, as they are part of cinema history, but I never sat down to view it from start to finish. It’s better late than never! That is the beauty of film: even if you think you have seen all of the classics out there, there is always one that slips through the cracks from time-to-time. “Singin’ in the Rain” is one of the best 4K releases of this year so far with its vivid colors, lifelike images, and crystal-clear picture. It is truly a treat to enjoy.
The film stars Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood, a Hollywood stuntman and hoofer. He is quite popular in silent films and lives by the motto, “Dignity. Always dignity.” It’s appropriate for his performance in this film, as it’s dignified and classy. You can’t keep your eyes off him whether he is dancing, singing, or acting. He has the “it” factor on screen in this film. He was also the co-director on the film along with Stanley Donen. Don’s leading lady, Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) is the complete opposite of him as she’s superficial, selfish and rude throughout their time together. Monumental Pictures, the studio behind Lockwood and Lamont, tries to put out this image of the two of them together as a happy couple in order to better increase the gate on their films together.
Don, on the other hand, sees right through Lina and tries to distance himself from her as much as possible. Don’s best friend is Cosmo Brown, played brilliantly by Donald O’Connor. He’s always there to listen, come up with ideas for Don and support him. He understands why Don has to get as far away as possible from Lina at times. It causes him to jump into the car of Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), a stage actress who doesn’t think too highly of the movies Don Lockwood is putting out there. She is there to tell him the truth about exactly what she thinks of him, which opens up Don’s eyes, as he’s used to people telling him how great he is all the time. He sees she is talented and smart, and he quickly takes a liking to her.
With the success of “The Jazz Singer,” talking pictures are becoming more and more popular in Hollywood. This puts Lamont and Lockwood in a position where they have to learn a new way of doing things. Don is a natural and is also willing to put in the work to adapt to the new way of Hollywood. Lina, on the other hand, has a voice which is rough on the ears. However, people are used to seeing the two of them in films together. Because of this, Cosmo comes up with the idea of dubbing over Lina’s lines with Kathy’s voice in an upcoming musical. This idea is spawned after the public laughs at a screening when they hear Lina’s voice and mistakes throughout one of their films.
Kathy and Don start to become closer and closer, which does not make Lina happy at all. She is still unwilling to see her flaws or work on her craft to get better. Kathy, on the other hand, is immensely skilled and talented. I must admit I am not the biggest fan of musicals as it’s not one of my favorite genres. The beauty of “Singin’ in the Rain” and why it’s a classic is the fact they know when to have music and dancing, but also know when to focus on the actors and give them the space they need to act and develop their characters. When the musical numbers hit, they are out of this world. The songs are memorable, and they will stay in your head after the film is over. That is huge in a musical.
The dancing is also top-notch and terrific. There are certain scenes where they keep the camera on the actors dancing, and my eyes were glued to their movements and the poetry in which they were moving. It was truly something to behold. The amount of work, preparation, and time it took to pull this off is why people are still interested in watching this movie 70 years later. It holds up incredibly well. I’ve always been a fan of old-Hollywood. The 50’s created some of the most iconic movies, and “Singin’ in the Rain” is up there. I’m just disappointed it took me this long to check it out. Now, I want to watch it again and again.
For me, the two stand-outs in the film are Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds. Kelly has an effortless charm and is so darn likable. He’s the perfect actor for this role. Reynolds is elegant and pure class in her role. As an audience member, I was really rooting for them to end up together. Of course, the “Singin’ in the Rain” moment is one even I was familiar with, even though I hadn’t seen the film. It’s a gorgeous scene to watch and it just put a big smile on my face. This film has it all: humor, romance, heart, love and great, great music. People will still be talking about “Singin’ in the Rain” 70 years from now.
* * * * out of * * * *
4K Info: “Singin’ in the Rain” is released on a two-disc combo pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. It has a running time of 103 minutes and is rated G. It comes with the 4K, Blu-ray and a digital code as well.
4K/Blu-ray Info: The film is released in 2160p High Definition, and it’s leading the way as one of the best 4K releases of 2022. The film might be 70-years-old, but it looks incredible. With high dynamic range, you see every color come to life on screen. This is a visual feast for the eyes. As mentioned earlier, this film was made for 4K. It is a huge improvement over the previous releases.
The Blu-ray comes in 1080p High Definition. The 4K comes with the following audio formats: DTS-HD MA: English 5.1, English Mono, Dolby Digital: French and Spanish. Subtitles are in English, French and Spanish. For the Blu-ray, it comes on DTS-HD MA: English 5.1 and Dolby Digital: French and Spanish. The subtitles are also in English, French, and Spanish.
Commentary by Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Cyd Charisse, Kathleen Freeman, Stanley Donen, Betty Camden, Adolph Green, Baz Lurhmann and Rudy Behlmer
“Singin’ in the Rain:” Raining on a New Generation Documentary
Should You Buy It?
If you are a hardcore physical media collector like yours truly, this one is a no-brainer. If you have seen the film before and don’t own it, it’s an even bigger no-brainer. The one disappointment I always bring up with some of these 4K releases is they are still using previously released special features. I know it’s a 70-year-old film, but I still think you can add a modern-day special feature with new interviews from film historians and actors to the 4K release instead of just recycling the old ones. For the price point and the look of the film, Warner Brothers has knocked it out of the park with this 4K release. It’s simply mesmerizing. As far as the film itself, it’s one of the greatest of all-time for a reason. If you own a 4K TV and player, this is the movie you need to buy right now. You won’t be able to take your eyes off the screen. This one comes highly recommended!
**Disclaimer** I received a 4K/Blu-ray copy of this film from Warner Brothers to review for free. The opinions and statements in the review are mine and mine alone.