Monday, December 11, 2017

Official Trailer for the Upcoming Action Film "Stratton"

Momentum Pictures recently released the official trailer for their upcoming film "Stratton". The film stars Dominic Cooper (Captain America: The First Avenger, Need for Speed), Austin Stowell (Whiplash, Colossal), Gemma Chan (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Submarine), Thomas Kretschmann (Jungle, King Kong), Tyler Hoechlin ("Teen Wolf," Everybody Wants Some!!)​, with Tom Felton (Harry Potter series)​, Connie Nielsen (Wonder Woman, Gladiator)​ and Derek Jacobi (Murder on the Orient Express, The King's Speech).

"Stratton" hits theaters in limited release and VOD on January 5th.

Plot Synopsis:

Stratton, a Special Boat Service operative for MI6, and his American counterpart Marty, scope a laboratory complex in Iran in order to intercept deadly biochemical weapons. This most complex of missions goes spectacularly wrong however and in the mayhem Marty is mortally wounded. Stratton knows his trusted friend isn't going to make it. Back at base Stratton is summoned by the big boss at MI6. She has received intel that a former Soviet operative - Barovski - has gone rogue. Thought to be dead for the last 20 years, it is believed Barovski has plans to take revenge on his former paymasters by using stolen chemical weapons. From hereon in, Stratton and his team must draw on all their training and experience to race against time and stop the unimaginable happening.

​Based on the novel series of the ​same name,​ STRATTON is directed by Simon West (The Expendables 2, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) and stars Dominic Cooper (Captain America: The First Avenger, Need for Speed), Austin Stowell (Whiplash, Colossal), Gemma Chan (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Submarine), Thomas Kretschmann (Jungle, King Kong), Tyler Hoechlin ("Teen Wolf," Everybody Wants Some!!)​, with Tom Felton (Harry Potter series)​ and Connie Nielsen (Wonder Woman, Gladiator)​ and Derek Jacobi (Murder on the Orient Express, The King's Speech).

​ "Stratton": Official Trailer

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 630th Edition

Welcome to the 630th Edition of my series.  The playoffs have started in my fantasy league and this one is more like the NFL playoffs that go three weeks and take the top six teams.  I ended up in second place and was able to get a bye for this week so will play next week and hope to win it all.  There is not much else happening so onto my selections.

Joyeux Noel (2005):  I start the week out with this WWI holiday film which is based on a true story.  Christian Carion wrote and directed this film based on the WWI unofficial and unauthorized event which is referred to as "the Christmas Truce".  This happened in 1914 where French, British, and German soldiers all agreed not to a ceasefire during Christmas Eve.  This is the most known occurrence of what happened and is told through the eyes of multiple characters.  Diane Kruger, Benno Furmann, Guillaume Canet, Gary Lewis, Dany Boon, Daniel Bruhl, Lucas Belvaux, Ian Richardson, and many others co-star in this film.  There is still some war footage in the the film so there is some pretty brutal violence but still a pretty moving film.  My own hometown of Muncie wrote a radio play of this event in which I auditioned for but unfortunately was not cast.  This is in both the French and German languages for those that just cannot do subtitles but for those that can, they should give this a shot.

Arthur Christmas (2011):  This is my animated movie for the week and a holiday movie.  This takes place around the north pole and the title character Arthur, voiced by James McAvoy, is the younger and clumsy son of an aging Santa Claus, voiced by Jim Broadbent, and the North Pole has come a long way with the technology and is no longer just a reindeer and sleigh but many other state of the art vehicles with a mission control group seeing over the homes.  Arthur discovers that one home was missed which does not sit well with him and along with his grandfather, voiced by Bill Nighy, who was Santa and not liking the newer ways, they set out on a sled in hopes of getting gifts to the missed child.  Hugh Laurie, Imelda Staunton, Ashley Jenson, Marc Wootton, Laura Linney, Eva Longoria, Ramona Marquez, Michael Palin, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Robbie Coltrane, Joan Cusack, Rhys Darby, Jane Horrocks, Iain McKee, Andy Serkis, Dominic West, and many others provide their voices in this animated holiday movie.

Hugo (2011):  Martin Scorsese directed this film based on the book by Brian Selznick. Asa Butterfield plays the title character who is an orphan living in the walls of a train station after his father dies. He learns how to keep the clocks going so he sneaks around there so he does not get put in an orphanage. Before his father dies, they have a robot they were trying to get working so he spends his life trying to fix it and stealing from a crank vender, played by Ben Kingsley, who he finds has an unexpected connection.  Sacha Baran Cohen, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ray Winstone, Emily Mortimer, Jude Law, and Christopher Lee co-star. Christopher Lee had a small but very good part and was probably the most light-hearted character I have seen him play after years of seeing him playing parts like Dracula, Saruman, Count Dooku, among others. What this movie really is however is an homage towards the early days of cinema.  This movie has a great story and very educational into the pioneering days of film but will not give anything more away.   Years ago, I saw this in the theaters and purposely did not read anything into this and it was the best way to watch it in my opinion.  This is a pretty fun animated movie for the family to watch and an interesting take on the North Pole and how things have progressed due to technology.

Human Reproduction (1950):  This is my short film for the week which is one of those dated sex education videos.  A young boy learns he is to become a big brother and is curious on how babies are made so dad must explain to him.  This is mostly a straight forward short that talks about the human reproductive system and I believe one of the first educational shorts they showed in classes.  This is available on Amazon Prime with "Sex Education Films".

I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932):  Mervyn LeRoy directed this film based on the book by Robert E. Burns which the movie was written about but changed the name. Paul Muni stars as James Allen who gets home after serving in WWI and hoping to do more than be an office clerk in his hometown.  He decides he wants to be an engineer after some of his experiences in the army and becomes a bit of a drifter.  He ends up being a the wrong place at the wrong time and with the wrong person who ends up robbing a restaurant and James gets blamed.  He gets sentenced to the chain gang to a rather long sentence.  While he tries to serve it, the brutal conditions provoke him to make an escape.  Glenda Farrell, Helen Vinson, Noel Francis, Preston Foster, Allen Jenkins, and many others co-star in this film.  Watching this again, I realized this is a LES MISERABLES sort of story so those that have seen Les Mis and then see this will likely understand what I am talking about so make this a double feature.  I have always liked Paul Muni and feel he has gone onto become a very underrated actor from this era who was just as talented if not more than the famous names out there today.  This movie did do a lot for prison conditions and the brutal chain gang.  Another interesting thing about this movie was that the real-life Robert E. Burns was pardoned after the release of this film after being on the run.

Hercules Against the Moon Men (1964):  This is my MST3K selection for the week.  Sergio Ciani stars as Hercules who is going against the evil Queen Samara.  Samara has aligned herself with aliens and demanding sacrifice of her own people to awaken a moon goddess.  There is not much else that I need to say I don't think.  It is a pretty fun camp classic if you are not expecting greatness.  Joel and is robots riff well into this one.  This like the rest of MST3K is available on Netflix.

Holiday Inn (1942):  I bring another holiday film that is mainly a Christmas movie but takes a look at many holidays.  Mark Sandrich directs this film that stars Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire as Jim Hardy and Ted Hanover who are sometimes partners but always seem to be romance rivals.  Jim gets tired of working all the time and has the ultimate idea to open a hotel and only have it open on the holidays so that he gets more days off.  Ted is also able to make his way into the business with his smooth ways which set off some tension.  Marjorie Reynolds, Virginia Dale, Walter Abel, Louise Beavers, Irving Bacon, and many others co-star in this film.  I have always enjoyed this, mostly with the thought of the great idea for the business and seeing Bing Crosby in blackface also makes this worth it.  Irving Berlin wrote the music to these holidays and wrote some very clever songs.  He also introduced us to WHITE CHRISTMAS which Crosby sings putting the idea into the head of many people to think we just need a white Christmas when we really do not need it but I have always let that pass.  Anyone who knows me though knows I hate snow.

Lady Bird (2017):  I decided to make my way into the theater to see this film I have heard good things about and no this is not about former first lady Lady Bird Johnson.  I had not been there for a long time and for the first time saw the recliner chairs they put into our local theater.  Greta Gerwig wrote and directed this coming of age film which stars Saorise Ronan as Christine McPherson whose nickname is Lady Bird.  She is a senior in high school from the "wrong side of the tracks" in Sacramento, California and shows her struggles in life with a relationship, school play and trying to apply for colleges.  Timothee Chalamet, Odeya Rush, Laurie Metcalf, Kathryn Newton, Lucas Hedges, Laura Marano, Beanie Feldstein, Lois Smith, Tracy Letts, Andy Buckley, Stephen Henderson, and many others co-star in this film.  It is hard to describe this one further as it really revolves around the character of Lady Bird.  I thought Ronan did a good job of making her a mostly everyday person that many can relate.

The Silencers (1966):  Phil Karson directed this spy comedy which is based on the novels by Donald Hamilton and maybe came out due to the rise of James Bond.  Dean Martin stars as Matt Helm who is an agent in retirement but is talked out of it to go after an organization called Big O who has a plan called Operation:  Fallout which if happens could start WWIII so the charismatic Matt Helm must try to stop this plan.  Stella Stevens, Daliah Lavi, Victor Buono, Arthur O'Connell, Robert Webber, James Gregory, Nancy Kovack, Roger Carmel, Cyd Charise, David Bond, and many others co-star in this comedy.  I did not know that Dean Martin played this kind of character and it is part of a series in which this is the first.  This is nothing great but did have some pretty funny moments and some rather clever weapons that could compete with the ones they made in the Bond films.

Little Fish (2005):  I end the week with this Australian film.  Rowan Woods directed this movie that takes place in the Little Saigon district outside of Sydney.  Cate Blanchett stars as Tracy heart who is a recovering drug addict and clean for four years.  She is trying to make it in life managing the local video shop but is looking for more in life but struggles to get the loan she needs from the bank to get to become a partner in the business.  Her ex-boyfriend Jonny, played by Dustin Nguyen, claiming to be clean and a stockbroker but is not who he claims.  Desperate for the money, she joins Johnny and her brother Ray, played by Martin Henderson, in a drug deal.  Sam Neill, Hugo Weaving, Joel Tobeck, Lisa McCune, Susie Porter, Nina Liu, and many others co-star in this film.  This is another one that centers around the characters and showing how difficult it can be for a drug addict to move forward in life.  The good script and performances drive this crime drama and relatively unknown film.

Well, that is it for the week.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far include Michael Douglas, and many others.

Friday, December 8, 2017

First Trailer for Robert Rodriguez's Latest Film "Alita: Battle Angel"

20th Century Fox recently released the first trailer for Robert Rodriguez's (Sin City, Desperado) upcoming film "Alita: Battle Angel". The film is produced by James Cameron (Avatar). The film stars Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley and Keean Johnson.

"Alita: Battle Angel" hits theaters on July 20th.

For more information on this film, you can goto:

Plot Synopsis:

Visionary filmmakers James Cameron (AVATAR) and Robert Rodriguez (SIN CITY) create a groundbreaking new heroine in ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL, an action-packed story of hope, love and empowerment. Set several centuries in the future, the abandoned Alita (Rosa Salazar) is found in the scrapyard of Iron City by Ido (Christoph Waltz), a compassionate cyber-doctor who takes the unconscious cyborg Alita to his clinic. When Alita awakens she has no memory of who she is, nor does she have any recognition of the world she finds herself in. Everything is new to Alita, every experience a first. As she learns to navigate her new life and the treacherous streets of Iron City, Ido tries to shield Alita from her mysterious past while her street-smart new friend, Hugo (Keean Johnson), offers instead to help trigger her memories. A growing affection develops between the two until deadly forces come after Alita and threaten her newfound relationships. It is then that Alita discovers she has extraordinary fighting abilities that could be used to save the friends and family she's grown to love. Determined to uncover the truth behind her origin, Alita sets out on a journey that will lead her to take on the injustices of this dark, corrupt world, and discover that one young woman can change the world in which she lives.

"Alita: Battle Angel": Teaser Trailer

Official Stills for the Upcoming Western "The Ballad of Lefty Brown"

A24 recently released stills for the upcoming western "The Ballad of Lefty Brown". The film stars Bill Pullman, Kathy Baker, Jim Caviezel, Joe Anderson, Diego Josef, Tommy Flanagan and Peter Fonda.

"The Ballad of Lefty Brown" hits theaters in limited release on December 15th.

Plot Synopsis:

When cowboy Lefty Brown (Bill Pullman) witnesses the murder of his longtime partner — the newly-elected Senator Edward Johnson (Peter Fonda) — he strikes out to find the killers and avenge his friend's gruesome death. Tracking the outlaws across the vast and desolate Montana plains, Lefty recruits a young gunslinger, Jeremiah (Diego Josef), and an old friend, a hard-drinking U.S. Marshall (Tommy Flanagan), to help deliver the men to justice. After a gunfight with the outlaws leaves Jeremiah wounded, Lefty returns home with the names of Johnson's killers only to find that he is being accused of his friend's murder. With the tables turned, and with his friend in the governor's mansion (Jim Caviezel) refusing to help, Lefty must evade the law and prove his innocence by exposing the powerful men ultimately responsible for Johnson's death. A thrilling and action-packed Western, The Ballad of Lefty Brown is a story about loyalty, friendship, and the relentless pursuit of justice.

Accept "Friend Request" on DVD & Blu-Ray

Entertainment Studios and Lionsgate recently released DVD and Blu-Ray information for their upcoming release "Friend Request". The film stars Alycia Debnam-Carey (“Fear the Walking Dead,” Into the Storm), William Moseley (The Chronicles of Narnia franchise, “The Royals”), Connor Paolo (“Revenge,” “Gossip Girl”), Brit Morgan (“Supergirl,” “Graceland”) and Liesl Ahlers (The Challenger Disaster).

Special features on the DVD & Blu-Ray includes “Friend Request: The Social Nightmare” Featurette.

Friend Request hits retail on January 9th.

Press Release:

The consequences are deadly when black magic mixes with social media in Friend Request, arriving on Digital December 19 and on Blu-ray™ (plus Digital), DVD and On Demand January 9 from Lionsgate. Alycia Debnam-Carey (“Fear the Walking Dead,” Into the Storm) leads the terrifying feature, which also stars William Moseley (The Chronicles of Narnia franchise, “The Royals”), Connor Paolo (“Revenge,” “Gossip Girl”), Brit Morgan (“Supergirl,” “Graceland”) and Liesl Ahlers (The Challenger Disaster).

Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey) is a popular college student who lives her college life to the fullest and gladly shares it with her 800 Facebook friends. But when she accepts a friend request from her mysterious classmate Marina (Liesl Ahlers), she unwittingly sets a terrible curse in motion. The dead girl’s impenetrable profile begins to drive Laura into isolation. It takes control of Laura’s virtual world and her real life as well. One after another, her closest friends die horrendous deaths, leaving Laura with only a few days to solve the enigma of this haunting curse to save the few friends she has left, as well as her own life.

The home entertainment release of Friend Request features exclusive bonus content including the “Friend Request: The Social Nightmare” featurette. A compelling blend of horror movie traditions and modern social media elements, Friend Request will be available on Blu-ray and DVD for the suggested retail price of $21.99 and $19.98, respectively.

Vengeance Thriller "Bad Day for the Cut" Blasts It's Way to Blu-Ray

Well Go USA recently sent us information for their upcoming blu-ray release of "Bad Day for the Cut". The film stars Nigel O’Neill (The Old Irish Washer Woman), Susan Lynch (From Hell), Józef Pawlowsku (Warsaw '44), Stuart Graham (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), David Pearse (“Vikings”), Brian Milligan (Leap Year), Anna Prochniak (The Innocents), with Stella McCusker (Five Minutes of Heaven) and Ian McElhinney (Rogue One, “Game of Thrones”).

"Bad Day for the Cut" hits retail on January 9th.

Press Release:

A mild-mannered farmer becomes a gun-totin’ vigilante on a bloody quest to avenge his beloved mother’s brutal murder in the witty and ultra-violent neo-noir BAD DAY FOR THE CUT, blasting its way onto Blu-ray™ January 9 from Well Go USA Entertainment. Chris Baugh makes his explosive directorial debut with this action-packed tale of revenge starring Nigel O’Neill (The Old Irish Washer Woman), Susan Lynch (From Hell), Józef Pawlowsku (Warsaw '44), Stuart Graham (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), David Pearse (“Vikings”), Brian Milligan (Leap Year), Anna Prochniak (The Innocents), with Stella McCusker (Five Minutes of Heaven) and Ian McElhinney (Rogue One, “Game of Thrones”). BAD DAY FOR THE CUT made its world debut in the Midnight section at the Sundance Film Festival.

Synopsis: In this witty and ultra-violent thriller, a mild-mannered farmer sets off on a bloody quest for vengeance after his elderly mother is murdered. As he tracks her killers through the criminal underworld of Belfast, he begins to realize that there was a darker side to his beloved mother – and to himself.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

"Murder on the Orient Express" Review by Tim Hellman

'MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS': Three and a Half Stars (Out of Five)

A new cinematic version of Agatha Christie's classic 1934 murder mystery novel, which has been adapted into films three times before. Kenneth Branagh directed, produced and stars in the movie; as the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. Poirot is in charge of investigating a murder on the famous Orient Express. It was written by Michael Green, who's recent writing credits include co-scripting 'BLADE RUNNER 2049', 'LOGAN' and 'ALIEN COVENANT'. The film also features an all-star supporting cast including Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Josh Gad and Johnny Depp. Ridley Scott also served as a producer on the flick, and it was shot on 65mm film. The movie has received mostly positive reviews from critics (although none are really raving about it), and it's also done modestly well at the Box Office too. I found it to be well made, and mostly (at least mildly) entertaining, but I'm definitely not raving about it either.

The story begins in 1930s Jerusalem, where the famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Branagh) is solving a case. He's then expecting to go on a highly anticipated vacation. Before he can go on it though, he's given a telegram asking for his assistance on another case. His friend Buoc (Tom Bateman), who now directs the famous 'Orient Express', offers him a three day ride to his destination. Poirot meets a variety of different characters on his trip, including an American criminal named Samuel Ratchett (Depp). Ratchett asks the detective for his help, in acting as his personal bodyguard, but Poirot declines (stating that he doesn't aide criminals, he only catches them). Later Ratchett is killed, and the train is derailed by an avalanche. While the passengers are all stranded there, Poirot conducts an investigation to find out who killed Ratchett, and of course it has to be someone who's still on the train.

The movie is beautiful to look at; it looks like a classic big screen epic at almost all times. Branagh is of course a very talented filmmaker, and actor too, and he doesn't disappoint here. Most of the rest of the celebrities have little to do though; with the exception of Pfeiffer, who's always good in almost everything she does (it seems like). The story is a classic mystery as well, but (as I already said) it's been done multiple times before, and there's nothing really new here. I did have a mostly good time watching it though, but it's also nothing that will stay with me for very long.