Tag Archives: Oscar Isaac

So Long, I’m Off to See the New Star Wars

I went to the theater today to pick up these babies:

FullSizeRender (7)

The scene at the local cineplex was rather subdued, presumably because it was 36 degrees out, a little chilly for prancing around in your Slave Leia outfit.

As I write this, many of you are in the midst of seeing “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens” for the very first time.

I won’t be posting tomorrow because a good deal of my day will be consumed with doing the same. The blog will probably feature a review of the film at some point, hopefully in the next few days.

P-95d6108e-652f-4b08-87b2-1f60cace918b-660x496

I didn’t want to end “The Force Awakens” countdown without saying thank you to the amazing friends and fellow fans who took an interest in this month-long celebration of all things Star Wars.

I deeply appreciated and enjoyed your comments, your thoughts, your theories, your hopes, your participation and interest, even the odd complaint that there was just too much Star Wars going on. (Too much Star Wars?!? Ha!)

Thank you to the contributors who helped me fill those posts daily, for sharing your heart and memories, for going through your scrapbooks: William Schiller, Shaun Griffith, Fawn Kemble, Shawna of EarthtoShawna.com, Brenna Humann, Jacob Patterson, Eric Schoen, Nick Vroman and David Rivas.

The Force is strong with you.

As we end the countdown, I’ll leave you with a few parting gifts. May the Force be with you always.

oscar-isaac-guitar-1

If you loved the Jimmy Fallon and The Roots video, or if you’re a fan of Oscar Isaac, you might like this.

If you’re sick of trying to dodge spoilers, here’s some you can actually look at because they were made up by Stephen Colbert.

If you’re marathoning the original trilogy — plus or minus the prequels — before you head to the theater, here are some tips for turning that into an epic viewing party.

Fortify yourself before “The Force Awakens” or celebrate afterward with these yummy themed cocktails.

While you’re standing in line, plan your next vacation …

Or enjoy a good laugh.

Disney-Family_BB-8-Pancakes-1000x640

After the midnight screening, this should be your breakfast.

Put a little romance into your “Force Awakens” experience with this crazy couple.

If you’re wondering how the movie is going to shape up at the box office, here are some early numbers.

And this just proves that Star Wars fans in the UK are awesome.

Photos: http://www.pressandjournal.co.uk; http://www.gq.com; Disney Family. 

 

Advertisements

It’s High Time You Got to Know Oscar Isaac (aka Poe)

My introduction to Oscar Isaac was the 2006 movie “The Nativity Story.”

Isaac played a hunky, sensitive Joseph to Keisha Castle-Hughes’ underage Mary in director Catherine Hardwicke’s take on the events surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ.

I certainly noticed the actor, but there was nothing at the time to indicate what a versatile, intriguing performer he would become. Or perhaps he always was, but didn’t have the chance to show it until many years later.

Now, of course, Isaac is about to become a household name, as fighter pilot Poe in “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens.”

backtothefuturepart22015121030705

In trailers and promotions, the actor hasn’t enjoyed as much play as John Boyega, aka Finn, or Daisy Ridley, who portrays Rey.

We know his character is an X-Wing pilot and a soldier in the Resistance. We’ve seen him shaking hands with Finn and being tortured by Kylo Renn. He may be master of adorable droid BB-8. But Poe remains largely shrouded in mystery.

That’s appropriate because J.J. Abrams could not have selected a more mysterious actor to portray this key figure in the new Star Wars trilogy.

Isaac didn’t really land on Hollywood’s radar until 2010 and 2011, when he played a pair of showy villains: a hot-tempered, lascivious Prince John to Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood and abusive brothel manager/asylum orderly Blue Jones in Zack Snyder’s “Sucker Punch.”

Neither movie was very good, but Isaac delivered memorably flamboyant performances in both of them. The films weren’t really an indication, however, of the cinematic nuance Isaac is capable of.

Despite appearing in many movies of note, including “Drive” and “The Bourne Legacy,” there are only three roles you need to see if you’re wondering why Abrams cast Isaac in “The Force Awakens.”

tumblr_myy5k8bZqq1t0pabio1_1280

Llewyn Davis, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” 2013

As the title character in Joel and Ethan Coen’s electrifyingly beautiful, achingly sad folk drama, Isaac leaves a lofty and lasting impression. This is one of the Coens’ love it or hate it films and it was roundly ignored by the Academy come Oscar time. I could deal with that, but not with the fact that they totally snubbed Isaac, my pick for best actor that year.

Capitalizing on his Juilliard education and experience as a guitarist and vocalist, Isaac takes a character who is basically a complete jerk and shows us his worth while delivering soulful, convincing renditions of folk songs, circa 1960s Greenwich Village.

Thanks to the actor, we may never grow to love Llewyn Davis, but we understand him — a tortured artist who cannot function in a world that has turned its back on true art.

maxresdefault (2)

Abel Morales, “A Most Violent Year,” 2014

Isaac embraces his inner Al Pacino, but not in a way that feels crass or derivative in this anti-gangster film by up-and-coming director J.C. Chandor.

As an immigrant’s son, who sets out to use his considerable optimism and determination to build a business empire in 1980s New York, without falling victim to the corruption that surrounds him, the actor radiates confidence mingled with an increasing desperation.

Jessica Chastain plays his wife, the daughter of a jailed mob boss. She’s the Lady Macbeth to Isaac’s would-be empire builder. Together, they whip this drama into a frenzy of tragedy, as Abel wills himself to resist temptation, even as he is manipulated by virtually everyone he knows.

ExMachina-15

Nathan Bateman, “Ex Machina,” 2015

The actor’s gift for evoking menace, mystery, and even a hint of comedy, is on full display in this sleek, suspenseful, breathtakingly twisty science-fiction thriller.

Isaac appears opposite “Force Awakens” co-star Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander, of “The Danish Girl,” as a sort of bizarre, tech-savvy Willy Wonka, presiding over a strange contest involving the development of an uncannily lifelike artificial intelligence.

Nathan Bateman is the genius creator of a Google-like search engine, who lures Caleb, one of his brightest programmers, not to a chocolate factory but a pristine, minimalist compound in the mountainous middle of nowhere. Part Steve Jobs, part frat boy, Nathan is, well, a total tool who drinks heavily, says “dude” a lot and displays confounding mood swings.

Isaac builds layer upon layer into what could have easily been a one-note role, injecting weird humor into his character’s darkness. And he participates in one of the funniest, most disturbing dance sequences in cinema history.

I’m pretty sure Poe’s got nothing on his moves.

Photos: http://www.latino-review.com; insidellewyndavisfilm.tumblr.com; http://www.youtube.com; http://www.cineplex.com.

Before ‘Force Awakens,’ Boyega Starred in Alien Invasion Flick

Just as George Lucas cast unknowns Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford in his original Star Wars trilogy, director J.J. Abrams enlisted some intriguing new faces to appear in “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens.”

One of them in particular, British actor John Boyega, seemed to come out of nowhere to snag the pivotal role of Finn, a mysterious young man who appears to be a disillusioned Stormtrooper and possible Jedi in the making.

Although many details about the character remain under wraps, the trailers show Boyega wearing a Stormtrooper uniform, before shedding it for an extremely cool leather jacket, interacting with Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Poe (Oscar Isaac), and wielding a lightsaber.

maxresdefault (1)

American audiences may be unfamiliar with the London performer but “The Force Awakens” isn’t Boyega’s first foray into sci-fi.

The actor made his debut on the British television series “Being Human.” But his big break came when he starred in a quirky little B-movie called “Attack the Block,” written and directed by Joe Cornish, a collaborator of filmmaker Edgar Wright.

A hilarious, playful, extremely British twist on classic alien invasion flicks, the movie is an excellent showcase for Boyega’s considerable talents. Almost immediately, the actor proved himself a charismatic, effortlessly cool, self-assured up-and-comer.

If you’ve seen the film, it isn’t a surprise that Abrams chose him to shoulder the burden of a new Star Wars chapter.

If you haven’t seen the film, you should stream it this weekend.

Not sold on the idea yet? Read the review below.

john_boyega

Attack the Block, 2011
R (creature violence, drug content, pervasive language)
88 minutes

If you liked the nostalgic kids-meet-extraterrestrial vibe of “Super 8” or the shameless sci-fi-Western mash-up of “Cowboys vs. Aliens,” you’ll want to check out “Attack the Block.”

Writer-director Joe Cornish’s fun, intentionally campy, surprisingly slick adventure flick pits a London street gang against inky invaders from the sky with glow-in-the-dark fangs.

Released in October 2012 on DVD, it arrived with the tagline “inner city vs. outer space,” which pretty much sums up the film, a not-so-guilty pleasure for sci-fi geeks and anglophiles alike.

Set in the sort of shady South London housing project Cornish grew up in, “Attack the Block” opens with a scary but realistic scenario — walking back to her apartment at night, Sam (Jodie Whittaker) is mugged at knife point by an awkward group of young thugs.

After Sam escapes, sans phone and purse, the boys witness a bright, meteor-like object fall from the sky and encounter a vicious beast that is clearly not of this world.

Following the creature to a playground, the gang’s leader, a troublemaker named Moses (John Boyega), easily slays the outer space visitor, resulting in a lot of macho posturing that is quickly cut short when more lights begin descending from the sky.

As the gang’s beloved block comes under siege, it’s up to these wayward street kids to save the day, a task that reunites them with the reluctant but resourceful Sam, who will have to overcome her resentment to become their unlikely ally.

Shot the old-fashioned way, in 35 mm, on a reported budget of $13 million — modest for a sci-fi flick — “Attack the Block” boasts cheesy special effects, which are sorta charming at the same time, and a skimpy but satisfying story.

It takes a gritty, gory approach to street life that crackles with unexpected realism.

The highlight of the film is its youthful cast, most of them inexperienced actors, ranging in age from 10 to 17, and adept at slinging the sort of indistinguishable, quick-witted slang that baffles American audiences.

Boyega, in particular, has the confident yet vulnerable quality of a potential leading man.

British comedian Nick Frost pops up as a pot grower who gives shelter to the kids when they most need it.

“Attack” was executive produced by Frost’s frequent collaborator, “Shaun of the Dead” director Edgar Wright.

Cornish is best known in the UK as half of the comedy duo “Adam and Joe” and co-wrote “The Adventures of Tintin.”

“Attack the Block” may be a modest feature film debut but it’s certainly memorable.

Photos: spinoff.comicbookresources.com; youtube.com.

Artificial Intelligence Gets a Bold, Scary, Feminist Spin in ‘Ex Machina’

Ex Machina
Four stars (out of four)
R (graphic nudity, language, sexual references, some violence)
108 minutes

From Asimov, to “Blade Runner,” to “The Terminator,” makers of science-fiction have long been obsessed with the concept of artificial intelligence and what such a technological development would portend for the human race.

Evolution? Extinction? A combination of both?

In keeping with this storied tradition, A.I. beings good and evil are front and center on the big screen this summer.

In “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” Tony Stark spawns the ultimate peacekeeping program, only to see his creation go haywire and try to wipe out the planet via makeshift meteor.

In July, “Terminator Genisys” reboots the now classic James Cameron thriller about an apocalypse sparked by machines bent on either killing or protecting humans.

Neither of these films, however, serve up a vision of artificial intelligence as chilling, clever or convincing as “Ex Machina,” the impressive debut film of writer-director Alex Garland.

Garland’s A.I. isn’t the typical stuff of Hollywood sci-fi, masterminding mass destruction by robot army, monologuing and generally blowing stuff up.

No, the artificial brain at the controls of “Ex Machina” is more insidious, wielding its mastery of the human mind as a weapon. It is skilled in the power of manipulation and that’s all the power it needs.

Garland is no slouch when it comes to sci-fi. Best known for authoring the novel “The Beach,” he penned Danny Boyle’s “Sunshine” and “28 Days Later,” wrote the “Dredd” remake and adapted Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go” for the screen.

“Ex Machina” wears the suffocating shroud of hushed dread that adorns his previous work, but it elevates the filmmaker’s already strong pedigree to another level. It is the sharpest, most original effort of his career so far.

Garland’s direction is refreshingly lean and sleek, wasting no time in establishing an intriguing premise and a setting that drips with atmosphere.

Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a programmer for a Google-like search engine, learns he’s been selected as the winner of a mysterious contest. His prize is a week at the remote home of his wealthy employer, Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac).

As he delightedly arrives by helicopter to Nathan’s vast, stunning mountain estate, the audience shares his awkward position of ignorance and apprehension. What kind of man lives here, amidst the surreal majesty of glaciers, waterfalls and pines, in a compound of the pristine, minimalist architecture you only ever see in movies, a cold, glorious monument of glass, stone and long, dimly-lit corridors?

We’re soon introduced to Caleb’s host, who manages to make his guest — and us — feel simultaneously welcome and deeply uncomfortable as he ushers the young programmer around the eerily unpopulated outpost that will serve as his home for the next seven days.

Nathan isn’t what Caleb or we expected. Part Steve Jobs, part frat boy, he’s actually, if you’ll pardon the expression, kind of a tool. He drinks heavily, says “dude” a lot and displays confounding mood swings. He invites his guest to be a part of his latest research project, but only after signing a daunting nondisclosure agreement.

When Caleb balks at this arrangement, Nathan reveals he’s made an unprecedented breakthrough in the field of artificial intelligence. He’d like his eager, young employee to participate in the Turing test, designed to determine whether an A.I. creation exhibits behavior indistinguishable from human intelligence.

So begin Caleb’s “sessions” with Ava (Alicia Vikander), a strikingly beautiful, uncannily lifelike humanoid who has never ventured beyond the confines of her glass-walled room.

Caleb is immediately astounded by her abilities, but when it comes to discussing the science behind this man-made woman, Nathan proves strangely evasive. He’d rather talk about how Caleb “feels” about Ava, but defining the answer to that question proves frustratingly slippery.

Soon other questions arise, like what’s up with the frequent power outages that strike Nathan’s seemingly impregnable mountain stronghold? Why aren’t there any lab technicians or staff in residence? What’s with the key cards that at once grant and restrict Caleb’s access to the facility?

What does Ava think of Caleb? Who’s really being tested here? And who is Nathan’s oddly compliant, sushi-making sexpot of a personal assistant, really?

From the beginning, “Ex Machina” ravels and unravels its mysteries with the unsettling, unbearable tension of a finely crafted horror movie. Garland is skilled at keeping the viewer in a constant state of uneasiness, using every resource at his disposal.

This includes the film’s marvelous production design, which blends the organic and the artificial in ways that echo the film’s theme of humanity vs. technology — the Juvet Landscape Hotel in Norway provides the jaw-dropping backdrop for Nathan’s mad scientific endeavors — as well as the visual effects and sound design.

With her cherubic face, curvaceous mesh body and vaguely eerie whirrings, Ava is at once alluring and dismaying, and completely believable as the revolutionary discovery Caleb proclaims her to be. Much of the credit for this belongs to Vikander, who captures Ava’s precise, graceful movements and formal, soothing speech patterns while masking her intentions.

Gleeson and Isaac — who will appear together again later this year in “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens” — engage in an entertaining, ever shifting game of one-upmanship with all the intensity and intimacy of a stage play.

Gleeson’s unassuming likability goes a long way toward disarming the moviegoer, while Isaac injects a bit of weird humor into his character’s darkness.

What I was most surprised by and love the most about “Ex Machina” is its refreshing, incredibly shrewd feminist spin. This is a film that has unexpected and profound things to say about the female mind and body and the way some men see them.

The unpredictable, profoundly satisfying finale turns cliche Hollywood romantic tropes on their head and makes a bold statement about the objectification of women.

And it’s the first time in a long time that the possibility of artificial intelligence actually scared me.

If you dare, go to ava-sessions.com, where you can interact with Ava. She’ll even draw your portrait. 

Photo: http://www.hdwallpapers.in