Julia Dietze as Renate Richter

“Iron Sky” brings Nazis from the moon!

Admittedly, the premise of “Iron Sky” is silly as all Hell.

Back in 1945, the Nazis somehow established a base on the dark side of the moon. Without the rest of the world knowing.

Flash forward to the present. A team of American astronauts returning to the moon stumble on the base. The moon Nazis capture the African-America astronaut. The moon Nazis use the technological power of his cellphone to power their battle cruiser and prepare their attack on earth.

Silly, right?

Unlike the intended silly and crappy film-making style of the “Sharknado” movies, the “Iron Sky” team, led by director Timo Vuorensola, treats their silly with a level of professionalism some studio films would envy. The CGI effects (of which there are plenty) look as good as a studio film — and better than most of “Jupiter Ascending.”

(For the record, I did like what the Wachowski siblings were trying to do with “Ascending,” but it didn’t work for a myriad of reasons.)

The acting is usually where the silly cheese factor will reign supreme, but the cast holds it down fairly well. Genre staple Udo Kier gives us the perfect ailing fuehrer. Julia Dietze is plucky as the Nazi “Earthologist” who soon realizes she knows nothing of the Earth and its potential, having been born on the moon. Even Götz Otto manages not to chew all the scenery as the wanna-be fuehrer sent to earth as a prelude to invasion.

Meanwhile, Christopher Kirby, Peta Sergeant, Stephanie Paul play up the Velveeta of their characters.

Kirby is the captured African-America astronaut, speaking in as much ebonics as he can before his Nazi tormentors. He’s driven insane when the Nazis bleach his skin, making him what they believe is the perfect Aryan. When he gets back to earth, Kirby’s character becomes a bum on the streets preaching about moon Nazis.

No one believes him, of course.

That is, until the moon Nazis invade. Then he teams with Dietze, who has a change of heart about Nazi psychology, to save the planet.

Sergeant and Paul play a over-sexed publicist for the president and a Sarah Palin-clone president respectively. They know they’re here for camp and play it to the hilt.

The production team behind “Iron Sky” produced the film through crowd-sourcing, with input given by the masses and focused by the production team. You’d never know that many hands were in the pot as the movie is a cohesive piece of entertainment. It even takes things beyond the norm of a mid-level budget, utilizing leitmotifs from Wagner in the soundtrack and tying historical Nazi events to the dreams of the moon Nazis.

And did I mention the space battles?

“Iron Sky” wouldn’t have been my first choice for a movie to see, but I was pleasantly surprised when it was over. A sequel, also crowd-sourced, is on the way for 2016. Catch the “Iron Sky: Director’s Cut” on Netflix. Let me know what you think, because I’m just thinking out loud.

Black Widow should have a movie – but she won’t

Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow from "Age of Ultron"

Courtesy Marvel Studios

As much as we all love Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow (though admittedly I was initially skeptical), don’t get attached to the idea that she’ll receive he own movie. Her story’s been told over the course of four movies, with more information coming in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

For Hollywood, that’s enough.

Plus, Marvel Studios has already declared that “Captain Marvel” will be their first solo female lead film.

I cry foul on this, but Widow is in good company. Where’s the “Wonder Woman” solo movie after, I don’t know, nearly seventy-five years? They say it’s coming, but the virtually unknown outside of the geek scene will get a movie before her.

Hell! Catwoman got a movie before Wonder Woman. (If you could call that piece of turd a movie.)

Personally, I’d love to see a $20 million Netflix movie featuring Black Widow, Daredevil and maybe Mockingbird and Hawkeye. Straight up spy thing, no big explosions or crap like that. Old school. Think “The Raid” meets “The Bourne Supremacy.”

But that’s just me thinking out loud.

They Said That? — Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart and CommonMy favorite part is to as an actor in one year from non-violent protest to ‘I will kill that mother fucker for free.”

— Jon Stewart to Common on “The Daily Show.” Common had starred (and won an Oscar for Best Song) in “Selma” and is now a hitman with no fucks to give in “Run All Night” against Liam Neeson.

“The Gunman” fires as a moderate caliber movie

Sean Penn in "The Gunman"

Courtesy Open Road Films

Sean Penn jumps into Liam Neeson’s wheelhouse with the spy thriller “The Gunman,” opening today. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s not an incredibly memorable one either.

Penn works as the older action hero. He’s got the physique of a man half his age. The weary-eyed, “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe” nature works perfectly with the fact Penn has, well, seen things you people wouldn’t believe in real life.

Things like Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath first hand and Madonna first thing in the morning.

Penn’s liberal-leaning attitudes suit the plot, based on the 1981 novel “The Prone Gunman.” His character Jim Terrier is a former special ops man for “The Company” (read CIA) who assassinates a mining official in the Republic of Congo. He thought the job would make the world a better place.

It didn’t. But a lot of people made a lot of money exploiting the area after it plunged into civil war.

Terrier goes on to work as a humanitarian aid in the region — until some Really Bad Guys try to kill him. Now he has to work through a conspiracy to find out why they’re after him and what it may have to do with his past assignment.

Adding human drama to the hi-jinks is Penn’s relationship with Annie (Jasmine Trinca), the lover left behind when Terrier had to leave the country after the Congo hit. He told his best friend and co-killer Felix (Javier Bardem) to watch over her for him. Felix did his job so well he ended up in a loveless marriage with her. As expected, the conspiracy pulls in both Felix and Annie.

Idris Elba is also in the film, but if you leave to get a concession stand refill, you might miss him. His dialogue is pretty funny though.

I was rooting for Penn and company, but the film isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. Penn is a believable action hero with an interesting flaw, but director Pierre Morel of “Taken” fame  (which started this “older action hero” genre) doesn’t put Penn in any memorable set pieces save a flaming shower scene. There’s nothing like the church sequence in the far superior “Kingsman: Secret Service” or the club scene in the also superior older action hero movie “John Wick.”

So if you want to protest “Insurgent” and “Cinderella” by seeing a new movie this weekend, “The Gunman” won’t piss you off but it isn’t something you’ll leave excited.

I’d go so “Run All Night,” myself.

But that’s just me thinking out loud.

Incidentally, here’s the trailer for “The Gunman.”

 

"Empire" album cover featuring Terrence Howard and Taraji P Henson

“Empire” season one finale tonight!

“Empire” is one of those extremely rare shows. It stars Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, actors of color in the leads. It’s about the music industry. It deals with issues within a Black family. And it’s become a ratings juggernaut that has steadily gained an audience since the airing of the pilot episode. It’s already earned a second season.

For those who’ve been living under a pop culture rock since January, here’s the skinny.

“Empire” synopsis

“Empire” follows Lucious Lyon (Howard), head of the multi-million dollar record label Empire. He’s decided to King Lear this literal empire to his three sons after an impending public IPO deal. The reason for the sudden push: Lyon’s been diagnosed with ALS and only has three years to live.

The monkey wrench comes in the form of Cookie Lyons (Henson), Lucious’s ex-wife who did seventeen years in jail for slinging drugs. Luscious and Cookie built Empire on that drug money, and Cookie wants what’s hers.

What unfolds is an exploration of family power struggles and damned good hip hop/ R&B music that borrows from the “Dallas” and “Dynasty” playbooks but adds a flavor all its own, largely thanks to the focus on an African-American cast and the diversity that brings among the usual all-White soap opera business families.

 “Empire” behind the scenes

A particularly strong theme from the African-America community is Lucious’s homophobia. It’s a topic rarely discussed, but explains why in 2008 the Blacks in California could be liberal enough to vote in Barack Obama but in the same election vote down laws supporting homosexual rights.

Son Jamal’s homosexuality complicates Lucious’s feelings for his son Jamal. For you homophobes at home, be warned that the show doesn’t shy away from showing the homosexual relationship.

Another great tip with “Empire” is we get to see places soaps rarely take us. It’s got it’s level of posh and wealth, but we also see the hood from which Cookie and Lucious escaped, as well as slumming with a low-end studio where gang activity could (and does) pop off at a moment’s notice.

You wouldn’t see Alexis Carrington in places like this (you young kids can Google her too).

Series creators Danny Strong and Lee Daniels, the team behind “The Butler,” are responsible for the high level of creativity and polish on the show. I’ll admit, this ain’t no “The Wire” or “House of Cards,” but there’s at the very least an Emmy nomination in the cards for Henson and probably even Howard.

(Side note for “Buffy” fans. Remember Jonathan the sorcerer from “Superstar?” THAT’S Danny Strong. Google it.)

And if all that isn’t enough for you, check out the list of guest talent in front of and behind the camera: Jennifer Hudson, Mary J. Blidge, Judd Nelson, Naomi Campbell, Derek Luke, John Singleton, Mario Van Peebles, Courtney Love, and Debbie Allen. And that list grows with “Empire’s” success.

Still one episode to go!

Tonight is the two hour season one finale. It’s a bit late for you to binge watch the preceding episodes, but I’m sure if you tune in tonight you won’t be disappointed. Expect an old-school “Dynasty”-style throw down catfight between Cookie and Anika (Grace Gealey) — Lucious’s fiance and business partner who, needles to say, is not high on Cookie’s list of people who need a place in Empire.

And did I mention the original music with production headed by Timbaland? I’m just saying. Here’s a taste.

Update: “Empire” season finale kicked ass in the numbers. Just ask Collider.

They said that? — Kevin Spacey

 

Kevin Spacey in "L.A. Confidential"

(C) Warner Bros

We came from a time where you needed three reliable sources to write a story. Now a waitress in a coffee shop can say something…and before you know it it’s a story around the world. As a result of that there’s a lot of anonymous thing that are said… outrageous things that are said because they’re anonymous. I think if they had to put their name on it they may think twice about what they say.

— Kevin Spacey on journalism in the fifties versus today. From the commentary for “L.A. Confidential”