Friday, February 3, 2023

GLADIATOR 2 Has a 2024 Release Date!

Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russell Crowe) and other slaves prepare to re-enact the Battle of Carthage inside the Colosseum...in the Ridley Scott-directed epic GLADIATOR.

So I just found out earlier today that Gladiator 2, starring Paul Mescal and once again directed by Ridley Scott, will make its theatrical debut around Thanksgiving of next year!

Based on the 2024 movie list below, the Gladiator sequel's November 22 opening date doesn't come as a surprise...since it would've need to deal with the Mad Max: Fury Road spinoff Furiosa and Part 2 of Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning, as well as Marvel's Captain America: New World Order and Thunderbolts during the summer, and potential awards season contenders like Wicked: Part One, Joker: Folie à Deux and Avatar: The Seed Bearer later that year.

And Marvel's Deadpool 3 will open two weeks before Gladiator 2...on November 8. It's all good.

(The first Gladiator film was released on May 5, 2000.)

All I can say is— Movie-wise, 2024 can't come soon enough! In regards to this year, I'm excited to watch Titanic on the big screen again when it returns to theaters next week (on February 10 for its 25-year anniversary, which was last December), Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania on February 17, and Cocaine Bear a week after that...on February 24. Heh.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The 2023 Academy Award Nominations...

Ana de Armas is a Best Actress nominee for her role as Marilyn Monroe in last year's BLONDE.

Congratulations to all of the movies, filmmakers and thespians who received an Oscar nomination this morning by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences! The winners will be revealed during the 95th Academy Awards that will be televised March 12 on ABC TV.

As shown below, Everything Everywhere All at Once (which I saw at the theater last April and immensely enjoyed) leads the Best Picture pack with 11 nominations. Top Gun: Maverick—which I saw multiple times at the theater last year—is up for 6 trophies; it unfortunately isn't up for Best Cinematography but is amazingly up for Best Adapted Screenplay!

Most-Nominated Movies for the 95th Academy Awards:

Everything Everywhere All at Once - 11 nominations
All Quiet on the Western Front - 9 nominations
The Banshees of Inisherin - 9 nominations
Elvis - 8 nominations
The Fabelmans - 7 nominations
Tár - 6 nominations
Top Gun: Maverick - 6 nominations
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever - 5 nominations

I didn't watch the Marilyn Monroe biopic Blonde, but I do know that Ana de Armas is a very talented actress who was great in 2017's Blade Runner 2049 and 2019's Knives Out. Congrats to her for her Best Actress nomination!

Click here to see all of the nominees for this year's Academy Awards.

One actor who I hoped would get nominated was John Boyega for his role as a down-on-his-luck Marine veteran in last August's Breaking. I gave this dramatic crime thriller an enthusiastic review last summer, and I was hoping that the Academy would give this movie the kudos it deserves... Next time, Boyega.

And up for Best Visual Effects for 2022 is Top Gun: Maverick, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Batman (which should've also been nominated for Best Original Score), Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Avatar: The Way of Water. Yes, James Cameron's sequel to the 2009 sci-fi epic will go home with the trophy.

Can't wait to watch the Oscars on March 12!

EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE leads the Best Picture pack with 11 nominations.

TOP GUN: MAVERICK is a triumph for Tom Cruise and Paramount Pictures with 6 nominations.

Of its 4 nominations, AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER will most likely take home the Oscar for Best Visual Effects.

Angela Bassett was once again remarkable in her role as Queen Ramonda in BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER.

THE BATMAN should've received a 4th Academy Award nomination...for Best Original Score.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Movie Review: MISSING...

The theatrical poster for MISSING.

A few hours ago, I watched the dramatic thriller Missing at AMC theaters.

An unofficial sequel to the 2018 film Searching (which starred John Cho and Debra Messing), Missing is about an 18-year-old girl named June (Storm Reid) who uses every online tool at her disposal to find her mother Grace (Nia Long)...who suddenly disappeared when she was supposed to be on vacation in Colombia.

Missing was both very clever and pretty suspenseful—with the clever part due to June's ability to figure out the passwords to the Gmail accounts of both Grace and her boyfriend Kevin (Ken Leung)...and to do other things like pinpointing (from June's home in Southern California) the locations of surveillance cameras at the Colombian hotel where Grace was staying at. With the exception of actual apps and websites like WhatsApp, Taskrabbit and Gmail, I'm wondering how many of the other sites that June used to locate her mom really existed.

Either way, June was so brilliant at using social media and other online sites to find private information about various people that there should be another sequel, or spinoff flick, where she grew up to become a computer hacker working for the CIA! No seriously.

(Well okay, maybe not the CIA... That's such an overused trope in Hollywood movies.)

The suspenseful part of Missing came from all of the amazing plot twists that dot the film. I'm not going to spoil things here, but just when you thought that June finally discovered where her mom was, Missing threw the audience for a loop.

Missing had some amazing twists... Not as amazing as the twist at the end of the movie The Usual Suspects, but still great nonetheless.

The only downer in Missing was the climax itself; not that it wasn't good, but because it's here where the film switches from being an intriguing, 111-minute take on social media and other forms of Web technology to being a serious statement about spousal abuse and domestic violence. Such a bummer.

Overlooking the climax, ironically, Missing was still a great ride that showed the audience what can be found if you sleuthed through the Internet hard enough. Whether or not that's a good thing is up to the moviegoers to decide.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Movie Review: PLANE...

The theatrical poster for PLANE.

Earlier today, I watched the action thriller Plane at AMC theaters.

This film—which stars Gerard Butler as an airline pilot who ends up making an emergency landing on a remote island in the Philippines after his passenger jet is damaged in a lightning storm (and his passengers are in turn taken hostage by Filipino separatists who stumble upon them)—was very entertaining. However, I felt that this movie would've been even better if it was a bit longer...as I thought the stakes weren't big enough and the story unsurprisingly predictable.

Mike Colter, who plays Louis Gaspare, a prisoner who was placed on the flight for extradition to Tokyo on a murder charge, was great in Plane...though it seems like he and Butler's character, Brodie Torrance, got along too quickly as they searched for help on the island after the emergency landing. Looks like I need to watch the film again to see if I'm correct in my assessment of this plot point.

As for the setting itself, I'm Filipino and was impressed by how accurate the depiction of the Philippines was in Plane. Yes, there's a Jolo island in the Sulu Sea...and yes, the southern part of the Philippines (which is the Mindanao region, where Jolo is located) is run by militants—namely the Abu Sayyaf, an Islamic State affiliate.

I cracked up when Louis Gaspare asked Brodie Torrance—welding a walkie talkie so he could call for help—if he spoke Tagalog (the main language in the Philippines), only for Torrance to toss the walkie talkie to the ground in response. Yes, Tagalog is basically the Filipino offshoot of Spanish, but I'd get rid of the walkie talkie too if I was in a country where I had absolutely no clue how to speak the dialect.

Bottom line is, Plane was very entertaining but could've been longer and more dramatic. But considering how the film ends, I wouldn't be surprised if we see Butler and Colter team up again in a sequel...which I'll watch.

One last thing— In real life, do U.S. airlines like American, Delta and United have their own private 'assets' (re: commando groups) to use in case their passengers are taken hostage overseas? Hm.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Movie Review: M3GAN...

The theatrical poster for M3GAN.

Earlier today, I watched the Gerard Johnstone-directed sci-fi horror flick M3GAN at AMC theaters.

Co-written by James Wan of The Conjuring fame (with assistance by Akela Cooper), M3GAN is an entertaining film...even though it was more twisted and emotional than it was scary (which may have to do with the fact that a lot of the frightening moments were, surprise, surprise, already shared in the theatrical trailers).

M3GAN (which stands for Model 3 Generative ANdroid) was no doubt inspired by Chucky in the Child's Play movies—probably moreso by the robotic, Mark Hamill-voiced incarnation of the doll in the 2019 reboot of Child's Play. Amie Donald, the young actress who portrayed M3GAN (with Jenna Davis providing the voice), did a wonderful job as this caretaking-turned-murderous toy...and looks to have her career take off after this exciting role.

Allison Williams was great as Gemma, the creator of M3GAN who realizes that her goal of moving up in her toy-making career might have disastrous consequences—especially for her niece Cady (wonderfully played by Violet McGraw), who obviously needed major guidance following the accidental deaths of her parents earlier in the film.

The rest of the cast was commendable...with Jen Van Epps (Tess), Brian Jordan Alvarez (Cole), Jack Cassidy (Brandon), Ronny Chieng (David), Lori Dungey (Celia) and Stephane Garneau-Monten (Kurt) playing the hapless characters who would be unfortunate enough to get on M3GAN's bad side during the movie.

The final shot in M3GAN suggests that this flick might have a sequel, but I said the same thing about last month's Violent Night when one of the characters just mysteriously disappeared at the end of that film. We'll see.

The bottom line is, M3GAN is another intriguing flick about evil dolls (the other one, of course, being Annabelle) that was produced by James Wan! Well done.

Friday, January 6, 2023

GLADIATOR 2 Has Found Its Star...

Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russell Crowe) and other slaves prepare to re-enact the Battle of Carthage inside the Colosseum...in the Ridley Scott-directed epic GLADIATOR.

So I just found out earlier today that Ridley Scott is moving ahead with the sequel to his 2000 Best Picture-winning epic, Gladiator. While I heard years ago that Scott wanted to continue the story of Maximus (the Roman general-turned-gladiator memorably portrayed by Russell Crowe), even though he died in the first film, it's only today that it appears this movie will finally become a reality!

Paul Mescal, who stars in the Hulu streaming series Normal People, will have the leading role in Gladiator 2...playing the adult version of Lucius, the son of Lucilla (Connie Nielsen) and nephew of the evil emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix). Lots of other actors apparently chased this role—such as Austin Butler (who played Elvis in a Baz Luhrmann film about the legendary singer last year), Miles Teller (probably still basking in the success of Top Gun: Maverick) and Richard Madden (who appeared in Marvel Studios' 2021 movie Eternals).

While it's great news that Gladiator 2 has its star and will finally get made, one (highly-rhetorical) question remains: Will Hans Zimmer return to compose the sequel's music score? The Oscar-nominated score for the first Gladiator movie is one of my all-time favorites...to the point where I was listening to Gladiator tracks on MP3 while typing this entry!

It's a no-brainer that Zimmer will return and add the music of Gladiator 2 to his long list of memorable scores which includes those for The Dark Knight trilogy, The Lion King, Crimson Tide, Broken Arrow, Interstellar and Inception. Costume designer Janty Yates and production designer Arthur Max will reunite with Scott for the sequel— Why not Zimmer as well?

Carry on.

Paul Mescal will star as Lucius, the son of Lucilla and nephew of the late Roman emperor Commodus, in GLADIATOR 2.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Final Movie Review of 2022 - PUSS IN BOOTS: THE LAST WISH...

The theatrical poster for PUSS IN BOOTS: THE LAST WISH.

Earlier today, I marked New Year's Eve by watching the latest Shrek spin-off, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, at AMC theaters.

Just like 2004's Shrek 2, 2007's Shrek the Third and 2010's Shrek Forever After [but not the first Shrek in 2001 or 2011's Puss in Boots, which I didn't see on the big screen (I thought I did with Puss in Boots)], The Last Wish was very entertaining!

Antonio Banderas was once again humorous as the "Stabby Tabby" (a.k.a. "El Macho Gato) himself, Puss in Boots...with other big name celebs such as Salma Hayek, Florence Pugh, Olivia Colman and Ray Winstone lending their voices as Kitty Softpaws, Goldilocks, Mama Bear and Papa Bear, respectively.

Harvey Guillén did a great job voicing the puppy-disguised-as-a-kitty Perrito, John Mulaney was hilarious as the nefarious antagonist Jack Horner, Da'Vine Joy Randolph was great as Mama Luna and Wagner Moura did an intimidating line reading for the canine Grim Reaper himself, Wolf.

The Last Wish had a wondeful morale to its story [and one I can personally, and reluctantly, relate to (overlooking the 'nine lives' part and being granted a magical wish)]...and that's Puss in Boots struggling between using a special wish to reclaim all of his nine glorious lives—which allowed him to live as an obnoxious and arrogant hero who lost his previous lives doing such things as trying to launch out of a cannon, loiter near exploding ovens or trying to bench press with an extremely heavy barbell—or relinquish the wish and live the last life he had left with the friends he cared out. This also applied to other characters like Goldilocks...who wanted a normal family when she already had one in the Three Bears (even though they spent that quality family time stealing things).

The final scene suggests that we might see Puss in Boots reunite with Shrek and the rest of the gang in another sequel, but if The Last Wish is any indication, Stabby Tabby does just well in nicely-crafted animated movies on his own.

Have a Happy New Year, everyone!

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Movie Review: BABYLON...

A poster for BABYLON.

Yesterday, I went to AMC theaters to watch Damien Chazelle's newest film Babylon.

While it wasn't as moving as 2014's Whiplash or 2016's La La Land, Babylon was more enjoyable than Chazelle's previous movie, the 2018 Neil Armstrong biopic First Man.

I commend Chazelle for tackling the glory days of NASA like Ron Howard did with 1995's Apollo 13 (Chazelle also co-wrote the 2016 sci-fi flick 10 Cloverfield Lane), but he was more in his element doing another film with a strong musical theme (even though this theme was mostly featured during a huge orgy scene at the beginning of Babylon), as was the case with Whiplash and La La Land.

In Babylon, the story depicts an incredibly insane (but in a good way) take on Hollywood's silent film era during the late 1920s, and how the 'talkies' (movies with sound) wrought havoc on it the following decade. We see this transition have a huge impact on the four main characters in Chazelle's comedy drama: Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie), Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt), Sidney Palmer (Jovan Adepo) and Manny Torres (Diego Calva).

Only two of the four characters above make it through this transition relatively unscathed.

Even though it was hugely exaggerated, the depiction of set life in Babylon made me both dread and appreciate the fact that I experience this as a background actor...which I've been working as since late 2011.

And just like with the final scene in the movie (spoilers ahead), where Manny Torres grows teary-eyed as he watches a couple of 'talkies' at a crowded theater after he visits his old job at Kinoscope Studios (which is actually Paramount Pictures...where I worked between mid-2005 to '06) from years past, I'll probably grow emotional in my hopeful old age thinking about my time in the entertainment industry should I finally leave it for greener pastures.

Babylon is Chazelle's love letter to filmmaking...with a montage showing actual movies like the first Avatar flick, The Matrix and Raiders of the Lost Ark featured at the end of the film. Babylon, with its extremely-long running time of 189 minutes, may not be as simple and impactful as La La Land, but it's still an intriguing flick by Chazelle that should be appreciated by filmgoers who have an extreme passion for cinema.

Merry Christmas!

A March 2006 photo of me at Paramount Pictures...which served as Kinoscope Studios in BABYLON.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

On This Day in 1997: Remembering TITANIC...

The theatrical poster for TITANIC.

It was 25 years ago today that I watched James Cameron's Oscar-winning epic about the story of Jack Dawson, Rose DeWitt Bukater and a doomed ocean liner on the big screen for the first time.

I originally saw Titanic at the theater to receive extra credit for my British Literature class in high school. I was completing my first semester of senior year when the film was released in cinemas nationwide.

Little did I know, Titanic would become the highest-grossing film ever (after enduring controversy about its whopping $200 million production budget...which was unheard of for movies at the time), win 11 Academy Awards, spawn a hugely popular song in Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On, and become such an enduring flick that I saw it on the big screen almost a dozen times—through the summer of 1998!

I was hoping Titanic would be back in theaters for its 25-year anniversary this month, but it's all good. (Cameron obviously wanted the focus to be on the newly-released Avatar: The Way of Water.) I watched Titanic in IMAX a few times when it celebrated its 20-year anniversary in 2017, so it's nice to know that I was able to re-experience this amazing movie at the multiplex recently.

Only 5 more years till we might see Titanic on the big screen again for its 30-year anniversary! Happy Christmas Eve.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

On This Day in 2002: Remembering THE TWO TOWERS...

The theatrical poster for THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS.

It was 20 years ago today that I watched the second installment of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy at the movie theater.

The Two Towers was the best film in Jackson's cinematic trifecta, but it was understandable that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences would wait another year to hand the trilogy an Oscar trophy for Best Picture...with 2003's The Return of the King.

There were so many cool aspects of The Two Towers, from the Tree Ents and Andy Serkis' initial portrayal of Gollum to the Battle of Helm's Deep. And let's not forget the amazing music score by Howard Shore as well.

I was in my fifth year of college when The Two Towers was released in theaters nationwide. That's probably not a factoid I should be proud of sharing here... Happy Tuesday!