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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Loot Crate Review: March 2015

How does March 2015's box rate? Click below to find out!

Story by Matt Cummings

As a recent subscriber to Loot Crate - the monthly geek subscription box service - I find myself to be a little late to the party. It's not that I wasn't unimpressed with my first Crate in February, but perhaps the trinkets just weren't what I was expecting. But that was last month, and yesterday my March Crate arrived a little dinged up, so I opened it with renewed vigor. And while I was impressed with its contents, I do have lingering questions.

First, let's be clear: I am not expecting to open the box to find a Marvel Legends figure like I did when I purchased Marvel Unlimited for my tablet, and I do recognize that many of the items can be flipped on eBay, thus recouping most if not all of my money. Second, for those who don't know, Loot Crate is a monthly subscription box containing hand-picked, cool geeky stuff wrapped around a theme. A $20 subscription gets 6-8 products which are guaranteed to be worth more than $30. Now that we've gotten past those stipulations, let's look at the contents.

Same nondescript packaging. This could be a nerd's delight or sex toy of the month. Perhaps it's both?

Upon cracking the case, we find a keyboard and a terrific James Bond-themed shirt. Notice his reaction to seeing his favorite drink stirred, not shaken.

Lots of interesting stuff in here. Where should I start?
One of the most interesting items in the collection is this watch, which looks like a fake, until you press the top and it lights up with the time. Very stealthy, very cool.

Next up is two journals, which you can use to stalk your favorite girlfriend who actually doesn't want to be your girlfriend because you're wearing a black watch with no time on it. Weirdo.

I used to love MadLibs as a kid, and seeing this old friend again made me want to sit down with a pencil and give it a whirl. Very cool, even though I could have picked it up from a bookstore for about $4.

Another impressive piece to the Crate is this Paracord Survival Barcelet. According to the document, it can be used for “a multitude of things that possibly save a life or get you out of a crazy situation”. While I neither hike nor plan to survive anything apocalyptic, I found this to be an exceptional addition to the Crate.

Next up is the Loot Crate Magazine #20, which features articles including the Mega Crate, which goes to one lucky subscriber. The value of that baby is $2,400, which I expect to find at my front door soon. Do you hear me, Loot Crate?! Seriously, the articles are really good and it compliments the stash nicely.

As you may have heard, I am a big fan of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., so this replica lanyard from EFX Collectibles will find a place of honor inside my collectibles room. What you see here is not the actual badge: the real fun is inside. In keeping with theme, I'll keep its real identity a secret, but trust me when I say it's 100% top shelf.

Last up is Loot Crate pin and am IDW Comics Exclusive issue of Orphan Black. I'll probably send this one to eBay, along with a couple of other items, but that doesn't mean they're not worthwhile.

Never one to be lame, Loot Crate has decorated the box interior with a kayboard, a selection of letters which have been highlighted, and a QR code that once you unscramble the letters takes you to a funny Bond-esque video with a shadowy eye=patched figure. You get no new orders here, but it would have been cool to see them offer an adventure with the Crate.

In the end, March 2015's Loot Crate is filled with terrific exclusives, many of which will either bring your family tons of fun, or which could be flipped on eBay to offset the small cost of the subscription. This package was a homerun in almost every sense, but we'll see if the inconsistent nature of each month will return in April. Until then, if you see a strange man at our next screening taking notes in the bushes, see if he has any Furious 7 passes with him...

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

Adi Shankar's "In Service of Nothing" Bootleg PreViz

Adi Shankar releases another short film, this time starring James Bond.

Story by Matt Cummings

With SPECTRE releasing a character poster this week of a turtlenecked Daniel Craig, it actually wasn't the only piece of Bond-related news of note. Dredd producer Adi Shankar premiered another in his 'bootleg' short film series, which includes the ultra-violent (and ultra-awesome) Power/Rangers short. It was notorious booted off the web due to copyright issues, but soon found its way back, making an instant hit with over 13 million views. This time, he's tackled none other than James Bond in a 16-minute PreViz feature titled In Service of Nothing, directed by Tyler Gibb and produced by Shankar.

From the way Gibb and Shankar portray Sean Connery (voiced by Christopher Gee), it's definitely reminiscent of a 60's Goldfinger style, that is until we fast-forward to an aged Bond reflected on his "past transgressions." Here, Bond is a man without a purpose, a "blunt instrument" as referenced by The Man on The Boat. As he moves towards yet another kill, his voice is tired and remorseful, even as he dispenses yet another threat with his trademark Walther PPK. But it's no longer in the service of MI6 but as a gun for hire, something that neither Sam Mendes nor any other Bond director has ever tackled.

Shankar, for all his unique looks and comments, has quickly garnered the attention of movie geeks everywhere for his gritty, unapologetic style. His other shorts - The Punisher: Dirty Laundry and Venom: Truth in Journalism - demonstrate that he's willing to tackle any subject, re-writing its DNA in the process, even if mainstream Hollywood might not approve. And yet this short seems to be missing something, as if Shankar imagined a series like Judge Dredd: Superfiend. Does he have plans to make a series of Bond PreViz shorts? Or is this single release destined to be a 'didn't get it quite right' that fans will skip and ultimately forget?

While only time will tell, you're encouraged to watch the following, in which Shankar explains why he produced In Service of Nothing:

SPECTRE opens in U.S. theaters on November 6th, 2015.

Discuss this story with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

Friday, March 20, 2015

One Big Happy S01E01 Recap: Pilot

Why have a Modern Family when you can have One Big Happy?

Story by @ErikaAshley

This highly anticipated new sitcom produced by Ellen Degenerous finally debuted this past Tuesday night on NBC. The show features two childhood best friends, Luke and Lizzy, cohabitating in an apartment and living out their long time promise. Luke as the perpetual bachelor and Lizzy the OCD control freak lesbian. The promise that if they both make it to 30 years old without a significant other and child they would have each other’s offspring and raise the child together. Because you know, that’s real life.

The show begins at a pharmacy where Luke and Lizzy stop to pick up some pre-natal vitamins and some new pregnancy tests and offers too much information to the checker about her lesbian trying to conceive plan. Lizzy confirms that Luke is still willing to be the father of her child even though he has commitment issues and he reassures her he’s so ready to be a dad for her child. They get back to their place and Lizzy pees on the pregnancy test and excitedly awaits the results. Again she harps on Luke being ready and he proves to her that he’s all in by giving her two baby gifts he’s hidden for the occasion. Shortly after they check the test it is confirmed that Lizzy is not pregnant to their disappointment. Luke tries to cheer her up by offering to help her with a home DIY project and Lizzy perks up slightly and mentions they can paint an accent wall in the living room. That night the duo head to their local bar to meet with friends and confirm they are not yet pregnant. Their couple friends Roy and Leisha suggest they wait because they strong dislike their own daughter and envy Lizzy and Luke’s child-free life. Luke takes to the bar to get them more drinks and finds a beautiful busty British brunette slinging drinks. She confesses she isn’t the bartender and suggests he hop over the bar and take what he wants. Luke promptly jumps the bar and crashes to the ground but quickly bounces back up. The brunette introduces herself as Prudence and tries to hint that she’s leaving the following day back to England, but Luke pursues her hard and they agree to get drinks. The next morning Lizzy enters her kitchen find Prudence stark naked making coffee. Flustered Lizzy slightly freaks out about Prudence’s nudity and Prudence grabs her in a full buck-naked bear hug telling her she’s the worst uptight lesbian ever.

Later Luke takes Prudence to his family’s bowling alley and introduces her to his co-worker and friend Marcus. Lizzy calls upset that Luke stood her up for their paint-picking date and he tries to shrug her off telling her he has more important things to do before Prudence has to leave back to England. Hurt but accepting she says she understands. Prudence lets Luke in on a secret that she’s in the country illegally and is in fact being deported. He inexplicably tells her he loves her and she quickly responds she thinks she loves him back. The next day Luke and Prudence paint the accent wall bright red for Lizzy instead of the boring gray she chose. Lizzy comes home to see the wall and freaks out. She starts to argue with Luke and Prudence excuses herself to the bedroom to clean up. They take the bickering to the kitchen where Prudence walks through nude yet again. Their friends, Roy and Leisha, come for dinner and end up calling Lizzy out on her jealous behavior. She retorts that she isn’t jealous when Luke and Prudence come in to dinner late. They announce the got married in Vegas and Lizzy has a fit. She then announces that she’s pregnant and Luke couldn’t be happier. He’s so excited to be married and going to be a father but the ladies quickly butt in. Prudence is upset that he failed to mention Lizzy and Luke’s plan to be parents together and he says it didn’t come up. She storms out and he goes after her. Roy and Leisha interject that their parenting plan had holes in it to begin with and Lizzy tells them to shut up.

The next morning Luke comes home drunk and tells Lizzy that Prudence is out of the picture since she’s going back to England. Lizzy admits she reacted poorly and that she was jealous, she knows that she has to share him with other women but that it scares her. She suggest that Luke chase after Prudence like men do in romantic movies but he quickly passes out. Instead Lizzy goes to the airport and finds Prudence in the security check line. She begs her to come back to Luke and confesses she was jealous. Prudence agrees and they return back to the apartment. Luke thanks Lizzy for bringing back his new wife and they all hug. Luke asks, “What now?” and they all answer they have no clue but they’ll somehow make it work. He then says, “I love you,” to which both women respond and then scowl at each other while the screen fades to black.

iZombie S01E01 Recap: Pilot

She’s not dead, just undead and learning to live again.

Story by @ErikaAshley

The much anticipated and newest addition to the CW Tuesday night lineup, iZombie, has finally been unleashed on television viewers around the world. This show has some legs and could take off running during this Spring’s hiatus-period begins.

The pilot starts with a familiar comic-book entrance depicting an over achieving new resident doctor, Olivia “Liv” Moore, saving the life of an emergency trauma patient. After her heroic act and a long day’s work Liv is welcomed into her new practice by a fellow colleague extending an offer to attend a party that night. She graciously declines mentioning she doesn’t do parties and instead would rather spend time with her fiancé, Major. He insists she go to the party to let loose, I mean what’s the worst that can happen?

The worst then does happen. Of course it happens. While at the party that happens to be on a boat the white collar party-goers take a new designer drug, Utopium, which then causes a random zombie outbreak. Liv tries running away from the deadly celebration only to be attacked by a zombie and the next thing she knows, she’s “waking up” on the shore in a body bag. She emerges from her yellow plastic cocoon as a full-fledged zombie craving brains and all. As a result of the new metamorphoses she calls off her engagement to Major, quits her job at the hospital and takes up a new more suitable career in the morgue. Liv starts spending her waking hours outside of the morgue at home watching television. Her roommate, family and ex-fiancé become concerned and stage an intervention.

After the awkward encounter with her family and friends Liv returns to work at the morgue where she has taken to syphoning the brains from cadavers. Her newest colleague, Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti, has to run an errand and leaves Liv alone with their most recent Jane Doe. Liv takes the opportunity to have a nice meal of fresh Jane Doe brains with extra hot sauce (because she only tastes food that is extremely unbearable spicy) when Ravi comes back to bust her in the act. Instead of being upset or freaking out Ravi is fascinated and explains how he started to suspect Liv was a zombie after all. He takes blood samples from her and checks her vitals astounded at her state of unliving and Liv is just relieved to have someone else to talk to about being a zombie. When newbie Detective Clive Babineaux arrives catching the two off guard. He asks if the two have found anything strange with Jane Doe’s body as she was a potential victim.

All of a sudden Liv has a flashback to Jane Doe’s memory and sees the girl getting arrested for shoplifting. Ravi suggests the Liv might not be feeling to well because of “something she ate” hinting at her to shut her mouth. He then does a quick internet search and comes across an arrest record for Jane Doe and suggests her name is Stefani Germanotta and before the Detective takes the bait he presses how Liv could possible know to which Ravi suggests she’s psychic. Detective Babineaux leaves laughing.

After being guilt tripped by her mother for “throwing her life away” Liv goes to assist her mother with the annual Haunted House they put on. Liv then has the irresistible urge to steal a handful for fake plastic eyeballs attributing her new kleptomania and visions to eating Jane Doe’s brain. Her mom doesn’t notice and instead tries to push Liv into assisting with her ex-fiance as a dire attempt to rekindle their romance. Liv takes notice and shrugs off the attempt but then has another vision from Jane Doe’s memory and sees a familiar face threatening to kill Jane. Liv returns to work and Ravi suggests she goes to the police with the information. She resists but then feels obligated and goes to see Detective Babineaux. When she gives him the suggestion that the local weatherman, Johnny Frost, is the potential killer he laughs in her face. The only way he would entertain the notion is if she rides along with him to see Johnny Frost in person. They then go straight to the news station to confront him.

Johnny Frost declines knowing the victim but after Liv quotes him from Jane Doe’s flashback he confesses he knows her as a call-girl and requests they sweep it under the rug. He admits to role-playing with Tatiana at their most recent fling but left her alive and well. Johnny gives the name of her friend, Tess, to which Liv and Detective Babineaux meet her apartment. Tess refuses to give any information at first claiming to only speak Romanian when Liv begins speaking back to her in Romanian calling her out. Tess divulges little information and once Detective Babineaux leaks the information that Tatiana is dead Tess gets scared and retreats to her apartment refusing to help further. The duo leave after Tess gives Tatiana’s last name and locate her apartment. Once inside they begin sorting through her things and find her cell phone fill with missed calls. Liv takes a listen and tells Babineaux that Tess called Tatiana threatening to give back whatever she stole from their last John. Immediately after Liv has a flashback to Tatiana’s death and becomes enraged and determined to find the killer. They return to Tess’s apartment to find her skipping town and instead talk with her neighbor who suggests she might be with the third call-girl, Monica.

Later she returns to work at the morgue to find Ravi working on a cure for her Zombie Disease and Liv feels a sense of hope that maybe things will get back to normal. Having the new found hope she drives to her ex-fiancé’s to find him playing a zombie killing video game with another girl. She feels guilty for even thinking of asking him to wait for her and leaves. She returns home and gives up on her undead life again. The next day while lying on the couch watching exercise videos Liv’s roommate and best friend, Peyton, tells her to do something with herself because she means so much to her. Back at the precinct, Babineaux is pulled off of Tatiana’s case as another Senior Detective Pratt is put on as the lead and he fights to stay on the case as he’s made so much progress and has information coming to locate Monica.

Liv musters the energy to decide to continue on the case and returns to Babineaux’s office to find him gone. Detective Pratt says he’ll leave Babineaux a message to follow up with her and gets the call giving him the location of Monica and he takes off to find her. Liv returns to the morgue and finds Babineaux waiting while talking to Ravi. He asks her what a specific Romanian word means and Liv doesn’t understand what a bearded pig has to do with anything. Then it all clicks. The murder must be a cop and Babineaux remembers how awkward Pratt acted in their boss’s office earlier. He must asked to be the lead. They return to Babineaux’s office to get the location of Monica and then speeds off to find Pratt holding Monica and Tess hostage in an abandoned house. Pratt escapes the house and shoots Liv in the chest trying to get away. Liv gets so angry by being shot she switches into full zombie mode and jumps on the top of the car. She punches through the windshield as Pratt speeds away from the house to escape. She grabs the steering-wheel and slams the car into a tree, rocketing herself into the woods ahead as the car crashes.

Liv gets up, returns to the car and is about to bite into Pratt’s skull when she hears Babineaux approaching. She quickly switches back to her non-brain starved zombie self and gives a lame excuse when he questions how she got there so quickly when he saw her get shot. She shrugs it off and so does Babineaux while he arrests Pratt. That night Liv sleeps for the first time since she was changed into a zombie and wakes to a new outlook on herself and her undead life. She makes the effort to dress up as a zombie to help out at her mom’s haunted house. During her second night of sleep she’s awakened by a new vision but this time the murderer is another zombie.

#FURIOUS7 Four New Featurettes With New Footage

We have four new Featurettes from the upcoming film FURIOUS 7. We get alot of new footage and the back stories of the new characters in the film.


Watch the Featurettes After the Jump...

New Cast

Toretto Home


Continuing the global exploits in the unstoppable franchise built on speed, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Dwayne Johnson lead the returning cast of Furious 7. James Wan directs this chapter of the hugely successful series that also welcomes back favorites Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Elsa Pataky and Lucas Black. They are joined by international action stars new to the franchise including Jason Statham, Djimon Hounsou, Tony Jaa, Ronda Rousey, Nathalie Emmanuel and Kurt Russell. Neal H. Moritz, Vin Diesel and Michael Fottrell return to produce the film written by Chris Morgan. www.furious7.com

Please Leave A Comment-

Joseph Gordon-Levitt To Star In #FraggleRock Film

Variety is reporting that Joseph Gordon-Levitt will produce and star in the live-action “Fraggle Rock” movie for New Regency, The Henson Co. and Lisa Henson.

The bigscreen adaptation of the musical puppet series created by the late Jim Henson has been in the works for nearly a decade, but the attachment of Gordon-Levitt constitutes a major boost.

“Fraggle Rock” debuted on TV in 1983 as a co-production by British TV company Television South, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., HBO and Henson Associates. It centered on the adventures of cave-dwelling creatures called Fraggles who have to deal with the industrious Doozers and furry giants called Gorgs.

The property was set up at New Regency in 2011. Montecito Pictures is no longer involved with the project.

“The first screen personas I ever loved were Henson creations, first on ‘Sesame Street,’ and then on ‘Fraggle Rock,'” Gordon-Levitt said. “Jim Henson’s characters make you laugh and sing, but they’re also layered, surprising, and wise. From Oscar the Grouch, to Yoda, to the Fraggles. I’ve never stopped loving his work, even as a young frisky man, and on into adulthood. Collaborating with Lisa Henson makes me confident we can do something that Jim would have loved. I’m grateful and excited to be working with New Regency on this project.”

Gordon-Levitt has been cast as Edward Snowden in Oliver Stone’s upcoming thriller “Snowden,” which Open Road Films will release in the U.S. on Christmas.

He’ll be seen next as the host of “Hit Record on TV With Joseph Gordon-Levitt,” which has its second-season premiere on June 12.

Gordon-Levitt is also starring in Robert Zemeckis’ “The Walk” as Philippe Petit and in an untitled Christmas comedy with Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie, Lizzy Caplan and Jillian Bell.

Please Leave A Comment-

Movie Review: Insurgent

Insurgent is amazingly bad.
WARNING: Major spoilers ahead.

Review by Matt Cummings

After the boredom and schmaltz that upended Divergent at only $150 million domestically, it was clear that the adaptation of the Veronica Roth series needed a serious tuneup. Sadly, a new director and promise of a better product made no difference to the bottom line, as Insurgent is just as bad - and perhaps worse - than its predecessor.

As Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), her boyfriend Four (Theo James), her timid brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort, and the smart aleck Peter (Miles Teller) hide among the peaceful Amity people, the four try to deal with the events surrounding their fellow Divergent soldiers being routed during the last moments of Divergent. Pursued by the evil villainous Erudite leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet), Tris and her fellow Divergents have been targeted to open a sacred box held by Tris' parents (Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn), that will show Jeanine the way to destroy them. Meanwhile, the death of Tris' parents in the Abnegation War have left her emotionally scarred and filled with grief and guilt over losing them. But as Jeanine ups her pressure to locate the one Divergent who can open the box, Tris and her team form a response of their own, composed of fellow Divergents and the Candor leader Kang (Daniel Dae Kim). When the truth inside the box is revealed, each faction must deal with the consequences, while Tris tries desperately to keep those she loves from sharing the same fate as her parents.

The problems for Insurgent start early, as Tris and Four struggle to gain our attention while hiding in an Amity village, only to look as awful together this time as they did in Divergent. There's zero chemistry between them, something that's easily seen among almost everyone involved, except for the all-too-short appearance of Octavia Spencer, who tries to calm the Erudite henchman Eric (Jai Courtney). Both Elgort and Teller have felt totally out of place from the beginning, their roles relegated to the far ends of the spectrum, with one still the boob and the other as the funny man, but neither with anything substantial to say. Director Robert Schwentke does fashion a slightly tighter production, bringing some decent action from his experience with RED, but when it's time for the actors to start talking about how awful the future is, the heartbeat slows back to crawl.

There's so much wrong with Insurgent that it's hard to rank which faults are its most egregious. It becomes clear that Schwentke and the foursome of writers were clearly at odds over the film's emotional core. Is this a political film about race relations, a war epic with long-term effects for the caste system, or a teenybopper film with good-looking leads mouthing After-School Special dialogue? It's frankly slapped-together versions of all these, surrounded by Chicago-sized plot holes that defy explanation or reason. Teller switches allegiances so often - and for no apparent reason - that by the end we couldn't care less about his motives. While it's interesting to see Candor involved in interrogating Tris and Four, the sequence ultimately misses the bigger opportunity to expose Jeanine's plans and build a movement against her. And then there's the 'deflowering' scene, which feels not only awkward but totally devoid of passion.

But perhaps its most stunning failure lies in its ending, when everyone realizes they've been merely part of an experiment by The Founders, who in a well-written speech invite all factions to 'come home.' None of this had been tackled or even referenced before, with each side existing happily alongside the other; when this revelation arrives, everyone merely accepts it like sheep and begin to walk together outside the walls to an unknown future. There's no questioning by the factions, and no time for the audience to take it all in.

The bright spots - like set design - are few and far between. James is still the best person in my opinion to play a young Han Solo if that's ever made, and Courtney definitely made his mark before meeting a great end; but it's clear that both Winslet and Woodley might not have been the best choices for their respective roles. Neither seems to escape the core being of who they were when Divergent began. They fail to undergo any deep transformation, with Winslet still the baddie at the end and Tris still the passive. And don't even get me started on their chemistry when they meet in Act 3.

There's absolutely no reason to see this in 3D, and I'd also make a case not to see it at all. Insurgent is just as awful as Divergent, and in many ways critically sets the series back. News that Allegiant will be split up into two movies makes my ears bleed to hear, but perhaps by that time we'll either finally see a good movie or no one will care. Either way, this one's just too painful to experience.

Insurgent is Rated PG-13 for intense violence and action throughout, some sensuality, thematic elements and brief language and has a runtime of 119 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Movie Review: The Gunman

Sean Penn shoots blanks in boring thriller.

Review by Brandon Wolfe

Liam Neeson probably didn’t realize it at the time, but when he made Taken in 2008 he basically created a new career pathway for dramatic actors of a certain age. Instead of being shunted off to supporting roles portraying the fathers of younger actors, Hollywood’s elder statesmen can now headline low-rent action films where they can pummel and throat-punch those younger actors and win the day. Neeson has made this route his full time job over the past several years, and we saw Pierce Brosnan jump into the fray in last year’s forgettable November Man. Now Sean Penn wants in on the action, and this is especially remarkable because Sean Penn has carved out a reputation for solely appearing in high-minded, prestigious fare. Neeson and Brosnan each had some action-flavored frivolity in their back catalogs, but Penn has turned up his nose at doing anything remotely fun ever since Spicoli.

Granted it’s not that big a leap because fun is just about the last thing The Gunman could ever be called. If Penn had to choose an action film, he managed to find one as dour and humorless as he is. This is an action-thriller Xeroxed from the blueprints of many others that came before it. If the film contained a single original idea, scene or line of dialogue, it slipped by me unnoticed. Hopelessly conventional action films are made all the time, but your guess is as good as mine for why Sean Penn, of all people, has made one.

Penn plays Jim Terrier, a hyper-skilled operative working for a shadowy corporation out to profit from the mineral industry in the Democratic Republic of Congo. When Terrier is assigned to assassinate a high-profile target, he is forced to flee the continent, leaving his loving girlfriend Annie (Jasmine Trinca) in the lurch and susceptible to the leering advances of Terrier’s creepy associate, Felix (Javier Bardem). Eight years later, while trying to cleanse his soul by working a well-digging project for an NGO (the sort of thing you imagine Penn himself does on the weekends), he is targeted by a group of mercenaries that he handily dispatches. He seeks out his former colleagues to find out why he is being pursued, which leads him to cross paths with Felix and Annie, who are now married. While Terrier attempts to sort out his enemies and reconnect with Annie, he also learns that he’s suffering from a brain malady that causes his memory to falter and leads to occasional blackouts.

The brain-damage aspect comes out of nowhere and threatens for a moment to make The Gunman something a bit different than the achingly familiar thriller pastiche it had been up to that point. Adding a dollop of Memento into this well-tread Bourne territory could only help matters, yet the movie has little use for this development except when it wants to generate some hacky dramatic tension via having Terrier start to fade out at the least opportune moments possible. The Gunman really isn’t interested in doing anything that goes off-book in any way. The movie trudges endlessly through its two-hour running time with no sense of joy or excitement to break through its turgid mass of clichés. The plot takes its sweet time to congeal into anything, and then once it does, it hits you how many times you’ve seen this exact story told this exact way. So lazy is the film that it helpfully broadcasts who its “secret” villain will turn out to be within its first five minutes. This is as autopilot as it gets.

It’s peculiar what might have drawn Penn to make this film (on which he shares a writing credit). He’s never had commercially driven instincts, so perhaps he simply wanted to play around in that arena for a change of pace, but you’d think an actor with such historically lofty aims would have sought out something of a much higher pedigree than this. Even Taken, as disreputably Eurotrashy as it was, had a propulsive story with strong dramatic underpinnings. The Gunman has nothing of the sort. It’s like a script Chuck Norris would have yawned at in 1987. The movie does have an underlying message of how craven Western corporations can wreak greed-driven havoc on impoverished nations, the exact sort of socially relevant moral that might get an activist like Penn’s motor running, but it really isn’t the movie’s true aim, and a lot of other equally disposable action films have contained sociopolitical elements that are paid the same amount of minimal lip service as this one does.

It should be said that Penn himself cuts a decent action figure. Unsurprisingly, he’s suitably intense, and handles himself adeptly in the physical sequences. He’s clearly logged in the appropriate amount of hours at the gym, something he’s obviously proud of, as he removes his shirt to show off his musculature whenever the opportunity arises. For a man in his early 50s, he exudes a surprisingly youthfulness, even if his meaty arms and odd facial structure call to mind Popeye the Sailor Man. But Penn is too glum and detached to make this character at all enjoyable. However, Penn’s very presence has attracted a supporting cast far too good for a movie this bland. Ray Winstone plays the stock role of Terrier’s trusted ally whose loyalty to his friend places him in harm’s way. Idris Elba shows up for a couple of brief scenes, mostly just to make loaded metaphorical speeches about treehouses. Most impressive is Bardem as Felix, who shows how to add some flair to a thinly-written character. Nothing about Felix is notable except for the oddball eccentricity with which Bardem brings to him. He’s the only actor in the film to rise above the material.

The Gunman was directed by Pierre Morel, who, perhaps uncoincidentally, also directed Taken. Morel is a competent director, if not a remarkable one. He certainly is more skilled than Olivier Megaton, Morel’s inept successor in the Taken franchise. The Gunman is shot adequately, but is otherwise flat virtually across the board. The film only perks up at all at its climax, set in the thick of a bullfight, and even that is only attributable to its unintentionally hilarious use of a bull as an implement of villain dispatching. Morel may have launched Liam Neeson into action stardom, but based on the strength of The Gunman, Sean Penn’s bid for his own Taken should have few takers.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Brandon Wolfe at @BrandonTheWolfe.

Movie Review: The Gunman

The Gunman wastes its considerable talent on cheap and uninspired action.

Review by Matt Cummings

In Director Pierre Morel's The Gunman, Jim Terrier (Sean Penn) lives a double life: he's a security guard working with a humanitarian effort to build a runway in the violent Congo. But at night, he's part of a contract sniper team awaiting their next mission. Unfortunately, Jim's fallen for the aid worker Annie (Jasmine Trinca), whom on the night of the assassination he must leave without warning. Fast forward 8 years and Jim has returned to Congo to drill wells in an effort to balance both his violent past and curb his growing mental blackouts. But when a team descends on his workplace with the intention of killing him, Jim must uncover who wants him dead. Is it his former teammate Cox (Mark Rylance), his buddy Stanley (Ray Winstone), the aid-worker-turned-businessman Felix (Javier Bardem), or the shadowy DuPont (Idris Elba)? As the truth emerges and Annie's life is put in danger, Jim must revisit his deadly past and seek closure before Annie - and his own life - is lost.

The Gunman is a mess from the beginning, spiraling out of control with unnecessarily-sophisticated plot lines, terrible performances, and proof that perhaps the 'man with a gun' plot that make Liam Neeson so famous is done. The first 30 minutes starts off roughly, with Jim, Felix, and Annie in a love triangle that takes too long to play out and that stretches believability. When Jim learns that Felix has moved in on his girl, married her, and even endorsed an adoption - for reasons that are never explained - Jim should have taken the higher road and found ways to protect them, not drive a wedge between them. And of course there's the expected moment of coitus between our lost lovers, which is clunky and becomes the victim of poor pick-up-shots (Annie's wearing a bra in one scene, but never puts one on in the other).

But continuity errors are the least of Gunman's problems. The script - co-written by Penn and Don McPherson - is based on the novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette, which explains why Penn was cast in the lead role. Its second greatest failure - the poor development of its characters and the one-note nature of its villains - are so easily detectable that any sense of danger is totally removed. Other fundamental problems turn up, with the steely veteran Jim suddenly nursing PTSD after the Congo assassination, only to magically not need any pills after the second act. And then there's the ending, with Jim re-hooking up with his girl after seemingly headed to the Interpol firing squad in the previous scene. Such an investigation would have taken years, with Jim in the slammer no matter how much information he have them. But who cares, this is a B-action movie and we're here to see bad ass dudes doing stuff with guns and no shirts on.

Truth be told, the best part of Gunman lies in those guns...Penn's muscles, that is. His ripped physique looks like he was trying out for Wolverine, which actually might have worked due to the actor's very short stature (he's only 5'8"). But nothing short of a rewrite will help this epic waste of its considerable talent. It's difficult to get behind someone like Penn, not because he can't act but because the role isn't suited for him. When Elba finally does arrive during the second act, it's clear that he and Penn would have been better off switching roles, the Brit proving time and again that he deserves his own franchise but seems limited in these overblown cameos. Bardem is an incredible actor, but his performances usually dance on the edge of sanity, sometimes paying off (Skyfall, No Country for Old Men) and sometimes ending in disaster. Here, Felix is inexplicably drunk nearly all the time, and it's not long before we're actually happy that he gets the hook. His marriage to Annie feels fabricated, with any explanation as to why it happened in the first place reduced to a simple, "I owe him." It was nice to see a fresh face in Trinca but she's nearly 30 years Penn's youth and could have been Jim's daughter, representing another poor casting choice on Morel's part. This is perhaps the film's greatest failure, but one that could have been corrected, had the creative team pushed their action up and the cheesy dialogue out. Its failure becomes all the more pronounced when you consider it actually appeared on our March Films on Our Radar post, tearing away any hope we had for a great under-the-radar surprise.

Morel has been a part of a revolution in film-making, that of the 'old man with a gun' motif. It's clear that neither he nor Penn are the right fit for it going forward. The Gunman fails in nearly aspect, perhaps signaling the end of what could have been a franchise-starter for Penn, but which proves that great casting and a good creative team can still make bad film.

The Gunman is Rated R for strong violence, language and some sexuality and has a runtime of 115 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

Movie Review: R100

The kinky comedy R100 is too weird and full of itself to hit cult film status anytime soon.

Review by Matt Cummings

In Writer/Director Hitoshi Matsumoto's R100, the lonely father Takafumi (Nao Ohmori) purchases the services of a BDSM emporium called Bondage, while his wife wastes away in a coma. The gentlemen club's rules are simple: we dominate you wherever and whenever they want for a full year, and there are no cancellations. Ever. Soon, Takafumi is being beat up on city streets, spit on at his home, and tortured with candle wax at the foot of his wife's hospital bed, all while experiencing CGI ripples of pleasure that make his eyes grow black. But the life he paid for soon becomes a nightmare when one of the Dommes is accidentally killed, setting Bondage off to eliminate the client. It soon becomes clear that Takafumi isn't the only one who's caught in a painful spiral, as a group of film critics charged with watching the farcical film try desperately to understand the elderly filmmaker's intentions.

To R100's credit, things certainly aren't dull. There's bizarre and sometimes funny takedowns of Takafumi set to the tune of pop, disco, and even classical music, and an Amazon western Domme (Lindsay Hayward) who wages war on Takafumi before taking him to barn house for a final scolding. But what ultimately kills the film is the constant, lingering scenes of S&M that cross the line to torture without giving back a compelling story. They keep dragging on, punch after kick after spit. By the time it's over, we're as worn out as Takafumi but not in the way a real Domme would like us. It all feels pedestrian, practiced, and hollow, boring us to tears one minute then making us shake our heads as it gets more unpredictable by the minute, only because it has nowhere else to go.

And while it's all for fun (supposedly), the truth of it all is that R100 is just a poor film. None of the character's intentions are ever explored, leaving Takafumi as one-note as the hired help. We gain nothing from going on this journey with him or the film critics who begin to question every part of the film before being led back in to the theater to watch another reel. Moreover, weird for weird's sake is not a journey worth taking unless there's something for the audience to latch on. There's at least three good stories here that were worth telling, but its Frankenstein-ed nature tells none of them well.

R100 will probably play well with D/s couples looking for some comedy to their kink, but it's highly unlikely anyone sans a few cinephiles will embrace it, at least right away. As the mysterious curtain that is BDSM gets slowly pulled back for mainstream mommies to contemplate, films like R100 might eventually find itself elevated to cult film status, a candidate for college classes and the moment when historians will remember when the lifestyle became more accessible. Yeah, and I might meet a Domme in the street who will kick my butt while I pay her to do so. Forget the dream: this one is just awful.

R100 is Unrated and has a runtime of 99 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

#MorenaBaccarin To Play Vanessa Geraldine Carlysle In Upcoming Deadpool Film

Morena Baccarin tweeted this image that revealed her character in the upcoming DEADPOOL film, Vanessa, which points to Vanessa Geraldine Carlysle a.k.a Copycat.

Morena Baccarin plays Vanessa in 20th Century Fox’s DEADPOOL movie starring Ryan Reynolds as the mercenary with the mouth. Co-starring Gina Carano and T.J. Miller as Weasel.
20th Century Fox has officially set a release date for DEADPOOL movie and it’s February 12, 2016, mark your calendar! Ryan Reynolds will star in this movie scripted by ‘Zombieland’ writing team, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, to be directed by Tim Miller

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T.J. Miller Is Weasel In The Upcoming #Deadpool Film

We’ve known for a while that comedian and actor T.J. Miller is on board for the new Deadpool film, but 20th Century Fox had not divulged his character. Now, in typically idiosyncratic style on Twitter, Miller has been dropping hints about the role and finally confirmed the news with a picture that appears to have been taken at a read-through for the movie.

In the comics, Weasel, AKA Jack Hammer, is a college contemporary of Peter Parker, who lived the early part of his life as a relatively harmless, if genius-level nerd. But after crossing paths with Deadpool, he became the Merc with a mouth’s weapons dealer and tech guy, which sounds like what he’ll be up to in the film.

Ryan Reynolds is on as the title character, the former soldier/mercenary who is diagnosed with cancer and turns to the Weapon X programme for help. Their treatments leave him horribly scarred but also endowed with super powers. Gina Carano, Morena Baccarin and Ed Skrein are also all part of the cast.

Visual effects veteran Tim Miller is gearing to start shooting later this month, working from a script by Zombieland duo Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese. It’ll snark its way into UK cinemas on February 12 next year.

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Fox's #WaywardPines Trailer Starring An All-Star Cast

Imagine the perfect American town, beautiful homes, manicured lawns, children playing safely in the streets...Now imagine never being able to leave. You have no communication with the outside world. You think you’re going insane. You must be in Wayward Pines.

Based on Blake Crouch's international bestselling series of books and brought to life by suspenseful storyteller M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense,” “Signs”), WAYWARD PINES is the 10-episode, intense psychological thriller evocative of the classic hit “Twin Peaks.” Secret Service Agent ETHAN BURKE (Academy Award nominee Matt Dillon, “Crash,” “City of Ghosts”) drives to the bucolic town of Wayward Pines, ID, searching for two missing federal agents. One of the best Secret Service agents in the Seattle office, he’s the man who knew missing agent KATE HEWSON (Carla Gugino, “Watchmen,” “Entourage”) better than anyone. They were more than partners; their relationship nearly destroyed Ethan’s marriage. Everything changes when a truck slams into his car…and he wakes up in the Wayward Pines Hospital, with the intense and unpredictable NURSE PAM (Academy Award and Emmy Award winner Melissa Leo, “The Fighter,” “Treme”) at his bedside.

It soon appears that Pam is more interested in harming than healing. She and Ethan grow into deadly rivals, and her role in the town proves much deeper than anyone realizes. Among the other residents Ethan meets are the mysterious DR. JENKINS (Emmy Award nominee Toby Jones, “The Girl,” the “Harry Potter” franchise), the psychiatrist who treats him at Wayward Pines Hospital; toymaker HAROLD BALLINGER (Reed Diamond, “24,” “Much Ado About Nothing”); BEVERLY (Academy Award and Emmy Award nominee Juliette Lewis, “Hysterical Blindness,” “Cape Fear”), a bartender who is as wary of Wayward Pines as he is; and SHERIFF ARNOLD POPE (Academy Award nominee Terrence Howard, “Crash,” “Hustle & Flow”), who takes offense at a Secret Service agent showing up on his turf. Meanwhile, Ethan’s boss, ADAM HASSLER (Tim Griffin, “Prime Suspect”), attempts to update Ethan’s wife, THERESA BURKE (Shannyn Sossamon, “40 Days and 40 Nights,” “How to Make It in America”) with the latest news. After arriving in Wayward Pines, Theresa and Ethan enroll their teenage son, BEN (Charlie Tahan, “Charlie St. Cloud”), in the town’s only school, where his teacher, MEGAN FISHER (guest star Hope Davis “Allegiance,” “In Treatment”), provides key information about the town’s origins. But Ethan’s continuing investigation only turns up more and more questions, and each one leads him to the most important question of all: What’s wrong with Wayward Pines?

WAYWARD PINES is a production of FX Productions. The series was developed for television by Chad Hodge (“The Playboy Club,” “Runaway”) and executive-produced by Donald De Line (“Green Lantern,” “The Italian Job”), Ashwin Rajan (“After Earth,” “Devil”), Hodge and Shyamalan. Hodge wrote and Shyamalan directed the premiere episode.

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#THETRANSPORTER REFUELED Official Trailer & Poster

Here is the OFFICIAL TRAILER for THE TRANSPORTER REFUELED. Directed by Camille Delamarre, THE TRANSPORTER REFUELED stars Ed Skrein, Ray Stevenson, Loan Chabanol, Radivoje Bukvic, Gabriella Wright, Anatole Taubman and Tatiana Pajkovic.

Watch the trailer after the Jump...

The producers of Lucy and the Taken trilogy bring you the next adrenaline-fueled installment of The Transporter series, THE TRANSPORTER REFUELED, starring newcomer Ed Skrein as Frank Martin, the most highly-skilled transporter money can buy. The stakes are greater and technology better, but the same three simple rules apply: never change the deal, no names and never open the package.

When Frank is hired by cunning femme fatale Anna and her three stunning sidekicks, he quickly discovers he's been played. Anna and her cohorts have kidnapped his father (Ray Stevenson) in order to coerce Frank into helping them take down a ruthless group of Russian human traffickers. Fueled by revenge, he will break all his rules and stop at nothing to rescue his father in this action-packed thrill ride across the French Riviera.

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If you enjoyed the exciting, action-packed adventure of DIVERGENT, get ready for a whole new ride. INSURGENT, simply kicks ass!

INSURGENT picks up right where DIVERGENT left off. With Tris (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James), Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and Peter (Miles Teller), now a part of the Amity faction -- and you know that tranquility and peacefulness cannot last for long -- though Four seems to take to this harmonious lifestyle with ease. But it soon becomes clear that his two Dauntless companions, and one Erudite, do not conform to the Amity faction with the ease that he has. Acclimating to this new life doesn’t last for long as 
Jeanine (Kate Winslet), and her manipulated army, are out to destroy all Divergents and will go to any length to find and exterminate them.

INSURGENT’s action does not stop. From the first scene to the last, this movie provides the roller-coaster of entertainment that any moviegoer dreams of riding. But, if you’re a fan of the books, get ready for new twists and turns. INSURGENT delivers a hard, fast-paced, “no apologies” approach to an exciting, mind blowing adventure with its storyline and its special effects. You are kept on the edge of your seat wondering what is real and what is part of a simulation. While we knew in DIVERGENT what a bad ass Four was, we find in INSURGENT just how tough Tris can be as well. As she deals with not only the physical, but the mental and emotional stresses of discovering who she is in this repressed world.

One of the best parts about INSURGENT is the growth in Tris and Four’s relationship. This is a love story that any girl between the age of 10 on up seems to savor. Four may be a killing machine, but he lays his heart down at the feet of a seemingly, average girl in DIVERGENT. From the beginning, he saw the strength, courage and bravery in her that no one else saw. His unshakable trust and belief in her and her decisions to do the right thing, even with dire consequences to herself, is the man we all dream of.

Theo James has established himself in the book of Hollywood Heartthrobs through the character of Four in DIVERGENT, and now he has cemented himself there with his unconditional love and non-stop protection of Tris in INSURGENT. Don’t get me wrong, he might have a soft-side with Tris, but the body count goes up considerably in this movie. Four’s darker side, and the extent his is willing to go to protect Tris, proves itself in a shocking scene that is haunting and unforgettable.

INSURGENT also brings to the forefront the anti-faction: the Factionless. While they were a background faction in DIVERGENT, they become a central character in INSURGENT. Led by Four’s own mother, Evelyn (Naomi Watts), be ready for a changing of the guard of in who is the superpower is in the Divergent world. While Jeanine's vision seemed fairly clear in DIVERGENT, we are left with anything but definitive answers about Evelyn in INSURGENT. While she proclaims to love Four and wants what’s best for all of them, her history of abandoning him to a violent father and her uncomfortable reunion with her son leave us all to believe she will be the next villain in this saga -- and the first person to doubt her intentions is Four, her own son. So while we are left unclear of what exactly are Evelyn’s intentions, we do find out she is willing to do anything to get the ultimate control.

INSURGET is in one word: awesome. It has a complex storyline with lots of action and amazing, never-seen-before visual effects. Its twist and turns are unpredictable leaving you anxiously awaiting what will happen next. With its talented cast of actors and inspiring storyline, it is a must-see for everyone. I know I am going to go see it again!

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook and make sure to follow us at @SandwichJFilms on Twitter, and follow the author Jennifer Schadel on Twitter at @EntKaleidoscope

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