So Sony and director Paul Feig have found their new Ghostbusters: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon. This whole idea of an all-female ‘Ghostbusters’ reboot came together after the passing of original series star and co-writer Harold Ramis, when director Ivan Reitman relinquished the franchise’s director’s chair and everyone involved finally gave up on trying to convince stubborn (and probably very wise) Bill Murray to make a second sequel to the original film.
I wonder if Chris Kyle was a Clint Eastwood fan. ‘American Sniper’’s marketing materials describe Kyle as “the most lethal sniper in U.S. history,” but before his military career, Kyle was a cowboy. He wore a hat and boots, and even carried a six-shooter. Eventually, he gave up the cowboy life and decided to serve his country. He was a gifted marksman and trained to be a Navy SEAL. But even as a soldier, Kyle never lost that cowboy swagger—or that sense that someone has to venture out into the frontier and protect the American way of life. That’s what Kyle learned from his father—who raised him to be a “sheepdog,” a watchful protector in a world of sheep and wolves—and from watching violent Westerns like the ones that made Eastwood a major Hollywood star.
Jeremy Renner would not make a very good spy. The guy can’t keep his mouth shut! If you’re doing something secretive, you’re supposed to keep quiet about it. But earlier today Renner teased something he’s doing for Marvel as Hawkeye, the master archer of the Avenger. And, really, Renner should know better because he works for S.H.I.E.L.D. (and as Jason Bourne’s replacement in ‘The Bourne Legacy’!)
Full details are still forthcoming, but it looks like ‘The Interview’—Seth Rogen’s ultra-controversial comedy about an American assassination attempt on North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un—will open on Christmas after all. Sony initially cancelled their planned December 25 release after hackers threatened theaters that dared to show ‘The Interview’ with terrorist attacks, and many of the biggest exhibitor chains in the country (including Regal and AMC) subsequently decided not to run the film.
I know one reaction I’ve had to the (allegedly) North Korean hackers and their attack on Sony and their movie ‘The Interview’ is “Why now?” Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are not the first American filmmakers to make fun of North Korea, or even its real-life leaders. ‘Team America: World Police,’ for example, featured a marionette-version of late North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, who wants to destroy Western Civilization (but is also very lonely); the 2012 ‘Red Dawn’ remake actually changed its Asian invaders from Chinese to North Koreans in post-production because at the time that seemed like the more politically and financially safe choice. That’s not going to happen again anytime soon.
The whole Marvel Cinematic Universe is based around the fact that the strongest power in the universe are these magical Infinity Stones, gems of incredible power over time and space. When Ronan the Accuser combines an Infinity Stone with his hammer in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ he becomes nigh-invulnerable and almost unbeatable. The only things left to stop him from destroying the universe are the Guardians… and dance moves. Sweet hot funky dance moves.
'White House Down' has the disadvantage of being the second 'Die Hard'-in-the-White-House movie of 2013 after 'Olympus Has Fallen,' and the advantage of being superior to its predecessor in every conceivable way. It's better directed, better written, and better acted. The action is better, with more impressive special effects; the production design is better, with a much more convincing replica of the White House; the camerawork is better; with clear, lucid images. Where 'Olympus Has Fallen' was grim and stern, 'White House Down' actually embraces the silliness of its premise. It's more exciting and more faithful to the 'Die Hard' formula. This is still basically a shameless ripoff popcorn movie, but it's a shameless ripoff popcorn movie popped to near-perfection.
College is not an obvious setting for a Pixar movie. For all the vaunted animation studio's reputation for producing mature, adult children's films, college lends itself to a more immature brand of adult humor -- the kind with lots of nudity, profanity, and outrageous drunken antics. Sure enough, Pixar's 'Monsters University' brings new meaning to the phrase "safe school" -- this G-rated riff on 'Revenge of the Nerds' and 'Animal House' (they probably thought about calling it 'Monster House' at some point, right? They had to) doesn't push any envelopes in terms of content or humor. It's basically a formula college comedy, minus the raunch, in the world of 'Monsters Inc.' Nevertheless, it's a formula executed by some very talented animators, who've produced a lively, if mostly forgettable, movie.
The term "product placement" feels insufficient to describe the role of Google in 'The Internship.' This is not so much product placement in a movie as movie placement in a product. For two hours, viewers are treated to a series of bright, high-energy sales pitches for the San Francisco search engine and its vast array of products and services -- Google Play, Google Drive, Google Helpline, Google Maps and, of course, plain-old Googley Google -- plus, occasional attempts at comedy from Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson while they stand in front of giant Google logos. Shameless? Absolutely. But that wouldn't be such a problem if 'The Internship' wasn't so mirthless, as well.
This is the way the world ends; not with a whimper but with an extended improv session featuring Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride and a fleet of other popular young comics. On an ordinary night in Los Angeles, the straight-up-biblical apocalypse begins. After the Rapture, our six heroes board themselves up in Franco's Hollywood mansion and wait for a rescue. It never comes. Supplies dwindle. Tensions mount. 'This Is the End.'
The magic of cinema and the magic of magic tend to cancel each other out. Once you convince someone they're seeing alternate realities, alien conquerers, and distant futures, pulling a rabbit out of a hat looks a little underwhelming. It is a cruel, sad truth that a single cut negates all the impact of the greatest act of sleight of hand.
So, a movie about magic needs to be about more than just magic. The silly but not entirely unpleasurable 'Now You See Me' is about showmanship. There are a lot of good actors in this movie, including Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Melanie Laurent, and Mark Ruffalo. They play illusionists, mentalists, hucksters, debunkers, billionaire industrialists, Interpol officers, and FBI agents, respectively(ish). All of them, no matter whether they're wool-pullers or wool-pullees, look like they're having a grand old time misdirecting us through a labyrinthine plot involving magicians, bank heists, and decades-old vendettas. For a while, the fun is infectious. I found myself chuckling at the outrageous character names -- Dylan Rhodes! Jack Wilder! Arthur Tressler! Thaddeus Bradley! J. Daniel Atlas! -- and grinning at the ludicrous twists. Like a mark at a good magic act, I knew I was being worked over and was enjoying every second.
'The Hangover' giveth and 'The Hangover' taketh away.
The first 'Hangover' made Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and especially Zach Galifianakis stars, and it elevated Todd Phillips from middling Hollywood director to name-brand comic auteur. But in the film industry, success that surprising and enormous demands more success; the beast must be fed. But as 'The Hangover Part II' and especially the new 'Hangover Part III' prove, it is very hard to make a good sequel to a truly original idea. 'Part II' went the rehash route, recycling the plot of the first movie so brazenly you almost had to admire its chutzpah. 'Part III' finally breaks with the formula a little (SPOILER ALERT: there is no hangover), but still doesn't produce anything even remotely worthy of the first film.
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