MediaMikes 2016 Summer Movie Preview

Written by Mike Smith

As Memorial Day approaches you can count on two things: a lot of furniture stores will have sales and the multiplexes will be full. It seems like every year “summer” comes early. The first volleys have already been fired, with “Captain America: Civil War” jumping out of the gate and earning an amazing $355 million world wide in its first two weeks. Heck, even a movie based on a PHONE APP has made over $40 million in it’s first week. What’s next? Pull up your popcorn and big box of DOTS and let’s find out. As always, opening dates are subject to change at the whim of the studios. Some synopsis information courtesy of our good friends at the Internet Movie Data Base. If you want a more in-depth look at this summer’s offerings, give a listen to our special edition of the “Behind the Mikes” Podcast here. If you notice a set of initials after a title, that tells you that the film in question is highly anticipated by one of our critics (MG – Mike Gencarelli, LL – Loey Lockerby, MS: Mike Smith, JW – Jeremy Werner)

MAY 27

“Alice Through the Looking Glass”

Starring: Mia Wasikowska and Johnny Depp. Directed by: James Bobin.
-The continuing story of Lewis Carroll’s young heroine. Director Bobin has an extensive background with Ali G and the Muppets.

“X-Men: Apocalypse”

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence. Directed by: Bryan Singer
-The original big, bad Mutant (Oscar Isaac) visits 1983 to settle some scores.

JUNE 3

“Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” JW

Starring: Andy Samberg, Imogen Poots and Bill Hader. Directed by: Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone.
-The Lonely Island guys, who have given “Saturday Night Live” some of it’s best shorts in the last few years, tell the story of a former boy band member trying to remain relevant.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows”

Starring: Megan Fox and Will Arnett. Directed by: Dave Green
-The Turtles are back and this time they’re bringing Casey Jones with them.

JUNE 10

“The Conjuring 2”

Starring: Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson. Directed by: James Wan
-The further adventures of Lorraine and Ed Warren, who seem to have nothing better to do then find places and things that scare us!

“Now You See Me 2”

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson. Directed by: Jon M. Chu
-The Four Horsemen are back, as is apparently everyone from the first movie. And Dave Franco. You’ve been warned.

JUNE 17

“Central Intellegence”

Starring: Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson. Directed by: Rawson Marshall Thurber.
-After he reunites with an old pal through Facebook, a mild-mannered accountant is lured into the world of international espionage.

“Finding Dory” MG

Starring the voices of: Ellen Degeneres and Albert Brooks. Directed by: Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane
-Everyone’s favorite blue tang is lost and her ocean friends set out to find her.

“Swiss Army Man” JW

Starring: Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe. Directed by: Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert.
-A hopeless man stranded in the wilderness befriends a dead body and together they go on a surreal journey to get home.

JUNE 24

“Free State of Jones”

Starring: Matthew McConaughey and Keri Russell. Directed by: Gary Ross
-As the Civil War rages, a poor farmer from Mississippi leads a group of rebels against the Confederate army.

“Hunt for the Wilderpeople” LL

Starring: Sam Neill and Julian Dennison. Directed by: Taika Waititi
-A national manhunt is ordered for a rebellious kid and his foster uncle who go missing in the wild New Zealand bush.

“Independence Day: Resurgence”

Starring: Bill Pullman and Liam Hemsworth. Directed by: Roland Emmerich
-They’re back. Well, not Will Smith or Randy Quaid, but Judd Hirsch is still around.

“The Shallows” MG

Starring: Blake Lively and Brett Cullen. Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
-A mere 200 yards from shore, surfer Nancy is attacked by a great white shark, with her short journey to safety becoming the ultimate contest of wills. I love “Jaws” as much as the next guy…ok, maybe more…so I’m hoping this doesn’t stink.

JULY 1

“The Purge: Election Year” JW

Starring: Frank Grillo and Elizabeth Mitchell. Directed by: James DeMonaco
-After two successful movies, it only makes sense that they would complete the trilogy, promising more bloodshed. This time around you get to see if a U.S. Senator can survive the deadly night.

“The BFG” MS

Starring: Mark Rylance and Ruby Barnhill. Directed by: Steven Spielberg.
-Meet Sophie and her friend, a Big Friendly Giant who is an outcast because he won’t eat children!

JULY 8

“Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates”

Starring: Adam Devine and Zac Efron. Directed by: Jake Szymanski
-Two brothers need dates for their sister’s wedding and end up running an on-line ad.


“The Secret Life of Pets”
LL, MS

Starring the voices of: Jenny Slate and Lake Bell. Directed by: Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney.
-Ever wonder what Baxter and Charlie are up to when you go off to work. Wonder no more!

JULY 15

“Ghostbusters” MG

Starring: Melissa McCarthy and Kristin Wiig. Directed by: Paul Feig
-This time it’s up to the ladies to tell us that they ain’t afraid of no ghosts.

JULY 22

“Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie” LL

Starring: Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders. Directed by: Mandie Fletcher.

Edina and Patsy are still oozing glitz and glamour, living the high life they are accustomed to; shopping, drinking and clubbing their way around London’s trendiest hot-spots. Blamed for a major incident at an uber fashionable launch party, they become entangled in a media storm and are relentlessly pursued by the paparazzi.

“Star Trek Beyond” MS

Starring: Chris Pine and Zachary Qunito. Directed by: Justin Lin

J.J. Abrams has moved on and turned the reins over to multiple “Fast and Furious” director Justin Lin. I’m intrigued that Simon Pegg helped write this film.

JULY 29

“Bad Moms”

Starring: Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell. Directed by: Jon Lucas and Scott Moore
-When three overworked and under-appreciated moms are pushed beyond their limits, they ditch their conventional responsibilities for a jolt of long overdue freedom, fun, and comedic self-indulgence.

“Jason Bourne”

Starring: Matt Damon and Alicia Vikander. Directed by: Paul Greengrass
-The Jeremy Renner experiment a failure, Damon returns as Jason Bourne, a man who now remembers who he is trying to discover his past.

AUGUST 5

“Suicide Squad” MG JW

Starring: Margot Robbie and Jared Leto. Directed by: David Ayer.
-A secret government agency recruits imprisoned supervillains to execute dangerous black ops missions in exchange for clemency. As much praise as Heath Ledger got for his stamp on the Joker, word is that Leto takes it a notch higher.

AUGUST 12

“Pete’s Dragon”

Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard and Robert Redford. Directed by: David Lowery.
-A retelling of the classic 70’s Disney musical. And no, Redford is NOT the Dragon!

“Sausage Party” MS

Starring the voices of: Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen. Directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon.
-An animated movie about one sausage’s quest to discover the truth about his existence. Coming from Seth Rogen and his writing partner, Evan Goldberg, I’m expecting one long 90 minute dick joke!

AUGUST 19

“Ben Hur”

Starring: Jack Huston and Haluk Bilginer. Directed by: Timur Bekmanbetov
-A falsely accused Jewish nobleman survives years of slavery to take vengeance on his Roman best friend, who betrayed him. I’m not big on remakes, but the Chariot Race looks amazing.

“Kubo and the Two Strings” MG

Starring the voices of: Rooney Mara and Charlize Theron. Directed by: Travis Knight
-Kubo lives a quiet, normal life in a small shoreside village until a spirit from the past turns his life upside down by re-igniting an age-old vendetta.

“War Dogs” LL

Starring: Jonah Hill and Miles Teller. Directed by: Todd Phillips
-The true story of two young men, David Packouz and Efraim Diveroli, who won a $300 million contract from the Pentagon to arm America’s allies in Afghanistan. This is the third time that Jonah Hill has played a real person on film, earning Oscar nominations the two previous times. I’m just saying.

AUGUST 26

“Blood Father”

Starring: Mel Gibson and Erin Moriarty. Directed by: Jean-Francois Richet
-An ex-con reunites with his estranged wayward 16-year old daughter to protect her from drug dealers who are trying to kill her.

“Hands of Stone”

Starring: Edgar Ramirez and Robert DeNiro. Directed by: Jonathan Jakubowicz
-The legendary Roberto Duran and his equally legendary trainer Ray Arcel change each other’s lives.

Film Review: “X-Men: Apocalypse”

Starring: James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 2 hrs 24 mins
20th Century Fox
Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Review by Mike Smith

They’re back! I’d say “the X-men are back” but, thanks to the whims of Hollywood, that statement doesn’t clarify if it’s the old folks or the kids. Or, as Deadpool asked, “McAvoy or Stewart?” It’s McAvoy and the gang here.

Where better for a film series that dabbles with time lines to begin but ancient Egypt. Here we are witness to a ceremony in which an old ruler will receive a mystical transplant from a virile young man. However, a group of traitorous minions (soldiers, etc, not the guys from the Despicable Me films) betray their leader and, after some impressive special effects, he is sealed inside a giant pyramid for all eternity. Or until 1983.

It’s been ten years since the first Mutant was observed and the world still hasn’t accepted them. At his school for “the gifted” Dr. Charles Xavier (McAvoy) is going about his daily duties while over in Poland the formerly underground Magneto (Fassbender) has just been discovered by the local authorities. Two men with similar lives yet very different outlooks. Throw in the mysterious Mystique (Lawrence) and you have a movie. Kind of.

Full of amazing special effects and horrible destruction, X-men: Apocalypse is, presumably, the last film to feature the Future Past characters. And just in time. With a cast that includes three Oscar-nominees it seems like they may have gotten bored with their roles. All do good work here, but there almost seems to be a look of relief in their eyes that they’re done with the spandex for good. That being said, while the leads are serviceable, the supporting cast has fun with their roles. Among the new faces are Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler and a returning Evan Peters as Quicksilver. And kudos to Oscar Isaac, who makes Apocalypse one nasty mo-fo.

The other drawback is the amount of carnage depicted here. As the various mutants battle each other, the toll taken on the planet is amazingly over the top. The destruction here makes the carnage in Captain America: Civil War and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice look like a small dustup. There is also a particularly brutal scene featuring a familiar face making his eighth X-men appearance. The amount of blood spilled was actually quite disturbing and I can’t help but wonder if this scene was included to judge audience reaction as to how far is too far. It’s not Deadpool violent but it’s a little more mature than you might imagine.

X-Men: Apocalypse opens in the UK on May 18th & the US on May 27th

A Conversation with Deadpool’s Greg LaSalle

If you’ve made the right decision this Valentine’s Day weekend and have checked out Deadpool then you may not have heard Greg LaSalle but you definitely saw him. Sort of. LaSalle is one of the tech wizards behind the Academy Award winning MOVA Facial Performance Capture system used in bringing Deadpool’s X-men reinforcement, Colossus, to the screen. While Colossus’s body and voice were provided by actor Stefan Kapicic, LaSalle stepped in front of the MOVA cameras to give the metallic facial performance.

The morning after Deadpool made its New York debut amidst a Deadpool fan costume contest, I sat down with LaSalle for a conversation on Deadpool, other Marvel films and this amazing process used to bring characters such as the Incredible Hulk and Thanos to life.

Lauren Damon: Did you go to the fan premiere last night?
Greg LaSalle: Oh yeah, that was a lot of fun.

How many Deadpools showed up?
LaSalle: Oh you mean the people who dressed up? Oh I don’t know, I think there were quite a bit. I think they chose like seven of them or something, it was pretty funny. One in a tutu, I mean…it was hysterical.

Are you someone who goes to conventions in general seeing that?
LaSalle: No–
“Avoid them like the plague!”
LaSalle: [laughing] No, it’s not that, you know it’s just I have so many things to do. I don’t get a chance to do that very often.

Can you talk about what MOVA Facial Performance Capture is?
LaSalle: I’ll start by telling you first a little bit about what motion capture actually is–which is where you would wear the reflective markers. And that system, those systems were actually developed to deduce where a skeleton is moving. So as those cameras became higher resolution, people started shrinking the dots and gluing them to people’s faces. The data set you get from that is only like 200, 250 points. So a friend of mine in the bay area decided that he would fund the development of research to find out how to actually capture the entire surface of the skin deformity and that’s where MOVA comes from. That development.

So it’s super high resolution, it captures about 7000 data points, all the wrinkles, all the subtlety of the performance is captured. So it’s basically like capturing a scan per frame of the film of the actor. And then about two years ago Digital Domain developed a technique to take those and apply them mathematically to a computer generated character. So the entire performance gets carried over so it really looks, you know, all the performance is captured.

I heard that it’s captured through paint instead of dots?
LaSalle: We apply, it’s invisible makeup in white light that just is applied as a random pattern and then the system has strobing black lights and white lights. So certain cameras take a picture when the black lights are on and all they see is this random pattern makeup. And that’s what’s used to create the scans and track the points across the face.

Seeing as you worked on both Avengers and Age of Ultron and a couple years had passed between them, did the process for capturing the Hulk change? If you worked on the Hulk?
LaSalle: I did, in the first Avengers that’s what it started out as actually, it was before filming was working with Industrial Light and Magic to capture Mark [Ruffalo] to see how he would move as the Hulk. On set they used a bit of different technology so this new technology that we used for Colossus is actually the first time it’s been used. This mathematic transferring of the performance. Things like in the past, like in Avengers, we surveyed the actor. We’d get all the information about how the actor’s face would move and then companies would build a rig which is just a way of animating and when you run a slider, the lip goes up and it goes up as if it was the actor. But it doesn’t have all the subtlety and nuance of the variation in a performance. The new technology the does.

Did you have any hand in that Hulk-smashing-Loki scene?
LaSalle: Well we only specialize in the facial stuff, so only the expressions part of–but that was my favorite part of the first Avengers movie. That ‘boom boom boom!’ [LaSalle does some pretty accurate Hulk smashing motions] It’s a shame though to see Tom Hiddleston beat up like that because he’s such a nice guy.

You captured his face for that? Wasn’t it just grunting?
LaSalle: Yeah yeah…It’s so many years ago now and we’ve done so many things that I can’t remember exactly what we did. If I remember correctly, they put a pipe with some foam on the end and they kept [jabbing motions, laughing] like they’re pushing the back of [Tom’s] head so that he’d [jerks his head]…It was very strange!

What did you work on for Age of Ultron?
LaSalle: Actually I only did the–Thanos. Working with Josh Brolin.

Also on Guardians of the Galaxy too?
LaSalle: Mhmm.

I don’t know if Marvel would let me ask you but when is he coming back?!
LaSalle: That’s really funny because I was convinced while we were filming Age of Ultron that they’re gonna–I just have this feeling that something will happen. I mean he’s like the baddest dude in the whole universe and they have to do something–

Yeah coming up of course we have [Captain America] Civil War, that’s Earth-bound but [Thor] Ragnarok is coming and that’s out there! He’s waiting in the wings…
LaSalle: I mean I wish I could say. I’m not privy to those kinds of things to begin with. But it would be really cool to see a bad ass movie with Thanos. I mean they have so many characters and so many things to do. Kevin Feige–he’s the president of Marvel–knows this universe probably better than Stan Lee and he has this all mapped out in his head. He knows exactly what he’s doing.

Do you keep up with the other projects in between what you’re working on?
LaSalle: I don’t actually like actively keep up. I look for within the industry, what we could work on and how we could pull things off.

So working as Colossus, you’re performing his scenes and they just transfer your face into his?
LaSalle: Yes, in simple terms, yes. It creates a scan first and then this fancy math transfers that by figuring out where–you teach it ‘Okay, this is where the center of my cheek is and this is the center of where Colossus’s left cheek is’ and it mathematically calculates what else is going on in that area. It transfers it.

How did it come to be this split performance where you’re on the face and Stefan Kapicic provides the body and voice?
LaSalle: Tim Miller understands this technology really well, so he figured he could take the best of what different people had to offer and Frankenstein all that together. And he was adamant about having an authentic Russian voice. I believe he even recorded another and he just didn’t like it and then he found Stefan. And I think it works extremely well. It’s a pretty cool way of using the technology.

What was the most fun about being Colossus?
LaSalle: Well I’ve known Tim for a long time and I just like working with him. He’s fun, he’s actually a lot like Deadpool in his comedy and the way he’s sarcastically funny. So I enjoy working with him on that. But I also did the tests which we did like six years ago so it’s been really awesome to see it finally get made. So just the general overall feeling of being happy about that.

Was Tim involved at all in how Deadpool was treated in [2009’s] Wolverine?
LaSalle: No

Was there discussion about just getting away from that entirely?
LaSalle: Tim is a huge comic book fan. He reads a ton, he likes graphic novels. He knew that he wanted to take what’s on the page and have that be what’s in the film. He wasn’t going to mess with it, he wanted to–as a fan he knew that that’s what everybody wanted to see. That’s what he wanted to do.

How instrumental was Ryan Reynolds also in getting this?
LaSalle: I think it was a collaborative effort because they all have their understanding of the character so they–and Tim is great that way. I know he had people that they discussed it: ‘This is what I’d like to see, this is what you’d like to see’ and then they figured out a way to get that all to happen.

This is your second time in front of the camera [after an appearance Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb] is this what you’d like to do more of?
LaSalle: Well I think it’s fun, I’ve been acting for a while and that’s why Tim gave me the part. But I like to do both. I think it’s fun to play the computer generated characters because you get to do really wacky stuff. And then but I also like really small, intimate type live action things. So I’ve been shooting a few short things.

What’re some of your favorite films this past year?
LaSalle: Oh, I liked the Big Short, I liked Trumbo if you’ve seen that. I thought Trumbo was really good.

Yeah, it was weird to watch that in the context of “Award season” since there’s so much of Oscar in the storyline…
LaSalle: I know! You gotta block all that stuff out. Well it’s so interesting too. I mean it’s doubly cool that it’s true.

Do you have more acting roles coming up?
LaSalle: I just finished filming, ironically with Blake Lively [married to Reynolds]. A movie with her called All I See is You which there’s what we call invisible effects. It’s a live action movie but they wanted to use this new technology to drive her newborn baby being born and a character that she sees in her head. So I played both of those parts.

Playing a fetus?!
LaSalle: Not the fetus! As soon as it’s born I had to do the scenes of taking the first breath of screaming and crying and opening the eyes and looking around. They wanted all this subtlety. They figured a live performance would do that more than trying to animate all that subtlety into it.

[This next question features discussion of a specific Deadpool moment, so for the SPOILER-shy, skip down past this one!]

Does that mean you had anything to do with Deadpool regrowing a baby hand? [A brilliant moment after Deadpool cuts his off to escape Colossus’s handcuffs]
LaSalle: (Laughs) No! No. It’s so funny because I’d known that he cuts his hand off for a very long time but I never go to see anything–I only knew because Colossus ends up with his hand. And I never knew what happened. So when he cut his hand off, the first time he saw the movie it was like ‘OK now how does it grow back? How does it grow back?’ And then they even made that funny, it was awesome. I didn’t know what to expect because I don’t like to see the movie until they’re completely done because there’s just so many things that pull you out of it, you know? So I wanted to wait til it was done and I think that all this talk–the blood and the guts and the R-rating, it’s perfect. I don’t care!

It would be weird if you had this much violence and then just no blood, it’s annoying when PG-13 movies do that–
LaSalle: Plus it’s there because it needs to be, a couple of short seconds and it’s not gross. It’s just real.

[Spoiler over!]

Back to Deadpool , considering there are so many films now in the ‘Marvel Universe’, what do you think is most appealing about this character, what does he bring?
LaSalle: Well I think his authenticity to the original character. And the comedy. I mean I think there’s a lot of funny stuff in the Avengers movies and some of the other stuff, but that’s what Deadpool’s character is built around. And I think that that just makes it’s different and stand out.

If Deadpool had to be pitted against any of the Avengers, who do you think would win out?
LaSalle: Oh…This might sound bad but I think Deadpool is way smarter than those other characters. So I think he’d win a lot of stuff. Because he thinks differently than they do.