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El Rey Network

El Rey Network

There’s a beauty of convenience in modern cable TV. Sure, the average cable package contains roughly 659,000 channels, but that’s also more or less a guarantee that if you want to watch something, there’s a channel somewhere that carries it (and besides, you’ve got to pay for all 659,000 to get the one Orangutan Reality Network you’re actually interested in, so you might is well enjoy the excess).

El Rey is one such niche network. Launched by Robert Rodriguez in December of last year, El Rey is basically a collection of shows and films given Rodriguez’ person “yes, this is cool” seal of approval. Or, at least it was last year. Now, a half a year or so into its youth, El Rey has begun the molting process, and is starting to look like a bona fide cable channel, picking up original series and adding new voices alongside Rodriguez to dole out the approvals of cool.

One such new show would be Matador, which follows DEA agent Tony Bravo (Gabriel Luna), posing undercover as a pro soccer player to bust a team owner (Alfred Molina) who may or may not be some kind of large-scale supervillain.

Rodriguez filmed the Matador finale last week, and I was there, to loiter around the set and learn the ins and outs of El Rey’s cable TV journey from Rodriguez, Luna, and Matador creator/executive producer Roberto Orci. And I will detail those ins and outs to you, in case you have the urge to start a cable channel of your own (if someone wants to spearhead the Orangutan Reality Network, I’d be all for it).

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Pierce Brosnan in The November Man

Relativity Studios

It wasn’t until this week that I became aware of The November Man, which opens as early as next Wednesday. Hey, it’s not like I write about movies for a living or anything.

But outside of barely paying attention to a commercial for the Pierce Brosnan-led action thriller the other night, I still haven’t given it much thought. I also haven’t heard much buzz or anticipation for the movie, which is directed by Roger Donaldson (reunited with his Dante’s Peak star) and is about an ex-CIA operative who has to take down his former protege while tiptoeing around a compromised agency. Should be interesting to see another evocation of Three Days of the Condor so soon after Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Yet unfortunately it looks more generic than that, like it’s following instead in the footsteps of another movie with the same number in the title: 3 Days to Kill.

Today I’ve been made more curious about The November Man, though, thanks to the announcement of a sequel. According to ComingSoon.net, Relativity Studios has already greenlit the follow-up in advance of the first movie hitting theaters. This isn’t that strange considering the prospective film franchise is based on a series of spy novels by Bill Granger. Just think of that author (who died in 2012) as the latest Ian Fleming or Robert Ludlum, especially since the president of production at Relativity is calling this a reinvention of the genre “combining the best elements of James Bond and Jason Bourne while echoing the cool, sleek action movies of the 70s.” Obviously it’s notable that Brosnan was James Bond for a while. 

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Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios

2014′s summer movie season comes to an end in a week or so, but while some folks will be editorializing about the box office being down 15-20% compared to last summer and others express surprise that a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy could be days away from becoming the year’s highest grossing domestic hit, we here at FSR have a different agenda.

Simply put, we saw a lot of great movies this summer, and we hope you did too.

The year’s best “big” movie (per me anyway), Captain America: The Winter Soldier, missed the summer cutoff as it opened in early April, but there were still some fantastic blockbuster-type flicks that entertained the hell out of us over the past four months. Of course, there were also some brilliant smaller films too. An informal staff survey revealed a mix of both to be our favorites of the summer. Keep reading to see which movies moved us the most from May through August.

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Yoga Hosers

A24

Absolutely terrible title aside, it sure sounds like Kevin Smith‘s next film — no, no, not Tusk, not the one about a guy who tries to turn Justin Long into a walrus, which still sounds like the most demented thing we have to look forward to this year and perhaps ever, but the one after that — could be a whole lot of fun. After all, the film is going to be a family affair and the closest thing that Smith has ever come to a comic book movie. It’s also called Yoga HosersOof. The Hollywood Reporter shares that Smith has enlisted the star power of Johnny Depp for the feature, who will also be bringing along his daughter, Lily-Rose Depp, for a leading role. Convenient, really, considering that Smith has also added his own daughter, Harley Quinn Smith, to the cast. Cute! Nepotism-tastic! Somewhere in between!

The younger Depp and Smith are actually the true stars of the feature, as the film “centers on 15-year-old yoga nuts Colleen Collette (Lily-Rose Depp) and Colleen McKenzie (Harley Quinn Smith), who have an after-school job at a Manitoba convenience store called Eh-2-Zed. When an ancient evil rises from beneath Canada’s crust and threatens their big invitation to a Grade 12 party, the Colleens join forces with a legendary man-hunter from Montreal named Guy Lapointe (Depp) to fight for their lives with, according to the producers, ‘all seven Chakras, one Warrior Pose at a time.’”

So, they love yoga and they are going to use it to fight an evil. And, also, it sounds kind of adorably high-schooly. And Smith thinks it’s a comic book movie. Wait. What? Is there a comic book about yoga teens out there that we don’t already know about? Nope — Smith has just decided that he can make a “comic book movie” without, well, a comic book.

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expedition ship

When a movie as magnificent as Expedition to the End of the World comes along, it’s hard to find the right words to describe it. Awesome comes to mind, but that sounds so broad. It’s a word that has had its meaning diluted through generations of it being used to merely mean “cool.” For most people, it’s not even a good enough word by itself anymore. First it was unnecessarily given more oomph with phrases like “totally awesome,” and now it’s part of the utterly ridiculous slang expression “awesome sauce.” But the true, original definition of the word is the most fit for a documentary that delivers us to the wonder of our planet’s destruction with such amazing and daunting splendor. And in a way, it’s probably appropriate to use a word that’s lost something in its evolution.

The title of the film refers to both the edge of the earth as well as its demise, and yet the journey in question is hardly one of alarm. Just as the physical end of the world is an illusion, given that it’s not flat, the temporal terminus is just a point somewhere amidst the infinity. Expedition to the End of the World follows a group of explorers sailing toward the North Pole along the Northeast coast of Greenland, a trip made possible only recently thanks to global warming, in order to study the newly exposed environment on every level. Scientists aboard the schooner Activ include a geologist, a geochemist, a marine biologist, a zoologist, an archaeologist and a geographer. There are also artists along for the adventure, aside from the filmmakers, which provides for some of the doc’s deepest discussions, on art versus science and ultimately how each is important for our understanding the universe.

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Sin City A Dame to Kill For

The Weinstein Company

Josh Brolin‘s performance in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For isn’t wildly dissimilar to his work in Men in Black III. They’re very different films and performances, of course, but both prequels feature Brolin inheriting a role from another actor. Brolin eerily embodied Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K, while in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For he’s channeling Clive Owen’s work as Dwight McCarthy from the first movie. This is Dwight before he had to change his face, which, in case you haven’t read Frank Miller‘s comics, is why Owen isn’t back playing the character.

Whether Josh Brolin studied Clive Owen’s performance never came up in our wide-ranging conversation with the actor, who’s clearly pleased with both the film and his performance. With the exception of Labor Day – a film I’ll readily go to bat for — it’s the first time since True Grit Brolin hasn’t had to carry a movie. Not because he isn’t the lead, but looking at OldboyGangster Squad, and Men in Black III, the end products often weren’t on par with Brolin’s work in them. Thankfully, that’s not the case in this instance, nor should it be in the near-future.

Brolin has Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice coming up, the Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar!, and Everest, a survival pic boasting an impressive cast. He’s also playing Thanos in the Marvel Universe. Brolin has a lot going on at the moment, but he took the time to speak with us at the junket for Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

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Screen Media Films

Screen Media Films

It’s only been ten months since a Stephen King film was playing in theaters, but we’re already just two months away from the next. Once upon a time that year-long wait between adaptations would have seemed crazy– back in the ’80s and early ’90s there were frequently two or three of them in the multiplexes simultaneously – but he hasn’t been nearly as ubiquitous onscreen in the 21st century. There have only been nine feature films based on his work since 2000, and pretty much only one of them is worth a damn.

His latest stab at the box-office is A Good Marriage, a film written by King from his own short story. The always fantastic Joan Allen plays a woman who discovers her loving husband (Anthony LaPaglia) may just be a serial killer. There’s no shortage of movies about couples, secrets and the possibility that one of them might be a murderer, but the ones that work best (Presumed Innocent, Jagged Edge) succeed in part because of the mystery and suspense as to whether the person is guilty.

The first trailer for A Good Marriage seems uninterested in taking that route.

Check out the uninspired trailer below and keep reading to see what other films King has in the adaptation pipeline.

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Twilight Texting in Theaters

Here’s some fun news to read after watching the trailer for Jason Reitman’s latest (see our post from earlier today). And by fun, I’m sure for many of you I should mean infuriating. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Chinese cinemas are testing out a new system for interactive moviegoing where the audience is able to contribute to running commentary of the film on screen. The gimmick involves “bullet screens,” which are named such for the way the messages scroll across the movie, and it’s a concept that’s been around for a while online in Japan and more recently China. The new big screen version, though, can currently be found in 50 theaters in Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and other cities, specifically at showings of the 3D animated feature The Legend of Qin.

Why an animated feature? Because it’s mostly young people who are interested in the danmu craze, as bullet screens are called over there (danmaku in Japan), and because as THR relays from a translated Chinese publication, it’s “for younger viewers who can’t spend five minutes away from their tablet or phone.” That sounds like theater owners are both cashing in on a trend (each text sent to screen costs 10 cents) and perpetuating a new social problem that probably doesn’t need encouragement. This is the same country that, as shown in the new documentary Web Junkie, has enough of an issue with youths being addicted to the Internet that they’ve become the first in the world to label it a clinical disorder. Interestingly enough, the director of The Legend of Qin is supportive of the idea, claiming that “many of the opinions of the viewers are very helpful for filmmakers.”

Uh huh. Wait until you see what bullet screens look like, at least of the online sort, in the video below.

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THE ADMIRAL

CJ Entertainment

Admiral Yi Sun-shin (Choi Min-sik) was a revered Korean military commander, but after a Japanese plot involving false intelligence left him looking like a traitor he was relieved of duty and tortured by the men he had previously served and fought beside. The government’s attitude changes though when a second Japanese invasion heads towards their shores in 1597. The invaders sink most of the Korean navy and aim their forces for the capital, Joseon, leading a reluctant king to reinstate Yi as their last hope of fending off the enemy.

He has his work cut out for him as only twelve ships remain in his ocean-going arsenal, a number that pales beside the 300+ Japanese vessels heading their way, but with the right strategy and the right location one man can fend off thousands. Well, that’s his working theory anyway.

The Admiral — also known as the far more accurate and descriptive Roaring Currents outside of the U.S. — is a new South Korean film that tackles a legendary true tale from the Joseon Dynasty period, and it does so with historical detail and cinematic flair. In a way it splits those two attributes evenly into two halves of the film, and while both have their strengths they’re equally balanced by somewhat minor issues.

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Men Women and Children

Paramount Pictures

Does Jason Reitman hate texting? From the looks of the first trailer for his Men, Women & Childrenthat definitely seems to be the case. Reitman’s latest is all about the secrets we keep online and that threaten to leak into the real world — which makes it kind of weird that the film’s marketing is encouraging fans to use the Whisper app to share their secrets, because that sure seems like something that’s pushing precisely what the film is against – with everyone constantly staring at their phones and looking shocked. Not a fan of films that use cute graphics to share texts, emails and pix on the big screen? Oh, you’re going to hate this one.

Reitman’s film centers on a loosely connected group of students and their families, though it appears that they are all linked by their mutual sadness and disconnection. Put down your phones. Start living your lives. The Internet is bad. You are watching this trailer on the Internet, which is weird, right? Hmm. Watch the first trailer for Men, Women & Children after the break. You can probably do it on your phone.

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Bradley Cooper in The A-Team

Fox

Although Bradley Cooper was not physically onscreen during this summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy as the feisty and volatile Rocket Raccoon, his role voicing the smallest defender of the universe put him squarely on the path to becoming a bonafide action star. That raccoon knew what he was doing around a ray gun. And no, starring in the 2010 reboot of The A-Team definitely does not count. Cooper has never been an actor who has sat idly in his roles, picking parts that run the gamut from comedy, to romance, to drama and satire; it’s a natural progression that transforming into an action star would be next.

Warner Bros. has a plan, acquiring the book rights to Mack Bolan, a character created by Don Pendleton, to create a starring vehicle for Cooper. The author chronicled Bolan in 37 novels often referred to as “The Mafia Wars,” but ghostwriters kept him alive in hundred of other serializations over the years. Bolan is a tough as nails anti-terrorist operative who is all-American and bleeds red, white and blue. He’s often in extremely sticky situations, but pulls himself out unscathed — usually with a new romantic conquest at his side at the end of the adventure. Think along the lines if James Bond were from Massachusetts and served as a Green Beret.

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The Jungle Book

Disney

There is a down and dirty street fight a-rumblin’ between The Jungle Book and The Jungle Book: Origins. Both are adaptations of Rudyard Kipling‘s classic boy-meets-bear novel “The Jungle Book.” Both are releasing within a year of each other, with the former (backed up by Disney and director Jon Favreau) coming next October, and the latter (WB and Andy Serkis) set to launch next next October.

Prepare yourself for at least a solid year of back and forth Three Stooges eye-gouging between the two.

Today is the first meeting of finger and soft, unguarded eyeball. The Hollywood Reporter has the first piece of casting for Serkis’ Jungle Book: Origins, and it happens to be really, really stellar casting: Benedict Cumberbatch will play the skulking, boy-hungry tiger Shere Khan. Picture in your mind’s eye, a staggeringly lifelike digital tiger, a la Life of Pi. Except when he opens that fanged maw, a regal Smaug smoothness pours out (probably not as deep in tone as Smaug’s was, but you never know). As he pads about, the slinky English lilt in his voice barely disguises how much he would enjoy disemboweling and consuming us all.

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Uncle-Buck-Scenes

Universal Pictures

Maybe it’s because the anniversary fell on the weekend, but it’s shocking how few tributes there are to Uncle Buck turning 25. I know, it’s only John Hughes‘s second-highest-grossing movie as a director (out of eight), and only currently (according to Rotten Tomatoes) the ninth best-reviewed of his movies in any creative capacity (out of 31). I understand that it’s a fairly insignificant comedy without a lot of cultural or historical relevance. It’s just Mr. Mom (scripted by Hughes) without the social contexts of the recession and the rise of women in the workforce that makes that movie an important piece of American cinema. It’s a sitcom that didn’t even translate well to television. A saccharine family film that’s actually not that appropriate for children — and that’s after a cut was made to the theatrical version due to parent complaints (the drunk clown scene was apparently more profane).

Uncle Buck might suffer for being sort of sandwiched between two more popular movies: Planes, Trains and Automobiles, which may have inspired John Candy‘s role here, and Home Alone, which is said to have been inspired by a scene with Macaulay Culkin in this movie. Yet speaking of Culkin, he’s one of the reasons that Uncle Buck deserves more recognition. While the movie is primarily a vehicle for Candy and his sloven, ignorant and occasionally violent childcare shtick, it’s most notable for its youngest players, namely Culkin and Gaby Hoffmann, who own every scene they’re in, with or without their large co-star. Their performances are mainly limited to reaction shots, yet they’re some of the most perfect reaction shots in all of history, never wearing out the fact that they’re responsible for being the punchline of every joke or gag laid out by Candy.

The rest of the little kids appearing in the movie are great, too, whether background or featured extras. I think we can thank casting director Billy Hopkins, who pretty much discovered Culkin (and maybe also gave Anna Chlumsky her first shot here, though extras casting is credited to The Geddes Agency), but obviously Hughes deserves credit for what he does with the future kid star’s breakout appearance. Whoever is most due of commendation, below are a handful of scenes from the movie that highlight the best of the child actors’ work in the movie.

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