Film Fanatic - Page 2

Film Fanatic: ‘Tomb Raider’ Review


Is Tomb Raider the one? Can Lara Croft break the curse of the video game adaptation? It’s been a helluva run. It began in 1993 with the release of Super Mario Bros. and the genre has never recovered.

Looking at a list of movies based on video games, I marvel at how consistently awful they’ve been. We talk about how bad they are every time a new one comes out, but you really have no idea until you look at the list. Seriously, from Street Fighter to BloodRyane to Max Payne to Assassin’s Creed, the batting average is .000. You could convince me of the merits of Mortal Kombat, but that’s it.

Which is why my expectations going into Tomb Raider were so low. This marks the second attempt at adapting the popular video game franchise of the same name from the ‘90s. Angelina Jolie previously starred in two movies in the early ‘00s.

Oscar winner, Alicia Vikander, takes over the new grittier version, which is based on the video game reboot in 2013.

Alicia Vikander put in the work. | (Warner Bros.)

Despite being the heir to a fortune, Lara Croft is reluctant to sign on the dotted line to her inheritance. Doing so would acknowledge that her father, Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West), who has been missing for seven years, is dead. But she rejects the idea that he’s truly gone.

While in the process of perhaps accepting his death, she discovers an artifact in his collection that quite literally holds the key to finding out what happened to him. Now she’s on a journey to a mysterious island somewhere off the coast of Japan in search of answers.

When Croft arrives on the island, she’s met with resistance from Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins). He and a group of mercenaries have enslaved a group of people to help find an ancient tomb that may hold a secret power because that’s what tombs must always do in these types of movies.

Goggins is menacing, but we don’t really get to know anything about him other than he “needs to get off this island.” Which is disappointing considering Goggins has played a terrific villain before on the television show, Justified. I realize Tomb Raider is only a two-hour movie, but after seeing Black Panther, I need my villains to have a little more depth. I know, it’s asking a lot. But the actual raiding of the tomb isn’t what this movie is about.

Tomb Raider is a cross between Batman Begins and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It’s an origins story and at the heart of it is the relationship between Lara and her father. It’s the driving force behind the film and if you accept that, then you’ll probably have a good time.

Vikander is tremendous in the titular role and despite not having a lot of dialogue, she does a terrific job of emoting just with her face. It’s a surprisingly nuanced performance for a video game movie. West is equally strong as the absentee father. He loves her, but to protect her, he must stay away to prevent something catastrophic from occurring.

Tomb Raider is directed by Roar Uthaug, a Norwegian filmmaker best known for his 2015 disaster film, The Wave. Despite this being his first big Hollywood film, Uthaug shows great promise. The set pieces are well executed and different. The first act features a terrifically shot chase scene through the streets of London and he continues with a foot chase on boats and Lara attempting to escape an abandoned plane that teeters on the edge of a waterfall.

Lara’s got daddy issues. | (Warner Bros.)

He also acknowledges pain and consequences. At one point, Lara kills a man to survive and Uthaug takes a moment for her to soak in what she’s done. You don’t see that very often. Vikander also nails the physicality.

Despite being tiny, she bulks up for this role and it’s convincing when she lands a punch or falls from a tree. But she isn’t indestructible or a superhero and Vikander sells every grunt and grimace.

The film might disappoint fans of the older video games and perhaps the two Jolie films. It definitely takes itself seriously and as a result, there isn’t much humor in the film. The ending however sets up a more fun sequel that we will hopefully get. This one needed to lay the groundwork.

They also don’t treat her like a sex object which is great. Lara Croft is a pioneering character in a predominately male culture and to see her as a smart and bad-ass character who doesn’t randomly take a hot steamy shower or fall in love was great to see.

Despite some pacing issues here and there and the usual exposition problems, the filmmakers were able to take their time to develop not only Lara’s desire to forge her own path, but also the idea of family legacy. Does a video game movie only work if it closely follows the source material? Not necessarily. Tomb Raider is a good summer action movie. Does it reinvent the wheel? No. But who cares. It’s a video game adaptation that’s ACTUALLY WELL MADE!

We’re on the right track. Baby steps, people. That is until Rampage comes out in a couple of months and brings it all crashing down again. Hopefully Dwayne Johnson remembered his time on Doom while making Rampage.


Film Fanatic: ‘The Hurricane Heist’ Review


This is the basic description of The Hurricane Heist: Under the threat of a hurricane, opportunistic criminals infiltrate a US Mint facility to steal $600 million for the ultimate heist.

Done. I’m in.

The Hurricane Heist is the kind of movie people who grew up in the ‘90s would appreciate. It’s an action movie set against the backdrop of mother nature’s wrath. This type of genre first became popular in the ‘70s, died off in the ‘80s when the likes of Arnold and Sly rose to prominence and then resurfaced in the summer of 1996 with the release of Twister. That was one of the biggest movies of that summer and because Hollywood is a copycat business, more movies like it followed.

The following summer saw the release of competing volcano movies, Dante’s Peak and the aptly titled, Volcano. The summer after that, we got a pair of asteroid movies in Deep Impact and Armageddon. There’s also a pair of lesser movies released that hold a soft spot in my heart.

Remember Broken Arrow? It was a John Woo action movie starring John Travolta. It also starred Christian Slater and to a lesser extent, Howie Long. Hollywood attempted to make both Slater and Long action stars with the release of Hard Rain and Firestorm. Both failed miserably at the box office, so they were never heard from again in the genre.

Toby Kebbell and Maggie Grace star in ‘The Hurricane Heist.’ | (Entertainment Studios)

I bring both of those movies up not just to plug them, but because The Hurricane Heist reminded me so much of them. Heist is a $35 million early March release with director Rob Cohen ( The Fast and the Furious and xXx) behind the camera.

This is a movie that has zero aspirations of winning any awards. All it asks is for you to turn your brain off for 90 minutes and enjoy the ride. And did I ever.

The opening scene is basically the opening scene in Twister and the remainder of the movie is pretty much the plot of Hard Rain. But because I love both of those movies, I didn’t care.

Toby Kebbell stars as a meteorologist preparing for an impending storm. The scientific readings are telling him its going to be another routine storm. But his gut tells him this will be the storm of the century. And gut always wins in the movies. Between the Ben-Hur remake, his thankless role in Kong: Skull Island and this, Kebbell needs to hire a new agent.

Maggie Grace also stars as an ATF Agent whose job is to transport the money to the facility. I haven’t seen Grace in anything other than the Taken movies where she’s playing 15 years too young. In this she’s a pleasant surprise mixing great sarcastic humor with welcomed female badassery.

Kebbell and Grace’s paths meet once the facility is taken over and they must work together to not only prevent the robbers from succeeding, but also save Kebbell’s brother, played by True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten.

The reason this movie works for me is because it knows what it is. It embraces the ridiculousness. Death by hubcap, peanut butter and jelly jokes and outrunning a storm in a semitruck are just some of the things to look forward too.

Is this 1996 or 2018? | (Entertainment Studios)

Despite the small budget, Cohen reminds us that he’s a veteran of the action genre. The set pieces are confidently shot and the effects are passable. The finale even features terrific stunt work that reminded me of Cohen’s work on the first Fast & Furious movie. There’s also great chemistry between the main characters and even the bad guys have at least a little bit of depth besides just being bad.

The Hurricane Heist offers nothing new. It’s just a throwback action movie to a time when our heroes didn’t have super powers and the real villain was inclement weather. It moves at a great pace; the characters are likable and it also features one of my favorite things in movies: actors attempting to do southern accents.

So, if you need a break from superheroes and just want an easily-digestible action movie with absolutely no intention of world-building or sequels, check this out. You’ll love it, and then forget it the moment it leaves you until it resurfaces on cable next year for a second life.



Film Fanatic: DiCaprio and Scorsese Re-Teaming for ‘The Devil in the White City’


Film Fanatic


DiCaprio and Scorsese Re-Teaming for ‘The Devil in the White City’

Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese are a match made in heaven. They’ve worked together on biopics, historical epics, crime dramas, psychological thrillers and comedies and now they’ll enter the world of serial killers.

Deadline is reporting that the pair will collaborate for the sixth time in adapting Erik Larson’s book, The Devil in the White City. The non-fiction story follows America’s first serial killer, H.H. Holmes, who murdered an untold number of people at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. DiCaprio will play Holmes and perhaps this will be the role that finally lands him his Oscar (Although he might get it with The Revenant later this year).

Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio
DiCaprio and Scorsese tackling another challenging project together. | (Paramount Pictures)

Paramount landed the rights with a script written by Oscar-nominee Billy Ray. The rights were actually with Warner Bros. for a number of years before they let them lapse last month resulting in multiple studios, including Universal and Fox, pursue the property until Paramount won it.

What’s great about DiCaprio and Scorsese is that they make films that are edgy, smart and ballsy but also commercial. Despite being in his 70s, Scorsese hasn’t lost touch with what’s interesting and his work is a reflection of that.

A signature in most Scorsese films is unflinching violence and the story of The Devil in the White City oozes with so much of it, I can’t imagine anyone other than Scorsese doing it (Okay, maybe David Fincher too).

The book actually centers around two people, Holmes, and Daniel H. Burnham, who was the architect of the World’s Fair Hotel. Holmes presented himself as a cunning doctor who used the hotel as his “Murder Castle” and he included a gas chamber, crematorium and a dissecting table in order to properly study his guests after killing them.

Burnham has not yet been cast, but regardless, this is a movie I can’t wait to see. No release date has been set, but the earliest we could see it would probably be early 2017.


‘Godzilla 2’ Will be “Bigger and “Better” According to Screenwriter

Godzilla stomped into theaters last year to lukewarm reviews. To be honest, it was probably propped up a little bit thanks to the existence of Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla which fans hated back in 1998. This new version featured impressive visual effects and awe-inspiring set pieces, but they came very infrequently.

An appearance by the titular monster was often teased resulting in some frustration among fans who wanted to see Godzilla front and center rather than the bland character Aaron Taylor Johnson played. That being said, the last 30 minutes certainly delivered and the film was a success financially resulting in Warner Bros. green-lighting a sequel almost immediately.

Godzilla -
Godzilla will return in 2018. | (

Gareth Edwards will return to direct, but he’s currently busy making Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One so Godzilla 2 won’t arrive in theaters until June 8, 2018. That gives screenwriter Max Borenstein plenty of time to fine tune the script.

While speaking to Collider, Borenstein commented on the progress of the script and how the success of the first film allowed the world of Godzilla to be expanded in the sequel.

“I’m writing it now, and it’s really going to be great. I don’t want to go off book and tell you anything that I’m not allowed to tell you,” said Borenstein. “The response to the first film was really exciting, but now that that world is established, we can do bigger and even better things. We’re really stoked.”

These comments aren’t particularly intriguing because obviously he’s going to say it’s going great and that the sequel will be “bigger and “better,” but just hearing that is still exciting because the first movie did feel like one big tease.

The idea that in this world everyone now knows that a giant lizard lives in the ocean is a great concept to work with moving forward. The possibilities are endless and with Edwards coming off of his experience on Star Wars, expect a much more interesting and exciting entry in the Godzilla series.


‘Spectre’ Will be James Bond’s Origin Story Says Sam Mendes

The latest entry in the James Bond series, Spectre, opens November 6 and ahead of its release, director Sam Mendes talked to Entertainment Weekly about the film and he provided some interesting insight into the story.

“The Bond creation myth never happened. I felt there was an opportunity there: What made him? And who were the people who affected him along the way? You’re sort of telling the story backwards of how Bond became Bond.”

Daniel Craig stars as James Bond in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Columbia Pictures/EON Productions’ action adventure SPECTRE.
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre.’ | (Sony Pictures and MGM).

My first thought after reading that was, ‘So what about Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall? Did those movies never happen?’ Essentially Mendes is saying that his version of Bond begins at the end of Skyfall which makes sense because we were introduced to Q, a new M and Money Penny.

So Spectre will be the definitive origin story of Bond and I guess Royale and Solace were the learning years and Skyfall was a midlife crisis? A little odd in the context of the Daniel Craig Bond years but Mendes is the first returning director in the series in a long time so it would make sense for him to expand on the groundwork he laid in Skyfall.

Craig also commented on Spectre saying, “A lot of the film is a celebration of what it is to be Bond, but it’s not retro. Hopefully it’s not just classic Bond but a classic thriller.”

Skyfall felt like a great throwback to classic Bond movies but it also included some of that grittiness that each Craig entry has and it sounds like Spectre will continue in that tradition. I can’t wait.



Film Fanatic: ‘Avengers 3 and 4′ to Shoot in 2016, 21 Jump Street/Men in Black Crossover’


Film Fanatic


‘Avengers: Infinity War’ to Shoot in Late 2016

Avengers: Age of Ultron finally hit theaters on Friday, but Marvel is already thinking ahead in the MCU. Chris Evans, AKA Captain America, talked to Esquire in an interview recently and revealed the shooting schedule for the next two Avengers sequels.

Evans is about to begin filming Captain America: Civil War, which will shoot no later than September and then after some time off, he’ll have to jump right back into the red, white and blue tights as Avengers: Infintity War will be split into two films shot back-to-back.

Evans told Esquire that he thinks filming begins in either fall or winter 2016 and, “That’s going to be like nine months to shoot movies back-to-back. Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 will be released on May 4, 2018 and Avengers: Infinity War – Part 2 will open on May 3, 2019.

Thanos -
The Avengers will be battling Thanos in the Infinity War. | (

Nine months is a long time to make two huge movies, but to be honest, I’m surprised more superhero franchises haven’t already done this. It’s certainly a popular and common practice in young adult franchises like Harry Potter, Twilight and Hunger Games and it seems to me that it would be cost effective and convenient for the actors who have to commit such a long period of time to these massive films.

That being said, Marvel Studios has announced release dates for their next 11 films going all the way to July 2019 and with the exception of Avengers, they have no plans to release two sequels of one property in that time frame. There will be Cap 3, Thor 3, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and a number of introductions to lesser known Marvel characters like Doctor Strange, Black Panther and Inhumans.

It remains to be seen if making two sequels at the same time leads to continuity which then leads to better films, but Marvel is two for two in the Avengers series so it will be pretty hard to screw up that lucrative franchise. The Russo Brothers, who made Captain America: The Winter Soldier as well as the upcoming Cap 3, will helm the last two Avengers sequels.


Sony Planning 21 Jump Street Female Spinoff and Men in Black Crossover

While Disney is on a roll with Marvel and the upcoming Star Wars sequel, Sony Pictures continues to be all over the map when it comes to their properties. When the hack of Sony took place late last year, one of the interesting nuggets to come out was that they were planning a 21 Jump Street/Men in Black crossover movie which sounded utterly ludicrous.

But it wasn’t a joke or a rumor as it turned out because they indeed have plans to make said film with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. According to The Wrap, that film is in development as well as a female-driven Jump Street spinoff.

My initial reaction to both of these ideas was “NOOOO,” but having read about both projects, I’ve changed my mind and am now excited about the possibilities of these films.

Men in Black -
I’d watch that. | (

The brilliance of 22 Jump Street is that it made fun of sequels and reboots, as well as the fact that it was a sequel rehashing a lot of the same things that made the first film funny and great. The idea behind a Men in Black crossover is that it would poke fun at all of the shared universes going on in superhero films. Plus it would be a great way to re-invigorate the Men in Black franchise which has been stale for more than a decade.

As for the female spinoff film, writers on the popular Comedy Central show Broad City; Lucia Aniello and Paul Downs, are writing the script. Sony is already in the process of making a female-driven Ghostbusters movie from director Paul Feig so it’s nice to see them looking to do that with another one of its franchises.

The big question is how involved 21 and 22 Jump Street directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller will be in these projects. They will no doubt be producers but as far as writing and directing, that remains to be seen since they have a lot on their plate at the moment. In addition to writing the sequel to their popular LEGO Movie, they are also working on an animated Spider-Man movie and an outline for The Flash movie at Warner Bros.


James Cameron Might Have a Script for ‘Avatar 5’

It’s hard to believe it’s already been six years since James Cameron released Avatar, which became the highest grossing movie in history. Since its release, Cameron has been reportedly working on three sequels to the series which have been delayed multiple times. Now it appears he has so much material, he’s having a hard time fitting it into three movies.

Avatar composer James Horner confirmed as much:

“Right now Jim has… four sequels script-wise, and he’s trying to make it into three,” said Horner. “And that is where his effort is going right now, to keep it to three sequels. Because he’s got so much going on… trying to keep it from expanding into a fifth movie.”

James Cameron -
It’s James Cameron’s world and we’re just living in it. | (

The next installment in the Avatar series isn’t slated to be released until December 2017 because Cameron’s plan is to shoot them back-to-back-to-back.

Cameron is one of my favorite directors, but I wish he would move on from Avatar. Visually, the movie was breathtaking and still the best use of 3D ever put to film, but the story and the script was familiar and weak. Obviously that kind of world is ripe for more stories, but I would prefer Cameron do something in the action genre again. I dream of him making something with Dwayne Johnson.

He also seems to be getting worse as a writer based on his last two films, Titanic and Avatar, but he appears to have no interest in directing someone else’s script which is unfortunate.

But at least we’re getting something from Cameron. We had to wait twelve years after Titanic so eight seems like a win.





Film Junkie


This week I am debuting a movie column that will cover all aspects of the film industry. Whether it’s reviews, news or simply an observation, I will cover it for your reading pleasure. In this first edition, I will be reviewing a little seen independent film that has suddenly been put back in the spotlight thanks to a highly-publicized Internet hoax.

Manti Te'o
Te’o may have been involved in an elaborate Internet hoax.

The term “Catfishing” online has been thrust into the lexicon this week amidst news of a Notre Dame football scandal where it was discovered that star linebacker Manti Te’o’s deceased girlfriend Lennay Kekua never existed. Te’o said in a statement that he was the victim of “a sick joke” – that he was duped by online predators into believing Kekua was real. It’s only been a couple of days since this story broke, but we may soon learn the truth as Te’o is scheduled to give his first interview Friday. It’s a story that has become so big and so juicy that Lance Armstrong should be personally thanking each and every person involved.

But where does this term “Catfishing” come from? The answer is a 2010 documentary, and now an MTV show, about one man’s strange journey into the heart of online chat-room darkness.

The tag-line for the film Catfish is “Don’t let anyone tell you what it is.” Another piece of advice should have been, don’t watch the trailer because you’ll be thinking about it as you watch the movie.

The notion that a trailer misrepresents or misinterprets what a movie is really about isn’t surprising. The job of a movie trailer is to sell the movie so people go see it. But in the case of Catfish, the trailer marketed it as a mysterious -is-it-real-or-fake documentary thriller about a young New Yorker searching for his Facebook crush. The first half of the movie kind of sets it up as that. Sort of a Blair Witch Project for the Internet generation. But as the movie nears its conclusion, it doesn’t scare you. It only cautions you about the world we live in. Where not everyone is who they say they are online.

Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman decide to make a documentary about Ariel’s brother Nev. Nev is a 24-year-old photographer who specializes in shooting dancers. One day Nev receives a package of a painting someone has done of one of his published photographs. It’s from an 8-year-old girl named Abby. The painting is remarkable and Nev begins to correspond with Abby and her mother Angela. The fact that Henry and Ariel decided to make a documentary about Nev and right when they start to make the film, Nev receives the painting from Abby seems like too big of a coincidence and basically sets up the question of whether or not this actually happened to them.

Nev receives many more paintings of his photographs and over the course of 9 months, he forms a friendship with Abby’s family through Facebook. At some point he becomes particularly interested in Abby’s 19-year-old sister Megan. They become very close through the Internet and over the phone. Megan writes music for Nev, he flirts with her through text messages and eventually he wonders if this is the girl of his dreams. An opportunity opens up for him to be close enough to see her in person.

The many paintings Nev received from Abby.

The three videographers fly to Vail, Colorado to shoot a dance event. On their way back East, they decide to take a detour to meet Megan and the family in Ishpeming, Michigan. It’s time to put a face with the voice over the phone and all of the pictures online. To say everything goes the way they thought it would is an understatement so I won’t reveal anything further.

The film can be frustrating at times because you’re fooled into expecting one movie, and getting another. When the three men start to realize that something isn’t quite right with Angela’s family, the movie becomes an interesting procedural where they use technology in an attempt to uncover the truth. But by the end you may feel unsatisfied and slightly disappointed with what they discover. The final act is dramatically affective and depending on what type of person you are, you’ll either find it sad or slightly disturbing.

Ultimately, the film is an engaging and fascinating commentary on identity and the life we present online and the life we actually live. The film is never boring and the characters, particularly Nev, are likable. The film was marketed as a mysterious thriller and even the title, Catfish, is mysterious. By the end you’ll know the meaning behind the title and while it will come across as thoughtful and deep, it may also feel a little contrived and artificial. But that’s really the whole movie in a nutshell and the question you’re asking yourself as you watch it. Is it completely original and real or is it a hoax acting as a metaphor about how we want other people to see us versus who we actually are?

In the wake of the Te’o story, curiosity in Catfish might go up exponentially. While I may not have loved the film, I’m still thinking about it and that’s always a good enough reason to recommend people see it.

Catfish is available on Netflix disc, Blockbuster and Redbox.