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Final Age Of Ultron Trailer Is Out!

5 Mar

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The third and final theatrical trailer for next summer’s Avengers: Age of Ultron has been released by Marvel!

This is the first trailer that doesn’t center around the epic battle between Hulk and Iron Man (though it still comes crashing in). We do get a bit more insight into the relationship between Ultron and soon-to-be-Avengers Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver. But perhaps the most exciting moment is right at the end with our first glance of Vision!

Here are the first two trailers from Marvel along with our fan-made trailer. How close did we get?

112 Weddings: AFIDOCS Review

20 Jun

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FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m a news photographer by trade who has filmed weddings in the past and is about to get married myself (#humblebrag) so this documentary had me hooked before the opening the music. Luckily for me, it only went uphill from there as this film delivered in every category from writing, to editing to music.

112 Weddings is part doc/ marriage guide/ social experiment brought to us by Doug Block, a documentary filmmaker who moonlights as a wedding videographer. Looking back through footage from his side jobs, Block begins to ponder the true meaning of marriage. For the past 20 years he’s captured moments of love, intimacy and joy for couples celebrating one of the most important days of their lives. But when the video is edited these newlyweds leave his life. But how have they fared over the years? Is marriage everything they dreamed it would be? Having spent two decades documenting what it’s like to get married, Block now embarks on finding out what it’s like to stay married.

The film introduces us to nine couples that Block had worked with in the past and -as you may expect- their experiences vary drastically. The film is a wonderful wave of emotion that makes you smile and cry- for all the right (and wrong) reasons. The simple questions he asks elicit profound answers from the husbands and wives who took part in his retrospective study.

But Block goes beyond revisiting old clients. Perfectly structured, the doc never gets repetitive as we are introduced to a lesbian couple who have their own wedding photography business as well. While working at a same-sex marriage ceremony, Block stops to ask them why the institution of marriage is so important to them. Then we meet a heterosexual couple who, years after celebrating their partnership ceremony, finally tie the knot due to the potential legal ramifications for their child. Of course with all this 20/20 hindsight , Block balances the film out by also following the bride and groom-to-be of his 112th wedding.

Exploring romance and commitment through so many angles, 112 Weddings is a beautifully woven story of how love matures past marriage. While it sometimes ends in pain and heartache , it also endures and is a source of strength few knew they had.

Block asks just what he needs to and never says too much as the couples on camera share intimate feelings and fears with the audience. Complimented with wonderful original music by Jon Foy, this post-cana documentary shows an honest view of one of mankind’s most sacred institutions.

Whether single, engaged, married or divorced, 112 Weddings will leave a lasting impression on what we think, hope and pray love is. Grade A

EDITOR’S NOTE: 112 Weddings will premiere on HBO on Monday, June 30 at 9pm, so set your DVRs!

Bronx Obama: AFIDOCS Review

20 Jun

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“If you really work hard at what you do, then things will come to you and you’ll be successful.” That is, according to Reina Ortiz, the American Dream. And who better, really, to understand the promise of the good ol’ U-S-of-A than the daughter of the the 44th President- or at least his twin brother from another mother.

Bronx Obama, directed by Ryan Murdock, follows the story of Louis Ortiz, a Puerto Rican/American living in New York trying to make ends meet for himself and his daughter. We’re introduced through home movies of the Ortiz family circa 2008 when a young, Illinois senator by the name of Barrack Obama starts making headlines.

He and his friends realize that he has an uncanny resemblance to Obama and their gears start spinning. From Times Square to low-budget Japanese movies, Ortiz does what he can to earn a few bucks portraying his “Bronx Obama.” A poignant parallel is drawn between the real Obama as he campaigns in the midst of the Great Recession and Ortiz trying to find work. Jobs and work are the priorities of both men.

After seeing Ortiz’s persona grow into an idea he can truly capitalize on, the documentary slows down to revisit his personal life in an effort to humanize our main character. It’s a necessary dimension of Ortiz so the audience feels more attached to him. But it feels as though Murdock only grazes the surface with minimal exploration into Ortiz’s actual struggles with unemployment and family tragedy. Luckily Ortiz’s daughter, Reina, is very open about her dad’s life and shares some raw truth and insight. Without her, the doc would have been emotionally flat.

Murdock really hits his stride when Ortiz decides to take his game to the next level and joins a troupe of comedic impersonators. This is the most interesting and entertaining part of the film. With his newly signed agent, Ortiz works on perfecting not just looking like President Obama but sounding like him as well. Teaming up with a faux-Romeny, faux-Trump and faux-Clinton, Bronx Obama crisscrosses around the U.S. with his political shtick. The audience clearly sees a transformation of Ortiz from a street performer to a ticket-show entertainer.

But the demands of the road can take their toll and all this time away from his daughter starts to wear on Ortiz. Overlaying Obama’s campaign rhetoric as he runs for re-election in 2012, the life lessons Ortiz is learning follow what the president is saying. Achieving the American Dream isn’t easy. The road to recovery isn’t quick. Murdock does an artful job of broadening out this one man’s unique profession into the goals of a president and his fellow citizens.

In a way, it’s a tale of two Obamas. Without getting too political, Murdock ties Ortiz’s fate to Obama’s 2012 re-election and that of the country. Ortiz needs four more years of Obama for his own career. Whereas divisive politics is often good for business, this doc pulls away from turning bright blue or red. Yet as with Ortiz’s life beyond Obama, the film doesn’t delve deep enough to a truly profound level.

Entertaining and interesting, for sure. But Bronx Obama won’t stick with you for long. Grade = B- 

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey Review

7 Mar

We were able to preview the upcoming “epic” series “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.” We here at Kibitzers love space talk, so here is our review!

“The cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be.”

A refresh of the classic “personal voyage” that Carl Sagan took us on in the original 1980 Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey opens like it’s predecessor, with the familiar voice of the famed astronomer setting the scene for the series. Though Sagan has since passed, he has a worthy successor in astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Tyson and co-creators Ann Druyan (Sagan’s widow and co-creator of the original) and Seth MacFarlane (yes, of “Family Guy” and “Ted” fame) managed to bring modern science back to primetime in an enjoyable and entertaining way. I attended a screening of the first episode of the 13-part series and was quite impressed with the show’s production value and educational value. Spoilers beyond (can you really spoil the science of the cosmos?).

“Cosmos” is about making the current scientific understanding of universe approachable by the general public. The opening episode parallels the format of the old show and covers the basics: the Big Bang, the immensity of the universe in space and time, and a small sliver of scientific history.

The narrative is framed by a holdover from Sagan’s series, the Ship of the Imagination. Modern special effects really start to shine through here as we join Tyson on this ship, hurtling through both space and time. The ship allows us to traverse the entire history of the universe, shrink to the atomic level, and even imagine and speculate on where our universe might fit into the multiverse. I appreciate this alternative take on the typical “science” show, because it puts the host and viewer on the same level.

Tyson isn’t the disembodied voice of a narrator, nor is he a talking head. He is very much a character in the story, without overshadowing the magnitude of what he is teaching. I have always admired Tyson for his charisma and enthusiasm, and he does a fine job here as cosmic tour guide. That said, there was something about Sagan’s gravitas and the poetry with which he spoke that instantly captured the attention. I’ve heard Tyson channel Sagan before, but this first episode seemed a bit more “to-the-script.” The two have different styles, of course, and I think that Tyson (and MacFarlane) will be better at bringing out more playfulness that perhaps modern audiences need. We will see.

Visually, “Cosmos” is what we have come to expect from big budget TV shows. The shots of the Ship of the Imagination flying through space and Tiktaalik crawling out of the ocean are impressive, but the crowning scene is the formation of Earth and the moon from the swirl of the early solar system. The music and sound effects were good (though almost painfully loud at the theater I was in), but not yet matching the iconic tones of the original.

Also brought back is the discussion of historical figures and events in science to provide context to the lessons of the week. The creators of the new “Cosmos” chose to use animation instead of live-action (maybe influenced by MacFarlane). Don’t expect Family Guy, though. These are quite artistic and a big improvement on dressing up actors in cheesy Renaissance costumes.

I imagine that any show that attempts to cover the entirety of the universe must be terribly difficult to keep within scope. This episode seemed rushed at times. I expect that since we just got the universal basics down, future episodes will be able to move a bit slower. At a couple of points, the discussion took sharp turns without graceful transitions. For example, we were introduced to basic evolution and common ancestry of species, then suddenly we jump to how ancient plants died and became coal and oh-by-the-way we are now burning this and it’s causing our climate to change. Absolutely this topic is very important, but we’ll get to that later…right? Hopefully, the rest of the series can focus on more specific topics instead of having to rush through the entire 13.8 billion year history of the universe.

Overall, the episode was a great starting point for the series. I think there is definitely space (no pun intended) in our entertainment world for a show like “Cosmos.” Instead of relegating yet another science show to less-watched cable channels, the producers are bringing “Cosmos” to Fox in primetime. Those who watch it will undoubtedly be entertained and learn something. I think Carl Sagan would approve.

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey airs on Sunday, March 9th

Movie Review: 300: Rise of an Empire

27 Feb

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Slow motion. Blood. Action. Nudity. Naval warfare. Accents. Little to no storytelling. Narration. If these things have peaked your attention, then boy do I have a movie for you. 300: Rise of an Empire is the accompanying movie/sequel to 300, which starred Gerard Butler and told the story of King Leonidas and 300 Spartan soldiers holding back a massive Persian army until they [spoiler alert] all died300: Rise of an Empire tells the tale of Themistocles, played by Sullivan Stapleton, an Athenian general who fights the same massive Persian army in hopes to repel invasion and to unite all Greeks – but this time, on water.

Visually, Rise of an Empire is similar, if not the same, as 300. There is a graphic novel or video game feel to all the scenes in the movie, which actually helped hide some of the CGI that would be much more obvious in other movies. I did appreciate the fact that it went over the top with again with the costumes and character and set designs. You really got the sense that this was supposed to be a movie based on a comic. I also like to think that this embellishment of characters and how they looked and acted is how people would tell the story of these battles in ancient times. I’m not entirely sure that’s what their intention was, but hey, it’s a pretty good thought, ok?

In true Zack Synder fashion (even though he was just a writer in this movie), there was a lot of slow motion. It sometimes got to the point where there was so much slow motion in certain scenes that it felt like Noam Murro, the director, was just throwing them in there and going “Am I doing this right?” For those more familiar with video games, the slow motion events of the movie reminded me of quick-time events from God of War. I was half expecting a combination of buttons to flash on screen so that whichever character was fighting at that time would do a sweet slow motion move. So it kind of worked but there was just too much of it sometimes.

Do I dare talk about the acting? If you go and see this movie with the desire to be blown away by someone’s performance, then you’re going to have a bad time. The acting wasn’t horrible, but it was just what you would expect from this type of movie. The action is the important part of this movie, whereas the dialogue is just something that lets you know why the next scene is more fighting. As for storytelling, there isn’t much of that either. Lena Heady, who reprises her role as Queen Gorgo from the first 300 movie, narrates just about the first third of the movie to get you going. The rest is pretty much self-explanatory. Again, much like the acting, the over the top action takes precedent over the storytelling.

Overall, if you’re in middle school, into cosplay, or really into the first 300 movie, you’re going to love this second installment – and I recommend you go see it in theaters in IMAX 3D (the way we were able to last night). If you’re a regular ol’ person who just wants to be entertained and has realistic expectations for this movie, wait for it to come out on Redbox or HBO. But if you’re like the guy who sat next to me last night and was just in utter disbelief about the unrealism of this movie, know that nobody likes you and next time take your date out to a nice restaurant and not to a free screening.

300: Rise of an Empire comes out in theaters on Friday, March 7.

Kibitzers rating – 2.5/5

Top 5 Films at AFI DOCS

3 Jun

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AFI DOCs is weeks away and tickets are on sale now! Be sure to check out the full film line up and find a screening near you. Here are the top five docs we’re most excited about this year!

1. 12 O’Clock Boys

Fast and the Furious meets The Wire! This fast-paced thriller follows the life of Pug, a young boy growing up in West Baltimore. Forget the drug crews of Marlo and Avon Barksdale, Pug wants to be a member of the notorious dirt bike gang- the 12 O’Clock Boys. Strap in for a ride through the streets of Charm City and explore a different angle of inner city living beyond the drugs and the corner.

 

2. Blackfish

Thinking of visiting SeaWorld this summer? You might first want to check out the rare, behind-scenes footage in this forceful doc about marine parks. Audiences who remember the death of whale trainer Dawn Brancheau may be surprised to learn that acts of aggression from Orca whales happen more often than they may think. But perhaps what’s most alarming about these “killer whales” in captivity is the corporate-led effort to keep such big profit practices and attractions in business.

 

3. Expedition to the End of the World

Though the trailer almost makes this doc look like it follows the boys from Jackass, I assure you there’s much more to it. I doubt Johnny Knoxville and company have the insightful views (and IQs) as this rugged band of zoologists, biologists and geologists. With stunning images and a diverse soundtrack, this film about a crew of scientists exploring Northeast Greenland is sure to entertain and enlighten.

 

4. Camp 14 – Total Control Zone

When it comes to North Korea, little is known and even less is seen to the outside world. Focus on the isolated nation’s labor camps and the shadows grow even darker. But thanks to former prisoner Shing Dung-hyuk’s interviews, audiences can now hear of the hardships of life in a “death camp.” Implementing creative graphic images to show the hard work, starvation and torture that Camp 14 prisoners endure, this doc’s intimate look at life before and after escape is sure to be a powerful experience.

 

5. The Act of Killing

What’s more shocking than asking a group of men who helped commit genocide reenact their crimes? How about the boastful pride and enthusiasm they bring to the task. In what is surely a very chilling and disturbing doc, filmmakers ask Indonesian death squad leaders to replay their brutal acts of murder from 1965’s military coup on camera. The result is an unforgettable look into the minds of killers. This film is not for the faint-of-heart.

 

Movie Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

11 Dec

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First and foremost, I have not read the book The Hobbit nor have I read any of the other books in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I don’t like reading. I like movies. And I really liked the Lord of the Rings movies. And I’m happy to say that this part of the adventure did not disappoint.

If you haven’t heard yet, the ol’ salty sea dog Petey J, or Peter Jackson as the common folk like to call him, decided to film this movie in 48fps (frames per second) and in 3D. In other words, super high quality detail and it’s in your face. At first I was hesitant to watch the movie like this, but in hindsight, I wouldn’t have had that experience any other way. The first thing you’ll probably notice is that it looks “too real.” Everything is crisper, detailed, and fast – it almost looks like you’re watching a soap opera. But once your eyes get focused on it, you’ll be blown away by how detailed everyone and everything is. So basically, in the beginning, getting used to 3D and the FPS was rough, but once they leave the Hobbit hole/Bilbo’s house, it’s nothing short of amazing.

So let’s talk about the story now. Nerdy? Yes. Awesome? Yes! Spoilers? Possibly, so reader beware!

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey tells the story of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) 60 years before the events of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. As a young hobbit in Hobbiton, Bilbo is approached by a traveling wizard named Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and is selected to be a part of a company of Dwarves led by one of their kings, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), to travel to their old kingdom of Erebor and take back the Lonely Mountain from the dragon Smaug who displaced them.

As for the characters, they are certainly a more goofy bunch compared to the Fellowship. Being Dwarves, they loved eating, singing, drinking, and being silly. Did I mention singing? Oh good, because there were two songs within a span of 10 minutes. The first song was silly since it was about Bilbo hating things. The second one though, Thorin’s song, was super awesome, an orchestral theme they used throughout the movie. Other than singing, this band of Dwarves can fight – so they also have a sense of badassery to them.

I had no idea what the story was about coming into the movie and the only other references I had to Middle-Earth were the other movies and videos games that have come out since the release of Fellowship of the Ring. So, since this is technically a prequel, it was awesome to see the locations, characters, and events from this movie tie into the other locations, characters, and events in the LotR movies. For example, seeing Lord Elrond, the Elves, and Rivendell again made me all giddy inside. Seeing Azog and his fellow Orcs gather around Weathertop, where Frodo got stabbed by the Witch King instilled a fear in me that will haunt my soul for years and years (not really).

Overall, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was an amazing movie. It was enjoyable and entertaining to say the least. The visuals were on par, if not better, than the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the scale was just as epic. Only problems we had with the movie was that there were really cheesy parts at time that they could’ve done away with. The singing didn’t bother me too much but there was one song in the movie (you’ll know what it is) that made me say “Ok, that’s enough.” Broken up into three movies, this first installment really set the bar for the rest of the movies and I can’t wait to see the rest of the journey enfold. Bilbo’s adventure is no small feat – ah thank you. (*ba dum kish*)

Kibitzers rating – 4.5/5

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey comes out in theaters on December 14th

 

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