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Anthony Hopkins

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Lawyers, Guns, and Money.

Lots of catch-up to do in the Trailer Bin…

Finally out of The Master‘s clutches, a lonely Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with, for all intent and purposes, Siri (Scarlett Johansson) in the first trailer for Spike Jonze’s Her, also with Amy Adams, Olivia Wilde, Chris Pratt, and Rooney Mara. I believe this is called going the full-Lars. (Also, I’m never not going to hear the name of this film as “Her?”)

Alan Rickman and Donal Logue — now there’s one of the best buddy pairings on film since Ray Winstone and Brendan Gleeson in Beowulf — meet a lot of 24 Hour Party People American-style in our first look at CBGB’s, with Ashley Greene, Freddy Rodriguez, Johnny Galecki, Bradley Whitford, Rupert Grint, Justin Bartha, Stana Katic, and Malin Ackerman (as Debbie Harry?) I see Severus is now teaching young Mr. Weasley a completely different set of Dark Arts. Hrm, maybe.

Michael Fassbender finds he’s taken a wrong turn into Cormac McCarthy land in the newest trailer for Ridley Scott’s The Counselor, with Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Goran Visnjic, and Dean Norris. Looks very McCarthyish, and no mistake. The good news is Ridley Scott still owes Fassbender a solid film after Prometheus.

It belongs in a museum! WWII soldiers George Clooney and Matt Damon put together a crack team to save priceless art and artifacts in the first trailer for Clooney’s The Monuments Men, also with John Goodman, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Jean Dujardin, and Cate Blanchett. As one wag aptly noted on Twitter, this is basically an Elseworlds Ocean’s movie, but I trust Clooney’s choices. Still, here’s hoping it works out better than Clooney & Blanchett’s last trip to Germany.

Over an unfortunately poppy soundtrack, Idris Elba and Naomie Harris channel Nelson and Winnie Mandela in the first trailer for Justin Chadwick’s Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. This looks a bit standard-issue-biopic-y, I’ll admit. But I’ll watch just to see Elba as Mandela — just no Henley poems, k?

Team Silver Linings Playbook joins forces with Team Fighter (sans Wahlberg) to dabble in the luxurious world of art forgery in this brief trailer for David O. Russell’s next, American Hustle, with Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, Louis CK, Jack Huston, Alessandro Nivola, Michael Pena and Elizabeth Rohm.

Lowry? Has anybody seen Sam Lowry? Er, sorry, that would be Mitty, as in Ben Stiller’s adaptation of James Thurber’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, with Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn, Adam Scott, Patton Oswalt, and Shirley MacLaine. I have to admit, this looks much fresher than I anticipated. Definitely maybe.

A terrible accident, an unexpected boon, and A Simple Plan all add up to another bad day for Sam Rockwell in the trailer for David Rosenthal’s A Single Shot, also with William H. Macy, Jason Isaacs, Jeffrey Wright, Kelly Reilly, Ted Levine, Melissa Leo, and W. Earl Brown. A great cast through and through, but you had me at Rockwell.

And if you need another reason to worry about Found Money, Alice Eve gets into trouble with the Russian mob, in the form of Bryan Cranston, in the trailer for Cold Comes the Night, also with Logan Marshall-Green. If nothing else, it’ll be good for Cranston to get some more menacing reps in before signing up with LexCorp (although, in that department, Mark Strong’s a solid choice as well.)

Where’s a mermaid when you need one? Tom Hanks is in considerable peril on the sea in our second look at Paul Greengrass’ Captain Phillips, also with Catherine Keener, Max Martini, Yul Vazquez, Michael Chernus, Chris Mulkey, Corey Johnson, David Warshofsky, John Magaro and Angus MacInnes.

I thought Greengrass’ most recent film, 2010’s Green Zone, was an overly preachy dud — I get annoyed with edutainment that aggressively berates me to endorse opinions I already hold. (I’m looking at you, Aaron Sorkin.) But Greengrass has a lifetime pass after United 93, Bloody Sunday, and the Bournes, so hopefully this is a return to form.

Thor Odinson, meet Clarice Starling: In a tight spot with a new Big Bad, Earth’s mightiest Asgardian (Chris Hemsworth) is forced to enlist help from his brother in the joint in the second trailer for Thor: The Dark World, also with Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Christopher Eccleston, Idris Elba, Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo, Jaimie Alexander, Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgard, and Ray Stevenson.

After The Dark Knight, Skyfall, and ST:ID, I’m not sure we need any more villains unfolding their master plans from behind prison bars this decade — Heck, even Loki himself was doing this same shebang in The Avengers last year. Still, the first Thor was better than expected, and Marvel’s on a pretty consistent streak at the moment. I’m in.

I also thought the Nick Stoller’s 2011 reboot of The Muppets was decent enough, but I’m not getting good vibes at all from this first teaser for James Bobin’s Muppets: Most Wanted, with Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey, Salma Hayek, Frank Langella, Till Schweiger, Debby Ryan, Danny Trejo, Ray Liotta, and Christoph Waltz. Early yet, and I do like Stoller and Bobin’s prior output, but right now this looks like it’ll hit at about Smurfs 2 level.

So, yeah, Harrison Ford hasn’t gotten all that much better at voiceovers since Blade Runner, has he? Anyway, there’s also a new trailer for Gavin Hood’s Ender’s Game, also with Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, and a ridiculous number of clich├ęs (the Inception BWOMP, “We’re running out of time,” etc.) Everyone wants a Ford comeback, but it’s hard to imagine this one getting my money, even if Orson Scott Card wasn’t a jackass. Oh well.

Bad Girls, Angry Gods, Rainy Nights, Dead Men.

I have yet to see Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, but it seems like it’d make a decent double feature with this one: Emma Watson leads a pack of ne-er-do-well teens into the mansions of LA’s idle rich in the first trailer for Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring, also with Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Claire Julien, Taissa Farmiga, Georgia Rock, and Leslie Mann. Eh, ok. On the bright side, this doesn’t have to be very good to be far better than Somewhere.

Back from the recent unpleasantness in New York, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) makes a Faustian bargain with Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to save Natalie Portman and/or Earth from the clutches of Christopher Eccleston in first trailer for Alan Taylor’s Thor: The Dark World. Returning for more Asgardian shenanigans is pretty much the entire cast from the first film, including Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Tom Hiddleston, Rene Russo, Ray Stevenson, Jaimie Alexander, Kat Dennings, and Stellan Skarsgard.

The inimitable Tony Leung does his best Neo impression in the rain in our first look at Wong Kar-Wai’s The Grandmaster, also with Zhang Ziyi. This is a lousy teaser, and the muddy, gray jump-cuttiness of it all is inauspicious for the director’s first foray into martial arts. But, hey, Tony Leung.

Ryan Reynolds (nee Hannibal “Blade 3” King, Deadshot, Green Lantern) looks for a comic book hit at last, while Jeff Bridges channels his recent Crazy Heart/True Grit turns to make a mortgage payment or three, in this ho-hum trailer for Robert Schwentke’s R.I.P.D., also with Mary Louise-Parker and Kevin Bacon. Looking like highly derivative MIB territory here, and Schwentke — the director of Red — does not inspire confidence.

Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em.

Well, I’m sure it helped that, between the series of underwhelming trailers and the general hokiness of the source material, I went in with expectations calibrated at about shin-level. Still, I was surprised to discover this past Friday that Kenneth Branagh’s corny but amiable adaptation of Marvel’s Thor — which I caught IN THREE DIMENSIONS (the third of which adds next to nothing, by the way; save your money) — is totally and utterly not-bad.

That may seem like I’m damning this first of four comic book tentpoles this summer — along with X-Men: First Class, Green Lantern, and Captain America: The First Avenger — with faint praise. But, hey, sometimes ok is a good thing. There’s not much reaching for depth here: Branagh’s Thor is smart and self-referential enough to know that, once you get past all the family strife, Norse brooding, hubris of Gods, and whatnot, this is just a breezy, early-May popcorn film, and it keeps a light touch accordingly. The Dark Knight, this isn’t.

As such, and perhaps not surprisingly, Thor — the story of a fallen deity’s misadventures in the American Southwest, and the brother who betrayed him back home — feels more in keeping with the Make-Mine-Marvel larkiness of Iron Man. (And although IM was a much better film, Thor is more successful and self-contained a story than the rush job that was Iron Man 2.)

Like Iron Man, Thor is a comic that — Walt Simonson’s epic run in the 80’s notwithstanding — I’ve remained mostly agnostic about over the years. With all due respect to the Nordic pantheon from whence he came, Thor has just never been all-that-interesting a comic book character to me. He’s…a guy…with a hammer. Nor, for that matter, are his powers very well-defined. So, ok, he’s strong and can kinda sorta control the weather. But there’re a lot of generic strongmen running around the Marvel universe — Hulk, Hercules, Colossus, Juggernaut. What makes Thor different?

With that in mind, Branagh and his team of screenwriters make the smart move of dropping the “trapped as mere mortal Dr. Donald Blake” part of Thor’s origin and taking what’s distinctive about the character — mainly, his Asgardian roots and his noble, if a bit dense, nature — to fashion a fish-out-of-water story instead. Most of the humor that keeps the movie humming along — say, Thor going to the pet store to find a Lockjaw-type large steed on which to ride through the desert — ensues from this wise decision to skip canon and tell a rollicking Thor story (Thory?) instead.

The film also benefits from a bevy of actors, including but by no means limited to Chris “Papa Kirk” Hemsworth as the titular thunder god, who can managed the dual feat of conveying comic book gravitas when it is required and delivering moments of pure cheese with a wink and a nod. Anthony Hopkins, of course, is an old hand at this sort of thing by now, but his Odin is matched well by Tom Hiddleston’s impressive turn as Loki, the God of Mischief. (Let’s face it, Loki was always a more interesting character than Thor anyway, almost by design, and perhaps the most visceral geek thrill I got out of Thor was seeing Hiddleston — in the iconic horned helmet — lounging on Asgard’s throne like something out of Milton.) And a number of other actors here match the same wry and knowing tone perfectly, from Idris Elba’s Heimdall to Clark Gregg’s ubiquitous Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D to Stellan Skargard, here in the often-thankless role of skeptical science guy/mentor to the love interest.

Speaking of the love interest, Natalie Portman continues her post-Black Swan year-of-many-films here as super-physicist Jane Foster, and she’s decent enough at it. At the very least she doesn’t exhibit the deer-in-a-headlights stare that accompanied her last venture into FX-heavy fandom, the prequels. If there’s a weak link here, it’s probably — and sadly — Rome‘s Ray Stevenson (who already did time in the Marvelverse as the Punisher, in the one with McNutty) as Volstagg of the Warriors Three, a.k.a. Falstaff in the comics, Gimli in this film. I like Stevenson, but he’s mostly just miscast here. A more rotund individual (Oliver Platt? Mark Addy?) probably could’ve sold the character better.

Still, the very fact that the Warriors Three are traipsing around the margins of a big summer movie just goes to show what an embarrassment of riches comic book fans are enjoying at the multiplex these days. Even if I’m not much of a fan of Thor per se, I have to admit I definitely enjoy watching the world-building Marvel is engaged in as a studio right now. (Here, various Marvel denizens are name-dropped, and another Avenger shows up briefly mid-movie — You’ll know him when you see him.)

Like the comics they’re based on, these pre-Avengers films have permeable borders. It’s like nothing we’ve seen before at the cinema, and the ambition is thrilling. Of course, there will be a backlash eventually — one of these comic book films is going to bomb, and bomb big. But, surprisingly to me at least, Thor doesn’t signify the end is near. To the contrary, it shows that if you get a good director, good writers, and good actors who take their source seriously — but not too seriously — the comic book experience is actually pretty translatable to the big screen. The ball’s in your court now, Hal Jordan.


When you reach the point where you’re, like, ‘if I have to get into a van to do another scout I’m just going to shoot myself,’ it’s time to let somebody else who’s still excited about getting in the van, get in the van.‘”

Director Steven Soderbergh says he’s retiring after his next two films, Liberace (with Michael Douglas) and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (with George Clooney.) “[S]o it’s just time. For the last three years, I’ve been turning down everything that comes my way, so you’re not going to have Steven Soderbergh to kick around anymore.” That’s too bad…but we’ll see. This sounds to me like one of those Anthony Hopkins retirements.

Hammer and Prongs.

Metallica roadie or Norse God of Thunder? Chris “Papa Kirk” Hemsworth finds himself stuck inside of Midgard with the Asgard blues again in the teaser for Kenneth Branagh’s Thor, also with Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Ray Stevenson, Clark Gregg, Kat Dennings, Colm Feore, Rene Russo, Jaimie Alexander, Stellan Skarsgard, and Idris Elba. Hmmm. Like the forthcoming Green Lantern over on the DC side, this looks rather cheesy…but maybe Loki will be fun.

Meanwhile, a more promising upcoming comic creation announces its main villain — one who’s also potentially featured in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises — in this impressive trailer for Batman: Arkham City, due out next fall. Looks great, and Arkham Asylum is both very fun and a totally immersive Batman experience. But, while I get that they’re riffing on Call of Duty: Black Ops here (and take that, Sam Fisher), I’m already way over the recent trend towards interrogation scenes in my gaming.

Goldeneye and Green Machines. [+X]

A publicity still from Kenneth Branagh’s Thor featuring Odin, Thor, and Loki, a.k.a. Anthony Hopkins, Chris Hemsworth, and Tom Hiddleston respectively, materializes on the tubes. Well, I’ll defer my full assessment until I’ve seen the characters move around under cinema lighting, but, to my mind, these outfits don’t look so hot. I guess they were going for Kirbyesque, but they look too plastic-y and space-age to me. (Also, Loki needs horns badly, but they’re too iconic not to show up in the final movie, I’d think.)

Elsewhere in comic-to-film-news, EW gets a look at Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern (again, too early to tell, but this CGI-approach could work), and, in lieu of Eric Bana and Edward Norton, Mark Ruffalo may well be Hulking out for Joss Whedon’s Avengers. (Eh, fine.)

Update: Forgot to mention the recent goings-on with Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class. Joining McAvoy, Fassbender, and Eve as Xavier, Magneto, and Emma Frost are Kevin Bacon and Jennifer Lawrence (of Winter’s Bone) as the Big Bad (Mr. Sinister?) and Mystique respectively. Also along for the ride: A Single Man‘s Nicholas Hoult as Beast, Friday Night LightsCaleb Landry Jones as Banshee, Hannah Montana‘s Lucas Till as Havok, and purportedly Kick-Ass‘s Aaron Johnson as Cyclops, altho’ that last one is still up in the air.

Update 2: More Thor and Green Lantern images emerge.

If I Had a Hammer…

As Iron Man 2 launches in one week (and, if you’re feeling spoilerish, the post-credit sequence has leaked), the next Avenger down the pike, the Mighty Thor, gets ready for his close-up. That’s Chris Hemsworth (formerly Papa Kirk in Star Trek) as the Asgardian in question. Joining him in Kenneth Branagh’s film are Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Natalie Portman (Jane Foster), Anthony Hopkins (Odin), Jaimie Alexander (Sif), Rene Russo (Frigga), Kat Dennings (Darcy), Stellan Skarsgard (Selvia), Idris Elba (Heimdall), Ray Stevenson (Volstagg), and Colm Feore (a villain to be named later — possibly the Destroyer?)

Bad Moon Rising.

Well, I was just riffing on Nick Lowe’s “The Beast in Me” in my review of 44 Inch Chest a few days ago, and perhaps I should’ve saved it for this film, which takes the same idea all too literally. And yet, Lowe’s exemplary tune deserves better than to be linked to this severely flawed retread, so I probably made the right call. With all due respect to my man Berkeley — no offense intended, l’il buddy — sadly, Joe Johnston’s take on The Wolfman is a bit of a dog. In short, it’s exactly the sort of big budget, never-gelling misfire one would expect to get dumped in mid-February. (Let’s hope the same doesn’t hold true of next week’s Shutter Island.)

I should say up front that, while I’m the first to admit the vampire genre is completely played out at this cultural moment, I’m usually more of a Team Edward man when it comes to the classic movie monsters. With the notable exception of An American Werewolf in London and arguably that saucy, vaguely spastic Shakira video, I’ve never really been one for the lycanthropes. So, when it came to this top-of-the-line, period-faithful reboot of the werewolf fable, I wasn’t really looking for anything more than a passably entertaining B-movie out of the affair. (Put another way, I had no real wolf in this fight.)

Unfortunately, Joe Johnston’s Wolfman doesn’t get the job done even by that measly standard. I was hoping it would at least possess some of the ribald, over-the-top, campy fun of Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula, which also featured Anthony Hopkins — there at his absolute hammiest. But this somehow turned out more like Kenneth Branagh’s Frankenstein — staid, stilted, and dull. This is in no small part due to the sloppy Andrew Kevin Walker/David Self script (the former of Se7en and Sleepy Hollow, the latter of Road to Perdition), which seems to be missing quite a bit of connective tissue — The movie just jumps haphazardly from beat to beat.

Moreover, as per Walker’s m.o. in particular, everybody’s far too grim-faced through this retelling. Ok, sure, if done well, this would be a horror story through and through. But this Big Bad Wolf is never once frightening, and all the entrails and viscera attending each graphic disembowlment can’t make up for that unfortunate fact. And yet, the movie doesn’t swing far enough in the other direction either. I mean, we have Anthony Hopkins and his Sikh manservant here, for Pete’s sake. And yet, even when the story moves to a Victorian-era asylum run by a Paul Reubens lookalike, there is no Joy in Mudville — it’s all sloppy dream sequences and abject medical horrors out of From Hell or a Cronenberg movie. So the film fails to find its camp side either.

Part of the overarching problem with The Wolfman is the stakes are unclear. Who exactly are we meant to be rooting for here? On one hand, we have thespian Lawrence Talbot (Benicio del Toro — he’ll flip ya for real), who — at the behest of his late sibling’s fiancee (Emily Blunt, phoning it in) — has returned from America to the moors to investigate his brother’s horrible death, and maybe reconcile with his whos-more-grizzled father (Hopkins) in the process. Spoiler — Talbot eventually becomes the wolfman (as back in 1941), and is none too happy about his midnight prowlings.

But then we have Detective Abberline of Scotland Yard (Hugo Weaving), who missed out on the Ripper and now wants to stop this rumored beast before he kills again. But he’s just enough of a jerk, particularly later on in the story, that one kinda wouldn’t mind seeing him on the wrong end of the fangs regardless. Other than that, and aside from Geraldine Chaplin showing up to offer a touch of class to the proceedings, there’s just a bunch of peasants and villagers out of stock British casting — sometimes even with torches and pitchforks in hand — who are basically little more than werewolf fodder.

The upshot being, every time the wolf must feed, there’s no real fear or excitement to be had, since we’re not particularly concerned about anyone’s well-being here. So, to review: The film isn’t scary, it isn’t fun, and it isn’t even exciting. And by the time [sizable spoiler, albeit one fully indicated by the trailers] it turns out Pa Talbot has a touch of the moon-madness too, the overarching story has become quite stupid. In fact, the final lobo-a-lobo — think Ang Lee’s Hulk — may constitute a new low for the werewolf kind, were it not for Underworld and likely whatever embarrassing shirtless shenanigans are going on over in the Twilight-verse.

So, anything good here? Well, the gaffers definitely brought their A-game, and power to them for that. (I’m not even being flippant — there’s some great work with shadows here.) Even the lighting aside, the movie does look quite good, although the recent Sherlock Holmes reboot stole much of The Wolfman‘s Victorian-era thunder in that regard. Joe Johnston nicely frames some very iconic shots of the werewolf in question (even if, sadly, the CGI and Rick Baker make-up often don’t mesh so well), and I liked that the movie played up the “lunatic” angle — the moon is a harsh mistress here, no doubt.

Finally, while I expected going in that Hopkins would be in full-on Pacino mode in terms of scenery-chewing here, and that Weaving would turn out to be the film’s secret weapon, it turns out I was quite wrong. Frankly, Weaving seems bored here, even coasting somewhat. While Hopkins, to his credit, actually even underplays his thankless role at times. Unlike most everyone else involved, he sometimes manages to give this otherwise-forgettable iteration of The Wolfman real claws.

Wolf at the Door.

Quicktime isn’t playing nicely with my work PC at the moment, so I can’t vouch for its quality just yet. Nonetheless, the second trailer for Joe Johnston’s The Wolfman is now online. Early reports indicate that, true to form, Anthony Hopkins chews scenery herein like it’s his business (and, brother, business is booming.)

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