Ep. 28 – Citizenfour, The Babadook, The One I Wrote For You, Orci out as director of Star Trek 3, Sony Pictures’ major hack, and even more comic book casting news

December 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Podcast

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In this week’s episode of The CineSnob Podcast, the guys from CineSnob.net review “Citizenfour,” “The Babadook,” and “The One I Wrote For You.” They also talk about Roberto Orci leaving as director of Star Trek 3, Sony Pictures being hacked, and the comic book film casting news for “Suicide Squad” and “Doctor Strange.”

[0:00-6:06] Intro, talkin’ Teddy Grahams and Happy Meals
[6:06-18:01] Roberto Orci out of Star Trek 3 director’s chair
[18:01-32:14] Sony Pictures hacked
[32:14-43:44] Comic Book Casting news: Will Smith and Jared Leto in Suicide Squad, Benedict Cumberbatch is Doctor Strange
[43:44-1:00:44] Citizenfour
[1:00:44-1:18:40] The Babadook
[1:18:40-1:36:55] The One I Wrote For You
[1:36:55-1:39:49] Teases for next week and close.

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Star Trek Into Darkness

May 17, 2013 by  
Filed under Kiko

Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch
Directed by: J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek”)
Written by: Roberto Orci (“Star Trek”), Alex Kurtzman (“Star Trek”) and Damon Lindelof (“Prometheus”)

Already having given audiences the best “Mission Impossible” film of the series with the third installment in 2006 and the best “Star Trek” movie with his hip revamp in 2009, director J.J. Abrams attempts to top himself again by joining up with the Starship Enterprise in “Star Trek Into Darkness,” a solid follow-up to Abrams’ first foray into space seven years ago. It’s more proof that you don’t have to be a Klingon-speaking geekboy to find this franchise one of the more fascinating big-budget sci-fi projects to hit the mainstream in the last four or five years.

Of course, if you are one of those hardcore “Star Trek” fans that won’t be happy with the shape of Mr. Spock’s ears in comparison to Leonard Nimoy’s or looking forward to nitpicking any number of creative choices Abrams makes that are different from the original TV show, then it’s probably best if you stay home and Netflix “The Trouble with Tribbles.” This isn’t your grandfather’s “Star Trek.” For those interested in another fresh take from Abrams and have the open-mindedness to let things go, then “Into Darkness” just might be the popcorn movie of the pre-summer.

Working loosely off 1982’s “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” which is what most “Star Trek” aficionados agree is the best of the original films, we join the crew of the Enterprise as they search for John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a former commander who has gone rogue. On his trail and reprising their roles from the 2009 film are Chris Pine as Capt. Kirk, who was recently relieved and then reinstated as Captain; Zachary Quinto as Mr. Spock; Zoe Saldana as Uhura; Karl Urban as Bones; Simon Pegg as Scotty; John Cho as Sulu; Anton Yelchin as Chekov; and Alice Eve as new and attractive science officer Carol Marcus. When they catch up to Harrison on a Klingon planet, the crew is shocked to learn there is more to their manhunt than simply eliminating a powerful villain.

Aside from the outstanding action sequences and set pieces that packed its predecessor, “Into Darkness” also takes an effective emotional turn with the relationship between Capt. Kirk and Mr. Spock. Kirk’s massive ego and bullheaded nature and Spock’s reluctance to break regulation frame their interaction very well. Pine and Quinto once again take command of the characters in the same way William Shatner and Nimoy did in the late 60s. Sorry, purists, but those roles are theirs now.

With today’s technology catching up to Gene Roddenberry’s creation, the universe feels even more volatile, which makes for an exciting adventure with this crew. Who knows how long Abrams will stay on board (now that he’s been dubbed to lead the new “Star Wars” movie in 2015), but he’s laid some great groundwork for a dozen more and has taken the storytelling to a place few directors have gone before.

Roberto Orci – Cowboys & Aliens

July 29, 2011 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Imagine a classic Western where a mysterious stranger with a dark past walks into a dusty town and stirs up intrigue among the residents. While the storyline can be associated to dozens of films made over the last 60 years, screenwriter Roberto Orci (“Star Trek,” “Mission: Impossible III”) and his writing team decided to take that conventional idea and add a little twist.

“We thought, ‘What if that man walks into town with no name and is a man of few words because he was abducted by aliens and doesn’t remember anything?’” Orci explained to me during an exclusive interview about his new film “Cowboys & Aliens.” “In alien lore, people are abducted and then returned to their life and don’t remember what happened. So, we mixed a big Western idea with an alien story. We kept finding these places where the genres intersected very naturally.”

In “Cowboys & Aliens,” which is based on a graphic novel, a town in the Old West is invaded by alien spacecraft. Although enemies when they first meet, loner Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) and a cattle baron Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), must join forces to defeat their new intergalactic foe.

During our interview, Orci, who was born in Mexico City, talked about adjusting the script specifically for Craig and Ford, and whether he thought the actors’ past roles as James Bond and Indiana Jones would help or hurt the project.

What did you first think about the combination of aliens and cowboys for a movie?

I thought, “This is as good as chocolate and peanut butter. Why haven’t I seen this movie yet? Where is it? No one has done it, so I’m going to do it!”

During the writing process, did you already know Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford were your leading men?

At first we didn’t know. We had no idea when we were writing we would get the amazing cast we ended up with.

Did you have to make adjustments to the script when they were cast?

When we got Daniel and Harrison, we absolutely developed the role for them. Daniel is such a good actor he can do more with less, so we actually took words out of his mouth because he was so good with his eyes and his body. We didn’t realize Harrison’s role could be so big until we got him. He became a co-lead in the movie.

Since both men have played iconic characters in other movies, did you worry their past work in action adventure films would have audiences subconsciously thinking about those roles?

Worried, no. More like hoping. (Laughs) That doesn’t mean we just hired them to copy what they’ve done before. We like to think that neither Harrison nor Daniel would have signed on to do this movie if they felt we were merely exploiting their image. They had to have real characters. When they came onto the movie, we made sure they felt they had new characters to play. But we also didn’t want to deny their history.

What are the challenges in combining advanced science fiction material to a setting as bare-boned as the Old West?

There were two main challenges: How do you do it tonally so it isn’t a joke? The idea might make some people giggle, but we wanted to take it seriously. That’s not to say it’s not a fun adventure, but we wanted to treat it like a real story. The second thing was, how do you make it believable that humanity would have a chance against an alien race? If aliens landed 120 years ago, how do you make it believable? People back then hadn’t even seen electricity yet. They don’t know what an alien is.

The script had gone through many incarnations over the years. When you finally got your hands on it, what condition was it in? Did you work with what you had or did you start from scratch?

We really didn’t read any previous drafts because we knew [past screenwriters] were developing it as a comedy. We didn’t want to do a comedy. We wanted to take the premise seriously. So, we started over.

Were you worried since crossing genres in the past hasn’t worked very well with movies like “Wild Wild West” and more recently “Jonah Hex?”

We were worried, yes. We didn’t want to be a gimmick. We wanted cowboys and aliens to be something that went together naturally. We didn’t know if it would work, but we liked the title and just started to explore.

Cowboys & Aliens

July 29, 2011 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde
Directed by: Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”)
Written by: Alex Kurtzman (“Star Trek”), Roberto Orci (“Star Trek”), Mark Fergus (“Iron Man”), Hawk Otsby (“Iron Man”), Damon Lindelof (debut)

Throughout movie theaters across the country, the trailer for “Cowboys and Aliens” was met with uproarious laughter when the title card was revealed. Although seemingly not any more preposterous of a plot than a teenager infused with spider DNA, audiences chuckled incredulously. With audiences laughing at the mere concept of the film, there was added pressure on director Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”) to keep a serious tone and to strike a convincing balance between the western and sci-fi genre. What we actually get is a film with no true identity.

The film opens with Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) waking up in the middle of a desert not knowing where or who he is and with a strange device attached to his wrist. When he heads into the nearest town, Lonergan discovers that he is a wanted criminal and is set to be turned over to the feds. While Jake is intercepted by the begrudging Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), aliens attack the town of Absolution, taking many of its residents with it. Though confused and shocked by the events, Jake, Colonel, the mysterious Ella Swenson (Olivia Wilde), and others band together to go on a rescue mission to fight the alien race and recover their loved ones who have been abducted.

For a film starring two strong actors and a supporting cast to match, the acting in “Cowboys and Aliens” is incredibly flat. Both Craig and Ford seem to be going through the motions, giving plastic performances with only a few explosive moments. Not even the always-dependable Sam Rockwell (“Moon”) can muster a memorable performance.  However, the actors are not totally at fault here. With a cheesy, cliché-ridden script, the writers (five accredited ones to be exact) take a solid cast and give them nothing to do with their characters. No effort is made to give us a reason to root for these people other than the obvious “us vs. them” reasoning.

One of the biggest problems surrounding “Cowboys and Aliens” is that it attempts to combine two genres, and in the process fails on being a good version of either. The Western elements are not nearly compelling enough. While the familiar costumes and sets are there, the swagger and strong characters of true Westerns are sadly missing. The film incorporates its sci-fi elements with generic and predictable action beats, there for the sole purpose of showing the aliens and what they can do. It has the same tired and predictable sci-fi moments that you’ve seen a hundred times before.  You know when an alien is going to meet its end and you know when some unsuspecting human is going to get snatched.  It’s been done before, and in much more interesting ways. When coupled with some spotty CGI work, the end product is a film that turns out being a mediocre sci-fi movie set in the Old West.

But beyond all of its shortcomings at mashing genres and at a run time of about two hours, the biggest problem is that “Cowboys and Aliens” is unnecessarily long-winded and isn’t very much fun. It relies so heavily on mesmerizing you with its visuals that no care is given to the story.  And while the trailer provided audiences with laughs, the actual film is more likely to produce yawns.

Transformers 2

June 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, John Turturro
Directed by: Michael Bay (“Transformers”)
Written by: Roberto Orci (“Star Trek”), Alex Kurtzman (“Star Trek”) and Ehren Kruger (“The Ring”)

The robot war wages on in the inevitable summer blockbuster that is “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” While the 2007 film may have filled a void for fans of the 80’s animated TV series and Hasbro action figures, director Michael Bay and crew prove that bigger, louder, and more obnoxious isn’t always better when it comes to nonstop action sequels. Who knew endless explosions and computer-generated combat could be so tedious?

In “Revenge of the Fallen,” actor Shia LaBeouf returns as Sam Whitwicky, the geeky high school kid in the original who is now on his way to college and looking forward to putting the intergalactic battle of two years ago behind him. Sam wants a regular life and even goes as far as leaving his beloved Camaro Bumblebee in his parent’s garage. Even more irrational, he leaves his girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox) behind and hopes occasional web chats will be enough for their relationship to survive a long first semester.

Sam goes to school just long enough to meet his roommate, Leo Spitz (Ramón Rodríguez), a conspiracy theorist who runs his own website on the subject. Before Sam realizes it, the two shape-shifting robot species, the Autobots and the Decepticons, begin to butt machine parts again in an attempt to save the universe and destroy the universe respectively.

In the sequel, many of the same robots are back. You can’t have a “Transformer” movie without leaders Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) and Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving). For diehard fans, more advanced characters rear their metal heads on screen including Jetfire, Sideswipe, Soundwave and, of course, The Fallen, who is considered one of the original and evilest Transformers. There are also annoying additions to the CGI cast like Mudflap and Skids, who are about as funny as electric shock therapy.

Aside from the chaotic and devastatingly long script penned by return writing team Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman and newcomer Ehren Kruger (“The Ring”), “Revenge of the Fallen” is brash and boring and exactly what you would expect from director Bay, whose cinematic track record is consistent at best. It’s always the same with Bay. There is no volume button; no room to breathe; no climax. Everything he does is in one whirling motion where by the end of it you feel more scatty than satisfied.

It might be a visual bonanza when you can actually tell what’s going on as the robots fight to the death (that’s probably why we see more slow-motion action in places where you can’t distinguish one metal appendage from another), but “Revenge of the Fallen,” like its predecessor, is a meaningless diversion that’s an hour too long and devoid of any human value or emotion.

Star Trek

May 11, 2009 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana
Directed by: J.J. Abrams (“Mission: Impossible 3”)
Written by: Roberto Orci (“Transformers”) and Alex Kurtzman (“Tranformers”)

Welcome me with open arms Trekkies worldwide.

While I may not know the difference between photon and polaron torpedoes and can’t speak a lick of Klingon, the new J.J. Abrams-helmed “Star Trek” has created a new fan – at least of the most recent film.

Commanding the Starship Enterprise is a young James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), the son of a former captain whose reign was short-lived after being attacked by a Romulan ship the night his wife gave birth to James. Leading the enemy ship throughout the film is Nero (an unrecognizable Eric Bana), a Romulan who wants nothing more than to make anyone he comes in contact with suffer, especially the Vulcan race.

The back stories to the most influential characters of the series, including Kirk, Spock, and “Bones” McCoy are extremely fascinating. Give credit to screenwriting team Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman of the overblown “Transformers” movie for reenergizing this franchise. With so much material to work with in “Star Trek” folklore, Orci and Kurtzman do well in dabbling in both the old and the new aspects of what has made the franchise popular for so long.

As the new half human-half Vulcan Spock, actor Zachary Quinto is spot on, not only with his pointy-eared look but when what he brings to the character. The scenes he shares with the original Spock (Leonord Nimoy) are well-written and fit in nicely with the new story. The most important thing about this small cameo is that Nimoy doesn’t feel like he was thrown in as a gimmick. His contribution to the film is integral and Abrams uses the short time he has with him to expand the story by light years.

Once Kirk enlists in the Starfleet, “Star Trek” never lingers. It’s an extraordinary action film complete with impressive special effects and solid performances by the entire cast.

Roberto Orci – Eagle Eye

June 6, 2008 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

When you’re named to the Hollywood Reporter’s list of Top 50 Most Powerful Latinos in the film industry, chances are you’re probably doing something right in your career.

That’s where screenwriter Roberto Orci, 35, found himself last year after co-writing the script for “Transformers,” the second-highest grossing film of the year with over $155 million earned at the box office. His career as a feature-film writer started in 2005 when he wrote the sci-fi action flick “The Island” starring Scarlett Johansson and Ewan McGregor. The following year, Orci’s name was attached to two more blockbuster action movies, “The Legend of Zorro” and “Mission: Impossible III.”

This year, Orci, who is originally from Mexico City, has taken off his film screenwriting hat to focus on producing the thriller “Eagle Eye” with his writing partner Alex Kurtzman. Directed by D.J. Caruso (“Disturbia”), “Eagle Eye” follows two strangers (Shia LaBeouf and Michelle Monaghan) whose lives intersect when one of them receives a mysterious phone call.

During a phone conversation of our own, Orci, whose next two co-writing gigs are for the new “Star Trek” movie and the sequel to “Transformers,” talked to us about what work was like as a producer and how he and Kurtzman have become the writing duo everyone wants to hire.

Was it difficult going into “Eagle Eye” knowing that someone else would be writing the script?

Yeah, it didn’t really work. (Laughing). I could go so far as to say that it was impossible. But we work with amazing writers. That part of our brain I didn’t need to shut off because that was very natural for us. It’s like when an actor decides to start directing and there is an extra level of comfort that keeps everything quantified because you are by nature speaking the same language.

Since you speak the screenwriting language, was it natural for you to look over the screenwriters’ shoulders?

Oh, absolutely and the people we worked with were very open to that. We’ve had strong producers who were writers that we could call on anytime if we had script problems. We knew that we were going to get different opinions from them than from the producers that weren’t writers. We all worked together well that way on “Eagle Eye.”

What was it like working with Steven Spielberg, who is the executive producer on “Eagle Eye?”

He was the one looking over our shoulders. (Laughing). During this process we also were working on “Transformers” and “Transformers 2” so we always had something to talk about.

What do you think has made your writing partnership with Alex Kurtzman so successful?

Well, we met in high school and we said, ‘Hey, let’s team up.’ We both realized we were really big fans of movies. When I met Alex I found out that he had lived in Mexico City when I was born and he remembered a lot of the places I remembered. We had a lot in common. We hit it off immediately. It was like we formed a band and stayed together. And I’ve anointed him as an honorary Hispanic.

Is there a leader in your band or do you switch off?

It depends on the day. Sometimes one of us has writer’s block and the other one gets him through it. As long as we both don’t have writer’s block on the same day we’re usually okay.