The Grinch Review

Illumination Delivers Another Perfectly Acceptable if not Necessarily Exceptional Animated Diversion in this Re-Telling of the Dr. Suess Classic.

Bohemian Rhapsody Review

This Queen biopic Fails to Transcend the Genre the Way its Subjects Transcended the Music Scene, but at Least the Music is Good.

Overlord Review

Overlord Combines the Terror of War with the Terror of a Zombie Apocalypse and Accomplishes Exactly what it Means To.

The Nutcraker and the Four Realms Review

An All-Star Cast Attempts to Usher The Nutcracker Story to a New Generation Via Disney Blockbuster, but Unfortunately the Results Fall Short of the Ambition.

A Star is Born Review

Bradley Cooper Writes, Directs, Sings, and Stars in this Fourth Incarnation of this Story Alongside Lady Gaga to Rapturous Results.

Summer 2013: The Prestige Projects


Today's crop of films might be the group I have the least amount of knowledge on as of yet. Granted, one of them is likely to be one of the bigger films of the summer and the others all come from either high profile directors or a high profile actor turned director. And while you might be able to say that four out of the five films would just have easily fit into yesterdays indie categories I don't think that is necessarily true. You see, despite four of the five films being smaller movies and receiving what will likely be limited releases they will be well known among those who follow film regularly and highly anticipated by that same crowd. Some of them have already had there premieres at certain film festivals while the biggest of the bunch was actually delayed nearly six months for reasons that are still unknown. It is hard to conjure up much to say about any of these films without giving away which of the summer films they are and general readers might in fact be unaware that such films even exist so I will simply try to create a level of intrigue for each by summing up the highlights of each film with what is the most appealing aspect of each project. Though some would call this director unappealing he has had more good will float his way over the past couple of years and looks to continue in the same vein as the films that have garnered him such positive word of mouth in his annual output. And while that seasoned director delivers his forty-eighth film with his next already in the works, we also have a directorial debut from one of the hottest stars of 2012. Then we have a director who went the complete opposite his expected direction in following up what was the biggest film of last year and easily of last summer by escaping the world of iron men and super heroes and retreating to that of Shakespeare's word. Let us continue on the trend of directors and say that a member of a filmmaking family legacy is at the helm of the next and the final film, that delayed blockbuster, has been put together taking some sacred text, often considered the greatest American novel, and been placed in the hands of an extravagant visionary who may just be perfect for the time period and tone of the source material. Time will tell, but I'm ready to become better acquainted with each one of these films.

MUD Review

Though my opinion might be slightly biased as director Jeff Nichols is from my hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas and is certainly the most prominent filmmaker to come out of here in quite some time it is also nice to see the south receive authentic representation in a film that receives wide, and mostly positive recognition. This isn't Nichols first foray into depicting the south in all its bare normality's and simplicities though as he has ventured here twice before in 2007's deadly family feud drama Shotgun Stories and 2011's Take Shelter that perfectly encapsulated the inner demons and slow unraveling of the human psyche. In his latest, Mud, Nichols has kept his location the same as he is able to so naturally create a sense of place and that is key here as our two young protagonists live on and off of the river that guides them to an island where they meet the titular character. The atmosphere and the way in which Nichols crafts his story lend an almost mythical quality to the tone. It is as if this could just have easily been a southern fable that parents told their children at night so as to keep them from wandering where they aren't supposed to go. Still, even with these vibes of a folk legend the film is able to say and do so much more than simply teach a moral lesson. I expected the slow pace, the southern setting, and the bigger implications the story might make other than what is on the surface, but what continues to surprise is the renaissance of a period that Matthew McConaughey is having in his career at the moment. All of the performances here are strong and Nichols has rounded up a solid cast, especially in his two young stars, but it is McConaughey's turn as the title character that will have you thinking about the film long after the credits roll and what he stood for, what he wanted from life, and most inconspicuously, who he really was.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: April 30, 2013

Summer 2013: The Indies That Can


After chronicling some of the major blockbusters over the past five days it is now time to shift the focus to a few lesser known films that will likely become some of the films you hear the best buzz about in the next few months. There is nothing wrong with the big, bombastic summer tentpoles that this season is designed to cater to, but there is always need for a break from things and these smaller, character-centric films will hopefully prove to be wonderful diversions if not anything else. Though, I have to be honest and say that one of the films on this list has been on my radar for a long time and most definitely would have made my personal top ten list for the summer if not within the top three. Besides that though there is definitely another film that is the third in a series (yes, even the indies have trilogies) that is dearly loved by many a cinephile audiences, but I have yet to see any of them so I am both anxious to catch up on the prior two films and as well as having a fresh perspective on the latest if it does in fact make its way to my neck of the woods any time within the next couple of months. The other three films on this list are the films that will truly test the purposes of this category as they are completely original pieces, but have a fair amount of star credibility and festival circuit experience under their belt that they could be ushered to the front of the line by critical response. Out of the five films on this list four of them have already screened at film festivals and all four of them rank above 86% on the tomatometer as of today and will likely only go higher as more critics screen them. For those of you looking for a diversion from the standard summer fare that big studios offer, this is the list where you need to start looking and though the final two lists will also contain several alternatives these are the ones your friends in cinema circles will likely be talking about most.

PAIN & GAIN Review

I've never been on the Michael Bay bashing train and certainly don't plan to start now as his latest, "smaller" film is likely the most interesting piece of work he will ever put to film. Interesting being the key word here as the story Bay has chosen to recount is one of the most outlandish and absurd truths that has also likely even been put to film. I have been highly anticipating Pain & Gain if not for the chance to see the now solidified movie star of Mark Wahlberg make his next move as well as watching Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson continue to skyrocket towards superstar status, but for the opportunity to see Bay stretch his visual (and maybe even storytelling) muscles with something other than big CGI robots. It has been nearly six years since the first Transformers film and in the time that Bay has delivered two sequels he has also had the growing ambition for this kind of passion project and that comes through in the execution and style with which Pain & Gain is delivered. There have already been some pretty heavy accusations and criticisms of the film thrown out and while I can understand where some of these are coming from in regards to the family of the deceased feeling this is making light of their family members deaths, the film certainly isn't glorifying the main characters and if anything, the source of the comedy comes from how stupid and incompetent these lead protagonists are in their dim-witted schemes. There are plenty of words being thrown around like homophobic or misogynistic to describe the director and his film yet it has always been clear the world these characters lived in was a world of strippers and bodybuilders who'd do anything for their physique yet likely oppose anything even the least bit gay. Those complaints are rendered mute by the fact those attributes are what create the atmosphere and the actions of the characters are so off-putting and the story so strange that it is also becomes extremely engaging.

Summer 2013: The Family Features


We are now half way through the Summer Movie Extravaganza series and though we have been through several would-be blockbusters and yesterday, through the biggest comedies of the summer, it is now time to get around to some good ole fashioned family entertainment. I tried to find five films to place on this list that might prove entertaining and thought provoking to both children and their parents alike, but that is a tough thing to do when the majority of what is coming out for younger audiences these days is strictly animation. What happened to the times when their were live action sports movies for kids? As much as I grew up on Disney flicks I also couldn't go through days without watching The Sandlot, Little Giants, Angels in the Outfield or The Big Green. I wish there were something closer to this that I might recommend, but the only live action movie that found its way onto this list is a fantasy sequel whose first film didn't exactly break any barriers and the only reason it made its way onto this list is because it is essentially the only live action film this summer with a PG rating or less. There is no Diary of a Wimpy Kid scheduled for this year (or any more in the foreseeable future) and the only other live action flick that made me feel like a kid again within the past few years (Real Steel) should be a one off, but something like it would be appreciated by both kids and I assume their parents who no doubt enjoy certain animated films, but would love to catch a break every now and then. Though Pixar is delivering a prequel to one of my favorite films of theirs and the minions will be returning as well, so it's not all bad news, but you should definitely prepare to be pixelated before we jump into this list.

First Trailer for PRINCE AVALANCHE

The first trailer has debuted online for David Gordon Green's Prince Avalanche which seems to meld the directors early indie films and his latest broad comedies. I haven't seen much of Green's early work except for 2007's Snow Angels and am a big fan of his 2008 collaboration with Seth Rogen and James Franco in Pineapple Express, but since then his career has seen a pretty steady decline as his big budget follow-up Your Highness failed both commercially and critically while his next attempt The Sitter with Jonah Hill did the same. It seems Green has decided to resort to his roots while still bringing the comedy tone with him as he's enlisted Paul Rudd for the funny and Emile Hirsch for the indie. The story revolves around a summer in the 1980's where the odd couple of Hirsch and Rudd spend their time repainting traffic lines down the center of a country highway ravaged by wildfire. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year to mostly positive reviews and great praise for the performances from the two lead characters who seem to be the only people that actually appear in the film. The trailer is extremely quirky as it showcases the relationship between these two and contains a voice over from Rudd as he writes Hirsch's sister a letter that contains his feelings of being alone with her brother and what his plans are for the weekend. I like Rudd a lot and despite his string of recent misses (How Do You Know, Dinner for Schmucks, Wanderlust, Admission) I will always be interested in what he chooses to do while Hirsch still feels like that young actor on the cusp, who just hasn't had that one big role that really brings him through though he's played several supporting roles in many a critically acclaimed films. This certainly looks like a film that is very specific to the individuals tastes, but I'm looking forward to it. Magnolia Pictures will release Prince Avalanche in theaters and on VOD August 9th.

Summer 2013: The Funny People


I wrote an extensive article on how I sincerely hope that the comedy genre will see a resurgence this year and provided a good layout of evidence as to why that was a possibility. In today's portion of the Summer Movie Extravaganza we touch on five of those films that I discussed at length in The Resurrection of Comedy in 2013. Each of these films has the opportunity to become the Ted of this year and the majority of them will probably end up on the favorable sides of critics given the stars, the directors, and their past credits as well as the kinds of stories they are telling and counting on to evoke comedy from. I am slightly concerned for one of them as it has all the credible components going for it, but the trailers have not been overly promising. We've yet to see a trailer for one of them, but since it serves as a kind of final film in a companion piece trilogy there is much excitement surrounding it and I'm sure we are due for a glimpse at some footage any day now. I am generally more accepting of comedy than I feel the majority of film critics tend to be, but even I can admit the crop of comedies lately has been pretty rough. Whether it be the disappointing box office returns of last summers The Watch or Judd Apatow's continuing fall from grace with critics as his This is 40 failed to become the culturally or critically established hit that his first two films did. There is something that just needs to hit with audiences and some comedies have it in spades while others don't. It is all about timing, freshness, and innovation when it comes to the laughs and though I have some skepticism on one of the titles included here I truly believe the rest of these comedies could easily be huge crowd-pleasers and box office champions when their times comes this summer.

THE COMPANY YOU KEEP Review

Robert Redford has always slightly eluded me. I haven't seen much of his work except for a few major players like Butch Cassidy and The Sting, as well as several of his directorial efforts, but I've never felt particularly close to the guy despite the kind of status he has commanded in Hollywood for quite some time. That may sound odd or even a little delusional, but in terms of growing to feel as if you know an actor by the kinds of roles they play, or figuring out what they might be like in real life, and what conversation topics might come up if you had the chance to speak with them make viewers feel as if we could actually get to know these people. This usually happens with what turn out to be our favorite actors or at least people who are considered movie stars, and it usually means they have the charisma and the charm to connect with a mass audience on different levels thus the reason they are granted that precious title of "movie star". And though Redford has clearly been knighted with that honor and been in the high ranks of movie-making for a long time I've never quite understood the fascination. He's clearly a talented and attractive figure and he seems to have a real love for making movies and creating pieces of art that mean something. While The Company You Keep may not be the best example of that kind of high art what it does do is serve a purpose as a fairly satisfying exercise in the investigative drama that features an all star cast who will have you playing a guessing game of who might pop up next. It is easy to see how this might be passed on as tired and conventional but the story is intriguing enough and the chase to the end to find a resolution and sort out the mess of politics these people have gotten themselves into had me from the beginning and I was willing to run with it, whatever it was they asked me to do and wherever it was they asked me to go.

Summer 2013: The Franchise Hopefuls




















In part three of the summer movie extravaganza I will be discussing the films coming out in the next four months that likely hope to be gifts that keep on giving. Some of these will boldly admit that and others will likely make their best effort to conceal the fact they have no bigger aspirations than to entertain just in case they don't fare to well when it comes down to the box office numbers and cinemascore grades that show a mainstream movie-going audience that was less than satisfied. Once again, the films included in today's category could just have well fit the bill for those classic examples of summer popcorn entertainment, but they have that something extra going for them, they have that aspiration for something more and that is what qualifies them to be in the Franchise Hopefuls category. Each of these, if given the opportunity will likely expand on these initial films. None of them are sequels and only one is based on a comic book, but a fairly obscure one at that, while the others consist of two based on popular books, one on a radio show from the 30's that became a television show and comic books, while the final is a completely original piece of work that, from what I've seen of it, looks like a mash up of several other would-be summer hits. And once again, like yesterdays list there is at least one film on here that I'm not particularly excited to see, but more intrigued by how bad it might turn out to be. There is a rather plain looking actioner coming out in August that I almost included on this list that has the star power to be a hit and if it does so turn out to be, there will very likely be a sequel as even the title lends itself well to that sort of thing, but I'll discuss that later. For now,if you've missed the first two parts of this series definitely go back and catch up as what I'm doing this year instead of delivering a simple top ten list is to divide the summer of 2013 into eight categories and will be posting one each day for eight consecutive days. I hope you find a certain category that suits your motion picture tastes the best and discover five exciting films you'll be especially ecstatic about.

THE INTOUCHABLES Home Video Review


There is always the feeling that watching a foreign film is something of a burden and not necessarily because you have to read the dialogue, but because it can be stressful to make sure you catch every bit of dialogue and that you can read fast enough before the subtitles are removed or changed. It is a tension filled viewing experience that creates more a sigh of relief when the film comes to an end rather than a fresh perspective on whether you actually enjoyed the content of the film or not. That is the mindset that I always seem to approach foreign language films with whether I want to or not and The Intouchables, a film I'd heard so much about and wanted to see for a long time now fit that description all the same as I finally had the chance to settle in and watch it. As soon as the film began though, that feeling of slight tension was eased as even in those opening moments the film was not only much more light-hearted than I imagined it would be, but it also didn't contain any dialogue to keep up with for those first few minutes and instead immediately introduced us to the characters and gave us a quick glimpse of who they were without saying a word. Based on a true story of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and his caregiver Abdel Sellou that was discovered by directors Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano upon seeing the pair in a documentary, A la vie, à la mort. The film is the second biggest box office hit in France and became a rather big deal in its native country in 2011 while hitting the states in the summer months last year and creating a good amount of waves here as well, the film is a charming look at an odd couple, the clashing of two worlds and the cultural differences that define us but sometimes bring us together. It is essentially a buddy comedy, but it has heart and I dare you to try and not enjoy yourself as you watch it.

Summer 2013: The Classic Examples


For the second part of my summer movie extravaganza, where I've broken down this summers movie releases into several different categories so as to better digest the onslaught of films that will be making there way to the multiplexes soon, I have decided to go with those classic examples of what make the summer movie season all that it is and all that it has become. You could lump a good number of the films from yesterday's Headliners piece into this category as well as what will be coming tomorrow, but these are the prime examples that feature a fair amount of both original and familiar properties. There were certainly a few other sequels that could have been included and we will discuss those later in the article as well, but for now let us make our way around to the five films included in this category. Each of them holds a good bit of anticipation though I'd be lying if I didn't say my interest in at least one of these wasn't purely based on how much of a cash grab it might turn out to be. Regardless, if you missed the first part of this series yesterday definitely go back and catch up, but what I am doing this year for your reading pleasure is instead of delivering a simple top ten list I've divided the summer of 2013 into eight categories and will be posting one each day for the next week. I hope you find the one that suits your motion picture tastes the best and discover five exciting films you'll be especially ecstatic about.

First Trailer for THOR: THE DARK WORLD

Thor was always the one Marvel character I was concerned with prior to the release of his first solo film. I enjoy Kenneth Branagh and his work, but the trailers for the first film were somewhat nerve-inducing as it looked as if it could teeter on the edge of cheesy and fall in very easily. Thankfully, it turned out to be a rather solid film and one that, while underwhelming in some aspects, delivered on what it needed to do. Director Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones) has taken over for this sequel though and its clear that darker tone of his former work has seeped into the realm of Asgard. I was happy to hear that this next step in the Thor story would take place more in space and while the trailer doesn't give much of an indication as to how much that will be it certainly lets us in on the aspects of the story that deal with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and a possible love triangle between her, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and Sif (Jamie Alexander). With barely a glimpse of main antagonist Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) where he provides a possible way for Portman to Channing Tatum her way out of this sequel via G.I. Joe. I hope this isn't the case as I'd like for there to be more than just Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts as the lone better half of The Avengers. Still, there are several other shots of Portman on Asgard that could come at any point in the film though it feels like this trailer is completely taken from the first twenty or so minutes of the movie given a few action scenes. In mentioning the action, it looks phenomenal here with a few epic set pieces to be sure and a different style to it that looks to be more intriguing and more along the lines with the personal style of the titular character. We also get a nice glimpse of Loki (Tom Hiddleston) near the end which is made all the more intriguing by how he might play into this story. Thor: The Dark World also stars Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kat Dennings, Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, Tadanobu Asano, Rene Russo, and Anthony Hopkins and opens in 3D on November 8th. Hit the jump to check out the trailer.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: April 23, 2013

Summer 2013: The Headliners



When the summer movie season comes around I usually put together a list of ten or so films I'm really excited to see, but I'm going to try something a little different this year. This is mainly due to the fact that when I tried to sit down and make a list of the ten films I really wanted to see this summer I came up with twenty and was still upset I couldn't include more. There is such a vast array of films coming out in the next four months and with more diverse flavors than you might expect. Granted, it has probably been like this in the past as well (maybe not every year, but often enough) and I might just be coming around to the full world of film, but regardless I'd still like to look on the positive side and believe that there are just too many great-looking summer tentpoles and small films that are hitting theaters this year to break it down to a simple top ten list. If I were forced to pick my personal top five or so it would probably consist of two big comic book flicks (Man of Steel and Iron Man 3) along with The Hangover Part III (say what you will, but I'm a big fan of the chemistry between the Wolfpack), and then top it off with a couple science fiction flicks like say Star Trek Into Darkness and Elysium. I feel somewhat bad making that list though because it is so biased to my personal tastes and doesn't really give a good indication of what variety there will be to choose from this summer. And so, for your reading pleasure I've divided the summer of 2013 into eight categories and will posting one each day for the next week. I hope you find the one that suits you best and find five exciting films you'll be especially ecstatic about.

JURASSIC PARK 3D: A Quick Review

In the summer of 1993 I was six years-old and unfortunately not old enough to convince my parents they should take me to see Jurassic Park when it opened on the big screen. While I was obviously in love with dinosaurs at the time ( I was six! C'mon mom and dad!) the most my parents could do to appease me was buy one of those National Geographic VHS tapes that was produced around the time of Jurassic Park's release so that they might make some extra dough considering the piqued interest in the subject. I can remember watching the documentary about the archaeologist's countless times and only imagining what the cinematic version of these kinds of stories might entail, but I was relegated to feeling left out when it came to that initial craze around Steven Spielberg's return to the Summer blockbuster. What made this opportunity to see the film on the big screen again all the more exciting is that even after twenty years of being available I never made it back around to sitting down and watching the film in its entirety. I'd certainly seen bits and pieces on TBS time and time again and even tried to sit down and watch the film several times after purchasing the trilogy on blu-ray last year, but despite seeing the third film upon its home video release in 2001 and never before touching The Lost World, I was anxious to sit down in a theater and for the first time watch the film all the way through and on the big screen no less. Suffice to say, it was completely thrilling to see the classic moments I'd always heard about come to life as well as coming to understand the mythology surrounding the film. Seeing these childhood aspirations brought to life on a scale I never thought I'd have the chance to experience it on was nothing short of magical. What was most surprising about the experience though was how little time seemed to have affected the final product. Sure, the technology was rather dated and the effects were spotty in some places, but never enough to take you out of the world and what a world it is to become so entranced with and to so easily want more from.

OBLIVION Review

It takes a while for Oblivion to get going and therefore might lose some of its audience before it really digs into why it's worth sticking around for. I am generally a fan of both science fiction and anything Tom Cruise decides to do and so to have them both served up in a single film that looked to be as gorgeous as it did while paired with a story seemingly ripe with mystery and intrigue from the mind of the director which could only mean a good amount of passion was applied, was rather exciting. My first thought as the credits began to roll though was not how incredibly beautiful the film was (which it is) or how solid the performance of Cruise was (reminiscent of a young Maverick even) but instead I couldn't help but wonder what exactly the film was trying to say or what any of it meant. Was this a simple minded sci-fi flick that had style first with substance a distant second or were all the twists, turns and intended surprises truly trying to say something? I couldn't decide and I wasn't sure I even understood all of what went on in the film. I assumed a few things and talked out a few other plot points I needed clarified on the ride home, but never did I feel fully satisfied with the story or that the filmmakers even had as much of a handle on it as they'd like to have us think. A clear vision for the world it would take place in? Sure. A wonderful musical score that somewhat rips off Daft Punk's from director Joseph Kosinski previous (and debut) feature, Tron: Legacy? Yea, but I was good with it. Still, the story seemed to come in last here; cobbled together from several different influences of the same genre and hoping to pass for something as fresh and new as the look of the film, Oblivion failed to live up to my expectations. Don't get me wrong, it is a fine enough film and is rather entertaining if you give it a chance, but it certainly isn't all it could have been.

First Trailer for R.I.P.D.

I'm all for goofy genre mash ups and supernatural comedy sits fine with me, but I have to be a little curious as to why Universal has waited so long to debut the first trailer for their summer action flick R.I.P.D. which stars Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges as two deceased crime fighters who are trying to protect the earth from evil souls who haven't left yet. The premise sound silly? The trailer looks a little silly, but that seems the intended tone here so I will reserve total judgment. It is easy to make comparisons here to Men In Black (young rookie partnered with veteran know it all who have to fight crime against the dead rather than aliens at the discretion of the human race) so I will. Like MIB what is either going to make this a stand out, fun summer film that spawns a franchise or break it is likely the chemistry between the two leads. Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith were a gold mine and while Jeff Bridges more than has my attention in anything he decides to do the fact Reynolds is cast as his cohort here makes me feel like this will be more Green Lantern that Curse of the Black Pearl. I reference the Pirates movie for the fact that it came out of nowhere in the summer of 2003 and surprised audiences by how good it was and surprised studios by how much money it made thus the reason we now have three more of them. There always seems to be that one film every now and then that will break through the sequels and super hero movies in the summer and become a surprise hit that will eventually have sequels that aren't such surprise hits in the future summers. Will R.I.P.D. be THAT movie of summer 2013? I don't know, but I'm still betting on Pacific Rim and putting this in the most likely to disappear from theaters within a month category. Think I'm being a little harsh? Check out the trailer after the jump and let me know what you think. The film also stars Kevin Bacon, Mary Louise-Parker, Stephanie Szostak, Marissa Miller, and James Hong and was directed by Robert Schwentke’s (Red). R.I.P.D. opens in 3D on July 19th.

42 Review

I'm not a big sports fan, in fact you could say I'm barely a fan at all, but like most kids I played little league baseball and came to have a certain nostalgia for the game in my now early adult years. Besides that, I have always enjoyed films about sports despite my lack of any real interest in professional league athletics. Though 42 doesn't reach the heights of some of the greater sports films and instead turns out to be rather straightforward and formulaic it is still a solid, interesting, and inspiring film purely on the basis of how rousing and great the actual story of Jackie Robinson truly is. Like I said, not knowing much about sports I couldn't attest to the historical accuracy of the film, but as a person who knows little to nothing about professional baseball I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed the film and that lack of interest in what serves as the backdrop for the drama here didn't hinder my experience. Writer/director Brian Helgeland (A Knight's Tale) still seems a little unsure of himself behind the camera as that straightforward, square vibe the film radiates is partially due to the completely conventional and basic way in which the film is shot and the story is told. It could be called uninspired or it could be said that Helgeland knew his material was strong enough that he didn't need to worry about trying something innovative or different in the way he conveyed the story. This is true, but this also keeps the movie safe and inside the lines of every sports drama that has ever come out. What is disappointing about that is the fact Robinson's story is anything but safe and so outside the box that I hoped a film about his life would be the same. Despite these complaints, I can't harp on the shortcomings of the film too much as I found myself always engaged and entertained by what was unfolding on screen.

THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES Review

From its extended opening shot that is captured in one take it is clear The Place Beyond the Pines is looking for something extra, something more than what most films shoot for. As the follow-up to Derek Cianfrance's 2010 critical success, Blue Valentine, this film also serves as a very serious, very woeful piece that expands on the world around the people involved in the story rather than being as focused as his previous film. This is still an examination of human relationships in many ways, but instead of being purely based around the singular subject of a relationship and how something as personal as that falls apart when placed on the shoulders of a particular couple The Place Beyond the Pines is a sprawling epic, a generational story that touches on the legacy you leave and ultimately have limited control over. I was a fan of Blue Valentine and the way Cianfrance allowed his characters to take the story wherever felt natural, but I've become an even bigger fan with this film as the director shows a consistency in his style and ability to tell a powerful story while being diverse enough to approach it from a different angle. I knew I was looking forward to this film simply due to the fact it was Cianfrance's follow-up and he would likely get a little more support in making the film, but also because he was re-teaming with Ryan Gosling while enlisting the only other actor that could equal Gosling's stature at the moment with Bradley Cooper. There is a fantastic supporting cast here as well, but to see two popular poster boy actors with the ability and talent to pull off what they have done here gives a refreshing sense of optimism about where the movies are heading. The Place Beyond the Pines is a dour, brooding piece of work that will hit you in the gut and keep you yearning for more. It is close to a masterwork, but falls just short one time too many.

TO THE WONDER Review

If The Tree of Life, or any of Terrence Malick's films before that, were a novels worth of ideas and imagery put to film than his latest, To the Wonder, feels more akin to an essay. Shot in what is essentially the exact same, and very recognizable style with which he shot his aforementioned previous film Malick again collaborates with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki; the pair have concocted a style that allows for the unconventional way in which Malick chooses to make movies all the more poetic. The flowing shots of actors conveying the emotions and tones needed to imply the drama of the story Malick is attempting to tell is always beautiful and though I could feel I sometimes sensed the confusion on the part of the actors (especially Ben Affleck) they are more times than not able to materialize the emotions and moments that Malick is so desperately trying to capture in their most honest state. If you know anything about the elusive director than you automatically know his films aren't for everyone and despite his output increasing over the past few years (and in the near future) he continues to stray further and further from convention. This is not a bad thing, not in my humble opinion anyway, despite the fact I wasn't completely enthralled with this film as I was The Tree of Life. Still, there is something about the depressing love story at the center of To the Wonder that also makes the film an effervescent experience and one that is unequaled by anything else you will see at the movies this year. Is the lack of structure and normalcy all that makes the film different and likely unappealing to many though? The answer is an easy no. To the Wonder literally paints a portrait of love and loss in a way anyone who has experienced either emotion would certainly be able to understand if they are willing to pay attention. Memories are what make life worth living and Malick draws on those moments to create what may not make sense as you watch it, but leaves you with feelings and thoughts that are hard to shake.

First Trailer for THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE

MTV has premiered the first teaser trailer for the highly anticipated follow up to last years $691 million hit, The Hunger Games. Interest on my part has been relatively high as I enjoyed the book series and the second book, Catching Fire, was far and away my favorite in the series. I enjoyed Gary Ross' take on the first film and the world he set up and created for these characters to exist and rebel in as the titular challenge is simply a stage to personify the extremes the capitol goes to in order to keep their people in check. I was anxious also to see what new director Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend, Water for Elephants) would be contributing to the world and if the trailer is any indication it is only getting all the more dark and all the more epic. The whole thing looks a a bit sleeker and a bit more credible than the slightly laughable capitol outfits that made the first one look like it took place partly in Oz. As the trailer is structured around a conversation between President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and new Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) that details the downfall of Katniss we get a taste of the great cast hamming it up and delivering the goods. There are several cuts to Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) on their victory tour, but as the trailers for the first film did there are no games in sight and only a slight hint towards them near the end here. I won't lie and say I haven't been eagerly awaiting this trailer though I thought I'd have to wait longer. Does this make it better or worse we still have to wait seven months for the actual film? Still, this trailer has given me faith in Lawrence and piqued my interest in these film adaptations again in that this second installment might actually exceed the first and match the intrigue the novel delivered. The film also stars Liam Hemsworth, Sam Claflin, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright, and Amanda Plummer. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opens on November 22nd in IMAX and traditional theaters. Hit the jump to watch the trailer.

EDITORIAL: The Resurrection of Comedy in 2013

Last week we received both a red and green band trailer for what feels like the epitome of all comedies, This is the End. A comedy where comedians play versions of themselves and like other great self-referential and deprecating films of the genre such as Tropic Thunder or Shaun of the Dead, This is the End seems to be on track to be one of the bigger comedies this year while also sporting a theme at least one other major comedy will be touting. There are plenty of other reasons to be excited about not only the summer slate of comedies but those coming out in the latter part of the year, but this feeling of excitement seems to be especially significant because the genre of comedy has suffered more than any other as of late.

Over the past two years a mere nine major studio comedies in wide release have been blessed with a fresh rating by Rotten Tomatoes. For those unfamiliar with Rotten Tomatoes it is a news site for all things film, but its main purpose is to serve as a film review aggregator or website that collects reviews from a variety of different sources and averages the positive and negative reviews to come up with a percentage that if above 60% is given an approval rating of "fresh". These nine films come from a pool of about thirty-three major studio releases and while there have certainly been a few limited release/indie comedies featuring major names that garnered positive reviews they haven't exactly lit the box office on fire to lend the genre a helping hand in terms of relevance with mainstream moviegoers. While 2013 has already been a rough year for films in general (both in box office and in quality) comedies again seem to be getting hit the hardest. A Haunted House, Movie 43, Identity Thief, 21 & Over, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, and Admission have all received rotten percentages and only A Haunted House and Identity Thief have garnered more than $30 million in their theatrical runs. This isn't all bad news as Burt Wonderstone is the only one not to make back its budget, but if comedies want to find a place among the summer tentpoles they will need to start making more than their budgets back and to do that will be to make quality films that create good word of mouth.

First Trailer for ELYSIUM

If you've ever read any of my reviews or follow this site at all you might know I am a huge sci-fi nerd and love a good sci-fi flick thus being the reason Elysium made my top 10 most anticipated films of 2013. And if you are any kind of sci-fi fan at all you probably fell in love with director Neill Blomkamp's 2009 directorial debut, District 9. I surely did and was amazed that such a film was made on such a tight budget. District 9 proved to be more touching, more introspective than any other sci-fi film in recent memory and the fact Blomkamp would be getting a good amount more money and big name actors to produce his second feature was almost too exciting to handle. Today, we finally get our first glimpse at his follow-up to District 9 and it looks pretty damn impressive. Matt Damon continues to prove his range as an actor (watch the Behind the Candelabra trailer that premiered yesterday and then this one again) while Jodie Foster also shows up to play what looks like a devilishly delicious, scenery-chewing role. Only the basics of the plot are known in that the earth has been divided into two classes in the year 2154 where the wealthy live on a space station which the film is named after while the poor still take residence on an overpopulated and ruined Earth. Damon's character wants to go to Elysium and thus he enlists the help of a few friends, a cool suit and the adventure begins. Undoubtedly there is much more to the plot than that, but this set-up is what we're served in the trailer along with a great sense of environment that is more gritty and grounded than the slick, clean feel of other sci-fi flicks we've seen recently. I'm more than intrigued by the trailer and can't wait to see the final product, what are your thoughts? Elysium also stars Sharlto Copley, William Fichtner and Diego Luna and opens on August 9th, 2013. Hit the jump to check out the trailer.

First Trailer for RUSH

The first trailer for Ron Howard's Formula 1 film, Rush has arrived online and they definitely want you to know it was directed by Ron Howard. This being his first film since 2011's flop The Dilemma viewers are expecting a lot. I certainly am, and have been looking forward to Rush since first seeing the stills released and learning of the fine cast and director it assembled. The film was included in my top 20 most anticipated films of the year and after seeing the trailer I am happy to see that everything I thought this could be seems to be on track. Though I'm not a huge sports fan and certainly not a racing fan by any stretch of the imagination I do believe sports and the world that surrounds professional league athletes provide a great backdrop for drama and have especially engaging dynamics to draw from. That seems to be the case here as Howard draws from a screenplay from Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon) that chronicles the 1970s rivalry between Austrian driver Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl of Inglorious Basterds) and British driver James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth). I'd not heard of the story before this film came to my attention, but it seems to have its points for strong dramatic storytelling and the tone Howard has set for the trailer seem to perfectly cater to the time period in which this takes place. Both Hemsworth and Brühl display promising work and the music from Hans Zimmer is a stand out aspect. I've always enjoyed Howard's work no matter what type of story he is telling and here it seems as if he is really excited about the material and has dug deep into the story and hopefully come up with something rather special. The film also stars Olivia Wilde and opens September 20th. Hit the jump to check out the trailer.

EVIL DEAD Review

When I walked up to the window to purchase my tickets for Fede Alvarez's retelling of Sam Raimi's cult classic Evil Dead the theater employee felt the need to inform me that the film was very violent and graphic and the night before several people requested to switch movies as they couldn't deal with the extreme content of the film. I appreciated the gesture, but this was one of the reasons I was so excited to see this latest kids in the woods horror flick that had such positive buzz floating around it ever since its South by Southwest Festival premiere. The horror genre may be the classification of film I have the most issues with as it is easily the most limited in what types of stories it likes to tell and how it likes to convey them. Whether this be through  a main antagonist with a definitive look, name, and niche as far as killing methods go or the always optional ancient evil forces coming back to haunt a seemingly innocent group of extremely good looking people by this point we usually know pretty early which way things are going. This has been the case since at least the mid-70's, yet it is important to remember the context in which Raimi's film arrived back in 1981. There was no precedent for horror flicks where kids got picked off one by one after so many bad decisions your throat was sore from yelling at the screen. I was never introduced to Raimi's breakout film and its eventual sequels until I watched the first film this past week in preparation for what Alvarez chose to take liberties with. I wasn't disturbed or upset by the fact they were re-making the film as I had no emotional attachment to the original series, but it was clear those works were very special in many peoples hearts and to tackle a re-make like this was treading hollowed ground. All I can say when it comes to this new film is that it certainly does its job of making the audience cringe and it does it well. The film realizes what type of movie it is and what it needs to be to leave a strong impression. It is a disturbing yet slickly made throwback of a scary movie that is both an homage to the film that inspired it and a progressive experiment in where the genre may go from here.

First Trailer for CARRIE

I usually take advantage of Halloween by using it as an excuse to go back and watch a few classic horror films I was too young or not alive to see when they were first released. Such was the case this past Halloween when I first experienced Brian De Palma's 1976 version of Stephen King's debut novel. Originally, the latest incarnation of King's story was set to hit theaters last month, but the studio decided to push the release back to a more suitable October time slot. On the eve of the theatrical release of the new Evil Dead, a full length trailer for Kimberly Pierce's (Boys Don't Cry) Carrie has debuted and though it seems to give away a bit too much it still manages to pique my interest to see what changes they've made as well as how this interpretation might be different. I enjoyed De Palma's film well enough though didn't see it in the time frame to likely appreciate it the way most do so I am rather excited to see a contemporary telling of this story especially as bullying in school is a hot topic at the moment and director Pierce clearly has some experience in documenting and finding the truth and relevance of these subjects. Throwing in the supernatural element, the stylized look of the abilities Carrie slowly learns to develop and a cast that features not only Chloe Grace Moretz in the lead, but Julianne Moore as the eccentric mother and you can count me in. I don't like that the trailer seems to give away almost every beat of the screenplay and that some of the more iconic moments from the original film are spoiled here, but I optimistically assume there is still plenty being held back and that this new vision of Carrie will prove to be just as memorable and frightening as its predecessor. This re-make also stars Judy Greer, Portia Doubleday, Ansel Elgort, Alex Russell, and Gabriella Wilde. Carrie opens on October 18th. Hit the jump to check out the trailer.

A Life in the Movies: Remembering Roger Ebert


There is not much I can say in terms of how it must feel to many lovers of film and of writing, but to those who love writing about film, I feel your pain. Roger Ebert was the pinnacle of film criticism and the critic everyone now writing about film was likely either inspired by or continued to look towards throughout their career. I have only been running this site for three years and even in that time I only now feel like I am gaining some kind of footing in the world of film criticism. Ebert wrote for the Chicago-Sun Times for 46 years reviewing films. I can only imagine the wealth of knowledge and perspective it must have lent him to sit and write not just his thoughts on film, but on life almost every day for that amount of time. I was actually just getting ready to read his latest work, a memoir by the name of "Life Itself", now it seems that experience will be all the more poignant as Roger Ebert, renowned film critic, has passed away at the age of 70.

First Trailer for ONLY GOD FORGIVES

Like many people who love cinema and are obsessed with film, Drive was my absolute favorite film of 2011. Myself and those that share this opinion have been anxiously awaiting a peek at the next collaboration between Ryan Gosling and his Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn, Only God Forgives. Today, we have received that in all its red band glory. While I've tried not to read too much about the film with the desire of being genuinely surprised by what Refn will unleash upon the world next, I couldn't wait to watch this trailer. As hinted at by the bruised and beaten Gosling in the poster and the few seconds of footage we caught a few months ago this is going to be a violent and unflinching look at the seedy underworld in Thailand centered around a boxing club that is a front for a drug smuggling operation. Gosling seems to be doing his best silent and socially awkward personality while being a badass all the same. If these characteristics sound somewhat similar to the nameless driver he played for Refn last time around then I hope this film packs as much a punch as their last effort. Refn seems to have a specific style in mind as he saturates everything in red light and again has chosen a haunting yet weirdly original soundtrack. The whole mood of the piece is like a toxic roller coaster building to a showdown that we are left wondering as to how it might all go down. The clip is short, only a minute and a half, but in that time the film gives us reason enough to be excited without giving anything away at all. Kristin Scott Thomas and Vithaya Pansringarm co-star. Only God Forgives is expected to open on May 23rd and play at the Cannes Film Festival. Hit the jump to check out the trailer.

THE HOST Review

Let it first be known that I did not go to see The Host because I am a fan of the Twilight series or of the author of the source material for those films, Stephanie Meyer. When the whole Twilight boom went off and everyone was paying a ton of attention to the films and how they might be adapted I was interested in what all the fuss was about. I even tried to begin reading Twilight just to see if it was any good and to prepare myself for the movie that was coming out later that year. I didn't make it through the book. I don't remember much of it now or even why I decided to quit reading it, but I imagine it just wasn't for me and I'm clearly not the target audience so that was fine. I still gave the films a chance though, seeing both Twilight and New Moon, both of which failed to impress me or bring me back for the final three films. I say all of this to bring up the point that I had the biggest of doubts when it came to another film based on a novel by Meyer. Her token idea didn't entice me so why would I be interested in anything else she has put out? Given that I knew nothing about the book, The Host, which was billed as Meyer's more adult novel and upon seeing the first trailer for this film I wasn't aware it was based on Meyer's book until the trailer told me so; I was intrigued by the story and the concept it seemed to be toying with. I am an avid science fiction fan and when any film even mentions the ideas of life on another planet, space exploration, or grand themes explored through these unknown areas of our universe I am immediately hooked. That it what The Host had on me and that is why I felt I needed to give it a shot. I am clearly in the minority on this, but I rather enjoyed the film and thought it had some interesting things to say if not at least serving as light entertainment.

MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE: PHASE TWO Preview



In one short month Iron Man 3 will be released and thus will begin Phase Two of Marvels grand plan that has created a universe of super heroes co-existing with one another and helping each other. It is something fresh and new, not necessarily in the individual films necessarily but in what the company is doing over all. it is a win/win for everyone as the fans have waited years upon years for super hero movies to recognize their is a bigger world beyond their two hour run time and that they are not the only ones trying to save the world from a certain bad guy. With the release of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase One - Avengers Assembled Blu-ray boxset this week Marvel has also unveiled a slew of new images and concept art as well as a few videos discussing their plans for Phase Two which include Thor: The Dark World in November, Captain America: The Winter Soldier in April of 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy in August of 2014 and capping it off with The Avengers 2 at some point in 2015.

First Trailer for GROWN UPS 2

Every summer there are countless sequels released some that are highly anticipated and others that are completely unnecessary. Upon first hearing they would be making a sequel to Adam Sandler's hit 2010 film Grown Ups it certainly seemed this second film would fall into that latter category. Still, though Sandler usually puts out at least one film a year and most of the time in the summer the guy has never made a sequel to one of his movies so I guess he was due for one. There are a handful of other characters Sandler fans (are there any left?) would have preferred to see re-visited but Grown Ups was also Sandler's most financially successful film and thus we have Grown Ups 2. This isn't all bad though, if the first movie was good for anything it was getting a fun group of guys together and hanging out with them for two hours. Though I feared the worst from the sequel it seems Rob Schneider has flown the coop (though I'm sure they'll have have some ridiculous excuse as to why his character didn't move home) and I actually genuinely laughed multiple times during this trailer. There are some solid jokes and a ton of great cameos here that seem to add to the hilarity of it all (though I wish they would have saved some as a surprise). Shaquille O'Neal and Taylor Lautner seem to be having a blast with Lautner (who I don't think can act) doing a kind of self-deprecating thing that could be for the best and a whole slew of SNL cast members taking part in the car wash scene. If you freeze frame it you'll notice the entire Lonely Island gang Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer along with former cast members Will Forte and Paul Brittain as well as current members Taran Killam and Bobby Moynihan. The film also sees the return of Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, and Maya Rudolph. Grown Ups 2 opens on July 12th. Hit the jump to watch the trailer.

UPSIDE DOWN Review

The concept of Upside Down is enough to intrigue anyone, but what that concept ultimately becomes is a bit of a let down in terms of what the synopsis and trailers seemingly promise. That isn't to say this is a bad film or that I'd accuse it of false advertising, but it is more The Notebook than Inception. When a film promises it will take place in a different solar system where two twin planets each with their own and opposite gravity causing a disruption between societies there is reason for a sci-fi fan to be excited and optimistic. More than simply societal differences, these two worlds are better compared to the Capulets and Montagues. It is an interesting thought, to take the star crossed lovers story and apply it to an original idea that might allow the functions and rules of a new universe to give bigger and fresh obstacles to our two protagonists, but the entire time I was watching this film it felt more like the makers had become so entranced and swept up in making sure the logistics of this world worked properly that they forgot how well (or not so well) they were developing their characters and the story they were trying to tell. It is easy to see how Upside Down might have been a roller coaster adventure as a novel or seemed absolutely engaging as a script (the thoughts of how this might all look being too ambitious an undertaking for the actors to turn down), but as it is delivered in a brief hour and forty-seven minutes the film never seems to find its footing and dig into where it could have gone until way too late. The narration from Jim Sturgess' Adam hints at the idea that writer and director Juan Solanas would like to make a few more films set in this universe, and I wouldn't mind venturing back, but before he does so he would need to make sure the story will be just as involving as the visuals.